Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary! More than thirty years ago today I found a treasure, in my best friend, Bob. On that cool, fall day, we said “I do” in front of God, friends, and family, and in the past three decades, I have grown to love, respect, and so admire the man I married. He is a man who grasped the love and acceptance of God, from the moment he met Him. In turn, we have all learned much about the Lord from Bob’s steadfast understanding of Him. When other men jumped on bandwagons and followed this teaching and that, Bob stayed the course of just desiring to know God and follow Him. With great vision and deep humility, he has loved and led our family with calm, patience, and kindness. “Still waters run deep,” is a description that one person made of him one day, and we have found it to be so true of Bob, whose convictions run deep, but his love runs deeper still. There is no rule or system of thinking that would ever hinder him from loving another person. Bob is not a reactionary man – doesn’t fly off at the handle; he thinks before he speaks. And when he speaks, what he says is important. He is optimistic when things around him are discouraging. He smiles at the future, even when it is uncertain, because of his unrelenting faith in a God, Who is a Promise-Keeper! He loves his wife and children and is committed to them in ways that few could ever understand. His unconditional love for them is a rock they can rest on! When other dads have ruled with a stern voice and demanding ways, Bob has used a spirit of gentleness and love. His eyes are continually toward the Lord as he prays for his family and those He loves. When others have given up on The Church, his faith has remained strong that God will continue to lead it and establish it until His return. I wish every man could spend time with this man – to learn his ways and follow his heart. Yes, his heart – it is the greatest part about this man. It is full of wisdom and understanding that come through in everyday life situations. It is not uncommon to hear him quietly humming or singing praises to God throughout a day, no matter what the day brings his way. My sons are so blessed to have seen him love his wife and children. With others, he is also totally accepting – does not push himself on anyone – never feels he must be the center of attention. His ears and heart are always open to others; what a great listener he is, never tiring of hearing all of our and others’ stories. Bob does not give up; he assumes the best about people; he looks out for the interests of others more than his own; he trusts in God; he loves! He is truly an amazing person…my husband of 32 years, as of today, and the father of all eight of our incredible children. He never pushes them to be what he wants them to be or do what he wants them to do, but quietly trusts in the Lord for each of them – full of peace. He is always there for who they are and whatever they are doing in life – they know! Once one of our sons had a difficult experience with another person and his response to me was, “I have watched dad forgive, so I knew what to do and how to do it.” Bob is not only dad, but a sweet g-daddy to five precious grandchildren, so far, and is already a prayer warrior for them! Bob, I am thankful God made you and brought our lives together more than 30 years ago in a ministry in Winter Park, Florida. You have been an amazingly, loving husband, so committed to our marriage and family. Thank you! Happy Anniversary – looking forward to growing “older” with you and seeing what God has ahead for “us.” I love you!

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A Love Story Worth Telling – 65 years and counting!

On a muggy July 7th, sixty-five years ago today, a shy, sweet Louisiana girl married a Pennsylvania boy, in an un-air conditioned building in Orlando, Florida. The year was 1945 and months earlier this beautiful young girl had met this soldier boy on a blind date at a friend’s house. Though no relatives could be there, in a borrowed wedding gown and his military dress, they committed their lives to God and to each other. She wasn’t too sure about this Yankee guy at first, but as they talked and went to church together, her interest was increased. In fact, she ended up loving him so much, that she boarded a train for Orlando to find a job and make her new home near where he was stationed. She would go with him as he spoke to youth groups about his new-found faith in Christ. He would eventually propose, asking her if she would agree to being “number 2” to him for the rest of their lives. “Number 1” would be the Lord Jesus Christ, whom He had given his life to follow. She agreed and the rest is a history that our family celebrates this day. They are still “number 2” to each other and Christ is still “number 1.” On that hot afternoon, words that are seldom used any more, were repeated that with only a few new friends nearby.

“I, Libby/Don…take you…to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”

Today we celebrate those vows made that afternoon. We celebrate two people who would lay their lives down for their Lord, for each other, and for their future children. We celebrate the calling they have walked in, ministering in Texas, New York, and literally around the world during these last 65 years, pastoring and teaching people how to pray. We celebrate a love that has deepened with every hardship and every sorrow. We celebrate a faithfulness that few couples in our world will ever experience or even know about. We celebrate a legacy that has been left to three adult sons and one daughter, 17 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren, and more yet to come. We celebrate a purity, a life of love and selflessness, as they each care for each other today. We celebrate the laughter and the joy with which they have met every circumstance, including their “senior” years and ways. Forgetting things, moving slower, taking medications – looking around and seeing so many elderly people when they are out to eat – (thinking that they are not ones) -sitting side by side in a restaurant booth – holding hands everywhere they go – mom kissing dad’s bald head and dad kissing mom’s neck – dad’s romantic plans for every special day – more in love today than they could have ever imagined being, 65 years ago. She calls him “dad” and he calls her “momma.” In fact, people all over the world call her “momma;”she has loved so many people as they have traveled and taught.IMG_0050

Mom and Dad, today and every day, your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are so very proud of you – proud of your marriage – of who you both have become – of the thousands of lives you have touched literally around the world, as you have selflessly given yourselves to others in ministry – even today – always looking for someone who might need a word of encouragement, a hug, or a gift – sitting by the sides of those in the hospital or sick at home – always ready to share about your faith or how to pray, to the God Who has seen you through this life. As you both approach 90, we are amazed and so very thankful for your lives, for your marriage – and that we still have you with us. Our children and grandchildren have a real picture of what can be, when two people walk with the Lord and each other, faithfully. Thank you for being that picture – for loving God, each other, and all of us enough to stay together these 65 years. Happy Anniversary to two people, who could not be more in love.  You have taught us more about love than could ever be recorded in all the books about the topic. Hollywood has no idea about the kind of love you two have experienced and still do today. We wish everyone could know you – see how you love and what your commitment to each other looks like.

We all love you more than we can express!! Have an amazing day – still in love – 65 years and counting.

moms matter

In a day when moms are often the brunt of “your mom” jokes, and are not the most admired people, I want to be a voice that says, “Moms really do matter!”

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday, when in a public high school, a boy informed  me that after school he was making a special trip to go get something for his mom for Mothers’ Day. He was making her a card and wanted to buy her flowers, because she loves flowers! What an encouragement that was! I wasn’t sure anyone else in the class even knew it was going to Mothers’ Day.

What an amazing idea God had when He brought Eve onto the scene with a specific and special plan for her to be “mom.” In fact, she was named Eve, by Adam, after the fall…after the curse (and the curse wasn’t mothering).  “…Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” Gen. 3:20. The prophetic way she was named – she was going to be called “mom” before there was a baby in sight. In fact, to be mother of all the living at that moment was a little scary – who or what was she to be mother of – the birds, the fish, the land animals; what else was there? But God knew where He was going with this plan – the Intelligent Designer had a plan – “mothers” – and Eve would only be the first of millions to come. He planned for there to be babies, children, teenagers, young adults, adults…and mothers were to be the starting point for the grand plan. Moms matter!

I love mothers – I am one – we all have one – I love my own mom. IMG_0050I love to see who moms are, get to know them, and appreciate what they are willing to do, all for their children. My mom is approaching 90 and still is mothering in her own sweet way, as well as running a household and being a wife to my dad, grandmother, great-grandmother. Mom, you are an amazing mom, and I am so blessed to be your only daughter. Moms matter!

My daughter-in-love is nursing a set of twins, while caring for a special needs child, and also mothering two little boys. jordana and fam My son, her husband, goes around the world in ministry, and she faithfully supports him and makes a way at home for all to work. You are my hero, Jordana! Moms matter!

A friend who is a mom, grandmom, and daughter has taken her elderly mom in this past week to live with her family. The mom has Alzheimer’s and is no longer able to be on her own! Many of us are busy moms with many responsibilities, but now taking care of our own moms. I have another friend who is deeply concerned about the upcoming marriage of her senior age mom…to a man she has only recently met. “Momming” just never seems to end. Moms matter!

A mom’s heart is like no other – it is hopeful – it is open – it is wide – it is deep. It is large enough to take in the lives of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren…and even those who come in to our home, along the way. It is a tender heart – it is flexible – it is forgiving – it has easily accessible tears – it is jealous – protective – encouraging – it is a teaching heart – a nurturing heart – a nourishing heart – it is a teachable heart – influential – powerful. It is a heart that is “on call” 24/7, ready to stretch to include others who will come into our children’s lives, loving them. It is a heart that must not shrink back in fear – trust me, after seven active sons, I know! Our hearts often break, but must bounce back quickly to respond to the next need. I think moms are the ultimate “comeback kids.” We cannot be grudge holders – we must move forward, free to keep mothering, loving, and letting go, all in one constant, progressive sweep. Now that is hard stuff! But moms matter!

No matter what our culture tells us, the presence of a loving mom makes all the difference. It is what our children need – it is what our world needs. No one can take our place. I celebrate that. Sometimes we have to speak out; sometimes we need to hold back and be silent. Sometimes we must forge ahead with abandon for our children; other times we must hold back and wait for our children to learn the lesson they need to learn. We must be as sly as a fox at times – you know, those eyes in the back of our heads – but gentle as lambs when the occasion calls for it. We cannot be over-reactors (that was hard for me at first) – calmness comes in handy in this vocation! The demands are relentless and overwhelming at times. We must be able to bear the burdens of our own lives, as well as those He calls us to mother.  Moms matter!

A significant picture for moms is found in one of the names of God, El Shaddai. A part of this name is from the Hebrew root that means “breast” – the breasted one – it is a picture of a nourishing God, who is all-sufficient for our needs. Just a nursing mother is the total provision for her little one, so is God total provision for our lives. He is enough like a nursing mom’s milk is enough to sustain the life of a child. Several references in the Old Testament refer to God as one who nurtures and loves “like a mother nursing her children.” It is a place of self-sacrifice, of love, of protection, of provision. As God gathers us in His arms and in the shelter of His wings, so we gather our own in the same way. Mothering is an issue of the heart – the heart of God is our source! His using us as a picture of Himself strongly says, “Moms matter!”

Many moms will not be with their children on Mothers’ Day, for different reasons and may not even hear the words, “Happy Mothers’ Day.” Maybe you know some of those moms, and you need to call and remind them that they are precious moms and that they matter! I had that opportunity this morning to let a friend know that she is an amazing mom, even though her life is in a difficult place and her children will not be with her. Her silence and tears on the phone reminded me of how important those words were to her. This is not an easy vocation – it is one that many women do not choose, and young pregnant teenage girls often think, looks easy. For those who work inside or outside the home, it is a challenge that is beyond our own personal capabilities, but not beyond our God’s – He is El Shaddai – the all-sufficient one for us – He is enough! Happy Mothers’ Day to my mom – to my husband’s mom – to my daughter-in-love – to my sisters-in-love – to all the amazing moms I know and don’t know. You matter and you are a picture of a nurturing God to your children and to the world. I am a blessed mom – thanks to my seven sons and one daughter for making me one! Moms matter! Happy Mothers’ Day!

Don’t parent like Mary Poppins, Mr. Banks, or Mrs. Banks!

I so appreciate the words that have been spoken out after the death of Lydia Schatz, a young homeschooled child in California. This article captures the heart of the issue.

http://www.bradenton.com/2010/03/13/2127746/a-caution-there-is-no-such-thing.html?storylink=addthis

All Christian parents must know, We cannot beat our children into obedience or submission – not “physical” beating – not “verbal” beating – not “mental or emotional” beating.

Starting out in a very strong homeschooling program in the 80’s, I at first believed that "first-time obedience" could be a reality all the time. I could raise perfectly impressive children, who would agree with everything I believed for all time. What was I thinking?? I often used anger, words, disapproval, and other pressures to get the actions I wanted from my children. The homeschooling group I was associated with was famous for taking scripture out of context, to get desired results. I was guilty of even doing that – using religion to get the job done. When I read the Bible to my children, I would often point out their shortcomings along the way, as I read about it in the verses, making Bible reading time, a real bummer! I was doing it all from a good heart and a desire to see my children grow up and do the right thing, even follow the Lord. But what they really needed, more than my strict, often berating ways, was a Savior – that, or HE, is the starting point. They needed His love, and that was supposed to be coming through me!!!

I have learned so much through the years and I am encouraging all of you to keep submitting your hearts to the Lord concerning the relationships in your lives. I am still growing in how to love my children (much older now), whether they do what I hope for, or want them to, or not! I am such a work in process and so are they! God has been sooooo patient with me, cutting me so much slack – blessing me with children beyond my expectations – I have never received condemnation from Him. But I am talking to reading about so many who have been hurt by false thinking:

-that perfection in our children can be achieved by us as parents –

-that all ages must obey parents without question – even adult children – or else – the loss of relationship, the blessing!

-that women should submit to husbands at any cost –

-that the ends justifies the means in parenting and other relationships –

-that isolation and shame is a key to getting family members to submit –

-threats of losing the "blessing" – being out from under – God only speaks through "me" for you –

-heavy patriarchal parenting by the father – his mandate – his kingdom – his dominion over wife and children – his way!

We laughed at Mr. Banks, in the movie, Mary Poppins, when he bragged…

Mr. Banks: “I feel a surge of deep satisfaction, much as a king astride his noble steed – thank you. When I return from daily strife, to hearth and wife… How pleasant is the life I lead!…I run my home precisely on schedule. At 6:01, I march through my door. My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due at 6:02. Consistent is the life I lead!…It’s grand to be an Englishman in 1910! King Edward’s on the throne, it’s the age of men! I’m the lord of my castle, the sovereign, the liege! I treat my subjects, servants, children, wife with a firm but gentle hand, noblesse oblige. It’s 6:03, and the heirs to my dominion are scrubbed and tubbed, and added, quickly fed. And so I’ll pat them on the head, and send them off to bed. Ah, lordly is the life I lead!"

…only to discover from his wife, that his children are missing! Hmmm…

…so much teaching scripture out of context – so many isolated verses with no knowledge of what God is really saying…so much "ranting" by preachers, partners, and parents…

…the damage that has been done is devastating and often, life-long. We pride ourselves in being so "pro-life," then snuff the life out of those closest to us, or who may not agree with us. This is an issue for all Christians to grapple with and help each other with. We need each other and that is the way God planned it – the family – the body of Christ – God’s design – walking alongside each other, exhorting, admonishing, and encouraging one another – praying for one another – not abusing each other (physically, emotionally, mentally) to get the desired results.

Keep seeking the Lord and asking Him how to love your family, giving them the guidance and teaching they need. I am not talking about permissive parenting – going from one ditch to the other, but finding the balance that Christ has for us – His Holy Spirit in us, actively leading us into all Truth – that is one of His jobs. I am there, learning alongside of you – continuing to learn how to love teen to adult children, grandchildren thrown in there too – trusting God’s work in their lives. How I long to pass on to all of them a more accurate picture of God and His love – a more biblical way to approach life – a more consistent way to read and know Scripture. I have a long way to go!!

Let’s stay on the journey – and go for it. Paul, after he goes over his credentials, that could make him feel pretty good about himself (like Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way”), reminds us in Phil. 3 to…watch out – don’t put confidence in your flesh, even though mine was pretty good – there is nothing greater than knowing Christ! So….(my commentary is in parentheses)

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect (not gonna happen), but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it (we all are works in process). But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind (great place to start – and he had some big stuff to forget!) and straining toward what is ahead (lean into that finish line), 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things (for the sake of our children, too – we are more mature so we should act like it!). And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you (I can trust in this fact for myself and others – God is able to do this!). 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained (what we know – that is plenty of a challenge!).

17Join with others in following my example…take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ (even religious people, especially religious people!). 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior (the answer for all of us!) from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

God, the truly perfect parent has all kinds of children, with all kinds of issues, and in all degrees of obedience. He absolutely loves all of them in an everlasting way! We are not the magical Mary Poppins, making life one great mystical, magical adventure, and we are not Mr. Banks – in total control – or even Mrs. Banks – clueless. We are parents and partners, making our way through life, with a big and loving God, and like Paul, we are pressing on….

HAPPY BIRTHDAY IN HAITI!

MatthewHappy birthday Matthew! Twenty-nine years ago today, early in the morning, I said hello to you, my first son, after a very long and difficult labor. People wondered if I would ever have more children – let them wonder no more – seven sons and one daughter later, I could not be more blessed!! While you were in the womb, we prayed for you, sung to you often, talked to you about your future, and treasured you from the beginning. We gave you to the Lord before we even knew your name. And when you arrived on planet earth March 27, 1981, we had several names picked out. You were a tiny six pound, thirteen ounce baby – long and skinny – black hair and wide open eyes looking all around like, “Get me out of here; I have important things to do.” And you did! When we rehearsed the names we had carefully picked out, the only ones that matched you were “Matthew Aaron.” Those two words expressed the desires of our hearts for you – Matthew – “Gift of God” – Aaron – “Bringer of Light.” We prayed and have believed that in choosing those names for you, that God would allow you to be that gift from the Lord who would bring light to a very dark world. Yes!

With those big dark eyes and legs and arms on the move, we sensed there really was work for you to do. Those eyes, arms, and legs have never stopped moving. You talked early causing people to wonder what expensive preschool I had enrolled you in. You stood at the front windows of our little seminary house, inviting students to come in for breakfast, causing me to scramble for my robe. If they couldn’t come then, you would tell them it was okay, they could just come later for supper. I never knew who would show up. You took to a microphone early, singing worship songs from age 2, on. From seven years old, you spoke publicly every opportunity you had, and still do. Yes!

Your few piano lessons led you to discover that you could hear music, then play it without notes on paper – any kind – all kinds of music. You were a creative writer – composing poetry that would later become lyrics to songs you would write. Drawing, artistic tendencies, creativity – you were not the child who did “time outs” well, because while you were there, a whole new world would open up to you and you would forget why you were there and have way too much fun. You never met a stranger – and did not understand the don’t talk to strangers rule – and if there were none around to befriend, you would make up your own imaginary crew. Having seven siblings helped with that later. The opportunity to speak, debate, and act uncovered more of your talents; where would God take this young man, we wondered. Would he write, act, speak, sing, play music? Would he teach, preach, admonish, encourage, exhort, challenge? Would he create, start something new, lead others?  To all those questions, yes!

While sitting in a room with a sick child and watching the church service on closed circuit television, I felt or heard or experienced an impression from the Lord that there would be an invitation given and that you would respond by giving your life to missions, in the main sanctuary. Yes! You did that day, as a young child. The television showed this little boy kneeling at the altar of a church in Tennessee, saying “yes,” to God and missions.

As pioneer homeschooling parents, you survived the challenge with us. There was not too much out there in those early days, but YES, we did it! I didn’t do an amazing job but my prayer for God to complete the work I was attempting, has been answered in all my children. You graduated and married a sweet childhood friend, one who also had sensed the call to missions on her life. Yes to marriage!

Children began to come even though you had warned me that you would not be having children for several years.  “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” (Robert Burns). Yes to Tobin, Josiah, Jude, and most recently twins Ean and Eden. Not popular, not easy, not predicable – no formulas – but amazing and wonderful – having children! I know you did not mean to follow in our footsteps of large family, but God seems to have taken you down that path, to which you have bravely said, “yes!” What an adventure you are on!!

matt haiti

Now a new calling – finally all the gifts begin to come together in the founding of “SafewaterNexus” http://safewaternexus.org/ under “Go International” http://gointernational.org/. Uganda – now Haiti – bringing wells of clean, fresh water – tents, food, medical supplies, mosquito nets, shoes – school supplies – heart – tears – love – compassion, and most of all, LIGHT – IN THE FORM OF THE LIVING WATER, JESUS CHRIST. Yes!

I am so proud of you as you continue to walk in an imperfect world, an often disappointing world – I apologize for the church and the lack of true compassion and ministry you have often seen – where people care more about themselves and their needs than the needs of others. I do know that there are many challenges before you with Jude’s special needs – with raising support to provide – with loving Jordana and children – with meeting the needs of many who have captured your heart. I do know that life is hard – what your eyes have seen make you wonder  about things you have always believed. But you are on the path – keep going –God will show you how to do His work, with the family He has given you. Keep close to Him – love His Word – keep bringing water to so many who are thirsty – light to a dark world.

The words “happy birthday” seem so inferior, when I want to say “I celebrate you – your entrance into this world – I celebrate what Christ is doing and wants to do in and through your life – I celebrate the lives you are touching even today in Haiti.” What a place to celebrate your birthday!  I love you and do not have to think hard to remember my first tears and joy at the announcement of your birth – of my love for you the moment I saw your face. Giving children away to the Lord is important – watching them grow up, make decisions, make mistakes – are all parts that I have had to learn. You were and are the Lord’s – I just got to get in on part of the action.

Please hug someone for me in Haiti today – say, “this is from my mom!” I love you and as always – am praying for you! Happy Birthday!

“Affliction frequently opens truths to us and opens us to the truth. Experience unlocks truths that were closed. Many passages of Scripture will never be made clear by the commentator, for those must be expounded by experience. Many a verse is written in a secret ink that must be held to the fire of adversity to make it visible. Affliction plows and opens our hearts, so that into our innermost nature the truth penetrates and soaks like rain into the plowed land. Affliction, when sanctified by the Holy Spirit, brings much glory to God through the believer’s experience with the Lord’s faithfulness.” –C.H. Spurgeon.