Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Recent Readings

I'm usually reading more than one book at a time. Well, more than one if it's non-fiction. I just read a fiction book I took from my mom's house and really enjoyed it (by Nicolas Sparks). But, when it comes to books that challenge me and help me grow, I usually have a few going at once.
The ladies in our LIFE group began reading Francis Chan's Crazy Love back in February and we just finished the last discussion last night. I'm a little behind and haven't read the last few chapters yet. So, I'm going to go back through it here on the blog and write about each section we read and what the Lord has been speaking to me.

If you've never read Crazy Love, I encourage you to get a copy and read along. It's a fantastic book full of challenges to believers. The GFA staff had the privilege to host Francis Chan one Wednesday afternoon after he toured our office and met with Brother K.P. He shared with our staff for about an hour. His message was right on point for what I need to hear from the Lord. My friend Beth shared a little about what he said in this blog post. She wrote it better than I can, so just go read her entry to understand it. (And, she pretty much got the exact same points I got, so that was neat!) The timing was perfect since he came to visit just as my LIFE ladies were starting to read Crazy Love.
This book, in combination with a few other things which I'll write more about later, have really been challenging me for the last few months.

What have you been reading lately? Will you read Crazy Love along with me? I'd love to have some good dialogue as I go through it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Little Sewing Project

I bought these brown flowy pants (gaucho maybe) at a resale shop for $1 about six months ago. They were a size x-large, but I thought I might be able to take them in a little and make them fit.
They have been sitting on a pile of clothes that need to be mended (hemmed, replace button, hole...you know...stuff you never get to). I got a sewing machine for Christmas and immediately repaired a dozen items. Since then, I have made a few projects, but because of a lack of funds for sewing materials, I've left my machine all alone for a few months.
This weekend I finally hemmed Joel's pants, fixed a few pockets, modified Jenna's dress from India, and adjusted these brown pants.
I'm most excited that I took them apart (took off the waistband; took in the waistband and each side seam; then put it all back together) and they still looked right when I put them back together again. And....they were ONE DOLLAR!!!
I'm also excited because I think they will be useful as my belly gets bigger with the baby. There's already a bump there, but that's just fat. Hopefully it will fill up with baby and no more fat will be added...yeah right!

*After trying to take photos using the full length mirror in the girls' room, I had Rylee snap some shots of the pants in the kitchen. Rylee using my dSLR...she did a pretty good job! (with some editing, of course)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rylee is a Kindergarten Graduate

I know, she finished school 3 weeks ago, but I've just now gone through the photos!
Rylee finished her first year of school on June 3rd, being promoted to 1st grade for the next school year. They had a graduation ceremony for the kids, which was cute. I, unfortunately, wasn't there because I was in Arizona. So, these pictures are all courtesy of Daddy.
Rylee really enjoyed her kindergarten teacher, Miss Nanny. In fact, she's called me Miss Nanny a few times.
Rylee has grown immensely over the last year. She can write very well and is reading above a 2nd grade level, whatever that mean. I just know that I can get library books and she can read them. Yeah!!! She loves reading. The girl has loved books since she was big enough to hold them. I wanted to teach her to read for a few years, but I was a little busy with two other munchkins. I'm glad she waited so she would be fully engaged in school as a kindergartener. She was so proud as she learned sounds and began recognizing words.
Rylee continues to be a social butterfly and is definitely one of the leaders in her peer group. I didn't get a lot of feedback from her teacher throughout the year, other than the occasional "she's doing great". But, once I probed a little more, I was told she was anxious to teach others, did her work quickly (she needs to take her time and be more careful), and is obedient.
She continues to amaze me as she grows. In many ways I feel like I've been missing her for the last 10 months with her being at school for so many hours each day. Just last night we went to a family night at church for a movie and pizza. I sat back and watched her and realized how much she's grown up. Sometimes I'm too hard on her and I don't let her be who God created her to be. I'm going to be working on that. I can be so critical rather than encouraging. She's a fantastic young lady.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

For Father's Day

On Mother's Day, I talked about my mom. On Father's Day, I went to church, played at a park, took a really long nap, and cooked dinner. And, I didn't talk about my dad. I also didn't talk about the daddy here in our home. What a shame!

So, though this post is late, my thoughts were of both these great men on Sunday.

First, my dad. Why first? Because he came first! Without my daddy, I wouldn't be who I am. For one, I look a lot like him. I also have a lot of his traits.
My dad grew up in a small town in North Carolina. After finishing college, he enlisted in the Air Force. It was during his last year of service that he met my mom while living in Kansas. Once out of the military, my parents moved back to his hometown. That's where I was born and raised for the first ten years of my life.
My parents divorced when I was pretty young and I lived with my mom, but I remember some pretty special moments with my dad, even from a young age. One particular memory I have was a date night we had. While I'm sure I'm missing pieces, I remember getting my hair done, wearing my favorite pale purple spinny dress, and eating at The Country Squire. I also remember falling asleep on the drive back home.

My dad had a motorcycle and I can remember him taking me for a ride out on the country roads. He also loves country music and anytime "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On" came across the airwaves, he turned it up and we all sang out loud.
I moved to Arizona when I was 10 and it then became our routine to see each other only at Christmas and for a few weeks in the summer.I didn't mean for this to be part of my post, but since my policy is to be really honest on here, I have to say that at this point I'm having a really hard time writing this. I wish I could tell you a million things that were special about this time of my life and how our relationship was great despite the miles, but I can't. I can't say much about this time in terms of me and my dad. I imagine it was incredibly hard for my dad to be so far away from some of his children. I know my life was different without my daddy nearby. Christmas and summer visits were good, and I have great memories of those times, but there were lots of months between them.

I am tempted at times to be mad about that time in my life, but I don't have a right to be angry. Instead, I get a little sad, but try to see how God has used it to grow me. In the moments where I want to feel sorry for myself, I try thinking of other girls who didn't have a dad miles away missing them that they got to see even twice a year. I am a blessed one.
I remember calling my dad really late at night (really early in the morning his time) the night I won Miss Yuma because I knew how proud he would be. Then he and my step-mom came out to watch me compete in state the following summer. The whole family flew out for my high school graduation and again for my wedding. Then, I got to call my dad with the exciting news that we were moving to Pennsylvania, just 8 hours from them in NC.
Sadly, we now live far away again. But, thanks to free weekend cell minutes and video chatting, we get to keep in touch and even "see" each other.
When my dad makes up his mind on something, he is fiercely loyal and gives it 100%. He worked for family friends for years and worked hard at whatever task he was given. He then went back to teaching after 25 years and now serves as the athletic director at his alma mater. He is a good dancer and he and my stepmom are fun to watch out on the dance floor. He is affectionate and loves kisses and hugs. He especially likes them from his grandkids. I could write a lot more likes/dislikes, but what makes my dad the most special is that he loves me!

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. I love you!

Second, my husband. It's been 6 years since Joel became a daddy and I have to say he's pretty amazing. People often comment on what a hands-on dad he is. He always has been. He insisted on changing Rylee's diapers when she was a baby since he didn't have any part in feeding her. He wore a path in our carpet where he walked endlessly with a cranky baby, soothing her to sleep. He prays for our children, teaches them, lovingly disciplines them, and plays with them. He reads them books, acts as the jungle gym, plays games, paints girls toenails, and pelts them with the dart gun. He holds them when they cry, makes them giggle, feeds them, and even puts ponytails in their hair. He builds lego castles and forts and can play Prince Charming with the best actors. Our kids run to greet him when he gets home at the end of each day and love the days when daddy is off work. My hope and prayer is that my kids will grow up to be like their dad, lovers of laughter, gentle and patient, hard working and loyal, kind and forgiving, and passionate pursuers of their Creator.
Happy Father's Day, Joel. I love you!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Splishin' and Splashin'

Sorry you haven't seen any updates since our "news" of last week. I wanted to leave it up long enough for everyone to find it easily if they should choose to come by the blog.

We had more hits this month than ever before thanks to that little video! What a blessing to hear people tell me their favorite parts. Many liked the look on Rylee's face, several mentioned Asa's comment that we call the baby "stupid", Joel's comment about getting out of my way if I'm hungry resonated with lots of men, the question about 2 babies made people giggle, and Asa talking to and patting my belly was a favorite. Thanks for sharing our joy!
This week we've jumped into summer with both feet. The kids have all been attending a Vacation Bible School at a huge church nearby. To explain "huge", let me say Rylee is a class with 19 kids...and they are all kids born just in her birth month! So, you can imagine...250 kindergartens, not to mention the rest of the kids in preschool through elementary! But, they've had a blast...bounce houses, a petting zoo, a train ride, lots of songs, crafts, and yummy snacks. Most importantly, they are coming home telling me about the children in Sudan (the missions focus) and telling me Scriptures they're learning. The theme was Treasure iLand and they had a cool display of boats and a dock in the lobby.
We also started swim lessons this week. The kids are taking lessons every day for 2 weeks with a lady named Linda, who teaches in her backyard pool. She is fantastic. We gathered 3 other friends to join us for the class and it was a good idea! They are having fun with each other and are learning a lot. Yesterday Rylee opened her eyes underwater while she swam across the pool (something that's been a big deal all week). She also jumped off the diving board with no floaties and swam to the side. Asa's learning to come up for air in between bouts of swimming while "holding his bubbles". And Jenna just likes holding her bubbles. She's figuring out the underwater swim, but hasn't mastered the arms and legs and holding her bubbles all at the same time. But, they are all three lots of fun to watch!We are taking lessons with Timmy, Henry, and Elizabeth. Doing things with friends is so much fun, but it also means there is some distraction sometimes.
After the lesson, they get 15 minutes to just play. Diving board, slide, dive for rings...they like it all.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fletcher News Bulletin

The video is a little bit long, but I went to edit it and just couldn't. You get the gist of things in the first minute, but the entire thing is a typical conversation with us and the kids.

Fear, Part IV (final)

...last installment in a series on fear...

As I was sharing Scriptures with the ladies at our women's breakfast, I explained the illustration by Beth Moore that had helped me put fear in perspective so clearly. I can't adequately explain just how powerful her illustration has been to me over the last 8 months. Any time fear has risen up in me, I have tried to remember Beth's statement. I have sought to take the thought captive and examine the situation for what it really is. Usually, it boils down to a fear that my kids or I will be hurt. I ask myself "Do I trust God?" Sometimes I don't like the answer to that questions. I have to admit my lack of trust and ask God to help me trust Him.

As I was talking about trusting God, I realized I had come to a similar point many years before...at a ladies breakfast on a Saturday morning! I believe the year was 1998. A few weeks prior to the ladies breakfast my mom fell in the classroom where she teaches fracturing her elbow and tearing her rotater cuff. During this accident it was discovered that my mom had high blood pressure. The morning of the breakfast my mom got very lightheaded and clammy. A friend in attendance is a nurse and was helping care for mom as they tried to figure out what was wrong. During the commotion I headed to the bathroom. While there, I distinctly remember playing through the worst case scenario and basically grieving the loss of my mom. I remember talking to God and hashing through it all with Him, telling Him it would be unfair and that I wouldn't be able to live without my mom. It was quite an interesting experience in the ladies bathroom. I finally came to a point where I surrendered my mom to the Lord and told Him I trusted Him with her life and mine, whatever may come. I left the bathroom with a lighter heart.

That memory came flashing back to me as I spoke, so I shared it. While I haven't known fear like the two ladies sharing testimonies before I spoke, we all face fear. And, while I haven't had to overcome such incredibly fearful situations, God's Word teaches us all, regardless of where we're at in the journey.

After dealing with the issue of fears we face, I shared some Scriptures that tell us who we should fear and what blessings are ours when we do.

Isaiah 8:12-13 tells us not to fear what others fear, but to fear the Lord Almighty, who is holy. When we fear God, we will gain wisdom (Psalm 111:10). He will also teach us (Isaiah 48:17) and even confide in us (Psalm 25:14)!

Forget not the Lord and all His benefits. For some reason, this has been stuck in my mind lately. I don't love the Lord for what He can give me. I love Him for who He is. As a result of understanding who He is, I know He longs to give me comfort, peace, and a spirit of power over fear. He is so good to us! If He is for us, who can be against us?

Delight yourself in the Lord and fear Him alone!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fear, Part III

...Continued from a previous post...

...I enjoyed a delicious breakfast and then sat back to hear the testimonies of the two ladies who had stories about overcoming fear.

The first testimony was from Christine, whose home had been burglarized and whose dogs had been viciously attacked in their own backyard by a group of pit bulls. She summarized her testimony by saying that sometimes fear is given to us to keep us safe but that it can't rule our hearts.

The second testimony was from Jennifer, who has had a chronic illness for the last decade and has overcome some major medical issues. She was diagnosed with a disease that causes her muscles to either seize up or break down. Amidst treatments for this, she had to have a major surgery. Because of her chronic illness, they had to use a different method of anesthesia. She woke up in the middle of surgery. She didn't "come to", but afterward she was talking to the doctor and was describing things she should have never known. This led to a year and a half long battle to sleep at all as she would have nightmares immediately upon closing her eyes. When she needed yet another surgery, she faced the greatest fear she had ever had. With the help of the Lord, she overcame her fears and had a successful surgery. Her testimony was gripping and powerful. Her testimony was also something that involved way more fear than I have ever known!

So, then it was my turn. What in the world did I have to share after these two testimonies? To be perfectly honest, I felt like an idiot to even go up and try to speak on the topic of fear at that point!

But, I had some Scriptures on the topic and felt like I was supposed to share that Beth Moore illustration. So, that's what I did.

It's kind of neat how the Lord made it all fall into place. I have to say that even as I was speaking and realized my notes weren't exactly what I was sharing, I wondered if I was making any sense. But, one thing seemed to lead to another and so I kept going with it.

I began by defining fear. Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. It is a mixed feeling of dread and reverence; a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something; the likelihood of something unwelcome happening.

Fear is an emotion. Scripture tells us we are not to be ruled by our emotions and that our heart is deceitful above all else and can't be trusted (Jeremiah 17:9). As Christians, we are set free from a fear of death (Hebrews 2:14,15). We have hope.

Psalm 27 is a beautiful psalm. It really addresses the issue of fear well. I think the key to fear, as outlined in these verses, is that we will have less fear as we delight ourselves in the Lord. The psalmist says "one thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple" (vs. 4). As we seek the Lord, dwell in His presence, and delight ourselves in Him, our fears will banish. Just as this psalmist said, we will be able to say "The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?" (vs. 1).

1 John 4:18 says that as we are perfected in love, fear is impossible to have. Our aim is to be like Christ. Christ had no fear because he could fully trust the Father. He knew Him. He was confident in God's will for His life. As we grow in love with the Lord, fear is driven out because we grow in our trust of Him.

No matter what comes, we can trust God. If ________, then GOD! (see Fear, Part II post)

How do we get from fearful to trusting God? Take our thoughts captive. If fear is an emotion, what can overcome emotions? Truth. Meditating on truth!

2 Corinthians 10:4,5 says we must demolish any thought that comes up against truth. We must train our minds not to fear.

Are you a captive or a captor? Are you held captive by fear or do you take thoughts captive? Colossians 2:8 tells us not to focus on things of this world that can take us captive.

As I was speaking, I realized I had experienced a moment similar to Beth Moore's that prompted her illustration. It was really weird to have it come to me as I was speaking, but the timing was really neat.

...Stay Tuned...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fear, Part II

I mentioned fear in my last post and said I would talk about it a little more.

I was asked back in March if I would share a message at our church's ladies breakfast in early May. I absolutely love speaking to groups, especially women, so I was flattered and excited about the opportunity.

My prayer for the time was continually "Lord, please let it be none of me. Take away any pride or thoughts that I have anything of value to say and give me just Your words to share."

The topic for the morning was "Fearless Factor". Two other ladies were sharing testimonies and then I would close it out with a message.

Immediately after I was asked to speak I knew I would share what I had learned through the Beth Moore study "Esther". Beth talked about how afraid Esther must have been at the opportunity to go before the king (check out the book of Esther to understand more). Beth spent that day's lesson talking about women and fear. Fear cripples many women. Sometimes we have fears that are major, but many of us face minor fears continually throughout our days.

In Beth's teaching, she shared how she had overcome fear in a particular area--a fear that her man would leave her. One day she felt the Lord prompting her to "go there" as she mentioned this fear. So, she went there. She felt as if the Lord kept saying "then what? with every addition of fear she would add. For example, if she said "I'm so afraid my husband will leave me for a younger woman," then she sensed the Lord saying "okay, then what?" After all the conditions...the woman was younger, beautiful, her kids liked the woman!, her marriage dissolved, etc. Eventually it came to the point that the "then what?" was answered with "well, I guess I'd go back to ministry and start healing and move on." Her entire situation ended with a statement. If ________, then GOD. God is still going to be God; I am still who He says I am; I am still wonderfully made and completely loved; I am still in His care; I will go on living.

For me, this realization was really a turning point for me in the area of fear.

What do I fear most? Something happening to Joel? Something happening to my kids? Something happening to me? My kids getting hurt? Losing a friend? Pain? Am I afraid my home will get burglarized and I'll lose my stuff? (not really; but that's another topic) Am I afraid at night because it's dark and I fear someone will come in and hurt me or my kids? Am I afraid I won't have money and be able to provide for my kids in the way I want?

At the basis of all these fears is a lack of trust in God. If I allow fear to grip me or determine my actions or emotions, then I am allowing fear to control me and I'm not focusing on the truth that God will take care of me.

As the day approached for me to share with the ladies at the breakfast, I continued to pray for the Lord to speak and for me to decrease and Him to increase. I came across some great Scriptures on the topic of fear and put them together in an outline along with this illustration from Beth Moore. I was all set to share, though I admit I was still not "feeling" it as I expected. Then, the day of sharing came...

...To Be Continued...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tragic Ending for a Widow...Fearful Living Part I

I can't imagine my life without my husband.

When I was pregnant with the twins I was overcome with emotion one day (plus a vivid imagination and lots of hormones) and sat down in the kitchen and just bawled my eyes out at the possibility that something would happen to Joel. Poor Rylee, all of 18 months old at the time, just patted me on the back as I sat on the floor with my huge tummy and sobbed. Of course, Joel walked in the door later and had no idea I had imagined he was dead while he was at work.

I think the Lord has allowed me to come face-to-face with my fears, even if it's due to a hormone surge, so that I can deal with them and not live as a slave to fear. Much of what we fear will never happen to us.

I listened to a teaching by Beth Moore last fall in which she addressed fear and how it is probably the number one thing women struggle with most. I mean, if you look at all the issues women face that concern them, fear is at the root of lots of problems. Fear that your man will leave or die, fear that your children will not turn out well, fearing death for ourselves, fear of hurting, fear of failure, fearing what other people will think of you (fat, ugly, not smart...), fear of getting old.

In Beth's teaching she shared how she has overcome fear. I'll share that in a future post.

What struck me today as I thought about fear was the reality of women in Asia. I live in a country where I am free to worship God as I choose. Should something happen to Joel, I will not be relegated to the outskirts of society. But, in Asia, that's not true. Widows face a hard life. This story about a widow in Asia struck a chord in my heart today. Please join me in praying for her family.

More on fear in the next post...