Thy Salvation

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. ~ Psalm 51:12

One of my earliest memories is my “labor to enter into rest”. (Heb. 4:11)

I had heard our pastor, Bro. Glenn Riggs, preach about “calling out to God” and “praying and asking Jesus into your heart”, so I did those things. I was only five years old. I phrased my prayer the best I could, but nothing happened. The preacher said “You’ll know when Jesus saves you!” I didn’t “know”. The preacher said, “It’s not a feeling, it’s faith.” But what exactly was faith? My parents and brother and sister were all “saved”. I wanted to be, too. At age six, I went to my teacher in my Christian school, after two of my friends did, on a Wednesday and said I didn’t know if I would go to Heaven when I died. (Perhaps you had to talk to someone to make salvation official?) And if my friends could do it, why not I? It was October 10, 1984 – my mother’s birthday. I was wearing a Hawaiian style button-up shirt. The short sleeves were gathered in one place on the outside of the sleeve. I sat with Mrs. Parson in what had been my Kindergarten classroom. I was now a mature first grader. I squinted my eyes at her big, burgundy Bible, which was underlined and well-worn, straining to understand, seeking for that which I had been missing. I prayed the words. I left the room, hoping that this time, it had worked. I got baptized (despite my immense fear of water and crowds) soon thereafter. Life went on. I did not feel any different, but I recalled “it’s not a feeling, it’s faith.” Okay. *deep breath* Faith.

I made a second profession of salvation about two years later. The date is fuzzy on that one, but I do recall that it was the summertime. I went forward with a massive influx of other kids from our children’s church. Children’s church was a large production of songs, puppets, preaching and games. We met in the gym. There was no air conditioning in the gym. I had been doubting my salvation, so I went forward seeking answers. But I must admit that finding answers was secondary. I mainly went forward because I knew if I did, I’d get to go into the auditorium – or “big church” as I called it – where there was air conditioning. So around age eight, I filed in with several other boys and girls who had “professed Christ as their Savior” and stood at the front of big church. I smiled at my parents, who were probably very surprised to see me in the line, and I soaked up the blessed air conditioning. I felt my wet bangs turn cold against my forehead, and my Sunday dress gradually loosen from where the sweat had glued it to my skin. I felt the frigid air go up my sleeves, down my back and up the folds of my dress. I didn’t know if I was going to Heaven – despite a worker showing me the plan of salvation and praying with me – but I felt the air conditioning, which had to be the next best thing. I went to big church on a Sunday morning a few weeks later and got baptized. Again.

I continued to privately grapple with salvation for years. I went soul-winning with my church. I wore the right clothes. I sang in children’s choir. I went to every youth activity. I tried to quit talking so much. I read my Bible sporadically and prayed even more sporadically. I looked good on the outside, but I was a disaster on the inside. I was doing all I could do. I had prayed the words, I had tried to understand. Every time doubt sprang up in my mind, I pushed it down by trying to behave better. “You’re doubting this because you haven’t been reading your Bible every day. Just do better,” I would tell myself. I would start a read-through-your-Bible-in-a-year schedule. I would make a prayer list. I would just work harder. Surely, if I did all of that, I would know I was saved.

On the morning of June 12, 1993, as I was reading Ezra chapter one, the Lord quickened me. He said, almost audibly, “You don’t understand any of this because you are not born-again.” WHAT? What was this? I felt a huge sin burden upon my back, a feeling I had never had before. It was as if every sin I had ever committed was flashing before my eyes. I was not a Christian, and no amount of work or prayers would make me one. What a startling revelation. I sought out my friend’s mother, with whom I was staying, and told her I needed to be saved. But this time, I didn’t need anyone to show me verses, or to tell me what to say or do – I knew! As soon as my sinful condition was revealed, I cried out to God for mercy and He gloriously saved me.

SAVED, by His pow’r devine,

SAVED, to new life sublime,

Life now is sweet and my joy is complete

For I’m SAVED! SAVED! SAVED!

This song describes that moment in my life, the moment in which I was a lost sinner one second, and a born-again child of God the next. You see, you DO know if you’re saved. There is a “feeling”. It’s a feeling of sin, of despair, of hopelessness, of embarrassment before a Holy God, followed by a feeling of relief, overwhelming joy and indescribable happiness.

Years later, as a twenty-something married woman, I heard myself praying the words of Psalm 51:12, “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation”. I was going through a time of depression, which by nature I am prone to do. Shortly thereafter, I read the words of that Psalm and noticed that I had misquoted it – it’s not “the joy of MY salvation”, it says, “The joy of THY salvation.” This started an avalanche of thoughts tumbling through my brain. Was salvation not man’s choice? Was it of God and God alone? I’m sure that to those of you who caught on to this ages ago, this sounds silly. But I really thought that I had something to do with salvation! I thought I had to make a choice, to decide to be saved, but I had tried that. It didn’t work.  And while calling out to Christ certainly is part of salvation, it’s not all of it. Christ awakened me to my sin without my consent. My pastor, Bro. Ken Graham, would call this “the conviction of the Holy Spirit”, some call it “the quickening of the Spirit”. Whatever you call it, it was missing from my first two professions of faith. The first two times, I was essentially trying to save myself. I thought that my desire or decision to be saved would supply the final ingredient to salvation. Christ did His part, now I must do mine. I was believing that salvation was Christ plus my belief. In reality, it is Christ plus nothing.

Salvation is through Christ alone.

I went forward in the auditorium – not to please my flesh with air conditioning – but because I had been brought into the fold by the strong arms of the Good Shepherd. I was baptized for the third – and final – time on July 30, 1993. My parents were not surprised. They sat on their pew that Sunday morning silently rejoicing that their struggling little lamb had finally made it home.

With love,

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Laci is Eight

I started blogging in September of 2007. Laci’s first birthday was the first “birthday” blog post I ever wrote. And here I am, writing her eighth. *sigh* She has been a joy to our lives. She has the most expressive face! In fact, her face broadcasts her emotions even more than the normal person. We have to caution her about even the tiniest bit of pouting, because it shows up like a flashing neon sign in the darkness. Laci is the most hugging, kissing child I’ve ever had, too. She hugs me at least three times a day, sometimes more. She is very tenderhearted, especially toward animals. She recently told me that she wanted to President. If she was the President, she would pass a law that businesses couldn’t put spikes on the signs on buildings to prevent birds from building nests! She loves birds and squirrels and dogs and cats. Some of us here at the Basham hacienda are allergic to cats, and she sweetly agreed to never have an indoor cat so that I could come visit her.

As with each of my children, I could write a book about the laughter and love they have brought into my life, and the lessons they have taught me without even knowing it, but I’ll spare you since I’m positive you have a life to live yourself. :) Thanks for spending part of it here.

Before I go, here are eight photos for eight years.

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Happy birthday to my lovely, lively Laci!

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Heaven’s Sounding Sweeter?

This is a phrase from a song that I’ve heard my whole life. It’s a phrase I’ve used many times in the ten years since my dad’s death. Just recently, something occurred to me. Whenever I say that “Heaven’s sounding sweeter” because a saint has just entered its gates, am I saying that Heaven could be made sweeter than it already is?

The little girls are memorizing Luke 2:8-14, the story of Christ’s birth. Verse fourteen proclaims the angels’ words that starry night “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, peace, good will toward men.” Every day when we recite this passage, we can’t help but glow with excitement over those words! Heaven is the home of the tiny babe about Whom those angels were singing so many centuries ago. What could be greater, or sweeter than our Savior? Absolutely nothing!

When we pause to ponder it, we realize that Heaven could never gain in sweetness. When a loved one who lightened our load and brightened our corner leaves this sin-cursed world for Heaven, it is not Heaven that is altered in beauty, but Earth. Heaven does not gain in sweetness, splendor, or beauty; but Earth – most certainly – loses some of it.

My world became darker that day God called my dad Home. I lost a friend. I lost a person who understood me when no one else could. I lost his smile, his laugh, his silly songs, his whistling and his hugs. Despite my loss on Earth, I still must praise my Creator. He has walked with me every step of the way, turning my sorrow into dancing. Through the valleys of this life, He is holding me, teaching me, loving me and comforting me. The best part of all is that I will see my loved ones again – through Christ. But as the song says, I long to see my Savior first of all.

I want to praise the Lord for His tender mercies. May He be exalted on Earth as He is in Heaven.

With love,

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Thanksgiving Day

We usually do some traveling on this holiday, but this year, we just stayed home. I missed seeing my family very much, but there were good things about staying home. We made some great memories. I am hoping that I can “have my cake and eat it too” by seeing my family in the coming year. Here are a few photos from our day. I hope your Thanksgiving was as special as ours was!

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While the turkey and ham were cooking, we pulled out our “thankful box”. We’ve all been writing down our blessings for the month of November, folding them and putting them in a box to read on Thanksgiving Day. I thought the funniest one was by Mitchell: he was thankful for Bing Crosby and Bob Hope! You can tell we watch old movies and TV around here. Each child was thankful for their parents and siblings, which touched my heart. I thought the sweetest one was by Terry: he said he was thankful for a happy home. That one really made me smile.

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I just love my new centerpiece! I got it at Hobby Lobby several weeks ago, using my 40% off coupon.

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I got the napkins at Hobby Lobby, too, on the clearance aisle. I liked the verse that was on them. All holidays should be celebrated in honor of the Savior, the Giver of all things to celebrate!

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We were blessed with more food than we could eat at one sitting! lunch lesliematt

Terry bought the kids special drinks for the meal. Matthew got “Monkey Juice” (whatever that is!) He seemed to like it! :)

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After lunch, the kids played several rounds of Twister.

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Lauren won one game. This is her “I’m-pretending-to-be-excited-that-I-won-this-game” face.

This is a short video of Matthew during the game. He was too little to play, so he got to call out the commands (with Dad’s help) for the others to follow. He took on his role with vigor.

After Twister, we all played Guesstures. It’s one of our family’s favorite games.

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Leslie particularly enjoyed it. Here she is doing “itching”.

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I have no idea what this is. But it’s funny.

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No clue here either.

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So many thoughts come to mind about how to caption this photo!

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Laci-guess

Laci really cracked us up. She’s still a bit too young for the game, but she gave it her best shot. She had to pass on several because she didn’t know what they were. If she started acting out something, she would keep doing the motion, never changing at all, even if none of us were getting it. For example, she pretended to be sprinkling salt out of a shaker, but that wasn’t it. She said, “I know what this is (in other words, she couldn’t pass on it) so you just have to guess it.” Well, we never did. It turned out that she was “garlicking bread”.  On another one, she acted out “moon” by bending over touching her toes, to make a circle. We didn’t get that one, either, but we had some good laughs! She was good at guessing though! :)

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The kids spent the afternoon making ornaments for our tree, which we plan to put up today. After supper (Thanksgiving meal, round two), Matthew passed out. A sure sign of a blessed Thanksgiving.

With a thankful heart,

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Thankful

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As  I stood at the pulpit, gazing through swollen eyes at my note cards, I glanced over at the pallbearers. There sat my husband in his dark suit coat. His eyes were red and tears streamed down his face. It was the darkest moment of my life, but in that moment God’s grace shone in the form of a man: my husband. I can’t explain what it meant to me to see that he was grieving the loss of my father almost as much as I. I watched him stand in the triple digit heat beneath the tent at the grave site in honor of my dad. He would be there through all the long, lonely nights that followed. He’s there even now, when the pangs of loss hit me at odd times. He doesn’t make jokes or brush me off. He cares. Terry is a gift of grace in my life. His love has made the searing pain of death bearable.

My husband is the most courageous man I know. He’s never boxed, run a 5K or been in the military. But he’s a hero. When a man stood in his face and accused him of purposely “killing our church”, he took it, even though his heart was hurting from the losses more than anyone. When a man shouted out at business meeting that he was a liar, he took it calmly. He stands for God’s Word even when he stands alone.

I am thankful that Terry stays true to God’s Word, and to me. I’m thankful that when I’m at my wit’s end, which is more often than I’d care to admit, he stays around. He is a friend I, or anyone, can always count on. He’s the man you want to have in your corner, on your team or in your canoe. I’m so grateful for my wonderful husband. He is a gift from the Lord, and I am thankful.

With love,

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Be Not Unequally Yoked

I was born again in 1993, as a fifteen year old girl. I was brought up by Christian parents, taken to church every week – three times a week! I even worked on a bus route, picking up kids for church, before I was saved. Once I got saved, Christ took control. I still sinned, far more than I’d like to admit, but I knew it immediately and was driven to make things right. I was uncomfortable around things of the world in a way like never before. I strove to make things right with those I’d wronged, and I felt a peace that, as the Bible says, “passeth all understanding”. I attended a Christian school and later homeschooled, so dating anyone was not really going to happen…though I wished it would. Guys seemed uninterested in me, and I assumed it was because I talked too much. At age 18, I was headed off to a Bible college that we would later learn was a huge cult. God, in His great mercy, spared me. But now what? Through two members of my church, I found a job a car dealership as a receptionist – talking all day, non-stop, meeting new people -I felt like I’d died and gone to Heaven! Through my job, I met single guys my age. Guys who seemed interested in me, despite my verbosity. I admit, that the thought of “just one date” crossed my mind. I think I held the record for “length of time without a date and/or boyfriend” in my church. I passed on the offer of one man, who invited me to see my first ‘R’ rated movie. I passed on several such opportunities because those men weren’t Christians. I began dating a guy my age, thinking he was a Christian, only to be rudely awakened to the harsh reality that he most certainly was not. Shortly after, the Lord blessed me with a wonderful, smart, handsome CHRISTIAN man. We have been married almost 17 years. I’m so glad I resisted the temptation to be “unequally yoked”.

At our last church, one of our faithful ladies admitted to me that her marriage of then twelve years, was unequal – her husband was lost. She knew it when she married him. The pastor who married them told her it was wrong, but then proceeded to do the wedding!  Three years into our ministry, this woman would leave our church. Shortly after that, she divorced the lost man and married another man. Perhaps the first marriage wasn’t unequal after all? This story is far from uncommon in our Baptist churches today. The following two sermons by Bro. Adam Nixon are by far the best I’ve heard on this topic. My husband shared them with me, and I am happy to pass them along to you. They come to you all the way from London, England, and are worth every moment of your time.

 

 

With many blessings,

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Loved, Valerie

It was a typo. I was writing an email to my sister and I began it with “Hell, Melanie!”. I didn’t notice it, nor did she. When  she replied, I saw my original message, and my glaring mistake. What a difference one letter makes! Just the other day, something similar happened, only this time I caught the error before clicking “send”. I was trying to close my email to a friend by writing “Love, Valerie”. Instead, I wrote “Loved, Valerie”.  As I quickly backspaced the extra ‘d’, I realized that it was true. I am “loved Valerie”. I am loved by the Savior Who died upon a wooden cross to save my soul. I am loved by the person I was writing – what a joy! I am loved by my mom and dad (even though he’s in Heaven, I know he loves me) and my sister. I am loved deeply by my husband. I have five children who regularly say or do kind things to show their love for me. It thrilled my heart to count the people by whom I am loved. I love them, too.

I go through each day being really hard on myself. I mentally criticize my ability to be a wife and mother. I beat myself up for past sins and mistakes. I despise the way I look, especially my dress size. I analyze conversations after the fact and think how stupid I must have sounded. I even sometimes re-read blog posts and decide, that yes, it’s official: I’m an idiot.

It’s the truth, you know. I mess up a lot. I’m far from perfect in word, action, or appearance. But in spite of all of that, I am loved.

And so are you.

Loved and with love,

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