Thursday, January 22, 2015

Don't Stop Believing

Like many of you, I keep a list of prayer requests. It's not just a Type A thing. We should all have one. On it are the requests I bring to God most everyday for other people. Intercessory prayer on behalf of others is such a wonderful gift for everyone involved. I know because I've been on both sides, offering it and receiving it.

As I prayed through my list this morning, I noticed repetition. Most everyone on my list is waiting for something.

  • For a new job opportunity
  • For acceptance into the college of choice
  • For a companion to share life with
  • For a clean bill of health after chemotherapy
  • For an apology to release a deep hurt
  • For a course of action to fight a newly diagnosed disease
  • For a marriage to be healed and healthy again
  • For two families new to each other to blend harmoniously
  • For direction post college graduation

Which makes me think I could add a bunch of you to this list. One friend calls this The Waiting Room. Nobody wants to be in it. Now that I've been in a specific one for a few years now, I understand everyone gets their turn at some point and that it can have extreme value and significance in our lives. I also understand how hard it is to keep your spirit up as time seems to stand still, ignoring you.

Be assured as you wait that God is with you.  Preaching to myself too. He plans to accomplish something in and around you, encourage others through your patience, and reward you for waiting well.

Note that I did not say "there is reward for those who wait perfectly". I don't believe that's possible. I think it's more like waiting without giving up. While we wait, we can strive to be good students and cooperate with what God, believing He's up to something good.
If you are in a waiting room of your own today, I'm writing to you first. Sometimes when you are deep within, it's hard to find your own encouragement because all you see is clouds. I totally get that. Sometimes you need someone who can see your situation from the outside to look up those verses you desperately need to cling to and bring them to your attention.

Today is your day. You're about to see that even here He is constantly giving us something (gifts!). So get out some note cards and write these down so you have them handy the next time you find yourself weary in your wait or just print off the whole page.

"But God's not finished. He's waiting around to be gracious to you.
He's gathering strength to show mercy to you.
God takes the time to do everything right - everything.
Those who wait around for Him are the lucky ones." Isa. 30:18

"Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him." Heb. 9:28

"Wait passionately for God, don't leave the path.
He'll give you your place in the sun..." Ps. 37:34

"But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind." Isa. 40:31

"God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times." Lam. 3:25-27

"I waited and waited and waited for God. At last He looked; finally He listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God." Ps. 40:1-3

"With your very own hands you formed me; now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you. When they see me waiting, expecting your Word, those who fear you will take heart and be glad." Ps. 119:73

"Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time." James 5:7-8

"All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy." Rom. 8:22-25

I wonder at this point in reading you are feeling encouraged? I hope so. I know I am thought I do not at this stage of life wish to imagine myself pregnant or enlarged, but I'll go there with this verse.

I hope you noticed you (we) are not alone. You never need to think you are the only one who has or is going through this hard thing.

Did you also notice that others are watching and will benefit from your wait? I don't say that to add pressure, but rather motivation. That excites me.

If that's not enough action for you, how about one more?

"When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst." Lam. 3:28-30 I can tell you read that too fast. Here it is again.

Go off by yourself.
Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer.
Don't ask questions.
Wait for hope to appear. (because it will)
Don't run from trouble.

And whatever you do, Don't Stop Believing! Who knew Steve Perry was a theologian?

Weary one, take heart! Here is still more great news: "Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." Rom. 8:26-28

Yes!! This is truth, my friend. Truth you can count on. Looks like we are doing some Bible study today - woohoo! But again with the pregnant remark, why God? (FYI, I do not consider it a sign or remedy for my soon-to-be-empty-nesting sad heart. So don't suggest it!)
Switching sides - if you're the one who is praying for someone who is waiting, may I say something to you? Don't quit praying for us. Don't get tired of our situation. There is comfort in knowing someone else hasn't wearied of us and that you are willing to pray us all the way. We need to know you believe when we are shaky.

Oh, and remind us frequently. We got these amazing, beautifully strung together words in the mail the other day. These will keep me going for quite a while.

"Our prayers are cluttered constantly with your names. We love you."

Isn't that gorgeous?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Once Upon A Time There Was a Mom....An Allegory

Once upon a time there was a mom. She had a husband called Loving and Patient and three adorable kids. When it comes to how seriously she takes her responsibility of passing the Gospel down to the next generation, starting with her kids, one might call her Pushy and Fanatical. But let's call her Passionate and Devoted instead, just to be nice.

For almost twenty-three years she has loved raising her family, secretly hoping this season would never end or at the very least, last longer. But alas, both boys once named The Brothers Wonderful by a sort-of relative, grew up and flew out of her nest.

For the next two years the house shrunk to a home for three. Passionate and Devoted was able to survive her sons' departures largely because her beautiful daughter, for years known as Stubborn and Strong Willed was still growing up. She eventually became Sweet and Caring, not to mention bringing tons of fun to the family and is now almost ready to leave home too. (sniff sniff)

Passionate and Devoted has prayed a few prayers for her little ones repeatedly as they've grown. One, that God would give each of her children a hunger and thirst for the Bible that will never be quenched. She is a Bible study junkie herself. That prayer began its journey into her own heart through in-depth Bible studies (her favorite authored by Southern Belle from Texas) many years ago.

Because Passionate and Devoted knows the power and benefit of solid Bible teaching and personal study, she dared to dream and pray that Sweet and Caring would join her in a class one day. Because she wants to.

That glorious day came this week! Passionate and Devoted was so thrilled to have her daughter sitting beside her in a group of women (none even close to her age), filling in the outline blanks. She's trying not to get totally geeked out with excitement!
She prays this might be A Taste and See (Psalm 34:8) experience like none Sweet and Caring has had before that will result in a Sweet As Honey In My Mouth (Psalm 119:103) moment that will change her girl's life forever.

Passionate and Devoted knows it is early yet and only time will tell if Sweet and Caring will make the time and effort to follow through to the end. She also realizes Sweet and Caring is young but hopes anyway, promising to herself to not nag about the homework. (Feel free to pray for her lest we revisit Pushy and Fanatical).

You see, although a hopeless Type A personality, Passionate and Devoted recognizes that no matter the number of completed workbook pages, however much of God's Word Sweet and Caring hears and reads will one day bear fruit that pleases God and accomplish His purpose in her life (Isaiah 55:11).

And that's good enough for her.

PS. You may be thinking that Passionate and Devoted is already geeked out.
You are probably right. But is there anything better to get excited about?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Outdo One Another

Yesterday my husband started a new sermon series based on Romans 12. He encouraged us to read the chapter often in the weeks ahead. Because I am an obedient wife and always do whatever he asks (cough, cough, if only), I read it this morning.

So many phrases stood out as highly applicable to my life but one especially.

"Love one another with brotherly affection. 
Outdo one another in showing honor." vs. 10

Immediately I thought about two men I know and love. Over the last few months they've exchanged birthday greetings with each other. Like a lot of men, they don't usually share 'mushy' feelings but hey, they're getting older and I'm starting to believe that with age can come a new tenderness. Don't tell them I used the word tenderness.

Here's some of the letter that came to our house.

In it, I see understanding (there have been disappointments), encouragement (you make faithfulness look easy), truth (God has a plan for you) and care (I hope He shows it to you sooner rather than later).

But it's the last line that is my favorite because it expresses humor and affection. Can you make it out? It says "Keep getting older. Hope you live forever..." I keep reading that last line over and over. It makes me smile everytime I picture the writer saying it.

Theologically speaking both of these men know full well that we all live forever (eternally) but what I read into it is that one hopes the other is always in his life. Kind of tender, don't you think?

At this point I imagine both of them saying, 'you think like a girl'. Probably.

Still I believe this is Romans 12:10 demonstrated in living color. Both men honored the other in their birthday cards and I'm pretty sure I can say with confidence that both of them stood up a little straighter when they read the other's words.

The beauty is that neither were forced and because I know both of them, neither stretched the truth about the other. This was genuine.

It's not to be confused with false flattery. Permit me to go on a rabbit trail here. I do not dig false flattery. You know, the kind where someone tells another something exaggerated to make them feel good about themselves.

For example, let's take American Idol. A contestant stands before the judges who ask why he is there. He replies, "Everyone tells me I am a gifted singer". Then he sings. Every listener cringes and he gets sent home wondering why he wasn't good enough. I often think, "Who told him he could sing?".

Bottom line, false flattery is not nice. We may think we are being kind and encouraging but the reality is that we are not being truthful and cerainly not helping the person.

We really need to be so careful here. Yes we need to encourage others, but we shouldn't lead them to believe something about themselves that isn't fully true or congratulate them for being something they are not.

As a parent, I've already warned my kids not to plan on me ever bragging about them if it's not accurate. This started back when they were younger. Often I would receive compliments in their earshot about their good behavior. Sometimes it was true but other times I knew full well that at home, not so much. They would often be unkind to each other in all sorts of ways. Drove me nuts! I would get on them about living the same character in public that they live at home

Spiritually speaking, I've been known to say as they approach adulthood, "If you choose to walk away from the Lord and not live according to principles He has lovingly given in His Word for a blessed life, it will break our hearts and we will still love you, but just own it.  Don't pretend to be something you are not. The church doesn't need that." 

Just like when they were younger, I promised (or was it a threat?) not to make them out to be something they are not. Why? Because I'm mean and unloving? No, it is because I love them and want what is best for them which is authenticity.

For the record, Scott and I also have this agreement toward each other.

If they aren't living it, why on earth would I back them up in their phoniness? It certainly won't precipitate a shift in their hearts. Instead, it would likely communicate to them that I'm willing to enter into a lie and paint an inaccurate picture for fear of what other's may think -of them and of me. Perhaps a tainted attempt at self-promotion? Gross. Not cool. Their well-being is more important to me than that.

A favorite author, Vicky Courtney, once gave a room full of moms the proper response should a child stray from the faith: "That's not how he/she was raised and we are praying he/she will come back to the Lord soon." Now that's honest and it's endearing, don't you think? Can't we all just be real?

False flattery is the opposite what the above passage is talking about.

I'm back from the rabbit trail.

Look at how The Message puts Romans 12:10:

"Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle."

and may I add Phillipians 2:1-4 for reinforcement?

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care - then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."

I've highlighted the words that I think go along with outdoing one another in honor.

I hope you've received that kind of honor at some point. If you have, you know how good it feels and how contagious it can be, hopefully springing us into reciprocal action - wanting to outdo the one who did unto us so freely.

Back to my husband's birthday letter, do you know someone - that person you hope will live forever - you could express understanding, encouragment, truth, care and affection to? Don't let another day go by - just do it!

Let's be generous with our praise and honest affirmation to everyone who could use a pick-me-up (which is pretty much all of us). Don't make up something, stretching the truth, to make someone feel good temporarily. Instead, let's be deep-spirited friends who place another's best interest far above our own, helping someone else know their value with 100% truth behind our words.

Yes, that's Romans 12 living!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What Women With Time Can Do For Each Other

I know I've written this here before but I am so grateful for the older women in my life. The ones who regularly make room in their busy schedules (do you know anyone who is not busy?) to care about someone else, namely me.

They unselfishly provide a safe place to unload what's in my mind. To say my thoughts out loud. It's a liberating thing to give cooped up, anxious, untamed thoughts some volume. To release them from the prison of my head into the light of someone else's keen(er) perception.

I've learned a few things in the process.  

Often anxious thoughts lose power when exposed to someone who is objective. Their giant size suddenly shrinks.

Fears can sound silly and/or unreasonable once out in the open for someone else to evaluate.

A fresh perspective can breathe new air into predetermined (usually false) conclusions.

Sharing dreams that seem too complex and impossible to attempt can be the beginning of an energy and compulsion to look doubt in the face and simply try

Recently I met with two longtime friends one after the other on what became an emotionally fulfilling day. These are the women who invite me to speak freely without fear of condemnation. They generously invest their lives into mine.

I felt more sorry for the first one because she got the lion's share of all my erratic thoughts spilled out on her. I even thought the more I rambled that I must sound like a crazy person.

Surprisingly, she didn't seem even slightly fazed by it. She received all of them as if she came with catcher's mitt on, crouched and ready. (Come to think of it, this isn't her first rodeo with me.) Still, as I babbled and would interrupt myself with, "Am I crazy?", she'd chuckle and say, "When you talk long enough, you always answer your own questions."

Well that's a relief. Not just the part about her not finding me crazy. But the new thought not unlike what the Good Witch said to Dorothy before she headed back home from Oz: "You had it in you all the time."

We prayed together for each other before I left her with a new dose of confidence. I also exhaled thanks to God, recognizing how freely she gives the gift of her time. These days I fear most women have filled their calendars to capacity and wouldn't be able to squeeze in the amount of time it takes to care for another woman's soul. I also walked away a bit lighter, as if I'd lost a few pounds. It felt good.

I moved on to my second friend for lunch. When sharing a meal, we usually congratulate ourselves for the healthy menu items we order. Not this day. She was fiesty and fun and started with, "I really feel like a greasy burger and fries." I was feeling it too. So we indulged. We caught up on the details of our lives. We laughed and poked fun at ourselves. We even thought up some adventures to share together with our husbands in the new year.

Lucky for her she didn't have the burden of receiving any tears from me because my breakfast friend already picked up that tab. Instead, she pulled up where the other left off and propelled me forward. She dared me to dream into the future, looking my fears in the face and moving toward them. I left her with a new spring in my step and something I haven't felt in a while - courage and another gift of time.

Sometimes a person will drive this many miles (one way) to get her needs met. I declared it a Soul Care day. Friends, do you schedule time to care for your soul? Are you aware when you are fully depleted or just a little low and need someone else to listen, carry your load, remind you of what you already know, hug and pray for you, then send you back into your world?

Back in October, I was trying to be a supportive, non-interfering mother/mother-in-law to our newly married kids. When they said they weren't coming hom for Thanksgiving but would spend it with college friends, I said, "Great idea! That will be fun!" and meant it.

Then they announced they weren't going to make the 9 hour drive to our house and 4 1/2 hours further east to Brittany's parents for Christmas and I gulped. Oh. That.

For weeks I tried to cope in silence. (Well, except to Scott, of course.) After awhile I simply couldn't imagine the first Christmas with empty seats at our table. I missed these two. I wanted to see and touch them. This was the longest separation I've ever spent from my son and I was in withdrawal.

With inspiration from one of my ladies who is lovingly bold and honest with everyone, I called a skype meeting. It went something like this, "I know you two have decided not to come home for Christmas but I just want you to know we want you here. We love you. We miss you. We think that if you are going to make it so far from home that you need regular visits with your family. You need to come here and get loved up so we can send you back out in the game."

Because they are awesome, without hesitation they began making travel plans. Yup, they fell for it and came home. It was wonderful. They admitted that after six months on their own in a new, unfamiliar place, they needed a recharge.

Don't we all? It's rough out there. Life is hard. People are mean. Unwelcome surprises invade. We wear ourselves thin even when our busyness is happy. Have you ever had someone patch you back up with the Word of God and prayer then send you back into your world? Have you ever given another that gift?

Of course the solution is that we need to spend time with God, inviting Him to revive us regularly. One of the ways He does this is through His children, people who have time to tend to our weary souls.

On the drive home from my Soul Care Day, one texted me and told me to read from a book we both had, something that made her think of me. A chapter that reinforced what we spoke about. It also included affirmation based on her observation.

The next morning, I awoke to a message from the other one filled with her afterthoughts of our time together. She recounted what we discussed, typed out a passage from the Bible that reminded her of me and then charged me once again to 'go' with her love and prayers supporting me all the way.

Time. Not just in person, but in prayer and follow-up communication. I love that. I honestly can't think of a greater gift. I am the happy recipient of it and treasure each encounter. As nutty as our conversations can be (when I'm doing the talking), they never turn me away but always make time to listen and invest.

I often recount a passage from a book I read years ago as a young wife and mother. Angela Thomas writes,

"Do you have someone to run beside? Do you have a woman in your life who causes you to pick up the pace? Look around and see who is beside you. Who are you pacing yourself with? Do you have a soul mate beside you or someone you need to distance yourself from? Are you being held back in the pack of 'slow runners' when your soul longs to pull away from the herd and quicken the pace?"

She goes on to describe a friendship. "I remember disconnecting myself long enough to think, Who am I listening to? Why am I letting someone who is not passionate about Jesus speak into my life? I finally woke up that day and realized that this friendship was not healthy for me. This woman could be in my life, but I would not give her permission to walk around in my soul."

Here are some further questions she asks:

Who has permission to walk around in your life and give counsel?

Do those friendships hinder your walk with the Lord, or do they spur you on toward greater godliness? Do they make you run fast or just make you tired?

What steps can you take today to move toward healthy friendships?

Do you have a kindred friend in your world? (A safe friend who isn't swayed by your behavior - impressed with you when you're up or disappointed with you when you stumble. One you can be real with.)

Do you treasure that friendship and nurture it? (notice the action in 'nurture')

What can you do to bless her? Do you remember that she is God's gift to your soul?

I guess today I'm writing to both sides of this issue. As women who are running hard after Jesus we need to have positive, walking around-in-our-souls kinds of friends. We also need to be that same kind of friend to someone else.

We must try not to lean heavily toward either end - always being the one someone comes to for advice - never seeking any for ourselves or just being a taker. We need both.

Again, this is why I love God who always has the best ideas. "...The older women should train the younger women." (Titus 2:4) Naturally this means the younger women must be teachable.

Be teachable. Then teach.
Keep learning. Don't keep it to yourself.
Not rocket science.

I pray today that you have this kind of friend (many even!) and that you are extending yourself and your experiences to be this kind of friend to someone else.

I have some younger women friends too. Ones who've sought me and ones I  pursue. They are fun. They keep me from becoming unhip too soon. They are alive and captivating. I learn a lot from them. They add purpose to my life. They make me want to keep up pace. You can't give what you don't already possess. They remind me to be authentic. They can spot a phony a mile away. I need them as much as I need the ones who are a little further down the road.

Don't have either or are your current friendships just taking up space? Good news!! You are just a prayer away.

Ask God for her, someone to run beside who propels you forward.
Then ask God to let you be her, to give you a woman to be that friend to.

Don't be afraid. Be open to the possibilties. Humble yourself if you must. Trust me, this is where great joy is found. Why? Because...

this my dear friends, is Biblical living for women. Let's make the time this requires and get at it.

PS. I know some brave men read this blog. If you've made it all the way to the end today, I think it's safe to say the same applies for male friendships. (See Titus 2:1, 2) Make yours count.

Quotes from Tender Mercies for a Mother's Soul

Monday, January 12, 2015

There's A Birthday In The House

***This is a repost from two years ago. The Birthday Boy is 52 today and all this still fits. Thanks for celebrating him with me today. PS. I did make him a why bother cake (white cake with white frosting) this year.

 The years have a way of piling up on you when you barely notice.  We're celebrating a birthday in our house today and for the first time in two years, the whole family is here to join in.  Yay for 5!

As you likely know, Christmas is my favorite time of year, but birthdays run a close second.  It's a time to remember, a time to evaluate and a time to adjust if necessary but also a time to open presents and eat cake!!

Let me tell you about our birthday boy.

I didn't come on the scene until Scott Burtis was 25 years old (and I was much younger).  I was working at Sacred Melody Christian Bookstore in Syracuse, NY when my boss came to me one day and said all excited, "I've got just the guy for you.  He's coming back to work today!"  Scott had previously worked there and was clearly the boss's favorite.  I replied, "Did you forget I'm dating Jim in Books?"  He said, "I know, but nevermind that, Scott is the one for you."

How did he know?  It would be more than a year until our first date, but things happened quickly from there.  We spent one beautiful Labor Day at the Great New York State Fair and I was smitten.  He moved out of town the next day to take a youth pastor position and I wondered how this would play out.  By the end of the week he was standing in front of my desk ready for another date and by our fourth date I was meeting his Mom and Dad.  Eight months later we were married.  He tells it that we HAD to get married......because of our phone bills. Hey kids, back then you had to pay for long distance calls.

I think I would have married him that first night if he asked.  A man builds a reputation over the long haul.  Scott's preceded him.  I promise I'm not exaggerating when I say there wasn't one person who knew Scott that didn't respect and like him. I noticed it right away.  A godly young man.  There weren't too many of them around and even at 21 I was worried there wouldn't be one for me.  Still, I found this is a blessing and a curse for a girl who couldn't measure up to that.  A girl who wasn't raised to love Jesus and had made too many mistakes at too young an age.  Then one day Jesus came to my life and I gladly received Him, but some bad patterns are hard to break and when you're looking for love sometimes you settle for less, much less than what God has in mind.

So to stumble across one who is "pure as the driven snow" is thrilling, but in the depths of my heart I knew I wouldn't cut it for him, wasn't good enough.  You can imagine my surprise when Scott decided to love me knowing all the shame and regret and ask me to spend my life by his side.  It's a glorious thing when a man resembles Christ in showing unconditional love, grace and forgiveness to another.  I'm that grateful recipient.

We've been together nearly 23 years now and today Scott is 50.  Like every married couple who've lasted this length of time, we've been through the good, the bad and some ugly.  Together.  Our children are nearly grown and we have two in heaven yet to meet.  We've been in ministry most of our time together and it's been a good life.

Sometimes we don't take the time to appreciate what we love about someone until they are gone.  That will not do.  So, since today is his birthday, I've written ten things I love about this man.  Things you need to know.  Well, maybe you don't need to know, but I want you to know!

1.  He's fun and likes to have fun.  His BIG laugh is one of my favorite things to hear, especially when it follows something I've said or done.  He even laughs at the ridiculous, like movies such as The Princess Bride and Nacho Libre.  I don't get that, but I do like his laugh.  He can laugh at himself too, which is necessary when you live with a family who relentlessly makes fun of you.

2. He's a hard worker and provider.  There have been times in our marriage when he's held down two jobs so that I can be home with our kids.  He was even a paper boy in his 30's! 

3.  He has a lot of friends and loves people.  We can't go anywhere in the world where he doesn't know someone. (not exaggerating - we've been to Kenya and Brazil and even on our honeymoon he ran into friends!) He's not one to say "no" to a gathering.  He likes when we have company over.  Often.  And sometimes he helps clean up after they've left too.

4.  He always puts others first.  The word that comes to mind is defer.  In marriage, he always defers to me whether it's a restaurant choice or vacation spot or what CD we listen to in the car.  He never insists on his own way.  Since our first baby appeared almost 21 years ago (oh my word, could that be true?) and with the addition of the other two, he's put another person ahead of himself.  As I consider this, I wonder why more of that hasn't rubbed off on me.  So much yet to learn.

5.  He is a very good father.  I'd like to tell you  he was that Dad who got up in the middle of the night and changed the baby and then brought him or her to me for feeding, but that didn't exactly happen.  And he didn't change a whole lot of diapers either.  Oddly enough, he never once heard them cry after dark.  Weird.  (Just keeping it real here, folks, wouldn't want you to think he's totally perfect.)  Still, he held and rocked and read and played with each one all the time.  He's been there for our kids.  He was the teacher's helper in preschool.  He's gone to all band and choir concerts.  Nearly every basketball, soccer, volleyball game and track meet he's been there too.

He has modeled for our children a life yielded to God.  This last year and a half our kids got a front row seat watching their Dad follow God.  They were there to hear him say an emotional goodbye to a comfortable, successful nearly twenty year ministry and yes to a new adventure God was calling us to. During a farewell reception, they witnessed appreciation and admiration that only a genuine man of God could receive.  And they saw so much love coming their father's way.  While it was exciting and unknown and a little scary, Scott led our family with both confidence and humility.  Because of his leadership, the kids easily adapted even though it meant some hard change for them too.

Less than a year later, they watched their Dad be accused and misrepresented.  Jesus says this will happen to us when we follow Him.  With grace, Scott showed them how to honestly own and apologize for your own stuff, but draw the line when expected to assume what's not yours.  He also demonstrated how to protect and care for his wife.  He did it quietly, with humility. They learned that an upright life is a target for the enemy and even when the arrows fly and hit you, you don't give up on God.  It can even mean that you're on the right track to God's will.

During this time they also watched our home and mailbox and God's inbox fill with support and concern and love from friends both old and  new.  Some life lessons are best learned by living them up close and personal. 

6.  He is a faithful husband.  Just last night I caught him checking me out as I walked away from him in a parking lot.  After all these years, he is still a one-woman man.  I am that lucky woman.  Could he be a little more romantic?  Yes.  Could he speak my gift receiving love language more often than my birthday and Christmas?  Oh my yes.  Could he try a little harder to read my mind and meet my every need before I speak it?  Probably not but a girl can dream!  Still he loves me.  He loves all of me.  He loves only me.  And more importantly, he loves God more than he loves me.  That's the stuff that really matters.

7.  Did I mention patient?  The man is never in a hurry.  Blood pressure medicine is not in his future.  He can wait and wait and wait which is great when it comes to waiting on God, but quite frankly drives me a little nuts when it comes my way!  And I know deep down he likes making me wait.  Sometimes he says that's why God brought him into my life - to teach me patience.  Yeah, that goes over just like you think it would.

8.  He's not a grudge holder and never gives a guilt trip.  No matter how many times I've let him down or hurt him (intentionally or not), he always forgives.  And somehow he seems to forget.  How does he do that?

9.  He's compassionate.  He's held me through the loss of two babies and the loss of some friends over the years.  He never requires one to "get over it" too soon.

10. He not only reads the Bible, but he lives it.  Because of that, he's rock solid.  He is rarely moved.  Again, a blessing and a curse.  A blessing when he leads our family with a trust in God that is unshaken.  A curse when he is not moved by and ignores my plea to buy me an iPhone because he says I won't take care of it based on how many times I've dropped my free phone on hard cement.  Stubborn a little.  Kind of torks me if you must know.

Yet when I look over this list and recall these qualities, it is my sincere prayer that my sons will be the kind of man, husband and father that Scott is and that Ally will marry someone just like her Daddy - but who's really romantic and gives gifts for no reason.

A sweet friend said to me the other day when referring to the character and raising up of our kids, "You and that husband of yours have done well, my friend" and I stopped short and thanked God for that.  I give God all the glory for whatever good anyone sees in our lives, not just because that's what we're supposed to do, but because I know me and I know us along with our imperfections, failures and shortcomings (ask our kids -they know them all too!).  All good things come from God alone.

Now lest you think this man and marriage I've described is flawless, think again.  Today's my husband's birthday - his 50th birthday - YIKES - so of course I'm going to stick to the good stuff!  But even though I've painted the picture of the positive as seen by me, you know it's not all been rosy.  No one is exempt from pain and hard times and a pesky sin nature. 

I'm still working on that list of gifts that I started almost two years ago.  I've named well over 8,000 things that I'm thankful to God for.  Things that speak God's love to me.  And my experience through this has become that when we insist on finding the gifts, all of life looks blessed to us.  Even the excruciating hurt, the loss, the worst of life that we can experience.  Start your own list, you'll see...I promise!  Guess who's at the top of mine.....yup, our birthday boy!

To Scott:  Happy Birthday my favorite!  Now that you've reached half a century and might be considered an O.G. (Old Guy) to some and I continually ask myself, "How can I be married to a 50 year old man?", I know you're the best you've ever been and I love you.  And even though it's your birthday and you should be getting the gifts - I feel like I'm the one receiving today!

Better go make your favorite breakfast - sausage gravy, biscuits and scrambled eggs!  I'm not making any promises about a white cake with white frosting a.k.a "why bother" cake.
this is from a few birthdays ago when he settled for a chocolate cake w/peanut butter frosting

Happy Happy Birthday