Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In The Beginning

I was roaming around in Genesis 1 today. With tomorrow being January 1, I thought maybe there was some nugget of truth about beginnings awaiting me in Genesis 1. And boy-howdy, was there ever.

All evangelical, Sunday-schooled, good old boys and girls can quote with me now Genesis 1:1;
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth".. BA-BAM

Honestly, I need not go much further. That's one of those stand alone moments that you can chew on, research through, and analyze with JC for days, months, years. It's like an everything kind of verse. It's one of those, "do not pass go" kind of fundamental moments in the Judeo-Christian beliefs. Let's just say it one more time before we move on,

"In the beginning God, SWEET-MAJESTIC, KING OF KINGS, ABBA FATHER, ALMIGHTY SAVIOR, MASTER HEALER, GREAT COMFORTER, FALL ON YOUR KNEES EMMANUEL.... GOD: Created the heavens and the earth." I added some color this time. :)

Verse 2.

I am ashamed to say I do not recall in my 28 years of running after Jesus, that I have ever read this verse. In most of my reading and most of my teachers, pastors, professors, etc..etc.. stopped at verse one, skipped two, and moved on to verse 3. But today the double wide started shaking as I started jumping up and down in my heart when my eyes beheld verse 2;

"The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." BA-BAM

We are a measly 27 words into the precious word of God and He has something life changing, rock your core transforming, get up and give me a Wii remote and do a dance, AWESOME, that He wants us to know.

Wait for it...

Wait for it...


In the beginning, THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS MOVING!

He is not a Triune God watching apathetically from the clouds above, looking down in disdain and disappointment. He is moving over and in the dark, deep, waters of formless and void LIVES.

He is moving.

He is not a hands off, magic eight ball kind of God, just hoping we followers can pull it off in the fourth quarter and bring Him some left over glory.

Oh N to the O, not this God!

He is moving.

Unashamedly, unabashedly, with no need to apologize for the mighty miracles He is weaving into this formless void of an earth.

He is intimately acquainted with the darkness, unspeakable pain, heaviness, brokenness, torture, and injustice, that permeates His created. He has studied it. He has watched the deep,darkness for what seems like an eternity, and now it is the BEGINNING! Somebody shout AMEN!

He is moving with excitement, without restraint pacing over His universe. Step by step holding myriads of myriads of angels back until HE can come at just the anointed time to conquer the darkness and deliver LIGHT. He cannot wait to come for His own, He cannot wait to come for YOU! And HOLY MOLY, it is just the BEGINNING!

In the beginning, THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS MOVING!

And for 66 straight books (I had to google that number, I failed AWANAS)
And for thousands and thousands of years
We (you and I, a bunch of broken, formless, void, human beings) are witnesses to the movement of that Great God.

After that promise, who has time for resolutions?
After that good news, all I want to do is get out of the way and let my God do His thing in 2014.

O people of the risen King, your God is moving!

Have a blessed New Year, my dear friends and family!

Much, much love!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Wilderness

The death of Mark's sweet grandmother, broken internet, strep, flu, and the stomach bug are all the reasons my poor, poor, blog has been unfairly neglected. I have been so sick that even the smell of coffee has repulsed me. If you know me, you know we have hit an all time low. If one cannot drink coffee, one should not live on.

There is so much to catch you up on around here like; the day Lucy ran away from school, or when we watched FCA win the State Championship, or that time I spent 6 days in bed calling for Jesus to take me home, or that time when it was 9 days before Christmas and I wasn't even CLOSE to being ready. Or what about my soap box about how much greed and excess have taken away from this season and the ultimately diminished the message of the birth, life, and death of Jesus? Or that time Lucy sang in her Christmas program and I cried thinking about Sandy Hook, or that time little Bean had to miss her reading field trip to Frozen because of sickness, and she sat on the couch in tears because she had worked her little squishy cheeks off reading 180 books since the start of the school year. ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY BOOKS! Or that time I missed two important writing deadlines because life and death happens, and our plans quickly adjust to focus on what's really important.  Or that time Katie sat up late one magical night with Mark and I watched The Nativity, and I threatened in my heart to skip Christmas so we could get back to what really mattered; JESUS! Or that time Anderson came into my room whilst my temperature soared near 104 and he said with tears and nervousness in his eyes, "Mama, get better, I hate seeing you sick!" Then his little boy hands rubbed my back until he was satisfied that my breathing was consistent. Yeah. We could talk about all the stuff. It has shaped the last two weeks of our lives. But I want to talk about the wilderness. And well, since I write the blog, I guess the perk is determining what we walk about in this forum.

Luke 1 is the book and chapter.
Verses 78 to 80.

Props to Hunter Brewer for preaching from this passage a couple of Sundays ago. It caused me to revisit it and mediate through the fabulous meat.

'because of the tender mercy of God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into a way of peace. And the child (Jesus) grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel."

I don't know about you, but I am crazy about light. I do not function well in darkness. The first thing I do every morning is open up every blind in the house. I lose all manners when I am in someone's house and it is dark, I start scrambling for lights and windows. The darkness makes me claustrophobic. So this passage gets me.

"The sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death"
It feels like this last year has been mostly a dark night. The promise that the sunrise is coming gives me chills. I've heard grief explained like a sunset and a long dark night. Grief often runs after the sunset, only to never be able to grasp the remaining light, but a new day is coming. And the grief journey gives hints of that sunrise. It is quiet, soft, and slow. Not all at once, but moment by moment the darkness is pierced by the light. I love that my God came to give light to those in the shadow lands.

Why did He give light?
"to guide our feet into a way of peace"
I need someone to guide me. And not just guide me any where, but to sweet peace!

He gives light and peace. And He does this not in response to anything we have done or will do. He is not impressed by us, nor does He need us. He does this, "because of His tender mercy!" Because of who HE is. Because of HIS character. Because He can do no different. Because His DNA knows nothing else when He sees His children. Because He oozes TENDERNESS and MERCY! Hallelujah!

"He was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance"
The Savior of the World, Almighty God of the Universe, the very I AM, Abba Father, King of Kings, The Beginning and The End, had to do His time in the wilderness.

How many of you feel like you are wandering in the wilderness? Bewildered by the journey you have been asked to walk. It is probably not the road you ever imagined treading down. However, you are here now. You are trying to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe your crawling, just trying to feel around in the darkness. You are not alone in the wilderness. A breath taking babe entered this world and walked your road so that you would never be alone! The Creator became Created, and crept inside the womb of a virgin, so that your wilderness would be conquered by the cross.

The Sunrise shall visit us! It DID visit us in the form of a baby boy two thousand years ago. It remains with us in the form of the Holy Spirit, so that darkness and death may scatter and Light may have its way in this world. And PEACE will fill all the cracks and aches in our hearts, not only this season, but all year long!

Happy Monday!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Living In The Storm: November 21, 2013

"I can still believe that a day comes for all of us, however far off it may be, when we shall understand; when these tragedies that now blacken and darken the very air of heaven for us will sink into their places in a scheme so august, so magnificent, so joyful, that we shall laugh for wonder and delight"
Arthur Christoper Bacon

Dear Mama,

A year ago today, I watched you breathe your final breath. I saw your chest rise and fall one last time, and the finality of the words, "she's gone" filled the room. I experienced the most sacred exchange that day; your broken body and mind for the clothes of newness and righteousness. You traded in your valley of the shadow of death, for a cup of eternity spilling over with life. Your absence here on earth immediately meant that you were present with your Beloved. Oh what a glorious thought! Oh what love divine! Oh what healing hope!

Every time heaven has been mentioned in the last 365 days, I cannot help but envision you whole. All the heart ache you walked, now seen as a,"light and momentary affliction" compared to the eternal weight of glory you now dance to. I know your dancing.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, my God how great Thou art!

And when my task on earth is done, when by the grace, the victry's won, e'en death's cold wave I will not flee, since God thro' Jordan's leadeth me.

And Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound,
And the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul

So Spirit, come, put strength in ev'ry stride,
Give grace for ev'ry hurdle,
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful.
As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.

In thirty one years, you seem to have weaved yourself permanently to my heart, moms are good at that. I think of you everyday; browning ground beef, folding laundry, thumbing through the card section at Walmart, packing a school lunch, cutting onions, washing dishes, making scrambled eggs with your secret ingredient, walking passed the garden section, brushing my teeth, cursing the Chris Tomlin song, "I Will Rise" that follows me every where I go (just kidding :), tasting Amaretto, seeing your handwriting on endless cards and recipes, recognizing a familiar spark of tenacity in my girls, and without fail; every time my hands slip open the word, you are at your closest.

Mom, I miss you! I miss you!

On this day, one year since the great exchange, we honor you, we celebrate you, we remember; not just that day, but all the days written forever on our hearts.

I love you!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dear French Camp

Dear French Camp,

November is celebrated as the month of thanks, and I would be remiss if I did not stop for a few beats and tell you that I am thankful for the life our family has found in this tiny, oh so tiny, corner of the world.

I love that from any where in my house I can peek out the windows and see the warm lights of Grandma and Grandy's house. It is a rare and profound gift doing life literally next door to your parents.

I appreciate that I know every single one of our neighbors, all three hundred of them!

Our budget is very pleased that the minivan stays parked six days a week, while our legs and Grandy's four-wheeler, do the rest of the transporting.

I think it is incredibly quaint that French Camp houses a hardware store and a bakery within walking distance of my house.

I cannot get over the number of deep breaths that I get to take over the course of a single day.

I'm happy that the Mayor and his wife serve ice cream treats on their front porch.

After spending numerous hours waiting in line at post offices in the big city, I am a big fan of the "no waiting in line" post office system we have going here. Even if I have showed up a half a dozen times when it was closed because I could not remember the specific hours they are opened. M-F 12-4? Saturday 10-1, but only if it is a full moon and nobody happens to be on lunch.

I giggle when it is pizza night and I ride the four wheeler up to Leonard's and appropriately strap my pizzas to the front rack with a bungee cord. Classic.

One of the many reasons we wanted to come back to Mississippi was because we felt so at peace with the pace of life here. Three months later, the pace is as deliberate as I remember it being. We have slowed down significantly and intentionally.

I think it's so sweet that my girls are escorted everyday to school by their Grandy.

Having not grown up in a football school, I get a bit giddy on Thursday nights when all six of us our digging out our "panther nation" tshirts to sport on Friday. Friday night lights. It's the real deal. So real in fact we will be making a six hour round trip tomorrow night to watch our boys in blue play in the playoffs. Just call us Eric and Tami Taylor.

My heart skips a beat every time the church bells chime, "Nearer My God to Thee, Be Thou My Vision, How Great Thou Art". Nostalgic.

I am thankful for Lake Anne. It never gets old. Canoeing or fishing on it; four wheeling or hiking around it. Or just sitting on her banks breathing in those deep breaths. Perfect for the soul.

I am so glad that my son asked to go 'muddin' the other day and he actually knew what it meant.

The front porch swing has become a quiet and special meeting place with Grandma; precious.

Camo has an increasing presence in our home these days, and I am ok with that!

I am deeply blessed by long coffee dates.

It is not lost on me, everyday since moving here, little people have showed up to play with my kids.

I am grateful to see the stars again....clearly, and LOTS of them!

I rely on the guarantee that while traveling to and from the grocery store in "the big town", I have a carved out time to talk to friends and family.

I look forward to the silence and serenity of circling our small town in the wee hours of the morning, before the hustle and bustle of life fills our one fine place.

And one of the richest thoughts I am extremely thankful for, during this the month of thankfulness; is that when I close my eyes tightly, breathe in the Mississippi air, I can see my family growing up here, I can see our family goals being achieved here, I know my hair can turn gray here with my love at my side, and I know I am right where I am suppose to be!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Don't Mean To Be Rude...BUT!

Oh Lu.

First grade, six year old, book reading, math loving, Lu-Lu.

Lucy has mimicked more of a tornado since school started, than the lively, consistent, creek she typically resembles. All my first grade teacher-friends say to give her some more time to adjust to school and the hard work of following directions 8 hours a day, before I panic about her spastic behavior patterns. *sigh*

One of the tornadic things Lucy has started doing, that will be short lived in the Littlejohn venue, is whenever she wants to give her opinion about a certain situation, or just be flat out unkind, she prefaces her statement with, "I don't mean to be rude, but..."

.... "your dress is ugly"
.... "your breath smells"
.... "you didn't work very hard"
.... "you can't play with me"
.... "I'd prefer you leave my house now"

One of the things I have ALWAYS appreciated about Lucy is her ability to be assertive. I really struggle with being assertive. I have grown in this area since becoming a Mama, but it has taken a lot of practice.

So while I am working with Lucy on smoothing over the rough edges in her particular form of communicating; I, in no way want to stifle the beautiful gift of assertion.

Per usual, when I am working with one of our kiddos in a specific area I am often convicted of similar patterns and/or behavior in my own life. My struggle is not external (Val would have never stood for such lippy clauses :) as much as it is internal. I like to add mental clauses and conditions in my most intimate relationships.

I am reading a book called, "Give Them Grace" which is an excellent book on showing your children the gospel through grace. But it is not an easy read. The author hammers away at all the little clauses we intentionally or unintentionally place around the little hearts growing up under our roofs. She identifies the difference between preferences and actual heart conditions that need to be addressed.

Often times we spend endless hours correcting external preferences and ignoring the beautifully, wild heart beneath.

If you would mentally journal every interaction you have with your child then sort them into categories of preference vs heart issue, you will be shocked how we are prone to harp on the preference junk. How our children go numb to our voices because we nit pick and nag about stupid stuff. It's no wonder then, that when we desire for them to hear us regarding really meaty stuff, they're already deaf to our guiding voices.

One of my all time favorite statements a counselor made at our CCEF conference, in regards to raising children was, "less rules, more conversations!"  I love this! I wish we could apply this across the board in every relationship and circumstance we encounter; marriages, schools, ministries, churches, friendships, families, and the work place. "Less rules, more conversations!"

Imagine if we consciously abandoned our petty rules, opinions, preferences, clauses, and conditions, and tried with gentle hands to meet people on the road they were walking. If we laid aside our, "I don't mean to be rude, but...." prefaces, and poured renewing grace all over each other. How different would relationships jive? How sweet would it be to commune in that circle of friends? How life giving would that church be? How transformed would our marriages look? How much easier would it be for our children to hear us?

Before the Throne, we are viewed in this incredible way. Our heart is what is sought after. Our core is found. It is grace, precious, precious, grace, that we stand upon.

I don't mean to be rude... but for real y'all, this grace stuff is where it is AT!!

Happy de-clausing your life :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Dress I Buried My Mother In

There hangs this little black dress in my closet. The dress I wore the day I buried my mother. Probably a dress I will never wear again, because who re-wears the dress they buried their mother in? The black dress will probably hang there year after year, because who gives away the black dress they buried their mother in? While thumbing through my attempt at a wardrobe, I always catch my breath when I feel the material. I don't even have to look. I know the dress by heart. I could not bring myself to go buy a new black dress to wear to bury my mother. I loathe shopping to begin with, so that task seemed torturesque. I randomly grabbed a dress that day, my brain fogged with incomplete thoughts and swimming in confusion. "Just put something on," I whispered over and over to myself, in an attempt to walk myself through the horror, "Just find something black and slip it on over your head."

As a little girl, I would spend hours sitting on my mom's bed watching her get ready. A slip and panty hose were non-negotiables for every event. It seemed like every where she went she always put those on first. Except for the rare occasion she wore ironed slacks. The woman had drawers full of panty hose; nude, black, brown, navy, shiny, thick, full length, knee length, and on and on. And often times, she'd slip on a little black dress.

No book can prepare you for choosing the outfit you wear to bury someone you cannot imagine life without. Most people cannot help you work through whether or not to ditch the dress you wore, or leave it as a hanging shrine in your closet for all time. Most people dare not even approach the subject.

But this is raw grief. Daily life. Walls you run into and sometimes collapse under. Memories that appear from thin air and threaten to suffocate you. Eventually, you find comfort in the suffocating memories. They become life lines to the person who is gone. You can close your eyes and run to them in the barricaded safety of your memory. The suffocation provides a place to find them. The emptiness connects you to them.

Sometimes I walk into the darkness of the closet. Gently pull it off the hanger and down into my lap, and let the tears spill over onto the little black dress I buried my mother in.

There hangs this little black dress in my closet.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Homeschooling Mistakes

I am a really messed up person. The older I get I feel like I see my messed-upness clearer and clearer. Maybe it's age, maybe it's kids, (my mom always said, "God gives kids to raise parents! TRUTH) maybe, according to the book I'm reading, Extravagant Grace, God loves me so much He refuses to let me stay stagnant and He uses the clarity to humble me. Hash tag. humbled.

Above all things my heart is deceitful, and at the end of the day my core is constantly selfish. Here, in the safe place of my writing, I am always VERY aware of how something comes off to my readers. Finding the perfect balance between putting off this air that we think we are the idyllic Jone's, and the contrary, sounding like Eeyore and whining too much, can be extremely challenging. *SIGH*

Mark is always teasing me that I am too nice to him on the blog. He always says, "Say something mean about me!" Which always makes me laugh. Here's the deal, while our marriage is full of mistakes and mundane muck; I refuse to air that junk here on the blog. Not happening. As far as you are concerned, I want you to walk away from this blog knowing how much I love my husband. And for those of you who know my husband, and know our marriage, you know how real we keep it... and how depraved my husband is :) See babe, I did it, I was sassy about your sin :)!!!!!

Ok, so where the heck are we going?

Here's the deal. I make a lot of mistakes. Line them up. Starting with when my feet hit the ground at 5:40 a.m. That in itself is a mistake. No one should get up that early :) One of my prayers is that I want my children to be able to say of me, "Mom was quick to admit her faults!" 

So here I am today, talking about a major mistake in my homeschooling history. This is not a critique on homeschooling families. Obviously, we loved homeschooling so much we did it for five years. This is just my experience, and somewhere along the way I hope it is helpful for another homeschooling Mom.

Confession: I spent too much time with my children. *loud gasp* I did. I really, really did. Here's the deal, somehow we have taken the idea of the stay at home mom, and the homeschooling mom and holed her up in her house 24/7 with no community, no friends, no support, no outlet, no space, and called it good.  We have left the stay at home mom all alone in her house with small, raging, manic beasts who pull on her, nurse on her, ask for a million snacks, fill her ears day and night with whining, who make a million messes, and on top of all of that need to be educated. And then we say, "smile for the cover of, "The New Christian Homeschooling Mom Magazine" ".

So what am I suggesting? We put all of our kids in brick and mortar school? NO WAY! What I am suggesting, is that those who homeschool be highly sensitive to the fact that mom has GOT to be able to catch her breath some where along the way. This is also true of the SAHM with small children. Our kids need a break from our voices. Otherwise, the contributing factors to monster mom increases exponentially. And boom, before you are even aware of it, the space you have created to love and educate your children becomes your children's prison and your ongoing nightmare.

Dads this is where you HAVE to be aware of your wife and her needs. While yes, you work all day long too, your wife does not get the space she needs while she is at home all day. She is with them 24/7. I used to dream of being Mark, riding in the car all alone 30 minutes to work and 30 minutes back from work. Eating lunch with adults, sitting in my cubicle; silent, still, and yes maybe even bored. Oh, that was the heaven I drooled after. This is when I realized something was amiss in our home. I was drooling over cubicles :)

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula. Each mom is so unique with a different set of needs. When I first started homeschooling I had a really good formula going. Katie was 6 and the only one homeschooling. Julia was 4, Lucy was 2, and Anderson was 5 months. I taught in the morning, then everyone did nap time and I got 2 hours of reprieve. Then we spent our afternoons at ballet, piano lessons, gymnastics, and field trips.I worked on Tuesday evenings and got adult interaction. I had something to call my own. It worked. It worked well! The balance was ideal. Speaking of balance, a special shout out to my sister who is homeschooling for the first time this year and I am so PROUD of her!! She has found a great balance and routinely hears from me, "Get away! Get away! Get away!"

Last year (while really nothing was 'normal' about last year) did me in. We were in no position financially to involve the kids in extra curricular activities and I had no desire to seek out the millions of free opportunities in homeschooling circles for activities, because grief sits you on your butt and says, "be. still." So we spent too much time together. The kids rarely, if ever, gave me 90 minutes of quiet during "quiet time" and I was homeschooling 3 different grades last year. So the work was more intense and the hours homeschooling required increased. We also downsized for financial reasons and had little space to breathe. It was the perfect formula for the monster mom in me to reside in our home way too often, and the guilt began to chew me up. Anxiety, stress, sadness, took it's toll of my gut and my heart, and it was time for a change.

It would have been EXTREMELY selfish of me to keep homeschooling under those conditions. It stopped being healthy for ALL parties involved. This is where we trap ourselves, especially in homeschooling circles. As a homeschooling parent, you have to know that other options exist! Co-ops, fields trips, exchanges, mother's morning out, bible studies, girls night out, YMCA, date nights, and yes, even brick and mortar school. Any and everything that will allow you to recharge and renew, so that you can do your job better. Again, this is also very applicable to SAHMs.

Hands down, I am a better mom to my kids this year. Not necessarily because we put them in public school, but because we all have the much needed and very natural space it takes to raise a butt load of kids. Yay for the double wide! If and when I homeschool again, it will look significantly different. The formula will include ample "time away from my cherubs", and I will fight with more determination to keep that monster mom at bay.

Please hear my heart. 
Please know that I HAVE walked a mile in your shoes.
Please know that you are not a failure if homeschooling is not your thing.
Please know that God uses all different ways to educate our children.
Please know your options.

And for heaven's sake! Get away from those kids :)!!!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Hiatus

I love Halloween!

I think trick or treating is by far one of the coolest things we do with our kids. In the passed, I have written about how I love that complete strangers open up their doors and hand out candy to little passer-byers. What an amazing opportunity to engage your entire neighborhood! Those neighbors that seem so stand off-ish all year long, fling their doors open at the sound of the door bell and offer unknown kids a treat.  I've been saying it for years, kids are so good at tearing down barriers in our lives.

We had a great little neighborhood that we lived in last year, and we saw hundreds upon hundreds of trick-or-treaters. Our kids ran the entire neighborhood with their cousins, and I was told multiple times between houses, "this is my favorite holiday EVER!"

Last year, I started planning in my head how I was going to transform our entire driveway into a carnival like atmosphere for this year. Carmel apples, hot chocolate, games, music, bonfire, etc..etc.. We were going to pull out lawn chairs and chill. Then we moved.

I'm not sure what has transpired under our little double wide roof, but no one even cares about Halloween this year.*insert heart break* After ten years of costume drama, no one has even mentioned  the word costume. Not one child has mentioned going trick or treating, and no one has even carved a pumpkin (except Mark).

Halloween fail.

Maybe my kids are getting too big. Maybe candy is no longer drooled after the way it was before. Maybe they, like their mother, miss Halloween in Kansas and are kind of sad we are missing it. Maybe, just maybe, we are taking a Halloween hiatus and we plan on coming back bigger and better than ever next year! Carnival theme, in all of it's glory, recreated in our new driveway in FC! BOOM! Watch out.

In the meantime, in honor of Halloween, I'll eat a brownie for breakfast (compliments of Miss Tekoa)!

Happy Halloween 'ing'! And check back next year for the revival. Revival of Halloween!!!


My "once upon a time" trick or treaters :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Pallet Awaits You

It seems like right around the four year old-five year old stage, our kiddos have struggled intensely with nightmares. Dobson explains in one of his many books, the brain is rapidly growing at this stage in a little person's life therefore, causing increased nightmares. Anderson has been having a lot of sleep overs in our room. Mark and I do not share our bed. We are just that selfish. We were hardly willing to share our one bed with each other :)! We are happy to share our floor space with whomever. Anderson's presence has become such an expected event at night, instead of being awakened and having to actually get up, (lame)  I just set up a little pallet for him next to my side of the bed before he even arrives. Now he doesn't even wake us up, he just comes in (sometimes with every blanket, stuffed animal and any other article off of his bed) and plops down on the pallet for some rest.

One of my all time favorite Old Testament passages is 1 Kings 19; Elijah has recently been the conduit in which God Almighty has put to shame the priests of Baal. Soon after, Elijah finds himself in a panic and fearfully running from Jezebel (never a bad idea to run from the Jezebels in your life, men! :) Elijah is exhausted, he sits under a juniper tree and begs the Lord to put him out of his misery, "It is enough, take my life!" I love what God does here, it is the perfect picture of a Father dealing with an irrational, exhausted, sleep deprived, child. He lays this grown man down for a nap, and sends an angel to stand guard over Elijah while he sleeps. The angel wakes him, feeds him, offers him sweet drink, and then puts him back down for a nap. God goes before his precious son and lays out before him a pallet. He gives Elijah rest for his body, soul, and mind.

Rest. Often a misnomer in the Christian life. Somehow we have elevated the idea that busy Christians, doing Christian busyness, is God's business.  For a season, we attended church Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon for choir practice, Sunday night, Wednesday night, every other Tuesday night for a committee meeting, and I attended a weekly Tuesday morning bible study. For real. We were busy. It was exhausting. We wanted to seek out our own juniper tree and be put out of our misery.

God, in His great mercy, removed us from that busyness, and set us down in a church where we could only absorb the service and fellowship of others for an entire year. Talk about a restful time in our lives. We went to church with no responsibility, only to just be. Of course, for Mark and I, we get restless when we go long periods of time without exercising our gifts. So when our year of reprieve ended, we were thrilled to jump in and serve however we could. At the time, we sat under a session that fought against "busyness". We so appreciated their wisdom! We went to church on Sunday mornings. That's it. It was blissful! :)

I believe in the power of naps. I believe in the power of rest. Real rest. Rest for the body, soul, and mind. Rest is a huge missing ingredient in each of our lives. It's why I love this passage from Psalm 23, "He makes me life down in green pastures!"  I love the authority in that statement. "He MAKES ME!" At some point in all of our lives, God sits us on our butts and says, "REST!" Sometimes, via sickness, job loss, family crisis, or injury. He knows what is good for us, and since we are a stubborn people He goes before us and rolls out a pallet and commands that we LIE DOWN! Often times we have to be so desperate and exhausted that we collapse under our own individual juniper trees. He awaits you there. He will meet you under your juniper tree and satisfy every longing you have. He will give you rest, food for your soul, and living water that will wash over the calloused and broken places, and He alone will restore you.

He is so good.
Always good.

Now go find a pallet, or maybe, offer someone else in your life a pallet!!

Happy napping!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Miss Billy Lovely

Post 501, the post after 500.

It's been a really crappy week. I am still struggling with feeling very unsettled in our new life. After having to join five new communities over the years, I know that submerging a family into a new community takes countless hours and painful ticks of the watch. This phase of the transition is always the hardest for me. It even happened when we moved "home" to Kansas. You feel like you go on a million "first dates" as a family. First dates to church, first dates to dinner parties, first dates to play dates, first dates in so many different social arenas. First dates are exhausting. Inevitably, there is all kinds of false advertising on a first date, and you sense that every statement has to be followed up with an explanation so you don't offend anyone and burn the potential bridge of friendship. EXHAUSTING!

Thankfully, just like in Kansas, we came back to MS to lots of developed friendships where there is no pretense, no explanation needed, just a whole lot of making out. *Laugh! It's a joke, it worked with my metaphor*

I've also been reading this book that is rocking my very core. It's called "Extravagant Grace" by Barbara Duguid. If you're on FB I've blown up my feed with quotes.

Most us prefer to hide our sin and weakness instead of revealing ourselves and experiencing shame and humiliation. As a result, our churches have become places where we perform well for others and speak far more about our victories than our struggles. In consequence, many Christians wrestle with the agony of sinful failure in isolation and desperation. The silent message (that churches are spreading) is deafening: Christians are people who quickly grow and change, and if you are weak and struggling you must not be a believer, or perhaps worse, you are a particularly bad Christian in whom God is very, very disappointed. ~Maybe it's time to change the message...~ Extravagant Grace YES! YES! YES!

Let's be honest: if the chief work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification is to make Christians more sin-free, then he isn't doing a very good job. God could have saved us and made us instantly perfect. Instead, He chose to save us and leave indwelling sin in our hearts and bodies. Think of what this means. God thinks that you will actually come to know and love Him better as a desperate and weak sinner in continual need of grace than you would as a triumphant Christian warrior who wins each and every battle against sin. That is shocking news, isn't it?

It is messing up my head. Thanks Chris, for buying this book for me :) It has caused a shift in the ingrained teaching I have been exposed too my whole life. Unfortunately, I cannot resolve it in my heart yet.  For my husband, it has meant dealing with an emotionally spastic wife (more than normal I would say, Zach). As of two days ago, I was swearing off all Christians and all organized religion. Yep, it was a reasonable day I would say :)  Maybe y'all should say a prayer for him or send large amounts of wine. I told him when he married me he knew I was passionate, he said there was ample false advertising.

When you let the message of grace, the pure, undefiled message of grace, penetrate your heart, you cannot be stagnant in responding. When you realize that at the end of the day it is Jesus plus nothing, (and our deceitful hearts are really good and substituting nothing) you fall to your face and beg for more of Jesus and less of you. When the message of grace leaves you standing at the foot of the cross, you are tempted to clear the temple tables in your daily life of anything that misrepresents that message. *Sigh*

Eight years ago, we had just moved to Starkville, MS. I had a brand new Julia and a 26 month old Katie. We knew no one except sweet Mary-Mary, who literally kept me sane. Even the smallest of tasks, like grocery shopping, were overwhelming to this sleep deprived mother of two. A couple times a week, or every day, because I couldn't seem to remember everything on my grocery list, we would go to Wal-Mart. Each trip to Wal-Mart included a small interaction with the greeter. It was the same greeter every time. At first, she was cold and smiled very little. It always broke my heart that we couldn't seem to break the coldness and get her to smile. If you remember Katie at 26 months you remember what a hoot that girl was. She talked to anyone. Countless hours and many painful ticks of the watch later, the girls broke through the shell of Miss Billy and she smiled. Smiling lead to her handing out a sticker at the end of our visit. One sticker lead to her setting aside an entire roll of stickers at the beginning of her shift to give to the girls.

Between August of 2005 and May of 2009, you cannot imagine the amount of trips we took to Walmart, and all the seemingly small interactions we had with Miss Billy. When we left in May of 2009, Miss Billy cried. I cried. The girls cried. We had gone from two babies to four babies in a short, WAY TOO SHORT, 41 months. Miss Billy always knew I was pregnant before everyone else, because she saw me carrying around an extra, empty Walmart sack to throw up in while we shopped. "Oooooo, girl!" she would always say with this huge grin on her face, "You and your husband sure do know how to make 'dem babies!" "Yes, Ma'am we do!"

This summer, after we moved back to Mississippi, we ran to the Starkville Walmart, because I'm high maintenance like that. Low and behold as the sliding glass door opened and I grabbed my buggy, out of the corner of my eye I saw Miss Billy standing there with this huge grin on her face. I literally ran to her and hugged her like I would hug my oldest and dearest friends. I almost cried. Immediately, she asked after the girls and I spent five minutes showing her pictures on my phone. The last time she saw Anderson he was six weeks old so she just oooed and awed over his cute self. Seeing Miss Billy that day made my heart swell with this deep appreciation for the blessing that can come from reaching out and touching one life with a smile. Just a little dose of Jesus' love and a Wal-Mart sticker can change the world.

Yesterday, in the middle of my really crappy week, the girls came storming in from school and Katie held this red envelope in her hand, "Mom, you will NOT believe who this card is from?!" She was right, I had no idea. "Mom, it's a letter from Miss Billy!!!! Wal-mart, Miss Billy! Starkville, Miss Billy." Immediately, before we even opened the letter, Katie, Julia and I started crying (to my future son in laws, I am sorry I've raised such weepy girls). Y'all you cannot imagine what a precious gift that card was to me this week. It was this sweet reminder to not give up on mankind.To not give up on the power of gently spoken word. To not give up on pursuing just ONE person in your daily life. To not give up on clinging to Christ alone. It reminded me to stop throwing my pearls to pigs and just seek more of Jesus. It reminded that the gospel alone, thru grace alone, is all that matters.

I loved Wal-Mart before yesterday, but you better believe this lady will never stop shopping there as long as long as there are Miss Billy's to be found!

To all the Miss Billy's in your life!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

500!! 500 WHAT?

Today's post is a BIG DEAL!!

Thanks for swinging by.

Today's post is a BIG DEAL!!

It's a big deal for two reasons.

One, today, is LJLife&Literature's FIVE HUNDREDTH POST! Holy cow, who knew I had so much to say?! Besides, Mark, my family, and closest friends... and not so closest friends.

LJLife&Lit has been posting for just under 38 months. On average, that's 13 posts a month (yes, I used a calculator to figure that out! I'm not the math person in this union :) What a fantastic five hundred posts it has been. I cannot thank you enough for stopping by this writer's canvas and supporting me in something that I cannot imagine my life without. My brother Andrew said something so profound to me recently,  "Writer's write, and you write!" Me a writer? I have always loved writing. It's why, at the wee and naive age of 18, I put in my Senior portfolio that I was going to be a children's author. Then I had children. And well, I needed a non-rhyming, non- singsongy adult thought.

Living far away from my family and raising kids, inspired me to write emails back to our family and friends about our kids. All their milestones, funny words, and a few pictures. We were still working from a dial up connection until we were set free in 2008 (Now we are back in captivity. COME TO CHOCTAW COUNTY AT&T!!!!!) After things began to become reality with Mama's diagnoses, it became apparent that we needed a way to be able to communicate to the masses. The the blog appeared in August of 2010.

Since the birth of the blog, the series "Living In the Storm" far and away has the most readership. Second place? All the posts on marriage and the importance of sex. Not surprising. :)

The second big deal today? Well, it's like this.. I need your help. I need you to tell me what your all time favorite "Living In the Storm" post is. I know, I know, most of you do not have the time to flip backwards over 500 posts and reread them. But if you can just think of one that stood at to you, spoke to you, stirred your heart, please let me know. Even if you don't remember the title just a "I loved the one when you talked about..." is ok too.

Why am I asking you this? Well, there is a writer's competition asking for submissions of memoirs of mothers. The chosen article will be published in a well known magazine and printed in May for the Mother's Day edition. I figure I have a few stories about my Mama.. But I need your help selecting one.

Again, thanks for letting this broken, messed up, grammar lacking, chicken scratch of a writer be apart of your life. This blog has saved me from myself. Saved me from more therapy than I have already had, and let me share just a little of my family and heart with the world...

Happy 500!!!
Here's to 500 more!!!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Not Knowing What You're Made Of

I am not sure why I was shocked. My child who tends to feel everything to the max, seemed to fall off the emotional cliff when things began to down spiral with Mama. For about six months, we struggled with a skittish, unsettled, little girl. Any time we needed to go somewhere, sweet baby girl, curled up on the couch and cried, complaining of physical pain in her stomach. Her stomach was constantly in knots, and her GI was a total mess. It was unnerving. She never wanted to leave the house. We tried every thing we knew to do; love, quality time, therapy, prayer, diet changes, prepping her in advance for leaving to go anywhere, more prayer, and on and on. Every horrible thought went through our heads. It was a very helpless feeling. It wasn't until about April (and the increase in vitamin D) that we began to see our Julia reemerge from the chambers of uncertainty and raw grief.

You can then understand why we were apprehensive about sending Julia to overnight summer camp for the first time EVER, uprooting her from Kansas, giving her her own room, and then throwing her into school, all within a four week span.

For camp, I called in the spies, and threatened Zach that our relationship would cease to exist if he let her suffer through homesickness and kept me in the dark; "Don't make her struggle, if she wants to come home, call me, I'll be there!" Dad faithfully reported back each day to her emotional climate, and even did a little investigative work to make sure Zach wasn't overlooking anything :)! Each day they reported that she was smiling and having fun."Sara, she is fine, she's doing great!" "She's eating, and laughing, all good signs!" Six days she was gone, and each day she proved this doubting Mama wrong. I couldn't believe she did it, I couldn't believe she survived. It was reported she had a couple of teary nights, but her Chiefs were outstanding and made sure she found the bed and slept off the sadness. It was a total success, and she is counting down til next summer.

The whole time I kept thinking, "this child is made out of something I knew not of!"

Julia settled in her own room without a blink. She told us over and over again how much she loved having her own room. I thought for sure she would struggle with the darkness and the loneliness. I was wrong.

The whole time I kept thinking, "this child is made out of something I knew not of!"

I knew school was going to be the final blow. I imagined mornings of dragging her out of bed and forcing her to go to school. I prepared myself for afternoons of pouting and banging my head on the table as we attempted to do homework. Especially, after the school year she and I had last year; she and I spent more time bartering about how much work she had to do before she could go outside and run some laps, than we actually spent working on school. She continually reported to friends and family that she was on vacation from school. Looking back, between the deep grief I was mucking through, and the uncertainty and sadness she could not pinpoint; it was a MIRACLE the child came out of first grade with any working knowledge of the world around her. Proof again, that God's goodness surrounded us during the darkness.

Here we are 10 weeks into school, and not ONE morning has Julia whined about going school. NOT ONE. She loves school! And the way we are seeing her bloom, under the careful watch and care of her AMAZING teachers, makes my heart explode with gratefulness I cannot pen.

It always brings me to tears, when I recount the stories of Julia's last year. The faithful Guide who went before us and before our Julia Waitz, to draw her to Himself through deep struggle and soaring success.

Again, it humbles me and makes me say, "This child is made out of something I knew not of!"


Your daddy and I have seen you grow in this last year like NEVER before! You grew up in so many ways, during some really difficult circumstances. This last year has left us in awe of this mystery ingredient you possess in your heart; a persevering, never giving up, bold- yet gentle- determination, oozed out of you in this incredible way. We think everyone should be blessed enough to have a Julia in their lives. We have seen Jesus tread on new areas of your heart, molding you more and more like Him. We love your core. We love all the ingredients that your precious EIGHT YEAR OLD heart possesses.  You keep our life FULL of flavor, spice, and all things NICE :) We can't wait to dig into the next year with you and come out on the other side saying, "this child is made out of something we knew not of!"

We love you oodles and oodles!
Big 'ole smooch!
Daddy and Mama

Friday, October 18, 2013

Instant Replay

I think you can discover a lot about the temperature of a soul based on the books one reads and the music one listens too. I know we've talked a lot about how books have influenced my life, but music doesn't just influence my life, it taps the rudder of my life's direction. Music heals, rejuvenates, ministers to, humbles, excites, soothes, restores, expresses, when spoken words seem to fail. At the conference, we spent an entire session just singing.... singing. It was like a balm. I think heaven will be more singing than sermonizing.

All this to say, I've got these songs on instant replay on my phone. Over and over again they fill the orchestra of my day. They are speaking to my heart during a time when musical notes are easier to understand than bullet points of theology.

All my worship leader peeps, get these songs on the repertoire. Everyone else go buy them on Itunes.
Here are the top 3.

Behold Your God, Sovereign Grace
Behold our God seated on His throne
Come, let us adore Him
Behold our King, nothing can compare
Come, let us adore Him

All I Have Is Christ, Sovereign Grace
And if you had not loved me first, 
I would refuse you still
Now, all I know is grace
Oh Father, use this ransomed life in any way you choose

Oceans, Hillsong
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your Sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed, and you won't start now

Music has carried me this last year. In the presence of my great Comforter, I bring lyrics to the throne room and just point at them, while I lay prostrate on the ground. There is a reason that great music is written during great suffering.

I hope you hear them, really hear them!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

You Are Not Alone

Well, hello there!!

Glad to be back here in the writing world.

Over the weekend Mark and I attended our favorite-EST conference, put on by CCEF. This conference is primarily for professional counselors and people in full time ministry. Mark and I are neither, (however we like to debunk the whole "full time ministry idea" because we feel like EVERYONE is called to full time ministry, no matter your vocation) Anyway, we love it!! For so many different reasons. The words, the worship, the work shops, etc...etc.. It's AMAZING. We think everyone should attend.

When Jesus took Peter and James to the mountain top and transfigured Himself before them in this truly  unreal experience; Peter begged of Jesus to just permanently pitch some tents and remain there forever. I love Peter's humanness here, because that's kind of what I was telling God about our experience in Frisco, Texas. "Please Lord, why can't Mark and I just stay here with our dearest friends, living this totally unrealistic life, keeping this ridiculous schedule, and riding this wave of highness?! " Pretty sure God laughed.

I could spend endless blogs telling you what we learned at this last conference, but I understand that is like trying to explain the thrill of a roller coaster ride to someone who has never ridden a roller coaster. NOT. POSSIBLE. So, I'll spare you :)

So, with as few words, and with as many meaty words as possible, (counselors like meaty words like; "pregnant experience", "cultivating hope of redemption", and "the arousal of the Holy Spirit!" I LOVE COUNSELORS) I will recap our "take away" moments.

Here are a couple books you should immediately stop and go order off of Amazon ASAP..

1.Give Them Grace, Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Small sound bite~ Making our kids "good" is merely an extension of the Old Testament Law- a set of standards that is not only unable to save our children, but also powerless to change them. No, rules are not the answer. What they need is GRACE!

2.Extravagant Grace, God's Glory Displayed In Our Weakness by Barbara R. Duguid.
Small sound bite~ What if growing in grace is more about humility, dependence, and exalting Christ than it is about defeating sin?

Elyse Fitspatrick, lead the second general session and rocked our faces off by walking us through the incarnation of Christ. The most profound thing I digested this weekend was this: by the age of twelve, Jesus Christ knew who He was, what His calling was, exactly why He was here on earth, what was coming, and the last chapter of the book. Yet, YET, He spent the next EIGHTEEN years doing the mundane things in life, so that WE WOULD NOT BE ALONE in the mundane. For eighteen years, He measured wood, sawed pieces of wood, and swept up saw dust off the floor... So that we would not be alone! He perfectly loved His neighbors, showed patience and unfailing love in His everyday life, in His everyday relationships, so that we would not be alone. He provided food for His family's table, and ensured His mother had a roof over her head, so that we would not be alone. He balanced the budget, cleaned dishes, helped with laundry, ran a small business, so that we would not be alone.

I literally could not stop crying after she touched on this subject. It has been ruminating in my heart and I cannot let it go.

What a gentle, compassionate, sensitive, selfless, God we serve. He chose the mundane for 18 years. He picked it out. He lived it out. He absorbed it, SO THAT WE WOULD NOT BE ALONE!!!

I mean.

Can a girl get an AMEN??!!!

And literally, that was one small sound bite, from a weekend of drinking out of a fire hose.

It is good to be changed. It is good to be challenged. It is good to walk on the high places of the mountain top experiences, and really it is good to come back to earth and live it out in the mundane!!

Happy Mundan~ING!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

It's My Party and I Can Cry If I Want To


Grieving people all have a list of days inside of their heads that are deemed as potentially weepy days. Days that we plan for, mentally and emotionally prep for, days we all would rather skip.

Since Mom went to Jesus, those days in my head have included; Christmas, Valentine's Day, her birthday, Mother's Day, the day she was admitted to St. Mary's, etc.. etc.. But no where on my list did I have "days leading up to my birthday". That's the tricky thing about grief, it's unpredictable. Totally. Unpredictable. I started crying on Tuesday about having my first birthday (today) without my mom. It threw me for an unexpected down spiral of sadness...

When I reflect on it, I realize how natural it would have been for me to have forecasted this day as "possibly gloomy with chance of sobbing!"  I mean, it was my MOTHER who birthed me on this day 32 years ago. And it was her that I exchanged a unique set of love and thoughts with everyday, on this day, for 31 straight years. And all of the sudden, today, that exchange did not take place, and it hurt.

The last few days I have felt empty. Off. Sad. Incomplete. Fragment like. Fragile.

And if I have learned anything in the last 10 months, I have learned to roll with it. Don't fight the sadness. Don't sweep over the incompleteness in your heart. Don't bury and use red ink to circle the fragments. And sometimes, it's ok to shatter into a few pieces and cry on your birthday...

In the Odd Life of Timothy Green, there is this fantastic scene when they are sending their son off for the first day of school and the dad says, "Have a great day!" The mom says, "No, no, no that's too much pressure." To which the dad rephrases and yells back, "Have the day your're going to have!"

That was today. Just the day I was going to have.

Thanks for giving birth to me, Mama.
Thanks for pouring yourself into raising me.
Thanks for thinking that my character, life, and future was worth the endless sacrifices you made.

This day one year ago.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Please Find Me

I just spent the last 30 minutes with this clown playing Cut the Rope on my phone (who also apparently takes pictures of himself when I'm not looking)...

We giggled, we squealed, we cuddled. Somewhere in the back of my mind, where the guilt chambers hold me hostage, something said, "You should be working on alphabet flash cards!" Sometimes, every once in a while, I have the ability break free of my guilt hostage and run free. Please do not hear what I am NOT saying; educating our kids is a huge part in their lives, but today, Cut the Rope trumped the Abeka flashcards :)

As he was getting ready to go take a nap, he asked for a drink of milk. While he was drinking his milk he informed me that I was "uninvited" to boys night tonight. Thursday nights all the sisters are at Pioneer Girls, so it's just the 3 of us. AJ refers to it as "Boys Night" even though I, a girl, am still around. To which I replied, "Oh, you cannot un-invite me or I'll eat your ears off and and blow up your nose!" Well, he lost it and started laughing so hard he spit his milk across the entire kitchen and all over me. We were both crawling around on the floor with tea towels mopping up the mess and howling.

It was at that moment I thought, "Oh, dear God, in ten years let us still be doing this exact same thing!"

In ten years, I know he won't be wearing these stinking cute super hero underwear, and he probably will be opposed to me pinching his booty cheeks 24/7. It is possible in ten years, he'll stand taller than me and believe he is faster and stronger than me. But I pray with this fervent yearning in my heart, that I will find him ten years from now. Find his heart, find his soul, find the things that make him laugh so hard he spits milk all over the kitchen. I pray that we (Mark and I), will fight the plague of the upcoming stages and willingly wade through the years of heavy sludge to earnestly seek out our children.

As parents, we often get tangled up and slowed down by the logistical decisions we have to make for our kids like; meals, clothing, schools, health, education, extracurricular activities, spirituality, friends, and everything else that pertains to keeping them going; that we lose them. Or maybe, we never took the time to find them.

When I see young moms at the grocery store with kids crawling all over them, and one child inevitably screaming for the newest candy that the devil-isle-placer-peoples intentionally put on children's eye level, I want to grab her and say, "find them, find them, FIND THEM!" Strip away all the melt downs, all the temper tantrums, all the moments you swear you are going to die in the mundane of toddlerhood-ville, and FIND THEM! You have to dig beyond the external behavior and get to their core. What makes them tick, scream, laugh, light up, resist you, resist others, embrace you, embrace others...really do you know who your children are?!

One of the greatest joys of my entire life has been finding my children. Finding each of them in a unique and intimate way. Each child is not to be discovered with the same techniques, or in the same time frame, or in the same manner, but each of them is begging, "PLEASE FIND ME!"

Here is to finding your children!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just Give Me the Dirt (Day 37)

Well, here we are 8 weeks into school, and I am all, "Sweet baby Jesus, we survived to tell about it!"

I am happy to report that this family is finding their public school groove, and let me tell you, it didn't happen over night. The biggest change? (Besides the sweet bliss I feel when I am staring out the window sipping coffee in silence? :) Most definitely mastering the 3-8 pm hours. I think I've told some of you this, when Anderson and I go and get the girls from school, the walk home feels like I am running a triage unit, attending to the child who is bleeding out the most. It's like learning to speed read, I am listening for key statements and phrases to cue me in on the pulse of their days,

"Mom, I bombed my spelling test!"
ME: Ok baby, we will work harder this week. Mama always struggled with spelling too, I still do :)

"Mom, the lunch you sent was delicious!"
ME: Happy Dance!

"Mom, the lunch you sent was disgusting!"
ME: Carrots are not disgusting...

"Mom, all the kids at school say I have the softest skin!"
ME: Tell 'em it's the coconut oil.

"Mom, today at school the boys chased the girls at recess!"
ME: Boys have been chasing girls at recess since Adam and Eve. Run faster.

"Mom, what's for dinner?"
ME: A big bowl of boogers.
ME: Just kidding :)

Typically, I can quickly find out, what, when, and how about their day. The beauty of chatty girls. Sometimes I can detect a discouraged spirit, a tired spirit, an overwhelmed spirit, an excited spirit, a proud (the good kind) of spirit, within seconds of seeing them.

But I have to tell you, one moment that still gets me a little choked up is when I am sending them off for the day. More often than not, I try and address each of them individually and send them off with a promise and a challenge.

"Katie, I LOVE YOU! You are going to rock that math test! Be sensitive to hurting kids today."

"Julia, how do you spell whiskers? I LOVE YOU! Look for someone who needs extra love today."

"Lucy, did you remember your lunch? Be a BIG helper today! Be brave, no tears! I LOVE YOU!

"Did I mention that I LOVE YOU?!!!"


Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Val Hall Kind of Weekend

If you happened to be under a rock last weekend, you would have missed the millions of pictures entitled #hallfamilyvacation clogging up FB.

In case you missed it....

We took a #hallfamilyvacation. In my almost 32 years of life, this was our second family vacation. Our first was to Colorado in 1991. Don't get me wrong, we have taken LOTS of family get-a-ways to the lake of the Ozarks to stay in my Uncle's cabin. Every year Mom and Dad would take tons of youth to Branson for Young Christians Weekend. Currently, we take advantage of every holiday and turn it into some type of family gathering, even if it's just to celebrate the first day of spring.  Where there is a will there is a party. :)

For as long as I can remember, the biggest joy of vacations, get-a-ways, or holidays is the simple high we all get just being together. Deep down, we love being together. Really, it doesn't matter where or when. This is a HUGE compliment to my parents and the hard work they poured out in raising us to enjoy one another. Raising siblings who genuinely love each other comes from a place of intentional parenting. From my own experience of being a sibling and now raising siblings, you don't just naturally love the people you dwell with day after day after day. It's a lot of work. I know mom and dad broke up endless squabbles and fist fights. They put a stop to many arguments, and made rotation lists regarding who got shot gun to and from school. But at the end of the day, it was 100% unacceptable to be ugly, unkind, and unloving to one another. Some of the harshest discipline I received as a little girl was the direct consequence of breaking this cardinal Hall rule.

Many years later there is a deep, deep, loyalty and love we feel toward one another. We will fight to the death for each other, (unless you're really being dumb, then we sidestep and let someone kick the snot out of you :)

Last weekend was the first time we had all been back together since our heavy November. For weeks leading up to our #hallfamilyvacation we texted like giddy school children. Again, the fact that we were pumped to see each other is a stand alone victory :)!

Dad picked Branson for the setting because we have endless memories there as a family, and really because Mama loved Branson.

It was such a sweet weekend! It went by far to fast and no one wanted to leave. We go-carted, we shopped, we conquered Silver Dollar City and rode rides until we were sick, we ate deliciousness, and we did what we always do best; we were together.

The weekend was not without some sucker punches. While the six grands hopped onto the tram, with smiles as big as Christmas on their faces, I caught myself choking up and thinking, "She would have loved this." While the train conductor teased the kids while we waited for the train to return to the station, I caught my breath, "She would have thought this was just perfect!" And while we splashed and hollered in the pool and hot tub, I could see her sitting among us soaking up every second of this precious moment!

Mom was a good soaker-upper. She didn't let moments pass by without saying, "Clint, where's the camera, take a picture of this!" She wanted to hold onto 'moments' as often as she could. Not only was she a great soaker-upper, she was an excellent architect in creating memories.

That's why we went to Branson, because as hard as it was to sense the magnified hole of her absence, we went because it's time to create more memories. We went because that's exactly what she would have us doing; soaking up each other. Mom is apart of every memory we make together, even if she can't be with us. She gave us an eternal gift; the gift of really loving each other.

We missed you last weekend Mama.
We miss you every day Mama.

It was definitely a Val Hall, kind of weekend,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Send the Crowd Away!

I often find myself giggling at the twelve disciples, or the "twelve dudes who did" as the Littlejohns refer to them.

Today, I was rereading the story of the when Jesus fed the five thousand (15,000 when you count women and children). Jesus had spent the entire day surrounded by thousands of people. Mark 9 verse 11, tells us that Jesus welcomed them, healed them, cured them, and taught them. As the sun begins to set and the disciples stomachs begin to growl, I imagine they panic a little in regards to how in the heck they are going to get some good grub with all these people in their way. Maybe they were done with the whole "you are healed" stuff, and were ready to put the day in the books.

This is the verse that tripped me up, "Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, 'Send the crowd away'.... "


Or maybe not.

I see myself in this verse. I can relate to these dudes. When I am faced with an onslaught of undone, broken, helpless, situations; where needs and wants are far beyond my capabilities, sometimes, a lot of times, I try and persuade Jesus, "let's just send that crowd away! Let's disregard it. Can we just press the delete button and move on? The faith, energy, hurting, and sacrifice this particular situation might require of me is far too overwhelming."

Like the disciples, "Uh, Jesus we do not have the means to feed these people, let's send them to the local towns and villages to see if they can scrape up some food for 15,000 (because Chickfila's were everywhere in Bethsaida in 30 A.D. :)...

Here are the disciples standing in the presence of God Almighty, who created the world by pressing His lips together to form words, and the disciples are a mess because they are hungry and seem to be lacking in some problem solving skills. Again, I get the disciples issues. When I am hungry the problem solving part of my brain shuts down. KA-PUT! And I am not very "others" focused, (i.e. CRANKPOT!)

But this is what I love about my Jesus, His response, "Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each!" Oh my stars, be still my administrative beating heart. The detail, the control, the calmness in His tone.
For all we know, next Jesus lead them in a camp song as they waited for the miracle. Don't ever doubt that our God is a God of details. He is in them, He uses them, He asks us sometimes to be about them.

"Have them sit down to EAT!" Before He even touches the scraps He is offered, there is HOPE! He announces what is about to happen to the disciples. And there is not an ounce of doubt in the King's mind; He is going to feed these people.

Can you see the confusion on the disciples faces? "Small problem here JC, we are in the middle of no where and all we have are two fish and five loaves of bread." But they did what faithful followers do; they obeyed, they asked the people to sit even though it made zero sense in their minds. They obeyed, despite the lack of understanding and knowing what was going to happen next. They obeyed, regardless of the fact they saw no logical solution before them; they obeyed.

Right when the disciples wanted to put the day behind them, right when they were begging Jesus to, "send the crowds away" God provided for one of the most basic needs humans have; food. Not only did He provide with such abundance, verse 17 tells us, "they were satisfied!" Ah, such sweet nectar to the hungry belly. I am fully convinced He satisfied not only their physical need of hunger that day, He satisfied their souls. He satisfied their doubts. He satisfied wavering, quivering, spirits. He satisfied. And you know what? He still SATISFIES.

Satisfied with Jesus, I am satisfied with Him! (*thank you Ruth Ward*)