Blessed and Highly Favored

On my way to church this Sunday, I was struck by a remembrance of words I've read many, many times over.

And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord: may it be done to me according to your word."

This young girl had just been informed that her life was going to be turned upside down, all her plans changed, her goals adjusted. God had seen her, chosen her to bring forth His own Son. Seems pretty awesome at first look, but she didn't know all that would come, she simply said, Ok. This was not an easy thing that God was requiring of her, and the crazy thing is that He handpicked her because she was just the right one for the job. She was gonna get married and lead a normal life, but oh no, not anymore. The death threats began, the running for her life, the sullied reputation, the agony of being Jesus mother. She would watch Him grow and become a man and be present as He lived and died for the sins of the world. Heavy stuff.

I complain because I don't get the paycheck I want or the recognition I think I deserve. If I had been presented with this same "gift" would I have been as eager to accept as Mary was? Yet, God has chosen me to do His will with the life that He has called me to and I stumble and fall every day under the burden of it. Its what He requires, a life sacrificed for Him, for His purposes, for His glory, not my own. Not my plans, but His, not my will but His. Lord, give me the grace to live for You, not myself, for others and not just my own comfort.



Just this week my husband and I were talking about sticking around a marriage and wading through the garbage to obtain the glory. You never know what you're gonna get when you marry someone, life is full of surprises. I do recall one of our first moments when right after getting the call that his mom was getting a liver transplant Josh rushed over to my house. My mom opened the door and immediately knew something was wrong, so much so she actually let him talk to me in my room. Gasp! He was sitting there on my bed with a look on his face that I had never seen on him before. He told me what was going on and included a bunch of warnings that this was gonna be really hard. I stood there thinking that he was giving me an option to back out. It was a challenge that he was placing before me. Can you handle this, will you stand up to what's coming with me? Did I mention this was two weeks before our wedding date? I should have known...but the work has been so worth it.

Today is Rebecca Lynn's birthday. She's already seventeen and so much a grand monument to our lives together. Seventeen years already! She is my first daughter, my first Goodman child, all blond curls and blue green eyes like the Caribbean, and dimples that dare you to smile bigger. She is my sunshine baby, a sign of the beginning of new and wondrous things. No dainty girl this one, she fights fiercely for those she holds dear and is not afraid to have a bold opinion. She stands and dares you to stand with her asking, "Are you strong enough to handle what life throws our way?" I look ahead to where she is destined to go and see bright and glorious things in store. Lots of work but so worth it!


If the Shoe Fits

Several months ago, my father in law offered a pair of boots to my son, Tony. He had bought the boots for a really good deal, but alas, they were too small for him, and just the right size for my son. However, my son being 19 and ever so style conscious, politely refused the shoes. Skip to this fall and the reinvention of my son as a college student and up and coming film maker. He is learning that on set it can get cold and wet and muddy and good boots would really come in handy. He asks some older students for recommendations on the type of boots he should get and they point him unanimously to a specific brand, Merrell. Did I mention that those are the exact type that Papa had offered and Tony had snubbed his nose at? Even with their hefty price tag they were not alluring until the need arose for them in Tony's life. Now he saw the error of his ways. He is not in a position financially to purchase said expensive "now cool" boots. The awesome thing is that Tony actually apologized for not accepting the boots in the first place. "Man, Papa, I really did a dumb thing not taking those boots, I'm really sorry, now I need them..." Lo and behold, Papa still has them in the box in his closet at home and they are now being appreciated by one very humbled college boy. Plus I'm pretty sure Papa got some satisfaction from being right all along.

So what's the point you say? Have you been offered some tools that don't seem to suit you at the present? Do you not see how this "gift" could possibly be of any use to you? Do you almost feel put upon by the offering, like who do you think I am to want/need that? Don't you see that's not my style? I know its just my size, but really how do you expect me to use it?

I know that I'm like that with God...I don't like where He has put me, what He's asking me to do. I don't want to wear this hat and that one and doesn't He know that its just too much? Accepting what He is offering now is so much better than waiting and realizing the fit that you overlooked or under-appreciated. Be humbled by Him now, and be prepared for what is to come instead of having to come back later and ask for what He tried to give you previously.


The Art of Public Grieving

I struggled slightly with this post, going back and forth with choosing a title that would clarify the topic but not be offensive and even trying to write about something different. It just wouldn't happen so I chose to stay on the topic of grieving.

My husband's grandmother passed away two days ago and our family is fresh in the stages of grief for our loss. You must understand that grief is not new for this family as they have lost a a baby sister, a mother, all four grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and numerous close friends over the years of pastoring. When I first came into the family I was overwhelmed by the loss that they had already encountered at such young ages and stepped into married life just in time to walk with my husband through the loss of his mother. Grief is a very personal thing unique to each person in its affect but I must say that a pastor's family must learn to handle it carefully.

Families look to the pastor to help them through their own times of grief but who is there when its the pastor's family that has lost? Who comforts those who mourn in the pastor's house? I have watched from the side as my own family has grieved quietly at home and put on a brave public face. Their heads raised, their eyes still moist with tears, their hearts broken beneath the double breasted jackets they wear. The pastor and his family know that they emulate God's hope to the congregation. They know that the words of comfort that they speak to others are words for themselves as well and even as their feet grow weary in bringing the good news to others, it is still that, the Good News.


Great Expectations

Trust and Obey, because there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.

I remember singing that song in Sunday school as a little girl and yet its still such a hard thing to do. At our women's meeting today at church my friend, Deanna, preached on the subject and she was honest enough to admit that she struggles with trusting God too. What is it with us Christians? We can walk out this life of faith with ease giving things up and sacrificing our lives for Him...but do we really trust Him? We give up habits, we choose life and not death, we walk the narrow way, but don't ask me to trust God for all things, please.

Our family has its ups and downs like every family. Sometimes there are questions like what do you want for dinner and sometimes there are questions like what can we have for dinner, you know what I mean? Can I trust that God will supply all my needs, not just those things that are fluffy? He's providing when its a new dress and He's providing when its paying my bills on time. He's providing when I don't know how its all gonna work out and when it feels like life is on cruise control.

Trusting God is a difficult think to do, not because He's an untrustworthy God, but because I may not be completely happy with the turn out of the situation. Sometimes I'm disappointed because my expectations are not met. That's where the problem lies, in my expectations. God is not compelled by my expectations for Him, I should be compelled by His expectations for me. He sees so much further and deeper and beyond anything I can even imagine for my life. So why not trust the control of it to Him?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.


No More Questions, Please

Why me, why us, why now, why not? Life is a questionable affair. I ask lots of questions, partly because I want to do things correctly, and partly because I want to know what I'm doing, where I'm going. When we were kids, my parents would often load us up in the car and start driving, not telling us where our destination was. My sister and I would pester them with questions, only to have them reply that it was a surprise. Because we knew our surroundings we could usually figure it out before we got there. I was never disappointed. I loved that little game.

Now as an adult, I ask the same things of my heavenly Father. But the difference is that I'm not familiar with this road, and I haven't seen these surroundings before and I'm just a little scared because I've learned that I'm not always happy with the momentary destination. This is not a nice country drive or pleasure cruise. Life happens, there are circumstances beyond my control, I am full of questions.
Job 42:1-5
Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?' I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, 'Listen , and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give me the answers.'" 


It Only Looks Easy

I know I wrote a few weeks ago about the perils of getting older. I'm still thinking along these lines and bear with me but I've come to a conclusion. Life doesn't get easier as you get older, the scenery just changes. I always thought that I'd hit a point where life would be an even keel, coasting along, Sunday afternoon drive kind of scenario. Nope, nada, wrong! Relationships keep you on your toes no matter what year you were born in. People still hurt your feelings and you put your foot in your mouth just as easily at 35 as at 15. Kids come to you as screaming demanding little bundles of joy and grow up to keep you awake at night just like they did as babies. My love for my children has grown, my love for my husband and family and friends has matured. However, I still mess up and hurt them. There are times I feel alone in a crowded room and being left out still stings. So with all that said and the end goal moving in focus from being some pie in the sky perfection, I think I can sit back and embrace this ever changing chameleon that I call my life. Carpe diem, you only live once, so live well.


The Moment You Know It Was Worth It

Sometimes you find God in those moments that you step back and look at your situation from a different perspective...I got this email from Tony this week:

But yeah it's been pretty crazy here, this last weekend was my time to go "crewing" which means I was on set for no less than 6 hrs. on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. So that kinda messed up my homework schedule, but everything worked out. This next weekend I do the whole thing over so that'll be fun. I told about this moment I had on set, that in it's own way was kinda spiritual for me. It was the silence that overcame the entire crew, all 50 of them when the First Assistant Director yelled "quiet on set". Everybody immediately responded, the audio guys started their recording, the camera started rolling, and the Director yelled action. The actors came out did their little actor thing, the camera man was operating the camera, the Director was looking intently at the actors movement and dialogue, the Cinematographer was watching through the monitor in the back, and the rest of the crew was silent.

It was this awesome, nerdy moment of realization for me. It was so beautiful and in it I knew that I was at the right school, at the right time in my life, headed in the right direction. All of the headache, cramming, stress, worries, sleep deprivation, was all worth it. And this wasn't even my picture so who know's how it will feel when I'm in that seat! Anyways, enough of my rambling.
This is what we've been waiting for as parents left at home. I am not foolish enough to think that he's not gonna have other moments of doubt as to his calling, I still have my own doubts for mine at times, but it made my heart glad to read these words from my son. The surety that everything up to this point has been worth the reward of knowing that he's at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. And even better he knows its God! I love it and just wanted to share with you all this morning. There's nothing better than realizing that you're right where God wants you to be, well nothing except watching your children realize that for themselves.


I Don't Wanna Grow Up

As I'm getting older and realizing that my life is a series of challenges and obstacles, I see that there's not really a place when I get to step back and say, "I made it!" Well not until I'm dead I guess. But the reality is that my body is getting older, but inside I still have the same insecurities and questions. They may be in reference to different things, but they're still there.
I guess that I thought that by the time I was almost forty, I would have a certain confidence from life lived and experience gained. But I doubt myself all the time. I ask questions like, "Is this what God really had in mind when He called me to Himself?" or "Am I really being the best mother to these children, and wife to this husband?" Is this what I've worked for and waited for and prayed for? Or is it still somewhere out there illusive and shadowed by doubts?
Does anyone else in the world feel this way? I mean I thought that there was a point when you grew up and accepted your life and were happy and successful and could sit around enjoying things. Does the hard work ever get easier? Does what other people think ever shrink in its importance to you? Do you ever look in the mirror and like what you see?


Perfect Timing

I felt like I should follow up my last blog with something a little more cheerful. Rereading my own post made me cry. Sheesh! Anyway, this was the first weekend that Tony has not come home so I was emotionally and physically able to pack up the rest of his leftover stuff and get rid of all the trash he left in his room (thanks Bub) and actually make Emari and Zion comfortable in their own room. Tony still has a bed to sleep in when he graces us with his college coolness but with five siblings still at home I couldn't make everybody remain cramped. Tony's room is perfect because it has built in shelves for their toys and a small closet for their small clothes. Emari has had a bit of a hard time with Tony leaving and starting kindergarten and moving into a new room. Being part of the youngest set of Goodman children she has grown used to a bigger person to protect her from the boogie man. Zion just doesn't help fight him off as well as Serena and Taylor. For the past four weeks Joshua and I are reliving her infancy in our bed with her squished in between us. The difference is she's a lot bigger than she was back then and it makes for a sleepless night for mommy and daddy. The floor just doesn't work for her. She knows where her place is.

I really don't know how I would have made it through this time if it hadn't been for my two little people. Just the fact that they need me in such all consuming ways keeps me from giving into the abyss of loneliness. Rebecca, Serena, and Taylor go on with their lives and don't need me on a minute by minute basis. I don't have to worry about the three of them wandering around in the backyard in their underwear looking for me if I decide to take a shower real quick. Well, at least I hope not. There have been times in life that I felt a little person made living so much more complicated and then I looked back at the ordeal and realized that that little "inconvenience" was exactly what I needed to keep things in perspective. Thank God for holding out that little boy for 16 years. Sometimes his little voice asking, "Momma, I hold you?" is precisely what I need to hear.


Separation Anxiety

Now that I'm on the *happy side* of this ordeal I feel compelled to share with you. Yes, I'm talking about Tony packing up the "important stuff" and running off to live in another town, an act commonly referred to as "going off to college." Its been four weeks now and up until this time the only thing I've ever counted in weeks is pregnancy and infancy; two things that culminate towards a wonderful conclusion. This is soo different. The conclusion here is my boy leaving me forever and only visiting on holidays and my birthday, maybe. This is probably the hardest thing I've gone through in my life. The bittersweet fact is that its a loss that has enormous returns and the truth of the matter is that in its entirety it displays my victory over the battle of parenting. My son is whole and sound and very much capable of leaving me and his father and carrying on a viable life somewhere else using his own giftings. "Yeehaw! So what?!" I scream. The morning he left I couldn't even talk when I said goodbye. I clutched him and kissed his neck and ran out the door. I cried for a week and every time I passed his picture in the hall I felt an emptiness in my middle. I couldn't make dinner or set the table without thinking I didn't need to set a plate for him or save food back. A zombie version of me walked through the grocery store remembering all of his favorite foods that I no longer needed to buy and thinking how I hoped no one could tell how hollow I was inside. The pain I felt was tangible and it centered somewhere around my womb. I know that sounds weird and creepy, but its true, I actually hurt. The one thing that kept resounding inside me was the idea that millions of moms have gone through this, many walking around in my life everyday and nobody bothered to warn me. No one told me that I was going to feel what Tony felt everyday that I left him in daycare and he clung to my leg and wailed and begged me not to leave. I walked out of the daycare every day and cried the whole way to school thinking that he'd understand one day. Little did I know that he was thinking the same thing....


Lake Rim Park

Today we ventured out to Lake Rim Park and fed the ducks. We had a ton of leftover hot dog and hamburger buns from the Fourth of July picnic, so I thought we could put them to good use. The kids loved it! Zion had a hard time at first, varying from throwing half of a bun and choking the poor water fowl to pinching tiny microscopic crumbs that could not be detected by a duck's beak. Here's a video showing him perfecting his throw with a little bit of Green grace thrown in there at the end.


And he's back for more bread. I love the ducks there because they are nice and polite little mallards, not the nasty greedy geese that chased my sister and I around when we were little kids. The actual park is across the street and it has bathroom facilities, picnic pavilions, a nature trail, and two playgrounds. More stuff from the bucket list accomplished!


Splash Pad!

 Sorry about the finger in the pic.

Today the kids and I knocked another one of our bucket list items off the list. We headed out to the Splash Pad at Christina Smith Park in Fayetteville. The park opens at 10 am and sight unseen I wanted to get there early to beat the crowds. It was great. There is a fenced area to keep the kids inside and a covered picnic area and bathrooms situated very close to the pad. Adjoining the area, but outside the fence is a sand box and just a short distance away there are playgrounds as well.

Summer Magic and a Bucket List

Summer is always such a magical time for kids. As I remember it was never long enough and the only time that I would ever complain to my parents about being bored. Oh for the good ol' days. This year the family sat down and made a list of what makes summer summer to us. I put it in list form and as soon as all the girls were out of school we began checking off the list. I'm not sure if we will get it all accomplished but we'll have fun trying. Here it is.

  • go to the beach
  • go camping
  • see an outdoor movie
  • visit all the parks in Fayetteville
  • splash pad
  • make popsicles
  • chalk painting
  • bubbles
  • pool
  • picnic
  • fireworks
  • make homemade ice cream
  • roast marshmallows
  • Jordan park hike
  • Clark Park
  • snocones
  • feed ducks
  • plant flowers
  • bird feeders
  • petsmart
  • play in sprinklers
  • late night ice cream run
  • library
  • breakfast on the deck
  • read Winnie the Pooh
  • fingerpaint
  • fly a kite 
As you can see, we have already put a pretty big dent in the list, but summer's not over yet!


Words for the Journey

This blog post comes as a request by my beloved sister in law. Love ya, Jess! Yesterday the two of us had the opportunity to witness a most beautiful wedding ceremony in downtown Fayetteville. While we were waiting for everything to start Jess was telling me about the difficulty she had in finding an appropriate wedding card. Among all the choices on the shelves she couldn't find a single one to express the words she had in her heart for the couple. Things like "many years of happiness" and "everything you deserve and more" seem wonderful, but shallow when referring to the life altering covenant of marriage.
What do you say to a loved one embarking on a journey that should only end with death? I don't mean to sound morbid, but that's what marriage is...a never ending road. So many people enter into it with misconceptions. Marriage is no vacation, no pleasure cruise. When you are blessed enough to find the one you can link arms with and continue plodding forward, it is indeed a miraculous occasion. The burden of life is now a shared one. You will have paved roads and gravel, straightways and curvy, hills and valleys. Sometimes you will have a fine tuned vehicle and at other times you may find yourself broke down on the side of the road. The wonder of marriage is not the absence of trouble, but the beauty of having someone to walk with. Put that in a hallmark card!


A Mother's Guide to Surviving College

I need one. We were at a bookstore recently and Tony jokingly picked up a book with a title something like, "Surviving Freshman Year for College Students." Ha, ha. When I was eighteen all I wanted to do was leave home, and live somewhere else while my parents footed the bill. No worries, what's there to survive? Mothers of college students on the other hand...I've been in a state of denial all year and here we are in July and I'm filling out form after form and feel like I'm signing my kid over to someone else. Most days I'm so busy that it stays far enough in the back of my mind, but today I'm undone. I hover somewhere between wanting to appear stoic and unaffected so that its easier for him to leave, but then wanting to hold on to him sobbing that I don't want him to grow up and move along. I haven't had to let him go before this. There is no first day of kindergarten for home schoolers, nothing to prepare a mommy. Its horrible thoughts that run through my head like can I really trust these people to teach my son and can I drive away and leave him to live in this place and know that he's going to be okay? NO, I don't have that guarantee and suddenly he's my little boy crying because he fell down and hurt himself or somebody hurt his feelings and I just want to punch somebody or something to make him feel good again. My heart aches as I look at my boy turned man and realize I can't make it better for him and I shouldn't. His choices are his own and I have to stand back and watch him get hurt and get back up in his own strength. I can't rush in to kiss the booboos and brush off his hands this time. This is that moment I've been preparing him for. Pouring all my love into a little boy's heart and directing him down the right way. Giving him the little assurances that even when things don't go our way there is still a Plan and its going to work out. My voice tells him about my plans for his room once he's gone. My arms bring him boxes to pack. But in the meantime while he packs his things and decides what to take and what to leave, I stand back and watch him with my heart toggling between fear and pride, pain and love.


Sacred Parenting

Over the course of my life I've read a lot of books on marriage and parenting and how to get a perfect life in 10 easy steps. This is not one of those books and I loved it. Each chapter left me with hope, not a list of do's and don'ts. I must admit that I cried through each chapter, some out of laughter, some were tears of release and remembering. This book takes you from those early days of sleepless nights with a newborn to letting your kids go. Everything is looked at from the perspective of the act of parenting one of God's children and its ability to draw us closer to Him. Parenting is tough, there is no book in the world that can make it easier to navigate, but this one sheds light on the truth that God has ordained parenting and gives us the grace to do it well.


Compared to Job...

When it rains it pours...sometimes it just seems like life is harder than normal. You are busting your tail to get things done, volunteering your time, spending time with the kiddos, all the noble things that should work out to some good rewards. But life isn't like that all that much. Doing right carries no guarantee of things always going right. My oven is broken, my a/c unit leaked and created a very grotesque stain on my stairwell ceiling, my hot water heater exploded, and in the midst of it all, in fact the day after the water heater gave up the ghost we started reading Job in our daily reading plan. Go figure right! I read over those first couple of chapters and came to the realization that while my present situation is really shoddy, its nothing compared to what Job went through. In my spoiled American mindset I shed tears over the fact that I can't jump into the shower and with a twist of my wrist warm wonderful water cascades down upon me from on high. My dishwasher won't run without hot water? What is this world coming to? My air conditioner was on the fritz? Please, I lived as a missionary and on a daily basis had to heat up my own water that came from a rain barrel to bathe. My clothes had to be hand washed, not due to the delicacy of the fabric but absence of a shiny machine to do the work for me. So why do I feel so bent out of shape when these luxuries are denied me for a time?

When this all went down this weekend my mind volleyed between two probabilities: A) we have done something wrong or B) God wants to teach us a lesson. Spiritual inventory was taken aka who sinned??? Then, "God how could you let this happen to us?" No matter how much I learn about God and His goodness, I still struggle through these thoughts. God's grace is sufficient for me, no matter what the trial. We've stuck it out through some pretty rough waters, learned how to keep our heads up in spite of the circumstances. My husband in his infinite optimism (he was a missionary's kid by the way) tells me to thank God its summer time! Cold showers aren't as bad this time of year, and maybe we've been getting a little soft with all of our appliances working :)

God's stamp of approval doesn't mean that you will walk through life without struggle or sacrifice.

Romans 5:1-5

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!



Michal, David's wife was a princess. She was the daughter of a king and the wife of the next in line. She was raised in the palace. She also became a prize, a symbol of a victory won. Not because she was such an amazing person, beautiful in mind and demeanor, but because she was a king's daughter. David won her and yet she loved him. She helped him escape from her father's murderous intents. But when David escaped, she was left behind. She was given to another man to be his wife. Passed around by her father to get revenge on David and prove a point. Later, when Saul was killed and David established as king, he sent for her and took her back from her husband. The Bible says that her husband followed behind her the whole trip back to the palace crying the whole way. He was forced to go back home. There is no happy reunion recorded, only the story we all remember. David bringing back the Ark of the Covenant and dancing with wild abandon. Michal looks down at this scene and it says her heart was filled with scorn for her husband. She meets him at the front door and greets him with some cutting remarks about his performance. David reminds her that her father was removed from kingship and the honor bestowed on him. Then the Bible concludes this story with the statement that Michal never had children.
I know I took some liberty in my paraphrase but I wanted to shed some light on things. At first glance this story seems so cut and dry. David was worshipping and Michal made fun. There relationship never recovered, maybe there never was a relationship. Either way, she had once been his loving wife and she never received the joy of giving him a child. Sometimes the Bible seems harsh with the stories of women. They seem to be pawns and trophies, overlooked and used. Sometimes we only get a glimpse of the wrong they did. Sarah laughed, Rebecca deceived, Rachel envied. There are good ones too, but my question is what went wrong? If my story were in the Bible, what parts would be highlighted and studied. My failures or my victories? Which do I seem to give more to?
Michal may not have been loved by David, she may have felt used and discarded, but the bottom line was that she was the king's wife. Her husband had his flaws but he was crazy about his God. Had she allowed bitterness to grow in her heart and finally overflow into her relationship with both God and David? We will never know but like all good stories we can learn our lesson. He was right to be dancing, he had persevered, he had been victorious. She hadn't known the Cave of Abdullam, living on the run. She had remained in the city living the palace life with daddy. She must have let the pain grow in her heart unchecked for it to overflow so freely.
How I understand...I have to be ever so careful not to harbor ill will and even then sometimes I realize its still there. My heart can fill with scorn too and it must be emptied out. Not on my husband as he comes home from dancing the presence of the Lord back to the city, but by giving it to God. I'm not really good at it yet.


Giving Gifts and Really Letting Them Go

Gifts. They are so fun to give, yet so hard to let go. You're probably thinking I'm a begrudging kind of giver, but I really love to make people happy by giving them what they want, need, ask for, what have you. However, sometimes it comes back to bite me that I didn't really release that gift. I mean have you ever gone over to someone's house and felt a little sad when you accidentally came across a gift you gave tossed aside in the garage or the closet or (gasp) regifted to someone else? It hurts, and even makes me a little bit angry.

Yesterday this smacked me right in the face. Joshua and I gave Rebecca her class ring on Monday night. We scrounged together the money to pay for it and paid it over time, but it was important to us and very special. Tuesday night she came home frantically looking around the house for her ring, apparently she might have left it on the sink at school !?! What? All my loving tendernesses and sentimentality seemed to have been left there on the grungy high school bathroom sink. What was she thinking to take her ring off at school and how could she have walked off and left it? Didn't she care about the work that went into my precious gift to her?

As I was rehashing all of that in my mind, the thought comes, how do I treat God's gifts to me? Does He hurt when I put them away, lose them, say they're not good enough or not what I wanted or needed? Just like Becca didn't mean to hurt me and daddy by losing her ring, I don't mean to hurt God, in fact, I don't even think about Him when I despise my gifts. Sheesh, heavy revvy right there. Solemnly, I surrendered. God, I'm sooooo sorry, I'll look harder, get them out of the junk drawer, stop hating what you have so graciously given to me.

What was really cool was that Josh was moved too. He had lost a physical gift and had looked for it at least three times in the same place. Well, how about he looked for it one last time in the same place and there it was as plain as day. We thought that was really cool. I mean, maybe it was hiding for him until he really appreciated it?

Anyway, for those of you that are concerned Rebecca went into school today and without much hope in her heart asked if anybody found her ring and turned it in. Guess what? It was in the bathroom and somebody actually turned it in to lost and found! That like never happens in high school...So moral of the story is...hold the gifts you've been given tightly, release those you give away.


I Just Wanna Be Different

It never ceases to amaze me that even when I'm reading books with my students because I have to, not by my own choice, that I still get amazing and thought provoking revelations. The fourth grade is smack dab in the middle of reading, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I started the book and was grabbed immediately in the first chapter when the older sister is devising her plan to run away to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She says that she's tired of being straight A's Claudia Kincaid, the sameness of everyday, the injustice of her boring life of doing dishes. Sheesh, I broke into tears. Here is a fictional character in a kid's book making me weepy because she put into words how I have always felt for as long as I could remember. Later on in the book, she doesn't want to go home yet because she longs to be different. How I relate with Claudia. Different is distinct, its unlike the others. Its what I want to be. Not in a creepy, Goth, nobody understands me kind of way. Not even in a way anyone else can see, just on the inside. Straight A's may come easy for me, doing the dishes is something anybody with two hands and a sink can do. When I think about it I push the limits here. I just want to be different...


The Perfection Trap

So between some inner soul searching, a book I just finished reading and some really good conversation with some other girls yesterday I have come to this conclusion: window shopping leads to dissatisfaction. I don't even have to leave my house, I can sit in the comfort of my own home and compare my house with my neighbor's. There are enough pinterest boards to make me green with envy. If I am worried about ruining my child forever if I don't make my own whole wheat bread or homemade playdough I can find a parenting blog to back up my notions. This comparison driven lifestyle isn't restricted to keeping up with the Jones's anymore. I can drive myself crazy following after the newest fad in whatever. Bangs or no bangs, what is Kate Middleton wearing? What can I do with those leftover peanut butter jars that will contribute to society? Contentment can only be found be keeping my eyes on the task at hand and the ministry that God has given me. I may never be a gourmet cook or a top blogger or the most svelte and spiritual pastor's wife around. Am I doing the best with the materials that He has given me? Stop beating yourself up over what you don't have and make the most with what you do.

1 Timothy 6: 6-8 A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.


Redemption Comes to Fayetteville

Yesterday, almost 6000 Fayetteville Christians marched through our downtown streets proclaiming God's blessings on our city. Several years ago my husband had a dream where he saw thousands of people crowding Hay Street in front of the Market House hands raised to God and the words, "Redemption Comes to Fayetteville" were suspended above the scene. He had lunch with a then youth pastor friend of his who shared the exact same dream. A few months ago the organizer of the Fayetteville God Belongs in Our City campaign approached both of these guys and their only response when asked if they wanted to join the movement was oh yeah!. I've shared before about my love for downtown even before it was pleasant and safe like it is today. As I was pushing my two youngest in their stroller yesterday I was transported to a time almost 18 years ago when I was marching down the hill to downtown at a March For Jesus with my now 19 year old son being the stroller occupant. Many marches, many prayers, many dreams later and the fruit was evident. Thousands came out, not to represent their churches, or denominations or prayer style, but to simply come together united as the Body of Christ in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Together as one body, we repented, we consecrated, we blessed. Redemption is the repurchase of something, it is atonement for guilt, it is deliverance from sin. Joshua saw his dream come to pass yesterday as he stood on the steps of the Market House and looked out at the streets flooded with believers and asked for the redemption of our city. Heal our land God!


Microwave Faith

Josh preached one of his best sermons yet on our 17th anniversary, two weeks ago. It was a special day beyond that, because it was his first sermon since coming back to Cliffdale. Nervous? Yeah! I love watching God use my husband and secretly enjoying that he is where he is because I am where I am. Confused yet? God allowed me to be this man's helpmate and though I haven't always felt up to the task or like I was doing a very good job, its mine nonetheless. He is where he is, fulfilling God's call on his life, because I am where I am fulfilling God's call on my own life. Josh preached on standing our ground when troubles come or running away in fear. That's a common dilemma in every aspect of life. Things aren't turning out the way I hoped or thought they would...oh well, I'll just give up, leave, turn my back, cower. Marriage is hard, being a Christian is hard, motherhood is really hard! Jesus never promised us an easy life. Anything worth having is worth the work. Microwave dinners range in quality from nasty to ok I'll eat this because I have no other choice. Steak, asparagus tips and baked potatoes take some time and skill. Quick solutions don't shape our character. We don't look up to people who stay married for 5 years and give up, we look to those who stick together for 35 years and more. That's perseverance. Trusting that God will bring you through the wilderness, the valley, or the troubled waters is real faith.

The Harbinger

This week is testing week for my fourth graders so I had a lot of reading time during class. I was actually able to complete an entire book in two days! Haven't done that since middle school. The book is an easy read, but an important book for every Christian and American to read. The author, Jonathan Cahn, writes in narrative form of a series of revelations for the future of America. He parallels the fall of Jerusalem to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Warning after warning and sign after sign are brought to light. The final conclusion is that America is headed for that same fate if we continue to defy God and go our own way. However there is always hope...
2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people, who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.


That Awkward Moment When...

a ginormous wave is towering over your head and you have to decide if you're going to try to swim for it or dive into it. Either way you're gonna get slammed. Its happened to all of us who venture into the water. Your top gets ripped off, or you end up staggering out of the shallows with a wedgie and a mouth full of sand. But the thrill to waltz with the monster beyond your control is breathtaking. The power it wields to hold you under the water and spin you like a washing machine tub. The beauty of the ocean can only be experienced first hand. I love the water and the salt and the sand. I hate not being able to touch the bottom. I want the power to feel with my big toes just how far I can go out without losing control. You can play that game in a pool, avoiding big brothers and husbands who want to dunk you until you cry. But in the sea, all bets are off. Riptides and currents and jellyfish.

God is a lot like the ocean. Wade out to a comfortable depth, ride the waves, do frequent toe-depth checks and then He pulls you further, further, further. But God I can't feel the bottom anymore...exactly.

Chalk Circles

The Circle Maker

There are very few modern writers that I can enjoy everything that they write and never tire of it. Some authors, I have found, write one book and then every subsequent offering is simply a regurgitation of the first; the same words in a different format and order. Mark Batterson's words are always new and refreshing and after reading his latest book I understand why. He shared that every time he authors a new book, he and his staff pray circles around it that it would get into the right people's hands at just the right time. Well, the first book that I had ever read by Mark was, In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, and it was such a "right book at the right time" moment for me that I was brought to tears when I read about his method of prayer. The Circle Maker was another book that I found at just the right time. Its about praying and not ceasing, daring to dream big and believing that God can do above and beyond what we ask for, looking past ourselves and our present situations to plant seeds for posterity.


Dancing with the Avatar

This fictionalized account of a young woman's religious adventures in India will grip you with its sight into the unseen forces that surround us. Her first book opened my eyes to the reality that is more real than what we see, the epic battle between God's will for our lives and Satan's intent for our destruction. Maya is living in an ashram in India and reaching toward enlightenment completely unaware of the struggle for her soul. Her parents are sending their prayers up and activating the angels of God as her eternity hinges on the brink. I loved it, and can't wait for the last book in the series!

Writing My Own Story

Many moons ago, when Josh and I were youth pastors, I was in charge of a group of teenage girls at an Encounter Retreat. In this weekend, the girls were going to come face to face with their past, present, and future; kind of an Ebenezer Scrooge meets Jesus experience. Each night before bed the counselors were given a question to ask the girls. One night I asked them, "If your life were made into a movie, what kind of movie would it be?"

In his newest book, Donald Miller is posed with that very same question. Two guys approach him to make his book, Blue Like Jazz, into a movie and Donald has to rewrite his own memoir for the big screen. The problem is that his life hasn't followed the guidelines of what makes a good story, so he sets out to change all that.

The book, as is customary of all of Miller's books, pulls me into myself, examining my own story and what impact I'm making on the people I encounter each and every day. If my life ever made it to film, would the moviegoers leave before it was over? Would they walk out hating my character or crying and laughing with her? When I get to heaven and get to the Inside the Actors' Studio in the sky, the words I want to hear are, "I knew you had it in you!"


I did the unspeakable yesterday and walked my kids up to the neighborhood park. Its pretty far on foot, farther than I realized, so I had plenty of time to think about stuff. Taylor came along with me riding her bike and Zi and Mars were in the double stroller. Now somehow since we came off of the mission field our family has expanded and I don't me in family members but in the size of each of our members, do you get my drift??? We work hard for God and come home and eat pasta late at night and don't have time to play outside and run around the yard and stuff. Anyway, we are working on that. So back to the walk. Taylor knows how to ride a bike, but our neighborhood is really hilly and she's not really confident. She will come to a hill and walk her bike down it slowly. I asked her why and she told me she's scared of losing control and a car coming around a corner and hitting her or something. My heart cringed. I flashed back to my own childhood when my sister and I would sneak off to ride our bike down the biggest hill in the neighborhood. It was so steep you had to walk your bike up and burn you brakes on the way down. We would wear ourselves out climbing up and streaking down with our long hair streaming wildly behind us. My mom hated it and would tell us of all the things that could go wrong and we didn't care. It was fun! Or how about jumping into the pool first thing in the morning, I mean as soon as you woke up and the water being so cold you just knew the only way you could get your body in there was to jump in. Run jump cannonball, ice cold water enveloping your whole being and it was breathtaking! What had I done to my child in raising her to think of all the contingencies? I want them to be smart and cautious but not afraid.

Jump ahead to the park that we finally arrived at and I'm brooding over this entire parenting dilemma and how I've ruined my child forever through my poor life coaching skills. But then I catch Emari pushing some kid out of her way on the slide and she's jumping off the dangerous parts of the equipment and screaming in delight and a big kid runs into and sends her sprawling in the dirt and she gets up, shakes the wood chips out of her hair and keeps going. I'm worried for an instant that she might get hurt or some parent will get upset with her and I realize that my heart has reached an equilibrium. Two children, same parents, same environment, different responses.

We are going to work on both of the extremes here in our house of course, but applying this concept to my own life I realize I need to find my own equilibrium. Considerate but not overly cautious to the point of not doing anything at all. I read somewhere recently that a clenched fist can hold onto what it has but not receive anything else. So simple but true.


Sacred Marriage

Seems like everybody's reading this book. I read it after it was recommended to me and I'm so glad I picked it up. A little skeptical at first glance, being that I've read just about every book known to bookstores about marriage, but I was pleasantly surprised. It never fails to amaze me how I get to the point of prideful resignation on a topic thinking that I've learned all there is and then God shows me more. And He's polite about it. "Here, Amber, read this book. It might help."

The author, Gary Thomas, dares to provoke us by stating that maybe marriage isn't about our happiness but about our holiness. That explains a lot. Those things that even after almost 17 years of marriage, I just get so irritated about, they are pushing me closer to God, not further from my husband. Once more, look at my inconsistencies, not my spouse's. My sins, not his. How can I better serve my family, not my own devices. Marriage isn't so much about finding the one who will make me happy, but the one that I can make happy. Service to others is service to God and He loves me so much that He will use any instrument at his disposal to draw me closer to His presence and likeness.
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