For the Bride

This devotion was written to my daughter who is preparing for marriage in a few short weeks.  It was written by her mentor and my dear friend Melana Hunt Monroe and read aloud yesterday at a bridal shower. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. My prayer is that this encourages someone today.

“Endurance IS the currency of heaven” ~Melana Hunt Monroe

 

My beloved Cassidy,

The day you got engaged you posted, “We are overjoyed and can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for this next season!” If I could confidently share words that would enable you to navigate marriage with all the joy and hope you have right now, I would in a heartbeat. But that wish reveals my tendency to shrink from thinking on a loftier, grander, heavenly scale.  I think I would be closer to God’s heart to share with you how He matures our love and joy and hope towards resembling His own eternal, unchanging emotions, through a million minutes of happiness, grief, dread, delight, terror, amusement, enchantment, disappointment, and ecstasy over scores of years.

 

Truth be told, we all deeply want this. No one wants to have the maturity of a twelve-year-old at the lovely age of eighty.  Your Father has a VERY specific plan to ripen your spirit, and He has designed every single step (every.single.step.) in a way that will give you the greatest, purest joy.

 

Though your journey will be entirely unique (because you two are unique and He’s designed your path for YOU), there will be common features of the terrain that His children recognize (remember Christian’s journey to the Celestial City).  I’ll share a few landmarks I’ve seen, in the hope that you will recognize and embrace them as they come along.

 

WAITING.

There will never be a time you are not waiting. Right now you are waiting (eagerly) for your wedding. You will wait to graduate, wait to find a house, wait to find out if you are pregnant, or with some, wait through months of agonizing infertility for repeated dreaded news, maybe eventually wait for delivery, wait to see if the baby is “ok” (I could write a lot on that one), wait for good news, wait for bad news; waiting can become agony. You will always be waiting for something, and sometimes that process is excruciatingly hard. God places incredibly great value on waiting well. Trust, hope, faith, dread, all imply that what we see ahead must be bought with intentional patience. Hidden in all of the hundreds of Scriptural admonitions to wait (even the whole creation is waiting eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God), is the key, tucked in the opening verse of Ps 62: For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. Then repeated in verse 5: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.

 

You see, my dear Cassidy, every desire of our heart, if it does not lead to waiting on God only, can quickly morph into an idol. The process of waiting reveals what we value the most at any given time.  When what we are waiting for consumes our emotions and energy, when it is what our mind boomerangs back to, it becomes the thing that – when fulfilled – will bring happiness rather than the Giver of every good gift Himself. And joy from an idol is hollow, frail, and temporal. I’ve found that God has kept me waiting until “waiting” becomes a friend. Waiting, as a true friend, leads me to Him, and is not just a (frustrating) constant companion. Here you can be a great helpmeet for Tad.  You will lean on each other to wait well, being strong when the other is weak, to intentionally keep your focus on God alone.

 

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Ps. 25:4-5). “Waiting all the day long” leads to:

 

ABIDING IN CHRIST

Do you remember Augustine’s prayer, “Command what You will, but give what You command”? When we apply his ancient wisdom to Christ’s commands in prayer, the commands become not only doable, but life-giving and hopeful (“hope is the present enjoyment of a future blessing” – quote from my dad).  It is strikingly evident when Christ Himself gives the ability to believe and obey His command to ‘Abide in Me.’ Faith is a gift; it is not attainable through effort, Eph 2:8-9…that’s why the perceptible presence of faith itself IS the evidence of things not seen, Heb 11:1) Many choices in married life are not ‘right or wrong’ or ‘black and white.’ Whether to eat this or that, live here or there, are not as important as the time in prayer together, searching, abiding in Christ with one mind.  This process can take a LOOOONG time. Which is why we have need of:

 

ENDURANCE

I think endurance can develop through three different situations. First, there is a kind of enduring where, though the trial is real, painful, and wearisome (even vexing), the outcome is visible and sure. An example would be these last creeping, slow days before your wedding, or the last agonizingly long month of a pregnancy. Even a terminal illness like my mother suffered fits in this category. The days are long, but the end is visible.

 

Second, there is a kind of endurance where the outcome is unknown.  The trial is long, and there is no indication or evidence that it will resolve, if ever. The fiery test has no expiration date; although we can ask God to resolve the issue, His concern is that we learn to be longsuffering, develop patience, resolve, trust; to study, learn, apply, pray, and ultimately simply stand until He says stand down. I’m thinking here of a dear friend, a lovely young woman in her thirties, who longs to get married, but has absolutely no prospects.  Other examples would be waiting for employment or for funds to come in, or for resolution to a horrible family relationship. There is hope for an end, but no timeline at all, if ever. The process is the terminus.

 

The third “flavor” of endurance is when we know for sure there will not be a resolution or end to the trial until He glorifies us after death. Here, your own dear father’s suffering, and my little Eve and Lissy are good examples. Embracing His strength in our weakness is the goal. We can even learn to see joy inside of the sorrow.  Every time I look at my granddaughters I feel both intense joy and overwhelming sorrow simultaneously.

 

I believe endurance is the ‘currency’ of heaven. It has such extreme value, Hebrews says that it was worth the horrific agony of the cross to pay for ‘the joy set before Him.’ Love makes endurance possible. Endurance does, however, have a limitation: we can only develop our eternal capacity for endurance here and now – what will there be to endure there? What will there be to be patient with in heaven? So if we earnestly yearn for an eternal weight of glory, sorrow and suffering will accompany us up our mountains, faithful companions to our Much Afraid. But remember that the Good Shepherd does change Sorrow and Suffering into Grace and Glory!

 

Back to your post. The Lord has in store for you great, massive, verdant meadows of great joy for frolicking. Some of that joy will come as a gift, from the Giver of all gifts, who simply delights to give you delight. Enjoy it immensely. He also will have you wait, agonizingly, to the point you can honestly say “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee.” You will abide together in Christ, so that “you can ask what ye will, and it will be done unto you,” and through abiding, together you will “bear much fruit” and your “joy will be full.”  And together you will endure pain, because your unity will become purer and stronger and brighter in the crucible. Everything “in store for you” is already planned for your good and His glory. Embrace it all. Jesus is Lord.

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The Strong-Willed Child

Many of my momma friends are in the middle of summer chaos at home and have needed a word of encouragement. Whatever you do…if you are raising a Strong-Willed child…DON”T QUIT!!

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Sitting in my office, I am  listening to my 20 year old son make breakfast for his 4 year old sister.  The two are laughing and giggling and referencing different silly cartoon characters.  My son prepares to begin a day of back to back piano lessons as students and families come in and out of our home all day.  Our son is in his Junior year studying piano performance at Sam Houston State.  Each Monday and Friday I get the blessing of interacting with different moms who love to tell me about how much they enjoy the lessons, while I also listen to him teach his young students about discipline and control on the keys.  The value of doing something WELL…over doing something FAST, and I have to smile.  Mommas….he was my strong-willed child.  Enjoy the read

The Strong-willed Child

Are you raising a strong-willed child?  If you are not quite…

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Why I choose PACES PAideia

IT’s that time of year again and homeschoolers everywhere are trying to decide which route to take. If you are any where within an hour of the North side of Houston, come check out the PACES Paideia program. http://www.pacesinfo.org

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Why I choose PACES PAideia to educate my kids.

I’ve been home educating since 1997, coming up on 20 years. We have 8 kids, and have graduated three from homeschooling with PACES, each of which have gone on to higher education. We started our PACES journey in January of 2004. Right in the middle of Year 3…the Pilgrims.

Every summer, usually right about this time, I look at my husband and say, “Why can’t we just do this at home and stop doing PACES? I’m exhausted and the thought of gearing up for another school year just leaves me wanting to hide in bed”

To which he wisely replies, “Erin, you say this every July. Whether you realize it or not, PACES is for you too.” He has taught me to see the joy is in the struggle, and that the learning is not the only end game, it’s about…

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Four Busy Moms Share Thanksgiving Recipes

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It’s that time of year again.  We all have our favorite traditions, recipes, and rituals that we look forward too.  For our family, Thanksgiving week is the highlight of the year.  It usually looks like this, but could change depending on the football schedule!

Sunday – Family meeting where we plan out the Thanksgiving menu and the December events calendar.

Monday – Clean house

Tuesday – Shopping Day

Wednesday – COOKING Day followed by several games of 42 and chile for dinner!

Thursday – Thanksgiving and well…..football!

Friday – We stopped getting up early years ago, but we still look online for those Black Friday deals.

About four years ago, three friends and I put together a list of some of our favorite family recipes for Thanksgiving.  Each of us get the joy of laughing and cooking with large families this week so we wanted to share these with you.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Politically Active Kids

This morning in the kitchen while bagels were toasting, I asked my kids what I should talk about for my next blog article. Without missing a beat, my 21 year old son, says to me, “Mom, you should tell them why it’s so important to teach your kids to be politically active”
BOOM!!
I certainly was NOT expecting that response at all. He went on to tell me how much he has learned about the process over the past five years as our family has volunteered in different races locally.
I grew up in a home where we were taught NOT to talk politics and religion in the home. I currently LIVE in a home where it’s abnormal if we are NOT talking about politics and religion at some point during the day
In early 2012, my close friend, and mother of ten kids at the time, contacted me and asked me for help. Her husband was running for office and they needed some volunteers. Little did I know what the next few months would look like.
Our family was “baptized by immersion”, into the political process. After meeting with a campaign consultant, all systems were a GO and we began campaigning. Our kids helped to set up a phone bank: taping phone call scripts to the walls and tag teaming between dialers and callers, recruiting more volunteers, providing cold water bottles and lunches for the campaign workers.
My friend and I set up Saturday neighborhood walks with our kids, pushing strollers up and down different blocks getting our exercise. We would partner an older teen with a younger sibling and door knocking with registered voters. They held up signs at polling booths for both early voting days as well as election day, attended fundraisers and local speeches at community events, and delivered signs to people’s yards and businesses, and most importantly, they learned to ask questions from candidates. They learned about the political process and how hard it is for a citizen to run for office.
A couple of years later, our pastor ran for office. He was running for a representative seat in our district. We were ALL IN when it came time to help him. My kids learned how important door knocking is in campaigns and why meeting voters makes a huge difference in voter turnout. They learned what it means to stand alone at a voting location holding voter guides for hours on end, sometimes asking themselves, “why am I here again?”
They learned a valuable lesson, even when it looked like they were surrounded by apathy. They learned that freedom isn’t free. They learned the importance of staying informed, the value of community activism, and giving selflessly of their time for a greater good, and how volunteerism promotes stronger families and communities.
Helping out politically teaches kids to ask the right questions while looking into candidates.
They also learned to treat others with respect even if they disagreed. I’ll never forget standing at the local high school for 12 hours right next to volunteers who were supporting our opponent. My kids witnessed what it looks like to show kindness even if you disagree.
Political activism also teaches them the power of one – One person can make a difference.
Additionally, they learn important job skills.
Helping out with campaigns is a terrific way to fill idle time with productivity. My son in law’s father has a saying, “A tired boy is a good boy”!
Nothing wears out sons faster than block walking in the hot Texas sun all day long.
Finally, Volunteer hours help meet college requirements and also introduce young people to scholarship opportunities.

Sowing for LIFE

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On April 17th, my parents celebrate 54 years of marriage.  Full of spunk and life, my mom is the ever-ready bunny and never stops MOVING, while my dad is her anchor and enjoys a good book snuggled up with his four-legged best friend, Molly.  Together my parents have weathered decades of joys and heartache; trials and triumphs, leaving a legacy behind for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

That legacy is FAITHFULNESS.

Even when the waters were choppy and the road seemed impassable, my folks weathered every storm and stayed together.  While loving and serving one another unconditionally, these two will make anyone laugh till your side hurts.  Our kids will randomly just start laughing as we recall comedic stories my parents have lived!  (Ask them to tell you about one early morning broken car horn and a convertible!) It will leave you in stitches.

Most importantly, my parents have modeled for me and my kids what it means to stay.

And for that I am forever grateful.

Happy Anniversary Ken and Nancy Bowen.

You are LOVED!!!

 

A Quiver Full…Yes or No?


 

With every baby comes a loaf of bread under its arm … Ancient Proverb

Have you ever wondered if you should even have children?  Do you look at the world and think, “Why would I bring a child into this crazy world?” Or maybe you look at the bank balance and think, “There’s no way we can afford another child!”  You may have one child and you are not sure about a second.  When do you know you are “done”?

I firmly believe that only the Lord and your spouse can guide you in this decision. God showed us early on to trust Him with our future family size.

My journey is not unique, maybe my story will be yours.

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I’ve recently been reminiscing on my life as a child and how child-less my upbringing was.  In a few days, we will celebrate the 5th birthday of our eighth (and looks like our last) child.

She was born at home with five other sisters in the home awaiting her arrival.  The brothers were not too far off with friends that day.

When Adaya Mercy arrived in April of 2011, I observed all my girls just watch in complete awe and amazement at what God had given them.

A new sister…

With a three-year-old in the home they were familiarized with all the ins and outs of newborns.

Don’t mess with the umbilical cord, careful with her soft spot, only mommies can give baby a bath, etc.

What struck me like a hole in my heart and literally made my breath stand still those first few days of her life was the realization that I grew up having never – not ever, been around babies or even very young kids.

Looking at all my kids at their ages when she was born….3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 16, and 18….I had to think back of where I was at all those ages.

I was living a self-focused, self-absorbed, me-centered life.  I had no idea as a child, what it meant to just want to pick up a sleeping baby in order to smell her freshly washed hair and feel her cuddly newborn body up against my chest.

After she arrived, my kids would go out of their way just to find where the baby is and pick her up to feel her gentle breath on their faces.

I knew nothing of that joy as a child.

So I really didn’t miss it.  Not only that, but I realized, that no one I knew had babies. None of my friends had any younger siblings around.

Even our small church seemed to be void of a nursery (or at least I never saw it as a young child).  Growing up in the 70’s was like that, you may have had the same experience.  I never remember even seeing a pregnant woman, let alone any babies growing up. Of course I’m sure they were around, I just never noticed.

It was my sophomore year in college before I had even seen a woman with several small children, before I ever saw someone nurse a baby.  That mom’s name was Laura, and when I met her and her children in 1990, it was the first seed that God planted in my heart for having a family, a big family.  I say all this because now, at 47 I am humbled and awed by God’s decision to bless us with a large family.  This is a script I could have never written in a million years.

Babies were foreign to me.

As a teenager, I was selfish, and up until Jesus became the center of my life, I was headed to a life of careers and Lord only knows what else.  When I gave my heart fully to Jesus, I abandoned every preconceived notion and trusted Him with the rest.

Including my womb.

He really does know what He’s doing.

He really is the Sovereign one, and He really can make the right decisions for us and our body no matter what His answer is concerning having, adopting, or simply mentoring more children. By trusting Jesus with our future, we can live a life of no regrets.  Recently, my husband Joey looked at me reflectively and said, “What if we would have stopped at two kids?  Then there would be empty seats at our table!” If we choose to stop, we can’t even imagine all that we would have missed out on.

I know there is comfort in control.  That it is human nature for people to want to control their environment and by controlling a family size, it makes couples feel a sense of security.  It can be counter-intuitive and it requires more faith to have more children than we might feel comfortable with because it can mean we must surrender control. Trusting God with your family size is a faith walk because you can’t see what’s on the other side.  We can’t predict the outcome.

We must, “sow with a vision of righteousness.” Hosea 10:12

Whether you are a young mom and exhausted because you are chasing around toddlers, or maybe you are in the hospital having just delivered your second child and the doctor asks you if you want to be “done” with having kids, please take some time to prayerfully surrender to God’s leadership and direction in your family’s life, and let God choose your quiver size.

Finally, a wise mentor told me as a young bride that the two most important things you will ever give your child outside of introducing them to Christ Jesus,

is a strong marriage relationship

…and siblings.

Special Thanks to https://www.etsy.com/listing/123613905/discounted-price-archery-quiver-leather?ref=market