Day One Completed and on to Day Two!

This is me today.  I take horrible selfies.  Which makes sense, since I've never been a fan of having my photo taken. 

Last night, I ran to the grocery store to pick up some staples I knew I'd need to make wise eating choices for the next couple of weeks.  Then, I got cooking. 

I made "Egg Muffins" for this week's breakfast. - They are more like egg white omelets, minus the cheese. I'm wary about eggs, so I figured I could "down" this quickly to get more protein.  It was actually a pleasant breakfast food and would recommend it!

I made turkey burgers (no bread), quinoa (why didn't I try this earlier) and grilled veggies for dinner.  My daughter was out at a birthday party, so I managed to avoid the complaints over vegetables at the table.  My hubby managed to clean his plate, so that is good.  Actually, I originally had a bad impression of lean ground turkey and was SO pleased with this meal.  The burgers were really good on the grill and I'll definitely make this part of my meal rotation. 

Later, for a snack, I had toasted rice cakes with a little peanut butter.  Yum.  I took my vitamins before bed and tada!  Day One is accomplished.

Day Two
This morning I woke up ready for the day!  Got my morning routine started and prepared my Spark.  I managed to get my little boy dressed, throw food in the crockpot and eat breakfast before hitting the car for work  (In the past, I'd eat on the ride or stop at Dunkin's for a coffee and breakfast something...) I keep telling myself that I am changing habits, so I need to allow time to eat.  And eat right.

Breakfast:  2 Egg Muffins, 1/2 c oatmeal, 1 cup berries
Snack:  Grape tomatoes & 20 almonds
Lunch:  Leftover Turkey burger, grilled veggies, 1/2 c Quinoa and salad greens with light dressing

I'm learning to plan ahead.  I've packed a bag of healthy snacks and salad dressings to store it in the fridge at work.   So far, this is fun.  I'm learning a lot and discovering great new foods in the process.  

Advocare - Day One

Hello there!  I know I haven't kept up with my blog in YEARS, but I really didn't have the time.  Life and ministry kept me busy and I chose that over another obligation.  :)  WELL, I'm back for now.  I'm looking forward to writing posts about my journey through the Advocare 24-Day Challenge!

Today, I woke up at 5:25 am, ran downstairs and made my SPARK.  Since it was my first taste, I was surprised to see that I LIKE IT.  (That's what my son says when he likes the taste of something now...)  Brought my SPARK upstairs, took my shower and managed to finish it before I completed the morning routine. 

After getting my little Nelson up and dressed, I began assembling my breakfast and lunch.  As I cooked my breakfast, I got my salad and tuna together for lunch. It was a few minutes of hurried activity before I could get in my car and head to work.  In the midst of my day, I've had a TON of water.

Breakfast - 1 egg white (I later found out that I could have 4...)  1 cup of zucchini and asparagus, 1/2 cup of oatmeal and 3/4 cup of blueberries.  (I was guessing on the blueberries, since I wasn't sure about portions.  BUT this is a much healthier breakfast that I've eaten in years.

Snack - 1 banana and 20 almonds.  Then I had another spark 30 min before lunch.

Lunch - 1 green leafy salad and 1 can of drained albacore tuna.  I felt pretty full eating and saved my apple. 

So far...no crazy bathroom breaks, but many trips to the bathroom to rid all of the water I'm drinking! 

I've enjoyed reading about other challengers and seeing their recipes.  It gives me a little hope! 

It's Been a LONG Time!

We just passed through one VERY busy season. A time spent at rehearsals, at parties, out shopping and time spent with those most dear to us. - A time celebrating the birth of Jesus! I have heard many say that the “busyness” of the season was almost overwhelming for their families. They secretly wanted to hide away from the social functions, save their money, and spend time with their spouses and kids. The “most wonderful time of the year” filled up with more than they imagined calendars could hold.

Now, that may be a little dramatic…but I REALLY did listen in on those conversations. I actually found relief in them, because I wasn’t alone! Looking at my own calendar, I secretly wished I scheduled one less cookie baking session or social gathering for my family. All of those things left me quietly yearning…for Jesus.

“Be still, and know that I am God;I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.” Psalm 46:10-11

As we look to 2014, I pray that we’ll stop the running. Stop the people-pleasing. Stop the “doing-something-because-I-have-always-done-it”-activities in life. I pray that we’ll stop and lay ourselves at the feet of our amazing God. Empty ourselves and look to Him for sustenance, grace and purpose for each day.

As we do this, we cannot help but anticipate next Christmas and all the joy that it brings.

So Thankful...

I cannot tell you how excited I am to post this blog today! It as been a long time since I've been in the habit of blogging.  Time was needed to restore my creative juices again.  I am thankful.  Thankful for the past year, for the changes in my life and for the plans that God has in store for my future.  So, I'm ready to write again and share my world with those that are interested.

It has been the most spectacular morning.  Breakfast for the hubby, then biscuit making with my biscuit queen...and then, this!  Our newest tradition...a THANKFUL TREE!

The photos do not do it justice...but it was so fun!  I collected some dropped tree branches and twigs, placed the branches in an "upcycled" pickle jar with some raffia and other items around the house to create a rustic bow.  Gracie and I pulled out my old sqare paper puncher and got at it with random pieces of scrapbook paper. We punched holes in a corner of each square to create diamonds, strung some ribbon through them, and hung the pieces...





Gracie made a little banner for the mirror.  (Gotta have some kid art.)  And now, the best part!  Each day, we can write down what we are thankful for.  And so can any guest that walks through the door. 

Choose joy, choose thankfulness.  I wish you many blessings and love this Thanksgiving season.

Re-post: One of Those Days We NEVER Forget

I am re-posting this blog from 2009. For those personally affected by the tragedies of 9/11 - we support you.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

Today's one of those days. Days when the date triggers an event that changed our life forever. It is September 11th, 2001. I was at work at Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago. My co-workers hurriedly came to get me. We watched with great sadness the live footage of the destruction of the World Trade Center. "How could this be happening?" Heartbreak. Fear. Questions. Confusion.

On that day, I saw an incredible college campus jump into action. Moody Bible Institute, it's students and faculty, turned the campus into a house of prayer, an information center and sanctuary of sorts for the students. They also set up a phone calling center, so all of the students could call their family to let them know that they were okay, etc.

It was also at that time that the city of Chicago shut down. We were blocks away from the largest buildings in Chicago, so the city pretty much evacuated for safety measures.

It was a day when the government stopped the runaround and became people. The President among the rest of the Nation's Leaders stood up and cared for their people. We should be proud and never forget.

The whole day was an incredibly spiritual and eerie experience. Where were you on that day?
at Friday, September 11, 2009

Near or Far?

Recently, I've had the opportunity to participate in a new church start. This is my second round of assistance with a new church start. It is an amazing experience. People of every walk of life walk through the doors of the church and are embraced - for who they are. Period.

Every person has a background. Some know God. Others are far from Him. People matter to God and He loves all of us the same.

"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" - Matthew 5:46

I'm excited about more opportunities to develop new relationships and see lives impacted for God's glory.

Childlike Faith

My daughter was baptized last September. It was something she's thought about a lot. She asked lots of questions, created artwork around the topic, she even told her friends and family that they needed to be baptized. My daughter is seven. She was six when she asked to be baptized and...quite honestly, Momma wasn't ready.

So many questions ran through my mind, "What if she doesn't really 'get it'? "Will people think we forced her to make this decision?" "God, we could use the handbook on 'How to be a Christian Parent' right now!" Above everything, we wanted to honor God as a family. So, we set up an appointment and let her meet with our pastor.

At the meeting with the pastor, our vibrant daughter become the most quiet, sweet, shy girl we've seen. All of her answers about what baptism was about were hidden in her shyness and I thought, "oh no, maybe she's not ready"...but we proceeded anyway. And her daddy was given the opportunity to baptize her. What a treasure.

Now, several months later, I still wonder. "Does she truly 'get it'?" "Should we have made her wait?" Then, on an average day, I get incredible reminders of her child-like faith. Reminders like the photo below.

I'm trusting God for this. He knows what is best and it is exciting to see her faith grow!

What are some areas that cause you to "let go" and trust God?

Putting People in Boxes

Recently, a group of my friends and I gathered for a Girl's Night Out. We went to one of those places where you go and create a piece of artwork for a small price. We were having a great time, the night was almost finished...and someone made a mistake. Gasp! Imagine that, someone enjoying her friends on a fun night out, doing something she'd never attempted before and woops...got carried away.

Well, she asked the teacher for assistance and the teacher's response? "Stop what you are doing. There's no way to fix it. Sorry." Wow, all of us girl's got a little feisty after that.

Mistakes are mistakes. They are not the end...they are the place where we pick up, create good out of bad and start again. It is not the end. We should never stop. Don't put people in a box like that.

Unexpected Jelly Beans

Okay, so today my little girl handed me a couple of brown jelly beans and said, “I saved these for you, Momma!” I popped them into my mouth without thinking twice. Then, I had this Willy Wonka-esque sensation wash over me and I thought, “Mmmm! What is this?” It was after that when it struck me. I realized that my taste buds were encountering a jelly bean with a flavor that I’ve never really been a big fan of – the chocolate covered cherry. “Could that be? Noooo…but… maybe? Really? It was good!” (And I liked it.)

Since 1976, the famous jelly bean company, Jelly Belly, has discovered the art of replicating fantastic food flavors into the ever-so-small size of a bean. Who knew that Jelly Belly would hit the target and begin producing these minute gems by the billions? By stepping out to make candy out of natural flavors, a candy company radically changed the market for jelly beans; and continues to do so today.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we lived out our faith in such a way that we would give someone a new experience of Truth? Where they would taste something that they detested before…only to discover that they LOVE it and want to seek after it? I wanna be that girl.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

Pretty Impressed

Every day someone catches our eye with an act of kindness. The other day, my very fun husband was the shining star. He purchased a set of junior golf clubs for our daughter and took her out to play. There's nothing like the glisten in a little girl's eyes as she becomes the focus of her daddy's attention. That simple act of kindness made a big impression on our little girl...and now, golfing with Dad is the new fun thing to do.

Doesn't that strike a chord with us and our heavenly father? He wants to give us good things...just because He loves us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? - Matthew 6:26

Less Clutter, Less Noise - Excellent Read

Every day I read some form of literary work, either a blog, magazine article, book, online forums, the Bible...all kinds of good stuff. A friend recommended "Less Clutter, Less Noise" by Kem Meyer as a great resource for those working in church administration. She was right, it is a wonderful read - funny, conversational and to the point. It is full of new concepts and a kind reiteration of the old standbys for communication. I'd recommend it for church leaders of all kinds.

I had the opportunity to read the book along some top-notch leaders and write a blog post about a chapter. Whew! That was way over my head, but I LOVE stretching myself to learn. I am gleaning a lot from this group! Check out the blog below...and remember, I have not arrived. Every day I learn something new and I hope you do to!

A very special thanks to Paul Steinbrueck at Ourblog.com for this opportunity!

http://blog.ourchurch.com/2011/02/04/less-clutter-less-noise-11-rewrite-your-job-description/

New


Okay, so I'm snowed in at home today. Many people would not think much of that, but living in Alabama, it's not something that happens very often. After a day of working from home, cooking comfort food, enjoying my daughter's creation of "snow people" and trying to teach my daughter how to lose our family Uno game gracefully... I like snow days.

Okay, so now on to the real blog post. I'm preparing for a boatload of NEW experiences this winter. New projects at work, new opportunities to serve at my church (www.mynvc.org) and several new ways to learn. As an administrative assistant to the pastor, I have a lot of variety in my work. It is great. One constant? The need to communicate.

In February, I will have the opportunity to guest blog at: http://blog.ourchurch.com/2011/01/10/less-clutter-less-noise-kicking-off-the-group-blog-project/

I'm very excited for the opportunity to team up with some great communicators, but...more than that, I look forward to what I will learn from them. So, if you are a faithful blog follower, get ready to learn along with me! Let's see how we can communicate our message to our audience with dignity and effectiveness.

Great News for All of the People

This morning I am reading Luke 2. It occured to me that the great news of Jesus was announced while the shepherds were watching their flocks at "night" - and isn't it just like God to reveal His glory in the darkest hour?

God chose to reveal Himself to the ordinary, ragtag, "everyday" people at night. When the community was sleeping and when "no one was watching", God showed up. I mean really, do you ever wonder what the shepherds were doing, or what they talking about or possibly thinking about just prior to God's glory interrupting their workday?

The glory of God brought them to their knees with fear. So, the angel told them not to be afraid because he had good news for ALL of the people. Even the shepherds. Even me. Even you. That night, everything changed.

My Sunshine!

DSCN2748

Every day, I get the opportunity to love, care for, protect and lead this little girl.  I have greatly enjoyed the conversations on the way home from school and the excitement over her schoolwork.  She is blossoming into a sweet young woman…in just a few weeks, she’ll be 7!!!

Reading Aloud

Psalm 27 is one of my favorites. It is a passage in the Bible that has brought me reassurance and comfort since I began my relationship with God. It is something I return to regularly. When I am all alone, I enjoy reading it aloud with emphasis. There is so much emotion packed into these verses, so much pain, so much confidence and so much transparency. Surely David, the writer of this psalm, experienced things I could never dream of. Even still, for me, reading it aloud is a close second to a verbal declaration of faith in God in the midst of real life. - a way I can worship my Father as I walk. Try it sometime with your favorite passage.

Psalm 27

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh, [a]
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

8 My heart says of you, "Seek his [b] face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Quiet

The house is quiet and it is rainy outside. Peace. So few days exist where calm and quiet enter our lives. Days when you can eat icecream on the couch and write grocery lists without the latest kid show playing in the background.

Enjoy the quiet once in a while.

Isaiah 32:16-18 (New International Version)

16 Justice will dwell in the desert
and righteousness live in the fertile field.

17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.

18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.

One Day in Brazil



Every day on the Rio trip was an adventure! There are many stories to tell – this is just one instance of God’s hand at work while we were there.

On one particular day, I got to serve on my Pastor’s team (Pastor Chris Crain from Birmingham, AL.). We arrived at Betel Baptist and assembled with the team of ladies involved in planning the house visits. On our way out, one of the women stopped us and said, “We need to pray. Where we are going today is very dangerous.” All of us Americans were a little shocked by that, but prayed and forged ahead without question.

We had several house visits that day, in a drug infested area of Niteroi. At one house, we visited a father and daughter in their home which was attached to what looked like the father’s business – a bar. The ladies and the father mentioned to us that the daughter, a young mother, had problems with “spirits”. Pastor Chris, Steve and myself all went into a mode of prayer and caution as we introduced ourselves and shared the gospel. I remember standing behind Pastor Chris, praying for God to use him and to bind any unseen form of spiritual darkness; asking that the work of the Holy Spirit would be done. Then, he asked me to pray with her! I was a little nervous to hold her hand as she shook with what appeared to be fear of some kind. I remember praying in Jesus name that she would know what Jesus did for her and would welcome His presence into her life as her Savior. After the prayer, she disappeared to the back of the house and we focused on sharing the gospel with her father. My heart sank, because I believed that God was calling her to Himself. I wanted to ask the Pastor to stop and find her and ask her if she wanted to trust Jesus with her life, but I didn’t.

Little did I know that one of the ladies from Betel had followed the young woman to the back of the house. Just before we were ready to leave, the young mother came out and said, “I want Jesus.” How we rejoiced! Pastor Chris prayed with her and the three of us reminded her of the gospel, so that she could share it with someone else.

This particular instance of the week is special to me, because I saw a team of American Missionaries and Brazilian ladies work as a team to change a life with the Gospel. God spoke to me personally at that house and reminded me to trust the discernment He has placed in me as His gift for His glory.

Learning a Lot

Wow, what an incredible week I had in Brazil! The week in Niteroi, a city next to Rio de Janeiro,was amazing. God stretched me in many ways. I went on this trip with no expectations...I just wanted to meet with God and do what He asked. I wanted to be stripped of everything familiar and only be able to lean on Him. That's exactly what I got.

The start of the trip was somewhat introductory, with team devotions in the morning and plans for the day. Then there was the first team assignment. I was able to serve alongside Rachel, a friend from North Valley and a young man, Josh, who is called to full time Missionary service in Columbia. We walked the streets of Niteroi, sharing the gospel with various people we encountered. It was hard. I'm quiet and rarely walk up to people I do not know and start conversations. As the day went on, I found ways to share and add to the team. That day and throughout the remainder of the trip, I saw people turn their hearts toward God and accept His gift of salvation.

Many times I thought to myself...I wonder if my friends back home would have been ready for this experience? Inadequacy flooded my mind over and over and I often prayed for God to do His work, because I knew I could not do the tasks without Him.

Each day, team members travelled to new teams. We were used in different ways to share the gospel in homes, in parks, in church services and on the streets. The signts I saw amazed me. The people I met were so full of love and hospitality. I got to serve alongside people from my home church, people from different states in the US as well as people from Colombia and Brazil. It was an honor and very humbling. The students there had a fire for Christ and it inspired me.

There is so much I could pull from this experience. I want to know the scripture more; practice hospitality more; and be confident in the woman that God has made me to be. I realized that I have been so busy that I've not allowed myself to build real relationships with people I encounter at home. I had to travel to a foreign country to have the opportunity to share my life with others I see every Sunday. Above all, I want to be sure to always share the hope that I have in Jesus Christ, my Savior.

Thank you to all of you that prayed and supported this mission trip. Our team felt your prayers and lives were changed because of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Getting Ready

We are getting ready to leave for the Rio de Janeiro trip. The North Valley Church team will meet up with the Boca Glades Baptist Church group in Miami on Monday evening. We'll all fly to Brazil at 10 pm EST; arriving in Rio around 6 am. (FYI: Rio is 2 hours ahead of Alabama...)

Many of you have been praying and giving to this trip. Thank you!!! From me and from the team (Rachel, Candace, Stacy, Jason and Pastor Chris). Please continue to pray for:

1. God to use us as He wishes with the people there.
2. For no fear.
3. For safety.
4. For our families while we are apart.
5. For lives to change for eternity.

We are very excited and we are anticipating great things. Thank you again for your support and prayer. If I am able, I will update you on the blog from Brazil. We are supposed to have internet...so I'll see if I have all the right materials to connect and keep in touch.

Thought I'd leave you with a chapter from Ephesians. It is my favorite book of the Bible. - Lee Ann

Ephesians 3
Paul the Preacher to the Gentiles
1For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 6This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

7I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. 8Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

A Prayer for the Ephesians
14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Anticipating a Mission Trip

In a week, I will be travelling with a team from my church to Rio de Janeiro for a mission trip. I've never taken a trip out of the country to share God's love before. However, I've had other experiences that are flooding my mind as I prepare for Rio. This is one of them.

Eighteen years ago, I went to New York City. Now, when most of us head to New York City, we are thinking of visiting the Statue of Liberty, taking in a Broadway show and shopping at Macy's. This wasn't one of those trips.

As a Bible School student, every student was assigned a "ministry" for the year. While others served in soup kitchens or prisons, my ministry was teaching backyard Bible Clubs to a group of children after school each week. I had a passion for kids and was already highly involved with them in my local church, so this was something that I really enjoyed each week. Our small team travelled to a neighborhood in upstate New York to sing, play games and teach Bible Stories to little kids. Seems safe, right?

Well, the big trip of the year included a weekend in the city sharing God's word and doing some work for those that were less fortunate. We spent a weekend packed like sardines in a small apartment/store front of local Child Evangelism missionaries. There were so many of us that we were only allowed one shower for the weekend and food was minimal. We didn't take in a show or go shopping. We did, however, share God's word with children and we worked.

I remember walking through a park in New York City scared out of my mind, thinking, "If my Mom knew I was here...", then having the opportunity to talk with a group of unsupervised kids...wondering where their parents or guardians were; only to lead them to Christ at the end of our time. I wanted to take them home. Who was going to care for them and help them grow? I had to trust God to do that.

The strongest memory of that trip was when we went to a sweet elderly woman's home to clean up the house and make small repairs. We did this, all while helping her take care of the many children under her care. And, I mean MANY. Why social services allowed a situation like that, I'll never understand...but I believe they allowed it because God wanted His children to know Him. She had a large group of abandoned children left in her care. Drug babies, homeless children; those that were just dropped off and those that had lived with her for years. She got them to school and made sure they were fed. The house was worse than a backyard shed, it smelled horrible, had all kinds of pests, etc. But she raised these children to trust God, to sing His praise and grow in His word.

I have a special photo that my group leader took on that trip. It is a picture of me holding a baby girl that attached herself to me. She wouldn't leave my sight that day. The look of abandonment was on her countenance and my face shows how my heart broke for her. We played and laughed together that day. I prayed that she would be protected and would know that God loved her and had a real plan for her life. I prayed that she would grow to understand that there is a Love that never leaves.

That one day affected my life forever. I still have that photo. Maybe I'll scan it. I still think of that girl and cry to God to help her and those around her. Eighteen years later, that little girl is now a young woman. I pray that she survived the streets of a drug and sex infested neighborhood and was delivered from the bondage of the lifestyles around her. I pray that she heard the words of her sweet caregiver who shared the love of Jesus in word and deed. I pray that I will get to see her in heaven one day.

"How can I repay the Lord for all His acts of kindness to me? I will celebrate my deliverance, and call on the name of the Lord." Psalm 116:12-13

I Like This

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. -Psalm 16:5-6

I Like This

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. -Psalm 16:5-6

Career Day

Life is funny. We fuss over things that really do not matter most of the time. We dream about the future and what "a better tomorrow" might bring. We lose track of the "now" and the good that God is working on our behalf.

So, what do I want to be when I grow up? I have no idea. Well, I do know, but occupations do not bring real satisfaction. God does. I don't know about you, but I hope to grow more into:

A woman that loves God and people. A woman that identifies right and wrong. A woman that is quiet, gentle and yet, honest. A woman that points others to the Father.

My sweet Grace came home this week to tell me about "Career Day". She doesn't want to be a secretary, like Mommy. No. She wants to be an artist that sells her drawings so she can be a singing missionary. My little tentmaker missionary. She came up with this career all on her own. Who needs to be the run-of-the-mill dentist or veterinarian when you can be three things in one? I love that girl. I can't wait to see the good that God has in store for her.

Paper Cuts, Broken Printers and Ministry

Some days EVERYTHING goes awry; and we roll with it. God provides the energy and the "how". Who might come closer to God through all those foils and mishaps you pushed through? God knows.

"PRAY as though your pastor’s ministry depends on it. SERVE as though there is no tomorrow. WORK as though it only matters to God. MINISTER as though it is just between you and the Lord."

Day Two: What Every Ministry Assistant Should Know

Basics - Day Two
What Every Ministry Assistant Should Know...a little more on the basics. Don't let me fool you; these do not come easy. It takes work to keep on track.

Know Your God. Time in the Word is key. Knowing God is a life-long process and some days I just plain fail at serving Him well. A pure heart and participation in spiritual disciplines set us up for success; not "doing". We often hear that leaders of the church have targets on their back. Well, guess what? You sit awfully close to that target. While we are blessed with a "job" that doesn't feel like work, there are going to be days where the burden is heavy. Some days you know why and some you do not. Your strength, your energy and your value will be found in God alone.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.- Ephesians 6:10-20


Know Your People. That's why you are there. All of the paperwork in the world will not affect the heart of the Church like your relationship to the people will. Listen when they call, take these people seriously (even when you are bolting out for a meeting), give hugs when it is appropriate and pray with them. These are people. They may know God or may be far from Him. Treat them like you'd wish to be treated. This means that some days your "to do list" doesn't have a single check-mark on it. You and those you work with can deal with that.

Not only do you have office visitors that may need your service or a listening ear. You have regular volunteers that devote their time and energy to helping you. And because of that, you love them. Take the time in and out of the office to develop relationships with them. Always think of new areas that can be delegated to a volunteer. Remember, serving is one way we find purpose. You never know who is searching for their purpose in life.

Know Forgiveness. You are going to get hurt. Most of the time it isn’t intentional. Give the hurt to God. Keep quiet and forgive. If you are the ill party, seek forgiveness. We all know the busyness of the workplace and quick wits or tactless comments. It does hurt; I’m not trying to be insensitive. God knows about your situation and wants to help you through it. You are responsible to take care of yourself, and only you can do that.

Know Your Boundaries. You are only one woman. (If there's a man assistant out there...you get my drift.) There's only so much that can be done in a day. Know when to pack it up. Know when you need to focus on your family more than your ministry. Think about what is appropriate office talk and what is not. Live accordingly. (This is easier said than done for women!!)

I'm a firm believer that appearance matters. And I'm not talking about how we look on this one. There should never be any appearance of evil. Know your spacial boundaries with your co-workers. Offices with open doors and/or windows are a must. There should never be a reason for anyone to wonder. Ever.

Know How to Dress. Okay, there it is. Think wisely about what you wear to the office. Looking good is important to everyone. My momma told me two things about this area..."If you don't know what to wear; wear something nice." and "Dress for what you do or what you'd like to do." First impressions really do matter. So, when someone walks into the church office and you are the first person they see; what impression do you leave?

There's so much more on basics...knowledge of basic software, customer service, managing emotions and keeping confidences. All I know, is that I couldn't do it with out God. Let's thank Him for the opportunity to help others in such a significant way. It's humbling when we stop to think about it.

Now...About Those Basics

Some things never go out of style. That is true for any office. In my last blog I focused on how we as ministry assistants need to move on to stay current with the world around us. That is VERY true, yet we cannot lose sight of the every-day details. There's so much for us in the basics that we cannot live or serve without. Having a mind wrapped around these basics will give us what we need to make the changes necessary to reach all generations for Christ.

There's so much to take in from the basics that I've decided to break this post up into multiple days under the topics What We're Trained For & What Every Ministry Assistant Should Know. This isn’t exhaustive and I've definitely got a lot to learn. There's no doubt that I’ll think of something else vital to my workload tomorrow! As you read this...remember the only perfect person is JESUS. Not you or me.

Basics - Day One
What we're usually trained for...

There's a variety of key task that we really just need to “KNOW”. Having this information under wraps prepares us up for the big tasks that tax us physically, emotionally and spiritually. There are some things we just need to know in our sleep…so we can take on the larger projects.

Know Your Data. While the leaders are out ministering personally, you are keeping them in touch with what is happening for the church as a whole. Statistics reveal growth, decline, spiritual maturity, and the all-important contact information of your people. You will be called upon for this info without notice. Keep your info as current as possible, so you can dig it out at a moment’s notice. If your time is needed elsewhere, responsible volunteers are a great resource for entering data. I'm still working on this one. Data-entry makes me yawn.

Know Your Calendar. I personally believe that having one calendar is best. That's a rare concept and you may never see that become a reality. So, update your calendar EVERY day. Look at it regularly. Think about all of the ministries involved and keep tabs with those that schedule events. If you notice a Tweet or Facebook of an event that's not on the calendar...get it there! It will save a nightmare of double-booking the church or your Pastor.

Know Your Printer. This is funny, isn't it? It will be your best friend at the shortest of notice. Know the kinks that make it work when you need it to, because EVERYONE in the church will need to make a copy someday. And they will ask YOU how to do it. It's not a bad I idea to keep in regular contact with your printer guy, too. After the printer is serviced, always point him toward the candy dish.

Oh, and don't forget...the printer only goes out of service on the days that you need to print the prayer list, worship guide or deacon reports.

When it comes to publications or promotions, it’s important to Know Your Pastor’s Style. Does it drive him crazy to see announcements centered? Or does the sight of ten different fonts make him dizzy? Or, what about those abbreviations tucked in here and there without explanation? Does a church member really know the acrostic for your ministry event without explanation? Listen to corrections or comments made after the Pastor reads your draft. Make a mental note and avoid repeating what isn’t preferred. It’s not just about personal preference. Sometimes, he’s just right.

Who Said it's About Making Coffee

Over the past year I've been thinking a lot about the creative aspect for equipping the church as I've watched the common thread in training ministry assistants. When you look at the list of subjects on queue for training ministry assistants, there is a fundamental theme. Basics. Word Processing, Bookkeeping, How to Smile on a Bad Day....etc. The slant is heading down a dangerous pike. Catering to one generation. Fulfilling the mandate to "do it this way, because that's how we've always done it."

I had a friend say to me the other day, "The days of the assistant making coffee and answering the phone are long gone. They are more like partners; knowing the pulse of their counterpart." There is a need for ministry assistants to learn the usual financial and office publishing software, yes. However, the Church is moving in a different direction to minister to the world as it is. Fast-paced, tech-oriented; high quality. With that in mind, we need to learn top-rated website design software to equip the church for quality print, logo branding and multi-media arts in worship. Most churches will not have a budget for a Minister of Creative Arts; especially church plants.

Yeah, we can purchase pre-fab movie clips, logos and curriculum. There is a time for that, no doubt. However, let's stop and think about the communities we are trying to reach. Pre-fab materials may be metro focused vs. rural or suburban vs. inner-city homeless. Let's think too, about the usage of a Christ-follower's gifts. Shouldn't we plug into those? Wouldn't it be wise to tap into the gifts of the believers in our church and around us to share their stories with the world? This is one more way to take the gospel to the relational level; spurring the interest of those who are not in church yet.

If we're truly going to reach the world encompassed in virtual video games; social media; ipads and the like, we've got to push the envelope and move forward. Our kids will like it; our students will be amped up over it and parents will walk into the doors of a church because of it. That is the pulse of today's pastor. And it can all be done with a smile, I promise.

heartache revisited

I wrote this blog last October and was thinking about it this afternoon; thought I'd tweak and repost it.

On occasion I get hit with the reminder that my husband and I can not have biological children. It is a stark cold feeling; something not easy to describe to someone that's not experienced this loss of a dream. Years went by when friends had babies and it just wouldn't happen for us. I liken it to a time in life when a poet's description of the term "heartache" was actually understood.

That cold reminder came today. As I thought about the ache, I prayed with hope and thankfulness. I was happy that ache passed quickly and I was reminded of good things.

1. God has always loved me very much. (John 3:16)
2. He has always had a plan for me. (Jeremiah 29:11)
3. He never walked away or left me alone. (Joshua 1:5b)

Years ago, God brought me the desires of my heart in a different way. Though I never experienced the growth of a child in my belly or the pains of childbirth; my family of three arrived through adoption. And I wouldn't change a thing. The road that I travelled to get there only brought me closer to my Creator. Adoption was never second-best. God's timing and perfect way brought me to my Grace. And she is a marvel.

If you know someone struggling through a crisis like this...but can't relate; pray for them. Hold their hand and do not judge them. If you are experiencing something similar and are reading my words; know that you really are cared for and people are praying. Don't allow it to take away your joy. Above all, know that God really does love you and wants to be your refuge and help. He has an amazing plan for you.

Children's Prayers

This morning I had the priviledge of sharing the Bible Story during chapel at our Early Learning Center. I chose to tell a story that we shared with our Preschoolers on a recent Sunday morning. It was exciting to me....it was about teaching our children how to pray. Did you know they really like to pray? They do!

You see, in the book of Matthew we learn that Jesus was teaching his disciples and many others that had gathered around to listen. During this time he taught what we know to be the Lord's Prayer. So this morning, we took it down a few notches to explain to the kids. I thought you might like to read about it, just in case you would like to use it with your kids at home. I've even included the hand motions!

1. God, YOU are special! Lift your arms to the sky
2. God, YOUR way is always right! Lift your arms out, thumbs up
3. God, please give me what I need. Cup your hands as if you were getting a drink of water or receiving something from someone.
4. God, please forgive me and help me to do the right thing. Hug yourself. This is a one BIG way God shows His love for us. That is a BIG Love!

So, there it is...isn't it fun?

Encounters

A couple of years ago, I had an encounter during my prayer time that shook me to the core. I heard God explain to me that He was going to do great things in me; if I yielded myself. It wasn't an audible voice from the Heavens, but it was real and clear as day. When God said that I needed to yield, that meant giving over the inner struggles that I've kept a hold on or better said, that have kept a hold on me.

How incredible! God was going to use this incredibly simple, ordinary woman to do something for Him? Something bigger than I have known? Wow, I was amazed and excited. It wasn't long after this intimate time of fellowship with God that I experienced a call on my life. That was a funny, ordinary day at home with my daughter. We were playing outside in the backyard and I was reading a book and it hit me. "Oh, that's what this is..." The next day I asked a friend of mine if people would be called to such a ministry and she said "of course they can". So, there you go.

It still brings so much joy when I recall those few months of deep prayer and spiritual questioning. However, the road I've travelled over the past two years revealed so much to me; pressing me to continue learning every day. As I've journeyed through these days I've attained some insight easily, other life lessons came across with a good bash on the head for me to comprehend...

1. When we walk closer to God, He reveals the "stuff" that we ought to remove from our lives. The inappropriate television shows we view; the lyrics to that old favorite song; negative relationships in our life and deep, personal areas that need a touch from the Holy Spirit to make us more like Him.

2. Saying "yes" to God brings a wild ride. Amazing things may happen; but the responsibility to represent the Living God is HUGE. Everything we do, every response we make, every decision reflects what we believe about God. And, some days are full of burden...you feel it.

3. There are days that we need to remind ourselves of the "encounter". Days can be hard or may make absolutely no sense but there's a reason for everything and this too will pass.

4. Nothing replaces the Word of God and quietness in His presence. We can't fill our time with everything but God. It will never work. Never.

This is really so basic; nothing we haven't heard before in the Christian world. However, when we stay in tune with our walk with God, all of these things matter deeply. I am continually excited about the work that my God is going to do in and through me. I am thankful for the reminder of that day and pray that I can be whatever He chooses with a graceful, quiet heart.

On Julie & Julia

Friday night is movie night, right? Well, I watched the movie Julie & Julia this weekend. It wasn't a cinematic masterpiece; yet I came away inspired.

The storyline follows a pattern of two women...Julie, an unfulfilled working woman, trying to seek after her passion in life, while maintaining her job and marriage. Julia, whom we all know as Julia Child, the american wife seeking "something to do" after a move to France for her husband's job. From what I could tell she is unable to have children, and is seeking to fill that void, among others, with "something".

Two things that I came away with...

1. Women need a "purpose". I'm not sure why, but it is a driving force behind their passion and zest for life. They yearn for that "something" that makes them feel worthwhile and useful.

2. When you put your mind to something...you really can do it! Surrounding yourself with the right people, good books and maintaining a focused perserverance on that project will really make things happen.

It is my prayer that I and the women I surround myself with, will be able to find that purpose in Christ alone; as I know that true fulfillment only comes through Him. As we do that, we can focus on the most unexpected tasks and change our world through our passions in ways we never imagined possible.

What My Momma Taught Me

Yesterday would have been my mother's 57th birthday. She passed suddenly at the age of 45; due to a serious illness that she lived with most of her life. It is unreal to think that she's been gone so long. My birthday doesn't fall too far from hers. We were twenty years apart in age; I guess that is one of those facts you learn as a child that sticks with you for life. It was special to celebrate our birthdays during the same month.

My momma was quite a woman. She raised me as a single Mom and lived with incredible integrity and strength in a world that seeks after personal pleasure over family values. She taught me that truth is vital and once you lose someone's trust; it is almost impossible to retrieve. Momma was a hard worker and she loved people. She knew how to care for people in need and she knew how to be a friend. She was quiet; yet purposeful. Intelligent; yet ordinary. She loved me more than anything in the world.

Now as I look at my daughter and experience the joys of motherhood, I have Momma's legacy to pass on. How blessed I am to have these good things to share.

At vacation at home...

Every day we get into our car, drop the kids off at school, go to work, run to the store, go home and make dinner, help with homework, get the kids ready for bed, talk to our spouse and get ready for the next day...then we start all over again. Oh, and we clean and organize and clean and do laundry and clean...

I'm in an unusual week this week, I get to stay home for vacation. It could be like torture for me to not be "busy", but I have discovered some exceptional ways to fill my time. Cuddle with my child, cook with my child, create projects with my child, take my child to her favorite places, clean the house, play and clean the house again.

In the midst of the week that is already flying by, I've caught little tidbits of priceless information. I've seen that my daughter is very much like me!! That scares the life out of me, but I also see the blessing. For so many years I prayed for the opportunity to pass my hobbies on as a part of my family heritage and it is happening!!! Gracie is bent toward cooking and creative projects and she's visual...how cool is that? Woo-hoo!

I don't know if these things come with age or what, but there is a form of enlightenment that has taken place. I have seen that the prayers I've prayed for years really have an answer. Some have taken an unbearably long time; others I would have missed had I not taken the time to stop and enjoy what is mine.

So...you know what? I may have dust on the television or the ironing in a pile in my bedroom, but it's completely okay. The smile on my child's face is of far more worth. I will stop and treasure the long-awaited answers.

Have you seen things that you've anticipated come to pass?

What do you do to "stop" and notice?

Good Times

Spending time with my princess this week. I think this is my longest vacation in years! It is a good thing. Everyone needs time to decompress and renew. I'm excited to see what God will do with my heart and my relationship with my sweet daughter. I know how much it meant to me when my Momma would do special things with me; I can only hope she has the same joyful memories!

I'm trying to be still. I hope I will. God always meets us in the stillness.

Is There a Title for This?

Today was such a fun day! It really got me in the Christmas spirit. I had the opportunity to work with some incredible volunteers and children for the children's ministry Christmas program that we lovingly call "Jingle Jam". The kids were full of enthusiasm and energy. The adults in the program just made everything come together. We really have a great group of people that volunteer in every facet of North Valley Church. It's something I've never witnessed so closely before and, it's excellent.

The past several years really have gone by quickly at North Valley and they are invaluable years, at that. See,I get to work in an atmosphere that is truly out of my league. It is so nice to wake up every morning and get ready with excitement for whatever the day holds. (I can picture several friends that would be saying, "You LIKE to go to work?")

Some of you may know that I work with a bunch of rockstars...really, I serve alongside a great group of very fun people that are full of integrity that happen to serve God with their lives. As our Pastor's Admin. Assistant I get to help the Pastor with various tasks. And what an honor! The thing I value the most, though? Well, that's how our Pastor pushes us to think beyond ourselves and strive for excellence in ministry and in life in general. He teaches us to know our imperfections, learn from them and push beyond them with God's help. That's a good leader.

Thanks, Pastor Chris. It was a very good day.

Re-posting - "While Working Out"

I wrote this back in April and thought of it this morning, in celebration of our Veterans. - Lee Ann

I was working out the other day and noticed a pair of older gentleman "spotting" each other as they lifted weights. At first I didn't think anything of it. Then I noticed that the senior gentleman in the Desert Storm ball cap had a prosthesis for his right leg from the thigh-down.

Once I noticed it, I couldn't escape the thought. "That man is a veteran. He has to be. He lost his leg while serving our country." Tears came to my eyes as I thought of his sacrifice. I KNOW I'm not such a servant. Would I allow that kind of life-altering-pain into my life? I just don't know.

As I got up from my weight machine, I made an effort to start a conversation with the men. I asked if they were in the service and when the gentleman with the prosthesis said that he was, I thanked him. I am thankful for the men and women willing to put their lives on the line for my freedom. I'm also thankful for the reminder of the importance of sacrifice.

For My "Baby Rocking" Sunday Morning Friends

Last week at this time, I was running inside and outside feverishly! We had our Annual Trunk or Treat and this year was inside AND outside. Note to self...assemble coordinators for each venue next year. Inside activity coordinator; outside activity coordinator. It was a lot of fun.

Today, I had the awesome opportunity to have lunch with a friend and her family. We met years ago; clear across the United States...or at least in one of the Northernmost states. My hubby was a youth pastor and I was a stay-at-home wife...young and newly married. It was a fun time. I had the excellent prviledge of babysitting for her daughter and she was a cutie! God allowed me to care for a little munchkin and watch her grow over the years.

Time went on and we moved in different directions. Literally, we both went Mid-west and then South...just at different intervals. Then one day we got on our favorite social networking site and discovered that we only live about 2 hours from each other! Very cool.

The most crazy part? The little munchkin I cared for is now 16! (Gasp.) She is a beautiful young woman with a heart for serving God. She is a leader among her peers. I couldn't be more excited or proud! I was driving home from our lunch with praise on my lips. That sweet baby girl I prayed for while rocking her to sleep is following her God.

All this to say; if you rock a baby on Sunday mornings and sing and pray over them...you NEVER now just what God will do with that prayer. What you do really is a big deal. God hears you, sees you and moves mountains.

(This makes you want to read on Prayer, right? Look up "prayer" on Biblegateway.com. One verse just doesn't cut it.)

A Fun Weekend

I'm just coming down from a really hyped up time. I have the opportunity to have "really hyped up times" by helping my Pastor with the Children's ministry. (Yes, that's Preschool AND Elementary...all "children") We just had a seasonal event that brought people from the church, but more importantly, people from our community out for some fun.

It was so intense with a million crazy details floating in my head and ending up in my dreams and people calling my name every other minute...and I love it. I do. I LOVE seeing God work through His people. I also love people. So I am feeling pretty blessed right now. It's exciting to have these times of joy, but they stir my heart to wonder how I can go beyond...get out and reach a need so someone else can experience the excitement of knowing God and having good friends.

This weekend I have seen how God uses so many and I've also seen how just one person can make your day. Usually, I end with scripture, but today I'm going to include a quote from Longfellow that I enjoy. It's fitting.

Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

He Who Has an Ear

"He who has an ear,let him hear." I have ears; but unfortunately I do not hear as well as I should. That goes back to childhood illnesses and ear drum damage. Lack of hearing can cause public embarrassment. Overall, I hear pretty well. Whatever I can't make out, I usually can read on someone's lips. I usually get the message.

When I read that verse in scripture, though, I know I'm lacking. I know I could "hear" better. Truly listening to God brings about OBEDIENCE. Some days, I respond appropriately. Other days may depend on where my eyes are; focused on me or focused on God & others?

I want to hear better every day.

New Attitude

I love to play. Especially on computers. That's what I've been doing tonight. I just spent a couple of hours tweaking my blog just for fun and it's not even where I want it. Ha! I figured that I should write something if I'm going to spend hours messing with the format of the thing. Wise woman, eh? Not so much. Let me tell you a secret... shhh...don't tell...I'm a wretch. R-E-A-L-L-Y! I am!

I am a woman totally convinced that I could not survive a day without the Grace of my God. I may not do "bad things" (like we suppose "bad" to be), but whew...how many times do I need to cry out to my God in sadness at the reality of my heart? Think about it. It's not what we do; it's who we are. Some days, I just mess up. I get grouchy, irritated and plain mean - basically, I'm selfish.

Every day we face new trials. Tomorrow, I want to wake up with the willingness to trust God and keep a good attitude. I know I can. There's a whole lot of proof that it can be done in my Bible.

So, how are you today?

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." - 1 Peter 1:13-16

heartache

On occasion I get hit with the reminder that my husband and I can not have biological children. It is a stark cold feeling; something not easy to describe to someone that's not experienced this loss of a dream. I liken it to a time in life when a poet's description of the term "heartache" was actually understood.

That cold reminder came today. As I thought about the ache, I prayed with hope and thankfulness. I was happy that ache passed quickly and I was reminded of good things.

1. God has always loved me very much. (John 3:16)
2. He has always had a plan for me. (Jeremiah 29:11)
3. He never walked away or left me alone. (Joshua 1:5b)

Years ago, God brought me the desires of my heart in a different way. Though I never experienced the growth of a child in my belly or the pains of childbirth; my family of three arrived through adoption. And I wouldn't change a thing. The road that I travelled to get there only brought me closer to my Creator. Adoption was never second-best. God's timing and perfect way brought me to my Grace. And she is a marvel.

If you know someone struggling through a crisis like this...but can't relate; pray for them. Hold their hand and do not judge them. If you are going through something like this and are reading my words; know that you really are cared for and people are praying. Don't allow it to take away your joy.

One of Those Days

"I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

Today's one of those days. Days when the date triggers an event that changed our life forever. It is September 11th. Eight years ago I was at work at Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago. My co-workers hurriedly came to get me. We watched with great sadness the live footage of the destruction of the World Trade Center. "How could this be happening?" Heartbreak. Fear. Questions. Confusion.

On that day, I saw an incredible college campus jump into action. Moody Bible Institute, it's students and faculty, turned the campus into a house of prayer, an information center and sanctuary of sorts for the students. They also set up a phone calling center, so all of the students could call their family to let them know that they were okay, etc.

It was also at that time that the city of Chicago shut down. We were blocks away from the largest buildings in Chicago, so the city pretty much evacuated for safety measures.

It was a day when the government stopped the runaround and became people. The President among the rest of the Nation's Leaders stood up and cared for their people. We should be proud and never forget.

The whole day was an incredibly spiritual and eerie experience. Where were you on that day?

Everybody's Rockin'

I had the opportunity to participate with 30 of our children's ministry volunteers in a simple time of training last Sunday. It was fun! I'm always so impressed with the way our volunteers give of their time and resources to make an impact on our kids. Here's a little glimpse of what I was thinking about as I prepared for this event.

Every Sunday, little tiny babies and energetic pre-teens pack the place with curiosity and excitement. They walk in our doors expecting something great. Parents are looking for a welcome face and a caring environment; kids want a safe place to tell you about their life and a place to have fun. We get the opportunity to introduce them to the love of God. This impacts our world for the Kingdom of God more than we realize. I’m curious to know how many of us adults began a relationship with God as a child?

A while back, I read a statistic that stood out to me…George Barna, the statistics guru, found that between birth and fourteen years of age, there is a 32% chance that a child will begin a relationship with Jesus. After that, the percentage drops to 6%during the rest of a person’s life. SIX! Do you see the urgency?

So, when we wake up on Sunday morning, after a sleepless night or a squabble in the home as we hurry out the door…there are days we just don’t think we have the energy, time or desire. But wait…God has a purpose for what we do each Sunday. He has a child in mind that needs to hear His word; He has a young couple in mind that is trying church out for the first time that need just a few minutes to know their child is cared for and is safe. He has a single mom on her wits end praying that her kids build relationships with other adults that will teach them principles she’s trying to instill herself. There’s a boy without a father that is looking for a man to show him how to be a man of God. There’s a girl being bullied by her friends to look a certain way or do certain things that she knows aren’t right. Who is going to love them? Who is going to tell them that GOD loves them and that they matter?

Do you see it? What we do is BIG. We partner with parents to lead their children toward God and other believers. And yes, some days it is very hard. So thank you. Thank you from the staff and from so many parents that trust us with their children each week. All of you make the "Best Hour of Every Kid's Week" happen; you ROCK!

The Real Me

Hmmm. Today some checked on me to make sure I was doing better...(did I show that I wasn't doing well?...oh, no!) Funny how panic strikes at the thought of people seeing you struggle through the hard days. Why do we do that to ourselves?

God never told me I'd have a cakewalk. He told me that there would be days like this and He'd provide the strength. (1 Peter 4)

I'm so thankful I can be who He made me. Perfect? No, not really. I don't want to be. Trusting...I hope so!

Wow!

We just got back from Chuck E. Cheese's. Wow. There were like a million birthday parties! It was crazy-busy and I'm so not into people being in my personal space. BUT, Gracie had a blast. I knew she was having fun, so I took a deep breath and let it all go.

We had pizza, tokens, tickets and the end result...a plastic bug jar and stickers! What more could any 5 year old want? Funny.

It's time

Gracie went to Kindergarten registration yesterday! It was interesting to see her take in all of the classroom decorations and play centers. I know she will have fun and can't wait until she feels at ease to be herself.

It is funny to experience just a little part of "letting go" of my child. There are things that I would do, but I want her to be able to make some decisions. (For instance...she chose the school lunch over brown bagging it. That'll change.) I'm so excited for Grace. I know she will learn so much and will have lots of fun. I cannot wait to see what God does with my little princess. I'm so proud of her.

She Did It!

Today I saw my little girl swim without her floatie and jump full-body into the water without any assistance. Yeah! What an accomplishment. She's so proud of herself; and I'm so proud of her.

I believe God thinks of us in that same manner..."You can do it!" We take that step of boldness to accomplish the task that "could never be done" - and IT WORKS! Our God provides the wherewithall to accomplish the most unexpected. He's so proud of us.

avoidance

I've been avoiding my blog. Guess the social networking concept has irritated me a bit. I LOVE people. However, I enjoy privacy, also. As I share myself with the people I come into contact with; whether in person or online, it has to be on my terms. Some days, I don't want to talk. Guess that's how it goes online as much as in person.

I've been quiet online lately. Very busy and trusting that God is doing His work in my life. God is making me a much more outspoken woman, thus negating the need to vent out my frustrations in other capacities. Therefore, the creativity on my blog took a vaca.

As I think of the ways my heart (and my mouth) is being stretched lately, the Lord brought these truths to mind:

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. - Psalm 141:3

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

An Old Favorite; Remastered

I Exalt Thee -Chris Quilala / Jesus Culture from Jesus Culture on Vimeo.



This song reminds me of Summer Camp...remixed. I needed this high-energy worship song today; just to bask in the Presence of our God. It's been one of those days where the answers to life's questions are out of reach. That's okay, because the One who holds the answers is worthy. I'm just going to sit at His feet right now.

Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:3-5

There's Just Not Much to Say

I don't really have a lot to say right now. I'm in a state of "blah". It will change; it always does! I look forward to that time. However, I know there's something to learn in the quiet "regularness" of life right now. I pray for ears to hear. What's going on in your life? Really, feel free to comment and let me know. At the very least, I can pray! Love ya!

While Working Out...

I was working out the other day and noticed a pair of older gentleman "spotting" each other as they lifted weights. At first I didn't think anything of it. Then I noticed that the senior gentleman in the Desert Storm ball cap had a prosthesis for his right leg from the thigh-down.

Once I noticed it, I couldn't escape the thought. "That man is a veteran. He has to be. He lost his leg while serving our country." Tears came to my eyes as I thought of his sacrifice. I KNOW I'm not such a servant. Would I allow that kind of life-altering-pain into my life? I just don't know.

As I got up from my weight machine, I made an effort to start a conversation with the men. I asked if they were in the service and when the gentleman with the prosthesis said that he was, I thanked him. I am thankful for the men and women willing to put their lives on the line for my freedom. I'm also thankful for the reminder of the importance of sacrifice.

Wild Cat

There's something that happens to my kitten - almost cat at night. She's wild. She runs, leaps into the air...sometimes in a particular direction; other times it appears that she's aimlessly flying into the air. I call it her "mission impossible" moves. It's funny and I wonder if she'll eventually get old and settle down.

I know y'all needed to know that. So there you go.

Mulligans

I officially know why people would want a Mulligan. A do-over. I messed up. I allowed incorrect messages to infiltrate my mind and even worse...let words spew out without thinking. And now I want to make it all go away. I know better!!! If life only allowed for Mulligans.

I'm fortunate to know an all-forgiving God. I hope I've learned my lesson and can earn trust where it was lost.

Colossians 1:9-13

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[d] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption,[e] the forgiveness of sins.

Suffering & Healing

In my reading today, I came across scripture that showed a characterstic of our God that is just amazing. As Jesus hung on the cross, suffering an incredibly painful death, he mustered up the strength to care for his mother and one of his closest companions. (John 19:25-27) He brought Mary and His disciple John together as family; as they suffered what was probably the largest loss of any man or woman. Isn't it amazing that God would reach out and begin healing the wounds immediately...while He was still with them? While He was experiencing excruciating pain and was close to death?

It just made me think.

1. How often do I look after my brother or sister? How do I truly think of someone else in their need? I've got it good; no physical cross to bear. Am I healing wounds?

2. Jesus LOVED those people. The few words he uttered revealed that He knew them - knew what they needed and knew how to care for them in their loss.

I'm not really sure why I'm writing this. The thoughts of this kindness from the Cross just stuck with me all day. That God would love us that much.

Mulling it Over

I've been mulling something over for a while. Leadership. I'm a mom of a five year old, so Hannah Montana's "Life's What You Make It" is the background music of my everyday life. I'm starting to think that leadership is what you make it, also.

It's been said (over and over) that there are leaders and followers. I don't question that at all. There are definitely people out there that are born to lead and others that naturally just fall in line behind those people. That is where I tend to fit in. No need to make waves...I'll let somebody else do that. Ha!

When God calls us His child, however, we all become leaders as we follow Him. Embracing the responsibility to tell the world about a God that loves them isn't passive. Not at all. It's hard work and it has to be intentional. God-given leadership opportunities are around every corner and I find this very exciting. I will not settle for a life of blindly following. God's done too much in my life to keep this girl quiet.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. -Matthew 4:18-20

Making Me

Everyone has "stuff" in life. Obstacles to overcome, habits that need to change, annoying areas that require intense time with the Savior to bring us to a point of change. When time is spent acknowledging who we are without God, we have an opportunity to become something new and different. When we truly yield our lives to God, He begins a process of making us who we are meant to be. Imagine what it must have been like for the disciples to walk and minister in the company of Jesus! They couldn't help but change.

I've had the blessing of being a Christ-Follower for many years. This truth about yielding and changing has been stated to me in a variety of ways in church, at summer camp, through mentors and teachers. However, nothing is like being alone in prayer and hearing the voice of God whisper that truth directly to you. It is an eye-opener on a totally different level!

One night, in my Bible-reading, it became clear to me that I needed to deal with my struggle of insecurity. Insecurity is a stronghold that takes shape in so many ways, and I needed to rid it. Not just admit that I struggled with it, but do something about it. I came to a point of decision... that I could continue to try to make it "on my own" or let it go and TRUST God with EVERYTHING.

I laugh when I think of this prayer time...it was almost like a verbal wrestling match...

"But God, you know how I tend to do this"

...and He would say, "Yes, that's true, but I AM GOD."

"But..."

"Lee Ann, things will change if you just let go and TRUST Me."

Finally, I said..."OK. You are God. I know enough about your promises and that you are a faithful God and you will do it. I'm going to believe you."


HE's been making me into a different kind of woman ever since. Really. It is amazing. Not necessarily easy, but amazing! It's only the beginning of who I'm meant to be.

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." - Matthew 4:19

Word of the Week

WOW...not just the one syllable WOW, but WOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW.

That's what Gracie's been saying at the Disney World parks all week. "Mommy, isn't this sooo cool?" There's nothing better for a momma than watching her daughter's amazement at the rides; fascination with the Disney princesses and speculation at the unknown in front of her.

Mark and I prayed for this child for years. Getting the opportunity to enjoy the gift of our daughter in this way brings me to tears of joy and praise. I have laughed at myself so much on this trip..."Why am I crying?" It's the realization that I'm in just the place I've wanted to be in my life for so long. God has blessed me and made my dreams come true. And all I can say is WOW.

Catching Up

It has taken me a while to write anything; partly because I've been busy, partly because I couldn't remember my login to my blog. (I think that happened because I was busy. Ha!)

My daughter just completed 2 Christmas programs; one for church and one for preschool. I couldn't be any more proud. She's blossoming into a beautiful, confident girl.

I'm looking forward to Christmas. To stop and look at what Christ has done for me. To do all of the traditions that make this day so memorable. To enjoy family. Yeah, I can't wait.

Celebrating

Four years ago today, my sweet daughter was placed in my arms in the Jiangxi Province of China. This is a very cool day in our family, because we were blessed to adopt our little girl on her actual birthday. Where has the time gone? She was just a tiny 12 month old in 9 month old clothing! Now she's applying makeup like mommy, bounding to the door at daddy's arrival home from work and caring for her own "little Gracie" (her baby doll). There's truly nothing more spectacular in my life than my family. So, today I'm going to celebrate them. :) -Lee Ann
Today my blogging has no rhyme or reason...

I was complimented on my blog via email (facebook) today by a dear friend. How fun! I'm not super sassy or full of great wisdom, but I do enjoy to write about whatever comes my way. I felt all warm and fuzzy after that email. -And SO encouraged, because this woman is a very godly example and an all-around beautiful person. Encouraging people make days go by much faster!

Tomorrow's a big day. My husband and I celebrate 16 years of marriage. That is VERY exciting! I have the most selfless husband and he spoils me rotten. (Shh...don't tell him.) More than that...he's my best friend. Mark, if you decide to read this...YOU are "wicked awesome"!!! Here's to 16 more! - Lee Ann

On Mother's and Daughters

On Mother's and Daughters...it is interesting to see how similar we are. Sometimes the similarities can bring overwhelming frustration; other times, great comfort. Years ago, I dreamed of having a daughter that would inherit my hands. My mother, grandmother and I had the same hands in appearance. The women that held my hands as a child represented incredible strength to me and I saw my hands as a physical heritage. Passing that on was key to my passage into parenthood; or so I thought.

I have the most beautiful daughter. One day, I looked reality in the face and admitted the truth...she's just like me. Our physical characteristics are worlds apart, but we have many similarities. We are both as stubborn as all get out for starters.

Just last Saturday, I woke up to my sweet Asian princess telling me that she "organized". She did. She discarded a bunch of misconstrued papers and found a place for all of her creative goodies in our craft room. Her markers and crayons had a special container and so did the papers, stickers, tape, etc. She prepared drawers just for them. After walking me to the craft room, Grace looked at me and said, "Momma, I organized." "Do you like it?"

Do I like it? More than she could ever imagine. I thrive on organization, yes. Gracie knows that. What do I really thrive on? The smile and love that oozes out of the heart of my daughter.

God brought Gracie to me through adoption. Only a GREAT God could match up a child with a Momma and a Daddy and reveal such intricate similarities. Not only does Gracie organize...but she's sassy and creative. She's continually gluing and cutting and coloring. She's always making something to give away...and so am I.

There's often a random piece of construction paper on the floor of my house. Taped artwork abounds. Would I change it? NEVER. After all, my daughter does have my hands; hands that bring joy to others through her creativity and giving. They are the most beautiful hands. One day she will pass them on.

A Week

This has been a week! Drama magnified. Large amounts of time wasted on things that usually take a couple of minutes. Do-overs. Oh, and here's a fun one: I almost lost my wedding rings while closing my car door in a friend's driveway! How do you do that? Apparently, rings jump off of our fingers on a regular basis - or so some friends have told me. Mine just happened to take a leap in the darkest and most difficult place to find them. (Ha!) Everything I touched seemed to have a weird spin to it...


I sit here wondering what my momma would have said to my complaints about the week I just had.

I know. Probably something like this, "Enjoy your weekend and start over on Monday." Then we'd go shopping.

Friends

I have just spent the day with several friends. One of these friends is very kind and she is often found in the backgrounds of photos taken on the important days of my life over recent years. The other friends were the ones that helped to hold me together during a very difficult time in my life. We talked and watched our children play and ate and laughed until we almost cried. I'm so thankful for these people.

Life just wouldn't be as much fun if we spent it all alone; at least that's what I think.

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel. Proverbs 27:9

Dead Fish

Today my husband found our family fish, AKA-Ralph, floating on his side. We knew the day would come where we'd have to explain death to our child. We were not looking forward to it. After each of us decided that the other spouse would have to tell our daughter that it was time to swish the fish, we both climbed the stairs to confess the tragedy.

Dad softly explained that Ralph was no longer living and he's dead...Our sweet girl said "why?" and Dad gave a simple answer that included a trip to Walmart to purchase a new fish. She said, "Okay" and asked when she could go get the new fish. No sadness or tears. She just continued to eat her breakfast. Just like any other day. No long discourse on what death is or "Is Ralph in Heaven?" Just a typical weekday morning. Funny.

We were thinking it was going to be so hard. You never can tell.

Get Away

I'm getting ready for a get-away to a women's conference. I can't wait. These are the times of refreshment and time with my God. No doubt there will be lots of chocolate, nail polish and chatter among those that I'm attending with, but the best part will be the teaching, worship, conversations with my Heavenly Father and the "rest" that comes when we bask in the Word of God.

Some of my best memories include get-aways like this. As a student, I had the opportunity to go to a winter camp where there would be tons of fun (tubing, skating, hot cocoa and snow ball fights), great bible teaching and opportunities to walk among the snow drifts (that towered over my head...) talking with the Lord. These times were instrumental in my growth as a Christian; as a daughter of the King.

If you're reading this, I hope you get to take a get-away some day...even if it just a night alone with your Bible, some good worship music and a cup of coffee. Better yet...take out your calendar, pick a date and make plans for your time away NOW. You'll never regret it.

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. - Psalm 25:4 & 5

Stray Dog

1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

I have a relatively new hobby. I walk. And I love it. I walk with friends and I walk alone. I walk to move, since most of my day involves sitting with my eyes glued to a computer monitor. I walk to beat out stress and the demons that come along with it. I walk because it is a good habit. I just do.

One early spring day I made it home from work in time to head out the door immediately…before the sun went down for the day. It was unseasonably warm and the perfect day to step outside with my ipod, instead of hopping on the treadmill. About half way through my route, I noticed that I had a follower. A dog. Now, when I walk, I walk at a pretty good clip, so this little follower completely messed up my rhythm and set me on guard. I wasn’t familiar with this dog and didn’t know why he took a liking to this woman out to shed some stress. And he annoyed me.

For a while I ignored him. I told him to go away. I tried to keep him from clumsily walking into the street as cars drove by. I ignored him again. I told him “no”. I shooed him away. On and on it went. And there he was, keeping pace with me, just the same. Just at my back. When I stopped, he stopped. When I walked, he walked right behind me. Irritated, I continued my route through to the end. What is usually a positive, energy-building experience became an arduous task. I finally made it to my home, walked into my house and shut the door.

I couldn’t help but see a spiritual picture in this. The evil one, “prowls around like a lion looking someone to devour”, he’s right there, looking for an opportunity. A way. He knows my steps enough to follow close behind and tries to get his foot into that area that I keep shooing him away from. What relief I experience when I take the time to “go home” to Jesus (in prayer), give that annoyance to him and shut the door on the evil that wants to entangle me.