Wednesday, June 27, 2012

beautiful things

Take time to see today...
there is always beauty

14 years!!!

Stand by your man.  I guess that is what 14 years of marriage have taught me.  Through a ton of grief and a ton of laughter, life just wouldn't have been as good without Eric by my side.  I can't tell you how lavish God was when he gifted me with this life-long friend to travel the unknowns with. 

Eric has been a constant source of leadership, comfort, and wisdom.  Through the death of precious family members, death of finances, and death of dreams, he has remained constant.  He offers our household grace.  His presence lifts our spirits.  In a sense, he has modeled Jesus for me and the boys and we couldn't have asked for anything more.

He has always worked hard for our family and yet he acknowlegdes God as the true source of Provision.  He tells the Lord that we'll be happy to take whatever He wants to give us...the good and the bad...because it all points to God's glory in the end.

If I had one piece of marital advice after these years, I would say this:  God deals with each of us in His own ways to strip us of our selfishness and pride.  While God is making you more like His Son, He is doing the same thing with your soul mate.  Don't lose hope in this battle because God often takes His sweet time in this process.  Pray for grace to see your mate as God sees him/her and pray for joy in the small things.  Remain true to your vows and I assure you that God will hear the prayers of your heart.

Here's to the rest of our lives...

{pics by the awesome Todd Owens.  If you have not had a photo session with you and your spouse since your wedding, then I highly recommend it!  They will be pics you will treasure forever!}

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Double Camp

The God of Jacob is my God.  I don't know whether to be embarassed or totally relieved over this fact.  I am leaning towards relief, but I am telling you, the Jacob I see on the pages of Genesis is not really someone I want in my spiritual genealogical line.

Or is he?

I see a man who from the womb was itching to pick a fight and have his own way.  He conspired with his mother in order to manipulate his father into giving him the family blessing.  He tricked his father in law Laban.  Time and time again, I see a man who is a cheat.  A liar.  An arrogant manipulator.

And, then, I realize why it is called grace.

God had chosen Jacob to be a Patriarch of this great nation, Israel.  God had declared that His blessing would indeed flow through Jacob's line.  God's grace allowed this despite Jacob's character.  But, God's grace didn't leave Jacob to that ugly character.

Yes, that is the God I want to worship and be aligned with.  A God of infinite care and grace.  I want to worship a God who won't leave me in my ugly and vast pit of striving and selfishness.

So, in Genesis 32, we start to see God call Jacob out of this ugly self-preservation and pride.  He has allowed Jacob to leave his deceitful father in law.  He has prospered him with children and flocks.  He has called him back to Bethel, the House of God, the place where Jacob saw the ladder and the angels acsending and descending.  He is reminding Jacob of who he is.

But, first, he must deal with his double heart.

Jacob leaves one enemy but is faced with another. He is camped between two people that he has deceived in the past.  The first thing he sees is a host of angels.

What?  That is not what I was about you?  Once again, we see God's grace.

God takes the veil off of his eyes for a temporary moment and Jacob beholds not one army of angels, but two.  Jacob names the place "Mahanaim" which in Hebrew means "double camp." 

My heart beats faster and I wonder why it is a double camp he is allowed to see...why not just one single camp of angels?  Isn't one camp enough when God's mighty warriors are involved?

I can't get three ideas out of my head.

1.  Jacob had two adversaries:  Laban and Esau.  He was sandwiched right between them.  Perhaps God wanted him to know He was sufficient for all his troubles.

2.  Jacob had two wives and therefore, two camps of families.  Maybe God wanted Jacob to know that He would be providing double assistance for his double portion of responsibility.

3.  Jacob still had a divided heart.  Maybe God wanted to show him that he had two camps in his inner that acknowledged God and the other that looked to self for provision. 

Mahanaim...double camp

Call me a tad shocked after Jacob is allowed to see the heavenly hosts in all their glory...all two camps of them and resorts back to his old ways.

Or am I shocked?  Am I not the same?

Right after the heavenly vision, Jacob resorts immediately back to fear and taking matters into his own hands.  Instead of resting in God's protection and plan, Jacob frets, divides his people into two camps, and schemes his own plan.

Do you see a theme here?  God shows us a double portion of Himself and instead of walking in faith, we cower in fear and divide.  Anytime we choose unbelief, we will take matters into our own hands which leads to division with God, stripping ourselves from intimacy with Him.

But, God doesn't leave Jacob in that place.  Once again, we are reminded that our God wants to change our character.  He wants to offer us life and change our very names.

Mahanaim...double camp

God wants to show Jacob what is in his heart, so He enters into a wrestling match with him.  If Jacob is to return to Bethel, the House of God, the place of intimacy and communication with God, then He is going to have to have his old character stripped away.

Currently, Jacob claims to know God, but He has some major trust issues.  His heart is in a double camp.  He is walking in the flesh and claiming to serve Jehovah.  He is battling the supernatural vs. the natural.  Faith vs. flesh.  A life walked in the Spirit vs. a life walked in Striving.

I am glad the God of Jacob is my God.

God wants Jacob in His camp.  Solely.  Not God's camp and Jacob's camp, but God's camp.  Period.

There are a million trillion things that can be said about this wrestling match.  I want to name just two.  First, God forces Jacob to say his name.  The last time Jacob was asked him name was probably when he deceived his father and told him it was Esau, not Jacob.  In saying his name, Jacob comes face to face with his ugly character.

After God shows Jacob who he is, he doesn't leave him there.  He shows Jacob who He is.  A God willing to bless.  A God willing to rename.  A God willing to show off his gracious character...his very face.  "And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (face of God): for I have seen God face to face (paneh:  the face, as the part that turns) and my life is preserved." Gen. 32:30

Jacob saw the Face that turned Jacob into Israel.  He saw the Gracious God who not just spared his life, but turned him from a supplanter and who manipulates and schemes...into a man who will rule as a prince of God...for the glory of God.

What is your Mahanaim?  What is your double camp?  Do you have two adversaries?  Two huge responsibilities?  Two portions of your heart that should beat together as one?

The God of Jacob has a double camp of warriors ready to assist.  He is the God I want to worship.

The God of Jacob is my God.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Living Room Uplift

Hey Sweet Thing!  How is this 102 degree day treating you?  Kelli, we'd sure love to borrow a bucket of your rain over there!  It is hot and dry and hot and dry.  Tomorrow might be a tad better, you know, just 104.  hee.

{Praise you sweet Jesus for A/C.  Thank you and amen.}

Well, my amazingly talented sister, Amelia, is into painting furniture and making all kinds of things crafty.  She has opened three flea market booths up in Prairie Grove.  If you are ever in that area, you will have to check out her stuff.  I am talking uh-mazing stuff, not junk.  I'll have to sneak in a pic or two of her transformations on here sometime!

That said, we went around town and found some things for her booth while I found a few things to give my living room a lift.  Can I just say I am in love love love with turquoise?  I added a few more pops of it in my living room for some color and fun. 

I found the ottoman at Targe' for $17.  I found the pillows on clearance at TJ Maxx and Pier One.  And then the quilt.  Oh my!  I love a good quilt and am always on the lookout for a deal since they are so pricey.  Well, we were in Alma over the weekend for Cade's state baseball tournament (they made it to the championship game!) We had time to run into a flea market and I fell in love with this turquoise quilt.  Guess what?  It was only $23!!!!!  Thank you Lord, for such a gift I will treasure forever!

Well, I forgot to tell you about my door.  Amelia and I found an amazing flea market place in Greenbrier and we loaded up the van as best we could, then tipped the owner to follow us in his truck to unload the rest!  My goodie was this old vintage door that has been refurbished with antiqued metal molding (painted turquoise thank you very much) and some chicken wire.

Right now, I have it propped in a corner, but one day, if we ever move and have a large wall in the master bedroom, I think it would be awesome put up horizontally as a headboard.  There are two open slots on either side, and I think huge canvas prints would be sweet stuck in each of those.  ooh, getting excited!!!

The sweet blue-framed print of the old hymn "In the Garden" was a precious birthday gift from a friend.  She said God told her to find the hymn and frame it for me.  She knew it was my year of fruit and that I have come to see God as Master Gardener, but she had no idea I used to sing this hymn in church surrounded by generations of family believers.  It holds a sweet spot in my heart for sure!

Well, here is the reveal!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two Cans of Vienna Sausages

He almost mowed me over with his battery operated shopping cart.  He was maybe 82 years old, frail, and alone.  "Excuse me, mam, do you know where the vienna sausages are?"  He pronounced vienna like vie-enna, slow and totally wrong.

I finally found his eyes behind the thick frames.  "No, sir, I don't have a clue."  And it was the pure truth.  Ever since Kroger did the fancy-pants makeover, I have felt totally lost while hypertension has threatened to consume me every time I enter the doors.

Now, I will admit, the first thing that ran through my good-girl-Christian mind was that I could certainly help him find those blasted vie-enna sausages.  But, fatigue won out.  I had been at church from 7:30-12:30, received horrible news from a friend, still had to grocery shop and later fix some things for a Father's day cookout.

The flesh often wins in this battle called life.

So, I breathed easier as he motorized himself down the wider-now aisles thanks to the renovations that I am still bittersweet about.

And then, wouldn't you know it:  I went over a couple of aisles and came face to face with my worst meat farce of a nightmare:  vie-enna sausages.

Rats, I whispered to the Holy Spirit.  Now, I know I have to go track this feeble man down.

I ran into him three aisles over.  "Um, excuse me sir, but I found your vienna sausages.  If you'll follow me, I'll be happy to take you to them." 

He looked at me as if he had never seen me in his life.  And then a little light flickered and he powered up his ride, following me to his beloved sausages.

I led him to the location and then realized I would need to help him get them down.  Apparently keeping vienna sausages on the middle-catch-your-eye attention level wasn't working so well for the Kroger marketers of the world.

"I like Libby brand the best.  I'll take two."

I put the small cans of meat in his buggy and told him to have a great day.

I wheeled myself away and then it hit me hard.

He was alone on Father's day.  In a grocery store.  Buying small cans of blended meat product.

It made me sad and feel guilty that I couldn't be with my Dad that day.  But, it also made me wonder about his story.  Did he have children?  Were they in town?  Did they care??? 

Why did he only get two cans of meat?  Why this kind of meat?  Is it all he can afford???

Questions ran through my mind and I was struck with why Jesus was always willing to stop and help the one person. 

He knew their stories ran deep.  He knew he could offer a listening ear and redemption.

Tears came easily and I thanked Jesus for the joy that consumed my heart in being able to help one single elderly man find two tiny cans of vie-enna sausages on a lonely Father's Day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I have a 12 year old!

Happy Birthday Cade!
You are a delightful gift from God.
We are so proud of the young man you are becoming!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Insecurity and Giant Meatballs

I have always been insecure.  I've been that way for as long as I can remember.  I'd rather have a tooth pulled than enter a room full of people I don't know.  It is a constant battle trying to decide who can handle my heart with care and who has the capability of smattering it in a thousand bits with a single word.  I don't trust easily and I don't go deep with just anyone.

Enter my sophomore year in high school.  I was the new girl on campus.  I had gone to Fayetteville schools my whole educational life (minus the one year in Louisiana, that in itself is a whole other story) but now I found myself walking the halls of Springdale High School.  How on earth did I find myself in my rival's school building? 

I wasn't to be a Fayetteville Bulldog.  Nope, I was going to be a Springdale Bulldog. 

I knew no one.  Except maybe Natalie, which I had met in 4-H, but she was a cheerleader and out of my friend-league. 

I have blocked most of that first day out, I am sure.  We insecure types like to do that.  No reason for heart palpitations and shortness of breath unless you are on the treadmill, right?

But, the lunch stays with me.

Or, the lack of, I should say.

I saw the long lunch line while reality sank in.  I really don't know anyone here.  How on earth am I going to purchase a lunch when I don't have anyone to sit down with?  I will be the biggest fool trying to find a seat by myself. 

So instead, I hid.  And that was a major thing for this girl who had never skipped a meal in her entire 15 years of life.

I nonchalantly walked into the bathroom and locked myself into the stall.  I sat down on the stool and stared at my watch.  Maybe I was willing to miss lunch, but I wasn't about to be late for my next class.  Good girls just aren't tardy.

Apparently, the rumblings of my stomach weren't too noticeable that afternoon because no teacher turned me into child protective services for the blatant hunger that I thought for sure was written all over my face.

I don't think I have ever been happier to go home.  I walked into the door.  I remember both my parents being in the kitchen.  I went straight to the fridge and grabbed the first thing I saw.  Giant meatballs.  Perfect.

Now, my Mom's meatballs aren't your typical Spaghetti-Os sized meatballs.  We're talking fist sized and to die for.  I wasn't used to missing meals, so I did what any normal starving person would do. I shoved one in each cheek and willed myself to chew.  And fast.

All the while, my parents are staring and asking how my first day of high school was.  By this point, I am a blubbering mess of hot tears and anger and frustration and insecurity and humiliation.  I have snot running down my face and I can't even talk because I keep choking on the three pounds of hamburger meat that I recklessly shoved into my face.

I remember Dad wondering out loud if he did the right thing in switching us to a different school zone.  I assured him that I would be fine.

I just needed one single person to eat lunch with for crying out loud.

God must have looked on me with incredible mercy that day.  I don't remember when I started meeting people and making friends, but I don't remember having another lock-myself-in-the-bathroom kind of day again.

That story is partly funny now and then again not-so-much.  It reminds me that when I battle insecurity, the first thing I want to do is hide.  I think of Adam and Eve, grabbing anything they could grab to cover themselves.  Fig leaves.  God knew it would take more than simple leaves.

It would take blood and sacrifice and life.

Jesus, the final sacrifice, has come to give us life.  Abundant life. 

Will we trade in our insecurities for a life hidden with Him?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chocolate Smeared Glory

Big brown girly eyes peer into my baby boy's blues.  "We're always gonna be friends, you know.  Even though I'll always be smaller than you."  Sam looks at his pal Ellen and smiles, "Yep, Forever."

It's moments like this I want to capture and store in a big fat Mason jar.

Sam hands her a homemade chocolate chip cookie and I grin.  Ellen is the only individual on the face of the planet that he happily shares his food and toys with.  Call it selfish-third-born-syndrome, he simply doesn't freely give to just anyone.

She gladly takes the cookie, which has partly melted in the heat.  It's pure joy, watching her savor something so simple as the chocolate spreads from ear to ear.  I realize that she could care less that her face is a mess and that even more, she shouldn't care.

It hits me.  It hits me right there as I look at her face which Michelangelo might as well have painted in chocolate.

Since when do appearances consume us?  At what age do we start to care what others think?  Because, I am telling you there was nothing more beautiful than that little girl in all her chocolate smeared glory.

In that moment, I wanted to be her.  I wanted to go back to the day that I didn't care one single iota what others thought of me.  I wanted to eat my chocolate, not caring if others were judging me for eating chocolate.  I wanted to let it smear and dribble where it may, not caring what others thought of my appearance.  I wanted to smile from ear to ear, enjoying the simple things in life.

I wanted to be free again.

At what age is this freedom stripped away?  Is it when we start to notice boys?  Is it when we are bombarded with size zero models on every magazine cover and every television show?  Is it when a hurtful comment such as you have a large butt finally finds its intended mark?

I think God is telling me I can't be a good writer until I give up the entrapment of caring so much about what others think.  I am constantly wanting to write, but afraid I will hurt someone's feelings or afraid of what people might say about my stories.  It is fear and fear of rejection.

At what age did that start?

I think of Ellen's chocolate face and her freedom to simply be herself.  She was as much the sweet Ellen with the clean face as she was with the messed up face.  Despite the fact that in that moment, she may not have measured up to the world's standards of perfection, she didn't know or care.  She was a daughter, a sister, a friend.  She wasn't inwardly consumed with herself, but was simply being who God had created her to be.

And this is what my heart can't escape: What would a life like that look like?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Little Tike

I pretty much love the combination of this age and baseball.  Sam is playing pitching machine ball and he can whack it!  I'm a little surprised at how well he has paid attention.  I thought for sure he would get bored out on the field, but he has been intense!  He even made a double play at shortstop once.  I think the main reason I love this age is because he will still give us a thumbs up when he has a good hit or makes it home.  He also isn't afraid to take a break and smile for the camera.  {I know, I am the coach's worst nightmare, ha!}  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Birthday Prayer

I am humbled to be your daughter today, King.  You knit me together 35 years and 9 months ago in my Mother's womb after years of longing and prayers.  Despite eyes swollen shut and fat cheeks, I think my Mom and Dad loved me that birth-day completely and without reservation.

You set me in their care and forever I am indebted.  You gave me parents that would not just point me to Jesus but be Jesus for me in so many ways.  They were salt and light and grace and mercy and tenderness and discipline.  They were just what this little girl needed.  They are still what I need.

I think of how You were always with me, saving me from the Evil One.  You kept me from being trampled that day by Flo-Jo, the cow marked with vengeance.  You kept me from dying or being injured in more than one car wreck.  You kept me from staying in a place of despair after you allowed my sister to go Home.  You have constantly saved.  You have simply kept me in your hands.

Along the way, You have been good to give me girlfriends.  I think of first grade and Carie Beth and Whitney.  I think of seventh grade and Sara and Stacy.  I think of eleventh grade and Heather, Charity, Jene', and Candi.  I think of my freshman year when You brought life-long Godly friends in Britt, Anna, and Rebecca.  I think of now when You have blessed me with too many to count, but Amelia easily comes to mind.

Your grace didn't end there.  You gave me a gracious and wise husband.  Three precious and irreplaceable boys.  A kind family to enter into.  A comfortable home and meals on the table.  Fun things to do like singing, photography, and writing.  You have been lavish.

I look in the mirror while gray, wiry hairs stand on edge.  Cellulite says a hearty hello and frown wrinkles beg to be noticed.  I don't look 21 anymore, even though my mind says I am.  I am OK with this change, though.  As long as each new year brings fresh revelation of Jesus, then I will gladly trade that for all the gray in the world.  We'll just color those babies, how bout' that?

I just want You to know that I am thankful You thought of me.  You dreamed me up, sketched me out, knit me by combining soul and sinew, and marked me with your grace and redemption.  When I am tempted to fall into the pit of depression and worthlessness, let me never forget that it is Your image that I am fashioned after.

If I could pray for a few God-gifts while 35, would You pour out revelation of Yourself and manifest Yourself to me?  Would you allow me to be Christ to others, even if I don't know that I am making a difference?  Would you bring about answers to prayers that You dared I pray?

Consecrated Clay,