Monday, May 6, 2013

Healing Through Tears

I am blessed.  It's not from luck or hard work or anything I have earned... it is totally by the grace of God on my life.  I will never understand how one person could be surrounded by so many blessings.  My greatest gift and source of love, inspiration and hope is my family and at the center of that family is my Mom.  I've yet to hear of anyone who has met her and not been impacted.  There is no way to put what she means to me and so many others into words.  She radiates joy and encourages everyone she comes into contact with in the sweetest, most genuine ways.  Behind the scenes she is my source of strength, my greatest supporter, and, simply put, my very best friend. 
Fourteen years ago she had breast cancer.  She faced it with so much optimism and faith that I never wasted a single moment in fear because she assured me it would all be alright.  Through surgery, chemo, hair loss, radiation, sickness... she was the one who gave us strength to keep hoping.  A year later when my precious Dad got very sick with a lung infection and spent days in the ICU and doctors said he wouldn't recover... she was the glue that held us together again.  She reminded us that God had taken care of us before and that he wasn't finished yet.  And He did.  His faithfulness to our family is something that I will never be able to comprehend. 
A few weeks ago Mom's six month blood work from her oncologist came back with elevated cancer markers.  After a C/T and PET scan they found a mass on her pancreas.  The doctor met with her and said that it was luck they had found it so early because he didn't see any signs that it has spread.  She said, it's not luck, it's God.  She had surgery two weeks ago to remove the mass and after some time in the ICU and a few days in the hospital, she was recovering really well.  Last Monday her surgeon came in and said they had received the pathology report back.  He said some words I never want to hear again, especially in reference to my sweet Momma: "It's bad.  It's real bad."
I will never forget that moment.  My world was crumbling.  I tried so hard not to cry as he told us how they found cancer cells in the margin around the tumor, in two lymph nodes, and in her liver.  I knew that if I started crying I wouldn't stop.  I was right but I couldn't stop the tears from flowing.  As I looked up I saw Mom shaking her finger at me and grinning, trying to get my spirits up.  Seriously, when hearing the diagnosis all she was concerned about was how the rest of us would take the news... if that doesn't sum up the amazing person she is, then I don't know what will!
We came home that day with a ton of flowers, cards, words of support and love and a long list of visitors that had come by to let Mom know they were praying for her.  She is so loved and I am so proud to be her daughter.  I spent the next few days getting as much information I could about pancreatic cancer, the statistics, prognosis, and treatments.  I thrive on facts and data and what I found was scary.  Finally I turned to the place I should have gone from the beginning, the place Mom and the rest of my family had gone... straight to the arms of Jesus.  I was struggling.  How could this happen to my Mom... the most incredible person I know?  But He gave comfort.... and peace... and strength... and hope.... just like He always does.  Since the moment of Mom's diagnosis I have been praying for hope and healing and He just keeps answering with moments of HOPE!
Last Thursday Mom had her follow up appointment with her surgeon.  That morning he had met with a tumor board that meets weekly to discuss cancer patients.  They had spent the morning discussing her.... HOPE!  He talked with her a little about the plans for a very strong chemo.  He said it will make her really sick but she, of course, told him to bring it on.  She's a fighter.  She's a survivor.  Instead of talking to us about buying her time, he talked about fighting this disease head on.... HOPE!
This weekend I graduated (remind me to tell you all the ways God was faithful through that journey... He is so good!).  Ever since we first heard about the tumor and the plans for surgery it didn't seem like Mom would be able to go.  I was fine with that.  I didn't want to go either but I couldn't deny Mom's adamant requests that I do it for her.  When we found out the diagnosis was not as simple as it had first appeared, I really did not want to go.  I started praying that the surgeon would clear her to go.  There was no way I could make it through without my Momma there.  He cleared her and she went... HOPE!  It was the greatest joy of my life to see the person who had helped me survive the past two years in the stands as I walked across the stage!  I love my Momma and I literally could not have made it to this amazing place in my life without her encouragement and support. 
Another moment of hope came on Friday night at my pinning ceremony.  God just loves to give us unexpected blessings!  A family came in and sat down next to my family.  After a short time they recognized each other and it turns out it was one of my Dad's former firefighters.  His daughter was also graduating from UCA.  After the ceremony, Mom was talking to his mother and she told Mom that she had cancer thirteen years ago.  It was in her spleen/pancreas and had spread to fourteen lymph nodes and into her bones.  She is alive and healthy today.... HOPE!
Please pray for Mom.  She meets with her oncologist May 17 to find out the details about treatment.  Pray for hope, healing, and opportunities for Mom to share her faith with those she comes into contact with.  As she has been saying all along: "We've had bumps in the road before and with God's help, we've straightened them out... We can sure do it again!"  We pray that God uses her healing to bring Him glory!
"What if Your blessings come through rain drops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Strangely Dim

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
-Helen H. Lemmel

As the hymn says, I do desire for the things of earth to grow strangely dim.  At least on the surface.  I say that I want my relationship with my Savior to be an all-consuming passion, I want to seek Him first and foremost, I want Him to receive all glory, and I want for me to decrease and Him to increase.  But in practice, this is so often not the case.  I'm selfish, insecure/prideful (two things I'm realizing go hand-in-hand), impatient, hypocritical.... the list goes on.  I cling far too tightly to this world and lay up treasures here instead of focusing on my eternal destination.  The Lord knows this about me.  He sees my heart of hearts.  He knows my struggles.  But because of His great mercy, He refines my motives, confronts my sin, and draws me close to Him. 

Lately, His blessings have been poured out in a manner that seems completely ridiculous.  It has been hard for me to even accept these gifts but through it He has taught me so much about His never-failing love.  While most of the blessings have been true joys, a few have come in a bit of a disguise (at least as seen through these human eyes).  A little background:  I am extremely sentimental.  I love to keep little mementos, usually in the form of paper... postcards, bookmarks, little notes... and I also love pictures.  I take a lot of random pictures to remember things by, usually on my phone.  Well, God is clearly showing me that I'm placing too much value on these things.  My heart has become attached and therefore they are my treasures.  He has had to literally pry my heart off of some of the most important 'things' in my life over the past several months.  It started with losing a few very special items out of my Bible.  They had come to symbolize an important part of my life and reminded me of what God had delivered me from.  They were good things and they were really important to me.  It broke my heart when they were gone.  And that revealed some serious problems within myself.  They were just things... pieces of paper.  Was my heart really so attached to these insignificant items that it made me sick to lose them?  I was more heartsick over lost mementos than I am over lost souls.  Wow!  Talk about sobering.  Looking back, I am so grateful that He ripped these away.  It took that to reveal a major sin problem and He continues to bring me through to deliverance. 

However, I am apparently still not free from this sin.  Just last night my phone stopped working so I plugged it into the computer to try and revive it.  I am technologically illiterate.  I had never set it up or backed up any of the information stored on it.  But I had grown to love my phone and used it to record so many parts of my days over the past six months- ordinary things, beautiful sunsets, family fun-and in one moment, it was all gone.  I loved those photos.  I loved looking through my album and remembering certain occasions.  I had blogged and facebooked a few pictures, but the rest are gone forever.  It was sickening.  But yet again, I am certain that God is using this to show me that stuff like that doesn't matter.  He is my everything, not pictures on my phone.  He is the one that gave me all those days to document... all the beauty, my family, the fun times.  Even a day later, it seems a little silly that I was so upset over this loss.  This process is not pretty and certainly not fun, but it's necessary.  I was created to bring glory to my Father and if I am making an idol out of silly stuff, then I cannot fulfill my purpose.  Though my flesh screams, "No!", my soul cries out, "You can have all this world, just give me Jesus!" 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

At a Loss

I am at a loss for words when it comes to describing my life right now.  It is unfathomable the blessings that God continuously pours out and I can't begin to comprehend why He would choose to give me anything at all, much less each and every opportunity and path that He has opened these past few months.  So much has happened in the past month that I want to record so I'm going to start at the very beginning (that's a very good place to start... name that movie!? Haha!)  I left off the night before I found out the scores from my Praxis exam.  I meant to sit down and write about the thankfulness and elation I felt when I found out I PASSED, but it was just too difficult to put into words.  The night before I tossed and turned, barely sleeping.  I was very anxious to find out so that I could move forward.  Either by registering to take the test again or preparing everything else I needed in order to apply for jobs.  When my alarm went off, I was beside myself.  Honestly, I believed I hadn't passed.  As I said before, there was no human way I could have, but as I listened to that recorded voice telling me I had not only passed, but I had scored nearly thirty points higher than what I'd been praying for, I was overwhelmed.  I mean, there is no claiming that as a victory of my own doing.  That is all God and to Him be all the glory!!  I'm not even going to attempt to explain the feelings of gratitude/elation/relief that overwhelmed me, and still do.  It's just been a time of awe and discovery of how much my Savior loves me and cares about my life.  From that moment of discovering my scores, life has been going non-stop (in a wonderful way, though!)  It's been filled with such fun times so instead of telling all about what's been going on, I'll just post a ton of pictures to remember this month by!    

The day I found out I had passed, Jeff and Catherine had me over for a celebration dinner and cake!

That Saturday I helped my cousin's wife at a dance recital.  It was exhausting but so much fun!  And I got roses out of the deal :)


Decoration at Park's Cemetery.  Notice the classy pic of me in pantyhose and Birkenstocks.  Haha!
Nothing like family time, cute kids, good food and country roads!

Mom and I went to Conway because I had some things to do at UCA before starting classes.  We had such a fun time! On the way home, we drove on 64 instead of the interstate and stopped in Russellville to get a close look at the nuclear plant.  It was so pretty!

We ate at the best little diner in Atkins.  The food was so amazing!

Bought my books for summer classes :)
And a few additions to my own collection ;)
Conway has one of my favorite flea market/antique malls and we spent a little too much time (and money) in there.  Haha!

Catherine ordered Dad's birthday cake from Sweet Boutique in Cedarville.  I'd never been there before but it is amazing... and their building is pink... adorable!  I've always dreamed of opening a bakery and this place is everything I would want mine to be!

It was Memorial Day weekend so I bought these cupcakes for my Sunday School class.  Yummy!

And I bought these for myself... so amazing!

That Monday we spent at Lake Fort Smith celebrating Dad's birthday (only a few weeks late. Ha!)  It was the perfect day (except for the fact that I got severely burned and am still shedding my skin like a lizard!)

I got Dad a life jacket so we can go floating in the canoe he bought last year.  Hint, Hint... Dad! 
Can't wait to get out on the water with him!

My new school supplies... possibly the most exciting part of going back to school!

Getting fingerprinted by my brother.  Haha!!
A gift from God on my way home from class in Conway.
"God knows what He has planned for my life, I don't need to worry at all!"
He sure does... and keeps showing me this over and over.

So, there's a little taste of what's been going on lately... or at least what I have pictures of on my phone.  There are no signs of things slowing down for the summer and I can't wait to see all He has in store.  I've started classes and my thoughts about that will have to wait for another post.. for now I'll just say that I've never felt so right about anything in my life and it is such an amazing experience!  Here's hoping I can squeeze some time in for blogging in the next couple of months... I love having a place to record some bits of my life :)

"Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness."
Psalm 115:1

Friday, May 20, 2011

God Knew

Tomorrow morning I will find out the results from a very important test I took three weeks ago.  It's a big deal because if I happen to pass, then I will be able to apply for teaching positions for this fall.  I honestly have no idea what to expect when I call in to get my score at 7:00 tomorrow.  All I know is that there is no human way possible that I could have passed.  This test is meant for students who have had four years of undergraduate courses in elementary education.  It's been four years now since I graduated from college... with a degree in German!  Unfortunately, all the knowledge from those years didn't come in very handy when preparing for or taking the Praxis, but I wouldn't trade them for anything.  I was (and still am) passionate about German but now I have new passions that I am so excited about pursuing. 

Tonight as we were praying and talking during our Thursday night Prayer Walk, I couldn't contain my joy and awe at what I'm seeing God do in lives.  I look back and I can't believe how far He's brought me in such a short time.  I remember sitting at the church I grew up in one Wednesday night about two years ago... the one I had attended since I was born, where I came to know Christ and was baptised, where I was known and loved and felt comfortable.... and I remember being sick of being comfortable.  I clearly remember bowing my head in the sanctuary and begging God to give me direction and purpose... and a clear ministry.  Ever since I had graduated from college, I felt like I was just wandering.  I was working at a good office job, was living in a neat townhouse, had just bought a brand new car... but I felt strongly that there was something so much more that God wanted for my life and yet I had no clue what that could be.  Looking back, I still get so amazed at how specifically and fully He answered that prayer!

Soon after I surrendered my will for my life into His hands, I was hired at an office in Van Buren.  After a few months of driving back and forth, I did something I swore I'd never do... I moved to the River Valley.  It was so clearly what God had in store for my life that it took away a lot of the pain of moving away from Mom and Dad... and it was exciting to be back in the same town as Catherine (after she got married and moved away, it felt like half of me was missing)!  So, here I was in Van Buren, feeling like I was right where God wanted me to be for the first time in a long time but I was still having a hard time surrendering to Him on one issue.  Ever since I first walked through the doors of Southside Baptist Church in Alma (a good three years prior to my prayer!), I knew it was a special place and that perhaps one day God would allow me to be a part of that body.  But here I was, God had so clearly placed me in this area, had drawn me closer to Him than I'd ever been and had just blessed me greatly, and I was still so stubborn!  I visited Southside often after I moved (more often than not I'd attend church there instead of driving back to Calvary) but I still could not bring myself to join... my heart was in agony and was breaking over having to make this decision.  To walk that aisle and tell Bro. Phil that I was finally ready to join was the toughest, most emotional thing I've experienced.  It required a MIGHTY move of the Holy Spirit to move me out of my seat and to get my feet in motion.  Even though I deeply desired to be a member of this body that I had fallen in love with years earlier and felt like it was what God was calling me to do, my heart hurt so badly at leaving behind the only other church family I'd known.  I felt like I was letting down my Dad, Mom and Grandma... But the only time I've felt a greater peace than the moment I surrendered to His calling to become a member of Southside was the day I felt called to accept His gift of salvation.  It was a great feeling and without a doubt, the right decision. 

I still can't believe that He called me to this town, to this church, to these people.  It's been about eighteen months since I joined Southside and in that time I can't even recognize the girl He's changed me into.  The doors that He has opened to allow me to work with the greatest group of children in the world, to be able to show them His love... it has literally changed my life and brought me to the place I am today.... heading back to school so that I can learn how to better minister to their lives and the lives of other children.  Before coming to Southside, I'd never really worked with kids.  I had helped out a little with the various children's ministries at Calvary but not on a regular basis.  The only kids I'd ever really developed a relationship with were my nephew and niece.  I have always loved the thought of children but previous to the past couple of years I'd had no experience working with them.  I love my nephew and niece with all my heart and am so thankful that through them God revealed my passion for children.  But that was natural... they made me an Aunt. They are family. Before Southside, I thought that maybe I could only have that love and interaction with children with whom I have a family connection.  God quickly showed me otherwise!  From the first night I stepped in to help Catherine and the other ladies with the children on Wednesday night, I was in love with every single one of them!  They have taught me so much about myself, about what God has planned for my future, and about life in general.  They are my passion.  They are the ones I lie awake at night crying and praying over.  They are the ones I antagonize over how to best show them Christ's love.  They are the ones that literally break my heart when they move away.  And they are the ones that God has used to direct me to this new adventure in my life.

When I started helping, it was just as an extra hand.  I got to know the kids by making sure they paid attention, playing games with them, and just trying to show them God's love.  It was the first time in my life I'd been around children on a regular basis and it brought me unexplainable joy.  It wasn't until last summer when Catherine and I felt like God was leading her to spend a season in Sunday School with her husband and for me to spend a season teaching her Junior Sunday School Class.  I'd never taught a lesson in my life and God has brought me far since those first few weeks.  Pretty soon, I fell in love, not only with my kids, but with the idea of teaching as well.  I loved seeing them learn about God and putting this knowledge into action.  At the same time, things were going downhill at my job.  I'd actually taken a new job because the one I had moved down here for had taken a nasty turn and God had provided something else to allow me to escape that for a time.  He has been so gracious to me!!  Anyways, towards the middle to late summer, I found myself jobless but yet so happy about all that God was doing in my life.  I'd never felt more in the center of His will, so I knew that He would provide something.  He did... it was unexpectedly back at my original job.  But it was that summer, as I felt like the current career path I was on was not something I loved... or really even liked... I started to investigate other possibilities.  Someone at church casually mentioned a program they'd heard about through UCA where you could get your Master's in Arts and Teaching while continuing to work full time as long as you had a Bachelor's degree in any subject.  Wow!  I had no idea anything like that existed but it sounded perfect for me.  I prayed about it, took the entrance exam I needed (sometime I'll share the crazy story about how I thought I failed it but had actually passed and didn't realize that for about a month), and started to get my paperwork ready.   Well, just like I had a hard time following God's direction in joining Southside, I had a hard time following His direction in this too.  I did not doubt that it was His plan but I was scared to death (still am, in fact. Just learning to trust His plan!).  So months went by until I actually followed through on submitting my application.  I have no idea why I waited so long, but it took things getting pretty bad at work again to make me do it.  Funny what God uses to get us to pay attention!  I hope I'm learning a lot better and a lot quicker after being dumb for so long!

So, now you know a bit of the back story of what led me to this moment.  If you'd asked me after I'd prayed that prayer what I thought my life might look like two years later, I would have probably said something like, "Well, I hope God brings me a husband that I can serve alongside right here at Calvary."  I'm so happy He has changed those desires into something greater than anything I could ever ask or imagine.  Even though I had no clue what my future might look like, God knew.  It's incredible.  That's why I know that if for some reason I hear a passing score over the telephone, it will not be because of anything I've done, but it will be because He is good and He has a plan!  And if I hear a failing score, I will know that He will give me another opportunity and the guidance and knowledge I need to eventually do better.  See, He's helping me get better at this trust thing, one day at a time!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jesus Freak

I have neglected my blog and for that I feel sad.  It is, therefore, time to play a little catch-up.  I'm going to start by recapping the first weekend in March because it was such a lovely one and I want to remember something very important that happened during that time.  To preface this probably lengthy and boring-to-everyone-but-me post, I want to go ahead and say that the first week in March was pretty rotten.  By the time Friday rolled around, I was so ready to be done with work... not only for the weekend, but for the rest of all time.  Haha!  In fact, it had been such a stressful week that I skipped prayer walking on Thursday night in order to head to Fayetteville because I was in desperate need of some time with my Dad and Mom.  They are always there and willing to let me vent my frustrations and their wisdom and Godly direction was just what I needed in order to make myself get up and head to work Friday morning. 

After work on Friday, Catherine and I went to a special friend's new home for a time of sweet fellowship and time of prayer with some amazing sisters in Christ.  I was in awe as we met and just talked about how great our God is.  It was such a blessing to see what He has been up to in this lady's life.  In a matter of months we went from praying for God to bring a Godly spouse into her life to praying blessings over her new home and the life she would soon be beginning with her new husband.  He is so good!  What an account to His faithfulness to see these answered prayers!

The next day we woke up entirely too early for a Saturday morning and drove to Mulberry to pick up Mindy and our Mom to head to Little Rock for the day.  Catherine, Jeff and I had long planned to go to the WinterJam tour scheduled for that night but unfortunately Jeff had to work at the last minute.  We persuaded Mom and Mindy to go with us and decided to make a day of it.  We made our first stop at a little place called Pickles Gap.  There was a tiny village with a few shops and, most importantly, a yard filled with baby goats.  For as long as I can remember, I have considered goats to be the cutest of all God's creation.  I dream of one day owning enough land to raise goats of my own.  They were darling and I loved seeing their babies.  Absolutely adorable!  We did a little shopping at the flea markets and I found a couple of books I couldn't live without.  Pretty soon I am going to need an intervention... or a library to house my book collection.  It's getting out of control.  After a fun time with the goats, we headed to downtown Little Rock.  By this point I was thinking that the day couldn't get any better.  Goats, flea marketing, books, quality time with my favorite women... what else could a girl need to make a Saturday better?  At this point we didn't even know if we'd be able to get into the concert.  It's general admission and you pay at the door.  We knew we would need to be there early to wait but beforehand we spent some time down by the River.  We had lunch at Gusano's Pizza.  Oh my lands!  It is amazing stuff.  We also did some shopping.  My favorite store is in Little Rock and I'm so glad we were able to stop in.  When I was in Austria, I fell in love with the fair trade store in Graz.  I loved the idea that my purchases could help artisans around the world get a fair price for their goods and live a better life by providing for their families.  It's a win/win situation.  I get to buy quality, one-of-a-kind pieces while helping people living in third world poverty.  I learned about a chain called Ten Thousand Villages while in Oregon and was thrilled when they opened a store in Little Rock several years ago.
After a bit of shopping and lunch, we headed to Verizon Arena to wait for the concert.  At this point, it was over two hours before the doors would open and yet there was a significant crowd already lined up.  We began to worry that we might not get tickets and seriously considered heading back home.  But we stuck it out.  It felt like much more than two hours by the time we got in the doors.  The waiting was no fun.  It was cold and very windy outside and we quickly became pressed in from all sides by the crowd.  We almost gave up a few times but I've never been so glad of persistence.  We did make it in and bought tickets successfully without getting trampled.  We quickly found our seats and eagerly waited another hour for the show to start, thankful that we'd made it in alive!  What an evening it turned out to be.  We got to worship with the likes of Jason Castro, Chris August (Catherine and I met him and I might have a little crush now. Haha!), Sidewalk Prophets (we met Ben and he was super nice), Red (not my style... at all), Francesca Battistelli (my absolute favorite artist right now), David Crowder Band (does it get any better?), Kutless and Newsboys as our leaders.  Seriously couldn't have had a better, more worshipful time.  It was also a blessing to see so many young people there as part of their youth groups.  I'm so thankful for the times I had with my church group as a teenager and it was nice to see so many kids having those same experiences... even though it did make me feel slightly geriatric.  The only down side to the evening was an overly friendly man who tried to exchange phone numbers with my Mom.  Oh my! 

The most memorable time of the night, however, came when Newsboys took the stage.  It was a bit of a full-circle moment getting to see them in concert with my Mom by my side.  My first experience with the group came when I was a teenager.  One night I won a game in youth group and received a Newsboys CD as a prize.  By the time we made it home, my youth minister, Bro. Kelvin, had called my Mom to explain that the music might be a little "out there" and she might want to preview it before I listened to it.  You see, my Dad was chairman of the Deacons at the time and our family, though known to love a good time, had the reputation for being pretty conservative when it came to worldly matters.  So Mom and I listened to the CD together.  She wasn't a fan but I fell in love.  I think it may have been because it was the wildest stuff I'd ever heard.  All the music I had listened to up to that point had been either classic oldies, country or light contemporary Christian music.  This was unlike the CCM stuff I'd heard.  My Mom didn't approve of DC Talk or any other artists who sounded anything like what was popular at the time.  That didn't stop my sister from obtaining DC Talk cassettes and my Mom would have a fit when she heard them sing songs like "Love is a Verb" and "Jesus Freak." Getting to see Newsboys with Michael Tait as their lead singer with our mom was surreal.  What a difference ten years makes!  In fact, I don't think she even minded when her daughters ended up shouting out the lyrics to such classics as "Breakfast in Hell" and our favorite "Jesus Freak."  I loved that experience and the entire night was such an amazing time of worship.  Being in a crowd that large, I lost all inhibition and lifted my hands several times in pure worship that night.  What an awesome God we serve.  He is worthy of all our praise!  It was a late night but so worth it!  I'm so thankful we got the opportunity to go and am already looking forward to next year. 

Sundays are a time for worshipping with other believers, teaching my class, hearing a Word that I know comes straight from God, having Children's Church services, an afternoon of rest and back to Church for another Word.  I love it!  This particular Sunday service was great as usual and afterwards I went to get take-out from my favorite Chinese restaurant.  It tasted great but later, I would regret this decision.  After the late Saturday night, a nap was definitely in order.  Unfortunately I woke up not feeling well and decided to not risk getting sick at church.  Smart decision since I ended up very ill later on.  Still not sure if it was due to my lunch but I know that it became the last China Jade I will ever be able to eat.  Sad day :(  While I like to keep my Sundays restful, I did get quite a bit done in between my moments of sickness.  I spent the evening organizing the books on my bookcases (a very therapeutic activity for me) while listening to sermons on my phone.  Wild night.  Haha!

I realize this post is becoming a novel but I haven't even got to the best part yet!  Late Sunday night the thought crossed my mind to run to my mailbox since I hadn't done that since Thursday.  There was something very important I had been waiting on and I had been checking my mail quite regularly for the past two months.  On this particular night I honestly wasn't expecting anything important but I just felt the urge to check it.  Even though I had no idea what would be in the box, God did!  Just when I was at my lowest point regarding work and my future plans, He brought me my answer.  Underneath a bulletin from my former home church in Fayetteville and a bill were two envelopes that I believe will change my life completely.  The whole journey to applying and starting back to school to pursue a new career is a complete God thing and will require another post.  But on this night, my future began to fall into place.  I remember when I was first applying to college while still in High School, a big envelope was a good sign.  Well, the two envelopes I received, one from the College of Education and one from the Office of Graduate Studies, were both small envelopes.  I had a moment of panic where the only thought crossing my mind was what a failure I must be that they won't accept me into this program.  Then I heard that still, small voice saying, "I have plans for your future... and it's going to be good! Trust me."  What a calmness.  So I prayed and cried and ripped the envelopes open all at the same time.  If anyone happened to be watching me out of their apartment windows at this late hour, I'm sure they thought I was insane.  So, I pull out the letter and the first word is "Congratulations!"  Oh, my heart was done for.  I wept and it didn't stop for quite a while.  What an amazing God!  He does have a plan and it is not what I would have chosen for myself but it is sooo much better than "anything I could ask or imagine."... but that's all another post for another day.  Suffice it to say, for more than a little while I worshiped like I had never worshiped before, bowed down in His presence on the bedroom floor... He revealed Himself so mightily that night and I never want to forget how it felt to catch a glimpse of His plan for my life. Wow! It was an amazing moment.  After thanking Him for all He had done, I called my mom, still weeping, and probably scared her half to death because I couldn't get the words out of my mouth.  Since that moment, I've been in complete awe of how God continues to make things fall into place.  I'm so blessed.... with a family who rejoices with me, friends who support me, and most of all a God who cares about my future. 

Now that I've finally blogged again, I am going to try and be more consistent.  I really want to have a record of this time in my life.  God is moving all around me and I want to look back and be able to praise Him for all He has done.  We will see if i can stick with it....

"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."
Jeremiah 33:3

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up

One of my purposes in starting a blog was to keep a sort of journal because I think it will be neat to look back in years to come and see how I spent my time.  So, with that in mind, I'd like to recap my weekend... a couple of days after the fact.  Last week I looked so forward to Friday (even more so than usual) because I knew my nephew was coming to spend the night with me.  I know I say it often, but my nephew and niece are the greatest blessings in my life.  Catherine and I had already made plans for an evening in Fort Smith and I figured Isaac might enjoy spending time with both his aunts so we made a fun time of going to Lifeway to buy our VBS material (soooo excited to begin working on that!) and to Sam's to do a bit of shopping.  At one point as we were driving, we asked Isaac what he would like for his upcoming birthday.  He quickly replied, "This."  He went on to explain that all he wanted was to spend some one-on-one time with his aunts.  The fact that I matter in this precious child's life is something that I never want to take for granted.  There were definitely some misty eyes at his little statement!  After shopping we bought a pizza and some soda and headed back to Uncle Smitty and Aunt Catherine's to play their Wii.  Wow, my 7 year old nephew schooled me on that thing and it was embarrassing.  But it was worth it for all the fun he had.  We stayed at their place till midnight!  When we finally made it home, we quickly changed into our pj's and started a movie.  Isaac was out in no time and I wasn't far behind.

Saturday we slept in till 8.  I fixed waffles and eggs while we watched cartoons.  After that we got ready to see Gnomeo and Juliet.  It was absolutely adorable and the music was great!  As soon as the movie was over, we hurried over to Alma to a birthday party for a church friend who was turning the big 5-0.  I figured we might stay thirty minutes, an hour tops, but we ended up staying the entire afternoon.  I got to spend the party playing outside with some really cool kids.  It was a lot of fun and a great day for it!  I'm so thankful for the friends and fellowship opportunities God has placed in my life!  After we left the party it was time to take Isaac home.  Catherine rode along as we headed to Mulberry.  When we got there, Mindy and Stephen mentioned they were planning a bonfire and weenie roast for the evening and since Mom and Dad were at my place (to bring me Krispy Kreme donuts for my Sunday School class... aren't they awesome?!), we decided to turn it into a family affair.  I hadn't had a hot dog cooked over an open flame in quite a while.  It was such a treat of an evening!  I went to bed Saturday night reflecting on what a great weekend it had already been and amazed at the fact there was still a full day before beginning another work week.

Unfortunately, even though my alarm was set, I didn't wake up until 8:37 Sunday morning.  I blame this completely on my new iPhone and I'm not sure I've forgiven it yet... my Blackberry alarm never failed me!  Anyway, when I was finally awake and aware of the time, I panicked.  Thankfully I have a pretty great sister who covered my Sunday School class until I could make it.  It was an important Sunday, too.  I've been promising my kids that when they reached 100 points on their reward chart, we'd have a big celebration (hence the Krispy Kreme donuts from the amazing Ma and Pa).  Well, I made it just in time for them to eat their donuts and have their juice while teaching a highly condensed version of our lesson on Zacchaeus.  We will continue the celebration next week... if my alarm decides to work.  Haha!  The service was a sweet time of worship and God spoke conviction to me through the message.  I'm so glad the morning ended much better than it began!  Instead of driving to Fayetteville, I stayed home and took a long nap before evening service.  I'm glad I did because I ended up keeping some fairly active children that night.  I love how the Lord keeps confirming some things He's doing in my life right now.  I'm so thankful that He is sovereign and has a plan for my future!  After church I came home and watched the tail end of the Academy Awards so I could catch a glimpse of Mr. Darcy... or Colin Firth as some might call him :)

These were such lovely days.  Since then, the week has gotten a little crazy and it has been nice to reflect on all the good things in my life.  Last night I did go see The King's Speech and it was as good as I could have imagined.  It left me weeping happy tears and that is always a sign of a great movie in my book!  Tonight has been wonderful, as well.  I spent the evening at Jeff and Catherine's.  I'm so thankful for them and the encouragement they always give me.  Now, I'm ready for whatever the rest of the week may hold!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Can't Hurry Love

"Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!"
-Thomas Chisolm

If you had asked me at five what I thought my life would look like in twenty years, I would have immediately described my dreams of being a wife and mother of ten children.  While the number of children may have changed over the years (I now think eight is a nice number. Haha!), my dreams and desires have remained the same as time has passed.  No matter how badly I may wish to have a husband and children, I am realizing more and more that the greatest gift is waiting on God.  This topic has been heavy on my heart lately.  Not that long ago, I would have considered waiting on God to be a negative thing.  I know that waiting on Him is the only real option in my life, but the idea scared me.  I would constantly worry that God would keep me in this waiting period longer than I could bear.  I was placing completely too much of my concentration and focus on the things I was lacking while placing little value on the abundant blessings in my life.  Thankfully, God is always faithful to remind me of all He has done.  He has proven to me over and over again that He cares about the details so I seek to rest in Him as I wait, knowing He will provide.

Even though I've learned to trust God's provision, it is still easy to get discouraged.  More times than I care to admit, I look at others who receive the blessings that I so greatly desire and think, "why not me?"  During those times, I have to cling to the promises I know to be true.  In my own life, I've experienced what it is like to take matters into my own hands instead of waiting on God.  To many, the fact that I've only had one dating experience may seem crazy.  It is this experience, however, that taught me the most about the importance of waiting on God's timing and provision.  My family attempted to "set me up" with a guy at their church.  We went on two "dates", both with members of my family.  I knew from the onset that this was manipulation of a situation that should have been left up to God to work out according to His plans, but I went along anyway.  I ended up heartbroken after this experience due to my lack of patience in waiting for God to work.  Because I didn't place this situation in God's hands, I questioned what had happened and what I had done or not done that caused this guy to not be interested.  There is emotional safety and security in waiting on the Lord to move!

Despite all He has taught me, I still often place too much responsibility on myself as opposed to resting in Christ while I wait.  I daily worry that I will never attract a mate.  When it comes to members of the opposite sex, I am completely awkward and tend to be a spazz.  A basic conversation with a single guy can easily turn into a humiliating experience, leaving me utterly embarassed with my big foot in my mouth.  Praise the Lord, it's not up to me!  I believe with all my heart that when it is God's perfect timing, nothing can keep me and the one He has created for me apart.  I could snort diet coke out of my nose on our first date and he will see beyond that.  God is infinitely bigger than my nervousness with the fellas!

During this time of waiting I never want to take the blessings in my life for granted.  Because I haven't had a family to take care of, I've been able to do some pretty amazing things and I look forward to many more.  I think one of the biggest blessings is how much time I've spent with my family.  I have an absolutely amazing Mom and Dad, Brother and Sister (and their spouses are pretty cool, too!), Grandma, and extended family.  And the fact that I get to be an aunt to the most precious nephew and niece still blows my mind!  I have also been able to pursue some passions of mine.  One of my favorite things is traveling.  I don't care if it's an overnight stay in a cabin or a trip to Europe, I'm always up for a trip.  In college I spent a year in Austria and I've also been able to take several mission trips to Mexico as well as countless smaller trips with my family all over the country.  These have been the best times of my early twenties!  Most importantly, God has used this time to teach me about Him and that is invaluable.  There are so many more things I would like to do while I am single but if God has other plans, I'm fine with that, too. :) 

While waiting may be difficult and it is easy to get carried away in your desires for companionship and support, it is also a huge blessing.  God's timing is perfect and He knows best in every situation.  I have come to a point where I believe that if it is God's plan for me to never marry, that He will take that desire away and that I can find joy in knowing that He loves me enough to do what is best for me.  In the end, with or without a mate, it is Christ and our relationship with Him that must come first!  Waiting on God and surrendering our will in our desires isn't a passive action.  God redeems the time by growing and maturing us.  And because I know that God is faithful to hear and answer my prayers, I pray daily for my future husband.  I pray that God would guard his heart and strengthen his faith until that perfect time when we are brought together.  And since I know God is listening, I go ahead and tell Him what I desire in this man:  He must love the Lord passionately, even above his love for me; he must pursue me in a Godly manner; he must have a sense of humor and be attractive to me; he must love me for who I am and 'get' my eccentricities; and he must always make sure my gas tank in my car is full.  Haha!  Hey, I believe God is almighty and has made someone just for me who will fit this description... and I pray that God would mold me into the gal I need to be for him.  Until that time, I'll keep on waiting and praying until God places it on that special someone's heart to pursue  me. :) And when it does happen, I pray God will be glorified through it all!

"My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him."  Psalm 62:5