You Can’t Out Give God!

Andrew gave all that he had.
The Wade Family Christmas is a large affair, with a gathering of over one hundred, our clan mostly dressed in Wranglers and boots, gather at a local reception hall. Each year, our extended family chooses a family in need. Often we donate food and firewood, and money. This year my parents, and the kids and I packed up our firewood to give to a family member going through a difficult time. After dinner, the monarch of the family announced another collection would be used to purchase new dentures recently lost at the nursing home.
            A few days later, I discover money and a note on the kitchen counter. I counted the money and read the note from Andrew: “New teeth.” I called Andrew into the kitchen to explain. He said, “Well, it’s not a lot, but it’s all the money I have, except for Wal-Mart gift cards. You can’t buy new teeth with a Wal-Mart gift card can you? We know two people who need new teeth and I want them to have my money. I have teeth. Everyone needs teeth, mom.” I cried. I lifted my head to the heavens and thanked the Good Lord above for this boy!
            We spent Christmas Eve with my parents, my sister and her children. After the presents were opened, my mom announced she had one more gift to give. She handed Andrew a crisp twenty-dollar bill and said, “Andrew, I heard about you giving all your money away to help buy new teeth for Wilton. This is for you!”  Andrew’s eyes lit up with excitement, and then he spoke, “But Grandma, this is too much. I only gave away $18 not $20.” She smiled at her only grandson and said, “No, you keep it!” From across the living room cluttered with wrapping paper, I asked “Andrew, what is it I always say about giving?” With a huge grin, he erupted, “YOU CAN’T OUT GIVE GOD!” It’s true; we can never out give God! In fact, the Bible says to test God on this subject.
Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
(Malachi 3:10 NIV)
            I received many treasured gifts this Christmas. However, the most treasured gift was watching Andrew walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s nudge to give; then watching his face light up when he received back more than he gave. That’s how God works. You can’t out give God!


~April 
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Loved & Chosen

“Hey sister loved by God, I KNOW that He has chosen you!”
1 Thessalonians 1:4 (paraphrased with attitude)

I am participating in a Thessalonians bible study titled Children of The Day by Beth Moore. Each time we meet we are to greet one another by saying, “Hey sister loved by God, I KNOW that He has chosen you!” With warm mugs of coffee we say that to each other and laugh.
This week I have been really meditating on that verse and that truth. First of all we are loved by God, and secondly, He has chosen us. I mean chosen us! I can remember years and years ago attending a women’s retreat, in fact it was the first women’s retreat that I had ever attended. It was an in house retreat where we watched the video series Anointed, Transformed, and Redeemed by Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and Kay Arthur. I remember sitting in a small group struggling with feelings of being a failure as a parent. (Do you see an underlying theme here, going on in my life?) Andrew and Rachel were little, both preschoolers, and just at that season of our life. I will never forget opening up to my small group and sharing my feelings. I was feeling like God gave these children to the wrong mom. I remember thinking “I can’t do this.” I felt like I wasn’t the right mother for these children. The small group leader Holly, looked at me and said “April, you have been chosen.” She reminded me then, as I was reminded this week in scripture that I have been hand picked by God for what He has me doing, right now. As I reflected on the words “Hey sister loved by God, He has chosen you!” I thought about how God used my friend Holly back then. I still have those words, faded now, written on an index card on the front of my refrigerator.
My friend Holly moved away around 5 years ago . I decided to send her this text: “Hey sister loved by God, I know that He has chosen you! I am studying 1&2 Thessalonians and I am praising God for you! I am thanking God for the day you revealed this truth to me many years ago at the women’s retreat.” Almost immediately, I got a message back from her telling me she was in tears. She had been up all night, wrestling it out with God, over an email she had received. She had been up all night praying and wondering if she had done or said something wrong to upset a friend. She said my message to her that morning was divinely appointed.
I love that! I love the way God uses scriptures and others to be boomerang effect. She encouraged me many years ago, in the Spring of 2008 (from the best of our memory) and now I was able to encourage her! In fact I asked her permission to tell this story, because I was sitting in my red chair while texting her, so it qualified as a Red Chair Moment.
Life is hard. But know this: You are loved by God and He has chosen you!
“Hey sister loved by God, I KNOW that He has chosen you!”
~April
“May you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12

A Place At The Table

         The opening scene of Downton Abbey is my favorite. I love watching the precision as each place setting is measured and each piece of crystal and china is carefully positioned with a soft white glove. The scene is regal and formal. This scene is an antonym of dining at our home. Most of our meals are at the kitchen bar and only sometimes eat at the table. We eat off chipped plates. There is no fuss and no linen napkins. In fact the china in this photograph (which I had to dust off) is packed away and never used. I actually wonder why I registered for china when we were married
          “A big stick of dynamite with a short fuse” is how my Dad often described me growing up. There is so much truth to that statement that I’m embarrassed to admit it. Perhaps my biggest struggle is self-control. This morning I lost it! The children interrupted my coffee and quiet time with arguing and bickering. They had multiple wardrobe changes, hair issues, and couldn’t find their stuff for school. Grrr! Does anyone know what I’m talking about?
            I quickly apologized for my outburst and asked for forgiveness, but I still felt like a loser parent. This is not how I wanted to start my day. Nor was this how I wanted to send my kids off to school. Today was my day to volunteer at the school. I finished up my volunteer project in time to eat lunch with Rachel. I asked if it was okay that I eat with her, luckily, she said “Yes!” I wasn’t sure if she was “too cool” to eat with her mom so I let her make that decision. (I also wasn’t sure if she was still upset with me over my earlier outburst.) As I glanced around the newly remodeled lunchroom I had to ask “Where do you want me to sit?” If you remember back to school, where you eat and who you eat with is very important!
“You will always eat at the King’s table.” 2 Samuel 9:13
            After lunch, I found a quiet place at the school for my devotions (which was interrupted earlier in the day due to fashion drama). I read the story of the friendship between David and Jonathan. The only problem is that Jonathan’s dad, King Saul wanted to kill David. Jonathan instructs David to go into hiding. But before he leaves they make a promise to not cut off any kindness to any remaining family members no matter what happens (1 Samuel 20:15). Years later, Jonathan and his evil dad, King Saul dies. David, the shepherd boy who killed Goliath is now king!
            David honored his promise with Jonathan and sought out to take care of any remaining family members (2 Samuel 9:1) As it turned out Jonathan had a crippled son named Mephibosheth or “Bo” for short (2 Samuel 4:4). David sends for the crippled son of his best friend and tells him “Don’t be afraid, for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan…you will always eat at my table.” (2 Samuel 9:7). The words from the following verse resonated with me “He always ate at the king’s table and he was crippled in both feet” (2 Samuel 9:13, NIV).
            Sitting at a table outside the kid’s school, I began to cry. I may not be physically crippled, but my temper can be crippling. I ask God to help me with self-control so I don’t cripple my relationships. I think back to Rachel being excited to have lunch with me even though I lost my temper that morning. I can hear the words from our Pastor Karl Hofheinz, “Parents, whatever you do, don’t train wreck the relationship!”
            “He always ate at the king’s table and he was crippled in both feet.” Those words remind me that God may not always take away our problems, but we will always have a place at his table! I am reminded that as a believer in Jesus Christ, I will always eat at the king’s table! I don’t deserve such lavish grace, but He serves it anyway!
Grace is always served at God’s table!
            Until heaven, we will all remain imperfect and crippled by something. But I am thankful I serve a God who serves grace at his table. Grace dipped in chocolate and served with coffee! Remember, whereyou eat and who you eat with is not only important in elementary school but for all eternity.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”-Jesus in Revelation 3:20
 ~April

“May you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” Romans 1:12
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Camp

Our kids went to Camp Eagle this week, and I am surprised we haven’t received a letter from them. Scratch that–I am surprised we haven’t received a letter from Andrew. Camp Eagle is a church camp nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Fincastle, Va. Our children have spent many years attending the day camp programs, but this was their first week long, overnight camp.

We have been covering this week at camp in prayer for months, honestly over 6 months! As time grew closer, both Andrew and Rachel became increasing nervous about being away from home. Both children have their quirks when it comes to sleeping habits which caused great distress. I assured them that there would be other kids at camp who slept with a stuffed animal or needed a night light.

We tried to calm their fears by sharing our own camp experiences, but the kids gave us the “you’re-too-old-to-understand-look.” I even shared a story from my coworker, that when her twin boys went to camp they were embarrassed to have Spiderman underwear. Just a few days before they left for camp she had to buy all new underwear! When the boys arrived at camp, with their “grown up” underwear, everyone else in their cabin was wearing…you guessed it…Spiderman!

Every night before bed we would pray over their week at camp. We would pray for the kids bedtime quirks, pray the kids would meet new friends, be courageous to try new adventures, and deepen their relationship with the Lord. 

Most importantly we would pray this simple prayer that the kids have committed to memory:
“I will trust and not be afraid.” Isaiah 12:2
Andrew wrote these words on a note card and taped it to his bed. Every night he would repeat it over and over. Even at camp he had printed that verse on a piece of paper to read every night. Tucked inside their suitcases was a envelope containing my bedtime prayer over them, always ending with the powerful words from Isaiah “I will trust and not be afraid.”
We arrived at camp at 9:00am Monday morning. The kids were silent as we pulled off the main road and drove down the long gravel road leading deep into the wooded camp. Upon arrival the kids realized they recognized a few of the camp counselors. Some of which attend their school or who had just graduated and are working at the camp for the summer. The tension began to ease. Andrew and Rachel were calling out the names of everyone they saw that they knew. The excitement was building!  Rachel immediately recognized a girl who was her counselor and was brimming with happiness. When we stepped out of the truck Andrew heard a voice above the others saying “Andrew, I’ve been waiting for you! Dude, I’ve been waiting for you all Summer!” Andrew beamed! His favorite senior from school last year was HIS camp counselor!
We haven’t heard from the kids, which is a good sign that they are having too much fun to write home. I know God has answered our prayers.  Would you like to take a guess at Andrew’s camp counselor’s name? Isaiah!
As adults we can smile at the unnecessary worries like kids going off to camp. But really, when you think about it, we do the same thing in our own lives. We too become worried about the uncertainties in life: a health scare, career change, job security, being relocated, moving, etc. In the midst of all that we need to remember to trust in a Holy and perfect God and not be afraid!
I am a mess and tend to worry too much and try to control too much. I too need to learn to trust more! My time on earth is only temporary, but because I have placed my trust, faith, and salvation in Jesus Christ I will spend eternity in heaven.  One day, I too will hear a voice above all the others saying “April, I’ve been waiting for you!”
“I will trust and not be afraid!” Isaiah 12:2
~April
“May you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12

Mommy-Son Date

Andrew and I dropped Rachel off at Fiddle Camp and were giddy to begin our date. We had five uninterrupted hours of quality Mommy-Son time! Our destination, the movie theater to see Disney’s new movie Maleficent.  Andrew proposed that if I bought the movie tickets, he would pay for popcorn. Deal!

I won’t give away any movie secrets, but I will say that Maleficent puts a new spin on the old classic story of Sleeping Beauty.

My favorite part of our date was not the movie, but rather the conversation in the car ride afterwards. My soon-to-be-sixth-grader said “Mommy, there is a bunch of symbolism in Maleficent, like good verses evil, pride and corruption, jealousy and hate, evil disguised as good.”  For the rest of the car ride we talked about the symbolism and the curse. There is a scene in the movie where Maleficent states “This curse will last until the end of time and no power on earth can change it.” We talked about the curse we are all under “thanks to Adam and Eve for messing it up for the rest of us” Andrew said. Just as in the movie, I reminded Andrew there is no power on earth that can change it. Fortunately, the God we serve is not of this world. From heaven, Jesus was sent to break the curse of sin that was placed on the earth. Our firm belief in Jesus Christ is our saving grace from the curse.

Question: Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Answer: Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any other powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-Romans 8:35, 38-39



Our conversation shifted and Andrew asked is it possible to lose our salvation. He wondered if you could still be saved from the curse even if you asked Jesus in to your heart, but then don’t always do right. “Absolutely!” I replied. That is the wonderful thing about God’s grace and forgiveness. We are always going to mess up and not do right, but as long as you truly believe Jesus died of the cross for our sins and you have asked Jesus into your heart, he is mighty to save!

I had a marvelous five-hour date with my 11-year old son. Later on in the evening, he tapped on the window and silently signed 1-4-3 our secret code for I love you. With tears in my eyes I signed 1-4-3-2. I harbor a lot of parental guilt. I tend to yell too much and play too little. I don’t always get things right. (This is why the lyrics to the song “How He Loves” written by John Mark McMillan and recorded by the David Crowder Band, mean so much to me. “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves me!”)

After I crawled into bed I wrote in my prayer journal: Lord, I don’t always get things right, but today I did! Lord, I love you too!

~April

“May you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12

Leaving A Legacy

 

Grandpa Andrew sat hunched over, bible resting in lap. The crisp white shirt sleeves rolled to his forearm.  Denim Pointer coveralls, covered his lanky frame. Deep creases cover his leathered face, evidence of a hard farming life. His hands, gnarled with arthritis, rest on the back of his head while he read and prayed.  At every visit, I would find my grandpa in this posture of prayer.
With each visit Grandpa would ask “Have you told someone about Jesus today?” Often, I would be ashamed to see my Grandpa because I knew the question he would ask and my answer would be No. As a child, I was unaware of my Grandpa’s previous battle with depression; a taboo topic for someone of his generation. God had mercifully delivered him from depression, thus he continually shared the goodness of the Lord with all who entered his door.
My grandparents have long passed away, but their memory is still fresh in my mind. I remember the narrow rutted out road to their farm. My sister and I would argue over who was going to open the cattle gate as we approached the house. I recall Grandma’s beautiful gardens and the peonies that drooped with the weight of their blooms. The aroma of coffee and fresh biscuits wafted through her kitchen no matter the hour. I can remember the earthy smell of the barn, where Grandpa taught me to shuck corn and peel apples in one long peel.
“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders He has done… So the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and not forget His deeds” (Psalm 78:2-3,6-7, NIV).
Prayers are eternal and are not limited to our natural laws of time and space. Unlike a milk carton, prayers have no expiration date. In his book The Circle Maker, author Mark Batterson explains “Prayer is the inheritance we receive and the legacy we leave.” He also says “God’s faithfulness to answer our prayers continue after we are gone.
I know that my life have been shaped by the consistent prayers of my Grandpa Andrew. His posture of prayer embedded into my heart a legacy of faith to the next generation and the generation yet to come. 

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