Yesterday was a first of an upcoming year of firsts. In January, my mom went home – to her real home. So this was my first Mother’s Day without a mom, without my Mama. I really wanted to just move on past the day and pretend that it wasn’t Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way so I just kinda muddled through the day.
I was so blessed to have precious friends send sweet texts throughout the day. One even made the most amazing cake to let me know that she was thinking about me. I was blessed to have most of my children with me but, and I hate to admit this, I just wasn’t feeling overly grateful for the blessings that were around me.
This morning a sweet friend said, “You made it through your first ‘first’. You did it.” She knows what she’s talking about because she has walked this same road. She knows that there will be many “firsts” this year. As I left her house to head home, I started thinking about how much I don’t want to just make it through the next year of “firsts”.
As I drove, I began to become so aware of my ungrateful heart. God had so lovingly surrounded me with loving friends and family and I had just neglected to recognize it. But then He brought a precious memory to my mind. I want to share it with all of you, especially any of you who, like me, have a year of “firsts” ahead.
Back in January, early on a Monday morning, my Dad called to let me know that he thought Mama had just had a stroke and she was in the ambulance on her way to the hospital. We had made several trips to the hospital over the last few months. Her health had been declining and her body was worn out. I remember that my only prayer on the way to the hospital was just that God would be merciful and that her suffering would not escalate even more.
When we got to the hospital, she was on a respirator and was heavily sedated. We were told that she had had a catastrophic brain bleed. After a few more tests and much prayer, the decision was made to remove the respirator. That night, her family surrounded her as she took her last breath.
One by one, family left the room until the only two left were my son, Dalton, and me. His eyes were swollen and red and I knew his heart was crushed. I didn’t want to leave him in the room by himself so I just stood there, watching him out of the corner of my eye. My own heart was so heavy as the finality of what had happened sank in.
But as we stood there in that dark, cold room the most amazing thing happened. All of a sudden, Dalton’s eyes grew wide and his whole face lit up. “Mama, just think what she’s seeing right now…can you imagine what she’s seeing right now!” It was as if God had cracked the door to heaven just enough to allow us a tiny glimpse of what the real reality was. The whole room seemed to light up.
His words washed over me like a river of healing water as I was reminded that the empty shell lying in the hospital bed was nothing more than just that, a shell. But my Mama, well, she was face to face with her Savior. No more pain. She was free. And maybe, she was even dancing.
The reality of what death is for those of us who belong to Christ had escaped me for just a moment. But my son’s words reminded me that the truth is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)
Who was I to want anything else for her?
So, as I drove home today, I realized that I, again, had lost sight of the truth. I confessed my ungratefulness to my Father and asked that He renew a right spirit in me. I told Him that for the rest of my year of “firsts” without my Mama, I was going to celebrate her year of “firsts” with Him. I was going to just imagine what she was seeing and how she looked now that she was fully healed.
I also had to smile because I’m pretty sure she is rearranging all the furniture in the Mansion and telling the angels what to do.
Have a great week!
Yesterday was a big day for the family. Dalton, child number 3, graduated from The University of South Carolina. Three Marlowe children down, one to go. To make things even more special, Robert, whom I claim as one of my own was also graduating.
Because we are so academically oriented, we all headed to Columbia for the momentous occasion. Actually, that’s a lie. We mainly get excited over these kinds of things because it gives us an excuse to get the families together and, well, eat. And, because it wouldn’t be right to celebrate the occasion without actually attending the graduation, we decided that it was only appropriate that we go.
Certainly picture taking is also an important part of such occasions, not as important as food, but important all the same. The problem is that none of us are good at:
A. Actually taking the pictures
B. Posing for pictures.
I think this is because there are so many of us and out of the entire group, there are only a few who know how to focus for longer than 60 seconds. Well actually, that’s probably not true either.
Thank goodness for my daughter in law. If it weren’t for her, there would be very little documentation of family events. Sadly, I think we have started to wear off on her somewhat. She is the one standing on the far right. Obviously, she is struggling with the whole focus thing, too.
Special thank you to my friend Julie, Robert’s mama, for capturing our dysfunction.
So, after the trauma of the picture taking with the Coker family, we all were so worn out that we decided to take one of the shuttles from the Horseshoe to the Colonial Life Arena. That was also an experience, but not one we will delve into right now. Once inside, we had to sit in the nosebleed section because all the good seats were taken. My guess is that either everyone else decided to wait and take pictures after graduation or they are better at taking pictures than we are.
Once in our seats, we all sat politely and waited for the ceremony to begin. Philip fell asleep. Twice. People were asked to behave respectfully and not holler so as to not drown out the name of the graduate following their child; most were courteous, some were obnoxiously not. I, myself, was so distracted by the fabulous artwork on the top of the graduates’ caps (Remember we were in the nosebleed section) that I almost missed my own son’s name being called out.
The soon-to-be graduates were assured that they were ready to take on the world – to change it. We were all told the same thing when we graduated. Do you remember? I remember. So much value was placed on that simple piece of paper I held in my hand. And it is valuable. But it is not in itself able to empower anyone to change the world. What will cause change is found in the heart of the one holding the diploma.
To Dalton and Robert I want to say that I’m so proud of the hard work and dedication that brought the two of you to this moment. But this moment, this degree, is not what you should ever allow to define you. Instead, see it as the catalyst through which God will direct your steps - for His glory. Don’t let your main ambition from this point forward be to earn lots of money and be financially set for life or to attain a high job status or even to be impressive in man’s view. Instead, make it your life’s goal to, “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
One day, all the finances accumulated and all the accolades bestowed by man will be left behind and you will stand before the One who created you to do great things that He has already chosen for you to do. He has given you all the gifts and talents that you will need. Use them selflessly and wisely. Remember that God’s view of greatness is different from that of the world’s. While the world looks at the outward appearance, God is looking at your hearts.
Make Him proud. I have no doubt that you will.
Love you both. You too, Hunter.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. - Proverbs 16:9
One week ago, today, I received the phone call I’ve been waiting on for eight years. The call was from the Principal of a 3A High School offering me the Head Football Coaching job. I was shocked; I really could not believe it. It seemed to be an answered prayer from God. While I was somewhat nervous about the task, I was inwardly swelling with pride thinking about becoming a Head Coach at age 26. This was it; all that I had worked so hard for, prayed so hard for, and dreamed so much about was finally going to happen for me.
The reason I say that I thought this was an answered prayer is because two hours before the principal called me, I was sitting in my office at Sumter High School having my quiet time. I felt very burdened. I fell on my knees and I begged and pleaded with God to send me something, anything that would allow me to “move up” in my career. My heart wanted so badly to have the opportunity to lead my own football program and begin to accomplish things that I wanted to accomplish in my life. Exactly two hours later, that call came.
I’m blessed to have some very wise people in my life, so I began talking to some of them about the job, it’s problems, and what I could do to overcome them. While I still had some doubts, I was sure that God was in control and He would work out all the details. I worked diligently to prepare for my meeting with the high school principal that was scheduled for the end of the week. I was looking at houses, watching film of last year’s team, thinking about how I wanted to arrange my coaching staff; you name it, I was on it. I didn’t know how I was going to make it all work out, but I was absolutely determined to make it work because it was what my heart wanted more than anything else in the world.
Friday finally came and I was nervous because I wanted everything to go right. The principal and I began talking and for the most part he was saying “yes” to every single thing I was asking for. The more we talked, the more I really believed that this was it. We finished our conversation and I took a tour of the facilities and went to my hotel to gather my thoughts. I spent Friday night wrestling with the few problems that were going to come with this job.
Saturday morning, my wife and I woke up early and began our quest to find a place to live. As we began searching, it became apparent that finding an affordable place to live might be tougher than we thought because the cost of living in the area was so expensive. We found a house, but the rent was double what our current mortgage was! Still, even knowing this, I was determined to make this job work.
Just before I left Saturday to head back home, my wife and I were ready to make the call that would officially make me the Head Football Coach. We decided to give it until Sunday afternoon, maybe by then we would feel just a little more confident about taking the job and God would send us a firmer peace about this decision.
On the ride home I began to feel conflicted. The questions that I had been asking all week suddenly became a heavy burden on me. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling like taking the job might not be the right thing to do. Certainly the Lord would not have given it to me if He didn’t intend for me to accept it. I became keenly aware that by me accepting this particular job, my wife would have to make some huge sacrifices.
I got home and the burden became heavier and heavier, I was beginning to have a lot of doubt about whether or not this whole thing could work out. Even with every burdensome thought that came, I was nowhere near willing to let this opportunity slip by me. I was going to become the youngest Head Coach in the state. I was going to turn this program around, and by age thirty, I was going to have a “big” job, one with big lights, big community support, and big money. I was finally going to raise that big state championship trophy high in the sky at Williams Brice Stadium… the same one that had twice been denied to me, once as a player and once as an assistant coach.
On Sunday morning the burden was so heavy I felt as though I might not be able to carry it. I convinced myself that I must need to find a way to fill myself with more faith in God. I went to church thinking, “Surely God is going to speak to me this morning. He will calm my spirit, and give me this overwhelming peace that all these people keep talking about.” As I sat through the sermon, I was doing a very good job of twisting the words of my pastor into pretty much telling me that I should call the principal right after the service and accept the job, after all, I had worked hard for eight years and I deserved it.
After church, I was at home attempting to make myself as busy as possible so that I wouldn’t think about all of the problems that would come with the job. Problems that I knew God could and would handle for me. After all, He was calling me to this job; He had answered my prayer. My mom, whom I am very close with and am told by most everyone who knows both of us that I am “just like”, came by my house. She wanted to share something God had laid on her heart with me and give me a book she was reading. She thought I needed to read a chapter in the book before I made my final decision. In my mind I thought, “Great! This chapter will talk about having strong faith, it will talk about all of the rewards we get when we follow God’s plan.”
What the Lord would reveal to me over the next three hours would rock me. I had fallen so far, I wasn’t even aware of where I really was in my life. I had made for myself an idol that I had built so big it had consumed my whole entire life. The reality is that I have woken up every single day for at least the last four years wondering what I could do to become a better football coach, so that I could become a head coach. I woke up every morning trying to find what steps I could take that day towards becoming a Head Football Coach. I dreamed about it, I thought about it all day, I talked about it most of the day, and every day I asked God in heaven to give it to me because I wanted everyone to see me as a Head Football Coach. I wanted all of the glory, honor, and praise from man. That is the ugly truth behind my story to this point. In an effort to shorten this story, I called the Principal at the High School and turned down the job that I had wanted so badly for so long.
So, exactly one week later here is what the Lord has shown me:
When I walked into my office this morning the Lord began revealing to me all that He had been doing during the previous week. When I fell on my knees one week ago, I was not asking for my Father to lead me and be Lord over my life. I was asking, in fact begging with all of my soul, for Him to make me a Head Football Coach. I was on my knees asking him to give me my idol. I was much like the Israelites who begged God to send them a King because God being their King was apparently not good enough for them. I was behaving much like them except I wanted to be a King. I wanted to be a head coach more that I wanted to be close to the Lord, more than I wanted to serve him, and more than I wanted to love him. So, God gave me exactly what I had been asking for. I imagine He got sick and tired of me asking to be a Head Coach instead of me asking what I could do to be more like Him or how I could serve Him better. So, as only He can do, He gave me what I wanted even though it was not what he wanted for me; at least not right now. He used this as a test for me to see if I was willing to put my idol on the altar and sacrifice it to him.
What God taught me (with the help of my mother and Tony Evans in his book Dry Bones Dancing) is this:
“I can say with absolute certainty that you will be tested on that which your heart clings to. I guarantee it. He will test your willingness to sacrifice something that represents one of the most valuable things in your life, something that’s as precious to you as Isaac was to Abraham.”
“The test will take every bit of spiritual reserve we have to pass because He’s ready to move us up to the next level in our journey of following Him and growing closer to him.”
“Is there something God wants you to now put on the altar? If you. Like Abraham are in the middle of a test that you can’t figure out, then the one place you want to be is at worship. Approach his heavenly altar where the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, has opened the way for you into the presence of God. Worship the Lamb and worship God on his throne, even though you don’t understand what He’s taking you through. Worship even though you can’t begin to figure it out. Follow through in sacrificial worship. And there at the altar God will show you his way. He’ll come through for you.”
“The passion of our lives must be for God and not merely for his blessings and gifts. He’s interested in responding to people who are in active pursuit of his heart and who’ll make the appropriate sacrifice in order to experience it.” (Dry Bones Dancing by Tony Evans)
In order for me to please God and truly follow him, I MUST be willing to put my idol on the sacrificial altar of the Lord and be at peace with the possibility of never receiving that idol back. Not all stories end the way the story of Abraham and Isaac did. We must understand that there are times when we place what we love most on the altar and the Lord does not entrust it back to us. We must be at peace knowing that they are sacrifices we will never see again, and that it is for our good. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if our desire is truly to please God, it becomes so much easier.
Yesterday at this time I would have rather died than be told that I would never be a Head Football Coach. I now realize that I was put on this earth to praise, honor, and worship the Lord, not to be a Head football Coach. So, this morning when I walked into my office and saw an image of myself, only one week earlier, on the floor begging for that which my heart most desired, I smiled and knew that I had finally found the “overwhelming peace” that comes from following my Father in heaven with my whole heart and having no idols before him.
Now on the other side, I am so overwhelmingly thankful to my Father in heaven for sending me this test. I recognize that it was only by the grace of God who used a complete stranger, an old friend, a mentor, a wife, a mother, a father, and a pastor to save me from myself that I was able to pass the test.
My family vacations near this high school every summer. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that God used a school located in a place where I will visit one time every year, right before the beginning of football season, as the place for this test. God chose this specific place to establish a “marker” for my walk with Him. For the rest of my life, I will remember the day and the time that I truly laid my idol on His altar and decided to let nothing be bigger in my life than He who created me.
Assistant Football Coach
Sumter High School
All this, David said, ―I have in writing as a result of the Lord‘s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan. -I Chronicles 28:19
We are so excited to welcome Ashley Cook to our PSF team.
She married her high school sweetheart and together they have three children. In addition to raising three busy children, she also serves part time as Children’s Director in her home church where she also sings on the Praise and Worship Team.
Ashley confesses that she has wanted to be a writer since elementary school and she uses blogging to fulfill some of that desire. She has a love for storytelling, photography, and music. She loves to help people find humor in the craziness of life and she is passionate about making God’s grace and love tangible for people.
Visit our Mom 2 Mom page to read her blog, Resolutions, Rambles & Roles.
Gosh, another year has come and gone. I just learned to write 2015 on my checks – just in time to have to start over learning to write 2016. It’s crazy.
The older I get the faster time seems to move. Really, the faster changes come. For example, not too many years ago I was smarter and wiser than my children. Obviously, as time has marched forward, they have become much wiser than me in many things, one being how to properly raise children.
This fact has come to light due to the careless way they perceive that I am rearing their youngest sibling. They recently felt the need to correct my parenting or lack of parenting skills by bringing my woeful parenting ways to my attention. It seems that I am way too lax with the youngest. He is allowed to get away with way more things than they were ever allowed to get away with.
Because I am not one to turn down a good argument, I decided to present them with a brief rebuttal:
1. He has perfected his “badness” by watching and learning from his older siblings.
2. If the older siblings had not been so difficult, I would not be so tired and would be better able to keep up with his antics – which as you will remember he has learned from them.
Summer is done. It’s over. I know this because school starts tomorrow. I am just devastated. I’m not ready. My brain has not recovered fully and now I have to throw it right back into the chaos of learning? I cannot do 10th grade for the 5th time.
I cannot even…
I did it once personally then 3 other times on behalf of my three older kids. Now I am being forced to do it with my youngest, least interested in school child.
It might kill me this time, it just really might.
He and I have had a sort of partnership over the years when it comes to all things “school”.
I do all the worrying. I keep up with what is due and when, though I don’t always know why. I devise study strategies, none of which have ever been successful. I develop very close working relationships with his teachers, which might explain why they act like they don’t see me when I wave at them in the grocery store.
His part in all of this is to somehow make it to school and back home. What happens in between is somewhat vague because he never seems to be able to recall when he gets home.
Teachers, I’m sorry. That’s all I know to say. And I will give you a very nice Christmas gift. VERY NICE.
I have another child getting married.
ANOTHER CHILD GETTING MARRIED.
I’m sorry, but when did this happen? I was just trying to convince her to leave the ginormous bow in her hair because it matched her outfit. Never mind the fact that she kept falling over from the weight of the thing. And now, she’s trading in her bows for a veil?
“How exciting!” Everyone keeps saying.
OK, you know what? NO. It’s just not all that exciting to me. It is to her, just not to me. I’m just being honest here.
I’m not real good with change, never have been. I find myself even less good when the change involves my children growing up.
I think being a mom is the best job on all the earth…ever, and I’m just not ready to retire yet. I can remember being a little girl who wanted nothing more than to grow up and be a mom. While others were aspiring to be lawyers, doctors, teachers, Wonder Woman (seriously? I personally would have never admitted to that one), I just wanted to be a mom.
But time stands still for no one. So here I am, child number 2 just graduated from college and in just a few weeks, she’s getting married and moving to another state. Granted, it is the one right next door to my state and only a few hours away, but it’s still, “away”.
So I was kinda in a mood the other day and I found myself telling God that I really needed His help because I wasn’t really happy about His plan. How sweet is it that we can confess that to Him and He just loves us even when we’re being bratty?
Anyway, I asked Him to help me change my heart so that it aligned with His. I asked Him to help me remember all that I needed to be thankful for because it was all a gift from Him. I asked Him to help me remember that my joy and peace and contentment were found in Him alone and not in a house full of children.
You know what He did? He gave me the sweetest of blessings.
That morning, after my time with Him, a chain of events happened and all of a sudden I realized that all four children were going to be home for supper that night, like years ago. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.
Philip had put two and two together also and he may have been almost as excited as me…almost.
When night came, each one straggled into the kitchen just like they used to and sat where they used to sit. As I watched them while I was getting supper ready, my heart was so full I thought it might burst.
When Philip got home, he rounded the corner into the kitchen with a huge smile on his face and said, “I’ve been waiting for this all day long!”
While we were at the table, Philip posed this question, “What is the best memory you have of growing up here?”
And the stories began…
We laughed and reminisced for quite a while. There was a lot of ground to cover because this family tends to do a lot of stupid things, which in turn makes for lots of stories.
I want to make sure you understand that I absolutely love my daughter that I gained through marriage and my future son that I will gain in a few weeks. My joy wasn’t in them not being there. My joy came from being able to go back in time and experience that sweet feeling of having all my chicks under the same roof. Even though none of them are “chicks” any more.
But as we sat there, I realized that there was a little emptiness, like things weren’t complete. You know what I realized it was? Sarah Kathryn and Tony weren’t there. Even though I loved remembering what it was like being a mama with her children around her, I missed my new children and our family wasn’t complete without them.
So God gave me this sweet taste of the past, but in doing so, He showed me the preciousness of the future. And I found my heart aligning with His.
What an awesome thing it is when we ask Him for help and He answers so perfectly!
Have a great week!
If I asked you, “What is the heart of your home?” what would you say? It’s really an important question, and it is deserving of some deep thought.
Some of you, I’m sure, answered right away. Some of you might need a minute to think. It’s okay. Take your time.
The heart of my home would be the kitchen. Not because there are elaborate meals prepared there, though we are quite fond of food in my family…a little too fond. It’s not because it is an awesome room that once Southern Living Magazine discovers it, they will be calling me for an interview. Nope, don’t think there is anything about the kitchen that would intrigue them at all, though it does have a fireplace, which is the other love in my family.
We like to eat and we like fires.
Doesn’t get much better than that.
In my family, we are masters of setting fires. We could start a fire on a glacier without wood or matches. I hate to brag, but we are just really that good. We’re just not so good at controlling them or putting them out, but that’s for another story.
Yeah, we like to eat, we like fires, and oh, how we love telling stories.
That’s the real reason the kitchen is the heart of our home, because that’s where we do life together. It’s not the food. It’s not the fires. It’s the time spent together. It’s the stories we tell; the adventures we revisit, the things we pass on.
There in the kitchen, as we sit around the table, we nourish our bodies.
But it’s more than that…so much more.
There’s the laughter and the storytelling that feeds our sense of family, that reminds us of who we are, where we came from…maybe where we’re going. Sometimes where we probably shouldn’t have gone and had better not go back again.
It’s the building of memories – the reinforcing of memories so that when we’re apart, we can remember. It’s the glue that keeps use together.
Now that my family is getting older and feet are slowly vanishing from under the table, I realize something about the importance of my supper table that I didn’t fully realize before. For those of us who have been called according to His purpose, time spent around the table, after the eating is done and the chairs have been pushed back, can be nourishment for our souls. The real nourishment around my table happens when the stories turn to the One writing the chapters of our lives. The One who intricately weaves story lines of grace, mercy, and redemptive love into those chapters.
I wish I had fully realized this when my kids were younger.
You know, if I had it all to do again, no discipline would ever have been issued at the supper table.
To the ones who left home before I had this epiphany, sorry I’m just realizing this.
There would have been no fussing about grades, or lost things, or fires set that required several fire trucks and a backhoe. Not that these things shouldn’t be addressed, just not at the supper table.
All that would have been reserved for another room in the house. Instead, the supper table would have been reserved for stories both old and new. It would have been reserved for diligently teaching our children about the faithfulness of God toward His children with more intentionality.
We would have recanted stories of old. I would have talked of things – amazing things – my God did long ago. I would have talked about things – amazing things my God was still doing. I would have shared more of my first hand experiences with my Father. The times He rescued me from my stupidity. The times He showed me mercy or lavished me with His grace. I would have been painfully honest about my shortcomings and ecstatic over the victories through His power.
I would have remembered that it’s not the meal that is of greatest importance, it’s the time spent around the table, the legacy of faith passed down to the next generation.
We talk about the importance of sharing our faith stories with others, but before we take those stories to others, we need to talk them out with our children or anyone else He sends into our home. And what better place to do that than the supper table?
When we remember, we gain strength. When we share, we offer hope, and others gain courage. When we warn, we protect; we give an opportunity for another to be spared the hard road we walked as a result of poor choices or flat out disobedience.
We make sense of experiences through our stories.
Painfully honest, vulnerable, miraculous, grace drenched stories.
Start the tradition of sharing stories when your children are young. If they are older, introduce it to them anyway. Just do it.
We are changing the name of our Domestic Diva page to “The Supper Table” because we believe with all our hearts in the importance of sharing our faith stories around the supper table. And because we don’t believe that elaborate meals are necessary, we want to give you suggestions for great meals without all the fuss.
We want to help you just get them to the table.
Then when the meal is over, linger at the table a little longer. Don’t rush off. Talk about your day. Share what God showed you, taught you. Talk about your experiences with Him. Revisit those old stories of the Bible.
Be intentional until it becomes unintentional-just a part of who you are and what you do as a family around the supper table.
Invite others to sit at your table, often.
Years down the road, it’s not the food they’ll remember; it’s the stories.
It’s the legacy of family and faith.
Have a great week!
“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” Ronald Reagan
“The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy. But I (Jesus) have come to give you life and give it to the full.” John 10:10
A few years ago our dog of 6 years died. It did not take me long to decide that I did not like our home without a pet, so we got another puppy. We found her online, spoke with her breeder, had videos sent to us and we decided that this was our next pet! She was barely 2 pounds when we got her! She was so cute! We loved her immediately!
It did not take long for us to notice that a few things were not right with her. Her first vet visit was great! She appeared to be perfect! A few weeks later, I noticed that she was vomiting a lot! Then I noticed she did not seem to act like a normal perky puppy. Then…I gave her the heartworm medicine. Her behavior scared me so badly that I ran her to the vet. He looked at her, ran some tests, called the company that made the heartworm medicine and in a few hours we had a diagnosis…a liver shunt. The liver is a filter for the body. Anything toxic runs through the liver. In my 2 pound puppy, she had a blood vessel not connected to her liver. I found out later that that particular blood vessel was less than a millimeter in diameter…a MILLIMETER!!! That one single millimeter was wreaking havoc in our puppy! She had seizures, she vomited, she slept, and she would bang her little head against a wall…pure havoc. Thankfully there is a university near our home that knew how to handle liver shunts and we were able to take her there and they were able to fix our puppy’s shunt. When we picked her up, they told us, “It will take time, but eventually she should be “normal””. It has been 14 months since her surgery and today she is normal!
Her name? Zoe!!! What does that mean? Zoe is a Greek word meaning “of the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God”!
God intends for me to live a full life, both essential and ethical! God desires for me to live life to the full! If a millimeter of a detached blood vessel can cause such damage to a pet, what could a millimeter of sin do to my life? How does God see me banging my head against a wall? Could it deter me from living my potential in Christ? What if a millimeter of pride, judgement, hate, materialism or lust can keep me from a full relationship with my creator? What am I missing from just a millimeter of sin?
I pray that God will continue to shed light in each area where there is a millimeter of misalignment between us. I pray that I allow Him to do surgery in my heart so that my life is lived to the full! He loves me enough to seek me out and help me find what is making me “sick”. I should desire Him enough to be found and be healed!
We are so excited that Stacey Hensley has joined the PSF team as a regular blogger.
Stacey is married to Mike Hensley. They have 3 daughters (22 year old step-daughter, 16, and 14). She lives in Georgia and has been a stay-at-home mom for 16 years and she says she has loved it! Stacey says that she is now in the season of preparing for "empty nest" and her heart is growing for moms of young children and reaching them with God's truth and love. Her favorite scripture is John 10:10, "The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy. But I (Jesus) have come that you may have have life and have it to the full." She loves to share that life giving truth to anyone willing to listen!!!
I love the way God writes a story with the paper of our life and the pen of His Holy Spirit.
From the time I was a child I knew conceptually that God loved me. I knew that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for sinners. I knew this and believed as much as any child could. But in the back of my mind, I sort of thought God was lucky to have me on His team. Perhaps He even smiled when He thought of me, because I wasn’t really “that bad”. Especially not like those other sinners He died for.
It wasn’t until college that the fruition of my childhood belief became a deep and life-changing faith. It wasn’t until I became the person that I had always judged that God showed me his far-reaching grace. I was transformed as I began to believe the truth that I was more sinful than I could dare to imagine and more loved than I could dare to dream.
Cornerstones of the Christian faith like grace, imputed righteousness, the power of the Spirit, community, evangelism, and other foundational truths I’d been taught as a kid became my oxygen. Jesus was no longer a part of my life…He became MY LIFE.
It was as if I had purchased a fully furnished house and finally had the electric company come and cut the lights on! Everything that was needed to live was in place and finally, it was a home that could be richly enjoyed.
Upon graduation, I zealously entered full-time Christian work and couldn’t wait to tell college students just like me about Jesus. I fell in love with watching the light grow from a flicker to a flame, as they began to understand the Gospel. I loved my job. Full time ministry! What’s not to love? Yet, God gently showed me that I was using my profession and ministry successes to prop up my ego and validate my identity. Full-time ministry was a good thing, but I had made it into a god thing, an idol in which my value and worth were found.
In the thick of my love affair with ministry you can bet your bottom dollar that I firmly believed I did not need a man to slow me down. And, on cue, per my pride, God used a trip to do Hurricane Katrina relief work to introduce me to a person He would use to show me His unfailing love
There we were, hundreds of Cru staff and college students covered in mud and bug bites, freezing our tails off sleeping on cots under circus tents and taking showers in the back of 18-wheelers. There he was, leading a team from Ole Miss and there was me, leading a team that “just so happened” to needed to bunk up with their students because there was no room for us at any other sites. Sparks flew, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Six months later we started dating, six months later we were engaged, six months later we were married and the rest is history! Literally HIS story!
I remember one night, Joel sat me down and said that he felt I had nothing left to give and that ministry was in a sense the "third wheel” in our relationship. I was heart-broken and ashamed but I knew that ministry-aholism and the anxiety that comes along with it were something that I needed to process and battle. God used Joel to teach me so much of His love and my identity in Christ being perfect and complete, not needing to work harder or do better and that I no longer needed to avoid sin to avoid my need for Jesus. It was powerful.
A few years into marriage we (and by we I actually mean “I”), finally moved from fear to faith and decided to try and start a family. After a year of “trying” we realized it simply wasn’t happening. This was soul-wrenching. I remember numerous trips home to see our family when I’d have fully envisioned and planned “the announcement” and played out how excited our parents would be to become grandparents. But every time, there was no announcement to be made. The endless cycle of hope and despair continued. Two years later, I remember our reproductive endocrinologist patting me on the knee and saying that humanly speaking, there was no reason we should not be able to conceive and that perhaps there was a Higher Power who had a better plan. This was the confirmation we needed to end fertility treatments and pursue adoption.
Our gut reaction was to begin an international adoption process. It seemed the sexy thing to do; yet after looking at our options, it didn’t seem to be the right fit. We pursued domestic infant adoption the way many of our friends had done, but again, we lacked the peace and confirmation that we needed to proceed. Of course, the ONE THING we said we’d NEVER do was foster and adopt a child through social services. I mean, we’d never been parents before and weren’t these kids typically older with more issues? We decided to do our due diligence and attend an interest meeting. It was there that the Holy Spirit made it irresistibly clear what He had in store to build our family.
We walked away with fresh tears on our faces and a forged plan to fight for a child. We spent 9 months meticulously scribbling out all our paperwork and then waiting. In the darkest of places, smack in the middle of a “what the heck is taking so long” pity party, we got the call. Okay, well, really I made the call because “WHAT THE HECK WAS TAKING SO LONG???” But the social worker on the other end of the line asked me, “Did you not get a phone call already? You were matched yesterday with a kid… Or maybe it was two kids? I’m not sure…just call this number.” And call the number I sure did. It took that social worker 4 hours to return my phone call. FOUR HOURS, PEOPLE!?! Do you know how well you can clean your oven when you have 4 hours of nervous energy pumping through your veins?
There were a flurry of phone calls and emotions followed by a pivotal conversation with a friend whose advice we trusted… WHO JUST SO HAPPENED TO HAVE OUR FUTURE SON IN HER RESPITE FOSTER CARE AT THAT VERY MOMENT!!! Within a day we were not only matched, but we were in LOVE with not one, but two precious children.
A boatload of details needed to be worked out. Details like car seats, elementary schools and job transitions. But amidst the details we were seeing miracles happen and dreams we never even knew to dream, were coming true. Joel’s birthday fell in the midst of the hubbub. I deliriously asked him if there were anything he’d like for his birthday. With his eyes filled with emotion, he sweetly said that all he wanted for his birthday were two pigtails and a cowlick. On July 25, a spunky 2 year old and a snuggly 5 year old, their foster family and I threw Joel a birthday party at the Chick Fila play place. A few days later they came to live with us. Joel got exactly what he wanted for his birthday.
Over the next 9 months there were biological parent visitations, court hearings and finally on April 24, 2012, the judge declared what we’d always known, that they were officially a part of our forever family!
Ours is a beautifully broken story of God being good even when He didn’t feel good and Him being completely caring and sovereign even when things seem insanely out of control…nothing different than what He is doing in the lives of all His children. And the rest is history. Truly HIS story!
Thanks so much to Kitty for sharing her story with us. She and her husband, Joel, have a fantastic website. Please visit
http://www.joelandkitty.com/ to learn more about them and read some more of her blogs.
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