WHAT IS THE BIBLE TO YOU

open bibleI could not adequately describe to you what the Bible means to me. For to do so I would have to tell you my life story with all of its crazy twist and turns. And that would take hours upon hours to lay out before you. If you will allow me to try, here is my best effort.

God’s Word was practically unknown to me up until the of age fourteen. Though I remember going to a Baptist church when I was a little girl. Occasionally on Sunday morning my mother would dress my sister and me up in dresses and send us out the door to walk to a church about 5 or 6 blocks down our road. We would hear stories about Jesus and do little Sunday school papers. I do not really remember the stories, just bringing home the papers. There was an old brown piano and lots singing but don’t remember the words either.

I first clearly heard the Gospel while in a canoe on a lake, from my Uncle, while attending a summer church camp he and my aunt were assisting at. He told me the story of how Jesus gave his life for me, for my sins. He asked me to accept him as my savior. I prayed the prayer. I believed with my head but am still unsure to this day I believed with my heart at the time. Though it was the first knock at my door, from the Lord, He continually pursued me for years. At times He was close enough for me to hear his whisper of love but other times I would not know or care where he was.

My Aunt and Uncle had given me a bible I would pack around throughout my life. I would read the handwritten inscription which would nudge me to read a verse here and there but would never read the whole book. It was special because it was a gift. I treated it as a memento to save not “a prescription for life” as my Aunt and Uncle referred to in their words written to me on the inside page. I had not realized how big a gift it was until years later when I heard God’s voice again beseeching me to come unto him. It was loud and bold this time. So loud, in fact, I could not resist it.

There are times in life when the rug is pulled out from underneath you. You fall with a thud. You are in shock from the impact and confused as to why or how you ended up there. And that is how it was with me. I was not sure what to do or where to turn. And this is when God whispered, “I am here to pick you up.” It was a whisper heard through the words of a friend. “Michelle, maybe you need God.” I heard it but I did not know how to reach out to Him. In the pain and heartache, I experienced, I just began to move forward out of necessity for my children. And in moving forward, I had a desire to go to church for the first time in my adult life. Strange things began to happen. He immediately opened doors I would have never walked through and met people I never considered speaking to about God.

He orchestrated a new life that I never imagined for myself.  One day I found myself sitting in a church, hearing a preacher say I have to know that I know that Jesus saved me.  And before I knew it I was rising to my feet walking down an aisle surrendering my life to the one and only, Savior, Jesus Christ. I finally believed in my heart what was believed, in my mind, those many years ago.

I opened God’s Word to read the instructions that would put my life back together. His words would lead me down paths I never knew existed. His Word saved me and inspired me to make changes for the good. It would give me breath when I could not breathe on my own. It would give me a song when all I could do was cry. It would bring me comfort when sorrow weighed me down. His words gave me knowledge and wisdom when I felt helpless and ignorant. They would give me hope when I was in the rut of sin and I thought my failure would end me. God’s word became the light of a path that was dark and unknown. It would become the lifeline to sanity from the midst of confusion. It was a rope to freedom from the discouragement of life.

His word was the love I desperately craved from youth. It was the hope I cringed at in darkness for fear it was not real.  It was the rescue I cried out for in depths of grief. It was the fresh air I gasped for in days of panic and fear. It was the enveloping hug in the silence of loneliness. It was and is the personal note, letter, and poetry from the lover of my soul!

Little did I know that that words inscribed by my Aunt and Uncle would become prophecy. For God’s Holy Bible is indeed the prescription for all my illnesses and problems, keeping me healthy and happy! And the best news of all, I will live forever with Christ in Heaven!

Dear Shelly,

This Book is a prescription for life. Take a little every day. If you’ll follow the instructions you find it will cure all illnesses and problems you’ll ever have. It will make you very happy and healthy and you’ll live forever. 

With deepest love, 

Pat and Gail

gift bible 1976

Proving God’s Goodness

Monday was the day! We officially have gotten rid of all the junk! After a few days of transition (replacing all the traditional American diet stuff to whole food plant based – WFPB – items) we finally said, “Ok, let’s jump!”
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It really was not scary because God has given us both confidence in our new journey. We both watched the show, Forks Over Knives, on Netflix and heard some very disheartening information but also some encouraging news. So afterward we both came to an agreement, we needed to make a change. Making that decision together is half the battle in a home. My husband and I are determined, of course. I began to pray about the best course of action and low and behold God gave me a verse in my bible study the day after we made the decision. To me, it meant God’s final nod to me that we are walking in the right direction. It seemed to be an answer to a prayer I prayed weeks ago, “Lord, make me a clean and pure vessel for your service.” He almost always speaks through his word.
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;
and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23
Do you see ‘sanctify you wholly’ and ‘whole spirit and soul and body be preserved?’ Watching the show Forks Over Knives seemed kind of random at the time but it made clear to me what I had been learning for some time through the scripture. It nagged me, the connection between food and man.  The numerous diets programs, the different messages coming from different health organizations and the habits we formed from childhood led to so much confusion as to what we should be doing.
The bible states so plainly, we are God’s creation. In Genesis, before the fall, mankind was eating the whole food plant-based diet. And after the fall we immediately started to decay, to die. We became meat-eating humans which meant animals would die to satiate our hunger and our comfort. I know the theology of it. The first animal dying, the first blood sacrifice for the covering of sin, the animal skin covering Adam and Eve which is way more than I want to go into. Suffice it to say, the message all connected in my body, spirit, and soul. There had to be a connection to the diet after the fall and the diseases that have crept into our everyday lives.
And let me say first nothing is random in God’s time and secondly, I am not going to lecture about the inhumanity of killing animals or the effects on our environment from raising and processing animal fat and meats (that may be for another day). It is not the reason we decided to do what we are doing as far as our diet goes. The main reason is for the health! We are sick of taking medications and being overweight and lacking energy! We do not take near the medications that our parents do, nor some of our friends and family, but if there is a way to not take them at all and it has to do with changing our diets then we are willing to try.
The money spent on doctor visits, medications, and hospital stays are so astronomical not to mention the danger of it all. If you could avoid all of that, wouldn’t you want to try???? I watched both of my parents go through heart surgeries and complications. Being connected to machines, depending on humans to know what they are doing and to do it in the right way. Sometimes guessing at what might be the matter. To see them both struggle with breathing, wearing oxygen masks to get through the day. That is not what I want for myself or my husband. Heart disease runs in my family and so does diabetes so why wouldn’t I do better for myself and my family? I know things happen that are beyond our control but most of our health is within our control. Our daily choices, to get informed and get off our butts, make some changes in planning, prepping and shopping.  From all the information I have read and studied so far it is proven that it can be done and done well. To the benefit of all.
whole foods
Another thought inspired by God’s Word is from one of my favorite verses in the bible and one I truly attempt to live out on a daily basis is Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
During my study of the books of Thessalonians these past few weeks, I was struck by the fact that Paul often repeats himself when making a point. I found a repeated thought in his letter to the Thessalonians, Chapter 5 verse 21 ‘prove all good things; hold fast that which is good.’ Here he is telling us to prove something is good as he told us in Romans to prove that which is good. Christianity is about living out the Word of God, living out what Jesus lived out when walking on earth. He was proving God’s goodness, proving God’s ways are good and His ways will work if applied, He was proving God.
When we walk, act out and/or do God’s Word by applying His principles, we are proving to the world, as Jesus did, His ways are good, His ways work and thereby prove God’s love. Afterall love is not just a mushy feeling one feels, it is action. You can hear Paul pleading with believers in Romans 12: 1-2,  (paraphrased) ” I am begging you to give of yourself, your whole body, spirit, and soul, to God. Which is the right thing to do and if you keep yourself separate from the world in body, spirit, and soul you will prove the goodness and the ways of God”
 body soul spirit
So you see how it all fits together? Praying and asking God to forgive you of your sins and save you from hell brings you to salvation. Praying and asking God to make you a vessel fit for service brings you to emptying yourself out to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Praying and asking God to make you healthy brings you to make choices about what you put into your body. When we pray for God’s direction we need to be able to watch and wait, while actively seeking and moving forward in what He already tells us to do. We pray, ask and take action.
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:13
I have heard friends say to me, “I am not sure what God wants me to do. I am waiting but not sure which direction He wants me to go in.” And then they literally just wait for God to magically put up a door that says “walk through here.” I kind of believed that at one time. But it has been my experience that when we take steps of faith toward something we desire or something we believe God is telling us to pursue, He will either close the door of opportunity or open the door opportunity. He will make it clear one way or the other.
If we sit and wait, how will we find the doors if we are not going out there looking for them? God’s Word tells us to seek and then it tells us we will find. You can’t find anything sitting and waiting. There must be action.
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This seeking and knocking can be disappointing or exciting depending on what it is you believe God is saying. And that, my friend, is where praying in faith comes in. You pray and BELIEVE God wants His very best for you so you trust whatever door He opens for you! And remember sometimes He has to bring many things together before we even get to the door. Yes, it may take some time. But never stop seeking! Because that door may just be around the next corner!

Emotions, Who Can Trust Them?

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So I have to share with you how God is just so amazing. How personal and sweet His grace is. Normally, I would not want to share my emotional melt downs on social media but I am convicted by some of the truths we learned in our bible study this week. This week our lessons were on the lies women believe about our emotions. One of them being, we can not control our emotions. Well I am here to tell that this one has been a hard one for me for many years…we can and we should because we can choose to.
Easter Sunday was an exciting day for our church in that we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection and we provided an Easter Egg Hunt for the children. I was super excited for them all. I brought my camera (I am not a professional and am still learning the settings) and proceeded to take pictures of everything. I recorded one of the older boys helping me lay the eggs in our roped off area, the kids coming out to the area with their Easter baskets. I took shots of families walking, talking and laughing. I tried to snap every kid picking up eggs and I even took some family portrait shots by the tree with the “Happy Easter” sign. I was so excited to see my images. And then on the very last picture of the day, I thought, I will just check this picture.
When I tell you my heart fainted, it would be an understatement. I had taken some pictures the day before on Manual settings for low lighting and forgot to change back to Auto. So every picture I clicked was still in my head because they were completely white on my camera. Tears welled up in my eyes because I was completely deflated. I made a big deal about it for several minutes.
Of course my special friend, you know who you are, teased me about missing their kid on his most special day. LOL And others were supportive and kind. My daughter and another young lady immediately said they would send me the pictures off their phones. And so I acquiesced. It was done and there was nothing I could do about it. But I was so disappointed I could not stop talking about it.
What did I do? I cleaned up, put everything away and proceeded to cry on my ride home. Don’t ask me why I cried. I really could not say, other than I built this whole thing up in my head and was super excited for this day. It was our first egg hunt, there were families that had not had a holiday together for a long time. And my grand-daughters were there. I wanted it to be special and it was.

I said all that to say this…When I finally received all the pictures from the ladies who took the pictures, I got to see the kids faces, I cried again. Oh boy. I went to post them on our church website and in searching for a verse to speak to the event of the day I found one and it spoke directly to ME!

11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You!
— Psalm 84:11-12
He fills us with warmth and love, (He gives us gifts to use for Him) He protects us (from ourselves and others) He gives glory and grace (through all the blessings we receive) God withholds no good thing from those who love Him (He provided the pictures through others) He blesses those who trust in Him (the smiles on the kids faces and the parents smiling watching them)
Can you believe it?
Yep, that is my God!

By Him

For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.

Colossians 1:16

heaven and earth

Where are you God in the land you ordained?

We look up, eyes to heaven.

Where are you God in the people you dwell?

We look out, eyes to man.

Where are you God in the dust you formed?

We look down, eyes to earth.

By His creation He says “I am here.”

When will you lift your hand of protection?

We hold on, faith in God, The Father.

When will you come for your Bride?

We hold on, worshiping the Son.

When will you leave the lost to themselves?

We hold on, trusting in the Holy Spirit.

By His Word He says “I am the Great I AM.”

Why do you wait for all to come?

He gives hope, our only way.

Why do you forgive when all have sinned?

He gives mercy, His only way.

Why do you sacrifice one for many?

He gives love, The Only Way.

By His gift He says “I am love.”

by Michelle M. McMillen 
© 2016 all rights reserved

 

What else do you need?

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation,and my high tower. Psalm 18:2

The end of another year.  2014.  I am finding it is true with age time speeds up and memory begins to fade.  I was just remarking, the other day, how my memories seem so distant to me.  Even just the events of 10 years ago seem like another time another place to me.  I never would have imagined the life I am now living, not in a million years.

One of the major changes this year is that Pete and I are almost “empty-nesters.” Without even realizing it, on occasion, I have found myself trying to remember what it was like to be constantly taking care of children.  The only time I get close to remembering is when I have my Grandchildren for a night and a day. 🙂

I have been contemplating what this year has meant to me, what new thing I have learned and what God did in our lives as a family this year. The year certainly went fast. As I look back through the pictures I can not believe all the moments I got to witness in my families’ life. So many to mention but I will just try to highlight a few.

The beginning of the year saw some actual winter weather in Houston. Icicles of all things. They were everywhere and soooo pretty!

One of the favorite events of the year was the Josh Garrels and Robbie Seay Band concert we attended at the Warehouse Live in Houston, Texas. Ben and Rachel introduced us to Josh’s music and we had been listening to him for a while.  He had just started touring this side of the country and Pete bought tickets for us but he could not make it because he was still deployed.  Ben, Rachel, Sam and I went. We recorded him singing some of our favorite songs so the video quality was not that great. He sounded so much richer in person. The music was incredible and we all fell in love with his music even more after seeing him live. He is very down to earth and authentic!

We celebrated Brodies’ 7th Birthday! An amazing day with a castle cake, hand-made shields, many a daring sword fights and adventures with the kids.

 

Another special day was Blue Bonnets blooming in Texas.  It is a funny story.  I told my husband before we married that he had to see the Blue Bonnets. Bragged to him how beautiful they were so we planned our honeymoon to go to a bed and breakfast in the Brenham area so we could go see them when they bloomed.  The year we married there was very little rain around Texas so the drought effected the Blue Bonnet season severely. When we got to Brenham and planned our day to go on our tour of the area we discovered there weren’t any Blue Bonnets to be found. The waitress at the restaurant had told us there were a few but did not stay long.  However we found one (1) at a nursery.  Now this year there were millions! What a joy to share with our grandchildren!

There were many other happenings throughout the year.  Everyday things like soccer games, trips to the beach and a trip up to Fort Hood to see the ‘Army Guy’ in our family. 🙂 Witnessing vows at weddings, births of more grandchildren.  Fun times spent in the back yard looking for and finding cool bugs. Spending really hot days at the pool.  Family dinners and celebrating more birthdays in the family.  If you follow me on Facebook then you have already seen the 1000’s of pictures I have posted. But here are a few that cause me to pause.

 

Notice anything about most of these pictures? Most of them are filled with little people, grandchildren.  The ‘group’ pictures are my favorite because they represent how the Lord doubled and even tripled our family.  The growth of our family, the dynamic of our family and most importantly the blessing of our family. God has given us so much this year and all of it in tiny blessings.

The pictures are not perfect. While there are smiling faces and silly grins there to are the worries, the disappointments and the losses.  But you can’t really see that.  You only see that some are posed but if you look closer you can see each personality of each person frozen-in-time.  You can’t see the little things most often missed by many too hurried to wonder about it. Like gratefulness that most of us had good health this year. That we could afford to celebrate and travel. That we could provide for our family. That in the hodge-podge, that is our family, we could be together and enjoy the simple moment-by-moment pleasure of making memories.

What did I learn this year?  I learned this year you can not hold tightly to things or people because they are not meant to be permanent. So I have let go. I learned that lessons God taught me years ago are still relevant to me today and I have to keep applying His answers to my life each and every day no matter what. So it is back to the basics in my walk with God for me.  I learned that loving your children does not mean you agree with everything they do and say and praying for them is the best way to bring about positive changes in their lives. So my prayer time will increase for sure. 😉

Even now I can not imagine what 2015 will be like. There are already a few things we have on our calendar to look forward to but I do not know exactly how they will go until we get to that time. I can not be sure of tomorrow but I can be sure that God will be there when it comes because He always is. A friend posted that she has never been sorry that she trusted in His name! I replied, “me too!”  For that is real and true, especially for 2014.

So the very best thing I could do for the new year would be to continue to trust in Him!  For He is my ROCK, my FORTRESS, my DELIVERER and my STRENGTH!

What else do you need???

Grace to you,

Shell

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

“Call me back.”

Father’s Day.  Last year I called my dad on Father’s Day but he did not answer his phone so I left him a message, “Was calling to wish you a Happy Father’s Day, call me back.”.  He called me back but I missed his call so he left me a message, “Michelle, this is your father, I called you back, call me back.” We finally connected later on that day.  He thanked me for the Harley Davidson Coffee Mug I sent him and we chatted about this and that. He told me what his day had been like and then we hung up.  I talked to him one more time after that.  It was Thursday, June 27th at 8am. My commute was often an hour or more and because it was early I knew my dad was up. So as was custom I would call him and catch him up on the family happenings on my way to work in which I did that morning.

School had let out for the summer several weeks before so traffic was not as heavy as it was during the school year which made the trip a bit shorter that day. My memory has been very vivid where this particular phone conversation is concerned. Normally our conversations would consist of the goings on in my life and his life. Then we would exchange opinions and factoids on the current events and politics. One of the special things to me about these discussions was that during this time in our lives we seem to agree on many issues.  Which was a far cry from when I was a young adult or a teenager when we did not agree on much.  Looking back it was probably because I did not understand what was really going on in the world so I could not discuss most subjects with him intelligently. Which most assuredly frustrated him.  To have these discussions now was very gratifying because I could appreciate his wisdom and opinion and secretly loved the fact that my father would actually want to know my opinion on a matter.  He would actually acknowledge some of the wisdom or knowledge I had about a subject.

This particular conversation was just a bit different, however. He seemed to be out of breath and I inquired as to why.  He said he had just walked up the stairs. But his breathing never got better as I chatted on and on about each one of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He asked about each one. My son, Esteban and my nephew, Austin had graduated high school several weeks before so we told each other about the event. Esteban in Texas and Austin in Missouri. When we had finished I changed the subject to current events and he said, “That stuff doesn’t matter, you know, lets talk about the kids again, there is a lot going on.”  So I paused. Then he started listing the events coming up for our family during the summer he remarked on the blessing of it all.  A newborn baby coming, a wedding, a son going into the Army and my husband deploying overseas. So much was coming.  And little did I know at that time he would be going.

I told him to get to the doctor and he told me he had an appointment on Monday.  We said, “I love you” to each other though he was out of breath I sensed he was emphasizing his words.  After I hung up my first thought was, ‘how strange for him to repeat everything I had said was happening with the kids this summer and he said it was all a blessing.’ I realized at that moment that I didn’t think I had ever heard him say the word ‘blessing’ before. The conversation has stayed with me every day since.  Even now I hear his voice.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and in eighteen days it will be the one year anniversary that my father went to heaven.  It is hard to think about that for too long without the tears welling up.  Initially I am happy for him, celebrating Father’s Day with his heavenly Father.  I can’t even imagine what that day will be like for me.  I try to but it is just too much.  My dad had not known Him long but for the time he did he was a changed man. And that thought alone makes me smile.  Makes me want to fall on my knees and give thanks for my heavenly Father who made it possible for my earthly father to experience peace, love and joy. For him to be able to recognize the ‘blessings’ in his life. So while I can not call him tomorrow to say Happy Father’s Day, I can call upon the Lord to say thank you for answering my prayers of salvation for the dad God gave me.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. ~ Romans 10:13

Larry Leach

Larry Leach

…That Both You and Your Descendants May Live!

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; ~ Deuteronomy 30:19

I have a new grand-daughter! Her name is Melody Adeline! She is beautiful, head to toe!  I do not just say that because she is my grand-daughter but she is a wonderful creation. Black hair and dark eyes.  Her name means music, song and it rolls off your tongue like a song. Her middle name, Adeline, means noble. In German it means of nobility and pleasant. How sweet!  She is our ‘noble song’.  She is the smallest of all babies born into our family, 6 lbs. 9 oz. Look at her sleeping like she is praying!  I love this picture!

Melody Adeline

Melody Adeline

Holding her yesterday she was so content, curled up in a little lump laying on Grammy’s chest.  I could have held her all night long. Her big sister Daniela Jade, our little “jewel,” came and went visiting with me.  It wasn’t but three and half years before I was holding her the same way. She is a big girl now with her funny way of talking to all of us. She is precocious at times but she is an innocent little girl with eyes wide to the world around her. She mimics the adults around her and wants to be seen.  There are moments I see her vulnerability to the harshness of the world. As we all are vulnerable. But she has a sweet heart. I pray God protects that! I pray for both of them the way a Grandmother’s heart does. First to see God in all things and know Him in their lives.  Melody is my 4th grandchild and just like the ones before her I have sung Psalm 103 over her so she could hear the words and they would cover her heart and soul.

 

Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I heard a message on this passage the other day.  And I loved how the preacher listed the benefits when we honor God.  I had read them, sang them and prayed them but I am not sure I really stopped to list them on paper as they applied to my life.

1) He forgives my sins (when I ask & repent)

2) He heals my diseases (mental as well as physical)

3) He redeems my life from destruction (many times over)

4) He crowns my life with love, kindness and tender mercies (His daily grace)

5) He satisfies me when I am hungry for something to fill my soul which in turn renews my strength & ability to serve Him (if and when I go to Him only for satisfaction)

All these benefits are mine daily if I do something first. Bless Him with my life. Honor Him. Walk in His ways. Give Him praise & worship.

And sometimes I am overwhelmed by these truths and the simple fact that God loves each and everyone of His creations in this way. So this is the prayer for each one of my grandchildren.  Brodie, Ann Marie, Daniela and Melody, that they would bless the Lord with their lives and would partake in the benefits He gives, so that they may LIVE well!

 

Finding A Piece of Destiny

Suddenly a memory pops into your head.  It isn’t a smell or an image provoking it, it is just a thought.  A thought popping up much like those annoying ads on websites you go to.  The site loads and up pops this little box trying to force you to sign up for something. This has been happening to me a lot lately.  My sister’s face comes up in dreams and in thoughts.  Yesterday it was my sister and my dad.  Last week it was my grandmother on my mother’s side.  They are bringing with them remembrances that are sweet and make me smile. With it comes a huge ache in my chest.  I miss them all.

Popes AnniversaryI think it is because in researching my ancestry I have made some very interesting and exciting discoveries that I would love to share with them and I can’t.  It seems those around me are not as excited about the pieces of treasure I have uncovered.  I want to call my sister and tell her what I found.  I want to call my dad and share with him the stories that I have read.  I would love to sit down with my grandmother and share with her the history of her family.  I wonder if she knew that her family founded the very town she raised her children in. Both my mother and my aunt had no idea so I believe she did not. What a shame to not know how your family staked a claim that future generations would call home.

I learned that three men, a father and two sons, set out from Tennessee to go West.  The father, William Murphy, was from Richmond, Virginia and was a Baptist minister. He and his family had settled in Tennessee after the Revolutionary War for a short time. The three men decided go a little to the south-west into what was known as the Louisiana Territory.  They were adventurous to be heading into the unknown. Reports say this was in the year 1798, which means the territory was under Spanish control, having been previously owned by France some 35 years before. The men arrived in what was known as Ste. Genevieve (Upper Louisiana) or later to be known as the south-eastern part of Missouri.

While everyone in the area was french and said to be very hospitable, no one spoke English. They had to send out for a man who could interpret for them. The man took them to his home and spent the rest of the night telling them about the area and where the good land was.  The next day with the assistance of an indian guide each of the men found land to claim. They filed their claims and the land was granted by Spain. They headed back to Tennessee to retrieve their families, however the father did not make it home. They had stopped at his son’s house in Kentucky and it is told he died there.  The brothers did however make it back to Tennessee and soon started back to their claims along with another brother who would work their father’s claim.  Later their mother, a woman named Sarah Barton Murphy, followed with the remaining family.

Sarah was a woman of faith.  And fearless it seems.  She took her remaining household on a trip in a keel boat that began on the Holston River, to the mouth of theOmaha keelboat Ohio River and eventually up the Mississippi River using ropes and poles.  She and her traveling companions managed to pass in the night the areas inhabited by hostile indians. They stayed close to the bank during the day for some concealment.  At the end of the trip on the river they walked another 28 miles over land to the final destination. It is calculated they traveled over 1000 miles and when they arrived, those greeting the party gave them a standing ovation.  They arrived June 12, 1802.*

Even though France took back the Louisiana Territory in 1800, it was done in secret, so it was still under the Spanish law until 1803. During the time of Spanish rule, it was against the law to worship God as a Protestant. So those who had lived there spent many years without corporate worship or fellowship. That did not seem to stop Sarah. Being a Christians lady, she would not have the men doing such things as fishing on the Lord’s day so she began a bible study.  The first one west of the Mississippi.  There is a monument to her today in the town of Farmington, Missouri to attest to the fact.

“On this spot the first Sunday School west of the Mississippi River was organized and taught by Sarah Barton Murphy in the year 1805 in the Old Log Meeting House, which was the first Protestant Church west of the Mississippi.” 

sarah barton murphyI have spent some time reading and re-reading the accounts of this family.  The family who worked the land and created what was known as the Murphy Settlement. And then later called Farmington, Missouri.  There are many more stories I want to explore and search out. But just gaining this knowledge has inspired me.  It has given me encouragement that each one of us has an opportunity to stake a claim for our family. We may not head out into unknown lands or have to travel under dangerous conditions to get there.  Maybe it is staking a claim for the Lord.  A claim to His promises to bless those who serve and honor Him.

I made such a claim years ago when I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I wanted to raise my children in the ‘nurture and admonition’ of the Lord. My desire was to make a change in the way my family had lived.  It now seems my family had grown away from the Lord in the generations since the Murphy’s. While it is exciting to learn of the Christian heritage I have, I did not learn of it until about 7 or 8 years ago.   I had already made the claim years before when my life was falling apart around me and I turned to God for help.  The heartache and destruction of alcoholism and drug addiction had been passed down in my family but can not be sure of who it started with or when. I take comfort in knowing that there may have been one, two or more Christian men and women praying for their descendents.  And those prayers found me when the bottom fell out of my life.

Finding Jesus and learning more about Him literally saved my life. It impacted my life in such a way that it changed the lives of those around me.  My children know God, my father came to know God, my 1st husband came to know God and now my grandchildren are learning of God.  Like finding an ancestor that made a difference in their time, changing the course of the lives around them by pointing them to Jesus. What a treasure to have knowledge of this. I know our focus should not always be on the past.  I know God is wanting us to keep our eyes focused on Him in any and all endeavors.  So I praise Him for showing me these new things. How good of Him to reveal the little details of our past weaved together for His glory!

God has been speaking to me about serving in the moment.  Not waiting for an event, or planning a program or praying about it….He wants me fully engaged NOW! Moment by moment being Christ to the world.  Serving Christ in my church daily not just on Sunday.  In my workplace, in my home and even in my commute.  But most importantly serving Him in my relationships.

As I get older I am understanding more the loneliness of age.  When we are young, we set out to connect with others in the world.  Our lives are weaved with relationships that either bring a balance to our lives or ones that knock us off course.  While we alone choose the people we keep in our life there are times when we have no choice whatsoever on who is in and who is out.  We can try to keep some in but if they want to leave we have to let them go.  We can try to leave some but they won’t let us. As we get older the relationships seem to thin out.  People die or move away.  Our kids grow up and have their own lives to attend to. Those connections I have to my childhood are getting fewer and fewer each year.  Maybe that is why Facebook is such a novelty to some of us. It has allowed us to reach back to the years through friends and acquaintances we had during that time. I think in some ways it validates a time stamp.  “See, we were there.”  “I lived there.” “I was connected there.”

I believe the desire to search out the stories of my ancestors is perhaps a tug of my heart to find a connection to destiny.  Or maybe it is the words of my great-grandparents prayers they offered up to God, to Jesus that someday their descendants would see that they were there.  That they lived and they served Him. That we would be connected to the very same God they were connected to. That their worship and service was not in vain. I want to know that too as I offer up prayers of my own.

The thought overwhelms me that the Murphy’s looked at the same moon & stars,  warmed their  faces under the same sun and kneeled to the same Lord of Lord and King of Kings and some day when I am present with the Lord I pray my great-grandchildren will do the same!

Christmas Heart Ache

One of the things I love about Christmas is the lights.  I love the colors, the twinkle and the beams that bounce off the shiny ornaments.  As a little girl I would sit in the dark living room with only the tree lit. The bulbs were big and bright. Tinsel covered the tree. Bulbs hung along side hand-made ornaments my sister and I had made with our mom or in school.  My mother and father worked at the General Electric Lamp Plant in St. Louis.  Mom had brought some clear light bulbs home without the innards. Only the bulb and the metal end.  She put us at the table and showed us how to apply glue and glitter to the inside of the bulb.  Then we took a small picture she had cut out of us into the shape of an oval and we taped a string to the back side of it.  My mother put the picture and string inside the bulb and attached it to the metal part which she glued onto the end of the bulb. Viola! A beautiful light bulb ornament. I still have it today and it hangs on my tree.

1967 Shell GE light bulb ornament

1967 Shell GE light bulb ornament

When I left home to go into the Air Force, my mother began to send me an ornament every year.  Some were bought and some were hand-made.  All were a memorial to the year being given.  I kept every one of them and have hung them on my tree each year.  I even began making some of my own to commemorate some major events of the year. But I still continue to add them to mark a specific family event.  For example this year my son and his wife gave birth to a baby girl, Ann Marie.  My daughter got married and my third child, though now a man, graduated from high school and then 6 months later graduated Army Basic Training.  All very proud moments for me.  So I plan to hang three plus one for my fathers’ passing in remembrance.

This is the 1st Christmas without him.  It is surreal to come home and find him not here. I am staying in his house. The house he and his wife bought several years ago.  A beautiful Victorian style home.  It is in the center of the town off the main street.  I sense him all around us.  The ache in my heart of missing him but knowing he is celebrating this season in heaven with my sister.  What a thought, worshiping Jesus on His birthday in Heaven. Wow!

It is more difficult for his wife, my step-mom.  She sees him everywhere she turns.  He loved her so much and she knew it.  He took care of her and she misses that. Being taken care of and loved by a man who had searched for love his whole life.  The coolest part of their relationship was that not only did they both find a special love, he found Christ through her love.  I can not begin to tell you how special that is to me.  An answer to a 20 year prayer.  In her grief she is comforted by the fact she knows where he is but the ache is more real in the absence of his touch and his daily concern for her. Grief does not have a calendar or clock.  It knows no boundaries. It takes its time in the humdrum days of loneliness! I pray she finds healing in moving forward and focus on Christ who fills the emptiness left by my dad. I am glad I was here to share these days with her.  I believe it brought some ease to both of our hearts.

I did go to the cemetery to put flowers on my sister’s grave and my fathers’. He has no headstone yet but the grass has grown over him. The small blades of grass resemble moss, revealing to those who come to visit a fresh grave.  There is always a breeze there when I visit.  A warm, hot breeze on the day of his funeral.  But today very cold and brisk, making my eyes sting with tears.  Memories are a funny thing. Standing there I remembered I was the last to leave his casket waiting to go down into the ground.  I almost could not leave him.  I knew it was just his body, not him.  Something in me wanted to stay. I guess it was the finality of it all. I think that is why 1st anniversaries after a loved one passing on is so difficult.  It is the final remembrance of all the years you spent before.  Everything reminds you of what they did the last time you opened presents or sang Happy Birthday. The end of their living life.  The beginning of recalling every last word spoken.

I have noticed that there are memories that do not really come alive until your loved one is gone.  Is that what ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ means? The memories are more vivid and emotional.  I guess it is the heart and the mind that bring them together much like a photo album with dates and places written underneath the pictures. A slide show perhaps.  I like to make memorial videos of people and their moments. I have made several for myself, friends and family of special events we have shared.  I load all the pictures, put them in sequential order and then add music.  I try to add music that speaks to their life, their memory.  It is amazing how it all comes together when it is completed.  I watch them over and over. They make me smile.

I did that for my father.  I enjoyed looking at all his earlier pictures.  When it was finished and I watched it all the way through I realized how adventurous he was.  Motorcycles, boats and hobbies he had throughout the years.  He smiled a lot when he held his children and grandchildren. That was very cool to see.  The end was harder to watch because the pictures were more recent.  Even so he ended well.

I am wondering what the memory of this Christmas will be in a few months.  It was full of what is important.  Family.  Loving one another unconditionally and cherishing each precious moment the Lord allows us to share with those who make our lives full and rich.  Never mind the junk because really the junk is the reason Christ came. To take away the junk and replace it with gems.  His precious gift of a redeemed and restored life! And that is what I remember today of my dad. A gift from God. Redeemed, restored and at peace!  Thank you Lord for filling our minds with memories and hearts with love!!! Thank you for turning heartache into joy when we turn our hearts toward you!

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26

Grace to you

Shell

A Cardboard Shoe Box

fall autum-colours

I seemed to be at a loss as to how to share with the world all the things I was and am thankful for this year. Many had posted their thankfulness list on Facebook throughout the month of November.  I did the list last year and pretty much kept up with it each day but my heart and mind could not settle on this notion of listing all the things I am thankful for for the sake of posting, it was something more internal this year. Something I believe God wanted me to communicate with Him intimately.  And so began somewhat of a different focus on Thanksgiving.

I saw a prayer on a devotional post several months ago and it sparked something within me and so I began praying it also, “Lord, stir my heart, awaken my soul!” I told my oldest son about it and he said he completely understood.  He himself felt the urgency to wake up!  We all have been sort of asleep at our house.  As if waiting for something or someone to wake us all up with a bang.  But after some discussion we decided we did not want to be caught asleep at the wheel so to speak if it just happened to be the rapture.

After some ‘soul searching’ among us we found that we each had settled into a comfortableness, almost complacency.  For my son and daughter-in-law it was looking for the next place to be.  Somewhere else God was calling them.  The Lord began to speak to them about being called right here.  Where they are now.  So a spark was lit for them as well.  When we compared notes on the last few months we understood that God was moving us to wake up together. I believe we have been lulled asleep by the insanity of our world.  Bad news every day on every level of humanity.  We tune it out because it overwhelms and it causes us to be tempted to give in to the fear it brings with it.  We turn inward hoping it does not touch us and we begin to show the signs of walking in the flesh by the lack of concern or compassion we show others.  Our love flickers to a small dim flame because we have our eyes on the waves and not on Jesus.

We believe the themes of the messages we have been hearing are simple and back to basics.  Back to the simple gospel of Christ and the sold-out worship of Him. No idols standing in His place.  No program or plan to replace Him.  No monotonous “Christian” thing done each day of the week.  No box checked on Sunday morning. Just an overwhelming sense of love flowing from our hearts that spills onto others in acts of kindness and mercy.  We question are we grateful, thankful to the God that saved us, changed us and is daily conforming us to His image or is it because of what He can give us or do for us?  Are we living out of the gratefulness and walking thankful lives by our actions?

I heard a message on the radio by David Jeremiah and I am sure it was no coincidence, he said, “You worship the one you trust and you trust the one you know.” He was preaching from the old testament book of Habakkuk.  I love that book.  The short three chapters are so huge with a message of pure worship.  The conversation between the prophet and God about a people who turned their backs on God and hearts to idols, he pleads with God over His decision to use the Babylonians to bring judgment on  the children of Israel by taking them into captivity.  The fact is God will use any and all things to turn our hearts back to Him.  When the prophet comes to face to face of the inevitability of what he and his people will endure he still worships the one who created him.  The one he knows.

The prophet ends his rapport with God stating that if there is nothing left, there is still God.  He will rejoice in Him and have joy in his salvation.  He trusts God for his strength and he knows that God will exalt him through difficulties if he remains faithful.  Or at least that is what the Lord speaks to me through words of Habakkuk.  I know first hand the touch of God’s hand in my life. I have seen Him make me clean after a venture into sin.  I have seen Him make all things new.  I have seen Him raise many in my family from spiritual death.  I have seen Him restore to me the years the locusts have eaten.   I have seen. With all the wonders of God’s miracles in my life I still have not seen what He has prepared for me in Heaven.  But I know He has because He said so. 

If I am asleep or awake God is still present.  He speaks to me through so many things, through His Word, music, people, children, nature and circumstances. He even times His messages so that they are heard with eyes and ears that are prepared to hear and see them.  I have been asked the question, “How do you know God is there, how do you see Him?”  I believe it is like connecting the dots.  I loved doing that as a child.  I would try to figure out what the picture would look like before I put the pencil to paper. I followed the numbers with my eyes and drew the lines in my mind to try to guess the outline.  But it was not until I actually drew the line from 1 to 2 and then to 3 that I could actually realize what the artist had envisioned.  The closer I got to the last number the more clear it came into view.  And at last I could see the form.  There was some satisfaction or surprise in seeing it for the first time.  Partly because I was a part of the process, there was accomplishment and partly because I followed the correct path to the end.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.~Jeremiah 29:13

It is much like this when you seek God.  The daily readings connect to the messages heard throughout the day connecting to the conversations you have with others. Which all connects to the circumstances you travel through on your way to the end of the day.  And in  the stillness of the night or the calm quiet time you spend  with God or even during the morning service Sunday morning He brings it all together in your heart and mind.  The two synchronize the connections and voice speaks to you through the Holy Spirit of God.  He is saying, “I see you and I hear you, you are chosen and you are mine.”

That happens to me many times.  This past Sunday morning is no exception. Our Pastor had us all bring a box to church early in the year of 2013.  He called it a “Praise Box.” He wanted us to get in the habit of praising and thanking God each day for His blessings in our lives.  We were to bring notes, songs, poems, pictures, scriptures, prayers  or whatever we wanted to put in our box to praise God.  It was not to share with others but between God and ourselves. As part of our Thanksgiving  week we took our boxes this Sunday and went through them to look back on all the things we put in there through out this past year. What sweet memories there were for me in that cardboard shoe box.  Giving thanks for all God had done in my life and that of my families.  All He gave and all He took.

A wedding anniversary, high school graduation, a baby shower, a death, a celebration of a life, a birth, a son going off to Army basic training, a wedding and a few salvations.  All this year. Life in all of its forms passing from one thing to the next with God ever-present in it all.  And then as I went back through the dates of the slips of paper I arrived to the very first one I slipped into my box.  No great event happened that day, just an ordinary day but a verse that God had given me.  It was written out word for word.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. ~ Hebrews 12:28

I did not even notate the reason for writing it down other than the fact that it was significant that day.  The awesomeness of God, giving to us the gift of salvation that can never be taken away and a life in Him that can never be destroyed.  A God who is more powerful than anything known to man.  A God who chose me to serve Him with all my heart, mind soul and strength.  And why did I gasp when I read that verse? Because He again gave me the very same verse last week as I have been praying the prayer, “Lord, stir my heart, awaken my soul!”  What do you think He wanted me to see?  What dots was He connecting in my life?  I believe that no matter what happens in my life, no matter what losses I suffer, no matter what blessings I gain  my worship has to be grounded in humility and my walk has to be the picture of gratefulness.  Nothing else will do when my works are judged by a consuming fire the day I stand or kneel in the unshakable kingdom before my awesome God!

Grace to you all who have come here,

Shell