Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ten on Twos- Twin style!

A church friend of ours, Ken Finn, helped us think of whats commonly dubbed as the "terrible twos" as the "terrific twos"  instead.  The time between years two and three has just come to pass for the twins in the Carroll household!  So we wanted to take this time to remember some of the precious joys along the way!

As Silas and Timothy grew this year, they began to show us some of the unique ways that God has wired them.  They are similar in many ways, but God sure did make them different!  We've spent lots of time over the last year out at grocery stores, parks, and other various public places.  As they began to talk more and more, we noticed that they would each ask their own question whenever we encountered some one new throughout our daily routine!  Timothy would see someone he didn't know at the store and he would always ask me, "Who is that mom?"  Silas had a very different question.  He would always ask me, "Mom, what's he doing?"  Thus we discovered a little bit about whats important to each of them.  Our friends, Nancy and Joseph Lehman, helped us dub these characteristics in a really fun way.  We often say that Timothy was made with facial recognition software and Silas was made with diagnostic software.  When Lily joined the family this year it didn't take us long to realize that she had a software of her own as well.  She came with motion detection!

This year a favorite Pops game was developed.  Its really nothing special but the time that our kids get to spend with their father is extremely special to us all!  The game is called "Escapee."  It involves starting at the couch in one room with Pops and running throughout the house with uproarious amounts of giggling and laughter.  Pops will then chase each boy while shouting, "Escapee!  Escapee!"  It usually ends with Pops bring the escapee "back to prison" which is really nothing more than the couch in another room.  One day, the boys got to play escapee while using their blankets from their beds.  They hid in their blankets and dragged them all over the house!  It was even more fun than usual!  When the game was over, Pops instructed the boys to bring their blankets back to their beds.  Timo whimpered and said, "I can't Pops!  Its too heavy for me!"  Apparently that blanket must have gained all kinds of weight in no time!

Timothy also displayed a love for singing and chanting the strangest things!  Shortly after bringing home his new sister from the hospital he came up with a little tune to sing to her when every he was excited to see her.  He would simply shout "Lily-o-ah!  Lily-o-ah!"  and dance all around her!  He also came up with little tunes to sing while taking a bath called "water in the well."  I truly have no idea where he comes up with these things!  He is constantly singing or chanting some kind of nonsense while he plays.  Silas has gotten very used to it.  Sometimes he joins in but for the most part he just lets his brother be himself!

The boys have also adopted favorite songs off our cds from Seeds Family Worship.  Everyone in the family has chosen or been given a specific song.  We sing these songs all day long too.  We always sing them before naps and at bed time.  Even though each of the boys has their own song they love to pick the "Lily Song" (Psalm 62:1-2) and the "Mommy Song" (Jeremiah 33:3) at nap time and night!  The Silas song is Psalm 34:18.  "The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  He likes it especially because they shout the word CRUSHED!  The Timothy song is 1 Timothy 4:12 and he chose it because it has his name in it of course!  It reads, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for all believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity."

Winter 2010/11 was a big snowy winter!  We came up with many favorites for playing in the snow!  We really enjoyed painting the snow and helping out with the shoveling.  For Christmas, the boys each received their very own shovels from Meme.  They especially loved having Pops scoop up some snow in the shovel and having him fling it up high into the air so that it would fall right down on top of them!  It always brought an uproarious amount of giggles and laughter!

This winter also brought the brand new experience of having a little sister!  Lily was born in early December and she quickly became quite popular with the boys!  Silas especially loved to see her first thing in the morning and loved to dance around her shouting "Little Sistery!" repeatedly.  The boys especially enjoyed visiting us while we were still in the hospital after Lily's birth.  There was a special bell that they got to ring to announce that they were now big brothers!  The bell played a lovely little lullaby tune to "make all the babies fall asleep."  The boys were also very excited to shake the doctors hand and thank him for helping their new baby sister come out of Mommy's belly.

Shortly after Lily was born we ended up spending some unexpected time in the hospital with Silas.  Although the memories that we have from that time aren't exactly the warm and fuzzy type, we certainly learned a lot that has shaped our outlook on parenting God's children.  Feel free to read our his and hers perspectives on the whole ordeal.

Nap time in the Carroll household is certainly a happy time of day.  In fact we quickly adopted the term our cousins used for this daily ritual, "Happy Nappies."  One day after waking up from their naps, the boys explained to me in their lovely little two year old voices that they were playing a game in which "We bow each other!"  I was puzzled and a little bit concerned about what this might mean.  Sean began to explain to the boys that we really shouldn't bow to anyone other than God.  As he was doing so, we paused to try to get some more information about what this game was all about.  We asked, "What does it mean to 'bow each other.'"  The boys quickly and delightedly answered us by saying, "You go like this." *SWING ARM WILDLY AT BROTHER* "Bow!"  We still laugh about that one anytime we think of it!

We started memorizing some Bible verses this year.  Sean has put in effort to help the boys memorize by reciting verses with them at dinner.  For a while, the boys had lots of fun practicing by standing up on top of the toy box and saying, "Everybody listen up!" followed by whatever verse they had on their mind at the time.  One day while Uncle John was over, the boys were practicing in their usual fashion and Uncle John didn't miss a beat!  He climbed right up on the toy box and recited a verse of his own!  Way to go, Uncle John!

 There have been so many new experiences and skills to master this year!  From new trampolines to bigger kiddie pools, we have watched the boys take on new things and grow from timidity and fear into the little dare devils they are shaping up to be!  They love jumping and doing mini tricks on the trampoline these days and they also love getting a running start before they dive into their kiddie pool!  Our hope is that this love for life, and determination in new experiences continues for them both!

Photo by "Nana" Betsy Ambrose.  Silas, just after turning 3 at Steamtown in PA.

Photo by "Nana" Betsy Ambrose.  Timothy, just after turning 3 at Steamtown in PA

How do you spell "love"?

There are a lot of theories out there on this one.  Many people would say that you spell love T-I-M-E.  In our current pop culture, many would say you spell love S-E-X.  Others would spell it G-I-F-T-S or S-E-R-V-I-C-E.  These statements are all partially true, in a way.  But they really only describe a certain kind of love.  The bible says that God IS love (1 John 4:8).  God is the definition, source, and very essence of love.

The bible is very clear on what it means for us to love God.  In John 14 we find Jesus talking to his disciples about what it means to really and truly love him.  He says in vs 15"If you love me you will keep (or obey) my commands."  and in vs 21 "whoever has my commandments and keeps (or obeys) them, he it is who loves me." and in vs 23 "If anyone loves me, he will keep (or obey) my commands..."  He continues in John 15:10 "f you keep (or obey) my commandments, you will abide (or remain) in my love..."  Are you starting to get the picture?

In 1 John 5:3 we read "or this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome."  And in 2 John 1:6 "And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it."

Our love for God is spelled O-B-E-Y.  I know what you're thinking..."Great!  What am I supposed to do with all of that.  I'm not very good at obedience."  Well guess what...neither am I.  Lets not forget the second half of the verse we read in 1 John 5.  "...And his commands are not burdensome."  Lets thank the Lord for that!  Obedience doesn't come naturally to any of us.  But when you are really, truly, deeply convinced of how great God's love is for you, you will find yourself desiring to be obedient.  And with the Lord's help you can succeed in obedience.  Lets also remember that his "grace is sufficient for you.  For HIS power is made perfect in weakness."  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Marketplace Day Camp 2011

This year was unlike any other year Marketplace Day Camp has ever seen!  Some of the most familiar faces around camp were missing and some brand new faces stepped into the spot light.  What a blessing it was to watch God continue to work and use day camp for HIS purposes even in the midst of so many changes!  Day camp was very different for me this year too.  My role was the same, camp nurse per usual but my heart and attitude have changed.  God has given me a hunger to share the gospel and see people forever changed by His goodness and His grace.

I did get a chance to share lots of gospel this week, many others did too!  I also saw the gospel rejected again and again.  I felt God teaching me a new lesson.  I remembered reading in Luke 10, "Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you."  Each time God gave me gospel to share and each time that it was rejected, I remembered this passage.  I felt as if I were the one saying "Peace!"  And I felt as if that peace returned to me each time it was rejected.  God taught me an important lesson about my motivation to share the gospel.  I won't share it just because others are saved, or because its good for me but I will share it because of the glory and honor God receives from His love and grace being talked about any time, any where.  Here's a little story from Marketplace Day Camp 2011...

A young girl came to see the nurse with tears in her eyes on the very first day of camp.  Her hand was on her head and she had this to say to the nurse, "Someone threw a crab apple at me.  I know who it was too."  The nurse offered a sympathetic apology and got this little girl some ice.  The little girl was reluctant to return to her tribe for games.  It was become very clear that her feelings were more deeply wounded than her head.  The nurse asked the girl if she was angry.  The little girl quickly nodded yes.  The nurse than asked if the little girl knew what the bible said about how we should treat people when we are angry with them.  The little girl slowly and reluctantly shook her head to say no.  The nurse went on to share about forgiveness.  She asked the little girl if she would like to forgive the boy who hit her with the crab apple.  The girl said "No."  The nurse then responded like this, "It can be very hard to forgive some one.  Especially if they don't apologize.  But the good news is that God is very good at forgiveness.  He's the best at it actually.  If you ask him to help you forgive the boy who threw the crab apple at you, I know that he will help you!  Would you like to ask Him to help you forgive?"  The little girl shook her head no again.  "Can I ask Him to help you then?"  The little girl nodded her head yes and the nurse prayed.

The little girl, might not have wanted to ask for God's help and she might not have understood what the nurse was teaching her, but I sure learned a lot from it and I am confident that the Lord was glorified!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Pressure is Off, The Thanksgiving Celebration is On!

My husband talks about the pressure being off in another post that you might be interested in.  Check it out here.

I'm talking about a different kind of pressure.  The pressure to be good.  I've been reading a little bit about it in a wonderful book that my sister got for me called Give Them Grace by Elyse M Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson.  In the words of my husband, "If you only read one book in your life, read this one." *picks up Bible* "If you read two..." you might want to try this one.  The book talks about how important it is that we teach our kids the truth about who we are and, more importantly, the truth about who God really is.

We are all sinful.  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"  Romans 3:23.  And no matter how hard we try we are never gonna get it right all the time.  This is the lesson that the Israelites learned over and over again in the Old Testament and the lesson that Paul was trying to teach early Christians who thought that if they only tried hard enough to obey God's laws that that would be enough to get them into heaven.  "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" Galatians 3:11  and "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God," Ephesians 2:8

But, from the beginning, God has this wonderful rescue plan!  He made us and he knows better than we know ourselves.  He loves us anyway and sent his son to exchange our sinfulness for his righteousness!  He took our sins and has offered us his righteousness instead!  Now that's a bargain if I ever heard one!  "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21 and "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man," Romans 8:3.

That's right.  We aren't good.  On our own, we never will be.  But God's FREE gift of grace is this: That we may become like Jesus, a righteous son of God!  With this information in our hearts, we (Sean and Emily) are beginning to pass this message along to our children.  We are praying for the day when it will make sense to them.  We teach them to obey so that they can learn that they will never get it right all the time, because quiet frankly we don't get it right all the time either!  But we also teach them about God's wonderful grace.  That we can exchange our inability to be good for his everlasting goodness.  The wonderful thing that this book, Give Them Grace, has taught me is that this knowledge turns both obedience and disobedience into a reason to give THANKS! We thank God when we do whats right because we know that apart from his work in our lives we couldn't have done good on our own.  AND when we do wrong we thank God for his free gift of grace that we know we so desperately need.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

To my friends at The Barn Youth Group

Hey friends!  This is a message that has been stuck in my mind to share with you all lately.  I feel like its been burning in my heart and I have to let it out.  We have so much love for you guys as brothers and sisters in Christ, as friends, and as students under our care.  We want to be sure that you have heard and understand God's gift of grace, His deep love, and his desire to work in and through each one of you!

I've been thinking a lot about what it really means to be a Christian.  What does a Christian's life look like.  Does it look any different from a non Christian's life?  How so?  The Bible has some wonderful answers to these questions.  Jesus says "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." in John 13.  Again the Bible says in 1 John 4 that "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."  In Galatians 5, we read about the Fruit of the Spirit which I like to think of evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in you life.  It says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." and "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."

So what about all of us?  Do we really love each other?  When people look at how we live do they see evidence that the Holy Spirit (God) is working in us?  If not, are we really Christians?

The thing that has been really breaking my heart lately is this: I have been looking at your lives.  I see that in our group we have hook up buddies, drinking buddies, and drug buddies.  We have bullies and kids that are being bullied.  We have people talking about other people behind their backs.  We do not often see real love for our brothers and sisters and we do not often see the Holy Spirit working.  Why is this?  What have we as your leaders missed?  Have you not heard the gospel and been compelled to live your life for Christ?

The gospel all comes down to one remarkable thing.  I could sum it up in a single word.  Here it is.  Are you ready?  GRACE.  Yes, grace.  Let me explain.

God didn't need any one of us.  He was doing just fine on his own and yet he chose to give us a free gift (that's what grace is).  That free gift was life and breath "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:24-25).  God gave us that.  He had no need for me or you or anyone else.  Out of his great goodness he made us anyway.

He made us.  The way he made us was good.  He says so himself in Genesis 1:31 "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" and in Psalm 139:14 "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."  But we DO have that same old sin problem.  God acknowledged it in his promise to Noah.  That's as early in the Bible as Genesis 8!  He said  "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth."  He knew the sin problem in the days of Noah, that had so grieved his heart and made him sorry that he had even made us, would get just as bad again as it did before the flood.  He promised not to destroy us again because he had another plan for us.  He planned to rescue us.  And guess what that rescue is another free gift.  We don't deserve it.  We never will.  He has decided to rescue us anyway. 

Jesus' death on the cross is the ultimate picture of grace and mercy.  No longer do we have to pay the price for our sin, that's mercy.  And we are offered an incredible opportunity to begin a relationship with God, again something we don't deserve, that's grace.  Apart from God's work in our lives, we will never make a good friend to anyone, let alone a good friend to God.  God knows this and yet he is patient with us and works on us until that work is complete!  "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  Philippians 1:6.  More grace!  With each free gift of grace we except, God gives us the next free gift!  It really is incredible!

Here is the kicker that will tie this gospel message in with what I'm trying to say about our group.  Becoming a Christian is a very personal and private thing.  Its totally, 100%, between you and God.  But if that personal thing is real, that is if you mean your part because God always means his, it won't stay a personal and private thing.  Being a Christian is outward.  Everyone can see it by the love you have for others and the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

So ask yourself.  Did I mean it, when I gave my life to Christ?  Am I holding back?  Do I have love for others.  Can people see God working in me?  If not, can I really call myself a Christian?  Or am I just another one of those "nominal" (name only) Christians that give other Christians a bad rep.

I've just got one last thing to tell you guys.  And its kind of a big deal so listen up!  I am saying this to you now because I LOVE you!  I love you because God first loved me.  Out of His love, I love you.  I'm telling you this because I believe there are too many other people in your life who are too afraid to tell you and if we all keep silent we might all miss out on what God is trying to do in our lives.  I'd never expect you to be perfect because I know that God doesn't expect that of any of us.  But he does have a gift for us.  A gift called GRACE!