Friday, December 27

Our Christmas

When I started this blog over 5 years ago (WOW!), my purpose was simply to provide pictures and stories of the kids and our home life for our extended family to enjoy. Typically, I attempted to include some sort of lesson or devotional thought to accompany our photos. But, the MAIN purpose was to share life with family and whoever else was interested.

Clearly, the blog has changed direction. There's less light-hearted humor and MUCH, more real life lesson sharing. But, this post will be a little closer to original posts as I just share our Christmas for family and whoever else is interested. :)

Last weekend we went to Clinton for the first of our Christmas experiences. On Sunday, we visited Pine Lake for church. It's been a while since we've been able to go back. But, EVERY time we are there, we are astounded that God seems to orchestrate THE perfect message for us to hear. The sermon series was called, Miracle. Oh how I would love to retell that whole message, because it was so good. I won't. But, Chip ended this sermon urging people to pray for a miracle... to realize that, just as the Christmas story is full of miracles, God is still in the business of performing miracles. Then, with much sincerity, he closed by saying, "some of you may be standing by your miracle." Well, I certainly was! This Christmas was FULL of reminders that we are a miracle. All five of us were standing in one row, worshiping together. No doubt, Scotty & I could have been divided, each of us sharing Christmas with our children separately. But... God chose to do a miracle. And, that realization made every moment of Christmas very special.

Christmas Eve was full of activity. Scotty painted our bedroom (which was the end of painting for a little while), the kids stayed busy with various activity, and I prepared for cooking and baking. Late afternoon, we began our pajama birthday party for Jesus' birthday. We enjoyed breakfast for dinner, sang "Happy Birthday" with cupcakes, the kids opened their one, small gift of pjs & games, and we ended the night playing those games and watching a movie. It was a simple but sweet Christmas Eve.

It was a great night. 

Our kids have demonstrated so many changes this year. We've enjoyed watching them grow up and develop. Each one has grown physically, and that growth has been obvious and visible. But, they've grown in many other ways as well. Caleb is REALLY growing up! It's very fun to watch but also hard on this Mama. This Christmas, he was a very protective older brother. His heart is so sensitive, and he HATES to see others sad or hurt. The cutest thing to watch from him this year was his seriousness in making sure Collin still believed in Santa. Apparently, one day Collin touched our elf to see if he would move (because Dad moved him) or if he'd stay put, because he was real and had been touched. Caleb pulled Scotty aside during the day to relate the story. So, the next morning, when the elf was still sitting in the same spot, Collin was quite surprised. And, Caleb was quite proud!

I love that Caleb was not  "too old" to decorate a gingerbread house and other Christmas traditions. I know it's not obvious in the bottom picture, but he's opening a Coke machine. He has always had at least one gift on his list that is just a little bit odd. But, he wanted a Coke machine in his room. He plans to charge 75 cents per can and make a little money. :). What an awesome kid (almost teenager)!

Collin is still a character.... in every way! He is experiencing some "growing pains," and we've all had some difficulty adjusting. But, there are still so many things about Collin that fascinate me. He's just Collin.... unique in every way. Fun! This year, Collin decided that he LOVES electronics. For so many years, he just wasn't interested. Well, he's making up for lost time.

 Collin was absolutely precious this December.... Trying so hard to still "believe." He made several comments about Daddy & me being the present buyers. But, then he'd write notes to send to Santa via our elf. And, Christmas Eve, without anyone knowing, he went in and tooks care of Santa's snacks and wrote out the sweetest note. Earlier, he felt the need to make himself look like a Wiseman during the Christmas story. He makes us laugh with very little effort. How blessed we are to have been the ones chosen to raise this child!

Claire is still J! O! Y! She is the happiest little girl. This year, she has provided much needed smiles as the almost teenager and middle child experiencing growing pains have struggled with some irritability. She is a caretaker! She takes care of her boys, her babies, sometimes her parents, and she is very responsible. The boy/girl differences have REALLY started showing up. She and I spend a LOT of time together, and I am beyond grateful that God gave us a girl after our two sweet boys. We DEFINITELY would have been missing out had we not been able to experience both genders. 

 Claire has talked about the Bitty Baby for SO LONG. She walked around holding her all Christmas Day and treated her like a real baby! She was just as excited about the Hershey Kisses in her stocking as she was the baby & stroller. What a precious, sweet girl! She can absolutely melt a heart.

So, our Christmas was pretty special, a miracle! We enjoyed each other tremendously! Scotty and I are
looking forward to an even more wonderful year in 2014. That's the great thing about our miracle! God just keeps giving and giving. So, as long as we are open to His plans, we KNOW that family life will just continue to get better and better.    

Tuesday, December 24

BEHOLD!

It's Christmas Eve.... I'm reading, I'm thinking, I may be a little overwhelmed. And, I'm confused!

It sure has been a week! I know it's been crazy in every home as we prepare for Christmas. Having little ones in the house is exciting, but it really amps up the anxiety and preparations for Christmas morning. Expectation runs high, and there's a lot of pressure for parents wanting to make Christmas special.

That's not really what's on my mind this morning, though. My mind is a confused and jumbled mess as I think back over events that have taken place in our world this week. We've experienced a social media disaster. Now, I'm NOT writing about this disaster today.... don't worry..... I'm just saying it's on my mind, while I read, while I study, and while I prepare for a Christmas Eve.

My reading this morning finished up 1 Samuel. But, after that, I went over to Matthew and Luke to read the Christmas story, and I've been struck by a theme. There are a number of them throughout this story. Any one of them could speak to my heart each day of the year. But, this morning.... I'm contemplating the fact that SO MANY during Jesus' time didn't "get it".

There's Joseph, for starters. Matthew's version records Joseph's distrust for his bride to be. He's clearly an honorable man... committed to doing right. However, he's in the process of backing out of God's plan. Why? Because, he doesn't get it! Humanity clouds his understanding, and he's incapable of seeing the big picture plan UNTIL a messenger of God comes to explain it all. The angel (messenger) unwraps God's plan for Joseph, he "wakes up", and does as the Lord commanded. So, the message brought by God's messenger CHANGED Joseph's mind, his heart, his plans.

Then, there's the inn keeper. Luke's story records, "she wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." The very next verses tell us that, close by, shepherds in the field heard the news of Christ's birth and decided to "go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened." The inn keeper clearly did not understand the magnitude of what was happening right in front of him. But, the lowly shepherds do. Why? Well, it's that messenger thing again. A heavenly host of angels (which means messenger) appeared and told them the news.They were changed. They HAD to go and see.

Today, I can only be overwhelmed by God's plan to send His Son into our world to save us from our sins, ourselves. I'm overwhelmed; because, on a regular basis, we don't "get it." Our humanity clouds our vision, our understanding, and we are incapable of seeing the big picture. Like children, we regularly lose sight of what is important.... "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us! Christmas! And, my ONLY response is to behold HIS glory. Because He came to Earth, and ONLY because He came, we have hope.

Because Christ came, my life was saved for eternity and my heart can be changed in the midst of a difficult moment.

Because Christ came, miracles happen.... marriages are restored, lives are transformed, the impossible is possible. 

 His coming changed everything for everyone, but we won't experience the change unless we BEHOLD the ONE who changed! And, just like Joseph and the shepherds, we have the ability to behold AFTER being presented with the message by the Messenger. Christ's birth at Christmas is the beginning of God's plan for salvation.

Here lies my confusion! I understand that God paid a high price for me to have life. I KNOW that life only works when we live within His commands and His ways. I want to stand up for that Truth and encourage everyone to obey God. But, I live in a world that doesn't "get it." I live in a world that says God's Word is outdated. And, if I apply the message of the Christmas story, God's messenger (Spirit) is the only One that can draw those who are blind to His purposes, to seeing belief in Him. I don't have this power! I don't have the ability to make the blind see. 

So, what do I do? Do I just carry on with my own life, my own agenda, because God will send the Messenger to the lost world when He's ready? I don't think I can do that. I think that would make me apathetic in every way. 

Do I wear signs, shout from megaphones, use the Bible as a weapon on every avenue of social media so that the lost world will know where I stand and never be able to say that they didn't hear "the gospel?" I know I can't do that. I truly fear this creates such callousness of heart among those that are blind to the knowledge of God. It becomes harder and harder for them to experience the love that caused God to send Jesus into the world. It's God's kindness that draws us to repentance. Scary signs, megaphones and weapons don't really depict kindness. 

BEHOLD! This is what I believe we do. We behold the glory of the ONE AND ONLY! In our daily lives, in our relationships, in our problems, in our own sin..... we stand in awe of a FATHER who loved us so much that He sent HIS only son to save us from our sin. And, let me be clear.... ALL sin is looking at God's glorious plan for our lives, shaking our fist and saying, "I can do better." This attitude leads to bitterness, promiscuity, unforgiveness, homosexuality, lying, adultery, unkindness..... and these are all the effects of our distrust. I can't look at any one of these sins as greater than another. Distrust has many faces, but it's the same sin. 

It's Christmas Eve! My mind is jumbled, and I'm a little bit sad that our world is missing Christ this Christmas. I'm not angry at a network or a left winged political group. I'm not shocked at all by their response. I'm a little disappointed in myself and in my family of believers. We are so easily distracted. We so easily lose focus. Beholding Christ changes lives! First, the life of the beholder. Then, when our lives, believers, are completely transformed by Christ, others notice. Calloused hearts begin to soften. And, the Messenger is free to do the job that only HE can do. 

Behold the Savior today! Let your mind and heart REALLY focus on what He did for you. Make it personal, because it is.

"Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2: 10-11

Personal transformation will always spread outward into all relationships. When we are truly changed, others notice.

Merry Christmas! I hope you & your family enjoy beholding our Savior's birth.


Tuesday, December 17

Homeschooling Update, An Elf & A Calm, Christmas Holiday

The Rogers have officially completed one semester of homeschooling. We began our year pretty early... August 4th. I did this, because I had NO idea how long it would take to get through our lessons. I also did not know if TOT would create school distractions and get us off schedule. And, finally, I knew that this week would be crazy. So, I wanted our school to be finished.

Last year, I nearly had a nervous break down (literally!) during this week. I like to do special "happies" for my TOT directors allowing TOT to be part of their schools, so that takes up time. On top of that, each child had Christmas festivities at the school every day, we were preparing Christmas gifts for each of their teachers, I needed to be at the school for several events, and their we multiple parties as the week came to a close. I COULD NOT keep up! I quickly became Scrooge! It was all too, too much!

Seriously, there's so much frustration this time of year over what is a distraction of Christmas. Every year, it seems we (I'm definitely including me here) choose one, specific Christmas "extra" and rebel against it! This year, it's obviously the Elf on the Shelf. I agree that it can get out of hand. As I said on Facebook, we DO have elves. But, we've never put much thought into them. Scotty moves them to a new location each night. A few of our spots are "favorite" for the elves, because they land their repeatedly during the Christmas season. I've been so intrigued, though, as people rebel openly on Facebook and other social media outlets about the unnecessary time waste of the elf, but these people never question the other crazy things we do for our children during Christmas. School events, gifts for teachers, parties, etc. I'd venture to guess monopolize so much more time that moving a crazy elf. But, those things are just accepted as things we HAVE to do.

Well... I just couldn't do it one more year. This particular week last year WIPED ME OUT, and it took EVERY BIT OF CHRISTMAS BREAK to get over it. This year, I can breathe. I spent all day yesterday getting TOT gifts together for the week and ready for teachers while my children enjoyed their first day of Christmas break. And, after I teach my last class of TOT on Thursday, I'll start my break and get ready for another semester. As this one comes to an end, though, I'm thanking God for freedom. That will forever be the word that summarizes my experience this first half of our homeschooling experience. I've been extremely convicted for 5 months now about all of the things that I did for so many years, because "it's just what you do". I've realized that I didn't HAVE to do those things. But, in choosing to, I gave up my freedom to make decisions that are necessary for MY children and MY family.

There have been other lessons to be learned that haven't been as fun to learn. For instance, a messy house exposes every, single one of my flaws. And, when you homeschool children, the house is never completely clean. When I would take the children to school, I could leave it nice & tidy. It would stay that way at least until they got home. Now that they are home, we clean up after breakfast, but everything gets yucky again as we prepare for lunch. Then, we clean up AGAIN! But, once school is done, they begin to play (which is good) and the house is messy again. This may seem small. However, a messy house exposes my flaws. So, this one little area has greatly increased my prayer life as I strive to get a grip so that my children aren't permanently scarred over cups left on a counter top.

Another lesson... a schedule is GOOD; but, sometimes, flexibility is BETTER! Ahhhhh...... The Lord has stretched me here. I love a schedule! I love boundaries, and I just feel much more secure when a good, workable schedule is in place. To some degree, that is a strength of mine. Chaos is NEVER good. A basic schedule with homeschooling is necessary.... The kids have to get up, shower, get completely dressed, eat breakfast, etc. every morning. We start school close to the same time each day. But, beyond that, circumstances arise that can't be planned for, and that's O.K.! God has shown me OVER & OVER that I am consistently trying to move past and miss the lesson of the moment, because I can't adapt the schedule. This one lesson has been the catalyst for God showing me I must LET GO of my agenda. Do I NOT plan? Absolutely not! But, I'm more aware of the blessings all around that I could never plan for. They are gifts (not burdens), and I am learning to expect the unexpected and trust The Lord to guide me through it.

There's not a whole lot of "meat" to this post. However, I promised I'd update on all of homeschooling adventures. And, I haven't done that very well. The semester has brought about some tough moments and tough days. But, overall, it's been way more positive, much easier and more freeing that I could have ever imagined. Again, I say, I don't know what the long term future will hold for us. But, for now, I'm just grateful that The Lord called me to step out and then provided confirmation after confirmation that we'd made the right choice.

I don't know where you are this week and what is going on. If you're in the rat race with more events and more gifts to give and more parties to attend than you know what to do with, I know how you feel. I'll pray that you can breathe..... And, I'm not saying yank your kids out of school and home school :). But, maybe prayerfully consider what doesn't HAVE to be done and what doesn't provide a meaningful Christmas experience. I'm doing the same. I'm asking the Lord to show me what I can cut out of the schedule, so that I can breathe and focus on Him. For me, it was and is much, much more than an elf!

Monday, December 9

An Update from Scotty...

I've spoken openly about my marriage in this blog. I've shared the steps Scotty and I have taken together to rebuild our marriage and heal our family. However, I'm not sure how much of HIS journey I've shared from my blog.

I've been very proud of the way he's handling recovery. More and more, I'm confronted with the truth that MOST people (male & female) prefer to belittle their mistakes. Even when mistakes are HUGE and have WIDE RANGE effects, it seems that most individuals want to throw out a quick apology and move past it as quickly as possible. It's sad, really, because that's not really MOVING past at all.

Anyway, over a year and a half ago, Scotty wrote a letter to the MFT Board. Because his marriage failures originated in ethical failures in his practice, he did not want to move on and pursue counseling as a profession without being COMPLETELY open with this Board about those failures. I know that was hard for him to do. But, from his perspective, he'd been living life in secrecy for a lot of years. He was ready for secrecy and shame to be over. He did NOT want to pursue counseling and spend the rest of his days worrying if THAT would be the day that the Board found out and confronted him. I applaud the personal responsibility that he took in that area. And, what a risk! These men and women could VERY well have said that he could NEVER practice with a license again. Honestly, they would have had every justified reason to make this decision.

They did not! We are so grateful. They've given consequences. These consequences will be a challenge to work through. But, Scotty believe (and I agree) that they will only serve to CONTINUE the healing work God has begun in him. I wanted to post his blog entry from the weekend here, because he gives his own thoughts on this process. On Friday, he made a personal appearance before the Board... it was a big deal both outwardly and inwardly. But, it's done! I thank you for your prayers along our journey. We appreciate you!

Saturday, December 7

Be The Change!

Have you noticed that our society does not advocate personal responsibility? Ugh..... it's SO frustrating. As a whole, we are a people that refuses to accept responsibility, denies fault, and insists that we could do better IF people acted as they were supposed to or IF circumstances were different.

I KNOW you know what I'm talking about. Relationally, more times than not, we "take off" when times get tough. We're sure we are justified in our choice, because our significant other (spouse, friend, child, co worker, etc.) isn't holding up their end of the deal. In business, how easy is it to do LESS than we're asked to do, because no one else is doing their part either. And, politically, as a nation, we have willingly handed over a multitude of our rights by making our personal responsibilities the government's responsibilities. So, even though our government hasn't proven to do many things well, we continue to give it more and more responsibility, because requiring individuals to accept some responsibility is considered negligent, uncaring, and downright mean.

Here's what is on my mind today.... it seems that it has become extremely uncomfortable to look inwardly and see what I should be doing differently and way too comfortable to look outwardly and name what everyone else should be doing differently. I see that this has created a lot of finger pointing and "preaching". That would be fine and good..... even wonderful, IF anyone was in the business of taking personal responsibility or interested in looking inward for changes to be made. We are not! So, all of our attempts to change people (posting rants on Facebook, taking scripture out of context to prove our own point, and giggling behind a jab) have only created more dissension among our community of believers. And, I won't even speak of what it's done between us and the world where we're called to minister.

So, here's what I'm proposing.... let's REclaim personal responsibility. What if, when faced with a situation we wish was somehow different, we determined to BE the change that makes it different?

I know, I know.... it's crazy. It's absurd! It's soooo last century!!! Why in the world would we consider changing ourselves when we can just run away from the situation and be perfectly justified to do so. Or, why make any changes in me when I can get online, find a number of people that believe the way I believe, and use social media to blast whoever believes differently.

BUT.... let's just play with this idea for a moment. I'm so tired of living in a world of UNhappiness and discontentment. Everywhere I look, I'm faced with downcast faces, lack of joy, and weariness with life. Every! Where!! I am confronted with so many people (believers) that are unhappy with their life. It may not be spoken. But, the countenance, the complaints and the disgust are clear indicators. I want to see JOY. I want to see HAPPY. I want to see LIFE. So, what if I become those things? What if I quit being tired and start being the change.... I can BE joy! Then, possibly, my joy will spread in MY house, to MY circle, and then out to their circles.....

There are certain areas of my life that I'd like to see improvement. I think we probably all have those areas... whether it's in relationship, in business, in finances, etc., I'll bet everyone could name one area we'd like to see an improvement. I feel like my religious background has taught me to accept what is, pray, and if God doesn't change it.... just be satisfied. But, what if my dissatisfaction in that area IS the Lord saying, "I've got something better, but you're going to have to get up and cooperate." I'm not saying this is the Gospel. I'm just asking, "what if?" What if I'm using prayer as an excuse to sit still and wait for SOMEONE ELSE to change when the Lord is clearly telling ME to BE THE CHANGE!

Now, believing family, this is heavy on my heart. Our world is in trouble! Our world is missing the TRUTH of the Gospel. Our world is dying without hope of salvation. We desperately need a change! However, I honestly feel that most of our efforts for change are backfiring and causing this dying world to harden their hearts even more to the TRUTH that we know. Every time I turn on the computer, I see an update or a blog or an article posted to scream a point of view. Obviously, I'm not against speaking our minds. Here I am speaking mine. What I'm saying is this.... changes that we want to see made in our world aren't going to be made with a wholesale BLAST of opinionated theology over the internet. They are going to be made in LIFE... living a Holy Spirit directed life individually, then guiding those closest to us to do the same. That will create a ripple effect that spreads. It may not spread as fast as we think it would if I just loaded a quick, one line post against a given lifestyle or activity. But, it's not working! Why not DO the things that work and impact lives in a way that "sticks"? Do we want a change.... Then, let's BE the change!

Here's an example of ONE things that is burdening me right now. It's Christmas! "The most wonderful time of the year." And, it's true, I'm seeing and hearing the Gospel spread well in many cases. But, I'm also seeing that SOMEHOW we've managed to allow ALL SORTS OF THINGS to distract us and the world from what we are celebrating during this season. And, I'll bet that my perspective is different from what you're expecting....

WHY are we arguing over "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays"? Distraction! It's CHRISTMAS. I'm celebrating the incarnation of my SAVIOR.... the fact that God so LOVED the world that He sent Jesus! So, I want the word CHRISTmas to be used A LOT during this time of year. So, I will use it! I will BE the change.

WHY are we in division over Santa or no Santa? Goodness... I know I'm causing such anger among even my sweet, believing friends. I know this is HUGE to so many of you. And, if the Spirit has convicted you in this way, I say follow that lead. But, WHY are we arguing about it? We do Santa at our house. We don't celebrate Santa. We don't worship Santa. And, when my oldest figured out that there was no Santa, there was disappointment. But, not a whole lot changed about how we celebrate this time of year.... the majority of our Christmas discussions aren't much different. We all do things differently. I will not pretend that I know what is 'right'. But, I know this.... we will never figure it out through arguments. We will never see a change in our world towards a Christ focus during December in dissension. So, I'm gently suggesting that if you feel we've lost the right focus during Christmas, BE the change. Focus on the main thing.... Jesus. Celebrate HIM in a big way in all of YOUR festivities. Honor HIS name by making Christ the center of ALL that you do (not JUST in December by the way) and watch how that catches on. We CAN be the change! I WANT to be the change!

I continue to be drawn in to the words of Christ to His disciples. ....

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

I am choosing to believe that, as believers, we have "good" motives behind all that we do. It's SO hard to know what is right and what is wrong when dealing and operating in this world we live in until Christ calls us home. Yes... we need to stand up for our beliefs. But, once we are aware of what God, through His Word and the Spirit, says is a change that needs to be made, I believe our ONLY course of actions is to BE THAT CHANGE! In my own life, I'm much more likely to be persuaded to change something in me when I SEE it working in someone else. So... what would YOU like to see this Christmas?

Peace in our world? BE peace.

Christ, high and lifted up? BE the lifter of His great name.

Joy & Happiness? BE happy NO MATTER the circumstance.

I know it sounds a lot easier than it really is. Personal responsibility is hard. But, at no point in life am I responsible for what someone else says or does. I'm ALWAYS responsible for the way that I respond. I believe we can CHANGE OUR WORLD! But, I don't believe we can do it in one, big swoop, by mass social media. If it's going to happen, I believe it will happen in one relationship at a time, one person at a time... and the first on my list is ME.

BE THE CHANGE!

Here's my disclaimer.... I KNOW that we are also called to confront. It's uncomfortable. But, in our relationships (those who are close to us in life, NOT just a FB friend), my driving force for change in that person has to be LOVE. Jesus knew His time here was short. I'm sure He chose His words for disciples carefully. And, He said our LOVE would be THE thing that showed others we are Christ followers (true disciples). That tells me that when I LACK love in any of my actions, I'm demonstrating that true discipleship is not my focus. It's a fine line. And, that's the reason that I need to be consumed with Christ, ferociously focused on His will for MY life. That takes A LOT of energy and doesn't leave much time for finger pointing outside of my very close circle of relationships.... I'm forced to leave the rest to pastors (those called to lovingly point out and shepherd towards the TRUTH) and the Holy Spirit.

Friday, November 29

Trees of Righteousness...

I've been sitting here at my computer for a LONG TIME doing very monotonous work. I'm actually hoping that after I've posted this, some brilliant mind is going to tell me of a simpler way to do what I've been repeatedly doing.

My cell phone is CONSTANTLY telling me that I'm short on memory. When I back up to iTunes, it's clear that emails and texts are using up too much space. Deleting texts is typically pretty simple. However, I have close to 11,000 emails in my "all mail" folder in my phone. The only way I have found to get rid of these unnecessary messages is to go in to these folders in gmail and check EACH AND EVERY email that I don't want and TRASH. So, that's what I've been doing.

Now, picture with me how far back the dates go as I'm scrolling one by one through 11,000 emails. As I got closer to 2011, I began to get really nervous about names and messages that I'd see. Obviously, they were there. Thankfully, there wasn't even a hint of the sick feeling my stomach used to feel at the sight of these. I wasn't the least bit tempted to open, read, and get irritated, sad, whatever. Yay God!! Hallelujah!

But, I was scrolling over an email from a sweet friend and saw that the message line said "Trees of Righteousness." I was curious, so I opened it. The date on this email was September 26, 2011, and it was a forward of something written by Ann Graham Lotz...

That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:3, NKJV

"When I was growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, every Sunday afternoon, weather permitting, my parents, my siblings, and I would go hiking. Inevitably, our climbs would take us to the ridge where the trees were so enormous we could all hold hands and still not be able to encircle the trunks. When I asked my mother why the trees were so much larger on the ridge than anywhere else, she replied that it was because the winds were the strongest and the storms were the fiercest on the ridge. With nothing to shelter the trees from the full brunt of nature's wrath, they either broke and fell, or they became incredibly strong and resilient.
God plants you and me in our faith as tender saplings then grows us up into "trees of righteousness," using the elements of adversity to make us strong. And He leads us to endure, not just somehow, but triumphantly as we choose to praise Him, regardless of the storms swirling within us or the winds howling outside of us."

I'm struck by 2 things as I read this. First, how many times have I read or heard something and thought, "I need to send that to ________." I'm sure that I've had that feeling numerous times, and I'm positive I haven't followed through each and every time. This email came from a friend (thank you, Jenny) exactly one month after Scotty's confession. I'm guessing there were many times she didn't really know what to say to me. But, she read this message, thought of me and hit FORWARD. It was a simple gesture, but it meant the world. And, today it meant something to me again. 

Secondly, just reading these paragraphs that Ann wrote, I can literally feel "the storms swirling within... and the winds howling outside." Our lives are full of those moments! And, in them, we are reminded how FRAGILE we are. But, we can choose to cooperate with God. And, those storms that threaten to tear us apart and rip us to pieces can be the VERY thing that God uses to build us up and make us STRONG.... trees of righteousness. 

I'm thanking God right now that I'm currently NOT being hit by the full brunt of life's struggles. But, I'd be willing to bet that someone reading this IS. And, I'm reminded that it's TOUGH to be in the struggle of battle right in the middle of the holiday season. All of the world is happy, joyful, celebrating life, and you just want a minute of peace in the midst of turbulent pain. I know...!

Can I encourage you to hold on for dear life? Can I urge you to lean in to the Lord and ask Him to carry you each and every second? Can I suggest that you seek out someone who's been through a struggle of their own, open up in a real and honest way with them, and allow them to walk with you through this storm? I hope you will! Because, I can promise you that God WILL absolutely strengthen you. He will lovingly show you HIMSELF, but we HAVE to be looking. And,... it takes WORK to see when your world is spinning. But, if ever there was meaningful work, this is it! You can do it, and it will be so worth it. 

Oh... and iPhone geniuses.... send me kind, gentle emails explaining to me why I'm ignorant when it comes to technology and how I can clean up my phone in an easier way.

Saturday, November 23

Embracing Change.... FREEDOM

I've never been a fan of change....

I guess I'm realizing that no one really is. But, I'm so introverted (less now than ever before), so adjusting to "new" takes time. I adjust inwardly FIRST. Then, I begin the process of adjusting outwardly and in community. For this reason, I often got the label "snob" as a young person. It's been a life long journey towards accepting change as a way of life, and I feel certain that I've got the remainder of a lifetime to continue on that journey.

This life I've been given, though, has caused me to accept outside changes a little better. The past 2 years have included SO many of them for us. I won't list them all, because I've been writing about them throughout these two years. You know them all. I'm grateful for each change, because each one has helped me to see that change CAN be good. I'll miss out on the good if I'm resisting "new". Change can also be bad! In those times, though, I can still choose to FIND the good and make the most of those situations.

Now, those are all external forces/circumstances. Lately, I've been confronted with changes that can be made within. It's been an interesting "study" for me. I'm the new girl in a new town. A year ago, no one knew me. There were absolutely NO judgements about who I was. That may seem pretty obvious! But, it's worthy of a little examination. That simple idea has led me to realize that we begin VERY early deciding WHO we are and WHAT fits with that personality. It's like we're all wrapped neatly in a box with a tag labeling what kind of person we are. When people or opportunities are offered, we sift through like preschool children learning to classify.... this person fits with the kinds of people I generally associate with, this person does not, this opportunity is "perfect", this one is just not "me". Coming to a new town has given me the opportunity to redefine who I am.... or to determine that I won't settle in to one, single definition of me.

I've been seriously confronted by the magnitude of this idea. How much have I missed out on in life, because I decided what could and could not be achieved by ME.... the "sweet" friend, stay at home mom, teacher, wife, etc.? Have I been called to do certain things, given the opportunity to participate in God's goodness and refused, because I surely wasn't the person for THAT? Have I been paralyzed and inactive, because I was analyzing whether or not I was "called" to that adventure or not.

Let me just answer those questions for you.... YES! ABSOLUTELY!! MORE THAN ONCE OR TWICE!!!

And, here's what I've realized... I have only ONE calling! There's only ONE thing that fits into the plan God has for my life. Only ONE choice is right when I'm considering the path God has for me.

I'm called to lift up the name of my great God, to glorify Him with my life!

And, guess what! EVERYTHING in this world and this life can be used as a tool to do just that. There's no relationship, no job, no opportunity, no material thing, no circumstance, NOTHING that isn't meant to be used as the vehicle to drive myself and others closer to the Lord.


Therefore, when I place myself in a "box" and decide that (you fill in the blank) is not for me, because I'm just not that person or I don't have those gifts, I believe I'm voluntarily placing myself in a cell and locking the door. It's slavery! That's EXTREMELY sad, because....

It was for freedom that Christ set us frere; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery, Galatians 5:1

O.K., so those that I live in community with  now don't really know who I've been for 38 years. And, they aren't aware of how uncomfortable my life is right now! In every way, my lifestyle defies the safe, "normal" person I used to be. And, it's AWESOME!!!!

Owning my own business is not something that comes naturally to me! But, we moved away from the safe job that I had in Clinton. Financially, I need to help, but I wasn't willing to give up being wife and mother FIRST. So, my fear of stepping out of my comfort zone into the area of business was outweighed by what I wanted for my family. TOT has provided so many situations that have sent fear throughout. But, each one of those situations has created a growth opportunity and driven me to the throne of God... and brought me a little closer to leaving the cell and LIVING life.

Homeschooling our children (whoa!) isn't a plan that I've EVER had. But, Scotty and I desire a real focus on FAMILY healing and spiritual discipleship. To do that, we needed more than 15 minutes in the car going to and from school, 20 minutes in the car to ball practice, or 15 minutes at the table scarfing down food. So, my determination to fully heal our marriage and family outweighed the discomfort of losing "my" time and being dictated by their needs most of the day. And, the outcome has been confirmation and joy in our calling. This decision has played a key role in helping me to experience the schedule freedom that I assumed couldn't be found.

I KNOW that God calls and then He equips. He's proven it. But, I find that there are still areas of my life where I'm terrified to step out, take a chance, and do something different than I've ever done before. This became extremely clear to me when I was presented with an opportunity 3 weeks ago. (I'm NOT naming this opportunity here. It's becoming such a big part of my life that I'm sure one day I will. But, for now, I don't know exactly how to handle it without sounding like I'm trying to sell you something.)

Only three weeks in, this opportunity has allowed me to spend time with friends and build relationships. I've been provided with listening and reading material that has brought about more personal development than I've ever experienced. And, I am on the track to blessings that I never could have imagined. When presented with this opportunity, though, I was ready to say, "no thanks".... for only ONE reason. FEAR!

What will others think?

What if I fail?

What if this isn't what I'm SUPPOSED to do?

What if, what if, what if... FEAR, FEAR, FEAR!!!!

Slavery!

I'm calling it what it is, and I'm on a mission to rid this life of it. I have committed to remind myself every, single day that I have JUST ONE calling.... To make much of HIS great name in ALL that I do! The more I "put myself out there" in relationship, in business, in community, etc., the more opportunities I have to fulfill that calling. So, I'm going to STOP analyzing every opportunity. I'm going to step out into ANY & EVERY adventure with the sole purpose of working heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. (Colossians 3:23)

Honestly, why would I do anything differently? We all have this ONE life! In the grand scheme, it's so very short! Why would I lock myself up in the cell of others' approval on purpose? Why would I refuse the joy of failing my way into some pretty great successes? And, why would I forfeit living life fully, in every way, and teaching the lives that will go on after me to do the same! I'm not talking about only financial success here, people. I've realized that the ONLY way to teach my children to live life with abandon, to never back down, and to seek to make much of God in every situation is to actually LIVE THAT LIFE MYSELF!

Seriously.... teaching freedom from the cell would be a complete waste of time!

Monday, October 21

Mystery Solved!

I don't think it will be any big surprise to anyone that I've been dealing with a little bit of depression... little bit of darkness... off and on since January. I know that I've shared this with many, and it seems that some of my posts during this year have definitely suggested some heaviness of heart. It's never been constant, BUT when it came, it came with force. And, most of the time, it caused me to feel puzzled.

I understand that I've been through A LOT, and I shouldn't have been too terribly surprised to have some darkness invade. I get that. But, I was still confused. In my mind, if I was going to feel depressed, experience darkness, and have the blues, why didn't it happen 2 years ago. On August 26th, 2011, and for the months that followed, I DID NOT experience this darkness. So, why now?

This has been my off and on turmoil since January. I've talked about it with Scotty. I've talked about it with family. And, we've talked about it with our therapist. There are definitely reasons WHY it has hit late... trauma, a move, the start of a new business, exhaustion. But, in my quiet time last week, I feel like I cracked the mystery.

I'm reading Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, and it is literally changing my life! I could list a thousand quotes that I need to memorize. I could take a picture of my book and show you the mess of highlighter, pen and pencil that covers it. WOW! How does someone write like that?!?! Better yet... how does one experience life like that?!?!

Well, one morning I was reading. I'd just poured my heart out in my journal (which has just been a whine fest much of this year), and I was desperately searching for answers. The chapter that I was reading followed a chapter where Ann had experienced the beauty of a full moon. In words that I don't even know and would never attempt to use in descriptions, she wrote about her experience under the moon with God. Clearly, it was a "mountain top experience". Only a few pages later, she's describing a typical morning in her house. Breakfast is made, breakfast is served, kids are fighting, and she honestly describes her struggle to remain in the gratitude she felt under the moonlight. She wanted to go back.

Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Luke 9:33

In Luke, Jesus took 3 of the disciples up the mountain, and He was transfigured before them. Can you imagine? It must have been awesome, and Peter wanted to stay! This was Ann's point... Under the moonlight, she was experiencing God. He revealed Himself to her in a special way under that full moon. And, with children all around fighting over toast, she wanted to go back. I totally get it, Ann.

This may sound crazy, but I believe I experienced something similar in the year and a half after Scotty's confession. There was nothing beautiful about my surroundings or my situation. But, God revealed Himself to me in such a clear way. From the moment that my life changed forever, I had the feeling that He literally picked me up and carried me through each and every day. Everything was a transfiguration... and only He can do that! Even though my soul was crushed, and I didn't know at all what my future would be, it was one of the sweetest times of my life, because EVERY day and in EVERY way, God was revealing Himself to me and reassuring me of His presence. It was a "mountain top" experience.

But, as Ann says... "there's always descent from the mount." And, THIS has been my problem! I'm not pretending to know God's big picture plan or understand His movement in my daily life. But, I FEEL like He granted me an extended stay on my very own Mount of Transfiguration! For a full year and a half, nothing felt ordinary. Nothing seemed overwhelmingly hard. Everything about our life seemed wrapped in His care. I wanted to put up a tent! I wanted to stay there a while... well FOREVER!

In January, our circumstances DID begin to change. But, they were changing for the better. Our marriage is stronger than ever. Our children have settled in so well, and we all enjoy each other so much. I'm loving my business, and Scotty has clear career direction. BUT, darkness, gloom and depression began to sneak in. And, why? Because, mountains MUST be descended, and I wasn't ready. At some point, I must enter again into this world where the routine, the mundane, the day to day tasks CAN (if I let them) take over, and I don't SEE His glory as clearly as I did on the mountain.

Ashamedly, that's what I was doing. Is there glory to be seen off of the mountain? ABSOLUTELY! Does it take a little bit more work to see it? FOR SURE! In fact, I've determined it's a fight! Every single morning, I have to realize that I'm in the middle of a war! There's a battle for my focus. And, I award the "W" to the thing that I choose to think on. God is HERE! So, regardless of what is going on in the day to day... dribbling a miniature basketball, cooking meals or washing clothes, and even children fighting over toast, I can choose to allow God to transfigure, and I can see HIM.... even in the smallest and most mundane tasks.

Ann says it better, "I look for the ugly beautiful count it as grace, transfigure the mess into joy with thanks" so that I can SEE what He wants me to see in the way that He wants me to see it.

Wednesday, September 25

Honesty is HARD

Our pastor is doing a sermon series on GRACE. We are three weeks in, and the sermons have been powerful. At the start, he told us that our ministry leaders were hoping to incorporate "grace stories" within the series. During the second week, I felt led to just write out my own grace story. I'm not sure why. THEN... I felt led to send it on to our pastor. He knows our "story", so I wasn't really worried about letting him read through my testimony.

However, the next day, Scotty got a call that they wanted me to video my story to be part of the next Sunday's service. See, my grace story deals with God's sustaining grace, and THAT was the topic of this past week's sermon. Coincidence?!?! ;)

Anyway, I DO NOT like the platform. I DO NOT like the attention. I DO NOT like being on camera... especially if I'm going to talk about deep and emotional experiences. Who wants to be THAT vulnerable for all to see.

But, I'm past doing the "comfortable" thing. We have a story. God's done AMAZING things, and we NEED to share. So, I went to the church last Thursday and recorded. I pulled out of the church SO VERY happy that it was done. Then, Thursday evening, an emotional fog covered me, and I spent 2 FULL days in complete spiritual warfare!!!

See, this is HARD, too. My video testimony that the entire church heard last week talks about the sustaining grace that has literally been POURED over my life. It's real. It wasn't a show! But, for the 2 days prior to it being shown, I was in an all out battle over my mind/thoughts. And, many of the moments in those 2 days, I was LOSING! At my lowest point, I recognized that I was in spiritual warfare, that Satan knows he can't tempt me into some kind of addiction or to turn my back on God, so he was warring against me with "Why did God..." and "How could He..." thoughts. Even then, after identifying my enemy, I became angry with God. I kept asking over and over why God was letting Satan get to me. I was in COMPLETE victim mode. And, as I've stated here before, I HATE VICTIM MODE!

It's pointless.

It serves NO positive purpose.

It's a WASTE of time!

But, that didn't stop me. I pitied ME and wondered why God wouldn't have put a protective shield around me binding Satan from me. Those were my honest feelings. I knew God could handle it. But, I felt so guilty! So, there I was going round and round... miserable with God, miserable with me, miserable with God, miserable with me... Ugh! Exhausting.

So, it's really hard for me to be this open. You already know all of the yuck that's gone on in my life. That part is no secret. But, to share my internal struggles is new... To share that I momentarily turned on the ONE constant of my life is humiliating! But, I did. And, so that Satan can't use THAT against me in the future and call my a hypocrite for boasting of the great grace of my God while questioning that same God, I'm just going to go ahead and confess it!

Yep. That's me. I'm hypocritical. Occasionally, my outward expressions (what I TRULY believe) don't match up with the first responses popping up within. And, even still, God pours out His GREAT grace and draws me back to the TRUTH of who He is! He gently reminds me of who I am, and I'm overwhelmed that He'd spend the time demonstrating his love to me. His grace is amazing. His grace is sustaining! His grace is ENOUGH!

So, while there has been so much difficulty associated with preparing my testimony, I'm still sharing it here. Because, it's my story. And, any good in my story is a gift of grace from my God. And, I'm beyond grateful. The entire sermon (3rd of the GRACE series) was wonderful and definitely worth a listen. But, my testimony plays around 37 minutes.

Monday, September 9

REclaiming PEACE!

Whew! What a week.... I mean, REALLY! What. A. Week!

I've always kept a pretty busy schedule. My parents still recount my teenage years and how I packed the social schedule FULL of activity. I really DO like to be on the go.

As I've mentioned here just lately, being "on the go" has gotten out of control. So, we HAD to make some life changes that would allow us to be away less and home more. And, man!, have we felt the benefits of that decision. There have been countless affirmations that we DID make the right choice for our family. I can't even begin to list the ways God has shown us that we are doing what is best for us right now.

However, I've still allowed Satan to invade my affirmations with doubt. On numerous occasions, I've allowed guilt and comparison to cause me to question. And, in essence, I've LET my peace be stolen.

First of all, WHY? And, secondly, does anyone else struggle with this?

Here's the problem. This past week, TOT started fully for me. The first couple of weeks are JUST CRAZY. There's no way around it. I can plan and plan. BUT... the first week involves many factors that I don't have control over prior to beginning. For THIS VERY REASON, I began school with my children 2 weeks before regular school. So, we've been ahead for the most part.

On top of that, on days that we weren't able to cover something that I'd planned, we pulled school back out later in the day and finished. Or, we did extra work on lighter TOT days so that we could take some time off of school when I needed to focus on TOT. All of this is WHY we made the decision to teach the kids at home. I work on a flexible schedule! And, we wanted them to also be on a flexible schedule (when necessary!).

I'm rambling, but do you see what I'm saying? All things worked out last week the way that we'd foreseen they would! We made it through my first week of work joyfully with all school work done and not too worn out. However, I still let myself compare/question/worry about whether or not our methods were o.k. And, it's alright to do that every once in a while. We need to check ourselves occasionally to make sure we are on the right track. But, once there's been affirmation, I believe it's just sinful to linger there in doubt and allow those doubts to steal peace.

I repented of that this morning. Both of our boys played tournaments in Tupelo all weekend. We were in the hot sun Friday night, Saturday (most of the day), and Sunday afternoon. By the time we got home last night at 7:00, we were ALL beat! ZAPPED! We had NOTHING left. So, when I woke up this morning to spend a little time alone, I was SO very grateful that we weren't going to have to wake our sleeping children and rush through another day. Caleb and Collin slept in a little. And, Claire slept till 9:30! We started school a little late, 1 thing got bumped till tomorrow while everything else was completed a little later than normal, BUT we finished. And, it seems that Claire STILL wasn't rested, because she has melted down a number of times, and I finally sent her to her room. It got awfully quiet QUICKLY, so I went to check.
Confirmation again... They get to SLEEP when they need to SLEEP! O.K. now, I KNOW that I have readers who don't homeschool. Again, this is NOT a blog post designed to urge everyone to leave traditional school and homeschool. My question for myself this morning and my question now for you is, where have you let Satan steal your JOY, your PEACE, your COMFORT in knowing that you are right in the middle of God's plan for you?

I'm convinced that he has more power to do that in areas where we've stepped out and followed the Lord's lead.... especially if those areas LOOK a little different than the norm. At least that's been the case for me this week.

So, I really wanted to update today with all of our fun lessons, stories of our school time together, maybe even some pictures of school life here at home or my little workers on the road with TOT. But, I felt led, instead, to share this terrible habit of comparing and questioning myself with you. I pray, I study, I beg God for direction, He gives it to me, I step out in faith to follow, then I don't even enjoy the blessings of obedience because I'm second guessing mySELF at every turn.

This week, I WILL look for the joy in God's plan. I WILL REST in knowing that He's got this all figured out and will show me what I need to know WHEN I need to know it. And, I will refuse to give Satan even the smallest victory over my emotions and thought life.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Tuesday, August 27

Repentance

I don't know how I missed Scotty's blog post on Saturday. Actually, I DO know how I missed it. We left our house for the ball fields in Amory at 7:30 a.m. and didn't get home until 11:30 p.m. So, I guess I should say I don't know how there WAS a blog post on Saturday. :)

Anyway, I'm asked A LOT if I have trust issues with Scotty because of our history. When asked this question, my quick answer is always, "NO", because I really don't. Then, being the self proclaimed "stuffer" that I am, I begin to question myself.

SHOULD I have trust issues?

Am I living in denial?

These thoughts are always quick to jump to the surface at those moments. But, I always come back around and realize that I really DON'T have trust issues.... with good reason.

However, I never do a good job of explaining those reasons. Ever. I try! And, then I have to resign myself to the fact that it's just hard to explain.

Scotty's blog post Saturday proves me wrong. Apparently it's NOT so hard to explain, because he said it beautifully. From the first moment Scotty confessed his sin to me, he was truly repentant and FULL of Godly sorrow. For months and months, the reminders of his sin and the possible outcomes would literally bring him to his knees in guilt and gratefulness. To this day, he demonstrates keen awareness that his sin could have done "unfixable" damage to our family.

I took that for granted for a few days... assuming that this was normal behavior for a person, a believer, caught in sin. It didn't take long for me to realize, though, that this attitude of true repentance was actually quite ABnormal. Most people... even believers... want to hide, cover up, fight and make excuses even though they admit what they did was wrong. Most seem to believe that their admission should be enough and everyone else should just move on. I believe repentance only BEGINS at the point of admission. True repentance is what takes place after.

In the time that has followed, I am realizing that many caught in sin need to have an excuse for failure. For me, personally, I want to be able to admit that I've made a mistake WHILE outlining all of the reasons why that mistake was inevitable. That's NOT repentance.

I love the portion of Scotty's blog that says, "Repentance is a beautiful, violent assault against sin." Awesome! And, that's so true. We MUST be violently against sin EVEN WHEN the sin is exposed IN US.

Two years ago, there were times when I wanted Scotty to produce some kind of reason WHY he committed such terrible sin. I would have been happy, at that point, to blame someone else for the sin. He WOULD NOT do it. His standard answer to my questions that really were an attempt to lead him to point a finger was, "that doesn't matter." At the moment of confession, Scotty was violently assaulting the sin. His sin. And, the things that continues to amaze me is this beautiful, violent assault on sin has continued for 2 years now.

Excuses have no place.

Blame has no place.

And, let me just be clear here... I am NOT only talking about the sin of adultery. When I wake up in the morning in a bad mood and choose to let every person in my home know it by my actions and speech, the Spirit within me calls that SIN! I must repent. If that repentance is real, then there will be a marked difference when I wake up in a bad mood the next time.

When I find myself in the middle of a conversation that is in NO way uplifting to the person I am talking about, the Spirit within me AND the Bible call that SIN! I need to repent. And, if it's true, I will respond differently the next time I'm tempted to say something that isn't pure, holy, or uplifting.

I could go on, but I've stepped on my own toes enough with only 2 examples. If each and every one of us could participate in a beautiful, violent assault against sin in OUR OWN lives, we could absolutely change our hearts, our homes, and communities and the world.

I urge you to read Scotty's post called Truly Repentant? and ask for the courage to call your sin what it is. SIN! And, then be bold enough to ask God to call you to an all out assault against it. That will lead to a change. You'll see it, and so will everyone else.

Sunday, August 25

Two Years Ago....

Well, it's extremely late. And, this weekend has been such a tiring one. We've been in the hot sun for most of the past two days. I really should be going to bed. But, I NEED to record this very significant day.

Two years ago, I was wrapping up a different kind of exhausting weekend. It was 2011. Scotty had confessed his adultery to me on Friday morning, we met with our pastor late Friday evening, and we spent all of Saturday in emotional dialogue. Then, Sunday morning, we went to church so that Scotty could resign from his ministry there and life changed forever.

But, not exactly like one might have thought it would change. And, certainly not in all the ways I thought it could change.

The reason that I simply can't go to bed until I document my thoughts and feelings this day is because I've actually experienced a celebration of sorts in my spirit while thinking back to that dark Sunday. Two years after THE hardest day of my life, I can look back with JOY. And, I think that's crazy absurd! But....

  • 2 years ago today, Scotty began a road towards freedom that has invaded every, single area of our lives. My home is a very different place, and my family is a much stronger family due to Scotty's journey towards freedom.
  • 2 years ago today, God began to work in me in a way that has drawn me closer to Him.... closer than I ever would have become had my life remained as neat and tidy as I'd always kept it.
  • 2 years ago today, my eyes were opened to grossness of lukewarm living... to the hypocrisy of SAYING that Jesus Christ is Lord of my life but not allowing Him to completely dictate every, single area, every single decision.
  • 2 years ago today, I was taking my first steps towards the pursuit of a life I never even knew could exist this side of heaven. I'd always expressed a desire to know Jesus fully, and He began to show me how.... by chasing HARD after Him which meant many, many other priorities would be proven useless and wastes of time. 
  • 2 years ago today, the "chord" binding me to the world and the world to me was weakened. I won't say that it was cut, because I'm not totally healed from my concern with the world and what it thinks. But, I care less than I did prior to August of 2011.
And, that's where my joy comes from today. Prior to this weekend, 2 years ago, I was MISSING OUT! I was living life safely... in my own box, dictated by my own thoughts and desires.God may have been calling me to deeper living with Him. But, I couldn't hear him.... until I HAD to hear Him. When I couldn't manage on my own anymore, I was forced to look to Him. And, what I saw was a glorious Heavenly Father whose way for me is far better than anything that I could plan for myself.

I pray daily that we NEVER forget this day 2 years ago. Our pain was the direct result of NEGLECTING the Lord's complete control over our lives. So, remembering gives me the courage to follow hard after Him even if it means making decisions that make me appear "weird" to those around me. As long as I don't forget, I'll live daily in pursuit of HIM and ONLY HIM.... which IS the only pursuit that I should have.

Thank you, God, for rescuing us from mediocrity 2 years ago. Thank you for looking at the life we were so comfortable living and insisting that we do better. I pray that we spend the rest of our days in complete and total obedience, because YOUR way leads to life... our way leads to destruction! Please, don't ever let me forget the TRUTH that knowing YOU and following hard after YOU are THE purposes for my life.

Sunday, August 18

Negativity! It's NOT For Me.

Caleb's baseball team began their Fall season this weekend. We took a whole 6 weeks or so off. :) That may not seem like a lot. But, it's just long enough to be READY for baseball again. And, the weather was cooler, so we had a great weekend of ball.

I really didn't play any sort of ball growing up...  1 year of basketball (and I hid behind the person I was guarding) and 2 years of softball (I can vividly remember praying for a walk at EVERY bat). But, with the boys, I've loved that there are so many lessons to be learned on the ball field.

They are both very gifted athletes. But, they both struggle with the need to be perfect. Caleb is the one that really seems to struggle with perfectionist tendencies. I just know that if we keep working through his difficulties, he WILL overcome. However, we've been dealing with these difficulties since he was 18 months old. Scotty and I can see improvement, but he's got a long way to go.

For a ball player, Caleb has way too much emotion. And, he can NOT seem to hide it. His emotions really began to be publicly evident the year he moved from coach pitch to kid pitch baseball. Honestly, I was sure that he'd never be a pitcher, because he didn't have the nerves for it. Well, he IS a pitcher. And, he's a good one. His only problem is his thinking. For a pitcher, this is a BIG problem.

Friday night, Caleb's coach called him in to pitch late in the game. We were losing TERRIBLY already. On top of that, we were playing a team that we KNOW. That seems to add pressure. I could tell Caleb was struggling mentally from the start. He was having trouble throwing a strike. So, there, on the mound and for all to see, he's huffing, he's teary, and his dropping his shoulders after every pitch. Normally, this is the time that I have to pace, walk away, look at my phone... SOMETHING besides watch him fall apart at center stage.

But, during this game, I felt such a peace in knowing that THIS is how Caleb overcomes. If we were playing for the state championship in the summer, he couldn't have stayed in. The coach would have been forced to find a player more mentally ready. But, this game didn't REALLY matter. So... Caleb's coach left him in. He stood exactly horizontally to Caleb. And, after EVERY SINGLE pitch (good and bad) he called out to Caleb, "That pitch is over. Now, focus on the next one."

"That one is over. Now, focus on this one."

Over. And, over. And, over.

Eventually, I saw Caleb take deeper breaths. He found his strikes. And, we got out of the inning. We lost the game by A LOT. But, this was a win for Caleb as far as I'm concerned.

I'm very grateful that our boys have coaches who encourage, build up and teach. I realized that you never really grow out of needing that in life. Even as an adult, I need to surround myself with people who are encouraging.... people who will call out the mistakes but then say... "That one is over. Now focus on the next..."

The world is full of people ready to tear down. In life, we will always face people who are eager to point out our shortcomings with the desire of causing us to lose hope and quit. Let's love those people from a distance. Let's protect our children from them. There's enough negativity in our lives that we have NO control over. So, when the negativity can be removed, I think it's important we do it. And, do it quickly. Negativity is contagious! So, we must watch our exposure to it.

"Don’t let anyone fool you. 'Bad companions make a good person bad.'" 1 Corinthians 15:33

Saturday, August 17

A $5 Bill.... Or NOT!

My husband, Scotty, has always been such a hard "read". He's never been one to really open up and share freely.... especially not publicly. The biggest shock of his recovery process is how open and honest he has been in sharing his emotions, failures and struggles. And, my second shock has been that this openness has continued.

The past few months, he's been keeping somewhat of a journal on his blog. It's been amazing to see his fearlessness in posting deep, deep emotions. I've been very proud of him for writing so honestly; and I've been thankful. I believe his sharing is extremely helpful in his healing.

But, sometimes, he's shared things, and I've thought to myself.... "Oh, I don't know that everyone needs to know THAT." Even though our situation has served to humble us in many ways, I guess I'm still holding on to a little bit of pride and wanting to keep some difficulties to ourselves. Today, Scotty shared one of those stories on his blog. I saw him writing it. I knew where it was going. And, I thought... "Man! Can some things just be a secret?!?!"

Well, they could! But, this story doesn't define us. This small piece of our story speaks volumes about where we've been and what we've overcome. So... instead of sharing a story of my own today, I'm going to send you over to The Invisible A. Read our story about our $5 bill. As difficult as that day was, it will always serve to remind us how far the Lord has brought us. And, since I don't think we'll ever forget it, I hope it always motivates us to remain sensitive to the needs of others.

I hope you're having a fabulous weekend....

Wednesday, August 14

Debunked....

Prior to actually doing this homeschool thing, I had some real ideas (I was sure they were facts) about the process. Granted, we are only 2 weeks in. Some of these could still prove to be true. But, for the most part, I was pretty much WRONG! Man, I've never enjoyed saying that.

So, here are just a few of the myths I've always had and how they've been debunked in this adventure we are facing.

1. Being with my children all day every day is something I CAN NOT do. 
  •  O.K., so I'm really embarrassed to admit that. It sounds SO terrible. I mean, they're MY children. If I can't spend a day with them, why would I expect someone else could. Also, there are countless parents that would absolutely love to have a child they could spend each and every day with. How insensitive of me! And, as it turns out.... my children are a whole lot of fun to be with when we aren't constantly on MY schedule. The time that is scheduled as "school time" is time focused on THEM. And guess what, they are funny, pleasant, enjoyable company. It seems that my 3 C's respond positively to having me focused on them. Go figure!
2. Keeping the children home for school will make us too inwardly focused. Our "world" will get REALLY small. 
  • This one probably should have been first, because it really is the biggest shocker. Socialization has been the issue for homeschooled kids forever. And, for a time, I guess I had my own concerns. In the past 2 weeks, I've noticed that there are aspects of socialization that are brand new to my children even though they have been in traditional schools. They are having to learn independence. There isn't a crowd to follow. They are having to learn time management, because they have assignments to do and no one telling them what to do and when. If they manage their time well, they'll get to move on more quickly. If they do not use time wisely, they're stuck when the others have moved on. This list could go on and on. But, you get the picture. Yes, they were being socialized before. But, I haven't removed all opportunity for socialization by changing their environment. At times, they may be getting more.
  • Here's the amazing thing, though. Our world has not gotten smaller. It's gotten HUGE. I truly was NOT ready for this. Most curriculum guides for school at home are Bible centered. The subject where this fact makes the biggest difference in is History. We've begun in Genesis, because that is the beginning of history whether our country wants to agree or not. The book we are using takes a look at Ancient Egypt along with our Bible lessons. As we look at the maps of Bible times, we also get to see maps of that area TODAY. And, I promise we already have a MUCH bigger view of our world. I'm afraid I'd let our lives be too much about our small community/life. The world is huge! And, understanding that fact allows me to look beyond myself (which should really be done occasionally) and calls me to marvel at our Creator frequently. The amount of space, time, and people He controls is astounding.
3. I don't think I can handle the restrictions that homeschool would require. 
  •   Oh... I'm just laughing at myself. Restriction? I've never had more freedom in August before. We haven't had to brave a crazy Walmart chasing down a RED 3 pronged folder with pockets! Scotty and I haven't had a single night where we needed to be in three different classrooms at once. We made it through Thursday, August 8th, without needing to take out a small loan to pay fees for 3 children. Now... seriously, I'm laughing! I'm honestly NOT making fun. I'm just trying to make a point. And, here it is... Yesterday (Tuesday) at 3:00 p.m., the five of us were sitting in a movie theater watching Smurfs 2. Last year, at this time, I would have been in a very long car rider line or on my way home to break out folders to sign, write more checks and make another list of supplies to go to Walmart and get. Restricted? I've found FREEDOM! (By the way, we also got a WHOLE lot of school done by 1:00. My insecurities about the judgement of others make it impossible for me not to say that.)
If any non homeschooling adults are still reading, let me just say that THIS has not been a post to say, "You must teach your own children." I'm also NOT expressing criticism on any one who has made a different choice than me. But, I am reflecting on the fact that I KNEW last spring God was calling us to make a change in our kids' education. I KNEW He was saying that it would be the best thing for US. And, yet, I still had the above myths ruling my thought life. Regularly, I would pray that God would allow me to overcome them and see me through those challenges. The reality of the situation is that following the Lord's leading and saying, "yes", was going to offer so many blessings that the challenges would be difficult to focus on.

And, that's how this post applies to all of us in all situations. When God calls us to make a change, why are we so quick to focus on the things we THINK we will miss out on? Why?!?!?!

 Am I saying that there aren't challenges to following the Lord's leading? NO! But... we live in the world, the fallen world. There are challenges to every decision. And, we are so fallible that our challenges usually aren't even what we expected they would be. We have no idea, yet we hang on for dear life to what we know and fear everything about the unknown. And, I'm saying they're myths.

If God is calling you to make a change (ANY kind of change) that you are fighting, I'd be willing to bet you have your list of reasons why it will be the hardest thing you've EVER done before. And, I'm urging you to pray through it and confirm that the Lord is in fact leading you to make this change. Then, step out into the deep with Him and watch Him prove every fear false!

DEBUNKED -- "Expose the falseness or hollowness of"

Tuesday, August 13

Live Like A CHAMPION!

Scotty and I had the opportunity this weekend to attend Success School with AdvoCare. (Do NOT stop reading now.) This was our second trip to Dallas for this event. Both times, we've spent the car ride home talking about the fact we felt we were returning from a marriage retreat rather than training sessions.

Why is that? How could this be? 

Anyone whose ever taken the products for a period of time would agree that AdvoCare produces some GREAT products. (As you'll see on ESPN soon... "Even the Pros agree!") I've been annoyed by direct sales forever. So, it took me quite some time to agree to try any products. But, sure enough, with some effort on my part, these products did exactly what they said they'd do and MORE!

OK... But, can I be honest with you? Even if AdvoCare had created a product that could ensure I'd NEVER get a major, life threatening disease I couldn't get overly passionate about that. I really couldn't! Before the foundation of the world, I believe God knew the day I would be born and the day that I will die. And, He knows everything in between. I don't know HOW He knows, but I believe He does. Therefore, while I'm an advocate for exercise, vitamins, and things that promote wellness, I also know that I could manage those things superbly and still have no control over the length of my life.

Here's what I CAN get passionate about.... Helping people do the most with the time they DO have from birth to death. And, what I realized this weekend is that's what AdvoCare is about. That's why their slogan is, "We Build Champions". Champions make the MOST of every circumstance. I know that I will lose so many of you because you feel like I did years ago. I'm praying the message I've preached here for years will allow you to trust that THIS is not a ploy to build a business but IS another honest post about my life and what I'm learning.

Over the past 2 years, Scotty and I have been working hard and living a champion lifestyle in a LOT of ways. But, when we attended Success School in February, Scotty was living a defeated lifestyle in one area.... career/finances. We watched and listened to MANY couples share how AdvoCare had been the vehicle for them to achieve goals TOGETHER as a couple! Some goals were physical goals for a healthier lifestyle. Some were financial goals to create more income and freedom in their lives. Either way, though, the initial changes had to be made internally. Through the testimonies of others, Scotty was ushered into a spiritual marker with the Lord. It was time to break fear and bondage.

Since then, he's had the COURAGE to make changes in career that he never would have made before. He's had the COURAGE to share his weaknesses for all to see on his blog. Since he spent 36 years fighting desperately to HIDE his true self, this is a HUGE accomplishment. Therefore, when AdvoCare claims to "build champions", I believe it. God is using them in a big way to create a CHAMPION within my husband. And, THAT creates positive change for my family.

Last November, I started a 24 Day Challenge with a group of about 10. One of the 10 was my dad who had gradually been putting on weight for years. His weight had grown and caused him to live life in somewhat of a prison. He worked hard those 24 days and hasn't stopped. God is using AdvoCare again to build a champion within my dad.



We have been challenged again this weekend to LIVE as champions! Too many are living a life of defeat, and they need a message of hope. I have that message of hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, that hope is intensified when I surround myself with other champions who see their business as ONLY A TOOL to create more champions and change the WORLD.

See, I'm convinced the body of believers doesn't have a big enough vision. We are anxiously trying to work our way into a comfortable lifestyle... to settle in. Why? Should we ever settle in? I don't think so, because this is not our home. We are here temporarily to participate in the sanctification process and to impact as many lives as we can. When I attend weekends like this one, I realize that the VERY best thing I can EVER do to ensure I live each and every moment of this life to its fullest is to completely SURROUND myself with others trying to do the same.

I couldn't be happier about my choice to do that through the vehicle of AdvoCare. I'm ashamed that I've been fearful to come out and give this part of my life the promotion that it deserves. I've been so afraid that my friends would see it as a sneaky method of growing MY business and MY pocketbook. And, I don't know why I thought that. One of the dearest people I have ever met shared AdvoCare with me and has NEVER "used" me to get something for herself. She has been and encourager, supporter and builder of the champion within me. And, it is the greatest delight of my life to be able to do that for someone else. Thank you, Julie Welch. :)

Please notice that I have an earring in one ear and not the other. When I discovered this embarrassment, I was so upset that I'd lost ANOTHER earring. However, we got back to the hotel and there was an earring on the sink. :(. I'm not old enough to be doing things like that!

So..... are YOU living the life of a champion? Really! Living! I'd ask that you really think about that. Is there an area that is governed by "I can't"? It MUST go. It's not for you. Christ IN you says, "You can". Now, let's all choose daily to live that way and surround ourselves with people and groups that encourage that growth within.


Thursday, August 8

Long Enough...

I've started reading in Deuteronomy during my morning quiet times. And, it's dawned on me that my excitement over this book is probably a little abnormal. I mean, it IS the Law. But, I just love the tone of Deuteronomy. I admire the determination of Moses to SAY everything he could possibly say to the Israelites before his death. And, I even get a little misty eyed when his death occurs BEFORE entrance into the Promised Land. Moses gets to SEE the land, but he doesn't get to enter. Even though, he earned this consequence AND I know it's coming, my heart gets heavy and my eyes "water" every. single. time!

Well, yesterday, I stumbled across a verse that I've obviously read before. But, I've never seen it like I do now.

“You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north."  (2:3)

I'm on my way out the door, but I just HAD to write about my thoughts as I read. I feel like my life (prior to 2 years ago) was a carousel of sorts. It was good! It was eventful! It was controlled! And, there weren't really aspects of my life that could be characterized as bad.... from the outside. But, round and round we went. Moving, but not getting anywhere. 

Internally, there were things I knew I wanted to be different; in my family, in my marriage, in my personal life, and in my spiritual life. In many ways, we were running the rat race. My major concerns were for things like; our financial situation, our boys' ball teams, and my social life. Now, none of these things are terrible things. But.... they were my BIGGEST concerns. 

In other words, I'd left no room for God's guidance in every situation. If He'd asked me to interrupt our schedules in order to slow down and really FIND Him, I know I wouldn't have heard it. 

If He'd wanted me to be still and evaluate each of my relationships and determine if they were healthy, encouraging and uplifting, I couldn't have understood the purpose.

And, if He'd demonstrated that our life and our pace were shoving Him out of our lives in every way that mattered, I would have argued and made my list of WHY that couldn't be so.

In hindsight, I believe that August of 2011 was God's way of saying to me... "You have made your way around this hill long enough..." And, the events that have followed that life changing day have shown me ALL that I missed out on, because my priorities were not God's. 

I wish I could say more and more about this topic. I believe that our packed schedules (sometimes packed with "good" things) are causing us to miss out on GOD. In the midst of our Bible studies, church services, kids' engagements, etc., it seems we are missing the deep experiences that I know God desires for us to have. 

I wish it hadn't taken a crisis for me to realize I'd been 'circling' long enough. I'd have preferred to have had the courage to step out into the deep with the Lord simply because He asked me to. But... my lifestyle didn't leave room for simple nudges. It took an earthquake of sorts. Still... the Lord said "long enough". And, I'm grateful He did. 

I pray every day that I don't ever go back to THAT kind of normal. I want my kids to be involved in SOME things. I want to enjoy friendship. I want to spend time volunteering and serving. But, never again do I want those things to take over and cause me to miss out on His direction. His desire is to lead us carefully along a path towards HIS promised land. We've done it our own way LONG ENOUGH!

Wednesday, July 31

Can It Ever Be TOO LATE?

Last summer, the Bible reading guide I was following took me through Proverbs in a month. I enjoyed it so much (except for 5 through 7 for obvious reasons), and I decided to read a chapter a day for several months. I could do this every day for the rest of my life and still not gain all of the wisdom contained there. It's a great book.

Well, this past month, Scotty has been reading through Proverbs, and I decided to join in. He's reading The Message version, and my translation is NAS. It's been fun to compare specific verses and discuss. By the way, I've heard argument that The Message is a 'watered down' version of the Bible, and Christians should stick to the other versions. I thought this to be a ridiculous argument the first time I saw it. And, after comparing this past month, I'm convinced the argument is absurd. Scotty's Message version packed a punch when placed next to mine. Rather than watering it down, it seemed to amp up the Truth in today's phrases. Man.... some people just look for trouble!

That was extra! I'm getting back to my point.

O.K. PRIDE! It's spoken of and against throughout Proverbs. Over and over, the writer is advising against pride. He's suggesting we take drastic measures to prevent pride in our own lives. On occasion, he even recommends we call out the pride in the lives of others.

I dislike pride! A LOT! I'm angered by it in other people, and I'm disgusted when it pops up within me. But, even I found this verse to be drastic.

"A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy." Proverbs 29:1

That seems a little harsh. Beyond remedy? Really? Then, check THIS out....

For people who hate discipline and only get more stubborn, there’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break, but by then it’ll be too late to help them. (The Message)

These seem like extreme phrases.... 'too late to help', 'they break', 'broken beyond remedy'. I'm an optimist. I don't see things as beyond help. I like to think that it's never too late.

However, I began to think about certain scenarios. 

An employer WILL run out of patience with an employee who refuses to receive correction and discipline. At some point, a mistake will be made, a profit loss will occur, a customer will complain and it will be too late. This employee will be fired. And, what was the cause? Pride!

A business being run corruptly or unprofessionally can survive at times and even thrive. Friends, family, accountants, other professionals can advise a leader to make changes. He may be unwilling, because his ways seem to be working. But, typically, there WILL come a day when poor decisions add up and the business crumbles... beyond remedy. And, what was the cause? Pride!

In families, there is dysfunction. In friendships, there is dysfunction. All relationships contain a certain amount of dysfunction. There's no way around that, because we are sinful people. If we want to hold on to these relationships, we MUST exercise humility rather than pride. When we know that we've hurt someone else, we either choose to admit it as a mistake and attempt to learn better ways to relate OR we choose to "harden our necks" insisting that the OTHER person is wrong or over reacting. In this scenario, there WILL come a day when the relationship is beyond remedy. It may not be over. But, it has tumbled. It has broken! And, it's simply too late. And, why? Pride.

God has blessed me tremendously by creating a spirit of humility in Scotty. Two years ago, he was at a crossroads... continue in pride? or face this with humility? The more I read in Proverbs, the more grateful I become. But, this isn't always our collective choice. We are definitely not beyond "stiffening our necks". 

I want to be constantly looking at my life, my choices, and my relationships. I want to accept correction when someone is trying to help me. I want to make a change before something is broken. Because, there IS a time that will be "too late". There are things/relationships that are "beyond remedy". And, I never, ever want to reach that point. 

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18

 First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. The Message version

Ouch! and Ouch!!