Sunday, December 29, 2013

An End-of-the-Year Exhortment

View from our rental van as we headed to Louisiana for Thanksgiving.

 Earl preached a wonderful sermon this morning. I just had to share it with you. It was the perfect sermon for the last week of the year. It challenged me in guiding how I look back over the past year and how I look forward into the next. 

His sermon (or rather, his rallying cry) was entitled "The After-Christmas Sail" and it was based on Luke 2:18-20. If you know anything about Earl and I as a couple, then you know that this has been our "mantra" for the past 18 years, thanks to Earl's leadership in our marriage. And it has shaped how we have parented our children and what we have sought to impart to them before they leave our home. And it influences our hearts as we relate with friends, family and neighbors.

While most of those around us are thinking about those "after Christmas sales", we as the Church should be thinking through the after Christmas sail, or journey. How will we navigate through the days after Christmas, in a way that glorifies the LORD? Have you ever stopped to wonder what the shepherds went back to after they left the stable? Sure, they most likely went back to watching over their flocks (or washing their socks, as one young girl thought the Scripture said). In other words, they went back to their normal lives. And yet, how did the knowledge that a Savior had been born . . . for them . . . affect that normal life?

Point #1: Live (talk and walk) like you have a Savior. (Luke 2:10-12)  What is your response when you see your sin? Do you live like you are hopeless or can save yourself or can be saved by mere men? John Bunyan is quoted as saying, "One day as I was passing into the field . . . this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And me thought, withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he wants (lacks) My righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself."

Point #2: Live (talk and walk) like you have a God. (Luke 2:14)  Where do I turn when my needs aren't being met or when I'm not happy? Do I live like I have no resources or hope or like I must meet my own needs or as if I can find satisfaction in the things of this world? "You shall be My people, and I will be your God." (Jeremiah 30:22)

Point #3: Live (talk and walk) like you have a message. (Luke 2:10-11, 14, 17)  We have a message of hope! Our message is the good news of an able and willing Savior to all and the wonder of sovereign grace to many who refuse to come to God for mercy. The opposite of living like this is to live like I have nothing to say to those who are in my life or to live as if I can only speak hope to some in my life. "Today, a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord"! Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, "None of us loves men as Christ loves them; and if the love of all the tender hearted in the world could run together, they would make but a drop compared with the ocean of the compassion of Jesus . . . if anything can call faith into exercise [it is the knowledge] that Christ is willing to receive thee . . . All our Lord's sermons were so many loving calls to poor aching hearts to come and find what they need in Him . . . Beloved, there is nothing that so delights Jesus Christ as to save sinners . . . You misjudge Him if you think He wants to be argued with and persuaded to have mercy; He gives it as freely as the sun pours forth light. . . . Paul had no stinted Savior to present to a few, no narrow-hearted Christ to be the head of a clique, but he preached a great Savior to great masses, a great Savior to great sinners . . . My Lord Jesus, by His death, has become immensely rich in pardoning grace - so rich indeed that no guiltiness can possibly transcend the efficacy of His precious blood. . . . Do you know what it is you are rejecting this morning? You are rejecting Christ, your only Savior . . . I should be worse than a fiend if I did not now, with all love and kindness and earnestness, beseech you to "lay hold on eternal life'".

Point #4: Live (talk and walk) like you have a vision. (Luke 2:15, 20)  My vision for what to do in every situation and in every relationship is simply this: to trust and love according to the Word of God.

Point #5: Live (talk and walk) like you have a mission. (Luke 2:20)  I am to live as a satisfied servant to my family, church, workplace and world. Am I on a mission to make a difference . .. to the glory of God . . . in the various arenas of my life?  (Matthew 5:13-16)

As I am encouraging my own heart this afternoon with what Earl encouraged us at Coast with this morning, let me also encourage you as you wrap up this year to get alone with God and to ask Him, "Have I lived this past year like I have a Savior, a God, a message, a vision and a mission?" Confess where you see you haven't (there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ) and plead for grace to grow and to seek to go "higher up and further in" as you pursue greater intimacy with Christ and fight complacency!

May the God of the New Year bless us with more of Himself in 2014!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Was that a Compliment?

I think I was just complimented this afternoon by my 8 year old.

We were working on our writing assignment. The lesson was teaching us how to trade out those boring "to be" verbs for some more exciting and flashy action verbs. We were given a sentence where we then crossed out the "to be" verbs and then thought creatively on how to rearrange the words left and add some new really great ones. Molly and Annie and Jonathan and I were really wracking our brains to come up with some good sentences. But it was hard.

At one point, I had just finished helping to guide them through the process and we came up with a GREAT sentence, whereupon Jonathan exclaimed in his excitement at what he was part of producing,

 "I'm going to come to YOU for advice. You should live on a mountain!"

Boy, moments like that, where you see your kid's excitement over learning and accomplishing things, make this tough business of homeschooling our kids so worth it. So worth it!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Talented . . . or Just Silly?

The days are getting shorter and it's getting darker earlier. These are some of my favorite times. I used to especially love these days when the kids were all younger. Between the hours of 4-6pm, while I was working on chores and dinner, we would put on a radio drama or audio book and they would color or we had a favorite PBS show "Jakers" that we all loved to watch. We would giggle and the house just seemed so cozy and fun.

Now, the kids are older and "Jakers" is not longer on PBS in the US and we have worn out all of our audio books, etc. So, how are they spending these cozy afternoons now?

Well, those that weren't doing homework yesterday, pursued their interests and talents in some creative ways. Click on David's picture on the right to see what he posted last night.

Or follow this link.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Continuing the Bird Theme

I read this blog post tonight and it said what has been on my heart for years! So I wanted to share it here. It is written by Nicole Whitacre . . .daughter of CJ and Carolyn Mahaney . . . on their GirlTalk Blog. You can find the original post here.

Whooping Cranes and a Culture of Womanhood

Seven decades ago, the whooping crane population was nearly extinct: there were only sixteen birds left on the planet. Wildlife biologists got to work preserving the endangered bird and today there are almost six hundred whooping cranes and counting. 

(Yes, this is girltalk, not Animal Planet. Stick with me. The relevance of the whooping crane will soon become clear.)

The scientists weren’t content with boosting numbers; they wanted to restore the whooping crane “culture”—to help whooping cranes teach other whooping cranes what it means to be a real whooping crane. As it turns out, part of being a real whooping crane involves a yearly migration of upwards of a thousand kilometers to sunny Florida. 

So these wildlife biologists trained and then tracked the migrating birds. But soon an anomaly appeared. While some groups of migrating whooping cranes glided straight to their destination, other groups drifted forty to fifty miles off course.

There was only one difference between the birds that flew straight and “the crooked fliers:” an older bird in the group. The birds that flew more accurately followed an older bird.*

You probably see where I am going with this. A parable for Christian women. As younger women trying to fly straight according to God’s Word, we need older women to help us stay on course.

Scripture is clear about this. Titus 2 most famously tells us: “Older women are to teach what is good, and so train the young women…that the word of God may not be reviled” (v. 3-5). And peppered throughout the epistles are instructions for younger Christians to follow more mature Christians:
Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).
Join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Phil 3:17).

Three things (at least) stand out in these verses:
1.    Some Christians are older and some are younger (and it is important to know which you are).
2.   An older Christian is one who has an “outcome” (not merely an opinion) worth following.
3.   Younger Christians are to “keep their eyes on” the older Christians (not follow the younger Christians or figure it out for themselves).

These days, in our churches and on our blogs, we often get it backwards. Young women are quick to “test their wings” (sorry, I couldn’t resist!), to teach and take the lead, while older women are often marginalized or ignored. Young women can be more consumed with avoiding the mistakes of the previous generation than learning from their wisdom. We are often better at criticizing than following those who are older in the faith. We think we can find our own way. 
But there are also many young women who know they are young, who know they need an older, more experienced guide. They want to be mentored, but can’t seem to find anyone. “Where did all the older women go?” they wonder.

More than ever, we need experienced, fruitful women to teach and train the young women. We need those who have flown a straight path according to the Word of God to show us the way. We need to restore a Christian culture where younger women learn from older women what it means to be real women.

How can we make this happen? What does it look like? Let’s talk.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

His Eye is On the Sparrow

. . . as well as on the Pacific Golden Plover!

(I am home this Sunday morning with Jonathan who has a sore throat, though his fever broke sometime last night. Earl and I flipped a coin to see who would get to go to church and who would have to stay home. As always, Earl won the toss. He always wins. I’m going to have to check that coin he always insists on using! But . . . here I am with time to blog a little of what I’ve been meditating on lately.)

Getting back to the Pacific Golden Plover. Molly, Annie and Jonathan and I have really been enjoying studying zoology this year. We just finished learning all about birds. While studying the migration of certain birds, we were introduced to this cool bird. It spends the fall and winter on the Hawaiian Islands and then migrates north across the Pacific in the spring to Alaska or Siberia (about 2,000 miles!) or it heads south to New Zealand (about 8,000 miles!). Our textbook said that this bird migrates over water the entire way without stopping. In fact, it appears that this bird does not swim.

Can you imagine the Creator creating a bird that He specifically designed to migrate thousands of miles across water and then not giving it the ability to swim? I can. But I also can picture myself in the place of that little plover. I’d be the one on the shore, trembling as my time for departure drew near, pleading with my Creator not to make me fly across that ocean, just sure I wasn’t going to be able to make it and would perish in the sea.

God has used this little bird to encourage me. He has invited me to “consider His handiwork” and to learn more about Him and His promises. He reminds me that just as His eye is on the sparrow and the rest of His non-human creatures, so His eye is on me. And even more so! His promises to me are “precious and magnificent”! When I feel afraid of the road in front of me, and fear that I won’t “get across”, He reminds me that He has promised never to leave me or forsake me. He reminds me of the little Plover and that He has given me everything I need to undertake what He has asked me to do . .. in fact, what He has DESIGNED me to do.

We have identified a sweet little bird who has been frequenting our backyard every day. It is the Black Phoebe. Can’t get a good photo of him (her?) yet, but it is a flycatcher and a song bird. Every time I see it, immediately I think,

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?          Matthew 6:26


I love that our Creator gives us so much right around us to consider. What are you considering these days that draws your heart closer to Him?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Giving it back!

I have always enjoyed "messing" with our kids, in a fun way.
And it delights me to still have a "young one" (8 yrs. old) who still plays along.

I'm learning though, that the season is changing. 
I still love "messing" with my kids,
except now, 
some of them are starting to give it right back.

Case in point:

We have a much-loved rabbit whose hutch can be seen from the master bedroom window. Each of our kids have an assigned day where they are responsible for checking Midnight's food and water and letting him out each morning. Occasionally, I will notice that Midnight is still in his hutch and has been forgotten.

This morning's conversation:

Me: Did you remember all of your chores this morning?
David: Um . . . (thinking) . . . I forgot to feed Midnight.
Me (with a completely straight face): Honey, do you know how distressing it is for me to hear him sobbing in his hutch because he has not been let out yet?
Emily (from another room, shouting): Mom, do you know how distressing it is for us to know that you're hearing Midnight sobbing??

This is where I live.
And I'm LOVING it!!!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

And They’re Off!


Today was the long awaited day that David got his braces off.

(I can’t believe how much this boy has grown up during the process! The photo below was taken in August of 08 just after he began the initial phase of wearing a “functional appliance”. He was 10 years old!)

Here he goes out the door today. One last look!


Our orthodontist’s office is so fun to go to. The staff is so friendly and great! David came home with arms full of celebratory goodies. Just look at that smile. No longer is he afraid to hide it!


Now, here’s to living life with retainers . . . and learning to talk normally with them!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

47 Years of Faithfulness

As I was driving home the other night after dinner with a friend, it was one of those times where I was filled with gratefulness. The night was warm, very warm. I drove with the window down and sang along to all of my favorite songs, in an attempt to express the joy and gratefulness that just kept growing stronger with each sung lyric.

"I'm still feeling fine, after all this time, I'm feeling mighty fine today. Every day I climb just a little bit higher, walking up the King's Highway. I still want to go where the milk n' honey flow, and I'm not going to change my mind. Happy on this journey and I'm still feeling mighty fine."

"You put a song in my soul and I want to let out, the Spirit in my heart just makes me want to shout!"

"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow or changing with You!"

I have had the wonderful experience of watching the Lord Jesus fulfill His promises to me over and over again for the past 47 years! I wouldn't trade places with anyone right now. Seriously. 
Just truly grateful for where the Lord has me and all He has blessed me with.

My husband is amazing. He is everything I need in a husband. He loves the Lord Jesus passionately, he loves people, and he loves me so well - in word and in deed! Together we get to walk through this life talking, figuring out things, laughing, pondering, adventuring, and smooching.

And our kids . . . where do I begin? I so much enjoy being with them these days. They too make me laugh and I enjoy talking with them. Yes, we have our days, but thankfully we keep short accounts and they are quick to forgive this floundering (and aging) sinner!

For my birthday this month, I started the day off with my mom and my sister at a doctor's appointment for my mom and then we headed out to a delicious lunch of Mexican food! 

Later that evening, Earl and the kids and I headed down to the wetlands for a twilight stroll and then zoomed to the frozen yogurt shop for some dessert.

Yep, 47 years of finding the Lord to be faithful as I see Him keep His promises to me over and over again. 
And that is very helpful these days.

Because, although I wouldn't trade places with anyone right now, the Lord has me in some "difficult places".

One of my favorite Bible stories is when young David is standing before King Saul and is asked why he thinks he can fight Goliath when all of Saul's soldiers are afraid. David replies that God gave him the strength and ability to kill the lion and the bear when protecting the sheep and this Philistine, who is taunting the Lord's name, shall be no different. David had a lifetime of watching God give him what he needed to encourage him that God would continue to give him what he needed.

So, though I really enjoy my hours of sleep each night, my body has decided that it would like to be awake and up for 2 hours a night. I usually sleep for a few hours, then wake up with RLS (restless leg syndrome) and have to get up and head out front for an hour or so. I spent two weeks researching everything I could to eliminate this. I tried everything within reason - and some things without. I finally am resigned to this new season and my body is actually adjusting. When Jesus says it's enough, it will be enough. 

And in the meantime, I will continue to eat what I need to (foods that increase Dopamine production are recommended) and trust that my Lord is not allowing anything to come my way that isn't ultimately going to be used for my good. And I'm trusting that the Lord will give me exactly what I need to get through the day tomorrow. He gives to His beloved, even in her sleep - He doesn't specify a certain number hours for His promise to be effective.

So, here at 2am, I can testify that His grace is enough. His faithfulness has been proven to me over and over again. We will come out on the other side victorious!

Here is to 47 more years!


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Civil War Days

What do you do when you are in the middle of a heat wave?
Why, you drive thru Taco Bell and pick up some dollar drinks and then you head to Central Park for the annual Civil War Days.

 Look who we ran into . . .!

 We listened to him give the Gettysburg Address.

Just couldn't resist shooting this guy from the back.

What a really fun day!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Another Homegoing

Earl and I stood by the bedside yesterday of a very dear friend. He has days (hours?) left of his journey in this world. It was a sweet time, though our hearts grieved at not being able to experience the love of Jesus through him again in this life. We also grieved to see him in such discomfort.

There is a song that I love that has applied to only a few men that I've known in this life. Earl is one of them. Joel Towler is another.

The chorus has been running through my mind all this morning as we wait word that Joel's journey is finally over and he is now safely home.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Will I Know?

Over the past 17 years, I have been asked by young ladies, "Mrs. Miles, how did you know that Mr. Miles was the 'right' one?"

I realize that there are many factors that go into determining "Mr. Right". And there were for me as well. And deciding on WHO is Mr. Right is very different from deciding WHEN it is the "right"/time (to get married).

But there is one thing that stands out in my mind as being a very clear "deciding factor" for me. My relationship with Earl, from the very beginning, caused me to be in awe of all that God was, to love Jesus more, and it fueled my passion to worship Him in all that I did and said and pursued. My love relationship with Earl actually grew my love for the Lord, instead of competing with it. Our conversations about God and the Word and what He was teaching us and doing in us, were not just "dutiful conversations" that we had to make sure we had because we were Christians seeking a Christian marriage, but they were frequent and spontaneous conversations that happened because they were part of who we were and we desired to share ourselves with each other.

And yes, thanks to Earl's leadership in our marriage, I am stronger in my faith today, than I was 17 years ago. I am more skilled in applying the Gospel to myself and my children and others the Lord allows me to encourage. And Earl and I still talk spontaneously about all that the Lord means to us and is doing in us.

And yes . . . just like I did the night before we wed . . . I still often cry as we pray together and I reflect on the incredible goodness of my God who delights to meet the desires of my heart above and beyond all that I could ever ask for.

I'm lovin' life with Earl.

I'm blessed to tears by the Lord who has given me Earl!
Jesus truly is my good. I have nothing besides Him!

Just something to think about, young ladies, as you dream towards marriage.


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Let the Good Times Roll!

Good times.

How do YOU define them?

Looking through my “biblical worldview lens” I define them as “times designed and sent my way by an always-good God who always has my good and happiness in mind”.

So, let the good times roll!

After posting about needing to get a schedule written for school (July 16th), I suffered a very painful and debilitating neck/shoulder issue by the next evening, which pretty much ended my summer. . . as well as my plans for getting ready to start school. Three days after that, my mom suffered a small stroke. Thankfully, it was a small stroke and she is fine and living back at home alone, but it was scary and meant a week (seemed like a month!) of getting her set up with doctor’s visits, lots of phone calls and texts, rearranging plans here at the house, and falling into bed exhausted from it all. (So thankful for my amazing husband and kiddos who really shine during these times!)

But start school we did. This past Monday, the 5th.

Let me catch you up on a few summer photos before getting into the “school posts”.

The four younger kids bought boards this summer with some gift money and had a few days of fun with them. Hopefully we can fit in some more when it gets really hot here soon.

DSC_0033 (2)DSC_0037 (2)DSC_0040 (2)DSC_0050DSC_0085DSC_0104

We participated in, but didn’t win THIS year, in our church’s first chili-cookoff. But it was so fun and we really think we came up with a winning recipe. Just a little tweaking for next year. The competition is really tough!


Molly found another Groupon for horse lessons . . . DSC_0047


We brought Emily home from Worldview camp and got to hear all her exciting stories (looks like she is already hankering for next year’s camp!):

DSC_0011Worldview Academy Camp 2013

Our spider continued to be found in surprising places. You never know where it will turn up next . . .


We really loved having some dear new friends over again for dinner and learning from all of their life experiences and getting encouraged and inspired from their lives!


We enjoyed a few more days at Grandma’s swimming in her “resort” pool:


Emily and Molly got their hair cut:


David had fun rigging a “harness” for Thorn and taking him for walks and showing him off to young friends who visited:



Well, that looks like all the “events” I photographed this summer. It went quick and I didn’t take my camera everywhere, knowing that I had no time to edit, etc. (It is less fun for me to post photos that I don’t have the time to creatively edit.)


Last Friday, the Lord finally brought relief to my neck/shoulder issues through the use of some radial traction therapy at home (after 16 days of exhausting pain). I’m having to use the computer very sparingly and watch my reading and writing positions. That’s hard to do! Earl has me set up with a stool for my laptop, a special chair and an extra keyboard – all to help the neck keep from getting strained again.

My Mom is doing well and I call out there every day to check on her. The kids and I are going to head back out there to swim tomorrow.

Yesterday, Earl took on the role of “teacher” using the plans I left him and told me to take the day to work more on getting ready for the year. It was very sweet of him and I think he really enjoyed getting to see first hand all that the kids are working on this year:


Yep. Good times.

Because I am walking through this life with a good God. Scary at times? Yes. But He holds my hand and reassures me with His promises, like a good Father does. Painful at times? Yes. But He reminds me that He is there even in my pain and gives the grace to endure until He says “enough”. Exhausting at times? Indeed! Yet He refreshes me time and time again in small and unexpected ways.

Praying you are knowin’ good times as well!

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