And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.“

The Battle of Baltimore was one of the most consequential and momentous battles in the War of 1812, a war fought between the U.S. and the Great Britain from 1812 to 1815. On September 12, 1814, the British launched land assaults at North Point and sea invasions at Fort McHenry, attempting to capture the Port of Baltimore.

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American militia staved off the attacks of 5,000 British troops on land at North Point, so British forces turned full attention to Fort McHenry. On September 13, nineteen British ships aimed all their fire power on the fort, and pelted it and the 1,000 American soldiers holding it with rockets, mortar shells, and 1,500 – 1,800 cannonballs for 25 hours straight. They then arranged a land attack on the fort, sending a party ashore.

Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer and budding poet, was located on a British truce vessel that night, where he worked to negotiate and secure the release of a physician who was captured by the British. From his position, he could see the glow of exploding cannon shells as the greatest Navy in the world at that time rained its fury on a fort protecting Baltimore. Rain obscured his view of the city during the night, but as bombs burst and rockets exploded, he saw something familiar: a 30-foot American flag, adorned with 15 stars and 15 stripes, flying high above the fort.

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American troops opened fire on British forces as they landed on the shore, and the artillery from the warships failed their mission – Fort McHenry stood firm. The British retreated, marking the turning point of the war.

As the smoke cleared and dawn broke on the morning of September 14, Francis Scott Key began to pen the words to “The Defense of Fort McHenry” on an envelope. His poem was set to music, and became known as “The Star Spangled Banner,” and became our national anthem in 1931.

Today, we stand just as our anthem’s writer did – watching helplessly, waiting breathlessly, and wondering if our flag will stand. Our rights and freedoms are once again threatened, and the smoke of crumbling values obscures our view of the glory of this great country. We strain to see through the mist and struggle to catch a glimpse of God’s grace that made many into one and preserved a nation for over 200 years.

Yet our national anthem itself provides answers – glimmers of hope in a dark world. The Star Spangled Banner has four verses, each one ending as the first: O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave. The final verse of Key’s inspiring song drapes the previous three in admonition for principle characteristics that secure future peace and victory.

 

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

 

Happy Independence Day, friends. God bless your celebration, and God bless the United States of America!

God Bless America

 

 

 

 

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Born to a Friend

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A sibling is, perhaps, one of the most peculiar individuals you will come in contact with. American author Susan Scarf Merrill has said that “siblings resemble us just enough to make their differences confusing.” Yet when you are a sibling you have, regardless of familial frustrations, been born to a friend.

 

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Siblings have a connection like no other; our brothers and sisters are an intricate part of our lives that make us who we are. An older sibling has, along with our parents, known us longer than anyone else, and when a brother or sister dies, their death affects us in ways never imagined.

The fifth anniversary of my only sibling’s death is coming up in two days. My big brother, Ron, was driving home on the Interstate after church on a Sunday evening when the rear passenger tire of his SUV blew out, causing the vehicle to roll. He was not wearing a seat belt.

The minutes since his death have turned to hours and then to months, and in an ever-shifting life, I have now become owner and resident of our childhood home. My family moved to this house when I was still in diapers, and it was here that my brother and I grew up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and in the love and safety of family. Now my own little family lives and loves and laughs here, and from time to time, I still catch whiffs of the scent of bygone days.

At unexpected moments, I open doors and drawers and discover tucked away memories of old, dig in the dirt with my child and unearth flashes of the past, watch my daughter swing and climb and run and fall and get up, and find keepsake scenes of days long ago. And while some of them cause tears to overflow, most just make me smile.

We had a wonderful childhood, and we were best friends. By our teenage years, we often went different directions, and as we reached adulthood, we tended to seek out and travel divergent paths. Still, even though we had changed and found our own unique places in the world, when tears fell and smiles spread, we found each other. And I always knew, no matter what, I had been born to a friend.

 

In Memory

 

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Veggie Tales Truth

If you’re a parent – and even if you’re not – no doubt you’ve heard of Veggie Tales. Just in case you’ve been camping out in a cave for a while, Veggie Tales were created in 1993 to help kids discover how God made them special and unique, and how much He loves them. They work to equip children to do right in the sight of God, and help them understand key biblical principles.

 

My first introduction to the Veggie Tales gang was about five years before our baby girl came along. I was flipping channels and came across a seemingly distraught cucumber wrapped in a bath towel singing anxiously about the unknown location of his hair brush.

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But cucumbers don’t have hair anyway, so the tall green gourd was able to do without his hairbrush.

A few years have passed and now I’m Mama to a little blonde toddler who likes Veggie Tales. While rummaging through the $5 movie bin at Wal-Mart the other day, I found Veggie Tales: Sweetpea Beauty. I threw it in the cart and came home.

Later that evening we popped it in the player. One of the stories is the little known yet all-too-familiar fairytale of Snoodlerella, who receives an extreme makeover in record time and goes to the ball until midnight, when she goes back to her glasses and braces, uncontrollable hair and cumbersome graces.

I wasn’t particularly paying attention to the movie, until the King spoke to Snoodlerella. But what I heard was a Still, Small Voice speaking to me.

As Snoodlerella was lamenting her looks, a deep, comforting Voice spoke directly to her – and to me, and to every woman on the face of the planet: “I think you’re beautiful,” the King said. He reached out and took her seemingly disconnected white-gloved hand as it floated in the air and continued, “I treasure you deeply; you’re lovely, my child…there’s nothing about you I don’t truly love! It is true, every word that I say. Daughter, I am the King, and I made you that way! I delight in your beauty, you’re wonderfully made! I knew you before earth’s foundation was laid. You’re precious to Me, every hair on your head! Daughter, hear and believe!

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My eyes welled up with tears that spilled onto my cheeks. The King of all creation – my Abba Father – knew me before the foundation of the world and chose me to be His! Hear and believe, ladies, we are cherished and captivating…He created us that way!

My daughter now brings me her “Pincess D” (Princess DVD) several times a day asking to watch it. I love for her to hear those words spoken to her, too, but she has to wait until family time to watch anything. And we often choose something other than Sweetpea Beauty. So I just tell her that her King asked me to give her a message: “You’re precious to Me, and I think you’re beautiful…I made you that way.

 

 

Thanksgiving Thursday:Unwrapping the Gifts

Rain in Colorado!

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My daughter’s drawings

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A bouncy horse for Peanut

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Family time at Sonic

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Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

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A Father to the Fatherless

The place a father holds in the life of his children is priceless. No other relationship is like that of a dad and his little ones. Indeed, I truly wonder if any relationship can compare to that of a man and his daughter. And the loss of that relationship is especially painful.

Celebrating Father’s Day has never been the same for me since 2001, the year I lost my dad to suicide. For many years after, I browsed the card section, searching for a card for another girl’s dad who became my step-dad.

But my eyes only fell on those that spoke of growing up with your first love – first crush, first hero – and knowing this man would always hold your hand and your heart. Tears would flow and my heart would ache – or become angry. Angry over my loss, angry over his decision, angry that I could never again be Daddy’s little girl.

Another cruel form of loss is when someone comes in the aftermath of tragedy to promise love and relationship for a lifetime, but instead leaves to fulfill selfish lust and a naïve notion of “finding oneself”. And now I am, again, left without a dad on this earth.

 

But I am not Fatherless.

 

Father to the Fatherless

 

I have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby I cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:15)! The word cry in this scripture denotes an intense and powerful internal affection, and a fierce and forcible outward confidence in the freedom and liberty granted to us as children of God.

Intimate yet respectful, the name Abba is our warrant for boldly claiming a filial relationship with the Most High God. What an astounding, incomprehensible thought: We hold the same standing with the Father as Jesus our Messiah, His only begotten Son!

My first love, my Abba, Father loves me and will never leave me, and He holds my hand and my heart – forever.

If you have been left without an earthly father, accept the love of the Everlasting Father as your very own today. His love endures forever, and He is waiting to hold your hand and your heart.

 

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The Sweet Gift of a Child: Peanut Turns Two!

Tomorrow, my just-born-yesterday baby turns two years old. Two years of joyous noise, messy rooms, helpless giggles, cascading tears, boundless love, and amazing amounts of pink. Cut straight out of the womb, she drew her first breath, and snuggled into a place inside my heart that had never before existed.

 

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Our tiny Peanut was a low-key newborn, sleeping most of the way through her new life and calmly observing the world when awake. Two years later, she still loves to sleep – slumbering on average 11 hours a night and two hours or more during the day. But when awake, this fiery toddler is nothing less than a whirling dervish, experiencing all life has to offer.

 

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She developed a love for music very early, and she moves easily to the beat of any melody she hears. Our lives are filled with the sounds of Peanut serenading us by playing her harmonica, singing Song Sung Blue, and singing just behind most songs as she picks up any word she recognizes. She loves to dance, and swirls to worship choruses, twirls to Mary Poppins tunes, sways to Michael Buble jingles, jives to Bon Jovi rock, and bounces to John Lee Hooker blues.

A girl after my own heart, she loves books, and asks me to read to her often. She’s a rough and tumble rug rat, and loves Jeeps, horses, and being flung, swung, and flipped. She’s fearless and adventuresome, and she loves to pray.

 

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My heart flutters each time she stretches her chubby starfish hands toward me and pleads, “Pay, pees!” (Pray, please.) No matter how many times a day – or how many times during one meal, I never miss an opportunity to allow those soft, precious fingers to curl around mine and go before the throne of grace with my child.

As we enter the third year of this most treasured life, I find my heart is happy to see her grow. I look back at the fragile infant I held in my arms, as I sheltered her from all that may seek to harm her. While I reflect on those sweet, irreplaceable memories with nostalgia, there is nothing like continuing to raise a child. The delicate babe I brought into this world is an amazing creature, filling my life with sweet affection, and teaching me how live life through the eyes of innocence.

Each new milestone is full of wonder and awe, and I look forward to what the future holds. Below are a fraction of the gifts I’ve unwrapped this year from the hand of a loving heavenly Father as I am honored to mother this beautiful child.

 

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     Unwrapping the Gifts

 

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Count One Thousand Gifts….Then A Thousand More

 I sat down last week with the spiral bound journal where I write gifts unwrapped and give thanks for the blessings. Inspired by One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, I started this journal nine months ago. Some days I discover many gifts; some days one.

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After having missed several days during the move to Pueblo, I happily returned to the habit of giving thanks to God by numbering His gifts. My heart was full with the day’s blessings and I couldn’t wait to write them out: “Beginning construction on Peanut’s room; Office Depot discounts; An exercise mat.”

 

I moved my purple teeth-marked pen to the next line, but stopped before the tip reached the page. I glanced back up the line above. #999.

 

One thousand gifts. A dare to find one thousand ways He loves me.

 

For a moment, I reconsidered what I planned to write next. I had always imagined that the following number would be something of great importance; some lofty, theology-laden, high-calling type thing.

 

I embarrassed myself a bit by such silliness. After all, isn’t this the whole point: I don’t even know they are gifts until I write them down and that is really what they look like. Gifts He bestows. This writing it down – it is sort of like…unwrapping love. A child thankful for the childlike.”*

 

All as Gift

 

I lowered my pen to the page. #1000, Finding just the right camera setting for capturing a photo I really wanted.

 

There it was. Symbolic of everything this journey of giving thanks is about – unwrapping rich gifts of lavish love from the hand of a good Father. A child thankful for the childlike.

 

And so I continue – a thousand reasons, then a thousand more. “This is what it means to fully live.”

 

10,000 Reasons

 

 

Unwrapping the Gifts

 

1001. Sitting in church with my husband’s arms draping my shoulders

 

1018 Getting the trash out early on trash day

 

1016. Cooking for my family in my new kitchen

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1026. Sharing a Rib Eye steak with Peanut

 

1029. The first late-night front porch time with my best friend in our new haven

 

1028. Roasting marshmallows over the new fire pit my husband built

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1036. Spring’s first lilac

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Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

 

 

 

 

*One Thousand Gifts, pg 45

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The Shepherd, Bell Sheep, and Lamb

I recently began reading Raising a Daughter After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George. She begins the book by defining a bell sheep: “When a shepherd noticed a sheep who willingly followed him and stayed near him, he hung a bell around the neck of that sheep so the flock would follow the bell sheep…who, in turn, was following the shepherd.” She then says, “A mom should be the bell sheep for her daughter!

 

And how are we as mothers to become the bell sheep for our children? We “shall love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our soul, and with all our strength. And these words which He commands us…shall be in our heart. We shall teach them diligently to our children, and shall talk of them when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise up,” Deuteronomy 6:5-7.

 

As I read, my heart cried out, “Oh, God, let me be Your bell sheep for my daughter! I will – I do! – love You with everything in me, Your words are in my heart, and my delight is in talking about You! May my consistent and diligent teaching help my little girl become a woman after Your own heart!”

 

As I poured out my heart before God, He showed me how my mother had been the bell sheep that led and trained me to become one for my daughter, and now, she and I are living as unified partners in this high calling of training up a child. I realized how great the love of the Good Shepherd is for my daughter…He has surrounded my baby with bell sheep!

 

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This year, I will spend Mother’s Day enjoying my own gift of motherhood, as well as celebrating my mama, the one who diligently taught me the Word of God. Through her, I was introduced to the One I love with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I pray that as a mother, I can teach as diligently, love as wholly, live as sacrificially, and raise a child after God’s own heart as well as she has.

 

Three Generations

 

 

Unwrapping the Gifts

 

922. A good, Good Shepherd Who loves my little one even more than I do

 

932. Hugs that heal sorrow, laughter that follows tears, and love that never fails

 

959. Clocks

 

923. The honor of being a Mother

 

Of All the Rights of Women

 

911. Not having to worry about the words our little Peanut-Parrot hears her parents say

 

969. Peanut loves her new house

 

995. Sharing in the sacrament of Communion with fellow Christ-followers

 

Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?