My Romantic Valentine’s Day

hearts

Do you have romantic plans with your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? A special dinner out, perhaps, or did he surprise you with flowers and chocolate?

I remember when I was in high school, “the thing” was for the girls to receive flowers or balloons at school on Valentine’s Day. I recall dropping some not-so-subtle hints to my parents about it, and they were very kind to bless me with a special vase or balloon. You see, I didn’t want to be the one who went home empty handed (although I’m sure there were many who actually did so). Even though I knew that people loved me, I had a desire for others to see that someone went to the expense and trouble of sending me a token of love on Valentine’s Day.

This is now my 17th Valentine’s Day married to Trevor, and we decided long ago that we wouldn’t make a big deal of this day…..mostly because we’re so frugal (aka cheap) that we can’t stomach paying full price for flowers and cards and candy. To us, it’s seems like an occasion manufactured by card and candy companies to increase their sales. We know that we love each other, and we don’t need to be pressured into buying things on February 14 to show it….we should show it all the time.

But that doesn’t keep us from taking advantage of clearance candy deals after Valentine’s Day. :-)

With all of that said, I want to tell you how my husband is being romantic and showing me true love on this Valentine’s Day. I’ve written before about how tight our budget is lately. Some of it is just life….things break; people get sick; the economy fluctuates. Some of it is our choice: we’re making sacrifices and scrimping so that we can afford the kids’ homeschool academy, karate classes, and piano program. For us, it’s worth the belt-tightening because we feel that we are doing what’s best for our children.

Trevor is a hard worker and a wonderful provider for our family. He’s a public school teacher, so his income depends a lot on whether the economy is robust or poor in a certain year, and unlike the corporate world, there’s little opportunity for economic advancement.

Lately Trevor has accepted some outside tutoring requests, for which I’m very thankful. And he was given the opportunity to work the gate at a basketball tournament this weekend to earn some extra income. So this morning, on Valentine’s Day, he left to tutor for a couple of hours, and he will then work until 10:00 or so tonight at the basketball tournament. I’ll hardly see him today.

It’s not fun being away from my soul mate all day on Valentine’s Day (not to mention having the kids by myself all day), but in my opinion he is doing the most romantic thing he could do for me….bringing home some extra “bacon.” And for this vegetarian, that’s a pretty yummy thing!

So, Happy Valentine’s Day, Trevor, and thank you for working so hard to care for our family!

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

 

 

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16 (Now 17) Years

On the day I graduated from high school, in June 1992, I remember looking out of my bedroom window and thinking to myself, “This is it. The next thing I know, I’ll be graduating from college, then getting married, raising kids, and before I know it my life will be over.” Deep thoughts for an 18-year-old, huh? But in that moment, the brevity of life really weighed on me. I realized that “life is but a vapor,” and time really does fly.

A couple of years after I graduated from college, I met my Knight in Shining Armor. I was 23 and Trevor was 27, and we were fixed up by mutual friends. We both were sick of dating the wrong people, and we both knew right off the bat that God had brought us together. We had a brief, whirlwind courtship and married exactly seven months after we met— 16 17 years ago today. (For more juicy details, check out my book.)

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I would be lying if I told you that we rode off into the sunset and have lived happily ever after. Our first two years of married life were anything but bliss, and the next several weren’t exactly anything for the books, either (Among other things, we were digging our way out of debt and building a home ourselves. Then we added four children in rapid succession.). Our families of origin would be quick to tell you that Trevor and I are both very strong willed and opinionated, which isn’t the greatest combination sometimes, and we tend to butt heads. A lot.

The good news is that we have worked through a lot of the kinks in our relationship, and the last few years have been much better, for the most part. Of course, all marriages have “issues,” but we have matured, mellowed, and meshed through the years. We’ve learned that we each have strengths and weaknesses, and God intends for the strengths of one of us to compensate for the weaknesses of the other, and vice versa. We still butt heads and probably always will (“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17), but I like to think that the conflicts help to mold and shape us more into the image of Christ than if we were doing life on our own. God has a purpose for everything, even conflict.

Trevor and I now share many goals, such as raising godly children, making a real difference in the political arena, and doing all we can to encourage and strengthen the Body of Christ.

We are learning to use the strong wills that God gave us to fight against the schemes of the devil, instead of each other. Well, most of the time. And here’s an interesting thing about our strong wills—maybe the most important thing: when we said “I do” 16 17 years ago, we meant it. And we’re stubborn enough to make our marriage work, no matter what. We’re sticking together through thick and thin, or “for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”

I have to say that the Lord knew what He was doing when He gave Trevor to me. As much as I’d like to send him to the dog house sometimes, I don’t know where I would be without him. I’m thankful that he works hard to provide for our family so I can be home to raise and educate our children. I’m grateful that he stands up publicly for The Truth, knowing that he will be criticized and attacked at times. And I’m humbled that he still loves me, even after 16 17 years of seeing my faults and experiencing my failures. He’s committed to the Lord, and he’s committed to me, to us.

Trevor tells me that I’m spoiled, and maybe I am. But he is, too. And that’s okay, right? I’d like for us to take the next 16 17 years and figure out how to spoil each other even more.

Here’s a poem that my precious sister wrote for my wedding day. It still brings tears to my eyes…..

wedding poemWe’re in it for the long haul, and that’s a really good thing. Happy Anniversary, Sweetie. :-)

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Happy New Year 2015!

Happy New Year!

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Have Your Way With Me

kids fighting

Hello again. First I must apologize for my extended absence from the blogging world. I really don’t have a good excuse. I have started working outside the home for the first time in over 12 years, so that has been an adjustment. I also have been taking time to read more (Stay tuned for book reviews!), which I haven’t done in many years, either. I’m enjoying both, but my poor blog has been quite neglected.

As many of you know, my four children attend a local homeschool academy on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays each week, and I teach them at home on Mondays and Fridays. They love their homeschool academy. They have wonderful friends, amazing teachers, and a precious Christian environment where they can learn and grow.

My children behave extremely well at their homeschool academy. They almost never get into any trouble there. They are respectful, kind, obedient, and diligent, for which I’m very thankful.

On school at home days, my children leave their bodies and monsters take over.

You think I’m kidding, don’t you? My sweet little angels couldn’t possibly behave poorly, could they?

I won’t terrify you with details, but suffice it to say that it seems as though they bottle up all of their badness during the week and then release it all on Mondays and Fridays, just for me.

Last Friday was a particularly bad school at home day. Maybe it’s because Christmas is just around the corner, and everyone is “over” school. I don’t know for sure, but I found myself locked in my bathroom, wondering what in the world I’m doing wrong to cause such madness.

I’ve been pretty discouraged lately about this parenting thing. It seems that instead of getting better, some of the issues with my kids are going in the opposite direction. Sometimes I lose my temper with them, which makes things even worse. I couldn’t agree more with the title of James Dobson’s book, Parenting Isn’t for Cowards. A coward is exactly what I feel like sometimes in this parenting journey. It’s hard and I fail a lot and at times I feel like giving up. I won’t give up, of course, but in my flesh I often feel weak and defeated and overwhelmed.

I was listening to worship music this evening while I was dipping peanut butter balls in chocolate. The house was quiet. My husband was gone with the younger three kids, and my oldest was reading on the couch. As one of the songs played, I feel that God spoke to me. He seems to reach me often through music, when I get quiet enough to listen.

If you’re struggling with any part of your Christian walk, see if these lyrics might touch you, too. It’s called “Have Your Way ” from the Sweetly Broken album by Vineyard Music:

In my own strength I’ve tried

to live a holy life, struggling till the end.

Then you find me on my knees,

praying “God forgive me please.”

And “I’ll try again.”

So when will victory be mine?

I’m running out of faith and time.

To live on a mountaintop, it takes more than a will to climb.

So have Your way with me.

Let Your strength be what flows from me,

and let the blood that ran down Calvary run through me.

Oh, Lord, have Your way with me.

 

It seems like self never dies.

The harder I try, it comes back for more.

There are times I lose this fight

before the battle has begun.

And Your blessings must wait once more.

So when will victory be mine?

I’m running out of faith and time.

To live on a mountaintop, it takes more than a will to climb.

So have Your way with me.

Let Your strength be what flows from me,

and let the blood that ran down Calvary run through me.

Oh, Lord, have Your way with me.

 

Though this flesh is what covers me,

Holy Spirit take control of me.

When I want to give in,

don’t give up on me.

Cause where grace abounds, there I want to be.

So, have Your way with me.

Let Your strength be what flows from me,

and let the blood that you shed for me run through me.

Oh, Lord, have Your way with me.

Yes, Lord. Have your way with me. You gave me these four children to raise, so give me the strength and the wisdom to parent them as You direct. Give me patience and let your grace flow through me into their lives day by day by day, for the days are short that they will be in my care. Amen.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ this week, may we focus on our walk with the Lord and all that He means to us. May His joy fill us to overflowing, so that our problems and struggles fade away. That’s my prayer for your family and mine. Merry Christmas to you all!

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Gray Hair and Pimples

gray hair and pimples

I was talking to one of my dear friends recently, and we were lamenting the fact that, in our forties, we still deal with occasional face break-outs. It seems to be worse when stress levels are high or hormones are wonky, but nonetheless it’s frustrating still to have zits at my age. As my friend so hilariously put it, our bodies need to make up their minds whether we’re young or old. It’s not okay to have gray hair and pimples!

Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I’m already 40 years old. When I was growing up, I thought that 40 was “old as dirt,” which, when you think about it, is really “middle aged,” considering that the life expectancy for females in the U.S. is around 81. Thankfully, I don’t feel old as dirt, and I pray that I have many more years to enjoy my kids and future grandkids.

Do you ever forget that you’re a grown up? I do for brief moments sometimes. Maybe that’s weird, but occasionally I think of myself as a teen or young adult, and then suddenly it’s like I’ve somehow time-traveled into the future. I remember that I’m 40 years old and responsible for four little people, and I’m shocked back to reality. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. :-) But those moments also reinforce how very brief our lives on this earth are. We are here for just a blip in time, and then we’re gone.

This makes me think of our place in God’s Kingdom. I’ve heard it described often as “The Already But Not Yet.” We are already a part of God’s Kingdom, but because we are held captive in these earthly, decaying bodies in this sinful, broken world we can’t yet completely experience all that the Kingdom entails.

Here’s an explanation of Kingdom Theology from Wikipedia: “Kingdom theology distinguishes between the world some believe to be ruled by Satan, the one we live in, and the world ruled by God, his kingdom. Kingdom theology holds the importance of the kingdom of God as a core value and teaches that the kingdom currently exists in the world, but not yet in its fullness. The theology maintains that the kingdom of God will come in fullness with Christ’s second coming. In the future fulfillment, evil and Satan will be destroyed and God’s complete rule on Earth established. Theologian and director of the Vineyard Bible Institute, Derek Morphew argued that the kingdom of God encompassed both signs and wonders and social justice. Although kingdom theology presents history as a struggle between God and Satan, there is an eschatological expectation that God will triumph over Satan, which is why suffering for the sake of the kingdom is accepted.”

I realize that’s pretty heavy, but we can basically boil it down to this: We have full citizenship in God’s Kingdom now. We can experience His power, see His signs and wonders (YES!), and hear His still, small voice at times, but when Christ returns for us, we will be transferred into the fullness of God’s glory and dominion. We will be made perfect. We will be completely healed. We will worship at God’s throne. We will see His face. We will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us. Oh, what a glorious day awaits us!

So, if you’re like me and you’re still dealing with pimples while suffering with changing hair color, take heart. Soon and very soon we will shed these perishable bodies and exchange them for glorious, perfect ones. Everything will be clear. Everything will be made right. No more sickness. No more tears. No more pain or heartache.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

 

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Marriage Commitment Challenge

 wedding

This is a guest post from my husband Trevor. Please read the following prayerfully and ask the Lord how He wants you to respond. Blessings, friends!

Marriage Commitment Challenge
by Trevor Thomas
September 14, 2014
 

In light of the viral “Ice Bucket Challenge” that has significantly raised both awareness and money in the battle against the terrible disease of ALS, I recently had an idea for a different type of “challenge.” This is a challenge to stand up for the truth—to be seen and heard in the fight against another, much more devastating plague on our culture.

For years now, I and many others have detailed the tragic effects of the breakdown of the traditional (biblical) family unit in our culture (see my archive of columns/articles on my “Marriage/Family/Sexuality” page; also search my site for “marriage and family” and the like). In addition to the devastating effects for children brought up in a home without a loving and married mother and father, as has often been chronicled, the breakdown of the family is linked to an increase in poverty, violence, crime, and a host of other social ills.

Divorce, out-of-wedlock births, promiscuity of every kind imaginable, prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation of children, sex-trafficking, homosexuality, same-sex marriage—each of these once considered grossly immoral (“sin”) by most Americans—with some considered so gross as not even to warrant a discussion—are now not only considered acceptable in many circles, but some are even celebrated.

This is especially true of homosexuality. The federal government, the federal courts, state governments and state courts all across the U.S., school systems, corporations, Hollywood, the news media, the sports industries and media—virtually every realm of our culture has capitulated by some measure to the homosexual agenda.

Such acceptance and celebration has infected not only our secular culture, but the church as well. For the last decade we have watched as denomination after denomination, congregation after congregation, in the name of the fallacy that is today’s “tolerance,” compromise long-held biblical truths on marriage and sexuality.

Additionally, the movement to redefine marriage, which is being rabidly debated throughout the U.S., is not only seeking to shatter the foundation upon which all of our social institutions rest, it is seeking to legitimize—using, among other things, the full power of our legal system— homosexuality and all of its perverse variations, including transgenderism.

Bakers, florists, photographers, wedding hosts, and the like have suffered under our legal system due to their Christian views on marriage and homosexuality. This will certainly continue. As I noted a few months ago, and as Al Mohler recently pointed out, “We are in the midst of a massive revolution in morality.” Mohler adds that, “sexual morality is at the center of this revolution.” He refers directly to a “crossroads” and alludes to an unavoidable showdown that is looming within the evangelical church. However, I believe this is the case for our nation in general.

Given all of this, and as I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the success of the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” I think it’s time for all who are concerned about where our nation is headed with marriage and sexuality to embrace a different type of challenge. This one involves no financial donation but could cost you plenty; there’s no ice-cold water involved, but it could be much more “chilling” for some. However, if this catches on and turns hearts and minds toward the truth, it will all be worth it.

What I propose is the following: Married couples—husbands and wives that is—as well as interested singles, would video a short (less than 1 minute) commitment statement on marriage and sexuality and post it online—Facebook, YouTube, etc.—for all the world to see. The statements I created (one for marrieds; one for singles) are below. You could use one of mine or create your own. It needs to be brief, so that people can view it quickly, but it needs to communicate clearly the truth on marriage and sexuality.

I propose that husbands and wives alternate reading sections, but do so in a manner that demonstrates unity: the type of unity that a Christian marriage is supposed to have. In other words, two are reading it as one. (My personal preference would be alternating the reading instead of reading it together, but others may reach a different conclusion.) Also, large groups such as Sunday school classes, church small groups, or even whole congregations could make the commitment together. Husbands and wives could make the commitment with their children present.

I especially challenge Christian leaders—pastors, elders, deacons, ministry heads, leaders of Christian colleges and universities, and the like—to make the marriage commitment and do so boldly. I also especially challenge Christians in high-profile parts of our culture—TV celebrities, movie celebrities, sports celebrities, news media celebrities, and the like—to make the marriage commitment.

However, the vast majority of us who make this marriage commitment will be those with a much smaller circle of influence. It will be this group that will convince most people that this commitment is the right thing to do. In other words, it will be the every-day Americans that will point the vast majority to the truth on marriage and sex.

As you challenge others to this commitment, I recommend that you do so in private. Some may not respond well to a public challenge on an issue such as this.

Yes, many of us who are in a Christian marriage have already said our vows before God and a crowd of witnesses. Yet, these drastic times call for more. The voices of deception are many. They need to be countered.

I’m under no illusions that the few words in these marriage commitments will, by themselves, elicit real change in our nation. Neither am I seeking merely a political solution. By and large, our politics are only a reflection of our culture. Real change will come as people live out the commitment and God uses His truth to bring repentance.

In other words, change will come when those deceived and those seeking the truth see millions of loving, committed, and fruitful marriages lived out before their eyes and God reveals to their hearts that this is the way that marriage was meant to be. Nevertheless, given where we are with marriage and sexuality in our nation, we need a large wake-up call and I believe that this “marriage commitment challenge” could be that call.

Dr. Mohler is right: sooner or later we’re all going to have to decide where we stand in these matters. We may as well start now. Is this “corny”? Perhaps, but certainly no more so than dumping a bucket of ice water on your head to help cure a disease—and look what that has accomplished.

Below are the commitments that I’ve written. Each one has been examined, and edited where necessary, by pastors and those involved in family ministry.

Married Couples:

As husband and wife we commit, before God and all who witness this, to remain faithful in all that the Bible reveals on the holy covenant of marriage.

Namely, we commit to remain faithful to one another and keep our marriage bed pure; and we commit to remain married until our earthly union is dissolved by death. Furthermore, as a union of one man and one woman, we commit to allow God to use our union as He sees fit to build His Kingdom.

Last, we commit to model and to teach others the truth on marriage and sexuality. Namely, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life and that the only rightful place for sex is within marriage.

Singles:

I commit, before God and all who witness this, to remain faithful to all that the Bible reveals on the holy covenant of marriage.

Namely, I commit to keep myself sexually pure while unmarried and model and teach this behavior to those in my circle of influence. Furthermore, I commit to allow God to use me as a single person as He sees fit to build His Kingdom.

If I am ever married, I commit to remain faithful to my spouse, keep our marriage bed pure, and remain married until our earthly union is dissolved by death.

Last, whether married or single, I commit to model and to teach others the truth on marriage and sexuality. Namely, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life and that the only rightful place for sex is within marriage.

See our marriage commitment here:

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“Are They All Yours?”

children

It happened again….

I took my kids to Taco Bell for a treat after school one day this week. Taco Bell has “Happier Hour” every afternoon, and the kids enjoy the frozen drinks. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it (Don’t judge me. I love Taco Bell.). My four children actually all behaved the entire time we were there. Shocker, I know. So, I was refilling my drink before we left the restaurant, and the man behind me commented on the kids. He was a guy around my age, so I was surprised when out jumped “The Question:” He said, “Are they all yours?” (I usually get the question from older people….I guess they take more time to notice.)

“They are,” I replied. “They keep me busy!” (Maybe I looked overwhelmed, or something?)

He went on to tell me about his two girls and how much fun they are. I remarked that they grow up too fast. It was a pleasant conversation, and then we left.

I try not to take all of the kids out to stores and such by myself unless I absolutely have to, because sometimes those trips are less than pleasant and sometimes I end up stressed to the gills. Maybe that’s why I get the question so often from complete strangers: “Are they all yours?” I hear that question more often than you would believe. And the next comment usually is, “You have your hands full!”

Okay, maybe I’m crazy, but four kids isn’t really an outrageous number, is it? I mean, it’s not like twenty-four or anything. My grandfather is the youngest of 13. I realize he was raised in a different time, but during his 84 years of life we seem to have gone from celebrating large families to looking down on them.

Hopefully most people are just trying to make conversation when they ask if all the kids are mine. I have to say that it comes across as kind of rude or judgmental, though. I almost feel like I need to apologize for reproducing so many times or explain that we really can provide for them ourselves.

I’m not quick enough on my feet, and I’m not one to be sassy or confrontational to strangers, but sometimes I wish I had some really great come-backs ready when people ask “the question.” Things like:

  • “No, I picked up a couple of extras on the way here.”
  • Or “They are, and the other seven are in the car.”
  • Or “These are just the ones from my first marriage.”
  • Or “Oh, yes. I’m producing workers to help reduce the Social Security deficit.” (I got this one from my friend, who also hears “the question” a lot.
  • Or “Absolutely! Four future conservative voters.”

Okay, well, maybe those aren’t the greatest responses in the world. But something like that would probably be better than the apologetic look and sheepish response that I usually give. I think I need to be more enthusiastic when I claim all of my children in public. What are they, if not an incredible blessing, straight from the Father?

Our society has seen a drastic shift from one that values life to one that thinks of children as a burden—something to delay until one’s career has taken off. Or not to have at all. We have Roe v. Wade to thank, in large part, for devaluing life, which has led to decreasing birth rates, increasing child abuse rates, some serious financial problems for the nation, and so on. Sure, we don’t “need” large families anymore to work on the farms and such, and modern medicine makes it easier than ever to prevent pregnancy. But I believe that we, as a nation, need to re-focus our priorities, return to an emphasis on family life, and celebrate the gift that children are to this world.

Consider a few things that the Lord says about children and family:

  • “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5a)
  • But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)
  • “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'” (Genesis 1:28a)
  • “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15)
  • “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 113:13-16)
  • “All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace.” (Isaiah 54:13)

There are many more.

My heart goes out to people who desperately want children but are unable to have them. I want to be sensitive to those families, too, and not imply that children have to be present in order for a family to be complete. God is sovereign and His ways are higher than our ways.

But instead of giving large families weird looks or making unkind comments, let’s commit to celebrate when we encounter them. After all, without children, the world’s population would die off and cease to be. Some countries are headed that way if things don’t change. I’m glad to be doing my part to re-populate the world and hopefully make it a better place in the long run.

Bottom line: Children are a blessing, even when they’re misbehaving in the grocery store. :-)

 

 

 

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