Thursday, August 1, 2013

Brenna, my Friend, You will be Missed.

As I write, my friend Brenna Stull and her family are just arriving at their new home in Phoenix, Arizona. They will soon be starting a church plant and starting a movement of God in that city, a revival that God promised years ago. Please pray for them as they settle into their new home and begin God's mighty work there.

More than a few friends have asked me this summer how I was handling Brenna or the Stulls moving. I know that they asked out of love and understanding, but it made me feel a little self-centered, as if their leaving had anything to do with me. My laughing answer was always the same, "I am in complete denial about it. My brain can't accept that they are moving away." I even managed to miss church their last Sunday at First McKinney.

Several years ago, when our church was searching for an executive pastor, I heard that Chris Stull was the likely candidate. I said, "Oh, I know his mom!" I went to church with her when we lived in Oklahoma. A few seconds later, I said, "Oh, I know his wife!"

I met Brenna in 1987 when I started in the University Chorale at Oklahoma Baptist University. When the director placed us for the best blend possible, I was sandwiched between Brenna and her sister Tamara, and there I stood the rest of their time in Chorale. Needless to say, sitting beside someone for an hour every day allows you to get to be pretty good friends. Such blessed days.

So, yes, I was thrilled to know they were coming to First McKinney. It was a joy to watch as her ministry grew here, and soon her book Coach Mom was published. And a couple of years later, Brenna asked if I would re-design her website and take over sending out her monthly eNewsletter.

I wanted to tell her, "no," but I couldn't. I told her that I didn't really know what I was doing. I had only done one website for another ministry at that time. I told her she was taking a risk, and I might complete fail. But, she took the risk, and I'm so glad she did.

Over the next several years, our friendship grew richer and deeper because we were working in ministry together. We saw readership of her Newsletter double. We launched her revamped website ... twice. She had an idea for a new retreat topic, and that resulted in the start of my MomsAway Retreats ministry. She mentored me, as I started writing the Bible study God asked me to write. We prayed together through loss and illnesses, praised God together for answered prayers, and lifted each other up in prayer through many of life's challenges.

Another friend, Kim Heaton said that Brenna has the ability to make everyone feel so special that they all believe they are her best friend. That is the perfect description. I know how busy her life is, and yet she never hesitated to lend an ear. She never rushed a conversation. She never failed to stop and give a hug or say a prayer or extend encouragement.

I have pretended that it won't be that different now that they've moved. With the technology available these days, we can still easily work together, talk on the phone or even face-to-face on Skype. But truthfully, life here in McKinney won't be the same. Brenna (and all the Stulls) made such an impact on my life (and many others) during their years here. I never could have imagined how God was going to bless this community, this church, this family the day He called Chris Stull and his family to minister at/to/with First McKinney.

So, Brenna, my friend, you will be missed. I am so honored to have you as a friend. I am praying for you, as your new ministry grows. I am confident that God will do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine or ask for. I love you, sister.


Philippians 1:3-6

The Message (MSG)

A Love That Will Grow

3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Making Me New

I just returned from Xtreme Camp with the youth of our church and once again I am overwhelmed by God's goodness and the way He works in individual lives.

I LOVE to worship with the youth - there is so much freedom and sincerity and it really comes from the heart.  One of the songs that really touched my heart this week was called "Beautiful Things."  It is very simple but has a profound message, no matter where you are in your walk with Christ.  Basically, it says that Christ can take whatever you have, whatever you bring and make beautiful things out of it.

So, bring all that you are and all that you have to Christ.  Bring your brokenness, your pride, your hurts, your hang ups, your praises.  Bring it all ... and let Christ make beautiful things out of it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You Are

Sometimes a song just gets stuck in my head and in my heart.  This is one of those songs.  I hope you'll take the time to listen--who knows, it might just get stuck with you, too.  Happy listening!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stuck on the Crumbs

I wrote this post about 3 weeks ago.  For those who may not read my blog or may not have seen me reference it on this blog, we brought home our daughter from Ethiopia at the end of March.  This was written after she'd been home 5 weeks:

Ella has gotten much better about eating in the past five weeks.  She has gone from practically inhaling every bite to often being one of the last ones done.  She has gone from stealing E and J's snacks after finishing hers to actually getting up and walking around before her own snack is finished--trusting that it will still be there when she comes back.  She still says "eat" as soon as she gets up in the morning, but she truly is learning that we can be trusted to feed her, and she will have enough.

However, as I was watching her today, it struck me how she still longs for the crumbs.  She had an entire cupcake in front of her, yet she was reaching instead for the tiniest speck of a crumb.  She sometimes gets so caught up in the little piece, that she fails to see the meal in front of her.  And I thought, Well isn't that me, too? 

God has given me so much; in fact, He has blessed me with a feast, and yet too often I seek after the crumbs.  I only see the little thing in front of me, and I fail to look at the beautiful big picture of what God is doing, the banquet table He is preparing. 

I don't think He wants me to feast on crumbs; I think He wants me to drink from His goodness, to feast on His Word, not the leftovers that I find lying around.  So today I will seek to enjoy the meal, and I hope to teach Ella to do the same.  Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Changed and Prepared

This (school) year, I have been involved in a Bible study that has focused on the book of Genesis.  I have done this study before and it never ceases to amaze me how God worked (and still works) in the lives of men and women in the Bible to bring about His plans and purposes.

As we are wrapping up the study of Genesis, I am struck with how these men - whose flaws are written for all eternity to see, whose mistakes are studied over and over, who did not always do things God's way - are still an example for how we are to live and die.

Judah - who tried to do the right thing by Joseph - but was then caught in a grievous sin against and with his daughter-in-law - was changed when confronted with his sin.  He had a heart and life that was changed when he encountered God. (Genesis 38)  I so want to be one that is changed - both when I am confronted with sin and when I encounter God.  And Judah has been blessed forever - from his line came the Messiah!  How thankful I am that our past does not define us!

And then there was Jacob.  Known many times as the deceiver of the the family.  He tricked his brother out of his birthright.  He had to run in order to stay alive.  But he also suffered being deceived - by his father in law, by his sons.  Jacob also was changed when he encountered God.  Jacob met God on the banks of the river - he knew he needed God's blessings.  God touched him and he was never the same. (Genesis 32) Again, when I encounter God, I never want to walk the same again.

Then at the end of his life, Jacob shined the brightest.  Not only did he believe in God's promises that his people would one day return to Canaan, in his last breath, he worshiped God (Hebrews 11:21).  What an example for all of us!

I have watched and heard about many godly people - how they have been prepared to die (both physically and spiritually) - but most of all how they have been an example to others of how godly people die.  They worshiped God until they took their last breath.  Oh God, how I want to be that example to the people around me. Granted, this is not an easy task, nor do I want it to come quickly.  But I want to be so changed by my encounters with God, that there is no other option for me.

Will you join me in seeking to be so grounded in Christ and willing to be changed by Him that we have no other choice but to worship Him to the very end?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Teacher Appreciation

A thank you for the many teachers that shaped my life.

The teacher that taught me my address and introduced me to a new friend who lived on my street.
The teacher that welcomed shy and quiet and grew a leader.
The teacher that called me out when I wasn't listening.
The teacher that didn't flinch when I made a 100 on her pre-test.
The teacher that brought history to life.
The teacher that knew me as a baby and taught me as a senior.
The teacher that gave me my first C.
The teacher that apologized.
The teacher that expected greatness.
The teacher that taught me about grace.
The teacher that trusted me with important work.
The teacher that prayed.
The teachers that I call Mom, Dad, MIL, sister, Granny, friend.

Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for investing in my live.

May my life honor the time and care and love you poured into me.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Joseph and Me

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected.  So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why do you look so sad today?"
Genesis 40:6-7 

In the passage above, Joseph has been imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit after being sold into slavery by his own brothers.  He has every right to be a bitter man, but instead he has chosen to rely on the Lord for his strength.  By relying on the Lord, he has left himself open and ready to truly see and notice those around him.  Rather than focusing on himself, perhaps even throwing a continual pity party for himself, he instead is finding his hope in the Lord and passing that hope on to others as he builds relationship with them.

As I studied Genesis 39-40 this past week, I was struck by Joseph and these two verses in particular.  Joseph shows sincerity and thoughtfulness in these verses, and it left me wondering if I would've done the same.  Would I have taken the time to notice the sad faces of those two men, or would I have been too caught up in the other things around me that I'd deemed important to even really see them?  Would I have been paying more attention to my check list than to the people around me?  

Thinking through these questions helped me to see something in my own life that I need to work on, but they also helped me to see how well people have been caring for us recently.  We brought our daughter home from Ethiopia almost 4 weeks ago, and the days have been challenging.  Yet, in the midst of the challenges, we have had so many who have seen our needs (or possible needs) and have offered to help.  They, like Joseph, have been ready to ask us how things were going and not shy away from being there for someone in need (even if they, too, are busy--which of course they are--we all are).

In the past few weeks, we have had over 20 people sign up to bring us meals.  I have received texts, messages, and emails asking how we were doing.  We have had people volunteer to run to the store for us.  Earlier this week as I had a particularly hard day with our daughter, a friend brought me a drink from Starbucks to brighten my day.  I could go on.  People have seen us, and they have responded to the season we are in with mercy and grace.  It has been such a beautiful representation of the Body of Believers serving well, and I feel privileged to see it firsthand.

But I don't want to stop there.  I don't want to simply receive and move forward.  I want to be like Joseph, too.  I want to see someone and being willing to take the time to stop and ask them why they are sad (or angry or upset or whatever).  I want to be Jesus to those I encounter.  And I'm wondering, do you want to try it, too?  Who's with me?  Who wants to stop looking past people and start looking at them....not to judge but to help?  To make a difference, even if it's simply giving a smile to someone who hasn't smiled in days.

Let's do it--let's get serious about this Jesus life.  Let's be Jesus to those around us and see what happens.  Whatever happens, I have a feeling it's gonna be great!  Let's go!

(And if you have a story to share, please feel free to add it in the comments--we'd love to hear from you.  Let's change the world one step at a time.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lessons From The Vine: Glorious Grapes

Okay, okay, so mayyyyyybe I'm a little stuck on the whole grapevine thing. (I wrote about them here and here.)

Probably because it's the only plant during the past ten years that I haven't killed.

Well, okay, so maybe I did kill it once, but it came back to life. A regular ol' Lazarus of a plant.

But more than that, the vine is brought up so often in scriptures (both in divine threats as well as in messages of hope) and every time I look at it I get some kind of new revelation of how it truly does compare to the relationship between us and God.

As I've watched the vine bud this year, it's been with a bit of trepidation, I'll admit. You see, I stopped pruning it last year near the end of the season and a lot of the leaves withered and browned and fell off. I was afraid that perhaps I had finally done the deed and sent it off to the great vineyard in the sky.

So, this year when those glorious, itty-bitty buds began appearing I was so relieved. And then I was ecstatic as I watched them burst out in beautiful grape leaves! I carefully arranged the branches that had fallen from where I had trained them last year, and then I noticed something about the buds and the branches that had me a bit crestfallen. The tips of the branches weren't budding. They weren't growing. They weren't showing any signs of new life. I was afraid that my vines weren't going to grow any longer.

When my husband pointed out the same thing, I responded with a little dejected, "I know." He responded, "But these are new branches. New areas of growth for the grape clusters to grow. They are coming from the branches that we grew last year."

And immediately again I had my God-Grapevine-January moment.

Sometimes, I want for my spiritual growth to happen in the exact same way. on the exact same path. following the exact same formula.

I want Jesus to train me as He has always trained me before. I want to know what to expect. I want to be able to plan for what is coming.

But, so often, God takes a 90 degree turn and shoots me off in a direction that I had not expected. Just like those grapevines. He is making new growth in my life from the branches that He grew in me last season! The journeys of faith (and faithlessness, I'll admit) that He and I have gone through over the past few years... those are sorta, stopping. There are new journeys that we are embarking upon together. A new direction.

New journeys that will result in new fruit, new "grapes", in me. And that fruit is what brings God glory!
When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. John 15:8
Them is gonna be some downright glorious grapes!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lessons From The Vine: Experiments With Grapes

My son, like a lot of boys out there, loves to do "experiments". The most recent one was a request to mix up his lemon-lime gatorade with some milk and see what would happen. When I replied that we couldn't do that experiment because it would be wasting food, he looked at me and replied incredulously, "But MOMMMMM, it won't be wasted. I'm going to drink it."

Pretty sure I threw up a little in my mouth at just the thought.


The "experiment" that he wanted to do just before that one was a little more tame. Almost a year ago, I wrote about our grapevines in this post, and well, they have been blossoming the past couple of weeks. It is so exciting to all of us! The blossoming represents SPRING! which represents WARM weather! (well... eventually) which represents playing in WATER! which, to my boys, represents hours of endless FUN! and, to me, represents hours of my boys being easily OCCUPIED by something other. than. me.

Can I get an Amen?

When my experimenting son, Pasco, asked me to explain how a grape turns into a raisin, I put on my Mommy-Knows-All hat and explained away. So intrigued he was by the explanation that he requested that we get two grapes and leave them out to dry in the sun. Hmmmmm. Two grapes. Yes, we could spare two grapes in the name of science.

So, we placed the two grapes on a Lighting McQueen plate and left them in the 80 degree sun.

After I put the boys in their rooms for naps/room-time, I went back outside to have some sanity-time... oh, I mean... alone time in the backyard. I sat there looking at those grapes and then looking at the vine. at the grapes. then at the vine.

And it sorta struck me. In a month or so, grapes would be hanging from that vine under a hot, Texas sun. Luscious. Juicy. Full of Life.


If you separate those exact same grapes from that vine and put them out under that same hot, Texas sun. They will be Shriveled. Dry. Dead.

Boy howdy.

Aren't we just like that???

Connected to The Vine, we are vibrant and joyful. We are bursting with praise and worship and kindness and goodness. We are full of His Life!

Separated from The Vine, we can become depressed, cynical, or embittered. We sometimes draw inward, saving each ounce of happiness just for ourselves. We tend to lose all hope and future.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing... When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. John 15:4-5,8
Now, please don't allow this to make you think "You need to do better. You need to read the Bible more. You need to go to church more often. You need to pray more. You need to... You need to... You need to..."

That's not at all what I'm trying to convey.

And remember, Jesus (who said all that stuff in those verses up there) also said, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30

Yes. Reading the bible is going to keep you connected to Him. Yes. Going to church is going to keep you connected to Him. Yes. Praying is going to keep you connected to Him.

But think about those grapes that will hang from that vine. They don't "do" anything! They just... remain. They stay attached. That's all. GOD is the one that fills them with nutrients. with water. with flavor. So, if I'm encouraging you (and oh, believe me, I'm speaking to myself here as well) to "do" anything, it's to stay attached to Him. to remain in Him. to cling to Him.

And He'll be making big, ol, juicy grapes before you know it.


Monday, April 1, 2013

More Wisdom from Proverbs 31

Our ladies' bible study in Proverbs 31 continues and I am continuing to learn more and more about the woman that God desires for us to be.  First of all, remember - this woman described in Proverbs 31 is an ideal, not a living, breathing woman.  There may have been women during Biblical times that embodied most, or even all, of these qualities or was capable of accomplishing all of these things.  But, that's not the point of this chapter. The purpose of this chapter is for the mother to impart to her son all of the qualities that he should look for in a wife.  That being said, I truly believe that there is relevance  to us modern day moms and wives. 

Proverbs 31: 15-19 tells us that:

She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking. (MSG)

The first thing I notice is that she's an early riser and that she gets prepared for the day before anyone gets up.  Man, this is a hard one for me!  But, I am here to tell you that when you get up, put some clothes on, spend some time with God and get a jumpstart on the day, the rest of the day goes a LOT smoother.  I have, within the last year, starting getting up to go walking in the mornings. Given our early and busy mornings, this means setting my alarm for 5:15 which is much earlier than I would like.  The bonus is that I spend my walking time in prayer.  Even though I am not a fan of the early morning hour, I am a fan of starting the day off with my focus on God while I get my blood pumping.  So, there's some modern day relevance - start your day off taking care of yourself as well as your family AND get your mind focused on God first thing in the morning.

This lady is also not afraid of hard work.  In fact, it seems like she never sits down.  Where is the modern day relevance here?  To me, it seems like we should not be afraid to work hard for what we want or to challenge ourselves to set goals that cause us to stretch outside our comfort zones.  I have never been one to make New Year's Resolutions or make an actual list of short and long term goals.  I am learning, though, that this is a necessary part of growing as a woman, a wife, a mom and a Child of God.  A part of setting goals is being prepared for whatever your life brings you.  The Proverbs 31 woman buys a field and plants it so her family and servants will have food.   She knows how to spin thread and yarn so her family will have clothing to wear as well as furnishings for her home.  I know that most of us don't buy fields and plant gardens or vineyards but that doesn't mean we shouldn't shop responsibly for our family's food.  My friends all tease me about my well-stocked pantry and freezer but it is rare that I am not able to come up with a last minute meal - instead of resorting to a fast food dinner when we have a busy night. 

So, where's the relevance here?  Be prepared for both the short and long term.  Plan ahead so that your and your family's needs are met.  Be responsible and don't be caught off guard with life's curveballs. 

I don't know about you but all of these concepts continue to challenge me.  But, I also know that God is always there to help me become more like this Proverbs 31 woman. 

God bless all of you ladies in this journey!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hands and Feet of Christ

My family and I have been the recipients of Christians showing up to be the hands and feet of Christ in the last few weeks.  With some upsetting and unexpected news in our family, we have been overwhelmed with people that sit with us, pray with us, and show up just when we needed them.

It has made me look differently at how to help others.  There are times with illness hits, accidents happen, life comes along and we are not sure what to do or where to go.  Can I offer some advice?  Take food - sometimes it is needed at the hospital, not when they get home.  Get to know the kids that are involved - take them away for lunch, bring them special snacks or toys as a distraction.  Is there a lot of driving involved - take them some gas or parking money.  Gift cards might be the best thing - then they can get what they need, when they need it.

The other thing that has overwhelmed us in the last few weeks are the number of people that have shown up from the past to reconnect.  This speaks volumes to the way they have affected by the lives of my parents.  My folks have always had time for other people and have always gone out of their way to help others.  This doesn't come because they were looking for something, but because they genuinely care for and love others. I know this is an outpouring of the love they have for Christ and a way they can serve Him.

So what can you do this week to be the hands and feet of Christ to someone in your life?

And how are you affecting the lives of those who come in contact with you - for a moment or a season?

How is the love of Christ overflowing onto those around you?

Friday, March 15, 2013

He Knows My Name

This week has been a doozy. Isn't Spring Break supposed to be relaxing? In addition to the usual kid fun chaos and celebrating two boys' birthdays, God brought us two lost dogs to give shelter and care.

Tuesday evening these two beautiful, friendly dogs came bounding down the street, straight up on our driveway where the kids were playing basketball. With no owners in sight, I invited the dogs into my backyard, and they came. I gave them some water because they were obviously thirsty, and went back out front, expecting their owners to be coming down the street shortly to find them. As it was getting closer to dark, I took 3 flyers with a picture of the dog out to hang on the street posts. I stopped and asked several people if they recognized the dogs. I gave the dogs some food. I called the animal shelter. At bedtime, I moved them inside to our laundry room, with pillows and blankets for bedding. Surely someone would call the next day.

Wednesday, I called our vet, I posted more flyers. I posted on Facebook. I hoped the phone would ring. It was the boys' birthday, so I couldn't devote too much time to them.

Thursday, I was going to do everything I knew to do. I took the little female into our vet to see if she was micro-chipped. No. I posted more. I called several local vets. I contacted some local dog groups. I bought them collars, so that we could take them on walks. And for the first time, I wondered what their names were.

These beautiful dogs are nameless. They have gone three days without hearing their name called. They have gone three days without their family. They are lost.

Because it was the boys' birthday, the situation reminded me of the day we officially adopted P2 in court. Even though we had him from the time he was 4 days old and we called him by his name, as far as the law goes, that day in court the judge said, "On this day, I declare Baby Boy X to now and forever be named [P2] Taylor."

There was a day, long, long ago, when I felt God's pull on my heart and asked him to forgive my sins, when I accepted God's redeeming grace and acknowledged Jesus Christ's sacrifice of dying on the cross and then rising again on the third day, when I asked God to adopt me into his family. I had gone many days without hearing my name called. I had gone many days without my Father. I was lost. But that day, I was found. And God said, "Welcome to my family, my beautiful Child. You will be known as Christian now and forever."

I am not forgotten. God knows my name. Does he know yours?

If you have been adopted into God's family, you are his child. You are royalty, an heir to God's kingdom. Child of the King. Beautiful Princess. On the hardest days, remember who you are. Be still and listen. You will hear him calling your name. God loves you so much. You are not forgotten. God knows your name.

We have taken to calling the dogs Bo and Angel. You really can't love someone (even a foster dog) without calling them something. I pray God points their owner to one of our fliers or to one of the vets/shelters that has our information. I pray these dogs find their home soon. In the meantime, we are blessed to give them a comfortable home. We are blessed to take care of the least of these.

1 John 3:1 NIV
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

PS - If you recognize these dogs, please let me know. I know they are anxious to go home.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Proverbs 31
This spring, our ladies' bible study has been studying the Proverbs 31 woman.  I have always been intrigued by this chapter of Proverbs but, honestly, it exhausts me to even think about trying to be this woman.  If she truly does everything listed in this chapter, there is no way she has time to sleep!  And what about relaxing and enjoying life? 

What I'm learning though is that all of the qualities this mythical lady possesses are an ideal - what every mom wants her son to look for in a wife.  In fact, this chapter was probably written by Bathsheba to Solomon as he was looking for a queen.  However, if you remember, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines so he obviously couldn't find everything his momma wanted for him in one women - it took a thousand! 

 What I am also learning though isn't that we should work 24 hours a day to keep our husbands and families happy - it is that we should go about our daily work and lives with joy in our hearts.  It is all about our heart attitude, not how much we get done.  If we are happy, or at least trying to be, it makes even the most mundane tasks like laundry so much easier to get done.  Conversely, if we begrudge doing the laundry or dishes, it will make the task much more unpleasant and will probably even take longer to finish! 

 And, if we have exude joy as we go about our days, think about the affect it will have on our kids, our husbands, our friends - even the people we pass in the grocery store.  I know all too often I am met by one frown after another as I push my cart down the aisles at Tom Thumb.  However, if someone smiles at me or says "Hello", it brightens my whole day.  Also, if we get up in the mornings and greet the day with a smile, think about how much easier it will be to get the kids out the door to school.  Hmmm - they might even have a better day themselves, just because we didn't frown and scowl at the coffee pot, wishing it would hurry up!  (A hint here - if you need some help improving your morning mood, try getting up 15 minutes early and spending the time in prayer and bible study.  It's hard to be crabby when you start your day off with God.)

 There is so much more to this chapter in the Bible but I will save that for a later blog.  Until then, remember it's all about YOUR heart attitude, not how much you accomplish each day.

God bless you all!


Thursday, February 21, 2013


Two months ago today, my husband and I stood before a judge in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and promised that we would care for our daughter forever. We promised to make her ours.

Today, two months later, we still wait to bring her home. In Ethiopia, you are required to make two trips in an adoption. The first visit is for court. The second is for the U.S. Embassy appointment and to bring the child home. We are still waiting on that second trip. We have had various delays--her medicals not being completed in time one week; an x-ray that was needed the next week; and then last week, a letter that the Embassy has requested. As each week passes, our emotions build as we desperately long for our daughter to come home and join our family. We wait and wonder what God could possibly be doing when we know that He has already promised her to us. Why would He delay? And the answer, simply put, is I. have. no. idea.  I don't know why we're waiting. But, I know that there is a reason, and I know that whether I ever know that reason or not, it is part of God's plan.

In the Bible study I am in, we are studying Genesis this year. Today we were talking about the life of Isaac, and I heard it said that when Isaac prayed on behalf of his wife, Rebekah (who was barren), he was praying in accordance with the promise that God had already made. He was praying for God's will.  Though it was 20 years between Isaac and Rebekah's wedding day and the birth of Jacob and Esau, it was the plan God had promised. And it was fulfilled.

I would imagine that Isaac and Rebekah did not intend to wait twenty years before their babies were born. I would guess that Isaac's prayer did not include the words, "Please let us wait for a really long time before Rebekah is able to have children." But that was God's plan. And even though it wasn't what they expected,--and probably not the timing they even hoped for--they trusted the Lord and remained faithful to Him as they waited.

The Lord has made a promise to my family as well. He has promised us this child. And I know that when the Lord makes a promise, He always keeps it. "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." (I Thessalonians 5:24). It hasn't been fulfilled in the timing I would've liked, but it will be brought to fruition. Our daughter will come home--and it will be worth the wait.

What has the Lord promised you that you are waiting on right now? Do you believe He will do as He says? Like Isaac, are you willing to pray in accordance with God's will, even if it means that the answer to the prayer may not come for twenty years? What do you need to lay at His feet even now, trusting that He will answer at just the right time?

I know it isn't easy.  The past two and a half years--and especially these last few months--have been the hardest wait I've ever experienced, but my God is the same God through it all.  He loves me. He loves you. Will you trust Him in the wait?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


My family just returned from one of our favorite weekends of the year!  Every February, we spend a weekend at a cabin in Broken Bow, OK with some dear friends.  What a great time we have not doing anything at all!  We all look forward to the time we have together - that is what it is about.  

We do not live close to these friends anymore, so this is a time that we have come to treasure, to catch up, and to encourage one another.  We are able to share our lives and our faith and be real with these friends without the pressure of everyday life or the need to go somewhere or entertain anyone.  Our kids have grown up together and are old enough now to monitor themselves.  I love that because of our shared faith (which is what brought us together to begin with), we can continue in our shared lives.

I have thought quite a bit about this recently.  It is so important to have friends that you can share life with.  These friendships don't come quickly or easily sometimes.  It requires sacrifice.  It requires vulnerability.  It requires giving.  It requires acceptance.  It requires time.  It requires effort.  If you are willing to do these things - and sometimes they are hard - you will develop friendships that will last the years and the miles.

If you don't feel like you have friendships like these, or if you are in the hard times of developing friendships, let me encourage you to keep at it.  Do the hard thing.  Invite people over.  Give to people.  Do this as a family!  Family friends are the best and will bond you for life!  They will be the ones that are there for you when life gets hard.  They will uphold you in prayer when you need it the most.  And before you can have a friend, you will need to be a friend.  There is no greater treasure in life!

Proverbs 17:17  A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity

John 15:13 Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one's life for one's friends

Monday, February 11, 2013


See? I still have it!
 I think that it's time for me to admit.

I am a recovering gold star junkie.

All through elementary school, I just had to have them.
And I had to be the one that got the gold star FIRST.
And I had to meet the requirements for maximum amount of gold stars... FIRST.

I memorized the Lord's Prayer in a week, so I could get all of the gold stars possible the first time instead of doing it verse by verse. Took everyone else four weeks.

I didn't eat any desserts for a month so that I could win the Healthy Heart challenge at school. Each time we turned in our points and they were below a number then we got a gold star. I won it.

I earned a hymn book with my name on it before anyone else by memorizing two or three hymns a week, singing them for our choir director, and relating all of the pertinent copyright information.

The Lord's prayer has come in handy a few times when everyone feels the need to say it together, or whenever someone brings up "how to pray" in church. I think that the dessert-less month might have scared me more than helped because I have spent the last year trying to "detox" myself from sugar.

But the hymns. Well, that's a different story.

The hymns are with me... all the time.

Mainly when I unload the dishwasher. Probably because that is when I remember my mom singing them. And when I say hymns, yes, I also mean songs by Jesus Culture or Chris Tomlin or Michael W. Smith. After all, the definition of a hymn is a song of praise or thanksgiving to God, and I'm purty sure that those songs qualify. Ha!

But, I'm specifically talking about the old school stuff...
Jesus Paid It All.
Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness.
It Is Well.
There Is Power In The Blood.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.
When I Survey The Wonderous Cross.
Written on my heart as a child, those hymns ministered to me. Sure, gold stars might have motivated it. That, and my constant desire to want to make Mrs. Ware smile- our childhood children's choir leader... I can still picture her brilliant smile.

As I learned more hymns as a kid, the more I wanted to learn. And the more my mind would revert to those scripturally-based hymns, the more I realized that I needed to learn more. Because I could remember them and their truth when no scripture would come to mind.

Even this past week as I attempted to fight off the cake balls that I made for my husband's birthday, I said "Oh God, I need your power right now" and what popped into my mind instantly, "There is power, power, wonder working power... in the blood... of the lamb. There is power, power, wonder working power, in the precious blood of the lamb!"

And as long as I was singing that song, I was able to resist those cake balls.

Music I learned as a child... purposefully taught to me by adults that knew the benefit... still ministers to me as an adult. Cause, sometimes music ministers when sometimes something else can't. I went to this Fusion thing at our church sometime last year and an executive for PraiseCharts named Debby Berry spoke (side note: she was if you ever get a chance to hear her speak). And one of the things she said just stuck with me (and I can't find my notes so I might be a smidge off of exactly how she said it):
"Music transcends the mind and goes straight to the soul."
And when I think back on the "soundtrack of my life", sure there are plenty of songs by people and bands like Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston, The New Kids On The Block, Michael Jackson, The Black Eye Peas, Beyonce, etc. But the songs that have played through my mind during those times of trial and success have been the hymns... the "God songs"... taught to me as a child.


Learn a hymn.
Teach a hymn.
Write a hymn.
Listen to a hymn.
Internalize a hymn.

BE a hymn... a song of praise or thanksgiving to God.
Rise up, O Lord, in all your power. With music and singing we celebrate your mighty acts. Psalms 21:13

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; celebrate his lovely name with music. Psalms 135:3

Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. Ephesians 5:18-19

I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises, O my God. I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel. I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me. Psalm 71:22-23

Monday, January 28, 2013

All Things Work Together for Good

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

This is the verse God has given me and my family in the last year. We are clinging to it like a lifeline. Challenge after challenge. Trial after trial. Lesson after lesson.

During the holiday season, a series of illnesses and "life" moments kept me away from church on Sunday mornings, until December 23. I was determined to go that day and help lead KidzWorship, knowing it would be a fun, Christmas carol filled morning. And that morning, along with several Christmas songs, we sang, "All things work together for good to those who love God ..." I knew God was smiling down on me. Just a little reminder. Just a gentle hug. Don't lose faith now. I'm still here, working all things for your good and the good of your family.

I didn't know then how much I needed to hear that. I needed to hear it, grasp it, claim it, marinate in it. More than once, in the weeks since Christmas, my human heart has questioned the verse. How? How can this, this thing, be worked for my good or my family's good or my child's good? Show me. I need to see the map. I need to see the future.

After a particularly difficult night last week, the following morning on Facebook, at least 5 different people has posted some version of this verse. Okay, God. I'm still listening. Teach me again.

It's hard; isn't it? Have you been there? Are you there now? Friend, I give you this verse, as many have given it to me in days past. Hold onto this lifeline.

And we know ... not "we hope," not "we think," not "we pray" ... we KNOW.

that in all things ... yes, all things ... ALL.

God works for the good ... God works. It's nothing you or I can do. God is working. And he is working for the good. GOOD.

of those who love him ... do you love God? Honestly, wholeheartedly LOVE him? How do you show him your love?

who have been called ... beloved, God is calling you. He is calling you to his side. He is calling you to his work. Are you heeding his call?

according to his purpose ... So, here it is. Do you know and understand God's purpose for your life? Are you living according to his purpose? Have faith and be encouraged. God has a purpose for your life, and he has designed you perfectly for that purpose. He also has a purpose for this time of trial or pain or challenge that you are going through.

He will work all things, yes all, to your good.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

His Voice

Last night my phone rang with a number that I didn't recognize.  It listed my town and the number, so I assumed it was someone I knew and answered it.  The person immediately started in with, "Hey!  You have a minute?"  And I immediately went into figure out who I'm talking to because obviously I'm supposed to know mode.

Within a sentence or two, I realized it was a dear friend of mine who was evidently calling from a different phone number than I have in my phone for her.  At one point in the conversation I finally said, "Is this your home phone?" and I told her that I hadn't known who it was right away.  She answered with, "Oh, sorry.  It's me!"  For some reason it was funny to me because it was someone whose voice I clearly should recognize--as indicated even in her answer of "It's me!"

As I thought back on it this morning, I thought about when God calls.  He doesn't call me up on the phone (at least He never has!), but He certainly calls me.  He calls me to obedience, and He speaks clearly if only I'd listen. But, do I know His voice well enough to hear Him?  Do I have to think through all the possibilities of who it might be before I realize it's Him, or am I walking closely enough to Him that I can recognize His voice within the first sentence or two?

In John 10:4, it says ...his sheep follow Him because they know His voice.  I want to live in such a way that such a thing could be said of me.  I want to know His voice.

Lord, I pray that I would take the time to hear Your voice, that I would attune my heart, my mind, my everything to You and that I would hear You when You speak.  I want to know Your voice, and I want to follow You with all I say and do.

*originally posted on A Mother's Ramblings on 1/11/12

Monday, January 21, 2013

Truth or Lies?

I have been interested in hearing some of the story of Lance Armstrong this week, however I did not watch his interview.  I have never been "follower" of cycling, but I do remember the big deal made from Armstrong's Tour de France wins.
What has struck me from the things I have read is how deep Armstrong was into his lies - so much so that he justified what he was doing as okay.

"At the time it did not feel wrong?" Winfrey asked.
"No," Armstrong replied. "Scary."
"Did you feel bad about it?" she pressed him.
"No," he said. "Even scarier."
"Did you feel in any way that you were cheating?"
"No," Armstrong paused. "Scariest."
"I went and looked up the definition of cheat," he added a moment later. "And the definition is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field."

Read more:

He did not even think what he was doing was wrong. 

And because of this, he influenced others to do that same or threw them under the bus if they opposed them.

This struck me again as I worked on my Bible study this week.  In Genesis, Lot (Abraham's nephew) is mentioned several times, but not necessarily in a good light.  Lot started out with Abraham, following God and seeking after His will.  At one time, Lot and Abraham separated and Lot chose to move and live close to and in Sodom.  Over time, Lot and his family became a part of the society and culture of Sodom.  The problem was, the people of Sodom were "exceedingly wicked."  Instead of having a positive influence on the people he lived with, Lot was influenced by them.  He had been told the lies so many times (by himself and others), he believed them to be true.  God used several situations to try and warn Lot but finally had to pull him out of the city to escape being destroyed.

This has gotten me to thinking about my own life.  Is there a sin is so entrenched in my life that I don't even see it as sin anymore?  Am I leading others down the road of sinfulness as well?  I pray that God would grab a hold of me and redirect me before I get to that point.  I want to walk with Him so closely that there is no question about what is right and what is wrong, what is from God and what is not.  

Will you join me in this pursuit of God?  You can't do it on your own.  Get involved in a Bible study that focuses on God's Word.  Make sure you recognize God's voice when He speaks to you.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Have you ever had one of "those" days???  Where you are counting down to the end of it???  Well...I have.  And I'm pretty sure you probably have too.  I recently decided that when I was having one of "those" evenings...the one where you want to pull your hair out before dinner time and count down by the minutes until bed time...that surely I wasn't the only one.  Surely there is another Mommy out there wanting to pull her hair out too!  So...I started texting a Mommy friend.  It looked something like this...

Me:  Hey!  How's it going at your house???
Friend: is going.
Me:  Does that mean your afternoon is as good as mine???
Friend:  Do you want to pull your hair out?
Me:  Why a matter of fact...I do!
Friend:  I love my life.  I love my children.  Why do I want to pull my hair out?
Me:  Because you're human.  :)  Wanna do dinner together?
Friend:  YES!!!
Me:  Come on over!  
Friend:  See you in a few.

And it hit me!  I am human too - just like my friend.  If I tell HER it is pretty much "normal" to feel stressed...then it is "normal" for me too!  It is OK to get stressed and have a hard time from 3-6pm...this is a tough time of day!  And THIS, my friends, is why God blesses us with friends!  He doesn't make us go at this alone!  He not only gives us a husband, but he gives us friends too!  The afternoon and evening completely changed when we did it together!  Our kids got to play and we got to chat.  We got to blow off a little steam, and we were both a little more clear minded and able to appreciate life a little more when we parted ways.
What a blessing my friends have been in my life!!!  Not only do we rescue each other from rough afternoons...but we get to do life together!  
We celebrate together!
Cry together.
Laugh together.
We can be ourselves.
We can be quiet together. (this is my new favorite.  lol)
We can be loud.
God has put exactly the right friends in our lives.  Some come and go - they served a very important purpose while they were here.  Some will be close for the rest of our lives.  It truly is amazing how God plans out the timing and people he blesses us with.

-Courtney Willis

Courtney is wife to Firefighter/Paramedic Josh.  Mommy to beautiful, strong-willed,, full of life, biological Gracie and handsome, rough n tough, sweet, adopted from Uganda Owen.  She has a passion for family, orphan care, photography, Africa, and writing.  She reminds herself daily to live one day at a time and is determined to get used to her new status as “stay at home Mom”.  She thinks life is best lived with a good sense of humor and daily time with God in prayer.  To check out what she is up to lately, visit or

Monday, January 14, 2013


Last Sunday, I was mom of the year.

Just sayin... I was.

Got up at 5am, showered.
Did my hair.
Dried my hair while I read my bible.
Tried on 53 outfits until I looked super hottie.
Put on some mascara (this is a major step up for me).
Helped my sick husband set up the vaporizer.
Dressed, fed, loaded the kids up.
Made the drive to church.
Got everyone to classrooms with their badges on.
Got myself to the youth department and did my attendance duties.
Talked way more than my allotted amount in Sunday School (shocker, I know).
Picked everyone back up.
Loaded everyone in the car (after a ride on the elevator and then the "jeeps"... aka, golf carts).
Fed everyone lunches when we got home.
Diapered, potty-checked, read, and got the boys to nap.
Registered a bunch of ladies for bible studies. (If you have not signed up, you can do it right here)
Medicated my husband again... poor guy has been sick for almost a month!
Went to Sam's for the first time in a lonnnnng time (my cart was loaded up)!
Unloaded and put away all the groceries.
Prepped the ingredients for dinner.
Woke up all my rugrats.
Played playdoh, colors, fort-building, jumped on couch pillows, and built some Lego motorcycle thingy.
Took the boys on a bike "ride" (ie my oldest rode his bike while I dragged my toddler in a wagon).
Cooked everyone dinner.
Did dishes.
Dumped kids in the bath.
Cleaned the bathroom and folded a few clothes while they took their baths.
Dressed, diapered, potty-checked, tooth brushed, sippy-cupped, read, prayed, sang, and bedded kids.
Paid a few bills.
Folded the rest of the clothes (avoiding matching up the socks... I wasn't up for that).
Wrote a blog post.
Prepped myself for bed.
Facebooked a bit.
Kissed my sickie man on the cheek.
Mentally applauded myself for using every. single. moment. of the day.
Conked out.

Supermom, right?

But Sabbathmom... uhhhhhh, no.

Ya know, we like to sorta just "overlook" the commandment of God regarding the sabbath. (And by we, of course, I mean... me.)
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 *emphasis mine
But... but... it's the weekend. I mean, I have to make sure the kids have stuff for lunches for the rest of the week. I have to get the clothes finished. I have to make sure bills are paid. I have to clean the toilets in case my mother-in-law pops in. I have to register women for bible studies or they won't get their confirmations and they'll think it didn't work. I have to cook dinner for my family.

I have to... I have to... I have to...

Nowhere in my list of have-tos did I say "I have to obey and follow the commands of God."

At the end of the day... at the end of the age... what will He care about more? That my mother-in-law wasn't grossed out by my toilet or that I stopped my crazy, spinning life and took a day to honor Him by pursuing peace. rest. tranquility. focus.

One thing I left out of my "things I did last Sunday" list above was right there at the end. After applauding myself for using up every moment and right before conking out for the night, that secret, silent whisper of the Holy Spirit spoke those verses into my heart. Ya know, the verses of the Ten Commandments that I got 10 gold stars for memorizing in 4th grade Sunday School?

So, yesterday when Sunday rolled around and my lengthy to-do list followed it, I chose to get a step closer to following and obeying this command.

I didn't unload the dishwasher.
We ate leftovers.
All of the clean-ready-to-be-folded laundry sat still in the baskets.
I didn't mop the floor.
or clean the toilet.
or wipe the bathroom counters.
I saved my trip to the grocery for today.

During naps, I sat on the couch under a blanket with the space-heater going while gazing out the window into the cold afternoon.

And I felt so much more tranquil. at peace. at rest. focused on Him.

Now, I'm not saying abandon your family... you might remember a post I wrote a while back called Demon Lady which was about making Sundays a nice, good, organized day for your family. What I'm actually saying is that we need to step that up another notch. We need to use those days leading up to Sundays to prepare. Like, maybe pick one or two areas that we can start cutting out for this month's Sundays... go to the store on Tuesdays?

And then maybe in February, keep going to the store on Tuesdays and also make sure all homework is completed by Saturday evening?

Then for March, store on Tuesday, homework done Saturdays, and get all clothes set for the following week on Friday.

And so on... maybe make it a journey to a sabbath life? Take a year if need be, or a month, or a few months, or go cold turkey and stop working on the sabbath this coming Sunday. But, I think it's important that we take time to stop. and rest. and keep a day holy. and remember that God brought us out of a land where work and acheivement and success defined our worth. He brought you out of a life of slavery to those things. Let's honor Him and give Him thanks by taking a to rest.