Friday, December 30, 2011

Stones of Remembrance 2011

2011 has been a whirlwind! Where did the time go, and why is my brain struggling to remember all of it? Because of all the hits on last year's reflection post, I decided to continue the trend.

In the Bible, stacked stones often represent a memorial or altar intended to remind people of God's faithfulness in a specific circumstance. In Joshua 4, the Israelites finally inherit the land promised to them by the Lord.

"And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God." 

As I reflect back on the past year, I have my own stones of remembrance: moments that shaped me, lessons that changed me, people who influenced me, and a God who never left me. As we usher in the new year, I hope you will join me in looking back on 2011 by celebrating and marking with stones of remembrance all the Lord has done. If you don't know my Jesus, there will be no better way to bring in the new year than to allow Him to be Lord of your life.

Stone 1: New job. 2011 began with a new writing job and a class through the Christian Writer's Guild that satisfied all that I missed in grad school.

Stone 2: In February, I headed back to Colorado for a my first big writing conference where I met with agents and editors to pitch my book idea, gained more insight into my field, and discovered a new network of writers who love the Lord. It's amazing how my rejection from grad school translated into a story bigger and better than I could have penned.

Stone 3: Friendships built. This year, my community group celebrated a year together. I am blessed to do life with these Godly women. Last year, I was lonely. This year, I have more community than I know what to do with and new friends added all the time.

Stone 4: Godly counsel. In April, it was back to Manitou Springs, Colorado where I spent several days under the teaching and coaching of Doc Hensley, DiAnn Mills, and Jerry B. Jenkins. I was "forced" to lead a devotional one morning which reminded me that despite my age, the Lord has a purpose and a plan. I can make a difference now. I ended the trip by conquering the Incline with my friend Amy. I can cross that off my bucket list!

Stone 5: Renewed creativity and inspiration. Where has this been locked up? There are so many story ideas and possibilities rattling in my head that I have to constantly remind myself to focus on one thing at a time. But I'm not gonna lie...I'm pretty excited about what's in store!

Stone 6: A new team. In August, I began serving on a young adults team at my church for The Porch. Every week, I am blessed with the opportunity to greet those who enter, pray for them, share the gospel, and encourage. My team is rock solid and running whole-heartedly after the Lord. Their walks encourage mine.

Stone 7: A story complete! I finished and submitted my first book in September. My website is launched. Now begins a new journey of trusting the Lord. Stay tuned. This blog will begin a new direction this year.

Stone 8: Dreams fulfilled. This year was full of travel within Texas and out. I was blessed with the chance to spend time with my cousin and her husband in England, Ireland, and Scotland for 3 weeks. Living the dream! Florida was the next stop with a Beach Camp for youth. That trip taught me more about myself, more about trusting the Lord, and more about speaking the truth in love than anything in a long time. A couple of my girls accepted Christ! San Antonio was another stop where I spent the weekend with another cousin and met up with one of my best friends from Focus to explore the historic city.

Stone 9: Family. This has been a rough year with several untimely deaths and two family members with cancer. I ended the year with a funeral of someone I loved dearly. A couple years ago, my reaction to these deaths would have been much different. My current reaction is a testament to the Lord's work in my life, and I am so thankful. I don't understand His ways, but these deaths didn't surprise Him. He has a plan and He is still good.

Stone 10: Above all, I learned to trust the Lord in a new way this year. I set out to study the great I AM's character. When I know who my God is, then I know and can trust who I am in Him. I have committed to practice being thankful in all things. Wow, it changes my attitude. The Lord is good in this time of waiting and wondering and asking what He wants me to do. In Him is my confidence, joy, and purpose. I pray I continue to learn that in 2012. 

So many exciting things are already on the calendar! Stay tuned! Follow me on Facebook and twitter. Join this site. If nothing else, pray and grow with me this year as we anticipate the big things the Lord desires to do in your life and mine! 

Happy New Year from Texas! May God richly bless you no matter what comes in 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another Soldier's Coming Home

On December 27, 2011, Buddy Angell's name was called, and he went to be with the Savior he loved above all else. The Lord changed him in the winter of his life and gave him an uncontrollable passion to share the gospel and use what he had been given to minister to others. Uncle Buddy had a sense of humor that bordered on cheesy. He was the grandfather figure I've desperately wanted to have nearby, always ready with a hug, kiss, and encouraging word. He loved with all he had, and his mercy smoothed his gruffness. He believed in second chances because the Lord had given him a second chance. He lived what it meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Yesterday, Uncle Buddy closed his eyes for the last time and opened them in the presence of Jesus. This morning, I woke up to a planet where he is no longer in pain and no longer a phone call away. He's cancer free and walking with his Savior.
  © Carrie Underwood
Two weeks ago, we were told his cancer had spread and that he only had months to a year if treated with chemo. Monday, we were told the cancer had spread through his whole body, and he only had a week.

I thought I would say one more goodbye, maybe sit in his hospital room and read to him while he rested. I would tell him how much I loved him, how much he meant to me, how his relationship with the Lord made me want to be like him. I would read those goofy chain emails that he loved to pass on just to make him smile. But with one phone call, he was gone.

Cancer is no respecter of person, age, character, or circumstance. It fails to distinguish between the good and the evil. It cannot be conquered with all the money in the world. No doctor can eliminate its reality. But my God knew Uncle Buddy's days. He knew that when I said goodbye Thursday morning before his surgery, it would be the last time I would see him on this earth.

It breaks my heart that he was in pain, but I know he is walking golden streets pain-free with Jesus. My life is richer for having known him, and I can only pray that this will be said of me when the Lord calls my name. Uncle Buddy fought the good fight, he finished the race, and at the finish line, the Lord called another faithful soldier home.

For those who are in Christ, death is never goodbye because Christ conquered death and the grave. It is merely a brief separation. We love and miss you, Uncle Buddy. See you soon.

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." Philippians 3:20-22

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do You See What I See?

She enters the room every Tuesday night dressed to the nines. Her sleek hair hangs loose around her face, shielding red-rimmed eyes. The glow of her phone illuminates her face in the dim interior. She studies the screen, avoiding my smile, and dashes through the entryway to the nearest available seat.

She’s alone.

He struts in ever Tuesday night, his scrubs a testament to a long day. His ego is his shield and he winks, flashing a charming smile. I smile back, wondering how many girls have fallen for his charisma. Surely a line of broken hearts. But as his eyes dart around the room, seeking a familiar female face, I see the hurt, the insecurity, a broken boy shining from a man’s face.

He’s hurting.

The handsome couple slow as they enter the cavernous room. Clutching hands, this is clearly their first time.  She leans closer to him, her eyes round as a child caught stealing cookies. His mouth is set in a grim line. He looks neither to the right or left, only nodding slightly at my hello. They come seeking answers, counsel, peace.

They’re pregnant and scared.

© Casting Crowns
Every week, I stand inside the doors of Watermark’s sanctuary to welcome Porch-goers. The air is electric with conversations and laughter as friends and strangers mingle and meet. They come to hear a message. Truth. They come to meet others in their life stage. Hundreds of 20 and 30-year-olds.

I love to host those who enter. The smiling faces are as encouraging as they are energizing. But for every group of smiling faces, there is a loner slinking in behind them, intimidated by the crowd or the room. They are the ones my heart goes out to, because in their eyes and actions I see stories of the hurting, lost, lonely, confused, and curious

As we ended our year last night, I wondered how many of those at the Porch would be lonely this Christmas. How many will go home to families where they feel like the outsider? How many will gather around the table on Christmas and stare longingly at an empty seat where a loved one sat last year? How many will be so stressed about buying the perfect gift to please or appease that they will forget about the baby born in a manger? It is for these people that my heart aches. It is for them that I specifically pray that peace and joy and love will be theirs this Christmas season. The baby in a manger grew up to be a man, extended his arms on a cross, and walked out of a tomb because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loved YOU. If you are lonely or in pain this season, I pray you remember the God who holds you and never lets you go.

 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 9, 2011

5 Minute Friday - Color

Here's the challenge: Every Friday, I join with other writers to write for 5 bold, beautiful minutes. No editing, no overthinking, no backtracking. The theme today? Color. I can think of no better example than my night hike up Pike's Peak to watch the sunrise. Ready?

The sky was black as ink with the most brilliant pinpricks of light embedded in deep shades of purple.

The end was near.

We rounded the peak and stopped to take in our victory. I doubled over, hands on my knees. I made it. Sunrise was near. The town below us was awash in the glow of light - orange, yellow, white. Just enough to invade the darkness of night. The stars disappeared, and then from the black horizon appeared the deepest crimson.

Blood red.
The tiniest sliver of red crested, shimmering in the morning light, shooting a firework of color onto the rest of the blank canvas. I held my breath. Never had I seen colors so beautiful. They are the colors artists pray to imitate and desperately fail to capture. They are from the original Painter, and nothing else comes close to their brilliance. As the glowing red orb rose higher and higher, orange, pink, and yellow shot into the sky, smearing under the brush strokes of a Master Artist.

I watched it all from my seat on the cold cap rock, dirty, white snow off to my left. Silence adorned our tiny group. It was a new morning, and the blue sky emerging from the depths of red appeared all the more beautiful.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Ray of Hope

It began with a phone call my last day in England this past May. My cousin, her husband, and I had just walked in the door from a few days in the Scottish countryside. With the ringing phone, life as my cousin knew it changed forever.

Test results returned. Her mom was positive for breast cancer.

After months of chemo, my aunt went into surgery this past Monday to hopefully take care of any remaining cancer. Radiation will begin shortly after the New Year.

As we drove to Lubbock to support her this weekend, we received another call...

My uncle is no longer in remission. Chemo began Monday as my aunt went into surgery.

Needless to say, this weekend was tense. Waiting wore on our emotions and will, but despite the current events, there was an unprecedented sense of peace.


The waiting room was bathed in prayer by friends and family aware of the situation. Not all my family believes prayer is effective, however, they are seeing firsthand the peace and change it brings.

The suffering in my family breaks my heart. A few years ago, I would have doubted the goodness of the Lord. I would have asked where He is, why this is happening to my family, why He doesn't heal.

But not today.

I don't question His goodness. I know He is good. I know He is Healer, though He doesn't always choose to heal. I know He is in the middle of this, although He doesn't always work the way I desire.

I KNOW HE IS GOD, and I know He is in control. In that, there is hope. Listen to the words of Laura Story's song, "Blessings."
Suffering changes, builds, and grows us into better people if we allow it. Suffering is a blessing in disguise. I don't know what will happen with my family. I don't know what today or two years from now will bring. My aunt is healing at home, and both she and my uncle have a long road ahead. I do know that I serve a God who knows what's coming and holds us in His hands. He is the Comforter, Healer, and Immanuel, God with us. He is my hope, and I will cling to Him. I pray my family does, as well.

I know the Lord brings beauty from brokenness. I know He is in the business of making things new. I know that this is my temporary home, and that moments of brokenness are opportunities to draw closer to Him. 

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 30 - A Month of Gratitude

Day 30 in this month of 30 days to a thankful heart. How did you do? A friend who joined me in the challenge messaged me last night to tell me that her heart has been so much more joyful since she has been intentional in her gratitude. That's awesome!

And I have to agree with her.

Gratitude is a heart changer. It takes the moments and things we usually complain about, and refocuses us. When we realize how much we are blessed, how much we really don't need, and how much God is in control, our heart changes from one of negativity to one of gratitude.
Today, I'm thankful I took the challenge, but this challenge is far from over. I began this challenge with every intention of a permanent heart change. However, that will take intentionality on my part to continue to be thankful in all things. Jesus is about transformation, not temporary change. Just as a caterpillar enters a cocoon and emerges changed forever, so the Lord desires to do with us. He is worthy of our praise, and I don't credit Him nearly enough.

Habit builds character. I want my character to say that I have a joyful, thankful heart instead of constantly complaining and wanting that which I don't have. Let this month of thankfulness set the stage for a new beginning. Will you join me?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 29 - All Creation Cries

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands." 
Nature inspires me. It reminds me of my need for the Lord because it puts my worries in perspective. I have hiked beneath the Milky Way, scoured the Colorado and New Mexico mountains, filmed the sun breaking over the horizon, and rafted the white-capped river. I've spent sunsets on the beaches of California, driven for miles, snapping shots of the horizons and fields of west Texas, explored the highlands of Scotland, and the coast of Ireland, and sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon. I've sailed the Mediterranean and Black seas, stopped at the finest ports in Italy, France, Spain, and Ukraine. No matter where I travel, no land mark is the same and each bears the fingerprints of a God who is much bigger than me. It is this God I worship, and this God who can tame the oceans and calm the storms in my life. I'm thankful for the beauty of nature, that no sunset or sunrise is the same, and that man cannot duplicate the grandeur of the Lord's creation. He is good!

Enjoy the pictures...

"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised." Psalm 113:3
"You will go out in You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12
"Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying bird." Psalm 148:7-10
"Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies." Psalm 148:3-4
"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness." Psalm 96:11-13

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 27 and 28- The Urge to Write

Only a couple more days left in November. It's impossible to cram what I'm thankful for into a couple days. Cicero said, "A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues." Hopefully, this month has built a habit that I will continue to practice long after this month ends.

Today, I'm thankful for hypergraphia, or an overwhelming urge to write. I didn't even know there was a word for this condition, but thankfully I experience it without all the negative side effects. Last January, I began a course through the Christian Writers Guild to expand my writing skill while working one-on-one with a mentor, DiAnn Mills. She has been a Godsend, constantly coaching, encouraging, and pushing me to be better and stay true to who I am and my heart to write.

In the past year, I  attended a residency with DiAnn, Jerry Jenkins, and Doc Hensley, completed a lesson and phone chat with DiAnn every month, finished a book, and submitted it. And somewhere in the middle of all that, I regained my confidence, my joy in writing, and my creativity that disappeared for a year after college. Thanksgiving night, I was up after midnight because a story idea would not let me sleep until I recorded it.

I'm so thankful for the urge to write. Though I still have to develop it, the skill comes naturally to me. I'm thankful  that the Lord created me uniquely with this ability. I'm thankful for others who love to write and form a community I can encourage and call on for encouragement. I don't know what's next, but I commit to writing because it's how I'm wired and will allow the Lord to handle the results. Thoughts are rattling around in my head, so it's time to record them!

I'm thankful the Lord equips us all with different skills. What do you have the urge to tackle? How has the Lord gifted YOU?

I would love to hear from you!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 26 - An Apple a Day

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away," or so I've been told. We've experienced a few major health scares over the past couple of years in our family. A few months ago, my brother was in the hospital for some football related injuries. I'm so thankful that, to our knowledge, we are all healthy and whole this holiday.

I believe this is something I often take for granted when in reality I'm not guaranteed tomorrow or my next breath. Life is precious, and I'm treasuring the health of today and will trust the Lord with tomorrow. 

Sorry for the short posts, but the family is keeping me busy playing games and hanging out! Enjoy the weekend!

What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 25 - Treasure Hunts

Black Friday has a very different meaning around our house. To my knowledge, we have yet to brave the stores on this day every year. Instead of shopping for presents to put under the Christmas tree, we turn on Christmas music, heat wassail, and pull out the Christmas decorations. This is one of my favorite days of the year, and I'm so thankful we are all home to celebrate. When the sun goes down, our house looks like Christmas exploded. Beautiful! Black Friday involves a very different treasure hunt for us.

The Christmas tree is my favorite item to decorate. Every year, we dig through a box of old ornaments. As kids, we picked out a new ornament every Christmas and recorded the date. It's fun to see the stages and our mentality at the time. I have a beautiful carousel horse from when I was 7 and Santa holding a cell phone when I turned 16. Our Christmas tree tells a story.

We also have a porcelain nativity that sits above the fireplace. When we were younger, we would fight over who would arrange it. Since I tend to break things, Mom usually monitored me when it was my turn. It's the first thing people see when they enter our house, and I love the message it sends. 

Move over ABC Family's 25 days to Christmas. Mom's version is better. As kids, we stuck Velcro felt ornaments on a felt tree every night leading up to Christmas. Each ornament contains a picture indicative of a piece of the Christmas story. We no longer sit around the tree every night, but each day I add another ornament to the tree and remember the story. I remember the reason we celebrate and decorate and give gifts.

Black Friday is a treasure hunt of memories. We remember where the Lord has brought us,  laugh at every discovery, remember why we celebrate Christmas, and we remember why we give gifts at Christmas. We were already given the greatest gift in a baby who became a Savior. I'm thankful for the reminder, for the memories, and for the joy of this season! Merry Christmas season!

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 24 - Thanksgiving

It's the day I've been leading up to all month. There is so much to be thankful for. I woke up this morning and jumped into the psalms. The heart of David amazes me. His joyful heart is directly tied to his determination to praise the Lord in all things. Even when David is in the depths of despair, he usually brings the psalm back to praising the Lord for who He is in spite of the situation. What an example to learn from! I hope this month will create that in me in a greater measure.

I'm thankful for God's goodness. I've often heard that if I was the only person on earth, Christ would have died to save me. I understand the concept, but today, I realized what it meant. My sins alone would nail Him to a cross. How humbling. I'm so thankful for the cross and for an empty grave. I'm thankful for a risen Savior who is Sovereignly in control over all. I'm thankful that He forsook His own life for me and for the sins of the world.

© Casting Crowns
I'm thankful for family. They've taught me about the Lord and what it looks like to pour into one another and others.

I'm thankful for my friends, for their constancy, encouragement, and the joy they bring to my life.

I'm thankful for the passion the Lord has given me to write. It's a weird gift to me at times, but I love seeing how He uses it.

I could keep going, but I'm taking a break from cooking to write, so time to go.

I hope your Thanksgiving is beautiful!

In Him,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 23 - Full House

This morning, I woke up to the sound of three huge dogs skidding across the hardwood floor. My brother and sister are home and their dogs! I'm excited to spend the next few days together cooking, watching football, and putting together the Christmas tree.

Our family is in a transition that I began 5 years ago when I left for college. Family time is few and far between. We are spread out all over Texas, and the holidays are precious. Today, I'm incredibly thankful for a full house and am excited to spend the day tomorrow really being thankful with my family.

Have a beautiful day! What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 22 - Muddy Jeans

I woke up this morning to muddy ground. Many people grumble as they grab their rain jackets and umbrellas while doing their best to side step puddles. But not me.
This past summer and spring, Texas received very little rain. Our lakes are depleted, fires have blackened many of the plains, destroying property and lives. Grass has crunched beneath our feet from lack of water, and foundations shifted in homes as the brittle ground cracked and spread.

We prayed and prayed for rain. Meteorologists predict next year's spring and summer to be equally as hot and dry. Hopefully, they are wrong as usual, but if that is the case, Texans will be in trouble. So, this fall, I'm thankful for the frequent cloudy, rainy days, even if that means the bottom of my jeans will remain muddy and wet. Last night's thunderstorm was an answer to pray, and I refuse to complain.

Enjoy the rain!

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 21 - Our Greatest Joys and Dad's Greatest Pain

Meet Wise Guy, Gunner, and Duke, the furry, four-legged members of our family.

Wise Guy is our 12-year-old golden retriever. From the time we brought him home as a puppy, he has been ever faithful to follow us wherever we go, except when he catches a good scent outside. He is protective, barking and charging the door when the doorbell rings. Every one who enters immediately finds him lovable and affectionate.When I'm typing, he sticks his nose under my arm bumps my hand so that it rests on his head. Can you say attention hog? He always knows exactly where I am, and will head butt my door to tell me good morning. He has been an absolute blessing the past 12 years, and I have loved moving home from college and having him constantly at my feet.

Gunner and I had a love-hate relationship when Toby first brought him home. He is the baby of the group at just over a year old. He is above all curious and lives to make us chase him. More than once, 4 of us have had to block him under the ping pong table and crawl in to pull a broken treasure from his mouth. Like my brother, he is constantly on the go and wants to be in the center of everything. He makes a valiant effort to understand our conversation, and delights in talking back. He is roughly the size of a moose, and has earned the nickname.

Duke is our almost-two-year-old big baby. We haven't the heart to tell him he isn't human. I like to call him Sneezy from the seven dwarfs because he has every allergy known to dogkind. He is even alergic to grass. Duke was a rescue and suffered abuse prior to my sister adopting him. He tears up carpet when he gets nervous, raids the trash can, and recently polished off two cakes my sister and her roommate baked. When we sit on the floor, he is instantly in our laps. He barks like Scooby Doo and refuses to let my sister out of his sight. Loyalty is intrinsic to Duke.

Our dogs form the remainder of our family. They occassionally tear something up, causing Dad to bite his tongue and run to Lowe's, but we love them and would be lost without them.
What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 20 - Bubba

My 6'4", tight-end-football-sized brother is still my little brother. He tells me people laugh when I introduce him with that adjective. Before my sister arrived to "complete" us, it was just my brother and me.

Mom calls him our gentle giant. He fits the title unless you mess with someone he cares about or treat them with disrespect. He is a defender of the underdog. He is unfailingly patient and pursues an idea wholeheartedly if he is convinced it can work. He is always an encourager.

Once upon a time, I could lay him flat in our wrestling matches. More often than not now, I find myself in the air and then flipped on my back on the couch. Memo to all big sisters out there - one day they will outgrow you.

Toby is determined. He knows what he wants and goes for it. He is unafraid of change and avoids drama at all costs. He is funny and invests in friendships that last. Dad has trained Toby what it looks like to be a man. He steps up to help my mom, my sister, and me with what needs to be done around the house. He gives up his Saturdays to go serve with Dad.

He loves working with youth, and is strong and encouraging with teen guys who are trying to find their way. He has a giving heart, rarely realizing it may leave him in a rough spot.

I love my big, little brother and am so thankful for him today.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 19 - Chapters

I view every stage of life like a chapter. Some last pages and pages. Others are the length of a few paragraphs. Regardless, each chapter leaves indelible marks that change me forever.

Today, I'm so thankful for these chapters. I often wrestle with change and kick and scream as one chapter closes and another opens, but I never regret the transition. By the time I go to bed tonight, I will have spent time with people from 3 different stages of my life.

I enjoyed a three hour lunch with a friend from Tech. It was so good to see a face from Lubbock here in Dallas. We haven't seen one another for a while, but we didn't miss a beat. I love to see how we have both grown and changed and can't wait to see where the Lord will lead next.

This afternoon, I will spend time with a girl in my Bible study. The Lord brought her into my life a little over a year ago, and He has grown our friendship by leaps and bounds over that time. She has become a confidant, a friend, and source of laughter and fun. She is always an encouragement and believes in me when I don't believe in myself.

Tonight, I will spend time with a childhood friend who has survived all these stages. She is a blessing. She speaks straight, weathers distance, time, and changes, and is a kindred spirit. I'm looking forward to time with her.

Each of these stages has changed me. The people have all been a blessing. I'm thankful for each chapter and am excited to see where the Lord will continue to lead.

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 18 - Parents

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means family time is here. Today, I'm very thankful for my parents.

My dad is a pastor on staff at a local church. He loves to work with people, and is constantly busy serving, doing the thankless tasks that many don't notice. He practices this at home, as well. I love his consistency, his strength, and his heart for the gospel. He didn't grow up in a home where the gospel was shared, and he was bound and determined to makes sure our home was chalk full of this message.

My mom stayed home with us when we were younger, quitting her teaching job when I was born so she could raise me. I can't tell you how much of a blessing this was. Dad worked hard so that we could be a one income family. Mom has been there for every moment, large or small. She was diligent to teach us scripture at an early age and constantly created funny songs or goofy games to play. She looks well to the ways of her household and is always there for a hug or encouraging word. Mom is a prayer warrior.

My parents blended the best of their very different homes to create ours. In college, they determined to help me through with no debt. We all worked hard to make this a reality. Now, they are intent on helping me achieve my dreams, and have supported me every step of the way. This has been an amazing blessing. The time is fleeting, but today, I will enjoy every moment with them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 17 - Community

Yesterday was a no good, very bad day.

My community group made it better. We've been together for over a year now. In that time, strangers have became confidants and sisters in Christ became friends. We desire to encourage, challenge, laugh, cry, and grow together. Last night, they did all of those things with me.

We seek to celebrate the big moments and the small. So far, 2 out of our original 10 have walked down the aisle. Another found a place to serve that took her away from our weekly meetings. Several have lost grandparents, a couple have changed jobs, others have ended important relationships. Without fail, these women constantly weather it all and emerge stronger and closer.

All 6 of us have different personalities, interests, passions, and jobs. Every week, I love to see what each person will add to the group. Their walks with the Lord challenge mine. Their hearts to serve, motivate me. Their prayers encourage me. Their love strengthens me. I don't know what I would've done without them the past year. They bless me every day, and today, I am so thankful for them.

Who do you run to in the good times and bad?

I'm linking up with Dawn as we continue to find things to be thankful for every day this month.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 16 - Lessons from a One Year Old

She's my charge in the afternoons. Her black eyes take in every nuance. Delight lies in the little things...

-wind knocking leaves off tree

-thump of acorn falling on concrete

-drone of airplane

-the sound of her little shoes tapping the concrete as she learns to walk

-her body sinking into the thick blanket of grass that is her front lawn

-cackling of birds

-wet kisses from her dogs

-strains of music coming from my phone

-the rocking of the swing at the park

Everything is a source of wonder. At 23, I take those occurences for granted. I'm thankful that each day this little darling teaches me something about life, enjoying the moment, and seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

"Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 15 - Art

"I am still far from being what I want to be, but with God's help I shall succeed." Vincent van Gogh
Currently, I am working on my second book in which the main character is an artist. When creating a character, the writer must get inside her head, determine what drives her, shapes her, and what she's passionate about. I'm excited to delve into the mind of an artist. To help me with this, I am interviewing my friend, Amy, a Dallas arist who has a passion to paint for the glory of God. Every person has a story to tell, and an artist tells hers by imitating the world around her through recreation.

In high school, I had the privilege of traveling all over Europe, visiting Rodin's gardens, the British Museum, the Louvre, the Vatican, and several churches where Michelangelo's work is on display. Every piece of work I saw told a story. If a picture is worth a thousand words, art captures a memory, a moment, a story, a life. The goal is preservation and communication of a message to the viewers.
We were created by a master Creator, One who intended our lives to be a display of His glory. It amazes me that He has given people like Amy and my sister the mind to create. I am so thankful for this gift. While our creations are mere imitations, they point to the One who made the original.

What are you thankful for today?

Check out Dawn's blog for more posts on gratitude during this month.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 14 - Sisters

Day 14 of being thankful, and today, I am thankful for my little sister. I say little, but she turns 20 today. 

According to her, she completed our family. We would be lost without her. She is the constant chatter and laughter around our dinner table. She works hard and sleeps hard. She is well-liked and the life of the party. I am so proud of how she has jumped into college life, formed new friendships, found a church home, and is growing in the Lord. That takes a lot of courage, and she didn't fail the test.

Chasya is protective of those she loves. She works hard to maintain relationships, never eager to cut ties when she can fix the problem. She is quick to help others, giving of her time to make them laugh and brighten their day. She is gentle, yet tough.

She is our little mastermind. She sees a problem and can attack in such a way that it turns into a masterpiece by the time she finishes. Did I mention that she is an art major knocking it out of the park? Statement of a proud sister here. She can't write to save her life, but she can create better than most people I know. We balance one another out.

I love who she is. She's right: No one else could have completed our family the way she does. As dad says, "She's our caboose."

Happy birthday, sis!

What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 13 - Church Family

Today, I'm so thankful for my church family. A little over a year ago, I began attending a new church. I knew no one and would come, sit by myself, meet the people around me during greeting time, then leave after it was over.

I love having a community within the larger body to worship with now. Although I know worship is possible anywhere there are believers, it makes it that much sweeter when you are sitting next to people whose story you know and whose faces are not only familiar but part of your life.
No hype or flash today. My thankful heart is pretty simple.

What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day 12 - The Unexpected Part 2

Yesterday, I joined the Gypsy Mama for her 5 minute Friday exercise. Ironically, "unexpected" was her word for the day, and it is something I have been increasingly thankful for this week.

I shared part of my story about an unexpected rejection yesterday here. Today, I'm thankful for the rest of the story...

The Lord didn't leave me lost in the unexpected. For months after receiving that letter, I wrestled with bitterness, depression, anger, and loss. What now? My plans were replaced by an indefinite period of the the unknown.

Strangers braved the walls of bitterness and pain to show me the healing and direction that comes when we trust the God who loves us and has our best at heart. They became some of my best friends. I spent the summer with them hiking the mountains of Colorado and allowing the great outdoors to draw me closer to the One who fashioned both the mountains and me.

It wasn't until I climbed Pike's Peak with a group of friends to watch the sunrise emerge over the horizon that I really understood that the unexpected hadn't ended my plans. It had simply given me a new, unpredictable beginning. As the sun rose in crimson brilliance, I felt peace for the first time since the letter had arrived.

 After the summer, I returned to Lubbock, panicking that I didn't have a job or a place I really felt I fit as a newly-turned 21-year-old college graduate. Bottom line? I had no idea what I was doing. I wish I could say that life developed a routine and everything was rosy, but I was more lonely than ever, missing my friends, and back in the place where I  had experienced rejection.
  © Josh Wilson
 To make a really long story short, the Lord has caused all my plans to fail. That may sound awful, but in truth, it has been a blessing. Every step of the last two years has been unexpected. I wouldn't trade any of it. I have experienced healing and growth that I never would have if I hadn't first experienced rejection.

The Lord has much bigger plans for me. I see His fingerprints over ever step of the road I have tread recently. The song above is by Josh Wilson and the words ring true with my story. The Lord is present when we fall apart. If you are experiencing a desert...look for the beauty the Lord will bring. He uses the unexpected to write a beautiful, adventurous story for us.

The best part? More unexpected is yet to come, but the Lord is in control of every step. Every day is an adventure. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11

What are you thankful for today?

Linking up with Dawn today. Be thankful with us!

More of what the Lord taught me can be found when you click the "Focus on the Family" link under "My Thoughts" on the side panel.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 11 - Sacrifice

Happy Veteran's Day! I must tell you that I have a huge appreciation, admiration, and respect for those who currently serve and have served. Today is a day to honor them, and I am so thankful. 

In May, I spent time with my cousin, Shanna, and her husband, Logan, at their base in England. I was constantly surrounded by Logan's fellow air force buds and their families. The more I interacted with them, the more I realized that it is a family commitment and a family sacrifice. They know the risks and they do it anyway.

Today, I want to honor and thank their families, as well. Their families hold down the fort while these men and women travel all over the country and the world to defend and protect America and to fight for the less fortunate. They sacrifice time, relationships, big events, freedom of movement, etc.

They are willing, and often do, sacrifice their very lives.

There is something amazing about the heart of a warrior who sees needs bigger than himself and stands up to fight for them. Thank you to all who have served and who currently serve. You are a blessing!

It's day 11 of my month long challenge to be thankful daily. What are you thankful for today?