Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mercy Christmas

I absolutely swapped out "mercy" for "merry".

Merry implies smiles and fun and cares that are miles away.

Mercy implies help that got me through.

Here in the South we say, "Lord, have mercy."

It is kind of generic and it can fit many occasions.

But....for me...and for this Christmas...the Lord had mercy.

Shep set up the tripod on our front porch and we took a stab at taking some pictures for our Christmas card.  There was one minor setback with our strong-willed child.  But, other than that, it was gold.  We laughed and actually enjoyed the picture taking process.

I just had to let you in on the meltdown picture. 

But look at the quick recovery.

Mercy Christmas.

Ava participated in the ballet presentation of The Nativity.  It was a lot of driving back and forth and basically took up an entire weekend.  There was so much to do the last weekend before Christmas.  It seemed my time could have been better spent in other ways than just being the mom chauffeur. 

But somewhere along the way I was captured by the performance and the baby that God sent to redeem me.

Ava was breathtaking to watch as she danced for her King!

Mercy Christmas!

The puppy is a big adjustment.

Making sure he likes his crate.
Making sure he gets enough play time.
Making sure he has chew toys on hand.
Making sure he has been out to do his business.
Making sure we aren't gone too long at one time during the day.
Making sure we correct behavior we don't like and reward behavior we do like.

This has required loads of mercy. 

Thankfully my husband helps out so much. He is basically the puppy whisperer in our house.  The kids help too. 

And Jasper really is a good pup.  It is just taking the rest of us a while to adjust.  I am pretty sure he is unaware of any stress at all. 

Mercy Christmas!

We enjoyed listening to Pentatonix this entire Christmas season. 

Our favorite songs were Drummer Boy, Mary Did You Know, Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairy and That's Christmas to Me.

We rode around and looked at Christmas lights and ooohed and ahhhed at the homes of folks that went all out. 
We also kind of laughed (in a good way) at those houses that seemed to throw lights up in no order or fashion at all.
It was a good time and a Helton tradition.

We have eaten such delicious food.  Ava and I have a new favorite: homemade peppermint marshmallow fudge.  Thank you Tom for thinking out of the box and making it.

Santa was good to us.  Here we are on Christmas morning.  These pictures always make me laugh.  You can't ever hide that just rolled out of bed look.

The greatest gift in my life is this man.  God gives me mercy each and every day by having a partner that is all in with me.  He chases hard after the Lord.  He lives it.  He is a man of prayer.  He is diligent and giving and honest and kind and strong.  Standing next to this guy helps shoulder the heavy load that we have been given.

The Lord and I have been talking about next year.  I am not usually one to get hung up on new year resolutions.  But I have been convicted that there are areas that God would like to work on in my life.  It is my job to give Him access to those areas.  I have a huge problem with looking to the future and hoping for better days.  There is joy to be found now....today.
I have already begun looking for the joy that is here.  Even on a really hard and trying day~ joy can be found. 

Merry Merciful Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014


I remember doing some house cleaning on a cold winter morning several years ago.  We had been enjoying the warmth of a fire for a few nights in a row and the ashes were piling up inside the fireplace. 
Because I was in a cleaning mood I decided that this particular morning would be the perfect time to clean out the big pile of ashes. 

I used the metal shovel-thing and meticulously scooped the ashes into a grocery bag.  It took longer than I expected and it was messier than I had planned.  Particles of gray ash and soot were flying around the room.  However my diligence paid off.  Before long the ashes were tied up in a bag and placed outside on our deck. 

Then I began to sweep out the remaining little bits that were left.

It wasn't until a couple of days later that I realized my little cleaning project had left a permanent mark.

Shep had found a hole that appeared to be burnt into our back deck. 

He was puzzled and came to me.

Truthfully I was a bit puzzled myself. 

Then I remembered cleaning out the pile of ashes from the fireplace and placing the bag out on the back deck.

~But it was just a bunch of ashes.~ 

Obviously I had been wrong.

Shep freaked out a little bit and gave me a solid lecture on cleaning out the fireplace protocol.

Now I know to always use a metal bucket.  (oops)

Thankfully nothing of value had been burned.  We replaced two boards on our back deck and thanked our sweet Lord above for His mercy upon my ignorance.

But my thoughts turned back to those ashes. 

Seriously....it was ashes.  A big pile of ashes.

But somewhere there had to have been more.  Warm embers lingered from the previous night's blaze.

These memories flooded my mind yesterday.  I felt God tugging my heart to write about the days where hope is less. 

Honestly the days of less can be courageously lived because we have enjoyed days of more.

God tells us to recall and recount and remember His faithfulness.

I believe this practice is essential to our lives.

My days, weeks, and months of late have been very sad.

I have found myself questioning more than ever before.
I have sensed a spiritual laziness and apathy that comes from cynicism and doubt.
I simply don't want to believe what God has told me anymore....
The hurt and ache have turned into a numbness of sorts.

In this time God has shown me that HOPE is still there.  Just like those ashes piled high in my fireplace~ embers of hope burn still.

The fire isn't blazing right now.

But there have been days before that the fire of my faith was strong and fierce and brought a warmth to others.
There have been days when God's Word shook me to my core and spoke louder than any person on earth.
There have been days when the Holy Spirit spoke with clarity and power.
There have been days of dreams and visions.
There have been days of prophetic words and encouragement.
There have been days of exuberant praise and worship.
There have been days of powerful testimony.
There have been days of fellowship with God that were sweeter than anything I have ever known.

But not right now.

Right now the fire that once burned is but a pile of ashes....with embers I can't see or feel.

But I believe God that they are there.

I am not hopeless. 

But today hope seems less to me.

These are days we trust anyway.
We believe without any other reason than God says so.

I don't understand why God hasn't intervened yet.

But, the truth is, my understanding is not what matters. 

My obedience is crucial.

Obedience without anything else to fall back on.....

Obedience with no net....

Obedience when all looks dim....

Obedience when others mock and silently whisper....

Obedience is the pleasing sacrifice.

Today my hope is a pile of ashes. The leftovers of countless blazes that have burned.  I sit and wait for the breeze of the Holy One to blow upon me once again. 

Embers stirred by fresh air can't help but ignite.

And out of nowhere~ a flame will come forth again.

I miss it.  The fire. The zeal. The passion.

But the absence of it requires more.

Isaiah 48:10
 See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
    I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

When Serving Means Getting.............a PUPPY!

Shep and I discussed getting a puppy several times. 

The conversation always ended the same way: I would mull over it for a long time and then freak out about how much work would be involved and how life would have to change.  My stomach would literally hurt over the thought of adding any more responsibility to our already crowded plate.

So I would go back and adamantly give Shep my list of reasons we could not/should not do this puppy thing...for extra emphasis my arms would be flailing because I tend to talk with my hands.

Time went by and I honestly thought the puppy issue was resolved. 

Any time my thoughts turned toward it...I simply shoved those thoughts away.

Until a few weeks ago when I was minding my own business and enjoying a bible study video. 

~God spoke to me.~

The topic of the last video was about servant hood.

This particular speaker was passionately teaching about Christians being bondservants to Christ.  We are slaves to Him by choice.  Not because we have to be...but because we want to be. 

She used an example about God prompting her to serve her family in a particular way.

It was something she didn't want to do....dreaded even. 

It was going to be hard.  It was going to hinder her plans.  It was going to require sacrifice.

As I sat there...I knew.  In the pit of my stomach I knew that a puppy was a way that I could serve my family.

Just a few shorts weeks later Shep and I gave our kids an early Christmas present....

Meet Jasper. 

He is currently a 9 week old Red Bone Hound.

We are in the process of crate training him.  So far he loves his crate.

He is incredibly playful and fun.

It has been incredibly hard in some ways.  Not so hard in others.

Adjusting our day so that he isn't in his crate for too long requires thought and planning that I would rather not do. 
Constantly watching that he doesn't have an accident in the house or chew on the wrong thing is overwhelming at times.

But what isn't hard at all is watching my children love on this little animal.  It is almost like our entire family needed a project. 
It has forced us to all get and stay on the same page. 
We must be helpful to each other.  We must all work toward the same goal:  training Jasper.

I confess that I have broken down on at least 3 occasions and cried.  I have thought to myself and said out loud to Shep, "What have we done?" ( and it has only been a week)

But, apart from those moments when fatigue and fear threaten to unravel my sanity, we know it was right.

After all....serving isn't easy.  At least this isn't.

I loved coming home to my safe place and piling up with the people I love most and enjoying some semblance of ease.  If there is such a thing...

Now that picture has changed.

Serving those we love will always require energy and effort that only the Lord Jesus can give.  So many days I crawl into bed completely empty.  Drained.

That isn't such a bad thing. 

I want my life to be poured out. 

I want to serve. 

I don't want to shy away from things just because they are hard or different than my norm.

Sometimes God wants to shake up our normal.

Do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Hebrews 13:16


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Cringe of Change

I can remember numerous times in childhood that my mama would look at me and smile and say these words, "Please don't grow up.  Stay little."

Now I hear myself saying those words to my little ones that seem to grow like weeds by the day. 

I get it now. 

She wanted time to stand still.

She wanted innocence to remain.  She wanted curls and bows and pigtails to always be my style.

Change was happening right before her eyes and the thought of it made her want to cringe.  Not in a bad way~ just in a < s l o w d o w n>  kind of way.

Sometimes change happens so quickly.  Too quickly.  We find ourselves groping for something that remains untouched by change.  Something above the tarnish of time.  Something lasting and forever and true. 

Shep and I are so blessed to come from sets of parents that remain married to each other.  Their marriages are strong and marked by devotion.

In the past week we have encountered serious medical issues with 3 of our 4 parents.

It has been sudden and scary.

Our normal somewhat settled-but-busy routine has been replaced by "wait and see".

My thoughts have wanted a stable place to land instead of bouncing all over the place and filling in open-ended questions of "what if?"

Here is the truth that I run from and can't escape: CHANGE IS INEVITABLE.

It happens.

Rolling with that change is hard.

There are certain amounts of change that I enjoy.  Love even.  

The fact that God created four different seasons is so marvelous to me.  By the time one season gets underway I begin thinking about the season that will follow.

Spring is so fresh and colorful.
Summer has the feel of freedom and fun.
Fall brings breezes and hayrides and a color of blue in the sky that you can't forget.
And winter....brings fires, chili dinners, the holidays and maybe, just maybe, some snow for those of us here in the South.

We love the change of it.  Even those of us that hate change like the differences.  Or maybe it is better said that we appreciate them.  


Because this type of change is predictable.  We know it is coming.  We prepare for it and look forward to the newness that comes along with it.

Unpredictable change is what leaves me shaking in my boots.

The call that Shep's dad is unresponsive.
The news that my mom has suffered several mini-strokes and there are more tests to do and more hurtles to jump.
The drive to the hospital following the ambulance that is carrying my dad.

These unpredictable changes have shaken me. 
All three scenarios have happened in the past week.

Change that leaves us cringing.  Longing for something solid, sturdy and constant.

Jesus is it.

His character is unchanging.
He is always good.
He has always been.
He will always be.
His love never fails.
He never leaves.
His grace is enough.
He is always a refuge.
He is the Great I AM.

Circumstances are often the very tool that teach us to search Him out and find that He is true.  My invitation to taste and see that God is good has come through emergencies that scare me.  My choice is to either stay scared and try to do this on my own...OR allow God to be what He says He is.  Right here.  Right now.  In the midst of my scary place.
This unexpected detour could just be a place where God gloriously teaches me to trust Him yet again. 

When my soul has not been able to find rest~ I have chosen to rest in the One that changes not.

 You can too.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:2
If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 2 Tim.2:13
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 22:13
To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Tim.1:17
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Col.1:16

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Isaiah 44:6

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Last week was a spiritual doozy for this gal.

It seemed like each day held some type of mental assault.  These days aren't exactly new but when you string 2 or 3 days like this together...it becomes too much.

As I look back nothing big really happened.  Discouragement just wanted to be my best friend.  By day 2 I could really feel myself letting go of the resolve to stand strong in faith.  The flow of discouragement seemed so much easier so I jumped in.

Add to that a bad news phone call from a doctor and a message, that was supposed to uplift, but left me just plain sad...

Then the doorbell rings.  I go to open it and see that a package has been left.

***Had I known the crying that would ensue after opening this package I would not have done it***

I opened the package and lifted out several sample diapers.

The words "youth/adult small" might as well have punched me in the stomach.

Tears came quick.  Moans came from my mouth.  Anguish engulfed me.

As long as I can go into a store and purchase diapers for Caroline...she is still a little.  These diapers smacked me right in the face.  I held the proof in my shaking hands that she isn't so little and this situation really is very hard.  More than hard actually...exhausting and excruciating at times.

For anyone who looks at me and thinks I have it all together....
For anyone who thinks that I am strong and smart and super spiritual...

Think again.  

These are the real days.  

This day happened to be a Wednesday.  I called my husband and cried to the only other person who gets our life and situations like this one.

He listened and hurt with me.

I ended up taking the kids to church and coming back home.

I never skip church.  Ever. 

But I couldn't do it.  I had nothing in me to serve. Or worship.  Or pray.  Or anything for that matter....

I came home and collapsed on the couch.

As I laid there and cried a picture began to take shape in my mind.

I had been asking God to help me understand child-like faith.

And here I was laying on a couch.  Helpless. 

Babies are helpless.

Babies can do nothing except cry out.

Babies are completely and utterly dependent on their caregivers to provide their needs.

God was showing me the "how".

After asking Him repeatedly how to have child-like faith...He let me get low enough that I became helpless...JUST LIKE A BABY.

As this understanding began to clear my current fog I sensed Him all around me.  His love was bigger than my sadness.  His love engulfed it all. His love lifted my spirits.  His love calmed my fears.  His love carried my burdens and dissolved my doubt.

His love came when I could do nothing at all.

His love never fails.

His love cannot be explained.

His love isn't deserved.

His love fills every gap that pain and sorrow leaves open and exposed.

His love.

Ephesians 3:17-19New Living Translation (NLT)

17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

the Lure of Logic

Simple faith is the requirement for Jesus to save us.

Simple faith changes us.
Simple faith redeems us.
Simple faith seals forgiveness.
Simple faith reveals mercy.

But faith is far from simple.  At least for me.

We have begun a new ladies bible study. The first week has focused on childlike faith.

The faith of a child is our goal.  Reclaiming it is hard to do.

Children possess a quality of wonder and simplicity that almost makes their eyes sparkle.  We can see it and remember how we used to be...

~They just believe~

It isn't until they get some age under their belt that they start asking "why" and "how".

Somewhere along our journey the "why's" and the "how's" become more important to us than the faith.

Why is that?

I have heard myself ask "why" something awful has occurred on lots of occasions.  But honestly, would knowing the "why" change any of the pain?

I don't think so.

Job suffered relentless heartache and he never knew why. 

We know his why.  He was chosen because he trusted God. He was picked for his pain.

There was good in it for him.


These are the topics I can't stand to think about and discuss but they stay upon my heart.

Our first step into a relationship with God is done by simple faith.

Every other step will be taken the same way too.

God doesn't change course.

Faith is the way.  Faith is required.

We detour off this path of simplicity when we start bogging down our brain with the "how's" and "why's".  It is the lure of the enemy.  He has always offered knowledge and wisdom up on a platter for God's children.  Sadly, we continue to take the bait.
We think we should get to know details that God never intended for us to know.  Simply read the fall of man in Genesis chapter 3.  Verses 1 through 7 describe the lure, bait, and fall. 

Faith is lost that way.

We have one obligation to God.  Believe.
His Word says it over and over again.

Logic lures us away from faith.

I am not suggesting that anyone should not use the brains that God gave us to think and reason and process. However I know that we can think, reason, and process our way right out of faith.

Let's strive to not make that trade.

Logic wants to know why.
Logic needs to know how.

Simple faith just trusts God alone.

Oh God your ways are not my ways.  Forgive me for holding out my faith based on how you may choose to work.  Forgive me for wanting to know how and why all the time.  Help me to love you more.  Help me to trust you more.  Help me to keep it simple.  Return my faith to that of a child....to simply walk beside you each day and obey through belief.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014


We had the opportunity to slip away for a few days and enjoy a much needed Fall break.  The entire trip was wonderful.  Really wonderful.  Hopefully I can post some pictures later...

The point of this blog, though, is to pass on a lesson that the Holy Spirit taught me while we were away.

I noticed it almost immediately when I walked into the master bathroom in the condo.  The light in the bathroom was harsh.  I looked at my reflection in the mirror and noticed every single flaw in high definition. I wanted to look away immediately.

(Let me stop right here and say that I am not a girl that fixates on every little thing I hate about my body.  I am 37 years old.  There are things that just come with the territory.  My roots are graying some.  I have stretch marks.  There are lots of fine lines that have emerged from seemingly nowhere.  And there is weight that I carry in certain spots that, despite my best effort, intends to stick with me. I know this and I am okay with it.)

I am pretty sure that this particular light was fluorescent in nature.  Walking into that bathroom became something that I dreaded doing.  However, it was a place I also couldn't avoid. 

God had something to show me.  For five days he used harsh light in a bathroom out of town to convict and correct a place in my heart that desperately needed some softening.

Basically what He said was this, "Andrea, I am the Light of the World.  I told you this in my Word. (John 8:12)  You are to be a reflection of Me.  My light lives within you.  When you walk into this world and take My light...be a gentle light that draws people.  Do not be a harsh light that repels people further from me."

This bathroom light did what lights do.  It chased darkness away.  However it illuminated its brightness in harsh ways. 

When we came home I walked into my bathroom and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  The light was gentle.  Every single flaw in my appearance was not magnified and scary to see.  The flaws were still there but the light was kinder to them.

Those of us who have the Holy Spirit living within us are the Light to this fallen world.

We can shine bright in two different ways.  We can be harsh or we can be gentle.

To those walking in darkness a gentle light can speak just as loudly as a harsh light.  Sometimes I think that we feel in order to be heard we must be harsh.  I think it only pushes people further away. 

As one who has been gloriously rescued by the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, I want to remember that I used to walk in darkness.  Some days I even choose to now...even with salvation in tact.  Some days I am mustering every bit of courage and faith I can to let my little light shine.  God help me when I get too harsh with it.

Help me Lord to not be so quick to illuminate someone's flaws. 

Don't we want to sometimes? 

Don't we want to expose the weakness, meanness, and sin in another to avoid our own?

But if we will simply, humbly, and gently shine then the Kindgom of God will illuminate with lives on Earth that point to our saving Light~ Jesus.

I am so thankful that He is never harsh or unkind with me.  Firm~ yes.  Mean~ never.

Let us be like Him. 

Shine on saints of God.

Gentle and pure...let's follow Jesus and attract some others with His kind of Light.

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  Matt. 5:14-16

Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Being-A-Light#sthash.wVy4TKSa.dpuf
Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Being-A-Light#sthash.wVy4TKSa.dpuf
Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Being-A-Light#sthash.wVy4TKSa.dpuf
Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Being-A-Light#sthash.wVy4TKSa.dpuf
Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Being-A-Light#sthash.wVy4TKSa.dpuf
Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Being-A-Light#sthash.wVy4TKSa.dpuf
Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Being-A-Light#sthash.wVy4TKSa.dpuf
Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Being-A-Light#sthash.wVy4TKSa.dpuf

Saturday, October 4, 2014

When Worries Double...Faith Can Too

Shep and I have been walking a single lane road of faith for quite some time.  I guess what I mean by that is this...God has called us to believe something unbelievably big.  If that single lane had a name it would simply be ~ Caroline~.

There have been other concerns over the past 12 years.  The births of our other two children, deaths of extended family and loved ones, financial burdens and  life decisions in general that have turned our faces toward God in faith.

But nothing keeps us at His throne day in and day out like our ongoing belief that He will heal Caroline.

It is an overarching theme.  We continue walking the one-lane road and believe that each step builds bigger faith and brings us closer to that faith becoming sight.

This past week my personal one lane unexpectantly became a two lane road of faith.

Some news that God has known was coming was made known to me.  It answered some immediate questions but presented my family with many more unanswered ones.

I sat in the driveway alone Sunday night and wept with Jesus.

The moment was very tender and sweet.  Where could I go but to my Lord??

Shep loves me to pieces but he can't ease my pain.
My children are precious but they can't settle the storm.
Friends and family can draw near but the pain almost numbs us.

None of these folks are qualified to carry my burdens away.  But Jesus is....

He sat with me at the top of my driveway at dusk and let me be sad.

It was the most appropriate emotion at the time.  He was as real to me as any person sitting there.  He comforted as only He can.

I got up and came in the house with a face wiped of tears and fresh resolve.

More faith would be required for the road ahead.

Thankfully my Comforter also dishes out fresh faith in spades.

Our Caroline still isn't healed. 
Another big opportunity to believe has been given...

What are we to do?

Walk on.


Be thankful.

Live courageous faith filled lives one day at a time.

"But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved." Hebrews 10:38-39


Friday, September 19, 2014

A Lesson from Carpet

Yes folks, God can indeed use anything He so chooses to teach us.

For me, on this particular day, it was carpet.

I had missed my morning coffee and treated myself to a BIG 36 oz Styrofoam cup of half diet coke/cherry coke at 8:00 am.  (Don't judge)

I had dropped the kids off at school and had a small window of time to get back home and work on some bible study homework for about 45 minutes.

Settling into my spot on the floor I immediately began writing our scripture down in the designated spot of my bible study book.  Writing relaxes me sometimes.  I was sincerely trying to write and say and soak in the words of scripture while enjoying spontaneous sips from my 36 oz drink.

Well....the inevitable happened.

The drink got knocked over.  Turns out carpet isn't very sturdy for such a top heavy drink.

I jumped up to get some paper towels from the kitchen and returned to find my spilled coke standing on top on the carpet.

Seriously....the carpet was resisting the stain.

Amazed I just stood there watching the carpet do its thing.  Then I tossed the paper towel down on top of the standing coke drops.  They immediately absorbed into the paper towel.  When I lifted the paper towel my eyes could not see where the drops had been originally spilled.  The carpet wasn't even wet.  No stain appeared.  It was as if the spill had never occurred.

Right there I sensed God speaking  to my heart.

Resist sin Andrea.  Resist what spills onto you.  Resist the things that tempt to overtake you.  Resist selfishness.  Resist vanity.  Resist pride.  Resist overindulgence.  Resist the sin that seeks to entangle you and stain your life. Resist jealousy.  Resist gossip.  Resist revenge.

If I am about running to Jesus then resisting sin should be something that comes natural.  This carpet is built to resist stain.  It has specific fibers that the manufacturers used to make it that way.

In an odd comparison....the very fibers of my being were changed the day that Jesus came into my heart.  His Holy Spirit now dwells within me and changes me from the inside out.  When I am weak I run to Him and He helps me resist the sin that tempts this wayward heart.  Whatever should spill onto me can be wiped clean by the nail scarred hands of Jesus.  I am now stain resistant too.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7

Monday, September 8, 2014

Selfless Saints

The church gets a bad rap in today's culture.

You often hear the word hypocrite when you mention church at all.

Yes it is full of a bunch of hypocrites.

I am most likely the biggest one of all.

I am a sinner saved by glorious grace.  Although God has redeemed me, I can still be a hot mess some days.  I lose my temper.  I lash out at my husband, children and friends.  I make selfish choices.  I lack faith. I lie.  I over eat.  I shop to make myself feel better.  The list goes on....sadly.....on and on.

But Jesus saved me through His death on the cross.

So....church is made up of other people just like me.  People who blow it when we should know better. 

But this blog post is to honor and esteem some sweet people in my church family. 

I want you all to catch a glimpse of a group of hypocrites humbly serving one of their own.

It is easy to call these folks my family.  They love us, pray for us, minister to us, rally around us, encourage us, and bear our burdens.

I mentioned a few posts back that this was a BIG year of change for us regarding our daughter, Caroline. 

Since she is in the youth group she attends regular church service with us now.

This has hugely changed our time in worship....especially for my husband.

Instead of singing in the choir, he would pull a few chairs out and sit with Caroline in the back of the sanctuary. Once I would finish singing I would come join them.  We would then spend the next 45 minutes trying to keep her quiet and occupied all while trying to soak up what we could of the message.

One Sunday was decent.  The others were tolerable at best.

She would yell out and try to distract on purpose.
She would kick her legs in her wheelchair stroller just to be belligerent.

We were trying our best to train her to sit quietly through the entire service.   Now she can totally do this.  She just doesn't want to.  Handicapped children are bright and can be highly manipulative.  Just ask the parents of these wonderful kids.  Some of them cannot help it....but my girl can.

She was using this time in service to be disruptive so we would be forced to take her out.

As I fretted and worried and dreaded the arrival of each Sunday God was working this from another angle.

He laid it on the hearts of a Sunday school class to help us out.  This class is made up of young grandparents and empty- nesters.  The teachers of this class approached me and Shep about setting up a rotation and allowing Caroline to sit with a different member of their class each week in service.

I was (and still am) overcome. 

How completely kind and selfless for people well past the kid phase to feel led to help out with our special kid.

Yesterday this officially took place for the first time. 

Shep was able to sing in the choir again.

I looked out from singing on worship team and my heart wanted to burst at the sight.  My Caroline was sitting next to her new friend and grinning from ear to ear.

Shep and I then were able to sit together and listen to the entire sermon without distraction.

I just laid my head on his shoulder and appreciated the simplicity of being able to sit by my man again without worry.  Someone else was officially on call.  God had stepped in and given us the day off.

This is church family.

We may be hypocrites who mess up but there are still moments that we shine with the brilliance of God's grace. 

(May I add that Caroline never made a peep during the entire service.  No kicking of her legs and no yelling out.  She just sat happily next to her new friend and listened like a big girl.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Raw Beautiful Joy

I was stumped this past week in bible study when the writer urged me to think about characteristics of God.  Lots of things come to mind when I think of God: holy, righteous, love, sacrifice, forgiveness, grace, mercy and the Sunday school list just goes on....

But the writer talked about Joy.  The verse quoted was John 15:11, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

She prompted us to think about God and joy.

To be painfully honest I was embarrassed...even in front of just myself and God.

Joy is not a frontrunner of thought when I think about God. 

I am thinking that this clearly indicates my pessimistic mindset most of the time. Ouch.

Obviously I am wrong here.

God IS joy.

It is a part of His nature.

Just like I grin at my own children when they do things that are trademarks of who they are....I think he grins at us too.  The way we hold our mouth in deep concentration or the way we prefer certain foods over others....

He delights is us.  He delights in His creation.  He delights in our praise of Him.

He delights often but somehow, if you are like me, you rarely focus on that attribute.

A couple of weeks ago I was slapped in the face by a moment of rare, beautiful and raw joy.

A small group of us had met to pray on Sunday evening.  We had broken off into four separate groups to pray for our church, revival, the lost, and some of our most pressing needs.

In my little group sat a man enduring a trial that all parents fear.  His daughter is battling cancer.  She is 10 years old...beautiful, innocent and eyes teeming with vigor and life.  Her recent diagnosis has rocked our church body.  This family is precious.  They serve Jesus and our church with consistency and without complaint.  A rare combination. 
After our time of prayer I asked him how we could continue to specifically pray for each member of his family. He shared a few specifics with our little group. Then he said these words with a genuine grin on his face and tears standing in his eyes, " I hate that I waited this long to come and pray.  I hate that I waited for her cancer to bring me here.   My faith has exploded over the past month.  I know that God wants to use me as I meet others at the hospital who are angry and bitter over the  touch of cancer."

I pray looking back that my mouth was not completely agape. 

But who cares really?

This man, broken and desperate for his daughter, showed me joy. 

He did not sugar coat the pain that he and his family are enduring.  He did not deny that fear comes knocking often.  His face showed the strain and stress that he carries with him. But he also spoke with hope and resolve, tears and a grin.  Yes~ a grin.  Jesus is His closest companion these days. And Jesus gives joy that cannot be explained or understood.

Circumstances cannot touch the joy that Jesus brings.  That being said I believe that joy is not attainable without a relationship with Jesus.

In the seasons of life when troubles overtake us He alone Is our joy.

There is nothing else. 

No wonder we catch glimpses of unbelievable joy amidst those suffering with pain or heartache.  Who looks to the people who seem to have the world by a string and wear constant smiles? 
When every need is met and life is well and good no one even cares to notice the smiles.

It's the others we study.

We watch the people going through the valleys of despair and thank our lucky stars that it isn't us.  But we watch....and wait...and keep watching.

We want to see real JOY.

And when we do catch them in the moment....tears streaming...and somehow catch that smile that shouldn't be there...we know that Jesus is close by.

 “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love.  If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.  My commandment is this—to love one another just as I have loved you. " John 15: 9-12

Monday, August 25, 2014


My mama makes the most glorious chicken and dumplings.  It is a creamy buttery mixture of goodness that melts in your mouth and makes you want to go lay down somewhere after you have inhaled way more than your share.

In recent years I stepped out and boldly attempted to make her recipe myself. 

I learned a valuable lesson.

Once all of the ingredients are added in this step by step process, one is tempted to walk away and let the stove top do the rest of the work. 


My nose knew it almost immediately.

Those dumplings that I took the time to roll out and cut up were now burnt and stuck to the bottom of my boiler.


I took a break.  I was supposed to stand there and stir.  Stirring was essential to the recipe.  Stirring ensured that the ingredients properly blended and did not settle to the bottle of the pot to stick and burn.

I recently have seen this same principle in my spiritual life.

If left to myself, without the stirring of a holy God, I become stagnant and settle to the bottom of the pot so to speak....AND I allow myself to be burned pretty easily.

Upon returning from my mission trip I sensed God drop "Haggai" into my heart.

God is so funny.  He whispers hope, grace, peace and conviction into my heart on a regular basis.  But Haggai?

What in the world?!?

So I began to dig around in this little 2 chapter book toward the end of the old testament.

God is still using it to speak to me but one verse jumped out at me almost immediately.

"So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people." Haggai 1:14

 These people had been called to go back to a work.  They had allowed fear, opposition and hardships to lure them away from this work.  God was not only telling them to go back to it and that HE would be with them.  He stirred their spirits to go back.

That so moves me.

My spirit needs some stirring. 

Settling to the bottom of our circumstances means we have given up on our work.  We have let fear, opposition and hardships lure us away too.

The good news is we don't have to whip ourselves up when we haven't the strength to even lift our heads. 

The LORD will do it....if we will let him.

He stirs.

He stirs the hopeless heart to hope again.
He stirs the weary feet to keep walking.
He stirs the wayward child back toward the path of home.
He stirs a cold unforgiving heart to love again.
He stirs faith into a seemingly impossible situation.
He stirs perseverance into one enduring more of the same.
He stirs trust in the one who has been burned time and time again.

He does it.  He stirs. 

Thank you Jesus for stirring our stale and stagnant and singed souls.  We are so desperate for a God that can stir us again and again.

Here are a few other scriptural examples of God's stirring in the Word....

~"In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled Jeremiah's prophecy by stirring the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation into writing and to send it throughout his kingdom."  Ezra 1:1 NLT

(God can stir a pagan king to do His purposes.)

~"Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the LORD." Ezra 1:5 NLT

~"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works...." Hebrews 10:24 ESV

(I especially love this one.  God stirs us and the cycle keeps on doing its thing....as we are stirred up...we naturally stir up others.)

Oh God I desire Your divine motion in my life.  STIR ME. Give me Kingdom eyes.  Help me to really see the hurting and the broken people that I pass everyday.  Give me words of encouragement to build them up and speak boldly for the cause of my beloved Christ.  You have set me free Jesus to not be bound again even by stale and stagnant living.  I love you and I repent for the wickedness that tries to defy Your ways in my life.  Help me love you more than anything else.  STIR ME.  May my life stir others to love and good works.  Be glorified Jesus!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More Change

I love a routine.

I thoroughly enjoy a to-do list and, more than that, I love checking things off of said list.

We are mid-way through our 2nd full week of routine again. 

School, snacks, devotions, homework, ballet, soccer, dentists, orthodontists, Awana, family and play time all have to somehow work in conjunction with one another.  As manager of this home...that is my job. 

We have had a few hiccups but we are off to a decent start.

The change of Caroline entering middle school has been physically seamless thanks to some incredible people that work and care for her during her day.  God had them there already waiting on my girl.  They are gifts to me and I enjoy watching them learn all about her. 

Another facet of Caroline being in middle school means the end of her time in the children's ministry at our church.

For the past 12 years we have had the luxury of dropping Caroline off and entrusting her into the care of her preschool and eventually children's ministry teachers. 

Doing this allowed Caroline to have immersed time with her peers AND it freed up Shep and myself to minister and serve in our church. 

Shep has always taught an adult bible class and I am heavily involved in our music ministry. 

As Shep and I began to discuss how to handle Caroline's transition at church we felt that we should try our best to acclimate her into the youth group.  Shep stepped away from teaching his adult class and will be helping out teaching 6th grade boys.  I will hopefully be a floater in the youth group.  My role will be to fill in where support is needed and generally be a presence there.

Plans and intentions are one thing.  Reality is another. 

Last Sunday did not go well.  At least not to me.

Instead of being in a children's class Caroline is now supposed to sit in the first service...the same as her peers.

Shep sat beside her but she was restless and frustrated.  By the time I finished singing and joined them she was pretty worked up. He ended up taking her out of the service right before the preaching so that she wouldn't be a distraction.

I just sat there.

Worshiping with my man is truly a highlight of my week.  Sitting beside him and receiving a word from our pastor is one of my favorite things.

Now I was sitting there alone...totally feeling sorry for myself.  And mad.

Our pastor was preaching his heart out about truly believing God.

My thoughts centered around my own personal ache.
~"Is this our new normal God?"
~"Are we doing the right thing by making her come into the service?"
~"Will we miss church every week now?"
~"Why won't she settle down?"
~"I believe you God.  I do.  Why haven't you healed her yet?"

At the end of the service our pastor called anyone down to the altar that needed a miracle or for God to intervene in a powerful way.

I stood on the stage with tears rolling down and knew there was no way I would be able to sing the ministry song with the team.

Instead I made a beeline for the crowd of those gathered at the altar and I knelt down with others needing a miracle of some kind.

Sobs came and all I could say over and over was, "Oh God help me.  Help my unbelief.  Please help my unbelief."

When the service was over I went looking for Shep and Caroline.  He was waiting for me in the hall.  I looked at him with a desperate look he knows all too well by now and asked, "what are we going to do with Caroline in church?"

His answer was typical and precisely why I need him so much.  He said, "well we are gonna try again next week."

The next hour was Sunday school time for the youth group.  They meet in a large group first and then break out into smaller groups by grade levels.  I sat there and smiled.  I admit that I fake smiled but it was truly all I could manage.  I tried to talk to kids around Caroline and mingle a bit. 

I hugely underestimated how difficult this transition was going to be for me. 

Middle and high schools kids thrive on communication.  My girl can't talk.

These kids run around acting crazy like kids are supposed to act.  My girl is bound to a chair and poor muscle tone keeps her head down a lot of the time.

Teenagers pride themselves on appearances.  I remember that all too well.  My girl is incontinent and still has to wear diapers. 

This process is so incredibly difficult.  It is a path God has called us to walk.

It is not routine or normal in any way.

Truthfully I almost can't bear it.

My church is full of wonderful caring people.  So many of them want to help and intervene to make this easier. 

At this point I am not sure there is an easier path.

Shep's approach, although I loath it, is probably best. 

~Try again.~  And again~

The hard part for me is that trying again....and again.....means feeling it all over again.

Oh God please help me to believe You when my heart and flesh fail. You alone are my constant.  You never change but You require me to trust You in the midst of change that is rocking my world. 

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


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

His Grace Finds Us

I almost laughed out loud when I saw how long it has been since I had written.

Not quite a month but it feels like a year.

This blog was supposed to be my journey of faith.  Sadly, I don't want to write what I feel most days. 

Faith is there. 

But a lot of other junk is there too. 

But....that is the point.  Letting our faith rise to the surface when the other junk wants to smother it out.

Since my last post I have been out of the country on a mission trip marked with delays and disturbances. 

I returned home completely exhausted with life chomping at the bit to go on as if I had never left.  There was barely a week to absorb sweet time with my kids before school started this past Monday.  A day I have been long dreading....

Caroline began middle school this year.

Just 12 years ago I worked at this middle school as an English teacher.  My last days there were spent waddling around the halls with swollen ankles and a pregnant belly.  Caroline spent 9 months growing in my tummy at that school.  And Monday I took her back.

This time I rolled her in her wheelchair.

I wanted to vomit.

I wanted to run back to elementary school and demand that they take her back.

I wanted to punch something hard.

I wanted to cry.  That....I did.

The picture I had in my head of her starting middle school looked very different.  It was just something else to grieve.

Something else to hand over to God and whisper from a wounded heart, "not my will but Yours."

His grace found me on Monday.

Honestly I didn't want it to.

Grace soothes.  Sometimes we don't want to be soothed. 

I wanted to continue to be mad about the day I was having to live out....

Instead God gave immeasurable grace that made it possible to live the day.

He out gives us every time. 

Grace waits at every turn.  The unexpected kind that overcomes emotions meant to rock you to your core.  His grace trumps it all. 

There is no hiding.

On our worst most dreaded day....His Grace Finds Us.

(I totally stole this from a song called "Your Grace Finds Me".  Give it a listen.  You will love it.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Foolish and Weak

This past Wednesday morning I woke up and had no idea what God had in store for me that day.

I volunteer/work at a local faith based non-for-profit that provides support and help for women dealing with crisis pregnancies.

None of us ever knows the person or situation that may walk in the door.  We have to be prayed up and ready to be the hands, feet and mouthpieces of Jesus Christ.

I was a week out of surgery (the stints had come out the day before).  Serving these people is a precious offering in my life and I was looking forward to the blessing of doing it.

Standing in front of the bathroom mirror I glanced down at my scripture for the day. 

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world 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

Still not feeling quite myself from surgery and having been in a lull in my spiritual walk.....I needed some pep from Jesus.

He did not disappoint me.  This verse came alive to me.  It might as well have jumped from the pages and danced into my heart.

Strength flooded in from seemingly nowhere.
Faith sparked fresh and new.
Hope carried me as if I had not a care in the world.

I said to God, "So basically I feel like a fool all the time for believing You to heal my daughter AND I am so incredibly weak on my own......and that is ok with you, God?!?"

It was as if He spoke this back to my heart.  "My child it is more than ok.  Everyone I call has to be willing to look like a fool.  Faith requires it.  Looking foolish doesn't bother me.  And your weakness....my sweet child, your weakness draws Me to you like a moth to a flame.  Your weakness is an invitation for My Strength to do what you cannot."

1 Corinthians 1:27 says that God uses fools and weaklings like me.  It even uses the word "chosen".  He chooses to work with the likes of me.

So...if you are feeling like a fool for believing God and if your strength seems too small in comparison to the task God has called you to~ then you ( and I ) are sitting pretty for God to do what the rest of the verse says..."confound the wise and the mighty".

I went to the center that day with new vigor.  God had spoken.  His Word had taken new root in my heart and I could literally feel His closeness and strength.

At the last possible moment I had been asked to give my testimony to a mixed age group of teenagers at the church across the street. 

Let me be clear.  I did not want to do this.  But a dear friend had asked me to as a favor and if we don't share our testimonies....who will?

As I spoke to those kids I used my morning verse to encourage them to be fools for God.  I told them what He had asked me to believe.  And I reminded them of our many heroes in God's Word who looked like fools to the world around them.  But these folks were faithful to God and He made them famous for their faith.

When my testimony time ended these kids began to tell me testimonies of seeing God perform miracles.
Real, unbelievable, impossible miracles that they knew of personally.

 Here I was begrudgingly sharing my testimony and God used these kids to turn around and encourage me.

Then they asked if they could circle around me, lay hands on me and join in faith believing for God to heal my daughter and increase my own faith.

I was beyond humbled.  Seriously humbled.

I left there rejuvenated.  

I walked in the door at the center and was met by a woman in desperate need of our help. 

She had a very sorted story and I knew that all of the details didn't add up.  Still she needed help and encouragement.  I listened to a lot of things that had recently happened to her. As the story went on I found myself becoming a bit critical and judgmental of her as a person.  ( just being real here...not proud of this)

My head was nodding but I had kind of checked out on her.

Once I had taken her information and gotten the items that she needed I was ready to send her on her way.

As I walked her to the door to leave she grabbed my hand and began excitedly telling me about her son.  He had been in a terrible accident but she believed God was healing him.  Her excitement bubbled over and her voice carried.  She wanted anyone within earshot to hear what she believed God was doing.  He had been injured so badly that his vitals had shown he was a death's door.  But things were changing and improving and she wanted all of us to know that God was healing her son.

I nodded.  I even said, " Amen" to her...almost in a pacifying way.  I mean I wanted to encourage her but this lady was eccentric to say the very least.

As we walked outside I said, " Well since you have shared about your son with me, I will ask you to pray for my daughter.  She is wheelchair bound.  She cannot walk, or talk, or eat, or sit up.  We believe God has told us He is going to heal her but it sure does get hard sometimes because it has been 12 years."

She spun me toward her and grabbed me in a tight embrace.  She said, "Honey, you needed me today.  You needed me today.  Your Father will heal her.  He will stand her up and heal her from head to foot."

This lady was giddy.  She was so tickled and excited that I had shared my plight with her.  She was so genuine even if she was somewhat of an oddball.

I stood there thinking to myself, "God this lady seems a little crazy but she has just encouraged me so much.  I bet we look completely nuts out here hugging and laughing and boasting about Your Goodness in the street."

As if on heavenly cue I heard these words....."but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;..."

In my uppity way I had looked down upon the woman God had chosen to encourage me.

I had resisted giving my testimony to the very teenagers who would later encircle me and pray with faith for me.

How much do we miss of God because we resist looking like a weak fool?

God spoke to me and then He schooled me.

Blessed be the name of my great God!

Monday, July 7, 2014

When we can't taste and see....

I am on the mend from sinus surgery.  In just over 24 hours this stint will be removed from my nose and my breathing will return to a blessed sense of normal.

There is so much to write about...

We went on a fun vacation with some of the dearest of friends.  I have gobs of pictures to share.

But my life has come to a screeching halt this past week.  My normal has been replaced by abnormal and I am over it.

Surgery is not for the faint of heart.

I cannot imagine having something really serious done.

I have had 3 Cesarean sections, a gall bladder surgery and now....this sinus surgery.

None of these are particularly serious surgeries although no surgery is without risks.  But this one has been different because it is very up close and personal.

 As in my nose.  My face space.  Breathing.  Tasting.
Surgery was last Wednesday.  From the time I got home late Wednesday afternoon until Friday night I was pretty much out of it.  The anesthesia made me sick.  The pain medicine made me sick.  The not eating made me sick.  So...I just slept.

~Right through the 4th of July I might add~

 By Saturday I felt some better.  Weak and lethargic but better.  We got different pain meds and I started using saline solution to open up my ever swelling nose. 

Things were looking up.

I even began to get my appetite back.

For dinner I asked for take-out pizza. 

I wanted Gondoliers.  The cheese would be slightly browned and the pepperoni perfectly crispy....I couldn't wait to bite into a slice or five.

My family was excited to have me back in the land of the coherent.  We got our pizzas and perched ourselves in front of the television for a Saturday night movie. 

My plate was piled high with 3 pieces of pizza.  The grease, the cheese, and the pepperoni looked perfect and I couldn't wait to eat it.

And then I did.

What happened next should never happen to anyone eating pizza anywhere ever...I could not taste any of it.

Zero. Zilch.  Nothing.

I tried so hard to taste.

I willed my tongue to do its job.  But nothing.

I ate anyway. I ate for spite. 

It looked so incredibly good.  I knew it was good. 

But the taste eluded me.

(Maybe now you can see why this stint coming out tomorrow is such a sacred event?!?)

This morning I hurried around the house doing our morning thing.  God stopped me in the middle of the kitchen and moved on my heart with words and application that sometimes only a heart can hear.

***God and I have been close for a long time.  Desperation does that to His child.  It usually brings you close.  He has spoon fed faith to me for years.  He has let me taste His goodness over and over again.  Lately I can't sense Him.  Not like before.  I can't even pray sometimes.  Not like before.  He seems so intentionally quiet.  Not like before.  Believing Him feels like I am doing nothing....but it takes all I have to do it. 

In the kitchen He spoke to my heart and said, "I am working.  I am doing some things you can't see, or hear, or even feel at this time.  But know that I am good. You have tasted my goodness time and again.  When you can't taste it....KNOW it.  Then I remembered the pizza and Saturday night.  The pizza was good.  How did I know?  Because I had tasted it before.  Many times.  Saturday night I just couldn't taste what was there.  But I would again."

Jesus spoke to me using something I am currently walking through.  That is usually His way.

I miss the sense of taste. 
I miss the closeness of Jesus.

Taste will come again.
He isn't finished.

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.  Psalm 34:8

And if for now....you can't taste it......know it.  Remember how good He has been before and know His goodness doesn't end.

Taste will come again.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Miracle Road

Each time we go visit Shep's parents about an hour north of us we near the end of our journey by traveling down a little road with the cutest name, "Miracle Drive."

I only noticed it in recent years but, being the girl that is believing God for a miracle, the road name kind of jumps out at me.

This week marked the 12th birthday for our Caroline.  The precious girl that we believe God has told us He intends to heal.

The night before her birthday I sat at this very computer and agonized over words to type.  I thought about the night before her birth 12 years ago and how naive I was about what was to come.

All babies bring change.

But our baby girl brought change in a whole new dimension.

I sat here and typed out a lot of words but I ended up deleting every single one of them.

Truth be told....I didn't need to be writing a blog.  I needed to be shedding some tears.

My mama used to tell me, "sweetie sometimes what you need is a good cry."

Tuesday night that was precisely what I needed.

I got up from this computer and pulled out the pictures that I rarely look at anymore.  Pictures of days in the NICU....those days were dark and uncertain....grace alone carried us.

I cried and cried.

I cried for what happened.
I cried for the many milestones missed.
Tears poured and I talked out loud because I have a 12 year old that I don't know all that well.

Now I know her smell.  Her laugh.  Her cry.  Her sense of humor.  Her tendencies.  Her Preferences.  Her loves.

But I don't know her....the inside stuff.  Her dreams.  Her fears.  Her questions.  Her wish lists.  Her silly ideas.

Twelve years of conversations have gone unspoken.  And I have missed them terribly.

It is ok to grieve what we didn't experience. 

The grief has to come out somehow.  I personally think that tears falling prove to be a better solution that explosive anger and tantrums (although I have been known.....)

Tonight I sit here a few days past her birthday.

The tears have dried up....for now.  (But I am a woman so they could start again before this post is over.) 
The grief gave way to birthday celebrations.

I have done my best  NOT to give in to the huge waves of doubt that roll in like the tide.

Quietness before God has been filled with groaning from my heart that He alone understands.

Cynicism teases me at every turn. But I blow out my breath and choose faith instead.

As we made our way home today from Shep's parents house God spoke encouragement over me as we drove along the road called, "Miracle Drive."

God has called each one of His kids to walk a "Miracle Road" of sorts.

Your road won't look like mine.

But each one of us should expect and hope for God to show up constantly along our road.

-A sunset we saw recently that turned the sky to a shade of orange I have never seen. A miracle.
-Watching a grieving friend stand up at his mother's funeral and speak with love and respect when he desperately wanted a different outcome. A miracle.
-Sitting with a woman who doesn't acknowledge God and watching the Holy Spirit work in her life as she reconsiders aborting the baby she is carrying.  A miracle.
-Watching people I love who are waiting on God to move in their situations and observing their complete trust in Him.  A miracle.
-Restoration.  A miracle.

-Walking in faith for the past 12 years.  Being carried and strengthened and sustained to bigger faith in our God who still does the impossible and not completely losing heart.  A miracle.

The miracle we are waiting for has happened yet.

But our hope remains miraculously intact.  This is astonishing for a girl who lets her feelings boss her around more than she should.

My miracle road is marked with all kinds of miracles. 

Just yesterday God answered my prayer about the weather and traffic.  Seriously. 

That is no less miraculous than a little girl getting up out of a wheelchair.  It is all small stuff to Him.

My job is to keep walking my miracle road.  Embrace the pain...hug it tight.  Trust the One who has paved my road and knows each bend and turn.  As I walk my road and you walk yours others will take notice. 

Anybody can walk a road with no obstacles.

Who is impressed with that?

This world needs to see believers walking the roads that look impossible to traverse. 

Roads that seem blocked.
Roads that are too steep and then then plunge to the depths.
Roads that are worn away by the elements and time.
Roads that seem to never end with sameness....

"And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor will any ferocious beast get up on it;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there, 
and the ransomed of the Lord will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them, 
and sorrow and sighing will flee away." Isaiah 35:8-10


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Occasions to Cherish

Why in the world does the month of May sneak up on me?!?

I know it is coming every single year.  Right after April and before June yet I am caught by surprise time and time again.

The wrap up of the school year and extracurricular activities is about enough to leave a mom dazed and confused.

We wrapped up soccer. We wrapped up ballet.  We wrapped up Awana.  We wrapped up chorus.  We wrapped up Kindergarten, 3rd grade, and 5th grade. We celebrated graduations and birthdays and anniversaries.

I am still not sure how we managed to get through the month and stay normal.

From now on I am going to mark May on my calendar as the same level of crazy as Christmastime.  Because it really is.

Blogging took a back seat this month because life had to be lived...not just written.

In the midst of the craziness were two incredibly special occasions that I want to share. 

This little boy of ours turned 6 years old.  His birthday always falls right at the last day of school.

He is a delight to us in every way.

We knew nothing but girly stuff when he came along.  He has certainly changed all of that.  He is laid back and funny.  He loves to take risks and go fast and still snuggle with me and his daddy.  This was a big birthday for him.  He got a BB gun and his first real knife.

It has been pure joy for me to watch my little man and my big man whittle sticks and shoot squirrels together.
Zeke wants to be like his daddy in every way and nothing would please me more.

Happy birthday Ezekiel.  My heart just spills out when you look at me and I see your daddy in your little features.  More than anything...I want you to love Jesus.  I pray for you to be brave, strong, kind, self-controlled, compassionate, and honest.  You are the perfect ending to our little family.  

The second occasion I cherished this month included the other fella in my life.

Shep and I celebrated 16 years of marriage this May.

This seems completely unbelievable to me.

What is the saying?  "The days seem long but the years seem short."

Our days and struggles seem long but the years continue to fly by....

I am so strengthened by my husband. He lives his life in simple yet furiously strong faith.  It splashes over onto me all the time.  His optimism and perseverance are unlike anything I have ever witnessed in another person.  Other than the saving grace of Jesus....Shepard Helton is my greatest blessing.  I love being his wife.  I love being the mother of his children.  I love sharing space with him.  I love knowing his secrets.  I love how he cherishes me.

We had a chance to get away for one night and we seized it.  The night was full of serendipity.  Our favorite food, scenic walks, dancing and chance encounters made for the best night ever!  We ended the evening at midnight slowing dancing to "At Last".  It couldn't have been more appropriate.

I love being married to this man.  I still have the biggest crush on him!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Could Just Lie....

but I won't.

Today is a rough one.

The sun is shining outside but the thoughts that cloud my mind are dark and troublesome.

Whoever said that believers in Jesus don't deal with fear and anxiety?!?

We do.  Those of us that don't lie.

Most days we choose to trust God over those things....

But today I can't seem to.

The onset of summer always throws me into emotional turmoil.  When other moms are planning fun outings for their children I am simply trying to figure out to adjust for 2 kids that want to do everything and 1 child that cannot do anything.

The balance is hard.

Don't get me wrong....we DO plenty of things.  But going to the pool, the library, museums, or anywhere else with an almost 12 year old that wears diapers and has to been carted around in a wheelchair goes from a little difficult to out right almost not-even-worth-it.

I said almost.

It is worth it.  Sometimes.  Sometimes she really enjoys herself but other times she would just rather be at home.  She is uncomfortable and hot and she notices when others stare at her.

In addition to the summer time blues~ she will begin middle school next year.

(Insert scream here)

Middle school doesn't bother me.  Crazy tweens with haywire hormones used to be my job.  I actually taught at the very middle school Caroline will attend when I was pregnant with her.  But I never pictured her entering that school building as she is now.  I just knew God would heal her before then.

But He hasn't. 

And today....it seems as though He never will.

See?  I told you.  Rough day.

But this is the battle folks.

No reason to pretty it up and pretend that our faith only rides the peaks.  Plunges into the valley of despair are the norm too. 

But oh it hurts.

That feeling where your heart drops to your feet on the first hill of a roller coaster...you are grasping for steady solid stable ground...but God allows the plunge...and takes you deeper and farther than maybe you have gone before.

Bigger faith requires new unexplored territory.  God can conquer there too.  But I think He lets us feel it.  If we never battled the fear, dread, and anxiety of the moment then we would never look to the One who gives us peace.

If we only ventured into the safe and settled places we would never cry out, "Oh God please help me.  Come be my Prince of Peace.  You said you would.  Come and do it Lord."

Today I am crying out to Him. My heart is broken again over the same things I have told Him before. He knows. He is here.  He hears.  He hasn't whisked me out of this place just yet. This particular pain holds a purpose and I can be ok with that.

I can tell He has grown me some. 

The proof of that is that I am not lying in bed all day with the blinds drawn or rocking back and forth in the fetal  position....useless....paralyzed by fear and uncertainty.

Instead I have lived this day.  A little bit mad. A little bit sad.  But hope, the whisper of it, never leaves.

God's Word tells us that we have mercies waiting on us each day.  I believe that mercy is the only thing that has carried me through this day. 

Right now I have 2 choices.  Despair or Wait (and trust).

Can I please have door number 3?

Oh yea....there isn't one. 

Despair leads to nowhere good.

 But waiting feels much like the same thing...helpless....useless...depressing...and the ever--------------slowly---------------passing------------------of ---------------------time.

Today I will choose to wait.  Again.

But I want to throw the tantrum about it.  Is that fair to say?

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD."  Ps. 27:13-14 NASB