Salvation: An Amazing Orchestra of One

I was thinking about how wonderful it is to know the Lord. What a joy to call Jesus my Savior and my friend! To have a relationship with the Creator of the universe is mind boggling.

I started thinking about how Christ paid such a great price for my soul. He called me – He knew me, and wanted me – long before the foundation of the world! He drew me with His grace, regenerating me (making me alive), showing me my sinful state and then redeeming me. I didn’t pray the “right words” or go to the “right church”. I didn’t pledge to do good for the rest of my days.

I did nothing.

He did everything.

It was like walking into a lovely orchestra hall, sitting on a velvet cushion, feeling relaxed and peaceful. Then, out of the silence and darkness, comes the loveliest music in the world. I am not a musician. For me, attending a concert is sheer enjoyment. No stress. No nerves. No fear. No worry. Just resting in their talent. Trusting that they have prepared, that they have practiced and that they are ready. And reaping the blessings of their hard work.

In salvation, Christ plays the lovely symphony of salvation. I do nothing, yet I receive all the benefits. Words fail me to adequately express my gratitude for the Father’s unspeakable gift – His own Son – Who gave His all for my worthless soul! I believe the prophet Isaiah says it best:

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. ~ Isaiah 61:10

With love,

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I Love My Job!

This past week, I was hired – yes, HIRED! – by my church to be Terry’s secretary. My duties will include typing, filing, organizing, mailing, filling orders for The Watchman, printing the church bulletin and anything else my man needs me to do.

I have been praying for God to send Terry a secretary. For a while, the former pastor’s wife, Mrs. Mary Keener, was helping Terry fill Watchman orders. But the Lord recently moved her to south Texas to live near her daughter. We are so happy that she’s with her family, but we miss her presence. She was always looking for ways to be used. I recently began praying about it again, when the thought came to me: “Why don’t you do it?” I am busy during the school year with the children’s education, but my summer is flexible. I will only be working part-time, but I am looking forward to it. It’s one way I can be a better “helpmeet” to my husband, and amazingly, the church will even pay me to do this! It is a great blessing.

So far, we have re-organized the main church office. It used to house our church’s library, but Terry built shelves in a separate room for the library. This has freed up a lot of space!

Before:

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Terry building shelves.

After:

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The new library!

He will be adding another shelf that will be to the right of this one. We are also blessed to have a librarian in our church – a real one – who is going to help us get it all in order. The nice thing about the new location for the books, is that they are next door to the pastor’s office. ;)

We are currently re-organizing Terry’s office, and that’s been a big job!

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One of my jobs is using this postage machine. I just love using it! Yes, I’m crazy.

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Here is some work that will be tackled after I finish with Terry’s office. I will be collating a book by Arthur Pink, scanning another book to send to someone and doing some filing.

And you know what? I can’t wait! I am so thankful to get paid to work in the house of the Lord. It is a privilege.

In other news, I may be away from the blog for a while. I’m now even busier than normal, and, I’m not sure if blogging is something I should continue to do. I want to be a blessing, but with fewer and fewer readers, I don’t think I am very successful at that. But maybe I shouldn’t worry about the number of readers and just write for whomever may drop by? Anyway, I don’t know what to do. I suppose it’s silly to pray about a blog, but that’s what I’ll be doing. I want to use my time, my life, wisely and for the Lord.

Thank you for your time.

With love,

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Just Keep Growing

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I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. ~ John 15:5

Summer has arrived! This year, our area has been blessed with bountiful rainfall. It took a massive flood to end a five year drought here. We have been mowing and clipping and weed-pulling for weeks now. It seems like I can trim the hedges, go inside for a drink of water, step back outside and it’s time to trim them again!

As I was clipping the hedges two nights ago, I thought about how the Lord has had to prune me over the years, and will need to do so again. It’s unpleasant to feel the blade go through the excess in my life, forcibly removing it, but it’s needful.

As a child, my parents did a lot of “pruning” on me. So did my teachers at school and other adults in my church. I was an outgoing, outspoken child. Every body felt like they could help me, but oh! How it hurt! I often went home in tears, feeling defeated and hopeless. But this was of the Lord. Had I not faced such criticism, I would not have come to know the Lord at all. He used that to allow me to see the “wretched man that I am” [Rom. 7:24]. When the Lord quickened me on June 12, 1993, I came to Him with nothing to offer. And I discovered that that is just the kind of person He wants! He calls the one who is broken, sick, and useless.

One thing about my shrubs is that they never stop growing. No matter how much I clip off, and regardless of the tool I use, they keep growing. As long as they live they will continue their growth, and I’ll continue my trimming, because I love the way manicured shrubs look in front of the house.

As Christians, we, too, should not stop growing despite being “pruned”. People will criticize us. It’s a fact. Will we listen, and weigh their criticism against the Bible? Or pull back from it and let our branches grow wild? I know from experience that the truth can cut deeply. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel that stabbing pain in your soul. We should accept it as from the Lord, ask Him for help to do better, and keep growing. One day, you’ll find beautiful fruit or flowers on your branches, then all that pruning will be worth it.

May we turn our shattered hearts to the Son and just keep growing.

With love,

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Father’s Day {2015}

I am so thankful to have such a godly man to be the father of my children. He is a friend, counselor, driving coach, leader, listener, pancake master II (my dad was the first), grilling guru, bicycle mechanic, trail guide, financial provider, soccer coach, and MORE! I can’t begin to list all the ways in which my husband cares for his five children. He loves them deeply, and it shows.

Happy Father’s Day, the greatest man alive. We love you!

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The annual Father’s Day photo.

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Our gift to him was a coffee cup with a recent photo of the kids on it. They each made him a card, too.

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I would like to honor my dad’s memory, too. I’m sorry to keep re-posting the same photos of him over and over, but, due to lack of digital technology when I was young, I just don’t have that many to share. Thank you so much for your patience.

I live every day hoping to be the girl – I mean lady – that my dad would want me to be. He etched himself upon my heart, and for that I am truly grateful.

With love,

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Land of Lincoln {and Other Men I Love}

After a week-long stay with Terry’s parents in Ohio, it was time to head home. I had briefly entertained the idea of swinging off our regular route to visit Springfield, Illinois, and the Lincoln Home and Museum, but after almost two weeks on the road, I didn’t think my man would go for it. But, I’m married to a great guy, and that’s exactly what we did! Thus began our journey to the Land of Lincoln.

We left Ohio around 7 AM and arrived in Springfield at noon. (It helped that we gained an hour in Illinois.) We got to eat lunch at a family favorite, Steak ‘n Shake!

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After that, we went to see the Lincoln Home. It’s free, but you have to pick up your tickets at the visitor’s center and get a reserved tour time. The visitor’s center had re-creations of the furnishings of the home so you could touch them and feel them. We could feel the horse hair chair cushion and the brass doorknobs. Obviously, the actual items were off limits on the tour, but this was a great idea! All museums should have this feature.

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One nice thing about the Lincoln Home, is that photos were allowed! I couldn’t use a flash, but that was not a problem thanks to Photoshop. Here are some of my favorites:

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The home is draped with black bunting in honor of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. The curators said they have to be careful because any extra weight – even just this bunting – can damage the structure.

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This the front parlor, or formal parlor, where Lincoln decided to accept the *first* Republican nomination for president. Children were never allowed in this room.

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More of the parlor. The chairs and sofa actually belonged to the Lincolns!

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This is the informal sitting room.

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Sorry for the small, poor quality photo. This was the actual hand rail that the Lincolns used! It was the only thing we were allowed to touch that they had touched.

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The original “Lincoln Bedroom”.

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The Lincoln’s had separate bedrooms, this one belonged to Mary.

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The boys’ room.

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The kitchen, where Mary Todd Lincoln developed a love of cooking. Growing up in a wealthy family, this was a skill  she had not perfected until she married a poor lawyer and moved to Illinois.

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Mary Lincoln’s stove!

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The dining room.

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The back yard.

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Laci wanted to make a donation. She was shocked last year when she read a book about Lincoln and heard he had been murdered.

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After our Lincoln Home tour, we decided to check out the other Lincoln-related sites in the area. We discovered that there were plenty! We could probably still be there exploring, but we decided that we couldn’t afford a move right now. Our first stop was the Lincoln Museum. It is probably the best all-round presidential museum I’ve seen so far. They had lots of realistic wax figures, like the ones below:

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The museum is divided up into his log cabin years, his lawyer years, and his White House years. In the White House section, you can see a huge display of critical cartoons and comments that the newspapers of his day wrote. He is a legend today, but back then, he was a hated President. You can also see several artifacts of Lincoln’s, including books, notes, and blood-stained gloves from the night he was assassinated. The museum also offers two excellent theater presentations: The Ghosts of the Library and Lincoln’s Eyes. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say if you can tour this museum you and your children (or grandchildren) will love it!

My kids’ favorite section of the museum was Mary Lincoln’s Attic, where they could play and dress-up in antebellum attire.

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This Lincoln Home dollhouse can be yours for $400! The little ones loved it!

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The museum closed at 5 PM, so after picking out a few souvenirs, Terry said he wanted to visit the State Capitol. You see, not only is Illinois the “Land of Lincoln”, but it’s also the “Land of Terry and Ron”. Terry was born in Mattoon, Illinois, and my dad was born in Murphysboro, Illinois. My Grandfather Courtney, who died before my parents’ marriage,  was also born in Illinois. My dad would often recall his dad’s words, “Illinois is the greatest state in the union!” Granddad had to move often due to his job as a railroad foreman and they ended up in Conway, Arkansas. But Granddad, and Dad, loved Illinois to the end.

It’s altogether fitting that I learn some history of  my dad’s birth state. Dad is the one who sparked my interest in history to begin with. He loved reading books about the Presidents to me when I was young and he would share historical tidbits of his own. I miss him.

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We were unable to tour the inside of the capitol because they had closed for the day, so Terry said we’ll just have to go back sometime. I took several photos and couldn’t decide which one to use, so I’m sharing all of them.

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Senator Douglas – famous for his debates with Lincoln – is honored right in front of the building.

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After the group photo, Matt discovered that the Douglas monument also makes a nice slide!

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Betcha didn’t know the Liberty Bell was in Springfield!

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After seeing the capitol, we decided to visit Lincoln’s tomb on our way out of town. It’s quite impressive!

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The top of the mausoleum.

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If there is a statue of Lincoln in the United States, it has a miniature version inside his crypt. This one is located at his birthplace, Hodgenville, Kentucky. It was interesting to see how many statues of Lincoln there are across the nation!

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On our way out, we met these reenactors. Across from Lincoln’s tomb, they fire a Civil War cannon and lower a flag to award to a member of the audience each Tuesday evening in the summer. We were unable to stay for that, but if you’re in the area, you might want to go. This man told us all about Civil War weapons and allowed us each to hold his rifle, which was actually used in the Civil War. It was very heavy. I can only imagine what it was like to carry it all day in battle, load it and fire it. I’m thankful those days are history, because they were awful. This lady answered questions about the clothing of that day. I’m glad that that, too, is history!

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Here’s to history, and to Dad.

With love,

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I Like Ohio

After our tearful goodbye to loved ones in North Carolina, it was a blessing to have something fun to look forward to. Our next stop was Ohio. We enjoyed seeing Terry’s parents and his grandma. Granddad made Matt three awesome guns. Grandma and Great Grandma took the girls shopping, and we all enjoyed lots of fellowship together. Terry was also able to preach for his dad, who pastors New Life Baptist Church in Plain City, Ohio. (I always love to hear my favorite preacher!)

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Matt with one of the guns made by Granddad. I didn’t know my father-in-law could do such fancy woodwork!

We also got to visit a place called “The Wilds” with my in-laws and several of their church members. It is a part of the Columbus Zoo and is located near Zanesville, Ohio. I would describe it as a “mini safari”. We rode in a bus that had the roof replaced with canopy. The sides of it were open so you could get a close-up look at a variety of animals. I snapped 300 hundred photos that day – but I’m only sharing my favorites.

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Here’s our entire group – minus Terry, who took the photo.

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Here’s the group with Terry.

My in-laws are blessed with a great church family! I felt like I was a part of it, too, and I hadn’t been there for three years!

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This is a Sichuan Takin, which until that day, I didn’t know existed.

Trivia: Can you guess which cartoon character Disney created in the image of this creature?

The answer is located in the comments. Let me know what your guess is!

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Matthew loved talking to Grandma…even though our tour guide was talking, too.

I can’t imagine who he gets that from.

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The White Rhino family!


rhino-babyThe baby started nursing while our group was there.


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Doesn’t this male ostrich look angry? He was ornery, too! He stayed by the gate for several minutes preventing our bus from leaving.

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He came right up to our bus, looking for something to eat. He nibbled at the window, and then swallowed, like he’d eaten something!

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I have seen bison several times because we live close to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, but seeing a newborn was something special! We saw this brand-new baby bison nursing, and our tour guide had to radio HQ that the American Buffalo family had grown.

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I liked this photo of the zebras. I think it needs a caption. Any ideas?

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He must not have liked my having a zoom lens pointed his way, because he did this and my allergies went as wild as the animals.

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“That’ll teach ya to git that thang outta my face!”sunset
I tried to capture a breath-taking sunset at my in-laws’ house, but alas, my skills as a photographer just aren’t to that level yet. It’s too blue. Or too dark. Too… something.

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 I like it though.

And I like Ohio.

Thanks for being here.

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The Indomitable Miss Heather

On April 17, I was surprised to receive a phone call from one of our librarians. Miss Beth, as we call her, has been the assistant to our head children’s librarian, Heather Everett, since we moved here two years ago. She called to say that Miss Heather had resigned because her cancer had returned. She was terminal. The doctors couldn’t say how long she would live, but it didn’t seem as though it could be very much longer. She had moved from our town to Oklahoma City to be with her parents.

I was devastated. I knew Miss Heather had health concerns. She lacked the use of the right side of her body and of her neck. But, she drove a car, had several college degrees, and a cheerful personality. I had assumed her disabilities were from a birth defect. I never imagined it was from an inoperable cancerous tumor on her spine that she had had since childhood.

It was very hard to tell Lauren and Mitchell this terrible news. They had both worked with her as library volunteers over the summers since we came here. In fact, the first thing we did after unpacking was get our new library cards; it’s one of our favorite places to go.

On May 25, Miss Beth was kind enough to text us that Miss Heather had died that day. I was thankful that we were surrounded by our family in North Carolina when we heard this news. It helped lessen the pain. But I still can’t pass by her desk without thinking of her, and missing her.

I’m glad my children had the honor of knowing Miss Heather, and of working with her. I was glad to hear through a mutual friend that Heather genuinely liked my children, and that they had had a good testimony while they were under her supervision. My children never let Miss Heather’s disabilities hinder their friendship with her, and Heather didn’t either.

I learned several things from this event in our lives, some of which I knew, but needed the reminder:

Don’t take friends for granted. I had no idea the day I discussed books and asthma and twelve-year-old boys with Heather at the library that it would be my last conversation with her. I wish I had said something more important, something about the Lord.

Children can be witnesses, too. I was comforted to hear that Mitchell had invited Heather to church and discussed church with her.

There are no excuses. Scott Hamilton said, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” I believe that. No matter what challenges we are facing, we can choose to get up, keep going, and keep helping others if we want to. Heather never let her illness stop her from living her life and from being joyful in the process. It took death to stop her from living. So many people are kept from life by far less, myself included.

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Mitchell had this photo of Miss Heather on his camera. It is from last summer, 2014.

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Miss Heather’s parking spot at our library.

It just isn’t the same without her.

With love,

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