This Is Why You’re Not Getting a Christmas Card From Us This Year (or maybe ever again)

6 12 2012

No More Christmas Cards explains how we came to our decision to NOT send Christmas cards this year.

So, the winner of what would have been our Christmas money was Safe Haven Family Shelter, by almost a 3-1 vote.  I was introduced to Safe Haven almost two years ago, and since then, both Caleb and Jason have joined me on various occasions to help provide dinner for the residents.

Besides the money issue, the other reason you are not getting a Christmas card from us is because this is it!  SURPRISE dear readers!  We’re going all-digital this year.

Many of you keep up with us via Facebook anyway, so you already know our year in review.  For those who don’t, here you go:

The Huddleston 2012 Year in Review

Matthew continues to teach physics and launch high altitude balloons at Trevecca Nazarene University.  He loves his job, and even took on the challenge of hosting a national high altitude balloon conference at TNU in June.

He finished his first (and possibly, probably, hopefully last) full marathon in April.  His goal was an ambitious 4:00, but he made it around 4:25.  This is incredibly impressive considering he only “trained” once each week . . . most of the time.

He has also completed several mud runs, the latest rage in running races around the country.  Now that he’s in a new age bracket, he will probably start placing and winning some nice prizes.

On a heavier note, Matthew’s dad, Mark, was diagnosed with colon cancer in October.  He had surgery just a few days after.  The doctors thought they got all of the cancer, but subsequent tests showed a spot on a lymph node.  He is currently undergoing chemo therapy once every two weeks for six months.  His doctors remain very optimistic, but we’d still appreciate your prayers for complete healing and for strength and endurance for Mark and Martha during this time.

Kelly (me) continues to teach technology and journalism/graphic design at Franklin Road Academy.  I also love my job.  I did NOT do a ½ (or full) marathon this year, and I feel great!  Triathlons are my new thing (My First Triathlon).  Having successfully finished three of them, I can no longer qualify for placings in the Beginner category.  However, being really a really weak swimmer, mediocre bicyclist, and slow runner, I wouldn’t qualify for placings in any category anyway.  Maybe when I’m 80 and still doing triathlons will I win something.

Gourmet cupcakes are my newest indulgence so if you are ever looking for a gift . . .  (I also love chocolate and a good extra sharp cheddar cheese.)  However, I really need to be eating more fruit and vegetables, so a membership in some sort of fruit-of-the-month club would be a better gift.

Matthew and Kelly’s (our) international trip this year took us to Nicaragua in July.  We met another one of the kids we sponsor through Compassion International.  Always an eye-opening, life-changing event, you can read about it here:  Open My Eyes.  You can also read about the amazing amount of fun hell we had as we hiked a volcano on Ometepe Island.

Next year’s trip is another once-in-a-lifetime trip:  india!  For three weeks we will traverse a good chunk of the country in June.  The first 10 days or so will be spent in Chennai and traveling up the Indian Ocean coast of south eastern India, mainly to visit two more kids they sponsor through Compassion International (link) as well as spend some time with a friend who pastors a church in a small village there.  During the second half of the trip, we will get to play tourist:  visit the Taj Mahal, ride elephants and camels in the dessert, visit Agra, Jaipur, New Delhi, and take a boat tour along the Ganges River in Varanasi, the heart of the Hindu culture.  Expect great blog posts to come from this adventure.

Other big news for 2012 included placing membership in a new church, Priest Lake Christian Fellowship.  Our former home church group, the Gathering, fizzled out as families found new churches around the Nashville area, so we started looking, too.  Being less than a mile from our home was a great benefit, but the people were the main draw.  We have never been to a more humble church where the Holy Spirit is so alive and thriving among its members.  It’s inspiring and challenging and moving each week.

Caleb is in fourth grade at Franklin Road Academy and continues to love school and excel in his academics.  To brag on this child for a moment, he has yet to receive a B in any term grade since he started PK.  He’s got his Daddy’s brains and aptitude for math and building things.  Caleb continues to love all things Star Wars, but his Pokemon obsession (thank goodness!) has come to an end.  If you know of anyone interested in buying a 700+ card Pokemon collection, please let us know.

Caleb’s newest obsession is legos.  The kid lives and breathes legos, which we are fine with.  He actually builds some really cool things, like a working flashlight—complete with an on/off lever and working bulb.

Caleb is also learning to play the recorder and trumpet, and we (as in Kelly) are trying desperately (and futilely) to get him to sing “This Song is Just Six Words Long” by Weird Al Yankovic in the Fourth Grade Variety Show in January.  Weird Al is another recent obsession of Caleb’s, and being the cool parents we are, for his birthday we bought him tickets to see Weird Al in concert in April when he comes to Nashville.

Caleb is a Webelo scout this year, and is a popcorn selling machine!  He sold over $1500 to win first place again in his cub scout pack.  He won an archery set, 8% of his total sales in cash, a $50 Walmart gift card, an LED head lamp, a patch, Predators’ tickets, and a trophy.  (Don’t get me started on winning trophies for something like selling popcorn.  Let’s just say, I’m not a fan of the practice.)

Caleb’s most exciting adventure this year, though, was his ER trip that led to a hospital stay for a couple of days at the end of August for pneumonia.  Despite this bump in the road, we are still tremendously blessed.  His asthma and allergies have plagued him something fierce this fall, much worse than normal.  We have an appointment with an asthma/allergy specialist next week so we are praying for something to help manage this better.

Jason started preK at FRA this year, and is loving it.  Being the second child, we did not work with him on things like the alphabet, drawing, writing, or reading much (hardly at all) before he started school.  Thankfully, the kid has a mind like a sponge and is taking off in the writing and reading department.  He also loves to draw.

Jason, too, is obsessed with Star Wars and legos.  At three he could recite entire scenes from Star Wars.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed by this.  Did I mention he was three at the time?  The kid can build lego creations with the best of them . . . well, maybe not a working flashlight yet, but he can build really cool spaceships, race cars, jails, mouse traps, and monsters.

Jason and Caleb took their first official swimming lessons this summer.  Lesson 1 involved Jason crying and screaming for the full 45 minute session.  He had snot running out of both nostrils to his belly button when I picked him up.  He only cried for about 15 minutes of lesson 2, and by lesson 3 he was actually excited to go.  Now, of course, the kid is terrified to put his head in the water, which reminds Kelly of herself as a child forced to take swimming lessons.

Packer, our dog, continues to love to eat anything that falls on the floor including baby spit-up (true story) as well as grass to later make herself throw-up said baby spit-up.  She loves to sleep during the day and wake us up around 4:00 a.m. to pee and play.

Finley Bubbles the VIII, our beta fish, didn’t last the year.  At this time, we are uncertain if we will buy Finley Bubbles the IX.

Hopes and prayers for 2013:

  • Good health for everyone
  • A safe and amazing trip to India
  • Jobs we love
  • Caleb and Jason would continue to grow and mature in their faith, following Christ
  • Matthew and Kelly possibly beginning a new Marriage Builders home church group
  • Kelly hopes to begin working on her MBA at Trevecca in the fall

As we reflect back and look forward, may we always remember WHY we celebrate.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:14

Love and prayers to all,
the Huddleston Family

PS.  If any of you find yourselves in Nashville and need a place to stay, we’ve got plenty of room and love house guests.

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40 Things

20 09 2012

 

40 & Fabulous

40 & Fabulous

I turn 40 today, and until a short while ago, I dreaded being that number.  It was so old.  Half of my life was over.  Then it hit me . . . I was at the age where I realized I turned into my parents.  Upon reflection I realized that wasn’t a bad thing.  How blessed am I to be able to say that?My attitude began to turn around from being negative and dreading this birthday to wanting to celebrate in grand fashion, which we did.

As the day approached, I also began to think about the next half of my life.  What do I want to accomplish?  Who do I want to be?

So being an ultra-organized, detailed-oriented, goal-setting, to-do queen, I did what came naturally.  I created a list.

This wasn’t merely a Bucket List.  I already have one of those.  There is a difference in this new list and my bucket list.  My new list is realistic.  My bucket list isn’t.  For example, I really want to throw a live grenade and watch something blow up.  I know that will never happen.

My new list is comprised of things I want to do in the next 40 years of my life.

Physical
1.       Do 40 military style pushups at one time, no breaks.
2.       Successfully finish a Tough Mudder.
3.       Swim freestyle for 50 meters without stopping.
4.       Run a sub 30-minute 5K in an actual race.
5.       Do P90x ab ripper at least twice each week, preferably three times.
6.       Bike once each week.
7.       Run two-three times each week.
8.       Swim once each week.
9.       Always remember to wear sunscreen.
10.   Hike the Appalachain Trail.
11.   Still be able to do 180° right and left leg splits 40 years from now.

40 & Fabulous (and still quite flexible)

40 & Fabulous (and still quite flexible)

Diet/Nutrition

12.   Eat at least two servings of fruit each day.
13.   Eat at least two servings of vegetables each day.
14.   Remember to take all my supplements each day—multi vitamin, calcium/Vitamin D, fish oil.
15.   Cut back to one sweet/dessert item each day (except on birthdays).
16.   Try one new recipe each month.
17.   Drink more water.

Spiritual

18.   Fast 40 hours straight once each week.
19.   Memorize one scripture each week.
20.   Give half my income away, probably through Compassion International child sponsorships.
21.   Teach my children to pray in all circumstances.
22.   Teach my sons the importance of sexual purity and protecting and honoring their bodies and the bodies of any girls/women they have relationships with.
23.   Watch my sons grow into their own faith in Christ.
24.   Go on a mission trip.

Mental

25.   Get my MBA.
26.   Get my PhD.
27.   Not go crazy.
28.   Read on average one book per week.
29.   Become fluent in another language.
30.   Learn to play the piano.

 Miscellaneous

31.   Have a weekly date with my love.
32.   Play more games with my family.
33.   Visit all the Wonders of the World.
34.   Travel to a new country each year.
35.   Grow my hair out to my wedding day length.
36.   Join a community choir.
37.   Watch no more than 1 hour of TV each night, except when Dancing with the Stars goes for two hours.
38.   Re-invent/re-paint/re-design several rooms in my home.
39.   Build a library with floor to ceiling book shelves in my home and fill it with great literature.

Most Important

40.   Remember that each day is a gift and to live a life that reflects how grateful I am to be alive.





Remembering Hosea

5 06 2012

My husband and I celebrate 14 years of marriage today.  We were married during a candle-light ceremony on a Friday night in San Antonio.  It had been over 100 degrees that day (the whole week) and the air conditioning stopped working in the fellowship hall where our reception was held.  Matthew sang to me during the ceremony, and we had a bagpiper during the reception.  Oh the memories of that day. . .

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My favorite memories, when I reflect on our wedding, come from two scriptures.  The first was one Matthew sent me at the end of an email shortly before our wedding.  It was Genesis 29:20 which reads, “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.”

Loving, sweet, tender man of mine sent me that.

In my haste to look up this reference in my Bible, I actually read one verse later, Genesis 29:21, which reads, “Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife.  My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.

I remember thinking, “Well, I know what’s on his mind.”  Of course we all had a good laugh when I realized my error.

On a more serious note, the most important verse that summarizes our wedding and the entirety of our marriage is one that is inscribed on our wedding bands, Hosea 2:19-20.  (Because my wedding band is so narrow, it looks more like Hoser than Hosea.)

“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.”

When Matthew first suggested this verse for us, I thought it was an amazing description of the type of love God desires for a husband and wife to share in the covenant marriage relationship.  It was several years later that I realized this was first and foremost God’s love for us.

God can love us perfectly this way, and it is completely independent of anything we say or do or believe.  I cannot love this way on my own.  It is only through Christ that even after 14 years, my husband and I still desire this kind of love for one another and seek to make it our own with such passion.

Ninakupenda Mapenzi!  I am blown away when I think about what our future together will be like!





2012 Resolutions

5 01 2012

Being the list-maker, goal-setter, and all-around do-er that I am, I LOVE coming up with New Years Resolutions.  I actually began thinking about my list in November.  My focus verse for the year is from James 3:17-18.  I want to be the kind of woman that embodies this type of wisdom, and yet I struggle greatly in so many of these areas.

 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure;
then peace-loving, considerate, submissive,
full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Spiritual/Relationship Goals

  • Have a dynamic marriage.
    • Stop what I’m doing and greet my husband with a hug as soon as he/I get home from work each day
    • Pray together every night
    • Monthly dates
  • Read through the Bible
  • Fast 1x/week
  • Give at least 16.5% of our pre-tax income to charitable organizations (hopefully more)
  • Volunteer somewhere at least 1x/month

 Exercise/Activity Goals

  • Participate in an average of 1 race/event each month (I actually have 13 on my radar for next year and am looking for more!)
  • Run/walk 2-3x/week (6-9 miles)
    • Get back to a sub-10-minute mile
    • Do a sub-30-minute 5K
  • Bike 1x/week (6-10 miles)
  • Swim 1x/week (.25-.5 miles) 
    • Learn to swim freestyle (Out of everything on my list–this one is the most daunting to me.)
  • P90X Ab Ripper 3x/week
  • 40 perfect pushups by my 40th birthday

Nutrition Goals

  • Eat 2 servings of fruit
  • Eat 1 serving of vegetables (not counting potatoes)
  • Consume less sugar
  • Drink more water

What are your goals for 2012?





Fasting – Five Weeks Down, the Rest of My Life to Go

1 04 2011

 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him sent me and to finish his work.”
-John 4:34

 “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 
The tempter came to him and said,
‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread,’ 
Jesus answered, ‘It is written: 
‘Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.*’”
–Matthew 4:1-4, *Deuteronomy 8:3

 I have completed my fifth week of fasting—one day per week consuming only liquids.  (It may be helpful to read about my Call to Fast before proceeding with this post.) After the very first week I was sold on the importance of pursuing this spiritual discipline as well as the blessings it offers.  Here are my observations.

 

I have to be proactive.  Going into each fast, I asked a few close friends to pray for me that:

  • I would be able to fight whatever Satan would throw at me to thwart my efforts.
  • I would fight temptation victoriously.
  • God would honor my heart and my desire to connect with Him on a deeper level.
  • Goodness and blessing would abound.

Indeed, all these prayers were answered in mighty ways. 

I think about food way too much.  However, during my times of fasting, every little stomach grumble or stray thought about a piece of chocolate brought me that much closer to the heart of God.  Every reminder of why I was fasting immediately turned my thoughts to prayer.  I found I was praying constantly throughout the day—significantly more than I normally do.

 

I eat way too much.  I do not need to consume anywhere near the amount of food I do.  I am not overweight by any means, but I eat more than I should simply because it’s there and it tastes good, and most of what I eat is junk.  I am very disciplined in discerning needs versus wants when it comes to financial issues and material possessions, but I lack discipline in this area when it comes to food.  I need to learn to eat what my body needs.  Honestly, I can’t think of a single time when my body needed that second cookie (or even the first.)

 

There is a significant connection between our stomachs and our relationship with God.  I can’t explain this one well, yet.  This is a thought I’ve had often during my fasts, and it’s still something I need to ponder more.  However, there is no denying that food holds a significant role in scripture.  Great feasts and times of rejoicing are mentioned often as are times of sacrifice and fasting.  Whether we are living in abundance or scarcity, how we treat food is possibly a good indicator of how we connect with God.

  • Do you gorge when you are sad or depressed?  Or do you seek the One who can comfort you?
  • Do you eat to reward yourself?  Or do you find your worth as a child of God?
  • Are you continually thinking about your next meal?  Or are you focusing on the One who provides your next meal?
  • Are you disciplined at the buffet?   Or do you seek self-control to avoid the buffet line all together if you know it will be your downfall?  Is this indicative of how you deal with temptation in other areas of your life?

 

There is nothing wrong with being tempted.  Jesus was tempted, after all.  It’s how I deal with temptation that matters.  Going into this the first few weeks, one of my biggest concerns was how I would respond to the temptation of food—the free ice cream after the pep rally, the reheated Polish sausage for Caleb’s dinner, passing the Cinnabon stand at O’Hare, the cookie a co-worker gave me at 7:15 a.m.  I found that because I had been proactive in prayer and continually in prayer throughout the day, the temptation to eat diminished greatly.  Turning my mind from food to God was quite easy and natural.  Physically, I’m still surprised at how easy it is to go a full 24+ hours without eating.

 

Once I got started with my extended time of prayer in the evenings, I didn’t want to stop.  Some days, I get so distracted after just two minutes of trying to pray.  During my times of fasting, however, I want to keep going, even after a solid hour of prayer.  I can’t describe the peace at the core of my soul during these times.

 

God honors our hearts when we seek Him.  The night of my first fast, my husband and I had a long conversation.  He shared with me, with difficulty, about how I had hurt him in the past.  We’ve had this discussion numerous times, and usually I have responded very poorly.  My default behavior is to become defensive, sarcastic, and try to turn the conversation to make myself out to be the victim.  Of course, this is anything but helpful.

 

Because I had been in prayer so intensely throughout the day, I heard the Spirit talking to me very clearly as I continued to pray while my husband was talking.  Seeking God’s will in that moment, I very plainly heard God tell me, “Hold him.  Apologize.”  As simple as this suggestion was, I’m not sure I would have come to the same conclusion had I not been fasting, praying, and seeking God’s will all day, and I’m not sure I would have had the strength to actually do it.  But I did, and blessings flowed.

 

Goodness came from each fast, and I’m not sure I’d have received the same blessings had I not been fasting.  I read this Psalm a few days ago.  It speaks so perfectly to my experience with fasting.

“I will listen to what God the Lord will say;
he promises peace to his people, his saints–
but let them not return to folly. . .

Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.

The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.”
-Psalms 85:8, 10-13





What I Love About You Now . . .

19 03 2011

The men in our home church group are on a retreat this weekend.  On our ladies retreat in January, the men wrote notes to us–one for each of the three days we were away.  We wives decided to do the same for our men this time around.

  • For Friday, we focused on what we love about our husbands.
  • Saturday’s notes were written by our children and included a list of things they are thankful for, for their fathers.
  • For Sunday, we wrote about our dreams and goals for our futures together.

Mapenzi, this is for you!

  1. You are a man after God’s own heart.
  2. You have a rock-solid faith.
  3. You have one of the purest hearts I’ve ever encountered.
  4. You thirst for righteousness in everything and from everyone.
  5. You desire goodness, always.
  6. You are a man of many, many, many talents.
  7. You are a true Renaissance Man.
  8. Your musical abilities continually amaze me.
  9. Your intelligence is incredible.
  10. You are interested and curious about so many things.
  11. You can fix almost anything.
  12. You can build sheds and decks that rock the neighborhood.
  13. You are a most fabulous father.
  14. Your sons adore you above any other man on earth.
  15. You do all the driving.
  16. Your running capabilities will never cease to astonish me.
  17. You are a great experimental cook.
  18. You make delicious pickles and salsa.
  19. You do all the grilling.
  20. You clean the bathtub for me.
  21. You do all the yard work and take care of the vehicles so I don’t have to.
  22. You are my filter.
  23. You fast with me and for me.
  24. You will do anything I ask.
  25. You love me more than words can express.

I only thought of this one after I saw “The Addams Family” musical on Broadway this past week, but it’s so, so true:  You love me like Gomez loves Morticia.  If all husbands loved their wives with that deep, passionate, boundless love that transcends age and physical beauty, the state of marriage would be so much closer to God’s heart.  I get to live there every day with you.





A Call to Fast

25 02 2011

 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and break every yoke? . . .
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say:
Here I am.”
-Isaiah 58:6, 8-9

Last April, the ladies book club I am a part of with my home church group read Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes.  It’s a fascinating true story of the author and his adventures running ultramarathons and other crazy races that test the limits of human endurance.  Always looking for a spiritual application, I came away with this thought.

Most people I know are ready and willing to push their physical bodies to the limit with diet and/or exercise.  We train through pain for months to run marathons.  We diet with determination to drop those last few pregnancy pounds.  We put ourselves through Master Cleanses to rid our bodies of the toxins we digest.

Most people I know (myself included), however, do not work at our spiritual disciplines with the same fervor we do our physical disciplines.  What would that even look like?  Praying to the extreme?  Giving to the extreme?  Fasting to the extreme?

Fasting?

In the 15 years since I became a follower of Christ, I cannot recall a single sermon or Bible study lesson on fasting.  Yet, Jesus claims this act as one of the main spiritual disciplines, right up there with giving and praying (see Matthew 6:1-18).

I just finished a book titled Fasting by Jentezen Franklin.  My husband read this in early January and got fired up to fast.  I’ve always been intrigued by fasting, but I have never attempted to make it a regular part of my life.  Since reading this book, God has greatly convicted me that fasting needs to become a priority in my walk with Christ.

I asked God on Sunday to give me a clear purpose for my fasting.  Knowing my weaknesses and how easily I can turn any righteous act into a legalistic one, if I don’t have an intentional reason to fast, it would quickly become one more item to check off my do-gooder list.

Over the next 24 hours, God answered that prayer twofold. 

First, I will pray for the children in our home church group.  We have a couple of teens who are fighting against some fierce strongholds.  We have several elementary school aged kids, my oldest son is included in that group.  Our home church team has had several discussions this year about how the time of major influence over our kids is slipping away quicker than we want it to.  If we don’t build a firm foundation NOW, they will struggle mightily in the years to come when they no longer live in our homes, share our food, and sleep under our roofs.  We also have a huge and ever-growing population of toddlers and babies.

My prayers for these precious young ones will be that they:

  • Mature in their relationships with Christ:  “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” -2 Peter 3:18
  • Grow in wisdom and discernment to make wise choices when temptation knocks on their doors:  “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13
  • Grow into men and women of integrity who “never tire of doing what is right.”  -2 Thessalonians 3:13 
  • Honor their and their future spouses’ sexual purity until they are married:  “Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore, honor God with your body.” -1 Corinthians 6:18-20
  • Trust their parents as we do our best to “train them in the way they should grow so that when they are old, they will not turn from it.” –Proverbs 22:6

Secondly, I will pray for my marriage.  My husband and I will be married 13 years this June.  We have had many ups and downs over the years and are currently climbing out of another valley.  We overcome one obstacle, and other takes its place.

My prayers will be focused on breakthrough.  There is a wall between us, built mostly by my actions and words to him over the past few years.  There have been other walls in the past we have successfully razed:  in-laws, children, others.  This one, I believe, is called pride.  I want to break it down.  I want to completely demolish it, turn the stones to dust, and cast them to the wind.

I am really excited about what God is going to do through my fasting.  I am confident God will do mighty things.  He will:

  • Reveal hidden sin in my life.
  • Break down barriers in my relationships.
  • Heal old wounds.
  • Help me to be a better wife, parent, and friend.

 I will:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is
 and walk in it,
 and (I) will find rest for (my) soul.”
-Jeremiah 6:16