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I resolve...



So, friends, it is that time of year, isn't it?  New Year's Eve... New Year's resolutions.... goals... ideals... a brand new year!

I did just a little research, and it seems that New Year's resolutions are not at all "new".
Janus Ponte Fabricio

"The idea of celebration and setting of goals or ideals dates back to the Babylonians that started the tradition in March, but the Romans changed the time to January 1.  January gets its name from Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new."

So have you made any resolutions yet?  I do love the idea of looking back over the past year pondering a bit... and then looking forward into the new year with hope and anticipation.  In 2004 Frank had a great idea for a resolution:  with great anticipation, he announced that this year would be our healthiest yet!  By March of that year, his brother, Mollie and I had all experienced appendectomies.  (Yes, all within 6 weeks!)   In June Frank began his journey with back pain with his first of a multitude of ongoing surgeries.  So, as you might imagine, we are a bit hesitant to utter grand proclamations.
As I have reflected around 2014, I am reminded so  clearly of God's faithfulness in our lives.  His love and patience with us is overwhelming, and I know we can never praise Him and thank Him enough!
So for 2015 I plan to join a dear friend of mine in living her favorite Bible verse:
Micah 6:8
 And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

How will that look in my life?  I hope it reminds me to look for ways to serve others, to be patient and understanding, to offer time and encouragement to those God directs me to, and most importantly, I look forward to getting to know my sweet Savior, Jesus, better each day.  

So, what are you choosing?



Stop the car...

One of my favorite family memories came during the Christmas season 2006.  We were headed from Louisville to Perryville, Kentucky to visit my grandmother for the afternoon.  Our goal had always been to have something planned for our family to do together to encourage/bless someone else during the holidays.  Somehow this year had not brought any specific ideas to mind.  Katie was home from college and along for the ride was her new fiance, Chris; Kellie - a high school junior; Mollie - 7th grade, Clay - a 3rd grader; driver - Frank, and planner of all the family fun in the passenger seat - ME!  Our van was full to the brim with people.
Our journey to Perryville would normally last about an hour and a half, but on this day, our trip more than doubled.  You see, right before we left town, Frank and I had quite the brainstorm.  We ran by the bank for a little extra cash.  When we were all packed into the van.. giving me quite the captive audience, I handed each passenger $30 - 1 $10 and 1 $20 with only these instructions...
"At any point during this trip, you may yell
 "STOP THE CAR!"  
When anyone yells, we will stop.
  If you yell, you must use your money to bless someone else.  
The only stipulation is that, when you offer your money, you must use the word
 Jesus in your explanation.  Your money must be gone before we reach Perryville."
We offered a family prayer simply that God would bless our efforts and 
allow us to be sensitive to His leading.


And so it began...  as you might imagine, Clay was the first to yell.  So we stopped at a gas station with an old fashioned deli.  I followed Clay in at a distance that allowed him to make his own plan and decision..  He approached an older gentleman who had just ordered a sandwich asking if he could pay for his sandwich.  The man was gracious letting Clay know that he was good to pay.  Clay persisted a bit, and the man looked toward me and accepted his offer.  Clay paid the clerk, said his Jesus loves you, and was out the door.  The next to yell was Katie, just as we passed a Dollar General, so we whipped the car and around and stopped.  She picked out a lady and began following her through the store.  Katie's plan was to buy everything that was in her cart.  We think the lady may have started to get a bit concerned about this blonde stalker, so Katie backed off.  She quickly realized that the cart was filling to more than her $30, so she and Kellie pooled their money as the lady approached the checkout.  The lady was overwhelmed with gratitude.  Chris used his money at McDonald's to bless a family by buying their breakfast.  The stops and stories continued throughout the day, and what a sweet day we had.  

Our joy came in the funny moments we experienced, and the blessing we received as we shared with people just a simple gift and that Jesus loved them.  The idea came literally as we were headed out of town, often I would had just dismissed the thought as silly.  So thankful we followed through and just DID it!  I encourage each of you to find some way this week to bless someone else....one year, we visited a nursing home taking our nativity scene to set up for an older friend.  It doesn't have to cost money at all!

From Acts 20:35b 
"remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

From our family to yours:  A very Merry Christmas and may God's richest blessing lead you into 2015!

Marshmallow War...tradition!

Traditions are interesting in our family.  Some we tried to plan for and protect, some just happened, some weren't intended to be "forever" traditions, but our children insisted on their continuance.
The holiday season offers a great opportunity to build new traditions and celebrate old ones.
As our family grows, we know the reality of flexibility in scheduling - the only constant is that things will change.

When our kids were all at home, one fun tradition for us was that we allowed them to open one gift on Christmas Eve.  Keep in mind, Frank and I always chose which present they could open.  For years we watched as the girls "got it"... knowing the chosen gift was Christmas pajamas.  Somehow... Clay just didn't get it - every year we giggled as he ripped open the package and with a look of disappointment, uttered, "Ugh!  Pajamas, AGAIN!!??"

One of my favorite "tradition" memories is the Marshmallow War Christmas morning.  At the encouragement of a friend, I bought and wrapped marshmallow guns for everyone in the family.  Our Christmas morning still starts early, so at 6:00 am everyone unwrapped their gun which included a bag of marshmallows.  The war began, marshmallows flew everywhere, giggles exploded.  Within 20 minutes, the bags of marshmallows covered our entire house.  Every step taken landed on a pile of marshmallows!!!  It was the best time!!
A few of the warriors

I encourage you to remember traditions that you had a child and share those memories with your own children.  Start a new tradition - as a family, bless another family with a batch of cookies or just a visit to an older friend.
Give this one a try... on Christmas Eve, make some yummy hot chocolate, some Christmas cookies, then gather your family together around your tree and read the story from Luke 2.  If your children are young, read it from a Children's version of the Bible. 

 Celebrate HIS birth!!

Mary, Did you know?

One of my favorite Christmas songs...

Mary, Did you know?   Questions are rendered to Mary..

 "Did you know your baby boy would one day walk on water; did you know your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?  Did you know your baby boy has come to make you new?  Do you know He has walked where angel trod..."

As I read again this week the story from Luke 1:26-38 of Gabriel coming to Mary to let her know that SHE was to be the mother of Jesus, the Messiah, I was overwhelmed!  Overwhelmed at the thought of this ordinary girl being chosen for such a special task.  Katie and I were talking about that very fact today... Wouldn't  it have been so much easier to mother a perfect child?  We agreed that the problem for us is that we are so far from perfect parents...  we can't imagine raising a perfect child.:)

So, what did Mary really know?  She knew the Old Testament; she knew of the coming Messiah; she knew He would be the Savior of all mankind.

As she listened to the angel, she learned that she was THE chosen one - she was highly favored.  Gabriel quickly shared with Mary that she would give birth to a son, that she would name him Jesus,  that HE would be great, that HE would reign over the house of Jacob forever, and that His kingdom would never end!
Now that was an angelic message!

So  I have decided that what Mary knew wasn't the important take away for us... the most valuable lesson from Mary is how she responded to the call.  When she was told that she would have a baby, her response was not to question the call, only the practicality of the "how".  Not only was she immediately satisfied with the answer, but she didn't even ask any others.  She simply listened and uttered her reply...
I am the Lord's servant, May it be to me as you have said.

For today as I ponder the call of the Father on my life, May I just simply respond...
I am the Lord's servant...

Below is a link for a beautiful rendition of Mary, Did You Know...

Mary, did you know.. by Pentatonix

What are you thinking????

Thanksgiving, or any other holiday time when families get together, seems to always offer an opportunity for a walk down memory lane.  Now if your siblings are at all like mine, we have realized that we don't always remember each story exactly the same way!
Just this week I was reminding my sisters of how often we would "play" Gilligan's Island.  You see we watched the show almost every day, and we would then recreate our favorite scenes.  There were three of us... so Carolyn, the eldest sister, chose her character first.  And, yes of course, she got to be Ginger.  I was second, so I opted for the fun-loving Mary Anne.  Sharon was probably the ripe 'ole age of 5 or 6, so she made the perfect Mrs. Howell!  :)  I think I remember us trying to find her a fancy hat to help convince her that Mrs. Howell was a great character to play.
One of our favorite episodes was when the islanders ate some berries from a certain bush and realized they could read each others' minds.  The effect was great fun at first... and then they begin to "hear" what everyone else was thinking - it was a hilarious episode and memorable, for sure.
So we began to mimic the actions from the show.  We used M & M's as berries, and then the fun began.  We would think the thought, then the other would "read" the thought... no words, of course, and then the reaction of indignation would come.  We "knew" the thought must be hurtful or unkind, so we retaliated with a "worse" thought, so then the other would react accordingly.  Still no words, but I can tell you our faces and our hands on our hips were telling.  Can you see the picture?  It makes me giggle even now.

Truth is that God knows our thoughts even before we think them.  Not sure whether that brings me comfort or challenge or maybe even shame.  Luke 6:45 says this,

  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

So what is in my heart... and how does/did it get there??  What is in my heart is what I put in my brain through my eyes, through my ears, which comes right back out through my mouth.  Psalm 119 tells us, "Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you [God]."
2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us that: 

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets 
itself up against the knowledge of God, and we 
take captive every thought
to make it obedient to Christ.

I simply have to know HIM and know HIS word so that I can build that treasury in my heart... so that I know what arguments and pretensions set themselves against my knowledge of God... so that I can take that thought captive... before the thought become a word or an action or even "just" a thought that lingers in my mind in disobedience to Christ...

So, grab a handful of M & M's, and let's think about our own thoughts... I prefer the red ones!  :) Oh, yeah, and grab your Bible, so we build our treasury as we go!!!

Pain, Pain, Go Away... and what do you do when it doesn't?

Well, friends, that question has plagued my mind for several years now.  Honestly, it is not in a poor pitiful "us" way, just in a true question of what do we do if/when pain does not subside.

We've been at this pain game for more than 10 years now... One fifth of Frank's life; one third of our married life.  Depending on which of our children you choose to identify, this reality ranges from way more than half the life of one, just under a half for another, and so on and so on.

So I guess you could say, we are not amateur pain dwellers.  For those of you who don't know, Frank began experiencing unexplained lower back pain late in 2003. The explanation came in March, 2004 - Between 2 vertebrae L5-S1 (that's where the spinal column meets the tailbone... for you medical whizzes like me!), the needed disc had disappeared... not an amazing magic trick that would impress the crowd.  We all need that very important disc for cushion, for movement, for protection, for a painless life - at least a painless lower back life.

And so began our journey to "fix" and alleviate his pain.  The journey began with prayer and surgery, the journey was bathed in prayer by others and more surgery, and the journey continues with much prayer and pain management options.  Prayer began for answers, prayer continued for relief, moving eventually to prayer for acceptance for circumstances... not giving up, not giving in, not quitting... instead...like Paul, contentment in all circumstances.

We have been there a few days... we have stayed there a few days... so as we look to another bump in this pain road, with an upcoming surgery to replace Frank's broken pain pump, we are thankful...

Thankful for family that loves constantly, that supports with immediate response,  and that laughs out loud and cries out loud...

Thankful for seasoned friends who have walked this road with us faithfully from the very beginning, praying and caring for us all the way.

Thankful for new friends who listen graciously to the very long story... with thoughtful understanding.

Thankful for our God who loves beyond our understanding, who knows every pain  - both physical and emotional... and who sent HIS only Son just for us... painful or painfree.

Thanks be to God... with Paul as he wrote to Timothy...  I am thankful for you!

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. 
Ask God to help them; 
intercede on their behalf, 
and give thanks for them.


So... what is YOUR story?

When Clay was a little boy, we spent a significant amount of time in the car.  One sister in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school offered numerous activities and events for our attendance.  Our car time became our story time.  Barely buckled into his car seat, the words came with gusto, "Mommy, tell me a story!"  He loved fairy tales, tall tales, fables, but his favorites were family stories and Old Testament stories.  When you think about it, the Old Testament is filled with intrigue, blood and guts, battlegrounds, nasty plagues, brothers killing brothers, sacrifice... what more entertainment could a little boy ask for!

So I told stories over and over again.... Creation, Cain and Abel, Noah and the flood, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his coat of many colors, Moses and  the Exodus, Queen Esther, King Saul, King David, the judges, the battles... and on and on.  Honestly, I had to brush up on my Old Testament to stay ahead of him.  As you might imagine, David and Goliath's story of battle was one of his all time favorites.  The little guy with the sling who chose not to wear the heavy "safe" armor of King Saul.  It truly is a "God-sized story".  At one point in his soliloquy  to Goliath, David shouts, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel... the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord's".
Quite a story David was able to share of God's triumph over the Philistine giant.  Knowing more of David's life story, we know this is only the beginning of a life filled with mountains and valleys, some of his own doing and some that totally blindsided him.

Whether Clay remembers it or not, I often reminded him that he, too, would have a story to tell.  His question often centered around whether his might include a sling and a giant... I remember one particular day, as I must have been feeling particularly contemplative, I responded, "Oh, son, I feel sure you will have your share of giants to battle."  He giggled with glee at the thought.
We all do, don't we... have battles, have giants that challenge us, have fears, have questions.  I have found that as I listen to the stories of others, I am encouraged.  Realizing that the "armor" others wear doesn't fit me so well, I have discovered, that as I listen, I am reminded to take up my own armor.  Sometime a piece of a friend's is just what I need to get started with mine.  Does that make sense?  You have a story... how the Lord has strengthened you, has encouraged you, has comforted and guided you.  Yours doesn't look or sound just like anyone else's.  If God chooses to keep count of every hair on each of our heads, how can we not acknowledge HIS activity in our lives as we seek Him.

So who can you tell... who knows your "faith story" better than you.  Someone might just be waiting to hear the exact words you will say.  None of us has all the flowery words, the perfect scripture verse to fit every situation, but we all have our own personal experience with the Living God who promises, in Isaiah 43,

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.


The Kentucky Baptist Convention is offering unique way to share your story - Click on the link below to hear mine and find out how easy it is to share yours through any social media, as a text from your phone... and anyone who chooses can listen to your story at their convenience.... check it out, and let's get the word out.... our story points to HIS story - Praise the Lord!!


or go to http://www.tellyourstory.today/stories/susan-w-from-simpsonville-kentucky

Fight... Flight.... Scream... Freeze

According to prominent psychologists and extensive research, the Fight or Flight response is a  "physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival".  

Having raised three daughters, I might offer an additional likely response ... screaming... usually for D.A.D.  He could, after all, save them from anything, fix any problem they had created, and somehow always make them feel that everything would be just fine.

On one especially dark January evening new meaning to the word and the feeling of FEAR came for Katie, Mollie and Clay.  Frank, Kellie and I were attending a High School Youth Retreat in Gatlinburg for the weekend.  Katie was in college and was certainly capable of running the house for that time.  Everything was going great, and as we remember it, our worship time that evening was so meaningful - it was clear that God was working in the lives of several of our students, so we actually had an extended time of worship and prayer.

As we were concluding our time, another adult tapped me on the shoulder whispering, "your children have an emergency and desperately need you to call home.  Visions of disasters filled my head as I quickly retrieved my cell phone... 26 missed called... most from Katie and a couple from my neighbor.  The visions in my mind just intensified as I dialed Katie's number.  Bless her sweet little heart, at the time, Katie was not our "calmest under pressure" child (remember,, this is the young woman who now manages her home with 3 boys born within 3 1/2 years!)  So as she tried to relay to us the events of the evening, her words were anything but clear.  Our pressing questions... are you all okay, is the house still standing, is the car wrecked... were met with yes, yes and no.  We sighed a moment of relief.

We finally managed to hear the story.  They had  just settled down in the den to watch a movie together.  Katie had gone into the kitchen to fix ice cream for everyone, and she saw "HIM"with his face pressed against the window staring into the house... at her.  She screamed, and Mollie turned from her vantage point in the recliner to "HIM" standing there peering at them both.  She screamed, too.  My understanding is that Clay, who was still in the den, just screamed because everyone else did.  The "HE" then disappeared from the window leaving a small hysterical group behind.  Their dilemma was real, what to do, who to call, where to go.  Katie sprang into action calling us (no answer), 911, and our neighbors.  As I think about it now, I shudder... and then I giggle, picturing my brave neighbor, whose husband was out of town.  In order to get my distraught children, she ushered them from our door to hers... carrying a baseball bat, and believe me, she would not have been afraid to use it!!   

It had been snowing, and the police officer discovered footprints leading to our window and then away from it.  That was the last that we knew or heard of our peeping tom... although the fear that he left behind took months to overcome.  Frank was sick that he hadn't been there to protect his babies!

Our instinct in any fearful or difficult moment is to fight it, run from it, or scream about it, right?  Once again in my recent Bible study, God has reminded me that often in my moments of fear, uncertainty and even panic... HE has a different plan for me.  When the Israelites were faced with, in their assessment, the most disastrous moment of their lives.  They were up against the Red Sea on one side and the angry mob led by Pharaoh pressing in on the other side.  God's answer to them, from the Living Bible (Exodus 14:13-14)

 "But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand where you are and watch, and you will see the wonderful way the Lord will rescue you today. The Egyptians you are looking at—you will never see them again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you won’t need to lift a finger!” 

I just wonder... is there something in your life right now - that you have feared, you have fought, you have flown away from, that you've just found yourself screaming about.  I KNOW I hear HIM speaking to my heart...."Stop... just FREEZE, just stand right where you are, I AM fighting for you."

So... just FREEZE with me!

Your password is ???

Could you, without a thought, recite for me your social security number? Could you, without blinking, rattle off your spouse's or any of your children's birth dates? Could you, without much thought, recite your 16-digit bank account or credit card number?  So, what about your last "real" home phone number?  The preamble to the Constitution?  The password to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other password protected entity??

I recently read about Corrie ten Boom - she and her family were taken from their home during the horrific reign of Hitler.  She, alone, survived the prison camp.  Before they were taken, her family ripped pages from the Bible and stuffed the page in their shoes.  Her father, sister and Corrie would ask one another what they were standing on... They would reply with whatever page was in their shoe - 1 Corinthians, Acts 2...  It truly was how they stood, and how Corrie survived!

When Clay was four, our pastor was leading a sermon series on Psalm 23, so appropriately, he challenged our congregation to memorize the entire Psalm.   Dutifully we challenged our family.  Partly because we spent an enormous amount of time in the car then, Clay and I practiced ... And practiced... And practiced more!  He couldn't wait to share his recitation with our pastor.  Graciously Pastor Les listened intently to  Clay's rendition of the passage, then joyfully suggested that Clay join him at the pulpit the following Sunday to encourage our church members with his memorized work!

Now remember, friends, this was during the same time that this "psalm-memorizing" preschooler had made the mature decision to stick his head in a toilet because  of a friend's dare!  Understandably these proud parents were a bit leery of his attendance on the pulpit.  After much discussion.. And reminders about appropriate behaviors ... And let's be honest, a few strong threats of consequences of unbecoming behaviors, the morning came, the service began, the call for Clay was issued.  We videoed it and somewhere in the recesses of a box of important paraphernalia, it exists!  You will have to trust me when I beam about his word for word, didn't miss a beat, precious 4-year-old fidgety little self that "performed to perfection".  We breathed...  The pastor thanked him and headed Clay toward exiting the stage.  OH NO!!! We had not discussed nor practiced the exit!!!  There were five steps leading up or down from the stage... Without a pause or a thought, he perfectly executed his dismount - not touching one step as he leaped "Spider-Man style" offering spiderlike landing on hands and feet!  The gracious crowd cheered and "amened" even more vigorously than before!  Hmm, maybe we should all feel as invigorated after memorizing and reciting scripture!

That is the challenge for this week, friends.  Our perfect model and leader (we do desire to be Christlike, yes?!), Jesus, knew scripture well.  Likely he had learned from the synagogue school and practice at home with Joseph and Mary.  It is not easy, but there are some reasonable strategies to help us.  We have the luxury of Bible apps, Bible on speaker with phone or computer, and there is still the archaic, nonetheless popular, 3 x 5 index cards!  :) 

What is your very favorite scripture today?  Mine has certainly changed during circumstances and just how God is speaking to my life, but one that has rung in my ears for years is from Zephaniah 3:17, if we were live, I would quote it...
The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save,
He will take great delight in you,
in His love He will no longer rebuke you,
BUT WILL REJOICE OVER YOU WITH SINGING!

So would you share your favorite... you don't have soar off the platform... you might just stash it in your shoe... you might just tuck it away on the visor above the drivers' seat... you might just praise our precious Lord for HIS word to you!  I'd love for you to comment here and encourage me and others.  Either way, challenge yourself, just a verse.... this every week!  We are WALKING on HIS word!!

Who are YOU?

"Cause I know who I am...I am Rosemary's granddaughter, spitting image of my father, and when the day is done, my momma's still my biggest fan...
I'm a saint and I'm a sinner
I'm a loser; I'm a winner
I am steady and unstable
I'm young, but I am able."

The lyrics from Jessica Andrew's country song, Who I am, above certainly give "identifying" characteristics for this young singer.

So who are you... who am I?  So often we identify ourselves in terms of 'who" we belong with.  I am Frank's wife; I am Katie, Kellie, Mollie and Clay's mother.  I am Bob and Ruth Ann's daughter.  I am Mimi to Caden, Charlie and Corey.  I am mother in law to Chris and Tim.

We are also identified by what we do... I teach 4th grade.

Our drivers license offers each of us a "real" picture of who we are, what we look like... in that moment when she snaps the picture.  I have yet to receive a picture on my license that I like.  I am never ready at the right time; the "photographer" doesn't give a good warning of 1.2.3 SMILE.  I think the camera adds at least 5 pounds to my face. Or, just maybe... that really is what I look like?! 

i would NOT ever pull out my driver's license to offer introduction for my identity!!

We do however often introduce ourselves in terms of someone or something else.  Does that give us credibility or just simply identification?  There have been times when I've met someone and their response was, "Oh, you're Clay's mom..."  Honestly at times, I have held my breath wondering what exactly the next statement might be.  Would it be a "proud momma" moment because they would follow that question with some glorious comment about how thoughtful, funny and kind my boy is... or might it be a moment of pause as they shared a "not so proud" story of something Clay had done or said.   I could say the same thing of all my children... and myself, as few of us have the luxury of knowing that our identity has ALWAYS been what we want it to be.

A couple of weekends ago, I had the privilege of chaperoning a Youth Retreat that focused on IDENTITY - our identity in Christ... just who are we, not because of anything we've done, not because of what family we were born into... only because of the grace, mercy and love that Jesus offers as our Savior.

We spent a portion of our small group time digging into scripture and defining our identity in Christ.  WOW - truly HE overwhelmed us in that time and since, as I have reflected on who I am.  Our creative group of middle school girls thought the idea of using an "ID" type representation (our id - identity in JC - Jesus Christ)  for each of the qualities that we found would be appropriate.  So, take a look,

In Christ... you are...
REDEEMED, A FRIEND OF JESUS, VICTORIOUS, TRANSFORMED, SAVED BY GRACE, NOT GUILTY, A CHILD OF GOD, RESCUED, HEALED, FREE OF FEAR, AN HEIR, ADOPTED, NOT CONDEMNED, PART OF THE CHURCH, AN OVERCOMER, CHOSEN BY GOD, MADE RIGHT WITH GOD, A TEMPLE OF GOD, STRONG IN THE LORD, and on it goes...

You are LOVED.
Loved enough, His word tells us, so LOVED by God, that HE sent Jesus, HIS only Son, that you, if you choose to believe in HIM, will have eternal life.

That my friends is who we are!  Who might you share that with today?

For God so loved the world that HE gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16  



Total Makeover...

1991 - 2 little girls at home, just recently moved to Louisville - Frank won a trip to La Jolla, California based on a sales contest at work.  We were anxious about being away at the same time... so much so, that we made a needed attorney appointment, created a will, and left it lying on the kitchen table - for quick reference!  :)
We joined many others in the gorgeous city of La Jolla for 5 days of unbelievable, luxurious, pampering complete with fabulous accommodations.  Choices for us each day were special excursions including a trip to the zoo, a hot air balloon ride around the city (yes, we did that!), and one specific day - the guys headed off to a local golf course and the ladies were whisked away to an entire day at the Spa.
 Treated like Esther preparing to visit the King, we were offered every option imaginable to encourage us to feel refreshed, rested, and renewed - new women!  Choices included every "beauty" option I knew along with a long list of "services" that I surely needed.  Along with a couple of other brave ladies, I chose the "total package", which included as many options that could be fit into the amount of time we were there.  The day was glorious for me - manicure, pedicure, Swedish massage, some kind of stone massage, facial... now remember, I was 29 years old at the time, so I opted out of the "wrinkle" services... oh to have that option today!!!  Interestingly at the end of the day, I felt like a limp noodle.  To use the word, RELAXED, isn't even close.  Honestly, I was so refreshed, relaxed, renewed, refined... I could barely walk.  We were returned to our husbands just an hour or so before dinner. Frank expected me to beam with excitement, full of energy, glistening with refreshment.  Instead I met him with the words, I need a nap!  :) 
It was a total makeover, for sure, but it wore me out.  Recently I have enjoyed a Bible study time led through video with Jennifer Rothschild called, "Walking by Faith, Lessons Learned in the Dark".  It has been a glorious time of renewal, refreshment and challenge as we have walked through specific times in our own lives of facing darkness and challenges.  Each week we have been reminded of the goodness and faithfulness of God.  This week has been especially encouraging for me as we looked at Moses when God called him... and, I mean, really called him, by name, with a specific, albeit daunting task in Exodus 4:1-17.  Moses needed a bit of convincing of the power of God, so God used what Moses had - his staff and his own hand.  God asked that he throw down his staff - it became a snake; God asked that Moses place his hand in his cloak - it became leprous.  Still Moses, questioned, with "pardon your servant, Lord?"  showing his fear and lack of confidence... not just once, but twice!  Come on Moses... this is your total makeover time - GOD is calling you right here, right now for this specific named purpose!  So, in HIS gracious patience and plan, God let Moses know that Aaron would be joining him.
My "stiff-necked" self wants to give Moses a large piece of my mind in discipline and "seriously, what were you thinking???", but then I hear my patient, gracious Lord remind this flailing, challenged-in-obedience daughter, by whispering, "Susan, Susan", and then HE waits... to hear my response.  May it be... "Here am I, Lord, send me!"

It's all about time...

3 years later at Katie's wedding...


 Not exactly by our choice, but in God's design for our family, our children are a little spread out in age.  Katie was almost 11, Kellie was 8, and Mollie was 3 1/2 when Clay was born.   Katie was in sixth grade and had just begun all the school and church activities that accompany middle school.  How the time flew as Clay toddled through the baby and preschool years. 
We made the mistake that so many parents do... we blinked... we just blinked and Clay was ready to head to first grade.  That same year, right after we blinked, Katie was headed to Murray State University to begin her freshman year.  Talk about ripping a momma's heart right out! 
Katie would say that she should get half the credit for raising Clay, as she was truly a built-in babysitter and such a big help when Clay was so young.
 
Honestly my saddest thought (among many others :)) about Katie going to college was centered around her relationship with Clay.  He was so young when she left, and I was so very concerned that they would really not even know each other...
 
My fears were so tenderly put to rest one afternoon as I picked Clay up from school.  He had lost his second tooth that day,  so that meant, he proudly carried his prize, the tooth, in a little plastic container.  If I'm remembering correctly, the container was shaped like a tooth and had a red string so that he could wear it like a necklace.  He was beaming from ear to ear.
He hopped in the car and rattled off the important announcements from school that day... who played with who on the playground, who sat by who at lunch, what color his name was on at the end of the day, and then the grand finale... "LOOK Mom, I lost a tooth today!"  We celebrated as he filled me in on all the details. 

And then, he melted my heart...  his words were simple, but sure.  "I need your cell phone, Mom, I HAVE to call Katie and tell her!"  I knew their relationship would be just fine, and it was and is!
Every time I think of that story, I am reminded of what constitutes a good relationship.  More and more I believe that it has absolutely everything to do with time!  Katie had spent time with Clay playing catch, pushing him on the swing, reading to him... and, at times, just sitting next to him watching Rescue Heroes and listening to Focus on the Family Adventures in Odyssey tapes. 
It works the same way with our Heavenly Father, doesn't it?  James put it so simply for us in
James 4 verse 8,
Come near to God and He will come near to you.
 
HE desires to spend time with us, to hear about our day, to listen to our concerns, to speak to our hearts, to just BE with us.  Try it this week.... just an additional 15 minutes of time for just you and your Abba Father... Look forward to sharing your big story of the day with HIM... He cares so deeply for you!



One more little interruption...

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at a Women's Event at Perryville First Baptist Church in Perryville, Kentucky.  Many of you may know that my parents grew up in that area - my mother in Perryville and my dad in Danville.  My grandparents sat on the next to the last row every Sunday in worship right after Sunday School that my dear grandmother taught for 50 years!  So the church has such sweet significance for me.  I remember sitting between Granddaddy and Grandmother as we sang Victory in Jesus and The Old Rugged Cross.

The theme of the event was simply Seasons of a Woman's Life...they decorated the tables in different seasonal attire - some with Christmas decor for winter, orange and brown leaves and pumpkins for the fall tables... you get the idea!  It was a grand time.  I had really just begun my "planned" oracle as a gentle lady in the back, stood quickly to her feet uttering with great gusto, "I just got a message, and I HAVE to share it!"  At first I wasn't sure if the message came directly from the Lord or not, but I was as anxious as the entire room to hear the message.  She took a deep breath and shared about a young woman in the church who was in the hospital for what most thought, including the young woman, would be a routine surgery.  The doctor had quickly informed the family that significant amounts of what looked to be cancer were discovered.  Treatment plans and additional surgery had followed quickly.  The message that came was from the young woman's husband stating that test results had just come in, and they did not show any additional cancer... not at all what the doctors had expected!  We cheered and clapped, a few tears of joy were shed... and we stopped to give thanks to God.  So we got back on track..

We were moving right along already into "season #2" when the glaring blaring sirens began...  increasing to the point that I expected the firetruck to drive right through the back door of the Fellowship Hall halting at my little music podium within seconds.  We knew something big and likely something bad was happening just outside.  I had tried to plow through my thoughts, but we were all beginning to assess whether we needed to take immediate cover from some ensuing danger.  Before we could even form words, the pastor and one of our hostesses burst through the back door with news of a terrible accident on the bridge literally just steps away from the church.  A semi-truck had collided with a motorcyclist - the initial report was serious and grave.  We stopped as we gathered our thoughts and our breath, and without hesitation, we bowed our hearts to ask for help for the drivers, the EMS staff, the police officers, the families involved, and for mercy and peace for all.

That was all in the first hour of the morning.  As I have thought back over the day's events, I was again reminded of the reality that we truly do NOT know what a day will bring - Frank and I have often stated and realized through experience that in raising children, we are all just one phone call away from a life changing moment.

I have been reminded recently with such tenderness that I serve a gracious God who demands my fear... yes, my fear, of Him.  The Bible is clear about His power and His majesty.  He deserves our awe, our respect and our FEAR!  Isaiah 6 tell us that as God came to him, he just knew he was done!  In his fear, Isaiah quickly responded, "Woe to me!  I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the KING, the Lord Almighty!"  The angel of the Lord, quickly came to him with a live coal, touching his lips saying, "see this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for!"  WOW!  What a testimony.  Then we read those famous words as the Lord asked, Whom shall I send and who will go for us?".. Isaiah responds without hesitation... "HERE AM I... SEND ME!"

Our days are filled with distractions, may I just encourage you with this thought... God knows exactly where you are this very moment, and HE is with you.  Trust HIS leading - lean on His promise to be before you, beside you, and right behind you, whispering in your ear.... turn to the left or the right!"
Be still enough at some time during the day to hear HIS voice!

We begin our study on Monday evening at 6:30 at Simpsonville Baptist of Walking by Faith   - its not too late to join this 7 week journey!  I'll be looking for you!


Walking by... WHAT??

For years I suffered through migraine headaches...  Still not totally sure why I had them... maybe the fact that my mother, my great grandmother (They just called them sick headaches back then.  My mother remembers Mamma Mattie going to bed with a wet cloth on her head asking that no one open the door or turn on the light.  I can relate!), and at least one of my daughters has them. 
We believe that mine were somewhat hormone related... I say stress induced!  :)

Funny, they never came at a "good" time.  You know, like when we had nothing planned for the weekend, no big events, no company coming or  places to be. 

One of those frustrating times came when we headed to a much anticipated canoe trip with the girls and a group of friends.  We had all our gear, lunch was packed, life jackets were in tow.  I felt a little strange, but was sure it was be fine once we got started.  Our first disappointment came as we arrived at our "put in" spot, and because of some recent torrential rains, the water was too high to begin.  The decision was made to wait until the afternoon.  Since it was a beautiful sunny day, we would eat lunch there, and then try a later time hoping for a successful entry into the water.
We had barely sat down to eat when the migraine engulfed me.  Sadly the girls knew this routine much too well.  They quickly gathered our belongings as Frank guided me to the car.  You see, when a migraine hits, light is the absolute worst enemy.  I was not a "pretty" migraine sufferer.... I immediately became violently ill and could NOT open my eyes at all.  I counted on Frank to get me to the car - that day we were in the midst of a jagged rock area, and I was, as you can imagine, extremely unsteady.  He got me to car and sped home.  At that time the best medicine available to me was in an injection form, so Frank quickly progressed from my guide and driver to my "shot" giver.  Thankfully my medicine would kick in within a few hours, and then I would begin the recovery process.

I COULD not have walked alone;  how thankful I am for Frank and his promise to always walk beside me.  He has been faithful to that promise for over 30 years.

When I felt God urging me to "blog", the dilemma of the blog NAME was challenging.  How do you begin to convey what you want people to know in such a short form.  My family joined the hunt for just the right title.  Hebrews 11 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  Some call it the Bible's Hall of Fame.  The writer begins the chapter with the reminder of that oft quoted verse, "Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."  It goes on to list so many of the heroes of the faith.  Each introduction beginning with... By faith, "person's name", did something.   I've often wondered if God allowed my name to be there, what possibly would said about my faith in God, and how I trusted HIM.  OH, my friends, can you imagine!!!  We will explore that a bit next week.

In the meantime, for those of you in the greater Louisville area, would you consider joining me and some other ladies at Simpsonville Baptist Church for a time of study about what it means to Walk By Faith.  We will follow Jennifer Rothschild in her Bible Study by that name... Walking by Faith:  Lessons Learned in the Dark. You see, Jennifer is legally blind and has been since age 16.

We will begin on Monday, September 15, 2014 at 6:30 in the Fellowship Hall of the church.  We will meet for 7 weeks each Monday.  Please join us!!!  We would love to have a book waiting for you when you arrive, so please let me know via email, phone, or even through facebook... gotta love technology!!

Oh, and by the way... my blog's name... BYFAITHANDCOFFEE truly is how I walk each day by the tender grace of our God!!!!!

I'm... OVERWHELMED..

If you happened to see me in the past couple of weeks and asked me how everything was going, your question was likely met with a sentence including the word "overwhelmed".  Many of you know that I started teaching again, and no matter how prepared you are, the beginning of a school year is just. well... overwhelming.  
Overwhelmed with circumstances... and needs... and responsibilities... all the "things" I need to do. 
 I remember using those same words a couple of weeks after Clay was born.  We both had an extremely rough delivery, and truth be told, I got the worst of it.  Due to an infection, I ended up back in the hospital for an extended stay while Frank and my mom kept our home running barely missing a beat.  When I finally was able to come home, I was weary and exhausted -  overwhelmed with circumstances... and needs.. and responsibilities... all the "things" I needed to do. I felt totally out of control with little thought of how I would really get it all together and raise these precious four children...  My wise father reminded me that I really only had one option... lean on Jesus, and take one day at a time.

Just this week as I was headed somewhere to do something I needed to do, I was overwhelmingly reminded of God's presence and provision in my life and in my circumstances.  I was listening to the radio, not paying so much attention... but then I heard the words... "I am overwhelmed.."  The station I was listening to is a local Christian radio station, so I was intrigued as I heard those words repeated again...I am  overwhelmed... I am overwhelmed...by YOU...  captivated by Your beauty... God, I run into your arms, unashamed because of mercy...  I know the power of the cross...  All that YOU have done is so OVERWHELMING.  I delight myself in YOU;  You are GLORIOUS!!
In that moment my entire thought process was immediately focused on every tree, every bird, each sun ray.... I don't believe I heard the audible voice of our Father, but His Spirit certainly astonished me with gentleness, "Oh my precious daughter, it is MY plan for you to be overwhelmed... not by circumstances or your to-do list, but with MY presence."  I pulled my car over because I was so shaken by HIS reminder.  Isn't that HIS plan for all of us.  
I spent some time in Mark chapter 7 today as it is the only New Testament passage that I could find where most commentators agree that the word hyperperissos (which means beyond measure astonished).  Jesus had just healed many people, and now a man who was deaf and mute was brought to Him.  Jesus healed him after looking toward Heaven.  As He had done before, Jesus told the people not to tell anyone about the miracle.  My version says, "they just kept talking about it, because they were [hyperperissos] overwhelmed with amazement."  
I am overwhelmed with amazement when I think about the God we are honored to call Father, His power, His majesty, His unfathomable love for us, aren't you? 

I read again today Revelation 4-5 and just tried to breathe in the glory that John did his best to describe to us of the praise and adoration that will take place when we reach Heaven.  Thousands upon ten thousands of angels... singing in a LOUD voice, praising the Lamb of God.  
So my prayer is that in the coming weeks, when you see me or text me, call me, or email me, you will still hear me say... I am overwhelmed... not with my to-do list, but with the God of the Universe - His power, presence and provision in my life!  Join me in the world of overwhelmed, won't you?? 

 Please enjoy the youtube link below of the song I referenced... 

Video for overwhelmed christian songOverwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave

Speechless



The start of school is always an exciting time filled with nervous Kindergarten parents, anxious third grade students, confident hight school students, and brand new teachers along with the veterans ready to make a difference in a child's life.  I am teaching again - fourth grade - such a precious age of children ready to learn, longing to please their teacher, and full of questions, ideas and energy.
While many parents are leaving a young Kindergarten student in the care of someone they may not yet even know, just as many are leaving a young college freshman at a place they don't know so well, with buildings they don't know so well in a room with someone they don't know so well... to live for, likely, the next four years of life.
We thought we were ready when our oldest daughter started college. We had made numerous trips to Walmart, bought just the right bedding, purchased the dorm refrigerator and microwave, found a tv that wasn't too heavy (It was 2004!), stocked up on staples like microwave popcorn, microwave mac and cheese, plenty of gatorade/water/soft drinks... we were prepared.
 The same year she started college, our youngest started first grade...  a little more emotion than this one momma was expecting.  So off we went with the vehicle packed to the very top.  Did I mention that as we were eating dinner the night before she moved in, her words, and I quote... "You can't leave me here; I'm not ready for this!"  My first thought was, great, let's just head home - Frank agreed that we could figure out how to do "home college".  She was, after all, still a baby!!
We moved her in the next morning - and by midafternoon, the bed was made with each pillow in place, the floor was as clean as I could get it, the bulletin boards were filled with pictures of family and friends, the computer was set up and running... it was time to go.  No problem, we had a plan for that - Frank and I had rehearsed.  We would gather around in her room and pray over/for Katie, her roommate, her professors, her classes, her new friends, her choices... we had a script.  Somehow, it just didn't work out that way.  We ended up at picnic table outside her dorm, realizing she needed us to go.  No problem, we are flexible, so I suggested we just sit right there and pray - what a great witness we would be for those walking by.  Hey maybe some would even stop and join us!
We bowed, and I whispered... "Dear God", and then something that never happens to me did - I couldn't SPEAK; I could barely even BREATHE.  There are no words to clearly communicate my emotion - I WAS really leaving her here!  Even now, that feeling smothers me.  Frank did his best to take over and uttered a simple prayer of something like, "Lord, protect her, take care of her..."
Friends, I believe, in those moments, our thoughtful, loving Heavenly Father gently places His tender arms around us, and whispers our name.  In Exodus the Bible speaks of Moses as God's glory was going to pass by.  The Lord told Moses:
 "I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by."  
No one could look upon God and live.  So He protected Moses literally by covering him with HIS hand.  
Oh dear friends, He covers you as well.
This year that oldest daughter of ours sent her oldest son to Kindergarten - such a flood of emotion and uncertainty.  
If you don't currently have a child living in your home, would you find one - maybe a neighbor, maybe a family member, maybe one in your church to simply to commit to pray for during this school year - a 5-year-old headed to Kindergarten to a college freshman of 18, and all in between. Let them know you are praying for them - that God will lead, protect, and hold them in HIS hand!!


Excuse me please...

When our kids were younger, we tried many techniques to teach them NOT to interrupt when we were speaking with another adult.  The most effective strategy for us came as we encouraged them to simply place their hand on our arm.  We would acknowledge that we knew they needed us by placing our hand over theirs - it didn't mean we answered immediately, but they understood that we knew they needed us, and that we would get to them quickly.


Clay was a "full of energy", rambunctious 3-year-old... and 4-year-old... and, well you understand!  :)  So one day when I picked him up from preschool, he was not feeling particularly patient as I spoke with another mom.  He followed our protocol, and I acknowledged.. but it just wasn't working for him.  He began running around me in circles - that would have been okay... running off a little energy...it didn't work out so well.  You see, someone had just handed me an armload of dresses for my girls to try on.  I had the dresses, which were on wire hangers, draped over my arm.  Somehow that very active little boy of mine literally HOOKED himself with a hanger... in his left eye.  I know, you are cringing with me as I type it!  Well, I can tell you, he GOT my attention.
Thankfully, his eye was not damaged.  It had him like a fish on a hook, just had a hook on his eyelid.  With great care we unhooked him... he just needed to tell me that he had a great day!  :)


Now THAT was an interruption! 


So how do you handle those constant interruptions that we encounter daily... maybe not with the dramatic flair of a coat hanger, but unexpected, for sure.  I am trying with great intentionality to truly be present in each moment...  the challenge is that many moments come with additional, unexpected interruptions, so then does the interruption "become" the moment???
So, who better to look to for answers than our sweet Savior, Jesus.  The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) give us numerous examples of Jesus' moments of distraction and interruption in his day.  Luke 8 tells of one perfect example.  Jesus was welcomed by the crowd as they had been expecting him...  he was interrupted by Jairus whose only daughter was dying, so Jesus headed to Jairus' house to heal his daughter... but Jesus was INTERRUPTED  on the way to the first interruption in the crowds.  The Bible says there were so many people that Jesus was almost crushed, but someone in crowd touched Him.  Well, of course people touched Him... Peter reminded Jesus that there were people pressing and crowding all around Him.


Jesus knew this touch was different... "I know that power has gone out from Me." (Luke 8:46)  The woman who touched Him came trembling out of the crowd.  You see, she had been plagued with some bleeding disorder for twelve years, and the moment she touched Jesus, her bleeding stopped.  Jesus is the son of God, so we know that HE knew who touched Him.  He could have just gone on His way, but instead He stopped for just a moment to talk with her using that opportunity to acknowledge her faith... that HE was the healer.  He responded with, "your faith has healed you.  Go in peace."  Then He was on His way again. 


Do I take those moments to encourage and listen to others?  Do I ask each morning for God's guidance in each one that I will encounter during that day?  Am I in such a hurry to get to the next thing that I miss golden opportunities to share, to listen, to be interrupted?? 
I am thrilled with the opportunity that God has given to teach a classroom of 4th graders this school year. 


Lord, may I look forward to the interruptions...

Miss Thelma

Walking into a local nursing home for an unannounced afternoon visit is an adventure of unknowns. Our staff from church planned to walk in to a few places just this week.  Our group divided into groups of 2 or 3 to visit as many nursing homes and residents as possible in one afternoon.

 I love people; I love talking to people; I love listening to people!  When I was a GA (a girl in action - our mission organization for elementary girls), we visited our local nursing home often.  We knew some visits were filled with conversation, but other times folks were either napping or extremely quiet and uninterested/unable to chat. 

So our group of two headed to our first room with hopeful expectation to encourage and brighten the day of our assigned new friend.

Can I just tell you our expectation was exceeded in every possible way... but, hear me clearly, it had nothing to do with what we said or did and everything to do with our new friend, Ms Thelma.

As we entered her room, we immediately noticed that she was wheelchair bound, and she quickly let us know that she has had a broken hip for seven years.  At 96 years old, the surgeon determined surgery was not an option.  She also had injuries in both shoulders that would require repair or replacement of rotator cuffs.. again not a surgical option now.  In her own words, "my hearing is challenged, too."


She began to share with us about her life.  Widowed for over 50 years, she had run her own travel agency, served faithfully in ministry, and laid her own patio when she was 86... "because she could and it needed to be done."  Her stories continued ... she made calls for the church to welcome new members for 20 years.  One call she remembered well, the lady on the other end of the phone was crying.  Trying to offer sensitivity, she realized that she must have called at a bad time and offered to call again later.  The new friend quickly relayed her story and that her husband had just lost his job.  Immediately, Ms. Thelma began calling folks that she knew owned their own business... within a short time, the man had a new job! The hands and feet of Jesus..see a need... meet a need.  Ms. Thelma didn't seem to think she had done anything spectacular... just "helping out". 

Our visit continued and over that hour, we listened and laughed.  Toward the end of our visit we asked two questions.... is there anything you need that we can get for you and how can we pray for you?

Her answer to the first was simple... "I've had a real hankering for watermelon lately... if you could bring me some... just sometime, that would be wonderful."  She showed us her salt shaker so she'd be ready for the watermelon.

During our earlier conversation I had asked about pain.  She let us know in a very few words that she had figured out how to maneuver around in the wheelchair backward and learned to only sleep on her back to deal with the hip pain.  Her shoulders hurt some, but it wasn't so bad.  And Ms. Thelma apparently let the nurses (and us) know that she would not be taking "that" pill that kept her alive.  When questioned, she said it was a blood pressure pill.  So my expectation for how we could pray for her was understandably going to be for less pain... even for the Lord to call her home.. she is ready.

Once more she rendered me speechless and humbled by her answer.... she leaned forward with a tender thoughtful look on her face as tears began to form in her beautiful blue eyes...

"Only this, girls, would you pray that everything I say and do in this place would bring a smile to someone's face and joy to their day.  You know there is a lot of sadness here."

Are you challenged...  my prayer for today... from Psalm 19:14

 May these words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer... and may something I say or do today bring a smile to someone's face and joy to their day...

Thank you, Ms. Thelma for reminding me that WE are privileged to bless someone each day by our own words and actions...