Thursday, March 24, 2016

She said YES!

And now her heart belongs to HIM.

Her heart has actually belonged to Him since June 10, 2015.  That was the night Hannah Kate made a profession of faith, called out to Jesus as her Savior and asked Him to be LORD of her life.  We were at kids' camp.  It was the last night of camp.  At the worship service that evening, the camp director presented the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ and extended a very passionate time of invitation and response to Jesus.  I don't even remember now what he said.  I don't even remember the song that was played.  I was sitting beside Hannah Kate, and I KNEW.  Those cheeks were red hot, her lip was quivering and the tears welled and welled until they spilled over and splashed down her face.

"Godly SORROW brings REPENTANCE that leads to SALVATION and leaves no regret . . ."

~2 Corinthians 7:10

I asked her if she wanted to go to the back of the room and talk, and she shook her head, "Yes."  We found a quiet corner, and I asked her why she was crying.  I already knew the answer.  I just needed to hear her say it.  And she did.

"I want to be saved."

Why, Hannah Kate?

"I am a sinner."

I wasn't surprised.  We'd already had conversations for two years.  She had asked several times to be baptized.  But we always wanted to be absolutely sure that she really understood the concept of sin . . . that SHE was a sinner . . . and that because of her sin, she was separated from God . . . and that the only way to God was through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ . . . His gift given to us by His GRACE.  There were so many times when I felt like I was "holding her back."  There were so many times when I questioned whether or not we were doing the right thing.  I mean, she'd been asking for two years!  I knew she had the "head knowledge."  I also knew . . . I SAW . . . the ways the Lord was working in her life.  We've seen that for quite some time.

I wish I could remember the date, but I can't.  I think it was the fall of 2011.  Hannah Kate was three years old, almost four.  We were at a revival.  All of a sudden during the invitation, she started crying.  I mean, bawling.  And so much so that I actually had to take her out of the sanctuary!  I so wish I could remember the song we were singing, but I can't.  She could not articulate to me why she was so upset.  I just thought that perhaps it sounded "sad" to her (much like Away in a Manger sounded so sad to me as a child that I cried every Christmas time we sang it!).  She has always been very sensitive, very emotional.  But one thing I'll never forget is my mother-in-law insisting that it was the Holy Spirit moving in Hannah Kate's heart.  Because she was so young at the time, that was one of those things that I just tucked away for awhile.  I wish now I could remember the time, the song, the circumstances.  Looking back, the only thing I can say for sure is that I do believe the Holy Spirit was speaking to her heart.  And she was listening!

That night at camp, I again walked through the Roman road with Hannah Kate . . . the Bible says we ALL have sinned (Romans 3:23), and our sin deserves death (Romans 6:23).  But Jesus died for our sins (Romans 5:8) so we could have eternal life (Romans 6:23) if we confess Him as Lord and believe He is alive (Romans 10:9-10).  We prayed.  All I wanted to do was scoop that girl up in my arms and go to a quiet place so we could talk some more.  The time of invitation was over, and it was getting loud.  She was ready to go back to her seat so we did.  But when I think back to that night, I do wish we had more time.  She didn't need more time.  I did.

It's hard to find the words.  Obviously.  It has taken me four days . . . FOUR DAYS . . . to write this post.  I still feel the exact same way I did when Mason accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord:

As for me . . . well . . . like I said, I'd always imagined what the day would be like when each of my children would profess Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.  But IT WAS NOTHING LIKE I IMAGINED!  I thought I'd want to shout it from the rooftop.  I mean, I did, but then again, I didn't.  I can without a shadow of a doubt say that that was one of the most humbling experiences of my life!

Oh, that my own heart would be grieved enough for my own sin that I would sob tears of repentance like my son did!

Just humbled.  And in awe.  In awe of the awesome power of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the voice of the Holy Spirit that calls us and draws us to Him.  

I can honestly tell you it was no less humbling, no less amazing, no less awe-inspiring when I had the opportunity to lead and pray with Hannah Kate to accept Christ than it was with Mason.

No greater joy.

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."  ~3 John 4

NO GREATER JOY.  Because my deepest prayer for all of my children, first and foremost, is that they will surrender their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and call upon Him for eternal salvation and life.

But when we got back from camp, the unexpected happened.  Hannah Kate did not immediately make her profession of faith public in our church.  We talked about it several times.  She knew what she needed to do.  But she couldn't do it.  She couldn't step out of the pew and walk down the aisle.  And I was reminded that she is, indeed, a very shy and quiet child.  She is so full of life and energy and love, but she is not my most outgoing one.  I never once doubted her salvation experience.  Never once.  But it was hard because this was one of those times when I couldn't "make" her "do the right thing" or do what she was "supposed to do."  It was hers to do.  So I prayed.  When Christmas came and she wanted to sing a solo in the musical at church, I wasn't sure how that was going to go.  But she did it.  She stepped out of her comfort zone big time on that one.  And it was at that point that I was hopeful she would then be comfortable making her profession of faith public.  But I still didn't say anything.

And then it happened.  As part of our homeschool curriculum, Hannah Kate memorizes a new Scripture verse every two weeks.  About five weeks ago, we began a new verse.

" . . . the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings . . ."  ~Revelation 17:14

We spent two weeks studying this verse with particular emphasis on Lord and King.  She'd already learned and studied a verse earlier in the year about Jesus as the Lamb of God.  We talked a lot about what it means that Jesus is Lord and King, what our lives should look like if, indeed, Jesus is our Lord and King.  We looked at other verses in the Bible, talked a lot about obedience.  

When I woke up on March 2, I knew immediately that this was the day the Lord wanted me to again discuss the subject of baptism with Hannah Kate.  I'd not done that since last summer!  I had decided to wait until later in the day when school was over, and we could have some "alone time."  Well.  God had another plan.  We were again reciting Revelation 17:14 and talking about Jesus as Lord.  Hannah Kate looked at me and said, "Mom, when am I going to get baptized?  I am ready to be baptized."  I was shocked.  (But not really.)  So I basically told her that was up to her because she knew what the Lord was calling her to do, and it was her choice as to whether or not she was going to obey Him.  That following Sunday we already planned for her to spend the weekend in Houston with the cousins.  So she wouldn't be at church.  She assured me that she would do it the next Sunday, March 13.  So we talked about it, and I told her that she could then either be baptized on my birthday (March 20) or on Easter (March 27).  No pressure, right?!

March 13 came, and I was excited.  I think she was excited, too.  We talked about it one more time, and she assured me she was ready.  The time for the hymn of invitation came.  I went to the piano.  I started playing and singing.  I waited.  And waited.  We sang three verses.  And it was over.  She didn't move.  She was still in that pew.  My back was to her, and when I turned around and looked at her, she was staring down at the floor.  My heart ached so badly for her.  When I put her in bed that night, she started crying.  I asked her why she was crying.  She didn't tell me, but she didn't have to.  I knew.  So I gave her a hug and told her that she didn't need to be upset.  There would be another Sunday.  

I started praying.  And I asked my BSF small group to pray.  Until that time, we'd not shared with anyone regarding her decision to accept Christ.  So my BSF sisters prayed along with me that week that the Lord would give Hannah Kate the courage to follow Him in obedience to a public profession of her faith in Him and baptism.

When Sunday (March 20) came, Hannah Kate was determined that she was going to walk down that aisle (although, we sit on the front row so there really isn't any aisle to be walking down!).  She sat in between Seth and I during the sermon.  Usually she sits with her grandparents.  Abbie passed a note to me that Hannah Kate had been complaining that her tummy hurt.  So I whispered to her, and she told me it didn't hurt anymore.  I knew she was a bundle of nerves.  When the time came for the invitation, I didn't know what was going to happen.  I started playing, and before the introduction was even finished, I saw her from the corner of my eye walking up to our pastor.  I know it took every ounce of courage she had, even courage she didn't have!  But that's what the Lord does in your life when you commit to following Him and living your life according to His Lordship!


And this Easter Sunday, Hannah Kate will be baptized.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Of Crowns and Such

I think this is a perfect way to say what March has been like!  I will never understand it, never comprehend it, never be able to explain it or justify it.  But I don't have to.  I just believe it.  And the ONLY reason it's even believable is because God says it.  Jesus did it.  Therefore, truth.

So after a really busy February of painting and "construction" and moving Ellie into her new room, I had to take a break from all of that.  It's still not finished.  The new baseboards and crown still need to be painted.  The new wall in the playroom still needs to be painted.  But February wore me out, and I haven't picked up a paintbrush since.  Unfinished projects just make me crazy.  So I guess I've been a lot of crazy lately.  But today I finally moved all of Ellie's clothes out of my closet (yes, I was still sharing my closet with her even though she and Hannah Kate had been sharing a room for two years) and into her closet.  I honestly forgot how big my closet really is!  I also purged all of the clothes that the kids have outgrown lately (which is A LOT) and switched their "winter" closets (which is quite a joke considering the fact that we never even really had a winter this year and I never even bought them coats this year!) into "summer" closets (because obviously we aren't even going to have a spring either since we already in the mid-80s!).  So today was quite productive.  Maybe by the end of the month, the painting will be done, too.  Or not.  We'll see.

It's mostly been life as usual around here.  We're approaching the last few weeks of school, the last few weeks of our first homeschool year.  And I can hardly believe it!  I mean, I can still hardly believe we're even doing this whole homeschool thing to begin with.  And as much as I am so ready for a break from lesson planning and formal schooling, I can hardly believe it's almost summertime.

I have to say that the kids - all three of them - have lapsed into a bit of spring fever.  I don't think I'm going to get Ellie back this school year.  She's had enough.  "Mama, do we HAVE to do school today?!"  I think I got Hannah Kate back today.  And Mason is working hard, but he does have his eye on May 4.  You know what I realized this week?  As of May 11 (the day of Mason's last final exam), I will have a MIDDLE SCHOOLER.  Yes.  A middle schooler.  When did that happen?!

And speaking of Mason, it's baseball season again.  Last year we switched leagues and decided to stick with our new league this year.  But it's a new season so we are on a new team with a new coach.  Mason and his best buddy are on the same team again this spring so he's really excited about that.  They've been practicing for about three weeks now, and their opening tournament is this weekend (maybe, because, rain).  Last week Seth sent me this picture from practice.  In case you aren't familiar with a baseball field, Mason is standing ON THE PITCHER'S MOUND.  
Can I just tell you how nervous this makes me?  I mean, I don't know if he's going to pitch or not.  There were five, I think, that they were practicing with.  If he's not going to pitch, he's been on first base.  Again.  Can I just tell you how nervous this makes me?!  I mean, I was good when he was in the outfield.  We've always been in the outfield.  You know, less pressure.  Besides, Mason is honestly not the best player on the team.  We play only spring ball and not summer, fall or travel ball.  He practices in the yard with Seth.  He goes to a week of baseball camp at LSU.  But that's about it.  So to see him on the pitcher's mound or even on first base is quite a stretch from where we've been.  But.  He's growing up.  He's done A LOT of growing up this past year.  I'm just glad I had a front row seat.  But.  I. am. nervous.

And Hannah Kate.  She came downstairs this morning and bounced into the kitchen declaring, "Hey Mom.  I fixed my hair."  She's at "that age."  And I often have to figure out how to nicely and discreetly convince her to let me "help" her without her realizing that I really am re-doing the whole thing.  So I never quite know what I'm going to get, but it really didn't matter to me because we weren't going anywhere today.  I just wasn't prepared for what I saw when I turned around.  She had her hair swept up in a bun (I mean, I didn't even know she could do a bun!) on the side down at her neck.  She stuck a flower in it for good measure.  I nearly died.  I was stunned.  She is eight years old.  So I'm not sure at what point she began looking all teenager-y or tween-agery or whatever.  She's growing up, too.     

I mean, I know she's growing up.  Of course she is!  But sometimes I feel like I just don't notice her like I do the other two.  She is so easy.  Always has been.  Mostly.  I have spent so much of the last four years focused on Mason's schooling.  Nearly all of what energy I have had has gone into making sure Mason got what he needed.  And what energy was left was spent nursing Ellie as an infant and then chasing Ellie as a toddler and now parenting Ellie through the three's.  Hannah Kate has been with me through it all.  Every step of the way.  But there are some days that she just stops me in my tracks.  She leaves me breathless.  She leaves me wanting more . . . wanting to go back to the days and times that were so consumed with other things besides her so I can enjoy just her . . . wanting to go back to what I might have missed because circumstances necessitated that my attentions were focused elsewhere.  This girl.  I just don't even know what God has in store for her life.

She's getting ready to dance her five-year solo on the big stage at the recital this year.  The dancers get to choose their own costumes (within the guidelines of the studio, of course).  We borrowed all of Abbie's old costumes to see if we could find something.  And we did.  Of all the costumes she tried on, this one was her favorite.

And then there's Ellie.  A friend of mine commented yesterday how her three year old was much more challenging to parent than as a two year old.  Yep.  I hear you, sister.  I have to say.  I. am. there.  I think Mason was the easiest three year old EVER!  Besides the fact he did not want to potty train, he was so easy-going and even-tempered.  He just did whatever.  Hannah Kate was an easy three year old, too.  She's always seemed older than her years to me.  But Ellie.  She's my challenging one.  So very challenging.  (Or maybe I've just forgotten!)  

I mean, she is pure life and love and joy and laughter and fun.  But she keeps me on my toes, to be sure.  I found some pictures on my phone that I'd taken last month when we went out to eat before taking the kids to the LSU gym meet.  I was sitting across the table from her.  I don't remember what we did that day prior to going out that evening, but I do remember that she was very tired.  And also unusually quiet and introspective at the supper table.  Totally not like her at all!  I'd have given anything to know what she was thinking.  It was one of those moments that was so quiet, so peaceful, so awe-filled.  It was one of those moments that made me stop and breathe and be truly thankful for this beautiful little three year old girl, no matter how challenging the days are.

And then, of course, she figured out I was snapping pictures of her so she immediately remembered who she was and where she was.  Ellie was back!

I begged her for one more picture.  This face.  I could just eat her up!

And then there's homeschooling.  Like I said already, we're almost finished with our first year.  I realized a couple of days ago that Hannah Kate has only nine math lessons left.  NINE.  We still have to complete 180 days of school.  We are about 35 or so days away from that.  So obviously we are going to finish 2nd grade math well before the last day of school.  She finished 2nd grade spelling in January so we've already started 3rd grade spelling.  We also started a new grammar curriculum this week to give us some more school days.  It looks like our last few weeks will be very science and humanities intensive.  And maybe she'll learn the rest of her multiplication facts or something.  All I know is that this sums up my first year homeschool mom experience PERFECTLY:
I've had many humbling experiences in my life, but none more so than this.  Marriage?  Yep!  Parenting?  Absolutely!  But homeschooling?  It definitely takes the cake in the humility department!  So the whole "wearing a crown" thing?  Yeah, that's me.  Believe it or not, that's me.  I certainly do not FEEL it.  But that's what God says.  And, if you'll excuse me, I need to straighten my crown so I can go to sleep.  I mean, don't you sleep in your crown, too?!

"But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."  ~Titus 3:4-7