Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thirteen Years Later

Almost 13 years later, He is still showing me He was near.

Mid spring as school was winding down and as the calendar was winding into a tail spin,  the days were seeming longer and longer.  We were all longing for summer- for some kind of break.  From the alarm, from deadlines, from bad news on RenWeb, from searching for assignments, from each other…..  I felt like wearing black and white stripes everyday thinking it might make me more powerful in what seemed to be my consistent role of officiating Julia and Brighton’s hot squabbles.  Depending on how many times I hit the snooze, I was breaking open the Word for some amount of time and laying my requests before Him.  I sat many mornings not seeming to connect,  disgruntled within myself, wondering if He would lift the weight.  Wondering if He would make any difference.


As I put one foot in front of the other.

On my office floor, I opened Streams of the Desert to the April date and read, “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”  {Romans 4:20-21}  I smiled remembering how over and over I said that verse to myself, like tracing the letters with my fingers to make sure it really did say what I thought it did.   Then, thirteen years ago, I was waiting on a baby.  My first one.  Coming in a way I had not expected.  I had found out my baby making insides were covered in endometriosis and the chances of pregnancy were very, very slim- at least in the methods we were willing to try.  So, we gave our hearts over to adoption— and any control we thought we had to the Lord.  Early on, He had shown me Psalm 113:9, “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.  Praise the Lord.”  And even though I knew that verse could mean a few things, I felt like He was clear with me that I would indeed be a mother.  So Romans 4:20-21 was oxygen to all the Scriptures I read during the waiting on my first born.  He was kind to put so many on my heart.

This spring, He wanted me to see something more.  I’ve said this before, but for some reason, He chose to use the Scriptures {and the commentary} of the classic devotional Streams in the Desert during the time— and I have documented this well here— I was waiting on Him to make Jeff and me parents.  The sweet women who had befriended me, loved me and prayed for me all read it and one gave me a copy for my 30th birthday.  This particular morning in April 2014, I realized this verse {Romans 4:20-21} was on an entry within 4-5 days of Julia’s conception.  9 months before her birth.  I began looking at the verses a couple of days before and a couple of days after—the time of Julia’s conception, taking place far away from me but reading these He was showing me He was near.

The hand of the Lord has done this.  Job 12:9

He will do this.  Psalm 37:5

Stand firm  and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  Exodus 14:13

“Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  Romans 4:20-21

He knows the way that I take. Job 23:10

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.  Psalm 138:7

And exactly 9 months from her birth…..

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

He was near.  And I didn’t even know it.

How do I ever think He’s not listening to me or that He’s removed somehow from my dailies?  Why do I ever think He won’t come through for me in those hair-raising parenting moments when I wonder if I am really cut out for the job?  Why do I think for one minute I am on my own?  Or that, “I’ve got this”?

I’m a dummy.

Here He is some thirteen years later, revealing to me how He was bolstering my heart with His Word as Julia was being knitted together in her birthmother’s womb.  Showing me how He was covering it all with love through His Word when we didn’t even know to be looking for it......  Weaving together a beautiful story that reminds me of how He is intimately involved in every detail of my life......  Reminding me of His track record of faithfulness..... Strengthening my resolve to trust Him all the more.

He is near.

All I can think of to say to Him is, “Thank You and please, please don’t stop.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fighting Fears

A lot of things in life make me nervous— even scare me stiff and those are the things I regularly find myself praying about.  No surprises here- number one “scares me stiff" would be raising my kids in a way that scars them for life.  You know, where they feel the need for therapy when they are 35 because of something I did or said over and over and over?  Don’t want that.  Before I had kids, my number one was {and moved to number two now} speaking in front of a group of people.  You’d think as much as I can type in one sitting that I would have no trouble easily talking to a group of people.  It just never works out that way.  I have done it several times but the FIRST, most memorable time I did it was in my Speech class at the University of Georgia and get this—- the professor talked me into doing my 4 speeches on Sex Education- a buzz topic in 1990. My people pleasing self agreed and felt like vomiting every other week when my turn was up.  Misery.  Especially the week when we had to personally engage the topic and not just spit out the facts....


I have some invitations this fall to be scared out of my wits- besides my daily parenting opportunities.  I could have given these groups ten names of sweet friends that would be more fitting, more comfortable, more passionate, smarter, funnier, more everything but I didn’t.  I am honored they asked me and it causes me to be dependent on the Lord in a whole different way.  And that’s scary.  Speaking in front of people is NOT something I can do on my own.  I CAN but it would be a waste of everyone’s time if I just got up there and cranked it out.  That’s its own kind of misery.

So I’ve got some thinking to do.  The first thing this fall will be on Acts 2:42 — fellowship with God and others.  That’s life right there-- our lifelines to an abundant life.  Everything touches down in those two categories and each one dramatically affects the other.   Obviously, our relationship with God— our fellowship with Him- is EVERYTHING.  He’s not “first” on a list.  He’s the paper we write the list on.  He’s the pen with which we write the list.  He’s It.  The Source of All.

I love that I was taught in Junior High what it meant to spend time with Him and to invest in that relationship.  Nothing else I’ve ever done can compare with what I’ve gained from time with just Him.  Nothing.  I’ve filled gobs of notebooks and Bible studies with words to Him and about Him since I was 13.  Some of those words would be exactly what I write today and some of the words would turn my stomach. By the time college rolled around and life changing decisions were being made, His Word was such a comfort to me.  I remember one difficult night, pulling my Bible into my bed and sleeping with it.  It represented a lifeline and had bolstered me and taught me each time I had opened it up.  I have the privilege of adding to that every single day— all throughout the day.

Time spent with the Him lays the foundation for all the other relationships in life.  Try being a good wife or friend or parent or daughter without spending time with the Lord.  That can turn out to be the greatest frustration of your life. There is no formula, no methodology— certainly don’t read any legalism into this but read LIFE and FREEDOM in it.  No shackles.  Just keys.  His precepts are what teaches you to do relationships well.  You WANT to spend time with life-giving people and YOU want to be a life-giving person.  You know who those people are— the ones you leave feeling inspired, loved and challenged by.  You know with whom you feel safe-- who will give protect your hurts and not expose them, will love you no matter what, and will point you to the cross EVERY time.  And you know when you have helped a friend come up for some fresh air.  As you do this for each other, then you are strengthened to move farther out of your circle and love someone who may be harder to love.  This is ALL part of the abundant life.  The more time spent enjoying Him, the richer and more peaceful your relationships with others will be.  He wants this for us.  I want this for me.  I want this for you.

So, as the speaking opportunities grow nearer and when the acid decides to churn in my insides and the butterflies turn into crop dusters to His Word I’ll go.  I love this one.  Sometimes I wish I had dated these verses when they first ministered to my immature heart.

Isaiah 41:10 and 13  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

And because I know I have life-giving friends-- and family- in my life, I will count on them for prayer in this huge weak area for me.   I will know I am covered.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dimes and Rubies

My kids LOVE to get the mail.  They rarely have anything addressed to them in the mail but for some reason, going to the mailbox in hopes of something is exciting to them.  Last Friday, I noticed some mail on the stairs— it usually is left on the kitchen counter— and I saw the back of a catalog.  Actually I saw a blonde with a look on her face that wasn’t about having fun with her friends or enjoying a sunny day at the park.  It was telltale Victoria’s Secret.  The anger flared and I flipped it over and there was the brunette in her bra, giggling, sliding out of her pants.

I wanted to scream— and I might have, sort of, but we had company in town.  They heard a small {medium?} rant and I probably freaked my 14 year old niece out.  Call me a fanatic, over dramatic or whatever, but I despise their catalog.  I couldn’t sit down and compose the email brewing in my head right then so I threw the soft porn in my desk drawer and went on with my very fun weekend with family from Alpharetta.  I took it out of my desk yesterday and my momma bear ire spiked again.  There she was in her bra, taking off her pants— eyeing whoever eyed her.  I texted a friend— who was in the middle of her own long list— she thought for a minute and asked me— “B’s not home today, correct?  Was this Friday and you’re still hopping mad?”


When I started the email it all came back.  So I prayed because I didn’t want to be obnoxious or rude.  But I wanted to be very clear.  I typed.

I would like my name to be removed from the catalog list.  I requested this a few years ago and my request was honored, but last week we received a catalog in my mail box.  Please read this in the kindest way possible — I know it seems like such a small thing to you— and I know it’s your job— but I am raising a VERY impressionable 11 year old boy and as a mom, I don’t want or need a catalog with a woman taking off her pants on the cover to come to my mail box.  Ever. There is a place for sexy and provocative within the marriage commitment— I applaud that and enjoy that myself—  but until then, I don’t want your catalog coming to my home making it more difficult for my son to wait to fully enjoy and delight in his wife one day.

Thank you— and I know, you, who is receiving this email most likely has nothing to do with the mailing list so I don’t want to put a damper on your day.  I am not mad at you, just a mom doing what she can. 

I hope you have a good day.  Just get me off that list. ; )
Krista Sanders

This is not the first email I have typed to VS.  I despise pornography but I have a deeper hatred for unsolicited pornography.  Their posters in the mall— OUTSIDE of the stores— kick me in the gut.  Several years ago, there was an adopt a pet type thing going on in a mall where Jeff and I were Christmas shopping and I kid you not, the WHOLE thing was set up down the side of VS in front of 5 gigantic classic Victoria photos— mounds of cleavage, lacy thongs in place, sleepy eyes etc.  It was the strangest thing seeing these as a backdrop to this event— not to mention completely offensive without the event.  The response to that email was nebulous— mall management had no control over what VS placed on the outside of their stores and VS was “sorry” I was offended.

When it invades my mailbox uninvited, it’s a whole other story- especially when I’ve requested to be taken off the list.  {And yes, it came to me and not “current resident”.}  My same friend texted me later last night and she had grown “hopping mad” because she had time to think about it.  She was thinking about how our boys are faced with those kinds of things often- and that’s reality-- but reality SHOULDN’T be it showing up in our homes!!  We want our homes to be a FREE zone from the need of what I call, “Operation Look Away”.   It’s maddening having to be concerned about what comes to my mailbox unsolicited.  Our hyper sexualized society permeates everything it seems. But PLEASE, not my home!

So yes, I can send email to Victoria’s Secret Customer Service Department but here’s the real work— being on the offense.  I love Proverbs 2- a banner prayer for all of our children but especially our boys.  Let’s pour this in.   Daily.

My son, if you accept my words
 and store up my commands within you,

turning your ear to wisdom
 and applying your heart to understanding—

indeed, if you call out for insight
 and cry aloud for understanding,

and if you look for it as for silver
 and search for it as for hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord
 and find the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;
 from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He holds success in store for the upright,
 he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

for he guards the course of the just
 and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
 and fair—every good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart,
 and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Discretion will protect you,
 and understanding will guard you.

That Proverb goes on to talk about the “wayward woman with her seductive words” and how her path leads “down to death” and causes them to forfeit the “path of life”.  Make sure he knows what Scripture has to say about women who purposefully tempt men— and how they are a dime a dozen but the “rubies” are a treasure to be sought.   And then the second line of offense is for your son to watch you love your husband well, day in and day out— to honor him and respect him and be a great companion for him.

Victoria has no secret.  She’s put it all out there for all to see.  A dime a dozen.  A woman who fears the Lord and who is cherished by her husband has secrets revealed only to him.  A ruby worth the hunt.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Letting Go

Yes, I am a Walgreens Pharmacist so don’t ask me why I have three different pharmacies represented in this picture AND expired medication.  I can’t explain it.  
Sometimes a “last week of summer” looks exactly like you want it to like a lake trip and late afternoons at the pool and sometimes a "last week of summer” looks like a doctor’s office.  You are blindsided by a weird strand of a virus and end up in bed all week.  Sometimes your child with quite a head of hair gets a haircut before school starts and sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes the night before school starts, you feel your kids are ready, have all their supplies neatly tucked away in their backpacks and sometimes the night before school starts, you’re still in denial and have no idea what to put in the backpacks.  And sometimes when you drop them off that first day of school, there is a rush of relief, maybe a little party going on inside your head and sometimes you get back in the car and cry.  

With our most unpredictable week behind us, summer is officially over and school began this morning and no amount of wishing it away worked.  It’s almost time to pick them up.

I always love these first mornings of school because B has a belt on and his shoes are clean.  It won’t take long until he cannot find the belt anymore.  Trust me.  He will lose it and I cannot explain why or even begin to imagine where all the others are.  And I’ll be asking him for the $7 to pay me back for it all year.  Julia has her hair down but I’d put my Starbucks money on it being braided, in a messy bun or a pony tail when I pick her up.

Before I left the school, I decided to check on B’s class with all the wonderful boys and look who’s on the front row.  They could NOT quit giggling they were so happy.  Maybe in disbelief and laughter was the only thing that would come out.  I didn’t care I wasn’t Jack’s momma, but I walked straight to the front of the room, put my hand on both of their backs and threatened them with asparagus and beets for lunch everyday if they didn’t behave.  Mrs. Hartwell had already figured out this might not be her smartest move so I quietly told the boys, “Prove her wrong and make this work.”  Or beets and asparagus.   

I give it a week.  {That’s two days, people.}

I struggle with the fact I spent most of this last week of summer in the bed fighting a fever-- and a host of other things that nasty virus imposed on me.  I had visions of a different week and truly only let the LAST one go yesterday morning.  I was still holding out hope for one little bit of fun.  After my cry this morning once I dropped them off, I was able to sit down and read a bit.  I’ve been studying Colossians this summer-- slowly-- I know, it’s a short book-- and when I opened it up, my eyes went to this verse in chapter 3 and I’ll leave you with this-- just what I needed as my wheels were spinning into the week.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts....... {And if that weren’t enough...}

And be thankful. 

All I could say was, "Yes, Sir."  


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

St. George Island: Soaking It In

I know-- my brother on the right is disturbing.  
A gazillion photos follow.....

July saw year eleven for our clan on St. George Island.  It was just the 17 of us— no less, no more and we are soaking in every year we can get like that.  I feel like jumping up and down and squealing when I realize that everyone can be there.  I know how life goes and I know what it’s like to miss someone, so EVERY year we get EVERYbody, it’s a gift… in the truest sense of the word.  I am learning also, that another part of this gift is that we all really enjoy being in one house that week.  We’ve gone through babies, toddlers, different parenting styles etc.  We have different schedules, interesting diets, bipolar internal thermostats, sun lovers, shade lovers, sand lovers, A/C lovers and somehow, it all works out.

This year there were some unusual things that happened.  Well, some unusual and some just random “what’s going on?” type things.  First, we borrowed a bike rack so Jeff could ride with Bill.  They have always brought bikes.  This was our first time.

Bill took these going onto the island and going across the Apalachicola bridge
About 45 minutes before we got to St. George, I broke out into a sweat and felt waves of nausea when I realized……….you ready for this?  There’s a couple of you who may need to sit down.

I forgot my camera.

Right then I knew, this would be a strange week.  I couldn’t even imagine my week without my awesome hand me down camera.  I can’t even begin to understand how it happened.  Once the nausea subsided and I could look down at my phone, I texted my friend, Sarah, who would give me the most empathy— that I needed terribly.  I loved her FIRST response.  “No!!!!!  Have Emily overnight it.  It’s worth it!!”  My husband indulges me in much but this was not one of them.  He knew of two nice cameras that would be there and he knew I could borrow them.  I got it, but I felt like I was missing an appendage all week.  So………….  I became even more attached to my phone and completely stretched its limits as a camera.  It’s really an insane device.

Here are some more random things:
Aunt Patsy came straight from Colorado and did not bring goodies.  We had no oatmeal peanut butter no bake cookies this year in the tall plastic canister.
First night I made coffee, there was no whipped cream because no one had gone to the local grocery yet.
Charles Martin’s new book does not come out until September 2nd— 21 more days to be exact and so this was the first summer in MANY that I did not read him on the beach.  I suffered through a couple of others.  Not really, but I missed his storytelling.

So on to more interesting things that had never happened….
The guys didn't waste any time fishing so first night, something pulled one of the poles and ALL of them took turns trying to pull it in.  Finally, they all just walked it out to the sandbar because whatever it was, it had basically refused to come any closer.  It was a sea turtle!!  It broke the line once they all got a look-- and of course, no cameras.  I give Hunter a gold star for trying-- clothes and all.

 We continued to see the turtles throughout the week.  In eleven years, it was our first time to see them in the water.  Then one day, Patty and I were standing up watching the kids and she looked over and thought she was seeing a piece of a starfish and when she looked closer, this is what she picked up.

Cool, I know, right?  He was very prickly but easy to hold.  It would wrap its little tail around your finger and squirm.  We put him in a big cup of salt water and hurried him up to the house so the grandparents could see.

Starfish were abundant this year as well as the sand dollars, but not really many shells which was very strange.  Also, there were a couple of days the water was as clear as could be.  This is not always the case on St. George.

One of my favorites bunches of kids

Off shore fishing was unusually good this summer.  Some different fishies were pulled in.

A baby hammerhead

Bill doesn’t flex ALL of the time just when he feels like it whether it’s with a Spanish Mackerel or just in conversation around the table.

A Speckled Trout pulled in by B

No comment. Seriously.

To the guys, this is what sun chairs are good for.

Monday was like a fishing-palooza.  I watched Blake pull in fish after fish after fish.  They all did-- for a grand total of 55.  

They got to do some kayak fishing on the bay side and had an adventure to remember pulling in a drum fish --- just for the fun of it.

RJ on one of the kayaks-- Great picture, Bill!

I could never do the story justice-- just imagine pulling that thing into your kayak with no place to put it.

I’m not sure how this happened but on the day we thought we would get rained out, one by one, we insanely agreed to run with RJ who was on a workout schedule of some kind for his college baseball team.  Somehow, 2 miles turned to 3 miles.  We all loaded up into Blake’s truck and he drove us 3 miles away from the house and put us out.  I know-- I think some of us had just had too much sun.  It was raining, hot and thick with humidity.  I think it was Jeff who said, “It’s St. George Health Camp.”  Blake said he wasn’t coming back.  You notice Blake drove the truck so he drove up and down the island giving us our distance every mile or so.  As I brought up the rear, he even found orange tape for me to run through.

More things that might hint at the idea of “health camp” but really it just made the week more memorable:

Relays on the beach-- since I was in the relays, I didn’t get many pictures but this was exhausting.  I told Bill the start and finish was TOO far apart!  When’s the last time you hopped on one leg or two, backstroked or skipped what seemed like 30 yards?

And then there was Beach Sharks and Minnows-- Bill drew the “board” on the sand, explained the rules and the fun began.

The soccer game might have been the most fun, except for our one injured player who was giving it her best shot!

There was a lot of this-- Hunter laughing and people on the sand

Patty challenging B’s goal and she...
Made it and squealed like a middle schooler. 
Winning team
The injured player on the winning team : (  When you go toe to toe with your big cousin, you’re almost guaranteed an ouchie.
And burpees on the beach?!?!?  This had NEVER been done!!
On to the mundane.... but oh so fun.

Bill and Patty come with the fireworks and these parachute guys.  It’s hard work lighting a fire on the beach. And I do wonder when the last year will be that these will send these kids running.

The chips before and after picture 

The cards-- wouldn’t ever want to run out of cards

These two have become adults in the eleven years we’ve been coming.   Have I ever told you how much I love these two?And RJ’s tank top was worth documenting.

Aunt Ebby’s finally sold and HAPPY people bought it.  Woohooo!!

And the pictures from a borrowed camera.....

I will ALWAYS choose this kind of shot -- the natural expression that I see so often totally trumps the “smile for the picture”!

Hunter-- great job on this picture!  Love it.
The mischief begins when too many of us wait until the last night to take pictures!  Brighton seems most perturbed.

Just one more-- Adele got left out of this one somehow.  I think it may have had something to do with that thing on the right.

The Littles still did “club” upstairs, watched a movie and shared two bags of popcorn every night, still ate Freezer Pops in the hot tub, spent less time in the pool and played plenty of hand held games.  We entertained a cousin of a friend Monday night who brought us a delicious homemade Key Lime Pie that we managed to slice into 17 pieces.  He also loaned us all the kayaks and gave great fishing tips.  Bill flexed for him, Patty and I embarrassed ourselves by laughing like 12 year olds, and my brother threw out an, “I cannot believe he said that, “ comment for him.  Adele and Hunter get the award for most improved beach time.  We loved sharing the sun with you!  We heard some Wood  Duck {their fishing guide} stories we’ve never heard before and I’ll be sure not to share them here.  The fireworks show put on by RJ and Bill did not disappoint-- however, with all the Littles wanting to light them and the drama that ensued,  Bill might not bring them again!

My good bye ritual before we hop in the car for the long ride home--- love these early morning pictures that last me till next year.

So sweet family-- it was a blast.  Thanks AGAIN, Mom and Dad.  I can’t wait until next year.  

As a post script I am adding some pictures of Bill and Patty’s family.  We keep losing quality in the transfer and we can’t figure it out, so I am going to post them small here at the end and hope we can add them in large later.  I just CANNOT leave them out.