Thursday, May 31, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

Four months and 20 days ago, I said goodbye to "My Isaac" -- my Wednesday night children's ministry. It was excruciatingly difficult to let go -- and not a Wednesday night has passed that I have not thought about my precious, precious kids and my dear friends working in the basement at Calvary. Wednesday night was my first full-time children's ministry after I graduated from college. I was so blessed to serve with "Miss DiAnne", my former pastor's wife, who passed away nearly 5 years ago from cancer. Miss DiAnne was a legend. Her devotion to the word of God, and passionate love for Jesus was not something I've seen every day. She ran a one-man show, teaching, disciplining, and utterly captivating the kids with her thoughts on the scripture passages they were memorizing. She'd dance around on her skinny little legs, arms gesturing wildly saying "And then, face to face!" (referencing I Corinthians 13:12) "I will see my Jesus face to face! My Jesus . . . My JESUS!"

It lit a fire in me. I couldn't imagine anything more wonderful than being a
ble to do what she did with children. She was my mentor (thankfully, she let Misty and I assist her and learn from her), and I began to dig in and invest in the souls of the children I worked with.

After 7 years, I said goodbye. I did not know when or if I would be able to become a part of a children's ministry after we moved to Kentucky. However . . .

I am so blessed! I was asked to help with the Wednesday night ministry at Clifton! We are doing a super fun summer program using a curriculum made by Connie Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church on the Chronicles of Narnia. I just love how imaginative and out-of-the-box it is. I went upstairs last night with the kids (my 1st time!), and I found a group of fantastic kiddos. It is going to be so fun to work with them!

All this came on the heels of another superb blessing that I hardly know how to menti
on, for fear of stumbling over my own gratitude and landing in a pile of pride. My sweet friend Mandy (of Camp OUTT fame) gave me a video titled "We Miss You Miss Gretchen" from the Wednesday night kids at Calvary. It was footage of the kids working on their verses, giving me messages and recalling memories, and then a short play of "Little Miss Gretchen" (written by Rachel Wells, age 11, and performed by a handful of kids. Rachel's sister Hannah played "me"). I tell you, I sobbed and snarfed and sniggled and bawled my heart out! There is a sort of crying that comes from an intensely strong mixture of pleasure, sorrow and heart-wrenching humility. (can you tell I was crying in this picture?) I was astounded by the video. The Miss Gretchen character wore her hair up and big African bracelets (kids notice everything), and the play showed Miss Gretchen at Camp OUTT (making pies and solving a fight in the sand), and at Wednesday night church (leading the Bible Creed, and meeting with my small group). I was also blown away by what the kids thanked me for on the video -- learning about the Passover, picking blueberries, making pies for Thanksgiving -- I certainly hadn't thought about those things recently, so I cannot believe they remembered them! Megan, one of the moms, added background music to the movie, which was really great. (Ha ha, I found you out, Megan!)

I have been on cloud 9 all week!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Birthday, Gret-reads-247!!

It is the one-year birthday of my blog. I remember how hesitant I was when I first began writing -- what all to say (or not to say), should I put up pictures, how long should my posts be? 91 posts later, what I write comes with a greater deal of ease, and I have to fight not to spend too much time blogging. For my anniversary post, I thought I'd reflect on what I enjoy most about blogging.

1. Getting in touch with old friends. When I started blogging, the only people I knew with blogs were Sarah and G-Knee. I started talking to them on a regular basis, and pretty quickly the number of college friends who blogged grew and grew (reference G-Knee's blog). I
have so enjoyed using this avenue to dialog with people about growth in Christ, books we've read, and our spiritual odysseys. Today I met up with Donette, since she was in L-ville for the New Attitude conference (I live here, and I couldn't even go!). If Nettie and I did not talk via the blogosphere, I would never have known she was coming to my city, and she never would have known I lived here. I am so thankful for the encouragement I've received from my brothers and sisters in Christ because our world is that much smaller thanks to our blogging.

2. Staying in contact with family and friends in Illinois (and Brazil!). When we first moved in January, I was just gasping for air, because I missed everyone so much. I've written many times on how much I adored the children I ministered to, and how hard it was to leave. It is precious to
read my friend's blogs, see their kids, and send them messages any time I want. My dad and my sister Emily regularly read my blog, and I'm always thrilled to get messages from them! It is not uncommon to have someone from our home church in Illinois say "now, I read on your blog that you and Josh found a new church", and I'm so surprised that we've been able to keep current like that!

3. Meeting new people! I have been so blessed in the friendships the Lord has given me because of my blog. Some, like Grace, I have actually met and become real life friends with. Others, like Karen and Morning Rose, the blogosphere has remained the only sphere of our relationship. Yet the Lord has used these people to be sources of His grace in my life.

I read back through my old posts, and chose my favorites -- if you have not been reading all year, please read and enjoy!

Time for Valens



My Isaac

Unveiling the Motives

Happy Birthday to Me!

The Honey that Drips

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

And while you're reading all that . . .

While thinking about my series of posts on recommended reading, it dawned on me that while it is utterly clear that I adore books, enjoy talking about them, advising people on what to read, etc., it is sadly not so abundantly clear that I enjoy reading -- or even carve out time to read -- the most important Book of all.

My Bible.

I am easily caught up in giving advice about reading, telling others how good a book was, offering to lend a title to someone . . . but I rarely offer up insights I gained from my personal Bible reading.


I am sorry about that. And I'd like it to change. I do read my Bible -- a least a little every day, and a LOT some days. I am reading through the Bible this year, which I've never done before (successfully). I am using the NLT One Year Bible, which is a compact hard-back little book, pictured here. Having a planned out schedule like this that tells me what to read everyday has really made me stick to it -- in previous ventures I'd fall short a day or two and not really know how far behind I was. This is by far the best I've done in reading through the Bible in a year! Right now I am in I Samuel and the Gospel of John (more about that later).

My prettiful green ESV is my little companion Bible. I keep it in its original box in my purse. I read it for church, Bible studies, extra reading, or if I get stuck waiting somewhere. Josh gave me this Bible for my birthday last summer, and I have kept it looking perfectly new, opting to write notes in a
journal rather than the margins!

Today I was struck with 2 fresh insights from the Word, which came from completely different passages, but a common theme wove them together. Allow me to show you:

In I Samuel 26:17-19, David is speaking to Saul after sparing his life, and asks him why he is chasing him. Here is the interesting part (I have never seen this before) -- David says "If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may He accept my offering". That hit me like a ton of bricks! The "man after God's own heart" certainly understood the scope of the sovereignty of the God He worshiped. Basically, David realized that if God had set Saul against him, then it was to God he must make his appeal -- Saul was just a tool.

Now flip to John 11:49-51. Caiaphas the high priest responds to those who wished to get rid of Jesus for fear that everyone would believe in Him because He raised Lazarus from the dead. Caiaphas' statement that "it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish" is qualified by John (the author) by stating that Caiaphas did not say that of his own accord, but because he was the high priest at this time, he made this prophecy. Amazing. This evil man actually able to accurately prophesy!

Both of those passages were assigned for the same day. After reading them, the application inevitably came to me: evil men (and Satan) are on a leash -- and my Sovereign God holds the handle. The implications that makes in everyday life are astounding -- and unlimited!

Now that is one good book!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Sisters' Reading Lists

Here are the reading lists I prepared for two of my little sisters (per their requests). I have done this for them for the past 3 years, or so, and they always read a good portion of the books on the list (but I don't think they've ever finished them). They both adore reading like their older sisters (and mother) -- I am so glad we have that in common! Above is a picture of the 3 of us at Dr. Mohler's house last fall (I felt it was fitting in a post about reading!) Here you go, girls -- I only gave you each 9 books this year, so feel free to re-read an old fave, if you'd like! :)

For Abby (age 14):

~The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (what can I say? It's a classic!)
~The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (in the vein of Hiding Place)

~Dorie, the Girl Nobody Loved by Doris Van Stone (a serious story for her to ponder)
~From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Frank E Basilweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (classic kid's tale!)
~To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (her thick classic to tackle -- how can this book not affect you? Abby will read it, I'm certain, and embrace doing so).
~Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (just for fun -- this is a funny one!)
~The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward (her biography read -- I think it's important for us to read biographies of inspiring people who have walked before us!)
~The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (I've mentioned this one before -- it's right up Abby's alley -- she has terrific taste in children's lit)
~Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (you need a short summer title)

For Em
ily (age 18):
~Let t
he Nations Be Glad by John Piper (this is her most challenging read, but I am confident she'll bite it right off -- Emily has a heart for missions, and this will be excellent for her)
~Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (this book is a teen fiction book about a Muslim girl
who chooses to wear the head-covering full time. I usually steer clear of teeny-bopper fiction -- as does Emma -- but this one is pretty interesting for the insight it gives into the mind of a young Muslim woman).
~The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
~12 Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur
~The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamilo (light read, but outstanding story)
by Patricia McCormick (here's another exceptional teen fiction story . . . I wasn't sure if I'd ever let my sister's read it, but I think Emma is mature enough for it. This book changed my life, and you can read how here.
~Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss (this was a great recent read for me, and I know Emma will like it!)
~Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (of course)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Summer Reading for the Kids. . .

To continue in the popular vein of summer reading choices (and to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of my blog, which is right around the corner), I thought I'd make some suggestions for the younger crowd . . . or the young at heart!

To read with your daughter(s): The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (great book about SUMMER!). It's a lovely tale of 4 sisters and their father and summer adventure that will make you feel like a child again! And if your daughter has not read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, you need to make it a rite of passage in your home! I've heard boys can be affected by it as well . . . but the message rings clear and true with girls.

To read with your son(s): Alabama Moon by Watt Key (warning: light swearing in this book, and I am not QUITE done with it. . . but it's really good!). Other good options for boys (some of these I've gotten from Josh, but tried and true when read to real live boys) -- Skinnybones by Barbara Park (VERY funny story of a kid who is terrible at sports, but has a loud mouth), The Twits by Roald Dahl (also The Witches).

To read with the whole fam: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mistmantle Chronicles by M.I. McAllister, Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (and anything else by her -- Return to Gone-Away Lake, The Saturdays, The Four Story Mistake, Then There Were 5, and Spiderweb for Two.)

To read with the little ones: God Knows My Name, I Love My Bible and I Can Talk to God by Debby Anderson. Cannot say enough about these -- they call for a whole post themselves! They're my newly-discovered favorite Christian picture books for kids. I know you can get them at LifeWay, or order them from Julie! They are also illustrated by Debby
Anderson, who illustrated Noel Piper's Most of All, Jesus Loves You. I admire Debby's skill in drawing simply adorable children of all colors loving their Bibles and learning about God. Each page makes specific Biblical statements about God, which are supported in fine print by Bible references -- WOW! As for a good new non-Christian picture book, I love Houndsley and Catina by James Howe, it won the 2007 Read-Aloud award.

Happy reading! Spread out a blanket under a tree, grab your water bottles and some good snacks to munch on, and create a summer tradition (whether you are reading with the kids or alone)!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thoughts on Summer Reading . . .

It's pretty important to me to have a summer reading list. I make a monthly list every month, but when summer comes, I make a huge list for all the days I call "summer" (usually June, July, August). I try to go for 25 books in a summer, including one thick juicy classic (usually Dickens), and a variety of others.

Here is what I'll be reading this summer:

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
The Cross-Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney
On Asking God Why by Elisabeth Elliot
From Homer to Harry Potter, a Handbook on Myth and Fantasy by Matthew Dickerson
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Legacy of Sovereign Joy by John Piper
The Civil War by Shelby Foote (at least part of the 3-volume series)
*Edit: Safely Home by Randy Alcorn, per the suggestion of Christen and Karen*

That's what I've got so far! I'm up for suggestions! What will you be reading? I'd be happy to make you a personalized reading list. . .

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Love ya, Mum (Marjalo, Mahatamuta, Mother-dear, Queen Mum)!

4 of the daughters with my mom at a Mother/Daughter brunch (shame on the sissy who didn't show!) My mom should have won the prize for most daughters. Anybody else got 5??

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Camp OUTT 101

Due to my last post, I've had quite a few people asking me exactly what Camp OUTT is, and I find myself answering in a brief, concise way, as not to bore anyone (I love this thing so much that I could ramble on and on). But then my blog buddy Karen asked me to give a little detail, and it seemed as though the Lord was prompting me to share more about what a unique ministry it is, in case it would inspire anyone else to do something like this someday!

To begin with, Camp OUTT was my friend Misty's idea. She had spent the summer in Russia teaching English, and her young students followed her around from morning until night (even when not in class). She did way more than teach them English, she invested time in them, and saw how responsive they were to her when she was playing wiffle ball, watching movies, cooking, reading stories out loud or just hanging out with them. She had the idea that we try to recreate such a thing as an outreach from our church, and spend a whole summer with kids in the community -- running a daycamp, which provides a service many parents need anyway.

Our church in Illinois owns this ideal property that was formerly a putt-putt golf course. It is a huge fenced i
n park-like property which is just big enough to really feel like you are living in the great outdoors, but totally safe because of the fence. It has trees and a bit of a hill, a sand volleyball court, and a pavilion to eat in, as well as a small building with a kitchen, bathrooms and enough room to all sit down and read in the air-conditioning. So that is where we began Camp OUTT.

Here is a typical day:

  • Kids arrive as early as 7:30. We jump rope, draw with chalk, play cards, and talk to the kids.
  • Opening time -- announcements, active worship songs
  • Bible lesson and small group application time
  • Game time (capture the flag absolute FAV!)
  • Small group reading time/morning snack (split up, take your group under a lovely tree and read from some wonderful chapter book and rest on a quilt together)
  • Encouragement time* (points given to individuals/teams) and more singing
  • Lunch
  • Short time of free play before clean-up
  • Inside whole group reading time -- we always read Narnia
  • Craft time
  • Surf 'n' Turf (fancy name for go put on your swim suit and play in the slip 'n' slide, wading pool, sprinklers, sand pit, hoses, etc.)
  • Afternoon snack and more awards
  • Maybe another round of game time (if desired)
  • Free time and clean-up.
As you can imagine, all the leaders play with the kids, talk to the kids, join in during craft time and reading time, making it a day when we really invest in being with and becoming friends with the kids. The leaders freely share Christ with the kids, and use the everyday circumstances to point them to Christ (you see how sin, forgiveness, etc. become a topic constantly in the midst of 30 kids).

*Encouragement time is designed to award kids for showing character qualities throughout the day. For example: "I'd like to give a coin to Rebekah for showing initiative by gathering up all the wrappers
after our snack this morning. She did it on her own without being asked" (that carries a bit more weight than just awarding kids for being "helpers"). Each leader keeps a chart of character qualities and their meanings on a clip board and writes names down through the day. Last year we had a pirate theme, so we awarded coins all day, and then one camper of the day would win the Pirate Medalian to wear around their neck (and keep). This year we are having a cowboy theme and the coins can be spent at the "General Store".

We do charge for Camp OUTT to cover costs and adult leaders are compensated with a sort of "thank you" check (not much but not nothing). Teen helpers are given camp scholarships, or another form of reimbursement (but not just straight up money -- you can't pay minors for child care).

That about wraps it up! I hope I didn't give so much info that it bored everyone, but I just get carried away because I love this ministry so much. The Lord has blessed us with fruit both summers we ran Camp OUTT, and we are praying for that again this year!

I'm taking suggestions for books to read aloud, active games that about 40 people can play, cowboyish snacks, etc. You can help with Camp OUTT by helping me with ideas!

Camp O.U.T.T. (opening up to truth)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sum-sum-sumah time . . .

It's the time of year that everyone asks everyone else what their plans for the summer are. Just a few weeks ago, I would have answered "I'll be doing just what I'm doing now!", with not a small pang of sadness.

But. . .

Bless the Lord; He made an alteration to the plan I had resigned myself to! Just a couple months ago, I wrote this expressing my disappointment that I would not be able to work at Camp OUTT again this summer. Camp OUTT is a daycamp I ran at my old church a couple of summers -- and it was SUCH a wonderful ministry. It is an outreach for people who need child care in the community, and what a perfect opportunity for building relationships with unchurched children and their families! You can read what I wrote about Camp OUTT last year here and here. I have some of the best memories of my life of those weeks.

And this summer we get to do it again! I can hardly contain my excitement. It is so much more blissful because the Lord took me through a time when I had to die to that hope, and give it up to Him, saying "Your will, Lord, not mine". That is just like Him to ask me to give something to Him just so He can hand it right back to me!

Please pray for Camp OUTT in these ways:
  1. For open, searching, needy kids to be signed up, and their hearts prepared to hear the gospel.
  2. For my friend Mandy, who is coordinating everything for me in Illinois, and expecting twins! (pictured at right -- Mandy, not the twins)
  3. For our team to be united, and everybody pitch in to get things ready.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dr. Mohler Steals the Show at SWI Spring Celebration

I've sung Mrs. Mohler's accolades before. But she has amazed me yet again tonight with her fabulous Spring Celebration she throws every year to honor the Seminary Wives Institute participants. Her hospitality class hosts the event (I will be taking that class as soon as possible!) and made it a truly top notch evening with delicious food (including a chocolate fountain), gorgeous decor (everything in hot pink and black, including Mrs. Mohler) and an abundance of prizes to give away! The show-stopper, though, was the radio melodrama Dr. Mohler wrote and performed -- a parody of the show "Desperate Housewives" -- yes, it was:

"Desperate Seminary Housewives!"*

After the laughter died down, and the giveaways were about to commence, a bit of a scream went up in the audience (not unlike the sound made by fans at a Beatles concert), and Southern's own rock star swept through the crowd tie-less and grinning from ear to ear. He headed straight for his wife, and there in front of us all, Dr. Mohler kissed Mrs. Mohler.


Afterwards, I was able to chase Mrs. Mohler down and get a picture with her!
You'll notice I am holding my planner. I did in fact show Mrs. Mohler my planner and told her she inspired me to get organized. She so congenially told me that she was proud of me (and that she liked the green)! How sweet!

I also had my picture taken with my teacher, Mrs. Hatfield, who taught our Leadership II class. Mrs. Hatfield insists that she has no talents or giftings except just being a nice person. I would reply that that seems to be an exceptional gift! She so sweetly remembered details about the lives of so many of the girls in her class (for example, asking me tonight how my visit with James and Christen was). Now that's a g
ift I need more of!

* The drama "The Case of the Missing Husband" portrayed desperate seminary wives who did not ever see their husbands due to excessive studying in the library or taking too many hard classes. One wife lamented to her husband "before you see your child again, he may be walking. . . he may be talking . . . he may be tempted by Arminianism!"

**Edit: Check back in case I am able to upload some pictures of Dr. Mohler's appearance as well as the audio of his performance.**

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Crowned with Honor

Perhaps most of the Christian world is already aware of the brutal murders in Turkey recently, where 3 of our brothers in Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice for their faith, but I doubt it. Most of us are so wrapped up in our high-speed American lives that things like this just pass us by without much thought. I know I tend to be like that. I was so glad that my friend Jenn posted about this horrific event. If you want to read about it, I'll point you to this article, which I link here with a warning (it does describe the violence that occurred).

I was blown away by this statement from one of the widows
, Shemsa. She told the world, “His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ… Necati was a gift from God. I feel honored that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honor. I want to be worthy of that honor.”

She feels crowned with honor because the Lord judged her worthy to give Him this sacrifice. My dear Christian sisters, how often do we lash out in pride because we feel as though our husband does not give us the respect we deserve, or feel frustrated due to what we consider unfair lack of possessions or beauty or prestige? We sigh discontentedly at the mirror over a bad hair day and jealously eye the cute outfit (or children, or car, or home) of the girl next door. Sobering, isn't it? We certainly do not know suffering like this, and we grow lazy and greedy because of the abundance of the blessing we enjoy.

I recently heard John Piper remark that it is difficult to be a Christian in posh surroundings (meaning the lovely Seminary we attend). This is true, becau
se we begin to think our comforts are necessities and our indulgences gods. More than anything, the news of these deaths have made me reflect on what a complacent Christian I am. I think you'll find these closing words from the article about the martyrs to be an inspiration, and I'll urge you to search your own heart:
"But we know He (Christ) did not leave their side. We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the un-subduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We know they knew they would soon be with Christ."