One Plus One Equals Three

oneplusone

“There are three kinds of people in this world. Those who are good at math and those who aren’t.”

My friend once posted that quote on Facebook, and it made me laugh because I’m a journalist married to a mechanical engineer. Math certainly isn’t my favorite subject – but it sure gets discussed plenty in this homeschool family.

And while I chuckle because that quote just doesn’t add up, it reminds me of another quote that doesn’t seem to add up either.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

This story continues over at The End in Mind.

 

The Story of Two Little Hands

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

On March 23, 2003, we dedicated to the LORD our firstborn. During the ceremony that Sunday morning, just before her daddy played Jeff Deyo’s song “These Hands” on acoustic guitar, I read a letter to her. Here is part of that letter.

Today is your dedication day, and we praise God for what a blessing you are to our family. You are three months old and just figured out that you have HANDS! You bat them at toys, try to hold your bottle with them, and just love to put them in your mouth and slobber all over them. Most of time, though, you clasp them together and just stare at them as if to say, “What are these for?”

Before too long, these hands of yours will be coloring and tying shoes and learning to do lots of things. But our hope today is that someday your hands will point to God’s greatness and praise Him.

You see, God’s hands created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. And not too long ago, His hands created you. God loves you and cares for you and has a specific plan for your life.

We praise God for you. Always remember how much we love you, and that the ultimate purpose of your hands is to praise God.

In the meantime, don’t eat those hands! You’ll need them for later!

Those two little hands, she didn’t eat them after all. And since that day I’ve so often held them in my own. I’ve washed them. I’ve dried them. I’ve clipped the fingernails and polished those all shades of pink. I’ve squeezed one or both into my own warm pocket when little mittens were forgotten. I’ve kissed them. I’ve helped them fold together in prayer. I’ve showed them how to turn book pages gently. I’ve taught them to hold a crayon, a pencil.

I’ve watched them reach way up to pick apples from trees.

fallNapples041x

And I’ve watched them reach way down to pick up sand dollars and seashells from Atlantic and Pacific beaches.

seashells2X

oregon2012 339118

I’ve taught them how to fold towels and t-shirts. I’ve taught them how to button buttons and zip zippers. I’ve seen them work puzzles, dress baby dolls, fill tea cups, and dribble basketballs. I’ve watched them write the alphabet in print. And then I’ve watched them learn the alphabet all over again in cursive. I’ve held the left one delicately as the right was wrapped up tightly in a cast for a broken arm. I’ve watched them paint flowers and stitch doll clothes and knit scarves.

papaduck 001017

I’ve watched them kindly hold her little sister’s hand in the backseat of the minivan. I’ve taught them to wash dishes and wipe down countertops. I’ve watched them gently behold the wonders of God’s creation.

julyfun 051

arboretumINsept 105006

I’ve watched them clasped together and dripping with lake water on baptism day.

julystuff067

And I’ve watched them gracefully glide across the ivories day after day…

Week after week…

awayinamanger

For more than five years now those hands have made music.

fallfunmisc 019c

Oh, those sweet little hands and I have been ever so busy together. And God has lovingly and faithfully held these little hands and mine in His mighty hands. He held each and every moment. He held us by grace.

And yesterday — 11 years and seven days after her dedication day — He called those little hands to bravely do what I never imagined them doing when I wrote that dedication letter so many years ago.

Yesterday those little hands went to church and played “Glorious” right along with the worship band. And then the band left those little hands all alone at the keyboard, left my firstborn perched high on a barstool, like a songbird ready to sing. And those beautiful little hands played “Amazing Grace” for the offertory.

And even when her foot struggled to reach the pedal below and those slender fingers pulsed with frustration and momentarily lost their way across the keyboard. Even that moment was all grace. Those sweet little hands just stopped and played it again from the top — “Amazing Grace.”

How sweet was the sound as the little fingers met the keys, the notes sang out beautifully, and the joyful noise of it all filled the whole room.

An answered prayer, a moment of grace, an offering and a gift.

Oh little hands, may you continue pointing to God’s greatness, may you continue praising the One whose hands made you!

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 is Better Than 2

“There are three kinds of people in this world. Those who are good at math and those who aren’t.”

My friend recently posted that quote on Facebook, and it made me laugh because I’m a journalist married to a mechanical engineer. Math isn’t my favorite subject.

And while I chuckle because that quote just doesn’t add up, it reminds me of another quote that doesn’t seem to add up either.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

The verse and several verses leading up to it seem to be explaining why two is so much better than one. And then all of a sudden it jumps to three and leaves me thinking, “Huh?”

After studying it more closely, this proverb applies to marriages. Companionship makes life better. Husband plus wife equals two, and two is better than one. Two can be more productive in work. One can take care of the other when he or she falls, and together they keep each other warm. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11) Two is good.

But really, marriage is full of tension with various demands tugging each of us in multiple, sometimes opposite, directions. Children, school, work, housework, volunteer positions, extended family, friends, neighbors, and all the hobbies and activities we want to enjoy — these all can pull us away from each other and cause a marriage to unravel.

So yes, two is good, but two isn’t enough. Two can’t become a strong cord that’s not quickly broken, as the passage suggests, unless another one is added. Three is better than two. But how, in a marriage, do you get two to equal three?

For us, the One that makes our marriage a cord of three strands is Christ Jesus. He is Immanuel, God with Us. He is the third person Who braids our relationship together into something much stronger and much more satisfying.

Weaving Christ into our marriage translates as praying for each other daily. Usually we pray for each other out loud when we are together at the end of the day. Often we pray for each other on our own during the day. This spiritual discipline is something I greatly appreciate in my husband. We have not always done this, but making it a regular habit has truly transformed our marriage for the better.

A few years ago, my husband spent 10 days serving as a short-term missionary in a very remote jungle village in Nicaragua. No e-mail. No cell phone. No texting. Zip. So we had no contact with each other during that time, and it was extremely difficult to be apart. What comforted me most was knowing that Michael was praying for me at a specific time every day, and I was praying for him at that specific time, too. Our prayers for each other connected us when we could not connect otherwise, and that was so powerful.

But I couldn’t just pray for him at that one set time. One by one, worrisome thoughts came to me throughout the day every single day he was gone. What if he is sick? What if he is injured? What if he is in some sort of danger? What if I never see him again? My imagination could so easily run wild with all the unknowns! Those what-ifs were relentless and could quickly make me feel vulnerable and powerless — especially since we were thousands of miles apart and I was home with 5-year-old and 2-year-old in the middle of a cold January in Minnesota.

So one by one as they crept into my mind, I grabbed each of those what-ifs and dragged them to Christ Jesus in prayer. And you know what? He conquered the what-ifs for me. He victoriously and faithfully gave me peace — a peace that passed my understanding and a peace guarded my heart and mind (Philippians 4:6-7).

Prayer is a mighty powerful tool, and it is especially powerful when we pray God’s own words back to Him. His Word is alive and active and sharper than a double-edged sword; it can judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Praying God’s Word helps me keep my prayers for my husband aligned with God’s will, rather than my own selfish desires.

So how and when do you pray for your husband? Do you use Scripture when you pray?

Whether you are already praying for your husband or not, here are some excellent, Scripture-based resources to strengthen your prayers for him.

Renee Swoope: Praying from My Husband from Head to Toe

Revive Our Hearts: 31 Days of Praying for Your Husband

Also, Ann Voskamp has this exceptionally helpful post on prayer over at A Holy Experience: Seven Ways to Keep Your Home Strong, which includes seven ways to build a house of prayer.

A Prayer for Your Children

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

-Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your Word. Your Word is truth; it sets me free and keeps me free. According to Your Word, I thank You for teaching my children to fear You, for surrounding my children with divine favor, and for sending to my children godly friends. I consider it done in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

This prayer by Joe McGee is based on Psalm 34:11, Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 3:16; Psalm 5:12 and Proverbs 27:17. He encourages parents to pray it daily for their children.

Joe McGee Ministries in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has many resources for families right here.

May we all be diligent this summer in passing on a strong faith in Jesus to our children, teaching them about Him when we are at home and on the road, morning and evening!

100th Day Lesson in Thankfulness

In his prayer to God in Psalm 90, Moses says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Our little homeschool has been numbering days since September, and we recently celebrated my 5-year-old’s 100th day of pre-Kindergarten.

Laurel had been carefully counting and greatly anticipating special math projects and fun activities for the milestone day.   

Since I have been counting to 1,000 myself (inspired by the book One Thousand Gifts), I decided to add a Bible lesson to our 100th day lesson plans. Psalm 100, a favorite of mine, is a psalm for giving thanks and a great one to memorize.

Psalm 100 

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

Worship the LORD with gladness;

come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.

It is He who made us, and we are His;

We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving

and His courts with praise;

give thanks to Him and praise His name.

For the LORD is good and His love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues through all generations.

After the girls and I read Psalm 100 together, we talked about giving thanks to God and counting the ways He loves us. We discussed the Israelites en route to the Promised Land and how they had not given thanks to God and had not trusted Him, even though He had faithfully provided everything they needed. We discussed how grumbling and complaining displeases God and how thankfulness pleases Him.

We also talked about how long counting to 100 days took. We did count 100 days, but we couldn’t count forever.  Forever is much, much longer than 100 days, and God’s love and faithfulness endures forever. Forever!

I gave the girls this special sheet to help them start counting and giving thanks for 100 gifts from God. (You can download the PDF to use with your children if you click here.)

In Colossians 3:15-17, Paul encourages us to be thankful and to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God with gratitude in our hearts, giving thanks to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. 

We put this idea into practice by singing praises along with Maranatha Music’s “He Hath Made Me Glad” and Chris Tomlin’s “Forever” — the lyrics of both songs include strong ties to Psalm 100.  

Here’s a downloadable version of Psalm 100 to help with memorization. By the way, this week I’ll be posting more photos and downloadable materials from our 100th day, so check back often!

In the meantime, check out these other posts on giving thanks to God.

A Quiet, Simple Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and I have time to blog because we have no family visiting this Christmas, and no relatives nearby expecting us for dinner.

Of course family isn’t really what we celebrate at Christmas anyway, as much as we dearly love all those grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins who have decided against braving a frightfully White Christmas in Minnesota.

No, Christmas is about Jesus, celebrating Him and worshiping Him. Sometimes it’s easier to remember that when Christmas is simpler, quieter, and settled comfortably in a picturesque, snowy white background.

Every year our little family of four worships at our church’s 4 p.m. Christmas Eve candlelight service. The girls love getting all dressed up for the evening. Most years my husband participates in the worship band, playing guitar and sometimes singing. This year he also played the mandolin. The music was beautiful. Reverently the service closed, as is tradition, with everyone singing “Silent Night” by candlelight. Seeing my children’s hopeful faces glowing in the candlelight, that’s my favorite gift.

Back at home, with the pot roast still simmering in the slow cooker, the girls endure posing for a few photos.

 And then they ask — for the 100th time today — if they can open presents. They typically exchange gifts with each other on Christmas Eve. Perhaps someday when they are grown and have families of their own, this tradition will continue.

At dinner we light all five of the Advent candles, and the girls eagerly lead our discussion the story of Jesus’s birth. Linnea wonders about all the many details the Bible doesn’t tell us in this ancient story. A deep thought for an 8-year-old.

Once the dinner dishes are cleared, I mix up some bread dough and tuck it under a towel, letting it rise. The girls like to think of the dough as sleeping when it is rising, so they tell it “goodnight” and blow it kisses. I tell the girls it’s almost time for me to tuck them into bed, too. Already sporting their matching striped pink pajamas, they beg for a story. Of course, I was already planning to read one. 

Tonight we read Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. Written in 1956, the book was a gift given to us last year by my dear friend Kate. And what a lovely story it is about a son who gives his father, a dairy farmer, a gift they both treasure for years to come. Be sure to read this heartwarming tale!

Next my husband reads the story of Jesus’s birth from Luke 2 and Matthew 1. We talk about favorite Christmas memories and the best gifts ever given or received. Then we ponder together what it would have been like to see Jesus as a baby. My husband decides he’d want to see the angels that appeared to the shepherds and the glory of the Lord that shone around them. Five-year-old Laurel is still pretty sure she doesn’t want to have anything to do with angels. (Click here to read about her recent angel trauma.) Will we ever convince her that real angels help protect her?

After prayers comes bedtime for little girls, and then comes stocking stuffing, cinnamon roll rolling and gift arranging for us grown-ups. As the evening closes, the tree boasts way too many gifts beneath its boughs, and all through the house the smell of cinnamon rolls lingers. 

This is our quiet, simple Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas!

Pray. Thank. Repeat.

Pray. Thank. Repeat.

I read that somewhere recently — probably over at A Holy Experience — and those simple words have encouraged me to use my blog to give thanks to God for His abundant blessings. And what better time to start than right now?

One person in my life who I am especially thankful for is our senior pastor.

Pastor Steve shepherds his flock like no other pastor I’ve met. God has given him amazing gifts for encouraging and teaching, and Pastor Steve faithfully uses them for God’s glory. He’s a genuinely friendly, gentle, humble and wise man who is constantly striving for holiness. He deeply loves the Lord, studies diligently, and preaches heartfelt messages straight from God’s Word.

My simple words will never do this man justice, but I assure you he will have many rewards in Heaven!

Pastor Steve is on a mission trip, which is probably why he came to mind when I set out to write this. He’s spending the week in Nicaragua, leading a conference for pastors and their wives. He’s also visiting some remote churches very near and dear to my husband, who also traveled to Nicaragua two years ago on a mission trip.

Please join me in praying for Pastor Steve and his lovely wife Sharon. They are wonderful, wonderful people, and I thank God for them.

What are you thankful for today?

I think of the lost language of thanks and I wonder what will happen to the culture of Christians if we don’t speak the tongue taught by the Father… He gives grace and we speak the language of Christians when we give thanks. This is who I am. Gratitude is the culture of the sinners made saints.” -Ann Voskamp