Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Hats Off!!!

Some of us like change; others do not; still others think they do, but respond negatively once they are placed in the upsy-downsy spin cycle of change. That would be me most times.

And it is a time of change here on the Ponderosa. My big-little men have left the nest. They are on the journey that many of us take during our late teens and early twenties. A journey that can take one down a dark path. A journey that slams natural consequences in the face of the traveler. The sting is hard and fresh but many times God-ordained and life changing. This is my prayer.

My girls are headed down new roads as well. "Marie" will be a senior next year and as a young lady with special needs, she is headed into some new territory with volunteering and job placement and training. God has provided so many things in our path as of recently that show to be a great help. Schooling for her in pretty much done and now we are on to some serious life-skills preparation.

This will be my 14th year homeschooling. I will have my third senior in 3 years. But my youngest, "Inger" will be trying a new endeavor, "real" school, as she calls it. As a parent of 4 adopted children, I have tried with all my strength (and the help of the Lord) to wear all the hats required to be a mom, wife, teacher, friend, disciplinarian, etc., but after much prayer, we have a chosen a Christian School that seems to fit the needs of our sweetie. And the peace of God is ruling in our hearts make the last plans for our next school year. I never thought I would choose this route after home schooling for all these years, but I know it is time.

I have learned so much as a mom, wife, and daughter of the King as I have taught my children at home. But I have come to believe this year, that God sometimes changes the course we are on for our good and for a different outcome. I struggle with feelings of failure as I have not wanted to give up this "hat", but there are so many struggles relationally due to the aspect of adoption that I now sigh in relief that I can give someone else the duty of teaching Math, English and other needed things. I won't ever give up the rearing of her little heart and mind to know the things of God. I know this is my God-given job to do forever.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

They Say We are Infidels - Book Review

This world we live in is so tumultuous! We, in America, have lived in a sort of bubble for so long, but the international headlines are hitting close to home more and more often.

The latest book I have picked up to review is a hard read. Not hard in the fact that it is difficult in literary issues, just a difficult topic to swallow. But Mindy Belz does an outstanding job in raising the awareness of the topic at hand, persecuted Christians in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS. In her book, They Say We are Infidels, she takes us to pre-9/11 in Iraq. She educates us on the culture and customs and politics of the Middle East. Along the way you become introduced to several Christians who have had to flee for their lives because of persecution.

At the time of 9/11 and thereafter, the majority in America became well familiar with the name of Sadam Hussein. We were glad to see the liberation of the Iraqi people. We rejoiced to see the American flag flown in place of their former dictator! But we had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. There were people waiting for this to happen so they could come to power. And now, those of us living in 2016, are seeing the results of this. They Say We are Infidels is an excellent history of how ISIS rose to power, but more importantly, how Christians in the Middle East have the power of Someone greater than ISIS in their lives. You will be in awe and shed tears as you read this powerful book.

Read it and pass it on to others!

Note: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Tyndale Blogging Network.



Monday, March 28, 2016

Forgiving My Daughter's Killer - Book Review

I am always interested in stories of forgiveness.

Kate Grosmaire and her family went through an incredible ordeal and has written a book about this journey. Forgiving My Daughter's Killer is a wonderfully written memoir about this journey. The Grosmaire family lost a daughter and sister at the hands of someone they had grown to love. Kate writes in a way easy to read and easy to feel the pain that they went through. The amazing thing is the love and forgiveness that they extended along the way. I can't even imagine the heart wrenching pain and constant battle of feelings that they fought through and, yet, they always came back to forgiveness. This story is a little different from a random murder in the fact that the killer was her boyfriend whom they had come to see as part of their family. This makes this an even harder task to take on; forgiving someone you trusted to keep another loved one safe.



This story is beautiful picture of God's love and forgiveness for mankind and how mankind can exhibit an small part of this.

On a personal note: God is part of this story and yet, as a believer, I had to take into consideration the world-view or spiritual direction of this family. Their Catholic beliefs differ greatly from my own in understanding the Bible. Salvation is by faith alone through grace; without works or anything added to it. Christ is the One who gives the ability to forgive because we realize how much we have been forgiven our own sins. Our faith does not "get us through", rather, the Lord and our trust in Him is our anchor in storms such as these. I do not believe we confess to a priest for forgiveness; it is through Christ alone. The courage and focus of the forgiveness in this story was for the human sake not for the glory of God. I believe the reason we forgive first in obedience to Christ, and then, there are wonderful results and out workings of our choices. I acknowledge that this family has gone through so much and to share this story was extremely difficult, I am sure. But I was saddened to see just where their faith lies. That was a huge part of this story.

Note: I was given a free copy of this book as part of the booklookbloggers network.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Psalm 78

It was a sweet morning of prayer, reading and reflection for Mr. Cartwright and I . We were woken at 4 a.m., a little earlier than normal. I got our much needed java going and whipped up some oatmeal for an energizing breakfast. But what was more invigorating than the physical sustenance, was the spiritual manna that we ate. We opened the Scriptures to the Psalm we had left off at. Our Lord sure knew we needed it as we are heading down some potentially anxious roads.

As we read, we both acknowledged the original intent of this Psalm. Asaph, the writer of this particular psalm, is reminding himself and the people he is leading in Israel, about their Good Shepherd. Reminding them of where they have been and what they experienced in the past because of their unfaithfulness. But we used this as a secondary application in our lives and it certainly brought a peace as we saw God's great hand in times past!

O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying,
 for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
stories we have heard and known,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.
For he issued his laws to Jacob;
    he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
    to teach them to their children,
 so the next generation might know them—
    even the children not yet born—
    and they in turn will teach their own children.
 So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
    not forgetting his glorious miracles
    and obeying his commands.

At this point we surrendered again our own desires for our children, confessed where we haven't taught as needed and praised God for his faithfulness.

 Then they will not be like their ancestors—
    stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful,
    refusing to give their hearts to God.

We reminded God that He placed these beautiful children in our lives and we begged Him to continue to work and ultimately redeem them from the life they would have lived apart from knowing the Gospel.

 The warriors of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
    turned their backs and fled on the day of battle.
 They did not keep God’s covenant
    and refused to live by his instructions.
 They forgot what he had done—
    the great wonders he had shown them,
 the miracles he did for their ancestors
    on the plain of Zoan in the land of Egypt.
 For he divided the sea and led them through,
    making the water stand up like walls!
 In the daytime he led them by a cloud,
    and all night by a pillar of fire.
He split open the rocks in the wilderness
    to give them water, as from a gushing spring.
 He made streams pour from the rock,
    making the waters flow down like a river!
 Yet they kept on sinning against him,
    rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
 They stubbornly tested God in their hearts,
    demanding the foods they craved.
 They even spoke against God himself, saying,
    “God can’t give us food in the wilderness.
Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out,
    but he can’t give his people bread and meat.”
 When the Lord heard them, he was furious.
    The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob.
    Yes, his anger rose against Israel,
 for they did not believe God
    or trust him to care for them.

We prayed for our children to remember what they have been taught. We prayed that God would not let them forget forever! We prayed for open eyes! And then we read the graciousness of God and how He rained provisions down on His people. How He gave them bread to eat to remind them He is their BREAD of LIFE! He gave them LIVING WATER; yet, rejection was right around the corner.

But he commanded the skies to open;
    he opened the doors of heaven.
He rained down manna for them to eat;
    he gave them bread from heaven.
 They ate the food of angels!
    God gave them all they could hold.
 He released the east wind in the heavens
    and guided the south wind by his mighty power.
 He rained down meat as thick as dust—
    birds as plentiful as the sand on the seashore!
 He caused the birds to fall within their camp
    and all around their tents.
 The people ate their fill.
    He gave them what they craved.
But before they satisfied their craving,
    while the meat was yet in their mouths,
 the anger of God rose against them,
    and he killed their strongest men.
    He struck down the finest of Israel’s young men.


BUT THEY FORGOT!!!! Oh, how the world calls to our children. Our prayer this morning was for our God to arise and break down the hard hearts of those we love.

 But in spite of this, the people kept sinning.
    Despite his wonders, they refused to trust him.
 So he ended their lives in failure,
    their years in terror.
 When God began killing them,
    they finally sought him.
    They repented and took God seriously.
Then they remembered that God was their rock,
    that God Most High was their redeemer.
But all they gave him was lip service;
    they lied to him with their tongues.
 Their hearts were not loyal to him.
    They did not keep his covenant.

Yet, God withheld His judgment for a time. He showed great mercy. He forgave their sins. We prayed our wayward lambs would do this. That they would cry out for mercy.

 Yet he was merciful and forgave their sins
    and did not destroy them all.
Many times he held back his anger
    and did not unleash his fury!
 For he remembered that they were merely mortal,
    gone like a breath of wind that never returns.
 Oh, how often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
    and grieved his heart in that dry wasteland.
 Again and again they tested God’s patience
    and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember his power
    and how he rescued them from their enemies.
 They did not remember his miraculous signs in Egypt,
    his wonders on the plain of Zoan.
For he turned their rivers into blood,
    so no one could drink from the streams.
 He sent vast swarms of flies to consume them
    and hordes of frogs to ruin them.
 He gave their crops to caterpillars;
    their harvest was consumed by locusts.
 He destroyed their grapevines with hail
    and shattered their sycamore-figs with sleet.
 He abandoned their cattle to the hail,
    their livestock to bolts of lightning.
 He loosed on them his fierce anger—
    all his fury, rage, and hostility.
He dispatched against them
    a band of destroying angels.
 He turned his anger against them;
    he did not spare the Egyptians’ lives
    but ravaged them with the plague.
 He killed the oldest son in each Egyptian family,
    the flower of youth throughout the land of Egypt.
 But he led his own people like a flock of sheep,
    guiding them safely through the wilderness.
 He kept them safe so they were not afraid;
    but the sea covered their enemies.
 He brought them to the border of his holy land,
    to this land of hills he had won for them.
 He drove out the nations before them;
    he gave them their inheritance by lot.
    He settled the tribes of Israel into their homes.
 But they kept testing and rebelling against God Most High.
    They did not obey his laws.
 They turned back and were as faithless as their parents.
    They were as undependable as a crooked bow.
 They angered God by building shrines to other gods;
    they made him jealous with their idols.
 When God heard them, he was very angry,
    and he completely rejected Israel.

The ending for Israel wasn't all the grand. We begged our Lord for a different ending with our treasures! Our hearts are heavy, sad and full of potential fears. But we were able to end our worship time with dwelling on Matthew 6; seeking first His kingdom and trusting him for all else.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Piece of My Heart

It is not supposed to be this way! It's time to let one of my lambs out of the pasture and find his way, but this is not happening in a way that is peaceful, nor hopeful, humanly speaking. My lamb is 19 and feels ready to face the wolves and thorns out there.

Deep down inside, I know he is not ready.

He may end up on a steep precipice bleating for help.

Parenting these lambs is so difficult. I want to be that person reaching down to save him. I want to keep him from falling any farther. My heart breaks as choices are made despite the edge he sees. There is no face to this man reaching down to help, but I know the only face that belongs to him. My God. My Savior. My Shepherd. At times my belief that he will be saved waivers. My hope diminishes.

This week I heard a message about 1 Corinthians 13 expounding on what true agape love is. My whole life I have heard sermons describing love. I have attended wedding after wedding where this Scripture was read aloud. Beautiful.

But, listen to this. LOVE BELIEVES ALL THINGS! LOVE HOPES ALL THINGS!

Emotions entangle truth. They drown it out altogether sometimes. So I have to go back to the Word that is the Breath of Life. The Bread that satisfies. The Living Water that quenches. I must believe because I love. I must hope because I love.

The pig sty may have a new visitor eventually. But I BELIEVE that God will pluck him out and set him on the road back home. I have hope in my Heavenly Father.

The skies have flown him to another state all together. I thought there would be no goodbyes. No see you laters. No hugs. No thank yous. No peace. But at least, I did get a hug with a mumbled, "I love you too."

My God's people are everywhere. My prayer during this separation is that God will search him out and not let him rest. That God will be the Hound of Heaven pursuing him at every turn.

Please pray for him too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Finding a Little Gem of Hope





As I opened up the devotional book to read to my princesses today, I found myself mesmerized by a handwriting from yester-year! A handwritten note with letters that I hadn't seen for quite a while...maybe 12 years ago.

There was a faded highlight over certain words.

Forgive
He loves you
in your place
God has promised
forgiveness
turn away
Jesus as Lord and Savior

I immediately knew who wrote it, and tears came to my eyes. I was full of hope in the knowledge that somewhere deep inside one of my lambs was the introduction of eternal life, sin, hope, salvation, and promise. Somewhere along the way of life he has faltered and allowed many things to crowd out the most essential things. Hurt, pain, anger and idols, among other things, yet I have a renewed confidence in my powerful Savior that He is working all things together. The path looks ugly right now. It hurts.
There is separation and anxiety. There are choices being made that are damaging. But my God is a healer. Lord Jesus, help my unbelief.

But today, I was reminded that over the years, God has been faithful. There is a big boy who at one point in his life was a little boy with a tender heart. And I trust those truths received will not turn void. So I pray again today, as like every day, that God would do the miracle only He can do.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Life Giving Home

I think all moms want this. A life giving home. A home where all residing feel safe and loved. A home where all negative emotion is kept at bay and all loving and kindness exude from everyone. After all, we know how easy this is to accomplish, right?

NOT!!!!

Sally and Sarah Clarkson, mother and daughter author team of The Life Giving Home, do a very beautiful job of encouraging moms to push as hard as they can to create a beautiful home: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. At first as the reader begins this book journey one word that comes to mind is overwhelming. But keep pushing through. Their transparency comes to light as they remind you, the reader, that it is a daily challenge for them as well. They have set up the book to have each chapter represent a month in the year and give very practical advice and ideas to help develop this "air" in the home. Love, kindness, patience....the fruits of the spirit are essential; as well as, selflessness...something that every person struggles with; intensely, I might add.

Personally, I am a SERIOUS type A personality and struggle to get away from my checklist. This book has helped me to make a list that can help me daily as I help to develop the "who" of the little (and not so little) people in my house.

I am very thankful I came across this read. This is now a staple next to my Bible and nightstand. For I am constantly aware that I need daily refreshers and reminders.

Note: As a part of the Tyndale Blogging Network, I received a free copy of this book.



Sunday, January 17, 2016

Brilliant Light

This last week, my oldest daughter and I went to an appointment for a program through our local school system, called Vocational Rehab. They offer free help for "special needs" students as they get close to graduation; in order to find jobs or even get vocational training. (Even though she has always been home schooled, we can still use this service.) My sweet "Marie" is a junior in high school, almost 17 years old. She entered this life with so many struggles. She continued persevering in life and school even though many things seemed to be against her. And she has become a beautiful woman who loves God with all her heart.

As we entered the appointment, her nerves were on edge and neither of us really knew what to expect. As we left the appointment, I wanted to just cry. She did an amazing job, although the amazing part wasn't her poise, or knowledge of what she could articulate. It was her love for Jesus and she had no inhibition to express why she lives the way she does. Her worldview screamed loud and clear. When questions were asked about her blog or about her relationships with her parents, it came down to, "I write about what Christ has done for me..." or "sometimes I disagree with my parents, but I know they are trying to protect me and help me to do what is right."

The counselor that interviewed her was stoic and did not express emotion either way to "Marie's" responses, but I would have loved to get in her head.

One thing I am certain of is this: my sweetie's light was bright that day. She allowed the world, especially the counselor, to see what she lives for. She can't tell you her birthday some days. She can't tell you what the date is, how much money a cashier needs to give her back, or what time it is. But she is confident of this one thing: HE WHO BEGAN THE WORK IN HER IS STILL WORKING AND WILL COMPLETE IT!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Letters of Encouragement

This week marks a special time in the life of a special ministry. Joni and Friends is a unique ministry started by Joni Earickson Tada after her life was radically changed by a swimming accident 40+ years ago. She is quadriplegic who testifies daily of God's grace in her life via her radio spot.

The girls and I have been listening to it via podcast weekly and it has become a great thing to catch up on while we are on the road too. Joni is one of my spiritual heroes. She has truly been used in so many ways to speak the truth of God's Word and His will.

This week on her program she has started a series called, Hearts for the Handicapped. Each day, for a week, she highlights a special family, and gives the listener an opportunity to write to encourage that family. The disabilities may include anything from autism to paralysis.

So as part of our school week we have incorporated a time to pray and write to these families.

It gives us perspective.





Monday, January 4, 2016

Just a Little Poem; A Hymn

If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
And hope in Him thro' all thy ways,
He'll give the strength, what-e'er betide thee,
And bear thee thro the evil days;
Who trust in God's unchanging love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.

Over, thou restless heart, be still
And wait in cheerful hope, content
To take what-e'er His gracious will,
His all discerning love, hath sent;
No doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.

Sing, pray, and swerve not from His ways;
But do thine own part faithfully.
Trust His rich promises of grace,
So shall they be fulfilled in thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed. Amen.

- George Neumark