Saturday, December 15, 2012

Just Because....

I know these pics are in no particular order, but they were just too cute not to post.  
She's so much fun! 

Three Peas in a Pod. Enjoying her cousins. 

Even though she's sick, she's still smiling. 

Sweet kiss from Mommy. I didn't know anyone was watching. 

Sick baby in ER with Croup. She looks so pitiful. Too sick to smile. 


One of her favorite things.

He has her heart.

She really loved meeting Rudolph.

Another favorite thing... dress up!

On a rainy day. 

Probably not the safest activity, but we were supervising. 

She's never done this before. She was pooped! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

"You Could Have Left Us on Our Own, But You're Here.....

One of my very favorite Christmas songs. What an amazing experience for Mary. What an amazing experience for those around Him during that time. What an amazing experience for those of us who believe even now. So thankful He was given to us. 
"Look at your hands, they're still so small.  
Someday you're going to stretch them out and save us all."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree"

 Addy "helping" Daddy put up the tree.  

She's such a big help!

Here we go...

Almost there....

"Ready, Set, Go!"

"All done!" Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Loved This by Sarah Mae on "Incourage" Blog....

“God calls us, as He did Adam, to come out of hiding. No amount of spiritual makeup can render us more presentable to Him.” -Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child
Totally exposed; completely bare; free.
For awhile now the clothes have been coming off, piece by piece, as I discover how bare I actually already am, and what it means to really be covered.
The first covering was given to Adam and Eve when they realized just how bare they were; it was uncomfortable and embarrassing; there was shame brought on by the fact that their sin was exposed. They were naked, and they knew it, and so they hid from the One who knew their nakedness before they did. For their sake, and out of His kindness, God covered them in a coat made of skin (Genesis 3:21). You don’t get skin without the kill. And so there it was, the first sacrifice, the spill of blood so that the people would be covered and their shame hidden.
And still we hide. Even though God knows every woven piece of our being, we hide. Our eyes are wide open to our failures, and so we cover because we don’t want to be found out. We give pretense and we try to be and do in order to be accepted and loved, but what we forget is that God sees past all of it; He’s sees our bare selves and He loves us anyway. We can’t be more or better and think that we will some how get closer or be more loved by God; He loves us in spite of ourselves. And yet, He offers a covering still. He offers a covering of blood so that will be free to walk with Him in the garden without shame or pretense or posturing.
He offers the opportunity for freedom.
Our new covering is on the inside, over our spirits, and it transforms us from being shackled to sin and frees us to stretch into our new selves without fear.
We don’t have to hide from God (this is actually impossible anyway), and we don’t have to hide from people (oh, this one is possibe, and quite frequent).
We are cracked and swollen and desperate. And He already knows our mess.
I’m saying, let’s be messy and honest. Let’s not try to super glue the cracks, but instead let the Holy Spirit work through them to bring light to a messy world. You can’t let your light shine if you try to patch up the cracks.
So here  I am, losing my clothes, getting closer to naked. I wonder if this is really what sanctification is about? Not becoming more, but becoming less, until we are fully bare.
Covered yet naked. A gracious mystery that I am falling into. And it’s gloriously freeing.
“If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” -Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

Saturday, November 17, 2012

There's Something Terribly Wrong with this World at Times....

I read this poem on a mother's blog whose six-year old daughter is losing her battle to brain cancer.  This was sent to her by a follower and although it won't make things better for her, I pray that it brings her comfort in her most difficult days ahead.

"A Prayer"

Refuse to fall down
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart toward heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting your heart
toward heaven
only you.
It is in the middle of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.

― Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs, The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About That Which Can Never Die

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Our Little Lady Bug

Trick or Treat! 

Sweet Friends, Addy and Coop 

Happy Halloween! 

Tickle, tickle, tickle!


Yummy Popcorn!

Brrr, it's cold!

Walking and Talking...sweet friends, Addy and Mila! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012


     Yes, I post random things on my blog.  But, random things with meaning.  One very special person in my life wrote a blog about his college football team that brought goose bumps to my skin.  My hubby, Danny, is so excited about the new coach of the Ole Miss Rebels.  I'm not a football fan, but I’m becoming a huge fan of this coach. 
     Some say when you marry a person you marry his family/friends. I'm going to also add: you marry his football team.  I can't wait to see what this new coach will do in these players’ lives.  Coach Freeze is a man of faith so I will not be surprised if God works His amazing power in some of these players through Him.  It will be so amazing to watch the transformation.  It will be a process because they are in the wilderness as Coach Freeze mentions, but I fully believe his integrity and faith will take them to amazing places even if they don't succeed in winning every game. 

      Here's to Ole Miss football and their new head coach. May God be with them this season and show the team what it's like to really "win". 

If you watch any of this video, please watch the last 12 minutes.  It proves what this coach is all about:

How the West was Won: The Beginning of Restoration

As the season opener draws near, I can once again feel the excitement building inside of me. We are on a journey Rebel Nation, and it will take time. However, the seeds of success have been planted and are being watered. I remember my skepticism in December when Freeze was hired. I remember judging his lack of experience and wondering why we "settled". With my heart hardened, I watched the press conference at the Ford Center where Freeze was introduced as our new head coach. Less than 30 seconds into his speech my heart softened. In an moment of vulnerability and transparency, Freeze nearly broke down allowing everyone watching to see how grateful he was for this opportunity. As he continued, something inside of me began to change and an unfamiliar feeling began to stir in my heart... Hope. Freeze went on to lay out a plan to restore our program. While any coach could have and would have come up with a plan, Freeze's passion for the Lord, heartfelt desire to be here and confidence in our future is not something we would have found in another candidate. Yes, we have a long, tough road ahead and I think, for the most part, we are all well aware of it. Freeze is recruiting character and building character among existing players. The latter is far more difficult and a few consecutive losses early on could cause the weaker links to fall back into a hole. But that's why this is a process. Character transformation takes faith and time. Not an easy task but I'm encouraged by how far some of our players have come in only 9 months. As the title suggests, I truly believe great things await our program under this staff but these things are not likely to happen as quick as we would all desire. If you agree so far, you will also agree that our task as fans is also a tough one. We must remain committed to the current staff and stay optimistic. Below is an awesome 20 minute compilation of the beginning of the Freeze Era. 
Makes me proud to be a Rebel. Hotty Toddy!

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Letter of Love

My Dearly Loved,

            I wish you could see the beauty I see in you.  I wish you could feel my heart break when you don’t feel loved or beautiful.  I wish you knew the kind of love I have for you and how nothing could ever separate this deep love.  It’s hard to explain this type of love in words…there’s nothing else like it.  I wish you were aware of how many times I have counted each hair on your head.  Or, how I’ve engraved you on the palm of my hands.  I wish you could’ve been there to see them spit in my face. Or, to see my skin rip and tear when they flogged me.  I wish you could’ve been there when they hammered the crown of thorns deep into my flesh.  I wish you could’ve have seen me beaten, bruised and barely hanging on carrying the cross for you.  Or, to have seen each nail pierced painfully into my arms and feet.  I wish you could’ve been there to see me struggle for breath desperately wanting to go home, but hanging on until my Father's plan was fulfilled.  I wish you could’ve seen the darkness cover the land and the veil torn after my last breath.  I wish you could see the place I have prepared for you.  It’s called paradise where you will one day be with me. Where there will be no more tears or pain.  Just me and you together, forever.  
Don’t ever question how much I love you or how deep this love goes.  And if you ever do, remember what I’ve done for you on the cross.  I've given you things on this earth to enjoy, but It’s best you don’t focus on this world because it will cause you to stumble.  You also don’t have to focus on following the rules because the human race will always fall short.  I just ask that you love me with all of you heart and don’t forget to love others on your journey regardless of where they are in life.  I love them just the same as I love you.  Do not judge them for if you do, you’ll also be judged.  I will take care of the rest.  You don’t have to worry or fear, my sweet one.  I’ve paid for EVERYTHING and it was all for you.


Friday, July 13, 2012

He is Faithful, Even When My Skies Are Gray

"He is faithful to the marrow, so faithful that He comes with a guarantee. This guarantee is Jesus, and He promises to us His constant presence ("I will never leave you nor forsake you," Hebrew 13:5). Our learning to crawl may take some time. Learning to trust Him completely may take even longer. The beauty of the promise to be there is just that-- He will be there while you deal with trust issues and belief issues. He will be there while you wonder at sovereignty and get angry at it because you have nothing to do with it. He will be there when you're ready to talk, and He'll listen as you babble on about nonsense. And when you're ready, He'll speak back to you and begin to unravel some of the mystery. Not all of it. We are bound to limited eyesight, and we must understand that it will never be crystal clear on this planet. But learning to trust Him in everything means knowing you'll never know it all.... and He will. It means learning that He always has the best end in mind. It means more hurt is sure to come, but when it does, He feels it with you. Working through our trust in the beauty of faith and hope in God means we are poised to hear the whispers of small answers to our questions." Candi Pearson-Shelton

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fun in Charleston

Pay attention...she's starting to throw mini-tantrums when she wants to continue doing something. I adore her laughter and happy spirit! I absolutely love being her Mom. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"The Brightest Little Star"

May his life shine through our love, support and prayers, and may the work of Compassion help him become "The Brightest Little Star”.

            Danny and I received a call that we weren’t expecting just a few days ago.  A call that was yet another reminder of how life is precious.  A sweet six-year-old little boy that we sponsor in Tanzania went to be with Christ on May 25, 2012.  He and his family were in a tragic car accident and he was the only one that did not survive.  We wanted more details, but unfortunately, this is all the information we received.  We wanted to be right there with his family holding them and wiping their tears. We wanted to remind them that their precious little boy was in Heaven with his Creator. 
          This little boy was born on November 18, 2005.  He drew us pictures and wrote us letters.  We sent him a picture of our bulletin board with his work showcased so he would know that we thought it was special to us.  We wanted him to know that we were proud of him as if he was part of our family.

          He would tell us about his family.  Some of the things he enjoyed doing was playing football (soccer), skipping and playing with cars.  Another favorite thing he mentioned was fetching water on three different occasions (he really liked this activity). He mentioned that he spent most of his time with his Dad.  Through him, I was humbled.  He made me realize that you can be happy without a lot the stuff.  He also reminded me of how blessed most of us are in this country.  I think this picture is a drawing of him fetching water with his Mom.  Danny thinks that it's his favorite activity because he gets to spend time with his mother.  Or, playing in water as a kid is pretty universal.


               We loved him even though we hardly knew him.  The definition of compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”  After reading this definition, feelings of guilt crept in. I should’ve done so much more for him. I should've prayed for him and his family more. I should’ve written him more letters.  I should’ve told him that I loved him more. I should’ve visited him.  I felt selfish.  I didn’t feel compassionate at all.  Why do we feel this way after someone we love passes? Why don’t we do the things we wished we had done while they’re here so we don’t regret the things we didn’t do when they’re gone.  How many more reminders of this simple principle do I need to recieve before it’s too late?
            After the phone call, Danny and I made a commitment that the next life we bring into our family and the ones that are in it now will be cherished more.  We will do our very best to comply with this definition of compassion even if they're across the world. We will do all the things that we wished we had done for this little boy and more.  
            Please pray for the father, mother and three brothers of this family.  I don’t want to reveal names for their privacy.   Please pray for us that we make a conscious effort to love those with all that we have who are still here on this earth. Please pray that we cherish each moment and that we’re continuously humbled during this life so we can be more compassionate.... Carpe Diem.

Jeremiah 1:5 says that God knew you before He even formed you in the womb.  He thought of you and planned for you, specifically.  He made you with a very specific set of qualities, skills sets and emotions.  They may not be the qualities, skill sets and emotions that you would have chosen or desire but you were hand crafted with a purpose by the Creator of the Universe.  The next time you feel like you’re not good enough.  The next time you feel worthless.  The next time you feel unloved. Remember this, every single thing about you makes you the most qualified person in the world to do what God has called you to do.  So you do have a purpose, a very special one in fact. Following this purpose that God has laid out for you would likely result in tremendous self-worth and confidence.  God loves you so much and so do we! (Letter written by Danny to this sweet boy).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, "Life will never be the same." Because there had never been anyone like you... ever in the world.  So enchanted with you were the wind and the rain that they whispered the sound of your wonderful name.  
It sailed through the farmland high on the breeze...
Over the ocean...
And through the trees...
Until everyone heard it and everyone knew of the one and only ever you. Not once had there been such eyes, such a nose, such silly, wiggly, wonderful toes. In fact, I think I'll count to three so you can wiggle your toes for me. When the polar bears heard, they danced until dawn. From faraway places, the geese flew home.  The moon stayed up until morning next day. And none of the ladybugs flew away. 
So whenever you doubt just how special you are and you wonder who loves you, how much and how far, listen for geese honking high in the sky. (They're singing a song to remember you by.)
Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo. (It's because they've been dancing all night for you!)
Or drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind (Listen's whispering you name again!)
If the moon stays up until morning one day, or a ladybug lands and decides to stay, or a little bird sits at your window awhile, it's because they're all hoping to see you smile...
For never before in story or rhyme (not even once upon a time) has the world ever known a you, my dear, and it never will, not ever again...
Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born.

Happy Birthday, our sweet Adalyn Rose!  
Words cannot describe how much God has used you to change our lives.  
You bring incredible joy, happiness and laughter.  
We're praising God that you're here with us! 
"You are the one and only ever you."
I love you, my little sweetheart!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Old Prayer for Old Pain"

"Bless my Enemies, O Lord" by Ann Voskamp

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.
Enemies have loosed me from earth more than friends have…
Enemies have made me a hunted animal, finding safer shelter than an unhunted animal does.
I found safest sanctuary in You…may too my enemies-made-grace.
I found greatest grace in You… may my enemies-made-grace find Your generous grace alive and radical in me.
I found fullest forgiveness in You… may my enemies-made-grace find faith and freedom in You and Your forgiveness working surprising ways in me.
The longer I walk with you, Lord, I find I have no enemies: only your gift of chisels etching me deep.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Wow! What an amazing weekend with my family.  My sweet sister took some amazing photos capturing precious moments. It's crazy with every holiday (and anything, really); Danny and I are overwhelmed when it comes to Addy being here.  As you all may know, we've lost two children.  Before, we would only daydream about all that we would do with them.  Now, it's become a reality. Addy's actually here, in the flesh, and we still pinch ourselves to make sure we're not dreaming.  She's an amazing gift that we graciously celebrate!  We're not only rejoicing in Christ's resurrection, but also Addy's life.  We're incredibly happy we’re doing life together! Thanks Aunt J for the beautiful pictures....

Yay! Life is good!

Aunt J calls this her model pose. 

The sweetest pic! Wow!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fun with Addy

Her laugh brings us so much joy! 

Sweet Addy having fun with Daddy.....

Saturday, March 24, 2012

But the greatest of these is love....

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me you can do nothing.
                                                          John 15:5

I have thought a lot about love and what it looks like in my life recently.  My favorite Bible verse conveys love as being the most important thing (1 Corinthians 13:13).  To sum it up, Christ teaches us if we carry love in our core, then everything else in life will fall into place.  We will have joy and happiness in our hearts.  We will be hopeful and faithful.  We will be able to forgive and extend grace to those around us.  In the Bible, Peter reminds us to put love before anything else: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  Jesus teaches us loving God wholeheartedly and loving others is the two most important commandments.  If we’re able to live out these two things, the rest will follow.  Jesus also includes those who hurt us into the equation.  Seriously?  Jesus wants us to love our enemies?  You’re kidding, right?  I know, this philosophy doesn’t seem to fit really well in today’s society.  Why is this so challenging to accomplish sometimes?  For me, it’s difficult to show love to those who don’t love me back.  Retaliation sounds more like it, right?  There have been several times I’ve carried vengeance out in my head.  I’ve played over and over the dreadful words I would say to them if I had the chance.  It feels pleasurable for a little while, but then the Spirit reminds me I must love them regardless of what they’ve done.  I remind the Spirit of how much fun I was having and we go back and forth for a bit.  Naturally, the Spirit usually wins: But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness….” Galatians 5:22.  I wonder what this world would look like if we stopped fighting back and started loving more?  I wonder what my world would look like? 
I’ve had a long, hard experience with rejection.  All through my earlier years, I’ve felt abandoned and scarred from past relationships.  Kids can be mean!  In seventh grade, there was this boy who would tease me in between classes.  I was a skinny, pale, awkward and lanky little girl with huge framed glasses.  My teeth were in some desperate need of braces.  I was not the prettiest thing to look at and this boy constantly reminded me of this daily.  He bullied me for a while.  After being in my face, taunting me, I finally had enough.  I swung my book bag around, took it off my shoulder and lunged it right into his stomach.  Boy, it felt good!  Honestly, it still feels exhilarating when I think about it.  Needless to say, he was shocked.  He couldn’t believe that I had fought back.  I couldn’t believe it either.  I’m sure he even felt a little embarrassed.  This is just one of the many times I was picked on.   This baggage of being bullied certainly carried over into my adult life.  Not that I go around punching people in the stomach with my bag.  But, with trust issues and a guarded heart, I fought through this world unable to fully love people the way that I wanted.  Christ is just now helping me heal from the damage.  I’m learning from Him I can be loved even when no one else can.  He’s helping me through my rejection issues. My insecurity issues.  He’s making me feel loved like I’ve never been loved before.  It’s been an incredibly vulnerable and humbling process.  I still have a ways to go though.
I’ve grown a lot in the last few years.  My rejection has taken a back seat and I’m not fearful about getting myself out there.  Hey, I may be rejected, but I’ll get through it.  It’s worth trying.  Face my fears, right?  I’ve never been great at nurturing friendships in the past, but since giving my heart to Christ, He’s given me the ability and confidence to get out there and foster my relationships.  It certainly hasn’t been easy.  God has definitely been pushing me to be relational even when I don’t want to be.  I’m thankful for what He’s done even though it’s been challenging.  I feel like a different person at times.  However, I’ve still experienced sadness from human conditional love. 
I’ve felt betrayed by some friends this year.  I was left trying to put the pieces together wondering what I had done wrong.  The interesting thing is they probably didn’t think much about it, but I fought long and hard through it.  Fighting through tears.  Fighting through confusion.  Fighting through heartache and anger.  I’ve realized I’ll never get this time back.  It’s not such a loss because through the process of my hurt I gained insight and wisdom.  Seeking Him in the midst helped me find peace and clarity reminding me He loves me.  He cares for me.  He’ll protect me.  He will not forsake me.  Who knows what expectations I didn’t meet in these friendships or if I actually did anything at all.   Maybe we didn’t have much in common or maybe we just changed, but an explanation would’ve been nice, huh?  A little communication would have been helpful.  Instead, I’m left wondering what happened.  I’ll probably never know and I’m in the process of getting comfortable with not knowing.  I do know one thing; I felt that I loved these individuals to the best of my ability.  For whatever reason, they just had a hard time loving me back.  There are still moments when I think of these friends.  My heart feels sad that we’re no longer doing life together and I miss them, but there’s an acceptance. There’s a peace.  If they ever needed me, I can honestly say, I would be right there beside them holding their hand.  However, I’m having a really difficult time getting out of my comfort zone to reach out to them.  I’ve tried, but something has stopped me from putting any more effort into them.  God can bring people in my life, but He can also take people out whenever He feels that it’s necessary.  God obviously knows something I don’t.  Maybe He’s teaching me this is what life is all about and these friendships were just a season…. now it’s time to move on.  Maybe He wants me to experience rejection so I can cling to Him realizing He’s the ONLY one who can love me the way I want to be loved.  Who knows, but I’m gaining something valuable from it all.  I love the moments when I open up to Christ’s positivity.   However, at times, I tend to lean towards the negative thoughts.  “Why don’t they want to be my friend?”  What’s so wrong with me that they’ve turned their back on me?”  “What could I have done differently?”  I feel like a young and immature schoolgirl in these moments.  It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but even in my adult life I revert back to those feelings of rejection that so often plagued me before as a child.  It’s uneasy to not feel special, needed or liked.  We all feel it even if we’ve told ourselves we don’t care… we care.  God has created us all to be relational and when you’re not liked, it doesn’t feel good.  It’s crazy with each brick Christ tries to tear down around my heart; I sometimes pick back up and start building the wall up again.
I reached out to a very dear friend of mine about how these particular friends have made me feel.  She gave me some insightful wisdom, which actually came from her mother.  She said, “not everyone is going to like you in this world and it’s okay!”  Wow, this is so true.  It was freeing!  It takes the pressure off that I have to be liked by everyone.  I've heard this so many times before, but for whatever reason something clicked.  Through this statement, something came to the forefront of my mind: Christ wasn’t liked either by this world.  The bricks started to come down.
I’m comforted Christ felt rejection, too.  John 15:18 says, “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”.  By these words you can see He felt rejection.  It’s incredibly ironic the hate of the world and His love for humanity is what ultimately saved mankind.  To get more personal, He was betrayed by two of His followers.  As most of you know, He prophesized their betrayal in the Bible, but He loved them anyway.  Each and every person on this earth has betrayed Him, but He loves us anyway.  Christ is the ultimate testimony of love.  However, I know I can’t  possibly begin to know how to love like Him.  I’m human.  But, I do believe if I carry love in my heart, I’ve got complete faith He can give me the ability to love the way He wants me to love.  Maybe not like his "perfect unconditional love", but just love.  Giving Him control of this is a freeing and liberating experience.  He can take my ability to hate and turn it into love.  He can transform my life with love, which in turn can affect others:  My family.  My friends.  My neighbors.  My enemies.  Everyone around me.   
Christ never promised if I carry love in my heart those around me would like me.  He did promise if I carry love in my heart, I would carry joy even when someone hurts me. I will be able to forgive easier if someone betrays me.  I will continue to be faithful even if those around me criticize me, put me down or reject me.  Because of Him, I don’t have to allow those around me to break my spirit. The beautiful spirit that Christ wants to use to illuminate His light will be protected.  I’m going to continue to be hurt in this life, but I’m so grateful I’ve got someone on my side who will always protect me, love me unconditionally and will not forsake me.   I’m so thankful he’s tearing some of these walls down and loving me in the process.  I love how God works. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

We All Fall Short

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
                                                Mahatma Gandhi

I’m doing an amazing study by Dan Kimball called “They Like Jesus But Not the Church.”  I would highly recommend anyone read it.  He’s a pastor in California who is passionate about gaining insight from non-Christian emerging generations to see what they think about Jesus, organized religion and Christians. One of the many people he interviewed explained Jesus as such: Jesus, to me, is an all-loving, perfect, prophetic person.  I don’t even know where I gathered this information from.  Maybe some from television, some from reading.  When I think of Jesus, I have always thought of him as the same person as God.  On the same team.  I once heard somewhere that Jesus is God in human form, and I thought, that’s so interesting.  Dear God…. Dear Jesus—same thing.  I didn’t see any problems with that.  Another interviewee had a different, yet similar interpretation: Jesus was a great teacher.  A caregiver, A carpenter. A human being.  Approachable.  He was the everyday man who lived among others and understood the trials and tribulations of what it takes to put food on the table.  But at the same time, he was able to organize groups of people and was a great leader.  Jesus was a voice of peace and hope and an inspiration to many people.  Jesus had a lot of moral conviction about the goodness of human beings.  Instead of seeing darkness in people, he saw goodness.  Turn the other cheek; if your brother sins against you, forgive him.  He believed in people.
Interestingly, the interviewees’ opinions about Christians and organized religion were not so positive.   This author authentically admits that he understands why this present day culture doesn’t see eye to eye with some Christians.  I’ll admit it too.  I’m convinced that most people that either walk away from Christianity or never find it do so because they don’t want to be associated with the Christian movement.  Bono from U2 says, Christians are hard to tolerate; I don’t know how Jesus does it.  Jesus has somehow taken a back seat to religion.  How can we get Him back in the driver’s seat?  Do you think if church leaders focused more on what Jesus actually taught that it would make a difference on how others (and possibly you) view the church?  What if “the church” truly loved the way that Jesus loved?  Might that change what people think about Jesus and His followers?  I think so.
For those of you who are convinced Christianity is not for you, I highly respect whatever you have decided for your life.  However, I would encourage you to do some research on Jesus.  Find out what He was like, what He believed in, what He stood for.  He’s an incredible monumental figure in history.  I think some of you will be pleasantly surprised.  Don’t just listen to what people tell you.  Read it for yourself.  My husband is an “I need to know the facts” kind of guy and he would suggest you read, “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel.  I would also encourage you to read the Gospels in the New Testament.  The Gospels include four books written by different authors, at different times and from different perspectives (The Case for Christ does an extraordinary job explaining these books).  A man named Mark wrote the first Gospel.  He interviewed many people who knew Jesus including Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples.  Matthew who was the tax collector and also one of Jesus’ disciples wrote the second Gospel.   Luke, who was the physician, wrote the third Gospel.  He too interviewed many eyewitnesses during Jesus’ life, crucifixion and resurrection.  The forth Gospel was written by John who was also one of Jesus’ twelve disciples.   
As a child, I imagined Christ as a handsome angelic being with a gigantic halo of light around Him.  While sweet and innocent that commercialized image of Jesus is probably very flawed.  I’m in no way claiming I know what he looks like but if I had to guess, I’d say physically he probably had rugged Middle Eastern features.  I still envision He had a gentle spirit and passionately exuberated God’s love for humanity but His physical appearance was likely much more rustic than what we think.  I imagine that He had calluses on His hands from working as a carpenter.  It wouldn’t surprise me if He had blisters and cracks on his feet as a result of all of the walking that was done during his ministry.  I don’t think He was the Jesus that’s depicted in most films.  I also believe He was a bit of an outcast at times.  He was the perfect example of what being human and sinless looked like.  I believe God wanted to make Him as human as possible so that we could really relate to Him.  He cried, weeping at times.  He was tempted.  He was hated and spit on. He laughed.  He joked around and He even drank wine…. gasp!  I’m sure He even danced.  I truly find Him amazingly intriguing.  This is my description of the Savior of the world, but it doesn’t even compare to the description Kimball provides.  In my opinion, this is one of the best and most accurate images of Jesus I’ve read:

I am convinced that Jesus was revolutionary, but there is much more to him that that.  Jesus taught about loving others, but there is much more to him than that.  Jesus looked out for the outcasts and fringe groups of society, but there is much more to him than that.  These are all things about Jesus that people in emerging generations respect.  But there is so much more to him that these things.
When I think of Jesus, I think of the triune God, who eternally exists in three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—coeternal in being, coeternal in nature, coequal in power and glory, all three persons having the same attributes and perfections (Deut. 6:4, 2 Cor. 13:14).  These terms may sound technical to people, but these ideas are so incredibly hard to grasp that technical words sometimes convey them better than emotional responses.  I think of Jesus as the one who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-31).  He was a Jewish rabbi (John 1:38), a teacher who astonished people with his insight and his authoritative teaching (Matt. 7:28-29).  I think of his heart breaking compassion for people (Matt. 9:36) and how he wept for people, even for those who rejected him (Luke 19:41).  I think of the Jesus who was an advocate for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19, Matt. 19:16-30; Luke 14:13; Matt. 25:31-46).  I think of the one who stood strong against the religious legalism of his day (Luke 20:19-20).  I think of the one who not only drank wine but also provided it (John 2:1-11).  I think of the one who didn’t just sit in a holy huddle or point out the wrongs of culture but hung out with sinners and ate with them (Matt. 9:10).  I think of the Jesus who was tempted and understands temptation yet was sinless (Heb. 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22).  I think of the Jesus who was sent by God because of his great love for humanity to take on our sin (John 1:1-2,14,29;3:16-21).  I think of the Jesus who accomplished our redemption through his death on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice and then was bodily resurrected from the dead (Rom. 3:24; 1 Peter 2:24).  I think of Jesus who appeared to his disciples and said that they have a mission not to create an inwardly focused community and to complain about the world but rather to go out and with power of the Spirit live missional lives, bringing the light of Jesus to others (Acts 1:8).  I think of the Jesus who sees the church as his bride (Rev. 21:2, 9) and loves the church, even when we disappoint him.  I think of Jesus who ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God, where, as our High Priest, he intercedes for us and serves as our advocate (Acts 1:9-10; Heb.7:25; 9:24).  I also think, soberly, of the Jesus who will one day come again to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5; Rom. 14:9; 2 Tim. 4:1).  Jesus is our friend and the friend of sinners, but he also is a righteous judge who will hold us all accountable one day for how we lived our lives.  We must have a balanced view of Jesus, being careful not to swing to one extreme to the other. 

It’s obvious that Christ saw the church differently than some of us.  To Him, the church was not a building with four walls or a sanctuary with a big steeple on the top of it.  I would go as far as to say He never intended it to be a social institution.  The church is the people.  ALL kinds of people from different walks of life coming together and loving one another.  What would the world look like if we all chose to try our best to live life like Christ?  Would it be different?
I know to some people this whole Christ and religion thing can be a bit controversial.  I get it. I believe some people close their ears to it because of what Christianity has represented: Christians can be judgmental, superior, hypocritical, sexist, homophobic, and closed-minded. I’m sure several other things come to mind.  But, would it change your attitude if you realized that not all “Christians” were like this?  What if Christians weren’t so concerned with implementing God’s judgment but focused more on loving others like Jesus did?  What if Christians finally embraced the fact that God is the ONLY judge and that our role is to love, encourage and accept one another like Christ loved, encouraged and accepted us.  The argument that Christians are hypocritical wouldn’t hold much water would it?  One of Kimball’s homosexual interviewees (Penny) asked, Why don’t Christians try to make me feel included? Why do you treat me like an outcast and not care about my feelings or want to relate to me in any way?  You don’t need to understand why I’m a homosexual, but to understand me as a person and a fellow human being.  Isn’t that what Jesus would do?  My homosexuality should have no more relevance on how you interact with me than hair color has on how you would interact with someone who is blonde or brunette.  If Penny only knew how much Jesus really loved her.  I wonder if she knows the story of how He protected a prostitute from being stoned by religious leaders.  I wonder if His words: "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7) would be as freeing to her as they are to me? I’d like to believe her life would change.   At the very least, I dare say, she might be more open to the idea of Christ the Savior.  If Penny knew the impact Christ could have on her life, she might see things differently.  If Christians treated her with love and respect, as Christ would have, her eyes might open to the love, acceptance and inner peace that He offers.  She might even come to the realization one day that Christ died for her.  Penny is no different than me.  We are both sinners, but the only difference between us is that she fails to grasp what Christ has done for her and how much He truly loves her.  He died for her just as He died for me.  We’re no different. My sin is the same as her sin.  It’s really that simple and straight forward. I don’t deserve His love.  If anything, He needs to shower His fairness and justice on me because I’m truly unworthy of His Grace.  I’m no better than Penny.  We all fall short (Romans 3:23).  We’re ALL in need of a Savior.  What would the world look like if we all embraced this?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Beautiful Mess

“I want you to trust Me in your times of trouble so I can rescue you and you can give Me glory.” Psalm 50:15

It’s hard to believe that in a few days it will be three years since the last time we held our sweet Evie.  Memories of her and the loss rush in like a flood during this time.  Fortunately, God has planted me on solid ground so when the flood of memories rush in, I don’t get washed away like I did before.  However, there’s still something about the anniversary that leaves me feeling a little heavy, sad and reflective.
Since Addy’s arrival, it’s been really tough for me to go back to that part of my past.  I haven’t even wanted to visit Evie’s grave.  Her grave was such a peaceful place for me.  It sits on top of a large hill surrounded by beautiful landscape.  I used to love sitting out there watching the geese walk around.  I know it’s somewhat strange to imagine a cemetery being calming, but it was.  Now that Addy’s here, it reminds me of a tender little body that I love so very much buried under six feet of earth.  It reminds me that I could lose my loved ones at any time.  God is not selective when it comes to death and I’ll be honest the thought alone still terrifies me.  So, to protect my heart, I didn’t go to the cemetery for a while.   

   I have a small keepsake box to remember Evie and Luke.  It’s filled with sympathy cards, baby outfits, pictures; things that help keep their memory alive.  I just recently looked at Evie’s pictures again and started sobbing because I felt as if I had neglected her by not wanting to revisit her loss.  I also cried because I felt terribly sad for the fact that a box full of “items” is all I have to remember them by.  Aside from my memories, these are the only tangible pieces of evidence that they were real, alive and a part of our family.  In a sense, a lot of the memories I have of my two children are tucked away neatly in this little box.

The loss is what I like to describe as a “beautiful mess.”  It certainly got messy. Very messy.  There were moments I wanted to walk away from God and never look back because I was so heart broken.  I questioned Him and His sovereignty constantly.  I would scream at Him shaking my fist and demanding He change things for my favor.  I thought I would never see the light in my most broken moments.  It was hard to catch my breath because my heart literally ached.  The week after her death, I remember asking Danny if he could quiet the chirping birds.  It’s kind of silly, but they sounded so happy and cheerful that it literally made me sick to hear them.  I just wanted to lay there miserable in my own grief and I did, for a while.  Eventually I came to terms with the fact that I had to get up and face the world.  I really had no choice.  As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t stop the birds.  I couldn’t stop all the pregnancies going on around me.  I couldn’t stop the earth from rotating.  I couldn’t magically erase what happened.  I had to suffer through it and eventually, somehow, come out on the other side.  How in the world did I survive it all?
 I’m intrigued with how grief ends and where healing begins.  It reminds me of a wilted flower.  Its leaves are droopy, limp and in need of water and sunlight.  As soon as the water penetrates its roots and the light hits its leaves, a transformation begins.  The stem and leaves stretch high towards the sky basking in the nourishment.  Like the wilted flower, our loss reminds me of how God nourished me with His truth, light and grace.  The loss left me wilted, but God penetrated my heart healing my broken soul.  In the end, I had my hands stretched out to the sky needing more of what only He can provide.  I’d like to think that this is where the beauty shines through in my story because when I stopped resisting God, He rescued me.

I kept a journal and I revisit it every once in a while.  Its pages are filled with some of my most vulnerable moments.  In reading it, it’s also very evident that during this painful heart-wrenching season, I had a hard time finding God’s light. But, I did find it and it’s pretty amazing to watch my own transformation unfold on paper.  I would say things like, “my stomach has ached all day.  There is a huge pit that just won’t go away.  My body feels so heavy and my arms feel so empty.  Every time I say or hear her name, my stomach hurts even more.”  The next day, I wrote, “I was able to stay by myself today which was therapeutic for me.  It gave me a chance to scream out loud to God and have it out with Him.  I yelled at Him for a lot of things, but in the same breath I told Him that I desperately needed Him.  I have to realize that just because I can’t feel, see or touch Him, doesn’t mean He’s not with me.”  Those were just my unfiltered thoughts poured out on paper but looking back that’s pretty powerful stuff.  I know that some people may think that I disrespected the Lord by yelling at Him and that’s okay.  But, I believe coming to a person with raw emotions is part of what makes a relationship.  I felt like Christ was big enough to handle my anger.  I felt like I was being called to bring Him everything instead of shutting Him out.  A few months after the loss I wrote, “I think when you accept Christ and lean into Him, you get a whole new perspective on life.  My life continues to transform. I feel that God is working in my heart and is helping me grow spiritually. I want His plan for my life more than anything. I truly believe He has a perfect plan for Danny and me.”  I’m so incredibly grateful that I was moved to write in this journal.  It shows my gradual progression of healing and it gives me encouragement.  It assures me that God was there, is here and will always be there in my darkest moments.  He will be there in all of my moments. 

 My memoir reminds me of when Jesus walks on water with Peter.  In Matthew 14: 25-31, scripture portrays a powerful moment with a believer that battles with doubt.  Keep in mind that this wasn’t any believer.  This was Peter, a disciple who walked along side Jesus and witnessed most of His miracles.
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Yes, even Peter who was there in His presence struggled with faith.  There were many times I would find myself sinking because of doubt, fear and anger.  As I was drowning, I would cry out to Christ because even in the middle of the uncertainty of what He was doing, I trusted that He could save me.  He did rescue me. 
Danny and I were a mess before we opened our heart up to Him, broken in several different places within our hurting souls. The baggage we brought into our relationship left us beaten and bruised desiring our empty hearts to be filled by something or someone.  We tried to fill the void with worldly things but it never fulfilled us.  We were aimlessly spinning our wheels but getting nowhere.  Things changed when we experienced the losses. Unfortunately, it took losing two children for us to start listening to our Savior’s “voice".  Their losses changed us drastically. Christ literally gave us a lifeline to hold onto through this pivotal circumstance.  It took a while but we finally grabbed a hold of His hand.  I’m grateful that we did.  I’m grateful that He never gave up on Peter.  I’m grateful that He never gave up on us.