Monday, April 30, 2012

NOT another Manic Monday

I am finding myself really anticipating my Monday!  So strange!  Especially after the past few Mondays.....you can read about them here and here if you dare....put your Wellies on, we got a little deep!!

So my children just woke up and they haven't presented me with a parenting delemma to blog about yet and hopefully there isn't one in the near future.  Ther are a few things that I want to share, and as much as I'd like to combine them, I think I'll just stick with one.  Are you ready for pictures??  Hope so!

Saturday, April 28th we celebrated the end of our Purity Study with our youth group girls!!  It was a really sweet way to end the journey, which really isn't the end, but just the beginning.  We had a "PuriTEA" (thanks to my friend Angie for that name)

Who can have a tea party without beautiful tea cups?

We challenged the girls to ask themselves this question:  Do you present yourself like a precious tea cup, a common ceramic mug or a value-less styrofoam cup?  Who wouldn't want to be a tea cup - they're gorgeous, delicate, valuable and treasured <3

We did the best we could to transform this meeting room.  I'd say we did a spectacular job!!  The challenge:  to allow God to transform us and our path from what the world says we are and should do to the perfect plans that God has set out for us.

I feared that we wouldn't have enough food.  Did I need to fear?  The challenge:  to not fear what the Lord has for us, even though it may require hard lines to be drawn and hard decisions to be made....He always prepares more than enough for us, if we wait <3

Who doesn't love beautiful, sweet smelling flowers?  I was so thrilled that I had some flowers available in my own garden in addition to the ones that I purchased.  God not only gives us what we need, He goes above and beyond.  He wants to spoil us in His love, giving more than we can ever hope, dream or imagine <3

Oh the gifts, not just for one, but for all!!!  The challenge: let go of the fake gifts (pearls) and receive the True Gift, the one with the greatest price <3 God is so good, He loves us tenderly and yet He loves fiercely...fiercely enough to send His Son to die on the cross for us.  He doesn't want to hit us with all of these rules and regulations.  He Gives Good Gifts to those who call His Name and Wait for His plans to unfold before them. 

From top left to right
Kelli, Emily, Me, Tanya Martie
Bottom row
Angie and Briana
Missing: Erika

Living a life of purity is not just about remaining sexually pure until marriage. (although that was a very strong point that ran through the study)  It is something that needs to encompass our entire life.  The lesson isn't just for teenagers, it's for all of us, from the youngest of young to the oldest of old.  Purity in thought, speech and deed.  When Christ is our filter, everything comes out Pure.  What areas could you use a pure cleansing in?  Do you harbor ill thoughts towards certain situations or people?  Do you have a "dirty mouth"?  What words roll across your lips, are they words that curse or bless?  Do you take the things that God intends to be perfect and pure and muddy them up with ideals that world offers?  All of these things and more can be given over to Him, He will cleanse you from the inside out.  Don't wait any longer.....run to Him and recieve the gifts that He has prepared for you <3


Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday's Favorite Five #10

Happy Friday!!!!

1. Craft(s)

I made these paper flowers this past week for an upcoming tea party. These are super cute whether you lay them on a table, hang them from the ceiling, or use them as napkin rings! To find a step-by-step tutorial look here.

2. Music

This song is originally by Gotye (you can find the original video here) and this version is by Walk off the Earth. I love the way that they all play the same instrument! It's super cool and unique! We can't get it out of our heads!!! We have multiple versions we like: Pentatonix, The Orchestral Cover, Ingrid Michaelson, Michael Schulte and Max Giesinger, Chad Sugg,  and sooo many more!

3. Blog/Other
Check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/aplace2gather to stay connected and get notifications whenever we post! Sometimes we even post some extra reading material from other blogs to supplement our personal posts.

4. Scripture

I love this verse, it was referenced during youth group on Wednesday night and it stuck with both me and my mom. I made an I <3 U post about it that you can read here!

5. Quote

A simple quote to hold onto. Something we should remember daily.

Thanks for joining us on this Friday! Come back on Monday for a post from Lorraine!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Here's Where it's At (I heart You)

So, I have to admit, I have been putting off blogging this whole week because of my Cookies for Compassion endeavor. But, nevertheless, I have taken the time to sit down and bring you another I <3 U! So read on! This I <3 U is going to be a little different from the normal post. We're going to jump out of the Old Testament and take a look at Ephesians. So, please read Ephesians 3:16-21 and then continue!

Okay, so let me give you a little bit of background information on the book of Ephesians. Ephesians is actually a letter written from Paul to the church in Ephesus. While Paul wrote this letter, he was awaiting trial in Rome. At the same time that this book was written, Nero had his wife, Octavia, killed and is about to launch the persecution of Christians in Rome. So, Paul is pretty much doomed for death. The section of scripture that you just read was a prayer for the Ephesians. But, instead of thinking of it as a prayer for some people in a church a few thousand years ago, think of it as a prayer for you. More importantly, think of it as what God has to offer you, the glorious riches he plans to give us, His children. "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being," God has glorious riches to offer us, and through them he can strengthen us with his Spirit. The same Spirit that was around for the disciples after Jesus' death is the same Spirit that is around today. We have the same power in us that the disciples had in them.

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ," Have you ever heard the VBS song "deep and wide"? It goes like this: "Deep and Wide, Deep and Wide, there's a fountain flowing deep and wide". It's so simple, yet so profound. God's love is a fountain that is flowing deep and wide. It's a flood of grace and a flood of love. Which sounds so very corny, but try to get past that and think about it. In this verse, verse 17-18, Paul tells us that the fountain of his love isn't just deep and wide, it's deep and wide and long and high. It surrounds. "...and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." So at the beginning of this paragraph we read where Paul said that he prays that we "may have power... to graps... the love of Christ" but here, he says that the "love surpasses all knowledge". God can give us the power to grasp how great his love is, but it surpasses knowledge. We can grasp how "wide and long and high and deep" God's love is, but it surpasses our knowledge. I don't think Paul is talking about a mental 'knowing', I think he's talking about us knowing God's love and understanding that we can never understand it.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout generations, for ever and ever! Amen." God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Our wildest dreams can't ever compare to what God can do. That's what we're here for. We're here for the glory of Christ Jesus, He who can do immeasurably more than whatever our human hands are capable of. That's where it's at.
 - Jessica

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mid-week Marvels

Hey friends, we're halfway there!!  To the weekend that is.  I don't usually countdown through my week to the weekend but this weekend I have something really big going on and I'm kinda worked up in a nervous and excited way!  Some of you already know what that is, but what about the rest of you?  Wanna know??

Okay, here it is........a tea party!!!!  But not just any tea party - this is a really special one!  Our youth group just completed a 10 week study on Purity!!!!  We had over 20 guys and 20 girls come out for 10 weeks straight to learn how to pursue a life of purity (they met in seperate locations and the boys used a different book)!!!  What a blessing it was!!!!  We used the book by Dannah Gresh called "and the Bride Wore White".  It was really amazing!!  So, as a way to officially end the book study we are treating the girls and their mothers to a really special tea party!

You may not know this about me, but I LOVE TO PLAN PARTIES!!!  I don't do it often enough, but when I get the chance I have trouble controlling my ideas, they start our very grand and then over time they water down to fairly grand but do-able!!!  I'm semi-freaking out as the week hits mid-point because we don't have a headcount, I'm hoping that we have enough food planned, will the decorations work out, will it all gel together??  I could make myself insane worrying about all of this.  But there's a still small voice whispering in my ear, telling me that it will all be fine, amazing, perfect, etc.  I don't need to worry, I need to rest!  Rest in His ever-loving arms and do this all for His glory, not mine. 

So here are some of the mid-week marvels....I probably shouldn't share them before the party, but we'll call it a sneak peek!!!!  I'm so excited!!!! 

First up are these:

I made these with items from the Dollar Store!!!!!  So super easy!!! When I came across these trays the other day I fell in love with them!!!  I didn't buy them on the spot though.  I wasn't sure they would work with my overall scheme!!  But I worked it out in my head and realized we couldn't go  on with out them and had to go back for them!!  I know, I'm being somewhat dramatic here, but if you've ever planned a party, you certainly understand <3 

They really are as easy as 




Next up are these little cuties, they may or may not be filled with wonderful treats!!! hee hee hee

And then, these, which are, I think, my favorite!!!!

I have to thank Pinterest for all of their amazing inspiration!!!!   There are so many other elements to this tea party that are going to be spectacular- I cannot wait until Saturday and until I can share it all with you!!!

Thanks so much for stopping by today, I hope that, maybe you found some inspiration for your next event or even for your day to day life.  Wouldn't life be sweeter if everything we did had a little element of doilies and paper flowers?

Have a blessed day and rest of the week!!!  Tune in tomorrow for Jessica's I <3 you post and then Friday for our Favorite Five!!!!!!  I'll apologize now for things that you may see that are repeats : )  I am loving the stuff that I'm working on this week and they just may end up back here again on Friday!!!

And a special thank you to all of you who are helping to support Jessica on her quest for Compassion-Honduras.  Our house is smelling like a sweet, sweet bakery and due to your efforts of sharing and posting, it will continue to smell this way for weeks to come!!  God bless you all!!!

With love, tissue paper, cookies and affection <3 Lorraine

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cookies galore!

Hey everyone! Jessica here, as you all know I'm going to Honduras in October and I am in the midst of fundraising! We have to raise $5000 by June 27. One of the ways I am fundraising is through cookies! I am making the best chocolate chip cookies in the world (I'm not being conceited, it's my mom's recipe and anyone will testify that they are awesome!). This is a quick post asking you to search "Cookies for Compassion" on Facebook where you can find more information about this endeavor. If you don't have a Facebook and would still like to support me or find out more information you can email me at jessica.paige27@yahoo.com! Thank you so much for all of your prayers!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Here we go again!

So it looks like Monday's are going to be my Mothering Challenge days!!!!  Last week it was my 7 year old, this morning it's my boys.  Some unkind and ugly words were shared between them and tears were shed on my shoulder because of the pain that those words caused.  ((SIGH))

Here we go.......Usually I'm tempted to go with that little face of anger that creeps in, I bypass that and then fear and anxiety creep up to take their rightful place (so they think).  I push past those as well, and go for Grace.  Realizing that this is another wonderful opportunity to teach my boys about love, compassion, forgiveness, the power of words, and how to choose your words carefully.  It's also a time to expose the enemy for who and what he is, a toothless coward who tries desperately to tear people and families apart. 

What's the line in a wedding...."What God has brought together, let no man (or enemy) put asunder"?  I'm standing on that one for my family.  God has brought this family together and I'm not going to let anyone or enemy tear that apart.  But I must teach my children how to handle the enemy.  Because one day they will be out from under my protection and guidance and they need to learn how to navigate these tumultuous waters on their own.

My boys are two very different creatures, their personalities can either compliment or clash, it depends on the day and really, the moment.  Thank God that we have more complimentary moments than clashing ones.  But when they do clash, watch out!  I'm going to refer to them as Son A and Son B in order to protect their privacy a tiny little bit <3

Son A comes to me very upset and buries his head into my shoulder.  He tells me that his brother called him something unkind and made some other odd comment regarding him.  That's all I got from him as his head stayed buried.  When I talk to someone, I like to see their face; one- to know that I have their attention and two -it's just right.  I urged him to tell me how this made him feel, to no avail.  I went right to the lesson.

The mind is satan's battlefied; when we hold our thoughts, fears, feelings, hurts inside our heart and head, we give the enemy a strong advantage over us and we might as well call it a day.  The enemy wins, we hold onto the ugliness and it errodes us like acid, from the inside out.  BUT when we can communicate those things, get them out of our heads, we have opportunity to add to our numbers.  Yes the enemy is out to get us as individuals, but we are sadly mistaken in thinking that it's our job alone to battle him.  I am not going to war by myself.  Share your hurts, gather your army.  Not only do we have opportunity to be encouraged and set right in our thinking.  We are ultimately surrendering these pains over to the Great Physician.  Healing begins when we let our guard down and let Him in!!

I prayed with and over Son A and gave him to Jesus.  I did what I could do and now the rest is up to that son and God.  Now onto Son B......he comes in and as soon as I say I want to talk to you, his guard goes up, his eyes tear up and his chin jutts out, his jaw tightens.  I can actually see him step behind the "pride wall".  I have to also realize that with this son, he feels things deeply but struggles with letting them out.  I know that there are some growing issues there as well, some hormonal things that need to be handled with care.  Remember the fear and anxiety that wanted to take their place at the beginning?  Yeah, they're back and I'm even more tempted to give into them.  But I don't.    I found out that the ugly words were an act of self-defense.  The only defense that Son B feels that he has against his brother. 

We are also working on respect issues around here, it's all fun and games until someone draws a line and it's not respected.  So, that's what happened......there was a line drawn (albeit incorrectly communicated) and it wasn't respected.  Names began flying and you hit one where it hurts and it's done.  Sadly though, victory gained in that manner rarely leads you to a celebration.  So with this son, I talked about the power of his words, the misleading facts of wrongly executed self-defense and how the enemy is looking to divide and destroy.  I reminded him of the special bond of brotherhood that God has given them and we talked about that ridiculous wall of pride. 

I need to help him learn how to communicate clearly and precisely, as we are not mind readers nor are we decoders of spoken words.  If this is what you want, you need to say it specifically.  Vague doesn't work when you need to get a message across.

It's funny, well, not really but people usually spew out ugly words as an act of defense.  I didn't know that was the case at the beginning of this.  But the story was relayed one side at a time.  There's a reason why we can't jump to any conclusions when the incident incudes more than one person.  We have to keep an open mind and only deal with that one person's actions.

So here are some key points to this situation:

*boys have trouble communicating!  It takes a slick hand to help them put words to things that they feel.  We have to help them do this....their wives will thank us when we do<3

*Pride comes before the fall! (proverbs 16:8)  Recognize pride in your life or your children's lives and help them to knock that wall down.    It appears to be solid, but infact, it is a mirage.  The closer we get to humility the stronger and taller that wall looks.   Don't let too much time pass between the offense and a humble apology. Encourage them out from behind that wall!

*There is an enemy who wants to seperate us out like a wolf that isolates one member of the flock in order to easily overtake it.  We must know the enemy, know his tactics and be ready to fight.  We must stay with the flock!!!!  Have you noticed when people in the church seem to fall from grace, we as the body are always shocked!!  We have no idea that there was ever a problem until it's all over and the enemy has won.  I'll say it again "STAY WITH THE FLOCK"  There is safety in numbers and when we share our lives with one another, open ourselves to the vulnerability of community, we find safety and shelter.

So are you wondering where the brothers stand as of now?  Well, I ended my conversation with Son B and asked him if he would like me to pray for him, would he like to go off and do that on his own, would he like me to mediate an apology or is he good.  He decided to go on his own.  Several minutes later I hear them laughing and running in the hallway.  When I asked how it went, Son B said, "I said I'm sorry and sat on his back, he laughed."   If you didn't know it before, know it now- BOYS ARE SO DIFFERENT FROM GIRLS!!!  They slay me those two.....what a unique relationship they have!  I'm thankful for reconciliation no matter what form it comes in <3

 Another Sigh.....Oh Lord I pray that my sons would always know the source of their love, strength, grace and mercy.  May they fiercely protect the bond of brotherhood and may they never let any man or woman or enemy put them asunder.  Let them defeat the enemy at all turns, growing in strength and in number as they live out their days.  Mold them into fierce warriors for You Oh God <3

Happy Monday Friends <3 Battle On!!!!!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Heaven & New Earth (I heart you): Part 2

So, yesterday we left off with a very gloomy post and the promise of something better for today. But first, if you haven't read it yet, look at yesterday's post and then read Isaiah 65:17-25 in preparation for today! I'm super excited about this section of the chapter and I hope you realize why soon. While you're reading check out this awesome song by Phil Wickham, which was also featured in yesterday's post.

Now, before I start breaking down this part of the chapter, I want to say that I am not claiming to understand the endtimes at all, I only know what God promises and what we can trust is God's word.

Starting off, verse 17 says that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, this topic could take up a whole blog's worth of posts, and we don't have the time here. I encourage you, if you're interested, to research more about this! The second part of verse 17 says that "the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind." Which means that we aren't going to look back on things we've done and cringe. There won't be guilt about things in the past, there won't be grieving about things in the past. Well, there won't be grieving at all, but we'll get to that later.

"But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more." This is what we have to look forward to. If you've kept up with any of the news about Jerusalem and the surrounding lands, it most certainly has not reached this point yet, which means this is something that will happen in the future. God will rejoice in us forever. He'll take delight in us and there will be no more crying. Think of the last time you cried, what was the reason? It might have been a recent death, stress, anger, etc. There won't be any of that in heaven, we won't have a reason to cry!

This next verse talks about death and life. It tells us that there won't be "an infant who lives but a few days"and "there won't be an old man who does not live out his years." You might have known someone who would fall into these categories, they won't have to if they're in heaven! These categories won't exist there! "He who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth"; you might think of living to a hundred and groan, but in heaven, when we live to a hundred, we won't be ill at that age, we'll be a healthy and happy person! Who wouldn't want that?

Verses 21-22 say that when we build a house, it's gonna be for our own benefit. The same goes for planting food. This might sound like a selfish lifestyle, but I think what it really means is that we won't have to work. Why do people build houses and plant vineyards besides for their own benefit? It's to make money, to work, it's their job. We won't have to do any of that in heaven. No work. No 9 to 5. :) Hallelujah? Hallelujah! Skipping down to verse 24, which is super cool, "Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear." Have you ever prayed for something and then had to wait for God's timing? If you have, you'll agree with me that it can be so very frustrating. God says that there won't be waiting for an answer. Before we even ask, he'll answer. Or while we are still spekaing, he'll hear us. I love this chapter... I love having something this exciting to look forward to!

The last verse may be the most well known...
"The wolf and lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain."

Just yesterday my brothers and I were watching a tv show about the giant octopus. This thing was massive, and it was lethal. But, on the new earth, it will be gentle enough to hang out with Nemo! Yes, Nemo. hehe I couldn't resist... Getting back on topic, "the lion will eat straw like the ox" there won't be carnivores, no killing another living thing for your own well being. The verse goes on to say that "dust will be the serpent's food", that goes back to Adam and Eve and the devil taking the form of a serpent, the devil will have nothing to help him grow or prosper. He will be nothing and God will be everything. God will be everything and He will delight in us.
~ Jessica

Friday's Favorite Five #9

Happy Friday!!!!

1. Craft(s)

I really love these paper medallions.  I love the simplicity, the colors, and the fact that it's just paper!!!!  Really, decorating your home couldn't be any easier these days!!  To find out how to create these little beauties for yourself, head over to here.

2. Music

((sigh))  Harry Connick Jr.
I fell under his spell in the 90's, I had every one of his c.d.'s up to and including "Star Turtle".  After that I felt like he and his music changed.  Sadly, I ended up selling all of those c.d.'s in a yardsale and I am deeply regretful!  I still love his swanky sound, his cheesey lovesongs and that slammin' big band sound that he delivers!!  Before Michael Buble' - we had Harry <3

3. Blog/Other
A friend of mine shared this post the other day and I've been sharing it on our facebook page ever since.  Need a jumpstart in your approach to parenting, or just need to rekindle that love for your child(ren).  You can jump in anytime and be a part of the 10 day parenting challenge.  Rachel has links up for each day of the challenge that has already passed.  Feel free to join in and share your journey with us!!

4. Scripture
"I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly."
John 10:10
This is a wonderful verse.  How many of us are just trudging through our days, wondering what it's all for?  Jesus came to earth, to save the lost and to give us an abundant life.  The things of this world will never give to us what only Jesus can give.  Think on that today, seek Him in all things and see if this verse doesn't begin to become clearer<3

5. Quote

I found this on Pinterest.....thanks to http://crushculdesac.tumblr.com
Why is it that we feel the need to follow the crowd?  And it seems that even in following the crowd some believe that they are searching for uniqueness.  If everyone around you is doing the same thing, chances are you are not unique in your approach.  We fight so hard to be original, but we're missing it.  Do the hard things, go the opposite way of the masses.  You'll find freedom there - I'm sure of it!


Thanks so much for joining us and checking out our favorites for the week!  Feel free to share a few of your favorites in the comment box or head over to https://www.facebook.com/aplace2gather!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Heaven & New Earth (I heart you): Part 1

If you haven't read my last I <3 U you can do so here! For this "episode" of I <3 U I want to talk about something that excites me a lot! But before I can get to the exciting part, there is something that might be a little tough to hear or process. But, as with most things, you have to get through the nitty gritty before you can get to the reward. So if you would please read Isaiah 65 before continuing, that would be greatly appreciated. But, this time we're going to do it in two segments. Right now just read Isaiah 65:1-16!

Alright, assuming you have read Isaiah 65:1-16, I'm going to continue. You may have picked up on this, but verses 1-5 talk about how even though people aren't seeking out God, he will show himself to them. People won't listen, though. You may have experienced this recently, people are looking for an explanation for this world, or they can't take the burdens of life on themselves any more, but some of these people, even when you tell them about Jesus' love and forgiveness, won't accept it. People don't want to admit they're wrong. I don't want to admit I'm wrong. But, it's something I have to work through. The human race is so prideful that we can't say that we're wrong and someone else is right, so we miss out on a lot of what life, and primarily God, has to offer. God tries to show himself to people, but the people won't listen. "I said 'Here am I, here am I.'... [to] a people who continually provoke me to my very face" (Isaiah 65:1b, 3a).

Verse 6 is very interesting to me. "See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps..." God doesn't say that He's going to punish everyone in full, he doesn't say that He's going to get revenge. He says he'll pay us back in full. Our God is a just God. He's going to give us what we deserve. This payment could be good, it could be a reward, or if we don't choose God's path, it could be punishment.  But, thankfully, he also gives us a second chance through His Son, Jesus Christ. That second chance allows us to wipe away our past sins as far as the East is to the West. But, if we don't take that opportunity, that's on us. I know that it sounds harsh, but God tells us that He will show himself to everyone. We'll all have an opportunity to choose God and forgiveness or to choose our own selfish desires. I could stay on this topic forever, but we have to move on.

Let's jump down to verse 11. These next two verses, in my opinion, are very harsh. But, although they are harsh, they are full of truth and understanding; they offer us guidance on how to live life for Christ. "But, as for you who forsake the Lord and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny...". Let's break this down further: forsake isn't a word we use very often nowadays, is it? Nope. The dictionary.com definition of forsake is this: 1. to quit or leave entirely; abandon; desert 2. to give up or renounce (a way of life, habit, etc.).  So this verse says, in Jessica terms, Everyone who has abandoned, quit, or given up my way of life and who has entertained fortunes and destiny... And yes, fortunes and destiny include horoscopes and anything else of the like. We're told to stay away from those things, to put our future in God's hands and not in the stars.

 "I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter; for I called you but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me." This scares me, to be honest. Although our God is a loving God, he's just. Thankfully, though, through Jesus Christ, we can be sure that we are saved. But, it doesn't stop there. After we accept Jesus' forgiveness, we need to pursue a relationship with him, one that is real and personal. Jesus didn't come to Earth to give us everything we need; Jesus came to Earth to guide us into a relationship with him and through that give us everything we need. See the difference? It's not a free pass to do anything and everything we want. It's going to change our view of what we want to do with our life.

The next 3-4 verses shows a parallel of Heaven and Hell. We can look at these verses and think, 'oh my goodness, this is horrible and there is no hope'. Or we can say 'wow, look at all that God is going to give me, I need to go tell my friends about this guy!'. That's what this part of the chapter is for, not to scare us into depression, but to show us that these are the consequences and we need to do everything, not in our power, in God's power through us, to save our friends from this. I pray that you will read this and take that away, if nothing else. Our friends need us, they need to know about Jesus and they need to know about his grace.

Since this post is getting long, I'm going to have to end it here. I know that this doesn't sound like an I <3 U kind of post, but it's the preface to the I <3 U that is to come. Look for Part 2, the exciting part, tomorrow in addition to our Friday's Favorite Five!!
~ Jessica

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Building a house, planting a seed

Hey there!!!  How's your week going so far?  As you know, I was presented with a challenge right out of the shoot on Monday.  I was feeling pretty accomplished after my talk with my 7 year old....that is, until she had her next breakdown....that day!!!  Then again on Tuesday, several times.  I am seeing (and I did already know) that this has become a learned behavior for her.  It's her "auto-pilot" if you will.  She hears something that she doesn't like and she responds in the same way, every.single.time.  I can certainly beat myself up over not having done such a great job parenting her, I can spend my time crying and worrying (much like she does).  Or I can simply move forward from here. 

But where am I going to go?  How do I start over?  What should I do?  All very good questions, if I do nothing but move, I'm not going to yeild new results.  The same thing will happen because I've not developed a plan of action, a lesson plan of sorts.  Enter Scripture.....as Christian parents, where else are we supposed to go for instruction on life?

Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."   Young's Literal Translation says it this way "Give instruction to a youth about his way, Even when he is old he turneth not from it."  I've always looked at this verse in relation to teaching them about God, bringing them up in the church and while I believe that is a large part of it, I'm seeing that there is more to this verse than we give it credit for.  We are going to be talking about a little of both.

Going back to that seed story from Monday, if we were to just leave the seed in the pot and walk away, nothing is going to happen.  The seed is going to stay a seed, with no hope for reaching it's full potential.  As the sower of that seed, we are not doing job if we just merely drop it in and walk away.  Do you see the correlation to parenting here?  If we simply create a family and then do nothing to cultivate that family, we can't expect to reap a good harvest.

Ideally, we need to start converstations early on; with God, our spouse or other people that will serve as a support to us in raising a family, about what we want our family to look like.  We know we can't just leave it to chance, but often times, that's exactly what we do.  Then we leave it to the world.  After pre-school, our children spend large amounts of time away from the family hub.  We then feel the need to pile on extra-curricular activities, we allow our kids friends to take up any other time there may be left and the home becomes a drive-thru, full of non-nutritional meals and I'm not just talking the food that we eat.

Know that I am not saying that those things are bad on their own, I'm talking about them as a whole with no room for the family unit.  God laid on my heart years ago to go the homeschooling route, I know that not everyone is called to that path, I get that.  Honestly, I could have my kids here with me all day every day (and I do) and I can still miss the boat.  Just having them here doesn't mean I'm doing my job.  We have to be intentional in our parenting.

So getting back to what we want our families to look like.....as adults we have certain dreams for our children, but before we start placing those dreams in front of our children we have to teach them how to get through a day, how to deal with their surroundings, how to love, to serve, how to be a friend and how to have friends.  We have to "train and instruct".  A teacher isn't going to walk into her classroom and just sit at her desk and do nothing all day, is she?  No, she's going to have a lesson plan in place that she is going to follow.  She knows what her students must learn in a certain amount of time and she knows how she's going to teach them.  Our job is the same.  We only have so much time to train them up.  Believe me, it goes faster than you can even imagine!!

I want to tell you, that in no way shape or form, do you have to follow the crowd on this.  God has given  you charge over your family, over your home.  Guard it fiercly.  We, personally, have chosen to not allow our children to over-engage in activities that are going to take them out of the family hub for too long a time.  We don't want to chauffer them from activity to activity.  We want to gather around the table at the end of every day and share in a calm meal.  Our kids play soccer in the fall, our boys have played baseball in the spring.  We are involved in church activities.  But we are in charge of our family.  We don't want to keep busy for the sake of being busy.  Our days are full enough with regular life.  I don't feel the need to add more to the plate.  So consider this your permission to say NO more often.

So once you've decided what your overall goal for your family is, you then need to work out the smaller details.  The path to take to get you to the end goal.  What is important to you?  What qualities or characteristics do you want to help develop in your children.  God has gifted them in certain ways, notice that.  Years ago, God transformed my view on missionaries, and I began to pray that my children would have a heart for missions.  I wanted that to be a tender spot for them.  To know that the world does not only consist of the space 2 feet in front of them.  God helped us to form beautiful friendships with some missionary families.  Our schooling has a large place for learning about missionaries around the world and how to pray for them.

I also want my children to develop a heart for serving.  Jesus came not to be served but to serve.  I want my children to follow that.  The first place for them to work that out is in the home.  We are a team, a family unit, we work for the same goals.  Now they don't always share that thought, they don't always want to work in that way, but it's a part of the training.  They will have homes and families of their own some day and they need to know how to run a home and serve a family.  We, as a family, seek ways to serve others.  We use our home to do that.  Our children help us with everything.  No one person owns a job all to him or herself.  Cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc.  I've never been good at keeping up with chores and allowance.  I don't really even believe that they should be paid for personal responsibility so in our house, there is no allowance, they truly want for nothing, but that doesn't mean they get everything they want.  You do a job here, because it's your responsibility, you have to be responsible, that's it.

Now if someone goes way above and beyond or they show exemplary actions, we will pay them, sometimes monetarily sometimes in other ways.  What are some qualities or ideals that you'd like to see in your family?  We can't forget Love -first and foremost.  The funny thing is, is that if we seek to show them Love and teach them Love, the other things that I've mentioned will probably fall into place.  If you do the other things first, then Love ultimately grows.  So love is the initial seed, it's the foundation, it's the framwork, the walls and the roof.

What's your plan of action?  It's never, ever too late to start!!!  Let me pray for us!

Father God, Daddy, thank you for allowing us to be a part of your family.  Thank you for the examples that you show us each and every day. Thank you for sending your Son to be the perfect payment, the perfect example.  Bless our families, grow those seeds first in us, that we may strive to grow a family that resembles yours.  Bless these moms and dads, let them feel your love, your grace, your guidance.  Bless the work of their hands, that their children would be the gifts that you intended them to be.  Let them turn to you for instruction, lesson plans, strength and peace.  In Jesus Name, Amen

See our facebook page for a link to a really cool blog site and opportunity to dig into intentional parenting...it's a 10 day challenge, with free printable journal pages to help you along in this journey!!  www.facebook.com/aplace2gather

God bless <3 Lorraine

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to bring scripture into your life (Decorating edition)

Do you ever go through your week and feel like what's the point? What's the point of school? What's the point of drama? What's the point of engaging in relationships with friends? Everything seems pointless, you can't envision your future, and you feel like the routine is losing it's excitement. Something I've found to help out with that is to constantly confront yourself with scripture, quotes, or images that bring you joy. That's what we're going to talk about today; how do we bring scripture into every aspect of our life and give ourselves the reminder that there is a point, there is a saviour, and he most definitely has given you a future. I'm going to outline and talk about a couple of different methods for doing this. I've even brought in the help of a couple of different friends to help out and contribute their methods.

1) First thing you see:

Right next to my bed I have a space where I tape things in a "collage" format, as you can see above. I have everything from a wipe-off board with constantly changing scripture, to a picture frame with a quote, to a random picture of a camera! These are things that make me visually happy. I have post-it notes with some of my favorite scriptures on them, as well. I really like that I'm able to express myself creatively as well as give me something that I see first thing in the morning that is a positive message.

This is another shot of my wall. The big thing is a exerpt from a book I was reading. It talks about our, as women, value in God.

2) Binder
Another friend of mine, instead of a wall, puts different inspiration on a binder. If you're in school 8 hours a day (hahaha public schoolers!!) this might be a better option. Even if you put stuff in your locker, anywhere that you are around constantly. In the midst of a school day it is very easy to forget our purpose and source of joy, putting some of your favorite verses on a binder is a very easy way to remind yourself to have a positive outlook on life!

3) Family & Friends
This wall is different from the prior two. My friend has pictures of friends, band stickers, bible verses, and drawings hanging on the wall. This type of wall can help to remind you of good memories and/or be more of a creative outlet. Depending on your preferences, this could appeal to you more. You might like the clean look of the first picture, the simplicity of the second, or the general unity of this one. Which brings us to number four.

4) Hall Way/Spread Out
Another friend of mine, who is in college, decorates her dorm hall way with picture frames. This option is a little bit more clean cut and long-term. This option probably takes a little bit more time as you have to frame the pictures. Although, I do like how "professional" it looks. With this option you can spread everything out and it is more on the side of decorating your room.

So, leave a comment telling which one of these options is your favorite, if you have your own spin on this concept, and if so, what does it look like? I would love to hear from you guys either through Facebook, Email, or comments! Visit our new Contact Us page to find out all of the different ways you can contact us! Also, thanks to everyone who contributed: Jess D, Erika L, and Hannah M!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Changing direction

I'm gonna be honest here.....I am trying to formulate a happy, springy, thankful post and my 7 year old is having a major meltdown in the next room!  That's life for ya!!  We are always presented with a choice....right now, my choices are to cave in to the screaming child and the stress she is causing me, ignore her completely and push past the situation and think happy thoughts or I can stop what I am doing and meet her where she is!!!  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.............she's quieting down........breathe........calming down the heart and the mind and the atmosphere.  I'm going in......prayerfully, I'll be right back.

Okay, I made it.  I really wanted to shut the crying out and just do my thing, but that's not what the job requires, is it?  I hope that I'm not the only mom out there who feels that way from time to time.  I see a trend that has been many years in the making.  Our current culture is the perfect place for this trend to explode and work at it's best, fullest capacity.  It's the unparenting movement.  I don't know if it's truly called that, if anyone has coined the phrase or whatnot.  It's just what I'm calling it. 

Classic scene.....it all starts with a little devil called "busyness".   What an ugly word!!!  How many of us wave that banner?  (Raise hand)  Now, how many of us believe that we have no choice in that matter?  It's our culture, it's life, what can we do about it??  Well I wanna tell you that even though it "appears" to be our culture and yes, everyone is doing it...okay that's a lie, everyone is NOT doing it, we don't have to be a part of that.  Did you hear me?  No? Okay, I'll say it again......YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A PART OF THAT!!!!!  Crazy huh? 

I have a feeling that you don't really believe me though.  It's okay, you can tell me.  That might work for you, but that's just not for me.  I'll let you tell me that, but then I'm gonna tell you that you're wrong....sorry.  Yes there are things that we have to do, we have to work (whether at home or out), we have to do laundry (unless you are a part of a nudist colony -I don't want to know if you are), we have to parent (if we have children).....did you realize that just having a child doesn't mean that you're parenting? 

Sure you're providing the necessities, food, clothing, housing.....you may even throw in a life lesson or two.  But parenting is a whole lot more than that.  Now I'm still on the learning path, as I stated earlier, I would have rather just ignored that meltdown....but I couldn't.  I had to stop what I was doing, even though they were important things, I had to put them aside to deal with what is at the top of my list of important things to do......parent my child.  I had to teach her why she can't have a meltdown, I had to explain it in a way that she would understand it.  Just yelling from the other room "knock it off" wasn't going to cut it.  I know that I may be stepping on some toes here and trust me, I don't mean to, I don't even want to.  This is coming from a deep place in my heart (one that is being torn open at a faster pace than I'm ready for), now that I'm involved in youth ministry.

We are seeing and hearing the stories of disconnected families....I don't want to put anyone in a state of panic, but I want us to all be a little more aware of how we interact with our children.  It has to start at an early age, we have to be trained in this.  It's not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants activity and yet that's what most of us are doing.  Mothers of Preschoolers is a wonderful place to start for help and support for when you're entering the early stages of parenthood (www.mops.org) but after that, what is there?  Nothing.  Sure there are books and seminars, maybe even some classes at a local college, I'm not sure.  But what happens to the community, where's the local support, who can we do this part of life with?

The one answer I have is your local church.....talk to someone there.  Youth Leaders, Childrens' Ministry leaders, prayerfully they will have resources and answers.  I know that in our church we have fabulous Children and Youth staff, but sometimes that's not even enough.  There's a trend in youth ministry to shift from just youth ministry to one of a parent or family based youth ministry.  I hope I'm not speaking prematurely, but that is the prayer of our heart at Sharptown, to begin to shape and develop that.  So that we can be a full support for parents at all stages.  It excites me to think about how God is going to do that and I can't wait!!!

I hear kids say that their parents don't understand them or don't hear what they are saying and it breaks my heart.  I know that it's not the parents intention to be disconnected or to not understand their kids, but let's face it......there are a lot of things fighting for our time and attention as parents.  We are "busy" right?  And if I'm being honest here (which I am) sometimes it's just a plain old hassle to deal with our kids.    But let's not forget that when we gave birth or brought a child into our hearts and homes, we signed on for the full job, whether we truly realized that or not.  Let's not forget also that there are a lot of things fighting for our childrens time and attention as well.  And if we are not fully there for them, someone or something else will be.  Let's begin to pray together about this problem, in our own lives as well as the lives of those in our communities and in the world.

Well, like I said, I started out wanting to do a springy, happy blog but instead we got down and dirty!!  We need to do this more often.....be willing to deal with the ugly things in our lives.  Let's band together and take our families back.  I for one, am not willing to just leave them to the wolves!!!  Who's going to stand with me?

We'll tackle the busy monster again in my next post on Thursday.  I sincerely pray that you will join me again.  Please feel free to leave a comment or send an email to express a certain area that you may be struggling as a parent.  I don't promise to have all the answers, but I will do my best to prayerfully provide a place of learning and understanding.  I will promise to pray <3

In Christ Alone <3 Lorraine

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday's Favorite Five #8

Happy Friday!!!! 

1. Craft(s)

It's a two for one today!!!!  I just came across these adorable and super easy ideas!!!  Who doesn't have crepe paper laying in the attic somewhere......back in the day they were a staple to every birthday party!!  Let's help bring em back in a much more stylish way!!!  Go here and here for detailed instructions!!

2. Music

Table for Two is a song written by Derek Webb that was inspired by a conversation he had with his friend at a diner. They were both pretty frustrated about being single and just not knowing if they'll ever meet the right person. This song talks about struggling with singleness, but in the big picture, it's really about relinquishing our will and trusting in His.
3. Blog/Other
I came across this blog the other day as I was searching for blogs that were geared toward teenage girls. (No not for me, obviously!!!  For the girls in my youth group, as another place to gain encouragement and truth.)  The blog isn't geared for that age group, but this specific post was and I loved it!!!
4. Scripture

When He looks at your heart, what does He see?  What a reminder to keep our hearts pure and set on Him!!

5. Quote

Okay, so it's a quote based on scripture :)  Double bonus!!!! 

Thanks so much for joining us and checking out our favorites for the week!  And a special thanks to our dear friend, Angie from The Lentil Project for her contributions to today's post (song and scripture)!!

~Lorraine, Jessica and Angie

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lapis Lazuli (I heart you)

Here comes another round of I <3 U! The last edition can be found here! If you liked the format of that post, with the music and such.. here is another song that you can quietly listen to while reading Isaiah 54! If you don't have a bible with you, you can go to www.biblegateway.com and read there. Throughout this post I will be referencing NIV. I greatly encourage you to read through the entire chapter before continuing on with the rest of this post.

(I do not own this music)

Once again, this chapter is full of great promises and great hope, I can't wait to uncover it all with you. If you stop after verse 1 you could be confused, it might sound as if God is condemning marriage and mothering. But, this is not at all what he is saying. Instead of reading verse 1 and thinking that we must be called to never marry, think of it this way; God appointed each of us a period of time of singleness, in that singleness we are called to follow God as well as we can. Let's face it, if you have a husband (or wife) to take care of, or to make sure you spend enough time with, it could put a damper on your relationship with God. Only God knows when we can handle the balance between family and God. God's telling us to shout for joy with the opportunity we have to serve God with no strings attached. The next two verses tell us to open up our hearts, home, and life to God's people. To open up and let others into our lives and to care for them without holding back.

Skipping down to verse 4: "Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood." If you have never been shamed or humiliated by either your faith or your singleness... I'd like to talk to you. People will shame you, they will look down on you for faith and for lack of a partner. But, God will not. The people that truly matter, will not. The second half of this verse pretty much says "you'll thank me for it later". When we get to a resting place in life, where we can look back on our youth; we won't regret not having a boyfriend or girlfriend to hang on. I've never had anyone tell me (over the age of 25) that they regretted the time in highschool when they didn't have someone to hang all over. But, that is a lesson for a different time...

Verses 5-12 are my favorite. My maker is my husband. The "bible" definition (I don't know what that is, but if you go on dictionary.com and scroll all the way to the bottom of the search page, it's there) of husband is " the "house-band," connecting and keeping together the whole family. A man when betrothed was esteemed from that time a husband (Matt. 1:16, 20; Luke 2:5). A recently married man was exempt from going to war for "one year" (Deut. 20:7; 24:5)." God is our house-band. My maker is what connects and keeps the whole family together. :) "the holy one of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth" it's like the ending of a really good book when you find out just who THAT person really was. The God of all the earth is my redeemer, husband, houseband, connector.

This post is getting a little long, so read over the next few verses and stop right after 9. If you don't know the story of Noah you can read it in Genesis 6. Long story short, God wiped out all of humanity because of their repulsive sin. "To me, this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again" (Isaiah 54:9). I was angry with you because of your sin, I HAD to turn my face in anger. But not anymore, I have a solution, I will never ever be angry with you again. I love you. Verse 10 tells us that although this earth is temporary and can be shaken "my unfailing love for you will not be shaken". God's love can't fail, it can't even be shaken. It's as sturdy as sturdy gets!

This next one is my favorite out of this whole chapter, which might confuse you a little bit. I love this verse so much, it's hanging on the wall next to my bed. "O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted..." (that's us!) "I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires." We are afflicted beings, people come against us, and as much as we can say 'sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words can never hurt me'. It's not true. That's crap. We are a city lashed by storms on the right and left, but God's going to build us up. He's not JUST going to build us up. He's going to build us up with stones of turquoise and sapphire. Another word for 'sapphire' in this verse is lapis lazuli.

I did a little bit of research and the lapis lazuli (blue stone) is an incredible shade of blue. For the longest time, people could not make a fake dye that matched the deepness of this blue. It's referred to as 'ultramarine' which means 'beyond the sea'. The stone is thought of as a stone of friendship and truth. When a gem cutter cuts this lapis lazuli, they will many times turn up their nose. When the gem is cut it puts off an odour. Many gem cutters can tell the intensity of the color from the smell it puts off. When you wear the stone a lot, it could become kind of matte and dull, but no matter how matte and dull the stone gets, it can always be polished and brought back to its original beauty. This gem is one of the most expensive blue gems that is around the world today. Let's summarize: I am an afflicted city, I have many a storms coming my way from day-to-day. But, God is going to build me up with walls made of lapis lazuli, one of the most expensive blue gems of our time. In fact, one of the most magnificently colored blue gems of our time. He's going to build me up in friendship and in truth, and people will be able to tell from the smell I put forth (not literal smell) how intense my color is and how close to my original magnificence I am. But, don't worry! No matter how hard those storms hit and how dull my color gets, I can always be polished back to my original beauty by my maker.  Wow.

Read over the rest of the chapter yourself and look at how God says he will protect us and how he shows that he created the people who will come against us. Although he did not create the evil that will come out of them, he created them and knows them as well as he knows us. I really am unsure of how to end this post, but if nothing else, take the knowledge about the lapis lazuli and treasure that in your heart.
~ Jessica