Category Archives: Thinking Biblically

Watching History

This morning, we watched the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

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As we do every 4 years, we watched history being made.

I have watched every Presidential Inauguration of my adult life (in addition to several before I was of legal voting age). And, since becoming a mom, my children have watched with me.

I am not proud to be an American. I am thankful. And, I want to my children to understand the blessing of the freedoms we have been given, and to be grateful for the privilege that it is to grow up in this country.

Over the years, I have watched the Inauguration of Presidents that I have voted for, agreed with, or was happy to see take office. I have also watched the inauguration of Presidents that I disagreed with, did not vote for, and did not want in office.

But, I have never once feared a violent, militaristic, governmental take over. I have never once feared a total disregard for the transfer of power. I have never feared a brutal and unjust tyrannical regime.

Maybe I should. But, I haven’t.

We have been blessed with peace, with security, and with freedoms unknown in most of the world. Regardless of who our President has been. Regardless of whether or not we deserved it.

The majority of the campaign season, through election night, and even up to the inauguration itself, has been frustrating, disappointing, and divisive, on so many levels.

But, today was a day of ceremony, tradition, and patriotism. We once again witnessed a respectful, peaceful transfer of power. From one political party to another. We heard lofty promises, and were painted a picture of an administration that would be vastly different from the one preceding it.  And yet, we witnessed several of our country’s past leaders, of differing convictions and political affiliations, sit side by side, to witness the inauguration of this country’s newest leader.

President Trump may not have been your choice. (He wasn’t mine.) But, as the President, he deserves our respect.

But, even more than that, he needs our prayers.

After the Inauguration Ceremony concluded, we took some time to pray for our country, and its leaders. We prayed that the Lord would graciously grant wisdom, discernment, integrity, and humility to President Trump and Vice President Pence, as they seek to lead a deeply divided country. We prayed for their protection. We prayed for the men and women they have chosen, and surrounded themselves with, who will advise, counsel, and help to lead this country. But, most of all, we prayed that their hearts that would be softened to the truth of Scripture, and for genuine repentance and salvation.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:1-5)

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2017 Reading Goals

Last year, I posted a list of 12 books that I wanted to read over the course of 2016. Twelve. There was a time, in the not too distant past, when I could have easily read 12 books in a single month. But, at the beginning of last year, the challenge of reading just one book a month seemed like a major undertaking.

Here I am a year later, and while I didn’t complete my self-imposed assignment, I definitely read more books last year than I did in the past 4 years combined! So, I’ll still call it a win.

The books I read in 2016:

  • The Pastor’s Wife, by Gloria Furman
  • Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, by Gloria Furman
  • Missional Motherhood, by Gloria Furman (Um, yeah. I like her.)
  • A Path Through Suffering, by Elisabeth Elliot
  • The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Butterfield
  • Modesty, by Martha Peace and Kent Keller
  • The Busy Homeschooling Mom’s Guide to Daylight, by Heidi St. John
  • The Pastor’s Kid, by Barnabas Piper

If you compare, you’ll notice that some of these books were on my list last year. Some of them were not. When it comes to books, I’m kind of like that dog in Disney/Pixar’s “Up.” Books are my “Squirrel!” I frequently pick up new books to read long before I am anywhere close to finishing (or, starting!) the ones I already have.

Being the start of a new year, I have a new list of books that I would like to read in 2017. But, like last year, I am sure I will find more titles to add to the list before the year’s end. So, next January, my list of completed books might bear very little resemblance to this one:

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Counseling the Hard Cases, by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert – I recently told someone that I would make a terrible counselor. And, I really would. But, that is exactly why I am reading this. I have had many opportunities to see the need for solid, biblical counseling in the church. And, as the Lord gives me opportunities to invest in women, whether through casual conversation or formal counseling, I want to be equipped to help them, and to point them to the hope offered in God’s Word.

On Guard, by Deepak Reju – Probably my biggest fear is that of something terrible happening to my children. I have seen too, too many stories of child abuse, at the hands of professing believers…church members. And, in addition to the fear of something happening to my own children is the fear of something happening to one of the little ones in our church family. No, these things should not happen. But, they do. Churches are easy targets. Frankly, this is the book I don’t want to read. But, at the same time, I desperately want to do everything I humanly can to protect these little ones. And, should the unthinkable happen, I want our church to be prepared, and equipped to deal with it correctly.

Women in the Church, by Andreas Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner – This is an increasingly fuzzy area in the church today. It shouldn’t be. But, it is. As the issue continually comes up for debate, and the “job description” of what women can and cannot do is frequently revised and adjusted to fit modern (and post-modern) sensibilities, I want to be faithful to what God’s Word says on the issue. This is the third edition of this book. It has been updated to address current issues, and to add some new voices to the conversation.

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, ed. by Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson – The theme of women’s issues/ministry was unintentional. But, not entirely surprising. Ministry to women – teaching, counseling, discipling – is something I have been interested in for a long time. So, books addressing these topics always draw me. Right now, my main sphere of ministry is my home, and my children. I am not responsible for heading up the women’s ministry in our church. But, that does not mean that I am exempt from “ministry.” I want to be faithful to do what I can to love, serve, and encourage the women in our church, older and younger alike. I have heard very good things about this book, and I have appreciated the writing of several of the contributors in the past, so I am looking forward to reading it.

J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, by Iain Murray – The writings of J.C. Ryle have long been a favorite in our home. His influence can be seen in the fact that our son’s middle name is Ryle. But, although I’ve read much by J.C. Ryle, I have never read much about him.

The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, by John & Janie Street – My husband gave me this for Christmas. Other than a new Bible, this was the one thing I wanted for Christmas. I started dropping not-at-all subtle hints that I wanted it back in April when we discovered that it was being published. And, my sweet husband wisely picked up on those “hints,” and I found it under the tree on Christmas Afternoon. It is written by our college professor and pastor, and his wife. With 35 years of biblical counseling experience between them, I can only assume that the wisdom in this book is unparalleled. I’ve cheated a little bit, and started reading it before the new year began. And, so far, it is absolutely every bit as good as I expected.

Spiritual Mothering, by Susan Hunt – In terms of the Titus 2 older/younger woman dynamic, I would probably still be considered by most to be in the “younger woman” category. I have 4 children – one pre-teen, and 3 young children, which might increase the perception, and appearance that I am younger than I actually am. So, it might seem odd that I am reading a book about older women investing in the lives of younger women within the church. But, I have seen the desperate desire for this type of relationship. I have heard so many younger women question where the older, “Titus 2” women are.

Seated With Christ, by Heather Holleman – This book was one that my husband brought home from the Shepherd’s Conference last year. I had never heard of it, or the author, before that. But, the subtitle, “Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison,” was intriguing. And, in an age where everyone’s best moments, cleanest rooms, gourmet meals, and well-behaved children are put on full display, it can be hard not to fall into the trap of comparing our own regular, messy, and imperfect lives.

The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance, by Heidi St. John – I have heard Heidi St. John speak at our local homeschooling convention for the past two years. And, I have appreciated her honesty, humor, and passion, as she encourages busy, overwhelmed, homeschooling moms to seek to honor Christ, and to be faithfully in God’s Word, each day. I picked up her book on scheduling and organization a couple of years ago. This past year, I picked up her book on nurturing your marriage. In one of her sessions at this year’s convention, she clearly illustrated the point that the enemy is actively attacking Christian families…and specifically Christian marriages. And, she was absolutely right. I’ve seen it happen. And, for so very many reasons, I do not want to become another casualty of the busyness of homeschooling and ministry.

What are you reading this year?

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Politics and Religion

“…the power to bring righteousness to this country does not now and will never reside in public office.” –John MacArthur, Why Government Can’t Save You (pg. vii)

I have always said that it is a good thing that God saved me, or I probably would have become some sort of feminist political activist. I actually love politics. I love a good debate. And, I love this country.

But, more than that, I love the Lord. My ultimate allegiance is not to an earthly kingdom (or republic, if we’re being technical). It is to Christ, and His kingdom.

And, my behavior, both during this election cycle, and beyond, in the wake of its results, has to reflect that.

I was a Cruz for President supporter before Ted Cruz was officially running for President. And, to be honest, I still am. I wish with everything in me that I could cast my vote for him tomorrow.

I have been asked a number of times, how I respond to Ted Cruz’s ultimate endorsement of Donald Trump. This is how I have answered:

I fully agree with Cruz’s exhortation, at the Republican Convention, to “vote your conscience.” And, especially as it concerns Christians, I still believe that is the best choice. (Even if “voting your conscience” means that the person you choose to cast your vote for is a write-in, or third party candidate.)

Because, I firmly believe that if more Christians had voted according to their consciences, and Christian convictions, we would not be in the mess that we currently find ourselves.

In all honesty, I do not like that Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump. But, I greatly respect him for doing so.

Wait. What?

Yes. I respect him for endorsing Donald Trump.

He gave his word that he would support the eventual Republican nominee. And, he did. That is integrity. That is a man who keeps his word. And that I respect.

However, just because I respect him, does not mean that I agree with him. Frankly, there are a number of people that I greatly respect, that I strongly disagree with right now.

“It is very surprising, and sad to hear so many Christ-followers talking like we have a “line item veto” in the voting booth. Does anyone really believe you can vote for something about the person, but not the person? Can we really believe we can vote for a candidate’s stand on one issue, but cross out that candidate’s character, behavior, past views, or immoral behavior? Nowhere does the ballot give that option. And frankly, nowhere does Scripture allow us to separate behavior and beliefs from the person. Biblically we are whole beings. Being partly right doesn’t equate to being right. When you vote for a person you are siding with all they are, like it or not. To think otherwise is to rationalize your support based on their hypocrisy.” –David Hegg

I have not kept my concerns about Donald Trump a secret. Like many, I have, what I believe, are very real, very serious concerns, about him, about his character, about his integrity, and about a future presidency with him at the helm.

As Christians, we can, and evidently do disagree about this. But, we should (according to Scripture) be able to do so lovingly, kindly, and respectfully. And, we absolutely must do so without giving the watching, unbelieving world an opportunity to speak ill of Christ.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” –Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV)

You will not hear me questioning your salvation for voting for Trump. Who I cast my vote for does not equate, or invalidate, my salvation.

You will not hear me gleefully saying “I told you so” after the election if he does not keep his word. (Or, should Hillary win, I will not say “I told you so” when she does exactly what she has said she will do.) In fact, if Trump should win, I desperately hope I am wrong about him. I hope that you will be able to say to me “I told you so.”

You will not hear me mocking your choice, or your convictions. Whether you vote for Trump, Johnson, McMullin, Castle, or Hoefling. Believe it or not, while I may disagree, I genuinely understand why you might think this is your only choice. I even understand if you feel the need to sit out the top ticket race. (But, please, please, be informed, and vote in every other race on your ballot!)

I will not “unfriend” anyone (online or in real life) for voting differently than I do. I dare say, the majority of my friends are voting differently than I am. For my part, I still consider them friends, and fellow believers.

But, I have to say, I have lost a great amount of respect for the way some Christians have handled each other in this.

principlesThis cartoon. Oh, this cartoon. The mocking, insulting tone of this one, little cartoon has quite possibly made me angrier than almost anything else I’ve seen this election season. Why? Because, it has been posted by a number of people, many of whom want others (especially other Christians) to respect their decisions on a host of issues, based solely on the fact that their choice was made on the basis of their “principles” and “convictions”: Homeschooling. Birth control. Family size. Entertainment. Vaccination.

No. That, my friends is hypocrisy. Plain and simple. Principle and conviction is either a valid reason for making a choice or it isn’t.

Please, do not mock and belittle a fellow believer for truly seeking to honor their biblically informed conscience in this matter.

And then there is the mentality that says (in response to someone using a third-party vote to say “I told you so.” to Trump supporters),

“Of course if Hillary wins and our freedom to preach the Word is taken away, we can say ‘I told you so’ to the traditional Republican voter other who wrote in someone or voted 3rd party.”

Really? Really?!?!

This medium cannot accurately convey the incredulity that I feel at this statement. Should Hillary Clinton win, and effectively abolish our personal and religious freedoms your concern is going to be saying “I told you so.” to someone – a fellow brother or sister in Christ – who chose to vote differently than you did?

Again, I ask, really?

Christian, please, use the privilege and the voice that we have been given in this country. But, do so in love. Please, do not use your voice, or your vote to guilt, mock, or belittle others into your way of thinking. Use it to speak for those who cannot – for the vulnerable, the weak, the unborn. Vote for your children, or your grandchildren. Vote your (biblically informed) conscience.

But, do not believe for a minute that the ultimate hope and change for our nation hinges on your vote. It doesn’t.

 …for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” –Daniel 4:34b-35 (ESV)

 Regardless of who I vote for, who wins, and who loses tomorrow, God is still on His throne, still in control. It is not a cliché. It is not a platitude. It is the truth.

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”Job 42:2 (ESV)

Christian, now is the time use that faith you are so proud of.

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Momentary Light Affliction

This blog is (or, perhaps has been) my attempt to encourage and challenge primarily myself, but other women as well, to view every area and event of life through the lens of Scripture. And to be joyfully content as we recognize God’s undeserved grace, mercy, and sovereign care in the big, unexpected joys, as well as in the difficult trials, but especially in those little, often overlooked, everyday moments.

Because, most of life is lived in the simple and the ordinary.

But, in doing so, my desire is not to paint our life as one of sunshine and unicorns, untouched by reality and troubles.

Like everyone, my days are filled with joys and failures, blessings and trials, celebration and suffering. My children are sinners. Their mother is a sinner. (I know Scripture says that I married a sinner as well. But, I’m beginning to wonder about that one. He’s amazing.)

I detest the trend of airing one’s dirty laundry to the whole of the worldwide web, under the guise of “transparency.” I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to “vent.”

My desire is to focus on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). To look for the grace and mercy that God has so richly, and undeservedly given, not in spite of the difficult times, but through, and maybe even because of them.

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.”

So, it is rare that I will write from a place of discouragement and weakness.

But, you want transparency? Here it is…

Life is hard.

I am not making that statement in relation to the suffering, trials, or circumstances of anyone but myself. The comparison game is futile. Comparing my situation to that of someone else is like comparing apples and oranges. No. It’s like comparing apples and turtles. You just can’t. There is always someone else going through something bigger, something worse, something harder. (And I know many who are.)

I am just stating the simple fact that, life can be hard.

And, recently, it has been.

“In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33 (NIV)

In addition to multiple minor illnesses hitting every member of our family, teething toddlers, night terrors, mastitis, our recent miscarriage, migraines, and a stint in the ER, I have been living with severe anemia (and the accompanying symptoms and side effects) for at least a year…likely a lot longer. I am now on a prescription iron supplement, which I am praying might remedy some, or maybe even all of that.

Oh. And, did I mention that, as a result, we are still trying to finish up our school year? And the laundry and dishes have continued to multiply at alarming rates.

So, those simple, everyday, real life moments are still very much there, very much demanding that we keep up.

And, somehow, in the craziness of caring for, and keeping up with us, my husband still has to do his job. He still has to prepare sermons and Sunday school lessons. Some weeks, I have wondered if he isn’t writing his sermons on the back of a napkin on his way to church! (Don’t worry. He’s not!) People are still coming to him for counsel. Each one a judgment call. Is this an urgent need? Can they wait? And, meetings that have been canceled, long-postponed, and rescheduled (multiple times), have to be attended.

There are just not enough hours in the day.

“Why does our heavenly Father seem at times to be steadily shoveling suffering into the lives of those he loves so deeply, when he could easily relieve it?” (Running on Empty, pgs. 15-16)

You may thinking, “Stop complaining. That’s nothing.”

And, you’d be right.

“Suffering, even in its mildest forms – inconvenience, delay, disappointment, discomfort, or anything that is not in harmony with our whims and preferences – we will not tolerate. We even reject and deny it.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 13)

We do not like to suffer. We avoid it when we can…except in the cases when, as a result of our own sinful stupidity, we run headlong into it.

But, I say that all that to say this…I am just weary. Physically, mentally…and yes. Spiritually.

I love what Gloria Furman says in her new book, Missional Motherhood (I am quoting from a much larger section, and, I hope, doing justice to the original context. But, I would encourage you to read the entire section, or even the whole book, for yourself.):

“Things that are part of our design – our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an “earthly tent,” and our lack of knowledge – are not failures. We have no need to repent of those things, for this is the way God designed us. God has no need to repent of making us this way, because he reserves the right to create in whatever way his holy will desires. Moms don’t need to be redeemed out of their God-given design. But here is another place where we have to “use our words” very carefully. We must be very, very hesitant to name something sin. If it is sin, it requires atonement. But we often place worldly blunders on the same level as unholy sins….The eternal Son of God did not go to the cross and suffer crucifixion and the wrath of God to atone for a moms inability to accomplish everything she wants to do in a day…..Before we call upon the great doctrine of justification by faith alone to redeem us out of our so-called calamity, or before we herald the massive truth that we are counted righteous in Christ by faith in him, we ought to consider the nature of our need….If that neediness is owing to your sin, that vile rebellion against your Maker, then you repent….But if your neediness is simply because you are a human being (i.e., not omniscient, not omnipresent, not omnipotent, not God), then you have reason to rejoice.” (Missional Motherhood, pgs. 124-125, bold mine)

Rejoice?

In weakness? In weariness? In suffering?

Yes.

And, more than that, we can be thankful for it.

“Who can be grateful for pain? Only those who see beyond to the ineffable mercy, tender and severe, which is silently at work.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 56)

It is a gift.

It is a gift because it teaches us about the character of God. As discipline, it confirms God’s love for us, and our position as His child. It tests, strengthens, and refines our faith. It produces endurance, character, and hope. And, it is a condition of discipleship.

If we are to follow Christ, we must expect to suffer.

“He accepted suffering. He willingly laid down His life. He poured out His very soul unto death. Shall not we, His servants, tread the same pathway?” Pg. 39

But, perhaps, just maybe, our troubles, our inconveniences, our sufferings are not for us.

Lilias Trotter, in her book, Parables of the Cross, wrote “God may use…the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessings of souls unknown to us….” (as quoted in Elisabeth Elliot’s A Path Through Suffering, pg. 15)

It has been unintentional (on my part), but many of the books I have been reading recently have had a providentially similar theme. Suffering.

In her book, Running on Empty, Barbra Bancroft says,

“Ministry brings suffering into our lives. It is the hardest gift for us to accept from God. None of us enjoys suffering and it is one aspect of ministry we are always trying to avoid. God brings his gift of suffering and our response is to begin negotiating for a different one. We want to return this gift for one we think would better meet our needs. This is why Paul’s description of himself in Philippians 3 is so startling. We are attracted and repelled by it. We want his passion for Christ. We identify with his desire to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, but to share in the fellowship of his suffering is frightening.” (pg. 15)

Now, I don’t think for a moment that our church, or my husband’s vocation has been the source of the difficulties, trials, and yes, genuine suffering that we have faced in recent days.

Quite the opposite. Our church family has been a source of help, encouragement, strength, and comfort in all of this.

But, it is true that ministry brings suffering. It has a cost. Our family, our marriage, our children, our parenting, our faults, our sins, our quirks, our sufferings…our lives are all put on constant display. And, we are willing to live in that proverbial fishbowl for the sake of others.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (ESV)

Paul prayed three times that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh,” his “messenger from Satan.” (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

“God said no to Paul’s plea because He was to bring forth, for the sake of the rest of us, the beautiful flower of acceptance, a gift of grace, enough for his need. But that flower was to bloom, not in spite of, but because of the thorn…Could he know the millions who would be cheered and comforted by his example of quiet acceptance of a painful thing which he knew God could have removed? No, he couldn’t.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 45)

Maybe our troubles, our inconveniences, our trials, our sufferings are not for us at all. Maybe they are put in our life for the spiritual benefit of someone else.

We do not know. And, frankly, it isn’t for us to know.

“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)

“We may take heart from the suffering of Job. Suffering was the necessary proof of the reality of his faith – to us, as to his contemporaries and his enemy Satan (his and ours). The suffering of our Savior proved the reality of His love for His Father. The world still needs to be shown that there are those who, no matter what the circumstances, will, for love of Him, do exactly what God commands. The end He has in view is a glorious one. We can fully count on that…” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 53)

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 1 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)

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Parenting Conference

The last two months have been rather difficult in our home.  So, I am just now getting my bloggy act together, and posting a few of the more enjoyable happenings.

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On April 1st and 2nd (wow! that seems like a long time ago!), our church hosted a Parenting Conference, with Dr. John Street, and his dear wife Janie, as the speakers. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that the Streets are very special to our family. Dr. Street was one of our professors at The Master’s College, and was instrumental in our understanding and embracing the truth of biblical counseling, both in our personal lives and ministry.  He was the pastor of our Sunday School class at our church in California. And, Dr. Street also did our pre-marital counseling, and performed our wedding. We also have the privilege of knowing their 4 (grown) children, and seeing the legacy of their parents’ love for the Lord continued in their lives.

So, it is a joy for us to share the Streets’ wisdom with whomever we can, whenever we get the chance!

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I had a one year old who is not a fan of the nursery, and a 2 year old who still desperately needed a nap. So, I did not get to hear as much of it as I would have liked, because I was a little too busy, well…parenting! But, I have since caught up on our church’s website. (And I would strongly recommend that you to listen to Dr. Street’s messages here too!!)

2016_04_021While the adults were busy, the kids enjoyed their own Children’s Conference. They learned about the Armor of God, sang songs, did crafts, played games, and sang more songs when a few of the adult’s sessions went a little long.

(Big, huge thank you to Fred and Kathy, Steven and Nary, Rosie, Joanna, and Erica for all their work, and for serving our parents and little ones!!!)

The children loved their time together, and the parents were challenged and blessed by the teaching.

12963542_10153404226351286_2727087751349474441_nUnfortunately, the conference ended on a bit of a low note, with, at final count, some 21 people coming down with a nasty stomach bug. Our family was among the first hit, so we never did get a picture with both Dr. and Mrs. Street.

But, we are so thankful for the time they invested in our church. And, I am excited to see how the Lord will use this conference to continue to shape the families of our church in the future!

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