Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Autumn in Alabama

Last thing I recall, it was late September and I was pulling out the Halloween decorations. Before I knew it, Thanksgiving had come and gone. What happened to October, anyway?  Now, it's time to decorate for Christmas {heavy sigh}. But first, here are some highlights from Autumn 2009.

We had our annual Halloween party, which conveniently fell on a Saturday this year. We've had a party for the last six years and typically, I really get into it. Over the last couple of years, though, not so much. I love the fun aspect of it and the memories of trick-or-treating as a kid, but I don't like what the holiday stands for and I don't care to celebrate it for that reason. I don't know yet whether we'll have a Halloween party next year...maybe a Harvest party instead...and maybe not on Halloween.

Pictured here as "Abby" from NCIS is Jess. I gotta admit, that was a pretty good costume she threw together. There's my mom, the witch (in direct contrast to her personality), and my cousin, Jimmy, as Barak Obama.

From there, we played in the leaves at the blue house...

Janie and Kaylee played in the leaves, anyway, and the guys played a little football. It was just a beautiful autumn day!  That's my front door there with the wreath, the trunk that I never know what to do with, and some potpourri that I found at Michael's (the store, not the husband). And that's the mountainside that sits next to our house.  Beautiful! God is awesome, isn't He?

I really didn't take many pictures at Thanksgiving. We had a nice one, though, and a nice four and a half days off from work.  Wouldn't you know it, come Monday morning, it was raining and gloomy out.  Very hard to go back...


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Divorce is NOT an Option

Obviously, it’s been a while since I posted. There’s been a lot going on. Life is crazy and I feel very dry…but I’m going to post anyway.

We’ve had some issues going on in our immediate family that have left me and my husband emotionally drained. I won’t go into details, but I will say emphatically, it just isn’t easy being a blended family and don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise! For anyone who may be contemplating divorce, I would suggest that you rethink that decision again and again and again and pray like crazy until you can wholeheartedly say, “divorce is NOT an option.”

The children of divorced families suffer immeasurably over the loss of their original family, regardless of how young they are at the time of the divorce. Not that good things can’t come out of bad situations – my husband and I have been very blessed in our re-marriage, and the credit for that goes to God alone. I’m just saying that while you’re there at that fork in the road, feeling like you just can’t take it anymore – consider the blessings that lie on the other side of perseverance. You were led to this place for a reason. No one ever said life or marriage would be a piece of cake. God allows trials in our lives, and yes, in our marriage, to make us stronger, but if we throw in the towel just short of realizing that strength, we forfeit the blessings that go along with it. However you think your life will improve by divorcing your current spouse, your blessings will be even greater if you stay for the long haul and work through your issues.

After divorce, we may get on with our lives and find happiness in another relationship, but our children continue to live in the rubble that our selfishness created. The sooner we accept that and become proactive in making a healthy marriage a priority, the better off we'll be. The better off our children will be.  And, at the risk of sounding radical, the better off our nation will be as a whole. Whatever idiosyncrasies your spouse has that drive you nuts – that’s nothing compared to the heartache that your children will bear for the rest of their lives if you choose to end your marriage. 

I know from experience that placing Christ at the center of your marriage is the key.  No two self-centered human beings are infallible in their own strength.  We stumble. We fall into temptation. We fail. Invite God into your marriage and witness for yourself the changes that will take place. It's amazing to watch as problems that once left your marriage paralyzed with anger and bitterness simply disperse into a fine mist - leaving behind something absolutely breath-taking - a love for your spouse like you've never known before. God will do that for you, if you'll only ask Him to.

That’s my two cents for the day.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's Love Got To Do With It?

In the years following my divorce and remarriage, I’ve developed a soft spot in my heart for the family unit and a strongly-held conviction that the family needs to be restored to what God intended it to be. So, while I'm on a roll with my deep thinkin', here's what I've been  pondering today regarding family.

I have three teenagers. Each of them has, at one time or another, had a girl friend or boy friend (someone with whom they are “going out,” even though none of them can officially date yet). With our kids pairing off at such young ages, I find myself deeply concerned, and up until now, I’ve not really known what to do about it.

On the one hand, I feel like these “puppy love” relationships are harmless. They are never left alone and unsupervised. On the other, I fear that this kind of relationship sets them up for hardened hearts later on (from break-ups and heartaches experienced before marriage) and a likelihood that they’ll one day look at marriage from the perspective “this probably won’t last either.” Not to mention the fact that teenage relationships like this might very well complicate hormonal issues that are hard enough to deal with when the opposite sex isn’t yet a factor.

A little radical, you think?  Maybe. But when you consider the ever prevalent moral decline of our society...maybe not.

Will a relationship that begins at 13, 14, or 15 really last a lifetime in our day and age? 

We’ve allowed something that God intended to be beautiful and loving to become perverted to the point that the ideology of a “first and only” love relationship is practically foreign to this generation. With American culture being what it is, our kids don’t really have a chance to experience “true love” the way our parents and grandparents did. They may catch a glimmer of it, but with the sex-saturated nature of our culture, by the time a kid is marrying age, they already know everything there is to know about the opposite sex.  They've had plenty of practice with plenty of partners. We need to change that. We need to start teaching our kids, in no uncertain terms and on a daily basis, that love, sex, and marriage are God-given, beautiful blessings to be enjoyed and treasured, and that what the world teaches them about it is fundamentally wrong.

Without some radical changes taking place at home, traditional marriage will surely become obsolete. To a great degree, it already has. I believe the turn-around starts with us, as parents, setting standards for our children that are higher than those of the world. We have to get radical in our child-rearing. We have to stop worrying about whether our kids like us or not and start doing what is necessary to change their future. We have to stop compromising.

We need to take our families back!


Monday, September 21, 2009


Isaiah 30:21: Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

I had an epiphany this morning. I'll get to that in a minute, but first, a little background.

Ten years ago, God led me to the job at which I work now. I know it was God leading me because at the time, I had no skills to speak of, and, had this job not just fallen into my lap the way it did, I never would have dreamed of applying for such a position. I’m not trying to beat myself up, but I knew  that I was highly under qualified. Nevertheless, in His usual, amazing way, God gave me the opportunity right out of nowhere – and I didn’t even ask for it! He led me through all my fear and insecurity to get me to a point where I could earn a decent living (it still baffles me to this day!). Then, when interest in my job began to wane, He led me through several years of selfish and unrealistic goals that I'd set for myself, and showed me ever so gently how desperately I need His guidance. He showed me what’s really important in life. He was always there with me and for most of that time, I didn’t even realize it.

I’ve been unsatisfied and discontented at my job for so long now, I find myself continually looking for something better. I went back to college for a while, thinking I wanted to become a paralegal, and ultimately, a lawyer (a dream I'd had since jr. high school). I really felt driven to "be" somebody. I became discouraged with school, though, because it wasn’t progressing as quickly as I wanted, and I was losing interest. Not to mention the issues at home…parenting four kids, being a wife, and full-time employee just didn’t mesh well with going to class until 10:00 at night. I just couldn't seem to make it work.

Somewhere in the midst of paralegal classes, I decided that I might give nursing a try. So, reminiscent of my earlier college days when I was fresh out of high school, I switched gears mid-stream and started taking nursing courses. Let’s just say that biology is not my “thang.” Neither is blood. Or any other bodily fluid. What was I thinking??

I’ve spent years making foolish decisions like this because I didn’t bother to seek guidance from God. I never prayed about any of these brilliant notions. I just followed what I thought at the time were good instincts. Or, in the case of becoming a lawyer, I thought I was following my heart.

More recently, I’ve been thinking of taking online courses in web design. It’s something I’m interested in and it would allow me to be creative – something my current job totally lacks. If I have to work, I figured I should at least enjoy what I'm doing. But when I thought of the extra expense we’d be taking on for another endeavor like that, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not with my track record. This time, I prayed. And I chalked that bad feeling up to the Lord’s leading me in another direction. I didn’t need to go that route again.

So, this morning, I got to thinking. I began to look at what has remained constant in my life since I started working ten years ago – my marriage, my family, my job, and the desire to homeschool.  I’ve wanted to homeschool my kids for about two and a half years now, with no real deviation from that desire. I’d try to suppress it from time to time, wondering if that, too, wasn’t just another crazy idea I’d concocted out of discontentment with my job. The desire would always come back, though. And usually stronger than before.

Sounds like continuity to me. Maybe this is what I should focus on.

Instead of going deeper into debt for more education (that I may or may not even finish - again), I should redirect my focus on getting out of debt so that I can homeschool!  It's so clear to me now!! I was blessed with a great job. One that I would never have landed in my own efforts. I need to use those God-given provisions to pay off the debt that is hindering me from making homeschool a reality. I’ve had the resources to make it happen all this time, but I’ve failed to see God’s wonderful provision through all my doubt and discouragement.

Thank you God, for showing me the way! You truly are the Great Provider!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Can I Get A Witness?

The last few days have been difficult for me. I'm waiting for some tests to come back from my trip to the doctor Tuesday afternoon.  I've been feeling some awful strong emotions and crying at the drop of a hat. I've always been a crier, but this is different. It comes in waves. Or whenever I think of my kids. Or whenever someone talks to me, is nice to me, is mean to me, or looks at me the wrong way. 

Sounds hormonal to me.

On a different note, I've often wondered what it feels like to know that you are called to work for the Lord.  Of course, I feel like we're all called to do the work of the Lord in some capacity, but I'm talking about seriously dedicating your life to that purpose - like starting a ministry.  What does that feel like?  Does everything in your life just glow with divine radiance once you come to that revelation?  Or do things get more difficult and require more from you - more spiritually, emotionally, and physically - before you actually get to the point of living out that calling?

Just wondering.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Family

I thought I'd post some photos of my family.

Here's me and my husband during a trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia, last year. He got sick from the BBQ from this restaurant...despite that, my getting mad at him later on that day, and the fact that it rained {buckets} most of the weekend, it was a nice trip. Really. It was!

And here we are at the beach. From left: Logan, Sean, Janie (in front), Me, Jess, and Michael in back. I love this picture, even though I thought someone might die before we actually took it. Everyone was hungry, mom was irritable, and no one wanted to cooperate. We had a great dinner at Captain Anderson's afterward, so we got over the trauma pretty quick.
It's never been easy to get my family together for a photo. Sometimes the memories surrounding our pictures aren't very pleasant, but that's ok. I love 'em just the same.


Change of Plans

So, we didn't quite make it to the beach. Long story, but here's the skinny:

My son, Logan, got sick the day we were going to leave and out of fear that he may have the flu crud that's going around, we debated over whether it was a good idea to leave town or not.

In the midst of trying to decide, I received a rather unusual call from a very dear friend of mine. Suffice it to say that after that call, I was sure that we should not go to the beach after all. My friend is going through a tough time right now and I pray that she's on the road to recovery. That's all I'll say about that.

Logan got better, thanks to the wonderful people who make Tamiflu, but my older son, Sean, became puny Sunday morning. He wasn't so fortunate. He was diagnosed with the flu on Tuesday of last week. He's better now, thank the Lord, but for a while there, he was pretty miserable. His only symptoms were sore throat, fever, and chills. No body aches, no cough (in the beginning). I just knew it was strep throat and not the flu. Go figure.

And here we are a week later. I keep expecting to come down with it myself. Or someone else in the family. We'll see. I pray that we don't. It's nasty stuff.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Road Trip

The Labor Day weekend is approaching and you know what that means...three-day weekend! Yes, for the working girl, a three-day weekend is big. Especially when there's no more vacation time left to take.

So, we're loading up and heading to the beach. This time, my 13-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter will be the only ones going with us. For some reason, the kids have quite a bad taste in their mouth for the beach. So much so that the older two chose to pick up trash in our community (youth project at church) rather than be subject to the 72 hour misery that is a family trip to the beach. I suppose that if we were staying in a condo, they'd change their tune a bit, but we will be staying in the travel trailer we bought a couple of years ago. We thought it might bring us closer as a family. Apparently, it's a little too close for comfort for the sophisticated tastes of our 15-year-olds. It must cramp their style somewhat to be seen in such close proximity to their parents.

Do people still say that something cramps their style? That probably went out with Fonzie.

Or maybe we're just boring.

We took the boys and our younger daughter down in June (our other daughter was with her mother...yours, mine, and ours) and it appeared to me that they were trying to have a bad time. We thought they'd love going to the water park, so we dropped a pretty penny and spent a whole day there. All the boys wanted to do was sit around in lounge chairs and complain that it was too hot. One of them did enjoy the wave pool once, and I forced them both to grab an innertube and float down the lazy river. Who doesn't like the lazy river, for crying out loud? When I was a kid, I'd have been thrilled to pieces to go to the water park.

I don't think we're all that boring. I think kids are just different now. Too many video games. Too much television. It really isn't their fault. It's ours.

In any event, we're going to the beach, leaving two behind. It makes me sad. They're staying behind for a good cause, though. I'm proud of them. I think they're wonderful.


Monday, August 31, 2009

The Voice

Here is something I wrote earlier this year during a particularly rough period with my son...

My younger son is 13. A vulnerable age – wedged snugly between boyhood and manhood. I can only imagine that’s a very confusing place to be. He’s a thinker – very insightful. Over the course of the past several months, he's expressed serious questions about life, about himself, and about God. He told me recently, in no uncertain terms, that he didn’t believe in God. As hard that was for me to hear, I believe he is genuinely looking for answers to his questions. He wants tangible proof that God exists.

After he dropped the bomb of disbelief on me that night, we read scripture together. Whether he was open to believe God’s Word or not, I knew that was the only place to find answers to his questions. We read and we talked. We talked about finding our worth in God and not in what the world thinks we should be. We talked about finding purpose in life through all the disappointments and obstacles we face. We also talked about spiritual gifts - how we find our unique gift and use it to glorify God. We talked about several things that night, but most important, I think, was our talk about how we should not allow Satan to steal our joy by listening to his lies, because Satan knows our weaknesses and he preys on those weaknesses in order to bring us to the point of despair – to the point of losing hope, and ultimately, losing our faith. This, I feared, is the point my son had reached.

Surprisingly, on the Sunday morning following that talk, my son wanted to sit with me at church. He usually sits with his friends from the youth group in the front pews, but for whatever reason, my confused baby boy chose to sit with me that day, and I was honored. I hadn’t expected my husband to come to church that day. He has doubts and questions of his own, and going to church with us has been a struggle for him. But lo and behold, he came! He was late, but he came! As I sat there between my husband and my troubled son, I thanked God for His goodness and His grace.

The chatter in the sanctuary quieted down as the pastor opened the service with prayer. I cried as he prayed, struggling to focus on the words of his prayer through my tears. I didn’t know for sure if it was hormones causing my tears or if I was truly moved by the Holy Spirit. Not to take away from the moving of the Spirit, but I cry a lot. My crying in church is no rare occasion. In fact, it’s pretty much a sure thing – like death and taxes. On this day, though, I wasn’t just crying, as a general term. I was weeping. The tears were coming from deep within me; my soul ached for a healing touch from the Lord. I have felt an aching spirit before, but today, the ache seemed stronger than ever. In addition to the struggles with my son and our other three children, my husband and I had battled various issues throughout our marriage of eight years, and the battle seemed endless. I wanted peace. I wanted unity. I needed to hear from God. Our family desperately needed healing and God was the only One who could provide it.

The choir began to sing and the congregation gradually joined in. The praise and worship was more powerful that day than it had felt in a long time, at least for me. As I stood there listening to the music, I felt like singing, but all I could do was bow my head, close my eyes, and let the words and music penetrate to the core of me. My tears spilled out onto my hands as I grasped the pew in front of me. I felt detached somehow. Like a scene in a movie where a person is unconscious and can hear those around him, but is unable to respond.

I prayed. I don’t know exactly what I prayed for, but I prayed. My mind seemed to race. There was so much in my life that needed God’s touch; I didn’t even know where to begin. My mind scrambled for something to say. “Please Lord, please just help us! Bring what we need! Help my son - open his fragile heart and help him see you Lord, protect him from Satan’s lies! Strengthen my marriage…please, Lord!” I went on and on, rambling requests to God about nothing in particular, but everything in general. Then, through my mind’s voice and my heart’s cries, I heard it. The words were so clear that I actually looked over to my left where my son stood because that’s where it seemed to come from. The voice was distinctly different from that of my mind. This voice was gentle and soothing. I clearly heard the words.

"It will be ok."

Was that Him? I’d always heard people talk about hearing the Lord telling them this or that. How does that sound? How do you know it's really Him?

Feeling a bit confused, I took a deep breath and my tears began to subside. I felt a rush of peace and contentment come over me as I looked up through moist, foggy eyes. My racing thoughts slowed as I recalled the words I had just heard. “It will be ok.” Not exactly earth-shattering, and a little more vague than I would have thought, but comforting nonetheless.

The worship music sounded so sweet; I began to sing. The desperation and grief I had felt a moment ago was completely gone. The Spirit of the Lord was there, and he was standing right beside me – between me and my troubled son! He spoke to me. He heard the cries of my heart and He spoke to me!

Shortly after that precious moment, we sat down and my son leaned over to rest his head on my shoulder. This is a boy who typically pulls away at the slightest indication that I might touch him. I was surprised at first, and thought that perhaps he was merely tired and wanted a place to rest his sleepy head. Even if that was the case, it was fine with me. I began to cry again, only this time it was tears of joy. Tears of thanksgiving. I leaned my head over to rest on his and we sat there together, listening to the music fade as the pastor began his sermon. I sat very still, trying to stifle my sobs of joy for fear that he would lift his head from my shoulder. I reveled in the closeness I felt with him at that moment.

Eventually, he did move his head and sat up in the pew. I wondered if he was listening to the sermon. He was fidgety, as usual. Examining his fingernails. Squirming. My initial instinct was to nudge him with my elbow and tell him to be still and listen. Then I remembered the voice I’d heard moments earlier. “It will be ok.” Trusting in my Assurance, I returned my attention to the sermon. Something the pastor said at that point really hit home. He spoke of the lies Satan tells us, with the intention to steal our joy and to discourage us. To distract us from the One who gives us joy. I leaned over to my son and whispered in his ear, “do you remember our talk about this the other night?” “Yes,” he answered. He was listening. Thank you, God, he was listening!

After the service concluded, there was a rare smile on my son’s face. I don’t know if he was able to comprehend all that happened that day, but I was happy to see that smile. The Lord worked in our lives during that service. God heard my cries, He knew my pain and that of my son. He was there that day with His arms around us, and He assured me “it will be ok.” Perhaps I felt more from the Lord that day than my son did, but I know what I heard. I know why I heard it. On this day, I’d heard the voice of the Lord assure me, “it will be ok.”

“I trust you, Lord,” I said, with my arm around my son. “I trust you to give him what he needs.”