Thursday, January 8, 2015

He Bought Her Pearls

"The righteous will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, 
'The Lord is upright; He is my rock...'"
Psalm 92:14-15

Me, Mom (80) and Jim - June 2013


My husband arrived home late on a Friday night after having been across the globe in India on business for two weeks. Weary from lengthy travel but excited to share his stories with us about his first trip to India, Jim dropped his heaver-than-when-he-left suitcases on the living room floor. We gathered around him, wanting to be close and quite eager to listen to his tales of adventure in an interesting country with beautiful people of a different culture. 

But before telling us his stories, he zipped open his bags with a wide smile and began pulling out gifts for me and the kids. I had insisted when he left that he just bring something home for our children. His safe and healthy arrival home would truly be gift enough for me. But enthusiasm and love got the better of his heart, and he brought us each a few carefully-chosen gifts. We were delighted.

When Jim was done showering us with treasures from India, he showed me two felt-covered jewelry boxes. "I got pearl necklaces for each of our moms. I thought they would really like them."

He bought pearls. For my mom.

You see, my mom is now in her 80s, is courageously facing age-related illnesses everyday and has lived in a faith-based elder care facility since September 2013. Though she is content there and faces each new day with anchored hope and bright smiles, my sweet mom doesn't leave the facility unless she is being transported by an ambulance to a doctor's appointment or to the hospital. She doesn't get dressed up any more, rather she wears comfortable clothing that facilitates easy transfers from bed to toilet to wheelchair. My mom can't attend fancy social celebrations, and her calendar only offers her the daily geriatric activities her new home provides. She has nowhere special to go for dinner...she eats in the same dining room every evening, at the same table, looking out the same window. 

And my husband bought her pearls.

He bought her pearls.

Oh how this touches my heart so deeply.

It matters not to Jim that my mom is an aging octogenarian or that she has no place fancy to wear the pretty pearl necklace.

He values my mom. He bought her pearls.

He doesn't see age or illness. He sees the beauty of a mature woman who has abode in the Lord for decades and whose zest for life is unceasing.

He values my mom. He bought her pearls.

He doesn't care that she has nowhere fancy to go. He cared enough to know her still-sparkly blue eyes would light up even more when she received the carefully-strung fresh-water pearls.

He values my mom. He bought her pearls.

Jim's intrinsic love for my mom reflects the heart of God. The Pearl of Great Price loves precious people of every age who are seeking Him.

God knows the value of the aged.

"They still bear fruit in old age..."
Psalm 92:14

God knows the value of a life that has persevered in the faith.

"Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is attained in a righteous life."
Proverbs 16:3

God values the wisdom and understanding that reside in the hearts of the aged.

"Wisdom is with the aged,
and understanding in length of days."
Job 12:12

God knows the value of old age and cares perfectly for the aged.

"Even to your old age and gray hairs,
I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you, and I will carry you;
I will sustain you, and I will rescue you."
Isaiah 46:4


Jim bought my mom pearls. 

So she will put those pretty pearls on her beautifully-weathered neck. And she will wear them to Sunday chapel, to Monday bingo, to Tuesday hair salon appointment, to Wednesday wheelchair exercise class, to Thursday crossword puzzles, to Friday hymn histories and to Saturday sing-a-long. And she will wear them to dinner every evening in the same dining room, at the same table, looking out the same window. 

And she will remember she is valued. By Jim. By her family. By God.


"...until I proclaim Your might 
to another generation..."
Psalm 71:18



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolve to Honor His Name

"'Resolve to honor My name,' 
says the LORD Almighty." 
Malachi 2:2 
A new year. A turning of the calendar pages. A time for reflection. A time for resolve. A time for looking ahead for growth and change.  

Lasting and fruitful change.  

Transformation. Resolve. 

That can only come through the perfect Word of God.  "Every word of God is flawless..."  Proverbs 30:5

"You cannot develop a righteous life apart from God’s Word. Righteousness must be cultivated. As you fill your mind with the words of God, and as you obey His instructions, He will guide you in the ways of righteousness." - Blackaby

If we resolve to do anything this year, let's resolve to honor His name and be transformed by His Word.  "...'resolve to honor My name,' says the LORD Almighty."  Malachi 2:2   

A surrendered heart pursuing peace and holiness. Seems like such a lofty, unattainable pursuit. Yet we are instructed to do it.  "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14

Resolved to honor His name. Resolved to be transformed.


"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Romans 12:12

Resolutions tend to be self-centered.  Resolutions are about me, my strength and my commitment.  

Transformation is Christ-centered.  Transformation comes from the renewing of our minds by the washing of the water of God's Word.  We surrender and yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and allow His transformation to take place in our lives through the Truth of God's Word.  And WOW...He transforms us into His image!  "You have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."  Col. 3:10 

"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."  2 Cor. 3:18

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

The condition of my heart before the Lord moment-by-moment is most important to me. God creates a pure heart in us. God renews a steadfast spirit in us. My responsibility is to keep my heart before Him in humility. A teachable heart. A humble heart. "...humility precedes honor." Proverbs 15:33 

"Every time we open the Word of God, it should be for the purpose of being broken." - Nancy Leigh DeMoss “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."  Isaiah 57:15

As we daily surrender our hearts to His truth, He creates a pure heart in us and transforms our hearts to be more like His.  Wow!  That sure is humbling and awesome. 

If we resolve to do anything this year, let's resolve to honor His name and be transformed by His Word.  "...'resolve to honor My name,' says the LORD Almighty."  Malachi 2:2   This resolve is too lofty for to attain on our own.  Only by HIS grace and Word can it be so.  Let's look only to Him and His Truth for renewal and transformation.

Happy Renew Year!!!

"I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your word."
Psalm 119:16 


Monday, December 22, 2014

Sloan Sweet Home ~ Christmas 2014 ~ Highlights of Our Year


"Your life will be bound securely
in the bundle of the living
by the Lord your God.”
(1 Samuel 25:29)

Annual Christmas Letters -- you either love receiving them...or  you don't! You either read them...or you don't! I personally love receiving and reading Christmas letters, and I really enjoy looking at the pictures. Since I love receiving them, I also love sending them! 

It has become our tradition to send an annual Christmas letter with our Christmas card. The letter shares our highlights of the year. It is our highlights reel, so to speak. It is not all of the bloopers, the outtakes, the scenes that had to be done over time and time again, and not the clips that thankfully ended up on the editing room floor. Thank God for His grace. We got stuff. And He covers our stuff with His grace. 

In our Christmas letter, we reflect on the blessings the Lord graciously showered on us and thank Him, giving Him the glory and praise for every good and perfect gift that comes from Him. We love looking back and recounting all of His blessings and acknowledging each one has come from Him.

Our only hesitancy in sending a Christmas letter with highlights of the year is that it can seem pretentious and quite incomplete as we share all of the good stuff. It is not our heart or intention to paint an incomplete picture. Sometimes God's blessings and mercy comes through the most difficult, painful and growing seasons in our lives and hearts.  

To honor God and those into whom He has breathed His precious life, we choose to share our highlights and not to share in our annual Christmas letter the details of our painful seasons He has seen us through this year, they are written on our hearts and are personal treasures between us and Him. We know we there is no good in us apart from Christ.

"You are my Lord; 
apart from You I have no good thing."
Psalm 16:2

So, these are our highlights. Thanks for visiting!   


Jesus Christ - Our Wisdom. Our Holiness. 
Our Righteousness. Our Redemption. {1 Cor.1:30}

Dear Family and Friends ~

            Cheerful Christmas greetings to you and yours! We pray your hearts and homes are filled with His perfect peace. We would love to hear from you about your happenings and see your pictures! We love the mailbox in December filled with festive envelopes, fun pictures and letters. Thank you for sharing your lives with us. You are each a blessing from God. “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”  (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

            2014 has been filled with memories, milestones and movement! We’re thankful for God’s perfect love at “Sloan Sweet Home”! We have had the blessing of trusting God and strengthening our faith through changes and challenges. With this faith as an anchor for our souls, we have watched Him as He daily fulfills His purpose for our lives. We are thankful for an unchanging God, whose character is consistent and trustworthy. "Your life will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God.” (1 Sam. 25:29)

            This summer we enjoyed two great vacations at two of our favorite places with two treasured families! For the 11th year in a row, our family enjoyed a week at Camp of The Woods in the Adirondack Mountains of New York on Lake Pleasant.  Chapel in the mornings, afternoons on the lake tubing and swimming, and evenings by the camp fire…the simple pleasures of COTW we love most. Joshua and Gabrielle each invited a friend (it is just not camp without Andy D!), and we enjoyed the week at camp relaxing, refreshing and fellowshipping with sweet family friends, the TerKeursts. In August we were delighted to spend a week with friends we hold dear, the Shileys, at another one of our favorite places on earth…Ocean City, NJ. Bike rides, beach, basketball, watermelon and Kohr Brother’s. The Beals gals blessed us with a visit for a day, and we also enjoyed beach time with the Feather Family. Topping it off was the blessing of seeing my dear friend, Laura, and her family. In July, Joshua and Gabrielle also enjoyed their annual summer visit at Pop Pop and Nana’s in the Poconos.  

            Jim and I crossed the threshold together and we each turned 50 in March. Jim insisted on no special celebration for him, apart from a little family celebration and a dinner date for us.  I, on the other hand, said “Let’s party!” In addition to celebrating with my peeps at home, I celebrated my 50th birthday with a limousine filled with girlfriends and a lunch at Max Brenner’s in Philadelphia. (Hello chocolate!) This was Jim’s gift to me. ♥ Earlier in March, I was blessed to have some very dear, refreshing, loving, faithful, turtle-shell girlfriends host a surprise birthday brunch for me. Leopard-print napkins and Cheetah Chip Cookie jars filled the table with fun and joy! (Thank you, Erika!) I was hushed and humbled by His tender faithfulness to me through the sweet and ever-present love of girlfriends. ♥ Also, my girlfriends from work blessed me with a wonderful Mexican celebration filled with laughter, food and fun! I was so humbled and blessed! (Thank you Mary and Dee for planning that!) ♥ Jim and I celebrated 22 years of marriage in May. We are so grateful to the Lord to have each other to share life’s blessings, disappointments, trials and victories! "Remember your journey...that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD." Micah 6:5

            Jim accepted a position as Chief Technology Officer at Prime Technology in King of Prussia in February. We are grateful for God’s plan and provision for our family during this season of life. Jim traveled on business to India for two weeks in August! He had personal drivers and hosts while he was there. (Thank the Lord! Jim said the drivers were a thousand times worse than New York City drivers, and it was common to see women sitting side saddle and holding children on the back of motorcycles, cows meandering in the streets and chickens crossing the road…literally!) His company graciously afforded him the opportunity to do some touring while there, and he saw the magnificent Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Charminar and other sites. Jim is blessed to be part of a Tuesday morning men’s Bible study that meets at Chick-Fil-A at 6:30 am. He is encouraged by the teaching, fellowship, prayer and accountability. He also continues to serve in the Junior High Youth Ministry and Sports Ministry at church. Though his work days are long and demanding, Jim seemingly effortlessly makes our family his priority by his presence and his care.

          Sharon - Serving my family is my greatest and most humbling blessing. These roles keep me on my knees before God for wisdom and strength. ♥ Most of my free hours are spent with my sweet mom at Shepherd’s Crossing. Some of my sweetest time is worshipping with her on Sunday mornings when I join her at her chapel. Though we had a bit of a scare in March, she has been doing very well. She is immobile now but enjoys daily activities. ♥ After serving for 16 years on staff at church, I prayerfully resigned from my position as administrative assistant to our senior high youth pastor, whom I love. It was an honor to serve him for many years. Giving him several months’ notice of my resignation, my last day was August 25th.  Wanting to be able to say from the depths of my heart “Jesus is enough” and not be dependent on a next step, but rather only dependent on Him, I asked the Lord to please wait to show me my next assignment of service until I had finished my job well and passed the baton on with joy. God is faithful and understood my heart. In mid-September I was serendipitously offered a position to serve Him as a ministry assistant at another place I love and for another great boss. Sometimes God moves you from one place to another because you will be told you are an answer to prayer at the other. Humbling...in the best way. I am thankful for God’s perfect plan and provision. ♥ I was honored to have two small contributions in a book released this year ~ “Everyday Confetti” by two lovely friends, Karen Ehman and Glynnis Whitwer (see pages 35 and 53!). Visit here: www.everydayconfetti.org

          Joshua started high school this year…wow a 9th grader! Joshua attended his first week-long camp this past summer – Defenders Basketball Camp at Baptist Bible College. Of course he loved it – unceasing basketball playing along with Bible lessons, devotions and fellowship with his friends and teammates (and late night runs for smoothies and Chinese food). Joshua served again in inner-city Philadelphia this summer on a week-long missions outreach called “Mission Philly”. He was humbled to be able to touch the hearts of some young boys with the love of God (and he loved playing gaga ball with them, too!). Joshua worked for a bit in the summer with his friend and friend’s dad in New York. They worked hard during the day and played hard (basketball) in the evenings. In September, Joshua’s good buddy invited him to try out Brazilian Jui Jitsu. Joshua loved it and has been taking classes ever since. He enjoyed the senior high student ministry Prayer Retreat Weekend in October. Joshua was excited and thankful to make the JV basketball team as a freshman for CCA and LOVES playing basketball. During the summer and autumn, Joshua took basketball lessons at the NAC from a retired pro basketball player. He was chosen for the select choir at school. We are proud of our young man.

          Gabrielle graduated from 6th grade in June, and she was blessed to be asked to speak on behalf of her homeroom at graduation. She began junior high school in September and made the transition from elementary school to 7th grade beautifully. She is grateful for where God has placed her and especially enjoys math. At school she participates in choir, band (flute) and liturgical dance. This summer was Gabrielle’s first being able to serve the Lord in the inner-city through “Mission Philly”, and it was fun for her to serve with Joshua.  She loves young children and made a special bond with a girl name Cici. Gabrielle enjoyed a week at Raise the Praise Camp at church (vocals) this summer, too. Gabrielle continues to serve in children’s ministry by leading the children in worship. Gabrielle put away her Irish dancing shoes to devote more time to gymnastics this year. She prayerfully set personal goals, planned steps to reach them, worked really, really, really hard and…she made the gymnastics team at the Newtown Athletic Club!!!She is excited to begin competing in 2015 with the team. Gabrielle’s pretty hands reflect her perfectly – lovely painted nails and soft skin on one side, and callouses on her palms from working hard to reach her personal goals and contribute as part of a team. We are proud of our young lady.
We pray God brings you many blessings, healing and peace in 2015! 
Love from Sloan Sweet Home ~ Jim, Sharon, Joshua and Gabrielle




Friday, October 31, 2014

King-Sized, Light-Shining Halloween!

Gabrielle singing worship songs at the door.


(This was originally posted in October 2010.  Sharing it again.  This year, we are playing Toby Mac and Jamie Grace from our front porch.)  



"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."  Ephesians 5:15-16
One day a year, all of the children in our neighborhood knock on our door.  Some children we know very well, others we are meeting for the first time.  But they come.  They come for a treat.  We give them even more...we give them the message of the Gospel. 

Halloween can be a touchy topic of conversation for Christians.  We respect however the Lord leads each family individually.  Recently, a friend shared a sermon that John MacArthur taught on 10-31-09 (click here).  His well-balanced sermon confirmed for us that we have indeed been honoring God in our family with what we do on Halloween.  In the part of MacArthur's sermon titled "The Christian Response to Halloween", he says this:  "Ultimately, Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honor God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing mercy to those who are perishing. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish both of those things in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's a message that is holy, set apart from the world; it's a message that is the very mercy of a forgiving God. What better time of the year is there to share such a message than Halloween?"     

So, what does our family do on Halloween?  We redeem the day.  We shine our lights for Christ. We worship Him in song.  We share the Gospel of Salvation.

Here's what our family does on Halloween:  

All of the lights are ON in and outside of our house on Halloween.  Our house is LIT UP!  "The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out."  Proverbs 13:9

We play worship music from a CD player we put on our front porch.  This year, we will be playing the complete series of "Seed of Family Worship".  It's great!  "All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name."  Psalm 86:9

 


We give out King-Sized candy bars!  (Even John MacArthur said not to be stingy!)  We are known for giving out king-sized bars now.  In our hearts, we are giving to honor the King!  (We prepare enough of everything for 100 children, and we usually are visited by 80 or so.)  "...the righteous give generously."  Psalm 37:21


 

Best of all, we share the Gospel message.  Each child knocking at our door receives a tract sharing the Gospel.  This year, we are also giving out "Plan of Salvation Faith Bands"!!  We are very excited about this.  Each pack of Plan of Salvation Faith Bands contains the Gospel message and two sets of crosses in the Gospel colors!  They can then go and share the Gospel message, too! 


Halloween: Trick or Truth? Tracts, 25

 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5:14-16   


Joshua and Gabrielle with our King-Sized Candy Bars!
10-31-09

Joshua and Gabrielle dress up in bright, colorful, innocent costumes. 

 "There's nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbors. Even handing out candy to neighborhood children--provided you're not stingy--can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests."  -- John MacArthur 

We pray that those precious children who knock on our door will ultimately knock on His door!  "For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."  Matthew 7:8

"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture."  John 10:9
  
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
1 Corinthians 10:31

Monday, October 6, 2014

Grace in the Nooks and Crannies


"But just as you excel in everything --
in faith, in speech, in knowledge,
in complete earnestness and in your love for us --
see that you also excel in this grace of giving."
2 Corinthians 8:7

One English muffin was remaining in the package. 

Two kids.  One English muffin. 

Joshua was in the basement family room completely unaware that there weren't enough muffins to go around should everyone want an English muffin for breakfast that morning.  Gabrielle came to me and said, "Mom, there is only one English muffin left and I really, really want it for breakfast.  But Joshua might want it, too.  And I have had more than my share already from this package.  I am going to ask Joshua if he would like to have it."

Feeling hopeful that she might get to have the last English muffin, but really wanting to do the honorable thing, Gabrielle went to Joshua and asked, "Joshua, do you want this last English muffin for your breakfast today?  There is only one left, and I wanted to see if you would like to have it."

Enthusiastically concentrating on his PlayStation Madden Football game more than realizing the love and honesty demonstrated to him by this invitation from his sister, he said, "Sure, I'll have it! Thanks!"  Gabrielle turned and made her way back up the stairs from the basement family room to the kitchen.  Seeing the disappointment on her face, I saw her put the package back on the kitchen counter.  

First Day of School 2014

As I sat in the dining room finishing my devotion time, I felt a twinge of sadness for my sweet girl who wanted that last English muffin.  Making a mental note to pick up more muffins the next time I was the store, I wondered what Gabrielle might choose for breakfast instead of the English muffin. Yogurt and fruit? Toast? Oatmeal? Cereal? 

Then I smelled the comforting aroma of something being toasted in the toaster.  Walking into the kitchen with curiosity, I asked Gabrielle what she was toasting.

"I am toasting the English muffin for Joshua, and I am going to serve it to him.  I am putting butter and grape jelly on it.  I know he likes it that way."

Wow.  

Not only did Gabrielle maturely handle the disappointment of not having the last English muffin, she prepared the English muffin for her brother just the way he likes it. She sincerely wanted him to have it and be blessed by a toasted English muffin.

Something she wanted for herself, Gabrielle lovingly prepared for her brother.

Wow.  Double wow.    


Excellence in the grace of giving.

"Josh-uuu-aaaa", she called to him from the kitchen, "Your English muffin is ready!"

Joshua bolted up the stairs.  As Gabrielle handed him his plate, he said, "Wow, thanks, Brie!"

Wanting to be sure he appreciated the significance of her sacrifice and love, I said, "Joshua, do you realize there was only one English muffin left and, even though Gabrielle was really hoping to have it for breakfast, she prepared it for you because you wanted to have it, too?"

"Really?  Thanks, Gabrielle.  Do you want half?  We can split it!"

"It's alright", Gabrielle responded.  "I really want you to enjoy the whole thing."

Grace and love in the nooks and crannies.

Our children teach me more about God's love than anyone else. 

I have thought about that English muffin a lot since that morning a few weeks ago.  The humility, the surrender, the love, the giving, the grace, the selflessness, the bittersweet sacrifice, the sincerity, the honesty, the sweetness, the kindness. And I want to capture, remember and be changed by these beautiful moments. (Lord knows so many moments are not like that!)

I want to show grace and love in the nooks and crannies of life.  In the small places where little blessings go a long way.  In the hard places where grace is spread out in the bittersweet sacrifice of surrendering and is perhaps only seen by God.  In the sweet places where God's grace toward me allows me to prepare a blessing for another who needs grace. 

So I am looking for those nooks and crannies where His love and grace are spread are like butter and grape jelly on a freshly toasted English muffin. Nooks and crannies that serve up an opportunity to bless another person with His refreshing and satisfying grace. Grace that soaks our hearts with His generous love.

Grace upon grace...for each nook and cranny of my heart and yours.


 Gabrielle in her cousin Stephanie's wedding ~ August 11, 2012



"And God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that in all things at all times,
having all that you need,
you will abound in every good work."
2 Corinthians 9:8

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit,
but in humility
consider others better than yourselves."
Philippians 2:3

[originally published 9/3/12]