12.11.2016

Book Review: All the Pretty Things

Maybe it was the country western songs peppering the pages, maybe it was her description of living in a trailer, or juggling life with divorced parents. It could have been the way I could relate to the deep and unexplainable love a girl feels for her daddy, no matter what. Whatever the reason, this book invited me in and held me in its grasp through all of its pages and not one chapter was insignificant.


Edie Rudder began her life in the Appalachian Mountains, running wild and chasing after her daddy. Times were hard and life was full of bumps and bruises and excuses and disappointments. One thing led to another and even though she had pulled herself through med school and fashioned a life no one from her background usually even dreamed of, she still felt lost and afraid.


Success, money, family, nothing could fill the void she felt in her inmost heart of hearts. Rising to the top and then losing it all she was finally brought back to the root and center of it all, the love of a Father. Somehow in the midst of it all, she realized that no matter what came her way, God's love for her was unending and unconditional.
Maybe that's it. Maybe that's why the ache won't stop. Maybe it was never supposed to. Maybe it wrings us out and wears us down until we finally see the point of it all-that we have been snatched out of the fire of our brokenness in order to serve and love and bless the dear ones God has placed right in front of our eyes, the ones who need our very meager gifts and offerings the most-the fatherless, the misfits, the prostitutes, the jailbirds, and all those whose despair has rendered them hopeless. 


I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

11.27.2016

It All Begins With Hope

Its the first Sunday of Advent and with little people still in my house, I'm revving up for the joyful season.


I have always loved the traditions of Christmas and while the Goodman and I have held on to some from our childhoods, we have forged some of our own.


Every year since Tony's first Christmas we have put together a prayer chain.


We make a list of family and friends and make one paper chain link per person or family.


Then we string them all together and before bedtime, we all pray for one each night counting down to Christmas Day.


Hope. That's what prayer gives us. Its our own line of dialogue with the One who gives us the means to live and move and have our being. And during the holiday season we especially remember the eternal hope that Jesus' birth in Bethlehem brought to all mankind. Without that hope, that looking forward to His return once again for His Bride, what kind of people would we be?

11.24.2016

Gratitude Elusive

As is our custom each year, my Goodman and I sat together and talked about what we are thankful for this year. Can I be honest and say, it was hard to come up with? This has been a year. Fight after fight, struggle after struggle. An uphill battle. We mentioned the givens: our family, our marriage, our church, but when we looked back over the year, the difficulties were tough to see past. Whew. So many victories, so much hard fought ground covered, but really what can I say I am thankful for right now if I was to be asked?

I thought about it and this is what I came up with: through all this year and years gone by I am so very thankful for Jesus. Not being corny here. I'm so serious. Had I not been held up by the hope that lives in me, Christ in me, the hope of glory, I would be a sorry individual. I would not have made it, I tell you that with a certainty. On my darkest days, He shines a beacon that keeps me going, trudging onward. Secondly, there's my man, my partner, my love. During these battles when I glance over to where he's fighting, and I see him busting heads I am encouraged to fight all the harder. This partnership isn't all about rose petals and champagne, but battle scars and shared war stories.


Life is hard, I don't always get what I want, when I want it, how I want it. There is much injustice in the world and there are struggles that my family endures that don't seem fair. I don't even claim to try to know the whys or the hows, the important thing is that I have a relationship with the only Who that matters, and that is the sole fact that brings gratitude right up close and personal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

11.15.2016

Book Review: He Knows Your Name

Living in a world where we are constantly bombarded with the negativity of the nightly news, Facebook drama, and the regular reporting of evil, we can find ourselves feeling as if there is nothing we can do about it. What difference can one person make?

Linda Znachko is a woman just like me, but she decided to place herself in a position to allow God to use her. Because of her availability and heart after God, she has been used by Him to make an impact of one family at a time, through her ministry He Knows Your Name. This ministry provides the help needed to purchase headstones,  or financially support the funeral of the loved one of those who may not be able to find closure in their loss otherwise. And it all began with one terrible headline. Even while battling with the recent loss of her own mother, and fear for her sick daughter, she chose to step out and take action instead of curling up and hiding.

In her book, He Knows Your Name, Linda shares the extraordinary story of how one small step of faith, reaching out to bury a baby abandoned in a dumpster, changed her life and birthed a ministry. No need is too insignificant, no idea too small, no hurt too unimportant for God. As she shares in the book,
"I am confident of one thing: as you boldly step into the difficult places, God is faithful to use whatever you offer to accomplish his divine and holy will. So if you've senses a nudge from the Holy Spirit, say yes. I promise you that, in the most wonderful way, your life will never be the same."
*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

10.21.2016

Book Review: Play With Fire

In her book, Play With Fire, Bianca Juarez Olthoff invites the reader to consider the mythical fire bird, the Phoenix, in regards to our lives being reborn from the ashes of the past. Being a Christ follower is not a guarantee for a life free from troubles and trials. God has not overlooked you or forgotten you just because it feels like you're walking through a wilderness.

This book reminds us that hard times are not a sign that we've got it all wrong, but instead that God is leading us on into something more. The fire of trouble is actually an invitation to an even greater adventure if we are willing to step forward and let go.

"There will be desert seasons and wilderness wanderings and moments when we feel like we are in the fire. But we must not lose perspective when we cannot see our future, because we know who holds the future. The fulfillment of God's promises comes when we have the boldness to enter into the fire and embrace the transformation that takes place."

*I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review.

10.16.2016

Walking

I don't even know how to start this post.

It all started when the PE teacher sent home a message from school that my daughter didn't know how to dribble a ball. And then that my son needed a lot of work on some other coordinated activity that I can't even remember now.

No wait, it all started when our daughter ran away and left a note stating that she didn't want to live with us anymore.

Actually, it was probably way before that, but the resulting factor is that I start to look at what I'm doing as a parent with a magnifying glass, because it is obvious to the world that I'm lacking somewhere, somehow.

It could be as simple as deciding to put my son in karate instead of soccer, or homeschool versus public, or trying meds to help my daughter get a slight handle on things. Everybody has their two cents, their wonderful opinion.

Night before last I was checking out Pinterest for some cool ideas and came across several posts with ideas on cool things to do with our kids in the fall. I was expecting some amazingness. But what I got was some basic things that left me thinking, somebody had to write a blog about that? Are we that separated from figuring things out on our own that we need someone to come up with the bright idea to take a walk with our kids?


But I get caught up in it too. Like my kids won't be viable citizens of the world unless they have such and such skills and speak three languages and play outside for x amount of hours each day. I'm all for great ideas and new ways of doing things. But somewhere in the midst of that I think that we push too hard. We set up these unrealistic meters for measuring our success that really doesn't matter at all.
I'm also finding that as I open up to real life people around me, people who have been there, done that, I get some really good, hard-earned advice. Whether its the anonymous mommy at the playground that reassures me that even highly successful people can't hang from the monkey bars. Or the women that see my struggle in the journey and come alongside with their own painful reminisces that assure me that things can turn out well.

Parenting is a lot like picking out a baby name. There is always gonna be someone with a story of how they knew someone by that name who was a such and such and did this and that. Follow the basic guidelines and your kid probably won't hate you when they grow up.

I have to remind myself that the guidelines are simple.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

The basics are written out in His Word. I need to follow His guidelines myself and teach them to my children. All the rest is just extra fluff.

Relax and go take a walk with your kids.

10.03.2016

The Hungry Caterpillar

Mondays are always a hard to begin day for me. The Pastor's house is harder to wake up and get moving for school, nobody is really hungry for the breakfast that I set out, and the house is usually a complete wreck. Today was no different and with last week's storm and flood I needed to get some work done in the garden too.

I sent the kids off to school and the man off to work and headed out to weed and tidy the garden. We worked hard on the yard and garden this year and are just a tad bit proud of the harvest that has been coming in. As we planted the seeds and tenderly cared for the baby plants, it was an eye opening experience to watch the miracle of sowing and reaping right there in our backyard. The tomato plants have been an extra difficult project since they wanted to rot on the vine, and then only blossom but not produce any fruit. Finally, with this cooler in the morning weather we saw the long awaited green tomatoes hanging from the vines.

As my eyes passed over my much loved plants something unusual caught my eye, a bright green caterpillar perched right there within the greenery of my tomato plant. I had to fight hard my inner little girl urge to think of all caterpillars as potential butterflies and dredged back in my memory to my grandpa disgustedly plucking the green "tomato worms" from his own garden. All I could see was danger encroaching upon and munching on the tender green fruit I had waited for so patiently.


These worms were well suited for their task, camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings as they silently ate away. Closer inspection revealed 7 of the stinky guys and I quickly removed and disposed of their filthy carcasses.

Getting to the purpose of my writing, I realized at that moment a silent answer to a prayer I've been praying. Lord, why? You know that prayer don't you? And in that moment as I was attempting to rid my garden of its unwanted guests, I heard Him speak to me and realized this truth, "Bearing fruit attracts some dangerous pests." Profound thought, right?

I had worked so hard to provide rich soil, adequate water, the right amount of sunlight, and my garden was growing and flourishing in a verdant green abundance. But the purpose is to provide a harvest and that was being threatened despite all of my following the proper procedures and guidelines. I had to get in there and recognize the invaders and forcibly remove them.

It was a deeper level of gardening and it mirrors my life right now.

Take a step closer and look out for fruit thieves. 

10.02.2016

Bandersnatch: A Book Revew

In our society, in our world, in our churches, we are slammed with the message to conform. Blend in. Do what everyone else is doing. Watch what they watch. Wear what they wear. Follow the rules. Blend in. Don't rock the boat.

But the truth of the matter is, we are created uniquely, with custom made gifts and innate creativity just waiting to be released. Bandersnatch is an invitation to explore that side of yourself that makes you different from everyone else. It is permission to explore your own God-given creativity.
"You weren't made for conformity. You weren't made with some cosmic cookie cutter. You were made precious and rare and only." Erika Morrison-Bandersnatch
By looking more closely at some common by-words of Christianity and redefining others, Erika Morrison opens up a new strategy of living that frees us up to live the way we were created to live.


10.01.2016

Wood, Hay and Stubble and the Straw that Broke the Camel's Back

I don't know about you, but its been one of those seasons for me. The if-I can-just-get-through-this-it-will-all-be-ok kind of season. The crazy thing is that the light that I think I see at the end of the tunnel is just another torch, lighting the next portion. I'm thankful for those little reminders that someone has been there before me, like the marked trails, pointing me in the right direction. But, when I lay my head down at night and try to muster up the courage to get up again in the morning, I feel myself dragging.

For all my hard work and faith and striving, I get weary. The daily chaos of raising children, supporting my man, being a good wife and mommy and pastor's wife and Christian. Trying to eat healthy and workout and failing miserably because I want to starve my fears but end up feeding them instead. Counseling appointments and doctor's appointments and managing homework schedules. These things bear down like a weight. They become burdensome and heavy. Out of all the things I do, what will stand in the fire? What remains? When its all sorted out what is really important?

And then as I'm wading through my day to day, the unthinkable happens. My washing machine dies. Its happened before and we were able to resurrect it, but this time we see no hope. I feel weak that this is the thing that breaks me. When I stack up my haves to the rest of the world's have-nots, I feel lacking that a broken appliance can push me over the edge. Its a good thing that I'm not a crier, because this could really make me lose it.

At times like this, I start looking at what I'm carrying around. Baggage restrictions make us look more closely at what we really need to bring along on this journey. What have I been hanging on to that needs to be left behind? What have I been doing with the tough times I'm going through? Have I ignored the hurt and just piled it up instead of dealing with it and letting it go? There are those things we push for and make happen that really aren't worth the effort in the long run. And there are those little injustices that we push under the rug, don't handle and allow ourselves to heal from, and pretty soon we're carrying a load of mess around with us. Between useless efforts and mishandled hurts, the heaviness is unbearable after awhile. 


But He says that we should cast our cares upon Him. 

He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Why don't I believe Him? Why don't I take Him up on His offer to lay it all at His feet?

In all my wondering and wandering, the truth is found in Him. The answer is always found there. with my prayers, with my praise, when I can rise above these mundane obstacles to see what really matters. Not the potential mounds of unwashed laundry, or the cranky kids, but the hope that these things while seeming endless and overbearing, they are but momentary.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

9.30.2016

Scars and Limps

Writing is kinda like therapy to me.

And I hate therapy. It hurts.

I went to college to become a counselor and discovered that while I loved the idea of helping people to get better, the process was hell.

When you've broken a bone and trapped it in a motion confining cast for months, its ugly when you unwrap it and try to use it again. The skin is pasty and peeling and the muscles don't want to cooperate anymore and the healed bone aches in a way you never hurt before the "incident."

Heart hurts are no different. We wrap up our pain in a cocoon of darkness. Don't let anybody in, don't venture out, don't use the part that hurts and maybe just maybe it will get better on its own. Going right on out and talking to somebody about the pain is almost as hurtful. I have to dredge it all up again and experience all the feels and then sit there and listen to somebody else tell me what to do about it or how its not my fault and its just almost unbearable.

I'd much rather hide. Cover up my bruise with a little makeup. Cover my scars with a long sleeve or a fashionable scarf. Keep walking like I'm not dragging a little. These things make me feel ashamed. Like life should be easy and I'm not tough enough to conquer it.

And then I remember a man wrestling with God until daybreak and walking away with a limp because the Lord knew the man just wouldn't give up.

Or another Man who chose a life that would lead to a Cross and some pretty gory scars. Those same scars that identified Him to the dear friends He gave His precious life for.

So today I'm gonna remind myself that scars and limps aren't signs of defeat. They aren't to be ashamed of.

Signs of a battle well fought and I'm not down for the count yet.

Breath in my lungs, ever faithful beating heart.

My scars are my story.


8.28.2016

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

When all is right with my world, its easy for me to believe that God loves me. Birds are singing, blue skies up above, perfect hair day, its pure bliss and man, I am favored of the Lord. Then my tire goes flat, or the account is overdrawn, or my kids act up and I'm certain that I must have done something wrong. We all experience good days and trying days, and for most of us, the trying days are more difficult to navigate than the examples I gave, but I find that on the difficult days, that's when my trust that He loves me is truly evident.

The hard days are the ones that shape us when we really think about it. They reveal who we really are, what we are made of. They are those hard parts of the Bible, like the Book of Job, and that long dissertation Paul gives about all the things he went through for the sake of the Gospel. We are reminded that we should count ourselves blessed when we go through things.

A few years ago a movie came out, The Kingdom of Heaven, in which an old knight finds his illegitimate heir and right before dying from wounds received from defending this heir, he props himself up in front of his son and charges him with the Knight's Oath. Just as he's finishing, he says, "And that's so you'll remember it" as he hauls back and backhands the boy. That scene has always stuck with me. These amazing last words over a son, mingled with the shock of a surprise blow.

How many times have I walked into things gung ho and full of zeal, promising this and that and not even realizing the weight of my words? Not understanding the truth that I'm speaking, and the road I must walk to bring it about is not what I am expecting. Only the love of a father can seek us out, remind us of who we are and charge us with our destiny. It is a good father who reminds his children to never forget.

Throughout scripture the Lord instructs His people to not forget, to remember, to set up memorial stones, to write words on their hearts. Remember what I've already done for you, so that when the hard times come you won't go slinking back to your old ways, you'll stand firm and not question my goodness and my heart for you. Without the struggle there would be nothing to remember, no place to draw a line and say that is done, it is overcome. Would I forget too easily without the loss, without the remembered sting of pain? When I am tempted to think that He doesn't really love me, I can look at what He's already done and remind myself.

8.23.2016

Egg Cartons

I'm finding myself in a brand new season of life. For the first time in a long time, I'm able to stay home and away from a "job," and its pretty weird. The Goodman and I are still trudging through the outskirts of our old life and entering into the new one and trying our hardest to find our new "normal." Over the past month we've faced some pretty interesting challenges and plot twists and I find that I'm still not sure of what to do with myself. Our Rebecca got married the beginning of August and with that came family visits and wedding drama and all that it entails. Anthony went and moved almost as far away from me as he could and I still find myself wanting to just jump in the car and drive to wherever he is, but that would take a few days now. I am making myself into a nice little stay at home mommy, the one I wish I could have been twenty years ago. Cooking breakfast and arranging schedules and appointments and practices.

Joshua has been preaching about living intentionally. I've always been a list maker and schedule follower and nowadays, I'm having to intentionally set my heart on being flexible with whatever God has for the day. I came home from work this season with the intention of being focused on our family. There are some tent flaps that need to be tied back down.

When we made the decision to bring me home this year, I had the image in my mind of coffee and books and a clean house and projects being finished finally. But what I'm facing is so much bigger than that. The projects that need my attention are so much more important than an organized closet or clean stove top. Now that my eyes are inclined here at home, there are things I'm noticing that I was too busy to see before.

I posted recently about the things that I do for my children that they don't see. Well, the other day I was walking around the grocery store with my oldest daughter and she was sharing with me how she had a friend who never knew why people checked their eggs in the carton before they purchased them. She was pretty shocked that her friend didn't know why.  My daughter said that she never really remembered me telling her why we checked, but she knew that she had watched me so many times and deduced that I was checking for broken eggs. My girl must have been watching carefully to come to that conclusion, if I never came right out and explained what I was doing. It just goes to show that when we aren't distracted we see things in more clarity.

So here's to a season of remembering to pay attention. Checking the eggs in the carton and knowing why. Understanding that hindsight is always 20/20, but this new prescription is pretty groovy too.

8.22.2016

Remember

God is good, all the time.

That's what I was taught, that's what I say in church, that's what I believe.

But, what about those moments when you are forced to question? When the enemy steals in and takes something from you. When you lose. When the victory doesn't come.

What about then?

Can you still say it with the same conviction?

You know, I can say something and say something, I can think I believe, I can train and practice, but none of it matters until the moment comes when that thing I've been saying, that belief that I had, all comes into question. When the training is no longer practice but it is used and shown as an acquired skill. Mastery comes in usage.

Can I believe that He still has the best in mind for me, when I don't get what I've been praying for?

Can I trust that He's working it out even when the report is negative?

When my soul is seared with the pain

When the trouble comes

When the darkness falls and I can still say:

All the time, God is good.

7.31.2016

What They Didn't See

The whole Goodman clan attended a wedding together last night. We all got gussified and took over a whole row at the ceremony and then a whole table at the reception. It was probably one of the last events we will ever do as a complete family and it was terribly bittersweet. The coolest thing about it was that the venue was a special place for Josh and I, it was the locale of our very first date almost 23 years ago. Crazy to think that my 18 year old self had not one inkling of what was to come. Two decades and six kids later I sat there feeling all the normal feels you get at a wedding, but mingled in was just a tad bit of sadness too. About halfway through the toasts my little Zion decided he wanted to sit in my lap and his older brother was running around snapping photos and it was all I could do not to run out of the place yelling for a do-over.

This is it.

A few weeks ago we were all carousing in a friend's pool and my kids all started teasing me about not being able to swim. Its not true, but they all insisted that since they had never seen me swim, I therefore could not. They never stopped to think that I had always been the one hovering warily beside one of them to assure that nobody drowned. There was no allowance for swimming laps during the times we spent in the water or diving into the deep end while one of them was always needing to use the bathroom or have a snack or need another application of sunscreen. Aside from that it got me thinking of what other things they have never "seen" me do that they are taking for granted. Do they know my heart breaks when they hurt? Or that my stomach is in knots while they waited for that job offer or acceptance letter or each time they delivered a speech or spelled a word or buzzed in at the Battle of the Books? When I walked away from our discussion and cried my eyeballs out because they thought I just didn't "get" it? My silent prayers, my sleepless nights and early mornings, all confirming my unseen devotion and love for each one of my babies.

And this is it.

All the love, sacrifices, mistakes, lessons learned, culminating into this new era of living for each one of us. Let us enter into it with a renewed grace for the things we don't see, silently and invisibly working on our behalf. Trust, believe, hope, that its all moving us together toward the glorious finish.

7.24.2016

Yet

Sometimes life takes your breath away like floating peacefully on your back in the pool, right on the borderline between sleep and wakefulness, when suddenly somebody's rogue cannonball dive lands right on your gut. Other times it is so beautiful and serene like toes at the edge of the shoreline, watching the tide suck back in while all the time noticing that its slowly building into a ginormous wave, but the beauty of it just keeps you there, motionless.

This has been the season of all seasons for difficulties. Those trials that don't just last one day, but keep you on your knees, one moment praising God, the next asking Him why. But I have to be encouraged in the knowledge that all that has passed before now, all the trials I've made it through with Him as my ever present help, as my comforter, as my Guide, have prepared me, built up my faith that He won't let me down now.

When the timing couldn't be worse...yet I will trust Him.

When the answer is no...yet I will trust Him.

When I just can't wrap my mind around how He can possibly turn this mess around...yet I will trust Him.

Because He hasn't failed me yet.

7.17.2016

Ready or Not, There They Go

Its inevitable, this growing up and leaving mommy thing. This is what its all been about. The potty training, the lessons in manners, the regular trips to the dentist. Every guitar lesson, homework session, late night talk. Just like my response to the pregnancy test that revealed their imminent arrival, I find myself protesting, "I'm not ready!" They each came in and totally overturned my life and with their departure its no different.

We accumulated these children slowly. Every two to three years adding to the collection of little people we could shape and mold and enjoy life with. The collection is complete and now I'm having to face giving it away and sharing it. I'm not ready for the release of two of my beloveds back into nature. One to the wilds of Los Angeles and the rigors of film making and the other to married life and all that is entailed therein. It seems like only yesterday I was holding hands with their daddy looking down over the edge of the cliff we were about to jump off together and here we stand watching them.

There is no manual for this. No "What to Expect When They Actually Grow Up and Move Away." What do I do? How should I feel? Is it ok to get used to them not being in my everyday life anymore? Life is so much more complicated than I thought it would be, but I rest on the truth that daddy and I gave them a great foundation. We have given our lives for them to build on top of. We taught them to love Jesus and each other and others. What more is there?

7.09.2016

Know Now

There are times when words just won't come. There is so much to think about, mull over, contemplate. When life gets difficult my tendency is to turn inward and upward. I find myself spending more and more time in quiet situations, which if you know anything about my husband and kids, you know that is a rare commodity around the parsonage. Two months of no writing, just sitting and thinking and praying.

When I start feeling the urge to write, I jot down some ideas, and then I let them stew for a few days. I wait to see if those thoughts stick and are still relevant to share. In these past two difficult months, I've felt stretched further than I thought I could be. At times I am reminded of delivering my babies and those moments when I was quite sure I was gonna die right there on the hospital bed. As natural as child birth is supposed to be its incredibly scary and painful and so much longer than you can possibly imagine when you're in the midst of it. There is no hiding the blood and sweat and tears and the very personal nature of it.

That's where I'm at. I know that all things are working for the good of those that love Him, and man, I love Him. I know that I'm called according to His purpose. I know that my life is to be lived for His glory. I know that He is good and He loves me. I know that He is God.

And right now I'm reminding myself to just be still and KNOW.


5.08.2016

When Words Escape Me

My husband would recognize that as a rare phenomenon. Everyone else sees me as quiet and reserved and he is the only one who has to hear me, all the time. Well my husband and God. There are times in life that just bring you to your knees. You might have pulled off a 360 aerial flip and landed it. But no one notices that you're not quite walking away without a limp. I tend to like to recover in seclusion, nursing my wounds in the silence. Victory and tragedy, both can take some time to recover from. There are things you work so hard to achieve, put so much work and thought and energy into and when you finally reach the goal, the only thing you can do is sit down and catch your breath. There are some life events that knock the breath out of you with the force of their sudden impact. Glory, sorrow, winning and losing, can all be word stealers.


These are the times when I'm so very glad that God allows me to just stand on His Word. Joshua and I preached a rare sermon together a few Wednesdays ago. I actually stood in front of a group of people and shared from the written Word using the spoken words that God had given to me. Little did I know that even as I was speaking from past victories I would be speaking forward into the coming challenges. This past week has given me both some opportunities to fight and to revel in the glory of victory in battles well fought. Not many words this week. My armor feels a bit heavy and well worn. But I'm still standing.

Ephesians 6:13 ...and having done all, to stand firm.

4.04.2016

To All the Sherlock Holmes Lovers

It's almost here, and set to release tomorrow if you haven't already pre-ordered your copy, take my word for it and get one...


I have already reviewed The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie King over here, but let me tell you that this book is a great read. If you love Sherlock Holmes as I do, you'll enjoy the entire series. Its the same Mr. Holmes you love, but with even more to fall hopelessly in love with. The characters are well written and as you read along, you begin to feel like family. True to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's beloved character, this Holmes is just as difficult to follow on all his many rabbit trails and diversions, but with the new character, Mary Russell thrown in you will fall right into line with the adventures they pursue. The newest installment is just as wonderful as the rest of the stories.

If you would like a sample of the book, check it out here.
 

4.03.2016

His Mercies Are {K}New Every Morning

On March 25, my husband and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. That same week, he had a dress rehearsal for the Easter production, conducted both a wedding and a funeral, catered the school banquet and spoke at the self same banquet to raise funds for the school, and acted in two performances of the church's Easter play. Did I mention it was also Easter week, so he got up before the sun and held the Sunrise service? Sometime in that mess, we went out for our anniversary and had an elegant dinner, and reminisced and spoke about our future and our kids and all the things we've lived through together. Most mornings I'm up and out of bed before anybody else because of school and work and all the things that I have to handle at home, but starting on that Friday morning I didn't. I stayed in my bed and reveled in the luxury of sleeping in a bit longer. Every morning starting with that anniversary morning, I would wake up as my husband rolled over and holding me in his arms told me "Happy anniversary," or today we were in Winston Salem or whatever. It was silly and sweet and even though our lives are crazy, just for a moment it took me back to where we started. Just the two of us.


This week has been very restful for me. I had the whole week off from work and school and for the most part I didn't allow any commitments to shackle my time. I spent time with my kids and read books and sipped tea and just chilled. Then somewhere this weekend I went ahead and let my feelings get hurt. Somebody said something sometime somewhere and I was wounded. It made my heart hurt, and made me wanna run away and never look back and I cried and cried like a baby. The offense escalated in my mind and pretty soon I was done. I spent all day Saturday laying in bed. I read books in bed. I ate in bed. I slept a lot. I cried some more and when my husband unbeknownst to him made the mistake of asking what was wrong, I let him know. Like the wise man he is, he took a minute and tried to talk me down off the ledge and then he took the kids and went off to fix something. He's learned that sometimes all I need is quiet to myself. I was overreacting and I knew it, but man my feelings were hurting something fierce. I went through my day without seeking the said perpetrator of my hurt and letting them have it. My sweet husband checked in with me again before bed and I assured him that I wasn't gonna leave the state or quit church or anything. I'd get over it like a big girl. Then this morning I woke up and before even lifting my head up from the pillow, there He was. He had His arms wrapped tightly around me and He was whispering in my ear exactly what had happened when my feelings were trampled. I realized that what the person said, was not what I heard and it all made sense. At that quiet time, just me and God, He bent down and reminded me of who He was willing to be for me. He let me rant and rage all day yesterday and when I finally calmed down enough to hear Him, He spoke. And in that moment I remembered that He's always been there for me. Just the two of us.

3.24.2016

When Running Away Isn't an Option

As a kid I only thought about running away a couple of times. I'd pack my bag with a few essentials, mainly food and ride my bike around until my head was cleared. Even then I knew that giving up was not an option. I resolved to stay and fight. The road to the end I desired and away from my current situation, just didn't seem as good as the victory I knew I could achieve if I fought it out.

All grown up, I often feel the same way. Like maybe things would just go away if I could go bury my head in the sand somewhere or drop everything and run off to an island paradise. But that's not me, I keep jumping back in the ring, and keep getting dropped by another punch. Battered and discouraged but still fighting. This too shall pass. The higher the mountain I climb, the more majestic the view.

3.23.2016

Hang Up and Dial 911

We've all heard the message. Trying to get an appointment with the doctor and a recorded reminder comes on, "If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911..." There are some things you go to the doctor for and others that need a little more immediate attention. And then there's the flip side, like when you actually have to go to the emergency room and its packed out with people that probably could wait for the next business day, right?

The same thing happens with us in our relationships with others. You get upset, somebody really hurts your feelings, and you wanna let them know, now. These are the kinds of conversations that start in your head and keep you from sleeping. You feel justified by Scripture. I mean doesn't it say that if your brother offends you to go and talk to him about it? The thinking is alright, but when your first words are something along the lines of "I thought you should know..." you are speaking out of your hurt. Plus its probably not a good sign if you can't discuss this situation during "normal operating hours." Early morning and late night texting are not good means of communicating your need to help your brother.


There is something to be said for allowing yourself to wait it out. Maybe this situation is eating at you in order for you to take it before God and allow Him to give you the words that will help to restore the relationship with your brother.


This might be one of those moments that you're not seeing the picture clearly since you are so close to the situation, or you misunderstood, or that person made an honest mistake and didn't mean to hurt you in the slightest. Forgive, let it go, give it to God. If it needs to be addressed, ask your Father for the right words and the right time, and even then understand that not all things are resolved according to our individual liking or even in our lifetime for that matter. Don't rush in, full of unkempt emotion, creating an even bigger problem.
Hip Homeschool Moms

3.22.2016

Judgy Pants

The older I get the more I understand about judgment. That first impression, second opinion, last ditch effort to win trust. I remember being an 18 year old first time visitor at a new church with my infant son in tow, no ring on my finger and of all the guys to set his cap for me, it had to be the pastor's son. Because you know it can't get judgier than that. All my faults, freckles, and failures were up for grabs and don't even get started on who did I think I was...The greatest thing about it all was that the pastor's son's parents didn't even blink. Sure they had their concerns and their questions and most certainly their doubts. But they never once made me feel less.


Over the years, I haven't been all that good at my judgments. I feel like I'm a pretty discerning individual, and I can certainly smell a lie a mile away. But there are times I jump to conclusions and focus on the up close perspective and have very little grace on what I can't see. I have judged my parents and leaders from the wrong side of the equation. Now that I'm on the other side, being the parent and being the leader, things look a whole lot different. I can understand so many of the decisions that I just couldn't wrap my mind around before. And the crazy thing about it is, that here I am watching people judge me, not knowing all the details, jumping to conclusions and making assumptions. It comes back to you.
My judgy pants are starting to feel a little tight.

3.21.2016

It Could Have Been Worse...

Many times in thinking about my own personal testimony, I shrink back a little in sharing it. The past is the past and I have changed and grown and matured, I'm no longer ashamed of the things God has brought me through. But, what is more often a sticking point for me is that it wasn't all that bad. I was a teen mother, who graduated high school with honors and married the man of my dreams who accepted my little baby with no qualms at all. Our marriage was almost a statistic, but we worked hard and fought a good fight and got back up. The doctors told us that our oldest might have cancer, but he didn't. Together we have survived so many near misses and when sharing I sometimes feel like the happily ever after spoils it. Do people really want to hear about a happy ending or do they want to think that I'm still fighting that dragon of despair until I die? Can I really minister to someone who's going through if I didn't lose it all?

This month I finally returned to the Dominican Republic for a visit. During our stay, my father in law took us past the site where his car accident occurred in November 2014. I know that even though he and his companions survived the accident and God was so good to them in restoring their bodies and continuing to do so, there is never an occasion that he drives down that road and by that tree that he doesn't remember. His mind and body carry the scars from that day.

It struck me that my scars aren't a reason to be ashamed. I lived something and came through on the other side, forever changed. I still have a story to tell. I don't have to lose everything in order to be qualified to testify to the goodness of God. His goodness shines through every time I remember those things I could never forget. The miracle isn't any less just because He came through for our family. I just finished reading a new book and absolutely loved it because while the author didn't have similarities to me in her struggles, her thinking about them was really close to my own. I read a lot of the reviews of the book and some of the reviewers mentioned that she was whiny, and complained a lot about silly things and that the fact that after finally giving in to adopting 4 children almost at once and after 10 years of infertility, God gave her a child of her own. They stated that last fact as if the gift of a child negated all of the struggles that she had gone through. They resented the nice happy little ending and totally missed the point.

This life is a journey and we all know that, but sometimes I think that we look at the Bible and even at other people's lives through a different lens. We can see through to the end and think how we would have done things differently if we had been in that particular situation. The thing is, we're not. We are in our own story. It weaves in and out with others and it does have a beginning and an end, but we are sitting right here, right now and we don't have the vantage point of God.

If my life is a tapestry, I don't want to be a boring stripe. Straight through, one color, no movement, no kaleidoscope. I wanna bob and weave and dance through the storms and be part of the big picture that God is fashioning through His people. Surprise endings, the unexpected visitor, the stormy night. That's what makes a story good and then, inevitably the happy sunset of His returning for His bride. Its a Sleeping Beauty, Return of the King, love conquers all kind of ending and I would much rather be battle scarred and still fighting, than shrinking back with flawless skin and a dead heart.

3.10.2016

Deliberately Living

Twice just this week I've been witness to my husband responding to questions or comments about our form of living. You know I never think too much about it, I mean, its my life. But to hear him answer questions about how we afford to have so many kids and to get compliments on how we manage ministry and family really gets me thinking about how we do what we do. He called it deliberate, this way we go about things. I often feel as if life is happening to me and yet he says that he approaches life this way on purpose.

My husband was raised by his father to be a pastor, on purpose. He was trained up to love others and lead them to Christ and it flowed through every portion of life. The living room and kitchen table were training centers. When I first came into the picture, I was warned that Joshua was being groomed to follow in his father's footsteps and I just needed to go ahead and know that before it was too late. It was already too late for me, I was head over heels. I got caught up in this way of life and now its my own.

In a ministry centered home, things are different. Its not about me and mine but about how can we help you? There can never be too many cups or too many chairs since each one represents another person we can be reaching out to. So many times we live with a plan in mind. An end goal. An attainable future. And then when things go wrong we are crushed and depressed and there is no soothing us. The Bible says that man will make his plans but God will direct his steps. There is nothing wrong with making plans, we just have to realize that the picture is so much greater than what we can see with our own eyes and God has His way for us to follow.

We can paddle out into the waves. We can catch a few, enjoy the surf, revel in the magnificence of the power of the ocean, fully embrace the beauty of the sea. The tide can pull us along and we can lose control of the situation. Maybe the coastline is rocky and the waves dangerous, there are no safe points of exiting the turmoil. Our planned day of relaxation can come to a frightening halt. Just when we are taking steps to give it all up for lost, a beacon of hope shines through and we can drag ourselves to safety on the shore.

 
In our way of living at times I can feel like that surfer. But if I only ever stay on the shore line where its safe, can I ever bask in the beauty of the breakers? I desire to have a life deliberately patterned to grasp as much of the important things as possible.

Hip Homeschool Moms

3.07.2016

What I Take For Granted

Living in America I hear a lot of complaints about our health care system, and I know that they are valid. But for me, maybe having lived outside of our great country and having to face the reality of delivering a baby in a foreign nation, with a foreign way of doing things, I appreciate what we do have access to. On top of that, having given birth to 6 beautiful and healthy babies, I take for granted that when things started to go a little sideways in the delivery room, my doctor had the knowledge and the tools needed to take care of most any problem. I don't tend to dwell in that place, but I realize that things could have gone really, really bad for me and my baby.

Whenever we travel outside of the U.S. I am compelled to see things from a different perspective. Mothers and fathers who don't have the same advantages that my husband and I do. Clean water, regular dental visits, proper nutrition, the availability of quality medical care, are not things I have to think twice about. Sometimes we need to step back from our own situation and see things with another's eyes.


If you are interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion International please check out their program here.

What I'm Reading: March

This month, I've both been reading slower but also been reading through a few more books that fell into the cracks between February and March. Between testing at school, vacation time, and Spring Break I'm looking forward to lots of reading time!





I've been reading these two devotionals since February and will continue throughout the course of the year. Each day is both thought and action provoking. I'm still very pleased in this choice of daily devotions.



As I've said elsewhere, I absolutely love Lauren's writings and I'm loving this as well. I'm still in the beginnings of the reading, but its really challenging my approaches to the metaphors I use for God in my own relationship with Him.



This year I'm trudging my way through Agatha Christie's Poirot mysteries and loving every minute. I love mystery and Poirot is quirky and amazingly deductive.

3.06.2016

uncurling

Sometimes life starts feeling like a tight pair of shoes. When you first slip them on they feel alright and then as the day wears on and you're on your feet a bit longer than you should've been, things just don't feel as comfortable as when you started out.

Its good every once in awhile to just have some time with no agenda, no plans at all, just a slow and deliberate release of tension. Like the end of a long car trip when you finally get to stretch your legs. The trip is incredible and the journey is well worth it all, but ahhh, the rest stop never looked better.

I'm realizing more and more the importance of rest. We buzz around here and there and wear ourselves out. God has a better plan. As I was reminded this morning in my quiet time in the Word, the sabbath was created for man, not man for the sabbath. He desires, commands, for His people to take a break and allow themselves to breathe.

My husband and I are in the midst of a little vacation time right now and one of the hardest things for me to do is walk away from the "life." This morning I woke up in a pastor's home, not my own, and I was cognizant of the difference that Sunday is for the pastor and his family. For us, sabbath is a day of work, not rest and yet, we treat it differently than any of the other days of the week. We worship as a community, and we fellowship with other believers, but ultimately it is a day of work for my husband, the pastor. He is responsible to feed the sheep, as it were. That burden is unique. At times it begins to feel like those tight shoes I referenced at the beginning. Just a little cramped and in need of some down time. At times like this, I love that we have the opportunity to slip away and recoup.

This time its the Dominican Republic and personally, it is a place of memorial for me. As I return here some many things return to me and I am reminded of all that He has brought me through. This returning, this reprieve, feels like the end of my own wilderness wanderings. I take a moment to step back and reflect and allow my legs to stretch, my toes to uncramp. Here I am disconnected from the accessibility of uninterrupted internet service, the immediacy of text messaging, and the sirens' call of cable television. I can get lost in idleness and it is pure bliss.


Sabbath is rest. Ultimately its about remembering who we are, who He is, not what we are so busy doing and becoming. It is just about being.

3.02.2016

Armchair Missionary

When I was a little girl growing up in church, one of my favorite times was when missionaries visited. They brought photos of far away places, told of their adventures, and shared all the ways God had brought them through hardships or scary times. But at the same time the movie, The Mission, came out and even though I wasn't allowed to sit through the film with my parents in the living room, I caught glimpses and was frightened beyond all. Missions work is cool, yeah, but its for those weirdos that don't mind getting killed for the sake of the gospel. Spreading the good news didn't seem as appealing anymore for this kid.

Speed up a few years and I meet this amazing guy, from a super cool family, and they were missionaries to this tiny island I had only heard about because of all the people trying to get out of it on make shift boats. He had this crazy idea that the ultimate life story would include being martyred in a village somewhere. So, of course, as soon as the opportunity arose, I signed up for the first missions trip I could. I got a passport and packed my missionary clothes and jumped on a plane headed for Haiti. Do I need to tell you that I was scared out of my mind?

I will never forget walking off the plane onto the jet way and the hot Caribbean air hitting my face, the melodies of the band playing on the tarmac, the smells of Haiti which one can only experience for oneself, and the people. Pushing and crushing forward and all of my American sensibilities rose up and vied for supremacy. These people are in my airspace...Can they just step out of the way so I can move my luggage on through? Seas of humanity unlike anything I had ever set eyes on in my own little bubble back home.

This first missions trip held so many eye opening experiences for me, most important of which was the realization of what a sheltered life I lead. Reaching out caring hands to people who have never had care shown to them becomes more real in another country. I took for granted the impact of a smile, a hug, just the availability of knowing who Jesus us in my everyday life. A part of me dies just a little bit every time I visit another country. It is a death to self and a rising again of who God has called me to be, a discipler of nations, a preacher of the Good News.

Over the course of our married years, Joshua has dragged me along on so many of his adventures and one of my absolute favorites was Thailand. If I could pick up and go anywhere for my Lord, it would be Thailand. Such a beautiful people, such a lovely country. Our church has worked to raise money to build numerous churches there and the missions organization we love to support is Living Word Ministries International with Charlie and Cathy Milbrodt. Along with building churches, LWMI also has a ministry to the children, Abundant Life Children's Home. They have several homes for children from different backgrounds and within the ministry these children receive food, housing, medical care, clothing and an education.

Last month, our family chose to sponsor a child through Abundant Life and commit to supporting this child monthly. On their website, you can check out their work and profiles of the children who live in the homes. If you chose to sponsor a child, the ministry sends you a letter and packet including a beautiful photo of the child you are sponsoring. One thing that I love about Abundant Life is that Joshua and I were able to visit one of the children's homes while we visited Thailand. We were able to see this ministry first hand and 100% of the sponsorship money goes to the children for their care.




According to the website, there are currently 30 children who are without sponsors right now. If you are looking for a way to make a difference and haven't found something yet, please go to Abundant Life Children's Home and check out the child sponsorship. Maybe I can't go on the mission field myself right now. Maybe I can reach out from right here and help someone.

2.21.2016

Portion Control

I'm gonna go ahead and come out and say it. Last year I worked my tail feathers off and lost 25 pounds. I was so proud of myself and the "new me" that was emerging. I had a system and a goal and I was totally committed. And then some major bumps happened and my attentions were focused on other things and I lost it. Well, I should say, I gained it. All. Right. Back. I was and am so disappointed in myself. Why did I let that happen? How did I lose my equilibrium?

In hindsight, I'm seeing that all my focus was on the diet and the workout plan and life was going along swimmingly. Everybody was in their places and didn't need much management. When that delicate balance teetered, I lost all control.

This time around, I'm trying to keep my sights a little more broad. Be more sensitive to the needs of my family and if the alert goes up, I can stay calm and work with it. I don't like emergencies, and deviations in the plan make me crazy. Such is life.

I'm working on my portion control. You know if I get up early, I go to bed early. If I have an appointment, I don't try to get in an extra workout that day. Morning devotions are doable when I get enough rest the night before. If I have a weekend of church events, its ok to let the house go a little bit. I love reading, but if the man says turn off the light and come to bed, alright then. It is not even humanly possible to be part of every event, party, meeting, et cetera going on in my vicinity.

They say we only have 24 hours in a day. They say if its important to you, you'll make time to get it done. That always makes me feel guilty. There are so many important things that I would love to get done. But when its all over, I feel like my day holds me prisoner. I go to work, and help the kids with homework and do a little housework and boom, what's left? I want to heap up my plate with all the yummy things out there. There's an all you can eat buffet and all my favorite foods are on it. I want successful kids and a happy husband and an excellent prayer life and a group of amazing women to laugh and cry with. I want to read tons of fun and encouraging books. Blogging every day would make me so happy. Workouts and jogging and eating right and losing weight. Volunteering some time and going to every baby shower, birthday party, church event I'm invited to. Museum tours and beach trips and the zoo. A trip to the park every Saturday while also maintaining a spotless house. Ahhh.


God's Word says that a man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps. So, I'm taking this in stride. Taking my allotted 24, and I'm asking Him. My choice would be to pile on all the things I love and that are comfortable for me, like a bunch of chocolate eclairs. But my choice and my serving portions would lead me to a fat, lackadaisical way of life, no discipline, no stretching, no hardships. What would be the best choice?  What takes precedence over the rest? What do I put on my plate, Lord? The really hard part is resting in His answers and letting the other stuff go.

2.19.2016

Book Review: Surprised by the Healer

Even in our ultra-modern churches and Christian circles, sexual issues are many times a taboo subject. Somehow, the stigma of shame and guilt just continues to hover over those struggling with healing and renewal and the light is not often shed in those dark and shadowy places.

 This is the first book I have ever encountered that tackles the topics of pornography, abortion, rape, incest, prostitution and many others that women are still battling in churches today. Christian women, those whose lives have been renewed by Jesus' love and saving grace, but who have not walked out into their full healing due to shame from their past sins. Surprised by the Healer was a tough book to read. There are real life stories between its front and back covers of real women and their real struggles. So many hurts and broken lives. But the wonderful part of the book is the hope it brings. Hope that no matter where you've been Jesus sees all of you and still loves you. He stands with open arms waiting for us to run to Him and give all of our cares to Him.

If you are in need of full healing from your past, or if you know another woman who could benefit from this book, I highly encourage you to grab a copy and "embrace hope for your broken story."

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I also linked this review up on Mama Revival Series. For more great book reviews and suggestions check out her blog.


2.11.2016

Book Review: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie King

Having only just discovered Laurie King and her wonderful stories of Mary Russell last year, I tore through the rest of the series and with bated breath awaited this latest. I have loved every one of the books, but The Murder of Mary Russell is by far one of my favorites. We've learned so much about Mary's past, and have the opportunity to see Mr. Holmes in a new light through his relationship with Miss Russell. Watson has become more familiar and "real" to me throughout the series. However, one major character has just hovered in the wings, right in the edge of the shadows: Mrs. Hudson.


 Without giving anything away, this is the story of how Mrs. Hudson came to be in the lives of Holmes and Russell and all the details interwoven between the past, present and then beyond. Its a story that is hard to put down and walk away from. Questions are presented and some are even answered and the reader steps away from the action to a new understanding of all the inner-workings of a life played out. Light is shed on dark places, the curtains are pulled back. You'll hate to set it down when its all over.

I received a free copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

2.07.2016

What I'm Reading: February

February caught me off guard with some abrupt changes so I cut back on volume this month and have decided to slow down a bit in my reading. However, I still have a lot to share.

First off, I'm continuing with Savor: Living Abundantly Where You are, as You are by Shauna Niequist. This is a year's worth of devotional readings, one for each day, with some lovely recipes thrown in. Each day is a little gem of truth.


I'm also reading Surprised by the Healer: Embracing Hope for Your Broken Story by Linda Dillow. I only just picked it up last week, but for any woman who is in need of healing from her past this book is very insightful. Once I'm finished I'll post a review.


Another book I'm planning on reading throughout the course of this year is Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. The flow of written prayer is really calming for me right now in this time where I feel like I don't even know where to begin when I sit down to pray. This book gives me a place to begin.

 
For fun this month, I picked up a couple of advanced reading copies from two of my favorite authors. I've already completed, Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye and you can read my review here.

 
The other much awaited early copy is The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King. I have just got my eyes on this book, but I've loved everything else she has written in her Mary Russell series so I have no cause to believe this will be anything less than wonderful.


Once I've finished with these gems I have a few waiting in the wings.


 



 


 
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