Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wednesday Wonder - Renae Brumbaugh

She writes devotionals every day on her Morning Coffee blog.
Every day.
She simply moves verse by verse through books of the Bible and expounds on them,
adding her thoughts and personal stories.
And she does this in her free time as a pastor's wife and a homeschooling mother of two.

I first met Renae at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference last year and felt drawn to the fellow Texan with her warm smile and easy laugh. Like with another of my Wednesday Wonders, Jennifer King, it was fun to meet another young mom with an awakened interest in writing (well, I thought we were young until BJ entered the room). Renae is wise and thoughtful, but she's also funny. An endearing quality that makes me like her even more, because I've always wanted to be funny.

One of the things I'm most fascinated about Renae is that her son, Foster James, was adopted six years ago. My nephew, Foster James, was also adopted six years ago. What are the chances of finding two six-year-old boys named Foster James living in different states but whose families actually know each other?!
Renae is married to Mark and they also have a beautiful ten-year-old daughter, Charis.

It takes about 5 minutes of meeting Renae to sense her love for God's Word. When asked about her favorite passage, she cites Isaiah 55:8-13:

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed."

"Verses 8 - 11 inspire me as I write. I know that as long as God's Word keeps being thrown out there, in one way or another, God will use it to accomplish His great purpose. I love
that in Ephesians 6, where it talks about the armor of
God, the only OFFENSIVE weapon is the sword, or God's
Word. The rest of the armor is defensive. If we have
salvation, faith, righteousness, truth, etc, we will
be protected. But still, we can have on our armor, but
without an offensive weapon to fight with, we might as
well curl up in a fetal position. Satan will still
keep coming at us. He just won't be able to pierce
very deeply. But with God's Word, the sword, we can
actually fight Satan off! We can make Him run away,
with our Sword!
Then, v. 12 - 13 give me such a warm peaceful feeling.
Mark and I have been through some really tough times
in ministry. But I am reminded that in the end (and am
claiming it even for now!) that He will make sure I
"go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the
mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and
instead of the briers the myrtle grow. This will be
for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign which
will not be destroyed."

When asked how she's been personally rewarded through writing, Renae said,
"I love writing. For me, it has always been a form of
therapy, whether anyone reads it or not. My favorite
thing right now is the weekly newspaper column I am
writing. It is so exciting that God is letting me
address a secular audience with His message. Again -
as long as we keep casting it out there, God will do
the rest."

Renae's devotional/Bible study series, Morning Coffee, is slated for publication in Fall, 2009. The first book in the series is Morning Coffee with James. In addition to these devotionals, Renae is published locally and nationally in newspapers and magazines, has written a book chronicling the adoption of her son, and also recently signed a contract to write for a chapter book mystery series for girls, ages 8 - 12. She's been busy.
Thanks, Renae, for your friendship and for sharing your love for Scripture with us - a great jolt each morning. Your work blesses many... keep writing!

** Look for my Wednesday Wonder posts (most weeks!) - please forgive the cheesy name - as I highlight inspiring friends and people in my life... enjoy! **

Friday, March 14, 2008

Must know about this...

Hey you bloggers - ever wanted to know how to print out your blogs, photos and all?
Go to blurb.com. Amazing.
It took me less than four minutes to download the (free!) software, upload my blog WITH photos. The layout is great, and of course you can personalize it as much as you want.
Prices are compatible with other book-making websites. This is the first I've seen that will connect to blogger, wordpress, etc.
I just wish I'd have thought of this first!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Feeling the Pleasure of the Lord

Some weeks my Wednesday Wonder post simply won't get written, and this is unfortunately one of those weeks! I posted this on the Fort Worth Writer's Group blog this morning, as we're focusing on Lent. Thanks for stopping by.

I was reminded this week of a scene from the movie "Chariots of Fire." Released in 1981, the film is based on the true story of British athletes preparing for and competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics. The life of Eric Liddell, one of the runners, is chronicled prior to his departure for the mission field of China. At one point in the film Eric is walking with his sister following a service at their mission outreach. She expresses strong concern to his seeming lack of full time commitment to the work of his parents' ministry and mission while they are home on furlough. He responds to her,

"Jenny, God made me for a purpose, for China. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel the pleasure of the Lord."

If you want to read about a real hero of the faith, read about Eric Liddell. He spent his life serving in China until his death in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. In Christian circles we often hear of the heroics of Jim Elliot and Hudson Taylor, but Liddell is right up there with these giants.

What I love about this scene from "Chariots of Fire" is that it demonstrates that Liddell knew how to worship. And he was most comfortable worshiping with his head tilted back and mouth open while running very, very fast.

My Dad worships best at a couple thousand feet off the ground. He described the first time he felt overcome with God's presence as a young pilot in the Marines:

"In eight helos at daybreak we thundered across deep spiked green mountains and out over the blue Pacific waters, transporting Marine troops to Molokai. We were caught in the sun’s exploding grandeur. The early preflight and multi-ship takeoff had been hectic. Catching my breath, I looked out over the vast blue ocean and into the reflected blazing sunrise. I was just realizing that this was probably the most spectacular work of nature and art I had ever seen. It caught me and pulled me up and up and in. In my spirit, a whole new world opened up. Overwhelmed, tears filled my eyes."

I love that. I love seeing my dad worship his Creator from the beauty of creation.

I love watching my nineteen-month-old daughter express delight when a certain song is played, her little body dancing involuntarily with the rhythm of the music.

I love watching my husband laugh so hard he doubles over. Doesn't happen often enough, but there's nothing quite like hearing him belly laugh, as that expression of pure joy and delight echoes the pure and delightful pleasures of the Lord.

How do I feel the pleasure of the Lord? In other words, how do I worship? What does it look like in my modern day life? My attempts at personal worship have been meager at best.

I realize focused worship is important, but I'm still trying to figure out what that looks like. I think of Christ and how he got away to quiet places to be silent and alone. That speaks to me. I think of his constant communication with the Father, and that at any given moment he was perfectly in tune with the Lord. He offered laughter and patience for children, compassion for the sinful and hurting, and anger for the self-righteousness. His responses were simply an overflow from worship. And while I can't quite picture him running a 400, I can imagine his head back, mouth open, laughing.

Father God, we do adore You and love You. Please give us license and creativity to worship in the unique ways You designed for us. We long to feel the pleasure of the Lord.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Wedding...I mean, Easter Dresses

Corbin took Basden Easter dress shopping last week.
Ever since, we have had a miniature bride traipsing around our home.
Check out the satin buttons running down the back.

Corbin swears he tried to steer her other directions, but evidently once Basden locked her eyes on the bride dress there was no going back.
And in Corbin fashion, he didn't come home with just one dress...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bloom Where You're Planted

People are funny.
A couple of months ago a friend told me she might be moving into my neighborhood. When I expressed delight, she responded, "Yeah, we love the neighborhood, but we would never send our kids to your public school."
Last week I was in a coffee shop bent over my laptop when another friend approached me. She asked (directly, not making small talk) if I was happy with our public school.
I said,"It's really good. You know, there are so many good choices for schools, it's been a difficult decision for us, but we're really pleased with it at this point." I added that one of our favorite things about public school is getting to know the families in our neighborhood and how great they are.
She said, "Oh, see, I have never felt comfortable around those moms. They put on airs about having it all together and baking cookies from scratch..." (?) "I just want to tell them that I just like to take my kids to the park, that's what we do."
I was at a total loss.
I tried a couple of times to lighten the conversation (without sympathizing with her stereotypes) but it didn't work. For some reason she needed to communicate her lack of approval for the moms at our public school. I don't know who she's close to at our school, or what situations have defined her impressions. This is a darling friend who doesn't even live in our neighborhood, and seems to love the private school her children attend. I was quite taken back with her apparent dislike of the families at our school. And even more so that she felt like she needed to tell me!
So... this is not a pro-public school post.
If you're even remotely close to Corbin and me, you've heard me banter the pros and cons of nearly every school in Tarrant County. I have attended more "welcome to our school" coffees than I would care to count. I have literally taken several different moms to lunch just to hear their take on school choices. It has been a huge decision for Corbin and me. We've already done private (and were thrilled with it), and we've been in public for nearly two years now. We've researched traditional private schools, classical schools, and university model schools. We've looked into home schooling.
Most of my closest friends don't send their kids to public schools. I have a yellow legal pad in my desk drawer filled with notes and brainstorming "pros and cons" thoughts comparing schools in three categories: public, private and home school. And you know what? The lists are all about the same length.
For many reasons Corbin and I feel like our family is in the right school at this point. We have sensed affirmation from the Lord, from each other and from our kids. We are also aware that we have the freedom at any point, with the Lord's leading, to change directions with school, and we're taking it one year (one child, one semester) at a time.
I've considered posting about school since I started this blog, but quite honestly, it's been too sensitive a subject.
The point of this post, as I mentioned earlier, is not to promote public school. The point is to encourage you to consider your options, seek the Lord, and find the place that's best for you, then simply BLOOM WHERE YOU'RE PLANTED.
Even if you question it, or second-guess your decisions, or doubt your choice at times... you can always pick another garden. But in the meantime, ENJOY where you are in regards to school.
And don't worry about what friends might say. They really are friends (for the most part) and don't have a clue that you might be sensitive to someone dogging your school. OK, just kidding. Sorta.
A few thoughts if you're tackling this not-so-easy school decision:

1. If you're looking at kindergarten for your oldest and the rest of your kids are preschool age, only think about your oldest, and only think about this first year. It's not the end of the world to change schools later. It'll take pressure off if you don't have to think about this as a "twelve-year" decision.
2. Take one year at a time. Or one semester at a time.
3. Quit comparing yourself to other families (sound like I'm speaking from experience?)
4. Don't act like an expert if you're not.
5. School is not one-size-fits-all. Especially for Christian families. Your choice will totally depend on where you live and what schools are available to you, financially and otherwise.
6. Know that your school choice doesn't define you. I guarantee my home school friends break the stereotype, and I bet yours do, too. And I sure hope to break a stereotype of public school - especially if it's as terrible as my friend thinks! (I don't often bake chocolate chip cookies from scratch - that would be my friend who home schools, Sarah)

Ok, no more of the heavy.
Would love to hear your thoughts.
Here's to hoping we can seize the opportunity to enjoy our precious little ones and bloom where we're planted!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Gardener

I posted this last week on my writer's group blog, but wanted to share it here as well. Enjoy!

I read The Gardener to my kids recently, an inspiring children’s story about a young girl’s courage and optimism in the face of adversity. Lydia Grace Finch is forced to leave her family’s farm and move to the city with her unsmiling Uncle Jim who owns a bakery. Her parents and grandmother grieve as she boards the train. Arriving in the bleak city, Lydia Grace puts her green thumb to work embellishing the barren apartment and bakery with overflowing window boxes. At the end of the story, Lydia Grace’s secret gift to her Uncle is revealed as he opens the door to his building’s top floor: the once ugly, littered flat roof is transformed into an outrageous, flowering oasis. Lydia Grace’s steady and deliberate tending of the window boxes and the top-story garden not only beautify the barren city building, but also draws customers into the bakery. This young girl’s contagious optimism and hard work touch an entire community.
It’s a difficult book to read aloud without having your voice crack with emotion a time or two.
Kind of like when I think of my college roommate and dear friend, Jessica Brogdon, who left the safety and familiarity of Little Rock, Arkansas and moved to Kigali, Rwanda with her husband and children a couple of years ago. Jessica, an only child, lived about half a mile from her parents. But when the Lord said “go,” Todd and Jessica - and their precious children - went. With courage and optimism Jessica loaded her family’s belongings into a crate to be shipped to Kigali, Rwanda.
They will come home this spring. But in a seemingly unproductive environment, Jessica and her family have left their hand prints along the way. In the Brogdons’ wake, struggling Rwandans - especially women - will have opportunities through an established micro-lending bank to not only survive but thrive. Jobs for locals were created. A Rwandan church has an increased budget because of a couple of Americans helped with fundraising. Precious preschoolers and young children have been taught and hugged and loved through Jessica’s teaching. Young American teachers have found a family away from home. Jessica’s dear friend Chantal not only received a well-paying job for the past couple of years, but her family will be moving into a nice new home rather than facing life on the streets. There’s even a new little Rwandan “Ben” running around, four-year-old Ben Brogdon’s namesake.
The Brogdons have ministered to countless Rwandans around them, soaking in the culture and capturing these people in their hearts. And as they head back home to Little Rock, a small community in Kigali will forever be a little changed.
It’s no wonder Sarah Stewart's The Gardener was awarded a Caldecott Medal. To read a story of courage and optimism in the face of fear and unfamiliarity can change our lives. It changes our perspective, allows us to reevaluate what we think is daunting and scary in our own lives, and then inspires us to work hard and faithfully until the community around us is made a little more beautiful.
To see transformation as a result of sacrifice pulls at our hearts because it is Truth lived out. Centuries ago, Someone faced an overwhelming situation. He felt incredible fear and dread, but because of great love forged courageously ahead to complete a difficult task and then return to His Father. And in His wake, an entire world with all its generations was touched and made more beautiful.