Sunday, December 14, 2014


"and Mary was espoused to Joseph. . . .. "

The teacher is the student again.

I was teaching the kids this morning about "The Christmas Story" of the birth of Jesus.  It doesn't really feel like Christmas at all to me this year. Maybe its no snow, or the fact that I saw a daffodil in full bloom the other day, which I am still coming to terms with.

When I feel this way about a task (like doing Christmasy stuff)----"why am I doing all of this again?"--- I have to dig deeper.  The veneer of the day to day looses its luster, and I have to go digging to find deeper meaning about why, whatever the task I am doing, matters. (This is probably why I wasn't a good math student). What a better way to do this than to dig my teeth in deeper into the Christmas story?

So today we talked about Mary being told by Gabriel about how she was blessed and favored among women, because she would be the vessel chosen not only to bear, but raise, Jesus.  My goodness, could there be any more daunting task in the history of totally humankind?  As if ordinary motherhood doesn't provoke enough anxiety!

And what I learned doesn't have so much to do with that at all.


Babies, puppies and engagements.  They all invoke a sweet, precious sort of love that is reserved for all things innocent, and a love that is somewhat one-sided.  Its a love that springs from the way someone or something makes you feel, and the delight that you take in that person.  How can you not absolutely drink up a sweet five month old baby?   Or rub the full little belly of a sleepy puppy?  Or be madly, deeply in love with your recently betrothed?

I remember the first time I wore my engagement ring out in public.  I was 18, tall and thin with a long slender ring finger.  And the sun was shining.  I walked with my best high school friend with that shiny gold ring just glittering light, blinding both my eyes and my heart.  I was just smitten----by the ring, the man, the whole idea of being a wife.  Just consumed by it.

And the ring!  Well, I loved showing it off.  I was so sure that it was the best ring ever (because it was a diamond you could really see and not just take on faith), that I worried about appearing too boastful. I loved people asking me about it, looking at it when I was driving, and how it made my hand go from that belonging to a teenager. . . . to that belonging to a woman.

At our marriage I was given a plain gold band.  Very simple, with absolutely no detail.  I picked it out.  It is very thin and I wanted to be sure that my engagement ring maintained top billing. I don't have to worry about it much.  It is dependable, stays put, and doesn't get snagged on anything or scratched.

Marriage is so summed up in those two rings.  

That engagement ring is a symbol of laying a claim to something.  It is sort of like a beautiful form of mutual branding---"Property of the J.Stotler Ranch".  I was claimed, and anyone looking at me who cared to glance at that hand would have seen that.  We were young, and took great delight not only in the person of each other, but in the whole new, young love experience, and in dreaming of our future together.  A future that has largely, at nearly 40 years old, become the present day.

An engagement relationship is lots of flash.  Lots of excitement and activity and "look at me".  Delighting in one another, and being delighted in.  It is a beautiful season of life.

But that wedding band. . . . that band is a utility piece of equipment.  It isn't made to say "look at me".  It is made to be worn easily.  It is easy to serve others with that band on----in the garden, changing oil in the car, washing dishes, mowing the lawn.  The real beauty about the wedding band is the hand it is on-----worn, rugged, strong, wrinkled, calloused.  It is a hand marred by working and serving the other.  To the eye it is not much to see, but oh what a deep, lasting promise it is!  It is for better or worse.  When we talk about our vows, usually the one that gains our attention is "in sickness and in health". "For better or for worse" can both occur during the same day! 

The cares of this world may pause the dating for a season, and the frenetic pace at which we move may tempt us to disengage for a while.  But we are past the engagement ring.  We are working off of the band.  The band is a covenant to serve one another, with joy and gladness and tenderness----a covenant made with our betrothed, and with God.  It is the part of marriage where we learn to love like Jesus.

And it is deeper, and stronger, and more satisfying and beautiful than the first type of love ever could be.  When you give your all to your spouse, and they give their all to you, marriage is a picture of perfect heavenly love. If you are struggling to do this, ask God to help break your pride. In eighteen years I have had to do this many times, and I am sure that my hubby has too.

(Well. . . . probably at least once.)

You are loved this Christmas by God and me,


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Busy Mama Healthy Bean Soup

1 pkg Hillshire Farms Smoked Turkey Sausage (like kielbasa), chopped
1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic
1 box chicken broth, 32 ouunces
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 12.5 ounce can chunk chicken breast
All bean cans are 15.5 ounces, and all should be drained:
2 cans Great Northern, 2 cans Navy, 2 cans Cannellini (white kidney beans)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke

Saute onion, garlic, sausage in olive oil.  Lower heat, add chicken broth.
Add black pepper and garlic salt, bring to boil.  Add carrots.  Cook until just softened slightly.
Add chicken and beans.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook until carrots are cooked through.

Fat content: There are 36 grams of total fat in the entire pot, 10.5 of which are saturated fat.  I cooked it in a very large Dutch oven.  I would estimate that there are about 12 servings in the pot. This number is NOT including the olive oil.  The olive oil would add another 2 grams of saturated fat to the pot.  Which means each serving has 1 gram of saturated fat. You could reduce it by reducing the onions and garlic with the chicken broth.

Total cost at my Walmart (minus seasonings, onion and garlic):  $11.93

I love bean soup, I love butter, and I love bacon. . . .but they don't love me or my wallet!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hide and Seek

Colossians 3:3:  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 

1 Timothy 6: 1-6:  
 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

A long, long time ago, before marriage and babies, I was a young woman of about 19 and I had some fairly deeply rooted thoughts about what my life should look like.  The "should" generally came from public opinion at large, that which society feels that a moderately academically successful young woman should look like.  I should be educated, I should establish a career in something fulfilling to me, and at some point I should marry and eventually have children.  

(I need to interrupt myself a bit at this point and just go on record as saying I have no problem whatsoever with a woman being educated beyond high school.  In fact, it is my intention to steer my daughter in that direction, but it is her job to submit to what God's will should be in her life, whether that is what I should desire or not, which will be up to her to figure out.)

Well, I did that.  And in doing so I always felt like a "lady in waiting"----- a lady waiting to have and raise her own children.  I would go to conferences and meetings in my suits and heels and doodle names of future babies in pretty cursive in my notebooks.  I would draw pictures of my dream home----big porch, on a hill, on a farm----when I should have been engaged in the latest Medicaid rule changes.  And at last, eight and a half long years after saying "I do", I became a mother.

As much as I have loved the adventures and joy that is parenting, and as much as I felt like I was no longer "in waiting", I would occasionally feel something else:  invisible.

The more babies, the more laundry, the more cooking and cleaning and mopping and pediatric appointments, the more invisible I felt.  And in my heart I would sometimes panic about this invisibility, worried that I was missing out on something, though I wasn't sure what. 

I was truly disappearing----behind my children.  Behind the endless needs and demands and under the burden of caring for others to the extent that I was just turned inside out, emptied, with very little left to give.

When I would feel that way I would sort of scramble inside myself, desperately seeking to carve out "me" from the mountain of domestic duties.  Sometimes that would look like a new haircut.  It might be a new pinterest activity, or an attempt at renewing a friendship.  And even though society told me that I deserved to have my own life, for some reason extricating myself from Mt. Laundry felt a little like treason.

God has turned my world upside down since moving to Oregon.  Not in an earthquake way.  More like in a snow globe way: one big flip to throw up the snow, and lots of time to see the beauty of it drifting down, down, down, in a very soft, deliberate peacefulness.  Rather than lying monotonously on the bottom, the snow clings to the delicate parts of the figure inside, enhancing its beauty.

One particular Saturday I was working hard for my family. In fact Saturday was usually my "day off" after working all week on household things.  I had indeed worked very hard all week.  On this day I had been meal planning, trying the best I could to speak kindness to my children because I truly wanted to, looking to feed the emotional needs of my husband and kids by being hospitable to them because I truly wanted to, and  . . . . 

I wasn't exhausted.

I was very, very contented.

I was contented in a way I don't think I have been in many years.

As I drove over the bridge coming home from some errands, my heart's cry of thanksgiving filled up the car.  I was so thankful to Jesus for my blessings, for the people I have in my life to serve.  I sought Him for wisdom in how to treat my husband, how to teach my children, and wisdom for how to live my life.  And as I prayed with tears pouring down like rivers, I just sat there and fellowshipped with my Lord a while, and I realized that my life WAS disappearing.

But now, instead of being buried by my children, my life was becoming "hid with Christ in God."  In serving like this, I was serving, in a very small small way-----like He did.  In a patient, loving, altruistic way.  And He was erasing me so that I could be more like Him.

There is a difference in raising children as service to Jesus and becoming more like Him in the process, and raising children by creating little idols for yourself-----even if you are following the letter of the law and doing things the way your are "supposed" to.  One of those things will leave you spent and exhausted.

But the other?  When the Lord blesses your efforts with joy unspeakable and full of glory in the soul, so full that your heart just brims over with love from your Savior and you can't even contain the joy inside? 

Oh sisters. Godliness with contentment is a great, great gain indeed.  And that is all the strength we need for this journey.  No haircut or pinterest board will ever rival that.

My favorite quote goes something like this:
It matters not if the world approves or understands
The only applause we're meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands.

Lord, help me to remember the wisdom you showed me on the bridge.  Help me to take my exhaustion as a sign of self-reliance, and help me to repent and try again by doing it Your way----by loving my blessed family and friends the way that You love me, in word and in deed and in my soul. 

You are all loved on this day-----

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I am a home schooler.
I use that new school clothes budget to buy our school books.
I use that backpack and sweet lunch box money to buy laminate paper and dry erase markers.
(Actually, dry erase markers a kind of a luxury item.  So we make it stretch.)
Instead of cool shoes like all the other kids wear, we buy unit studies on Ancient Rome and rocket kits.
I rock my one-room school like a boss with the best that the Dollar Tree has to offer.
In my school, the teacher is scandalously close with the principal.
The teacher is a part-time student.
We have all of our meals in the same cafeteria.  We all work in the cafeteria. 
I have no say in how my property taxes are spent, but I have to clear my curriculum with the people getting my taxes.
You could put us in a room with an empty mason jar and we could find something to learn from it.
All of our work is home work.
We read the Bible and pray in our school. Our teacher prays more than any of the students.
My smart board is a laptop with YouTube and a dry-erase board.
We are all janitors.
In our school, it is cool and also required to fraternize with the younger students.
In our school, the younger students are sometimes taught by the older students.
There are plenty of hugs in our school, and physical affection is encouraged.
There are plenty of tears in our school.  The teacher cries more than the students do.
There is plenty of discipline in our school. 
The principal works full-time in a separate gig to supplement the fiscal year budget.
In our school, we study a subject until we learn it.
We pay for all of our own testing.
The only common core you will find in our school is after we have all had apples for a snack.
The PTA works seamlessly unlike any other school in the universe.
We speculate that the teacher is required to wear yoga pants.
In my school, the teacher has to frequently communicate with her Ultimate Superintendent, to get wisdom and guidance on what to do with the students He has loaned to her.
In my school, the children are safe.
In my school, the children are loved.
In my school, we all sacrifice.
And even though we are all the janitor, teacher, principal, gardener, secretary, and fiscal manager-----
I wouldn’t trade my school for any other school in the world.
----Sandra Stotler

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Running on empty

First off, let me say that I could really use a scribe to follow me all over and write down my thoughts.  I have about a zillion things to say on this blog, but just haven't taken the time to do it.

I cannot even express to you the goodness that God has shown me this past year.  Can't even begin to share it.  Our transition to Oregon---not just the move, but the surrender and the willingness----has shown me just how very much my Lord loves me.  It defies logical sense and any practical notion within the human brain, but just know that if the Lord wants you to do something----you have NO IDEA what you are missing by not doing it.  The Lord knows all, and He blesses not like a laser beam, but more like a shotgun blast, with bits of blessings all over your life.  He has blessed us with a house of our own, our children with good friends, our church family with love, our marriage with a deep closeness we haven't experienced in a while, and just mountains and mountains and mountains of blessing that I could take the next day to write about.  The joy is pouring out of my heart and over my lower eyelids as I type, and I am so very humbled and so, SO grateful that God cares enough about a little stay at home mom on the Oregon coast to show me so much love, grace, and mercy that I KNOW I don't deserve.

I was explaining to my kids the other day the difference between joy and happiness. I told them that happiness is circumstantial----like going to Chuck E Cheese, or the movies, or a glass of crisp, cold Diet Coke.  (Yes.  I really did say that to them.  It's not like they don't see the satisfied smile on my lips as I crack open a cold can of chemical, caffeinated carbonation. I may have shame in my game, but I will 'fess up to the game.  I can only handle so many self-improvement projects at a time.)

Oh, but joy-----joy is lasting, deep, bursting forth like a fountain in the soul!  I told them that the disciples who followed Jesus probably didn't have a whole lot of "happy".  Think about it----you are following Jesus for what, three years?  If they had families, they likely didn't see them much.  They were learning, making mistakes, being followed themselves by crowds of people who were needy, destitute, gravely (and oftentimes, contagiously) ill, and suffering.  Jesus had no where to lay his head at night, and I am assuming that was much the same for the disciples.  They watched him die, boldly proclaimed the gospel after He resurrected, endured tremendous persecution, and died martyrs' deaths. 

WHY would anyone do that?  How could you do it?

Because you had joy.

Happiness is comfort.  It is comfort; newness; excitement.  It is a new relationship, a new pair of shoes, a new destination, a new job.  And because that new is only new for so long, happiness is fleeting.

We are a nation of people starving for joy, and attempting to fill it with "happiness".

Happiness is self-serving. Joy comes in surrender to God. Joy is a gift from God, and unlike happiness, it never grows dim.  It only grows stronger, and stronger, and stronger.  And it never, ever, EVER grows old.

It is so powerful, this joy from God, that men and women throughout history have exchanged their comfort, their desires, their impulses, their will, and for some their very own lives, and while the flesh may have come up empty-----

The soul is soaring on swelling clouds of joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Every single day, I make decisions to choose happiness over joy.  Because very rarely does one get both.

That's sort of like eating a McDouble when you have access to filet mignon.

We fatigue on this journey with the Lord because we are filling our joy tank with happiness.  We weren't created to run on happiness.  We were created to crave, desire, and sustain with joy.  Joy is present in all circumstances.  It was present with Stephen as the stones broke his bones.  It was present with Paul and Silas as they sang praises to God in bonds.  It is the evidence to a lost and dying and suffering world that there is a true HOPE found in Jesus---not in the idea of Jesus, or what someone thinks about Jesus, or what some pastor or religious person has said Jesus is----but really found in. JESUS.  That God cares for them, loves them, and is waiting ready to save to the uttermost.

Jesus said, "He who finds his life shall lose it.  He who loses his life for my sake will find it."

Isaiah said, " Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."

Oh God, that we would not settle for cheap imitations of your wonderful grace.  Help us to run to you like our own little children do----with honest hearts and open minds, and show us what we need to do to find joy in surrendering our lifestyles to You.

You are all loved with an everlasting love from above, and also by me----

p.s.  I started to write about my daughter. You see, she and my husband's birthdays are both today.  I cannot believe that God has given me such a beautiful, sweet, loving, spunky, intuitive, resilient child.  He uses her to bless me and to teach me that it is OK to be girly. He knows I need that, and she helps me with it tremendously.  She loves her mama and wants to be just like her, and that scares me to death.  Pray for me, that I will be the soft, sweet, meek, loving, strong person that I want her to be.  She is already better than me, and that is exactly what I pray for.   

p.s.s. Thank you Lord, for a wonderful year with my husband.  Thank you for each and every year we have together.  Thank you for using him to help me, to shape me into who You want me to be. Thank you for making him have great hair. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Waiting Patiently

One of the most humbling and awesome aspects of being a home school teacher is that I am afforded the opportunity to learn, every day.

I learn lesser-known science or history facts, math concepts like number bonds, and revisit prepositional phrases on a daily basis. All of this takes me one step closer to a life-long goal:  to be announced as a contestant, along with a nuclear physicist from Washington, D.C. and a neurosurgeon from Queens, as "Sandra Stotler, Skirt-Wearing Home School Mom of Four" on Jeopardy. 

I will wave with my pale, white arm, secured inside my collared, buttoned up pastel polo shirt, not fearful of hair interference, for it will be secured in my ever-present pony tail/headband combination.  My denim skirt will be long and flowing, my eyeliner will be faint and waterproof, and years of tapping my hand to the table (much like a gavel) to maintain classroom order will present a HUGE buzzer advantage.  My adeptness at swiftly printing on a marker board will assure that Final Jeopardy will be answered in ample time.  In my wistful view I see the category as being "Early Growing Patterns of Sunflowers", because although we have planted many, not one of them has ever, ever become an ACTUAL sunflower.  Or maybe it will be, "Post Pregnancy Mispellings", where I am quizzed on words like mispellings, carotts, definately, and other words I used to be able to spell before I had babies.  If so, I will gladly take the parting gift of cleaning supplies and Tupperware, happy to have had the chance to go to the "big city" and stay in a fancy hotel and eat in very expensive places that my wicked imagination will not allow me to do almost ever (Starbucks). 

But my favorite things to learn are the things that my Heavenly Father teaches me.  He blesses me with quick instruction sometimes.  I am sooooo thankful for that, for this mama doesn't make studying and prayer the priority it needs to be, and yet He still loves me and wants to teach me. He very often does this when I am in the middle of teaching my kids about His goodness during our morning Bible Story Time.

Yesterday, as I was teaching out of Matthew 8, I got to the part where the disciples had followed Jesus to the boat.  The boat was a place of rest for Jesus, as the multitudes were pursuing him relentlessly, seeking healing for their infirmities.

 (*Side note:  not what I learned this time, but one other time I got to thinking about how Jesus certainly had the most important work on this earth ever, and HE got away to rest.  Think about that, martyr-mommy.  Go to bed and get some rest.  Take time away to study His word and pray, and to care for yourself in other ways.  The dishes will still be there in the morning, and that is OK.)

Well, Jesus went to sleep, and then a big storm blew up, and before you know it the disciples were in a panic and ran to wake Him up:
23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.               -----Matthew 8:23-26

As I was teaching this to my kids, I got a little smug thinking about how His disciples were in a panic (like I wouldn't be, right?  The only reason I could ignorantly be smug like that is because I have the benefit of reading the ending, and I wasn't actually in the boat).  Then I am instantly put in check:

Because I realized that I am in a panic and trying to wake up Jesus.

And I am doing it because I am fearful, and have little faith in the Lord in this matter.

Ouch.  Thank you Lord for showing me!  

Then I get to confess it to my kids.

You see, our family is in a bit of a storm right now.  Nothing a big deal, but a bit stormy and we are waiting on God to provide for a need that truly only He can provide.  And while I KNOW that He will, and that He will do it in His ways and His time, and that He has proven this to me over and over and OVER again. . . . 

I am still trying to wake Him up, to reassure me. 

There are times in my efforts to be a disciple and follow Jesus that He allows me to be privy to some of what He is doing in my life.  The Bible states that "we see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face".  If you have ever looked through glass, you know that sometimes you can see things pretty clearly, but at other times you practically can't see at all.  This is one of those times I feel like God is keeping the details of His provision mostly to Himself.  It is a time where He wants us to walk by faith, to trust that He will provide in His time.  And WOW, have I discovered that I do NOT wait well at all.  

I am a doer.  I am a fixer.  I am a problem-solving, creatively-thinking, action-taking, security-loving woman.  I am NOT a good waiter.  

Which is probably why I need this practice.

You see, Jesus was right there in the boat. Just because He was quiet did not mean that He wasn't in control.  He knew the storm was raging, and He held those disciples right in His loving hands, even in His silence.  

Oh, how much I have grieved the heart of my Lord because of my lack of faith. We can make big mistakes when we try to take charge of a situation because we don't want to wait on the Lord.  I think of Abraham and Sarah waiting for the son of promise, and how they took matters into their own hands.  Our job is just to serve the Lord and continue to follow Him, and faint not.  Just like my children have the job of being obedient and don't usually get to know the details of our decisions, my job is to be like them:  obedient, following, trusting, ready to serve. . . waiting.  

If you are a true disciple, and you are following Jesus, then you are in the boat together.  You might be going through a trial right now that you can't make heads or tails of, or can't see the other side of, and find yourself asking why this has to be.  He gives us the broad answer: 
"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not grow weary; they shall walk, and not faint."  ----Isaiah 40:31

Lord, help us wait on You to work in Your ways.  Help us to serve in simple obedience and to wait with patience on You, while you exercise us to strengthen our faith.  

Love to you all on this fine day,

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Future Fortune

Many, many moons ago, (as my late uncle used to say when telling me stories as a child), I was at a cross roads:  do I continue college athletics and resume my studies farther from home, or do I stay home and pursue something else?

I realize at this point there is an entire section of my reading audience saying, "Is this about her?", when you read about the college athletics, because a good portion of you didn't know me several jersey sizes ago.  No, I was not a curling, fishing, or dare I say golfing phenom;  I actually played college basketball and cross-country.  True, I now only run when chased by wildlife or if I hear the dry heave of a child late at night in a carpeted bedroom, but once, many many moons ago----I did run.

I intend to resume running in the "summer", whatever that is here in Oregon, and not just because I have always wanted to rock Columbia workout gear like a boss.  I know that running year-round here is certainly plausible.  And I can still beat my hubby most of the time on the jump shot game at Chuck E Cheese.

But so far in adulthood, that is all I have ever needed those skills for.  Yes, I could be using them for exercise, but I don't have to do those particular activities, although I do enjoy basketball.  I have had thoughts of coaching girls sports, but so far I am busy with my own minor league home school.  

So that summer, I had a choice to make.  I was a forensic psychology major in my first year of college, away from home, and sort of hated it.  I loved the people I met, I hated college athletics, and although I can solve cases on "Forensic Files" like an armchair quarterback, I just didn't have the heart for serial killers.

I tried.  It still interests me a bit, how depraved we are without God and capable of awful destruction, almost like gawking at a car accident on the side of the road.  But something was softening me, and I had a longing for a simpler, purer life.  I didn't really care about having a career.  I had met my husband and we were engaged, and God was pulling me ever closer to Himself.  That summer, shortly after I got home from college, in the bedroom I poured out my heart before the Lord like I never, ever, had before, and He saved my soul. Where there was fear. . .  there was peace. Where there was anger. . .  there was peace. Where there was condemation before a holy and just and almighty GOD, there was now. . . sweet, sweet peace.  And there was joy.  "Joy unspeakable and full of glory", as the Bible says, as He took the weight of the world off my shoulders and placed it on His own. And I have never been the same.

My heart was so softened by Him, softened toward those in need.  My name means "helper or defender of mankind", and I found myself enrolled in social work classes.  I was a natural fit and my instructors said this to me often.  But I can't take an ounce of credit for it.  I feel, truly, like God gave me some discernment, simply to be of some usefulness to Him.  And until He saved me, softened me like a potter pouring water over a hardened lump of clay and shaping and reworking it----I would have been of little use in a helping profession.

Participation in athletics, for all of its health and life skills benefits, has one unfortunate drawback:  ME.  It is about ME ME ME ME ME.  And it helped swell ME to an unbelievable point of almost no return.  I was sort of a big fish in a little pond, but I had never been outside the pond.  And when the Lord saved me, it wasn't about "me" anymore.  It is about Him.  It is still far too much about me, I am very ashamed to say.  But I could only see ME and my needs until He changed all of that.

My first "real" job wasn't a glamorous gig. I worked for $8.02 an hour for the Department of Human Services as a "Job Club Coach."  I taught a class for those required by welfare regulations to get a job, on how to find and keep a job.  I had probably two hundred people come into my class over that time, where I did the best I could, at 21, to teach them about a life I was just starting to learn about.  In my class we did resumes and job interviewing skills, but we also talked about life.  I tried to show them what I saw in them----that they had WORTH.  I knew that they were beautiful people created by a God who loved them, and gave them gifts and talents and cared for them.  But most of them could never see that.  They told me stories of the most burdensome lives you probably, unless you have done social services, could even imagine.  Abused as children, as spouses, and making mistake after mistake in an effort to deal with it all.  I was young and I had heart and enthusiasm, and that still wasn't enough.

And yes,  I was conned, and lied to, and a victim at times of the self-preservation of the desperate.  One wonderful man I worked with said, "They don't lie. They are just mistreating the truth."

I realized that without God shining light into their own darkness, just as He had done for me, that they could not see.  And I was in a government position that was not conducive to carrying out my duties that way.  I couldn't do it that way anymore, watching hurting people and not telling them that "the hope that lies within" me is their only hope, too.

I had other jobs, more education, and eventually had my first child on my second to last day of work, and never looked back.

In that summer of decision, I felt I had let a lot of people that loved me and are loved by me, down.  I felt like I had quite a few people wanting me to go on, to be a slightly bigger fish in a slightly bigger pond, and to become more of a worldly success.  I had left a good private college and was enrolling in a community college, and my ego took a much-needed hit.

But in that fateful summer decision, I chose a path less traveled by.  I chose a path to work with the downtrodden and the undervalued, and not until tonight in my kitchen did I see why.

You see, sports gave me confidence----in me.  But working with the poor gave me confidence in Him.  I was powerless in my job to make a difference.  The only way I made a difference is when I relied on God to give me wisdom, and strength, and prayed for my clients (which I never ever did enough).  I was sometimes in precarious situations where my safety was threatened beyond what I was accustomed to, and I had to trust that God had me in the palm of His hand.

And here I am, 17 years later, laboring beside my husband in a work where we are surrounded by the under-served poor.  I feel like what God is teaching us is that our job is to live the Sermon on the Mount.  To give freely, to love deeply, to get in the muck and the mire and let our neat little lives be inconvenienced by the needs of those that need so very much.

Isn't that what Jesus said to do? Isn't that what He did?  He left a glorious heaven by His own choosing and came here, and He gave all,---all---- and looked to His father to provide His needs, in His ways, in His time. 

Are we not to do the same?

We are to lay aside ourselves, give it all up and do it freely from a heart overflowing with love, not obligation.  Not cold, self-serving religion that demands performance, but from a heart softened because of the realization that what little we do have is undeserved.  That it is by His grace alone that we weren't abused, neglected, that we had a good education, the support of loved ones, and were born free in a free land, and most importantly (if you have been saved), that He saved you in spite of who you are and what you have done. That if we had to walk in the moccasins of the one before us, we might not have walked as straight as they have.

This is what we should look like, brothers and sisters.  James said that "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."  The fatherless and the widow have nothing to give us.  It is to be a quiet, unnoticed, unrequited outpouring of God's goodness, (which requires our sacrifice), on those in need.

Someone is reading this and saying, "But. . . WHY are they poor? Can't they just. .  ." and practically chiseling out in stone the rules for being Deservedly Poor.

In the sermon my husband preached two weeks ago, he said, "When I was lost and undone and came to Jesus for salvation, did He refuse me for the ways I had sinned previously, or refuse me because I was currently in sin when I came to Him? No----I came to Him BECAUSE I was in need, or I would not have come to Him."

In my kitchen I realized that 17 years ago, in a decision that many didn't understand and I myself could not see the full reasoning behind, that even though I couldn't see it-----

God did.  And He had a purpose in it.

The greater purpose was not for self-glory, fame or fortune (although we sure did need my $8.02 an hour).

The greater purpose was to equip me for such a time as this.

Lord, please open our eyes to the hurting all around us.  Help us to take our eyes off of ourselves and onto You and You alone. Help us to trust You to meet our needs, so that we can freely give to those around us. Give us this ability, and increase our faith.

Your prayers for all of us laboring at Hauser Missionary Baptist Church are appreciated.  Love to you all on this Lord's day----

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The End of an Era. . . probably.

I have, aside from a two week stint right before the birth of my youngest child, changed diapers from the fall of October 2004 until February 18th, 2014.  If I add up the days, I have changed diapers for about 3,417 days.  That is nine and, roughly, a half a year of changing diapers.  Sometimes I just had one baby to change.  For about a year, I had three kids in diapers at one time.  I think back to that and wonder at how I did anything at all?  I was nursing a baby and changing diapers all the time!

I nursed all my kids too----I figured that I nursed babies for about 5 years total.  Nursing, changing, rocking, dishes, laundry, cheerios, sweeping and sweeping the floor, sippy cups, milk allergies, fructose allergies, doctors appointments, pregnancies. . . .

Well, the last Stotler child, unless God should do things differently than we have planned for, is now potty trained.  And it is the end of an era.

My parenting is changing.  I am seeing a tiny bit about how God designed it, a little better than I could see it before.  When I was younger I needed all that energy to endure the interrupted sleep, the carrying of the kids around everywhere, the non-stop movement required when a little one starts walking, or putting things in their mouths, or is running toward your couch with an ink pen. 

Now it is refereeing---or it could be. It is teaching self-control, and worse yet, it is modeling self-control. It is teaching by BEING.  And as hard as diapers were, this is a different kind of hard.  Is it as physically and mentally taxing as days on end of baby care?  No, it is not.  But it is a drive -you-to-your-knees, seek-God kind of hard.

My kids are like little flower buds now, when one leaf is just starting to open.  I can get a little glimpse of what is inside there, what color it is, or the scent, but I can't fully see the flower because it isn't fully opened yet.  And I have to help take care of the flower so that it blooms in the right way.

And this is terrifying.

Without God's help and wisdom, I will fail in this endeavor.  Yes, parents:  without His wisdom, you will fail in this effort.  And you can be a child of God, and still fail, if you don't instill His wisdom in your children.  But to instill it, you have to have it too.  So this season requires less sleep, because I should be praying and studying more.  And it requires a quiet physical stamina to "do the right thing" at all times-----and no cup of coffee is going to make that happen.

So it is a bittersweet end.  But I am looking forward to this new "season".  I would be lying if I say I don't daydream, and sometimes hold in my mind, each of my "babies" from time to time.

And my youngest might forever bathe in Johnson&Johnson.

No bottles, no bibs, no sippy cups,

No more diapers, just Pull-Ups.

Wet wipes now used only on faces,

No planning naps around going places.

No more Gerber Puffs or jars,

You’ve moved on to trucks and cars,

How in the world can it be

My last baby has turned three!

No struggle to understand your words,

No worry that you won’t be heard.

Growing up quicker than the others,

(Need to keep up with your brothers).

Get your own snack and pick up your toys?

You’ve learned much faster than the other boys!

Time creeps quietly and steals away

Pieces them, day by day.

My motherhood is changing too,

We get more sleep, and there’s less. . . ewwww.

Lots to teach and lots to learn

My rank, I find, I have to earn.

So get your blankie, and climb on my lap

And let me rock you for a rare nap.

The laundry can wait, and supper can too

For I just want to cuddle with you.

The day is coming when you’ll prefer another,

And I learned by raising the others---

That one day I’ll wake inside and yearn

To hold the baby you once were. 

Many changes coming to me----

My little one is wonderful three. 
 --Sandra Stotler

May God richly bless you in your season of parenting.  Love to you all on this fine day.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose."-----Genesis 6:1-2

I am in an adventurous place in my life.  I have moved, in an effort to support my husband as well as be pleasing to God's will in my own life, many miles from home to an entirely new place.  That was not stated in an effort to draw attention to the sacrifice of the author.  It truly hasn't been that painful of a sacrifice.  The most difficult sacrifice has been that of one thing:  my will.

I am in a place that I have long told others about.  I am in a place of having to patiently wait upon the Lord----for His leadership, His directions, for His provisions for needs.  I am not speaking of financial needs, either----I am speaking of needs that can't be bought.

And I am learning that the biggest part of waiting, is surrendering.

Sometimes when I have a specific need, I go to the Lord and tell Him exactly what it is.  Sometimes I remind Him of His promises to provide for me, and sometimes I even try to tell Him how to deliver what I need. 

But He is teaching me some things.
The people in the days of Noah were having trouble----the Bible states that the "thoughts of men were only evil continually."  This didn't just start then.  These troubles went back a bit farther.  When Noah was born, his father stated that Noah would bring the family joy, since the "ground was cursed by the Lord." 

In verses 1 &2 (above), we see that the sons of God, or His saved children, were looking upon the daughters of men-----women who had not been saved.  This meant that these young women did not know God, and didn't understand His design for their marriages.  But the young men did know God. 

And the young men were looking upon these daughters of men----women who could not understand the importance of following God-----and "saw that they were fair", or beautiful. So they took them as wives at their own choosing.
Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount that