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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Flowers - Not so Wordy Wednesday

Since today is short on words (in accordance to the rules of Not so Wordy Wednesday!) I thought I'd share with you the flowers in my back yard.

Now, you'll notice that we don't actually have any flowers in our back yard. Right now we only have flowers on our back yard. But hopefully that will change one of these days. The irrigation system is in; we just don't have any flowers on it. Got that?

I didn't plant any of these flowers. My husband is the true gardener, not me. I don't like to get my hands that dirty. I know, I know. Many of you are shaking your heads right now and thinking about how much you enjoy getting your hands in some good soil. But that's just not for me. I love getting my hands in dough or batter or even in soapy suds, but not dirt.

But every morning when I get home from my walk, I tend to these potted beauties. I dead-head those you're supposed to do that to and water them all with my green plastic watering can.

Then I sit on my back porch and enjoy them all while there's still a shade and a cool breeze. I drink my coffee, read my Bible and talk to God.

Oops! I wasn't completely truthful, was I? I actually do have some flowers in my back yard. I have a gorgeous row of roses right beneath my window. They were given to me by my husband and my parents. And of course, my husband planted them for me so that they are on the irrigation system and I don't have to water them.

Roses grow beautifully in Arizona! We have fewer bugs and diseases that commonly play havoc with roses. Mine are only two seasons old so they're still getting the hang of things, but they've really done beautifully.

My dogs usually accompany to the back yard any opportunity they get. I imagine they've forgotten what grass is by now, poor things. But they've adapted nicely and love sitting in the sun for a little while and then shifting to the cooler bricks in the shade.

I do have some plants that are ready to go into the ground when my husband gets around to it. He's just been very busy this summer. But I keep watering them so they'll be ready to go in the ground when he has time to put them there.

We have a nice Texas Ranger and a few Lantana ready to go. These grow easily in the Arizona sun, especially on a drip irrigation system.

So that's my backyard flowers. I enjoy them so much, especially against the beautiful blue Arizona sky and framed by the majestic Huachuca Mountains in the distance.

Do you have flowers this summer? Do you get to enjoy them each day? I hope so. I know mine are nothing spectacular in comparison to the lush foliage or the deep greens of other places. I've lived in those places and enjoyed nature's beauty there too. But, due to the lack of bugs and the low humidity, flowers--both cacti and more traditional flowers like roses, geraniums, and vinca--really do grow well in Arizona, and they are perhaps even more gloriously noticeable and appreciated because of the brown dirt and rocks from which they grow.

So I guess that's why I wanted to share my flowers with you today. Because they are indeed blooms in the desert. And if you've ever been through a desert - either literally or spiritually - you know how precious those vibrant, colorful blooms are.

Go and enjoy a few blooms today!

Monday, June 28, 2010

What About Him?

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord--what about him?" (John 21:21, HCSB)

We often think of Peter as the disciple who blurted out whatever he thought before really thinking. We might even criticize him for his impetuous words. But quite honestly, Peter just voiced the sorts of things we all think.

"What about her?" Those are very common words on the soundtrack of my mind. I don't know that I've ever said them out loud, other than in prayer, but I've certainly thought them. 

Ministry, in fact, is one of the most common arenas for such thoughts to occur in my head. I tend to compare my calling to the callings of others. I am prone to compare methods, ministry styles, and opportunities. But most critically, I compare results. Bad idea.

As my friend Kim often tells me, if you get caught up in the comparison game you'll always find someone who's not doing "as well" as you are, but you also find someone who's doing "better" than you. You never win the comparison game; it's as never-ending and cyclical as a childish game of Candyland in which you move forward 12 spaces only to be sent back to lollipop land. But as frustrating as comparisons inevitably are, we continue to make them.

In John 21, Jesus has appeared to a group of the disciples post resurrection. They've been out fishing and caught nothing, but He comes along and, in His usual style, enables them to catch a boat load. Recognizing the fishing miracle as one Jesus had performed before, the disciples realize Jesus is in their midst and Peter hurriedly swims to shore only to find that Jesus has already prepared them a delicious breakfast of bread and fish.

It's immediately after this breakfast that Jesus begins talking with Peter about his ministry. We have to remember that Peter has denied even knowing Jesus three times in recent days and is probably feeling a little disqualified from walking in His footsteps at this point. But Jesus engages him in a familiar discussion of Peter's love for Jesus and Jesus' call for him to feed His sheep. Peter pledges his love to his Savior, but we never hear him actually agree to feed Jesus' sheep. Whether he feels inadequate for the task or he's just having a hard time understanding Jesus' command, he never says, "You betcha! I'm your man!"

And before Peter even has a chance to think things over and sign on the dotted line in response to his Master's calling, Jesus goes on to tell him that he will die on a cross not unlike the one He recently hung from Himself. Then, as though He had just delivered good news instead of a death sentence, Jesus says to Peter, "Follow Me!"

Now what kind of calling is that? Peter, I have a ministry for you. I want you to quit this fishing business and feed my sheep instead. If you really love me, you'll stop fishing and start tending sheep. Of course if you agree to this calling, it will require your life of you and you'll eventually die a martyr's death. But, hey, follow me!

Peter looks over his shoulder - always a dangerous thing to do when you're supposed to be moving forward - and notices the disciple "whom Jesus loved," thought to be John, the author of the book. Like I've often done in the privacy of my conversations with Jesus, he says, "What about him?"

What do you think Jesus said? What does He say when I ask Him a similar question? What does He say when you begin to compare yourself to others?

"If I want him to remain until I come," Jesus answered, 
"what is that to you? As for you, follow Me."

Of course, Jesus wasn't actually saying that John would live forever. He was just letting Peter know that comparisons have no part in honest, committed, sold-out ministry. Ministry, whether it's teaching a Sunday school class, writing Bible studies, visiting shut-ins, loving on new mamas, building churches or working with troubled teens, is a matter of sacrifice, laying it all down and following hard after Jesus. It's not a place for pride or competition or jealousy or ... comparisons.

To follow Jesus implies that our eyes on are Him and we're watching where He is leading so that we can trail right behind Him. If we're doing that then we aren't as prone to look over our shoulder at what others are doing, how they're doing it, or where He's taking them. We're not as likely to get side-tracked with comparisons, self-pity, jealousy, or criticism either.

Today, I'm going to try a little harder to keep my eyes on the One I'm following. I'm going to leave the destination up to Him. And I'm going to trust that He knows the trail He wants to take me on. It will undoubtedly be different from your trail or anyone else's, but, as Jesus said, "What does that matter?" The most important thing is that He, the God of the universe, the great I AM, my Redeemer and Lord, has somewhere He wants to take me, little ol' me. And that makes it all worth it!

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Summer Reading Program

When I was a kid, one of the first rites of summer was going to the library, signing up for the summer reading program, picking up my official summer reading program log, and checking out that first batch of books. Summer may have been for taking swimming lessons and shelling butter beans and eating dinner on the back screened in porch, but it was also for reading.

Nowadays when I go to the library in May or June it's all I can do to keep from picking up one of those neon green reading program logs and outlining my pursuit of the 25 or 50 or 100 book level (of course I haven't read 100 books in a single summer since I left behind the Small family in the children's section). But when I hesitate at the library counter and look wistfully at the summer reading program information and even reach out for one of the logs, my children inevitably roll their eyes and swat my hand in disgust save me from embarrassment and remind me I'm too old for that now.

So I don't have a summer reading program log, but I definitely do have a summer reading program. In fact, out of desperation to have some sort of legitimate summer reading program for adults like me, I invented my own a couple of summers ago...at my church. Our women's ministry now has a summer reading program. That's what happens when the leader of the women's ministry has a thing for childhood activities.

I We choose three books that I'd we'd like to read during the summer and offer to order them for anyone interested. Late in July we have a "Books and Breakfast" on a Saturday morning where we gather over a casual breakfast and break into three discussion groups to discuss the three books. You can read all three books (as I always do) but you can only participate in one discussion group, unfortunately. There is currently no reward for the women who have read the most books, but I may have to work on changing that. (Just kidding!)

In light of my love for summer reading, I thought I'd share with you what's on my night stand during these hot months (since my local library obviously doesn't care enough to let me fill out a reading log!). I'm one of those folks that reads about three books at a time, but I usually do finish them all. Maybe you'll find something from my list that will interest you.

  • Girls Gone Wise by Mary Kassian. This is a great non-fiction book based on the Proverbs description of a girl gone wise and her wilder, wily counterpart. Mary always writes with such insight, absolutely amazing at times. And in this book she has really opened my eyes to exactly what defines a wild and dangerous woman and what marks a wise woman of God. Compelling, captivating and fairly easy to read. Great for women of all ages, but I highly recommend it to younger women and teenagers who are just setting out on the path of their choosing.
  • So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore. I'm just a few chapters into this one, but I'm enjoying it so far. Beth always writes in a very friendly and transparent voice, so you feel more like you're listening to her talk from across the table rather than reading her words. And this subject is obviously one that most of us women deal with on a consistent basis. Beth says it's time for us to mark it off our list though, and I agree. I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say on the topic.
  • You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes by Lisa McKay. Married to a pastor for over 20 years, I've read most every book ever published about life in the fishbowl of ministry. But Lisa writes with a sassy sense of humor that has been lacking from most of those books. Although I'm not quite finished with this book either, I've thoroughly enjoyed her modern woman perspective coupled with her extremely mature and biblical take on serving alongside (and doing the laundry for) the man in the pulpit. If you're a ministry wife, I highly recommend this book. If you know a minister's wife, and most of you do, this little jewel would be a great gift!
Now, on to my fiction selections!

  • Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers. It seems a lot of women love everything Francine Rivers writes. And while I have, quite frankly, lost interest in a couple of her books before I could finish them, I did love And the Shofar Blew. I also loved, loved, loved this book, the first in a two-part series. It's one of those cross generational things where you get to see how one woman's journey, choices, and attitudes greatly affected her daughter's life. I love books that help you see that things are not always as they seem, a little grace could go a long ways, and forgiveness paves the way to understanding, not the converse. If you read nothing else this summer, this is the book to choose!
  • Words Unspoken by Elizabeth Musser. Here's another one that I'm currently in the middle of. (I think that makes four that I'm reading at one time!) Elizabeth Musser, like me, is from the Atlanta area and so I love her references to real places and events in that area. But, unlike me, she's currently serving with her husband as a missionary in France, so she also writes about places and the culture there. This book weaves together the stories of about six or seven people (I haven't stopped to count!) who are struggling with the voices in their heads as they navigate their individual journeys during the 1980s. Don't let the reference to "voices in their heads" alarm you. Let's be honest. We all have them. Those words unspoken often dictate our actions and attitudes with far more power than the words spoken aloud. Whether they are things said to us in the past, the words we imagine others want to say to us, or that little insecure voice from deep within, we all struggle to discern the faulty voices from the true ones. I'm loving this book too!
  • Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, and A Light to My Path, all by Lynn Austin. This trio of books, known as the Refiner's Fire series, takes the reader to the front lines of the Civil War from three different perspectives. Candle in the Darkness is about a young woman in the South who sympathizes with and aides in the deliverance of slaves and the victory of the North. Fire by Night is about two northern women - one an impoverished and homely orphan who actually joins the army and fights alongside men under disguise and one a feisty northern debutante who assists in the war as a nurse. And A Light to My Path is the story of two young slaves who fall in love, battle their own personal wars against their slavery, and ultimately find freedom, not only from slavery but from their hatred and wounded spirits. By the time I finished the last book, I will admit I had had my fill of the Civil War. (The author takes you all the way through the war in all three books!) But the different perspectives were very enlightening and interesting. Lynn Austin is one of my favorite Christian authors, no, make that my very favorite. You can't go wrong with any of her books!
So that's what I'm reading. However, I doubt that's where I'll stop. After all, I've got to read at least 25 books to get my certificate! Not really. There is no certificate in store for me. But summer is still for reading.

I'd love to know what you're reading. We all would. So leave your suggestions in the comment section. Have a great weekend and remember to take the time to read!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Could You Mention Me in Your Prayers?

I could use a few good words on my behalf today. That is, I'd like for you to ask God for a few favors on my account.

I had another blog post planned and ready to go today, but I've spent the better part of the day reviewing and editing the galley proofs for my Bible study that's being published. The galley is looking fine and I know the book is going to turn out well, but I must admit I'm a little frustrated with things.

I won't go into details; they're not major things anyhow. But I've hit a few bumps in the road that are getting me down. My frustration is making it hard to concentrate, hard to work, hard to refrain from biting the heads off my dear family members and friends!

So I'd really appreciate it if you'd just offer up a quick prayer for me today. God already knows all the details because I've had a running conversation with Him about the whole ordeal all day long. So if you'll just mention my name - Kay - and let Him know that you're rooting for me, I bet He'll know what you're referring to.

Thanks a heap! And I promise to be back here tomorrow with a more upbeat and less needy post! Blessings to you all, you dear blog hoppers!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More Than Wisdom - Solomon

 The blog is going up later and later these days. What can I say? It's summer! But alas, I'm here and ready to rattle on about today's Trailblazer.

I have to pause at this point and tell you that while I'm about a week behind in my read-the-Bible-through reading plan, I am thoroughly enjoying my reading time these days. I'm trying to read two entries a day right now so I can catch up, and I can say with all truthfulness that it's just not a struggle right now at all. I'm the first to admit that sometimes I do fall behind because the reading seems to be a drudgery. (I sure hope I don't get struck down by lightening for saying that; it's just the honest truth!) But other times I absolutely delight in reading the daily passages from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.

Today I read about Solomon. I just said goodbye to his father David yesterday (learned so much from him this time around!) and Solomon has just settled securely onto his throne after taking out a few disloyal trouble makers.

While you're probably aware that Solomon didn't end that well, he did lead a life worth noting. He took the throne at a relatively young age evidently and, as noted earlier, had to deal with a little bit of confusion and disloyalty at the beginning of his reign. But he eventually managed to build the Temple in which God would reign and, boy, did he do a splendid job. It must have been a spectacular masterpiece, unequaled since then.

But I won't be building any temples any time soon and you probably won't either (except the ones the Holy Spirit now resides in of course! that would be me and you, our very bodies!), so I won't dwell on that today. Instead, let's talk about the other thing people from all over the world came to Jerusalem for besides the temple - the wisdom of Solomon.

I found it interesting as I read today to discover that Solomon didn't just ask God for wisdom, as I'd always thought he did. He actually asked for a specific kind of wisdom.

"So give Thy servant an understanding heart 
to judge Thy people
to discern between good and evil. 
For who is able to judge this great people of Thine?"
1 Kings 3:9
And God said to him, "Because you 
have asked this thing and have not asked
for yourself long life,
nor have asked riches for yourself,
nor have you asked for the life of your enemies,
but have asked for yourself
discernment to understand justice,
behold, I have done according to your words.
Behold, I have given you a wise
and discerning heart, 
so that there has been no one like you
before you, nor shall one like you
arise after you.
1 Kings 3:11-12

Solomon wanted to be wise and discerning for a reason: so he could carry out the job God had given him with integrity and godly success. He wanted to use his wisdom to honor God and rule His people justly.

Silly me, I thought Solomon just wanted to be wise! But what he really wanted was to please God, to serve Him well, and to treat others fairly. I have a feeling his motivation for asking for wisdom was every bit as important to our holy God as the request itself.

Boy howdy! I need wisdom too. I need to practice discernment with our finances, in relationships, in the choices I make. I need to know how to "judge" my children fairly, how to discipline them wisely, and how to help them discern what are the best decisions for them. I need wisdom as a wife - so I'll know when to speak and when to hold my tongue, so I'll discern when my husband is tired and a little needy, and so I can wisely protect our relationship from anything or anyone that might threaten it. And I need wisdom so I can minister to others without enabling them, so I can speak a timely word, so I can read and study the Bible accurately, and so I can apply it to my life correctly.

Desiring wisdom for wisdom's sake is no more noble than desiring great riches or power or fame or safety or protection. But when we desire wisdom so that we can live holy and honorable lives for our God, I believe He'll grant it every time. James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom we can ask God for it and He will give it to us generously without criticism or reproach. But that doesn't mean God is in the business of loading us down with wise and pithy sayings, cramming our heads with knowledge, and giving us supernatural discernment just so we can show off or walk around with our noses in the air. That kind of wise guy (and I know a few of them, mind you) turns me off and I bet he turns God off too! But wisdom desired for pure and holy living is both winsome to others and pleasing to God. That's why the Bible says that people came from all over to hear the wisdom of Solomon:

When all Israel heard of the judgment which 
the king had handed down,
they feared the king; 
for they saw that the wisdom of God
was in him to administer justice.
1 Kings 3:28

So the question today is, am I a "wise guy" (or gal) or do I have the wisdom of God given to me so I can "do justice" or what is right? No one likes a wise guy, but we all love folks who consistently do the right thing.

Here's wishing you the wisdom of Solomon! Not so you can walk around with your head in the clouds, but so you can live well here on earth!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Just the Right Word

As much as I love having a warm casserole delivered to my house when I have the flu, receiving a loaf of banana bread "just because", or being hosted to a steak dinner for Pastor Appreciation Month, food is not my favorite ministry. And as nice as it is to have someone visit you when you're in the hospital or laid up with a broken appendage or recently moved into a new neighborhood, visitation doesn't really rank as number one with me either. And while I love being ministered to in someone else's home - a meal prepared in my honor, a home freshly scrubbed in anticipation of my visit, and a hostess making me feel warm and welcomed - even hospitality isn't my favorite way to be ministered to.

Congenial conversation—what a pleasure!
   The right word at the right time—beautiful!
Proverbs 15:23
A well-chosen, well-placed, timely word - that's my ministry of choice. There is absolutely nothing I appreciate more than someone sharing a godly morsel of wisdom, a biblical truth, a word of genuine encouragement, a little hope, a well-chosen scripture that speaks loudly to my current dilemma, or a reassurance straight from God's Word

Proverbs 15:23 reminds us that a well chosen word of hope, blessing, encouragement or truth, given at just the right moment is a beautiful thing indeed. And when the conversation freely volleys with such spiritually uplifting words...well, there's just nothing better. 

When was the last time someone spoke something to you that just hit your sweet spot? Perhaps they didn't even know you were hurting, but they offered you a soothing word of healing. Or maybe they were oblivious to your discouragement and yet they managed to give you a little hope. Then again, maybe you had shared your deepest worries and anxieties with vulnerability and trepidation, only to land gently on their words of encouragement and love. Oh, the relief of finding a soft landing in a sweet and soothing conversation!

I have a few friends I can count on for "just the right word" on a pretty consistent basis. That's what makes those ladies my friends! Conversation with them is like laying your head on a soft pillow and putting your feet up for a few minutes before you have to get out there and tackle the situation again. Indeed, "what a pleasure!"

But I love it when I am surprised with a timely word from an unlikely source. Like when my 16-year-old daughter told me yesterday after church how extremely cute I looked. Talk about a timely word! She made my spirit soar. (Probably caused me to stand up a little straighter and sway my hips a little more, too!) But I also love hearing a word of instruction, a bit of wisdom, or even a gentle reproof - when I know it's an "apt answer" or "a timely word," as the New American Standard Version words Proverbs 15:23. 

And don't you just almost get a chill down your spine when you realize that God has used you to say something from Him to someone else? You would think that would make you feel cocky and proud, but it has just the opposite effect. It is extremely humbling when you really manage to deliver a word of truth or hope or encouragement or even rebuke, that is wrapped in the soft and appealing packaging of God's love. And, boy, you can tell the difference, too, can't you? When you speak a word that is truly Spirit inspired as opposed to one that comes from your flesh? You can speak truth in the flesh, but, like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, it is more likely to come out of your mouth sounding like a clanging symbol or the creaking of a rusty gate. That's no ministry. That's just misery! But when you're in conversation with someone and you hear yourself saying something that swells with truth and sounds like a soothing fountain and visibly refreshes the other person...wow...that's when you know God is indeed ministering to that person through you.

So today, on Ministry Monday, I'm contemplating how I can more consistently be used to deliver a timely word, a soothing conversation, a well-chosen message of hope to those around me. I have a feeling that my usefulness in this ministry of words is directly correlated to the amount of time I spend reading God's Word and conversing with Him. All of His words are timely and well-chosen. Every conversation I have with Him leaves me rested and refreshed and re-energized. It only stands to reason that His gift for words would rub off on me the more I spend time in His presence.

I'd love to hear about how someone has ministered through their words to you. Maybe your pastor spoke directly to you in his sermon yesterday. Take it from a pastor's wife and speaker. When that happens, it's all God! Or maybe a friend or family member surprised you with just the right words recently. Or perhaps you got a word straight from the pages of God's Word today. 

Isn't a word well-spoken amazingly refreshing and powerful? I pray that you and I can be ministers of well-chosen, timely, and well-placed words of hope, faith, love, encouragement, and truth today.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Modern Woman Blazing the Trail

Photo Credit: Spc. Danielle Ferrer.

Today I give you a modern day trailblazer: Jennifer Walker.

One of the greatest privileges we enjoy living in Sierra Vista is the opportunity to meet and get to know so many of our country's finest men and women - those who are in harm's way (either in the military or the border patrol) and those who keep the home fires burning while they are away. As with any subset of our population, there are a few in the ranks who spend more than their share of time whining and fretting. But most of these families are brave, determined, disciplined, and thrilled to be serving their country.

I am most impressed with those who manage to carry on while their spouses are away, while their families and support systems are in other states, while their children are dealing with fears uncommon to most kids, and while they face the myriad daily unknowns that accompany a life in the military. They are truly my heroes.

And, as I've said before on this blog, I'm double impressed when these same families manage to not only keep their own heads above water, but they plug into a local church, get involved in their community, and even serve others eagerly. We have had the honor of befriending and serving with a number of single guys and gals as well as military families who have plain out made me proud. Sure, they have tough days, and our church is very sensitive to their unique needs and tries to help out in any way we can. But these folks are not whining and complaining. They're serving with joy and their testimony is powerful.

I give you the story of one such incredible woman, copied from www.army.mil.

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz., -- The thought of her deployed husband is something Jennifer Walker can't let keep her down. After all, there are play dates for two sets of twins, soccer games, school and homework to do, not to mention housework. She can't forget the doctors' appointments, the birthdays and the holidays. So instead of worrying, she holds her head high, puts on a face that gives her children confidence and soldiers on as a proud Army wife.

"From the moment I met him at 16, I knew that he was the one for me," said Walker, whose husband, Capt. Joshua Walker, deployed on Sunday. Walker is the Company A commander for the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.

The Walkers have been together for 11 years, and this is Walker's second deployment. There are many challenges for a military spouse when faced with a deployment. Walker said one of the most difficult challenges she faced during the first deployment was not being able to hear her husband's voice whenever she wanted. She also only had one set of twins to care for. Walker's two older sons Robert and Kenneth were 8 during the first deployment and they were relatively self-sufficient, she said. The boys are now 10 and Walker said they have become more independent and helpful as each days passes.

Now this family of four has become a family of six with the addition of another set of twins. Walker's youngest daughters, Sarah and Kathryn, are just 7 months old.

"For this deployment I think my biggest challenge is not getting overwhelmed when caring for my younger children without my wingman here to help," said Walker. The youngest of the twin girls, Sarah, requires special care. Care that Walker said requires the family to drive back and forth to Phoenix. Sarah was born with craniosynostosis, a genetic condition which causes an infant's soft spot to close prematurely. Sarah underwent surgery on May 20 and her second procedure will take place in September or October depending on her growth, said Walker.

"The first year an infant's head is very soft and malleable, and the doctors have to watch her and wait for the optimal time to perform the procedure," said Walker. "We are hopeful that my husband will be able to come back for the second surgery but are not sure at this time what will be possible. However, his command and the Family Readiness Group have been very supportive."

As for the older boys, Walker said they are looking forward to summer vacation. The Walkers enjoy traveling, though without Capt. Walker, accomplishing that will be much more difficult, she explained.
Walker said she signed the twin boys up for several SKIESUnlimited classes through the post for this summer, and the boys will be playing soccer in the fall.

"[Because of] the deployment we were able to sign the boys up for these activities at no cost to us which is very nice," said Walker.

Still, even with all the activities to keep them busy, Walker said the boys miss their father a lot.
"They have started acting out some, and other times [they] just get quiet," said Walker. "I try to pay attention to them and their moods and give them space when I can."

One of the ways Walker helps ease the pain of missing their father is for the family to make care packages. Walker said during the last deployment, the family was constantly making care packages to send to their father. The boys were free to include papers they wanted to share with their father whenever they wanted. Once the box was filled, Walker said they would immediately ship it and start another.

"During this deployment, their spelling and writing skills have improved a lot, and we are planning on setting up e-mail accounts for each of them where they can send messages to their dad and he can message them back when they want," said Walker.

Along with creating care packages for her husband, Walker, a stay-at-home mother and self-proclaimed 'domestic diva,' also divides her time with many other activities outside of the home. Walker volunteers her time with many groups and organizations.

She is the Family Readiness Group leader for her husband's company, and for the last two years she has been the assistant treasurer/disbursements chair for the Fort Huachuca Community Spouses Club. Walker is involved with the work that they do for the military community, as well as the community of Sierra Vista.

Although that's enough to keep any mother of four busy, Walker also makes time to volunteer at her older twins' school, Gen. Myer Elementary School. There is also the ladies' bible study group which she attends weekly at the Sierra Vista First Baptist Church. Walker is also a member of Moms of Preschoolers.

"This group is a Christian-based mom's group where the moms get together twice a month for fellowship, food and friendship, while the kids play together," said Walker.
Somewhere throughout her busy schedule, Walker also finds time to bowl with one of the ladies' bowling leagues on post. She's also an avid reader and, when she finds the time, she enjoys sewing and crocheting. Walker said she just tries to stay busy and not stress.

"Personally I don't think that I am doing anything that anyone else would not do," said Walker. "This is the life of a military spouse. We deal with whatever we have to and keep on going. I love the movie Finding Nemo and one of my favorite quotes is from one of the fish. She talks about 'Just keep swimming;' that is all I do."

Article by: Spc. Danielle Ferrer.

I would love it if you would leave a comment offering to pray for Jennifer and her family. They need it and appreciate it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm Shaking in My Boots, but I'm in the Saddle

Today's Ministry Mondays post is a little tardy because I've been doing the thing. Ministry that is. I've been working at Vacation Bible School this morning.

I love doing the ministry I'm really "called to" and suited for. That would be the ministry to women who have gotten all dolled up, checked their kiddos into the nursery, and sat down at a table with a cup of coffee, their Bibles and their study books. In that setting I'm ripe and ready to do some min-is-try! Or plop me in front of a computer with my Bible and a magazine article assignment and I'll minister some well-waxed words with ease and great joy.

But put me in a room with a dozen or so kindergartners and I'm more likely to have a panic attack than I am to do anything of any real eternal value. Believe it or not, children make me nervous and scared. I have to pray a whole lot before I go into a room of little folk. I suppose that's a good thing, after all. And praying about it does get me in the door, but I'm shaking in my sandals the whole morning.

All the same, I'm "getting over it" this week and stepping out of my comfort zone into my danger zone. Not that the parents need to worry about leaving their children in my charge or anything. After all, I've done the most important thing any good ministry leader can do. I've recruited and delegated! I enlisted my friend Monica, a professional and very capable kindergarten teacher, to do my job for me assist me this week. My name may be on the door as the teacher of the Kindergarten 1 class, but who are we fooling? Monica is not only teaching these children, but she's keeping me cool, calm and somewhat collected at the same time. I just follow her around and nod and do what she tells me to do. She's charmingly submissive and such a team player that she acts like I'm the fearless leader and she's the humble assistant, but actually we all know the truth and I'm ok with it. Shoot, when she teaches the group time Bible story I sit mesmerized in the pretend "campfire" just like the six-year-olds do. And when she pauses to find the quietest, most attentive student to line up first, I catch myself hoping she'll call on me!

Really now, VBS is a lot of fun and these days the curriculum makes it practically painless. We just have the kids in our room for about 30 minutes and then we play tour guide and tote them from Recreation to Missions to Crafts to Music while making the occasional escape to the "teachers' lounge" for a nibble of something sweet and yummy. No matter what age you are, snacks are still the best part of VBS!

As I was walking down the hall this morning, a sweet older lady stopped me and simply said, "Aren't some of the most precious times in life at VBS?" Indeed, Wes, VBS has proven to be a precious time in many a person's life. My daughter (16 and helping with the second graders this week) went on and on during lunch about how much she had enjoyed VBS as a child. My husband and I echoed her sentiments. To myself, I remembered the rooms I had VBS in as a child, the mobiles we seemed to make each year, the snacks served out on the basketball court, the white overalls I wore one year, and the fun of helping my mom set up her activities each morning before dashing off to line up for the grand entry into the sanctuary.

I wasn't saved during a Vacation Bible School like so many children are, but that is where I first cut my spiritual teeth on real Bible study. It's where I learned that the Bible has answers to every question, that it is trustworthy and interesting, and that it is worthy of putting to memory. I loved VBS and I hope the kids I'm teaching this week will somehow be oblivious to the fact that they scare the heebie-jeebies out of me so they too can get a kick out of learning about Jesus through the Bible.

Do you work in VBS? Do you like it? Is it your thing? Or do you do it, like me, because it is a worthwhile ministry that deserves our effort, sacrifice, and support? I'd love to hear your thoughts on VBS...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A House of Faith and Faithfulness

Do you remember the music from your wedding? It just occurred to me that my husband and I included two songs in our marriage ceremony that reflected the next two foundational characteristics for a home that honors and reflects well on God: faith and faithfulness.

Through teary eyes and with a shaky voice I joined James and all of our guests for two verses and the chorus of Great is Thy Faithfulness, my very favorite hymn. That song reminds us that God is faithful, reliable and true.

Then two of my husband's dear friends encouraged us to build a Household of Faith through their stirring duet. That song reminds us to demonstrate our own faithfulness to God in our homes. God's faithfulness and our faith - two parts of a godly home.

Great is Thy Faithfulness
I think our homes need to reflect God's faithfulness. They need to be places where our children learn of the dependability and reliability of our God. They need to demonstrate to our neighbors and friends that we have a God who is good all the time. And when we return to our homes after venturing into our crazy, whacky world, we need to be reminded and reassured that our good and faithful God is in control.

It may seem like a lofty and even obscure goal - a home that reflects God's faithfulness - but here are some of my ideas for creating homes that remind us, our children, and our guests that we have a God who is faithful:
  • Demonstrate faithfulness. I think it's important that we demonstrate faithfulness in the way we conduct the "business" of running our homes. We need to pay our bills on time, keep our grass mowed and the exterior of our homes looking nice, return library books on time, take down Christmas decorations by a reasonable date, etc. What's the big deal? If we have a trustworthy and reliable Father, then, as His children, we need to follow in His footsteps by keeping our word, fulfilling our responsibilities, and taking care of things. Our faithfulness in these little things testifies to His faithfulness in the little things as well as the big.
  • Put His faithful Word on display. I don't have scripture all over my house, but I wish I did. I do have a few plaques and framed scriptures that are strategically placed around my home, however. These scriptures remind me and those who visit my home that if God said it, then so be it. He always honors His Word by being faithful to what He has said. I know that "He who began a good work will complete it," that "love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, never fails," and that we are indeed "surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses" who are daily encouraging us to run with endurance the race set before us. These scriptures remind me and my family of God's faithfulness.
  • Show a little consistency. I think the younger generations of our world are craving something that you and I might take a little for granted - consistency, habit, ritual, the everyday. Sure, marketing gurus assume we're all craving the spice of life, spontaneity, and change, but I think our wise God made us to thrive off of a little consistency. He's consistent. He causes the sun to rise every morning, the seasons to change every few months, the tide to come in and then go out. And while His mercies may be new every morning, they're also always offered, never withheld. He is dependable. I think our children need to learn about God's consistency through a home of consistency and predictability. For instance, they need to know that mom will feed them breakfast every morning, dad will be there to pick them up from school every afternoon, the family will sit down to dinner every evening at six, they can expect pizza and a board game every Friday night, and Sunday mornings are always reserved for church. Too many children are growing up in homes where nothing, nothing is for sure. How hard might it be for them to believe that a God they can't see will consistently provide for them if the mom and dad they do see can't even manage to put a meal on the table with any regularity? This is one of the greatest treasures my parents gave my brother and me. They were dependable and our home was run with consistency, so it was no stretch for me to believe that God is faithful and reliable too.
  • Be there. In our busy, busy culture it is easy to be going and blowing all the time. The temptation is great, even for "stay-at-home" moms, to fill our hours with appointments, playdates, lunches, volunteer work, shopping trips, outings, sports events, classes, work, etc.  If we're not careful, we're never home. Have you ever had one of those weeks? You know the ones - where you have so many activities and appointments and obligations and parties, that by the end of the week you felt like you just came home to sleep and change clothes. Rest of the time you were out and about. Unfortunately, we've had a number of those weeks. But I think one of the most charming things about my God is that He seems settled. Does that resonate with you? He's not whirring around, dashing about, and hurrying along. He is at rest, on His throne, the still, small voice. I think in order for our homes to reflect God's faithfulness as a God who is "always there", then we need to spend some time just being at home too. Conversely, when we're dashing about and using our homes as little more than a bed and a shower, I think we communicate a sense of unrest to our families. I'm not real sure I'm expressing myself real well on this point, but I know what I mean. Let me know if you do too.
A Household of Faith
So we've talked about creating a home that reflects God's faithfulness to us; but how do we build our homes to also reflect and even strengthen our faithfulness to Him? Here are a few ideas:
  • Tithe. Yes, I said, or typed, that ugly T word. But I believe in tithing (giving at least 10% of our earned income to the local church - I believe that's the biblical definition - you can differ with me on that if you'd like - the definition isn't a major deal breaker :). My parents always tithed and they taught me and my brother to follow suit. I've tithed ever since I first started working at Six Flags Over Georgia in 1980. Now I'm teaching my kids to do the same. I don't think God needs my money. But I believe I need to tithe because it is a visible, concrete, repetitive, and stretching way to build my faith in God.
  • Pray. A household of faith is surely a household of prayer. Wouldn't you agree? Think of all the opportunities we have to incorporate prayer into the fabric of our families and homes. We can pray at meals, at the beginning of each day, on the way to school, at times of desperation, during times of celebration, on birthdays and anniversaries, before tests, after tests, when someone is sick, at bedtime, and during holiday celebrations. The key is to make prayer a natural part of your family's life. I credit my husband with doing this in our home more than I take credit for it. He has always been good to simply stop everything and say something like, "Well, lot's all just stop and pray about that." And we do. I'm glad my kids know it is natural and normal to pray. It's not some freakish thing or even a "private matter." It's just what we do.
  • Be consistent.  I don't know about you, but I find being consistent is one of the toughest things in life. Whether I'm trying to exercise every day, follow through with disciplinary actions, make my daily quiet time a consistent habit, consistently prepare healthy meals, or stay within my budget, being consistent is a challenge. But nothing says "I have faith" like consistency. When I tithe despite financial troubles, when we go to church every Sunday, when we read our Bibles every evening, when I hold the bar for movies in my home to the PG level without fail, when I address ungodly behavior and don't just let it slide, and when we practice charity and hospitality on a regular basis, my consistent and persistent behaviors demonstrate my allegiance to the God I serve.
  • Check your faith-o-stat. Sometimes it's hard for us adults to keep from worrying. There's a lot to worry about: bills, health, safety, the future, discipline problems, school issues, work problems, politics, retirement, the house, the car, I could go on and on. But that would be counter productive for me and you alike. Kids feel our anxiety like a sudden rise in temperature. They know when we are stewing and anxious. Maybe we talk to ourselves, pace the floor, snap at them, stay in bed, pour over the finances night after night, get quiet, or argue with each other. You can have lovely scriptures on your wall, go to church each Sunday, and pray three times a day as a family, but if you live the rest of the day in a state of anxiety, your home is no household of faith. You, dear friend, must practice faith in order to have a household of faith. My husband checks our thermostat on a daily basis to make sure no one has turned it down ( or up) to a level he's not willing to pay for. I suggest we check our "faith-o-stat" regularly as well, making sure it reflects our reliance on a trustworthy God instead of our anxiety and worry. Believe me, anxiety can heat up a home faster than a hot June day! Are you keeping your home's atmosphere cool and pleasant with deep and abiding faith, or does the faith-o-stat tend to go up and down with the cares of the day?
 Well, those are my ideas for building our homes to reflect God's reliable faithfulness and our growing faith. I'd love to hear your ideas as well! Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Everything Was Going Splendidly, Then....

Just got home late last night from a wonderful vacation, just James and me. We went to a Focus on the Family Couples Retreat for Pastors and their spouses at the beautiful La Quinta Resort and Spa just outside of Palm Springs, California. The retreat was truly just that, a retreat, and I'll write more on that later, but suffice it to say that after four nights at this luxurious resort I was feeling like quite the princess.

After we left Palm Springs we went to cool and lovely San Diego for James to run his first marathon. He finished his 26.2 miles in just over 4:45 and did splendidly.We both ended up with bad sunburns at the end of the day, but the dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory in the Gas Lamp district that night was a fine and well-earned reward for a grueling day. (No, I didn't run the 26.2, but I did walk about 5-6 miles just trying to see him at the midway point, getting to the finish line, and then returning to our car afterward!)

We had rented a car for our trip because all three of our automobiles are very old and not really up to the long drives anymore, especially across the desert. To our delight we ended up with a free upgrade to a Grand Marquis with leather seats and all the bells and whistles. It served as this princess' fine carriage for 7 days. But, it didn't quite finish the trip with us.

We had just eaten at the Olive Garden in Yuma, Arizona, and were on the last five hours of our trip when we sighted a Border Patrol check point ahead. We're used to these in southern Arizona, so James slowed the car down to stop and I awakened from one of my little mini-naps. And then it happened. Our golden carriage with the leather seats began to sputter and gulp, as though it couldn't get the gas it needed to carry on. I would have concluded that we were out of gas except we had filled up that morning and the gauge showed that we still had a half a tank. So unless the gauge was faulty (and we don't think it was) we had plenty of gas. But our car wasn't going any further.

Glad to be only about 200 yards from the makeshift Border Patrol station we grabbed a few waters and headed in their direction. They were nice enough to put us in their trailer with the weak little window unit air conditioner for a couple of hours until we could get a tow truck to pick us up. I'm leaving out lots of details at this point because I try not to spew venom too much to keep things pleasant on this blog, but let's just say James spent a good hour on the phone before the rental car company kicked it into gear for us. They were trying, bless their hearts, but I guess they just don't have folks stranded out in the 110 degree desert very often. We weren't even in a place, you know. We were just at exit 78 on Interstate 8. We were literally out in the middle of the desert with no one or nothing around, except the Border Patrol guys, their German Shepherd drug dog, and their pathetic little trailer. I passed the time by watching about 7 different camera views on their closed circuit tv. (They were evidently looking for someone driving a gray car because they pulled over several and sniffed them out thoroughly before letting them go. Fascinating... if you're stranded in the desert with nothing else to do.) We were about 70 miles out of Yuma, but ended up going back there to get another car. Ooh! I'm getting hot and miserable just thinking about it...

So we ended up getting home about five hours later than we had planned and I've had to work real hard to not let this one little mishap ruin the end of my vacation for me. Funny how that happens. We had a perfectly blissful time and I was honestly coming home feeling rested and rejuvenated and this little incident is threatening to steal all of that away. Hopefully, I won't let it. To that end I'm trying to dwell on the positive today.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true,
whatever is honorable, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence
and if anything worthy of praise,
let your mind dwell on these things.
(Philippians 4:8)

So today my mind is trying really hard to stick to things like millions of palm trees growing in the desert oasis of Palm Springs, the delicious strawberries we bought at the street market, the steak dinner we had at the couples retreat in lieu of the usual baked chicken you normally get at such deals, and the thrill of watching James run by mile 13 of the San Diego Rock n' Roll Marathon. And yes, I'm still thankful for my golden princess carriage on wheels, even if it couldn't seem to make it the last 350 miles!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

See You 'Round the Bend

I'm taking a much needed blogger vacation. I should be back to tapping on the keyboard in about a week. Until then, take care and enjoy the days of summer!