Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

2012 was a crazy year for our family.  We were married 8 years this year, Tobin started Kindergarten, we found out Caroline needed glasses, and we got out of debt.  Our priorities were completely shifted after we had to start our lives over when our home burned in the Oklahoma Wildfires in August.  What a reminder of how our life here on earth is fleeting, but our purpose is to tell others about Christ, so they too may live eternity with Him.  Our story is not a story of tragedy, but a story of overcoming faith and unending gratitude.  With the protection and provision of our heavenly father, and the support and prayers of our friends and family, we can start again knowing that he has a plan for us.  Thank you for your kind words, gifts, hugs, support, and prayers.  Our marriage is stronger, our family is closer, and our vision for the future is focused solely on what HE wants for our lives.  We look forward to celebrating our Savior’s birth this Christmas and we have confidence that 2013 will be filled with His blessings.  We hope and pray that your new year will be filled with the hope, joy and peace that only our Savior can bring.




We have the best friends and family anyone could ask for!  Thanks for being a part of our amazing life! 

Merry Christmas!



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Little Lonesome Shepherd



We had a little nativity scene that I used to get out every year.  It was some sort of resin or plaster-like material.  The kiddos played with it, and loved pretending with the bible characters.  Last year, when I put up the manger scene after Christmas, I realized the shepherd was missing.  I thought he would show up but alas, I never found him.  Fast forward 11 months.  I took the vacuum out to the car to clean it out, after a nameless person filled the back with hay that we had to have for a certain birthday party.  Anyway, hay was everywhere.  I laid down the seat to vacuum.  Oh, to my surprise what I found!  There was the lonesome shepherd!   I’m sure this little shepherd got loaded into the car by some tiny hands, and never made it out.  He is missing both hands, his shepherd's staff, and he is all alone.  No Mary, Joseph, or even Baby Jesus to keep him company.  However, after loosing every single Christmas decoration I had to keep him.  You may think I’m nuts that I didn’t just toss him into the garbage with all that hay.  He now sits on top of my desk in the dining room.  I love him.  I think I shall pack him up with the Christmas stuff every year, and he shall come out once a year.  “Why?” You ask.  To remind us of another promise God has for us.  




With the most recent events at Shady Hook Elementary school in Newtown CT, I have been resting in Psalm 91.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." Psalm 91:1-4


I can’t help but imagine the thoughts that go through the minds of those mommies who lost their precious babes last Friday.  My precious son is 6, and I cannot comprehend how empty their hearts must be tonight.  How can they possibly function, sleep, or eat.  Then I remember how I felt after our fire.  Even though our experiences aren’t the same, I remember not tasting food, or sleeping, or wanting to function.  I just did.  I rested in the fact that God still had a plan and purpose for my life.  Regardless of how I felt, I had to trust him. 

Today, as I kissed my son and sent him to school, I immediately put myself into those mother’s places.  “What if this is the last time I see him?  NO!  I will not flood my mind with fear!”  Each morning, whether Tony or I walk Tobin to school, we pray for him.   We pray for him to be a light to others who may not know the love of Christ, for him to make good choices, and for God to protect him.   After I said goodbye this morning,  I opened my bible and read Psalm 91 again.   His warmth and peace and Joy came flooding back to me.  I will keep this little shepherd because when I see his little lonesome self, I will remember how God scoops in, picks us up, and hides us in the shadow of his wings. He is MY refuge and MY strength, and I will TRUST in Him!  

I will not try to manufacture hands either.  He is perfect the way he is, because even his broken hands remind me why I need the Lord.  Just like that little shepherd, we are all hurting, lonely, and incomplete without Jesus in our lives.

My prayers are with all the victims of the Shady Hook tragedy.  May you find peace and Joy that only our Savior can bring to you this Christmas season. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Feeling normal...

We have been up to a lot lately.  We got back from our Thanksgiving trip late Sunday night.  On Monday I had lots of Scentsy work to catch up on, and a couple different meetings that evening.  Yesterday I was at the church all day helping decorate the Lobby for Christmas.  Tony and Caroline have been having cold/cough symptoms for a while now, so yesterday I took her to the Doctor. She has an upper respiratory infection and bladder infection.  Poor baby!  Needless to say, It's been a little crazy.  I'm so thankful we have craziness in our lives again, honestly.  It feels somewhat normal to me.  I'm grateful.

I thought I'd share some pictures for those of you who have been to my home and know how Obsessive Compulsive  Organized I usually am. 

These are all clean dishes, which helps... but they will be sitting there for a while. (notice all the medicine in the background.  I know... we could open up a pharmacy!)


Stacks of fabric and sewing machine out from all my recent projects...


Since I have nothing to do... I thought I'd put up a Christmas tree.  Doesn't that make sense?  Notice all the debris everywhere.  Hopefully this will make some other mommies and wives feel normal.  We do like to "live" in our home.


I got out the Christmas warmers Monday, but never put up the fall ones.  Yep, told you I was crazy Organized :)
The only thing keeping my sweet sick girl happy today has been potato chips and markers.  What you can't see in this pictures are her hot pink hightop sneakers she has on.  You do what you have to do, right?!


I guess I better get off the computer and get some cleaning or laundry done while the princess is resting.... Or maybe I'll make a cup of coffee and decorate the tree.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grateful

Thanksgiving is always a reflection of gratitude from the past year.  One day where we intentionally give Thanks to the ONE who holds everything in his hand.  This year was different for me.

We listened to an amazing message from Pastor Steven Furtick on Sunday at Church.  He said so many awesome things, but one of the things he said was "Once your perspective changes, everything changes".  He is so right!  Our perspective was drastically changed on August 3rd.  Things that once mattered to us, don't anymore.  We also see clearer the things we do cherish most of all.  We are in the process of making some big decisions in our life- based on our family's goals, purpose, and mission statement.  Those three things were completely different 4 months ago.  They weren't ungodly or wrong, just different.  Things that were normal for us, are normal for many Christians still today.  We want to be WEIRD!  We are weird.  We are okay with that.  As our awesome pastor says in his book, "because normal isn't working".  Amen! 

Steven Also talked about Gratitude on Sunday.  He told us that "Grateful people can FIND a Blessing, ENLARGE a Blessing, or CREATE a Blessing, in almost every situation."  This is us.  We are only where we are today, because we are grateful.  We are grateful every day that our God is good, at all times.  What the enemy planned for evil that day, God turned into a huge blessing.  We have a clearer purpose.  We have our family, still safe and alive.  Even though mementos and photographs are gone, we have our memories.  We are grateful for all these things.  We are also more grateful that our home on earth is just temporary.  Even if we would have lost our lives that day, it would not be the end for us, because we know our "HOME" is in heaven with our heavenly father.  We now look at every situation differently.

Even on those days when I'm feeling down, lonely, discouraged, or even selfish, He has not forsaken me.  He loves me even when I cry in Hobby Lobby looking at Christmas Ornaments.  He is here every single step of the way.  He has never left me, nor will he ever leave me, NOT FOR A MOMENT.

Hebrews 13:5b  ..."Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."


(This is a video of a song by Meredith Andrews.  I have been writing this blog in my head for a couple days, and heard this on the way home in the car tonight.  I had to post it!)


When we sat around the table at Thanksgiving this year, it was different for me.  It was not just an outpouring of gratefulness for one moment on one day.  For me, it was a celebration of the thankfulness God has put in my heart these last 3 months. 

1Thessalonians 5:18 -- Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.


He is good. 
He is sovereign.
He will never leave me. 
I am loved.
I am grateful.



Friday, November 16, 2012

Intentional Simplicity

Today Tony loaded 12 kitchen trash bags of clothes, toys, household items, etc. in the Explorer to donate to a local thrift store.  I'm sure you are wondering what on earth could we get rid of after loosing everything three months ago, right?  Well, we are approaching life differently these days.  If we won't wear it or use it, we don't need it.  Tonight as I type, the house is quiet.  Silent.  Tony was feeling under the weather tonight and went to bed early, with the kiddos.  As I sit here looking at the toys and shoes scattered around my feet, I can't help but Thank God for where our life is right now.  I'm so honored and blessed to get to be the mommy to the amazing kids I have, and wife to the man I don't deserve but so desperately need. 
I've been absent from the blog for a couple weeks.  Sorry about that.  Tonight I'll just catch you up from the last couple weeks and just open up my heart to where I've been and where I am at tonight.

The kids are doing great.  Tobin is a leader at school, and doing great with behavior these days.  He is so sweet to his sister all the time and constantly asks me if he can help me (with whatever I'm doing at the moment).  Our sweet Caroline got glasses a week ago.  She is a different child. I'm devoting a post solely on her glasses.  In fact, I have part of it written already.  I'm so thankful God gave me the urgency to get her eyes checked.

We spent last weekend with 50 teenagers at our Fall Retreat.  It was an amazing time of growing together in fellowship.  Tony taught the students how worship isn't just something we sing, but a lifestyle, lived out every moment of every day.  Tony and I are preparing ourselves for what God has next for us.  We aren't sure what that may be, but know God is preparing our hearts for another change.  Several people have contacted us, or prayed over us, and say that they feel a new anointing coming over us.  I'm not sure what that means, but we are trying to seek him more than ever, because that's what our purpose is.  My new motto is "For your Splendor, Lord".  It changes the actions and purpose of our day.  Change always kind of scared me before, but now I realize that if we could get through what happened 3 months ago, then any other sort of normal "change" might even be easy now.

With that being said, a new normal has finally set in around here.  Scentsy is taking off again with the Fall/Holiday selling season.  Seems like it's the perfect gift for someone who has everything else.   I'm pretty busy between my "stay at home mom" job, Scentsy, Church, and mentoring a handful of young women these days.  There are lots of babies being born in our neck of the woods, or about to be born.  I'm busy sewing and making projects for the new babes, all the while throwing together a new pillow or curtain to make it feel more "homey" around here.

Christmas has been on my mind a lot lately.  It seems to me that Christmas has come earlier than I ever remember it.  Maybe it's because of the commercials on TV.  Maybe it's just because I have no Christmas boxes to pull out this year.  I've gone through spurts of anger and sadness and honestly, bitterness.  I know it's not Christ-like or right to feel this way.  This is the main reason I haven't posted in a while.  God has had to deal with me about this.  I have said it before, and will probably say it again, "Writing is therapy to my soul".  So here I go, up on my Soap Box again tonight.  I apologize in advance! Ha!

Each year, I couldn't wait to finish the Thanksgiving meal, because then came the anticipation to celebrate our Savior's birth, and share His Joy with everyone!  Christmas was always done well in our home, or so I'd like to think.  We had the little people nativity set out for the kids to play with, a basket of Christmas books and DVD's, wreaths, garland, ornaments, and twinkle lights everywhere.  It gave me such Joy to get the Rubbermaid tubs of Christmas Decorations out of the attic (or barn) every year.  I loved putting some cubes of "Christmas Cottage" in my Scentsy Warmer and cutting fresh pine and cedar to make my holiday wreath and garland.  This year is obviously different.  It has come at a good time, honestly.  Overcoming the bitterness (of loosing all our Christmas memorabilia) wasn't easy.  I struggled with weeks on the thought of "how should we do Christmas now?"-- When we had to (or got the chance to) start over.  I've been praying a lot about it.  I've been meditating on Jeremiah 33:3  "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."  I've been praying for an answer.  I knew he would respond in his perfect time, and perfect way.  Then yesterday, I crumbled. 

A friend texted me in the morning and said, "Hey girl! Do you all have a Christmas tree? If you don't, we would like to bless your family this Christmas and get you a tree and lights plus some ornaments to go on it!"   I was shocked!  I hadn't written a blog on my heartache about Christmas yet.  I hadn't posted on Facebook or told my friends.  How could they have known?  I read it to Tony and tears were in his eyes with disbelief, as I was crying uncontrollably.  Only God could have known that achy desire of mine, and he cared about it! 

Psalm 37:4  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Psalm 20:4  May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

All this may seem silly to you.  I have some friends who don't get caught up in the "commercialized and materialistic" traditions of Christmas every year.  I think that is perfectly fine for them.  However, In our home we love to celebrate, unceasingly, our saviors birth.  We are praying about how/what to do in our home every year.  We have basically been blessed with the ability to "start over" with our traditions.  One thing I know.  We will have a Tree with lights.  We will live with simplicity this year, more than ever, and be intentional about everything we do.  I have already ordered our little people nativity set from Amazon.  Will Freddie, our "elf on the shelf" come see us this year?  Maybe so... but maybe as a sign to show my kids how to respond in Grace when he misbehaves, instead of a way to threaten my kids to be naughty or nice.  I'm not sure what role Santa will play in our home this year, but I still love the hope that he brings and message behind the first Santa.    I don't know what color ornaments or bows we will adorn our tree with, but I know that it will be with intention this year.  I also know that we will give more than we ever have.

What are your family's favorite Christmas traditions that you couldn't live without?  What could you change if you could start over? Anything at all?  I'd love to hear your suggestions. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is Halloween OK?

This is in response to some messages I received via social media tonight after posting pics of a six year old Iron Man, and a three year old Bumblebee, and a Mommy (me) with a cat mask on...

We don't celebrate Halloween in our home.
We celebrate freedom in our home.
We believe we are to share the good news of Christ with others.
What other time of the year do people knock on your door to get something free?
Give them the FREE good news of Christ with their FREE candy.

We always dressed up when I was little.
Creepy, scary, or bloody costumes were never allowed.
They will not be allowed in our home either.
...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Phil. 4:8

Our Children are only tiny for a short time.
I love to see the joy on my children's faces when they put on their costumes for the first time.
We love spending time together as a family.
We have some of the greatest family memories of Halloween.
The overflow of candy in our home is used as a tool to teach giving and sharing.

I believe in taking a stand against evil forces aka: spiritual warfare.
Romans 12:21 (NIRV) Don't let evil overcome you. Overcome evil by doing good.
 John 10:10 (NIV84) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Some Christians think we are sinning by participating.
I don't really care what they think, because I live under and IN HIS truth.

This year, Halloween was a good distraction for my kids.
This year, everyone who knocked on our door got invited to church.
This year, people noticed our JOY, HIS JOY, Joy that doesn't come from candy, or worldly things! 
This year, we prayed for the people that would come to our home, before they arrived.
This year, my children got to SEE what evangelism is about, when a bloody zombie came to the door.


Do you think Jesus would be mad about that?
I don't.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

He is my Home


I'm thinking that I have too many things to post about that I just sit here night after night and don't know where to begin.  I've started making a list of things to blog about.  There are so many stories to tell.  Miracles have happened.  Funny, silly, sad, hard, and wonderful things have happened.  I guess I'll just start with this story for tonight because it's fresh on my mind...


We spent the last weekend at my parents.  There are lots of stories and photos to share from our wonderful weekend on the farm I grew up on (I'll post pics later).  When I was a child I took for granted what I had, as most of us probably did.  Here is a little bit of background that you may or may not know about me.  I had the privilege of being a pastor's daughter.  I'm the second of 4 children.  Did you know that?  My parents are still married to this day, 34 years I believe.  When I was 7 years old, my family moved from California (where I was born) to the old family place in Arkansas.  It's nestled high in the Ozark mountains, at least 30 minutes from the closest Walmart store.  I spent my youth running through all the fruit trees, mostly Apple trees, or making forts in the woods with my brothers.   We played outside every day.  We gathered eggs from the chicken coup.  We didn't have cable, or name brand clothes, but who knew?  I sure didn't!  All I knew was that my Mom stayed home with us, and my Dad preached on Sundays.  I never had to worry if we would have a meal on the table, or have water to take a bath, or a warm bed to sleep in.  I was comfortable and content.  The only problem was that I used to hate living so far away from everything and everyone.

The funny thing about that now, is that we drive almost 4 hours to escape there for the weekend.  We go to the farmhouse I grew up in.  We sleep in the 4 post bed in a room surrounded by windows, the room I packed up the night before my wedding.  We sit and look at the gorgeous view, and through the mountains to the beautiful valley below.  My kids get to play with the toys I played with and swing on the same tree I did!  We eat amazing food!  My mom is a great cook.  She always made a home-cooked meal when I was growing up.  One thing I never had a question about was whether or not we would sit down to a family meal for dinner.  Every. Single. Night. 

So, back to this weekend...

We hadn't been back to my parents since the fire.  We had plans to go the second week in August to visit, but our plans changed on August 3rd.  We had to start our lives again, get settled, and put some roots down.  Now that we are doing pretty good we finally decided to make the trip.  I was amazed how excited the kids were.  I mean, they are always excited to see their Nonny and Papa, but this was different.  Caroline asked about 6 or 8 times when we would be there.  Finally we arrived and the two kiddos were elated! A home cooked meal, pumpkin luminaries, and hugs were awaiting us.  It felt like home.

My kids ran in the house and immediately to the play room (which used to be my brothers room).  They love the old bunk beds, books, and toys galore!  Tobin left the play room and was in the kitchen talking to us.  Then I noticed something that hasn't happened since the fire.  Caroline wasn't next to my side, and wasn't screaming for me.  Panic struck me for a moment and I thought... Where could she be? Was she alright? Was she hurt?

I hurriedly ran to find her.  I checked the bathroom and then ran to the play room.  There she was, playing with the little dollhouse she had always played with.  She wasn't scared.  She didn't feel alone.  She was comfortable.  She looked up at me like I was crazy for calling for her.  Then she watched me walk away and turned back to play.  Could this be?  I had not seen her this comfortable since before the fire.  Oh, why did it take me this long to come "home" and allow her to feel safe?

The kids were happy all weekend, pretty much.  They weren't scared.  They slept well.  They were "normal" again.  Caroline didn't want to leave.  I wonder if she could have even told me why if I had asked her.  I think a part of me didn't want to hear why.  So I just said, "I know baby, neither do I, but we have to go home."  She looked down with a heavy sigh, as if to agree.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Caroline was her sweet normal self again today.  I'm hoping and praying that it lasts a while.  The days are funny around here.  Sometimes we are perfectly "normal"... whatever that may be.  Other days, some of us are sad or angry or scared.  Certain things "crush our spirit", but the Lord is always near.  He saves us.  He gives me a new thirst to seek him and know him deeper.  A year ago, I prayed that I would have a new yearning for him- a hunger and thirst to spend more time in his word.  These days I just can't get enough.  His word is my home these days, it's an old comfort that is once again new.  I'm thankful that I need him.  I've been reading James a lot lately.  It just seems to jump out at me, and then it is so obvious that the Lord has answered my prayer.  
Blessed is the man who keeps on going when times are hard. After he has come through them, he will receive a crown. The crown is life itself. God has promised it to those who love him.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Comfort Through the Storm



I had the pleasure of growing up in the Ozarks.  We moved there from California when I was 7 to a farm on a mountaintop.  I remember the first spring we were there.  We could hear thunder.  Daddy took me outside and from our mountain view we could see the lightning striking down in the valley.  I was trembling inside, scared and insecure.  Then I felt the comforting grasp of my Daddy.  He reached his arm around me and held me tight.  In the black darkness, even when I could see the storm I was calm. I was calm because my Daddy was comforting me. 
(My Daddy and Me)

Tonight at church one of the youth leaders said, “It’s a good think Caroline won’t remember the fire. She’s too young.  How could she even comprehending what went on?” 

That got me thinking.   A lot gets me thinking these days.  I started thinking about everything we have been through since the fire.  Then I remembered what I read in my quiet time today.


I Corinthians 1:

The God of All Comfort
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.


I was going to read several chapters in I Corinthians today, but I was mesmerized by this paragraph.  I read it over and over again.  The Lord uses situations in our life to help others get through similar things later.  Christ suffered so much for us, yet our comfort from him overflows.  This fire has been the hardest thing I’ve had to grieve in my life.  There may come a time where I need even more comfort than I’ve needed during this tragedy.  It is through Christ, my Abba Father, where my hope is found.  He shared in our sufferings, and he shares in our comfort.

Caroline may be young, but she gets it.  There is not a big difference between our home and our church.  We talk about God a lot.  We live out faith daily in our home.  She will tell you any day that Jesus didn’t stay dead on the cross, he is alive.  She draws crosses a lot these days, actually.   She loves to pray.  She loves to worship. 

As I have written previously, Caroline has been very uneasy and scared since the fire.  She is doing so much better these days.  Sometimes she still wakes up in the middle of the night scared.  Tony goes in there and hugs her and she goes back to sleep.  A few weeks after the fire she said, “Mommy, I wish Jesus was small and cuddly so I could sleep with him every night.  Then, I wouldn’t scared anymore”. 




Caroline knows what’s going on, as much as a 3 year old can.  The Lord knew what he was talking about when he told us to have faith like a child.  She comprehends that The Lord comforts her.  Sometimes she just needs her physical daddy to hold her.  She may help another little girl someday soon; someone who is scared or needs some kind of comfort.  It will be an opportunity for her to share how her Lord comforts her.

Part of me hopes she forgets this whole ordeal.

Part of me hopes that she remembers it all, and like my Daddy comforted me in that thunderstorm when I was a little girl, she will remember how her Abba, Daddy, Savior, Lord comforted her.