Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is Halloween OK?

This is in response to some messages I received via social media tonight after posting pics of a six year old Iron Man, and a three year old Bumblebee, and a Mommy (me) with a cat mask on...

We don't celebrate Halloween in our home.
We celebrate freedom in our home.
We believe we are to share the good news of Christ with others.
What other time of the year do people knock on your door to get something free?
Give them the FREE good news of Christ with their FREE candy.

We always dressed up when I was little.
Creepy, scary, or bloody costumes were never allowed.
They will not be allowed in our home either.
...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Phil. 4:8

Our Children are only tiny for a short time.
I love to see the joy on my children's faces when they put on their costumes for the first time.
We love spending time together as a family.
We have some of the greatest family memories of Halloween.
The overflow of candy in our home is used as a tool to teach giving and sharing.

I believe in taking a stand against evil forces aka: spiritual warfare.
Romans 12:21 (NIRV) Don't let evil overcome you. Overcome evil by doing good.
 John 10:10 (NIV84) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Some Christians think we are sinning by participating.
I don't really care what they think, because I live under and IN HIS truth.

This year, Halloween was a good distraction for my kids.
This year, everyone who knocked on our door got invited to church.
This year, people noticed our JOY, HIS JOY, Joy that doesn't come from candy, or worldly things! 
This year, we prayed for the people that would come to our home, before they arrived.
This year, my children got to SEE what evangelism is about, when a bloody zombie came to the door.


Do you think Jesus would be mad about that?
I don't.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

He is my Home


I'm thinking that I have too many things to post about that I just sit here night after night and don't know where to begin.  I've started making a list of things to blog about.  There are so many stories to tell.  Miracles have happened.  Funny, silly, sad, hard, and wonderful things have happened.  I guess I'll just start with this story for tonight because it's fresh on my mind...


We spent the last weekend at my parents.  There are lots of stories and photos to share from our wonderful weekend on the farm I grew up on (I'll post pics later).  When I was a child I took for granted what I had, as most of us probably did.  Here is a little bit of background that you may or may not know about me.  I had the privilege of being a pastor's daughter.  I'm the second of 4 children.  Did you know that?  My parents are still married to this day, 34 years I believe.  When I was 7 years old, my family moved from California (where I was born) to the old family place in Arkansas.  It's nestled high in the Ozark mountains, at least 30 minutes from the closest Walmart store.  I spent my youth running through all the fruit trees, mostly Apple trees, or making forts in the woods with my brothers.   We played outside every day.  We gathered eggs from the chicken coup.  We didn't have cable, or name brand clothes, but who knew?  I sure didn't!  All I knew was that my Mom stayed home with us, and my Dad preached on Sundays.  I never had to worry if we would have a meal on the table, or have water to take a bath, or a warm bed to sleep in.  I was comfortable and content.  The only problem was that I used to hate living so far away from everything and everyone.

The funny thing about that now, is that we drive almost 4 hours to escape there for the weekend.  We go to the farmhouse I grew up in.  We sleep in the 4 post bed in a room surrounded by windows, the room I packed up the night before my wedding.  We sit and look at the gorgeous view, and through the mountains to the beautiful valley below.  My kids get to play with the toys I played with and swing on the same tree I did!  We eat amazing food!  My mom is a great cook.  She always made a home-cooked meal when I was growing up.  One thing I never had a question about was whether or not we would sit down to a family meal for dinner.  Every. Single. Night. 

So, back to this weekend...

We hadn't been back to my parents since the fire.  We had plans to go the second week in August to visit, but our plans changed on August 3rd.  We had to start our lives again, get settled, and put some roots down.  Now that we are doing pretty good we finally decided to make the trip.  I was amazed how excited the kids were.  I mean, they are always excited to see their Nonny and Papa, but this was different.  Caroline asked about 6 or 8 times when we would be there.  Finally we arrived and the two kiddos were elated! A home cooked meal, pumpkin luminaries, and hugs were awaiting us.  It felt like home.

My kids ran in the house and immediately to the play room (which used to be my brothers room).  They love the old bunk beds, books, and toys galore!  Tobin left the play room and was in the kitchen talking to us.  Then I noticed something that hasn't happened since the fire.  Caroline wasn't next to my side, and wasn't screaming for me.  Panic struck me for a moment and I thought... Where could she be? Was she alright? Was she hurt?

I hurriedly ran to find her.  I checked the bathroom and then ran to the play room.  There she was, playing with the little dollhouse she had always played with.  She wasn't scared.  She didn't feel alone.  She was comfortable.  She looked up at me like I was crazy for calling for her.  Then she watched me walk away and turned back to play.  Could this be?  I had not seen her this comfortable since before the fire.  Oh, why did it take me this long to come "home" and allow her to feel safe?

The kids were happy all weekend, pretty much.  They weren't scared.  They slept well.  They were "normal" again.  Caroline didn't want to leave.  I wonder if she could have even told me why if I had asked her.  I think a part of me didn't want to hear why.  So I just said, "I know baby, neither do I, but we have to go home."  She looked down with a heavy sigh, as if to agree.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Caroline was her sweet normal self again today.  I'm hoping and praying that it lasts a while.  The days are funny around here.  Sometimes we are perfectly "normal"... whatever that may be.  Other days, some of us are sad or angry or scared.  Certain things "crush our spirit", but the Lord is always near.  He saves us.  He gives me a new thirst to seek him and know him deeper.  A year ago, I prayed that I would have a new yearning for him- a hunger and thirst to spend more time in his word.  These days I just can't get enough.  His word is my home these days, it's an old comfort that is once again new.  I'm thankful that I need him.  I've been reading James a lot lately.  It just seems to jump out at me, and then it is so obvious that the Lord has answered my prayer.  
Blessed is the man who keeps on going when times are hard. After he has come through them, he will receive a crown. The crown is life itself. God has promised it to those who love him.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Comfort Through the Storm



I had the pleasure of growing up in the Ozarks.  We moved there from California when I was 7 to a farm on a mountaintop.  I remember the first spring we were there.  We could hear thunder.  Daddy took me outside and from our mountain view we could see the lightning striking down in the valley.  I was trembling inside, scared and insecure.  Then I felt the comforting grasp of my Daddy.  He reached his arm around me and held me tight.  In the black darkness, even when I could see the storm I was calm. I was calm because my Daddy was comforting me. 
(My Daddy and Me)

Tonight at church one of the youth leaders said, “It’s a good think Caroline won’t remember the fire. She’s too young.  How could she even comprehending what went on?” 

That got me thinking.   A lot gets me thinking these days.  I started thinking about everything we have been through since the fire.  Then I remembered what I read in my quiet time today.


I Corinthians 1:

The God of All Comfort
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.


I was going to read several chapters in I Corinthians today, but I was mesmerized by this paragraph.  I read it over and over again.  The Lord uses situations in our life to help others get through similar things later.  Christ suffered so much for us, yet our comfort from him overflows.  This fire has been the hardest thing I’ve had to grieve in my life.  There may come a time where I need even more comfort than I’ve needed during this tragedy.  It is through Christ, my Abba Father, where my hope is found.  He shared in our sufferings, and he shares in our comfort.

Caroline may be young, but she gets it.  There is not a big difference between our home and our church.  We talk about God a lot.  We live out faith daily in our home.  She will tell you any day that Jesus didn’t stay dead on the cross, he is alive.  She draws crosses a lot these days, actually.   She loves to pray.  She loves to worship. 

As I have written previously, Caroline has been very uneasy and scared since the fire.  She is doing so much better these days.  Sometimes she still wakes up in the middle of the night scared.  Tony goes in there and hugs her and she goes back to sleep.  A few weeks after the fire she said, “Mommy, I wish Jesus was small and cuddly so I could sleep with him every night.  Then, I wouldn’t scared anymore”. 




Caroline knows what’s going on, as much as a 3 year old can.  The Lord knew what he was talking about when he told us to have faith like a child.  She comprehends that The Lord comforts her.  Sometimes she just needs her physical daddy to hold her.  She may help another little girl someday soon; someone who is scared or needs some kind of comfort.  It will be an opportunity for her to share how her Lord comforts her.

Part of me hopes she forgets this whole ordeal.

Part of me hopes that she remembers it all, and like my Daddy comforted me in that thunderstorm when I was a little girl, she will remember how her Abba, Daddy, Savior, Lord comforted her. 


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

To The Suspect of the Luther Fires:

I woke up this morning, ready for my day.  I had a dentist appointment and a lunch date with a Scentsy team member.  Tobin had already been dropped off at school.  Tony was sitting on the couch and I was sorting Scentsy bars on the floor.  The local morning news was on.  Then we heard these words:

"Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said police have identified arson suspects in the Luther wildfire that resulted in 2,700 acres burned and 50 homes destroyed."

I immediately stared tony in the eyes and I think we were both speechless.  I didn't hear what the news reporter said after that (to read the rest click here).  I was immediately filled with rage.  You see, I'm finally at the point when I wake up in the morning, the fire is not the first thing I think of anymore.  Why did I have to hear that now?  I continued to get ready for my day.  When I was in the car on the way to my appointment, I started praying out loud.  I had a choice to make.  I could get angry, or I could forgive.

So, if you are the person (or persons) who started the fire, or are in anyway responsible, this post is for you.  This is what I want you to know...

This is my family:


This was the porch of our home, just 300 feet away from where you threw out burning trash.  These two precious children were asleep in their beds.  They had no idea that their whole world, as they knew it, would be turned upside down.  While they were sleeping, you started the fire.



This is our home burning.  We didn't have any warning.  Our neighbor alarmed us then we fled with the clothes on our back. 


We lost everything.


We lost everything because you threw burning trash out your pick up truck and fled, like a coward.  You deserve a lot more than I can even put into words.  I cannot imagine why someone would do this.  Why would someone not even consider the consequences of his actions?  Was this a prank? Was this because you are so filled with hurt, pain, and vengeance that you wanted to destroy homes and lives?  You deserve something really bad.  So, you know what I want to do? I want to tell you about my Savior, Jesus Christ.  He was perfect, yet died on a cross over 2000 years ago to pay for our sins.  He did not stay dead.  No!  He rose from the grave three days later.  He took the punishment we deserve and paid the price for us, so we don't have to live a miserable life, or experience a miserable after-life in Hell.  That's right, even YOU.  All you have to do is believe in him.  Ask for forgiveness, with a repentant heart.  You too, can be saved.  

The truth is, all sin is the same.  Do you know what that means?  I am the same as you. I am not to judge you or compare myself to you.  I am a worthless sinner myself.  It is only by the grace of my Savior, my Redeemer, my Provider, my Healer, my Lord that I am of any value. 

I FORGIVE YOU.


I forgive you because I am filled with Joy that only comes from my Lord.  
I am praying for you. 
I am praying for your family.
I am praying for your heart, that you too will be saved.

John 3:16 (NIV84)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Staring

It's been 10 weeks since the fire.  People are starting to talk to us again.  That may sound weird.  For about a month, we felt like people were just staring at us wherever we went.  I'm sure people heard our story from their friend whose aunt goes to church with us, or they read my blog, or they may even be some of our closest friends.  It's like they didn't know what to say, so they said nothing.  We didn't really know what to say either, and we weren't going to start the conversation.  "So, did you hear our home burned down?"  What? 

People are starting to talk to us again.  They tell us my blog is ministering to them.  Some cry, when they see how well we are really doing, and they couldn't say anything to us before.  It's almost as if some people were grieving with us, but felt weird saying anything about how "they" were feeling. I'm not really sure if people were avoiding us, or if it was our perception.  It may be a little bit of both.  

One of my friends took me to coffee the other day to apologize.  I had no idea what on earth she could be sorry for.  She felt bad that she hadn't reached out to us since the fire.  She explained that she was dealing with our tragedy by escaping.  She said she was grieving.  She couldn't believe we escaped the fire with minutes to spare.  Then she said something that shocked me.  She said she had kept her distance because she was afraid to get closer to me, and actually loose me the next time. 

Do you wanna know what I told her?  Oh, I bet you do! 

This is what I'll tell you if you were to say that to me now:

Don't skip on relationships because you are afraid.  Love those you love, with all of your heart.  Tell people how you feel.  Thank them.  Encourage them.  Ask them how you can pray for them.  Be the kind of friend you want to have.  When your friend is feeling bad, go pick up her kids so she can rest.  If it's someones birthday, don't just send them a facebook message.  Call them.  Read books to your children and take them to the park.  Appreciate people while you have them.  Please also remember, after everything is said and done, no one's future is guaranteed.  This world is only temporary.  Today could be your last day on this earth.

This, my friends,  is why we need a relationship with our heavenly father.  This relationship needs to be nourished the most.  I certainly am not perfect - in fact, I'm far from it -  but I do know I have a deeper desire to know my savior more since the fire.  I don't want to get to the end of my life and wish I could have done more for others, spent more time in the word, or invited more people to church.  I don't want you to think I'm preaching at you, so I'll stop.  I want God to get the FULL glory from our story.  Although we are in awe of our survival and God's miracle on August 3rd, things on this earth do not matter. 



Psalm 39:5  
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.  Selah.



He is so Faithful.  We are so blessed to be here and know he has a greater purpose for us here on earth.  We are closer as a family.  Our priorities have been rocked.  We are grateful.  Now, go hug your friends and family and tell them you love them.

~Rachel

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What Have We Been Up To?

 We have been busy the last couple weeks. I apologize for not updating the blog sooner. I'll try to do better as the new season approaches.  This last week was spent with Lifechurch.tv staff from all over the country.  We celebrated Tony's 5 year anniversary, being on staff.  We feel so blessed to be a part of Lifechurch.tv and know, without a doubt, that we would not be where we are today without our church family.  Our family is closer, our finances better, our relationship with the Lord is better, and we love people more, and have a deeper heart for the lost.

 Our sweet Tobin turned 6, and we had a "fair" themed birthday party in the back yard.  Everyone had a great time.   Thanks to everyone who came and made his day super special.


Tony and I went to a training on how to mentor other married couples through the techniques learned at The Hideaway.  We went to The Hideaway in July, and it changed our marriage ( we didn't even know we needed it to be changed that much, but were striving to be deeper).  We have such a passion to help other married couples now. Those who are hurting or going through trials, or just stuck in the rut of every day life.   Such simple things, that come from biblical teaching, that can change a couples future.  Please be praying for us as we seek the Lord's guidance in this area of our life, and where/when the Lord would use us.


 We spent a day at the Great State Fair of Oklahoma in September.  We smelled a lot of Fried food, and look at a lot of strange, fun, and interesting sights.  We love spending time as a family, and feel so blessed we still have each other.


We had several visits from my family in Arkansas. Oh, how we miss our family!




Tobin moved to Toon Town ( our weekend class for kiddos ages 6-10) and Konnect (our wednesday night program) at church.  He LOVES It! He loves learning his verses every week, and highlighting his bible.  He earns points each week for different things. He's always over 100,000 points! His goal is a million points! 


 


A special shout-out and Thanks to Leeanne, Tony's administrative assistant ( the lady who actually makes the youth ministry at the Edmond campus run smoothly).  We could not have made it through our tragedy without her.  She spent countless hours helping us with insurance info, sorting through donations, and helping us get situated in our new home. At the same time, she was doing her "real" job at the church, making sure the youth ministry didn't slack. We appreciate you Leeanne and love you!


Tobin lost his first tooth, ad wrote the sweetest note to the tooth fairy the first week in October. He is growing up so fast. Oh, how time flies! Precious time, where does it go?



 I made the kiddos "BlueJay" clothes for the Homecoming parade, and we had a great time with some sweet new friends we met.  They loved watching all the floats, and picking up candy that was thrown at them.  We are loving our new town and settling in nicely.




 We are back into a daily/weekly routine.  Our highlight of the day is walking to school to pick up Tobin.  I'm so blessed my kids love each other so much.  I'm not sure how that happened, but I am grateful, and PRAY that continues.  Sibling relationships are so precious and special!


Today we spent the beautiful day outside together. Tony worked hard getting the yard ready for the new season, raking leaves, mowing, fertilizing, etc.. The kids "helped" him and wrote all over the driveway with chalk.  I sat on the porch and caught up on some Scentsy "work". I cannot believe I get to stay home with my kids and "work".  God has really blessed my Scentsy business the last couple months.  I'll have to write a new post, just to talk about how much God is blessing that area of my life. 




 I think that pretty much catches us up for now.  I'll try to do better updating this blog.  Thank you for the continued prayers.  Every single gift, note, email, and hug mean so much to us. It sure would be hard to move forward without all of our sweet friends and family.  We are so blessed!


~Rachel