I just finalized the 2022 Battle Plan: A Weekly Scripture Memory and Gratitude Journal. All the content aligns with the Fighter Verses Set 2, and the best part is that I laid out the Bible memory work alongside a personal gratitude journaling space to simplify these spiritual disciplines. My prayer is that this book encourages you to start or continue hiding God’s Word in your heart. You can order books at cost directly through Blurb, using the link below.
Autumn means apple season, so today the girls and I took a little afternoon trip to the orchard.
This was our first visit to this particular orchard, and despite having a map and instructions for where to find which specific apple varieties, we kept heading off in the wrong direction and then needing to turn around and head off in the right direction. We never truly got lost in the woods. And certainly when the woods look this astonishing, nobody complains.
Eventually we found the Sweet 16 apples in a far-off row in the back of the orchard. They were a little past their prime, so our soon-to-be-sweet-16 just picked one to pose with.
She’s had a sweet tooth for apples for at least 15 years now.
Checking that off the list, we headed off toward the front of the orchard to find some apples for baking pies and dumplings.
My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit.
(revised from Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Though the choir should not sing its songs,
Nor ballerinas take the stage;
Though the sanctuary sits dusty and silent,
And a never-worn prom dress hangs;
Though the old and sick be abandoned,
And the grieving mourn unembraced;
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the LORD is my strength;
He makes my feet swift and graceful like the dancer’s;
He puts a song of joyful praise in my mouth,
And it rises with hope higher than the heavens.
“Over the river and through the wood, to Grandmother’s house we go! The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow…”
So begins the famous poem penned by Lydia Maria Child in 1844. I remember no horse-drawn sleigh or drifty snow, but I do remember singing this joyfully with my mama on the way to Grandma’s house.
Nearly everyone likes to share memories of going to Grandma’s house. It’s a noteworthy destination. Like most folks, recollections of my grandma’s house include memories of what she cooked. Savory chicken and dumplings topped the list, followed closely by homemade noodles with roast beef, peanut butter and brown sugar sandwiches, and cherry chocolate cake.
At Grandma’s house, I remember quiet mornings reading through piles of Reader’s Digest or being fitted for pretty Easter dresses and warm winter sweaters Grandma was creating just for me. I remember spending lazy summer afternoons outside playing with a dog named Sue and spinning my big brother plum dizzy on the tree swing. And I remember evenings filled with fiercely competitive games of dominoes or cards — Grandma was always the scorekeeper — sometimes followed by an Eskimo pie for dessert.
But unlike other folks, recollections of my grandma’s house aren’t confined to any one particular house. That’s because my grandparents moved. A lot! It’s a wonder their issues of Reader’s Digest kept coming. I think I counted 10 address changes for my grandma just in my lifetime, including two moves out of state, as well as at least two RVs and a vacation home in Arizona for a while. I vividly remember my mama lamenting about all the times she had moved and had to change schools as a child, mostly before she finished elementary school. And I know Grandma moved several times as a child herself.
Grandma was always moving. And for me, the kid who spent her entire childhood living in the same red brick house on 27th Street, this moving thing was completely foreign. I never even moved bedrooms until I went off to college. I stayed put. And everybody else’s grandma stayed put, it seemed.
But my grandma didn’t stay put. She liked the adventure of moving somewhere new, and her face lit up as she described the rooms of the place she was moving to next. I remember her telling me all about the Coweta house before they moved into it. She told me about its bright sun room with south-facing windows and its sunken dining room with rich red carpet and an arched doorway. With rooms like that, it sounded more like a palace than a house!
Partly because she was always moving — but mostly because she was a very intelligent lady, valedictorian of her high school class — Grandma never had trouble with directions. I suppose Grandpa might firmly disagree with me here, particularly if we were discussing the direction from which a vacation photograph was taken. But from my perspective, Grandma always knew which way was north. And she always knew the way to get where she needed to go. She had no trouble tracking down her children and grandchildren, scattered far and wide in various states, long before the days of iPhones or Google maps.
One of Grandma’s favorite Bible verses, which she carefully referenced in the inside cover of the Bible she gave me at age 11 — was Proverbs 3:5-6. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” It’s no wonder Grandma knew the way. She had God giving her directions at every intersection!
Even though she never suffered from being directionally challenged, Grandma endured plenty of trouble in life. She was born in the middle of a fierce March snow storm in western Oklahoma. At a young age, she experienced the loss of her parents’ farm, thanks to a crooked banker. She persisted through the Great Depression and came of age during World War II. She raised chickens and three kids on a farm. And whether she was selling fresh eggs, transcribing business correspondence in shorthand, or posing high school seniors for portraits, Grandma put in many hard hours as a working woman and small business owner. After retiring, she lost her oldest daughter, my mother, to cancer. And in 2006, she lost her beloved husband Lloyd.
In this world Grandma had many joys and sorrows, plenty of work to do, and countless troubles to get through. But now she has left all that behind. She has moved yet again.
Jesus tells us in John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”
I would love to hear Grandma describe this new house with so many rooms. Is she feasting in a great dining hall with luxurious red carpet? What direction does the front of the house face? And how bright is the Son room where Jesus meets her face to face in all His glory?
The Reverend Billy Graham, who passed away exactly two weeks before Grandma, said this: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
I wasn’t there for Grandma’s last moments here in this world of troubles, but the one word everyone in my extended family used to describe those moments was “peaceful.” Grandma has gone peacefully into the presence of God. She has changed her address one last time.
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” These words of Jesus, as recorded in John 14:27, give me much peace as I remember and honor my grandma today.
With the switch to Daylight Savings Time coming soon, it seems timely to revisit Greenwich, England.
You’ve heard of Greenwich Mean Time. Folks here seem to have invented time itself. Well, to be more accurate, they invented how to measure time, and I am thankful for that.
Clocks, antique timekeepers, and all sorts of devices for astronomy and navigation are featured throughout the Royal Observatory here, which was founded by Charles II in 1675.
The Great Equatorial Telescope (1863) is impressive.
To fully appreciate what’s on display at the Royal Observatory, you have to realize the problem of being lost at sea and the problem of longitude.
Back in the 1700s, longitude was an urgent problem, especially for sea-going nations involved in international trade. The precious lives of sailors and the valuable cargoes their ships carried made navigation at sea a matter of life and death. Skilled sailors, out of sight of land, could only find their north-south position (latitude). They had no methods or instruments to accurately calculate their east-west position (longitude). They did not know where they were!
Unfortunately, mapping the night sky and trying to predict the complex motion of the Moon does not work so well on cloudy days at sea. So after lots of trial an error and a big invention competition, the problem was solved by the development of a portable clock that could keep accurate time on board ships.
John Harrison, an 18th century clockmaker, made the first practical marine timekeeper, a monumental development in navigation.
Way back in 1775, Harrison claimed that his clocks were a hundred times better than those made by his contemporaries. And a few years ago, this clock, titled “Burgess Clock B,” set a Guinness World Record for being the most accurate mechanical pendulum timekeeper of its type. It uses a radical theory proposed by Harrison, and it varied by only half a second in 100 days, finally proving in 2015 that Harrison’s claim was correct.
If you have time to read it, the book Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time tells all about Harrison and how important longitude is to navigation. My sailor husband highly recommends it.
The biggest tourist draw at the Royal Observatory is not the clocks, though. It’s the Prime Meridian of the World. That’s zero degrees longitude, where the eastern hemisphere and western hemisphere meet.
And it’s a prime spot to stand in line outside to take a selfie.
The Prime Meridian covers 12,427 miles from pole to pole, but most of that is an imaginary line that doesn’t show up in a selfie.
Inside and away from the crowd, I couldn’t resist standing with one foot and one daughter in each hemisphere.
Learning about longitude and time made me ponder it for a while. How do we know where we are? Where does time go? Why does it disappear faster and faster the older we get?
Frequently in motherhood, when I see my kids growing taller and notice the years flying by so quickly, I want to panic like a sailor lost at sea. It’s easy to feel like time is running out and I don’t know where in the world I am. It’s easy to wish for some way to stop the clock or maybe even turn back the hands on the clock.
But I don’t truly want to go back in time. Not really.
One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, writes: “I watch the hands move grace on the clock face. I’m growing older. These children are growing up. But time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there’s this deepening awareness that I am filling time, gaining time. We stand on the brink of eternity.”
Likewise, author Elizabeth Foss writes: “No, I don’t really want to stop time. But I do want to fill it. I want to fill it with gratitude and grace worthy of the days I trade for them… I want to take each one of these days…and really live the story [God] intends. I don’t want time to stand still, but I do want to still my soul and fill the time with His blessings.”
The idea of filling time with gratitude and stilling my soul encourages me.
My prayer is that God would teach me to number my days so that I gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). My prayer is that, as I count the days, that I make the days count. And my prayer is that I would walk carefully and wisely, making the best use of my time and understanding God’s will for me (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Along the water’s edge
Toward the shallows they run
With long and graceful legs
Chasing the waves and sun.
Then away from the waves
Playful in their searching
Sand, shells and sunset sky.
“The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises… What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” -Ecclesiastes 1:5, 9
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
On this beautiful October day, I am thanking God for all the evidence of His glory that surrounds us in nature and for the many gifts He’s given this past week.
I am thankful for a quiet hike through the woods.
I am thankful for the leaves above glowing all golden in the warm sunshine.
I am thankful for the leaves below that softly crunch as our boots shuffle through them.
I am thankful for the cute pair of just-the-right-size rain boots a dear friend gave to my youngest.
I am thankful for the cheerful Black-Eyed Susans still in bloom.
I am thankful for the fallen tree that makes a good resting spot.
I am thankful for the little collection of leaves my oldest carefully gathers up to treasure.
I am thankful for the lemon-verbena that smells oh-so delightful.
I am thankful for the dazzling dahlias in bloom.
Oh, the dahlias make me smile big!
I am thankful for bright orange pumpkins and bright-eyed girls with big smiles, too.
I am thankful for our annual family outing to the apple orchard.
I am thankful for the girls’ favorite wagon, Lacie, and all the memories it holds.
I am thankful for the delicious harvest of apples to fill our pies and dumplings.
I am thankful for the pumpkin patch nearby and determined pursuers of perfect pumpkins.
I am thankful for God’s amazing creation and how it points to His goodness and glory.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17
Re-posting this because it’s apple season again! Happy pickin’!
One of our favorite traditions every fall is a field trip to the orchard a few miles down the road. We always go to pick Haralson and McIntosh apples for baking apple pies. But I really can’t tell you about our annual apple adventures without telling you about Lacie the Red Wagon, a faithful companion throughout most of our family’s 10 year history of apple picking.
The first year we went apple picking as a family of four, my youngest was not yet walking, and so Lacie the Red Wagon helped haul her around the orchard. She loved getting to chew on her very own apple, and legend has it that she ate the entire thing, stem and all.
My oldest wasn’t quite 4 then and still preferred that we regularly address her as “Cinderella,” but she could already reach a few apples to pick right off the trees.
I don’t remember exactly when or how it happened, but somehow the girls decided finding Lacie the Red Wagon among the fleet of more than a dozen wagons at the orchard was essential in our annual apple picking adventures.
One year, the girls’ great-grandma came all the way from Oklahoma to visit us during apple season, and the girls were sure excited to introduce her to Lacie.
Another year, my youngest was thoroughly enjoying a crunchy, fresh-picked apple in the orchard until she realized her wiggly tooth was suddenly missing — as in completely-never-to-be-found-because-she-swallowed-it lost.
That was quite upsetting, and thankfully the wagon was able to console her with a ride as she adjusted to her new smile.
Her sister’s teeth, meanwhile, were safely secured with braces.
The next year, the smiles had changed again.
Now my youngest is almost 9 and quite an experienced apple picker.
My oldest is still delighted to help pick and especially enjoys climbing into the trees and up the trees.
The trees have grown bigger now and the girls have grown so much taller. My baby barely fits inside a wagon these days! But Lacie the Red Wagon remains constant and faithful in hauling fresh-picked fruit, posing for pictures and helping us make memories.
“Keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye.” Proverbs 7:
Joy to the world! The Lord has come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing!
Joy to you this Christmas!
Nature sang in 2015 as God blessed us with many memorable outdoor adventures like snowshoeing,
We delighted in God’s amazing creation while watching Trumpeter swans on the Mississippi River,
spotting dolphins in the wild in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston,
feeding wood ducks in the backyard,
gazing at the gorgeous lilacs
and the dazzling dahlias at the Arboretum,
being wowed by a pair of red foxes up on the Gunflint Trail near the Boundary Waters,
and admiring some of the 18 baby snapping turtles that hatched in our front yard flower bed.
We tried to subdue some of God’s creatures during our too-close-for-comfort encounters with a snoozing nighthawk,
a sleepy bat, an angry squirrel, a peeping goldfinch,
a topsy-turvey mama snapping turtle, a strong-minded chipmunk and a brave back-to-school mouse that trapped itself inside our basement wall! Eeeek!
We also marveled at God’s wondrous creativity while gazing at the brilliant autumn colors,
picking juicy apples,
and plump pumpkins,
and most recently, while picking a lovely-smelling balsam fir tree to decorate for Christmas.
Romans 1:20 says,“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Nature clearly points to its wise and powerful Creator. And that lighted Christmas tree in my living room, it points heavenward, toward the Light of the World.
It points to Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
May we all join heaven and nature in singing our praises to Him this Christmas and throughout 2016!
A few years ago our family had the privilege of seeing an amazing exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at our local science museum. How incredible to see those ancient words of God – words that He miraculously preserved in jars inside of caves for two thousand years! What a mighty act of God! Preserving words on paper for two thousand years would be impossible for man, but it was possible with God.
Seeing those scrolls reminded me of Psalm 102:18, which says, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.” I am indeed thankful for those men of long ago who obediently and diligently wrote those precious words down on scrolls so that my generation and my children could see them and praise God.
The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit also reminded me of Psalm 145:4. “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” What a great verse this is for homeschool moms – and all parents and grandparents for that matter. If we could only teach one subject as homeschoolers this year, I think this should be it.
In her story book Bible The Mighty Acts of God, author Starr Meade explains that the purpose of telling stories of God’s mighty acts isn’t for entertainment value or good moral examples. The purpose is to make known the wonder of God’s great character.
Likewise, John Piper of Desiring God says we want the next generation to have not just heads full of right facts about the works of God, but also “hearts that burn with the fire of love for the God of those facts – hearts that will sell everything to follow Jesus into the hardest places of the world.”
That’s quite a vision for our students! And as this new school year begins, Psalm 102:18 and Psalm 145 are great encouragements to pass on to my children not just what I know about the one true God from reading the Bible, but also to pass on – heart to heart – what I personally love about God and how I have witnessed Him at work in my life. He has revealed specific attributes of His character – like His faithfulness, compassion, and unfailing love – in specific moments and seasons throughout my life. Knowing by heart those personal faith stories and marveling at God’s great character will fuel my children’s love for Him and better equip them to pass the faith on to their own children someday.
When I take time to recall how God has acted mightily in my own personal history, God is magnified and I am encouraged and comforted. But in order to recall these little faith stories and declare them to my children, I must first record them somehow. That involves watching for God’s grace in daily life, taking lots of pictures, making lists of specific things I am thankful for, writing down prayer requests, keeping a blog, and scrapbooking when I can. These practices take time and no, I don’t keep up with all of them regularly. But these practices are quite meaningful to me because together they build the history book of our lives.
Puritan Pastor John Flavel says, “There is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what evidences and outbreakings of his mercy, faithfulness, and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through.”
So what does praising God and declaring His greatness in the bits and pieces of my personal history look like? Some days it’s telling a story about my childhood as we eat lunch or reading aloud a passage from an old blog post or an old baby journal. Other days it’s looking at photos in a family scrapbook, reading an old letter from a grandparent, or clicking through a digital photo album of last week’s field trip.
In looking back at these records through the lens of God’s goodness, I see things I did not see before. I see ways He has cared for us, provided for us, comforted us, strengthened us, encouraged us, healed us and equipped us. I see how He has brought us through trials and sorrows. I remember joyous moments I would forget otherwise. And as I share all those insights with my children, I praise God.
Jonathan Parnell at Desiring God says the most essential detail to look for in our personal history is God’s mercy to us through Jesus.
“Every detail of God’s goodness to you has come through the blood of Jesus,” he says. “Look back on these providences and remember that you’ve earned none of them. They come by Jesus, or they don’t come at all. His cross is the most vivid demonstration of God’s love for us, and every little good we’ve seen has flowed from that glorious fountain. It did yesterday, and it will tomorrow.”
Parnell also suggests several other details to look for, such as God’s care for you, wisdom for you, grace for you and humility for you, as well as His goal in all your provisions and His goodness in comfortable stuff like socks. He explains each of these ideas thoroughly in an article online entitled “Seven Details to See in Your Past.”
This school year, I pray that teaching the next generation about God’s mighty acts and sharing stories of His goodness and mercy will be a higher priority each day. I pray that we keep pre-algebra and science lessons in the right perspective. I thank God for the fresh encouragement given by Asaph in Psalm 78, a passage which the ESV Bible titles “Tell the Coming Generation.” And I pray that we may arise and tell our children truths about God so that they set their hope in God, keep His commandments, and never ever forget the works of God.