Friday, December 27, 2013

We, The Returning Ones

Sometimes the words stir inside of us for a long time before there are verbal words that fit appropriately. Sometimes a desire rumbles around for a good bit before we even realize it is there. And then sometimes, the words that fit the feelings fly to the surface in an instant. That's exactly what happened to me this afternoon - while I was drinking this:

Coincidence? I think not. Lattes certainly prompt the Lord to speak clearly. Someone needs to do a study on this. Please let me be one of your subjects for testing. Please.

The words came in a flash. We, the returning ones. That's me. That's you. That's us. Here we go.

Know that the inexpressible urge you've been having is not just about you. It's wide and it's broad and it's happening for many.

The time has come for us to return, to return to our first love. To finally step all the way in - no turning back. You're not alone.

Perhaps you are like me and there has been a long building to get to this point. Here's a bit of my story.

I grew up knowing the Lord from the time I was a little girl. I love that about my story, but it doesn't matter if you met Him yesterday, we are the same. High school years were spent discovering Him. College years were spent getting to know Him in an entirely new way. Since then, there have been joys wonderful and lows surprising. And somewhere in the mix of that, some funk settled in. My generation craves truth, honesty, transparency. Rejects religion, routine expressions and spiritual performing. Whether we agree with those cries or not - is immaterial. The reality is that those are desires of the Lord's heart - whether we have been offended by them or have embraced them.

I would say my experience was somewhere in the middle. Part of me loves religion if I can be honest. It's predictable. It leads me to believe that 2+2=4. While my husband loves to fly the winds of adventure with no rules and welcomes a raised eyebrow or two, I - well - those things made my insides cringe. But in time, I was kind of forced into agreement with my generation because predictability simply quit working for me. My daily time in the Word dried into hollowness. My times of prayer ceased to be conversation. Every attempt of routine left an awfully weird taste.

Initially, frustration raged. WHY WASN'T THIS WORKING ANYMORE??? I finally let go and just stopped trying the things that used to work. It was oddly freeing. Then it was gloriously freeing. God still loved me if I didn't read X number of chapters a day or prayed first thing in the morning. More than that, He still interacted with me! Outside of the parameters of 'normal', He met me. He eased my fingers out of a death grip on formula. He met me in creativity and freedom.

Mixed into that season were some hard years, though. Years where we walked through the valleys and character was built far below the surface of what anyone would have seen had they just looked at me. When I would try to go back to the Word, and felt nothingness, my heart started to ache. It happened again and again. The feelings of experiencing the Lord through the Word and conversation simply were not there. I kept waiting for the feelings to return. Now, let me say, I walked with the Lord through these years. I loved Him and felt His love for me. He spoke to me and I spoke to Him. I worshipped Him. He reached out to me. But I ached to feel like I had some clue of how to approach the Word and instead I felt lost. Me! A Believer since the age of 6! I did pray and I did feel His response but I knew there was more where that came from and a desperation started to build in me to find it again.

So - there were the freedom years - the aching years - and then the reconnecting/rebuilding years. Ah yes the reconnecting and the rebuilding. Thank you GOD for that! The Lord is full of mercy. He is not far. He is one who goes to find the single lost sheep. That's His personality. So He, in His goodness, simply started to pursue me. I felt a little lost in how to pursue Him, so He took over. There weren't quick fixes - but there was a conversation begun. He started in conversation - quiet whispers to my heart that could have easily been missed. The craving inside of me only grew. The more He gave, the more I wanted. I haven't been perfect in responding. Mercy no. My hope is that 2014 will be a year that I respond in groundbreaking (for me) ways. After the conversation was reestablished, the hunger for His words started to grow. I'll be honest and say that I am in the process of learning what that looks like. But, the music to my ears thing is that I no longer feel lost! I don't feel confident but neither do I feel lost. He's rebuilding my paradigm for knowing Him through His Word and that takes some time.

Can you relate to any part of my journey? I feel silly even typing this because I KNOW that you can. Somehow it seems like a fairly normal journey when the Lord breeds change. He speaks to the young (who are typically more easily convinced to accept the new), He starts breaking the mold, response is both right and wrong and is exactly right and overreactive all at the same time. The change is walked out...initially in freedom and then in a time of wrestling to search out where the Lord really is versus where we thought He was. And then now.


This year.

You. Me. Us. We are returning. We will be the returning ones. We return to the Lord. To our First Love. We return with a deep conviction that we simply cannot live without Him, without His Word, without the simple disciplines of life in Him. But we return with the knowledge that it WILL look different. There will still be a messing of the routine. Rules will continue to fail us. He may reinvent the wheel with us every single day but that's okay. It may look traditional one week and off our rocker's crazy the next.

But we return.

Hosea 6:1 ESV
"Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up."

So the destruction wasn't mean. It was purposeful. The tearing down of what we knew in order to embrace what we didn't was intentional. Now - let us be healed and be bound up.

You are not alone.

Much love,

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bankrupt at Christmas

That word - bankruptcy. It makes you draw a sharp breath in, doesn't it? Let me not play games - we are not filing or have not filed for bankruptcy. But it's the only word that works for what's in my heart this morning.

Mercy, Christmas can work us over can't it? It's a season full of both precious moments and frazzled moments alike. I love the romanticism of this beautiful season and I love fully embracing these days. But, have you ever experienced sad moments that suddenly pop up in your heart during this season? It's almost hard for me to put words to the feeling that creeps in out of nowhere. But it can be as if, in an instant, the beauty disappears and the sadness is loud.

I'm sure we each have different stories of what we would attribute those moments to. But, I've come to realize that the sadness that pops in usually connects to the business of my brain and schedule trying to keep up and perform during the season and the accompanying ache in my heart to connect with Him instead. Can you relate? It's like this season somehow makes you feel like you just miss Him.

A few months ago, Zion started sharing with me something that the Lord had been stirring in him. He went through a period of waking very early in the morning and walking the neighborhood for an hour or two most mornings before work. I think it was a time of real interaction with God for Him and it was sacred. He started talking to me about how important declaring our bankruptcy to the Lord was. Bankruptcy is a state of declaring - I don't have enough. The needs far outweigh my capacity to meet them. That concept has continued to roll around inside of me ever since we started talking about it.

The truth is that, neediness and thirst are both gifts.

In seasons like Christmas, it is easy to slip into self-sufficiency - especially in America. Even if things are tight, most of us truly have enough. Most of us have figured out how to be able to spend money on those we love and present gifts to them. These days - it's as simple as a click of a mouse. (I buy every single gift POSSIBLE on Amazon - LOVE.)

Therefore, I have to watch this heart of mine awfully closely at Christmas.

Because, the reality is that I desperately need Him. The thought of this life without Him is so dim that I can't go there for very long. Regardless of how self-sufficient I may lean towards feeling, I can turn my heart towards truth in one instant.

I think of the verse in Psalms..."My soul THIRSTS for you Lord, as in a parched land." YES! No matter where you are today, you can call up thirst in your heart for Him right now. Just meditating on the words 'I thirst for you Lord' start to change my heart. I am not enough on my own. I do not have enough. I don't want to be enough.

He is drawn to that heart - in an irresistible way. Recall His words in John 7:37...

"On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink."

Regardless of how long it's been since you've truly come to drink, let it all fall away. Now, today can change all of that. In an instant, He offers it all to you. To me.

He's near. He's here. He's ALL that we could never even come close to being. And He's offering a deep drink to us. Regardless of how busy you've been, how fast you've been moving, how many gifts have been purchased, join me in deciding today to be bankrupt. I am not enough Jesus and I DO thirst for you.

Now THAT drives sadness out the back door.

Merry Christmas my friends! I am so honored that I get to share this time with you. You are some of my very favorite people and you bring a smile to my face.

Much love,

Friday, December 13, 2013

Immanuel (and reflections of a person with oversized calves)

How did Friday sneak up on me so silently and sneakily this week? It's one o'clock and my darlingest dearest man child has hit the sack. I sit here with you and there's a few funnies on my brain and one more potent thought. Let's make this one fast!!! As you've heard a million times before.... lol.

Funny number one: Have you shopped for boots recently? Well, I hadn't for a few years - until recently. I'd just like you to know that you are reading the words of a woman who has oversized calves. This was the big revelation from my shopping experience. I guess I just hadn't purchased calf-hugging boots before! My beloved, but worn down to practically nothing, cowboy boots were middies and I still wear them through the pain occasionally. Just to give my ever-lovin-oversized-calves some breathing room. I just want all of you normal-sized calf people to know how happy I am for you because, believe me, your boot selection is much better! I am now the owner of calf-sucking boots and they look great, but when you see me in them, just know the pain that occurred to get to the point of purchase! LOL.

The winning boots, purchased a size up to accommodate the calves :)

Funny number two: My mom and I are committed. Committed to making Christmas cookies with the boys. We have literally done this since they were born. The first Christmas, they were playing on play mats on the kitchen floor. Still we did the cookies. The second year, we made them and Liam wouldn't touch them because the icing was so messy. This was our year! Today was the day! Nope! Cookies had nothing on hot chocolate and the cookies were not touched. As in, we couldn't even bribe them to eat them. Have you ever heard of such a thing??? Fourth time's a charm perhaps? LOL. Knowing mom and I - we will try again next year :).

And on to the potent thought on this Friday. God with us. Immanuel. God with me. God with you. This whole thing is about intimacy. All of it - it's about a God who wanted no division between Himself and His child. It's about His undying desire to be one with us. Immanuel - He came to be with me. He came to be with me!

In my chaos - He wants to be with me.

In the weird emotional highs and lows of this season - He wants to be with me.

In the scurrying from one event to the next - He wants to be with me.

This is the most beautiful gift: that our God came to be with us and He WANTS to be with us right now. So, I've been focusing on quieting my heart to acknowledge Him. Even if it's sixty seconds while I'm driving, brushing my teeth, or wrapping a gift. Just find moments to quiet your heart and remember that He IS with you. He is.

I hope that beauty and truth are finding you this season of celebration!

Much love and Happy Friday,

PS....Speaking of scurrying to events, my Mom hosted an amazing one for the women of her church. So proud of her!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mary, Mary

I wish we could share the beauty of my moment together right now. There are plenty of times to be real about life's imperfections. But then there are the times when it is utterly important to breathe deeply of the sweetness in the air. My boy is sound asleep in his room after asking me to 'rock him like a baby' before getting in bed. Mind you he's a tall two year old. Mama's heart melts. The snow (and ice - well really, it's mostly ice) has fallen, the Christmas tree is glowing, the fire is crackling, my husband has drifted off to sleep Lucy Pevensie style by the fire and I am soaking in the warm silence, and typing. Moments like these bring a silence that breeds romanticism. :) (One should note - nearly every room in my home is currently a mess. Life is not perfect...I've just settled in a small corner where I can't see the mess!)

A few weeks ago I was reading the second chapter of Luke and something hit me so hard - as if I'd never read the words before. Isn't that the most beautiful thing?!

Here's what I read:

Luke 2:6-7

"And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."

Have you ever had one of those days where it seems that even your lost keys are against you? Seriously all you need to do is get to the store to pick up apples and toilet paper. But getting out of the house unfolds into one of life's great challenges: the shirt you thought would be clean, wasn't. The two year old wants to bang against your legs as you put on eyeliner. Said two year old really doesn't care to get out of his way too soggy overnight diaper and runs yelling "Noooooo!!!!!" You stump that same old toe on a red Hot Wheels that has blended into the red of the rug on the kitchen floor. Somehow, by the grace of God, you are finally dressed and he is finally dressed. The purse is in hand. He is hoisted into the car seat and wrestled in to be buckled. You sink in to the driver's seat and reach for your keys. WHERE ARE THE FREAKING KEYS?????!!!!! And you literally have this thought somewhat consciously - 'I am going to hurt someone.' Next thought: 'Are you kidding me God? Do you see me here? Are lost keys in this moment REALLY necessary?'

There are simply those moments when my sense of entitlement to a certain level of ease and what we may like to call blessing, take me back a bit. Hello ugly.

And then I read that teeny tiny phrase at the end of verse 7: "....and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."

Double take. No room for them in the inn. If there was ever a human entitled to a little special treatment from the Most High - IT WAS MARY. Mary had the kind of faith that awed the heavenlies. She was willing to sacrifice every single bit of her reputation to submit to the Lord's plan. She was even willing to go it totally alone if it had been too much for Joseph. Who knows what her parents thought. She carried the most precious human being in her middle and then got on a donkey. A donkey. Only to get to Bethlehem and be told "We're so sorry. There's no room here tonight."

If I applied my humanity to Mary, her thoughts may have gone something like "Really. Really? Do you see me God? I feel so much pressure that I might explode. Was it too much to ask you to divinely touch my bladder so that the last pit stop wasn't necessary? If we had gotten here twenty minutes ago would that room have been available? DO YOU SEE ME AND YOUR CHILD???"

Somewhere along the line, we've come under the impression that the one God blesses does not encounter challenge.

But it's stories like Mary's that make it so clear how off that is! If anyone deserved some TLC - it was sweet Mary. But God had a bigger picture and a much more beautiful story unfolding that superceded what we may think Mary deserved in our human perspective. Our Savior took his first breath of air on Earth as a human in a stable, with animals and cloaked in humility. In fact, the very truth that He came as a humble King is a huge part of the story of Salvation. Mary's lack of comfort became a cornerstone piece of a story that has been told for thousands of years and sets this God-man apart. He came in humility, he lived in humility and he died in humility. There was something of much more import taking place than whether or not God was good enough to give them a room instead of a stable and a manger.

Mercy, Father. Forgive me for belting out my "God where are you???" cries when the challenge presents itself. Humility is a beautiful gift and this is a beautiful season to turn our eyes to It.


Friday, November 22, 2013

More Than The Cliche: Thanksgiving

Well compadres, it is Friday night in my world. I think that this would be considered just barely sliding into home base in terms of meeting my Friday blogging goal! LOL. I'm sure that posting a blog at ten p.m. is prime time, right??!! Ah well. I'm kind of enjoying the quiet of a Friday evening. This is going to make me sound way more domestic than I am but I made a homemade vegetable stock tonight so that I can use it to start brining a turkey tomorrow. It smells DElightful in this house! In fact, it's starting to smell like Thanksgiving!

Truth be told, Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite holiday. December 25, I may be whistling a different tune, but for today the approach of Thanksgiving is feeling wonderful. I love the opportunity to celebrate with a thankful heart and to recall all that has been a blessing. AND - I do love me some Thanksgiving dinner!!!

Sometimes I have to catch myself though. The truth is that thanksgiving is really quite powerful because the act of thanksgiving can breed change in our hearts. Whether it's our daily facebook post of what we are thankful for, or quickly mentioning how thankful we are for x, y or z to a friend, it is so easy for thanksgiving to become easily talked about. Sometimes I have to ask myself whether or not my heart is truly engaged in thanksgiving....

Because somewhere out there is a connection that goes a little something like this: born out of my humble willingness to say 'God I can't do life on my own and I am not enough on my own'....which leads me to a vulnerable place of true trust that my God will show up in my weaknesses or that I am simply choosing to trust that He will show Himself true despite difficult circumstances.

That may be a little half-baked, but I am pretty sure there must be something between thanksgiving, humility (I'm not enough in and of myself), and trust in Him. Some of the most powerful moments I have experienced of feeling heaviness lift off of my heart have been when I truly feel the temptation to dwell on the dark but make a conscious decision to lift my eyes. To start telling Him what I am thankful for about His character. To start reminding myself that this One has been faithful generation after generation. That He has delivered me countless times before. That He is at work even when it's hard to perceive. That the truth is, no matter how I feel, I am protected. I am shielded and I am comforted.

And that is when thankfulness helps to break us through that seemingly impenetrable wall of doubt, disappointment or just a stupid ol' case of the doldrums. When we start talking to our soul and redirecting the choices of our hearts, heaviness has to lift to some extent.

Paul so simply reminds me in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Hmmmm....give thanks in ALL circumstances. That doesn't mean act like things are perfect when they clearly aren't. Robotic declarations won't do us much good, will they? But why would Paul go on to say that this is the will of God for us? To be thankful in all? I think it probably gets back to that trust thing. Because, I can be thankful in all when I trust that I am not alone. Which is the truth for each one of us. We are never asked to walk alone!

Mercy I get so stirred up when I think about thankfulness like that. I think that when we connect thankfulness to trust, the enemy must get nervous!

I wish I knew what your plans are to celebrate Thanksgiving! I wish we could sit down and share with each other the truly remarkable things that have happened this year to once again show us His trustworthiness. Man alive....that would be a long coffee date.

Speaking of Thanksgiving and things I enjoy, may I leave you with something truly wonderful to my family? It's my Gan's recipe for cornbread dressing. I can't get over it and I don't ever want to. If you're looking for a great East-Texas approach to Southern dressing this year, I think you'll like it!

Click here for the recipe!

Love y'all and Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Can't help but say that I am really proud of my man these days. Really proud... and THANKFUL for him and all that he teaches me.

AND I am thankful for this one bear I know:

AND I am thankful that Starbucks has given me incentive to buy five holiday drinks so I can get my sixth free. I am up for the challenge and I'm taking it seriously!

Gan's Southern Cornbread Dressing

Gan is my grandma and she taught me how to make this recipe. I think it was actually my Grandy's (grandpa) mom's recipe so it's got roots and it's been tested by time! Enjoy!

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg

Blend all ingredients. Beat vigorously 1 min. Pour into 8" or 9" square pan. Bake 20-25 min. at 425 degrees.

Cornbread Dressing:
1.5 recipes of cornbread
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 pieces white bread
1/4 cup raw rice, cooked
2.5 cups turkey broth (preferably from the turkey you make for the meal)
OR 1 can chicken broth
1/2 TBLS salt
1 TBLS pepper
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp sage

Mix all of the above except eggs and broth. Store in tupperware overnight and up to three days (I usually store it at least two). Then add raw eggs and broth. Some fat from the turkey can be added in. Bake at 400 degrees in a 9 x 13 dish for about 30 min. Allow to set.

Now I don't know where you stand on gravy but I CANNOT eat my dressing without gravy. Will not. So, here's the giblet gravy recipe too:

Ratio: 2 TBLS fat:2 TBLS flour: 1 cup giblet broth

Add flour to melted fat. Stir with fork until brown. You can repeat the fat and flour step as many times as you'd like to the base for more gravy. Add broth slowly. Cook slowly, stirring until foam is cooked out. Salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped giblets.

Should you need to know how to cook giblets while we are at it:

Cover giblets with water. Add onion, celery, carrots and two peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer until all is done, 1-2 hours. Keep covered.

Enjoy my friends! I just wish I could make this with Gan again this year because I sure do miss her!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Haircut and Hearing His Voice

Happy Friday to you!!! There is a serious delightfulness to Fridays whether you work out of the home, in the home, both, are a student, are retired...whatever. It's that little internal signal to have a little fun!

This is one of those posts in which my heart is brimming with much to say and much to express but the question is - where to start? Have I ever mentioned that my favorite bloggers are the ones that tell funny stories? And have I ever mentioned that the one thing I genuinely struggle to do whilst blogging is to tell funny stories? LOL! I mean, sometimes I sit here and think 'You've got to be kidding me. I know something funny happened to me this week. Something quirky. Some sort of picture perfect / you-see-it-coming kind of story that perfectly illustrates a point. Nope, still nothing. So, we'll go back to what we know best...serious.' LOL! Maybe I should start asking God to give me funny stories!

No - the truth is that in the midst of finding straggler pantry months (which are actually worms before they become moths: gag a million gags) this week, doing the dishes what felt like one hundred times, dealing with a two year old that has the most precious highs and some interesting lows, and getting my hair cut to make me feel more like the real me, the Lord has been speaking. Yes, yes He has been speaking. Not loudly mind you, but quietly.

Do you remember me mentioning a few posts back, that if there is one thing I think He wants of me - it is my voice? If you don't, no biggie. I won't go into it all now, but that's what I have felt since I was about sixteen. Somehow putting it out there to the blogging world though - that I felt I was called to be a voice - opened up a whole world of crazy. I think that's what actually started to make blogging in and of itself seem so intense. All of the sudden, this pressure to say something that mattered via blogging took over. The truth is, sometimes I type things that resonate and sometimes it falls flat. The falling flat started to feel terrifying rather than just 'eh, it happens.' The pressure!

But, God is really nice. Have you ever thought that of Him? He was nice to me one morning and literally woke me up to His truth. It was one of those mornings where I woke up to a Scripture rolling over and over inside of me. Honestly, that doesn't happen that often, so I pay attention when it does! These were the words reverberating inside of me:

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and he eat with him, and him with me."

Revelation 3:20

(God's hand could look like a white woman's hand, right? And this is exactly what my door looks like, wink wink.)

Wow! I mean, if I am honest, one of my heart's true desires is to become more adept at memorizing Scripture. It's been years upon years since I have really done it. I hadn't thought of this verse at all recently, it was out of the blue, but word for word. Do you think He had my number? I think so :).

It's just never ever about how good we are at anything. It's not about how consistent of a track record I can build up. It's not about how articulate I can be. It's not about how well we can perform! It's about Him wanting to demonstrate His strength - a particular facet of Himself - through us. It's about Him! Duh, right?

The reminder of that particular part of His truth calmed me so much that morning. I had been focusing inward so much and allowing the pressure of performance to creep upwards, slowly but surely. He broke through all of that in an instant. In a moment He reminded me that it is HE who knocks. He who initiates. And that He DOES knock and if I simply listen for that voice and open up...not only will I hear Him, but He will hang out with me.

Since then, the pressure tries to creep back up occasionally, but it doesn't stick. It is Him that is the voice. I'm only a reflection of His voice and I am way way human. There will continue to be occasional (or more frequent lol!) flat moments and I will miss the mark. BUT, He is knocking and in the end, that's all that really matters. He is knocking.

I could easily close there but can I just pretend for a moment that we are sharing a cup of coffee?? I've got some fun ideas for the future rolling around inside of me and I'd love to bounce them off of you!!! Any and all feedback is welcome! Along with hoping for continued inspiration for the moment as I blog, I've got some ideas for some planned series in blogging:

A series of posts on mentoring (how to find a mentor, how to be mentored when you don't have one, and how to be a mentor)...accompanied by some 'meet my mentor' posts...a casual interview with three women who have mentored me.

A series of posts on the real things that have made a big impact in our marriage (liking him, learning to play on his team, and praying for him)

Girlfriending: How to be a friend worth having and how to find them yourself

If you've got any feedback - I'd LOVE to hear it! Thanks so much for joining me on this ride. It's an honor to share life and a few moments with you. And who knows, maybe the Lord will bring out my funny story telling capabilities after all!

Happy weekend!

BIG FAT P.S. If you're anything like me, if a new haircut is mentioned, it is cruel to not show pictures. You know how you have to guard yourself from comparing and contrasting too much on social media? Because after all, people only show you the side they want you to see at their best moments (guilty here)? Well, this isn't my worst folks, but it ain't my best either. This is second day hair, worn off makeup and tired Abi at 9:30 at night. You're welcome. :)

(Let me be honest: the lipstick was freshly applied. I am Cheryl Booth's daughter, after all. We is better with lipstick on.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Other F Word

Do you remember this post? It was just a few weeks ago and I was reporting for duty but sweating. I am happy to report that I'm not sweating this week! Blogging once a week is starting to feel like a fairly good flow and I'm even starting to have those feelings of excitement that I had talked about losing! Yesssssss and amen. Just wanted to put that little update out there. :)

Last night, we wrapped up a book study that I facilitated. You probably remember me mentioning it a while back, but it was a first for me. For the longest time, the idea was growing in my heart. I had fully intended for it to be a summer book study, actually, but that didn't quite happen. I'll never forget finally sitting down and officially sending out all of the emails letting people know about it. There is truly nothing like knowing that you've not only said - yes - you have followed it with action.

I was shocked when ten girls enthusiastically signed right up! And then (you can see this coming), my precious little pride had to take a deep breath when we whittled down to half of that in the end. LOL! But still, my heart is just soaring over the fact that this vision of my heart is now a done deal! And let me tell you - the girls that stuck it out were just the most precious, varied, and open group you could wish for. When I first envisioned this, there's no way that I could have quite pictured the collection that gathered and stayed to the end.

There were moments during the study when I could see the numbers slimming and it was so funny to watch my heart in those times. I would find myself thinking 'I probably don't need to keep emailing the group once a week now.' It was almost as if all the umph would want to fly out of me as our numbers slimmed over the weeks. But wouldn't you know, in each of those moments here would come reminders of truth: "Abi, do NOT despise small beginnings" (Zechariah 4:10) and "Abi, if you are faithful with this little I have given you then there will be more to be faithful with....but faithfulness with the little matters to Me!" (Matthew 25:23)

I just couldn't shake how important it is to be faithful with whatever it is that He has put in your path. Regardless of size, impact, results, or stature - all that truly matters is faithfulness.

Our dear friend, Ray, is a very talented guy. A very smart guy. And he's a particularly good coach to business people who have big-time jobs. But he has this one question he asks that pierces straight through any acumen you may have and digs straight to the heart:

"How would your life look different if all that mattered was faithfulness?"

Join me in letting that one work its way through you!

Let's play that out a bit.

What if He isn't asking you to be responsible for the results? He is just asking you to be faithful.

What if He isn't asking you to know where it's all going? He is just asking you to be faithful.

What if He is wanting to lead you through a quiet season that doesn't look impressive to the outsider? He is just asking you to be faithful.

What if all those diapers you change today, those dishes you wash today and the messes you pick up for the umpteenth time are not meaningless to Him? What if He sees that as faithfulness?

What if you step out and do what He's been leading you to do - but you are afraid? Oh man. He loves that faithfulness!

What if you step out, and things don't go as well as you would have liked, but you don't quit? Faithfulness.

What if your world seems to be falling apart, but somehow you find the desire to not give up on God? Dear one, THAT is faithfulness!

Maybe none of these sound like you. Maybe it is something else entirely but it is both frightening and freeing to realize that faithfulness is all that matters. Come on now - it IS a little frightening because it removes the barriers that currently hold us back from moving forward in action! Ahhh! But truly it is SO freeing. You are off the hook in many areas that you may have thought mattered. It's not that results don't matter. It's just that He rarely says to us "I want you to do X and see it have Y results." It's usually more: "Child, follow me and do X." Whew!

I SO wish I had remembered to get a little picture of our group last night. Let me tell you, we may have dwindled but I am so honored by the girls who made it to the end with us. They are each treasures and it became such a life-giving place to be honest in and to spur each other on to Truth. It was an amazing blessing to me and I will never forget this experience. It took me months upon months...okay let's be honest it took me more than a pull the trigger on faithfulness but I'm so thankful it finally happened. It's almost like a snowball effect now - stepping out in faithfulness is contagious to the other things in my heart that have been building!

Be encouraged today, journeyer! All He's asking is for your faithfulness - He is more than capable of taking care of the rest. He'll get you to the next step when you're supposed to be there.

Happy Friday y'all!

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Halloween to Remember: From All Out Crazy to a Rebound

You know those days when it just seems like you woke up and stepped right into a war zone? Yes indeed that was my yesterday. Geez, Louise!

As I reflect on what actually happened - of course it wasn't as bad as it felt. But here's how the morning went: Liam and I both woke up late meaning that I didn't have the chance to make Z's coffee for his drive to work. I am no saint of a wife - but it's a little something he looooves and I love doing it because he loves receiving it. Did I mention we both woke up late? That got us off to a wonky start because I had a meeting late morning and there was no way around it - yesterday had to be a shower day.

I try to negotiate out of showering...well really, out of fixing my hair post-showering... on just about any occasion that I can. But it was non-negotiable yesterday. Please don't judge - but Liam took a shower with me. He usually loves it but yesterday was a challenge from minute one. So what is usually fun play time in the water while Mommy showers turned into Mommy washing that hair as fast as her hands could move...cue blood pressure rising. And let's see - that put us at about 8:30 getting out of the shower. I'm out of quickie breakfast options at the moment - so eggs it is. Not that eggs are hard but where is a Nutri-Grain bar when you need one??

I had to dry my hair immediately after the eggs were made. Do you have curly hair? If you do, you know that there is a VERY REAL window of time in which you can start the process of drying curly hair into straight hair. I was on the verge of expiration and that precious little clock was a tickin! SO I put Liam in my bed to eat breakfast and watch Curious George while I dried my hair. What ensued from there was just a little snowball of guilt-thoughts: My mom would have never put me in bed to eat breakfast! Three episodes later plus a Daniel Tiger episode (not kidding) 'um I think we're getting pretty much to the two hour point of tv watching.' Yay ME!!!!!!!!!

Now - in the midst of drying the aforementioned head of curly hair into straight hair - I remembered that I needed to go create a quick word doc and email it to be printed off for the women's ministries bulletin board before the meeting. And - I needed to start drafting an email to gather a group of women for a brainstorming night because frankly, the inviting was supposed to happen yesterday and today. Hmph. So - I'm drying one section of the hair and then running in and writing an email, back and forth etc. All the while - hating that Liam is on his forth episode of tv!

The hair finally got dried. The make-up was hastily applied. The emails were sent. And then it was time to dress Liam. Can I just say that it's SO MUCH FUN to dress a two year old these days! :) He has opinions and he's decided that most of the time this is an opportunity to play a game of 'No I don't want to get dressed!' Two year old running from Mommy. Mommy really really trying not to scream. Bottom line - he got dressed. It wasn't too ugly - but you would have thought I was fighting a real war with how frazzled I was.

And then most of all - there was this. This question that had been asked of me the night before: Abi, what do you do most days? It came from a good friend who is a question-asker-extraordinaire. There was zero mal-intent on his part - only genuine curiosity. But can I tell you that during all of these little battle-esque moments of the morning - that question and more accurately my answer were running through the background of my thoughts. In retrospect, I hated the way I answered it more than anything. I seem to ALWAYS FREEZE when a question like this is posed to me. It's as if I suddenly have no earthly clue what fills my time and I feel like I'm answering 'Uh uh uh uh.' I rambled on about cleaning the kitchen a lot and doing laundry. Seriously.

So as I'm having the not-so-great shower, as I'm feeding my child eggs in bed and asking Curious George to work his magic, as I'm drying my hair and writing emails at the same time, as I'm chasing a two year old to clothe - I'm thinking "Who am I kidding? How do I spend my time? Taking three hours to get showered and dressed."

Ahhhhhh the glory of days like that right? You've been there. You know that feeling when literally nothing feels easy and even keeping your hair dryer plugged in is hard (it happened).

Liam and I finally got into the car. It was my first chance to sit that morning so as we're driving away I start quietly saying "Oh Jesus help me, oh Jesus help me, oh Jesus help me...." Which, as is our norm these days, elicits an unbelievably cute voice asking "Mommy, what happened?" I told him that Mommy had just gotten too stressed out that morning and that she was asking Jesus to come and settle her insides. And you know what? Just like that, peace started to come.

As we continued our drive, a Scripture popped into my mind from Colossians 3:

"If then you have been raised with Christ, set your mind on things that are above, where Christ is - seated at the right hand of God."

When you've had the kind of morning I'd just experienced, you start saying words with some attitude! There we are driving down the road and I'm saying out loud - 'Wait a second, I HAVE been raised with Christ and right now I CHOOSE to set my mind on Christ. Yeah! Bring it!' Where was my coach to slap me on the hiney and tell me to get back out there???

Sometimes all it takes is one moment of truth to break the cycle of crazy going on inside of us.

Being that yesterday was Halloween, there were some pretty precious moments to follow that crazy morning.

I got to do dishes (I did somehow remember to recall to my friend all of the time I spend doing dishes and how significant that is to my destiny <right!!>) and look at this and see God yesterday:

And then, be still my heart, I got to meet the two most adorable Super Men ever.

Moments like these help me to remember that, by the grace of God, crazy days can find peace. Bad starts don't have to mean ugly endings to my day. God is there. I pray that your day is covered by grace and that you stop to allow yourself to be settled a lot faster than I did yesterday!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We Need Hope

Just sitting here thinking. May I just take the liberty to say that life has surprised me entirely? If you would have told eighteen year old me what the next fourteen years would hold - my mouth would have hung open. There have been such sweet blessings but, if honesty is the name of the game, it has been far more intense than I could have ever dreamed.

Sometimes Zion and I look at each other and still marvel that we've made it through some of what we've walked. The resistance we've experienced multiple times literally takes your breath away. At some point, it will be right and good to express more of the details of our story. But for now, know that I'm not exaggerating when I say that some of the battles we've been allowed to fight have lasted years and threatened to wear us down to the point of giving up. Only by the grace of God do we stand today.

Tonight, I'm thinking of those of us in the middle of the valley. The one who has stood for a long time and trusted...and is weary. The one who feels that no one truly know the extent of all you have laid down in order to keep trusting. The one who has fought valiantly at times and then gone through seasons of quietness as you've waited for strength to keep fighting.

Sometimes the most illusive thing to me in those moments has been hope. Faith somehow seems easier - because faith is a decision I make to see what is not there. Hope though. Man, hope can seem like a dim light in the distance when you've been through a journey of length. If you feel like the disappointments have piled up a bit - hope can even seem foolish.

In those times, I make a point to specifically ask the Lord to stir up hope within me. There are points when it simply can't come from you anymore because you're so worn down. I'm asking Him to do that for you tonight. Lord, breathe hope.


Let's ponder these words:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31)

Some of us have heard these words over and over again. But - tonight - let's put on fresh ears. A different version of this verse says 'but they who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength.' What if these words were true? You know, when I am in the midst of the battle, my eyes tend to start looking all over the place for signs of God moving on my behalf. Almost a frantic search. But almost always, I find that my eyes have to revert back. Back to Him.

Did you notice that the words say 'they who wait for the Lord...' Not she who waits for the job to come through. Not she who waits for the man of dreams to appear. Not she who waits for the breakthrough....but she who waits for the Lord. Man - that's a shift. Sometimes it seems impossible to muster up hope that something specific will happen. But these words prompt me to narrow my gaze onto the One who is trustworthy. Despite all that comes, He is trustworthy.

He DOES NOT grow faint. He DOES NOT grow weary. He simply doesn't. But he understands you. He truly yearns to show compassion to you. When all else seems to be failing around you - come back to a very simple waiting on the Lord. He will show Himself and before you know it - even the smallest glimmer of hope will rekindle itself and that strength will come up in you.

I am convinced that those who journey long and hard through the valley have a special place of tenderness in His heart. He sees you and cherishes your sacrifice of trust more than you could know.

I'm feeling you tonight. If I am then I know that He is. Hope is coming my friend...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If I'm Being Honest....

...I feel like I'm in high school again. In high school, my senior year second semester of Repertory Theatre was spent entirely on improv. I hated it. I mean, really and truly, every single day made me sweat. Improv acting is brought to life when actors are willing to jump into a scene maybe with some small idea but not truly knowing what they're going to do in the scene. They're just willing to go with the flow and see what happens! Well - believe me when I say that wasn't my strong suit lol! Sure, I would occasionally jump into a scene. But - only when I knew exactly where I was going to take the scene. Frankly when it happened it was great....I just kind of missed the adventure of improv and the wildness of not having a plan but making it up as you went.

Why do I feel sweaty again like that entire second semester of senior year? Let me just tell you. I'm trying something new. It's uncharted and right now - it feels way way way weird. I'm committing to blogging once a week. No biggie right? It's basically just a little more than I've been doing overall. You'd think I'd been told that I needed to start training for a marathon, I'm so sweaty over this!? It's like my improv teacher is sitting there watching me and all of the sudden he says 'Hey Booth. You're going to get into every single scene and I don't give one flip if you have any clue as to what you're going to do when you get there. Yeah - I see you sweating. Don't care. Get in there.'

BUT I AM SWEATING!!!!!!!!!!!!

Please tell me you can relate. Please tell me that you've been there. Been at that point where some issue has come to the surface that you know you MUST take action on. You know the time is now for obedience but taking that step stirs up every doubt and weirdo thought imaginable.

Now, let me say. I don't think that my blog is more than it is. It's not a big deal but it's not about how big of a deal it is. It's like when God asks you to do something and it makes you nervous - you'd be nervous if even two people were watching you take that step.

Here's my deal: I usually blog when something hits me. When something feels juicy. When I feel goooood about it. You know? I like to go with the flow, yo. And that's been good! Nothing wrong with that. I just think that I'm supposed to practice a little more and get into a more regular flow of writing. Who knows where that will go - God usually just gives me clarity about the very next step I am supposed to take. Well, that's all fine and good and blogging once a week sounds like an obvious or natural choice. But I tell you what - there is just something about making a commitment to have something worthwhile to say one time a week that is making me shake in my boots. It inevitably means that until I get into that great routine of working out this flow - I'm going to have to do it when I'm not feeling it. You know?

In fact, it's precisely like working out! Take it from a non-worker-outer for most of her life - when you start working out and it's not your norm - it is ugly. It hurts, it's awkward, you may actually fall off of that machine for real, and how you feel the next day is even worse as your body screams at you. But the only way to get into the flow of using those muscles is to push through and keep coming back to it.

So, know that my muscles are screaming at me right now. In fact, I wrote this post this week. It felt so weird and particularly un-juicy that I couldn't post it directly to Facebook or whatever. I don't think that it's a truly bad post - it just lacked the feeling behind it.

But, you know what, I have decided to do it no matter how it feels. I have decided to be faithful to routine until the feelings of flow return. And I just wonder if you can relate. I'm pretty certain that you can.

There's probably something you know you're supposed to do. Maybe it's a big deal or maybe it's a small deal but it really doesn't matter. I think any one of us would prefer to have those really nice feelings accompany what we're doing. But sometimes the right thing is to move forward in obedience even when we are sweaty. Even when it feels awkward and clunky. Care to join me in awkward obedience? Hey - at least we'll know that we were brave enough to jump into the scene.

I want to be a yes-woman. Not a yes-after-I-can-clearly-see-where-this-is-going-woman.

Hope you're doing well. I'm doing well aside from the sweating. :)

Much love!

Confessions of a Picture Person

Happy Friday, Reader!

Today I'm pondering a shift that has been slowly taking place in me and it has to do with the c-word. Control sister! It's been occurring to me more and more that I'm a picture person. Are you a picture person? If you've read my recent posts (like this one, or this one), you've heard me talk about being a picture person.

It's not so much being an actual picture person - as in pictures covering my walls - but a picture person in that I picture everything in my mind. Things that will happen five minutes from now or things that may happen five years from now - this little brain can seamlessly slip into picture world. Sometimes I realize in an instant that I've spent the past five minutes picturing something in the future. Hello, Earth to me! Or maybe it's not even an event that I picture. Maybe it's the reaction on someone's face when I say something. Or maybe it's an argument that I cook up in my mind based solely on how I picture a conversation going (before it even happens, mind you.) Weird stuff - take my word for it!

Truth be told, I believe that dreaming is a big part of hope and faith in God! So, not all picturing/dreaming should be cause for concern. But I have REPEATEDLY ran smack into a fatty fat wall when the reality that the Lord has for me unfolds in a different way than the picture I lovingly held in my mind and heart. Did you know that I have recently become intimately acquainted with temper tantrums? Oh yes! When a certain two year old I know, hits the right scenario and doesn't get his way...well let's just say I've seen some very real expression of revolt come from that darling little one. But if I'm honest, I can totally relate to his displays lol! When my real picture doesn't line up with the picture I've had in my heart - that tantrum occurs can occur in me too.

Ahhhh my pictures. Maybe you can relate to some of my pictures:

I picture how a Saturday will go

I picture how a friend will feel or respond when I do something in the "I'm-a-great-friend-zone" (so embarrassing to admit this)

I picture what my husband will say when he realizes how productive I've been (this rarely sets me up for success)

I picture Christmases in the future with a house-full of big kids in matching pajamas (we'll see)

I picture celebrating our tenth anniversary in Europe

I picture our next baby and his/her birthday (now I ask you, how could I possibly know his birthday)

I picture the look in his eyes after I've gotten dressed up for a date

I picture you reading this blog

I picture me becoming some sort of other-earthly-machine-of-a-worker-outer (after the next baby of course)

I picture my hair on my next great hair day

I picture how I'll respond next time we get into that disagreement

Oh honey, I'm just getting started! My list of pictures could go on and on and on and on. They range from momentary to far in the future and from teeny tiny to big and mighty.

But you know what, I'm just about ready to give up. That may sound dark but bear with me because I think it's actually a thing of beauty.

It's not to say that my pictures are bad! I honestly don't look at the above list and see too many issues there - I like my pictures! And frankly I'm not certain that turning off the entire part of your heart that sees the future - even if it's five minutes from now - is a good thing. Dreaming breeds hope and hope IS good!

Did you know that I'm freshly 32? Yes, well I've come to the conclusion that tantrums don't look very cute on a 32 year old! And I'm just kind of ready to give up control of my pictures. Because at the root of many of my pictures is what I perceive as my own control of my happiness. And that can lead to me doing some fairly funky things to protect my pictures. Yes? Yes. Funky indeed.

What if I gave up? What if I gave up some of the pictures and instead invested my energy in asking myself a few questions:

"Do I trust God?"
"Do I trust God?"
"Do I trust God?"

Because if I do trust Him, that enables me to let go of my grasp on my pictures a little bit. Perhaps I can just be okay if I don't get that affirmative feedback after a hugely productive day. Perhaps that tenth anniversary will be celebrated in a way that I have never even thought of. Perhaps my feelings about myself need not come from how a friend responds to me but instead how the Lord responds to me. You see where this is going.

When my pictures become the definition of happiness, security, and success, they leave little room for the creativity and control of my Father - Who has been nothing but faithful to me. He's been nothing but faithful my friend!

The truth is that I love dreaming and I think God is in it. I'm just learning to separate dreaming from creating my own controlled environment in which MY happiness is the only player that matters. Whew, help me Jesus!

So, my reader friend, I hope you have such a good weekend. A weekend full of unexpected and unpictured and unanticipated fun...just as a little reminder that life can be so sweet when we let go.

Happy weekend!

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Word for Someone Tonight....

Well this is a different post for me. Let me say first - I may be all wrong in what I am about to share. I consider myself to be a child of God like any other Believer. He speaks to me and leads me as He desires to do with any of His children. But that's it: I'm a human. So hey - don't take this as a 'thus says the Lord.' Just let whatever is supposed to come of this come.

The past few days - I have had this thing rolling around in my spirit. If that's not a typical experience for you - it's just like a thought that keeps recurring in your mind but it is somehow connected to your heart and spirit as well. When I talk about spiritual topics, I like to try to de-mystify things as much as possible. As Christians, sometimes we can't even hear how weird we sound because the language is so commonplace to us.

But - here is what I have been feeling God say: 'My Name is Faithful and True. I am Faithful and True.' Again and again and again. It has felt very personally directed to where some of my thoughts have been over the past few days. But then tonight, I was taking a walk and the thought became so loud that it all of the sudden occurred to me that perhaps someone else needs this tonight. I halted the walk half-way through and headed straight to my computer. Why not just test it out and see?

Let's dive in.

Faithful and True. Those words are not unique to us. We use the word faith a lot. We talk about faithfulness. Truth and true are everywhere in our cultural landscape of language. They are words and names that could go in one ear and out the other without a hesitation. But picture this with me, Jesus is not just an idea. He isn't a philosophy and He isn't just a place we go on Sundays - He's a man and He's real. He wants to look both you and me right in the eyes and say "I AM Faithful and True." Does that make your heart skip a beat??? It does mine.

Faithful and True really came out of nowhere for me. I knew it was a name for God used in the Bible and I had a hunch where it was but couldn't have told you anything else to be honest. Best just to start digging in cases like that! Here's where it is:

Revelation 19:11 "Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war."

Heavy. The part of me that likes to filter things - wants to say so many things right now that would soften that verse up. But tonight, that's not the right choice.

Here's what comes to me:

This God, the God that I have said yes to, is not predictable. He is not formulaic. He is not bound by my human rules, logic and patterns that I so desperately try to apply to him. Things happen in my life and in your life that frankly don't add up in the moment. There's no way around it - sometimes life hurts more than words can express. Sometimes disappointments blur our vision to the point that it's hard to even see straight. But, hear this. Your God IS Faithful. Your God IS True.

In fact, when ALL is said and done, when it all comes down and both losses and victories have added up - there will be a God standing tall for you. Tonight, He passionately cares that you know this fact about His character: He is Faithful and True. I'll type it again: He is Faithful and True. When I say He passionately cares, the sense that I got was almost that He was to the point of frustration and anger over it. Not at you sweet one - but at the enemy who so tenaciously chips away at the truth throughout the fabric of our everyday lives. At the one who continually whispers that you aren't enough, that your efforts will never add up to a breakthrough, that your future is sad, that you have to keep working yourself into a frenzy so as not to lose it all in one moment, the list goes on. I think your Father who loves you more than you could ever grasp - cares immensely tonight that you hear Him clearly say to you "I am Faithful and True child. I AM. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will hold you with my right hand. I LOVE you and that love drives me to a much fiercer brand of love than you can imagine."

Did you catch the last part of verse 11? "...and in righteousness he judges and makes war." This One is no softy. He is not passive. He is not uninterested. No - He is extremely interested. Judgement and war are not comfortable topics, are they? But picture the context of this verse - after the greatest of battles, the most horrendous of challenges, the longest journey (and these words are putting it lightly) - here comes our God - called Faithful and True - on a white horse. Picture that as a movie scene. Move over Lord of the Ring. He may be strong and willing to wage war on the behalf of righteousness - but the personal name He wants you to hear is that He is Faithful and True.

Who knows if I'm right on or more than a little too bold tonight. But what I can say is that my heart is racing and with all that is in me - this feels important.

I'm not even sure how to wrap this up so I'll just say this: No matter what - KNOW that you are seen. His character may have come into question based on life experiences you've had but let your brain and your emotions off the hook of figuring everything out. Tonight, picture yourself leaning on someone who is faithful beyond a doubt and true to his word. He is strong and yet He loves you with a tenderness that compels Him to catch your tears.

Sleep in peace tonight, my friend.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bedazzled Behinds and Hitting the Wall

First my friend, I just need to bring a report to our little tree house meeting. Ha! I have no idea where that came from but all of the sudden as I sat down to write I pictured myself as a little girl in a secret club meeting in a tree house. Fun!

But on a more serious note, I've been to a far off land and I bring news of this land and its inhabitants. The Tulsa State Fair. Many of you have been to the fair but for some reason - this year it seemed extra special to me. As a side note - Tulsa is not a state. Sooo...the name Tulsa State Fair leads one to wonder a bit :). In this far off land I traversed yesterday, I experienced SO MANY occasions of the most beautiful site: bedazzled behinds galore. Mind you, when Mom and I go to the fair we have three objectives: animals, buildings and food. No rides. Nope - straight to the livestock buildings we go. Sister - we hit it at cow time! The buildings were full of seriously beautiful cows. Did you know a cow could be such? It can. We saw cows getting blow dried, having their coats meticulously brushed, having their hooves cleaned to near sparkling, and having their rear ends lovingly cleaned as it did its business on the way to the show ring. Cows are fancy!

And speaking of fancy...I saw so many fancy cowgirls that my heart skipped a beat. My oh my - fancy is the only word for it. They may be wearing gorgeous boots with mud caked on the heel proving their capacity to get in there and work with the best of 'em, but so many of these women wore sparkles it wasn't even funny. Sparkly belts, sparkly tops with long hair flowing down their back, sparkly hats and best of all - sparkly bedazzled behinds. Beautiful beautiful behinds. I tell you what, by the time I left, I was nearly convinced that I had to get a pair of sparkly behind jeans before the week was over.

Please observe a bedazzled behind:

This was the brand sold in all of the pop up boutique shops at the fair.

I came so close to picking up a pair before coming home. So close.

I loved these people! It was like Super Bowl time for them and they came to play. Part of me wanted to daydream that I was a part of their world - taking care of my family's big-business-animals, kicking up dust as I walked through the day, wearing my bedazzled behind in all its glory and drinking a big coke to top it all off. No diet for a fancy cowgirl - only the real deal.

I love the fair. Isn't it funny how one day can be a high and the next one whew - a doozy?

Zion is out of town right now and I have done really well with it until today. Hello wall - as I banged my head up against it time after time. He's been gone almost a week and things have gone so smoothly until today. Do you ever have one of those days where it's not just that you've hit the wall - it's that the wall seems to be chasing you down and finding you even when you're trying to escape it? Yes indeed. My day today.

Man alive the crazy wants to come out when we hit the wall doesn't it? I think I sent one text to Zion to the tune of 'OH MY GOSH IF THIS THING BREAKS ONE MORE TIME....PLEASE FIX THIS" Ugly. I 'raised my voice' then turned to crying with my mom. Fairly ugly. I went to Super Wal-Mart out of desperation today because homeboy and I had to get out of this house before something nasty happened. Super Wal-Mart and I don't have a great relationship so it's really saying something that that was my getaway of choice! LOL. It's actually just this particular SWM - kind of oppressive and depressing.

But you know what? It's almost 10pm and I feel like most of the crazy that needed to get out - got out. :) It's not that I love how today went - but on the other hand - I don't feel like wasting the energy over regretting it either. Thankfully, tomorrow is fresh and Jesus will be there right when I wake up with plenty of grace for tomorrow. Leaning in to Him is really the best option! I could have done a little more leaning today but tomorrow - it's on. Me, Him and grace have a date. I'm planning on it.

I hope you're doing well! I love blogging because it feels like I'm talking to a friend. The only thing better would be if I could get your blog back right after I post mine! So to all of my friends - please start a blog. I love reading about your lives. The stuff you call boring is DElightful to a nosy person such as myself! LOL.

My weekend is going to be a crazy full one - but my decision is already made. I'll be leaning into Him. His strength will come out when I'm weak if I just keep leaning. It's going to be a good one.

Love ya!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bite Size Bible Study: Insecurity

Hola Mi Amigas! Perhaps some amigos are reading too?? It’s been a while since I’ve done a bite-size Bible study but I’ve got something stirring so jump in with me! Maybe this will be just the bite you need to clear the way for truth to flood your thoughts today.

I love it when worlds collide; when the same message hits me from multiple angles. In those moments – it’s pretty clear that the Lord is shining a big bright light on a piece of truth and He really wants me to get it. So by His grace, I’m getting it!

The book club I’m involved with is doing Beth Moore’s book ‘So Long Insecurity.’ The Bible study I’m in is Priscilla Shirer’s ‘Gideon.’ Who knew that the story of Gideon is wrought with lessons on insecurity??? Busy book club/Bible study season!

Last week, Priscilla made a point that has wrung through me since then. Here’s what I wrote down in my notes – paraphrasing her: “We don’t need to be insecure because we are weak. Weaknesses are the opportunities we have to see God display His strength in our lives.”

Simple words that they are – they carry a punch if you let them simmer. For me, that is a big shift in perspective regarding how I see my weaknesses/insecurities. The particular insecurities I face have always been an irritant to me. The weaknesses that I am quite familiar with at this point in my life have become annoying and offensive in some ways. But if you take in Priscilla’s perspective and then read 2 Corinthians 12:9 you just might reel as I did:

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

I have been exposed to that Scripture again and again over my life. BUT – I think that He is spurring on a shift in perspective on my weaknesses that is paramount. No longer do I need to see my weaknesses as disappointing, discouraging, or embarrassing. Have you ever felt insecure about your insecurities? Vicious cycle! Just as Paul said – perhaps I truly can view my weaknesses with a sense of excitement and anticipation because THOSE are the areas in which my God will show Himself strong. If I was strong in all things and had no insecurities – well, I’d be fairly self-sufficient in my own estimation.

I crave the strength of the Lord in my life and it’s such a simple shift to realize that where I am going to see His strength and victory is in those areas where there is need in me. The obvious side note to this is that, of course, the objective is not to embrace our insecurities and nurture them along. I want healing! I want redemption! I want to never ever stop becoming more free and more full of truth. But, in that process, I am starting to see that God is anxious to show Himself strong in those personal areas for me – and THAT is exciting!

My friend, there is a crown of victory waiting for you to wear regarding confidence. By His grace alone! His grace is sufficient for me and for you and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses.

I’m going to let it keep simmering…

Lots of love,

Friday, September 13, 2013

P&P Part Two

Hello there. I've had so many blog posts rise up in my heart since I last wrote but everything seems awkward without first following up from my last post. Seems a little odd to go from 'here's a story about miscarriage' to 'I LOVE MY LIFE!' LOL. You get it.

It's been four weeks today....deep exhale.

Here's the good news. The nearness of God and protection we've experienced was not a short-lived fluke! It has remained. It has rested on us. Over the weeks, of course, I've had my share of grieving thoughts like "Why us? Why now? It's not fair...." I'm sure you can continue on from there to fill in the remaining blanks. BUT the redeeming news is that those questions have not seeped into my soul. Know what I mean? I don't think I'd be very human if the thoughts didn't come. But, listen, I've been around the block a few times folks. When the time is right - I'm going to write the entirety of our story up to this point in our lives. Let me just say though, we've wrestled disappointment, attack, sickness, and long periods of time waiting to see God move when we desperately needed Him to move. By long periods of time - I refer to years :).

Thank God (seriously) that He's given me time to learn certain truths about Him. He IS good. Painful things happen to all of us. Not due to lack of faith or failure. In fact, I think it's simple-minded of us to ascribe a theological formula to experiences like this because let's face it - He's God and I'm most certainly NOT! All I know is that painful things happen from time to time. I don't think He likes it. I don't think He's okay with it. I think that he holds the tears that fall from our eyes so very close to His heart. But in our experiences over the years - I have seen Him work through and in every single challenge we've walked through. I don't use the word challenge lightly. At times I wondered if we would make it through those challenges! But time gives me the opportunity to look back and see Him. What seemed so wrong at the time - still looks wrong now but I can see what He did to redeem.

So I think I've just been down that road too many times: experiencing unexpected grief, allowing an accusation to build inside me against God, and in retrospect looking back and seeing the (sometimes) years of intimacy with Him that it cost me. Believe me, it's a tad difficult to be close to someone when something inside of you is questioning their trustworthiness. And I have tasted close - it's so much richer than being acquaintances. It's just not worth it to me to accuse Him of being someone He's not. Because in time He always shows His character. Always.

Whew enough preaching. So - I still have emotional moments. There are still sad times. But mostly - life is beautiful. Liam and I went to the park today and played our hearts out. I mean, that's beautiful. And we truly feel we have the gift of a second child in our hearts. This little person has opened another level of relationship with Him that has been beautiful. I am thankful for that and trusting for the days ahead.

If you read the last post and left a comment on the blog itself or on facebook - thank you so very much. Wow - Zion and I were both deeply touched by your love.

This is the first full week that has felt back to normal. My house has actually been pretty clean which truly does some deep things for the spirit! LOL. We've been back in our groove and with the touch of coolness that hit the air last night - I am invigorated! Fall is so wonderful and it's easy to see the goodness of God when the heat lifts and those cool breezes start rushing. Bring on pumpkins, chai, sweaters, and walks through a neighborhood full of color. Bring it.

Much love and happy weekending to you,

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Pained and Protected One

Hi Friends. I wrote this post on Saturday night, August 17. It's a little raw but I decided to leave it un-edited and instead write a fresh open and close for it.

A story of loss is one that most of all of us can relate to. I so wish that I didn't have this story to tell - but now I do. As of 4:30 yesterday morning, I do. I am not writing this for any other purpose than the fact that something inside of me needs to. Perhaps it will give language to someone else's loss and therefore some degree of healing. I think it's a part of my healing at the very least.

Tomorrow, I would have been twelve weeks pregnant with our second baby. I am one of many many many hopeful mommies who get told that their little one is no longer with them. Experiencing this makes me shocked at how emotionally unattached I have been when friends went through this in the past. I don't think that I had a point of reference that allowed me to identify with their pain. No longer.

There is no point in relaying details of what happened but when I woke up at 4:30 AM yesterday, there was very little question of what was happening. Unless you have experienced that before, I don't think that any pregnant mom would be even thinking about the possibility of that happening to her or to her baby. It was instant shock and instant sadness. Everything inside of you wants to scream and pull at any piece of control you have to will the situation into reverse. To anyone who alleges that a baby is not a baby until some undetermined point in pregnancy, I defy you to walk through a miscarriage with a woman even early in pregnancy. Explain the grief over something that is not human or alive and instead deemed a fetus.

Even though it was very clear what was happening - every mom and dad holds onto hope until you have official word from the doctor. As Zion and I held hands during the ultrasound, we both cried as what we already knew became official. We cried as we prayed over our sweet baby. We cried as we both said that somehow we knew he was a boy. I tell you what, daddies grieve babies just as much as mommies do. It's surreal how much you can physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally miss someone that had only been in your hearts for twelve weeks and never been in your arms. It's astonishing.

This is obviously fresh and raw for us. I don't know if I will regret writing about this. I do not do it to garner response, comments, or to get you to share this post with others. If that happens, then I trust God will use it. But I suppose I am more of a writer than I give myself credit for because writing the story and the truth seems to be the only option for me tonight.

There is more to the story. There is Him. There is the oddest experience of my life: how is it possible to feel so pained and so protected at the very same time? It's honestly a first. We have experienced loss before and all I can say is that this is different. God has been doing so much in our hearts; He has made Himself so real and so known as our protector over the past months. From the very start of the experience, He has been intimately with us. From waking both of my parents up right at 4:30 to pray, to sending us truly dear medical staff to take care of us, to showering us with love and care from friends, to covering us with His presence and His peace from the very start, He's been Emanuel - God with us. Truly with us. In the midst of pain, truth is undeniable: our baby is protected and we are protected. I don't know what you believe about God, but I would be so remiss to leave out that part of this story.

You know, being a control freak is something that God is so gracious to allow me to let go of more and more. Man alive. This one is the pits. I'm not saying that I think God let this happen so that I could lessen my grips on control. I am saying that this particular loss offends every desire for control that I have. I loved the idea of a late February/early March baby. I loved the idea of babies two and a half years apart. I love(d) this baby. But this time, I have zero control. None. Who knows how far apart our children will be? Certainly not I.

I don't know about you, but as the Lord continues to help me see my control-freak ways more and more, I realize that I am a picture person. I picture everything. I picture what seems right and good and fun and desirable. Sometimes I realize that I'm doing it and other times the picture is embedded so deeply in me that it's barely detectable. When something disrupts the picture, mercy, it's unsettling. I think that's putting it nicely, actually. But He's also showing me that when life hasn't lined up with my pictures, it has always had a delightful result in my heart. He truly always brings joy in the morning. I can trust Him. I can trust His character. I can let go. It will be okay. It's the way to freedom and joy.

I know that the pain of this story doesn't begin to compare to some people's loss at the moment. Just tonight I heard a story of a precious couple that had SEVEN miscarriages before conceiving and birthing two healthy children. Seven. Or perhaps it's not a matter of carrying a child for you - it's even getting pregnant in the first place. Or perhaps tonight it has nothing to do with baring children but instead deals with another deep desire of your heart that is on hold until further notice. The options are endless. I wish we could have coffee and cry together. But all I know is that in this loss, I have found another side of God that I adore. He's true and He's near. I pray that you feel that tonight, whoever you are, wherever you are.

Well, that was it. As I re-read it before posting, I wondered if I should edit/re-word/soften/intensify what I wrote. Just going to let it be though. We are now a week and a half past saying goodbye to a precious baby. I maintain that it is still one of the oddest experiences - to feel so truly pained and so absolutely protected at the same time. There's no way to deny the pain and no way to escape His faithfulness and nearness. It's almost beautiful how the two can co-exist. So many parents experience this and so many stories have come out of the woodwork and I have loved hearing each one.

You know one thing that really blows me away? I have more pregnant friends (close friends at that!) than I can count right now. It was a fun club to be in because there was so much shared joy. A few of my pregnant friends have really been the face of maturity and fearless love in relationship and I only hope that I can respond as they have responded someday. Instead of allowing awkwardness over me suddenly not being pregnant and the stark change of not sharing the journey side-by-side anymore, they jumped right into my world almost as soon as it happened. They were great friends to me when we were pregnant together and they have been precious friends to me now by simply sharing my space and pursuing me still. I will remember their particular kindness for a long time and how I've seen the love of God through them. Doesn't that inspire you? It inspires me.

I guess in closing I'd just like to say thanks for reading. We really are experiencing the faithfulness of God. This week I've been thinking about other losses we have encountered over the years. Frankly, they have been lesser losses but with yuckier impact. Yuck in the sense that they stirred questions about God and His character that took me a lot longer than I'd like to admit to get over or deal with or allow Him to deal with. This time is different. The impact of loss is far more personal than ever before but this time, there is no questioning His goodness or His intention toward us. There's just no questioning who He is. By the grace of God, He's started settling that question within me and it makes a beautiful difference. Though I am pained, I am protected. Thankful.

The next post will have to be light-hearted for us all to bounce back from this one right?!

Much love,

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Prepare for the gush. Prepare for the over-the-top lovey dovey stuff. Nothing makes a mama more sentimental than a birthday! Last year, on his birthday, I was filled with vivid memories of the day he was born. This year, I was filled with awe that our baby is a big boy! Two somehow feels like a tipping point into the huge world of big boys. Thrilling and a little emotional all at the same time.

It has been six months since I did a Liam post! So that means I've got a lot to get into this one. Ha! As if the others have been short.

First, I'd just like to give a little plug to the company I used to make a picture book for Liam. I am not a very experienced picture-book-maker so there would have been a learning curve for me with any company I used. But Blurb is now one of my very favorite things! They are set up for the customer to create a mini-book all the way up to self-publishing his own real book. So - I think that makes them a tad more professional and I am in love with my final product. It covered the entire first year and a half of Liam's life - so yeah - it's a bit of a monster. You should check them out though! Here's a few shots of the book:

Life with Liam - where to start? My brain is leaning towards one category at a time so here we go:

Whoo! We are off to the races with language. It keeps me on my toes actually! I would say there is still about 40% of what he says that comes out as babble - frustrating for him when he is being as clear as he can possibly be and I still don't get it! But there is oh so much that I do understand and it is one of the most amazing things to get to communicate more every day with him. Some of my current favorites from his mouth are: My deed it (or my do it, do it by myself, get the point), Daddy watch this!, yeah...sure (said in the sweetest little voice possible - like 'Liam do you want to go see Mimi? 'Yeah, sure!'), I be right back (as he scurries off to do something and scurries back), Dear Jesus I la you...thank you...amen., Daddy - play choo choos!, I go to Yaya's house/Mimi's house/Grandma's house, etc., Mommmmmmmy where arrrrrrre you?, one two three four five six seven eight nine GO!, Mommy are you ready?, MOMMY A FIRETRUCK!!!, Daddy's home!!, I play music, n-n-n-n-n-n-no!, okay that's good!, Bye bye - I go to church, and the list goes on and on. Preciousness.

Right now, he's into repeating everything. Yesterday when we were taking a walk, Zion and I were talking. For about five minutes - he would repeat everything that came out of my mouth from the stroller. He couldn't see me but he was totaling derailing my train of thought and would die laughing when he could tell that he was. Part adorable - part oh my word.

It's particularly fun to drive in the car with him right now because he is on radar alert for every vehicle he can point out - a firetruck, an ambulance, a bike, a motorcycle...but the best find on the road is by far the huge yellow crane at St. Francis hospital. Once we see it, we talk about it for a few minutes straight. Thrills his heart!


This was the one thing I wanted to record about Liam at twenty one months that never happened since I didn't do one! Zion and I, um, love Les Miserables. We like the new movie a lot but we LOVE the stage production. We have the twenty-fifth anniversary concert performance of Les Mis and we like to play it loud from time to time. Well...Mr. Liam learned to love it too. At twenty one months, he would out of the blue say 'Les Mis!' and make us put it on. Heart melting stuff for Les Mis lovers. During the big anthems he likes to point both index fingers into the air and march/run across the room to the music. Can't make this up!


We climb, we run, we jump - in fact, we jump a lot. Our couch has become the site of physical feats of wonder by Liam Spencer. I am fairly amazed that there have been no real injuries and thankful for it! By far his greatest highlight of the day is when Daddy comes home from work. It's on the second he comes in. Whether it's chasing each other in circles, rough housing on the couch, playing choo choos on the floor, or singing Twinkle Twinkle in the microphone, everyone rejoices when Daddy returns to us. In fact, Liam has started modeling himself after Daddy - who happens to like to take his shirt off as soon as he comes home from work. Liam now says 'MY SHIRT OFF!" the second he sees Daddy do it. Or - he'll take the lead, do it first and then insist that Zion follows suit. I have been prohibited from documenting this with pictures so just trust me when I say it's one of my very favorite things.

Liam got his first bike for his birthday. Man oh man is it a winner. He can wheel that little thing all around the house and insists on wearing his yellow construction hat while doing so. Safety first.


Some of the classic two year old moments have definitely surfaced, but there are also the sweetest moments. He will still come up to me in the kitchen about once a day with a pained face and arms stretched as high as they can, insisting that he be held. Now sometimes he just wants to see what's on the counter that he could get his hands on (LOL!) but often he just wants to be close for a minute or two.

One of my other favorite things is our bedtime reading. We will often hit three or four books and the last one is almost always Goodnight Moon or The Going To Bed Book. Little man seriously has them memorized. He can fill in most any blank and laughs as he helps us read them.

When I'm rocking Liam before he goes to sleep, I'll often ask him if I can pray with him. He usually says nothing but instead thrusts out his hand to hold mine while we pray. Moments to cherish.

Things We Love

Where to start? There is so much that he loves about life at two years old:

Treats and sweets. I wonder where he got that??? You don't dare say the word treat unless you are ready to pony up and produce. We try to limit sugar but there's a time and place for everything :).

Bathtime! Perfect place to practice swimming and to splash, jump and squeal.

Swimming...which mostly consists of jumping. He loves to jump off the steps in Mimi and B.Bo's pool and could literally wear your arms down to rubber.

Building towers. He's a great builder AND a great tear-down-man. :)

Playing trains. Toby and Diesel were the newest additions and for a few weeks they nearly had to go to bed with him each night.

Playing with Isaiah. There is nothing quite like playing with his cousin Yaya. They always play until they are both in a full sweat and screaming in joy. So thankful for their friendship.

Coloring...or having me color that is. Whether it's chalk, magnadoodle, or crayons he loves a good minute or two but then insists on having me draw things for him: a circle, an oval, a star, a truck, an airplane....I'm brushing up on those drawing skills!

His Grandparents. He may love nothing more than having Mimi/B.Bo or Grandma/Papa show up at his house and say that he gets to get in their car and go with them. He is immediately ready to hit the road and quickly and confidently says 'Bye bye Mommy/Daddy!'.

I love this boy of mine and wouldn't trade him for the world. His heart is precious, his personality is bright, he's becoming pretty funny!, and his eyes show how much he cares. We are truly blessed to have him as a part of our family and we continue to ask God to fill us with wisdom to parent him the way he needs to be in order to fulfill his destiny.

So thankful for my William Justice Spencer.

Newer Posts Older Posts Home