We are all sinners. This is made clear in the Bible (Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23, and everywhere else!)) and even more clear in everyday life. We know that, as Christians, we have but to confess our sin to God to be forgiven and washed clean again, but that sounds kind of trite sometimes. "God, I sinned; please forgive me. Amen. Great---all done!" God showed me this week that I need to "keep a clean slate" with Him, even if it means going through the motions, feeling like I'm just saying words. Yes, God wants us to be sincerely sorry for our sin and strive not to repeat it, but He still wants us to confess our sin to Him even if we're not through sinning. Does this make sense? I'm not saying we have a license to sin, but I do not believe that we must achieve a state of true and complete repentance before speaking to our Heavenly Father about our transgressions.
I was teaching the Bible lesson in my third grade class this week when something that I was saying to the students really hit home with me. I felt the Holy Spirit guide my words so that the kids could learn from what was being taught but so that I, too, would get the message. Amazing how that works, right? God loves us so much that, even though He knows we are not fully repentant for what we've done wrong ("Lord, I know it was wrong, but, boy, was it fun!" kind of thinking), He still wants us to keep in the practice of confessing that sin to Him right away. He wants us to keep the lines of communication open and establish the right habits of always talking to our Father about what goes on in our lives because the more we talk to Him, the more we are listening to His reply. The Holy Spirit can convict a heart open to hearing Him much more easily than a heart closed off from listening. You see? God wants us to practice right habits even when we're not practicing right actions. Of course, having realized this, I was able to more sincerely pray and ask God's forgiveness for my sin without feeling so much as if I were a hypocrite or a liar.
Our Heavenly Father wants so much for us to stay in close fellowship with Him that He will listen even to a less-than-heartfelt confession, for then He can work even more in our hearts and bring us to a true confession. Isn't He merciful? How many of us have faced frustration when we feel our kids are saying "sorry" for something without really feeling sorrow? God faces the same situation each day multiple times with His children and shows us by His example to keep working with our kids toward the ultimate goal of true repentance which results in a changed attitude and life. Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy and love and for constantly drawing us to You for forgiveness, mercy, and life.
Amanda did all right this week, having missed her Senior Trip. She got to go out to eat with different folks a couple of times and stay home from school a few days. On Tuesday, Chad took Amanda and Katie to the Southcenter Mall to walk around and shop; the girls can't get enough of this mall---it's huge and cleverly designed so that there are literally shops around every corner. They came home happy and exhausted! Katie's birthday was Thursday; she turned sweet 16. This is a special birthday for the girls in our house because they get to start using makeup! So, Thursday night, Katie and I prowled through the makeup section at Wal-Mart and bought lots of products for her to experiment with. When we got home, Amanda and Katie sequestered themselves upstairs so that Mandie could show Katie how to put on her makeup properly. The finished result was absolutely beautiful! All of us were exclaiming over Katie's face so much that I think she got the message that we liked her makeup a lot! Then, Friday morning, Mandie chose to sleep in and not go to school, so Katie was on her own applying makeup for school wear. She did great! She got lots of compliments, enough to make her realize that she looks good with makeup, not like a clown as she feared. One more step to growing up for her!
Dale has done well this week with school. He's finishing up the year like everyone else and studying for his finals. We've about decided to order PACES for him for some of his classes next year. It's worth trying out to see if he does better working at his own pace to learn than trying to keep up with a class and huge amounts of material. Yesterday he was a bit sad because he thought he would have to go to summer school to make up for poor grades this year, but we think he'll be able to catch up pretty well. When I told Dale this, he brightened considerably!
This is Ashley's last week as an elementary student. As of 12:35 p.m. on Friday the 31st, she will officially be a seventh grader! So many changes are in store for her this summer: she will stop going to Children's Challenge and start working on a bus route; she will join the youth group; she will get to go to Youth Conference for the first time; she will be a worker at Vacation Bible School instead of a participant; and she will be going to junior high classes in the fall. Wow! The biggest sign that she's growing up? Oma (Mrs. Helen Hernandez) bought Ashley a whole lot of little pots and seeds and soil to start a garden, and---get this---Dad said she could transplant them into the flower garden at the front of the house when they get big enough!!! THIS is truly a BIG THING. A year ago when Ashley asked if she could plant some seeds there, Dad gave a resounding "NO!" But now, he willingly offered this area to her, showing her that he considers her able to handle such a job. She is over the moon with excitement! Please pray that her flowers and vegetables grow so that she is able to transplant them and see results of her labor. This is a good hobby to have, one that will encourage hard work and also help provide food for the household (her thinking). Ashley, Emily, and Dale sat out on the patio yesterday filling the little pots with special soil, adding water carefully, and pushing little seeds into the fresh dirt, then labeling the pots so they wouldn't forget what was in what! We'll see what happens.
Amanda's graduation is in one week now! So much to do this week to finish out the school year, order books for next year, and get ready for our oldest to graduate. We thought this day would never come, and now here it is! Praise the Lord for allowing her to grow up strong and healthy and bringing her along this way toward serving Him. What a wonderful Heavenly Father we have.
Thank you to each of you who read this blog, rejoice along with us over our victories, and pray with us during our difficulties. You are a special part of our family, and I can't wait to meet you all at some point---either here, there, or in the air, as they say! God bless you!
Hebrews 12: 6, 7, 9 "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?"