Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflecting on 2012

"We've all been placed on the planet for such a time as this."- Beth Moore, Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman

It's hard to believe that I'm sitting here on the eve of another New Year... seems like yesterday I was writing a post to begin 2012.  Yet here I am, and what a year it has been. Kami graduating high school and starting at UK, Holly getting married, me starting doctoral school.  Jackson's Volleyball team winning district.  Caleb growing into a fine young man, enduring knee troubles and physical therapy and making me so very proud in so many ways.  Will being born and an 80th birthday celebration for my Papaw Paul (the baby of the bunch).  Work and life and church... time spent with family and friends and loved ones.  No wonder it seems as if I just blinked...

I just finished the final study in Esther, right on time, and Beth talks about how our story is yet to be finished, that the ink is still being written on the paper.  So many things I hope for the ending of my story, but before I harp on that tomorrow, here's how I stood on 2012.

For the first time ever, I read my Bible all the way through, from start to finish. I got behind and spent the past couple of days catching up, reading several books at once.  Must say I did do this in a hurry, so one of my goals for next year is to be more deliberate and intentional about the reading, so that I'm thinking about what I'm reading.  I also had the goal to complete 4 in-depth Bible studies.  I read To Live is Christ and Esther by Beth Moore, and Nehemiah by Kelly Minter.  I also participated in online studies on Hebrews led by Wendy Blight, on Proverbs 31 and Colossians by Good Morning Girls, and 1 Peter by Hello Mornings.  Plans for next year's studies might be mentioned tomorrow =)

I did sleep more, going to be on a more regular basis, until Biostats kicked in... but for the most part I got at least 7 hours of sleep, which was a huge improvement over 4-5 hours.  I still procrastinated, but didn't let myself get quite as stressed out (again, until Biostatistics kicked in). 

I set a goal to read at least 75 books... and read 99.  Fiction, religious, a variety of books.  Almost got caught up in the Stephanie Plum series (I'm on 16 out of 19 right now).  Several Karen KIngsbury novels.  Some read of the SheReads book club.  The Book Thief. You're Already Amazing and Grace for the Good Girl.  Still no War and Peace... but I have read a little more this Christmas break.  Maybe 2013 will be the year???

I wrote in my blog 280 out of 365 days, and posted 246 pics in my Life as I Live It album on Facebook.  I have loved doing this, and while some of my pictures seem obnoxious, it has really made me stop and pause to think about things as they happen.  I participated in The Joy Dare through Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience blog, and jotted down three things every day to be grateful for. 

I wanted to cross at least one thing off my bucket list, and managed to cross three things off: ziplining with Wallace in July, Beth Moore live in August, and a Steelers game at Heinz Field in December. I also started on another one when I enrolled at WKU in June, working toward my DNP degree.

Pretty much the only areas I wouldn't consider a success is exercise and weight loss.  I actually gained a little weight, and did pretty good on the exercise for about half the year.  I think part of me quitting was in rebellion to Wallace and his activeness.  Plus, we had some issues this year... I'm glad to say that last night he leaned over to me and said, "Here's to hoping 2013 is our best year ever." and I'm echoing that... for me, and us, and you, too.  God bless...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Stay-cation

My mind is racing tonight with thoughts of the new year, just four days away.  My hopes and plans and what all I'm going to accomplish...and my reflections on 2012.  I'm not going to give into those yet...

Right now it's quiet in my house.  Caleb has spent the day running up and down the holler, and is currently picking up Nana from work.  I am happy to say that he scheduled time with me and Wallace at 7 PM tonight through Siri, but when I asked him before he headed to town if we were still on, he said, "I'll have to check with Siri to see what my appointments are." I'm thinking that we will be left sitting at home alone if something better comes up, and that's ok. 

Today, I've sat on my couch.  I've read the book of Romans in my Bible (still behind, but I'm determined to read it all the way through.  Only 90 pages to go. And it's so good...) I've read a couple of lessons in my Esther study (also behind on this one... but God's right on time).  I've finished two books I've been reading, and read a few pages in a third.  Thrown a load of laundry in the washer, and took a long, hot bath. 

And I've checked email.  I subscribe to a lot of different blogs... Lysa Terkeurst, Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Incourageme, Priscilla Shirer, Proverbs 31 Ministries daily devotions... and when classes are in session I don't always get to read all of them.  I leave them marked unread in my inbox.  I used to panic when I saw the number of unread messages, but then I learned to breathe really deep and know that God would have a word for me when I got to them.  So today I've read and deleted and watched videos and just let the word speak to me.  I'm under 600 unread in my email.  Thinking I'll use the next hour or so to clean out a few more, but wanted to hop on here and touch base. 

I'm so thankful for this extended stay-cation.  No plans to go anywhere anytime soon, and for once, that's okay with me. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Whirlwind

 As a child it was homemade stockings hung by the chimney and real Christmas trees.  It was waking up at the crack of dawn, bounding downstairs ready to see what Santa had left.  It was treks to Grandma Bert's on Christmas Eve, endless Scrabble games and going home to watch the Sound of Music and heading to Grandma Na's in the morning. 

Now, we've grown a little bit.  There are a couple more stockings hung and nights at Grandma's don't last quite as long because there's more places to go.  This year, we had four Christmas celebrations...

And once again Grandma Bert said it was the best Christmas ever.  Papaw Paul told me he intended to get "Me and Mama a handheld vac," so my gift of money was greatly appreciated.  Grandma told me, "You can get whatever you want on that... what's it called? Internet?" as she handed me my Amazon gift card.  And Caleb came away like a bandit with money... and we moved on to Nana's house.

Where Will laughed as Regina opened his presents just like he knew what she was doing.  And Kami, who had rode home with us, fed Will and fit right in, just like she belonged, which is the amazing part of our family, mine and Wallace's... we truly are one family.  Caleb was happy with his beats and looked at me and said, "This is the best Christmas ever and I still have Mamaw Karen's."

And we snuggled and HE read Luke 2, struggling over some of the words but mostly getting them right, and then there was Twas the Night Before Christmas and God Gave us Christmas, and our favorite, The Crippled Lamb.

Santa came with Itunes cards and tic-tacs and a small Lego kit, and made his way down Twin Cedar Road to fill the stockings hung at Mamaw Karen's, too. The house felt a little empty as Holly was on a call, but we grow up and have to do grownup things and the present opening went on without her...and I think everyone was satisfied.  Mom got me the best- book cards and a volleyball and basketball charm for my bracelet and printed off my entire blog from 2012 in a notebook.

Then we were the last to arrive at Grandma Na's and instead of the house seeming tiny it just seemed cozy as we handed out presents and hugs and laughter, and while it was a little warm everyone found a place to sit and eat Dirt Cake and Banana Pudding and the best mashed potatotes Nora ever made (although every bowl is always the best ever...).  And then family pic time brought us all outside and we managed to take it in less than 10 minutes, a real accomplishment.

The day ended with biscuits and gravy and a long bath and reading and napping on the couch.  I am blessed, four generations on both sides and lots of love to go around, and the greatest gift of all in baby Jesus, who humbled Himself and then died on a cross for my sins, for our sins.  And tomorrow will be just another day but it will be a new day and His grace will still be sufficient.

Merry Christmas!  May you be richly blessed with the true meaning of the season!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Magic of the Terrible Towel

As a little girl, she named her puppy Bettis after Jerome Bettis, the Bus.  For as long as I can remember, she's been a football fan, and so have I.  We've begged and pleaded and cajoled Wallace into taking us to Pittsburgh, Home of Heinz Field and the Steel Curtain and Steelers Nation. This week, he gave in...

As I've gotten older, Christmas presents don't seem to be quite as important as time spent with family and thinking about the real reason for the season, but I definitely didn't turn this one down.  Yes, it was going to be cold, but isn't that real football weather?  So we packed up our long johns and underarmour gear and headed up north.

Not a bad drive at all, and Caleb sat in the front seat and talked.  And talked.  Snow lined the road next to us but it wasn't as bad as we were afraid it was going to be, and before we knew it, we were in the tunnel.  People had told us about the tunnel, but it really can't be described. You're driving along, and it's looking like Kentucky, kind of hilly and trees, and then through the tunnel, and before your eyes is the skyline.  Pretty awesome. 

And to my left is Heinz Field... and to say that I am like a kid in a candy store is an understatement. 

It's early so we head over to Hard Rock to eat, and then there is a sports store in a shopping plaza and we go into to pick up a Terrible Towel. Emmanuel Sanders is there signing autographs so Caleb takes a pic and pretends like he is his biggest fan... and then he maybe is, because his background pic on his phone is changed and he's buying a tee-shirt for the game. 

We get back to the hotel and Phil Simms is in the lobby, and we hear that the Bengals are staying there.  Sightings galore as we go to get pops and go swimming.  Caleb can't stay cooped up in a hotel room... so he's riding the elevator with a Bengal, #58.  "So, you going to the game tomorrow?" He asks him to make conversation. (That's my husband and my son for you... never see a stranger.) "Yeah, I probably better show up."

We head back out and go to the Christmas village and freeze and have our pictures taken with Santa Clause.  More swimming and then it's bedtime and then it's gametime. Riding down to the lobby there's another Bengal player, and Caleb admires his beats and his phone. "That's what I want for Christmas," He tells him, to which the player replied, "You must have been a good boy."

And then we are there, and the sun is shining right on our seats.  The stadium fills up and I'm watching Troy and Ben and Heath warm up right in front of me.  Terry Bradshaw's daughter sings the National Anthem and there are those terrible towels, waving all around me... and Caleb is like the ring leader.  Waving as hard as he can.

Yes, the Steelers lost.  No, we won't be in the playoffs this year... but I got to see Timmons make an awesome sac and Troy make a couple of really good hits and got to see those towels in action... Heinz Field was definitely worth the drive, and this has already been one of my best Christmases ever... and it hasn't even really started yet.  God bless!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Greatest Gift

Today I finished up my shopping, I think. Good thing, too, since Christmas is just four days away.  We do Christmas at the Griffiths on Christmas Eve and then go to my in-laws that evening.  Christmas morning finds us at Mom and Dad's, then Grandma Na's, where the Clemons Clan barely fits into the house, making for a loud and "close" meal.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Most of my presents are wrapped, too, under my one Christmas tree.  Today, Caleb made Christmas cookies with Mom and we delivered them to friends and family.  We visited one family friend who had 12 Christmas trees.  Yes, 12!  One in every room.  Decorated in Santas and snowmen and angels and snowbabies and Hallmark ornaments and sportsthemed ornaments... but there were probably more nativity scenes than there were trees.  Beautiful decorating, and it got me thinking as I wrapped my presents.

I'm not the best gift wrapper.  I never sent out Christmas cards this year; in fact, I've never sent out cards the entire time Wallace and I have been married.  I always mean to send them out. I buy them, and they sit unopened...

But I love.  I think of those I love and say special prayers for them... so even if you don't get a card, know I'm thinking of you this Christmas and wishing you and yours the very best. 

And as I'm getting older, I'm realizing it's less about the gifts and more about family, and being together, and loving.  Of laughter and memories and belonging. And I'm sending up a special prayer for those who might be hurting, who have lost a loved one this year or who are estranged from those they love.

Above all, I'm remembering the best Christmas gift any of us could receive.  Ironically, He came to earth as a helpless babe.  Mary was a young teenage girl who had to be scared to death, and Joseph wanted to privately divorce her when he found out. Not the best of circumstances to come into... but then He grew, and that Word made flesh became the Savior that all of us needed.  The best gift is the fact that even though I deserve nothing, He gave everything.  No pretty packages, just Him on the Cross.  For me.  And for you.

And if you don't know Him, He doesn't have to be a stranger.  He loves you.  Give yourself the best Christmas present.  Grab a Bible and read Luke 2.  Get to know Him, because here's the catch.  He's a soon returning King, and our gifts will be many in Heaven... because His grace is sufficient.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Live Like Its the Last

Tomorrow is December 21st... the end of the Mayan calendar.  It's been the talk for the last couple of years... what will happen on this day, if anything?  I've lived through a couple "end of days" days.  Everyone feared the millenium... that we'd wake up and nothing would work, all of our digital lifestyle would have gone haywire, banks would be robbed and electricity would fail, etc. etc... and then we woke up, and nothing had changed.

I'm not a believer in the Mayan prophesy... I'd much rather hold fast to the Word given over 2000 years ago, that says that noone, not even the Son of God, knows the time nor the hour.  I do believe, however, that time is running out.  Signs such as wars, and rumors of wars, and endless killings, and earthquakes in diverse places... those are all biblical in nature, pointing to the time that Jesus will come back to set up His kingdom, a Kingdom where peace will rule and chaos will be no more.

Just this morning, I read in James.... my paraphrase.  You spend your time saying tomorrow I'll do this and go here and buy this... but what is your life? It is but a vapor, here for a little while, and then it fades away.  And I am so guilty of that.  An obsessive planner, a compulsive to-do list maker.  and that okay... but today, as I sit here reading the twitter feed and the facebook updates talking about the Mayan doomsday, I got to thinking. 

If today really was my last day on earth, what would it look like? I'd like to think it would be spent with those I loved the most.  I think if I knew my time was short, I'd laugh more, and care less about things that didn't matter.  I'd be more giving.  I'd not be quite as serious, and not get so consumed with what I don't have and what I can't do.  If today was really my last day, I'd want everyone to know just how much they mean to me.  I might pick up the phone and call old friends I haven't talked to in a while.  I might not spend as much time on the computer, and spend more time thanking God.

Even though we don't know when the end of the earth is going to be, or even when the end of our life will be, we do know that we only have a short time to make a difference.  In the end, it's not going to matter how many friends we have on Facebook (even though I love Facebook) or how many pairs of shoes we have or even how expensive our house is.  In the end, it's going to be how we pointed others to Him.  We have the opportunity every day to live as if there were no tomorrow, and to fully embrace the opportunities we are given today.  Opportunities to be a light to others, to serve as Jesus did, and to love one another. 

As if this was our last day...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

All Things For Good

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28 NIV84

All things...

The week before Christmas, two weeks before the new year, and I'm pondering all that has happened in 2012 and wondering what 2013 will hold. Lots of hype about the craziness of the end of the world happening... and it makes me wonder how much longer.

Perspective is a premature baby in an incubator at UK, weighing just shy of 2 lbs. I've followed her progress on facebook. Tiny in pictures, I can only imagine how small she is in person. Her Mama posts daily, and I stalk her site for news. I may never meet Jaycee, but she has captured my heart.

Perspective is the 16 year old I follow on Facebook as well. States away from me, I've followed her journey through chemotherapy and exploratory surgery, as she shaved her head and is homeschooled and makes the most of her life. I know I'll never meet her, but again, I pray for her daily.

Perspective is all of those who have lost loved ones and jobs this close to the Christmas season. Money is tight, especially in these weeks ahead, as credit card notices come in. The necessities in life are just more and more expensive...

Perspective is a young soldier coming home to his wife. For much of their marriage, he's been deployed. Now, on home soil, they will share the holidays together.

Perspective is all that is wrong in the world... and all that is magically right. Daily, He is good. He is good in prayers, and through people, and in the magic of the human race, which triumphs in times of tragedy through small, insignificant acts of kindness. And though we may never realize, or we may not understand, He is working good in our lives. In our ordinary, run of the mill, mundane lives.

We heard the wonders after 9/11, people who lived because their alarm clock didn't go off or they missed the subway or they called in sick to work, and it's easy to see how he works for good in those ways. But even in the ugly, in the death and the sickness and the hardship, He's working for the good. In the marriage that seems like it is on the brink because of unfaithfulness, He's using that to turn them around. In the death of a young child to cancer, He's using it to bring others closer to Him. Stories we may never hear, He's using it for good.

I thought it was interesting that this was our verse this week, because He uses all things to work for the good so that we can be greater in Him, yet as a nation we are pausing, or have been pausing, to figure out just what could be good in times like this. I don't pretend to have those answers... but He does. And He is all good, no matter what. Even when we don't understand, His way is not our way. And I'm so glad for that, because my way would be a bungling mess.

Look up... our redemption draws nigh. And it's going to be so good... dare I say it? Greater than anything we can imagine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Blue Skies

The wind is whipping outside my window, causing the bare tree branches to flap around.  It's mid-December, and the weather is finally starting to act like it.  A week until Christmas, and not yet a week from the darkness that seemed to descend...

I'm far away from Conneticut in my office at work yet it seems like it could be my backyard.  Caleb is just up the hill from me, safe and secure in a locked down school with signs on the doors detailing stricter pick-up policies, and although I know in my heart of hearts that right now everything is fine a Mama can't help but wonder.

And Jesus came and was the light of the World, but that light seems to be fading day by day as the TV reports more death and more shooting and more sickness and more hardships.  We wonder why, yet I think of the letter Wallace got from the state department after he prayed at a volleyball game.  I'm thinking about freedom of religion and freedom from oppression, yet why does it feel like it's a bad thing when I speak His name, the most powerful name?  Why should I feel uncomfortable, wondering what others will think?  Oh, Lord... help me show Your light...

And as I'm thinking these dark thoughts and praying for the families of Grace and Noah and Victoria... all 26 families who are facing much darker days than I am... I look out my window, where the gray clouds are rolling. And there, peeking out in the middle of all that gray, blue skies.  Reminding me that even here, in this darkness and worry and fear, in our grief and questioning and hoping that good can come... God is here.  He is our Immanuel, and it is for this very reason that Jesus came to be the Word made flesh to dwell among us, God with us.... to comfort and heal and save, and to defeat death.

"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."- Isaiah 9:6

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Christmas List

When I was little, Christmas was all about the presents. Oh, I still like presents, but Christmas means so much more now.  Time with my family, laughter, celebrating all of our blessings... and time off to read.

I LOVE to read.  I'll read about anything. Right now I'm reading about 9 different books.  There's Plum Spooky, book 14.5 in the Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.  I'm also reading Julia's Chocolate by Cathy Lamb, a novel about a woman who has left her abusive fiancee and retreated to her aunt's house.  There's The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, a book I got for free on my Kindle, which I am really enjoying.  I love books about small communities and hope and love for God, all wrapped into one. 

On a serious note, I'm still fumbling through War and Peace.  I'm not much farther than I was when I posted last about my reading list.  I was telling Holly yesterday how far I was into it and she said, "If you can make it through the first 600 or 700 pages...", so it's looking like I've got a while before it turns good.  I'm determined that I'll finish sometime... just because she says it is worth it. I'm also reading Greater by Steven Furtick.  It highlights the story of Elisha and how God calls us to be greater... right where we are.  I'm really enjoying it. 

And then there is my to read list, which grows daily.  I've always been a tad bit addicted to books, but that's okay.  Over Christmas break, I plan to read... a lot.  Some of the titles on my to read list: the rest of the Stephanie Plum series (total of 19, so I've got 5 or 6 to go, depending on if there are any .5 books), the 3rd book in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book (I've still got to buy it... but I know I'm going to read it).  In my bookshelf includes The Sound of One Hand Clapping, The Red Tent, Shoes Addicts Anonymous, The Silver Boat, The Kite Runner, The Postmistress, Their Eyes Were Watching God... just to name a few.  And on my Kindle are too many to name, too... but off the top of my head, Water for Elephants, Saving Max, and some small e-books of Sweet Valley Confidential (follows the Wakefield Twins of Sweet Valley High... love me some Sweet Valley). Then there's Crazy Love by Francis Chan, The Well, and several other books by Christian writers I can't wait to ruminate on.

And as always, Christmas stories, for free... I try to read those right before Christmas to get myself in the spirit.

Lots to read, little time to do so... but books are my best friends, and they'll always be there when I get to the shelf. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy Early Birthday, Papaw!

We each live a life, a tale to be told.  I've always thought about whether my story is worth reading or not.  Some people just have that kind of life, the one you want to know more about.  They seem superhuman, almost, or at least have that something special.

I've been blessed in my life to know all four of my grandparents.  I love each of them for different reasons... they are all special because they are unique.  Their stories are those worth telling, and they tell them well.  But there is just something about my Papaw Paul. 

Papaw has always looked like Santa Clause.  A head full of white hair, a bearded face, rosy red cheeks, twinkling blue eyes.  I never will forget when my Great grandpa Barlow passed away.  I was in the 8th grade, and a couple of my younger cousins (on the Clemons side) looked up reverently as Papaw Paul walked into the funeral home. "Wow!" one of them exclaimed.  "Papaw Barlow must have been special. Santa Clause came to his funeral."

No, he's not Santa Clause, but his generosity can match Santa's.  Papaw would give you the shirt off his back.  Raised poor, he worked hard to help support his younger brothers and sisters.  He graduated from high school with honors and went to Michigan to work hours a day to provide for my dad, uncle, and aunt.  He came home and on the weekends worked on his farm and fed his fish and built in his basement.  The smell of sawdust still brings back memories of Papaw downstairs, making me homemade microphone stands. I spent a lot of time there, and there was nothing like Papaw's cornbread crumbled up in a glass of milk. 

As I got older, Papaw was always there for me.  He had his own "bank" and the reserve never ran out.  I'd sign an IOU, and every year at Christmas, Papaw would give me a notecard saying someone had paid off my balance.  He told me that it was his pleasure to help me out, but it was my responsibility to help out my younger sisters in the same way. 

Papaw is the smartest person I know.  He can figure out anything, can think outside of the box better than anyone I know.  A few years ago, his ice sculptures (made out of trees, branches, and water through water hoses) amazed everyone who drove by Hollybush.  He even was mentioned in the Herald Leader and was featured in the book Kentucky: Off the Beaten Path. 

He has a wicked sense of humor.  I will always remember Wallace's first Christmas with us.  Papaw got a hot pepper and dipped a toothpick in it. He was the one laughing the hardest when Wallace realized just how hot Papaw's hot peppers were.

Next Wednesday, Papaw will turn 80.  I think he's lived a life worth living, and his tale is definitely worth telling.  There is not enough space in this blog to tell how much I love him, and all of my granparents.  All I know is I'm one blessed girl =)

Friday, December 14, 2012

We Need God

I can picture him at that age, glasses sliding down his nose, that gap in between his teeth.  A little mischievious, he's always ready to pick on Kami and to drive his cars all around the house and to make as much noise as possible.  He speaks with a slight impediment, just enough to make it cute when you can't hardly understand what he says.

He started preschool and my heart broke as I drove across Shoulderblade Hill toward town.  My baby, in another county, with his daddy across the road, his hand reaching out to pull me back into the classroom.  Two years later, I walked him into school every morning, to kindergarten.  He  made me sit by him as we said the Pledge of Allegiance, and sometimes even held my hand.  I took what I could get, because I knew it wouldn't be too much longer before he'd restrict me to the parking lot.

Time moves fast, and while he is just in 4th grade, he seems so far away from that little boy. Now he stands almost as tall as me.  Yet my heart stops as I read my Twitter feed today...

I think all of America stands still as we turn our eyes and ears to Conneticut, to the small town of Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary and  20 children and 6 adults, plus the shooter, and the horror in our hearts is too much.  Just too much. 

Grades K-4th.  This morning, those mamas and daddies dropped their babies off, and never thought they wouldn't pick them up this afternoon.  And I think of Caleb, how he needed reassurance as I dropped him off. "You promise you'll come back and get me?  Or Daddy? Or Papaw?"  Every day, the same conversation, and everyday I reassured him.  I can not imagine, nor do I want to.

This afternoon, I got home and went straight to Papaw's.  Caleb was on the couch, watching the news.  I pulled him up in my lap and hugged him, hard.  He just let me for a minute... after all, he's getting too big for that now.  I've stayed glued to the news.  My heart goes out to the families, the first responders, the other children, the police officers, the faculty and the staff at the school.  Above all, I'm praying for America.  What we need, more than anything, is  God.  Only He can turn us around. 

We don't understand why.  We question and get angry and point fingers in all different directions. What we do know is that the Prince of this world is evil and walks about like a roaring lion, seeking who he can devour.  However, we have been sent the Prince of Peace, a soon returning King... and He is enough. 

Lord, comfort the broken hearted and bind up our wounds.  We need you now. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012


If you've read this blog any at all, you know that one thing I sometimes struggle with is confidence. I beat myself up a lot about stuff that really doesn't matter. I second guess decisions and am hesitant to try new things because I'm afraid that I'll fail. This summer, I read Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman, and it really helped me recognize my tendencies in doing these things, and realizing that it's okay to not be confident in myself...

Because I can be confident in who I am in Christ. This week's Bible verse for the Greater study really hit home. Yesterday, I read it in three different email devotions I subscribe to, so I'm thinking that God's got a "greater" message for me. Hebrews Chapter 11 is probably one of my favorite chapters in the Bible (if you've not read it.. stop. Open your Bible. If you don't have a Bible, go to Glance through it. But please come back.). As you read those hall of fame names, realize that they. are. everyday. people. Everyday people God used to do extraordinary things. They really weren't anything special. Some of them were downright scandalous until they met Jesus.

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1. Without faith it is impossible to please God... because He wants us to rely fully and completely on Him. Faith, by definition, is confidence. You may not see how something will happen, but you know that it will. It is full assurance, no doubting. No doubting... that's the hard part.

I loved the Message Translation. "The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see." Fundamental and foundation... because without true faith, our religion is just that, religion. Without faith, confidence in God, we can't experience the true relationship He wants to have with us. And that relationship is what makes life worth living... when illness comes, when we don't know where we will get money to pay the light bill, when relationships crumble... when we lose all we have... when we see our children smile and laugh... in the good times and the bad, this faith, confidence, trust in God makes it all worth living... makes it possible to get up in the morning and do this whole thing called life again, day after day, trouble after trouble... because He is still good. He is still God, and part of having faith is knowing that no matter where you are, He's there, and a better day is coming. Even on our best day, a better day than we could every imagine is coming... because His grace is sufficient.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To be With Those I Like...

The smell of chocolate chip cookies permeates the air and I breathe in deep. There's just something about your Mama's kitchen that makes all right with the world. Family, home, memories... Caleb has talked Mamaw into baking cookies and he asks to crack the eggs... but is satisfied with stirring them in the dough and pinching off a piece before she puts the spoonfills out on the cookie sheets. Outside, the creak of the swing can be heard, back and forth, back and forth... even in these ice cold temperatures. The screen door slams and she smiles as she points for me to sit down. Mom is pulling more cookies out of the oven, and Kami comes back in with her laptop and sits down. She seems a little older, but maybe it's just that I've not been around her much. I stare over her shoulder as she shows me the laptop screen. Caleb comes and crowds in, muscles his way right next to her. We watch videos and before I know it my belly hurts and tears are flowing. Caleb has lost his breath and Kami giggles... and Caleb begs to watch another, then another. It's Christmas break for her and almost break for us and I realize how quickly time flies. It doesn't seem like so long ago she believed in the magic and she sang Santa Baby, and we put him in his carrier under Mom's Christmas tree with a bow on his head. Tonight, I'm pausing to look at them as they are, beautiful and young and full of life and hope and promise. Today, I'm unwrapping the here and now of family and laughter and love, and it feels good. Hope wherever you are, you're relishing the present as a gift... “I have learned that to be with those I like is enough” ― Walt Whitman And above all that... His grace is sufficient.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blessings Personified

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down... and I don't know why.  There's just something to returning to the hustle and bustle of  a work week (although I took a vacation day today to get caught up on my stats project.  It's due Friday but my goal is to get it submitted by Wednesday... or at least ready to submit so I can ask questions during office hours on Wednesday night. Any prayers will be greatly appreciated)... Anyway, the whole Monday issue should be a call to excitement... a new week, new opportunities.  Sometimes I feel that way...

But when combined with the rain ALL day, just nasty, gloomy rain, it's easy to become down in the dumps.  God's Word tells us instead to focus on true, noble, lovely, pure things... and as always, I am reminded to think of my blessings, to practice gratitude on this dark day. 

Blessings are easy to count if you have the right perspective, yet even though I have been very intentional this year about looking for blessings, even in the unordinary, I still sometimes find myself at a loss, feeling ungrateful.  It's easy to be thankful for material things... but today I want to talk just a little bit about blessings in the form of people.

Of course, I am thankful for my family. This morning, I was taking Caleb to school and he was chatting away in the passenger seat, and my heart was just full.  It's amazing to think how God can take something tiny and exponentially grow it into this manchild that is so smart and funny.  It seems as if I only blinked and he had changed from that toddler who couldn't say so many letters to this articulate human who has no difficulty expressing his feelings.  Then there is Wallace, and my parents and my sisters and my in-laws, and baby Will, who I am just fascinated by.  Not to mention my whole extended family.  Wallace and I have the same conversation every holiday, how extremely blessed we are to live on this holler with all of these people with no fighting or discord.  How our families have melded into one over the years.  It's a beautiful thing... and completely a God thing.  I hear of too many family disagreements to not give credit where credit is due.

Then there are my friends, whom I have very blessed to have.  Just this weekend, Jenna and I drove to Bowling Green and back.  A wrong turn took us a few minutes out of the way, and it was dark and rainy the whole time, and the drive seemed like it took forever, but I know that if I didn't have her by my side it would have been much longer.  Through laughter and stories and talk of music and work and families and shopping and cupcakes... she gets me.  And I need someone that gets me.  I'm so blessed to have good coworkers that are more than peers. 

I'm blessed with some great students, who overcome adversity on a daily basis.  I'm blessed to love a group of basketball players like my own kids.  I'm blessed with a good church family, who I know I can count on in difficult situations.  So many people... so little space.

Then there are all of you... and others I connect with online.  I have a group of sisters that I've grown to love through an online Bible study group on Facebook.  Our group is as varied as they come, and span the nation, but we've grown close through chatting and sending cards back and forth.  And then there are some of my favorites, like Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore, Lysa Terkeurst and Renee Swope.  I look forward to reading their blogs and following along in their Bible studies...and while I've never met any of these individuals, they have impacted my walk with God.

As we move into Christmas, take time to tell those you appreciate how grateful you are for them.  Every person is in his  or her own way a blessing from God, just proof of how his grace multiplies, as do his blessings.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mary Did You Know?

It's Christmas time, full fledged, and I am thinking of that little baby swaddled in the manger as I stare at my Christmas tree.  I've got about half of my shopping done, but nothing wrapped, so there's nothing under the tree right now but a Santa bear and a snowman.  I know I've got plenty of time... after all, my last day of work is December 19th, almost a week before Christmas. 

As I've gotten older, my favorite thing to really think about though, above the presents and the lights and the get-togethers and the time off, is about that little baby.  Immanuel... God with Us.  A child was born, unto us, within us, to us... and He was so much.  I wonder how much He weighed at birth and how long He was.  Did he have much hair?  I remember looking at Caleb's ten perfect fingers and toes, and those big eyes staring up at me, mouth opened into a yawn... did Mary think thoughts like that as she stared at God in her arms?  Mary, Did You Know is one of my favorite songs because of this... she knew she had been chosen by God. She knew He was God's Son... but did she know what that meant?

This morning, I read in my Chronological Bible the story of Jesus's crucifixion.  Mary looked on as this precious boy she had held in her arms, she had pondered about in her mind, hung on a cross for her sins.  For my sins.  For your sins.  I'm sure a million things flashed through her mind... her frantically scanning the crowd as she looked for Him when He was lost, only to find Him in His Father's house.  Probably His first steps.  His first words... words from the Word of God himself.  As she stood there, seeing our shame on His face, did her mind wander back to that first night in a manger, when she, as a young teenager, encountered God in the most physically intimate way possible?  Did she know... even then, even after it had all played out, what it all truly meant, not just for her, but for me, a mother sitting on  my couch and reading Advent devotions, reading Jesus's earthly geneology through messed up people like Rahab and loyal people like Ruth and pure people like Mary...

And did she know what victory would be seen three days later? Did she really believe it... she must have, or otherwise all of the angst and worry of those early years would have been for naught.  Oh, to read the words, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is risen..." Risen, He who made Himself lowly to be born into flesh in a filthy manger, who traveled dusty roads and had little here on earth, who served others and put them before Himself... is risen, and is now sitting at the right hand of the Father, a soon returning King.  Oh, Mary, I'd love to have known what you knew... because I can't hardly imagine.  And the Christmas story cannot stand alone; it must be told with the bookend of He is risen.  That is the greatest Christmas gift of all

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

At Once

Am I the only person in the world who is a procrastinator?  I know the answer to this question is no, but somehow it feels that way.  I have never been the kind of person who jumps right out of bed in the morning; I have to lay there and stretch and open one eye at a time.  Then I fumble through the bedroom, and I'm usually just waking up as I'm leaving the house.  I wish I was a morning person... but I'm not.

And then there is the whole Christmas shopping thing.  Some people have their gifts bought in July.  Not me... in fact, I've been known to make a late "Santa" run the day before Christmas.  Case in point?  I've only bought one present as of today...

Papers are written the day before.  I'm always behind on grading.  It works, but sometimes I feel like a madwoman as I try to get it done before the last day of class...

I even kind of sort of procrastinated when it came to this whole God thing.  I was raised in church, one of those every Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night girls.  I believed in God.  I even asked Him to be my Savior when I was 12, and was baptized in a swimming pool at a church camp... but I didn't really get it.  Fast forward fifteen years.  I'm married and don't have to go to church unless I want to... and that whole Savior thing?  I didn't know Him, know Him, if you know what I mean.  Then I had Caleb.... and I remembered the whole "raise up the child" verse and knew I wanted him to have someone to cling to in this crazy world.  A friend introduced me to Beth Moore Bible studies, and I really started listening to sermons instead of working on my to do list... and here I am.  Not perfect, but madly in love with Jesus Christ and trying to figure out why He never left my side, even when I let dust gather on my Bible and kind of misplaced it (although I'm happy to say I have more than made up for that with my current Bible).

Jesus calls us all different ways and in different  circumstances.  It doesn't matter where we come from.  What matters is that we are willing.  It doesn't matter how long it took us... it just matters that we finally answer.  I'm ruminating on this fact as I contemplate our Bible verse for the week for the Melissa Taylor online Bible Study.

"Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed."- Matthew 4:18-20, The Message.  See, Peter and Andrew were just minding their business, fishing, doing what they always did.  Jesus saw them where they were... and called them to become who He knew they could be.  Greater than fishermen... making them Fishers of Men.

"At once they left their nets and followed him.".  At once.. as it says in the Message, they didn't ask any questions.  No hesitation. No procrastination... They just dropped it all and followed Him, to greater things, to more than they can imagine. 

I'm thinking it's time we do the same.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Unwrapping the Good Gift

His head is lowered, concentrating on coloring in the lines. He is too old to be coloring, but he does, as he listens to me read. Today, Abram and Sarai, and the gift of Isaac. God granting Abram a son, and then later, much later, the little boy coloring can be adopted into that covenant.

The tale goes on, this observing of Advent that is anything but traditional. Eating McDonalds french fries as he colors, ketchup piled high. "Does God know my name?" He asks. "Yes.",I answer, pausing in the story. "And does he know your name?", as he dips a french fry again. "Yes, Caleb. He knows all of our names. He has us engraved in the palm of HIs hand." He looks up, adjusting his glasses on the end of his nose. "But there have been millions of people born since then. How can He know all of us?"

And I take a deep breath, because how do you answer that? How do I, the imperfect mother, put into words the love of a perfect Father, who knows what we need before we ask. "He does. Knows everyone. I'm not sure how, but He's that great. He knows every grain of sand on every beach, and you know how many that is." That's a pretty good answer, right?

"So, He knows that I put more salt on my fries when you told me not to?" Caleb asked. And I look up, and smile. My heart fills with love even as I start to lose my patience. How is it that this good God could send us the greatest gift, us who are so unworthy, who do things even when He tells us not to? "Yep." I answer.

I look around... in this mess of a moment. A living room mess... books piled up on the couch. "He loves us, even when we disobey. Even when we are a mess."

Unwrapping his gifts with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky... especially the good gifts that come out of undeserved grace. This moment... one moment in time, but in Caleb, affecting eternity. Eternity in my heart, as well... because His grace is sufficient.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Love all Month Long

A month of gratitude flew by, and now it is December. I'm feeling the noose around my neck as the year comes to an end.  We're down to 28 days, and those days are full of finals and papers and homework, of shopping and birthday dinners and basketball games, of a Pittsburgh game and wrapping presents and running... and before I know it, 2013 will be here and I'll be jotting down my resolutions.  They'll be similiar to this year's, because nothing is ever perfect and there is always room for improvement, and God is still working, thank goodness.

But today, the Monday of finals week. All is quiet on campus and I work in my office, listening to K-love and singing along with Christmas carols. Once again, the sky is blue, and the 60 degree weather puts me in a decent mood.  I walk outside, gravel crunching under my feet, and think about how the greatest gift is love and I have that to offer.  God is love and Immanuel was born, and I am unworthy yet He is still who He is. 

And if God is love, and He is in me, does this not mean that I must be love, too, in my finest being?  Yet I struggle, because love is not jealous and love is kind and love is patient... and I am at times none of these things.  I look at the Christmas tree in my living room, and think of the cross, how He was nailed on that tree for love's sake, and how I so casually take that for granted.  I am full of requests when I pray... give me this and give me that and be with so and so... yet never do I really think of what He wants, He desires. 

The greatest gift came from love, and the greatest commandment is love, and the greatest thing we can do for each other is to love... as in love the verb, love an action.  There is no finer time to do this than Christmas.  So last night as Caleb and I talked we decided that love can be given, and we can be the blessing, we can be the Jesus that this world needs so badly.  Join me in being a little more intentional about loving? An open door, a kind word, a hug when  friend needs it... the extra money for someone a cup of coffee or donating to a toy or food drive?  So many small things that we can give, we, who have so much...

like books to read and papers finished and warm blankets, laugher from little boys from deep within their bellies, time with Mom and a text from Kami and the feeling of belonging on Twin Cedar.  Sunshine and unexpected warmth, and the realization that because God is love, He loves me, everlasting.  New music on my iPhone and new mercies every morning...

Counting his blessings... near 1000 now.  Because He is more than enough, and His grace is more than sufficient.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Beginning of the Season

I'm sitting on the bus, in the dark.  I'm a little old for a bus ride, but that's where I'm found, night after night.  It's cold and it's loud.  The music is playing and the girls in the back have finally settled down, althought the occasional giggle can still be heard.  There's something about those giggles that make me smile.  I'm staring out the window, at the moon high in the sky.  In the reflection, his head is lowered, and he's concentrating on his cell phone as he texts someone.  It's never far from his hand, and I'm learning to live with that.  I don't think I have ever loved him more.

Two nights ago, we sit in a gym, again.  It's funny how pivotal a gym plays in my life, yet it never gets old.  I don't think that it ever will.  I picture us in our 70s, going to watch the local high schools play. By that time, the kids he is coaching will have kids playing... and I'm sure we'll hear all about his glory days.  On that night, he's pretty rowdy.  The first game of the season.  Lots of jumping and yelling and stomping.  The crowd of kids on the other side of the gym are mocking, and he is playing right to it.  It's always funny to me how the other fans and parents don't like him. "I'd never let my kid play for someone who acts like that..."

What they don't see, though, is the back scenes.  The next night, a 40 point loss, and as he has finally settled into the fact that they are going to lose, he subs in his second five and comes over to those on the bench.  There's even a smile on his face as he bends over and talks.  And on the bus, as we get off to eat, he gives one of the seniors a high five.  "Keep your head up.", he smiles.  "It's going to be a good year."

I am a student of the game, because even after all of these years, I don't know much about it.  I'm learning different defenses and offenses.  The girls asked me about a team earlier on in the year, and I laugh as I tell them I really don't know enough about it to tell them.  I'm still learning who is a 1, a 2, a 3... that's all his business.  My business is to let him rant and rave when they do bad, and to encourage when there wasn't anything else they can do.  I'm the one behind the scenes, who sees him worry before a game and who listens to the game plan and who hears about "what if we had..." following a loss.  And I'm a student of him, because after sixteen years, things change. People change.  Relationships change... and staying in love means never staying, but changing and adapting and sacrificing. 

And on that bus, someone starts talking, and he looks up and joins in.  I'm content just to sit and listen. And the girls in the back laugh a little, and sing along to Taylor Swift, and even after a loss, all is right in the world.  Tonight, and every night, It's great to be a Jackson Tiger.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Greater... for my Generation, and the Next

Greater... small word that packs a lot of punch.  It implies something that is better.  I've spent 2012 trying to be better.  In some instances, I have... and in others, I've fallen flat on my face.

Part of my whole becoming better plan involved diving into Bible study.  I do enjoy reading my Bible.  I love learning new things and getting new insights on stories I thought I knew everything about... but had it all wrong.  The Bible is truly the best book that has ever been written... and not just because it is God's inspired Word, though that is reason enough.  It's true.  It's applicable.  And amazingly enough, He always knows just what we need to hear.

Anyway, I digress.  My desire for learning God's Word has led me to several different studies.  For the past year or so, I've followed along on Melissa Taylor's blog.  I've not commented much, but I have gained a lot of great friends on Facebook (Group 10 rocks...).  I've learned a lot, too... about not exploding and not stuffing, about desiring His Word and Him opening up the Word so that we get secret treasures, about not fearing.  And I have changed.  I'm making imperfect progress, getting better... but I'm far from great. 

Just in two days, this new book, Greater, has really got me thinking.  What does it mean to be greater? 
Does it mean that I won't get mad at Caleb over math homework?  Or that I won't get angry at a coworker when something doesn't go my way?  Does it mean I'll be diligent in completing my papers and try extra hard to get them exactly right?  I won't get impatient with students when I am super busy and they just want to talk?  I won't get my feelings hurt when Wallace comes home from practice with the phone stuck to his ear and proceeds to talk about said practice for hours at a time, and as soon as he hangs up heads in to watch game tape?  That I won't be scared when I think about changes coming up?  Does it mean that I'll finally be able to turn down Gigi's cupcakes and lose all of this extra weight?  Please tell me it means that I'll actually enjoy exercising... and be motivated to once more climb on the treadmill?
OR maybe I'll be super spiritual, the kind of friend who always knows just what to say.  Maybe I'll become super Mom and wife and friend and teacher... the picture perfect gal who always has everything in place.  Oh, I could use some greater in my life...

Nope. It' s none of this stuff.  Greater means moving past my desires, my wants, my need to do, into a sense of being.  Being closer to God. Being full of Jesus.  Being willing to be obedient and to step out of my comfort zone.  Being a vessel willing to allow Him to fill me.  Being greater is getting rid of complacency, getting rid of mediocrity, and getting rid of condemnation.  According to Furtick, being greater is, "Beyond what you see in yourself on your best day but exactly what God has seen in you all along."

God has a purpose.  He has a plan, and He has promised that He can and will do exceedingly above anything that we can imagine... we just have to believe.  We have to be willing to let go of our fears and our self-doubt and our pride, and allow Him to move in.  Jesus left this earth after defeating death and promised a Comforter that would see us to the end.  In this, the Holy Spirit, we have power. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead is within us.  Through this Spirit, God wants to use us in extraordinary ways, to complete the purpose He chose for us before the foundation of the world.  Yes, it's scary.  No, I'm not sure what direction it may take.  I just know that my generation is raising the next church, and according to statistics quoted by a pastor I listened to this weekend, it is estimated that only 4% of the next generation will profess to be Christians.  Do we need Greater?  Absolutely... and it's up to me, and you, to allow God to move.  We can be greater... for Him. Through Him.  Because He is enough to make it happen.  He is a Promise Keeper, and He's made a group of history makers.  It starts with us... deciding to allow Him to make us greater. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Not a Math Mama

Math is from the devil. There, I said it. And I mean it. Our minds are programmed to think in words, and I feel pretty good about that. Give me a paper to write any day of the week... but math. Ugh.

Now if you are a math genius, please don't think unkindly about me.  It's just that this Mama and multiplication tables don't mix.  Then again, I didn't get along with the map of the New England Waterways last night, either.  So maybe it isn't actually math, but working on homework with Caleb that is from the devil...

Let me explain.  Caleb doesn't like to sit still.  He doesn't like to write, or read, unless he's in the mood.  I recognize that in life, we have to do things we don't like.  He doesn't. I recognize that multiplication tables are something in life we have to know.  He doesn't.  I'm impatient and a little less than understanding (ok, sometimes I can get downright mean.  As in last night's episode with the map of New England.) He gets frustrated.  I get mad.  I yell.  I stomp.  It's a downhill spiral.

After reading Lysa Terkeurst's book Unglued, I'd love to tell you that homework sessions don't end like that anymore.  But being that I am the poster child for the imperfect mother, they happen more frequently than not.  Especially when we are in a hurry or have somewhere to go or when I have stuff for work.  The good thing, though, is I'm realizing it.  I'm trying to do something about it.

So tonight, when I saw Caleb getting frustrated with a math problem, after sitting there for 30 minutes and having to redo all of the ones he had just completed because he had only half worked them out, I took a deep breath.  I could feel the steam rising up from my gut, but I could also see that frustration on that sweet baby's face.  So I told him to get up and put his Iphone on  the Ihome.  We cranked up some music and danced.  I danced.  He laughed.  Toby Mac saved the day... and we sat down and he finished his math problems. 

And as he was working on them, biting his lip in concentration, Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Do Everything" came on.  "Maybe you're sitting in math class..." and big tears welled up.  It's not math class Caleb is frustrated with, its the fear of unknown, of some stuff we're facing as a family in a couple of months (nothing major, but enough to freak out a 10 year old.  Things could always be worse).  And then "Long Road Home" came on and Caleb wiped his tears and sang along. "I know we're going to make it..." And we got up and danced some more, and I realized again just how much I love this little boy, and his Daddy. 

I'm far from perfect, but today was a good day.  Jesus, keep working.  Your grace is sufficient.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mundane Mondays

Following a 5 day break, you know the Monday is going to be rough.  Especially when you have to get to work early for once and it is cold and nasty looking out.  And when you went to bed in one of those "blah" moods...

Here's to the Mondays where the scantron machine is broken, so we have to grade all of the exams by hand... but at least I have a job.  And a coworker to help me grade them.  And good students who are trying, and wanting to learn, and are caring individuals.

And here's to the Mondays where I don't get a lunch break until 215, only to run to the bookstore to get chips... but at least I have food to eat.  And money to buy it. And a simple caramel Milky Way as desert. 

Here's to the Mondays where the clouds are gray and dismal... but the sunshine was out bright this morning. As I crossed the bridge to enter town, it was so bright I couldn't see. I squinted into its gloriousness, and thought, "If this is that bright, what will the sky look like when Jesus comes back?"  There's hope in that...

Here's to Monday evenings fighting with Caleb... but there's also those moments when he's so sweet.  Like when he turned Mom's kitchen into a restaurant to feed "all those who don't have any food", and made signs offering visits under the mistletoe... let's forget that he doesn't know how to cook.  It's the thoughtfulness that counts.

Mundane Mondays... full of work and care plans and tests and grades to enter, grocery shopping and laundry and ironing.  Picking up what seems like was just put up yesterday, and going around and around this wheel called life.  In the mundane, are our greatest blessings.  Friends and instant chat and IT guys who come to your need in a pinch; warm houses and lit Christmas trees and fluffy coats.  Time with family and warm chili and salty french fries... and the hope found in Jesus.

Hope... even in the mundane.  Especially in the mundane. Hope, because we have the light of the world and access to the Word and the promise of life everlasting. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."- John 1:1-4

As Christmas approaches, I'm concentrating on this... that even in my darkness, even in my ordinary, everyday existence, I can give thanks.  As I round out 2012 counting my 1000 gifts, I'm thinking of the greatest gift, given to us over 2000 years ago... ordained before the world began.  Yes, my Monday may be mundane, but my future is anything but... because His grace is sufficient, and I am overcome with a multitude of blessings.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Psalm 61

There's something about being grateful and having a good week that does something to you.  This weekend has been full of fun and laughter and good times spent with family and friends.  I've read and took long baths and got my Christmas tree up (not without a few words...).  So it's been a successful break.

But tomorrow is Monday and the devil is already hitting hard.  Stuff for work that just won't work the way I want to, and insecurities about who I am have been hitting me all night.  Sometimes I just feel so helpless... and I know that you probably do, too.

It's easy to live a Christian life when you are secluded in the four walls of your house.  When you have to deal with people, well, that complicates things.  And when you are a mess yourself, fighting feelings of self-doubt and jealousy, well, it's doubly so. 

Nights like this, I just want to cry.  And I know it is because it is the end of the semester and the beginning of all of the hustle and bustle that comes from the Christmas season... and I'm overwhelmed.  And that's just how the devil wants it, because if he can take our joy and gratitude and get our mind on what this time of the year has become, instead of how it all started, then he's won. 

I'm fighting it, but tonight I'm losing... however, I know that in the end I have the victory.  I just have to claim it. As I'm sitting here feeling defeated, though, I just don't know how. 

Sometimes, the best answer is one that has been proven before.  The psalmist wrote, "Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy.  I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. "- Psalm 61:1-4.

He hears us.  He knows the depths of our hearts, even when we don't act like He does.  He is our shelter, our rock, our stong tower.  He is here. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Traditions

His entire body is hanging out the window and I know that there is something so very wrong about that.  Does it make me a bad parent that I am laughing so hard tears are streaming down my face as he hollers and snaps pictures?

Our annual trip to see Southern Lights on Thanksgiving night has never been boring, but this...well, this is just.  too.  much. 

I'm big on tradition.  Don't like change. I know that on Thanksgiving day, we'll all be huddled in my Mom's house, piled on the couch and loveseat and in the floor and in chairs pulled around a makeshift kitchen table in the living room.  Football will eventually make it on TV (although yesterday's favorite was the dog show.  And yes, we really watched it. "These people spend so much money on their dogs that they don't have anything left to worry about what they are wearing." Typical Kami reaction.  "Is that a comb in her hair????" Responds Alaxandra).  My plate is full of Aunt Nora's mashed potatoes and Aunt Lisa's homemade bread, banana pudding and the Clemons Clan staple, dirt cake, which can be found at any get together that we have.  Sometime, there will be a discussion about which football team was better, Breathitt's 1995-96 team (Glenn's...even though he didn't actually dress until the next year, his freshman year and my Senior year), or the 2002 (Warren's).  And then, the action will head up to my mother in law's yard, where the dogs will be driven crazy by harrowing passes and dives and rolling around on the cold for the annual Turkey Bowl.  This year, a dwindling number made the game a tad bit less exciting, but Wallace and Landry's trash talk made up for the lack of players ("I'm not trying to sound cocky," Landry said, "But I think our best option is the throw the ball to me, because Wallace just can't catch me."  And all of Wallace's training on the treadmill was for naught, because he was nothing for Landry's speed.  And Landry let him know it.)

And then, for picky eaters like me, heaven in the form of Ruby Tuesday's with the in-laws.  Baby Will made this year extra special.  He is so precious, with big blue eyes and cheeks that I could literally eat up.  A good road trip sitting in the backseat listening to Nana and Wallace.  Time spent with family is the best time,and I'm so blessed that I have not just one awesome family, but two... and that we are all so close. 

And then we made it to the horse park.  Doesn't seem like long ago we were driving through with Mom's van door open so Caleb could gaze in amazement at all of the twinkling lights, trying to identify the characters and figure out what they were all about.  Now, tonight, he is hanging out the window... and he knows what the characters are and we sing The Twelve Days of Christmas and then he starts that hollering, and the cool night air rushes in.  Wallace looks at me and winks and I'm laughing so hard that I lose my breath and Caleb says, "Well, that was fun."

And it was.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2 Corinthians 5:17

I'm sitting on my couch right now enjoying the silence.  Caleb is at Papaw William's, the clothes in the washer are waiting to be put in the dryer, and Wallace is at ball practice.  There is still a lot to be done, but I just finished a book and put my feet up.

I'm really ruminating the scripture I read this morning. 2 Corinthians 5:17, here from The Message: "Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. "

Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start... isn't that wonderful?  As I'm sitting here thinking about new vs. old, I've been reflecting on how this year has gone.  It's been a busy one.  It's been a hard one, full of new challenges and new insights and let's face it... sometimes new is hard. We get used to our comfort zone.  We grow complacent, but being complacent is easy... because you don't have to change.  And change is hard.  Why else doesn't anyone keep all those New Year's Resolutions?

I don't think it is a coincedence that we get New Years after the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  See, that month is so full of hustle and bustle and running and buying and eating and partying and shopping and... just doing... that we need renewal.  The New Year is an opportunity for a clean slate.  It's one of my favorite times, to pull out my journal on January 1 and make my list.  And, no, I'm not perfect, and yes, I've not met many resolutions from last year at all.  Which makes me think that maybe they aren't necessarily resolutions, but just goals that I'm shooting for... but that's a whole other topic for this blog for a later date.

I'm already thinking about next year.  Even though the Bible warns us not to do that, as humans we can't help but be preoccupied with the past, and the future.  So as I'm sitting here, I'm thinking again that next year is going to be better.  I'm going to be a better Mom and wife and teacher and friend and daughter and sister and Christian and students... I'm thinking of how I'll do all those things...

But, the good news is we don't have to wait until next year.  We're told that his mercies are new EVERY morning... whether it is January 1 or March 14 or May 21 or July 4 or November 21.  Every morning, we are given the opportunity to open our eyes, and before we ever get out of bed, say, "Today, I can make it whatever I want to be." 

As I've been concentrating on thankfulness this month, I have found a peace... yes, I'm still argumentative and just this morning Wallace got on my nerves so bad I wanted to scream... but in my thankfulness, I can overlook those small indiscretions.  And this week, participating in the Good Morning Girls Intentional Week of Gratitude, I read that verse from 2 Corinthians, and then thought about being made new.  No, not perfect... but different.  Just how He wants me to be, when I step out of the way.  And me being made new,  yet still a work of progress... this process is where I get to become a better me.  Better in that I am centered on Christ, and He is in me, and His fruit is evident in me.  Being new... because we are settled in Christ.  Settled... Resolved.  Not.  Going.  Anywhere. 

New opportunities every morning... because His grace is sufficient.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My To Do List

It's Thanksgiving break... and I am so very thankful.  I'm just plain tired, and I have an ambitious to do list to get accomplished.  Starting with a mound of laundry that has been piled up for heaven knows how long.  Ending with submission of some Biostats homework and hopefully a rough draft of a leadership philosophy paper...

And in the meantime, finishing Lean, Mean Thirteen and working through week 6 of Esther, downloading a couple of more books to my Kindle and taking these in at my leisure.  Food and family fun on Thursday, complete with an annual trip to Lexington to take in the Christmas lights.  Hopefully catching a movie with Wallace and Purple and Gold night and a basketball scrimmage.  Napping and playing Bejeweled and spending time with my best boy...

Lots of stuff to do.  Now I'm going to head to bed so I can be well rested to tackle that laundry tomorrow.  May my motivation still be with me when I wake up in the morning =)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fall Blessings

The sky is a brilliant blue with just a few clouds interspersing. The sunshine is a golden yellow.  Looking outside the window, I'm sure it is a warm summer day, but the chill of near-winter nips at my cheeks as I walk out of the hospital.  The last day of clinical for the semester... my whites aren't nearly as white as they were at the beginning of the semester, and my students aren't nearly as excited as they were then, either.  Assessments have become old hat and they are ready to learn how to try IVs, ready to do more skills and less questioning of their patients.  Thanksgiving, and then finals loom, and to say we are all a little burned out would be an understatement.

But the air is fresh and I breathe in deep as I unlock my messy car.  Caleb is in a good mood and we study for a Science test, and then I read and work on lecture notes and read some more.  I get a quick chat with Wallace, which is rare during the week.

And I'm reminded, again, that this is the week for Thanksgiving... but how can it just be a week?  The blue sky has turned dark and I'm sure the chill has picked up, but I'm snug in my pajamas with the heater going.  How can I so easily take these things for granted when I know that somewhere, someone does not have these things? 

The words of one of my favorite songs right now echoes in my mind right now. "If I'm so thankful, how do I easily forget... that You died for all of this?"  Yes, sacrifices were made, before I was even in existence, so that I could sit hear on this Monday night and pound out this blog on the keyboard and dread the notification on my phone that my stats homework has been graded.  And as I sink in the bathwater, let me not forget that somewhere, there is someone who doesn't have running water... and dare I think it? Could it be someone even nearby?

We tend to think of others during this Holiday season... but it is often a small, quick glance to quelch the guilt we feel as we run to and fro and buy and buy and buy... and too often we tend to imagine those who are needy as being in a country far, far away, on the other side of the world. And they are... but there are also those needy in our backyards.  Needs aren't always physical, sometimes the pain that is the hardest to bear isn't necessarily a physical pain, but rather one that rips from the inside out, and sometimes the hardest hunger to fill is the hunger of needing to be loved.

If you are loved, you are blessed.  If you know Whose you are, doubly so.  In the Bible, we are told in Ephesians that we were chosen before the foundation of the world.  In Jeremiah, we are told that we are loved with an everlasting love.  And in Psalms, we are given the commandment over and over, "Give thanks to the Lord. For He is good.  His love endures forever."

And that thankfulness... it spreads from the inner part of us to the outer and we live it by loving others.  On this Monday, thankful for Bible study and computers and time with my family. Thankful for days off this week and pajamas and warm bubble baths. Thankful that I am not alone... and that I have love to share.  And the gifts of autumn- a golden sun hitting the few remaining red leaves outside of my college office building, the smell of Pumpkin Spice bubble bath, and the crisp chill in the air reminding me that it won't be fall for too much longer. Thank You, God, for these things...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

That Time of Year

So, it's officially basketball season. Started out with a win in our first scrimmage and I was pretty pleased with how the Coach behaved.  I always find it amusing to sit and listen to the other team's crowd.  Our girls (and most of our parents) have figured out that Wallace is all mouth.  He yells at his girls, he yells at the refs, he just yells... and jumps and stomps and paces the sideline.   I really wouldn't be surprised to see him turnng kartwheels one night, and that's ok.  He acts cocky and whines to the ref, quarrels at the other coaches... but at the end of the game, he loves his girls and he's really not a bad guy.

However, if I had a quarter for everytime I'd heard, "Sit down, coach..." or "Quit yelling" or "Just calm down...", well, I'd have enough money so that Wallace could coach for free and we wouldn't have to worry about booster money.  Last night, as we were playing Belfry (and have  I mentioned how fun it is to beat Belfy, even if it is just a scrimmage?)  I heard a guy above me say, "Well, it's just because it is a small gym." (As to why Wallace's voice carries so loudly).  I turned around and said, "No, not really". 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to what this season holds.  We've got a great bunch of girls and they are really excited, I think.  And so am I.  So let the fun begin! 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday Nights

He's the little boy the  older cousins blame everything on.  The one who loves dump trucks and HeMan, and climbing in the trees, and eventually onto Grandma's roof.  He's the one who led the parade when Butch died and we had the funeral by the river. 

And then there is the boy who pulled the fire alarm, who told Wallace to play "them naked ladies", the one who shocked me as a three year old when he wanted to order "beer... Budweiser" from the concession stand when we went to watch the Rugrats at Thanksgiving.

I'm sitting in the stands, gloves on with hot hands in.  It's not that cold, but then again I'm dressed in three layers, sitting on a blanket, snuggled between my Mom and my Dad.  I'm surrounded by family, because that's how we do things.  This year, and last, we were the TO fan club, cheering that little boy with the mischievous smile who somehow grew up overnight on to victory.  And what a few years it has been.  Getting lost going to Campbellsville, yelling at the refs because of bad calls, cheering on for touchdowns... we've had fun.  And as I'm sitting there, ready to watch them take the field, I look down and see these two embrace.  The older cousin, hugging his younger cousin.  Patting him on the back.  And I get tears in my eyes.

See, I'm one of the older ones, and those younger cousins feel more like my kids.  I can remember the excitement when we found out they were going to be born.  First Nora, then Mom, then Dana, making their announcements, and that's how they were born... Allie, then a couple of hours later, Kami, and then Brayton.  And us older cousins, well, we taught them, and picked on them, and egged them on.  That might explain why each group is a little bit meaner, or sassier, or self-confident, than the last, because they learned...

So here we are, the end of another Senior season.  Each one is different in its own way.  There was Glenn's, as he dressed in 56 and took the field the last time as a Bobcat, only to return a few years later to help coach.  There was Jordan's where  we all pulled out purple and gold from our predominately blue and white closet and stood for Jackson's School song to watch him win a Regional Championship... only to leave broken-hearted when they got oh so close.  Then Gentry's, where this sweet kid who had the most adorable smile left it all on the soccer, basketball, and baseball field.  Last year, Kami, who had cheered her whole life, and Alaxandra, whose skills at softball amaze this old woman.  And now, Brayt...

As I watched him return the kickoff, moving down the field, down by 3 touchdowns, I was misty-eyed again.  And Dana stood up and yelled and Mom rang her cowbell and Kami yelled, "Come on boys!"  Mike Fugate and Wallace were sitting up in the stands complaining, as usual, and Lisa had moved to make room for all of our extended family.  And Brayt plowed down the field again, and Glenn on the sideline cheering him on. 

My family... even if we lost, there is no other place I'd have rather been on a Friday night.  Surrounded by all of these crazy people...

No, not a win.  But I am so proud.  And tomorrow I'll wake up and it will be basketball season, and then in two years it will be Landry.  Time goes on.  We live, and love, and play our last game.  I'll keep cheering regardless, knowing that in the end, it's not about the game.  It's about the people, my family, and the family that those boys form on the field.  Tonight, I'm proud to be a Bobcat... and I'm still cheering TO... cause after all, next week is the Clemons Clan Turkey Bowl =)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

He Loves Us Anyway

Sometimes I am the world's biggest hypocrite. I have been trying so hard to be thankful and to show love and to be a better person, but to be honest, sometimes I just don't care. There you have it. I know intellectually that feeling of apathy is nothing but the ugly head of my flesh coming out, and I struggle internally to put on a smile and to be friendly and caring. Sometimes, though, I wish I could put a big flashing sign on my forehead that says, "Please leave me alone." Or more appropriately, "Caution... This is one crazy lady."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that most of the time these moods come when I'm really tired. Or superstressed. Or maybe a combination of both. It's times like that when I really just need to take off to a deserted island... not so much for myself, but for everyone who I come into contact with. So easily annoyed by large crowds and noise and the people who drive slow in front of me, for questions and small talk and just. being. nice. Although if I feel like this, I'm really not nice at all, right?

Ahhh... but as I writing this rant, one word comes to mind. Grace. Not like amazing grace that saved me, although that part is true, too. But grace... giving grace. To others. Being graceful and patient and forgiving and forbearing. On days like today, when my nerves are grating and I just feel like screaming (even though I have no clue why I feel like this. It's not really been a bad day. I seriously think I need to look into some antidepressants...) it is so hard to practice grace...

But back to the amazing grace that saved me, and continues to cover me. See, God loves me regardless of how crappy my attitude is. That's not saying He likes my bad attitude... but He has this thing called unconditional love. Love is WHO HE IS... So He can't not love. And even on my crazy, antisocial, hypocritical days... He loves me. And in this love, He's changing me. Helping me see that this isn't the right attitude to have. See, before, I'd be pretending everything was ok, and seething on the inside, but not really caring that I was seething. Now, I don't like it when I'm in these moods, and really do worry on how I affect others. Not because I care about what others think of me, because I'm slowly growing out of that, but because I care about other seeing Christ in me. And if I'm full of this negative attitude, they can't see the Son...

Lord, help me get out from this nasty storm cloud. Help me focus on You and Your goodness. I know I don't deserve it... but You love me anyway. Amen and amen.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Musings... Gratitude

Mondays get a bad wrap.  Particularly Mondays that come after a busy weekend of all day class on Saturday, a five hour drive home, church and children's church on Sunday morning, and a pool party for little man's 10th birthday party...

And let's face it, on those kind of Mondays, when you can barely roll out of the bed, it's hard to be thankful. This is why being thankful has so much to do with intentionality.  We have to make a choice to choose gratitude, to look back the craziness of life and focus on the gifts.  Gifts like...

A job that gives me the opportunity to still "nurse", yet teach others.  Students willing to learn.  Nurses willing to teach.  Good friends that I miss at the hospital, and the chance to catch up.  Rainy days that make me sleepy, and the chance to just rest on the couch (with my eyes open) for a few minutes in the evening.  Crazy bread from Little Caesars and a ride home with Caleb with conversation, radio off, just us talking.  His logic and thinking... never fails to amaze me.  The sound of Wallace pounding on the treadmill, lecture notes done on time, and a couple of extra days to work on a paper.  A computer and facebook and twitter and the feel of community even when I am at home in the middle of nowhere. All of these things, which may mean nothing to anyone but me, but to me they are the greatest gifts...

God's Word... 1 Peter 5 and the reminder that humility is key... and is humility not a manifestation of thankfulness?  His love that never fails, and realizing (again) that His mercies are new every morning.  Gifts, if only I hold my hand out and accept them.  Thank You, Lord. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Just a Little Prayer

At the beginning of the year, I had hoped to write once a day.  Life is busy, though, and I've not been able to do that.  One of the reasons behind writing every day is because if it is a habit I'll be more likely to do it, and I think better after writing and getting stuff off of my mind.  Tonight, though, I've got nothing...

It's been five days since I last wrote, and they've been five busy days.  Meeting in Hazard, trip to Bowling Green, class, church with Children's Church, and Caleb's birthday party.  All leading up to what is looking like it will be another jam-packed week, including the kick-off to basketball season.

So tonight, if it's okay with any readers I've got out there, I'd just like to say a little prayer on this white space I'm typing.  Not so that I will look good or so that it'll be read by the masses, keeping in mind that prayer is personal and that God doesn't want us boasting in public...

But might I pray for you, too?  I'm not even sure if anyone will read this, but if you do... you're included...

Lord, I'm so very thankful that You are You and I am not.  I'm thankful that You look over my mess and love me.  I'm thankful that You were willing to die for me and my sins, and that You forgive me even when I can't forgive myself.  I'm thankful for this life that is busy... but please help me not lose focus on You.  It's when I lose that focus and start looking at all that is going on that I get so messed up and needy.  Help me not forget that, Lord. 
So many in our community, in our country, in our families, are hurting. Comfort them, Lord. Wrap Your arms around them and give them strength.   Death and sickness and need... worry and fear and not knowing what to expect.  You know the future, though... and Your ways are so much greater than ours.  You have a purpose and a plan, and we know that all things work together for our good, if we love You.  And I do, Lord... even if I have a messed up way of showing it sometimes.
Be with my family and my friends and my students.  Be with our Bobcats as they travel to Belfry.  I'm praying traveling mercies and that all will be safe.  Be with Caleb and help him have a good week. Be with my ball girls as they kick off this season.
Lord, today, on Veterans Day, I'm thankful for all who have served our country and are serving it right now, and all of their families.  Please keep our boys and girls overseas safe, especially those who I know. 
Thank You, Lord, for a safe place for me to turn to.  You are so good. We don't deserve Your goodness, but great is Your faithfulness.  In Jesus's name, Amen and amen. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

My mind can't hardly comprehend a decade.  Time goes by too quickly, and the days fade into each other.  Ten years is a long time, yet it seems like yesterday...

Ten years ago I was in the hospital, waiting to welcome Caleb Bates into this scary world.  Ten years have seen a lot...

the little boy who loved John Deere.  Loved riding on lawnmowers and anything that had wheels. Could tell you any type of car we passed on the interstate, and frequently got the make and model right.  That little boy whose smile lit up the room.  Obsessed with TG Shuck and WKYT, and Dora the Explorer and Diego.  The kid who loved rubber boots and would wear them with everything. 

A Mama's heart overflows with memories and there are just too many to share, and it hurts to think of that small hand that used to be swallowed up in my own. 

Kids start out so defenseless, and we have to protect them from everything, and then before you know it they grow and grow and can start protecting you.  And to every Mama, their kid is special, and we are all special because we are God's... but aren't some just a little bit more?

I walk through Walmart with him, and he's passing out hugs and smiles and talking to people that I don't know.  He's been like that from a young age.  He is his father's son, and at times that is a good thing.  My eyes got misty last night when I looked over to see him help a teammate get up off the ground.  His heart full of love most of the time... and in his eyes I see a glimpse of the man that he will grow to be. 

Ten years is just long enough for me to realize that I will never have this Mother thing figured out.  I'm so selfish and spiteful and just plain mean at times, and I hope that he doesn't see that always.  I hope he remembers instead the Mama that laughed and tickled and just stared at him in amazement, because he is mine and he is him, completely unique. 

We dream big dreams for our kids, and we close our eyes and take a deep breath and pray that somehow, someway, those dreams will be realized, and that their hearts will be protected from hurt and they will love and thrive and prosper.  And then we realize that sometimes our dreams aren't their dreams, and that's ok, and as we open up the palm that clinches their tiny fingers, open it wide to release them and let them chase after their own dreams, the breath slowly is exhaled as we watch them toddle across the living room floor, only to land with a soft thunk on the carpet.  And ten years later, we watch them take first steps in another direction, and then 20 years later... and so on.  But always, as we watch in wide-eyed wonder as they take those first steps, we realize that we never were in control.  And that's ok, too... because He is. 

To my Caleb, on your 10th birthday... Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something that you want to.  You are so smart, and funny, and loveable.  Don't be too stubborn, though, to admit when you are wrong.  Don't be afraid to try something new, and don't be so hung up on perfection like your Mama.  Love deep.  Smile and laugh and just enjoy being you.  Be the best that you can be, always, and know that even when your best isn't good enough, even when life kicks you down and you feel like you can't get up, there's a great big God waiting to dust you off.  And a Mama that loves you to the moon and back, more than mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Be you, because there is noone better. 

Thanking God for this blessing of motherhood, and that His grace is sufficient for when I don't get it right...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Do Not Fear

The most common command in the Bible? "Do not fear"... or some variation. One source says there is 366 instances that God commands us not to fear... one for every day, even leap year. So how come it's so hard for us not to do?

We fear different things. Sunday, I watched Session 4 of Beth Moore's Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman, and the whole session was on fear. I can't imagine the fear Esther must have felt. Fear because she was alone in the King's palace. Fear because her people had received a death sentence. Fear because she was facing sure death by approaching the King. Fear of rejection. Fear because she was facing sure death if she didn't approach him.

As Beth continued talking about how her fear turned to courage, she talked about worse case scenarios. See, our mind tends to churn and focus on these worst case scenarios, and the "What ifs". Most of these what ifs never come true, yet we dwell on them and paralyze ourselves with fear of what might happen. It's why we don't try new things. It's why we don't hop on the plane or take that ship or try that food or... you fill in the blank. Fear can prevent us from living life in the fullest. Fear is one of the devil's best tactics... because he is a thief, wanting to steal our joy, and the best way to steal joy is to take our minds off of the good and cause us to focus on what scares us.

Beth then went on to talk about perfect love casting out all fear... which is one of my favorite verses. Jesus's love gives us strength... and His love is perfect. She posed this question... If ____________, then _________________. If your worst nightmare happens, then what? If the worst thing you could ever imagine happen, then what?

If that worse case scenario happens, then... God. God is there. God is still good. God is still in control. And somehow, we pick up the pieces and continue on. Even when we don't think we can. Knowing that He is good and He is God and He is in control. His love casts out fear, because if God is for us, who can be against us?

And this made me consider... I've had some rough times lately. Not anything compared to some people, but enough to shake my world up a little and look at my priorities. Was it the worst thing that could have happen? Probably not. Did it take me out of my comfort zone? Absolutely. And guess what? I'm still here, and I'm stronger. I've grown from it. I've learned from it. God is still good and He's still God, and I'm trying to hand it all over to Him.

"I know Who goes before me, I know who stands behind. The God of angel armies, is always by my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine... Whom shall I fear?"