Monday, April 29, 2013

Nacho Usual Teen Party

My aunt was the ultimate youth leader.  Funny, cool, relatable, and extremely creative, she made learning about the Bible fun.  Aunt Becky was gifted with making you want to hang with Jesus.

Even though I wasn't officially a "teen," Becky invited me to be a part of the youth group a few years early.  Like Noah, I looked older than my age, and being a typical first-born female, was mature beyond my years.  Of course, it also helped that I had a family connection.  I didn't care how I got in, it was just great to be a part of the group.

Among my favorite youth group memories are the recreation of the Lord's supper, Luau's in the backyard, and rapping the Sunday school lessons.  I remember thinking then how much fun it would be when I was a grown-up and could host teen parties for my own church.

Fast forward many, many years later to present day. 

Last night, we were blessed to host the monthly Bible study for our kid's youth group.  Mix together a couple dozen teens and youth leaders, 2 ginormous bags of tortilla chips, a vat of nacho cheese and all the toppings, a heavy assortment of sugary sweets, a study video that asks tough spiritual questions, and you have all the ingredients for one great night.

We've come to love so many of these teens the past year and last night was a wonderful opportunity to get to know others better.  Prayers, lots of laughter, and smart conversations were shared.  Tim and I loved watching Noah and Tina interact with their friends and responding to the challenges given.  Coming off Revival, the timing was perfect to remind the teens (and us adults) to be brave and bold in continuing to share the gospel. 

"What if each of us reached just 1 person this year for Jesus?"
rang through the walls of our home and stirred our hearts.

Cleaning up a littering of plastic cups and chip crumbs, I found myself smiling as the last kid trotted out the door.  Amazed, even still, at the work God has done with our family through this church.  Grateful and blessed that Noah and Tina have solid role models, strong youth leaders, and faithful Christian friends.  Of all the gatherings we've hosted in our home over the years, this Bible study is by far at the top of our favorite's list.

And I can't help but chuckle that someone in the neighborhood called in a complaint about the crowd.  If they only knew the great things that were happening under this roof.  ...Maybe next time we'll invite them to join us!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Faithful Friday: I wanna be fruity!

What a revival! 

While our bodies are exhausted from the long (short) week of late nights, our souls are REVIVED!  Over 10 lives were eternally changed over the course of five days, with decisions of salvation.  An innumerable amount of lives were refreshed and hopefully forever changed from the contagious passion of our guest pastor, Steve Ayers.

There were so many nuggets that I could share with you, but one especially impacted me and it'll be my focus for this Faithful Friday.  (I encourage you to check out our podcast to listen to each of the sermons though.)

It was interesting that my exact reading that morning was the scripture of focus for Pastor Steve's sermon. 

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 
Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree,
“May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.  - Mark 11:12-14

I've never eaten a fig, that I remember, and I didn't really know anything about a fig tree until that morning.  When I'd read the scripture earlier, for a moment I thought, "Gee, that was harsh."  It wasn't until later when I learned that Jesus cursed the tree due to the fact that it had all the outward signs of bearing fruit, from the fullness of leaves, but was a hypocrite because it had none.  And truly, if we aren't serving a purpose, what good are we?
Fig trees aren't the prettiest, they're knotty and don't play well with others.  The roots are greedy, spreading beyond the tree, often choking out other vegetation.  But those that mature and bear fruit, provide one of the most sustainable sources of food.  Figs are low in calories but high in fiber, anti-oxidants and minerals.  Even an ugly tree can fulfill its purpose when it does what God planned it to do.

I couldn't help but sit there during the sermon and compare my life to that of a fig tree.  Yes, I've had lots of ugly.  And I've had my share of looking like everything was together when it was anything but.  While I'm blessed to say I'm in the stage of life that is bearing fruit, I know that daily I need some pruning. 

I want my tree to be used up at the end of my life, to have born all the fruit I could possibly bear.  And to know that my tree was always used for God's glory, never my own.

Less leaves, more fruit

That's my earnest prayer...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Joy is Spring!

God is never more present than in the bursting forth of spring!

I find myself even more in awe of Him this time of year because of the beauty he sends to us.  Spring, I think, is but a small glimpse of Heaven.

It was perfect timing that as I arrived home from Women of Joy a few weekends ago, Spring had arrived.  Pulling into my driveway, I was greeted by the dainty sweet blooms of our pear trees.

Over the course of the past few days, I've noticed even more brilliant signs my most beloved season is upon us.  Being on the parkway several hours yesterday was actually a blessing because it gave me a lot of time to soak in those "happy little trees" along the road.  God paints an even more beautiful picture than Bob Ross, with pops of springy greens, pastel pinks, and sunshine yellows across the horizon.

The weather has been calling me to our deck and to the grill.  Last night, as burgers were sizzling away for dinner, I began to dust off winter from my patio set.  A recent storm warning had seen all the chairs and such scootched to one side, so I was rearranging furniture in the favorite room of our house.  While moving things back to their place, an unexpected addition surprised me.

I had noticed a nest several days before, when stepping outside, as the bird that flew from it startled me.  It wasn't until yesterday though we realized the tiny eggs.

Getting close enough for a photo but keeping a safe distance not to upset Mama Bird, I captured a quick shot.  The picture doesn't do it justice however, as I've never seen a more breathtaking blue.  A friend of mine said it best, "That is simply amazing. God did not have to make those eggs blue, He did because He is in the business of creating beauty!"  How true.

And what a simple picture of how awesome our God is.  A God who finds delight in painting trees pink and forming eggs blue.  How great is our God? ...sing with me!

In finding refuge on the angel's wing, this mama bird saved the angel. 
She was on my list to dust off the deck season but I think we'll keep her now!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Faithful Friday: Lifesaving Prayer

Turn on the television, social media, or just browse the internet and you quickly get a sense of an urgent need for prayer these days.  Not only on a national scope but locally too.  Aside from the horrific and cowardly acts of terrorism this week, mass casualties from fires, and impending storms, there are needs right here at home.  Perhaps right where you are now.

Sickness, broken families, tragic deaths.  Our county's obituaries were two pages this week and many were of people my age.  People passing before their time.  Shocking and unexpected. 
We are never promised tomorrow - or even the completion of today.

Sadly, Tim and I live in the harsh reality that life is short every single day.  We know.  We feel the still very present pain of a life taken too soon.  We remember the struggle to simply breathe with the knowledge and yet unexplainable news that Austin was gone.

Though it doesn't take the pain of missing him away, what held us from the very beginning was knowing where he was.  Austin asked Jesus into his heart at a very early age.  While I had no doubt of his understanding of salvation, at the tender age of 7, we asked our pastor to visit with him at our home.  His baptism was scheduled that same month and I can vividly picture him before entering the water.  Austin was smiling from the inside out, as if his soul was beaming for all to see.  Proudly wearing an "I love Jesus" t-shirt, he'd chosen himself, the very present love of our Savior and the joy of salvation filled the room.

I am proud of the Good News, because it is the power God uses to save everyone who believes-
Romans 1:16

Knowing Heaven holds my sweet boy is what pushes me through each day.  This world can crumble around me but my foundation is secure in knowing I will join him there - and that my family will as well.  What breaks my heart is thinking of those who won't.

Whether within my friends and family, or a stranger down the road, my heart is broken for the lost of this world.  As a church member shared this week, "when I read those obituaries each Wednesday, I wonder if they were a Christian, and I'm burdened with the guilt I never reached out to them." 

That burden is heavily weighing on me too.  Preparing for our upcoming Revival, I've been in more dedicated and constant prayer for the lost.  For those I know and many I do not.  A group of us prayed, name by name, for the ones nailed to a small cross in our church.  We pray that their hearts be opened, that the hold of the enemy be removed from them, and that they accept and believe.  We pray that the Holy Spirit move and use us and others as vehicles to carry his Word.  We pray that their lives be changed...for eternity.

And I would be honored to pray for you too.  For someone you love.  For you personally.  I welcome you to message me and I will faithfully pray.

In this moment, wherever you are in your walk with the Lord, I pray for you now.  For peace, for strength, for the power of the Holy Spirit to fill you in this place.  I pray that if you do not know Him, that you will open your heart to the Lord now. 

  If you openly say, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from death,
you will be saved. - Romans 10:9

There are not enough words, no expression I can share that explains the joy that comes in knowing Him. 
It is my earnest prayer that if you are reading this, you also know this JOY.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pillow Talk

If I haven't mentioned it before, Tim and I are happily "old married folks."  I love nothing better on a Friday night to simply be home with the family.  Naps are our best friends.  Going to bed at 8 pm is a luxury we yearn for.  Yep, we aren't middle aged by the world's terms, but laughingly accept the label by a teen's.

Since a 10 o'clock bedtime is really pushing it for us, you can imagine that, especially on the weekends, our kiddos go to bed after us.  We giggle that many nights, the kids tuck us into bed.

They'll scoff when, soon after the sun sets, Tim begins to yawn.  They roll their eyes and moan when I announce we're on the last tv show or that time is running down on a family activity.  Yet, after we've gone through our routines, they're eager to bounce at the foot of our bed for a nightly chat. 

Because it's on their terms, they openly talk about anything and everything.  We have serious discussions, funny stories, and what we love most of all is just hearing about the details of their day.  When you're used to a one word answers to most questions, open and willing discussions are such a treat. 

Normally about an hour later, final hugs and good-nights are said.  As they skip away, Tim and I will laugh at how we intentionally plan bedtime at least an hour earlier because we know how long they'll talk.  We truly treasure what's become a frequent ritual to our evenings.

Now, with all this talk about sleeping.....can I go take a nap?! 

Maybe they won't shoot me since this is a couple years old!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Faithful Friday: Jesus Water

Angela Thomas was our final speaker of the Women of Joy conference.  It was exciting to see an author in person, who wrote the book of our current women's Brave study.  This tiny woman has a fill the room type of presence and the love of God just spills out of her.  She did not disappoint.

In fact, her words resonated with me probably more than any other speaker over the weekend.  My notes were a testament to that, as they spanned multiple pages.  And yet, what she shared was so simple, it's something we should've known all along.

"The cup of your soul is where you long for eternity," she shared.  My soul echoed in agreement with her.

Angela demonstrated with an empty glass.  She described how each of us take those cups and search for someone or something to fill it.  We're disappointed when our spouse can't.  We're frustrated when our children can't.  We're let down when the "things" of this world can't.  But nothing of this world can ever fill that spot.  Our cups can only be filled with the living water of Jesus.

And with such visual beauty, she began to pour clear, life sustaining, refreshing water into the cup.  Our "Jesus Water" as she referenced, was the only source of our true happiness, comfort and support.  And that the more we drank from this water, the more of Him would spill out into every crack and crevice of our life. 

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” -John 4:13-14

We only have to surrender to Him fully to receive it.  To put our lives into his hand, like a sponge, and draw from His never-ending well.  And yet, trust, or rather lack of it, often prevents us from doing so.

When life doesn't go as we had envisioned or planned, we question if He has our best interest at heart.  We doubt and sometimes think we can do it better.  We try to jump ahead and fix things.  It's the typical woman -and mother instinct- for most of us.

But God whispered something to me while Angela poured water on the stage.

He flashed memories of me pre-pregnancy, pregnant, and then the joy-filled moments when I held those baby boys in my arms.  All of us parents, before being a parent, loved the idea of a child.  We dreamed about what we might name them, happy outings we would have, and who they might grow up to be.  Those dreams grew each month, along with our bellies, and we ached with anticipation.  Our love grew too, for someone we hadn't even seen.

Yet nothing prepares us for the overflowing love that fills the room the moment that sweet baby is placed in our arms.  When our eyes connect for the first time and their little hearts beat outside of us.  How could there be so much love for someone you've only just met?!  Unexplainable - no words - kind of love.

That's the kind of love God has for us from the very beginning.  Before we even were...he loved us.  He sent his son to die for us knowing what we would be...someday.  Who we would be.  The ultimate parent, he fully knew and loved us pre-creation to eternity because he is all-knowing and all-seeing.  That's an unexplainable - no words - kind of love.

And just as our babies fully surrender to us for love, comfort, wisdom, and guidance, so will our Father be there for us.  Something about that picture makes me want to run, childlike with arms wide open, into the arms of Jesus, ready for him to fill my cup.

Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation. - Isaiah 12:3

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Women of Joy - part 2

Lisa Whelchel was another speaker on last Saturday morning I was excited to hear. I grew up watching her as Blair, on The Facts of Life.  I rooted for her most recently on Survivor and admired her example of faith on the show.

During her testimony she shared how she found God at an early age. Like myself, she sometimes wished she had some amazing salvation story.  No dramatic turn of events, no bells and whistles, no happy ending redemption.

Sadly the mistakes I've made in life were all post-Christian. But as Lisa shared, thanks to God's amazing grace, he still loves me. He still uses me for his glory.

Something hit me during her talk and I scrambled to write it in the dark...

I found God early because of what was ahead in my life.
I needed HIM for the testimony that was to come!

My testimony isn't how I found Jesus but what he's done in my life. Most of all - HOW he's been in my life. And despite the pain and sorrow I've faced, my testimony is that He has always been there with me.  I couldn't have survived the "life" I've lived, were it not because I've been held through it.

Jesus knew "in this life you will face many troubles" and, through His providence, came to me at early age for the foundation of faith I'd need.


I'd never really thought about that before.  That, even though the testimony I share is post-tragedy, He was working within and in the background of my life from the start.  All those years growing up in my Grandpa's church, learning the stories, seeing faith in action, would be tucked away for future use. 

Isn't it amazing when He gives us a glimpse into his wisdom? His divine plan for us?  Even if it's past tense, to look back and see His mighty hand guiding and preparing me all along, is a powerful picture. 

It's one I'm joyfully glad was revealed to me from a dark seat in a large auditorium at Women of Joy.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Miss Liz

I've decided maybe the best way to proceed with my posts this week about Women of Joy is to go straight to the source of my inspiration.
Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of hearing Liz Curtis Higgs, an author I was familiar with but had never really followed.  She hooked me instantly.
With a quirky, hip, yet grandmotherly charm, I was wrapped into the weaving of her words.  A fellow Kentuckian, sinner now saved, with unexpected spunk, she had me loving her from the start.
What truly captivated me was the ease at which she translated the Bible.  Liz would take only 2-3 words and explain them in a way I'd never heard or thought of and it changed the scripture's meaning entirely.  Or rather, I understood it on a deeper level than before.  How I could sit at her feet and listen to her teach for hours.  Liz, let's just start at Genesis and go all the way through, please!? 
The sweet surprise of her presentation was that she started rapping the book of Ruth at the end.  Not just rhyming the message, but full on rap with sound effects and all!  Too.  Cute.  I found myself chuckling, remembering all those years ago in youth, when my aunt Becky asked me rap the Sunday School lessons whenever I came to church.  Yes, I even threw in some beatboxing too!
I loved how she shared the story of Naomi and described her as the female Job of the Bible.  Her explanation of how the Lord was, "loving her all the while he leads her through the shadows" spoke to me. 
I know that God.

I've been in those shadows, the depths of grief.  Some days I find myself still there.  But I know, even when anger absorbed me and I tried to push Him away, the Lord was always by my side.  And he loved me through it.

As she shared Ruth 1:16, I was taken back to my wedding day.  Tim and I spoke those same words.  Hearing them from Ruth to her mother-in-law, and what a true example of love and devotion that was, re-emphasized their meaning.  It is the ultimate family creed.

And, it is absolute surrender. 

Much of that scripture can be mirrored to how we should follow Christ.

 “Entreat me not to leave you,

 Or to turn back from following after you;

For wherever you go, I will go;

 And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;

 Your people shall be my people,

 And your God, my God."

Wherever He leads.....I'll go

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I surrender all...

It's been a weekend of surrender.

Honestly, surrender began at even signing up a few months back to come to Women of Joy.  I wanted to go last year. I mean, how could a joy seeker, a joy sharer like me, NOT want to go? But something held me back. I didn't really know these women. I'd only joined the church a short time and being with "strangers" a whole weekend was way out of my comfort zone.  Being an onion and a bit of a loner, it takes me awhile to warm up to someone I don't know well.  Even though I call many of these women friends now, it was still outside my comfort zone a year later.

But God whispered, "Go..."

So it was in complete surrender when I signed up in February.  I paid the registration quickly as I could, so I didn't stress or analyze the details of the unknown.

When you let go and let God, amazing things happen. 

There's so much to share about this past weekend of JOY.  My messy notes, scribbled in the dark, will be inspiration for this week's posts.  I'm pacing myself on purpose because, to do it justice, it has to be more than just one writing.

For now, I'll share a picture of the group of ladies I was blessed to share the weekend with.  Some were old friends, some fairly recent, and some were brand new faces I'm glad to now know.

at the Spaghetti Factory...when we weren't at JOY, we were eating!  :)
 You can imagine in a group this big there's stories to share.  Oh, the laughs we had! 
But of course, what happens in Louisville stays in Louisville, so for the most part that fun will have to stay tucked away in the secret vault.  After that kind of tease though, I will end laughing at myself. 
And letting you join me.

Part of being an onion meant I didn't do a lot of sleepovers.  I had one best friend and spent 1/2 my life at her house but never really went to others.  I wasn't a typical college student and didn't do the dorm life, so I've never had a roommate.  Other than having to room with co-workers on work retreats, that world is unfamiliar and scary to me.  It was the part of the trip I was most apprehensive about.

To save money, we were all sharing beds, not just rooms.  The original plan was to have four in a room, two to a bed.  I picked my bed mate early, the kindness of an offer from a relatively new but close friend at church.  Debbie has become so much more than a friend to me - a mentor, a spiritual coach... (I could write a post or two just about her friendship).  Anyway, it did somewhat relieve my anxiety that she'd be the one I'd bunk with. 

Due to a hotel mistake, we ended up two a room, one small bed.  Anxiety returned. 
(surrender, surrender, I told myself!)

It was L.A.T.E. when we finally went to bed our first night, after a midnight feeding at the Cheesecake Factory and lots of walking at JOY conference.  My legs were beyond exhausted and I felt like I was riding a bicycle with their restlessness.  Of course, I tried to softly move them, so as not to disturb my sleeping pal.  In the wee hours of the morning, all hope was lost.

Being shocked awake by massive leg cramps, I tried to jump out of the bed and stand, the only relief I knew to seek.  Debbie, being the sweet pal she is, is startled from sleep thinking I'm having nightmares.  She grabs hold of me (a somewhat funny sight when you picture her size compared to mine) and in a David vs Goliath attempt, pulls me back shouting, "It's ok, you're just having a bad dream!" 

At the same time, and unable to speak because of the pain, I'm pulling away from her, struggling with the mounds of covers, trying to get out of the bed and stand on two legs.  For probably seconds, but what felt an eternity, we did this humorous tug-o-war.  Eventually I won and stood in the small room, trying to walk enough to work it out.  Still mute from the pain, she's not giving up trying to wake me, continuing her shouts of compassion to bring me from the nightmare.

After a few stretches and old man roll-on medicine, I was able to communicate to her what happened.  Still groggy, it dawns on Debbie what just occurred and we both collapse into laughter.  For the next thirty minutes -or more!- we enjoyed belly busting, side splitting laughs.  I was actually afraid someone would call the front desk and complain. 

Though an awkward icebreaker, it was kind of hard to have any nervousness after that.  It certainly gave us both something to laugh about the entire weekend!  And it helped me at least to physically surrender to the experience!

More JOY to come this week, friends...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Faithful Friday: Joyful, Joyful

By the time you read this, I'll be on my way to the Women of Joy conference in Louisville, KY.  My first.  And I'm so excited!!

3 days in Louisville with a group of women from church I respect, admire and appreciate their friendship. 
2 nights, including a Jeremy Camp concert and cheesecake! 
And 1 purpose - JOY! 
The conference is designed to spiritually teach, challenge, and uplift us as we joyfully praise our God.

My lips will shout for JOY, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. Psalm 71:23 ESV

While there, I'll have the honor of hearing such speakers as Lisa Whelchel (Blair from Facts of Life) and Angela Thomas, author of Brave, the women's study I've been doing at EHBC.  I'm giddy with anticipation, much like a child on Christmas morn.

We'll see how my mobile posting skills are and if I can get it together to share some inspiration with you in the moment.  If I fail, there's always the promise of a post-post. 

Very blessed to have a family that supports me leaving for the last half of spring break to fill my joy tank!
More to come soon, friends...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Man of the House

Any parent knows how quickly children grow up. Sometimes you blink and realize how much time has actually passed.  Sometimes, you're blessed to see and recognize it in the moment. 

I find myself staring at my changing boy.  How tall he is growing.  And yet how gentle he remains.

My gentle giant.  (heart sigh)  

He was so eager to scoop up baby Lee last Saturday, not even complaining about having to to rise from bed on a Saturday morning before noon.  In fact, he told me the night before to make sure I woke him because he wanted to hold him first.  It's so sweet to see them together and the sharp contrast between one so tiny and another so strong. 

Even though we're on spring break, most nights I've been in bed well before 10 p.m.  Easter evening we retired even earlier, a mixture of sunrise service catching up with us and a belly full of ham.  While Tim and I were in bed reading our devotional, I overheard Noah check the locks on the doors.  This is something his Dad does nightly anyway, but my youngest man of the house is following in his footsteps. 

Yesterday, while at the mall enjoying some food court Chinese chicken, Noah was first out of the line and went off to find us seats.  As Tina and I joined him, he reached out his hands and led us in prayer.  Surrounded by his peer group, he didn't hesitate in giving thanks and being an example.  And one proud momma bowed with him, soul singing.

Then today, as he's juggling chores and helping a mom with spring cleaning fever, I hear the scraping sound of the trash totes being drug to the curb.  Tomorrow is trash day and, without being asked, Noah just did the job.  Something simple, yet shows how much he's maturing.  My little guy nearly grown.

easily leaning on Mom...

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