Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Grandmother's Point of View" - Issue I

I had to laugh to myself when I read this article. It is very characteristic of Grandma Ardt. She has always possessed a love for flowers and plants in general. I remember we were going for a walk together around our neighborhood once when she and Grandpa Ardt came to visit. Pointing out a particular plant, she said, "See those plants? They are called 'yuccas.'" Now, these happened to be some plants that I liked very much (for some reason ... I don't quite see why now). Being the eight-year-old that I was, I replied somewhat indignantly, "Oh Grandma! Those shouldn't be called 'yuccas'! They should be called 'yummas'!"

Grandmother'’s Point of View
by Grandma Betty

A couple weeks ago while driving through our neighborhood,I realized the Rose of Sharon shrubs were in bull bloom. These shrubs bloom in late summer every year – never in spring. I always think of them as a farewell token of our summer season.

Each year, they seem to arrive earlier than the last year, before I’m ready to “shift the gears” of my thinking to the approaching autumn: cold, rainy weather, falling leaves, and school busses. Ecclesiastes 3:1 comes to mind: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” If there is one thing we can count on, it’s that the seasons and situations of life are constantly changing!

As I reflected on the Biblical passage which follows this verse – the listing of all the elements of life, - I was struck with awe at God’s perfect wisdom. In verse 14, the thought of finality is expressed: that whatever has happened can’t be changed or added to later (a sobering though). Solomon says that God does this so “that men should fear before Him.”

The experiences of our lives, as we look back upon all that has happened and how the Lord brought us through, should give us much hope and encouragement for the future. What we were able to do as a younger person, we cannot accomplish in later years. This truth hits full force when I try to carry a two- or three-year-old up a flight of stairs! The Lord knows this and has in His wisdom geared our lives and capabilities accordingly.

The seasons of life change, and so do the opportunities. From a young mother’s point of view, it looks as though she’ll never escape from the crowded house, with the cries of children and unrelenting duties and confinement. But in practically no time at all, the children are grown and gone; and she looks back with some feelings of regret over missed opportunities.

Colossians 4:5 says to “Redeem the time” – use our present opportunities to witness, to help others, and to reflect Christ in our daily contacts with others, because the time is short (Psalm 89:47). As the fall season of our lives rushes upon us, we know for certain that the time will come very soon when “There should be time no longer” (Revelation 10:6).

This thought could be sad, as we look at the experience of life we took for granted when our children were small; and yet it’s cheering to realize that God has even better things in store for the future for those who put their trust in Him (1 Corinthians 2:10).

The blooming of the Rose of Sharon signifies the end of summer and the ushering in of a new season – but the REAL ROSE OF SHARON, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the ever-present Creator, who has all seasons under His control (Isaiah 40:28-31).

To see the information about when and where this article appeared, who exactly wrote it, and other interesting facts, click here.

Grandma Betty's Column

My maternal grandma used to write articles for a publication that was put out by her church in Ohio. (Now, at the age of 84, she and my grandpa - my maternal grandparents - are missionaries down in Mexico.) Her column was entitled "Grandmother's Point of View." In it, she taught little life lessons that every young woman needs to learn.

The Bible commands Christian women who have already experienced much of life to instruct the younger women to be godly wives and mothers.

Titus 2:3-5
"The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Grandmothers can have such an impact on the lives of their grandchildren! A grandmother who encourages her granddaughters to follow God's calling for their lives extends her Christian legacy, and many generations to come will benefit from this grandmother's obedience to God's commands. Both of my grandmothers have been wonderful paradigms of the virtuous woman. They truly have shown by their example what it means to be "discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands." Even when the circumstances around them have been less than ideal, they have shone as true models of biblical womanhood.

My grandma is a godly wife, mother, and grandmother. She is a splendid helpmeet to my grandpa in their mission work down in Mexico. Because they lived near us only when I was little more than a toddler, I was not blessed with the many memories of this Grandma's house. Both of my grandmas are such a blessing to me and my family, and unceasingly provide living examples of what it means to follow God's calling for a woman's life.

I will try to post one of my grandmother's articles each month. We only have a small store of her early articles, but I have convinced her to write some more for us periodically! These little bits of wisdom and insight I hope will bless you as they have blessed me!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Words in Rhyme

Wait not till the little hands are at rest
Ere you fill them full of flowers;
Wait not for the crowning tuberose
To make sweet life last sad hours
But while, in life busy household band,
Your darlings still need your guiding hand,
Oh fill their lives with sweetness.

Remember the homes whence the light has fled,
Where the rose has faded away;
And the love that glows in youthful hearts,
Oh, cherish it while you may,
And make your home a garden of flowers,
Where joy shall bloom through childhood's hours,
And fill young lives with sweetness.

From the book Home-Making, by J.R. Miller
Available through Vision Forum

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Grandma's House

Grandma's House has always been - and always will be - a special place for me. It is a place where there is always love and laughter and a full cookie jar. When I was little, it was a place where I was always listened to and treated with love and kindness - especially by Grandma. The memories I have of my Grandma will last my entire life. Grandma could make everything alright, no matter what the problem was. Whether it was solving a conflict, kissing a scraped knee, soothing hurt feelings, or calming a grandchild who got scared of the dark, she always knew exactly what to do to set things aright. She has been the perfect example of the virtuous woman, and has always fulfilled her God-given roles with constancy and grace. She has provided a model of Biblical womanhood for every young woman of her acquaintance to follow.

When I was little, my grandparents lived just down the road from us. (Currently, they - my paternal grandparents - are about a half hour drive away.) Staying at Grandma's House was always a special occasion for my siblings and me. I remember that they used to drive the three of us up to one of our favorite restaurants, the "Old Country Buffet," which was quite a little distance away. After a fantastic dinner of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and the revolting - but required - vegetable, we would tour the pet store, my sister and me ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the cute little bunny rabbits. My brother, as usual, was enthralled with the snakes, toads, and turtles. Then would come the long trip back to Grandma's House. Grandma's patience throughout all of our chatterings in the backseat was remarkable! A gentle reminder from her generally sufficed to restore order on the frequent occasions that our voices grew, in our excitement and sometimes conflict, to inappropriate levels.

During the after-dinner hours, after helping Pop building a nice fire with newspaper and kindling - for some reason, that memory is especially vivid - we built forts behind Pop's "big chair" while he watched Fox News. We would eat ice cream and watch the continuous trail of little black ants that went up and down Grandma's kitchen wall by the clock. We could never seem to get rid of those ants, and they became a hallmark of Grandma's House.

In later days, evening violin, piano, and cello concerts given by us characterized these visits. Special requests from Pop always included "Amazing Grace," "Red River Valley," "The Yellow Rose of Texas," "Danny Boy," "Shenandoah," and "Ashokan Farewell." Grandma's all-time favorite was "It Is Well With My Soul."

Bedtime always came all too quickly, and we would change into our nightgowns behind doors whose locks never worked. After brushing our teeth with Grandma's strange-tasting toothpaste, we would climb into the ivory-colored old bed in my aunt's old room and Grandma would sing to us. This is without a doubt my all-time favorite memory: my sister and me lying in bed, staring out the dark window at the river and marsh, and Grandma's voice singing the words of the old hymn, "Throw out the lifeline, throw out the lifeline: someone is sinking today." Today, this image is just as vivid as if it were from yesterday.

Breakfasts were always royal affairs at Grandma's House. We would help her combine the ingredients of the mix for her famous fluffy pancakes, making more of a mess in that process than she could ever have made on her own even if she had been trying. Sifting the flour onto the wax paper that Grandma always used to pour it into the bowl was a favorite assignment. Then the three of us and Pop would sit down at the breakfast table while Grandma cooked and served her delicious pancakes. They were small, only about 3 inches in diameter. We would consume these pancakes, with the fabulous maple syrup that was to be had only at Grandma's House, at an amazing pace. Fifty pancakes and an hour later, it was time to play fort in Grandma's living room with our stuffed animals. Sometimes Grandma joined us in this occupation, but many times she would sit and watch us play or go about her household duties.

Helping Grandma make her renowned pecan pie was another favorite activity. Grandma's pecan pies always graced the table at every family dinner and get-together. Even at birthday dinners, we had pecan pie. We would stick candles in the top of the pie, making it a perfect birthday cake. I now have her recipe written down (she always made pecan pies from memory) and nicknamed "Granny's Famous Pecan Pie."

Washing days at Grandma's House were especially exciting. After waiting for the washing machine to finish, we would load the wet clothes into a laundry basket and carry it out to the backyard. Grandma had a clothes line out there, which was something quite novel and intriguing to my sister and me. Those wooden clothes pins fascinated us, and it was a rare pleasure for us to importantly hang up wet clothes on that high line that required a stool in order for us to reach it. I am sure that we ruined Grandma's work on many a load of laundry, and that it was necessary for her to wash some of those loads a second time, but she was always her cheerful, unruffled self! Later in the day, it was time to bring the clothes down from the line, which we would do while Grandma carefully folded them.

As I've stated before, Grandma's backyard overlooked the marsh and a river. Along the edge of the river, in between it and the backyard, there was thick pluff mud. In this mud lived hundreds of fiddler crabs. We always loved to sneak up to the edge of the yard and peer down at the mud. As soon as our little faces appeared over the edge, every one of those fiddler crabs would make a bolt for their holes. It took awhile for them to venture out after that, and we were always on hand to send them scurrying for security once again.

But I'm forgetting the porch swing that hung on Grandma's screened-in back porch, overlooking the marsh. We would swing there with Grandma by the hour, talking, reading, and laughing. Now, when I visit Grandma, I love to go down and swing with her on the porch swing on their back deck, overlooking the marina by which they now live. (Pop has always had to live near the water.) The conversations we have together there are so meaningful and wonderful! Although I don't get this opportunity as much as I'd like, I am confident that these back-porch trysts with Grandma will remain ingrained in my heart and mind forever.

Yes, the memory of visits to Grandma's House will always hold a treasured place in my heart. But it wasn't the food or the play or the activities that made Grandma's House so dear to me. It was special because Grandma was there. Talking with Grandma, playing with Grandma, cooking with Grandma, reading with Grandma, working with Grandma ... all the time, her sweet, kind, selfless, loving attitude shone through.

Today, it is often difficult to get a chance to spend a weekend at Grandma's house. But I value every moment passed with Grandma. I can talk with her, and she listens and responds with insightful bits of wisdom. She takes a genuine interest in every aspect of my life. Grandma's godly character glows unceasingly, and it is manifest in whatever circumstances she finds herself. God grant that one day I may be just like my Grandma!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Children: Blessing or Burden?

The other night, in our family devotions, after discussing various other subjects, we arrived on the subject of children. We were originally talking about how easily unbiblical and ungodly ideas and standards infiltrate the church, many times without it being readily apparent.

After my parents were married, they waited five years to have children. Their reasons?

1. They wanted to wait until they were financially stable.
2. They wanted to have some time with just the two of them before children entered the scene.

These both seemed to them - at the time - to be fairly valid reasons. However, my mother doubted at times whether this was right or not, and for years sought counsel from different Christian women in various churches. The response was always the same. "That is entirely up to you and your husband; it is a personal choice."

Today, society's idea that "too many" children - or even any children at all! - are a burden has become increasingly prevalent in the church. Walk into many of today's churches, and you will notice that most of the families are representative of the "perfect American family": two parents, two or three children.

It was not until about four years ago that my parents realized that the subject of children is directly dealt with in the Bible; God has specific things to say about childbearing. I'd like to look at exactly what God has to say about children. Are they a burden or a blessing? Is the number of children we have left up to us, or is this something that God wants to have control over?

It all started at the beginning. God gave a command to the first man and the first woman:
"...Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish [fill to overflowing] the earth..." (Genesis 1:28)
It is interesting to note that this command was repeated to Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:1) and also to Jacob (Genesis 35:11). We have a clear command from God to multiply, to raise up godly generations of people to serve and follow Him. The advantages of following this commandment are numerous. Not only does God promise to bless those who keep His commandments, but "being fruitful and multiplying" also creates a lasting legacy of godly men and women to advance God's kingdom. Both Catholics and Mormons seem to understand well the advantages of having many children to carry on their faiths. Imagine if every Christian family followed God's commandment to be fruitful and multiply! A family with two children is only replacing the parents. According to statistics, families with three and four children replace the parents and make up for those people who never marry and couples who never have children. Only if a family has five children is it increasing the population. If non-Christian families stick to their two- and three-child policies, and Christian families follow God's command to be fruitful and multiply, then Christians would eventually outnumber the non-Christians. Think what could be accomplished!

Children are also a great blessing, and are referred to as such throughout the Bible.
When God blessed people, He almost always included as part of the blessing the promise of many children. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Ishmael, the Israelites, and many more Biblical characters, were promised the blessing of many children. God says that children are a blessing! We have it straight from the Bible. If God says that something is a blessing, shouldn't we desire it earnestly? Shouldn't we be open to God bestowing it upon us?

Psalm 127:3-5 ~ Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
Children are our heritage and reward. Who gives us this heritage and reward? The Lord does! Who are we to limit the heritage that God wants to give us? Who are we to limit our great reward from the Lord?

Yet, today, children are often viewed as a burden and constraint. This is because men and women are not following God's plan for their lives. They don't see that one of the highest callings of God is to raise up children for Him. Yes, it is a great responsibility, one which we cannot do on our own. But, with the Lord's help and guidance - by teaching God's Word diligently to our children, talking of God and His ways when we sit in our houses, when we walk by the way, in the evening and the morning (Deuteronomy 6:7) - God promises that when our children are old, they will not depart from "the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6).

When a woman is not committed first to her family, children well may be a burden. When a woman has plans and goals which are contrary to God's great calling, children may well be an unwelcome interruption to her life. However, if a woman is following God's calling for her life, striving to provide for her household and raise up - alongside her husband - a generation glorifying to God, children are the greatest blessing that God could bestow!

Society today has strayed so far from God's plan for mankind! Francis Schaeffer once said,
"Tell me what the world is saying today, and I'll tell you what the church will be saying seven years from now."
And this is just what is happening! The church is following just about seven steps behind the world. It is gradually embracing almost everything that the world says and does. It is becoming "conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2) - in virtually every area of life. We are called to be transformed by renewing our minds. This means renewing our minds in every area of life ... rethinking every sphere of life by examining what God has to say about it.

God is the Giver of life. How is it within our power to thwart God's perfect work by preventing a life ... a little character ... a tiny personality ... from coming into existence?

In the past several years, my parents have come to realize that God is the One who gives children. He bestows them as His little blessings as He sees fit. The result of this change of mind and heart is a new little baby brother or sister (playfully and temporarily christened "Bob" in order to avoid the insensitive pronoun "it") coming in February! We look forward to this little blessing's arrival, and pray daily that he or she would become a godly servant of Jesus Christ. As the fifth child, this one will be the one to add to the population. With just us four, we barely broke even!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Couple of Cartoons

A few of my favorite cartoons that people have sent us over the years.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Practical Skills

These are pictures of my youngest sister, Shannon, during her first sewing lesson. Shannon is eleven years old, and Mom is just starting to teach her the art of sewing. Mom is a wonderful seamstress, and has made everything from clothing to curtains to bedding to table covers. For the past several years, Shannon has been watching my other sister, Leslie, and me with our various sewing projects. She is so excited to finally learn how to make things herself. Her first undertaking is to make a skirt with the blue plaid material you see on the left in the second picture. Her material is already cut out and ready to sew! The only thing lacking for Shannon - even under Mom's wonderful instruction - is practice. That is why you'll notice that she is actually sewing on a piece of paper in the pictures. Practicing those straight lines! I'll try to notify you when the skirt is finished and maybe even give you a peek at what the finished product looks like! It's sure to be lovely!

Proverbs 31:13,19, 21-22, 31 ~ She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for al
l her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

In this picture, Shannon is in the process of making tarts. Baking is something that she has been doing for quite some time, and she was very proud to be making something by herself; she received absolutely no help from either of her sisters or her mother.

Proverbs 31:14-15, 27, 31 ~ She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

When all of us were very small, Mom would sometimes allow us to bake instead of do our math. No, she was not raising little truents; she wanted us to acquire life skills. Afterall, baking involves a lot of math! If we were making a double batch, we would have to figure out how much of this or that was needed, double it, and measure it out. This practical application was absolutely wonderful! My mom could have done the baking herself in thrice the time with half the mess, but she took the time to make sure that her daughters were learning how to care for a family and take care of a home. I am so thankful to my mother for her dedication in raising the four of us. She didn't take shortcuts, or always look for the easiest way to accomplish something. Instead, she searched for the most efficient, effective, and practical way for us to learn something.
Her devotion and commitment to us kids has been something wonderful and inspirational to see! These life skills that she has taught us - and is still teaching us - will I'm sure become increasingly more appreciated as we realize over and over again just how important they really are!

Proverbs 31:28 ~ Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Thursday, September 7, 2006


Lately, I've been examining my attitude. Often, I get this awful feeling that can only be diagnosed as a lack of contentment. When I'm feeling discontented, I have made a point of trying to figure out exactly what is making me feel that way. If I can just force myself to think about what has made me discontented, I am almost always shocked at how minor the "problem" really is.

I have to be so careful that my attitude doesn't change everytime my circumstances change. When I'm feeling discontented, I find that the best cure is prayer. I pray that the Lord would keep my attitude pleasing to Him, and that I wouldn't be so imbalanced and selfish that I get waves of discontentment every time things don't go my way.

Another thing that the Lord uses to renew a good attitude in me is Scripture. The Bible points out numerous times that our contenement should not be dependent upon our external circumstances. Perhaps the best-known instance of this is from Hebrews 13:5. Paul says,
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to say that? For a man who was shipwrecked several times, imprisioned on numerous occasions, and consistently persecuted for the cause of Christ, this is quite a statement! Compared to Paul's, our little daily inconveniences are utterly insignificant! What made Paul different? He realized that Christ was all that mattered; his priorities were in the right place. The concepts of Hebrews 13:5-6 were not only thoroughly understood by him, they were also lived by him.
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."
We never see Paul wishing that his circumstances were different from what God willed for him. He recognized the fact that, with God on his side, he had no reason to not be content. He was satisfied walking in the Lord's will and in His service. The reason for our commanded contentment is given in Hebrews: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." We ought to be content following the Lord's will for our lives, no matter where it takes us; for we know that He is always, always, with us. We always have access to God, because of Christ's atonement on the cross.
Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

True contentment is brought through our relationship with God through Christ.
Philippians 4:7 ~ And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Psalm 29:11 ~ The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.

Our contentment is dependent upon our priorities. If we have our priorities in the right place - focused on the Lord and our relationship with Him, following His Word - then those little changes in our outward circumstances will not cause us discontentment.