...be ye stedfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labour is
not in vain in the Lord.

05 December 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ She's FOURTEEN, she's DAUNTLESS, & she's a DEAR!

2014 had been a big year for our Anna-lu!

She's started wearing glasses... at least SOME of the time!

We saw her creative side really emerge - particularly during Calvary's Spirit week!
(She won with this last costume... and made most of it all by herself with stuff she found around the house...and yard!) 

First day of high school... "Hello NINTH grade!"

Sunset on the tip of the Leelanau Penninsula

Hartwick Pines, and the whole gang was there!

ALS Bucket Challenge

"Yes, my crazy sister kisses parrots!"

Watching the waves

Her volleyball team

They've been buddies since 4th grade year furlough - and both girls push Anna to grow and try new things. We are so thankful for them.

A volleyball champtionship

Walking a wintery beach

But this was my favorite photo - flung - by a backhoe - into a pond!

02 December 2014

when you turn SIX and you just love the Christmas season...

...and you ask for ice skates for your birthday, your birthday present isn't exactly a surprise since your parents are sure that your feet are needed to assure that said ice skates will fit.

We found out feet weren't needed, however - because they make adjustable kids' ice skates these days. How's that for neat?!!

So, as Mary and I were walking the length of the mall last night to get to Dunham's to purchase her skates, she's skipping along, grinning from ear to ear and singing along with the Christmas carols playing through the mall's sound system. She was so obviously delighted that her antics elicited smiles from most passerby's - even a group of teen guys in saggy pants, sunglasses and trench coats (otherwise, they might have made me a little nervous)!

I asked her if she was happy to be going to get her skates ~

"Yup! I'm happy about that Mama! But I'm really happy because I LOVE walking in the mall at Christmas time!" she answered.


"Because everyone keeps singing my name!"

I must have looked a little confused, so she joins in with the song playing throughout the mall:

"Have yourself a 'Mary' little Christmas!"

Hope you enjoy some of these fun pictures from our pipsqueak's past year!
"Let it snow!"
a cold beach in Georgia
funny mirrors
"Swing me higher!"
silly faces, silly poses
hanging with big bro, hunting tadpoles and garter snakes
the fam
Hartwick Pines
First day of first grade
more silliness
African cowgirl!
little legs biking Mackinac Island
learning about pottery
SHE chose the Christmas tree

"See my new ice skates!!!"

01 December 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ one of those times Jesus said a confusing thing

I'd originally planned on looking at a much larger section of John 10 today. But I got stuck with just these words because I found them very hard to understand. 
Jesus answered them, 
“Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”?’ ”(John 10.34)
photo credit: toridawnrector via photopin cc
 First - since it has been a few weeks - let's take a quick look at the context and refresh our minds as to what was taking place. Jesus had quite clearly stated that He was the Son of God (vs 25-30). The unbelieving Jews, in turn, respond by accusing Jesus of blasphemy; in their minds, He blasphemed the moment He said said He and the Father were one... the instant He attributed to Himself the power to grant eternal life and the ability to preserve those He'd saved (vs 33).

What's all that mean? Well, the Jews would have been very familiar with those powers that only God had. They would have studied them in the Old Testament and would have recognized that anyone who claimed to do what God alone could do was, at best, trying to set himself up as God's equal. At worst, he'd be identifying himself as God.

Look at just a few verses where God gives His people information to use so that they would know Him:
  • "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand." (Deuteronomy 32:39)
  • "For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal." (Job 5:18)
  • "There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God ... The LORD kills and brings to life; He brings down to Sheol and raises up." (1 Samuel 2:2, 6)
  • "The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted." (Isaiah 30:26)
  • "‘All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?’" (Isaiah 43:9-13)
In these verses, God proclaims that He gives life and that He stops anyone who would impede Him from accomplishing His sovereign will.

In light of this, any response other than the Pharisaical reaction of angry astonishment when Jesus makes similar claims about Himself would have been surprising:
"‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’" (John 10:27-33)
 We have the context of the immediate passage, but to discern what Jesus was saying, we also need to understand the context of the psalm that Jesus quotes. Psalm 82, a psalm of Asaph, pleads with God to judge the "gods" for failing to execute their position with justice and righteousness. It is quite obvious within the psalm that "gods" are simply men in positions of authority, those whom God appointed to rule and judge His people. Calling human magistrates “gods” highlights 1) their authority, 2) that civil power was a formidable force, and 3) both power and authority came derived from God as those men were His choices and ruled by His appointment. Key to understanding Psalm 82 is understanding that men appointed to judge while on earth must be impartial and rigorously pursue justice because God will hold them accountable. Look at verses 6 and 7 of Psalm 82, as they warn these flesh and blood judges: “I said, `You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.' But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.” Those God chooses to represent Him are mortal, they will die and after death, will face judgment as they give account for how they used the power and authority with which He vested them.

So, when Jesus quotes this verse from Psalm 82, he focuses Jewish attention on the fact that the Law refers to mere men—men of authority, power and prestige—as “gods.” Essentially, He asks, "Why accuse me of blasphemy because I called myself 'Son of God' when the Law uses the exact same word to mean magistrate?" 

Looking closely at Jesus' words, though, I find that the other parts of His statement just as fascinating and equally convicting. First, He asks, "Is it not written...?" He appeals to respect for the written Word, word which the Jews considered holy and the key to knowing and understanding God. As W. Gary Phillips writes, "The Word-Incarnate relied on inferences drawn from the Word-written." For those who take the time to look deeply and seek, those written words will confirm Who Jesus is. He also refers to the Law - the one that God gave His people and that these Jews have worked so hard to try and keep, even down to every jot and tittle - as YOUR law. Sometimes, I can take the Word God gave and modify or mutilate... metamorphisize or mutate... and make it mine. If that is because God is writing it on my heart and I'm internalizing it so that it becomes a part of me and is present and reflected in all that I say and do. If I grab ahold of that Word to make it mine by adding my own mark to it... well, then it is no longer God's Word and is merely my own. And then I begin trying to hold people accountable to "my" law - a behavior that is unrighteous, unjust and abusive.

I started last week, examining this passage, and very confused. Now, as I type these words, I find myself deeply challenged by asking three questions God's Spirit is asking me I've plunged even deeper into this very intense Jesus encounter:

  1. In my God-appointed roles, where He's vested me with power and authority, am I acting rightly and justly so that some day, when I give account, He will be pleased?
  2. As I seek to know God, do I rely on others, personal experience, mystical feelings and sensations... or do I depend upon the same authority on which Jesus staked His claims - the written-Word?
  3. Am I allowing God to write His Word deep within on my heart and thus making it a part of me? Or am I trying to scribble it all down and in the process adding and dropping and mutating it into something different so that I can say I possess it? The first pleases the Father. The second angers while deeply saddening Him...
How would you answer each one of those questions?

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4955 - 4979)
little guy wandering about the house practicing his music for Christmas Eve

good heart to heart with my Tori-girl

finding the perfect-as-says-Mary perfect tree

the delight on her face when we said she could pick the tree

the absolute very biggest Christmas tree we've ever had

clothespin dolls turned into Christmas ornaments

choir practice with the orchestra

Christmas carols

little girl cold seemingly making its exit

minion t-shirts

Christmas tree lights

Thanksgiving with the WHOLE Wright side of the family this year

playing Euchre with my nephew

watching said nephew teach his mom to play Euchre at the same time

Live Nativity plans

folk and praise music jam sessions

giblet gravy that turned out perfectly... which only happens about 1 out of 5 times, so truly a cause to celebrate

beautiful Christmas dresses in a bag of hand-me-downs

an extension I was praying I'd get

looking forward to sharing one of my favorite studies, from Colossians 3

the cutest little white feathery owl ornaments you've ever seen

lounging around in a comfy, old pair of my Pop-pop's pjs - and remembering special times with him

a new season of The Mentalist - been waiting a long time!

so much fun watching Sadie Roberston represent Christians well and winsomely as she competed on Dancing with the Stars

enjoying this season's Amazing Race and watching "the surfers" (i.e. Bethany [Hamilton] and her hubby Adam) do the same

Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

30 November 2014

What makes that place we live home? (AND a giveaway!)

I always loved going to my Nana and Pop-pop's house - as a little girl but even more so as I've gotten older.

Always cluttered and crowded and with the thermostat set high enough that I felt like I was back home in Niger, it definitely did not demonstrate the latest in decorating styles and fashions...


Their house literally oozed welcome and warmth and love ~ 

  • from the daybed in the dining room covered in pillows to give it a couch-like feel to the puppy statues on the steps in the entry way...
  • from the elasticized permanent tablecloth always covering the kitchen table that had to be scootched to get to the stairs to the downstairs to the walls covered with framed photos of kids, grandkids and great-grandkids... 
  • from the porch swing that creaked with every sway to the below-grade toilet in the basement bathroom (that also had a shower where even I had to stoop to step in) that I was terrified to flush because I could never do it the right way and always ended up with a mess...
Nana and Pop-pop's house might never have qualified for a how-to inspiration in Better Homes and Gardens, but they loved their home, clearly cared for their space, and warmly welcomed those visiting in their home. Cookies and fruit accessibly scattered throughout the kitchen, smells of yummy food wafting, candy in candy jars in every room, a porch swing with coffee first thing in the morning, and several TVs in different rooms for everyone's viewing pleasure.

Stenciling deer and acorns in the master bedroom of Tim's parents' house was our very first attempt at decorating/remodeling - as expecting newlyweds!

Nana's and Pop-pop's house was the first place I thought of as I read Myquillyn Smith's The NESTING Place ~ It doesn't have to perfect to be beautiful.

If you follow the Nester's blog, you'll already be familiar with Myquillyn's ideas for home decorating. As the book jacket says, "Myquillyn Smith has spent years helping readers accept and find beauty in the imprefections in their homes and in their lives.... Join [her] on her quest to love the incomplete and unfinished and mismatched areas of life and home." While I don't follow her blog every day, I have participated in her 31 days blog challenges and I do like to check in to her blog from time to time. Some of her ideas, I find totally over the top or impractical, especially for my family of ten, and especially especially as for the bulk of my married life with kids, I've lived on the backside of the Sahara Desert with not so much easily available when it comes to decorating schemes. 

One example? This mural. I was SO. PROUD. of it when we did it (even though I look back at the photos now and cringe)! Our Wrightlings loved i!. They had three "pieces" of furniture in their bedroom: a bunk bed that was shaped to kinda look like the cartoon versions of Noah's ark, a large and quilted mat to cover a portion of the ugly-tile-covered and unforgiving-to-toddler heads concrete floor, and a woven basket filled with the few toys they were able to bring when we moved. The large painting on the wall, the stencils halfway up - it helped make their room look like the busy place a children-under-six's should be,  a place they loved to be... loved to play... and which provided hours if imagination and fun as we made up stories for the animals painted on that wall.

Myquillyn, in The Nesting Place, points out that the key to decorating a house so that it feels more like a home to live in... and not a museum with exhibits to admire... is intentionality. And it was something Tim and I accidentally accomplished in both of the instances pictured above. We haven't always done that because we've forgotten points outlined in Myquillyn's book.

To create an intentional space, one that reflects your own individuality, sense of beauty and creativity, you need to, well... be intentional! Conside the following as you "build" spaces... and then decorate and furnish those spaces:
  1. places to connect ~ "...prioritize good conversation and be sure [to] have adequate, comfortable seating so people will stick around."
  2. safe places to make mistakes ~ "lower my standards for myself first, be forgiving of my own mistakes, and allow others to see me laughing at myself... display and use the imperfect in my home..."
  3. places of inspiration ~ "...collect inspiring mementos and show them off unashamed, regardless of the trends."
  4. places of authenticity ~ "...learn to embrace the imperfect, find the beauty in the undone, the haphazard and the unkempt, the everydayness, and the mess... find the beauty in what is... accept that the messes unique to my home are a sign of a full and beautiful season of life."
  5. places of comfort ~ "...stop apologizing and focus on others instead of on myself... [serving] people, not [expecting people to] serve and protect our fancy stuff."
  6. places of rest ~ "...practice resting in the midst of the undone, even if that means letting the dirty dishes sit so I can laugh with a friend who stopped by."
  7. places of joy ~ "...surround myself with people and places and memories... that bring me joy."
  8. places of contentment ~ "...practice gratitude... [saying] out loud things... that I'm thankful for instead of dwelling on what I think is missing."
~ from the chapter entitled
 "Embracing the True Purpose of  Your Home,"
 p. 69 in The Nesting Place

Not only was the book a delightful read, with lots of great pictures, good ideas and amusing personal stories, Myquillyn challenges women (and other readers) to consider the true purposes of the spaces in which we dwell and asks her readers to consider if in creating those spaces, we are 
  • self-focused... or others focused
  • people-oriented... or things oriented
  • authentic... or concerned with a desired veneer
  • content... or covetous
  • thankful... or ungrateful for God's present provision
My grandparents may have had a cluttered, cramped and crazy-mismatched bunch of stuff at their house, but in creating a place that they loved, that was filled with memories, that encouraged visiting and conversation, that welcomed - the decorating faux-pas didn't even matter.

It was a place I couldn't wait to be.

I hope, someday, that I truly absorb these lessons and that my home becomes the same - a haven of welcome and love.

Now... the part about the giveaway...

I'd LOVE to send someone my copy of this book, particularly if you think its message might encourage and challenge you - in a good way.

If you'd like to be entered in drawing, leave a comment here or on Facebook... I'll have Mary Michelle pick a name out of a hat... and we'll send it along. We'll draw names one week from today!

first photo credit: 

29 November 2014

Longevity in Ministry ~ "Hope is the only thing stronger than fear" ~

A few months back I began a series that has certainly been challenging and thought- provoking for me. I hope God is also using it in your life. The information discussed comes from a sermon by the senior pastor at my sending church. My notes start with these words: "Like longevity in life, some basic things are needed - right genes, right diet, right exercise, and right environment." Can you see the spiritual parallels? Examining how these principles apply to longevity in ministry on the mission field is forcing me to evaluate whether or not I've been building into my daily life the right sorts of habits and practices to facilitate such longevity. Key is an understanding that God is sovereign and that He is also sufficient.

But what does the practical outworking of those beliefs look like?

I've identified seven essential priorities that help protect from burnout and the temptation to sin... ones that direct and give hope for the future... ones that remind that all is grace and a gift from God.

Those priorities are:
  1. Growing an increasingly intimate relationship with the Lord by consistently, daily and throughout the day, seeking Him
  2. Praying without ceasing (steadfastly, continuously, patiently, powerfully); 
  3. Striving to maintain a good balance between personal growth and service or ministry
  4. Welcoming accountability
  5. Committing to marriage and family; 
  6. Choosing to be teachable even in difficult circumstances; and 
  7. Determining to be a genuine team player.
Last time I wrote, I made the statement that, perhaps, accountability is the most difficult one of all. Those who have conversed with me regarding that statement definitely agree that it is a challenge. 

I've been considering two questions:
  1. Is accountability to our faith brothers and sisters a biblical idea - or is it a tradition of men (the type of behavior for which the Pharisees were so consistently rebuked by Jesus) and the only one to whom we need to answer is Jesus? I believe the Bible speaks for itself on this matter, and I identified several places in the Bible where I believe the principle of mutual accountability is clearly taught and/or encouraged. One of the most powerful passages, in my opinion, is in Genesis, where, right after murdering his brother, God asks Cain, "Where is your brother?"  and Cain essentially replies, "I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?" I believe a clear implication in that passage is that yes, we are to watch out for... watch over... each other.
  2.  What is it about such accountability that creates an environment where longevity and finishing well can flourish? 
I'd considered discussing accountability strategies, but I think that is less important than establishing a case for the importance of accountability (i.e. the most recent post in this series) and the rationale for why... maybe how... accountability helps.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, my girls and I watched The Hunger Games together... 

To read the rest, please head on over to Missionary Mom's Companion, where I'm posting today. I'd love to hear your thoughts and responses to the questions I bring up.


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