Monday, February 22, 2016

Lately...

The past few weeks have held some ups and downs, some great moments and some I'd rather not repeat.  Here's a little bit of what's been going on lately.

The boys recently had their piano recital.  Both were not thrilled with having to get up in front of a crowd of people to play their memorized piece of music but they both did great and I was proud of them.
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These kiddos are good friends and the big three did great at their recital.
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I helped do the Valentine's party for Lawson's first grade class.  They had a Valentine's Dance which I didn't get to participate in because I had Jury Duty, but I did get to see some of the line dance, which Lawson loved getting to do.  He is by far our most uninhibited child.  (He begged me to wear a bow tie so I gladly went and picked one out for him.)
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I brought my other two Valentine's with me.  Are they not adorable?
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The kids enjoyed their ice cream party.
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Ava Jane thought her lip sucker was awesome.  I thought it was pretty cute too!
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Here are the valentine treats that we did this year, we went with simple instead of elaborate this year.
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Because I have so much time on my hands and nothing better to do (insert sarcastic tone) I had to attend Jury Duty orientation last week and will begin calling in each Wednesday morning for the next twelve weeks to see if I get the "privilege" of sitting on the jury of a civil trial.  I used to always watch Matlock and I'm still a sucker for Blue Bloods, so if the trial was/is interesting, I'm certain I could do my civic duty.
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I recently had a little car trouble that included me needing to rent two vans in one day. YIKES! Thankfully I have really good friends and a mother who came to my rescue.  One picked up my kids for me from the preschool and went and got more gas (just in case that happened to be the problem…. unfortunately it was NOT the issue!)  My other friend helped watch my big kids while I messed with the car and she also offered me a nice strong coke which helped too.  And then of course my precious Mother came to pick all five of us up and helped us get to Enterprise.   It was definitely not a repeater of a day!  This was one of my lovely vans that I got to rent.
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Lawson finally has started losing teeth. I like his little toothless grin.
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We got to have some cousin time last week with sweet Theodore.  These three enjoyed reading before nap time.  Theo ate almost all of his grilled cheese sandwich by dipping it in ketchup.  He was so pleased with himself!
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One day this past week I helped another friend with her kiddos which went really well considering I had seven kids under the age of nine, with four that needed help finishing their homework.  I'd planned to go to our regular, Thursday afternoon playgroup when I realized that I had seven kids plus myself, which meant I was one seat short in my suburban (insert the emoji with mouth spread narrowly across the face in an "oh no" expression). So again, I called on another friend who was going to the park and she thankfully came by the house to pick up Lawson so that we could still enjoy the spring like weather we were experiencing.  Here are some pics of our time that day.
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So there's a brief synopsis of what we've been doing.  There were several pictures of things that I'll spare you the image of from the past week which includes both Lawson and I heaving over the side of the bed with the terrible stomach bug, Ava Jane running a low fever and coughing so hard that her "yucky nose" (as she calls it) started running.  There were many other moments high and low, but these are the ones I'll leave you with.  Hope your Monday is off to a good start.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sip and See

On Sunday, some of my good friends and I hosted a Sip and See for a sweet friend of ours who recently adopted a little girl named Shelby.  She is the culmination of many many prayers and tears that were shed over the past few months.  Shelby is adorable and precious and what a privilege it is to walk this road with Brian and Christy.  The back story is quite sad and tragic really, but on this side, the story is hopeful, full of love and all because God is in the business of turning tragedy to triumph.  I'm so thankful that God gave Christy and Brian the desire of their heart and that He graciously placed Shelby in a home filled with overflowing love for her.  What a mighty God we serve!  Here's how we celebrated all that He has done.
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It was appropriate that the Sip and See actually fell on Valentine's Day, because it was "love" that started this journey, and it is "love" that they are extending to this precious one.
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Baby girls are so much fun to dress, I loved seeing all the cuteness!  Even Shelby enjoyed opening some gifts.  Her expressions were priceless, I wish I could've gotten a picture with her mouth open wide in excitement…I just couldn't seem to get the shot at the right moment.  She thoroughly loved the singing purple doll, it's one of those gifts that's fun for the first few days, but afterwards, has the propensity to find itself with batteries disconnected or in the pile headed to the Goodwill.
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These ladies are precious to me, I love living life with them!
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

IF-Gathering 2016

This past weekend I again had the opportunity to participate in an IF-Local which is a gathering of hundreds of thousands of women across the world who were all coming together to listen and glean insight from God's word from some of the funniest, most godly women (along with a couple of men thrown in) who are in Christian ministry today.  Jen Hatmaker, Jennie Allen, Shelly Giglio and David Platt were just a few of my favorite speakers.  The weekend focused around the topic of What IF we lived like Jesus?   It was a wonderful time of deep, heart felt worship and lots and lots of inspiring truths.  After each session I felt a little bit warn out from all the passionate preaching but excited and challenged as well.  I did enjoy how they planned for "down time" in between the sessions.  Time that allowed me to process through some questions for myself while sharing thoughts with friends and getting to hear what their take aways were too.  Getting to do life with these ladies is by far one of my greatest blessings!
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One of my favorite talks was from Eugene Cho's talk from John 14:6, which talks about how Jesus is "the Way, the truth and the life."   He posed these questions, "If Jesus isn't the way, the truth and the life, then what are we doing here this weekend?   Is Christ who He says He is?  And he went a step further and asked "Is it possible that we're more in love with the idea of Jesus then we are with actually following Jesus Christ?  These were all very penetrating and thought provoking questions that all come back to a critical point---everything hinges on the fact that Jesus is the Way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  He encouraged us to preach to ourselves everyday that Jesus loves us, He knows everything about us (the good, and ALL the bad) and He still chose me, and He still chooses you.  He pursues us and desires a relationship with us and we must remember that "apart from Him we can do nothing." Cho implored us to remind ourselves to let the Holy Spirit be a dominate voice in our heads.  He said, so often we think the grass will be greener on the other side but what we need to think to ourselves when this lie enters our mind is, maybe the Holy Spirit is just saying, "water your own grass?"  It's a simple thought and not totally a new concept but when he posed the question, it really resonated with me.   Of course!  When I feel compelled to compare myself with others or I think "this too shall pass----but when?" I just need to simply water my own grass, feed my soul with the bread of life, drink of Jesus, the living water and be grateful for what I do have instead of focusing on what is going wrong at the time.

I was very inspired by hearing the personal testimony of a woman who was caught in an awful situation in India. This beautiful woman stood before tens of thousands of people and shared her gut wrenching story of how God took her tattered clothing (her old sari) and gave her a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:1-3).  She went on to share how God had taken the most difficult, hopeless situation and turned it around for good.  She spoke of the 11.1 million bonded laborers in India who endure extreme violence and suffering and how she has been able to help free 10,000 people with the International Justice Mission (IJM) which has turned her own pain to hope while offering hope to others.  She kept sharing that God is good, even through all the pain and suffering she'd experienced, regardless of the stinch of sin around her, God washed the stain away and eventually made all things new.  To hear this woman share her story and then pose the question "can we be life giving to someone" by supporting a ministry like IJM, by helping a friend or by being willing to simply share our struggles with another who also may be struggling? We have no idea how freeing it might be or encouraging to the one hearing or receiving our words.  She has such a remarkable testimony!
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The other session that I really enjoyed was David Platt's discussion of John 17.  Again he reiterated that God loves me and "God loves the world so much that He gave His one and only Son".   He encouraged us to recognize the unique places where God has put us, to realize what is at stake in the lives of those around us and to remember the simple purpose that He's given us--to share the love of God with others.  He said for those 2.8 billion people in the world who've not rejected God, but who have literally never ever heard about God (because they are in such rural, hard to reach places where the Bible hasn't been translated into their language)--it's those people who don't know how much God loves them.  Platt went on to say He doesn't just love them "that He sent His one and only Son"---God loves them SO He sends them me and you!  Platt shared of a time during a speech he gave in college where he shared the good news of Jesus.  Afterward, a young woman came up to him and was extremely offended by his statement that "no one comes to the Father except through Jesus"…she couldn't get over the arrogance of it all.  Filled with anger the girl said, that's the most hateful thing I've ever heard--to think that your God is the only way to heaven.  He went on to say that in all actuality it would be more arrogant and hateful to not share the true way to eternal life with God if we know how to get there.  Platt asked the question, "what does it take for us to be intolerable to the fact of unreached people groups?" "What if the 500,000 people who are doing the IF gathering were to share the gosple with those around them?"  What a challenging question.  He said we don't have to go start an organization or write a blog…we just need to tell the people in our sphere of influence about the truths of God's love for them.  Instead of living out of fear of being offensive, I should live in confidence knowing that God truly is THE way, THE truth and THE life.
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The whole weekend was inspiring and challenging.   As I continue to process the words that were spoken and the stories that I heard, I pray that God will continue to stir in my heart and show me ways that I can engage with Him in kingdom work that is of eternal value and significance.  I pray that I will hear God's Holy Spirit more often as He whispers to me "this is the way, walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Go Red For Women

Last Thursday, down at the Capitol, Adam and I had the opportunity to go and support some friends of ours whose daughter Annie, was being unveiled as one of this years Heart Survivors with the American Heart Association.  Sweet Annie's story is a complete miracle.  To hear her Mom, Tracy, talk about all the ways God has gone before them, provided for Annie and "healed" her, is remarkable.   It's inspiring.  God has certainly gotten the glory because her doctors have no other explanation for her hearts improvement some months ago when she needed the second procedure.
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Even though there's many things to praise God for that He's done in the past few years, Annie still has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which in layman's terms means she is missing the left side of her heart.  She has already had two surgeries in a series of three procedures that will help bring a sense of normalcy to her hearts function.  Sweet Annie is the most adorable, smiley, active little thing and you wouldn't look at her and think that she was in heart failure.  Any onlooker at Target or Kroger would just think she was a precious strawberry-blonde toddler who is curious and delightful.  And though Ava Jane's heart condition was not nearly as volatile as Annie's is, I'm reminded of how I felt about Ava Jane when she was two months old and she too looked healthy and fine, she too had chubby cheeks and pink lips and nails.  Only the Echo's and EKG's and lab results could tell us, and still tell Annie's parents---that their sweet baby girl is sick--very, very sick.  It's actually that fact, those chubby cheeks and active little feet, that make it so hard to grasp the severity and seriousness of Annie's situation.   As I talked with Tracy last week, they still wait for her heart failure numbers to go down, for a catheterization in a few weeks that will look more closely at what is going on in her heart as they hope for the next surgery in this series of surgeries that will allow her heart to keep functioning.  So would you join me in praying for this precious little girl?  Please join me in asking for God to touch her with His Great Physician, holy hands that work miracles even still today.  We've seen God do it before; her parents have seen God do it time and time again.  The doctors stand in awe of what happened last time; He can do it again!  I look forward to praising God for what only He can do for Annie.  You can follow Tracy's blog at Heart For Annie to get updates and hear how she is doing.

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It's hard to believe a year has gone by since Ava Jane too, had the chance to share her story at the Capitol and around the state last year.  What a great way to get to bring awareness to heart disease and congenital heart defects but also to share how God has worked in her life.  We enjoyed the platform that hopefully glorified Him.
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Ava Jane's 5th Birthday - A Tea Party

I cannot understand how today, September 14th, 2017, we could possibly be celebrating Ava Jane's fifth birthday.  I still vividly rememb...