Saturday, June 28, 2008
Not only am I full from the food...but I am full from the power packed day at Deeper Still: The Event. Much to digest.
Kay started off our day with a whirlwind trip through Jeremiah and the message of the calamity that would befall the nation who turns away from Him and His Word. It was a hard message...a very hard message, delivered with tears at times. And yet, my soul just drank it in like the dry ground drinks in the rain.
Lunch with 19,000 women was a little chaotic and harried...but we made the best of the situation. Spent a little time in the Lifeway bookstore before heading back to our seats with pizza.
The afternoon sessions began with a panel discussion that was at times uproariously funny and at other times, made you tear up from the heartfelt answers of such godly women.
Beth wrapped up the sessions with a wonderful exegesis of John 1:14. "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." Why? So that we might have grace upon grace in our lives! So that we might be set free from the penalty of sin. Somebody wants to shout 'hallelujah'!
It will take me several days to even begin to assimilate the teaching we have heard over the past two days. For right now, I am just full. And for that I am thankful.
Wish me luck getting back home tomorrow! Good evening from Atlanta.
I did some power packing last night in order to fit everything I would need into a carry on bag. I limited myself to four suits of clothing and three pairs of shoes. I managed to get all of my toiletries into a quart sized (airline approved) baggie. I threw some magazines and a book in with my laptop and I was set to go.
I woke up at 7 and left the house at 8. It would take me an hour and 20 minutes to make it to the Park N Fly...though I was a little distracted as I searched for a branch of my bank along the route (not a single one was to be found).
I parked the car and had to rush to make the shuttle to the airport. Upon arriving at the airport I learned that my flight had been delayed an hour by bad weather in Tampa. Then it had been delayed an hour and ten minutes....then an hour twenty...then an hour and a half.
I pulled out the laptop and attempted to log on with the new broadband card that was just installed yesterday. Nothing. "Insert device" was all it would say to me...and the device was inserted. If I crammed it in any further I would have pushed it through to the other side.
We anxiously watched the thunderstorms descending on Houston wondering if the flight would be delayed again. Thankfully we made it out just in time. We experienced a little turbulence as we approached Atlanta -- having to fly around a storm. Once on the ground, those of us whose destination was Atlanta were asked to stay seated while those with connecting flights disembarked first.
I had chosen row 9 for the purpose of being able to be one of the first ones off...now not only was I not getting off first, but I began to wonder if I would ever get off. He who would be first? right?
Traffic in Atlanta on Friday afternoon is easily comparable to I-10 outbound on Friday afternoon...a parking lot! We rushed to the hotel and checked in. I had not eaten all day, well...except that 1 ounce bag of honey roasted peanuts that they gave us on the airplane. But there was no time for eating...or even changing clothes before heading out to find the arena (see I could have left one more suit at home). More traffic.
It was just going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!
And then...we made it to the event parking and were treated to 'princess parking' just across the street from Philips Arena. We waded our way through the sea of women, went ahead and sat in the balcony rather than fight the crowds for a closer seat and grabbed some chicken fingers from a vendor on the concourse.
Just as we finished eating and disposed of the trash, the lights went down and the countdown began...5 minutes to go. Travis Cottrel and his praise team led us in worship. One of the ladies sang about 'running to God's mercy seat'. Beautiful...moving...inspiring!
Priscilla Shirer took the stage. Electrifying! She speaks so authoritatively from the Word, and yet so personally. Her illustrations make you laugh (that "been there, done that" kind of laugh) and yet grab you as she applies it to the truths she is sharing. Tonight she spoke about meeting God in the wilderness...the one He chose for us...so that He can issue us a divine invitation to see Him for ourselves, to hear Him for ourselves. Oh, she stuck a nerve!
When she was finished we were blessed by a mini-concert and the testimony of Mandisa (from American Idol Season 5). That girl can 'sang', ya'll! She gave me chills...and then we closed with one of my favorite praise songs, "Shackles".
We took the long way home, ordered dessert from room service along with a pot of decaf coffee and extra cream, and spent some time bringing each other up to date on our lives since we last sat down together.
And now, I sit here...having forgotten about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day...and instead, I am just feeling amazingly blessed!
Thank You, Lord!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I am so excited to be attending Deeper Still: The Event this weekend. Seeing Kay Arthur, Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer all in one place...unbelievable. I learned to study the Bible through Precept Ministries and spent Tuesdays with Kay via video for years. Her ministry was used of the Lord to help me recognize my call to Women's Ministry and teaching. And Beth has had a huge impact in teaching me to walk in grace and true authenticity through Living Proof Ministry. I could listen to her all day. I have never heard Priscilla before, but I love to listen to her dad (Tony Evans) and cannot wait to be introduced to her teaching style. (I loved the article on her in Today's Christian Woman about a year ago.)
Add in some Travis Cottrell (anointed voice if I have ever heard one) and Mandisa...mmmmm, I can hardly wait.
I tried to get tickets to last year's event in Nashville, but no doing. They were sold out by the time I heard about it. So, I bought these tickets before they even knew where in Atlanta they were holding the conference. Now, the time has finally come to pack my bag and head out to the airport.
I am planning to take my laptop and may post if I get a chance. However, I am trying not to check a bag so I might have to lighten the load before heading out in the morning. If you don't hear from me before then, I will be back home on Sunday evening.
Have a blessed weekend, ya'll!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Casy getting strapped in for the ride.
Craig going over his final checklist.
Checking the flaps.
Look at this tiny tower. And in the close up...I did not see a single soul in there. Doug? John? Is this what work is like at your towers? Nice job! Where do I apply?
Monday, June 23, 2008
The telephones are ringing off the hook here at the office. Good for business, not so good for my frame of mind.
We had a wonderful, yet wild, weekend.
Friday afternoon was pretty hectic, with all the guys in the office for a company wide meeting. It is always nice to catch up with how they are doing face to face...but I get little work done on the days that they are all here.
Friday evening, Bri and I picked up the suburban from the mechanic. New brake rotors, a new exhaust sensor, $690 less in the bank account and we are all set for family travel once again!
Bri left from Firestone to babysit for Matt and Kelli so that they could enjoy a movie with friends. I had made it about a block and a half when I received a phone call from Brian needing gas money...badly. He was taking his friend home and dropping Will at Sam's house for a few days. I waited for him at the nearest gas station for 15-20 minutes. After a fill up and a lecture about gas prices, he went on about his way.
I finally made it home about 7 or 7:30 when I promptly crashed. Thankfully my darling husband was not quite as out of it as I was and was willing to make me dinner.
Saturday we spent the entire day attending a baby shower for a close family friend. It was nice to spend the day with my girls and close friends just visiting and spending time with one another.
Sunday morning I attended service at the church I had attended a few weeks back. It was a moving message on the wrath of God. Not an easy subject, but it was well presented and timely for me.
After church, Bri and I drove into Tomball for lunch and a little household shopping before picking up Casy and Debbie from the airport. I cannot say enough good things about the program Pilots for Patients out of Monroe, LA. They provide air transportation for those with medical needs like Casy's. To swap an 8 hour car ride with an hour and a half flight is a huge blessing when your energy level is already low.
It was great to have them back with us for a few days. They will be leaving tomorrow morning to head back home. Casy is doing so much better and getting back to his old self a little more every day.
We went into 'town' last night for Mexican food. It was a nice treat. Then we came home and watched some television before hitting the hay.
See, nothing 'over the top' exciting...but plenty busy!
How was your weekend?
Thursday, June 19, 2008
From the second time I listened to this CD all the way through, this has been my favorite song,
"Lose My Soul".
I still turn up 'Ignition' as loud as the speakers will go while driving...but 'Lose My Soul' remains my all time favorite. It has just been released as a single (What took them so long?), so you may hear on your local Christian station soon.
If you get a few moments, click on the highlighted words above and give Toby Mac and Mandisa a listen as they collaborate on a song of divine truth. (Actually, Kirk Franklin is on the original recording, so it is even better.)
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The boys attended their first day of school and immediately knew that they were in a foreign place. All the talk of 'breaking horses' and barrel racing over summer break, it was like another language being spoken. Yet, they both liked it.
We raced right into the fall attending Will's football games on Tuesday evenings. This gave us the opportunity to become more familiar with our new area. I spent a lot of time online finding out where some of these small towns were located and how to get to their football stadiums.
We had the pleasure of meeting up with some old friends after a game on one road trip. Derryl and Lea Ann had moved from Houston nearly ten years earlier. It was nice to know that familiar faces waited for us...at least once.
Jim spent his weekends clearing trees and cutting fire wood. I tried the various grocery stores in the surrounding communities trying to find the 'best' place to shop. The kids held paint ball games at the back of the property. We were really enjoying the new pace of life.
Plans for the house, however, were not progressing. We were stumped. We were just not able to find a plan that we both liked and our attempts at designing our own was met with frustration. (We had seen enough self designed houses that made you ask, "why is this located here?" and we didn't want that hanging over our heads if we ever decided to sell.)
In early November, on a total whim (a God-thing, really), Jim decided to check out the Internet for local mobile home deals. He found a great deal at a local establishment. He asked me what I thought...and to be honest I was ready to not be crossing the grass every morning to get to the bathroom! (Thank goodness for a mild fall.) He called, but it had already been sold.
The following week the dealer called to say that he had a mobile home that was similar and to ask if we might be interested. He was offering us an unheard of deal if we would make our decision before he had the mobile home moved to his lot.
We took a drive out to see it. I couldn't believe it when we walked in. I never knew they made mobile homes so big! This thing had more square footage than the two story home we had in the city. You could tell that it had been kept up immaculately. How in the world was this a foreclosure?
We decided to make the deal on the spot. After a tense moment or two and an amusing revelation, the mobile home finally arrived. We even gave up our Thanksgiving trip to the deer lease at the last minute in order to get settled in.
Christmas came and went, while we were waiting on one of our co-workers who wanted to move it to a lot in Houston. We were growing tired of looking at it as it sits directly in the back door of our double wide. (You could put a gangplank to connect the back deck of one to the front porch of the other.)
The second week of January we received the word that he would not be able to take the small trailer after all. We started contemplating listing it in the local paper and see what came of it.
Just then...as only God could have known...we found out that my cousin, Casy, had cancer. It was the 8.9 on the Richter scale that I had mentioned in this post. This could not be happening to our family...and especially not to him. Casy was about to celebrate his 21st birthday in February and preparing to marry his sweetheart in April. (I am one of the oldest grandchildren and he is one of the youngest.)
It became apparent within the week that Casy would be coming to MD Anderson in Houston for treatment. He arrived with his parents and fiancee January 29 and we quickly learned that he would be undergoing chemo for at least three months. The schedule would not allow him to travel back and forth. It worked out that he checked in on a Thursday, was released on the following Tuesday and had to be back on Thursday of both that week and the following week for day treatments. In between, he was exhausted. It took until just before the following week long cycle for him to feel strong enough to get around.
With the help of friends who either donated furniture or got me into auctions, we were able to furnish the trailer for their comfort. I knew it would be very difficult for them to be away from home for three months...and even more so if they felt they were somehow putting us out. (A huge thank you to my boys who donated their queen size beds and returned to their twin beds for this season.)
The night that we got the phone call telling us that Casy was being sent to MD Anderson for a more thorough evaluation, Jim and sat on the deck with tears of thanksgiving for the wonderful provision God had granted. Suddenly the whole journey, from feeling the burden to move to the new mobile home that was inhabited long before plans for a new home could even have been drawn up...it all made sense.
We looked back and saw the hand of God upon every decision...every opportunity...every circumstance. He had been faithful in ways we could not have foreseen. And not just to us, but to our family who would soon see His provision as well. He had allowed Jim and I to join Him in His work, and we were thankful.
He has proven time and time again that He knows what we have need of BEFORE we even ask (or know to ask).
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20
That is my testimony to the faithfulness of God during this season of life.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
We would make the hour plus drive out on Saturday's to mow and clean out the undergrowth that had taken over the back two acres or so. As the sky grew dim, we would load up in the truck for the long trek back to the city. Before we would hit the highway, Jim would begin saying "turn around and take me back." This went on for several weeks. We hated leaving, even after working hard all day.
The second first week of August I had a seminar to attend in San Antonio. Jim and I had planned to use that as an excuse for a mini-vacation...but at the last minute he was unable to go with me. I tried to get one of my girls to go, then one of my friends...but no one could get away at the last minute. So, off I went...knowing in my heart that the Lord had prepared this time for me to be alone with Him. (Don't ask me how I knew, I just did.)
As I drove the two plus hours to the hotel, I began to pray that He would prepare my heart to listen to His voice. We had begun to struggle with the decision to move the following school year as Brian would be heading into his senior year and we didn't want to leave him behind in the city or force him to change schools.
Over the course of the next two days I spent time studying for the Sunday School lesson that I would be teaching the next Sunday and listening to a new Kirk Franklin CD that I had picked up for the weekend. I also took a few naps and spent time praying that the Lord would reveal His will to us. I knew in my spirit that something was changing...but could not figure it out on my own.
After listening to a seminar on construction lien law changes in Texas, I started the long drive back to Houston. Storms had been overhead all day and flood warnings were being issued as I left. About 20 miles outside of San Antonio, the storm clouds broke and I drove the rest of the way in sunshine.
About halfway home, I suddenly had the clearest message in my mind and in my heart. "It is time to make the move."
"What, Lord? We can't all five live in a 780 square foot/2 bedroom trailer. We run over each other in a four bedroom, two story home!"
Then as if I had been shown a picture, I clearly saw the sleeping arrangements and how it would work. Jim and I would convert the small out building into a temporary bedroom, the boys would share a bedroom (bunk beds) and Bri would get the remaining bedroom.
I called Jim. "You know how you never want to leave the property?" " Well, why don't we go ahead and move out there for the start of school this year?"
I think he almost fell over. Why would a woman be willing to give up her 2,000 square foot home in the city to live in a out building in the country? He asked me several times if I was sure about that decision. "Yes. I am ready. Are you?" "Of course!"
He had thought a lot about it, but would not ask me to make that kind of sacrifice. He hadn't figured out the details like sleeping arrangements...but he knew in his heart that he wanted to be in the country as soon as possible.
We had nine days until school started. The trailer needed the carpet removed and replaced and paint -- lots of paint.
We painted all the walls, put in laminate floors where the carpet had been, replaced the shower surround and moved in on Sunday night before school started on Monday morning.
God was faithful to answer my cry for understanding. He was faithful to guide us when we didn't know which way to turn.
And this was only the beginning of the blessings that He was about to reveal.
Derrick and Davin checking out the water slide
Meagan and Dirty D hanging out in the pool.
Matt and Kelli in the pool and Kelli poolside.
Will was usually the first one in the pool and the last one out.
Monday, June 16, 2008
The Holy Spirit has been impressing me with the need to find a church home. My flesh has been putting up quite a struggle. I mean really, one of the most awkward moments in life occurs when you walk into a church for the first time. The first thing you encounter is deciding where to park, followed closely by which door do I enter to find the sanctuary? (I have never noticed how many buildings/doors churches have until I visit one for the first time.) Once you find the sanctuary, you wonder where to sit (you don't want to accidentally sit in a pew reserved for a founding family or anything). Then there is that uncomfortable moment when you are asked to turn around and greet someone near you. (Why is it that it seems like everyone turns their back on you except the person you just turned your back to?) It is a bumbling and awkward time indeed.
It was with great effort that I made my way to visit a new church this morning. This was only my second attempt since the move last August. I don't know why it was so hard this time. We were in the habit of attending weekly.
Anyway, back to this post, I enjoyed the praise service (I attended the contemporary service). It was a little more reserved than our church home, but not as 'uptight' as some others I have attended. (Please don't get too bent out of shape by that comment. I am just stating my preference.) The Pastor gave an inspirational message from Lamentations 3. (Ya'll, I was looking for it up by Exodus! Is that sad or what?) He spoke about the faithfulness of God. He also challenged us to spend some time contemplating when God has revealed Himself faithful to us and to share that testimony with 'someone in someway this week'.
Hence, this post.
It would be impossible for me to give an account of even a quarter of the instances in which God has shown His faithfulness to me and my family.
I could tell of the times that He has filled out stomachs in spite of an empty pantry...Or when He has blessed us materially at just the time we needed something...Or the seasons when He has brought emotional healing to wounds that should have done me in. And the greatest show of faithfulness, when He has forgiven my sins (1 John 1:9) and even helped me though the consequences that have arisen from that sin.
So, where do I start?
In light of this week's quote in my sidebar, I will not rely upon 'the glory and victories of the past' but will testify of His faithfulness to us today.
The story begins (in our minds, at least) a little over a year ago. Now mind you, we had no idea just how amazing this story would become when it started. It seemed like just another one of those decisions that you make in life.
In January 2007, Jim and I began tossing around the idea of remodeling our home of 11 1/2 years. As our research began, we quickly got cold feet. This was not going to be cheap!
This realization brought us to the conversation of whether to invest the money in the home or whether we should look at buying a new home instead.
By the end of March, we had made the decision to look at purchasing another home. By the middle of May, we had viewed thousands of homes online, drove by hundreds more and had our realtor schedule walk through's of 35-45 houses. During this process we had put in an offer on a foreclosure (which we lost) and had several suddenly come off the market as soon as we showed interest. Homes that had been on the market for a year suddenly had contracts when our realtor called.
After all those homes, we were tired and they were all beginning to look the same. We had one more appointment to see a house that we had been unable to get into the first time we went to view it. We decided that it just was not the right time and we would quit after this last appointment.
In the meantime, I had found a piece of property online that had a 2 bedroom trailer on it and I talked Jim into driving by to see it one weekend. He wasn't especially excited about it when he saw it from the road, but he agreed to call the realtor and come back out to see it when we had our next appointment.
The last home wasn't what we wanted, so we headed out to the piece of property. We unloaded from the car and the realtor and I made our way to the trailer while Jim went to walk the 5 acres. It was love at first sight for him. The place reminded both of us of 'home' back in Ashley County. There were trees, squirrels, rabbits and even deer! We had to make an offer!
Since the place was part of an estate, the process was long and frustrating. More than once we nearly walked away from the table. But finally, on July 12 we left the closing with dreams of a big stone and cedar house in the country! We drove back into Houston with the hopes of starting on the house in the next two - three months and of moving in before the 2008-2009 school year.
All of those homes, all of that time spent driving (literally) from the extreme southwest to the extreme northwest Houston area, all the disappointments...yet, when all was said and done, we knew that God had been faithful to answer our prayers while also graciously giving us our hearts desire of a place in the country.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
That is the best way that I can describe the last few days. After spending Sunday afternoon with 'the girls' discussing necklines and dress details, I spent last night with our #1 son and his friends. The guys played basketball in Bryan as part of their summer league. After a defeat and a victory -- and a one hour wait between games -- I offered to take Brian and the guys who rode with him to dinner at Casa Ole.
What a hoot!
These boys had me cracking up at times and ducking behind my napkin at others.
All in all, they were a pleasure to dine with and it was neat to get a little peek into their world. The dinner conversation flowed from the games just played to summer jobs and all areas in between.
It was my first opportunity to spend time with his new friends. He has always had wonderful friends with unique personalities -- yet all with a great sense of humor. But it was reassuring to see that the same holds true in his new school.
Ribbons and lace....sweaty sneakers and deep voices...makes you wonder what I did today, doesn't it?
Monday, June 9, 2008
I spent yesterday afternoon with Meagan, her 'girls' and her future mother-in-law in search of bridesmaid dresses. Meagan and Dori had already been to the Alfred Angelo in Dallas to find Dori's dress. So, our party consisted of Meagan's two sisters and her two future sister-in-laws. We had the best time watching the 'girls' try on the different dresses and once their choices were made, Terri and I both got our dresses as well. I made the mistake with Kelli's wedding of thinking that a MOB dress would be easy to find. Wrong! Most every store has to order the dress, so I was totally surprised to find out that I had picked out a dress that I was able to take home with me yesterday. Check one more thing off my list! Yoo-hoo!
So let's see:
- Set wedding date - check (September 27 - in case you haven't heard yet)
- Reserve wedding venue - check
- Buy the wedding dress - check (it is safely waiting for her fitting before the bridal portraits)
- Order invitations - check (they are in and they turned out beautifully)
- Choose reception menu - check (and the groom even attended the tasting)
- Hire the DJ - awaiting word back
- Hire the photographer - check
- Choose the wedding cake - check
- Ask Dear Aunt to help with flowers - check
- Buy Bri's dress - check
- Buy Mother of the Bride dress - check
I still need to:
- Make payments to all the various things mentioned above
- Finalize guest list
- Mail invitations
- Help Bri plan a wedding shower
- Find nearest hotel information for our out of town guests
- Order FOB tuxedo
- Make final decision on wedding favors
- Put together the seating chart for dinner
- And probably 50 other things that I am choosing not to remember right now because I want to think that I am almost finished with arrangements!
We are steadily picking up steam with the wedding plans...and I know from experience that once September rolls around, it will feel like a runaway freight train. At the same time, I wouldn't trade this time for anything. Jim doesn't understand how we can talk about wedding stuff 'all the time', but I love that time of listening to my daughter's dreams and desires.
Now I just have to go find knock out gorgeous...yet comfortable...dancing shoes! I should have plenty of time, don'cha think?
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Friends from school days, "the gals" have long pooled their silver, china, and know-how to pull off beautiful events. They're a force of nature, a well-oiled machine. But the wedding machine's gears start to stick during the summer their own daughters line up to tie the knot. In the lowcountry heat and humidity, tempers flare, old secrets leak out . . . and both love and gardenias bloom in unlikely places.
The Wedding Machine is a celebration of life-long friendship--the kind that endures death and divorce, accidents and alligators, hot flashes and hurricanes. Even the drama of small-town Southern weddings done exactly right.
This is the story of Ray, Hilda, Sis and Kitty. Four friends who have walked life's journey together...in both good times and bad ones. I think what I really enjoyed about this book is that even though they have been very close, they each have a secret struggle. While they share celebrations and stand with each other through the trials...each one has an inner fear/trial/disappointment that they can't seem to admit to themselves, much less to the others. Isn't that the way we really are as women? Watch any group of women as they sit around a table at your local restaurant...you will see this dynamic played out over and over again.
These women remind me so much of myself and my friends as we make our way through the season of children's weddings and the birth of grandchildren. I am reminded of how much we need each other...and yet, of how little we really know about each other's personal struggles. It makes me wonder what the outside world perceives about us when they see us all together. Can they tell who is the 'pillar'? the 'princess'? the 'peace keeper'? I see a bit of each of the characters in myself and in my friends. This would make a wonderful movie for girl's night out. I think the author does a great job of depicting the normal ebb and flow of real friendships between women.
And besides, I got a few great ideas for decorating/entertaining from the book while I was reading.