{Wedding Week} Monday

Journal Entry  July 27, 2015

This morning Kyle went off to work as usual.  Blueberry syrup and waffles still linger in the air an hour or more after he pulled away from the house.  This is the last week of moments like these.

Since I didn’t sleep well last night and I was still groggy, we didn’t talk much, which is nothing about of the ordinary “how did you sleep?” and “do you think you’ll be busy today?”  as we watched the morning news.

So many changes coming this week…  So many moments to embrace, the little things that make up the larger things in life… 

Sweet tea dribbles, sugar laden cereal, clothes lying on the floor all over the house-evidence of where he has been. 
I sure will miss him. 

Kyle is getting married on Saturday August 1, 2015 to a beautiful girl, his best friend, Olivia.   She is precious to him and to us and we are very excited for this step in their young lives of twenty-one years.  He’s loved her since the seventh grade and that is something to say! 

This Saturday he will say “I Do” and with a grace-filled and loyal heart he will mean it with everything he has in him.  He is like his daddy and His Father like that.  It makes me cry to think about how he has determined to live his life, individual and unique, yet demonstrating friendship to everyone.  He is a man of integrity and solid character.  Perfect? No. But one who seeks to live in the Light and to walk by Faith.  This is what I admire most about his purpose toward Olivia and their new life together. 

I couldn’t be more proud of him and I will miss him so!  But I will be thankful and hold fast to the moments and memories that he has helped to make in our family.  The youngest of three brothers has been a challenging position at times… not sure for whom!

Kyle is a joy, a blessing and one of my favorite gifts the Lord has ever blessed me with. Gifts that include a Godly husband, and three handsome smart and strong sons who have all been “Mama’s Boys” since the day I held them in my arms. 

Boys, you are every good and perfect Gift that God could have ever thought to grant me the privilege to hold in trust on His behalf.   I apologize again for all those times I got it wrong… like making you go to Tiny Tunes and Awana and Vacation Bible School…The important thing is that you’ve lived to tell about it!!

I tease the Boys all the time.  I tell them I am moving out with them and going where they go when they grow up and move out an on with the lives that God directs them toward.  They laugh and humor me.  That would just be odd, I know!  And so far, while the temptation has been high, I have not left Mike’s side to go with them.  Cameron moved out almost a year ago and Matthew is making plans now to move.  They are twenty-four and twenty-three.  It is the way of life for men to make their way out and away from Mama, but I HAVE LOVED being their mother. I LOVE being their mother.

As they are each making these transitions, I pray I will make the transition well.  Mike and I will navigate our new normal, hopefully well,  and find ourselves enjoying the next twenty-five or more years together with new adventures.  

People tell us grandchildren are the BEST in the world!  Wait!  Are we old enough?

Our family has been in a perpetual process of Growing in Grace over the years.  The Lord has been faithful and He will not prove unfaithful. Of this I am certain.  But at the same time, I find myself wondering what His faithfulness will look like.  

While raising children, there are certain things you can anticipate and look forward to… all those seasons of pre-school, grade school… middle school!! and then graduation into adulthood. 

Looking back on all those seasons of grace, I am reminded just how this, too, is a season of faith and hope and joy and more grace.  Gifts of God found even in the small treasure He provides along life’s journey. I pray to keep my eyes open and my heart ready to appreciate and applaud God for what He does. 

Until then, at least this week, I am planning to embrace the moments, cherish the treasures and spend extra time in prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude.  I am going to hug our boys a little more and speak into them words of Life and Love and Grace and Truth.  I will continue to believe God for what He has promised me and that He will allow me to see the evidence of my faith in His Word over these men of God he gave us to invest in. 

So, if you see me this week and I seem a little distracted, just know… this mother’s heart is full and thoughtful and thankful.  If you see a tear in my eye, it will be tears of gratitude over what the Lord has done and what I know He will continue to do. Will you please just give me a hug if you see me? 

Grace and God's Timing by Tonya Johnson

The LOVE of Jesus that lives in me "covered all wrongs" and allowed me to press on, one day at a time.  God is faithful and He is able.  Allow His LOVE to help you.

Today's post comes from my friend Tonya Johnson.  She is our Ministry Assistant at Oak Pointe Church and had the most beautiful family you have ever seen!  She and her husband also serve as pastors to our youth and together they are making a difference in their generation and beyond!  Please stop by Tonya's blog and say hello!  

Doing Life Under the Umbrella of Grace
Brent and Tonya Johnson

God's Impeccable Timing

I've been doing a Proverbs study with the youth at our church and as much as the hubby and I decided on this study for their needs, it has surely gotten "all up in my grill."  He does that, you know, uses something we think we're doing for someone else to impact our lives much more than we expected. This is week 3 in the study and my first realization was that I was not actively seeking Him daily.  I was in a dry season, spiritually.  I wanted to and had intentions to, but I allowed other stuff to interfere and I lazily spent a few moments with him each day.  If I want to lead a life of wisdom and be the woman God has called me to be, I have to work for it and intentionally seek Him through prayer and the study of His word.  In order to walk, talk, and live in truth, we MUST KNOW the truth.  To know the Truth, we must know the Word of God.  To know the Word of God, we must read the Word of God.

God knew some difficult circumstances that I would be facing, and I firmly believe that he has guided each step to get me digging into his word more intentionally on a daily basis.  He has placed some amazing people into my life who have spoken words of wisdom and reminded me of God's promises to me.  They have stopped in their tracks and prayed for me, with me, and over me. God loves me so much that He continues to pursue me even when I neglect to pursue Him.  Bottom line is that He LOVES and proverbs 10:12 says "love covers all wrongs." 

Today has been one of the most emotionally draining days I've had since the end of January.  I've cried so many tears for so many loved ones that I don't think there are any more tears to cry.  My head is pounding from all the times I've wept. My heart is consumed with grief, heartbreak, hurt, inability to understand, failure, worthlessness, hopelessness, and LOVE.  Wow, wait that one doesn't fit, or does it?  Indeed it does, and I'm so thankful that is able to remain in my worn heart.  Because the Holy Spirit lives in me, that LOVE remains and allows me to press on, and eventually overcomes all those other raw emotions. It's not an immediate thing and sometimes it takes a lot longer than I would prefer, but it ALWAYS happens.  

How does it happen and how is it possible for one dim light in the midst of all the darkness to eventually take over and turn everything to light?  The answer is because of Jesus.  Because Jesus gave up His life for me and you, because He was blameless, white as snow, and righteous, because He suffered an unimaginably brutal death that we deserve, because He took His last breath on the cross and said, "It is finished," because three days later He arose from the grave, because His LOVE for us and His Father, He conquered death and has over come the world, so that we can have HOPE.  His LOVE offers us HOPE in the darkest of times.  His unconditional LOVE has already won the battle for us.  His LOVE provides a promise to NEVER leave us or forsake us.  His LOVE has paved a way for us to be cleansed from all sin so that we can have an eternal relationship with the Father.  

In the midst of my tears and sobbing I remember stopping in the middle of my negative, self-condemning thoughts and begging God to flood my mind and overwhelm my heart with His Word and His Truth. Today the LOVE that remains in my heart spoke clearly in my darkness and reminded me that I am of great worth, that I am fully-equipped, that I am strong, that I am fearfully & wonderfully made, that I am more than my mistakes, that hard times are going to come, but God is always with me, upholding me with His righteous right hand, catching every tear I cry and assuring me that He works all things for my good because I love Him and I am called for His purpose. He brought these verses to mind that I have studied, applied to memory, and leaned on many times before.  These verses offered hope to my hopelessness and helped me to see the light of LOVE.  Did my tears turn to laughter?  No, but the hope I was offered through the powerful Word of God gave me the strength & confidence I needed to get up, brush myself off, and move forward.  Had I not studied His word and sought Him intentionally, I would not have been equipped and prepared for this raging storm. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12  God's word was my weapon of defense today, against my own evil thoughts.

It wasn't until later in the evening after I had diligently sought Him out through His Word and prayer and still felt like something was missing, and I couldn't seem to shake my anxiety about the whole situation that I came across this sweet prayer from Lysa TerKeurst on Facebook that spoke directly to my aching heart that longed for a solution, a way to mend the broken pieces.  

"Be still my runaway heart…
Be still my desire to fix things…
Be still my anxious thoughts…
Be still and know without a doubt, God is.
God is the answer.
God is the solution.
God is the desire met.
God is what I am looking for.
God is what I need.
God is God.
Be still and know."

-Lysa TerKeurst

This is what my heart longed to hear.  This is what I needed to say to God. I read the prayer over and over and it was as if God wrapped His big, strong arms around me, held me tightly, and whispered, "I love you, my precious daughter. I am here, and I know exactly how to fix this...just be still and be confident that I will!" I was amazed at God's impeccable timing, and I felt so special to know that God cared about my hurting heart. I felt LOVED.  The LOVE I felt eventually wiped away the hurt feelings and hopelessness of my situation. That love reminded me that I'm called to forgive and live as if I'm forgiven.  The LOVE of Jesus that lives in me "covered all wrongs" and allowed me to press on, one day at a time.  God is faithful and He is able.  Allow His LOVE to help you.

Green and Purple Ketchup???

It was the year 2000 and we were all up in the chicken nuggets for like every other meal at our house.  Our three boys, along with the two boys who stayed with us after school and during summer vacation, could eat some chicken nuggets.

Do you know what goes with chicken nuggets? Ketchup. Lots of ketchup! 

We are on a very tight budget at the time and I had become quite good at bargain shopping. I clipped coupons from the Sunday paper, studied the grocery adds each week, planned our menu, shopped the sales and ended up buying mostly the same items week after week.  

Keep in mind. Smart phones were not prevalent, and the internet was geek speak to this young mother of three very active and energetic boys.  I had plenty to do without learning how to surf the www interweb thing-y. 

My- how times change quickly….

I must have made a really good impression on our boys, though.  One day while shopping at The Winn Dixie in our small town, we were on the cereal isle.  Did you know they market directly to little kids on the cereal isle?  All the bright colorful boxes with the prizes are right at their eye level and temptation to look at all the pretty colors at your own kitchen table is really high.

On one particular trip to The Winn Dixie, as usual, I had given my “Mom” speech about how the boys were NOT to ask me for anything.  I have a list; I have coupons and only a certain amount of money to spend. 

Kyle was seated in the shopping cart rearranging the canned goods and other items I had already put in the basket (he liked to stack stuff) Cameron and Matthew were walking beside me.  Sometimes they would mention how awesome something was and say, “I’m not asking you to buy it, I just want to look at it”. So we would look and then move on.  But then the cereal isle happened and all the pretty colors could not be more hypnotic to young grade school children. 

Cameron picked up a box of something magically delicious and exclaimed quickly, “Mom!!! This one has a yellow sale tag.  Do you have a coupon for it, too?” In fact I DID have a coupon for it!!! So we brought home the marshmallow sugar coated cereal and I felt like the #BestMomEver since the boys had learned that if there is a yellow sale tag AND you have a coupon, then life is sweet!

And then one day…a marvelous thing was invented that appealed to all children everywhere. At least for those gathered around my table each week over chicken nuggets or any other food that deserved a large squeeze of ketchup. 

Heinz Ketchup rolled out the kid friendly EZ Squirt bottles along with GREEN KETCHUP!! My boys just HAD to have some…but dang, the stuff was pricier than the original RED and more than the store brand for sure… (I know.  Store brand ketchup is not always the same as the real deal but we were on a tight budget!) 

Finally, I found a coupon for like buy 2 get one free or something and The Winn Dixie had the GREEN ketchup on sale for buy on get one, so like SCORE!!! I picked up four bottles of GREEN and PURPLE ketchup. Two of each!  My boys were going to be so excited! I could practically hear them shouting for joy!!! Especially Matthew.

Matthew was my ketchup KING.  He had ketchup with practically everything and he especially had been after me for the new fancy colors of ketchup.  What a great idea! I would make his day and we would live in the wonderful world of Colorful Ketchup for the rest of our lives!

It really didn’t happen that way, though.  I brought the goods home, whipped up some chicken nuggets and blue box macaroni and cheese (another childhood favorite of the boys) opened up the kid friendly bottle of GREEN Ketchup and in all of the excitement no one really thought about the mental mind game that changing the color of a condiment can do to a boy…or a mom for that matter.

I don’t know if any of us could actually taste the GREEN and PURPLE ketchup for just thinking about how it wasn’t RED.  We just couldn’t do it.  I believe I tasted the Green stuff, but while it tasted like ketchup, my mind said no it didn’t.  It was just plain weird.  Odd how this affected our dining experience that day at lunch.

So we wiped the plates clear of the Non-RED ketchup and pulled out the faithful store brand stuff we had been used to and hey- presto!!! Lunchtime was saved!!

Summer Reading List

Ok... I have a lot going on this summer.  A wedding, planning to sell the house, finding another house, moving. Then there is the ordinary things in life that we do, Mike and I, like leading a church family and being a good friend.  He preaches, I sing, we are all up in the life of our church and we love every minute of it.  

BUT, to keep my sanity, I have to read.  Reading is a GREAT ESCAPE for me.  Let's face it, summer TV and Cable programing is just BLEH... or re-runs but I can catch up on my favorite series on Netflix. My son Matthew set me up so, I'm good to go there.  ALSO, I like to travel and talk to interesting people, learn new things, but have no money to do so and then, there is you tube if I need a new skill or craft or hobby to learn.  Mike said "NO" to that... he thinks I have too many unfinished projects as it is and....he's right. I do.

That's why I read.  Reading allows my mind to go someplace else and not think about the routines, the deadlines, the tasks, the events and workload for a while. I usually finish a book feeling like I have a new best friend in the author except they have not met me and I have never really met them, so its kind of weird but seriously, they ARE my friends.

Mike can watch all the baseball he wants while I sit on the end of the couch and read with Abbi Rose at my side.  Life can be really good with a book.

Here is my list with links to purchase if you'd like.  

1.  Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

2. Live Uncaged by Mary DeMuth

3.  Reset by Jenny Lee Sulpizio

4. Breathing Room by Leanna Tankersley
5.  The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James

I'm sensing a THEME here, but we shall see.  Breathing Room and The Gospel of Ruth were given to me at an event, I believe, but I did purchase the others via Life Way or Amazon.  

What is on your summer reading list? 

Happy Reading!

New Adventures

Mike and I are on yet another adventure, it seems.  The selling of our house.

The NEST is becoming empty.  It's just me, him and Abbi Rose.  We created a website for you to visit if you are in need of a house for a growing family.  Maybe your kids have been grown and have kids of their own and are moving back in with you!!! or maybe you have parents that need you close by.

Check out out house over on 600 Shaded Acre Ct.

[Colossians] The Gospel of Grace part 5

Today I will conclude my survey of The Gospel of Grace in the book of Colossians.

I have procrastinated on Chapter 3 because, well, 

it gets in my business!   

It makes me look at myself instead of others. 

It causes me to make some choices about what is on the inside of me instead of picking out what is wrong in the lives of others.  

Chapter 3 directs the reader to be intentional about how we are to live if we profess to be followers of Christ.  
If we say we follow Him, then there are some distinct changes that we will make. Some changes once and for all, some on a continuing everyday basis.  

Just like we get up and get dressed and ready for the day, deciding on what to wear, what to eat, the schedule for the day...  we must make choices on how we are to live if we are to present the One who is Worthy and Worth it.

We all stumble in many ways, true.  But a consistent daily choice to live in peace, thanksgiving, with a humble and gentle attitude will give way to habits that overcome our earthly characteristics and tendencies to sin and to sin well, to over indulge in whatever is under the sun.  

I want to be different today than I was yesterday.  Certainly different than I was 10 years ago. I want to serve Christ well and to be counted faithful instead of faithless. Y'all.  It's gonna take some work, but like the writer of Colossians says, "Let the peace of God rule..." and let's all ask ourselves this question : "IS CHRIST our LIFE?" (v 4)

Under the Influence of The Chicken Pox

1996 Olan Mills Photo_Church Directory_Whitefield Baptist Church
*** Is this not the sweetest picture you've ever seen!!! 
The BOYS! The Hair! 
(mine and Mike's hair not the boys)

I am still missing one entire month of my life as a minister’s wife.  Six weeks, in fact.  I don’t think I saw anyone outside of our house in small-town Williamston, SC for the month of May in 1995.  There was only a sea of oatmeal baths, fevers, irritability, and The Chicken Pox.

The boys were very young, then.  I had taken them for a well check with our pediatrician one day and she discussed with me the Chicken Pox Vaccine which was quite new on the market and being offered to parents to help prevent the virus in young children.  

When I asked her if this would ensure they never had chicken pox, she said that it was unknown at the time.  Would they need a booster later? Again, she didn’t know.  The vaccine was that new and  statistic to go with the recommendation were low. So I opted to take my chances. 

A month almost to the day!!! We had a break out!!

Kyle was in North Carolina visiting Meme and Granddady one weekend.  They liked to get the boys and spend time with them as much as they could and it gave me a break too.  The boys all loved getting to spend time with Mike’s parents.  And that weekend was Kyle’s turn.

While Kyle  (age 2) was away, Cameron (age 4) and Matthew (age 3) had uninterrupted time to play games like Sonic the Hedgehog and other games that their younger brother in his toddlerhood couldn’t quiet play.  OK, so he would like barrel though their Lego tower, or their blanket fort and then laugh and this would frustrate Cameron and Matthew to no end! It was really a fun time!  

Three boys under the age of four.  Yep. 

One evening after playing outside, I bathed Cameron and Matthew to get them ready for bed.  They loved playtime in the bathtub!  But then I noticed a small blister on Matthew’s chest and another on his shoulder.  Could it be?  Oh, yes.  By the next morning, he had a really good scattering of chicken pox all over.

Oh, well.  Chicken Pox, here we come!  Matthew had a mild case of the virus, but then exactly two weeks to the day, Cameron broke out.  I went ahead and exposed Kyle, since we might as well just get it all out of the way!  (is that bad parenting? Don’t answer that.)

Cameron’s case of the pox was awful.  He ran a fever, felt really bad and was covered in blisters.  There was not one spot on him that was clear.  Bless him. He looked really bad too.  I am thankful that he had them young and not in middle school or high school.  That would have been horrible on so many other levels as well!

Cameron had to see the pediatrician and take a prescription.  Poor thing. 

Exactly two weeks after Cameron’s eruption, Kyle broke out.  Fortunately, he did not have as bad a case as Cameron’s but still…six weeks of my life were under the influence of The Chicken Pox. 

When I made it back to church after all our blisters had scabbed over and we were no longer contagious, everyone wanted to know where I had been!  

We were a memorable family, after all...  THREE BOYS ages four, three and one... THAT can make an impression for sure.  

One thing is for certain, though… I was sick of oatmeal baths and chickenpox!

My Guys...Fall 2014