Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: My Year of Grace

(picture by beach baby kisses, found on etsy.  Love my print.  Check her shop out!)

Grace: unmerited favor.  A gift that you don't deserve.  God smiling down on you, and you feeling Him all around.

His grace is sufficient.  Enough. Always.  His grace makes a bad day good, makes us realize our blessings, makes us look ahead to the future.

All reasons I chose grace as my one word for 2013.  I embraced 2013 as a year of grace.  Celebrating His grace given to me.  Celebrating my blessings. Thanking God for His gifts.

I learned that grace isn't just about me... in fact, because He has so freely offered, I must offer it, too... yet it isn't as easy for me.

2013.  My year of grace.  And oh, I learned so much...

I learned that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.  In the three months that Wallace was in Texas, I realized just how much I like having him around.  And how much fun it is just to hang out.  And why I fell for him in the first place.  I also learned just how good someone looks when they are waiting for you at the gate at the airport.

I learned that family and love will make a man who has never flown hop on an airplane to accompany his daughter in law and grandson across the country. I learned, too, that sometimes, I can do things that I don't think I can.

And on that note, I learned that if you put your mind to it, and work hard, you can do what you need to get by.  Pursuing my doctorate degree has proven to be one of the most difficult things I've ever done, and I'm still not finished... but by the grace of God (and I've learned there's a lot of it), I'll finish.

I learned that difficult decisions have to be made, and sometimes no one understands why you choose to do what you have to do.  I've learned that sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and trust God if He opens a door, regardless of the backlash.  And I've learned that change can be good, even as we miss parts of what we left behind.

I've learned that family is always the most important.  Caleb has grown up so much this year.  The three months Wallace was away made me see him in a whole new light.  While he still sometimes thoroughly gets on my nerve (like right now, when I'm trying to type this and he just.. won't. stop. talking), he is the love of my life.  He's become my concert partner.  We've watched Toby Mac twice, and Chris Tomlin.
I've learned that time with family doesn't have to be complicated. Some of my favorite memories every year come in the third week of July, when my "Michigan" cousins come down and hang out.  We sit around and talk and catch  up, and I count down to July the rest of the year.

Family is about an extension of yourself.  I've always loved my cousins, and as I grow older, I'm learning that the bond of family is important.  As my grandparents are growing older and struggling with health problems, 2013 taught me that time with those you love is most important.

And speaking of family, family isn't always blood. Family is about those who stand behind you, regardless.  In a rough summer, one week at the beach was much needed, and those days in the sand and sun brought about a whole new meaning of family.

2013 also taught me that kids are the best.  Watching Will grow has been a true treasure.  He's slowly learning to talk, and makes life interesting.
I learned that just because you've never met someone, doesn't mean you can't love them.  My Online Bible Study peeps are awesome, and I am so honored to get to do life with them, even though it is through a computer.
And I learned that His Grace is Enough.  That you can overcome if you keep persevering. And that in the end, He's there to hold you up.
Thanks, 2013, for all the memories. I'm looking forward to all 2014 has to offer.  God bless you and yours!

Monday, December 30, 2013

For the Love of the Game

It seems fitting that the day before New Year's Eve would be spent in two different gyms, only minutes away.  Three games in a few hours.  Those two gyms, and what would transpire between two ball seasons, have defined 2013 for the Bates household.  And please... give me a chance before you stop reading.  This post is not going to go into decisions or reasons or any of that, because that's not important.  What was and is always important are the kids, and that's what this post is about. 

Not just kids in those two gyms, although those are the ones I love the most.  Kids all over this region.  Kids all  over this state.

If you know anything about me, you know I am a sports fanatic.  I was raised that way by a woman who could not love the game anymore.  She was raised that way by a Dad who took her to high school basketball games when there wasn't anything else to do in Breathitt County.  Didn't matter who was playing.  And let's face it... things really haven't changed that much.

So I lucked out when I married a coach.  I knew what I was getting into when I said "I do." This post isn't about  him, either, even though I am proud of him regardless of whether you love him or hate him.  As a coach's wife, I do a lot of scouting.  I know a lot of kids who wouldn't know me, and would probably get creeped out if I spoke to them.  While I may not know exact names, I do know which girls shoot better behind the three point line and which ones will drive into the middle.  I know which ones like to push back under the goal and which are a little afraid of contact.  See, while I may not know the difference between certain offenses and defenses, and while I may not be his first choice to talk game plan, I'm the one there when he can't sleep at two  in the morning and just needs to hash out why this isn't working... or what they're going to do to stop so-and-so.  Let's face it, there's just not many other people who would want to listen to that at that time of night... I just don't have much choice.

But I love it. I'll offer my insight.  I'll talk just like an expert.  And I find myself cheering in the gym, even if I don't know the kids.

Because high school basketball is where it is at.  Oh, I love UK... and I may stand to be shot if I type this... but there isn't much better than a good high school basketball game.

See, those kids leave it on the floor.  They aren't getting paid, and they aren't looking to be drafted.  They know the meaning of team is family and they stand up for one another. They play for the love of the game.  They hustle and scrap, and for the most part shake hands after it is all over.  Rivalries run strong.  Sometimes, heart means more than talent and hard work truly does win championships.  High school basketball makes me smile. 

As I left Jackson's gym tonight, I couldn't help but think of all of the kids over the years who  have made me smile as I watched them, and sometimes just made me shake my head in disbelief because their skilled performances would mean a loonng night at the Bates house.  Obviously, kids like Kendall and Brittany Moore, because I've known them all their life.  But also kids from other schools, like Savannah Noe, who will bust a three in your face and make  you wish you'd played a little bit closer defense.  Players like Jess Murrell from Owsley, who wasn't that tall but sure didn't care to bump underneath the basket. (OK, that whole basketball team from Owsley made me smile.  I sure do love those girls!) Players like Katie Moore from Leslie who makes it look effortless, and kids like Whitney Creech and those girls from Jenkins tonight who can shoot the lights out of the gym.

And my girls from Jackson.  Ain't nobody got hustle like Ashlee Combs.  Brittany Barnett and that three point shot.  Laura Johnson, who plays for the love of the game and cheers on her teammates, and then hustles when she gets in the game.  Heather Thompson, who has the heart of a lion. Kids like Ashlee Daughtery, who made me smile as I watched her hustle and who is still making me smile as we talked careers and where she is going next.

And my Breathitt girls.. who I'm slowly learning.  It makes me smile to watch Megan Stamper shoot her jumper, and rebound... when you don't even realize what she's doing. She's the quiet player who will kill you if you let her.  Kasey Cox, a force to be reckoned with from behind the line and driving in, where she doesn't care to take the foul and make it count.  Allison Herald and Carissa Hatton, who make it look easy to rebound and put the ball back up.  I smile when Ollie Bates drives into the middle, and when she smiles when she accidentally fouls someone and they end up on the floor. Kayla Gross and her defense... Kaylee Noble, who is coming right along and makes you wish you hadn't fouled  her.  Amy Brewer, whose spunky defense and drives to the basket against girls older than her makes me smile.  And those younger girls.. I can't list them all, but you freshmen, you make me smile because you loved Caleb before we were even down there.

You see, it doesn't really matter if I know them or not.  High school basketball players just make me smile.  I came to this realization on the way home tonight, as I thought about the Jackson/Breathitt boys game.  I sat in that gym tonight slightly sentimental. I watched as one of my favorites, Landry, hustled down the court, drove into the basket, and clapped for his teammates.  The kid has always made me smile, and he did so tonight.  Especially one time, when he came down the floor, slow dribbling, only to meet Wes Noble.  I couldn't help but picture them in my mind, little boys, impish grins on their sun-kissed faces, arms draped around each other's shoulders.  Or picture him with a baseball in his hand, cap slung low over his head, his three year old arms throwing the ball over and over and over to me.  I saw him as a little boy, mad because his brother and cousins wouldn't pass him the ball in the Thanksgiving day flag football game, and then remembered the trick play, where Billy hoisted him on his shoulders and carried him in for the touchdown.  Landry Dale plays with heart and is fiercely competitive, a dangerous combination in high school basketball.

So, if you're not a fan of high school basketball, reconsider.  You'll not get a bigger heart.  You'll not see any game more fun to watch.  And they need your support.  Regardless of whether your team colors are blue and white or purple and gold, we're all winners... because our kids are the best.  The saying "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game" generally doesn't sit well in this house... but tonight, I'm thinking it's spot on.  Thankful for high school basketball... and for the chance to live vicariously through you all.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What I Learned In December

1. The definition of panaceas- a solution to all problems or difficulties. Who knew there was a solution to ALL problems?  I learned this when I had to look this word up while reading an article for class. Of course, it was talking about the Affordable Care Act and healthcare reform, so it is highly debatable that there is a panaceas.

2. Hip replacement parts can be manufactured for around $350, but patients are often charged $13500 for the part when they have surgery.  Also learned this while reading an article, and listening to a webcast.  Sorry I don't have the links.  The information would have been more than too exciting.  If you google this and New York Times, though, you should be able to find it.  Ah... the cost of  healthcare in America.

3. Winter is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. Not being negative. I love Christmas.  I just don't like cold.  Or rain.  And especially not cold, wet, nasty rain.

4.Jamie Grace has Tourette's syndrome.  Wow. Caleb and I saw her in concert and she rocks!!  http://jamiegrace.com/about Love this girl! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPy0ctqMwE0

5. Christmas movies are the best.  Some of my favorites- A Christmas Story, Elf, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation ( I know.. .language... But on ABC family they bleep it out.) National Lampoon was apparently a humor magazine, and the story behind the Vacation movies first appeared there, according to Wikipedia.  It is just too funny.  And Madea's new Christmas movie is another hilarious one. 

6. The building in between the U and the K on the University of Kentucky Logo is the Memorial Hall Bell Tower.  It is a prominent building on campus. What I couldn't figure out was why that is part of their logo.  I did find out, however, that the university's colors were originally Blue and Yellow.  http://www.uky.edu/UKHome/subpages/traditions.html
Somehow, I just can't see Big Blue nation as being blue and yellow. Regardless, Big Blue Nation showed up and we came away with a win over a higher ranked Louisville team.  A good day to be a Kentucky fan.

7. There is nothing as important to a kid as a Christmas party... and Christmas truly is a magical time of year.  I was at Mom's church last night (the 19th) for play practice. They had ran through most of the play, and one of the little girls in the play came flying across the floor, "Dad, Can we go home now?" She said. "I have to brush my teeth and take a bath. I have a Christmas party tomorrow!"
How can you argue with that?

8. A.D.= Anno Domini= The Year of Our Lord.  I knew this... I just forgot it.  A lengthy discussion with my Dad and Kami prompted me to look it up.  So, there you go.

9. There is no day like the last Sunday of the regular season.  As a Steelers fan, I waited with baited breath as I watched my team win, the Bengals win, and the Jets win. The only thing between us and a playoff game was a win by the Chiefs... who rested 19 of their starters and still went into overtime!  What a difference a 40 yard field goal makes... one field goal missed that could seal the deal. Another one made that sent my boys packing for another year.  But Oh, the excitement!!!!

I've loved doing these posts... not sure if you've enjoyed reading them. It's opened my eyes up to look for new things.  One of my goals for the new year? Learn something new every day.  We'll see how that goes. Come back for what I've learned in 2013!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mama's Done Lost It

I submitted my last paper of the semester with over twelve hours to go before the deadline.  Patting myself on the back for that one... but almost lost my mind in the process. And did slightly lose my temper.  Ok, more than slightly...

The law of motherhood goes like this: If you have something important to do, your child will inevitably want to do something else.  At the same time. Right then.

And will throw up in your face how you never want to do anything with them, and how they are just trying to get into the Christmas spirit, and you become so angry you might just explode, because you REALLY need to concentrate on a reference page because you are awful at APA...

At least that is how it is at my house. 

And every word he said was the truth.  He is just a kid.  He is in the Christmas spirit, and it was, in fact, a true tragedy to him that his Christmas tree lights were not working.  And yes, they needed to be fixed RIGHT THEN... because it is a law that Christmas tree lights have to work.  At least to an 11 year old. (And maybe to a 34 year old, who had the same.  exact. argument.  last Tuesday when her beloved red and blue lights no longer lit up.  Ah, the Christmas ornament doesn't fall far from the tree...) As important as getting that last paper finished.. well, that's how important that Christmas tree was to him.

Shame on you, Mommy, for not understanding that until after the fact.

I am far from the perfect mother.  I rely heavily on my in-laws and my  parents to help shuttle Caleb home from school and to events and for nearly everything else.  He is well loved by a core group of people, who I know would go to the end of the world and back to make sure he is well cared for as his Dad coaches and I work and go to school.  I'm not sure how I could ever repay them for all they do for  him, except just love them and thank them.  I hope that even though I don't say it enough, they know just  how much I appreciate them.

I also struggle with feeling guilty because I do spend so much time on this daggone computer.  However, I want Caleb to understand that nothing in life is free and that hard work and dedication does pay off. 

But how do you balance?  How do you somehow fit it all in?  I have examined my priorities and am really trying to do better... but it all comes down to patience, which I have little of.  And making time...

Which you can't really make. 

I think about each holiday that I spend with my grandparents, who are all in their eighties.  I cherish that time, and want Caleb to cherish it, as well... special days full of special memories.  But today, as I sit  here on this couch and ponder my bad attitude, as I watch the ice on the trees melt and the cold rain drizzle down, I realize this...

Today is my only today.  This hour, this minute... it's the last time I'll have it.  Yes, my grandparents aren't promised tomorrow, but neither am I.  Neither is Caleb.  None of us are... our lives are but vapors. 

So our job, our responsibility, our purpose, if you will, isn't about preparing for tomorrow or working toward some pie in the sky dream.  Yes, there is a time and place for that, and I really feel like this doctorate is something I'm supposed to be pursuing, and an example that I need to set for Caleb.

But it is also my purpose to make memories from the mundane, to demonstrate a teachable spirit... to linger in the moment.  Even if it is unscrewing each and every Christmas light.  (Which, by the way did not work.  Thank God for Wallace knowing where a spare set of Christmas lights was.  And the tragedy of MY Christmas tree lights is a whole other story... but that man, even in his impatience, puts up with a lot over Christmas lights.>) .........

So, for now, I'm going to relish in the quiet of this house as Caleb is off with my Dad, on a beaver dam adventure.  And when he gets back, we are going to bake cookies (yes, Caleb.  We will even eat cookies that your Mama bakes.) We may watch a  little TV, or maybe read a little, or perhaps I can get him to work on his speech for Wednesday. 

But I'm going to cherish it.  He won't be eleven forever, good Lord willin".  And twenty years down the road, I won't remember how to write a paper, but I sure will remember that smile.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

#WhyWorry? I'm Surrounded...

I started to write that I'm a natural born worrier.  That really isn't true.  I don't sit around and worry that the sky is going to fall or that someone will get sick.  In fact, Caleb often accuses me of being hard hearted because I don't worry if he has a low grade temperature.  I think that is the nurse coming out in me...

I have been blessed with low anxiety for some things... but then there is a whole other part of my life that I do worry about.  I often worry about things that are apart from my control.  I worry about not being good enough... not being a good enough Mom, wife, friend, teacher, student... you fill in the blanks.  I worry that I don't do enough, or that I do too much.  I worry that I don't know my purpose in life... that this journey is supposed to be some big grand adventure, and most days it really feels like I'm on the same track, going round and round.

And I worry about what other people think.  I've always done this.  Always been a people pleaser, even though inside I was wishing that it really didn't matter to me.

I'm not alone.  In chapter 9 of Renee Swope's book A Confident Heart, she talks about all of the things that we women worry about.  About the what ifs... have you ever done that to yourself?  Or carried on that conversation in your head hours after  you talked to someone, about why you said something so stupid? 

Worry seems to multiply.  It can smother us.  It can suck the life out.  It can keep us paralyzed, afraid to move forward.

But God...

"Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me."

"I look behind me and you’re there,  then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going." The Message

"You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me." HCSB

See, in Psalm 139:5, we're told that God surrounds us.  He's before me.  He's behind me.  The KJV says, "hast beset me." Beset is translated from the Hebrew word meaning "fortify, seige." He's putting a hedge around me... protecting me.

And it surrounds me. This verse tells us He's behind me. He's got my back.  He's before me... He's already been where I'm going.  He has laid His hand upon me... covering me.  Blessing me.

#WhyWorry?  He knows me.  He loves me.  Even if noone else doesn't  (not that I am being melodramatic, because I do have people who love me. But sometimes that worry sets in about not being good enough... and if you have it, too... know that He always thinks you are good enough. YOu are His masterpiece!!!)

In Him, we can  have peace. No worries!!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What I'm Reading in December

Thanksgiving was a glorious time.  I took a Facebook break and read.  And read.  And read some more.  So before I dive into what I'm reading now... let me mention a couple of books that I read in November between my initial post. 

Gabby Douglas's autobiography.  Good read.  Read it in one day.  A little light in the language, written in teen speak... but still good.  Lots of good Bible verses and quotes.  I'm hoping this young athlete clings to that faith.  The Racketeer by John Grisham.  It had been a while since I had read any Grisham.  I remembered really quickly why I loved him so much.  Great book! Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury. Another book I read in a matter of days.  All about a young guy on a show similar to American Idol, and how fame can change people. This one ended... well, I'll not tell you in case you want to read it, but let's just say I would LOVE to see a sequel!!! And then there was The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  A love story... talked about WWII and the Japanese displacement.  I really, really, really liked this one. 

On my Kindle, still reading The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell.  I started this book at the beginning of the year with the intention of reading a chapter a month, and really thinking on it.  Did pretty good until July... so this past week I started over.  I've reread through Chapter 4, and plan to finish it in the next couple of weeks.  It will be finished before the new year =) I'm also reading War Brides, set during WWII.  It looked interesting but so far I've had trouble getting into it.  There are several main characters, and I'm trying to figure them out.  I'm also reading Freedom From Performing.  It is set up like a Bible study, with daily questions, so I'm going to take it as I can and not rush through it.  Love that the first chapter is all about grace, as I finish up this, my year of grace. And I just started Finding Grace, the sequel to O That I Had Wings, which I read last month.

My drive-thru read is The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury.  I haven't started it yet, but it is out in my console waiting on Monday morning.  I love Karen Kingsbury, and this one involves a bookstore, I think... and it is a Christmas book.  Great combo, right? I'm also reading Olive Kitteridge, which seems like a good book so far, but I'm just about 20 pages into it. And then there is The Tired Country Smiles, written by Nola Pease Vandemeer, telling of her work, alongside her husband, in Morris Fork, Kentucky.  It is beautifully written and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I always love reading about Kentucky history...well, any kind of history.

I'm on Chapter 9 in Renee Swope's A Confident Heart.  We'll finish up that Bible study just in time for Christmas.I'm also reading A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet.  It's by Sophie Hudson, the writer of the Boo Mama blog, best friend to Melanie Shankle, who wrote Sparkly Green Earrings.  This book is about real life anecdotes about "faith, family, and fifteen pounds of bacon." Good stuff, there.  I mean... a book with Bacon in the title has to be good, right? 

And my to read list... which just keeps growing and growing.  Starry Night by Debbie Macomber.  The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.  Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly.  Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker... so much to read.  So little time. 

As always, comment below with any suggestions for me. After all, Christmas break is coming up and I am always looking for a few good reads =)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

What I Learned in November

1. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/what-word-contains-the-five-vowels-a-e-i-o-u-in-the-right-order
We had a guest speaker at the Jackson Woman's Club meeting from Kentucky Monthly Magazine and he said that the word  facetious had a claim to fame- the only word in the English language with all five vowels in correct order. According to Oxford Dictionary, there are a few others... but this is the only one I've ever heard. 
2. How lobbyist got its name- http://www.welovedc.com/2009/06/09/dc-mythbusting-lobbyist-coined-at-willard-hotel/
In my policy class, we discussed lobbying during the November session, and my professor told us the origin of the word lobbyist.  According to story, Ulysses S. Grant used to like to go to the lobby of the Willard Hotel and smoke cigars and drink.  While there, he would be aggravated by men wanting legislative favors.  He termed them "lobbyists".  However, according to the website above, lobbyist was used long before then... It's thought that it was used as early as 1640 in the British parliament.  Interesting stuff, I know. 

3. The picture of the Newsboys cover for "God's Not Dead" was actually a real picture from when Titanic sunk. Caleb Bates showed me this... he has an amazing memory.  He is also slightly obsessed with Titanic history, and he was leafing through a book and saw the image.  Which led to us googling the other image.  And there you have it.

 4. Nothing stays the same.  Ok, this is another case where I knew that... but I was reminded of it this Thanksgiving.  Every year for at least the past 10 years, the guys in my Mom's family gather to have the annual Turkey Bowl. This year, it was freezing cold and there was snow on the ground...and they bypassed tradition.  Some of them felt too old. Landry has been sick and was not allowed to play.  And it was a little sad... but they made up for it by pulling out a classic and watching it, from 2004.  Where Caleb is only two, and he's loudly proclaiming he wants to go , "Outkide.  Mine wants to go outkide." He wants to go outside to watch, "The Bocats.  Mine watch Bocats." And it might have slightly broken this Mama's heart to see that cheesy grin when the camera switched to his face.
Another break in tradition?  Southern Lights... we usually go on Thursday night, but this year we waited to go until Friday.  I ran into Barnes and Noble to pick up a book, heard someone call my name, and got to see my best childhood friend, Olivia.  His timing is good.  I also got to go out and see her grown-up Sophie, who has a great personality, and her precious bundle of joy Abram.  So, breaking tradition isn't that bad, because if we had went on Thursday I wouldn't have gotten to chat with her.  And we are going to get together in December... because it has been WAY too long!!!

5. Once you have a best friend, it kind of stays that way.  Those few minutes in the parking lot at Barnes and Noble... catching up... well, we can chat just like we saw each other yesterday.  So many memories!

6. I really love basketball.  I forget how much I miss it until it starts back again.  Oh, sure, I'll complain and gripe about late nights and endless talk of plays and stats and scouting... but I love it.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

7. I am slightly addicted to Facebook.  I took a break and it has been kind of nice.  I did notice that the first day, I caught myself thinking in terms of facebook statuses.  I think we have all kind of gotten like this, if we use social media at all.  My break was good for me.  I caught up on some reading, and sleep... lots of sleep.  I'm fired up to get back to work and school and finish up this semester. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

He Loves Me Anyway

Condemnation... such a heavy word. 

I can feel it on my shoulders.  Condemnation makes it hard to take a full, deep breath.

Condemnation is paralyzing.  It stops me in my tracks.  Keeps me from moving on.  Keeps me from moving at all...stuck.

And condemnation isn't from God.

Condemnation involves judgment, and while God is all about judgment, He is also about love.

And no one else has the right to judge you.  Not your parents.  Not your spouse.  Not your boss or coworker.  And really, not yourself.  And that goes for condemnation, too.

We've been reading about condemnation in Renee Swope's A Confident Heart. Actually, we read about it last week... but I've been so preoccupied.  But I'm not going to beat myself up for not posting sooner. After all, our key verse was There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.

Today, on the way home from work, You Loved Me Anyway by the Sidewalk Prophets came on.  I've always really liked that song, but today key words really spoke to me. As I thought about condemnation... I thought of Christ headed to that cross.  The sins of the world literally on His back, as He nailed them to the cross.  He packed a heavy wooden cross not meant for Him.  He, the Son of God, the Word that spoke the earth into being, stumbled under the weight... the physical weight, but dare I say, the weight of all of that sin and shame?  Because we've already established it is so heavy.  He took on the shame. 

" I am the thorn in Your crown,  But You love me anyway
 I am the sweat from Your brow,  But You love me anyway
 I am the nail in Your wrist,  But You love me anyway
 I am Judas’ kiss,  But You love me anyway
 See now, I am the man that called out from the crowd
 For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
 Yes then, I turned away with this smile on my face
 With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
 And then alone in the night, I still called out for You
 So ashamed of my life, my life, my life
 But You love me anyway" Sidewalk Prophets

 The part that hit me... tried to bury your grace. Don't I do that all the time? Fill myself full of shame until His grace is covered up. Burying His grace... grace so freely given.  No condemnation... only grace. And even as we sling mud over His love, He loves us anyway. 


Monday, November 4, 2013

What I'm Reading In November

I'm not getting to read nearly enough as I like.  Daggone work and school =) Anyway... I am counting down the days until Christmas break, when I plan to do absolutely nothing but lay under the covers and read... and attend a few basketball games. 

So, before I dive into what I'm reading right now, let me recommend something I read at the end of October, I Still Believe, by Jeremy Camp. I read it in three days... and it would have been less than that if I didn't fall asleep!!! Sat up until 130 in the AM the first day I started and read over half of the book.  Jeremy's wife died only a few months into their marriage, and he has since used her story as a huge testimony for Christ, which is the basis of the book.  Awesome!

On my Kindle, still reading The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell.  Haven't read any of it since July... but I will finish it this year. =) I'm also reading Don't Make me Come Up There: Quiet Moments for Busy Moms.  It's a devotional book by Kristen Welch, and is true life and very, very funny.  I'm reading Oh, That I Had Wings by Sarah Pawley, a book that follows a young boy and his little sister in WWI era times.  I just started The End of Boys, a memoir. 

My drive-thru read is Into the Dark by Alison Gaylin.  I read the first book in this series a few months ago.  It's about a private investigator who can remember everything that has ever happened to her, including sensatsions, taste, thoughts... very interesting.  I'm reading Notorious Nineteen in the Stephanie Plum series and am almost finished with What Alice Forgot, which is about an almost forty-year old who hits her head and forgets the last ten years of her life. When she comes to, she finds she has not only the child she thinks she is pregnant with (who is now ten), but two other kids, and is going through a divorce.  Very good read. 

I"m reading The Ragamuffin Gospel and A Million Little Ways, trying to read a chapter a night.  Both are great books.  Much talk about grace and acceptance and learning to love yourself.  I'm also on Chapter 6 of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.

And my to read list... which just keeps growing and growing.  Gabby Douglas's autobiography.  Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, The Racketeer, ... oh, I could go on and on.  And then there's the books I wanted to read last month that are already downloaded on my Kindle... Grace by Max Lucado and Unconditional by Eva Marie Everson. 

As always, comment below with any suggestions for me. After all, Christmas break is coming up and I am always looking for a few good reads =)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What I Learned in October

1. The origin of open sesame- Apparently, open sesame is debated.  I always thought it was "Open, sesame", but during an interesting discussion following class one day, googled it, because one of my students said it was actually "Open, says me." And I was right... but she was, too... because Popeye actually said, "Open, says me" in a cartoon.  The original phrase comes from Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.

2. Ariel and Hercules are cousins. Yes, Ariel, The Little Mermaid, and Hercules, the lesser known Disney cartoon. If mythology is taken into consideration, she and Hercules are related: Hercules’s father is Zeus; Poseidon is a brother of Zeus; one of Poseidon’s many sons is Triton; and, of course, Ariel is Triton’s seventh daughter. This means Hercules is Triton’s first cousin, and Ariel is Hercules’s cousin once removed.

3. You can change the size of your text messages on your Iphone.  You might have already known this, but for those who are visually impaired such as me, this is a good feature.  It only changes things like text messages, but it's much easier for me to read.  To do this, go to Settings, then General, then Accesibility

4. Toby Mac's real name is Kevin.  I didn't know that.  I did know that he was a member of DC Talk as was the lead singer for the Newsboys... but I had to look it up to verify for Caleb.

5. OK, I didn't learn this, but I am learning it.  The last two months of October have been rough.  Here it is November 3rd, and I'm just now posting this.  I've been behind on homework.  Behind on work.  Tired and stressed out.  Disappointed in so many things.

And it just isn't worth it.  As I've said in several posts previously, all of this stuff is just temporary. I've got Heaven waiting on me... but I can't live in defeat in the here and now.  No matter how difficult things seem, I just need to look to Jesus.  And you do, too. 

So, no recap of all of my goals for this year, because in most of them I've given up... but I'm slowly realizing that self-improvement is for the birds.  I can't do it myself... but He can.  I just have to open my heart up and embrace grace, be willing to give love. 

Which isn't so easy. 

But His grace is sufficient. And if I've learned anything in October, that would be it.  His grace is sufficient.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Purpose of Just Being

How has it been over two weeks since I've written here?  Two weeks!

And it's pretty much been the same ol', same ol'. Work.  Lecture.  Clinical. Friday night football. Reading. Nothing exciting.

Been doing a lot of thinking.  I'm reading A Million Little Ways, talking about finding art in your everyday life, and how all of us are artists in our own way...

Except I'm not an artist.  Never have been.  And I totally didn't think this book was for me...

Except we are art. We are His creation. We are His art, art breathing.

We all have a purpose.  As I'm rushing around, crazy` chaos, trying to just exist, I'm telling a story. 

And this week I've been thinking about what that story is, and how it reads, and how it affects others.  Some days I feel like I do really, really good... and then there are other days.

Days like I've had most of the past week.  And probably days like you've had sometimes, too. 

When you wonder just what it is that you are supposed to be doing.  What is the meaning to all of this? And it would be really nice if there was a burning bush or a voice in the middle of the night calling your name, except let's face it... we'd probably pee on ourselves if that happened. But a neon sign flashing, "You're on the right track..." or "Turn around now" would be nice.

But what I'm thinking tonight, and this is deep, y'all... What if this is it? I mean, not like eternally it, because I know this is temporary. But what if that whole big "purpose" is just what I'm doing... laughing with Caleb and smiling at the stranger in the grocery store and taking big deep breaths when I don't feel like I'm getting any air and worshipping as I'm driving down the road or walking on the treadmill...

What if the story I'm telling isn't so much about what I'm doing and what I'm accomplishing and how I'm feeling... but what if is about the other people I run across, that I don't even know their name?  So many of Jesus's story were about those who aren't even named.. because ultimately, His story, His time on earth, was about His Father.

And as I've been thinking that, as these words have been pouring out onto the screen, suddenly I can breathe a little easier... because if it's not about me, well, what I do doesn't matter so much... because if I can ever learn just to hand it all over, just to wring myself out and give it up, quit striving... well, He moves in, and He starts doing.. and I can just be.

Be art. Be a Mama. Be a wife.  Be a student.  Be a reader of His Word. Be loved and cherished and redeemed and forgiven and enough...

Because He is more than enough. And His grace is sufficient.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Isaiah 49:23 We will Not Be Disappointed

Sometimes it feels like I'm fresh out of  hope. 

It's a rainy day today here in the bluegrass, and as I drag myself out to the car what I'd really like to do is just go back to bed.

And it's been a good week... but sometimes we just get worn out. 

I'm thinking back to the middle of summer... where it is so hot and dry and the grass is starting to turn brown.

Sometimes that's how I feel, even as I check off my to do list and meet with students and hug Caleb and take popsicles to the ball girls.

Dry. Drab.  Thirsty...

This week in the P31 OBS of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart, we're reading chapters 1 and 2.  Our verse for the week comes from Isaiah 49:23b, which says (NIV): Then you will know that I am the Lord those who hope in me will not be disappointed.

Just looking at this verse gives me pause.  If I hope in Him, I will not be disappointed.  Hope is a confident expectation.  If you are expecting something, you can't doubt that it will occur- you know it, you look for it to happen. 

By putting our hope in Him, we will not be disappointed... will not be let down, will not have our dreams smashed.

The King James Version, which is my primary study Bible, says it a little different.  "and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me."

The word wait there translates to hope... waiting with expectation.  Ashamed can be translated as "disappointed"... but it also had another translation.  The Hebrew Word can also be translated as "to be made dry."

When grass is dry, it is dead in the heat of summer.  When creeks are dry, there can be no life.  When the well is dry, all you get is dust. 

I don't want to be dry.  I want to be alive, full of hope, free from disappointment, even on my darkest days.

How do we do this?  Well, we hope in God, because He will not allow us to be dry.  Today's reading was from Chapter 2, which touched on the story of the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4.  "I'll give you living water.  You'll thirst no more." (my paraphrase). 

The Samaritan woman was thirsting for something.  I'm thirsting for something.  You're thirsting for something, because we were made to be in relationship with the One and Only God.  We try to fill our insatiable thirst for that one thing with people and jobs and possessions and tasks and books... but all that does is sap out our life, our water, and we become dry, brittle, and dead.  But He wants to fill us.  He wants to offer us living water. His living water gives us hope, and we will not be disappointed.
. P31 OBS Blog Hop

Monday, October 7, 2013

Happy Birthday Kami and Al!

Tonight on the way home I was reflecting about the stories of our lives.  There are some stories that I never get tired of telling.  Stories about when I drove the car down Picnic Hill, or when Caleb rode the ice cream truck at Myrtle Beach, or about when Wallace wrecked and how scared I was.

And then there's the story of the explosion in the Clemons Clan. 

And in case you haven't heard it, let me enlighten you.

Twenty years ago, my Aunt Nora was pregnant.  She had been telling us for a while.  Gentry was two or three and it was time for her to expand her family.  She was the baby, and we were all excited.

My Mom, the oldest sibling, had two daughters already, and Billy had already moved in with us.  I was a pouty teenager and Holly was her happy go lucky Indian loving self.

And then she called a family meeting, where she announced tearfully that she was pregnant.  She was a little nervous. After all, I was thirteen.  Holly was seven.  Mom was forty. 

 That  evening, Mom began calling everyone and telling them the good news.  She called Aunt Dana, who said she was heading to the doctor the next day... and Aunt Lisa refused to drink the water at Grandma Na's for a while.

So, fast forward seven months or so.  Mom had already scheduled her C-section for October 8th.  Nora wasn't due for two more weeks but she wasn't going to let Mom beat her.  She called to say she was headed to Lexington.  Alaxandra Gabrielle Hays was born into this world to that long name that we soon shortened to Al (which, by the way, is NOT a girls name... inside joke and a story for another time).  About two hours later Kami Elizabeth made her debut.  Nora had won the race and the two sisters were roommates. The Clemons Clan took over Central Baptist, or at least that room. 

The next morning, Jen and I were dropped off at Rupp Arena where we stood in line for Garth Brooks tickets.  We bought an extra one, and gave it to Nora for all of her hard labor (remember, we were 14 and 16 and needed a ride to the concert).  I don't know which I was more excited about... the tickets or my baby sister.

By Christmas time, Dana had Brayton and plans were made to knock down a couple of walls in Grandma and Grandpa's house. 

Yep, one of my favorite stories... and I'll probably tell it again next year.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Struggle

I'll be the first to admit that I like life easy. Way easy. I've often joked that if I had been born in an earlier generation, I never would have made it... only that's not really a joke. Give me my electricity, my DVR, my vehicles so I don't have to walk, and my drive-thru restaurants.

  Convenience. In our society, we've grown accustomed to a hurry up response. I'm incredibly impatient. Just watch me on Tuesday morning, my first day back in the office after the weekend and a day at clinical. Is it just me, or do the few minutes it takes my computer to boot up take forever? Which leads me to click and click and click and eventually lock up the system.

I've been blessed, and I know it. While I was never a stellar student, I was always able to do just enough to get by... until nursing school, when I learned the definition of hard work. Even then, though, I struggled through and persevered...

And writing papers has always been my niche... until this semester. And this finance class is a struggle. Two semesters ago I had a class called biostatistics that was hard. The name of the class just sounds hard. I knew it was going to be difficult going into it, and so I worked and complained and worked and complained, but by the grace of God and a teacher who assigned grades on a very steep curve, I managed to get an A. Now, with this finance class, I can see my 4.0 GPA sliding down the slippery slope... and today I got very frustrated.

And last night, I spilled milk on my computer and the top row of letters are now frozen, you know, those important ones like e, r, t... And I got on gradebook and saw I had gotten a 75% on my last assignment for finance, and I realized how life is a series of ups and downs. A 75%? Seriously? After all the time and effort I spent on that assignment? And now my computer won't work, and I have just kept... gaining... weight. Which really has nothing to do with anything, except I have pushed exercise to the back burner as I worked on papers and assignments and all this other stuff...

So today, as Pastor Kemper preached about an eternal hope, I read a familiar verse. Romans 5:3-5, " Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

The struggles we meet are temporary. Earthly. This class will pass. I'll get my computer fixed or settle for using Wallace's every now and then. If we can remember this, that struggle is temporary, it helps us fix our eyes on what is eternal... the hope of Jesus Christ, and this hope, produced from us modeling our character after Christ and allowing Him to manifest through us by His fruits, will help us struggle through our temporary burdens. If we don't fix our focus on Him, we become an enemy of the Cross. When I am concentrating on my struggles, my classes and my weight gain and the fact that I have been inconvenienced by a lack of my own computer, it takes away the joy that allows others to come to know Christ through us. This is described in Philippians 3:19, "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things." The enemy of Christ... their god is their stomach. This verse stuck out to me today because of my struggles. Not just food, but the insatiable need to be filled... filled with wordly things. Focusing on earthly things, everything but where it should be.

So tonight I'm glorying in my sufferings. My computer not working meant that I watched Caleb jump on the trampoline and read some and took a nap with Wallace and watched football. I forced myself to do an hour on the treadmill. I'm looking up verses on wisdom and am renewing my focus... even if it means it is a struggle.

His grace is sufficient... even for financial management.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What I'm Reading in October

If I could choose one day to spend exactly how I'd like to spend it, it would probably include some Cheesecake Factory.  Or perhaps Papa Johns Pizza.  A long nap. And, of course, a book.  While I can dream of relaxing the day away, I'm indulging in a few good reads when I can get a few minutes.  What I'm reading right now...

On my Kindle, I'm still reading Auschwitz: A New History. I started it in August, and am over halfway through it.  I'm learning a lot and realizing there is a lot I didn't know about the Holocaust.  The class systems, even in a concentration camp, and how things were planned for a final extermination is really quite scary.  It is a deep and thought-provoking book.  I'm also reading Angel, by Mary E. Kingsley.  This book is set in Tennessee during the Vietnam War era, and follows a 13 year old on her path to find answers to questions about her life and those she loves.  It's an easy read, no big words or complicated language, and I'm liking it so far.  I'm also reading The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell.  I had planned to read a chapter or two of that a month to read it throughout the year, but that's not worked out the best, so I am resolved to finish it up this month.  , 

I'm reading The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman; I started it last month and it is just getting good.  I kind of hated to get out of the bathtub last night and stop reading! I started Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews as well.  Set in Nags Head, it's really making me wish I was in the Outer Banks, or at least at a beach somewhere.  I love reading books set in places I'm a little familiar with... it helps me picture in my mind what's going on.  My drive-thru read is The Inn at Rose Harbor.  I love Debbie Macomber.  That's all.  Her writing style is easy to read and her characters are true to life.  I'd like to visit Cedar Cove, except it rains a lot there and I really don't care much for rain.

Two nights ago I downloaded Beth Moore's digital pass for her simulcast from Sept. 14th.  I knew she was speaking on grace, which is my word of the year.  30 minutes in, she started talking about Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel, a book I've had in my bookshelf for several months.  I got it off the shelf and have been reading a chapter a night, highlighting and making notes.  And it's good.  I'll also be starting Jesus the One and Only Monday and A Confident Heart by Renee Swope October 13th.  I've already got it downloaded and will probably start reading early =)

And my to read list... which just keeps growing and growing.  I'm  planning on finishing the Nicole Baart trilogy, Beneath the Night Tree.  Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich.  What Alice Forgot.  Jeremy Camp's autobiography.  Gabby Douglas's autobiography.  Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker... oh, I could go on and on.  And then there's the books I wanted to read last month that are already downloaded on my Kindle... Grace by Max Lucado and Unconditional by Eva Marie Everson. 

As always, comment below with any suggestions for me. I may not read them until this time next year but I'll definitely look into them. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September in Review

Today I turned the calendar to October, and sat there gazing out my window at the trees starting to change colors.  This week is Caleb's fall break and next week is ours (even though I will probably work.), and then it is midterm, and the semester is downhill from there.  I'm amazed, absolutely amazed that it has gone by so quickly.  It seriously seems like yesterday that I was writing my goals for 2013.  I've done pretty much nothing that I sat out to do, but it's still been a good year so far, and with three months left, I have no doubt it will end on a high note.  So... here we go with my monthly review.  

While still not exercising consistently, I am managing three or four days a week on the treadmill.  No weight loss, and in fact I might have even gained a little... but I'm moving.  I'm just going to keep on keeping on. 

Bible reading and memorization... ok, let's be honest. I've slacked off on memorization. Haven't opened my Chronological Bible... I'm reading Ephesians and yesterday it was just what I needed to read.  Starting Jesus the One and Only next week, and then A Confident Heart by Renee Swope on October 13th.  I also bought Beth More's Simulcast recording and am looking forward to this weekend.. it's on Romans 5, talking about that one word... grace =)

Blogs and pictures... Have just.  about. quit.  This month I'm resolved to do better... starting tonight.  

I read 9 books in September for a total of 86 books... I've reached my goal on one thing, at least.  More on reading in another blog.  Been slow on my counting gifts... 28 things I'm thankful for in a day (10,000 in a year's time), so I'm taking her up on it this month.

Sleep... Doing better. Getting about 7 hours a night. Still struggling with getting up early, but it is what it is.

Grace.  2013... I've needed it.  I've gave it, some.  It is what it is... and I'm going to keep on pressing on, to the best of my ability.. living, and improving a little each day.  Isn't that what it's about, anyway?  =)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

He Knows My Name

When I had Caleb, the naming part was easy.  Wallace was a family name, so I knew that I'd have to use it somewhere.  I had loved the name Caleb for as long as I can remember.  Caleb means "whole-hearted" or "faithful"... and I wanted a name that would represent strong character.  So, Wallace Caleb it was...

It's sometimes confusing having two Wallaces.  Even though I don't think of Caleb as a Wallace, each year he has to make sure his teachers know he goes by "Caleb".  When we register at the doctor's office, I sometimes have to stop and think why they would be yelling for Wallace when he isn't even with us.  Adding to the confusion is the popularity of the name Caleb.  Most years, there has been another Caleb in his class.  When we went on vacation with the Spencers this summer, we had to resort to calling the Calebs by last name, because it would get very confusing when we'd yell, "Caleb". 

Confusing... kind of like when you try to read through the genealogies in the Bible.  This week, in our OBS In the Gap study, we talked about Mary Magdalene.  It's kind of hard to keep those Mary's straight in the Bible, and is even more confusing when you think of how they must have sometime traveled together...

But Jesus knew.  And God the Father knew.  Just as He knows who Caleb is, and who I am.

He knows my name.  In fact, He knew my name before I was ever born.  He knows the number of hairs on my  head and my needs before I ask.  I am engraved on the palm of His hand... so He can never forget me.

Our God is a personal God.  I often think of how He died for the sins of the world, and then think of the story of the one lost lamb. 

He would have faced Calvary for me.  Just for me.  Just for you.  Because to Him, we are more than just a collection.  We're an individual, and He died so that we can have a personal relationship with Him.  If you haven't yet made that decision, He's calling.  He's beckoning,   He's holding out His hand, the same one that was nailed to a cross, the same one that has your name on it.  You may not know Him personally, but He knows everything about you. And He loves you anyway.  All you have to do is reach out, grab that hand, and say, "Forgive me.  I need you. "

You don't even have to introduce yourself.  He already knows your name. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

What I Learned in September

1.  Deep fried Twinkies are out of this world.  The Ladycats had a booth for the Honey Festival and I got firsthand knowledge of how to mix funnel cake batter and fry those delicious delicacies up (although I would be lying to say I really worked much in the booth.  Mostly I just stood around and handed pop into the booth and hauled stuff and gave Caleb money to waste.) On the last day of the festival the deep fried twinkie idea was attempted.  I may seem un-American when I say I don't even like Twinkies normally, but deep fried with some powdered sugar on top?  Yes, please.

2. The Untold Story of Bad Tom Smith- Bad Tom Smith has been a legend in Bloody Breathitt, the only man ever to be hung for his crimes.  His hanging was the social event for miles around.  I had heard of Bad Tom Smith all my life, but the documentary that The Shouse brothers worked on that was shown at the Honey Festival was great.  Never knew it was all part of a political feud... but hey, it is Eastern Kentucky.

3. Teepees are really tipis? 
Yes.  Google it if you don't believe me. You'd think I would have realized this much earlier on, considering Holly's fascination with Indians when she was little (yes, my little sister was the kindergartener who said, "When I grow up, I want to be an Indian.") but I did not realize it until I was helping Caleb look up information for his Indian project and there it was. 

4. You can pierce almost any body part... but your uvula?  Seriously?
This interesting bit of information came as I was lecturing on physical assessment.  One of my students enlightened me to this fact, and even pulled up a you tube video.  I'll not post it here, because you'll never think the same when your doctor tells you to open up and say ah.  And for those of you who might not have known, your uvula is that little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat. Why would you even want that pierced?

5. Fruit or vegetable?
"The following are technically fruits: avocado, beans, peapods, corn kernels, cucumbers, grains, nuts, olives peppers, pumpkin, squash, sunflower seeds and tomatoes. Vegetables include celery (stem), lettuce (leaves), cauliflower and broccoli (buds), and beets, carrots and potatoes (roots)." http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fruit-vegetable-difference/MY02201
Educated by Miss Chezney Booth... although I knew a tomato was a fruit, I would have never thought of a pumpkin being a fruit, but then again, you do make pumpkin pie.

Linking up with Emily Freeman at www.chattingatthesky.com

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Feels Like Monday

 "Mom, today feels like Monday all over again."- said Caleb, as we walked out to the car this morning.

And it did.  I'm not a morning person, so I rolled out of bed and we were almost late... again. 

But as we walked down the hallway to the cafeteria, Caleb's hand found mine, and he held my hand the rest of the way.  And before I left, a rare kiss on the cheek... right there in public. 

Suddenly, my day that felt like Monday wasn't quite so bad. And I looked up to see this glorious view.

 A much needed day in my office allowed me to get caught up on grading. 

I checked off much of my never ending to do list, and even was able to leave in time to pick Caleb up from school.  Rode home with my windows down, music blaring from my phone, some good stuff like Killing Me Softly by The Fugees and I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons, and, of course, a little Pearl Jam.

Pizza with Caleb, a little fighting over math homework (No, Caleb, Siri can not tell you the answers to your addition problems. You need to work them out yourself.) Peek-a-boo with Will.  A little reading. A good walk on the treadmill, a nice long bath, and bedtime to work on homework myself.

Yep, been a pretty good day. 

For a Tuesday that felt like Monday when we first got up =)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Anna- Spreading Redemption

It's amazing what you can learn from just a few Bible verses. 

This week, I'm participating in a Bible study just for those in small Facebook groups for Proverbs 31 Online Bible studies.  These Real Life In the Gap studies were established to keep those participating in the Word in between studies.  This week, we looked at the life of Anna, found in only three short verses. 

Anna was a prophetess, meaning she told the truth. And tell the truth she did.  Her truth-telling allowed her to see Jesus, as a small baby... and she recognized Him as the King. 

The King.

Anna was faithful. She was elderly, and had been a widow for many years.  She never left the temple.  Never.  She spent her time praying and fasting.

Boy, could I learn from Anna.  And I did.  I saw that she had her priorities in line. She knew what was important.  She was close to God... she would have had to have been, all that time praying.  She saw Him as being enough, and after her husband died, I can't help but think that God became her companion.

Anna hoped.  She hoped for a King.  She hoped for a purpose.

If I could sit Anna down, I'd love to know how it felt to look upon Jesus.  To recognize in that little boy the redemption of the whole world.  Her personal redemption.  What did she pray about while she was praying all that time? Was she ever lonely, and if she was, was her comfort in God?

I can't help but think that when we get to Heaven, one of the things God is going to let us do is get the answers from those we read about in the Bible, our inspirations.  Wow... can you just imagine how big God's coffeeshop may be?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Mercy

"Mercy, no."  "Lord, have mercy."

Mercy in a football game.  A merciful death. Mercy that I don't deserve...

My one word this year is grace.  Grace and mercy go hand in hand.  To be honest, I get the two mixed up, and since I only have five minutes, I'm not going to stop and look up the definitions.  I just know that you have to have one to get the other... or rather, you have to be given one to receive the other.

Mercy is a gift.  It is a pardon.  It is letting go.

It's hard. 

As I've worked on grace this  year, I've  had to forgive in some somewhat difficult situations.  I've had to ask God for mercy... for myself, for others, because I can't do it on my own.

I am not very merciful.  I like to hold grudges.  I like to seek revenge.

But He is. 

Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King.  His mercies endure forever. 

This phrase is repeated... in the psalms, in other books in the Old Testament, too many times to count.  Often, it is translated as love.

And mercy is full of love. Mercy must come from love, true mercy.  Or compassion...

When a team is mercied in a game, it means the clock keeps running.  The score is so bad that it is recognized that they most likely will nto be able to win, so the clock keeps running and they keep playing...
and when mercy is given to us, it is because we were so far gone that we had no hope, but God looked down on us, and seeing us in our need, even before we took our first breath, made a way that we could hope.

His mercy changes everything. 

This week, I've been reading in Ephesians... and two words stood out to me.  But God...

But God in His mercy, loved me anyway. 

His GRace is sufficient... and His mercy endures forever.

Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker at her blog for Five Minute Fridays, where we write unedited for five minutes.  Love this community!
Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hearts at Rest

It's 1130 at night and I really should be asleep.  I missed my quiet time this morning because the snooze button on my phone just kept hitting itself... but at least I am physically in the bed.

There's nothing like being in the bed at night.  Or in the morning, for that matter.  I have to confess, I'm kind of in love with my bed.  And that's ok... until it gets to be more than my love for God.

In fact, it's okay to love a lot of things, but they become wrong when we put them in front of God.  And don't we do that often?

A word has been coming to my mind lately... two words, actually. Earlier this week, I wrote about the condition of the heart, and how God is into heart surgery.  I've really been thinking a lot about my heart, as I finish up What Happens When Women Say Yes to God and begin to look ahead to A Confident Heart.

Don't we all want a confident heart? And don't we all want a heart willing to say yes, to respond without hesitation?

I have good intentions with that... just like I have good intentions with getting up in the morning to do my quiet time.  Which I don't do if I stay up too late reading my financial management book or playing Candy Crush or losing myself in whatever novel I am reading. 

My good intentions go out the window when I don't get enough rest...and the snooze button just keeps going off, every nine minutes, until I roll out of bed in just enough time to get Caleb to school right before the bell rings.

This word, rest, seems to go along with heart... because our heart is reflective of what we really are, and let's face it, when we go without rest, our heart sometimes gets dingy.  Tonight in Bible study, we were talking about Heaven, the land of eternal rest... and that word just kept coming up again and again. 

Rest from our labors.  Rest in peace.  An eternal rest.

Over 300 times is the word rest found in the Bible (I did a word search on www.biblegateway.com, using the NLT translation).  Most of the time, it means a word that I need.  To rest.. stop, pause, refresh, rejuvenate... and the other times, it means a remainder.  And what hit me as I looked over those verses... we can't have the remainder, the rest of what God has to offer us, if we can't learn to rest, to pause.

Our hearts can't fully get the rest of His promises if we don't pause to appreciate what we have.
Our hearts can't understand the rest (completion) of His love if we are constantly going 100 miles an hour.

Just as we physically need rest, our hearts need rest.  We need to pause in the middle of whatever emotional endeavor we are undergoing and bask in Him. 

Hearts at rest, knowing that He is in control, and His grace is sufficient. P31 OBS Blog Hop

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Heart Surgery

This morning, Caleb informed me, "I was in a good mood until I woke up."

I know how he feels.

Sometimes, it takes everything within in us to swing our feet over the side of the bed and trek into the bathroom to start getting ready.

Sometimes, it's easier to pull the covers up over our heads and hide. 

Sometimes, as soon as we open our eyes, it is all there... all the ugly negativity and junk we bring on ourselves.

When a person has a sick heart, like after they've had a heart attack or when they have congestive heart failure, one of the symptoms is shortness of breath and fatigue, because the heart can't pump effectively to circulate blood throughout their bodies... oxygenated blood that tissues need to stay alive.

They are tired. Want to stay in bed. Can barely put one foot in front of the other.

And it is the same way when our hearts are sin-sick.  We don't have energy, don't have passion, just want to hide away and leave things the way they've always been.

Being comfortable is easy. 

Today my pastor spoke about being unconcerned with the condition of the world, being unconcerned with the condition of our hearts.  He talked about how Jesus was compassionate for others, and we should be, too... we should be concerned and love like Jesus. 

Too often, though, our hearts just aren't in the shape to love.  Dirty with selfish ambitions and pride and bitterness and anger, sooty with all of this sin, even as we sing our worship songs and declare that Jesus is Lord...

Tonight, I read the next to last lesson in David: A Heart Like His.  In order to have a heart like God's we have to give it up to Him.  That's not easy.  We have to bend our knees and bow our head and recognize that maybe we don't have all the answers. Recognize that we are always in need of grace and that means that other people are, too.  We have to be willing to praise, even when we don't feel like it, and to step away from our comfort zone.

And I realized that my heart needed a little bit of work... because sin is sin and pride and unforgiveness both classify as just that.  I can't truly embrace His purpose for me if I'm not filled up with Him, and I can't be filled up with Him if I'm full of my own bitterness, even if I cover it up with a smile on my face.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I'm wrapping up one study and getting ready to move into A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  I've read the book once before, and I think God has big plans for this study... for my heart.  I just have to let Him wash it and make it pure.  I have to embrace whatever He has planned for me and recognize that His heart is only good, and His plans for me can only be good because of that.

And then I logged on facebook and scrolled through my newsfeed, and this verse that a friend had posted jumped off the screen at me. "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."(NIV) Proverbs 4:23

So tonight I'm thanking God that He does heart surgery... and that His grace is sufficient. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

I'm overwhelmed tonight as I write this.  Overwhelmed that God has given me another year, another month, another birthday.  Overwhelmed by the love that has been shown to me.  Overwhelmed... because I am so insignificant, yet so many people have gone out of their way to make me feel differently.

Today my DNP class sang me Happy Birthday.  One of my classmates turned around and said, "You're only 21, right?", to which I responded, "21 and holding."

I've been thinking about that response all evening... as I hugged Caleb hello, as I sat around the campfire with Mom and Dad, as I looked through a box of old pictures looking for a picture of my tee-ball team for a friend.

I've heard about a lot of people having trouble turning 30... and I really didn't.  And to be truthful, I'm happy I've been blessed with 34 years.  I can't help but think that I'll be just as happy when I turn 40... and I can only hope that I can make it to be as old as my grandparents.  So, in honor of my 34th birthday, I'm giving you 34 reasons I have to be thankful.  Hopefully, you'll be able to say some of these same things.  And as I'm writing these, I'm reflecting and praying for a high school classmate of mine, in the hospital in Lexington on life support, fighting against something... maybe bacterial meningitis.  Join me in praying for Ravin and her family... and celebrate the life that we have been given, day by day.

1. God's love, redemption, and grace.
2. Two of the best parents a girl could ask for. Seriously.  My Mom and Dad have always been there for me, and I hope that I can demonstrate only half the character they have.  And also two of the most amazing in-laws a girl could ever wish for.  Helen and William love me like I'm their own daughter, and take care of Caleb so that I can work, go to school, and do all kinds of other things for me.  Caleb is truly blessed to have such great grandparents loving him!
3.  Books.  My kindle. Being able to read. 
4. Four awesome, Godly grandparents, who have provided me with true examples of what love and faithfulness is.
5.  Good friends.
6.  Cheddar's for dinner last night.
7. Seven years at my job.  My students.  The chance to make a difference.
8. Football.
9.  My treadmill, and the ability to walk, even though I don't necessarily like it all the time.
10. A ten year old that makes me laugh every day of my life... and also exasperates me, as well.  Life definitely changed when I was 23, and I thank God for him every.  single.  day.
11.  My almost 11 month old nephew Will, who is learning to walk and learning to get into Caleb's stuff. 
12.  Diet Coke.
13. Bubble baths, and lots of Bath and Body Works to go around.
14. Fourteen years of marriage to a wonderful guy.  We've had our shares of ups and downs, but I truly wouldn't be who I am without him.  He has always supported me, working hard to support me and making sure that Caleb and I have not just what we need, but also what we want.
15. Gigi's cupcakes... even though I didn't make a stop last night.
16.  The opportunity to go back and work on my DNP, and good people to travel with.  A room full of classmates who are beginning to feel like family.
17.  My extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who make life interesting.
18. Music.
19. Laughing with Caleb.
20. A 20 year old (in October) little sister.  When Kami came into my life at 14, I was amazed.  She was my bed buddy until I got married, my study partner when I was in anatomy and physiology, and provided me with laughter.
21. High School basketball.
22. Facebook.
23. Candy Crush, most days.
24. DVR.
25. Bedtime.
26. Health insurance.
27. Computers.
28. A 28 year old little sister.  Holly was born laughing, it seems, and even though I didn't always find her funny, she makes me smile now.  I am so proud of the woman she has become.
29. Group 29 on Facebook- Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies.  I am so honored to get to lead such a wonderful group of ladies.
30. Amazon.
31. Sunshiny days.
32. Rainbows.
33. The opportunity to go to church, and worship the One true God.
34. 34 wonderful years of life.  Thank you God, for each and every moment... and I'm resting assured that His Grace is sufficient, He knows His plans, and that the next 34 years will be just as good, if not better.

Yes, His grace is more than sufficient

Friday, September 6, 2013

What I'm Reading in September

These posts are by far my favorite posts, mostly because I just love reading.  I love books.  I love to hold a hardback or paperback book in my hand and feel the pages as I turn them.  I love the smell of a new book.  And I love my Kindle, too... but I haven't gotten the chance to spend much time with them lately.  Unless, of course, you want to count my Fundamentals of Nursing textbook. And just recently, my Financial Management textbook.  Or one on Policies and Procedures.  I'll be reading both of those tonight... but otherwise, for more fun, in September, I'm reading...

I have two chapters left in What Happens When Women Say Yes to God.  Our Online Bible study wraps up next week, and I can't believe how quickly it has passed.  I have loved this book.  I love Lysa Terkeurst.  I love Proverbs 31 Ministries.  Good reading.  I also still  have The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell on my Kindle, but I haven't read it in a couple of months.  I may try to finish it up in the next couple of weeks.

On my Kindle, I'm reading This Girl by Colleen Hoover.  This is the third in the series; the first two tell the story from the girl's point of view, and this one is from the guy's point of view.  It is pretty good.  It's kind of fun to see how the author is spinning things a little differently based on the male voice.  I'm also reading The Summer I Learned to Dive.  This story is a teenage love story, and while it is very simply written, I'm enjoying it.  I'm also reading Auschwitz: A New History.  I started it last month, and am only just over 1/4 of the way into it, because it is some pretty heavy reading, but very interesting.  It's the kind of book that makes you think... about life and about other people and about their perspective. 

I'm reading The Cure for Modern Life by Lisa Tucker, a story featuring a drug rep and a homeless boy.  I just started The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman; I'm only 10 pages or so into it so I can't really tell if it is going to be any good or not.  My drive-thru read is One Summer, by David Baldacci, the story of a Gulf War Vet with a terminal illness.  This morning, I was reading while eating my breakfast, and something very surprising happened.  I'm thinking this will be a must-read recommendation. 

On my to read list coming up? Summer  Snow by Nicole Baart, the follow-up to After the Leaves Fall and this month's selection for a book club I'm on in Facebook.  a selection by the book club I'm in on Facebook.  Grace by Max Lucado and Unconditional by Eva Marie Everson, also selections from a Facebook book club from last month that I downloaded but didn't get around to reading (yes, I realize I may be addicted. I think this was established long ago).    When Dreams Cross by Terri Blackstock... I read the first in this series in July for a book club and it was good.  It's a four part series. A Confident Heart, which we will be studying for Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies starting October 14th.    Notorious Nineteen.  And then there are lots and lots more...

As always, comment below with any suggestions for me.  I may not read them until this time next year but I'll definitely look into them

Thursday, September 5, 2013


This week I'm tired.  Labor Day weekend was filled with running for the basketball team's food booth, the parade and a football game and time with family... but not much rest.  And then the work week has been super hectic as well, and I'm tired. 

And that seems to be a pretty frequent story. 

Today I was washing my hands and as I stood at the sink a list of all that I had to do was running through my mind.  Sometimes just the list becomes exhausting, and because I know that you can probably relate, you know I'm not being a whiner.  As I was thinking of my to do list, I heard that still small voice again. 

You know the one.  The one sometimes you question.  The one sometimes you try to push away. 

And it said, "Why is it so easy for you to say yes to everyone else, but not to God?"

Umm... Hello. 

But I do.  I tend to say yes first, and then beat myself up about doing so. 

Say yes to work, and to meetings, and to extra time and extra things... and I only have 24 hours in a day, right?

And when I say  yes to all of those other things, all those time-consuming things, all these things that are good but may not be God...

it crowds Him out. 

So this morning, as this thought came to my mind, I thought about our lessons this week.  About having fresh passion and determining my purpose and pursuing it, pursuing what I am meant for. 

And I'm not ashamed to admit that maybe I don't have it figured out yet. 
But He does. 

He knows His plans for me, and He knows what I was preordained to do, before I was created... before the world was created. 

If you're not sure of your purpose, either, don't lose heart, because He knew the same for you.  He knows...

So tomorrow is another day.  I'll start this thing yet again, clearing out my heart and my head and finding some white space in my day.  I'll stay in His Word and keep on looking to Him... and dust myself off when I fall. 
P31 OBS Blog Hop
#FreshVision. Focusing on Him... and He is enough.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

August in Review

Here it is September 4th, and I'm just now doing my review of last month.  Guess that tells you how this month has gone so far.  Busy, busy, busy!  We kicked it off with the Honey Festival, with a food booth for the Ladycats, and then the work week began with an exam and lecture, lecture, and more lecture.  I'm actually looking forward to Bowling Green this coming weekend because I know I can just relax in a hotel room on Friday night. 

August was a good month. Not great, and definitely room for improvements, but a good month.  No weight loss, but I have been doing better about diet and exercise.  The treadmill is back to being my friendemy... but I do have Dance Moms, Cheer Perfect, and Who Do You Think You Are DVRing, so it is all good.  And once I get started I like it.  Most of the time.

Bible reading and memorization... ok, let's be honest.  I've slacked off on memorization.  Haven't opened my Chronological Bible... but I am doing one study on Luke with Good Morning Girls and one study with Hello Mornings in Ephesians.  I'm on the last week of the Beth Moore's David study, and am planning on starting Jesus the One and Only with my Facebook bunch in October.  I'm finishing up What Happens When Women Say Yes to God next week with the Proverbs Online Bible Studies on Facebook, and will begin a study on A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.

Blogs and pictures... could do better.  Haven't posted as much at all, been sooo busy... but I realize I make time for what I want to do, so I'm making a commitment to finishing the year strong. 

I read 9 books in August for a total of 77 out of my 80 book for the year.  More on what I'm reading now.  Still participating in the Joy Dare counting 1000 gifts, and am over 1300.  This month, one of my Facebook friends made a challenge to do 27-28 things I'm thankful for in a day (10,000 in a year's time), so I'm taking her up on it this month. 

Sleep... Doing better. Getting about 7 hours a night.  Still struggling with getting up early, but it is what it is. 

I know this year might be considered a failure so far by some, but I'm more aware of my weaknesses, and am looking to the One who is made strong in those.  And I'm saying yes to change... yes to doing what I need to do.  Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.  =)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Minute Friday... Worship

"Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that You're My God..."

As soon as I read the prompt this morning, this song came to my mind.

Every Friday, I try to gather with Lisa Jo Baker at her blogging space, where she gives us a prompt and we write for five minutes on that word, unedited, not really thinking, just writing. Except sometimes I forget to set my timer... so enjoy!

Worship. What a beautiful word.  Worship is bowing down... it is looking to something else, it is completely losing yourself in the moment to feel peace and hope.  It becomes about something other than yourself, something bigger than yourself.

Humble praise. Adoration.  Standing in awe.

I've actually been thinking about worship a lot. Last week, I went to a Casting Crowns concert.  As I stood on the old University of Louisville football field and raised my hands to worship the one true God, I reflected on how far I have come since I last stood on that field. 

Almost 20 years ago, I cheered on my Breathitt County Bobcats as we won back-to-back State football championships.  My hands were raised to urge the crowd to become involved in the game.  The prayers that I sent up were focused on winning, on allowing that pass to be caught, on petitioning God to somehow help us come back from behind.

I went to church that next Sunday after the game, sat in the same pew I sat in every weekend, and just sat.  Oh, I stood for the reading of the Word, and I sang along with the hymnal in my hands... but it was just going through the motions.

I didn't know what true worship was.

Twenty years later, I still don't fully understand.  I still am not completely uninhibited... but I'm learning.

And thanking God for the opportunity.  Five Minute Friday