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