Just thinking about Malawi today as I look at pictures of our trip that was almost a year ago! Hard to believe. It's also hard to believe that Kwacha's sister, Evelyn, and our niece, Charity, are going to be here in less than a month! So exciting.
I don't have much to say today besides that, and the fact that this is one of my favorite pictures of Kwacha. Ever. In the middle of a tea plantation.
I may have mentioned this before, but one of my favorite songs growing up was, "When I get to Heaven gonna walk with Jesus, when I get to Heaven gonna see His face, when I get to Heaven gonna talk with Jesus, saved by His wonderful grace! Because I'm saved, saved, wonderfully saved, washed in the blood of the Lamb, Hallelujah! Saved, saved, wonderfully saved, and I'm so glad I am, Hallelujah!"
I still love it, and I think it really simplifies things for me. I was reading over Matthew 5 this morning, the Beatitudes. Jesus highlights the heart behind the Law. He didn't come to abolish it but to fulfill it. (Major paraphrasing there.) I was kind of asking myself, how do I know if I'm trying to seek my own righteousness, or Christ's? And I was reminded of my favorite verse, "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:6-9)
It comes down to love. When I love God I obey Him. Just as when I truly love anyone, I sacrifice for them, I seek to please them. And this is all based on His love for me first. And all this is mine through faith by His grace! So simple! You know, until sin gets in the way. But Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled." May we seek Jesus' righteousness all the time!
Shirley girly is going to be 17 months tomorrow, so I thought a little update is in order. How she fills our lives with joy! She is so full of personality. Kwacha and I both grew up shy and quiet, but it's like God took our two personalities and canceled them out to create Shirley's! She still says hi to everyone she sees and she loves to give kisses and hugs. Especially "fish lip kissies" and "eskimo kissies!" She has a newfound love for the park. She just started going down the slide by herself and her favorite person to go with is Bren. He calls her "Shirwee". It's just super cute.
Of course, with all this personality comes a fair share of discipline! She is very independent and strong-willed. She definitely has whining down, especially when it's dinner time because she just wants more and more to eat!
She is learning a lot of new words and it's fun to see her say things that I didn't focus on teaching her. I taught her how to point to her eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc. But one day I asked her to show me her feet, which I had never asked her before, and she pointed to them; the same thing with her toe. It's just amazing to see the things they pick up.
I just hope that one day, this spirited girl would pour her energy into the Lord and serving Him with her life.
Last thing I have today is a recipe for the most scrumptious, easy dessert!
I found the recipe on Pinterest from this site.
They are called "Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars" and they are dangerously fast and easy to make.
I tweaked the recipe just a bit:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 light brown sugar (or coconut sugar - I also added 1 packet of truvia since the recipe calls for a 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg (at room temp.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp carob powder (or 1/2 semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats (I used instant and it turned out fine)
Mix the first four ingredients until well-combined on medium, then add in the egg and vanilla and mix on medium-low. Add in carob powder and stir in oats by hand. Press into a greased 8x8 pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 22 minutes. Enjoy! They are basically my new version of brownies!
I am writing this post today in hopes of it being helpful to someone out there. Anyone who knows me well, knows that in the past I greatly struggled with assurance of salvation. I guess I should give a little background first. When I was five, my best friend at the time told me that to become a Christian, I had to ask Jesus into my heart. I even remember where we were standing. It was after school got out and we were right outside the bookstore at Grace Community Church. I had never known a time when I did not know who Jesus is. I was attracted to everything I knew about Him. Why would I not want to be a Christian? Of course I prayed the prayer with her. Was I saved at that time? I don't know for sure. I can't remember what I thought about sin. I knew I was a sinner, I knew that Jesus died for sin on the cross, but I don't remember having an understanding of repentance and turning from that sin. I'm also not sure when I started doubting whether I was truly saved, but I think it may have been sometime in Junior High. That's when I started having a "quiet time." (Time reading the Bible and praying.) I did this with a very legalistic mindset though. I felt that I needed to spend some time reading the Bible and then I could watch TV the rest of the night. It was mostly a duty to me, although in High School I know I started enjoying reading the Bible. But I remember lying in my bed at night, wondering if I should tell my mom that I was scared to die. "If I tell her", I thought, "she will be so upset to find out that I may not be a Christian." I'm sure I said "the prayer" over and over. Well, fast forward to September 11, 2001. My family was in Hawaii on vacation. (The only time I've ever been to Hawaii.) It was my senior year of High School. I remember that morning that I spent some time in the Word and I sang a few hymns on the balcony of our hotel looking out at the water. I felt pretty good about everything. Then my dad got a call from his boss at work and he told us to turn on the TV. The first thing I saw was the World Trade Center on fire with the words, "America Attacked." To say it kind of killed our vacation is an understatement. From that moment on I was TERRIFIED. I did not want to get on a plane to go home for fear that terrorists would take over our plane as well! (However unlikely that would have been.) I was extremely afraid to die. So what did that have to say about my salvation? For years after that I struggled. I started doubting everything, including whether or not God existed. I desperately wanted to believe that He did, but I just wasn't sure. How could I be saved if I was doubting even God's existence? Sometimes I couldn't eat. I thought that if God determined from the beginning of time who would be saved, and He had decided not to save me, then what was the point in living? Except I was terrified to die so suicide was definitely not an option. I felt scared and trapped and deeply depressed. Things only started turning around when I poured out my heart to God and spent time reading His Word.
Can I say that I think every person raised in the church needs to deal with these questions at some point? It's not enough to say that if we have Christian parents we are Christian's. No one is born a believer, we are all born sinners, hating God and loving our own sin.
I remember later on that year, my High School Bible study leader asked to hear my testimony and at the end he said, you didn't mention anything about your sin. This sent me into waves of terror again, but it was a good question. I knew I was a sinner but did I really understand that it was so awful that I was deserving hell because of it? In college I really wrestled with this concept of sin and a new worry was forming. Was I sorry enough for my sin? I rarely cried over my sin. Did I hate it enough? Did I really repent if I wasn't constantly in tears over it? I found this quote sometime in college and it's been in a notebook of mine ever since. I read it in Saved Without a Doubt by John MacArthur. The main quote is from Ironside. I don't know his first name, I just have Ironside written down. :) It goes like this: "Test yourself in this way. You once lived in sin and loved it. Do you now desire deliverance from it? You were once self-confident and trusting in your own fancied goodness. Do you now judge yourself as a sinner before God? You once sought to hide from God and rebelled against His authority. Do you now look up to Him, desiring to know Him, and to yield yourself to Him? IF you can honestly say "yes" to these questions, you have repented...and remember, it is not the amount of repentance that counts; it is the fact that you turn from self to God that puts you in the place where His grace avails through Jesus Christ. Strictly speaking, not one of us have ever repented enough. None of us has realized the enormity of our guilt as God sees it. But when we judge ourselves and trust the Savior whom He has provided we are saved through His merits. As recipients of His lovingkindness, repentance will be deepened and will continue day by day, as we learn more and more of His infinite worth and our own unworthiness." And John added to that, "Do you see the impulses of the new nature in your life? If so, that's indicative of salvation. If God's will has become your highest joy, and submission to His lordship your greatest delight, you are indeed a child of God - no matter how strong the pull of sin." A few years later I was still struggling when I was at the Resolved conference. One night we sang "Rock of Ages" and it became one of my favorite hymns. Here are a couple of verses: Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power. Not the labors of my hands Can fulfill Thy law's demands; Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone. John MacArthur has another saying that I have always loved, "It's not perfection, but direction." These things were all helpful but I think the thing that really helped settle me was dwelling on God's love for me and what Jesus did on the cross. I finally realized that good works did not come from trying really hard. Good works can NEVER save you. That's super comforting because we can never do enough good works. God saved me by His grace alone. He gave me faith in Him. And because of that faith and that joy that comes from that knowledge, I am a new person. I want to obey! It's from the heart! It's not perfect. Go read Romans 7. But that new heart is there! A recent joy has been studying 1 John at Every Woman's Grace. This book, like no other, has deepened my assurance. That's why it was written! (1 John 5:13 - "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.") A true believer believes that Jesus is the Son of God, they obey Him and they love others. It's as simple as that. Is that obedience and love perfect right now? No, but it's there and growing and one day will be made perfect when we see Christ face to face! I love what Andrew Gutierrez (the previous High School pastor at GCC) would often say: Something like, "When we are saved the rest of our life we live in obedience as a big 'thank you' back to God." I'll end with "Blessed Assurance" Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Refrain: This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.
Perfect submission, perfect delight, visions of rapture now burst on my sight; angels descending bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest; I in my Savior am happy and blest, watching and waiting, looking above filled with His goodness, lost in His love. If you're reading this and you don't truly know God or you are doubting whether or not you do, please please please talk to someone who does know Him! One last thing. (Okay I guess I didn't really end up there.) I am so thankful for the body of Christ, the church. God gives us fellow believers to comfort, strengthen, lovingly rebuke and encourage. There are SO MANY people over the years that really helped me with all this and I feel like I have to mention them!
My High School small group leader, Holly. I must have driven her crazy with my constant questions and concerns, but she was so patient and loving. Christen, one of my best friends growing up. My college roomie and High School friend, Melissa. My college Bible study leader and his wife, Clint and Kim. They had me over one night to their place and gave me many verses and helped me think through things and they talked with me other times too. Heather. She talked with me at a college retreat once and wrote me a super long email that I still have to this day somewhere. Beth, one of my Junior High teachers and later I had her in college too! She talked with me in her office one day. Glenna, Nicole and Mariejtie. All three of them discipled me in and after college. My pastors and the many helpful sermons they preached, John MacArthur and Rick Holland. And most of all my parents and sister. They put up with everything for years! And they were so patient and loving and helpful all the way through. There are so many others. God used each of you in my life and I am so thankful.
Kwacha, Shirley and I have started a new thing. Well, new for us. We hike! :) Actually I wouldn't even say that hiking is new for us, but habitual hiking is. We've gone hiking in a number of places but we've landed on a favorite. The above picture is my favorite spot on the trail and it pretty much looks exactly like this. I barely touched that photo.
Going on frequent hikes has allowed us to see things we wouldn't see if we only went ever so often. We have seen beetles (oh joy!), bunnies, caterpillars, frogs and even deer! God is just such a brilliant Creator! I love being out in His creation. It's also a wonderful form of exercise. I don't know of any other kind that is so enjoyable.
The hills have been so green after the rain we had this year. In these pictures, it's actually started to brown. Can you believe that Santa Clarita was greener than this even?!
I also just love the time spent with Kwacha and Shirley. I learn new things about my husband as we traipse through the mountains. On Saturday night, I found out that he once killed a chicken by jumping on it accidentally. He then plucked it, cooked it and ate it! And he was only about 13 years old apparently. That's what you get with an African husband. :)
Kwacha spotted this gorgeous pack of lupines. Have any of you ever read the story, Miss Rumphius? If you haven't, you should. I always think of it when I see these flowers.
Anyway, I highly suggest hiking if you don't already do it!
Sometimes I have whole heaps of things to write about, but most often words just do not come. I think it's because life is pretty routine. I get up, spend a little quiet time on my own, then I wake up Shirley (except she's usually already awake). The two of us eat breakfast, I do the dishes and clean the bedroom. Then Shirley and I spend a little time together until she goes down for her nap. I (sometimes) work out, take a shower, eat lunch, read a little, email a little, call anyone I need to...then I wake her up again (except she's usually already awake.) I feed Shirley her lunch and let her run around while I clean something. Pretty soon Kwacha is home (it's so nice that he gets home around 2). He plays with Shirley while I start dinner. We eat, sometimes go on a hike, sometimes read, sometimes go grocery shopping (since we have the one car). Then we come home, feed Shirley her dinner, give her a bath, put her to bed and then spend time together talking or watching I Love Lucy. It may get routine, but I generally love it.
When I feel some complaining in my heart coming on, mostly over dishes, I try to remind myself that I am married to a fantastic husband and I have a sweet little daughter. That's why there are dishes in the sink. Doing dishes is now a reminder of the blessings God has given me. Blessings I don't deserve.
Still there are times I get anxious or impatient or worried about things, mostly future things, sometimes present things. The worst part about being anxious is...being anxious. And yet, God tells us we don't have to be! I mean, isn't that amazing? We can bring anything and everything to Him and He will take care of it. I can't remember exactly how it goes but one of my favorite quotes from Elisabeth Elliot is something like, "Restlessness and impatience affect nothing but our joy and peace." I love that. It's just something I have been thinking about a lot lately.
This post is starting to feel random so I think I'll just end on some random things about life:
-I started attending Every Woman's Grace about a month ago. It's been such a blessing. I love the Bible studies we receive each week. The questions are deep and applicable and they really help reveal sin that I need to repent of while reminding me of the character of God. I love the fellowship with other moms and older, wise women. I am so thankful that my friend, Michelle, is able to drive Shirley and me. (And her daughter Lucy is about six months older than Shirley and super sweet. The first week they held hands in the parking lot as we were walking to the car. ::melt::) If you are reading this and you aren't able to go, I would suggest printing the lessons off the Grace Church website. Especially if you don't know what to study at the moment.
-Kwacha's sister, Jellita, is coming to visit a week from tomorrow! She's never been to the US and she will be staying for two weeks. We have all kinds of fun things planned but mostly I am excited to see Shirley interact with her Auntie. She LOVED her when we visited Malawi. I am also looking forward to extended time with her so I can get to know her better. :) Please pray for her flight! It is a long way to travel solo!
-And if anyone is wondering about Shirley, she's her usual cheerful, spunky self. She can make lots of animal noises now. She also says, All done, Oh Boy! and Hi and Buh-bye. She blows kisses and has started to say No! after I say no. (We're working on that one.) She's a little independent one but still very friendly and she fills our hearts with joy.
Many years ago my mom convinced me to watch the film version of Gone With the Wind. I remembered two things about it; it was unfathomably long and I could not stand Scarlett O'Hara. Well, about a month ago I was alone at my mom's house waiting for the laundry to finish so I could head home. I meandered through my mom's books and saw Gone With the Wind. I had actually started it once when I was in college but I didn't get too far. This time I thought...why not? I had time to kill and I probably wouldn't finish it anyway. Surprisingly I couldn't put it down!
I took the book home with me but a bunch of pages were falling out. I asked Kwacha if I could buy it for my Kindle on Amazon since the price wasn't too shabby for a 1037 page book. (I think it might be the longest book I have ever read, second to the Bible.) Thankfully he said yes.
I think it was the way that Margaret Mitchell described the characters that initially drew me in. Once I really got into it though, Scarlett O'Hara was bugging me just as much as I remembered, if not more! And this continued on and on. I don't think it's ever pleasant to see someone else's sins and realize that those same sins reside in your own heart, even if it may not come out in the same way. Pride, vanity, way too much self-reliance and rudeness are just some of the words one might use to describe Scarlett's character.
Rhett Butler wasn't much better. And don't get me started on Ashley Wilkes, the weak-hearted weasel! Ahem...anyway. Melanie Wilkes was one of the few redeeming characters in the book. She is the reason I kept on reading. Well, partly. As much as I couldn't stand Scarlett O'Hara, I sympathized with her many times, especially after the Civil War started and her parents died and she struggled to help her family survive hunger and thievery from the Yankees. I kept reading in hopes that these trials would cause her to change, and they started to, but then she started gaining wealth and she married Rhett and her love for money turned her into a monster.
One of the things that surprised me most in reading the book was the Southern perspective on the Civil War. I think most people grow up learning about the Civil War through the Northern perspective. You can't help but siding with the Yankees. Of course, I don't know how true to life the book is, but if it is, there were certainly some atrocities played out by the Union. In many cases, obviously, slavery was a horrible thing. But there were also a number of slaves that loved the families they served and even when they were given the opportunity for freedom, they remained with the families. It seems that the Union put many former slaves in the legislature whether they were qualified or not. And many of the Yankees did not care for the people at all and still didn't see them as equal, even though they fought for their freedom. (A side note: I know extremely little about politics, I will admit, so take what I say here with a grain of salt.) All that to say, I was fascinated at reading about the Civil War through a new lens.
As I said before, my favorite character is Melanie. She is so full of love for Scarlett that she never believes any evil of her (which believe me, there was plenty!). Her character truly lives out 1 Corinthians 13, that love believes all things and hopes all things. She portrays a gentle and quiet spirit without fear. The horrible thing is that Scarlett hated her in return because she married the man she was "in love" with. However, Melanie's relentless love for Scarlett wins her over in the end. When Melanie dies at the end of the book, Scarlett realizes that she does indeed love her and that Melanie was truly one of the few people that loved Scarlett. She realizes how much she depended on her and she's devastated over her death. But it's Melanie's death that helps wake Scarlett up to the truth. She finally sees Ashley for who he really is and she realizes that she actually doesn't love him. She really loves Rhett but by this time it's too late. Rhett had finally had enough and leaves. Throughout the book Scarlett deals with every trial she faces by saying, "I'll think about it tomorrow." So the book ends with her planning how to get Rhett back "tomorrow." Because after all, "Tomorrow is another day."
I don't think I'll read another book of this length for a looooong time, BUT, it did leave me with the truth that God alone satisfies. Scarlett found no satisfaction in money or people. Her love for money ruined her life just as 1 Timothy tells us it will. Her best friend died and her husband left her. We must always put our hope and trust in God alone.
New Year's Resolutions. I'm finally talking about them in February. Have you been asked if you made any yet? I think I've been asked two or three times and I had to admit that I hadn't made any. It seems like people are either passionately for them or aggressively against them. I wouldn't say that I fit either of the extremes but I would tend toward the latter. I'm not against making new year's resolutions by any means. It's good to sit back and evaluate where you are at and where you'd like to be.
It's been discussed before but the main reason I typically don't make them is because after January I tend to forget about them. The hype ends in February and you get back into the normal, daily routine of life.
I found some statistics about new year's resolutions on the ole internet.
45% of American's usually make them.
8% of American's are successful in achieving them.
But, "People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions."
(All of my info was found from www.statisticbrain.com).
Why do we make resolutions at all?
Hopefully, for a believer, the ultimate purpose is to grow in godliness and glorify God.
So, I finally came up with one. Just one. I think one single resolution will help me actually attain it and put things in focus. And it's a resolution that will help make all other pursuits possible and bring about real change and that is to be faithful in prayer.
I read a really helpful devotional by Elizabeth Elliot this morning about prayer. I'll copy some of it here:
"'If you, bad as you are, know how to give your children what is good for them, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him?' (Matt. 7:11, NEB). Are you often tempted as I am to doubt the effectiveness of prayer? But Jesus prayed. He told us to pray. We can be sure that the answer will come, and it will be good...Prayer is a weapon. Paul speaks of the 'weapons we wield' in 2 Cor. 10:4-5. They are 'not merely human, but divinely potent to demolish strongholds' (NEB)...The Destroyer himself, [urges] me to quit using the weapon he fears so intensely."
From Keep A Quiet Heart
Prayer is effective. God is faithful to answer. He tells us to pray. And Satan fears it.
I finished out the last few months of 2014 spending much more time in the Word but by the time my hour or so was up every morning before I needed to get Shirley out of bed, I hadn't spend more than about a minute or two praying to God. This morning I decided to get out my journal and write down things to pray for using the old A.C.T.S. method (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) and then I spend some time praying through those things. What a difference it makes spending time talking to our God!
It's actually been about a week since I started this post. Things are still going well. (I would hope so after only a week.) Isn't it amazing that God wants to hear from us? And that He actually listens to us and answers our prayer?? The God of the universe! That in itself should convict us and lead us to prayer. Do any of you readers out there have any little things that help you to be faithful in prayer? I'd love to hear!
"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" Psalm 118:24 Every day is a Red Letter Day for the believer because to be alive is more than we deserve. This blog chronicles the ways that God is faithful to me and the many blessings He has given me. Life is great when you know Him!