Sunday, June 21

But.... Even If

I've listened to TWO sermons this week on prayer. I was convicted by each one; and, after having some time to think about them, I have a couple of questions.

Question 1 -- If I really believed in the power of God Paul wrote about in Ephesians, wouldn't I ask God for more? Couldn't I pray BIGGER?

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all t hat we ask or think according to the power that works within us.... to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever." 3: 14-21

I think we're willing to ask God for BIG things when those things have to do with the spiritual, but I've been watching an ever growing assumption that to ask for anything big in other areas of life is quite nearly heresy. There's this phrase floating around Christian circles that is treated like a four letter word.... we almost have to whisper it.... and the pastors that seem to be preaching in line with this horrendous phrase might as well be printed on "WANTED" posters. Yes! You know it, prosperity gospel

I said it! And, I said it without a look of disgust on my face OR venom spewing from my mouth. If you know me at all, you now that I DO NOT believe God blesses financially or in any other way just because we are living a certain way. I CAN'T believe His reward to the extremely faithful is abundance and monetary prosperity. I'm not sure I really believe that those who've been slandered for teaching a prosperity gospel actually believe that either. (Disclaimer... I don't choose to listen to the pastors associated with the prosperity gospel... just not the style I prefer... but I've listened enough to believe that the public lynching may be slanderous and equally dangerous.)

Is it possible that we've taken God's call to contentment and traded it for complacency? Has this RAGE against the "prosperity gospel" given us an excuse to settle for LESS THAN? Could we be giving up on experiences with God we could only have in pursuing MORE WITH HIM than we currently have?

More intimacy in marriage,

More favor at work,

More stability in our finances, 

The Bible is full of scripture encouraging us to ASK big things in HIS name. Until this week, though, I've not heard the guidance to ask God for abundance.... in relationship, in work, or in finances. Why? There's probably a really good reason.

GREED!

It's ugly. It can cause a person to miss God for the pursuit of more. And, it smothers gratitude. So, I have another question.

Question 2 -- How can I pray BIG prayers... prayers asking for God's abundance in all areas of my life.... and still live in the contentment and rest He calls me to? How can I seek MORE without allowing that MORE to steal gratitude and contentment?

I've found what I believe is the answer to that question...


Three kids in Babylon had, what I believe to be, the right idea about praying BIG and expecting God to answer. You know the story.... Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow down to the King's idol, and they were to be thrown into the fiery furnace. Just prior to being tossed in, the king gave them one, final opportunity to bow.

They could have responded in FEAR, bowing to the idol, and given up the opportunity to participate with God in the miracle.

They could have responded in COMPLACENCY, simply accepting death, and given up the opportunity to see God in the miracle.

They chose to respond BOLDLY. They didn't just ASK God for the miracle, they announced what God WOULD do for them. They prayed believing and God acted on their behalf. But, listen to their words. It seems the key to praying boldly WITH contentment is found here....

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and HE will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But, even if HE does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
 Daniel 3: 17 & 18

There it is! I don't think living contently means we don't push for more. It can't mean that we take everything 'as is' and live complacently. No! Paul says we serve a God of POWER, a God able to do more than I could even imagine. Jesus Himself said to ask anything in HIS name and it will be given. So, we ask for the BIG thing! And, we ask BELIEVING. We also ask TRUSTING that the goodness of God is goodness REGARDLESS of the answer.

So, participate with God in prayer. Be bold in your requests! Be specific and be honest. He KNOWS your heart's desires. Don't discount certain requests because you've labeled them as too big, too shallow, too (fill in the blank.) Just ask!

Believe in God's power to answer that request in a HUGE way. Ask Him to answer in a way that demonstrates HIMSELF and changes you for the better.

Trust that if God chooses not to answer big, HE IS still BIG, and POWERFUL, and GOOD! He knows best, and my acknowledgment of that fact allows me to live in contentment with HIS process. 

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he is going to happen, it shall be granted to him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted to you.
Mark 11: 23 & 24

Monday, June 15

Lessons Learned on a Baseball Field

Today, I had a conversation with my oldest. It was a conversation we've had before. For a couple of different reasons, though, we had it again today.

We had a conversation about baseball.....


"We play ball on Sundays and sometimes miss church, and MANY people don't think that's ok. Do you know why your dad and I have made this decision?"

Bless him.... His mom is a "talker outter." He's not! That's alright, because I wasn't either when I was twelve. After our short discussion driving to the ball fields, I had long thoughts about more than I said to him. Our baseball adventure has been A tool God has used to solidify a number of lessons He's taught me about Himself.

It ALL belongs to God! EveryTHING is His. Every MOMENT is His. Prior to Christ coming, God's people had the Sabbath day to enter into His HOLY rest.... to enter into His presence. They had strict times for this meeting with God, and they had strict ways to do it. Their Sabbath Law went way beyond remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Leviticus is FULL of heavy law that was to be obeyed. In Christ, EVERY day is a Sabbath. As a believer, I have the privilege of calling EVERY, SINGLE day Sabbath. I have the great honor to enter into HIS, HOLY REST every moment of every day. Praise Jesus! I can do this in my church, and I can do this on a ball field. I can meet with God right here during my morning quiet time, and I can chat with him as I stroll through the grocery store.

I'm humbled by this realization.

Freedom is freedom and captivity is captivity. Simple, right? Jesus spoke REPEATEDLY about freedom in the New Testament. It seems like He wouldn't have had to tell captives they are FREE more than once. I would think that prisoners would need ONLY ONE mention of freedom to run with it and never look back. But, Jesus kept reminding people they were free. Paul went on to remind US as well. I wonder why they kept forgetting? Why do I keep forgetting? I have a sneaky suspicion it has something to do with another word the Bible says MUCH about.... FEAR! In my own life, I've had times of fearing the opinions of others SO MUCH that I walked right back into my cell of LAW. It's neat and clean and nobody asks questions. The problem is this....

"Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the WHOLE law." Galatians 5: 2,3

Obeying the WHOLE law has proven to be an impossibility. Christ came because the Law had done it's job in showing us that we are incapable of COMPLETE obedience. So, on Sunday, I could refuse to let Caleb play at the times set up for him. We could let his team down every time there's a game scheduled prior to noon on a Sunday. ((And, let me be clear, If the Lord pressed upon Scotty or me to do that, WE WOULD!!)) Or, we could recognize that singling out that ONE law concerning the Sabbath would place me under obligation to keep the WHOLE law. And, THAT is not my calling.

I'm grateful for this lesson.

No matter where I am, JESUS is the point. Church is not. I LOVE church. I believe church membership is important. I do NOT believe a person can claim to be a GROWING, gospel centered Christian and NOT be part of a community of believers. But, I want to fall more and more in love with JESUS than my church. I want the same thing for my children. So, as long as my children are living with us, we will place importance on being in church on Sundays. When we aren't, though, we will outwardly express gratitude to a God that can be found wherever we are; in a car traveling on vacation, visiting relatives, or playing ball. To do ANYTHING else would be teaching them to love religion. John Eldridge says,

"Francis of Assisi was called “the second Christ” because his life was so totally given over to expressing the life of Jesus. What can we learn from this man devoted like no other? “As Saint Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ,” wrote Chesterton. Wow. Just let that sink in. Francis didn’t fall in love with church; he fell in love with Jesus. “His religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love-affair.

Who even remembers him for that? If people know him now it’s only as the statue in the garden of the friar with the birds and bunnies. He’s been made a cartoon by the religious fog, just as it happened to Jesus. Which brings us back to something essential for loving Jesus, for making your faith more like a love affair—you are going to have to break with the religious. If you want Jesus, you’re going to have to end the relationship with the religious glaze."

I can't think of anything that would make me more sad that my children falling into a relationship with the religious glaze. I want them to LOVE God with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. During a few months out of the year, we get to celebrate a God that placed a love of ball  and a talent for the sport within Caleb ON THE VERY FIELD he gets to play. We do this on weekdays, on Saturdays, and , yes, on Sundays. 

I'm blessed by these experiences.

Yesterday, Caleb and I had our "talk" on the way to ball fields where we'd play no games. We gathered with other teams to pray for, support monetarily, and honor a family that lost a son Saturday. He was a ball player too. A summer storm blew in during his game, and he was struck by a falling limb getting off the field. Before going in, our coaches joined our boys together and spoke TRUTH to them.... truth about life and hardship, THE truth that BEING the gospel to the people God places in life is vitally important. We never know when our earthly time is over. But, when you are close enough to experience another person's end, you realize what matters. 



Having a relationship with Christ matters.

Lifting up HIS GREAT NAME in every area of life matters.

And, people matter!

I've been transformed by this tragedy.

I pray I never again second guess the life we've been given in THIS season God has called us to. Wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, I don't want to miss out on opportunities to love and serve God OR to be the recipient of that love and support.

What a HUGE price Jesus paid so that I could experience this at all times, in all places.... He did what the LAW could never do.

And, I am relieved.

Sunday, May 10

Help Needed....

This is probably one of the hardest blog posts I've ever sat down to write. It's not tough because of any yucky news to share. Today, I'm asking for help, and that's NO FUN for me. I'd much rather tell a funny story, brag on the Lord, or just share a lesson I've learned.

I've felt the need to ask for help via this blog for a while now. I haven't made time to sit down and write.... Possibly because I haven't really WANTED to do it. I woke up this morning with a determination to be obedient and see where it leads.

Scotty and I are coming out of a THREE YEAR time period where the Lord very clearly told us to focus on us; our marriage and our family. We've said "NO" to ministry possibilities, and we've turned down things we really WANTED to do, because God told us to work on US! In the beginning, that was hard to do. We've always been pretty active in church, community, and elsewhere. However, the inward, family focus is our normal. So.... on God's calendar, that's a perfect time for a new normal.

We are restless! We feel it's time to share, time to minister, and time to build up the Body using all the Lord has taught us. That's why I'm asking you for help. I'm asking you to pray for us as we try and determine what that is.... what this will look like for us.
  • Ministry -- I want to be VERY CLEAR here. Our ministry COULD BE walking one, single couple through the process of healing from adultery. It could be facilitating a small group of couples within our church. We ARE NOT seeking fame and fortune and a worldwide speaking career. I'm even hesitant to call it "ministry" 3 short years after our chaos. I'm grateful that we felt HIS leading to heal quietly FIRST. I'm always amazed at those that immediately begin ministering to others. We needed to time to RE-build in a healthy way, and God gave it to us. We've been able to pray with and encourage a few couples that have been sent our way. But, overall, our 'ministry' was to each other. And, now God is saying, "there's more." Will you pray that we follow HIS leading and live obediently?
  • Book -- Ahhhh...... My fingers are shaking as I type book. I've shared with a FEW people that Scotty has written a book. Actually, he started it 2 years ago, finished it quickly, and then it was kind of put aside for a while. He pulled it back out last year and added some personal stories to it. Then, he went back through THIS BLOG (as far back as 2008) and pulled posts from me. I didn't know all that he was going through or the sins that he was hiding as I wrote each entry. But, he's been able to put my experiences with his story to show how deceptive Satan can be, how feeble man is, and how God STILL works it all out for good when we are willing to cooperate. Then, he asked me to write at the end of a few chapters. It's FINISHED mostly. We are editing a bit and have NO IDEA what to do after that. We'd love to have copies to be able to give to couples when they approach us. It's our story, and it provides a place to start when someone asks us for help. Even though that will be small scale publishing, the financial aspect will be a stretch. So, please pray for the entire process.... our willingness to share as we need to, funding, and God's use of the material as He see fit. 
  • Our family -- I can't go any further without asking you to pray for our family. We LOVE sharing our story with people that need to hear it. Nothing brings a greater sense of REDEMPTION than being able to brag on our MIGHTY God that SAVED our marriage and continues to pour out HIS mercy on us. But, it's emotional. Sometimes, the stories are so similar to ours that listening makes me feel like I've been punched in the stomach. Other times, the stories are very different, and it's just hard to know what to say. Please pray protection over our family as the Enemy will surely attempt to tear us down as we seek to build others up.
During our last year in Clinton, life was so uncertain! We didn't know ANYTHING. I can't remember much detail about life at that time. But, I remember with great clarity sitting in our den and TRYING to reassure our children. We had a "FOR SALE" sign in our yard but NO IDEA where we were going if/when the house sold. And, we lived this way for a WHILE. Because we couldn't give them answers, we memorized Proverbs 3: 5-6; Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path. Any time we had a question with no answer, we'd just recite our verse. 

He DID direct our path. True to His Word, the Lord has been FAITHFUL in showing us where to go and what to do. Because He's given us this feeling of restlessness and desire to use our experience for His good, I KNOW He will direct our path again. I just want to OBEY Him no matter what it looks like.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. And, I'd like to ask one more thing. As you pray, if you have a message of encouragement or advice, if God lays something on your heart during your prayer time, I'd ask that you share it with us. My email is listed above. If you'd rather send a message to Scotty, I can give you his email. Just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses' arms in the desert when he struggled to follow through with God's instruction, many of YOU have shared words that have lifted me up at just the right time in my journey. I believe God will continue to encourage us through other people.

Show US Your ways, O LORD; Teach US Your paths. Lead US in Your truth and teach US,
For You are the God of OUR salvation; On You WE wait all the day.
Psalm 25: 4-5

Monday, April 6

safe living ISN'T resurrected living!

In recent years, Easter weekend has been much more meaningful to me. I've always been grateful for the work of the cross. It's the symbol of my Christianity. It's the basis for ALL I believe. As a young adult, the cross became more than security for my eternity. The resurrection gave hope that LIFE here on earth could be victorious.

If I'm honest, though, I've typically pursued that victorious living in the BIG things. The Easter story is HUGE, and when I think about THAT kind of victory, I usually associate and attempt to apply it to BIGGER THAN BIG circumstances. Certainly, Christ's resurrected life DOES mean that all seemingly hopeless situations can be conquered.... terminal diagnoses CAN be overturned, prodigal children CAN miraculously choose to return and repent, and marriages destroyed by carelessness CAN be healed and rebuilt. The beauty of the cross and resurrection is that what SEEMED dead and buried CAN live. I've experienced that miracle FIRST HAND, and I am SO! VERY! GRATEFUL!

What about our daily, mundane lives, though?

Since Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose to LIFE again on the third day, shouldn't I live every moment of every day differently? Boldly? Courageously? And, without FEAR?!?!

Here's what I mean... Often, I hear Christians professing the POWER of the cross and the MIRACLE of Christ's resurrected life. Then, I'll notice a theme of DEFEATED LIVING in that believer. Who am I kidding? I'VE been that believer. And, this is what it must look like to the non-believer....

"OK... So, you believe in a Savior that died and rose to LIFE? He gives YOU new life? But, He can't help you OVERCOME your moodiness? Your short temper with your children? Your OVER spending, OVER eating, OVER (fill in the blank)? So, you say this Jesus wants you to live ABUNDANTLY, but you can't find a way to live a more enjoyable life.... there's work, there's a busy home life, and there's frustration at every turn? I don't really see any difference between YOUR life and mine!"

In the moment that I am about to BLOW UP at one of my children, the resurrected life of Christ CAN supply all the power I need to rise above that situation and respond differently.

When I find myself just going through motions, the work of Easter CAN reignite the flame of my calling OR give me the courage to MOVE ON to a new work. Only FEAR causes us to say things like, "I could never do that," or "that's just not me." What if it ISN'T you, but it IS your new calling and you're missing out on the blessing of seeing God create something BRAND NEW within you?"

Life is just so hard, but the fact that the stone was rolled away, and Jesus Christ lives CHANGES EVERYTHING!

VICTORY over defeat!

COURAGE & BOLD LIVING replace fear!

CHAMPION not victim!


Easter happened! Jesus Christ lives! Reality is DEATH was OVERTAKEN by LIFE! That's it.... That's the point. One day, He will return and His children will reign with Him for eternity. Spoiler... WE WIN!!! And, we win BIG!

So, the question is, "Why wait?" In too many cases, we remain STUCK IN A RUT (in work, in relationships, etc.), because of FEAR.... fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of not being good enough.....

I'd rather enter heaven bruised, battered, humiliated, heartbroken, and worn out KNOWING that I'd pursued EVERY, SINGLE BIT of the LIFE Christ called me to in His Resurrection than to leave this life unscathed, because I played it SAFE.

I pray that they eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.... Ephesians 1: 18 - 20

If I'm issued a life's calling that requires the same strength of His might which raised Christ from the dead, I imagine it's going to be hard. Resurrected living ISN'T safe, because our all powerful God isn't necessarily safe. But, He IS good! The life He calls me to may not always be pretty or easy. But, in Him, it's GOOD. He's ALWAYS been faithful to DO what He said He would do. 


Tuesday, March 17

Gifts! All Gifts!!

I am SO, EXTREMELY grateful for this weather. The beautiful sunshine came in on Sunday, and it was AMAZING! Spring is such a great reminder of the gift of NEW.... And, to the Christian, the picture of newness of life is evident all around.

Therefore if any man is IN CHRIST he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. II Corinthians 5:17

Friday afternoon, we got news that Caleb's first baseball tournament for the Spring season was cancelled because of RAIN! We were SO, VERY SICK of the rain. So, this cancellation only fueled the fire.

At the last minute, we decided to just GET AWAY! Our Spring Break is this week. So, rather than sit in the house all weekend and sulk, we took off to Memphis. We aren't very familiar with Memphis activity, but we decided to give it a try.

The funny thing is that we were under the EXACT SAME weather in Memphis! We walked around Beale Street dodging rain. We visited the zoo IN scattered sprinkling. The kids swam.... INDOOR. The drab, yucky, dark, rainy weather was ALL around us. BUT, we weren't focused on THAT.



We were focused on each other and our OWN change of scenery. Then, God gave us a beautiful, SUNNY view for our journey home.

In other words, every day is a CHOICE. Every attitude is a CHOICE! And, rich or poor, rain or shine, New Albany or Memphis, I have a CHOICE! These are my BLESSINGS, and I WILL CHOOSE gratitude and joy.

"Praise HIM for the unexpected and the unlikely, for the daily and the difficult. The more you count, the more gifts you will see." 
Ann Voskamp

Wednesday, March 11

Bring on FORTY!

Man, have I had the "blahs"!

I haven't wanted to do much of anything. I've been cutting back, making space, prioritizing, etc. But, most of all, with everything I have, I've tried to pinpoint where this is all coming from!

I have a couple of ideas. But, I honestly believe the majority of it comes from one thing....

I NEED THE SUN! Why does winter last so much longer and look so much darker here in North MS? When my body does without the elements the sun provides, I begin to settle into irritation over less than meaningful issues. For instance, WHY is there not a TARGET within 20 miles to at least give me THAT as a little bright spot in a couple of my DARK days? It's been long enough, right? Target stores have been around a WHILE.... Even long enough to make it to Mayberry? And, yet there truly isn't a sign with giant red letters anywhere around me.

So, yeah... I have been in a rut. Maybe this rut isn't any bigger than past ruts. It's just that I feel as if I've come alive over the past few years in so many areas. Attacking life and it's challenges is so much more appealing than going through the motions to me now. This makes me much more aware of the rut. Even just the winter 'blahs' aren't acceptable. I need answers. And, I need to move on! In other words, I'm experiencing BURNOUT, and I need a BREAKTHROUGH!

At some point last week, I thought about this blog (literally for the FIRST time in forever), and I knew I'd feel better if I could just write out some thoughts. But here's the thing... No organized thought comes to me in a funk. It's all RANDOM! If you're up for completely random thoughts, carry on. If not, you may need to close your computer and find something else to do. Maybe, you could go and visit your local Target store in my honor. :)

In LESS THAN A MONTH, I will be 40 years old! What?!?!? How can this be? I'm not depressed about it. I've never been one to be bothered by my birthday. I LOVE to celebrate them! FORTY isn't depressing or scary, but it is WEIRD! It just doesn't see possible. And, this strange feeling has led me to evaluate life.... my life and how I've changed. Yeah, yeah.... I'm older, I'm slower, and all the other natural things. But, the majority of changes I notice are less likely to be noticed by anyone on the outside.

Let's start with the fact that, in my older age, I have WAY MORE questions than answers to just about everything. And, most of my questions have to do with things for which I ONCE thought I had PERFECT answers. Strangely, many of my questions have to do with spiritual things. For instance, knowing that the Gospel of Christ is HUGE and covers all people, all sin.... is full of mercy and grace, WHY are Christians much more comfortable splashing social media with EVERYTHING we are AGAINST when the PERSON we know says, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me?" And, if I believe the Holy Spirit is the only One that can change a heart, wouldn't I be much more likely to share Christ while cultivating a soft heart in RELATIONSHIP rather than SCREAMING my beliefs through a giant megaphone on the other side of a computer screen? Maybe I'm missing the point somewhere. Remember, I AM experiencing the 'blahs', but it just seems there's a better way. When I begin having these kinds of questions, I typically head to the Gospels and read about Christ's walk here on Earth. Strangely, I see such different responses. Oh... He held people to a HIGH standard, He boldly spoke AGAINST sin and FOR repentance. It's just that He was speaking to the RELIGIOUS and not the LOST. To those caught in the snare of sin and the world, He spoke kindness and love, He visited, He went out of His way to DEMONSTRATE the love of His father. I want to know how to do this and do it WELL. How? Questions.... Only questions.

Since I began with the spiritual, I'll stay there. My feelings on CHURCH are much different than they used to be. Stick with me here. I still LOVE the Church. LOVE! THE! CHURCH!!! I owe many churches and pastors a great deal of gratitude. I'm not about to LEAVE a local church or decide my family is better off doing this Christian walk alone. I just want so much more from the Church. I want REAL! I want DEPTH! I want to lock arms with a group of people who understand we have an ENEMY. Scripture says "our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion LOOKING for someone to devour." We've been given all of the tools to fight him! In the end, we win the war. But, he's winning daily battles in the lives of believers, and we don't talk about them in our churches, because they aren't pretty! We dress up, go to church, sit and stand when we're supposed to and go right back home to the MESS! I'm OVER pretty.... I want BEAUTIFUL. We may just have to trudge through a lot of UGLY (with others) to get to BEAUTIFUL! But, wouldn't it be worth it?!?!?

Then, there's marriage and romance.... Yeah! This one's pretty HUGE. Once upon a time, I  thought romance in marriage was all date nights and flowers, anniversary trips and sweet gifts. Those are alright. But, at almost 40, I am much more moved by the reality that I'm married to someone who desires DOING the hard work to leave behind a legacy of marriage God's way. Believe me, there's a number of things that could have been swept under the rug. We could grin and bear it and move on. However, that wouldn't get us anywhere. Some days, there are TOUGH talks. And, we are navigating our own way, because intimacy in marriage is not something we've been taught. But, we share a common goals for this life we're living together. At the top of that list is EXPECTING GREATNESS in our marriage and REFUSING to settle for less. There's just no easy way to do it. So, romance now includes difficulty. Hmmm.... I didn't see THAT coming almost 20 years ago.

Parenting our children has shifted TREMENDOUSLY.  I care a LOT less about Caleb, Collin, and Claire LOOKING like a million bucks everywhere we go. I'm even getting over the desire for them to be the "good kids" in every situation. Now, don't get me wrong! I'm not wishing for my children to be problematic, constantly in trouble, or outright REBELS. However, my BIG dream for them is that they each have hearts CAPTURED by God. And, I've come to realize that kind of devotion doesn't come naturally. We have to be DRIVEN to it. Our mistakes are excellent drivers, because they demonstrate our great need for a loving Savior. There have been a couple of instances just this week where one of our children has made some TERRIBLE choices. It breaks my heart. But, I'm not at all concerned with the external, what this LOOKS like. All of our discussions with him have been related to his HEART and relationship. I could (and we did) enforce some consequences and stricter rules. Hopefully, those will serve to drive him to the end of Himself. But, ultimately, only God can change his heart. Only God can show him that HIS BEST is the goal. Otherwise, this Christian life will ALWAYS feel like RULES and MISSING OUT! I want our children to trust that God's heart is FOR their happiness (YES! I said "happy")! His way is the BEST way and the ONLY true road to happiness, freedom, and joy. Humanity typically learns this lesson the hard way. So, I'm less likely, at 40, to shield my kids from all of their mistakes and failures. They just might come face to face with their Savior there.

I could go on and on.... I really could! Life is interesting! Honestly, these are only a FEW of the things that have changed for me over the years. Internally, I'd say I'm a COMPLETELY different person. Forty years from now, I'll have changed EVEN MORE. I hope so, at least! Life would have been so boring if things had panned out just exactly like I'd thought they would when my adult life began.

So, bring on 40! I'm ready! I've never really been able to back down from a challenge. As great as the past few decades have been, I'm planning for the next one to be the best yet. The internal/external shift in God's design is interesting. As a younger woman, I was physically stronger than I was mentally and emotionally. Here, I find myself SO MUCH STRONGER internally, and physically (big sigh), I'm getting weaker. YUCK! "Best yet" may be a HIGH goal, but I'm not giving in yet....

Ear buds in, praise music on, and maybe I'll run some stairs. However much life I have left here, I WILL make the most it. This means, I'll continue learning, changing, FIGHTING, loving, teaching, serving, PRAISING, and anything else the LORD calls me to. Because.... There's a LOT of LIVING left to do!

Praise God! And, although I don't know what kind of living will come, I'm comforted by Joshua's leading of the Israelites into Canaan. He says, "Do not come near it (ark), that you may know the way by which you should go, FOR YOU HAVE NOT PASSED THIS WAY BEFORE."

Then Joshua said to the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.' Joshua 2:5

Tomorrow..... I'm ready! Do it, Lord!  :)

Monday, November 10

It's a NEW Day....

After my last post (a LONG time ago), I received a message from a long time friend through Facebook. Essentially, this friend said, "I always wondered WHY you continued to talk about this publicly." These words made me laugh, because I'VE often wondered the same thing! Thankfully, the latter part of my friend's message explained that my post Storms, gave understanding for WHY I was "still talking" about adultery recovery after over 2 years of recovery.

I'm not sure I've ever really made sense of the why.... All I've known for the past couple of years is that God was doing an amazing work in my heart, in our marriage, and in our family. For me, it seemed that it would be selfish and sinful to keep that to myself. I NEEDED to brag on my God. The circumstances haven't been pretty, but His activity has been a beautiful sight to behold.

A few weeks ago, I was in an arena full of people, and a powerful speaker was sharing his thoughts on having vision for your life. I wish I could briefly share what I heard. There's no way! He shared stories from his life and from others. He was explaining the importance of knowing what you want, what you're aiming for, so well that you can SEE it. The point of his 1.5 hour session was this.... When you know what your ultimate chief aim is, nothing will stop you from striving for it.

In many areas of my life, I don't know my ultimate, chief aim. There are some areas of life that Scotty and I are working on. We are setting goals and striving for experiences we've never known. So, how do you picture this? How do you have vision when you can't really SEE what you want?

In the middle of my dilemma, I began to make some connections. As Mark Smith was speaking, I began to realize what the past couple of years have done for me. On August 26th, 2011, I received news that SHOULD HAVE wiped me out. Our family was devastated as I found out that the innocence of my marriage was gone. FOREVER! And, I hope previous posts allow you to know that I was devastated, because I was. However, my vision for the future of our family wasn't shaken. I had a repentant husband. We had supportive friends and family, and we were both committed to doing whatever we needed to do to restore.

I wish I could say that complete healing and restoration came from making that simple decision. It did not! The immediate days that followed were extremely hard. What was even harder, though, was realizing in the years that followed that there would be difficult days forever. For a time, it felt like we would take a step forward and then fifty steps backwards. That roller coaster takes a toll on a life. But, I never shifted in my resolve. No matter how hard the day, there was never a time that I thought, "Oh no! We aren't going to make it."

Never!

Not one day!

And, in the middle of an arena in Long Beach, CA, I put the pieces together. The reason my resolve couldn't be shifted is because I have VISION for our family. I can SEE graduations, weddings, grandchildren being born, and everything that goes with those events being enjoyed by us as a connected family. I know what the alternative is, and I want something different. I can SEE IT!

When I didn't want to sit in a room and share my feelings with a counselor, I did it anyway, because it was part of the process TOWARDS what I wanted in the end.

On days I woke up and didn't want to exert the energy needed to even get out of bed, I'd give myself a tiny bit of time in that funk. Then, I'd get up and push through the motions to think myself  into a new feeling.

Remember that I'm bragging on my God and not on me! The reason I was able to cooperate with Him is because I consider my vision of the way this all ends BIGGER than the obstacles along the way. And, there it is.... my ultimate, chief aim. Without knowing it, I was applying this motivational speech to my life in the area of marriage, family, and adultery recovery. Because of that, we are experiencing victory!

But, there are other areas of life that I DON'T have vision. Therefore, when the hard times come, when challenges arise, I'm ready to quit. I get overwhelmed! I have trouble following through with the process. I've been doing A LOT of study and personal development in these areas, because I trust Jesus when He said, "I have come that you may have life and have it ABUNDANTLY."
     
I believe that is TRUTH for every area of my life. I don't believe that life is compartmentalized. I DO believe that I either acknowledge Christ's centrality in ALL OF LIFE, or I make him a little god that I pull out only for areas that I consider are spiritual.

So, I'm in the process of applying the VISION God gave me for our family to every area of my life.... relationships, business, education, health, and anything else that comes up. If Christ came for me to experience LIFE, FULL LIFE, I'm striving for that. I'm going for it! Why be satisfied with mediocre, just surviving, when HE HAS OVERCOME?!?! In Him, I can overcome too.

Therefore, I've determined that this blog is going to shift. My friend will be happy to know that all deep conversation about the moral failure that took over our family will not take up space here again. Instead, I'm going to share my journey towards fullness of life. But, just know that all I've learned in the process of marriage healing has provided the courage and faith to pursue the same VICTORY in other areas too.

Thank you for allowing me to share what most consider taboo. Thank you for even encouraging me in it. I've gotten some of the kindest messages over the years. I appreciate them all. If I'd hidden what the Lord was doing, I'm afraid "the rocks would have cried out." But, now God is doing a new thing. He's leading me to share that OVERCOMING is a mindset, and it's a mindset for EVERY area of life.


Here's what I know.... FEAR & FAITH can't coexist. So, I'm choosing FAITH! Not once! I'm not going to be selective about what I can and can't overcome. In all things, I'm choosing faith, because my days are numbered. I want EVERY, SINGLE one to count.

Sunday, August 3

Storms....

This weekend, I drove to Baton Rouge. I left from Tupelo instead of from home, so I spent some time on the Trace. There's a piece of the Trace outside of Tupelo that was seriously damaged by the tornado of 2011. It's so obvious that there's even a sign posted just before it begins....

Tornado Damage
April, 2011

I remember driving this part of the Natchez Trace after that tornado, and the damage was massive. If you've ever been down this road, you know that greenery COVERS the entire drive. In fact, I've never liked driving down the Trace, because the view is exactly the same for the whole drive. Beautiful, towering trees line the road from start to finish. The fullness of the forest is pretty, but there were never any markers from Jackson to Tupelo.... until April, 2011.

When the tornado came through, it WIPED OUT an entire section of trees. It CLEARED the land. It didn't happen in one little patch. A whole section of land was desolate. The fullness was gone, and wide open land, empty land, was left. 

This past Spring, Tupelo experienced a tornado, and the scenery there is marked by the storm that passed through. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes all leave a mark. They leave evidence of the damage caused. That's why Scotty and I have always labeled his confession and all that followed our "earthquake", and it also occurred in 2011. 

When I think about the picture of that desolate piece of the Trace, I know it's a great picture of the emotional devastation we felt in August of 2011. The storm ripped through our lives, and it WIPED me out! My life was clearly marked by the storm. It made my view entirely different. Internally, I felt the fullness of life (the life I knew) was gone, empty.... The "storm" ripped through and left it's mark. Looking back, I can place a sign on the time line of my life....

Earthquake Damage
August, 2011

On Friday, though, I saw a different view. I haven't driven the Trace in a while (remember it's not my favorite). So, as I moved into the damaged area, the view looked completely different. It wasn't clear anymore. It wasn't wide open and empty. There was growth! There was GREEN! There was life! 


Amazing! It's taken some time, but new life is apparent. And, I couldn't help but compare the beauty of the greenery in a damaged patch of the Trace to my own life. This piece of land is still marked. Anyone can see that it's been hit by a tough storm. But, it doesn't look defeated anymore. The new growth of green is a picture of healing and recovery of strength.

Just like this patch of land, I'll forever be marked by the storm. But, almost three years later, I'm marked by newness of LIFE. Our family is marked by GROWTH. And, there's GREENERY to be seen again. As I drove through, I realized that I wasn't focused on the devastation anymore. Instead, I was marveling at the fact that God heals all hurt. And, in HIM, no devastation can last forever. 

I had a time of Thanksgiving right there.... Aren't you glad we can praise and worship our Creator whenever and wherever? I did! I began to think about all of the FRUIT that has come from our storm. And, I realized that Crowder's song, I am, was playing from my iPod. I am holding on to you, I am holding on to you, in the middle of the storm, I am holding on, I AM.

Yes. He was. He was holding on right in the eye of the storm when I didn't have the strength. It's taken some time; but, today, I look up and there's growth, there's strength, there's greenery. The storm may have ripped through. The landscape may always be marked. But, beauty and life are apparent. 

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Tuesday, July 22

What Would You Do If You Weren't AFRAID?

Several years ago, I was sitting in a Bible study. We'd been walking through Galatians. Each week, we'd look at a few verses and then participate in discussion. The theme of Galatians is FREEDOM. This particular night, we were discussing how often FEAR hinders our FREEDOM.

So, my friend and our leader asked this question, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

What a question! As adults, we don't usually think about fear like this. Fear is something children deal with a bedtime, or maybe with a bully at school.... But, we grow out of fear KEEPING us from DOING! Right?

That particular night, I thought only for a minute. Then, I answered that question for me.... "I would get certified to teach aerobics."

I know you're laughing! I know that's crazy. Of all the important things going on in the world, I was pondering my desire to teach aerobics. Even crazier, I was afraid to do it. It was an eye opening experience. Clearly, fear played a big part in my living. If fear was keeping me from doing something as simple as becoming certified to teach at a gym, surely fear was keeping me from bigger things as well.

Last week, I felt led to share that story with my Bible study group. It was relevant to our lesson, so I asked them the same question. I pray that it opened their hearts and minds to look for the evidence of fear in their lives. My own heart and mind have been opened to revisit this question and my answer. I answered that question 7 years ago. A little over 6 years ago I DID get certified to teach aerobics. So, this week, I've been able to look back at what God's done through this ONE area in my life.

Because of my certification, I was given the opportunity to work for Mississippi College. I taught 3 fitness classes to their students. These classes were just like my normal, gym class. But, my students were college students, and they were receiving college credit for attending. I LOVED that job. I LOVED being able to invest in the lives of college students at MC. Through teaching aerobics, I was given the opportunity to invest in lives at a key time in their lives. Fighting fear and becoming certified opened a door to ministry! 

You know my story, and I've mentioned the date August 26th a lot. But, that's the start of a weekend that completely changed my life. Our news hit on a Friday morning. Scotty resigned from ministry that Sunday morning. Needless to say, I was pretty lifeless by the end of that weekend. However, MC began their first full week of classes that very next day, and I taught on Mondays. So, I woke up that morning, put on my gym clothes, and went to work. I hadn't eaten and hadn't really slept. But, I was going to teach 3 straight hours of classes... spinning, pilates, and a cardio class. You sort of NEED fuel and sleep to teach that many classes. For an entire semester, I would go to the gym on Monday and Wednesday and have NO idea how I could make it through those classes. But, every Monday and Wednesday, I experienced peace and calm during those hours. I felt energized and ready to attack each new class. Most days, I'd walk out of my last class either crying or wiped out. It was extremely clear to me that God literally held me up, gave me energy, provided JUST the amount of grace needed to do my job well.... with JOY! Fighting fear and becoming certified gave the Lord the opportunity to demonstrate HIS strength and power IN and THROUGH me. 

Today, I'm getting ready to head to the gym and lead spinning. Teaching classes at the gym is a HUGE part of my life now. When we moved to New Albany, I'd decided that I was done with this kind of teaching. I felt like it was a season, and that season was over. God's plans were different than my plans. A position opened soon after I arrived, and I teach most mornings at 8:00. I can't even describe how much of a blessing these classes are to me. I've met people through these classes that have encouraged me, they've introduced me to people and helped me get TOT going, and they've simply encouraged my soul on a daily basis. Still, almost three years after our crisis, I still wake up some mornings and feel like there's NO way I can go and do an hour of HIGH energy activity. Yet, God strengthens and sustains! And, I always walk out of class with a better sense of God's presence in and through my life. I NEVER thought I'd ever teach at a gym in New Albany, MS. But, God did. Fighting fear and becoming certified prepared me for a life I didn't even know was coming.

So, what would YOU do if you weren't afraid? That's a great question. If I hadn't been asked, and I hadn't decided I was more afraid of missing out on God's leading than my own fear of failure, a huge part of my life now would be different. Reflecting on this question for our class this week has led me to believe that I need to ask myself THIS particular question on a daily basis. Fear hinders Freedom ALWAYS! And, I want to be free! 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. So, choosing to let fear dictate what I choose to do and not do is making the choice to lived OUTSIDE of the knowledge of all that Christ has done for me. Remember, living in freedom won't necessarily be easy (attacking our fears never is), but I can promise it will be worth it!


Friday, July 18

Freedom is NEVER Free & Redemption is NEVER Easy

This summer is flying by! I know it always does. But, every year, it seems to move a little faster. Am I ready to hit the books again, get back into a full routine, and force myself back into making a plan for all of the chaos? Not! At! All! But, that's for another day and another post.

Today, I have something else on my brain, and it's this.... Life is just hard!

Can I get an "AMEN"?

Most days, I'm ok with that fact. I understand it. I can take it. And, I know that it's these very difficulties that are keeping me focused on The Lord and on the eternal life I won't get to fully experience until Heaven. But, some days (today is one of those days), I take offense to the fact the life is just hard. I take offense to the fact that it must continue to be hard. And, I REALLY take offense to the fact that sometimes difficult circumstances seemingly get resolved ONLY to pop up again days, weeks, months, and years later. Can't we sometimes just fix it and forget it?

So many wonderful things have happened for us this summer. We've had some really great experiences. And, there is so much about our life at home that has become comfortable and easy again. I'm grateful for that. However, there hasn't been much time to enjoy that comfort, because God's decided it's time to work on other areas with me.

I'm leading Bible study again. We are studying The Patriarchs by Beth Moore. As we've moved through Genesis and studied the dysfunction of this first family, all sorts of YUCK has come up from my childhood/teenage years. I guess these would be things I've never dealt with. And, here's the thing.... I've discovered that IF I'd dealt with them as they were happening, it really would have been easier. At almost 40, it's not fun AT ALL. After all we've been through, though, I KNOW dealing with the pain and ugly is worth it! I believe there's FREEDOM on the other side, but I must go to war to reach it. See.... Freedom is never actually free! Someone always pays for it.

Secondly, God has decided that it's time for me to deal with this whole friend thing. If you know me at all, you know that I've had friends, cherished friends, and needed friends all of my adult life. I just enjoy sharing life through friendships. I won't say that I haven't had friends over the past 2 years. Truly, I have some friends that had been "on the fringe" for years that stepped in when I needed them and became ROCKS to me. These are friendships that I still treasure today and am so grateful for them.

But, God and I decided that it is time for me to start seeking new friendships HERE in my new home. I was very excited about this journey! Very! And, then, we began, and I realized that ALL SORTS OF EMOTION was going to come from this venture. You see, (and I'll be vague on purpose) two and a half years ago, God took me from hurt to forgiveness quickly! I skipped ANGER! That was a good thing THEN, because I didn't need to focus on anyone other than my husband and my children at that time. And, anger keeps you focused on the person you're angry with. But, I've found out that you CAN skip anger, BUT only for a time. It will still arrive, and arrive it did!!!! It was short, granted, but hurt and confusion still came after. Again! Even though we'd already done that step. However, I KNOW that dealing with the PAIN and dealing with the UGLY is worth it! Always!! So, God and I went to work AGAIN! Fighting for FREEDOM.

Why can't any of it be easy? Why? I know the answer. But, I still want to ask "why" just one more time. Why?

Right now, for me, everything is hard emotionally. If you'd like, you can pray for that. On any given day, I'm just right on the brink of tears. I'm not talking eyes watering, maybe even dripping a little... I'm talking on the verge of buckets of tears to the point that all witnesses will wish they'd never even begun a conversation with me.

But, even in the difficulty, here's my encouragement.... It's all worth it! I COULD brush it all under the rug again. We could put on a happy face and move along. But, then.... there's no FREEDOM. It will show up again. Whatever "it" is, it doesn't just go away. Like a 2 liter, carbonated drink, it's emptied only 2 ways. It can be shaken and shaken and shaken until it explodes all over the kitchen. Or, it can be poured and swallowed a little at a time over a period of time. That's us! Our "junk" needs to come out. It's healthy. And, a little at a time is so much better than an explosion. I know! Then, when we've done the HARD WORK, we experience the fruit of that labor..... JOY & FREEDOM.

REDEMPTION!

This morning, in week 7 of my Genesis study, Beth Moore spoke to this very thing much more beautifully than I can (imagine that)..... :)

"Redemption is when the pain is treated and turned around so thoroughly that it not only loses its power to do you harm but also gains the power to do some good..... I have known suffering, and it gives me a depth of compassion and understanding that I would never have otherwise possessed. When all was said and done, Satan got caught in the very snare he set for me. Don't stop working with God until Satan's evil plan for your life or your family backfires in his ugly face."

God redeems, but we have to cooperate. Our call is to work WITH Him, and it's rarely easy. But, it's ALWAYS worth it. Hang in there and see it ALL the way through. And, pray that I will too.