Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's In A Name?

His name means "laughter", which we have found over the past five fleeting years to be all too appropriate for this little one.  Isaac has truly never known the meaning of a dull moment.  He is either belly laughing at someone else' antics, or he is creating a good time with an off-the-wall and perfectly placed statement or facial expression.

Isaac dressed himself as a "bebe elefante" (baby elephant)
His timing is impeccable.  Josh and I have no idea where it came from in the family gene pool, but we just chalk it up to God's holy joy.  Isaac has the uncanny ability to insert a moment of humor and lightheartedness into any situation and have us all rolling on the floor in seconds.  

His middle name, Nathanael, means "God gave".  How amazing is that?  God gave us laughter.  To be joyful, happy and enjoy life; these are truly gifts of God.

There is great power in a name.  Before the birth of each of our children, Josh and I prayed and waited for the Lord to give us just the right names that He desired each of them to be called; the names that He had planned for them since His knitting them together in the depths of the earth.  And He did.  And in each of their naming, we have found that God's names were unquestionably fitting  for each child.

"For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you becuase I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from You
When I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
Your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in Your book before one of them came to be."  ~Psalm 139:13-16

You, dear friend, were knitted together by the very Creator of this world.  The Former of the entire universe wove you together in the depths of the earth.  He has ordained all of your days and written them in His book, even the days that have not yet passed.  Do you feel it?  Can you hear His whisper of the weight of purpose which He has set in you?

That niggling feeling that doesn't leave, that is always there in your heart; that there must be more than what we see with our eyes and touch with our hands...that is Him.  That is the God of all of the ages calling you forth into life.  You were created for greatness, each and every day.

Yesterday Isaac told me he can't wait until he grows up and becomes an adult.  When I asked him why, he said, "Because I want to feed people!"  With his characteristic huge smile spreading across his face.  "Buddy, who do you want to feed?"  I queried.  "The homeless."  Glory to God.

Abba Father ~ This day You have called us Child.  You have called us loved.  You have called us out of darkness and to live as children of the light in this darkened world.  Thank You!  Thank You for Your divine purposes planned for each of us every day, every moment of our lives.  Bring them to fruition in each of us.  And to You be the glory and honor alone, forever and ever.  In Jesus' name ~ Amen.

Enjoy today,

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Joyful Simplicity

A few years back I was watching a show on the Travel Channel about a country in Europe where life moved a bit slower than the frenetic pace we are often accustomed to.  Laying on the couch, sprawled out with strep throat, I was soaking in every peaceful video clip that was shown; every descriptive word coming from the host's script.

Source:  Bing Images
He used a phrase that has stayed with me for the past five years.  In describing the people living in a particular village he stated, "There is a joyful simplicity that marks the rhythm of their days".  Now that's just plain good.  A joyful simplicity.

Immediately I wrote that phrase everywhere:  every chalkboard in my house, every card and letter written and in my journal.  I prayed it over and over again.  "Lord, grant our family a joyful simplicity to our days."  And in time, He has.

Now, of course, as with all things in life, this ebbs and flows a bit.  There are busier seasons than others, and there are days when deadlines must be met.  There are times when life is turned completely upside-down.  But even in the midst of all of that, even when everything goes topsy-turvy, there is peace available. 

This is a peace that never leaves.  Because this peace is a person, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

And a natural result of this peace, this dwelling in communion with God, is a joyful simplicity that marks the rhythm of our days.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  ~John 14:27

Enjoy today,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Run For The Prize

I ran my first half-marathon this past March.  Well, I walked and jogged a bit.  :)   But I finished!  And for that, I am very grateful.

Early morning pre-race photo
Let me back up.  I am not known as a runner.  I like to play hard, and work hard; but run?  No thank you.  Until last fall, I had not regularly, or irregularly, run for pleasure or competition.  EVER.   However, I had reached a point in the physical fitness of my body where I realized I needed a catalyst.  I needed a goal that, for me, was really big; to get me going again, to kick-start my energy.

And so I prayed and then contacted my entire extended family.  I let them all know that I had a dream to run a half-marathon, and who wanted in?  First, my big brother Jamie responded from Michigan and said he would run.  Next, my younger (she made me quit calling her "little" when we were in high school) sister Megin from Georgia said she was in, and she brought along her good friend Aura.  Megin and Aura are notoriously game for trying new things and jumping in on adventures.

Jamie, Beth, Megin and me enjoying Kitty Hawk

We all trained throughout the fall and winter, and in March they came to our home in Virginia for the weekend for a half-marathon in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  My mom and older sister Beth came along as well to cheer us all on.  They also spent some special time caring for Megin's baby Judah during the race, which allowed Megin to participate. 

Jamie, Wilbur, me and Orville
Well, I had trained and trained to the best of my ability with the limited schedule that I have.  And my knee was hurting.  Bad.  If I ran more than one mile at a time, I would be in excrutiating pain and have to walk and do a funky side-limp thing, coupled with some wincing.  It wasn't pretty.  At all.  But the fact of the matter is, I finished; and glory to God, I was thrilled that He had allowed me to finish!

I have been reading through the book of 1 Corinthians this week, and today was led to 1 Corinthians 9:24.  "Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize."

Since training for the half-marathon, God has granted me a new perspective on this.  You see, I only trained in a way that would allow me to FINISH.  Just finish.  I continually told myself that with my knee injury I am just at a point in my life where it is a victory to finish the race.

Asking for God's blessing on the race
This may have been true for the half-marathon, but I am praying the exact opposite for my walk with the Lord.  I don't want to just finish.  I want to throw off everything that hinders, all sin that so easily entangles, and run with gusto.  Knee injury?  I want to keep flying.  Bloodied, scraped, bruised, bandaged?  By the grace of God I want to bring Him glory alone.  Worn-out, crushed, persecuted, abandoned?  My goal is to press on toward heaven.  With fervor.

Enjoy today,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spotlight On: Eucalyptus Cold Care

Today's post is brought to you by one of my favorite morning shower bars, Eucalyptus Cold Care.  The ingredients in this multi-tasking soap include olive oil, coconut oil, water; essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender, rosemary, lemon; and a bit of ground parsley to give it that beautiful pale green color.

Eucalyptus Cold Care
As with all of our soaps at lávame clean, the only ingredients included in this particular blend are pure and natural ones, making for a soap that is both beautiful and one you can feel good about using on your skin.  All of our essential oils are 100 per cent pure.  No artificial additives, scents or coloring here.

Eucalyptus Cold Care has fast become one of my favorite "go-to" bars.  It is wonderful when you are feeling a bit under the weather, but equally good when you just need a little pick-me-up or fresh start to your day.  

The vapors from the eucalyptus oil act as a decongestant when used in a steaming shower or bath.  This particular blend of essential oils also works together to aid in relaxing the body and mind.

Source:  Bing Images
All of these aspects of this soap combine together to form a bar that is not only pleasing to look at, but exceedingly utilitarian in purpose.  This is a must-have to have on hand during the winter months and holiday season.  Pick up yours in our soap shop today!

Enjoy today,

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ramshackle House: A Thanksgiving Parable

Once upon a time there was a poor family that lived in a valley.  Down in the very heart of the valley, shaded among towering trees, sat their ramshackle house.  The house was cobbled together using bits and pieces of others’ castoff building materials found at the side of the road.  Inside the house lived an aging father, a work-worn mother, a small son and a wee daughter.   The aging father’s heart was burdened, as he was growing on in years and could barely feed his family day to day, let alone provide for their future when he would be gone.

Source:  Bing Images

One brisk morning as the work-worn mother was out scattering a few bits of grain for the bedraggled chickens, a Stranger appeared on her step.  Looking up, she spouted sharply, “I don’t know you who you or what you’re looking for,  but you won’t find it here.  We haven’t got enough for even our own family.  Be on your way!”  

Source:  Bing Images

A sad, sympathetic smile crossed the stranger’s face.  Looking down at the work-worn mother with compassionate eyes, he queried,  “Woman, is your husband at home?  I come seeking a word with him.”

“Of course he’s here. “   She responded tartly.  “He hasn’t had work going on three years now.  Where else would he be?”

The work-worn mother’s full skirt rustled as she made a brisk turn through the shack’s threshold.  

A moment later the aging father appeared in the doorway.  The sleeves of his threadbare flannel shirt dangled limply around his bony wrists; his pants bore patches covering holes too many to count.

The stranger smiled. 

“I won’t take but a moment of your time.  I come only to give you a gift.  There are no strings attached to this gift – it is utterly and completely free.  All I ask is that you watch over it, guard it closely, and share it with others.”

And with that, the stranger deposited a roll of yellowed parchment into the astonished aging father’s hands; turned, and walk away.

The husband and wife quickly untied the string binding the document and gasped.  It was the deed to a beautiful piece of property resting atop the mountain that overlooked the valley.  The deed contained not only the rights to the land; but a spacious home, a lush garden and healthy animals as well!

Within a weeks’ time, the man and woman had moved their small son and wee daughter to the house atop the mountain.   It was not long before the aging father began to look more in appearance as a strong provider; the work-worn mother, a radiant bride; the small son and wee daughter were transformed into a strapping lad and beautiful maiden.

The family took great joy in the simplicity of every day.  They worked together, played together and shared their gift with others.   The family spoke frequently of the valley and their old ramshackle house, and thanked the Lord every day in their prayers for the generous Stranger and his gift.  Their greatest desire was to honor the Stranger and his request to share the gift with others.   News spread quickly throughout the village of the family’s gift, and many a tired traveler was welcomed daily to the family’s bountiful table.  The family gave food to those who needed it and shelter to those without.   There was not an outcast in the village whom was not welcome at their door.

Many years passed.  The family’s prayers of thanksgiving became less and less frequent; and they often peppered them with petitions for more land, a better harvest, and an ease of their burden of work.   They began to accept travelers only on Tuesday nights, as the other nights the family was too busy caring for all of their possessions.  They shared their food less and less often, saying that it was just too much work to provide for more than their own family.  The lush garden was quickly becoming a patch of dried weeds.  No fruit that was fit to eat was being produced.  The father’s clothing began to show wear, small wrinkles gathered at the corners of his eyes; the mother’s voice turned from gentle and kind, to harsh and critical.  The son and daughter began to whine incessantly, always putting their needs before those of others. 

One dark morning as a storm was beginning to roll in, the mother was out in the yard feeding her chickens; muttering to herself the whole time about her workload, her rebellious children and her silent husband.  Suddenly she heard a voice that stopped her in tracks.

Source:  Bing Images

The mother’s head snapped up immediately, looking once again into the eyes of the kind and generous Stranger that had visited them so long ago.  Tears began coursing down her face.  With a pierced heart, she called to her husband.

The husband appeared in the threshold of the door; flannel shirt now threadbare, his stooped frame barely filling the doorway as it once did.

The kind Stranger stood with a steady gaze, taking in the scene.  With a compassionate voice he asked, “Where are the others?  Where are all the villagers and travelers I asked you to share this gift with?”

“I can see that you have forgotten.  You have forgotten the height from which you have fallen.  The spacious home, lush garden and healthy animals I granted you now appear more as your old ramshackle house in the valley did. “

 The husband and wife fell in sorrow onto the dusty ground before the Stranger.   “Oh, Master!  Forgive us!  We will repay you sevenfold for all that we have allowed to go to waste.”

             Gently lifting the man and woman to their feet, the Stranger replied, “The price has already been paid.   Go, walk in joy, thankfulness and love.”
             From that day forward, the family never forgot the kindness of the Stranger and his generous gift of grace; and they lived accordingly.

Abba ~ This day and all that follow, may we never forget Your good, good gifts.  Keep our eyes on You, the author and perfecter of our faith.  In Jesus name ~ Amen.

Enjoy today,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Becoming Childlike

Her middle name is Noel, meaning Christmas.  We prayed and chose this name for her because we were thrilled to find out on Christmas Eve, eight years ago, that the Lord was blessing us with a second child.  Giddy with the excitement of it and so thankful for the gift of a new baby, we told no one that night.  Instead, Josh and I cherished our news quietly and joyfully between the two of us.

She sold some of her toys on Craig's List this past week.  I thought she would keep the money, maybe save it up for something special.  As I handed her the bills, neatly folded, she turned to me smiling wide and said, "Mama, can you take me Christmas shopping, please?"

Tannah's gift for her daddy
Each time we were out this past week, Tannah has picked up a few different gifts for those on her Christmas list. Weighing each of her purchases in her mind, she will carry something around the store for a bit; possibly purchase it, possibly put it back on the shelf deciding that it is not quite right for the person she is gifting it to.  Each evening she carefully retrieves the wrapping paper, scissors and Scotch tape down from the top shelf and sets to work in her bedroom wrapping, choosing her own bows, tying them on and customizing the labels.
This sweet little girl holds within her a gift of a generous spirit and a heart of love.  Her hands and heart are more open than anyone I have ever known.  It has been this way since she was very small.

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." ~Matthew 18:3

Abba ~ Change my heart this day and make me as a little child.  Soften the hard places found in me.  Open my hands and heart that I may hold nothing but you.  In the name of Jesus ~ Amen.

Enjoy today,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rest Easy

Ben, our 6-year-old dog
"You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in You."
~Isaiah 26:3

Good morning, friends!  On this sun-soaked morning, our sky is full of blue.  The leaves outside my window are in full-change mode; most on the ground, brown and crisp, while the more persistent of the bunch still cling tightly to the trees.  Their colors are all shades of the spectrum of fall hues.  And inside our dog Ben cozily sleeps in his favorite chair, resting peacefully.

It is Friday.  An end to another week.  Where is your mind, your heart?  Are you able to rest them, to lay them still and dwell in peace? 

"In Him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
even as we put our hope in you."
~Psalm 34:21-22

The God of all creation desires that you find rest today; peace.  He is calling you to draw near to Him, to rest in His lovingkindness which never fails and His mercies which are new every morning.  Call out to Him in your times of trouble and unease.  Call, and then trust. 

He is faithful.  He is good.  And He is ever caring for you.

Enjoy today,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Share Yourself

"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."  ~Romans 12:4-5

When we were in Colombia, South America this past summer, each member of our team was asked to prepare a Bible lesson to share at individual times.  My assignment was the slum church gathering.  I was terrified.  Praying heartily before our trip and beseeching other dear sisters and brothers in Christ to pray with me, I went. 

In a poverty-stricken barrio nestle in the heart of South America, I shared the story of Paul and Silas and how they sang in prison.  I was ready, I thought.  My lesson had three main points and a few illustrations sprinkled throughout.  I was quite pleased that the three points even carried a bit of internal alliteration with them.  Which, if you think about it, is pretty humorous considering the fact that the lesson was interpreted into Spanish, and all English play on words was lost in translation.

The lesson went well enough; but I believe strongly to this day that more than me bringing anything new or wonderful to the barrio, God met us there.  I simply went, opened the Word of God, and shared.  And for my friends' in the slum part, they came and shared.
I was so struck that evening at how God is everywhere.  How HE moves, in His ways, in His times; it is truly nothing we do or can accomplish, it is all His Spirit in us and through us. 

Since then, I have sought to show up.  To be available whenever and wherever God leads.  In every moment.  To share the Word of God, to pray with and for others, to encourage, to fellowship and to be completely open to God moving in and through me.  And it has flipped my whole perception on how this whole service for Him thing works. 

Share yourself today in the name of Christ and for the glory of God alone.  He designed you with unique abilities and gifts that are for this moment, for this brief snapshot in the frame of eternity.  Open your heart and hands to Him, ask Him for direction and let your feet follow where He leads.

Enjoy today,

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunshine and Blue Skies

It is forecasted to be another gorgeous fall day here in Virginia.  Yesterday was sublime; sunshine, blue skies and a day full of fall garden work.  My children and I spent the afternoon hours out in the backyard putting the garden to bed for the winter.  We pulled old plants for compost and raked pine straw into neat mounds over the garden beds.

There is so much joy to be had right in your own backyard!  Caleb constructed a refrigerator, an icebox of sorts, using a method he had read about in his "boy camper" book.  He dug a hole in the ground, lined it with aluminum foil and topped it with Styrofoam for cover.  At one point my 7-year-old Tannah raced by me yelling, "I am full of adventure!"  I smiled at her but had a good chuckle to myself about it.  To be that alive and full of adventure that you just have a need to announce it to the world?  Well, that's just plain good stuff.

We are planning on heading out again this afternoon for some more good fall fun and work.  Picking up pine cones, raking more pine straw and weeding are on today's agenda.  And of course, giggling and laughing the whole way as we enjoy the moments that pass ever so quickly.

An area of my garden that desperately needs some tending!  (However, I tend to love wild places best...)
 "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  ~James 1:17

Enjoy today,

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Witness to Beauty

He slowly hobbled down the teal-carpeted church aisle, leaning heavily on the worn oak cane in his grasp.  She was at his side, a sweet stooped older woman with her mass of gray curls spilling every which way out of her black "for church" hat.  They lowered their weary bodies onto the padded pew, right there in the very front, facing the pulpit.  

courtesy: Bing images

It was one of those exceptional moments that gave one pause in an otherwise ordinary Sunday.  There was nothing unique about this particular Sunday, except for the fact that our church family had been hosting a group of homeless citizens overnight in our church building for the week to help keep them out of the cold elements.  This couple coming in to join us lived in their car.  They had slept there through the night and came ready to join us in worship to the Lord that morning.
When the first note was played, the man raised his hands with a broad smile and began clapping loudly and joyfully.  As the service continued,  his body would gently dip down with the beat, then his hands would lift ever so slightly as he would play the air guitar.  Giving all he had, he lost himself in the music.

Some twenty minutes later during the sermon I glanced over again.  There he sat, listening ever so intently as the preacher brought the word.  Eyes focused clearly in front of him, he appeared to be absorbed in the moment.  I watched as he looked over at the woman seated next to him; the sweet little lady who had trekked in with him.

He lovingly reached over and swept her little black church hat off her head.  Underneath she wore an old knitted purple cap pulled tightly about  her crown.  The little black church hat was almost swallowed up by his large tired hands.  He held it in a gentle caress, turning it round and round.  Every miniscule piece of lint his eyes found, he plucked off in one swift move.

Source:  Bing Images

Facing the hat toward him, he examined the rhinestones adorning the front of it.  He turned one here, adjusted one there, until at last he was satisfied.  Smoothing and straightening the brim, he carefully positioned it back upon her head with as much honor as one would crown a beautiful and rare princess.

You see, she is God's princess.  His beautiful created child.  And that gentleman with his dipping and swaying before the throne of God is infinitely dear to the heart of our Abba.  The two of them, they have value beyond any riches to our Heavenly Father.

This day, may you know through the fullness of the grace of Jesus Christ your infinite value to God; and may you extend that same value and love through Christ to others.

"Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter."  ~John Keats 

Enjoy today,

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Open Eyes

"Finally, the pilot and a couple of Waodani and I unwrapped Aunt Rachel's shroud and lifted her body from the plane into the simple plywood box that would serve as her coffin.  It seemed appropriate for this old Saint who had never worried about luxuries or her own comfort.  Its rustic simplicity matched her house, which sat just a hundred yards down the trail."  ~Excerpt from "End of the Spear", by Steve Saint

Source:  Bing Images
This woman described above, Rachel Saint, had lived almost 40 years of her life in the Ecuadorian jungle, ministering to and with the Waodani Indian tribe there.   She died at the age of 80 after a good, long life fulfilling God's purpose for her.

The people she loved so dearly for God's kingdom, the Waodani, lovingly called her "Star".  Engraved on her grave marker in Ecuador are these words spoken by by one of her Waodani brothers, "Teaching us to walk God's trail, Star came."

Source:  Bing Images

Here is the thing.  God may call you to a distant land you have never been to; to a far-reaching place where no airplane has ever entered, to a people who are unreceptive and possibly even openly hostile toward the gospel. 

Source:  Bing Images

Or He may call you to stand up, walk out of your front door and bring a plate of cookies and a smile to your widowed  next-door neighbor who believes no one cares for her anymore. 

Wherever He is calling, will you go?  Whenever He calls, are you ready?  See, He is always calling.  He never stops.  Every moment of every day, His Spirit is there, quietly whispering, "Go."  "Go."  "Go."  He nudges, He prods, He gently leads.  But the fact is, He doesn't stop.  For our time is very, very short, and this world He loves is desperately in need of Him.

Abba Father,

In the name of Jesus I ask that every follower of You, every person who proclaims the name of Jesus Christ and wears it branded across their heart as belonging to You, would this day rise up and open their mouths to proclaim Your glory alone. 

You tell us that the fields are ripe with harvest.  That the workers are few.  This day, open wide Your floodgates and may the workers be many. 

Open our eyes wide to see Your glory.  Tear the scales off our eyes that we may see people, Your dearly loved people, all around us, everywhere; and respond.  Remove all fear from our beings and may we trust You and You alone.  Give us Your words to speak and the boldness with which to do it.  Cloak us in love.

May we make little of ourselves and much of You.  For You alone are holy.

In Jesus' name,


Enjoy today,

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spotlight On: Citrus Clove

Today I would like to highlight for you our delicious citrus clove bar.  I have found over recent weeks that it has turned out to be a very popular bar, particularly during these fall months as the air turns chillier and thoughts turn toward Thanksgiving and the holidays.  It is a cozy bar, with the heady scent of cloves to warm up those brisk mornings; while the fresh citrus twists of orange, lemon and grapefruit complete the package.

Citrus Clove
As with all of our products at lavame clean, we use only natural ingredients to build our soaps. You will find in our citrus clove bar: olive oil, coconut oil, pure water, 100 per cent pure essential oils of clove, lemon, orange and grapefruit, and a dash of ground cloves.

Source:  Bing images

Over the years, cloves have been found to have antiseptic properties. Cloves are also reputed to possess aphrodisiac qualities, as well as being an excellent stress reliever. Its woody fragrance adds a nice spice to this soap.

Citrus essential oils are known to both uplift and refresh the mood. Citrus oils also help support the immune system. Invigorating in nature, they give a quick burst of fresh life to your shower or bath experience.

All of our essential oils are always 100 per cent pure essential oil. We never use artificial fragrance or coloring in any our soaps. The beautiful coloring you observe in your handmade bar of citrus clove soap is derived completely from the sprinkling of ground cloves added in. We lovingly handcraft each bar of soap in our own kitchen; at which point it is delivered to you, from our hands to yours.

Enjoy today,