Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In a bathroom stall...

At a recent parent-teacher conference, Shep and I sat and listened to Ava's teacher talk about her personality in the classroom and her accomplishments during her first grade year.

Speaking as a former teacher, she is a teacher's dream.

A desire to please is in her blood. She can't help it.

She wants to follow the rules.

She wants others to follow the rules.

She doesn't like conflict.

She is thrilled to receive praise and and she works hard to do a good job.

Don't get me wrong....she can be every bit as bratty as the next kid.

But, usually, at school she aims to please.

Then her teacher said something interesting, "Ava is very compassionate. She is very tender toward others. She is very concerned if someone is hurt or having a hard time."



I don't think that was spoken about me at 6 years old.

Sassy? Yes
Chatty? Absolutely
Outgoing? For sure

Compassionate? Not so much

I certainly had compassion on hurting animals and the like but it wasn't something that stood out so that my teachers ever relayed it to my parents.

But then I thought about Ava's life.

She has had a calling from birth to be the little sister of a very handicapped older sister.

That is quite a task I tell you. And one she handles with as much grace as a 6 year old can.

She has always looked up to Caroline in her own way.
But she has always played a big part in her care giving.

This is where I believe God has begun the daunting task of molding and making Ava into the compassionate person she will always be.

Ava helps us with Caroline's diaper changing.
Ava helps us with trying to feed Caroline.
Ava helps us with wiping the drool from Caroline's mouth.
Ava does silly things to make Caroline laugh.
Ava will climb into bed with Caroline if she seems afraid.
Ava will catch a ride on Caroline's lap in her wheelchair just to be close to her.
Ava will guide Caroline's hands to help her color a picture.

Ava has had to take notice of all the care that Caroline requires. She doesn't really understand but what she does know is that Caroline can't help it. She must have our help.

It is through helping those who can't give you anything back that we grow and develop compassion.

All Caroline can give us is a smile....but her smile lights us up.

Not too long ago Ava told my mom about a situation that happened at school. She was in the bathroom stall. She heard a couple of other girls come in and began talking. She didn't know who they were but she overheard them saying mean and ugly things about Caroline. It is one thing to see kids staring at your sister but quite another to hear the mean words spoken. She was stunned and hurt. Embarrassed and sad, she just stayed in the stall until they left.

It hurt her on Caroline's behalf.

But, even then, God was working.

As her mother I wish I could save her from times like this. But there will be more.

She is God's child and He was with her. She won't soon forget this encounter or how it felt. I trust that these are the times when her heart is tendered even more. Pain has a was of peeling the hardness away and leaving us humbled.

Ava has asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior and to live inside her. I am crazy to think that He is not hard at work making her into the image of His Son, Jesus. Isn't that His plan for all of us that trust in Him?

Sometimes we short sell our kids and don't think they are capable of grasping God-centered concepts. I think we are sadly mistaken. Jesus tells us over and over in His precious Word that we are to come to Him always like a child.

Unhindered by pride...
Unencumbered by rules of religion..
Unashamed of our need...

Some people may not want their kids to be known for their compassion but I wouldn't mind if that was always spoken about Ava...and me for that matter.

The definition of compassion-" a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it".

This definition reminds me of our commission as believers in Jesus. We are to be deeply aware of the lost and dying world around us and be compelled to share Jesus and relieve their suffering in His saving name.

Ephesians 4:32 "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Family

Here they family. I was so blessed to grow up around these people. A dad and mom who loved Jesus and lived lives of obedience to Him in front of us. Two brothers who gave me no end of torment (as any good brothers should) and proved to be fiercely protective of their baby sister. We all traveled to Alabama for our yearly extended family reunion. I am sure they were thrilled that I kept pulling out the camera for some photo ops, but what is a girl to do when she has her family all together?!?
My nephew, Caleb, getting some one-on-one with Caroline.
Me and my mama. She is a treasure to me. I appreciate her so much more now that I am grown and trying to be a good mother to my own children.
This is my brother, Paul and his wife, LeAnn (I lovingly refer to her as Lee...always have). She has been in our family since I was 15 years old. Almost 20 she not gorgeous? Her hair color is to die for...and it is real people.
I cannot believe I bounced these two on my knee when they were babies. Caleb was the first born, and oh so rotten, grandchild. His feet never touched the floor because we constantly fought over who got to hold him. I was in college when he was a baby and I just poured myself into him. Kenzie, my niece, came along when I was a newlywed. We didn't establish as close of a bond because I wasn't around as much. But she is growing into a beautiful young woman...I am blown away every time I see her. She and I have the curly hair you can see.
Trouble...that is all I can say. They are two months apart and love being cousins. My Ava and my nephew, Jared. They are non-stop fun. They loved having the whole day together!
My other niece, Samantha, loves to shower Caroline with attention and make her laugh. Isn't this the sweetest picture?!? They are only 6 months apart in age...Samantha is older(she would want me to point that out to you).
Ava and Zeke being goofy with me.
These are the two fellas responsible for the endless aggravation I receive. My brothers are 7 and 9 years older than me. I am the brat...or so they say. They have always worked hard and I am spoiled...or so they say. If I leave food on my plate at a family gathering they still tell on me. It comes with the territory and frankly, I am fond of it now. It is how they show me that they love me. If the torment were to stop~ I would get worried.
Shep and I played outside in the gorgeous sunshine for a lot of the day. We had such a good time...and we pulled close for Samantha to snap this fun photo.
Caroline....9 and a half years old.
Zeke....3 and a half years old.
Ava...6 and a half years old.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A jolt from James

We have just ended our 7 week study on the book of James in our Thursday morning bible study.

The teacher in me likes to revisit the entire subject matter upon bringing it to a close.

When we started this study I was excited but not for any specific reason. I am a bit dorky I admit. But I truly get excited to get into serious in-depth bible study. I realize this doesn't do it for many people. BUT...Jesus has used this very tool to change my heart and make me more like Him little by little.

So...I just get excited.

I like having a book to complete.
I like having homework to do.
I like the accountability.
I like the challenge.
I like meeting together with others
I love opening God's Word and meeting Him and hearing what He has to say to me.

James, as it would turn out, was a whole new ball game.

Not only did we study the book of James, but also the author. James was the brother of Jesus.
His perspective is fascinating. His message is provoking.

I had no idea that when we started we would be challenged to memorize the entire book of James.


You read that correctly.

The entire book. All 5 chapters. (this was entirely optional)

I am only 1/5 of the way there. But let me tell you...that is no small feat and it has never been done before by this curly-headed brunette. I am now 1 verse shy of having all of chapter 1 memorized.

Several other ladies opted to do it as well. It has been so encouraging to listen to them saying the Word using the versions they have chosen as well as putting their personalities and inflection into the divine words.

My goal is still all 5 chapters. I hope to report my success to you at some point in the future but for now I am pleased to be filling my mind with something lasting and good. It is amazing how His Word really is alive. I find that my thoughts mostly turn to Jesus at any given time. I credit that only to His Word being in me more often these days.

As a recap I just wanted to make a list of some of the jolting themes that James set before me over these last 7 weeks.

-Perseverance must finish it's work
-Ask God for wisdom
-Believe and don't doubt
-Don't just hear....DO
-Tame my tongue
-Care for orphans and widows
-Don't show favoritism
-Mercy triumphs over judgement
-Faith without deeds is dead
-Submit to God
-Resist the devil
-Pray for those who are sick and in trouble

This little list in no way encompasses all I have absorbed these past 7 weeks. But it helps to spit it out there. It looks as though I have my work cut out for me.

I realize that mastering these things is not really an option. But progressing in them definitely is.

Progress is big to me and I believe it thoroughly pleases God.

That is my goal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

3 Day Getaway

Shep and I had the amazing opportunity to get away for 3 days and 3 nights. So what is a couple to do who has been married almost 14 years with 3 kids?

We jumped at the chance.

My parents (and Linda) graciously offered to watch our children and we almost couldn't hit the door fast enough.

It isn't that we don't adore and cherish our children. But...we do love each other more. AND time alone is hard to come by...not to mention 3 days and 3 nights alone. We were like crazy kids! It was so much fun and so needed.

(Did you happen to see the necessities that went along with me? My electric blanket, flip-flops, boots, sweat pants, hooded sweatshirts, and brain candy fiction books....Christian, of course.:)
About the only thing that I left bare on the beach was my feet. It was COLD. Beautiful, but cold. On one day I even departed from my fashion know-how and desperately wore Shep's over sized camouflage coat...yes. I did. I had my cute outfit on and then that piece of apparel on top of it. It was such a shame but I would have nearly frozen without it.

I can't tell you how much we relished every moment we had together. Not one second was wasted. We shamelessly flirted as if the time was fleeting...because it was. We laughed a lot. We kept the conversation light and talked easily of the people and things we were so grateful to have in our lives.
Shep is so silly. I forget that sometimes. Life has a way to sucking the fun right out of us. Shep is always a great sport but, even he falls prey to losing that part of himself sometimes. It was like a lid was lifted and his silly self came bubbling out. At one point we were walking on the beach and the sand had formed a wall. Shep thought he would be cool and try to walk the edge of it...showing off for me. Of course you know what happened. He fell about 5 and a half feet down toward the freezing cold water. Then the water came toward him and he got a feel of just how cold it was. Then he started running and trying to scale the sand wall that he had just fallen from. Let's just say that he not-so-gracefully missed and fell again. I laughed hard and out loud. People were staring but I just couldn't help myself. It was hilarious. Those moments are rare for us now. But they didn't use to be. That was our normal. Lots of laughing and, often, at each other.
One of our majestic sunsets. Shep and I are beach bums to the core. We will almost always pick the beach as a get away. We both love the water...and the views, and the smells, and the breezes. God's creation has a way of speaking peace to our souls through all of it.
I told Shep at one point that I was having a wonderful time just being with him. Nothing else....just him. I appreciate and respect him so much. He replied with a typical "Shep-ism".

"Baby, I know what you mean. I enjoy your company too. It's kind of like we're foxhole friends. You stay huddled down in the foxhole with somebody for 14 years and you love and respect them immensely." (-if you know him at can so picture him saying that)

Then we laughed about the foxhole analogy. 14 years....deaths, births, had plenty, been in want, dabbled in politics, striving, hoping, dodging, parenting, paying, protecting, learning, growing, trying, persevering, praying, and hoping. Trying to build a life together that glorifies Jesus ...
I have mentioned that our time was incredible but I haven't even touched on the food. We are very familiar with the area that we visited. We have been there numerous times. Lots of those times hold memories with some of our very best friends. We have learned where to go to get delicious grub. McGuires Irish Pub- the "boxtys" are out of this world. Louisiana Lagniappe- Shrimp Kevin...enough said. Pompano Joes- Coconut shrimp and grouper sandwiches...not to mention a fabulous beach front view. Yes~ we did them all and if the scale doesn't head upward by about 5 pounds I will be highly delighted and surprised.
I had to add this picture because this about sums up our drive home. We hated to leave. Oh, we couldn't wait to see our children again but we hated ending our time alone. So...we needed a little bit of liquid courage. Some folks would say that is alcohol but not always true. In this sense it was our 2nd trip to Tropical Smoothie. He got Acai berry and I opted for the stronger peanut butter cup. These little delights were delicious going down and seemed to help our moods a little bit for the long ride home.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sing it like you need it

Our worship pastor encourages our choir and vocal team members with this phrase on a pretty regular basis.

"If you sing it like you need will sound (and look) like you mean it".

That could be a tongue twister if you say it fast 5 times...but when you break it down...and say it S L O W L makes some sense to this girl.

Last night I (along with 2 other fabulous ladies) had the opportunity to minister through singing at a Valentine banquet. We had our song list ready (10 songs...whew!), we had practiced and we were ready.


my heart wasn't.

I wanted to hit some pretty notes but God knew I didn't have a pretty heart.

I have mentioned numerous times that a big struggle for me is to be intentional about my walk with Christ. If left to myself....I spiral downward and in a hurry.

This was the case for the past couple of days.

Shep and I are praying about some very specific things. The answer, however, is a bit slow in coming.

Did I mention that I hate waiting?

Anyway, my heart fails sometimes. Discouragement sets in and I just want to be the centerpiece in my very own pity party.

So after some serious prayer to get my heart right....we got to sing.

Singing is a release and a rally for me.

I feel like somehow when I sing songs to God my doubts, fears, anxiety, and hurt all come pouring out too. I release it, if only momentarily.

But then there is the rallying part.

My spirit rallies as I sing truths about the only One who really matters. The One who holds me when I am coming undone. The One who hears the prayers I won't utter aloud. The One who paid my ransom and took all my sins away. All of them gone.

As I sing and tell Him and anyone listening about His greatness I somehow get absorbed in who He really is.

Suddenly those doubts, fears, concerns, and hurts dissipate like vapor.

That is singing it like you need it.

This was my quote in yesterday's devotion. "Let us sing even when we do not feel like it, for in this way we give wings to heavy feet and turn weariness into strength." -John Henry Jowett (from Streams in the Desert)

A heaviness and weariness was indeed upon me....until I began to sing. Then I was soaring in His strength.

(Thank you Jac and Sonya for joining me in the ride and blessing the Lord with the gifts He has given you. It was my pleasure!)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My boys

I am so blessed to have several great friends who pass along the clothes that their sons out grow. I always take them out and look at what Zeke will soon be getting to wear. We got several little ties about a year ago and I just waited on the day that Zeke wanted to look like his daddy and wear one.
Today was the day! He asked to wear a tie to church. He was so proud! It wasn't so much the tie itself but how it made him like his daddy...
Oh! Be still my heart! Those two together are about more than I can stand. They both have my heart wrapped up in very different ways.
I just had to capture a few quick shots of these green eyed boys of mine. Can you guess who has my heart this Valentine's day???

Friday, February 10, 2012

Silencing my Inner Cynic

Anytime a topic surfaces more than one time in my life in one week usually means God has something He wants to say to me.


Sunday night Shep spoke to our small prayer group about the dangers of cynicism in the life of a believer.

Then Thursday morning at bible study Beth brought the subject back around in her video.

So.....that has gotten me to thinking a little bit.

Am I a cynic?

I went to an online dictionary and looked up the word "cynical".

Cynical- bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.

I wish I could tell you that nothing in me even remotely comes close to resembling that definition but then I would be lying.

Add sin on top of sin, right?!?

So yes I am a cynic. (sounds like there should be some type of support group)

I think this is proof that the Holy Spirit is prying open some long-closed doors in my heart. I know this is true because not too long ago I wouldn't have admitted this about myself.

But isn't that how our God works?

The closer we get to Him the more He takes away the things in us that don't mirror His Son.

So back to cynicism.

It is a sneaky sin. It sneaks up on us and before we know it we embrace it with full force because it masks some sense of control.

These are a few of my issues...not that I would ever say them out loud. But, still they are there occupying places in my heart and mind that God would like to have.

-Why pray? Does it really make a difference?
-Why memorize scripture?
-Why trust him/her?
-Why expect so and so to do the right thing?
-Why try? Will anything really ever change?
-Why do the right thing without anyone noticing?
-Why go out of my way for_________?
-Why should I think the best about __________ when they are ugly to me?

Am I alone here?

Does anyone else who calls herself a believer have such an inner struggle??

This isn't a dormant issue either. Just because we don't voice it doesn't mean it stays dead and buried.

This sin usually goes on display for all to see.


Well let me ask you this?

Go back to the it hard to detect someone who is bitter, sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic?

I didn't think so...these folks (including me) stand out like a sore thumb. I despise this in others so I can only imagine how pretty it looks on me.

If it isn't our sometimes loud body language then it is our mouths that get us into trouble. We spew negativity on everything and everyone around.

Now imagine how many of these folks (myself included) are filling up seats on Sunday morning in our local churches.

Does it make your head hurt like it does mine?

How can Jesus really change lives when we have already decided that He just doesn't do that anymore?

How can prayer affect anything if people won't pray?

We must fight this with everything in us if we are going to become the opposite of cynical.

And THAT is my goal.

I realize it won't be an instantaneous process but one that will require my attention and intentions many many times during the day.

If the opposite of cynical is my goal~what would that look like in my life?

instead of bitter~joyful
instead of sneeringly distrustful~overflowing with thanksgiving and looking for ways to bless
instead of contemptuous~ a respectful servant of others
instead of pessimistic~ full of faith

Kind of looks like beauty from ashes to me....

O Lord I ask you to forgive me for this bitter root of cynicism that I have allowed to live inside of me. Please remove it. I have gotten far too comfortable with its presence and I have found that I use it as a crutch in my life. I use it to protect myself against pain....from feeling things I'd rather not feel. Only You can remove this on a day by day basis. Help me to hate it. Help me to work with You as You remove it from me and conform me more to the image of Your Son, Jesus. I trust You God to replace these ashes with the true beauty that comes from a life surrendered to You. I admit I am a cynic but I want it no more...

James 1:6 "But when he (or she) asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a way of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hip to be Square...

Ava and Caroline's school did an entire week of square-dancing with a performance on Friday. Ava literally counted down the days until she could show us her stuff. AND she wanted to wear some type of dress that would flare out when she danced, along with her cowboy boots every single day.
Daddy and his little muffin. Shep has called her that since birth.
The other man in Caroline's life...her grand daddy. Do you see the smile when she looks at him?

Caroline had a ball as well. Her face must have hurt from smiling so much!
Me and my mini-me.
Daddy learning a dance with his baby girl. How cute is this?!?
Caroline and I dancing together as well. She laughed hysterically any time I would mess up.
Ava insisted that she get to push her sister around during the walking part of the chicken dance. (Thank you Lord for building character in my girl!)
Caroline and her love, Mrs. Diedre. This is her para pro that works with her on a daily basis. We are so thankful for her and the relationship that they share.
Ava Ruth....just about a month shy from turning 7 years old.
Me and my big girl. Has it almost been 10 years that I have gotten to love and nurture this remarkable little girl? Oh how God has used this fragile little one to break and re-make me...what a gift she is to us!
Shep saying his good-bye and getting an armful of love!
My two precious girls!

Father God help Shep and I to point these girls to You every single day. Help us to walk our faith in front of them. Teach us what to pray for them. Help us to cultivate the gifts You have given them. Show us how to give them boundaries and flexibility. I ask You to guard their hearts but give them compassion. Give them strength to make hard choices and show them how to be kind. Give them Your love for others. Draw them to Yourself through their circumstances, disappointments, and delights. Help them not to fall for temptation but to hide Your truth in their little we do the same.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

She reared her ugly head...again

This past Saturday was an interesting day for me. I always look forward to Saturdays because it tends to be our family day of togetherness. We aren't in a hurry. We generally get to do the things we want to do...together.

This past Saturday was rolling along like normal. And then Shep threw me a curve ball. He wanted to change our plans.

Instead of doing what I thought would be fun for our whole family he decided that we should stay home and do some things that needed to be done. ~BORING!~

There was nothing wrong with that. But I was disappointed. Then my disappointment turned into anger. My anger turned into get the idea. My responses became quick and biting. My actions were cold and edgy.

Before I knew it this girl took over. She looked just like me . You would think that meanness, anger, resentment, and sarcasm would be easy to recognize. But not so when the they are manifested in yourself.

It was weird. I knew I was wrong and that my behavior was the opposite of what God expects of me and what I want to model for my children. the pivotal moment of pride and selfishness...I didn't care. hurts me to even write that.

I brag on God's goodness and mercy in my life on a daily basis. Yet here I was acting like a spoiled child.


All because I wasn't getting my way.

When it boiled down to it. I wanted Shep to pay for it. So I purposely acted ugly and mean.

The Holy Spirit within me spoke with truth and authority all morning. Any casual observers wouldn't have noticed. I continued with my outward behavior even though a war was waging within. It wasn't until lunchtime or a little after that I finally succumbed to the Spirit's leading and offered Shep an apology.

I didn't even say it with much feeling. But at least it was a start.

It was the beginning of obedience and surrender. Still with a touch of defiance.

After that initial apology though, my stubborn feet begin to feel and want the right way.

It is funny that once we speak some truth...our feet will follow.

Before long...I apologized again and actually meant it.

I say all of this because I long to be real and transparent about who I am. Each life is marked with victories and defeats and I am no different.

It seems like I fight hard for victories in my life. But what about when I seem to fight hard to lose on purpose?

The Lord finally won on Saturday but not without a stubborn fight from my flesh.

This is me.
I love the Lord.
I adore my husband.
I am crazy about my children.
I am committed to Bible study, prayer, and scripture memory.
I have people around me who hold me accountable.

And still... I am prone to wander. I am prone to selfish hissy fits.

Oh Lord have mercy on me.

Well, that was 4 days ago and I am happy and hopeful to report that I think I have gained some wisdom from that day.

I didn't exactly see it until today but God showed me some ground that I gained (with His help) from my enemy.

Today hasn't gone as planned.

But I didn't know that would be the case when I got got dressed and ready for today. It wasn't until I was in the car that it happened.

I hit something in the road and got a busted tire.
After Shep came to help fix the tire...the van wouldn't start.
After we jumped my van off...we had to go get a new battery.
After the new battery...we went to get a new tire.
It wasn't long after that until we learned that not only was the tire ruined but the wheel had been ruined as well.

Please know that I am NOT happy at all about any of these things.

But, that old girl didn't show up again.

THIS TIME my feelings about my circumstances didn't take fanatical control.

I didn't allow it.

As I pulled my van over safely into some grass on the side of the road I determined that God would direct my day. Whatever touches me has to go through Him.

Then I began to quote the scripture I have been working on memorizing this week...

"Consider it pure joy (Andrea) when you face trials of many kinds (car problems, money problems, schedule conflicts) because the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you (Andrea) may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-3

If I am not intentional then I am not winning this fight!!