Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wake UP American Christians

     With 5 children, things can get chaotic in a hurry.  First, I hurl a few warnings that I'm about to lose it.  I keep thinking they will learn to stop it at that point.  Oftentimes I get enough & loudly proclaim, "Can't everybody just be nice?"  That statement is usually followed by a hush in the crowd & me adding, "It will NOT hurt anyone to get along!  If you can't, separate!  I've had enough!  I don't care who did what or why!  Just stop!"  Then I get this blank, shocked stare that seems to say, "I.know.I.did.not.just.see.that.  She literally screamed at us."  Their eyes dart quickly back & forth at me & between themselves.  I have 1 that almost always tears up immediately.  I let out a huge sigh as they walk away, & I feel like a failure.  I am irritated at them & now also at myself.  I hate the thought of parents yelling.  It just makes my skin crawl, &  I immediately want to throw up.  Instead, I just sit down in the rare moment of silence that I now cannot even enjoy now.
     Again, I wonder how we landed here.  In my mind, they have driven what would be our joy ride right off the cliff.  Blame game?  Sure.  Who doesn't?  Who can relate?  Yet, that doesn't make any of it right.  Understandable?  Yes.  Relatable?  Yes.  Normal?  Justifiable?  Ok?  No.  I'm not sure what Jesus would have done, but I'm positive I missed the mark.  I'm pretty creative, but I am not the author of perfect parables.  Our entire family down to the smallest can quote, "Be ye kind one to another.  Ephesians 4:32."  We've even made a reward system out of it in the past.  However, can we live it?  After all, we are human.  We are faulty.  We are wrong, & we sin...yes, I called myself out & used the word sin.
     As this recent US election & all of the events surrounding it has come & gone, I am sad.  I am disappointed.  I am upset.  It's all so alarming & confusing.  I know that takes most of you by surprise.  Anyone can take 1 look at me, my family, our Taxidermy & Processing business (the very definition of 2nd Amendment Supporters), the fact that I've been raised in a very conservative political home, the fact that I believe in modesty as not only an outward dress but also a lifestyle, & maybe this is where I should NOT insert that my family has always reached out to employ what society has deemed as "underprivileged help."  To be honest & frank, I've never cut an entire yard of grass, ever.  I've done little, if any, domestic work growing up.  I've always been encouraged by society to instead use my mind for "better" things.  I italicize better because no one is better than another.  No color, no job, not even one choice completely defines an individual.  I have also never been hungry or lacked any needs or even many wants, despite my lack of experience with any form of manual labor.  Whether I want to admit it or not, I am honestly the very definition of privileged.  The question for me is not whether it exists or even if I agree, the question is what am I going to do about it.  Why am I privileged yet sad?
     During this time in America, we are divided.  Divided like never before?  I seriously doubt it when we consider the Civil War & equal rights movement.  Indeed, America has come a long way.  I am thankful for my right to vote & participate in our government & freedoms & those who have fought so hard for that.  I would like to be one that continues that trend that their fighting would never be in vain.  However, most of what I see is not necessarily heading in that direction.  What I see from even my close friends & families that I know is outright appalling & attacking one another.  Has sarcasm & mockery ever been as accepted & encouraged?  I mean really, how many memes does our generation need to spread their own agenda?  I will be the 1st to admit that some are funny, but at whose expense?  Is it okay to laugh when others are being targeted whether it be true or not?  Is that bullying?  Is that hate?  Is that malice?  & is that in Jesus' name???  I'm not asking if it is truthful in your eyes or for your particular set of circumstances.  I am not asking if you agree with the meme or can even relate.  I am asking if it good, edifying, graceful, & peaceful?  Dear American Christian, did you forget the scriptures that you claim to live by:

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is 
good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."  Ephesians 4:29

"Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking. nor jesting, which are not convenient:  
but rather giving of thanks."  Ephesians 5:4

"The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; 
but the lips of a fool will swallow himself up."  Ecclesiastes 10:12 

"But now ye also put off all of these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy,
filthy communication out of your mouth."  Colossians 3:8

"Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know
how ye ought to answer every man."  Colossians 4:6

     Sin is not excusable.  It effects others beyond yourself.  Sin is not tolerable.  Sin must be repented of.  & just like we teach in Children's Church, the steps of salvation are to hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized.  Similarly, once we possess salvation, we must realize when we have done something wrong, believe there is a better way, repent of our current sins, & confess so that those sins can be washed under the blood.  Wake up America!  Yes, I am asking the throwing to stop.  It is okay for people to believe differently.  We don't all have to agree.  We all see things differently based on our own personal religious beliefs, raising, social circles, circumstances, knowledge, etc.  We don't, however, have to bash one another for them or throw stones in their direction.  I am not in any way suggesting that you change your beliefs or who you are.  That is your decision.  I have never condoned nor considered sitting back & passively letting things just play out for my life either.  I am firmly rooted in my beliefs.  I am open to listen to yours.  That does not mean I agree.  I am happy to give my opinion as well.  I am an adult.  My heartfelt desire is to treat others with respect & to show compassion, mercy, patience, & kindness.  I want to show love.  It's sad that I hesitate to even use that word because of it's gross misuse.  I do not wish to be hateful or fling sarcasm that makes any group of people quiver.  I'm pretty certain that doesn't win anyone, especially souls for His kingdom.  For when you throw dirt, you lose your own ground.  It's time to wake up American Christians.  Jesus never excuses sin.  He didn't cower & not stand up for right either.  He just did it very differently that what I am seeing today.  Jesus answered not a word to defend His very own life.  He didn't have to.  He lived it to it's fullest.  He LIVED what He believed.  His actions lined up with His words.  He never wavered.  Yet, he also was not popular.  In His dying moments, He was begging God to extend forgiveness to those that crucified Him.  I am trying harder than ever before in my life to REACH OUT to others & LIVE in such a way that the scriptures extend life & hope through me.
     Since I have typed against certain memes, maybe this is where I should insert the beautiful picture of a church that states, "Church is a hospital for sinners, not a social club for saints."  If everyone in our church dresses "up to par," acts a certain accepted way, follows acceptable rules for things to do or not to do, agrees where to go or not go, checks behind one another to make sure others are doing as they are "suppose to do," this is not the church as Jesus intended.  Jesus compelled ALL.  I don't understand having churches that are fit for certain races or class of people.  If we are all perfect & have everything figured out, there is no need for congregating to prove that.  We will never change the world by going to church.  We will only change the world by being the church.  The church is not a building or even a denomination.  Having our name on a membership or only reaching out to a specific group we "approve" of or deem worthy, is NOT salvation.  I am not against gathering together.  We pastor.  Obviously, we are faithful attenders.  I encourage anyone to come & be a part, sing His praises, fill yourself full of Him to go out into the world.  It is not God's will that we tend to ourselves only & barely get by with a handful of others.  Intead:  Be thankful.  Show love.  Share & serve.  That is our life work, our mission.  We are to spread His goodness through service.  How we treat people outside the church after the service is over tells a true story about who we are.  Putting others down is childish, especially copying words of another that would hurt or put down anyone.  It has become the norm to tack the phrases "bless their hearts, just sayin', but that's none of my business, keepin' it real" or throw the words "prayer request" in the place of the real word gossip around in a careless, thoughtless manner.  Wake up American Christians!  Be careful how you throw around someone else's clever words just for fun.  Better yet, use your own words, & think them through.  Be aware of other's feelings.  Listen more.  Speak less.  We are none perfect, but can't we try?  
     I never thought I'd actually say this but I do miss the food & pet posts circling my social media feed.  I use to think, "What if I told you that you can love & eat without posting it?"  Now, I'm over here feeling like, "Where's the supper & dog pictures people???  Oh, & don't forget the selfies!"      

Please don't view this post as a place where comments justifying yourself or beliefs are necessary.  I always welcome kind comments & encouraging words.  If you hate this blog, I am ok with that.  This is my little space on the internet.  You don't have to make your argument or further your agenda here.  I am clearly asking Christians to wake up & consider your actions & go forth showing peace.

BE THANKFUL  ~  SHOW LOVE
SHARE & SERVE

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,
think on these things.  Those things, which you have both learned, and received, and heard,
and seen in me, do:  and the God of peace shall be with you."  Philippians 4:8-9

Sunday, January 1, 2017

& Let There Be Light

     
     The house is dark & quiet.  Everyone is sound asleep.  I hear rain hitting the tin roof above & see the sun rising.  I am perfectly at home with my thoughts as my fingers glide across the keyboard.  It's my 1st morning of the New Year.  TBH, I woke disappointed in myself.  I have no resolutions or major goals.  My thoughts immediately ran to that because it is so out of character for me.  I haven't had a coke in 5 days so that's gotta count for something, right?  That's not exactly earth shattering.  I am disappointed in myself because I have let others drag me down for a couple of years now.  I noticed when I logged in, that I haven't written but 19 times in 2016.  Mostly that was birthdays & holidays.  Nothing much heartfelt, more posts were out of obligation than sharing my heart even though others have reached out & encouraged me to.  I wasn't lying when I used the old crutch "busy."  Who isn't busy?  Sadly, I've been busy dwelling in my own little private prison.  It's safe & warm here.  I'm only surrounded by those I love & who love me back.  Simply put, if I don't invite you in, you can't hurt me.  The thing about it is, if I share with others the braces that hold up my walls, I won't be bound any longer.  I will be free.  I will be free to let the light in.  It may hurt again since I'm not use to it anymore, but light is not only good for the body but also the soul.  In fact, it may just be the SOULution...
     At first, I put up these walls because I was hurt.  I was hurt by false words, lies if you will.  Words have a way of cutting deep.  Well, I'm all bled out I guess.  I wasn't just hurt by lies.  People are people.  Lies they will tell.  That just happens.  Mostly, I was hurt at God.  Anyone ever been there?  God why?  Why are you letting this happen to me, to us?  I put up braces of shelter from others.  I chose separation & isolation.  Those words that were once so foreign to me became me.  You had to be on a visiting list so tiny that I was almost impossible to access.  Dearest person(s) who would proclaim from rooftops that I was the one who hurt you, I was not.  I did nothing but let your words sear me.  I lost my voice that night.  I didn't & purposed that I wouldn't do to you what you have done to me.  Yes a soul can be wrung dry when it bears hurtful words.  I wasn't strong enough to carry the weight.  My fight or flight instinct kicked in.  I chose flight.  I lit out into the dark, crushed & abused.  That's when the building began.
     My safehaven wasn't exactly God.  It wasn't addictions or sin.  It was just my safety zone where your words bounced off & rung in my ears.  The enemy of my soul tried his best to grow hate BUT God.  He still held the key.  He visited my heart.  We sat up late nights when sleep wouldn't come.  He was there.  He never left.  The scripture really is true where it says He will never leave nor forsake you.  He's definitely good on His word.  He listened to my story.  He would calm my troubled heart.  He would let me cry out all my tears.  He would cut down the new weed growths & sew in love among the blood thirsty thorns.  I needed His light to shine through the storm.
     You know when you shed light on darkness, darkness must give way to the light.  There's no way around it.  So yes, I'm breaking down walls this 1st morning of 2017.  I'm proclaiming that I'm not living in that box anymore.  God has fed & watered me while you were out sewing discord.  Yes, matter of fact, I am calling you out on your injustice.  I am not the person you say I am or have been nor ever will be.  I have not returned your favor of flying around in the same circles that we both started out in & tried to ruin you.  I stepped out of those circles & flew the coop before you even circled your wagons.  While your mouths made haste & untruths made rounds around the country, I was busy building walls for just me & my select little few.  You will never convince me nor will evidence ever convict me of returning to you what you have given to me.  Truth will always stand up to Father time.  Yes, I shut you out & that door remains closed.  Insults & lies will never be apart of my life no matter how good the person who is carrying them looks.  God does not command us to rub shoulders with them that seek to do evil.  Sin covers beautiful garments with filth & a stench that no man can hide.  You may fool others, but you will not fool God.  & in the end, that's all that really matters.  Sin won't enter into Heaven unless covered by the blood.
     I am His sheep.  He has left the ninety & nine to come find me, nurse me back to health, & release me.  I stand marveled at His works as I ponder our journey together.  He specializes in making ways where there seems to be no way.  When you lied & said how you had watched as our ministry has been going down for years, He blessed anyways.  He sent revivals.  His anointed met us there.  His kingdom was increased.  As you lied & used God's name by saying He was finished with us, you obviously didn't know my God.  When you discouraged our hopes & worked against our dreams, He multiplied them.  He has richly blessed.  My God loves, & He loves EVEN YOU.  Your words do not hold so much weight as to bind the God of this universe.  I'm sorry you were mistaken.  God is not in anything that is not in Him.  God isn't in hurting.  He is a God of love.  He isn't in tale bearing of any sort.  Yes, I am fully aware that you think you told the truth & were helping Him out by spreading the word.  Maybe you just forgot what you said & did & left any of that out of the tales.  Sad.  That's not God.  Your words did not set the record straight.  Instead, it brought confusion.  It brought pain.  It has delivered to you a hand that you never knew you'd have to deal with.  You may smile or have good times.  We pray that you do.  But we know there is a hole ever present in your lives that you dug yourselves.  We pray that you find repentance & peace.  That is not telling others you are sorry or that you have done all you know to do or even making the cheap statement that we don't forgive.  That is very simply to make peace with God, let Him lead you in how to make peace with the others you used to try to destroy us, & maybe one day God will open the door between us.  Only time will tell.  In case you don't know, what you do speaks so loudly that we cannot hear what you say.  Talk is cheap.  Forgiveness has nothing to do with you.  Yes, you hurt us but do not hold the power of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is of God & all about our hearts being free from your hurt & beating in step with His.
     During this last couple of years, I have been accused of writing about you, sending hidden messages in my blog.  You know I'm not that shallow.  I even quit writing just to prove that too only to find out that I was wrong to let you hinder me.  This isn't even about you, it's TO you.  See, no one will know it's you (or you or you) unless you (or you or you) have discussed it with them (or them, or them, or them, etc).  & to the "thems."  I am so sorry you or your family or anyone else has been drug through this.  I would not have wished that on anyone.  I hate the situation.  I hate the publicity it has been given.  I hate that you have heard lies & have been forced into deciding to believe, not believe, or just be really standoffish because you only know what 1 party to the story has told.  When did 1 party to a story ever hold so much weight except within the realms of gossipers?  You see, you are not alone.  Other ones have also given way to lend a listening ear.  Some have added to, threw some more junk in with it, & passed it around as well.  I wish I could tell you that was ok, but it's not.  Hearing something, believing it, & especially repeating something about someone else that you never checked with the accused to see if it were true, is not ok & never will be.  It adds your name into the web that Satan has woven & uses your name as an instrument to kill God's anointed & stop His will from being done.  Faithful real friends have stood in our corner & rather they have been brave enough to ask us about the ordeal or not, have encouraged us to continue to see good in this world & people.  It's been hard.  We appreciate every prayer that's been prayed, every kind word, hug, tears, & smiles.  God knows.  He loves His people.  We can overcome even this through Him.  The most important thing is that we all make sure our actions are led by God & that's He's pleased with what we listen to just as much as what we say & do.
     Through all of this, I must ask a few favors~if you consider us horrible people or have no confidence in our ministry even though you lack the decency to check with all parties involved, PLEASE unfriend us not only in social media but also real life.  Don't be fake.  Don't smile & hug our necks or kiss us as Judas did Jesus.  Don't lie & say you love us when you prove otherwise.  Don't copy or read or add your two cents as you send & share & pick through our posts.  Don't read into them, looking for clues or answers.  We are moving forward.  I am tearing down walls.  Just as we don't need enemies attacking, we sure don't need your hand involved to help that either.  Trust me, there have been too many opportunities to quit without you adding another.
     Our vision for 2017 includes tearing down walls to reach out, to lay down all of the fears, to wade through the muck & mess of life, to help someone that wants & needs our help.  We have love to offer, God's love.  He makes ways.  He changes lives.  Life has changed us.  The devil has sent something our way that we never expected BUT GOD's plan is to work it for our good.  We may not know why or how.  We may not know when, but we know who!  So yes world, I am back to blogging, back to getting up again & showing up for life.  I'm back to dwelling on my favorite Bible character Nehemiah.  He was a rebuilder.  We desire to build for God.  We desire to make something out of the rubble, even if we must at the same time wear our swords & fight.  It's a fight worth fighting!  Souls are at stake!  Broken lives are made beautiful in Him.  He's a pain taker & a chain breaker.  He specializes in miracles.  He's a way maker.  He LOVES all~all of the bound & the poor & oppressed & the homosexuals (yes homosexuals), you that give ear to lies & even you liars as well.  His love is limitless & cannot be bound by sin.  He found even me, in my brokenness of heart.  He restores.  He makes all things new.  He is the potter.  I am the clay.  He creates new beginnings.  He compels all of us believers to join His fight.  No, I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
     I read a famous blog about Christmas that really stuck with me.  It said something like I would rather my kids have 5 gifts & your kids have 5 gifts, than mine to get 10.  God has used those words to alter my life.  We have everything we need & most all of our wants.  We don't need or want more stuff.  We want to lend a hand to those that don't have without poking holes of judgement right through the pieces of their already torn hearts.  We want to give without anything being returned.  We want real, honest people with faults & failures to form relationships with.  We want to give love.  We don't want to hear your crying over your own spilled milk.  We are too adult for that.  Clean up your mess.  God will do the rest.  We want to help those that want help & tell them that we too know how it is feels to be hurting.  Hurt does not only apply if you do wrong.  Hurt does not happen to the deserving.  No one deserves the hurt the Devil dishes out.  We must set down the hurt & pick up His love, undeserving & unworthy as we are.  We must reach out in hope & offer hope.  The only hope we have to offer is through Him & by Him.  May we go forth & spread His good news in this New Year & embrace this opportunity for a new you!  There's a new page in a new book gifted for 2017.  Write a good one, through Him!

Our CHRISTmas

          Christmas doesn't come in packages store bought & dressed in boxes & bows.  Our JOY is captured right here in these moments as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of the King of Kings.
     We begin our Christmas preparation earlier than most every year.  Our Christmas tradition is to do most all of our holiday shopping BEFORE Thanksgiving.  My parents so graciously bless my sister & I each year with a 3 day shopping trip to Atlanta.  We do love shopping but not with the black Friday crowd.  Instead, we enjoy the leisure pace, uncrowded stores, & stocked shelves.  We return just in time for mama to cook our Thanksgiving feast.  It's always delish!  She can do anything~shop, cook, decorate, you name it!  She's the best!  She goes at everything 100%!  Anyhow, I really love getting all of that out of the way so that we can enjoy the season together with the true meaning of Christmas in mind. 
      First up, decorating!  The days following Thanksgiving were made for decorating right?  We turn up the Christmas music, deck out the Christmas PJs, & get busy!  All 3 of our kid bedrooms have a tree & decorations.  We put up a tree in our kitchhen as well as our main tree in our den.  This year my oldest girls really did those.  I am so proud of what beautiful decorators they are becoming.  I dressed the mantle & several other surfaces.  Most everything in sight gets garland, lights, & bows.  My mama has surely rubbed off on us!  Then, on December 1st we head out to:
     This was the beginning of a perfect family day!  Pictured are my 1st time Ferry Boat cruisers!  We parked downtown Riverstreet, rode the free ferry across to the Westin Resort, & toured the free ginger bread village display.  It was absolutely beautiful!  Then we splurged on a feast of fresh lobster & crab legs & certainly spent a small fortune at the Savannah Candy Company too!  We definitely left with more weight than when we arrived!  Next on our adventure, we scored free Santa Land activities & pictures at Bass Pro Shop.  The kids always enjoy the art, shooting galleries, toys to try out, & SANTA too!  Displaying our Santa pictures through the years is a memory I will forever cherish!
     Each year we seek out a nativity production to enjoy with our kiddos.  This year we chose The Journey.  This was the absolute BEST way to begin our CHRISTmas season on December 1st.  It's literally a Walk Through Bethlehem experience.  You "live" as a person back in Bible days, sail across the Sea of Galilee, & journey through Bethlehem.  You interact with the villagers & are led to the birth of baby Jesus.  We have visited several of these in GA but this has by far surpassed them all!
     Another holiday tradition we have all loved for years now is welcoming our very own elf Mistletoe.  He appears every year at the 1st of December.  You just never know what is in store for our mornings!  Little feet scurry out of bed a little earlier than usual.  Giggles begin.  Sometimes he is hiding hard (like in the refrigerator all snug in a towel peeking out between the sauces), or sometimes he is in plain view but into great mischief!  You just never know!  Ours aren't really into believing in Santa bringing presents or magic Elves watching to report their behavior.  We just enjoy the fun of it.  It's about having family fun together during the last few days of the year!
     Each year, we plan several family activities during the holidays.  Usually we check out a light display, build gingerbread houses, attend a few parties or gatherings, make ornaments, complete various art projects, & bake.  This year we made our way over to Statesboro, GA to TMT Farms.  It definitely did not disappoint.  There were miles of lights that twinkled to Christmas tunes complete with a western village & nativity.  This family puts on a spectacular show for a great cause.  The entry fee is can goods or donation for the needy.  So we drove through & spent an hour or more as we downed our cold milk & hot Krispie Kreme doughnuts.  What a great night!
     One of our favorite traditions at CHRISTmas is Advent.  We have a simple wreath on our dinning room table.  Around it are 5 candles.  In the center sits a pretty poinsettia.  Right in front is our Advent countdown calendar with daily verses & devotionals.  Every night before bedtime we gather around the den with only the CHRISTmas lights glowing & Bibles in hand.  We let the kiddos take turns lighting the appropriate candles.  Nathan reads the scripture.  I share the devotional.  Of all of the things we do, they seem most excited about this.  I don't what it is about turning out lights & lighting matches while snuggling up to hear the scriptures & praying but everyone is all sweet & reverent.  It is such a blessed atmosphere to end our days.  We always end our CHRISTmas season at a local Candlelight Service reading the scriptures once again & singing the carols that ring of Christ's birth.
     This year my heart has been set on reaching out further than just to my little crew.  God has answered our prayers & blessed our businesses more than ever before.  Yet, we have more things than we can ever use.  I do want my children to have a special CHRISTmas.  I want them to go to bed with all the special memories we've made & wake up to exciting new gifts, but I also want them to be a blessing to others.  We have begun picking up a few kids that have shown an interest in attending church.  It is easy to turn a blind eye or deaf ear to the less fortunate in our area, but we've seen 1st hand that you don't have to look very far to find them.  Children don't ask to be born into families where no one holds a job or into neighborhoods where drugs & crime abound.  They get cold & hungry.  They have wants & needs just like any of us would.  This CHRISTmas I want my family to look beyond ourselves, to feel for others, to reach out & help.  We have been shopping, baking, & planning to be a blessing to them this CHRISTmas!  After all, that's what Christ was born for!

Friday, December 9, 2016

THANKFUL


This Thanksgiving we are thankful for our RAEGAN AMILY❤ Friday night around midnight we were all woken up by her hero sister Marianna that something was wrong. In just the next few minutes that transpired, we thought we lost her...more than once...I just cannot type about that. We are thankful for the privilege to call 911 in our rural area, forever indebted to our RN neighbor Michelle that answered on the very 1st ring & showed up in seconds flat to take over the horrifying situation, my parents who drove me & followed the ambulance & haven't missed a second of taking care of us since, EMTs that drove us safely to CRMC, Dr Cowart & nurses who met us at the door, Aunt Marsha for keeping the rest of our panicking clan at home in the middle of the night, Uncle Josh for meeting us at the ER & also bringing prizes & food every single possible moment while we were there, & our Taylor for being not only our personal nurse at the hospital but also ending her nearly 13 hour shifts to relieve her mom, bathe, feed, & babysit. When an emergency happens in small town USA, those that love you show out. The texts of "praying" in the middle of the night meant much more than we can ever express-too many of you to name. Phone calls & loved ones began to pour in. Our Raegan had a serious seizure that lasted over 12 minutes. As of yet, there is no apparent definite reason. All of her tests are fine. She had fallen hard on the concrete & hit the back of her head at the shop way earlier that day but acted perfectly normal afterwards. That may have caused it. We will probably never know. She woke up confused about where she was but then has been her usual self-eating, drinking, laughing, playing, etc. She even loved the hospital...gifts & visits were right up her alley. A special thanks also goes to James, Steven, Hobo, Doug, & Austin who took over South GA Taxidermy & Custom Processing. Not just anyone will come gut deer & butcher meat for you for days!!! To Granny Grace who treats our kids as your own, thank you as well. Keeping, feeding, & entertaining them all is no small feat. Ashley sent award winning soup to our home, enough to feed an army. We are forever grateful for how Raegan has bounced back & all of the love & support of friends & family in our time of need. Following the ordeal, my mama & sister helped us heal in Atlanta with 3 days of nothing but FUN with Raegan!!! The memories we share will remain forever ❤ We may have spoiled her incessantly! Please help us pray this NEVER happens again. However, we do have medication on hand to stop it since Ryal's Drug Store filled it on their Sunday afternoon off! Little Raegan now occupies 80% of our king size bed. One day, possibly, our sleep will return. Right now though, we are priviledged to watch her breathe. #thankful ❤❤❤   


   

Monday, October 3, 2016

September Celebrations

      First up, Kaley!  Kaley is our first born, the child who gifted us with parenthood.  She is a typical oldest child.  She is kind, responsible, honest, consistent, confident, resilient, a rule follower, an educational overachiever, & always putting others above self.  She doesn't take many uncalculated risks.  She isn't our brave adventurer but will definitely speak out about what she believes in.  God is her pilot.  We are forever thankful He chose us as her earthly parents.  We both have a special relationship with her.  She confides in us, & we share openly with her as well.  Her heart is big, & our love for her overflows.  Recently, she witnessed racism first hand from an adult that she cared about towards an innocent child.  Later she shared the issue with me.  I asked her why she didn't come to one of us right then.  Her answer was simply, "I handled it."  & that she did!  I cannot share every detail but I can say that although my heart sank from the reality of her seeing such ridiculousness, I was overjoyed at her being the brave one to speak up for such nonsense.  Of course on the morning of her big day, Meme was calling before we awoke & quickly showed up with presents, cards filled with to much cash, lunch at Olive Garden, & shopping.  Upon our return, Nathan had bought her an ice cream cake (their favorite).  Per her request, we had officially planned to celebrate with special friends in Macon a few days later.
Shopping in Macon with this crazy crew 
before meeting to celebrate at Skyzone & dinner at Cheddars!
 Celebrating 5 birthdays with special friends~Jack's 5th, 
Kaley & Brianna's 14th, Graham's 4th, & Mallory's 10th!
That night ended with us bringing home one less of ours but also gaining another.
     Brianna & Kaley have been childhood friends since birth.  They made their debut just 12 days apart in the same hospital.  We were friends with her parents long before then.  Brother Willie Guthrie preached their joint baby dedication at Westside Holiness Church.  Since we pastor, they no longer see each other every week but are still so much alike in many ways & pick up exactly where they left off as if no time at all has lapsed.  Brianna went to bed at our house as a 13 year old & woke up 14!  I enjoyed treating the girl's to Ruby Tuesday & a little shopping before switching kiddos back.
      & then there was Graham!  WOW!  Our 5th born turns 4!  Even though we didn't "plan" him, God knew exactly what we needed.  He is our baby boy.  He loves cuddles & wanders his way onto our pillows most every morning around daybreak to finish his sleep.  What a wonderful way to start the day as my morning view:
     Most of the time, we talk of our boys collectively.  They are both ALL boy & so rambunctious!  Our home didn't quite know how to deal at 1st.  Now we just go with the flow of activity.  They are both very smart & really showing off as they master Kindergarten skills, even if that means spinning in circles as we repeat this or that.  One of my favorite things to watch them do is singing so big & loud for God.  With all of their like qualities, they also sport several differences.  Graham is much calmer & less stubborn.  He listens & communicates effectively.  I'm really proud of him learning how to read so young.  He has a talent for memorizing & applying scriptures.  Very often you will hear him quote, "Be ye kind one to another.  Ephesians 4:32," or his latest phrase, "Liars go to hell."  We just have to laugh at his brutal honesty.  He says it with such authority & confidence, shaking his head yes the whole time.  I pray he keeps his love for Jesus strong & all things heaven kindled with mercy & grace.  We love living life with him!  He keeps us all on our toes.    
      When Graham's actual birthday rolled around, we had previously celebrated his 4th with more ice cream cake (his choice) & presents.  That day couldn't just be filled with school work & normality though.  We quickly decided Mondays were made for birthdays, beach days, & FUN!  This is one of the great perks of homeschooling.  We each throw on our swim clothes, pack play clothes, & drive a little ways for some family fun.  Fall is upon us & hot 100 degree weather is finally dwindling here in south GA.  This will possibly be our last beach trip for 2016.  After playing in the ocean, we visited Tidelands Nature Center, a few historic sights on the island, & hiked in to Driftwood Beach.  So far the cost=gas & not even a whole tank at that.  Afterwards, we decided to splurge a little & eat Mexican food sea side at Tortuga Jacks & call it a day!  For very little $, this was such fun!  We just enjoyed what nature offered us close to home & being together.  As I've said many times before on here, love isn't about $ but about time.  I want my children to grow up knowing that we only put God above family here.  We don't even have to leave the house & play games in our pjs as we laugh loudly & have the best time or go on one of our little excursions & hardly spend a dime having a blast together.  Together is what each scenario has in common.  Sure, we could stay home & catch up laundry from the weekend or complete some chores but our vision for our family is much larger & more fulfilling than that.  We regularly put aside all of the mundane tasks that claim our attention & focus on one another.  That's where it's all at, LOVE!
     This post content & similar posts are mostly for our own memories.  I am thankful to have this little space on the world wide web to share my thoughts, views, & also a peek into our lives.  I much appreciate all of you readers.  Without you, there would be no blog.  My heart is humbled as South GA Mama nears 35,000 reads as each post is regularly viewed by hundreds of people.  I am truly honored & amazed.  I felt God tug at my heart strings years ago & look how He has blessed!  Thus far, I have only received negative feedback from 3 like minded individuals.  At 1st I sadly allowed their opinions to hinder my sharing.  However, I know I never would intentionally throw stones or step on toes.  As God's children, we are all in this together to help one another.  With God's leading, I quickly recovered, typed on by faith, & have seen this blog soar to new heights ever since!  I soak up each positive comment, both public & private.  When I am embraced by one of you with kind words of support, it means the world to me.  I leave teary eyed & thanking God.  I give Him all of the honor & glory.  Without Him, I have no idea where my life would be.  With Him, it hasn't always gone as I would've planned out BUT without fail, led to greater blessings than I ever could have imagined!!!  God is so good!  Life is a blessing!  Find time to enjoy yours too even if there are naysayers!  As Graham will grow up to figure out, there's definitely a place for them too!  Rise above!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Always Feeling Behind?

  Image result for quotes about living a God centered life   
     As a wife & mother of 5, my plate is rarely empty.  There's always more laundry, another meal, school work, church services, appointments, errands that should've been accomplished days ago, discipline, someone's birthday celebration, holidays every few minutes, etc & sometimes several happening all at once.  I rarely have white space on my calendar that stretches more than 3 days in a row.  Even if you are reading & have chosen to head your life with career or any other option, it's likely you can relate.
   
Women tend to keep running lists swarming in their heads.  
Mine is often something like:
  • We are all alive today & have all brushed our teeth (pet peeve=tooth brush Nazi).  Check!
  • Everyone ate something & most of us are dressed.  Check!
  • School work finished.  Check!
  • Everyone loaded in the van finally looking descent WITH SHOES.  Check!
  • Lunch will be on the go since it's nearing 1 (or even 2).  Coming up next...
  • After I answer the 5 texts that were very unimportant but said person thought were imminent.  Check!
  • Call to change an appointment on the road.  Check!
  • Just remembered that I forgot to take deposit to the bank for the 3rd day in a row.  Pondering whether this be life threatening?  Suddenly panicking that I have no idea where it even is...
  • Someone is fussing.
  • 2 others are singing loudly.
  • Cell phone rings.  Mostly I decline calls.
  • The fuss has turned to fighting that cannot be ignored.  
  • We arrive at the destination.
  • All the while my phone dings notifications.  Probably unimportant anyways...
  • I assess hair as everyone exits the vehicle.  Check!
  • I find out that it was the end of the world that someone said stupid.  I try to muster the correct responses.  Maybe a check?
  • We spend 3 times more money & time than expected in town.  Check as always & not even taken by surprise.
  • Load up.  Everyone looking half ragged now but overall breathing & tired.  Check!
  • On the way home I remember the one thing I went to do that I didn't get/do.  DUH!!!
  • Turning in on 2 wheels to unload the Walmart sacks (preferably 50 per arm as to save time), put up only the cold items, bathe, have supper, & rush off to church...Can I do this?
  • Headed to church with everyone looking like we have it all together.  Check!
  • Having an adult conversation for 2 seconds before a phone or kid(s) interrupt.  Again?
  • Blah, blah, blah!
& ends with all those guilty thoughts about what I should've done, what I shouldn't have spent, how I could've answered so & so differently, how so & so didn't get answered at all, how this is due, how this kid is behind on a well check, & how I cannot possibly be at 2 birthday parties at the same time until FINALLY~I sort out every detail of what can be tossed off the list, what HAS to be done the very next second possible, & what can wait.

     Most nights I stay up until the wee hours of morning finding a fun way to teach the next concept to the kids, researching whatever thoughts are left swirling in my mind sporadically during the day, reading books that challenge me, praying, or sitting as I am now typing away even though it's nearing 2 am.  The kids get their time, Nathan & I get our time, & this is my time.  This is the time I have set aside for just me & God.  During the day, sure I pray & praise & try to ring out every possible teachable moment.  However, that time is usually shared with others.  This is the time I carve out, the time when I prepare myself for the journey ahead.  The time I choose to prepare to fight the good fight, to read God's word & listen ever so closely without interruption.  Once my thoughts clear, I can sleep like a baby.
     How do I turn off the world?  I just told you how.  I set aside preparation.  One must sacrifice in order to achieve.  I can't offer my family anything if there's nothing left, no reserve.  Take advantage of whatever time works for you to strategically plan.  Grasp a hold of your vision & revisit priorities.  Think through the failures where you misspoke or misspent.  Take a hard look in the mirror.  Reevaluate.  Pray, study, & pray, pray, pray.  Praise God for your blessings, for a chance to try again.  Adjust.  Wash your face.  Be ready to face another day with your head held high.  If you have only lemons, make lemonade, & do it right!
     My most frequently asked questions:  How do I do it all?  How do I not loose it?  How do I find the time & muster the energy?  How do I feel joy & peace in the chaos all the while the world seems to be falling apart at the seams?  My answer is simple.  Take time for God.  He alone has everything under control.  Without Him, I am nothing.  He is my battle plan.  He holds the key to success.  He paves the way.  It may not always "feel" good & the future may look unclear, but His ways are steady & true.  He will not lead us astray.  He loves with a love that our feeble minds cannot begin to comprehend.  He holds the future.  I don't have to think about it.  All I must focus on is holding to His hand.  Within myself, I am nothing.  I can't do enough.  The hours tick by unannounced.  It seems as if just yesterday I began this journey & today we have a 14 year old & staring at our 15th anniversary.  We have already survived more years of marriage than the average couple, have more children than the norm, pastoring a church an hour away at a young age, a move, career change, the recent death of a close grandmother, more broken bones & surgeries than we had ever let enter our minds, bills higher than we could pay at times, unanswered questions, blame, blatant lies, criticism, doubt, fear, uncertainty, & the list goes on way too long.
BUT GOD
     But with God, our days are brighter, our steps are lighter, our spirits are lifted.  We walk unburdened for He bears our burdens.  We walk out in faith, holding on to hope.  We have a love immeasurable.  He doses our salvation with sanctification, covers us with His sweet Holy Ghost, & fills us with His light for all the world to see the Sonshine.  If I choose not to trust Him, I fall apart.  I wound those I love & care for the most.  I eventually find myself at His feet once again surrendering self if there will be any good thing to come from this clay again.  If anything, it is a gift only wrapped through Him & by Him.  Time for God isn't an option.  It's the only thing that satisfies an otherwise unquenchable thirsty soul.
     After we die, bills will still come in our name.  Taxes will probably be owed for that year too.  Hopefully, money will still be in our bank account.  With my track record, my vehicle will need cleaning, my purse will have trash floating around in it which may be safer to discard than salvage, & my laundry basket will not be empty unless of course my mama just sent her angel over or my friend Kendra happens to be visiting.  Also, don't judge by the scrapbooks I left behind because in that case I only have 2 heirs...(Future note to my little 3~Life threw us a curve ball having you back to back.  This mama loves you so big that I just chunked that aside to actually have time to love on you & spend every second being with you instead of documenting it perfectly.)
     It's not our job to be ahead.  There will always be something on our to do list left unchecked.  There are gazillion stories of the "perfect" degree that doesn't land a dream job, the "perfect" couple that split, the picture of "perfect" health that was diagnosed, etc.  Perfect for me tonight is staying up after everyone here is snug in bed pouring out my heart & praying that God use it to bless a soul.  We are not behind.  We are not forsaken.  We will not settle for overwhelmed or never enough.  In short, 1 Peter 5:6-11, God's word clearly states, "He may exalt you in due time...for He careth for you...the God of all grace...make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.  To Him be glory & dominion for ever & ever.  Amen."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

His Healing Flow Is Enough


     Image result for sometimes god takes away something you never expected losing
     Hard topic for me...  It's most definitely not hard to receive nor hard to give either.  I love gifting.  I love serving.  I love sharing kind thoughts, doing good deeds.  I love making someone's day brighter.  Most of us do.  That kind of kindness comes easy.  It's easy to feel love & extend love.  What is difficult about it is loving like Jesus.  Can we love beyond fault, failure, pain, or hurt?  Does the unlovable exist?  It sure seems like it at times.
     We've all been there where someone hurt our feelings, called us names, lied, cheated, and the list can go on way too long.  Children usually can brush it off very quickly & bounce back easily.  It's us adults who can't when events are seared into your memory without calling ahead & asking for reservations.  Things can happen quickly, before you have time to even process it all.  When someone is pierced with a knife, it requires a time of healing.  Healing must occur.  Injuries can leave you scarred & handicapped.  The cold hard facts are that things may never be the same again...
     God says to love, love beyond boundaries, love without measure.  Yet, I am human.  What hinders me & most everyone else is our innate ability to recall the facts, our instant replay button.  Some things will never make sense.  Some things will never change or be repaid.  Some things just can't.  Yet the text from the Bible that rings in my ears clearly states what is impossible with man is possible with God.  It's God who brings the healing to the table, not the evil doer.  I picture Him at an old table talking with me, extending a beautifully wrapped box as a gift.  He doesn't dangle it out of my reach.  He doesn't mention that it's value is far above what anyone could pay.  He offers, I humbly accept.  It's something I can't explain.  His love for us all is amazing, beyond my feeble comprehension.
     What about restoration, restitution?  God's word is true.  I believe in those too.  They may or may not always come to pass in every situation just the way we would order it up.  Heaven only knows.  We are only held accountable for ourselves.  We do not hold the power to lead another.  God does.  He can.  He CAN move mountains, but He may instead hand us a shovel.  In the end of Job, Job was given more than he had to begin with.  God didn't resurrect the family that he lost.  He never says he replaced them either.  They were gone.  The door closed.  Life moved on.  He just blessed again in His timing, in His will, & in His way.  Job learned to live & love again.  That was His healing flow for Job in this life.    
     We cannot predict the future but we can go on.  We can rise above the unimaginable.  His strength can carry us through uncharted waters.  He can hold our hands tight & lead us onward as we journey.  His healing flow is real.  His healing flow is powerful.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  His promise in His word says He'll go with us ALL the way, even unto the end.
     Jesus himself faced a hard life & cruel death.  So far, I am abundantly blessed from anything that even closely resembles that.  I have a husband I love dearly.  We share a strong bond.  We have 5 wonderful children.  God has blessed our dreams.  Nathan's businesses prosper & flourish.  I LOVE being a housewife, mama, & teacher.  Pastoring is our love & life.  What more could we ask for?  We could spend our days soaking up the joys & never thank Him enough!
     One thing I have learned in the journey is that His healing flow is enough.  His faithfulness is enough.  His grace is sufficient.  His ways are not my ways.  In fact, His ways lead to a better end.  He sees the beginning from the end.  I must have the faith to trust in Him.  His healing flow is all I need.  Where He leads me, I WILL follow.  I will quit trying to make sense of it.  His healing flow can take care of that.  With Him, we rise above.
     As I type I think of how no one ever asks for tragedy, hurt, rejection, disease, etc but this is life & things happen to us all.  Look around, & you won't have to look far to find someone in more desperate circumstances than yourself.  Go to them.  Lend a hand.  It will change your view.  You will leave thankful.  His healing flow is enough for us all.  Be victorious through Christ & not a victim!

Bible Verses About I Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You


Deuteronomy 31:8 - And the LORD, he [it is] that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 31:6 - Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he [it is] that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Hebrews 13:5 - [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Joshua 1:9 - Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest.

1 Peter 5:7 - Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Hebrews 13:5 - [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Matthew 28:20 - Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

Hebrews 13:6 - So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Philippians 4:6 - Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Isaiah 41:10-13 - Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.  Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive against thee shall perish.  Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.  For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
Psalms 55:22 - Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Romans 8:28 - And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

Joshua 1:5 - There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, [so] I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

2 Timothy 1:7 - For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

1 Chronicles 28:20 - And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do [it]: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, [even] my God, [will be] with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.

Hebrews 4:16 - Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Let's all hold our head up high saints!  God is for us!  He works EVERYTHING for our good!

Our Labor Day Weekend

GIVEAWAY WINNER~I used an online random name generator, entered all of the names, hit submit, & a precious friend of mine named SABRINA won.  It is pure coincidence that we just spent Labor Day weekend in Alabama at Summit Holiness Church with her & many other dear friends of ours.  Anyhow, she is, of course, very deserving!  We love her & her family too!  Happy reading!  Your new book will be mailed!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!