Friday, July 17, 2015

Six




My baby boy is SIX, today, and he brings me so much joy, each and every day.  This year, he started school, and graduated kindergarten.  I'm one proud mama.  He learned how to read, add, count money, make friends, eat lunch in 30 minutes, and not get everything his way.

It's been an important transitional year for him, and for mommy and daddy.  I grow ever more proud of the person he's becoming.  He makes choices, weighs options, and accepts the effects of his choices.  We are blessed that he's a rational thinker.  He defends fairness, and keeps his word.  He has learned that we are not the type of people who give up, and he lives it out.  He is expressive, a great communicator, and a natural leader.

He also started Tae Kwon Do, this year, and moved from white belt, to yellow, orange, and now green.  Martial arts has been a great supplement to school.  He learns respect, hard work, dedication, discipline, and rank.  All of which I think is important in life.

We have so much fun together; he's my perfect companion.  I have really enjoyed having him home for the summer.  I've been so fortunate to have extra help at work, so that I can spend every morning with him, this summer, and more evenings than normal.

He still loves trains.  He still loves pizza.  And he still loves to sleep with his mommy.  He's still a little boy in so many ways, despite losing three of his baby teeth, this year.  The first two earned him crisp $2 bills from the tooth fairy, but the third, he says, he's keeping for the DNA to clone himself.  LOL!

Cooper loves and reveres God.  He prays, and he encourages, always looking on the bright side, always hopeful.  He knows The Lord's Prayer, and he believes every word.  He knows love.  He knows forgiveness.  He knows that he is special, and that he is valuable beyond measure.  I am so blessed to be his mom.





Monday, March 16, 2015

#SpringBreak15

So, after my last post, I got FOUR more days off...God shut down the highways with ice and snow, so we'd be forced to stay home.  All of us.  Together.  In Texas.  In March.  We danced around falling giant snowflakes, built snowmen, and snow angels.  We laughed until we couldn't breathe, as we ducked behind trees, pelting each other with snowballs that poofed on impact.  We drank hot chocolate, and tracked icy, wet slush into our living room.  It was magnificent.



"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..." 
~Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV

And when the sun came out, it melted away, just as quickly as it came.  And it seems, Spring was born.  A new season of new beginnings.  Again.  Another chance to get it right.  To see God in all of the muck of everyday, redundant, repetitive, bland...life.  Everyday, we can choose love.  We can choose joy.  We can choose to really live.  And when we choose to acknowledge God in all things, He shows up BIG.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." 
~Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV

Cooper had a half-day of school, the last day before Spring Break.  So right after I got to pick him up, we headed about a mile down the road to one of his favorite spots, usually reserved only for birthday parties; we had cause for celebration.  And guess what we found?  We pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.  And when we got there at just the right time, after the technician tested all the games, there were streamers of tickets hanging down from each machine, for the taking.  So before we even changed our cash to tokens, we had hands full of tickets!


"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."  ~Psalm 16:11 NIV

  

I've been blessed this week to have my mornings off with my Cooper, home from school for 9 glorious days!  And it's just like old times.  I purposely decided, as exhausted as my body may be, we were going to do something fun, that we both agreed on, everyday.

He just recently started receiving an allowance, which was just as much my way of controlling my husband's incessant need to get Cooper each and every thing he's ever asked for, as it was for teaching Cooper responsibility, and the value of money.  Along with Cooper's Lunar New Year lucky money, and the piggy banks he's filled, he was able to purchase his first toys.  After throwing a bit of a tantrum, because we couldn't go to Amazon to buy his toy, I explained it would cost him more to have it shipped next day, which would mean we couldn't order his toy right away.  He reasonably decided he would wait the 7-9 days it would take to get here.  Now that he's in kindergarten! he's learning his days of the week, dates, and months.  He understood it would be a whole new Monday, of a whole new week, before his box might possibly arrive.  You know when you feel like you should receive a parenting gold star?  That was my moment.  With some of the remainder of his money, he had enough to get a smaller version of his new obsession:  Godzilla.

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."
~Proverbs 22:6 ESV



The next day, I asked a friend, who just got the job she's been believing God for, if I could take her precious kids with us to watch a show put on by the Fort Worth Opera, just for children.  With just one more party in line before us, a theater representative, shouted out to the crowded lobby, "I'm so sorry folks, but we're all SOLD OUT!"  I looked down at these three kids I had just rushed into the car, commanded to eat breakfast on the ride, and rushed out of the car, after circling the block four times to find a parking space...and I thought, "there is NO WAY we are not watching this show."  The two women, with their three kids, in line just in front of us, stepped out of line, and exited the building.  I just stood there.  The Parable of the Persistent Widow, (Luke 18:1-8), came to mind.  And I just waited.  The lady at the ticket counter hadn't closed her window, yet.  I watched her type away.  She was careful not to look up, not to make eye-contact with anyone in the angry mob of parents in front of her.

She kindly said, "how many tickets do you need?"
I responded, "I'll pay for four tickets, but I only need three seats."
She said, "I think I can get you in."

We were packed in that little theater like sardines, and we loved every minute of it!  All the while, I praised God He didn't give me all the children I thought I wanted!  I truly felt accomplished after I got them back home, safe and sound, after trekking into the city, hand in hand in hand in hand.


The following day, Cooper accompanied me to the restaurant supply store, and up to our family business, which is a good 45 miles away, to deliver the week's produce.  It took half of our day, but we were together, and that was enough.  On our way home, we had to stop to enjoy the sunshine.  We took one of our favorite rides, barely making the last train.  As jam-packed as it was, Cooper eyed the front seat, just behind the engine, and sure enough, he got it!

    




We weren't done for the day.  We stopped at one of my favorite taco places:  Yucatan Taco Stand, and got their massive nachos.  But since my 5yo boy doesn't like all the fixin's, they let us have the deconstructed version.  Godzilla joined us for dinner, of course.




The next day, we were due at the Museum of the American Railroad, in Frisco.  Since the museum is still under massive construction, they only offer walking tours at certain hours.  And since we live a good hour away, when traffic came to a standstill on the highway, we were certain not to make it.  Then I remembered one of my very favorite places is in Friso:  IKEA.  We took a detour, and got there in no time.  Cooper was the last kid allowed in their popular childcare center, and I was free to shop for an entire hour, by myself!  We enjoyed a delicious, inexpensive lunch in their cafe, and Cooper got to pick out a toy, using his own money.  I got a bunch of stuff I didn't even know I needed! including a simple spice rack to store and display some of my essential oils.



The following rainy morning, my big brother met us at the movies to watch Disney's new film: Cinderella.  It was an endearing retelling of my favorite fairy tale, with great acting, and a sincere spirit.  {Personally, I prefer Drew Barrymore's version:  Ever After: A Cinderella Story.}  But the sweetest part about going to the movies that morning, was seeing an uncle with his nephew, and knowing they were both willing to watch this ultimate chick flick with me.


"Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves." 
~Romans 12:10 NIV
  
My week would not have been complete without a night out with my wonderful husband.  We managed a night off together, which was no small feat.  And we did what we enjoy most; we took a long ride.  That's where we're safe to talk, and plan, and dream.

  

There's one more thing:  I found my new church home.  After eight months of "visiting" this new church, it has won my heart.  It is filled with compassionate servants.  One by one, they have shown me the love of Christ.  From my first sit-down with a pastor, who let me share and cry, and grieve the loss of my church home, to the encouraging, relevant, Word-rooted messages, to their supportive, and Spirit-nurturing Women's Bible Study, to their amazing worship services, to their community and worldwide outreach programs, to their Truth-grounded Children's ministry, they want God's best for me and my family.  If you're in the Arlington area, and you're looking for a church that is filled with God's love, I would encourage you to visit The Church on Rush Creek.


"Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice." 
~Psalm 50:5 KJV


    

Friday, February 20, 2015

New Year

I haven't written in a l o n g...L O N G...time.  To be honest, I lost my mojo.  Things changed so drastically and so suddenly at work that I found myself in the midst of endless work days.  48 to be exact.  Today was my first day off since the 1st day of 2015, and that's because we were closed for the holiday.

"This is the day The Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." ~Psalm 118:24

But today.  Today was g l o r i o u s.  I used every inch of today to bask in the glory of God's goodness.  I sat at the table, and I tasted the grapes.  It was divine.  I am so grateful.  God has been revealing His promises to me...slowly...so that I may savor each one.  Every time a new employee fills a gap, we get to breathe easier.  

Today, I got to sit across the table from my handsome husband, while we ate messy hot wings with our hands.  We both got to watch our son perform in his first kindergarten choir concert.  I got to take a long-as-I-want shower, then blow dry and style my hair.  I got to sit at my own two-top at a fancyish restaurant, eat a fabulous, overpriced salad, and finish a handwritten letter to my little brother.  I got to pick my son up from school, help him with his homework, and take him out for our favorite froyo.    



Today feels like the beginning of a brand new thing.  
It is Lunar New Year.  Did you see the New Moon?  It is gorgeous.  


"See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  
I am making a way in a wilderness and streams in the wasteland." ~Isaiah 43:19



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When did life get so Serious?

Image source
I'm not sure how it happened.  Who decided to entrust me with a family, a home, a business, and everything else that goes along with it?  On the good days, I feel like Super Woman, successfully balancing and juggling, somehow managing to get the important things done.  But at any moment, something can get overlooked, something tips the scale, and the downward spiral begins...everything gets thrown out of balance, balls go flying and get dropped; all vulnerability gets exposed, and the pressure builds...it mounts...and blows!  And I find myself right here, wondering who decided I am responsible enough to handle all of this?
Image source
God doesn't call the qualified.  He qualifies the Called.  His grace is sufficient to cover all of our shortcomings, downfalls, doubts, worry, weaknesses, bad days, insecurities, fear, and imperfections.  Sometimes, we ourselves, and those who rely on us, expect too much out of us.  And with lofty expectations, comes disappointment.  We could have a good thing going, catching our stride, prideful, boastful...when BAM! we get a clear message that we are not, in fact, perfect.  We are mere humans, broken, hungry, and nothing without God.  And when you feel like giving up, because it's all just so hard, and so serious, and so real...just keep moving forward, one step at a time, one prayer at a time.  Don't get overwhelmed by the mess, by the requests, by the mountains of obligations.  God will redeem your faults.  He will justify your missteps.  He will hold your hand.  He will whisper, "I love you no matter what."

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may rest on me." ~2 Corinthians 12:9 

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~ Romans 8:38-39

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

God sent me to Declare to heal my heart.

The Declare Conference was everything I didn't expect it to be...and more.  so much more.  I am utterly humbled that I got to be apart of it.  No words could possibly convey what happened there.  To even be able to attend, and spend three days with my very best friend Eryn (who was also one of our most fabulous conference hostesses), was blessing enough.  The effort it took to get three days off of work...my family owns and operates a restaurant that requires constant attention...was a mountain-moving-God-feat.

That's my IRL BFF
(photo cred: Forgotten Stories' Joe)

From the first keynote speaker, to every meal, every conversation, every breakout session, every prayer, every cry...I stand in awe of God's goodness, and how He cares for me.  

He sent me to Declare to heal my heart.  

I haven't yet publicly shared my recent heartbreak:  losing my church home.  "It wrecked me." {to borrow a common Declare theme}  There was a shame I felt from it, a protective shame.  This church was where I dedicated my life, my heart, and my spirit.  I was saved, born again, rescued, and accepted at this place.  Strangers called me "Sister" and Sisters called me family.  It all happened so fast.  By the grace of God, it all happened so fast.  He protected me from so much more pain.  I don't know if depression would be the appropriate term, but I felt lost...left.  Doubt crept in, along with resentment, anger, and betrayal.  This place I was so sure God had placed me.  Gone.  

Many from the congregation moved on to a "new and improved" location, but I could not follow.  I wondered, "what faith do I lack that I cannot follow?"  But God answered me clearly, "you are to follow Me, not man."  So, I took my own faith step in a different direction.  A hard, painful step.  

So, if it hadn't been for this recent loss, my husband probably wouldn't have been willing to make the arrangements for me to attend Declare.  He knew I needed to be filled anew.  

God lines up messages for me to follow, and in this season, He has told me to REST.  To stop trying to fill in the blanks with activity, distractions, and vain efforts to feel adequate.  Jesus is enough.  His grace is sufficient, and He wants me only to focus on my relationship with Him, not on all of the things I think I do to please Him. 
He is pleased with me, just as I am.


My Wild Obedience {photo cred: Joe}


The sincerity of each speaker at Declare touched me deeply, penetrating the scars of my hurting, still-beating heart.  They each shared their hearts, confessing their brokenness, and their need for God's love in their darkest moments.  
I was able to breathe God in through them.      

Before, after, and between speakers, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we worshiped together.
Mike Romero Band
{photo cred: Joe}

While I was at my church, I led a ministry for mothers to find friendship, encouragement, and to experience spiritual growth.  My heart broke for the loss of our home, for all of the relationships that could not be nurtured between those walls.  While I know relationships can carry on elsewhere, logistically, it's not so simple for a group of mothers to meet on a regular basis, all things considered. (things=kids, schedules, school, husbands, housework etc.)  Our meetings were a refuge, a safe place, a common ground.  I had just "arrived," it seemed, then...  
God turned the page, and the seasons changed.   

From Jessi Connolly, I learned, "We can't seek to be inspiring for God, we must be inspired by God."  My self-righteous, "doing God's work" flesh was convicted, like a punch in the gut.  I longed for recognition, appreciation, and praise, but my eyes were looking in the wrong direction.  
I needed to redirect my sight to heaven, and away from the mirror.  

Heather MacFadyen followed with 1 Thessalonians 2:4, "We are not trying to please men, but God who tests our hearts."  She shared His point of view: "Child, you can trust Me.  I cannot do you wrong.  The question is "can I trust you?"  She went on, and my spirit was on heightened alert, "I have work to accomplish on this planet during your time here.  I have riches of the Spirit to be stewarded.  I'm testing your heart, and my desire is to find you trustworthy." (Beth Moore

I didn't feel trustworthy.  I felt shame.  For ever thinking so highly of myself.  For ever questioning or doubting His will.  For ever requiring an explanation or justification.  

Francie Winslow's sweet, sincere spirit was captivating.  She said, "in the revealing, is our healing," and quoted Isaiah 61, in which I heard, "beauty from ashes"  and "broken hearts healed."  She said we have to confess and be honest with God, holding no shameful part of our lives back from Him, because shame grows in the secret, and the enemy hides to devour in secret.  Shedding light on our insecurities can set us free.
"Hurt people hurt people.  Free people free people."

Francie had us take a moment to meditate on His presence, and to ask Him "Who do You want to be to me?"  And His Spirit answered me, "I want to be your SOURCE."  As in, your source for everything.  Stop looking to others to do for you what only I can do.  I am your everything.  From Me, you will find your freedom, your adequacy, your healing, your heart's desire.  I AM the end all and be all.

From Amy Locurto, I learned some sweet photography tips, which made my picture-heart happy!
Featured Print gifted by: CKDesignMission
But what I didn't expect following that photography session was a heart conversation with Debi Chapman.  She had come to speak to our mother's group a couple of years ago, bringing an encouraging word of hope for the next generation of mothers raising up children to serve The Lord.  I asked her if she remembered me from "Mama Chiks," and she said, "Oh, yes!  How is your group doing?"  I think I just started to cry.  She took the time to listen, and to console me.  She was one of the first to allow me to be okay hurt.  It seems I had heard enough of "be excited for all of the great things to come!" and needed more of "that must be so hard for you."  
She saw me.  And I needed to be seen.

I attended a couple more technical sessions, which motivated me to re-think blogging and writing.  I got lots of ideas for my restaurant's site, and for my own personal blog, none of which I am quite ready for, but are there for future endeavors.  

Our next keynote speaker was Lisa Jo Baker, who defined "Wild Obedience" as "Foolish Following."  She spoke honestly, and straight to my mother heart.  {This is my official written request of a podcast of her message! :)}  It was full of wisdom, love, and beauty.

"What can God do with the foolish little we have to offer?  Multiply it."
"I dare you to lose face." ~God
"That's the thing about Love--it's not afraid to look wildly foolish."
"Love doesn't just follow--it pursues."
"Love runs--never races.  Love runs even when all it can do is limp."





She also sent us each home with a copy of her new book: Surprised by Motherhood.  She masterfully paints with words, and took me back to the delivery room, where I experienced much of the same as she--awe-filled wonder of our Creator.  We, as mothers, have an especially powerful connection to Creation; it has been my greatest privilege.   

Kat Lee, of Inspired to Action (not inspired to think about it!) gave our next keynote.  She encouraged us that "the big things are years of preparation, practice of small things, that nobody sees."  She broke down the brain's necessity to conserve energy by developing habits.  Step-by-step, she walked us through how to form a habit, and it made more sense to me than anything I ever learned in Science or Psychology.  I was inspired {indeed} to action, and signed up for my first "Hello Mornings" Challenge.  And, I'm so glad I did!  The challenge started the Monday after Declare, and was God-timed.  I got a phone call on Tuesday that my son was accepted into a charter school, and that he would start Kindergarten the same week!  Intentionally waking up earlier, devoting my morning to God, and planning my day literally made it possible for me to make it through the last week.

Rachel Anne Ridge led my next session, and I broke down.  broke. down.  She taught us about being patient in the waiting.  Let's face it, nobody likes to wait.  But it reaffirmed the message God had for me, "Rest. {now, while you can}"  It's a time to be quite, not synonymous with being passive.  Active waiting is positioning and posturing yourself in expectancy.  "Opportunity favors the prepared."  She encouraged us to spend our waiting time nurturing relationships, which will be key when it's our time.  Rachel took the time to speak to me after the session, and she could see it in my face.  She said, "you're waiting, aren't you?"    

I stumbled back into the ballroom to find Eryn; I was a mess.  She called out to the sweetest prayer warrior from The Seed Company, and sat down with me, right there under the chandeliers, with the clanking of silverware and plate set-up in the background, they prayed over me, a prayer that turned the tide for me.  Images of His Presence carrying me above the drowning, tumultuous currents swept over me.  This sweet prayer warrior I just met at Declare had the most familiar face.  We traced back our deja-vu to the restaurant where I met my husband, and worked in college; we had remembered each other's faces from over 12 years ago.  It is no coincidence that she now works closely with my best friend, and that God placed us there together.     

Brooke McGlothlin (fellow M.O.B), shared why Christian writers should keep writing.  She said, "you have a chance to develop your voice while nobody's reading."  (And, I said "yep!")  "...to hear God's voice, and who He wants you to be (online)."

Stacey Thacker shared how hard it was to lose her dad, and "How to be Wildly Obedient when you're Fresh out of Amazing."  She said, "there is value in words in journals and on napkins."  Slowing life down to process grief allows you the opportunity to grow into tomorrow.  She encouraged us to "write it down," so that women who read your words, "can run with it."  Craft you words.

Our final keynote came from Kristen Welch, who challenged us to "do obedience" instead of just write about it.  I was honored to hear her share her story of how Mercy House Kenya came to be; I think I've since shared it with a dozen people; it really left an imprint on my heart.  Just before she spoke, our worship leader and friend to Kristen, Shaun Groves, impressed on us not to "be paralyzed by indecision," but to "do something."  We were presented with so much opportunity to love like Jesus, throughout the conference, that we could easily get lost...paralyzed to inaction.  I was moved to sponsor a child through Compassion International.

Kristen's words were delivered with much conviction, a painful, heart-wrenching conviction.  Her answer to those who question how she and her family can serve the world's most underprivileged, in such dangerous areas, is this:
"I want to be where God wants me to be; there is greater danger out of the will of God.  
Fear will cripple you, and rob you of the opportunity to step out in faith."             


Friday, August 15, 2014

First Day of Kindergarten



Cooper's first day of kindergarten came more quickly than expected, in more ways than one.  Of course, it doesn't seem possible that he's already old enough to be going to school, but the surprise phone call we got this week pushed his start date up two weeks!  We were slowly preparing to start school August 25th, accumulating school supplies, school clothes, and scheduled orientations and meet-the-teacher times for the ISD elementary down the block.

When a local charter school started their year, earlier this week, a spot opened up, and we were asked if we'd be interested in attending Arlington Classics Academy.  Um, yeah!  So, for the last two days, I have been hustling to buy uniforms, shoes, supplies, and lunch goodies!  My body ached with exhaustion as I woke up this morning, but I'm happy to report he had everything he needed to start Kindergarten TODAY, and that we made it on time! (which for me, is not a small feat.)

All of this reminded me of a particular Sunday school class I took, several months ago; it was about "Purpose."  Our instructor did a demonstration of God's favor.  He took volunteers to form a line at the front of the class.  He pointed to the person at the end of the line, and said, "this is you," patiently waiting for your turn.  "And this is what God's favor can do..." and had everyone turn around 180 degrees.  Just like that, everything can change.  And all you can do is say, "yes."  And, "thank you."  

"So the last shall be first, and the first last:  for many be called, but few chosen."
 ~Matthew 20:16 KJV

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows." ~James 1:17 NIV

"O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good:  for His mercy endures forever." 
~Psalm 107:1


Friday, August 1, 2014

I'm going to DECLARE!


4 Things about me:
~I am loved by a faithful God.  I love my husband.  I love my beautifully-blended family; I have a 5-year-old son, and 5 older step-children, ages 19-35.
~I love my life; given the perfect balance between home-life, and working for ourselves.  My husband and I own and operate a restaurant together: Nizza Pizza.com in Weatherford, TX.  My official title is "Owner's Wife." 
~I have two degrees:  a Bachelors and Masters, both in Accounting, from The University of Texas at Arlington.
~In this season, my days are simple, and the same--I spend the first part of my day with my son, go to work at my family's restaurant in the evening, come home, and do it all over, again.  I hope to, in the near future, find more time to blog, get back into playing volleyball, and travel the world.

4 of my endearing quirks:
~I have a heart to serve other moms, who may not know how much God loves them.  I have been involved in a local ministry named "Mama Chiks."  I also blog at MamaChiks.com.
~I'm an "all-in" kind of girl.  Often jumping head-first into projects, commitments, and friendships.
~I walk in favor.  God has blessed me with a beautiful life, a beautiful family, and a beautiful story.  I'm so grateful.
~I am a faithful friend.

4 things about my blog & writing:
~I don't write often or regularly, but it provides a refuge for my thoughts.  
~I ramble, sometimes, because I feel like I have the freedom of a non-existent audience, just needing to get it out.
~My blog is home to my testimony.
~I have a lot to learn.

4 of my favorite things:
~Food.  Eating.  Serving.  Enjoying.  Food.
~Taking rides with my husband--where our brain-trust comes alive.
~Mornings with my son.  I work in the evenings, so I get a chunk of time at the beginning of each day w/him.
~Forever friends.  I grew up with two brothers, and lots of cousins.  The Sisters I have made in my adult-life, who I never knew I needed, provide the love and support my soul longs for.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Birthday Blessings



My Cooper is FIVE today!  I am so proud of the boy he is, and the man he will become.  I love our conversations.  I love that he still kisses me on the lips.  And I love that we still sleep together.  I know, I know...*gasp* it's so taboo.  My five year old can't sleep alone.  We failed miserably at sleep training.  We got a glorious few months from the time he was 7 months old until he started climbing out of his crib, and transferred into his "big boy" (queen-sized) bed.  I know what the books say, but I think it works for our family, for now.  After all, he is FIVE, and he's not going to want to sleep with his mommy much longer.



So, we had the most intriguing conversation today about his future.  He speaks often of marriage and children.  I've only had to tell him one time, "God has the perfect wife for you."  And he knows it's true.  He knows there is one woman for him, and that she will be the mother of his children.  I love that my son, sensitive, caring, and compassionate, aspires to have a family more than anything else.  He isn't looking to conquer the world.  He just wants to love like he is loved.



If we each could love like we are loved, what a wonderful world it would be.   

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins." ~1Peter 4:8




Monday, March 3, 2014

Due Season

I pride myself on sleeping {really} well.  Like, a tornado could rip through the living room, and I'd still be sleeping.  My husband tells me he finds me in the same position the next morning, as I had gone to sleep in the night before.  I brag that it comes from a peace that surpasses all understanding, from having a clear conscience.  But last night, something out of the ordinary happened.  I was awakened with a start!  Startled, I screamed and flung the covers off myself!  To where my dog started barking ferociously, which pretty much paralyzed me with fear for a few minutes.  What. was. that.

The last time I remember being that scared, I was up late, typing on the laptop in the middle of my dark living room when someone pounded at my front door!  Paralyzed with fear, my muscles were frozen.  I couldn't move an inch, let alone try to defend myself, or to find out what was going on.  I could only shout to my husband in the next room, until he woke up and came out to investigate.  It happened again a couple of days later, and again, I was frozen in fear.  I did feel better after the police told us there were other reports in the neighborhood, and that there was a group of kids pulling pranks, but at that moment, I literally could. not. move.  I had never before felt that type of fear.

So I wasn't sure if I had a night terror, in which something happened, and shocked me out of my sleep, or if something had happened outside that caused my dog to bark.  I can almost remember a loud noise that set it off!  Whether it was in a dream, or outside, I have no idea.

Immediately, I felt it was a spiritual attack!  I began to pray scriptures, "Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God, and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus." {Philippians 4:6}  "For the weapons of warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." {2 Corinthians 10:3-5}

The T.V. was still on in the living room, so I thought my husband might still be up.  I stepped softly into the living room, and found that my husband was sleeping in the other room.  With my dog at my heels, heart racing, and still trembling, I nudged him awake to see if he had heard anything.  He grumbled, and rolled to his other side.  Now, what??

I pretty much turned all the lights on in the house, and looked around, as much as my body would allow.  Everything was fine, but I was still shaken up.  I went to lay down with Cooper, because he was more likely to let me cuddle him, but I was wide away.  Cooper started to cry restlessly in his sleep, and I wondered if he could sense my own anxiety.  I conjured up enough courage to go to my car, with my dog by my side, of course, to get my pouch of essential oils.  I rubbed lavender on my own feet, chest, and back, as well as on Cooper's.  I also put a few drops in the humidifier.  Lavender is known for its calming effects.  I continued to pray.

1 John 4:8 tell us:  "Perfect Love casts out all fear."

As I laid there in the dark, my thoughts were racing along with my heart, and I realized I needed to get into The Word.  I pulled up YouVersion's Bible app on my phone, and browsed the devotionals.  "The Overflow Devo" is authored by various Christian artists.  I recognized the name "Lacrae," and thought I'd see what it was about...it is an eight-day devotional, showcasing the rapper's album titled, "Gravity."  Fellow artists KB and Derek Minor also contributed to the content.

I started with "Day 1," and found it very easy to read.  It starts out, "It's been said that the vainest things in life are the ones we expect the most contentment from."  I read on..."People are constantly asking, "What's the meaning of life," like maybe the answer would satisfy their discontent."  It goes on, "We, outside of a relationship with Jesus who satisfies our deepest longings, are left to a redundant existence."

I was hooked.  I continued to read until I finished the entire devotional.  I have already gone back to read parts of it over and over again.  It is THAT GOOD.

I was able to get back to sleep after that.  I woke the next morning, and got Cooper and myself ready for church.  I was attending the second installment of a Bible Study titled, "Life of Purpose."  Don't you know it--everything I had read in the devotional the night before had prepared me for this very class.  Our teacher reminded us of the story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32:22-32, and I felt an immediate connection.  He said, "pull God into yourself."  That's the kind of mental exhaustion I had felt from the night before.  I was pulling God in, and rebuking the devil's attempt at spiritual warfare.  Every word spoken in that class, as well as in Pastor's sermon that day spoke to my highest potential--a direct word for my life.

Our teacher mentioned Sponsors in the Bible.  He reminded us that it takes only one stroke of favor to change the course of our lives, as long as we remain faithful in our walk with Him.  You can be last in line, when God turns the entire line around!  I thought about the Sponsors in my life, who gave me opportunities to serve alongside them, so that, at God's appointed time, in due season, I would be called to lead, myself.  I am a walking testimony that God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.  The Bible says, "And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." {Galatians 6:9}

KB, one of the artists who authored that devotional, had quoted Augustine, "If Christ is not valued above all, Christ is not valued at all."  He received criticism via tweet from a young lady who retorted, "Your God sounds like He's on a power trip, I would never want to be with a god like that."  I loved KB's perspective on this, he wrote, "God is too great, too beautiful, too awesome, too attractive to truly be seen and not obsessed over."



I just love how God truly takes what the devil meant for evil, and turned it into good for me.  I was able to see deeper, hear clearer, and praise sweeter this Sunday morning.  I am grateful that He has chosen me to fulfill the purpose He has for me, and I could never be more sure that I am exactly where He wants me to be.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 says:
""For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Amen.





Monday, February 3, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is so much more fun and special with a sweet little boy like mine.  
I just wanted to show off the Valentines we created, this year.  




"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. 
But the greatest of these is love." 
~1 Corinthians 13:13

Monday, January 20, 2014

My husband: the introvert

If I was a psychologist, and my husband was my patient, I would diagnose him with "social anxiety disorder."  He seriously hates entertaining.  I guess it's true what they say, "opposites attract."  Hello!

And just recently, I've been running into definitions, explanations, and illustrations about the introverted.  And I had an epiphany.  And it's not like I don't know my own husband, I just didn't ever think to label him as such...until I came across THIS:



And it has really helped me to understand why he acts the way he does.  Out of nowhere, with him never having seen this illustration, I said to my husband, "thanks for letting me in your bubble."  To which he simply replied, "you're welcome."

Crystal Sparks!!!

Mama Chiks Meeting 
January 10, 2014

crystal sparks
I tweeted Crystal earlier in the week that I could not physically write her name without "!!!" behind it, as in -->"Crystal Sparks!!!"<-- because I think she is one of the most dynamic and influential speakers I have ever heard, and her messages change my life.  I am honored to call her friend, and that she takes the time out of her insanely busy schedule to speak to our group, each year.
So, I got a phone call from Crystal at about 8:30am; she was frantic and apologetic, "I'm so sorry, Cindy.  We are so stuck in traffic.  I heard there was a back-up on I30, so I left extra early, and I'm trying; it's just not moving.  I promise I left extra early this morning!  I'm trying!"
To which I replied, "it's okay.  It's not  your fault.  Just get here when you can.  We'll wait."  Then, I texted her, "Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving; make your requests be known to God.  And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind, in Christ Jesus. Amen." {Philippians 4:6-7 is my go-to prayer for anxiety!}
I made it to our polka-dotted meeting room later than I had preferred to, and was pleasantly greeted by our admin Tiffany and photographer Angelica; their warms smiles make me happy.  I made my way around the room to give hugs and "good morning"s to each of our leaders, and members.  I was delighted to see a few new faces in the room, including mamas who I had texted with, and got to meet for the very first time.
Angelica and I figured out how to get the CD player working, and played Danielle's Noonan's EP: "Restoration," in the background, as we continued to chat.  We said a prayer to thank God for what He was about to do, and blessed the brunch that we were about to share.  After some more time to fellowship, we made announcements, which included a new pregnancy announcement, which is *always* exciting news!  Yay for a new Chikadee in the near-future!
Kristyl had a fun icebreaker for our group: a relay race that involved a cotton ball, a bendy straw, and a lot of laughing!
cotton
We have a competitive group of mamas!  Guess which team won.  Haha!
hi-five
Kristyl shared the message that God spoke to her, as she prepared this activity for the group.  "When you first hear, 'move this cotton ball across the room, using only this straw', multiple thoughts cross your mind:  'That's a long way.  How am I supposed to do that with just the straw?  Am I going to have to get on the ground and blow this cotton ball across the floor with this straw...'  But God will move those mountains for you, if you have faith enough to believe.  And faith as a mustard seed can change everything, in a *moment.*"
After that fun game and insightful word, Elia came forward to share her Glorifying Moment with the group.  Without going into complete detail, tears flowed as Elia shared her upbringing, in which she witnessed travesties against her family.  But The Lord delivers us out of them all.  "God is our Heavenly Father, even if it seems we don't have a father on Earth.  HE is our Daddy.  Father to the fatherless."  He has shown Himself faithful to Elia and to her family.


At that time, I checked on Crystal.  She had taken a third detour, and found her way to a clearer path!  She was going to make it!  We got into our small groups and took prayer requests.  I could hear the chains falling as the mamas poured their hearts out.  This is what Mama Chiks is: a refuge, a safe place, where you can cry out to God, and know that your Sisters will hold you hand, embrace you, hand you a tissue, and cry with you.
We circled up into our prayer circle and lifted up our prayer intentions to The Lord.  The energy that flows among us we pray His word back to Him, knowing that it will not return void, is electrifying.
As we prayed, Crystal and her best friend/best assistant Nancy came into the room, breathing heavily from the rush of their morning.  It had taken them three hours and fifteen minutes to make a forty-five minute trip!  Praise God for their resilience and for their faithfulness.  They held true to their word.
So, at that point, Crystal looked at her watch and said, "I've got 23 minutes.  Let's do this!" {We had allotted at least an hour for Crystal to speak; she was going to move fast!  but she made sure we were not going to miss the blessing God had for us on that morning.}
Here are my notes from her message, which she asked us to title:
Remembering What we Should Forget and Forgetting What we Should Remember
Crystal referenced Numbers 13:25-32 AMP, which tells the story of Moses and Aaron's assignment to take the land which The Lord had given them.  Moses, instead, sent in twelve spies to assess the land, who returned with a report that "the people who dwell there are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large," making it seem impossible they would possess the land.  Joshua and Caleb, however, rise up to say they were well able to conquer it.
"After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ minister, "Moses My servant is dead. So now arise [take his place], go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land which I am giving to them, the Israelites." [Joshua 1:1 AMP]
In Joshua 6:1-5 AMP, the plan is set out that Joshua was to march around the city of Jericho, a fenced town with high walls, once a day for six days, with his men of war.  Then, on the seventh day, seven priests, bearing seven trumpets are to march around the city walls seven times and then blow their trumpets.  Then all the people were to shout a great shout, and the wall shall fall!
"Now, Joshua has got to be thinking, "we've waited forty years for this plan?!"" says Crystal, "the first thing we remember is our failures more than our successes.  God had already delivered them from so much.  When it looked like there was no way around the Red Sea, and it seemed they were trapped, God parted the Red Sea.  When it seemed they would starve in the wilderness, He sent manna from heaven.  He delivered them from plagues..."
"They had seen all of the miracles, but they remembered, instead, what they should have forgotten, and they forgot what they were supposed to remember."
"We need to be Promise-focused instead of problem-focused.  All it takes is one word from God to turn everything around.  We are never too uneducated or too poor.  He never questioned His ability when He chose you; see if you can trust His ability.  Sometimes, all we can talk about are the walls."
Crystal described the calling on her family.  "The Lord wouldn't leave us alone about planting a new church in Royse City.  He has shown us one supernatural miracle after another."  She described this time in her life as the scariest and most exhilarating.  The only way she could survive in these waters is if God's hand was holding her up from drowning.   They've seen so many miracles.  Their house in Sulphur Springs sold to the first buyer.  Even though they've doubled their debt to acquire a new home in Royse City, where they don't know anybody, they know that God has called them knowing the walls were there.
"Rely on God.  If He called you to do it, you can do it."
In the book of Joshua, there is only one verse talking about the walls; however, in Numbers, there are multiple verses talking about the fortified walls around Jericho.  Crystal pointed out that they're the same walls.  It's just a matter of focus.  "Where your focus goes, God's power follows.  Focus your eyes on Heaven."
"Peter walked on water because of the storm.  Sarah conceived a child because she was barren.  The problem comes first, the miracle comes second.  The thing that qualifies you for a miracle is your problem.  He is your Provision.  He goes before you as a shield.  But He only goes where you are already walking.  Peter didn't walk on water, he walked on a WORD, and that word was, "Come."
"God's word is enough.  It is greater than recession.  It is greater than a budget.  It is greater than a medical diagnosis, a layoff... Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."
"All you need is one scripture to restore your marriage, to bring a wayward child home.  It is the unlock code to get in."  Crystal said, "God spoke to me and told me to, "Pray my word, not what you want.""
"Believe in addition, not subtraction; opportunity, not obstacle; possibility, not impossibility."
"Your best friend is waiting for you.  Every best friend starts out as a stranger."
"You are on a treasure hunt for miracles, and the Word gives you the cues on where to go."
"The Word is the lamp unto your feet, but it only shines where you're going.  Is your faith moving?  Your actions show where your faith is."
"Promises are given because there will always be reason for doubt.  We think we get promises, and it will go smoothly thereafter.  When the truth is, God gives us promises because He knows there will be reason for doubt."
Joshua 23:14: "And behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. Know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one thing of them has failed."
We will look back, just as Joshua did, and say, "God was my wealth, my provision.  We walked on water."  It's not going to happen without a fight.  In the moments when you feel like you're losing, stay in the game.  Have faith and patience.  Romans 8:31 says, "If God is for us, who can {successfully} come against us?"
"We will walk on the storms that were sent to kill us!"
Psalm 65:11 says "You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance."  Crystal shared a dream she had in which Jesus told her to tell His children, "Cleave to me," as he handed them gold crowns, and jewels the size of their heads.  When you see the world digging, hold on to Jesus."
And she ended with this, "Surely, you're more valuable than the birds.  Birds wake up, every morning, fat and broke, and they're singing about it!  Surely, you're more valuable than the birds in the air." [Matthew 6:26]
{And she did all of that in 23 minutes.  Which is why I call her "Crystal Sparks!!!"}

Monday, January 13, 2014

submission

sub·mis·sion
səbˈmiSHən/
noun
  1. 1.
    the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.

I met my husband when I was {barely} twenty, and he was {almost} forty-two.  *Gasp*  We dated for two years before my family knew about it; I used his daughter, who is 3 years younger than me, as my alibi for where I was spending all of my time away from home.
Somehow, we both knew, before I had read it in any marriage-advice books, that love is a CHOICE.  Thirteen years later, we still grow as individuals, as we grow together as one, and it is because of the choice we make to love each other.
There has always been a firestorm debate over the wife's role in a marriage.  There's a dirty word called submission that really gets the party started.  For my home, it's the most peaceful when I "know my role," and by that, I mean I show unconditional respect to my husband, and do my best to make his requests a priority in my day.  It seems pretty simple, but it is sometimes really hard to execute.  For whatever reason, his requests always get pushed on to the back-burner, because of all of the other responsibilities I've given myself.  And each time he makes a request, I feel inadequate.  I get immediately defensive, and feel like I have to justify what I've done with my day.
My husband and I run a business together, so he's not only my husband, he's also my boss.  On his favorite channel is CNBC, where business news is reported 24/7.  After the markets are closed, they sometimes have special informative programs.  One evening, he watched a special on Successful Partnerships, and by successful, I mean multi-gazillion dollar world-wide corporations.  There was exactly ONE point he took from this program, which lasted about an hour and a half:  there can only be ONE BOSS.  It explains why the partnership he had with his brother had dissolved.  They tried for an "equal" partnership, and failed because there was always a power struggle between them.
This speaks to me as to how important it is for me to recognize that he is the head of our household, and the head of our business.  And there's no doubt that our employees hold him in a much higher esteem than they do myself or our son, as they should.  After all, as my son at 2-years-old had expressed it so eloquently, "Daddy's the BIG BOSS."  My husband swears he didn't teach him that, but I suspect otherwise.
Then, there is Scriptural instruction on the like.  God commands us, very clearly, ""Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." [English Standard Version, Colossians 3:18-21]
Now, if we are to love God by being obedient to His command, and He is telling us in black and white: "WIVES, submit to your husbands, as fitting in the Lord," we are to submit to our husbands.  As much as society tells us we are equals.  50/50.  There can only by ONE head of the household.  There can only be ONE head of a body.  Just as Jesus Christ is the head of the body, while the church is the body of Christ, our husbands are the heads of our households.
If we look at Colossians 3:18-21, we would unequivocally agree with the Lord's command to our husbands to "love your wives," and to our children to "obey your parents in everything." Yet, we take issue with His command to us.
If the Bible is the key to unlocking the secrets that keep our marriages from prospering, why don't we go back to the source, and take God's advice.  He created us, and He knows what's best for us.  He gave us the instructions we need to have a successful partnership.
Some may, and I used to, point to the notion that my husband is an unbeliever, which would nullify his place as high priest in our home.  However, I have only found the opposite to be true, based on scripture.  "For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." [1 Corinthians 7:14]  I proclaim that we are made holy because of our spouses, and that our children are also holy.  How would you rather have it?  Would you want your husband to be unrecognized, uprooted as high priest, and for you to be put in his place?  I say, "No, thank you."
"if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination." [Titus 1:6]
"To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” [Genesis 3:16]
"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." [1 Peter 3:7]
If I want my husband to take his proper role as high priest of our household, I must treat him as such, and "call those things that are not as though they are." [Romans 4:17]
I believe God when He says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your entire household." [Acts 16:31]
If I want God's promises to manifest in my life, and in my family, I must submit to God's commandments, by submitting to my husband, as The Lord commands.  There is no other way.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, " says the Lord. [Isaiah 55:8]  He doesn't expect us to understand.  He expects us to obey.
"But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  [Joshua 24:15]  Oh, we will.