Birthday . . . Birthing Day

 

free baby%3Today is a milestone birthday for our son. Today is also my birthing day. I remember when the umbilical cord was cut and I was able to hold our son in my arms. I had felt his movement for several months, but this was the first time I could see him and his resemblance of his father. I could count his fingers and toes and not just feel his fist or foot jabbing into my ribs.  There was something very special about the first time I held our son as a unique little being who still depended upon me for food and care. However, the cutting of the umbilical cord was also the first letting go of the son who had grown inside of me for the last nine months. The cord was cut, but I still had my apron strings tied around him and there was a lifeline that existed between our son and me.Greg Ahlquist Headshot

God the Father said of Jesus in Mark 1:11, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and say to our son, “Greg, you are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” He now not only fulfills the role of being our son, but he is also a husband and father. By profession, he is an anointed teacher whether he be behind the desk in a school classroom or in the pulpit at church. Truly he is successful both in the natural and the spiritual realms. We are especially blessed by our son this year as he has been named the New York State Teacher of the Year for 2013. The Lord is using him in mighty ways whether he is traveling or speaking or attending committee meetings and conferences.  He is a positive spokesperson for  teachers, students, and education across the state. Psalm 139:16 assures me that God has written all of Greg’s days in His book and these days have been fashioned for him. If I had not been willing to let him become the godly man the Lord purposed him to become, this honor may not have been possible for him. However, whether he received state recognition or not, we are pleased when we see the man of God that Greg is today. It is not because of who I have been as a mother, but who God is as his Heavenly Father that makes all the difference. I am glad I have surrendered Greg’s life to the Lord and have not held him too tightly in my own hands. The truth of Proverbs 22:6 has been fulfilled with our son. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he shall not depart from it.”

free rope First the umbilical cord was cut, and then gradually I untied the apron strings from being his 24/7 mom. The amazing thing is that as I let these strings be untied, the lifeline relationship between mother and son has become even stronger. According to Ecclesiastes 4:12, “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Our cord of mother, son and the Lord has not been broken among us. Allowing the Lord to be one strand of this cord has made all the difference in our relationship.  The umbilical cord was purposely made  to be cut while the biblical cord was fashioned to remain intact.

praying-hands-5The best birthday gift I can give to our son is to unclasp the grasp of my own hands and leave him in the hands of God . I need only grasp my own hands together in prayer for him. If I held him too tightly, his life could become stagnant like a pond of water that has no fresh water moving into or out of it. I could squelch God’s grace and stagnate God’s gifts. I must allow God’s grace to flow through Greg. Grace is received, but grace must also be given away.  I annually release our son in order for him to be able to receive the birthright of blessings God has in store for him. I am blessed as I allow Greg to be a blessing.

gift-bow-mfYes, today we celebrate his birthday and we say publicly, “Happy Birthday, Son!” But in the privacy of my heart, I recall the happiness of my birthing day when this special person whom God knit together in my womb, who was fearfully and wonderfully made, made his first appearance into this world. (see Psalm 139:13,14)  I thank God for allowing me to be Greg’s mother. For this reason, I too celebrate today in a personal way.

Joyfully,
Chery
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A Donkey and Me

This coming Sunday will be Palm Sunday so I decided to read about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in all four gospels this week.  While reading this account in the first gospel, I stopped when I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 21:2&3.  These verses tell about Jesus sending two of his disciples to Bethphage to bring him a donkey and a colt.  What caught my attention was that Jesus told these men that if they were asked why they were doing this, they were to reply that the Lord had need of them.  Also I noticed that in order to bring these animals to Jesus, they had to untie, or loose, them.  It all makes sense because if Jesus was going to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, he had to have a donkey, and to be able to bring this donkey to Jesus, it had to be untied.  Then I asked myself, “Am I that donkey?  Am I tied up and do I need to be loosed to do what Jesus needs me to do?”  Let me explain myself a little further.

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite scriptures where God tells me that He knows the plans and purposes He has for me.  If I am to fulfill these plans, I must not be tied up with my personal agenda.  Proverbs 16:8 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”  I must be loosed from what I might plan in my heart if I sincerely want to allow the Lord to direct my steps. Not only must I be set free, but I must allow myself to then be used in the way God desires. If the disciples were questioned about their actions, Jesus told them to respond that He had a need for the donkey.   Jesus had a plan for the donkey and he has a plan for me!.  Psalm 33:11 says, ‘the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”  I want to help fulfill God’s plans by doing what He needs me to do.

I must be loosed from personal bondage in order for the Lord to fulfill His plans and purposes through me. Another interesting scripture is Matthew 18:18 that informs me that “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  I wonder what might be binding me – fear, peer pressure, finances?  Does God want to set me free from something that is preventing me from being the best person I could be?   There is a connection between what I do while living on this earth and what is happening in the realm of the heavenlies.  I am sure I do not fully grasp this correlation, but I want to cooperate with God.

While reading these two passages in Matthew 21 and Matthew 18, I found another interesting connection between these two scriptures.  In the 21st chapter, Jesus sent two disciples to get the donkeys.  He did not just send one person alone.  Then in the 18th chapter verse 19, Jesus said that where two or three people agree, what they ask will be done by His Father in heaven.  Jesus even gives more assurance by saying that where two or three come together in His name, He is there with them.  God has a unique need for each one of us to fulfill his or her part of His plans and purposes, but He never leaves one person alone.  Not only is He with us, but He also surrounds us with other believers who will help us and support us.

Does this give you, my Reader, something to think about before you observe Palm Sunday in just a few days?  Shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  Hosanna means save; so shout, “Save me, Jesus!”  As you praise Jesus with your hosannas, ask Him to save you and release you from any bondage in your life that is keeping you from being the person He has created you to be.  Jesus has need of you and he will be with you.  Just as Jesus rode on the back of the donkey, he will ride upon your life as you fulfill his agenda.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

free Bible#1free palmfree hands agreeing

Drooling for a Dumpling

Are you drooling for a dumpling, an apple dumpling that is? I remember only one time when my grandmother made these sweet treats, but they left a mouth-watering impression on me that I can still taste. I remember the dumplings being like little pillows of dough stuffed with sweet apple slices and topped with ribbons of caramel sauce. My next recollection of apple dumplings came many years later when my husband and I attended a clam bake at our church. Yes, clams and dumplings! The dessert was a whole apple wrapped in a cocoon of flaky pastry floating in a pool of caramel sauce. It was even topped with a frozen sphere of vanilla ice cream.

I guess I can make a comparison of my description of apple dumplings and of how God feels about me.  Psalm 17:8 says, “Keep me as the apple of your (God’s) eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”  If I am an apple in God’s eye, then I am the fruit of this dessert.  If God hides me in the shadow of his wings, then He is the pastry or dumpling that surrounds the apple.  Whether my life be whole or whether I feel like it is cut up into pieces, God is still surrounding me with his love and presence.  Even the caramel sauce reminds me of the oil of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon me.  I like these pictures!

My mind has wandered down a street of spiritual symbolism, but I guess it is time to focus again on the apple dumplings simmering in the oven.  So, my Reader, have I tantalized your taste buds for something different to eat? You will find a recipe for the apple dumplings that is similar to what we had at our church dinner listed below. I hope you will be enticed to try this tasty treat.

apple-for-autumn-2-mfApple Dumplings
Syrup:
1 c. sugar
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 ½ c. water
3 Tbsp. margarine
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pastry:
2 c. flour
2/3 c. shortening
1 tsp. Salt
½ c. milk
Combine sugar, water, cinnamon and nutmeg; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; add margarine. Set aside. Combine dry ingredients; cut in shortening. Add milk all at once; mix until all sticks together. Roll out to 1/4-inch thick; cut into 5-inch squares, making 8 squares. Place a peeled and cored apple in center of each square; sprinkle with additional sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Dot with additional margarine. Moisten and seal edges around apple. Place 1 inch apart in an ungreased pan. Pour syrup over tops. Sprinkle with more sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with ice cream.
Enjoy!!
Joyfully,
Cheryl

JoyFULLy

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 In Your (God’s) presence is fulness of joy.
Psalm 16:11 NKJV

When thinking about how I would sign my blog, I chose “Joyfully, Cheryl” because I felt this described my overall temperament and because joy is what I want to convey to my readers.  Joy comes from my inner being and does not depend upon outward circumstances.  I may be happy when things are going right, but I can choose to let joy bubble up within my soul even when things are not going so well.  I felt this signature would give my readers a positive conclusion.
I love when I make a decision and then God confirms it!  Shortly after I decided upon the signature of “Joyfully, Cheryl”, I began reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Ann is an amazing writer and I am grateful for her choice of words. I will refer to her book by page number at various times and you can click on her link given in this paragraph.

This the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it!
Psalm 118:24

Each morning when I wake up, these are the first words I speak in my mind. To be joyful and to rejoice is a conscious commitment I make every morning.  We have an epigram on the wall in our hallway that says, “Find the JOY in Life.”  This encourages me to actively seek joy and not just expect it to come to me.  One way to experience joy is to rejoice.

I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:18

Since “joy” is a noun and “rejoice” is a verb, the feeling of joy begins with the action of rejoicing.  But, how do I rejoice?  I do it by giving thanks!  In order to be full of joy, I must empty myself of anything that is not joy.  This includes my no longer being pridefull or fearfull or hatefull etc.  I must be thankfull in order to be joyfull.

Be joyful always.
I Thessalonians 5:16

It is interesting that Paul tells me in this verse to always be joyful and then in verse 18 he tells me to give thanks in all circumstances.  He also states at the end of this verse that this is God’s will for me. God and joy and thanks all fit together!  My situation may not be joyful, but if I am thankful to God for being with me in the situation I can experience a deep joy and peace that goes beyond my understanding. Ann Voskamp describes this as “Ugly Beautiful”.

Consider it pure joy, my brethren, whenever you face trials of many kinds.
James 1:2

Why must I consider trials a joy?  Because verses 3 and 4 say that testing and  persevering lead to my being mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If I do not lack anything, then I will be filled with joy!  Ann Voskamp says, “True saints know that the place where all the joy comes from is far deeper than that of feelings….Joy is God and God is joy and joy doesn’t negate all other emotions – joy transcends all other emotions.” (p. 176)  “All emotions” includes whatever I might feel during trials.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Ann Voskamp describes joy as being “the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped.  God gives gifts, and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.” (p. 57)  She also says that counting blessings unlocks the mystery of joy. (p.82)  “We really can’t experience deep joy in God until we deep trust in God.” (p.149)Trusting God, or having faith in God, is another key to experiencing joy!
  My Reader, I pray that you will be filled with this kind of joy and peace today.  As I sign my name at the end of each blog, I am extending joy to you.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

Thought for the week: “Joy is God’s lifestyle.” (One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, p.117)