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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mexico December 31, 2009

We went into Mexico today to deliver Christmas gifts to an orphanage in Matamoras. The kids were excited to receive their shoebox filled with goodies.

I was confused when shopping for my shoebox and bought stuff for a two year old girl rather than the boy that I had paperwork on. I never did get aroud to fixing my mistake, and just packed up the girl stuff anyway.

The little boy was one of a handful of orphans that somehow had been put on the list twice, so when we sorted boxes he already had one. My box would have been wasted.

Instead God used it perfectly.

A nine year old girl with gorgeous long black hair stepped into the room with a toddler in a sling on her hip. They were new to the orphanage since we had gotten the list of names. The size clothes I had in my wrong box fit perfectly on the toddler.

A month ago when I was shopping for items for my box, God created confusion in my dingy brain so that a little girl who lost her family would have a beautiful Christmas. Gotta love God and the strange ways He works.

We had a great trip back to Las Higuerillas to visit some friends and deliver some things for their village. It was a great day for playing Santa.

Now back to the states for a little pizza and a hot shower. Then tomorrow we are going back to the orphanage to paint.

Every Day

I awoke this morning giddy with excitement about going into mexico to do mission work. I am always anxious to see God's hand. Already I have seen Him at work and I can't wait to see more

As I looked into the mirror, trying to blowdry my hair in a big hurry, God spoke.

"Every Day"

Me - "what?"

God "Every Day"

Me - "what are you talking about?"

God "You are on mission for me EVERY DAY. Be this giddy and excited EVERY DAY. I am ALWAYS at work around you. LOOK for me. Be this hungry for my presence EVERY DAY. This day is not unique because you are crossing a border. This day is unique because you are living expectantly."

Me - "wow"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mexico December 30 2009

We left north Texas last night to beat the bad weather. Fortunately, roads were clear all the way in to Austin where we spent the night in the family life center of Anderson Mills Baptist Church. We appreciated our good friend, Aaron Franklin, making arrangements for us at the last minute.

This morning, I had the chance to run 3 miles before we pulled out. We were blessed at McDonalds. The manager gave us 50 percent off our meals and let the drivers eat for free.

After many hours in the car, we finally arrived at our dorms in Brownsville where we will be staying. For me, it is a beautiful sight to see the 200 shoeboxes all together for the first time stacked high along the tables. We have tons of extra items to take in as well and probably a small blanket for each orphan.

It was a beautiful moment as we were sorting to be able to look at my 11 yer old daughter and say, "I need you to sort and organize all the girl boxes," then to turn around and see that she had worked with some other ladies to "make it so."

I can't wait to see what tomorrow holds. God's love for the nations is incredible to behold.

Monday, December 28, 2009


My body stores fat like a grizzly bear preparing for hibernation. I don't know why, but at 25, my metabolism curled up and absolutely died. The good news is that in the last ten years, it's not gotten much worse, but I still gain weight like crazy. For me, losing weight is like prying a lollipop from my 3 year old daughter's mouth. Good luck! For the last 10 years, I've used this metabolism issue as an excuse for toting around about 50 extra pounds. I had come to peace with the fact that God did not create all of us to be skinny people.

Knowing my family's history of diabetes and heart disease, I started working out about 6 months ago. I lost about 10 pounds, bringing my two year weight loss total up to around 25 pounds. That's great, right? Except that now I'm just plain mad. Ticked off. Hacked.

I went home for the holidays for 3 days. I ate anything I wanted, taking in approximately 2500 calories a day (Yes, I count my calories in my head subconsciously - too many years of eating issues, I guess). I came home with a new jacket for running at night, an armband to store my ipod, and 4 extra pounds.

At first, I was horribly upset. Then I was defeated. Why work hard if I can't even maintain the results? Is it really worth all the effort? I liked being lazy.

This morning I forced myself onto the weight machine. It is important to understand that I hate lifting weights. I can't listen to music while lifting because the bad words in my head are too loud for me to hear the music. I was about halfway through when I began to figure how many calories the average person has to consume to gain one pound. And then I gained 4 on what I ate? Oh, I got mad! I was slamming weights like nobody's business in the playroom.

I am done being owned and controlled by my body. I will not roll over and give up just because it works in strange and mysterious ways. I will not give up working out, and I will lose those 4 pounds.

Now nobody panic, I am not attempting purging or anything else unhealthy. I did workout 3 times today, attempting to shock my body into dumping the pounds. Sometimes when I hit a wall, I can push through it by putting my body into overdrive on working out.

My intention is that I will be healthy. I will not give in to defeat and discouragement. I will have my body fit and healthy and ready for whatever and wherever God takes me next.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Monday Morning Update 12.28.09

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my husband? You see, he has struggled hard with materialism over the years. (I did too, I'm just talking about him because it's less intrusive into my own issues.) I remember when he wanted the biggest, nicest, best stuff. I remember how deprived and frustrated he felt when we spent years in absolute poverty. I was there when he wanted the nicer house, and thought success was at least partially measured in dollars.

Today that man stood in church and preached about rethinking materialism at Christmas. He talked about giving our children less stuff so that we can have more resources left for serving the "least of these" as commanded in scripture. Last fall, we had a scare when we thought our house was on fire, and we both realized, "It's just stuff." Ever since then we have been trying hard to ditch as much of our stuff as possible so that we will have more free time and resources for ministry. As I listened to him speak emotionally about the need to change our habits so that we are not teaching our children to worship stuff, I was so humbled by how God has changed his life. I love how God is using mission work to teach him about what exactly is important in life. Today, I was proud to be that man's wife. A man who shares my heart and passion for serving God.

At the very end of the service, the children came in to share about their secret mission project they've worked on all month. They have collected money for the orphanage in Mexico and made gifts for all 200 orphans. It was cool to hear them talk about what they were doing and why. I love that even our children have a part of the vision of The Crossroads to Love God, Love People, and Reach the World. (yes, I know Shawn says rock. I like reach, and it's my blog.)

After church we had lunch with several other families at a new member's house in Anna. I love seeing our church members extend hospitality to each other. It is beautiful to watch God at work. I am blown away by how well God is making this church plant thing work, as long as I am obedient and just go along for the ride. I love reaching new people and seeing God change their lives. It's exciting. I am glad that excitement is the best adjective for my ministry. Or maybe awed.

Our mission team will be leaving a day early to miss out on winter weather. Remember to pray for our team while we are traveling Tuesday and Wednesday and while we are in Mexico on Thursday and Friday.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Beautiful family

This morning as I stumbled through my mother-in-law's house, I was struck by how beautiful family truly is. Her home is about 1200 square feet, so when we descend on her it's a bit crowded.

Every bed was full, there were people sleeping on couches,in the floor, and in the recliner. There was an air mattress in the kitchen piled high with little girls. My brother in law fled the madness by sleeping on a pallet in the beauty shop.

Seeing the crowd reminded me that many years ago, I thought we would never have any children. Instead God has greatly blessed us with chaos and beauty.

Seeing all the sleeping bodies this morning - literally on every surface availablle - struck me this morning as stunningly beautiful. It made me remember how good God has been to me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas rethought

As a child, my family ceased celebrating Christmas when I was 8. When I had children of my own, I overcompensated just a little. For example, it wasn't uncommon for the kids to ask, "Are we done yet?" while opening their gifts. There were many years where the only time a toy was touched was on Christmas. The kids got so many new things that they couldn't even remember all they had.

This year we made a very drastic and deliberate decision to rethink gifting. We bought a PS3 for the whole family, then each kid got about 4 gifts under the tree. We made this decision for several reasons. We wanted to stay within our cash budget so that January would not bring any additional credit card bondage. We also wanted to practice moderation so that we could free up more funds for helping others. We also realized that our consummerism is causing unfair workig conditions in other countries.

I was concerned by this shift, and honestly at the last minute I added a few extra items. However, one of our main shipments of items from Amazon did not arrive on time. The kids had less to open than I had anticipated.

So what were the results? My children appreciated every single item. They were not overwhelmed. They couldn't wait to try out their new stuff. They had more time to focus on hanging out together and playing.

I would say that they did not miss the lost in the mail items AT ALL. This made me realize just how seriously I have misjudged the amount of stuff needed to create a great Christmas for my children.

I have bought into the lie that kids need tons of toys for Christmas to be successful and that you suck as a parent if you don't get them as much as their friends. I am beginning to understand that the truth is that less can be more. The kids can dig in and enjoy their new stuff more when they don't get quite as much.

We are enjoying our time as a family. May your Christmas be blessed with love, laughter, and peace.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Morning Update 12.21.09

I have to say that on this Monday morning I am beyond exhausted. We have been running hard, working late into the night, and getting up at crazy early hours to pull off our weekend event, "Your Hometown Christmas." The drive through lighting display had lots of plywood cutouts - all painstakingly painted by hand. The band played, we gave away cookies and hot cocoa, and made pictures with Santa. The event came together well, after a few minor issues with lighting on the first night. We met lots of new families and enjoyed being out in our community yet again. I will say that I am voting that our next band event should be in warmer weather. The frost forming on my keyboard as I played was quite chilly on my bare fingers.

Services at the Crossroads yesterday were great. I love to see our people loving on each other. We gathered up our shoeboxes of gifts for the Mexico orphanage. Funny story - I checked my paper at least three times before I went shopping. I would have sworn that it said I was shopping for a 2 year old little girl. $70 later, I had a shoebox full of really adorable stuff. I got ready to attach my label and it said "2 year old BOY" What? Oh no! I had to laugh, it's such a me thing to do. I packed my girl box anyway for an extra just in case we need it, and then I will need to make a box for my little boy.

Shawn brought it with the message this week. He did a great job of clearly explaining why Jesus was born, and why He had to be sacrificed for our sins. He talked plainly about the difference between being nice and being set free from your sin. I love how he makes God's Word plain and easy to understand - even for our congregation who has never been in church before.

After church we attended a welcome home party for one of our friends who has been away at basic training. He and his family will be stationed in upstate New York after the first of the year. I had a great time meeting all the new people at that event. At one point, Shawn realized I had disappeared. He knew to go find the largest group of strangers, and that's where I would be. He's even starting to accept that as normal - that his crazily shy and self-conscious wife is now in the middle of the crowd meeting new people. I am still insecure and lack self-confidence, but I love the diversity and uniqueness of God's greatest creation - people. I am fascinated by how different and yet still beautiful God has made us all.

Last night, a large group of ladies went down to Allen to do some Christmas shopping. I will say up front that shopping is not my favorite. I am a total goal-oriented shopper, and so shopping with large groups is really not something that I tend to do. However, I really did enjoy the night with the ladies. It was good to connect with them and to watch my old friends getting to know some of my newer friends. Another funny thing last night - I walked alone down to the Gamestop store to do a little shopping. The ladies came to pick me up for dinner, and they laughed about having to wait a long time. When they arrived, no one in the store was shopping, they were all gathered around the cash register visiting with me about their children and families and what games they felt were appropriate for what ages. In the 15 minutes I was in the store, I had met all of them and found out about their children and families! (I'm laughing at this - who does that?) Yet again I took a step back and was shocked by how God has changed my personality. Sometimes it's a little freaky, even for me. No wonder it's a little weird to my friends and family.

I enjoyed dinner with the ladies at Uncle Julio's. It was a first time for me. It was good - a little pricey, but good. The bummer is that I had a gift card - at home on the counter! Our last stop of the night was Target. I was surprised that they are putting out bikinis already. It's weird enough for Christmas stuff to be out in October, but I have gotten used to that. But to have swimsuits out in December? That's just really, really weird. The good news is that my bikini boot camp video is coming in the mail from Netflix. I'll be ready! (Not really, y'all this is a joke, my four baby, glow in the dark white body does not belong in a bikini) And yes, I finished most of my Christmas shopping, I just have a few small things left to get today and tomorrow.

Bottom line? It was a great, but busy weekend.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Walk on Water

A migraine snuck up and slammed me in the head this morning. I woke up at 4:43 with a tightness in my scalp that signals a bad one is coming. I was too sleepy to get up out of bed and go take anything right that second, and I lived to regret it. By 8:00 I was miserable, by 9:00 it was unbearable, and by 10:00 I was confused and disoriented. Yes, I know it is past time to go back to the doctor. I just hate that place, but I now need something better than the over the counter medicine he recommended a few years ago.

I bumped into my masseuse at a house warming party for a friend. She worked on my pressure points for about 15 minutes, bringing a small measure of relief. I was able to remember how to find my way home and think coherently for the most part, in spite of the excruciating pain.

When I got home, I was desperate for relief. I decided to try running. Endorphins, right? Well, running with a migraine is more painful than childbirth - I've done that 4 times, I should know. The jostling makes the pain worse, to the point where all I could do was count my breaths in and out and try not to vomit from the pain. In my haste to run, I set my ipod to shuffle random songs, hoping that the music would be soothing. Sometimes that helps. Instead it was a hard pumping Audio Adrenaline song.

I have not listened to Audio Adrenaline in many, many years, and their songs are not in any of my favorite playlists on the ipod. However, a random shuffle pulls up anything in the entire library of music, and "Walk on Water" came on. At .5 miles, I realized I had been listening to the same song the entire time. See what I mean, my processing is greatly impaired when I have a migraine - It takes me about 7 minutes to go .5 miles.

I'm not sure how it got stuck on the loop track, but to change the setting after I've turned on my GPS function on my phone will erase my running data that I am charting online. So I just kept listening. Somewhere around the first mile, God reminded me of our call into church planting, "Get out of the boat, get ready for the call, I'm going to show you how to walk on water." I thought about how many times this last 18 months God had done exactly that. He has used us in ways we never, ever dreamed that he would. But the strange thing was the thought that chased after those remembrances. It was God, I think. "I'm ready to start teaching you how to walk on the water."

What the heck? What have we been doing? What are You fixing to do, God? I'm afraid. I'm already in way over my head. I already feel like I'm drowning so many days as we try to figure out this living missionally thing.

God's response, "I said, I'm ready to start teaching you how to walk on the water."

Okay. To quote my favorite pastor, I guess wet underwear is better than splinters in my butt from the safe boat. My answer in advance is yes. Let's go. But You have to help me to be obedient even when I'm afraid of the unknown.

After running nearly 2 miles, I returned to the house for an hour of brutal weight lifting. By the end of some long stretches afterwards, my headache is significantly better. It's not completely gone, but I should be able to function. Now my mind is just racing around that voice I heard, wondering what it all means. Or maybe it was just a crazy thought in my head, brought on by the meds and the pain.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

God is freaking me out

I can't sleep tonight with all these thoughts swirling in my head. They are confusing and muddled, but at least if I write them down, maybe I can sleep. So apologizing in advance if all this makes no sense at all.

My relationship with God has always been pretty cut and dried. I at least thought I had a decent handle on how He operates. I worship, pray, adore, and obey. He gives me peace, strength, and guidance. I feel guilty when I sin - at least sometimes - pray and confess and He forgives me. I try to have a consistent quiet time, then feel bad that I'm not.

The funny thing is that I usually don't question God in tough times. During my miscarriage several years ago, as I lay on the exam table staring at an ultrasound picture without a heartbeat, I turned to Shawn and said, "God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good." I often don't understand what God is doing during the tough times, but I know He is good.

But lately, God's been changing all the rules. He has redefined our relationship in crazy ways. Let's start by giving me an entirely new personality last year. "Merry Christmas - or really happy Labor Day - I'm turning you into a sanguine." Want to talk about shaking up my life? My kids were talking about this yesterday. They were remembering how things used to be and how things are now. That will be a blog for a different day. It was an unbelievable, yet really tough and painful conversation.

God has always been very real to me. I have been able to see his hand in many areas of my life, and yet at the same time he has also been very distant. In the recent past this has all changed - beginning probably with the day I ran in the rain (see archives) and began to understand God desired more than obedience, he wanted relationship. God speaking into my life in very clear and intimate ways is hard to get used to. At times I think I am very fortunate, but at times I think I am totally crazy. Maybe the voices in my head are not God. Maybe I'm nuts and don't know it. It does run in the family.

But even more recently things have just been freaking me out. Before Thanksgiving we were at a friend's house to watch football on his big TV. On the way home, I said to Shawn, "Gosh it would be nice to be able to see the TV that clearly from across the room." Now we don't need a TV. It is not anywhere near the top of our want list. However, that's what Shawn's mom bought us for Christmas. Without being asked.

Shawn's back has been bothering him for quite a while. I was thinking that we needed a mattress, but couldn't come up with any funds. Again, Shawn's mom called up out of the blue and told us she was buying a very slightly used mattress from an elderly lady who was downsizing her bed.

Last week, Katie, my 9 year old, asked what I wanted for Christmas. I gave her the inexpensive short list. On that list was a green necklace and jogging pants. That was on Friday. God gave those to me from friends cleaning out their closets on Sunday.

This afternoon, Shawn told me that he was having to rethink my Christmas gift because he had planned to purchase a week long trip for us for spring break, but was concerned that it would be too hard on his mom to try to keep all the kids for that long. I said out loud, I guess we will be more limited in what we can go and do if your mom isn't available to babysit often. Tonight, our small group and friends got together for our Christmas party. Our gift from our church was each member took a blank gift card and filled in what they would be willing to do for us. There were several overnight babysitters. (Loved lots of the other gifts, too - a day of manual labor - that will be so useful in trying to get the house on the market) Anyway, I was floored. Not that we will seriously go on the trip, but I was amazed that I expressed a desire - not a need out loud, and God met it within 4 hours.

An even smaller detail? When I'm running, as I pray or meditate or even just have crazy random thoughts, more often than not my Ipod shuffle matches up to whatever is going on. It shifts as my brain changes gears. Last night my run started with a journey song that was mine and Shawn's first "our song." I spent the run thinking about where we once were and how we have been redeemed. The last song on my way back in was another journey song that is our current "our song." How wild is that that my shuffle opened and closed my run that way?

Bottom line, this is all just a little weird. I think that it is so cool that the God of the universe who created the stars is a personal God that loves us enough to care about these little things. I shouldn't be surprised. After all, I am not surprised when my husband does little things for me. I don't know why it seems strange that God does those same types of little things. I absolutely don't get what or if God is using all of this to teach me something new. It is beyond my comprehension to understand that I even register on the radar with God. After all - who really needs a new necklace, or babysitters, or a big TV? These are not necessities, nor do they further the ministry.

What makes this even more complex and confusing is that I am not getting clear answers to big things that I'm praying about. I am seeking God about my future. I feel that long term there is more for me than teaching first grade. (I don't know if more is the right word or if different would be better.) I do not know how God plans to tie together my love of writing, worship, missions, and speaking. I cannot see into His plans at all. All I know is that right now, today, He is using me beyond belief right where I am. I am waiting and trying hard to be faithful serving in the role where I heard from him last. And I am trying to figure out why He is giving me things that I have only expressed a breath of desire about having.

The crazy thing about this is that I can believe God is good in bad times - but I'm a little suspicious about why He's being so intimately involved in my life. Why me? It's hard for me to accept any of this as unconditional and undeserved love with no strings attached. My attitude about all this is a surprise to me.

I guess I should learn that God is not predictable, explainable, or containable.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Monday Morning Update 12.13.09

Another week has absolutely flown by. I haven't had any spare minutes this week for blogging, or anything else for that matter. I even missed running twice this week because of my crazy schedule. And it has to be crazy to make me skip running. I am frantically trying to finish painting a whole mess of plywood cutout scenes for Y(our) Hometown Christmas coming up next weekend. Unfortunately I have been working far too late at night. I was painting away and made a beard on baby Jesus. OOPS! That's an error that will have to be fixed tomorrow.

My 35th birthday came and went in a blur. Shawn got me a sweet electric guitar - now just to learn to play. Then the next night he cooked a beautiful steak dinner. I even managed to stay awake for the whole meal. Tonight he finished off the weekend with my favorite birthday cake - a ding dong cake.

Our band played in the Christmas Parade on Saturday. Here's the funny part - it was drizzling rain. I panicked about my really nice expensive Yamaha Motiff getting damp, so I covered it with a tarp. Then I slipped my hands under the tarp and played away. These are the benefits of being able to play without looking, I guess! The funniest moment was when the tarp was blowing away. I needed some way to anchor it, so I shoved one corner into my pants, then I reached over and tucked the other corner into my guitar guy's coat pocket. Quickly the vocalists came to my rescue with some duct tape. Love that stuff!

Services this morning were fantastic. We had a packed house. We finally broke the 100 mark. I am so excited to see so many new families seeking to find a way to serve at The Crossroads. I am loving church planting. I love that we are open and honest and find healing from our hurts together. I love that we pray for and with each other. I love that we find unmeasurable joy together.

Shawn preached another sermon in the Naughty or Nice series. My favorite point from this sermon is that the shepherds that received the news of Jesus' birth on that first night were keepers of the temple lambs. They understood the need for a sacrifice for our sins. That night they saw the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of all mankind. How incredible that must have been to see the Son of God!

Worship went well. It is good to see people engaging in worshipping God freely with emotion and expectation and gratitude and hunger and passion....Love it!

Today we had several families at our Peak 1 class. These families will be launching into journey groups in Anna after the first of the year. I can't wait to see how they will be able to engage other families as well.

Life is back to crazy again tomorrow. This last week before Christmas break will be busy, busy, busy. Love my life - even when it's insane!

Just a note: Ever notice how God gives you things that you never even actually asked for? Last week Katie asked me about what I wanted for Christmas. I mentioned some green jewelry and some more jogging pants. This morning at church a couple of friends were cleaning out closets and thought of me. What did they bring me? No lie - green jewelry and jogging pants. That was way too specific to be a coincidence, and yet it is bizarre that God would care about anything so very insignificant as jewelry or clothes. I don't know that I will ever be able to figure out God and how He works.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Monday morning update 12.7.09

The weekends fly by way too fast. It was crazy this weekend with parties, church, community, and school events. Of course I love all the craziness in my life. I love that I know so many people in our town. I can't wait to sell our house and get relocated.

We had a great service this weekend. I was beginning to wonder if we would need more chairs. I love all of the new families who are making The Crossroads a part of their life.

Worship was good. I liked Fee's version of " joy to the world", and Hillsong's "Mighty to Save". Our invitation, "Grace Like Rain" is one of my favorites. Don't know why exactly, but I like playing it and when I sing along, I am more often on pitch than off.

Shawn's new message series, "naughty or nice" is going to be interesting. He's talking about God & does God keep a good and bad list. True confession (sorry babe) I had trouble getting past the title and focusing on the message. I thought Shawn said during pillowtalk that it was nice to be naughty.

We have a busy week this week. Gonna be working hard to prep for Christmas light show coming up. Painters, anyone?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The secret

It's been nearly a week since I've had time to sit down and blog. The words in my head are taking over. It's quite noisy in my brain tonight. There are several pieces waiting to be written, but I don't know when I will get caught up. Right now I am blogging from my phone in my dark bedroom listening to the snores of my husband.

Life in the second year of church planting is so busy that it makes the first year look like an easy part time job. I have not invested nearly enough quality time in my family over the last several months as I would like. So tonight I had tons to do, but chose instead to walk away for a few hours to take my oldest daughter, Grace out for the evening.

On our way to the movies, Grace began to talk about her friends who have divorced parents. She talked about their brokenness and hurt over the fighting and manipulation that often happens. She was concerned about a child having to split up holidays. Finally she looked at me and said, "What's the secret to staying married forever and crazy in love like you and dad?"

It was neat to share with her my secret to staying married. Here it is: stay married. That's the secret. Don't give up. Keep looking for ways to communicate love to your spouse. My husband hears "I love you" very differently from me. He needs absolute respect from me. Absolutely always treating his opinions as important, speaking to him in a tone of voice that is respectful, and telling him often how amazing he is. His other love language is service - he feels loved when I wash the dishes, or mop my kitchen. And the other way he feels loved? Well, he is a guy...

On the other hand, he tries as hard as he can to communicate love to me in a way that I understand. I like quality time. I love when we go on dates, or even just sit together in the floor by the fireplace and have a cup of coffee. I also like thoughtfulness - a cup of coffee at work, my favorite snack in the cabinet, a full tank of gas.

So I tried to explain to Grace that the secret to my good marriage is a lot of hard work by both of us. There are other factors: common values, shared faith, good chemistry. However, I would say that being determined to show my husband love in a way that he understands, whether he earns it or not, and him doing the same for me, is the secret to it all.

We had a great night. I know that tomorrow will be rough when I have to catch up on the things I dropped tonight, but I wouldn't trade tonight for a million bucks. Just our conversations about relationships were priceless, in addition to having fun together.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


One of the things that Shawn mentioned today in his sermon was how often Jesus "looked" or "saw" in scripture. His eyes were always open, and His life was always available. This afternoon, I reluctantly slid into my running shoes and cracked open the door to greet a cold, wet run. I was not excited about this at all. Boy, was I wrong. I had not run long when I heard God remind me to look. Normally as I run, God speaks and I listen, or I vent and God listens, but today as I ran I just looked.

When I looked, I saw the amazing beauty of creation. I mean, really saw it. I felt like a blind woman who has suddenly been given back her sight. I looked at the trees in my neighborhood. Every tree is unique. There are trees with red leaves, trees with brown leaves, trees with no leaves, and trees with green leaves. There are thin, tall trees, short, fat trees, old, gnarled trees, leaning trees, baby trees, ornamental, well-groomed trees, and dying trees. I watched stormy black clouds roll into the sky and noticed the variety in the clouds. I felt the cold drops of rain stinging my lips and realized that each drop of rain only has the opportunity to fall one time.

I watched darkness envelop my community and Christmas lights come on, one house at a time. As I listened to some Norah Jones and Kenny G at the end of my run, I was awed by the beauty of the Christmas lights against God's masterpiece of creation. As beautiful as the lights were, they did not match the beauty of what God had created.

I am so grateful that at this season in my life I have finally discovered running. There are not words to describe the sensual feeling of wind whipping my hair, rain trickling down my skin, and music playing in my ears. I return from every run relaxed and ready to tackle life again. Running reminds me that I am more than a career, a mom, a maid, or a wife. I am a woman - a piece of God's valuable and beautiful creation. For all of my flaws and mistakes and craziness, God loves me more than I can ever grasp or understand. As a raindrop splashed against my lips tonight, I was reminded that like a raindrop only falls once, my life can only be lived once. I want God to use it for His honor and glory. Make it count.

Monday Morning Update 11.30.09

We had a great weekend at The Crossroads. Attendance was down, as is typical on a holiday weekend. Lots of people were traveling home today or trying to catch up around the house after being gone all week. But it was also good to see some other people that have been out for awhile.

Shawn preached a great message about being thankful for all things. He told a story about when our kids were just toddlers, and I created a big paper turkey. We wrote down things on feathers that we were thankful for and attached them to the turkey. Grace was two at the time, and she was incredibly thankful for kool-aid. That story brought back lots of memories for me. I remember trying very hard to create "magic moments" with my babies. We were poorer than dirt. We were on welfare while Shawn was finishing up his master's degree. We figured out that it would cost me about a hundred dollars a month to work, so I stayed home with our three children. I would not trade those years for anything. I learned to find creative ways to create magic for my kids, whether it was taking a ziplock bag to the park to collect nature items to investigate, or painting the bathtub with shaving cream, or playing "pooh sticks" on a little bridge on the seminary campus.

I am thankful this season most of all for my family. When I listen to the crazy chaos in my kitchen of my four children fighting for air time at the table, or my little girl asks me to sing her "The Angel Song," or my son makes a new joke, I am reminded that I am rich beyond measure. As I listened to my husband speak, I was reminded all over again about the crazy chain of events that had to occur for us to even meet. God had a great plan for my life, and I can't wait to see where the rest of my life will go. So far, it has been beautiful and rich beyond my wildest dreams. Sometimes I can't believe that I get to live a life that's even better than "Happy Ever After."

After church, we were able to enjoy Thanksgiving lunch with our church family. I was moved beyond words as I looked around the room and saw so many people that are a part of my life that I did not even know 18 months ago. I was amazed as I watched the people in the room, and realized God's hand in bringing us all together. I cannot imagine life getting better than it is at this moment, but God is not finished yet. And being a part of God's great masterpiece of life is incredible.

Friday, November 27, 2009

An Arkansas Thanksgiving

For the first time ever, my school was out all week for Thanksgiving break. This was awesome, giving me the opportunity to go hunting with Shawn. I had not been in 20 years, but I wanted to take Grace so that she could experience it, so that she could make a decision for herself about hunting. We dropped off the two younger girls with my mother-in-law and headed to deer camp for a few days.

I enjoyed spending time with my family and came away with some amazing deer stories of my own. Spending time in the woods has long been one of my favorite activities. I loved watching individual leaves spinning to the ground to gently land in puddles. I guess one of the best afternoons was the one I spent fishing with Grace. We squealed as we caught crickets to bait our hooks, and we squealed some more as we took turns taking each other's fish off our hooks. We're both squeamish about touching the fish. However, we laughed and joked and relaxed and had a great time. I'm loving making the transition into a mentoring friendship. I am sure there will be some hard teen years ahead, but I am also looking forward to this new phase in our relationship.

The funniest part of the trip was the excitement of all the males in my life about my deer hunting. You would've thought I had won a million dollars. My husband said about the whole experience, "I wouldn't have been more surprised if I'd woke up with my head sewed to the carpet." Totally cracked me up.

At Shawn's family's Thanksgiving dinner, we ate tons of great food, then moved to the carport to finish packaging deer meat. (For my tree hugger friends who have issues with hunting, think of it this way - my children will be eating antibiotic and hormone free, totally organic, lean meat.) As we were packaging the meat, I looked up to realize I was surrounded by all of Shawn's uncles. Through the fog of smoke emanating from their cigarettes and the sound of tobacco juice hitting the pavement, they were slapping me on the back and asking for my story and retelling their greatest hunting exploits. I felt like I had passed some sort of secret ritual to join a very secret club. It was certainly very strange, but strange in a good way.

I am glad that I gave hunting a second chance. I loved being outdoors and spending time with my family. It was great to slow down and let life come to a complete halt for a few days. It was amazing to just be still. For my only goal to be absolute stillness and quietness. I did not hear God speak into my stillness like I expected, but it was instead as if He was just being still with me. Like He was showing me how it feels to be quiet with someone you awkward silence, just companionable quiet.

Now I am back home, back into my crazy busy life. I have tons to do to prepare for out of town company coming in tomorrow. I also have lots to do to get ready for school on Monday. And so, my life is back to normal.

A very late Monday Morning Update

I have used being out of town as an excuse for avoiding this week's Monday morning update, but truthfully I have had horrific writer's block. It is hard to know what to say about this week at The Crossroads, because I was the speaker. It is a role that I'm very comfortable with, but rarely do. However, God has spoken to me strongly in recent months about why missions is important and about trying to share that with others. So Shawn gave me some air time Sunday to share just a little bit about what God's been showing me.

It is impossible to fit 6 months into 20 minutes, but basically I shared Is. 58 and Mt.25 as guidelines for mission work. I have come to understand that serving others is worship, that serving others is serving God .... ministering to Him, and that serving others is loving God. I always believed in missions for the sake of evangelism - which is critically important, but I did not understand until recently that serving others is exactly the same as loving God. That puts a whole new spin on doing good.

I talked some about our Mexico mission trip to an orphanage at Christmas. I was amazed that within 48 hours all 200 of our orphans that we wanted to provide Christmas for had been sponsored. I have heard from people all week seeking to apply Is. 58 and Mt. 25 to their lives - whether that looks like ministering to family members in need, or researching ways to provide clean water to 3rd world countries, or buying items for those in dire need. I was overwhelmed and very humbled that people sincerely took what I said literally and began looking for ways to immediately build service into their lives. I frankly did not expect immediate results. I expected this to just be the beginning. The very tip of a huge iceberg that would take months for people to grasp. I was actually slightly disappointed in my presentation of what I had to say. It had sounded so much more polished and less random in my head, but I am continuing to pray that God will take my scattered thoughts and help people to understand His heart.

Then there's all the usual stuff to say - music was incredible, I loved hanging out with old and new friends, and Shawn did a beautiful job with the communion at the end of the service.

Friday, November 20, 2009

the Twilight love affair

I read the Twilight books. All of them. For the most part, I enjoyed them. I will say that I felt like the romance side of things was a bit cheesy, but well geared for the teen target audience. I watched the first movie. I was not impressed with the acting or the decision to stray from the book on details, but it was a fairly enjoyable show. My pre-teen daughter, predictably was much more enthralled with the movie.

With the arrival of the latest movie, New Moon, I am going to go out on a limb and risk angry friends. All day long I have heard from church friends, school friends, and students' moms about how anxious they are to spend two hours checking out this guy. I am deeply concerned by the level of obsession and lust that is prominent among married women my own age, and even my parents' age, over this teenage boy. My own daughter and her friends level of interest concerns me a little bit as well.
Here are my concerns - take them as you will:

1. It is fiction. My daughter and her friends compare boys to Edward. I heard a friend say, "My boyfriend did .......and that's just like that time Edward did......" Real, healthy relationships are much better, much deeper, and much more incredible than Twilight.

2. Women seriously seem to compare their husband to this teenage vampire. "He is just so interested in what Bella is thinking....he's interested in more than just sex." Yes, you are exactly right- he wants to eat her for supper.....You are not doing your husband any favors by comparing him to an imaginary person. This is IDENTICAL to your husband expecting you to look like Jennifer Anistan.

3. Unfaithfulness begins in your mind. Lusting for a young onscreen teenage character leads to lustful thoughts away from the screen. Thoughts produce actions. I am creeped out to even contemplate women my age checking out my teen son. That's just absolutely weird! I have heard multiple women verbalize daydreams about making out with Edward. I cannot grasp how this is any less wrong than your husband watching porn. Lust is lust is lust.

4. I am concerned that my daughter and her teen friends are looking for a guy just like Edward. Let me summarize - because he wants to protect her - Edward is possessive to the extreme. He wants to know her thoughts. He watches her while she sleeps. He follows her and wants to spend every waking moment with her. Let me clarify - this is not love - this is freaky and called stalking. The whole he holds her all night and enjoys making out w/out sex.... that's just a lie. Men cannot do this. It is physically impossible for them to makeout and not want it all. That's how God designed them. If my daughter thinks this is typical male behavior, she will be in for a horrible shock.

5. I am also concerned that Edward's "loving" overprotectiveness will encourage young girls to accept abusive relationships as normal. I am concerned that they will find it romantic to be owned. I want my daughter to realize that true love sets you free to be who God created you to be. Men who obsess and try to control you are not what you are looking for.

So those are my thoughts. I fully plan to go watch the movie. I expect to enjoy the show. I truly do like the Twilight books and am anxious to see this movie. But I expect my only lustful thought that night to be about the guy that has shared my life for the last 16 years. A teenage boy cannot even compare to the real love that I have with my husband. It is laughable to even imagine that level of love to be anything that I would desire or want.

It is not my intent to be rude or unkind, but just to express my concern about a double standard that exists with my women friends. They feel justified in lusting after movie actors and comparing their husbands to imaginary characters, but angry with their husbands for viewing porn - or even for noticing hot women actresses. I would say that if you expect purity from your husband, you have to expect it from yourself. Watch the movie, but don't wish that you could take Edward home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Forgetfulness can be a God thing

I had a single responsibility for youth group tonight - bring the masters of the cutouts we are painting for Christmas. The folder was absolutely necessary to sketch out more drawings to paint. Muy importante! Of course, the folder is still on my table.

Since I forgot the all important folder, most of the adults who showed up to paint ended up visiting instead. 3 adults made decisions for Christ. 2 decided to go on our mission trip. And looks like we have at least 2 more homes available for journey groups after Christmas.

I saw community. I saw family. And I was stunningly awed by how God is orchestrating this whole thing. Forgetfulness can be a great thing.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Monday morning update 11.15.09

I don't have much to say today. I enjoyed my children's lesson. I liked getting to tell the story instead of wathing the video. Our story was about The rainbow - God's faithfulness.

I heard that worship was incredible and the sermon was great.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Samaritan Inn

It was the heat of summer. The hottest days last year in North Texas. The young stay-at-home mom was recently divorced, left with an empty bank account and a mountain of unpaid bills. Her home was foreclosed on, and she had no family. She wanted to work, but did not have anyone to keep her two baby girls - ages 3 and 18 months. A woman used to better circumstances, she was reduced to living in her car with her small children. She heard about Samaritan's Inn and decided to try to get in.

Unfortunately, the Inn is the only homeless shelter in Collin County (population 600,000). They remain at capacity all the time since the need is great, and the rooms are few. When spots become available, they are given away on a first come - first served basis. The young mom tried to get a bed for her and her babies. Day 1 - no luck. She sat on the park bench out front in the heat all day long, with the hot sun beating down on her babies, because she did not want to miss out on an opportunity to provide a meal and shelter for her babies. If she left, someone else might get the next available bed. At four, the shelter stopped accepting applicants, so she returned to her car. Day 2....Day 3....Day 4..... The cycle was repeated. She came early to make sure she was first in line. She was determined to provide a safe environment for her babies - No matter how long she had to wait in the hot Texas sun on a park bench. On the fifth day, a resident left and she got a room for her family.

I saw this woman and many others with similar stories today as I attended volunteer orientation at The Samaritan Inn in Mckinney, Texas. I was absolutely impressed by the facility and by their philosophy about how to help homeless people redeem their lives and start anew. I love how they attempt to restore dignity to these people who have lost everything. Some people are in the shelter as a direct result of foolish choices they have made. Others are in the shelter because sometimes life just sucks, and you have a rotten string of circumstances. Whatever the reason, the shelter works with them to find jobs, learn to budget their money, receive their GED (if needed), and get back on their feet.

The volunteer opportunities are almost unlimited - They depend on donations of toilet paper, dog food, diapers, ziplock bags, personal hygiene products, really anything you can imagine..... They need volunteers to help tutor adults for their GED, tutor children with their schoolwork, babysit babies while their moms look for a job, supervise the computer lab and assist residents with their online job searches, do filing and administrative work in the office, sort donations, restock supply closets, work at the thrift store, do yard work, paint, clean......

My favorite thing though, is the adopt an apartment program. When residents finally get a job, many of them cannot find an apartment to live in due to bad credit that resulted from their financial distress before they became homeless. The shelter owns Gateway Apartments. Residents are allowed to live in one of these for up to 18 months while they are restoring their credit and saving up enough cash for deposits, etc. Apartments are furnished by volunteers. Groups buy everything from towels, to kitchen wares, to furniture, to toys for the children. They decorate the apartment, then get the privilege of handing the key to the resident. But here's the best part - when the resident leaves, they keep it all. They now own all of the household goods that they need to start over. Then the apartments are adopted and furnished again.

I'll admit that I cried all the way back to Anna. I hurt so badly for the 40 children who are currently at the shelter. The row of baby chairs and the stacks of sippee cups in the dining hall broke my heart. However, I am excited that God showed me an opportunity to demonstrate love to people in need. I like that volunteering my time, or donating items to the shelter or the thrift store, can help to completely change a person's life. I am excited that God uses us to carry out his purposes in other's lives. I love that God lets us be involved as he redeems people's pasts and gives them new futures.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


If you don't know what a smattering is, it is wide-spread, scattered stuff. It's when your thoughts are all over the place - short of like shooting a shotgun instead of a rifle. Some nights when I sit down to blog, I am shooting a rifle. I have a very distinct goal, thought, or purpose. Other nights, it's a shotgun - I'm firing off lots of stuff all at once. Random thoughts - A smattering. Try to keep up with my randomness. It may take some effort.

Today at school we had a Veteran's Day program. (A day early, yes I know) The program was great. What struck me as I stood there listening to the veterans speak and hearing the children sing, was the sacrifices of women that I know. I have a student whose dad has been overseas in hot zones most of my student's childhood. I have another teacher friend whose husband has been stationed overseas most of their marriage. I saw faces of several other students whose moms are single, not by choice and not by divorce, but because their husbands are fighting in a conflict that began before my first graders were born. I was overwhelmed with emotion by the sacrifices these families make for their country. Whether you agree or disagree with the conflict, you have to admire these women who are doing an amazing job holding things together all alone. I was thankful today to call some of these women my friends. I count it as a great privilege to be involved in their children's lives.

Then tonight was small group. I am going to confess that tonight I was tired, and my house was dirty. I was not terribly excited about it being Tuesday night. Then it turned out to be a beautiful night with people who are not friends, but have become family. I love discussing God's Word with them and listening to their input and thoughts. As I listened to their burdens before we prayed, I realized that it is indeed a beautiful thing to get to carry their needs before our God. I love that while we do not pretend to have it altogether, we are still quick to point out where God is working in our lives. I also appreciated that as I shared some of my vision and heart for what's next for me as far as missions and ministry and asked for prayer, nobody laughed at my giddy excitement. They asked questions and wanted to find out how to become involved with me. They were excited and affirmed my thoughts and vision.

Tonight at small group, we found out that on our Mexico mission trip in December we will be ministering in an orphanage to 150 children. That means we need to provide Christmas gifts for 150 children. That's a lot for a church our size. We expect to have complete details within the next week about ages and sizes. Please pray about how God can use you to provide Christmas for these needy children. I love our church, that we continually seek to reach out to others. Service is worship. Loving the needy is worship. Ministering to orphans is worship. This is how we love God. Loving the least of these. (Matt. 25)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Monday Morning Laugh

Many of my readers are close personal friends who know and love me. For those readers who do not know me well, you must understand that my friends live to laugh at me. I have never quite outgrown that clumsy and awkward stage we all went through in puberty. I still fall down, run into objects, crash into doorways, and have total ditsy moments. I would love to be graceful, sophisticated, beautiful, and athletic. However, God did not design me exactly like that. Fortunately my husband finds it preciously and adorably attractive (don't know why?) and my friends seem to love me anyway. Since so many of you love a laugh at my expense, I'm going to share a story from the other night.

I've been having to run after dark since the time change. The other night, I was running through a particularly dark spot on my road while listening to the new Kutless album. To understand this story, you will need to listen to "It is Well," especially the first few seconds before the full bands kicks in.

As I was listening to those first few moments of the choir singing, I heard footsteps. Remember that the street was dark, and I was alone. The footsteps grew increasing louder. I began to freak out. I decided that a stalker was about to nab me. I screamed and turned around ready to fight off whoever dared to attack me. The street was empty. I was confused - I knew I had just heard footsteps. Then I heard a door open. I realized that the door opening and the footsteps were sound effects on the Kutless song. I was totally and completely scared out of my mind by "It is Well." Now I can't listen to it without busting out in laughter.

Great album, by the way. Definitely worth the 10 bucks. However, I will say that I slightly prefer the new Crowder "Church Music" album.

Monday Morning Update 11.8.09

It was an amazing weekend. I spent Saturday at a local balloon festival, helping out where I could, and hanging out with friends. The band I'm in, "Chasing Lions", played as well. There was lots of cool stuff happening that I could share, but the thing that really stood out to me was the sense of community. When we began preparing to launch The Crossroads, we surveyed hundreds of homes to ask them what was the greatest community need. Every survey stated in some form that they did not feel connected to other people, they wanted community.

So Saturday, I watched families mingle and visit. I heard parents say, "I think our kids are in the same class." I saw neighbors meeting neighbors. All day, I hugged on kids from school and talked with parents. At the end of the day, as I sat on a blanket in the field to watch the fireworks (wow), Shawn and I talked about how thankful we were to be church planters. We are so thankful to have completely done away with the concept of church being about a building, but instead to find church being about loving people outside the walls.

We had great services at The Crossroads today. We had a family reunited after several weeks of living in different states due to job transitions. It was incredible to watch them hold hands as they worshiped. Their thankfulness was contagious. Every week that I stand on stage and scan the congregation, I am increasingly thankful for each family. My awe of what God has done and is continuing to do continues to grow.

Worship was good this morning. We were going to be without a drummer this morning because Tammy was working in the children's area. I was feeling whiny about that since the music that we do is much better with drums. As I expressed that to God, I had a very clear impression of his voice in my head, "You have not because you ask not." So I'm thinking, "Okay, who can I ask? There's nobody here except my family." At that moment a new member walked out of the truck carrying a ficus tree. He's been helping me run cables on the stage, and the other day I saw him set up the drums. So I asked, "I know you can set up drums, can you play them, too?" He said, "No." I am not easily deceived and can be very convincing. So he was persuaded to try. He took a percussion class 16 years ago in college. Some of it seemed to have stuck. I was thankful to have someone sitting in for Tammy, but mostly I was awed that God had a plan and let me be a part of it. I love how God provides in the moment of need.

Shawn preached a great sermon this morning about seizing opportunities for Christ. I was very convicted that my routine keeps me from seeing God opportunities. I think that I set myself on autopilot and forget to be aware of God's hand around me. One of the verses Shawn used today was Eph. 5:17, "Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do." I have always applied that verse to rudeness, unkindness, or ignoring other people. But today I thought about how much of my life I live thoughtlessly - on autopilot - and I think that I need to make a point to live my life with great thought and awareness.

The entire sermon, God spoke to me about my future in ministry, and his specific plans regarding that. I have several opportunities immediately ahead of me that I feel a very urgent call and need to explore. Pray that I will be available, and that I will listen closely to God's voice, and be quick to obey.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Light can make me blind

The time change really messed me over with my running. By the time I get home and changed, I am having to run after dark. I live in a safe, good neighborhood- but I still run hard between streetlights to try to stay in well lit areas.

Tonight I was running down an especially dark stretch of road, when I looked up and saw stars - billions of stars. I noticed that under the street lights I could not see the stars very well.

It made me think about how plainly visible God has been to me during dark times. Many times all I could see were the shadows around me and just enough of the road in front of me to make my next step. But God was present and powerful.

Then there are times when life seems easy. I can see clearly and know what to do and am in control. But God has been forgotten.

As I was worshipping with my new kutless album, I began to pray that I would be brave enough to face the unknown. I prayed that I would live in God's presence even if the shadows are a little scarier and the path is a little more confusing at times.

In case you wondered, I do not set off on my run expecting any new truths or insights. I generally am just seeking release from stress. It is typically around the end of the first mile that I have processed my day and my mind becomes totally still. That is when God speaks. It reminds me of the importance of finding time to be still - even if you are not a runner.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Loud. Crowded. Chaos. Screaming. Shoulder punching. Squealing. Noogies. Eating. Lots of eating.

That's the scene that greeted me tonight as I walked into youth for the first time. I have picked up my kids once or maybe twice, but I had never spent the entire evening. Tonight since we were going to be working on our Christmas lighting display, I decided to tag along.

It was a beautiful sight. There were more kids than I could count. I tried. There were even some parents who came to help out with the work. I got to visit with some new people that I haven't had the chance to hang out with and had the chance to visit with some old friends, too.

It was beautiful to see the kids hanging out, talking, bonding, and taking pride and ownership in a church-wide project. This is an amazing weekly event that I had no idea was so big and so cool!!!!

Then there was also the plus side that I got to spend the night at my husband's side working. For a chick that mostly just needs quality time to feel loved, that was pretty awesome - no conversation needed.

What a fantastic night. Hope I can make it a more frequent habit.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sometimes it's just slow

This one's a quickie. Today I was reading some running stuff online. An expert stated that new research is showing maximum fat burning results when cardio follows weight training.

Now my typical routine is a minimum 3 mile run 3-4 days a week with a 1 mile sprint and brutal weight lifting the other 3 days. On occasion I will add yoga, or Tricia Murphy, or pilates after the weights.

So tonight I decided to try the expert advice and flip flop my workout so that cardio was last. The expert forgot to mention that after lifting weights your muscles are so fatigued that running sprints is not just hard, it's painful. My time was horrid, but I definitely felt the burn. I was totally hacked about my time.

As I was grumbling about my crappy time - hours later - God showed me a truth I have never considered. Sometimes when God lifts burdens from our lives or sets us free from sin it takes us some time to live as if we are free. Tonight I had so recently been weighed down that it was impossible to run with any speed. Sometimes I have experienced that in life as well. It reminded me to be patient with myself when i can only limp toward Christ when I feel like I should run.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Monday Morning Update 11.1.09

November already? How can that be? It was another busy and fun weekend at The Crossroads.

Saturday night The Crossroads sponsored a trunk or treat at one of the local banks. Shawn was the Incredible Hulk, and I was Wonder Woman. Pictures are all over his facebook page if you want to see what we looked like. I think his favorite part of the event was my costume. My favorite part of the event was watching community happen. Our people were visiting with people from the community, and neighbors were meeting each other and making new friends. I love that The Crossroads shares Jesus, but that we also seek to connect neighbors to one another. We want to build relationships, even if those people never come to The Crossroads.

We had tons of new faces join us today for worship. As I stood on stage, waiting for the opening video to finish, I looked at the people in the room. I am privileged to know people's stories. It's one of my greatest blessings of being in the ministry. I looked around and saw a woman battling a substance addiction, but then I looked again and saw a woman who has been sober for over 10 years love on her. It can't be an accident that God brought them together. I saw couples struggling for their marriage, and I looked around the room and saw couples that God has redeemed their marriages and thought that it can't be an accident God connected those families. I saw many terrible and ugly issues in people's lives, but I also saw others in the room who have fought the exact same battle, and walked away whole. As I looked at the crowd, I was awed that God had orchestrated events so precisely at that very moment so that people were connecting with exactly the right people at exactly the right time.

Shawn baptized a young boy today who recently became a believer in Jesus Christ. When Shawn asked him if he had made Jesus the leader of his life and the forgiver of his sins, the little boy said, "I swear." Then he refused to let Shawn dunk him, and instead dunked himself face first in the little bitty portable baptistery (think medium sized wading pool). It was awesome! I love kids!

Loved worship today. We did a new Crowder song, "How he loves." It is one of many new songs on the Crowder album "Church Music" that I really like. I've enjoyed running to the Crowder album this week. I am so excited as I watch where God is taking us as a band. Some cool stuff on the way.

Shawn preached another amazing sermon in the series "Chase the Lion." He talked about taking risks in order to follow Christ. That is not the same as taking risks for the sake of being risky. But following Christ often involves a great deal of travel into the unknown, and that can be terrifying for those who need to know all the details up front. One of Shawn's all time best lines that I use all the time comes from this sermon. He was talking about Peter walking on the water. Yes he sank for a few minutes, but he was the only disciple that day who walked back to the boat on the water alongside Christ. Shawn says, "I'd rather have wet underwear from walking with Christ than splinters in my butt from sitting in the boat." LOVE that line!

I am excited about where God is going with The Crossroads as he brings in new people, and calls and gifts existing members for more extensive ministry commitments. There's lots and lots of amazingly awesome stuff bubbling just under the surface. I can't wait to see where God is going with it all.

On a personal note - for those of you who are keeping up with my quest to create a healthy body that is ready in an instant to go when God says go - Tonight I ran 3 miles!!!!!! The whole 3 miles. No stops, no rest, no pauses, just running and running and running. My time was slow. My speed was a creepingly slow shuffling run. But it was a run. I was so proud of myself. When I started running in June, I struggled to complete a 60 second running interval. Tonight I ran for 42 minutes without stopping. Yes, I stood under the street light for a few minutes and cried. They were tears of joy, accomplishment, and even pain. When I stopped, my legs have never been so weak and shaky. It was all I could do not to collapse in the street.

When I started my run, my intention was to go a mile. Than I wanted to see if maybe I could go just another half mile. Then 2 miles. Then I realized I might be able to run the whole thing. The last mile was sheer grit and determination as I placed one foot in front of the other. My form was sloppy, my gait wobbly, my breathing ragged, but I finished. It makes me think that sometimes following Christ is like that. There are days in my Christian walk that I do more and go places that I never thought I could, and sometimes the only way to get there is with absolutely sheer determination that no matter what, I will follow. I will not stop seeking God. I will pursue my God. I will not be deterred.

In this quest for physical fitness, pray that I will not be confused about my goal. While weight loss is exciting and buying small clothes is cool, it is not my purpose. My purpose is to create a body that is fit enough to be able to say yes to anything God needs me to do. The longer I work out, and the more results I see, the harder it is for me to maintain a wise and healthy perspective on my body. It is incredibly challenging to see beauty instead of my physical flaws. I am thankful for a specific girlfriend who is quietly counting my calories during the week - to make sure I'm eating. And who is lovingly confronting me when I lose my perspective, become consumed with my flaws, fall off into stupidity and don't eat. I have learned that an eating disorder can be managed, but it rarely disappears. It is a monster that lives in a closet in my head. Most of the time the closet is chained, locked, and guarded and the monster is silenced. But on occasion it breaks free and has to be subdued all over again. I am lately reminded of how great my God is that He can bring healing and freedom to the darkest of our darknesses.

Wow, I really wandered off onto a tangent there. And it's all online. That's some pretty heavy stuff right there. I am not hitting delete simply because I feel strongly impressed to share my struggles tonight.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Granny's piano

On Sunday, our congregation gave Shawn and me a gift and individual cards to express their appreciation for our service at The Crossroads. When I opened my card in the car on the way home, I started to cry. You see, it has a picture of my Granny's piano on the cover. The place where I learned to love music.

Granny was about 4'11'', and her shape was quite round. She was delightfully soft and fluffy for a little red-headed girl who loved to sit in her lap and listen to stories and songs.

She lived in Memphis, about an hour and a half away from Jonesboro, where I grew up. She was single, divorced in an era when nice women didn't get divorced. She lived with my uncle for most of my childhood in an upstairs apartment in his home, later on she had a trailer close to her teaching job at a Christian school. We made the trek to see her on occasion, and she lived with us sometimes during the summers while my parents worked or went back to school to get their Master's degrees.

She taught me how to sew, how to crochet, how to make braided rag rugs, and how to tell when yeast rolls have risen to the perfect height to be baked. She let me stir her jelly, and told me stories. We made paper chains, cut out paper dolls from catalogs, and quilted my first nine-patch quilt for my barbie dolls. We sat side by side on the couch and spent lazy summer afternoons stringing cheap beaded necklaces, playing checkers, and simply reading away the afternoon. I read novels, she read her Bible. We shucked corn, shelled green beans, and planted flowers. At night she shared my canopy bed, and told me stories and scratched my back until I fell asleep. Those were delightful times. I was always sad to see her go.

But most of all, Granny loved music. In her younger years, she had a nice voice. By the time I came along, it had faded to a dim warble. She played the piano and the organ for her church. When I would go to stay with her some during the summers, I loved to go to her office at school. In her office, in a corner was a tiny white piano. It only had about 60 keys, and the paint was fading. I was taking lessons, and she would encourage me when I was frustrated. "Reese, you just got to learn a measure a time. Play that first measure till you get it right, then add the next. Tackle the song just one measure at a time." Is that not a great life lesson? How many things in life are too big to attack all at once? And how many things can be accomplished when you take it just one tiny piece after one tiny piece?

When I was 9, my family moved to Memphis for a season. It was a horrific move for us. I learned to hate school, and times were hard. My parents chose to continue my piano lessons with my Granny rather than with another teacher, even though it meant a 30 minute drive across town. Those 30 minutes were the best part of my week. As I sat on that bench with Granny as my teacher, I learned some great, but tough lessons. She was adamant that I would learn to play without looking at the keys. I had to wear a paper apron that covered the keys so that I could not see my fingers. There were many sour notes, but I did finally learn to play. It was a hard, many tears shed, type of lesson. However, it opened the gateway to a whole new level of playing. When you no longer need to look at your fingers, you can concentrate on reading much more complex music. Today it is one of the most valuable skills I possess. Being able to play without my sight frees me up to completely release in worship with my eyes closed. She taught me about perseverance - and about trusting my ability. More great life lessons.

Then there were the days that I came to lessons when we just chatted, or she would pull out old hymns and sit beside me and sing in her warbling voice as I haltingly played along. She began to teach me about God's love for me, and expressing love back to Him in music. There were times when she was busy with students who stopped by in distress and needed counseling, and I kept myself busy at the piano. Busy while I learned the importance of loving people even when they interrupt something important that you are doing.

She gave away her life as a teacher. She touched countless numbers of students through her classroom, through tutoring, and through teaching piano. In her last few years, she lived with my parents, in the basement. She brought some of her favorite pieces of furniture with her - including that old white piano. When I went home to visit, I would sit down at that now out of tune instrument and play for her. I had long since out distanced her musically and studied under another teacher, but I don't know that anyone else ever used music to teach me how to live.

At the end of her life, after my parents divorced, she moved into an apartment close to my dad. I had the opportunity to go stay with her a little while when she was in the hospital. Katie was a baby. I did not get to tell her all of these things about how much she meant to me. She was too busy asking me about my family, and our ministry, and seminary. Then she would drift off to sleep while I held her wrinkled hand with the gold and silver ring with fruit on it that she wore in place of a wedding ring.

I did not see her again. Her funeral was an amazing celebration of her life by her students, her children, and her grandchildren. She was not a perfect woman by any stretch of the imagination. I come by my stubbornness and hot temper honestly. But she loved me, and taught me the love of music.....that love that leads me into God's throne room and brings me crazy joy.

Wonder what ever happened to that old out of tune white piano?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Monday morning update 10.25.09

Today at The Crossroads, Shawn talked about embracing uncertainty as he continued his "chase the lion" sermon series. It was excellent, as usual. He talked about what all the disciples would have missed if they had refused to follow Jesus and had stayed with their fishing nets. They would not have seen the lame healed and the blind given their sight and the dead raised. That made me think long and hard about what is fear causing me to miss?

Worship went well. We did some pretty familiar stuff this week. Playing through "God of this City" made me remember how big the need is in our city and how much I need to pray for God sized opportunities to reach our city.

Our small group enjoyed a fish fry out near the lake tonight. I really enjoyed hanging out with friends and relaxing for a few hours before starting another crazy week.

But my best part of the day was my hour I spent running this afternoon. As I headed out the door, I hit shuffle on my iPod and just said a quick prayer "God you pick the music today". It was one of my best running playlists that I've had since that first run in the rain. Crowder, switchfoot, audio adrenaline, Tomlin, and Jeremy Camp all mixed in with some 80's rock when I needed to run faster. Then there were also some slow love songs (Norah) that as they played, I was reminded of God's great love for his church- and for me.

My time today was horrible because I kept stopping to worship and sing. My peak of worship came when I stopped to say thanks for the great playlist and for His presence. In the importance of things in the world, the music on my iPod is irrelevant. And yet God was not too busy to meet with me. Who am I that he would love me like that? That's when I lost it.

Then the next song was a John foreman song about how Christianity is not about the Sunday morning show and the shoes that you wear. It's about justice and love and ministering to the broken, wounded, and homeless. (the least of these). That's when conviction hit me hard. I spent much more time contemplating which cute shoes to wear to church today than I did in looking for opportunities to minister to hurting people. I want my faith to be an all consuming lifestyle, but I struggle so much with getting caught up in "the show" on Sunday. What has to be done to make the show happen? Who needs me next? How can we improve the show?

Not that trying to create an optimal worship environment is unimportant, but I think I need to seek out more important questions. Who's hurting and needs some love? Who's desperate and needs encouraged? How can I love God by loving others? Please pray that I will learn how to live God's priorities. It doesn't come easy for me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A running epiphany

Wednesday night I was running in the rain when all of a sudden God connected all of these scriptures in my head. It was like a bolt of lightening in my brain. I got so excited and stunned and "why did I not see that" that I completely forgot to run for a few minutes. I came to an abrupt standstill in the middle of the street, in the rain, as I contemplated this truth.

In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus is asked what's the greatest commandment to which he replies, "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength. And the second is LIKE UNTO it. Love your neighbor as yourself."

As I meditated through that verse, I contemplated all those instructions about loving God. Love- how could it be that complex? Then I began to wonder about ways to demonstrate love to deity. How do you express your love to a such a being? Definitely through worship, adoration, and praise, but it seemed like God was showing me more. After all my husband loves me with his words and with his touch, but he also loves me by paying the bills and doing laundry and hanging out for a cup of coffee. Love is a many layered thing.

Then I thought through "the second is LIKE UNTO it" hmmm...reminds me of the "least of these" verse in Matthew 25. When we love the "least of these" we love Jesus. So loving our neighbor IS loving God. Who is our neighbor? That reminded me of the story of the good Samaritan. A man who showed us ministry to "the least of these."

The story of the good Samaritan reminded me of Jesus' meeting with the woman at the well. That reminded me that Jesus spent his ministry loving broken people.

All of this then raised the question, "how do I love my neighbor?" "how do I love the least of these?" that reminded me of all of the "one anothers" in scripture. "Put up with one another, forgive one another, exhort one another, pray for one another..." (there's bunches)

The "one anothers" are practical guides for how to love others. So here's my bottom line: practicing the one anothers toward the "least of these" is a Biblical way to show love to God.

Don't know if this makes much sense to anybody else, but the light sure came on in my head.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

As you go

Mornings begin early these days at my house. My alarm goes off at 4:20, then I snooze for 9 minutes before hitting the shower. After my shower, I stumble into my kitchen and make coffee. If I'm lucky I don't forget to add water, or grounds, or a filter. (all happened this week).

I rouse James who always sits straight up in bed, startled, and yells, "what?" We finish getting ready, and the two of us leave the house no later than 5:30 (after I've sent him back at least twice to brush his teeth) to head to football practice. James normally dozes on the way and leaves me alone with my thoughts.

Our crazy schedule leaves us without time to disciple our children. I find that I am unable to create any type of structured quiet time with my kids. I have felt guilty about this for a long time, but on Monday morning God reminded me that he does not mandate a devotional Bible, or a special program for discipling children.

This is the verse that popped into my head:
Deut. 11:19, "Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road and when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.

Then God's voice - "Are you not on the road? So talk to your son about me."

So I did. I shared with him some cool stories about Sunday, some things I had noticed in James 1 at church (see monday morning update). He engaged in the dialogue with a depth that only happens without an audience.

I realized that those moments in the car with my children count for kingdom purposes - whether we are laughing or being silly or talking about life. I want to use those moments with more intention.

I love that God's plan for discipling our children is easy and natural. Do it every chance you have, naturally. Watch for kingdom moments - moments to share God's truth, confess your faults, and pray with your kids. That is doable. Too bad it's taken me nearly 13 years as a mom to finally "get it".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Monday morning update 10.18.09

Today was an emotional day at The Crossroads. People were moved to tears of brokenness and astounding celebration during worship. God's Spirit was very visibly at work today.

Shawn preached another sermon in the encore presentation of "chasing the lion". He used a new technolgy in the sermon. He used youversion live. All of his sermon points and scriptures were online, with the capability for us to take our own notes and email back prayer requests. I liked being able to see a variety of translations of a scripture at the touch of a button. (the regular paper outlines were available as well)

James 1:4 struck me hard, especially when I read it from The Message. This is my paraphrase since I don't have it nearby -" don't try to get out of adversity prematurely. Allow it to do its job of shaping your character." I admit to frequently looking for shortcuts out of bad times. I do not spend time rejoicing over how those times are shaping my character.

I was also touched by James 1:1 "I James, a slave of God...." We introduce ourselves to strangers with labels. "Hi, I'm LaRissa, I teach first grade, or I'm the pastor's wife, or I play the keys, or I'm Katie's mom." I wish that I lived in such a way that I could honestly quote that introduction from James. And nobody laugh about hypocrisy.

As I mentioned earlier, God was really moving during worship today. It felt great to play again after being out last week. I will confess that I was very distracted by my pedal scooting around on the floor. It is amazing how something so minor can be so distracting. I enjoyed the morning,I was touched by others engaged in worship, but I was not awestruck in worship until Shawn and I were driving home.

As we talked through the day, I was touched by how hungry people at The Crossroads are for God. They sincerely want to be surrendered and obedient. They attend church looking for how God wants to change them. They expect to leave better people than when they arrived. I love how they are expressive and real about what God is doing in their lives. As Shawn and I talked, I was moved to worship because God allows me to be a piece of this beautiful thing. He allows me to watch Him work in big ways. I worshiped because I am not worthy, and yet I am used.

Thank you, God for using me for your kingdom. Help me to live so that I could say that I am your slave, without laughing because I know it's a stretch of the truth. Move in Anna. Draw people to your truth. Help us to want you desperately.

race for the cure

I've had a great weekend. The race for the cure 5k was amazing. Seeing 30,000 people come together to raise money for cancer research is a very real reminder that cancer affects us all. We have all lost someone we loved to the horrible disease.

As for running - well the sheer numbers made it nearly impossible. I did finally get out of the crowds by leaving the street and running through people's yards. Running on uneven ground and leaping over manhole covers left my feet a little sore.

I think next race I will arrive earlier and try to line up closer to the front. That way I could avoid some of the smooshing. I have a scrape on my side from the iPod my neighbor was holding. It was that crowded.

My favorite part of the race was seeing the signs on people's backs that told who they were running to honor or celebrate. I saw moms with pink survivor tags running alongside daughters, husbands with surviving wives, and even large extended families walking together. The saddest moment was when I was jogging down a sidewalk and passed a man in his forties running and crying. On the back of his shirt was a picture of his wife he had lost.

I entered the race to prove that I could run. I wanted motivation to work out. But what I found was one of the most touching and beautiful moments in my life as I saw people united around a single cause. Now I am looking for another race to run. I never dreamed that Shawn and I would be comparing calendars to see when I could schedule racing. How crazy life is sometimes!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Running this week has been tough. I have lost ground between days off sick, busy schedule, and traveling. Today I was especially frustrated that I could only manage three to five minute intervals of running. After all, my body should know that it's running a race on Saturday.

At 1.5 miles, I realized I was going to log in one of my all time worst run times. My perfectionist instinct said,"Quit. What's the point in finishing at this pace?"

However, I am nothing if not mule headedly stubborn. (persistent is the nice word.) I pushed on for 2 miles, then 2.5, then finally the 3.1. All the time that I was running, I was realizing how slow my time was and how painful and just plain hard the run was today.

As I was cooling down, frustrated and discouraged, I heard that small voice in my head again. This is what God said, "Just because the run is hard, just because the run is painful, just because it feels impossible, as if it can never be done - that does not mean that you cannot, should not, or will not be able run it. Endure."

I was again reminded that some days of our Christian walk are not earth shaking, amazingly beautiful moments. Some days are just hard. But just because they are hard does not mean that they cannot be faced, endured, and overcome.

I am thankful that God can do the impossible.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Catalyst 09

Catalyst '09 featured a stellar line-up of "famous Christians." I'll get to that term in a minute. I had the opportunity to hear Andy Stanley, Rob Bell, Francis Chan, Matt Chandler, Louie Gigglio, and many others. Worship was led primarily by Steve Fee, with other artists such as Aaron Keyes doing small segments.

I wanted to share some of the insights and some of the lessons that I learned over the weekend. I had not ever listened to Andy Stanley before, and I must say that I was impressed with his honesty and his depth. He preached about the story in Joshua 5 where the angel appears to Joshua. Joshua asks, "Are you for us or against us?" The angel answers, "Neither." I had always skimmed past this part of the story, but Andy Stanley made a great point here. We have life all mixed up when we are asking God, "Are you for US or against US?" The correct question about our life is "Am I living my life FOR GOD?"

When Joshua asked what he should do next, the angel replied, "Take off your shoes, you're standing on holy ground." These were the same words spoken to Moses. It seemed to me to be an affirmation of Joshua's ministry. It is also noteworthy that the first response of a leader has to be worship before it can be leadership. Falling in love with Christ is the first and most important aspect of leadership.

Rob Bell spoke on the importance of a leader observing a Sabbath day of rest. It has occurred to me that if God took a day off, maybe the pastor's family should as well. He also talked about the importance of preserving family and our relationships with each other. It was a great reminder, especially in my hectic life, of the importance of family time.

Lots of other great moments, but these are a couple of the best that have replayed over and over in my head since returning home.
1. Leadership begins with surrender and worship and loving God.
2. Family is first before ministry and a Sabbath is important.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Monday morning update 10.12.09

Today was an absolute blur for me at church. We arrived a little early so I could gather stuff up from my classroom that I needed for my lesson in children's. By the time I sorted it all out, the truck showed up to unload.

We unloaded at full speed, trying to give directions on the fly to some new peeps helping out. It was great to have extra help! As soon as the stage was set, and I helped with sound check, I flew into the gym to set up children's.

Using my available help, mostly small children, I got children's set up with about 10 minutes to spare. Then I helped get nursery ready to go.

The children's lesson about cooperation turned out fine. I wish it had been cooler, but the kids didn't seem to care that it was pretty cheesy. The three legged races were probably my favorite part of the lesson. I saw an important truth. When one of the partners stumbled and fell, the other one had to stop and help them up. Running was easier hanging on to each other. Life is kind of like that. It's easier to get back up again after a failure when there's a friend to encourage you. And hanging onto your friends for support helps you live better.

I haven't asked anybody really about the adult services. I'm assuming they went well. Most all of the band and vocals were there, so that probably made worship really awesome.

Shawn is still preaching his encore presentation of "chasing the lion". Those are some of my fav sermons. I'm sure they went over well today.

Bottom line - great services, but I was exhausted by running in fast forward. I am thinking there has to be a better way to streamline set up so that it's less crazy. Today I did not have any meaningful interactions with any adults at church. That was frustrating that setting up for worship and packing stuff away later got in the way of relationships - the most important thing.

However, it was a great day. We had lots of new faces, and we are so blessed by our new space. I can't wait to see God at work this next year.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Morning Update 10.5.09

Yesterday was our first Sunday at the local elementary school, Joe K. Bryant. It was wet and cold. The first day that we could not have done children's ministry outside, God provided us with a new location. I love how God always has awesome timing.

I am thankful that God provided us with an inexpensive meeting place for our first year. When no real estate was available, God opened the doors for us to meet at the cheer gym. It was a great beginning, but as we have grown it has been more challenging to accommodate the needs of The Crossroads. So now God has provided us with a new place to meet that has huge potential for continued growth.

I love how God manages to work out all the details better than I ever could. He is really awesome at doing big stuff in ways I could not dream of. Who would guess that we would be allowed into a closed facility, at a greatly reduced (still slightly expensive for us) rate?

This week Shawn preached an encore presentation of "Chasing the Lion". It is an amazing sermon that encapsulates our dream and vision for chasing big stuff. It's based off a book by Mark Batterson, "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day." Be sure to listen online soon at This is probably one of my all time favorites.

On a personal note, I find it easy to get caught up in the ordinary. I love to dream big dreams, but I lack follow through. I have big dreams and great intentions, but the ordinary stuff of life consumes my time and energy until there is nothing left. I am not sure how to shift gears so that the kingdom stuff gets done. I have several items on my agenda that God specifically convicted me about doing, that I seem to never find the time to get done.

During the worship service, it was cool to see how much better our acoustics are at the school. I loved the set-up, with the easy to see screen and the raised stage. As I stood watching people worship in that cafeteria for the first time ever, hands lifted high for the first time ever in that facility, I dreamed about and looked forward to the days to come.

Today it was humbling to walk the halls and hear the teachers that I work with express their joy and excitement that we are being allowed to meet at the school. It was beautiful to hear my head janitor express how glad he is that we have facilities to use and ask what else needed to be done to help us on Sunday mornings. I was touched when I logged onto the school's homepage and realized that The Crossroads is listed there as a calendared event (free advertising for every teacher, every parent, and every student that logs on). I cannot grasp how God would allow me to be a part of anything this unbelievably awesome, but I sure am glad He is!

Continue to pray for us in the following ways:
*That we and our members would be protected from Satan. It has been many, many years since I have been involved in warfare like this. He's attacked our health, our finances, our kids, our marriage, and my eating disorder is harder to fight than it's been since I was a young girl. It's tough being engaged in constant battle and having to be vigilant against the enemy, but also exciting that Satan is concerned about what's going on at The Crossroads. We must be headed toward big stuff.
*That we would find the time and energy necessary to minister to our community. To love them with abandon and passion. And to still have the time and energy left to love our family.
*That God would continue to bless the Crossroads financially. We are stretching to go into the new location and are expecting God to bless that faith. We are also anxious to be able to pay Worship Dude a salary that would allow him more freedom and flexibility to pursue his calling.

I appreciate those of you who continually pray for our family in this adventure we're on. I know many of you have shared with me how God has moved in your heart to drop everything and pray for us during moments of our greatest need. Thank you. I can't express how much that means to me, or how great the results are from your prayers. May God rain down his blessings on you and your family as well.