Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!

Hey beautiful girls!!! I don't have but just a second but I wanted to pop in before 2008! Tomorrow is a really special day for me which I'll have much to say about later, but it will be a novel, so for those that may pop in before then, I'll save you from 2 books back to back. :) I left my computer in North Carolina by accident, so my fab parents are sending it later this week. (Thanks to my bud Daniel for letting me borrow his.)

So my phone died yesterday on the way back to Nashville, and I was panicking cause this day and age what do you do when you are without both the internet AND a phone?! We don't have a house line, so of course I'm thinking the world is going to end...(not really, but just work with the dramatic scene here)
But have no fear, I was at the Verizon store this morning when it opened and got a brand new phone for free!! I walked in with a pink phone (my sweet dad got a little confused when he got our phones...we'll just say PINK was not on my list of favorite phone colors...but it was free for me, and I was a happy daughter at the time) ..and I walked out of the store with a RED phone--the color I actually wanted when we bought new maybe Jesus thought He'd give me a surprise, last-minute Christmas present. :) I sort of wish He had done it without the 6 hour freak-out session on the way back to town, but oh well...I guess His sense of humor is still in tact. :D

Anywho...I'm sitting here with my Banana Hot Cocoa (oh yeah...we have some rockin' gas station cappuccino [sp?] machines in town), new guitar strings (thanks again, Daniel) and a new red phone about to watch Dick Clark. Hope ya'll have an awesome last night in '07...special things to share later this ya'll..

PS...if you haven't read Daniel lately (not my friend mentioned above...the Old Testament book...hahaha) you should check it out's AWESOME. :)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My First Christmas as an Only Child

I have one older brother. Already the title of this entry sounds a little odd. I have a wonderful older brother named Aaron who is 25 and lives on Oak Island…a small place off the coast of North Carolina about 45 minutes from Wilmington. And up until tomorrow (I know…bad grammar) we have spent every Christmas (well, every holiday really) at home with our parents in Lenoir, North Carolina. (Apparently we have a thing for small towns.) But this year is different. Aaron got married to the best girl in the world (see side-bar for sister-in-law love)…Downey. I love her and she could not fit into our family more. Really, it’s scary how much she is like us. I guess my brother just loved me so much he wanted to marry somebody that talked just like me. HaHa. I am one of those that is able to take any one syllable word and immediately increase it’s grammatical status to at least 3 or more. (I blame Martina McBride, Tracey Lawrence, Teri Clark, and John Michael Montgomery…my first country loves.)

Anyways, back to my point. This is my very first Christmas as an only child. Last year Aaron and Downey were engaged, but not yet married, so they still spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at their own houses. We still got up between 9 and 10 (yes moms, there is hope for a day when your children will sleep past 6 Christmas morning…and believe me, we have to MAKE ourselves get up at that time), did our presents while eating (my favorite) cinnamon rolls with the orange icing and drinking hot chocolate (Aaron and dad) coffee (mom and me), then had a big Christmas lunch (that was actually breakfast food), and spent the rest of the day ooing and ahhing over our new stuff and watching the cheesiest lifetime movies we could find. All family traditions still in tact through Christmas ’06.

Now it’s Christmas ’07. I am sitting in the living room surrounded by Santas we have collected over the years, our 12 foot tree (that is artificial for the first time in my life…OH, that is another story with a soap box in itself), Love Actually is playing on the TV, and I just finished some apple cider that was a little too watered down to bring out my holiday spirit. Dang it. My brother is in Boiling Springs (again with the small towns) with his bride and her family where they will wake up on Christmas morning. My brother will not be here on Christmas morning. (I know, I just said that twice.) Not to be TOO sappy, cause please, he is my brother and we do still get on each other’s nerves from time to time...but its just not going to be the same! We are messing up the present system for Pete’s sake! Kid 1, parent 1, kid 2, parent 2 (repeat). It was so perfect! The sad part is, I won’t even get to SEE my brother on Christmas day! We won’t see him until the afternoon/night of the 26th. I know people do this all the time, and most of you won’t see your siblings n whatnot actually on Christmas day (and if you do, maybe just don’t tell me now…you can send me a “ps” after new years) but this is the first time our family traditions are going through a major change!

Aaron and I always sit together at the Christmas Eve service at our church. Dad's a minister, and mom is either in the choir or playing the piano, or both…so that just left us kids.

Aaron and I always sit together at the “kid table” at our pastor’s house after the Christmas Eve service…even though all of the “kids” at our table are college graduates except 1 who is just 2 years away. We’ve been our little Christmas gang away from the ‘adults’ since I was in Middle School! (Oh, the homely years. *Shudder*)

Aaron and I always watch Christmas Vacation with our parents every Christmas Eve, after the service, after the dinner, after our PJs are on.

Aaron and I always wait til Christmas morning and scurry around trying to find bags and bows to wrap our presents in. (He used to just open the presents from my parents and then go upstairs and use the bags they gave him to put their gifts in...yes, please laugh.)

Aaron always had to knock on my door to wake me up because I insisted we have Christmas morning actually IN the morning (a revolutionary idea, I know)...but I was always the last one in the bed.

Aaron and I always got at least one 'toy' that was the same. One year it was a giant stereo, one year a game boy, once a digital camera, there was the ipod year, and the next was the room speaker for the ipod. And the list goes on.

Aaron and I always made fun of my dad because we couldn't touch a present until his Mannheim Steamroller CD was full steam ahead in the CD player.

And after the presents were done, Aaron and I always gawked at how blessed we were and how much our parents had outdone themselves that year. Every year.

We will still have the Christmas Eve service, we will still go to Janis and David's afterwards for dinner, I will still sit at the kid table with Jon and Christopher (minus the two married couples), we will still watch Christmas Vacation (or sleep through before we go to bed tomorrow night, Santa will still come and bring my presents...he knows where Aaron will be ;), I will still eat my orange-icing cinnamon rolls (GLORY) and coffee, we will still have our big Christmas breakfast/lunch, and my mom will still cry at at least one present that she gets...happens every year.

Sigh. OK, life will go on. And more importantly, Jesus will still be praised. The last thing I do after watching Christmas Vacation every year is go up to my cozy bed and read the Christmas story in the quietness of my own little space. And almost every year, I sit and bawl at the newness I find in that story. This year I will think about my little Hutch and how I can't keep my hands off of his sweet face. And then I'll think if Hutch is THIS cute, can you imagine the effect the Savior of the WORLD..of MY heart..had on those around him? Talk about cute. I bet He was the definition of it. And the greatest love Mary's heart, mine, or yours would or will ever know. What in the world? God loves us so much!!!!

So here's to new beginnings...with our same sweet Jesus.
I love you girls!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! :)

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday Beautiful Jesus,
Happy Birthday to you

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quick Hi :)

Hey girlies!!! I don't have much time because I'm running out the door, but I wanted to just stop in and tell you all how much I appreciate you and your blog friendship!! I think it was thinking about the Siestaville Blog-a-versary that got me in this grateful mood!! Knowing that 98% of us have never met and you still continue to lavish your love, support, and Jesus-wisdom on me for the decisions, successes and struggles in my life means more than you could ever know! The Lord has definitely used your prayers and words of encouragement more than a time or two this fall to carry me through a trial or two..(or 10) So I just wanted to say THANK YOU, and for your bloggity-randomness enjoyment...a top 10 list with absolutely no point :)

#10. I have only bought 1/2 of my Christmas presents.. (the men in my family stump me every year!)
#9. We have a silver tensile (sp?) Christmas tree (picture to come later) because we are poor 20-somethings...but it has brought us much joy :D
#8. I found these GREAT candles at Pier 1 today for like 2 bucks..want He more praise?!?!
#7. Tonight is the last Kairos service...I'm ready to get my praise on!!!
#6. We have substitute mistletoe in our living room=HOT PINK JINGLE BELLS :D :D
#5. I have a secret obsession with dragonflies :)
#4. I bought myself a present for Christmas...a sparkly ornament :D
#3. The peanut butter balls are almost gone...'Abby's pants, we have a problem'
#2. My roommate brought me a Cinnamon Toast Crunch bagel from Panera tonight...GLORY
#1.(and definitely most important) My Best Friend just got engaged!!!!!!!!!!!!! (she will kill me when she sees it's been great knowin' ya'll..)

Friday, December 14, 2007

News and Food

Well we finally have cold weather in Nashville!! It has been so back and forth I was getting frustrated. Last week I showed up to Hutch's house with a long-sleeved shirt, sweater, and a REALLY thick scarf to see his grandma waiting for me in a t-shirt. (FYI: She was dressed appropriately for that days weather.) I was so determined to make it winter (I mean it WAS the middle of DECEMBER for Pete's sake), that I stood my ground and suffocated my way through the whole day. Oh well, it was winter in my heart. (Awww...hahaha)

So I changed my blog because I wanted something different, but I'm not sure this is what I want either. So be prepared for more changes. I'm feeling indecisive today.

My new favorite coffee (other than anything at STARBUCKS)...Caramel Truffle Coffee. I used to be in an a capella group at Carolina (Go Tar Heels!) and we while on a retreat to the beach one September we found this lovely treat. It makes your house smell heavenly and taste just as good! :) Blue and gold bag on the coffee aisle. ;)

I am tired of watching the news. I don't do it often and one night last week I was reminded of why. There was not one positive or uplifting story in sight. NOT ONE. Everything I heard (not so much watched because I was playing SNOOD on my computer) was about somebody that got killed, somebody that was in jail for killing the somebody that got killed, school-shootings, missing children, sex-offender trials, scandals in politics, and a handful of other depressing topics. Normally there is at least one story about a cute kid winning an art contest whose work is now displayed in some building in the city, or a thing or two about bringing "holiday cheer" to others. (Don't get me started on people not being able to say "MERRY CHRISTMAS" anymore...) But there just wasn't anything to smile about. At first I was just mad at the news anchors (like they have anything to do with what they read off the paper). And then I was just mad at everybody. Why is it that nobody seems to care enough about the positive stuff to report it on national television?

My heart was marked the day they played the Invisible Children Documentary (click the name for the website if you are unfamiliar with this) at a very small showing at Carolina during the initial college tour of this video. I have been amazed at the ripple effect of efforts that those 3 boys started just out of a curiosity they had to see what was really going on in Uganda. I have always had a soft spot for Africa because my parents were missionaries there for 2 years before I was born. I have always known that I would go there someday, and I will be on the plane the day that the Lord says "Go". Please check this story out if you have no idea what I am talking about. It is pretty amazing what these college-aged boys were able to do with a little video camera and a lot of heart.

Speaking of Africa, I have a sponsor child named Lizzy that lives in Tanzania (an amazing story because she lives in the EXACT SAME TOWN that my parents used to live in...coincidence? I think not!) I think about her more this time of year and wonder what kind of Christmas they have at her house. I always send her extra money so that those who take care of her family's Christmas can make sure she has what she needs (and wants, if possible) and it just makes me wonder why we stress so much over buying each other presents. $18 dollars is all that this organization asks to provide for each child for Christmas. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS. That's 1/2 a gas tank for my Honda. And yet here I sit fretting over whether or not I have enough money left after bills to give my family the gifts they want. We need nothing and yet we spend until we're in debt during this time of year because somewhere along the way it became more about what you GOT for Christmas than the reason we even call it CHRISTmas. I am making a commitment right now to change the attitude in my heart about Christmas and QUIT stressing over what I am able to give to people. God gave us everything in that little baby Jesus and if that isn't enough for every heart, then nothing my money could buy ever will be.

I sponsor Lizzy through Compassion International, and there are lots of other amazing organizations like World Vision (which Avalon and numerous other artist and groups) represent). I really encourage you to think about sponsoring a child if you've never considered it. Just getting to read Lizzy's letters is more than enough in return for the $30 a month (that's only a handful of trips to Starbucks...or ONE night out to eat if you're buying for a small family) I pay for her to eat and go to school. I think the girl knows more about the Bible than I do, and she is only 10 years old.

Ok, so I made peanut butter balls last night (I won't even tell you what is in them) and now I'm thinking that it was a big mistake. Why you ask? Because 2 of my 4 roommates have already left for the holidays, which means that leaves Laura and I with a HUGE container of a-heart-attack-waiting-to-happen to eat ourselves. (Not to mention the reindeer cookies and white-trash goodies we also made.)
Another random though: I LOVE drinking sparkling grape juice this time of year. The funniest thing is when the person at the check-out counter asks for your ID only to be met with a funny look as you say "um, it's grape juice".

I have been sickly the last few days, and am now stocked up on Airborne. (I think I just spelled that wrong.) Which won't help my chronic allergies/asthma but it makes me feel better like I tried. It will have to suffice until I get my prescriptions refilled. They have a new kind out that you put in hot water to dissolve and it's supposed to taste like Apple Cider. What a let-down. We have the real stuff here left over from a party my roommate had a few weeks ago, so I was able regain my trust in the real thing.

And my last random tidbit for the day...I have been reading 1 Peter for a couple of days and just felt the need to post part of one of the chapters that keeps coming up in my week in conversations and sermons and Bible studies...I figured if I really needed to be reminded of this, then maybe someone else would be blessed by it as well. Happy Friday :)

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Pet. 2:9-10)

Monday, December 10, 2007

'Disturb Me'

Disturb me for the one whose given up
For the one who’s perseverance has run out
Disturb me for the heart that knows no love
That looks everywhere else to find their worth

..I'm still amazed
At how you've changed, me..

Disturb me for the one who lives in chains
For the one who’s captive in the prison of their shame
Disturb me as a former prisoner of despair
Whose warden was her own jealousy and fear

*Burden me so I can see your heart
That my hunger might be for something more
Teach me how to serve
With words of grace and hands of love
I long to feel the dust around your feet
Disturb me

It shakes me to my roots
That people might have turned from you
Because of what they’ve seen inside of me
Or didn't see...

*Burden me so I can see your heart
That my hunger might be for something more
Teach me how to serve
With words of grace and hands of love
I long to feel the dust around your feet
Disturb me...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sorry, I can't stand it....He is TOO CUTE not to share :)

REAL post coming soon...I PROMISE!! :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

No More Secrets

So it's been a while...again. Haha...but I have been out of town since late Friday night...and I'm about to tell you why.

Ok, I don't like keeping secrets from you guys, and it's been hard to talk about my amazing job--and my precious little boy--without saying names...especially his!!! And I also can't easily write about my weekend without saying names. That just gets to confusing with to use "my boss" and "her son" and "her singing buddies" (1, 2, and 3) and "singing buddies 1 and 2's children" and "singing buddy's children's nanny" get the idea. So if you go here, my mystery boss will be revealed. (She is the second girl, on the right.)

Her name is Melissa Greene, and she is the most humble, sweet, and beautiful girl you've ever met. I am just loving every minute that the Lord allows me to serve her and Ben by keeping their son, HUTCH!!!! ..You know him as the love of my life. :) Her singing companions are Janna Long (the last original Avalon member) whose solo site you can also look at here (I'm sure you know her big hit "Greater is He" that plays when her website comes up), Greg Long (who is married to Janna) website here (his list of successes under "bio" is quite impressive!) and the newest member (who has taken Jody McBrayer's spot as the tenor of the group) Jeremi Richardson. Jeremi has just joined the group this fall after spending the last five years as a member of the Voices of Liberty at Disney World! :) You can read some about him here.

Melissa also has a solo ministry (as do the other members), but has just signed with a new label and will have a CD in stores and songs on the radio in the first quarter of 08! Ya'll...the girl can SING. She has a site here, but I will let you know when the new site and CD and all of that are ready.

So this was my first weekend on the road!! I got to the bus Friday around 9:15 or so and Melissa showed me my bunk and explained where everything was, and then I met everyone! :) The total bus group was Melissa, Hutch, myself, Jeremi, Janna, Greg, their daughters Lilian and Julia, their nanny Kristy, Keely (World Vision rep.), Heath (road manager), and Dale (bus driver). And I loved every one of them!

This weekend the group had shows in Kentucky on Saturday night and Illinois on Sunday night (Chicago...BURRRRRRRRRRR). It was their first round of Christmas shows, and they have a few more coming up, so be sure to check and see if they are coming somewhere near you! You Texas gals, I know they have some shows out your way at the end of the week, so check it out if it's close! They should also be posting tour dates for their big spring tour with the new cd coming can check out a preview of it here (and buy the EP on itunes!)

Well, we just got back this morning around 8:00. Which means....... it's NAP TIME for me, and I will have to tell details later!! :) (But I will say, the Chicago deep-dish pizza that was delivered to the bus after the show last night was good enough to make even the strictest dieter DIG IN.)

Monday, November 26, 2007


This past Friday we had pictures made for the new church directory--THANK GOODNESS because the last family picture that we had I was very much still coming out of my 'homely' stage. (EW.) My brother Aaron is now married (as of last May) so he did not get to take part in this lovely family affair (lucky thing) as he now lives on Oak Island with his wife, Downey (what a great name!...and yes, she is as country as that sounds!). So we all four packed up Friday afternoon to head to the church for pictures. Yes I said four. Mom, Dad, Me, and Nellie. OUR GREAT DANE. Are you kidding me. This, in a nut shell, explains my dad. I haven't talked much about my parents, but the fact that our great dane just had professional pictures made at the church pretty much sums up his craziness. [And I just need to add that the great dane had more pictures made than I (a HUMAN, and HIS DAUGHTER) did. But that was mostly the photographer's doing so I won't blame that solely on my father--who, by the way, is the minister of music and youth of the church.] ...I told him he should put Nellie's picture beside his staff picture.
So, here are some boring pictures from our time with the awkward photographer. Real post about Thanksgiving later...

The fam...

Mom thinks this one is cheesy...


Nellie Hinton

Can you tell who I look like? :)

Oh, and I forgot to a thank you for my dad helping the picture people (he had to let them in and out of the church and whatnot) the photographer gave my dad an 8X11 re-touched picture.....OF THE GREAT DANE.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Embracing Accusation

Okay, I officially stink at blogging. :) But that's alright...I've accepted it, and I'm moving on...
I have so much I want to write about and normally that means I just wimp out and don't write anything because I am THE most indecisive person on the planet. I've been that way since I was little. I used to apologize to my stuffed animals that didn't sleep with me (because clearly only so many could fit in the bed without suffocating me) and I always had the hardest time deciding which ones would be so privileged to be sweated (word?) and drooled on, and always felt the need to HUG the rejects one more time before hitting the sack. :) What in the world...

Anyways, I was inspired to share my current favorite song ( if there was just one) with you after seeing a commercial for Oprah's Favorite Things show (ps..Julia Roberts is on tomorrow--Monday, that is--for any fans) and just had to share this song because I think I have listened to it every day for like 2 weeks now. It is by Shane Bernard and Shane Everette...also known as Shane&Shane...and it's called Embracing Accusations. The words are amazing, but I would encourage you to go to their myspace page and actually listen to the song (maybe while you read if you'd like) because it is one POWERFUL thing to hear these two AMAZINGLY talented individuals sing together. I'm including the link for their page at the please take advantage of it if you have a few minutes to listen. I'll be back tomorrow or Tuesday to write about what's been going on with life! Love ya'll!!

Embracing Accusation
The Father of lies
Coming to steal kill and destroy
All my hopes of being good enough
I hear him saying, “cursed are the ones who can’t abide”

He’s right, hallelujah, he’s right
The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed
That I am cursed and gone astray
I cannot gain salvation
Embracing accusation

Could the father of lies be telling the truth of
God to me tonight?
That if the penalty of sin is death, then death is mine
I hear him saying, “cursed are the ones who can’t abide”

He’s right, hallelujah, he’s right
The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed
That I am cursed and gone astray
I cannot gain salvation

The devil’s singing over me an age-old song
That I am cursed and gone astray
Singing the first verse so conveniently over me
He’s forgotten the refrain.

website link... here

Monday, November 12, 2007


Sorry I haven’t been around much lately!! I have enjoyed catching up on some of your blogs, even though I haven’t been posting much! (Haha..i just typed “poasting” instead of p-o-s-t…probably cause I was thinking about making TOAST…goodness…am I ever NOT hungry?!) Anyways…the Lord has been teaching me a lot in the last week or so, but the one thing that has been shouted (beautifully) in my direction far more times than I can count is the subject of grace. GRACE. The most beautiful word. :)

I just started reading “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning yesterday, and I don’t think it was just a coincidence that I picked up a book during such a week where this reoccurring subject was etched so closely to the forefront of my mind. Grace, that is. (I just love saying that word.) So I just wanted to share some of my favorite thoughts written in this book by someone much more well-versed than I. Maybe someone else needs to see these today, or maybe this visual-kinesthetic learner just needs to type them out to see them again herself. Regardless, I hope these words bless your day…in whatever way your heart may need. (Sorry this may be long...REALLY LONG...just read as you have time)

“On a blustery October night in a church outside Minneapolis, several hundred believers had gathered for a three-day seminar. I began with a one-hour presentation on the gospel of grace and the reality of salvation. Using Scripture, story, symbolism, and personal experience, I focused on the total sufficiency of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on Calvary. The service ended with a song and a prayer.
Leaving the church by a side door, the pastor turned to his associate and fumed, “Humph, that airhead didn’t say one thing about what we have to do to earn out salvation!”
Something is radically wrong.
The bending of the mind by the powers of this world has twisted the gospel of grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal, small-minded bookkeeper. The Christian community resembles a Wall Street exchange of works wherein the elite are honored and the ordinary ignored. Love is stifled, freedom shackled, and self-righteousness fastened. The institutional church has become wounder of the healers rather than a healer of the wounded.
Put bluntly, the American church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice. We say we believe that the fundamental structure of reality is grace, not works—but our lives refute our faith. By and large, the gospel of grace is neither proclaimed, understood, nor lived.

…Though the Scriptures insist on God’s initiative in the work of salvation—that by grace we are saved, that the Tremendous Lover has taken to the chase—our spirituality often starts with self, not God. Personal responsibility has replaced personal response. We talk about acquiring virtue as if it were a skill that can be attained, like good handwriting or a well-grooved golf swing. In the penitential seasons we focus on overcoming our weakness, getting rid of our hang-ups, and reaching Christian maturity…Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if only personal discipline and self-denial will mold the perfect me.

…Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat denial of the gospel of grace…

…[God] is not moody or capricious; He knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us; He loves us. He is the only god man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do…Through no merit of ours, but by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.

Matthew 9:13 “Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.”

…[Jesus is] fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the gospel of grace.

…Jesus says the kingdom of His Father is not a subdivision for the self-righteous nor for those who feel they possess the state secret of salvation. The kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experience the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.

…God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.

…We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to cope where others despair, to love where others hurt…My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.

Ephesians 2:8-9 “Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.”

(quote by Paul Tillich from The Shaking of the Foundations)
“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life…It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.’ If that happens, to us, we experience grace.”

…Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness. So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me.”

Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white roes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last “trick,” whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school; the deathbed convert who for decades had his cake and ate it, broke every law of God and man, wallowed in lust, and raped the earth.
“But how? we ask.
Then the voice says, “The have washed their robes and made them while in the blood of the Lamb.”
There they are. There we are—the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to the faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace." :)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Breaking the Rules :) Wordless Wednesday early ...WORDLESS MONDAY

(Sorry for the bad quality...I lost my camera cord, so these are pictures, of pictures, taken on my phone and sent to my email...and please forgive the use of words on Wordless Monday.) ;)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Why Does Aunt Flow Have to Bring so Much Food?

If you are one of the 3 or so males that read my blog (hello camp friends...) maybe this isn't the entry for you. So enjoy the day off from reading your sister-in-Christ's insights about life and do yourself a favor by saving us both the embarrassment of knowing that you have read what is about to follow.

I just wanted to share with you blog siestas those things that have completely taken over my body in the last 2 days. It seems my ovaries have an appetite that the rest of me can not control round about this time and frankly all self-control goes out the window. (And we won't even mention the mood swings...let's just say my prayer life seems to pick up during this certain week every month.) After laying in the bed for half the day yesterday trying to perfect the fetal position while my insides ripped out (lovely)...I went for a walk (which helped a little) and then like any PMS'n woman incapable of controlling herself, I headed for the kitchen. I'm sure I'll be looking up Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers in the phone book next week (who am I kidding...that thought will pass before I go to sleep) but frankly I have come to a conclusion. Calories just don't count when Aunt Flow visits. I mean, she always brings way more food than one person can handle, and just has a way of taking any care about the way you look for those 3-7 days (SEVEN...all the way...EVERY TIME...) and throwing it out with the trash. So as I ate my second dinner last night, I turned to my roommate and said, "Calories don't count right now do they?" and felt entirely vindicated and justified when she IMMEDIATELY and ENTHUSIASTICALLY responded with "Oh absolutely not!!" Praise the Lord...I knew He was watching out for me when He brought these girls together.

So anyway...this entry is completely mindless and poorly written...but I just felt like sharing my indulgences from the last two days. What do you guys pig-out on when your aunt comes?

(ps...for copy-right reasons let me just say that I did not take any of these pictures, nor am I taking credit for them. They can all be found by searching Google Images!!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What's so Great About Bread??

Ok, before you shoot me with that title, let me assure you that 90% of my life I have been on a carb diet (and by diet I mean, I EAT THEM ALL). There has only been one time in my life that I didn't eat bread or carbs, but that was during a very sick time...both physically and mentally, and PRAISE THE LORD He freed me from that awful bondage of a life and my thighs were quickly re-introduced to the joys of white starches and chocolate again!! :)

(By the way...I'm watching a CSI re-run while I write this, so if at any point I use a big medical word that makes no sense, forgive me...right now they are looking for someone that has killed 5 women already and they thought the killer was a woman driving a meat-packing ice truck, but have just figured out that it was the guy who is with her and she was just his helper to lure the women in with an emotional story about locking her kid in the car......uggg what trashy topics for my brain...why do I watch these mystery shows?! I'm scared of the dark!!! Let alone a serial killer!)

I wanted to share with ya'll today was what we talked about at Kairos (the Tuesday night worship service I go to) tonight. I first have to say that this service has become God's weekly way of speaking directly to my heart for exactly what I need in the next 6 days until returning to that place the following week. Sure, He speaks to me outside of that hour or two in different ways, but there He generally feels ok about getting all up in my face about things because He knows I won't be getting up out of my seat to walk through the maze of tables to the back door to avoid Him. Somehow I can always manage to find the exit of distraction when I'm at home or the coffee shop spending time with Him, but at Kairos it's different. I don't want to take my eyes off of Him. He moves in that place...and over the last 2 months of Tuesday nights, I've realized just how big a dude He is...cause no matter where I sit, He finds me and catches my gaze until I can't help but stare back. It always reminds me of that verse in Isaiah (50:7) that I often pray for Him to set my face like flint--trusting His power over my mistakes.

So when I arrived tonight in the very cool setting that is the Kairos worship service (coffee/tea bar, snacks, dim lighting, tables with candles and Bibles, a prayer station lit by artsy-looking floor lamps, and a stage where some of the most talented and humble musicians play and sing) I went over to my usual sitting area up front (otherwise I'm completely ADD with all the people in front of me) and begin journaling. I like to get there about 20-30 minutes before it starts and sort of collect my thoughts, leave distractions at the door, and just write whatever I need to get out in the open with the Lord that I haven't taken the time to do already that day...or sometimes unfortunately, that week. Sadly, this was one of those weeks where I had more to write than I would have liked to admit. I specifically wrote down some things about my quiet times that I know He has been asking me to change and add-to that I haven't done, and that I needed Him to speak to me tonight in such a specific way that I wouldn't be able to ignore Him and that it would be different. Different in a way that I couldn't not change. Can't wait to change. And don't want to wait.

Well, boy did He speak. Yell. Wave His arms wildly and say, "yes, I am talking to YOU!" And it was the sweetest thing. I just felt like I was sitting in His lap and He was answering every question, concern, and hidden desire that I brought to the table. The most awesome part of it for me was the way He allowed me to speak to Him through song. The songs that were chosen for us to sing echoed exactly my prayer to Him in the journal that I had just written. The words that I wrote were the specific cry of my heart and I was able to then again offer them in song as a genuine and honest plea of where I was with the Lord and what I needed. Amazing. That someone listened to the Lord's plan for that service and what they needed to prepare to play, and He helped me to be honest enough before the service to be straight out with Him about where I was...and then the two connected and served as my vessel for worship straight from my heart to His.

Then Mr. Mike came up and spoke, and the Lord SHOWED UP. We have been breaking apart the Lord's Prayer as found in Luke 11:1-4.

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’
He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sings,
For we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

This week we were down to “Give us each day our daily bread”.
Give us: This phrase implies 2 things.
1—We don’t have it.
2—We can’t get it ourselves.
We must be dependant upon the Lord to give it to us, and humble enough to know that everything that we have is just that—given/a GIFT from God—and we can not take credit for any of it because we don’t deserve it. This is the way that we should live—in gratitude. GRATITUDE. Because nothing we have is because of how we’ve earned it, but because it was given to us by God to enjoy. Material things, yes…but our breath, every heartbeat, the weather, intangible things that we take for granted and forget about. All given to us to enjoy life.

Mr. Mike brought up a very cool point from Luke 17 and the story of the 10 healed of leprosy. As I’m sure you are familiar with the story, only 1 man came back to say thank you to Jesus…and Jesus tells him to go return home, and that his faith has made him whole. (KJV & ASV use the word “whole” …most others say “well”.) There is a difference between being healed, and being whole. The other 9 were healed. But this man left whole. Whole because he was full of gratitude for what he had been given.

In Exodus 16, we have the story about the Lord giving the people daily portions of manna that they needed, and how they received specific instructions to take what they needed for the day. But some of them saved enough for morning…just in case they weren’t provided for, they wanted to be prepared. (Is this not like us?!?!?! Saying one thing to the Lord and then hanging on to our worries like He won’t actually take care of them!! We are silly! Does He not see every sparrow that falls from the sky! How much more does He watch and take care of us, His prized possessions!) God promised to provide for His people, daily. DAILY. He said trust ME, I WILL provide for you. And they hoarded their manna anyway because they just weren’t sure it would be there tomorrow. And HELLO…their manna spoiled. Nasty, moldy, maggot-filled manna. MMMMMMMMMM. TASTY. (not.) Anybody seeing this connection yet?

You get what you need from the Lord daily. DAILY. And nothing less than what you need—He will never leave you short-handed. But also nothing more…because He knows you’ll let it spoil.

When you go to the super market, do you just buy bread? No. You don’t see people pushing around shopping carts just full of bread and nothing else. Why? Because we desire more. We have to have stuff to put ON the bread. Meat. Turkey. Ham. Cheese. Peanut Butter. Jelly. Honey. (Dang I’m hungry.) Because we aren’t satisfied with just bread, we buy other things…and if we’re not careful, those things start to own us, instead of us owning them. We work over-time to be able to pay for those things we think we “need” so that we can enjoy life. But the thing is, we don’t enjoy the gifts that we already have. In case you didn’t noticed, YOU WOKE UP TODAY. Gift #1. Are you still breathing? Heart beating? Need I say more?

Give us each day, our daily bread. God gives us what we need for today. Lord, give us what your heart desires of us. Help us to live in gratitude that we may be made WHOLE, and not just settle for being healed.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
(John 6:48-51)

HE is your daily bread. Take. Eat. And be made WHOLE.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Should Get An Award...

...for the worst blogger this week!!! I can't believe I haven't sat down to catch ya'll up!! And unfortunately, this will not be the moment that I do that...I've still got to pack for yet another trip (one that includes a stop at my parents house and the church I grew up in!!) and take a shower in the worst way. You know when your skin practically grows arms and legs cause it wants to run away from you...I feel THAT kind of gross. I will catch you up on the retreat from last weekend soon, along with some really cool stuff I've learned in Bible study this week, and some more ranting and raving (in a good way) about how much I love being a nanny to this little boy. (OH MY GOODNESS!!!! *big cheesy smile*) Since I've been gone...the short version...I have bought more decorating things for my room--most of which were completely unnecessary, spent other money on deals that really weren't that great, consumed waaaaaay too much Starbucks (which will be stopping per my bank statement from this month...frown), cleaned my room, messed it up again, watched some of my favorite girly movies (The Wedding Planner, You've Got Mail...oh, and caught up on DCC episodes that I missed the last 2 weekends), failed to do laundry for yet another week, fell more in love with my Jesus as I heard a very special woman in my life sing at a worship service last Tuesday, and took a million and one videos on my phone of my little nannying buddy because he is just THAT cute. As soon as I get to the store to get batteries, and FIND my camera cord to upload photos I will bore you with an albums worth of that little guy. :)

And I'll leave you with this for now...a new fav of mine...there are so many things I could comment on...but I'll save my thought for now and let you make your own. It may be Sunday before I'm back again...and then hopefully I'll be back on schedule for a few weeks so I can catch up on all of your lives as well!!! Til then...

Colossians 3:1-17

"1-2 So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.

3-4Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

5-8And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It's because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn't long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it's all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

9-11Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

12-14So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

15-17Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way."


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Father of Lies

What in the world, I have been so slack with blogging this week! I hate not "talking" to you girls! I have just been so tired since I got back from last has taken me a few days to get up and running again. Retreats are great, but when leading them, most off the time you feel like you need a retreat after it's over! Here is a picture of Laura, Katie and I, my two best girls that I sang and taught Bible study with. LOVE THEM.

And I started me new job yesterday!!!!! Ok, I know that most of you reading have children, as I hope to one day, but I must say, my nannying child is THE CUTEST little boy I have EVER seen in my life. And that includes one of my best friends who has 3 children that I couldn't love more if they were my own. But this little one definitely takes the cake on that one. OH MY GOODNESS!!! I could just cry thinking about him because I miss him already!! I'll try to put up some pictures soon...once I get my act together and buy some batteries for my camera...

I'm leaving in the morning for another retreat that I got asked to help with last minute, and because my nanny-boss doesn't need me for a few days I graciously said yes! Another opportunity to pour out to young girls...I would be silly to pass that up!! So I will be gone for another few days, and not sure I'll have access to the internet til I get back. (Your prayers would be appreciated...I was just informed that I'll be teaching middle school this time. Nuff said.)

But for now, I wanted to share something that stuck out to me from one of our Bible study days last week. I mean, a lot of stuff sticks out to me, but because of my past struggles, this one in particular hit home.
For 10 years I struggled with self esteem issues. I am only 22, so as you can imagine this started at a pretty early age...around 12 (about the time middle school hit, DUH.) I won't get into all of the issues I had (I think I wrote about them back when I first started the blog if you're the first couple of entries) but long story short, the devil got a hold of my mind and very quickly began manipulating my every thought through his filter of false information and lies of darkness.
So much of this Bible study has helped me with the bondage that I was freed from. What I'm finding is that yes, I most definitely was delivered from all of that stuff January 1, 2007, (Praise the Lord! I don't ever want to forget that day!). But I'm still very much in a healing process from it. I let Satan have TOO MUCH and the Lord is slowly filling in the cracks...every time I get to share my story with a girl or group of girls (like last weekend), a little part of that past is redeemed (oh I could just cry right now) and made into something beautiful, and the Lord is doing the very same thing through this study. Every time something strikes at the core of how those days affected me, I stand a little taller and stronger, with another weapon and snippet of truth to replace all those lies I once believed. One of the scriptures on the last day of last week really stuck out to me.

(Just before this, Jesus is talking to 'the Jews who had believed Him' and said to them "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." v31-32 and that if they really were children of God like they proclaimed, then they would love Him [Jesus] instead of trying to kill Him.)
John 8:43-44 "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murdered from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for his is a liar and the father of lies."

That in itself was awesome just to punch Satan in the face by being reminded and saying OUT LOUD that there is NO truth in him. That he IS a LIAR and the FATHER OF LIES. But the thing that got me good was the next verse.

v45 "Yet because I [Jesus] tell the truth, you do not believe me!"

Oh, how MESSED UP I was!!!!Because that was me!!! I remember days and days of reading the Bible knowing how God's love and those words applied to other people, but wondering where I fit in, because I was letting my heart and soul bow down to a crock and a phony. I was so turned around that exactly as this verse says, when I heard, saw, read, or spoke the truth of God I didn't believe it for myself. As (embarrassing is not the word...) but foolish as I felt when I realized that was me, HOW MUCH MORE glory I can give him now from bringing me out of such a dark world. There was a quote from one of Kelly's missionary friend's in china and it ended with this...

"...a healed relationship or person can reflect more glory than one who never knew brokenness."

Not that God wants us to go through mess, but we do...and when He allows us to get so far that we realize He was the ONLY ONE who could have pulled us out, how much MORE glory He receives, which is the whole point of everything!! It makes me sick to my stomach to think about where I've been mentally and with the way I treated myself physical speaking, but every day I choose to proclaim freedom in Christ from all of that, and make it known that He is the KING of my heart, every bit of that pain and junk is redeemed in His name.

I'm sure you and I have had very different stories in the last few years, and I can't help but think how much beautiful and stronger our relationships with the Lord are because of the MESS He allowed us to endure. Most of my 10 year struggle was completely hidden and an internal battle...a secret world I wouldn't have dared shared with anyone then. They were some of the darkest days I can remember. And I can only imagine some of the things some of you have dealt with that some of us will never know. But what peace and joy we can have at the thought that because we experienced brokenness in different ways, and allowed God to be the one to do the restoring, we know TRUTH and the author of it in ways we would have never imagined (or probably asked for if we knew what it would take us through).

God is so good. SO GOOD. And I have never been more in love with Him than I am right now. Stephanie (Ocean Mommy) wrote about something on her blog the other day that I just loved. (Check it out if you have a sec) But she was talking about how she was glad that she didn't love her husband as much as she did the day she married him. She loves him so much more now. Isn't that the way we should be with the Lord?! Yes the love that we feel for Him when we initially come to know Him is like nothing we've ever experienced. But think if it stayed there. I wouldn't want to go back to the days of those 10 years if you paid me all the money in the world. But I also wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. My prince of peace and the author of my salvation saved my scrawny (well, no it's not so scrawny...hahaha) butt from the meanest enemy you and I will ever know, and delivered me into the greatest love relationship of my life.

And by-george I'll be danged if the devil ever gets a piece of my heart again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Hey girls!! We had an AWESOME weekend on our retreat at Caswell in North Carolina. Awesome, but tiring...seen in the fact that I spent most of the day yesterday sleeping or being lazy!! So sorry I didn't catch you up before, but it would have looked at lot like "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" had I tried to write anything Sunday night or yesterday during the day. Even now, two days later, I am struggling to keep my eyes open! I have a very cool thing the Lord showed me from one of our Bible study days this past week, but I'll catch you up on the weekend and then write about that next.

Daniel and I left early Friday morning to board our flight to Raleigh. I was so excited cause we got 2 packs of peanuts!! (It's the little things...)We were a little bummed on the way when we heard that our numbers were not the usual 700-800 (which is typical for our fall retreats) but instead we were resting somewhere below the 300 mark. But we just trusted that those were the exact students and adults that needed to be there, and that the Lord didn't have any less of a plan of showing up than He did before. One of these days we'll learn not to put Him in a box, and in the mean time, He'll keep blowing our socks off!!

The theme of these retreats that we do is "Reach Up" from Acts 17:27 ("God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.") The whole thing is focused around empowering teenagers and helping them to realize the POWER that they have in Christ when they reach up to HIM to find what they need, instead of reaching to the things of the world to be satisfied. There is also an element of 'sharing Jesus without fear' where we continue to teach them ways to talk to their friends about Christ as they live them out themselves.

(PAUSE......Ok sorry my roommate made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing...WHAT?!?!?! :) and I NEEDED one)

I had the great privilege of teaching the high school girls bible study with two of my very best friends, Laura and Katie. (Laura is my roommate here in Nashville, and all 3 of us worked together at Caswell summer '06. Laura and I worked together 3 years, and Katie and I for 2 years.) We had about 50 girls all together and it was just SO great. At the end of the Saturday morning session, we had them all write out questions they had about life--left it completely open to WHATEVER topic or issue they wanted to ask about. We have found over the summers that their youth group and leaders back home are sadly NOT the people they feel comfortable to go to to ask questions and so they just walk around aimlessly with all these unanswered thoughts about what's ok and what's not...and then look to the wrong things for validation. So we just threw out the last bible study session and just had a question-answer time where we answered what they asked about and gave them a chance to just be REAL and DEAL with stuff. We didn't want to just 'church-it-up' and make things watered down because unfortunately they get enough of that at home. We just flat out told them like it was on a lot of issues they had questions about, and made sure that they knew it was not us yelling or lecturing at them, but that it was from the most humble place because we have BEEN THERE and don't want them to have to go through junk like we have if possible. We also told them we wanted to be that real because chances are if they had the courage to honestly ask about it, then they are probably struggling with it. You could tell by the look on their faces that a lot of them were asking with a hopeful conscious that we were about to give them some justification about their past and tell them certain screw-ups were ok because we had done them too. NOT HAPPENING! I was blown away by the amount of girls in that room who at such a young age had either 'gone to far' with their boyfriends, had experimented with cutting, eating and self-esteem issues, had horrible family situations, and the list goes on.

At the end we ran out of time and sort of briefly explained what each of our testimonies were and told them if there was anyone that needed to stay after to ask us questions about more specific things that we would most definitely stay. All three of us had about 7-8 girls stay after to talk, so we sort of had a mini-bible study in 3 different corners of the room and each got to be even more personal to certain situations and hearts that needed more attention with these issues. That was such a blessing to be able to pour into these girls at this stage in their life, hoping we could save them some heartache by the time they are our age.

The other parts of the retreat were pretty awesome as well. Laura, Katie and I, along with 5 others made up the worship band, and then we also had a speaker--Tony Nolan--and if you've never heard him, you should...he's fabulous. He is funny, wise, real, and personal...and he wears really cool artsy shirts. :)

I LOVE Caswell. LOVE IT. It has been my home away from home for over 22 years now. My dad is the youth minister at the church where I grew up (he has been there for about 18 years now) so my brother and I always got to go on trips with the youth group...and to summer camp every year. There has not been a summer of my life that I haven't spent at least a portion of it at Caswell. And when the summer comes that I don't step foot through those gates, it will probably be a little hard to comprehend. For 22 years (including the summer I was in my mothers womb) Caswell has been a place of peace, restoration, joy, love, refuge, and some very monumental memories that have marked me for life. It was the place that the Lord let me know it was ok to follow my dreams, and showed me the beginning of my plan to move to TN. Back in the day (before technology started coming out of our eyeballs) they used to have this HUGE black speaker box in Hatch (the building where we have worship services) right above the stage in the middle of everything. In my early years, I could have bet my life that God lived in that box. (Maybe that's why I try to keep Him in it?!) I just knew Caswell had to be His favorite place on earth...all those kids who came to know Him by the hundreds and thousands every summer...and the genuine worship I experienced there was like no other. My body lived in Lenoir, but my heart stayed on that island inside those gates, waiting for me to come back every summer and meet back up with it. It just refused to leave.

This weekend WAS wonderful, but I'll tell you what, there was nothing like flying into Nashville at night and seeing the lights over the city. Absolutely beautiful. When we were in the van about to leave camp, I looked at Laura and said, "I'm ready to go home." And she said, "Yeah, me too."
When I came to visit Nashville for the first time last April to apartment hunt, I called Laura about 30 minutes into my trip and said, "The weirdest thing just happened. I just left my house, but I feel like I'm driving home." It was a very scary thing, but so exciting at the same time...and peaceful. To KNOW that God has appointed me to live here in exactly this time and place...and now not even my favorite place in the world could keep me from coming back here. God's way is always the best, and His blessings are just out of this world. Thank y'all for helping me to love Him more...

More on the Bible study thing later...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Late-Night Story Time

So it's late, and I need to sleep because I'm getting on a plane for NC in 8 hours (that would include sleeping and the airport madness somewhere in there) but I wanted to at least share one story from last week before I leave blog-world for a few days(*tear*). After having a couple of rough days (if you are lost...see previous posts from last week) the Lord so blessed me with a multitude of different things, but one day in particular that I wanted to tell you about. As I sit here typing I am still just amazed at the way He has completely changed my life in just a week. I will not tell everything because I do need to rest (I am RUN DOWN from keeping quite a rambunctious 4 year old for the past 4 days as a temp. job) but this is too good to pass up on the up-coming 3-day hiatus from my computer.

So last week, let's just be honest, I was STRUGGLING with some things. The waiting. The confusion. The doubt. The worry. Etc. And just about the time I was ready to make some hasty decisions for myself because I was afraid there would be a lack of provision if I didn't have plans for everything...and CONTROL of everything. (Like the Lord has ever given me a reason to doubt whether or not He would show up. Ha.) So I'm on the brink of just "settling" for a family because I desperately needed an income, and just some other decisions that I was ready to jump the gun on (but that was the main one)...and then the Lord straight up rocked my world with one of the lessons from our Bible study ("No Other Gods"). The reading for this particular day was from Exodus 24:12-18. I'll just type it for you because my paraphrasing abilities end around midnight. So this is when Moses is about to go up on the mountain with the Lord where He will receive the 10 commandments, etc...and he is about to leave.

"The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction."
Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, "Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them."
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights."

If you fast forward to chapter 32, you see that the people get ancy waiting on Moses to come back that they ask Aaron to "Come, make us gods" (v1) because they don't know what is up with Moses and are afraid they have been abandoned, and so feel the need to make other gods rather than wait on Moses and his God. When the Lord see this, he says to Moses in verse 7 "They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them..." There is more to that verse, but when I read that, my entire day changed. You know when you watch cartoons and a character realizes something and they do the light bulb free-frame for a second so you know they got it. Yep. One of those moments. 40 days was an eternity for these people to wait. They thought he was taking FOREVER on that mountain, and because they hadn't heard from him they decided to take matters into their own hands. But when you read the Lord's reaction? 40 days is NOTHING to Him!!! Obviously He knows that we operate on time because we are human, but in the large scheme of things, even our entire life existence in comparison with eternity is nothing. So how much less is 40 days in the eyes of the one who holds the master plan.

So Moses went on up to the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. The people waited for 40 days and 40 nights. They don't know what has happened to Moses. They got anxious and turned away. God saw this and said they were QUICK to turn away. The Lord calls Abby to move to Nashville. (This part not in the Bible ;) ..) Abby moves to Nashville. Abby starts to struggle. To doubt. To wonder where the Lord's voice is; what she is supposed to do with her life; how she is going to pay the bills; why is she not getting answers. She decides to take matters into her own hands and try to "make plans" herself since she's not getting the help she thinks she needs. Then she does this Bible study. And she has a thought. "Hmm...these people waited for 40 days, to God 40 days was nothing...I wonder how long I've been in Nashville?"

Y'ALL. I am crying again just thinking about it. 40 DAYS. 40 DAYS. THE DAY I started struggling so bad, I had been in Nashville for 40 DAYS. I can't even tell you the humility and joy and peace and embarrassment and laughter and gracious heart that came over me all at once that morning. You never want to admit when you feel like God has left you, because you KNOW that He hasn't. But you don't always feel that He hasn't. (Thank goodness our relationship with Him can be based on what we KNOW about Him and not how we FEEL...I am so emotional sometimes I would have broken up and gotten back together with Him 12 times in one day. Anybody else there sometimes?) But if I'm being honest, that week was one of those times where I FELT like I had been left. Like He was withholding information about my life from me. Like He had brought me here to this new life and then forgotten about me. (Oh, the vain imaginations I can come up with!!) And that day He gave me the biggest hug I've ever felt from Him. I praised Him for His silence. I praised Him for the not-knowing. I praised Him for the chance to rely on Him more instead of my silly plans for how to map out my days in order to pay the bills. He just held me and said, just WAIT. Just a little longer. I'm here. I KNOW. And I've got a plan.

One of the larger parts of my struggling came with needing a job. Y'all I interviewed with 4 families for full-time nanny positions in the last few weeks. All of them great families. None of them are currently paying me a salary. Every time I left a house I just had this thought of "No I need to wait". I didn't know why, but I just didn't feel at peace with any of them. Never once did I stop and think that maybe it was the Lord saying wait because He had something better. I just chalked it up to it not being "meant to be". Well this past Tuesday I got my answer. Monday was my deadline to get back to my boss about this last family, and had I taken it, I would have made double what I needed every month, and had plenty to save for some things in the future. But again, it didn't seem right. Then Tuesday night I met with a woman who I have been in the process of talking to about a nanny job. I realize this doesn't sound any more exciting than the other 4 families I just mentioned, but just trust me on this. This is a woman that I met at the worship service that I go to on Tuesdays, and about 4 weeks ago, the Lord totally directed out conversation in a matter of minutes to her knowing that I was looking for a nanny job, and me knowing that she was looking for a nanny. In fact neither one of us told each other until this week, but in that moment we both had that stir in our hearts that just said "this is a God thing". I think the reminder of that in the back of my mind was why I haven't been able to commit to any other family, because something just told me this other possibility needed to be a priority in keeping my schedule open.

So Tuesday I made it official with this woman and her husband, and I will begin working for her this next week. It is my dream nanny job. NO JOKE. I wish I could describe in detail for you what it is I will be doing, because I know all of this sounds kind of vague and there isn't a way for me a this point to tell you exactly why this job is so distinct for me and different from the others. Because of the person I am working for, I feel like I don't need to go parading that information around, and in the next bit I will be praying about how to share why this excites me so much...but I just don't want to ever sound "braggy" about it or mention this family or their child just for the sake of saying "I work for ____". But let me just say I have NEVER been more excited about a job, or more honored that my Jesus would let me have it...and that this had been in his plan all along.

I'm still in a whirlwind of emotions--all of them amazing--and just completely humbled at how the Lord has SHOWED OFF for me in the last few days. As if He even needed to...but He has done it anyway, and I am on-my-face-grateful for it. He has provided my rent for 2 months now without a full time job, and just so gone out of His way to tell me that He loves me and knows my heart. I feel like I'm totally rambling and I hope some of this made sense. But just know that your prayers were answered, my prayers were answered, the Lord is blowing me away with his provision, and showing me sides of His character I've never seen before--and they are all beautiful.

If 40 days in the wilderness will bring me this kind of joy and adoration for my Jesus, He can send me there anytime. Love you...and see you back here Sunday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Random Fours

Beautiful Ladies, I have had THE MOST AMAZING last few days, and when I can get coherent thoughts together I can't wait to tell you how the Lord has showed off for me concerning the worries and silly (but real) struggles that I was having recently. Y'all, He is so good. SO GOOD.
But for now, I've been tagged by both Jackie and Patty to do this meme, so here it goes!! :)

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Housekeeper at Summer Camp
2. Singer/Keyboards/Bible Study Leader at Summer Camp
3. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (and yes, it was as good as it sounds)
4. Nanny :)

Four movies I can watch over and over and over:
1. You’ve Got Mail
2. The Parent Trap (newer version…but I think the mom in the old version is the definition of beautiful!! So pretty!!)
3. The Preacher’s Wife
4. While You Were Sleeping
(I have another one…The Devil Wears Prada…I am strangely obsessed with this movie.)

Four tv shows I like to watch:
1. F*R*I*E*N*D*S (yes, I DO own all 10 seasons )
2. Grey’s Anatomy
3. Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (why did I have to start watching this?!?! TOTALLY addicted)
4. Everybody Loves Raymond

Four places I have vacationed:
1. Virgin Islands (St. Johns)
2. Grand Canyon
3. New York
4. Outer Banks

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. Pineapple Casserole (my moms is THE BEST)
2. Chicken Casserole (hello, I’m from the south, and I grew up in a Baptist church…of course the casseroles would dominate this list) …oooo fried chicken too
3. Stir-fry (sp?)
4. Salmon anything

Four websites i visit daily:
1. My blog
2. Facebook
3. Hotmail (email)
4. Friend’s Blogs

Four places i would rather be:

1. Reynosa Mexico (at an orphanage we went to on a mission trip)
2. In my best friend’s kitchen, sitting on her bar stool...just talking and telling her how great she is :)
3. Africa
4. I don’t know...I don’t want to leave Nashville!!!

Who am I tagging?! Anyone who has time and wants to invite us to some random facts about their life! Let me know if you do it so I can come visit and see!! :)
I love all of my siesta sisters, aunts, and moms! Y'all are the greatest!

Monday, October 8, 2007

My first real heartbreak. Brace yourself.

[I have some awesome things to say about the weekend...later.]

I was having a pleasant Sunday afternoon walking the mall...notice I said WALKING, not so much have to have money to do that. Needless to say, invisible jobs don't pay well. So now let me back up.

Contrary to our air-conditioner's thinking, it is not the middle of winter. But you would think so by the way it insist on blowing out HEAT during these lovely October sweat-fests. The air is set on COOL, somewhere in the upper 60s, yet we get HEAT blown through our vents. The simple solution would seem to be just to cut it OFF. You would think. But the dern blasted thing won't cut off. IT WON'T CUT OFF. We are stewing in our own filth. (Which has the potential to make my friend Katherine gag if she ever reads this because she can't even stand the thought of taking baths and sitting in the dirty water.)
So after church I opted not to take a trip to the burning nunnery (we live on convent's ok, laugh it up ;) we've decided just to own the hilarity of that) and to spend it in the air conditioning some place where I would have plenty to look at and a place to sit and read for a while. So I happened upon the Mall at Green Hills which conveniently has both. :) My afternoon was full of looking at lovely dress pants and jeans 3 times as expensive as the ones I had on, shirts that wouldn't cover my BIG TOE, and way cute cards at the Papyrus store I have recently fallen in love with. Cutest cards ever. I refrained. And my wallet thanked me. (Until I went to Starbucks of course...I would hope that would just be an understood given though.) Life was good and cool...I was killing time...(ran into 2 of my 3 roommates who were undoubtedly avoiding the same thing I was) feet hurt, but I didn't care (I had Starbucks to walk off)...

And then IT happened.

I went to Panera. (Again, choosing to stay out of the house for dinner prolonged another work-out sized sweat job just to pour a bowl of cereal.)
I walked up to the counter.
I asked for a cinnamon crunch bagel. And the unthinkable came out of that sweet girl's mouth.
"I'm sorry we're out".
Politely I tilted my head toward her and said "Hmmm?" (I could not have heard her right.)

"We're out...of cinnamon crunch bagels."

Restrain yourself Abby. It is not her fault. Was the Lord telling me not to eat a bagel? Save my hips the trouble? Surely not.
But this was the day I learned trying to substitute a phony for the real thing is never a good idea. The Lord can not be replaced, and neither can cinnamon crunch bagels.
Mocha-chip is just NOT the same.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I'll take an Isaac please

"Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her."
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me."
"Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?"
"I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.
The the angel of the LORD told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." The angel added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."
The angel of the LORD also said to her:
"You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael [which means "God hears"], for the LORD as heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man' his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi [which means "well of the Living One who sees me"]; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael." (Genesis 16:1-15)

This was part of the scripture reading for my Bible Study today in talking about idols. At first I was having a hard time figuring out how it was going to relate. And then I got me a word from Miss Kelly Minter. Ever get one of those NOW kinda words that you just KNOW is for you. If it's ok, I think I'll just add in what she had to say about this instead of trying to re-word it all myself.

-->After the hundreds of times I've read this passage, never in my life have I considered Hagar an idol of Sarah's. Until tonight. Until I read the simple phrase, "perhaps I can build a family through her" (v2). In those days it might as well have read, "Perhaps I can build a life through her." [During this time the ability to bear children was essential and viewed as a "need". If you weren't married and couldn't have children, you were basically seen as worthless in society. Your identity was through your family.]
In a way, this is staggering to me. Sarah was looking to an Egyptian slave girl to save her life. She was depending on someone she ended up hating. Just a passing thought--isn't it interesting that our false gods can even be things we hate?
Sarah's dependence on Hagar leads me to ask the obvious question: Other than God, who or what am I trying to build my life through?<--

(...This took me through some major thinking today...and the identification of a few other idols that need to be unveiled.)

Then we read Genesis 21:1-3...
"Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him."
(it was supposed to be v.1-6 but I think we get the point without discussing the circumcised word. ;) does that give anybody else the hebejeebes?)

(Back to Kelly)
-->Here we get the end of the story--God's way. We saw what happened when Sarah tried to build her family through Hagar her own way. It was disastrous. Everyone was hurt in the process, not just Sarah. But here in Gen 21 we see the fulfillment of God's plan. and this was going to happen with or without Hagar; with or without Ishmael; with or without Sarah's manipulation; with or without Abram's passiveness. But how nice if the story had simply been Isaac, without all the baggage.<--

When will we (I) ever learn? It seems like more often than not I forget that I can't do things on my own. I mean, sure I can try, and there is the illusion of things going right, but typically speaking, it ends up in a disaster. God's will, WILL be done. So why on earth do we add in the extra heartache by trying to do it our way first?
I'm sorry I keep talking about the same just happens to be where I am right now, so I hope it's not boring you to death. Your comments yesterday blessed me so...I just can't even tell you. (Although some of you need to get in the bed a little earlier--I worry about you up commenting at 3:00am!! Your sleep schedule sounds like mine!) Coupled with your prayers and mine, and a lot of good words that were brought my way, my heart feels a little more at ease tonight than it did last night. I was waiting. I'm still waiting. And I've been given a good reminder of why. His way is always better. It may not make sense at the time...or even until you're at the end and can look back to see how the process itself was a blessing because of where you are now with Him verses where you began. But a blessing it will be, if we wait on Him. (I know these things...but sometimes I need to say them "out loud"..which translates to "typing" in this case.)

I am praying for each one of us that the Lord would help us keep to the "Isaacs" of our lives--and that we wouldn't be lured into trying to create our own "Ishmaels".

"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." ~Ps. 27:14

"If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
If we are faithless,
he will remain faithful
for he cannot disown himself."
~2 Tim. 2:11-13

His character can not be compromised, and He will never fail. Love y'all. Mean it.

ps...please don't name your children Hagar.