Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ten Things I Learned in 2015: A Reflection on My "Goals"

I love the week between Christmas and the New Year. There's so much hustle and bustle with Christmas. I'm usually last minute shopping and last minute wrapping and then there's the going back and forth between our house and the grandparents and my parents and my in-laws... by the end of Christmas Day, I'm ready for a nap... but it's a good kind of tired.

After all the gifts are open and the boxes are piled up and the junk food has been consumed and I'm in a sugar coma, there's the potential for the let down. As a young kid, I can remember being surrounded with presents, not knowing which one to play with first, but still looking ahead to the next stop. Never satisfied.

I'm not much better as an adult.

Not that I care about presents... but it seems like too often the anticipation of an event is greater than the reality... because we build things up in our mind.

But the New Year... it is glittery and shiny and full of newness.  Full of potential. Full of expectations that have not yet been unrealized.

So I plot and scheme and plan and look ahead... but I look back first, because I have to look at where I was and how far I've come (even if it is just an inch). 

And so that brings us to this blog post... what I've learned in 2015. 

1. I learned a lot about love.
The first goal I had was to focus on my one word, love. This is probably the hardest goal I could have set for myself, because love is so hard to define. As I looked at life through love, I realized that love means different things to different people, and that it would be true that I could never learn to love as God does without His power within me.

I also learned that love means forgiveness. It means action. It means being willing to admit when you were wrong and being willing to look past when the other person is wrong.

I also learned (or was reminded) that loving is hard. It's not always fun... but it is always worth it.

2.  I learned that discipline is not my forte. I truly wanted to write 365 posts on this blog, and I fell way short. I also learned that falling short is ok. I'm not a loser because I didn't blog as much as I wanted. I'm human.

3. I learned that exercise can be fun. I've lost around 40 pounds this year (give or take a couple... because I don't really know what I truly weighed at the beginning of the year, because the scales were not my friends.) I learned that pushing through when you don't feel like it really is worth it. While I'm still not a runner, I was much more consistent. I exercised three or more days every week this year, with the exception of a week in May when I had a stomach bug.

4. I learned that fellowship with God is about more than just checking something off on your to read list. I failed at reading my Bible through, but I found that when I was spending time in His Word, it was often just what I needed to read. I did complete a few in-depth Bible studies. Karen Kingsbury's The Family of Jesus made me consider those important characters in the nativity story. I cried when I thought of Joseph and his gentleness. I was overwhelmed when I thought of Mary's humble obedience. Mostly, though, I learned that God uses ordinary, everyday people to accomplish His Will- we just have to be willing, and He will make us able. Kelly Minter's What Love Is helped me hone in on my one word for the year. Seamless by Angie Smith taught me that the Bible doesn't have to be as complicated as we tend to make it. It's really just a love letter from God to us, drawing us to Him. And Beth Moore's The Inheritance, a video only session, made me think of Who I am in Christ. I learned that I am His portion. That amazes me. And through participating in ladies Bible studies at both Jackson Church of God and Providence Pentecostal, I learned that Christian friendship is essential, and sometimes we just need someone to be afraid with us, or to listen to us as we whine about the craziness of this world.

5. By not crossing something off of my bucket list, I learned that there's still plenty of excitement in the mundane. Several books I read this year were about appreciating every moment for what it is worth, even if it doesn't seem like it's all that great. I didn't have any outstanding adventures this year, but I did have a lot of absolutely fabulous small moments.

6. I learned that gratitude really does affect your mood. You can't complain and have a heart full of joy and gratefulness. Every since I read 1000 Gifts a couple of years ago, I've tried to keep my eyes open to the small, everyday gifts... again, appreciating the mundane. I also learned that at times you have to choose to be grateful. It's all too easy to get overwhelmed with life and not count those gifts.

7. To go along with number one, I learned that love in action really does affect people. I tried to perform several random acts of kindness this year, and also made some deliberate decisions to help others out. Some things were small, some were large. I tried to teach Caleb the importance of helping others, too, and how it was better to give than to receive. Thank you notes and messages and even the smile on recipients faces taught me that it's not always about how much or what you give... rather, it's just that you ACT on something.

8. I learned that if you set a goal for doing something that you love, it will be much easier for you to reach. I wanted to read at least 125 books this year, and because I love to read, I did just that. (You'll note that I did not do as well on my exercise goal!)

9. I learned that a goal you have to think about is difficult as well. I wanted to memorize 24 Bible verses along with Beth Moore's Siesta Scripture Memory Team.  I fizzled out in the third month. I would write the verse down, note it in my Bible, put it on a post it note... but then forget to look at it again. Memorization takes concentration, folks.

10. I learned that life is short. I saw the deaths of some young people this year. I had some family members receive scary diagnoses. I saw an aunt healed from a stroke and an unlikely x-ray turn into a cancer diagnosis that was corrected with surgery. Through it all, the mantra life is too short continues to run through my head, because while cliché, it is true. We only have this moment. While it's fun to plan in the new year, we never know what the new year holds. It could be infinite possibility, or undeniable sadness. We must be ready to embrace whatever life sends us. As I look to the New year, I'd like to encourage you to join me in embracing a life is too short perspective.

Life is too short to stay on a diet, so make sure whatever you decide to do to get rid of those extra pounds is something you can commit to. Life is also too short to never have chocolate cake ever again, so splurge every now and then.
Life is too short not to use your body as God created, so move. Every day. (Says the girl who still sometimes hates to exercise... But this time last year always hated to exercise.).
Life is too short not to laugh every day. Laugh until your belly hurts and tears run down your cheeks. We can't take it too seriously. Nobody gets out of here alive.
Life is too short not to appreciate who you have. Pursue people rather than possessions. We were made for relationships.
Life is too short not to be grateful. You're breathing. That's enough to be thankful for.
Mostly, life is too short to set yourself up for failure. Forget about the past and look to new opportunities. If you choose, this new year is gonna be great!!! Live in the moment and you will truly live.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

These Are the Days of...

Recently I read a book by Emily Freeman called Simply Tuesday, about embracing the mundane and fully living day to day. She chose Tuesday because it is the one day of the week that goes unnoticed. We all hate Monday, Wednesday we're halfway through, Thursday we're looking forward to Friday... you get the drift.

I've been reminded over and over these past couple of weeks of a quote "The days are long but the years are short." I've read various twists on this quote, most recently in the work of Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home; check back for my review of Better Than Before in a couple of weeks).  As I've gotten older, I'm finding that sometimes my days are very long, but just as often my days, months, and years are all short!!! As we get sucked into the mundane, time seems to fly but stand still at the same time,  which is confusing and at times overwhelming.

Embracing the mundane, learning to appreciate the here and now, helps us to freeze every moment so that even though our days and months and years are short, we're fully living them. Freeman talks about living in a season and fully appreciating it, even if it seems small and ordinary, because life is lived in the ordinary. One thing she suggests doing is to create a "these are the days of" list... to help one chronicle just what the days consist of.

When I read that, my mind immediately drifted back to when Caleb was three years old. Dr. Plumb led the worship at our church, and his favorite song for her to sing was "These Are the Days of Elijah." We had that song on a CD and we'd play it over and over in the car. My little one would say, "Ok, Mommy. Raise your hands and pretend you're Dr. Plumb."

It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it, but also reminds me of just how short the years are, because that seems like yesterday. Those were days of car seats and Dora the Explorer and bedtime stories and cars lined up on bleachers and pews and goldfish crackers in ziplock baggies and sippy cups full of koolaid or juice.

Today, those days have been replaced with:
- Laundry piling up faster than I can put it away.
-The bouncing of basketballs on hard wood floors, and the sound of whistles blowing and "Go! Go!"
-Gray skies with just a hint of blue peeking through as the wind whips through my hair on the top of Papaw's ridge.
-Text messages going unanswered but facebook posts that make a Mama proud.
-Just as many moments of drama as jackets are lost and pops are spilt and early mornings are rough.
-Melody's laugh/cry because she doesn't really know what she wants
-Lecture notes and creating exams and rewriting curriculum
-Trying to figure out who I am... and what that even means.
-Putting off time in God's Word because it's something that I look forward to and I can count it as a reward when I put up a basket of laundry.
-Forcing myself to get on the treadmill and then finding I almost enjoy it about a mile in.
-Fighting the urge to get mad at myself as I step on the scale and see the number go up a little, even though subconsciously I know the next day it will probably balance back out.
-Will playing in McDonald's play place
-Looking at Kami across Mom and Dad's living room as I think back to yesterday and imagine her graduating college in a few months.
-Lots of Diet Coke
-Cereal for supper
-Dreading the spring coming because January means I have to start working on my research project for my DNP... while at the same time knowing that I shouldn't dread it.
-Learning to love long and give grace... even to myself
-Thinking ahead to the coming year
-Reflecting on the past year and what I've learned... what I've experienced and how that has shaped me today
-Messy cars and messy houses and messy lives because we are living, and running, and experiencing, and doing
-Trying to balance all that doing with just being
-Hope

Tomorrow I'll ride on a bus with a bunch of high school girls to Northern Kentucky. I'm betting the bus ride there will be quiet, because like their coach's wife, most of them don't like to get up early in the morning. I'll listen to them laugh and talk and sing. We'll stop and eat and then I'll hear those basketballs bouncing and tennis shoes squeaking on that hardwood floor. I'll sit with a book next to me and read during timeouts and half time.

The day will be long, two games and many miles traveled.

But the years... they are short. Before we know it, this season will be over and we'll be looking ahead to summer break. This group of seniors will graduate and time will just keep marching on...

And if I don't soak it all in, it'll be gone.

Unappreciated.

Unacknowledged.

May we always cling to the realization that today will never come again, so we should make the most of it. May we always love those around us hard, and make sure they know that we love them. And may we always appreciate these days for what they are... precious gifts.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Just Another Southern Town: A Review

I love to read. I love history.

Any book combining the two is usually a winner in my book.

I especially like books about American history that bring to life interesting characters or events that may be new to me.

As a self-professed Southern girl, I thought I knew a lot about the Civil Rights movement and segregation. While it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the events of those days, and the rationalizations that many people used during those times, it is interesting to read about the differences between here and now and there and then... and also to consider how things may not have changed as much as we would like.

I am familiar with the stories of Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. As a sports fan, I loved the story lines behind Remember the Titans and Woodlawn.

The courage that those young Americans faced is astounding.

But I had never heard of Mary Church Terrell.  I recently read Just Another Southern Town by Joan Quigley, which chronicles the impact that Terrell had on the Civil Rights movement in Washington, D.C.



Terrell made strides in racial equality before many of the Southern movements that are more well-known. An educated individual, she influenced policy stemming from reactions within the political climate for her day.

I had never thought of Washington D.C. as being a place of racial tension. I had never considered its proximity to Southern states and how that might influence the emotional response to desegregation. Quigley does a good job of explaining why our nation's capital may have initially put up such a fight against integration, specifically chronicled through the battle waged by Terrell against segregated restaurants.

Quigley follows the life of Terrell from her birth to her death. Her book is well-researched, including excerpts from personal documentation of Terrell's. She depicts both personal struggles faced by Terrell and those that were more public, and ends the story with how Terrell's death impacted a nation that honored her by almost forgetting her story.

I would recommend this book to others who are interested in how our nation responded to the Civil Rights movement and integration. It is especially enlightening for those readers who may not be as familiar with the response of Washington D.C. and other cities not in the deep south to issues during this time period.

I give this book 3 stars. My only fault is that at times the story seems a little slow, and the cast of characters included can be overwhelming. The chapters are long and cover more than one event, so it can be confusing... but short chapters are just a preference of this reader.

I received free access to this book through Netgalley.com and am posting this review on their website.
 
Professional Reader

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What I'm Reading in December

This year I set a goal to read 125 books, and I need 12 more books to reach my goal. I'm looking forward to a Christmas break with some reading time, in between ballgames and laundry and family time, of course.

With that being said, here's what's currently on my Kindle and my nightstand and in my living room and my bathroom that I'm reading. (Note: I'm including Amazon links or Lifeway links to these books, just so if you're like me, you can add them to your wishlist.  I received no compensation for these links nor do I receive compensation if you use them to purchase a book; just thought it'd be helpful.)

I'm finishing up Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers. It's five short books in one, each telling the story of a woman who is listed in the lineage of Jesus. I've been reading this one for a couple of months, because each individual book has study questions at the end. How fitting that the last book is about Mary, and I've started it during this time of year. Rivers writes with a fresh perspective on Bible characters that I have loved for years, and her love for the Scripture comes through as she interweaves these into the story.

I've also been reading Fault Lines by Anne Rivers Siddon for a while. It was my drive-thru read (I leave a book in the car and read while I'm sitting in line) but then I kept on finding myself reading books on my Kindle, so I've brought it into the house and am reading it more. It's about a Mom, a daughter, and an aunt who are trying to find their relationship in the midst of turmoil. Isn't that how most books about women relationships start? I've not really gotten far enough into this one to decide how I like it yet.

I bought The Martian because I had heard great things about the movie and it looked like a movie Wallace would enjoy. Y'all know I can't watch a movie without reading the book, so even though it didn't look like my kind of book I got it and started in... and it was pretty good. Alas, somehow the book must have gotten knocked into the bathtub with water in it, because I found it the next morning soaking wet. I let it dry out for a week (and it's still a little damp) and just started back on it tonight. I'm liking it, even if it is a little on the tech side talking about science type stuff.

In the leadership academy I've been attending, we've been challenged to read a leadership book a month.  The first actual leadership book I selected was based on the recommendation of one of our guest speakers in November, about convictional leadership. It has a Christian background and is an easy read. The Conviction to Lead has made me think about what conviction is.  In today's world, we must be aware of our own convictions.

Because it's football season and I love Steelers football, I'm reading About Three Bricks Shy of a Load by Roy Blount, who followed the Steelers and got the inside story behind the 1973 season. I read about this book in Dan Rooney's autobiography. Just getting started on this one, but it's the Steelers so it has to be good... and this was the time of legends!

Because it's Advent, I'm reading Louie Giglio's Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope. It has a daily devotion for each day of December (actually started with a couple of days in November). They are short readings, so it's something I can read on the go but get a little pick me up. I love this time of year!!!

I'm still reading Lisa Harper's Hebrews Bible study. I read Hebrews through a couple of years ago when Wendy Blight talked about it on her blog, but it is such a rich book of the Bible. I'm on week 3 of this study (out of 7).  Harper is an awesome writer whose humor comes out in her words, even when discussing difficult topics!

Another book that I'm reading is Hoodwinked by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk.  I've loved every book I've read by Ehman for Provebs 31 Online Bible Studies, and Candace Cameron Bure (of Full House fame) has been leading a Bible study of this book on her blog.  It's all about the misperceptions we have about motherhood. There is no such thing as a perfect Mama!!! Good read, easy to follow, and some great truths about running your own race and not judging others.

Last year (I think) I read a book called The Happiness Project, where Gretchen Rubin completed resolutions based on making her life happier. It was a good book with some good ideas, and she's followed it by Happier at Home, resolutions to make her home a more joyful place to be. In the first chapter, she talked about possessions and I know that's an area I need to tackle. It's full of statistics and research to back up some of the changes she's making, so even if there are things that I'd never consider doing, it's an interesting read. And we could all stand to be a little happier.

Because it's Christmas time, I like to read Christmas books. Christmas in Good Hope is a lighthearted read centered around a small town, which is always fun to read.

I get one free book a month from my Kindle loaning library and this month I'm reading The Memory Child. It's about a woman who has just had a baby, and her struggle to adapt in light of the fear that she will be like her mother and suffer from post-partum psychosis.  I feel like there is more to the story than what I'm reading, and that there will be a surprise at the end.

A friend recently told me about netgalley.com, a site where you can request free access to books to preview if you write a review about them. The first book (and I'll be writing a review soon!) that I've had access to is Just Another Southern Town. This book chronicles the Civil Rights battle in Washington D.C., focusing on Mary Church Terrill. A very captivating story. Check back for my full review!

So... if I can finish all these books by the end of this month I'll have reached my yearly goal =)  I've got so many more books on my Kindle and on my nightstand to read...

Night Comes to the Cumberland and Audacious and Fervent and The Secret Garden and The Matchmaker and The Girl on the Train and The Nightingale and Vince Lombardi's Rules...

The anticipation is almost more than I can stand.

What do I want for Christmas, you ask?

Books.  Or an Amazon or Lifeway gift card.

Happy reading!









Friday, December 4, 2015

My Twenty Words

One of my favorite assignments when I'm teaching culture is to have students think about where they are from, some of the things that make them or their family unique.

I'm pretty sure we all have these things... family traditions or folklore or favorite foods or memories that we can close our eyes and relive again and again.

Tonight, I thought again about what makes me me... about my life as I know it.

I just finished reading Kentucky Boy: My Life in Twenty Words, a memoir by a friend of my Mom's, Jerry Deaton.  My Mom moved to Quicksand Road with her family in her adolescent years, and the neighborhood was close-knit. There were several families who had kids around the same age, and Jerry's aunt Ollie was one  of these.  While Ollie, Opal, and their children and grandchildren are no blood relation to me, I feel as if they are.  Close kin, even. Our histories are interwoven.  When my Grandma died, they were there to mourn with us. As we went through pictures to put in the slide show at the funeral, it was hard to find any from the time my Mom and her siblings were growing up that didn't include some of these neighborhood kids.  Growing up, we had Christmas parties and get-togethers, and while we aren't able to get together nearly as much, my Mom's neighborhood gang still feel like family. (As a matter of fact, my Mom, her four sisters, and one of those neighborhood girls are braving Lexington and doing some Christmas shopping during their annual December weekend right at this moment).

So as I read Jerry's memoir, I felt right at home. As he described his Mamaw Sophie's house, I could close my eyes and picture it.  Every time I go to Buckhorn I look over at that homeplace and think of the fine people I associate with that house.

I laughed out loud as he described the mischief he got in with his cousin Wade.  Wade was probably one of my Grandma's favorite neighborhood kids (him and Tim). 

In one chapter, Jerry described the road from where he lived at on Long's Creek to Jackson. I'm pretty familiar with it, too... part of that road is Hwy 30.  As he went through the landmarks, I smiled as I tried to picture them. I'm sure a lot of it has changed, but the names were familiar.

He mentioned individuals he associated with his childhood. It warmed my heart when he talked of Norma Turner giving him credit at their store. Norma was one of my favorite people ever when I worked at the hospital. She was the most patient unit secretary ever, and it was a sad day for all of us when she passed.

At one point, he talked about how he found himself thinking about how there will always be  a last time that we will be doing something, and how most of the time we never even realize it. While a sobering thought, it is a good reminder to appreciate every moment, to pause and appreciate what is around you.

As I closed the book, I thought of those memories his words had stirred in me.  I thought of my own family get-togethers, with kids piled on couches.  Of swinging on my Grandma's porch swing counting the cars that went by on Quicksand Road. Of cheering in the old football stadium on Friday nights.  Of my school days at LBJ and SMS and BHS, and of stories my Mom has told me about Little Red.

What would be my twenty words?

Family. Cousins. Detective. Pond. Log  Houses. Flowers and mudpies. Fried apple pies. Football. Cheerleading. Reading. Church. School. Creeks. Influences. Music.

Home.

(I'd highly recommend this book, by the way. You can check his work out at www.jerrydeaton.com).

Monday, November 30, 2015

What I Learned in November

Y'all.  It's been the longest and shortest month of the year and how on earth is it already December of 2015???

I've not been quite as faithful as I would like on this blog and that's ok. I'm learning to give myself some grace.

Seeing as it is coming to the close of the year, though, I've been thinking a lot about what I want out of 2016, and I am going to be more consistent with this blog.

I am.

Even though I have told Caleb several times to not make big plans, because Jesus could come back tomorrow. Or today.

And even though I am usually advising him against buying something online that he doesn't really need, the truth is that I truly believe Jesus could come back anytime.

I'm not sure how I got on that track... but that's one thing I've learned in November.  To let myself go where my thoughts lead me and not get so hung up on how I get there.

Ok, I totally made that up... but here's what I have learned in November:

1. I've learned a lot about Steelers football. I recently finished Dan Rooney's book about his 75 years of being a Steeler (which, by the way, was written just after Mike Tomlin was hired, in 2007... and in my own humble personal opinion, that has been 7 seasons too long for him coaching... but who I am? And Rooney saw something good in him... so that's saying something. I guess. I just don't understand certain play calls. ) Some of the interesting things I learned about Steeler football: Johnny Unitas was drafted by the Steelers and they let him go. Yes.  LET HIM GO.  Also, Tony Dungy played for the Steelers and coached for the Steelers as well.

I knew the man was a great man of wisdom. It had to be because he started out in black and yellow.

2. I am not a coach.  (I already knew this, but feel the need to remind myself at the end of this dismal football weekend when both of my teams gave up leads in the second half to lose).  I am also not a referee, but I can sure have fun trying.

3. GPS is not always exactly right. Ok... I knew this one, too... but was reminded of it just this morning as I drove around downtown Versailles in a circle for 15 minutes trying to find system office. Finally I glanced over and saw it on my right. As I pulled in the parking lot, the GPS proudly announced, "Prepare to arrive at your destination."

Sorry, cupcake. I had already arrived and you didn't do anything to help me do so.

4. Motivation is so much easier if you have a group of people behind you. Y'all that have been reading this blog for any length of time know how I struggle with self-discipline. For the month of October and early November, I participated in a 5 week challenge online for exercise and scripture memorization where we'd log onto facebook and post what we had done to exercise that day. I did more because I knew that I'd be posting it. (I know... I should be above external motivation... but shame can do a lot for a person). I started slacking after the challenge was over... so I stepped out on a limb and asked for some accountability partners on facebook. I've been texting them every day and it has helped me... I'm hoping it's encouraging to them as well.

5. I'm learning a lot about myself. I've been participating in this leadership Academy at work, and it has been very beneficial. We've done some personality profiles, and while I knew that I was an introvert that tended to shy away from active leadership and want to fly low on the radar... it's been good to see that those qualities can in fact be strengths.

And I've had to force myself to make conversation with people that I really don't know during business lunches.

Which explains why it is 10 PM at night and I've been in my pajamas in bed in this hotel room for over two hours.

I may have also learned that I was a tad lazy...

Nope. Already knew that, too.

Night, y'all!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Who I Am

I've been thinking a lot about who I am lately.

I really started pondering this after my three days at the Leadership Academy last month.  Every speaker talked about having a vision, knowing who you are, and being true to yourself.

I've struggled with that sometimes.

I may or may not have been in a panic because I had to describe myself in five words or less.

I can tell you a lot about what I do.  I'm a mom, a coach's wife, a teacher, a nurse, a student, a reader.

I can tell you a lot about what I'm not. Not brave. Not secure. Not sure of myself.

But to describe who I am, and a vision for myself?

I'm still pondering.

The last week or so on Facebook a quiz has been circulating... not really a quiz, but you give them access to your profile and they tell you what words you used the most in 2015.

I thought I could nail it.  I know what I've posted, for crying out loud.  I don't post negative things and try to keep the glass half full.  I try to be encouraging to others. I try to offer love and support.

I use my posts to point others to God and also to show how I'm just a mess.  I'm learning to be authentic, and a  lot of the time that means making sure others know that I'm a mess of a mama, a wife, but that even in the chaos, I'm a masterpiece in God's eyes- and if I am, they are, too!!! Throw in a little of basketball, a little of volleyball, a little of football, and a lot about reading, and that sums up my life... and my facebook posts. 

Ha!!!

I took the quiz.

And I refused to share the results... because while all of my friends results had God or love or Jesus or family in the center... well, I didn't like mine.


Right there in the center.  I'm.  Me.  Really???

So I did it again.

There it is, again.  I'm, right in the center.  Which means that most of my posts are about myself.  Not a God or Jesus anywhere in the mix.

I was ashamed, y'all. 

And even though it's just a stupid quiz, it really is a true reflection of my person. There's Caleb, and read, and game, and today (I've been thinking a lot about living in the moment and appreciating today).

But here's what I've concluded.

I do write about me, because it's my facebook page. To often in social media, we paint the most rosy picture and show our highlight reels...

but I try not to do that. Again, I try not to post anything negative... but that doesn't mean I want y'all to think I'm perfect. And if you know me very well at all, you know I'm not perfect.

I'm a shy introvert who struggles socially, which is a challenge when you're married to an extrovert that can talk to a wall and make it talk back. I'm an insecure individual who isn't always comfortable in her own skin, but am trying to learn how to be...

And I'm trying to encourage others to do the same. We're all in the same boat.

And even though my most common word in that diagram is "I'm"... it's right below love.  Which is what I want my name to be synonymous with, anyway.  I especially like the middle one... Love, really, I'm.

Because without love, I'm not really me.

And even though His name isn't on there much, He's in me. 

And He's still working.

Thank You, Jesus.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Eternal Light

I'm a self-professed winter hater.

Oh, I love Christmas time, and I love snow days, for the most part, if it means I can hang out on my couch all day long in my flannels and read mindless books.

And I love basketball.

I don't like it being dark at 5 PM or cold temperatures.

Seasonal affective disorder is a real thing and even though it is outside my scope of practice as a nurse to diagnose, I'm pretty sure that I have it. 

I can mark my moods by the time change. Added to all of that is the overall gloominess of this world.

Maybe we need a World Affective Disorder... because life can just plain stink and can overwhelm us and leave us gasping for air.

I am one of those "ostriches" who like to bury their heads in the sand, but you can't dodge it nowadays.  Every time you turn on the TV or the radio it's something else. Bombings.  Bomb threats.  Job loss. Debate about some issue or another. Refugees and homeless and hopeless people.

And those things aren't just on the other side of the world.  No, sir.  Last week I seriously held my breath as Wallace talked to Caleb about what to do in the case of an active shooter.  Y'all.  I've had trainings and have thought of plans at work but you never really think it could happen until you're trying to explain the fear away from your baby.

And this morning as I was reading in Mark 13, where the disciples ask Jesus to tell them the signs of the times, my heart was heavy again.

Because even though I have the hope of glory, we can't deny what's happening. Wars. Rumors of wars. Nations rising up against nation. Immorality. The persecution of Christians.

Our hearts are being hardened or they are failing us for fear.

But I don't want to live like that. I don't want to be afraid, because fear cancels out faith. I don't want to live with a hardened heart, because we're taught to love, and love always, always, always means vulnerability.

Love our neighbors.... all of them. Even if you don't know what threats they pose.

And we're told that we'll be known by our fruit.... fruit that includes joy and peace. Putting up with one another. Gentleness and kindness.

How do we balance these things out when we want to just stay in our cocoon?  And how do I do it when I want to just bury my head underneath the covers because I am depressed because it's dark outside?

This morning I prayed. I claimed the verse from Nehemiah about the joy of the Lord being my strength.  I don't feel joyful; but His joy is a supernatural joy greater than our circumstances. I'm praying it for myself and praying it for all who read this blog and for all of my friends and even for my enemies.  I'm praying for the peace that passes understanding and for love that is greater than fear.

May we live it out... until that hope of glory becomes fulfilled. And there'll be no seasonal affective disorder because the Son will be the eternal light.

Hallelujah and amen.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Accountability

So yesterday I write about self-discipline and this morning I step on the scales and I've gained 3 pounds since last Friday.

Granted, I did eat red velvet cake and have been indulging on a chocolate orange.

And let's not forget the peppermint bark and the Hershey kisses with almonds.

But I did only eat part of the blondie at Kelsey's last Wednesday night.

So, basically, I've been eating junk.

I've never proclaimed to be on a diet because
1. I'm a picky eater and a diet never lasts. All it does is make me focus on my food, which makes me want to eat more and makes me want to eat things that I wouldn't even want to eat if I didn't think I couldn't have it.
And
2. I want this to be a life change. Something I'm able to maintain. No meds or fancy crash diets or starving myself.

Not that there is anything wrong with meds or fancy crash diets.  I'm not judging anyone, and if they work for you, that's great...

It's just that I don't do well starving myself.

I get hangry. 

Really hangry.

So, today I felt a little discouraged to say the least. Even though I had eaten that junk, I hadn't eaten much of it, just a little bite here and a little bite there.

And I've been exercising.

Really hard.

Ok, mostly hard.

Most days.

I drug home from work in the gloom and then headed to Bible study. It's amazing how a little bit of God's Word and a whole lot of Jesus loving sisters can lift your spirits.

And then I faced the dreaded treadmill for 2 miles. Did a little bit of jogging and a little bit of walking on an incline and a whole lot of watching Monday Night football.

Tomorrow I'll get up and face the scale again. And I'll face the treadmill again. And I'll try to drink a little more water and avoid chocolate a little more than I have been.

And I'll keep you posted, not because I'm so good at this thing, but because writing about it keeps me humble and keeps me accountable.

But regardless of what that scale says, His grace is sufficient.

And tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

46 days

Today is November 15th, the halfway point of November.

I only have about 3 weeks of the fall semester left.

People are posting pictures of Christmas trees and Christmas decorations.

The air definitely has more of a chill in it.

And I still have yet to finish a book this month.

Oh, I'm reading books. 

14 of them, to be exact.

And the stack by my bed just keeps getting taller.  There are too many books and not enough time to read them.

Namely because I'm addicted to social media.

There, I said it. I find myself spending hours on the computer wasting time and scrolling down a page that never really changes.

As an introvert by nature, social media can exhaust me...

but it also serves as a connection. I find myself feeling affirmed by those likes and comments.

Social media is a wonderful tool, but sometimes we're too connected to a screen to connect to those around us.

I can become so absorbed in what others are doing that I lose track of what I should be doing myself.

If you've read my blog at all, you know I stink at self-discipline. It's one of the reasons why I struggle with exercise at times and why I'm a procrastinator and why my laundry stays piled to the ceiling.

However, I'm doing better with exercise.

And I want to do better with self-discipline.

I found myself the other day looking at planners for 2016.  I always love the new year because it holds such promise. There's something about a blank space on a calendar that makes me be hopeful.

I usually don't last through the first week... but I am hopeful that I will.

And as I was looking at those planners, I thought about all I hope to accomplish next year; how it's going to be great...

And realized that I don't even have my next breath promised to me.

We don't have to wait for a new year, a new month, a new day to start over.

We can make each day the best; each minute is a new opportunity.

Every breath we take can make us better than we were.

So.... the way I look at it, I have 46 days left in 2015. That's 46 days that I can make a difference in someone's life.  46 days for me to exercise. 46 days for me to lose those extra 15 or 20 pounds that I'd like to lose. 46 days to read His Word.

46 days to close my computer down and laugh with Caleb, to listen to Wallace, to chase Will, to snuggle with Melody.

46 days to use this white space to bring glory to God.

What are you going to do for these 46 days?

For that matter, what are you going to do today? 

Lord, help me embrace each moment as a gift from You and use them to accomplish Your Will. Thank You, Father.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bobcat Family

I love reliving the glory days.

I can tell you how it felt the entire 1995 football season, and the entire 1996 football season.

Cheering on the sideline.  Hot sun beating down during cheer practice and our run through the sprinklers on a Sunday when Coach magically appeared and yelled for us to "Get off that field." Being forgotten after the  Montgomery County bowl and getting pizza the next Monday because Coach knew that to make his cheerleading coach mad meant trouble.

Wins.  Lots of wins.  Every week a win. 

And community support.  Signs.  Packed stands.  Loud clapping.

It was wonderful...

but I also remember the lowest point of Breathitt County football since it got its feet on the ground.

It rained every single week, and every single week we'd track through mud on fields. Mud so thick you'd lose your shoes. I was a spectator back then, and got to smell those stinky pads the whole way home.

It was miserable.  We lost every single game that season, except against Knott County. And we only won that one in overtime.

There were no packed stands. There was little clapping. There were signs, but it was because my Mom made them.

Every year, at the end of the season, I'm sad.  I'm sad because I don't like endings. I'm sad because there are a group of seniors that I've grown to know and love... if not off the field, on.

Last night, I was especially sad.  I wasn't sad because we lost necessarily.  And I wasn't sad because we didn't execute well... even though at times I wish I could have gone out there and gave Cam a big hug or fired up our line a little bit.

And here's the thing.  When Josh Adams jumps off sides, I feel like I have the right to quarrel at him a little bit in the stands... because I'm one of his biggest fans. I brag on him.  And when Randy Melton gets a penalty, again, I feel like I have the right to quarrel, because I'm not just quarreling about the negative.

What made me sad last night?

Arriving at the game as the National Anthem was being played, Mom and I expected to have to park up town.  Surprisingly, we walked right in. There was no traffic. There were no packed stands.

It didn't feel like a football playoff game.

And it wasn't even cold.

I'd like to think that if we were winning and heading to the state championship, it'd be different...

but then I think about the last time that Breathitt's girls went to Bowling Green.

Administration didn't even call off school so that they could go to the boys state tournament the next week... and Breathitt's boys weren't even in the state tournament.

What saddens me about last night, and so many nights, is the complete apathy that we as a county demonstrate. As a whole, many do not care about community. 

I wish I knew the answers.  Our problems go far beyond an upacked football stadium, and I'll be the first to admit it.

But maybe we could start by coming together to support our local kids.

In the 1995 year, it was great.  We were winning.

But we were a family... and that was what meant so much more.

Our kids deserve that. For some of them, it may be the only family they ever know.

Today, and everyday, I'm so thankful to be a part of the Bobcat family. Nobody knows how much time our kids and coaching staff put into the game. For many out there on the football field last night, they played no organized football in grade school or middle school. That means we're learning fundamentals at the high school level, folks.  Breathitt didn't become a powerhouse in a day. It won't get back there in a day. And before you start pointing fingers at the state department, the decision to halt grade school football was made by the same administration that decided to go to the boys state tournament instead of cheering our girls on in Bowling Green. The only way we will have a powerhouse football program again is by community buy-in and support. So, if you see those boys at Walmart, pat them on the back. They don't need to hear they did a bad job... they know when they make a mistake. You'll see it in the way they hang their head. They do need to know that you care. There's always room for more people in the Bobcat football family... in the Bobcat family as a whole, for that matter. You just have to yell loud and be passionate about something.

And maybe, that passion... just may make a difference in our community as a whole.



Thursday, November 5, 2015

Football Grace

I feel a little sick this evening.

I'm watching Thursday night football, if that explains anything.

And if it doesn't, let me elaborate to say that it is the Bengals vs. the Browns and the Bengals have had over 200 yards in the 2nd half to the Browns 7 yards.

And I'm brain dead because I spent 9 hours or so in a conference room with 16 people who are near strangers having to have a discussion about things like strengths and weaknesses and what it means to lead and have a vision and knowing yourself.

Which I have on my to do list...

As in, "Figure yourself out."

You'd think I'd know in 36 years, but I have significant trouble trying to describe myself in 3 words or so...

You try it. It's not as easy as it may seem.

Also on my to do list is to write Mike Tomlin a letter, because I'm pretty sure he needs my coaching advice.  After all, I am reading Dan Rooney's autobiography so I feel like I  know the Steelers organization pretty well.

We're a resilient organization, this Steelers nation, and I have no doubt that we'll recover even though Bell isn't ringing much lately.

"To thine own self be true" means that tonight, even though the Bengals are looking like they are having fun playing and I really appreciate that in a team, and even though Andy Dalton looks like the boy next door whose cheeks you just want to pinch, and even though AJ Green is on my Fantasy Football team...

I'll say that they may be the real deal. But I'll also follow that concession with a reminder that there are such anomalies as 100 year floods and perhaps this is the year for the Bengals...

But it's not playoffs yet.

Thankful tonight for football and shopping with Mom and Kami's fashion advice and texts from my boy and the beautiful soul that is my sister Holly.

And the fact that the Steelers still have 6 championship rings and the legacy of Mean Joe Green and the fact that we came back even after choosing to let Johnny Unitas go.

And that His grace is sufficient, even in tough football times.



Wednesday, November 4, 2015

You Got to Know Your Destination

I consider myself fairly well traveled. I've been to several states and have flown a few times. I can pack like a pro thanks to Wallace Bates's guidelines to keep the outfits to a minimum...

But today I think I met my match.

I was privileged to be selected to be a part of the McCall Leadership Academy at KCTCS.  Each college gets a representative, and I'm honored that I get to represent my colleagues at HCTC.

Today was our first in-person meeting, in downtown Louisville. Y'all who know me well know I hate driving, and I wasn't about to brave driving downtown... so my wonderful Mom came along. 

I'm not the greatest in technology, but I figured between my phone, my Mom's garmin, and the navigation system in my car we'd be ok to make it to the hotel. We left in plenty of time and everything went great until I tried to program the Garmin.

I couldn't figure out how to change the destination.

I know... I'm obviously leader material based on that one statement.

Because isn't that what a leader does? Change the destination? Or at least get the people he or she is following to discover what the destination is?

So... I gave up on the Garmin and pulled out my cell phone.

I'm much more adept at programming it and had our destination mapped out quicker than you can turn it on.

And then it started talking to me... telling us to turn at every stinkin' exit we passed.

Well... I'm so adept at using my cell phone that I was convinced that I had somehow programmed two destinations in.  The last time I had used the map feature was when we went to see Melody in the hospital two months ago, and it must have saved that destination.

Except when I turned the voice off in the settings it kept on talking to me.

So I did the next to logical thing... turned my cell phone off... because why wouldn't it still be talking even after that feature had been turned off???

And then it kept talking.

So I got a little worried... until I realized that it was the Garmin talking.  I had left the stinking thing on and even though I had no idea where the destination it was trying to send us was, it sure knew.

We finally got to the hotel and Mom dropped me off... but I forgot my wallet in the car because I'm so responsible...

which meant that Mom had to prove her love by driving around downtown Louisville amidst the one-way streets to try to get back to point A.

I had a good day of meetings where I learned about honesty and integrity and transparency and vulnerability and taking risks and being courageous and having a vision and a purpose.

Lots of food for thought...

And I was feeling pretty good about myself because introverted Lauren managed to make small talk with the people she sat with and even ate part of a salad at lunch so that no one would think she was strange for being a picky eater.

And then I took the stairs down and almost couldn't find my way out because the doors to the first floor were an emergency exit only and the door to the second floor opened in an unfinished parking garage.

But I finally made it back out of the stairwell without calling 911, which I'm taking as a pretty good sign of my critical thinking abilities.

I love to travel, but sometimes small town living is enough for me.

Tonight I'm thankful for my Mama and all she does for me and everyone else. I love her and can't put it into words... and I know she loves me because she drove through rush hour traffic tonight to prove it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Thankful for the Small Things

So this morning I was running late, which isn't really that unusual for me.

At least once a week I tell myself I have to get my act together. (Coincidentally, I first heard this phrase from a 3rd grader a few years ago, as we pulled in late to school... again... as in, "Mom, you really need to get your act together.")

Sigh...

I had clinical and we had an early start and I get in my car and the car is almost on empty.  I debated heading on to Campton and taking my chances but was afraid it'd look worse if I had to call my students from the side of the road to come get me, so I stopped and got $10 worth of gas.

I pulled out onto 15 from the old road and it was so foggy you could barely see the end of the car... but then the a beautiful sunbeam broke up the fog and the trees looked glorious just like yesterday and I thought that maybe my day wouldn't be so bad.

I was driving down 15 trying to follow the speed limit and then had to worry about passing the slooooww truck that just had to pull out in front of me even though there was nothing behind me for five miles...

and I started thinking about how if we are in a rush, we fail to appreciate the small things.

And the small things are all too often the big things.

I'm not sure why we feel like we have to live life in a rush, but I started the day running late and felt like I was running late all day long...

even though I wasn't. And even though I had nothing pressing to do.

I think it's a deliberate tool from our enemy to attack our peace... to attack our well-being... to attack our schedule.

And to make us think we have to rush when we don't.

Nothing makes us feel overwhelmed like having too many things to do in a short amount of time.

I'm learning to do better. I'm still not great at saying no, and I'm recognizing that sometimes it's not really God's will for me to say no. I can't avoid doing things just because I want free time to myself.

And I can't avoid people just because I'd like to sit on the couch and read a book.

So, tonight I'm thankful for people who take time to pause and help me when I need help... people like Shannon and Kena in Academic Affairs and Leanna and Leanne in the business office and Brad who is our tech guru (making sure my Blackboard does what it needs to do and that I have a computer lab to work in) and the M & O crew that unlocks my office door when I lock my keys up because I'm in such a rush that I forget them.

And I'm thankful for my friends in the Jackson Woman's Club.  It's not always my cup of tea to make small talk, but tonight I sat with some lovely ladies and did just that.

And I'm thankful that our county has a historian like Stephen Bowling, who shared information about the 1939 flood to our group tonight. I love my Breathitt county heritage.

And I'm thankful for a support group on facebook to help me with weight loss accountability and for treadmill time even though I didn't want to do it.

And I'm thankful for bedtime.

Because even though His grace is sufficient to keep me as I rush through my day, it's also sufficient to renew me as I rest.

Monday, November 2, 2015

God's Hidden Promises

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies display His craftsmanship." Psalm 19:1

There's nothing much more beautiful than Eastern Kentucky in the fall.  The hills are golden and auburn and flaming red, with just enough dark green interspersed. This is especially true on a gloomy day, when the sun doesn't come out and the sky is steel gray, and then, out of nowhere, there's a ray of sun that highlights just the top of the hills so they seem like they are glowing... on fire, full of glorious light.

And then, out of nowhere, starting small and growing more brilliant, it's there.

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet...

The rainbow, hovering over the hills as the sunlight from no visible sun shines on those glorious colors.

The sun's there, it's just hidden behind the clouds.

Just a few raindrops, and there's that brilliant stretch of color reminding me of God's promises. They're true and they are yes and Amen.

Even when you can't see the makings of God's promises... even when you can't figure out how they're going to come true...

They are there.

And He knows.

(The picture doesn't do it justice!!!)

And what a sunset came after this... but I was drying dishes with my Mom at my Papaw's house and didn't get a pic.

So, today, November 2, I'm thankful for hidden promises and visible rainbows and glorious fall foliage, for my Papaw and for Bible study (finally made it on a Monday!!!) with the girls from PPC, for my inheritance and His presence. 

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow...

For His grace is always sufficient.

This month I'm being intentional about being grateful and sharing my thankfulness here in this blog and on Facebook and Instagram.  I also came across a 30 day Scripture challenge, and I'd love to invite you to join me in it... Click the link to see 30 days worth of scripture on thankfulness.



Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Some Kind of Way

So every now and again I get this big idea that maybe I have something in my head worth sharing, and the blankness of this white page calls my name.

I vow that I'll be consistent...

Until something happens that takes my time.

Or my focus.

Or knocks the wind out of my sails.

And I'm silent for a while... but then it beckons.

Today I started day 1 of November thankfuls, and I was reminded again that I had the perfect platform, right here on this blog, to share what I'm thankful for...

and maybe it will help me become consistent again.

Today I am thankful for King Jesus... for His Word... and for His love that caused Him to choose to save me when I was lost in sin.

But I'm thankful for so much more. 

I'm thankful for a good game on TV today between the Steelers and the Bengals; even though we lost it inspired me to tackle my mountain of laundry.

I'm thankful for a 4 pound weight loss in the month of October and a reminder that even though I have good days and bad days, it's a mindset and a lifestyle change and I am happier with my self at this moment in time than I have been for a long time.

I'm thankful that even in the middle of Halloween, which can make an uncrafty Mom feel useless as I scroll through social media, seeing the cute costumes that look Pinterest perfect, and the whole families dressed up that I'm realizing that loving Caleb makes me a good Mom, even if I never did dress up when I took him trick or treating.

And that being glad that he decided this year to not dress up does not make me a bad Mom.

Even if he did say that he wished he had found time in his life to put together a costume, because "We never know what next year will hold."

Which made me think, again, that this time next week I will officially have a teenager on my hands, which makes me feel all kinds of way.

As in, wanting to throw up way, and wanting to cry way, and wanting to pat myself on the back because we've made it this far and just yesterday somebody told me what a good boy I have way.

And I wonder if God ever feels that way about me, as He watches my attitude that is less than perfect and my anger that boils over for no reason... as He sees me struggle to reign in my emotions, as He sees me love imperfectly but choose to love.

And so above all, I'm thankful that He loves me through all of those emotions...

Because He is too good.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mercy Anew

The calendar pages keep flipping and there's a slight chill to the air this morning.


I'm reminded of how quickly time goes by and realize that before I know it, Christmas time will be upon us.


It makes me tired, I'll admit.


And just a little stressed out.


This morning the verse from Lamentations keeps running through my mind.


Without His great love... we would be consumed.


Used up.  Spent...  and sometimes I feel that way even with His great love.


His mercies are new every morning, but here it is not even 9 AM and I already feel like I've used up today's mercies.


Is that even possible?


But He is infinite and I am not.


His love is overflowing and nothing can separate me from His love...


not fights over socks or feeling rushed or feeling inadequate. Not mental exhaustion and questions about this parenting thing.


Nothing.


His mercies are new every morning, and He keeps renewing them throughout the day...


For me.  For you. 


For near thirteen year olds who have "the worst morning ever".


Thank You, Lord... for your faithfulness and mercy and love that covers a multitude of sins. While I don't want a "do-over", thank You that starting right now, this minute, I can have a "do-better". Help me remember that every reaction is a choice. May I choose You, always... even when it is not the response that I most desire. And may, above all, I love like You do, taking those new mercies You give and sharing them with others. In Jesus's name, Amen...





Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Birthday, America!

I'm the kind of girl who tears up at the National Anthem.

I may have also teared up at My Old Kentucky Home in the middle of Commonwealth Stadium...

My roots run deep.  I've lived within the same five mile radius for all of my 35 years.  Sometimes, that's a good thing... most of the time, in fact.  Oh, there are always days when I get upset with hometown politics or get frustrated with having to drive an hour to watch a movie... but mostly, I love Breathitt County.

I love Kentucky.


And I love America.

I love the thought of the Stars and Stripes waving over the steeple of a church against a blue sky.

I love our history, how we overcame tyranny to become independent and welcomed the masses.

I love my heritage, Eastern Kentucky people raised hard who have compassion and love for each other.

I love McDonalds French fries and Audrey Hepburn and JFK and Jackie.  Oh, wait.  Hepburn was not an American actress... but you can't get more American than Tiffany's.

I love apple pies... well, maybe not... but I loved making them with my Grandma.

I love football- American style.

I love the summer sun as the waves from the Atlantic crash against the shoreline.  I can close my eyes and smell sunscreen, feeling that sun on my cheek and smelling that ocean air, even here in the humid Appalachian Mountains.

I love accents... all different kinds.  It amazes me how I can speak one way and someone from the other side of the state can say the same word and it sounds different.

I loved the Grand Canyon and the Washington Monument and Abe Lincoln's statue on the Washington Mall.  I sat in revered awe at Ford's Theatre almost twenty years ago, still feeling "something" even after all of those years.

I've been to Niagra Falls in the north and Daulphin Island, Alabama in the south... to the great state of Texas and have kinfolk in Michigan.  I've met people from most of the 50 states and I have to say that we are more alike than different.

239 years ago, our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence stating that they wished to be absolved from any allegiance to England. To be free from tyranny. To be able to make their own decisions.

"Our Creator" endowed us with certain unalienable rights- Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

They signed off on the declaration "with the firm reliance on divine Providence."

 Our Creator. Divine Providence.  When someone goes against the laws of nature and nature's God.

Our nation was based on more than just religious freedom... but the very document declaring us as free pointed to dependence on a Higher Being.  Not just any higher being... but God. 

And this last line... it is what made America so great. "we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. "

Pledge to each other our lives. 

Our fortunes.

Our sacred honor.

Even if  God was not mentioned... that last line is what Christianity was founded on.

“The greatest among you will be your servant.”   Matthew 23:11

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”   Galatians 5:13

I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35

Our forefathers believed in unity.


Men and women throughout the years have fought for unity. Many gave their life to support this cause.

Our name says it all- The United States of America.

United- unity. 

It's the only way we can be great.

I may not agree with you.

You may not agree with me.

But we can respect.

Respect the freedom of speech- I have the right to express my beliefs.  You do, too.  Let's not argue. When we don't like what is being said, present our viewpoint respectfully and then let it drop.

Respect the freedom of religion- I serve God and am so thankful that I can get up every Sunday morning and go to church.  I appreciate the opportunity to go into a store and buy a Bible to read. You may not believe the same as I do.  We all have the right of freedom of expression in our religion.

But we can mutually pledge to support and love each other... as Americans.

Happy Birthday, America!  May you continue to be blessed by divine protection.







Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Berry Good Lesson

Wallace and I took Will on a ride to Papaw Paul's yesterday.  We avoided the rain showers and even got to enjoy a little bit of sunshine. We went by the ponds ("the creek", as Will called it) and then went up on the ridge.

I have so many good memories of Papaw's pond from my childhood. We used to swim there.  It's where I first let my Uncle Dennis bait a hook for me and when I first learned how to cast into the water.  It was also where I learned that you had to be quiet to fish, and that meant that fishing probably would not be my favorite habit.

Fish like people to sing to them, too, right?

So yesterday I couldn't help but notice how the sides of the pond had grown up. When I was younger, it was full of grass and cat-tails.  Yesterday, though, there was something new...

lots of blackberry bushes.

The road up to the pond had been lined with blackberry bushes when I was young.  While I never liked the berries, I often enjoyed picking them, first with Papaw and then because it meant he'd give you a little cash, which is always needed by a teenager with gas to run out driving around town.

I was shocked to see them around the pond, though, until Wallace felt like he needed to give me a science lesson.

"You know, the birds eat them and then drop the seeds."

As if I had forgotten plant biology in college, the most difficulty "easy" class he ever talked me into taking with him.

We continued up the hill to the top of the ridge, and something that Wallace said really struck me as profound. 

(Yes, write it down.  It may be the only time you see those words.)

I noticed the blackberry bushes the entire way up the hill, and toward the top the berries, though still not ripe, were huge. I commented on the size.

"It's because they are at the top of the hill and they get the most sunshine."

Something struck me about that statement. I realized that really, there's a lot I can learn from those berries.

Let's liken them to the fruit of the Spirit...

A lot of times when you eat the berries, they may be a little bit tangy... and most people tend to add sugar.  When they are baked into a cobbler, sugar is added as well.

That's kind of like our lives. We can be a bit tangy... bitter, even.  But God's Word and giving Him control, allowing His sweetness to take over, can make us palatable to others.

Also, those berries require some hard work to get.  Granted, some of them are right there on the top of the bushes... but a lot of the times you have to be willing to reach down, through the thorns, to pick all of the fruit. Kind of like life... we have to go through some thorny patches to see His fruit manifested in our lives.

And then there was that statement about the sun.  The berries that got more sunlight were bigger, more evident.

And we need more Sonshine, more of the Word and time in His presence, to have the fruit obvious in us.

Lord, I know that I can be bitter and thorny and not be ripe for Your use. Help me seek out Your Sonshine, dig into Your Word, and seek Your will, so that  I can be fruitful for the glory of Your kingdom.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

In the End

Love wins seems to be the theme for the week.

History is being made in our great nation, and a line has been drawn in the sand.

Equality for the masses.

So why does it seem like the only thing that is rearing its head is hate and confusion?

I've been processing for the last three days, trying to balance the weight of loving and not judging and being Christ's hands and feet...

Yet there is the Great commission that I'm not so great at which lingers in my mind. "Go, and preach the gospel."

The good news... What we want to focus on... of love.

Because that is essentially the message of Jesus Christ. Love God with all of your heart.  Love your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? Everyone.

Sums it up right well...

But then there are those words "Judge not that ye be judged." Ok.  I get that.  He talks about the plank in your own eye while worrying about the speck in the eye of your neighbor.  This morning as I was working on a Bible study I was convicted.  John speaks of a "sin that leads to death" in 1 John.  As I thought of those Old Testament warnings, my heart hurt... because all sin leads to death.

Sin is black and chokes out the light. It can take your breath. It separates one from true fellowship with God.

And I sin... I get angry and take life with my words. I am prideful.  I sometimes lie.

One of the church's favorite sayings is "Love the sinner.  Hate the sin." I even quoted it to Caleb last week, because if there is anything that has bothered me about the mess of this nation, it is thinking of future generations.

One of the arguments that I read about this whole issue is that by making that statement, we are automatically judging by saying that they are sinning.

We become intolerant by that statement... but I'm not judging. If, God forbid, someone in my family was to kill someone... I'd still love them.  I'd just hate the sin.  I know drug addicts who steal from their family... yet I love them.  I hate what they are doing to themselves and others.

I am a mess and am the first person to admit it. You don't need to point out the plank in my eye.  I know that I have sinned and fallen short. Like Paul, I hate what I do yet sometimes do it anyway.

I'm no better than you...

But the only hope for me that I will make it out of this world into the other is in Christ. I sometimes wish He'd point a neon sign at me telling me what to do, but He hasn't chosen to communicate with me that way.

He just left His Word. The same Word that says that we are to love and not to judge also says that marriage is between a man and a woman. It says that murder is wrong and that if you mutter words in anger it is the same as killing someone. It says that divorce is wrong and stealing is wrong and cheating is wrong.

Sin is sin.  We all need forgiveness.

Another argument that'd I've read is that it doesn't affect me...

And you're exactly right.  It's really none of my business and same sex marriage doesn't hinder my marriage or my life in any way...

You have the right to your own decision and your own happiness and what you do is between you and God... except as Christians we were given that little commandment to participate in discourse. That Great Commission? "Go and teach..."

Teaching them... to hold discourse with others.

Discourse means to hold communication with others... which means talking about issues.

Which has suddenly become wrong to do. Because our viewpoint offends, we should keep silent.

Except Jesus said differently... we have to point to the Word.

What you do with our message is up to you.
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The issue at hand is about so much more than same sex marriage.

It's about heart change. It's about acceptance of all of those issues I named above. The family is no longer important and children are killed before they have the chance to live. Mamas care more about drugs than they do their babies and violent protests are ok when we are done wrong. There is no respect in our country.

I don't have all the answers.

My heart hurts because I see a nation sliding down a slippery slope... I see a church that preaches water downed gospel because the congregation wants their ears tickled, and a population that believes it is ok to do whatever is right in their own eyes. I see Christians who wound with their words and their unacceptance.  As Paul said, I am the chief of sinners.  I have been guilty.

As I've pondered this message, I am reminded that I may be the only Jesus that someone sees. He is in me... but do I show it? I do know that the only way that we can hope to win others to Him is by love. Please know that everything I say is in love, and that really is my heart. I worry about offending others... but I worry more about offending God. How do we balance loving "like Jesus does" with telling the gospel? How do we, as a church, the Body of Christ, be the light in a world of darkness when the majority of the world really doesn't care what we have to say... in fact, despises our message?

I'm still struggling with that. I'm struggling to understand love without judging but pointing others toward the light. I struggle with any kind of conflict. I generally want people to like me, to "like" my statuses on facebook, to see me as a friend. However, I fear that in this world where lines are being drawn, we will soon be called for a boldness like never before.

I'm so not brave. I'm not bold.

But my road map says that "If they deny me before men, I'll deny them before the Father." I don't want Him to deny me.

The only thing that I have to cling to in this world is Jesus. He is victorious. Satan is defeated.. Love that ran red on a cross, love that was demonstrated while I was in my sin.. that love wins in the end.

I'll just keep pointing to Jesus.  Looking to Jesus.  Trying my best to live like Jesus.  And looking for Him to return. 






Friday, June 26, 2015

Words Don't Do it Justice

There's something about being around people who already know your story.

They know where you come from, they know your problems, and while they may not always understand or even like you, they love you.

You don't have to pretend. 

You don't have to worry about looking stupid, because they'll just laugh with you...

even though it may seem like they are laughing at you.

Sometimes, life gets tough. Let's face it, a lot of times, life is just plain no fun.  I often wonder where I'm headed. What God wants from me.  How I can be a light to others when I feel so messed up myself.

This week, I'm reminded that sometimes, you have to remember where you came from to know you're headed in the right direction.

It seems like yesterday I was a little girl headed to Pigeon Forge with my family. We ate at pancake houses, looked for black bears, played putt putt golf, traveled across the mountain and watched Unto these Hills, stopped at the lookout point and gazed at God's creation.

I can close my eyes and see my childhood.

Sometimes, I'm not sure if things are my memories or those that have been passed down... but they have been weaved into my soul intricately and shaped my experiences.

So this week, I remembered... and made new memories.

I stopped at the scenic overlook with Wallace and Caleb and breathed deep. That little boy of mine is taller than me, and I'm forever thankful that the picture snapped by some random stranger will validate  my love.




 I  watched Princess Mermaid Lily go under water and Merman Mason float in his donut. They talked about Magiquest and Amazon World and Lily plotted ways to get us all with the whoopee cushion.


I watched Braylee toddle around the cabin looking for her "Nona" and "bite-bites." She growled a little at us and blew kisses and one brief moment allowed me to snuggle with her as I wrapped her in her blankie and Al kept pushing play on the Mickey Mouse Hot-Diggety-Dog song. I kissed her cheek and thanked God for sweet babies.

I laughed hysterically when Uncle Winker flipped out of the boat white water rafting. I briefly felt guilty for laughing so hard that I cried, but when I looked back and saw Lisa laughing I realized that it was one of those moments that I'll cherish forever. Floating down that river, Wallace in front of me and Mom behind me and two other boats full of people I love more than I can ever say... the sun shining and the water hitting me in the face and the guide pushing Caleb off the boat only for him to climb back up with an actual smile on his face...




I worried because "the kids" who now pay taxes and are responsible adults were driving themselves on the interstate.


I laughed as my Papaw wandered around our cabin at 4 in the morning and shined his flashlight in our eyes. I cheered as he played nine holes of putt-putt and was reminded that it was no coincidence that the winners were those who kept score. I clapped as Braylee put her golf ball in the hole. I sat with Kami on the skylift as we traveled above Gatlinburg and soaked in the view, remembering when she was little and I was her best friend.


I sat around the campfire and listened to their stories.... my stories... our stories.. and laughed so hard my belly hurt.


Four generations, five bedrooms, more air mattresses than you could count... but still plenty of sleep.


There have been new faces added over the years. Brave individuals who decide that loving a certain someone means spending time with their crazy family.... and yet they fit...
 


Because true family, the kind of family that I've been blessed with, well...

We've been taught that family is what you make it. It's the problems and the craziness and the misunderstandings that you just accept.  You love a little harder and thank God for the good times and try to skim over the bad.

That guy who blew out those candles on Monday taught us about hard work, about quiet love, about respect.

And the legacy that we appreciate will continue, because God promised that He'll bless the generations...


Thanking God tonight for my blessings, that Clemons Clan, and knowing that words can't do justice for the fullness of my heart.  <3



Monday, June 8, 2015

The Battle of Mamahood

There was a time being a Mama felt like going to battle every single day.

You had to assemble all of your supplies... the diapers and the wipes and the formula and the bottles and three different outfits because the first two were destined to be covered in spit up or occasionally poop (and then there were the outfits for the baby!) Favorite toys and favorite blankies.  And then there was the wrestling them in and out of the car seat...

I thought of this yesterday, as I sat in church. I would often leave church on Sunday mornings feeling like I had been in a boxing match.

Caleb would climb up in my lap, and then climb under the pew, and I'd have to reach and grab him. He'd play with my hair and try to hold my hand and climb back up in my lap.  He'd lean over on me, as close as he could get, and then head butt me to get my attention. He never went anywhere without at least fifty cars (I am NOT exaggerating. I'm trying to decide if this meant that I spoiled him for continuing to buy them or just by packing them along... but they were a lifesaver at many a ballgame. He just didn't understand why he couldn't take up a whole pew on Sunday morning to line them up to listen to the message, After all, even Lightning McQueen needs Jesus, right?)

So, if you're a Mama, you can probably relate.

And almost thirteen years later, I still feel like I'm going to battle every single day... only this one is a verbal battle. A battle of words and wit and eye rolls and the occasionally slamming door (and yes, I still can slam doors with the best of them. Real mature, Mom...)

I have tried to choose my battles. There is no choice about going to church most Sundays, but there is a choice about what to wear, even if it kills my husband's soul. And I don't battle over bedtimes at night, but I am trying to wage a war on disrespect toward myself and others. Sometimes, I make a little ground. A lot of the time, I want to wave the white flag, but I keep on digging in. I know that God formed Caleb in my womb, and He has plans for Him that were laid in place before Caleb was even thought of. Though the battle is tough, the Bible promises that those who endure to the end shall be saved, which tells me that this battle is already won. I just have to claim the victory.  (And I don't want you to think Caleb is an awful kid... because he's not. He has a heart of gold and loves long and hard and never meets a stranger. He just sometimes cares more for strangers than he does his parents, and I'm convinced that is pretty typical for a twelve year old. At least, it was for me when I was twelve, and the kid has definitely got a lot of my genetics!)

And then there were moments like yesterday. Caleb had sat up all night long (accidentally. He really didn't mean to.  He really wanted to go to sleep. He just never quite got there.) He was in an excellent mood considering. There was no back talk on the way to church. He sat with some of his friends and was relatively quiet. Then, about halfway through the sermon, he made his way back and sat next to me. He laid his head on my shoulder and fell fast asleep.

I'd like to say that I was a tough Mama and I shook him awake, but I didn't. I just sat there, rubbing his back and feeling the rise and fall as he breathed in (and snored. I did shake him a little to get him to stop snoring). I sat there and allowed myself to go back to those days nine or ten years ago, when I'd walk out of the sanctuary sure that I was half-dressed because my skirt would be twisted and an occasional button was missing from the wrestling match that had just ensued.  I thought of chubby little arms wrapped around my neck and warm breath smelling of cheerios falling on my cheek.

Just for a minute, I paused and appreciated just how blessed I am to be Caleb's mama.

And then he woke up, grouchier than ever...

But oh, baby.  I'm still blessed.