About Me

Van Walton

Fun Facts about Van Walton

My favorite smell: The way the earth smells after it rains.

My favorite sound: The first notes of a grand symphony.

My favorite way to relax: Sitting anywhere outside - on my front porch, on my deck, or by the lake, early in the morning with my first cup of coffee.

My favorite birthday dessert: a Peach cobbler baked by my husband. He’s my fave chef!

I will not eat: Avocado. They turn my stomach into a volcano that never erupts.

Technology I couldn't live without and why: My laptop - it takes me anywhere I want to go.

One thing that makes me smile: My sons' faces!

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My Resources



My book, From the Pound to the Palace, is available for $10
from Proverbs 31 Ministries.


Pound to Palace


My book, Little Halos, is available for $5.99 from Proverbs
31 Ministries.


Little Halos


Proverbs 31 Ministries












Links




Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

THE GREAT EXCHANGE

This is a message of hope and encouragement to the ladies who heard me tell my story this morning.

For those who are simply dropping in to visit me today, let me give you a bit of background. I was a visiting speaker to a small group studying cultivating contentment. I was asked to tell a bit of my own story – how I seek contentment in my life, how I find it, how I live it out. I told the story of my dog and the lessons his devotion toward me taught me to live a life of surrender to the Master. I began by describing the conditions in the dog pound where we found our dog. I compared the life of an abandoned, lost, and neglected puppy to the human life. We too, if we are honest, have our own stories of heartache, sorrow, and fear. I said to the group of women, “How pathetic that I a human live in circumstances so like those of a dog abandoned to live in an animal shelter.”

My story is about my walk with God, how I don’t always walk well, how I listen to lies and let them destroy me, how I wish for my circumstances to change, how emotions often rule me, how I expect people to make me happy…

Then one day, I looked at my dog - - - looking at me. “He never takes his eyes off me. He is never far from me.” I realized that I did not hold my Master in such esteem. I had lots of lessons to learn, life changing lessons, in spiritual devotion.

At the end of our time together, I asked the ladies to write down those situations in their lives that represent despair, discontent, and sadness. Then I encouraged them to place the cries of their heart into the cage (a bird cage in the front of the room) and pick up the King’s battle cry – God’s command to “take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

I reminded them that when I took my dog out of his “cage” and asked him to walk with me, he immediately changed his attitude. He changed because he left his past behind and walked away, focused on a new life, a new future, a master who would claim him as his own. He submitted to me and chose to trust me with his life. My dog exchanged life in a cage with life devoted to me. He exchanged his bad habit of running away with a decision to remain beside me. He exchanged his way for my way.
I have just read and taken to heart the exchanges you long to make. I can relate to EVERY one. Thank you for your honesty. You are not alone. I thought you would like to know what ladies long to leave behind so they can rise to walk in dignity.

Your pain, sorrow, conflict or trouble – what ever it is – is a pearl in the making! God has allowed the irritant to enter your life and around it He is developing a story that will build you, strengthen you, and give you wisdom to encourage another. Meanwhile, take comfort in Lord’s battle cry,
Take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, believing that He will never, ever leave you or forsake you.

I know that to be true. Early this morning I began to share my story with you beginning form a point in time when I was 8. Today 5 decades later – yes that's FIFTY years later, I can stand amazed and say, “Although I have felt rejection and sorrow, experienced life-threatening troubles, cried buckets of tears over every manner of sadness, and hoped for the end to come quickly, my God has never abandoned me.”

Let today's results remind you, you are not alone.


I want to exchange my : heavy heart for joy.
-pride
-marital conflict
-life, that it might be a blessing for others
-my own ideas of life for openness and decotion
-insecurities for peace
-low self confidence for His confirmation
-attachment issues
-negativism
-guilty feelings (2)
-anxiety for trust in God
-insignificance
-feelings that I will be forgotten for God’s guidance
-disappointing relationships (2) forrestoration
-resentment
-anger (3) for His direction
-temptation
-pain for my children for moving forward with God
-fear (6) of failure, baby's death, husband leaving, not being liked, imperfection
-rejection (3) for first love
-laziness for discipline and devotion
-fatique (2)
-selfishness (2)
-discontent for content to live in the present
-doubt (2) for wisdom
-loneliness (3)
-deep family wounds
-busy life for God, family, people
-world
-emptiness
-frustration
-worry

Here is the hope: You have already been given a crown of beauty instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3-)

Take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, believing that God will never, ever leave you or forsake you. After all, didn't he leave his throne on high and step into your space, asking, "What can I do for you?"
Friday, January 25, 2008

JUST FINISHED ANOTHER BOOK

BRODY"S STORY by Laura Boggess addresses the questions we all have about the affects of divorce on children.

Last summer at She Speaks, a speakers' writers', and women's ministry leaders' conference held by Proverbs 31 Ministries ( www.shespeaksconference.com) I met a wonderful lady. Well, come to think about it I met very many fascinating women. Laura was one of them. She was in my speaker's evaluation group and we immediately connected because we both love to read. We continue to stay in touch. Recently she sent me a copy of her book. I just finished it.

BRODY'S STORY is a contemporary fiction whose target audience is young teens. In this book, Laura shows her passion to touch the hearts of children who experience divorce. The main character in the story, Brody, is forced to move away from all she knows and holds dear - her friends and school - because her mother leaves her dad. The new home and neighborhood present Brody with uncomfortable feelings. She finds herself in compromised circumstances and finally retreats from the world. Eventually she convinces her mother to allow her to return to live with her dad. There she experiences a life of neglect, but she is happy being close to her long time friends.

One night she has a frightening experience with a man who brings her drunk dad home. Brody realizes she has no choice but to return to live with her mother who is now pregnant. Fortunately for Brody, she meets a Christian family who begins to take her to church, pointing her toward a life of purpose even though she still struggles with her parents' choices.

I believe any young teen who has experienced life inside separation and divorce would find escape and hope in this book, written to give comfort and support to those making the unhappy journey to a newly defined family.

After reading the story I decided to do some of my own research. I cannot speak from experience - not from the point of view of divorce. I can say, however, that I am forever grateful that I lived my entire life with two parents who stayed together and put their differences aside for the sake of family and the well being of the children. I committed to do the same when I married.

Divorce is a reality. Today on the Oprah Show several people joined Oprah to discuss the affects of divorce. Divorce expert M. Gary Neuman says this about divorce and remarriage, "Second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages."

My research taught me this:

There is "no evidence that unhappily married adults who divorced were typically any happier than unhappily married people who stayed married."

"Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier on average than those who stayed married. 'Staying married is not just for the children’s sake. Some divorce is necessary, but results like these suggest the benefits of divorce have been oversold,' says Linda J. Waite."

"...while eliminating some stresses and sources of potential harm, divorce may create others as well. "

So I think to myself, "Divorce is not a solution, just a trade off for different problems."

http://www.americanvalues.org/html/r-unhappy_ii.html
DOES DIVORCE MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY?


The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, published in 2000 reports the following:

"...we learn that children really aren’t “resilient” and that divorce leaves children to struggle for a life-time with the residue of a decision their parents made. "

According to Ms. Wallerstein, “If the truth be told, and if we are able to face it, the history of divorce in our society is replete with unwarranted assumptions that adults have made about children simply because such assumptions are congenial to adult needs and wishes. The myths that continue to guide our divorce policies and politics today stem from these direct attitudes.”

"In other words we have become a society of adults who put their own needs and happiness before the emotional well-being of their children and justify it all by buying into the myth that children are resilient or time heals all wounds."

http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/childrenanddivorce/p/childrenmyths.htm

In addition to having read Brody's Story I was given the opportunity to become acquainted with musicforthesoul.org where I chose "Fifty Years From Now." I encourage you to invest in a copy. It will change the way you think about your marriage. You might want to purcahse several to give away as gifts of encouragement to friends whose marriages are struggling. I am more committed now than ever to walk with my man "'til death do us part."

I believe one of the saddest quotes I have personally heard surrounding divorce is this one spoken in hindsight: "I wish we had invested the money we spend on lawyers in counseling. The hours we spent grinding out our divorce could have been better served in counselors' offices. Today we have nothing but heartache and empty bank accounts. I am no happier. My children are suffering. I am financially strapped. Even if we had spent all our money on fixing our marriage we would at least have an intact family."


FIFTY YEARS FROM NOW
Words & Music by John Mandeville, Steve Siler, &
Bill Ebert

What do you do when the fire's gone
and passion
fades away
Just being together used to be enough
But now what?
How
do we feel what we used to feel
Can we learn how to care
when it seems
such a long way back from here to there
Right now it feels like it would be
easier
To give up and give in, but

Fifty years from now
What will we remember?
Fifty years from now
What will we have to
treasure?
If we walk away from this
What will we have missed?
Fifty
years, Fifty years from now

Dance recitals and T- ball games
The simple joys of the day
Will we let the best of life
just pass us
by
Graduations and wedding days
Grandkids up on our knees
Will we
make a huge mistake or memories?
Do we just throw away what we started
Missing us, missing out

CHORUS

God gave us this
love
We need to see it through
The moment's ours
The choice is up to
me and you

Monday, January 21, 2008

HOW IT ALL BEGAN – Chapter 2

I thought, when I walked across the stage and received my diploma – at the “mature” age of 21 - that I had accomplished whatever God’s plans were for me. Little did I know, He had only just begun.

During the decades of my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s I taught children in a variety of situations. My first real job with children came with a title! Recreational Director. How fun – huh? Not really – you see the children I was hired to play with lived in the children’s shelter where I worked. I loved my job. I hated the circumstances.

After working in the home for children I began teaching high school. I had arrived! Finally I had my own class room. Surely the fulfillment I experienced as I taught teens meant that I had reached the goal God had planned for me.

When my sons were born, I stopped teaching for a season to be a full time mom. As soon as they entered school I returned to the classroom.

Then the dreaded day arrived – I had to fulfill the state requirements or I could not continue to teach. I set out on a new adventure with a new goal – get a Master’s Degree! UGH!

God had a plan and it was not that I earn a graduate degree (although I did – I had to in order to keep my job). During the process of studying, I took a creative writing class. Suddenly, I found myself enjoying the process of writing.

So, years later, when an experience I had with my son prompted me to write a children’s book, I realized God was still not finished with me. Even earning a graduate degree had not been the ultimate goal.

I wrote my book, published it, and much to my heart’s content a few people bought it. Some of my friends encouraged me to translate it into Spanish. “No,” I thought. “The Latin American boys and girls who are bilingual like me will enjoy reading it in English.”

One recent day, after speaking at a women’s event in a Spanish church, I wandered over to my resource table where a little girl was thumbing through my book. Carina dragged her mother toward the little pile of my books and, as children do, begged for money. Her mother spoke not one word of English, but gave her daughter several bills. Carina’s English was perfect. She asked, “How much?” She gave me the money and even counted the change in English. “Thank you.” She skipped off happily.

The next thing I knew Carina gathered her friends around her. Directing them to sit and listen, she read my book to her Hispanic friends in ENGLISH! They laughed, talked about the story, and returned to favorite pictures. Their entire conversation took place in English.

Amazing! I took a picture. Joy was welling up inside me, like a full fountain, overflowing…

Consider the implications of this picture: Having begun life on foreign soil and received my earliest training teaching my neighbors to read and write, I now continue life in my own country where God continues to allow me to touch the lives of Latin American children. These children are my neighbors, but their status is no longer “poor.” They speak two languages. They write and they are reading - - - my book - - - in English!

I had to take a picture. Who would have ever thought it?

Oh- God, of course.

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him, though He is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17: 27

By the way, you might not know this – my book From the Pound to the Palace is the story of a little dog who wandered away and got lost. One day his master found him, unlocked the door of his desperate condition and took him home. The story of the little dog is a story that each child experiences when choosing to disobey and live a rebellious life or to obey God and walk with the Master forever.

When Carina had finished reading the book to her friends, I sat down with them and told each one, “Do you know that you are like the dog in this story? You also have a Master who loves you. You can ask Jesus to be your Master and he will always be your best friend.”

THE END or is it THE BEGINNING
Saturday, January 19, 2008

HOW IT ALL BEGAN


Look at the faces of these children. Aren’t they absolutely beautiful? I recently met these boys and girls at a Latina women’s ministry event, a breakfast, where I spoke.

I fell in love that Saturday morning! Who wouldn’t? These happy faces reminded me of my neighbors and classmates when I was 6,7, & 8, living in South America. They remind me of the days when God began to work in my heart, preparing me for His plan for my life.

Whenever I wonder if I am truly walking the path God laid out for me, I take a journey into my past looking for my credentials. Normally credentials is what we do to gain a position, like go to school and earn a diploma, participate in a conference and bring home a certificate, or go to the gym and reach a goal, maybe even win a trophy.

Those are great credentials to be able to list on a resume and I am happy I have put getting-my-credentials-so-I-can-find-a-job days behind me. Don’t get me wrong. There is always room for improvement. I still take myself to “school” from time to time to improve my teaching, leadership, and communication skills.

The other kind of credentials is God-equipped, not human-earned. Let me give you an example. When I was in the 4th grade I attended school two blocks from my house where I lived in Bogot√°, Colombia. I was one of the few bilingual students. Most of my classmates were children of parents who worked in the American embassy, the oil business, or the mission field. Having been born in South America, lucky me, I could speak Spanish and English.

I developed my Spanish easily because my play mates were Colombian. I played in the park with my neighbors, attending Sunday school with the local children (little girls and boys who look just like the children in the picture), and attended parties in the homes of the men and women who worked with my dad. Whenever I found myself outside my home, I spoke Spanish.

One day two young handsome teachers arrived in our school. I will never forget them. They had recently graduated from college in the US and, looking for adventure, found teaching positions in my school. I remember my dad said, “Those two young men are progressive.” I didn’t understand. Today I do.

They developed an after-school program for the children in the neighborhood – actually these children were not considered neighbors because they lived at the end of the road, on the back side of the hill. They were the “poor people.” It didn’t matter to my newly arrived heroes. In their hearts, “All children deserved an education.” They got permission from the school board to use a few classrooms in the afternoon, after school, to educate the “poor children.”

There was a glitch, though. Mr. S and Mr. B did not speak Spanish. They needed a translator. They picked me! Off we trekked to the squatters’ hill to invite children to school. Thus began my teacher training. Under the leadership of my favorite elementary school teachers, I tutored my peers, neighbors and children just like me, but years and miles apart in socio economic advantage. Believe me – I grew up knowing- life is not fair. For me school became the time of day when I could help my newly acquired friends and watch them learn their alphabet and numbers.

I am not sure how long the SBS (initials stand for the names of the young men whose vision took illiterate children and paired them with those who could encourage them to learn) school lasted. I just know that a little seed – a dream to be a teacher, landed in my heart and began to grow. I never let go of that desire. I wanted my very own classroom and I dreamed of helping others achieve their dreams.

Fast forward. I moved to the United States, graduated from college with a certificate to teach, and began my career. I thought God’s plan for my life had been fulfilled. Little did I know, He had not finished! There was more to come - - lots more!

End of chapter 1.

Come back Monday for Chapter 2 - “THE REST OF THE STORY”
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!

Not really, but read on…

Just before Christmas I dragged my husband to the mall to pick up two gifts. At the last minute, although I had sworn I was not going to Christmas shop this year, I had a weak moment. I wanted to buy each of my sons a gift and wrap it. So off to the mall we trekked. We walked into one of the large anchor department stores and I immediately lost my focus.

I had come to shop for my boys, but the sweater I had dreamed of caught my attention. “Ooops,” I said to my DH. “I think I spotted my Christmas gift.”

This is why a woman should NEVER go to the mall. Seriously, it had been months since I had been in the mall. I avoid going because of a rule our family developed years ago. “If you don’t have the cash, then you can’t afford it.” Rule number 2 – “No impulsive purchases.” Going to the mall is no fun if you can’t shop impulsively. In my family it is not allowed. End of story.

OK so I am in the department store shopping for my dear sons and a glittery lovely thing of a golden sweater jumps out at me in all its brilliance. “Ah. That is exactly what I thought would go with my slacks for Christmas Eve service.”

You see as I pondered my wardrobe for my trip home AND to impress the sisters-in-law, I had truly thought – “Oh wouldn’t a sweater with golden threads woven in it – you know, sorta metallic, look great with thes brown pants and jacket?"

So when the sweater yelled at me from the rack, I stood stunned. “Is this an impulsive purchase?”

Then I heard my wonderfully generous husband say. “Go ahead, get it. Merry Christmas.”

Almost giddy ,I walked toward the golden sweater. I picked it up. It was so soft and just what I wanted. Then –SHOCK. The price tag fell out of the sleeve and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!

I don’t get out much – not to the shops, anyway.

$280.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NO WAY. I folded up the sweater and walked away.

“This trip is for my boys not for me.”

Once I purchased my sons’ sweaters I rendezvoused with my husband.

“Well did you get it?”

“No way – too expensive. Besides, this trip is about the boys. It’s not about me.”

Guess what. I never missed that sweater. I had a marvelous Christmas. I didn’t have to have it. Not having it didn’t make me sad. Having it could not have made my Christmas any more magical than it was.

Fast forward to today. I had an hour between meetings so I decided to follow up on Wendy’s suggestion that we run over to Stein Mart because of a great sale. She is a shopping queen and regularly finds wonderful deals. She shares her finds with her friends and I love friends who make fun announcements and then encourage us to go have fun.

I parked in the parking lot and headed toward the one store where I do like to shop. Marshall’s loomed big as I walked down the sidewalk so I thought- “I’ll split my time between stores.” You see I need some new black shoes.

I didn’t find any shoes so I started looking through racks of sale items. I did need casual tops for jeans. Absentmindedly I dragged hangars across the rack. Then suddenly, right there before my eyes – THE GOLDEN SWEATER. Well not exactly the identical one, but a lovely one all the same, one I could fall in love with! Slowly I picked up the sleeve to check the price tag.

$10.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it! I grabbed the sweater and hugged it like it was a long lost friend.

Time stood still for a moment as it so often does when I experience God’s presence. Yes even in Marshall’s. He is everywhere you know. I felt so loved and I also felt God’s warm smile.

“It IS about you. I love you.”

I love it when God surprises me.

You know what – my husband loves it too. When I showed him my find – he smiled too!
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CONSIDER THE DOG - MY DOG

Have you ever longed for true contentment, peace, comfort, unbroken trust...?

Today I took my dog - Air to visit a group of children. We travel a lot together. I tell him early the morning of our trip that today we will go to another classroom. He doesn't know what I am saying, but he is happy to oblige. After I load up the car I take him for a short walk and let him do his business. I drop the tailgate to the Tahoe and Air flies into the back. He LOVES traveling with me.

This is the routine:
-We arrive at the school.
-I remove the resources I am going to sell - books and DVDs, puppet in a doggie basket, and stamp pad, from the car.
-I assure my little dog, caressing him with my hands, that I will return for him. When I shut the door, he takes a stand that allows his eyes to follow me as far as he can focus. My heart breaks to experience his loyalty.
-I arrive in the large room where I find a group of children eagerly waiting for me.
-After introductions, I read Air's story.
-I tell the children that I have a surprise for them! Air is coming to visit their classroom or chapel. They scream with glee.
-When I return with Air, the children are spell bound. You would think they were at a circus, they are so excited. Instead it is ordinary dog-lover me and my plain little pound puppy. I think children prefer plain, ordinary, and simple!
-I ask them some questions about the story, like
- "What did Air say was the best thing about his new master?"
-The children reply. "His master gives him treats." or "His master takes good care of him."
-“Would you like to see his tricks?"
-“YYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!"
-Air turns on his charm and entertains the children.
-Sometimes I get to talk with the boys and girls about what they learned from Air's story.

This simple "show," reading the story and showing off doggie tricks, lasts no more than 20 minutes, yet the children seem enthralled and they learn so much.

Today the home school group told me what they learned:

"Air didn't obey his mommy and he got lost."
"He wandered away and didn't know that following a frog would put him in the dog pound."
"Following a frog is like - - - doing sin stuff."
"Even when we are lost, Jesus is with us."

Air "signs" his book for the children who buy a book or DVD. He obviously doesn't like this part of the "show." He endures, though, and the children
notice.

I bring this to their attention. "Look at Air. Does he like signing books? He doesn't even know how to write, so obviously he doesn't know what he is doing. But, is he complaining? Is he obedient?"

What is the lesson?

"He does what his master tells him to do, even if he doesn't understand."

Yes. They got it! The children have seen God's word at work, right before their very eyes.

We do not always understand God's plan for us. I consider my dog. He submits to the moment, trusting that this too will pass. I want to be like my dog and trust God with my life.

Right now, Air is dreaming doggie dreams as he sleeps at my feet in the ray of sunshine peeking through the window. Ah - the life of a dog.

Could be my life. Could be yours.
Saturday, January 12, 2008

FINAL BOOK REVIEW... until I read another good book

Let me be so bold as to encourage you - if you have a son, make hearing MY GRANDFATHER'S SON required listening. Sit with your son, experience American History now – in the making, and be together empowered to face your dragons. I promise you – the young man God has given you to mold for the future - to do His good will, will not soon forget time spent with his parent and lessons learned from a true American hero whose decisions today chart the course for tomorrow.

When I was in the 6th grade my mother, my sister, and I returned to the US from Colombia which was home for our family until my young teen years. The three of us moved into a downstairs apt of a great big ole house and my mother completed her master's degree. That was a lonely year for me. Although I'm an American citizen - my parents are a Texas cow girl and a wonderful southern gentleman from Mississippi, I felt like a foreigner whenever I returned "hone." (My dad worked in the oil fields of Venezuela and Colombia - that's why I grew up in South America.)

I am off track...

So we moved to Denton, Texas where my mother studied A LOT. I decided to pass the time that year - reading. It paid off. By the end of the year I had read, and reported on, more books than any of my classmates. I won the award for most read books! The teacher gave me a Silver Dollar along with a certificate. I don't know where my "trophy" is. I wish I could find it.

That is my intro for this final BOOK REVIEW.

Books are fabulous friends. Books...
-are faithful.-never walk away.
-can always be found right where I left them, waiting for me to continue the relationship where we left off - a few minutes ago, yesterday, or months ago.
-tell it like it is.
-portray the good, bad, and ugly.
-offer choices.
-describe consequences to choices.
-can be full of truth or lies.
-invite the reader to discern.
-teach.
-challenge.
-change, hopefully for the good.

I invite you to add to this list. Tell me what has stuck with you as the result of a good book, even recommend a book on your blog and tell us about it so we can visit you. I would love to hear about another good book I should read.

Driving back and forth from AR/MO to NC my DH and I listened to MY GRANDFATHER'S SON by Clarence Thomas, read by Justice Thomas. I recommend you listen to this book, if you are at all interested because he reads his own story and his voice is incredible.

Let me tell you why I thought this book to be such a tremendous story.

-If I had not heard his story I would have never known the abject circumstances surrounding his life - his climb from the bottom - and I do mean bottom - to the top. One always believes that those at the top got there because of privilege. Ha – not so in this case! He shares the horrific conditions under which he began his life. The vivid details of overcoming cold, hunger, poverty, and growing up black in the South will not soon be erased from my mind. I will never look at the men and woman of our supreme court again without feeling much admiration for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (I did have the privilege of watching him, live in action, when I visited Washington D.C).

-Each chapter challenged me to look at my own life. As a child whose single mother could not care for him, he went to live with his grandparents. His grandfather loved him, but he was harsh. I didn't approve of his tactics - some could have been considered abusive - today young men would run away from such a lifestyle, but Mr. Thomas' grandfather looked to the future. This grandfather knew what he must do to prepare his grandsons to acheive success he went to extremes to prepare them to compete. Nothing that happened in the justice's life was wasted. Without his extremely difficult childhood he would have never survived the journey set before him and risen to his position.

-Clarence Thomas faced opposition as a child and then as an adult. A brilliant man, he was often overlooked. An honest citizen, he rarely experienced any good-luck breaks. A hard worker, he was seldom praised as was his due. Yet he continued his climb in public service.

-I learned to admire this national leader and hero. A godly man, he is soft spoken. A man of integrity, he is not swayed by public opinion. I know of no one who welcomes adversity. We go to great measures to avoid it. Yet this autobiography gave me some insight into strength building. It is necessary to step into the emotional weight room. There we develop and become the men and women God has planned for us to become. Without true refining we cannot be equipped to face life.

-Justice Clarence Thomas spent his life in the furnace. Few know his story. I am glad he wrote the book. When I watch the Supreme Court in action, in addition to seeing a dignified and quiet African American deliberating how our nation's laws should be carried out, I see Silver - refined - a man I truly admire, a role model for the times when I am tempted to give up because I simply cannot overcome the challenges placed before me.

-Please do this - get his book on tape. Set aside an hour each week. If you have children who are in middle school or older - sit together as a family and listen to your Supreme Court Justice share his life. You and your children will find yourself in the midst of American History and emerge from this story time, compelled to ignore any obstacles that ever threaten to keep you from following your dream! The next generation deserves to be exposed to this tale.

-Let me be so bold as to encourage you - if you have a son, make hearing MY GRANDFATHER'S SON required listening. Sit with your son and be together empowered to face your dragons.

Off to fight my own fires... and overcome - because I have a godly role model whose life story has convinced me that
I can, especially when I call upon the name of the
Lord.

Friday, January 11, 2008

"COMFORT THOSE WITH THE COMFORT I HAVE GIVEN YOU"

These words were the marching orders God gave me one day when despair threatened to "take me down." Today - thirty - yes! thirty years later I continue to live by 2 Corinthians 1:3-7:
The God of All Comfort: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God...
I had no idea when, at the ripe age of 27, Jesus stepped into my space and spoke to me, encouraging me in the midst of my hopelessness, telling me that I would REALLY use my circumstances to comfort others.

As many of you read - I have shed a few tears lately, tears of grief for the family who lost their son and the young adults who lost their friend. I am slowly recovering this week from the went-back-to-college syndrome. My house seems so empty - my heart and life also.

BUT - the work I do, in Jesus' Name, does not come back void. It returns many fold. When you finish reading this post you will stand amazed at God's compassion and sweetness. I read these verses in my Bible this morning:

Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

I have a passionate relationship with the Latina community in Charlotte. I want to give to them what women's ministries has given to me over the years. I am so blessed to have been allowed to be the director of Hispanic Ministries for Proverbs 31 Mnistires (www.proverbios31.org.) I am also blessed to have met many dedicated sisters who share the same vision. This morning Judith left this comment on my blog. She wrote it in Spanish (as you can see.) I have translated it.
Mientras tus hijos, continuan sin ti. Dios te ha puesto hijas como nosotras para que continues haciendo tu trabajo. Te queremos."

While your sons have moved on, God has placed daughters like myself in your life so you might continue your work. We love you!


"...a good measure, presed down, shaken together and running over..."

If this doesn't spur me to press on, what will!

Gracias, Judith (thank you Judith) Now you have comforted me with the comfort which He has shown to you.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ANOTHER BOOK REVIEW

(gotta shovel through my life before the book review - but there is a connection)

I have taken a week off from blogging. First week in January I dealt with the death of my son's classmate - not a natural death. (read the previous blog) Then I had to deal with my son's return to college after having him home for nearly a month. I did not want him to go back!! I still don't want him gone! I love having him around. He is such a great kid. As he made noise about returning I hid my head in the sand. Then under my very nose I watched from my office as he went back in front, up and down the stairs, like a giant ant, with arms full of duffle bags and laundry baskets (he packs in laundry baskets that way he doesn't have to transfer clothes to drawers- pretty smart). I sat with my computer in my lap, surrounded by books - in denial. Is he really going back to school? Then he slowly entered the room. "Well, mom. It was a great Christmas. I had fun. Thanks for making it special." He looked down at his feet, held out his arms, and shuffled toward me. "I guess, ummmm, bye."

Oh how I tried to be a beautiful and dignified composed mother. It did not work! I stood up and told him I would walk him to the car. I tried really hard to keep the tears at bay. "Down. Back" I kept commanding. The tears didn't hear. They wanted to explode. "Oh no! " I whispered to myself as I followed him down the stairs. Being surrounded by boys, I know how they hate tears and emotion.

He stepped into the family room to tell his dad good-bye. They hugged, shook hands, and that was it! How can that be. No emotion. "Have a good semester. See ya." His dad was turning around already. Life goes on...

Benjamin stepped down into the garage. I put my hand on his shoulder. I asked if I could pray for him. "Sure mom."

I prayed through the tears. I had to stop a few times, get my breath, fight sobs... oh well maybe he will have a little patience with his future wife when she cries. He was patient with me. "...Father, please don't ever let him forget how much we love him. Carry him through the next few months. Be his daddy. We are not there for him. We trust You to watch over him in Jesus' Name, Amen." I squeezed his great big shoulders.

"Thanks Mom. I love you." He was off.........

I went upstairs to my office and sobbed!

OK on to the book review: Another book I listened to...
( I highly recommend checking out books on CD when your family travels. It is a great way to pass the time and bring the family together for good conversation when you stop at the road side picnic area or sit in Chic fil A or Arbys on your way to Disney or sports' tournaments or grandmother's.)
was A QUIET STRENGTH by Tony Dungy. What I found amazing over my Christmas break was that I listened to his story which included the sad sad tale of his 19 year old son who took his own life during the holidays a couple of years ago. My younger son is 19 and his friend who died two weeks ago (took his own life - read previous post) was also 19. It is scary for parents these days. Parenting NEVER comes to an end! We can never stop praying for our children.

I grew to admire Coach Dungy - even though I am not much of a sports fan ( I know. I have boys and they are LOVERS of sports. I guess I am too cynical about sports and all the hype.) I appreciate the fact that he is a committed Christian and is not ashamed, nor is he afraid to stand up for his faith. We need more Christian men in leadership. He is also a family man and a strong husband who leads by example. I enjoyed his stories about coaches' children on the playing field, in the offices, and on trips. Our children need to be with their parents. They don't have many positive role models. I appreciate that this man makes the point - include the children.

If you check out his web site you can hear why he wrote the book - quiet strength is what it takes to get through life's trials. It is the strength we get from God, from the inside where He dwells - the strength that builds our character.

Mr. Dungy, thank you for your testimony. It gives me hope to know that you are leading young men toward a purposeful future. May God continue to give you strength and may your strength motivate the young men in your circle of influence to make good decisions and pave the way for the next generation.

I pray my Benjamin find a mentor like you, a godly man on his college campus, someone with quiet strength and dignity who will motivate my child to focus on the eternal and not the temporal.

God bless you, Coach Dungy
Thursday, January 3, 2008
GOD RESCUES HIS OWN

I am taking a break from book reviews to write about a life review.
This morning I woke up dreading what I would have to do today. This would not be a "life in the garden" day. For the past week I have been reminded, once again, that "it's a jungle" out there. Try as hard as I might, I cannot avoid it!

The only thing on my calendar for the day was "Memorial Service for Joe." Joe, my son's classmate, who graduated a year later than Benjamin, took his life less than a week ago. Everyone remotely related to this family has walked around these past few days - stunned.

How does someting like this happen? Could it have been prevented? How is the family coping? Is there anything anyone can do to make this awful thing go away?

I personally do not know the family. I attended the service because it was held at my church. Our pastor told the family, when he made his opening statements, that the people in attendance were there to be Jesus' hands, feets, arms, shoulders, and heart reaching out. That is exactly why I went. I wanted to support the grieving family. I wanted to sit with my son. I wanted to pray that Joe's death would be used by God for the good.

During the service I, like most everyone there, cried, grieved, mourned, listened trying to make sense of it all, and even laughed. Throughout the two hours that several hundred people celebrated Joe's life, Peace and Hope visited the place in my heart that had opened up to despair when death came to visit our community.

In the midst of the memorial, God revealed to me that He has the power to use the worst in life- turning ashes into beauty. Today I was reminded once again: Our young people are amazingly beautiful. Even though they face incredible odds, they are overcoming. What do I mean?

- They packed the sanctuary as they came to pay their respect to a suffering family, a mother and daddy, a brother and sister, a grandmother and aunt and many other suffering extreme loss and pain. Young men wept openly while they remembered their friend. For two hours young ladies sat and listened while friends and teachers spoke fondly.

- Four of Joe's best friends stood in the midst of their grief and shared eloquently. These were guys who party with my son, funloving kids who seem to carelessly make their way through life. Yet their words and thoughts struck deep. Their compassion laid a foundation for healing to begin. Their strength gave hope. Their vulnerability poured warmth and good will into the hearts of all who attended.

- Young musicians selflessly shared their amazing voices and piano playing talents as they lead us to praise God and celebrate life.

Then a daddy spoke about the death of his son. He could have sat alone in his grief. He certainly deserved to do so. He could have mourned in his closet. I would have. He could have turned away from the inquisitive faces of bewildered teens, but he offered to shed some meaning on his loss. He told us God had assured him that Joe had not been abandoned in his moment of confusion. "I will never forsake you or abandon you," our Father promises.

The sun is setting on this difficult day. Darkness could settle in. Instead the joy of the Lord reigns. I have been convinced once again that nothing can separate me or mine from the love of God. He has made His plan clear. If we, through faith, accept His gift of grace, eternal life is ours. Joe knew that. His dad told the stories that confirmed Joe's trust in Jesus. Nothing can separate us from God's love - not even a mistaken choice that takes a life.

Be encouraged, today in Charlotte, NC in an ordinary sanctuary the body of Christ united and celebrated life in the midst of death.

I want to remind you - life within the Body is worth rejoicing. While the world has its struggles, we who are Christians have the power to overcome, together.

A mighty fortress is our God...

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.

Praise You God, Joe is in your arms. You are the God of all comfort. I pray, please continue to comfort the Carrera family.

Thank you Carrara family for inviting us to share with you the presence of Almighty God.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008

RESCUE ME

I have begun the new year hopelessly caught up in the lives of three people I met during the last two weeks. None of these people knows me. I know them because I read, or listened to, the books they wrote. It seems that each step I take, each decision I make, each conversation I have somehow returns to one of the three books I read. If you can't tell, each book impacted my life.

And what about these books has intrigued me? Two books were biographies of famous men. As I listened to their stories my admiration grew for each one. I learned about American politics, life in Washington DC, the judicial system, and survival. I also learned a lot about football, perseverance, painful struggles, the mistakes humans make, the grace needed to overcome, success, and failure. The third book was the story of a dog. I caught a glimpse of devotion, unconditional love, heart break, hard work, desperation, life, and death. WOW. I feel so well rounded, so exposed, so worldly. I don't mean to sound uppity or arrogant. I just wish to encourage you to read more this year. I had the privilege of being exposed to three books and I learned so much. I hope to live my life differently as a result of having read/listened to each author's tale.

What I find interesting is that the three books about a coach, a judge, and a dog shared a common thread. Each was rescued in one way or another from life's hard knocks.

What follows is three reviews- probably not all written today, though.

RESCUING SPRITE by Mark Levin was my sister's Christmas gift to me. Along with the book she gave me a box of the most delicious tea I have ever sipped. What a great gift, a book and tea. Talk about relaxing and inspiring. Watch out girlfriends. I may be gifting you with a book, a blanket, and a bit of tea for your birthday this year. My sister and I grew up with dogs - oh by the way the Sprite in the book was a dog. Mark tells the story of how his family rescued Sprite and how the wonderful dog changed the lives of the Levin family. I could relate - big time. I have a dog - Air. My son and I rescued him. Our little dog also changed our lives - mine especially. From the moment I stepped into the animal shelter and saw the sad faces of those helpless little animals until an epiphany I had years later, our rescued dog planted a seed of spiritual transformation in my life, a seed that has grown and bloomed, a seed that has given me purpose and dignity in life. In fact, like Mark, I too wrote a book about my dog, FROM THE POUND TO THE PALACE. Many of you have read it and gifted it the children in your lives. I so appreciate your kind comments and your support. Unlike Mark, my book was written for children. Each book, though has the power to change lives. RESCUING SPRITE is a warm story about a united family - we so need happy, united families these days. The family agrees to take in a lost dog, give him a home, and shower him with love treating him with respect and dignity. In return the dog filled the lives of the Levin family with joy, warmth, laughter, and purpose. Part of the proceeds of Mark's book goes to help rescue helpless animals. His heart is so open to aiding abandoned, lost, and abused dogs one can't help but want to run, not walk, to the nearest animal shelter to bring home a pet for each member of the family. What a way to teach responsibiltiy and compassion to our children. Anyway, my heart was made bigger for having read RESCUING SPRITE. Not only do I want to love my little dog better, but I want to reach out to all God's creation - especially men and women, to dignify them with respect and honor - something else society so needs and longs for. Get the book and make it a family read. It will change the way you do family in your home.

That's it. If you are at all interested in the other books I read, just come back for another visit. Bring your tea!