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 but....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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Grace and Peace be with you...

The apostle Paul penned the majority of the New Testament.

Other than Jesus, his words are so powerful and pivotal to my walk with Christ.  He cuts to the heart of a matter quickly.

Paul knew the scriptures from childhood.
But he didn't know the One that the scriptures described.

Then the Author of those divine scriptures blinded him on a road until he could clearly see.

He quickly turned from a man who persecuted the church into the man that pioneered the church.

Paul went on to be the ultimate missionary.  He was beaten, ridiculed, chained, imprisoned, falsely accused, and left for dead.  Many of us would end our cause for just one of these discomforts.

Not Paul.

He was a man driven by passion.  He never stopped his mission.  Even when he physically couldn't go anymore...he would send his words via letter form.  I am so thankful to be a student of those words today.

I grew up hearing about missionaries.  I even read their stories and listened to personal testimonies.

Most of the time I would think, "Better them than me.  Please don't ask me to go to a distant country God."

I helped out with several home mission projects during my teenage years.  It was a growing experience but it was always more about the social fun than building up the kingdom of God.

Three years ago I stepped out (thankful to have friends along) boarded a plane and spent 8 days away from my normalcy to tell others about Jesus.

I leave again tomorrow night for my 3rd trip.

Am I scared?  Yep
Am I sad to leave my husband and children?  Yep
Am I nervous about traveling?  Yep
Will I cry and miss my loved ones?  Yep

These things have remained the same each time I go.

However...God sees the sacrifice and I believe He is pleased.

The cool part for me is returning for a third summer to people that I know and love...who happen to live oceans away.

In Paul's letters (such a Colossians) he would send messages to people he knew in distant churches.  I think that is just so neat.

The body of Christ isn't fractured by oceans, territories, or distance.  It is fortified.  Little ol' me gets the honor of ministering to others on a tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean.  (Yes it is gorgeous but we see very little of the beach life while we are there)
 As I sit here in Georgia preparing to leave I am already weepy and sad to leave my man and my precious children.

But oddly enough, in just 10 days, I will be sad to be leaving those precious people too.

It is like the grand oxymoron.
Sad to go.  Sad to come home.

Paul ends most of his letters with these words, "grace and peace be with you."  It was his way of showing love and respect to the people he was writing.  If he couldn't be with them in person...the least he could do was ask God for grace and peace to be upon them....tonight I do the same.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Grief paid a visit and wanted to stay...

Last week I sat innocently posting a status update on Facebook and browsing others' status updates.

My eyes landed on a sweet picture of two precious little girls who attend my church.  I love these little girls and their families.  I have known the mommas of these girls for 10 plus years.  One reason that these little girls are dear to my heart is that they were born within months of my Caroline.  Their mommas and me had swollen pregnant feet together.

Anyway here they were in a picture.  They were away at kids camp and by the looks of their smiles, they were having a blast.

~Out of nowhere grief hit me in an unexpected wave.~

I couldn't tear my eyes away.  Somehow if I looked hard enough I could almost imagine my Caroline with them.....where she should be.

I wondered how tall she would be standing up beside them.
I wondered if she would be shy or sticking out her tongue silly for a posed picture.

Grief of eleven years made its way in giving my eyes permission to cry and my heart the chance to ache.

God has brought much healing to me in this area.  I used to live this way all the time.  In days past the open ache spilled out onto everyone I knew.  It kept me bitter and cynical, jealous and afraid.

That was exhausting.

Now it just catches me when I don't expect it.

Let me just say that I see nothing wrong with grieving a loss...even for maybe the thousandth time.  But staying there, for me, is a disaster and even sinful.

As I cried and ached I found something new entering my heart:  anger.

After a few moments it was no longer an innocent moment that had caught me off guard.  I was enjoying the grief and the anger that started to accompany it.

Before I knew it I began asking God why other kids got to enjoy seemingly full lives while my little girl was relegated to a life lying on a blanket or being strapped into a wheelchair.

Anger continued its rant toward God and I just let it happen....knowing better...because I am no stranger to this pain.

I couldn't just sit there anymore.  I got up and got busy doing the things I was supposed to be doing.  But in my heart the rant was still going strong.

It would be hours before I relented and asked God for His mercy and forgiveness.

The grief was good.  The tears were good.  The dealing with struggle and pain was good.

Giving in to anger and jealousy and bitterness was NOT.

It had to stop.

I hate posting these kinds of blog stories.  I hesitate because of how it makes me look to all of you...even though I have no idea who you are.

But this is real.

My enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy my faith.  He wants me to turn my back on the God who loves me, heals me and make me whole.

He will use innocent moments to trigger and thwart natural responses...then play off of them to deceive and capture our attention from the only One who can truly handle our burden.

"You're blessed when you are at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule."
Matthew 5:3 The Message

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Snuggled Up Side of God

Recently our youngest child, Zeke, brought his little 5 year old self to my side.

It was late.

We had already done the bedtime routine with him.  He should have been dozing and dreaming at this point.

But he wasn't.

He was scared and wanted me or Shep to come chase the invisible monsters away.

As I followed him back to his room and tucked him in I heard the words that most mommas can't resist from their little boys, "Mommy will you lay will me for a little bit"?

What is a momma to do?

So I climbed into his bed and snuggled up close.  I literally could touch the back of his little neck with the tip of my nose.

He smelled like Zeke.  I listened to him breathe in and out.  I stroked his hair and just soaked up this time in his little life that seems to be flying past.

Suddenly God spoke to my heart.

He simply said, "I hold you close when you hurt too."

All at once I realized that as much as I love my boy and as much as I want to be snuggled in close to keep him from fear....my heavenly Daddy feels that AND MORE for me.

Do we really picture Him that way?

Close, snuggled in so close that His divine ear is touching our skin.

I honestly don't think I do.

But that night I did.

His love washed over me in a new way.

Lying next to my little boy somehow amplified the meaning of how grand His love is.

God snuggles in close when I fear.  God holds me tight when the storms rage all around.  God takes my hand and tucks me back in when I am on edge and feeling overwhelmed. God sings songs over me in the night.

 This is God really.  Why do we make Him something different?

He tells us how to love as parents to our children.

Why would He do it any other way?

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Eph. 3:17b-18

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tapping Our Toes to Another's Tune

Shep and I just returned from a two night getaway.

It was a wonderful Christmas gift from Shep's parents, two nights in a bed and breakfast out of state.

This was our first stay at a bed and breakfast.

This particular one was incredibly welcoming and cozy. Charm oozed from every crevice.  The decor was pretty and not over the top.  The other visiting guests were easy going and kind.  The food was marvelous.  Needless to say....I am now a fan.

We did what any other parents do when they are away from the children: whatever we wanted.

We toured some historical sites.  We enjoyed the 4th of July festivities in downtown Nashville.  We ate yummy foods from several inviting and out-of-our-norm restaurants.  We shopped a little.  We walked a lot.  We laughed and sang familiar songs in the car because Shep and I like to do those things.

I rediscovered what I already know about my husband.  He is THE ONE for me.  He is so interesting.  He is so funny.  We enjoyed some easy silence.  We finished each other's inside jokes from years gone by.....

Last night we happened upon a really cool event.  We were handed free tickets to the 129th Tennessee National Army Band concert.  The venue was set inside the old downtown Franklin Theatre. We arrived late so we got seats right down front at tables.  It didn't bother us one bit.

The show was fantastic.

The group of men and women played their hearts out.  We enjoyed an hour and a half of gospel, swing, patriotic, and country music at full blast.  Each musical instrument was accounted for and well played.

One thing stuck out to me.  I noticed that although each section loved playing their own instrument, they equally enjoyed the sounds from their peers instruments as well.  For example: the guys playing clarinets would have a rest during a song and they would tap their toes, clap their hands and grin from ear to ear watching others perform while they rested. 

God spoke to me.

We compare our gifts, talents, standing, etc...to everyone around us. I especially thought of people I love so much in my church.

If we lived this same way we would be like a beautiful symphony.  Instead our comparisons look and sound like musical chaos.

We don't enjoy or even appreciate the gifts and talents of others.  We certainly don't tap our toes to the beauty of their tune.  We usually just bow up and cross our arms out of jealousy or insecurity.

What a pity.  For me.  For you.

God created us uniquely particular.  Why would we want to dull or drown the marvelous creativity of His imprint on our lives?

Different and undivided should be our goal.

I pray that I will press on in this area of my life.  I give in to the pressure of comparing all the time.  But God is teaching me ways to change this behavior.  I try to talk to Him about the insecurities that rise to the surface of my heart.  I confess my jealous and weakness in these areas...then I thank God for what I see in others that comes naturally to them and not for me.

It helps me to become a fan of those around me instead of fanatical about my insecurities.

Try it sometime.

Stop and enjoy another person's tune.  Marvel at a gifting that comes naturally to someone else.  Praise them for it...then praise God for His creativity.  It will begin to change you in the core of who you are.

"There are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 
vs 4-6

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.....vs 14

...there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it." vs 25b-27
~1 Corinthians: 12  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Appointed Times

This past week was a treasure for our family.

It was a break.  It was time away.  It was togetherness.  It was silliness and laughter and uninterrupted days of nothing but TIME.

I love it that God appoints times of joy.  Pain is unavoidable.  Hardships come and some days we our burdened with heartache.

But God says in Ecclesiastes chapter 3....

For everything there is an appointed time,
and an appropriate time for every activity on earth:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to search, and a time to give something up as lost;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to rip, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

We will have difficulties and trials.  But why should those times get all of the attention?  They are hard enough to endure.  This passage talks equally of times of joy and gladness!

This past week we checked several off of this list:

We built up.
We healed.
We laughed.
We danced.
We gathered.
We embraced.
We spoke.
We loved.
We enjoyed peace.

Pictures will come in waves over the next few posts.  We were blessed to spend our vacation with 2 other families who we love dearly.

This time was so completely precious to us.  Not one moment was wasted.

Thank You Father for appointed times of fun.  Somehow the enemy likes for us to disconnect You with blessings and laughter and silliness.  It is a lie.  Every good thing comes from You.  Fun was your idea.  I believe You light up to see Your children laugh and play and enjoy leisure.  We thank You for every moment we had together.  Thank You for seeing us there safely.  Thank You for amazing weather.  Thank You for showing Yourself in the stunning creation that surrounded us.  Thank You for memories that will last.  Thank You for love that abounds.  Thank You for friends that are true.  Thank You for all of it.