Day 29 ~ A Kingdom That Cannot be Shaken

(Yes, I still have posts to come for days 25-28...started, in draft, just haven't had time and clarity to finish them!    Also planning to post an IOW post later today, and looking forward to a fun announcement on Thursday!  Stay tuned...:))


Day 24 ~ His Goodness and Steadfast Love ~

On this Thanksgiving, I am most of all thankful for the goodness and steadfast love of our amazing God...love and goodness that not only provided for salvation, but that also sustains through every moment.  

 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
                                                   Serve the LORD with gladness!    
                                              Come into His presence with singing! 
                                                  Know that the LORD, He is God!   
                                              It is He who made us, and we are His;

we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
                                                 Enter His gates with thanksgiving,  
                                                       and His courts with praise!

Give thanks to Him; bless His name!
                                                             For the LORD is good;    
                                                   His steadfast love endures forever,
 and His faithfulness to all generations.
~ Psalm 100


Day 22 ~ Certain Hope

I was reminded tonight how thankful I am for these words...

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. ~1 Thessalonians 4:13-18


Not One...

Day 21 ~ He Watches Me...

Day 20 ~ My Sunday School class :)

Meant to come home last night and finish Saturday's not-quite-finished post and do this one as well...but instead, I came home and went to bed early...Gracie wanted some reading time with Mommy after a busy weekend, and then I did some reading of my own...:)

But yesterday I was reminded again how thankful I am for my Sunday School class.  Several weeks ago, Bro. Kent preached about spiritual gifts and knowing our calling.  One of the questions that he asked during that sermon was "What is burning in your bones that you have to do for God?"  For years I "filled a spot" teaching in the bed babies class...I enjoyed it, I was meeting a need, but it was not my calling...it was definitely not a "burning in your bones" thing.  I knew that I loved teaching youth and adults...the times that I have taught youth and/or adults either at church or in my career over the years have been the most fulfilling times of all.  So when God opened the opportunity for me to teach the youth girls in Sunday School, I was thrilled.  And when Bro. Kent asked the question about the "burning in your bones"...I knew just what he was talking about!  That is exactly how I feel about teaching this class. 

I told the girls once again yesterday...God seems to always bring just the lesson that I need to *learn* every week as I prepare to teach.  I love the lessons, I love the preparation, and most of all, I love the girls!  They bless me in so many ways every week.  I love our discussion times during class, I love the insights that they come up with and the questions they ask.  I love the looks on their faces when they see something in a verse or passage that has never hit them that way before. I wish we had more time to delve into things each week...we almost never have time to actually *finish* our lesson...but I'm trying to learn to put that time crunch in God's hands and trust that He will help us cover what He wants us to cover, and that He can do the work He has to do in us even when our time is short! 

I am so thankful for the opportunity to teach this class, and to be involved in our youth department.  I'm thankful for our youth leadership, and our church staff, and the fact that our youth department is far from a "typical" youth program.  I'm thankful for my two youth (although I'm still trying to figure out how my kids were all "little kids" just yesterday and now I have two in the youth department!), and for the opportunity for them to be involved in this ministry. And I'm so thankful for all "my girls" and the opportunity that God has given me to be part of their lives during this time. 



30 Days of Gratitude ~ Day 19 ~ Homeschool Group

Day 19 ~ I'm thankful for our homeschool group.  We've been members of the same support group since Peter was in kindergarten.  We've had years when we were very active...we participated in co-op classes for many years and served on the board as activity directors for four years.  Then we've had years like the last few...when we've hit a field trip here, a mom's Renew there, and yearly testing with the group. 

This past week I was able to attend a mom's Renew meeting for the first time in many months.  It was good to see long-time friends from the group and have a time of fellowship and fun Christmas crafting.  I was reminded what a blessing this group has been over the years to me and to our family...not only in the obvious of the planned activities of the group...co-op, field trips, conferences, mom's meetings, etc....but in less "official", but still very important, ways.  They've prayed faithfully with and for us during some of the hardest days of our lives...my dad's last few months when he was so ill and the 6 weeks of Ammah Grace's NICU stay.  We were still on the board when we faced our biggest crisis ever, and while we weren't able to share all the details at that time, we shared what we could with the rest of the board, and we were so thankful for their prayers at a time when we were limited in asking for the prayer we so needed.

So thankful for our group and the good memories, good friends, and support and encouragement that have come with it...enjoying the times we're able to participate now, and looking forward to being more active again in a future season when life allows...


Day 18 ~ Change

Day 18...Super-busy day here, not much time for blogging, but I ran across this post yesterday and it went along so well with things I've been thinking lately that I decided it was time for a re-post.  

I am thankful for change.  I don't like change...but I am thankful for God's changing work in His people...in me!  I am thankful that He NEVER changes, but that He is patient and merciful in His work of change in my life.  And I am so thankful for the people in my life who have hung in there through all the changes in my life in the last 7 years.  It's sometimes hard to watch someone we love go through major changes, not only in life, but in the very core of who they are.  I'm thankful for those who have continued to love and pray for and listen and laugh and cry with me no matter how hard it got.  Many thoughts on this this morning...all week, actually, but no time...so here's a repost from February of this year...

Never the Same...

“I will never be the same again,

I can never return, I’ve closed the door.

I will walk the path, I’ll run the race
And I will never be the same again.”

~ lyrics by Geoff Bullock ~

"You will never be the same person you were before this happened.  That's not entirely a bad thing.  God has done things in my life through the circumstances of the last few years that I don't know that He could have done any other way.  Those have been good changes.  But I am not and will never be the same person I was before...none of us are."  

Just a few days ago, I said those words to a friend going through a life-altering "storm of life". I ached for the experience she shared with me...very different from the trauma that began in our family 4 1/2 years ago...and yet with so many of the same feelings and emotions.  

I usually look ahead to see what the Tuesday In "Other" Words quote is going to be, but last week I got busy and didn't get that far.  This afternoon when I saw the above quote, I was taken back to last week's conversation...and then taken back much further, to seven years ago this week.  

When I think back to the changes that began 4 1/2 years ago, I am always reminded that the changes really began a couple of years before that.  February of 2004, to be exact.  It was actually seven years ago Thursday that I uttered the "famous last {and theologically incorrect} words" about which I've shared before:

"I know God won't give us more than we can handle, but I have told Him this week that I am there."
The next evening I was in the back of an ambulance being rushed to Little Rock in a snowstorm because my water had broken at 30 weeks.  Three days later, Ammah Grace was born. 

I've said before that in those first few days of February of 2004, I had no idea we were in the last days of  "normal" as we knew it...ever.   Ammah Grace's birth...the NICU stay and my separation from the rest of the family...the fear of losing a child...and the miracles God worked in her healing...changed me forever.  I am forever a different person, a different wife and mom than I was before.  

 Just as we were breathing a sigh of relief and settling in to enjoy life with our healthy, blessedly normal little girl, my dad's health spiraled downward.  A few months later, he entered Heaven and saw Jesus face to face, while I began a grieving process that would overwhelm the next 18 months of my life.  Again...life would never be the same for this "Daddy's girl".   God taught me much through those days...and again, changed me in ways that probably couldn't have been accomplished any other way.

More "famous last words" in late June of 2006, as I told a friend I felt as though we were finally entering a "new normal"...and finally leaving the overwhelming grief behind.  Just a few days later, the world completely exploded, making the previous 2 1/2 years seem like a picnic.  As I said in this post about that time..."It would take a book to even begin to tell the story of the last 4 1/2 years.  The important part is...God has worked and is continuing to work in our family in amazing ways.  He has taught us things through this that we could never have imagined. "

More than any of the other experiences, the trauma that we discovered July 2, 2006, changed me forever.  I am not and will never be the same wife, the same mom, the same daughter, the same friend, the same person I was before.  It changed every member of our family forever, particularly two of our precious children.   The changes certainly weren't pleasant, and some of them weren't very pretty.  I don't trust people much anymore.  I tend to go into "panic mode" when my children are out of my eyesight in public...especially the girls.  (Peter is now taller than me, so I'm not so worried about someone grabbing him and taking off as I am the rest of them. :))  

There were somewhat "temporary" changes, too...in areas in which I am beginning to get "back to {somewhat} normal now.  My true smile comes much easier now than it did a few years ago.  I rarely have days when I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack walking into a room of people I know in a social setting or at church.  I realized not long ago, when a long-time friend I hadn't seen in years remarked on my children having some of "their mother's transparency", that my "transparency" was one of the things that disappeared completely for a while....but God is slowly bringing it back.  There are areas in which I almost recognize the "7 Years Ago Me" in my 2011 self.  

But, as I shared with my friend last week, the "permanent" changes haven't been all bad...or even mostly so.  God has worked in my life...and in the lives of everyone in our family...through these circumstances in ways I could never have imagined.  Most of all, He has brought me to an intimacy with Him that I don't think would ever have happened any other way.   

God is in the business of change.   His plan is for us to constantly be being transformed...being changed into the image of His Son.   If I am still the same person I was 10 years ago, or one year ago, or even last week...then something is wrong.   I remember hearing at one point years ago that if we leave a worship service without something in us being changed...we haven't really worshiped.   Our daily encounters with Christ should be changing us day unto day...maybe not in the dramatic ways we are changed through life's mega-storms, but changed, continually, nonetheless.  

I am so thankful that even though God's plan is to continually change me, He never changes.  No matter the changes in my life, my heart, or my circumstances, I can rest in the sure certainty that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I will never be the same, but He always is! 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18-19

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
~Romans 12:2

For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
~Malachi 3:6

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
~Hebrews 13:8


Day 17 ~ World Prematurity Day

I actually had another post planned for today's 30 Days of Gratitude post, but I discovered that today is World Prematurity Day, and I decided I couldn't let it go by without some mention.  

I'm thankful for our 30 week preemie who is now a bright, healthy, active almost-8-year-old. (Yes, I said 8. How in the world did THAT happen?? :))  All babies are miracles, but she is one of those who reminds us of that even more than usual. Six weeks in NICU, all kinds of dire predictions, many, many prayers by people literally all over the world...and since the day she left NICU, she's been completely healthy and normal in every way.  We serve an amazing God!  

So many who read my blog have heard Ammah Grace's story over and over, but for those who haven't, you can read more here, here, and here.   

I'm thankful for all of my children, but on this World Prematurity Day, I'm thankful for our not-so-little-anymore preemie who reminds us daily that we serve a mighty God of miracles, and for the wonders too many to declare that He has given us in her story...

 I waited patiently for the LORD;
   H turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
   out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
   and put their trust in the LORD.
  Blessed is the man
   who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
   to those who turn aside to false gods.
Many, O LORD my God,
   are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
   no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
   they would be too many to declare.
~ Psalm 40:1-5


Wordless Wednesday and Day 16 ~ Fall

30 Days of Gratitude...Fall...

Joining with Wordless Wednesday.

Deep Wounds to Great Glory!

Day 15 ~ I'm thankful for the scars...thankful for the deep wounds through which I've seen God's glory in ways I could never have imagined.  

I actually started this post on Tuesday, but didn't quite get around to finishing it. :)  Anyway, I ran across this quote on Tuesday morning, shared by Scotty Smith:
"In my deepest wound I saw your glory, and it dazzled me." ~ St. Augustine
I immediately decided that Day 15's 30 Days of Gratitude post would be based on that quote.   Then I popped over to see what this week's IOW quote was, and discovered this quote by one of my favorite missionary heroes...

 “ No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar? ” 
Amy Carmichael

Through the wounds that we've experienced in recent years, I've realized that the deeper the wound, the more God has shown His glory in it, and the more amazed I've been by that glory.  I love Augustine's wording "...it dazzled me."  What an amazing thing to realize that the glory we are seeing now is just a glimpse...that as much as it is dazzling in its brilliance now, it is only a foretaste of what we will see one day!

I've struggled recently with a bit of a paradox in my life, however.  I know the truth of Augustine's statement, I have seen in my own life the incredible revelation of His glory in the wounds...and yet I desperately want to avoid that which would bring further wounds or scars into my life or the lives of my family.  I fight a constant {and often losing} battle with fear of further suffering or pain.  

I'm not talking about being cautious and careful and protective of our children. I believe we have a responsibility to do all that we can to protect our children, and I certainly don't believe we should go searching for suffering.   I'm talking about those situations in which we know that God has called us to a particular task which we know will lead us out of our comfort zone, or perhaps invite ridicule or criticism, or require sacrifice.  I'm also talking about those vague feelings of fear and dread about the future...about the unknown or imagined that is to come that could be unpleasant or downright earth-shattering.  

God calls us to follow Him.  He has told us that there will be suffering...sometimes great suffering...along the way.  He has also promised that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that if we share in His sufferings, we will also share in His glory.  He has shown us that firsthand, over and over, in the events of the last 7+ years.  He has proven His faithfulness over and over.  And yet there is still the struggle...

God has given me such a strong longing for our family...each one of us...to follow Him with all of our hearts.  We can't follow Him wholeheartedly if we are afraid of pain and suffering...if we are focused on the fear of wounds and scars, our eyes cannot be focused on Him.  I'm thankful for the glory He has shown in the wounds, and I am thankful for His faithfulness which has never wavered.  I'm thankful that He continues to teach me and draw me even in the times I want to run from suffering, despite all He has already taught me.  

...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death...
(Philippians 3:10)

For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
(2 Corinthians 1:5)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
(1 Peter 4:12-13)

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 
(Romans 8:16-25)

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I Heart Faces ~ Autumn Splendor

This week's I Heart Faces challenge is "autumn splendor".  I took a LOT of foliage pictures last week on our trip to Petit Jean, but this was one of my favorites.  Ammah Grace is following Mom and Bayley's footsteps  with a fascination for photography, and Bayley let her borrow her camera to take some pictures on one of our hikes.  She was SO serious about her pictures....totally caught up in the images she was capturing on the camera... <3

30 Days of Gratitude ~ Days 9-14 (Backtracking :))

Backtracking now to catch up...again...on my 30 Days of Gratitude posts.  We went out of town for a couple of days, and the posts I'd plan to schedule before we left didn't get done...and then since we've been home, I've been dealing with pain issues that have interfered with my best-laid plans.  Hopefully I'll get caught up today and stay on track the last half the month!  

Day 9 ~ Thankful for God's plans that are always better than ours.  We'd had a trip planned for months, but have had to change our plans more than once in the last few weeks...and then again at the last minute, we had to cancel our plans for Tuesday and not leave until Wednesday.  Then it stormed...all day...hard...Tuesday...right along the path we would have been traveling.  So thankful for protection and reason for thanksgiving even in the midst of disappointment! 

Day 10 ~ Thankful for a much-needed getaway to Petit Jean for a few days.  We all needed this trip, and the weather and the park were beautiful!  More on our trip soon...but for now, a couple of preview pics...:) 

Day 11 ~ Veterans' Day ~ Thankful today for those past and present who have sacrificed in so many ways for our freedom....especially friends whose families are separated right now due to deployment.  They are true heroes! 

Day 12 ~ My grandparents!  November 12 would have been my Granny Marks's 100th birthday.  She's been gone 15 years, and I still miss her terribly.  What I would give now for some of her fried chicken, or turkey and dressing, or homemade pimento cheese, or even her perfectly cooked scrambled eggs.  And chocolate cake.  Yum.  (I'm getting really hungry all of the sudden!)   She gave me a love for "little things" (which seems to have passed on to my Emlyn in her genes :)), for pens and paper, for papercrafting, and for journals, among other things.  She loved her birds, and would be so happy that Billy and I are now taking care of the birds in what used to be her yard.  

I am thankful for all of my grandparents and the impact they had on my life. 

Christmas at Granny Marks's ~ 1971?

Thanksgiving 1971 ~ Nobody cooked turkey and dressing better than Granny Marks!

Granny with her first grandchild (me :)) ~ January 1969

Day 13 ~ As we are now into our second week without a dryer, I am thankful for all of the appliances/conveniences I so often take for granted.  For hot and cold running water, for all kinds of appliances to keep food cold and make food hot when needed.  For indoor plumbing!  For telephones, computers, and even a cell phone.   For a washer and {most of the time!} dryer. :)  For fans in the summer {and fall, this year :)} and heaters in the winter.  For cars so that we don't have to walk everywhere we go.  So thankful for all these things that are such a luxury to so much of the world.  (P.S....We have a new-to-us dryer as of Monday, for which we are VERY thankful!)

Day 14 ~ Although we are enjoying Billy's vacation right now, and wish it could last longer, I am reminded how thankful I am for his job.  He's been in his current position 6 years today, and with the hospital itself for over 15 years.  I'm thankful for the ways God has provided through this job all these years, and I'm thankful that he has a job in the current economy and job market, as we pray for many who are job-hunting right now.  

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. ~James 1:17