Where I Met Jesus

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

This past weekend I had the joy of sharing my testimony at a reunion with my Iowa State University Track and Cross Country team.  Oh the happiness and tears of seeing these dear sisters again.  Thank you, old teammates, for letting me share my story with you…

For 34 years I’ve had a dream to run a marathon. Two weeks ago God helped me fulfill this dream when I ran my first marathon in Bozeman, Montana. The good news is I finished the race.  The bad news is it took me 34 years, but that’s okay. My goal was to run it in 4 hours.  After 8 miles my legs were hurting, at 18 miles I was ready to stop, but I pressed on. At 22 miles some fellow hollered that I could break 4 hours if I kept going, so I kept going, but crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 7 minutes.  I was so thankful to Jesus to be done, thankful to be close to 4 hours, but a bit disappointed to not have made my goal.  But later, when sharing a meal with my family, I asked my college son Kevin to look up the reference for “I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.”  He found it in his smartphone BIBLE.  The verse comes from 2 Timothy 4:7, 4-7 just like my time, 4 hours and 7 minutes. It was then I knew that God had His hand in the entire race, I was in His will.  I believe God has had HIS HAND on all our lives, ever since He brought us together and through the tragedy that seared our hearts in 1985.

God’s hand has been upon us all since He brought us to Iowa State University in the 1980s.  I see this in those He called into ministry, in those He blessed as wives and mothers, in those who are leading lives of integrity in your chosen professions, and in those who are still seeking, trying to put the pieces back together like me.

I’ve wanted to run a marathon ever since I was 18.  Like most of us, I was in the best shape of my life in the spring of 1985, my freshman year of college, but it didn’t fit in with our track schedule to run a marathon.  I carried the dream with me into the fall cross country season that year, and then came the accident that changed all our lives forever.  In that one day, you and I lost everything dear to us and our dreams crashed in a yard in Des Moines, Iowa. 

But there is Someone who can pull dreams back up and make them happen.

There is Someone who can give us beauty for ashes, joy for tears, and dancing for mourning. 

There is Someone who is with us here right now, still reaching out to hold us in His hands.

I want to thank you for letting me share my story with you today. I’ve had the blessing of sharing this story with ladies groups over the years as I invite them to have TEA with Jesus, but this is my first time to tell you, the dear people who were all so much a part of it.  In my ministry, I encourage ladies to sit down with their Bibles, a cup of tea, and spend time with Jesus each morning.  We all have this cup called life, and we need to refill it with His Word each day.  But sometimes, our cups spill and everything goes pouring out on the ground, all in a moment.  November 25, 1985, was a day like that.

We all have a story to tell.  Yours is just important as mine.  I think of in the BIBLE how there are so many people gathered around Jesus at the cross and some are mentioned like Mary, but there are those on the sidelines who are hurting just as much, but who aren’t mentioned.  Their lives were also forever changed by Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, just as all of us on the cross country and track and men’s team and students and roommates at ISU were changed by the loss of our beloved coaches and teammates.  Thank you for letting me share my part of the story…

I share this in honor of my Savior Jesus and the lives He took 34 years ago so that we could live.  My testimony is a tribute to these dear souls: Coach Ron Renko, Coach Pat Moynihan, Runners Sheryl Maahs, Julie Rose, Sue Baxter, Trainer Stephanie Streit, and their Pilot Burt Watkins. I can’t wait to see them all in heaven!

I run in the path of Your commands,
for You have set my heart free.
Psalm 119:32 (NIV)

This is my running story.

I was not always a runner.  I was the one with the side ache walking at the tail end of the grade school PE class.  I was the one who could never hope to qualify for the presidential fitness award.  I was so slow!  But something happened in late junior high.  I discovered I had something that was needed to be a long-distance runner…perseverance.  And so I left the sprinters to their fast legs and joined the distance runners.  Slowly, slowly the side aches went away and I learned how to run.  In high school, my coach, my team and my workout became the centerpiece of my life.  I was dedicated to a fault, always running my complete workout, never cutting corners, such perfection was my religion.

When I headed to college, I wanted to continue running, so I walked-on as a cross country runner here at Iowa State. I remember the summer day when I walked up the stairs in the old State Gym to Coach Ron’s office to ask if I could join the team.  I was so scared, but he must have already talked to my high school coach and decided to take a risk on me.  A month later I was in the van headed to the grueling pre-season training in Wisconsin with many of you.

Let’s talk about those van rides.  Somehow, everyone knew that the passenger seat in front was a hot seat, whoever sat there got to talk to Coach Ron.  And for some reason, since I didn’t know anyone else on the team, that seat was left for me. When we would return from training or meets, since my parents’ home in north Ames was close to where Coach Ron lived, I was the last one to get dropped off.  I remember him talking and talking to me and I wish I could repeat one sentence for you today of what he said, but I was so young and nervous and just wanted to get home, I don’t think I heard it.  But now I know he was pouring himself out for me, as he did for many of us when we went to his office, sharing his wisdom and love for Jesus. And it was not in vain. Neither were the encouraging words from Coach Pat when I ran my spring track workouts, nor the inspiration from Julie and Sheryl and the smiles from Sue, nor the healing from Stephanie, nor the service from Pilot Burt. None of it was in vain, God had His hand on us all.

Do you recall how twice a day we met together for workouts, running dozens of miles a week?  I was the slowest one.  When the team did 1000 meter repeats, I would finish my 1000 meters just when you were leaving for the next 1000 meters.  I would run up and down the hills crying at the end of the line, but I kept running.  And the miles paid off by spring of my freshman year when I ran my best 10K ever. I kept on running for our coaches and team, you were like a family to me, you were my church, until that November day of my sophomore year…

The sidewalks in Ames, Iowa were glazed with ice as we ran our afternoon workout. We, the junior varsity runners, were on our own this day because our coaches and faster teammates were at the National meet in Wisconsin. We thought of you as we jogged along, mostly in the grass because the walks were so slick.  After running together as a team twice a day for months, we felt a strong connection to those of you at the National meet, even though we weren’t there.  As we dutifully completed our workout in the fading light of that November afternoon, we hoped to hear news of victory at Nationals.

As you all know, the year was 1985, long before the days of cell phones.  We didn’t get news in our pockets, nor text messages from friends, nor emails on a computer.  All we had was television news and corded telephones plugged into a wall. And so we awaited good news.

But what interrupted the TV shows that evening was news of a tragedy.  I lived at home with my family still and was watching Wheel of Fortune in our basement with my brother, before diving into another evening of homework.  Partway through the show, newscasters broke in with a startling news announcement:

“A plane has plummeted from the icy skies and crashed in a yard in Des Moines, Iowa.  It was one of three planes returning with the ISU athletes after a second-place finish at the National Cross Country meet.”

I ran screaming up the stairs, unable to believe such awful news.  I called my teammates at the dormitory (on the corded phone) who had just heard the news also.  We decided to meet at the Student Union chapel for prayer (I think Paula set this up), an amazing act for a public university team.  We met and cried and prayed, not knowing who was on the plane that had crashed, and me not truly understanding the ONE to whom we prayed.

The next day we were called together for a meeting with the athletic department in Beyer Hall.  There we embraced you, our teammates who remained, and there we heard the news of who we lost. That single accident took the lives of seven dear people, and changed the lives of all those who knew them:  Our two coaches, three teammates, athletic trainer, and pilot were taken from this world. Now they are part of the great cloud of witnesses who surround us.

The grief was heart-wrenching for their families, and for those of us who lived like a family on the cross country team.

Classes were canceled at the university for a day when a memorial service was held for the athletes.  Our team marched in our gold uniforms and sat together in misery in the ISU Coliseum.  Memorials were given for each beloved person.  The one I remember most was the one Dawn gave for her friend Sheryl.  Before the thousands gathered there, Dawn spoke of how Sheryl was a Christian and is in heaven now, and that if Sheryl had the choice she wouldn’t come back to earth, even if she could.  As I listened with tears spilling from my eyes, I just didn’t understand such faith. Sheryl’s mom was so sad. Why wouldn’t Sheryl want to come back? Why?

In the days that followed, I tried to continue my running workouts along the streets of Ames, Iowa, but could barely lift my legs.  How could I go on without my coaches and teammates?  I questioned, “Why, God? Why?”

Since God allowed my coaches and teammates to be taken away from me, I ran from Him, in search of peace elsewhere, in food, in poor relationships.  Yet those gave no comfort. The plane of my life was on its way to crash, too.

I remember the following spring I made an Easter basket for a boy I liked, filled with M&Ms and other yummy things I never ate because Coach Ron told us not to eat sugar.  But then I found out the boy liked someone else so I was stuck with this basket.  One day I decided I would just eat it, and I ate it all.  That led to another and another and another bag of M&Ms until I had a big problem, eating too much and then running 15 miles to burn it off.  Somehow I found out about a group for people with eating disorders on campus. The day I went there were four of us there from the track and cross country team.  The tragedy had affected us all! But there was no group session or counseling that could take away our eating disorders or sins. We needed a Savior.

By the fall two years after the accident, I had wrecked both my parents’ cars, my bike was stolen, my life was a mess.  One morning on my way to class, I stopped by the chapel of the church where I grew up.  I got down on my knees and poured out my heart to God, asking Him to help me through the mess I had made of my life.  For half an hour I prayed and prayed in that empty church.   When I left the chapel, my heart was lighter, even though I did not know what God was going to do.

Some of you must have been praying for me, because a short time later, my roommates (Becky and Sarah) were invited to attend the Baptist Student Union and brought me along.  It was in the weekly testimonies and singing, that I got to know the Savior of my soul, and my forever friend, Jesus Christ. I learned how God sent His only Son to die for our sins and someday we will be in heaven with Him and all our loved ones. My quest was over – I learned…

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12 (NKJV)

This was truly a miracle from God.  Jesus gave me the peace and comfort for which I’d been searching.  He washed away all my sins and mistakes.  He took my broken soul and healed me. He filled my teacup.

I traded…

My stopwatch for the cross of Christ,

My will for God’s will,

My earthly coaches for a heavenly Father who will never leave me nor forsake me,

And instead of beginning my day with a workout, I begin it with daily devotions in God’s Word,

And so God’s Word has become my life…

And, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…the task of testifying the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24 (NIV)

My friends, PLEASE DON’T WAIT FOR ANOTHER PLANE CRASH to turn your heart to Jesus! Look unto Jesus TODAY! 

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  2 Corinthians 6:2 (NKJV)

The Lord is calling us to know Jesus, to meet with Him each day!

Whatever you are facing, wherever your tea has spilled, reach out to Jesus and let Him heal your circumstances, let Him refill your cup with His Word and promises. Let Jesus give you back your dreams. Let Him hold you in the palm of His Hands.  And someday, we will all be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.” And Jesus will say, “Well done.” And we will be reunited with these loved ones who went before us into glory, and they will welcome us with open arms like it was just yesterday, and we will have that celebration that never happened the day after the race.  It will be a day of victory!

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NKJV) 

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV) 

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to help you,
And in His excellency on the clouds.
The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms… Deuteronomy 33:26-27 (NKJV)

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)

Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.  Philippians 2:16 (NKJV)

My times are in Your hand Psalm 31:15 (NKJV)

 Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson and Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984

Bible Mom: Understanding with Ruth

Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10 (NKJV)

She was the great-grandmother of King David, the grandmother of Jesse, the mother of Obed, the wife of Boaz, the daughter-in-law of Naomi, a Moabite, a God-seeker, and the only Bible mom to have a book of the Bible named for her.  Who was this great lady?  Ruth.

I can’t think of anyone more worthy to highlight  the “U” part of our TEA CUPP than this marvelous Bible mom.  “U” is for “Understanding our stories,” and here is Ruth’s amazing story in these four short Old Testament chapters.  When we understand our stories, how God is at work in our lives, how Jesus saved us, we can share this testimony with others.  And that’s what our Bibles let us do with Ruth, giving us a glimpse into the life of a godly mom.

How did Ruth end up in Bethlehem?  It all happened in the days of the Judges when God’s people kept turning away from Him.  God sent a famine on the land, so a man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi and his two sons moved to Moab.  The two sons married Moabite women, one of whom was Ruth.  Well, Elimelech died and his two sons died, so Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem.  She told her daughters-in-law that they should stay in Moab with their families and remarry.  But Ruth wouldn’t hear of it.  She proclaimed:

“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17 (NKJV)

Back in Bethlehem, Naomi was very sad for she had gone away “full” with a husband and two sons, and had returned “empty.”  But she actually wasn’t empty, for she had a wonderful daughter-in-law, Ruth, who was willing to work hard in the fields and do whatever Naomi said.  A relative named Boaz noticed Ruth’s dedication, blessing her with these words:

The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge. Ruth 2:12 (NKJV)

You will have to read for yourself the courtship and traditions that allowed Ruth to become the wife of this gentleman Boaz.  And once they were married, the Lord blessed them with a son…

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Ruth 4:13 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Read the amazing story of Ruth is Ruth 1-4 today. My friend, your story is found in scripture, too!  Whether you have many children like Leah, prayed long for children like Rachel, or are barren like Elizabeth until she was old, you can find a mom like you in scripture.  Your salvation story is here, too, whether you learned early to sit at the feet of Jesus, as did Martha’s sister Mary, or if you had five husbands like the Samaritan woman, you will find a kindred soul, and you will find out how much Jesus loves you!  What lady from the Bible do you relate to today?  Talk to Jesus about her in your prayers.  With whom can you share your story?

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson

 

 

 

My Testimony

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Acts 20:24 (NIV)

 

Dear TEA Friends,

This month I share with you video clips from an interview my pastor did with me last year.  Today I share my testimony of how God saved me through His Son Jesus. To view more of my interview please see my Hello from Jennifer Grace post. If you’d like to read the entire story, please visit My Running Story.  Or, if you’d like to read it in my book, My TEA CUPP Prayers, please click here.  Or, if you’d like me to come speak for your next ladies’ gathering or retreat, please contact me here.

Thank you for visiting My TEA CUPP Prayers and praying for my ministry to invite ladies everywhere to have TEA each day with Jesus, the King of kings.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

Scripture from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011

Video Credits:   Sam Fossum and Pastor Bryan Baker, 2018

My Coat

We all need coats, especially this time of year in the northern United States.  Each day as we don our coats to head outside, we might contemplate the coats in the Bible.  Did you know there are so many Bible coats?

The first coats: It all began when Adam and Eve listened to Satan the snake, ate the forbidden fruit, and realized they were naked. Because they had disobeyed God, Adam and Eve could no longer stay in God’s perfect garden.  But before He kicked them out of Eden, God made clothing for Adam and Eve out of animal skins.  When God killed his dear animal friends, that was the first time blood was shed for sins, pointing to the day when Jesus would shed His blood for our sins on the Cross.  Adam’s and Eve’s animal skin coats were the first coats in the Bible.

Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21 (NKJV)

More coats: Flip forward a few pages in Genesis to the story of Joseph.  In this passage, Joseph’s father Jacob gave him a beautiful coat, making his brothers very jealous. John MacArthur in his Study Bible tells us that Joseph was a type of Christ, pointing us to Jesus. Both had their coats taken from them and were falsely accused. Both Joseph and Jesus were shepherds of their Father’s sheep. Both were dearly loved by their Fathers, but hated by their brothers.    Both were placed with two other criminals, one who was saved and one who was lost.  And both Joseph and Jesus forgave those who wronged them and saved their nations.  What men had intended for evil, God turned to good.  And their coats played a big part of the story.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.
Genesis 37:3 (NKJV)

A Spirit-filled coat:: Next jump ahead to Elijah in 2 Kings 2:13.  Here Elijah’s protegee Elisha waited to see Elijah go to heaven.  Finally, after following Elijah everywhere, Elisha watched as God took Elijah up in a whirlwind.  When he was gone, Elisha found Elijah’s cloak on the ground.  He picked it up and took it with him and God gave Elisha double the Spirit of Elijah!

He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan.
2 Kings 2:13 (NKJV)

 A clean coat: Then in the book of Isaiah, long before Jesus even brought us salvation, Isaiah proclaimed we will have a garment of praise! We are clothed in garments of salvation and covered in robes of righteousness!  Oh, what joy!  Oh, what a promise!!! And again the prophet Zechariah promises that God gives us a clean robe.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Isaiah 61:10 (NKJV)

Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
Zechariah 3:4 (NKJV)

The wrong coat: The prophet Zephaniah cautions us to beware of wearing foreign apparel. We must be wearing the robe Jesus gives us. This warning is echoed again in Matthew when Jesus tells the story of a king having a wedding party…

And it shall be,
In the day of the Lord’s sacrifice,
That I will punish the princes and the king’s children,
And all such as are clothed with foreign apparel.
Zephaniah 1:8 (NKJV)

But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 22:11-13 (NKJV)

The healing coat: Also in the New Testament, time after time Jesus heals and heals and heals.  The people who follow Him long to just touch His coat for healing. So I pray for all on my prayer list who are need of Jesus healing, to just touch the robe of Jesus and be healed like the people in Matthew 14…

And begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.
Matthew 14:36 (NKJV)

A royal coat: And finally, flip to Revelations where Jesus returns to marry His bride the church.  And just like He clothed Adam and Eve, Jesus provides the wedding garments for His bride. He gives us the whitest most beautiful robe of all, washed clean by His precious blood.

And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Revelation 19:8 (NKJV)

So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Revelation 7:14 (NKJV)

Oh, Jesus, I don’t deserve it, but You gave it to me anyway — Your beautiful coat, pure and white and every color of the rainbow all at once!  Oh, Jesus, what a miracle!  You take our filthy rags and make us beautiful!

Today’s TEA CUPP:  My dear friend, put on the righteous robe which Jesus has given you.  Thank Him for His forgiveness and healing.  Stay away from the wrong coats.  Look up these fantastic coat verses in your Bible today. And welcome the day when Jesus comes again to clothe us all in white robes and take us home!

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
(The Solid Rock by Edward Mote,1834)

Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin
And be washed in the blood of the lamb
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean
O, be washed in the blood of the lamb.
( Are you Washed in the Blood? Elisha A. Hoffman, 1878)

Thank you for stopping by My TEA CUPP Prayers!

If you enjoyed today’s devotion, you might also enjoy A Tale of Two Coats and Filthy Rags.

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

 

Where is He?

…“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:2 (NKJV)

The wise men weren’t call wise for nothing!  They asked the very question we should all ask ourselves every day, “Where is He who was born King of the Jews?”  (Matthew 2:2). Have we searched for Him with all our hearts? Have we followed His star to the ends of the earth to find Him? Or, have we tried to snuff Him out like the evil King Herod?

Where is Jesus in our lives?  Is He lost under the wrapping paper and tinsel?  Stuffed behind the Christmas tree?  Buried under Smart phones and social media and busyness?  Hidden behind a flurry of holiday activities, and activities all year long, for that matter? Is Jesus lost beneath some long-held bitterness that we won’t let go?

Perhaps you yourself are crying out to God this very moment because a loved one has died or there is great turmoil in your life.  You are asking, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).  And, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). And, “Jesus, if you had been here, my loved one would not have died.” (John 11:21)

Dear Friend, I assure you, God is there.  The King of the Jews is with you.  Jesus is weeping with you (John 11:25). He wants to hold you in His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27) and to dry all your tears (Revelations 7:17) and comfort you.

Yea, though I walk http://www.healthsupportyou.com/nchd-ambien-zolpidem/ through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

People have been searching for Jesus since before He was born, to the day He was born, to the day He died, when Mary Magdalene cried to the Man she supposed to be the gardener, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” (John 20:15). And for those who seek Him, there is always Someone to point the way.  For the angel answered Mary Magdalene…

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matthew 28:6 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Answer this question in your life today, “Where is He who was born King of the Jews?” Is He hiding behind past hurts and busyness? Bring Jesus to the front.  Seek Him with all your heart.  Read your Bible each day and talk to Him in prayer.  Let Him be your peace and comfort. Be one of the wise ladies!

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJV)

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near. Isaiah 55:6 (NKJV)

Wise men and ladies still seek Him!

Thank you for stopping by My TEA CUPP Prayers.  If you enjoyed today’s devotion, please check out some of my other Christmas writingsMy Christmas Revelation Tea, Marcie Says it Best, and My Heart Inn.

Good Deed Manger

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 (NKJV)

This December we are renewing a Christmas tradition we began long ago, the Good Deed Manger. It all started when our oldest two children were little and I was reading Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul.  One story was about a mom with four children who was having trouble with them arguing and fighting during December.  So, she began a Good Deed Manger.

The story was a real tear-jerker and hard for me to finish reading aloud to my family.  But we read it each year, nonetheless, and made our own Good Deed Manger.  The first year, Kallie, Jacob and their Daddy built the manger you see in this picture, it was a little crooked, just like in the story.  Some family members went outside to collect dry grass or straw to put in a bucket near the manger.

Then we all wrote our names on slips of paper and put them in a Christmas hat.  We took turns drawing names until everyone had one.  It was a secret, so no one could know whose name we had.  That was the person we would do good deeds for all week, without them seeing us.  Each time we did a good deed, we could put a straw in the manger, trying to make a soft bed for baby Jesus.  Every Sunday night we would draw new names and continue with the good deeds.  On Christmas Eve we put a baby doll in the manger to be the Baby Jesus.  We hoped the bed was soft enough for Him because of all our good deeds.

And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:12 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Make a Good Deed Manger with your family this December! If you can find Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul at your library, look for the original story  (p. 68 “The Last Straw”). and read it aloud together. Better yet, read the story of our Savior’s birth in Luke 2. Then have a blessed Christmas season, surprising everyone with good deeds.

 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:16 (NKJV)

If you enjoyed this devotional activity, you might like to read my other Christmas Devotions, another favorite of mine is My Heart Inn.

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

My Home School Story

home school

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

The other day I realized, we’ve been home-schooling for 20 years!  This is 2016, and in 1996, when our daughter was in first grade, we began to home school.  There have been many ups and downs these 20 years, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  This story is how God called us to home school our children.  Perhaps He is calling you, too, and you are wondering how to get started.  I hope my home school story helps you…

We have four children on earth and three in heaven.  When our oldest two kids were ages three years and four months, we moved to a new state.  We were blessed to meet other families with young children who all had the same question for us, “Are you going to home school?”

I hadn’t even considered home school! But when the third person asked me, I thought perhaps God wanted me to look into it.  Our daughter attended preschool at our church when she was four. That whole year we prayed about whether she should go to kindergarten the next fall, or not.  When August rolled around, we still didn’t have an answer.

A friend was hoping to build a new house and told me the story of seeing a double rainbow right over their property; she took that as a “go” sign from God.  I prayed for God to give us a sign about school for our daughter. The next Sunday at church, the pastor announced that the new principal at our daughter’s school was a church member.  We took that as the sign, and sent our daughter off to kindergarten.  It was very hard to put our sweet, curly-haired girl on the school bus, just two weeks after her fifth birthday.

Our daughter attended a large rural school, where students came from all walks of life.  The teachers did their best to help the kids succeed, but they only had so much time for each one.  It seemed we were doing more with our daughter on the afternoons and weekends than she was doing during her school hours.  We would read stories, paint pictures, go for nature hikes, visit the zoo, write our own stories…I wasn’t sure why I needed to send her off on the bus each morning.  So, at the end of her kindergarten year, we decided to home school.

I remember my dad asking how long we would be home schooling.  I didn’t know at the time, but I thought a few years, at least. I often wondered why God wanted us to have that one year in public school, and perhaps it was to solidify our decision. Now, 20 years later, we’re still home schooling and about to start our four-year old on the journey, as well.  What have I learned in these 20 years?  Let me share a bit with you…

I’ve learned I’m not cut out for this!  Seriously, that’s what so many moms tell me, “I could never do that.  I don’t have the patience.”  My family will tell you I run out of patience, too.  But I keep on going because this is God’s calling.  If you’re going to home school, you really have to jump in and do it and never quit.  There will be good days and bad days, good years and bad years.  But in the end, you will be so glad you stuck with it.

I’ve learned that kids grow up way to fast, and home school is the best way to spend time together.  Yes, it’s true.  Our daughter is now 25 years old, a college graduate, working on a masters degree and expecting her first baby.  Our oldest son is now 22 and finishing a degree in mechanical engineering.  We are so thankful to still have our 15-year old son and our four-year old son at home!  The times I cherish the most are when we sit on the sofa together and read stories.  There is nothing cozier and more special than that!

I’ve learned that Daddy is a great help with home school.  Yes, moms, be sure to get dads involved.  Many times I was sure the kids learned more from doing a wood-working project or science experiment with Daddy, than all the months of book work they did with me.  It is so good to have Daddy on board and supporting the whole home school.  We like having Daddy help us start each day with prayer and devotion at breakfast before he heads off to work.  Often he’ll come home early to do a project, giving me a break, too.

I’ve learned to use the library.  When we first started home school, we had a very small income with no room for extras.  I took my two little ones to the library every week, where we checked out a huge stack of books.  We would spend the week reading them together.  Sometimes we would have a theme such as Africa or the circus, but other times it was just a random collection of stories.  You don’t need “real” curriculum until the kids are in fourth grade.

I’ve learned there is math all around.  Our most favorite thing to do for math is to bake cookies.  We double the recipe or use the wrong size measuring cup, just to do a little more math in our heads.  All my kids know how to make cookies!  There is also math on the calendar, the clock, the thermometer, the speedometer, the ruler, the calculator, the grocery store, in counting objects, and the list goes on!  I start my kids on Saxon Math in 4th grade, but before that we just work on facts, telling time, making up word problems, and an occasional work book from Walmart :-).

I’ve learned 4H has great lessons for kids.  From animals to sewing to cooking to wood-working to mechanics to photography to robotics to electricity…you name it!  If your kids join a local 4H club, they can sign up for any of these activities and receive detailed activity books.  Youth in 4H also learn great life lessons such as record-keeping, organization, goal-setting, community service and leadership.

I’ve learned what works for one might not work for all. But I still might use it, because I like it! There are certain books I love that I use for all our kids.  Pathway Readers and The Millers books have some of the best family stories and lessons. Other curriculum, such as Jensen Grammar for high school, I gave up on the third child.  Sorry, Mr. Jensen, we just couldn’t do grammar any more!

I’ve learned to ask friends for ideas.  Our town has a loose-knit home school group.  There is probably a group in your area, too.  In bigger towns, families get together to share lessons in a co-op fashion.  Our group passes around used books and shares tips on Facebook.  One friend and I used the same high school curriculum, and cried on each others’ shoulders every quarter when it was time to send in the school work.  It’s good to have a home school friend!

I’ve learned to make Jesus first and last.   Our days begin with prayer and an Our Daily Bread devotion at breakfast.  Our days end with the kids being tucked into bed with a prayer, too.  We know we aren’t perfect, but we ask Jesus to guide us in our lessons and activities throughout the day. Start and end your days with Jesus, and let Him fill your moments in between, too.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

I Did Nothing

tea cup for bookmark - UYou were loving and kind,

I did nothing.

You were merciful and saved me,

I did nothing.

You washed away my sins,

I did nothing.

You renewed me with Your Holy Spirit,

I did nothing.

You justified me by Your grace,

I did nothing.

You made me Your heir,

I did nothing.

You gave me the hope of eternal life,

I did nothing.

I only had to believe in You.

Dear Jesus, I believe!

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Dear Friend, what is your story?  This verse below from Titus reminds me how I did nothing.  Jesus did it all, I only had to believe.  I pray that you also believe in Jesus and share in His forgiveness and eternal promises.

The song “Glorious Day” by Casting Crowns says it beautifully: “Living He loved me, dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away. Rising He justified freely forever.  One day He’s coming, Oh, Glorious Day!”  Use this song to worship Jesus today.

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

The Sweet Forever…My Story to Come

The Big BlueI would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (NKJV)

The Sweet Forever is in my dreams today. So many times in the “U” part of My TEA CUPP Prayers, I focus on Understanding my story in the past.  The above verse would take me to a sad time in life, reminding me of when I almost lost heart.  One day when reading this passage I realized, I need to focus on seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  “My Story to Come” is what I must remember.  Oh, hallelujah, what a glorious day that will be!

What will heaven be like?  The Bible tells us…

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  John 14:2 (NKJV)

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  2 Corinthians 5:1 (NKJV)

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.  Hebrews 11:16 (NKJV)

They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelations 7:16-17 (NKJV)

Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.  Luke 10:20 (NKJV)

At church recently we sang this beautiful old hymn about the land beyond the river. I want to remember this each moment…how I will see my Savior Jesus’ face when I cross the river someday.  This is “My Story to Come” that I long for me, for our children, for all my family and friends.

 There’s a land beyond the river
That we call the sweet forever
And we only reach that shore by faith’s decree
One by one we’ll gain the portals
There to dwell with the immortals
When they ring those golden bells for you and me.

When They Ring Those Golden Bells for You and Me

Today’s TEA CUPP: My dear TEA CUPP friend, do you think of that day when you will pass from this life into the next one?  If you believe in Jesus, you will live eternally with Him in heaven.  That is why I spend time each day with Him having TEA, so I can get to know my forever Lord better.  Won’t you do the same?

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1:10-11 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

My Hiding Place

WebYou are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.  Psalm 32:7 (NKJV)

 The website I use for clip art has hundreds of pictures on most topics.  It is handy to find photos that are just right for my articles.  When I searched for “Hiding Place,” though, it only gave me one photo…a dog burying his bone.

I had to laugh, because Jesus is my hiding place.  I’m not sure if I’m the bone and He is the hole in this picture?  Some days I just want to hide from the world, get away from the hurts and pain.  I pray Psalm 32:7, You are my hiding place, Jesus, You protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Let me hide in You today, Lord!

Or, I might pray one of these verses…

Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings. Psalm 17:8 (NKJV)

 The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
He will thrust out the enemy from before you,
And will say, ‘Destroy!’
  Deuteronomy 33:37 (NKJV)

There have been several times in my life when I’ve needed these verses.  I remember the day I was taken away in an ambulance.  It was the first time I lost a baby and we almost lost me, too.  I was so scared until the ambulance people put me in a stretcher.  The stretcher was U-shaped fabric, hugging my body as they carried me out the door.  I continued to feel that hug for the next month.  God’s everlasting arms must be like that.  Though I do not like troubles, the feel of having the Lord so close, being in His hiding place, is one I always treasure.

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Are you going through a rough time?  Sometimes the holidays remind us of past sorrows, and can bring sadness rather than joy.  Please look to the Lord, dear friend.  Curl up in His Hiding Place, read His Word, sip a TEA CUPP with Jesus each day.

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in Your word.  Psalm 119:14 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.