Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A few faces I miss....

I am truly a dork I know. But dang I miss these people.

It is truly remarkable for six adults and seven children to willingly spend a week together and come out on the other side STILL loving each other.

I made them sit still and pose for my camera timer to take this one....I told you...I am a complete dork. But aren't we glad we have this photo?!?

But we did it.

There were some tense moments. Our nerves got really raw...mainly over our precious children.

But man we made some great memories and had some fabulous laughs.

Most of these laughing spells came at the end of the day once the kids were down....and we were almost at delirium. We would gather in the quiet and discuss the day.

One of our most interesting talks (that still makes me laugh right now) dealt with figuring out the gender of the sharks that they caught.

That is all I will say about that...but this girl laughed my way through shark (sex) education.

Anyway, I am digressing.

God was truly gracious in our getaway!

The weather was unbelievable.!

We saw so much of His nature come alive through creation. We were able to openly talk to our children about His vastness, His detail, and His glory through creation. Who knew that hermit crabs, the changing of the tides, sharks and life at the beach would invite so many opportunities to speak of the One who makes it all happen.

I am so blessed to know and love these folks. They have stayed close and pressed in when so many others walked away. God shows me so many of His qualities through their constant love and friendship.

God knows that life will hurt and disappoint. He surrounded Himself with close friends for encouragement and support. I am so glad He does the same for us!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Crazy about Carrabelle

I fell in love with a new place. I never knew it existed. It has no real appeal for most folks who can't live without a Target, Starbucks, or Chick-fil-A.
But it now holds a sweet spot in my heart. I can close my eyes right now and picture moments frozen in time that happened in Carrabelle.

Last summer we were knee deep in a campaign. So~our family did not get a vacation together. This year....we made up for it. We got away with two other families and soaked up time that we will never forget.

I took tons of pictures that I will post over the next few days. This vacation was such a gift from a gracious God. He knows we need times of a slower pace. He made us for work, worship, rest and play. We enjoyed His Presence and His creation this week in ways we probably don't notice so much at home. His fingerprints are everywhere if we will but stop and take notice. My mind was free from busyness and duty. My arms were full most of the time with the people I love most in the world. It never got old. It was my delight to just be a wife, mother, and friend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Nose Knows....

After our hectic (but awesome) week of Vacation Bible School we needed a slower pace this week.

By slower pace...I just mean we weren't out the door early and rushing around. We were still pretty busy but it was just different. We were able to go at our own pace which made a huge difference.

I went to the Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist this week. My voice has been hoarse for 6 weeks. I feel fine but can't quite seem to get my voice back. Talking is straining to me and singing.....oh how I miss is next to impossible. My doctor referred me to the ENT specialist to try to diagnose the problem. After a stimulating nose probe (yes, I said that right) the doctor said that I have singer's nodules. These nodules have formed on my vocal chords due to incorrect singing and speaking styles. The remedy for such behavior-----speech therapy.

So sign me up for some therapy! I am desperate to have my voice back so I will do whatever it takes. The doctor seems confident that some rest and speech therapy should fix the problem. However, I am going to have to re-learn how to speak and sing.

Dang it! I am not great at changing deep rooted behavior. But, the sounds emitting from my mouth as I try to sing cannot be tolerated much longer. I sound like a hyena trying to hit high notes.

(Details on the nose probe....they hold your nostrils open and spray a foul substance into your nose. As you swallow and inhale this unbelievably nasty stuff, it will numb your throat. This quick acting substance numbs your throat and the back part of your tongue. Each time you swallow you feel as though your tongue is the size of a giant grapefruit and you want to choke. As if this alone doesn't make you ill at ease....the doctor then comes at you with a long cable with a light and camera on the end. She inserts it into your nostril and down your throat all the while telling you not to swallow and to be still. Ready to sign up for this awesome experience?!?)

Needless to say I haven't been singing at church lately and probably won't be for a little while longer. I hate it. It makes my heart hurt. Singing is just what I do. It is such a natural expression for me. However, I trust that God is using this time to force me to rest and to learn a new and better way. So, I am gonna try to put my big girl panties on and deal with it.

Lord I praise You even when something I love has been temporarily taken away. You gave me that gift and I believe You will restore it as well. Please give me extra portion of patience with You and myself. Give me a teachable heart. Use this circumstance to make me more like You. Continue to draw me to You through Your Word and prayer. I desire to live out my faith not just talk about it. Forgive me for my anger and doubt as I have wrestled with what You are doing. Give me trust....more and more trust. Thank you for hardships and trials. I don't enjoy dealing with them but I know it is how You work. I want more of You Lord and less of me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our little sisters in Christ (and a dream)

Last week was Vacation Bible School at our church.

I always help lead the music and this year was no exception. Our theme was Big Apple Adventure from Lifeway. The material was terrific and the music was so so good.

Jeff Slaughter writes the songs and he does such a great job of immersing the songs with actual scripture. So it makes it much easier to memorize that way.

My kids loved it but my girls are at the age that they are not only loving the fun of it but they are listening and absorbing the message as well.

This brings us to Jesus and salvation....

Ava has told us several times over the past 6-8 months that she has asked Jesus into her heart.

At the time, she was only five years old. But, I do NOT doubt the faith of my girl. We talk about Jesus often. We sing about Him. We read stories from His precious Word. We pray a lot. We talk about faith a lot. We are very active members of our church.

She is inundated with info about Him. But we want her to really understand that she was born a sinner and needs a Savior. We want her to realize that Jesus died to save her from her sins and she must admit her sin, believe in Jesus, and ask Him to be her Lord and live in her heart.

These conversations have been pretty frequent for a while. Ava is incredibly sensitive and mature for her age. She says that she has asked Jesus into her heart. So~we take her at her word. But, we have not moved forward with baptism.

That changed last week.

She wanted to talk about being baptized and what that means. As Shep discussed this with her, we noticed that Caroline became keenly interested in their conversation.

The more Shep and Ava talked about salvation the more Caroline tried to break into the conversation. She did this by kicking her legs, waving her arms, and making loud noises that she meant to be heard.

Knowing that she wanted to be included, Shep began to ask her the same questions.

"Caroline, do you want to talk about asking Jesus into your heart?"
"Do you know that you are a sinner?"
"Do you know that Jesus died to save you from your sins?"

She used her hand to sign "yes" to these questions.

Her excitement kept building as if she wanted to speak so badly....she began laughing and kicking.

Finally Shep said, "Caroline, are you trying to tell us that you have prayed and asked Jesus into your heart?"

She went crazy signing yes yes yes with her weak little left hand.

So there it was.

Both of our daughters were now our little sisters in Christ. Pretty cool. It was a surreal moment in our kitchen. Angels were rejoicing in glory. I was just in awe!

Can we just stop here and yell some hallelujahs??!!??

Ava thinks she is ready for baptism....Caroline isn't so sure she is ready to go under water just yet. Well see what the future holds. What I know for now is that my two little girls wanted to be sure of their salvation. They want to talk about it. They want to express their sureness of it. I pray this is a quality they always keep. I pray that they always desire to share their good news.

(A sweet friend at church heard about Caroline accepting Christ as her Lord. That night she dreamed about Caroline. She said that they were lying together on a gym mat. They were facing each other with their heads propped up on their hands. She said that Caroline was laughing and talking and telling her all about asking Jesus into her heart. A simple coincidence~I don't think so......)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

3,285 to be exact....

There is a relatively new song out called "Blessings". If you haven't heard it...I strongly recommend it. The singer is Laura Story.

I feel like the writer of this song has experienced pain, suffering, and longing to be able to express such perfectly fitted lyrics.

My favorite part of the song starts the chorus and says, "What if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears? And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know Your near. What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"

Oh, I just belt it out...I sing it like I mean I live it!

Tonight will mark the 3, 285th night that I have gone to sleep with a heaviness and longing that I didn't have before June 11, 2002.

But with that heaviness and longing comes a knowing. I KNOW HE IS NEAR.

Nine years ago today, the enemy sought to take my life and the life of my little girl.

Nine years ago today we were both in intensive care~

The pregnancy had been pretty normal. My water broke around 6:00 am. My contractions came strong and steady. We would have a baby girl soon. I was prepared to implement Baby wise and get her on a schedule as quickly as possible. The name was set. Her room was perfect. Grandparents were waiting to kiss fresh pink little checks and check fingers and toes.

But God Almighty allowed our lives to collide with an unspeakable tragedy. The delivery went very wrong. Shep slept on the floor of the waiting room that night wondering if he would leave as a widower and childless.

That day marked "a before and after" for us. We would never be the same. We could never be the same.

Today we celebrated Caroline's birthday....our mercy day. It was the day that God saw fit to extend mercy to us in the disguise of a little baby girl with severe needs. My greatest desire is to bring glory to God with my life. She is the tool He chose. Mercy, compassion, patience, faith, perseverance, courage, grace, kindness, self-control and love has grown and flourished from the depths of our pain. She is such a gift. She vaporizes every defense with a simple look. She captures you before you even know it....just ask those who are hooked.

Happy Birthday Sweet Caroline! We love you so very much!

Greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done......

Monday, June 6, 2011

Refreshing Rain

I can almost hear the trees, grass, bushes, and shrubs sigh in relief.

God gave us the sweetest rain shower this evening.

It was a surprise rain.
It fell gently and steady.

Shep was busy cutting the grass with a trail of dust behind him when it began.

We couldn't stand it...we had to get out in it and play, twirl, run, dance, and smile for the brief respite from the blazing heat.

We have had record highs in the mid 90's for several straight weeks. There has been no relief at all. No rain in the forecast.

Then, out of nowhere, it blew in and changed our day.

Isn't that just like God?

I believe He loves to surprise us in all kinds of ways.

For us~ it was the simple delight of a summer (much needed) shower.

Creator God~we thank You for the rain. It was short and sweet but somehow...just enough. We love that You surprise us! Keep us grateful for simple pleasures. I have heard it said and written that You even smell like the scent of rain. Why would I be surprised at all that even Your fragrance brings with it refreshing and renewal. This evening the colors took on a different hue; they were brighter and deeper at the same time. It was as if they wanted to be more brilliant for the One who gives them life.

Deuteronomy 32:2
Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Standing Guard

It is hard to believe that two weeks of summer vacation are already gone.

We have had 4 visits from the tooth fairy, enjoyed swimming in pools and at a lake, watched a magic show, played with friends, worked on fun crafts, AND critiqued some new movies.

God has been graciously present in our home. I am so grateful that He tenderly cares for me and my fears that gripped me. He knows how I try to juggle and manage my life. He also knows that without His help I will fail miserably. He has made sure that I know each and every blessing I have comes directly from His hand. A lot of these blessings are know who you are! My heart overflows with thankfulness for you.

This year has been a marked change for me because I have been intentional about memorizing scripture. My friend, Tess (who lets me mentor her) suggested that we do the Beth Moore challenge of learning a new verse every two weeks. So good.

Even though I am getting a fresh dose of God's Word burned into my heart and mind does not make me immune the enemy's schemes. I think he comes at us a little bit harder.

I have mentioned before that God has us in a place of living and waiting.

Life doesn't stop. Work doesn't stop. Church doesn't stop. Life is going right along....but we are in a pattern of waiting.

It is hard and I still hate it.

I am beyond ready for the waiting to be over and done.

We are waiting on several things. This requires and builds perseverance, patience, faith, and trust. These things are vital to living out our faith. But who seriously signs up to learn this traits?

The only way to learn.....wait it out.

Anyway, my daily devotions the past few days have centered around peace and trust. The author wrote some simple but powerful words that I wanted to share...

"Fears and worries will encircle you, seeking entrance, so you must stay alert. Let trust and thankfulness stand guard, turning back fear before it can gain a foothold."

This was such a great word for me personally. Sometimes I forget to stay alert. Other times I am tired of staying alert. Whatever the reason, I give my fears and worries a place to enter my mind and sabotage my trust.

This small passive act gives the enemy a huge advantage in my day.

Oh God help me be intentionally guarded with trust and thankfulness. I want to stand, fully armored and ready, for the day you place ahead of me. Let my mouth constantly speak of Your blessings in my life. I am deserving of none, but truly grateful for all. Lord, help me be courageous in the midst of my circumstances. The weak side of me wants to shrink back, fall away and give up. I want to live each day empowered by Your Holy Spirit. Help me to do this. Please forgive me for not trusting You enough. Forgive my selfishness and pride. Increase my faith and help me not to waver during this season of waiting. Your purpose will prevail. I love you Lord.