Sunday, December 23, 2012

Silent Night, Holy Night

Both of my children always love the candlelight service at the end of our Christmas service. It's my favorite part, too - watching the light of tiny flames spread through the darkened sanctuary until the whole room is aglow and over a thousand voices are singing together, "Silent night, holy night"...

It is a blessing to be there with my family. Redeeming grace, indeed. Through teary eyes I see the smiles on their candlelit faces as they raise them up towards heaven - a tiny glimpse of heaven itself. We pause at the end of the song and it is a moment that is completely silent. Holy. My heart is full. In that moment, complete.

Last night, were encouraged to allow some things in our lives be silenced, and to set apart time that is holy. It is both a timeless and timely message. In the midst of chaos of this season and darkness of this world, we can silence the outside and set apart time in our own homes - and hearts - that is holy.

This Christmas, may we guard our hearts and families from any outside voices. Let us draw closer to one another and embrace the beautiful gift of peace He came to give. Peace not as the world gives...

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. 
And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. 
So don't be troubled or afraid." - John 14:27

Silent night! holy night!
Son of God love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth

Silent night! holy night!

Friday, December 21, 2012

in the middle of hope

"When Darkness seems to hide His face 
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil"

Edward Mote, "The Solid Rock"

Thinking back to my last post here, published pre-dawn last Friday morning, I couldn't have fathomed the unspeakable that would unfold just a few hours later.  

I've said often that, "tragedy tears the veil of our perspectives and perceptions". The fragility and brevity of our lives were revealed and we were broken.  Bare. Helpless.  The events of last Friday remind us all that we are not guaranteed another breath on this earth.   

But we are guaranteed hope - the hope of eternity.  

In the days that have followed, my heart has been reminded of that hope.  It is hope that rose from another Friday in history that was filled with darkness and a different veil that was torn...  

"And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.  
Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." 
Mark 15:37-38  
According to the account of Mark, Jesus endured six hours of torment on the cross.  Although it was midday, darkness completely enveloped the sky during the final three hours.  As Jesus' took His last breath, the veil to the Holy of Holies was literally ripped apart.  The presence of God was no longer veiled.
In an instant, tragedy had become triumph.  
Therefore, we can boldly stand before His throne of grace, yes - even in the midst of our deepest suffering, we can enter into His presence.  In the midst of the deepest suffering, we can cling to the deepest of hope:  "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, the inner sanctuary behind the veil, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf" (Hebrews 6:19-20).  

That Sunday following that dark Friday, the three made their way towards the tomb.  I imagine their journey as they traveled in the pre-dawn hours.  Grieving.  Silence.  Darkness.  In the midst of their suffering, they probably couldn't have fathomed the hope that would be revealed with the rising of the sun: a stone removed.  An empty tomb.

And in an instant, death had become a lie.  

Just as we make our way to Him in the middle of our darkest days - and our hopelessness - we, too, can find hope unimaginable in Him.

This season, may we celebrate all the more the hope He came to bring.  
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23

originally posted at:

Monday, December 17, 2012

take heart

12.14.2012: coming home

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea...
Psalm 46:1-2

My children stepped off the bus Friday afternoon and I breathed a sigh of relief. They were a sight for my sore, tear-stained eyes.  My wounded heart lept inside of my chest at the sight of the bus turning the corner at the end of the street.  I snapped a picture with my cell phone as if it were the first day of school all over again and they giggled at me, their gushing mommy at the bus stop.

They didn't know what I knew - and they didn't need to know. It is truth that is too difficult to bear. In another part of the country, there were twenty little boys and little girls that weren't coming home.  There were mommies and daddies wrought with anguish and grief that is beyond what my human heart can comprehend.  My heart was heavy, burdened, broken, crushed.  It was burning and physically aching by the news of the tragedy in Newtown.  I'd left work earlier that day with the intent of finishing up some last minute Christmas shopping and instead, had spent most of the afternoon praying ... and sobbing

For those babies, just like ours.  For those mommies and daddies, just like us, who had seen their children off onto the bus just that morning, or who had waved goodbye in car rider line...

Every moment of my own children's morning came flooding into my mind:  Chloe's sweet little face as she slept, I cupped her little face in my hands and kissed her cheek as I silently pondered her beauty, how much - and how fast - she is growing.  The giggling at Parker's bed head hair, picking out their clothes, struggling to get everyone out the door on time.  Laughter filled the car on the way to school as we played a silly game of Christmas trivia, there were half-hugs and kisses from the back seat as they stepped out of my car and onto the curb at school.
As they walk the sidewalk up to school, I always drive alongside them for a few feet with the passenger window cracked, waving goodbyes.  Sometimes, and this morning was one of them, I'll take one last glance at them in my rear view mirror and watch them as they turn and walk side by side through the doors.  With Chloe moving to intermediate school next year, this is their last year to be in the same school together until middle school, so I try as best I can to take it all in.  To freeze frame those sweet moments in my mind - and in my heart.

That afternoon, I cherished those moments - and those morning memories - immeasurably more.

Tragedy tears the veil of our comfort and our complacency, revealing both the brevity and fragility of our lives.  Tragedy awakens our slumbering souls, removes the scales from our eyes and gives us the clarity to see the ordinary details of our lives as what they are:  extraordinary blessings.  We aren't guaranteed our next breath on this earth.  We are not guaranteed when we hug our family goodbye in the morning that we will have the blessing of kissing them goodnight.

But we are guaranteed that this life isn't all there is. 

When there are no answers, there is Jesus. 

When we have no words, we have His word.

As I think about my own children, my own family, and my own mortality, I think about the truths that I desperately want them to know.  Several years ago I wrote this blog about the all-too-often taboo subject of death and dying, because the reality is, it's a matter of when and not if.  We all need truth that will carry us through tragedy, light that shines through the darkest days and the hope that comes with an eternal perspective... 

His word tells us that in this fallen and sin-wrecked world, we will have trouble - we will have tragedy and heartbreak - but He urges us to "take heart, for He has overcome the world". (Jn 16:33)

Take. heart.  In the greek, the word is θαρσεῖτε, which means that we are to be bold, confident, without fear, courageous and of good cheer.  This doesn't mean that we don't mourn and grieve in the wake of suffering, but it means that we "do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope" (1 Thess 4:13).  

Take heart, all you mommies who - like me - welt up with tears kissing your children this morning; whose voices cracked through the lump in our throats as we said our goodbyes.  The enemy would desire nothing more than to use this tragedy to breed a spirit of fear among us.  In the days and weeks that follow, we have an enemy who will use every lie and every scheme to imprison our hearts with fear, but "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:6) and "we are not unaware of his schemes" (2 Cor 2:11).

Take heart and rise up!  Rise up and counter the lies with the truth.  Counter the lies with Jesus, who is the truth (John 14:6). 

Take heart, and do not fear, "for God has given us a not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Tim 1:7).

Take heart, for our Redeemer lives!  Job, having lost everything - his children, his possessions, his own health - in a succession of tragedies wrote, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth" (Job 19:25).

Take heart, and live by faith, for "we must live by faith and not by sight, knowing that to be absent from our bodies is to be present with Christ" (2 Cor 5:7-8). 

Take heart and set your eyes - and your hearts - on Jesus.  We know all that we need to know about the tragedy that has occurred.  Let us take our eyes off of the sensationalized news coverage that continues and "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). 

Take heart, and intercede.  Pray your heart out.  Ezekiel 22:30 says, “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found no one.”  Through Him, we have the ability to cry out on behalf of those who are suffering unimaginable loss, for those who do not know Him, and for those grieving without hope.  "So let us come boldly to the throne of grace, where we will receive mercy" (Hebrews 4:16).  We stand in the gap on their behalf.  We pray according to His word that He is close to the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18), that He will bind up their hearts and heal their wounds (Ps 147:3), and that He will pour out His spirit on the suffering. 

Take heart and live with the hope - and the perspective - of eternity, for there is coming a day when "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever" (Rev 21:4)

Take heart in Jesus. 

Take heart in His word. 
And if you don't know Him, take your heart - and give it to Him - and receive the comfort only He can give. 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
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."
2 Corinthians 1:4

Friday, December 14, 2012

middle places: in the middle of freedom

"There's a love that lives in me 
For You Lord, my savior King
Breaks the sin that's binding
And brings me to a place of freedom" 
- Highlands Worship lyrics 

Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. 
(Psalm 142:7)

I've been writing and documenting my life, albeit inconsistently, for most of my life.  From the diaries and journals of my youth to the over-a-decade old geocities personal websites.  I had a blog before there really was such a thing.  I have grown up with a desire to both keep an account and share life.  After I surrendered my life to Christ, the focus of my life - and my writing - changed.  As I began to walk "the narrow path" I believed He was leading me to, I changed the name of my personal blog and began to write about the journey along that path.  It was, and is, a place for me to simply document the places along the path, pouring out whatever is within me.  I've written through the dark places as well as the hilltops, the moments of running and of falling, the moments of wondering and those of wandering.  My writing is simply the overflow of my heart. 

All that to say, in sitting down to write in the predawn hours, I don't really get to choose that which flows out through my fingers.  Prompted by His spirit, my fingers touch the keyboard and by way of something I will never fully understand, words begin weaving.   This morning, I'd be remiss not to share that which is currently overflowing:  freedom....

This past weekend, I attended a retreat called LIFE - which is the culmination of a twelve week study on freedom in Christ.  It was incredibly powerful, breaking through layers of bondage and baggage that I didn't even realize I was [still] carrying.  But the most powerful of all was a session on "soul ties".  These are the ties that can stem from any relationship that attaches to your mind, will, and emotions.  They can result from both impure and ungodly relationships:  sexual intimacy outside of marriage as well as friendships that are unhealthy and ungodly.  They are ties that bind and restrain us, influencing our will and our choices.  Ultimately, these ties act as a spiritual umbilical cord; they can steal our joy and our ability to connect intimately with God. These are the relationships that act as poison to our very souls, hindering and often destroying the consistency of our connection to Christ.  They are the relationships and ties that are constantly pulling us away from Christ - and away from biblical principles of living instead of towards the freedom of living in His will.  

Relationships can be broken, but only God can permanently sever those unseen ties that bind us to our past.

It was a neatly packaged, beautifully delivered message that, in a matter of moments, began to wreck my world - and open the eyes of my heart.  The weight of my sin had been lifted at the moment of my salvation, but I had been dragging the chains - and the spiritual umbilical cords - of my past along my path, and collecting even more ungodly soul ties along the way.   

We were each given little blank white cards.  During prayer, we were asked to write the names of those that came to mind.  My card was filled with ink, smeared with tears.  A lifetime of these "ties" that were within me flowed out of me, and were now scribbled on this card in the palm of my hand.

At the end of each session, each person prays with an intercessor.  I can't describe this.  Just know that it is both biblical and amazing.  Worship music filling the sanctuary, I stood in line with some other girls from my study group waiting for the next available intercessor.  We stood with these graffiti filled cards in hands, tears streaming down faces, freedom was coming.

We were a line of prisoners, moments from release.  And we didn't even know it.

Praying with the intercessor for chains to be broken, she pauses and whispers in my ear, "now, tear the card up".  She continues praying.  I continue weeping and I begin to fold the card.  Head bowed, tears dripping down through my fingers, the card was damp and literally, coming apart in my hands.  I slowly began to tear it apart, over and over.  Tattered shreds.  "Now, let them fall to the ground," she whispers.  Let. them. fall. to. the. ground.  The words were still ringing in my ears, reverberating through my spirit - and my heart - as they began to fall.  These were not just torn and tattered fragments of paper, these were fragments of shackles, falling hard.  I half expected the ground to shake under their weight, having just unleashed thirty-six years of chains.

The prayer came to a close and I paused, utterly shocked at the weightlessness of the moment.  I turned to go back towards my seat, reluctant to walk away from this moment that had just changed.  Scattered bits of paper covered the floor all around me.  Remnants of the chains of others that had been shredded, torn, and cast to ground.  We each stepped on them as I walked away through the rubble and into freedom...

and we sang...

"The enemy is under your feet, we are free
We are free!
Death has been defeated by love, you overcome
You overcome!"
Hillsong lyrics

This Christmas, embrace the gift He came to give:  Freedom!

original post here at MiddlePlaces:

Monday, November 12, 2012

giving thanks: unanswered prayer

"Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers

Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he may not answer doesn't mean he don't care

Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."
Garth Brooks lyrics

Today's gratefulness photo challenge is an unanswered prayer.  While I'm certain there are a few creative ways I could contrive an allegorical photograph, this doodle - combined with the lyrics from Garth - pretty much sum it all up.
I experienced one of the most painful, difficult rejections of my life during those awkward, formative years where I was struggling to bridge the gap between my teenage years and adulthood.  Granted, that struggle lasted a decade longer than it should have, but that's  another blog altogether...
I remember lying face down on my bed that night, sobbing uncontrollably into my pillow.  My mom sitting beside me, futilely trying to offer comfort through words.  It was truth in love, but it wasn't comfort.  And it wasn't what I wanted to hear.  That this was somehow God's plan, that He had someone and something special planned just for me and this wasn't it.
Oh, how I'd desperately wanted it to be, relentlessly prayed that it would be.  For years. 
Looking back, I'd had such a limited view of God  - and with it, such a limited knowledge and trust in His word. 
Sometimes, I am still that nineteen year old heartbroken girl afraid of trusting her God, shaking her fist over unanswered prayers.  Demanding answers in the face of His silence.
And then I'll have a dream that reminds me of that heartbreak, and of His sovereign grace that was with me even in the darkest moments of my life, and of His word that was true for me at nineteen - and at thirty-six...
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11
Yes, one of God's greatest gifts is unanswered prayers, but even greater still are the gifts of His grace that come afterwards... the gifts that make us look back and say, "Thank you, Lord, for that one, unanswered prayer"...
"In our hearts, we can plan our ways,
but the Lord determines our steps."
(Proverbs 16:9)

catching up on giving thanks: the big, the small .. and more

something big:  my church.
I am so thankful for my "something big", my church.  I never thought I'd attend a mega church.  I grew up mostly unchurched and then, at the age of 15, joined a small local church near my parents' home.  I eventually ended up attending much larger churches through the years, but the thought of attending one of the largest, fastest growing churches in the nation was unsettling to me at first.  I was skeptical about the authenticity of such a large crowd.  And yet, in my everyday life, I kept meeting people who would tell me about this church that I just "had" to visit.  And they all said the exact same thing: "you can just feel the presence of God in that place".  Eventually, I yielded to the curiosity of this repetitive description and attended a service late in the summer of 2009.  And they were right.  It is a local church that believes in its mission as the hope of the world - and its seats are filled with people who simply love God and love people.  I could not begin to do justice with words about what this church has come to mean to me or the millions of other lives that are being touched all around the world through this one local church.  I am humbled to be a part of this church that has, to date, planted 295 churches across America alone.  You can read more about the legacy that I am humbled to be a part of here:
something small:  scripture ring
This is my current "life" verse for this season of my life.  I keep it written on scraps of paper.  One day I wrote it on my wrist and a few days after that, I stumbled on this ring in a store.  A daily reminder for me to remain "joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:2).    

an ability and something natural:
I'm thankful for the ability to photograph the natural beauty that I see around me.  To see the glory of God in His creation, whether I'm traveling to a foreign land or out into my own backyard. 
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." - Romans 1:20  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

giving thanks: a surprise

Surprising Daddy on his birthday...
When I think of the word "surprise", I think about my Parker - that sweet little face you see on the right.  Of course, what you don't see is that right after I snapped this perfect little photo, that little face dissolved into tears, dropped the bag, let the balloon drift off into the sky and proceeded to pitch a fit.... all before we ever rang the doorbell to surprise Daddy.  Chloe proceeded to sing and Parker proceeded to cry...  Surprise. 
Yea, life's like that.  
We had just celebrated Chloe's first birthday when I unexpectedly discovered I was expecting... again.  I'd always wanted at least two children, I'd just never planned to have them within two years...
"I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb.
Before you were born I set you apart..."
Jeremiah 1:5 
Today, I am so thankful for the "surprise" of a little boy. 
I am so thankful that in times when our lives are not going according to our own plans, we can trust that they are going according to God's plan.  He is sovereign, "working all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). 
God's timing is always perfect.  His ways are always good and His "surprises" are often our greatest blessings.      

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

giving thanks: luxury and need

“It takes more than bread to stay alive. 
It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
Matthew 4:4 - The Message

My Instagram post for a luxury yesterday morning was initially the view from my tiny porch.  No matter how often I've moved - and it has been more often than I'd like here lately, I have always been blessed with a view of some sort that reveals beauty to me in some way.

That said, as the morning progressed, I unexpectedly ended up spending the day at home with Parker who was a little under the weather.

The day made me so thankful for the years I had the privilege of being a full time mommy.  I am so thankful that I was there for their first smiles, those first words, those first steps.  . I'm thankful for the years I spent working part time that continued to afford precious time with them - and as they began school, working part-time allowed me the time to finish my degree.

Yesterday ended with me being thankful for all of those things - and thankful that I had a job to return to today.  I'm thankful that I don't have to worry about how I am going to make the rent, the utilities, that student loan payment, or the ends meet ...

In day to day life it is so easy to lose sight of the millions upon millions who do not have the same luxury.

Here in the middle of this gratitude thing, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Chores transform to privilege, and employment to luxury.

Today, the photo challenge at Middle Places was simply a "need".  This came easy.  In a world where the lines are so often blurred between need and want, I know there is one thing that I could not live without.  And it's His word.  Alive and active. Sharper than any two edged sword.  It is the very thing that breathes life into my weary soul each and every day.  If everything I own and hold dear in this world - both the luxuries and the things I think I need -  were suddenly stripped away, His word would be the one and only thing that I clung to.

Ultimately, His word is our greatest luxury - and our greatest need, too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

giving thanks: things above

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge."

"There is no speech or language 
where their voice is not heard
Their voice goes out int o all the east,
their words to the ends of the word."

Psalm 19:1-4

My iPhone and Instagram accounts are filled with beauty:  my family, friends, delicious meals, beautiful places and things...  and the sky.  Yes, lots and lots of photographs of the sky. 

It is a hobby habit that my children have naturally ingrained in them now.  From the back seat of my car, they peer out and up, seeking, always seeking something beautiful, proclaiming skies.  They'll ask for my phone so they can capture what they're little eyes are seeing.  And I tell them, what they're eyes are beholding, is the very glory of God - on display for all to see - yet, so many of us miss it.   
"For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God" (Romans 1:20).
Late one afternoon, I received the photo above in a text from my eight year old daughter.  She had taken it from the boat while fishing with Daddy.  It simply said, "Look, Mommy!".  

Look, indeed.  And see that His unfailing love is as vast as the heavens.  Truly, His faithfulness reaches beyond the skies (Psalm 36:5).

In a world that tells us our God is unseen.  Distant.  I beg to differ.  Scripture begs to differ.  The skies themselves beg to differ.

Sometimes, my heart discouraged, it whispers a silent prayer asking for just a glimpse of His glory.  And He answers.  And I like to think it's just for me, this most radiant, golden sunset.  As I move down to the bottom of the hill, it fades from the distance and my heart says, "Thank you."

I turn right and there, a single beacon in the darkness closing in, a rainbow - everlasting symbol of His covenant; His promise.

And my heart is rendered speechless.  Again.

Today, every day, I am thankful for the beauty displayed in His skies.

"Set your heart on things above...
set your mind on things above 
not on earthly things."
Colossians 3:1-2

Saturday, November 3, 2012

giving thanks: a friend

"A friend loves at all times." 
Proverbs 17:17

We have a 30 day photo challenge over at Middle Places during this month of giving thanks with a list of things to find each day to be thankful for.  My daily posts may or may not always flow with that list, but today, it was simply "a friend".  

I have the blessings of many friendships in my life and I am so grateful for each of them.  As I've grown in the Lord, I've come to see these connections not as random coincidences or happenstance, but rather His divine provision.  His word tells us that He cares about even the smallest details of our lives.  He collects every tear in a bottle (Psalm 56:8); knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7); and He knows our every hurt (Psalm 34:18).   

Friendship is a gift - and that friend in your life, the one you instantly think of when you hear the word "friend"; the one you want to call or text the instant something hilarious happens so that you can share the laughter, or when something horrible happens so that you can share in the tears... that friend is a gift, too.

Though the Lord has graciously sent many to walk alongside me through this life, Stephanie is the one with whom I have likely shared the most heartache and heartbreak, tears and fears, and heaving laughter.  Our friendship has spanned the course of nearly twenty-five years.  Looking back, I can now clearly see His hand - and His threads - weaving through it all.  Truly, through thick and thin - the best and worst of this life.  Together, we have traveled through the darkness and through His grace, into His marvelous light of redemption.

She has seen the best of me and the absolute worst of me and true to His word, loved at all times.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 
"What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 

Friday, November 2, 2012

giving thanks: rhema

“The words [rhema] that I speak unto you,
they are spirit, and they are life.”
John 6:63
Today, I am thankful for His word - and life through His word. 

In scripture, there are two words commonly used for "the word":  logos, which is the written word and rhema, which is the word revealed
Rhema:  those moments when the Word seemingly penetrates beyond your eyes, straight into your heart.  It is those moments, when His Spirit illuminates a verse to speak directly to your life situation, your circumstance - the word comes alive. 

"For the word of God is living and active" (Hebrews 4:12).
I want it every. single. day.

And here's the thing:  He wants it for us every single day.  It was how we were intended to live and how He intends to speak to us.    
It is our daily bread - and stream of living water.  Without it, we stay hungry - and parched, attempting to quench or souls with the things of this world. 

Then we taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).  We experience rhema, and we learn that He really is enough - more than enough.  And for that, we give thanks.    
"Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water
welling up to eternal life." 
John 4:14
"As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God." 
Psalm 42:1

last ditch effort

"last ditch effort to bloom"
"Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die
The wind blows, and we are gone — But the love of the Lord remains forever..."
Psalm 103:15

My mom posted the photograph above on her Facebook earlier this week. She had no way of knowing how deeply it would resonate - or that I had just read the accompanying scripture earlier that morning.

And with just one glimpse, the words begin weaving and flowing. Finally...

to continue reading, please click here original post at middleplaces:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

give thanks: laughter

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good..."
Psalm 107:1

Oh, how I want to "enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise" Psalm 100:4.  As we move into this month, this season, of thanksgiving, I've decided to take a moment each day for the next thirty days and write about one thing I'm thankful for. 

The bigs.  The smalls.  The everythings in between. 
As Ann Voskamp writes, “Every moment I live, I live bowed to something. And if I don't see God, I'll bow down before something else.
Through the lens of His word, He has given us divine opportunity to see Him in all things.  "For through Him, God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see... Everything was created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" Colossians 1:16-17.
All things.
This is more that about just finding beauty in the ordinary, more than about finding something to be thankful daily - it's about seeing our Heavenly Father - and His heart for us. 

Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are is a revelation for us; a proverbial unveiling of the joy that awaits when we simply choose to see.  The same joy in 1 Peter: "and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy" 1 Peter 1:8.

Today, day one of the thirty, I am simply thankful for His gift of laughter - and this family, this super silly family, that ensures laughter is plentiful in my life.

Yes, this laughter thing, it is the one part of Proverbs 31 that I've gotten down: 

"...she can laugh at the days to come."

Proverbs 31:25


Monday, October 29, 2012

in all things

me and pj: 10.19.2012

"There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things.
 It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.”
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

"Mommy, I haven't changed for a long time," Parker says from the back seat as I'm driving. 

"What do you mean?" I asked. 

"Well, I've been liking dinosaurs for a long time now... and snaaaakes... and buuugs..."  he pauses, as if to consider whether his list is satisfactory.  "That's three things I've liked for a really long time", he concludes.  "I need to find more things to like.  I'm into warthogs..." 

I look at him in the rearview mirror, laughing.  He's laughing, too.

This moment is joy. 

It's one of those moments you want to live in.  The giggles.  The freshly-gap-toothed little grin.  Oh, he is changing alright, he just doesn't know it...

This thing that every mommy laments - this growing up before our very eyes.  Their childhoods, fleeing and fleeting, forging ahead and we, often weary and heavy-laden, lagging behind - not wanting to miss a moment.  A memory. 

Oh, how I want to remember it all - right down to every little freckle sprinkled across his nose...

As my children grow - and as I grow along with them - I become more and more convinced that the only path to joy in this life - and in the middle of mommyhood - is found when we pause, lay our burdens down and just. thank. God.   

For this child.  This moment. 

And all the moments in between. 

In all moments and in all things... 

Our children can teach us every day to pause, even just for a moment, and be truly, wholly thankful... for all things.  Things like dinosaurs, snakes and bugs.  Yes, even warthogs... and sunshine... and ant beds...  

"Take my picture with this ant bed..."

"Always be joyful. 
Never stop praying.  
Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Friday, October 26, 2012

booyah for mooyah

The Mooyah Burger
it isn't often that i'd blog a restaurant review.  and by often, i mean ever.  but my coworker keely and i have become somewhat of partners in lunchtime connoisseuring (a word that i totally just made up) and today, between mouthfuls of the burger you see above and the crunchy, delicious sweet potato fries (sadly, not pictured) we raved about what we were experiencing.  "The flavor!"... "The crunchiness" ...  "The texture!"...  
"If Johnny Rockets and Mugshots had a baby, this would be it."  ~ Keely
we should totally write that down.  no wait, we should totally write a food blog of our ridiculous lunchtime ravings.  the only problem with that is that we would likely run out of material about three blogs in, since we are creatures of habit and on the occasions where we eat lunch outside of the office, we don't often want to chance our time and money on a new place. 
in fact, it would've probably been a long time before we ventured into Mooyah, if not for their connection with local ministry.  i don't know all of the back story, but i do know that it is family-owned and operated franchise.  this location is the first one in Birmingham.  someone that knows the owners is affiliated with the Lovelady Center, a local ministry that is very close to my heart.  during the planning phases, the owners of this Mooya recruited employees from Lovelady and hired twelve of the lovely ladies.  i was invited by one of them personally and so excited to attend the "grand opening".   
here's the run down:
atmosphere:  located in the former Schaffer Eye Center, the dining area is spacious and open, with high celings, booths and tables, and brightly colored fixtures.  One of the walls is a chalkboard wall for kids to draw on (which my kids will love). 
ordering:  you receive a little order sheet when you get in line - which gives you the run down of the shakes, burgers and fries.  simply check off your options and hand over to the cashier.  love the simplicity of this process.  we opted for the "Mooyah" style which includes the secret Mooyah sauce (kinda like thousand island dressing), lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and grilled onions - we added on some grilled mushrooms with a side of sweet potato fries. 
food:  the picture of the burger really speaks for itself.  it's every bit as tasty as it looks, the flavor and texture of the burger is delicious and the toppings only serve to enhance it.  the sweet potato fries are crunchy and delicious, seasoned and cooked to perfection and the regular fries are much like the famous Boardwalk fries, equally as crunchy and delicious.  not a single soft or soggy fry in the bunch. 
we didn't have the chance to taste test the shake this time around, but as we argued over who was going to get to lick the burger wrapper, it was decided we'd have to come back for that. 
seriously.  LOVE this place.  love the atmosphere.  love the food.  love their heart for local ministry and their willingness to give second chances to the ones who need it the most. 

Now, go get yourself a MOOYAH burger!  :)
3439 Colonnade Pkwy
Suite 1000
Nadia & Keely 

the grass is not greener.

“He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.”
Psalm 23:2

Every so often, I get an email or a phone call from someone who is either contemplating or in the midst of divorce, lamenting over their unhappy marriage.  They’ve already began fantasizing about some mythical, post-divorce, over-the-rainbow land where troubles melt like lemon drops and all that.  Where everyone gets to the other side unscathed – the sun is brighter, the sky is bluer and the grass is greener…
Invariably, it’s almost always someone who resides on the exterior of my life.  They see shiny, happy faces in the photographs and piece together a some sort of post-divorced life success story, having no grasp of the years of heartache, turmoil, pain and regret that flowed beneath the surface.  They are peering in through a stained glass that has taken years for the Lord to meld the shattered pieces together.  Yes, He makes beauty from ashes, but no – I don’t wish for anyone to choose to walk through the destructive fire of that sin...

I listen to their stories and feel pangs of empathy... and of dread. Empathy because I vividly remember being there, desperately wanting affirmation, confirmation, encouragement.  I wanted comfort from someone who had been through it, to see that they were okay - to believe that I would be okay, too.  And then the dread - dread because I know the truth I have to speak is in direct opposition to the lies spoken to them by the enemy of our souls...  
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Friday, October 19, 2012

in the middle of seeking

my little explorer - lookout mt. - spring 2011
"Won't he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness
and go and search for the one that is lost
until he finds it?"
Luke 15:4
It was late one night in early February of 2010. I was in the midst of the second semester of my return to college and my nights were filled with studying at my desk in my bedroom. I'd tucked the kids in earlier and Chloe, almost six at the time, had come and crawled into my bed. She was falling back to sleep as I sat reading. The house was locked up. Lights off. Peaceful. Quiet.
Silence suddenly shattered by the sound of a slamming door...
I jumped up from my chair and looked back at Chloe. Startled, she had sat straight up. "Stay here", I said. I opened my bedroom door into the unknown. Creeping, defenseless, single mother wandering off into the darkness, chasing a "noise" in the night. I could hear my heart beating. I could feel my heart beating... in my throat. I turned the corner and light was pouring through the windows. The motion-sensor flood lights mounted on the back of my home were shining brightly. Someone is outside. No. Wait, the door. Someone has been inside. I glanced at the back door. Unlocked. I ran for Parker's room. Empty. I frantically screamed his name, futilely searching under his bed, in his closet, running from room to room, morphing with each step, with each breath, from concerned mother into madwoman, I ran out the back door shouting his name into the night.
And the night called back with silence. Deafening silence...

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