jesus saves, over and over again

I can’t really tell you the scripture this comes from, but I am convinced that Jesus doesn’t just save sinners.

He saves me, every day, every moment.  Each time I turn to Him when I feel small, or petty, or discouraged, or angry.  He saves me from that and sends me in another direction.

Right now I’m in one of those places in my life where I can fall into sin a lot.

the sin of pride – stiff necked and too prideful to accept help.  I keep telling everyone we are fine.

the sin of greed – I know we can’t afford things right now.  but I still want stuff.  mostly plane tickets.  And the occasional meal out.  But there is plenty in the pantry.  I just have to learn to be more creative.

The sin of unbelief – as I try to take over planning how to get Martin a new job and how to make our finances stretch and how to cope….There is nothing wrong with putting in effort, but the fact is that I’m not doing anything to help the situation…I’m just worrying at it inside my brain all day.  and worry is a sin.  It indicates that I think I can somehow fix something better than God can.  Hello? God or Deirdre, who do you think is the better, more experienced problem solver?  Which one of us has the greater set of resources to draw from? Which one of us knows the whole plan and what will be for the greater good?

um…that would be NOT me, but God.

There’s a great little mini sermon found on Travis Cottrell’s most recent CD.  The Live album that was recorded in Woodstock, GA back in January.  Beth Moore talks about Praising God in difficult times.

I listen to that piece every time I get in the car nowdays.  Just to jerk my brain back into the proper track.

God. Is. In. Charge.

God. Is. Good.

and I WILL praise His name.  Whether I feel it right this instant or not.

Oh, incidentally, I’m not being morbid here, but when I die, please make note, I want everything from tracks 10 through 14 of that CD played at my funeral.  The sermon by Beth, and then the songs that follow it.  Go ahead and have the eulogies first and let Phillip Shoultz sing my favorite hymn “And Can it Be” but then, after that, just put in the CD and let it run.  My funeral may start off as being about me, but it will end being all about GOD.  There will (hopefully) be people at my service who may never have darkend a church door before, and I want them to walk away knowing beyond any doubt that my hope is in Christ Alone.

Anyway.

um….back to my regluarly scheduled blog….

actually, you know what?  I think that was a good place to stop.

In Christ Alone, my hope is found.

’nuff said.

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a different way to celebrate the fourth of july

Last year, Fourth of July weekend was a bit of a bummer.  We were dealing with a broken adoption match and the heartbreak was intense.

This year was much different.

in front of the Fargo Airport, thank you Aunt missy for the bow!

in front of the Fargo Airport, thank you Aunt missy for the bow!

We now have Ginny.  Our sweet, loving, adorable girl who has changed our lives.  You would think we would be big into the fireworks and freedom celebrations.  Um, not so much.  First off I don’t know how a 10 month old would react to fireworks noises. I know she loves the lights, but the BOOM-BOOM might be a bit much for her little ears.

So for her first All-American Holiday, Ginny really didn’t have much of a fourth of July weekend.  But she did have a celebratory weekend.  It was actually a wedding weekend.  Our former choir director Phillip, got married on the 4th, so we didn’t do any fireworks per se.  It was a nice wedding though.  Very Lutheran and very Minnesotan.

Oh and we REALLY enjoyed the weather up there in Minnesota.  It’s at least 10 degrees cooler up there than Atlanta.  aaaahhhhh bliss.  Can I spend my Summers in Minnesota from now on, and my Winters in Atlanta?  Such gorgeous weather.  And green hills.  Did you know they raise elk for meat up there?  In pastures.  Just like cows.  I really wanted to stop and get a photo but we were pressed for time.

Also Ginny got to meet an Aunt from her birth family.  We were only 6 hours apart, so Aunt Sherry and Uncle Curt volunteered to drive to meet us.  Ginny certainly knew that she was meeting family, these arms are the only ones (other than mommy and daddy) that she went into willingly all weekend.  It was a amazing.  And Martin and I loved Sherry and Curt.  Really lovely people.

Unlce Curt

Uncle Curt

Aunt Sherry

Aunt Sherry

aren't we all cute?

aren't we all cute?

The whole weekend was wonderful….right up till the night before we had to fly back.

We knew we had a two hour drive to the airport Monday, and we still needed to pack.  But that shouldn’t be a problem.  We figured Ginny would go to sleep soon and we could pack while she slept.

Serious first-time parent error there.

Ginny started getting irritable around 5 or 6 p.m.  Even that failed to warn us of what was coming.

She calmed down a bit and we had dinner with the happy couple till midnight.  Ginny stayed awake through all that.  She clung to Martin and would not go down for sleep.

We needed to get up at 5 a.m. to pack and leave at 7 a.m…… so we really needed her to go down.  At this point Ginny decided that no one really needed any sleep.  She screamed all night.  And she wouldn’t accept comfort from anyone except Martin.  He sang himself hoarse.  We eventually got up, put Ginny in the car and drove to the nearest Wal-Mart (at 2 a.m.) and bought teething tablets, benadryl, ambesol and anything else we could think of that might help.

Ginny eventually nodded off for about 2 hours.  Just long enough for us to get an hour of sleep and get most of the bags packed before she woke up.

Poor thing.  Her first tooth wasn’t this bad.  I think it is because she is getting so many at one time.  Her little mouth is filled with teeth buds.

And no, I don’t have photos of that.  She will hardly let me see inside her mouth right now.  I can’t imagine trying to snap a photo.  So instead you will just have to be contented with photos of Ginny at the wedding.

hungry, hungry, hungry

hungry, hungry, hungry

babies don't have to wait in the recpetion line. lucky them!

babies don't have to wait in the recpetion line. lucky them!

daddy is soooooo much fun to play with

daddy is soooooo much fun to play with

first father-daughter dance. notice the bride and her daddy in the background

first father-daughter dance. notice the bride and her daddy in the background

Ginny dancing with some very important people

Ginny dancing with some very important people

hoofin' it all night long! let's par-tay!!!!

hoofin' it all night long! let's par-tay!!!!

bragging on Ginny

alright.  I am going to brag on my child.

It is going to be sickeningly sweet and gushy.  If you don’t want to read it you don’t have to.  But I’m a mom and it is good for me to occasionaly wax eloquent about my darling child.  Ask Missy over at It’sAlmostNaptime.  This was her idea.  and I like it.

If you don’t already know, my adorable 7 month old girl, her name is Ginny.  Actually it’s Virginia Altie Aspen Gerard Russell.  Her name story is long and has a lot to do with our wanting to honor the wishes of her birth parents.

so here’s my Ginny

on a recent camping trip

on a recent camping trip

and my favorite photo of her so far in life

five months old

five months old

Yes, she is almost always that cheerful.  And just to add some perspective she was sick with RSV when we took that photo.

I have the worlds most cheerful baby.

When I wake her up in the morning she laughs at me.

When I sing to her she giggles and hums along (not on key of course, but she is only 7 months old after all).

She loves restaurants.  People watching is her second favorite skill, next to napping in public. The child has never once given us any trouble in a restaurant.

She pays attention in church.  okay, I know Ginny is not actually listening to the sermons, but she sits up, at full attention, and gazes at the pastor while he talks, and the choir when they sing.  Oh and she has already done all of Beth Moore’s Daniel Bible Study.  Okay, she attended, but never did any homework.

Ginny loves her daddy.  She goes to him with squeals of glee.  He is an incredibly entertaining person in his own right, but nothing he ever did before was so worth watching as the times he lavishes on Ginny. (I guess I’ve kinda wandered into “bragging on my hubby” here, but I’m sure Missy will forgive me)

She is friendly.  I can’t hand her off to just anyone to hold, but she bestows her biggest smiles on just about anyone who says “Hi!” to her.  This child is gifted in the hospitality department.  I mean, just look at this smile:

happy baby

happy baby

She thinks things through.  I can almost see her thinking sometimes.  Especially when confronted with something new.  She stops and examines things with a sober look on her little face that is absolutely endearing.

figuring out her play gym

figuring out her play gym

Before Ginny came to live with us seven months ago I was frankly worried about mommy-hood, but now that I know Ginny, I’m no longer worried. I’ve got the worlds easiest, most cheerful baby.

thank you Jesus and thank you Mel & Steve for this incredible gift.

update on Ginny’s RSV

okay, we saw the doctor Wednesday and she said that Ginny was very very much improved and that she is gonna be fine.

the big thing now is to keep from re-infecting her, or adding any new infection on top of the one she has just fought off.

So Martin and I are sort of in a limited version of quarantine.  There is a certain amount of danger in that we are both still in work environments where we can’t control the state of the people we interact with all day.  But we try to mitigate that by hand washing and such.  the radical change in our lives is that we aren’t allowed to take Ginny to any of our usual places.  We can’t take her grocery shopping, or go out to eat with her (restaurants ARE her favorite place to sleep you will recall), or bring her to choir, or even church. Our friends are all convinced that we have dropped off the face of the earth.

But really, we are still here.  We are just living in a “very quiet style”

Continued prayers are appreciated.  My mom also got RSV because she is older and has already weakened lungs.  So it hit her kinda hard.   The timing was such that we don’t know if she gave it to Ginny, or if Ginny gave it to Grammy.  It really doesn’t matter.  But she too is feeling much better now.

singing through the pain

I don’t know if you have ever been in a choir gentle reader, but if you have you may understand this. There is a connection between a good director and his choir. It’s almost a relationship. And when the director moves on, away from a choir – for whatever reason – there is a grieving process.

Well, my church choir lost our director last week. Under really rotten circumstances. It was sudden. and it hurts.

Right before Christmas too.

Lovely.

Christmas is such a hard time of year to be hurting. Especially when you have to perform and help others to FEEL the good feelings that are supposed to be associated with this season. As a performer, you have to be emotionally open when you sing and right now most of us are clenching our teeth to keep from crying.

Makes it kinda difficult to emote, ya know?

Oh and in case you are wondering why I’m talking about this now, before Halloween. When I have such a huge hang-up about not doing anything Christmas-y too early? Well, because we were already working on Christmas music, one of the first comments from a fellow choir member when we found out about losing our director was “Well, now Christmas is going to suck”

um….yea. I thought. It is. ……oh crud.

But then I had to stop and really process that.

Christmas. the Celebration of the Birth of Christ was going to suck because of one man losing his job? a beloved and talented man, yes…..But dang it, this is NOT going to ruin Christmas.

Will it hurt sometimes to smile and sing? oh Yes. absolutely.

But there is a possibility that this year could turn out to be a very meaning-filled year for us. A chance to concentrate on God and His blessings with the strength born of desperation.

We NEED God to help us sing through Christmas this year. The ache in our hearts is instructive. It forces us to acknowledge just how much we need to keep our eyes turned to Christ. We are weak, but God is strong.

There is a great song, sung by Michael W. Smith that sort of encapsulates this for me. We are hurting. Tears are indeed falling. Violence has been done to our hearts. we SOOOOO need to hear from God. And in the midst of all this hurt, comes the celebration of Christ’s birth. The tiny baby, the tiny spark of hope and healing that will grow if we keep our eyes on HIM.

Thank you Jesus, for your timing and for your healing work that is already beginning. With absolute certainty, I claim your promise to speak to us and through us as a choir this season Lord. Bless us all. Every. Single. One.

Welcome to our world
(as performed by Michael W. Smith)

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting
Welcome holy child
Welcome holy child

Hope that you don’t mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long awaited holy stranger
Make yourself at home
Please make yourself at home

Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
World now breaking heaven’s silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile fingers sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorns
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around you
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect son of God
Welcome to our world.

a lullabye from the Most High

But now this is what the LORD says, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:1 & 2

Recently our church choir has sung a song based on this scripture. The feel of the melody is very much like a lullabye.

Perhaps this is purely because of my current situation, but I am more and more seeing God as being tender towards us, His wayward children.

Oh how often we react in this life out of fear.

Fear of rejection

Fear of loneliness

Fear of humiliation

Because of these fears and the grip they have on our lives we frequently choose to do some colossally stupid things, but God will still gather us into His arms and (if we read His word) sing this song into our hearts.

Do not fear for I am with you,
do not fear,
I have redeemed you.
Do not fear for I have called you by name
and you are mine.

Sometimes we think, God can’t possibly forgive ME, I have rejected His counsel, I have turned my back, I’ve done unforgivable things.

but look WHO he was saying this to:

Jacob. the deceiver, the trickster, the con-man, polygamist, failure, complainer

and

Israel. the chosen, beloved, anointed, tower of faith, father of the 12 tribes, blessed and blessor of nations.

Absolute opposites, right?

Folks, remember: Those two names belong to the SAME human being.

I really believe that God, by deliberately including the two names of Jacob/Israel in this verse was speaking directly to people like you and me. People who feel like they are in a cycle of faith/unbelief or obedience/disobedience. (and don’t even try to pretend that you haven’t been there too, cause we ALL have)

God doesn’t say that he will only help us when we have been good. He is reminding us that we ARE redeemed. WE ARE HIS. All we need do is turn to Him. No matter how many times we have needed His saving grace before. He’s already proven His stamina: just look at how the children of Israel treated God through out the Old Testament. They constantly turned their backs on him. How much would we do for an earthly person who would love us like that: perfectly, and without EVER withdrawing that love No Matter What.

Just let it sink in. The God of Creation. the Most High, the Mighty Deliverer has CLAIMED YOU. Personally.

Read it again.

Do not fear for I have called you by name,
and you are mine.

YOU ARE MINE

what would you do in the grip of such love?

my worth is determined by GOD alone

My soul finds rest in God alone my salvation comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation.  He is my fortress I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62: 1 & 2

My worth is determined by God.

It is not determined by my boss. No matter how tempting it may be to strive for his personal approval. I should do my job, do it to the best of my ability, enjoy being here and leave it at that.

It is not determined by how well I sing on any given day. As tempting as it may be to base my worth on my performance, I have to resist that urge and just immerse myself in worshiping the Most High.

It is not determined by how many friends I have or who invites me to lunch on Sundays. I’m really bad about this one. When I was a kid it was a mark of “wealth” and Popularity to go out to lunch on Sundays after church. I am constantly surprised at how much my heart aches when we occasionally go home from church with no social engagement. Which is crazy because most of the time I am just flat exhausted by Sunday afternoon and would probably be better off with a nap anyway.

My worth is not determined by how quickly I can look up a bible reference or how many bible verses I can quote by heart. Christianity is NOT a competition sport.

it is not determined by how long I’ve been a Christian. People who are “older in Christ” have no more or less worth than I. We are ALL children of the King.

My worth is not determined by how many hits my blog gets per day. As we have had various “big news” items come up in our lives the past few weeks I have been getting really big spikes in my “readership” but they are temporary. And I always put huge pressure on myself to “come up with something really good to post about” the day after a spike. Hoping to retain some of the new readers.

My worth is also NOT determined by my physical appearance. Yes I am overweight. Yes I need to do something about it. But the act of “doing something about it” should not be motivated by a type of self-hate. It should be motivated by a love for my creator who dwells in me and whom I, to a certain extent, represent. At least to the folks around me.

Think about it. If I am depressed or upset by criticism, if I allow my popularity to dictate my mood, if I come in to work depressed because I’m not in favor with the boss this week (which is what happened this morning and what prompted me to write this post), a very clear picture forms in the minds of my co-workers. “oh, she is no different from us.”

BUT If I cheerfully accept criticism as feedback, if I smile on everyone no matter how they treat me, and if I take care of myself not out of self-hate but out a love for God, a very different picture comes across.

I want to be that second picture.