Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Child is Born

One month ago today I woke up in labor and a few hours later I was on a hospital bed in New Bern, NC. I remember the tell-tale pain and my husband leaning over me as he stared into the computer screen by my bedside. 

"You're almost there. The contraction is almost over."

The next thing I knew the morning had become afternoon and a few hours later my daughter's cry broke into the air. I looked over my right shoulder to see Josh's weepy eyes. I nearly laughed when I saw Charlotte for the first time. She was the mirror imagine of Josh. I held her against my chest for the first time and rubbed her soft, tiny hand between my fingers. 

A nurse told me there was a lady from five hours away who asked to come in. Mama. I had never been so happy to see Mom and within a few minutes, Kandace came in. My whole family circled the bed and held my new daughter and I asked myself over and over if this was just a dream. Too good to be true.

The days later were wonderful and I treasured each moment with my sweet baby. We celebrated Thanksgiving around mine and Josh's dining room table. Our house was warm and full of voices and delicious food that Mom prepared. Mama and Kandace took turns staying nights to give Josh and me rest. Since then Charlotte has grown and it is as if she has always been here. 

She looks into my eyes with her big blue ones and somehow I know she knows who I am. I'm her... mommy. How is such a miracle possible? Last year at this time I was praying diligently for a baby and dreaming of the moments I am now experiencing. 

And now that it's Christmas, I caress her chubby cheeks and I wonder in awe how Jesus could come as a baby so small, so innocent. He was once a baby one month old just like Charlotte and He chose to be so He could grow and become the ultimate sacrifice. The fact that Jesus came as a baby has totally different meaning to me now. He allowed lowly, poor humans to be responsible for his well-being. So meek and so mild. 

Whoever you are celebrating Christmas with this year, treasure them and enjoy this time, because time is so fleeting. I know this year I am savoring every moment with my sweet Charlotte, because from what I hear, babies grow and they grow quickly. But for now I will cradle her in my arms and kiss her soft head and remember the miracle of not just my baby, but the baby born to save us all. Jesus. 


Friday, November 14, 2014

Waiting on Charlotte

Sometimes I walk into my baby's room and just straighten the blankets and dust off the dresser. The scent of diapers and baby laundry detergent are new and pleasant smells. It seems that most everything is ready and simply waiting on a newborn baby girl to settle in among it all.

I get a little breathless when I think about how I'm almost 39 weeks along and any day from having her. I imagine any of you mothers out there are chuckling to yourselves right now, remembering how you felt the same way. Josh has told me several times, "You're not the first woman to go through this and you won't be the last. Don't worry." That doesn't make it a lot easier when it's the first time for me. Yet, I'm already learning that not everything happens as planned and very few things go perfectly. This pregnancy has taught me that. Regardless, there is one truth: God is in control.

The past few trips home to my parent's house have been special. It's strange knowing that the next time I'm home, we will have Charlotte with us. The pictures in the hallways of me on daddy's lap, Kandace and I performing, playing outside with Clara and Andrew ... all those years of just looking after me ... are suddenly going to be gone. Even more so than when I got married two years ago. At any time, a tiny baby girl is going to enter my world and be totally 100% helpless. She is going to need Josh and me more than she can imagine. It's made me so thankful for my parents. All these years that's just been who they are... Mom and Dad. I need something, they provide it. No worries. All those years when I didn't even know I needed them, they were there. Now it's my turn. Our turn. I pray that I will not compare myself to so-and-so or worry too much about the silly things, but that I will pour my heart out into loving Charlotte. In the end, all we want is for her to be able to look past Josh and I one day and see God and the love of Jesus. And that she won't just see God, but that she will run to Him and become His child. We will be her temporary parents, but He will be her perfect, never-failing Father if she will let Him. There is no greater desire in my heart than that.

We love you Charlotte Rose Isaacs and we can't wait to hold you!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Glass Box

I was a Pastor's kid. Technically, I still am. Although where I live now no one really knows. But for many years everyone knew. What's more, I was homeschooled. For a few of my "preteen" years I didn't rebel as much as I questioned why I had to live in what daddy called the "glass box." It seemed that everyone watched my every action all the time. If anyone didn't completely 100% approve my line of action, they told me and my parents. I was a good child. I wanted people to like me, but what kid likes having a couple hundred parents? None. Nada. That was me, Katy Brown with a bunch of people making sure I acted good all the time. While their kids ran wild, they told me what I should and shouldn't do. If I ever said something that sounded dumb (which happened sometimes), inevitably someone chuckled and huffed, "She is a homeschooler." If I said something too smart and mature (which also happened occasionally), I still got the, "She's just a homeschooler." Couldn't win to save my life. On the other hand, if I gave my opinion too strongly, someone would roll their eyes and say, "She is a pastor's kid after all. Trying to be difficult." It was as though I had some disease. A double disease - as if one wasn't bad enough. Some of the children around me were afraid to say or do anything too "worldly" or I would probably "mess up all their fun." But the best was youth. Yes, sitting on the front row in youth class when our church still had a youth program and trying to remind myself as a 12-year-old to not answer all the questions or I would look like a dork. Of course there were usually about three empty seats on either side of me.

I guess I sound whiny, because I was whiny... until I realized that it just doesn't matter. For one thing, I found that it was absolutely impossible to please everyone and second of all, I found that the only One who mattered pleasing deserved being pleased regardless of whether I was a pastor's kid or a homeschooler. 

There I stood in my glass box and you know what? I was okay with it. Why should it bother me anyway? Was I trying to sneak around in disobedience... no. Was I wanting to keep my actions a secret so people couldn't see the "real" me? No. So it didn't matter. If it bothered people, it bothered them. If people wanted to press their noses up against the glass and inspect my every move, fine. I didn't care, because it wouldn't change one iota of what I was doing. If I pleased God, then it mattered not if man was pleased. 

As Christians, we are all in a glass box. The world inspects us and takes note of what we say and do. We are "Jesus" to the world around us. It shouldn't bother you that people examine your life. If it does then you should question whether or not you are truly following Jesus. None of us are perfect and we will all stumble and there will be those who point it out and remind us that they are watching, but when we stand back up, say "I'm sorry" with true remorse and move on, we are rising above. 

So Windex those glass walls and don't let it bother you when people look in on your life. The truth is, they are probably looking for a role model. Be one that they can imitate and draw closer to God through. Your life may very well touch someone else's. Goodness, I wrote a whole book about myself. The good, bad and ugly. When I opened the freshly printed page of one of my new books, I momentarily panicked, realizing I had actually let the most broken, crooked pieces of my heart show on those pages. I had bared it all, because God had told me to so that perhaps one person might come closer to Jesus. It was all for Him. 

I can't complain about my glass box. It's actually a good place to be!

1 Peter 2:21

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Friday, August 15, 2014

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not - Kindness vs. Affection

When I was 12 years old I had a huge "crush" on an 18 year old guy. Josh was his name, Josh Isaacs. I was the brace-faced, freckled preteen who just knew she would marry the handsome, blond football player who was over 5 years her senior. I developed a sort of fondness for him as I tried to make sure I was near him at church and smiled a little too often in his direction. He never had anything against me. He was sweet and loved my family, so he went out of his way to talk to me and be my friend. But friendship was not what I saw, I assumed that he must somehow care for me as well and before I could recognize it, I had a full-blown obsession with Josh. He was my first thought each morning and last thought each night... and many thoughts in the middle. Josh was kind and a good friend, but as a 12-year-old girl, I believed it was more than that.

Why do I tell you this pitiful story about me? It would have been a sad ending had I not eventually gotten the proverbial "slap in the face" and had moved on. The story even graciously improved better than expected when Josh and I ended up together after all when I was 18-years-old, because it was God's will at that time in our lives.... not when I was 12.

Kindness is really a rare thing in young men. It's not very often you see a young man ask a girl how she is doing and smile in her direction just to be kind with no strings attached. This has bred a problem. Girls who are perhaps, hungry for male attention, have noticed this as well. So when a young man says, "Well, hey! How are you doing today?" it's easy for a young lady to read between the lines... something that isn't there.

Now, there are some guys who take this overboard and enjoy being "a ladies' man" and cause girls to have feelings for them and then leave a trail of hurt girls behind, saying that they didn't mean anything by it. And then there are just some nice young men, who are kind in general and don't make an exception for girls their age and those girls read hearts and love all in their kindness.

It's just something I have noticed more, even since being married. So I suggest, if a guy is not actively pursuing you of his own will, then there is a large chance that his care and concern toward you is probably just to be kind. I remember the days when friends of mine would come up to me and whisper in my ear, "He looked over here three times in a row! Do you think he likes me?!" Well, maybe he just happened to look over here three times in a row. I pondered then if guys really hinted around like that or if we girls were just looking way too deep for affection. I found the latter to be true when most of these romanticized dreams in girls' hearts just didn't come true. There had never been a "relationship" but the heartbreak had still occurred... one-sided. I know the pain of this since I experienced it as a 12-year-old. Josh was just trying to be nice; he didn't love me.

So, guys out there, I encourage you to not intentionally lead girls on with obvious gestures of romantic affection if you don't truly plan to take care of her heart. I believe you have no idea how this hurts young ladies. If you care for her and are prepared for marriage, then be intentional and don't leave her guessing. Yet, if all you are doing is being nice and asking her how she is doing just like you would ask her father, then keep it up. I think some guys are afraid to be kind because they are terrified a girl will fall in love with them. Don't worry about that. Just be kind to her like you would be to anyone else. We need more men like you!

Ladies, if a young man smiles at you or happens to end up sitting near you two times in a row, it doesn't mean he is ready to marry you. Guard your heart. The easiest place to lose it is not by giving it away, but by dropping it and hoping someone, anyone will pick it up, even if it gets stomped on a bit in the process. Wait till he actively pursues you with clear intentions. When both Josh and I were attracted to each other, but before we were in a relationship, Josh and I went to a football game with some friends and my hands about froze off. He went and bought me a pair of gloves. Now at 12-year-old I would have been convinced that he loved me after such a gesture, but at 17, I reminded myself that just maybe he didn't want my hands to be cold. I remember thinking the simple thought, "He takes such good care of me." Whether like a brother, friend, or whatever, he simply took care of me.

Do you see the balance? Guys, be careful you don't lead a girl on. Ladies, don't be too quick to read into something a guy says or does. I am just starting to see how many heartbreaks on the ladies' side could be prevented if only we subdued these "crushes" before they take over.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Life of the Church

I was standing in church on the front row like I always am when I come to my home church to visit. The worship music was going and everyone was singing. I realized that my brother Andrew wasn't anywhere to be seen. I looked around and he was missing. About that time, the ushers began their walk down the aisle before the offertory prayer. Walking down the aisle, between men three times his height, was my brother. Quite the vision of excitement on his face. When the prayer was over, he was handed a gold plate and went straight to the aisle behind him to pass it. A few minutes later he came around the side of our row and plopped down in his usual spot between Josh and me. He grinned, completely overjoyed that he had finished his special job well. I smiled too and swallowed the lump in my throat. 

I watched several young adults (people under the age of 18) sing, play the piano, read Scripture and do what any adult would do in the church. They did it well. I was reminded of something so simple and yet so true. These "children" are the life of the Church. They are the heartbeat. Yes, they are more energetic, but is that a bad thing? 

When Dad got up to preach, none of the children were shooed away to "Children's Church." I remember Children's Church from only a few years ago. I had been there a few times in several different churches. The children's class teachers insisted that we couldn't understand what the preacher was saying in Big Church. It was just for the adults... we were better off in the colorful classroom eating snacks and hearing about David and Goliath for the hundredth time that year. I always wondered what was such a secret in the Big Church that us kids couldn't hear. Why couldn't I be in there too? I was very thankful that my church didn't make me go off to the kid's classes during church service. There were no little disclaimers on the back of the bulletin that said, "If your child might disturb the service, we request that you take them out." No sir, I got to hear the real sermon from the real preacher and it wasn't such a big secret after all. I sat and scribbled on scraps of paper if I got bored and learned to sit there quietly the rest of the time. 

Jesus never sent the children away when he spoke. The children sat there and learned from God. So why can't children sit and learn from the man of God in the pulpit? Is he not little Sally's preacher as much as he is the elderly lady's in the back row? 

No wonder so many college students say goodbye to church after they leave home. Who would want to come sit in a boring old service anyway when you haven't had to do anything but listen to loud music in a youth room and have fun at Caswell every summer? No one in their right mind. They have no reason to stay. The "adults" handle all of the important things in the church anyway. 

Churches, stop taking the "heart" out of you church every Sunday morning. Let the life stay. Let them learn. Let them be involved so when they are adults themselves, they will still want to stay. 

What Andrew experienced on Sunday is more than he could ever experience in Children's Church. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me." So let the children come! 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

If I Have a Daughter

Girls. Now that's something I know about. For years I was the oldest of four, close little girls. One of those girls was my sister and two were my cousins. Now, we weren't always your typical Barbie doll and glamorous jewelry type of girls. We had some ragged spunk which involved long, dirty afternoons outside making large, fun messes.

My family adopted Clara when I was 12 years old. Daddy and Mama were pretty convinced that God wanted our family to be all daughters and no sons... until He laid Andrew in our laps and on our hearts. But for many years, it was just us girls. 

Though most of my friends and family doubt this baby I am going to have in a few months is a girl, I still wouldn't be too surprised if this baby were to be daughter. There is a 50/50 chance after all! 

How do you raise a girl? How do you guide her in the path of the Truth?

Just like with boys, I believe that raising daughters these days is harder than it may have been years ago. There is such a propaganda fed to women. Lies from the feminist community. These lies have been around since the beginning of time... ever since Satan whispered to Eve, "You can be in charge. You can be God." Certainly women shouldn't be treated like servants and treated poorly. There is a powerful truth much deeper. Women have a great and powerful role. 

If I have a daughter, I want her to know how valuable she is. A precious gift. Too many girls are seeking approval from others, but all in the wrong places. I want my daughter to know that she doesn't need countless "selfies" and hundreds of FaceBook "likes" to be special. She doesn't need a boyfriend when she is young and immature. I pray that she and I are close, but also importantly, I pray that she and her daddy are close. A girl who feels protected and loved by her father is usually satisfied with him being the one guarding her heart until she is given away in marriage to a man who is capable and trusted to protect and love her as strongly as her daddy has for years.

It's quite possible for my list to drag on for miles of all the things I want her to know, but what's most important to me is that she comes to Jesus and accepts Him as her Lord and Savior and seeks to serve Him daily. I want to be an example of what she should be, though I know I'm very imperfect.

I'm convinced that a woman can be strong and tough and still be gentle and meek. She can be opinionated without being a feminist. She can be beautiful without looking cheap and gaudy. She can be unique and still be admired.

If our baby is a girl, I pray God would help us teach her these things.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

So Long Selfies

So Long Selfies, by Kandace Brown (guest blogger)

We are living in a generation of young people that is all about taking and uploading selfies for the world to see. For those who might not know what a selfie is here is the dictionary meaning of the word, "A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website". 

I have come to realize over the last few months how "selfish" selfies truly can be... It's almost like we are saying "Look at me. I look good today so I want everyone on Facebook or Instagram to see it." I am not pointing fingers because I have taken and uploaded selfies before. This is something that I have recently felt convicted about. 

If you think about it selfies can be very narcissistic and prideful. I know girls who post two or three a day. What is this saying? What are we trying to say or show off? Why should we find value in ourselves by how many people like our picture? Why should we feel upset when we don't get as many likes as we hoped for? These are questions that I have recently asked myself. 

Selfies are mostly a girl thing (although I do know a few guys who post them)... Coming from personal experiences I know that we girls will take dozens of pictures of ourselves when we feel that we look good or we like our outfit. When we finally take one that we think looks good enough we will then doctor it up (with an Instagram filter or an editing app or whatever we choose to use) and then we post it. Then we wait.... We wait to see who will like it and how many likes we will end up getting. It can easily set up jealousy in a girl's heart. She could see that her friend got 80 likes for her selfie and that she only got 25 for hers. She could start wondering why people liked her friend's picture more than hers or think that she just isn't as pretty or stylish as her friend. As silly as it may sound it can begin stirring feelings of bitterness or consternation in a girl's heart. It will start to make her self value deflate rapidly and that can lead to many problems... 

There are also girls who can develop the opposite problem. When they get many likes and comments about how beautiful they are it can be the beginning of a pride issue. They can begin thinking they are better than other girls and start posting more and more pictures because they get addicted to that feeling of being "liked". All girls need a flattering comment every once in a while and when you can post a picture of yourself and get dozens of likes and flattering comments then girls will naturally be drawn to that. Pride is very hard to break once it has been set in the heart of someone. It is so important that we don't become obsessed with the comments and likes of something as seemingly harmless as a picture we took of ourselves. 

I feel that selfies are hurting our generation more than we know. They can become a sign of vanity and as we all know vanity can lead to many bad things. (Proverbs 16:18) So as the title says, I have decided to say so long to selfies. Yes, I have taken them and posted them before, but my eyes have been opened to how very harmful and pointless they can be. This will, of course, sound strange coming from a 16 year old girl, but this is my heart and I wanted to share my recent conviction on the matter. Just thoughts to ponder. :)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4 

Friday, May 30, 2014

If I Have a Son

It's the question every expectant mother longs to answer. Is the baby a boy? A girl?

As the last few months have passed, I've become so very curious. It took so long for the truth that we are having a baby to actually sink in that I didn't even think or imagine about whether it was a boy or a girl. The fact that we had waited for so long was enough to just make the fact that a new life was joining our family enough to thrill me for weeks.

But now... I can't help but wonder. Josh and I will be overjoyed with a son or a daughter. Yet, I've been thinking, HOW am I supposed to raise a son or a daughter? I've been praying that God will give us all we need for the task.

My sister, Kandace, seems to think I am having a boy... in fact, my whole family agrees with her. I was thinking about boys. I have had a brother for 6 years, but a year and a half of that I have lived five hours away from him. It didn't take long after we adopted Andrew for me to see that boys are drastically different from girls. Especially since I have spent so much of my life with sisters and cousins who are girls. So other than my little experience with Andrew, I don't know a lot about boys.

I have spent the last few months teaching in schools every few weeks about abstaining from sexual activity and saving your heart until marriage with the LIFEguard team. I have had the opportunity to be around quite a few 7th grade and 9th grade boys. Now I'm naive to some things and happily so. I was homeschooled every year of my schooling and never spent time in public school, but while I taught the boys about how to treat a lady or the benefit of saving their hearts and protecting their future wife's hearts, I was surprised to find that many of the boys were lacking almost all respect and honor for others... including young ladies. I also noticed that boys seem to have few goals and little ambition when asked what they want for their future. Some said, "Can I play video games all day? Can that be a job?"

This was what I observed over many many schools and then I observed that this behavior and nonchalant-ness stretched far beyond these grades and these schools. This epidemic of boyish immaturity is among men of all ages and backgrounds.

The days of boys having fathers that push and challenge have slipped away over the decades. Boys are encouraged to just be boys and play video games, speak crudely and be disrespectful. These cute boys grow up to be teenagers taller than "Mama" with a manifestation of complete selfishness and immaturity and a desire to buck against authority.

If it was just the sons of the lost and not the sons of Christians, then I wouldn't be quite so concerned, but it isn't just the lost... it's the "saved" as well.

So my son. If the child is a boy, then I am so burdened that he know one thing. This one thing that too many Christian parents are forgetting to pass on. God doesn't give us sons just so they can do all the things average boys do and then grow up and be an average man. I want my son to know that he has a purpose. That purpose is to do God's will and bring glory to God. Now that is broad, I know. It seems like a given and it should be. But why isn't it?

My son will be an imperfect human. Nevertheless, he was made in the image of God and according to the Word of God, he was given a mission unique to him. Therefore I pray that we will always fill him with Scripture, challenge him to grow into a man after God's heart, expect him to respect others (including elders and women), teach him to work hard and remind him that he is loved unconditionally and so strongly by God, his father and me.

Generations to come are counting on this generation to do something different than what's been done over the past few decades. I don't need a stack of books on "how to raise boys"; I need the Bible and the Bible alone.

My son will know that he is here on this earth with a purpose that goes beyond this world. I pray that his eyes will light up one day when he realizes the gift of life Jesus gives him and that he will seek to serve Him all of his days.

Because dear friends, if you "train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." I love that (Proverbs 22:6) in the ESV, because it says "even." Even when he is old... He won't depart from it for a time and come back. He will walk with the Lord all the days of his life and even when he is old he won't depart from it.

If it's a boy.... Now what if it's a girl? That's coming up next.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Ups and Downs

It's been a while friends. It's been a busy month and half. Has it really been that long? Well, I have too many "blog ideas" to choose one. I'll just share all that's happened.

Life is a journey. It's a calm, nearly boring stroll sometimes and other times it is a hectic run. Some days we "smell the roses" and other days we feel like stomping them. It's a journey. 

For months I was strolling through a long "waiting" section of my life. I wanted a baby... Why? I know I'm "young" and have plenty of time, but that doesn't matter. I wanted a baby because I've always wanted a baby. I absolutely believe that children are always a blessing for the Lord. I felt for a long time like God was holding out on my "blessing." Long story short, through many months and prayers, I arrived at a place in my life where I came to realize something that should be fairly obvious to me: God isn't mean. Sounds crazy, I know. Why would I even have to admit such a thing? Well, because when God makes it clear that something is "good" and He is the Giver of it and He doesn't give it... it just seems wrong. In my little, itsy mind I didn't get it. I didn't understand. 

It's so simple really. Just because something is "good" and a "reward" doesn't mean it's meant for you that very second or even in the way that you imagined. I would say that God gave me a baby as soon as I realized that. He didn't. We still waited. 

Just at His proper time, He allowed me to get pregnant. Here I am, expecting our baby. We are beyond thrilled and overjoyed at the miracle. It is a gift I will never take for granted, because I will always remember waiting. 

But the journey of life... it continues. We went home for the weekend. I turned 20-years-old on Saturday, April 19th. My family made my birthday wonderful and memorable. Easter was the following day. Church on Sunday at Mt. Pleasant was better than I could have imagined. All of my morning queazies went away when I sang and listened to the music and Dad preach. My heart ached a bit though and I wondered why I can't go there every Sunday. It's home and where my roots run.

We drove home late on Easter night and I cried softly as I held a letter Clara had given to Josh to give to me before we left. Her neat handwriting simply stated how much she loves me and how glad she is that I am her sister. 

Before we had left, we stood out in the driveway and circled into a huddle. Andrew always wants to stand in the middle, surrounded by us. Daddy prayed as the wind whipped around us and the sun gleamed through the tops of the trees. I opened my eyes briefly and Andrew was looking up at me, smiling happily. Not a worry. I smiled back and tried to let the image of that moment sink into my memory. 

Now I sit here in my house wondering how it's been so long since I blogged. The chapters of my book are pulled up behind this post, waiting to be edited and reminding me that they're due very soon. 

The sink is full, the floor is dirty and I am too sick to clean it all up, but Josh will help me... even when I can't cook supper and I will thank him again. He'll smile and say, "Sure, no problem."

This has been random, I know. I guess it is the best way to sum up the last several weeks though.

There have been some of the highest highs and some deep lows on this ride, but like my Daddy says, "All is well; the tomb is empty." Jesus is alive. 

Whatever good or bad you face... or if you sit by the side, waiting on an answer, I remind you to trust. Believe that God is good, because He always has been. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Book

I'll admit it. I love to write. Since I was a little girl, I have written in journals. Those journals and diaries are now stacked in a drawer in mine and my husband's bedroom. Each jot and tittle is precious to me, because they help me remember all that was.

When you love to write in journals, why not blog? So I have blogged for a few years now and have enjoyed every second. Well, if you love to blog, then why not write a book? So, after I got married I started this long journey of writing a book. It started out as pages of mess and unorganized confusion and began turning into something good. Slowly but surely to 70,000 words. Some chapters came easier and some brought me to tears and took weeks to pour out. Understand, that every word is true. It is the story of my life. Yes, I know you may be wondering what I could possibly have to write about, but I tell you, we all have a story. Mine is full of the deepest fears, beautiful childhood, lonely days, infertility, miraculous mission work, almost giving my heart away, saving myself for true, biblical love, and so much more... though not exactly in that order.

In the end I can say one thing: God was faithful every step.

Sometimes I felt like I might break. I felt like the road most traveled would be easier, but God rescued me and He guided me forward. He gave me a testimony with very few scars and taught me that a good story doesn't have to be one laced with regrets (though it can be), it can be one that is unbroken.

I'm so excited to tell you that my book, The Unbroken Road will be officially out and available on July 1, 2014! I look forward to letting you deep inside my heart and hopefully giving you a glimpse of God's amazing grace in my life. So if you have wondered why I've been such a lousy blogger these last few months, know this dear friends, I'm still writing! Here soon I will be right back here much more often since this will be my "go to" place to write it all out again.

I love you all more than you know! This book is for each of you and I can't wait till it's in your hands... and out of my head!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Givers and Takers

I learned a lot of things in my childhood. My days of being a young, freckled face little girl were filled with many lessons. I remember many of them well and some have unfortunately probably slipped to the back of my mind. However, I thank heaven that I remember one thing well.

Be a giver, not a taker. 

My parents were givers. They didn't take much and when they did, it was only because God graciously laid it in their laps from someone who insisted that their gifts were from Him.

What can one give? Time, energy, money, love, kindness, material things, encouragement, and the list goes on. You can be a time giver, money giver, love giver, kindness giver, material things giver, encouragement giver, etc. OR you can be a time taker, money taker, love taker, kindness taker, material things taker, encouragement taker.

Makes it sounds so simple, doesn't it?

There is a perfect balance somewhere. Mostly giver, but willing to take as well. That is the perfect mixture of both. Jesus gave. He gave miracles, but he was willing to receive a place to rest and food to eat.

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
    another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Proverbs 11:24

People used to tell me that public school and a college campus was the "real world." I couldn't disagree more. The real world is paying bills, leaning completely on your own ability to navigate a new town where you now live, cooking supper every night with limited groceries, working with people who have never before see you a day in their life, having no idea what you're doing, going to doctors offices totally alone and far away from anyone who can be there for you.

This is the "real world." At least I think so. But why do I bring up the "real world"? Because that is where I met the takers.

When I plunged headfirst into this world, like a swimmer diving into a pool, I imagined that people cared about other people. There must be givers and takers to make the world go round. Right?

The more I involved myself in things, I noticed something. Give an inch, they'll take a mile... no, a thousand miles. I was just trying to do what I had always done: give. But the more you give, the more they take. Poor givers are left burnt out and depleted of everything while the takers gorge on all they plundered.

I'm not trying to vent here. Really. I just want to ask you a question. What are you? A giver? A taker? You can tell a giver a mile away and you can tell a taker a too... though they may be less noticeable at first. Yet, people figure out what you are eventually.

It's been said that givers go further in life. Givers don't have to be rich. In fact, most aren't!! Takers aren't always poor. Many poor people refuse to take. It's a way of life. Givers can be frugal and look out for good deals, but takers tend to seek handouts. They hang by those givers and drop hints of "needs."

Oh for the days when people took pride. For the days when being a taker was embarrassing. Even people who weren't Christians generally didn't like taking.

I am saddened and disappointed in the way people take. Christians are just as bad. If you offer something for free, from then on they expect never to have to pay for anything again. They'll suck you dry of your time and energy.

The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
    but the righteous is generous and gives. Psalms 37:21

I pray that if I take from someone I will look for opportunities to "refill" them and repay some way. After all, people are looking to us as examples. Some may say that this is silly and an unnecessary blog post, but I believe that God laid this on my heart and mind and it had to come out here. Maybe this is for someone who needs to give or for someone who needs to stop taking advantage of someone's kindness.

I encourage you, if all you ever do is give and sacrifice, you are a rare jewel. But I encourage you to be willing to take. Let someone help you. Give takers and chance to repay. If you find yourself always taking time, energy and resources from others, I encourage you to seek out ways to help others.

Jesus was the greatest giver of all time, let us follow in his footsteps. Others will always remember us by our legacy of giving.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Broken Generation

I observe that my generation has a major problem. It's an issue that has seeped from the generations before us and wiggled it's way through the doors of our homes. It is a broken and twisted worldview. I don't believe that I see the world perfectly. There is no one perfect besides Jesus, but I do believe that perhaps I am not the only one who sees what I have unfortunately noticed. 

Americans in their teens and twenties are now known as "the dumbest generation." Yes, the most unintelligent. With the overflowing, abundant access to technology, young adults are able to glide effortlessly into complete laziness and ignorance. The days of having to know anything is virtuously over as we all simply can type whatever we want to know into a search engine. Just "google it." Internet and technology are amazingly wonderful things... don't hear me wrong! If it hadn't have been for Skype and Facebook, my husband and I would not be where we are now as he was far away from me for most of our courting relationship. Yet, the addicted obsession with the squares and rectangles that are our windows into any part of the world we want are also dangerous. They may be sapping us of our strength. 

Ask a random twenty-five year old American male or female "what was the attack on Pearl Harbor?" More times than not, you will receive a blank stare. 

So, what are my generations issues? And let me go a step further and say, what is our issues as Christian American young people? Here is a list that I have created from my opinion. There are more, I'm sure, but these came to my mind.

1. They can't spell. (I am relying on spellcheck now even as I type this blog! Heven fobide we try to remember any thing from thos speeling lesons so many years ago in skool.) But really, this isn't that big of a deal, but for me it's just one of those nagging things that prove how far we've fallen over the years. 

2. They don't read. Ask a teenager if they ever read "for fun." Many (not all) will say, "Are you kidding?" I have heard them say one too many times, "I'll wait on the movie and if there isn't a movie... then who cares?" 

3. Too many video games and movies. This one gets me some evil stares. Video games aren't bad in themselves (unless there is a hint of sexual immorality, impurity or greed, because these are improper for God's holy people, says Ephesians 5:3), but they can and will take over an exorbitant amount of time if allowed. Boys are especially easily entangled in addictions to video games which can last into the adult years. Video games can be fun and exciting, but lets be honest, most twenty-year-old men aren't playing the happy, go-lucky stuff; they are playing the gory, violent, desensitizing games. Suddenly, young men are so accustomed to the adrenaline and thrill of the games that life can become a hunt for the next thrilling moment of a "feel good" hormone. And movies... they are our "go to" thing to do when we feel the least bit bored. They are our escape from reality. But have we thought to consider that perhaps most popular movies these days paint the world in a way that leads young people to believe that it is something that it isn't? 

4. The belief that lying is acceptable. I wouldn't have added this to my list even a few months ago, but I can't overlook the epidemic of chronic lying. Even adults in churches! I would have to say that most would consider their lies "white lies", but really? Lies are lies. It's easy and safe, but let us not forget: "what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive." 

5. No direction. What is worse than no direction? Not wanting to find one. There was a time when young people thought ahead and planned with earnest longing for a bright future. For many, the word "education" comes to mind. College. But, a direction for the future doesn't have to involve college. Let me say something radical, "College isn't for everyone!" How many college graduates walk into the world of jobs and find that there isn't a job that is suited perfectly for what they specialized in? Many find themselves at a job that they could have gotten right after high school and lived without a huge student loan. Direction comes in many shapes and sizes, but for too many, direction is too lofty a goal. Or perhaps it isn't so lofty, but it takes work. And work isn't popular.

6. Lack of parental encouragement and guidance. For years now we have believed the lie that children need to "find" themselves and don't really need all that much direction. There is a reason why God designed for children to come from parents, because they do need direction! They aren't wise enough at 3-years-old to decide whether or not eating vegetables is a good idea! To a 3-year-old, of course it's not a good idea! Sugar is a much better plan! They only see what is around them and what feels good. Long-term consequences are completely unconsidered. Children really aren't "picky eaters", they are spoiled. How do I have the audacity to say such a thing? Because I have seen children starving to death and they would have cried with gratitude if I had handed them bowls of spinach and broccoli. I realize that we all have things that we really don't like. I don't like shrimp, at all! But I would eat it if that was all I had! 

7. Overabundance of parental guidance. I am not schizophrenic! I know I just said that lack of parental guidance has caused some of this generations issues, but I also believe that too much has caused problems as well! We all know parents who do and plan everything for their children. Children want and need to know how it feels to have the pressure and responsibility of making decisions for themselves! Thus when they are grown they won't feel overwhelmed with each decision that is set before them. 

8. Lost the joy of learning. This is truly heartbreaking. I don't know how many late summer days I was in the grocery store with mom and the cashier said, "Oh, don't you just wish summer lasted forever? Are you dreading school?" My response was usually, "No, I like school." I was homeschooled, so my school days were drastically different from other children who spent the majority of their days in the schoolhouses. My mom told me countless times, "I want you to enjoy learning. It doesn't end when you're handed a high school diploma or even a college diploma... it lasts forever. Learning is a gift for a lifetime." Too many children are brainwashed with the philosophies that learning is hard and that school is something to dread. And maybe for some maybe it is, but it shouldn't be. I really believe that homeschooling made all of the difference in my childhood. It is the most ancient form of learning and teaching and really the only model that we see in the Bible. 

9. Emphasis on pleasing oneself. "I just want you to be happy." We have all heard it and many of us have said it. It makes perfect sense to say this if you don't believe in God, because there really is no one to please except for yourself. If it's just you and me on this planet then I am going to make sure that I am taken care of! Survival of the fittest! But if we believe that life is about more than just us and there is a God to serve and please, than it isn't about just being "happy." It's okay to be frustrated, hurt, sad, broken, burdened and disappointed. God uses all of these things to make us more like Him. Being happy is good, but it just can't be our goal. Young people (any people) who are taught to pursue "happiness" are set up for a life of chasing after instant and temporary gratifications that only seep out of the aching hole in their hearts. 

10. They don't know Jesus. So, I went from "spelling" to Jesus. But how could I not finish on the One who knows all and loves all? When it comes right down to it, Jesus is who we need. Many Christian teens and young adults believe that they know Him, but I am afraid that He doesn't know many of them. I am not to judge, but He is and He says that we will know them by their fruit. Without Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life, you can't be who you could be. He is the One who fills us with the Holy Spirit and who strengthens us to overcome the other things on this list that we can and can't control. 

It seems that we are truly broken sometimes. I cringe to think of what our children and grandchildren will be like once they are raised by this generation. The good news is this: We may have been born into this time period. We may be surrounded in technology, laziness, selfishness and nonchalance, but we do not have to succumb! Read, spell, be honest, seek God's direction, serve others, learn and make sure that Jesus knows you. Though the world is broken, we don't have to be! 

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33