A Cold, Cold Welcome

We returned from our little vacation at Myrtle Beach on Saturday. Awesome time spent with our kids and away from our otherwise chaotic lives. However blessed we were during the week, it was all tested the moment we started driving away. My well trained husband didn't start checking his messages until we were out of the parking garage, and the tsunami began. Legal matters, death, and a complete revamping of our already developed plans for Sunday service awaited. Wow, oh and then my mom wanted us to stop by for lunch on our way home. That was a bright oasis on our trek homeward.

When we arrived I walked inside and noticed that our home was unusually chilly. Upon checking the thermostat and then the vent blowing cold air and finally realizing that our water heater was no longer creating hot water, we came to the conclusion that somehow during our week away, our propane ran out. Don't jump our case now and label us irresponsible. This is our first winter in this house and we haven't had propane as a primary heat source since we lived in our little trailer in Rockfish. A couple thousand square feet and 4 children later things run out a little quicker okay?

Let me remind you that I said we arrived back home on Saturday of Christmas week so there was no way we were getting gas until Monday. Oh man. Welcome home Revolutionaries! Pull out the skills you learned back in Haiti as a missionary and there you go. Heating hot water on the stove and sponge baths work wonders to remind you of what the ministry is really all about. Hair and makeup aside, our appearance doesn't really matter when we can't sacrifice a little flesh on the altar every once in a while right? We looked no worse for the wear on Sunday morning. If you smelled something a little funky around any of the Goodmans, it was only the the remnants of the fire we've been through.


A Revolutionary Christmas

Recently my nerdy tendencies had me researching a lot on the American Revolutionary war. I have read books on the various battles, the major characters and even the women behind the men in the war. A few years ago I read a book detailing the letters written between John and Abigail Adams. Who cares, right? Well, a few years ago Josh and I went with a group of youth pastors to Valley Forge for a small conference held by Joel Stockstill. Things started rumbling around in my spirit about being revolutionary. Little did I know that I would be starting a church just a few years later. Wow, so exciting. But, there's something that we rarely think of when imagining the extreme coolness of changing the world...sacrifice. We commend others for their sacrifice, but what about when we have to do it?
So that brings us to Christmas. All year our family has had it pretty rough, but God has been supplying for the bills, food, gas, transportation, healing, etc. Enter the biggest gift getting time of the typical American kids life. I mean, as a kid, no matter how much my mama tried to teach me that Jesus was the reason for the season, I maintained that it was actually all those pretty wrapped gifts under the tree, with my name on 'em. I have tried to raise my own kids in the same fashion, but kids will be kids. This year we knew going into it that things were gonna be tight and we bore up under the pressure.

I started complaining, I mean praying about it, and God started reminding me about that revolutionary stuff. A Valley Forge Christmas, with freezing and starving and all that, you know, and things started looking a whole lot better for us. Then it hit me that all this Christmas stuff really isn't about Jesus at all. Come on we try to mix Him in there and say that all the gift giving is about the gift God gave us in His Son. But is it really? There are a lot of God ordained holidays but I don't remember Christmas being one of them. Yet, every year I get all out of sorts running around spending money I don't have to somehow bring glory to God? Then it trickles down to how I'm ruining my kids childhood memories because I can't afford to buy them that thing they're dying for this year. Looking back, I can't remember many of my gifts, but I remember snippets of the warm fuzzies I felt over the family coming over and spending time together.

This year we were blessed with a week at the beach, all we had to do was pay for food and get here. That's what we did, but barely and the kids have been great troopers thinking they really weren't getting much else. I really love my kids and the resilience they have for the down times of our lives. Now comes the really cool part. Because we're staying at a timeshare, we got the usual opportunity to go and listen to the salesman try to sell us on our portion of the American dream right here beachfront. We, of course, explained how we really couldn't afford it and after two more tries he finally believed us and we walked away proudly with our free gifts which just so happened to be gift certificates for the mall! Yeah, so even though this isn't His holiday, God still came through for my kiddos once more at the very last minute. Thanks, Daddy!


The Great Escape

Fayettevillle, North Carolina has an invisible forcefield surrounding it. At least for the Goodman family, that is. For Josh and I, every time we manage to escape from it, we decide to head back in for another go at it. This applies to the long term move and the day trip or week long vacation. When we do get away for some down time it seems like it takes eons to finally get out of the gravitational pull that keeps our life in orbit.

That's where we were yesterday. Service went great at church, me and the kids had most of the stuff packed up and ready to go. And then we realized we needed dog food, and the trash from the church was still in the back of the truck, and people needed to talk to "the Pastor" about various things. But I purposed in my heart to keep things light and not stress. It was going to happen. My favoritest in-laws ever blessed us with a week at the beach and we were going to make it there eventually, God bless it!

I'm here to tell you that we did. Hallelujah! Right now I'm sitting in an almost quiet apartment overlooking North Myrtle Beach absorbing the solitude of Tony's Mac and the free wifi. Littles are asleep or squirming on the floor, middles and originals are splashing in the pool with the Pastor. And guess what. This week we're not the pastor's family. We can go undercover as the almost well adjusted average American family just hanging out at the beach over Christmas break. Oh yes you can call us the "Happy Goodmans."



I turned the big 3-5 yesterday. No big deal, I really think things have turned out pretty good so far. Six kids, nice house, food on the table, not too shabby. The real icing on the cake however is realizing that even when life stinks and the kids are misbehaving, the bills are late, dinner's burnt, the house needs a new roof, my car breaks down, insert catastrophic life event here...God is always there. Wow, that's what separates us from those without hope. We have no excuse to wallow in whatever bad trip life is handing us. Trust me, I'm not just shooting off at the mouth. I've had my share of stinky life events, but I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be different. In looking at my life to this point things are not all the way I wanted it, when I wanted it, but this is it. I will enjoy my life. Things are shaping up pretty nicely from here.


Comments Requested

Ok, so I know that this blog isn't all that, but I have heard quite a few people tell me how wonderful they think it is. Well, now I'm gonna ask for something back. If you're reading and like/don't like/agree/disagree/whatever, comment on it on my blog. Pretty please with cherries and whipped cream on top. It really helps to know how my crazy thoughts affect readers ya know. If you're just reading for fun that's cool but I'd really appreciate to know what you all think. Encouragement does alot!


No, Emari, There Really Isn't a Santa Claus.

So don't jump the gun and start thinking I'm some sort of Grinch or something. I absolutely love Christmas. Growing up, though not always drowning in gifts, the holiday was celebrated extremely in our house. I carried a lot of my mom's traditions over into my own household and Josh and I even came up with some of our own which I hope are cool enough to make it into my kids' repertoire of Christmas cheer.

However, something that we decided our first year of marriage, which also was our first year with kids at Christmas, was that we were not going to tell our kids that Santa brought their presents. Funny thing, traditions. They're passed down you see, from generation to generation and when you decide to do things a little differently, people get a little out of joint. That first year Josh actually had to dress up as Santa at work, so we got off a little easy with Tony. We could actually say that Daddy was Santa. There was just something about giving all the credit to some guy that the kids didn't even know when we were the ones scrounging up the extra money and driving all over Fayetteville looking for the perfect gifts. Call us selfish, but we wanted our kids to know who was sacrificing for them.

You look ahead in time and see that if we did teach them that Santa brought their gifts, the Easter bunny hid eggs in the yard, the Tooth Fairy exchanged their tooth for cash, and Jesus died for their sins, how were they going to be able to separate the fact from the fiction? None of these were they actually able to see, and at a certain age they were expected to understand the difference between real and fantasy. I really didn't want my kids stumbling over this. It just wasn't worth it for the pictures on Santa's lap and such. Mom and dad fill up the stockings at Christmas, Dad and Papa hide the eggs at Easter, mom is the tooth fairy and Jesus is real. No I have not robbed my kids of their childhood by denying them the typical holiday traditions, I set them up to be able to stand and know what they really believe. Sorry, Virginia.


The Baby's Out, Now What?

Ok sorry about that stupid title, but I didn't want to be falsely advertising this blog with my alternate title, "Postpartum Depression in Reference to Church Planting." I feel strongly that my ministry life and my personal life are paralleled in experience so I try to draw references from one to help me deal with something I may be going through in another.

So 9 weeks ago I delivered an amazing baby boy, beautiful to the last detail. I still catch myself looking at him in awe. Such a miracle and an expression of love is embodied in his tiny frame. Yet, he keeps me up at night and is almost solely responsible for my never looking quite how I want to at any given time. I feel ugly and fat and cry about dumb things alot.

Simultaneously, we planted a church. The physical congregating of a group of people we have been working with and ministering to for a long time now. Together we have come and given birth to something we have felt growing inside of our spirits for quite some time. Oh its beautiful and its something else...a lot of work. The excitement and amazement is still there every Sunday, but lingering on the fringes is the exhaustion and the slight let down that all ministers feel. I would definitely label it postpartum depression of the ministry kind. The cool thing is knowing that its okay to feel this way, its normal and it will pass. The baby will grow stronger and start needing mama less for its every need. In the meantime, I want to soak up every minute of the beauty of this once in a lifetime moment in The Pursuit's infancy.


Wilderness Hike

When Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt they had no clue what they were in for. All they knew was that bondage was a thing of the past and the Promised Land awaited, somewhere... The neat thing about it was that God caused the Egyptians to heap their wealth on His people as they left. Talk about a going away gift. Then He protected them from the heat during the day with a cloud and provided a supernatural fire flashlight at night. Parting the waters, manna from heaven, water from the rock, clothes that didn't wear out. They were living in tents but the picture I get in my mind is a far cry from the wagon train scenes I associate with pioneering. Such is the picture of our new church plant. Not by any stretch were we leaving the bondage of Egypt, but we have been called to another place, a place none of us has seen. God has blessed our little band of nomads with everything we need to start this new work. Walking in on Sunday morning no one would have known it was our first Sunday. Thanks to CCC and Freedom, we have most of the equipment we are going to need. The nursery and mini church was taken care of by some generous donors. Methodist University is providing the facilities for next to nothing. All of this is God's amazing provision and His favor and I am so thankful for it. God is truly awesome!


Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For...

Are you the person God's looking for? So many times we chalk it up to someone else doing whatever it is that we see a need for. Somebody really should mow that grass, somebody really should have spell checked the bulletin, somebody should do something about that ___________. Why not you? Oh man, that would take action on my part, and I just don't have time to do anything. Its so much easier to complain about it. God gives us a special tool that we can use at any time of day, no matter what we are doing. You guessed it: prayer.

Ezekiel 22:30-31 "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD."
Wow, what a statement! How would you feel if you knew you were the one that could hold back God's wrath and due to ignorance, laziness, what have you, you failed to rise up? Talk about having blood on your hands. Have you ever held your breath when they pulled the winning ticket out of the hat thinking, "It could be me." Or how about a job interview. "I'm just the one for the job!" Such an optimistic attitude, yet when it comes to the things of God we don't go around with that same mind set. Maybe we should start looking at things a little differently. God, I'll do that even if I'm not the one you picked for the job, because there's a chance it could be me. Let me be the one whose prayers and supplications for my generation hold back your fiery anger. Let me be the one whose prayers change the atmosphere around me. Oh God, let it be me!


For Such a Time As This

I couldn't make myself write this weekend. Part of it was busyness, the other was that I really wanted to wait for it all to sink in. You see, yesterday was the first service of our brand new church, The Pursuit. There was a crew of amazing people who worked tirelessly to pull it all off and make it look easy to those of us who were watching in the wings. Many of us couldn't sleep the night before. The excitement was just too great. Someone compared it to the excitement you feel of Christmas Eve. I had no trouble sleeping and that kind of bothered me. Was I detaching myself from the feelings associated with the plant? All my worries were dissipated the next morning when I woke up. My two oldest had gone to help dad and the team set everything up and I was at home with the four littlest. I was a weeping mass of emotions.

You know I have been searching for my purpose for ions it seems. Motherhood, a good job, being a good wife, they just haven't seemed to be the reason God made me. All noble pursuits but just not my purpose on earth. I finally found it and it astounded me yesterday morning as I was getting ready. This is the time! God made me for such a time as this! All my life has been culminating to this point. The best part is that I am really nothing. He saw fit to use a vessel that has messed up innumerable times and in very noticeable ways to be a help meet to a man who has just as many flaws and failures. He endured with us and groomed us despite our humanity. He induced a dissatisfaction with the ordinary that was what really put this church into motion. In addition to that He handpicked a group of amazing people to come alongside us and bear the burden as well. Even our own babies are a part of what's going on.

Sixteen years ago about this time of year, I walked in the doors of Cliffdale Christian Center with a six month old baby and a cloud of shame hovering around me. Today I am the pastor's wife of a newly birthed church plant and that baby is an amazing musician on our worship team with a tender heart for the Lord. I love my life and this adventure that God has called us to!


Hearts on Fire

On Mt. Sinai the Lord told Moses to tell the people to prepare themselves for the Lord's appearance. When He came down onto the mountain, He warned them not to touch the mountain or come near it or else they would die. Even with their preparations, He would come amongst them but they could not draw near. They witnessed His appearance in fire, smoke, thunder and the blaring of horns. He only spoke to Moses.

At Pentecost in Acts, they were told to wait but God appeared without any warning and invaded each person there individually. Once more He showed up with wind, and fire. But this time it was not a mountain but a person. He filled them with His presence and they became His temples.

The Lord is saying that now He does not want us to sit back as spectators any longer taking the words of man as His words, but He desires to come upon those who wait for Him with no warning, changing their lives forever. He wants to envelope them and flow through them setting there hearts on fire with His words spoken to them specifically. No more is it to be what the pastor says about God, but what God has said and done in my life. The work of the Lord in my life is what sets me on fire to proclaim His goodness and mercy. That makes me a true witness, not a second hand source.


Would You Recognize Him?

A while back we were studying the various spiritual movements at our church. At the same time our small group was holding a 24/7 prayer meeting. During one of my turns in the sanctuary I was walking past the white board on which the dispensations and movements of God over the past few hundred years were neatly written out. I may disturb some Bible scholars here, but the thought ran through my mind of what's the point of studying such things if you overlook the driving factor of the waves of the Lord's presence: His great encompassing love.

Man has been called to subdue, but that was never to include God. We try to explain Him, write Him up in a descriptive paragraph, paint Him in detail. Buts its no use. He is greater than we could even imagine. Its when man gets too wrapped up in the formula, that God shows up in a new way as if to say, "Think you've got me figured out? Check this out!" And if we're not careful the change disturbs us. "That's not God," is almost always our first thought. There are very few that genuinely and unreservedly embrace these movements. Our tendency is to weigh it out, wait until its safe.

You really have to know the Father to recognize Him when He surprises you. Would I have recognized Jesus if I had seen Him walking around in my hometown? If I was at the Pentecost prayer meeting would I have known the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was of God? It really is about relationship. When you really know someone, you'd recognize them no matter what span of time had passed. No matter what they were wearing, you would know it was them. God calls us into a deeper walk with Him. He desires for His people to truly know Him. That is when He can reveal His heart to us, tell us His secrets, and trust us to do what He's called us to do.


The Longing

I started reading a new book yesterday by James Goll and Lou Engle. Its called, The Elijah Revolution. This book has actually been in my house sitting on a table for a few months. I felt compelled to buy it but couldn't read it yet. You see, I have a weird way of choosing books. When I pick it up off the shelf it has to speak to me. With in a few sentences it must cause an emotional response inside my brain or I put it down and come back to it later. The Elijah Revolution spoke to me in the store, but by the time I got it home, it just wasn't there. So I put it down knowing that at the right time I would pick it up again.

Now is the time. Monday morning I was sure of it when I opened to the first section and it was titled, This is the Time... I took that as a sign. Anyway, its a great book so far and what I wanted to mention today was this: I know that many of those who read my blog have a similar mindset as I do. There's a stirring in our spirits and our hearts that cannot be explained. Its a deep longing for more. More Jesus, more God, more Holy Spirit. Closer relationship with the Father and in turn a greater desire to spend more time with Him. You just can't get enough. Lou and James put it this way,
"God has deposited a dream that has grabbed hold of their hearts and permanently ruined them for "Christianity as usual." Energized by the truth that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, they look to God to move in the midst of His people in this generation as He did in generations past. Their spirits burn with a vision of Jesus Chrsit in all His glory. No longer content simply to live by the rules of "do's and don'ts," they so yearn to be close to Him that they freely cast away anything and everything in their lives that keep them from His presence, and abandon themselves completely to Him. They have caught a glimpse of glory, their spiritual eyes forever seared by the brilliance of the transcendent majesty of Christ."

I don't think I need to say anymore. Respond to the longing and chase after the dream!


What are You Drinking?

Yesterday my husband and I hit a milestone. We attended our last service at our home church. He has been there right alongside his dad for twenty or so years and I have been attending since 1993. Time sure flies. I looked around the congregation and felt a mixture of feelings. So many memories flew through my mind at once. I was married in that church, dedicated every one of my babies there, witnessed my mother-in-law's funeral, and attended three family weddings. Josh and I were sent out to Haiti and returned a year later to weep and heal at that altar. Good times and bad we have shared in that sanctuary.

Joshua shared for the communion service about James and John's mother's request that they each be seated with Jesus. Jesus' response was that they had to be willing to drink from the cup of suffering. Doesn't sound too appealing to me and that was exactly the point of the message. We readily accept the blessings of God, but when the hardship comes we wonder where God is in the midst. Sounds to me like He might be the one pouring the drinks.

Thinking back over my time at Cliffdale the message was so appropriate for me. I have tasted both cups. Something Josh pointed out and I can witness to is that the blessings sure taste sweeter after having tasted the suffering. God knows what you need and He knows where He wants to take you. Trust Him and know that He will not let you endure more than you can take. Stretch your spiritual muscles and drink deeply what He pours out for you.


Modern Convenience

My microwave is on the fritz. A couple of weeks ago, I asked one of my girls to clean it and somehow she managed to break the door. Those of you that know my children personally may be able to figure out who the perpetrator of said crime is, but don't hold it against her okay? So my husband in an attempt to fix the door, blew a fuse, (stop laughing) which he replaced, but now it lights up but won't cook anything. It seems there's a little safety precaution worked into the design of my microwave that will not allow it to send out the waves when the door is not closed all the way. It looks closed and even lights up, spins the turntable and makes cooking like sounds. But alas, no heat. So now we are resigned to reheating our food on the stovetop. Gasp!

Being the weirdo I am, this whole fiasco got me thinking about how much we take common things for granted. You know my son actually asked me how we made it before microwaves. I remember we made it just fine and didn't even know what we were missing. I reminded him that we lived in Haiti for a whole year without a microwave, or a refrigerator, or washing machine, or hot water, or a flushing toilet, you get the picture. Its funny how we go along just fine until something is taken away from us, even something small like say, cable television. I was actually talking to my husband about getting rid of ours and then the construction crew next door accidentally cut it. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was sit around and watch CSI all day.

What is it with me? Its the little things that get under my skin and don't think about taking something away from me that I think I'm entitled to. I mean this is America, I deserve and expect air conditioning, internet, and a comfortable chair at church. Yet with this attitude I come to the Lord as well. "God, I deserve this prayer to be answered, I mean I do so much for you. But please don't ask for me to put myself out there for your use, its too uncomfortable for me."


Wanted: Dead or Alive

My New Year's Resolution Blog, how am I doing?

Maybe its the new year, maybe its not, but I have felt a real renewal of purpose in my life. Last year was an amazing journey with God and my family. So much was learned about His nature and my former opinions of Him were all challenged. What I have really been thinking about lately are those things that I really really hate about me. I know that sounds so trite, but its true. People close to me say that I am really demanding, both on myself and others and I have to agree. I spent last year examining alot of my actions and coming up short in the acceptance department. What are my true motivations? What really makes me tick?
I could make an extensive list of all the things I want to change about me, but God has a completely different idea. How about if I let him do the changing in me? He knows better what needs to go and what needs to stay. This year is going to be a year of transformation, but I don't think its going to be how we imagine. God wants to work on every facet of those He loves. Inside, outside, thoughts, perceptions, everything. We may find out that those things we really hate about ourselves, those things we keep trying to change are really what make us-us. I'm not talking about sin here. I'm talking about our natural tendencies and inclinations, that need to have some tweaking from the Creator. Stupid example, I know but recently I watched the movie Wanted. In that movie, the main character had some parts of his personality that he just couldn't accept. He tried medication, distraction, everything. He just tried to fit in, but he found out that he had a particular DNA that made him special, and he learned how to take full advantage of those characteristics that had been a hindrance to him before. He didn't just accept who he was, he embraced it and learned to excel at what he was born to do. Stop there. You were born into God's kingdom with special characteristics. God made you who you are and only He can see your true potential. He doesn't desire for you to be less and He definitely does not want for you to be content in and of yourself. You are call by Him. Wanted...not dead, but alive in His purposes. find your voice, stretch your wings, allow God to train you and to call you from the place you are right now. Leave your old life behind and follow after him. If you are feeling discontent and hollow, jump into the flow of what God is doing in your life, submit to His will. His life is more than just living, its the adventure that you were made for.


Gone Fishin'

So Jesus had been one on one with these guys for 3 and a half years, they saw him perform miracles. Not just praying for people and them going out in the Spirit, but real miraculous invasions of people's bodies and minds! Feeding the five thousand, blind eyes seeing, crippled legs walking, oppressed minds freed, dead raised to life. Wow what a life altering experience. Jesus had walked up to each one of these men and called them out of their ordinary planned out life, asking them to walk away from everything that was comfortable to them and follow him. They didn't even know him, they just knew there was something about him that made them want to go. They followed him through everything and began to believe that he was the one and only, they loved him. But when put to the test they all scattered, ran away. Peter even lied about ever even knowing him. Jesus died an excruciating death and was buried. They thought their hopes and dreams were dashed. He even reappeared to them and proved his miraculous resurrection. But when all was said and done Peter went back to what he knew, fishing.

I've heard many sermons on this action, but I don't judge Peter. I understand. God has never been more real and present in my life until recently. It seems that he has been speaking to me everyday, performing the miraculous in my life. It's amazing. But when the dust settles, I'm still here life still comes up at me. Where is the power that I see from God in my own hands? Where do I go from here Lord? You know Peter was sitting out there in his little fishing boat wondering the same thing, now what? Wonderful and awesome miracles Jesus but what now? The fish aren't even biting so I guess I'm useless at what I know how to do too. What can become of my life now that I am no longer satisfied with what I used to know but I don't know how to walk in what you have shown me? I just can't go back to the former because I am not the same I have been forever changed just by knowing you. You've messed up my life Jesus what can I be good for now?

But just at that moment, Jesus shows up and brings the fish with him. He tells the guys to put the net on the other side of the boat and the fish are practically jumping inside. Funny thing though, when Peter sees Jesus he doesn't care about the fish anymore he jumps out of the boat and runs to him. Jesus! Jesus! I don't want it to be like this I can't live like an ordinary person anymore, I have to live for you. Show me how show me what you have for me to do!


Its a Dirty Job, But Somebody's Got to Do It

I came to a new conclusion recently while examining my life and inner motivations. Here it is, I am getting older. Epiphany right? No, but really, I think somehow in the middle of the night, I slipped from one category of women to another. Now I'm in the older women category at least in some things. Don't worry about me, I'm okay with it. Depression is not about to set in.

Titus 2 says, "Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's Message because of their behavior." Now I put myself in the older women category not because I find my struggle not being with strong drink or a wagging tongue, and not because I think I'm such a model of goodness. Instead I see that girls are starting to come to me as an example of how to take care of my family and my house. No, I'm not really good at it yet, but I have had some practice.

In fact, it wasn't really until my last baby, Emari, that I really started enjoying being a mommy. I know that's sad but I still had this strange feeling that I was on a really extended babysitting job and eventually the parents were gonna come home and pay me for taking care of their kiddos. Even now sometimes my older son calls me mom with his deep masculine voice and it sets off something inside me. "Who is he talking to exactly?" I ask myself. "I'm way too young to be his momma." Now this time around, I've been enjoying postpartum recovery an awful lot. Once I got over the pain, I have been reveling in the clean house aspect. All of the sudden, I'm planning meals, and cleaning up and loving it. My family, other than the momma cooking part, have enjoyed it too. (everybody in our house prefers for daddy to cook, including daddy, but that's another blog)

I have to give props to two girls I overheard at the park the other day. They were discussing their lives at home and how their husbands went to work each day. These girls, who are in no way slaves to domesticity, actually verbalized their belief that as long as they are staying home with the baby, keeping house and taking care of their husband is their job. Oh my gosh, what a novel idea. I never really looked at it that way, honestly. In my dutiful staying-home-with-the young-uns days, I resented my man driving away each morning and leaving me to a day full of drudgery and near slavery at home. I thought he had it good and even though I kept house and took care of the babies, I hated every minute. Nearly every day I planned my escape.

Now those babies are grown and helping around the house wondering when exactly I'm going to go out and get a real job. Not the image I want to project anymore. They do need me and desire my attention at home, but my distress in those early years poured over onto them. There's still a few good years left to remedy now that I've seen the light, but I do wish I would have had good examples of content older women to guide me along my road. There are seasons in life and there are roads that we choose to walk down. In this road and season I want to be a Godly example of contentment and success God help me.


Fear Factor

Recently I've been really struggling with fear. I don't know if its the surge of postpartum hormones or what, but I hate being a fraidey cat. Every new mother does the checking to make sure the baby's breathing routine, but with this pregnancy it just seems to me its been a little more than normal fear. With all that we went through it was warranted, but I really had a lot of truly horrible bad dreams. Labor and delivery was nearly a panic attack and that coming from a seasoned veteran of the delivery room table. Yuck, I hate my human frailty. So I decided yesterday that enough was enough. Prayer is my only weapon at times like this and its more than enough believe me. The Lord started revealing to me some important scriptural truth on the subject of fear.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.

He gives us the spirit of power, which gives us authority over fear in our lives. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we have power to overcome.

Love seems out of place in regards to fear but the Word says in 1 John 4:17 that, "There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love." When you're talking about relationships, fear and love make more sense. If you love someone you need to be able to trust him. That's where fear can come in and cripple the relationship. We must trust God that He loves us and also trust Him in order to love Him. If you're walking around in a partnership that you can't really feel comfortable that the other person is doing their part, you won't let your guard down.

The calm and well-balance mind is where our imaginations come into play. Fear can make your mind think some pretty crazy things. You have got to have control over your imagination. That includes not allowing influences like television, movies or even books or magazines to feed into your imagination.

These things don't make it easy to overcome my fear, but they do give me insight into how I can combat it and win.


Just Desserts

Yesterday was an amazing Saturday filled with activity. I found myself immersed in more than I bargained for when I surveyed my day via the early morning hours I've been putting in lately. I really should know better that a girl just can't plan her day with accuracy any longer. Our youngest daughter was the flower girl in a friend's wedding and that excursion took on the entirety of my day. Two year olds are handfuls already but dress them in a formal and send 'em to a reception and you're asking for it. She really did an amazing job considering all that transpired yesterday.

The point of this post is not my daughter however, it was the caliber of servanthood I witnessed around me at the said event. I love watching people truly give themselves for others. You know the kind of laying down your life for another that says, "I'm doing this for you and for God, not for what I can get in return but for the sheer pleasure of serving." Almost sounds ridiculous doesn't it? So many times we run into people, maybe even recognize in our own hearts, the every man for himself mentality.

I've heard it said even in ministry that someone had paid their dues and now they're basking in the fruit of their labor. At the time I remember thinking that I really hoped I would never feel like my job was done. It seemed somewhat prideful to think that someone thought they could be the judge of their own works. Jesus paid the ultimate price and laid down His own life for mankind yet His job isn't finished. So what makes us think we can slow down?

2 Timothy 4:1-8

I can't impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don't ever quit. Just keep it simple.

You're going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They'll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you're doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God's servant.

You take over. I'm about to die, my life an offering on God's altar. This is the only race worth running. I've run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that's left now is the shouting—God's applause! Depend on it, he's an honest judge. He'll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming.

Take your cue from Jesus, the ultimate Judge, and your encouragement from Paul, a man who never slowed down. Keep running, let God be the one to exalt you, not yourself.



When God restores you He does a much better job than you can even imagine possible. There have been so many times in my life that harsh things have come at me and I have lost precious things. I never believed that God would be able to give them back to me least of all restore them to even greater splendor. My mom always told me that when I was little and I would get hurt I would hide my boo boos from her. I would cover them up and pretend that they weren't even there. I remember being so afraid of showing her my owies because she would want to check it out and maybe clean it or spray bactine on it.

As an adult I do the same thing with God. I hide my pain even from Him. I run from His cleansing power. Whether the pain was self-inflicted or brought on by someone else my response remains the same, "I can handle this on my own, I don't need your help." Yet as I draw near to God I realize that if my wounds are allowed to heal on their own sometimes they don't heal correctly. There is still some dirt in there or the bone isn't set right. That can lead to infection or lameness. The scouring that God gives to our wounds is so necessary, and Jesus is the balm of Gilead. Anything that He requires from us, He will give back and in even greater abundance than before.

It is so hard for us to understand that simple concept. He doesn't want to take from us for no reason. He wants to give so much to us, but we have to be willing to let Him in to our hearts and clean house. His system is so superior to our thinking and comprehension that it boggles our minds. Where else could I bring my broken dirty tattered life and receive love, mercy, and understanding, even acceptance? The life of a King's daughter in exchange for the life of a beggar on the streets. God loves us more than we can even begin to grab a hold of, so don't even try. Let Him wrap you in His love, no holds barred.


Its Not a Job, Its an Adventure

My husband and I almost never fight. Now before you go jumping to conclusions about how our relationship must be unhealthy, let me explain. I'm married to an extremely easy going guy. You have to run over his dog on purpose to get him mad. My personality is a little different and I must add that most of our arguments are over my unhappiness, not his. Over our years together, he's really gotten to know me well and I'm probably really spoiled.

Anyways, such was not the case earlier this week. Some things occurred, in my husband's mind probably just short of my running over his dog on purpose, and we had a fight. Nothing big, just two unhappy people talking to each other in short direct sentences with a stern tone attached. He went off to do his thing and I stayed home and made sure I was in bed before he got home. No discussion later, no return to the subject, but definitely not back to our old jolly selves. However, what I think is truly amazing about this man God blessed me with is that even though I know he still thinks he's right and I'm wrong, he loves me anyway. He shows me in trivial ways like pouring my coffee and making it just the way I like it. Picking up things that he knows I love like sweet pickles and croissants and mint chocolate biscotti. I show him by picking up his messes and organizing his schedule and texting him so he won't forget appointments. Stupid stuff that maybe nobody else cares about, but these are the things that make us just that, us.

Its not just me and its not just him, its us, together. We've been together long enough to know exactly what makes each other tick and yeah, maybe we don't have to sit down and hash out the ways that I hurt him and the ways he hurt me during that last fight. We take the complaints on both sides and think I'll adjust, you'll adjust and let's keep on going. Love is work, its a daily decision to keep on with someone who's just a human being, complete with flaws. I wouldn't have it any other way.



Old blog, good stuff.

Journal entry: April 5, 2007

I woke up this morning with the sense of a gaping emptiness inside of me. Laying in the darkness, alone in a house full of children, and a bed complete with husband and newborn child I felt loneliness engulfing me. This is not a new experience for me, yet nonetheless I went through the motions like always of trying to explain it away. Should I lay there and cry, mourning the lost opportunities of my life? Call on the telephone my estranged father in California who was never there for me as a child? Seek counseling? Once again I can rationalize each of these instances and why they didn't work before and why they won't work now. I'm a Christian and have been all my life, so why do I feel incomplete? Why and when did this all begin?

Finally realizing that I am losing my battle with insomnia, I get up to take a shower. As the hot water hits my skin I go back in my mind trying to find the beginning of this feeling. From the time I was a little girl I have always dreaded getting up in the morning. For me there was no freshness in the new day, only monotony. I lived for the expectancy of an excitement that might come one day. But was it always this way? Then the image focuses in my mind and my emotions crumble. Could that be it? Might I actually have a reason and a beginning for this achiness inside?

I remember my second grade year waking up in the early hours many mornings to the sounds of busyness outside my window. Looking out to investigate I would see the employees of the mortuary behind my house unloading the hearsts. I will never forget the creepiness and the awful feeling the thought of a dead body puts into the mind of a child. When something is dead the very best you can do with it is dig a hole, cover it up with dirt, put a sign on it so anyone passing by knows that it's there, when it lived and died and its name. Ultimately after all the ceremony you have to walk away. As a child I knew very little of death except that I didn't want it to happen to anyone I knew. It was an ending to something I loved and I would never have it back ever. Now as an adult and having witnessed countless funerals I understand more. The bottom line is you have to walk away and go on. It does not matter that the thing that you're walking away from has somehow grasped a little piece of you down there in that black hole you just covered up.

Looking back, that was the year that my parents split up. For me it was the first death I ever really knew, but naming it and putting a headstone up hasn't been so easy. It wasn't just my parents marriage, it was a certain life I would never know of, a complete family, a relationship with the most important man in a girls life that I would never have. So much was entailed in that funeral I don't know if I have even been able to bury it all. Maybe some parts are still out in the open rotting away.

Conclusion May 24, 2008

Looking at this old journal entry I am so glad I didn't finish it. As I remember, at the time I couldn't, there was no resolution that day. God had begun a revealing of the deadness in my life, a work that still continues. When I tell people what has conspired in my walk with the Lord the past two years, I am amazed myself. In 2007, God taught me that He is not a strict dictator. There is no figuring Him out. He is way too complex and sometimes contradictory. He uses prostitutes, foreigners, Gentiles, shepherd boys and all the most unlikely vessels.

This year I am learning of His great love for me. He cares so much He doesn't want anything to hinder our relationship. He has filled me up so many times with His goodness, but this time He says there is to be nothing else in my cup taking up space that He wants to fill. Emptiness before God is an intense aching. Its like a woman who so desires to be pregnant that its all she can think of. I want to feel His life growing inside of me.

Allow Him to stand at the tomb of your heart and call out all the deadness. He will bring those dead things back to life so you can go forth and proclaim God's goodness. You know when Jesus went to call Lazarus back from the dead He was warned that the body had begun to stink or rot away, but when Jesus brought Lazarus back he was whole. Restoration is a glorious thing.


Keepin' It in Check

Sorry that I didn't keep up my new habit of posting daily yesterday. I was kinda caught up in the whole mommy-new baby thing and couldn't find the time. Ah, plus I had an appointment, and my husband was on the internet when I had some ideas to post, and my kids had homework, and laundry had to be done, and we had company for dinner and a counseling appointment as well. Wow, did I even get any sleep last night?

These are supposed to be my down days, you know postpartum six weeks. Sleeping when the baby sleeps and such. That has never been a luxury I could afford. When there was only one, I relished my quiet time. Then two and three and four and so on and there was no napping because there was always another baby or two to care for and prevent from creating too much mayhem while the baby slept. So, I'm doing my best to create a restful atmosphere for myself during this time instead. Trying hard to not condemn myself for not cleaning everything that has been neglected over the past six months while I was either on bed rest or just too darn big to be able to manage it. Don't get me wrong the house is not in danger of being unsanitary or anything, its just not up to my standards. So I force myself to look the other way, and try to sneak a nap in the recliner.

Life is just too hectic and it never really stops being that way. When times come around that I have an excuse for sitting out from the rat race, I'm gonna take 'em. God's okay with this. He instructs us weekly to take time and sit it out. Otherwise known as the Sabbath Day. He also allots times for just delivered mommies to get to rest and rejuvenate. Those times of "uncleanness" mentioned in the Bible are actually for our benefit. We don't have to entertain, go out, go to church, "minister unto our husbands" and such things during that time. I know some of you are shuddering out there. But hey, I'm good with it. Let me be a recluse for a little while. It allows me more time to spend with my brand new little guy, quiet time with the Lord is more forthcoming, and sometimes I can even snatch a little alone time with the man of my dreams as well. Don't neglect the rest that your God commands. It really is for your best interests.


Playing Hooky From Church

While everyone in my house was busy getting themselves ready for church, I sat almost contentedly in the recliner feeding the baby. Misty Edwards was playing in the background "I'm always on His mind," and I was reading my devotions for the day. The song is a beautiful lyrical duet of the love between us and God. Devotion and passion. Then this passage jumped out off the pages of my Bible at me.

Jeremiah 32:37-44

"'Watch for this! I will collect them from all the countries to which I will have driven them in my anger and rage and indignation. Yes, I'll bring them all back to this place and let them live here in peace. They will be my people, I will be their God. I'll make them of one mind and heart, always honoring me, so that they can live good and whole lives, they and their children after them. What's more, I'll make a covenant with them that will last forever, a covenant to stick with them no matter what, and work for their good. I'll fill their hearts with a deep respect for me so they'll not even think of turning away from me.

"'Oh how I'll rejoice in them! Oh how I'll delight in doing good things for them! Heart and soul, I'll plant them in this country and keep them here!'

"Yes, this is God's Message: 'I will certainly bring this huge catastrophe on this people, but I will also usher in a wonderful life of prosperity. I promise. Fields are going to be bought here again, yes, in this very country that you assume is going to end up desolate—gone to the dogs, unlivable, wrecked by the Babylonians. Yes, people will buy farms again, and legally, with deeds of purchase, sealed documents, proper witnesses—and right here in the territory of Benjamin, and in the area around Jerusalem, around the villages of Judah and the hill country, the Shephelah and the Negev. I will restore everything that was lost.' God's Decree."

Misty's song goes on to say, "How far will you let me go, how bad will you let me be?" How did we get there from the passion and devotion? Well, you can bet the change is on our part, not God's. There He is in Jeremiah pouring out judgments on His beloved people when out of nowhere He lets it slip that He's gonna make it all good in the end. He's really, really mad at the people for turning their backs on Him, and He's gonna let them have what they deserve, but then in His ultimate mercy, there's already a plan in His mind to reconcile. This seems so tender and sweet, like a nice little love story we watch played out on a DVD. But then reality hits and we realize that God actually does this for us, each of us, individually. God loves me, and even when I sit out of the game, I'm still on His radar. When I've done really stupid things that would make anyone else slap me in the face and leave me alone, never talking to me again, He comes back and loves me even better than before. Not because His love has changed, but possibly because I deserve it even less.

I love it because even when I can't be where He is, He comes to me. That seems crazy considering that God is omnipresent and omniscient and omnipotent. But how many times do we think that if we don't congregate on Sunday, we're out of luck? Yet, He's everywhere. Not that we shouldn't gather together as a body, but get real, He's wherever we are and He LOVES us. I absolutely love it when He comes to visit.



I love Fall. It is without a doubt my most favorite season. The cool weather, the gorgeous colors, apple cider and pumpkins. Yes! So with all that said I absolutely love taking our kiddos to the pumpkin patch. Its a memory that I have held dear from my younger days and one that I am so glad I can pass on to my own children. I love it that it never gets old for them. So the older ones don't want to ride on the hay ride with the same gusto they used to, but they don't try to get out of the trip either. This is the one time of year (besides the 4th of July) that I go out and by them special holiday shirts and hair ribbons and such. We all trek to the local farm to check out the animals, ride the wagon, and return with our treasured pumpkins. I love making memories with my babies. Family is awesome.


Culture Cultivation

Another repost from my myspace blog. Hope you like it!

Lately, God has really been impressing on my spirit the idea of cultures. A couple of weeks ago as I was worshipping and feeling like I was getting nowhere, I stopped and looked around. Although I don't want to sound like Elijah, "I'm the only one left Lord!" that's how I felt. Where was the fervency that I felt in my spirit amongst my counterparts. Did anyone else in the room feel like me? When I was in the seventh grade my school suddenly decided that it was only going to go up to the 6th grade. That year my mom had to make the decision to put me into public school. I was tested and found to need placement in the advanced classes. For some reason the principal decided to start me out in general classes, however. That first quarter I attended class with students that were at their level of learning capability and I quickly learned to stoop to seem just like them. Choosing not to raise my hand with the correct answer and even purposely spelling words wrong because I didn't want to stand out. The very next quarter they moved me to the honors class. Finally I could stretch again feeling challenged by those around me to reach towards my full and unadulterated potential. What a difference my environment made.

This past week I went to a conference on healing. Boy was the environment different. Everyone was moving in rhythm with God's spirit and each had the motive to touch His heart and see His face. I found myself looking around a lot. Suddenly I realized that I wasn't alone, others wanted Him as much or more than I do. This was a different place, not a better one, just different.

So I have been drawn to what exactly is the difference? The culture is unique, the environment unusual to me. I had been placed in a different petri dish, so to speak. You know I found that in order for a scientist to separate a single cell from its surroundings, he must first dissolve the matrix keeping the cell in place. Those things that the cell clings to for support. This is not an easy process, if you want the cell to survive. Finally, with some gentle agitation the cell is free. It is then placed into an environment rich in the particulars necessary for that cell's needs. Then it begins to reproduce cells of like character and manner. But even on its own the cell maintains it prior function or purpose. My prayer is that God successfully reproduce the culture that He desires through my life.



For those readers who don't already know this, my husband and I are in the process of planting a new church. This has been probably the greatest undertaking we have proceeded willingly into as a couple. Note that I said willingly. The process actually began in our hearts a few years ago and initially presented itself as a deep seated dissatisfaction with the status quo. The two of us have always swam against the current, individually and as a couple. Even in our marriage when presented with struggles, there were times we fought strictly to avoid becoming a statistic. I really like that about us. Maybe you think I'm being a little prideful in that statement but that's alright.

We have identified ourselves as pioneers, trailblazers if you will. Our life motto might be best reflected with the immortal words of Captain James T. Kirk, "...to boldly go where no man has gone before." This is a tough calling to pull off, you know. You find yourself having a hard time finding people who understand you, most just think you're crazy. You hear things like, "It will pass, you're just going through a phase." No, no, this isn't a phase. I have been given a mandate to carry out an amazing work in my city. God called me to go out from where He will no longer allow me to be comfortable, to do a new thing. Pioneers live in covered wagons, and tents, and caves. They are nomads searching for the promised land. They fill the pages of our history books. The Bible is full of them, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, even David. That's not crazy, that's God-inspired movement into a new realm. Ushering in the things of His kingdom even when people don't see what He's doing and they call you a troublemaker. Paul understood this.
Acts 18:9-11 One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream: "Keep it up, and don't let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I'm with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city." That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and a half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians.
You know sometimes all you've got is God on your side, but that's more than enough to get the job done.



Well little man has made a successful entrance into our insanity riddled abode. He has navigated through two weeks without even a hiccup. The closest call he encountered has definitely been Emari's repeated attempts to feed him with her baby bottle.

Eat this and like it!

He's a really good baby. Only cries when there's an issue, like hunger or diaper attention needed. He doesn't even spit up, he just wants to eat and snuggle. I love it. He reminds me alot of his big brother in his temperament and makes me once again realize how great God is in his placement of children in our home. I promise you Tony was an amazing baby, I know he'd love to know that I'm relaying that to the internet world.

The Bambino-Back in the good ol' days.

When Rebecca was born she was a little more difficult, not bad, she just got into things and made fun messes for me to pick up. She's still like that by the way.

The Boo sportin' a bikini.

Serena made me wonder if I really wanted to ever have any more children or even babysit other's children. Oh my gosh, she was a handful. Always eating or crying or throwing up. Repeat cycle.

Serena asleep-mommy and daddy's only time of rest.

Then Taylor in her mellowness redeemed the world of babies to me.

Who could resist those eyes?

Emari has a little of Serena's personality but not with all the messy results. She gets into things, but apologizes afterwards.

Marzipan looking alot like her little brother. She did have brown hair!

Now Zion, he's all sweetness and light to a mommy who's ready to throw in the proverbial towel of babymaking to move on to an even greater challenge of babyraising. Phew!

Little Man.


Man's Ideas + God's Anointing=Good Stuff

What really happens when man gives his plans over to God's leading? Wow, what an amazing exchange! Its almost as awe inspiring as a sinner trading all his or her garbage and receiving eternal life instead. It overwhelms me all the time when I think about how God plants a seed of a dream inside me and then He allows me to follow through. Believing all the while that it is my own idea, I then submit it to the Author of my life and He gives me the power and ability to bring it to pass. The key is the submission. When we lay down at His feet and are willing to sacrifice the thing that we hold dear, He comes through and makes a way for us. He is not some monarch with a control problem who wants to beat His subjects into doing His will. Oh no, he greatly desires for us to come to Him of our own free will and ask for His help and guidance.
2 Thessalonians 1: 11-12 Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he's called you to be, pray that he'll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.


They Call Me the Pastor's Son's Wife

Okay, since its Columbus Day and all, I decided to be lazy once more and post an old blog. Hope you guys don't hate me but this one always gets me even though I wrote it.

You know whenever I have been to a concert or theatrical production I have always found myself envious of those seated in the front row. I wonder, how much did they have to pay for those seats? Lucky! Still sometimes I think that people feel the same way about those seated in the front row at church. Lucky! But what price paid for that seat? While the payment is definitely not in monetary terms the price tag is still a hefty one. Responsibility and accountability are main stays. At times life as I view it from the front row can become overwhelming and exhausting. How do I live for God, and at the same time keep man happy with me? The effort can be almost too much. Yet as I have been delving in to my daily devotions and seeking God's advice through my other reading I find that when it gets tough God is still right there. With His favor does come scrutiny, yet His divine Hand in my life is unmistakable. Leadership is most times not all it is cracked up to be and the public can be merciless. Maturity says that we stand firm no matter what the obstacle, no matter what the crowd does or says. In one breath they may want to shower you with blessings and then with another they may tear you to pieces with their words.

"In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, "It's me. It's all right. Don't be afraid." So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to."

I love this scripture because it is just one more instance when the seas rose up around the disciples and Jesus comes along and makes it all okay. They even reached the place they had originally headed towards. How many times have I found myself in this exact predicament and when it was all said and done I looked around and said "Hey, it was rough sailing there for awhile but look I made it! Thank you God!" Just remember the crowd's opinion of you may change, but God's opinion is what matters.


Eight is ...Enough?

You know my husband and I have always tried our utter best to find God's will in all the decisions of our life together. That should go without saying for all followers of Christ, but at times it seems that society dictates a lot of our decision making processes, even within the framework of the church. One of these questions is about exactly how many children is enough. I've heard it said that all families should have a quiver full, and that is at least 3. I don't know about you but if I was going into battle, I'd probably stock up on more ammunition than that. Then there are those who believe that we should only have as many children as we can care for. But that's blown out the window, when you realize that most people in their childbearing years are still struggling to find their way financially. For Josh and I it didn't ever matter how well off we were getting, when a baby came we would always find ourselves hopelessly broke. To the point of feeling like the hospital parking lot was the impound, when it came to paying for the parking that had accrued while we were in the hospital.

We decided not to make a decision about how many we were going to have. Over our baby making journey we've found varying responses to our fruitfulness. Babies 1, 2, and 3 came to us with little problem or major response from others. Its about when we hit number four that it all started. I remember being afraid to tell my mom. Not that she had ever acted anything other than completely overjoyed at our announcements, but for some reason I was embarrassed. At the time we were serving as missionaries in the Dominican Republic and staying with a family that had five children. The mother told me that she had experienced the same thing with number four and five. It made me feel a little better to know I wasn't the only one, and when I called my mom, she just laughed at me. Her joy was infectious. With five and six we learned to just drive on and let em have it. Josh's dad actually gets a little excited when we tell him we have an announcement to make. He always thinks its a new baby.

Our family has always been extremely supportive of our large family, but the public at large is what sometimes gets to us. We hear comments like, "You do know what causes that, right?" and "They're all yours?!" I personally like the, "But you look too young to have so many children!" comment to which I always like to respond, "Well we are." Its not like I woke up one morning and thought, "You know I want to have truckloads of babies and spend my time changing diapers and cleaning up messes and fielding questions from curious onlookers." It really just happened, yes I do know how it happens. But we allowed it to if you will. We allowed the Lord to bless us with the children He has given us. I know that the return is going to be greater than any investment I have put in.

Psalm 127:3-5
Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior's fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don't stand a chance against you;
you'll sweep them right off your doorstep.


Lessons in the Forest

Seeing as I have some really good (my own opinion of course) older blog posts on my myspace account I decided that on the off day that I can't think of anything amazing to write, I would repost those thoughts here. This post is from April 2008. If you haven't read it before, I hope you enjoy.

So our Smoky Mountain adventure is drawing to a close and I have almost survived Josh’s first attempt at writing a book. We have so much alone time it’s almost nerve-wracking. I don’t know what to do with my time. That’s a good thing though. So Emari and I went on a walk in the woods today. We started out at the park visitor center. The hike was described as an easy 45 minute hike with a few steep hills. With that depiction I decided to keep the baby in her stroller. It was beautiful. A little rainy but it made the forest seem more magical. The road was easy going until we hit the first bridge, pick up the stroller and roll on. Then another bridge. Okay, let’s keep going. Then the hill got really steep, no big deal. Except for the fact that I seem to have purchased the only stroller known to mankind to have a heat seeking device which causes it to search out and get tangled in every exposed root on the trail. With much struggling and strength of will, I reached the top. All along, Emari was singing and reaching out for little branches that crossed her path. She only fussed when I stopped at the crest of the hill to catch my breath. Finally we reached a cabin with some other people. I busied myself with pretending to read my trail guide. I didn’t want them to think I was stupid for pushing a stroller up that mountainside.

It was then that the thoughts came, should I turn back now? What if the next hills were even steeper? What if there were more people who would look at me like I was crazy? I knew the road that led back. Then I heard the Voice. Amber, this is like your life. What? That’s it I’m pressing onward. The voice kept on. The road is sometimes steep, there are times that you will be pushing others onward, people who really don’t even understand your sacrifice or the effort behind your struggle. There will be those along the way that don’t see why you even bother coming this way, with all that you’re bringing along with you. So I pushed forward, more resolutely seeking the end of the trail. Along the way I stopped to read my guide and saw these words, "Perhaps the wonder of creation is most apparent in the small things at our feet." Wow, God! Are you talking to me? Had I gotten caught up in the struggle and failed to see the beauty that was around me? Like my Joshua says, "You’ve got one life, one chance at it. Live!"

How much do we miss about God by complaining about the way. Even in the struggle, there was so much beauty surrounding me and Emari. She could see it from her vantage point, but I was distracted. As we neared the end of our trek in the woods we came upon some turkeys. It was so amazing to see them up close and in the wild. God is so perfect in His revealing to us about Himself. When the distractions had been removed I could see His hand leading me. I know for me it is so easy to get caught up in the life, that I fail to really live.


...and the Word of Their Testimony

Disclaimer: This post is graphic in some details, so be warned before reading any further.

Revelation 12:11 says,

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

Now I usually don't share publicly on personal struggles that we encounter in our home, but I knew that I could not leave this one unspoken. I cannot be silent in what miracles my Father has done for me in this year. As a couple my husband and I, not to mention our children, overcame and so we must provide the word of that testimony to whosoever will. Anyway, I began this blog out of the need for a creative outlet some months ago. You see for the first time ever I was having trouble with a pregnancy. My doctor had me on bedrest and I was going insane. Let's back up a little bit and say that I have never had any troubles with birthin' young uns. My OB actually referred to me as a "baby machine." I took it as a compliment from a professional. AS soon as we announced that we were pregnant the prophetic words started rolling in. This was one special baby.

Everything was going just fine until early one morning 13 weeks into the pregnancy I got up as normal to use the bathroom. A frequent occurrence, but this time I found myself in a pool of blood. I don't mean just a little bit, I mean I looked down and there was a puddle on the floor of the bathroom. In shock I called to my husband and jumped into the shower to rinse off. He came in and like he always does in an emergency, stayed calm and went right to work cleaning up my mess. We didn't talk, we didn't need to. There was no question about what was going on. I just sat on the floor of the shower and cried out to the only One I could. Thinking things like, "How could this happen to me?" and "My baby is gone." as I prayed for strength. So I finally told my husband that I didn't want to go the hospital and we just went to bed. Didn't get any sleep at all, because of course, we just laid there silently asking God what was going on?

In my mind I was whisked back to a time long ago when I was praying as a young girl after finding out that all the women in my family had experienced multiple miscarriages. I wanted to be different and break that curse, so I began entreating God early. Add to that all the words we had received concerning this baby. I reminded Him of that, but I heard nothing from Him. All I had was a fleeting vision of my tiny baby and God holding him in His hand. What did that mean? Was He trying to tell me that my baby was gone but present with the Lord, or could I dare to hope that God was letting me know that He was protected and safe? The next morning I called my mama, because sometimes you just have to talk to mamma. Between her and my husband I finally agreed to go to the doctor. I sat in the waiting room with all those pregnant women and just felt all dead inside and mad at God. Yeah, I had five other babies at home, but I didn't want to lose any of my babies.

The doctor called us back and after checking me and hearing my account of what happened, decided that it looked like a miscarriage. She sent us back for an ultrasound to confirm. Again, I was just numb of all feeling. The tech came in and I couldn't bear to look at the screen. I looked to my husband for strength and his face seemed odd to me. He was smiling. Thinking he was really insane with grief until he said,"Baby you've got to look. He's still there, and he's alive!" Oh my gosh. We cried and cried. The doctor decided that I had a condition called placenta previa and sent me home on bedrest. Crisis averted. Now throughout the pregnancy there were other close calls and shake downs, but the big one was right there at the beginning. You see, Josh and I were really believing that since this baby coincided with the birth of our church plant that he was symbolic of what was going on in the spirit realm. He was even named Zion for a reason.

When we began on this journey to start a new work in Fayetteville, we were having prayer meetings with our youth group every Monday night. These were intense meetings and one night one of the girls began praying Isaiah 62. It became our hearts cry for our city. For a few years now we've been reading through the Bible as a group with a schedule. What's really cool is that on our Zion's birthday the scripture reading for the day was:

Isaiah 62:1-5

Regarding Zion, I can't keep my mouth shut, regarding Jerusalem, I can't hold my tongue,
Until her righteousness blazes down like the sun
and her salvation flames up like a torch.
Foreign countries will see your righteousness,
and world leaders your glory.
You'll get a brand-new name
straight from the mouth of God.
You'll be a stunning crown in the palm of God's hand,
a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God.
No more will anyone call you Rejected,
and your country will no more be called Ruined.
You'll be called Hephzibah (My Delight),
and your land Beulah (Married),
Because God delights in you
and your land will be like a wedding celebration.
For as a young man marries his virgin bride,
so your builder marries you,
And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride,
so your God is happy with you.

To me that was my God confirming to me that this process had come full circle. We made it through, in shaky times and in celebration. Thank you God for standing with us in tribulation!


How to Dress For Success-Christian Version

Do you ever wish there was an appendix in the Bible, somewhere after Revelation, but before the concordance and maps that contained some additional "How-to guides"? I think one that I would look for is, "How to Dress for the Occasion." I mean we have man's opinion on the idea, but what is God's? Now before you dismiss me thinking I'm some upstart kook trying to breed rebellion in the church, let me give you my pedigree.

I was raised in church, third generation to be precise. Dedicated as an infant in the flowy white gown with all the pomp a good Pentecostal girl should have. Sunday school, Christian school, summer camp, convention, you name it I was in attendance. My grandma was on every committee and board, a real pillar. My mom taught Sunday School and even set up the communion table a time or two. I've been seeped in this thing since the womb. Our Sunday morning dressing routine included fancy dress, hose, and shoes that clicked when you walked through the foyer. I had play dresses and church dresses in my closet and it was on Saturday night having my hair rolled for Sunday morning service that I was told, "Beauty is pain." Sacrifice begins young.

Okay, fast forward, now I'm all grown up and married to a pastor. Most people realize that now the stakes are even higher. How does a pastor's wife dress for church? Man I struggle with that one. A few years back it all came to a screeching halt when I found myself in an intense crisis of faith. (no, it wasn't over how to dress for church) I had some serious issues to work through and crucial questions for God. It started to be difficult to get up and go to church on Sunday mornings. My heart was broken, my spirit crushed and standing there looking at my Sunday best, I felt like I was picking out a costume. Dressing to impress became a struggle. I wanted God to take me and make me whole again, not put on a mask and parade in front of the church congregation like everything was fine. My insides felt like rags, but I was expected to wear finery. "By whom?" I asked. Is that what God required of me, or did He simply want me?

Even now, there's an unsettling between the traditionals, who say we honor God when we come to Him in our best, and the contemporaries, who believe that God meets us where we're at. Its confusing. I mean God is my King, but my Friend. The Creator of all that is, but my Father. Seemingly contrasting ideas, but God cannot be put in a box, or described with mere words. His expectations have always been that we give Him our best, but not in a showy, outer appearance sort of way. His eyes throw aside the trappings we disguise ourselves in and cut deep to our heart motivations. We subscribe to certain avenues of belief to conceal our "inside" issues. Ripped jeans and Easter hats can be equally dishonoring to Him if used as a disguise. He wants us to come to Him in honesty and purity of heart.

Colossians 3:9-14 says, Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Sounds like the way to dress to impress God has nothing at all to do with what is hanging on this outer shell we call a body. Let's stop stressing so much over the things that will pass and lift our eyes up to what really matters.


From the Womb

Its been quite awhile since I posted. I have this hang up about not writing unless I'm inspired and let's just say I've been extremely uninspired to put down any of my thoughts. They have mainly stayed in the area of, "Is this pregnancy ever gonna be over?!!!" and nobody anywhere wants to read my depressing hormone induced rants. However, this morning there seems to be a lull and my heart and brain simultaneously came out of the fog long enough to compose a sharable thought. I've been reading in Isaiah for my daily devotions and was really stirred this morning as in every portion I read the Lord referred to His having called people from the womb. Now I know I may be a little more sensitive to this idea since I'm carrying a little person in my belly right now, but the thought hit me like a ton of bricks. His story has been written, preordained, if you will. I'm not saying there is no free choice, what I am saying is I sure hope he's up to the challenge. Paul encouraged us to live a life worthy of the calling. I imagine in my mind that we're all walking around with invisible titles over our heads, "revolutionary," "pastor," "president." These are our callings, but what do we really do with our lives? Are we living up to what God has in mind for us? His thoughts are limitless and nothing is impossible with Him. What dreams did you have before that you have let fall to the wayside? And while we're at it, these kids He gave me, am I helping them to see what He destined them to be? Or am I just biding time until they're grown up and discover it for themselves? Children are a gift from the Lord, but not just to their parents. I need to remember when I'm getting weary from the responsibility just what hangs in the balance. Both in my own race and as I coach my children in each of their own races.


High Society

All my life I've dreamed of getting up in the morning and putting on a dress suit, driving off to my dream job in my dream car as I wave goodbye to my 2.5 children and husband. Though I married into a ministry family, to the man of my dreams might I add, I always thought that the dream could still be possible. I've bucked against the system, trying to cram it into my perfect little package of what I thought was normalcy. I've worked out there and I've stayed at home, and every time I come to the same stand off. When I drive away from my little babies as they are screaming for me to stay with them, somehow the glamour of the job and the "extra" money it brings doesn't seem so endearing. My life away from my family revolves around getting through the day and back to them. But when I stay at home thoughts of my wasted intelligence and unfulfilled dreams fill my head as I vacuum, change diapers and wait impatiently for my husband to come home and remind me that its all worth it.
See, I've been raised in an environment that will not allow me to feel content keeping a house, raising children to serve God, opening my home to strangers, and inspiring a man to keep on pursuing the fight. Why must I seek my fulfillment outside the doors of the home God has allowed us to create? And why do we as a society demean women who choose to remain home? Its almost as if we sabotage them with surroundings that scream for a dual income household. Even the church can be a culprit. If you are not "prosperous", you must be doing something wrong. We have a warped view of prosperity which dictates that it must show in the year and make of our vehicle, our neighborhood, our clothing. Yet, my God shall supply all my needs according to His riches and glory. My husband and I have learned that there are times to pull the tent pegs in and times to expand them. God always provides for the season. Our goal is to pursue Him in everything we do, acknowledging His grace in the season we find ourselves in. If we make that seem easy, don't be fooled, its not. We're just finding our lives held to a higher accountability than what the world tries to cram down our throats, and reaching for the society of heaven.


LIttle People

Yesterday was one of those days. I don't know what really sets them apart, but I just wake up feeling funny. All day things went fine. I had a doctor's appointment, good report. I went to work at the office, no hang ups there. Then it was time to go home, uh oh. I realized I didn't want to go home. What exactly awaited me there? My four girls had been home alone since the morning and I just knew I'd be walking into disaster central. Sure enough, trash overflowing the can, apple core on the office desk, unfinished laundry. Now before you begin to think that all I do is complain, the first thing I did before I set in to put every thing to rights, was just sit down with the little tiny. Emari followed me into my room, sucking her thumb and twiddling her hair like she does and requested to do my hair. Of all my babies, she's the one who loves my hair. She sits on my lap and holds it or rubs it on her face. With that moment I gave her I was reminded once more how precious these times are. My house will always be dirty, there is no escaping that, but it will not always house tiny people who just want to be close to me. They are going to grow up and live in houses that they have to keep clean without me there. I will eventually come home to one that doesn't have someone eagerly awaiting my return to make everything right again and then in some weird and sad way I will look back at these frustrating times and wish they had lasted just a little longer.


Don't Call Me Organized

Don't know if its the nesting instinct kicking in early, or the fact that I'm stuck at home more days than not that's got me riled up in an organizational dither. All I know is that the more I organize the more I realize just how hopeless it is. I love opening a closet and not having to worry about things falling on me. I love finding things were they should be. I absolutely adore falling asleep at night and not hearing the nagging of all the things that should be done, but aren't. Such is not the life for a mommy of almost six. Back in the early years when it was just Tony and Becca, things were simpler. Two kid rooms, two toy boxes, two dressers. Simplicity at its finest. Did I appreciate it, no. Enter Serena, who even in her earliest stages just couldn't be content to play with her own things. Suddenly everything was common property except for special things which had to be placed in an undisclosed location under surveillance at all times, lest they be tampered with and destroyed by tiny hands. Every couple of months I go through jags where I work through each room separating and folding and organizing. This time I'm at week two, week one was completed while my three girls were on vacation in Kentucky. When I take a break to catch my breath and grab a snack I run across various items that were part of the process, already in disarray. Or even worse I come downstairs only to find every dish I own in the sink. I so envy other women who can keep it all together and maintain a well-organized household, but I am learning that as for me and my house, well, its just not happenin'.


Mrs. Congeniality

My morning started out as usual today, with a cup of coffee and my Bible. I'm reading, or in all honesty, attempting to read, the entire Bible through once more this year. Today was filled with some stockpiling of supplies for the construction of the temple, some reminders from Paul that the Bible wasn't written for everyone else, but for our own instruction, and a Psalm praising the Lord for His pure words. Okay, but what really reached out and grabbed my attention today was the Proverb.

Proverbs 19:14 (The Message)

14 House and land are handed down from parents,
but a congenial spouse comes straight from God.

Being the nerd that I am I looked it up on the internet and found this definition:

con·gen·ial (kn-jnyl) adj.
1. Having the same tastes, habits, or temperament; sympathetic.
2. Of a pleasant disposition; friendly and sociable: a congenial host.
3. Suited to one's needs or nature; agreeable: congenial surroundings.

Of course, I'm asking myself, "Am I the congenial spouse that was delivered from God to my husband?" Maybe there's nobody out there who asks this, but I do. Sometimes with all the things I am striving to be I neglect the most important one. Its something special to claim coming straight from the Lord as a gift to someone. That's what God calls children and yet not everyone accepts them as such. But as it is in my power to maintain my worth as a gift, I really want to hold fast to that. Breaking down that definition I can see an easy fit into the first part. Joshua and I have been married for 14 years. Many of our tastes and habits are identical by now. We've kind of melded into each other and can't really remember which one of us brought what to the table of individual tastes in the beginning. That makes for ease in decorating and food prep. Superficial things really when you think about it. Now look at part 2. Ooooh, pleasant disposition, yikes. Friendly and sociable? Good habits for a pastor's wife to have but not the first words you would use to describe me. Character flaws are immediately apparent. Now on to part 3. It really brings to mind the description of Eve in the Garden of Eden. She was made just for Adam, as a help mate for him. She was fashioned by the hands of God from the same material as Adam. Actually she was made from Adam, and yet she still got him into trouble, didn't she? In the end we come to the conclusion that while some parts of being a congenial spouse come more naturally, others require work. Day by day, it is ultimately my decision to remain a good gift for my husband with all of God's help, of course.


Finding the Floor

Since Monday the kids and I have been working feverishly to get the house clean. Every room that has a carpet has been thoroughly gone over. "What dignitary is coming to visit you to warrant such cleaning?" you may ask. No one is coming to visit, we just really need to get our carpet cleaned. With a large family who entertains as much as we do I really should get it done more often, but the preparation is just so exhausting. Maintenance is easy for the downstairs as my husband and I live down there and generally we don't lower ourselves to throwing candy wrappers under the bed or dropping kernels of popcorn into every crevice in our room. The children however dwell upstairs and dad and I rarely have to venture up there. I make the trek more frequently to drop things off in the kids rooms. However, dad had to do some work up there in Tony's room this weekend, and boy it just wasn't good. He couldn't find the floor to walk through the girls room. What he was doing in there I still don't know, but the result was instantaneous. Instead of carpet, he found a sea of clothing and other girl items. Cleaning promptly insued and we have the victory as we have found the carpet and it indeed needs a very good cleaning.


No Mo' Status Quo

Have you ever listened to someone who put into words what you were going through? Last night I watched the conference that my kids and husband are at right now. Damon Thompson was preaching and I always love to hear what God is giving to him, but wow. He talked about how God is raising a generation of people who are made to do things differently in the kingdom of God. They are the ones who are not content with the way things are right now. They are creative and called, but they must be careful to make sure they keep covenant with their God. Otherwise, their uniqueness is nothing. Since early last year I've been feeling this restlessness in my spirit that things just have to change. Lately I've really found myself struggling with the idea that maybe my feelings were just of a rebellious nature. I love it when God responds to your heart's cry and directs you in the way to go. The message last night was a prodding on for me that I'm not feeling wrong things, I just need to keep my hand in His. I know that there are so many out there that God is raising up to shake the foundations of religion and Christianity. However, we must remember to honor the work of those who have gone before us and prepared the way as God directed them. Without them we would not be poised where we are today.
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