Monday, February 29, 2016

What I Learned in February

1. Groundhog Day has its origin in Germany, where hedgehogs were thought to be able to predict winter. It's linked to Candlemas Day, when candles were handed out; the length of the candle was thought to correspond with how much longer winter would last. Groundhogs were more common than hedgehogs. And who knew there were other groundhogs other than Phil in Punxsutawney?
This year, Phil said a short winter but I'm pretty sure he lied.

2. There is more to life than basketball.
I knew this, of course, but because of family events this basketball season, I've been reminded of this.
As much as Wallace and I love basketball, family means more... as it should.
But I still love basketball.

3. As much as I dislike it at times, I have to exercise every day.  I hit a rough patch this month, going four or five days in a row without exercise, and the scales caught up with me. Not a major gain... but enough to know that I can't slip back into that habit.
And, y'all... once I get the exercise in, I'm always glad that I did. I feel better. I sleep better. I think better.

4. A cinquain poem is a five line poem that doesn't rhyme and describes a noun. And I'm not a poet, and to be honest, I don't even enjoy reading poetry... except some Emily Dickinson. I love me some Emily Dickinson.

5. I hate pantyhose. I knew this, too... as evidenced by the fact that I had to go to Walmart to buy a pair for the funeral... but after sitting in them for less than 30 minutes I remembered why I hated them... and then I really remembered when I had to use the restroom.

6. People will not always remember what you said or did, but they will always remember how you make them feel. This quote was attributed to Maya Angelou, but I was never more aware of it's impact as last week during Uncle Dennis's funeral arrangements. Time and time again people filed past telling us how he had impacted their lives... and it made me want to be a better person.

7. This next generation is ok. Looking at society, and our world in general, sometimes I'm a little scared. I know I don't have to be scared, because God's got a plan and He's ultimately in control, but the lack of morals unsettles me at times. Yesterday, though, as I watched Kami and 800+ of her peers wind down their 24 hours of dancing for pediatric cancer at Memorial Coliseum, and thought of the genuine hard work and effort that goes into raising over $1.6 million dollars, I'm reminded that each generation, though different, leaves it's own mark. The compassion and drive those kids demonstrate left me teary-eyed. They are a smart group, overall. And our world will be a better place because of their enthusiasm.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

To My Seniors

In December, it seems like it is forever away.

The season is long and the games are every night... and if we're not playing, we're watching a game or there is practice.

My schedule goes out the window, my car is full of fast food bags, and by the end of February I have clothes piled up in laundry baskets, causing me to forget what clothes I even own... especially if they aren't blue and white.

And then it comes... this week that we're facing, and it seems like just yesterday it was summer ball.

I love tournament time, but at the same time I hate it.

I'm too old for being nervous... too old for not knowing the outcome of the game, and with so much riding on each game, that win or go home...

Well, it's too much for me to handle sometimes.

I KNOW it's just a game, but at my house it's so much more.

Tournament time makes you realize that there is a group of girls, special girls, who may never be on the floor again together. And, really, that is just a reflection of life, because it's full of ups and downs and uncertainties, and part of life is learning how to roll with the punches.

If I've learned anything the last two months, it's just that... life is short and to be appreciated. To say that I've been downright distracted this season would be an understatement. There have been nights when in all honesty, I really didn't want to be in a gym. Then there were nights when those girls on the court were my saving grace, when a tight ballgame gave me breathing room and allowed me to not think about my Uncle's cancer diagnosis or my Papaw being in the nursing home or my Dad's grief as he tried to process it all.

Since I missed Senior Night, I just want to take a few minutes this eve before Regional tournament and give my own personal shout-out to three special young ladies. These girls are like family. You can't help for it to be like that, when you spend as much time with one another as we do. They take up for me when Wallace gives me a hard time, and fight with Caleb like a brother. As a coach's wife, I don't take lightly the blessing I have received in my "daughters".

And every year I say I love this group of girls. Every girl that I've ever had the privilege to watch on the court has been different, but they are still my girls.

Kacey is a force to be reckoned with. She is not afraid to drive to the basket, but she'd just as soon put a three in your eye. She's battled injury after injury in her career, but always bounces back. She's played through pain and discomfort and shown true heart. . Gameday tradition involves a pic with Caleb. I think they have more selfies than we can count.

Then there's Kaylea. Kaylea is an inside player that works hard under the goal.  When she decides she wants to score under the basket, there's not too many players who can stop her. I've enjoyed watching her mature as a player these last three years. She isn't afraid to try new things, either... this year, as a Senior, she played volleyball for the first time and didn't just excel- she dominated!  Kaylea is smart, sometimes opinionated (which I love!), and is funny, too. I have no doubt that she'll do whatever she wants in life.
 (Photo by Brendan Miller)

(Photo by Belita, Kaylea's Mom)

(photo by Brendon Miller)
And then there is Amanda. Amanda makes me smile. You always know where you stand with Amanda. She either has a smile on her face... or watch out. She's a beast underneath the basket. She can also  argue with the best of them and usually backs up her argument with sound logic. She sat out last year and I'm so glad she decided to play this year. She brings her own spark to the team.
 (Photo by Belita Noble)
 (Photo by Brendon Miller)

To these Seniors-
The world is at your fingertips. You can do anything you want in life. I have no doubt that success is yours for the taking. Dream big, and never let anyone tell you that you can't do something (unless it's something that you shouldn't be doing in the first place!)

I expect big things out of you. You've already proven you're smart. Your sassiness will be a credit when people try to push you around (which they will!) Be stubborn as you head out into that world... but not too stubborn.

Because of you Seniors, I hate to see the season end. Memories made on and off the court are truly cherished forever.

Thanks for keeping Wallace in line, for loving Caleb like a little brother, and for taking my side most of the time! You've accomplished a lot this year, along with your teammates. 14th Region All A Champions. 55th District Champions. A 20 win regular season. Somehow making Wallace look good enough to get 14th Region Coach of the Year.

But it ain't over. I'd love to make a trek to Newport for a state tourney bid. Keep doing what you do. Hustle. Show heart. Work together. Dig in deep.

And let's end this year with a bang.

Love y'all! 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Not a Civil War

Let me preface this post by saying that some of you may find this as a shock when you read it... but the last couple of years I've learned a lot about perspective.

I love high school basketball. If you know anything about me, you know this is true. Football is wonderful, volleyball is great, but high school basketball, especially during tournament time, is my favorite time of the year.

I love Breathitt High School. I've literally been cheering for 36 years. My Mom, to me, is the heart and soul of Bobcat blue. Through the years, because I didn't want to get a divorce, I've donned maroon and white and purple and gold, but I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't still love Breathitt. (And I cheered just as hard for those teams. In fact, I've occasionally been known to yell out the wrong mascot... like when Owsley was playing Jackson and Wallace was at Jackson and I yelled "Go Owls". Thankfully, no one but my Aunt Nora heard me!)

Last night, I sat in the pep section at the Breathitt vs. Jackson game. The prize was big... a 55th District Championship. I sat in the pep section because Wallace wanted to be in the pep section. First, because he loves those kids and they had supported him the night before. Secondly, a big game like this is bound to get dirty, and he wanted to be there to stop it before it did so. And I was extremely proud of our kids. There were no ugly chants. Not a lot of foul language. Just kids... being kids. Which is exactly how it should be.

And y'all, I cheered... because it's what I do. I'm not lying when I say that I can't go to a game and NOT cheer. I cheer for my Bobcats and Ladycats, and sometimes when I go on scouting trips with Wallace I HAVE TO SIT ON MY HANDS so I don't cheer for kids like Maci Gibson and Whitney Creech and Hannah Cash and Lydia McIntosh (because that really doesn't shine well for an opposing coach's wife to cheer on another team. Wallace even told me once, "You can't cheer them on, because what will the other team think?") And that's the beauty of high school basketball... fans cheering on their teams.

Anyway, it was a great game, last night. Great atmosphere. Packed house. Signs up everywhere. Our cheerleaders were loud and so were theirs. Both end zones were full.

And at the end of the game, Jackson won. They won fair and square. There was no cheating, no undue fouls. May I say this? There will ALWAYS be people who blame it on the referees. A lot of the times, I'm that person... but last night it wasn't.

It was a game that you loved if you were a true high school basketball fan.

It's not fun being the losing team. It's not fun watching the other team cut the nets. There is no celebration in runner-up, even though your season isn't over yet. So, Breathitt's fans filed out of the gym (I'd like to point out that the smaller crowd we had the night before didn't even stay to watch their own team cut the nets, but, as Caleb would say, that's none of my business).

I was happy for Coach Back and Coach Turner and Coach Howard.

Not happy because we had lost... but, you see, as I've gotten older, my perspective has changed somewhat.

I'm learning that to cheer for your team doesn't necessarily mean that you're cheering against somebody else (I have not, nor do I think I will ever, get to the point where I have that perspective for Knott Co. Or Belfry in football... but that's a whole other story).

The thing about high school athletics, if you're involved in any way, is that it truly is something that you have to put your heart and soul into. Endless hours of practice, even in the off-season. Scouting trips and late nights for those coaches who can't get a loss out of their head and are always looking to the next game.

On the way home, Caleb and I had a good talk. I've been reiterating this point to him since Jackson beat us earlier in the season. Y'all... at the end of the day, it's just a game. There will be two numbers on the score board, and one will be higher than the other, but the guys on both teams will still be breathing. (And if they aren't, well, that's a whole other problem). Despite how some people in our community choose to act, it's not a Civil War. Caleb has friends on both sides. Last night, he wanted to sit with some friends with Jackson but HE WAS AFRAID SOMEBODY WOULD SAY SOMETHING. He asked me if it was ok if he went and talked with his aunt, for crying out loud.

There is something very wrong with that picture. Since when did we get so obsessed about a basketball game that we forget about community?

As I've reflected about last night, I'd like to say one thing. In many cases, the kids are more mature than the adults.

And we wonder why sometimes our kids act out???

I don't see everything, and a lot of times I leave my blinders on on purpose, but for the most part, I thought last night was a class act by both teams. So many people on social media said that Breathitt had poor sportsmanship... but I really didn't see it. I wasn't there to see someone take down one of their signs. When emotions are high, you will always have something that seems unsportsmanlike... I don't care how well behaved kids try to be. Excitement will make you behave in ways that maybe you might not otherwise, and that's none of my business, either. In the heat of the moment, we often lose our head. That could be a good thing, or a bad thing.

What is my business is the fact that I'm raising a son in this community, and my chief goal as a parent is to teach him to treat everyone with respect. Sometimes it's hard. Y'all, I get mad and want to respond. Sometimes I do, and have to push the delete button.

But at the end of the day, whether you're at the top of the hill or the bottom, whether you bleed blue and white or purple and gold... we don't have to be against one another. I preached it when I was at Jackson with Wallace and I'm preaching it now.

We are one community. There will always be individuals who don't represent that community well, who push for divisiveness and chaos... but it is up to each of us to choose how we will respond. At the end of the day, it's my job to practice peace as much as I can.

Maybe that's turning my head when someone tears down a sign, or scrolling down the newsfeed without responding when someone posts about you on social media. Maybe that's telling someone they did a great job and left their heart on the court.

These people are your neighbors. And it's not a Civil War.

Good luck to all of our 55th District teams. I'll be cheering you on... just not if you're playing Breathitt.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Drawing a blank and I missed yesterday so I'm going back to my handy dandy writing prompt.

I've never been a poet, but I think even I can pull this one off.

A cinquain poem... a five line poem that doesn't rhyme.

Sad.  Entertaining.
Transporting. Distracting. Connecting.
They're my happy place.

And that, my friends, was harder than you think. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Legacy of Great Men

"Life is sure sometimes full of misery."

Wise words from my Papaw, from a heavy heart, to my heavy heart.

This past week, the world lost two of the finest men that I've been privileged to know.  My Uncle JB was a family man, a community man, a man of loyalty and honor and loving God. He loved my Aunt Jo better than life itself, was a wonderful Dad, granddad, and great-grandpa, and a best friend to my Papaw.

And my Uncle Dennis.  I don't know that I have the words to even describe all that he was.

He was a man of great stature, but an even bigger heart. He had a laugh that could shake the walls of a room. He was always willing to help. Always believed the best about people... without being naïve. He knew people could be bad... but he loved them for who they were.

As I've read all of the comments that I've seen on the internet tonight, I realize that what I saw in Dennis were the same things that other people saw in him. He loved, and you knew it. He treated everyone the same. 

One person commented, "I wish I could be more like him." Another, "If we were all more like him, the world would be a better place."  And as a dear family friend put it, "We all have a Dennis-sized hole in our heart."

As early as I can remember, Uncle Dennis was the funny one. He loved to pull pranks. He'd prank call my Grandma and Grandpa on the phone, changing his voice. He had a deadpan sense of humor, so that sometimes you weren't sure if he was joking, but when he could pull one over on you he thoroughly enjoyed it. He loved comedies and wasn't afraid to laugh out loud.

He always had a sense of adventure. He loved to travel and I have so many fond memories of trips with him. He was never lost as long as he had gas, and this would drive my "planning" Dad crazy. We'd drive winding back roads and somehow manage to end up exactly where we were going. Even when we were stuck in a parade in a small town in the middle of nowhere because of a "detour", he kept his cool.

He was our travel guide. He'd hold up his imaginary flag at Disney World or Six Flags or wherever we happened to be, and try to corral us all together.

He loved to fish. One time I can remember begging to go to the pond, and he took me along with them. They packed my tacklebox and tried to convince me to bait my own hook. I didn't go on anymore fishing trips, because "fish don't like noise, and you don't know how to be quiet."

When I didn't make cheerleader my sophomore year, he decided that maybe what we all needed was a shopping trip. We drove to Lexington, and then he decided that maybe we just needed to go on to Florence... so we did.

He wasn't afraid to sled down the biggest hill at Papaw's house, and he would get right out and make snowmen with us, sometimes in short sleeves.

He introduced me to sparklers on hot July nights under the trees at Mamaw Bert's house.

He was patient and allowed me to test drive his Bronco when I was about 14... and didn't even complain when I ended up in the ditch and he had to get us out. I still can hear him saying, calmly, but firmly, "Lauren, listen to me. Lauren, listen to me. Lauren... now next time maybe you'll listen to me."

He lived his life in a quiet, unassuming way (except when he was laughing). He was a behind the scenes type of guy, but he influenced others in the small things.

Family is a funny thing. Sometimes you've got nothing in common except these genes and this common bloodline, but you're forever connected whether you like it or not.

Some of us choose to embrace it.

Some of us avoid it like the plague.

But like it or not, in many ways, our family shapes who we are.

And tonight I can honestly say that in this case, I hope that will be true.

I hope that the legacy that was my great-Uncle JB's... one of service to His Lord and to others and his family and friends... will be mine.

And I hope that even though my personality is nothing like Uncle Dennis's, I will be able to influence others as he has. By accepting them. Loving them. Impacting through small deeds.

Great men don't always change the world through the big and grand.

Truly great men change the world around them, and that small trickle reaches someone else, until generations are affected.

And yes, life is full of misery... but as I was reminded last night, Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can't heal. We're just pilgrims passing on. And tonight, as heavy as my heart is, I don't mourn without hope.

I'm trusting in Jesus... and He'll hold my hand.

Just like He held Uncle Dennis's...

"This would be my prayer dear Lord each day,  To help me do the best I can.  For I need Thy light to guide me day and night  Blessed Jesus hold my hand."

Thank You, Lord, for these who are mine for this short time.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Forget

There are some things we want to forget. Hurts.  Harsh words. Embarrassing moments.

Personally, I would love to forget my asymmetrical hair from the 7th grade, but my family won't let me do so.

The thing about forgetting is... we mostly won't allow ourselves to forget the things we want to. We dwell on them and return to them time and time again.

And because our brains can only focus on so many things, we aren't able to remember the things we need to remember.

The good words, the God moments.

I can remember harsh words spoken to me when I was younger, but when I close my eyes and try to remember certain times, I find that I have forgotten them.

Because I've focused on the wrong thing.

We're told to forget the former things.

Forget them... because He's doing a new thing.

And He doesn't forget...

except our sins.

He knows to focus on the right things.

May we, too, learn to focus on the good, and forget the rest.

It doesn't matter anyway.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes, unedited, on a prompt. This week? Forget...

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Content to Complain

Today felt like spring. 

It was a balmy 45 degrees with the sun shining... which felt like 80 degrees compared to the artic tundra we've been living in here in Kentucky.

And then, as I sat in my car waiting for my Mom to meet me to go to a ballgame, I found myself wanting to complain.

The sun was so bright, a foreign object in the sky, and it was giving me a headache. I literally got sick to my stomach and was afraid I was developing a migraine.

And I almost said, "I don't like that sunshine."

Because I'm like that a lot.

I complain about the very circumstances that I've longed for.

I'm not very good at being content.

Paul tells us that being content is something we can learn. We can choose.

In any circumstance.

And I'm counting it as progress that I at least noticed that I was getting ready to complain.

And progress counts for something =)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Look to the Eternal

Tonight at Bible Study we talked about faith.

I struggle with faith, y'all.  I'm not one of those people who have great imaginations. I can't always see the big picture.
I am, however, encouraged that Jesus never talked about a great amount of faith, as I was reminded tonight. He talked about faith the size of a mustard seed. I've never actually touched a mustard seed, but I hear that it's pretty small.

There are all kinds of verses about faith. Brother Bellamy said tonight, "Faith is seeing what others don't see.".  Jesus looks at things and sees the possibility. He sees hope. He sees how things will turn out.

We tend to look at the obstacles. The impossibilities. The grief of it all.

One of the last verses we read tonight comes from 2 Corinthians 4. In the Bible study I'm doing through P31 OBS, our memory verse this week is verse 18, which talks about fixing our eyes on what is unseen, because it is eternal, compared to the temporary status of what is right in front of us.

And thank God this world is temporary. These troubles are temporary. This seems to be a recurring theme these days for me. I've been reminded over and over again, through conversations that I've had and devotions and books that I've read...

We're only here for a little while. Even though it's hard. Even though it hurts.

It's not permanent. He's made everything perfect in His own time. We have a heart for eternity, which is why this world aches so bad sometimes.

The verse that I shared in my picture above really spoke to me last week. As you can see from my highlights, this is one of my favorite chapters of the book.

We hold this truth in earthen vessels...

earthen vessels that sometimes crack and leak, but are broken to allow His light to shine through.

His light that lights our heart.

The truth we hold in our cracked, broken vessels? His power. It's from Him... for us. And it promises that He'll help us get through our troubles.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Hard pressed- feeling like the world is caving in on us. It reminds me of when I went to Natural Bridge a few years ago, a heavy girl trying to squeeze through Fat Man's Squeeze. I felt crushed. I got claustrophobic. I started actually smothering.

This world and it's troubles press down on us. The enemy does everything he can to make sure we feel defeated... but Jesus. His Spirit has breathed the life into us, and it's a breath that renews us daily.

We're perplexed. We don't understand why good people get sick. We don't understand why life can't just be easy. We're troubled and confused... but not hopeless. We are not a people without hope. We have hope here. WE have hope now. And we have hope for the future, the hope of glory.

We are persecuted. You see it more and more. Mocked because of our faith. But we are not abandoned. "I'll never leave you or forsake you." He's here. He's gone before. His angels are surrounding us.

We're struck down... and you think we're down for the count... but we're not. Just like a prize fighter, we rise up just before the winner is declared... because we know that victory is ours.

And then it goes on to talk about faith... believing. And grace.

Sometimes, the biggest act of faith is receiving that grace.

Grace to be weak.

Grace to admit you don't know what to do.

Grace to admit that you sometimes just want to give up.

Grace that keeps us from giving up...

We faint not, because we know that He is working in us.

He is faithful, even when I am of little faith.

There's another recurring theme.

Even when I feel faint, His grace is sufficient. He holds me up and renews me and tells me, "You can do it. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard."

And even though outwardly we look like we're not going to make it, we will.

Because inwardly, He's working perfection.

These troubles? They feel so heavy...

But they are light afflictions when you balance them out with glory.

His glory... in us. Because His glory is eternal.

Cling to that, tonight. No matter how much you're hurting, or how much you're struggling, or how much you feel like throwing in the towel...
He loves us.

His glory. I can see it on you.  And it looks beautiful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Been with Jesus

"When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus."- Acts 4:13

This is my prayer, right here. I am not bold. I'm slightly educated (maybe a little too educated) and I've been trained in nursing and teaching and have tried to self-teach myself how to read His Word.

But y'all.

I want people to be amazed when they see me, talk to me, watch me.

Not amazed at me...

but amazed because they can feel Jesus.

Peter and John had just performed a miracle.

They had a man who had been unable to walk leaping and praising God.

The same Peter who was fiery and stumbled often in his walk with the Lord, who denied Him three times and cowered away during the crucifixion.

Jesus had somehow rubbed off on him.

May my life say, "She's been with Jesus."

She talks a little different, reacts a little different.

She sees hard circumstances but knows Jesus is faithful.

His Word is in her heart and His fruit is evident.

"She's been in His Word."

"She's been praying to Him for guidance."

"She has faith in His sameness."

Above all, may it speak of love. "She loves like Jesus."

Monday, February 15, 2016

My Take on the Grammys

Things I've learned watching the Grammys:

1. I'm out of touch with modern society. I mean, I thought I knew about today's music because I have to suffer through Caleb's music on shuffle, but... apparently he only picks the best of the best.

2. I'm ok with being out of touch with today's music. I really don't have to understand what Alabama Shakes actually means. And even though Caleb and I like Sam Hunt, he's not country music.

3. I'm officially old, because a lot of this really isn't music. Also, the "good" music I remember on the radio is now on the oldies station.

4. Johnny Depp can play a guitar.

5. Adele can battle through bad sound because she is basically perfect, even though I missed half the performance because Wallace decided to call someone just as she started singing.

6. The term music is relative.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

White as Snow

Pulling from another writing prompt tonight because I'm feeling uninspired...

Outside the window, the wind whips cold. Crystals fall from the sky, icy and sparkling as they pile one by one.

The sky is dark and the tree branches hang low.

And the flakes drift to the ground, large flakes that stick to your lashes and melt on your tongue.

My footprints are covered.

The purity of the new fallen snow is pristine, but tomorrow or the next day it will be muddy.

It reminds me of sin...

muddy and mirey, taking the innocence and making it an ugly mess.

But tonight, it's white and sparkling, full of light.

And I'm thankful that His love can wash me white as well.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What I'm Reading in February

I put off this post every month because it is my favorite post. I truly love thinking about books. I know that makes me strange, but it's better than some things I could obsess about...

The piles have grown from my bookshelf to my bedside table to my floor. I will assert that I have bought most of these books as bargain sales at Half-Price Books or used through Amazon... but my favorite authors just keep writing books and I just have to keep reading...

 My goal of 125 books a year means that I need to read roughly 10-11 books a month. In January I only read 7, so that means I'm running behind. So... without further ado...
Here's what I'm reading this month... A lot, trying to catch up from last month =)

(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 almost finished with About Three Bricks Shy of a Load by Roy Blount, who followed the Steelers and got the inside story behind the 1973 season. I'm sad that this book lasted longer for me than the Steelers season, but it's a neat insight into the early years of winning in my favorite organization. Love reading about Mean Joe Green!!!

Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa Terkeurst is a book the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies group is working through, and I'm really enjoying it.  It's all about developing a true relationship with God, and has lots of good Scripture references in it. I've loved everything I've ever read by Terkeurst, and highly recommend her writings and her blog.

5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn't Quit by Nicki Koziarz.  I'm on the launch team for this book, which doesn't actually release until March 1, and so far I love this book. It's based on Ruth, which is one of my favorite books of the Bible, and Koziarz writes with a humble, funny voice that makes you feel like she's sitting across from you drinking a tall cup of coffee.

Open Your Bible: God's Word is for You and for Now is a Bible study by the developers of SheReadsTruth, and is currenly online via Lifeway. We're on the last week of this study, and it's been good. The reading is only scheduled in four sessions, and only take about ten or fifteen minutes, but the whole idea is to get you into your Bible, applying His truth to everyday life.  

Dark Chaos, the 4th book in the Bregdan Chronicles, a series set during the Civil War. The first three books were great. I love the characters, and want to know what ends up happening to Carrie and her romance and her possible career. The plot is easy to follow as well, and it is always interesting to read about events that I've heard about in history class. There are eight books in the series, I believe, and they are all fairly long, so this series will probably be in my reading list all year.

The Missing Class is a book about the near poor in America.  This population often gets overlooked, but are probably the class that struggles the most. I'm just getting started on this one, but am finding it very interesting.

Mini-Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella... I always forget how much I love Kinsella until I start reading one of her books. I laugh out loud. A lot. She writes sometimes like I think. Becky Brandon is hilarious.

183 Times a Year is a book I got free from NetGalley, so look for a review later. I'm just getting started on it but I am enjoying it thus far. I love the Mom, and the sarcastic teenage daughter may or may not slightly remind me of a younger self.

The Leadership Challenge was recommended by several of the speakers at the two day leadership academy meeting I attended. It uses real-life scenarios to discuss leadership traits and offers suggestions for developing these traits in the reader. Very beneficial regardless of what type of leadership role one is in.

This one will come as a shock to many, because I'm not sure how I could go this long without reading it... but since JK Rowling is coming out with a new Harry Potter book this summer, I decided to jump on board and started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. And y'all... I don't know how I missed out on this. Delightful reading!!! Easy to follow writing.  So... I guess here's another series I"ll be reading all year.

Karen Kingsbury is one of my favorite authors, and I'm in a facebook group that selects books she writes. I've been slack about following along, but am reading the book they read last month. Even Now is a love story about a young girl who gets pregnant and how it influences her family. Good stuff.

Every month I get a free book from Kindle's Loaning Library by being a Prime member, so this month I'm reading Catherine Ryan Hyde's Ask Him Why, about a family influenced by the actions of their son/brother fighting in Afghanistan. I've read several of Hyde's books, and have enjoyed each of them. Just getting started on this one...

Still rotating between two devotions on my Kindle- One Year Alone with God and Love is A Verb.

Jeremiah  by Melissa Spoestra- I'm only on week 2 of this Bible study, even though I started it last month, because I've been doing a couple of other studies. Also, one of the suggestions on the reading challenge was to read a commentary, so I'm reading Matthew Henry's Commentary on Jeremiah as I read each chapter, so it's been slow going. I do like Spoestra's writing style.

Other books on the reading challenge:
A Book about Christian living: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer... a book on prayer. I haven't always had the best prayer life, and this book gives Scripture suggestions to help guide prayers. It goes along well with Armor of God, which I just finished.
A biography: Off Balance by Olympic Gold medalist  Dominique Moceanu. I avidly watched the 1996 Olympics and loved Moceanu... and all of the Magnificent Seven. The story of Moceanu's long lost sister who is also a competitive gymnast... with no legs... kept me enthralled when I saw it on TV, so this book has been a pleasant read.  

And books I plan to read for the reading challenge suggestions, which are currently on my Kindle or my bedside table:
A classic novel: My Antonia
A book someone tells you changed their life: Sun Stand Still
A book about theology: Probably Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
A book with "gospel" in the title
A book your pastor recommends: The Balanced Church
A book 100 years old: Uncle Tom's Cabin
A children's book: The Secret Garden
A mystery or detective novel: Sherlock Holmes
A book published in 2016: not sure yet
A book about a current issue- not sure yet

Friday, February 12, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Limit

The sky is the limit...

but what does that really even mean?

How do you reach the sky? How is that even a limit?

And then there's another one of my favorite quotes- if you reach for the sky, you'll end up out of the mud... that's a  complete paraphrase, of course.

And it kind of contradicts itself, because if you've ever waded through mud you know you can't be looking up at the sky.  As you pull your muddy boots out of the miry bog, you better be looking at your feet and making sure each step is sure.

And there's a limit, right there.  You can only walk where you see.

You can only put one foot in front of you if you can see where that foot is going...

but Martin Luther King Jr. said something about faith being going up the staircase when you couldn't see the next step...

when you didn't even know what your limit was.

And in that case, maybe, the sky was the limit, because if you can't see the step in front of you, you sure can't see how long the staircase is.

So, we just keep stepping.

Blindly.  Stumbling.  Gasping for air.

Praying that one day the next step will mean we step out on a platform surrounded by shooting stars, reaching the end of the staircase and the end of our faith.

but too often that seems too far away. Too pipe-dream-like.

So we stand there, afraid to even move our foot a little.

And we use all these words...

Not good enough, or I don't have enough, or I'm too old or young or fat or limited...

All these limits, keeping us from stepping forward. *** Five minutes up

Today I read in a book a quote by Albert Einstein. "Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them."

That quote can seem crazy... because if we know we are limited then how can we go beyond?

But humans are this crazy lot. And sometimes we do our best work in a challenge, in a deadline, when we know that the next step really is it.

We boldly step forward on that staircase and just keep going...

even though we're out of breath and our heart is racing.

May we allow our fear to be enough to drive us to go beyond our limits, rather than keep us from even trying.

Linking up today at Five Minute Friday. I went a little longer than five minutes. We write for five minutes on a prompt, unedited. Today's prompt... Limit. And to be honest, I was going to skip today because I'm pretty good at setting my own limits and making excuses... but then I read that quote and thought, "Well, this isn't coincidence."  But nothing with God ever is.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Happy 64th Anniversary

My Grandma told the best stories. I can remember climbing in her big bed, pulling the heavy comforter over me, and listening to her bedtime stories as I tried to fight sleep. I'd inevitably talk her into one more story... and we'd occasionally burst into giggles that could not be contained.

My Grandpa's basement smelled of wood chippings. His woodshop downstairs shaped me many wooden microphones and stands, and they'd allow me to perform endless concerts upstairs.  They'd laugh and applaud and make me feel like a star.

There was no better cornbread than my Papaw's dipped in milk.  Sweet on the first bite, and then that milk dripping down your chin as you spooned it into your mouth. I could eat it hot out of the oven or cold from a plate.

Winter evenings meant gathering around a Scrabble board or playing Rummy.  Grandma never could sit still, but she'd always make sure you had something to drink if you needed it.

Brandon and I would run upstairs and hide... or spy on make-believe criminals as we searched for clues to solve the latest murders.

How things change... but still stay the same.

My Grandma still offers you something to drink. My Grandpa still applauds our achievements.

And I'm continuously amazed at how blessed I am to come from a legacy of love.

In today's society, 64 years together is an anomaly. Sometimes, 6 years is unbelievable.

And I get why. Marriage is hard, y'all.  I love Wallace Bates, but sometimes I can't stand him, and I'm pretty sure he feels the same.

But at the end of the day, I cling to the hope that the marriages I've watched as I've grown up offer.

I hope that someday I can tell my grandbabies the story of how we met...

gazing into the past, thinking of prom dresses and staying with her sister in town so that they could meet at a dance, and how Supt. Turner told her Board Member Daddy how pretty those Anderson girls had looked... when he didn't know they had attended.

Or recounting the story of our marriage...

as she remembers a February day 64 years ago when they drove "all the way to Salyersville" and were married.

Or of early times in our marriage when the house seemed too small...

because they lived in Michigan and Breathitt Co. boys kept coming to work so they'd pile them up all over the house and Grandma would feed them and do their laundry.

Three kids put through college.

Work, day in, day out.

One goes to bed early. One would sit up all night long, watching news channels on mute with the closed caption going across the screen.

In those 64 years, more afghans than can be counted have been made. Enough hot pepper plants have been grown in the basement... the tree outside has been covered with water for an ice garden so many times that he was featured in the Lexington Herald Leader. Trick-or-treaters from three or four generations have knocked on the front door. We've sat in the swing and I've climbed trees and waded in the creek and made mudpies and picked the buds from the money tree and chased butterflies and picked up a few rocks on the Hollybush...

And through it all, I've known love and have been loved...

Because two people fell in love all those years ago.

Thank You, Lord, for these blessings. May I always treasure how special they are.

Happy Anniversary, Mamaw and Papaw!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Better Than Before: A Review

I was hooked on Gretchen Rubin from the moment I read the title of her first book.

The Happiness Project.

Because who doesn't need a little bit of happiness in their life?

I enjoyed her second book, Happier at Home, as well.

But this last book? Better than Before...

It's a homerun.

Rubin discusses the development of habits... or the destruction of good habits. She provides research as to why we choose certain habits, and why some individuals are successful and others are not.

My favorite part of the book is where she describes individuals based on four tendencies, and then on further characteristics. As I read the description of these, I found myself nodding in affirmation. Then, as she described why those tendencies helped or hindered the development of certain habits, I had an a-ha moment.

I'm totally an obliger, meaning that I need external accountability. I love to plan, and I love a to do list, but I'm not great at fulfilling those tasks... unless I know somebody will be asking me about them. That's why I love fitbit and goodreads and online Bible study groups- somebody will ask me where I've been if I've not shown up in a little bit.

I'm also an owl, an overbuyer, an opener, focused on prevention... but I loved her description of procrastination, and it made me realize that I need to do better. It's ok for me to put things off... but it's not ok for me to be paralyzed because of it, or to feel shame or dread about every task.

Rubin suggests several pillars that can help one begin new habits. Monitoring, distraction, small steps, and accountability can all be implemented to make habits more successful. The best part about it, though, is that Rubin reminds us again and again that we are all individual, and we are to remain true to who we are as individuals. What works for her may not necessarily work for me, and vice versa.

This book is an excellent read for anyone who is focusing on self-improvement. It gives the reader simple suggestions on how to implement something new, such as diet, exercise, time management, and getting more rest. Real-life examples and data from recent news articles help to solidify Rubin's suggestions.

Developing good habits can make us more successful, more productive, but above all, good habits can help increase our happiness quotient... and I am all about that.

I'd give this book 4.5 stars for the ease of reading and how relatable the content is to real-life. Rubin offers easy to implement suggestions. My only complaint about this book is that at times Rubin seems to repeat herself; however, in some cases that repetitiveness just hammers her points home.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Day One (Devotional): A Review

Let me just start out by saying I love Matthew West.

I need to get that disclaimer out of the way because this review is completely biased.

His music is great. He invites listeners to send in their story and then just develops hit songs from them. A drug addict, someone struggling with forgiveness, somebody struggling with the meaning of their life.

So I was super excited to see this devotional available on NetGalley.

This devotional focuses on stories from his latest album, Live Forever. The title comes from one of the songs, Day One.  There are 180 devotions that take only a few minutes to read; however, these can impact an individual's day positively.

These devotionals are a reminder that no matter where we've been or what we've done, God's mercies are new every morning. Each day is day one of the rest of our lives. West's message is full of grace, forgiveness, and purpose centered in God's love.

The devotions are quick and easy to read. West writes with humor and an authentic voice. The devotions start with a Bible verse followed by a quick story. Sometimes it's something that a listener has sent in, and West relates this to his own life experiences, or sometimes it's just a snippet of his life.

I'd give this book 5 stars because it's easy to read, easy to process, and relatable to real life.

I received free access to this book through and am posting this review on their website. This book is currently available for purchase wherever Christian books are sold.  I receive no compensation from Amazon for using their link with the book information.
Professional Reader

Monday, February 8, 2016

Using My Name

I've managed to write consistently for over a month.

Some days it's been easy.

Some days I've struggled.

Today was one of those days. I had nothing insightful.  Nothing inspiring. It's been a Monday, rainy, and I'm not feeling the best in the world.

So I pulled up google and typed in "writing prompts".

One was the write a poem using the first letter of your name.

I'm not a poet, but I thought using the letters of my name was a good idea, so... here's some of my thoughts on life in general.

L- Laugh a lot, every day, hard, even when there doesn't seem to be anything to laugh about.

A- Always choose love.

U- Understand that some days are going to be hard and are basically going to stink, but your attitude doesn't have to (I'm still working on that one!)

R- Read.  A lot.  Every Chance you get.

E- Empathize with others.

N-  Nothing worth having is easy.

That's all I got tonight. If I lived by those every day, though, I'd be in pretty good shape.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Hymn Book: Prayer Bells of Heaven

There are some songs that resonate with our souls.

They give hope.

They bring comfort.

The peace of God washes over us as we listen to the lyrics.

There are some songs that invoke us to fall on our knees in worship. There are some songs that you can't listen to without wanting to raise your hands to the sky. His glory is great and His power is awesome and He shares just a little bit of that with us.

There are some songs that give us a little glimpse of Heaven. The joy and the happiness and the realization that we won't ever have to leave, that we won't ever face sadness or death again.

And then there are some songs that are special to us... special because of their words and their message and perhaps the people who sing them.

Prayer Bells of Heaven is one such song for me.
Today I'm writing at Sweet to the Soul for their Sunday Hymn Book and I'd love for you to join me to see just why Prayer Bells of Heaven means so much to me!  (Click on Sweet to the Soul and you'll find yourself there!)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Trust in You

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to compare with the glory that shall be revealed in us."

"In this world you will have troubles; but take heart. I have overcome the world."

Tonight I read in Matthew about the sower who sows the seed. Some of it falls on good ground and produces fruit... apples and peaches and berries.

But then there is the seed that I'm often like. The seed that is thrown down and plucked up by the bird before it can be covered in the dirt.

Plucked up because I'm angry or frustrated.

Or the seed that falls on stony ground, and quickly grows, but then dies because the sun comes out and it has no roots to provide it with water.

Life can get hot on us all...

Or the seed that is choked out by the weeds of this world...

Choked out by those troubles, those sufferings. We can look at the temporary, this moment, and forget that we were made for eternity.

One day, though, if we allow His Word to become hidden in our heart...

If we allow His seed to grow and blossom and produce sweet fruit...

We'll be made for glory.

The glory that will be revealed... not to us.

But in us.

His glory, in us.

A lot of days it's hard to see it. To understand how. There's so much suffering in this world. People get old and sick and hurt and we get awfully mad at Adam and Eve, because we have to live in this fallen world...

But He knows. He knows our todays and our yesterdays... and mostly He knows our future, what we don't know and can't see.

We just have to trust.

He's faithful to complete that good work.

Right now I have this song on repeat in my head, from Lauren Daigle.

In all things be my life and breath... and may I only want Your will, even when it is hard.

Trust in You 
Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There's not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don't move the mountains I'm needing You to move
When You don't part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don't give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There's not a place where I'll go, You've not already stood

Read more:
LetsSingIt - Your favorite Music Community

Friday, February 5, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Focus

I used to think I was a great multi-tasker. I'd have ten internet browsers open at the same time, clicking between them.

But what I've realized as I've tried to be more intentional and purposeful this year is that when I do that, I really am not as productive as I'd like to be.

Because I'll click on one tab and then forget which tab I had been working in before. Or I'll find myself click, click, clicking until thirty minutes of wasted time has gone by.

Even when I try to stick to my to do list (which I use as a guide because I'm learning that flexibility is key and also that sometimes God has things for me that aren't penciled in on my list...), I find myself getting lost if I try to do too many things at once.

I lose it.

Not my sanity, although that has been debatable at times.

But I lose focus.

If you wear glasses, you'll understand where I'm coming from. All my life, or at least as long as I can remember, the first thing that I do in the morning is put my glasses on. If I don't, things are blurry. Unclear. Can give me a headache.

Living life in the fast lane is a lot like that. You know how when they play a film and speed it up?

It's real easy for our lives to be like that. We can't see what is in front of us or going by us because it is so blurry.

We don't focus.

So I'm learning. When I find myself starting to lose track of where I was in a document, or when I can't remember why I clicked on that browser tab in the first place, or when I feel a little overwhelmed...

I imagine a stop sign in my head. I take a deep breath. Sometimes I even physically shake my head in an effort to clear the cobwebs away.

And I regain my focus.

Ultimately, placing it on Him...

For His plans are good, and He sees the big picture even when it's blurry to me.

Linking up with Five Minute Fridays, where we write unedited for five minutes on a prompt. This week's prompt?


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Friend Day

So, apparently today is Friends Day.

Or so Facebook told me, via numerous videos that my friends shared.

One of my goals for this year was to make time for friends. Old friends. New friends.

I've yet to really do that.

I'm not the most friendly person. I'm an introvert and to be perfectly honest I can sometimes come off as snobbish. I don't mean to be. I just never know what to say to people, and then I get uncomfortable.

I've thought a lot about what it means to be a friend... because so often I think we fail to be true friends. We're a lot like fair weather fans... it's fun to go to the games when everyone is winning, but just let us stay at home when they are losing. Being a true friend means that you're there for the good times and the bad.

I have a lot of friends on facebook. I have many acquaintances. I'd like to think that people generally like me. I certainly don't set out to do anything to make them not like me...

but that doesn't mean they are true friends.

I'm so thankful that we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He lives within me. He empowers me to love others when maybe I don't want to. I'm not perfect at it. I still sometimes find myself not wanting to be friendly.

But I'm reminded of the verse that dictates our golden rule- Do unto others as you'd have done unto you. And then there is that greatest commandment. Love the Lord your God with everything, and love your neighbor as yourself. And my all time favorite, which I read yesterday... love your enemies.

IF at all possible, with whatever you have in you, live at peace with everyone. Forbearing one another with love.

Not exact quotes... but you get the point. Even if others aren't friendly, we need to be.

Because you never know when you are the only friend someone has.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

From No Family to THE Family

This morning I was reading in Ruth, the last chapter, the last verses, really.

And it struck me how funny God is.

I mean, He has a plan that we can never know.

Here's Ruth, a Moabitess essentially without a family.

Four chapters later (and I wonder how many months? Years? How much time spanned the beginning of the book and the end? Something I'll have to look up...) we find her not just with any family.

But straight in the lineage of Jesus.

Y'all.  He's too good.

We never know what our obedience today will do.

We never know who we are influencing.

May we live well.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Beyond Sunday Morning

I love books.

I love books about God.

I love Bible studies.

And I'm loving Becoming More than a  Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa Terkeurst.

It's just our second week of studying it, through Proverbs 31 Ministries.

But it's hit home.

Because I'm that girl. I'm a "good girl". I like to plan and follow rules and make to do lists...

and that often takes priority.

I see a Bible study and think, "Wow, that'd be great to study." And then I see another, and another. My love for reading can sometimes get me in trouble.

And then I feel guilty because I can't keep up.

Or I speed read through whatever I'm reading so that I can have it "done" for the day.

But that's not what He wants from me.

He wants all of me.

He wants me to love Him with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind.

And to love Him like that, I have to know Him.

I have to know His Word.

I have to try to learn to listen.

One of the things we were asked to do in our small groups for Proverbs 31 Ministries was to think about our goal for this Bible study. Our small group leader asked us to complete a sentence. "My goal in doing this Bible study is to know God more, truly know Him. One way I'm going to do that is to daily, intentionally, seek out opportunites to honor Him by developing a friendship with Him. Talking to Him. Trying to listen to Him. Seeking opportunities to serve Him."

And that made me think about why I do any Bible study that I do.

I've been convicted here lately that too often I make things about me, instead of about God. I think about how I can do better, what I can do to serve Him... but Bible study is really about getting to know God. What He's already done. How He loves me. And as I get that... the rest will fall into place. As I read His Word, it will get into me. It'll transform my mind... which will affect my actions... which will cause His love to spill out of me.

Bible study is about becoming a friend of God. To be a friend, you have to listen. You have to spend time with someone. You have to be open.

And being a friend of God means going beyond a to do list. Going beyond Sunday.

This week I will take my relationship with God beyond Sunday morning by spending time, intentionally, daily, in His Word. ‪#‎LiveItOut‬ ‪#‎BecomingMore‬ ‪#‎P31OBS‬ 

With purpose. Learning to be quiet. And  being all in.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Not the Fashion Expert

Today Caleb and I were talking about SMS prom.

Yes, a middle school prom.

He asked me how much a dress cost when I went to prom.

I explained to him that we didn't have a prom when I was in middle school, but we did have dances, and I can remember what I wore to my very first dance.

A pair of white Esprit jeans and a navy blue shirt, with a blue and white ribbon tied as the belt.

Which brought up the conversation about what brands I liked when I was young.

I told him about Martin's Department store, which was in the shopping center where Dad worked. As he'd work late on tax returns, I'd walk over and window shop. I'd try on Used jeans and browse at Liz Claiborne purses. Then I'd walk next door to Little Caesars and pick up crazy bread, extra doughy, because shopping makes you have an appetite.

"Used jeans?" He said.

"Yes. As in a brand. They had holes in them with fabric underneath and we wore them rolled up tight. Or I also liked Guess jeans. But mostly I wore Levis."

With  tretorns and Keds and K-swiss.

And also a lot of soffee shorts and oversized sweatshirts and Asics cheerleading shoes.

But I wasn't a fashion expert... as I'm reminded every single time I look at pictures from that time period.

But I'm pretty sure no one else was, either.

Ah... memories.