Monday, December 30, 2013

Thinking Less

Merry Christmas and Happy (almost) New Year!

My decorations have come down and the hype has ended. 

It seems sacrilegious to speak in a ho hum fashion about such a special and sacred holiday.  But I have decided (after much encouragement from my man) to think less about the burdens I currently bear and just be. 

Be light on purpose.

I am intentionally choosing to lay down the heavy things that make my head and heart feel like they may burst....even for just a few days.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year.  We give gifts.  We do for others.  We remember the One who gave the greatest gift of all.  It should be a time that feels weightless upon our shoulders, but for a lot of people (myself included), we feel the weight of what isn't.

I  imagined this Christmas being very different.  It wasn't.  My expectations were once again unmet. 

That is ok in and of itself...but how I feel about it has to have someplace to go.

Usually for me the typical response to unmet expectations is anger toward God.

Stupid really.  But it is the truth.

My anger began showing itself through numbness. 

I have no desire to pray or even push myself to get into God's Word.  But I did express these thoughts and feelings to my best friend who happens to be my husband.

He said, "Have you thought of just taking time off from thinking about your burdens or carrying them around?"

Life is life.  My life has particular burdens that are mine to bear.  But honestly the idea of taking some time off from thinking about them sounded so good to me.

So...I did.

That is where I have been for the past week or so.  I have no idea when I will pick them up doubt it will be soon.  But, for now, I am just kind of in the moment.  No future thoughts.  No past thoughts.  Just here.  Just now.

Here are a few snapshots from Christmas 2013!

 Shep and the kids with masks from Santa!
 Shep and Caroline getting some snuggle time.
 Zeke doing his favorite thing: opening presents!
 Ava and me...seriously just a smaller version of myself.
 Our tree at night.  I love the way white lights twinkle.
 Zeke experimenting with his bow.
 Caroline being her cute self....
 This was Ava's first year performing in the Nativity Ballet as a company dancer.  It was a highlight of the season!
 These are a few pics I took during their rehearsal...without the beautiful costumes on. 

"So don't be anxious about tomorrow.  God will take care of your tomorrow too.  Live one day at a time." Matthew 6:34 TLB

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fresh Mercy

Anyone who says that an adult cannot pitch a fit as good as any child is lying.

Most adults pitch fits a lot.  Most of us have just learned to keep the screaming and rage to a minimum.  So instead many of us walk around pitching fits in our heads....all the while with a plastic smile pasted onto our faces.

"Why has this happened?"
"This is so unfair."
"What if _______?"

These thoughts that swirl and soak relentlessly with no end are really fits.  Fits of rage or frustration that beat us down and steal joy that God died to give us.

Occasionally we slip up and allow one of the mind fits to become a visible thing.  It is no longer something that occupies our thoughts alone.  It becomes a living breathing thing.  A fit that slams doors, and stomps feet, with raised voices for effect and hand gestures just because.

This was my reality just a week ago. 

Something simply didn't go my way.  My plans had to be changed.  My scheduled had to be adjusted. 

I am so embarrassed as I look back on my immediate reaction.

Call it hormones or stress if you want to.  But I am going to call it what it was: a fit. 

I could not have been more wrong in my behavior.

At the time I just felt like I needed to make someone else understand that the circumstances were unfair. 

Now...a week seems beyond silly.

Here is the silver lining to this story.  Thankfully my anger subsided quickly.  God convicted me immediately and offered no shame at all.

Instead He completely and instantly clothed me in mercy.

The Bible says that our God is rich in mercy (Acts 17:11).  I experienced that when the meanness of my heart became completely eclipsed by something I didn't deserve, mercy.

Somehow mercy received does this amazing thing to the meanness that can lurk within our really takes it away.

My unfortunate fit showed me God's mercy in a new light.  Most days I minimize my sin.  Bad thoughts are hidden from others but a fit like mine couldn't hide.  And my fit didn't push God away.   He rushed in with sweet conviction and a boatload of mercy.  Fresh mercy that was needed right then.  There was no condemnation except for me feeling so silly later.   In those moments I relished His mercy like a new baby believer.  I needed it so badly. 

Oh how we forget what He has done for us.  And what He still does...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

God's Light~ My Encounter

Two nights ago I crawled into bed in a fowl temper.

Some nights I can work through it.
Other nights I don't even hear it.
Most nights I am numb to the annoyance.

But that night I was just plain mad.

For the past 7 or 8 (I have lost count) months Caroline has come to loathe bedtime.

She is 11 years old.  Bedtime is not new to her.  She is so tired at the end of the day and will even fall asleep on the floor.  But when we put her into bed she gets frustrated and angry.  What seems like simple childish irritability soon turns into full blown fits.

There are usually no tears at all.  Just lots and lots of screaming.

We have tried everything.  EVERYTHING.

I am not even going to list out all we have would take all day.  

Usually she gives in after about 2 hours of fit pitching....sometimes longer sometimes shorter.

Meanwhile we are trying to make sure our other 2 children get to bed okay and that we don't lose our own minds in the background noise of Caroline's shrill screams.

(For the record our other 2 kiddos sleep like logs through all of Yay for that!)

Two nights ago the anger just won.  I threw my hands up in surrender to it.

As I yanked the covers almost over my head I screamed to God with my heart, "Why can't You help her stop this?  We have prayed every night.  Nothing seems to work.  We are exhausted with this routine.  Please show us what to to help her.  Do these prayers work at all?  Do you hear this Lord?"

Sleep took over but as soon as the alarm clock went off the next morning the same thoughts jockeyed for  position in my mind.  "God why don't you help us?  You tell us to pray and you will answer.  Why aren't you answering our prayer?"  

I hated feeling this way...but it was the truth.  My attitude was a little mad still but mostly I wanted to know that God was in it somehow.

His Word says He never leaves us.  His Word says He turns His ear toward us. His Word says that our faith pleases Him. 

We were continually taking this issue to Him in prayer and the resounding answer seemed to be silence.

I am not good with silence.  I want answers.

Friday came and went with its things to get done but the questions from the night before kept me rattled.

As soon as I could get a few moments of quiet I decided to do what I knew to do.

Pray in spite of my doubts.
Get in the Word and let it speak Truth to the lies that kept pervading my thoughts.

The weather was completely nasty.  Rainy, overcast and gray.  The kids were situated and quiet. Now was my chance.

I didn't dare even turn on a lamp.

I just took the moments that were given and grabbed my bible.

I slid down the wall of my bedroom and sat with my knees up and back to the wall.

The devotion took me to Revelation chap 3.  Verse 11 spoke a strong directive to my heart, "hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown".

I have no idea what my crown even is.  But I sensed God saying to actively hold on to the faith that He has placed within me.  Hold on tight.  The enemy does his best to steal it away...we I must hold on tight.

Then I went to the book of Colossians.  Our ladies bible study has centered around the awesome book for the past 6 weeks.  As I began to read in chapter 1 the coolest thing happened....the dark room was invaded by 2 perfect rays of sunshine.

One ray fell directly upon my bible.  The other ray landed perfectly upon my face.

There in utter darkness...God put His light of love directly upon me...his child.  His angry and frustrated child.

I sat as still as possible.  If I moved at all I was no longer in the light.  So I just sat and soaked it up.

There in the quiet, God' presence settled upon me.

The answer to my question no longer mattered.  He was there.  With me.

I took these pictures with my phone to show others (and remind myself in the future) that His light is stronger than any darkness.

I hope you can see that all around me was dark and shadows.  His light landed upon my face and His word.

It was as if He was saying...."Stay in this Holy book daughter.  Do not deter to the left or the right.  Don't let questions and doubts shake the faith that I have built within you.  Stay.  Stand.  Persevere".

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot can never extinguish it. John 1:5 NLT

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Chasing the Wind

The last time I blogged was Nov. 18th.  Today is December 1st.  I would have sworn that it had only been a couple of days ago....

However that is my life these days.  Super speed.

I bet yours is too.

The Thanksgiving holiday was a bit of a blur.

We traveled on Wednesday and again on Friday.  We visited both sides of the family.  We enjoyed delicious food, caught up on the happenings of our loved ones, and cheered on our favorite college football teams.

This Thanksgiving holiday a few unexpected events occurred. 

Isn't it strange how life can turn on a dime?

We managed to hit not one but two deer on our way to visit family.

There was no serious damage done.  A head light is knocked out.  The bumper is a bit off kilter.  But the sound of the thud is what lives in my memory...and then the eery quiet afterwards.

Just like that the atmosphere in our vehicle changed. 

The kids were no longer asking, "Are we there yet"?

There was just stunned silence.

A more serious upset interrupted our Thanksgiving festivities when my precious mother in law fell. We had all finished eating the big meal and were about to start a craft that had been her idea. She was so excited.  She had worked hard and been the ideal hostess for her family.

We all waited outside for her to come and join us.  Instead another family member came out and spoke with an urgency and tone that indicated an emergency. 

"She has fallen.  We need some help.  She can't get up."

She dislocated her shoulder. 

Immediately Thanksgiving Day changed for all of us.

The craft never happened.  A visit to the ER took its place.

Things happen.

We are left scratching our heads thinking, "What just happened here?!?"

Here is the bottom line.....God is still good.

He doesn't have to offer the answer.

He just offers Himself.

The day before we left to go out of town I was piled up in our living room watching a movie with my kids.  I don't really recommend the movie (it was cheap and poorly made...the words spoken didn't match the lip movement from the actors).

The story line was interesting enough and pulled us into the story.  Basically you have good v. evil.  A girl is going in search of the Christmas Star.  She has to face impossible odds and believe in unbelievable things to reach it.  In addition to this she is being hunted and chased by her enemy (sounds like the Christian life to me).

At one point in the movie she has to make it to the "North Wind."  When she arrives she can't see a person but a swirling wind blows up all around her and begins to speak.  The wind tells her to jump into it.  She is terrified of course.  Why would anyone jump into air and think that it would hold you up much less take you somewhere.

The voice in the wind begins to sound annoyed and frustrated.  I think it even says to her, "C'mon jump into me.  I don't have time for this.  Jump!"

She did jump.  And the wind held her and carried her to her destination.

God encouraged me through this scene in this horribly ridiculous movie.

He speaks to us in the same fashion sometimes.

Faith is jumping into the wind and trusting that it will uphold you and carry you on.  It feels ridiculous and scary but when you ride on its wings it feels like the most natural and normal thing in the world.

Change happens.

Deer run out into the road.

Loved ones fall and get hurt.

God is constant through it all.

He might allow the journey to be hard.  He might allow the enemy to breathe down our necks.  He might take safe options away.  But He will never remove Himself.  He speaks from the winds of change.  He is in it completely....willing to uphold us....and carry us onward to our next destination.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Lie

This past weekend Shep was out of town. 

Yours truly got to fill in as the teacher for our Sunday school class at church.

As I prepared for the lesson on "Sanctification" I uncovered some truths that I felt God was speaking to me.

The grand lie that myself and so many other Christians believe is this:  the closer we get to Jesus the less we need Him.

I live like I am going to attain some level of maturity with Christ so that I will somehow be less dependent.

Isn't this true?

Here is the truth:  the closer we get to Jesus the more we realize we need Him even more.

Walking closely with Jesus (in the brief moments I actually do this) requires a dependence that most of us are uncomfortable with admitting.

The process of sanctification can be boiled down to this....being ok with needing Jesus all the time.

His truths didn't stop there.

Needing Jesus all the time requires work on my part.

We usually aren't ok with this either.

Who wants to work at something else?

We have jobs, families, commitments, obligations, deadlines, schedules, and appointments.  Laundry has to get done.  The house has to (occasionally) be cleaned.  Groceries, pets, playdates, and so on.

Needing Jesus to change my habits, my thoughts, my actions, my likes, my dislikes, my attitude, and my heart require some level of work.

Working for God.....isn't what I am getting at here.  Being a greeter at church, serving in the children's ministry, donating money, and volunteering hours won't change the heart.

It is the real work of Christianity.  Needing Jesus to do it all.

How does that happen?

Pouring His Word into your mind for transforming and renewal.
Spending time in prayer for guidance, repentance, confession, intercession, and praise.

Starting with these two simple things would go a long way in doing the work of sanctification.

It would be awesome (I guess) if Jesus zapped us and made us just as He is. 

But then we wouldn't get to observe the supernatural change that occurs in our lives when we yield.

I am the most blown away when God helps me to love someone I want to hate or when forgiveness and mercy come easier than it used to.  I am in awe of Him when generosity replaces cynicism and selfishness in my own life. 

This is the work. 

Needing Him all the time changes who we are.....and the cycle continues as others observe and desire that change as well. 

A great plan from a truly great God.

1 Corinthians 1:2 " who have been called by God to be his own holy people.  He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did all Christians everywhere-- whoever calls upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and theirs."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Unbelief. Unrest. Our undoing.

There have been divine moments of worship to God when I have been completely undone before Him. 

I have sensed His presence in arenas holding thousands, church services holding hundreds, bible studies with friends and certainly alone in my car.

When His Presence fills the space you are are taken with Him.

His grace.  His goodness.  His mercy.  His vastness.  His love.  His favor.

It is all about Him.

Those moments when we are taken in the torrent of worship become moments where we are openly undone.  We are like jelly.  Poured out.  Limber and pliable in His hands.  We see ourselves against Him and we don't mind losing our identity and taking on the One that is His. 

This kind of undoing works for us. 

Surrender is found here.  Submission to Jesus Christ and His will for our lives.  His direction becomes our only aim.

There is another way though.  A detour of sorts. 

A way that most of us take without even meaning to. 

I am satisfied that our enemy plans it that way. 

He wants us undone as well.  But his path isn't trust and submission.  It is the exact opposite. 

The path is so easy to follow that we take it most times because we know the way so well.

It is like a well worn trail that our feet know by heart.

It is unbelief. 

Unbelief leads to unrest. 

Unrest gives us lives without direction and endless chaos and second guessing. 

I saw this correlation just a few mornings ago as I read in Hebrews chapter 3.

Verse 12 starts off in this way...

"Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters.  Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God."

The following verses go on to exhort us to be faithful to God and trust Him firmly.  Then the reader is given an example of God's people falling into this trap of unbelief and unrest.

We are told exactly what happens in verse 19, "So we see that they were not allowed to enter his rest because of their unbelief."

This piece of scripture is talking about a specific group of people.  Not necessarily you and me.  However we should learn from them, right?

Ultimately we can choose unbelief in Jesus Christ and never enter His rest, that is, Heaven.

That is the over-arching theme.

But this can go deeper.

There are those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and then stop right there.  For those is lived in unrest.

When we believe God for little else than our salvation, our lives are chaotic, messed up and look very similar to everyone else around us that does not have the Holy Spirit of God living within them.

Satan's chief goal is for us not to believe in Jesus and be doomed for hell.

He doesn't stop there....for those of us who have already chosen to place our faith in Jesus....he will settle for our lives to be filled with unbelief, unrest, and to be undone and practically useless for the Kingdom of God.

Believing God is crazy and wonderful at the same time.  It is scary and outcomes are uncertain.  We are armed with knowing that He is with us....that is about it.

So many people (including myself) cringe at the thought of life this way.  But those that are called of God are asked to believe Him for God sized tasks.  Impossible becomes just a word....

Believe and find rest.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Shep here.

Lawyering is interesting work.

 I have helped guilty people go free.

 I have seen justice ignored in spite of my best efforts.

In seventeen years, I can think of only one "Perry Mason" moment when I made a witness say, "You got me.  I'm a liar.  Everything I said today has been a lie."

I remember Judge Pope telling my client who was asking for a continuance, "Seems like going to trial is like going to heaven.  Everybody says they want to go...but nobody wants to go today."

A couple of weeks ago I sat in the courtroom.

Everyone ought to sit at the Plaintiff or Defendant's table at least once.  It is a crucible.

I had filed a motion for contempt.  My client and the opposing party divorced.  In the decree, my adversary was ordered to perform certain tasks- most of which involved transferring money (some to my client- some to creditors).  Our position was that he had willfully ignored the court order, should be held in contempt, and forced to comply with the order.

Mr. X's argument went like this, "I know what I was ordered to do.  I tried to do it.  I would have done it, except my ex-wife was not doing the things she was ordered to do."

During the course of the trial, the judge repeatedly told Mr. X, "We are not concerned with what your x-wife did.  We are only concerned with whether you did what this court ordered you to do."

At the end of the hearing the judge said, "Mr. X, I find that you are in willful contempt of this court's order, in that you failed to do: X, Y, & Z.  I order you to be placed into custody in the Bartow County Jail until such time as you purge said contempt..." The deputies slapped the bracelets on him, and he got to spend a few nights in jail.

I was actually fairly shocked...the man had some very good points.  The Court, however, was not interested.  The Court wanted no excuses.  The only questions that the Court decided were these:

1:  Did you know what you were supposed to do?
2:  Were you able to do what was ordered of you?
3.  Did you do what you were told?

This has had me thinking recently.   What could I be held in contempt for?  What have I been ordered to do that I have not done?

I have been overwhelmed recently by my obligation as a husband and father.  I feel like this world is fighting me at every turn.  When I attempt to take a stand- that's when I feel the current the strongest.  If you have ever stood in a river, you will know what I mean.

When I try to drive a stake in the ground, only then do I feel the hardness of the earth.  If you have ever worked a set of post hole diggers, you will know what I mean.

I have an obligation to love my wife sacrificially, and to raise up my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

It does not matter what anyone else in the whole world is doing.
It does not matter what anyone thinks.
It does not matter if its unpopular to those people I love the most.
It does not matter if I am tired, put upon, overworked, underpaid, treated unfairly, talked about, looked down upon, laughed at, despised, criticized...

The Court does not ask those questions.  The Court asks, "Did you know what you were supposed to do?  And, "did you do it?"

The rest does not matter.

I wonder if you (like me) might be in willful contempt.

If you are, I encourage you (like me) to come to the One who made you today, in the day of Mercy.  Please do not wait.  The Spirit of the Lord will not strive with man forever.

One day the gavel will fall.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Draw Near. Right Here.

After acknowledging a distance between myself and God in my last blog post; my current bible study zeroed in on this distance even more.

Check out this quote..

"We can whine and pout and stomp over wanting to be made stronger.  We can quote a Bible verse and say nice things about the Almighty, but God does not give His strength from a distance.
Could it be that your life without strength is a reflection of where you are with God?  I have never seen God hurl His strength to someone with her back turned to Him. Or give strength to someone who lives far away from Him.  God gives strength to those close by~ to the one who has turned toward Him and has run back into His presence."  (Angela Thomas, Stronger)

The author then pointed us back to God's Word to affirm this in a very direct way. 

"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."

I knew this was the answer for me.

For whatever reason I was holding a piece of myself back from God. 

He intended to bring me back.

Less than 24 short hours after writing that last blog post I returned home from dropping the kids off from school.

I walked through the kitchen and past Caroline's wheelchair toward my room.

Then I sensed God pulling me toward Him.

Draw near.  Right here.

I stopped in the hallway because the Holy Spirit's prompting on my heart was heavy and strong.

"Lord, what are you saying to me?  What do you want me to do?"

Like strings leading a puppet I felt myself being pulled back into the kitchen to stand right in front of Caroline's wheelchair.

"Ok God.  This is weird.  What is it with Caroline's wheelchair?  What do you want me to do?"

This time the force of it hit me powerfully, "Andrea, draw near....right here."

 This was it.

I had pulled away and created distance between myself and God at the very place of my hurt and confusion with Caroline...and His silence.

I shook my head as if agreeing with Him and dropped to my knees. 

There, on our cold kitchen tile floor, I wrapped my arms awkwardly around a metal framed wheelchair and laid my head upon the seat of it. 

I sobbed and sobbed.

I drew near to God here.

It was the place that I had turned away and this was His way of turning me back.

It was right and it was good.  His ways always are in fact.

Somehow we draw lines around painful places in our lives.  We don't allow anyone to go there.  Not us.  Not friends and family...certainly not God.

How can the Comforter provide comfort in the very place He is not permitted to go?

We can't know Him as all He is or receive all He has to offer us by giving Him only the good places in our lives.

He wants to draw  Wherever your "here" where He wants to meet you.

For me it was a wheelchair.

That metal frame became an altar of surrender.  Pride and anger flowed with each tear that rolled down my face.

God Almighty, my Comforter never left my side.  In fact, He wiped the tears away.

His presences helped me stand up with a strength that I had not previously possessed.

Surrender served as a means for strength.

Only our great God.

Draw near.  Right here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Fixed Faith...A Frustrated Girl

This morning I woke up and stumbled into the bathroom.  My eyes struggle to open well.  Rheumatoid arthritis makes my joints swell and ache as well as causing my eyes to deal with chronic dry eye.  There is actually a medical diagnosis for this but....basically I have to keep lubricant drops in my eyes on a regular basis.  If I don't my eyes try to over-produce tears...resulting in clogged ducts...that results in a mimicking form of pink eye.  Pretty nasty. 

So as I stumbled into the bathroom to douse my eyes with drops that would help them open and focus~ I honestly dreaded the day.

I have sensed a distance between me and God.

I am pretty sure it is one I have created. 

My prayers have been honest before Him.

Here is an example:

"Lord we continue to wait on You to heal Caroline.  She is eleven years old.  Eleven years we have waited.  We still wait.  You haven't released us.  People think we are nuts.  I am beginning to think I am nuts.  Then You bless us with a little glimpse.  She sat up by herself.  You let me capture it in a video.  I have proof that this really happened.  For weeks people dreamed almost daily of her healing.  

Now it is quiet again.  The momentum gone.  

I work with her daily to try to catch another glimpse of Your power working in her little body...but now she struggles to do again what she did so easily that day.

What happened?

This hurts so bad.

My faith soars to heights I haven't known.  Chill bumps become a part of my daily routine ....and then quiet.  Too quiet.  My faith backs down and shuts up.  I can't explain.  

God please help me.  My faith isn't in what my eyes see but upon You.  Yet I long to see it again."

My morning eyes finally fight to open so happy to have fresh tears in them...even from a bottle.

I glance down and flip my daily encouraging scripture card that sits next to the sink.

October 22 reads, "Awake to righteousness, and sin not;
                              for some have not the knowledge of God;
                               I speak this to your shame."  1 Corinthians 15:34

What I heard Him whisper to me was this.  "Wake up Andrea.  Choose the way of righteousness.  I know you are frustrated with things you can't figure out and understand.  But you know Me.  Trust Me.  Even if nothing makes sense or makes you feel better.  Trust Me.  Don't allow the sin of doubt, worry and unbelief steal away what you know to be true.  This is the harder way.  Choose it.  Shame on you to think otherwise when you know better.  I AM truth.  I AM the only way.  I AM working in this.  Run into my arms and cast this upon Me. "

I think I may have uttered a thankful prayer back to Him...really trying to be. 

But the morning duties pressed in. 

As I did my "mom thing" my thoughts still lingered upon this scripture.  "Awake to righteousness"  rolled over and over in my mind.

By the time I returned home from dropping off the kids to school I sensed peace within the inner turmoil. 

No answer.  Just the beginnings of peace for my day.

Stilling myself on the sofa I  read the scripture again.  And then I felt a small voice tell me to fix my faith for the day.

I guess the same way I would "fix my hair".  When I fix my hair (crazy curly mop that it is) I have to get my hands on it.  Manipulate it.  Put it in its desired place by spending time and working on it.

God was urging me to do the same thing with my faith.

"Fix it Andrea.  Your faith.  Fix it.  Put your hands on it....lest it get away.  Manipulate it to stay where you want it.  Because your Enemy wants to steal it, kill it and ultimately, destroy it. "

I am not exactly sure where God and I are going.  To be perfectly honest, this is new territory.  But isn't that where I beg Him to take me?!?  I sense shifts and exciting days ahead.  I expect answers to prayer.  But I am lying if I say I am not scared and unsure.  Those two things I know to be true. faith will be grown.  And it must stay fixed upon my Father who is trustworthy.  What better way to show that I trust Him than to walk forward when everything screams inside to turn tail and run.....

Fixing my faith. 

"Oh God whatever faith I have...You have given.  I believe because You give me hope."

So I FIX my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,  since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 1 Cor. 4:18


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

He is holy. So we must be too.

Tonight marks the end of Fall break for my kids.

It has been a sweet couple of days for us at home.  Slower.  Intentionally so...

For whatever reason tonight I am a bundle of BLAH.

Nothing really good.  Nothing really bad.

I type those words as if they are true.  But, deep down, I know they aren't. 

Yes I am tired.
Yes I don't feel so great.

But it cuts deeper than that.

Weakness worms its way into my thinking and somehow I just let it all go to heck.

Where is the strength available to me through Christ?

I'll tell you where it is.

Pushed away for the moment.  Right where I left it.

Blah feels easier than burdened.  Know what I mean?

Tonight I just want to stay blah.

I don't want to put forth the effort for bold, burdened,  or even blessed.

But Peter's words haunt me.  Yes.  The apostle Peter in the New Testament.

Last Thursday the presence of God invaded my bedroom as I read 1 Peter chapter one and two.  I was preparing for a speaking engagement and the Holy Spirit led me to these chapters and just kept me there.  I read them out loud over and over again.  Obviously God had something to say to me.  Tears rolled down my face as the sacred written Word of God was spoken from my mouth.

Phrases that had been read repeatedly in my lifetime came alive in new ways. 

One of them that jumped off of the page was this simple verse. 

For he himself has said, You must be holy because I am holy. 1 Peter 1:16

Wouldn't a list of pending/conditional situations be nice here?

There aren't any.

Holiness isn't an option.

He is.  So we must be.

At this moment my blah-ness is sinful.  Why?  Because at its root lies pride, arrogance, discontentment, and self-pity.

His words hit me with tenderness.

My blah mood must bow to His holiness.  I must bow too.  More than that...I must choose holiness.

Truthfully sitting here and typing this all out helps me think it through and call it what it really is.  Sin.

I am such a feeler.  I hate it about myself.  Not on the mountain top of course.  Those moments are elation and joy.  Feeling is a gift and being a feeler seems fitting and right.  But, here in the blah moments, my feelings take me down a dangerous path.  I ignore Your goodness in this place and focus on my dislikes and relish in the discouragement.  Please forgive me Lord.  I choose to be holy just as You have called me to be.  I don't have a magic wand.  The feelings don't immediately go away.  But surrendering to the truth immediately feels better too.  Help me with holiness.  I need the mind of Christ to distinguish what is helpful and what isn't.  Give me self-control so I won't look for ways to just make myself feel better.  The joy of holiness this night is that I am choosing You over me.  It is that simple.  God I may need to do it again tomorrow.  Thank you for loving me and not letting me stay the same.  I trust Your hand in my life.  Don't let me be ok with sin in my life...especially self-pity sin.  It may just be the worst kind.  I love you Jesus. Amen 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

To Like or To LIVE

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have made it awfully easy for us to "like" things.

We see sweet or funny pictures of children.  We "like" it.
We read something inspiring, motivational, or good.  We "like" it.
We celebrate with a birth, baptism, or wedding.  We "like" it.
Then there are the moments of sadness.  A death or a sudden tragedy.  Pictures bring tears and words express a sorrow unspeakable.  I cannot bring myself to "like" it. 

God spoke to me the other day when I was scrolling down the screen and looking at Twitter.  A bible study teacher that I respect immensely had posted a word picture as she often does.  The word picture read something like this:

If no one is laughing at your aren't dreaming big enough.

Another one of my favorites from her recent tweets is this gem:

Just because He hasn't doesn't mean that He won't.  Keep believing!

Let me just say this to be clear.  I believe that this awesome woman of God believes, teaches, and lives exactly what she posts on Twitter.  She uses her platform to honor God and uplift her sisters in Christ.

As someone who sits at her feet via dvd teaching I soak these tweets into my marrow and allow them to fuel my focus in Jesus Christ.  They speak hope to my heart.  I can't "like" them fast enough.  Honestly I wish I could "like" them about a million times.

It is easy to "like" something inspiring that lifts the soul and spur us on in our faith.

But what about actually "living" it out.

~How BIG are the dreams that God has placed in your life?  Can you accomplish them yourself?  Is your own strength enough or must you rely upon the supernatural power of God's Holy Spirit?

~Do people laugh or ridicule God's calling on your life?

~Do God's dreams for your life make you uncomfortable?

~Do you lose heart some days because the dream honestly seems....unthinkable?

These are questions that we don't "like" at all.
We don't like the weight of them. 
We don't like the uncertainty of them. 
We really don't like the idea of God daring to ask it of us....

Yet....we "like" the inspiring words.

I know the deal and so do you.

Liking is easy. 
Liking is non-committal. Liking requires no faith, or perseverance, or waiting, or potential heartache.

Living is a different thing.
Living is daily, minute by minute commitment.  Living depends upon faith, is strengthened and refined by waiting and relying on God alone. 

But don't just listen to God's word.  You must do what it says.  Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.  For if you listen to the word and don't obey it, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.  ~James 1:22-25

Don't just like it.  Live it.  Blessings, fullness, and the deep things of God aren't given in easy shallow waters.  Dive into the deep. 

Liking it lets us walk away and forget.

Living it brings us to a place of utter dependence and desperation unto God Almighty.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Momentary Miracles

What you are seeing are miracles that happened in mere moments last week.
 Caroline sat up.  Yes.  Our 11 year old girl sat up using her own arms for strength instead of ours.
This happened in moments of time. 

She cannot sit for long minutes or hours....but these little moments...are HUGE to us! 

We cannot help but praise our great God and give every bit of glory to His Great Name!

Surely you can see the evident joy and exhilaration on our faces as we hold our hands high in the air for all to see this amazing turn in our girl!

I have no idea when God plans to heal Caroline.  I just know that He will.

He continues to encourage us through events just like this, affirmation from His Word, and dreams where He allows friends and family to see what is to come.  Four people close to me have dreamed of her in the past week alone.  How glorious is that!?!

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;"  1 Corinthians 1:27

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bent Knees. Burdened Hearts. Blessed hope. A BIG GOD!!!

One of my dear ones snapped this picture this morning at bible study.

Ordinarily I would totally tease her about ruining the sincerity and sacredness of the moment by pulling out her phone and capturing it.  But, honestly, I am so glad she did.

I know how this morning will live in my heart and mind.  But seeing it again makes it real and floods my soul anew.

It was church.

Our Thursday morning ladies bible study group came to hear a video of Priscilla teaching on Gideon and God stole the show.

The Lord had directed me to do things a bit differently this morning.  You know...shake it up a bit. 

The ladies were game for it.

They listened as I relayed all that God had done this week in my life. (I feel like I could write a mini-novel from Monday to this morning)  I could tell by the looks on their faces and the nods of their heads that they too had run a hard race for this week.

As I shared my hits and misses of the week they cried openly in understanding. 

These gals go for real.  As their leader I don't have to hold back the raw-ness of all that is going on....and neither do they.  We share it all.  Burdens are halved.  Joys are doubled again and again.

Some days are grand with God!  These are days to celebrate!

Then there are those other days...the days that we wish we didn't have to admit were real.  The days when the best we can give God are the broken pieces of ourselves and ask Him to be the balm that can bind us back up again.

We shared.  We related.  We understood. We prayed for ourselves.  We prayed for others. 

Then we worshipped.

A friend of mine went to the piano and began playing a song that God had told me were to sing.

Sing we did.

Some sang with hands held high.
Some sang with heads bowed low to the floor.
Some were singing words that they can't bring themselves to even say...
Some were tending to others hurting and in need.

What is it about worship that does this?

All focus was on Jesus and His goodness and grace toward us.

The world, hardships, diseases, problems, evil, brokenness, anger, doubt, and anything else competing for attention had to flee.

Jesus Christ alone was lifted up.

The atmosphere in the room was sweet with His presence.  The heavenly hush was felt and heard.

 An hour in the bible study video hadn't been watched yet....and no one cared. 

Bigger things were going on here and we all knew it without anyone uttering a word except in song.

I sit here 12 hours later and I am not over it yet. 

We ended our time of worship and this group of godly women encircled me.  This is the picture above.  They surrounded me and spoke to God on my behalf. 

It was the moment when the teacher gets taught.

The prayers and faith of these women are such that I could easily sit at their feet any day of the week.  The fact that God allows me to lead them is so backward to me. 

We did finally get to the video of Priscilla teaching us about Gideon. 

It was like the delicious icing that topped an already glorious cake.

We walked out of that room differently than when we entered.

Loads were lighter.  Faith was heavier.  Eyes were lifted to God in expectation....thankful for what we had received.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  James 5:16

Monday, September 16, 2013

His Love Considers Our Lack

Our Thursday morning ladies bible study is now 4 weeks into studying "Gideon" by Priscilla Shirer.

It is nourishing to my soul and just really good on so many levels.

This week I found something in scripture that I did not know was there.

The verses are found in Judges chapter seven.  These few verses scream God's love, tenderness and patience toward Gideon in an unexpected way.

I love it when God surprises us with His nature.

"During the night, the Lord said, "Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp,for I have given you victory over them!  But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the the camp with your servant Purah.  Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged.  Then you will be eager to attack." (the Lord speaking to Gideon in Judges 7:9-11)

Did you see it?

God considered Gideon's weakness:  fear.

I can't help but think of God as the role of a Dad here in this passage.  He looked at his boy and knew victory was certain, even ordained.  But his boy was outnumbered 450 to 1.  Those odds were all he could see.  So God stepped in with patience and spoke directly to the fear raging in Gideon's heart.

It would kind of be like me saying to my kids,  "There is no reason to be afraid of the dark.  But because I know you are still afraid, I will plug in a night light."

God stepped in and offered Gideon a "night light" to greatly encourage him before battle.

I hope this speaks to your heart as it did my own.

God knows your weakness.  He is ever patient toward you and me. 

Sometimes I look at the things that God has laid in my path and I want to just place a banner across my head that reads, "I am weak and afraid and timid.  I have little faith"  just to be sure He remembers who He is dealing with here.

But He already knows. 

My weakness is safe in His almighty hands.  His heart toward me is love.  He patiently builds and grows the character and depth needed in my life that will sustain and strengthen my shaking knees. 

I fall into the mindset and even start to believe that God stays frustrated with me.  When I mess up or give in to doubt and fear I assume that He is angered.

He is long suffering toward His children....and those He is pursuing.

He gives us chance after chance after chance. He lives outside of time and can't be disappointed because He already knows everything we will ever do.  He isn't let down or surprised by our weaknesses because He knew them before we were even born.

This kind of love, this grace that has no end, is mind-blowing to us.

When he first came to Gideon He called him a mighty warrior even though Gideon was obviously hiding in fear from his enemies. 

Who would look at someone hiding out and call them a mighty warrior?

Our God would.

The God who see what we will be before we are.

The God whose love toward us fills the lack within us.

Rise up mighty warrior.  His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

"He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."   2 Corinthians 12:9

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Circumstancial Evidence

Everyone has heard the saying, "When life gives you lemons; make lemonade".

We say it to friends.
We hear it from friends.

But doing it is an entirely different story.

This saying is very cliche and even annoying when you are the one getting pounded by lemons.  But I do think it is wise.

God tells us in His holy Word to"give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

God talked to me plainly as a friend this past week. 

He did not mince words.  He simply said, "Andrea, you are a woman of your circumstances."

It wasn't condemning.  Just very matter of fact.

His voice brought conviction and revelation.  His words were truth.

This truth came on the morning after a little fit I'd had.

I am tempted to write out all that had been going on that led up to the fit.  But those words would simply be an attempt to justify my fit.  Basically I was angry at God for allowing my circumstances to be very difficult, painful even.

But bottom line is this:  when things are rolling along good, then I am good.  When things turn sour, I do too.

So we are back to lemonade.

We can take the lemons and squeeze the juice out of them figuratively speaking.  How?  By taking our current set of circumstances and being present and real in the moment of them.  God has allowed the upset, the heartbreak, the loss, the let down, the sharp curve, the accident, the betrayal, or the problem to persist because there is something in it for you.  And Him. And others.

As we come to God in complete transparency, even admitting that we don't like the circumstances, believing He is at work then our focus shifts from us to Him.

At this point we have only squeezed the lemons.  Lemon juice does not equal lemonade.

It is missing the sweetness.

Take that situations and thank God for it.  Even if you don't really mean to but are still counts.

That is sweet in God's eyes.

It means surrender.
It means humility.
It means He can work and do His thing in Your life.

Remember...the saying says, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade".

There is action required.  Lemonade doesn't just happen.  It is made.

Press in and squeeze closer to God.  Glorify and thank Him for each hardship and circumstance.

A sweetness will pour forth from your pain.  Blessing will come from your obedience.  God will be honored.  Others will be refreshed.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Quick Trip

We got the chance to get away for a quick long weekend trip.  (I think that may be an oxymoron?!?)

We jumped at the chance.

 This is Anna Maria Island...a little slice of heaven.  It is south of Tampa, FL.  Shep and I had the opportunity to vacation here when we were newlyweds.  It holds some specials memories for us!
 We were excited to take our kids to a place that they have never been.  Needless to say...they loved it. 
 Playing at the beach beats school any day of the week.
 Caroline can pull off the ultimate "chilled out" look.  We all did some of this...
 Shep loved fishing in the surf.  Of course he couldn't escape little ones who just wanted to be beside him.
 Zeke loved using his goggles to explore.  I saw this view of him more than anything else...
 I enjoyed the little things.  Quiet.  God's gorgeous creation screaming His praise.  Little treasures.  Time and memories with my family.
 Caroline enjoying the arms that always hold her close...
 Ava's sweet silliness....
 I wanted to show just how crystal clear this water was.  You could look down and always see your feet.  Oh!  If only life and faith and parenting and everything else could be seen with this kind of clarity!
And, of course, a selfie of me.  This is the only way that there is proof of my presence on this trip. I take all the there very few of me actually being in them.

This was a change in our norm.  It was much-needed and so appreciated.  God refreshed our spirits and helped us grow closer as a family.  Exhausting but well worth it!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Eyes to See

This blog post has been brewing in me for quite some time.

If you have read our story from the beginning then you know that my husband and I believe God has revealed to us that He intends to heal our oldest daughter Caroline.

She is eleven years old and we have maintained this belief for all of these years.

Ava and Zeke were born into this.  They know nothing else.

In some ways I feel sorry for them.  They are the kids with the crazy parents who believe God has told them He is going to do the impossible.

In other ways I envy them.  They have never known a day of life without hope. 

We speak often and openly in our home about faith.

Ava will frequently begin sentences with this phrase, "When God heals Caroline __________________". 

I am quite sure that many people in this world would strongly disagree with our stance on this issue.  Most folks probably feel like we waste days away hoping for something that may never happen.  Some may even think it is cruel to Ava and Zeke as if  we are raising their hopes for something futile.

But here is what I know.

~God tells me that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8)
~God tells me that nothing is impossible with Him.  (Luke 18:27)
~Faith pleases God.  (Heb. 11:6)

These truths set the foundation for life in Jesus.  Shep and I must live like we really believe these truths...because we actually do.

It turns out that these truths will creep into the crevices of your kids.  Glory to God!

As I have believed for Caroline's healing for over 11 years I must admit that I am weary.  The enemy loves to attack my faith and wear me down.  However my hope remains sure.  I may grow tired, lose heart, and lose some battles but my faith is being refined into pure gold.

There was a time when I could envision what Caroline might look like completely healed.  I could picture her standing upright, tall and lean with gorgeous hair flowing and an infectious smile.

Now, to be completely honest, I can't.

Too many days have passed with her body limp in my arms or laid out on the floor.  I really cannot envision it. 

I can't picture what I once could.

So God in His great mercy and faithfulness provided a way for me to "see" Caroline healed and whole again.

Ava draws it.

Her little eyes can see it when my have grown dull.

The two drawings I included above came from her precious 8 year old hands.

She doesn't make a big deal of it but she will draw picture after picture of our family the way she sees Caroline.

She will then hang those pictures on the fridge and it gives me fresh eyes to see again.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1 

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Rare Rescue

God showed me two (of the many) different ways He chooses to act on behalf of those He loves.

The first way was in Psalms 18.  It totally lit my fire.

I thought, "Heck yes.  This is how I want God to rescue me from my troubles."

Chapter 18 of Psalms describes God hearing David's cry for help.  It speaks of God being angry on his behalf.  "The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.  Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.  He parted the heavens and came down;"(v.7-8)

I mean this is the stuff of movies.  Hollywood can't touch it.

It goes on to detail that God personally rescued David.  "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me....He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  (v.16-17, 19)

I just think of God acting this way on my behalf and it makes me flat out giddy.

Kind of like when you were in school and you had the big bad older brother to brag about in case anyone even thought of messing with you.

The prideful part of me breaks loose and just wants God to show off His limitless power.  I mean if oceans, thunder, lightning, and clouds obeyed me I would command them often....probably just to show off.

So...we are back to why He is God and I am not. (grin)

There was a second and different type of rescue that I studied in God's word this week.  And let me just say that it is the kind that I relate to more in my life.  It is still a rescue but a little less grand in my mind.

Acts chapter 27 recounts the story of Paul's voyage by ship to Rome.  He wasn't on board this ship for luxury.  He was actually a prisoner.  Verse 13 mentions "a gentle south wind that begins to blow."  By verse 14 we see that this gentle wind has escalated into full on hurricane winds. 

Can you imagine?

Being trapped on a ship out a sea during a hurricane like storm that lasts for days on end.  No thank you.

From the account in scripture it sounds like there was complete chaos and desperation for the Captain and  crew.  Verses 15 through 27 give details of cargo being thrown overboard, passing ropes under the ship itself to hold it together, and even giving up all hope of being saved at all.

Where is God?

His ambassador, Paul, is aboard this ship as a prisoner bound for Rome.  God, who commands nature, allows this terrible frightening storm to batter the ship and terrify those on board for days on end.

They stop eating.  They are depressed.  They see no stars to guide them.  They completely lose heart.

I think that this would be the perfect time for God to swoop down in some Almighty power and show them all who is Boss.

But instead he sends an angel to Paul in the night.  (Not that this isn't awesome but how about help instead of a messenger?)  His message is simple "God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.  So keep up your courage, men."(v.24-25)

This rescue would be nothing more than escaping with their lives.

The boat would fall apart.  The crew would have to swim or grab hold of planks of the ship in order to make it to land and safety.  But no one would die due to the storm.  However it must be weathered.

I don't know about you but I feel like I am holding tight to a plank and praying for solid ground. 

I want desperately for God's rescue to be grand and supernatural in my life most days.  Some times He does do this.  But usually a fight of my will must occur.  A storm has to be weathered.  Faith in the provision of a floating plank may be all I get....but it is still provision. 

God is huge.  His ways are mighty and miraculous.  But so many times in my life His methods are incredibly mundane and difficult. 

I am so thankful for His Word.  We get to hear grand gestures of His grace like busting heaven open for David.  But we also revel in the experiences of those like Paul, who ended up floating on a plank for His Savior. 

I love Him so much.

I lose heart a lot these days.

But I press on.....I persevere....floating on my provided plank of faith.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The old roads.

 Chert Hollow Farm

Shep here.
I grew up in the country.  2 1/2 miles down Utility Road was a little chert drive that turned off to the right.  I lived at the end of that road.  I went barefoot after the whippoorwill first cried in the Spring.  I caught June bugs and tied a piece of thread to their back leg and let them fly around like a remote control airplane.  When we churned ice cream on Summer nights I would stick my finger in the hole at the bottom of the wooden churn and lick that cool salty water off my finger, then shoot off under the big elm tree and catch lightnin' bugs.  I really did that.  I hated hogweed, briars and bees.  We dug worms up by the barn and fished every chance we got.  We rode bicycles- all the time- everywhere.  Me and my brother would ride the 2 1/2 miles down to Bagley's store where we really got Orange Nehi's and sat on the bench in front of the store to drink them so we didn't have to pay for the bottle, too.

Pretty soon I got big enough to ride to see my girlfriend.  She lived about twelve miles away.  Andrea once asked me why I would ride 12 miles to see her.  I said, "Only because she didn't live further."

Then I got old enough to drive, and I began driving down new roads.  Off to college.  Off to Law School.  Off to work.

And today that old chert drive seems a long way off.  I turned 43 today, so it has been a while.  And things have changed.  I live in a a cul de the end of a paved road.

I have seen a lot, learned a lot and matured a lot since my barefoot summers in Rocky Face.  There were some things that my backwoods, country, old-fashioned parents just did not understand about today's modern times... like how to set the time on a VCR...but other than that, I actually think they had it figured out pretty close to right.

Here are some of their old fashioned ideas:

Tell the truth.
Never give up. Never.
Think the best of people.
Give to folks that need help.
Treat other people how you would like to be treated.
A man's word means something.
If you can't say it face to face, it ought not be said.
The Bible is true.
Some people think they are worth a lot because they have a lot.
Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
Sometimes you need to fight.
You can see God.
You can hear God.
You just have to get quiet and try.
If you lay down with dogs you wake up with fleas.
Hard work makes you feel better.

I just got back from a wedding.  This sweet couple got married in an old, old, one room church.  They stood facing each other as the ceiling fans hummed, and an old upright piano played that old familiar tune.  The doors were flung open for the breeze.  They looked at one another and promised their unfailing love.  I sure believe they meant it.  It certainly felt right.

I know its going to get tough for them.  It always does.  When the days get long, I pray that they will go back.  When the tempers flair I pray that they will return.  When the temptations fly, I pray that they will find their way back to the old roads...the roads that say, "I don't care how bad it hurts, I made a vow...and by God that means something."  I want them to abandon the new paths of convenience and self-centeredness, of conditional promises and wavering convictions.

After all, what is wrong with the old roads?  I wonder if you have left them behind.  I wonder if you have bought into any lies that he world is selling.  If you have, go back.  Go back.

Go back.  Go back to the ancient paths.
Lash your heart to the ancient mast.

I know we all want to be modern.  We want to be progressive, but as C.S. Lewis pointed out, "once we have learned that we are on the wrong path, isn't the most progressive man the one who turns back soonest?"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Snob Am I

I admit it.  I am a snob.

This is not true in the conventional sense of the word.  I am a lover of people. 

But I am a snob nonetheless.

I turn up my nose at pain and problems. 

When difficulty lands in my lap I throw it off quickly and run the opposite way.

I don't even like watching good movies with the underdog who has to fight through a thousand battles just to win, much to the dismay of my husband.

Sadly for me I can't avoid life.

Life is piled high with difficulties.  Some days it is nothing more than refereeing the typical arguments between my children.  Other days I battle with my own insecurities and failures.  More than that I watch others I love walk through times of terrible heartbreak.

What do I want to do?  Turn tail and run.

I want to turn up my nose, ignore it and hope that it will all fade into a glorious happily ever after.

See?  Total snob.

I remember all too well going to the DFACS office for the first time to receive Caroline's WIC vouchers.  (We had to do this for the first 3 years of Caroline's life)

I hated it.

There I was completely surrounded by people with problems.  Uncomfortable doesn't even begin to describe me and my body language.

Caroline receives a special form of Medicaid due to her disability.  She qualifies for medical help because her care is highly involved.  Shep and I are very grateful for this.  But receiving this help meant that I had to go into the office with everyone else to get our vouchers.

In my mind DFACS was a place for people who had made poor choices or just wanted to take advantage of the system.

Yet...there I was.   A poor choice nor greed had landed me there either.

Truthfully, (and I can say this now) grace landed me there.

I needed to experience the humility involved in receiving help along with everyone else.

It was painful to my pride.  But it gave me priceless perspective.

Caroline is 11 years old now and we no longer have to go to the DFACS office for the WIC vouchers.  But the years of visits live in my memory.

Rubbing elbows with people drowning in desperation served me well.

Now I even choose it.

I get to work and volunteer with desperate people every week. 

Most of these people come into our center because of poor choices and desperation. 

I sit on a couch many days and try my best to offer the hope of Jesus Christ to people who can't see past tomorrow. 

The ungodly part of me still wants to stick my nose in the air and act oblivious. 

But the Jesus who lives in me cannot move an inch.

I sit there, tears running down my face, and try my best to offer hope.

Most days I hate the situation that they find themselves in.  I usually do not have a good answer for all of their problems.

But at least I don't morph into the snob I was.

I just sit with them and look fear in the face. 

We cannot be the lights that God has called us to be in a world without pain and hardships.  Real life demands real Christians.  The grace of God will put us in places that demand humility.  Without such experience we cannot serve others.  If we cannot serve others....we cannot serve God.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

We asked. God answered.

Three ladies gathered in a prayer huddle this morning.

We (workers and volunteers) try to begin each day at the Pregnancy Center this way.  We want to ask God to prepare us for each client who will enter through the door.  We ask God to help us love others through us as only He can.  We ask for wisdom, discernment, patience, and understanding.  We ask that our words be seasoned with love and kindness.  We ask for grace and mercy to flow freely.

This morning I added an additional request. 

(Our center boasts "an earn while you learn" type program.  Expectant or new moms take classes to earn points.  These points add up and help them purchase diapers, wipes, formula, and donated clothes for their babies up to 3 years of age.)

We have been low on diapers, formula and wipes all summer long. 

This morning as we approached God in our huddle of 3 I asked that He would open the floodgates of Heaven and provide our center with what was needed, especially diapers and wipes.  I even asked for specific sizes of diapers.  Sizes 4, 5, and 6 are always in high demand.  We said "Amen" and set about the business of the day. 

After a busy blur of a morning I finally sat down to eat lunch.  I had dealt with a particularly hard situation and was reflecting over what I said or should've said.  You know the drill.  I ended up just asking God to bless this sweet client again and left it there. 

We had a bit of a lull as the lunch hour passed. It was kind of a blessing for me to be honest.  My head ( and heart) were still reeling from my morning situation.  I busied myself with house cleaning issues, happy to have something less emotional to deal with at the moment. 

What happened next was a miracle wrapped in an ordinary moment with ordinary people.  The miracle was that God answered our prayer.

In walked a sweet volunteer with a huge grin on her face.  She said, "You are never gonna guess what is in my car!"

She didn't even wait to let us guess. 

She said, "My pastor gave the center $500.00 from our church.  I took the money and bought wipes and diapers sizes 4, 5, and 6."  (Did you catch that sweet detail?)

We all just began to squeal.

This might as well have been the lottery for us.  We felt so incredibly rich at that moment.

God immediately took me back to the huddle of 3 and our early prayer for the day.

We asked.  We asked specifically.  God answered.

My faith swelled up like an inflating balloon. 

God is indeed so good.

I want to pause and praise Him for acts like this that can go by the wayside and be soon forgotten.

We can't allow the Enemy to steal moments like this.

They can make or break our faith...if we let them.

I choose to boast in the One who listens and answers.

Just like the fourth man walking around in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, our huddle of 3 was not alone this morning.  The fourth man was there...unseen...but there still.

He delighted in our faith.  He loves to be invited into the details.  

He opened the floodgates today.  13 boxes full of diapers and wipes were delivered in His time and in His way!

We asked.  God answered.

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Ready, Set, Go"


We are really blessed to have a place (actually a few places) that our family is free to swim on a regular basis in the summer time.

It is the next best thing to having our own pool...without all of the up keep. 

Again, we are truly grateful. 

One of the pools we frequent happens to be my favorite for several reasons.  It is ultra kid friendly.  The pool is big, really cold, and has a great slide.  The deep end has been filled in so that the entire pool is shallow.

This is especially great for me.  I don't have to be paranoid that someone is going to drown.  Ava is a great swimmer.  Zeke is just now really learning.  And Caroline...well...she is 11 years old with Cerebral Palsy.  So I kind of have to be hands-on with her all the time.

There are covered patios and swings and chairs that always make our visits so enjoyable.

Like clockwork, every summer, we spot a mama bird sitting on top of her carefully constructed bird's nest underneath the covered patio.

This summer was no different.

All summer we watched this bird sit on her eggs and do what mama birds do.

She protected them.
She never left her post.

Due to lots of rain and my mission trip we missed some time at the pool.  So those baby birds hatched without us getting to see them.

Luckily this past Monday we were able to glimpse the one baby bird that had not yet flown. 

The baby bird just stood still beside the nest.  It would stand up.  Sit down.  Stand up.  Sit down.  Ruffle its feathers.  Sit down.  Stand up.  Pace along the edge of the board.  Sit down.  Ruffle its feathers.

But it would not dare fly.

It wasn't time.

Its creator, God Almighty, had not whispered for it to take flight....YET.

We were able to go back to the pool the very next day. 

Of course my eyes immediately darted upward to the bird nest.  The nest was there just like it had been the day before.

The baby bird was not.

It had flown.

God had whispered "ready, set, go" to that seemingly inconsequential bird. 

I immediately thought of my sweet Caroline.

She is 11 years old. 

God has repeatedly told us that He plans to heal her.  I believe He will make her whole.

I believe her lame legs will walk.
I believe her mute mouth will speak.
I believe her listless head will rise.
I belive God, her Creator, will whisper "ready, set, go" to her ear and she will know to do what she couldn't just the day before.
Years of inability will not matter.  Years of faith will become sight.

As I lifted Caroline into the pool I whispered these things to her. 

I reminded her that the same little bird who was bound to the nest the day before was flying in the air today.

She giggled and laughed in her delicious way.

Her eyes met mine and we relished in the moment of believing together.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  Hebrews 13:8  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

God~ At Ground Level

We enjoyed a night of bufflo wings, pizza, and togetherness as a family last night.  It was a welcome change of pace. 

We have been inundated with people to see, places to be, and things to do lately.  A night in with the family was just what the doctor ordered.

It was Ava's turn to pick out the movie for us to watch.  She chose "Facing the Giants".

I am sure that we have watched this movie umpteen times.  But the powerful message never gets old.  If we will stand in faith...God will amaze us and others.

I can quote lines from this movie.  I cry at all of the same heart-tugging moments every time we view it.  But last night God showed me a different side of Himself.

There is a scene when the head coach is trying to show the leader of his team that his attitude will influence the rest of the players.  He blindfolds his player, places a teammate on his back and has him crawl on his arms and feet toward the 50 yard line.  Only he ends up pushing him past the 50 yard line all the way to the endzone.

The scene is so powerful.

The player is exhausted.  The player is yelling out that he is tired and doesn't think he can make it. 

But the coach never quits encouraging him. 

In fact he gets down on the ground in front of the weary player and shouts loudly the whole way:

"You can do this."
"Don't quit on me now."
"I know this hurts."
"Give me all you have got."
"Only 30 more steps."
"You can do this."
"Don't quit."
"Don't quit."
"Push through the pain."
"20 more steps to go."
" You can do this."
"I know you have it in you."
" I know this is hard, but you are strong."
C'mon, just 10 more steps."

The player is exhausted before he even begins this exercise.  But the coach knows that this player needs to see and experience the strength he really has inside.  The only way to show him is to push him.

The coach never backs off. 

He encourages him every painstaking step of the way.

He pushes him to limits that the player thinks he can't handle.

The best part is that he blindfolds the player so that he can only listen to the voice of the coach instead of what his eyes may tell him.

As I watched this scene I found myself pulling for the player. 

I found myself identifying with him a little bit.  Weary.  Burdened.  Staring ahead into the unknown.

But then I saw God. He is our beloved Coach.

He is with us at ground level.  As we crawl, laboring under our burden, fighting for each step of faith He is there faithfully cheering us on.

He desires to prove to us that He that can do what we think is impossible.

The idea of God pushing me to do what He knows I can do sparked a light inside of me.  It made me want to go that grueling second mile.  It makes the sweat and tears bearable somehow. 

Our Coach is fighting for us.

He sees the end when we cannot.

He is surrounded by Light when our way is dark.

He has placed each obstacle with an intended purpose when we question His ways.

He is near to you.  He is in the muck and the mire.  He is in the wilderness.  He is in the chaos. 

Listen when your eyes deceive you....know He is there.  Know He intercedes when you can't pray anything else. 

Keep going.
Strive and push forward.

Your Coach knows you can.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."
2 Corinthians 4:17

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

There and Back Again

Last week's mission trip seems lost in a vacuum of this week's madness.

But it was real.  It happened.  I lived it.

Lives were changed.

The people of St. Vincent island were most gracious to us.  We interrupted their schedules and they responded with kindness and gratitude.

Our team arrived on the island with the intent purpose of doing vacation bible schools at the assigned churches. 

There were 5 churches assigned to our group of 10 women.

We had to divide and conquer and trust God to do the rest.

I was blown away at the passion and commitment of these women.  It was a mighty display of God's power through broken and messy lives that simply love Him.

Any one of us would tell you that we have plenty of issues.  But there~on that island~ we had one purpose.


We did just that.

We did it in our own styles and unique ways.

Some did it with free-flowing tears..
Some did it with organized thought and preparation...
Some did it with huge hearts of love....
Some did it with wild abandon and creativity....

But each one did it as unto their God.

I am still blown away.

There was no competition or jealousy.  We just cheered each other on because we are truly all on the same team.

I saw miracles. 

We had supplies that should have been used up....last for a long time.
We somehow got our luggage...when our flight was delayed for 12 hours.
Lives that struggle in the shadow of insecurity blossomed in the light of God's purpose.
Boldness was born in the sharing of our faith.
Testimonies once hidden became megaphones of God's grace.

My heart just gushes at the thought.

This trip was such a blessing for us.  We met so many new faces.  We renewed bonds from previous trips. 
We gained a new family in those who cared for us, fed us, and guided our paths in an unfamiliar place.

Yes...we went to share the love of Jesus.
But the love of Jesus burned in us in a new way.  It took us going 2500 miles and across the ocean to comprehend it was worth every moment!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I remember climbing back into my little Ford Ranger on September 14, 1997 and saying out lout, "I'm gonna marry that girl."  It was our first date, and I knew Andrea was the girl for me.  I told my roommate the same thing when I got home.  "I'm gonna marry her...."  I meant it.

I imagined me carrying her to all the places that she would ever want to go.  I imagined myself as her Prince Charming.  Remarkably, she kind of sees me that way. 

I had no idea that she was actually going to be my deliverance.

I am a pretty good guy. 

She is the best. 


I remember the evening that I came to know it.  It was the sort of evening that every country boy loves- the first cool night in October.  Clear sky.  The smell of woodsmoke in neighbor's chimneys.  NCAA football tomorrow.  Leaves falling in the evening wind.

But I was down.  Way down.  Things had not gone as I'd expected.  We were struggling to pay our bills.  I thought with my trial skills I'd have already won several million dollar verdicts and we would be on our way toward easy street.  Instead, I was trying to figure out how to make a law practice survive in a small town.  I was trying to figure out how the strain of running a business was fitting into the picture of me saving the world, and I was not meeting with much success.

So that night when I arrived at the house with a brown paper sack, I fully expected judgment from my bride.  I got the opposite.  I got her arms.  We sat out in the bed of my Ford Ranger and she held me.  The stars were bright.  The smell of woodsmoke hung in the heavy autumn air.  Me and my baby sat under a quilt in the bed of my truck.  She held me in her arms  and listened to my heart.  My tears soaked her shirt.    I cried.  She listened.   I told her the truth about me.  She loved me.

If I had never seen love before, I saw it that night in her arms. 

Tonight, she is thousands of miles away.  She is telling other people about Jesus. 

I thought I'd carry her with my strong arms.  I had no idea she'd be carrying me.

Tomorrow is her birthday.  For 36 years this world has had the pleasure of knowing her.

Fifteen of those years have been mine.

God bless you baby.  I love you more than I can say.  Happy Birthday.