Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me!

I got home from St. Vincent just 2 days shy of my 34th birthday.

I mentioned in my last post that I came home and picked up the heavy load that I had left behind...and then some.

As soon as I walked into the house from my trip I found out three things: the remote control was lost, Ava had cut her hair, and Zeke was sick with a high fever.


See what I mean?

That doesn't even include the tiny detail that my sweet mama (who had been helping keep my kids) had to be hospitalized for diverticulitis while I was gone. Thankfully, she is doing better but she is facing surgery soon.:(

Last of all, Shep sold his motorcycle on the day I came home. It was a good thing but it made me kind of sad all the same. We (like so many others) are in some financial squeezes so every little thing helps. He and I had so many good times riding together. The Lord and I had some great times riding together. However, I trust Shep and his discernment so I believe God will honor our obedience and hopefully there will be riding days again.

So you can see that life around here has been tumultuous at best.

On my actual birthday I woke up to an even sicker little boy and had to take him to the doctor. After another positive strep test and a visit to the ENT, we have decided to get his tonsils and adenoids out...this week.

I know I am rambling a bit but I just wanted to be very transparent about life. Things are NOT at all the way I want. I have told you of a few minor things that have affected us but there are other things too. We have family members and friends who are hurting deeply and suffering consequences of past and present mistakes. We hurt with them. It hurts to watch them.

I look at my life right now and I didn't expect to have such a full plate of uncertainty at 34 years old. Somewhere I bought into the lie that all would be figured out and most everything would be rosy.

Not so.

I feel really burdened these days but at the same time really, really blessed.

God has given me some cool gifts this past year~

Joy~ even when I may have tears...
Peace~ even when I can't make the numbers work
Love~ even when I don't like
Patience~ even when the days are long
Goodness~ even when I want to react badly

Anyone who knows me can attest that I am not perfect. I can be rude, self-seeking, prideful, arrogant, vain, wimpy, critical, and mean. But...I am happy to say that the more time I spend in God's Word and on my face in prayer.....I see less and less of that girl. He gives me His traits. I become like him. He loves us so much. He gives us the gifts that can never spoil or rot. They are for building up and honoring Him.

Happy Birthday To Me!

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 "We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed,
16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far out weighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Matters?

We had weeks and weeks of preparations before we left to go to St. Vincent. We planned, prayed, positioned, prepared, plotted, and perfected all we knew beforehand so that our trip would be a success and God would be honored.

Then we went.

Now we're back.

I seriously feel like I needed some type of serious pre-planning so that I could re-emerge into what used to be my "normal" life.

This is my home.

I am a wife.
I am a mother.
I am a daughter, friend, mentor, teacher, etc...but I have struggled to just step back into those shoes again.

When I left to go I stepped away from the cares of my burdens, my concerns, and my fears.

Then I went to minister without restraint. I wasn't focused on anything except loving people in the name of Jesus Christ. It was fulfilling, humbling, and exhilarating all at the same time.

When I came home I was so eager to see Shep and hug my children. But I must admit that the moment I walked into my door I immediately picked up every burden, every concern and every fear again. I felt a sudden heaviness. I hated it.

I really didn't know how to handle it. So this week I felt as though I have been living in slow motion. I am trying to re-adjust but I am not the Andrea I was before. My perspective has changed.

I sat in church last Sunday and really just enjoyed being in God's house with fellow believers and air conditioning. In the past I might have been critical of the music, the message, or any thing else that didn't suit me. But Sunday I was simply grateful.

I was grateful to have gained new eyes to see what matters most.

It is Jesus and Him alone.
He is our Truth. He is our Hope. He is our Anchor.

Lord please help me live what I learned while I was away. Sharing Jesus with others and ministering in Your name is the only legacy I will ever leave behind. I must start with this in my home. As a wife and mother I can share Your love and minister to my family. But it can't end I encounter people I can't be timid in talking about You. Fuel my faith and cage my cowardice. Give me opportunities to talk about You and be about Your work. It is so easy to get caught up in pettiness and man's good works but none of that matters. The enemy would love for me to place any other thing in front of You. Help me to recognize this and to not allow it. Teach me to pray and to listen. I desire Your wisdom and Your will for my life.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Smitten with St. Vincent

My heart has been hijacked and held hostage by the wonderful people in St. Vincent.

I am slowly coming down off of my "mission trip high".

These faces you see in the photos will forever be etched into my mind...and I hope to hug their necks again very soon. Yes, I want to go back.

The stories I have to tell range in nature. Some are frightening, others will make you wet your pants with laughter but all of them are hemmed with purpose.

I will never be the same again.

I know God used me to touch others in His name on that island but I could have never been prepared for the makeover my mind would undergo in that wonderful place.

Many children gave their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ!

That alone was worth the trip! I praise God for their futures and the joys He has in store for them.

I hope to try to tell as many stories as I can in days to come.

I will end with thanksgiving that my family was cared for in my absence and that God blessed my obedience to go. He conquered my fears. He stretched my limits. He poured on His peace. He gave us provision. He showed up in unexpected ways.

(And I have never sweat so much in all my life.......but with a smile on my face!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Strong Hands

Dad's hands threw me high in the air as a little
girl. His hands caught me tight on the way down.

His hands protected me, shielded me, and showed me discipline. He shaped my security in Christ in so many ways...just by being my godly daddy.

Mom's hands wiped my tears away when I was little. Her hands held me tight and hugged me close. Her hands rubbed lotion on me and painted my finger nails. Her hands walked me through Scripture when I began asking question at a young age. Her hands hemmed me in when I was tempted to walk in the wrong paths. Her hands pointed the way to Jesus!

Shep's hands I know by heart. I couldn't wait for the first time that he reached over to hold my own. I still remember holding his hands at the altar when we said our vows....I've been holding them ever since. His hands represent what He is to me. He is steady and strong. He covers me, guides me, encourages me, and loves me.

Thursday night I knelt on the floor at my parent's house as mom, dad, and Shep laid their hands on me and prayed for my upcoming mission trip. It was an event I will always cherish. Their prayers were so intimate and personal. They commissioned me and blessed me in Jesus' name to go into another nation and spread the gospel message of Jesus Christ!

There were no tears of sadness but tears of joy and anticipation. I got to witness three people who love me so much entrust me completely into the hands of the One who holds my future. It was trust in action.

2 Timothy 1:6 "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I hear you, LORD

We really enjoy watching Animal Planet. It is a welcome change for Shep and I who grow weary of Noggin and Disney Channel. My kids love to watch the Untamed and Uncut show. I don't know what this says about them....but they like to watch animals in real live situations. It can be unsettling to see such raw behavior but then again God made lions, tigers, snakes and the like to be just what they are.

Last night we were watching this show and they were highlighting the behavior of big cats. I think it was even titled, "Cat-astrophes"--appropriate I promise.

One particular scene gripped me not because of the graphic footage but because of what God said to me through watching it.

A visitor on safari was filming an attack of 8 lions on 1 cape buffalo. It was a sad and pitiful sight. This cape buffalo was not with a herd and he was easy prey for the 8 young lions. They came at him one by one and took him down. The cape buffalo laid helpless for a long time while these lions ate his flesh and overtook him.

It looked as if all hope was lost. Chalk this up to a win for the lions. Almost 20 minutes had past since the attack had begun.

The cape buffalo then surprised everyone. Lying there being devoured by lions he made a distress call. He groaned out several times.

A herd of cape buffalo herd this call from a long way off and came running.

It was amazing!!

This herd charged and ran until they reached the lions devouring their own. They charged ahead anyway and ran off all 8 of the lions.

We were cheering and clapping but the goodness didn't stop there.

The herd then surrounded the fallen and badly hurt cape buffalo and began to lick its wounds. They did this for a long time and then stepped away.

After a few moments this big ol' beast got to his own feet and walked away with the herd.

It was truly an awesome sight.

What was even better was watching the perplexed lions come back to the same spot where the buffalo had been.....only to find their dinner had gotten up and walked away!

Shep and I just sat there and both realized the parallels of how the body of Christ should treat those who are lost and those who have fallen.

-Parallel 1- The buffalo had left the herd. (How many do I know who have lost their way?)

-Parallel 2- The lions surrounded the lone buffalo and took it down. (How many do I know who are held in the grasp of strongholds of sin?)

-Parallel 3- The buffalo made a distress call for help. (I know so many who are hurting but they must ask and receive help or they will be devoured.)

-Parallel 4- The herd listened and responded. (Do I look for those who are asking for my help?)

-Parallel 5- The herd then fights off the lions. (Would I be willing to fight for another who can't?)

-Parallel 6- The herd surrounded the hurt buffalo and licked its wounds. (Would I help with the healing process to those who are willing to receive it?)

-Parallel 7- The herd then waited for the buffalo to stand on its own. (Would I stand close and support without enabling or standing in judgement?)

I hear you, LORD! Good word!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Already missing them

How does the week seem to drag and then you blink and the weekend is over?!?

We had a pretty nice weekend. I am trying to soak up time with my precious family before I leave for my mission trip. I am such a nerd and a nostalgic one at that. This morning I was putting one of Shep's t-shirts in the laundry and I found myself hugging it to my face and catching the remaining whiffs of leftover cologne.


I am ridiculous. I am already missing him before I am even gone.

I am already thinking about things that I can shove in my suitcase that smell like my children. Pictures serve a good purpose but there is just something about a scent that can take your heart away.

I remember when my grandparents passed away. I had not gotten to be there to tell them goodbye. So~ what I wanted was to be close to them any way possible. I remember climbing into their bed and just breathing into their pillow cases. My papaw always smelled like hair gel, tobacco, and soap. For a felt like I was lying on his chest.

So getting back to the weekend...

-Ava practiced diving into the deep end of a friend's pool
-Caroline practiced being baptized (we are working on her fear of going under...she did great!)
-We watched "Despicable Me" and Zeke never left my lap (cute movie)
-We learned that we have a family of Red Foxes that live in our back woods

Church was awesome on Sunday! The message series is all about being Free in Christ. This week the focus was freedom from fear. I felt like that was pretty appropriate for me considering I am trying to prepare myself for this mission trip and I feel completely ill-equipped and totally inadequate to do a good job!

Our church prayed over our group and commissioned us to go in the name of Jesus! It was humbling and surreal! I don't consider myself a missionary in any way but it made this all seem real. We have been preparing for weeks but having folks lay hands on us and commission us sealed the deal.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Making fun of myself...

I tried a different version of the Bible but it pretty much read the same way...

The New Living Translation of James 1:1-4 says,
"Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."

Okay so I am trying....

Trying to see my HUGE opportunities for great joy as I wade through the troubles that have come my way.

They really aren't a big deal.
Troubles probably isn't really the right word. They just feel that way because they are a pain in my rear and maybe I equate pain with trouble.
It is actually just lots and lots of things that have required immediate attention while we have been short on time and funds.

We have had the opportunity to take Zeke to the doctor (count them) 5 times in the past 3 weeks.
(Yes, that is $25.00 a pop. Just saying....)
We have had the opportunity to take Ava to the doctor (yep, 25.00 again)
(Did I mention there were prescriptions that went along with these??? I won't give you those costs.)
We have had the opportunity to get all the necessary paperwork from doctors, school, and therapists in order to complete Caroline's Medicaid application.
(Can I tell you how nice and helpful people are when you call asking for paperwork? NOT VERY!)
I have had the opportunity to attend lots of meetings for my upcoming mission trip.
I have had the opportunity to be a mommy, wife,friend, and work all while trying NOT to strain my voice.
(Remember I have been hoarse since the first of May and the therapist says I should never raise my voice and on a scale of 1 to 10....speak at about a 3. Uh....huh. How do you think I am doing on that one?)
Today I had the opportunity to go to the travel doctor and get the necessary vaccines for my trip.
Ouch! My shoulders are killing me. Tetanus and Hepatitis A don't play!

I certainly hope you can see my tongue and cheek humor here.

Sometimes you just need to let it out and laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all.

God is good.

Even with the junk and necessities of life....He makes my world go around.

I will admit to you that I do believe this is a joy that only He can give.

Sitting here at my computer and making fun of myself feels pretty good.

Thank you Lord for a little perspective.

Maybe this is the part of the patience being birthed in me due to all my little inconveniences.

I want to end this post on something upbeat and I just can't help listing a few of my favorite things this summer.

-JIF natural crunchy peanut butter (there are no words)
-Starbucks Chai Tea Latte (non-fat with whip taste buds start doing the mamba with the first sip)
-Salsa (I just can't stop wanting it...I am not even brand specific I just want it)

When I enjoy these 3 things....I have a better day. No lie!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Stopping half-way

I sit here on this eve of July 4th and I ponder freedom.

I am sure that I don't appreciate it appropriately because I have never known anything else. I have always lived in a country where I am free to speak, act, and believe what I want.

So then I reflect on spiritual freedom.
After all, freedom was God's idea in the first place.

I relished in a worship service today that focused on God's redemptive work to set us free.
He died so I could live.
He conquered death so I could live victoriously through His power.

Most of us enjoy our liberties of freedom.

We do what we want....when we want....with whom we want.
We buy want we want simply because we want it.
We spend our time and money freely because we can.
We are driven by desires.
If it makes us feel good~then it must be good?!? Right?

Are we free to do this....yes.

But I am pretty certain that this really isn't freedom.

Freedom is having the opportunity to do something and choosing NOT to because you know you shouldn't.

Now that is a form of freedom that isn't talked about very much!

Look at Galatians 5:1. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

I think most of us stop half-way through that verse.

We celebrate the freedom that Christ has given us. But we don't adhere to His warning in the second half of the verse.


He knows this will always be a battle for us. He knows we will "worship" things other than Him.

Think about it...before you scoff.

How many people do you know that revolve their lives around
-their kids
and these are just the ones that the world says are okay to idolize.

God says that we are NOT living in freedom if these things or anything else come before Him.

As I think about His great love for me and the price He paid, I want to stand firm and NOT be bound again to the things that compete with my love for Him.

Lord thank you for dying for my freedom. I will admit that I need to be freed mostly from myself. My thoughts, my feelings, and my wants need to change into Yours. Help me to do that. Please forgive me for taking on burdens and idols that compete with You. My focus should be You and You alone. You turn my darkness into light and my burdens ease in Your Presence. Your peace should radiate from me. These days I feel like I walk around in a frenzy of worry...I am so sorry. That is not doing Your name justice at all. Your freedom is the best kind. Your freedom enables me to forgive others and love my enemies. Your freedom offers grace and mercy instead of spite, bitterness, and resentment. I have tasted Your freedom and I know it is good. I love you Lord. Thank you for reminding me not to stop half-way but to stand firm and be on guard because my enemy seeks to distract me with anything other than You. I walk others to see Your freedom in me. Let me be a walking billboard ....a trophy of grace, compassion, love, kindness, strength, and FREEDOM!