We all do it. We eat some incredibly, delicious food. Maybe it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert… it doesn’t matter the type of food; we just eat it and we love every bit of it!
So, naturally, we go back for seconds…
Maybe it was our absolute favorite food ever, or perhaps it just looked really, really good when we first saw it. Regardless, we missed out on it the first go round, so we figure we will just get a little bit of it to see how we like it.
…then comes the regret.
“Ugh, I did NOT need that.”
“I am waaaay too full.”
“Whoops, I didn’t realize that (insert name) hadn’t even had any yet!”
“I can’t eat all of this. I was just worried it would all be taken!”
“It looked really good, but uhh not so much. What was I even thinking?!”
…Ashley, what are you talking about? Are you blogging while hungry? Yes, in fact I am (when am I not hungry?), but that’s not what I’m talking about!
…I’m talking about going back for seconds, in our individual lives, on our individual plates.
Our life plates.
You know, the ones we fill up every day, week, month, year, with tasks we need to accomplish, groups we want to join, or relationships we have.
I recently went to a women’s retreat and heard a speaker reference sitting down with God to evaluate her plate. “I’ve just got too much on my plate right now!” We have all said that phrase or heard someone we know use it. She went on to discuss how she evaluated her plate over the course of 30 days and prayed and asked God to show her what should either stay on or come off.
I thought to myself, “ohh I JUST went through this in my own life! What a great lesson for SOMEONE ELSE to hear. We all need to do this, and I am SO GLAD that I JUST did this!”
So after a full day of sessions, the retreat ended and I was super encouraged… until I wasn’t anymore.
I have been battling, and I mean battling, myself, the enemy, the ones I love, the media, the lady at the grocery store, the guy two lanes over from me, I mean literally EVERYONE lately! But the battlefield has not been one that anyone else could see. It has all been in. my. mind.
Irrational thoughts (check)
Negative self talk (check)
Self doubt (check)
Questioning the voice of God (check)
Raining down fiery darts like in the movie 300 (double check)
It has been a MONTH, if you know what I mean! I go to sleep, exhausted from a day of constant thinking, evaluating, and questioning, all of which is done in my very own head. I wake up and the mental battle starts again. Someone asks me how I am, and I’m like…hmm they probably don’t want to know all of the crazy that is happening inside of this head of mine!
So where did all of this come from, and why does it feel like I am stuck in a hurricane of my own thoughts and emotions?
…it’s because I went back for seconds.
So what does that mean? What does it mean to go back for seconds?
Last November, when I cleared off my plate, I quit my job, was kindly let go from helping my husband with his company (hah!), and then I put back on, in order of priority, God, husband, and children. Evidently, I wasn’t personally finished filling it yet, but I didn’t realize that then.
Within the course of a month while holding my newly cleared plate, I took on leading worship more frequently at my church, doing a few photography sessions here and there, and then was asked and decided to commit to FIVE volunteer teams at my church! Talk about a buffet!!! I mean, c’mon people, it was God’s work! All good things are ALWAYS good, right?
I had kept a little bit of worship on my plate, and a little bit of volunteering, but I had enjoyed them SO MUCH, that I went right back and grabbed myself some seconds, even though the Lord had distinctly told me to clear off my plate! I let that last all of 2 minutes before throwing stuff back on it. And I mean, it’s not unlike me to keep myself busy, or get ahead of God, but this time I really didn’t even see it. I was trying so hard to fill it with the good, Godly stuff, that it took me 3 1/2 months to see that it was making me spiritually sick!
Because here’s the thing… when we load up our plates, whether with 4 things or 14 things, we have got to take the time to properly digest all that we are trying to consume. Otherwise, we are just stuffing ourselves full of really wonderful things, that we just don’t have time or room for!
And how does it feel when you stuff yourself? When you have a gluttonous spirit? It’s awful! It becomes hard to even “feel” anything other than miserable. Sensing the discernment of the Spirit and the voice of God become almost impossible! Why? Because we are sick from all of the stuff on our plates, yet we keep adding more good, when really what we need is more God!
And when we do that, y’all, we take away those great things from someone else. We put too much extra on our plate, and we don’t leave any for the person that perhaps God intended it for in the first place.
The things we already have on our plates can nourish us, grow us, fill us, but we won’t ever experience that if we just keep pilling things on top of what we already have!
And understand me on this, those things that you feel like you just HAVE to HAVE…the pan of brownies that NO ONE WILL EVER MAKE AGAIN…y’all, that’s just not true! There will be another pan of brownies. And if you live in my house, a weekly pan of brownies! But what I’m trying to say is, that good thing you feel like you aren’t getting a taste of quite yet…it won’t be gone forever. One day, when you least expect it, but when God most purposefully intends it, you’ll get your chance to try it…or maybe you won’t.
If I can digress for a moment, I’d like us to discuss a passage from Hebrews. In chapter 11 we read about great people of faith from the Old Testament. The verse above specifically pertains to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These great men did bold things with patient faith, knowing that the Lord was working in and through their hardships. They took on JUST what the Lord told them to and then they waited in faith until He directed them. And the Lord did. He directed them and gave them people to share their faith with, but these men died never experiencing the best thing they could’ve ever experienced, and that was the promise of the coming Christ. Yet, they were long suffering. They kept believing and they kept doing EXACTLY what God had placed on their plates. Even when it wasn’t, perhaps, the things they wanted the most.
That’ll preach, y’all, cause it’s preaching to me! When you are walking in all of the good, but not the path that God has set for you, you might as well be behind enemy lines! That battlefield of the mind that I mentioned earlier, was my own doing, yet there I was giving the enemy all of the credit. I think he was likely relishing in how easy I was making it for him, but never the less, I was there because I wasn’t satisfied with what God had given me. Ouch! That hurt to type.
But God, through Jesus, gave us a way to ward off some of this “going back for seconds” nonsense. In Matthew 6 when Jesus is talking to His disciples (sermon on the mount), He instructs them on how they should pray. “Give us this day, our daily bread…” Jesus doesn’t say, “Give me this day, absolutely everything good that I want to have!” Negative. And aren’t we thankful for that?
“Give us this day, our daily bread…” don’t worry about tomorrow, and don’t try and get all you possibly can today, but instead, Lord, give us what we need that is sufficient for this day, and this day alone. Because really that’s all we can handle. And honestly, WE aren’t even handling that! It is only by the power of Christ and the grace of God given to us each day that allow us to handle what we have. We are also reminded of this in Proverbs 30:8, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need.”
So let’s each take a good, long look at our plates. Let’s not keep adding all of the things, going back for seconds, to then never even try all that we’ve added… because, guess what? We end up throwing those things away, becoming spiritually sick, or going to battle against ourselves, when God is over on the sidelines with a kitchen sink and dish rag whispering, “just let me clean this up for you.”
It’ll be so good. And it’ll be so hard…but also, SO worth it!
…and for the love of Pete, don’t go find yourself a bigger plate! :)
With love & laughter,
In the book of Exodus we read about Moses and his great deliverance of the Israelites. After the Israelites left Egypt they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years waiting on God to lead them to the promised land. While they were in the wilderness, the Israelites started to complain about how Moses saved them. They were slaves back in Egypt but compared to just wandering around in the desert with no food, the slave life in Egypt was looking pretty good! We read in Exodus chapter 16 that the Israelites started grumbling and complained to Moses, “We had meat in Egypt but then you had to go and lead us out so that we could starve out here in the desert!”
Of course, there was no food in the desert. How were they to survive? Why would God lead them out of Egypt only to bring them to a desert? Don’t we feel like we’re in the wilderness sometimes? We feel like God leads us somewhere only to abandon us. I know this feeling quite well.
Media- you’re everywhere. You’re so loud that it’s deafening.
You’re deafening our ears to hear truth,
blinding our eyes to see direction,
yet somehow amplifying our mouths to speak opinion…
to speak our views or judgements we’ve formed from you, Media,
with our deafened ears and our blinded eyes.
We have become like overly pompous horses.
We appear grand, strong, powerful, galavanting the great wild world,
yet with bridle and bit in mouth, our stance is directed by someone else.
By something else.
It’s you, Media.
What is truth anymore?
We’ve taken this guiding light and altered it to fit our perception of reality.
But that’s not truth.
We seem to have lost what truth is.
We no longer seek it earnestly, instead we settle for being led by uncertainty.
What happened to education? Where have all of the books gone?
We no longer thumb through pages of factual information,
rather settle for a comment feed without any rationalization.
Where do our convictions lie? I can’t seem to find them.
What was once an internal voice of logical process
is now a methodical scroll thumbed thoughtless.
Our hearts seem to be led by self-righteousness, no longer led by love.
Our words led by “likes,” as if that were ever enough.
We are affirmed by our “friends” and motivated by a “follow,”
all of which returns void when what we post is hard to swallow.
So we settle in for hate and slander, all done through our words.
So gratified in our voice, finally being heard.
But what have we accomplished? What’s been made better?
We still live in a virtual world, filled with friends who are fair-weathered.
We have to put down our devices and stand up with our back bones.
Get out of this world’s vices and find our way back home.
Because home is where we left it, where we lost all of our hope.
Where we chose our own knowledge, our own truth, when He warned us, “No, don’t!”
Now we’ve let the enemy in, and he’s running all amok.
And we’re all just looking for hope again, with no such luck.
We’re crying out to leaders; we’re giving them the blame.
But they’ll never be able to hear our cries, because our hope has a name.
Jesus is our hope, the way, the truth, the life.
Watch as He’s running after us, His forever, eternal bride.
So Media, I’m using you now, to accomplish some good.
To remind a hopeless people, that their pain is understood.
I’m unplugging the deafened ears and removing bridle and bit.
To no longer be guided by the world and constantly listening to it.
For my hope, He has a name, and His father suffered great loss.
They both know our feelings of pain, for their pain involved a cross.
And right now ours does too, a crossroads of sorts.
Do we buy into this Hope? Or stand idle with abhor.
If we want to go to battle in this never ending strife,
We must make sure we are standing behind lines worthy of our lives.
The fight we choose will be costly, no matter which side.
So we must be sure we choose wisely and set aside our pride.
I have chosen to seek the Truth, while He may still be found.
I want to have eyes that see and ears that hear, when the trumpet sounds.
If curiosity has sparked, a twinkling in your eyes,
ask me all your questions but tell me no more lies.
This Truth for you is free, for the price has far been paid.
So rest assured you weary heart, do not be dismayed.
For what Hope did for me, He’s also done for you.
And where Media, you confuse us, our Hope, you will speak Truth.
Our Savior will come through.
Taking hold of that Hope,
Pain in this life is a given.
It is unavoidable.
It will happen.
It is a foolish endeavor to attempt to avoid it touching our lives. Seasons of pain come and go. Sometimes the season is short but sometimes those seasons seem endless. Sometimes the pain is of our own doing, a consequence of a rebellious spirit. Other times, we are blindsided by life and we find ourselves in the crosshairs of a fallen world.
What do we do when we find ourselves in a season of unrelenting pain and hardship? If pain is inevitable, then there must be some kind of help out there for the afflicted, some Divine provision for a hurting soul.
Maybe we need to change our understanding of pain and it’s purpose in our lives. Sometimes it just helps to know something has purpose.
What would happen if we saw pain as a tool? Then recognizing how that tool is used in our lives would be hugely significant.
Let me explain.
If pain is a tool, then we need to recognize whose hands hold the tool.
If the tool finds its way into the hands of the enemy, we can be sure that it will be used to cripple us, maybe even destroy us. We know the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy. John 10:10
But, if the tool finds itself in the hands of a loving Father, then we can be assured that the tool will be used to chisel and shape us into something beautiful. We could then claim Romans 8:28 with absolute certainty. We could know beyond any shadow of a doubt that, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Armed with that assurance, we could stand up under the weight of any pain.
We don’t often have a choice as to whether pain enters our lives or not, but when it does, we do get to choose whose hands will hold the tool.
Choose your carpenter wisely.
Have a great week,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
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.
I am cross-eyed this morning as I begin to write this letter to all of you because I stayed up through the entire coverage of the 2016 election results. I wanted to go to bed, but I couldn’t tear myself away. I will probably pay for it today. Pray for your brother still living at home!
This has been such a heart wrenching process full of anger, hostility, and fear. I am aware more than ever of the tremendous division in our country and it is truly heart breaking. As I watched the election process unfold, as I watched the response of the media, and as I watched the wide range of responses from the American people, I felt a mixture of emotions that I don’t think I have ever experienced before in the aftermath of any presidential election.
As your mom, my heart wants so much for all of you. I want an America that is once again great and stable and safe. I am so keenly aware this morning that Donald Trump will not be able to provide that for you in the next four years; neither would have Hillary Clinton or any other candidate that ran for office been able to. It is a task too great for fallen man.
But, there is a God in heaven.
I want to share with you what I do believe to be true about my God - your God. He is sovereign above all things. He will accomplish what He intends to accomplish, with or without the cooperation of man. Because I believe Him to be sovereign, I believe that He has chosen the next president. You have just witnessed something that many are saying, “defies human logic”, and is “a miraculous event”. What I want to make sure you recognize is that you have just witnessed first hand God actively steering the course of history. Daniel 2:20-22 says this:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are His.
He changes times and seasons;
He deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with Him.
Don’t miss this, guys. He is still in control. While some are saying that this will be a time of great revival in our country, others fear that this will bring about our destruction. But don’t you ever waver in believing that He is who He says He is. He can do what He says He can do. He has His eyes on you, always. You are precious to Him, the apple of His eye. He alone holds your future in His hands and He is a good, faithful Father to all generations who love Him and obey His words.
One last thing, if we truly believe Him to be sovereign, then we are to act on that belief. If our choice for president did not win, we are not to grieve or be fearful because we know He is in control. If our candidate did win, we are not to gloat or act disrespectfully, but compassionately and lovingly. Instead, we are to continue to pray fervently for our country. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, loving people where they are and proclaiming the truth of God’s word.
We need to pray for unity in this country so fractured by hate and indifference. But we have to put feet to our prayers. We have to be the instruments though which God heals this land. We have failed miserably. He is giving us another chance. Let’s get it right.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was, “To love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” But then He added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 36-40) Sadly, Christians are not known for their love. Jesus also told us that other’s would know we were His by the way we loved one another.
Let’s take very seriously our responsibilities as His disciples. Let’s not let Him down.
I love you all,
A few months back, my friend, Julie, and I headed out to a sporting goods store to purchase kayaks. For some years now, our families have vacationed together at the beach and each year Julie and I rent kayaks. We love to paddle around in the creeks, and really, in our minds; we think that we are well on our way to becoming Master Kayakers. So at the end of last summer, we decided that it was time for us to save our money and buy our very own kayaks.
We researched and talked about it for the next year, and then we were ready. When we got to the store, according to Julie, we had to choose the correct length of the paddle by comparing it to the length of our arm expanse. So we would take a paddle off the rack, stand it up on end, and see if we could touch the top. If we could, it was the right length. Of course, there was also the concern of finding the right color paddle so that it wouldn’t clash with our kayaks. We took down paddle after paddle looking for the right length and color. That in itself made us look like two idiots who thought they knew what they were doing but clearly did not. Then we confirmed our idiot status by knocking the entire display down. THE ENTIRE DISPLAY.
There is no way to discreetly knock down a paddle display.
I guess, truth be known, we aren’t Master Kayakers either.
Really, if you had been with us on our last excursion, you would probably be completely and utterly dumbfounded as to why we would ever want to continue with this as a hobby.
Last year we stayed at a different beach, which had both creeks and man made canals. So the way it was laid out was like this: the ocean flowed into the inlet, which flowed into the creek, which then flowed into the canal. Basically the canals gave the houses access to the creek. Because of their location, the water was much calmer in the canals.
You need to keep that in mind.
We decided to head out late one afternoon because the tide was almost all the way in, and we knew that it was the best time to go and not get sucked out into the ocean where there are waves and big sharks. I have this fear of being adrift in the middle of the ocean with no diet Pepsi or boiled peanuts while the sun is blistering my skin and Jaws is circling my Kayak.
What we didn’t take into account was the wind. When we turned the corner that led out of the canal and into the creek, the water turned really choppy and the wind was blowing, oh, I’d say about 40-50 mph. Listen, if fisherman can make a story respectable by exaggerating the size of the fish, then a kayaker should be able to make her story exciting by exaggerating the speed of the wind.
At first it was really great fun. The wind was at our backs and we were coasting down the creek nicely. The only thing we had to use our paddles for was to steer. The wind did the rest. As the wind continued to pick up, we started moving faster and faster. We were having the best time ever until we realized two things. First, even though the tide was coming in we were going out – quickly. Second, as much fun as we were having with the wind at our backs, we probably were not going to experience that same fun when we turned around. Basically, the coasting would be over.
We decided to turn around and head back to the canal. That’s what we decided to do; unfortunately that’s not what actually happened. We paddled and paddled and paddled. Water was splashing into our faces. I needed windshield wipers for my sunglasses. I began to wonder how much further we had to go because all the docks were beginning to look the same. Then I realized that the reason the dock to my left looked like the one that had been to my left just 5 minutes earlier was because IT WAS THE SAME DOCK. We were not moving. And let me tell you, if we stopped paddling for even a second, we would fall back at least two kayak lengths.
I turned to say something to Julie but she wasn’t behind me. Some kind of way she had made it to a dock and was hanging on for dear life. I couldn’t bring myself to stop paddling because I knew if I did, I would lose all that ground that I had fought so hard for. I could see the bend that lead back into the canal up ahead, way up ahead, but I just couldn’t get there. I was about to give up when I saw a boat round the bend with our boys in it. They sized up the situation and through my fogged up, water spotted sunglasses, I could see the big grins on their faces. Of course, they had several smart-alecky things to say. I promise you I would have smacked one of them with my paddle, but I was too afraid to stop paddling.
They picked up Julie first then came up beside me. When the boat pulled up beside me, hands reached out and grabbed my kayak. It was a beautiful sight! The boys held onto our kayaks and towed us back to the canal. It was still a rough ride and salt water was still splashing all in my face, but the paddling was done and my aching arms were finally able to rest.
Paddling a kayak in a storm is a lot like maneuvering through the storms of life. If we allow God to, He will teach us and perfect two important spiritual disciplines in our lives: endurance and perseverance.
Sometimes, like Julie, we have to hang on – ride the storm out. That’s endurance. We have to be still and wait, and while we wait, we hang on to Jesus with all our strength. In the end, we learn to undergo hardships with out giving in and without losing hope. We learn to trust and our faith increases (James 1:2-4).
Then there are times when we are called to keep pushing forward, no matter how fierce the opposition or how weary and discouraged we are tempted to become. We refuse to give up. That’s called perseverance. We keep paddling because we know there is hope; we know the storm will end or we will make it to calmer waters. We know God is watching carefully, He knows our weariness, and He knows what we are capable of. And when it’s time, His hands will reach out and steady us, and though the wind is still blowing and the waves are still battering us, we will be able to rest as he leads us to still waters. We are stronger for having persevered because we get a glimpse of the real strength, His strength, in our lives (Psalm 28:7).
When we keep our eyes on Jesus, storms will not destroy
us; they will make us stronger. And when He leads us into
still waters, He will restore our souls (Psalm 23).
Have a great week!
What do you do when the pain is so deep or the fear is completely overwhelming?
Do you shut down?
Do you pray?
What if the prayer isn’t answered quickly and the circumstance that you find yourself in drags on?
What if the answer is “No”?
And when you pray, do you pray out of fear or trust? Do you pray that the circumstance changes or do you pray that you change?
Certainly, we should ask God to intervene - Jesus did. Three times He ask His Father to change the circumstances. Three times He asked that He not have to walk the path that was before Him.
But then, He surrendered His will to the will of His Father.
We find the account in Luke. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.”
Jesus didn’t want to walk the path before Him. He was in agony as He pleaded with His Father in the garden that night. But even more than wanting to be released from the fearful road ahead, He wanted to obey. He wanted His Father to be glorified more than He wanted to be spared the pain before Him.
Luke goes on to say that after Jesus surrender there in the garden, an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.
When we pray, with a surrendered heart, God will do no less for us. We will be strengthened. We will receive courage for the road ahead. There is tremendous power in prayer that seeks God’s will and His glory. A greater work in our lives is done, not when the circumstance changes, but when we are changed.
Have a blessed week,
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.
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
I am a planner by nature. I like a plan and I like to stick to the plan. In 2013, I thought ahead to 2014 and I had grand plans! I started planning away! Vacations, selling a home, financial goals, and personal goals, were just a few of my plans. It was all perfect! It was all without a glitch! The timing was all going to be perfect and I should not have too much stress! I had plans! God had plans too! God had ordained my plans. God wants good things for me. So…I planned my way and my Father determined my steps. God had a few detours for me to take.
Dreams of a future home interrupted by the unexpected death of my father. Celebration of birthdays…. my second child is 16? Where did the time go? We sold our home of 9 years, had to be out in 3 weeks and amidst the chaos, our oldest graduated from college! Finally out of our home, into an apartment only to leave on a week -long trip 5 days later. At one point I had 3 children away on separate summer trips in 3 different countries. Oldest child starts a job and the other 2 start school…only for my mom to break her foot and she is a couple of hours away…and she lives alone. Taking care of mom with a major project in the works and my family survives with a very distracted mom/wife. December arrives and I attempt to decorate the apartment for Christmas and our apartment floods…the entire apartment in an inch of water. Get that mess cleaned up (and it is Christmas!) and the apartment above us floods…water through our ceiling. This is 2014 revisited for my family.
Why heartbreak while I was celebrating? Why stress when there is joy in my face? Why does the timing have to feel so off? Why does it feel like every year the changes get harder?
God allows me to plan, because He wants me to find Him in them. If He allowed every one of my plans to go off without a hitch, I would think too highly of myself. God wants me to seek Him in all things and if all things go well all of the time…well, I forget to look for Him! God knows this about me and He loves me too much to allow me to get away with it.
I can choose to look back at 2014 and think, “That was stressful!” But I have chosen to look back and see:
I still have a future home in the works. My mother is doing well. My children are all healthy and growing, as they should. My marriage is stronger every day and my God…my Father in heaven…He is walking beside me every step of the way. When I celebrate, so does He. When I hurt, He holds my heart. When I love, He gives me the capacity to love more!
Praise Him for determining my steps!
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