Legacy

JoelThompson4HLegacy

4-H Grows a Legacy
Joel Thompson, Lafayette Parish
Louisiana State Citizenship Board Member, 2014-2016

“I am a fourth generation 4-H member. My great-grandmother, grandfather, and mother were all 4-H members who went on to become 4-H agents, 4-H club leaders and life-long 4-H volunteers. Their example taught me what it truly means to pledge my head, heart, hands and health to the betterment of my club, community, country and world. As a result, 4-H has become more to me than just winning blue ribbons or attending summer camp. It is a foundation for my future that connects me to my past. I’m proud to say that 4-H has always been a huge part of my life, and thanks to my family’s 4-H legacy, I’m sure it always will be.”

Yesterday, the above photo of my son Joel and his quote about 4-H was shared on social media by the Louisiana State 4-H Office.  It’s part of a new 4-H marketing campaign in which 4-H members, leaders, volunteers and alumni share the positive character traits and values that being involved 4-H helped to grow in their life.

When Joel was first invited to be a part of this marketing campaign, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to emphasize. After all, 4-H has taught him and his siblings so many skills, far more than just the basics of how to give a demonstration or how to sew on a button. It’s given him opportunities to grow as a leader, to serve others in meaningful ways, to prepare and give speeches, and even how to be a good competitor (especially when you don’t win).

But as we talked, Joel and I both began to realize how 4-H is more to us than just a club. Like me, Joel knew about 4-H long before he ever joined at age nine.  From the time he was a toddler, he heard the stories of how his grandfather, my dad, showed blue-ribbon winning 4-H lambs. He would stand next to me in the kitchen as I told him how I started cooking when I was nine, all because of 4-H …and I heard my grandmother tell me those same tales as she showed me how to cook when I was a child.

For Joel and for me, 4-H is sort of like a part of our genetics. It’s who we are and what we do as a family. Neither of us can imagine life without 4-H.

I am grateful for the heritage my father and my grandmother gave me and I hope my children carry into their futures a 4-H legacy. Yet, as much as I love all things 4-H, there is a far greater legacy I am thankful that my family gave to me and  that I want to give to my children and someday my grandchild. It’s a legacy of Christian faith.

4-H may enhance my life and teach skills that I might not otherwise have learned. It is a source of education and entertainment that I’m so grateful to have. It’s a huge part of my life … but if it ended tomorrow, my life would not end with it.

Jesus, on the other hand, is the creator and author of my life. He formed me and fashioned me. He numbered my days, gave me a purpose, and has already prepared my future (both here on this earth and afterwards in heaven). From the time I was an infant, my father and my mother told me the stories in the Bible, prayed with me and for me, and encouraged me to accept Jesus as my Savior. My grandmother sang me hymns and listened to me recite Bible verses. The biggest legacy of my life is the legacy of Jesus.

The Bible is clear. Salvation cannot be passed down parent to child. It is a decision that each person gets.  However, I can leave behind a heritage that will help guide my children and future grandchildren to the Cross.

Today, I’m thankful for those in my life who walked before me, faithfully following their Savior, showing me the way to Jesus Christ. And I humbly ask that the Lord might allow me to leave behind a legacy for Jesus for the generations who walk after me as well.

I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter…things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony … which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.  ~Psalm 78: 2-7

With a Thankful Heart-2

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With Gladness

Each spring, Megan and I have the same conversation.  It goes something like this:

Megan, I need you to to start thinking about what you want to submit to the Writes of Spring writing contest at the library.

I don’t want to enter this year.

I didn’t ask you if you wanted to enter. It’s just a part of our homeschool and your education. All of my students enter.

Megan pokes out her bottom lip and whines, “Can’t I skip this year? I don’t know what to write about and I hate trying to come up with a topic. Besides, I won first place last year.  That means I should get a year off.

You tried all those excuses last year. They didn’t work then and they won’t work now.

Whhhhhyyyyyyy! It’s like torture. I hate it.

Why do you hate it so much, Megan? You’ve won first place three years running. You are a great writer.

I hate it because I have to come up with a topic that fits the categories and then I have to keep it to just 750 words. And once I”m done, then you and dad edit it and find all my mistakes. Once the mistakes are fixed, then I have to turn it in … and that is just the beginning of that long wait to find out if the judges liked it. GiGi! I can’t do it again! It’s too hard! Besides, I don’t want to be a writer. Please don’t make me!

Sorry, Megan. Even if you don’t like it, even if its hard, and even if you don’t want to be a writer, you still have to do it. It won’t kill you to enter again this year. No one ever died trying to write a 750-word essay or story. Besides, I’ll help you find a great topic. I’ll bet together we can come up with a fabulous idea.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Megan is a good writer. She has won first place in the parish writing contest for the last four years and twice placed third in her age group at the state level. But she doesn’t want to write.

Why?

Well, she said has plenty of reasons. But mostly, it’s just not her idea. I’m forcing her to participate in an activity for school that she doesn’t want to be a part of. And if that isn’t reason enough, what I’m asking her to do isn’t an easy task. It’s hard and requires lots of work. Work she would rather not do.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about myself and how I am often the same way.

For a couple of years, Jon and I prayed diligently about a family ministry we could do together. I was thinking along the lines of serving in the kitchen of our local homeless diner once a month, or maybe taking a family”vacation” to do some sort of ministry.  We tried several avenues in our town. To my surprise, they all failed terribly.

“What is wrong?” I pondered. “Doesn’t God want us to serve Him?”

Then I thought maybe God might allow us to adopt. Orphan care has interested me since my college days. Several adoptive families are among my close friends and relatives.  So, Jon and I embarked on gathering information for what I just knew was our big ministry … but can you believe that door slammed shut as well?

“Fine,” I thought. “We’ll just wait and let God show us what He wants us to do.”

Interestingly enough, this was God started whispering and working in odd ways. Before I had time to blink, the craziest thing in the world was happening to my family. Something so illogical and spectacular that it could only be God at work. He called us into fostering.

Can I just pause right here and tell you that fostering was not anywhere close to my idea of a great family ministry? Not at all. This was not anywhere on my version of Paige’s Life Plan.

In fact, when we first started talking about it, I was so scared I could hardly believe I was even allowing myself to consider the idea.  Who wants to take in foster children? You work hard to love children who come with tons of baggage. And then just when you start to make headway, the kids go back. You don’t have anything to show for it in the end.  No thank you, Fostering is not exactly how I envisioned making a difference for God.

But God has a way of convincing you to do even those things you don’t want to do. Remember Jonah?

So Jon and I got all signed up. Before long, we were ready for our first placement. Barely two days passed by and we had a phone call, asking us to take in two foster toddlers. A boy and a girl. We took a deep breath and said yes, unsure of what to expect.

At first, getting two foster babies was exciting. It took about 3 hours for the excitement to wear off, and reality to set in. Fostering babies, as it turned out, was exactly what I was initially expecting … work.

Our foster babies came to us as neglected children with all sorts of emotional problems and delays. Screaming matches, hitting and pulling hair, biting, defiance of every sort. Day in and day out we deal with their negative behaviors, trying to teach them more about how to be loved and accept love from others and experience some of God’s love. Some days are better than others.

This morning started off as one of those other sort of days. I no more than put the two of them into the booster seats to eat their breakfast when they commenced to a screaming and screeching match against each other.  Soon, their antics included throwing food.

As I walked into the dining room to deal with the chaos, I sighed and thought, “And this is how you want me to serve you, Lord?”

“Yes. Only I want you to do it with a glad and grateful heart.”

OUCH! Not only did that small reprimand sting me, but it surprised me.  You see, I’d rather have a big writing ministry. Unlike my stepdaughter, I wish I had writing success … books to publish, a website/blog that drew thousands of readers each week, speaking opportunities, conferences to attend, etc. Seems to me that a writing ministry would be an amazing way to serve God.

Or why can’t I serve God by going on a short-term overseas mission trip? What about working with some larger ministry like a pro-life group or volunteering to feed the homeless? I have a lot of great ideas about how I think I could best serve God.

Instead, God has called me and my family to love two bad babies who desperately need to be loved unconditionally.

It’s a process, but I am learning to be grateful for my callings in this life … all of them.  Wife, mother, a homeschool teacher, writer (because I know God did call me to faithfully write for Him). Even foster mom.

Oddly enough, most of what God has asked me to do for Him won’t bring me personal fame or glory or recognition. It’s just hard work.

Even then, God wants me to do all those things with gladness. It’s not easy or fun all the time, but when I persevere and push through with a heart thankful for the chance to do anything for God, then I allow Him to get the glory and He blesses me with more opportunities to do His great works.

What has God asked you to do that you wish He hadn’t?

How have you learned to be grateful for even the hardest of God-given callings?

With a Thankful Heart-2

All-Knowing

$401

“I see you spent $401 on groceries.”

My husband grinned at me as I walked through the door into the kitchen, four big bags of groceries hanging from my arms.

How did you know?” I stammered, feeling somewhat irritated. “I just walked in the door from buying all those groceries … and trust me, all 401 dollars worth aren’t in these four bags. Call the kids to come help get all this food inside.” I paused momentarily as Jon called the kids. When he turned back around, I said, “It’s that new banking app, isn’t it. I’m not sure I like that thing.

Oh, I like it,” Jon said, giving me a wink. “Now I know the instant you spend any money … exactly how much you spent and where. It’s very convenient.

My husband’s jovial laugh brightened my mood. Grocery shopping for my horde of seven teens, tweens and toddlers always leaves me feeling depressed and poor. Those weekly trips average two hours and two carts, and it seems as if I still barely return with enough food to keep the masses fed. It’s enough to make any mom feel discouraged!

Before you get angry with me, I want to remind you that I don’t have that app to keep tabs on you or what you spend. It just helps me to have a better idea of when and where we are spending our money, and its helpful as it is in real-time. Besides, I get alerts when I use my debit card, too.” Jon gave me a winning smile, though his tone was more serious.

I know,” I sighed.  “I still can’t help but feel like my every move is being watched, though.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Perhaps you remember the reality TV show Big Brother.

The basic premise is a group of people move into a large house together for a short period of time. While there, the house guests are not allowed access to media and are subjected to being monitored at all times by in-house TV cameras and audio microphones.

Viewer tune in to see video footage of the houseguests, doing everything from sleeping to talking to swimming in the house pool.  Watching this TV show is sort of like being a fly-on-the-wall.

But imagine that the tables are turned. I don’t know about you, but I can’t fathom living life like that. Someone knowing my every move, every minute of every hour of every day …

Except, there is someone who does exactly that.

In Proverbs 15:3, we read:

The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

But is God watching to catch us doing wrong? Is He trying to find fault with us, to bring down His mighty hammer of justice?

No. Not at all.

Consider the words of the Psalmist.

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.  ~Psalm 139: 1-4

He knows everything I think before I say it. Every misspoken word. Every sarcastic comment. Every hateful remark spoken in anger. God not only sees the ugly nature I am capable of, but He loves me in spite of that.

How do I know?

I know because of Matthew 10:30.

Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

I love my husband more than any other person on the planet. I study him diligently and seek to learn who he is as much as possible. I know that he likes coffee anytime of the day or night, his steaks medium-rare, and salty treats over sweet. Jon wants clothes folded and put away, the floors and walkways in our house cleared of clutter, and dinner every night at 5:30 pm.  He might be satisfied driving in his little Kia four-door car, but he wishes he had a truck … but he isn’t willing to go into more debt to get one for himself.

I know a lot about that man of mine, but I do not know how many hairs are on his head.  What an incredibly intense sort of love to know a person so intimately as to have their hairs numbered!

So while I might not feel grateful for my husband’s new banking app that allows him to keep up with my spending in real-time, I am very thankful that God is omniscient … and that He isn’t all-knowing so that He can find ways to condemn me, but rather to prove His love for me, which He did by providing a way to reconcile me to Himself in spite of my sin which separates me from God.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. ~ Psalm 147:5

Thankful for Worship

I was glad when they said unto me,

One of the foster toddlers got me up at 5:30 am. Who wants to wake up at 5:30 am on a Sunday morning? Sunday, after all, should be a day of rest.

It’s already been a full weekend. I’ve got a list of chores a mile long. Write lesson plans for the five teens and tweens. Grocery shop for the week. Ensure my husband has enough clothes and gluten-free snacks to pack for his upcoming  business trip.

Can’t I just stay home today?

It’s rainy outside, too. Aren’t gloomy days for staying at home, curling up in your toasty pj’s, and reading a good book? I’d rather not have to get out the umbrella, and try keep myself, two toddlers, a diaper bag and my Bible dry as we hurry across the wet parking lot. I can see it now. My nearly three-year old foster son is going to want to stop and inspect every single puddle on our way to the door.

I think today I’d prefer to skip church.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom of Worship,” 1943. Oil on canvas, 46″ x 35 1/2″. Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” February 27, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom of Worship,” 1943. Oil on canvas, 46″ x 35 1/2″. Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” February 27, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

In America we are blessed with the freedom to worship … or not to worship.

It seems to me that a lot of our basic freedoms are slowly slipping away. And as much as I might think I want to exercise my right to not have to attend church today, I dread more to imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have the opportunity to worship at all (or was forced to be part of a religion with which I didn’t agree).

I’m so thankful that I’ve still got this freedom to go to the church of my choice. I pray it never is taken away.

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It’s rainy, I’ve got important things to do at home, and I’d rather just relax at home anyway. But I won’t.

I’ll go to church and worship.  

Not out of some civic duty to exercise my right to worship. Not because I particularly feel like it at this very moment.

I am going to church because it’s what God said to do.

And I know that once I’m there, I will bow my heart and raise my hands … and leave thankful that I chose to spend time today worshipping my Savior.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~Hebrews 10:24-25

With a Thankful Heart-2

Give Thanks

Psalm 106

Today, I am with two of my children at the Louisiana Book Festival.

My son Joel won 1st place in the state high school non-fiction writing contest, and my daughter Megan won 3rd place (for the second year running) in the Jr. High non-fiction essay.  Definitely a proud homeschooling mom moment for me!

If you are interested, you can read their award-winning entries:

In Memoriam of Poppa by Joel

The Princess Dinner by Megan

Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope you take the time to thank the Lord for His loving goodness which indeed endures forever.

Blessings, Paige

With a Thankful Heart-2

Unseen

A few weeks ago, I shared how my 15 year old son Joel recently got his driving permit.

Boy, has that been an adjustment to make! I’m not even quite sure how we got to this point. Honestly, it feels like he should be only 5 or 6 years old at most, not driving age already.

When Joel was a newborn, I couldn’t see past his sweet fuzzy head. He was completely dependent on me for food, clothes, diaper changes, entertainment. As I lay in the hospital bed holding my newborn son, I couldn’t even fathom him learning to crawl, much less drive a car.

But it really didn’t take all that long for him to grow. Suddenly, here I am with a boy who towers over me and chauffeurs me all over town. Not only does it feel as if he shouldn’t be this old, but it feels like I shouldn’t be this old either!

We have this

Sometimes in this life we can’t make out anything other than what we can see. 

Last week, one of the teens said, “GiGi, isn’t it odd to remember how when little C first came to live with us, she wasn’t even crawling? Back then I didn’t think she would ever learn to walk, but now she is running everywhere!

Life’s like that, isn’t it? We can’t see the future because the present and the past are all the we know.  Right now whenever I think of those rambunctious foster toddlers, I can’t imagine that someday they will be able to sit still through an entire picture book, much less a full-length movie or a college lecture or a Sunday morning sermon. The present is just far too real for me to look into the future with any sort of reality.

It’s been a little over a year since my father passed away. Sometimes I try to envision him in heaven, in his new glorified body worshipping Jesus. I cannot fathom it. Then I try to put myself there and find it’s even harder to visualize. And yet, I know it’s the truth.

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that we are like clay jars with a treasure inside. That treasure is the power of God. Our humanness makes us lowly, but because of His power in us, we can be pressured, persecuted, perplexed, or struck down by life’s trials and not be broken. Nothing, not even death, can stop the power of God.

With God in us, we are more than a humble clay jar., more than what the world sees when they look at us. This earthly life is just temporary. What we know and experience is God’s power in us so that we don’t shatter under the pressures of life. Through Christ, we are more than conquerors. And that, is an eternal gift that will last forever.

I’m thankful for the unseen. Praise God for His glory which will never end!

With a Thankful Heart-2

Faithful

Did you finish your schoolwork today?

My son looked at me and nodded his head. “Yes, ma’am.

Everything? You did it all? Even math?

Even math.” He was looking me square in the eyes.

Okay. Well, I was just checking because I didn’t see you sitting at the table with your school books at all. Seems like you’ve been outside most of the day. I trust you are telling me the truth.

I am, Mom. You can trust me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two hours later, I walked into my son’s bedroom to lay a pile of clean laundry on his bed. I noticed his math workbook opened … and not a single answer was written on the pages.

About that time, I heard him in the hallway. “Hey,” I called out. “I thought you said you finished all of your schoolwork, even your math.

I did, Mom. I already told you that.

Yes, well … I found your math book on your bed and there isn’t anything written on it. Looks like you haven’t done math after all.

Oh. Well, I thought I did.

Do it now. All of it. And double check the rest of your work. If you want to go to youth group tonight at church, you need to get all of your schoolwork completed.

Yes, ma’am,” he said with a sigh.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shortly after supper, my husband rounded up all the teens and tweens to take to church for our mid-week services. (I always stay behind to put toddlers to bed and have a bit of quiet time for myself.)

As the gang walked out of the door, their Bibles in hand, I put my hand on my son’s shoulder and asked, “Did you finish all your schoolwork?

Mom, this is the third time you’ve asked me. It’s all done. Why don’t you believe me?

I did … until I saw you didn’t tell me the truth. If you are faithful to answer honestly, then I can always believe what you say. But when you go down the slippery slope of lying, I cannot trust you. I’ll be checking your work while you are at church. If you didn’t do it, now is the time to ‘fess up.

It’s done, Mom.” And with that, he jerked out of my presence and ran to get into the car with the rest of the family.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I kept my promise and checked the schoolwork.

Would you believe it wasn’t done? None of it. The math pages still blank. Science and history lessons incomplete. Grammar not even started. Furthermore, I discovered he had done the same thing for the two days prior.

I was waiting when he walked in, and sat him down for a “Come to Jesus” meeting at our dining table. Caught in a web of deceit, all he could do was admit he had lied to me more than once and accept the consequences given for his behavior.

But in my heart, it wasn’t over. Why did my son lie? This child had never been one to shirk his schoolwork before and generally was on top of all his assignments. He isn’t lazy by nature. So what was he gaining from misrepresenting himself?

I still don’t know the root cause other than this:

He is human, and humans are liars.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

God is faithful.

God is not a liar.

That’s a rather astonishing thing if you think about it.  This world is full of liars who can’t be trusted (myself included). Yet God is so perfectly faithful, I can trust everything He promises will come to pass.

So what are His promises? Here are a few:

~He will meet all our needs. (Psalm 34: 9-10)

~Peace (Isaiah 26:3)

~Help overcoming temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13)

~Protection (Proverbs 18:10)

~Hope (Jeremiah 29:11)

~He will be always with us (Matthew 28:20)

~His return (John 14:2-3)

 I’m thankful God never lies and I can rest in His faithfulness to me.

With a Thankful Heart-2

The Whole World

 He's got the whole world

Are you singing yet? 

I am! I can’t help it.  I just love this peppy, feel-good song.

Sometimes, when we aren’t singing The Itsy-Bitsy Spider for the 50th time in a row, my foster toddlers will let me sing this little ditty to them.  I always start off intending to sing only the original verses, but eventually I find myself making up my own words. My foster son, who is already prone to making up silly versions of songs such as  Mary Had a Little Rock, enjoys making up new versions to this song with me.  We’ve sung everything from “He’s got all the dump trucks in His hands” to my personal favorite “He’s got all the cookies, brother, in His hands.”

This song fascinate me when I was a small child. I tried to imagine a physical God, so enormous that He could hold everything in His hands. I thought about this and tried to make sense of it in my head, but it was so hard to wrap my small brain around. After all, my daddy had big hands, but he couldn’t hold my entire family in his hands, much less the entire world. Just exactly how big were the hands of God?!

I was perhaps six or seven when a scary thought occurred to me. What if I were sitting close to the edge of God’s hands and I fell off! The very idea caused me such intense fear that I actually had a dream about it. Fortunately, in the dream, a pegasus caught me and I rode on its back for quite some time before finding myself sitting back on the gigantic hands of God.

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What sorts of things do we hold in our hands?

Usually, I hold onto things important or valuable things. Something I don’t want to lose.

The tiny hands of my foster toddlers. My car keys. My iPhone. My debit card.

Sometimes I laugh to see the two babies grasping things in their hands, refusing to let go, squealing if someone tries to take it from them. They always hold tightly the toys they love the most … or sometimes the toys they know the other one loves most. Either way, like me, they hold onto things of value.

Therefore, if God really does hold the entire world in His hands, it signifies my personal value (along with the value of all creation) in God’s eyes. What an flabbergasting thing to consider! I am so valuable to God that He holds me close and keeps me in His hands!

 But, how true is this notion that God holds the world in His hands?

Stop with me for just a moment to consider the words of Psalm 95, particularly verses 2-5.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

It’s more than just a happy song or a crazy notion. God really does hold all of creation in His hands. Perhaps it’s a metaphorical description, but what an amazing truth. There is nothing at all that is out of God’s control. Every person, every creature, every plant, every created thing … all of it is under God’s supervision and protection.

Knowing this, how can we not be overwhelmed with a thankful heart over God’s love for us?

With a Thankful Heart-2

Father, I thank You today because You do hold all of creation in Your hands. I have no need to worry or fear because You are always with me, keeping me safe in Your loving care. Amen.