Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why choose this?

This morning, I noticed a notification on my phone.  A friend of one of my children had posted a video of himself.  In the video, he used really hard words for a mom's heart to hear.  I adore this young man, and I have prayed for him so many times.  Yet, his language shows evidence that we tend to lean toward doing what we should not.  Why is it that we allow ourselves to ensnared by the whisper of evil, even from very young ages?

In scripture we see that Satan has been planting seeds of doubt in our mind from the earliest written record of mankind.

“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Genesis 3:5

Why, when parents set out to raise children to do what is right, do we rebel against our teaching and become bent towards evil?

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.  Proverbs 16:9

We are promised peace and prosperity, in return for choosing righteousness.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  Proverbs 3:1-2

Yet, usually without even realizing it, we are making our own plans and leaving Him out.  I know that when I have done things I should not have done, it didn't start out that way.  In the beginning, I was seeking to do something that seemed good to me, but I was probably looking away from God, rather than toward Him.

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.  Proverbs 14:12

I want to choose what is right, and want to focus on Him, because, it is evident throughout scripture that we have lost our focus on Him, and we choose to do what is evil.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

I love Proverbs, because this book reminds me that I am not to be trusted to rely on what I think, and will fare much better if I look to His ways.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

I have tried many times, and failed, when choosing my own way.  So I want to choose His way, for His plans are good.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future..."  Jeremiah 29:11

I am praying today, to seek His ways, and not my own.

By Grace alone, Ashley

Monday, October 3, 2016

Super excited! I'm #51 of the top 100!

I just found out that my blog is featured on this page, and I just have to share this!  Not to mention that there are 99 other AWESOME bloggers featured on the page!

Check out this post, and be sure to find Grace upon Grace at #51.  Wow!!

I am humbled, as I have not kept this up the way I wanted to, but I am so excited to have been featured in her top 100 articles!

Maybe I'm not alone in missing those blissful, crazy, snuggly, busy moments of childhood!  If only!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

If only...

I truly cannot believe how quickly the years have flown.  I cannot sleep tonight.  My step-kids have grown, and gone.  My son was just married, two weeks ago!  My other son will be driving soon.  My daughter is nearly as tall as me.  They all know more than me (or at least to them, they do)!!

I lay in bed longing for just one more story time with my kids around me, all sweet smelling after their baths.  I long for the days when bubbles on the lawn was fun for them.  I miss those sweaty, little hands as I raced to see every animal at the zoo, and they pulled me along!

I love the beautiful people they have grown into.  I am thankful daily that He has blessed me with them.  I know so many say I am supposed to enjoy this more, and I am sure I will.  However, I had no idea it could ever have gone so fast!

If only it was granted in my power,
I’d turn back time, maybe just one hour.
But then, I’d be tempted for a week, or maybe two,
To grab a little more time to spend with you.

I remember when you were first a flutter, then a kick.
I waited impatiently, for each gentle movement, as the clock did tick.
And when the doctor held you up before my eyes,
My heart melted at the sound of your tiny cries.

Each day I was there and watched you grow,
Kissing every bump and scraped elbow.
I guess I really never thought about it then,
How fleeting those moments with you had been.

But time is a thief and it marches on,
Childhood vanished and the teen did dawn.
Sometimes those days were tough, we didn’t always agree.
I yearned to hold on, you pulled to be free.

And secretly, I reminded Him night and day,
Lest He forget how special you are, so I did pray,
Whispered thanks for giving you to me, that He might know,
And continue his protection, never to let you go.

Now I think back on your sweet little face,
Your soft, head of hair, a fun game of chase.
A romp on the lawn, a splash in the pool.
Wishing time didn’t feel so cruel.

The sweet way you spoke, in your gravelly voice,
The way you would stomp to get your choice.
That wonderful time each night all snuggled in bed,
Reading stories and laughing, I hung by a thread.

I knew this day would not come easy for me.
I tried not to blink, I didn’t want to be free.
I celebrate every moment we’ve had,
But oh, I can’t help but feel a little sad.

And yet, I feel happy, but it’s harder than I thought.
I’m proud of you, and thankful for all the joy you’ve brought.
So don’t think me too silly, for all the whimsy and such,
And the things I can’t part with, I don’t mean to keep too much.

I know those old projects, aging paint, cracking glue.
To you the space is needed, and long overdue.
But each of those things in your box has weathered the miles,
Each picture, so precious, awakens memories, my heart smiles.

Today, you read this, you may not understand,
I relinquish the time when you once held my hand.
My prayer that the hard times, haven’t been too hard,
I longed for childhood joys, not with sadness marred.

I love you so much, and though the time did fly,
No greater joy, through my errors, I still did try.
If only I showed you His love and instilled in you, the proof,
That He is the Way, the Life, and the Truth.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The kindness of a stranger

In light of my previous post I published earlier this evening, I've been thinking and praying about all the kind deeds I've been a part of, or even the recipient of.  I think I've probably seen far more kindness in the world than ugliness, though sometimes the ugliness hurts so much we tend to focus on it.  However, I think in light of the following verse, I want to end my evening focusing on the kindness of others.

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."  Philippians 4:7-9 NIV

I have been a part of so many amazing acts of love.  I've had a friend call me up and ask if I knew anyone who might need some help at Thanksgiving.  She drove me to the store and picked up all the items a family would need to make a nice dinner, and then took me to each person's home and had me deliver it.  She didn't want any of them to know where it had come from and asked that they only thank God for the kindness received.
I've watched a young lady at a nearby high school continue a friendship well after her graduation to my friend's son, who has a disability.  Even after her own graduation, she still comes to pick him up and take him to church.
I've watched members of my church sit at the hospital with me when my son had a horrific car accident 6 years ago.  They sat with my family for hours, just to be with us when we weren't in the room with him, and to pray for our family.  They stayed well into the night until he came out of surgery and seemed to be safe.
I want to share a very specific story about an absolute stranger, who I had never met before, and have never seen since.  I wish I had gotten his name, I have often prayed for him, because his unselfishness impacted me so much.  He was a bit older than me; I was in high school.  It was probably about spring of 1991, as I was getting close to graduation.  A few months before, I had been driving my first car, when another boy jumped into my lane and hit me head on.  My car was totaled.  My mom didn't have the car at a time, so I had been helping her get to work and then going to my after-school job.  Because of this, I had to replace my car quickly and ended up buying a car I did not like at all, a lemon-yellow, 1978 Ford Fairmont!  It came complete with a charred dash and a sagging headliner.  The only plus side of this car was that it was big enough I could fit almost my entire youth group in the car to go out to dinner after church!  However, one day when I got in the car, I reversed from my grandmother's driveway, where I lived, on Booth Calloway Road, and suddenly I knew I was in trouble!
My grandmother lived on a busy road and it was about the time everyone was heading home from work.  I put the car in reverse and backed into the road, then shifted into drive, but the car wouldn't move forward.  It arced to the right and to the left, but would not go forward.  I tried to reverse into the field on the other side of the road, and nothing still.  I had no idea that the rack and pinion had cracked (or broken) at that time.  I was getting into a panic quite quickly because it did not take long for a huge line of cars to pile up on either side of me - unable to pass because of my enormously long car blocking the road, and a fence that ran to the road just behind my bumper.  I kept trying - but I kept getting the same result.  People began shouting and honking.  After what seemed like an eternity, a man jumped from his car from way back in the line of cars.  He told a few people to calm down, it was easy to see I needed help.  He ran to my vehicle, took a quick look and listened to what I said was going on, then told me to do JUST as he said.  He was not a very big man, and he wasn't dressed very fancy, just a simple t-shirt and Wrangler type jeans.  But I couldn't believe what he had to do.  He literally wrapped his body around my front tire and rotated it back the right direction.  He would instruct me to gently press the gas pedal until he told me to stop.  We repeated this process, until finally, we were able to guide the car into the field across the street from my house.  He told me it was the best he could do for now, but he knew I was safely out of the road.  Then he hurried back to get his own car out of the road before the impatient line of vehicles began roaring past me, impatient at the delay.  I have often thought of this guy, wondering if he had a wife, maybe children, and yet for a complete stranger, he trusted me to listen to him in order to help me get out of danger.  I have shuddered at the thought fact that if I'd not listened carefully, I could have really hurt him.  But he never seemed concerned; he just smiled and said he was glad I was safe, and went on his way!
I just thought I'd share a story that shows the kindness of strangers.  Despite some of the not-so-pleasant events in our life, people like him and so many others make a much greater impact.  I often have wished that I could have told him what his kind deed meant to me, how in a way it shaped me to know that I wanted to be able to show others kindness.  How I wish I'd known when he departed that I'd pray for him and whoever his family is, so I could have told him that if he ever felt he was prayed for, maybe it was me, still praying for his safety.
I thank you Lord, for the compassion you have shown us, and for those in this world that continue to show compassion in a world that can sometimes seem cruel and heartless.

"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
Colossians 3:14 NIV 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Some things are hard to accept!

Sometimes, I find it so difficult to accept the way things are.  I know this world is a tough cruel place, and I'm thankful for the love and mercy I've been freely given by my loving Father, and I'm thankful for the kindness of many people in this world.  However, sometimes things happen that just shock me.  I know that not everyone is kind in this world, but generally, I've come to believe that usually the overall majority of people have some grace and kindness in them.

However, on not one, but two occasions, I've taken embarrassing falls, in front of many people, and not even been asked if I was ok, save one person, despite the fact that on both occasions, there were many people who saw the incidents.  The first, was a long time ago, and the second was just about an hour ago, and neither is easy for me to accept.

First, about 11 years ago, when I was just far enough along in my pregnancy to be very clearly pregnant, I was walking into the Brookshire's grocery store, in Midlothian.  They had this reddish, strip of grooved concrete painted along their entrance concrete, it basically divided the parking lot from the porch area, and had a very slight slope.  I'd walked in many times.  However, on this particular evening, as I entered the store in front of no fewer than 10-20 patrons, and a few carry-out personnel, when I stepped onto that area my foot just slid forward, straight up in front of me, and I landed HARD on my back.  I lay there a moment or two, completely winded, praying I'd not injured my baby.  As I did, I watched people pass by me and look at me as they entered or exited the store, including a few employees.  Not ONE person asked if I was ok, or extended a hand to help me up.  I went into the store, and explained to management what had happened.  I told them I could not expect the patrons to do the right thing, but I would have expected an employee to ask me if I was ok.  They simply apologized, no more, no less.  I still sometimes think that had to be an isolated incident, but I was completely surprised that not one person checked on me as they watched me fall and land on my back.  Honestly, if you'd asked me if that could happen again, I would have said it would not have.  I would have assumed that I must have just entered at a particularly busy time as people were getting off work, and it was a one time event.

Now, fast forward about 11 years.  This evening, as I entered the gas station at Exxon Tiger Mart, in Venus, with a $20 bill in my hand to pay for a little gas, I noticed a lady coming up right behind me.  I looked back and held the door for her since she was so close, and I would have been rude just letting it go in her face.  She thanked me and I turned and headed into the store, realizing too late that I'd stepped onto a bunched up entry way rug.  My foot couldn't break free and I fell forward, HARD.  My face almost hit the floor, and I barely caught myself in time, hurting my leg and arm.  As I tried to push up off the floor, I looked up and just in front of me was a man heading from one end of the store to the grocery area.  He just looked down at me, barely 2 feet from me, and walked on by.  Many other patrons glanced over, but said nothing.  The lady behind me, who I noticed almost tripped onto me as I stepped in, is the ONLY person who asked if I was ok.  I was mortified at being looked at so disdainfully by everyone in the store.  I was embarrassed at falling.  I turned over and pushed myself up, and said that I thought I was.  She and I straightened the rug.  I felt like leaving the store and getting my gas elsewhere, but my foot & leg hurt too bad to feel like leaving, going elsewhere and walking in another store, so I just limped to the register, requested $20 worth of gas, and stood looking at the lady as she asked if I would like a receipt.  Then, I turned and limped back out of the store, terribly embarrassed.

I wish I could think that this was isolated, but it has now happened to me on two, out of two, public falls I've taken.  So many times, no doubt, I do see kindness offered to me, and to others, however, how is it possible with a group of 10 or more people on two separate occasions, that only one person even had the kindness to ask if I was ok?  And that was the one who I'd nearly tripped as I fell, so she must have felt a little bit like I did.  I do not like posting negative things, I love to show how blessed I almost always feel to others, but I am truly surprised by this.  It seems crazy to me that not one person offered me a hand to help me get off the ground.  Still yet, it seems even more shocking that people would not have said, "Are you all right?"

I know this world has changed, but I thought that generally most still have some compassion for others.  It brings me a bit of sadness to think of people who may have not had the ability to get themselves up, and may have had to stay in the floor and ask for help.  What if this was someone with health issues, or someone who had been injured more seriously in the fall, or someone much older and having trouble with balance?  Would they have had to have asked for help?  Would they have lay there embarrassed as people walked on by until they spoke up to let someone know they needed assistance?  I'm so sad to think of how that would make someone feel.

I thank God that He is compassionate.  "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love."  Psalm 103:8

I pray to see a little more compassion in this world.  "Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.  Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice."  Psalm 112:4-5

Saturday, June 20, 2015

My homeschool planner

My goodness, I sure meant to post to my blog more often!  Things have been so busy lately!  I'm getting ready to start high school this year with my 5th child, who begins 9th grade!  I can't believe I've got a high school- aged child again!  I'm also getting ready to begin MFW Exploring Countries & Cultures with my sweet daughter, who begins 5th grade.  I'm loving every minute of these two and can't believe they are getting so much older so fast!

I've got my little home, child care going again...the past two years I've been teaching a friend's child along with mine, but we had agreed to do it for 2 years.  Now, I've begun keeping some of my friend's children after school, and my nieces sweet babies, but summer is so busy with the kids that are out of school coming all day!

I've been asked quite a few times what planner I use to keep organized.  I've seen many, and it seems like I've tried most!  However, the handwritten planners just got tiring...and I didn't want an entirely online planner either.  As a result, I created my own in Excel. 

This has worked for me for several reasons:

1.) When the kids are doing the same lesson, I can copy & paste what I already typed...I can't do that in a handwritten planner.
2.) I can print this out, and hang it on the bulletin board.  It's neat & easy to read, and the kids can check off what they've completed.  If I see them NOT working, I just walk up to the board and take a look at their planner...usually, if they are not done, they are scrambling to grab their next lesson, when they see me checking their planner, and I don't have to say a word!
3.) I have a quick, easily accessible record to look back over their year whenever I need to.  I just copy & paste the sheet below the recently completed week, and then at the end of the year, I have their personal record if I want to see when they completed something.

When I first began doing this, it took me a little while to create each week, but after a while, I was able to complete these in minutes!  It has helped them work so much more efficiently, because they like to see what they need to accomplish and work ahead when time permits. 

I have created a sample of the planner, about 3 weeks worth, in case anyone wants to use this format.  It is easily edited to make it personal for your children.  Here is my planner.  You are welcome to use it and edit to suit the needs of your family.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Love of a Child

So today just started out slow and I was just dragging myself through my routine.  I've been fighting off a bit of moodiness that just seems to hit me sometimes.  I always try to roll with life's punches, but sometimes I let them knock me down, or at least knock me off balance!  I don't like to feel this way, and I definitely don't like to share it, but the way my day ended was truly worth sharing.  Sometimes God gives us little answers to prayers in the most unexpected places....and sometimes he puts a little blue icing on those answers!

I know I don't post often, but this was just really a moment I wanted to remember.  I was invited to a birthday party of a sweet, little girl I used to watch in my home.  I also kept her precious, little cousin.  They invited me over this evening for a last minute birthday party, but I already had plans.  Still, they invited me to drop by whenever I could - and my kids and I have really missed them so I told myself I would do my best to get done in time and just pop in for a minute.

I felt like it was too late, but all their cars were still there, so I knocked on my friend's door (who is the children's grandmother, and a very dear friend of mine).  When that door opened, it was just one of those moments that I needed.  Their family just welcomes me like I am family.  Everyone jokes around and is relaxed and I always feel almost like I am just another one of them.  Then those two sweeties walked up to me and wrapped me up in their tiny hugs.  The little girl just grabbed me and told me she missed me and I fought back tears.  She gave me a kiss on my cheek, complete with a little blue icing on her lips!  Then the little boy walks up and grabs my cheeks and says, "I love you, I miss you."  I have to tell you, I was so moved, I might as well have been putty - it was a good thing I was sitting down because my heart was so mushy, I'm afraid my legs might have been too!

There is nothing in the world that I deserve less than the pure, sweet, honest love of a child; and yet, despite everything in this world that goes wrong, when my own children or some of the children I have cared for tell me something from their heart, I am reminded of the beauty of God's creation.
"And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good."  Genesis 1:31a

It makes me think of my Father's love for us.  I don't deserve the affection of a child, who does not ever lie about his or her feelings, 4 or 5 year old children are beautifully honest.  I don't deserve the amazing grace that our Father has poured out on me.  Yet, despite all the ugliness that there is in this world, and the trials and obstacles we encounter, He still loves me.  I can't do anything good enough to deserve it either. 

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."  I John 4:7-10

I just wanted to share this because I sometimes get down.  I often lose focus.  But on this evening, I could not stop thinking of the words of James.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."  Of His own will, He brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits among his creatures."  James 1:17-18

As my son and I left their house, it dawned on me, that entire family is God's gift to me.  They have always been kind and loving toward me.  They have trusted me with some of the most precious people in their lives.  And, those children, are God's gift to me.  Their cute smiles and their tender hearts remind me of God's tender love for us. 

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are."  I John 3:1