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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Don’t Get Panicky, Ethel

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“Now, don’t get panicky, Ethel!” exclaimed a very panicky Lucy Ricardo to a calm, composed Ethel when she comes into Lucy’s cluttered apartment in a classic episode of I Love Lucy. In “Off to Florida”, Lucy and Ethel are supposed to join Ricky and Fred in the sunshine state, but Lucy loses the train tickets the day of their departure! Lucy’s been frantically searching every nook and cranny of her home in search of those tickets. Her wide eyes, short breaths and frenzied behavior are classic symptoms of panic. And, while Lucy’s symptoms are hilarious to watch, I know from experience that in real life, it’s not so funny.

A year ago, I was scheduled to go to Chicago to speak at a ladies conference. My topic was “peace”. My problem was that I didn’t have much of it. At the last minute, I got scared of flying. I began to imagine  every possible scenario where “death” was the final result. I was traveling alone, so I could give my imagination my full attention. I wasn’t used to that. I am used to being around five kids all day, being questioned non-stop, and doing 5,741 chores a day. Being alone with no questions or chores was new. Needless to say, I allowed my imagination to carry me off into the sunset. I spent two very sleepless nights, and barely got home in one piece. The worst part, even now, is knowing that I was absolutely no help to those sweet ladies in Chicago. In fact, I’m afraid that my anxiety was a distraction.

Fast forward to this year  – nearly the same thing happened again, only this time, it wasn’t about flying, it was about my health. In the night, when my thoughts and I were alone, I turned minor health issues into terminal illness. In each situation, my breathing came in short, shallow puffs, my heart pounded as though I were running a race and I just knew that death was near. The interesting part about both times was that I wasn’t frightened about where I’d go when I’d die. I knew I’d be with the Lord. I was panicky for my family. Thoughts like, “What will they do?” or “Will they forget me?” or “Will someone else raise them?”” filled my brain. These thoughts just compounded my problem.

I’m a little nervous about even sharing my story , because any rebuke or Phariseeical remarks will hurt deeply. But, maybe God can use my distress to help others. Since last September, I’ve read several books by Christians on anxiety, worry and depression, so I know I’m not the only  Christian lady to walk this path. Perhaps this post can help that lady who suffers in silence, the one who cries alone in her bathroom, who begs God for relief, only to get no immediate answer. I want to say that there is hope.

First of all, I have not arrived at a permanent solution. In fact, that was my first mistake – I expected complete  healing. I would have a few good days, thinking the anxiety was in my past for good! Then, I’d take a nosedive. When that happened, I would give up hope, allowing the anxiety to return with greater efficacy. I’m kind of a “all or nothing” kind of gal. The Lord is teaching me to be a “one minute, one hour, one day at a time” kind of gal.

Here are the steps to peace that God has given me in the last year.

The first step was realizing I had backslidden in my prayer life. In fact, I was hardly praying at all. I had convinced myself that God knows everything and He knows what’s best, so why pray?  He’ll take care of things. The issue was that my attitude, while recognizing God’s sovereignty and wisdom, was an attitude of disobedience! He tells me to pray (Matt. 26:41; Luke 11:1-3; Luke 18:1; 1 Thess. 5:17 and many more), so I should pray. The Lord so gently and lovingly guided me – because I was crying out to Him about my anxiety. Most of my  prayers  were, “Help me, Lord! What’s wrong with me?” I’m here to say that He answers the prayer of the panicky.

His answer came this way: My husband had renewed his subscription to Tabletalk magazine. With that renewal came a free gift, a copy of “Does Prayer Change Things?” by R.C. Sproul. I held the book in my hands, already having felt pricked by the Holy Spirit for my indifferent attitude about prayer. As soon as I saw it, I knew I should read that little book. Through various statements and scriptures, I fell under conviction about my lazy prayer life. I asked God to forgive me, and to help me pray. I even wrote a blog post about it, and gave away a copy of that book to a dear reader. Then, just four days after I wrote that blog post, a wonderful pastor and friend of our family came to preach at our church. His sermon that Sunday morning? That’s right, it was on prayer! I wept and rejoiced at how God was answering the cry of my heart. It was like He had come to sit beside me at church that morning and personally answer my questions and guide me. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes! I began implementing a more systematic prayer schedule each morning, even if it meant getting up a little earlier. I already read my Bible every day, but my prayer time was easy to push aside. Talking to God faithfully each morning has helped me more than words can say! I have seen answers to prayer almost daily, but most of all, I’m keeping my sins confessed. (It’s amazing how quickly I can covet something in my mind or think a hateful thought about someone!) I have finally found the peace that I was missing in Chicago.

The second step was exercising outdoors. I’ve always exercised regularly by doing indoor aerobics. When I had little children and Terry was at work, I couldn’t leave them to go for a walk. There were too many of them to take with me if I wanted to go fast, so I did DVDs in my bedroom. Last June, Terry and I started doing the couch-to-5K app. The sunshine and fresh air gets my day started off right. An added bonus is getting to see God’s creation wake up each morning. It reminds me of how tiny I am compared to Him, and yet He loves me – yes, even when I panic.

The third step was reading a book. Several weeks ago, my sister recommended to me the book Loving God with All Your Mind, by Elizabeth George. It was as though God put that book in my lap to answer the remaining questions I had. I had been praying, “Lord, show me what to do. Do I need medication?”  I am fully aware that some hormonal conditions require medication. I’ve been on medicine in the past, and am not opposed to it. Like most people, I want medication to be a last resort. Terry and I prayed about my issues and I picked a doctor from the phone book. She was not kind and I left her office in tears. I took that as God saying “No” about medication for the time being. I was back to square one. That’s when I remembered that book! Before I even picked it up, the Holy Spirit reminded me of 2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; If only I could control my thoughts better! My thought life seemed to carry me away on wings and lead me off to worlds of worry! I wanted to apply that verse, but how? How can I bring something “captive” that I can’t even touch? The first chapter in Mrs. George’s book held my answer. She shares her own struggle with depression and that her thoughts were the problem. She began memorizing Phil. 4:8 while doing dishes. It says, Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. One day, like a bolt from the blue, she realized that her fearful thoughts came from thinking about things that were not true. That was the part of the verse she focused on. If she started thinking the “what if” thoughts, she would stop and ask herself, “Is this true?” Well, most “what ifs” are useless, they are not true. She talked about how she got depressed thinking about the past, and fretting over the “if onlys” of life. But, the past was no longer real, it was over. She began putting her thoughts up against the “Is this true?” test on a daily basis. Soon, she was reining in her thoughts and only dwelling on the real, the true, the “right now”. This was my answer – this is how I could bring my thoughts into captivity! I began working on this around the first of October, and in these past few weeks, I have seen God change my thought life.

But what about real problems? I have a few of those. I have a few family members who seem to hate me, and no amount of apologizing, explaining or loving can shake them from their position. To say that it’s caused stress in my life is an understatement. It’s been the source of much of my anxiety, sleepless nights, tears and heart palpitations. I want everyone (especially my family) to like me, so not being able to fix this hurts tremendously.The fourth step is learning to let go of that which I cannot control. I’m learning (on a daily basis) to take the real problems to the Lord each day in prayer, and leave them with Him. He holds the situation tightly and knows just how to handle it. When I start to stress about this, or any other real problem, I think of it like this: What if I read the paper and saw that another crisis similar to that of the Apollo XIII disaster was happening right now in space. What could I do? Could I rush down to Houston, roll up my sleeves and start doing physics? Umm…no. I can’t do physics. Even if I were a scientist, I don’t work for NASA. They would’t even let me on the property! It’s out of my league! Some problems are like physics. I don’t understand them; they are simply out of my league. All I can do is pray and trust God. And I’m learning that trusting God is enough.

I still experience ups and downs. Some days, my tears still flow, and I feel alone, afraid and desperate all over again. But that’s the last step, knowing that ups and downs do not equal failure. I am trying to foresee thought patterns and prepare for them. For example, each time a family member visits, I might think, “This could be the last time I see them!” That naturally causes me to start feeling unnecessary grief. Since I know how I am, I’m preparing myself for those emotions in advance. My answer is quickly becoming my new motto: “Is that true?” Did the Lord come down and say that that would be the last time I’ll see them? Of course not!  When those thoughts come, I’m ready. I think. I’m taking it one day at a time.

Recently, my husband preached a message on trusting God. It was very good teaching from the Bible, but the last sentence of the sermon has stayed with me. He said, “Even if you choose to worry your way through life, the Lord will still be the same and He will still do the same. His faithfulness to you is unwavering, even when your faith in Him is weak.” That’s my security, and it’s been there all the time. My sanity and peace of mind do not depend on me. Yes, I want to develop godly habits and do right, but I will fail. It’s so comforting to know that He never fails.

Sometimes, my husband helps me through the hard times, when the panic is just beneath the surface of my mind. His words of wisdom?

“Don’t get panicky, Ethel.”

And it works every time.

With love,

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Glazed Lemon Cake

This may be more of a spring-time dessert, but I like it all year round, and so does my family. It has a tangy-sweet combination that will make your mouth water. It even makes a nice breakfast cake…which is  totally wrong, but I confess, I have indulged once. Or tw–enty times. Okay, enough about that. I hope you like this cake as much as we do!

Lemoncake

Ingredients:

Cake:

1 package white cake mix

1 package (3.4 oz.) instant lemon pudding mix

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 cup lemon-lime soda

Glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 in. x 13 in. x 2 in. pan. In a mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, oil and eggs; beat on medium speed for one minute. Gradually beat in soda. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30-45 minutes until cake springs back when lightly touched in the center.

To prepare glaze, combine confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice until smooth, carefully spread over warm cake.  All that’s left is for you to slice it, take a bite and savor each moist, scrumptious morsel.

With love,

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Soccer {Autumn 2014}

We just completed our third season of soccer with our homeschool group. It was a great year. Each of the kids enjoyed practicing and seeing friends. Terry got to coach the U10 group this season, and he absolutely loved it!

I loved getting to watch and cheer.

And take pictures.

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This year, our homeschool group was able to get jerseys for soccer! Matt’s age group is still too small for jerseys, but he’ll be there soon enough. We had more blue than red in our family this year.

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On the day of Matt’s game, he wasn’t feeling well. I think it bothered him that I was there to watch him play and take photos. Anyway, for whatever reason, he didn’t want to play, so this is the only photo I got of him that day.

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Laci and Leslie were against each other for their big game. It was the same day as Matthew’s game, so he came over and cheered for them. Laci enjoyed being the goalie for part of the game.

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Leslie (in the white headband) is running with determination.

 Laci

Laci is no slouch on the soccer team, either. She’s wearing an Army USO bandanna for a headband. I love her style.

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As the “unofficial” U10 photographer, I got to take photos of the whole group. They are sweet kiddos.

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The red team won!

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The blue team was defeated by only one point, and that point was scored in the final seconds of the game! Both teams played very well.

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Thank you to our coaches and players for a great fall season of U10 soccer!

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I wasn’t able to be at Mitchell’s big game, but Terry took photos for me and I was there in spirit. Unfortunately, Terry isn’t as “shutter happy” as I am, so there weren’t many photos of his game. From the few photos I have, it looks like he played his heart out.

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Mitch

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Lauren loves soccer. She is a great goalie. She was ready for the ball in this photo, but she *just* missed it. It was a big disappointment.

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She takes the game very seriously. Here she is despairing over the point the blue team scored. I assured her it’s a team sport; that the ball got past at least two defenders before it got to her. But she’s a perfectionist, which means that she’s hard on herself.

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She took several falls like this on game day, but she did’t get hurt. I wasn’t even worried because I know how tough she is. Tough physically, and strong emotionally. She must get those qualities from her dad, because I’m kind of a weakling. She definitely gave the red team all that she had.

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Laci encouraging Lauren at half-time.

This last photo sums up what I think a family is, or should be. Your family should be there to pick you up when you’re down and cheer for you when you’re up. I hope that’s what our family will always be.

Thanks for reading.

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Driving is Like Life

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) ~ Ephesians 2:4-5

I was just trying to make a quick trip to Hobby Lobby. It’s only a few miles from my house. I didn’t mean to block the ambulance, or pull out in front of that lady in the parking lot. I had moved out of the way for one  ambulance traveling the same direction as I was. I didn’t see the one coming from the opposite direction until I was…well…sort of in the way. I hurried to the other lane and said “I’m sorry” to myself, because the driver could not see me. I then proceeded on my way, feeling like everyone was looking at me, snickering and pointing, saying, “That’s the lady who can’t even get out of the way for an blaring ambulance!” I’ve been in an ambulance before with my little boy, and believe me, I respect them. It didn’t look like it today. I was so embarrassed. Then, the lady in the parking lot came completely out of the blue. I tried to brake, but it was too late, I was out there, committed – I couldn’t stop. I waved and mouthed “I’m sorry!”. She waved politely and seemed nonplussed. I wanted to sink into my seat and disappear. But I had to keep going.

As I drove home, I thought about my bad driving, which my husband would say is my normal, and realized that driving is like life. I messed up on the road today (even more than normal, Terry). I sometimes go slowly because I don’t know exactly where I am. This can lead to suddenly stopping, or having to turn around, or pausing on green lights while I mull over my surroundings. I’m sure people have pounded their steering wheels behind me and said things like “Come on, GRANNY! Move!” or “Don’t you know how to drive, dummy?” They think that because I have Oklahoma plates that I’m from here. They may think I’ve grown up here *gasp* and should know better. Or maybe think that because I’m a living, breathing member of the human race and well over age twenty-one, I should know how to drive. But they don’t know me. They get impatient. They honk their horns, roll their eyes and shout expletives. They judge me by my driving, which often isn’t what it should be.

So why am I writing this, sharing with my readers that I’m a terrible driver? Because I think that this applies to the Christian life. We judge people and their levels of Christianity by their appearance. “I saw her wearing that immodest outfit once! It was way too low!” (Or too tight, or too short or too whatever).”He has shaggy hair. He’s a rebel.” “I heard him cuss once!” “Oh, she listens to that?” – Or goes there, or says that or does that…the list is endless. Look, I’m guilty too. I catch myself thinking that because someone claims to be a Christian – they’ve got the license plate – that they should know everything. Actually, I get to thinking that they should be like ME. I forget that the goal is to be like CHRIST. Maybe they just messed up? Maybe they are new to the Christian life? Maybe they have a heart of sincere love and worship for God, but since we can’t see the heart, we don’t know that about them. Maybe they deserve a little mercy from us, and patience. And instead of criticism, maybe some prayer?

I know my bad driving days are far from over. I just pray God will protect me – and those around me! – and that others will be a little patient; a little understanding of the new girl in town who sometimes goes a little fast on left hand turns. I am trying to do better, just like most Christians.

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The Truth About Sin

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I’m in the middle of seven books. I know. That’s ridiculous. I’m sure you’re thinking that I’m terribly forgetful or suffering from ADD. It’s probably more of a combination of the two. If a book is hard, then I go slowly through it, so it causes me to pause a lot and I end up reading a review of  another book that sounds interesting so I give it a whirl. Or someone gives me a book. Or someone makes a suggestion about a book, so I look for it online, get it, and start reading that one, not realizing that the pile is growing. Before long, I’ve got seven books beside my bed and I’m scurrying to renew books online…it’s a crazy life. I do eventually finish the books and let others know my opinion (like it matters! Ha!).

I love reading fiction, but I also love biographies and books on spiritual topics, too. My sister suggested a book called Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George, so I’m adding it to my pile. A friend at church recommended The Invisible Hand: Do all Things Really Work for Good? by R.C. Sproul and if you read my blog, you know I love his books! Another friend in church recommended a book called Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. I’d heard of him, but never read one of his books. Well, I am now. It’s one of “the seven” and let me tell you, it’s great. Something I read this week smote me between the eyes. And yes,I just used the word “smote”, that’s another reason to worry about me. Anyway, here’s the quote that I just have to share:

Sin lives in a costume; that’s why it’s so hard to recognize. The fact that sin looks so good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life in a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party.  Impatient yelling wears the costume of zeal for truth. Lust can masquerade as love for beauty. Gossip does its evil work by living in the costume of concern and prayer. Craving for power and control wears the mask of biblical leadership. Fear of man gets dressed up as a servant heart. The pride of always being right masquerades as love for biblical wisdom. Evil simply doesn’t present itself as evil, which is part of its draw.

from Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, page 32.

I read that paragraph, and stopped. (This is one of the books I’m taking slowly.) I rolled the words around in my mind. I’m ashamed to admit that I often catch myself thinking “I’m doing okay on the not-sinning-a-lot thing.” And maybe I am, on the outside, but my heart is nowhere near sinless. The words above hurt, but they are also helping me as I continue to mediate on them. I’m a sinner, yes, no argument there! But I’ve been saved from that sin by a sinless, holy, perfect Savior. I don’t want to wallow in sin, or self-pity for that sin. I want to confess it and trust a risen Savior for grace to do better.

These words have given me food for thought for several days. Maybe they will bless you as they have me.

With love,

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