Monday, March 11, 2013

Always Faithful

Tonight as I tucked Will into bed he asked could I "thing him a thong?"  So I lay down with him, realizing that it had been too long since I'd snuggled with him at bedtime.  I began singing his favorite, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", which was my favorite for Anna to sing to me when I was littler than she (which was a long time ago), and I immediately remembered the night I lay next to Will and sang that song with tears running down my cheeks thinking it was the last night I'd ever get to hold him close and sing it to him.  We thought that night we were going to lose him and Darby.  I fully expected to wake up the next morning and have someone come and take my sweet children from me, and that night as I sang those words, my heart cried out to my Father to do what was best for them. 

Obviously, He graciously allowed us to keep them, and a year later I'm still "thinging" "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to my precious son while my darling daughter is safe in her bed beneath us.  What a kind God we serve.  I reveled for a moment in His faithfulness to us - how He never comes to the end of His kindness, and how His wisdom is far greater than ours, and how safe it is to trust our kids to His care. 

Thank You, God, for all my kids tonight. 

Seven Years

Yesterday marked seven years since I've seen my dad.  It seems a long time to go without hugging him, laughing with/at him, hearing him whistle, seeing him chewing on a toothpick, talking to him about...well, everything.  Seven years is a long time.  It seems even longer when I think of how my life has changed in seven years: I've seen my need for Christ and turned to Him in love through His grace and mercy; I've gone from desperately longing for a baby to having 4 wild children who I adore and who drive me nuts; I've watched my little sisters grow up; Trey went from being around always to working offshore in Mexico and only being here less than half our life; I've learned how to be alone; I've found out what it is to grieve.  My life is richer in many ways now than seven years ago - I know what it is to walk with Christ (though stumblingly).  But there's this hollow place in my life where Daddy fit in that's just...well, empty.  There's the what-would-have-been place of where Papa would have been for my kids that's empty; and I'm tempted for a moment to focus on the emptiness.  But then I remember: seven years is just a blip on the radar of Eternal Reality.  This life, this grief, this joy, this loneliness, this chaos, this emptiness and fullness is, as C.S. Lewis said, "merely the cover and title page" - the Real Story has not yet begun for me, but it has for Daddy.  He is living in the True Reality - he knows now what true joy everlasting is!  He sits at Christ's feet and lives in the Presence of the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth! 
     Seven years is a long time; and it's just a blink.  It's a reminder that what we have here is good and sweet and full in so many ways BECAUSE of what comes after - this shadow of the True is to be lived and enjoyed, but not to be our focus.  Yes, I'm even selfish enough to wish for small moments that he was here again.  But not really.  Not for long.  Not when I remember Reality.  Daddy is not "lost" or even "dead". I know right where he is, and he is more alive than I am right now.  He is living the Real Life, and I'm only in the Shadowland.  So I miss him, oh yes, I miss him more than I can even say, but I rejoice in his Life Everlasting.  I'm thankful that he's in Heaven and that someday I KNOW I will see him again, and that when I do I will love him perfectly and we will eternally enjoy our Heavenly  Father together, and then seven years will be nothing. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Gripping Reality of the Gospel

     In the summer of 2008, God did a mighty work in my heart.  He took a "good girl" who'd been raised in a godly home with true Christian parents, who'd been a member of a good church since childhood, and who'd completely put all her hope and trust in her own "goodness" and "showed strength with His arm,...scattered the proud in the imagination of (my) heart...exalted the lowly...filled the hungry with good things...helped His servant In remembrance of His mercy" (Luke 1:51--55).  I never cease to be amazed that a mighty and holy God chose me before time to love and save, but He did, and my life will never be the same as before, thank God! 

     A couple of years later, I realized that though I'd "read through" the Bible a couple of times as a child, I'd never done it as His child, and there were many books in His word that I was completely unfamiliar with.  So, I decided to read through it again, this time actually caring about what I read.  I chose to follow a chronological plan, as I didn't really have much concept of the timeline of the Old Testament; it was a one-year plan.  Well, this past December marked two years of following this plan, and I just this morning began the New Testament.  This is due, in part, to the fact that though He has saved me and called me with a holy calling, my sinfulness and laziness is still warring in my body against my spirit, and I've not been as faithful to get up in the mornings and have a QT as I should have been.  It is also due in part to the fact that sometimes you just need to take a break from Jeremiah or Ezekiel and read the Psalms or the Gospel a bit, or the fact that you feel the need to be reminded of the teaching on practical Christian living in Galatians.  At any rate, I broke open the New Testament this morning with Luke chapter 1, and was...well, a bit surprised at what I found there.

     We never THINK we're reading the Bible casually and carelessly.  It just kindof happens.  We read (or this is true of me, at least), sometimes a whole chapter or more and then realize we don't know what we just read.  Or, more often for me, I read something with which I'm extremely familiar and just let my eyes go over the words because I already know the story, and don't realize the Gripping Reality of what's going on - that Moses was a real man who really lost his temper with a stubborn people, or that David really was a typical young boy who liked to shoot his slingshot to pass the hours of watching sheep, or that Hosea was a real man who lived through a truly awful marriage in order to honor his God.  I lose sight, sometimes, of the fact that these are not stories, but that they are historical accounts of real people that God used to reveal Himself to us. 

     And then some days, I read a story I could almost quote in my sleep and God allows the words to practically jump off the page with stark Reality that is quite wonderful.  This happened this morning.

     The story of Jesus - the story of God's greatest manifestation of Himself and His wonderful Love to a wretched people - the story of our salvation - begins with an old, childless man who had loved and served his God with his wife for many years going into the temple to worship God and offer up to Him sweet incense.  Zacharias felt that morning, I'm sure, the same as he'd felt many mornings before - there was nothing special about entering the temple that morning....until the archangel Gabriel appeared before him. 

     Now, we must not think of this as the Blue Fairy appearing to Pinocchio or the Good Witch of the North coming in a pink bubble to Dorothy.  What must it have been like to suddenly see an Angel of the Lord appearing just in front of you?  It was an awesome and terrifying thing to behold.  Fear fell upon Zacharias.

      My Daddy used to shake his head at the "preacher" who (I think) he heard on the radio telling about one morning when he was shaving Jesus appeared to him: the man said, "I kept shaving, and there was Jesus, and we stood there and talked while I shaved."  Daddy said, "If Jesus appeared to you, you WOULDN'T keep shaving.  Every time even an angel appeared in the Bible, people were afraid and usually fell face-first in the dirt."  Daddy didn't have a lot of time for this type thinking.

     Do you supposed that when Zacharias didn't fully trust the words of the angel, Gabriel softly and casually replied, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings," or do you think he probably thundered it darkly?  For Zacharias to doubt Gabriel was for him to doubt the word of Him who sent Gabriel, and I doubt that was a thing Gabriel would have taken lightly.  At any rate, this was a frightening, REAL happening - so real that Zacharias could not speak when he came out. 

     What about Mary?  Do you read over the passage where Gabriel was sent to her and she was told she would be the mother of the Son of God and not be gripped with the reality of what this meant to her?  A young girl - a virgin - to have her life turned upside down and her reputation ruined; for who would believe the Holy Spirit had planted a baby inside her Who's father was God Himself?  Do you think her parents believed her?  Her best friend?  Her neighbors?  Perhaps, some of them.  Her fiancĂ© didn't until God spoke to him about it.  Would you have believed her?  Would you have shunned her?  Would you have talked about her behind her back?  Do you not think she realized how she would be treated in those first moments after Gabriel told her what great thing God was going to do in her?  And what was her response?  "Oh, God, please not that!  It's too hard!  If you're going to put a baby inside me, PLEASE go tell all my family and friends what you've done so they'll be nice to me!"  This is young Mary's response: "Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word."  Trust.  Willingness.  What is my response when God requires of me MUCH less than He required of Mary?  I'm afraid too often it is not immediate trust and willingness.

     Is it Grippingly Real to you that as soon as Mary walked into Elizabeth's house, and unborn John leapt for joy in his mother's womb?  Do you read over that and take it for granted because it's so familiar?  It's AMAZING.  Perhaps even more amazing than the appearance of an angel - an unborn baby having the spiritual awareness of the Presence of God in the form of another unborn baby near him?  Incomprehensible.  But it was REAL.  It HAPPENED.  It's not just a story to read at Christmas - ALL THESE THINGS REALLY HAPPENED TO REAL PEOPLE!!!  And through it all, most amazing yet, God revealed Himself to humanity!  He worked the salvation of a People whom He had chosen before the foundation of the world through these "stories".  They are the manuscripts of our Hope; the words of our Comfort; the story of our Salvation. 

     When we read them, let us not skim over them with a familiar acceptance - let us be GRIPPED with their stunning reality.  Let it sink in what they meant to the people who lived through them, and what they mean today to us.  May they jolt our system into Love for our Father, Willingness to turn to Him for all we need, Enthusiasm to obey His every command and request of us.  May they give us the fuel for living THIS day to His glory - every single day of our lives.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Oh, the joys of mothering 3 boys...

The Countdown

     No, I'm not blogging about an old, blasphemous Carmen song.  I can almost hear your collective sighs of relief. ;) (I'm dating myself there, I know.  You may as well know it most painful secret...I'm..................twenty-eleven.  Whew.  There.  I said it.  Now you know.)  No, no - today begins another kind of countdown entirely - actually, today marks the start of TWO very important countdowns for me: One week from tonight my wonderful, sweet, amazing, fantabulous, hunky husband/best friend comes home!!!!!!!  For anyone who has never lived for long stretches over and over without your other half, you cannot possibly imagine my giddy anticipation of his arrival.  In order for you to understand it a bit, I need to tell you a little bit about him. 
     First off, he works on an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Mexico.  This means I take him to the Memphis Airport way earlier on a Monday morning than I ever like getting out of bed, he flies to Houston, catches a plane to Del Carmen, Mexico, hops on a chopper, and flies anywhere from 3-75 miles out to the rig (depending on where they're drilling).  He stays there for 28 days, working 12-hour shifts every day.  Then, 4 Mondays later, he rides the chopper back to Del Carmen, (or thereabouts) spends the night in a Holiday Inn (but don't worry about him being lonely that night - there's plenty of large iguanas to keep him company), catches a plane Tuesday afternoon back to Houston, then back to Memphis where his wife and 4 Wild Banshees are eagerly awaiting his arrival!  Whew!  Kindof takes my breath away just to write it all down.  The bottom line is, he's gone from home for 30 days, but then he gets to be home with us for 26!  Yay!!!!   The month that he's away is hard.  I mean HARD.  And when it gets to this point - he's been gone for 23 days today - I feel like I may go stark-raving mad before he comes home.  It seems like he's been gone for an eternity.  The longer he's gone, the more behavior issues I deal with from the kids, the more things tear up here at home that I can't fix, the more I miss him like stinkin' craziness.  But there are lots of things to be thankful for even in his absence: he's a Storekeeper on the rig, which means he has access to the phone all day long, and I can call him or he can call me anytime we need to talk, and the kids get to talk to him every day; he also has internet all day, so he gets FB, and we can chat there (usually early in the mornings before the kids are up), and also he can keep up with bills and finances online which takes a huge burden off me (cause he's awesome like that);  also, I have an amazing family and church family all around me who love and support me when he's gone, help out with the kids, and generally keep me sane.  So that's his job.  Now to tell you why I miss him so much.
     Obviously, I miss him because he's my husband, and the Wild Ones' daddy.  That would be enough right there to miss him - anyone, almost, would miss their husband if he were gone for a month at a time.  But Trey is especially missable.  Seriously.  He's THE BEST husband in the world.  I mean it.  I already told you I call him my Mary-Poppins-Husband cause he's "Practically Perfect in Every Way."  I was serious.  Now, does he have faults? Yes.  Is he a sinner?  Of course.  But, Y'all, he's Da Bomb.  He's kind and sweet, thoughtful and sensitive; he's the kind of guy who doesn't even let me get the words out of my mouth to ask him would it be okay if I went and did this or that with some gals from church or our homeschool group before he's saying, "You don't even have to ask that, Baby - of COURSE I want you to go!  The kids and I will build a fire in the backyard and roast hotdogs and have a great time!"  And he means it.  He's the kind of guy who NEVER calls me to ask "When are you coming home?" when I'm out with said girls.  He's the kind of guy who is ALWAYS happy for me to go to my mom's and hang out with her and my sisters while he has the kids here OR is always happy to bring the whole gang and be with my family because he truly loves them all.  He's the kind of guy who brings me flowers (sometimes from the side of the road, which of course, are the best kind) just because.  He's the kind of guy who tickles my back almost every night in bed because I love it so much (even if it's only for the 14 seconds it takes him to fall asleep. ;))  He's the kind of guy who loves to sit on the swing and hold hands and dream together about the things we want to do in the yard to make it more livable and beautiful; the kind of guy who is always eager to take me on a date; the kind of guy who will happily watch a sappy romance with me even if there's a shoot-'em-up that he'd rather watch.  He's the kind of guy who NEVER MENTIONS anything about the fact that you've gained...well...many pounds since you got married.  I could literally go on and on for PAGES about how great he is.  I have really nothing bad to say about him.  Yes, sometimes he makes me crazy mad, but honestly, that's usually my fault.  He's my Best Friend, my Pal, my Confidante, my Lover, my Anchor, the best Daddy 4 crazy kids could ever ask for.  He's my husband, and I love him madly.  We've been married for pretty nearly 13 years, and I've never for one single second regretted it or wondered "what if?"  My life with him is Fairy Tale happy. 
     So, now you see why today is a very important Countdown Start!  Seven more days!  From today I can say, "This is the last [insert day of the week] that I have to be without Trey before he comes home!!!!"  It's a good feeling.  When I'm within a week, I know I'll make it.  It's still crazy hard, but I'll make it.  He's coming home.  I'm starting to feel the excitement building like butterflies in my stomach (which I still get every time I pick him up from the airport). 
     Today also marks 7 days till I can eat!!!  Because of that...several pounds....I've gained since we got married, I've been on a diet.  Not just any ol' diet, because pretty much with me it's "Go big or go home," to quote my dear friend, Lindsey.  I've been doing the HCG Diet (which you can read about online if you're interested.)  It's crazy, and it's crazy hard, but IT WORKS.  I've done it a few times in the past, and it's worked great, but through my laziness and self-indulgence, I've gained back most of what I lost.  I've had a real spiritual struggle with eating for years, but have, by God's grace alone, been brought to what I hope is true repentance over it, and for the first time ever, have a real desire to yield it up to Him and be obedient in this area of my life that I've held quite tightly to myself for years.  So, trusting in God for all that I need, the weight that I've lost I'll not put back on this time.  For 4 weeks, my friend Lindsey and I have been on this - the short version is: you only eat 500 calories of VERY SPECIFIC AND LIMITED FOODS a day.  You take some drops every day (all-natural); and you're hungry.  And you're tired.  We purposed to do it 5 weeks.  We're ONE WEEK AWAY!!!  The diet isn't over in 7 days, but we move to the next "phase" where we can eat lots of different foods (I get my dairy back!! I LOVE CHEESE!!!), I can have real cream in my coffee, which means I actually enjoy it and get to have more than 1 cup a day! 
     So, today is Monumental.  One week till my amazing husband comes home AND one week till I can eat CHEESE!!!  There will be great rejoicing in all the land.  I'll be sure and let you know how much I enjoy eating a variety of vegetables again - real SOUP, coffee and, most importantly - CHEESE. (did I mention that I love cheese?)  If you see me, you'll know by looking that I'm loving having my best friend home cause that kinda weird crazy-eyed look will be gone from my face.  I can hardly wait. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WHY Do You Not Listen To Me and Obey???

     So, this morning started off very normally - I got up, had my shower, fixed my coffee, got the children up, and they started chores as I sat down to have my Quiet Time.  Now, ideally, I get up MUCH earlier than the children so my QT can actually be Quiet.  I've not been very successful at this lately.  The alarm goes off, I turn it off, I go back to sleep.  I wake up much later and realize I MUST get up now.  This means not much time before the kids get up, and I really don't like starting my day like this, but so often my sleepiness wins out over my desire to have real, meaningful Quiet Time with God.  There you have it.   
     Anyway, back to this morning: Our mornings here(for the kids)start out with Chore Time.  We've tried LOTS of different ways to make our mornings go more smoothly and this is what works best for us: the kids get up, say Good Morning, use the bathroom, then I start the timer.  They have 1 hour to do all their morning chores (i.e. make up beds, put away clothes, feed the animals (1 dog, 2-4 cats [depending on whether or not my Mamaw's cats are here], and presently 2 hogs who are soon destined for our freezer and subsequently our plates), unload dishwasher, change laundry around, bring their clothes to laundry hampers and sort them, and each of them has an area of the house they are responsible for straightening), eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, and have their hair combed/fixed.  It's really and truly plenty of time.  When they really want to, they fly through them with plenty of time to spare, but so often they get...sidetracked.  All three boys sleep upstairs, and the bulk of their chores are up there, and my two youngest (Ben and Will) are like matches and gasoline thrust together on a hot, summer day - you put the two together, and there WILL be a fire.  They almost can't help it.  They're both SO silly, and they just feed off each other.  So, in the attempt to help them get their chores done in a timely fashion and forego the inevitable consequence of NOT finishing their chores within the hour, we've made the rule that there is to be no talking with each other during Chore Time.  If you don't talk, you don't argue or play, right?  Yeah, it's kinda like telling them not to breathe.  But, I love them dearly, and want so much for them to learn the Self-Control that they so desperately need to live an orderly, successful life (not to mention hopefully laying the groundwork in their little hearts to better serve their Master when He, I pray, calls them to Love for Himself).  So, I make rules, I teach, I exhort, I pray, I beg (yes, I'm not ashamed to admit it), and, inevitably, I discipline.  This morning the need for Discipline popped up within 20 minutes.  Bless their stubborn little hearts, they keep thinking that when they're upstairs and I'm not that it means somehow there's a Force Field between us and I have no clue what they're up to.  I tell them over and over and over and OVER, "When you're upstairs, and I'm down - I CAN STILL HEAR YOU!!!!"  But they don't listen.  They go right ahead and start an argument (a stupid one, I might add) when they're supposed to be making their beds.  ALL THREE OF THEM.  I mean, REALLY???  So, I call them down (thus interrupting my not-so-Quiet Time), calmly ask them what they were doing, to which they all timidly reply, "Talking." I ask them, "What is the First Rule of Chore Time?" and they hang their heads and say, "No talking."  I say, "Go to my bathroom and wait for me."  I finish my chapter rather hurriedly and head in there. 
     After the Deed is done, I sit with them on my bed, arms around them and say, "Boys, WHY do you not listen to me and obey???  We've done this SO MANY TIMES!  I am your mother, and I LOVE you - I want what is best for you - PLEASE LISTEN TO ME AND OBEY!"  So, they go off to (very quietly) finish their chores, and I go back to my not-so-Quiet Time. 
     Almost the very first verse I read is Zechariah 12:1, "Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:," and I think, "Wow, that really lends some credence to the words, doesn't it?  You'd better listen and obey what a God like that says; what a powerful verse! I think I'll share it on FB."  Then it hits me.  Why didn't I listen to Him and obey this morning when He prodded me to get up early so I could have a REAL Quiet Time with Him?  Why do I so many mornings listen to my own mind instead of His Voice?  Why would I do that over and over and over and over???  And I hear God saying to me, "WHY do you not listen to Me and obey???  I am your Father, and I LOVE you, and want what is best for you - PLEASE LISTEN TO ME AND OBEY!!"   And I hang MY head, and see that I have just been so frustrated at my boys for doing the exact same thing I myself have done to my Father this, and many other mornings.  I tell my children all the time, "Disobedience is NEVER worth the cost - it's ALWAYS better to obey. That momentary pleasure of disobedience is never as good as the Punishment is bad."  Why do I not heed my own words?  Why do I think it's worth it to sleep another hour than to spend that hour in real communion with God?  I know from past experience that the hour of sleep is NEVER as beneficial to my heart OR my body even than the hour spent with Christ, but I still stupidly choose it. 
     Well, if you're still reading at this point, you're really beginning to understand the "Ramblings" part of my blog title, but as this is to be an honest sharing of my life, and a helpful way for me to focus my thoughts and heart, here it is.  May my sweet and kind Father forgive me this day for my stupid disobedience, and continue His work in my heart, prodding me, convicting me, turning me, disciplining me, LOVING me, and may my heart ever grow softer toward Him, and more quick in its response to Him is my prayer. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Welcome To My Brain...Read At Your Own Risk

     You may be wondering at the title of this  blog...or you may not be.  Regardless, I feel I must explain it, and if you've chosen to read my blog, you've given yourself over (for these few minutes) to my chaotic thoughts, they are.  The "Mama" part is pretty self-explanatory - I've got 4 little (and not-so-little) gifts from God who constantly tug at me, yell for me, cry to me, disobey me, delight me, overwhelm me, grieve me, and love me.  They are Lee (10 years), Ben (9 years), Will (6 years) and Darby (5 years).  I will, from time to time, refer to them by other names, such as the Baby Goats, Herd of Cats, Insanity Producers, Big Ones and Little Reds,...but now you know who they are, and I'm trusting you'll be able to figure it out from here.  The "Sheep" part of the title is simply this: I am a much-loved, yet often stupid and wayward beast, who is constantly being herded, fed, cared for by my Good Shepherd, who leaves me never in need for any good thing and has ALWAYS shown Himself faithful to me.  The "Ramblings" part you'll understand soon enough if you continue to read this. 
     I've been pondering on starting a blog for some months now, and quite frankly have been stumped on a name for it. I knew I wanted something about being Shepherded, but also something about my family/motherhood.  Because that's my life, really.  I'm a Child of God - a daughter of the King - first and foremost, but the nuts and bolts of my daily life is that I'm a mother of four little souls.  And the purpose of this online diary, so to speak, is two-fold. First, it is to share thoughts and blessings that come from my Shepherd with you, because I want to speak of His marvelous works in my life, and because my mind is frail and my soul is often weak and writing helps me to focus those thoughts, and keep them present in my too-easily-distracted mind.  Second, I'd like a record of my family - their comings and goings, funny sayings, thoughtful questions, and I hope some of it might be helpful to you (whoever you are) even if it's just to know there's someone out there who's crazier than you! 
     So there you have it.  This is to be an honest account of my joys, struggles, triumphs and, yes, failures as a wife/mother and a sheep in God's fold.  There's certainly more to tell - I haven't even touched on my fantastic, hunky husband (I call him my Mary Poppins Husband, cause he's "Practically Perfect in Every Way"), and what a help and joy he is to me, but that's enough for now because the Natives are getting restless here and I must attend to them.