Thursday, September 30, 2010

Too Heavy & Too Tired

I'm tired.  Physically?  Oh yes.  More draining is when you are emotionally and spiritually tired.  It weighs you down and then that adds to the actual physical exhaustion.  Getting "down" also signals my body to start shutting down and going into flare-up mode constantly.  YOU have to be strong physically and emotionally to fight the lupus battle.  Add to that the inability to sleep because your mind won't shut off, your body hurts, your kids won't sleep, the dog is barking, and your husband is snoring......all while you would give ANYTHING to sleep. 

I'm tired.  I'm tired of being the peacemaker.  I'm tired of trying to hold everyone together.  I'm tired of trying to build bridges.  I'm tired of being a puppet on a string.  I'm tired of being passionate about what is RIGHT and hitting brick wall after brick wall.  I'm tired of reaching out for support and coming back empty handed more times than not.  I'm tired of being the encourager.  I'm tired of not seeing the "fruits" of the labor.  I'm tired of running around in circles and getting nowhere.  I'm tired of cleaning up messes, both literally and figuratively.  I'm tired of striving to to better.  I'm tired of failure.  I'm tired of struggling for the VERY basic needs that should be "given".  I'm tired of being the rock that people lean on and then when I need something or pour my heart out over an issue....I don't get a response.  I'm tired of being the strong one.  I AM TIRED!

My heart is screaming it, my body is screaming, and my soul is screaming it.  So, what do I do?  Satan is sure taking that door and pushing it wide open and jumping right in with his lies.  You are a failure.  Attempting to live a "godly" life is pointless.  You aren't worthy of the love you are seeking.  You'll never be who you want to be.  You are being punished for past mistakes.  You don't exist in anyone's world or they don't care.  It's taking everything I have to keep pushing him back out that door.  AND I'm tired.  I'm tired of having to act like a 2 year old and go around with my hands over my ears saying "I'm not listening, I'm not listening.....I can't hear you!"

 I'm tired of being all those things above....BUT that is who I am!  I AM the strong one, the encourager, the one that feels empathy, and the one that is going to seek ways to connect and build bridges.  That is who God called me to be and that is the personality HE gave me.  That is how HE shaped me! 

All I have to do now is to figure out how to just hold on.  That's all I keep hearing from Him right now is "hold on".   Holding on to HIS truth no matter how loud the other voices are.  Holding on to His strength when I'm at my weakest.  Holding on to HIS compassion when my heart wants to become so jaded and I want to turn my back on everything that matters.  Holding on to HIS forgiveness when I feel shame for feeling the way I do.  Holding on to HIS promises that He is never going to leave or forsake me.  Holding on until HE shows me what HIS plan is and what direction I need to go.  Holding on until HE sends JUST the RIGHT encouragement to let me know without a doubt that HE IS IN CONTROL.  Holding on no matter how much faith it takes, mo matter how far out of my comfort zone, or how painful it may be...holding on to Him. 

Most importantly, holding on to the truth of God's word. 

"Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."  Matthew  11:28 

I'm coming to Him completely weary and carrying too heavy of a load, waiting for Him to lift the weight and give me REAL rest.  REAL physical rest.  REAL emotional rest.  REAL spiritual rest. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Guilt, Shame AND Grace!

(you will have to pause the blog music to hear the above video)

When I first heard this song "Come As You Are" by Pocket Full of Rocks, the kids and I were driving home from the gym and I had to literally pull over. It was so touching because it was like a direct link from God speaking to me on the very same issue that Kevin and I had been discussing many times in the recent weeks.

I thought of the song again yesterday while I was listening to week 3 of 4 of our sermon series "Waste Management". As I've sat down to write this blog, anything and everything has gone wrong to prevent it from happening. It must mean that Satan REALLY doesn't want me to write about God's truth. Good thing I'm stubborn!

One of the first questions posed yesterday was if there was something still left in our "closet" that we were still unwilling to address or holding us back. Ummm....yes. What I wasn't expecting was that the MAIN thing still left in my closet was the ONE thing that JP was going to spend the next 20 minutes talking about. Guilt and shame are HUGE stumbling blocks for me and it did my heart GOOD to hear God's truth about it.

Guilt CAN be good. It can cause me to pause and say something isn't right about what I'm doing, what I'm saying, what I'm watching, or how I'm acting. Guilt can keep us in check and serve as our radar when I begin to walk down a wrong path or when sin is present in my life. In that regards, guilt is EXCELLENT.

Guilt becomes a huge stumbling block when it is unresolved. It becomes a haunting experience. We get wrapped up in it and it becomes suffocating. It causes me to have separation from God's blessings because I feel like there is such a huge gap that I can't connect with Him. Praying feels "off", worship feels empty, and studying God's word feels pointless. Kevin and I talk often of how we get to the point of feeling so unworthy to be in God's presence that it is just much easier to run as far from Him as we can. His purity and greatness just illuminates our darkness. Truth is that is a lie that we are allowing Satan to tell us.

As pointed out yesterday, that is Satan getting victory. The Bible describes Satan as our accuser and his greatest weapon against us is shame. Once he can get us so wrapped up in our shame, he becomes victorious because we forget who we are in Christ.

Guilt from God's perspective: (G)od's (U)nigue (I)ntentional (L)oving (T)reatment.

Guilt from Satan's perspective: (G)rief (U)nited (I)n (L)ifelong (T)orment.

Because of Christ, we have GRACE! Satan wraps us up in Shame. Shame says you're defective and messed up. Grace says in your defectiveness you are PRICELESS to me! Shame says the opinion of others matter. Grace says that only God's perspective matters and that brings freedom from shame. Shame says we are unacceptable. Grace says we are covered in unconditional love and and find TRUE complete acceptance.

He used an illustration that really "got" me even though it was sport related. He talked about a basketball player that was drafted for a team and spent many years playing for that team. He became familiar with all the ins and outs of playing for that team and living in that town. His surroundings became HOME and his comfort zone. Then the day came that he was traded. Everything instantly changed. He was no longer a small town player. He was now on a championship winning team. Victory was practically guaranteed. He was going to at some point in the near future be a champion. Anyone knows that it would be ridiculous for him to go back to his old life. He would NEVER win a victory and would never be in the spotlight. Nothing would ever make sense for him to go back to that small town team.

Our lives are like that. We are traded to a new team when we become a follower of Christ. Victory is guaranteed. We are bought with a price. NOTHING should cause us to turn back. Under no circumstance, should we gravitate back to that old life. Our old life is one of destruction and darkness, our new life is one of victory and light.

God doesn't take that healthy guilt and turn it into shame. He covers us in grace and unconditional love. Just as the song above says, COME AS YOU ARE. He isn't waiting for us to be perfect. He's not mad at us or disappointed in us. He JUST loves us and wants nothing more than He isn't waiting for us to collapse under the weight of shame. He is just waiting for us to come to Him, not in perfection and shame. He doesn't stand over us in disappointment. He stands over us with unconditional love and with His arms open wide.

2 Corinthians 5:16 tells us that the old life is gone; a new life has begun. When God takes our "bags" of garbage from cleaning out our "closets", He doesn't just lightly toss it to the side or keep it close by to rub in our faces when we mess up again. He takes those bags and throws them with GUSTO. They are out of far as the east is from the west. WE are the ones that keep picking those bags back up and dragging them back in our closets, some times a piece at a time and some times we bring up the whole entire bag and drag it back in. God gives us the freedom to leave these bags of "trash" if we would just trust Him. He doesn't want us to carry around shame. He doesn't want me bogged down in my own mistakes and failures that I can't see what He is offering me. He doesn't want me feeling so unworthy that I can't be in communication with Him or I allow a distance between us. He wants me to remember that the "old" is gone and the "new" is here. He truly gives us the freedom of fresh starts and new beginnings. It doesn't matter if I've messed up on the same thing 100's of times. We aren't defined by our past mistakes, failures and sins. What defines us is what we do from this point on.

Media Monday: Chestnut & Shrek Forever After

Two quick reviews in one!  In search of a family movie that can include small children?  Our family gives "Chestnut" (currently in redbox) two thumbs UP.  This mom gives Shrek two thumbs DOWN. 

We watched Chestnut several weeks ago and we enjoyed it so much that it has left us on a quest to find more movies like it.  We grabbed it from redbox expecting it to be something that Bradlee would enjoy, Peyton possibly, and the rest of us would "suffer" through a kiddie movie.  It ended up that EVERY single member of our family LOVED it and had to watch it again.  ZERO foul language, EXCELLENT message, CUTE as could be.  Characters are shown praying at several times.  It was a feel good family movie.  If you have very small children, there are a couple of VERY mild scenes that might "alarm" your child.  The dog in the movie is hurt rescuing a character.  Without spoiling the plot too much....he recovers (and we are led to believe that the recovery came from God answering the prayers of the little girls).  There is also a short scene of some "burglars" dressed in black.  It's a funny scene, but they are dressed in black and sneaking around.  Bradlee just asked what they were doing.  Think "Home Alone" scenes. 

The only "moral" issue that we found in the movie at all was that the characters hid a dog and the movie is based on their antics in hiding him.  Obviously they are telling lies to those around them. 

All in all, this is the best family movie we've watched in a long time.  It was one that each member of the family enjoyed.  Finding ones that span all of the ages is a HUGE challenge.

On the flip side, Shrek Forever After didn't leave me with that same feeling.  Many parents I know will look at me like I'm crazy because I'm cutting down a "kid" movie.  That's ok....I do walk to the beat of a different drum! 

All in all, it wasn't a bad movie.  It had it's moments of goodness and the overall message was a good one.  There were fewer innuendos and adult humor than in previous Shrek movies.

However, I had two HUGE problems with the movie.  Drinking alcohol was shown through the entire movie.  It wasn't just in a passing scene or two.  The biggest issue I had was that it was much "darker" than normal.  Witches played a large role in the movie.  Rumpelstiltskin is the villain and is shone VERY sinister at times.  When the witches try to capture Shrek, their "weapons" are chains that have biting skulls on the end.  Scenes like that may not bother many kids or parents, but it was enough for me to say that the movie wasn't for our family. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week in Review & Sermon Series Challenge 2 "Clothed with Christ"

Time goes by quickly when you're having fun they say.  I guess that's true because I sure have had some fun during the past couple of days that I've lapsed in blogging.  I think it also has to do more with being busy.  Though I feel incredibly blessed to be a stay-at-home-mom, It is RARE that we are home!  One of the contributing factors of Adriana's decision to step down from competitive gymnastics and take a recreational approach, was the time commitment.  It amazes me that even without that daily 3-4 hour practice session (plus commute time), we are even more time crunched! 

Today is the first day we have been home a full day this week and it's going to be great to not be doing school on the run or feeling like we have to rush through some areas to stay on track.  We've stayed on track for the most part, but I don't like the feeling of speeding through and getting the work done....just to have it done.  I much rather be following along at a leisurely pace that allows for detours, distractions, and the ability to enjoy the journey. 

This week was extra busy and extra special because we had some visitors in town and Kevin and I also celebrated a milestone.  Mom and Joe came through on their way to a wedding in Canada so we spent Tuesday night and the first half of Wednesday visiting with them.  Tuesday night we went out to Olive Garden AFTER gymnastics was over at 8:00, so it made a late night but it was enjoyable.  Kevin laughed when he remembered the LAST time we were together with extended family at Olive Garden.  I was in labor with Adriana and thought that she was just giving me a hard time over my food choices or that I was just having more Braxtons.  That night/early AM would have just been much simpler had we not gone all the way home and then had to scramble to head back to the hospital  (over an hour each way!).   Curvy, bumpy, and hilly country roads are not fun in the 2nd stage of labor while being strapped in a car with a seat belt when your belly is bigger than TWO watermelons!

Yesterday morning I enjoyed my 2.5 hours of kid free time.  Unfortunately I had to spend it running errands, but it was INCREDIBLY nice to be able to do them efficiently and peacefully!  After PMO, several of us homeschooling moms in our church met together and had a fantastic fellowship time while the kids played on our church indoor playground.  I can not tell you just how much those times mean to me.  It has very little to do with discussing academics or anything school related.  It is about the connection that comes from this particular group of ladies that have similar hearts and desires that stretch FAR beyond our kids academic needs.  I could have stayed MUCH longer, but I had to literally run out the door to get home in order for Adriana to be picked up for another babysitting job.  She LOVES babysitting for this particular family with a 1 year old and 3 year old.  She also sold 13 bracelets that morning and then late last night had someone come by and pick up 9 that were completed.  I underestimated how God would use her in that project!  I originally thought she would do good to sell 5 and that I was afraid she would be disappointed when she didn't have much proceeds to give Salt & Light (food pantry).  Well, I should know better than to put limits on God.  She's just about to hit the 60 sold mark!  Between that and giving her "tithe" from babysitting to Salt & Light, she's EASILY going to pass her FULL goal of providing $100 before Thanksgiving (which becomes $1,000!).

Yesterday we also celebrated our 15th anniversary.  We consider 15 a milestone.  I had really dreamed of doing a vow renewal but there was just no way to financially do it even in it's simplest form.  I guess that is something we will put on our "20th" calendar!  What matters is that we were together and even had the unbelievable blessing of going out to a nice dinner WITHOUT kids.  There have been MANY years that we weren't able to do ANYTHING.  It was also very nice to reflect on the fact that we are happily married and growing together EVERY day!  Several people have made the comments this week that we remind them of newlyweds.  Good!  That is how we feel, but on a MUCH deeper level.  Newlyweds "live" on love and in many cases fantasy.  They've not yet been hit with the hard times.  When you feel the passion of newlywed love and have the desire to be inseparable AND then couple that with knowing you have weathered countless storms and have come out stronger.....oh my....that is when you hit the BEAUTIFULLY BLESSED stage of love! 

In getting ready to have our date last night, I finally had the chance to take our week 2 challenge of  "Waste Management" sermon series.  This week we were encouraged to go shopping.!  The purpose was to go out and buy a new shirt.  I originally just "thought" about the challenge over the week and did pay attention to my "thoughts" on the topic.  However, when I was actually able to make the purchase yesterday it REALLY soaked in.  I went to a local consignment store and was able to find a nice top to wear out to our anniversary dinner.  I'm all for buying quality brands 2nd hand and the one I chose actually ended up being on sale when I checked out based on the color of the tag!  EXCELLENT find for my frugal side!

When I walked out of the store, I was excited.  It's amazing how a new piece of clothing can excite you.  It's even more amazing how it can CHANGE you and change how you feel.  THAT was the purpose of the challenge and I TOTALLY experienced it. 

Week 2's challenge was to purchase and wear that new garment.  We talked about being "clothed with Christ" and how when we put on the newness of Christ WE ARE CHANGED.  What we physically wear can leave us feeling comfortable or uncomfortable in a situation.  Think about how you feel when you wear the wrong clothes for the season and you end up too hot or too cold.  Think about how you feel when you walk in a room under dressed or overdressed for the situation.  For women, though I think it also applies to men as well, think about how putting on something new changes your attitude.  It's no secret that when we wear frumpy clothes, we tend to feel.....well....frumpy!  Speaking for myself, when I take the time to put on something a little nicer or pay more attention to my appearance I CHANGE!  Because I change, my husband might notice or a friend might point out the change.  Just thinking about being able to wear something "new" last night for our anniversary dinner made it feel more special.  I didn't have to wear one of the few SAME things in my closet.  Putting on something new give me a little extra spunk and gave me a boost of confidence.  IT wasn't a smaller size (unfortunately) and it didn't magically make 60 pounds disappear, but I felt temporarily transformed. 

THOSE were  the feelings that Jason was wanting us to experience and then correlate with the sermon.  He used the visual example of an athlete putting on his/her letter jacket.  He talked about how personalities change when an athlete earned that jacket and the pride that came from wearing it.  I thought about Andy and the first time he "transformed" when we saw him in his air force uniform at his basic training graduation.  I also thought about girls in their prom dresses or on their wedding days.  Clothing changes us.  Being clothed with Christ SHOULD change us.  Key word: SHOULD!  But does it? 

Clothed with Christ means that we should be living a life that reflects Christ.  Do our lives reflect HIM?  Guilty of not always reflecting Him.  Being clothed with Christ means we exhibit compassion, humility, patience, and gentleness.  Do we act and live differently because of the gift we have in Christ?  Do we run from sin or do we walk the fence and dabble in it?  Guilty.

Three other points from the sermon have been running through my spirit this week. 
  1. Once we are clothed in Christ, WE ARE ALL THE SAME.  His grace is that big.  Past doesn't matter.  Previous life makes no difference.  WE ARE THE SAME.  One is no greater than the other.  One is no worse than the other.  It doesn't matter what you did or where you came from. 
  2. We are loved with the same love as the "unlovable".  Christ loves the outcasts, the broken, and the ones that have yet to surrender to him.  He loves those of us that call him savior.  He loves those that "move mountains" and those that have quiet faith.  HE LOVES US.  HE LOVES US WITH THE SAME LOVE. 
  3. "Gentleness is not weakness, but bridled power!"  I loved that statement when Jason made it.  It made me think about my need to be gentle with my children and those around me.  That is something that I've been actively working on and the way he worded that statement really helped encourage me to continuously seek that gentleness.  IT doesn't make me weak, it makes me IN CONTROL!  I also thought about the men in our lives.  Gentleness isn't necessarily their strong points because they (and society) see it as weakness.  I love my husband's gentle personality because it makes him an excellent husband and father.  I know he often hides that side of him because he feels it is a weakness, but I'm so thrilled when she shows it.  I wish all of our men could always see that gentleness is NOT a instead creates bonds and build bridges!
So as I finish out this week, I am going to stop and ask myself if I'm clothed with Christ or if I'm hiding Him and showing worldliness instead.  Many times I know that answer is not going to be what I wish it to be.  I hope at those times I can think about the feelings I had when I put on something new this week and let it encourage me to be more aware of how I should behave with Christ in my life.  Just as I know that I feel much different at this moment with a t-shirt, worn out shorts and a REALLY messy ponytail than I did last night in new clothes that I carefully chose and the attention I paid to my appearance....I will feel much different when I'm fully clothed with Christ instead of walking with the world!. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Media Monday: To Save A Life

With all the talk about movies measuring up or falling short, Gretchen thought it would be a great idea if we would review movies we've watched or talk about how to choose what is right for our family.  Therefore, Monday's are now "Media Mondays" for me (at least as often as I can work out the time to get it done!). 

Kevin and I watched an amazing movie on Saturday night called To Save A Life.  It's rated PG-13.  I think it's a GREAT family movie for every family with a teen or anyone that has teens in their lives.  It's amazing.   However, it MUST be watched with the parents and you BETTER be ready to have MANY discussions about things that are in it. 

Typically, this is NOT a movie I would allow my daughter to watch.  It has curse words---about 4-5 "milder" ones (if there is such a thing!), one of which is said during a scene in a church.  It deals with VERY REAL worldly issues that teens face.  There are VIVID scenes of underage drinking, beer pong, sexual immorality (though the camera turns away before being explicit...most of it is alluded to and your imagination fills in the rest), unplanned pregnancy, abortion, drug usage, disillusionment with religion, school violence, divorce, parental infidelity and suicide.  WOW----that is some pretty heavy stuff.   Why on earth would I recommend the movie, especially when people know HOW VERY picky I am about things like that in our home?

The movie takes those REAL life experiences and follows the main character through living that worldly life with emptiness and confusion and shows him finding his way to God in the process.  It tackles those "REAL" issues head-on instead of sweeping them under the carpet.  It shows what kind of temptation our children are faced with.   It shows a very real struggle with good vs. evil, worldly vs. godly.  

I am an ABSOLUTE advocate for sheltering our children for as long as we can and from as many things as possible, but at the same time you can't hide them from the truth of what the real world is like or they will never know how to handle it.  This movie, for us, is the perfect way to let that happen.  We see the characters make bad choices and we see the results.  We see them find that the only way to live life in the end is to turn their lives to God and let Him lead them the rest of the way.  THAT is what we want our daughter to see by watching the movie.  We see the main character desperate for finding what is missing in his life and finding it.  It isn't handled as  "find God" and everything is perfect from now on either.  I LOVED that message from the movie.  God isn't a magic pill to fix every problem.  However, he finds that God can give him the strength to clean up his messes and start life new.  It shows him visibly struggling with his decisions. 

The other thing I recommend the movie for is the main message that comes from the title of the movie.  It's a visual reminder of the REAL pain so many of our teens are facing and how desperate they are for someone to love them.  It shows how one teen can REALLY make a difference and how a world can really be changed when they come together.  It shows how it feels to be on the "outside" and judged.  It shows real emotional struggle and how our actions can really change some one's life.

You can read a VERY detailed review here.  We use this website from Focus on the Family before watching any movies as a family and many times before Kevin and I watch one ourselves. 

The main thing is, this is NOT a movie we would normally chose for our daughter to watch due to it's graphic nature (in our opinions, though mild to most of her peers!).  We watched it first and made the decision that based on the OVERALL message that it is something we want her to see.  We look forward to the discussions it will open the door for.  We look forward to her seeing how God can really take some of the worst situations and turn them into something beautiful.  We look forward to letting her see an example of how SHE CAN change the world with the heart that she already has.  We can show her the "real" world in a safe manner and let her ask questions and talk to us about how she feels. 

Even if you don't think you want your teen to watch the movie or don't have teens in your home yet, I highly recommend watching it.   It even made me stop and think about my own decisions, my own faith and struggles.  As parents, we need to know what our kids are facing and what "normal" life is like for them.  We need to be reminded of how hard it is to grow up.  It was an excellent, thought provoking movie for us.  The "worldly" aspects were acceptable to us because the whole point of the movie was to show God's redemption and the healing he brings to a hurting world. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Imitators of God

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children".  Ephesians 5:1  or as it is worded in the NLT "Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children."

When things begin to get overwhelming or I've over scheduled my time, gotten behind and fallen short, I have to return to the simple things.  Go back to the basics and build from there.  Take care of the essentials FIRST.  Sometimes that means going back and looking at my mission statement and seeing if I'm still on track.  Sometimes it means letting the house go and focusing on relationships.  Sometimes it means letting the "outside" world and responsibilities go and focusing on getting the house in shape.  It usually just depends on the situation and which ball I've dropped. 

When things become overwhelming emotionally and spiritually, it also takes returning to the basics.  Looking at what you KNOW to be true.  Focusing on the areas that I know NEVER change according to situations.  Zoning in on just one or two things, versus trying to do it all. 

That thought process and my own need to simplify, refocus, and regroup after some recent roller coaster rides led me to thinking about the basics.  What basic truth do I need to focus on RIGHT now?  What one or two things can I turn my eyes to RIGHT now that will help stable everything else? 

Ephesians 5:1 is the answer that came to mind.  Thinking about the one statement brings everything into focus and proper perspective.  "Imitate God".   Almost all of life's situations can be answered with those two words.  There can be no higher standard.  I'm not going to be disappointed by putting HIM on a pedestal and then have to pick up the pieces when he falls short....impossible.  He is sovereign and perfection.

It's important to point out that this doesn't mean to seek perfection.  It's impossible.  WE cannot ever come close to the perfection, purity, and powerfulness of God.  He alone is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.  I always LOVE those "omni" words! 

Most moms can tell you that children LOVE to imitate their parents.  Our toddlers and preschoolers seem to be the most happy when they are being our little copycats.  They want to dress like us, act like us, and do what we are doing.  How many times do we provide them with their own set of "tools" to follow along with us?  Bradlee loves to be my right hand man when I'm cleaning.  He follows me around with his own supplies and does what I do. 

One of my favorite memories of my "little" brother was when we would tell him to "walk like Daddy".  He would clasp his hands behind his back and with those chubby legs would wobble along with the sway that was so typical of my dad at that time.  That wasn't HIS normal way of walking, but he was imitating what he had seen his daddy do over and over. 

Two aspects of the verse are jumping out at me.  One: my need to imitate God.  Two:  the importance of remembering that my children are imitating me. 

As a child of God, I want to imitate my heavenly father.  Just like a little child naturally imitates his/her parents, I want to be like my eternal father.  Plain and simple, I fall short more than I get it right.  I need to always act like the father, love like the father, forgive like the father, etc...  WOW!  SO not meeting those goals!!!!  Going back to the basics of imitating God is going to be a huge task, but one so very worth it. 

In "studying" this verse, I read the following:

The apostle Paul used the word mimetai from which we get our English word to “mimic.” The idea is to copy closely, to repeat another person's speech, actions, behavior and mannerisms. Paul is saying get to know your heavenly Father so you can echo His speech and behave the way He behaves.

How much more fulfilling and "simple" would life be if I were to truly, whole- heartedly mimic God?  I would find myself in "messes" much less often.  THAT is an understatement!  The best way to learn to mimic God is to TRULY get to know Him.  I have to intimately spend time with Him through prayer, worship, reading His word, and in fellowship that brings me closer to Him.

Part two is the reminder that as a mom, especially since my kids are with me 24/7, I need to ALWAYS remember that my kids see EVERYTHING I matter how small or big, no matter how good or bad.  They are watching and's up to me to decide whether what they are learning to mimic is good or bad....worldly or godly!   I have to be a mimic of God in order for them to mimic him as well.  Every single thing I do has to be a reflection of Him or I am teaching them to mimic the wrong path.   Pretty unbelievable responsibility!  Fortunately, the more I learn to mimic God, the less scary and overwhelming that task will be!  I'm thankful for his forgiveness, grace, and HIS ability because I'll NEVER be able to do it alone. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Life is Precious

Life is precious.  We hear that statement so often, but do we really stop and think about it to the point of making life changes?  It seems like the last few weeks that statement has been rolling around in my spirit non-stop. 

Every which direction I turn, someone is suffering a loss.  We've experienced personal loss recently on different levels.  I've listened to countless stories of those around us having their hearts broken on a grand scale.  Physical illness tearing families apart.  Friends losing parents and grandparents.  Cancer stealing a life INCREDIBLY fast.  Just today I was in the room when a grandmother received a call that her grandson had tragically died.  Unspeakable pain is everywhere we turn. 

I'm not always sure how to handle such heart break.  I often wonder why it seems like it is suddenly EVERY direction I turn?  I can't answer that.  I don't know what God's plan is or what his purpose is at times, but I think it's a very vivid reminder to look at life differently.

It has made an ABSOLUTE difference in our home.  It has made Kevin and I deal with issues that we've kept putting off.  It's made us be more purposeful in our actions.  I took the closet challenge a step deeper and did some cleaning out of "secrets" and finally "moved my feet" in the direction God had been leading me on some other issues.  Took some huge steps that completely were out of my comfort zone.

I think my heart is realizing that we really do not have any promises of tomorrow.  I believe we as a society have gotten too comfortable with our surroundings and we feel like we are indestructible.  We forget that time can end INSTANTLY or our lives can forever be changed in a blink of an eye.

With this thought process, I'm waiting to see just what else God is wanting me to do.  What else is He wanting me to learn?  Where else does he want my feet to move or what else is hidden in my closet?  What other areas does He want me to change so that I'm living a life of no regrets?  How do I need to change my life to show that I value life and every second we have? 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Are More ~ Tenth Avenue North

I love Contemporary Christian music and it can instantly literally change everything for me. I heard this song today and I can not stop the tears from flowing or make the "chills" go away.

This is a song that I wish EVERY single person would REALLY listen to. WE are full of mistakes and regrets. We all feel at times that we are not worthy to make the simplest request of God because of the shame we feel and the regrets we have. How do you carry on when you feel like you can't even look in the mirror because your life is so messed up? How do you pray when you don't even feel worthy enough to say his name?

This song goes DIRECTLY with some very deep conversations that have been taking place recently and I just had to share it. The answers to those questions are answered RIGHT here. WE ARE MORE than the choices we have made. WE ARE MORE than the sum of our past mistakes. WE ARE MORE than the problems we create. Why? BECAUSE We've been remade! It is NOT about what we've done, it's about what has been done for us.

We all have to learn that God truly loves us and He wants us to come to Him. He doesn't want us to wait until we are "perfect", He wants us NOW and in the shape we are in. He will remake us. He is a God of restoration.

I think we ALL need to hear the message of this song OFTEN, in the midst of our struggles....when we are just about ready to give in and give up. I know I needed to hear it and let it just penetrate every part of me. To someone very dear to me, this is specifically for you! I want you to listen to it and BELIEVE it. Please don't shut down and back away because of the struggles you are facing. JUST hold onto the truth of this song.

MOVE your feet!

"Don't ask the Lord to guide your footsteps if you're not willing to move your feet."

That statement was the first thing I read this morning and it hit me like a lightning "AHA" moment for sure. 

This or a similar version of this prayer is something that I pray VERY often.  I firmly believe in seeking God's direction and asking Him to lead the way. 

It's the second half of the statement that "spoke" to me this morning.  Am I really willing to MOVE when He says MOVE?  Am I really willing to step out in faith?  Do I really take the steps He says take?

More times than not, I think I find myself still glued in that same spot.  He says "Go" and I'm still standing there praying for direction.  He says "Go" and I don't like "His" answer so I keep praying and seeing if He is going to reveal a different plan.  He says "Go" and I don't feel ready, so I stay right where I am.  Perhaps even most often, He says "Go" and I don't have strong enough faith to blindly follow Him.  The world crowds out His voice.  My doubts speak louder than my faith.  Then there are those times that I'm JUST PLAIN stubborn! 

How many times do we pray prayers but don't listen to the answers for so many different reasons?  How many times do we pray prayers and put disclaimers on them?  God, help me do this or God, will you do this....umm, but don't make me have to _________________ or don't do it this way _____________! 

I wonder how many times, especially in the last several months, God hears my prayer and is like "Tracye, Tracye, Tracye...I've already answered that for you SO many times, but you just wouldn't listen!" 

I think maybe I should change my prayer approach.  Maybe I should be praying for BOLD faith, COURAGE, and His strength to move my feet because so many times He has already told me which direction to go! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

God didn't waste time!

Two posts: one day? Oh my.....crazy!

One thing I promised myself when I started blogging was to be honest. The main reason I finally jumped in the blogging world was to have a place I could be honest and not hold back and sugar coat my convictions or worry about offending someone. Sometimes that honesty reveals things that I maybe wouldn't "share" on a normal basis. If I'm going to blog about living a Christian life to inspire others, I also have to be ready to admit my own failures and acknowledge when things I'm learning/reading/studying step on my own toes. Today is one of those days.

Yesterday I talked about the closet challenge and how it was to be used as a visual reminder to pray for God to reveal sin in our lives. Well, it sure didn't take long for God to start pointing them out. It sure didn't take long for Him to start convicting me over some of those deep, hidden things that are displeasing to Him.

One of those areas He is showing me I'm failing Him is my attitude about certain people in our daily lives. I generally try to give people the benefit of the doubt and look past their flaws. I usually focus on their positive qualities and the fact that I have my own VERY visible flaws as well. However, there are some people that REALLY make it hard to remember! I've found myself FOCUSING on those visible flaws, hurtful actions, or things that just rub me the wrong way. Instead of TRULY loving them like Christ tells us to do, I've lost that focus. I absolutely believe those people have value and I love them because Christ commands us to love one another, even those that hurt us or those that make it very difficult. However, I've become guilty of making comments in our home about those people. Comments that would be best unsaid. Even if those around me are in 100% agreement, it is wrong to be speaking negatively about them. I should be following the rule of "IF you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all!" It doesn't matter how justified I feel to express those feelings. It's wrong. In other words, I need to let God keep his hand over my mouth AT ALL times!

I had already been thinking about this wrong attitude and how displeasing it is to God, but I've been sweeping it under the carpet and ignoring the conviction. However, after praying for God to reveal those hidden sins....this immediately came to mind. Not only did it come to mind, He provided opportunities to show me just how wrong it is. There were three different times today that He confirmed to me that this is one of this areas he wants me working on. Kevin and both of the older kids made comments today that MIRRORED something I had said more than once about people in our lives. The comments weren't "bad" so to speak, but they definitely carried the attitude that I had instilled in them. They probably wouldn't have noticed these "flaws" or cared much about them had I not been the one to point them out. We don't want to teach our children bad habits or be a stumbling block, but I realized as soon as the words came from their mouths that I am greatly responsible for them carrying those negative attitudes.

I can't change the fact that people do things to annoy us, hurt us, or drive us crazy. I can control how I react to them. I can begin to change how I respond so that my children learn to respond more appropriately as well. When "that" person, makes a promise that we know they will not follow through with....instead of saying "how typical" or "imagine that" and laughing with my kids about it, I should instead be saying something along the lines of "It was thoughtful of them to at least consider it or think of us". I don't have to bring up the fact that they've disappointed us OVER and OVER. When "that" person, cuts one of us down or does something to draw attention to themselves at the expense of us, instead of pointing out how many times it happens or talking about THEIR flaws....I should be saying to the kids, maybe we should pray for her to have better self confidence or a change of heart so that doesn't happen. Instead of pointing out someone's failure, even in the confines of our home or in personal conversation, I should just keep my mouth shut or at least find a way to focus on the positive. Otherwise, I'm teaching my kids that it's OK to talk about someones flaws. Even when Kevin and I talk about things between the two of us, it would be much more beneficial to us to be focusing on their positives or praying for our hearts to handle the hurtfulness instead of focusing on the negatives. Otherwise, we continue to allow the negative to sink in and give it the focus it doesn't need.

God commands us to love the unlovable. God tells us to forgive ALWAYS. God teaches us to guard our thoughts and our hearts. I think He is teaching me that it applies in EVERY situation and with ALL people. He doesn't give us a list of exceptions. He doesn't say love everyone except those that hurt you. He doesn't say love them, but yet come home and talk about them! LOVE them. Christ loves us. God loves us with EACH and EVERY one of our flaws and I should offer that same love to matter how hard it is at times.

Monday: In Need of a Restart

Some days you can just keep going and moving forward no matter what obstacles are in your way. You can find the joy in the little things, see the little blessings that are hidden in the chaos, and keep fighting against the grain. No matter how many people come against you or no matter how many things are coming your way, you can keep your eyes focused on what matters.

Then there are the other days. The days that you can't shake the unsettled feeling or you don't feel like putting forth the energy to stay on track. There are the days that you would rather just crawl back in bed, pile every pillow you own on top of your head to block out all the sounds around you. Today is one of those days.

Today isn't necessarily any worse than any other day. Nothing tragic has happened and nothing extreme has gone wrong. My list of concerns is no more pressing than yesterday. It's just all in the perspective and in the attitude.

Our attitudes REALLY do change everything. Some days it's EASY to choose joy and gratitude. Other days it is a struggle to find it. It doesn't mean the blessings are gone or that God has taken his peace away from me. I just have taken my eyes off the light shining from the lighthouse and have temporarily lost direction.

I woke up feeling tired of "battle" this morning. Instead of immediately going to God for His direction and praising Him, I allowed Satan to creep in and create a tiny seed of doubt to grow and grow. It doesn't take long!!!!

So right now I'm having to make the deliberate choice to stop my "stinkin' thinkin' " and focus on the truth of God. I'm going to have to shut off the negative voices that are completely trying to invade. I'm going to have to let him restore the peace in my heart and provide restoration. The situations we're facing or have dealt with that are wearing me down are not going to magically disappear, but God can put my heart RIGHT back where it should be and help me to refocus. I'm going to trust Him to hush the voices of doubt, bitterness, anger, and uncertainty. I'm going to trust Him to handle each and every battle with me. It's a choice. I can either continue to let my day go downhill and snowball out of control or I can turn it back and let Him restart it with a heart makeover. I'm choosing Him.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Purge" Challenge----Closets & Life

Today at church we began a new sermon series entitled "Waste Management". Today's message was about how we as a society and ESPECIALLY in the church, go around with living in a fake world of "fine". How are you? I'm fine. (Even though you may be totally broken and battling incredible obstacles). How are you? I'm fine. (Even though our lives are full of sin). We talked about Revelation 21 and how God can make all things new. We also touched on Romans 3:23 telling us that ALL have sinned.

We spent the majority of the sermon listening about the life of David and his sins that followed his relationship with Bathsheba. When Nathan pointed out the sin in David's life, he didn't make excuses and he didn't make justifications. He immediately agreed that he had sinned against God. That is something that we need to learn to do as well.

The quicker that we can come to the point of admitting our sin, the quicker that God can redeem us and put us back on the right track. We have to realize that we ALL have sin. We all have "junk" in our lives. We have closets full of mistakes and garages full of failures. To say we have no sin is to say that Christ's death on the cross was pointless.

We were issued a challenge to cause us to think about our "junk" and the sin that we carry. Think about your closet. Think about how it contains things that have been disregarded, don't fit or out of style. It has things hidden way in the back or way up high, seemingly out of reach. However, closing the door doesn't make it go away. It's still there. Sin in our lives is the same way. No matter how deep we want to bury it or pretend it isn't there, closing a door isn't going to fix it.

Our challenge was to spend some time early this week cleaning out a closet. Go through and purge all those things that don't belong. Bag it up. Get it ready to throw out or bag it up to donate. However, don't take it out of the house. Sit those bags right in front of the door or some where visible. Step over it a few days. Look at it. Let it be a visible reminder every time we see it. Each time we see it, pray for God to reveal to us sin in our lives, especially the hidden sin we keep the "world" from seeing. Let it symbolize the need of a heart makeover.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I emptied our closet of the "junk". I haven't delivered the donations to Salt & Light yet. I've been annoyed EVERY single time I've walked through the door to the garage because I've had to step over the bags to get in the van. I had planned to take those bags this week, but now I think I will leave them just a few more days. Instead of being annoyed or irritated, those bags will be my visual reminder to pray for God to remove sin from my life and to reveal those deepest sins that I try the hardest to hide from the world. Stuffing it down deep and burying it, doesn't make the sin go away. God is the ONE AND ONLY way for the sin to be removed. I'm positive I won't be looking at those bags this week with the same eyes!

I challenge you to do something similar. Clean out a closet. Clean out one of those pesky junk drawers. Attack any area in your garage, attic, basement or car. Look at the "junk" for a few days before you officially get rid of it. Let it remind you of the need we ALL have to remove sin from our lives.

I'm looking forward to see what next week's challenge will be!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Letting Go

Tonight a very vivid realization hit me. I don't have a little girl anymore. OK---I've known that for a long time, but it's different to admit it. Know something amazing? I like it! Shh...but don't tell her. I don't want to have to admit it to her, not yet. Let me hold off on that a little longer!

So, I don't necessarily enjoy the bad attitude that comes at times or any of those typical knocking heads moments, but I'm for the most part enjoying this season of life with her. I love the beautiful person she is and the HUGE heart she has. Granted, she has her moments that make me want to pull my hair out....but then again, don't we all?

You see, God entrusted me with a beautiful angel and told me I had to do the very best I could with her. I had to take the things that I missed in my own life and the things that I did have and cherished and somehow wrap them up and present them to her. Many times I didn't get it right and many, many more times in the future I will mess up again. There will be many times of heartbreak to come and times that I will wonder why God gave me an alien instead of an angel.

What I'm seeing right now is this amazingly headstrong, responsible young lady with a strong faith. Somewhere along the way God instilled in her a maturity WELL beyond her years and a heart that beats for Him. She's going to make mistakes along the way, but I have no doubt she will always find her way back.

Today we crossed a bridge. I didn't think about it at the time, but being the mom I am...I sure realized it after the fact. Today, I sent her out the door with someone I barely know to babysit her 3 children in a town 20 minutes away. I didn't question one second if she was capable. I didn't think twice about her being responsible enough. Up until today, she had only done childcare at church or in our home. Today, I sent her out the door with a list of "unknowns". I didn't have EACH and EVERY scenario covered. I didn't "mother hen" her. The proverbial apron strings were cut and I'm OK. Early this summer she went on a mission trip to Cincinnati with no contact for the week and then at the end of summer she went to camp with very little contact (and knowing that she was learning more dangerous gymnastics skills!). Never once did I question whether or not she was capable of handling the time away.

You see, I hear so often about how I've sheltered her too much or not let her make her own decisions. I hear how she just doesn't know about the real world or could never survive on her own. I have been accused of home schooling just because I can't "let go". WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! Today proves the exact opposite. Because she is NOT sheltered and has learned responsibility, ethics, and has a TRUE love of others, she was able to walk out our door confident that she could handle it. Because of the amount of time I've spent with her, I had the confidence to let her go. That's the beauty of TRULY knowing your child.

She didn't babysit for a family that we spend time with on a regular basis that knows her personally. She was asked purely on recommendation based on her reputation. Other moms that have seen her interaction at church and in other settings HAVE noticed. We've told her over and over that her day would come when people would begin to appreciate her for who she is and I'm proud of her for finally beginning to see those moments. I told her to take that feeling and hold on to it for all she is worth! It confirms to me that the people that give us the hardest time about our "lifestyle", truly don't know us and are judging us based on preconceived notions. That even goes for family members. If you spend ANY REAL time with Adriana, you will see that she is NOT a sheltered child that doesn't know how to think for herself. Truth is, she probably has a stronger, more deeply founded faith and makes people uncomfortable with their own selves. I know she can at times even do that to me!!!!

So tonight, I get a glimpse of what really letting go feels like. It does hurt a little to know that my little princess is gone (LONG gone are the days of smocked dresses and matching hair bows!), but at the same time it opens up a whole entire new world of possibilities. You see, before long I will be looking at a friend instead of just a daughter. For now, I have to keep on the parenting hat for a little longer (since I firmly believe that the biggest mistakes parents are making today is getting caught up in being their friend instead of the PARENT!)...but I know the day of friendship is just around the corner! Of course, I'll always be her mom, but I'm looking forward to the rest! **Now when Kevin reads this, he will agree with me on most points...except He would add that her growing up DOES NOT include EVER dating!**

Unkempt & Full of Impurities

I read a blog last night written by an acquaintance that Kevin and I had in TN. He and my brother played football together and he and Kevin did lawn care as side jobs one summer. I'll never forget the afternoon Kevin came home screaming because he and "Bubba" had somehow managed to get caught in a weed that set their skin on fire! We attended church together for a few years, but when our church unfortunately divided so many of us went separate ways. It wasn't until recently that we found out that he had been called to preach and is now a pastor of a church. AMAZING what God does when you aren't looking!!!! I've VERY much enjoyed reading his blog these past several months because I can FEEL his enthusiasm and depth of commitment for his calling.

Last night he wrote about 1 Thessalonians 4:7 and it really resonated deep within me. In my NLT version it says "God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives." The Message words it differently, "God hasn't invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something HOLY and BEAUTIFUL---as beautiful on the inside as the outside."

The first word that jumps out in the Message version is the word unkempt. I can't hear that word without thinking of one of my mentors. On the very first day of Interviewing and Recording Skills with Kim Haynes (social work Jr. Level course teaching you how to interview a client professionally and effectively...UNBELIEVABLE class!), she told us we better NEVER use the word "unkept" as so many students did (especially misused in the south!). That word was not correct and we better NEVER use it to describe our clients. If we wanted to put down a description of a disheveled, unpolished person we BEST use the correct word of UNKEMPT or she would fail us on principal. I loved reading that word last night because it reminded me of that sweet, dear woman that made me REALLY get secure in my faith. You can NOT get through that class without learning WHO you really were, what past situations shaped you, and what motivated your desire to be a social worker. It was INTENSE! Even more special was the role she took on with me OUTSIDE of class. She helped me through an incredibly painful situation and had she not provided me with the tools of healing that I needed, I would have NEVER been open or ready for a relationship with Kevin. I'll never forget the look on her face when I came in with an engagement ring. Her smile forever stays etched in my memory and her words later were confirmation that she knew I had moved beyond "the past". Our friendship really took a different turn a few years down the road when I was diagnosed with lupus and she became my mentor on a totally different level. She was the PRO with all the information when there was very little...for she too suffered from the disease. Unfortunately, she died several years ago from complications brought on by the disease and the severity of which she suffered from it. She left a HUGE place in my heart! God surely placed her in my life at JUST the right time MORE than once!

Anyway, besides reminding me of her, the verse seemed to go deep into my spirit. Between the words Pastor Larry (no longer "Bubba") wrote describing his thoughts on the verse and the Holy Spirit talking to me, it has stuck with me all last night and today. As he pointed out, unkempt can mean not combed, neglected, not cared for, disheveled, messy, unpolished, rude or crude. The verse points out that God doesn't wanted us living that life. He wants us living a holy AND beautiful life. It made me think of all the areas in my own life that aren't measuring up. It made me think of the areas in my life that fall under the disheveled, neglected, "messy" categories. It made me think of the places that are impure in my own heart and actions.

I think it's easy to get caught up in the attitude of "good enough". Our society and many in our own churches have watered down sin to the point that sin just really doesn't matter anymore. The message seems to be that once you ask God to be your savior, the rest doesn't matter as much. Why worry with sin because you're forgiven. God is a loving God, so what does it matter what you do or how you act? That is the message that we are hearing from society around is. Why should I worry about living a pure life, one that is holy and beautiful? I have a simple answer. It's because it DOES matter.

If you want to see me with steam literally coming out of my ears, Kevin just has to make the following statement... "well at least, I don't________ like all the other men I know" or something similar. If we are in the middle of a squabble, those words BEST not come out of his mouth unless he REALLY wants to get me fighting mad! Today I thought about how easy it is for us to say something similar to God, either in actual words or with our actions. "Well, God at least I don't_______. " In essence, our excuse becomes we're better than so and so because we don't do what they do. "Hey God, I don't smoke, drink, curse. I'm faithful to my husband. I don't....etc, etc, etc......and I do etc, etc, etc," and can run down the list. It's pretty easy to get caught up in that. After all, sin doesn't seem to carry the same stigma that it once did. It may be easy to think that, but it's DANGEROUS thinking. Sin IS still SIN. No matter how big or small, sin is sin. I'm guilty. ANYTHING that causes me to have any separation from God is sin.

I'm tarnished and I'm in need of refining. My spiritual appearance is unkempt, disheveled (and so is my physical appearance most days!). I need God's vision of who He wants me to be. I need Him to come in and polish me, straighten me up and give me a makeover. I need him to search every crevice of my being and remove the impurities. I need to be living the life He chose for me. I need to not be neglectful to those areas that keep me from being fully in His presence. I can never be perfect, but I CAN allow myself to be molded more in His image every day.

God does love us and He gives us grace and forgiveness every minute of our lives. However, with sin in our lives we are preventing ourselves from seeing the manifestation of HIS full blessings and power in our lives. Sin, no matter how small, DOES matter because it blocks us from the promises of God. We can't be "dabbling in sin" and receiving His blessings at the same time. Thankfully God can pick us up right where we are and put us RIGHT back in His will and on the right path when we repent and ask for His help. My biggest failures come from not asking for His help and stepping out on my own. Hopefully, He will continue to reveal with HIS VISION and HIS POWER what life He wants for me. I can't imagine what kind of life I have in front of me, if I will fully surrender every aspect of my life to Him and let him continuously remove all of the impurities so I can see the benefits of holy and beautiful living....from both the inside and the outside. What a journey it is going to be!

For a challenge, take the next verse and think about it. Verse 8 says: "Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you." That's some pretty powerful words right there!!!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Details & Learning to Let Go

I am a detail oriented individual. I'm a planner, deep thinker, and easily get wrapped up in the details. Many times that personality trait serves me VERY well and other times it bogs me down. Blessing or a curse? It just depends on the situation. I think that for the most part it serves me well. How else can you balance living on one income in a two income world? You can't be frugal and thrifty without paying attention to details. You also can't be a home school mom without being detail oriented. Being detail oriented is also a good trait when it comes to gratitude and paying attention to the "little" things. That personality trait makes me very appreciative of when someone does the smallest thing for me. It doesn't go unnoticed.

However, that personality trait REALLY isn't good when paying attention to the details gets in the way of turning things over to God and LETTING Him keep it in HIS hands. It gets in the way when you become obsessed with the details to the point that worry takes over. It's not a good trait when you can't make decisions because you are so wrapped up in the details. It also gets in the way when you think about the details so much that you MISS THE MOMENT! Those are the places I tend to find myself in way too often.

God's message to me lately is that He DOES have the details covered. HE is in the small things JUST as much as HE is in the BIG things! He's trying to teach me to find a happy medium between paying attention to the details and being STUCK in the details.

Just this week, I found myself caught up in the worry of the details. Details that didn't matter and I spent unnecessary time worrying. I should have just trusted Him from the beginning instead of playing the tug of war that I'm so good at. You know the hand it over to God, take it back, hand it over, take it back. Yes, that's me. I'm really good at that, unfortunately! I have obsessively worried about the details of getting school started tomorrow. Details DO matter in trying to balance three different grade levels, but at the same time I have to relax and ENJOY the ride or no one else is going to enjoy it either. The more I got bogged down in the details, the more I heard Him telling me to just relax. He will provide ALL the details if I trust Him enough.

I worried about attending Kevin's family reunion because of some issues we've been facing with Peyton. I was worried I wouldn't be able to physically handle it after the last two weeks of struggling with my body not cooperating/physical concerns. Useless worry! I didn't feel great, but I had a wonderful time. Peyton did FANTASTIC! God had already worked out the details ahead of time! The weather was perfect so we were able to spend the majority of the day outside and Peyton didn't ever feel apprehensive and didn't show the slightest hint of the panic attacks he's been dealing with CONSTANTLY. The one time that really may have caused concern was when the dining room would have been VERY crowded while everyone fixed their plates. We had several things go "wrong" getting out the door and we ended up arriving about 15 minutes late. We missed the "rush"....coincidence? I don't think so!

Tomorrow is our first official day of school. Financially I wasn't able to purchase the computer curriculum that I will use for all of Adriana's subjects and for partial of Peyton's. God has provided room in the budget for it by the end of the month leaving me with just a few weeks of planning it "all". I was only having trouble settling on a plan for Language Arts for Adriana over these first few weeks. I was getting bogged down in the details of the best approach. God had that covered. I had just enough money to buy that one subject and it arrived TODAY, JUST in time! I don't find it coincidental that I couldn't find "peace" with any of the other approaches I was trying to take. God is in ALL the details if I allow him to be.

Peyton's birthday is this coming week. Whenever birthdays and holidays come up, it's always a struggle to balance financially. He's never failed us! We may not be able to keep up with the Jones' or the neighbors, but He provides MORE than enough. Bradlee's birthday had a boost of being able to have the neighbors over because I was chosen to host an Oscar Mayer House Party. It just so happens that Peyton's birthday is going to have a similar boost because we were chosen for a Capri Sun House Party and he will get to share his "loot" with our home school group and celebrate his birthday at the same time. God provides in unique ways and we are blessed when we see those small details at work!

Just this Saturday, Adriana & Kevin went to Sonic with a "plan" that was going to feed our family for just a few dollars. It was going to be anything but elaborate, but it was a "treat" and it was going to keep me from having to get out of bed to fix something. We had coupons for 2 FREE kid's meals that was going to cover the boys. We had a coupon for buy one get one free hamburgers. Between purchasing those and a grilled cheese for Adriana, we expected to eat for $5. Again, nothing great....but good enough. That's not how it ended up. When Kevin placed the orders for the kids meals and grilled cheese he forgot to order the burgers. He decided he would just go through the drive thru and get those separately. Grand total for the 1st order: less than $3. When the girl brought the food out, she handed Adriana 4 LARGE bags. Kevin told them something wasn't right, so they looked through the bags to figure out what was in it. There was WAY too much food and the grilled cheese sandwich wasn't in it. She said, I'll be right back and when she came back she had the 2 grilled cheeses AND we were able to keep the EXTRA food. They would have had to throw it away and it was better to just let us keep it. What was in the bag? WAY more food than we have EVER purchased and we all sat on the bed feeling like KINGS and talking about the greatness of how God provides in strange ways some times! We had the 2 kids meals, 2 grilled cheese sandwiches, 4 more LARGE tater tots, 2 DOUBLE cheeseburgers (one with ketchup only JUST the way one of us likes it and one FULLY loaded like someone else likes it!), a LARGE popcorn chicken and a grilled Chicken wrap! Luck? No way. God's provision.

The biggest lesson I need to learn is to trust Him ALL the time. For some reason, I find it easier to trust Him with the BIG things. Isn't that odd? I guess I get wrapped up in the feeling that maybe the details don't matter. After all, aren't the BIG issues enough to keep Him more than busy. It seems like He keeps sending more and more signs to us that He is watching and He does CARE about all aspects of our lives. I just have to learn to accept that nothing is too BIG or too SMALL for Him. I also need to learn to completely give something over to Him and LET IT GO. I have to stop this back and forth game of giving it to Him and then turning around and picking that burden back up and trying to carry it around again. What good does that do? That's like saying, "Here God, I give it to you. I trust you. No, wait maybe I don't. Or maybe I think I can handle it better than you can!" Ummm.......Tracye....that is so not smart. Don't you know where that gets you? Nowhere FAST or deeper into a pit that you can't climb out of!!!!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mission Statement

It has been a very difficult week and a half for me physically. My body hasn't cooperated and I've not bounced back from this flareup as quickly as I needed. Unfortunately, timing couldn't be worse with all that I needed to accomplish this week/weekend to get us ready for school. It's also going to be hard on me to travel to Kevin's family reunion tomorrow. We've looked forward to it for many months.

I spent most of the week emotionally down because my "list" was getting further behind. Stress has increased more every day. Late yesterday I began to find peace in the situation. The more stressed I am, the longer my body is going to revolt. I've decided to find purpose in this "down" time. As I mentioned yesterday, there has been lots of "heart" work going on. Perhaps that will make up for everything else I'm behind on since I will be more at peace and renewed spiritually.

This entire summer, I have been wanting to create MY mission statement. A statement that describes my roles and keeps me on "track" with what I feel God wants me to accomplish. MANY times I've read how effective a mission statement is for overwhelmed moms. I FALL in that category EVERY day. I've attempted many times to write it over the summer, but I was never able to quiet my mind enough to do it effectively. Since Kevin was so great about taking care of EVERYTHING today, I had enough peace to finally accomplish it. It felt great to finally REALLY think about all of my roles and how I want to live my life. After much brainstorming, writing and rewriting....thinking...praying...writing again.....I finally did it.

Mission Statement of Tracye Leigh Goad
Christian Walk:
Intentionally seek and listen for God's will by intimately pursuing Him through study of His word, worship, and prayer. Completely submitting and surrendering to Him so that I can be fully emptied of self and filled with Him---fully used by Him so this His love overflows into every aspect of my life. Have a heart of gratitude, a life of integrity, and a joyous spirit. Pursue Him passionately. Know Him. Glorify Him. Make Him known.
As a wife, I want Kevin to know that he is loved unconditionally, admired, and respected. I want to support him, encourage him, and challenge him to constantly pursue faith and godliness. I want to encourage him to be the spiritual leader of our family. I want to serve him in ways that clearly communicate my love for him. I want to be a passionate and involved wife that shows him what a treasure he is. I want to live a life that shows Kevin that he is my partner in life in every aspect. Love unconditionally. Forgive freely. Communicate openly.
As a mother and as their teacher, I will delight in Adriana, Peyton, and Bradlee, showing them grace and unconditional love. I want to create a home that nurtures them in such a way that by modeling Christ to them that they will be men and women committed to their faith and personal beliefs. I want them to walk with integrity and compassion, have kind and generous hearts, and to be great stewards of the talents He has provided each of them with. I want to inspire them to listen to and live for God throughout their entire lives. I seek to listen and be available to them, have fun and make great family memories. I want to promote comfort, confidence, and stability while trying to live simply, love deeply, and laugh abundantly. I seek to instill a love for learning in them that will help them grow intellectually and give them the confidence they need to fulfill the call God has on their lives. I will share in their curiosity and wonder as we learn and grow together. I will encourage them to be the best students they can be, always having them seek to go above and beyond what is asked. I will pray that God reveals His purpose for each of their lives and that they have the skills necessary to implement it. Our home will be a peaceful environment, a "holy place" of refuge that inspires love, learning, creativity and a thirst for relationship with the living God.
Whole Being:
I seek to live my life in such a way that others are inspired to fully pursue Jesus and desire constant growth in their personal lives. I will seek ways to determine and use my gifts from God to encourage and uplift others. I will pursue a life that allows me to be creative and will engage in activities that help me feel invigorated and renewed. I will learn to embrace this season of life as one that God has blessed me with. Seek to live simply and with purpose, finding a balance in the middle of chaos. To always be at peace in heart and mind knowing that I'm fulfilling God's purpose by being the wife and mother that I am. Most importantly, I will shine God's light to my family, friends, and neighbors so that I am always pointing them to Christ and His gospel.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Yesterday, I took the time to catch up on a couple of shows that had been waiting on our DVR. We've DRASTICALLY cut down how much TV we watch, partly because it's re-run season and mostly because our standards of what is acceptable has changed. It REALLY didn't take long to get caught up this time.

The main show that I had to watch was the last two episodes of "19 Kids and Counting". Regardless of how you feel about the number of children the Duggars have and their take on birth control, it's an amazing show. There is ZERO doubt of how much they love their kids, how responsible they are, and that GOD is ABSOLUTELY number one in their lives. NO room for doubt! Adriana and I have been hooked on that show for years!

I kept thinking about the statement that Michelle made on the last episode. She said "You wouldn't put garbage in your mouth, so don't put it in your mind!". Hello? I loved it. It's the same thing we've been discussing in our home on an almost daily basis over the past six months or so. Her statement was just a great one that put it very visual for us!

Her statement was in response to media. They were discussing Internet and TV for the most part. Contrary to what people might think, they haven't banned it completely. They are just VERY picky about what they choose to watch or look at. We have to decide what is garbage and what is appropriate by "our" standards. It applies to books, movies, TV shows, and music. For our family, we've even taken it a step farther and it even applies to clothing. For us it goes beyond modesty, it also includes advertising. There are stores in the mall that I refuse to shop in. Sex may sale to the world, but not to my family!

While those type things obviously fall under the category of garbage and not being allowed, I began to think about the statement on a deeper level. Again, I was awake much of the night and back up early this morning thinking about it. GARBAGE! Our standards in books, movies, TV shows, etc... may be more rigid than many (or most!), but we've set our standards and now we have to make a daily decision to live by them. What got me thinking was the "OTHER" things.

What about the garbage that I do allow? I fill my mind with GARBAGE all day, every single day. The garbage I'm talking about is negativity and wrong thinking. You're not good enough. You're not capable. God isn't listening. God really doesn't care. You've messed up so bad now that you shouldn't bother trying to do something right next time. What you're doing doesn't matter. There is no way you can make a difference. He doesn't care. He doesn't love you. They don't care if you exist. This time will be no different than before, so go ahead and set yourself up for failure.

How many more of those statements can I add? Plenty. I fill my mind with it all day. GARBAGE! Would I dare tell my children a statement like that? NO WAY! Then why is it acceptable to let those statements go through my mind? It's not! It's time to stop living a double standard in my own mind.

I'm not exactly sure how to stop that garbage thought process and it isn't something that will happen overnight, but it is absolutely something that has to be done. I think it does start with continuing to follow our standards in choices of what we watch or listen to. It also involves continuing to read God's word and praying. Not just in passing, but PURPOSELY and openly. It's about letting my prayers go deeper and letting more walls come down. It's also about recognizing the "garbage talk" and immediately stopping RIGHT then and saying...THAT'S not true and replacing it with the truth. It's even about choosing to be around people that lift you up, and limiting our time around those that bring us down. WE ALL have those people in our lives and even though we should love them, pray for them, and do our best to ALWAYS let God's love shine through us....we don't have to bow down and let them step all over us. I've also learned that when I'm feeling at my worst and down on myself the most, the best thing for me to do is to encourage someone else. Somehow that act trickles back and restores my own mind to TRUTHFUL thinking.

So today, if you've also got a bad case of garbage thinking....why don't you find a way to clean up your thoughts too. LET GOD'S TRUTH soak in and clean it up. You don't pick up garbage and eat it, so let's not fill our minds with it either. Let's watch what we expose ourselves to as far as what we watch and listen to, but most importantly let's pay attention to the thoughts that enter our minds. Those thoughts left "unchecked" end up getting more deep rooted and harder to clean away if we aren't careful.

Off to do some cleaning. Literally and figuratively!!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is Drinking a Sin? Should Christians Drink? Part II

This video goes with the post below. You can also watch Part I and Part III on youtube.

The following post comes with a disclaimer: My blog expresses my opinion. You don't have to agree with it. It's the place I write what I'm thinking and what is going on in my life. Don't like it, don't read it. Don't agree, that's fine. I'll just agree to disagree. I don't love any of you less. This is just ME expressing WHO I am and what I believe. Nothing else. I am in NO place to judge anyone else. Please understand that I don't seek to create division, I just seek to write what I believe and feel that God lays on my heart. This is one of those things that God laid on my heart to do a long time ago, but I chose not to listen and I've been unsettled since.

Sometimes I REALLY miss the kind of preaching that makes you want to stand up and shout AMEN, PREACH it brother! This video series is one that got me stirred up, fired up, and remembering my "roots" growing up in Southern Bible belt churches.

For many people, even those that read my blog, you don't share these views expressed in this video series. I have purposely been searching/studying about the subject of drinking alcohol mostly because of how alone Kevin and I feel in our stance to abstain 100%. It doesn't make us more holy or more Christian, it just means that we are following OUR convictions. I was searching for the Biblical, emotional, psychological reasoning behind why we believe what we do. People have asked us OVER and OVER recently, WHY we don't drink and WHY we believe it to be wrong for us. I've discussed it with many of you and I've made many of the same points as the video, but by golly....this preacher has spoken it for me better than I ever could!

For us, it's not about sin or not sin. Every person has to decide that for himself/herself. For us, it's about the IMAGE or MESSAGE we send. We are being convicted on EVERY level of saying one thing or doing another or sending a mixed message to our children or nonbelievers. We are in the process of examining EACH and EVERY part of our lives to see where we are falling short of being who God wants us to be. My gosh, the list of failures is much longer than the getting it "right". Because drinking alcohol has become such a HUGE topic for MANY months, I decided it was time to really understand why we make the choices we do.

I don't want to have my faith built solely on my upbringing. I don't want to have convictions just because that is what I was immersed in. I want to make sure that I believe what I believe because I BELIEVE it. Make sense? Now that we have reached the point of having a teenager in the house, it's also bringing about changes in how we parent. We want to make sure that our children understand why we believe what we do. We are seeking the end of mixed messages of I can do this, but you can't. We have a long way to go and many bridges left to cross, but on this topic we may continue to stand with few people beside us....but that's OK. I can stand alone or nearly alone; God gave me a stubborn streak for a reason. I know why I believe what I do and my opinion has not changed. Instead of getting "weaker" or leaning on the convictions are even stronger.

This video is the best I've heard to express what we feel. It echoes so many of the same conversations we have been having. The video posted is the 2nd part of 3 videos. Both 1 and 3 are excellent, but the "meat" of the sermon is here in the 2nd part.

Gratitude For an Answered Prayer

One great thing (which there are many) about blogging is that as times goes along, you have a journal that allows you to see when God does answer your prayers and it makes it easier to see your blessings in "black and white." As I was trying to go to sleep last night (another hard to fall asleep night), I began to think about a prayer I had prayed for my daughter and how God had already put His answers in place.

God blessed us with a daughter that has always been beyond her years in maturity and has had great understanding of the world around her. She has a mature faith that comes from her own beliefs, not just because "we say so". As much as Kev and I have struggled with standing our ground to live "set apart" from the world, it has been equally as hard for her if not harder. She has more sense of right and wrong and a better grasp of priorities than many of her friend's parents. That makes it hard for a 13 year old! She knows the choices she makes are ones that make God proud, but it feels like hitting a brick wall when her friends (ESPECIALLY those at church of all places) constantly make bad choices. For that reason, we began to pray for her to have mentors to come along and encourage her. Mentors that could hold her accountable to that higher standard AND to help pick her up when she didn't feel like she could "fight" for her beliefs any longer.

God has provided that for her and I am so very thankful. Knowing just how picky I am about who influences her, I am very pleased with whom He has placed in her life. She now has 4 ladies in her life that she knows she can go to about anything. I feel comfortable knowing that they have her best interest at heart and that they will be excellent at leading her along right paths. They've been great about letting her know that even though it may be hard to stand her ground at times, but she's doing what is right and to keep holding onto those beliefs. She loves how they've never treated her like a "little" kid!

I must say, God has provided her with an amazing cheering section in those ladies. They are all amazing WOMEN of GOD! Their hearts are huge, they are all hilarious, and all involved in ministry. I LEARN from these women every time I'm around them, so I know she is in great hands. Thank you God for providing my daughter with such a great team behind her. Thank you: Erin F, Lisa H, Margo S, and Casie C for being such blessings to our family!