Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galations 6:7-8
"What a man reaps, so shall he sow."
The truth is that how we handle our “todays” is a great indicator of what we will face in our “tomorrows.
Cole’s assignment was to complete a mini essay on what kind of changes he wanted to see in his community and how he could personally contribute to these changes. The concepts he chose were lofty and this made the writing assignment even more difficult and lengthy than it had to be. As 3 o’clock rolled around, I could see his little heart becoming troubled and his eyes beginning to fill with tears. He still had significant work to do to finish. When I saw how upset he was becoming, I presented him with the option of stopping and picking it up the following day. “I know I told you to finish today but it’s getting late and you seem too upset to think clearly.” I told him.
Cole responded by saying, “No, Mom, I don’t want to quit - If I give up now, my future self will hate me!”
WOW! His words affected me profoundly. How clever! How wise!
Not many days later, while the kids were eating breakfast I told them that I wanted their help today because we had guests arriving. I told each child they’d need to clean their rooms and tidy the basement together after school and before doing anything fun.
Cole immediately responds with, “I so love my past self!”
“What?” I asked.
“I already completely cleaned my room yesterday and Maya and I kept the basement pretty clean this week. I am so happy. Yep, I love my past self!”
That night, while lying in bed I kept thinking how so many of my life’s difficulties had to do with bad choices my past self made. No one else but ME in the past – my past self!
There was perhaps no teaching I would want my children to understand more than the teaching my son was teaching me: Consequences of self-choices – how our pasts affects our futures.
Several days past and my mother, that's “Nanna” to the kids, came to visit for tea. The kids and I tried to get her to stay longer than she wanted to and we put a bit of a guilt trip on her. She said, “I really must get home because I have been procrastinating terribly in cleaning my house and well, I am overwhelmed and if I don’t do it now….I mean, I really want to stay but I can’t…I can but, I shouldn’t….”
And as she was standing at the door trying to get us to understand why she just couldn’t stay and visit, Cole interrupted with, “Nanna, we understand, You’ve got your future self breathing down your neck!”
Seriously? He’s a funny dude! Nanna loved it. And off she went so she too would not dislike her past self tomorrow.
Several months ago Cole asked me if I thought he would grow up to be a foolish teenager and deny the ways of the Lord like so many other teenagers do.
I told him that I certainly didn’t know but I hoped he wouldn’t. "I suppose even thinking such thoughts is a good sign that you might choose to be a little wiser than most," I told him.
Because of all these talks about future self and past self, I decided to search “future-self” on the internet. I was just loving the spiritual and practical life implications of really thinking about these concepts and I wanted to read more.
I found a website called future-me and it is a place where you can write a letter to yourself to be sent to your email on whatever date you choose in the future. I asked Cole if he wanted to do it. He said, “I would love to! It seems the closest thing we can get to time travel, don’t you think Mom!?, he asked.
He dictated and I wrote a letter to his future-self to arrive when he is 16 years old. A letter that I wish I had received when I was 16 – or 26 – or 36 for that matter. It was incredible! He reminded himself to spend time with his grandparents. He said that if any of them had died by then that his future self should make sure he takes time to comfort mom and dad over losing a parent. He told himself to try and date girls committed to God so he can spare himself from future pain. He said that he chose to write to himself when he would be 16 years old because to his present self this seems to be one of the most vulnerable ages to spiritual attacks which try to make people choose ungodly ways. He encouraged himself to remember that young kids are looking up to him and to still be a good example and kind to his little sisters. He told himself to be a good student but not to stress about school because stress is bad for his health. He told himself to remain in Danville unless God calls him elsewhere. And that he hopes he still wants to see exotic animals in Africa or Australia one day and that if he hadn't yet he should think about traveling. He told his future self not to worry about money because his present (past) self has already started saving. He reminded himself through his letter to his future-self not to walk away from the Lord and to continue believing in God's goodness. WOW!
There were a number of other things, but I will leave that to Cole’s future self to read 6 years from now.
I have been taught so much by my son in this season. Help me Lord to wait when you tell me to wait and to do when you tell me to do. Help me to be diligent in the small things….I too want to appreciate my past self one day so that my future self can bring me less pain and you all the more glory!
Cole, if you ever read my blog in the future know that you and your sisters have been perhaps God's greatest teachers in my life!
" In your patience possess your souls" Luke 21:29
"Inner peace exists not in the flesh but in the will. We can hold onto peace in the midst of the most violent suffering, as long as the will remains firm and submissive to God despite its abhorrence of the situation. Peace on earth consists in accepting the things that are contrary to our desires, not in being exempted from suffering them, nor being delivered from all temptations."
Excerpt written by Francois Fenelon
My mother just purchased a new Bernina Sewing machine for herself and she kindly passed down her old Bernina to me as an early birthday gift. It's in terrific shape, and I am very excited because I have been dreaming of making matching "Mommy and Me" dresses for my 3 little girls and me. The only problem is that I have almost completely forgotten how to use a sewing machine; as it's been 20 years or more since I've used one. Uggh! Well, Mom and I decided it's time for me to re-learn, so we went to the fabric center and I purchased enough varied material to make three different sets dresses and a skirt for me to match each set. My mother, Maya, and I worked for one full day together on the first set of dresses and my mom spent an additional day alone finishing them up. She even made purses to match the little girls dresses! What a treasure these hand-made clothes are to me! One set down and two sets to go - see a few pictures of set one below.
Also, when Annika was first born (5 and 1/2 weeks ago) I was also given a gorgeous hand-knit dress made personally for her by my friend Jen Swartzentruber.(She's also a homeschool Mom of four children). Honestly, what is as precious as a baby girl in something so soft and lovingly made especially for her? See picture below (that's Leah's hand (her two year old sister) in pic as well):
God has been exceedingly gracious to us! I keep saying to Scott and Cole I believe I am the happiest woman alive! I am so grateful to God!! Our new daughter, Annika Faith, arrived safely at 8:34pm on June 22, 2012 weighing 7lbs. 2 oz. and measuring 20" long.
Annika means God's grace and favor.
Her scriptural blessing given to her by her father, Scott and me is Ephesians 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God - Not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
This first picture shows our last minute preparations the day before baby's arrival - Leah and Mommy watered the roses in the backyard on June 21,2012.
Active Labor began about 5:30pm and by 7:30pm I was in so much pain that Scott said he heard me saying under my breath, "I should've had an epidural." And I remember asking God to forgive me and Adam and Eve for our sins and to please not make me have to push because I just can't".
At 8:30 I was complete (ten centimeters) and at 8:34 I sat down on the bed (had been standing during most of labor to utilize gravity) I gave one big push and the baby came forth. I had to tell the midwife to please come and help because the baby was coming forth out onto the bed. Apparently, this kind of thing is far more common for woman who have had a number of previous full-term deliveries (this was my fifth).
This picture was taken immediately post-delivery of baby - Still recovering from pain....
She finished eating, was cleaned up and placed under the warmer. Scott and I are in awe of God's workmanship!
Baby Annika meets her siblings (Cole was our first visitor)
Maya, Leah, Nanna and Pop were close behind
Morning after delivery - Annika is wide awake and ready to go!
Leah has clocked more time holding Annika than anyone else, including me (Mom). All day long we hear "Hold It, Baby"! Then, when she has the baby in her arms she will sit for as long as a hour (possibly more on occasion) and gently love on her new baby sister and while making it clear that she does not want anyone to take her baby from her.
Precious Annika and her adoring Daddy!
I'm nearly 39 weeks pregnant and very tired of wearing the same maternity clothes that I've been wearing over the course of the last 8 pregnancies, which have spanned over 11 years time. So sick of these clothes am I, that I actually began packing up all the maternity wear and replacing them in my closet with all my "fat" clothes. I figured I'd be needing them soon enough anyhow as I begin the arduous post-delivery journey back to "normalcy".
While I was packing the maternity clothes into storage containers, I came upon a pair of very brightly colored and very large flowered maternity capris that I had not worm since my very first pregnancy with Cole. I remembered that my mother had purchased them for me at a "Pea in the Pod" to be worn at the baby shower that was being thrown for me back then (over ten years ago). I also remember that they were too expensive to only be worn once; and yet, as it turns out I am pretty sure I only wore them once. Let's just say they make quite a statement. "Hhhmmmm, I thought, perhaps I should wear these one last time to make the purchase more worth it, but oh the print is so loud and the style so out of date."
Then came that internal feeling of guilt and conviction that I was being spoiled and ought to feel grateful that I found something "new" to wear. So, I tried them on and stood in my undershirt and these very LARGE and LOUD flowered capris in my dressing room trying to convince myself that I could pull this look off-one last time. Honestly, looking back at pictures I don't think I pulled it off the first time.
Right about that time my son, Cole, walked in to my dressing room to ask me a question; but upon seeing me in this get up he said, "Mom, what do you think of those pants you are wearing?"
"Well, Son, what do you think of these pants I'm wearing?"
Cole paused for a moment and then said, "Well, I suppose I can explain what I think this way: remember when Paul in our Bible lesson said that he decided to keep following some of the old Jewish laws even though he was freed from the law because he didn't want to stumble the people or distract them from hearing the important things he had to say about God?....."Well, Mom, I am afraid that if you wear those pants, people will be so distracted by them they will have a hard time hearing anything you might have to say."
And as I stood there in utter amazement at his very astute and humorous analogy, I said,"So, what your saying is that perhaps these pants would be a stumbling block to other people hearing what I have to say and so I ought to put them away in this storage box."
To which he gentle replied, "Yeah, Momm I do, but I really hope what I said didn't hurt your feelings."
"No, son what you said freed me to let them go."
Hilarious!!!!! My son is hilarious!!! I was so happy he was applying the Word of God to everyday happenings that I held my laughter until he had left the room - but when he left I began to laugh, and I laughed so hard I cried.
On another note, if anyone reads this post, we would greatly appreciate your prayers for a safe, healthy delivery of our new baby girl. It will have a been a long journey for us to having our four living children, Lord willing. I am trusting the Lord's will and His timing; but oh how I hope and pray that His will is for her to come soon and safely!
Since I have not written in over four and a half months, here are a few highlights during that time in pictures. (But in no particular order)
This is a picture of Maya and me this afternoon. I am currently six and a half months pregnant with a baby girl! Praise the Lord! We are thrilled!
Cole had his believer baptism at age 9 and the pastor asked Cole's daddy to participate which was very special for them both. And Maya committed her life to the Lord the day before Thanksgiving. What an amazing year God has given us - Thank you God!
And he said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3
I am exceedingly grateful that my mother, my father and my Uncle Dave take my son, Cole (4th grade) and my nephew TR (12th grade) to Bible Study Fellowship every Monday evening. I am overjoyed about the incredible Biblical education that my son is getting from this program. This year, they are studying through the book of Acts. I cannot say enough good things about BSF - the children's program is just superior!
What is really neat is that Cole is currently studying early church history through to the middle ages in his Homeschool curriculum, so he is getting a double -dose of this period in history. And boy is it sinking in, his retention of the material has been phenomenal.
Tonight, Cole and I were studying the stoning of Stephen, who was the first martyr of the early Christian church, through his history curriculum. When we got to the part which explained that it was the very audience listening to Stephen's amazing sermon who stoned him, Cole exclaimed, "Talk about a tough crowd!"
I laughed out loud!
He then went on to remind me that the crowds that I have been speaking to over this last month are nothing compared to the one Stephen had to deal with. (I've given three talks in the last month, one on prenatal loss, one for National Adoption Day and one on prenatal loss and its relationship to adoption. And Cole saw me preparing for them a lot over the past few weeks - and I am sure he saw that I got a bit stressed to have so much to prepare for this month). He said, "Even if you don't think so Mom, I think you'll do a lot of speeches in the future. And I hope you remember that no matter how tough your audiences could be they are nothing compared to the audience Stephen had when he preached that sermon where he was stoned."
Amen, Cole, Amen!
The Word is so real to my son and this brings me unspeakable joy!
Tonight, we also went through some of his BSF homework. While we were reading the Word together, he said, "It made me really happy when you, or maybe it was dad, said that God particularly honors the prayers of children."
"I am sure that is true," I said "but you should know that he will still hear your prayers when you are an adult just as he hears mine. What matters is your heart."
Cole said,"Well, I still think there might be something special about kids prayers don't you?"
I replied, "Probably yes, but I'm not sure how to explain why?"
Cole then said, "Mom, since I'm a kid, can I think for a minute, and then tell you why I think so?"
"Sure, go ahead." I answered.
So, he closed his eyes and waited silently for a bit."
He then opened his eyes and said, "We, kids, have weaker minds and we don't know which way to go, so we go to God more fully than adults. Adults rely on themselves because they think they know, but kids know they don't know and that they need help; so they go to God for help and God honors them for this. Plus, since this world was overcome by sin, it's really dangerous for us kids, and God knows it."
While he was speaking, I was taking notes right there in my Bible on the top of the first page of Hebrews. Seeing as he had taken so much time to think in silence with his eyes closed and knowing that this seems to be his way of seeking God in his heart and accessing his wisdom directly, I figured this was gonna be good.
Yep, it was quite good. Apparently, closing his eyes and turning his heart towards God, WORKS!
Just as the Word says, unless we become as little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. We must know that we are weak minded and that we don't know the way to go and that it is not wise to rely on ourselves. As Cole explained. Children know their weakness and so they know their need of God. Humility. God lifts up the humble - He hears and answers their prayers.
"For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day." 2 Ti 1:12
I have heard my mother tell the story time and again of how she "gave me to the Lord to raise", but this time, when she shared the story as we stood with my three children directly in front of the church where she "gave me" it affected me entirely differently.
My brother and I were both born in Williamsburg, Virginia during the time that my father was attending William and Mary Law School. Although my mother had grown up attending church, she says that it was not until she was 24 years old that she truly found her personal relationship with God. She says that up until that point her faith was not her own; she was sort of "riding on" the faith of her parents and grandparents before them.
At any rate, while my mother, my children and I were visiting Williamsburg this past week, touring around for our own homeschool adventures - from Richmond to Jamestown, Williamsburg to Norfolk and back to PA again, we all learned an enormous amount. I had planned on Cole and I learning about American history, but learning about how my own life fit into American history was not something I had planned.
My mother said, "Nanna Zehner always told me to give my children immediately to the Lord right after birth. She told us not to waste anytime. I wasn't attending church when Bobby was born and I wasn't attending church when you were born either. But because I was so afraid to raise a little girl, I took my grandmother Nanna Zehner's advice just after you were born and immediately after coming home from the hospital, I bundled you and Bobby up very warmly (Nov. 19th I was born) and I brought you straight here - to Bruton Parish Church. I went in and knelt down and gave you to the Lord. I told the Lord I didn't know how to raise a little girl, so I asked HIm to raise you. I gave my children to the Lord as Nanna Zehner told me to do and I am so glad that I did"
Truth be told, I have heard this story probably a hundred times from my mother before. As a matter of fact, just about every time my mother would witness God do something in my life, through my life, or anywhere near or associated with my life, she almost always referenced that she is not responsible for these blessings because she had given me to the Lord that day in that church in Williamsburg. She would say, 'I knew I could not raise you, I was so afraid, so I gave you to God to raise for me."
She always seemed to act as if God was in charge of me and she was just along for the ride - as if viewing as a witness to God's directing all the while. As far as I can recall she has never sought to take credit for any of the good that has happened in or around my life. And whenever I or someone else would try to give her some sort of credit, she would tell me the story of "giving [me] to God to raise at Bruton Parish Church."
But last week, as I stood in front of that church, finally putting together the name of the church which she had always referenced, "Bruton Parish Church" and those things which Cole and I had been studying in his homeschool unit on Williamsburg and the revolution, I realized that my precious mother had been led by God not to any old nearby church, but to one of the absolute oldest and most interesting churches in our history. The 1660 church of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, and George Mason to name a few parishoners of the church.
Bruton Parish church had been used as a hospital during the Revolutionary and Civil wars. It was the destination of George Washington's walk calling upon the people of Williamsburg to a week of fasting, prayer and humiliation in recognition of the hardships being faced by their countrymen in Massachussettes at the start of the Revolutionary war. This was not any old church. This was far more than JUST the church where mom "gave me to the Lord." Why hadn't she made a big deal of that part I wondered. But then I realized.....
As I stood there in that church looking at the names of our nation's founding fathers engraved on the sides of each the pews where they sat and knowing that I was standing on Hallowed ground because of what took place so many years before, I also realized why my mom's story only involved herself, God, and us; because for my mom something just as holy had taken place. And I believe that to God what my mom did that day in Bruton Parish Church was just as holy and honorable as anything else that had transpired there before that day.....She gave to God all that she had - she gave up and gave it all - my mother had surrendered her children, entrusted their lives and their keeping to the Lord - she had come to the end of herself and then unto the Lord she had truly surrendered ALL! We can only give up what God has first given to us. He only requires from us that which He has first given to us. And when we give it all back to him for his safe keeping, we soon find, as my mother often testifies, that He is able to keep that which we have entrusted to Him until that Day.
"And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel...whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I say rejoice." Philippians 4:3-4
A few weeks ago, I was surprised at the Congressional Angels in Adoption Banquet, when I was called up on stage, together with Kathleen Strottman, and presented with a beautifully framed and gold-lined copy of the Congressional Record which told the story of the founding of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and my involvement in it. Because the award was a surprise, the only family member who was attending this tenth anniversary banquet of CCAI with me was my nine-year old son, Cole. Cole and I used the opportunity to go to DC for the event and also as a chance to visit the National Archives and the Botanical Gardens for a homeschool educational outing.
It was really special for Cole when Senator Landrieu was presenting the award to Kathleen and me because she said these words directly to our eldest children, "Grace and Cole, you should both be very proud of your moms!"
Then, after returning to our banquet table and having the opportunity to look at what was written in the congressional record, Cole wanted me to explain to him what it was all about. (He just recently found out that I was not always a stay-at-home homeschool mom; so, seeing me receive an award was way outside of his box of understanding about me.)
As I looked into his face, I could see that he was still beaming because of what he had witnessed and specifically because the Senator had said his name from the stage. "Mom, the Senator said my name from stage in front of all these people!"
So, as I searched for words to explain to Cole, what came from my mouth surprised even me. "Yes, Cole it is really special to have your name said from stage in front of all these people and it is special for my name to be written in the congressional record, but you know what is far more amazing - that our names are written in the Lamb's book of life!'
And as I said it my eyes began to well up with tears. I became overwhelmed by the comfort these words spoke to my spirit! THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE!
Then it hit me - I mean it really hit me - perhaps for the first time! My name is in the Lamb's book of life. My son's name is in the Lamb's book of life! As lovely as a worldly honor as this is, IT IS NOTHING COMPARED TO THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE!
Then, with more excitement than I could appropriately express in a setting like that, I repeated it again, "Cole, can you believe that God - the One who created everything and everyone in the world, put your name and my name and anyone else's name who would believe in His Book of life for eternity!"
I doubt my son felt the same feeling I did from these words at least not with the great intensity with which I was feeling it, but one thing is sure, Cole knew that for his mom, the recognition I had just received could not compare to the joy that it brought me to know that our names are in the Lamb's book of life!
And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.
Yesterday, I lacked patience most of the day and almost entirely – with Scott, with the kids – I even was a great bother to myself. Cole was a little off yesterday as well. In a way, I think Cole and I fed off of one another’s negativity. We took turns alternating apologies to one another throughout the day.
“I am so sorry that I have been so emotional today Cole. I know it is making home school difficult for you.”
“Oh, Mom, I’m the one who’s been emotional, I keep getting frustrated and then sinning in my heart.”
“But I’m the parent, Honey,” I said.
“But you're only human too, Mom” He said.
Although the day ended far better than it had been most of the day for us - thanks to a family bike ride and Cole's exciting soccer game, I really didn’t want to carry my attitude any longer and was worried that the next day could be bad as well. So, last evening, I came very needy before the Lord in prayer and implored Him for extra grace and mercy for the next day and the 170 some days of school we had left of this school year. Well, God not only answered, but He did so first thing this morning. He gave extra mercy and encouragement beginning at 8am through the words of our 9 year old son, Cole.
As Scott and I were sitting together with our coffee preparing for our morning devotions together, Cole came down the stairs to join us, as he often does. Scott read a few sentences that included the words intelligent design; but, before he could go any farther, Cole asked if he could interrupt for a moment to ask a question.
Cole said, “What Dad read just reminded me of a favor I wanted to ask about my school curriculum this year.”
“Sure, go ahead Cole,” His dad said.
“I would really appreciate it if we could read a lot in our science study this year from the creation scientist’s view. I just don’t want to be like a fish hook that get’s stuck into a fish that’s dead, I want to get hooked into those things which are fresh and alive. So, I’d like to start out by learning what is really true." Cole said with great conviction.
He then asked, “Does that make sense or is that a foolish picture to imagine in my mind and share with you?”
Scott immediately responded, “That was not a foolish thing to think or say at all – it was actually very wise, a great word picture son - Honestly, thanks for giving our family devotions this morning Cole – That’s all I needed this morning, How about you Kerry?!”
"Absolutely!" I said
Cole then said - “Oh, Thanks for saying that Dad – that’s very encouraging.”
And then came Sweet Maya’s words that kept my spirits up and heart laughing the rest of this wonderful day.
“Now, Maya for your first week of K-4, we are going to study Day three of creation. ‘Genesis 1:9-13, I said.
“Then God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered together so the dry land will appear.’ And it happened. God named the dry land ‘earth’ and the water that was gathered together Seas….”
But before I could finish the passage, Maya sweetly and confidently said, “and then....And then God gathered the waters together at people’s houses and called them “pools.”
AWESOME! My Funny girl Maya!
Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful Day! What sweet, funny children you have entrusted to us Lord!
Thank you for this day and these memories. Thank you that I didn't miss these moments with my children because of a heart that could have stayed stuck in impatience.