Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My morning fight

I was amazed at just how easily the tracks of my thoughts shifted this morning and I wanted to share.

This blog is supposed to be a real day-to-day account of my faith.  And I say this over and over...that means the good, the bad, and the oh-so- ugly.

This morning was one of the oh-so-ugly occasions.

I woke up to new mercies.  A new day ahead of me full of potential and possibilities.  I hopped into the shower and began to pray.  This isn't usually a time where I talk out loud (although that has happened before).  Normally I just try to focus on God and His goodness toward me.  I thank Him.  I praise Him.  I tell Him things that trouble me.  I ask Him to intervene in the lives of others that I love.  Usually all of this happens in my head.  You know what I all have a head voice too.

Out of nowhere (literally) my thoughts jumped onto a different track completely.  The thoughts that had just moments before been focused on God began to shift to a person.  Then the thoughts began to turn into things that offended me about that person.  Then before I could finish shampooing my hair, I was completely irrationally angry at this person.  This all happened in a span of about 10 seconds.

Then I began to stew on it.

No longer were there thoughts of praise or thanksgiving or intercession.  It was full on stewing anger.

Everything centered around how offended I should be and how things were completely unfair.  I even began plotting a plan to confront said person about my offense.

Seriously this stage lasted for about 25 minutes.  (Jaw drop here).

Embarrassing.  Yes I know.

All I can say is that the Holy Spirit somehow worked His magic and began stirring into my heart.

Intermixed with my angry thoughts came these words:

"Do not confront them at all.  Pray for them."
"Ask Me to bless them."
"Do you trust that I see everything?  I know if you have been wronged.  It is not your fight."

My hardened heart miraculously began to thaw out.  I wish you could have seen me.  It was like I was standing there in the bathroom deciding which thought to believe. My hands were on my hips.  I was poised for pride to win.  But, thankfully, I believed the voice of Truth.

I back tracked in my mind to the original thought and I asked God to forgive me.  I then asked God to bless this person and help me to truly forgive them AND to think the best of them.  Dang that part is so incredibly hard.  This I had to do out loud.  It was as if putting a voice to it made it real.

So this was my morning fight.

I don't know if the enemy ever does this to you.  But he sure did want to set my whole tone for the day.  I had a choice.  In the end I made the right one.  Too bad I wasted almost half an hour of my energy stewing over nothing.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Productive and pouty

Happy Monday.  I refuse to say anything else because I am choosing some joy on this Monday.  How about you?

In this season of my life I usually put most of my errand running on Mondays.  We need something to make us feel better about the beginning of a new week, right?  So a little productivity is usually just what the doctor ordered.

I check things off of my list. (yes, I am a list girl)

Then I begin my out-loud discussions with the Lord...

So what do You have for me today?


Not being happy with the quiet, I decide to force an answer.  So I begin making calls and looking for things that surely God would have me do.


I decide to call to one of my best pals.  ( I need something to fill the silence)  I moan to her that God is not getting on with giving me a plan for this season.  And she did what only best pals can do.  She spoke some timely truth, "Andrea, I love  you honey, but patience is not your strong suit."

Well there it is.

She went on to quote a bible teacher that she had been listening to recently who said, "God works in two ways....suddenly and SLOWLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY."

This was down right funny to me.  And oh so true.

If you have been walking with God for any length of time then you can attest to this as well.

It seems to me that when God has something He wants me to do, it comes along suddenly.

But when I have something I want God to do...He seems very consistent in His slow and steady nature.

Now this isn't always the case but it does seem like His way more often than not.

Obviously today was a day to sit at His feet and be taught.  After I came home, unloaded groceries, and ate some lunch I decided to work on my bible study.

It was good.
It was needed.

I still sit here with no immediate plan.  But as God showed me in His Word He is the one who reveals mysteries.  The only One.  (Daniel 2:28)

At this very moment my life and purpose seems awfully mysterious but I will continue to pursue the One who can reveal it to me in His time and in His way.

But the pout is least for now.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A fresh taste of grace

Stumbling is a part of the Christian life.

We strive to walk, live, talk, and act like Jesus tells us to.

But we are sinful people.

We are going to miss the mark some times.

Until we reach Heaven's gate we will have to do battle with the flesh that constantly fights to win.

I am fully saved by grace but I mess up every single day.  Some times it affects me alone.  Other times I hurt other people in the process of my mess.  And I serve them up a platter of hurt too.

Today was one of those days.

I don't want to diminish my wrong.  It was real.  It has consequences.

But I don't want to miss this opportunity to maximize the grace that was given.

The moment I took the matter to God.  Grace was given.  Mercy extended.  Forgiveness found. 

Since then I have found that I have wanted to just be quiet and tender before the Lord. It just seems sweet....and right.  His grace really is greater than ALL our sin.

Has that fallen fresh on you lately?

Maybe you haven't had to receive fresh grace in a while.  Maybe you haven't had to ask for forgiveness...good for you.

But today I did.  

God didn't just stop with His forgiveness.  He sent me on to others (yes, real people) to ask it from them as well.

It is funny how we tend to fight the way this feels.

It doesn't feel good.  Believe me.  But there is a right-ness to it.  An order of setting things right so to speak.

Anyway it has been good for me.

It has been a faint reminder of the moment I accepted Jesus and he took the burden of my sin away.  That was a long time ago.  I was just 9 years old when I gave my heart and life to Jesus.  But that initial feeling of freedom...every sin, every fault, every wrong in the past, present, and future was wiped away.  I remember how light I I could walk on air.

I wish I could have had the reminder without committing the fault.  But this time it didn't work out that way.

Grace seems more tangible tonight.  Like I can almost feel it with my hands.  Maybe because I have received a fresh dose...

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Name them one by one

Being a Baptist girl raised in the South I have gotten to sing my fair share of "Count Your Blessings" within the walls of my church.  This particular hymn seemed to be a favorite in my growing up years.  Times have changed and music styles have changed too so we don't sing much about counting your blessings anymore. I love our praise and worship songs of late but sometimes my soul wants a run down memory lane.

I can still picture in my mind coming to the close of the hymn and the music minister would always begin to slow us down but somehow get us to sing this part louder than the rest..."County your blessinngs; your many blessings see what God has done."

If your smiling then you remember that too.

Anyway I just wanted to name a few of my by one style if you don't mind.

My Lord and Savior is number one.  He saved me.  Raised me.  Healed me.  Redeemed me.  But under Him...comes this fella.  My Shep.  My husband of 14 years.  This picture was taken on my phone at the lake a few Saturdays ago.  Isn't he dashing?  He just celebrated a birthday this past weekend.  He is seven years older than me but somehow he retains this deceiving youthfulness.  It is completely unfair.  See those laugh lines around his eyes?  I have gotten to participate in many of those hearty, gut-wrenching laughs in his presence.  He is the best storyteller I know.  He never speaks ill of others.  He gets up early to fall on his knees and pray.  He works hard.  He trusts God.  He encourages anyone he meets.  He sings for fun.  He is moved with compassion.  His faith defines his walk.  His friends respect him.  He walks with integrity.  And if I met him for the first time today...I would fall head over heels again.
Ava, Caroline, and Zeke would fall right under their daddy.  This picture was taken with my phone on the night we went to meet their new teachers for the year.  School has been back in for a little over a week.  We are all still trying to work into a groove.  So far, so good.  I watch their little personalities bloom almost daily.  Ava loves school.  She enjoys every aspect.  She embraces her friends and the work with equal enthusiasm.  Caroline has a new parapro this year and we are crazy about her.  Caroline engages and charms anyone who will let her.  Some times people don't stop to take the time to look into her big almond shaped eyes.  But if you are hooked.  My little man has done great.  He is only 4 years old. But he is attending Pre-K at the same school with his sisters.  We have had a few bumps in the road but nothing major.

These kids light me up and wear me out.  They delight my day and drive me nuts.  I know they watch me live more than they listen to what I say.  I pray daily that I can live a life that pleases Jesus and teaches them as well.

That was pretty easy.  Under the Lord Jesus I named my 4 biggest blessings.  There are countless others....

Today I needed to count.  I needed to name them one by one.

I will go on today bragging on God's goodness in my life.  Notice I didn't say ease...but His goodness.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I have been warned...

While I was in St. Vincent a few weeks ago God had a very specific message for me in His Word.  We had been working through Kelly Minter's study of Nehemiah with our Ladies Summer study.  Not wanting to get behind, I took the study with me and worked on it during my spare time.

As I sat cross-legged on my twin, pitiful, smelly, unstable (albeit sufficient) bed God literally let a verse in Nehemiah chapter 9 yell at me from the page of His holy Word.

Verse 28 says, "But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight."


It might as well have slapped me cold.

This verse is just one of many in a sequence describing in detail Israel's fickle cycle toward God.

Walk with God...............Sin.........Reap Consequences..........Cry out to God.......repeat again and again....

Does this look familiar maybe even in your own life?  Yes, mine too.

Anyway as I sat there over 2000 miles away from home, God was giving me a warning for when I returned home.

I mentioned in a previous post that I don't have a current plan for my life at the moment.  All three of my children are in school.  I am teaching bible study and volunteering. Other than that I want to be free to obey God's direction and minister to others even on a whim.  I feel like He has something that is coming that hasn't been made known to me just yet.

Now in a perfect world that would not even be questioned.

However we don't live in a perfect world. We have financial worries and woes that all but suck the life out of us on most days.

These mountains seem enormous and looming.  One after the far as the eye can see.

So what I want to do is go into fix mode.

I say to myself. " I will go get a job.  I need to help.  I need to do...something."
Others have even joined in my chant.  "Hey Andrea are you going start teaching again?"

The only problem with these options is the very thing that God warned me about in St. Vincent.  "But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight." 

Ok I am sure you are wondering what these thoughts and this verse have to do with each other.  Well, I will try my best to explain.  My "rest" is falling back into patterns of fear, worry, and doubt.  See when I am not actively resisting the enemy then I am allowing his thoughts to affect me way too much.  And in my specific case this "rest" is the  fear, worry, and doubt that will cause me to try to fix a situation instead of waiting on God like He has asked me to. 

So I realize this wouldn't be what most would call evil.  But it would be contradictory to what God has said to Shep and me.  Evil is a bit harsh....but still disobedience is just that at its very root.  Harsh.

Once again I find myself doing the opposite of what feels right.  As I wait on God I ignore every single plea from the common sense part of my brain.

Instead I rely on God's Word and prayer.

Tough stuff.

This time, because of God's advance warning, I have been intentional about fighting back too.  Sometimes (and a lot in the not-so-distant past) I would experience an onslaught in this way and immediately give in to the hopelessness of it.  Don't get me wrong~ there is huge part of me (more than I like to admit) that wants to lay down and cease fighting.  However, I know better.  That may feel easier at the time but doing that just gives way to ultimate defeat.  God and I have come way too far.  So my game is on.  Even with tears streaming down my face...the game is on.

I pray.
I say scripture.
I pray.
I say scripture.
I pray for others.
I enlist strong friends and family to intercede for me.
I pray.
I say scripture.
I jam out to praise music.
I pray.
I say scripture.
I dare to hope in my God. 

(I know I have said this before but let me re-state it just for the record.  Shep is so with me here.  His opinion matters the most to me of anyone on this Earth.  Other than God Almighty, Shep is my compass.  He has encouraged me to sit tight and trust God.  His leadership in our marriage is strong and kind.  I love that He is intentional about being Spirit led.  I am his biggest fan!)

Psalms 130:5-6  "I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
                           and in his word I put my hope.
                           My soul waits for the Lord
                           more than watchmen wait for the morning,
                           more than watchmen wait for the morning."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Tease

Okay-  a break from the usual author.  Shep here with a few musings from the weekend.

All of us at some time or the other have offered our opinions as to what is wrong with this world.  I certainly have my ideas.  Spiritually speaking, I believe everyone ought to love Jesus- but until that happens, I have some other ideas that I think might help.  One of those ideas came to me clearly yesterday.  I think the world would be a better place if more people spent more time wading in a creek.

Yesterday was one of my favorite kinds of days.  We have a few of these days every year.  If you are not from North Georgia you may not have an appreciation for what Summertime feels like here.  Well Summertime here is hot.  The sky is hazy and the air is humid.  You sweat, and the sweat doesn't dry up and cool you off.  It just makes you wet.  Hot and wet.

But every year, usually toward the end of August, we are granted a glimpse of Fall.  Yesterday was just such a day.  The sky was clear and blue.  A coolish breeze fluttered by all day long.  The Sycamore's leaves have just barely started to fade, and all of God's creatures seem to step a little lighter.  Its just a tease.  We have another full month of hot weather, but still, the promise of October was there.  You could see it in the blue sky and feel it on your skin.

So, as I left Rocky Face with my three children, I had an idea.  I began weaving down the old "chip-and-tar" roads that I travelled as a boy on my old Schwinn dirt bike- past my buddy Phillip's house, past Lindsay Memorial Baptist church where I witnessed my first "running spell" and my good buddy Ray McClure got saved, past the pond on Clement Road where me and my compatriot, Goob, used to sneak in with our fly-rods and catch farm pond bluegills, across the LaFayette highway and down to the Pocket.

 "The Pocket" is the name of an area that lies in the Western Shadow of John's Mountain.  A springhead bubbles up there.  The government has come in and made a sort of recreation area out of the thousands of acres there with campsites, trails, overlooks and the like.  But the Pocket lies well out of the beaten path, and I don't know too many people today that have ever been there.  The spring overflows the block pool and tumbles down over rocks and ledges until it eventually meanders into the Oostanaula, I suppose, on its journey to the Gulf of Mexico.  But for a mile or two it runs right beside the road, shaded by the canopy of evergreens, oaks, hickory nut trees and the other greenery indigenous to the area.  That place, in many ways is a picture of my childhood- innocent, wild and free.  Well, yesterday, for all practical accounts there was nobody there but us.

Ava and Zeke had been arguing about whose turn it was to plan on the Nintendo DS.  Ava was hungry.  Zeke was thirsty.  Caroline at least seemed mostly content listening to Merle Hagard with me.

"Why are we stopping?" -  Ava
"What are we gonna do?" -  Zeke
"More questions."  - Both
"More complaints." -  Both
"If you'll hush for a minute, I'll show you what we are gonna do." - Me

So I unloaded them and took them to the creek.  Caroline was in her wheelchair and I carried the whole thing- her included- right out into the middle of the creek.

"Are there snakes in here?" - Ava
"Probly." - Me.
"Can we get wet?" - Zeke
"Absolutely!  Just come on in." - Me

And they did.  And you know what happened?  Everything changed.  They forgot about the DS, about being hungry or thirsty, or anything else that was negative.  They were enchanted- bewitched- caught up in the spell that moving water casts upon every heart that will pause to hear it.  It caught me too.  I was no longer concerned or even aware of lawsuits, deadlines or bills.

I sat on a rock next to my Caroline and watched the excitement on the faces of my children.  Zeke completely fell in and didn't care a bit.  I showed them how to find and catch a crawdad; a feat that was met with squeals of delight that no DS has ever inspired.  We splashed and stomped and laughed...and for a time all was as it should be.

But like that August weather, it was just a tease, a glimpse, a hope...Real problems, real struggles lay outside the banks of that creek.  Still, the promise was there, on the wind, in the water and on the faces of my children.

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb... " John the Revelator

- Shep

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Life without a plan

Born as the youngest of two older brothers I never dealt with issues of control.  Spontaneity marked who I was as a person.  I loved the idea of different...and I was always up for some fun.

This part of my personality lived on through my adolescent, teenage and young adult years....even into early marriage.

It wasn't until Caroline's birth (when I was 24 years old) that I, and others, noticed the change.

I threw spontaneity out the window.  Even, steady, and predictable sounded much better to me after living through the harrowing experience of her birth and my (almost) death.

I began to thrive off of schedules, appointments, checklists, and order.

This was obvious to see in my day-to-day living.  To-do lists could be found on the kitchen counter or in my purse.  My house would be nauseatingly neat (it had to be or else I was very bothered).  I constantly wanted to live by a daily plan.  I needed it planned out and organized. 


Where did Andrea go?

This was my way to avoid pain.  If I could plan things enough...then surely I could plan and prepare for anything to go wrong.  Or maybe I could plan enough so nothing would ever go wrong.

Are you seeing the sickness here?

I even began allowing pride to sneak in and applaud this control as some type of godliness.

Well, let's just say that God hasn't allowed things to stay that way.

He and I have been working hard.  He has been faithful to set me free in so many areas.  I have had to be faithful in return by surrendering myself to His work in my life.  Bible study, scripture memory, faith-filled friends and family, and prayer have been His tools.

And they still are to this day.

I am truly terrified of the person I would become again if I stopped my love affair with Jesus and His precious Word.

But this brings me to the present....

I am currently the girl living life without a plan.

School starts tomorrow.

All three of my children will be in the same school.  Zeke will start pre-K, Ava will return as a 2nd grader and Caroline as a 4th grader.

I thought that I would go back to teaching at this point in the game.

Shep nor I feel God's leading in that way at this time.

I have been helping out at Shep's office for the past two years.

That has stopped because they need more hours than I can give.

So....where is my plan?

What will I do?

I honestly don't know.  God has opened the door for me to volunteer one day a week at our local Women's Resource Center.  I will also continue to teach ladies bible study on Thursday mornings.

But, beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

I desperately want to know where He will guide my path.  But for now...He is just saying "go and trust Me moment by moment to lead you."

I am having to constantly remind myself that this is faith.  Not knowing...but doing nevertheless.

Proverbs 16:9 " In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."

Proverbs 9:10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Watching Redemption Happen...

 I have been chomping at the bit to write this post.  Why?  Because it is a great love story...AND because some of us need to hear, and see, and miracle of redemption.  I obtained permission to write this post.  It is a true story.  It involves people I know and love.  Real people living real lives.  Lives that our enemy wanted to destroy.  For the last year this marriage has been headed straight for divorce.  They would even tell you themselves that they saw no real chance of reconciliation.  BUT GOD did. 
 The enemy did his best to kill hope and bury the truth.  He sought to rob this family of love, commitment, perseverance, kindness, joy, and faith.  BUT GOD brought it back.
 I took these pictures one week ago.  We got to attend a vow renewal ceremony.  Let me just say, I wouldn't have missed it for the world!!  I wish the pictures were better quality but it was the best my i-phone could pull off.  Not to mention the operator (me) kept having to steady her shaking hands and wipe tears away from her joy-filled eyes.
 This family has been miraculously put back together.  It was a celebration of God's goodness.  Those of us who were there were witnessing the answer to our many many face-down prayers.  I can remember praying week after week and month after month.  There was nothing new to report.  The situation felt incredibly hopeless.  From all earthly angles this marriage was over.  Lawyers for both sides had done their jobs.  The hours ticked down for the judge to simply sign the papers.  BUT GOD intervened at what seemed like the ninth hour.
 I cannot tell you how their story has strengthened my faith.  When you feel the utter hopelessness of it for almost a year~ the sight of this victorious renewal made it all fade to nothing.  Excitement and hope oozed from every person in attendance.  Because we knew.  We knew how far this really had come from tragedy.  We knew the miracle that God had done to bring them back to each other.  Every prayer I prayed on their behalf was completely worth it.  I got a front row seat to a miracle.  Redemption in its sweetest form.  A groom and his bride.  The fairy tale we all love. 
They rode off together on the motorcycle that sparked their second "first" date.  We all sighed collectively over a triumph for God's team.  But we know that this isn't always the way it turns out.  I still have people I love dearly running head long in the opposite direction of God.  My primary role in this whole situation was prayer.  It was hard.  It felt empty sometimes.  But I didn't stop.  And I won't stop for the others either.  Because redemption is available to all.  And I want more front row seats to miracles.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Different doesn't begin to describe it...

 (This was the view from our bus ride into Kingstown everyday to serve in our churches for VBS.)

(Below is a picture of a church filled with precious children ready to sing, dance, and learn about the truth of who God is what He has done for us.)

Well I am back.

That sounds better than what I really am.

I am somewhere between homesick for what I left in St. Vincent and ecstactic for the closeness of the ones I came back to.

Going on a missiont trip tends to do that to you. 

I learned this last year when I returned.  It was like I was slowly waking up from some type of anesthesia.  Moving in slow motion.  Feet dragging.  To-do lists growing by the minute...

We got home Sunday just before lunchtime.  It is Wednesday and I am just now feeling like I can sit down and begin the process of writing about my trip.

Wherever do I start?

I thought that because I had gone to this island before and stayed at the same place and worked at the same church that I would be completely prepared for all that the week held for me.

(God laughs here)

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Same island? Yes.  Same accommodations?  Yes.  Same church to serve? Yes.  But different doesn't begin to describe it.

-Our luggage got lost.  (Mine was just for a few days.  A couple of brave souls were without their luggage for 5 whole days.) 
-Missed flights.
-Missed connecting flights.
-Delayed getting home.
-Our church arranged VBS entirely opposite of what I had planned on doing.
-The weather was different.
-Cokes had disappeared. (we got real Cokes last year in the glass bottle every single day that were ice cold)
-Issues with transportation. (the bus that would transport our groups had battery issues)

None of these things are really a big deal in the grand scheme of things.  But when you are thousands of miles away and you are banking on the preparations that are in your luggage (that you currently don't have) it becomes a big deal quick.

Last year things ran smoothly and I didn't even realize that there could be another way.

BUT GOD showed me that even when things don't run smoothly....He can show up and be large and in charge.  He wasn't surprised by any of it.  But I think a few of us were surprised at how helpless we can suddenly feel.  At least I was.

However, it was "GO" time.  We were there.  We had a mission.  And with or without luggage it was going to happen.  So God gave us joy.

I am telling you that I have not belly laughed as much as I did on this trip in a long time.  The more things got wacky and out of our control....the funnier other things became.

Some times all you can do is laugh about it.  That should have been our motto.  This girl did.

The 8 (turned into 9) days passed with many triumphs in Jesus' name.  Children and their parents came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Many other seeds were planted that we many never see until we reach heaven. We prayed.  We praised.  We pushed through.  We persevered.  And most of us with smiles big and wide....ready to go back again.

Whenever I get home God always shows me how the trip was really for me.  Sure I got to be his hands and feet for others.  But I had to come home to myself.  God exposed areas in my life that need work.  He challenged me to trust Him more.  He answered prayers right in front of my eyes.  He gave joy overflowing.  He brought friendships to life.  He gave us a taste of Himself that is hard to get here in America.  He gave me a hunger to serve again...and again...and again.

I served alongside a group of about 37 people who all had varying gifts and talents.  We are nothing special on our own.  But hundreds (maybe even thousands) were personally touched because 37 ordinary folks decided to go and give all of their ordinary for His extraordinary glory. Our ages ranged from 14 to late 50's.  Some were kids.  Others of us had kids and even grand kids.  But for this week we were bound together for one purpose:  Jesus.  He was so worth it.