The Dress! The Bride and the dress…

A letter to my dear ‘Jesus girl’, (as your childhood Pastor would address you on many occasions when you were young),

So many payers have been prayed that God has faithfully brought us to this day – our little girl, the Bride and a special, hand-picked young man chosen just for you – to be your Groom!

This beautiful wedding day only marks a beginning. It marks the beginning of a marriage,

“So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:6.

So much preparation and effort has been made for this special day – but my favorite part…

is The Dress!

I know this wedding dress means so much to you my dear daughter, but oh, you have no idea how much it means to me.   Do we even know why  the dress is  so amazingly special? Do we even know why it provokes such huge emotion? Well, yes, we do, but I have been thinking even more about it.

You see, the Wedding Dress, your particular, unique dress is a like a symbol to me, of Holiness – something that is very hard to grasp with our human minds – but by the dress we can see it all so clearly. Your wedding dress is not every day, it is not common – it is unique, it is set apart for a most special  ceremony, it is breath taking and was created for a high purpose.

And we know that God is holy and that it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16.

And this verse puts a natural fear inside of each of us because we know that we are not holy. But you see, the Dress, it’s a symbol of the washing – the sanctification that God has done for us, as we received the love of the Prince of Peace, His Son. Jesus has set us apart, chosen us that He might present us to Himself in ‘glorious splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such things – that she might be holy and faultless…”, (Eph. 5:27, Amplified). He said “I love you” to us on the cross. Our sin is covered.

We are the Bride in the dress!

You will remember later how you treated your dress before the wedding!  It was protected, out of view. It was in a special place, waiting for that special moment. Even so, after the wedding, what will you do with the dress then?

You will have it cleaned and preserved and covered and stored in a place separate from the everyday. It will not be part of your common wardrobe. You certainly will not be putting it on to cook dinner after a hard days work!

We can understand ‘holiness’ in a way, by thinking of the Dress! It is sacred and special, it has a place of honor.  I look forward to that moment when you as the Bride are presented to your most loved Groom! (I hope I will actually be able to see it through the tears of joy.)

It is the time of Holy Matrimony, when each of you will become ‘holy’ to each other  – where each of you are brought together to be ‘set apart’ and devoted to one another, ’till death do you part. Covenanting before God with the exchange of a ring, to love and to cherish one another. In the sight of all the witnesses, “giving precedence and showing honor to one another.” Romans 12:10, Amplified.

But in every story, even in true stories, there is an enemy. And there is an enemy that hates all that the symbol of the Dress means and Holy Matrimony  – to be set apart and holy for God and  to be set apart and holy for each other.

But we are warned about this and helped when the attacks come, “Be well balanced-temperate, soberminded, be vigilent and cautious at all times, for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger],

seeking some to seize upon and devour,” 1 Peter 5:8, Amplified.

Yes, to devour your walk with the Lord and your marriage!

But we have been instructed to, “Withstand him; be firm in the faith [against his onset], rooted, and established,

strong, immovable and determined –

knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:7, Amplified.

This is common for us all, so my dear daughter, I wanted to share this with you because,  I know you know that this day is special for you, but don’t you see how special and meaningful it is for all who come and witness this day of ‘Holy Matrimony’ because it inspires all who are wed to remember our own special day  when we wore our own special Dress to be united in marriage to our Grooms! And it inspires the single ones, as well, on the goodness of our gracious, compassionate, forgiving Lord, for He alone is Holy!

This is a day of commitment to the Lord and your Groom, that you may always say, “Wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth 1:16.

Jesus is the glue my sweet daughter. He helps us to continually remember what holiness means. And sometimes He will remind us by remembering The Dress – set apart, precious, reserved for honor. And because our Jesus has purified us and presented us to Himself, He is the One who will faithfully teach us how to be devoted to Him and to our Groom and  how to give Him honor and to honor our love!

The Dress, my sweet daughter, there is so much meaning for us Brides, forever, in…

The Dress.

“Deeper, Deeper in the love of Jesus…”

Do we have opportunity to grow ‘deeper, deeper in the love of Jesus’ in the microwave paced world we live? In this world that seems to be spinning out of control? Do we even know how to ‘Be still’ that we can ‘know that He is God’? (Psalm 46:10.)  The Lord brought me to a hymn from 1900 written by Charles P. Jones this morning,

“Deeper, deeper in the love of Jesus Daily let me go; Higher, higher in the school of wisdom, More of grace to know…”

What does it take for ‘More of grace to know’?

These kinds of prayers are not prayed when everything is ‘sunny’ outside! These are prayers that are prayed in brokenness, in brokenness of heart. Because, it is true,

“In this world you will have tribulation,” John 16:33. Yes, we all agree, in this world there is tribulation, there is great trouble in this world.

But God reminds us, “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

“Deeper, deeper blessed Holy Spirit, Take me deeper still, Till my life is wholly lost in Jesus, And His perfect will.”

‘…And His perfect will.’

We all understand this. Don’t we pray this often, if we are accustomed to pray ‘The Lords Prayer’, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10.

But what if His will is allowing huge hardship and pain and trouble? What then? “What then?” you ask.

Well, let’s look at the old hymn! Maybe some writings from the early 1900’s will help direct our thoughts, because isn’t it true that God tells us to not escape our problems with wine, but that we should be filled with the Spirit and speak to one another in Psalms and hymns?

“Deeper, deeper tho’ it cost hard trials, Deeper let me go! Rooted in the holy love of Jesus, Let me fruitful grow.”(Vs. 3 of Deeper, Deeper by Charles P. Jones.) “Deeper, deeper…Till my life is wholly lost in Jesus and His perfect will.” (Vs.2).

Wait a minute! Wasn’t that how you and I prayed to the Lord? Over and over again, didn’t we pray, Lord, that my life would be fruitful,  that I would be in Your perfect will?

So, there is trouble, great anguish of heart and soul and even body!  And even our flesh and our hearts fail.( And now, I will speak for myself, how pitiful I even become in my thoughts and attitude and heart.)

But what does God do? He supernaturally draws each of us, (and me) to Him, ‘Deeper, Deeper in the love of Jesus’.

There are no words that can describe the depth of the love that God pours out! And what He is doing all along is answering our prayer, much like the old hymn, “Deeper, deeper in the love of Jesus Daily let me go;…More of grace to know.”(Vs. 1.)

He pours out His grace and reminds us, once again, that He is in control.  reminding me in His word, Amplified,

“The Lord is [rigidly] righteous in all His ways, and gracious and merciful in all His works.” Psalm 145:17.  I’ve go to trust Him if it ‘looks like’ His ways are not gracious at the moment, even if it looks like He’s not in control.

Maybe, what He wants to show you and me is that,

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely and in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, He also will hear their cry, and will save them.” Psalm 145:18,19.

And those who have been through brokenness know that their cry is no longer ‘half-hearted’, this is a ‘whole-hearted’ cry!

Oh, the beauty of the Holy Spirit reminding us of what is true,

“But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26. Reminding you and me that nothing can  separate me from the love of God! Nothing! Not tribulation, not distresses. Nothing. And who would have thought, but all this trouble has done one thing – it has drawn you and me

‘Deeper, deeper in the love of Jesus,’

And I know others who have severe trouble, yet Jesus has taken them even ‘deeper still’.

And somehow, because God is all powerful, and His light shines so much brighter than our darkness ever could be,  He  pours out a love and a hope like it talks about it Romans 5:5,

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” And this love in turns strengthens us supernaturally, to actually …

sing  His praise, “I will extol You, My God ,O King; and I will bless Your name for ever and ever – with grateful, affectionate praise. Psalm 145:1 Amplified.

“Great is the Lord and highly to be praised, and His greatness is [so vast and deep as to be] unsearchable.” Psalm 145:3.

and then, we pray,

“Deeper, deeper tho’ it cost hard trials, Deeper let me go! rooted in the holy love of Jesus, Le me fruitful grow.”

The time of waiting is almost over!

It will be a time of rejoicing! We give praise to the Lord. We will sing a new song to the Lord, it will no longer be a time of waiting – and our song,

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Rev. 19:7.

This is a heavenly picture. The espousal period is over, the time has arrived for the marriage ceremony. But first, there was a time of waiting.

 “This is a great mystery,…” Eph. 5:32.

We, the Bride of Christ, the church look for the glorious sight of our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is a time, that the Bride is hidden from His face.

And we wait.

And we remember His words while we wait, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place fore you,

I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you will be also.” John 14:1-3.

And we, the Bride of Christ, the church hang on to His every word,

while we wait.

But the time of waiting is almost over. How we long to sing that ‘new song’, and the words have been written for us,

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its bud, As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,

So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth…” Isaiah 61:10,11.

But there has been a time of waiting, and we remember His word, “Therefore be patient, …until the coming of the Lord. James 5:7. Yes, the waiting has been hard,  and we have been ‘grieved by various trials’ in our waiting. but the Bridegroom has spoken and we rest on His every word,

“In this you greatly rejoice, though for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory

at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1Peter 1:6,7.

But the time of waiting is almost over!   the Wedding day is almost here! And what a beautiful shadow of the true it all is.

‘ This is  a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Eph. 5:32.

‘The marriage of the Lamb has come and the Bride has made herself ready.’ Rev. 19:7.

And so, God  has so carefully instructed us so that perhaps it is no mystery at all,

“For this reason,…” Eph. 5:31,

(because the wedding is a shadow of the True, it is ‘for this reason’,)

“a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”

And, we see that Jesus, our Bridegroom,  loves you and me so much, because He left His Father in heaven and all the glory of it all, and He gave Himself for us,

and because our Bridegroom took off His Kingly garments of heaven  and  came down to put on humanity so He could pay the debt of death for our sin, (“For the wages of sin is death.” Rom 3:23.),

He was able to ‘sanctify and cleanse us’ (Eph. 5:26), or choose us for His own and dress us in our white garments, (‘though our sins were as scarlet, they shall be white as snow’ (Is. 1:18).

‘That He might present it to Himself a glorious Bride, (Eph. 5:27),

that we might be one.

Weren’t the last words from our Bridgroom before His passion, “that they all may be one, as You, Father , are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us,…”John 17:21.

The wedding is a shadow of the True, ‘a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall be one flesh.’

And ‘for this reason’…

(our Bridegroom once again), “that the world may know that You sent Me.”

Yes, the wedding is almost here, and I thank the Lord for helping unravel the ‘mystery’ a little for me, the mama of the bride. And this is my prayer for this most glorious day approaching,

“…that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong

the glory and the dominion

forever

and

ever.

Amen.” (1Peter 4:11.)

“And he said, Do not be frightened, Paul!” Acts 27:24.

There was a violent wind.  Of the character of a typhoon. Paul, the Apostle, was a prisoner under a centurion named Julius, ( who was a good guy, you find out as you read the story in Acts 27.)  Paul was on a ship, and he was…

well, a prisoner – but he was a prisoner  of the Lord. Because Paul was a worshiper of the God of his fathers, a believer in the Scriptures, and he was waiting in and trusting in the resurrection of the Lord, (Acts 24).

So, God allowed him to have an unfair trial, (makes me think of Jesus and His trial – most unfair!),  and God allowed him to tell his story, so as they almost were going to let him go free, yet God had Paul appeal to Caesar in Rome, so Paul finds himself on a ship that God allowed him to be on,

however he ‘perceived’ (Acts 27:10,) from the beginning there would be great disaster if they sailed out, (because God was with him,

but who is going to listen to a prisoner?) So everyone began fearing for their lives, because they believed as the captain of the ship  did –  but Paul?  Paul believed God,

Acts 27:25, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith- complete confidence – in God…”. (Amplified.) (Because at night an angel of God had told him he would be brought before Ceasar.)

Do you need some exciting reading? The Book of Acts is a ‘Must Read!’

Anyway, if your God is small these days because of trial, ( not just trial, but typhoon type winds while you are on a ship,) and it is hard to remember that He really is in control of everything – then the stories in the Book of Acts will illuminate one thing if nothing else –

that God is in control!

The Apostle Paul has written in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

So today, I will follow Paul around because he reminds me today, “Therefore take heart…for I believe God.” Acts 17:25, NKJV.  And God told him specifically, not in ‘fair weather’ but in winds that seek to devour,

“Do not be afraid, Paul;…” Acts 27:24.

So, it was the 14th night that they were drifting out in the sea,(Acts. 27:27) (a  l-o-n-g storm apparently). Do you know anything about l-o-n-g storms?

Anyway, the sailors were trying to escape the ship!

But ‘Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers,’ (God has the prisoner as the one with the instructions, but now they are listening!) “Unless these men remain in the ship, you cannot be saved.”Act. 27:31.

And do you know what happened next? ‘Then the soldiers cut away the ropes that held the small boat, and let it fall and drift away.” Acts 27:32.

Sometimes, God ‘cuts way the ropes’ because we were planning on escaping the ship! You see, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you cannot be saved.”  

God says, “Don’t run! Be still. Do not be afraid.” Can we follow Paul’s example? When he said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”1 Cor. 11:1.

You see, Christ is ‘the Door’. (John 10:9) “I am the Door. Any one who enters in through Me will be saved – will live;” (Amplified).

Can we ‘Wait on the LORD?’  Can we trust Him? Can we ‘take heart’, and ‘believe God’? Can we choose to believe God in the storm and no matter what –   find life and safety by entering through the Door, and not escaping.

A poem, by C.H. Spurgeon,

“God liveth still!  Trust, my soul, and fear no ill:   Heaven’s huge vault may cleave asunder, Earth’s round globe in ruins burst; Devil’s fullest rage may hinder, Death and hell may spend their worst;    Then will God keep safe and surely; Wherefore then, my soul despair?

Mid the shipwreck;   God is there.

Yes, we will wait on the LORD. Yes, we can trust in Him. We take heart and believe God, and that is how we will not fear.

Because amidst the shipwreck, ‘God is there.’

” ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus…”

” ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus…””Oh, Lord, then why do I continually make the choice to eat ‘sour grapes’?!”

Here’s the picture, do you ever feel as if you’ve been thrown into a flood and the waters seem to be rising above your head ? I usually wake up like this almost every day, so on my bed, in the flood in my mind- naturally, I start flailing about shouting ‘HELP’. Of course, I  know  this is not the answer, I know what I  must do is remain calm, stop the fight and turn on my back and float, using my arms to direct (hopefully in prayer)  and look up, and remember that He’s got me in His hands.

But, so often, inside, that is not the choice I make. Oh my, what a mess!

But it’s one thing to  talk about ‘faith’ when we are standing on dry ground looking at a sunset. Or as the very familiar song sings, “Blessed be Your name when  the sun’s shining down on me, though the world’s all that it should be, blessed be Your name.

But what about blessing His name ‘when the road’s marked with suffering and there is pain in the offering’? Can we talk about ‘faith’ then.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.” Ps. 19:14.

He sees my heart. He knows ‘the meditations of my heart’ – they are not acceptable in His sight – because, so many times, naturally, they are not meditations  of faith. Can I say as David did in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk in the [deep,sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil,…”(Amplified Version). Not when I’m flailing about! I can’t see anything! I can’t see that ‘You are with me.”

But, it is true that the Spirit of God dwells in me. You have told me in Your word. Perhaps this is the ‘rod and the staff  that comforts me’ (Psalm 23).

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of Go dwells in you? 1Cor. 3:16.

Oh, but Lord, so often, even before getting out of my bed in  the morning, I have already ‘grieved the Holy Spirit that dwells in me’.  Could this be the rod and the staff causing some pain but attempting to ‘turn me around’ in my thoughts?

Eph 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, (do not offend, or vex, or sadden Him) by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption – of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin.”

So, I pray, ” Help me make faith choices, Lord.  For the just shall live by faith. (Hab. 2:4).

Help me to be like a child, Lord. “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me,” (Ps. 131:2). Give me the name ‘Whoever’ today. Help me believe in You. Because Lord, there is nothing like the ‘sweet love of God’. And yes,  You will help me ‘sing a new song to You today’, a sweet song with the right attitude,

“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word; Just to rest upon His promise; Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

“O how sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to trust His cleansing blood; Just in simple faith to plunge me, Neath the healing , cleansing flood!”

So, Lord,  when I feel I have been thrown in the flood waters in the morning, I will turn it around, (float on my back), and in simple faith be plunged neath the healing and cleansing flood of Your precious Son.

I love you Lord.

“Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

O for grace

to trust Him more!”

In Jesus name, Amen.

 

“I see the stars…”

“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder , consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,

I see the stars…”

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art.”

The stars that I see are not heavenly beings in the night sky.  I’m thinking of bodies terrestial, I’m thinking of human stars –

Daniel 12:3, Amplified, “And the teachers and those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness -to uprightness and right standing with God [shall give forth light] like the stars for ever and ever.”

…’shall give forth light – like the stars for ever and ever’.

I’m thinking of the stars that ‘shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father’. Matthew 13:43.

They are those who are ‘upright and in right standing with God…’

But it’s not what you might be thinking, these aren’t people in robes or standing behind pulpits. These are the lives who simply trusted in the blood of the Lamb for their righteousness. they were ‘upright’ because they believed Jesus.

I am sure that you have these ‘stars’ in your life as well. The ‘stars’ that shine bright in my life are little Suzanna, and Nick C, Robin, and P. Gary, and Michelle, and Mary B., some I knew well, others only through their story, but nonetheless, they still ‘give forth light like the stars for ever and ever’. Dan. 12:3, Amplified.

Little Suzanna was only 4. And I didn’t even know her, only her story told through her father as she battled a rare form of cancer. She is my teacher, (‘and the teachers and those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament’). Why? Because of her simple faith and trust in God as a little child. And she ‘shines like the brightness of the firmament’ to me. What if her father didn’t write  her story? I would have never had the opportunity to see this star.

I will share only one little story that I remember time and time again. Suzanna’s father noticed that while she was playing a simple game of freeze tag, she would always pose in positions that pointed to God. Susanna would freeze with her arms and eyes up, or with praying hands or kneeling. And this was at a time when she was battling a life threatening disease. She was teaching us how to worship! Her heart was united to God.

1 Cor. 15:41-43, Amplified, “The sun is glorious in one way, and the moon is glorious in another way, and the stars are glorious in their own (distinctive) way; for one star differs from and surpasses another in its beauty and brilliance.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. [The body] that is sown is perishable and decays, but [the body]  that is resurrected is imperishable -immune to decay, immortal.

It is sown in dishonor and humiliation; it is raised in honor and glory. It is sown in infirmity and weakness; it is resurrected in strength and endued with power…”

Suzanna shines bright even still. And so does Robin, and Nick C, and Michelle, and P. Gary. and I am sure that you have ‘stars’ in your heart that illuminate glory each and every day.

The word glory means ‘outshining’.  Oh, and how they shine. “I see the stars,” and I can hear the stars sing,

“Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art.”

“Sing unto the LORD, all the earth; show forth from day to day His salvation.

Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all peoples.

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” 1 Chronicles 16:23-25.

So today, I will see my teachers, and I will  be inspired to pray, “O Lord, that my life might shine for You, even in the simplest of ways, this day.”

A time to look back. Mike, this ones for you…

To the father of my children,

Looking back Mike,  after you and I said, “I do,” there were a lot of uncertainties, but one thing we did know – was that we were called to ministry. Do you remember the day when I asked you, “How do you know that God has not called you to be the father of a large family?”

Now, mind you, at that time, I never thought that God would give us more children than His number of perfection, 7! I completely forgot what God said about Himself in Isaiah 55:8,9. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says 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.”

Thoughts of a large family weren’t on our mind in the beginning, we simply knew we wanted our first, and we prayed for him. Do you remember how I also prayed for a scripture for each child while we were waiting for them to finally arrive? Chris was born, what a prize from the Lord! Oh, what a blessing – and yes, God gave me the scripture, “For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.” 1 Sam. 1:27. And aren’t you amazed how our love just grows and grows for him and for his beautiful wife. God is awesome how He fills a heart with love. When I think of Chris, I think of Pooh in Winnie the Pooh, OK, with a bit of Eeore, but oh,  don’t you just love him!

And, of course, we didn’t want an only child, so we gladly welcomed Chris’ new little brother, Jared. And I have to say, the word God gave me while waiting Jared’s arrival says it all, “Behold children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is His reward.” Psalm 127:3-4. Best friends from, well, not day one, but from 1 yr. – on! And oh, the music that came out of these boys together. The beauty of it all, truly, the ‘fruit of the womb is His reward.’

And Mike, how God encouraged us with this scripture, Psalm 127:4-5, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;” (but at that time, I had no idea how big your quiver was!)

So perhaps we can look back and say it all began very slowly by the Lord working through a hymn, yes, “I Surrender All.” I remember leading worship for a woman’s retreat and ending up the whole time with , “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee thy blessed Savior, I surrender all.” I was 9 months pregnant with our 3rd at the time. It was then that I felt God speaking to my heart, “Toni, what about your womb?” My thought after this, “I must have eaten too much pizza!”

So Carolyn was born, but God encouraged me through this pregnancy in which I had been sick with consecutive flu viruses and I was anxious about her health with Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you…” Our little one in which we were anxious about will probably end up being the smartest of them all! Kids, you can prove me wrong anytime, but she did graduate top in her nursing class! We were satisfied. Two boys and a girl, one happy family!

I am sure you remember, Mike, the day I had you sit down, about 7 1/2 months later.  Yes, Nick was on his way. O my goodness, I was overwhelmed, no one has 4 children! My life was over, I thought! I really didn’t have an attitude of joy, but each and every day we woke up and sought the Lord and gave Him our lives, and He encouraged us once again in His word, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14. And when Nick was born, my heart was broken about my attitude toward His rewards and gifts to us, and I asked forgiveness and prayed to the Lord, “I surrender all, even my womb.” God has gifted Nick with amazing artistic ability, ‘marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well’ and Nick knows that it all comes from God. (But Nick, you are all Eeore, totally lovable, but you really need your ‘Pooh’s’ in life to keep things sunny!)

And this is when you heard me ask you the question, “How do you know that you’ve not been called to be a father of a large family?” When even inside you were thinking these same thoughts as well.

Not long after the birth of Nick, 17 months later, Jonathan was born. The word, the word, oh how I needed His word! God spoke to me in Isaiah 44:2 for my Jonathan, “Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: Fear not, O Jacob My servant…” (Jonathan, God encouraged me with this scripture while we were waiting for your special day, take hold of this verse, it is for you.) Jonathan started life collacky and he was quite the screamer, but if you were to look for the word Gentle in the dictionary, I think you would find Jonathan’s picture there.

Mike, I write this for you. You are probably the only one who would be interested to keep reading at this point, but oh there is so much more. Yes, it was after Jonathan, our 5th that you met everyone that had 5 and did not want to have 6! Children that is. And they all took care of that good and fast. But you prayed and sought the Lord.

Needless to say, God spoke to you as well and gave you courage, (some might call it something else!) to being willing to trust God with our family. Maybe you were thinking the same as I, that He wouldn’t give us more than 7!

Emily! What would we ever do without our Emily. If we never had #6 we would never have all the maturity that we have!(haha) Having to learn how to cook all over again, (I think this is when I discovered most of my 5 minute meals!) how to do laundry, (did we ever learn how to do it, we just did it all the time! OK, I should not say ‘we’ because this is when I should simply say ‘you’, because you did most of the folding. My verse for Emily was, Psalm22:9,10.  “But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust when I was on My mother’s breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God.” It is about how Jesus trusted the Father from the womb, and this gave me great comfort that our girl would trust the Lord all of her days. Em, you were born to praise Him! And oh, what a voice. I love to hear my kids sing.

Now people were really wondering about us, even to the point of worry. At one time there was even a  joke behind the pulpit even,”Get Mike a T.V.!”

But what would we do without our Liz? Life would never be right. With Chris, Jared, Carolyn, Nick, Jonathan, and Emily around Liz never wanted to sleep! She was busy Lizzy from the beginning. And the Lord gave me word for our girl, Psalm 139:15,16, and 17, “My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.” (Liz, you are ‘Kanga’ in the Pooh story to me! So sweet. Doesn’t everyone just love Kanga.)

Amazing the joy we had in our chaos! The house always a mess, kids making tons of noise, music amidst the whines! Pure joy, right Mike? I truly believed that a house was always better when there was a baby in it! Yes, at this point, my friends were worried when I held someones new baby, because they were worried that’s how they came for us!

God had plans for my Gracie-girl, and she was born right on her due-date, (just like Jared by the way). I do not even know if she knows that God gave me a verse for her before she was born. But God gave me Psalm 119:73,74, “Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments. Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, Because I have hoped in Your word.” And it is so beautiful to watch the Lord grow in the lives of each of these His children given to us on loan for a time. (Grace, how sweet to see you blossom and this verse truly represents you.)

Mike, to think of that question, ‘how do you know God has not called you to be a father of a large family?’ Oh my, how beautiful to have a man that no matter what – seeks the Lord. Even if everything looks totally foolish from the outside, you simply listen to God, you wait on Him. You really don’t listen to a lot of opinion, or we would never have had David, our year 2000 baby! Because we went past the perfect 7 number now and were now expecting #9.  What  amazing verses the Lord gave to me for this special child. Psalm 145:4,5, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.” And how sweet, to get another with the ‘Pooh’ temperment in our family. Quiet, inquisitive, and sweet. May you keep meditating on the glorious splendor of God’s majesty throughout your days.

Certainly by now, most just thought we were plain ‘stupid!’ But isn’t it crazy that we never really wanted more babies, we were simply ‘willing’ to have all the babies. Of course, by this time, I had to learn to organize even more! We functioned well on a schedule. That is how everything got done.

I remember when our 10th was born, you didn’t like any names at all except Anneliese. That is kind of a big name for a little baby, but I told you that if  the baby was a girl and if she looked like an Anneliese, you could have your name! She looked like a little princess – thus the name! God encouraged me  and gave  me Psalm 16:11 for our little Anneliese, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  The Lord has been our help and how wonderful for the Lord to give me a scripture to encourage me that our girl will continue to grow and know that, ‘in His presence is fullness of joy!

I must admit, that it was challenging being pregnant  in my early 40’s with 10 other children in the house! It was nice people didn’t say much! You really didn’t want to know what they were thinking! But after the baby was born, there were no more of those looks. The beautiful baby changed everyone’s opinion, to  have children is wonderful  all of a sudden!

Who would have thought that one of my most wonderful births was #11 when I was 42 years old. You thought he was going to be  a girl, I had no idea, but on the day that I went into labor I had just finished reading the very last chapter of Matthew, with  the verse, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” on my mind the entire day of laboring! But the verse God gave me for Matthew is very precious, just as all the others, (that is why I have spent all this time writing about them because I think God wants to encourage us all with them.)  2Corinthians 9:15 says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!.” And of course we know this gift is Jesus, but for you and for me and every member in our family, Matthew is a gift, indescribable!

Mike, my husband of almost 27 years and the father of our 11 children, I believe that ‘He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the coming of Jesus Christ’ Phil 1:6, and I believe that as He has begun all of this with a hymn, He is going to strengthen us to finish well with a hymn:

Because He Lives, by Gloria Gaither and William Gaither. You see, we brought children into a world of troubled times, but the world was troubled even when God Himself had implanted His Seed in that young woman Mary. We think these days are troubled, yet all of time has been troubled because of sin, BUT the hymn reminds us,

Vs. 1: “God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus; He came to love, heal and forgive. He lived and died, to buy my pardon. An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

And every mama and papa can sing these words with truth,

Vs. 2: “How sweet to hold a newborn baby, And feel the pride and joy he gives…”

But it is with belief and trust in Jesus we can have peace and sing,

“But greater still the calm assurance, this child can face uncertain days because He lives.”

And Mike, as we do the best thing for our children by keeping our eyes on the Father in heaven – looking to, seeking and trusting in Him – we will do the next best thing that we can for each one of them by

me- loving their papa, and you- by loving their mama! We’ve been through better and worse. We’ve been through sickness and health, and we’ve been through richer and poorer but God knows each of our names and we are His – and,

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future, All life is worth living just because

He lives.”

Mike, thank you for being a father with faith, and integrity. I am not sure, but if there were pictures in the dictionary, I would probably find your picture next to both.

Stuck to you babe! Thankful that Jesus is our glue!

“Reveal Your Father’s heart, to me…

“Our Father who art in heaven…”(Matthew 6:9.)

Who are You? What is Your heart? How can I know You more? Reveal Your Father’s heart – I have so many questions. Being human means asking the question “Why?” And trying to figure it out.

Oh Father, could it be that we feel as if we are drowning, but we still have so much strength within ourselves that You let us fight and thrash about until we are finally spent, until we are finally ready to … ‘Be still and know that You are God.” Ps. 46:10.

Reveal Your Father’s heart to me.

Do I look at the stars in the night sky? Or the sunrise in the morning? Yes, I can see you in all of that. Even the word speaks of that in Psalm 19, easy enough for the smallest child to understand,

“The heavens tell the glory of God. And the skies announce what his hands have made. Day after day they tell the story. Night after night they tell it again. They have no speech or words. They don’t make any sound to be heard. But their message goes out through all the world. It goes everywhere on earth.”

“The sky is like a home for the sun. The sun comes out like a bridegroom from his bedroom. It rejoices like an athlete eager to run a race. The sun rises at one end of the sky, and it follows its path to the other end. Nothing hides from its heat.” Psalm 19:1-6, International Children’s Bible)

But Father, I need to be restored, I have been broken down, and I need wisdom. There is no joy in my heart. What then? As I pray “My Father who art in heaven,” I need You to reveal Yourself to me.”

So You bring me to the Book of John, and You say to my heart, “You will discover Me here.”

And You begin to speak, because my heart is finally ready to hear,

“No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom {that is, in the intimate presence} of the Father, He has declared Him – He has revealed Him, brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him, and He has made Him known.” John 1:18, Amplified Version. [Proverbs 8:30].

So, the Bible wants me to turn to Proverbs 8 to discover,

“Then I [wisdom] was beside Him as a master and director of the work; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always.” Proverbs 8:30, Amplified Version.

Father, You are showing me that I can see You clearly in -Your Son- Jesus,

and He was Your delight, the rejoicing of Your heart. How that old familiar hymn comes to mind,

“And when I think, that God – His Son not sparing – sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in.

That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin…” (How Great Thou Art).

So, is that why, when I truly desire to know’ My Father in heaven’s heart,’ and when I pray, “Lead me to Your heart, You simply lead me to the cross, time and time again.
You answer my questions in Your word,
Heb. 1:2,” [But} in the last of these days He has spoken to us in [the person of a ] Son. Whom He appointed Heir and lawful owner of all things…”

Heb. 1:3, “He is the sole expression of the glory of God –

the Light-being, the out raying of the divine- and He is the perfect imprint and very image of God’s nature,”…

“So Father, in order to know You more, I need to know Your Son, how quickly I forget all that You are. How small You become when I magnify my problems instead of You.

If He is the perfect imprint and very image of Your nature, reveal to me the power of God that I might stop fighting and thrashing about, and simply trust in You, my Father in heaven.”

God has waited for me to be ready to hear. I opened His word and saw that ‘He upholds and maintains and guides and propels all the universe by His mighty word of power.’ (Heb. 1:3, Amplified Version).

“But God, I am still so anxious about so many things. Father, lead me to Your heart, settle me down.”

And He does, not for just a ‘one time event’ but for each ongoing moment, He leads me. He has spoken, The Holy Spirit reminds me again,

(Jesus, God’s Son), He is the sole expression of the glory of God…He is the very image of [My] nature; He upholds you, He maintains and guides and propels the universe by His mighty word of power.(Heb. 1:3)

He has you in His hands. Will you believe Him even in whatever you are going through?

He has cleansed you of all your sin- past, present and future- and He has cleared away all of your guilt when He, my Son, offered Himself on the cross, and He has sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high.”

The Father has revealed His heart to me in the gift that He has given to us all.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”

He really is the answer to everything, as He  lovingly asks me over and over again in my moments of fret, “Will you believe Me, even in this?”

And I see myself finally yielding and reach my hand to take hold of His… (God’s Hand) –

and‘ whoever believes in Him, (even in this),

shall not perish but have

everlasting life. (John 3:16). He gives me life, which is simply knowing Him more, even now. That is His heart, that I would know Him, the true and Living God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, each and every moment of each and every day.

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13).

How can I know God really loves me?

“It’s the same old, same old,” you hear an inner voice speak to you on a Sunday morning. that inner voice that tries to convince you to simply roll over in your bed to get more sleep.

“I’ve heard the stories before, I know what the Book says, I really don’t have time to read it,” that same inner voice speaks as you look at the Bible that sits in the shelf.

“Why do I have to hear about blood and Jesus on the cross? Can’t we just talk about God?”

Please, heed this warning. These thoughts are lies!  These thoughts are a ploy to steal, and to kill and destroy an entire work that God wants to do in you! Yes, you. This is a matter of life and death!

“Don’t be so melo-dramatic!” you might say.

If you could only KNOW how much God loves you. If you could only see and perceive, and have knowledge of and get acquainted by experience – the Lord. If you could just know Him. It is His love that sets you free to be who you were really created to be.

“Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.” Jeremiah 30:2. This is what the Lord has called me to do. And perhaps this book is just for myself, but I must tell you the words that God has spoken to me. We need to remember the words God has spoken!

What if I didn’t go to church this Sunday, or set aside time just to worship Him and remind myself of His love from His love letter the Bible? I would not have had the opportunity to hear and sing,

“Man of sorrows!” what a name For the Son of God who came; Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

God reclaims ruined sinners! and what if I didn’t go to church? I would not have turned that day to a familiar story (for most) and been completely awakened again, by a story we know very well – of the love that God really has for me and for you.

The story: The Son Who Left Home,
 Then Jesus said, “A man had two sons. The younger son said to hi father, ‘Give me my share of the property.’ So the father divided the property between his two sons. then the younger son gathered up all that was his and left. He traveled far away to another country. There he wasted his money in foolish living. He spent everything that he had. Soon after that, the land became very dry, and there was no rain. There was not enough food to eat anywhere in the country.  The son was  hungry and needed money. So he got a job with one of the citizens there. The man sent the son into the field to feed pigs. the son was so hungry  that he was willing to eat the food the pigs were eating. but no one gave him anything.” Luke 15: 11-16. (International Children’s Bible.)

We all know the story. this young man would not accept the conditions and wanted his inheritance before his father died. The father gave it to him! “Free at last!” the young son thinks. But so quickly it seems, all within one paragraph, this young Jewish son is SO hungry that he actually wanted to eat the ‘pig’s slop’!

O my.

“But when he came to himself, he said…” Luke 15:17, NKJV.

Now he’s thinking! He’s thinking of how well  his father’s servants ate, and how he is starving to death. so he makes a plan, even thinks of the very words he will speak to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called you son; (just) make me as one of your hired servants.” Luke 15:18,19. Amplified Version.

Well we know the story. The father saw the son afar off and said to his hired servants, “Hey, it looks like the boy is back. Why don’t you find some room in the servants quarters for him to stay. He will become as a servant to me, my son has messed up and he should be punished!”

NO WAY! That is not how the story goes. This is why we need to go to church! this is why we need to be reading our Bibles, to be reminded of what is true!  And God inhabits the praises of His people, He is there in our praises, He sings over us, and we sing along,

“Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood, Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah! What a Savior!

“Guilty, vile, and helpless we, Spotless Lamb of God was He; Full atonement! Can it be? Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Yes, just like the prodigal, ‘guilty, helpless we…” but when the son came home and was even far off, the father, remember the father? ‘His father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness (for him), and

he ran

and he embraced him

and kissed him – fervently.” Luke 15:20. Amplified.

And the son tried to talk to the father, but the father was too busy making plans, “”But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe – the festive, honor robe – and put it on him, and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet; And bring out that (wheat) fattened calf and kill it , and let us revel and feast and be happy and merry; Because this my son was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, ans is found! And they began to revel and feast and make merry.”Luke 15:22-24.

That is how God loves us! He doesn’t give us what we deserve! These words are familiar, I’ve heard this story many, many times – but God speaks each and every time! Can’t you hear Him? He comes running,

‘abounding in mercy’ He is.

His word is true. And oh, we need to see that God loves us. Can you see His love in this ‘same old’ story?

Oh, that the mama’s and the papas, and the grand-peeps and the children could KNOW – could perceive, could become acquainted by experience the Lord and His great love for us. We’ve got to come to our senses every day.

The prodigal that came to his senses didn’t have to sleep in the barn!

“Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished!” was His cry; Now in heaven exalted high, Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King, All His ransomed home to bring, then anew this song we’ll sing, Halleluiah! What a Savior!

How can I really know God loves me? well, I can remember a very familiar story when

God ran!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have…

everlasting life!” John 3:16.  Oh, that daily we come to our senses and receive all He has for us today, because that is what eternal life is, Knowing Him –  we can come home,  now and forever! Halleluiah What a Savior!

before you go, just know, your mama and papa are always praying…

“Rise, let us go away from here.” John 14:31.

Yes, these are the words of Jesus at the end of John 14 after He had just had a heart to heart talk with those who were devoted to following Him – He knew He was going to be separated from them- so He spoke many important things.

Kind of like a parent watching his or her child ‘rise’ from their seat at their High School Graduation Ceremony – this is an end to the ‘here’, “Rise, let us go away from here.” No more High School, it is time to move on.

And just as Jesus had many things to say because He was going to the Father, (John 13-14), the mamas and the papas have so much they wish to say to their grown -up babes before they head off, away from  home.A mama and a papa’s heart is so full – yet many times we remain silent, (even though the child feels as if we say too much all the time!)

So, my child, soon to be leaving the home, will you ‘suffer’ (allow!) to hear my heart?

Maybe that is why God commands us to honor our mamas and papas – it’s not that they do everything right, no, because they don’t – but because they’ve lived a little more life than you and they’ve been though tough times and dark days and they’ve had to make tough decisions – so, God says, “Honor your Father and your mother”. Ex. 20:12.

You will be moving forward with new excitement and challenges, but with all of that come responsibilities, deadlines, and demands, which bring about pressures and trial and at times, confusion and doubt. And I haven’t even mentioned roommates and people issues!

Just know, your mama and papa are always praying. Praying you hear the Lord  Jesus saying,

“Come unto Me.” Matthew 11:28. And, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1

And that the Holy Spirit reminds you of His words, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5.

You see, You will be reading and studying, and having fun and busy-ness, but there will be lonely times and insecurities.

Just know, your mama and papa are always praying. praying that you know He is inviting you always to, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.    

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. ” 1 Peter 5:7.

And you will face all kinds of temptations. You will be tempted in trouble and in tongue,  in laziness, in attitudes and  pride – it is part of being human. But just because ‘the bird is flying around your head, you don’t have to let it build his nest on your head!’ Temptation is not sin!

Just know, your mama and papa are always praying. Praying that you hear the Lord when He calls and reminds you,“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man,

but God is faithful,

who will not allow you to be tempted  beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor. 10:13.

God provides an escape. 

“…your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God.” 1 Cor.6:19.

You have the gift of the Holy Spirit given to you by God when you received Jesus and believed in His sacrifice on the cross for you. He dwells in you. He is yours, and He is there to strengthen your heart,  “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Ps. 73:25,26.

And you, my dear child are His treasure and He sold all He had, He gave His life, to purchase you. “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s. 1 Cor. 6:20.

But what if everything goes wrong? Or somehow you are burdened with sin and guilt?

Just know, your mama and papa are praying. Praying that you know, that Jesus still calls you with the same love as He did before. “Come unto Me,”

“If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.  You’ve known the verse since you were a little child, “How can a young man cleanse his way, by taking heed according to Your word. Ps. 119:9. He’s the Lamb of God remember, He takes away the sin.

Yes, you will still hurt from the consequences of your actions, but the Lord is a forgiving God. You just have to hear His voice call His sheep, ” Come unto Me,”... “For I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:24,

and “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jer, 31:3,  and   that means ‘no matter what’ I love you  for all of time, and  I have paid in full the debt owed for your sin, yesterday, today, and tomorrow when you believed on Me.  “Come unto Me,” it is true,  “though your sins were as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Isaiah. 1:18.

Just know, your mama and papa will always be praying. Praying that you will always know,

know because the word tells us that – “and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes. Romans. 8:28.

So keep thinking on what is noble and what is a good report. Keep thinking on what is true and be confident that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6. And that ‘day of Jesus Christ’  I believe, is coming very, very soon. He is coming for His bride. And we know what that means, the bride must make herself ready!

Just know, your mama and papa are always praying, and oh, how we love you, but it is true,

your Father God loves you

most.