Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Kitchen

My favorite room in my house is my kitchen. It's not the most fabulously arranged kitchen in the world. I have a serious lack of storage and counter space. The counter tops could really stand to be replaced. Everyone's grandmother had the same cabinets I have. But I love it anyway. It's homey and warm. There are usually dishes in the sink and drying on the counter because real people live here. There are permanent stains on the counter where the spoons have been set after stirring coffee. My fridge has magnets from places we've been, projects from Casiday, and a few pictures that always make me smile. The table was Scott's great-grandmother's kitchen table and I love it. It was shabby chic long before Rachel Aswell entered the scene. My pie safe was a gift from my sweet mother-in-law and it stores my much-loved collection of cook books ... many with post-it notes sticking out the top marking the recipes I want to try. Also in the pie safe is a juice set that was my great-granmother's ... it's hand-blown glass and it's one of the few things we have that I don't use ... too afraid it will get broken.

It's funny how people always gather in the kitchen, even when it's as small as mine. I have so many memories of sitting at the table with different girls in our youth group and talking about life. We try to have at least one meal a week at the table and Casiday always says grace. She has a specific meal blessing, "God, thank you for this day. Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies. We love you and we thank you. Amen." I love that prayer ... reminds me of her daddy who says long prayers are for quiet times not meal times. :) The kitchen table has been used for many a play-dough session, has been piled high with food for countless events, and is still the best homework spot in the house.

I love my kitchen. It's where I do a lot of ministry. I bake and cook there ... for my family, for my friends, for those who are sick, those who have lost loved ones, and those who just love chicken and dumplin's (and leave the ingredients in my garage as a hint that it's been too long since I've made any). I pray there ... as I clean up after people have been over I replay our conversations and pray for their needs as I wash the dishes and toss the trash. I pray for my family and thank God for the many blessings represented in my kitchen.

The "New & Improved" Living Room

So, I thought I'd add pictures of the rearranged living room. I really like it ... Scott still is not sold. We have groups of people coming over the next two nights so it will get the full test run. I haven't moved any pictures just in case. :) Above is "my corner" with the last few Christmas gifts we have to hand out. I can curl up with my coffee, a good book and see out the window. No big secret where I'll spend my time when everyone else is gone. :)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rearranging is fun!

But not for everyone. Today Judy and Adrianne came over to help me take down the North Pole and we decided to rearrange the furniture while we were at it. It was such fun. But Scott hates change and he really hates rearranged furniture. We didn't move his chair but we moved everything else ... including the TV. So, I'm enjoying it but I don't think my husband has quite adjusted to the differences.

But it really has been a great day. I got to chat with my sister-in-law Beth for a little while today and with my sweet friend Denice. I love the way technology allows me to keep in touch. My house still isn't completely back in order ... but it's getting there. I have tomorrow and Wednesday to get everything ready for the big New Year's Eve "Smokin' and all that Scrap" party.

More on that topic later. :)

Post Christmas Hush

It's that great time of year ... those few days between Christmas and New Year's ... it's quiet and calm. The hustle and rushing of holiday season have passed. My decorations are up ... for just another day. I love putting them up ... the way the lights twinkle, figuring out just the right spot for whatever my latest treasure is, and enjoying the memories attached to all of them. But I also love packing them away ... it's almost a cleansing. The empty spaces where the decorations were symbolize the blank slate I feel I get with each new year.

2008 had so much good in it. Scott and I went on our first overseas mission trip together. We spent a week in Roatan, Honduras, and we will never be the same. I still can't put into words the ways God spoke to me and infused Himself in me while I was there. My entire concepts of worship, of service, of passion, and of ministry are changed forever. And to have the privilege of sharing such a life-changing experience with my husband ... well, that made it all the more special. Speaking of my main squeeze, he has been blessed this year with good health. What a great praise!!

We've made lots of trips as always. But my favorite was our Spring Break trip to Disney World. We spent the first half of the week with Scott's brother and his family. Watching Scott and Greg is one of my favorite things. There is something so inherently unique about the relationship between brothers. Greg and Scott can laugh so hard they cry about something that is really nothing. But they are both such good daddies and amazing husbands. Most of all, they are both incredibly Godly men.

One of my personal goals for 2008 was to make time for far-away family. I've tried to make a few more phone calls, send a few more cards, write a few more e-mails this year. And, thanks to Facebook, I think I've managed to be successful in that area. I've had some of the sweetest conversations this year with my Bigmama and my sweet sister-in-law Beth. I am so thankful for my family and the heritage of ministry of which I am a part.

And what recap would be complete without mentioning my sweet girl ... Casiday Hope. She inspires me! I look at her and see this wonderful, insightful, witty, completely blonde person who loves animals, dances with her heart and her feet, loves her friends and family, and "gets it" spiritually ... and I wonder, "What did I ever do to deserve this precious child?" Of course, I know the answer is that I did nothing ... she is as Psalm 127:3 says "a gift" from God. One for which I am most thankful.

Oh there are things that didn't happen in 2008 ... my book STILL isn't finished, I haven't completed the Rudolph quilt I started for Scott three years ago, and we're not eating more healthy or exercising more ... but, still, sitting here on my couch as 2008 winds down, I am filled with joy for all the blessings I have, gratitude for the amazing friends and family God has given me, wonder at the presence of God in my life, and chills that I have a husband who takes my breath away when he walks in the room and loves me even when I am REALLY unloveable.

Yes, this is my favorite time of year.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A new room!!

Yea!  The garage turned screened porch is nearly complete.  I am so excited!  We began this project earlier this year are finally nearing completion.  Those who are not from South Georgia may not understand how important it is to have a place outside where the bugs can't get to you. But trust me - it is VERY important!

So, we got this great idea while on a trip last year to screen in our garage.  And we did.  We love it.  Finally got painting done and new outdoor furniture complete with fire pit (used for candles, of course).  I am loving it!

Above is the back door (into the kitchen).  I did all the flower arrangements myself.  Thought they turned out well.  :)
This is the counter we had built for Casiday and her friends to be able to eat, do crafts, etc. without making a mess in the house.  
This is the back wall of the garage.  The stained glass is from one of the old Methodist churches here in Brunswick.  It is beautiful!
The firepit.  We thoroughly enjoy it - or will when it finally cools down some around here.  :)
The view looking in to the garage.  

More of my flower arranging prowess.  

We still have some work to do.  We will be running cable out there so we can watch ball games, etc.  Also we are going to stain the concrete so it will look like stone.  But, we are already thrilled with how it has turned out.

Friday, August 29, 2008

2008 - The Year of Women!

I am so excited! Casiday and I have been absolutely engaged in the presidential process this year. She immediately latched on to Hillary Clinton. Even at 8, she saw that as a HUGE thing. At one point she said, "All these years we've had a man as president, maybe a woman would actually listen to people." Out of the mouth of babes!

Anyway, my baby girl was so disappointed when Hillary dropped out. Not really understanding the method of the process, she only saw that "the girl was voted out." I encouraged her to keep listening to what the candidates had to say. To watch Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain and see their part in the process.

Well, today, school got out early so I was leaving to pick Casiday up from school at around 11:45. I recorded the speech by Gov. Palin so Casiday and I could watch it together. When she got in the van I said, "Guess what! Senator McCain has chosen his vice-president and guess who it is!" She immediately got very excited and said, "HILLARY!" I said, "No, not Hillary, but he did choose a woman named Sarah Palin. She has five children and is the governor of Alaska." Casiday was really excited.

You know, I'm really proud of my daughter right now. She's already engaged in the political process. She's already beginning to understand how important it is to pay attention to what people say when they are running for office. She stood with me as I voted earlier this summer in a primary. There were several "straw poll" questions on the ballot and we discussed each of them. I was amazed at her insight. The poll workers were too. In the small room they were able to hear us talking about what the questions meant and how it would be best to vote. She was given an "I Voted!" sticker also. What a great thing - to share the process of governing with my daughter. Eighty-eight years ago, women were given the long-deserved, hard-fought right to vote. This year, we have seen a woman run one of the most effective campaigns in presidential history. And now, for only the second time, we find a woman running on the ticket of a major political party. I am overwhelmed with all of it.

Whether Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, the fact is God has given us the responsibility of being involved in our government - and we, as Americans, have such a great privilege to do so without fear. As a mom, I am so proud to be able to set the example of involvement for my daughter. As a citizen, I am so thankful to know that she is already beginning to understand the great honor of participating in government. As I woman, I am proud to see what Senator Clinton has accomplished and to watch as Governor Palin becomes a
part our great history. As a Christian, I thank God that I live in a country where we are able to be involved in our government.

So, no matter what side of the aisle you sit on, I hope you are involved. And I hope you are not leaving your children out of your involvement. Children learn what is important to us by watching what we do. I spend Thursday mornings as the crisis pregnancy center in our community - Casiday knows that helping women and children is a priority for me. I am involved in mentoring women and teaching God's Word at church - Casiday knows that helping
others grow in their disciple's life is important to me. I watch the news WITH her, we discuss and pray for situations in the world around us - Casiday knows that we have an honor and privilege to pray for others and be a part of our community. I read my Bible in the mornings BEFORE my day gets started - Casiday knows that I value my relationship with God and make it a priority (in fact, she is wanting a new Bible like mine and has decided that she wants to get up earlier so she can read her Bible while I read mine!).

What does your child know about you? Casiday is 8 - she's not a genius, she's just a normal kid. She gets in trouble for her smart mouth, can't ever keep her room clean, doesn't understand that just because you look at some clothes doesn't make them dirty, and she'd rather eat candy than anything else. I say that, not to demean her, but to make it clear that our life is no different from others who have children her age. We have taken the time to educate her and involve her. She often says, "When I grow up I want to be like you, Mom." I used to just smile and say thank you. Now I ask her, "Really? Why?" She has so many reasons but my very
favorite is this, "Because you love God more than anything and you always help me understand what is important to Him and how to live for Him."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Here I am - almost September - and I wonder how did this year go by so fast. Seems like just yesterday we were having our New Year's Eve party with about 50 people crammed into our house all decked out in their 80s attire. And now, we are into our second full week of school and our schedule is right back at crazy!

And yet, I don't have that feeling that life is rushing by without me. In fact, while the weeks pass so fast, the days have seemed much slower. And what a gift that has been. So, before the storm the schedule of insanity really hits, I wanted to stop and ponder the richness of the blessings we've had this year.

The biggest and most precious gift I had this year was on January 10. That was one full year since Scott had been released from the hospital after his truly near-death time there in 2007. I guess when you come face-to-face with doctors saying "We just aren't sure what will happen. The next six hours are crucial" - and they say that same thing to you three different times - you realize there are very few things in life that really matter - in fact there is NOT ONE THING in life that really matters - only people. That experience has forever changed me. I am now much more focused on celebrating every day - for there are gifts in every moment. And I realize in a way that I imagine few ever do how very precious my husband is. He is more than my best friend, more than my soul mate, more than my life's companion. He is, in every way possible, my hero. His profound faith in God surpass that of anyone else I have ever known. His deep love for his family is amazing. And the complete selflessness with which he ministers and serves is the most genuine picture of Christ I know.

So, while that is the overwhelming theme of my life this year, there have been many other moments to treasure. In February my baby turned 8. I can't even begin to explain what a gift she is. Having experienced the loss of a child, I carry deep within an appreciation for the true frailty of life - and the gift that being a parent is. Casiday is just the most amazing child! I know she's mine and I am extraordinarily biased but she is. In spite of being in a class last year with some really mean kids (who picked on her and stole from her, lied about her and even hit her), she carried herself with such grace. In fact, she prayed for those very kids - not because I told her to or suggested it but because she told me that they needed God. She even used a pencil she had gotten from LifeWay to witness to one little boy. Of course, she is normal - she gets in trouble for not cleaning her room, for being sassy, and for a thousand other things all the time. But, when all is said and done, she loves the Lord and is not afraid to share her faith. What more could I ask for? (Although, I'm not denying a clean room would be nice!)

I have the most incredible friends! In April our children's pastor's wife and I were able to get away and go to a conference with a church in Alabama. It was so nice to not be charge - to have NO responsibility. And I really enjoyed my time with Karen. She is just a great person. I can't begin to describe all the things that make her so special but she is an incredible wife who sacrifices herself all the time to help her husband. She loves her 3 girls and makes their lives full of special moments - from little trips after school to the park to making scrapbooks with them, Karen truly is invested in her children. And, most precious to me - she deeply and passionately loves the Lord! She hungers and thirsts for righteousness and desires a deeper relationship with Christ - even when it's hard. Spending a few days with her was a blessing and encouragement that God gave me and I am immensely thankful.

I also have those great friends who call just to say hi, who text to remind me that they pray for me, who send me notes to encourage me, and who are always available for a hug, a shoulder to cry on, a coffee break at Seattle's Best, or a shopping trip to Ross. I have the kind of friends who love me no matter what but who never let me be a slacker. The kind who will challenge me to be MORE but stand by me when I am far less. The kind who laugh with me and sometimes at me. Who help me not take myself too seriously. But who strengthen me to stand firm in my walk with Christ.

There have been small moments too - an afternoon spent watching "Enchanted" with my own princess. An evening walk on the beach with my beloved. So many - so much - I am so full.

This year I've travelled overseas. I had the privilege to spend a week in Roatan, Honduras. What an experience! To see the passion for Christ by fellow believers was such a challenge to me in my own life. I guess I always thought they "had" to be passionate about Christ because they had nothing else. But, the reality is - they are passionate about Him because He is worthy of our passion. I was deeply moved, enormously convicted, and forever changed.

I get to spend four hours every week sharing the truth that God has a plan for each of us as I volunteer at Care Net. This year I have been honored to be a witness to 6 people moving from eternal death to abundant life as they asked Jesus Christ to be the Salvation they need. It really doesn't get any better than that!

I've seen my daughter dance her first solo at church. I've had the long-prayed-for opportunity to teach a Bible study at Care Net. I have started exercising and eating better. I've reconnected with friends from years gone by and built relationships with many senior adults who remind me that life is too short to miss out on the moments of each day.

So today I find myself looking forward to what the next four months of 2008 hold. There are things I know are coming - a trip to the Smokey Mountains in November, Casiday dancing in "The Nutcracker" for the third time, and celebrating Thanksgiving with very dear friends. And yet I am even more excited about what will be surprise. The moments I can't predict, can't create, can't even imagine. The moments when God shows me glimpses of Him - in nature, in His Word, and in others. The times we will spend sharing meals with those we love. The moments Scott and I will share - just the two of us. The times when Casiday will make me laugh and the times she will make me realize that I am privileged to be a part of her life. The quiet moments when life is slow and still. And even the hectic days when God gives me the strength to make it through. In this and so much more I pray I will be a reflection of Him. One who loves God and loves others. One who serves. One who sacrifices. One who reaches out. One who lives abundantly!

Yes, the year has gone by fast. But there's so much more. And I face the days ahead with confidence, with anticipation. For my God is the One God - and I am ready to go and do and see and learn. As the commercial says, "I want it all!" - All that He has for me. Even the storms - for the rainbow always comes.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Is authenticity a worthy pursuit for a believer?

Okay, this may be a long way around to what appears to be a simple question. But it's the path I have been on and it has been a winding road. Over the past few weeks I have been forced to face several of my fears. Not those obvious ones - like butterflies (don't ask!) - but those hidden ones. The ones that really do control me. Like my fear of failure. My fear of being "found out."

I've learned that I rely on myself - my abilities, my knowledge, my desires, my goals - ME! ME! ME! I am scared to let go of what I know "I" can do - scared to find out what God wants me to do. I lack courage, I don't really trust God. That's really hard to admit. I mean, I do trust God to save me, to protect me - but I don't know that I really deeply trust Him with my deepest self. You know, my dreams, my ambitions, my fears.

And so I struggle. I want to believe - to be authentic. I feel like an imposter - others look at me and see something that I'm not sure is really there. I want to be real. But I'm afraid. Afraid of not being good enough. Not being liked. Rejection. I know I need to rest in WHO I am in Christ - but I'm not really sure what that looks like.

As I've been pondering and dealing with this I realized that I know how fake I am sometimes. And then I realized that others probably already know as well. That was an eye-opening moment! Then I wondered, if people already know, what is holding me back? Why not just be real?

I have this opportunity. This moment of self-awareness - granted by the Holy Spirit. And yet, I am still afraid! Scared to death of authenticity. I'm wondering is it wrong to choose to do these things to honor God even though I am not sure I really WANT to? Can I grow spiritually by DOING godly things, pursuing intimacy with Christ, out of obedience - not out of a deep desire - and then find myself changed in the process? Do I have to WANT to be different, 100% WANT that change in me, or is it more than that? Deeper than wanting? Is the higher understanding being obedient regardless of what I "want"? Becoming like Christ through obedience - even grudgingly - is still becoming like Christ, isn't it? Isn't that what "dying to self" is all about? Placing my flesh in submission to His spirit?

What is is that God wants from us? I keep going back through my Scriptural memory bank. Here's what I keep coming up with ...

1 Samuel 15:22 - But Samuel replied, "What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams.

Micah 6:8 - No, O people, the LORD has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

To obey is better than sacrifice. So if I am following the guidelines in Micah 6:8 - I am living as righteously as my sinful nature allows, I am loving others compassionately, and I am seeking to walk with God as much as I currently understand - am I living in obedience? And if I am - then does all the rest really matter? As long as I am focused on being obedient, will He then be the impetus for growing my faith? Can I actually do anything outside of being obedient in all things that will grow my faith?

And then - back to my original pondering...What does authenticity look like? Does it always look the same? Is there a specific life that is authentic? And why has this become the catch-word in our Christian-ese? Do we really need to be concerned about being authentic? It seems to me that the pursuit of authenticity can become yet another diversion that the enemy uses in our lives. At least I can see where that has happened along the way to me. So, my question is: Is authenticity a worthy pursuit for a believer? Has this become another "10 steps to a more Christ-like life" thing? Have we bought in to a new PR gimmick? Have we become consumed with defining authenticity at the cost of actually being Christ's hands and feet in this broken world?

I guess what I'm beginning to glimpse is that I often get caught substituting "good" for "best" in my disciple's life. I get so busy pursuing authenticity that I forget to pursue Christ. I spend so much time contemplating what I ought to be that I neglect to do what is needed in the world around me. I focus on my growth at the sake of ignoring the needs of others.

I just wonder what my life would look like on a daily basis if my goal for the day was to live out Micah 6:8. I know I've just begun my journey on this new fork in the road of life - but I am excited about what is ahead. And scared. And wondering what God will ask of me - and wondering if I have enough faith, or a great enough desire to be obedient, to DO whatever that is. All I know is this ... I don't think I will ever be "authentic" enough, for there will always be those places inside of me that I keep hidden, those issues that I face which are never shared with others. But, I think that is okay with me. Instead of focusing on that which I can do, I am realizing the need to focus on what Christ can do through me. And as that happens, well, maybe I will become "authentic" but I know I will be looking more like Christ.

So, forgive my rambling, forgive my disjointed thought process, and the poor grammar. And welcome to my crazy mind!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wondering ...

So I am wondering about something ... do some people always have to have something to complain about? It seems that in the past few weeks I keep encountering people who MUST complain. Sometimes legit - but usually not. I'm so tired of it. Now, I am not a "Polly Anna" who wears rose-colored glasses but - geesh! - even I realize that life is not always that bad.

So, I'm sick of complainers. Sick of whiners.

I just want to wear a shirt that says, "GET OVER IT!"

Hmm... maybe I'll make a shirt.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Back in the groove - or trying to be!

Today is going to be great, I can feel it! Does anyone else ever have those days? I am finally recovered from our mission trip - at least I think I am. That sleeping 12 hours or more a day was getting old. And I find myself beginning to process the things God showed me during our week away. Amazing, isn't it, how God gives us just what we need and then helps us understand. I feel so very full right now.

And, tonight, I am teaching. That may not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but it is huge for me. I haven't taught in my church (with the exception of filling in or two-week programs) for over 3 years. There are many reasons for that - some rooted in my selfishness, some rooted in timing, and some rooted in lessons God has been teaching me. It's amazing what freedom feels like when it comes from absolute submission to God. When I finally let Him have my frustrations, my fears, my ego, my pride - when I laid all of it down and then fell on top of it, He gently picked me up and wiped me off. And now, He has given me the privilege of teaching again. It is different now. Now I understand that it is HIM not me. That seems like something I should have known all along; but, I didn't. I said it, of course, because I know all the lingo. But I didn't mean it. It taken God awhile to get through to me - to humble me. I am thankful that the work, most of it, was done in private. It was hard enough to confront all those truths in my prayer closet - I can't imagine doing it in full view of everyone.

So, I think I'm back. I have a joy inside me that has long been missing. And I have that peace that only God can give.

It's going to be a great day.

Monday, June 30, 2008

It's been a while ...

Haven't posted in a long time. Not because I had nothing to say (as those who know me well will attest!) but because, I suppose, I haven't felt like sharing much of what has been happening inside me. The past year has been very difficult for me - lots of JUNK at our church, relationship issues with a few people, my insecurities coming to the surface, disappointment with my family, and some deep spiritual struggles. All in all, a lot of pruning on this ol' branch.

But, here I am ... still standing, with the strength of Christ. Still learning, still a little wounded, but most of all - still singing praise!!

The stuff at church is not resolved, some relationships have ended, some are still in question, my insecurities are still there - although not as prominent, family situations have left me with a new set of expectations, and there are some scars from the battles that have not yet begun to fade. LIfe is hard. That's the sum of it. I always thought that the hard part was just about over and that the next part of the journey would be so much easier. What I'm learning is that nothing worth having is ever easy. Not marriage, not parenting, not relationships, not being a disciple, not ministry, nothing. And it is in the struggle that we find out what is worth the tears, worth the sweat, worth the heartache.

My prayer is changing and so is my heart. Instead of longing for what is easy and fulfilling now, I find myself yearning for wisdom to learn, for compassion to serve, and for humility to lean on God every step of the way.

I feel the changes inside of me. A new freedom to lift my hands in worship without wondering what others will think. A new passion for praying for the hurting people I see all around me. A new longing for more of God's Word to penetrate my soul. A new desire to bask in the silence of waiting on the Lord. A new me - a renewed me - a refreshed me. And I know that God is guiding me - gently and not-so-gently. Placing in my heart the desires He has for me - and transforming me into that creation He knew from the beginning of time.

And so I say, to Him, to everyone - "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."