Archive | April 2012

Home Rules

Robbie and I are in Alabama for the next few weeks caring for my grandchildren while Julie and David are in the Ukraine adopting two more blessings for their family.  I do not use the word “blessings” loosely.  The three here at home are truly a delight and daily inspiration to me.  Their parents have taught them well to be polite and respectful, kind, honest, helpful and most of all, to love the Lord and His Word.  I dozed off the other day when they were Skyping with some friends.  When I woke up thirty minutes later they had finished Skyping and I found Benjamin and Joshua on their beds reading their Bibles!  Hannah was reading from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to her Uncle Robbie.

We Skype every day with David and Julie.  What an enormous blessing it is in these circumstances!  It is what makes it bearable for the kids to be separated from their parents for the month or more that the adoption process will take.  It has been wonderful, also, to be able to connect with Oleg and Anastasia through Skype as David and Julie have been able to have each of them stay with them for several days.  It is a great time of getting to know one another—fun and also chaotic!  Oleg and Anastasia already think their new “babushka” is a “cr-r-razy grandma!”

It is fun to Skype along with the kids, but my favorite time is when Julie calls me late at night so that we can talk one-on-one from the heart.  I asked her the other night her impressions of the kids now that they had been able to spend some bonding time alone with them.  One of my concerns was how Oleg and Anastasia would respond to their well-disciplined Christian home, where the parents were in control with a firm but loving hand.  Their birth homes had been dysfunctional to the point where the children had been removed from their homes and families and placed into orphanages after their fathers died.  The discipline in these institutions was not harsh, but it was rigid and minus the love factor, which caused many of the children to be hardened and looking out for themselves alone, as well as being insecure and desperate for love.

Julie’s answer was that in many areas they would have to take baby steps with Oleg and Anastasia; leading them first of all to a relationship with Christ, and then gently to understand and accept that mama and papa know what is best for them and love them; that they have their best interests at heart and that they can trust them.  As I thought about this conversation later, my eyes were drawn to a tapestry they have hanging prominently in their living room.  It was called Home Rules:

Always be honest

Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.

(Proverbs 12:22)

Count your blessings

I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.  O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

(Psalms 34:1-3)

Bear each other’s burdens

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

(Galatians 6:2)

Forgive and forget

Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not his anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy.

(Micah 7:18)

Be kind and tender hearted

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,

even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

(Ephesians 4:32)

Comfort one another

Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

(1 Thessalonians 4:18)

Keep your promises

And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

(Romans 4:21)

Be supportive of one another

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

(Acts 20:35)

Be true to each other

…Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.

(Revelations 15:3b)

Look after each other

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men,

especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

(Galatians 6:10)

Treat each other like you treat your friends

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,

do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

(Matthew 7:12)

And above all,
Love one another deeply from the heart

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.

(1 Peter 1:22)

Benjamin, Joshua and Hannah have been well-taught in many areas.  They know the limits and boundaries their parents have put in place and they are obedient to those rules.  They have been taught many basic skills around the house and pitch in to help according to the list of chores laid out for them.  They have been taught manners and proper etiquette.  It is not these types of “rules” however that make this home a blessing to the Lord and others.  It is the “Home Rules” that is the foundation for a happy home, where each person is loved, accepted, respected and bonded together as one cohesive, loving family.

These Biblical principles, which are at the heart of their family, will bring them all together despite the differences in culture or upbringing.  There will be challenges along the way, but I know Oleg and Anastasia will respond and grow and be nurtured in an environment that is based upon these Biblical “Home Rules”, just as Benjamin, Joshua and Hannah have.

A Red-Letter Day!

Today is a Red-Letter Day!  Eighteen years ago today I became a grandma for the very first time!  My eldest daughter Laurie presented me with our beautiful Sara.  Today that little squalling red-faced bundle of joy is a lovely eighteen year-old young woman.  Legally an adult.  The same age I was when I got married!  It is so hard to believe!  Where have the years gone?  I have so many wonderful memories of watching that sweet baby turn into my little side-kick, and then a big sister, and then a teenager and now all grown up!  Wow!  I remember so well the feeling of heritage and responsibility I experienced on the day Sara was born—the sudden knowledge that through Bob and I, the Lord was establishing the generations of our family who would follow Him if we were faithful to live and teach and nurture them is His Word and His ways.  Becoming a mother was wonderful.  Becoming a grandmother, however, was a blessing that is more than words can describe!  Only other grandmas can nod their heads and say, “Uh-huh!  I understand!”

Today is a Red-Letter Day!  Today my other daughter Julie is on her way to bring home grandchildren numbers ten and eleven!  She and her husband David are boarding a plane right this very minute to fly to the Ukraine.  The final steps in the adoptions of Oleg and Anastasia will take place within the next few days and weeks, but today it feels like the answer to all our hopes and dreams of the last four and a half years has finally come.  There are eight other grandchildren between Sara and these two special children whom we have yet to meet, but already love.  Each one of our precious grandbabies is beautiful and unique and a precious treasure from God.  We could not imagine our family without them.  Oleg and Anastasia will be loved and accepted and just a much a part of us as the other nine.  We know from the experience of adopting our Robbie that there was never a difference in our hearts between him and our birth children.  Likewise, we will welcome Oleg and Anastasia into our family and lives and hearts as fervently as all our other grandchildren.

Today, listen to these Red-Letters Words!  The Bible tells us that grandchildren are a beautiful blessing from God.  “Children’s children are the crown of old men [and old women!]” (Proverbs 17:6a)  Scripture also reminds us that we are to care for orphans.  Psalm 82:3 says, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.”  James 1:27 also says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…” 

Today, though, I am reminded of the words of Jesus.  In many Bibles you will see  His words printed in red, and since this is our Red-Letter Day, let’s see what Jesus Himself said:  He said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)  He loves children.  They are precious to Him.  He gives them to be blessings to us, whether they are our own children, our grandchildren or our great-grandchildren!

He also tells us to especially love those children who are in need—“the least of these.”  We find in Matthew 25:35-40 that He said, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?   When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 

Today, on our Red-Letter Day, we praise God for bringing each one of these children into our lives and our family!  We are so blessed!  May we always be conscious of the legacy we leave behind to them—not of wealth or material possessions, but of faith and faithfulness to the One who brought us all together.

To Sara, Gabriela, Benjamin, Joshua, Melissa, Katelynn, Hannah, Matthew, Amanda, Oleg and Anastasia—we love you with all our hearts!  Thank you, Lord, for all of them!

An Egg-Cellent Easter!

I was watching the news yesterday and one of the stories highlighted an Easter egg hunt.  That’s not uncommon, of course, at this time of year, but it had me remembering my own childhood and my children’s growing up years.  I remember waking up early on Easter morning and hunting for an Easter basket, rather than the individual eggs, each year when I was young.  Being the eldest child, my basket was usually hidden in the hardest spot.  I didn’t care—the hunt was as much fun as finding the basket itself!

I continued the tradition when my own children came along.  My mom, a new grandma, threw in a little Easter egg hunt at her house after Easter dinner.  The kids had fun scrambling around Grandma’s house finding plastic eggs with candy and sometimes money inside them.  As the years passed my youngest sister has had Easter dinner every year at her house, and she has made sure to continue the Easter egg hunt for all the little nieces and nephews.  Sometimes it is indoors, sometimes outside, depending on the weather, but the biggest difference now is that it is the teenagers hiding the eggs for their little siblings and cousins.

It never dawned on us, back when I was growing up, or even when my children were young, to question the customs of dyeing eggs and hunting for them, or pretending the Easter bunny brought baskets for us.  We knew it was all make-believe, like Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.  We knew what Christmas and Easter were all about—Jesus—and that He was not make-believe.  All the cute traditions of those special holidays were fun, but we knew the truth about the Gospel and we never allowed the secular to become more important than the sacred.

These days, as materialism and commercialism have overshadowed the true reasons for these beautiful, holy celebrations, there has been a backlash among many Christians against those secular elements that have become a focus of the holidays.  My own daughters do not “do” the Easter bunny and Easter baskets and eggs with their kids.  They don’t judge others who do, but for their own families they just feel better leaving those things out of their Easter.

Well, let me backtrack on that a bit.  They have in the past done “Easter” eggs with their children but not in the typical way.  They actually call them “Resurrection Eggs.”  These eggs are sold in Christian bookstores or online, but you could also make a set yourself.  Resurrection Eggs are a lovely way to share the story of Christ’s death and resurrection with your children, or as an object lesson while teaching a Sunday School class or Children’s church.

Start with a recycled egg carton and decorate it appropriately with the title “Resurrection Eggs” and symbols of the true meaning of Easter.  Fill the carton with twelve plastic eggs in different colors.  Hidden in each egg, you will place a little token representing different parts of the Easter story.  The story may be told all in one sitting, or spread out through the week beginning on Palm Sunday and ending with Easter Sunday.  The items inside the twelve eggs are:

1.    A bit of palm leaf – “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”  (John 12:12-13)

2.    Bread (or pita or cracker) – And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it   to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.”  (Matthew 26:26

3.    Silver coin  – “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,  And   said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.”  (Matthew 26: 14-15)

4.   Purple cloth“And they clothed him with purple” (Mark 15:17)

5.   Thorns “And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they    bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail,  King of the Jews!”  (Matthew 27:29) 

6.   Piece of rope, twine, or thick string (a scourge) – “And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15)

7.    Cross“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which  is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him” (John 19: 17-18a)

8.   Nails – “But he [Thomas] said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not  believe.”  (John 20:25b)

9.    Sign“And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Luke 23:38)

10.   Spear (toothpick or whittled piece of wood) – “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced  his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” (John 19:34)

11.   Rock “And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,  And  laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone  to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.”  (Matthew 27:59-60)

12.   Nothing (the tomb is empty) – “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.”  (Matthew 28:6)

When we think of eggs, we think of birth and new life.  John 3 tells us of Nicodemus who came secretly to Jesus, sincerely wanting to know the truth about Jesus and His message.  Jesus told him he needed to be born again.  He needed a spiritual rebirth and a new life.  And then He said something else.  It was Nicodemus who first heard from Jesus Himself the world’s most well-known verse of Scripture: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  The essence of the Easter story: God’s love for each and every one of us provided a way of salvation through Jesus’ shed blood and a new, eternal life in Him

Eggs, as well, have long been used as an object lesson to try to explain the concept of the Trinity—three in one.  The yolk hidden inside represents the Holy Spirit living within each believer.  The white of the egg is between the yolk and the shell and reminds us that Jesus is the Mediator between God and man.  The shell which surrounds the egg symbolizes the Heavenly Father, our omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God.

Yes, I know some say the Easter egg had its origins in pagan celebrations centuries ago.  I’m just saying, though, perhaps it has gotten a bad rap.  There is a lot we can learn from our “Resurrection Eggs.”  They are a reminder of the New Life we have in Christ, and a picture of the very nature of our awesome, Triune God.

Puttin’ on the Squeeze

I have such a problem when it comes to buying shoes.  My left foot is literally a full inch longer than my right foot, so buying a pair of shoes that fits both feet is almost impossible.  If the shoes in question are relatively inexpensive enough, I will sometimes buy two pairs in the different sizes so that I come out with one pair I can actually wear.  Of course, then I have another pair just sitting in my closet waiting for someone who has a right foot bigger than their left!

If that were my only problem with my feet I could live with it but, on top of the size difference, I have a very high instep, wide feet, and feet that swell at the drop of a hat.  I cannot go shopping when my feet are swollen, or even when they are at their skinniest, because I won’t have a good fit for everyday living.  Either the shoes will pinch or even cut in, or I’ll be walking out of them.

Add to all that the styles I just can’t wear any more in my “old” age—straps around the ankles, high heels, high wedges (I’m afraid I’ll fall off and break my ankle!), backless shoes that I will walk out of, thongs because I can’t stand that thingie between my toes, and so on…  What am I left with?  Tennies (I guess they call them athletic shoes now), sling backs with the strap in the back (really hard to find, especially with all my other criteria) or “old lady” tie shoes.  Sigh.  I haven’t quite become desperate enough to go for the old lady shoes.  Call me vain…

I hate shoes that are too tight.  They pinch, they squeeze, they make every step an exercise in torture, and I can’t think of anything BUT how much my feet hurt!  I was reminded of those too-tight shoes this week when Bob finally finished our taxes and we were faced with the grand total of how much we were going to have to come up with for Uncle Sam.  Ouch!  Talk about puttin’ on the squeeze!  I kept waking up all night thinking about those taxes.  Not that I was worried, really—we have a plan on how we will pay.  I don’t know why I kept waking up.  Maybe just because it hurt so badly!

The next morning as Bob and I talked it over, we decided to just put it behind us and thank God that we could pay, and even more than that, to thank Him that we even have an income on which to pay taxes!  Many in this world do not have even that much.  Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)  We ought not to feel bad about paying our taxes, either, because it is a very clear commandment from the Lord—pay your taxes and pay your tithe!  If Jesus said it, then we must cheerfully obey!  It’s a stretch sometimes to cheerfully pay our taxes, but the Bible also says in II Corinthians 9:7, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”  Now, I know this is speaking of charitable giving, giving to God and not necessarily to Caesar, but I think the principle applies—thank God and cheerfully pay your taxes!

I just wish I could cheerfully shop for shoes!