Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Running the White Line

For several weeks I've been trying to construct this blog post. Thinking about it, letting the lesson sink in a little further, and just when I would sit down to post...

Life would happen. Nothing crazy or traumatic mind you, just everyday life.

Today, my sweet friend (and newly published Bible study author!) Leah posted this on FaceBook:

"We would be wise to keep our eyes on the path that God has set for us and not worry about or fret over the path of another that seems more blessed or successful."

I shared this story a few weeks ago with my Bible study girls and I'm praying that I can "tell" this story clearly here.

It was the morning of my first four mile training run. Chad had decided that it was time to change our run course so we headed to the road. Because I was used to running clean, street lamp lit, somewhat level neighborhood streets, I was very nervous.

Nervous because I didn't know the terrain. The area of road we were running was not lit by street lamps. Chad offered some words of advice that have been resonating in my heart ever since then.

"Don't worry about seeing 10 feet in front of you, just run the white line and concentrate on the next step."

On the two miles out, Chad was in front of me and it was easy to see the white line and even three or four steps of that line in front of me. He was wearing a flashing light that illuminated more of the road in front of me.

On the two miles back to the house, Chad was behind me. (Traffic was picking up so he ran behind so cars coming from behind could see that flashing light that I had been so thankful for on the two miles out.) When he jumped behind me he reminded me to just concentrate on the white line and nothing else. His words stuck in my mind, "Do not look to the right or left, just concentrate on the white line, it is the safest place to step."

I was doing okay, not real crazy about it but was okay until a car came toward us. Immediately I heard my husband say, do NOT look at those headlights, keep your eyes on the white line and you'll be fine.

I couldn't help, I looked. My eyes were blinded for a minute by the brightness of those headlights and I lost the white line I was supposed to be running. I stumbled for several steps and eventually caught myself.

The headlights of the car were not meant for me. While they were illuminating the path for the driver, they were harmful to me.

A few weeks ago in my Bible study, Deuteronomy 6:32-33 was referenced. It sums up this up perfectly.

You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.

My white line and your white line may never intersect. They may be going in totally different directions, BUT.

When you run the line God has called you to run, and I run the line He has called me to, we are running in the safest place.

Matthew 6:33-34 tells us

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Lately, I have been hearing God continue to say to my heart, "Just run the white line. Don't let another distract you from the next step I have for you. Seek me first. Not friends, not family, ME."

As 2010 comes to an end, I just want Him. More than ever, I want to just run the line He has planned for me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Friday Night at Deeper Still

I was all pumped up for a weekend with God. A weekend of worship and focus on Him. My heart had prayed for several weeks that I would hear Him and not be caught up in anything but Him.

It was an emotional weekend. God spoke something to my heart through each speaker and I am still processing it all.

From Kay Arthur I was reminded that God's Word holds everything I need. It is my bread, my manna, my all. I am praying that He would give me a deeper and stronger desire for His word.

Before she taught the ENTIRE BOOK OF MATTHEW, she invited us to pray along with her. One of the statements that really tugged at my heart was this:

"Whatever you say to me, I will do."

I'm a bit ashamed to say that it was very hard for me to pray this. More on that later.

Ms. Kay challenged me from the start! But if I had to pick one thing to share with you it would be this: Jesus is not something we add to our life. He is NOT an accessory. And let me just say, in a room of 14,000 women there were some beautiful accessories!

BUT. There were also some ugly accessories. Mostly on this girl. Thus the reason I was struggling to pray "whatever you say to me, I will do." God began to show me during Kay's teaching that before He could speak to me, I needed to take off some of the offensive and ugly things I had put on. Jesus is my life. I love Him more than anything or anyone. But Friday, I saw things in myself that made me cringe. Things that were repulsive to Him.

Kay reminded us on Friday evening that the Scribes and Pharisees had all the external things of faith. They, like us, put on their "Sunday best" and plaster their "Sunday School Smile" across their face. They knew all the right answers and obeyed all the rules. They were decked head to toe in holy accessories, but there was not a life changing, heart relationship with Jesus Christ.

The sad thing is, I do have Christ in me but on Friday if you did not know me very well, your opinion of me may have been that I was very "Pharisee". I had all the external things of faith. Bible, Notebook, Armband. :) But I had added a few extra accessories that I am ashamed of.

I am so glad that my God is a God of forgiveness and that the minute I asked Him to forgive, it was done. At that point I could hear and worship as one with clean hands and clean heart.

As she so beautifully and powerfully reminded us, true repentance is making adjustments in our life so that our life lines up with Jesus.

Remember the prayer "Whatever you say to me, I will do"? Those few words, along with Ms. Kay's teaching was what God used to prepare my heart for Saturday morning.

I'll share about that tomorrow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

We Made It

What a weekend! I hope your Thanksgiving was the best ever. We had a busy busy BUSY weekend. :)

Chad and I headed up to my parent's house on Wednesday afternoon. The girls have a tradition of going home with my parents the week of Thanksgiving. It gives me a chance to Christmas shop, decorate and rest before the crazy holiday season begins. I live for this week. :)

Once we got to TN, we all loaded up and went to see Tangled. LOVED it.

Thursday, we had a great Thanksgiving meal at my mom and dad's. After we got lunch cleaned up and one car loaded, I headed up to my sister's place with my Mom and Dad. She was married on Friday. I was thrilled to spend the night with her and do all the pre-wedding fun stuff with her Friday morning.

Chad and the girls drove up Friday morning and we all enjoyed seeing Valerie and Josh along with their children S. and C. become a family. It was beautiful.

Because I'm just about to fall over asleep, I'm going to post some pictures from the special day. They speak louder than I can!

Val and C. at the hotel.

The five cousins excited and ready to welcome number six to their special club.

Mom putting on the garter that she wore 41 years ago and I wore almost 17 years ago.

I have no idea why these photos are so small! ARGGGG!!!

Val with C. and S.

Me and my younger sister. I think this was one of two of us. :)

Mom and Dad with the Bride and Groom.

Josh and Val leaving the bed and breakfast. (Which was one beautiful place!)

It was a beautiful day for a family to begin.

Saturday, we all drove over to Pigeon Forge and had lunch together. Let me just give a plug for The Partridge and Pear restaurant. It was WONDERFUL!!! Food was incredible and the decor... stunning. Made me want to come home and paint the ceiling in my dining room! Seriously, if you are in Pigeon Forge, RUN. Do not walk to this restaurant! It is fabulous!
Here is the new family at lunch on Saturday.

Welcome Josh and S. We are thrilled you have become part of our family!

We have spent the day doing laundry and getting the house decorated. School starts early in the morning, so I'm headed for an early bedtime!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Training Lessons: Looking Back at the Battlefield 1/2 Marathon

We were somewhere between mile 6 and 7. The trees had created a fall canopy that kept the sun from shining on us. That stretch of the run felt like a tunnel to me. It was very shaded and cool. The crowd that we had started with had all fallen into their own pace and there was room to spread out and breath. But mentally, I was having to force myself to concentrate. God had given me several verses to say at different points of this run and I was saying things like, "do not throw away your confidence, Stephanie". (Heb. 10:35) And "I can do all things..." (Phil.4:13) when I heard them.

There, between mile 6 and 7 I could hear a crowd. Faintly, I could hear them yelling and encouraging the runners ahead of me. Chad heard it about the same time and said "LISTEN! Can you hear them cheering?" I did hear and began to listen intently to see if I could understand what they were saying. It was then that this passage in Hebrews came to mind:

Hebrews 12:1-2

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

I began thanking God for the cloud of witnesses that were cheering us on, the seen and the unseen. The twitter friends, the family and friends around the country and the people that had lined the start line as we began the race an hour before.

We were still running under the beautiful canopy of fall leaves but the cheering crowd was getting louder. Chad kept saying that we were almost out of the woods into the clearing. That was when I felt like I was really having a meltdown or some sort of hallucination. I felt like I could hear my girls voices in that crowd. I couldn't make out words, but I know what my girls cheering sounds like and I was convinced I heard them yelling.

I looked up and saw my Dad standing on the edge of the woods, then I saw Chad's mom and sister. Then I heard my girls and nieces screaming "THERE THEY ARE!!!"

That would have been the cue for the ugly cry.

I had not been going crazy or having a meltdown! :) I was hearing the voice of my children cheering everyone on. They were my great cloud of witnesses that cheered me through the toughest part of my run, the half-way point.

We ran out of the woods into the sunshine and the smiles of my Dad, mother in law, sister in law, nieces and my daughters. They ran along side us for a few minutes and gave me the push I needed to finish the last 5 miles.

They were having so much fun cheering for everyone, but I'm not quite sure they realize just how incredible it was to see their smiling faces as we came out of the shade into the light.

Made me wonder what our entrance into Heaven will be like. I can't fathom what it will be like to finish this race of life and see the face of Jesus and even sweeter, hear the sound of his voice. What a day that will be.

Here are our cheerleaders waiting on us near the finish line. (Thanks Linds. for taking pictures!) The two short ones are our daughters. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Training Lessons: A Few Words and Some Pictures

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Hebrews 10:35-36

This was one of my training verses and THE verse I read as I went to sleep on Friday night. It was also the first verse I read Saturday morning. It was my mile marker power verse.

Friday night, I was hit with the realization that I had been diligent in my training. I had done everything I could possibly do to prepare for Saturday's race. I had read and followed my training plan, watched what I put in my body, been faithful to REST when was supposed to....

I spent 17 weeks preparing for this day. And while I had pre-race jitters...I was able to rest well Friday night knowing that I had done all I could. Now it was time to just run.

Saturday morning I asked God to speak to me during the race, and He did. But today, I am just so overwhelmed and physically tired that I'm not sure it's the time to share it! Plus, I need it to soak in a little before I try and share it. :)

SO...today, here are some pictures!!

This is my Dad and Chloe and Emma with me before the race. It was very cool!

My Sister-In-Law, Mother-In-Law and our two oldest nieces also came to cheer us on. Sis-In-Law caught this picture at mile 8. (That will be part of what I'll share later, but just know that in this picture..I'm crying the ugly cry.)

Here we are after the finish. Our time was 2:38:39!!!

We are home, and I'm discovering a new appreciation for the ice pack! Thanks so much for your prayers and support! I really did have a great cloud of witnesses cheering and praying me on. Thank you!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Training Lessons: 4 Days and Counting!!!

My mind is spinning. I'm nervous, excited, sick to my stomach. And in shock the 17 weeks of training did not kill me. :) I think it helps to have a cute trainer. Just sayin'.

Chad and I are four days FOUR days from the 1/2 marathon. I've been adding some music to my iPod tonight and I can not find a particular CD that has a song I NEED. It's my theme song and must have it for the weekend.

Because I'm so scattered brain right now, I'm just going to share it with you...

I hope and pray you know Jesus and the power of his love and forgiveness. My favorite line? "My past has been erased by just one touch of you..."


I'm off to tear this house apart and FIND THAT KIRK FRANKLIN CD!!!!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Training Lesson: Even On the Rest Day

Even on the rest day, training takes place. Today, I am two days past my longest run to date. A little over 12 miles was what God helped me do on Saturday morning. And now that we are two days past that run, I can say...

As hard as it was, it wasn't as hard as I expected it to be. Please don't misunderstand me..it was work. Here are few highlights (if you can call them that) from Saturday's run:

I cried when I ran past a dead deer.

Gagged when we past the dead opossums.

Squealed like a girl and ran up the middle of the road when a pack of junkyard dogs chased me up the street...

but I finished it.

And my dislike of dogs is greater than ever.

All this training is paying off. We are just 12 days from the 1/2 marathon and while I'm not sure I'll ever be "ready", I am beginning to get excited!

The training today was a little different. It was some emotional and mental training. AND, had nothing to do with my running. It was spiritual.

After the events of today, I believe God was giving me an opportunity to obey in an area that could potentially have some hard consequences. It was one more opportunity for God to remind me that He is big enough to handle the consequences of my obedience.

I woke up with the "opportunity" on my brain, AGAIN. It had presented itself numerous times over the weekend and I had remained silent. DISOBEDIENCE. When it presented itself again, I knew that today was the day. So I did it.

Before I knew it, I was faced with a bit of opposition. I sat at the computer screen praying about what to say, IF I should say anything at all. Immediately, Exodus 14:14came to my mind. It says,

"The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I know that verse well. In fact the Message translation well, it just says:

"God will fight the battle for you. And you? You keep your mouth shut!"

Yes, I know. That will preach.

So as I'm sitting there saying I hear you Lord, God "fought" for me. And you know what? I got to watch Him do it. I got to watch my God do the talking.

Tonight, as I look back over the day, I have a peace about the entire thing. I also have a burden that I didn't have this morning.

A burden that I asked God for, but wasn't expecting it to hit the heart quite so hard.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Training Lessons: Yes, God Speaks

Our Bible study group is just starting week 3 of "Discerning the Voice of God". LOVE it. This study is just so powerful and after watching the third video setting up session 3, I believe this week is going to be HUGE in the life of our Bible study group. I can hardly wait for our next time together.

God speaking to me has been a desire for as long as I can remember. I remember being just old enough to take my own bath. I would sit in the tub and talk to God, asking Him to whisper in my ear. Just tell me something, ANYTHING. I just wanted to hear His voice.

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know that five years ago, God sidelined me from my "position" within our Worship Arts ministry. He did it because of an area of disobedience in my life. I refused to submit to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, so God had me sit out with my hand in a cast for six weeks or so.

During my "break" God and I had quite a bit of time to well...work on several areas of my heart. Hard? Yes. It was very hard to look at that area of my life and admit I was wrong. That I had allowed myself to wind up with a stronghold that I would have never imagined.

It was during that time that my childhood desire and hunger for His voice returned. I could not and still can not get enough of Him. God, for reasons unknown to me, allowed me to write "Speak to Me". (With one arm in a cast!) That hour or so of writing with Him was one of the sweetest yet intense times in my spiritual life. I know that I heard Him and that He heard me. A spiritual mile marker I will never forget.

Saturday during our 10 mile run I had another moment like that with God. A moment that ranks right up there with that day in December of 2005 when "Speak to Me" was written.

We were somewhere between mile 7 and 8. My tough miles. While we had stepped up the pace a bit, Chad was doing his best to keep me from speeding up. I knew we were on our last lap and I was ready to get the last big hill D.O.N.E. and finish that last mile on mostly flat road.

My body was tired and my legs numb, but I kept thinking about my dear running friend who says "Just keep moving in the general direction of forward!" Apparently, the more I thought about that, the faster my pace became.

Chad FINALLY made me swap to the inside and he ran a step or two in front of me. If I got too close, he would put his arm out and push me back.

Immediately, I thought about Priscilla Shirer and the video I had just watched on Friday morning. That's when I felt God speak.

"Don't rush. Don't speed up. You aren't quite ready for that yet. Don't miss the lessons from today's run because you are trying to just get it done."

Boy, oh boy did I get it. I needed to finish this 10 mile run well and feeling like I could go a little longer. Why? Because next Saturday I run 12. If I missed the lesson of pacing, my next long run would be harder than it needed to be.

Priscilla said it this way, "Diligently engage in the truth He has allowed you to see right now!"

She also referenced this verse. Yes, it is going into my scripture spiral this week.

Mark 4:24 (NLT)
Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given,and you will receive even more."

Saturday afternoon after my ice bath, I realized how serious that point is. Sometimes, we get SO caught up in what we are asking or expecting God TO DO, that we overlook what He IS DOING today. I don't want to miss Him today, so I'll be the one running a little slower with her eyes fixed on the back of the One in front of her.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Trip By the Dump

Last Friday evening while Chad and my dad took the girls to a football game, my mother and I headed to Target to find a new coffee maker. Gretal, who served me faithfully for one year decided to leak. Repeatedly. All over my counters. Not a fun thing.

To avoid the horrible football traffic in this small town, I was brave and decided to head the back way to Target. I found it with no problem in case you were wondering, and we brought home a new coffee pot. He was promptly named Howard Dooley. We are getting along just fine thank you, but that isn't what this is about.

On our way to Target, we passed the dump. As we approached, we noticed there was a mist coming out of pipes in the fence that surrounds the garbage mountain. I was fascinated at what this mist would be. Then we smelled it.

Now, I'm no expert in air freshening products, but it sure did smell like an interstate rest area type of freshener being sprayed around the perimeter of the dump. We got tickled and thought it was the craziest thing we had ever seen. Only in small town Georgia. However, I'm quite sure the people who live around there appreciate the air freshener. (Maybe they could contract with Febreeze because what they were spraying was nasty.)

I've thought about that garbage mountain several times this week. Buried underneath that green grass is nothing but garbage. (My sweet coffee maker Gretal is probably there now.) No matter what the top layer of that "mountain" looks like, there is rotting garbage underneath. Trash. The things we wouldn't dare to keep in our homes because of the stench it would bring.

Sometimes in life we bury things that we are ashamed of. Things that we would just die if anyone knew about. We pile poor decisions, hurt, unforgiveness, anger on top of more hurt, bitterness, unconfessed sin....we in essence build our own garbage mountain.

Then we dress it up.

We put on our Sunday best and hide behind our good works, our activity, our church membership,and our tithe check. And at the same time, there is a mountain of garbage underneath that needs to be dealt with once and for all. Those outward activities aren't bad things! Often times they are things that God has called us TO do, but when we aren't operating with a clean and garbage free heart...they are like that cheap air freshener. It smells good for a short time, but then becomes repulsive. That is not what God intends.

We are to be a sweet aroma in this world. A world that needs Jesus.

2 Corinthians 2:15 says, "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing."

Today, more than ever we Christians must take our position in the world serious. People need Jesus, and they need to see that following Him is worth it! They need to see that He is the best thing that has ever happened to you! Do you believe it? Have you granted Him full access to your heart?

If we are going to be the pleasing aroma of Christ in this world, we can't settle for anything less than a clean, restored and healthy heart. A heart that oozes His saving aroma and nothing else.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Training Lessons: Stuffing

In this post I shared about my experience with the hill of death and the "dog" that gave me the giggles. If you haven't read it, you might want to read it first to understand this. :)

So last Tuesday afternoon after we had finished school and I was sitting down to my afternoon Spark, I thought back over the morning's run. Yes, I laughed about the stuffed dog and Chad's use of the word "stuffer" instead of taxidermist.

As I made some mental notes about my run and things I would do differently next time, I kept thinking about that silly dog and it reminded me of what some of us Christians look like.

We stuff ourselves to the point we can hardly move. Stuffed full of Biblical knowledge and spiritual activity. We "DO" all the things we have been told by the church good Christians do. While those things are good they are not always the best and sometimes, they are not at all what Jesus told us to do.

Our lives are so full of activity that the Word of God does not have time to sink
into our being. It stays in our head. His Word, His Holy Word that was given as our road map, our love story, our story of redemption...hardly goes past our eyeballs into our brain. It doesn't take root deep in our beings because we are so dadgum busy that we don't have time to let it sink in.

That dog as real as it looked was a dead. (I really think it was a statue, but will not be going back down the hill to take a closer look.) It simply gave the appearance of what once was. Or perhaps better said, it was an illusion of something that was once full of life.

I'm praying that God will convict this heart the second I start to look like a stuffed and stiff Christian or worse, an illusion of a Christian. I want to look like a Christian who is LIVING the abundant life Jesus died for me to have.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Training Lessons: It's Easier to Laugh

Early yesterday morning Chad and I headed out for my first 8 mile run. Not only was I running my longest distance to date, I was also responsible for my (and I'm quoting my husband) "hydration and food". For the first time, I looked like a serious runner. Belt with small water bottles filled with my Rehydrate drink and in the pocket of that belt was my favorite part of longer runs. A mint chocolate pudding like gel that I get to eat. Seriously, I love the stuff.

We were around 5 miles when we took a turn down a road I had not run on before. It was around 5:30 am and still pretty dark. A house on my right had it's front porch light on and there was a dog sitting perfectly still on the front step. Almost too still. I am very afraid of dogs, so I was keeping my eyes on that thing.

I was amazed at how still that thing was and asked Chad if it was real. He laughed at me and said no. (Seriously, it was spooky at how real this thing looked. Fur and all.) He laughed at me, and we passed the spooky dog house. I soon realized I was headed DOWN a long steep hill into a dead end. Going down was not an issue, coming back up was another story.

So we rounded the dead end and headed out of what I'm calling death valley. It was awful. I was crying and it was NOT because God was teaching me something. I was crying because IT HURT. Everything hurt. I was just about ready to sit down on the curb and tell my husband to go get the car. But that freaky dog was still on that porch and it had me so spooked I knew I couldn't stay on that street. So I kept moving forward.

Chad actually had the nerve to ask me why I was crying. Between the sobs, and hiccups I managed to get out "hill" and "Can't do this." Do you know what he said to me?

"Come on, we've got to take a look at that dog that has been to see the stuffer." I said, " Stuffer? Are you talking about taxidermy?"

Yes, friends he was. Bless his heart, he couldn't think of the word and "stuffer" was what came out.

Well that started the giggles. GIGGLES at 5:30 in the morning. On the hill of death.

We came to the top and there sat the dog that looked stuffed. While I was still a little spooked by this thing, the giggles had taken over and the tears had stopped. We are still laughing about it all.

We finished and I learned that when running, it's easier to laugh than have the ugly cry.

I'll share Thursday how God used that spooky dog to teach me a spiritual lesson.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lessons in the Holy Classroom: Listening Skills

Since January or so, Freedom's Call has been talking and planning with a church around Warner Robbins, GA. We've been praying and preparing for this weekend. A weekend where we will worship Jesus and dive into His word. Jill is teaching on Spiritual Breakthroughs. It is a powerful teaching and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous! (She has the worship team up on stools for part of a session for some "discussion" time. Mercy, I'm sweating just thinking about it!)

God has had all four of us in the Holy classroom as we prepare for this weekend. If I attempted to tell you a fraction of what has gone on in our lives the last few months, you would not believe it. Instead, I want to share something that is a little less intense. Something God has been reminding me of.

I'll just go ahead and say, if you know me in real life you know I struggle with this and I apologize. I KNOW it and God is working on it. Thanks. :)

I read a Proverb every day. As far back as I can remember I have done this. Even when I was not doing a serious quiet time with the Lord, I read the Proverb of the day. I love Proverbs.

So last Saturday, (after my first 6 mile run!) I settled into Proverbs 18. There are several "mouth" verses in this chapter that I love. A few of them were in my middle school girl's lesson last night. Saturday, I was thinking about how they all worked into that. When I came to verse 13 and knew it was time to stop and settle in for a few minutes. C.O.N.V.I.C.T.I.O.N.

Here it is from the ESV. (What I'm using this month)

"If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame."

As if that wasn't enough, here it is in the Message.

"Answering before listening is both stupid and rude."

Yep. I have a bad habit of being stupid and rude. Especially with my husband.

Whoever said finishing each other's sentences is sweet and romantic and a sign of how close you are...well. They were lying.

Listening skills, along with an extra assignment in humility is what God is pressing into me.

Pretty appropriate since our Bible study girls start "Discerning the Voice of God" this evening. I'll probably need extra homework!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Lazy Saturday that Could Have Gone Bad.

Chad surprised me last night with a date night. Walked in the door after work and said, how long until dinner is ready? I told him 10 minutes and he said, "Good, we leave in 15 minutes."

Thank the good Lord I had makeup on. He handled the rest of dinner while I cleaned up and got changed. Babysitter taken care of and we were out the door within 15 minutes. HUGE, for this OCD planner. Since this was our first and last free weekend for a while, it was good to escape to our favorite Mexican restaurant for a little while.

Since we had no official plans today, we slept in. (Chloe and I were both awake around our normal times.) It's been awhile since I did not wake up to an alarm. LOVED it.

After half a bagel, I headed out with my handsome trainer to run. Today was my first 6 mile run. Yes, I lived. Moving slower than normal this afternoon, but I lived. Totally off subject - I have started my search for my marathon outfit. Apparently, it isn't a good idea to wear new clothes for the first time on race day. SO....I've got to find the outfit and break it in before November, 13. Who knew? I sure didn't. This running thing is a whole new world. And I love it.

Here is the reason this Saturday could have gone bad fast for me.

There were two conferences I really wanted to be at this weekend. Honestly, I have been a little unsettled all week knowing that it wasn't going to happen. At the same time I was looking forward to some much needed family time at home. (WITH NO PLANS.) It was this up and down roller coaster of emotions all week long. This morning as I was running next to Chad, it hit me that I was content. Content that I was right where I needed to be, but more importantly where God wanted me to be this weekend.

I could log on to Twitter and FaceBook, see my friends updates from these two totally different locations and be thrilled for them to be there. I could read their updates and be happy that I was at home with my favorite people.

The Saturday that could have gone bad did not. God knew that I needed the rest and family time. He knows what next weekend holds and that I will need to be rested and focused on Him.

This weekend was just one more reminder that He is for us and for our good. As much as I would have loved to have been at either of those conferences, I would not trade date night and this beautiful Saturday with my family for anything.


(Oh, and if you think about us, please pray for Freedom's Call as we will be ministering to a group of women in Centerville, GA next weekend! We are excited and can't wait to see what God is going to do! Thanks!)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Training Lessons: Slow Down

I'm seven weeks into my training for this 1/2 marathon. (Nov. 13 is coming fast!) God continues to use this physical training time as a spiritual training time. Thursday's run was no exception.

When we finished the four miles I was pretty pleased with my time. (43 mins and a few seconds) I was getting ready to share my time with Chad when he looked at me said, "You've got to stop treating every run like it's race day. You need to slow down and concentrate on finishing each run feeling like you could have run a little further." He went on to tell me he was putting a heart rate monitor on me during my next run. Oh,and that I needed to slow down so I wouldn't need to walk as much. Yikes. And to think I was feeling good about my run!

When I "passionately" reminded him that I had NOT walked very much, he "passionately" told me that I would not have needed to walk had I been running at a slower pace. I just shut my mouth and enjoyed my post workout chocolate shake. Chocolate really makes everything better. :)

His words were on my brain all day. "Slow down." and "Concentrate on finishing today's run well." were two things that continued to pop up all day. I know that is God's way of saying, "HELLOOOOO, are you getting this?"

God reminded me that I do the exact same thing in life. I know that God has me, and you too, in a process, or training time. He is always teaching us. Stripping away the parts of us that He can not use and molding us into His image making us more like Him. That process can be excruciating at times. Worth it? Yes, but it can be intense.

Far too often, I find that I just want to get through the training time and celebrate the end of the journey. Selfish and prideful isn't it? To think that I can just be "done" with the lesson before God says it's time.

This week, God reminded me that I need to fix my eyes directly in front of me and concentrate on the next step. The finish line is coming and the training for this lesson will eventually come to an end.

This passage has been on my heart all week:

Hebrews 12:1-2
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For today, I'm to put one foot in front of the other and relax into the rhythm of today's training time. I don't want to miss the joy of today's lesson because my eyes are fixed on the wrong thing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Can't Believe It.

I've had a couple of "I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS" moments lately. So, I thought I would jot them down.

I CAN'T BELIEVE that I have a seventh grader. So far, middle school has been a fun and sweet adventure. Watching her enter into some new and uncharted territory is a little frightening, but she is a good kid and makes parenting easy.

CAN'T BELIEVE my baby will be in my fourth grade choir in two weeks! Seems like yesterday she was in the kindergarten choir! It's going to be a fun year. I'm so excited to have Emma and her sweet friends. I have missed my choir kids this summer.

And speaking of Emma. I CAN'T BELIEVE she was stung by a wasp at school today! To make it worse, it was on her face. RIGHT under her eye. It was the first time she had every been stung. Of all places to be stung.

But the biggest I can't believe it moment is personal. I can't believe that I'm running.

Me. Stephanie! RUNNING. And even more surprising,

I enjoy it. Like REALLY enjoy it.

What is wrong with me?!?!

This week I passed my 35 mile mark. Tomorrow morning I will do my first four mile run.

I'm finding myself to be way to concerned with the numbers of my run. I watch my Nike trainer a little too much. Chad says, "SLOW DOWN, We aren't concerned about time right now, we just want to finish today's run." But in my mind...

I'm thinking that I want to beat his 1/2 marathon time from 2008. :) I have this crazy competitive side coming out and I'm not sure I've seen her before.

One of the reasons I'm enjoying the run so much is because every time I'm out there, huffing and puffing and yes sweating, God speaks.

He shows off in some way and I love it. Yesterday morning we were running early. (Like 5:30 am) and it was a course with several hills. These hills are hills that I drive every.single.day. I "know" they are there.

My perspective of thess demons...ummmm I mean hills.. :) was so different in my car. On foot these babies are evil!

The first one was pretty early in the three mile run. I made it all the way to the top and thought, "Well. At least I got the hill done early." Wrong.

At mile two, I started a LONG hill that took me right up to my three mile mark. I really wanted to stop. I was tired, my throat was dry and I was sweating way too much. (Have I mentioned how I feel about sweat?) To this point, it was the closest I've come to being done.

My Nike Trainer was talking in my ear, "1 mile to go" and then the next song started. It was "Jesus Saves" off of Travis Cottrell's "Jesus Saves Live" project.

We were about halfway up that horrible hill when Chad pointed up and said, "This is the best part of running in the morning. Look, it's daybreak." These were the next words I heard in the song:

"Freedom's calling, chains are falling, hope is dawning bright and true.
Day is breaking, night is quaking, God is making all things new.
Jesus saves."

I finished my run on the verge of tears. Daybreak was beautiful. The music I ran to was motivating, BUT it turned my run into a praise and worship time. So sweet.

Day is breaking and all things are new. I so needed the reminder Thursday morning that each day is an opportunity for a new start. A fresh dose of God's mercy. My God knew that I needed a holy reminder and He orchestrated one that I will not forget.

Can't believe that He loves the way He does. What a God we have.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Intense Mirror Time

Over the last few months God has impressed something on my heart. I would talk to Chad about the situation and all that was on my heart and he listened. Occasionally, he would suggest that I needed to do a particular thing but I was scared. My human nature strongly disliked the potential consequences. And trust me, I had about 100 different scenarios on how things could go.

My former buddy fear started hanging around. I would be praying about this thing and hear "What if.....?" It was crazy. I KNOW to grab the thoughts, line them up under God's word and trash what doesn't agree with it. But in this particular thing, it was a struggle.

Struggle really isn't a strong enough word. This was a battle. A battle for freedom and honestly, the enemy didn't want to see that happen. Believe me when I say he kicked into high gear to prevent it. He failed by the way.

This is vague I know, but what God showed me after the particular thing was over, has overwhelmed my heart.

He reminded me how important mirror time is. Time to stop and take a good long look at where He and I are. He's given me some questions to ask myself and I'm to journal those answers so that I don't forget.

Questions like,

Am I spending focused time with the Lord each day? If not, why?

Have I asked the Lord to speak to me this week and I have I sat quietly and listened?

Am I placing my acts of service for the Lord (choir, ministry, teaching Bible Study...) ahead of God? Have they become an idol?

What things in me need to be stripped away so that God can complete what He's started in me?

Who am I sharing my Jesus story with?

Oh, I didn't even get to the hard stuff. Some of those I can hardly even speak aloud, much less include here.

This post was started in June. At the time, I didn't feel like I could post it. Today, on a lazy Saturday after some mirror time, He reminded me of the questions. It was time to sit with them again.

I can tell that Mirror Time is going to continue to be part of my life. As hard as it can be, it is so worth it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Asked - Part 2

I was just a little surprised to have such an intense moment with the Lord at the Justin Bieber concert. It really was not on the radar for the night I'm ashamed to say.

As we went on with our week, I thought about the concert "experience" but did not talk about it. The one thing that I could not get out of my mind was how the different color lasers reminded me of the Revelation passage describing the throne of God. ( I talked about it in part 1)

Thursday evening came and I needed to do my 2 mile run. I decided that I would run the perimeter of our church campus while all my people were in karate. Yes, I am crazy. It was early evening,103 degrees and I was running. BUT God had a plan.

About a mile into it, I came around a building and there was one dark cloud in the sky. ONE. It was right over the building the karate school meets in. What stuck out to me was that the sun was behind this one cloud. Out of the entire blue sky that cloud just happened to be in front of the sun. Sun rays beamed all around that dark cloud and it was magnificent.

As I ran toward that building, I kept taking my glasses on and off looking at the difference in the rays. With them off they were just bright. With my glasses on, they appeared to be different colors, very faint hues of pinks, greens, blues and yellow. It was beautiful.

My run wasn't over so I continued on. My ipod may have been playing crazy Christmas music, (don't ask...I hit the wrong playlist and couldn't change it w/out messing up my Nike trainer thing.) BUT my mind was thinking that God was teaching me a lesson.

I began to think about how surprised I was at what had taken place in that concert earlier in the week. Here's what nearly made me get on my face in the church parking lot. (And for the record I was around the cemetery when this happened.)

God reminded me that He is ALWAYS moving. He is ALWAYS active. There is ALWAYS something going on in the spiritual realm that we are unaware of. (We talked a little about this last night in Bible study and I about lost it.) We, well at least I, have become almost numb to it because I don't live expecting God to do anything in my life. Oh I want Him to, but I do not LOOK FOR IT. In essence, I take the spiritual sunglasses off and walk around as if that world doesn't exist.

Last week God used several moments like the concert and the cloud/sun during my run to remind me that there is more to this life than I can see. Did I know this, yes! Did I live acknowledging it? No. This is not all there is.

Life is hard and it's ups and downs easily distract. I had become so focused on the many tasks at hand that I was missing the one thing that would transform those ups and downs. I was so focused on what I could see, that I was missing the blessing of the unseen. And that unseen? It has eternal consequences.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

(I took a picture after my run. I wish the cloud had stayed "together"!)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I asked - part 1

I shared on Wednesday that after our pastor's sermon last week, I felt a nudge to share a previous post from my worship journal. So I did. What I didn't tell you was that last Sunday, (August 8) our pastor challenged us to worship/praise God everyday and to look for a WOW moment with God.

I asked God for a wow moment last week and He gave me a couple. Well..they are all connected. This is the first part.

On Monday, August 9 we celebrated our oldest daughter's 12 birthday. THAT was a wow moment. What a blessing that 6lb baby girl has been. I was thrilled to take Chloe and her BFF to see one of their favorite singers in concert on Monday night.

This pretty much sums up what the night was like. :) And I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT!!

Chloe's face looks a little less intense, but what you can't see is that there were a few tears. :)

As the Bieber took the stage the screaming, tears and excitement was LOUD. All I could think was, WOW. These girls (all 7,000) of them are passionate about this young man. Then it happened.


Yellow. Green. Purple.

Bright beams of light put on a show that was nothing less than stunning.

Around me people were screaming, singing along and enthralled in the music of a 16 year old boy and all I could think about was Revelation 4. Specifically, verse 2-3 (NLT)

"And I saw a throne in Heaven and someone sitting on it! The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones - jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow."

What happened next I can't explain. It sounds weird, strange and some may say I was just a little buzzed from the beer fumes coming from the people in front of me, BUT. I had this...

Dream, vision, I don't even know what to call it. Time sort of stopped for me. I had this VERY strong impression and urgent sense to pray. I "saw" all these young girls for lack of better words "worshipping" this young man. (Please understand, I thought it was a fun show, nothing crazy, nothing that I felt was inappropriate..I enjoyed it! So I'm not a Bieber hater okay?

People around me were focused on the stage and that boy, nothing could take their eyes off of that young man. God showed me the urgency to pray for these girls. They were ALL longing for the attention and dare I say affection of him. At times you could not hear the words he was singing because of their screams. That young man held the hearts of those girls in his hand.

Pray. That was the word I kept hearing.

I prayed for these girls to have hearts that longed for God. Hearts that would hear His call. Hearts that would be confident and secure in the holy affection God has for them. Hearts that would seek that affection before the affection of any man. (OR boy!)

For a few minutes, the impression to pray was urgent. Then it passed. I have never experienced anything like this before.

We walked out of that concert and I had two verses on my mind.

First, Philippians 2:10-11
"So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, on heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God of the Father." NLT

The second is well known. God reminded me that I asked for a WOW moment and that when we are looking for Him, we find Him.

Jeremiah 29:12-13

"In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me." NLT

****** Thanks so much to my friend Tammy for the laser picture! If you live around Dacula, she takes the BEST family pictures. Check out her site here.*******

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Worship Journal -2

After our Pastor's sermon last Sunday I have been thinking about worship. I found myself going back to my worship journal from a couple of summer's ago. This is a re-post of the second journal entry. With so many church activities gearing back up for fall, I feel like it's time to post this again. It was a big old reminder to myself to remain focused on what worship really is.

When we take our place as a worship leader, it’s more than just standing in that loft or sitting on that platform. Satan would like nothing more than to use lead worshippers as a distraction. Do you realize that we are in a battle? And as musicians guess what…… we’re the first line of defense.

In the Old Testament, the musicians would lead the children of Israel into Battle. Think about the march around the wall of Jericho. (Josh. 6) Just how did that wall come tumbling down? God had them march around for 6 mornings playing their instruments with all their might. Don’t you know that got a little annoying to the people inside that wall. Talk about psychological warfare! Then day 7 rolls around and I’m sure by that time people were coming out early for the good seats. Pushing and shoving trying to get the best seat on the wall! Little did they realize that this morning would be different. The “show” would end differently today. Yes, they marched and played those trumpets. Then they gave a shout. (I wonder what they shouted.) Wouldn’t you know it, that massive, stone, man-made wall collapsed! Fell right down. God moved in a very visible way.

When the Priests were marching around the wall of Jericho, I’m sure they were being made fun of, yelled at, maybe even had things thrown at them. But they didn’t give up. Their minds were focused on what Almighty God had told them to do. March and play. March and Play. March and Play. Then shout. They did just what God told them to do and look at what happened.

Let’s apply this concept to us. We spend significant amounts of times “marching” (rehearsing) preparing for the “shout” (our corporate time of worship). We are obedient to rehearse, we pound out rhythms and notes. We sing or play the same line over and over until it becomes second nature to us. Then Sunday comes. We move into battle ready to deliver the shout.

One of two things can happen at this point. One, we come in with clean hands, a pure heart and "prayed up". We enter this time eager and anticipate the presence of God and what He is going to do during our worship time. When this happens, WOW!!! God is truly pleased with our worship. Our obedience and passion for the words we sing move from our mouth and memory to the deepest part of our being and God oozes out of us. Often times tears flow or hands go up. Sometimes we just have to get on our knees. Other times, things become quiet as the Spirit works in hearts and lives. Our man-made walls fall down. The Holy Spirit is free to move and work in lives. That’s what I long for every Sunday, how about you?

Most often the second thing happens. We rush out of Sunday school to warm-up. Grab our favorite spot. You know, the one you’ve sat in for so long that the seat has conformed to your image. We half-heartily run through the worship package and choir special. We file into the loft or take our seat on the platform, survey the congregation and go into auto drive. As quickly as we entered, we leave, no different than when we walked in.

Which service to do you want to be apart of? More importantly, which choir do you want to be apart of?

Oh, the first one. Me too. So what does "prayed up" look like you ask?

Well, it's spending time in the Word with the Father long before the pre-service prayer. It's asking God to tell you if there is any unconfessed sin that would hinder your praise and prayers from reaching Him, then confessing those things. It's being willing to follow His lead, even if it means the order of service is totally different than what is printed in the worship guide. Worship is our response to God Almighty. It's an act of adoration to the One who died to rescue us.

It's saying, "It's not about me or my tastes. This is all for You oh Lord."

Psalm 115 "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory." (NIV)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My 2010 Summer Lesson

This summer has been one emotional roller coaster after another.

In the big picture, nothing bad or traumatic has happened. We have had an incredible, fun and busy summer! But like a lot of you, there have been a few life events that have seemed to cause a wave of emotion in me. One week I'm celebrating, the next week I'm exhausted and at the point of tears. But my God...

He never ceases to amaze me. He uses anything and everything to teach a lesson. Including my emotional and dare I say "mood" swings.

Here is the one thing that He has taught me to pray this summer. The one thing that I will take from Summer 2010.

Psalm 119:71-72 "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces."

Over the last three months God has sealed these two verses in my heart.
I asked Him to give me the desire to pray these words, and He did. There were two situations this summer where God made it pretty clear He was giving me the opportunity to pray Psalm 119:71-72. I did. And you know what happened?

The drama that could have unfolded didn't. My typical, knee jerk reaction to this sort of thing did not happen either. (and I'll just go ahead and tell you THAT alone is a miracle.)

In the midst of the "affliction" He reminded me of a verse in my memory verse spiral from 2009. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

So we do not lose heart, Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

A year ago, I could understand the concept behind these verses. Today, I feel like God has pulled the curtain back from my eyes and taught me to live these verses. They have gone deep into my being and taken root. It is good for me to be afflicted because that is when I learn something new about my God. THAT has eternal value.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time Slow Down!!!

Is it really the end of July!!!

The girls and I start school Monday. MONDAY!!! I can't believe I just typed that. Honestly, after the heat this summer, we are ready. :) When it's too hot to be in the pool, it's too hot.

As I type this, my car is packed and we are waiting to take Chloe to church so she can head to the mountains of NC for camp. The child is beside herself. I'm excited for her. We are praying that God does something special in the hearts of each camper. We are asking Him for more than an emotional mountaintop experience, we are praying that the truth they learn goes deep and that these children...um...young people, will come away different than when they arrived.

Oh, and the favor of the Lord was upon my child. She was placed on the ORANGE team!! And can we say..38 days until TN Football season starts! Thank you.

So much is going on that I want to share, but one HUGE thing that I am so excited about is part of our AdvoCare journey. I'm so proud of my mother-in-law. She started the 24 day weight loss challenge last week. As of last Saturday, she had lost 10 lbs. I'm keeping up with her story over HERE. She is doing great!! If you have ever struggled with weight loss you will want to watch and see what happens! This isn't a take this pill and drop a few pounds fast, this is a lifestyle change. I'm so proud of her.

Okay, my travel coordinator is telling me it's time to go..SO, I'm off!

Have a great Wednesday.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes, God Hits Me Upside the Head.

This morning was one of those mornings. Before 6:00 Chad and I had run my mile. (Shaved almost a minute off of Tuesday's run time!) I was showered and he was out for his 45 minute bike ride/15 minute run. (He's in tri training for a 1/2 Ironman in September) The girls were sound asleep and I was ready for my first cup of coffee in 10 days and some serious time with my Savior.

In my time with God I use Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest". This morning was all about sanctification. A big ole' church word isn't it?! Before the first paragraph had ended, Chambers was all over my toes.

Here is the part that slapped me upside the head.

"Am I willing to reduce myself simply to "me", determinedly to strip myself of all my friends think of me, of all I think of myself and to hand that simple naked self over to God? Immediately I am, he will sanctify me wholly, and my life will be free from earnestness in connection with everything but God."

"ME". The me that God intended. Not the me that struggles to open the fist and let go of control. NOT the me that fights worry. NOT the me that worries about what others are thinking about me. NO. I can not live, REALLY live with that "me".

I so long to, as Chambers describes, for that "me" to be identified with Jesus in death. Because I know that then and only then I will live.

Then He can complete the work He began in me. And how I want Him to do that! I want to hear Him say "well done". I want His kingdom to advance and I want to be part of it. Even more than that, I want Him.

I just want Jesus. "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death" Phil. 3:10

After what He has done for me, how can I not offer that "naked self" to Him?

The last line in today's Chambers has so stuck w/ me.

"Sanctification is not something Jesus Christ puts into me: it is Himself in me."

That is a heavy, mighty, awe-inspiring thought isn't it? I want to live today with the realization that Jesus is alive, LIVING IN ME. That thought alone is changing how I think. How I act and more importantly RE-act. It changes everything.

This verse was at the end of the Chambers devotion today. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

And because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

I will boast in my Lord because apart from Him I have no good thing! (Psalm 16:2) I must decrease, He must increase. Not Stephanie, but Jesus. That is what I want others to see when they look at me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Winner Is:


E-mail me your address and I will have the good people in charge send you your box of goodies!!!

Thanks to all who entered!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Coolest Giveaway this Summer!

So, you know that my dream is to actually have songs I write used. So often they come out of difficult times and are prayers or conversation between God and I. Those are the times that I feel him most. It's the way He moves me.

Because of this, I often wonder about the story behind a song. What inspired it, what was the songwriter feeling, etc... I like to listen first and then hear the story.

I tell you this because this giveaway is more than a CD. Even MORE than an autographed CD. I have the privilege of introducing you to Audrey Assad.

Today, July 13, 2010 Audrey released her debut album entitled "The House You're Building". She says "The record is about faith. It's about the cross and fear, and pain and how God is carrying me even though at times it doesn't feel like it."

The title song is said to be the most personal on this record. She shares about being a misfit and not feeling "worthy" to be a Christian, but then realizing that the walls of God's house are made from "oddly-shaped and misfit stones". I love what she says next, "He does that on purpose so I know I have a place. There's a hole in the wall that I know I fit perfectly in."

I wish I could share the entire bio with you. I believe Audrey's heart is tender to our Savior and that she is madly in love with Him.

You can listen to a portion of "The House You're Building" here on her Facebook page

Back to the giveaway. In addition to being an anointed songwriter, Audrey is also a talented artist. For the giveaway, Audrey has hand drawn lyrics for each song on her album. Those lyrics have been put together in a really cool bound book to give listeners an insight into the story behind each of her songs. The giveaway features the lyric book and her debut release along with a personalized bag. HOW COOL IS THIS!! I wish I could win. :)

SO leave a comment!! Then go and tell your friends to come and leave a comment! I will draw for a winner on Monday, July 19, 2010. (And just between you and me, I hope you win!)


A few pictures from the weekend

It was another busy weekend around here. Well, not around here here, but in Chattanooga.

Chad and his cousin Emily participated in the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon on Sunday. It was Chad (and my mom's) birthday! He has been training and looking forward to this day for quite some time.

It was a beautiful morning.

The girls and our nephew(with his back to us) with their posters.

This is Chad's mom and her two sisters. They were running between wrapping BBQ sandwiches and the finish line to see Chad and Emily come in. I bet they have lost all appetite for BBQ!

The finish line! He did great. ESPECIALLY in the heat, dealing with Crohn's and a leg cramp during the run portion of the race. He ran in with help from 3 little people who think he is the coolest dad and uncle ever. And he is!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hello There

When it comes to blogging I'm in a summer slump. I have lots of posts in the draft form, but when it comes down to polishing and publishing...I can't concentrate. I'm blaming the heat. And my desire to be in the pool. But truth be told, God hasn't released me to share some of those posts. So I'll wait.

Chad and I are enjoying a week of quiet and alone time. Last Friday afternoon we headed to Chattanooga for a weekend of celebrations and to leave our girls for the Fourth Annual Gram's Camp.

Celebration number 1 was for my grandparents. J. and H. were married 70 years in June. We had a small get together on Saturday.

They were blessed to see 40 of their friends, family and church members drop in for some good food and wedding cake.

I'm posting a picture of the table for one reason. At each and every family holiday, get together, celebration type event, my Mamaw would MAKE my Papaw take a picture of the table BEFORE we all were seated. EVERY TIME. I am not kidding. SO...Saturday I took a picture of the table. :)

Had to post this one of Colin and Emma.

Dad and one of their friends and church members.

My baby sister and I. She's taller but so graciously took off her heels and stooped over so we were almost the same height. ( And yes. I know that I blend in with the walls!)

Sunday after church, we finished off the leftovers from Saturday's reception along with some ribs and typical July 4th goodies. Then we headed downtown to watch the Chattanooga Lookouts walk all over the Carolina Mudcats. (What exactly is a mudcat?)

I was impressed that the five grandchildren were SO into the game. Each one watched, cheered and did not complain one time about heat, being hungry or thirsty...they were great. (Probably helped that we had 14 seats and they could move around a little.) I wish I had taken a video of their chant. Let's just say they redid "Pants on the Ground". We are a traveling sideshow.

It may have helped that we fed them like there was no tomorrow! This is Morgan. Eating the hot dog part of Emma's corn dog. She had already had cracker jacks, ice cream and a grape slush. She also shared a funnel cake with Chad and I.

After the game we hung around for the fireworks show and my almost four year old nieces loved them. I was holding Mia and she kept saying, "That was green for Grams! That red was for my daddy. We wear red on game day." (They are GA fans, imagine.) "OH PINK! That's for us Aunt Steffie."

My girls were great helpers and we have decided that we have a new family tradition. The Fourth will be spent at the Lookouts. Fun times.

(Colin in my dad's "army hat" as the kids call it)

Monday morning all the parents left and the kids stayed for Gram's and Daddy Mack Camp. From what I hear, they have a very full week planned. I can't wait to hear all about it!

This was early Monday morning right before the parents left and camp officially began.

It's probably a good thing the girls are there this week. Chad is getting ready to race in the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon on Sunday. Our breakfast area has turned into his packing/transition area.

I'm so proud of him and will definitely be posting pictures on Monday. :) Till then, he has me praying that the river is REALLY moving so his swim time is faster!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hoarding. More Than A Show on TLC.

Chad and Chloe spent the day at a black belt seminar. Emma and I spent the morning in the pool and then came home for our favorite lunch: Tuna melts and homegrown tomatoes.

After lunch, Emma settled into my bed for a nap and I found myself alone with a basket of laundry. Somehow I found myself watching TLC's show that documents people who hoard. I have never seen this show and quite frankly, it made me itch.

I could hardly breath seeing how these people live. I kept expecting rats to run across the screen. As quick as I was to judge, the Holy Spirit was just as quick to convict.

Watching these people walk through the emotional ordeal of admitting their need for help was hard. I'm not sure I would want a camera crew walking around filming my "issues".

Over the hour I spent becoming attached to these people, God slapped me across the face with something. You don't have to be surrounded by trash, unopened mail, old takeout cartons, flea market finds, grandma's furniture or dirty laundry to have a hoarding problem. Nope.

Sometimes we hoard things like unforgiveness, untended wounds, bitterness, resentment, and jealousy. At least I have. These things leave you empty, lonely and looking.

Looking for something or someone to love us, to cherish us, to tell us we are amazing. To make us feel accepted and complete. When those things or that person we have placed all our hope in fails, and they will, we are left empty and often with a wound.

As I watched these hoarders so emotionally part with all the "stuff" that consumed their life, their homes and had isolated them from their family, it was like watching them break down the wall around their hearts. For one lady, the process moved from being painful and became healing. She threw a party to celebrate her freedom.

I wonder if she knows what those of us who have experienced the power of Jesus in our life know. It was for FREEDOM that He set us free.

Galatians 5:1 says:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

One thing God continues to be putting in front of me and then placing people in my face to share it with is that to experience true freedom in Christ, you have to spend time with Him. DWELL with Him, linger in His presence, rest and not resist where He has you right now. Sometimes to really dwell in His presence, we must walk away from some things.

Things like bitterness, anger, unforgiveness. We must allow Him to tend to those wounds we are hoarding. We must release our grip and allow Jesus Christ, the one and only to heal our hearts and then,

Then we LIVE. Really live.

Philippians 3:12-14

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers [and sisters], I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I don't know where you are in your walk with Jesus, but I do know that we are all in process. Some parts of the process are easier than others, but I'm learning that anything I thought was worth hanging onto or hoarding, is NOT worth it. If Jesus asks me to walk away from something, as hard as it may be, it is worth it.

He is worth it.

I'm off to check my heart's closet and see if there is anything else I need toss out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Maybe you need this reminder too!

So for about three weeks a certain theme and passage of scripture keeps popping up. Accident? No way. I needed this theme in my face for myself, but God has had me share it with several other women. Seems to be an issue for several of us.

God had been impressing the passage in Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

He also had me in Matthew 6 where He says do not worry about your food or clothing because He has clothed the sparrows and cares so much for us. He tells us to seek Him first and commands us "DO NOT BE ANXIOUS!"

As I finished up our summer Bible study homework last week, I was not surprised that these passages were referenced. Here are some of the powerful words of Jennifer Rothschild:

"If we settle into the position His grace has placed us, we'll see His strength made perfect there. And we'll experience the joy of our journey following Him."

She challenged us to rest, NOT resist the place God has placed us. To surrender to the position and even more challenging surrender our BEHAVIOR in that position.

Ouch. Rest, not resist. That one is tough sometimes. Especially when you feel like you are being put in a place that you don't deserve. But really, if we were given what we deserve.....thank you Jesus for your grace.

She quoted some of Matthew 11 "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." and then said this..

"If you feel that the weight of your circumstances is too heavy to bear, maybe it's because the burden is yours, not His."

Last week God convicted me that I had a death grip on a couple of things. Understand these things are important and have eternal value, BUT. I was clutching them, attempting to control them and change them on my own. Was I praying? Yes. Was I listening to God? Yes. BUT, I was also keeping my feeble human hands in the middle of it and quite frankly, it was exhausting.

The burden was mine. I had not taken my hands off it. Until last week.

I accepted that anything "I" did would fail in comparison to what God could do. The death grip that I was exhausting myself with was exchanged for God's hand. I have let go and refuse to be anxious, or worry about it anymore.

There is some freedom in that that I can not begin to describe. I "know" this, I've experienced this before! Goodness, sometimes God has to send me to summer school to remind me. :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Radiant winner!

I'm so sorry I didn't post the winner yesterday! We are in Bible Camp this week and it has been an incredible, fun and crazy week. :) My sister and nephew are here so the little guy can come with us. We are spending the mornings at church and the afternoons by the pool.

Okay....the winner of Kate Carlson's Radiant project is

Angela at Refresh My Soul!!!!

Thanks Kate for providing this CD to give away!!! I know Angela will be blessed!

Friday, June 11, 2010


SO excited to share with one of you Kate Carlson's Radiant project!
I knew from the moment I saw the cover that this was going to be a CD that encouraged worship.

The verse on the cover is one of my favorites. Psalm 34:5

Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.

My daughters (11 and 9) have fallen in love with this CD and act like they know Kate. Today on the way to meet some friends, Emma said "Mom, is this Kate because I REALLY need to hear that song I like?" I'm thrilled. This is the type of artist I want them to look up to. One that follows hard after Jesus with their entire being.

Okay our favorite Kate Carlson songs are:

Emma - "How Marvelous" (in my opinion the best arrangement of this hymn I have ever heard)

Chloe - "Desert Song"

Me - "Saving One"

Thanks Kate Carlson for providing this copy for me to review. My daughters and I have worshipped Jesus with you this week.

To get to know Kate and her heart for our Savior, go here.

On to the GIVEAWAY!!!!!

All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me your favorite worship song right now. If you don't have one, it's okay! Just tell me your favorite song on your playlist. :)

I will draw for a winner on Wednesday, June 16.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thursday. Randomness and a Kitchen Update!

I really like Thursdays. Normally we do not have much planned and I love the slow morning. I have one child this morning and we are up, dressed and enjoying some quiet time before sister's return. She has educated me in the art of trading silly bands. :) I had no idea how serious it was to her!

I've been posting more on our AdvoCare blog. I heard Dr. Oz say earlier this week that Vitamin C helps you burn fat while you workout. That just gave me one more reason to keep taking C-Grams! You can read about that here. I can not express in a blog post how passionate I am about this product. Seriously, it is good stuff.

I have some GREAT NEWS!!! Friday, I will have a giveaway post up. I'm excited and can't wait to talk about it with you!!!! For now, just soak on the photo below and know that it will be worth it to enter the contest on Friday!

Part one of our kitchen make over is done! We painted a small arched "passageway" under our stairs a wine color. Under the bar, we used a sand color. Both of these areas have a textured paint. It reminds me of sandpaper. I LOVE it and can't wait for the rest of the kitchen to be painted. (That will happen in July.)
My camera is missing or I would post a picture!

I'm still watching, waiting and PRAYING Ballard Design puts my curtains on sale! I KNOW exactly what I want, but I'm forcing myself to save and wait.

The Lord has me concentrating on Psalm 119:105 this week. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." I'm finding myself asking Him to illuminate my next step. Even in the everyday things I'm asking Him to interrupt my schedule if it doesn't line up with what He has planned for today. He's done it several times this week and oh the blessing.

Have you ever had weeks like that? I would love to hear your stories of living a life that is ready to be interrupted by God. :)

Well, there is laundry that needs to be done, and e-mails that need to be sent so I'm off to get those done...unless God interrupts my day. (I'm praying He will!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Going on a Treasure Hunt

Our Bible study group is starting our summer study this Tuesday. We are doing Jennifer Rothschild's "Walking By Faith - Lessons Learned in the Dark". This is the second time for me. The first time, was 2003 or 2004. I can't remember and can not find my first book which really bugs me because I would love to see some of my comments from the first time. :)

When I started day one, this week I remembered the first time. I remember thinking that while I had a mental understanding of what walking by faith meant, I had not actively lived it. At least not to the degree I knew God was calling me to.

At the end of day one, we were asked to tell whose faith walk is most remarkable to us. We were parked in Hebrews 11 and asked to choose from Noah, Abraham, Sarah and Moses.

I picked Noah. In a time when man had become consumed with self, evil and so far from what God intended, Noah chose to walk with the Lord. (Genesis 6:9) He was described as blameless in his generation. Not perfect, but aware of his need for God. I love that the last part of Genesis 6:9 says "Noah walked with God."

He walked with God. In that wicked time, He walked, talked and most importantly listened to God. God used Noah to "start over" if you will.

As I finished day one and began to ask God to show me how to apply what I had been reading I was reminded that much like Noah, we live in a wicked time. At times we Christians have sacrificed our personal holiness often in an attempt to be relevant to those around us. Boy oh boy did God convict me on this one.

He reminded me that despite the world I live in I can choose to walk closely with God. When my life ends I do not want people to say "Stephanie was a Christian" or "Stephanie went to church and did what good Christians are supposed to do." I want the type of relationship that says "Stephanie walked with God."

I want to as Noah did, (Gen. 6:8) find favor with God. My heart desire is to be the type of woman God could "start over" with.

I can tell that the next few weeks are going to be full of hard work and I know that I'm going to face some issues with my faith walk that I have been avoiding. Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth the hard work and tears? Yes.

We are going to learn to exercise our faith like never before and that my friend, is exciting to me. Faith living has eternal consequences. I love what Jennifer says on day one:

"When we step out in faith, we find the treasures God has reserved for those who lean completely on Him."

I'm going on a treasure hunt and the prize is something more precious than I can imagine.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chloe's Karate Essay

Today is a very special day in our family. Chloe, our 11 year old tests for her Black Belt tonight. I'm so proud of her. It hasn't always been easy, but she has pressed through the tough stuff and tonight...

Tonight she has the test of a lifetime.

Part of the process was to write an essay about her journey and what having her Black Belt meant to her. I asked Chloe if I could share it with you and she said, sure.

Reflections of My Karate Journey
Chloe E. Parson
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!
Philippians 4:13

The Black Belt Test. For so long it seemed like a distant dream and now I am a few days away from the test of a lifetime. While I am excited, I am also nervous. I wasn’t expecting to feel so emotional about this. What an honor it is to be invited to test. For three years I have spent hours in class and at home practicing karate. It has truly become part of who I am. What a journey it has been.

My karate journey began in July of 2007. Before I began I thought it was the sweatiest and most disgusting sport on the face of the earth. I wasn’t sure if this was something that I would want to continue. It didn’t take long for me to become fascinated with it! When I was an orange belt, I realized that yes it is a sweaty sport, but there are benefits to studying karate.

As a white belt, I was very intimidated by what I saw the upper belts doing. They were able to do high flying kicks and what seemed like insane forms. Because of my size I felt like I would never be able to do those things. As a small girl sometimes people don’t think that I can do karate well. My instructors taught me that it doesn’t matter what size you are, anyone can do karate. Karate has definitely pushed me to do and be my best. Physically, I am stronger than I was before I started. I am glad my instructors push me to work hard. Today, I am physically doing what I thought as a white belt I would NEVER be able to do. That is proof that Philippians 4:13 is true!

It is easy to understand that karate is physical. What I did not expect was how emotional it would be. I have found that I love this sport. It is one of the first things I think about each day. Sometimes I daydream about the next test when I should be concentrating on my schoolwork. Sometimes I wonder if God gave me a crazy love for karate!

At each belt test I felt relieved to accomplish what was required, but at the same time I felt a little anxious about what was coming next. Especially after my red strip test. I was excited, anxious and a little overwhelmed at what I would be learning next. To be honest, I was afraid. God’s word says in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God does NOT give us a spirit of fear! BUT He gives us a spirit of power, love and a SOUND MIND. Because of that verse and believing that I can do all things because Jesus Christ gives me strength, I knew I could accomplish what was required of me next. It wasn’t easy and I may have cried a few tears, but Jesus helped me do it. This taught me that God really does keep His word.

Over the last three years, God has used karate to grow me in my faith. Like I already said, I have learned that God really does keep his word, and that I can go to him with anything and everything. He wants to help me, and I want Him to!

There were two kicks that I struggled with. They were the 360 roundhouse and the jump spinning back kick. My mind knew what to do, but my body would not do it. It was frustrating, embarrassing and there were times I thought I would never get those kicks down. Then, I started praying before we would work on them. I begged God to help me. And you know what? He did. I saw Matthew 19:26 in action. It says “What is impossible for man is possible with God.”

I believe that God has given me a passion and the ability to study karate. I am learning that I have to be careful that my passion and enthusiasm does not come across as pride. I want to be confident, but I never want that confidence to come across as bragging.

My mom showed me Isaiah 32:17 “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” She says when we are spending time with Jesus and applying what He shows us in His word to our life, there will be a holy confidence in us. She says we should pray and ask God to give us holy confidence in everything we do. Karate included.

Becoming a Black Belt is a work in progress. It has been a passion, a goal and is now, very close to a reality. One of the reasons it is so important to me to accomplish this level of karate is to show younger girls that it can be done.
I want them to look at me and say, “If Chloe can work hard and become a Black Belt, then I know that I can work hard and do it too!” Another reason this test is so important to me is that I have proven to myself that with God’s help, I can accomplish what seems impossible. This is a lesson that will help me the rest of my life.

While this test is so very special to me, it isn’t the end. Really, it’s the beginning. I know that God is and will continue to use karate as a way for me to share Jesus with others. Let’s be honest, who would think that an almost twelve year old girl who is four feet four inches tall would be so passionate about karate! Some people see my size as a disadvantage, but I see it as an advantage. My size and my love for karate gives me an avenue to tell others that Jesus loves them and that with Him all things are possible.

I will wear my Black Belt with honor. I know that with it comes responsibility to myself, my instructors and school, and most importantly to my God. Thank you, instructors for not giving up on me. Thank you for pushing me to be my best. Thank you for showing me Jesus.

Thank you for teaching me.

(Jesus Saves!)

I'll be posting pictures on Friday. :) (As long as there are no broken bones!)