Love Runs Red

For years, the kids* and I have worn red on Good Friday…here’s why.  Hope you will join us! #loverunsred2017

Tomorrow is Good Friday.  The day many, many years ago Jesus Christ sacrificed His perfect, blameless life for our salvation and redemption.  One man, one act, one horrific death for any and all.  It’s hard to comprehend!  I can’t think about that day without recognizing the significance of Christ’s bloodshed on the cross.

We all know what blood is, it’s the red fluid continuously circulating throughout our bodies composed of vital nutrients and transporting them to and from our organs.  It gives us life and without we cannot live…interesting, huh?

“For the life of a creature is in the blood…” Leviticus 17:11

In the Old Testament, God required animal sacrifices for the temporary forgiveness of sins.  Can you imagine?  I think it’s all I would be doing, sacrificing animals to live in a brief moment of freedom, a temporary time of forgiveness…wow.  Just wow.  I’m so grateful we live on this side of the cross, this side of grace, this side of the last blood shed for our permanent forgiveness…and then I think of what it cost and I’m overwhelmed and cannot believe I am loved so much– we all are!

“…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22

With blood we have life, without it there is death.  Through Christ’s blood, poured out on the cross, we can truly have life and freedom.  His bloodshed wasn’t a temporary act like an animal sacrifice, but was and is a permanent reminder of our forgiveness of sins.  Of grace being enough; of Christ being enough.

“…and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:20

From the beating with the whips, to the crown of thorns, from the holes nailed in his hands and feet suspending Him on the cross, to the final pierce in His side, the weight of the sins, sadness and sufferings of the world were laid upon Him, one man, our Savior, Jesus…and then entered grace.  With each drop of blood that fell at the foot of the cross, each drop that rolled off of His brow, we are forgiven.  We are given grace.  Grace undeserved but given anyway.  We will continue to struggle with sin and sufferings until we meet our Savior face to face but no more is there a need for blood to be shed, just blood to be remembered and received.  Oh THANK YOU JESUS!

Love runs red.  On that dark day years ago and until He returns, His love runs red for each one of us.  Tomorrow we honor Him and remember His sacrifice by wearing red, won’t you join us!?

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7, 8a (NIV)

 *Not all children will grasp the cross and what wearing red tomorrow truly means, but it’s never too early to start teaching them about the importance of Good Friday, Jesus’ sacrifice for us, sin and Heaven.  Pray for God to give you wisdom in speaking to your children on a level they can better understand.  There are several tools out there that can help, too.  Here are a few of our favorites:

One of a Kind

IMG_5869While at the store one fall day, I picked up some small striped pumpkins, mainly because I thought they looked really neat and would add to my seasonal décor, but when I took them out of the bag at home, I noticed how vastly different each one was even though they were the same type of pumpkins.  I immediately thought of how different each of us are; how different God makes each of us.  We are all human, we are all made in His image (Genesis 1:27), yet we individually have certain character traits and physical features that set us apart from one another, just like these pumpkins.

Not only did these little pumpkins remind me of God’s creativeness in fearfully (meaning with reverence or awe) and wonderfully designing each and every person that ever was, is and will be, it makes me feel very special and loved to know that I was thought of and known even before my conception- even before the world began we were thought of by our God! It’s so amazing!

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” Jeremiah 1:5a

“Long before He laid down the earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love…” Ephesians 1:4a

We were made by God and for God.  Ephesians 2:10 states that we are His handiwork, designed for the good works He has already determined for us when we walk in them.  Basically, God has a unique plan for each and every one of us!  When we walk in the way of Him and His design for us according to His Word, He does a mighty work in and through us.  By faith and in our obedience, His artistic process of making us into His image continues.  It’s beautiful, isn’t it!?

You, like these cute pumpkins, are one of a kind; there is no one else like you nor will there ever be anyone else like you.  Memorize these truths for yourself and let them sink into your being so you never doubt your (or other’s!) beautiful design, uniqueness, purpose or the plan God has for you (or them!)!


An activity for children:

  1. Gather two or more pumpkins (other items could work great too- fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers, leaves)
  2. Have the children take note of the differences in each one…if you have older children, they could write them down, maybe making it a fun game of finding ten things that are different between the pumpkins, you could also circle any obvious differences on the pumpkins.
  3. Talk to your child about how just as God created these pumpkins one of a kind, he made each person one of a kind.
  4. Going over Ephesians 2:10, let them know they were created in their Creator’s image, they are His workmanship, His work of art; they were thought of by God way before they were even in their mother’s belly!
  5. Talk about how awesomely and wonderfully God made them; how unique, beautiful, loved and wanted they are by God and you!
  6. List the ways they are unique and beautiful.
  7. If they have siblings, celebrate their differences.  Let them know they are one of a kind and there’s no need to try and be like anyone else.  Often we want to compare our children (or ourselves!) to others…this, too, takes away from God’s unique design of your child, try not to do it.

TIPS:

~Grab a Bible and look up the verses together, they are woven all throughout the Bible–you could make this a Bible drill type of game or just use it as an opportunity to get into the Bible together and find the verses together.

  • Genesis 1:27
  • Psalm 139:14
  • Jeremiah 1:5
  • Ephesians 1:4
  • Ephesians 2:10

~For younger children, the verses can be broken down:

    • (child’s name)    , you were created in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27)
    • You are so awesomely and wonderfully made! (Psalm 139:14)
    • God thought of you long before you were in mommy’s belly, even before He created the world! And He even knew you then! (Jeremiah 1:5, Ephesians 1:4)
    • You are God’s work of art! (Ephesians 2:10)

~If your children can read, write the verses (or fragments) out and have them read them aloud.  Have them practice memorizing the verses in their entirety.

~Remind them that just as they are God’s handiwork, so are others; they should not only treat themselves as such, but others as well.

~Talk about God’s special plan and purpose He has specifically laid out just for them.  Include what God has already done in their life, or any way God has used your child to grow your faith.

NOTES:

~There are so many ways to utilize this activity on a daily basis: with clouds, trees, sunsets, etc…

~When you are shopping at the grocery store you could have a hayday with all the various looking fruits and veggies! And what a way to keep a child entertained while you shop! Give them two of any fruit or vegetable and have them list the differences.

~When shopping at the mall, sit down and people watch, admiring God’s art work in people passing by.

I want my children to know these truths and understand how vastly important and unique they both are.  I couldn’t wait to sit down with them, observe the differences in these sweet pumpkins and discuss the creativeness of our God in each of them…my little pumpkins.

Oh Give Thanks

I woke up really needing coffee this morning- the real thing, not decaf (remember I am growing a sweet baby so my caffeine is limited these days agh). So I go to my Keurig, start brewing a cup and it’s not working right.  I remembered my husband messing with it last night so I called him with urgency to see what he might have done. He hadn’t done anything that would cause it not to work but I got a little angry at the situation because I wanted my coffee!

After trying to get it to work several more times and face timing my husband to show him what he had done was wrong it, I placed my coffee cup a little too roughly in the kitchen sink and it broke.  Ugh.

It was time to get my daughter to school, so trying not to be “mean Mommy” while scurrying the kids out the door, I remembered what we had started yesterday– our Thankful Tree*.  I realized how completely UNthankful I was being from the very start of my day.  I paused (briefly) and tried to be thankful, but was still irritated, tired and wanting my coffee.

We got in the car and on my dashboard was our verse for the week. I had written it out last night, placed one in front of each child, one on my husband’s dashboard and one on mine (oh, isn’t God’s timing perfect!).

“Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

I stopped, for real this time, and asked for forgiveness for my spoiled, ungrateful behavior and gave thanks for my awesome husband and my coffee pot and other things that I am so grateful for (like how that verse was sitting in my car waiting on me).  We turned on Chris Tomlin’s His Love Endures Forever and my spirits began to truly be grateful.

I began my day with an ungrateful, irritated heart (all because of a silly coffee pot) and God gently reminded me through His Word and our Thankful Tree to give thanks because He is good. We have so much to be thankful for and I want my heart and life to overflow with gratefulness.  I want this for my children, also.  They are growing up in a beautiful world but one that is full of instant gratification, excessiveness and overconsumption.  I want to fight with prayer, God’s Word and lead by example for my children’s hearts to be filled with the love of Christ and overflowing thankfulness for all things and in all things.

Oh, thank you, Lord.  May we never stop thanking you and may our hearts always beat gratefulness. Show us where we are not being appreciative and help us model thankfulness to our children.  Help us to teach them true gratitude and love.  In Jesus name, amen.


*We started our Thankful Tree last year and loved it so we couldn’t wait to do it again this year.  We each have our own color of leaf (we bought colored paper and printed these off then had fun cutting them out).  Everyday we each write something we are thankful for on our leaves.  We tape it to the wall and in the end it forms a beautiful tree of thanks.  It’s so neat to hear what the kids are thankful for!

This year, we have a verse for each week, too.

  • Week 1: Psalm 107:1 “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.”
  • Week 2: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
  • Week 3: Psalm 9:1 “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
  • Week 4: Colossians 3:17 “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God.”

Last year’s Thankful Tree

Happy November, friends, and may we cultivate such gratefulness in our hearts and homes this month that it lasts the whole year through!!

His Ways are Higher

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”‭‭. Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Tomorrow we will go to my daughters school to see who her 2nd grade teacher will be.  I have gone back and forth on whether I should request the teacher I wanted her to have or not.   So many people told me I should do it but something just didn’t feel right.  I also heard the sound of a quiet voice saying “Trust Me, Sarah.”  

The Lord knows my heart and my daughter’s heart and knows who we would like her to have as a teacher. We have prayed ferverently on the matter (at times I think I may have begged), but I know in my soul that whoever our little E gets this year is who she is meant to have.

Before 1st grade, we drove by her school once a week and prayed for her teacher and classmates. Her teacher turned out to be a perfect fit,  just who our E needed. She had a great year and we are so thankful!  She made new friends, learned school, life and faith lessons, and we knew, because of our prayers and because of the goodness of our God, that she was exactly where she was supposed to be.

This summer as we have driven by and prayed, I have found peace in knowing God already knows the plans He has for her 2nd grade year.  He was faithful last year and I know for certain He will be faithful this year, too.  This doesn’t necessarily mean we will get who we have been praying for or that everything will be perfect this year, but it means we will be exactly where He wants us … and that is so comforting!

So we are trusting and believing and praying big and bold. But we are also confident God has His mighty hand on this and our baby girl will be in the class He deems the best for her.  I am reminded that as our Heavenly, perfect Father, He truly knows what is best for His children.   And in this, and all situations, I am called to not only trust Him but to listen and let Him guide me.  Never do I want to take matters into my own hands that are better left with the Lord, and this, for us, was one of those situations.

His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways.

Father God may we let this verse reside deep in our hearts, souls and minds. Sometimes it’s hard to not think we know what’s best for our children but You, oh God, are the one who knows all, sees all and you are good and love our children bigger and more perfectly than we ever could. Guide us as we parent them and make decisions for them.  Help us look to You, give you the reins in all areas of our lives and to trust You as a new school year is approaching.  Be with the teachers, staff, students and parents all over our city, state and nation.  May we all know how deep your love is.  In Jesus precious name, amen. 

*Please know I do not think it is wrong to request a teacher for your child.  I feel God calls us all to do different things with our children and in your case He may be calling you to specify a teacher. In our case, this year, He has called me not to. 🙂

Seasoned With Salt

salt

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6 ESV

My family loves eggs and I make them almost every morning.  My son likes his eggs scrambled with ketchup on the side, my daughter and I like ham and cheese in our eggs (I tried to do the omelet thing but find it’s just easier to scramble them all together…and I just couldn’t master the omelet; will try again one day!), and my husband likes his fried with a runny yolk (if you could see my face, it’s saying eww).  Even though we all seem to have a different preference when it comes to our eggs, we all like a little salt on them, it’s something I do every time I make an egg, no matter then style.  Why?  Because it makes them taste better and adds a little more flavor.

May your speech always be gracious and seasoned with salt…

I love the fact that Paul used the word “always” in there.  Meaning, not just when you feel like it or when you agree with the person you are speaking to, but always.  Every time we open our mouths may they be filled with grace.  Grace, remember, is unmerited, not necessarily deserved.  Whew.  This is not always an easy task, but with the Holy Spirit’s help, we have the power to always speak with grace.

I also love that just speaking with grace wasn’t enough, Paul knew we needed another enhancement to our words–SALT.  Just a little extra seasoning on there because too much salt doesn’t taste good, does it?  Salt is used to enhance and preserve food; it even makes some foods more interesting.  This “salt” Paul is speaking of can sprinkle compassion and sensitivity into our tone of voice and the words we choose when we speak.  It’s interesting that we also use salt to melt ice; softening it or melting it to make travel safer and less destructive.  Ice is hard; salt melts it.  Hearts are hard; seasoning our words with salt may help melt hard hearts (even our own).

I love the Message version of Colossians 4:6 : “Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.” (if I could enter a heart icon here I would enter several-love this verse!)

Whatever you have to say (or post on social media), add some salt and grace to it.  Encourage others, build them up and magnify the Lord in all you say.  Perhaps what you want to say is something better left unsaid? Or perhaps with the Holy Spirit’s help you can say it in a way that is lovingly tasteful and respectful?

Be ready to share about Christ, His character and what He has done for you not necessarily what He needs to be doing for someone else.  Let’s keep the focus on the Lord working in our own lives and how we can grow to become more like our Savior.

I’ll leave you with another awesome verse on this matter:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 ESV

Oh Lord, our words.  We have so many.  Thank you that we can speak and communicate with one another, but please, Lord, help us to only speak what you would have us speak.  Help us to say it in the way you would have us say it.  May we embrace forgiveness when others hurt us with their words and may we acknowledge our own words that may have hurt others.  Help us, Oh God, to speak with grace ALWAYS and season each word that comes out of our mouths with salt- Your salt.  Salt of compassion, love and more grace.  We love you and we praise You for Your Word to guide us.  AMEN.


An Activity for the KIDS!

~Have your children help you make two batches of eggs – your preference on how you cook them 🙂

~Have them season one batch with salt, leaving the other plain

~Try them! See which they like better.  Hopefully it will be the salted ones 😉

~Talk about Colossians 4:6 and how just as the salt makes the eggs taste better, when we “season” our own words with salt, our words taste better; they are said better.  Have them make a list of what they think “salt” could mean for them (things like love, compassion, sensitivity, grace, and a loving, encouraging tone of voice, etc…)

~If someone in your family is having a hard time speaking in a loving tone or struggling with the right words to say, have them carry around an empty salt container throughout the day to remind them of Colossians 4:6.  Write the verse on a sticky note and tape it to the salt container if you can.  You could also put the salt shaker somewhere they can see it from time to time (or just add it to the mustard seeds on the dashboard of the car 😉 If you missed the video blog (vlog?) on the mustard seeds, click here to view it!)

~Have your children memorize this verse

~Let your children always be the ones to help you season your food with salt


BTW- I think I’m going to just go on and get my very own salt container to carry around because I know my words can be better said and conveyed if I’m reminded of the seasoning that’s needed to infuse my words with Christ’s words. So if you see me with my salt shaker, you’ll know why.  I need this as much as anyone, especially when it comes to speaking to my own precious children and husband.  Often my words to others outside my home can be more gracious but I can’t forget that God starts in our hearts and in our homes.  What I do here matters more than what I do anywhere else.

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9 (insert another heart icon)

With love, grace, and salt…Sarah 🙂

Hymns ~ A Guest Post by my sister, Emily McIllwain

FullSizeRenderI hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

“Jesus Paid it All” (Elvina M. Hall, 1865)

I just had a very emotional heart to heart with my 3-year-old daughter (hence, the “emotional” part) regarding sin that was built up in her heart.  Amidst tears and hugs she cried out, “I don’t know how to be good! I need God to help me be good!”…Amen sister.  Don’t we all.  The words of the above hymn immediately came to my mind and lips, and she drifted off to a peaceful sleep with a song I learned in my formative years that I now need more than ever.

I frequently sing to (and with) my children.  We sing while we play, while we ride in the car, while we rock-rock, and while they close their eyes and fall asleep.  Music has always played an important role in my life.  It has always been there; something I have always loved and spent a lot of time (and my dad’s money!) invested in.  As I sing to my children, I realize the importance of those Sunday’s that my parents dragged me to church.  Don’t get me wrong- most of the time I really wanted to go, but my motive was not to praise God or to hear Him speak to me through the sermon…it was to flirt with my crush or pass notes to my friends (where to eat for lunch that day was always a hot topic that was sure to distract even the most focused of us).  All were wrong reasons to sit there on Sunday morning, but still, today, as a 32-year-old woman, I benefit from that attendance.  The music and lyrics of the hymns that we sang in our Baptist church growing up are forever etched in my heart, always sure to open up when called upon by the Spirit inside of me.

Hymns are building blocks to the rock-solid foundation of Christianity necessary to a lifetime of persevering and growing in the Lord.  ~“The Solid Rock”
(Edward Mote)

Through the melodious harmony and unapologetic worship of a hymn, ministry happens – to our own hearts, and to others as well.  Worship is not only achieved through music, of course (a concept that hadn’t occurred to me until my 20’s), but through no other venue does the Holy Spirit grab me so strongly and completely. Through no other venue can I personally worship so openly and through no other venue have I witnessed others worship so boldly.

The old classic hymns are still as popular and catchy as ever.  Through them, we are united with Christians from long ago, people who lived in very different times yet still fought the same enemy and felt the same Spirit.  The hymns remain relevant because our God Almighty remains unchanged.

“Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not.

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

-Thomas Chisholm, 1923

This is not to say that Christian music published after the 19th century is any less developed or memorable, but isn’t it truly amazing (no pun intended!) that “Amazing Grace” by John Newton in 1779 is still the number one most popular Christian hymn, even though it is two and a half CENTURIES old?  The song is truly powerful, and so very applicable today, but I also think that the concept of memorization has a lot to do with it as well.  “Amazing Grace” is sung at many funerals, and has been remade several time since its release.  The words are etched in our minds and our subconscious, and therefore are easy to call upon when needed.

The notion of using music – specifically hymns – to teach children and adults alike has been around since the time of Moses.  In Deuteronomy chapter 31, Moses recognized the need for accurate memorization of God’s Law, and so he wrote it down and demanded that the laws be read to the entire Hebrew assembly, including the children.

To fulfill God’s purpose and will in our lives we need the content and substance of His Word in our hearts and minds…There is a place for music in Christian education, and for the building up of all believers. Some people memorize classic hymns of the church to help them think of what is true, right and good.*

In the next chapter of Deuteronomy (Chapter 32), Moses himself taught the people through a song entitled “The Song of Moses”.  I’m sure Moses was hoping the song would make the history of Israel, the warnings from their past mistakes, and their hope in the one true God easier to remember.

As I think back to the church attendance of my youth, I realize that my one-year-old and three-year-old benefit from that church attendance as well.  As I sing songs to them, I become conscious of the fast-pace of life and the urgency to cram their sweet little heads full of Jesus and His Love and not Old Mother Goose (not that there is anything wrong with Mother Goose).  No matter what trials they face in life or storms they weather, I want them to be led by His Light (“Be Thou My Vision” -Dallan Forgaill), and if led astray, to come back to Him.  I want them to remember the hymns I sang to them and to hold on to the words that will give them peace and hope amidst pain, suffering and longing like we hear in “It is Well” by Horacio Spafford.  I want them to sing hymns to their children, so that they, too, may experience the undeniable tug of the Holy Spirit through the music and lyrics of Christians over many centuries fighting the good fight together, with the never-changing Lord of All by their side (“Great is Thy Faithfulness” – Thomas Chisholm).

O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting He passed, and we follow Him there; O’er us sin no more hath dominion— For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised; Believe Him, and all will be well: Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

Helen Lemmel, 1922

*(Galvin, James C., Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Notes to the Life Application Study Bible, NASV, Updated Edition published by Zondervan, p. 326).

~Emily McIllwain is my precious younger sister.  She lives in Russellville, AR with her husband and their two daughters.  She is a licensed attorney but currently is a IMG_5271stay at home mommy, a challenge which she finds equally exhilarating and exhausting, requiring the constant need for Jesus.  She thanks God for His endless provision.

A Mustard Seed

Video

“…If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, it is enough.” Matthew 17:20 (NIRV)

“And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Matthew 17:20 (NASB)