Through the Valley
of
Serenity
Our Family's Miracle Journey
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March 2010




March 2, 2010

So often, I receive emails saying..."You're so strong."  People read Serenity's testimony or hear the testimony of how God saved my marriage and they immediately assume I'm a strong person.  Each time I read or hear that line, I have to chuckle a little.  The thought of someone thinking I'm a strong person is just so funny to me. Truth is... I'm not strong at all.  I'm one of the weakest people I know. The only reason I made it through these various trials was because like a limp, unconscious, damsel in distress, my hero which is my Savior, had to carry me. 
 
             I try to be so tough, but I'm just not strong enough.

Recently, God used the story of Elijah to remind me of how much I need my Savior.  In 1 Kings, we read how Elijah performed many miracles and in the 18th chapter, we read that Elijah stood strong through many tests of faith.  God used his faith to open the eyes of those who worshiped Baal.  Elijah was up against some mighty spiritual warfare and he stood strong in faith until the rain fell and the prophets of baal were slaughtered. Through his faith many souls were turned back to God and many rejoiced in the name of the Lord. Then soon after in the 19th chapter we read that Jezebel discovered all that Elijah did and she vowed to kill him by the next day. Now when Elijah heard that she was after him, he ran scared.  The word says.. he arose and ran for his life... and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
So after all that he witnessed God accomplish through him, after everything that had happened, even after the impossible was made possible and Victory was celebrated, he still gave up and ran for his life, when he found out a WOMAN was after him. (true, there's a powerful evil spirit behind that woman, but that's a different message)
God spoke to me through this story. Elijah knew God could move mountains.  Elijah knew that God would save him again, but Elijah was tired.  He had fought until he couldn't fight anymore. Elijah had grown weary.
The fight of faith is tiring.  The enemy loves to attack and attack until we grow weary.  Sometimes we get so caught up in fighting for others that we tend to forget about our own armor.  We neglect our own strength. 
Last week, God spoke to me and said... "You started out this race strong and determined.  You allowed nothing to stand in your way. Even when those whom you love, said give up.. you stood strong and watched Me move mountains.  Now that the mountains are hills and the problems are small, you're ready to give up... because you've grown weary."
You see in my determined fight to help others, I've allowed my time to become consumed with my ministry.  I've noticed lately that every time I try to minister to someone during a trial in their life, the enemy attacks my family in that same area.  I minister to someone about standing for their finances, and immediately the enemy attacks my bank account.  I minister to couples about standing in faith for their marriage and immediately the enemy attacks my marriage again.  Now these attacks are nothing like the mountains I've faced before, extremely minor in comparison, but yet I'm ready to call it quits and just surrender. Like Elijah, I've grown weary.
If we read further we discover how God strengthened Elijah... 
"Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God."
Elijah had to get in the presence of the Lord and eat. Now we see in Matthew 4:4...
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
God was telling me that I had grown weary because I had been neglecting my OWN spiritual strengthening. In order for my ministry to flourish, in order for my family to withstand the storms, I need to set aside time for my own growth. Yes, I attend church regularly! Yes.. I read God's word! Yes, I pray, but I need more! I need to forget about all the worries and just bask within His presence. I need to spend time worshiping and getting to know Him all over again. I need to lay everything else aside and just nourish my relationship for awhile. I need to get in His presence... read His word... and let Him feed me.

I'm NOT a strong person... I desperately need my Savior!
Because...

I try to be so tough.. but I'm just not strong enough.
I can't do this alone, God I need you to hold onto me
I try be good enough, but I'm nothing without Your love
Savior Please... KEEP SAVING ME!

Everything You are to me
Is everything I'll ever need
And I am learning to believe
That I don't have to prove a thing
'Cause You're the one who's sav
ing me
Savior Please - Josh Wilson


Savior Please... KEEP SAVING ME!


March 4th, 2010

I must admit... these surprise pictures I keep finding on my camera are starting to become quite artistic.  Maybe our little toddler camera thief has an eye for artistic photography.


                 
   
                

                  

                         

                                              Or maybe....
 I'm just a Mom who sees the best in her beautiful, but ornery little girl.  :)

                  Either way... they are quite interesting pictures! 
                         See if you can figure this next one out...

                      
                                  How DOES she do that? :)



March 7th, 2010

Number 1 rule of engagement says to "know your enemy." People always say fight fire with fire! But I tend to disagree. Jesus said..."
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Jesus overcame the world.  Jesus defeated the enemy.  Jesus knew His enemy, but Jesus did NOT fight fire with fire.  He could have used satan's tactics. He had the power to instantly destroy all of us and satan himself. But He chose to use a different measure... a smarter measure. Destruction goes against His character. So Instead... He hit satan with a surprise attack.  He did something that satan never could have imagined in a million years.  Satan's mind could not even conceive the tactic that Jesus used against him, because it was something that went against every fiber of satan's being.   Jesus overcame this world with an act of....LOVE!
1 John 5:4-5 tells us that through Jesus we can overcome this world as well.
"For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"
So through our faith we have the power and authority to overcome all obstacles of this world.  We will have tribulations but because of our faith in the one who conquered this world we can have peace and be of good cheer.  Now... faith is more than just to say.."I believe", because the word tells us that even the demons in hell believe and tremble.  Faith needs another ingredient.
"Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:17 and in Galatians 5:6 we see that...."...faith works by Love."  Faith needs LOVE and all the characters there of (1Cor. 13:4-7)

You see.. we don't have to fight fire with fire!  We don't have to get inside the mind of our enemy. We don't have to use his tactics. We don't have to think inside his little box.  As a matter of fact we need to think OUTSIDE his box. We need to obtain the mind of Christ. We need to become Christ-like.  I praise God that in order to have victory we do NOT have to "know our enemy!"  We just need to KNOW our Savior!


March 8th, 2010

          "Little Girls are sugar and spice and everything nice"
Serenity is part sugar.  She has an amazingly sweet side to her.  Yesterday morning, she awakened me with such a sweet sediment..."Yay, It's morning! The sun is waking up and now we can go to church."  Now...If you didn't grin at "the sun is waking up" part.  Then you just don't know sweet and the fact that she is just SOOO excited about going to church... well... that just takes the cake! Yes...my heart just melts when she tells me..."Mom your my bestest friend and the most beautiful Mommy ever."  And If you've ever heard her sing, "Jesus loves me" or "You are my sunshine" then chances are, you know that melted heart feeling as well.  Yes... She has a sweet side. Serenity is definitely part sugar!

Now just as sure as I am that she is part sugar. I'm even more certain that she has a much larger part which is Spice.  A recent example would be last night.  She was taking a shower with her sisters and half way through decided she had enough.  So she jumped out stark naked and took off running through the house.  Noah yelled at her to get some clothes on and in turn unintentionally invited her into his space. She immediately ran and  jumped onto his bed. From the other room, I heard him yell... 
"Gross Serenity... get off my bed before you pee on it!" 
Now I know my daughter! I know that she is very ornery and smart enough on her own.  So if YOU are as smart as she is,  than you will NOT give her any extra ideas.... or else! :)  A few seconds later, I heard Noah again.... "Ahh... NASTY! MOM!!!!!  Reni just peed all over my bed!"
On my way into the room, I heard Serenity's spicy little attitude reply....
"Oh WAAA.... What are you going to do about it, little BABY? Huh?"
I entered the room and spotted her from behind.  She had her bare bottom stuck out, head shaking left to right, and finger pointed. She was sporting the entire.."oh no you didn't" look. Then unknowingly with me behind her, she mouthed off again...
"Oh WAAA WAAA.. little baby boy gotta tell er Mommy about it."
 
Oh... Mommy heard loud and clear alright! :) Now you do remember that she is only three years old.. right?  UNBELIEVABLE! Of course she was punished for her terrible behavior, but I have to admit, not without a few muffled giggles from me.

Oh goodness... there is never a dull moment with Serenity. Yes, it's true, she may be part sugar, but one thing is certain. There isn't a pepper in the world that can hold a candle to her Spice!  Then just when you think you can't take the heat... "the sun is waking up."  and there's that sweetness again. :)



March 13th, 2010

So... What do you get when you combine five small, creative and completely bored children with one plain white wall?

                       
A homemade growth chart complete with autographs & original drawings.

Yep! One by one, they lined up with their backs against the wall and marked each others height onto the girls bedroom wall.  Then they all added their own special touches.  As you can see, Eli is really beginning to get the hang of writing his E's. :)

Afterward, we did the only thing we could do... PAINT PARTY! 
This is what the wall looks like NOW....
                          
                       Just a tad bit brighter... don't ya think? 
The girls LOVE their new hot pink room.  So they decided to take some pictures and show off it's new look.

                        
                          Obviously with the help of Serenity!
           As we all know, She just LOVES to work the camera!


                           

                           

                        

                          
        
  I must say, it's quite an improvement.... on the room AND the pictures! :)





March 18th, 2010

A simple task such as grocery shopping can become quite tiring when you add my many small children into the mix.... the whining, the complaining. the arguing, the tattling, the wanting.  It can all take this seemingly patient mom into a very impatient frenzy. 
Today, I thought I had it made. Noah, Kayleigh, Gracee and Elijah spent some time playing at their Nanny and Papa's house while I picked up groceries.  I ALMOST got away child free until Serenity spotted me heading toward the car.  "Mommy... WAIT! You're forgetting me! I go with you!"  Oh... Soooo close! I turn around with a big smile and face a pair of bright eyes filled with enthusaiam.  "Aww... honey I could never forget my Neni girl. Come on... Let's go get some groceries." With one big swoop and I pick her up and head toward the car.  We drive approximately 30 miles. In the meantime, Serenity falls asleep. Which would have been a good thing if she actually had time to complete her nap. Instead I had to wake her up BEFORE she was ready.  So.. I lug a very tired Serenity into the store and set her into the cart.  Suppressed sleepiness suddenly turns into a burst of energy.  She wants out of the cart. She wants into the cart. She wants to help push. She wants to ride. She wants cookies, apples, and bananas.  She wants this shampoo... no WAIT... that shampoo.  She wants pretty barrettes and handbands.
From a distance she spots the toy section. Oh great!  Finally, after much persuasion, I cave and tell her she can have ONE thing.  She decides on a toy cell phone, but ten minutes later, trades it for a cracker and cheese lunchable.  Serenity catches the eye of many friendly strangers. Mostly elderly folk who LOVE to stop and chat for a considerable amount of time. After lugging, waiting, chatting, searching and buying food to last a family of seven for a week.  We finally make it to the check out counter   Once it's our turn, I quickly throw my items onto the conveyor belt and exit as quickly as possible.  I load Serenity into the car first.  Then I proceed to load my groceries. I place the last bag in, push the cart into the designated holder and grab my purse. OH GREAT!  What's this?  Tucked neatly up under my purse are the headbands and pretty barrettes that Serenity wanted earlier.  She must have snagged them while I was on shampoo detail. My heart sinks. We unwittingly stole hair accessories... hair accessories? My first thought is to just leave them in the cart.  But then I realize, they might become lost or even worse a another child might take them.  Then I would be responsible for their petty theft.  So then I think... Okay, I'll put them in my purse now and when I return next week, I will purchase them then.  But in my heart I know better.  I have so many things going on in my life. Even though my intentions would be good, chances are I would forget all about them.  No.. my heart is screaming... Don't put it off! Do the right thing...NOW! I glance back at Serenity, who is happily distracted by her lunchable and comfortably awaiting our long ride home. I am SO ready to go home! Then I glance back down at the unpurchased items and let out a big sigh.  "Come on Serenity, we have to go back inside!" I reluctantly unbuckle her while explaining why it's NEVER a good idea to hide the things she wants Mommy to buy.  
We make our way back inside.  The greeter looks at me like I'm crazy. The cashier can not understand why it's such a big deal.  After all it's only some barrettes and I had already made it out of the store. So there wasn't any chance of me being caught.  I'm treated like an insane person.  In a world corrupted by compromising what is right, I have become the alien of goodness. 

My mind suddenly drifts back to a similar instance when I was a teenager.  During a night of fun, my friends and I stopped at a gas station for a coke.  We giggled as the cute, only slightly older clerk politely welcomed us into the store.  My friends all purchased their drinks.  Then I set mine unto the counter.  With a flirtatious grin, he said.."Thank you, have a good night!"  I look at him with a questionable expression.  Then glanced at my friends who were giggling and tugging on my arm..."Oooo... Somebody likes you. Come on.. Let's go Dana, before he changes his mind."  Something rises up within my spirit and just doesn't feel right.  He wasn't the owner of the store.  He was just some measly clerk.  If he had been the owner, it would be different. But the drink wasn't HIS to give me. On the other hand I knew that I would look like a complete idiot if I didn't accept his "gift."  I made a split second decision and listened to that small still voice inside whispering... Do what you know it right. Do the right thing.   So I asked..."Are you going to buy my drink for me?"  The smile quickly left his face... "Um.. No! But don't worry about it.  No one will know any different. It's a fountain drink."  My friends were completely amazed that I even questioned him at all.  I surprised them even more when I blurted out.."Well.. thanks for the thought. But it's really not yours to give.  If you're not going to pay for it, then I will." He rolls his eyes, shakes his head and punches some numbers into the cash register.. "O....kay...That will be $1.25."  I paid the tab.  While exiting the station, I listened to muffled whispers behind my back. 
That night I was the odd ball too! My friends often teased me about turning down the cute, generous gas station attendant. But I just have to point out that he was only generous when it came out of someone else's pocket. :)

So my question is...when did our society become so backward?  When did doing the right thing become odd or strange.  My parents can remember a time when it was the hoodlums who were considered the oddballs.  It was the guy who was always trying to get something for nothing that people frowned upon.  So when did right become wrong and wrong become right?  The Word describes this as a sign of the end times.  It has slowly crept into our society and taken us by surprise.  As the saying goes, It's a slow fade.  One bad choice leads to a larger one and so on and so on.  Before long the norm is no longer normal and the good has become bad.  
Throughout the bible, God tells us that He rewards the righteous with blessings.  Proverbs 20:7 describes the righteous as.. "...one without blame."  Now it is true that we have all fallen short of the glory of God.  The only way to become righteous is through the blood of Jesus.  But once forgiven, we can live with a guilt free conscious.  We can live a blameless life when we honestly try to do what is right! We will NEVER reach Christ-Like perfection, but we must NEVER stop striving! We must do everything in our power to become Christ-like and make the decisions that He would want us to make.  A righteous person will NEVER compromise what is right because of convenience. A righteous person will always STRIVE to do the right thing, so that when fingers are pointed, they can remain blameless and bring God the Glory He deserves!  Five dollars worth of barrettes or a buck twenty five worth of coke may not seem like a big deal, but it could result in a HUGE loss. 
The 28th chapter of Deuteronomy tells us the blessings that will overtake those who choose to obey God's commandments. 


If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.  All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:
 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you. The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you. The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.  The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 

So basically God promises blessings to surround everything we do and everything we set our hands to when when choose to keep His commandments.  Now just as obedience brings forth blessings. Disobedience has a promise also.  If we continue to read further in the chapter we see the promise of disobedience.


However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:

You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.  You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.... etc"

 It goes on to say the same thing as the first portion only plainly states these things will be CURSED instead of Blessed.


So often people wander why they struggle.  They can't understand why God's blessings aren't flowing in their life.  God often gets the blame for others misfortune. Meanwhile, they're telling a lie here, or taking an extra something there.  They are constantly choosing to ignore that small still voice. Instead of obeying, they're making excuses... "Oh I'm only human.  It's not a big deal. I really need it, so God will understand."  When given a choice between convenience or obedience, they choose convenience and expect God to bless them anyway.  God is a God of plan and reason. He sets forth laws and they must be observed.  He is a God of right and wrong. To Him there is NO gray area... only black and white.
God does not look at quantity.  God does not see five dollars worth of barrettes and $1.25 worth of coke.  God looks upon the heart and only sees a person who is either willing or NOT willing to compromise right.  He sees a heart that is truly sincere about wanting to obey His commandments or a heart that is just going through the motions to spare appearance... a heart that is willing to suffer persecution for being obedient or a heart that is willing to give it all away for a little convenience.  We can not even comprehend the blessings that He gives to those who are obedient. Don't we know that He will give back a 100 fold when we give up something for His name sake.

So call me crazy.  Roll your eyes! Shake your head. Say I'm a complete moron. But I will always do my best to listen to that small still voice saying... Do the right thing!

  For I'm not willing to trade.. a few dollars or even a billion dollars for...

     

              My completely and abundantly BLESSED LIFE!




March 19th, 2010

                                 Picnic at the Park

                     




March 20th, 2010

Late yesterday afternoon we enjoyed a beautiful day at the park in 75 degree weather. 
           First thing this morning,  we opened our front door to find..
                  
                   a blanket of snow on our COVERED porch.

It's been snowing all day long and it's not suppose to stop any time soon. Forecast says... steady accumulation throughout the night and into tomorrow evening. It's hard to believe yesterday afternoon we were sweating at the park and less than 24 hours later we're snuggled in front of a warm fire place covered in blankets.

Poor little Eli had so much fun riding his bike yesterday.  He played in the backyard until almost dark. Then he woke up this morning bright and eager to play, only to be disappointed when he found this... .
                  
                           With a big pouty lip he whines...
                   
"Mommy... the sky buried by bi-siccckled"
           "Now, it's stucked in da snow and won't go nowhere."


       Don't worry little guy! Tomorrow the sun will be shining again!
Chances are... we will be enjoying another warm day of play very soon!




March 23rd, 2010

Chasing toddlers Here...
Chasing toddlers There...
Chasing toddlers EVERYWHERE!

In the house...
at the park...
in the grocery store!
Chasing toddlers... til I can't chase any MORE!


As if two toddlers weren't enough to keep me running. Now we've added a very eager girl beagle to keep me moving.  Yes folks... Lemar has a girlfriend.  Her name is Cleo. She's not our dog.  We're just watching her for a little awhile, but she just keeps me running just the same.  Apparently, she is an INDOOR dog, because she HATES being outside.  Every time the door opens... IN she goes! She sits on the top step all day long, just watching the door.  The kids go out... Cleo comes in. 

I chase the toddlers... I chase Cleo... I chase the toddlers as they chase Cleo... under the bed... into the kitchen... out of the trash can.... away from the toilet... out the door and into the backyard... AGAIN and AGAIN!  All day long... over and over. After awhile, the toddlers stop chasing Cleo.  They stop... so they can watch ME run.  Oh how funny Mommy looks while she chases the beagle all over the house.. slipping, sliding and falling all over the place as the dog scurries along. Finally I've had enough and I set my foot down!  "No one goes outside again today.  Don't even THINK about opening that door!" The older kids all nod their heads in agreement.  They know Mommy means business! A couple of hours go by and all is well. Then later,  I walk into the kitchen and spot Serenity standing by the back door.  She's turned toward me with her hand perched on the door handle.  It's as if,  she's just waiting for me to spot her.  "Serenity... don't you even THINK about it! Get away from that..."  Before I can even finish my sentence, she lets out a giggle and quickly opens the door.  Like Lightening.. Cleo flashes through the house.  OH GREAT! HERE WE GO AGAIN! Once again, I start chasing the beagle and a giddy Serenity sits back and watches the show. 
      Did I ever tell you I have one VERY ORNERY little miracle baby? :)


  


March 26th, 2010

        Once again the difference the between boys and girls...

                                          Eli is....

                 
        Helping
Mom and Dad plant Potatoes rocks in the garden.
                                                     And Serenity is....

                        
Seeing how many headbands & barrettes she can fit on her head at once.





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