Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You Annoint My Head With Oil

Just wrote this to a friend & as I was typing this, I couldn't help but think of Andy and tomorrow. It's not my own words. It's from a study I did a few years ago called "LORD, I Want to Know You" by Kay Arthur.
"Sheep can suffer greatly because of the nose fly. This is a fly that seeks to deposit its eggs on the mucus membrane of the sheep's nose. There the eggs hatch into small wormlike larvae that eventually work their way up the nose into the sheep's head. As these larvae burrow into the sheep's flesh, they cause a tremendous irritation, which in turn causes the sheep to thrash and beat its head against anything it can find. A sheep can become so driven to distraction by the irritation that it will actually kill itself in a desperate attempt to get rid of the source of aggravation.

As I learned this truth, I could not help but think of how men and women can be tormented by thoughts that burrow their way into their flesh. The eggs of torment are laid by the enemy and hatch into repulsive, destructive worms that work their way into their heads. Thoughts of fear, rejection, bitterness, hatred, failure, incompetency, sensuality, and greed plague God's sheep, tormenting them, even driving some to suicide. But is this to be the fate of God's sheep? No! Just as there is an oil the shepard can prepare to protect the sheep from nose flies and their destructive work, so our Shepard has a way to keep His sheep from such torment. As the psalmist says, "Thou annointest my head with oil" (Psalm 23:5, KJV)

What is the Shepard's oil of protection against pests that would attack our minds?

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7

"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 4:8-9

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." Isaiah 26:3

Kay Arthur goes on to say:

"I want you to note one last truth. It is the end result of having the Lord as your Shepard:

"Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. "
Psalm 26:3

Whiter Than Snow

Christmas Eve was a mix of emotions this year. In the middle of opening presents with my family, Bear got a phone call from his dad. His uncle, Andy, had taken his own life. It's a very long, complicated story. This uncle is the one who Bear spent most of his childhood with on vacations, holidays, and just ordinary day-to-day life. It's the first loss that has hit close enough to make an impact for Bear.

Andy lost his wife about 4 years ago to a culmination of brain cancer and a life-long battle with myotonia. His two sons battle the same disease as their mother. Bear said it beautifully the other night when talking about it with me. "Andy wasn't a weak man. He was a defeated man." This is so true.

defeat: to overcome in a contest, election, battle, etc.; prevail over; to frustrate; thwart; to eliminate or deprive of something expected.

The enemy's lies overcame Andy in a battle this side of Heaven. It seems as if the enemy temporarily thwarted God's plans for that family. It feels as though we've been deprived of something expected...longer time with Andy. But God's still Sovereign. He's still on His Throne & He's still in control, no matter what our reality seems to be.

The day before Christmas Eve, I studied this passage in Isaiah and it has turned into my prayer for the Keeling/Ferguson/Parrish families.

"And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." Isaiah 35:8-10

I plead that the Lord will show them the way through their darkness and grief, that they will be protected from anyone or anything that threatens to devour them & their faith in this vulnerable time, for them to be rescued by the Lord and return to praising Him with singing & everlasting joy, and that their sorrow & sighing will not just go away...that it will flee away.

As I drove to Grandma & Grandpa Keeling's house on Christmas Night, I pondered all the events of the past 24 hours. The kids were asleep in the back and Bear had gone on before me, so it was just me and God. Snow began to fall and it didn't stop as I prayed for the family & all those I love. I turned the radio off as I tried to concentrate on the roads since it doesn't snow in Georgia. In the silence, He began to whisper a familiar tune in my heart.

"Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
Break down every idol, cast out every foe—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow,
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

It was the 5th & 6th verses that really spoke to me though.

"Lord Jesus, Thou seest I patiently wait;
Come now and within me a new heart create;
To those who have sought Thee Thou never said’st “No”—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

The blessing by faith, I receive from above;
Oh, glory! my soul is made perfect in love;
My prayer has prevailed, and this moment I know,
The blood is applied, I am whiter than snow.

Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow,
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

That's the whole point of Christmas. Emmanuel, God with us. He came so that we don't have to live in defeat. Oh, I pray that God creates a new heart in all of the family and that the enemy doesn't prevail! I hope that this will not cause others to turn their backs on God but cause us to rush to His open arms and receive the blessing of faith that is ours in Jesus! He is able to wash this grief away and cleanse us from all bitterness, sorrow, guilt, or shame.

Bear was asked to read a passage of Scripture at the funeral on Friday. He was given Romans 8:31-39 and it fits so well.

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Please join me in praying for our family this week and in the coming weeks as we sort through this attack. Pray for peace and restoration...two of our Lord's specialties.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Marathon 2010

The best thing about Christmas (for me, the Ultimate Christmas Lover) is that our's gets strung out over about 4 days because of extended family. This is a drudgery for most in the family but I like to soak it all up. Here's a brief synopsis of what I like to call "Christmas Marathon 2010".

It started out on Thursday, December 23 with Bear's mom. We went to Grandma's house and she had the whole day filled with fun things for the kids.

Jonah got to decorate Christmas cookies while I wrestled Esther Grace....

...followed by window painting while I was still wrestling. That is red icing on his shirt. I was smart and took his sweater off before the crafts began. Although, I'm not sure how smart it was seeing as he's outside in 30 degree weather and dressed for a pool party.

This was our moment of weakness. Yes, now you have proof that I'm not a perfect parent. (If you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, click here for more details. Long story short- we don't do Santa.) Bear made the call that it was okay and Jonah was enthralled. It wasn't until the next day that he proudly stated that he had kept "The Secret" from his cousins, Charlie & Sarah with no difficulty. Could it be that he was completely caught up in the moment and forgot reality for just a second? I mean, give the kid us a break. It was a really good Santa.

Here's Jonah all dressed up in what he got for Christmas & proudly showing off his cookie creation. I have no idea who that kid is leaning into the picture. Grandma's neighbors came over to see Santa & I couldn't get a picture without him in it. The others were of him jumping in front of Jonah and/or blocking Jonah's face with his Lego set he got. I forgot to crop him out.

And I just hate myself for not getting a picture of Jonah & Esther Grace with Grandma! I was wrestling Esther Grace for the majority of the time because Bear had to work and got there after all of the crafty stuff was over. Come to think of it, he showed up right as we were putting food on the table. Hmmmmmm.....coincidence? I think not!

After Bear got home from work on Christmas Eve and we went down to my parent's house. I had forgotten to get a family picture the night before so it was the first thing we did at GB & Pop's.

Then I had to get a picture of Esther Grace's outfit since I didn't at Grandma's house.

She was more excited about the sausage ball than she was about taking a picture. I took full advantage of her love for pork.

This is Ryan...a.k.a. Cobb, my sister's husband. And those are his golf pants. Yes, I'm serious. Bear was totally jealous.

This is the complete ensemble.

Again, could hate myself for not getting a picture of the kids with GB & Pop but what can you do?

Christmas Day was filled with visiting grandparents. Or great-grandparents? I don't know what to call them. They were our grandparents but Jonah & Esther Grace's great-grandparents. It was my Nana's first Christmas without PawPaw but she seemed okay. She enjoys getting together with all the babies. I really did take pictures but my sister did something funky with my camera and we couldn't get the focus to work. All you really need to know is that my Uncle Dale bought Jonah a real Red Rider BB gun. A real one.

On December 26, we had Christmas with Bear's dad, Grammy & Papa. It was held at Uncle Josh & Aunt Allison's house, seeing as baby Jillian is due in about 5 days. We weren't sure if they could make it to Athens so we brought the chaos to them. Here are all the cousins waiting for their gifts. Ava (little one in pink), Sarah (red hair), Charlie (grey shirt), Jonah, and Landon (far right).

I have no idea what that is on Landon's head but I'm pretty sure it's just a spot on my camera. It looks as if he's been playing in a dandelion field. Esther Grace was probably into something she shouldn't have been. Either that or on my hip.

Esther Grace was thrilled that Ava was visiting from Ohio. She loves that girl!

Here's Jonah opening his present...luggage! I'm pretty sure it was a definite hint that they don't feel as though they see the grandbabies enough. Each child got a monogrammed suitcase with matching backpack. Trying to tell us something?

Jonah really liked helping his cousin, Sarah, make paper dolls. Aunt B helped out while Bear cringed in the corner. Don't worry. He was off playing with swords & guns in the basement about 5 minutes later. He gets it honest though- one of Bear's favorite shows is "Project Runway". Don't ask me why.

And I finally got it right! This is why our Christmas has to last 4 days. Because I actually remember on Day 4. Here they are from left to right: Landon (with the thumb), Charlie, Papa, Esther Grace (with the passie), Jonah (dead middle), Grammy, Ava (in lap), and Sarah (loving on Grammy). Did I mention that there are 3 more on the way? NOT FROM THIS BRANCH OF THE FAMILY TREE- just to clarify. ;)

Whew! I didn't even mention the snow! I'll post that later because God used that snow as a miraculous blessing in an otherwise hard weekend. Hope your Christmas was as full as ours!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Please Mister Postman

Mister Postman, look and see if there's a letter in your bag for me.

I been waitin' such a long time since I heard from that girl of mine.

There must be some word today from my girlfriend so far away.

Please Mister Postman, look and see if there's a letter...a letter for me.

[I was home with the kids last night while Bear was at a meeting in East Point when I remembered to check the mail, so the only photographer I had was Jonah....hence, the high quality in the pictures. Not bad for a three year old, actually. And yes- that's a shirt from high school that's almost 12 years old. We were bummin' it watching "The Nativity Story".]

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jonah's Own Little World

Jonah: "Hey- is it okay if I go play with some of my friends for a 'bittle bit'?"

Mommy: "Well, where are you going?" (Knowing full well he's not going anywhere today, seeing as he's dressed in his footie pajamas with a gun holster around his waist and holding a wooden sword and all.)

Jonah: " Nerf County."

Mommy: "Really? Well, where is that exactly in case I have to find you later?" (At this point, I'm thinking he's going to say his room or something.)

Jonah: " take a 'wite' and go down that road, you know right past all that speed stuff? And then after another 'wite' it's just right there!" (Complete with hand motions directing me to this place.)

Mommy: "Oooookay. But just make sure you're not mean."

Jonah: "Oh, I'm not. (Shoulder shrug and quick evaluation of himself) I'm just dressed up as a pirate." (As he charges out of my bedroom.)

What goes on in that little mind of his? We may never know.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Little Angel

Jonah starred in his first big production this week. His preschool put on their annual Christmas play for the parents and while I have always considered him to be an angel, he officially got his halo on Wednesday.

Isn't he the cutest thing?

Here he's singing "Come On, Ring Those Bells" and he was just a ringin' much so that one of his jingle bells flew off and went into the crowd!

Here he's singing, "Happy Birthday, Jesus".

I filmed the whole thing and am including it here just because it's my blog and I can if I want to! :) He was very serious about his singing so he looks like some Nazi Angel. He was also very serious about "holding a bubble"- for my non-teacher readers, that's how you keep little ones quiet in the halls. They have to "catch a bubble" in their mouth. I also caught him being very serious about picking his nose but I tried to avoid it the best I could. The funniest thing was that when the chorus of angels was singing a funky "Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas Star", Jonah decided that there weren't enough verses. Everyone ends the song and he belts out as loud as he can, "SHIIIIINING..." but then quit when he realized he was the only one going to the 3rd verse. Doesn't he know that Baptists only sing the 1st & 4th stanzas? We only take advantage of all the verses if we're trying to exhaust an invitation. He's still in training. What was even funnier was the girl next to him turned and looked at him like, "How many times did we rehearse this?!" It was all I could do not to wet my pants as I struggled to hold it together.

Feel free to watch it when you have an extra 15 minutes or so (It's actually 14 minutes & 11 seconds long). Just ignore the narration done by Ouida. ;) And pause my player at the bottom of the screen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Greatest Story Ever Told

I got this from my friend, Amy, and had to share! I'm a bit jealous of Mrs. Jesus though...she got to have her baby while she was sleeping. No fair. Of course, I'm not even about to trade parenting woes with the mother of a Perfect Son. I can't even imagine the bath & bed times let alone trying to get ready for going to the synagogue for worship. At least it's not just Mommy messing up in the Keeling household- everyone gets to participate! I wonder what Jonah's answers to these questions would be....

Don't forget to pause my player!

Monday, December 13, 2010


It's finally here!!!! Well, almost.

Siesta Scripture Memory Team 2011 begins January 1, 2011. Let me explain. First of all, I should say that there will be no napping involved. Don't let the name fool you. Beth Moore called her blog followers "sistas" one day trying to be all cool and funky. Her spellcheck corrected it to "siestas" and the name just stuck. I've been a "Siesta" since this past summer (that's how I got to meet Miss Beth at Deeper Still) and read about the SSMT from past posts. You can read all the details here. She's starting up another one coming this January and I'm so excited!!!!!

Here's the deal:

You memorize 2 verses each month. Then, on the 1st & 15th of each month, you visit Beth's blog and post what you're memorizing. And...this is the cool part....come mid-January 2012, there will be SSMT celebration in Houston, Texas. And the price of admission? One well-used notebook spiral full of 24 memorized passages! How cool is that? So, who's in with me? Come on, Girls! I know we can do it! And think how awesome it will be to meet all those "Siestas" who've done the same thing over the whole year!

But don't just take my word for it. I "blog stalk" another "Siesta" and she wrote about it on her blog here. And to quote Deidre from "For Such A Time As This"...I can't stop using exclamation points!!!!!

And don't you just love that once I actually breathe the same air as Beth Moore, I go from calling her by her entire name (Beth Moore) to referring to her as one of my personal teachers (Miss Beth) to strictly a first-name basis?!!? I think the first verse I memorize should be Ephesians 4:2- "Be completely humble.."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Journey to Bethlehem

Our church goes above and beyond your normal live nativity. It's called "Journey to Bethlehem" and it's amazing! Plus, the ultimate bonus feature: everything's free. Everything. I had orignially planned on taking pictures of my kids with Baby Jesus but I forgot my camera when we walked through as a family. And they had fevers this weekend so I just took pictures on my shift as the "Baby Runner", a.k.a. "Bethlehem Stable's Midwife/Lactation Specialist". Here's a walk-thru to get you excited about next year...

 Roman soldiers greet you at the gates & question your motives for entering Bethlehem. Once they realize you're just lowly Jewish slaves, they allow you to long as you have enough shekels to pay your taxes.

 A quick note about those two above. See the Roman guard on the right? His name is Cody and Esther Grace is infatuated. She immediately recognized him when we walked through and turned the flirt on big time. I think she likes guys in uniform.

Here's the tax collector. He's the first guy you meet and your guide gives him your shekels (plastic gold coins you get when you get your group number).
 Real props are used whenever possible. These are real fish being roasted over the fire in the marketplace. All the sights, sounds, and smells of Bethlehem are as authentic as we can get. Rumor is there's an actual oil lamp from Israel somewhere in the city. I've yet to find it.
Here's a view looking down the marketplace. The sides are lined with various shops & vendors that you greet along your journey. Each booth helps point towards Jesus in some way, whether it be a form of prophecy fulfilled or just town gossip.
 This is, I guess? No, the tanner I think. Anyways, he talks about how he stays unclean because of his work and can't worship at the temple. It's an unending cycle and wouldn't it make much more sense to cleanse once and for all instead of time and time again. (Yes, that's a real deer hide.)
 This the cheese booth. They're making cheese by swinging goat's milk inside a bladder back and forth until it curdles. Yum.
 The blacksmith's booth...
 The bread booth where you get to taste freshly baked bread.
 I think this is the virgin's booth. She runs into your group as you go through because she is in a hurry to get oil for her lamp. As is Jewish tradition, the bridegroom builds a house. Only the bridegroom's father knows when the work is done and when the bridegroom can retrieve his bride. Until then, the virgin must keep her lamp burning as she awaits his coming.
 The winemaker talks about the strange star in the sky and is accused of sampling his wares a little too often. At least, he did last year. This year the script was changed to being hit in the head with one of his wine jars. I think it's because we're Baptist.
 The carpenter's shop. I'm guessing Joseph had the night off- you know, with the baby and all... Notice what they're building.
 The potter's booth is where they talk about how pottery is the closest work to God's on earth. They fashion the clay into a vessel and try it in the fire. If it cracks in the flames, it's not good clay. But if it is good clay, then it becomes strong and fit for a King.
 Bethlehem is filled with animals! Here are some of the white ones is named Snowflake but I don't know which one.
 This is the Jewish home and it's constantly filled with children. The mother here has taken in so many visitors  because the city is so full. No place to stay here for us...gotta keep moving.
 Goats can be purchased for a mere 10 denarii. (That's more than a day's wages.) There's a whole lot of price gouging going on in the city tonight. And one of those goats's is Sugar. Again, don't know which one.
 The inn. Yep, you guessed it. No room. The innkeeper tells of a young couple that he lent his stable to because they were so tired and she was so close to her time. Wonder who that could be?
 This is the temple. See the menorrah and the table of consecrated bread. I'm telling you...authentic. This is Hannah and Simeon. Your group stops & hears Hannah's prayer thanking God for allowing her to see the Messiah.
 This is the best shot I could get of the shepards without using my flash and looking like the resident blogger.
 The angels appear before the shepards proclaiming Christ's birth. (Sorry for the blurriness.)
 You leave the shepard's field and find yourself coming upon a lowly stable where a star shines brightly to see......
....Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus! I can't believe I didn't get a picture of Jesus. He was SO sweet. His real name is Elijah and those are his real parents. He was such a good Jesus.
 And the real star of Bethlehem, Clyde the Camel. He nuzzles, gives sugars, and is by far the most well-behaved camel I've ever met.
 Okay, these pictures a bit out of order. This is the wisemen's tent.
 They come to worship Jesus while you admire Him at the stable with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
 Also known as, the three wise guys.
It looks like it's snowing in these pictures but the whole city's lit by fire and that's ash from all the wood fires around. Honestly, you don't even notice it when you're there but it looks like I was in a volcanic explosion or something.

The church does a really great job and I'm looking forward to next year! Hopefully, I'll remember my camera and can get pictures of my babies. You can only imagine the look in their eyes when they get to see Baby Jesus. It's almost as good as when they get to pet the camel.
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