Friday, June 22, 2012

The Nerve-Racking Exchange

Yesterday was a long-awaited treat for me!

Not really THAT long-awaited.  Only about a month and a half.  But I felt every day of it...

We kicked off our summer bible study.

(I have expressed numerous times that I am lost when I am not delving into bible study.  These past 6 weeks have been no exception.  God has had me plenty busy.  He has opened doors and provided opportunities that still leave me baffled.  BUT being in bible study ups my game spiritually.  I try to stay on a continual course through daily devotions, however , it just isn't the same.)  

We are doing NEHEMIAH by Kelly Minter.  I am totally new to Kelly.  But a lot of people I admire spiritually consider her a grounded and gifted teacher.  So that is good enough for me.

The over-arching theme of this study is "having a heart that is willing to break."

Kelly described Nehemiah in a refreshing, yet unfamiliar way to us.  Chapter one of the book of Nehemiah opened with our main character receiving some sad news about his beloved homeland.  It speaks of Nehemiah mourning, fasting, and praying for some time.

Seriously, who wants to open up with mourning, fasting, and prayer?!?  These topics can clear a church on a good day.


Kelly camped out here.
It got uncomfortable....but entirely necessary.

She encouraged us to be women desperately in love with the Lord....AND women willing to have our hearts broken to serve God and others.

I sat in my chair watching the video as numerous chill bumps danced on my arms....and no, I was not cold.

But God was graciously affirming to me personally the craziness that has been going on in my life in the past month and a half.

I mentioned earlier that God has provided opportunities for ministry in my life recently that have been both blessings and burdens.

My neat little bubble of a life has been burst open and my heart has encountered people hurting. Some of them by their own doing....others by the effects of others' choices.

So~what is a girl to do?

Nod politely, say a prayer, walk away and be done.

No....but that is what I have wanted to do.  I haven't wanted to experience some of the hurt that people are experiencing.  But....that is the call of a disciple.  THAT is how we really make a difference.

We don't take ownership of the situation.  We just offer eyes to really see.  Ears to hear.  Hands to serve. Knees to bow. And hearts to break.

God showed me a cool picture in my mind's eye.  He showed me sitting in a chair in a room full of mirrors.  From every angle I could see myself, my hopes, my dreams, my family, and everything relating to me.  Truthfully I liked sitting there....and I hate admitting that about myself.  Selfish.  But God offered an exchange.  A nerve-racking exchange.  Same room, same chair, but windows instead of mirrors.  Windows to see out.  Windows to allow the pain of things I would rather not see in my bubble world. 

I want to do this.
I want to keep doing this.

But it is scary.
Thankfully I serve a healing, restoring, rebuilding God.  He didn't leave Nehemiah's heart broken.  He used that broken heart to rebuild some walls.

Let's do the same!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Changed the Landscape in my Life

 In honor of Father's Day I wanted to pause and honor the man who loved me before I ever saw the light of day.

My daddy.
I have nothing but blissful memories of him as a father.  His jolly demeanor defined who he was to me.  He was always singing, whistling or humming a tune.  He worked hard and would go out of his way completely to help others.  Still does.
He can hardly talk about Jesus without crying and I love that.
 Mom says that her first memory of seeing me after I was born was in this man's arms.  He had already put a pink little bow in my head full of black hair.  From then on I remember being held a lot.  I was the baby girl so that provided a good enough excuse for serious spoiling.  When I got too big to hold, daddy just transferred me to his shoulders.  I can remember taking a couple of trips to Disney World as a child and I don't think my feet ever hit the pavement.  I just got to take it all in from the sturdy strong shoulders of my daddy. 

As a strong believer in Jesus Christ, he lives his life in a manner that shines God's light and blesses those around him.  His boundaries are strong, his grace is vast, his love is deep, and his mercy for others knows little measure.  He dotes and he drives.  He challenges and he cares.  He motivates and moves others to be better for the sake of Jesus.

I can't imagine a better daddy anywhere. Well...I know of one that comes really close....

I am so grateful that my children get to live their lives with this man guiding our family.

Shep is the most steady, sure, strong, and silly man I know.

I love sneaking a peek at my kids when the door creaks at dinnertime and daddy comes through the door.  Hollywood has nothing on him!  He is the superstar at this house.  Everything is more fun with him around.  I am amazed that God gave him to me...and us.  He and my daddy are very different but some of their similarities are jaw-dropping.

If you know Shep at all....he sings often.  He is jolly and optimistic always.  And he can't speak of Jesus without crying either.  He leads us by example.  He is strong and kind wrapped in a nice-looking package!

I got to have that example as a kid and God gave me that in a partner.

My devotion ended this morning by saying that, "the secret of a disciple's life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of that life is its seeming insignificance and its meekness.  Yet it is like a grain of wheat that 'falls to the ground and dies'~ it will spring up and change the entire landscape."

I don't know men more devoted to following Christ than my dad and my husband.  They would hope for their own life to get lost and become insignificant if that meant that Jesus would receive glory or someone else would come to know Him as their Savior.  I watch them daily strive to die to their own selfish desires. In addition to that I admire the way they plant themselves in the lives of others to offer encouragement and guidance.  Wherever they go and whatever they do.....they change the landscape in the lives around them!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I have not wanted to blog since that last post.  My husband wrote that one and I wanted to leave it up for a while. I have read it and re-read it several times.  I guess it is similar to getting all of the flavor out of a piece of yummy gum.  Hopefully you enjoyed it too! 

He is an incredible communicator, storyteller, and writer.  I am glad you got to see the man I share my life with in words.  Pretty special is what he is...

So this week has been VBS week.  That means crazy, hectic, busy, fun, and tired all rolled into one.  I help lead the music at our church for the Kindergarten through 5th grade.  Our church has chosen to be "outside the norm" with our music and, frankly, I love that about us.  We do the VBS curriculum songs and then we throw in our own favorites just because we can.  There is never any down time.  We move constantly.  Hand motions and jumping always seem to accompany any song we I feel like I have been doing Jazzersize all week long....only the Jesus version.  Smile.

Anyway to add to that craziness we have sufficiently celebrated Caroline's birthday and dealt with the hard blows of a tummy bug.  Poor Zeke and Ava have both been hit with it.  There is nothing like puke on the middle of the night.  Sigh.

I wish I could say that I have been rising early and basking in God's glory first thing every morning.  But that would be a lie.  I have been waking up at the last possible moment with bags under my eyes and thinking ahead to how early I could possibly get to bed.  So, yes, I am really tired.

God has been so faithful to speak to me in the quick moments I have stolen with Him.  He doesn't even seem to be offended that He has been the leftovers of my time.  But I have.  I miss Him.  I am so ready for our ladies bible study to kick back off again next week.  We have taken over a month off and I am telling you that I am struggling.  I am one of those people who desperately need the discipline of structure.  Without it...I turn into this. I am a frazzled female reduced to giving Jesus snippets of time instead of savoring Him all the time. 

As I read my devotion for the day (at 9:45 at night) God talked to me about abiding in Him.  The scripture that I focused on was out of Colossians.  Verses 2 and 3 in chapter 3 say, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

First of all, we are to set our minds. This has to be active.  It won't just happen.  If your mind is left open to go where it wants to....then it will.  So it has to be set on something.  God is telling us to set our minds upon Him and things that are of eternal value.  Then He really gets into our face with it.  He reminds us, as believers, that we have died.  Our lives are not our own anymore.  Our lives are now hidden with Christ in God.

I can be a pretty visual person at times.  This is one of them.  I picture a mama kangaroo with her baby in her pouch.  That baby is truly abiding.  As long as it stays in her pouch it is nourished, protected, and hidden from things that would wish to harm it. 

I would like to think that I am hidden like that in Christ.  But, all too often, I jump out from the safety of the pouch.  I stop abiding.  I am no longer content with being hidden.  I want recognition.  I want to choose my own course.  Pride has won over peace from obedience.

O Lord, this was a good word of warning to me.  Even tonight I saw pride and arrogance raise its ugly head within me.  Areas that I have left untended have gained some momentum and not in a good way.  I must abide.  I must trade in the haughty for the hidden.  O God, keep me hidden in You!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Maybe you get it...(A word from Shep)

Do you remember where you were 10 years ago today?  I do.

You know, there are certain events that just change everything- Like before Jesus came, time is referred to as B.C. and after he came everything is A.D.  He came, and everything changed.  Well June 11, 2002 is like that for me.

You see, ten years ago, Caroline came and nothing has been the same since.

Before Caroline I was happy-go-lucky.
Before Caroline I had never experienced heartbreak.
Before Caroline I had never had a problem I couldn't fix.
Before Caroline I had never been depressed.
Before Caroline I had never been unable to focus on simple things that really needed to be done.
Before Caroline I had never been unable to talk about something without crying.
Before Caroline none of my clothes were stained with slobber.
Before Caroline I never stood in line at the grocery store with W.I.C. vouchers to buy formula.

I remember my law partner asking me what happened- and I couldn't tell him.  I mean I really couldn't make the words come out of my mouth.  That had never happened before.

Maybe you get the picture...maybe you don't. 

But when they rolled my bride out the door, blue, unconscious and un-breathing with my little girl still inside her, something changed- forever.  My storybook childhood and extended adolescence abruptly ended.

Before Caroline I had never knew what it meant to cry out to God.
Before Caroline I had never seen the body of Christ circle the wagons and look after one of their own.
Before Caroline I had never had the unbelievable privilege to love someone that can't walk, or talk or eat.
Before Caroline I had no idea just how awesome my wife really is.
Before Caroline I had never seen how strangers react when a handicapped child smiles at them.
Before Caroline I had never seen adults rearrange their schedules to spend even a few minutes with a child that cannot even say, "Hi!" or "I love you" or "Ball."
Before Caroline I had never heard the Baptists I know talk much about healing, dreams or visions.
Before Caroline I really had no idea what faith was about- or perseverance- or patience- or love.
Before Caroline I had never been desperate.

You see, there is something special about this child.  She reels people in.  She melts hearts of stone.  She has these engaging eyes that haunt you like some old sweet dream that you can't quite remember.  She smiles at you with her whole face and suddenly other problems are revealed for what they are- just buttons off your shirt- just every day distractions.

Her breath smells like candy- even in the morning. 

She is heartbreak and joy, despair and delight all rolled into one gorgeous gift.  I am scared to think what a sorry man I'd be without her.  She reveals me.  She drives me to my knees.

She even makes a redneck blog.

I know she can't walk,
Or talk,
Or even eat.

But, she is the best ten-year-old on the face of the planet.
I'll fight anybody that says different.

Maybe you get that.
Maybe you don't.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Game Changer

 Here she is...the blessed "game changer" in our home.  She is our first born child.  There was plenty of anticipation for her arrival.  The room was done.  The clothes hung.  The books had been read.  AND I had successfully added 70 pounds to my frame.  (I wanted to ensure that she had plenty of fat on her bones:)
 All babies change the dynamic in a home environment.  We were somewhat prepared for sleepless nights, endless fussing, and diaper accidents.  Little did we know God had a bigger change in mind.  Not only did His change include monitors, a feeding tube, an eye patch, a fundoplication, therapies, and a severe physical handicap...He gave us the gift of desperation.
 Before this big-eyed beauty entered our lives we were living the way most people do.  We were doing our thing.  We had few worries and, truthfully, depended on God for little to nothing.  Even though we called ourselves "strong Christians", our strength came from what we could muster up on our own.  God had something better, although harder, in mind.
 Remember I called this gift~desperation.  Indeed it was...and still is.  We had no clue how to parent a severely disabled child.  We still don't.  We take it one day at a time and still go to bed scratching our heads and hoping we did something right.  Frustrations run high and anxieties abound but let me be clear....I shamelessly depend on God for strength.  She has done that for me...for us.  We know we can't do this.  But He has told us that He can give us all we need to love and care for her.
 After 10 years I am still desperate.  I run to the throne of God and gratefully receive the measure of mercy waiting just for me.  Mercy to help me be her mother...and the mother of two others.  She has changed us for the better.  There is no classroom better the the classroom of pain and heartache.  I wish it weren't true.  But, it is during those painful times, that appreciation, grace, patience, compassion, faith, and hope are born and bred. 
 She is the big sister in this house but she is also our baby.  We all pitch in to take care of her.  She speaks to us without ever having said a single word.  But we hear her loudly.  In our minds, she is just Caroline.  Not Caroline with a handicap or Caroline who can't eat or walk or talk.  She is unique and utterly amazing with traits and nuances that are hers alone.
I end this post with a huge "Happy Birthday wish to my big girl, Caroline.  It would be wrong of me to not use this platform, as always, with God's word to us.  He has challenged us to believe Him to heal her....totally and completely.  We accepted that challenge 10 years ago and we still believe it today.  Time has not lessened our resolve, but weirdly, strengthened it.  He is faithful.  We have enough stories to fill books with His blessings and reminders of what is to come.  We wait until that day with hopes high.  And I bet, secretly, some of you do too.  I know it is crazy to so many for us to believe this but I love that my God is still into doing some crazy things for His glory alone.  We cherish these days and anticipate the memories we are yet to make!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hands held high...

This past weekend was extraordinary.  Shep's parents kept Zeke and Ava and my parents kept Caroline.  We were kid free from Friday afternoon til Sunday afternoon.  We used the time to celebrate our 14 year anniversary...and we didn't waste a single moment.

I don't have any pictures uploaded yet but I will do a picture post soon.

Children are no doubts gifts from God but the constant in this home is our marriage.  It must be guarded and tended continuously.  Shep planned some surprises for me...and the best one was a motorcycle ride for the entire day on Saturday.  Other than a really sore rump, it was an absolute blast!

Shep sold his motorcycle a while back so it had been a while since we had felt the wind in our faces.  A friend offered his bike for the day and we gratefully accepted.

I think we most enjoyed the relaxed pace.  We missed the kids terribly.  We talked about them. We prayed for them.  We laughed at the things they do and say.  But we also took inventory as a couple.  We laughed.  We longed.  We remembered and we looked ahead.  It was such a blessed time with the best man I know. 

Now that the week has started I miss him already. 

But life goes on.  There are appointments to schedule, meals to prepare, and plans to make. 

Yesterday I came home from a mission trip meeting at about 9:00 pm.  I couldn't get my brain to slow down.  It had been a long and pretty productive day.  I had gone to the doctor (double ear and sinus infection)and the pharmacy, scheduled Zeke's 4 yr. well check, taken items back to the library, paid bills, and taken the kids for haircuts. 

I could tell Shep was beat and ready to hit the sack pretty early.  I just couldn't slow down.  I was thinking of all the things that still needed to be done.  In addition to that, God has graciously allowed me to minister to some folks and I felt pretty burdened for them as well.  I knew I needed some "knee time" with the Lord.
I got out of bed and took my devotion book and bible into the living room. 

This room serves as the heart of our house.  It is our gathering place.  But last night it was quiet and dark.  I got down on my knees and read my devotion.  I willed my brain to slow down and soak in the powerful words.  It still wasn't working.  The scripture was out of Hebrews chapter 13 verse 5.  It talks about how our God will never leave us or forsake us.

I just sat there.

I felt the urge to lift my hands toward heaven.

I am not sure if it was a sign of surrender, gratefulness, worship, or desperation.  Maybe it was a mixture of all of them.

But it was right.

I stayed that way for a long time.  It felt as though my posture toward Him was saying things that I couldn't articulate myself.

I knew He heard and understood.  He was there.  Because He doesn't leave.  He doesn't forsake. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Front Row Seat

You know those moments you have experienced in your life that were exhilarating beyond description.

Perhaps it was your wedding day, a baby being born, or some crazy fearless feat like...skydiving.

Anyway, you know the feeling I am talking about.  When your soul seems to soar and you don't want to think about when the moment might end.

I have wondered about the people in the Bible who were asked to do crazy things by God.  People who would have probably sky-dived if given the option.  But, then again, God isn't really into options is He?

Let's see..I'll just name a few that may have experienced the exhilaration I am talking about. But they only experienced it because they did what had been asked of them.   They stepped out with shaky knees, lumps in their throats, and mocking friends who called them crazy. 

Noah.  Do you think he had chill bumps break out all over his body when rain (which he had never seen) began falling from the sky?  Yet he and his family were safely on an ark that God instructed him to build, in advance, when everyone else laughed, scoffed, and called him crazy.

Esther.  Do you think the butterflies calmed in her tummy when she watched as God moved on the heart of a pagan king to listen to a young Hebrew girl?  Or do you think her faith exploded in joy and awe as her Heavenly King acted on her behalf?

Joshua.  I wonder if his palms were sweaty and his pulse fast on the start of the 7th time marching around Jericho?  Did his faith waver at all?  Or did he know, with fervent expectancy, that the walls were about to fall down with a shout of victory?

These were just ordinary people.  Folks like you and me.  But they served and obeyed and extraordinary God.  AND they got to experience some exhilarating moments.

I have had the distinct pleasure of stepping out in the past several weeks and ministering in some ways I wouldn't have chosen.  The outcome was and is unclear and the method sometimes unpleasant. My emotions have been all over the map.  It has required late hours, endless prayers, embarrassing moments and going out of my way personally.

BUT...I have gotten to experience some exhilarating moments when God and His glory have shown up.

Plain ordinary me has gotten to witness God's grace and power with a front row seat.

All He has needed from me is obedience.  He didn't mind my sweaty hands, racing pulse, or the butterflies in my belly.

I pray these opportunities continue to present themselves.  I pray that God continues to allow me to serve Him in this super cool way.

I have to stay very general because these opportunities involve real people.  With names and faces that He loves so much.

Accepting the opportunity from God is scary and unnerving...but having a front row seat to a changed life in Christ is completely worth the risk.

Psalms 10:17-18 "You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more."