Water Shortages and Aqueduct Projects

Edge of Sahara Desert. TunisiaIn the middle earth of nowhere’s desolate wasteland, Aqueduct Project 1someone found a spring bubbling up, and around that hot, mineralized water
an aqueduct project was born! Clear water in Aqueduct. Tunisia Water is just as essential to sustaining life as the air we breathe, but for those
of us who grew up taking clean drinking water and hot baths for granted, aqueduct projects may not seem as spectacularly vital as they truly are. Mineral encrusted reedI remember a couple of early experiences that shocked me into understanding water problems from a more global perspective. Nearing Tunisian Saraha DesertAs a teenager, I spent some time working among rural people in the mountainous region around Monterrey, Mexico, where even children were engaged in carrying water over a mile up steep slopes to help sustain their families, and a “bath” consisted of rubbing ash on the baby’s skin.  Aqueduct Project 2At 20 I taught high school in North Carolina and discovered that
a few of my students didn’t even have running water in their rustic homes. Flat barren desert in Tunisia But, it wasn’t until visiting the Sahara Desert last summer—with the sun beating down on me and nothing but sand stretching out for miles in all directions—that I finally understood the intense desperation thirsty people feel…and the lengths to which they’ll go to have their needs met. Aqueduct ProjectOn our trip to Tunisia,
the guide had us stop at one of these amazing aqueduct projects. Aqueduct Project 4 A complex structure was built to protect and transform
the water shooting up from a thermal spring. Aqueduct Project 5The precious water was air-cooled before being collected and channeled into an aqueduct that carried it miles through the desert.  Aqueduct in TunisiaWithout that aqueduct, no one could have settled in this desert region. Cracked Rock:Barren ground Spiritually, humans are no different.
Without the  the Water of Life, no spiritual life can be sustained. Aqueduct Project in TunisiaThere is an aqueduct project here in America to channel the western world’s abundant spiritual resources to parched lands around the globe.Tunisian Aqueduct It’s also called Aqueduct Project, and it’s being developed by my son,
Jonathan (about whom I wrote yesterday), and a team of students and scholars from around the world. Water in AqueductIf you have any interest in finding out more or helping out,
here’s the website: http://aqueductproject.org/ Beautiful Aqueduct. Tunisia“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

(All pictures were taken in Tunisia last summer. In case you have trouble with calcium deposits in your drinking water…note the mineral-encrusted reed!)

Rise Up, My Love (164): What’s Your Story?

Jon Brushing TeethSong of Solomon 5:9 “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” Last week I shared a little bit about my experience with Christ, but today I’d like to ask you to reflect on your story. I’ll never forget the frustration of my son Jonathan had years ago as a teenager. He had such a compulsion to preach but felt like he had “no special message.” We were going down to work at  our local rescue mission, and Jon wanted to be able to share his testimony, but he felt like he didn’t have anything to say. Now, although I never asked my children to ask Christ to save them (because I feared that they would respond just to please me at such tender ages), I did teach them the gospel from infancy, and all of the children—on their own—did want to confess their sins and ask Christ to become their Lord and Savior as preschoolers…most before their third birthday. Jonathan was two and a half when he came tiptoeing down the stairs one night after I’d tucked him into bed, very concerned that he wanted to become a Christian that night!

Now, Jonathan was always an extremely good-natured child, and although he’d once had enough testosterone in his little eighteen-month-old frame to have heaved a footstool across the living room floor (in demonstration of his masculine prowess for his toddler girlfriend), he was generally a bouncy, eager-to-please angel. The only big change I noticed immediately after his conversion was that he’d let me brush his teeth without a tussle. Up until then, he used to clamp his little jaws down on the toothbrush every time I tried to brush his teeth at night. But, the very next night after he had asked Jesus into his heart, he smiled sweetly and let me brush his teeth without fussing.

This, folks, might bring a smile to the faces of the men at the rescue mission, but I’m not sure if hearing that Jesus had enabled Jonathan to kick the toothbrush-biting habit would convince the men that Jesus has enough power to cleanse them from their addictions to heroin and alcoholism, cure their mental illnesses, or restore their broken relationships.

Do you see my point? God’s work in our life is wonderful and miraculous, whether it’s cleaning up our tooth brushing habits or our drinking habits, but it’s still His work, in His way, and in His time, and it’s incidental to what should be the true focus of our testimony. In all things, Christ should be lifted up! Some people tell very sordid stories about themselves; others are afraid to share because they’ve had such an awful past and don’t know what to say. Think of the woman at the well. She didn’t list her sins in gory detail, she simply said, “Come see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). Our testimony could be simply: “Come meet a man who healed me from all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?“

Never be afraid to speak out about Jesus and all he’s done and can do. It’s not what or how much you did that was wrong, but what he did that was right that’s important. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Are you happy and satisfied with Christ? Then you’ve got something to share!

Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for the Ninth Month, Week 39)

Baby Reid Smiling_2299267. Anticipating Needs

“And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

PRAYER: Dear Jehovah-Shammah, thank you for being our Lord who is present with us all the time! Thank you for Jesus Christ, who is our advocate, our mediator, our intercessor…the one who prays for us when no one else even knows what we need! Thank you that so often you know what we need and provide for us even before we think to ask you! Help me to be such a wise and wonderful advocate and intercessor for Baby, too! May your Holy Spirit whisper in my ear: “This is the way, walk in it!”…and bless me with the energy and grace to obey!

THOUGHT: I nursed Aaron (and all seven of my kids) last thing at night until he was over a year old. I’ve since been told that this is hard on teeth, although all seven of the kids loved the quiet, relaxed bonding ala bedtime snack. But, often babies wake up and cry to be held more after being put to bed. When the baby just couldn’t seem to settle down to sleep, I would sit beside the crib in my rocking chair, reach my hand through the slats of the crib, and gently massage the baby’s back or pat his diapered little bottom while singing softly to him.

ACTIVITY: Sometimes long songs with almost monotonous tunes are great for lulling kids to sleep, and one of my favorite for such occasions was “Over in the Meadow.” Turtle on log“Over in the Meadow”

(Written by Olive A. Wadsworth in the 1800’s) “Over in the meadow in the sand and the sun, lived an old mother turtle, and her little turtle one. ‘Dig!’ said the mother. ‘I dig,’ said the one. So they dug all day in the sand and the sun.

Over in the meadow where the stream runs blue, lived an old mother fish, and her little fishies two.‘Swim!’ said the mother. ‘We swim,’ said the two. So they swam all day where the stream runs blue.

Over in the meadow in a hole in a tree, lived an old mother bluebird, and her little birdies three. ‘Sing!’ said the mother. ‘We sing,’ said the three. So they sang and were glad in their hole in the tree.

Over in the meadow in the reeds on the shore, lived an old mother muskrat and her little ratties four. ‘Dive!’ said the mother. ‘We dive!’ said the four. So they dived and they burrowed in the reeds on the shore.

Over in the meadow in a snug beehive, lived a mother honeybee and her little bees five. ‘Buzz!’ said the mother. ‘We buzz!’ said the five. So they buzzed and they hummed in the snug beehive.

Over in the meadow in a nest built of sticks, lived a black mother crow and her little crows six. ‘Caw!’ said the mother. ‘We caw!’ said the six. So they cawed and they called in their nest built of sticks.

Over in the meadow where the grass is so even, lived a gay mother cricket and her little crickets seven. ‘Chirp!’ said the mother. ‘We chirp!’ said the seven. So they chirped cheery notes in the grass soft and even.

Over in the meadow on the old, mossy gate, lived an old mother lizard and her little lizards eight. ‘Bask!’ said the mother. ‘We bask!’ said the eight. So they basked in the sun on the old mossy gate.

Over in the meadow where the quiet pools shine, lived an old mother frog and her little froggies nine. ‘Croak!’ said the mother. ‘We croak!’ said the nine. So they croaked and they splashed where the quiet pools shine.

Over in the meadow in a sly little den, lived a gray mother spider and her little spiders ten. ‘Spin!’ said the mother. ‘We spin!’ said the ten. So they spun lacy webs in their sly little den.”

Sick mom and baby268. Sick Days

“And the people…followed him [Jesus]: and he received them, and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.” Luke 9:11

PRAYER: Oh Father, I love all the names you’ve given us in your word to help us understand more about who you are! Thank you for being “Jehovah-Rapha”…the Lord who is our healer. It is so hard to be sick, and so very, very hard to take care of Baby when I’m sick. Thank you for being our healer! Help me to be take good care of baby even when I’m feeling yukky. Please heal us quickly and completely when we get ill, and whenever I’m seriously ill, please provide others to help take care of both Baby and me.

THOUGHT: What can be done for fun when Mama is too sick to take care of everybody?

ACTIVITY: If Baby’s well enough, one special treat would be to send him off with Daddy to a McDonald’s Play Park or other fast food restaurant with an amusement area for children. Baby and Daddy can bond (and bring supper home to Mom) while Mom gets caught up on her sleep! Or, a special trip to a park with a drive-through stop for fast food on the way home works too. Babies love being “in arms” to swing, go down slides or through tunnels. In fact, most babies love tunnels and small spaces. If you find that your baby really loves the tunnel experience, there are lots of toy companies that sell vinyl tunnels for play at home Or, Daddy and Baby could make a simple supper for Mama together and then go on a “camping trip” where they eat their finger food picnic (like cheese bits, tiny crackers, apple chunks, raisins, etc.) in a tent made out of a sheet draped over a broom secured over the tops of two chairs (with a plastic sheet underneath if you’re on a carpeted surface). When Mom get’s better, she can join in the fun again.

Flower. Mom. Baby269. Of Flowers and Birds

“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” Song of Solomon 2:12

PRAYER: Dear Heavenly bridegroom—my Lord Jesus, you have been called the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valleys, and it’s been said that even your name is more fragrant than the perfume of roses and lilies. Thank you for loving us and calling us to yourself to become your bride! Thank you also for the Holy Spirit, who came like a heavenly dove to rest on Jesus and whispers in our ears. May we hear your voice singing and joying over us. Bless Baby and me with ears to hear and respond to your melodies of love!

THOUGHT: Have you taught Baby to recognize the sight and sounds of birds?Blackbird in lakeACTIVITY: When he sees one, say, “Bird!” excitedly, pointing to the bird, and then make a gesture for bird. I used to imitate birds by flapping my arms like wings, but the American Sign Language sign for “bird” is to take your forefinger and thumb and pinch them together several times with your hand close to your mouth, as if you’re imitating a bird opening and closing its beak. See if you can get Baby to imitate you. He might be able to get out a “brr” sound, but if not, he may be able to make the “bird” sign, and the next time he sees a bird, he may be able to let you know just what he sees and remembers! You might also sing this little nursery song to Baby:

“Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty black birds, baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.
Now wasn’t this a dainty dish to set before the king!”

Kissing and Baby270. Love and Kisses

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.”
Song of Solomon 1:2

PRAYER: Dear LORD God, thank you for being Jehovah-Nissi, “the Lord our banner.” Truly you have purchased me with your blood, sealed me with your Holy Spirit, and fly your banner of possession over me. But, I love it, because I know from the Song of Solomon 2:4 that your banner over me is love! Thank you for being my banner! Thank you that the “flag” and guiding principle of my life is you, and you are love. Bless Baby, dear LORD! I pray that you will claim her for yourself, draw her to yourself, and protect her from all evil with your banner of love. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

THOUGHT: I may be stepping on toes, but it is my firm belief that husbands needs our undivided, private attention at night…every night, and that one of the greatest gifts we can give our husbands is the freedom to love us body, soul, and spirit without having to compete with the needs of our children for hours after they’ve been tucked into bed. Obviously, if an infant cries, you’re going to want to check out what’s going on so that he isn’t neglected, but please give your husband the gift of your undistracted love for at least part of the night!

ACTIVITY: Is there anything more precious than giving and receiving love? When Aaron got big enough to give us kisses, it sent us right to baby heaven! Here is a gentle kissing game that Baby will love! As you say the rhyme, kiss Baby on each place mentioned, ending with three kisses on his forehead and a big hug:

“Kiss your fingers, kiss your toes, kiss your cheek and kiss your nose.
Kiss your ear and kiss your hair. Kiss my baby everywhere!”

Bring on the Books!271. Doubly Good

“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.” Isaiah 49:13

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for being my father and mother! Thank you for being El-Shaddai. I’ve heard that this means “God of the Mountains,” or “God Almighty,” but I’ve also heard that this means “The Breasted One” and I know that you are the nourisher and sustainer of all life. Thank you for being all that Baby and I, and our family, need!

THOUGHT: Reciting nursery rhymes—especially if it’s done so often over the course of the child’s early years that she spontaneously memorizes them—is actually far from frivolous. Rather, it’s considered excellent preparation for learning to read because it teaches “phonemic awareness.” Reading requires several skills, but one important one is learning to understand the idea of component sounds within words. For this reason, being able to hear, create, imitate, and eventually recognize on a page word pairs helps the child recognize similarity in word sounds and is an important precursor to reading acquisition.

ACTIVITY: So, bring on Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss! Invest in some classic children’s poetry, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and don’t be afraid to sing some of those silly little songs that you’ve heard forever! Here’s a favorite that all my kids would recognize and my mother used to sing to me (both of my grandmothers went by the name “Daisy”):

“Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do!” (Clap hands together.)
“I’m half crazy, all for the love of you!” (Put hands up to Baby’s cheeks.)
“It won’t be a stylish marriage.” (Shrug shoulders and bring hands up and out.)
“I can’t afford a carriage. (Shake head sadly “no.”)
“But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat…” (Point to Baby.)
“Of a bicycle built for two!” (Make pedaling movements, then hug Baby.)

Baby's Office. Special Space to Play272. Limits and Freedoms

“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29

PRAYER: Ah, Holy Father. You are El-Elyon, the “most high God.” You are the great lawgiver. You rule over the raging of the sea, and you appoint the number of days that we will live. You tell us what should be, and what we should and should not do. You are also our judge…“the Judge of all the earth” that Abraham knew would always do right! Help Baby and me to trust you with every day and every decision of our lives. May we rest content with what we cannot understand or change, and may we treasure those things which are revealed to us so that we will be wise and obey you, knowing that your commands are for our good and given because you love us and want us to be blessed. Help me to be a wise lawgiver for Baby. May the rules in our home be based on love for all and a desire for Baby to be safe and happy rather than ever on selfish convenience.

THOUGHT: If you haven’t already thought of this, it may be a great time to give Baby his very own cupboard or kitchen drawer. I called Aaron’s his “tiny treasure drawer.”

ACTIVITY: If you can spare a space for Baby that is totally his, he will find great freedom and pleasure in having something that isn’t “off limits,” and he will love having his own space in the kitchen while you’re busy working there. Baby will feel loved and honored, and I also believe having some privileges makes it easier for a child to accept the fact that he has limits too! Besides, children love surprises, new toys (that can be old household items), small gifts, little spaces, tiny treasures, and discovering secrets! Slip in a little surprise from time to time, and see how much he loves his very own space!

Feeding Baby273. Sign Language

“For the abundance of milk that they shall give, he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.” Isaiah 7:22

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you are my shepherd, Jehovah-Rohi…the good shepherd! Thank you for leading us and providing your goodness and mercy to follow us as we go.

THOUGHT: Baby is now old enough to begin understanding the concept of “more.” “Do you want more?” You might use a gesture such as making fists and knocking your knuckles together. This is called a baby sign. Teach Baby some signs, and pretty soon she will be communicating with some dignified sign language as well as grunts and squeals! (“More” and “All done!” were two of Grandson Reuben’s most helpful and commonly used signs.) There are various camps on the sign language issue. My son, Aaron, and his wife, Carleen, used American Sign Language (ASL) rather than baby signs per se, since ASL is more standardized and universal so logically would seem to have more long-term use.

ACTIVITY: Baby can probably start understanding some simple concepts, nouns, and verbs. It will take her many months before she can begin to speak the words or count for you, but you can start helping her understand the names for various objects and the idea of one, two, three, and a bunch. If you make it a part of finger feeding, she will soon know what you mean. “Look at the strawberries! One, two, three” (as you point to them). “Here is a sandwich: one sandwich.” “Here are a three grapes: one, two, three!” (just halves so she doesn’t choke). “Here are two crackers.” You can ask her questions too: “Would you like one slice of banana or two?” (Hold out your hands, one with one slice and the other with two slices, and see which one she picks.)

A Few of My Favorite Birds (33 ): Turkeys—and not Just at Thanksgiving!

Turkey. Wild 4.29.13Turkeys are the largest game bird in North America and their existence helped the pilgrims survive their first year in America, which is doubtless how they ended up as the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinners yesterday. Turkeys in October 2015As turkeys haven’t been globe trotters, I don’t know how many people on other continents like turkey, but my son Joel became the turkey donor for his house, because even though many of his fellow graduate students are Asian and didn’t  actually want to roast a turkey…they all wanted to eat some turkey! 🙂  Turkeys grazing in our fieldSo, turkeys are popular birds. Turkeys not only the biggest of our game birds (2-4 ft. in length and up to 50 pounds for domesticated turkeys), many people think they’re the best! There are now about 200 million raised every year for food in the U.S. and another 7 million running wild throughout North America. Turkeys 21 of them! 9-15            We have a flock of 21 (last count) that roam our woods and fields. Turkeys in Field I was surprised to learn that wild turkeys actually prefer woodland areas and are especially fond of acorns but are omnivorous, eating fruits, seeds and nuts of various varieties, insects, and even salamanders!Nest of Wild Turkey eggsOne hen laid her nest of 13 tan-speckled eggs right up against the sunny, southern wall of our home hidden behind a thick patch of day lilies this summer. Turkey eggs                                                      (They can lay 4-18 eggs.) Autumn Flock of Turkeys This would have been an ideal spot had it not been for an influx of 4 curious grand sons and 4 curious coon kits during the month it would have taken to properly incubate them. Sigh.Flock of wild turkeys                                                 Still, a flock of 21 isn’t bad. Turkey Male showing off copy        The males are aloof parents…mostly interested in strutting and breeding.Male turkey displaying                                 (I’ll refrain from any snide comments.)

Mother Turkey with Poults But, the hens make excellent mothers, fiercely protecting their young poults during the first two weeks before they can fly. Hen Turkey with PoultsHowever, once the poults can fly, the entire flock roosts relatively high up
in trees during the night. Turkey Tracks+ 3.28.13                   Hens watch over their young even through the first winter, Wild Turkeys 8.25.13 and our flock seems to stick together year round,
roaming freely all over our yard, driveway, lane, woods, and fields. turkeys-in-our-driveway                    I think they think they own the place…and maybe they do.Turkey on waterfront 2015 copyGiven the specialness and succulence of turkeys, you may wonder why
“You turkey!” is considered an insult. I addressed that issue some years ago (https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/you-turkey/ ), Wild Turkeys   but since that time I’ve also learned something from a professional hunter that’s made me rethink my compliance with the present P.C. turkey slurs. Wild TurkeyTurkeys aren’t just big; they’re fast, running up to 25 mph and flying up to 55. Furthermore, they don’t fly in a straight line,
making them extremely challenging for game hunters.Turkey. Wild by fenceSo, even if some birds would rather try to bust their brains
through a fence than fly over it, they’re worthy of respect
…and I think that holds true for all God’s creatures.  Turkeys on our lawn 10.15            We all have some weaknesses, but we all need and deserve respect. Turkeys+20 pix 9.2.15     So, sorry, big birds. You won’t be hearing anymore turkey slurs from me.    🙂 Turkeys in yard 9.2.15“Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any:
he is mighty in strength and wisdom” (Job 36:5).


Thanksgiving Day Joys: Gan En and Gan Xie

Thanksgiving Turkeys copyHappy Thanksgiving Day to you! May your day be deeply refreshing and filled with joy as you consider all the blessings in your life! I’m also praying that your life is filled with gan en and gan xie! (Do you trust me enough to be glad?!)

I have a lovely young friend named Shelly who has given her life to serve in China as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. She mentioned in a letter recently that the Chinese have two words for gratefulness: Gan en, which expresses the deep thankfulness we have for the foundational positives of our existence, and gan xie, which expresses thankfulness for the small, transitory kindnesses we experience day by day.

As I thank God for all the blessings that are a part of my life this morning, I want to remember both the gan en and the gan xie. The gan en of my life includes peace that the God of this universe is in his very essence GOOD…that the most powerful force is positive, not negative, and that this God loved me so much that He sent his son to die for me (and you, and the entire world), so that by accepting Him as our savior we can receive eternal life. That is foundational to my experience of love, joy, and peace, and it’s all I really need. Beyond that, I could also go on forever, but those two facts: that God is good, and that He has provided for our eternal well being, are enough gan en to hold me. Duck splashing down on our lakeThe gan xie are not so obvious, but they are the little sparks of joy that brighten our days. For me, that includes such simple things as hearing the song of a bird (or even better, the voice of one of my kids on the phone 🙂 ), or watching a duck splash down on our lake… feeling a kind touch or smelling the scent of pine on a warm waft of breeze. Simple joys that sometimes only last a moment, but they lift my spirit on even the greyest days.

How about you? What are some of the gan en and gan xie of your life? I’d love to hear about them, but most of all I’d love to have you join me this Thanksgiving in praising God, from whom all blessings flow.

“O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 107:1)

Inside Out: Use ‘Em or Lose ‘Em

Inside Out Ad You may have already seen Pixar’s absolutely adorable animated film, Inside Out, which debuted last June (2015), but if you haven’t, consider watching this lighthearted but thought-provoking film for a night of fun over Thanksgiving break (or whenever 🙂 ). The movie was recommended to me by a psychiatrist in his 70’s, so I knew it was going to be worth a watch, but it’s also earned really high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes (98%) and IMDb (8.4). Inside Out 4 Director and co-writer, Pete Docter, began writing the script for Inside Out after observing changes in his own daughter as she progressed through childhood. Inside Out 12The movie takes an imaginative look at how some of our most prominent emotions effect our memories and behaviors…and can actually alter our personalities. Inside Out 9 Animated personifications of Sadness, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Joy try to navigate  young “Riley” through all the life changes that turn her world upside down after her family moves from a small Midwestern town to San Fransisco. Inside Out 8She has a new home, new school, new friends (or lack thereof), new complications—pretty much a whole new life, and it fills her with sadness. Inside Out 2 A few of the best insights for me came from considering the facts that (1) sorrow can actually alter our perception of past memories (scientifically observable), (2) continuing to access positive memories is essential for good emotional health, and (3) we need to continue creating new memories. Inside Out 3 In fact, if we want to keep our memories sharp and our emotions positive, current research recommends exercising—both our bodies and our brains!
If we don’t use ’em, we’ll lose ’em. I’m on it! Are you? INSIDE OUT “Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20).

The Birthday Boys: Daniel’s 30th and Samuel’s First

Baby SamuelToday is our grandson Samuel’s first birthday. Baby eating birthday cake It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this chunky, Flying with Daddyhappy,  healthy, playful, sturdy Baby with Pumpkin little pumpkin thanksgiving-day-2014 weighed in at 1 pound 8.5 oz. just one year ago today preemies-foot…a micro preemie with translucent skin november-24-2014-emergency-c-section who looked more like a sci-fi ultrasound come to life than a viable newborn. november-30-2014Samuel means “Asked of God.”  Hannah testified: “For this child I prayed,
and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him” (1 Samuel 1:27).
That was the cry of our hearts—most of all Daniel and Brianna’s—for five years. happy-grandma I think sometimes God makes us wait a long time
for things He knows will be very hard, Jayna and Illyanana so that when the going is super challenging, Shelly we’ll remember that we asked for it.  🙂  Kathi and Samuel But what a wonderful gift Baby Samuel has been for all of us! Birthday Party Last weekend was the joint celebration Birthday Cake for our son Daniel’s 30th birthday and Samuel’s 1st birthday, Having Fun!and we had SO. Fun at Party MUCH.Daniel and Tony FUN!What's in the Bag? There were lots of family and friends, Mexican Goodies lots of yummy food, So many presents! and lots of presents. Julie Every child is precious, Opening Gifts and every birthday is special, Jayna but I think the harder to come by, John and Samuel the more we appreciate the miracle of life and health. Baby with Bow on Head This Thanksgiving, I am just bursting with praise to God, Baby Opening Presents who has blessed us with such an abundance of good things, best of all grace— Happy Birthdaythe wondrous mercy that enables us to persevere Opening presents 2 through the ebb and flow Baby with a helmet of  life’s joys and tribulations.

Blowing out the Candles “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work…Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God… Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:8,11,15). 

Lights and Power OUT and ON in Washington State at the End of 2015

Did you know that 370,000 people lost power in Washington State last week? The wind ripped across the northwestern part of the state, registering at 71 mph (miles per hour—a new record) in Spokane before the recording instruments were destroyed by the wind! In the mountains the wind was rated as high as 116 mph. My son Jon saw 12 trees that had smashed into houses just on his 1.5 mile walk to the Moody campus Tuesday morning, although the school had to close due to the power outage.

Although here in Michigan, Alan and I never heard anything until it was nearly over, our kids (Jon and Linda) who live in the area had really been heavy on my heart, so I’d been praying a lot for them…never realizing they were actually in danger! Thankfully, they now have power and can communicate, but it made  me realize that when we’re feeling a special urgency to pray for someone(s), it’s probably not just our imagination but the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

There are still as many as 50,000 people out of power, and they’re saying the problems might not be fixed until Thanksgiving, so if you’re the praying type, would you please join me in praying for those who are in need? Linda said the temperature got down to 40° inside their home and was under 20° outside, so it will become a matter of life and death for those who have no power and don’t find shelter.

Simultaneously, there has been a tremendous movement of the Holy Spirit in Spokane this fall, with prayer meetings lasting hours and attended by as many as 60 pastors and church leaders…some continuing even last week lit by candle light despite freezing cold temperatures. Jon feels like God is really calling out people to pray for revival, and it seems to be starting in Spokane.

America needs revival desperately (and perhaps other countries too)! It you’re the praying type, will you join us in praying for revival? “Living without electricity is scary, especially when you’ve got little ones to care for and it is bitterly cold out.” Living without light and power spiritually is even scarier. It’s a matter of eternal life and death for our souls. Will you pray with us?

“For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm” (Isaiah 25:4).

(Speaking of power outages, my computers and bank of treasured photos are at the Apple store for the next 5-7 days, so until I can figure out how to access some pictures, my blogs may lack much in the way of graphic design! Sorry. 😦     )



Rise Up, My Love (163): Why I Think Christ is “More”

All Are WelcomeSong of Solomon 5:9 “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?” Does that seem a strange question coming from the daughters of Jerusalem? The bride was looking for the king who reigned over Jerusalem…how could they not understand the significance of his person?

The only explanation can be that they did not know him. They did not recognize his kingship, and they did not know him personally. They had no insight into his greatness, and they had not experienced the beauties of his person.

This is also perfectly true of the King of Kings. As we seek him, we will discover that the world has no idea whom it is we seek! I remember the ecstasy with which I embraced Christ. It was the first time I had ever heard the gospel, and it rang so true in my heart that I practically flew down the aisle when an invitation was given, weeping tears of repentance and joy all at once! I had never in my life heard the wonderful story about Christ and all he’d done for me, but I renounced my sins and claimed him for my Savior on the spot!

I was so thrilled that I began immediately sharing the good news with all my friends at school. Because I had never heard the gospel before, I assumed that most of my friends probably had not either, and that as soon as I told them they would receive the Lord with great joy the way I had. What an amazing shock I had that first day! I discovered a world of people who had heard the message and simply did not believe it, and many others who professed to already know about Christ, but who didn’t want to be “bothered” to become a Christian lest it require a lifestyle change or hamper their “fun.” How could it be??

These are the daughters of Jerusalem…so close, and yet so far! Privileged to live in a land under His blessed rule and yet blind to all He is and does for them. Oh America, America…how often would Jesus have gathered our people under his wings, and we would not!

“What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” What’s so special about Jesus? How is he different from Mohammad or Buddha? Why do you pursue him? What makes him so special, O thou fairest among women?

And here, as believers, I think we often fall into a trap. We are taught that after we’re saved, we are supposed to give our testimony of all that Christ has done for us, and how he has changed us. This, so we are told, is the basis or our credibility and what will draw unbelievers to Christ.

That was what I was taught (over time), and that was what I passed on to my children, but I see today that I have been wrong! We do not have to speak of ourselves at all; we only need to lift up Jesus. He is the only truly pure leader among all the world’s great religious leaders. (If you don’t believe me, study for yourselves.) Christ is the only one who rose from the dead. (None of the others ever even made such a claim.) Christ is the only one who claimed to be One with the Father. He is the only person who died in my (and your) place to pay for our sins so that we can have our sins forgiven. In every other religion, “perfection” (heaven, nirvana, etc.) is obtained by our personal ability to attain a perfect life; it is Christ alone who says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). No other religion is based on the love of God drawing us to himself, but Christianity is: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:14-17).

Today, as the world is reeling in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on Paris, know that martyrdom is the only sure path to an eternal life of bliss according to Islam. But, we don’t have to die for our God, our God has died to obtain eternal life for us, because He loves us. This is how my beloved is more than any other beloved, and this is why I will go to all lengths to be with Him!



Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for the Ninth Month, Week 38)

Baby with Book260. Travel Assurance and Fun

“When we had taken our leave one of another, we…returned home again.”
Acts 21:6

PRAYER: Dear Jehovah Shalom—God of our peace—please protect us when we travel!

THOUGHT: Here’s a great “special” for the car (or home), although it’s something you have to put a lot of time and energy into making beforehand, and it’s a gift that you’ll have to supervise so there are no choking hazards.

ACTIVITY: Make your own “pop-up” activity book for Baby. Use a three-ring binder with photo pages and cardboard pages. Photo pages can have pictures of your family and Baby’s favorite friends, places, and toys labeled with one or two word descriptions (to teach vocabulary later). The cardboard pages can have special “to do” things. For example, several could have pretty greeting cards with the backside glued down, so Baby can practice opening and closing a card. One page could have a ribbon securely fastened at one end but left free at the other end with a plastic rattle attached (lower than the bottom of the album…almost like a book mark) so that Baby could play with the ribbon and shake the rattle. Other pages could have bold splashes of a single color (with the name of the color listed), geometric designs such as stripes, plaids, or prints from magazines or off the net, or drawings of your own making. One page could be covered with bubble wrap glued down for Baby to feel. One page could have a square of sandpaper or other intriguing surface. You could have a page of assorted stamps re-glued from old letters, or a page of addresses highlighting the varied handwriting of loved ones who’ve written you…postcards from far and near, or a big envelope with an open flap and a cardboard paper doll (or any other flat picture) that you can take out and put back inside the envelope. Use your imagination and create a learning treasure book for Baby!

Touching Grandpa's Face261. Family Game

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19

PRAYER: Oh Father, I am humbled that you have taken me in as your child and made me a joint-heir with Jesus and part of the family of God. Thank you for Jesus, who is my Messiah—my Savior—and the LORD of my righteousness. Help me to have a humble and contrite heart so that your Spirit will dwell content in me. Please bless Baby, dear Lord. From earliest days, may he also have a contrite heart over sin and faith to believe in our precious Lord so he’s no longer a stranger but a member of the household of God.

THOUGHT: Here’s a game so engaging that after you’ve taught it to Baby, you can teach it to your family as well, and they can use it as an icebreaker to warm Baby up to the idea of playing with them if he makes shy at this stage.

ACTIVITY: Facing Baby, smile, then puff out your cheeks. While Baby is watching, touch your cheeks with your two fingers, and when they touch, immediately suck in your cheeks and stick out your tongue. Then, start to touch your tongue with your finger, but before you actually make contact, stick your tongue back in and puff out your cheeks again. After a couple of rounds, if Baby doesn’t spontaneously reach out and touch your cheeks, help him until he gets the hang of the game. After he’s got the hang of that game and enjoys it, other close friends who know how to play will find Baby willing to be close and interactive very quickly, especially if Baby is securely in your arms or sitting on your lap while the friendly “somebody big” is trying to win his trust.

Zoo with Baby262. The Merciful Shall Obtain Mercy

“And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:15 (NKJV)

PRAYER: LORD, you are merciful! Please deliver us from trouble, and help us to glorify you in all we do. No matter what happens, may we understand by faith that you are Love!

THOUGHT: Dependence on television is brain numbing, and active learning always beats passive learning. However, reviewing Baby’s life, especially with an enthusiastic, running commentary by mom and dad, can actually help Baby remember his own early life experiences. Few people have memories of their early childhood. This is called “infantile amnesia” and is thought to come from not knowing speech or having opportunities to review. You can help your child develop “autobiographical memory” by reviewing family videos with him. When you’re watching with Baby, even tell him what you can remember about pregnancy and the early months of his life. Babies are captivated by watching babies, so even before he understands that he is the superstar on the big screen, he’ll give you rave reviews!Grandpa and BabyACTIVITY: If you have video equipment, consider making a video of Baby doing some special things…maybe visiting his grandparents or the whole family while camping or visiting a zoo or park, or celebrating some special occasions. If you include friends and family in the video, they will especially enjoy watching the video with you, and it could make a truly precious gift to give your relatives. Most of our earliest videos were destroyed, and the only ones we were able to recover were the ones we’d copied and sent to friends. “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy” (Hosea 10:12).

Playing with Mom263. Those Who Care Share

“Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.”
Psalm 17:8

PRAYER: Oh, Father, thank you for being like a mother hen to us. Thank you that we can hide under your huge, protective wings, and that when we are falling and need help, you soar under us like an eagle rescuing her baby eaglets! Please bless Baby. Keep us both safely under your wings and as the apple of your eye. Give me supernatural wisdom to protect and care for my child just like you care for me.

THOUGHT: All of us crave affection and attention, and if there’s anybody in the household who’s not afraid to make his needs known, it’s usually Baby! Even if your child is unusually quiet or willing to entertain himself, know that affectionate interaction is always good, so when he does find his way over to you, give him some love!

ACTIVITY: Here’s a variation on the icebreaker I mentioned two days ago. I call it “Robot,” since robots are big in our family! Start by playing the puffing cheeks game, and then when Baby’s comfy with that trick, try changing the contingencies from time to time just to liven things up, such as having your head rock back and forth when he reaches for your tongue, and then stop only when he (or you) touches your face. Or, try having your shoulders move up and down when he touches your head. Try to repeat each contingency until he knows what he needs to do in order to make something happen. Touching your hand can make your arm come up, or touching your chest can make you laugh. If you are consistent, he will have a ball “operating his robot.” When you are ready for the game to be over, you can shake all over like the robot has the jitters and is falling apart, and then tickle him and give him a big hug to signify the end!

Rocking Horse264. Rocking and Riding

“The counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” Proverbs 19:21

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you are our counselor and guide…a friend to sinners and a friend to me! Please bless Baby and me. Help me to listen to your counsel and obey you in all things. May I be a wise counselor to teach Baby the ways of truth and love.

THOUGHT: If you can keep Baby feeling special and channeled even in the midst of a host of strange people, places, and the inevitably upset routines that are part of traveling, most babies will eventually adjust to new surroundings and become happy again. Not only are babies naturally flexible, expanding their life experiences makes them more so. BB 38 Rocking horseACTIVITY: Grandma Alma had a tiny rocking horse at her house, that our kids dearly loved to ride. If you can afford a rocking horse (or find one at a garage sale), Baby will definitely be ready to ride! Also, babies who are learning to walk can also learn to enjoy pushing themselves along on tiny cars or other conveyances. Joel had a little train engine with a compartment in the back where he stashed his “silky” (blanket) and Mr. Bun, his plush rabbit. For his first birthday, Aaron got a little riding push car, his “Tomy Car,” with a seat for carrying his favorite blanket. If Baby has a beloved push-along toy, consider bringing it with you the next time you visit family (if you’ve got the room)! Or, if the relatives have such a toy to share, so much the better! A rocking horse or riding toy gives Baby lots of freedom and opportunities for approval, although it will also put a burden on you to become her angelic guardian, since no house is baby-proofed like your own.

Xylophone265. Joy and Rejoicing with Music

“I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.”
Proverbs 8:12

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you for joying over me with singing. May Baby and I make melodies in our hearts and sing of our joy in you too!

THOUGHT: If you are blessed with a piano, keyboard, or other musical instrument in your home, be sure to let Baby hear you play it, and let him play some with you. Not only are most of the greats (in any field) exposed from earliest childhood to that which later made them great (Mozart made court appearances to perform on the harpsichord by age three), there is also a proven correspondence between music and math skills!

ACTIVITY: How about giving Baby his very own toy xylophone? Xylophones for babies come with brightly colored keys and a plastic drumstick (a wooden spoon from the kitchen works as well). The toy is extremely sturdy, and Baby can make music immediately just by hitting the keys. If you have some time to play with Baby, have a little singing lesson at the same time. When he hits a note, sing that note with him. Pick a verbalization you know he already knows, such as “Ba.” See if you can get him to hit the same pitch. This game can also by played (without the xylophone) in the car when he’s looking for some entertainment. Try singing a note and then going up and down the scale, singing the same syllable: “Ba, ba, ba, ba…” See if you can get Baby to sing the same pitch. If he’s really good, he may at some point develop his own little song, such as Aaron did when he was two: “Angels are internal!” Since his daddy was an internal medicine resident at the time, I liked Aaron’s version almost as well as the version I suspect he intended. Internal and eternal do, after all, sound very much alike!

Father son football...266. Rest in Peace

“You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried out to you.”
Psalm 31:22 (NKJV)

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for being our deliverer and the “consolation of Israel.” You are my consolation as well! Thank you for hearing me when I cry out to you. Please bless Baby. May your spirit brood over him and bless him with peace and a supernatural awareness of your wonderful omnipresence, even though he’s too little to really understand you. Truly, I am too little as well! Please help both Baby and me to rest quietly in your care, just like King David: “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother; my soul is even as a weaned child” (Psalm 131:2).

THOUGHT: Sometimes the especially loved baby can get over-handled and overtired, because even loving attention can sometimes be “too much of a good thing.” Aaron was extremely extroverted and really enjoyed people generally, but no baby is a match for the affections of an entire family of doting relatives on a vacation. Keep your heart and ears always tuned to hear Baby and help him when he needs you!

ACTIVITY: Although T.V. shouldn’t be used as a babysitter, there are a few worthwhile videos available that are great quiet time, hands off sorts of activities. If Baby and parents are both worn out, try one of the beautiful nature videos with delightful visuals and good music that will captivate Baby’s attention and take his mind off his troubles. Five or ten minutes in a walker in front of the television with soothing music and pictures could be a great way to relax and refresh a sick or tired tyke. (I’ve since been told that children under a year old simply should not be exposed to videos of any kind. None of my older kids were. Check the most recent theory with your pediatrician.)