Saturday, August 28, 2010


"[They] fell down and worshiped God, Who was seated on the throne. And they cried: 'Amen, Hallelujah!'"

Revelation 19:4

(The title of this post "Holly-loo-ya!" came from Joshua's dear friend, Wade. Wade and his sister, Amanda, love Holly, too. One day when Wade was over to play, he overheard me sharing about God's faithfulness through the adoption our dog and Wade spontaneously said "Holly-loo-ya!" Thank you, Wade. You inspire us in more ways than you know!)

My very sweet friend, Carol, gave me these adorable towels that she had personalized for Holly.

You may remember me sharing about our family adding its newest member, Holly, a West Highland Terrier. Those of you who know me well know that me writing a blog post about a dog is a miracle in and of itself!! I was not a dog person. Didn't want a dog for many reasons. I did the very ugly cry when I knew we were adding a dog to our family. I groaned and I sobbed. It was a death to self. I was mourning a death to self. Obedience to God often requires death to self. But I'd much rather die to self than be walking in disobedience and out of His will. "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30

My heart, though grieving, was anchored in Him knowing that I was obeying God, honoring my husband and delighting my children. Any lingered heartache of my own was kept quiet between me and the Lord as I did not want to overshadow their joy.

We adopted our dog, Holly, from a single mom at our church who could no longer care for Holly. After my husband asked me to pray about bringing a dog into our family and I surrendered, God efficiently and clearly led us to Holly. God was gracious and faithful. So, one Friday afternoon in March, I loaded up into my car a dog, her crate, a forty pound bag of dog food and various other dog accessories. It was like holding my nose and jumping into a cold pool of water. I couldn't think about it too much; I just had to do it. And so, we brought Holly home.

Fast forward six months to current day. This woman who grieved death to self, who didn't want a dog, who didn't want to clean up dog waste, who didn't want her morning quiet time interrupted by a doggy needing her, who didn't want the smell of a dog in her house, who wasn't looking forward to increased laundry room floor scrubbings on my hands and knees because that is Holly's dining area, who didn't want to coordinate doggy care if we were going to be away for a day or on vacation, who didn't want life interrupted by a dog....

A woman who couldn't possibly imagine the love she'd have for this precious little doggy, who didn't realize how Holly would truly complete our family, who couldn't fathom how our cherubs would beautifully love and care for Holly, who didn't know the joy Holly would bring her entire family, who hadn't thought about how a little white fluffy creature could get to excited when daddy came home, who cried and cried the first night of a family vacation out of the country because she missed her so much while Holly was home being cared for...this transformed-heart woman who now:

--Has given Holly her favorite purple blanket as her own to put on the floor for naps and sleeping at night time

--Rushes home to see Holly after being away from the house for a few hours

--Moistens her dry dog food with juice from a roasted chicken the family is having for dinner so Holly gets to enjoy a special treat

--Who looks forward to taking Holly for early morning walks while the neighborhood is still and quiet

--Who loves having Holly at her feet while she has her morning quiet time with the Lord

--Who finds herself talking to others about Holly

--Who takes Holly on car rides whenever possible so she has a change of scenery

--Who makes sure Holly is eating, drinking, "plumbing" and exercising enough

--Who delights in seeing other children pet and play with Holly

--Who shares continually about how God brought the family a wonderful dog

--Who could go on and on here, but is realizing she may be becoming one of those dog owners who are a little nutty about their dog...

Obedience School. Not for our sweet (but strong-willed) Holly. I am the student. God is the gracious Master. He spoke. Jim asked me to pray. I surrendered and obeyed in reverence. God blessed beyond measure and changed my heart in miraculous ways. He is in the heart-changing business. We just have to yield.

So we sing "HOLLY-LOO-YA" and give God the glory for His faithfulness even in the adoption of a dog!! Amen, Holly-loo-ya!

"Yield your hearts to the LORD."

Joshua 24:23

Friday, August 27, 2010

Always Near The Cross

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
Matthew 5:7

"Lord God Almighty,
Thou hast taught me the necessity of a Mediator, a Messiah, to be embraced in love with all my heart, as King to rule me, as Prophet to guide me, as Priest to take away my sin and death, and this by faith in Thy beloved Son, Who teaches me not to guide myself, not to obey myself, not to try to rule and conquer sin, but to cleave to the One who will do all for me.

Thou hast made known to me that to save me is Christ's work, but to cleave to Him by faith is my work, and with this faith is the necessity of my daily repentance as a mourning for the sin which Christ by grace has removed.

Continue, O God, to teach me that faith apprehends Christ's righteousness not only for the satisfaction of justice, but as unspotted evidence of Thy love to me.
Help me to make use of His work of salvation as the ground of peace, and of Thy favour to, and acceptance of me the sinner, so that I may live always near the cross."

(The Valley of Vision - Puritan Prayers and Devotions)

So that I may live always near the cross. There is a beautiful simplicity rooted in that desire. Living near the cross, abiding in His Word, honoring Him. As our hearts are postured in this humility, we extend the same grace, mercy and forgiveness He lavishes on us.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Decade-Sized Blessing

"I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence." Exodus 33:19

Renee Swope was sharing with the women gathered at She Speaks 2010 about the different seasons of ministry for women who are wives and/or moms: The No Season. The Slow Season. The Go Season. She thought, after the Lord blessed her family through adoption with a beautiful baby girl, that she'd be in a "No Season" for ministry. Much to her surprise, the Lord had her in a "Slow Season".

Me, Aster, Renee

Honoring God in our families and homes begins with serving our husbands and children. As Beth Moore shared Saturday morning (via a special video message for She Speaks): "Never neglect your family for ministry. God esteems the office of husbandry. Be careful not to go in ministry beyond where your husband is blessing. No amount of success in ministry makes up for failure with your family."

God confirms the season of ministry in our lives through our husbands, whether it is No, Slow or Go. When Jim's decision came that I was to go to She Speaks 2010...and my family was coming with me...I was humbly thankful. Joshua's tenth birthday was the Saturday of the conference, and I did not want to be apart from him when he turned to the big double digits! What a treasure for my family to travel with me in love and support as I attended the conference.

I was particularly excited because I knew Cheri Keaggy was leading worship for the conference. Cheri's song "Little Boy On My Knees" was Joshua's baby dedication song in 2000. I still sing that song to him sometimes at bedtime. I was THRILLED that my family, especially Joshua, would be able to meet Cheri in person. On Joshua's tenth birthday weekend! Wow! God is so good.

Renee Swope encouraged the women, "Pray for your family that, as you walk in obedience to the Lord in ministry, He would bless your family in ways that they could not otherwise be blessed if you were not walking in obedience in ministry." As we walk in obedience, God does bless us in unimaginable ways. When Renee said that, my jaw dropped and tears trickled down my cheeks. God had done that for me and my family....He had blessed us in ways that weekend that we would not have been blessed if we were not walking in obedience.

I had the opportunity to chat with Cheri for a few minutes, introduce her to my family, tell her that her song "Little Boy On His Knees" was Joshua's baby dedication song and that we were celebrating his tenth birthday that weekend. Cheri said to me, "Did you know that I wrote another song for my son when he turned ten that starts out, 'Here I am again, now my son is ten. I am still praying for you, my boy.' I am going to sing it Saturday."

Joshua, Gabrielle, Me, Cheri

Imagine my jaw dropping!! I did not know she had written a song for her song when he turned ten. And she was going to sing it on Saturday....Joshua's tenth birthday!!!! Now, really...only God could orchestrate that decade-sized blessing for this mamma's heart!!! Only God.

On Saturday, July 31st, as Joshua turned ten, I sat just a few feet away from Cheri Keaggy as she sang her song "You'll Always Be My Son". Here I am my son is ten.....I am still praying for you, my boy. God's love was shining in my heart so intimately in those moments. He knows the cries of my heart for our children. Those all around me may have been completely unaware of God's sweet embrace on this mamma as Cheri sang so beautifully. Yet for me, it was a miraculous moment. A sweet blessing orchestrated by God because God was honored, my husband's leading was honored and obedience ushered the way. To love is to obey. "This is love for God: to obey His commands." 1 John 5:3 And when we obey, He lavishes His love on us in beautiful, serendipitous ways. "See, I am setting before you today a blessing...blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today." Deut. 11:26-27

Only God could orchestrate me being at the conference on that weekend, when Cheri Keaggy was leading worship, with my family with me at the conference for the first time, as Joshua turned ten, and as Cheri Keaggy sang her song about her son turning ten...on Joshua's tenth birthday. "Little Boy On His Knees" serenaded Joshua at his baby dedication. "You'll Always Be My Son" ushered Joshua into a new decade of life. From dedicating Joshua to the Lord when he was a baby to now fervently and unceasingly praying for him as a young boy turned ten, Cheri's sweet voice and poignant lyrics have bridged this mommy's heart to the next season of life for Joshua. "O Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of this Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who delight in revering Your name." Nehemiah 1:11

Thank you, God, for blessings that can only come from Your gracious hand. Thank you for meeting us in such personal ways. Thank you for the blessings of obedience. Only You deserve the glory. We are humbled.

"...let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe."
Hebrews 12:28

Friday, August 13, 2010

Forgive Quickly

"The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving..."
Daniel 9:9

"Forgive Quickly." It's been almost two decades since one of our pastors admonished us with those words in our pre-marital class. During those weeks of preparation for marriage with other engaged couples, we received much wise instruction from our pastor through God's Word. Yet those words "Forgive Quickly" have continually reverberated in my heart and mind. This truth has been a healing balm to my heart and in my marriage. And I am thankful my husband forgives me quickly, too.

Withholding forgiveness can be destructive. Our hurt, self-righteousness and pride can build dangerous walls. God's love, mercy and forgiveness flowing through us will protect and strengthen our marriage union and our "cleaving" together. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Genesis 2:24

When I feel an unwillingness to forgive quickly welling up in my heart, I am humbly reminded of the abundant mercy God has shown me in my life. My heart is humbled and I race to show mercy.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

A Beautiful Reflection and A Big Heart

"As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man."
Proverbs 27:19

Zoe Elmore's radiant countenance was the first face that greeted me at the threshold to my first She Speaks Conference in 2007. She welcomed me with enthusiasm and warm hugs and made me feel right at home. In that first brief but meaningful encounter with Zoe, God's love through her and our love for Him connected us in our hearts. And our immediate connection of our enjoyment and appreciation of fashion finery was an extra stitch in our knitting together. (Don't you love her pink jacket above??)

In 2008, Zoe and I had another momentary encounter between sessions at She Speaks. Zoe was going in to teach a session as I was passing by. She commented on a bracelet I was wearing (a frugal fashion finery from The Trading Post in the Adirondacks costing only $9.99!) and I adored her shirt. She (and the gorgeous Wendy Blight, who was standing nearby) shared with me where she purchased her fabulous shirt and I was able to get one in my size in the weeks that followed. During my visit to the Adirondacks later that summer, I picked Zoe up a similar bracelet to the one I was wearing and sent it to her as a surprise.

Last month, my family lovingly journeyed with me to She Speaks 2010. The Lord blessed me again with brief but lovely encounters with Zoe. On Sunday morning as everyone was saying their farewells, I saw Zoe once again. Admiring again her flare for fashion, I complimented her on the silver bracelet she was wearing that was adorned with big hearts. What happened next, took my breath away. Spontaneously and with great enthusiasm, Zoe effortlessly took the bracelet off of her wrist and placed it on mine. Within seconds, she had given me her bracelet...simply because I said I liked it. Her kindness made me speechless. My mouth dropped open and I wanted to say "No, I can't take your bracelet". Zoe, sensing my hesitation, said, "You receive that bracelet. It's yours now. And every time you wear it, please pray for me." My heart was hushed and humbled. "Thank you, Zoe. Yes, I will do that. I will pray for you every time I wear it."

"Cheerful giver" was personified through Zoe that Sunday morning. God sure loves her. "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly...for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7) Loving and giving go hand in hand all throughout God's Word, culminating in the most beautiful giving ever. "For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) God loved. God gave. Zoe's effortless and enthusiastic giving reflects His love and His heart. And it's no wonder there are BIG HEARTS on my new prayer bracelet. They are a beautiful reflection of His giving heart reflected through her. A little bling and a lot of love!

The colorful threads of Zoe's love and kindness, which reflect our master Weaver, are woven preciously now in the fabric of my heart and life. Though our face-to-face encounters have been fleeting and few, her loving and giving heart has strengthened and encouraged my heart each time our paths cross. Strands of kindness and love through beautiful friends in my life stretch out to the fringe. And the fringe is my favorite part of any woven creation.

"I put bracelets on your arms..."
Ezekial 16:11

" have shown great kindness to me..."
Genesis 19:19

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hushed and Humbled

"He will quiet you with His love..."
Zephaniah 3:17

Going to She Speaks 2010 for me was a desire and prayer in my heart before the Lord. He knew my heart. He also knew that I did not want to go because I would miss Joshua's 10th birthday, which was not an option for me. Maybe when our cherubs are older I won't mind not being with them on their actual birthday, but right now it is not negotiable....they are stuck with me!

For a few years before my first She Speaks in 2007, Jim had encouraged me to attend the conference. "You need to go to that conference" he would say. Each year, he would mention it and I would hush his sincere and sweet suggestion and encouragement away. However, in 2007, I knew God was beckoning me to go. His confirmations were everywhere. In 2008, I was led to go again with a few friends. In 2009, the conference conflicted with Joshua's 9th birthday and with a pre-planned family vacation to Camp of The Woods where James MacDonald was speaking for the week (one of Jim's favorite Bible teachers!!!). I did not attend in 2009.

This year, both Jim and I felt again that I should be there. So, in obedience to God's will, my sweet husband packed us all up and we made a wonderful family road trip to North Carolina!!!

Before and during (and now after) She Speaks 2010, I prayed and sought the Lord in His Word. He gave me such a generous portion of His Word for my heart from Him. I am so thankful. I'd like to share a few of those scriptures with you.

Psalm 37:30 - "The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom and his tongue speaks what is just."

Malachi 2:5-7 - "My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty."

Ecc. 12:10-12 - "The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body."
[goad - 1. a stick for driving cattle, oxen, ...etc.; prod. 2. something that encourages, urges, or drives; a stimulus.]

My personal prayer for me - "So I May Know You": Exodus 33:13
"If You are pleased with me, teach me Your ways, so I may know You and continue to find favor with You."

My prayer for everyone in attendance: Exodus 33:18-19 -
"Then Moses said, 'Now show me your glory.'
And the LORD said, 'I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD, in your presence.'"

Hushed and humbled. My heart has again been quieted with His love and humbled by His grace, mercy, goodness and blessings. He met me so bountifully in His Word. He blessed me in unimaginable ways. (Blog post for another day.)

There were so many personal blessings from She Speaks 2010 that I could really go on and on and on. One of the biggest blessings: I met lots of bloggy friends that I have never met in person!!!!! BLOGGY FRIENDS -- I am doing a special Smilebox Slideshow just for all of you (or shall I say "for y'all")!!! Check back in a few days for your special slideshow!! I have so many pictures!! So excited!

Here is a Smilebox I did for my P31 sister-friends. Enjoy!

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"Let the one who has My word speak it faithfully...."

Jeremiah 23:28