Pastor Appreciation Month

Did you know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month? It’s one of those things that I tend to lump with all of the other Hallmark-invented “holidays.” Which, translated, means that I don’t really pay too much attention to them….and usually end up forgetting all about them.

But, still…

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” –1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (ESV)

So, before this month is over, I wanted to take a minute to share my appreciation for my pastor….

He has not written a book or headlined a conference. And, our church is quite small. In fact, both are very much in the shadows of more recognizable names and buildings.

But, as his wife, I have a front row seat to the hours of study and sermon preparation…the countless meetings and counseling sessions…the urgent, middle-of-the-night texts, emails, and phone calls…the interrupted vacations, days off, family dinners, birthday parties…the hospital visits…the prayers…the tears…the discouragement…the joys…the heartbreak…the love…

jason samuel

And, while he may not be known outside of our small circles of friends, family, and church…if you are – or ever have been – a part of those circles, I can say with confidence that you have been faithfully prayed for, and fervently loved.

He has not sacrificed his family on the altar of the church…nor the church on the altar of family. He is faithful in his calling to love and lead both with integrity, kindness, and humility…from a heart that that loves the Lord, above all else.

No, he isn’t perfect, but he is real. What you see (in the pulpit on Sunday), is what you get (in our home throughout the week). It is a privilege and a blessing to learn from him, to live life with him, and to minister to and alongside him.

j and v


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Book Review: Passions of the Heart

Passions of the HeartIt can be easy to assume that the struggle with purity, lust, and sexual sin is primarily a man’s problem. I can assure you, it’s not. The struggle with sin (any kind of sin), and the temptation to follow our heart is common to all mankind – men and women.

In his newest book, Passions of the Heart: Biblical Counsel for Stubborn Sexual Sins, Dr. John Street, biblically addresses the motivations at the heart of sexual sin and temptation.

“He is a fool who believes in the goodness of his own heart. He is a fool who believes that the heart is a reliable guide for life. The biblical doctrine of total depravity means that every intention, plan, and purpose of the heart, no matter how good it may seem, is tainted by sin.” pg. 16

In the very first chapter, Dr. Street clearly lays out the true, deceitful nature of our hearts, and the catastrophic results of foolishly trusting our own hearts too much. He then goes on to contrast the differences between the genuine believer and the professing believer, and the distinctions between worldly sorrow and true repentance. This chapter should be required reading for every professing believer who struggles with sin (of any kind).

But, even if you do not believe that sexual sin is an area of struggle or temptation for you, personally, I would encourage you to keep reading.

“Your thought life reveals what you worship, what controls your passions, thereby revealing what you love the most (Matt. 22:37-40).” pg. 32

Each subsequent chapter offers insight into identifying the desires and longings that make the heart susceptible to the temptations of lust, and the bondage and enslavement that results when these desires are sinfully fueled. But, it doesn’t stop there. 

“This may come as a surprise to you, but your goal is not improvement – it is holiness.” pg. 223

In every chapter, this book is filled with biblical commands, exhortations, and admonitions to point the reader toward holiness and purity. But far from the cynical despair, resignation, and hopelessness that often characterizes this struggle for purity, Dr. Street consistently points the reader back to Scripture as the source of grace, hope, and sanctification.

Although this book focuses specifically on the struggle with sexual sin, the biblical principles, thought provoking questions, and recommendations for further reading are extremely helpful in identifying temptations, addressing areas of idolatry, and repenting of sins in every area of life.

I would highly recommend Passions of the Heart to anyone who desires to pursue purity and holiness. I believe it will be an invaluable resource for individuals, couples, families, pastoral counseling, one-on-one discipleship, or men’s or women’s small groups, as a means of biblical accountability in the battle against sexual sin.

Pastors/Churches contact P&R Publishing to order in bulk…at a discount.
Or, y
ou can order a copy here: Amazon Affiliate Link

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In Loving Memory


In October of last year, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. He passed away 3 weeks later, on November 1st. We had a memorial service for him shortly after his death, here in Texas where he had lived for the past year and a half. And, we just returned from a second service in California, where he grew up and lived the majority of his life. I was amazed (though not really surprised) by the sheer number of people who came to both services. The faces and families represented spoke to the enormity of the impact that my father’s friendship, example, and teaching had on so many lives.

I am so thankful for each person who took the time to come (and for those who wanted to, but couldn’t)… For each tearful hug… For each memory shared… And, especially, for each prayer said on our behalf over these past few months.


I had the privilege of sharing a little bit about my dad at both services:

“Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” ~Proverbs 20:6-7 (ESV)

Over the weeks and months, as people learned of my dad’s illness, and death, I have had the opportunity to read so many kind words about him. People have commented on his kind face, his joy, his wisdom, his loyalty, and his love for others. But, the greatest joy and comfort in this time has been seeing and hearing so many people talk about his godly example, his faithful testimony, and his sincere love for the Lord… To see him the way others saw him, and to know some of the great impact that had on so many lives is a real privilege.

But, as his daughter, they were seeing the man that I always knew.

I have had a number of excellent teachers in my life. But, I was blessed to have had one of the very best as my own father. Throughout his life…

  • He shared his love of hockey and Disney.
  • He taught me how to make, and appreciate good coffee.
  • He encouraged my love of books and learning.
  • He sharpened my critical thinking skills.
  • He exemplified what it means to be a godly man, husband, father, and grandfather.
  • He allowed me to see that the church wasn’t perfect, and wasn’t made up of perfect people…but he showed me how to love them anyway.
  • He diligently studied God’s Word, and consistently pointed me to the truths of Scripture.
  • And, above all, by his words, and by his example, he taught me that the most important thing in this life, was to know, love, and serve my Lord and Savior.

In college, I had a professor who once called cancer “the kind killer.” I have spent years wondering what he meant, and I think I am finally beginning to understand…

Looking back, some of my favorite memories were conversations with my dad. We talked about everything…and nothing. And, our last real conversation was no different. Not that you ever really want a last conversation with your father, but mine was everything I could have hoped for…

Because, we talked about his favorite things…

  • His joy in getting to see his oldest granddaughter follow the Lord in believer’s baptism.
  • His oldest grandson’s increasingly toothless grin, as he shared another fascinating animal fact.
  • How much he loved hearing his 5 year-old-granddaughter’s excitement in her new-found ability to read.
  • His youngest grandson’s eagerness to be helpful.
  • And the way his youngest granddaughter smiled, and snuggled up against him while he read to her.

He told me how much he loved his grandchildren, and how he wished that he could continue to watch them grow up. (And, while he will not be here to see it, I hope and pray that someday they will understand the precious legacy that he left them.)

We talked about hymns, and the influence and impact of music in the church…today, and throughout the course of history.

We talked about our churches, and how he was hoping that he could start feeling better, so he could get more involved in the life and community of his church.

We talked about my mom…and how much he loved her. Theirs was a sweet picture of enduring love and friendship…for better or worse, until death.

And, this…this is where I see the kindness and mercy of God in my dad’s illness. He gave me one last glimpse into my dad’s heart…

In what could realistically be considered his “last words” to me…He referenced John 13:14, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” My dad spent our last few moments together teaching me, one last time. He shared what he had learned about serving others, and how in doing that, we emulate Christ. Then, we spent our last few moments together just talking about Christ.

That last conversation will be one I will always treasure.

If you knew my dad, or ever sat under his teaching, then you will know that he was famous…or maybe infamous…for his “Agree/Disagree” teaching method, in which he would calmly challenge his students to consider all sides of the issue at hand with the simple question, “But, what does the Bible say about it?” I know that countless others (from Home Bible Study groups and Adult Sunday School classes, to Awana Varsity and Scholarship Campers, and his Houston Christian High School students…and probably beyond) have benefited from his thought provoking teaching and questioning through the years, but, let me tell you, he perfected this technique on his own kids.

So, when my mom called to tell me that my father was with Jesus, my first thought was, “How completely appropriate for my dad to end his life here on earth, by leaving the rest of us with the ultimate “Agree/Disagree” conundrum.”

Philippians 1:20-24:
…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

Had the Lord allowed my father more time here on earth, I am absolutely certain that it would have meant “fruitful labor” for him, because he would have continued to teach and serve…his students, his friends, his church, and his family…just as he had always done. And, I don’t think anyone would disagree that for him to remain in the flesh was more necessary on our account.

But…the Lord chose to take him…much sooner than any of us would have liked, or imagined. But, without a doubt, for my dad to be with Christ, is far better. Truly, for him to live was Christ, but, to die was only gain.

My dad’s greatest desire, always, was that Christ would be honored, whether by life, or by death.

This world lost an amazing husband, father, grandpa, teacher, and friend. And, I can think of no more fitting epitaph for my dad than the words of Matthew 21:25:

“Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Master.”


For those who were unable to attend, as far as I know, neither service was recorded or streamed. But, if you would like to watch, here is the slideshow of my dad’s life in pictures that we shared at both services:

I’m having some difficulties uploading the video so people can see it…I’ll keep working on it.

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Year In Review ~ 2018

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” ~2 Corinthians 5:6-9

Dear Family and Friends,

This year has been one of great joys, and great sorrows. But, as always, we have seen God’s loving, faithful hand in each moment.

IMG_7829January: After experiencing their first snow in December, the kids were especially excited to start out the year with a second snow day! They built (tiny) snowmen, marveled at the icicles, and enjoyed coming inside to warm up with hot chocolate. We also got to enjoy a much too short visit with Jason’s long-time friend Tim and his son (who is also named Titus), while they were here in the U.S. to share about their Seminary and ministry in South Africa.

IMG_7704_wmFebruary: We celebrated Titus’ 6th birthday with a Rescue Bots-themed birthday party with lots of family, and friends from church. Titus is in 2nd grade this year, and continues to be a serious little student! He loves to learn, and can usually be found with his nose in a book. He regularly maxes out his library card, checking out every book he can find on dinosaurs, wild animals, and bugs. He also loves Legos…especially if he gets to spend time building with Hannah. (They combine their collections to come up with some incredible creations!) He has kept the “tooth fairy” quite busy this year! He lost his 4 of his front teeth in just a couple of weeks…3 of them within 24 hours!

IMG_7968March: It was a long-awaited answer to prayer to see our church affirm and appoint two faithful, godly men as elders this month! In the 8 years since we came to this church, and the 4 years since Jason became the Senior Pastor, it has been so exciting to see the Lord growing this church! (Spiritually and numerically!) And, as a result, Jason has kept (more than) busy with preaching, counseling, discipling, and overseeing ministries. While ministry is a blessing and a privilege, one person can only accomplish so much. And, it has been a great encouragement to Jason, and to our entire church family, to have these men come alongside him, and help carry some of the burden of teaching, leading, and shepherding our church family. We are so thankful for their sacrificial service and godly example!

IMG_8078As part of our Women’s Ministry Leadership Team, Veronica kept busy co-teaching 2 of our women’s Bible Studies and helping to plan our church’s Spring Ladies’ Retreat this year. It was a privilege to have Dr. Patricia Ennis come and share her gentle, biblical wisdom with our ladies. It was a great time of rest, fellowship, and renewed friendships.

IMG_8711We also celebrated our newest 3-year-old this month! Rachel is our little ray of sunshine. She has a contagious giggle, and is the family comedienne. She keeps us all laughing with her silly dances, a flair for imitation, and her hilarious observations on life! She is in Pre-School this year, and adds a lot of fun and enthusiasm to our school days. She works hard to keep up with her big siblings in everything. But, as the baby of the family, she is typically the last one to reach those big childhood milestones. So, she surprised us all when she was not the last child in the family to lose her first tooth! She plays hard, and one evening in November, she fell and knocked out one of her front teeth (root and all!). Thankfully, except for the fact that she will be missing that tooth until the permanent one grows in, it doesn’t seem as though there was any lasting damage done. I always say those adorable toothless smiles don’t last nearly long enough…

IMG_8984April: Hannah turned 13 this year! (And, after doing the math, we realized that we will continue to have at least one teenager in our home for the next 17 years!) She has such a sweet, easy-going personality, and is a great blessing to our family, and all who know her.  She is in 8th grade this year, and enjoying the addition of a video math class (and a teacher other than mom!) to her schedule. But, music, writing, and anything artistic are her favorite ways to spend her time. She is continuing to play the flute as part of a homeschool band. She loves to practice, and learn new pieces. And, her hard work paid off when she was moved up to the advanced band this year! She has also joined our church worship team, and it is a joy to see her using her musical abilities to serve our church family!

IMG_0627May: In addition to homeschooling our children, Veronica is continuing to work as a consultant with HomeWorks by Precept, representing BJU Press Homeschool curriculum. She has loved this opportunity to get to know and encourage other homeschooling families, at conventions and events in the Houston and Dallas areas, and is already looking forward to another busy “convention season” in 2019!

IMG_0385June: Jason officiated his first funeral earlier in the year. Sadly, it was closely followed by his second  and third funerals, as we said our earthly goodbyes to some dear members of our church. So, it was a special joy for him to marry a couple from our church at the end of June! And, Titus took his role as the ring bearer very seriously!

July: Crazy Texas weather rained out our 4th of July Church Family Picnic! But,IMG_0470 we were able to enjoy the day with both sets of grandparents! And, the weather dried out enough to allow us to enjoy an amazing fireworks display…from the comfort of our front yard! The rest of the month was, predictably hot and humid. And, we enjoyed many trips to the splash pad, our friends’ pool, and even a few “Ice Cream Emergencies” (publicity events put on by a local Christian radio station).

IMG_1196August: We started our 9th year of homeschooling this year! It definitely makes for some busy days, as each of the kids have very unique academic needs and abilities. But, it is a privilege to help them learn, and to be a part of those “light bulb” moments when a difficult concept finally clicks! But, the best part is being together, working side-by-side, and training not only their minds, but their hearts!

IMG_1547September: After showing evidence of genuine repentance and faith in Christ as her Savior, chose to publicly identify as a follower of Christ, in Believer’s Baptism. She clearly and confidently shared her testimony with our church family…and was baptized by her Dad. As her parents, we have had the privilege of watching her faith and love for her Savior grow, and we can truly say, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)

IMG_2672October: Rebekah turned 5 this month! She loves to tell people that she is in Kindergarten. Math is her favorite subject, but she is most excited to finally be able to read! She reads anything and everything she can get her eyes on, and loves reading to her little sister. She has more energy than anyone I’ve ever met, and skips or dances everywhere she goes. She gives 110% to everything she does…whether it is quietly playing with her dolls, bike races with her big brother, or working on a phonics lesson! She was so disappointed to miss the age cut-off for the children’s ministry at church last year, so she spent the first half of this year excitedly looking forward to joining the big kids in Sunday School! When the time came, she actually got a little nervous about venturing in without, Rachel, her constant sidekick. But, having her big brother there helped!

45421916_10217789818318351_7626159590228361216_nNovember: In October, Veronica’s dad was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. He passed away only 3 weeks later, on November 1st.  This world lost an amazing husband, father, grandfather, teacher, and friend. We all miss him more than we can say. But, we are learning what it means that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Because, there is hope mixed with the sadness as we realize that, this Christmas, he is face to face with the Savior he loved and served with his whole heart…He is home.

December: This month, as our calendar is filled with special services, concerts, and parties, we know that they are only a glimpse of the joy and celebration that will come when we also stand face to face with our Lord and Savior one day. And, this Christmas, we celebrate not only His birth, but also His sacrificial death and resurrection. And that gift is worth more than anything on earth!

With Love,

IMG_8337Jason, Veronica, Hannah, Titus, Rebekah, & Rachel

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Summer Challenge: Praying for my Children

I a7CD740FF-88E7-4374-A7ED-E959DB5ABA9Dm so excited about my project for this summer!

Praying for our children kind of goes without saying when you’re a mom (or a dad). But, often I feel like I am just “winging it,” with the same old requests for health, safety, and salvation each day. (And, of course, for patience for myself throughout the day!)

I want to be more intentional in my prayer time for the precious lives that the Lord has entrusted to my care each day. So, this summer, I am challenging myself to be more disciplined, not just in how and when I am praying, but also in what I am praying for.

When 2 different friends separately recommended this book, within 24 hours of each other, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do.

I will be reading (and praying!) Through Nancy Guthrie’s The One Year Praying through the Bible for your Kids. Yes, I realize this is a One Year plan. The pages are dated, so I’ll be doing something I usually would recommend against doing, and starting in the middle of the book…on June 1st.

What are you doing this summer?


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