Help!

Does your heart ever feel overwhelmed? Are you ever disheartened by your inability to meet everyone’s demands and expectations?

Some days my heart vacillates between being raw with paralyzing frustration and simultaneously stimulated by a thousand agitations.

In the midst of my obsessive mental processing and impaired human emotions, I starkly realize that in the insistent whirlwind of life, I still have so much for which to be grateful.

Yet continuously … the floods of demands, disciplines, people, habits, chores, vices and commitments create a massive quagmire in my life that can only be described by one desperate word, “overwhelming”!

The call of life is just so deafeningly loud sometimes …

David the worshipper … the man after God’s own heart … shares my incompetence at dealing well with all that life dishes out.

“Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer.

From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is overwhelmed;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.

Let me dwell in Your tent forever;

Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.”

Psalm 61:1-4

Although I do not know what specifically overwhelms you, I can assure you that though the source of your staggering obstacles may look much different than mine, the answer for both of us is the same.

“Hear my cry, O God!  Give heed to my prayer.”

When you are overwhelmed, take it from David:  the first thing you need to do is cry out to God.  We need prayer more than we need our circumstances to change.  Just going to my infinitely gracious God, Who is lovingly attentive in all of His ways, reminds me that I am not in charge.  There is Someone mightier and more powerful than I am Who is well able to bring relief to my mountain of stress.

From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed!”

There is no sin in calling out to God when you are completely and utterly overwhelmed.

The sin would actually be in turning to other less satisfying options.  Have you ever mistakenly believed that spending, eating, being entertained, going to the spa or responding with your emotions is what you need to conquer the overwhelming circumstances and events of your life?  Those things are deceptive distractions and possess all the healing power of a miniscule band-aid following open heart surgery.

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I …”

The second word of advice that is discernable in David’s prayer is that we all need God to lead us.  We need Him to take us by our human hands and then to guide us with His divine hands to a higher place.  He always wisely leads His children to a more secure vantage point than the circumstances of life are able to offer.  The benefit of standing on a rock that is taller than I am is that I am above my circumstances and therefore can see them from heaven’s perspective.

One of the most destructive mistakes that any of us can make during moments of overwhelming madness is to be led by our emotions.  Anger and impatience will do damage to relationships that may be difficult to repair.  I must humbly realize that my emotions often lie to me but God will lead me in triumph even in overwhelming times … especially in overwhelming times.

“For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy …”

When you are feeling overwhelmed, focus not on what is causing the irritation or annoyance but begin to declare Who God is.  Remove your eyes from your circumstances and set your mind, mouth and gaze on the only One Who is able to help you!  God is your safe place and will strongly protect you against the enemy forces of busyness, difficult relationships, a failing economy, health challenges and priorities.  He is more than able!

“Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.”

There is no safer, more peaceful place to be than abiding in Him and with Him.  When I linger in His presence and enjoy the safety of His Word, the overwhelming things of this earth truly grow strangely dim.  When His nearness overshadows all that calls my name, I am at peace at last.  The life that He gives is the life that I have dreamed about and longed for.

His presence miraculously empowers me to face another day of the demanding details of life.  The Word of God powerfully protects me and shields me from the rapid fire of life’s demands.  Prayer helps me to wisely focus on that which is eternal and not on that which merely stirs up a raucous.

So … the next time that you or I find ourselves in similar and overwhelming circumstances … let’s not walk but run to Him and all that He is!  I resolve to take a break from this mad, mad, mad, mad world and to set my heart where it has always belonged … in Him.

While others are juggling the voices, the tirade and the insistence of this temporary world, I will be the one with my hands in air, gaze fixed on heaven and crying with gut-wrenching desperation, “HELP!”

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Friends

I have a friend who says that one of her New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 is simply to be a better friend. Now … it’s difficult for me to believe that it’s even possible for this girl to be a better friend because she is much, much more than awesome.  She is caring, consistent, loving and kind every day and in every way.

She is a good listener and a servant.

She laughs at my jokes and has been known to cry with me on occasion.

She is always ready for a girlfriend date but doesn’t intrude or presume upon my time.

She prays with me … calls me higher … sends me Scriptures … and is one of my chief defenders.

Who could ask for anything more?!

The gift of a truly caring friend is a rare and priceless gift.  In your entire lifetime … you may only be given 5 true friends or perhaps 10 friends who are loyal friends … friends who bleed for you … cheer for you … and cry with you.

From the day I was old enough to run across my grandmother’s backyard to Annie Scroger’s house … I have loved having friends.

Annie and I had matching bikes when she was in the third grade and I was in second grade.  They were pink and white Schwinn bicycles.  Mine cost $32.  I remember.

I remember playing dolls and wearing our mother’s old bridesmaid dresses while dancing with imaginary princes.

I remember playing school with Denise Dix and taking turns being the teacher, writing on the miniature chalkboard and sitting one another in the corner.

I remember planning birthday events with Karla and the youthful addiction to staying up all night at pajama parties.

I remember reading the same book at the same time with the redheads who lived across the street and around the corner and then crying together at the end of the book because the story was over.

I remember playing endless games of Monopoly, Scrabble and Clue.

I remember going on long walks with Diane and dreaming of the prom, wedding dresses and babies yet to come.

Girlfriends … what a treasure this side of heaven!

It was during my high school years that I had a defining moment concerning friendship.  I realized that being a friend was not cultivated so much in what you did together but it was in how you treated one another.

Bike rides, Monopoly games and baby dolls faded in importance as I observed the way that girls treated each other.  I longed for a friend who I could trust … who wouldn’t gossip about me … who was faithful in difficult days and in good days … who wouldn’t betray me.

In a world of high school flirtations, drama queens and uncertain motivation, the Lord gave me a handful of girls who knew right from wrong … who knew the value of keeping a secret … and who were faithful.

Susie … Patti … Mary Ann … Diane … thank you for being my friends during the turbulent high school years.  You were … and still are … a treasured gift.

And now … in my adult years … the focus of friendship is not on doing or even on being … but is on becoming.

I long for friends who will pray for me and I for them.  I long for women in my life who will call me higher and show me what the Bible says.

I long for women who value Fruit more than feelings and esteem faith over facts.

I deeply appreciate women who aren’t afraid to accompany me through fierce storms and walk through fires with me.

I celebrate women who speak truth, sprinkle it with love, and call it “encouragement”.

Friendship, for me, in this season of life is more than pedicures, lunch dates and giggle fests.

It is infinitely more than chick flicks, accessorizing and commiserating.

Friendship is partnership in the Gospel.

Friendship is a twinship in prayer and in purpose.

I’d rather have a friend who shared a Bible verse with me than a recipe or a sale brochure any day!

The call of friendship is found in a woman who is determined that both you and she will walk in divine destiny not in mediocrity.

A valued friend will go to battle with you and for you.  She will roll up her sleeves, get on her knees and shout while the battle rages and the enemy fires.

Now … that’s a woman I’d love to go to lunch with!  And who knows … maybe we will even take time to get a pedicure!

*****************************

I’d love to hear about your friends … from childhood … high school … and now.  What is the lesson that God has taught you about being a friend?

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Just One Thing...

Is it just me?  Or have you noticed a particular trend on social media?

5 Foods Never to Eat after the Age of 45

9 Things Extremely Successful People Do After Work

20 Things every Twenty-something Should Know How to do

7 Things You Totes Need to Stop Saying If You’re Over 30

5 Things Super Successful People do Before 8 AM

Are you overwhelmed yet?  Would you read ANY of these lists and actually believe that the insight could change your life in any significant way?!

What other lists are out there with the guarantee to change some aspect of your obviously less than perfect life?  How about these …

37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old

10 Things Successful People Do on Monday Mornings

23 Signs You Are Secretly An Introvert

36 Things That Are Going to Make You Feel Ancient

18 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time for Again

It’s true … I spotted all of these condescending, brilliant, too-good-to-be true lists on Facebook in a 24-hour period.

I timed myself.

When I realized that I saw this hysterical trend developing, I decided to make my own lists of lists.

There I sat … paralyzed by the glow from my computer screen with a pen and piece of notebook paper beside me.  Every time a new list popped up, I read and documented said list.

For 24 hours I made my own list of the epidemic lists that I saw posted on social media.  And what you have read today is the kind of stuff that my desperate friends were posting.  Oh … but I’m not done yet …

10 Reasons I Keep My House Clean

5 Ways to Be Unsatisfied with Your Church

10 Marriage Tips Every Wife Needs to Hear

20 Things My Mom Was Right About

6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person

You are either highly frustrated right now … feel like a miserable failure knowing that you will never amount to anything at all … or … like me … you are laughing hysterically!!

Can you do it … can you read just a few more of the titles of lists that I discovered on social media?  And then I will get to my point … I promise!

Top 10 Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

32 Cheap and Easy Backyard Ideas that are Borderline Genius

10 Things Successful People Do Differently To Reach Their Dreams

But I have saved the very best for last:

2014 Is Going To Be My Year Now That I Know These 89 Genius Solutions to Simple Problems

Stop gagging RIGHT NOW … because I have one significant thing to say to you!

All you really need is Jesus.  All you really need is more of Him and more of His presence.

For me, this has never been and will never be a get-rich quick scheme or a religious platitude.  It is not a spiritual band-aid nor is it a condescending panacea.

Knowing Jesus gives me a life bigger than life.  Spending time in His dear presence is all I need to battle any giant … move any mountain … or discover any wisdom or truth.

Spending my life knowing Him … loving Him … giving to Him … talking to Him … listening to Him … is better than any diet, any idea, any worldly solution or any regret that I will encounter this side of eternity.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord and that shall I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” – Psalm 27:4

If you want me to make it practical for you … let me put it this way …

In 2014, whether you are a teen-ager or just one breath away from eternity, open your Bible and enjoy His presence, His power and His wisdom.

Whether you are the mother of 19 kids and counting … or are experiencing the lonely pain of an empty nest … or are walking through the wilderness of infertility … what you need to help you get through these days is the joy that is found in the Word of God.

Whether you make a six-figure income or are standing in line for your next unemployment check, your validation in life will come from knowing Him and not from what you do or do not earn.

In 2014, whether you are married or single … divorced or planning the wedding of your dreams … a widow or on your honeymoon … what you need to feel unconditionally loved,  is to know His love that surpasses all others.

If we are going to number anything at all, the Bible tells us to number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom.

“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12

What does it mean in to “number our days”?  The Hebrew word for “number” is the word “manah” and it means to “count, number assign, prepare or tell”.

Rather than reading the noxious lists on Facebook or Twitter, why don’twe spend our daysnumbering our days?

Buy a calendar for the new year … and begin to fill its pages with what God has shown you … what you have planned … what you long to accomplish with your life … scriptures to memorize … people who need encouragement … books to read … books to write … the lyrics of songs that have touched you.  The possibilities are endless!

When the calendar year then turns to 2015, you will have a diary of all that happened of significance in your life during 2014.  You will look back and see the hand of God and hear His voice every day of the calendar year.  You will have numbered your days in the very best way possible!

I have always loved eavesdropping on conversations that Jesus had with those He loved while He was on planet earth.  One afternoon, He had a teaching moment with 2 women by the name of Martha and Mary.  They were sisters but oh!  So completely different from one another … as sisters often are!

Martha was the type-A girl … she got the job done!  There was no mountain of laundry she couldn’t tackle, no crowd of men she couldn’t feed and no person whom she wouldn’t boss around.  She was one take-charge, intimidating glob of estrogen!

Mary was the quieter sister … perhaps an introvert … who had found great meaning and sustenance by simply sitting at the feet of Jesus.  It might not have seemed like she accomplished very much …  but perhaps, in reality, she had learned the secret of numbering her days.

But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:41 & 42

My prayer for you in 2014 is that you will number your days not read lists.  I pray that you will choose the one thing that will make your life count for eternity.  I pray that you will know the One to Whom everyone and everything else will someday bow.

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It's So Beautiful...It Makes My Heart Hurt

Post Office drawing by Olivia McLeod
Post Office drawing by Olivia McLeod

Have you ever treasured a memory so deeply in your soul that not only does your mind recall the facts of the moment but your heart also is instantly tied to the memory with intense and poignant feelings?

Such is the memory that I have of a December evening when I was only 6 years old …

I attended kindergarten that morning in the one room schoolhouse that was just around the corner and up the street from the safe haven of my home.  I lived in that century old home with my mom and dad, my older sister, a younger brother who loved to tease, a collie named Lassie and a white cat named Tinkerbell.

It was a snowy, wintery day in Western New York and I had spent the after school hours sledding with my older sister and with the “redheads” from across the street. My toes were nearly frostbitten from the time happily spent in the sub-freezing elements. My mother, after taking off all of my snow-caked outer garments at the door,  handed me a fresh nightgown that had been warmed in the dryer. She then stood me on top of our old-fashioned register where the heat came blazing up from the basement furnace.

My mom put “The King Family Christmas Album” on our record player so that I would have Christmas music to listen to while I was slowly warmed from the tiny register holes.

I revolved around in a little girl circle while the heat found its way to warm my numb toes, raw fingers and red nose. While facing one direction, I saw the piano sitting in the corner of the oversized room; in another direction, I saw the dining room table bedecked for Christmas in true 1960’s fashion; and in the third direction I looked into my parents’ bedroom and at their huge canopy bed.

The fourth view that completed my slow rotation was out the front windows of my home and at the Post Office across the street. I remember that the snow was gently falling down around the little brown building which was truly no more than a glorified shack of governmental importance. The postmaster, Mr. Hawley, had just the day before strung lights around the roof and windows of the US Post Office located directly across the street from my girlhood home.

My slow circle stopped the moment that I looked across the street at the obscure building.

As the King Family sang of city sidewalks, chestnuts roasting and finally about a Baby Boy, I stopped my circling and just stared, transfixed at the beauty of the brown building surrounded by Christmas lights.

I remember placing my hand on my chest because what I was experiencing in that moment was so wonderful and grand that it made my heart hurt.  As I wiped the tears away from my no longer frozen cheeks, my mom walked into the room.

“Why, Carol!” she exclaimed. “Why are you crying? Are you not feeling well?”

I didn’t even realize until that moment that there were tears on my cheeks. I responded, “Mom … it’s all so beautiful. It makes my heart hurt.”

The joy from my heart was leaking out of my eyes and down my innocent cheeks.  A little brown shingled building … decorated with Christmas lights … made my heart hurt.

And with repeating those words to you today … I can still feel the glorious pain all over again.

Christmas is so beautiful … so filled with wonder and glory … that it makes my heart hurt to this very day.

merry-christmas
merry-christmas

When Christmas lights up the ordinariness of my feeble attempt at life, the raw marvel paints a picture of stunning impact. When viewed without the message of the manger, my life is truly just a shack of little significance and certain obscurity.

However, when I dress my life in the majesty of the manger and with the glory of the angel’s song it is then that I become who I was always made to be.  When the human hut of my life is changed by the purpose of the manger and by the star that led the way to His dear presence, I realize why my heart aches for something more than this world offers.

Even now … the joy of Christmas is leaking out of my eyes and my wizened heart hurts with the joy of it all.

Has the joy of Christmas changed you? Have you allowed the miracle of the manger to decorate the humdrum of your life?  My prayer for you this year is that you will take a moment out of the busyness … and away from the craziness… and observe with no distractions what the glory of Christmas is truly all about.

I hope that you will warm yourself with the joy of His presence.  I hope that you will hear the angels’ song and that your heart will constrict in sheer and joyous pain.

I pray that you will have a moment when the joy of Christmas leaks out of your eyes and onto your face.

Your life was always meant to be more than a shack … a hovel … a hut of humanity. Your life was meant to be the showplace of Christmas every day of every year.

Merry Christmas with joy –

Carol

Makes my heart hurt blog pic 1
Makes my heart hurt blog pic 1
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What Will You Give This Christmas Season?

The men and women in the story of Christ's birth...gave more than they could afford...in order to be involved in the plan of God. What are you giving this year?

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The Best of Times...The Worst of Times

Best of Times Worst of Times pic 1
Best of Times Worst of Times pic 1

“It was the best of times … it was the worst of times …”are the unforgettable words that begin A Tale of Two Citieswritten by Charles Dickens who also famously penned, “A Christmas Carol”.

“It was the best of times … it was the worst of times …” are also, unfortunately, the words that many of us have used to emotionally and spiritually pen our Christmas stories and memories.

“It was the best of times …” are the 6 words jubilantly chosen to describe a holiday cup that is frothy and running over with cheer, gifts, healthy relationships and a beautifully decorated home.

78455590
78455590

“It was the best of times …” seems to be the caption that is used to describe an iconic Rockwellian picture of a snow-decked landscape looking into the window of a red and green home that has an interesting yet functional family at its core.  The kids are throwing wrapping paper everywhere … the parents are still dressed in their robes with deep circles under their eyes yet are able to smile at the pictured noise and confusion … the holiday turkey is browning perfectly in the oven with its aroma wafting through the expectant air … and Gramma is on her way with a sleigh filled with pumpkin pies and figgy pudding!

It certainly IS the best of times!

“It was the worst of times” are often the December lyrics of choice when the bottom has fallen out of one’s shaky attempt at living.

Food stamps may be a daily reality and necessity.

The dysfunction of family relationships is a constant reminder of what is wrong with  life.

This Christmas may be spent in the terror of the ICU rather than by the warmth of a welcoming fireplace with eggnog in one hand and a Christmas cookie in the other.

Perhaps rather than torturous relationships to deal with, there is no family to gather around the sparsely bedecked caricature of Charlie Brown’s famous tree.

Money is scarce … health is questionable …  just one mortgage payment away from losing the family home … there will be no Santa Claus coming down the chimney this year to leave a memorable deposit of materialism under the lonely tree.

For you, Christmas this year, truly may be the worst of times.

However, I happen to believe, that judging the authenticity or joy of Christmas by what we have or do not have is a foolish and impulsive mistake of gargantuan proportions.

Christmas was never meant to be measured by human standards or by a glass that is gleefully half-full or agonizingly half-empty.

What one sees circumstantially is largely unable to coincide with earth’s attempt at fulfillment because of heaven’s promise of delivered joy!

See … it is not in what you do have or do not have that should determine how you are able to describe your Christmas this year or any calendar year!  It is always found … eternally found … in Who He is!

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177427485

He is joy when your life seems empty.

He is peace when all around you are in conflict.

He is hope when all human wells have run dry.

He is the Healer in a life that is sick, fragile and wasted.

He is Christmas!

He is what makes any day of any year the very best of times.

Don’t be so small in your expectations of a truly memorable Christmas that you boil it down to gifts, a bevy of celebratory people or how much red and green is strewn around your home.

Instead, this Christmas, remember what Christmastime is powerfully all about:

A young woman who has had her world invaded with the promise that with God … all things are possible!

The plans of a young man that were hurriedly changed because the God of the universe interrupted his human desire for happy ever after.

A manure-filled, mouse-scurrying stable that welcomed the Baby Who was born to be the King of all Kings.

Shepherds, with dirt under the fingernails, grime in their brains and sheep drool on their robes who were invited to sing with the angels!

A song so loud and so triumphant that it broke through the coldness and darkness of a world in pain to prounouce, “Let there be joy!”

Although I don’t know the pain of your past or the stark reality of the Christmas that will be remembered as 2013, this is what I do know about you and your life …

You are loved by the God Who sent His Son into the darkness and confusion of the warzone of life this side of eternity.

The angels still invite modern day shepherds to sing … to sing loudly … to sing triumphantly!

Although your desire for “happy ever after” may be marred by the mess you have made of your life … God still has the power to intervene because of Christmas!

And … the message that the angel delivered to an incredulous virgin girl is still heaven’s message to you today … nothing is impossible with God!

And so … whatever circumstances you face today … my prayer is that your life will be remembered as a lasting and genuine Christmas Carol because finally … you understand … you eternally comprehend what the best of times has always been about!

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Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Our sacrifice of praise means giving thanks...even when you feel there is nothing to be thankful for.

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Here is the Secret

Here is the Secret blog pic 1
Here is the Secret blog pic 1

I have always believed that if there is only one secret to living a full, rewarding and joyful life it is found in the decision to just be thankful.  All day … every day. This one singular heart attitude, that of choosing to live in a place of gratitude, holds more sway over the quality of your life than does your income bracket, your street address or even the pain of your past. 

Determining to be a person of sincere praise and appreciativeness will frame your life in a beautiful and miraculous way. 

Gratitude will erase days of pain and create days of blessing.

Thanksgiving will enlarge the small places of your life into rooms of grand bounty and sweet strength.

Praise will turn the gray and blah of humdrum responsibilities into sparkling opportunities of service in the Kingdom of God.

It is in choosing to be thankful … sincerely and joyfully thankful … that ordinary days turn into holidays.

Days that are identified by wretchedness and wreathed in ugly become events of heavenly inspiration and sweet remembrance when we use the paintbrush of gratitude to change their color.

This is your life … you will never have another.  This life is your only chance at joy … your only opportunity for destiny … your only occasion for capturing a delightful heart. 

You must discover the power of thanksgiving if you long for your life to make a difference.

If you are thankful for even the small things in life, you have discovered an eternal treasure.

the west at south
the west at south

If you can look at a sunset and bask in its presence … you have tapped into treasure.

playing with mom
playing with mom

If you can giggle back at a baby with a silly grin on your face … you have tapped into treasure.

If you can make snow angels with the little girls in your life … you have tapped into treasure.

If you can catch fireflies with a freckle-faced boy … you have tapped into treasure.

If the glory discovered in vibrant rainbows … in the majestic roar of the ocean’s waves … and in the morning song of the bird cause you to well up with praise … you have learned how to value the truly important commodities in life.

Conversely, if you choose to focus on your deficits rather than on your gifts, you will always be miserable.  If all you do is whine and complain and worry … you are the only one whom it wounds and ultimately subtracts from.

Did you know that it doesn’t really matter what your circumstances are?  Once you begin to lock into this miraculous lifestyle of thanksgiving, although your circumstances may never change … you will change!  You change from being in bondage to disappointments and pain to living a life of the joy found only within the gates of His powerful presence!

The moment that you become grateful, it changes the atmospheric conditions of your life.  Thanksgiving will take you out of your human pain and place you in the very courts of His presence!  What a miraculous possibility!!

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before Him with joyful singing.

Know that the Lord Himself is God;

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving

And His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His lovingkindness is everlasting

And His faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100

I would love it if you would respond to this blog by telling us what you are grateful for today!

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Just These Three Things

baby
baby

Children … there is nothing like the heart of a little person to rearrange your priorities, refine your theology and restore your hope.

“Through the praises of children and infants

 You have established a strong hold

 against Your enemies.”

Psalm 8:2 - NIV

I love to listen to children talk about God.  I love to hear their praises … to watch their heartfelt enthusiasm … and to know that they understand the love of the Father.

Children know.  They know God in a particular way that most adults do not begin to grasp.  They know that God is love and that He is powerful.

They know that God is a giant-killer … a life-giver … and a mountain-mover.

Children know.

Children are the very best prayer warriors that I know.  They pray in unabashed faith and enthusiastically expect a response from heaven!  If you have lingering doubts about life … ask a child to pray for you!  There is nothing quite like it!

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said,

‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children,

you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever then humbles himself as this child,

he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me.” –

Matthew 18:3-5

 Is it because they are so fresh from heaven?  Is that why children have an insight into the heart and character of God that is sometimes missing in older, more mature and “wiser” adults?

Do babies remember what heaven smells like?  Do toddlers recall the joy around the throne of God?  Are pre-schoolers able to catch a whiff of the love of the Father while living on earth?

If nothing else, children know that God loves children.  They know.

The innocence of a child is a strong magnet to the presence of God.  Little ones are most at home in the joy of His presence.  Is it any wonder that there was a special place in the heart of Jesus for children?

One day children were brought to Jesus

 in the hope that He would lay hands on them and pray over them. 

The disciples shooed them off.

 But Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone,

 don’t prevent them from coming to me. 

God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”

 – Matthew 19:13 & 14 – The Message

olivia mcleod
olivia mcleod
olivia mcleod 2
olivia mcleod 2
olivia mcleod 3
olivia mcleod 3
olivia mcleod & marmee
olivia mcleod & marmee

Olivia is my adorable, precocious, administrative, creative and anointed little bundle of granddaughterly joy!  She was the first grandchild born into this clan and will ever hold a place of sweet delight in my Marmee’s heart.

Olivia loves to design doll clothes, write books, go to ballet lessons, take care of her little brothers and has an insatiable desire to know more about God.  Although only 5 years old, Olivia is filled with a wisdom that I long for at times!

A few weeks ago it was Kids’ Day at Faith Family Church in Victoria, TX.  All of the school age children were allowed to stay in the big service and Pastor Jim Graff had a message that he had prepared especially for them. 

These are the notes, in Olivia’s own handwriting that she wrote that day:

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

Olivia got it right, didn’t she?  That is all the theology that she needs in her tender and formative years.  Maybe it is all the theology that you and I need as well.

little girl
little girl

God is with you!  What a promise!  You serve a God Who will never leave you regardless of how you act, what you’ve done or where you are going.  He is more than a social sidekick or a nagging shadow.  He is not an obnoxious tag-along or the constant reminder of yesterday’s mistakes.  God’s presence and love are inescapable companions as you travel life this side of heaven.  He has promised never to leave you or forsake you.  When everyone else has deserted you … you have a friend that is closer than a brother.  Ah-h-h-h … you are not alone!  Thanks for the sweet reminder, Olivia.

la main de la mère
la main de la mère

You are special!  What a great memo from Olivia’s 5 year old heart!  There is no one like you … you are one of a kind.  You have a destiny that has never been shared by another human being in all of history.  God has uniquely fashioned you for such a time as this.  Comparing yourself with others is a total and complete waste of energy because there is no one like you … and there is no one like them!  So get busy being you!  Be the you that God made you to be … today!  Olivia … there will never be another Olivia Mae McLeod!  You are you … and that is enough … that is more than enough!

You are God’s child.  That’s right … you belong.  You belong to Your Dad.  You are His wanted and dearly loved child.  You are part of the greatest family ever created … the family of the most-high God!  There is never any possible reason to wonder who you are … you are God’s child!  What an honor!  When others reject you or forget you … you are God’s child!  When your family ignores you and your friends avoid you … you are God’s child!  His embrace is big enough and powerful enough to calm your fears and to lead the way. 

Olivia … I hope that you always remember these 3 important sentences.

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

  I hope that when you are 12 and are struggling with self-esteem that you remember.

I hope that when you are 18 and face an unknown future that you remember.

I hope that when you are raising a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes that you remember.

I hope that when another little girl … at another moment in history … calls you “Marmee” … that you remember …

God is with you.

You are special.

You are God’s child.

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Testimony of An Unanswered Prayer

In Spite Of
In Spite Of

It’s November!  The 11th month of the year is 4 glorious weeks of  exhilarating football games, homemade pumpkin pie and jumping raucously in the leaves.  It is the month of geese flying southward, pulling out Gramma’s  well-loved recipes and going on that annual family hayride.However, the most important aspect of this month that marks the beginning of the holiday season is the time that is set aside for sincere gratitude and thankfulness.  November reminds us of the strength of counting our benefits and not whining about our deficits.  There is no other month that carries such a strong regard for the giving of heartfelt thanks and the joyful taking stock of one’s blessings.

But what if this November, you are more aware of what you don’t have rather than what you do have?  What if Thanksgiving 2013 is a painful reminder of the prayers that have not yet been answered and the “Blessing List” that lies dormant and bare?

My friend, Monica, is one of my heroines in life.  She is a sister of the heart, a partner in ministry and a dream-builder extraordinaire.  Monica has prayed for nearly 7 years for another baby … and yet her arms and her nursery are longingly empty.  Her message and her heart challenge me to pray again … to believe again … and to give thanks “in spite of” and not only “because of.”

This is Monica’s story and Monica’s blog.  Maybe you will find yourself between the lines of this heartfelt journey.

Testimony of an Unanswered Prayer

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I thought about writing this many times over the past 7 years.  I've written and re-written it in my mind too many times to count.  I’ve always waited because I thought…once the deepest desire of my heart has been fulfilled…that’s when I can share the testimony.  That is when I can encourage someone else to hang in there…the promise is coming.  But here’s what I’ve learned through this journey…the testimony doesn’t necessarily come in one big bang at the end of the road.  Sometimes, it’s during the lowest of lows…during the deepest pain and despair…and even during the relentless questions of the heart…that the true testimony is birthed.

This journey began for me about 8 years ago, on a cold winter morning in February.  Paul and I had been married for just over 8 months.  We had decided early on that we would wait until we’d been married for one year before we started a family.  But after eight months of wedded bliss…I didn’t want to wait any longer!  I was ready for babies!!  That morning in February…as I was blow-drying my hair…the Lord spoke to my heart.  I heard the name “Faith”….and then “Faith Marie”.  It was so clear to me that I think I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing my Jesus whisper that name to the deepest part of my soul.

A few weeks later, I heard Him whisper the name Zachary.  Imagine hearing two names…within a couple of weeks!  My poor husband had no say in the name of our son.  There was no discussion about names…no baby name books being poured through.  I just knew that we were either going to have a “Zachary” or a “Faith”!

About a month later, we found out we were pregnant!!  I’ve wanted a little girl since I can remember.  I have a sister…and she has three daughters…and my mom was one of two girls.  And the Lord had given me the name ‘Faith’!  Never in my wildest imagination could I ever picture myself with a  boy!    So, when I found out we were pregnant with a boy…I was slightly shell shocked.  However, over the next 9 months…I fell completely, head over heels, over the moon in love with my Zachary.  And when he was born, I thought…THIS is what perfection looks like!  (And I still think that today, 7 years later)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were beyond blessed with our beautiful little family.  And so, when Zachary was about 10 months old…we decided this would be the perfect time to do it again!  We were pregnant with Zachary exactly one month after we decided to begin trying.  We took it for granted the second time would be so easy.

However, with each month that passed with a negative pregnancy test, I had to fight feelings of fear.  I had to fight off the nasty little “I” word (Infertility) that would creep into my thoughts.  After several months, we began fertility treatments.  And after years and years of herbs, and acupuncture, and holistic treatments, and pills, and needles, and hormones….praying and declaring…seeking God’s wisdom and guidance at every turn…I wasn’t getting pregnant.  One of the biggest blows came after several more tests and procedures and a consult with an IVF doctor.  My test results showed early menopause and no chance of IVF working.  He told us our only hope was to use an egg donor or do traditional adoption.  The news was almost more than I could bare.

BUT – during all of these years…and more negative pregnancy tests than one person should ever have to endure…I knew that Jesus was with me.  I felt Him near me every time I would cry out in despair…each time I questioned whether I had really heard the name Faith…He would reassure me.  “Now FAITH is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

My God would send me scriptures and encouragers and the deepest knowledge that He loved me….and He understood the pain…and my anger would never make Him move away from me or love me less.

Earlier this year, we adopted 2 embryos through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program.  We knew that my body wasn’t producing eggs…but the doctors told us that I could easily carry a baby.  And that has always been my deep desire…to be pregnant again.  To feel the life growing inside me…to feel those magical first kicks…to feel my baby move as soon as she felt her daddy’s hand on my stomach.  I loved those beautiful nine months with Zachary…and I desperately want it again.

The process of embryo adoption was daunting.  It’s treated just like a traditional adoption, so we went through the homestudy and began the process of choosing the family who’s babies we would adopt and grow inside me.  When we received word that a family had chosen us to adopt their embryos, I prayed that the Lord would give us a sign so that we knew that these were the babies He had for us.

I’ll never forget the day I received the pictures of the family.  I’ve never in my life felt more loved by the God who created this universe!  When I opened the first picture, I saw two little boys who could’ve been my son’s twins.  These were the siblings of the embryos that we were about to adopt.  When I put the picture of the one little boy next to a picture of me when I was his age…we could’ve been brother and sister.  The resemblance was uncanny.  I knew that God had answered our prayers.  The God who was so big that He created the Grand Canyon….knew the deepest desire of my heart.

We began the process of getting my body ready to accept these babies.  We flew to Kansas standing and declaring that we would come home pregnant!  Our friends sent us off with letters and cards of encouragement….declarations over these babies, who had been wanted for so many years.  We came home after the procedure…after being told by the doctor that the embryos didn’t look great…still full of hope and declaring all of the promises that God had given us.  I had called this baby by name for 7 years.  My little Faith…my vision of blonde curls and freckles on her nose…the little girl who would grow up to be my best friend.  The moment was finally here…we couldn’t wait to celebrate with all of the friends and family who had stood beside us…prayed with us for so many years.  This little girl who had lived only in my heart…

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2013-05-14 14.39.08

Two weeks later, the doctor called from Kansas with words that would literally…truly…smash my heart into a million pieces.  We were not pregnant.  Those two babies that had been placed inside me were now in heaven.

The hours and even days after that phone call are a blur.  I felt like I had lost two babies.  I felt like God had broken my heart.  It hurt to talk to God…it hurt to read my Bible…it hurt to look at all of the scriptures that I had declared over this baby.  Everything just hurt.

But, He never left my side.  Slowly…and ever so gently…I could hear Him whispering to me.  I knew that God still loved me.  I knew that He had a plan for me…a great plan…to prosper me and not to harm me.  I knew that, although my heart was broken, it wasn’t Jesus who had broken it.   I needed to let Him back in…because He was the ONLY one who could truly heal my heart.

I remember asking – WHY?  Why would you send me this beautiful, perfect match – the perfect fit for our family and then take these babies to heaven?  His answer was soft, gentle, and so comforting.  He gave me that match to show me just how deeply and intimately He knows my heart…my deepest desires…the dreams inside me that no one else knows.  He knows.  He sees.

I am still working through the process of letting Him heal my heart.  I am still learning how to live with an unanswered prayer…by thanking Him for the million prayers that He HAS answered.  Jesus has been with me at every valley and every mountain top of this journey.  I am learning that the testimony isn’t really about the destination…it’s about finding God during the journey.  It’s about choosing to declare that He is a good God…He does want the best for me…He loves me…and He never has or never will leave my side.   I will be thankful for every good gift that He has so graciously poured out in my life.  That He continues to pour into my life.  It’s a choice I make everyday…to be thankful…to worship while I’m waiting…to trust Him.

That..…is my testimony.

Habakkuk 2:3 – For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.  Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.

1 Chronicles 16:11 – Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.

Proverbs 16:9 – In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Jeremiah 17:7 – Blessed is the (wo)man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord.

Orzechowski-1128

Monica is Mom to Zachary, Wife to Paul. and the Executive Director at Just Joy! Ministries.  Her blog is called "Faith for the Journey"

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In Spite Of!

In Spite Of
In Spite Of

November is the month of being thankful...but let's take it a step further and be thankful, not only "because of" our circumstances...but "In Spite Of" our circumstances!  Join us on the facebook page - Carol McLeod, Bible Teacher & Author, and list 3 things you are thankful for with the hashtag #inspiteof 

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Superpowers, Superheroes, & A Boy Named Ian Wesley

Ian 12
Ian 12

Let me tell you a story about a little boy and his grandmother.  The little boy is 4 very precocious years old and his name is Ian Wesley.  The grandmother is exceedingly young and lives thousands of miles away from all of her grandchildren.  All 5 of her  bright and darling grandchildren call her, “Marmee”.  She thinks that “Marmee” is the most beautiful word in the history of mankind ... As Marmee was saying her final good-bye to her little boy genius, Ian, she held him in her arms and he held her face in both of his hands.  He was kissing her on her wrinkle-free cheeks and finally the Marmee reluctantly put him down.  Ian then clung to her legs with all of his might.  

“”Well, buddy, Marmee needs to go now.  But ... remember ... change the world!” were Marmee’s parting words to this little bundle of energy, enthusiasm and perpetual liveliness.

“What?!  Change the world?!” Ian incredulously asked. “I tan’t change the world!!  I don’t have superpowers!!”

His parents and I grinned at each other and at the remarkable response of this remarkable little man.

As I began the nearly 1,500 mile drive home to an empty but clean house and away from those who are forever in my heart, I thought to my Marmee self, “Oh!  But Ian!  You have it all wrong because you do, indeed, have superpowers that will change the world you live in!”

“Ian ... you have the power of love in your little soul.  The power of love is a game changer every time in every relationship.  Unconditional love is the basis for all healthy relationships; vibrant love is the launching pad for all young lives and their dreams; tenacious love is the glue that holds families together.  When you choose to love somebody difficult and cruel ... it is the greatest superpower of all! Ian ... you really can change the world with love.”

Ian 4
Ian 4

“Ian ... you have the power of prayer at your every day disposal!  When ordinary human beings talk to God ... He listens!  When we ask in faith ... mountains are moved out of the way and that changes every one’s world!  When we diligently and relentlessly knock on the door of God’s heart through prayer ... demons flee and so do bad guys!  Ian ... prayer is more exciting and game-changing than super-heroes who leap buildings in a single bound or possess the power of x-ray vision.  Ian ... you really can change the world on your knees!”

Ian 5
Ian 5

“Ian ... you have the superpower of wisdom!  Wisdom is thinking like God thinks!  Wisdom is better than being best friends with Superman, Batman or Captain America!  When you ask God for wisdom, He transfers His great and powerful mental capabilities into your human brain and heart.  Wisdom will help you always win in life and will keep you away from dark and threatening places.  Buddy ... when you ask God for His wisdom ... you really can change the world in partnership with God!  Imagine that!”

“Ian ... the words that you speak hold the power of life and death!  The words that you choose to say to your mom and dad ... to your cousins ... to your friends ... to your teachers ... and to your Marmee and Pa ... can change their lives forever.  When you choose to say kind words to someone who is having a bad day ... their life is forever changed by you!  When you choose to encourage someone who is discouraged ... their life is changed instantly by you!  Ian, your words are powerful capsules of world-changing capacity, so only use your words as an instrument of peace and never as a weapon of mass destruction.

Ian 6
Ian 6

“Ian ... you hold in your heart the power of forgiveness which is one of the greatest superpowers known in all of recorded history.  When somebody is unkind to you, you can forgive them ... then love them ... then pray for them!  Wow!  That’s three superpowers all at once!  Forgiveness is eternally powerful because it is what Jesus did for you.  And, when you forgive someone who has hurt you, you are acting just like Jesus ... the greatest Hero of all time!  No bad buys or evil powers can stop you or destroy you when you choose to act like Jesus and forgive someone.

Ian 13
Ian 13

“Ian ... when you become best friends with Jesus Christ, nothing will be impossible for you!  You might not be able to leap buildings in a single bound or move faster than a speeding bullet ... but you will be able to do extraordinary exploits and go on exciting adventures with Him.  You will pray for people and they will be healed of sickness and disease!  You might follow Jesus, the Superhero of all Superheroes, to places like Africa, China or India!  Together you and Jesus can tell other boys and girls about the power that only He can give!”

“ So ... Ian ... my little boy who will soon grow up in the blink of an eye just like his daddy did ... you do indeed possess superpowers!  You can change the world because you belong to Jesus and He belongs to you.  And Ian, just let me tell you that I am waiting for it!  I am watching your life with grand anticipation because this Marmee knows ... I just know ... that you are one of the extraordinary superheroes who have been chosen at this moment in history to change the world.

Ian 11
Ian 11
Ian 3
Ian 3
Ian 2
Ian 2
Superheroes Blog pic 2
Superheroes Blog pic 2

So do it, Ian!  You have been given the superpowers of love ... prayer ... wisdom ... words that bring life ... forgiveness ... and the power of friendship with Jesus! So do it ... to infinity and beyond!!!!!!”

Superheroes Blog pic 1
Superheroes Blog pic 1
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He Sees

Be encouraged today that God sees your circumstances and your struggle...no matter how long you've suffered...Jesus is watching your life. You have His attention! Let His glory shine through you...

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When I Pray

Prayer blog pic 1
Prayer blog pic 1

Now He was telling them a parable to show them at all times they should pray and not lose heart.” - Luke 18:1

I long to be a prayer warrior.  I want to live in that influential place of heartfelt communication and sweet communion with God.

Prayer is the force that makes hell quiver in fear and causes heaven to stand to its feet with joyful applause.

I know it deep within my soul.

Nothing eternal is accomplished on earth without the power and focus of a saint who is committed to the discipline of prayer.

I know that I know that I know.

Prayer is the vehicle through which the greatest work of my life will be done.

I absolutely know it.

“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. - Mark 11:12

Why do I feel so bad at it then?  Time after time after time, I feel like a failure in the arena of prayer.

I long for my prayers to move mountains, to calm storms and to heal sick people.  I long for it day after endless day.

And yet ... day after day after day ... all I see is one mountain range after another.  And over all of my mountains, there always seems to be fierce and defiant storms brewing.

What is it with prayer and me?!  What is it with prayer and anybody?!

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4: 6 & 7

I must tell you ... I refuse to give up.  I refuse to be paralyzed or crippled by what my eyes see.  I will pray when others give up. I will pray in spite of a quiet heaven.

I will pray.

I will pray when storms sneer and when mountains mock.

I will pray.

“Pray without ceasing.” -I Thessalonians 5:17

I defiantly refuse to believe that prayer is a waste of time.  I will set my resolve and pray on when nothing changes.

I will pray in the dark of night when the towering mountains minimize my value.

I will pray when the howl of life’s storms threaten to drown out the volume of my solitary and desperate prayer.

I will pray in the face of sickness and pain. I will beg for God’s sweet presence to heal and restore.

“ In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” -Romans 8:26 & 27

Prayer blog pic 2
Prayer blog pic 2

It’s all I have.  Prayer is all I have.  It’s the only power with any potential of making even a temporary difference.

I will wear out the carpet beside my bed with the pressure and insistence of 2 middle-aged knees whose resolve has been set.  Nothing will move me from the battle that takes place from this position.  Nothing.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” - Jeremiah 29:12

I will get up in the morning with worship in my heart and a prayer on my lips.

I will choose to pray rather than worry as I fold laundry, dash to the grocery store and answer e-mails.

I will lay my head down at night with the determination that any day is a magnificent day that has been given to prayer.

“To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” - II Thessalonians 1:1

My calling is to prayer.  It is my life’s work. God’s responsibility and response is to answer and to move.

When I pray, my desires are fulfilled in Him and not in the magical change of situations, circumstances or events.  When I pray there is a mighty work that is done in me ... it is a work of faith and power.

I will stand in faith and continue to believe for the miraculous change of situations, circumstances and events.  And while I stand, I will pray on.  It’s my calling, remember?

While my prayers may not change a situation, I now know that my prayers change me. 

When I pray, Jesus is glorified in me and I am glorified in Him.

When I pray, His grace is dispersed into my world.

I have learned that you don’t have to be “good” at prayer for prayer to be “good” in you.

I now know that in order to be good at prayer ... you just have to mean it.  And I do.

Pray then, in this way:

Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation, but delivers us from evil.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

Matthew 6:9-13

Prayer blog pic 3
Prayer blog pic 3
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On the Other Hand

No matter what you are going through or what your circumstances are...remember "on the other hand"!  Declare today - You are filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, with justice and with courage!

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Always & Never

Words and mothers.  Mothers and words. There are some words moms should never say ... and there are some words moms should always say.

Words hold such life-altering power and yet often moms like me carelessly speak with little consideration for long term impact.

Few mothers would throw a child’s entire wardrobe in the trash and yet that is what I have done to my child’s self-esteem when I have spoken in anger or in outrage.

Not many mothers would destroy a year’s supply of vitamins in response to a moment of childish forgetfulness yet that is what I have done to his or her future emotional health when my words have not fit the crime.

As a mother of 5 grown children, I have learned a lot about words over the years.  I have learned what to say .. and more importantly ... what not to say.

I would like to leave a deposit of “Never and Always” in the lives of all of my precious mom friends today.  You are the ones who are raising the next generation of dynamic people who will make an impact on the world.  These people will be a reflection of the words spoken into their lives when they were in their formative years.  Speak well, my friends.  Speak well.

HERE ARE THE WORDS THAT I BELIEVE YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY...

AND THEN THE WORDS THAT I  BELIEVE YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SAY.

—                               ♥                               —

Never say, “You drive me crazy!”

Remind yourself who is the parent and who is the child.  Never accuse your child of having a negative influence or power in your life.  Children are a blessing ... a rare and valuable gift ... from heaven’s bounty into your life.  Take responsibility for your own emotional turmoil and never blame it on your child.

There will be days when parenting pushes you to the brink of emotional stability but it is not the child who owns the power in the situation.  It is you, the mom, who owns the power to choose, to determine and to guide.  It is you, the mom, who owns the power to rely on God for emotional strength and lucidity.

Always say, “If God gave me a catalogue of all the little boys (girls) in the world, yours is the face I would have chosen.”

Acceptance, genuine approval and heartfelt love are among the three greatest gifts a parent can give to a child.  It is more important that your children hear you declare  words of affirmation and unconditional love than it is that you take them to Disney World, send them to private school, or buy them designer clothes.

In the Bible, God says that He is delighted with us and that He literally sings over us!  If God responds that way to us, as His children, I think that it is time that as parents we began to act and talk like God.

“As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all My delight.” - Psalm 16:3

            “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.  He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” - Zephaniah 3:17

 Never say, “I love you but I don’t like you very much right now.” 

As parents, regardless of how our child is acting, we must affirm our wholehearted acceptance of their personhood and value.  It’s one thing not to like what they are choosing to do ... it’s another thing altogether to verbalize the lie that you don’t like “them” in that moment.  In every moment of life, whether they are obedient or disobedient ... charming or frustrating ... sweet or acting obnoxious ... as a mother you must affirm the value that you have placed on who they are as human beings.

Always say, “You are the greatest gift I have ever been given.”

Children are great observers of people and situations; children hear what is not spoken and often don’t hear what is actually verbally rehearsed.  As your child sees you give your heart, time and attention to things and people other than him, your little one will begin to wonder where he or she lands on your list of priorities.

Let’s face it ... there are things that a mother needs to do that are going to often divert her attention away from the little lives under her care.  That is why it is imperative that often you remind your children of their value to you.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” - Luke 12:7

Never say, “I don’t want to be with you!”

To a child, being with mom and dad is the greatest gift imaginable.   Love is spelled T-I-M-E to the little ones under your feet.  Treasure every single moment you are given  with your child regardless of how they are acting.  Know that in these difficult moments of disobedience and embarrassment that you are called to disciple them to healthy behavior.  Change your emotional reaction to your child’s behavior with an unbreakable resolve that you will love them, train them and value them regardless of of how  they act or speak.

Always say, “You have been created by God for greatness at this moment in history.  You are a Daniel, a David, an Esther, a Ruth, a Peter, a Mary.  You have the fingerprint of God on your soul!”

Declare greatness and purpose over your children with the words that you speak.  When your children feel like a failure, let them know that their feelings do not tell the truth but that the Word of God is the source of all truth.

Dream big dreams with your children in every age and every stage of life.  Never belittle their desire to be an astronaut, play the piano at Carnegie Hall or discover the cure  for cancer.  Why not your child?!

Pray that God will lead your little man and your miniature lady into the grandness of His plan and design for their lives!

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord: plans for welfare and not for calamity; to give you a future and a hope.” - Jeremiah 29:11

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul                        knows it very well.” - Psalm 139:13 & 14

Never say, “I wish that I had never had you!”

Have any of you ever used these words?  I hope not ... but the reason that I have included them in my list is that I have heard many frustrated mothers in public places say these words, or words similar to them, in violent anger.  I have often wondered, if a mom says things like this in public, what does she say in private?  Destructive words such as these penetrate deeply into a child’s heart and do significant damage that may never be repaired.

Always say, “You are a good girl (boy)!”

One of my children was a very active, mischievous, independent 2 year old.  Every day when he woke up, I would tell him while he was still in his crib, “You are mama’s good boy!”  When we were out with other parents and children, rather than rehearse all that he had done wrong that day, I would always say so that he could hear me, “He is such a good little boy.”  When I was tucking him in at night, I would always remind him, “You are growing into such a good boy.”

If he was naughty, I disciplined him and talked to him about his behavior.  However, my daily and constant declaration over him was, “You are good.”  Heaven has placed the power of creation in our words and I was determined to raise a good boy.  And you know what?  He is a good man today because I declared over him the possibility and potential of goodness.

Our children will become whom they believe themselves to be.  Your words lay the foundation for the men and women they will grow into tomorrow.

            “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” - Proverbs 18:21

             “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” - Proverbs 23:7

Neversay, “Wait till your father gets home!” 

The arrival of daddy at the front door after a long day at work should not be dreaded but should be highly and enthusiastically anticipated.  Discipline should never wait until daddy gets home but should be taken care of swiftly and effectively at the time of infraction.  Daddy’s arrival at home should be the highlight of the day for everyone including mom, the children and the dad himself!  If there is an event or a behavior that dad needs to be made aware of, it should happen after dinner hour in a private and safe setting.

Always say, “I love you because you are mine.  There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you any less.  There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you any more.  I love you because you are mine.”

Don’t make the mistake of merely “thinking” about how much you love your children but verbalize it on a daily and hourly basis.  Saying it once a day is good but it is not enough.  Assure them of your love time after time after time.  Hour after hour after hour.

Look in their little eyes and tell them “I love you” when they are fresh from heaven and you are holding them in your arms for the very first time.

Kneel beside them when they are toddlers, hold their little faces in your hands and tell them, “I love you today and I love you forever.”

When they go off to school every morning, the last words they should hear as they dash off to catch the bus are, “Don’t ever forget that I love you more than words can say!”

And when they are difficult teenagers with minds of their own and try to ignore your involvement in their lives, say, “I love you and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.”

Write “I love you” in lipstick in the bathroom mirror when they are learning to read.

Place notes beside their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their lunch boxes that remind them, “I love you all day today!”

Hide notes under their pillows ... inside their tennis shoes ... and in their jacket pockets that say, “You are my treasure and I love you!”

Your perpetual and auditory proclamation of love will help your child navigate treacherous waters and horrific storms.  Declared love over a young person’s life fights demons of fear, self-destruction and doubt.  The love that you decree over your little ones is the fertilizer of the soul that will produce healthy young men and women who have the emotional and spiritual tools to change the world!

            “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” - Mark 10: 14 & 16

MOPS International is giving away a free one year membership! ($23.95 value)  MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) is an incredible group that connects moms all over the world to a community of women, in their own neighborhoods, who meet together to laugh, cry and embrace the journey of motherhood.  We will announce the winner on October 2, 2013 on our facebook page, so be sure to "Like" the Carol McLeod, Bible Teacher and Author page! 

If you would like to enter to win this membership (you can give it to a sister/friend/daughter/etc) just send us your name & email address in the form below.  We would love to hear from you in the comment section!  Let us know your ideas for a future blog post!  (not required for MOPS membership give-away)  [contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]

Always & Never pic 1
Always & Never pic 1
Always & Never pic 2
Always & Never pic 2
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The Scrapbook of My Heart

time shadow
time shadow

Time ... where does it go? The most valuable commodity that we have been given as human beings is the gift of time: ... of minutes ... of hours ... of days.

It seems like only yesterday I was looking forward to my senior year of high school and now I am a grandmother.  When did that happen?!

When did I graduate from playing with Barbie dolls and practicing piano to being a wife ... and then a mother ... and now a grandmother?  When did that happen?!

When did my raucous, noisy, messy nest get so empty?  When did that happen ... tell me when.

It happened in a thousand yesterdays that are filled with the memories of cherished friendships ... bittersweet good-byes ... the echoes of laughter ... and the daily reminders of what is truly important in life.

The scrapbook of my heart is filled with a collage of moments too precious to verbalize and too valuable to calculate by earthly economic currency.

As I flip through the intangible pages of the days that have been given to me, I realize that some days were wasted with impatience and disappointment.  When the endowment of an ordinary day is shadowed by human frustration or disillusionment it becomes refuse and leaves a putrid odor rather than a glorious fragrance.

I have wasted time being angry at a person made in the image of God. I have thrown away days being depressed due to situations and events over which I had absolutely no control.  Who do I think I am?!

I have frittered away days spent in the worry of an unpredictable tragedy that never  actually happened and in the fear of the shadow ghosts of weakness.  What a colossal waste!

I have misused the treasure of an extraordinary day by spewing the venom of my heart on the lives of people whom I love dearly.  I am ashamed.

The untold wealth in this cherished peek into the past thankfully also holds the abundance of all that has been meaningful in my life.

I am amazed that I was given the delight of raising 5 little lives for the Kingdom of God!  After so many years of barrenness and infertility ... of standing in faith and begging God for more ... He opened the windows of heaven and blew joy in my direction.

I loved every minute of peanut butter and jelly kisses ... of paper dolls and birthday cakes ... of choo-choo trains and baseball games.  Those were the best days ... the days that mattered eternally ... the pieces of gold in my life.

little heart
little heart

Is there a gift this side of heaven so priceless as the moment when two little arms are wrapped around your neck ... or your legs ... or your heart?!  Career promotions, enormous retirement accounts and academic pedigree become tawdry and bargain basement exchanges for the heavenly inheritance of the living human beings given to our parental charge.

carol and mom
carol and mom
Carol Engagement pic
Carol Engagement pic

I have loved being best friends with my mom. How I wish that you could know her!  A woman of excellence and humor!  A woman who prays and believes and prays some more.  A woman who celebrates life with gusto and grace!

I loved falling in love with Craig and realizing that he was “the one”.  I’ll never forget our first kiss that came with a marriage proposal.  He has always been a man of honor ... a man whom I could trust ... and a man after God’s own heart.  What have I ever done to deserve this man whose heart is pure gold?

And then ... the gift of girlfriends.  Truly a fortune so rare and precious that it could fill the vaults of banks too numerous to count!

Time ... where does it go?  Oh!  How I want to live well the rest of the days that have been given to me by the calendar of heaven’s bounty.

There are days in the photo album of my mind and heart that are as yet blank ... unfilled.  They are waiting for memories ... for moments ... for people ... and for blessings.

It is up to me how I fill these quickly turning pages of life.  It is up to me whether the photos are taken in the brilliance of a technicolor and vibrant existence ... or from the only gray and black perspective of blame, discontent and frustration.

I determine to spend my days encouraging people and writing thank you notes.

I determine to invest the rest of my days believing for the best and not giving in to disillusionment or despair.  A very wise man once told me, “It’s more fun to believe!”

I determine to lavish in the laughter of children, to wade in the gift of extraordinary friends and to drown in the beauty of creation.

I determine to be kind to cantankerous and fractious people.  When I have been loving and generous in the face of personal cruelty and gossip, I have created a day that God Himself would applaud!

Life is too dear and much too fleeting to waste the glory of one ordinary day. I will not waste this life.  Not one day.  Not one hour.  Not one minute.

I will pray for miracles and I will also look for the opportunity to be someone else’s miracle.

Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 1
Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 1

I now understand that tomorrow’s memories are being created today.  The choices and memories that I craft today will fill the pages of the scrapbook of my life in all the tomorrows yet to come.

Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 2
Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 2
Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 3
Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 3

And so, I resolve, this day, to splash extravagantly in the joy of His presence.  I resolve, this day, to be heaven’s gift to the world in which I have been placed for only a moment.

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In the Desert

I was reading my Bible the other day...and I'll be honest...I was really struggling. I was feeling tired and a little bit frustrated with some people and events in my life and I had come to to the Lord from a dry spot...

In the Desert pic 2
In the Desert pic 2
In the Desert pic 1
In the Desert pic 1
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The Light in the Hallway is Always On

school concept
school concept

I remember that late afternoon and evening so well ... My grandmother came over to see the outfits that we would be wearing to school the next day ... mine was a dark purple jumper with a violet blouse to go under it. I was most proud of my new shoes: they were plum patent leather with lighter purple grosgrain ribbon to be used as shoelaces.

Grandma exclaimed and oohed and aahed at all the right times and told us how proud she was of us. She said that she couldn’t wait to hear all about it and would be back tomorrow afternoon to get a full report.

After she left, we ate a hurried dinner of vegetables from our family garden.  There were fresh, ripe tomatoes marinating in oil and vinegar ... corn on the cob dripping with butter ... snapped green beans ... and a whole pot of summer squash that had been simmering in onions and green peppers for hours. During the bountiful month of August, we rarely had a piece of meat grace our dinner table due to the richness and abundance found in the soil of our backyard.

After dinner, I set to work sharpening #2 pencils and writing my name in 5 notebooks of different colors. I counted and recounted the spiral bound notebooks that we had purchased at the Big N. I couldn’t stand the thought of starting the first day of 7th grade ill-prepared.

My sister and I talked about who our homeroom teachers would be and what it would be like for me to start junior high school.  In those days of the late 1960’s, there were no backpacks but there were book bags in all sizes, shapes and fabrics.  My purple and gold paisley book bag, complete with a purple leather handle, felt light with only pencils and notebooks in it. I knew that before long it would be too heavy for me to lift over my shoulder.

Mom and Dad came in my room and prayed for me that night. They prayed that I would make good choices, that I would study hard and develop healthy friendships. They prayed that I would be a blessing to my teachers and to my friends.

As they each gently kissed me and walked out the door of my pink and white bedroom, they left the light in the hallway shining for me.  I couldn’t sleep. Where had the summer gone? Why couldn’t I return to the security of the elementary school? I wanted to go back to Mr. Werth’s classroom and sit between Patti and Ellen. I wanted to park at the lunchroom table with my familiar 6th grade class and know how to get to the library without following a map on the wall.

There was a circus of nauseous butterflies ricocheting off the walls of my stomach. I knew that I would never sleep ... or at least not sleep for very long that endless night. I didn’t know whether I was excited ... or needed to throw up.

A shudder went through my body from top to bottom. Tomorrow was the first day of school.

The first day of 7th grade was wonderful ... and so were the days that followed. I grew in ways that would never have happened in the safety of the elementary building.

I read books by Shakespeare, Alcott and Dickens. I learned about teachers who loved their students, teachers who tolerated their students and teachers who should get a job at McDonald’s. For the most part, I had life-changing teachers.

I learned two new languages: French and Latin. Parlez -vous francais? Veni ... Vedi ... Vici!

I learned that life is not always fair and that people are not always kind. I also began to understand that I was the only one who was in charge of my words and my reactions. I couldn’t blame my emotions on anyone but me.

I dissected worms and pigs. Yuck!

I learned about the danger of cliques and the value of life-time friends.

I traveled to the storming of the Bastille ... the shores of Normandy ... and survived the Dust Bowl.

I learned that people didn’t have to act like me or think like me to be my friend.

I played the oboe in the All-County Band ... won congresswoman of the year in Model Congress and played “Romance” by Sibelius at my high school graduation.

I survived.

In the years since that auspicious first day of the seventh grade, I have completed high school, graduated from college, homeschooled for 23 years, sent 5 kids to high school, watched all 5 of my children graduate from high school and then sent them to university 1,000’s of miles away.

What is it about the first day of school?

What is it about the first day of anything?!

The Light in the hallway is always on blog pic 1
The Light in the hallway is always on blog pic 1

What is it about change?

What is it about the years flying by with no way to hold them back?

Often, I still encounter that circus of nauseous butterflies ricocheting off the walls of my stomach.

When change comes and summers end, I often remind myself the lessons that I learned in my plum shoes with #2 pencils in hand.

Change is often the very best thing that can happen in an individual’s life.

There is invariably more to look forward to than there is to remember.

Family always makes everything easier.

The butterflies have no lasting power.

Prayer brings a comfort and a sweetness that nothing else does.

The light in the hallway is always on.

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