Friday, November 2, 2007

Painfully devastating--Wonderfully precious

Do you ever look at a moment (or day or week or month or year) of your life and wonder how it can be so painfully devastating and yet so wonderfully precious all at once? God recently blessed me and my family with one of those moments.

Almost two months ago now, God sent Vivian to us through kinship foster care. Vivian was only a few weeks old when she came to live with us, but the impact she made on our family was enormous. We all fell in love with her immediately, and when the time came for her to leave, we did not want to let her go. We were taking her to her new foster family on Sunday afternoon, so Sunday morning, we went down front at the invitation song to ask for prayers for us and for Vivian. I had seen many times the incredible support that our church family so willingly gives, but I had never been on the receiving end of its full force before. I was truly overwhelmed by the love, support and encouragement that was showered on our family that morning. As we sat and cried, we were surrounded by members of our church family that were ready to sit with us, to cry with us, to pray with us and to hurt with us. They did such an amazing job of living 1 Corinthians 12:26 where Paul says of the body of Christ, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." Our church family did both that day: they suffered with us and they rejoiced with us in our suffering. The outpouring of hugs, tears, prayers and words of encouragement that I received that morning was what got me through that afternoon. God was using His church to offer me exactly what I needed that day. Later in the afternoon, we took Vivian to her new foster family. They are a wonderful Christian family and offered to let us come visit her any time, and for that I am so grateful to God.

When I first found out that Vivian had to move, I wondered why God would give her to us just to take her away so quickly. I wanted to be angry at Him, but I couldn't, because I knew that He knew something I didn't know. I knew He had a plan that I didn't understand at that moment. Even now, just a short time later, I can see at least part of what He was doing. First, He allowed us to have an impact in Vivian's life, even if it was for a short time. Second, He opened a door for our family to see the desperate need for foster families and for us to become part of the foster care system. Third, He taught me how to rely on Him even when I'm hurting and I don't understand what He's doing. Fourth, He gave me a new appreciation for the absolutely, indescribably wonderful church family that He has blessed me with. Through this experience God has taught me so much more that I could ever write down here, and most of it is things I thought I already knew:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" Isaiah 55:8-9

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Job 1:21b

"'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.'" Jeremiah 29:11

I thank God with all my heart for teaching me all these things through this trial and for loving me enough to let me hurt for a little while because He knew that it would be best for me in the long run. And I thank Him for working so powerfully through His body to encourage and uplift me. God knew what He was doing when He gave us the church. He knew that His grace is sufficiant for us, but He chose to administer that grace through His body at times. He knew that sometimes our faith in the invisible and intangible would waver. He knew that sometimes we would need tangible shoulders to cry on, audible voices to encourage us, visible tears to cry with us and physical arms to embrace us, so He gave us the body of Christ. I thank Him for that, and I thank all of you reading this who have been a part of it. Whether you spoke words of encouragement to me, prayed for me or simply sat and cried with me, thank you. Thank you for being you and thank you for letting Him be Him in you.

So what do we do with those painfully devastating moments in our lives? We trust in God and wait for Him to reveal the wonderfully precious part of it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What time is it? Summertime!

(Okay, so probably very few of you understand the joke behind the title, that's okay. It just means your Disney Channel days are over.)

WOW!!! What an awesome summer! It's been a lot of fun, yet extremely exhausting.


Our youth group was originally planning to go to Las Vegas, New Mexico for our mission trip (Las Vegas, New Mexico, not Las Vegas, Nevada). Unfortunately (Well, not really, but I'll get to that in a minute.), about three weeks before time to leave we were informed that we would no longer be able to go to New Mexico. After an emergency parent meeting, tons of prayer, a few phone calls and lots of help from our youth minister's mommy and daddy, we ended up in a little town in Missouri called Ava. They were getting ready for their 150th town anniversary, so we helped fix things up around town. We had a great time, met some great people and hopefully shined the light of Christ while we were there. God knew what He was doing, and He did a lot of awesome work during our week in Ava.

JULY 1 (or maybe 2nd, I don't remember)-7---TRIP TO TEXAS

We spent the week at my dad's. During the day while he was working, I went shopping with one of my grandmothers and one of her good friends. Then we spent July 4th at my other grandparents' swimming and eating and swimming and eating...yeah, that's about all we did. :-) The rest of the week we hung out at Dad's and relaxed.


When we came home from Texas, we brought my cousins back with us. They stayed for the week and helped out at VBS. We had a great time with them, as always; we stayed up really late and then slept really late. Lots of fun. VBS was wonderful; I helped with first graders all week. Let's just say it's a good thing I like first graders. We had 30-something kids every night and, needless to say, won the award for the most kids every single time. I think all the kids really enjoyed themselves; this kid did anyway. :-)


Church camp was awesome. Our theme was "IMPACT", and there were definitely lots of people impacted during the week. God was really moving and working in a lot of us. We had a couple of our teens that made the decision to completely turn their lives around and become who God wants them to be. We all saw a huge change in them overnight, literally. It was amazing. It was also emotional, as it was the last camp for all of our seniors; but we love them, we support them and we can't wait to see what God does in their lives. And, as always, we had the camp talent show. Guess who was in it this year? Believe it or not...yours truly. Taylor and I made up Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings versions of "The Lord's Army" with our cousins when they were here. I really, really didn't want to do it, but I guess I'll do a lot more for Taylor than I thought I would. Though, as I have already informed many people, I'M NEVER DOING IT AGAIN!!! :-) Just because I smiled (well, did that smiley face thing, you know what I mean), doesn't mean I'm joking.


There's not a whole lot to tell about this. It was a great first day of school. I think this year is going to be really good. I LOVE CHEMISTRY!!!


Same song, second verse. We spent the week at my dad's. While he was working one day we went to lunch with my grandmother and great-grandfather. Thursday we went to my other grandparents and swam before we went to the Rangers' game. (For the few of you that might be sports-illiterate, the Texas Rangers are a baseball team. My favorite baseball team, to be exact.) Wednesday night (the night before we went to the game) the Rangers scored 30 runs!!! That hasn't been done since 1897! And the Rangers, one of the worst teams in baseball, did it! Unfortunately, they used up all their runs in that game and lost 9-4 the night we were there. The rest of the week we hung out at Dad's and relaxed.

Well, that about sums it up. Are you bored yet? Somehow it's just not as exciting to read, but it is a pretty good excuse for why it is now August 26th I haven't blogged since July 2nd. Hopefully I'll get back to blogging regularly now...right after we get back from our family vacation next week. :-)

I love summer, but I'm glad school has started so I will eventually (hopefully) get a vacation from my vacation.


If you have the patience to still be reading this blog and to still be reading this post, then here's a funny younger siblings story:

The other night we taught Jonathan, Stephen and Andrea how to play Pictionary Jr. On Andrea's first attempt she was drawing something from the category "In the Bedroom." She drew a rectangle-ish shape and I started guessing.

Me: A window!
Andrea: No, it's a pillow!

Later in the game, Stephen read the card to Andrea so that the two of them could draw. Recalling her previous slip of the tongue, he said, "Now Andrea, don't tell them what it is." Having cautioned her thus, he prepared to create his masterpiece, saying, "Because I know exactly how to draw an ax."

It's okay kiddos, we all say things we wish we could take back a second after we say them. We refer to that as OMIFS or "open-mouth-insert-foot syndrome." :-)

Monday, July 2, 2007

I never was good at tag.

So apparently Shane thinks it's been too long since I updated my blog (and I would have to agree). I have been tagged!

Here are the rules:

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.

2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

And my random facts are...

1. I am not very good at being random on command.

2. I took gymnastics when I was four.

3. I love to write, as long as I'm not trying to persuade someone of something.

4. I am NOT an animal person.

5. I am terrified at the very thought of standing on a stage with a large number of people staring at me.

6. I absolutely cannot stand wearing dresses. Therefore, I do not.

7. I still believe that boys have COOTIES!

8. It has taken me almost half an hour to think of and type these eight random facts about me.

Okay, I now tag any of you that are patient enough to still be checking my blog and who have not yet been tagged. If you do not have a blog, leave your random facts in a comment on mine. I will be very impressed with you guys if there are eight of you.

Hopefully I will be back to frequent blogging soon. When I got this blog, I said to myself, "Self, you will not be one of those people who goes months without posting on your blog." Ha!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"I will stand, for the Lord is with me!"

I spent the last two weeks with Jason and Heather Thornton, some close friends from church, while my parents were on vacation. (I had a wonderful time, the Thorntons are awesome.) They have a 7-year-old son named Eli. Eli is so much fun; he is always saying something to make us all either laugh really hard or think really hard.

Wednesday night after church, we got into a pillow fight. Eli was standing up near the edge of the bed and I told him to sit down before somebody knocked him off the bed. His response?

(pumping his fist in the air) "No! I will stand, for the Lord is with me!"

That is probably not as funny to read as it was to experience, but it was one of those things that made me laugh really hard. Then later it made me think really hard. Do I have that same confidence in my God? That no matter what I'm up against, I will stand, for the Lord is with me? Whether it is a pillow fight or an all-out spiritual war, my confidence and trust should be solely and completely in my God. He is my strength and my victory. What do I have to fear when my God is with me?

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)

"The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)

"When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4)

"'Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 1:8)

These are just a few of God's many promises that we do not have to fear, because He is with us. We don't have to cower down, afraid we're going to get knocked off the bed. We can stand, because we know that He is there and He will either keep us from falling or catch us when we do. He is always there, even when we can't see Him, and we have our hope and our confidence in Him and Him alone.

And you know, Eli never did fall off the bed :-)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Ultimate Trump Card

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned...But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!...For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."--Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21

This passage testifies beautifully to the awesome power of the grace of God. It shows us just how great His grace is and how desperate we are for it. Now, look at what the passage says if we take Christ and His grace out of it:

"...sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned...many died by the trespass of the one the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man...the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men...through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners...The law was added so that the trespass might increase...sin increased..."

Ouch! Look at that: sin, death, trespasses, condemnation. Hopelessness. But bring Christ in and He wipes it all out.

"By the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man." "How much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."

"The result of one trespass was condemnation for all men." "The result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."

"Through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners." "Through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous."


"Sin reigned in death." "Grace [reigns] through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Condemnation trumped with justification.
Disobedience trumped with obedience.
Sin trumped with grace.
Death trumped with life.

If you've ever played spades, you know the almost all-powerful sensation you get when you pick up your hand and you see the ace of spades. You might have a terrible hand overall, but that doesn't take away from the effectiveness of the ace or the feeling of power you get from having it. Regardless of the condition of the rest of your hand, you have complete assurance of getting at least one trick. Here's a little secret about life: It doesn't really matter what the rest of your hand looks like, as long as you have The Ace!
Jesus is our Ace of spades, only a gazillion times better! He is our Ultimate Trump Card. Nothing can stand against Him. It doesn't matter how much sin increases, grace will increase all the more. Our sin will never outlast His grace. Thank you, Jesus!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Advance

Wow! This past weekend was amazing!...and exhausting! I won't try to recount it all, but I'll attempt to hit the highlights.

Eli Hooper was awesome. He helped us look into the condemnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and find ourselves in all of the different characters, from Pilate to Mary. The theme being "Where were you when...?", it was really interesting to look at "where I was" during those times in Jesus' life. Was I Pilate, washing my hands of Him because I was accomplishing nothing? Was I the soldiers, distracted and playing games while the Messiah hung on the cross? Was I Mary, full of both fear and joy as I ran to tell others? Where was I and where am I? It was very interesting to think about.

Saturday morning Mom and I left at 7:15 a.m. for the T-ball game. It was early, but it was fun. The boys did great, and this time (thanks to a more aggressive third base coach and some discussion in practice) we didn't end up with more that one boy on second base :-) We actually got three outs within the first six batters or so. Woohoo!

Ok, back to the advance. (We call them "advances" not "retreats" because we don't want to retreat, we want to advance.) We got back by lunch and still had a day's worth of activity before we all went to bet at 1:00 a.m. At each Spring Advance, we have a special thing for the seniors on Saturday night, which has a tendency to be pretty emotional. This year was destined to be really emotional for me, as my two best friends, Jeff and Katy, are seniors this year. Everyone was given a candle, and the seniors candles were lit. Then we all sat around and took turns encouraging the seniors and telling them what they meant to us. I knew I wasn't going to make it through that without crying, and I was so right! :-) I bawled the entire time I talked to both Katy and Jeff. They have both had such wonderful impacts on my life in the last year, and I thank God for bringing them into my life. After that, the seniors went around and lit the rest of our candles. Lots more crying as Jeff came and lit my candle first. Our friendship has been through a lot, but by the grace of God it has endured. That night brought some much needed healing to that friendship, at least for me. Katy and I could not manage to exchange any more than a hug, some tears and an "I love you." We knew we wouldn't be able to get the rest of it out, anyway.

Ok, well hitting the highlights was basically recounting it all, but oh well, you guys wanted to hear it all anyway, didn't you? :-)

All in all, the weekend was absolutely wonderful. Through the short nights and the countless tears, God moved in amazing ways in all of us. He is so good.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lessons from the Little People

I love to listen to my youngest three siblings sing. It's the cutest thing you've ever heard, even with the occasional note going off-key :-) One of their favorite songs to sing from the back seat of the car is "Blue Skies and Rainbows." They love that song, and they sing it with an incredible enthusiasm.

Blue skies and rainbows and sunbeams from heaven
Are what I can see when my Lord is living in me
I know that...
(Then all at once they will explode and sing the chorus at the top of their lungs, as if it's the only thing in the world that matters.)

As I listened to them belt that out one day, I wondered why I personally, as well as the rest of the Christian community, do not proclaim that with the same enthusiasm and spirit? We know that the only thing that matters is that "Jesus is well and alive today," right? Why, then, do we not shout it from the rooftops? If not literally, at least figuratively? Why do we remain silent, for the most part? Perhaps we do not think about the consequences of our silence. I think it is very possible that we do not even realize how eternity-impacting the truth that Jesus is well and alive today is. Of course, we know that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but do we really think about what that means? Do we think about the fact that every single person that we know or come into contact with that does not have Jesus as their Savior will spend eternity without God? Think about that for a moment. Eternity. Without God. Without Him from whom "every good and perfect gift" comes. If we think this world is rough, with it's finiteness and the presence of God still here, how terrible would eternity be without Him? And how could we, when we know the way to spending eternity with God, remain silent and not share it with those around us who do not know the truth? How??? Why??? I know the reason I do not speak out, and it's not something I'm proud of: I worry about what others will think of me. That looks so lame when I read it. How can I be so concerned about what others will think that I do not share with them the grace that Jesus so freely offers? With all the rejection Jesus suffered for them, am I not willing to suffer possible rejection to tell them about it? "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." (Matthew 9:37) Could He have meant, not necessarily that the workers are unavailable, but possibly that they are available, but unwilling? Look with me out at the fields, ripe for harvest, in the same way that Jesus did. "He had compassion on them." (Matthew 9:36) Does not compassion require action? Jesus' compassion moved Him to action, selfless and sacrificial action. I pray that ours will do the same.
Father, forgive me for my cowardice and for placing the opinions that others may have of me above Your Will and the spreading of Your Word. Give me boldness to speak Your truth in love. Show me what You see when You look at this hurting world. Make me a vessel that carries Your message to them. Love the people in this world through me.
Truly, unless we become like little children, we (and perhaps others) will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Driving and T-ball, what more could a girl ask for?

Wow! This day has been so crazy and so awesome, where do I even begin? How about the beginning.

The beginning came at 6:45 a.m., which for some of you doesn't sound that early, but for me, it's early. Mom came in and asked if I knew where the Driver Education affidavit was.

Me (not awake yet)--No.
(waking up)--Actually it should be in the box with the rest of the "Driver's Ed in a Box" stuff. (Duh!)

Mom--That's where I thought it was, but it's not in there.

WHAT!?!? That affidavit was one of the few things I had to have to get my permit today. We looked all over the house for it. (Okay, I'm taking too much credit. She looked all over the house for it, I went back to sleep.) We thought we had to have the original and not a copy, but Mom called the DPS office and found out that a copy would work to. Yea! They faxed it to Keith at work and we went to get it on our way to the community college. Why was I going to the community college? Because in addition to the affidavit, also had to have proof of reading proficiency, so we were going to the college to take the test. It wasn't that hard. I scored 107 out of 120, which is equivalent to a junior in college reading level. Yea, me! Now onto the DPS office to get that permit!

The line wasn't horrendously long like it was the last time I was in there, but their computers were out. So I got to do it the old fashioned way and take the test with...oh my goodness...a pencil and paper! I don't even remember how many questions there were, but I only missed one. The picture on my permit turned out much better than the one on my ID card, in which I had hat-hair and braces. AWESOME!!! I was so excited, but apparently that doesn't reflect everyone else's sentiments. As Stephen told my Nanny on the phone when she said how cool it was that I got my permit, "Yeah, it was fun for her, but not for anyone else." :-)

Now, as most of you know, I'm coaching Jonathan's T-ball team this year. It's tons of fun, if you like trying for an hour and a half (a minimum of twice a week) to capture the attention of 13 six-year old boys who all have attention spans of about 5 minutes. (This is an average. Some last as long as 10 minutes, while others seldom last 30 seconds :-D) I happen to love doing that, though, so it's great for me. Anyway, back to the point. We had our first game tonight, which was quite a sight to behold! I got to drive to the game! Woohoo! And the only complaint I got was from Taylor because I "drove 30 in a 40 mph zone." Not bad, if you ask me :-) The game was absolutely hysterical and wonderful. All the boys did really well, even though the outfield can get boring for those 30 second attention spans. Twice we ended up with two of our boys on second base at the same time. Mom is currently dictating and says, "That was the result of an overly aggressive first base coach combined with a quiet, conservative third base coach." Yep, that pretty much sums up the source of that problem. We actually did get three outs in the last inning. Our David and Jonathan combo worked out really well. The boys were great, from the third baseman who watched the ball that was thrown to him fall at his feet without picking it up, to the third baseman that somehow ended up on second base and facing the outfield. I love those boys. They're hilarious. I drove home from the game, too. (Hey, I have to get those required 55 hours somehow, even if it's only 10 minutes at a time.)

Needless to say, I had a great day. "This is the day that the Lord has made." And I have indeed rejoiced and been glad in it. Just watch out for a black suburban when you're driving down the road...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Test, 1, 2, 3, test...

Let's see if I've figured out how this works. I am officially "branchin' out" into the blogging world! Woohoo!