Friday, September 26, 2014

Faithful Friday: I'll Take You There

Oh, what a glorious day!

I've had the privilege to be out and about every day this week.  The drives have been absolutely beautiful.  Each time I walk outside, my lungs deeply inhale, almost effortlessly, because my entire body and soul just wants to soak. up. every. ounce. of Autumn.

Today, has been a picture perfect fall day.  
Sunshine with a cool breeze.  
Blue skies and fluffy clouds contrasted against amber fields.  
Tunes on the radio singing, "I'll take you there."  
And I was grateful for where I was in each moment of this day.

My eyes yearned to look on both sides instead of the road ahead of me, 
each view more wonderful than the last.  

Perhaps, because of  my busy week, the peacefulness of outdoors called to me.

But, there's healing, I think, 
when you're surrounded by God's beautiful landscapes.

With my head hanging out the window, soaking up all splendor of fall, I lifted up praise to Him for creating such views.  As my eyes would scan the patchwork terrain, my thoughts would wonder how majestic Heaven must be.  

If earth is even a fraction of what awaits....

I know a place, ya'all
(I'll take you there)
Ain't nobody cryin'
(I'll take you there)
Ain't nobody worried
(I'll take you there)

Let me take you there
(I'll take you there)

Friday, September 19, 2014

You Don't Need to Go to Church

My grandfather was a preacher so I grew up in church.  But, throughout the course of my life, I've spent more time outside of church than in it.

At many times, I pondered the importance of going.  Sometimes it felt like the "right thing to do" but it seemed like I was just going to get an attendance star.  Sometimes I went long enough to "get my Jesus fix" but stalled when life got hectic.  Sometimes I left church altogether because of something somebody did or said, or because of major transitions.

And the two points of my life when my walk with God got the closest were after tragedy and loss - when I wasn't going to church.

Often I thought, was church really necessary?

What I knew was...
  • You don't need to go to church to believe in God.
  • You don't have to be in church to worship Him.
  • Church (and God) had let me down.
So wasn't it just easier to be a Christian on my terms?
Did I really need to go to church regularly?

To get you to the end, I should start at the beginning.....


Growing up, for the most part, I only went to church when visiting my grandparents.  It wasn't something we did in my own childhood home.  My Mom didn't have a vehicle and the only church within walking distance wasn't our denomination.

Grandpa's influence led me to be saved at the age 9 when, on wobbly knees, I walked toward his smiling face and warm arms one Sunday.  Yet, even with that foundation, once married, I wasn't consistent in church attendance.  Major holidays and the occasional surprise visits were about the only time I went.  I believed in God but felt regular church attendance was something older people (like my grandparents) did.

When we learned that we were expecting, my husband and I talked of hopes and dreams for the future.  One included raising our children in church.  I'm not sure why that was a value, given that neither of us were brought up going but I'm glad for the still small voice that spurred us that direction.

Though we shared the Bible stories with our oldest from the start, we didn't make regular rounds of finding a church home until he was three or four years old.  And along the way, many churches failed us.  Some had too many restrictions and requirements.  One told us our son made too much noise.  Others expected service too soon, before we really even understood what being a Christian even meant.  For awhile, we just quit trying.

After the birth of our second child, six years into our marriage, we found our first church home.  Both my boys would end up baptized there.  But we were seasonal attendees at best, going for the kids and when it was convenient to our schedule.  And then, due to tragedy, we were forced into church limbo.

Given that we never consistently attended, it seemed strange to me that I struggled with our absence.  In our walk with grief from child loss, my relationship with God was a roller coaster.  I was angry, scared, and confused, but I still clung to what faith I had.  No matter how much I pushed God away, I could feel that He never let go.

There was something that kept pulling, kept nudging me to go and find a church home. Stubbornly, as I often do, I dug my heels in and didn't listen.  At least not right away.

Now, when think back on the blessings that our current church home has given us, I sometimes wonder what we missed out on during that time in limbo.  I only thought I was growing in my relationship with Him.

Because, in reality, my walk with God dramatically changed once I fully committed my time to Him.

  • You don't need to go to church to believe in God but you need to go to fully know Him because He+We=Church.  (1 Corinthians 12:12)
  • You don't have to be in church to worship Him but fellowship and discipleship with other believers is true worship.  (Romans 12:5)
  • Church (and God) had let me down but they also picked me up again.  and again. and again.    (1 Thessalonians 5:11)  And in truth, I'd let them down too.

When we quit asking, "Are we going to church today?" and just committed ourselves to go, amazing change began in our lives.

We had other believers helping us be accountable, in love not judgement.  We've had tremendous growth in our knowledge of the Word because we're in it on a regular basis, not just when we're in a pew.    We have others to share our struggles and joys and to pray alongside us.  As a family, our prayer life has grown.  We've learned what service to others is really all about and have found a place for everyone to use their talents and gifts.  Our family has become closer and stronger.  We've changed - for the better - more since being consistent members than I feel we did our whole lifetimes before.

Maybe you don't need to go to church.
But once you fully get to know God, you should want to.

For me, it was worth the journey, the struggles, and every twist and turn this Christian walk took me to get where we are today.  I can't imagine my life without the Church.  My hope for you, friends, is that you have a family of faith like this too.  If not, it is my prayer I'm lifting up for you today.

Linked with #DancewithJesus

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pull up a Plate

Our Kentucky family was a tad disappointed with the results of Miss America this week.  Of course, we were a bit biased, but I'm pretty sure it was a nationwide consensus that the talents of the top ten were not exactly equal.  And we missed not getting to see our girl with the green fiddle showcase hers.

{stepping down from my red solo cup soapbox}

Alas, I'm not a judge, but if I were given the duty to hand out "Best Food Blog" awards, this lady below would most certainly get my vote.

Coming from someone who is a Pinterest and Blog connoisseur, I don't quite know how I didn't happen upon on this gem sooner.  Instead, it was a sweet aunt who just knew I'd enjoy reading her stories that gave me her website digits one day.  An added bonus is that her recipes and tips are really, really, really good.

Yes, I'm aware I just used really three times in a row.

But seriously, she deserves it.  I'd post the link right now but when I do, I know you'll leave this little blog and head to hers.  So, I'm digressing just a bit to keep you more than a paragraph or two.  Please come back and thank me later.

My first "wow" moment, upon perusing her blog, was the best mixer tip in the world.  It seems so simple that I don't know how the thought never came to me.  Unless, of course, you count the fact I didn't own a mixer until this year.  Anyway, she has a tip for any ol' hunk of meat that will blow your socks off.  ....If meat has the potential to do that.

I found her at a point when there was a bit more time on my hands, having recently lost my job.  And it was like we became instant friends, even though we've never met and this sentence could make her feel I'm a scary stalker.

It just is so rare to giggle while reading recipes -and trust me, I read a lot of them.  It's unusual to smile while scrolling through pictures of country cooking.  Normally, I just fast jump to the ingredients on most food blogs to scour the list, see if it looks doable, pin it, and go.

The bonus, as I mentioned earlier, is to know that every recipe, of which I've already attempted many, is scrumptious, simple, and supper-repeat-approved.

I don't send you elsewhere often but this is worth a click.  Trust me, friends.  If you don't find a dose of joy at her blog, you need to check your pulse.

So, without further ado, I introduce to you Christy Jordan at the Southern Plate.  You'll notice that my love of fall and apple recipes thought this particular link would serve you well.  But please, don't stop there.  Browse and giggle, rinse and repeat.

There was no compensation for the posting of this recommendation.  
The writer would not turn down a free cookbook, virtual hug, 
or the opportunity to meet and greet her someday, however!  {wink}

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Firsts of Fall...

 There's been a crispness in the air this week.

And though the fall season will always be bittersweet, filled with memories and nightmares, I'm clinging to the good that comes.

Because JOY shines a light upon darkness and shrinks its power.

This past weekend was a whirlwind.  The type where you go-go-go and hardly have a chance to catch your breath.  My cupboards are bare and the house is a mess but, oh the fun we've had.

Friday night found us at the football field to watch our girl dance.  We've only had two home games so far this year.  The first was sweltering, even with the sun down.  This past was the extreme opposite.  Hubby and I snuggled under a blanket, side by side, and shared our first-first of fall.

A caramel. apple. funnel. cake.

Yes, can we please take two of my favorite things and mash them together?  It was heavenly!
Sharing it with my sweetie though made it even better.

We arrived home to a cool house and fell asleep to the crickets and a breeze blowing through our bedroom windows.  One of my very favorite things about the season.

Saturday morning, though my bones wanted to remain snug in the bed, they were drug out early for a jam-packed day.  Over the course of 12 hours we'd watch two soccer games with lots of smiles & giggles from the littles, a family reunion, complete with a low country boil, a birthday party, a movie marathon for the kids, and an evening out for adults with our Lifegroup, which included time at a barn and gathered round a bonfire.

We hugged.  We laughed.  We prayed.  And, of course, we ate!

Here's a snapshot view of my first fall weekend.

breakfast of Champions

Redneck Choo-choo Train

Hello Fall!

For a regular dose of joyful pics, follow me on Instagram.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Faithful Friday: Let it Shine

I have a confession to make....

Sometimes this little blog gets jealous.

When visiting other blogs, with their flashy pages, professional layouts, and thousands of followers, it sometimes makes me doubt.

And I wonder, why do I even still try?

Does anyone really read these posts (besides my Mom)?
Am I making a difference?

Sure, I can view this blog's stats and witness how it has grown the past few years.  Yes, I can see visible progress as my own skills have improved.  And thankfully, there are a few loyal readers who still make time to comment now and then.

But, am I really, truly spreading JOY around?

Pondering this, I recalled how this little blog even began.

It was from a get-out-of-the-bed moment that God jolted me with in the middle of the night.  I'd been pouring out my soul on Austin's memorial blog, often too dark and deep for many to keep reading. Those who did would often say, "Are you ok?" after a particularly difficult post.  But spilling out those words helped heal my broken heart.

With more than His usual whisper, He strongly nudged me that night to the computer screen and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the beginning, it was still for and about me.  An online journal to channel my grief, but with a growing urgency to do more, say more, share more.  I was on a journey to find joy and knew God would take me there.  At some point, it became less about my healing process and more about sharing the work God did through me, in hopes that it would help others.

That remains the goal for this blog today.  When I write, there is someone out there in mind. I may have never met you, I don't even know your name.  But God puts these words in my head and on my heart so I type them out.  To you.

Prayerfully, my wish is that they reach you.  And in some small, little way, help.

Maybe a post can bring a smile to you on a gloomy day.  Perhaps God uses a particular scripture to speak to you, through me.  Sometimes, by chance, might you giggle at a silly thing I say.  And in the midst of your journey on this earth, even in the darkest of valleys, you see that joy does still exist.

In the deepest of dark, light still remains.

So, whether there are four readers - or four thousand, I will keep writing.  Keep sharing.  Keep Shining.  And most certainly, keep spreading the joy...

This little blog still has work to do.

Humbly His

Friday, September 5, 2014

Faithful Friday: Being Neighborly

Whoa, September.  How did you get so busy?

Evening practices and meetings, obligations, birthday parties, reunions and church functions. Penciled around the few precious hours that are free each week, it doesn't leave room for much else. Sigh...

For this momma hen who likes her chicks in the barn, this is a struggle for me.  I'm selfish with my family time and don't like to share.  But it's only because I know how special and fleeting this time is, as I watch the kids grow and stretch and mark another year off the calendar so quickly.

We've had something every night the past few evenings and our weekends are just as busy.  It doesn't give one a chance to catch their breath and take life in.  Can we just pause - and be - for a minute?

Last night was a rare free evening and I took advantage of it by preparing a Sunday supper for a weeknight meal.  Sneaking home at lunch, I chopped and sprinkled, tossing goodies into the crockpot.  They greeted me upon arrival, as Noah and I entered, having just picked him up from basketball conditioning.

There's just something special about the aroma of a pot roast simmering away.....

As Noah crashed onto his bed, I busied myself with wrapping it up, doing my best to time it perfectly for Tim and Tina to walk through the door.  She is normally starving after 2 1/2 hours of dance practice and I knew she'd smile when the scent greeted her, once home.

All was working wonderfully, plates and forks stacked in our spot ready for filling.  Our favorite show queued for enjoyment before homework and chores pulled us away again.  Two doors shut, signaling their arrival, but only Tina walked in.

Tim often lingers, checks mail, tinkers with the boat, or completes paperwork, so I thought not much of it, until at the sink I noticed an unknown vehicle in the drive.  A neighbor, one we rarely talk to, was outside and talking to my hubby.

And dinner was waiting....

I'd like to say that I gave lots of grace and patience but I did not.  With two starving teens and a mom whose love language is quality time, this didn't settle well.

What on earth was taking him so long?
This neighbor never stops by, what could he want?
Why is Tim not telling him we have dinner plans?

A few glances out the door and unresponded texts later, we opt to go ahead and eat the once steaming, now cooling meal.  I should've enjoyed the one on one time with the kids.  It would've given us an opportunity to share about each other's day.  But I didn't.  Instead I ate and stewed and sighed.

Lord, Help me.

An hour later my tired hubby entered the door and I let him heat his own plate in the microwave.  Of course, the first thing I wanted to know was why he stayed outside so long.  His answer didn't help my attitude.

The neighbor wanted - nothing.  Just to talk.  About anything and everything and nothing in particular.  Well, that was just silly, I thought.  But my husband, in all his gentle wisdom stated the obvious.  Maybe he just needed company.  Just someone to talk to.  And Tim arrived home at just the right moment.

Humble pie for dessert?... 

And then this morning, as He so often does, God nudged me about the neighbor.  Perhaps instead of fretting that dinner was delayed, I should be thankful there was a meal to be had.  Maybe I could have invited the man inside to join us (so could my husband I grumbled back).  Who else have I been too busy for or selfish with my time against this week?

Yes, Lord, the giver of my time, I hear you.

It's only the second greatest commandment in your Book, after all.
I read it, I know it, but I don't always live it.

Help me to see those neighbors in need.  
Whether it be across the street, in the aisle, along the roadway, or near me in a pew.  Help me to see them with your eyes and not put up fences with my time.

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