Monday, April 17, 2017

A Little Different Easter This Year


      This picture, my friend, is NOT what Easter is about.  My heart was convicted after reading a blog post by the famous author Jen Hatmaker.  Her church was gearing up for their 10th Under the Bridge Easter for the homeless of Austin.  My sister shared Jen's post with these words on top, "I so much  this. This is what church should be. Can't we just do this instead of buying Easter dresses? Are Easter dresses even still a thing for people?" 
     Why yes, Easter dresses are still a thing for people (especially in the south) but not this year for us.  I made a choice right then & there to not go out or even internet search for hours,spending hundreds.  After all, we have more clothes & shoes than we need, more than we ever will wear.  Thankfully, we had company that flew in & hosted Taxidermy classes in our shop the entire week before Easter.  It not only added extra on to my plate & kept me busy cleaning up after, washing extra clothes, & feeding the small army of guys but also my thoughts in check from second guessing the decision (I guess you can call it mom guilt & some crazy inborn nature to fit in to society that tries to rear it's ugly head from time to time.).  The moment they left out on that Saturday, the very day before Easter, I shared my heart about it with Nathan.  Of course he hadn't worried a bit about having clothes for Easter & jumped right on board with not running to town in a panic to buy last minute.  To be honest, I think I told him for accountability for myself, to insure that I wouldn't cave under pressure.  That was the right choice for my family this year.  Afternoon approached.  We braved the local Dollar Tree for candy for our crew & the church kids & ended up only spending $9 on a few cheap prizes to set in front of their baskets.
     As anyone can see, we most certainly did not do without.  If you look closely, you can spot a tag or several hanging from the clothes.  What we discovered was that we had more than enough springy clothes & shoes to choose from, some that had been hanging & never worn.  We all had nice clothes on even though every item wasn't new.  The kids woke up excited as usual.  As I type, I have sticky men dangling from the ceiling overhead.  No one did without.  The kids never missed a beat nor even noticed.  We are beyond blessed already.  No need in wasting more.  Maybe after my last 2 posts, less is more may be motto this year.  There is really no need in promoting ourselves.  The thought comes to mind, "After reading this, people will think y'all are broke."  Think that if you want.  It's a heart thing, not a wallet issue.  
     Our 7 all got ready for Easter Sunday morning service.  We didn't stress too much about hair dos this year either.  That's no small feat for me.  We left an hour early to pick up the our "bus" kids as usual.  That ministry is our heart.  I threw a few extra clothes in the back of our van in case that one in particular wouldn't have anything to wear again.  I was shocked & surprised at how dolled up they were.  There's just something about Easter that everyone knows is special.  New faces were present.  Happiness abounded in the air.  We sang His praises.  The kids choir livened things up with "Jesus is Alive & Well!"  The Lord passed by & anointed Nathan to preach a tremendous message highlighting Peter's part in the story of Jesus' resurrection.  Jesus' life insisted that mercy triumphs over criticism & judgement.  He chose to love & live among the outcast & call them the beloved children of God.  Jesus stood in the gap for us.  He accepted the crucifixion, but it did not defeat Him.  Nothing can keep you from that kind of love outstretched.  Death of this world could not conquer my Savior.  He LIVES & came to see about even Mr Peter who cursed & denied him thrice.  There are no conditions on His love for ALL humanity.  Our service was truly a resurrection service, one I won't soon forget!
The Kiddos at Papa & Meme's House Easter Afternoon
hjkhjkhjkT
          Easter afternoon was filled with family fun.  No big to do dinner this year.  We all met up about 3.  EE did work her magic for us a mouth watering Easter cake.  We made a humongous mess dying, coloring, hiding, & hunting eggs.  The kids opened gifts, ran, played, & ate way too much junk.  Nothing lacked.  Again, less really is more!
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Photos compliments of EE's Cakery Facebook page!  
Go look & LIKE her page!
You will NOT be disappointed!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Marched Off

     March is birthday month here.  The 6th is the day we celebrate Marianna Jewel & the 26th is Clay Walker's day.  This year we seemed to march off the grid the whole month for lots of fun!
     For starters, Marianna wished for a horse ride on the beach.  She had no idea that we'd deliver.  We told her the beach was a go for celebrating her 11 years but the horses were a stretch.  We woke them early to adventure to Fernandina Beach, FL.  We ate great, played hard, posed for pictures, & just as she thought we were leaving, she found out the horse trailer unloading across the parking lot was just for her.  Her wishes were granted!  The excitement in her eyes were worth it all!  We left the island with tummies full of seafood, thankful hearts, & new memories.
     The next week, my mama whisked us girls away to North Carolina.  To say we had fun would definitely be an understatement!  Even with fine dining & lots of shopping underway, both pale in comparison to touring the Biltmore Estate!  It was absolutely amazing.  I couldn't imagine a castle being any larger.  No words could describe it justly!  If you've never been, GO!  It's the largest estate in North American & 85% is open to view.  Best of all, you experience the romantic love story of how the family reached out to others with heart's of gold.  To add to the beauty, the snow was pouring down like soft rain & stretched as far as you could see were carpets of spring tulips.  Just remembering makes me want to pack & trek right back!
     After we settled back home, our church held revival with some of our great friends.  It's so encouraging to see others that we don't see very often & experience how time & space never damper true friendship.  God has richly blessed us with many of those in ministry.  I cherish the time spent in the company of others as they share with us their hearts.
     Even though Clay may have thought his time would never arrive, it surely did!  His wish for a 6th birthday family camping trip had been planned out for months down to even the smallest detail.  While we had our say in ordering the tent, he picked out most everything else right down to the meals.  To be completely honest, I may have tried to talk him into "camping" at the cabin only to have had a BLAST.  Going to bed with the fire crackling, crickets singing, & owls hooting & waking up to the sun rising over Walker Campsite on the banks of the river felt like the closest thing to Heaven.  We swam🌊, built campfires for us & the army men🔥, fished trot lines🐟, hunted turkeys🦃, grilled steak & shrimp🍤, roasted marshmallows🍙, kayaked⛵, sang way too loud🎶, blew out candles🕯, ate EE'S delicious cake🎂, opened presents🎁, partied nonstop🎉, & played way too hard!  The slow pace was exactly perfect.  We left with memories that will never be forgotten.  The 100 quart cooler of dressed fished was only the icing on the cake.  We can't wait to go again!
     Between all of these adventures, we squeezed in a museum field trip with our local homeschool group as well as a few other hunting & fishing trips.  Spring here has sprung!  The beautiful weather has it's pull on us to get outdoors.  Marching off the grid was nothing short of perfect!  I'm sure I missed the lastest memes & what someone else whom I barely ever see was up to, but that doesn't even compare.  Try it sometime!  Less really is more.  💗

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     Reflection= PRICELESS!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

DREAM

     My laptop is back!  Blogging twice without it this year was all I could take!  I am so thankful for friends with technology super powers!  As my fingers glide across my familiar keyboard, all seems right with the world...

       I began this day rather "illy."  Is that even a word?  Anyways, it's kinda like right on the brink of being full fledged ill.  My allergies/sinus come & go this time of year.  I could list several other excuses as well.  One main issue was that time just slipped away this morning.  I had like point 2 seconds to get ready & leave to get the girls to their Art Class on time.  I really needed to wash my hair but that had to wait.  Not long into the ride, I wished I had chosen a different shirt.  This one was uncomfortable.  Overall, I felt like a hot mess & was pondering what I could do to turn my feelings around instead of them jumping off the cliff.
     1st things 1st~BUY another shirt before I have a breakdown!  As soon as I dropped the girls at their destination, I hit a favorite store up & found not only 1 new shirt but 2 & also a few other things.  With my shirt changed & retail therapy underway, I came across this sign:
       I just stood there lost in thought, snapping this picture.  I began reflecting on good things.  My illy mood vanished.  You know, dreams really do come true!  My thoughts immediately ran to years ago when I asked Nathan if he could do anything he wanted, what would it be?  At first he reacted as if I had asked him the silliest, most unthinkable question ever.  Until that moment, he had never even realized that he could actually choose to work a job he loved.  In a few moments, he answered Taxidermy, & his dream was born!  Here we are, YEARS down the road (literally 2 miles away to be exact).  He worked 10 years at 2 jobs.  His Taxidermy shop consisted of a storage building during that time.  We lived on a dirt road on land that wasn't even our own.  Now fast forward to the present...We purchased a small pecan orchard on the main highway in order to have the frontage for the business.  We moved our home to the land as well.  Our business has since expanded to include Custom Processing & has grown by leaps & bounds every. single. year!  Here's a visual:
 South GA Taxidermy Then & Now
     We also literally laugh out loud at some of our dreams that fizzled.  Any of you have those?  Some are probably not as comical as ours.  We once drove down the interstate at the beginning of our marriage wishing we owned a camper.  Thank heaven above that God truly knows best!  It was a fleeting dream.  We are so thankful that we never swooped into one of those lots & purchased.  No, we are not against anyone who has that dream.  It's just not ours.  We LOVE to travel to all sorts of different places.  We simply do not want to spend 20 grand or more on something that limits our choices.  We can, instead, take all that money that we saved by NOT purchasing (plus the insurance, repairs, storage, etc) & travel most anywhere we want to go for YEARS!!!  That has surely been a blessing to us since traveling together is one of our main pleasures in this life.
     Dream uniquely!  Dreams are your own.  We are living ours.  Besides what I've mentioned above, we pastor & are involved in a ministry that has us by the heart strings.  We are also raising 5 children which we homeschool.  No doubt all of those things collectively wouldn't equal anyone's dream that's reading even though many of my blog posts are read over 1,000 times.  Guess what else?  We aren't into vehicles & living in a mansion isn't our priority either.  We are happy owners of a family van.  We buy new for reliability & not for looks.  It's just simply our transportation for trips.  After said trips, many times we leave it looking as if it could be condemned!  Just imagine 7 eating ice cream, 4 being 10 & under!  It's just more important to us that they enjoy our adventures than having rigid riding rules.  They are only little for a short while.  After all, our family van was never bought as an investment looking for a return.  My point is that for everyone, priorities are different.  Some desire swanky cars, big homes, & PHDs.  That's great!  I am thankful for everyone that possess talent in areas that I do not.  We all need doctors, lawyers, mechanics, engineers, & life would just certainly be drab without artists.  Celebrate individuality.  It takes guts to go against the flow & plow your own way.  Life is too short to let other's dictate your happiness. 
     Dreams are birthed.  Some grow, & some fizzle.  I could see how some could quickly turn into nightmares.  Don't let that kill your spirit.  Let go.  Don't water dead plants.  Never forget that some dreams turn into reality!  Everything starts with a dream! 

BE BRAVE
DARE TO DREAM ON 
May you find yourself living your dreams!

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!