Monday, September 12, 2016

BE Reconciled to God

It has been quite a baby has just started kindergarten and I currently only have two different schools equalling four carlines instead of six... which frees up some blogging margin.  Being a mom of three has grown me in so many ways but it has definitely taught me to prioritize and so the blogs that need to be written get written and the ones that are just fluff fail to make the page.

I have been processing Scriptures to put with each of our family values for the past 12 years.  Because the values are based on a Biblical worldview; I could just mount a shelf by the list and lay the Bible up there because I want our kids to be intimate with the Word in its entirety.  During different sibling camps, I have pulled out various verses to go along with each value, but I have wanted to narrow it since they became the official values of our little team of five.  I used to begin with the "God's Purpose" value and get completely bogged down with examples. So within last few weeks of summer I decided to go backwards up the list from least important to greatest- therefore starting with "Experience".  I found an average of three verse excerpts to go with each one and as I neared the daunting task of of the top again, I settled on 2 Corinthians 5:16-22 with words like " see others no longer from earthly point of view", "Christ's ambassadors of reconciliation", "ministry of reconciliation"  etc.  These combined with James 1:26-27 & 5:20 were solidifying in my heart what I wanted my kids to understand about God's Purpose.  But as I got to 2 Corinthians 5:20 (love that they are both "5:20") my soul was kneeling and dancing and jumping all simultaneously.  "We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." Oh my I want to implore our kids and all people I come in contact with to "be reconciled to God"!!!

I have had a blank burlap canvas for about 18 months now which I purchased for something at the old house that I never did and can't remember what it was for.  It has just gone to storage and moved through the craziness with us awaiting some color and excitement to pull in from the closet.  As I marinated in the words "ministry of reconciliation" and the action of "imploring" and reviewed other translations during the last 3 weeks, I decided to let the canvas help me implore from the wall in the entryway/exit of our new home.  And I began to paint.  The crafting hobby has gone the way of the blogging hobby in recent years but it was so wonderful to feel it again.

As I painted His Spirit resonated in my soul, "I know you think you are doing this for others who come into your home, but what if this is for you...You know you will most likely wrestle with My Ways again in this life--likely repeatedly... you feel in a peaceful,reconciled place at present- wanting to scream it from the mountains (or at least from your front porch), but you know that I will probably do something you don't understand again... will you want this hanging on your wall?...will you want to be reconciled to Me then?..."

I want to want to LORD. Help me want to; help me overcome my unbelief as You have been faithful to do- oh so faithful!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 14, 2015


I was putting away her clean laundry.

She came in and asked me, "Mom, what is 'true love'?"

She's 4 and yes, she has been watching Frozen.

I descended to my knees, her level and a physical posture acknowledging my need of and requesting assistance.  "Setting apart Christ as LORD"  and to "always be ready to give a {gentle and respectful} answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have" (1 Peter 3: 15) in the role of "Mom" requires so much discernment. It needs constant balance to make the most of foundational moments and simultaneously not make "mountains out of mo-hills".  It is a big question from a tiny voice.

I gave a short straightforward answer based on a combination of the gists of John 15:13 and Romans 5:8. "True love is when someone lays down their wants, rights, what they have earned--their life-- for another person.  Jesus is the greatest at showing true love.  It can be one-sided but it is so powerful when two love each other."

"Ok! Yes He is!" She skips away.

I stay low, overwhelmed by and thankful for the help.  He is there. We process the following: What if she had been my first child; how would I have answered that a mere 8 years ago when Dax was 4? Honestly not that way. Scripture has long stated these truths.  Life experience has been a great highlighter to His Word over the past 30 years of my relationship with Him, but it grows bigger, truer and more real with every phase - sometimes moment by moment. The past 10 have been similar to trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

His loving, almost grinning nudge is "Is there more that I say about true love, Farah? Are you equipped to direct her in the rest of her questions?  You aren't exactly sure from where in My Word what you said came, are you?" (soul-wink)

Later, she finds me with the Study Bible open on my bed.  "Whatcha doin with the BIG Bible, Mom? I like the way those papers sound with you flippin them!"

" I am looking for a verse for you."

"REALLY?!?!?! For me; well I was going to see if you could (I don't really remember what she said here) but I am going to leave you to find my verse. Bye!"

I smile at Him (she never leaves when she wants something!!)!  And I keep "flippin" and soaking.

(from 1 John, 1Corintians, Colossians, 1Thess 3:12-13 and locating the actual locations of the above) 
True love is:
- remaining connected to the One who IS love (John 15)

because of that connection:
-acknowledging and living out that this One loves the others that you love more than you do
-sometimes the only reason to love the unlovable is because He loves them
-knowing when to leave so that the one You are loving grows in dependence on Him instead of You
-knowing when to stay even though you are wounded because He can heal those wounds
-knowing and acting on WHEN to speak Truth about sin and when to remain silent
-knowing and acting on HOW to speak Truth about sin ("I love you and want you to live in JOY rather than HAPPINESS" instead of "You are wrong and should be zapped")

While my soul soaks, my mind recalls Antoine De Saint-Exupery penning The Little Prince's  acquiesce: "But I was too young to know how to love her." And I think about Bruno Mars belting: "Mmm, too young, too dumb to realize..."  and true love's requirement of not year maturity but a maturity of soul comes into focus.

As we transition to her bath time, Bible in hand, she scoops and pours. I ask her if she remembers what she asked me about earlier in the day. Ceasing to pour, she repeats her question and gives an answer similar to what I had said.

"Is that what my verse is about?"

I nod affirming and open to show her the back concordance EXHAUSTIVE list of what it speaks about "love".  Then I read John 15:13: " Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." 

"Do you have more?"

"Sure!" 1 John 3:16: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." 1 John 4:16 "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love. ... (v.18) There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. ...We love because he first love us." (v.19)  

"I love that He is love and that He loves me and I can love!"

"Me too, K (SMILE)"

We pray a short prayer asking help to both turn to Him to know love. She scoops and pours...

It Was Such A Fantastic Day (Even though My Shirt was Backwards)!!!!!!!

I asked K a couple weeks ago how she would like to finish off our summer together.  I had taken the boys and some friends to Top Golf as a finale to their summer but she had stayed behind with my sister-in-law. I wanted to do something special with some of her friends too before the beginning of PreK4.  She simply said she would like to have a tea party... "to serve her friends and her giraffe" ( a plastic giraffe from a game we have).

So we began the preparations. She brought me a toy cake topper from her kitchen as a "design" for the cake. It was a bit intimidating until I remembered some large cookie cutters I had in the cabinet.  We bought two $5 plastic tea sets and she chose the "sprinkle cake" (Funfetti) with the pink icing. We discussed times (repeatedly) with cousins and friends and Voila! --the day arrived!

Nana, our Smith neighbors, and our Doughan friends contributed to the seating arrangements for kids and their animal friends. The fantastic big brothers participated in a test run the night before and we found some leaks in our pots and creamers. The morning of the party after dropping the fellas at their schools we went in search of some table cloths and maybe a tray or two to assist with leaky pots.  They were easily acquired with a 4-pack of teal plastic plates costing $1.50 along with Dixie cups and paper muffin cups for the animals' dishes.  Her consideration often astounds me: she chose a light blue table cloth for the boys since the tea stuff and cake were all pink and when we walked by the flowers she asked if we could get some for her friends!  She kept going on about wanting to "serve" her friends! I couldn't get the animated imagery of the pink cake diving off any tray she was trying to handle out of my head! I forced some other creativity to happen up in my brain to keep that from coming to fruition.  When we got home and mostly set up, I cut up some square cotton pads for stuffed animal "cake" and some colored paper for "cheese and crackers".  She, of course, wanted to wear a dress and wanted me to as well. At the last moment I threw on a knit skirt and tee shirt (btw- I had no time left to shower or apply makeup).

She greeted her guests warmly and I seated their animals around each table so they would know to sit next to them.  She "served" all the animals their goodies first with giggles all around.  Then she served the real cheese and crackers and grapes.  Mrs. Courtney Doughan and I took the trays of water and let each child pour into their teacup. Then Aunt Karen served blueberry muffins and I followed with cake.  We had filled the sugar bowls with Smarties and they loved taking the top off for a "lump of sugar".  Pouring and drinking their "spot" of water was a repetitive pleasure too!

After everyone left, she helped me carry the table and four stools back next door and clean up. We both went to change and as I returned to my shorts and tank, I realized that I had my shirt on backwards for the entire party.  These things don't matter; what matters is my child honing her "serving" skills, thinking of others, and learning to open herself and her home up even if it is a "cozy" house and her shirt is on backwards.  What matters is not how we look or if either of us fail at our hostess duties, rather that we care enough to think of others and bring smiles to their worlds, and if serving them some paper, cotton, cheese, crackers, cake, and water in backwards shirts does it then so be it!

Romans 12:10: "Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor."

Friday, September 11, 2015


Dax's homework assignment for Social Studies last night was to ask me about my day on 9-11....The shock is still so vivid that although I will "never forget", I haven't really processed how special my perspective was on that day until talking with him.

September 11, 2001 will be in my memories for life! I was 24 years YOUNG; and finishing up my 9 month certification for Speech Language Pathology.  I had already graduated with my Masters and was working full-time with the only difference being that an SLP supervisor had to sign off on everything I did. I don't remember exactly how many nursing homes I had on my caseload, but I clearly remember Sylacauga, Roanoke, Dadeville, Lineville, Brown, and the Alex City Veteran's Hospital. I would cover all of these every single day and sometimes Saturdays depending on admissions for the week.

On the morning of September 11, I was getting ready to leave from Coach and Nean's house (we were living with them because we were leaving for WA in 5 days!!).  I was the only one left at the house and the housekeeper came in to clean.  As she entered she brushed off her usually cheery, sweet "Hello!" and went straight for the TV remote asking if I had heard.  As she clicked on the news and began to explain, we both watched the second plane hit the tower! The shock that came over both of us forever paused that moment in my brain in still shot form.  We both clenched the back of the sofa for support.  My phone broke the silent stillness with the Therapy Department Director calling and requesting for me to make the VA Hospital my first stop for the day.  They had stalled many of the men from seeing the coverage but knew they couldn't keep them from the news much longer. I headed out, numbly and robot-like forcing myself to be an adult, when all I wanted was my husband and my parents and a bubble.

I was changed by what I witnessed that day from the newscasts just as so many Americans were, but to have been in that VA Hospital and hear those past heroes get ready to take up arms again was unbelievable!  It required all personnel to be there most of the day ( I had to work on Saturday to get all the other facilities' patients seen that week due to how much we were all needed at the VA).  We had some who were weeping for America as they sat in the TV room. We had some with severe diagnoses on whom we had to keep a watchful eye to make sure the stress was not too much. We had those who tried to leave the facility repeatedly due to their dementia thinking they were needed on the battlefield.  I can't count the number of times they were reassured that the transport vehicles were not there to pick them up but we'd let them know when they were needed.  This would stall them for about thirty minutes at a time until they would be reassured once again.

 One of my patients could not speak well and used a picture notebook for most of his communication.  His rote memory had not been affected however so he could sing. Although he rarely did, he broke out in phrases from God Bless America and then Niel Diamond's America with tears streaming down his cheeks just holding my hand.  The next weeks and months were much of this behavior over and over from all the men.  These men no matter their own ailment were ready to HANDLE IT!! Some were even coherent enough to want to do something to help New York rescue workers and so the Activities Director began searching for ways they could send stuff.

David and I moved 5 days after on Sept 16 but I kept in touch with coworkers and was amazed at what the men were doing.  As they continued to unveil the strategy and details of the people who carried out 9-11, my shock remained. I grappled to comprehend how they had lived among us planning for so many months and how they had known they would kill and die to kill everyday for so long.  My naive brain bucked and reeled and broke down several notions that I had held for my lifetime up until this point.  It fumbled to process what had happened at the towers, the Pentagon, and the field.

On September 10, I was just a girl who trusted in her country and for the most part mankind, who thought that most everyone in the world saw human life and her America the same way she did--human life as valuable and the country as a "prince on a white horse" that preserved the goodness in the world and fought for truth-- not to mention a great thing to be feared and not messed with...

The night of September 11, I laid my head on my bed utterly physically and emotionally exhausted experiencing for the first time there were real enemies and "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." -Psalm 20:7.  I no longer trusted America which was good, but I did trust more fully in God and other people that trust in Him.

On September 16, I pulled out headed across the country and will always remember that drive as well.  The size and vividness of gigantic American flags waving just above seas of waving grain as we crossed mile after mile moving away from everything that was familiar... will remain securely fresh in my mind.  That day only solidified my trust in the Only Trustworthy One...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

To follow

We were coming home from a golf tournament the other day; our family had converged on the course in two separate vehicles but took the RV as to provide shelter for the golfer who finished first ( and the mom and sis) to rest up while the second brother played his round.  Of course everyone wanted to ride back home with Dad because 1) he is just cooler and 2) the RV rocks way more than the Traverse!
As I was following this view (taken while moving slowly; wasn't sure if got pic bc eyes on road), I realized how relaxed I was following my 4 favorite people in one of my favorite things.  This led me to a confession that I had never said aloud before, "I am a follower; and I am GOOD at it!"  If I couldn't be in the passenger seat of that RV, my next favorite, most comfortable place was right here, in the driver's seat of the following vehicle. I really am good at following; I rarely lose the vehicle that I am supposed to follow. Thanks to my earthly dads, I learned very early how to follow a man's lead through a dance, and I enjoy following assembly instructions.  As my prayerful thoughts dove into this concept, I realized that following is not as negative as the culture would have us believe.  Growing up "following the crowd" was discussed ominously as the thing that would lead to one's doom!!!!! There are no conferences on how to be a good follower but a plethora on how to be a good leader. I have read one book on following but the spin was learning to follow in order to be a good leader.
So what do you do if you are a good follower?  Personally it was good for me to acknowledge it and own it. It was also good for me to realize that God gave me an abundance of discernment; I remember using it even as a small child.  It has been a great protection and has made me extremely choosy about whom I follow; also helped me in choosing HIM.  As I have pondered this I have realized something about the times I find myself in leadership.  It has happened; I have turned around and panicked at the thought of people behind me.  I am most comfortable at the back or on the backstage crew, unseen.  In my past (and maybe in my present with my biological children), God highlighted how I have become engrossed with their paths, their steps, their safety-attempting to shoulder the burden of their well-being, growth, and even their salvation . Those are all His to carry. When I try to pick all of that up, I can lose my own way. It is best for me to remain focused on the following. Because it is the all too familiar dichotomy of pride and insecurity in my life for me to think that I play a role in their journey.  These blind me from realizing that they are really following Him; in relationship with Him- they just started at a different moment and it is no matter how I do it.
So I am going to live in the freedom of being created to follow and begin to encourage other gifted followers to do the same!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Servant Messenger

As I stare at next month's calendar and read the words "Middle School New Parents Night" I am swimming in bowlful of emotion mix! I am so excited for my oldest, the son whom You used first to make me a "mom",  to enter this time of his life! It can be filled with so much fun, so much growth, so much awkwardness, so much perspective, and so much other stuff.  At the same time I am scared to death! Several of my friends and some of my fellow "middle school new parents" attempt to encourage me by referring to those 11 years of me hanging around Student Ministry saying I am wise to all this.  I wish I had their confidence! I think maybe I saw too much while "hanging around" that long!

My kids know me so much! They have seen me at my angriest, at my most afraid, at my ugliest (in the middle of the night), at my sickest, at my absolute worst, at my most sinful.  They have not covenanted to love me through all that like David has;  they are just physically forced to be there because they can't drive away yet.  But middle school means they are closer to the license to do so. (Can you hear that horror music or is that just me?:)

Anyway since their births You have heard me pray that I would be Christ-connected and wise enough always to parent them to You. You have seen me study over mounds of parenting information. You have watched my "dirt for brains" pontificate profusely. You've also heard my prayers that they would have closer relationships to You and know You more at each phase of life than I ever have. I want more of You for them! Of late I have been realizing that those two prayers may not so easily co-mingle.  Because for them to be closer and know You more intimately means they will eventually outgrow me spiritually and outgrow my wisdom. Oh for that dream to actually happen!!! ...So maybe I don't really want to be wise?...maybe I want more...maybe I want something different altogether ...[So thankful that You provide intercession for me because I am indecisive over gum purchases much less stuff as crucial as this.]

Upon coming across these words from Isaiah 44:24-26, my heart began leaping and dancing! "This is what the LORD says - your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: 'I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretches out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers." The connected dots from this for me are: 1) He is going to foil those prophets and make fools of those diviners! Yes!! 2) He is going to nonsense up the education! Rock on! 3) The best occupation for me is be His servant messenger! Then hopefully these kiddos with whom I currently reside- these gifts from You-  will be co-servant messengers alongside me! [Awestruck and Speechless!!!!!]

And then "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."- Galatians 5:25 comes to my mind and heart. For to be a servant messenger, I must be connected and in step.  [Deeply in all of me - mind, heart, soul- I am now the smiling little girl stepping my tiny foot into Your gigantic footprint, my Father, with carefree abandon and not a thought as to where we are going, if we will make it, or how, because there is no question.]

Sometimes I dream of things I can touch, feel, hold, and are physical. These are what comprise my dreams tonight. May they become my primary and may You increase and transform them as You Will!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Value Conversations

We have entered a new phase where I feel constantly hurried or waiting.  I haven't mastered graciousness in the hurried scenario or patience in the waiting.  Both are necessary for me to be a Christ follower and lead my kids to follow Him as well in the coming and going of our days, the impressing, the talking while sitting and walking, lying down and getting up.  Many days' conversations with my kids feel like I would be understood better by the wall if I just talked to it.

And then there are days like yesterday.

I was so chill all day from sheer exhaustion - sleepy tired- would say yes to most anything they requested because zero energy to say no.  The positive side: they were also worn out from standardized testing happening at school.  The boys still had their standing golf lesson with Coach V, which is usually pretty relaxing.  Cole was with Coach, and having finished his lesson, Dax joined K and I up on the balcony feeling the breeze, drinking a Coke, and eating some Skittles.  We were lined up near the edge looking out over the putting green and driving range through the bars of the rail.  From below an older couple walked across the green toward the range.  He was loaded down with his clubs, a large basket of range balls, and a folded chair. She was laden with a pink tote that would normally carry the small dog in her arms along with two large Sonic cups.  He first unloaded his clubs and balls and then proceeded to unfold her chair and secured it safely out of swing circle but nearby and waited; she set one drink near his things and sat down while simultaneously thanking him and sharing a sweet smile.  He walked to his mat and began to hit ball after ball while she settled pup in its bag bed and pulled out a book.

Dax commented on how nice they were to each other; I agreed and asked what he thought they valued.  He suggested 'each other', supporting his synopsis with how they served each other and how they seemed to just want to be near. We discussed how they seemed to respect the others' interests. He added how it was neat that he didn't just leave her at home to read and how she made the effort to come with him to the driving range.  He also humored me with an opposing recollection of that "weird fishing song where the wife leaves just because he wants to go fishing and he doesn't go after her."  I scooped a little more to see if he thought that the people in that song valued marriage or each other.  He offered a negative and summed that it was more like fishing was his value and marriage was his hobby, but that she didn't have to say she would leave just because he wanted to fish...

The wind brushed my hair and I smiled at the fact that some stuff may actually be taking root in his heart.

Later in the day, after a sibling squabble, I separated them from each other and stepped in my room to pray for help.  I called in Dax and  I asked what he could have done differently.  He immediately offered a very mature answer.  We went on to discuss his role and perspectives as the oldest brother and Cole's role and perspectives as the younger. He was able to put his brother's proverbial "shoes" on for a bit and process some HUGE things relationally and spiritually.  It was all clicking and he said, "Mom, my mind is blown. (doing the hands exploding from head thing)  I know you have said some of this before and it just never made sense, but right now it is. What is difference? " I answered that sometimes I am so desperate to teach him that I jump right in of my own will and effort and sometimes I am wise enough to ask for the Holy Spirit to help him understand. This particular time was one of the latter.  Only God can help him grasp some things because they are so abstract.We went on to discuss a daily life example of grace in our life that had just happened earlier in the day.  It was such a minuscule reflection of true Grace, but reflection it was and he understood the imagery. Vaguely put (to value him and not share it with internet) it would have been impossible without first a standard existing.  He had not met that standard but because the standard was there, it opened the door for  my opportunity to extend him grace. We observed how without the standard's existence there was no grace opportunity...he repeatedly exploded fingers from his head :) with smiles and thankfulness.

Some prayers that have gone before this: Praying Colossians 4:2-6 over my parenting.  Prayed it over many a mission trip but took way too long for my "dirt for brains" to pray it over my parenting; "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us too that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

Praying he will soften and open their hearts as well as mine and set eternity in them: 2Cor 6:13; Ezekiel 36:26 ; Ecclesiastes 3:1

Keeping it real: Before bed as the day was closing, hours after my prayer and our conversation, I wanted it not to end.  The boys asked a question about Heaven.  I jumped in! I did not pray! I began a gush of how amazing and no pain, and no tears, and how family relationships would change but how I often dreamed lately of us all being there, how I hoped of course that dad and I would go first and who knows what else I was babbling...No filter, no Holy Spirit, and no concern for my audience...
When I took a breath, all I saw were precious little "dirt for brains" with bugging eyes and my sweet faced daughter's baby blues drowning in a sea that she was attempting to hold back because evidently I had communicated that I would be happy when she was not my daughter and we were sisters and she passionately clarified that she doesn't want to be my sister or for me and dad to leave and go to Heaven because she will not have any parents and she doesn't want any other parents.... Oh Father! Help! What have I just done!!! Foot in mouth! Scars for life! No sleep tonight because she will have nightmares from separation anxiety!! Geesh! I am so greedy and hard headed and independent and 'dirt for brains'! Pray and Praise! He will pursue them and they can be His in spite of me!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Hymnal

I attended a funeral today... in a sanctuary... where I sat in a pew... and held a hymnal. It has been so long since I sat in a pew, not because I haven't been at church, just because my churches have been in trailers during the week and "unfolded" on Sunday morning or in an open room with chairs "set up first and then torn down"- pews don't travel well and neither do hymnals.

Today's was one of the funerals that is a celebration of one's life and that "another soldier got to go HOME". I remember funerals as a child-residing with such elderly grandparents meant I attended many of their friends' funerals and then I attended theirs' at a very young age. Although most of these were similar to the one I attended today because these people had great faith in Christ, death still scared my little child mind!

As I held that hymnal today,  my mind wandered through all the memories of being a teen in a church service and feeling so out of place - believing myself to be the only one dependent on that book- the only one who didn't know the words. I remembered being ecstatic about the day projectors became the new "fad" so others wouldn't  have my same experience and "stand out" as not knowing the words.

Today as I held that hymnal- He astounded me that without flipping a page I could now sing so many of those words out as MY own sincere testimony to His faithfulness.  As I sat at a funeral- "because He lives, all fear is gone! Because I know He holds (my ) future, life is worth the living just because He lives!" ..  That "amazing grace that saved a wretch like me" allows Him "to walk with me and to talk with me and to tell me I am His own!"  "What a friend I have in Jesus!" "whatever my lot, He has taught me to know,'It is well with my soul!'" "(He) paid it all; all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow." And because of  this "blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! oh, what a foretaste of Glory Divine!" It is amazing how when I "turn my eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace"!