Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Shopocalypse

With all of our family out of town this Thanksgiving, the kids and I spent a quiet day together.  We played board games, watched the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, and watched a little documentary called What Would Jesus Buy? that we got from Netflix.

The basic plot of the documentary is that this guy Rev. Billy (whom I suspect is no "real" reverend at all) led a group of protesters on a nationwide tour to deter Black Friday shopping.  They had created a whole musical based on this concept.  Rev. Billy portrayed a charismatic preacher and his choir sang some (quite catchy, though corny) anti-shopping songs.  We even began to sing, "Stop shopping! Stop shopping" along with them.

Unfortunately, rather than being what I really wanted the documentary to be -- a look at why Jesus is more important than gift buying -- it was more of a look at how big business has taken away from small-town shopping.  I have my qualms with Wal-Mart, but I am not on a crusade to close them down.  

I also take the documentary to task for its "funning" at Christianity.  I'm all for parody -- I have that kind of twisted sense of humor.  But Rev. Billy's prayers that became mocking and showy were rather offensive to me. They did allow for me to discuss with the kids how we should make sure that our talking about God and our prayers are sincere and not something that we're doing for show.  'We have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk' is the understanding I want them to have.

The overall concept of the documentary, however, is worth contemplating.  I love a deal as much as anyone else.  As a matter of fact, people who know me well, know that I seldom buy anything that isn't on sale (preferably clearance), use my coupons and reward points, and love cheap, cheap, cheap.  I actually am not a Black Friday shopper because I start scouring clearance racks much earlier in the year and am almost done with my Christmas shopping before the Black Friday deals get here.  I also don't have the nerves, sanity, or patience to deal with the crowds.  I do understand the draw of the big sales.  I do understand wanting to give your kids a good Christmas and with as tight as money is these days, the big sales give you a better opportunity of doing that.  My dad claims that he felt very thankful when he got both an apple and an orange in his Christmas stocking as a child.  I don't think that would float these days at all.

But at what point do we realize that Christmas is about more than big sales and gifts?  What would happen if Christians put as much energy into spreading the love of Jesus as we do in rushing the front doors of stores.  I read an article online this week that questioned this as well. The writer of the article asked "What if on Black Friday, there was a shopocalypse and all the Christians rushed out to help the less fortunate or to spread God's love?"  Are there even enough Christians left in our country for a shopocalypse to make a difference?  Are we totally consumed by the materialism that our culture shoves down our throats?

I'd love to see a revival in our country.  I'd love to see people not just claiming to be Christians, but being Christians -- not the ridiculing "YOU ARE A SINNER SHAME ON YOU" message, but the God loves everyone and we are all sinners in need of grace message.  I'd love to see Christians be able to "come out of the closet" and boldly proclaim our faith without fear of being ridiculed or being accused by society of not separating church and state (which ironically, never was intended to be a dictate that religion could not be in the "state affairs" but that the state couldn't tell us what religion to be -- but that's a whole other can of worms.).

Even if you hit all the sales this year (and I'm still hoping to get some great deals too), take a minute to stop and remember what this season is all about.  God sent his Son so that you could be forgiven of all your sins and receive his FREE GIFT of eternal salvation.

And if you want a good, only mildly irritating, break from the holiday rush, check out What Would Jesus Buy?  I'd love to hear some other impressions about the film.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Road Trip Ramblings

The kids and I set out on a road trip last week to Ohio to visit my husband.  Along the approximately 2000 miles that we drove, I learned a few things.  Here goes:

1.  This traffic sign,  , means there is no peeing in the grass. (Thank you, Sean.)

2. Taking a few minutes pre-trip to prepare travel games make the miles go much faster.  

3. Eating an apple straight from the tree in a bonafide apple orchard is the best!  Abbie was unable to resist the temptation.  And though we don't know exactly what the fruit on the tree in the garden was, IF it was an apple as so many people think, I can see why Eve was tempted.  Just sayin'.

4. Polar bears are bigger than I thought, but they are not quite as white as I expected them to be.  Grizzly bears are scary --- even with a ravine and a fence in between you and the bear.

5. The dinosaur exhibit at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium in Columbus, Ohio, is stunning.  However, it is sad that the highly educated in our world continue to tell us that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.  It's just become boring to correct them, which I guess is okay because my kids know the truth anyway.  In their favor... the spitting dinosaurs on the boat ride were cool.  However, poor Emma thought that somehow they had put real spit in them. When we told her it was just water, she was not nearly as grossed out.

6.  Missing a week of school puts us off our schedule but is so totally worth it when you look at all the lessons we did learn.  Thanks to home schooling though, we can turn ANY trip into something educational whether it be visiting the zoo and learning about the animals, visiting an orchard and seeing exactly where our food comes from, visiting the fruit market at the same orchard and looking at different varieties of gourds, seeing fall foliage (which we just don't get in southwest Mississippi), reading maps, calculating how long it will take us to get somewhere based on the number of miles and our speed, or even reading menus.  Abbie is studying community helpers as her social studies unit in K4, and she even role played being a waitress at Steak & Shake -- complete with her paper hat -- though I've never actually had a waitress take my order in crayon.

7. The greatest gift of all is spending time as a family.  The most important thing to me is the legacy that I leave my children.  I want them to grow up and remember the quality things that we did together.  I hope and pray that the time I put into them will lead them to raise their children well.  

I want to grow old and remember their laughter -- there is no more beautiful sound.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mommy Mania

I've been a mom for almost 15 years.  In that time, I have shared funny stories and angst with many moms through PTA groups, church groups, and Girl Scouts.  But I've never joined any kind of organized "mom thing."  A couple of weeks ago, I ventured into new territory and went to my first Mommy Group.  

I honestly didn't know what to expect.  I didn't know if it would be corny or worthwhile.  I did know that there were some pretty cool chickies who were going to be there, and so I was willing to go hang out and give it a try.  I have to say... I was quite impressed.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to be away from the kids and just have some good old "grown up" interaction for a while.

Part of our meeting included a Bible study on creating balance in our lives.  We were presented with a group of objects that represent the stress that we most commonly find in our lives.  We had to choose which item best represented the thing that made us feel most unbalanced in our lives as moms.  Was it the watch showing that we feel we don't have enough time to get things done?  Was it the credit card showing that our finances were wreaking havoc with our sanity? 

I chose the wedding ring, which represented not feeling balanced with our relationships.  And contrary to the fact that the symbol was a wedding ring, the stressed relationship did not have to be with our spouse.  I identified that one of my greatest stresses is that I don't feel balanced with what I can give my kids.  I have six kids living in my house and a step-daughter three states away.  That's a lot of people to take into consideration.

Regardless of the fact that I spend a good five hours at my dining room table with my kids each day interacting one on one with them over home school assignments, I often feel that I don't spend any time with them.  I take them to the library.  I take them shopping where I follow them around and let them check out the things they want to see.  We take walks.  We go for pizza and fro yo.  Yet, I often condemn myself because I don't feel that I'm spending the right kind of time with them.

So here are my confessions:  I do not tuck each of my kids in bed every single night.  I do not read bedtime stories to my kids. I am not always the one to bathe my little kids.  I do not sit in the floor and play games with my kids every single day.  I do not always prepare a perfectly proportioned, home cooked meal for dinner.  

The fact is.  I am human.  I can only do so many things in a given day.  And hey, I spend a lot of quality time with my kids.  Yet I still set up these unrealistic expectations of all the things that I should be doing. (And I wasn't the only one in mommy group who feels this way.)  

Where do these expectations come from?  The sappy commercials that we see on TV?  The facebook, perfect lives that get posted online?  Magazine articles or blogs that only showcase one, specific moment in time of a super-mommy's life?  

One of my aspirations (very realistic of me...not) is to be like the Proverbs 31 wife of noble character.  But... have you checked out that scripture lately?  This woman finds wool and flax, works with her hands, brings food from afar, gets up while its dark, provides for her family and servant girls, considers a field, buys it out of her earnings, plants a vineyard, sets about her work vigorously, has a lamp that doesn't go out at night, opens her arms to the poor, extends her hands to the needy, has no fear for her family, makes coverings for her bed, brings honor to her husband, makes linen garments and sells them, supplies the merchants with sashes, laughs at the days to come, speaks with wisdom, watches over the affairs of her household, and is not idle.

I'm tired just from TYPING all that she did.  This woman needed a cape with a big "S"!  But the best part of that scripture is verse 30, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeing, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

My Bible study at Mommy Group caused me to take pause and re-think my expectations of myself.  There is a section in our Bible study books that allows us to write how the lesson connects with our livea.  I wrote a couple of valid points for me:

  • Everything does NOT have to get done.
  • Everything does NOT have to be perfect.
  • I am ONE person and I can only do the work of ONE person.
  • Over organizing and putting everything into a schedule only CREATES stress -- not productivity. 
No one is judging me as harshly as I judge myself.  I know I have friends who think I have everything together and just float through this parenting thing.  One friend visited my house and said, 'hmmm... you're just not as organized as I expected you to be."  She didn't say this as a criticism; she said it with relief because she really thought I had everything compartmentalized.  

So my commitment to myself is that I am going to do what I can do. It doesn't matter what anyone else is doing.  My kids are happy, healthy, and productive.  So really.... nothing else matters.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hearing the Voice of God

When my oldest two children were young, my husband and I did not attend church as we should.  We were members of a church --- we just didn't go.  We didn't become anti-church or anti-God, we just used our weekends to "enjoy ourselves."  And we had some pretty good justifications for our lifestyle (thanks Satan...not): we watched every week's service on TV, I did a daily devotion, our kids went to a Christian daycare.  So did we need corporate worship?

For awhile I felt that I didn't.  Then life began to get shaky.  Over a six month period, I had two miscarriages and Hurricane Ivan desecrated upon the city of Pensacola and planted black mold into our house rendering us homeless.  We moved into a 50's style hotel room (read... not the best hotel in town) and started looking for a house.  It was challenging living in such a small space with two little kids.  We had to eat out for every meal.  They had no room to play.  We were literally boxed into this tiny, tiny space.  Even in our disparaging circumstances, we could see God's continual provision for us.  I began to tell my husband, "When we get a house, we are going back to church."   I rationalized (thanks again, Satan) that all of our nice clothes were in storage, and we couldn't go to church without those clothes.

One Sunday, Stephen was working, so it was left to me to take the kids out for lunch.  We showed up at Red Lobster before the church rush so we wouldn't have a long wait.  We were seated in an empty side room and got ready to enjoy our meal.  As we sat there looking over the menu, a family came in with a precious little girl who had obviously just come from church.  I looked up at the little girl and while thinking how cute she was, I heard  a male voice say the words, "Get your children in church."  

I was startled.  I turned to look around to see who had spoken, but in that little side room, there was not one single male -- except for Jared, who had not spoken to me.   I will always believe with absolute certainty that God spoke to me.  I picked up my cell phone, called Stephen, and told him that when I left lunch, I was going to buy us suitable clothes for church (I was still hung up on that for some reason), and I was taking the kids to church the next week.  I was instantly convicted.

See, I had my salvation.  And I was feeding myself with devotion and a church service although it was on TV and not with my actual presence in a church.  But I had one GREAT failure.  I was not leading my children to be church goers.  I was not teaching them to set aside time for God.  I was not establishing a positive legacy for them.

I went and bought those oh so important churchy clothes, and we have not missed more than a Sunday at a time in the last ten years except when I was busy taking care of additional newborns in our family.

I am currently involved in a Bible study that is geared towards mentoring new Christians.  Tonight in class, we began to discuss how God speaks to us.  One gentleman asked our pastor if he believed that God had spoken to Abraham in an audible voice. 

So we ventured on to discuss some of the ways that God gets our attention. The most obvious way is that we can read His words in the Bible.  But what about when we aren't necessarily looking for His direction -- when we've chosen our own direction?  God can use other people to speak words of wisdom to us,  the Holy Spirit can move within us, we can face certain situations that make us turn from our misdeeds and seek God, and, yes, He can speak to us.

Why do we assume that God wouldn't talk to us if that's what it took?  He did not in recent years lose any of the abilities that He had in the Old Testament.  He spoke to Abraham. He made a bush burn to catch Moses's attention. He even let a donkey talk! If God wants to talk to us, He will talk to us.  He will do whatever He has to do to get our stubborn attention away from what we are busying ourselves with.

A girl in my Bible study brought up the point that we live incredibly fast, noisy lives.  We always have distractions with TV, our hectic social schedules, our cell phones, and on and on and on.  Sometimes we don't stop to listen to what God has to say and He has to get more drastic.

I encourage you to take some time to find a quiet place and ask God what He needs to tell you.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Map Master

"Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight."  Psalm 119:35

Last week, we took a family road trip / field trip to one of our favorite places -- the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.  We spent five hours wandering through the exhibits as we watched (and smelled) the various animals.  We follow the same path every time we visit -- start with the flamingos, go see the elephants, stop at the playground, and on to the monkeys!  We have the same restful (air conditioned) stops as we eat, visit the reptile house, and walk through the Bayou gift shop. 

This year, one big thing was different: Abbie is no longer in a stroller.  And so, she became what we affectionately called The Map Master.  

When you enter the zoo, they give you a paper map so you'll know where each exhibit is.  Abbie quickly took hold of the map, folded it just so, and became the leader of the pack.  She had the plan.

We were subjected to several hours of the following commands:
"Ugh... those animals are asleep, let's go."
"Those animals stink, let's see what's next."
"We don't have time for you to talk, let's go." and
"I have the map. You have to follow me."

She was so pleased that we (pretended to) let her be in charge.  As I gently turned her down each path that everyone else wanted to go down, she marched along proud to be at the head of the crowd.

At three, she never realized that her path was being directed, not by her map, but by my gentle pulling and suggestions.  She never realized that she did not have the power or control that she thought she did.  She never realized that as she commanded us to move on to another animal, we moved on because we were ready to, not because she had told us what to do.

How many times in life do we think that we are our own map masters?  How often do we think we know just which path we should take?  How often do we think that we don't have time for the things going on and are ready to rush on to the next stop on our life map?

What would have happened if I had allowed Abbie to make all the decisions at the zoo?  Would we actually have stopped  to see any of the animals or just walked in circles?  How quickly would we have become lost because, well, she's three, and she can't read?  She needed me and her brothers and sisters to make sure that she was on the right path.

In life we too can create our maps.  We can decide all of the things that we want to do.  We can decide all the places we want to go.  We can plan and plan and plan.  But in that planning, we would be wise to stop and ask for some direction.

I'm a planner.  I like to organize and sort things.  I like to make charts and lists of things that need to be done.  But sometimes that planning puts me ahead of where I need to be in the grander scheme of things.  I often become lost and confused and create unnecessary havoc and chaos in my life. I struggle to stop and take a breath and let God lead me where I need to go.

When I hop in my van to take a road trip, I don't stop twice to think about putting an address into our GPS, Gypsy,  and mindlessly following the robotic instructions.  "She" gives me directions, and I follow.  But when I'm looking for direction in life, I sometimes forget to open the Bible and look for direction there.  But everything we need to know about life is there.  

I challenge you, and myself, to stop looking for the paths.  Stop trying to make all the plans.  Take a breath -- open the word of God -- and let him direct your paths. 

"In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:6

"Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path."  Psalm 119:105

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I Want to Be a Sellout

In today's very modern, provocative society being a "sell out" has some rather negative implications.  Selling out generally means that someone has turned their back on an ideology or belief that they have commonly been associated with.  Selling out can also be brought about by making a change in the way one acts. In mainstream society, a sell out is often a betrayer or someone who has backed down on previous beliefs to find an easier road.

So... if being a sell out has negative implications, why would I want to be one?  Well, it all depends on perception because I do believe that being a sell out can be turned around to be a positive thing.

I want to be a sell out to the things that surround us in our culture.  I want to turn away from the things of this world.  Just take a moment to think of some of the things that surround us daily.  Think of the images that we see on TV -- even when we are trying to watch "good" shows, immoral images assault us from commercials.  Think of the women's rights push to ignore the preciousness of an unborn life in support of abortion.  Think of the profanity that easily slips from people's mouths.  Think of the crime that fills the news because of a lack or morality in our society.

"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight." I Corinthians 3:19

So therefore, I want to sell out to the commonality of our culture and turn in a search for the wisdom of God.  I want to turn off the television.  I want to submerge myself in the word of God and seek His way.

My oldest daughter Jayla, avoiding bedtime one night, took the first letters of all our names and, without repeating any letters, rearranged them to spell the word JAMES and then she added all of our ages together to come up with 121.  She then turned to James 1:21 and "adopted" this verse as our family verse.  It says,

"Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you."

Jayla felt that this verse was very fitting for us because we have actively tried to turn our family away from worldly ways.  I have removed my children from public school and a culture that I do not approve of to home school them.  We have turned away from many of the items we find on clothing racks and strive to dress modestly.  We turn to Christian music for our entertainment.  We study from the word of God together.

James 1:22 - 24 continues by saying, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what is says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."

It is not merely enough to spend time in church on Sunday or to read a few verses out of the Bible each day.  We must strive to take what we read and apply it to our daily lives.  We must identify what there is in our life that is a detractor from living a Christian life and remove it.

This is not always an easy path.  I have a friend who was telling me just the other day of a show on television that she loves and has not missed an episode of in years. However, this year the show is going in a direction that does not support the Christian ideals that she has, and she is making the very difficult decision to walk away from the show.  This is an emotional move for her.  On the surface, you can say, "oh, it's just a television show." But when there are things in our life that we enjoy, not matter how big or small, that we have to move away from, there can be emotions that make those moves difficult.

God never promised that following His way would be easy.  In fact, the Bible promises us times of trial.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."  James 1:2-3

The trials that we can face range from what we view as minimal things, like my friend not wanting to give up her television show, to life-shaking events... oftentimes new Christians realize that they must temper their association with old friends or give up old habits.  There are many in the world, and unfortunately this is beginning to reach us more and more in the United States, who are persecuted for believing in and following God.  Yet, the Bible clearly says that we should find joy in the tribulation.

Matthew 5:14 tells us "You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill that cannot be hidden."  We should sell out to the world and shine for Christ no matter the trials or tribulation that we face.  

This indeed is easier said than done.  It's hard when people turn against us because we seem "conservative," or "goody goody," or "self righteous."  But regardless of the terms that we can be labeled with, we should strive to have those terms apply to us because we are attempting to live as God has directed us to in His word. Living in a manner that sets apart is not always easy.  Yet that is what we must do.  We must set ourselves apart from the ways of the world.  

I want to sell out to the ugliness that surrounds me.  I am on a journey, and my destination is Paradise.

"Do not love the world or anything in the word.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world -- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does -- comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."  1 John 2:15-17

Monday, August 19, 2013

Facing Trials

It's been almost twenty years since I embarked upon entering college.  I only vaguely remember placement tests and financial aid applications. I have blurry memories of roaming the school bookstore looking for just the right texts -- and having my jaws hit the floor at the price of those textbooks.  I have slightly more vivid memories of the expectation of a new year (and that could be because I've had the same expectations with both teaching in public school and home schooling).

This past week... I returned to a college campus.  Not as a student this time but on a mission to help someone else become a student.  An incredibly bright, bubbly girl has come into my life and family this summer.  She is a recent high school graduate and has found herself in need of a little help in her endeavor to be a college student.  Her hope was to begin school in January at our local community college.

So last Monday, we loaded up and headed to campus to see what it would take to get her enrolled  for the winter semester.  But while we were there, God started opening doors that we didn't expect to get opened.  Within about 10 minutes of being on campus, she had a student I.D. number.  Then we went to financial aid and found out that we could easily get her the financial aid that she needed.  We realized that her dream of becoming a college student didn't have to wait until January.  She could do it NOW! Within a couple of hours, we drove off of the campus with her printed class schedule, textbooks, and the coveted student I.D. -- which got posted to Facebook before we even made it out of the parking lot.

During our adventure, (and it was an adventure for we drove on campus not knowing where any of the buildings were, any of the people we needed to see, and without much direction or planning) we stopped for lunch where we started talking about the whirlwind of a day that we had had.  We were just amazed at how quickly things fell in place. We were amazed at how easy it was to accomplish each item on the official registration checklist.  We were amazed that we were amazed because we knew, of course, who had directed each step of our way.

Life has not been easy for my sweet friend.  She has learned the meaning and the importance of having God as her refuge and her strength.  As we ate lunch, we talked of her plans to become a social worker and her hope and desire to be able to help children who have endured bad situations.  It occurred to me as we talked that perhaps all of the travails that she has endured are because God has an incredible plan for her.  In years to come as she sits with children who come from who knows what kind of situations, she will have an empathy and understanding of their feelings.  She will be able to help them because she has not lived a life eating out of the proverbial silver spoon.  And I told her that there are babies who haven't even been born yet who will have the opportunity for a better life because of what she will be able to offer them.

I have often heard people ask, "How can a loving God let bad things happen?"  I've talked with people who have lost a child or are homeless or have an addiction or are alone who don't see how there can possibly be a God who loves them because they have been dealt a bad hand.  I've been asked, "What's the purpose of suffering?"

There's the old saying "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" (which I detest by the way because, really, sometimes I just don't think I need to be any stronger) that many people cling to as their buoy during life's storms.  And that's fine.  But there's a deeper truth to our struggles on earth as well.  First, we must remember that there is no Scripture in the Bible that says, 'Thou shalt have an easy life." or "everything will be a bed of roses."  As as a matter of fact, we are told that we will face difficulty in this life.  That's one reason why so many Christians anxiously await the day that Jesus will come back for His people.

Secondly, if life were indeed a bed of roses, when would we find a need to have God be our refuge and strength?  He would just be this really cool Creator sitting in heaven waiting for a day that He could bring us up to live with Him.  But would we ever turn to Him if we didn't need Him? Would we ever stop to see how His plan makes everything fit together in the end?  Would we ever realize how much we need His wisdom which He has gifted to us through the Bible?  Or would we just float through life thinking that we can handle life on our own?

I think what I've grasped anew this week is that the struggles we go through in this life can do one of two things for us.  We can let them tear us down and beat us up or we can use our ordeals as an opportunity to praise God for allowing us to rely on Him and as a stepping stone to reach out and help others in similar situations.

What are you going to let your next struggle do for you?

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."   James 1:2-3

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


One of my favorite songs right now is Forgiveness by Matthew West.  I originally was attracted to the song because of its rousing chorus, but since I've listened to the song more regularly, I've become even more drawn to the words of the verses.

The first two stanzas contain these words of wisdom:
                         "It's the hardest thing to give away,
                         And the last thing on your mind today
                         It always goes to those that don't deserve"

                          "It's the opposite of how you feel
                          When the pain they caused is just too real
                           It takes everything you have just to say the word

That's pretty heavy stuff.

You see, lately I've been awash in several different situations from several different fronts where some people have made me pretty angry, where some people have outright lied to me and hurt my feelings, and where some people have betrayed my trust.  Satan's hand has been moving mightily.  As my husband and I have been hashing our way through some of these experiences, forgiveness has been a frequent topic of conversation.  And it's pretty human, I think, to cling to the opposite of the lyrics above to justify NOT giving forgiveness away.

The things that have hurt and angered me lately have not been met with remorse by the offenders, in some cases have not been acknowledged, and in some cases have adamantly been avoided.  So really (the human in me says), if you can't admit that you've done wrong to me, and you can't face me and say you are sorry... why should I have to forgive you? Wouldn't it do us all just fine if we walk the other way and ignore each other?  Aren't I justified in staying angry if you can't seem to care that you have been offensive?  If all you can do is make excuses for your behavior, do you deserve my forgiveness?

Well, the Bible says that they do.  When Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive people who had sinned against him, Jesus answered in Matthew 18:22 by saying, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times."  Wow! That's a lot.

And so therefore, I have chosen to forgive those who have wronged me.  It doesn't matter if they have asked for my forgiveness.  It doesn't matter if they are avoiding me. It doesn't matter if they are denying their offense has even occurred.  I have forgiven.

The beauty of forgiveness is that, in reality, it's not just for the wrongdoer.  It's also for me. West's lyrics continue with the lines,
                              "It'll clear the bitterness away.
                               There is no end to what it's power can do."
Being the forgiver is liberating.  Since I've made the choice to forgive these certain people, I no longer lay awake at night stewing.  I no longer run their offenses over and over in my mind.  I no longer feel anger (some disappointment and hurt, yes, but no anger) when I think of these people or the situations that have occurred.  I feel peace.

There's an even bigger idea to grasp here than the forgiveness that I have extended.  One final line from the song says, "Help me now to give what You gave me."

Colossians 3:13 tells us, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgives you."

If we were to take an intimate look at all the sins of my life (which I think we won't), we could say on a human level that I'm not that terrible of a person. But I assure you, I have done plenty for which  I have needed to ask for forgiveness. And I am assured by the blood that Jesus spilled from the cross that all of my indiscretions have been forgiven.  Colossians 1: 13 - 14 collaborates this by saying, "For he has rescued us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

Even as Jesus was in the throes of his crucifixion, his plea was "Father, forgive them, for they do not know know what they do."  (Luke 23:34).  And surely no one has ever wronged me in such a way.  I have not been beaten, I have not been spat upon, I have not been hung on a cross.  If Jesus, even in His life-ending misery can look at the very men who were crucifying Him and extend His forgiveness, how can I do any less for the petty, non-life-ending occurrences that face me?


Friday, July 26, 2013


My mother-in-law, who loves growing her flowers,  once asked me what flowers I was growing in my yard.  It was hard not to laugh.  Gardening has never been my thing.

As a matter of fact, most of my memories of gardening include me trying to find a way to not have to wade through the grass and plants.  I do, however,  have one delicious memory of my dad growing peanuts when I was about six or seven when I hid at the end of the row to eat those lovely little raw peanuts.

Then two years ago, my husband decided it would be a great idea for us to start a garden.  We started small -- pots and a small plot in our backyard.  Then our neighbors told us we could use part of their yard to have a larger garden.  I managed to avoid the action last year, but this year even I was roped into our family garden.

Now I see that there are some real benefits to gardening.  We not only have been able to grow lots of yummy, nutritious, basically free vegetables, but also we have been able to share the wealth with our neighbors around us.  Additionally, our kids are learning to develop a work ethic, it's a great science experiment on the life cycle of plants, we get to be outdoors, and we are working together as a family.

Thus, several weeks ago, I found myself in the garden weeding -- NOT my favorite part. (My favorite part is eating the cherry tomatoes right off the plant  -- maybe I haven't grown up all that much).  In school, I've taught my kids about the way that some species manage to survive in nature.  One of those ways is mimicry.  And as I was in the garden one morning I noticed how similar some of the weeds were to the plants that we were actually trying to grow.  As I studied the leaves to make sure that I wasn't ripping up our precious pea plants, my mind, as usual, began to wander and a very poignant realization came to me.

Our lives are much like the plants growing in a garden.  We choose many people and things in which to invest ourselves.  Some of these are quality people and important activities that make us grow.  Some of these are people and activities that stump our growth and hold us back from our full potential.  In order to reach our full potential, we need to remove the weeds from our lives.

Some weeds are easy to spot.  The friends that are always negative and bring you down -- weed.  Activities that take time away from family or church -- weed.  Gossip -- weed.  Materialism -- weed.  Idleness -- weed.

Some weeds are not so easy to see such as  friends that seem to be on the same page as us, but are quietly manipulating us to do things that aren't right or are sucking away energy that we should be investing somewhere else.

Even worse are the weeds in life that mimic goodness. My little ones often pick "flowers" from the yard to bring in for me.  The flowers are just weeds that have popped up, but the kids only see their beauty. Some of the activities in which we invest our time look like pretty flowers but may not be anything more than a distraction from our personal growth. You may teach Sunday School every week, but if you aren't stopping to allow God to work in your life or living your life in such a way that people see godliness in you, that teaching is a weed in your life.

If we don't remove the weeds from the garden, they will continue to grow and flourish.  They will choke out the good plants and make the rows so overgrown that we cannot get down them.  Likewise, when we do not stop the weeds in our life, we get choked out and cannot reach the potential that we are created to have.

Lately, I've been taking stock of some of the things and people in my life.  Unfortunately, there are some of both that I have had to move away from being involved with in my everyday life.  And this weeding is not always easy.  It's hard when there is someone or something in your life that you're used to having around but that you have to move away from for your own benefit.. It's difficult to realize that your help to someone may really just be a crutch for someone else to lean on and that you may actually be working as an enabler, not a helper.  It's difficult when activities that you enjoy doing are no longer the activities that are beneficial to you.

I challenge you to stop and think about the things in your life.  Are there weeds that are stunting your growth?

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers."   Psalms 1: 1 - 3

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Weathering the Storm

A couple of weeks ago, my family, sans my husband this year,  traveled to Missouri for our annual church-building mission trip.  I thought myself to be very fortunate because I was the lucky one -- out of the 120 crew members on the trip, my three little kids and I got to skip the agony of sleeping on leaky air mattresses and got to stay in a small camper that one of the local church members had lent out for our use.

And it was good.  All the ladies complained of freezing at night -- I controlled my own air.  I got to sleep on a real mattress.  I did have to traipse inside to take a shower since there was no hot water, but that was no biggie.

Then the last night of the trip came, and with it, a mighty thunderstorm.  The gusty wind woke me up about one in the morning, and I lay in the bed watching the lightning flash outside the windows.  I listened to the thunder.  I felt the wind pushing the trailer's side.  I kept hearing this slicing whistle of a wind that really freaked me out --- I later realized it was a train that had stopped on the track just across the street. My three little ones snoozed as I rocked in the wind.

And then, as my mama's mind often does, I started to plot out what to do if things got really bad. I started walking myself through "my plan" of how to get the kids out of the trailer and into the main building.  This was a feat that would have forced me to leave little ones alone and get drenched in the process.  I couldn't really come up with a great plan and wasn't so sure that I even needed to get us out.  I finally decided that since I had to be up at 4:30 to prepare breakfast for everyone, I really needed to just get some sleep.

So I prayed.  I told God that I just needed him to give me peace and rest.  And he did.  The next thing I knew, my alarm was beeping for me to get up, and things were clear outside.

I was never in the danger that I felt I was in.  But my control freak tendencies took over, and I started to obsess about the "what if's" like I often do in life.  In the dark of the night, when I felt that I didn't have much control at all, it was easy to let go and let God take the reins.

I have two favorite Bible verses:

Jeremiah 29:11 > "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Philippians 4:13 > "I can do everything through Him who give me strength."

These are my life rafts.  When life veers out of control, and I can't see the upside, I cling to these words to remember that God is with me.  Just as He was in that tiny camper.  But not only is He with me, He was there before I ever get myself into sticky messes, and if I allow His plan to come to fruition (rather than trying to change it myself), He will walk me through it on a path that will make me a stronger person.

But what about when the storms of life become more figurative?

What about when there is conflict that I just don't know how to solve?

What about when I can't quiet my mind to stop and listen to what God is trying to tell me to do?

The winds of these storms are blowing in me now.  There are some things that I have been praying fervently for all summer, but now that I see how God's will is panning out, I don't know if I'm strong enough to accept His will.

I've been here before... I prayed and prayed for something, those prayers were answered, and the path that the answers came on were slippery at best.  I remember kneeling on my son's floor and crying out, "Really God? THIS is how you answered me?"

So there's this knot in my chest.  This "something" that won't release me.  I have spent hours on the phone or huddled in the hallway at church with several of my dear friends trying to find the light at the end of the foggy tunnel.  And I'm split.  I know what I think I should do, but it's becoming pretty clear to me, that what I think I should do may not be what God is telling me to do.  And for me, this is where the thunder and lightning strike up.  I very well believe that God may be about to make me walk on a slick, messy,  muddy path that is going to make me quite uncomfortable.

And I wonder.... will I weather this storm?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Healing Prayers & Salvation

About eight years ago, I went to my obstetrician for a routine ultrasound.  It turned out to be anything but ordinary.  The technician found calcifications under the baby's diaphragm and near her bladder.  I then went on to see a specialist and found myself in a room with a genetic counselor telling me that my baby might have toxioplasmosis, or she might have "meslisfdjalsjidsafj" (Yeah, I never did learn what that one was.), or she might have Down's Syndrome.  The general consensus became that was going to have Down's.

I refused to have an amniocentesis.  At the time, the miscarriage risk was 1 in 100, and I was just coming off of two miscarriages.  I was not risking another one.  The specialist made the mistake of telling me that if I did not have the amnio, I would not be able to terminate as I was already at 20 weeks.  I went off on a tirade and will not disgrace myself by repeating the things that I said since they were, er, a little less than nice.  The gist of it was, God gave me this baby and only God would take her away from me.

So I set out of that doctor's appointment determined to learn what I could about Down's and how to care for a child with Down's to help her live as fulfilling a life as possible. I always thought that I could not have a special needs child -- I didn't think I had the patience; I didn't have the strength.  I had even convinced myself that I had lost my two other babies because there was something wrong with them, and God knew I couldn't handle it.  But immediately, this attitude changed.  I was determined that I would find the patience and strength to raise this baby as well.

During my first two pregnancies, I would talk to the babies all of the time.  Jayla would flip when she head me talk -- even when I was reading aloud to my classes which made my students watch  my stomach more than they listened to me.  This time, though, I could not talk to the baby. Every time I would try to tell her about the things we were going to do or about her big brother and sister, I would find myself praying over her.  I had an hour commute to work, so for two hours a day I would pray over the baby -- every day.  I did get some strange looks from other drivers because I was "talking to myself" but that was irrelevant.  I pleaded with God that He would heal my baby, or if that was not His will, that He would give me the strength, knowledge, and patience to be the best mother to her that I could be. My main prayer was that I did not want her to suffer physically, emotionally, mentally, or socially.  I knew the cruel world she was being born into, and even in utero, I desperately wanted to protect her.

Close to the end of my pregnancy, my doctor told me that it looked as if everything was going to be okay.  And on August 11, 2005, Emma Grace was born... perfect.  When our pediatrician came in and told me all of her Apgar scores and details, I timidly asked, "What about Down's?".  Dr. Klein looked at me startled and said, "There's no sign of Down's.  Why would you ask that?"

I believe with all my heart that God healed my baby.  I saw the ultrasound.  I saw the marks that weren't supposed to be there.  I also saw the changes in her ultrasound as we progressed in the pregnancy.  And I certainly saw her perfect little baby girl body when she was born.

I promised God that I would to my best to honor Him and His healing blessings by raising my little girl with the superior goal of introducing her to His kingdom.  I even gave her the middle name Grace because it is by His grace that we have her.  I dedicated her at our church and I set out on a path to introduce to her God and His mighty powers.

This past Sunday, Emma told me that she thought she was ready to ask Jesus into her heart.  We went into her room and sat on her bed and I walked through the plan of salvation with her again.  Then she prayed and asked Jesus to forgive her of her sins, to be her Savior, and to give her eternal life.  I then prayed over my little girl and tearfully thanked God that He had called her to Him.

Next week, Emma will be baptized in the same church that I was baptized in when I was 7.  Thirty years after my salvation was made public, Emma's will be as well.

Yet, i'm not done.  Actually, I'm just starting over again because I am now tasked with teaching this sweet one how to follow Jesus and live a life for Him in a world that is NOT about Jesus or His kingdom. Thank goodness God is always by my side.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Changing Dialogue

Four months ago, we made a big change in our household: we kicked our addiction to drugs out the door.  No, not the illicit kind.  We haven't been smoking pot or crack, and the only coke in our house comes in a red can (and yes, I know, I should kick that too).  The drugs we were addicted to were the ones on the counter: the cough syrups, ibuprofen, naproxen, and loads and loads of sinus and allergy medications that were taking over our space.  It was a radical change, but one that has made an incredible difference in our lifestyle and our dialogue around home.

It all started with my freaky friend Melissa (who gets the nickname only because I love her so dearly she merits getting a nickname) who has been using homepoathic treatments in her family forever and had been trying to get me to do the same.  If you know me at all, you know that I do NOT go with the flow.  I am not a follower, and I am not going to try something just because you say it works.  I have to see it to believe it.  And I've done just that.

In September, we made a trip back to our beloved Pensacola and stayed with Melissa.  My five year old, Sean, had had a cough for months that we were treating with a honey cough syrup but that just would not go away.  Melissa used one of her natural essential oils on him, a blend called RC, and it worked!  He stopped coughing.  So I decided, upon her suggestion, to try using lavender oil for my allergies.  Understand... you say plant, and I start to sneeze and my eyes start to water.  I have taken just about every prescription known to man and almost every OTC sinus medication as well.  Some worked, some didn't.  Some worked but left me feeling too groggy to accomplish anything.  I began using the lavender and noticed an immediate change - not just in my allergy symptoms, but also with the headaches that I had been having all of the time.  I have gone from taking allergy medicine two or three times a day to not taking it at all.  I have not had one pill since the day I started using the lavender.

Western medicine has its place.  I am not going into surgery without it.  And sometimes we do have infections and such that need an antibiotic.  But how many times are we pumping ourselves with synthetic substances that are not truly making us well?  They are just masking our symptoms and often making us dependent on the drugs. 

So, I've fallen.  Hook... line... sinker.  I am a convert.  So much so, that I am not only now using sixteen different oils, but I am also working as an independent consultant for Young Living, a company that prides itself in using the highest quality plants and processes to extract the purest oils to promote healthy living.  These are the substances that were used in Biblical times when ancient doctors couldn't give you a prescription for Zyrtec or hydrocodone but could use the natural substances that God created for healing.  In his creation, God gave us EVERYTHING we need for life -- that includes the plants and fruits that we can use to stay healthy.

I guess I have even become "freaky" myself.  I've begun to introduce Young Living products to the people around me.  I have a dear friend with asthma that was out of options medicinally.  I gave her RC and she is chugging through this winter healthier than she has been in years.  She's beginning to stock up her cabinet with essential oils -- though she tells people that I've given her snake oil.  I deserve it... it's tit for tat for calling Melissa freaky for so long.  You know, what goes around comes around.

In any case,  the dialogue in our family has changed radically.
Have a headache?  Grab some peppermint.
Muscles cramping after a hard day at work?  Grab some marjoram.
Shouldn't have eaten that fried food?  Grab the peppermint (again).
Want to play outside but not WITH the bugs? Rub on some citronella.
Stressed out?  Love the lavender.
Want the kids to calm down?  Grab the cedarwood. (Except with my 3-year-old Abbie-- for whom this seems to have the REVERSE effect because she is a special, joyful child in her own right and must always go against the flow and do her own thing.)

The most signficant thing to me is that I am no longer putting crap in my kids' bodies to try to make them feel better.  No more ingredients that I can't pronounce in our medication.  We are using a dialogue that makes us feel better than we have in a long time and it's all natural.

And the cutest thing is anytime anyone complains about any hurt, ailment, etc.,  Abbie says, "You need mell-a-loo-ka."

If you're interested in changing your medical dialogue, check out or contact me for more information.  Here's hoping everyone can feel as great as we do!