Archive | July 2010

A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

We had a great week in Alabama! Being with Julie and her family is always a blessing. She and David, and their children, too, are kind and thoughtful and a lot of fun to be with. Their family life is centered around the Lord and how He would have them live, and it really shows in how their children are growing up. I am sure He must be pleased.

It is so interesting to see how their personalities are developing. Benjamin is twelve and just hitting puberty. You know—the deep ((and sometimes cracking) voice, whiskers on the upper lip, suddenly shooting up in height, and all that. What a fine young man he has become! He so reminds us of David. He’s always had his father’s genes in appearance – darker skin and hair and those heavy eyebrows – but now we see his dad’s personality all over again in him. He’s quiet and laid back, always thoughtful and willing to help, very smart and yet humble, with a love for the Lord and a godly wisdom about him that is remarkable in a child that young.

Hannah is a cute mixture of prissy princess and tomboy following in her brothers’ footsteps. She wants to keep up with them, but at the same time flaunts her girly ways in their faces – mostly because she knows anything frilly and frou-frou annoys Joshua to no end! What a tease! She’s only six, but is as tall as an eight-year-old so sometimes you forget that she is still a little girl. The challenge this week was that she desperately wanted to jump off the diving board at swimming lessons but just couldn’t quite screw up her courage enough to do it. She went in there every day absolutely determined she was going to take the plunge, and then went away disappointed in herself that she couldn’t do it. In the end though, she learned to swim and on that last day swam the entire length of the pool! And learning to swim was what it was all about, so she came away proud of herself after all! We were proud of her, too! She reminds me of Julie when she was a little girl. She could be so stubborn, but in the end that stubbornness turned into strength and determination and has been a gift in becoming the woman she is today.

It is Joshua’s personality, though, that makes me laugh! He is such a chip off the old block – Boppa’s (Grandpa’s) block, that is! There is no volume switch on either one of them. Joshua and Boppa are both loud, loud, LOUD! They have the same sense of humor. They both love to roughhouse. They both would love to be out hunting or fishing. Boppa taught Joshua to make coffee when he was just a little guy so now Joshua can’t wait until he can be a coffee drinker like Boppa! (He got to have little bit for his birthday and declared up and down that he loved it–that is, after he shook the coffee creamer bottle and spilled it all over the kitchen!) He is a hard worker like Boppa and has a kind and generous heart – with a little bit of male ego thrown in to boot. He has a strong sense of what is right and wrong and is always ready to stand up for righteousness. We call him Mini-Boppa and it just makes me laugh!

It is wonderful to watch our children and grandchildren grow and to see that “little bit of me and that little bit of you” in them. We see them carrying on the heritage they’ve been handed and it makes us proud to see that little extension of ourselves and to know that someday when we are gone, a little of us will live on in them. I made a card to send to David in Iraq a few weeks ago that had a picture of the kids on the front. I had found a photo of each of them that really showed their personalities and cropped them out and then formed a new photo with the three of them together. I put “Personality Plus!” on the front of the card with the picture and then on the inside wrote this little poem:

God took the best of Julie,
He took the best of you,
A little bit of Boppa,
Grandma and Grandpa Sanchez, too,
Threw in a part of me —
The very BEST of all of us —
And made the very cutest kids
With personality PLUS, PLUS,
and PLUS!
As I watched the kids this week and thought about how Benjamin is so like his dad, or Joshua is another Boppa, or Hannah takes after her mommy when she was a little girl, I couldn’t help but think how we are to be so like Jesus.

We are made in His image, after all. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26a) Sin has distorted that image, but when we are redeemed we are made new creatures. We have His Spirit and our lives are transformed—transformed to be like Him. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)
*
To be like Jesus—what would that be? His life exemplified love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—all the fruit of the Spirit. He wants us to produce that fruit and be like Him. (Galatians 5:22, 23) He became a humble servant and sacrificed Himself for us. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) He is holy and He wants us to be holy. “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16)
*
When others look at me, do they see Jesus in me? Does my life reflect Him? Do they know I am a Christian – a “little Christ”—by how I live my life? I always loved the chorus “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be seen in Me.” It goes like this:
*
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me–
All His wonderful passion and purity.
O my Savior divine, all my being refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
*
It makes us happy when we see ourselves in our little ones. How much it must please God when He sees our lives reflecting Him!
Advertisements

WILLING AND WISE

We are on our way to Alabama today. Whoo-Hoo! I’m so excited! Joshua’s tenth birthday is Wednesday and we’re going down to help celebrate and also to give Julie a hand in some of the little jobs that need to be done around the house that David would normally do. Well, I should rephrase that—Bob will be doing those jobs. I’m just going down to have fun! That’s a grandma’s job, after all!

When they found out David was being deployed Joshua had come to Julie with tears in his eyes asking, “Whose birthday is Daddy going to miss while he’s gone?” He knew, of course, but I suppose he needed to talk about it. When we heard about it, we made the decision right then that, if at all possible, we would go down there for his birthday, and hopefully make it a little easier for him.

I’ve been preparing for the trip all week. Oh, not packing. I got that done in a few hours last night. No, I’ve been typing my fingers to the bone all week, trying to finish a book I’ve been working on for months. It’s the sixth in the Noble Heart series, Valley of Valor, and it is a birthday gift. Uh, not for Joshua, though. It is for Benjamin whose birthday was in February. Um, it’s a little late… Joshua is getting a special little card (among other gifts) with a title and cover picture on it that says his book is coming—a little late. (It’s the next Noble Heart Mystery and will be called A Hero’s Heart. At least I have that much figured out!) I still have Sara’s book to finish (half-done, due last April) and then Melissa, Gabi, Katie and Hannah have birthdays one after another through the end of the year. Oh, yes—Matthew gets his first book for Christmas, as well. *Sigh*

Can I do it? I have to do it! I cannot bear to disappoint any of the kids. They love Grandma’s books and eagerly look forward to the next one. What I will do when the next little Naranjo comes along, and then if Julie and David’s adoption goes through and we have Grandchildren #10, #11 and #12—oh Lord, help!

Don’t get me wrong—I absolutely love writing for the kids. I am not normally late like I have been this year. I have had several other large projects that took a lot of my time, but to be honest, I’ve struggled this year a bit in the two books I was working on, as well. Writer’s block? Probably. I’ve never really had a problem with it before, but I just wasn’t happy with how they were going and inspiration just would not come. Finally there was a breakthrough, though, and the words began to flow. It meant scrapping most of what I had already written in Benjamin’s book and going back all the way to the middle of the first chapter and basically starting over, but I was so glad I did for it all fell into place easily then. In the end, I was excited about how it turned out and praising the Lord for His inspiration and help.

And that is how I feel about what I write—that it is the Lord who gives me the inspiration and creativity to use what I write as a ministry for Him, whether it be the kids’ books, my blog, a special project at church or a simple note of encouragement. I can feel Him helping me find the right words, putting my thoughts together, giving me the message He wants me to bring. Oh, I know it is not “inspired” in the way the Word of God is miraculously and totally inspired, but I do not have a single doubt that it is He who gives me inspiration and the gifts to be able to write for Him. Never have I felt so sure that this is the ministry He has for me now.

I was reading in Exodus this week when a passage of Scripture jumped out at me. Exodus 35 is the story of how the Israelites followed God’s direction in putting together the tabernacle while they were in the wilderness. “And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the LORD…And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen…And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair…The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses. And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan…Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work.” (Exodus 35:21-22, 25-26, 29-31, 34-35)
*

There were several things that made me take special notice of this passage. The first thing, obviously, was that the people gave their offerings freely and with willing hearts for the work of the Lord. They had been slaves in Egypt with nothing, but the Lord had instructed them to spoil their Egyptian neighbors of their gold and jewels and wealth as they left Egypt, and now they willingly gave back to Him the riches which God had provided.

The Lord also had prepared them for this work, giving them the knowledge, skills and wisdom to do the work. They worked with wise hearts, using the talents and skills that God had given them for His work. I loved the part where it said of Bezaleel that the Lord “hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…And he hath put in his heart that he may teach…Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work…” They had willing hearts first of all, and then He made their hearts wise.

And then we see that they worked as one—united, willing and wise—and so fulfilled the work to which the Lord had called them.

*
God will always provide for His work. He asks us to have willing hearts and to give from what He has provided freely and cheerfully for His work. We can give willingly by faith because He will provide. He will prepare us for the work to which He has called us, also. God gives us the talents, knowledge, skills, ability and inspiration–the wise hearts—to do whatever it is He wants us to do. Then He wants us to work together with united hearts to accomplish His will and His work.
*
I was praising God before I read this passage for the help He had given me this week in finishing my book. To read a confirmation that it is the Spirit of God indeed who gives us wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to accomplish beautiful workmanship for Him when we are willing to be used by Him was a blessing to me.
*
Lord, thank You for providing and preparing for Your work. When you call me to do something for You, I can step out in faith knowing that You will accomplish it through me if I willingly and cheerfully trust you and use that which You have already provided. I know You have called me to write, for I feel the inspiration and wisdom and words You give me, and see the skills which only You could have provided. I cannot do it without You. Thank You for allowing me this ministry which brings me so much joy. May it always be a blessing to You, Lord, as I seek to do it for Your glory and to reach others for You. May I never fear to step out and do whatever You have called me to, may I always trust that You will provide and may I always give back to You of my possessions, my talents and my life willingly and cheerfully.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!

I wanted so badly last weekend to write a blog called “I Know a Secret!” or better yet, since it was the Fourth of July, “Red, White and…Pink or Blue?” Yep, that’s right—(sing-song) somebody’s having a baby! I’m free to tell it this week (they can’t keep a secret any better than I can!)

You could have knocked me over with a feather! Laurie and I were talking on the phone last Saturday and discussing their plans to celebrate this most American of all holidays down there in Ecuador with Fernando’s family. They were having a cookout, complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, s’mores and apple pie among other yummy treats. We talked about favorite family recipes she’d be using— Grandma’s potato salad and apple pie, my beans, her aunts’ pretzel salad—and then she casually said, “We’re not going to get the kids any sparklers or fireworks, though. We’ll have our fireworks in February.”

Huh? “Fireworks in February?” I was confused. “What are you talking—What?! No! You’re not saying what I think you’re saying, are you, Laurie? You’re not—you are! You’re pregnant!” I stammered. For a moment I was speechless. Laurie was laughing, and then I realized she had put me on speaker-phone because in the background I could hear the kids all laughing, too. “You’re having a baby?”

I hardly knew what to say at first. My first thought was concern for my daughter. This was baby number six, and she would be forty years old when it came. I’ve always been thrilled to welcome new grandbabies into the world, but I have to admit, I get scared for my daughters when it comes time for the delivery. And how would she handle six children now with all that she has to do—especially the home-schooling? It was already stressful. These thoughts raced through my head, but within moments I set them aside and said, “Well, praise the Lord! Babies are such a blessing!”

“Thanks, Mom,” I heard Fernando say quietly. “Thanks for saying that.”

I knew what he and Laurie were thinking. There would be criticism from some folks at this news. Large families are not in style—even in Ecuador–anymore. They’re expensive. How could a missionary family afford to have so many children? Why couldn’t they be satisfied with the children they already have and just stop?

I must confess—I had been less than enthusiastic with the news that babies number four and five were on the way. I had quickly seen, though, that Katie and Matthew were such special, precious, wonderful little gifts and had blessed our lives immeasurably. I could not imagine the pure joy we would have missed out on if they had not been sent by God to our family. Laurie and Fernando were just as surprised as we were that God had chosen to bless them again with another child. If He saw fit to bless this world with another precious little Naranjo, then who were we to question His wisdom? He has a special plan for that life! And you have to admit—He certainly makes beautiful little Naranjos, inside and out!

This time I would not question. I’d learned my lesson. The news of a new grandbaby deserves to be met with joy and excitement—and it was. Oh, I’m still concerned for Laurie, but I have to place those fears in the Lord’s hands for He knows what He is doing.

Of course, I was full of questions. When did you find out? How far along are you? Have you figured out the due date? Which would you rather have—a boy or a girl? Have you thought about names yet? And then, of course, I could not resist teasing Laurie and Fernando about having a baby in their old age—just like Abraham and Sarah! “Just think, Laurie—you’ll be almost as old as I was when I became a grandma!” I joked. By the time we were Fernando’s age, we had three grandchildren!

She laughed. “Don’t remind me! We’ve already been calling ourselves Abraham and Sarah!”

It was just by coincidence (???) that I happened to read the account of Abraham and Sarah this week in my Bible-reading. I’ve been reading in Genesis and I came to chapters 17 through 21 where it recounts the story of the announcement by the Lord that He would bless them with a son, despite their old age, and make of them a great nation and nations. The passage goes on to tell of the birth of Isaac and the fulfillment of God’s promise—and their reactions to it.

Genesis 17:1, 5, 6, 15-17, 19; 18:12-15; 21:6 tells the story: And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him…Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. …And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.

Their reactions to this unexpected announcement and the miraculous birth of their baby boy? They laughed! But there is laughter—and then there is laughter. Abraham’s reaction to the Lord’s promise to him seemed to be one of wonderment! He was ninety-nine years old, but he would father this miraculous son! The Lord Himself had made the announcement to him—how could he doubt it?

Sarah, on the other hand, did doubt. For many years it had been her all-consuming desire to have a child until finally her body had gone through menopause and she knew with a bitter finality that it was not to be. She was old. When she laughed, it was in disbelief and bitterness. Then, to make matters worse, when the Lord asked why she had laughed, she denied it. She tried to lie to the Lord—the One who knew her heart better than she did herself. He, in his forgiveness and grace, however, kept His promise and a year later Sarah bore a son, despite her age and the fact that her body was long-past the capability of conceiving a child.

Sarah laughed again—this time in joy at the birth of her little miracle son. And she named him the name that God Himself had chosen—Isaac—“He will laugh.”

Reading the story all over again reminded me that God has a purpose for each life that He brings into this world, and that the birth of a baby is a blessing and a gift from God and should be met with rejoicing and wonder and thanksgiving—and yes, laughter!

I was reminded also of another truth—nothing is too hard for the Lord! Sarah had become discouraged and bitter and hopeless as the years went by and her greatest desire and prayer was not granted by the Lord. She could not see that the greater miracle was about to happen, not only in the fact that she would miraculously conceive, but also in the fact that through this son, all the world would someday be blessed, for Jesus’ humanity would come through the line of Abraham and Isaac and their descendents.

God’s timetable is not always what we would desire. He does not always work in our lives in the way that we would choose or expect, but never doubt that He is at work! I must not be discouraged when time slips away and it seems that God does not hear my prayers. I should never lose hope, even when things seem impossible in my finite, human wisdom. He is still the God of miracles, and when I trust Him, He brings unexpected joy and laughter into my life! Is anything too hard for the Lord?

I was sharing these thoughts with my other daughter Julie later that day. As I recognized the discouragement and hopelessness in Sarah over the years as she had begged God for a child, I could not help think of Julie and David’s long journey on the road to adoption. It was easy to get discouraged. At times it seemed hopeless—that it was never going to really happen. I wanted to encourage her. “Look at Sarah! After her despair and hopelessness, God worked a miracle and brought joy and laughter! “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

“Mom, I read the exact same message this morning in my devotions! ” she exclaimed That must be our word from the Lord today—is anything too hard for God?

*
They are good words to remember. When things seem hopeless; when the desires of our hearts seem to go unfulfilled; when the years have slipped by and it does not seem that God hears or cares—He is working in our lives. The miracle may yet come—but if it does not, He can change the desires of our heart to be in line with His will. Be open to His timing and working in your life. Regardless of how He works, you just may be surprised with unexpected joy and laughter!

LIBERTY FOR YOU AND ME

I spent several hours this week working on a Powerpoint presentation for our pastor’s message today. In keeping with the Fourth of July, he is speaking on “The Greatest Freedom of All.” He wanted a patriotic picture for the title slide. I searched for something that would be appropriate and came upon one that was both impressive and, more importantly, conveyed the message celebrating freedom. The picture was a close-up of the Statue of Liberty, with fireworks behind her lighting the night sky. As I looked at his outline, and worked on the Powerpoint, I couldn’t help thinking of a song I first heard thirty years ago, and wishing someone could sing it in conjunction with his message. Perhaps you remember it:

Statue of Liberty

In New York Harbor stands a lady

With a torch raised to the sky;

And all who see her know she stands for

Liberty for you and me

.
I’m so proud to be an American,

To be named with the brave and the free.

I will honor the flag and our trust in God,

And the Statue of Liberty.

On lonely Golgotha stood a cross,

With my Lord raised to the sky;

And all who kneel there live forever,

As all the saved can testify.

I’m so glad to be called a Christian,

To be named with the ransomed and whole.

As the Statue liberates the citizen,

So the Cross liberates the soul.

Oh, the Cross is my Statue of Liberty,

It was there that my soul was set free.

Unashamed I’ll proclaim that a rugged cross

Is my Statue of Liberty.

© Words & Music by Neil Enloe

Proud to be called an American. In this house we are Red, White and True Patriots – yes, sir! Our flag flies every day from spring until winter. Americana t-shirts are the favorite everyday garb for Bob and Robbie. The political talking heads are on our television most nights, and Bob loves to talk politics. To this day, although he knows his steps were ordered by the Lord in a different direction, he still talks about how he would have loved to have gone into the military.

*
He received a gift on Father’s Day from Julie and David that was right up his alley and will always be something very special to him. David sent him an American flag from Iraq that was flown over one of Sadaam Hussein’s palaces in Baghdad. Wow – you couldn’t have pleased Bob more!

*
We love our country, our flag, our great American pioneer heritage. We’re proud of our motto “In God We Trust;” proud to recite the Pledge of Allegiance; proud whenever we sing The Star-Spangled Banner. We still think we live in the greatest country in the world – or in the history of the world. Americans are the most generous people in the world and the most willing to defend and help those in need. We are thankful for all with which God has blessed us in this country – for our freedoms, and our opportunities, our prosperity and our beautiful land.

*
Our hearts are heavy when we see some of our cherished values and freedoms being eroded away and the path our country is on leading away from the traditional truths of our past and the godly principles upon which our nation was founded. We are saddened when we see the moral fiber of our people wearing thin. We are sickened at the horrible destruction in the Gulf, one of our country’s most beautiful resources. We pray daily for our land and its healing – spiritually, politically and physically.

*
Yes, we are proud to be citizens of the United States of America. Our son-in-law Fernando became a citizen of this country a couple years ago, and he and all of his children hold dual citizenship in both the US and Ecuador. I, too, hold dual citizenship. As much as I hold dear my US Passport that proclaims to all the world that I am a US citizen, with all the authority, rights and protection of the US government behind me, I treasure my other citizenship far more.

*
The Bible tells us that as followers of Christ our citizenship is in Heaven. Philippians 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” I am proud to be called an American. I am prouder still to bear His name – a Christian. As an American I love our motto “In God We Trust.” As a Christian I live by the motto, “In God I Trust.” I proudly say the Pledge. I am humbly grateful for His Promises. I love to sing The Star-Spangled Banner. It brings tears to my eyes to sing The Old Rugged Cross. We thrill to all the beauty of our land’s natural resources and bounty. We cannot even begin to imagine the beauty of our Heavenly homeland someday. We honor those who have shed their blood to insure the freedoms of our country. We love and serve and worship the One who shed His blood for our freedom from the power and penalty of sin.

*
In New York harbor stands the symbol of our freedom – the Statue of Liberty. On Golgatha’s hill stood a cross that symbolizes true and eternal freedom. May we always be proud and grateful to wear the name American, which was bought with a price so dear. And may we who bear His name – Christian – be ever thankful, ever unashamed, ever bold and strong to stand proudly for the cross and the Savior who paid the most precious, sacrificial price of all, His blood, for our salvation.