Archive for March, 2012

In the Wake of Drought: What Remains

Spring speaks a different dialogue out here in the country. Its native tongue is the same: warmer days, sudden gusts of air like angels are breezing through, robes caught on branches then tugging free, chattersome birds competing for best lung and limb, dogs sunbathing and scratching their backs on the few stiff sprigs of dead grass leftover by winter. Though Spring bears such similarities every year, it still surprises and delights the delight-able. I want in the worst way to remain one of those.

 

Other things are new for me this year. New for me 6 miles from town. 17 miles from my small, man-scaped suburban yard of 27 years. The landscaping is mostly left to God out here and that makes it feel considerably riskier. Oh, I know it’s not. I know the right things to say. I’m just suggesting that it feels that way. For instance, He doesn’t appear all that adept at mowing and weed-eating and a bit more like Edward Scissorhands at limb trimming. His tools are mostly winds and rains.

 

Our area of the country experienced the worst drought in its history last Spring, Summer, and early Fall. Though we’ve had the enormous relief of winter rains, they tell us that this unwelcome desert-shroud has not lifted from us yet and will blanket us in our hot flashes for another half a year. We hope they are wrong. We so hope they are wrong.

 

My man was a servant of the land long before he had a single acre. He was formed by his Maker to be outside. He tends and frets and blesses and curses out there. He thinks and rethinks. He weaves and unravels. I don’t mean he’s a yardman. I can count the times I’ve seen him mow the yard on one hand. He’s an outdoorsman. He lives out there on the other side of the fence. He has paltry little taste for manicured gardens. He likes to fuss over things out there where only God can fuss with any consistent effectiveness.

 

Keith is a self-taught tree man who believes that earning your B.S. degree in anything of the least value begins with several years spent in nothing but pure appreciation. Melissa told me not long ago that he drove her up to a particular spot near here and gruffly said, “You see that sycamore over there?” She nodded because she did. “If that tree doesn’t move you…well, then, you’re an idiot.”

Vintage Keith Moore.

This is the top of the one he was talking about. It is a beautiful thing if you’re into trees. An iPhone is a pitiful way to capture it so don’t throw yourself into the idiot category too quickly. It may be a mood-thing.


Keith brought a bona fide, certified, countrified tree-man out here a few months ago to survey the damage of the drought. With his professional eagle eye, he pointed Keith toward a few trees that were clearly lifeless, bark splitting and branches as brittle as melba toast. “But for the most part you can’t really tell yet, Mr. Moore. Only Spring can say what survived.”

 

So, we’ve waited eight weeks to hear what Spring would say, hoping we’d understand its country twang.

 

Finally…

 

“I have good news and bad news,” Spring said. “Which do you want first?”

 

The bad news.

 

To vocalize its answer loud and clear, it borrowed the voices of four large chain saws this morning. I sat out on the front steps and listened but I wouldn’t have had to. I could have heard it just fine from inside the house but, then again, inside I might not have known which way to run in case a huge, dead oak came crashing down some unanticipated direction. I guess nobody really yells, “Timmmmm-berrrrrrr!” anymore because I haven’t heard it a single time and they’ve missed innumerable opportunities. What I have heard is a sound like the sudden cracking of lightening (only not quite so loud but quite more personal) followed by branches splitting and breaking and thuds so powerful, our pier and beam house jolts.

 

 

The carnage going on outside my house right now is so loud that I don’t know how you can hear me. I’ll try to talk louder.

SO, MR. SPRING, IS THERE ANY GOOD NEWS OUT THERE?

This time Spring didn’t use the sound of chain saws. This time it used a different kind of voice. At least I hope it did. And not with audible sounds but words of the heart. I’ll attempt to hang some vocabulary on it like miniature lights on long limbs but I don’t know if I’m getting it right. Here’s a meager shot at it:

 

1. The cutting away is painful but it can relieve considerable angst. Sometimes knowing for certain what is dead is better than wondering. “Well, now we at least know,” Keith, his parents, and I have said to one another. “If it’s dead and gone, let’s get it out of here,” I said to all three of them last night and they nodded. It is pointless to keep trying to resuscitate things God has killed…or permitted to die. I’m not talking about unspeakably sacred treasures like people. I’m talking about things. Like plans, works, efforts, castles, methods, accomplishments, goals, aspirations, positions, tenures, results. Sometimes God uses a fresh Spring to say, “That was a good thing. And it had some good life. But now it is dead. Let’s chop it down and use it for firewood. You’re wearing yourself out giving it CPR. It’s dead. Have a one-day memorial service and move on. You don’t have to understand why. I bring to life. I kill. I understand the cycle. You don’t. But, if it’s any encouragement, you will.”

 

There comes a time when it’s finally time to stop forcing things that don’t work. You know me better than to think I mean marriages. We’re talking things here. God alone can perform a resurrection and, notice, He usually chooses in His sovereign wisdom to keep dead things dead once they’re dead here on earth. That’s not so bad when you consider that we’re heading somewhere where nothing will die but death.

 

2. The cutting away of the dead is to make room for the living. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away.” That thing we keep beating our bloody fists on is not bearing fruit. It’s taking up space where something else needs planting. Something that needs nurturing. Something that needs exposing to the sun. It’s in the way.

 

Crack. Break. Thud. Another one. Good grief. How many will there be?

 

Spring talks on…

 

3. Sometimes only a few limbs are dead. The tree is alive but it’s suffering, trying to hold onto dead weight. Let it go. Scoot out from under it and let it fall. And the rest of the tree will flourish again. You do not equal “it.” Stop defining yourself by what’s past. The Holy Spirit penned it this way in John 15: “Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” The purpose for this massive cutting away of what is dead is to make room for what is alive. It is for our health. Not for our end.

 

“Abide in Me, and I in you,” He says.  

 

4. Some limbs are alive – barely – but they’re too strangled to sip from the tree. “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” Catch the nuance in Galatians 3:3 – “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” I’ve tried that before. Have you? The limb is choking on a stubborn clot of flesh. Cough up the human means to a divine end, spit it as far as you can, and drink of the Tree of Life.

 

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts. (Zech. 4:6)

 

5. Not every loss of something old is a crying shame. Just because it’s been there long and large doesn’t mean that it should stay. Keith’s parents lost a really big one. A painful one. A prime oak that loomed over their front yard like a giant flexing its muscles on twenty massive arms. In the tree-man’s own words, “That was a near perfect tree. Perfectly shaped.”

 

Crack. Break. Thud.

 

 

Sometimes things get to live a really long and wonderful life before they die. But perish the thought that, in their honor, we’d keep calling something alive that has long since breathed its last. If it is not cut down, it could tumble down and cause ten times the destruction. Traditional and eternal are not synonymous. Sometimes they coexist. Sometimes they conflict.

 

6. So much is alive. Sometimes only a cutting-away of what is dead can improve our view. In the words of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (KJV) The tree man, a few days ago: “You were fortunate, Mr. Moore. You didn’t get hit nearly as hard as you could have. Look at all that made it.” It’s hard to tell right now with all the noise the dead is making, screeching and snapping it’s way to the ground but we know it’s true. And it’s obvious. By a long shot, most of the trees down the dirt road we share with our neighbors survived the drought. There is a birthing of every shade of green around us. Forest green, hunter green, apple green (minus the apple), sea green (minus the sea), lime green (minus the lime), shamrock green (do three-leaf clovers count?), and pine green (pines enough to count). But I’m partial. If I tilt my head the other way, it all just looks plain green.  But after the ugliest drought to ever hit the Gulf Coast, nothing is more gorgeous than green.

 

7. Not every dying thing is meant to be dead. If we are so distracted by what has died that we cannot see what is alive, we could risk losing the living. “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die.” (Revelation 3:2) Hear that one more time: Strengthen what remains! It is still there on purpose. Nothing is haphazard here in the landscape of God. Nothing is as random as it seems. Though you thought less of it, look at its strength: it survived the worst drought in your history! Though you were parched, it stuck its tongue out at the drought and licked the dew. Thank God for it and tend to it before it dies from the quiet cancer of neglect.

 

8. Not everything that looks dead IS dead. Yesterday afternoon Keith and I stared at a big tree with bare limbs smack in the middle of our front yard, trying to figure out whether or not it had any hope. This morning as I sat on the front steps, listening to the discord of four chain saws, I looked up and saw tiny sprigs of life. It had budded overnight. While it was dark. Look closely now at the ends of those skinny branches.

 

 

9. Bare ground is not necessarily barren ground. Maybe it’s time to plant something brand new. Like a Redbud. The difference between growing a tad older and just plain getting-old can be the willingness to plant something brand new. Or be part of planting it anyway. Something almost from scratch. Like a Redbud, for instance. Or via the Holy Spirit through your son-in-law and daughter, maybe even a church. That sliver of sunlight isn’t a filter on my camera. It was natural light coming through the trees at the moment we walked by. It’s like God knew I was working on this post.

 

 

I know. It’s hard to see. Here’s the new plant closer up. And the shadow of yours truly next to it, just so you know this was personal.

 

As it turns out, I’ve spent this entire day with you at least in fits and starts. It’s evening now. Keith and I just got back from a stroll, down around his parents and back. It was the Chainsaw Massacre. But all that is sprouting around it seemed strangely oblivious. Just before we walked back into the house, Keith said, “What is that?” I stopped in my tracks. “Do you hear that chirping?” he said. I did and stood very still to listen. My man of 33 years grinned and said, “It’s baby birds. There’s a nest up there somewhere.” We held our hands over our eyes, squinted in the sunset, and tried to see sewn-together twigs in the shape of a bowl and the tiny fluttering feathers of happy hatchlings.

 

But we couldn’t see the birds for the leaves. Or the forest for the trees.

 

It’s Spring here in Houston. Spring after the worst drought in our history. Maybe you know how Houston feels. Lord, let this not be the mere middle of it. Make the forecasters false prophets but let them live all the same. Right or wrong, theirs is no final voice.

5   This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,

who depends on flesh for his strength

and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

6  He will be like a bush in the wastelands;

he will not see prosperity when it comes.

He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,

in a salt land where no one lives.

7   “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

8    He will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiahs 17:5-8 NIV

 

No worries?? Seriously?

 

That’s what it says.  The question for people of faith is not “Will I experience drought?” It’s “When will I experience drought?” And, when we do, how we will respond. Will we, for all practical purposes, die a needless spiritual death or will we strengthen what remains, plant something new in Jesus’ Name, and dig our roots deeper toward the stream? Feeling a tad dry? Go deeper. Trust God. Do NOT fear. The drought will pass and, even though the mightiest trees around you may wither or fall, you may cease for a while to have fun, but you will not cease to bear fruit.  I don’t know about you but, if for a little while life’s not fun then, Lord help me, at least let there be fruit!

 

“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”  Isaiah 61:3 NIV

 

 

 

I love you guys so much.

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An Abundant Weekend Ahead

Good Friday morning, Siestas! Give yourself a pat on the back; you made it to the end of the week! Isn’t that a great feeling? However, before we start chatting about our weekend plans, I know you’re dying to hear who our TEN winners are that will soon be receiving a Bible Atlas on their front door step.

Drum roll please…

In no particular order and thanks to random.org, our winners are:

Cristi Welch (March 21st 2012 @ 10:34 PM)
Sherry Askew (March 22nd 2012 @ 9:44 AM)
Lisa Hale (March 21st 2012 @ 10:35 PM)
Catherine Moore (March 22nd 2012 @ 8:19 AM)
Mindy Hocking (March 22nd 2012 @ 12:50 PM)
Paula Barney (March 22nd 2012 @ 5:59 AM)
Brandi Cox (March 21st 2012 @ 3:35 PM)
Kim Potter (March 21st 2012 @ 8:30 PM)
Lynne Gallagher (March 22nd 2012 @ 11:57 AM)
Anne Swanson (March 22nd 2012 @ 7:04 AM)

Congratulations, ladies! If you’d please email me at blog@lproof.org with your mailing address, we’ll get your Bible Atlas to you ASAP. We are so excited for you! I have no doubt you’ll love it!

Now, onto the weekend! Anybody have any exciting, out of the ordinary plans?

You know how when you ask someone a question so that hopefully they’ll ask you the same thing in return because you have a pretty epic answer? (You know you’ve done it at least once in your life.) Anyway, I’m really politely asking your plans are so I can tell you what we have going on. So, instead of it being a one-way street, we can hear from each other! Because we here at LPM are quite the busy bees this weekend.

First and most important, our Siesta Mama is spending her last few days in Australia at the Colour Conference and will head home soon. She speaks one more time, which will be very, very early Saturday morning our time and then she and Amanda will hop on a plane to Houston! We miss them so much. Two weeks is a long time to be gone from anyone, so I can imagine how ready she is to see her people! Will you join us in praying them home? Traveling can be quite stressful at times so we’re praying for ease in everything. I have no doubt we’ll get to hear bits and pieces of her trip soon, once the jet lag takes a back seat.

Secondly, have any of you ladies heard of the new LifeWay Women’s conference called Abundance? If not, consider this your brochure. Abundance kicks off tonight, in Houston of all places, how fun is that? A good portion of the LPM staff are attending and they are pumped up; and rightfully so because they get to hear from a handful of gifted teachers and speakers such as; Lisa Harper, Angela Thomas, Jennifer Rothschild, Kelly Minter, Tammie Head and Jen Hatmaker. Not to mention worship with Travis Cottrell and CeCe Winans. If you’re a Houston girl and this is the first you’ve heard of this event and are looking for something to do this weekend, you’ll be pleased to know it is not too late! The event is being held at Champion Forest Baptist Church and I’ve been told you can still get a ticket online here and pick it up at will call, or you can purchase a ticket at the door. Please note that if you call LPM, we will direct you to LifeWay; we have no ticket information as we are not hosting this event, just simply attending. Seriously, ladies, this would be a really good, solid ladies night out. For more information about Abundance in Houston this weekend, click here.

If you’re wishing you could attend but are not anywhere close to Houston, let alone Texas, don’t fret, click here to see if Abundance is landing near you anytime soon! LifeWay has mixed up the speakers and worship leaders for each event, so no two events are the same. No doubt you’ll be blessed!

I would most definitely be attending if I didn’t already have previous plans, but a little over three months ago I committed to run a half-marathon and it just so happens to be this weekend. A half-marathon? Yes, I am slightly crazy. But I am embarking on this adventure with 20 other crazy folks from my church, Bayou City Fellowship, as we seek to bring awareness about As Our Own, a ministry in India rescuing girls out of human trafficking and loving them as their own, which is the only reason I’m even mentioning it.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you might be more familiar with this ministry, but if this is your first introduction to As Our Own, you can check out their website here. Anyway, we’ve been training and raising awareness and funds for the past three months and this weekend, we’ll get to put our training to the test and run for the freedom of these girls. Although it is slightly intimidating (and those of you who are avid runners are probably giggling right now), it is a complete honor to run for these girls and help bring some freedom and relief in Jesus’ name. Actually, as I’ve thought about it all week long as I’ve guzzled water, it has brought me much joy. Together, Team BCF is pairing up with Team Dallas as we run for sweet Parul. If you’re a runner and are interested in doing the same thing and getting a team together in your neck of the woods, there are still some races left that you can be a part of by clicking here and joining in the campaign called I Will Run. This ministry is dear to us for multiple reasons, all of which I wish I had the time and space to explain, but to get play a very small role in what As Our Own is doing is a complete joy! Come Monday morning I’m praying my joy will be overflowing and my legs pain-free. Grin.

As I think about the weekend ahead, I can’t help but smile and think about all the Lord is allowing us to be a part of, giving us a taste of what abundant life is all about. The enemy really has come to steal, kill and destroy, but Christ came so that we may have life, and not just have life, but to have it, and live it, abundantly. (John 10:10). So this weekend, as He allows us to serve, love and pour out in His name, I pray we’ll choose to do it with abundant joy in Australia, Houston and Dallas! After all, we have been given so, so much.

Happy Friday, y’all. May you live abundantly this weekend! We love you!

“God, Your faithful love is so valuable that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They are filled from the abundance of Your house; You let them drink from Your refreshing stream, for with You is life’s fountain. In Your light we will see light. Spread Your faithful love over those who know You, and Your righteousness over the upright in heart.” Psalm 36: 7 – 10

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It’s Time for Another Giveaway!

Update: The comments are now closed! I’ll see you tomorrow morning as we reveal our TEN winners. Have a great day, ladies!

Siestas!

Happy middle-of-the-week to each of you!

It is a beautiful day here in Houston! It’s almost perfect spring weather, which is a compete treat especially compared to the weather we’ve endured recently. It’s either been really hot and humid (shocker!), or really nasty thunderstorms. In fact, yesterday was 100% chance of rain all day and it did just that. The best part about the rainy days at LPM are our shoes; three of us chose to trade in our typical work shoes for rain boots yesterday and it was a cute sight, if I do say so myself. We were giddy. Y’all, it really is the small things. I hope wherever you are, despite your weather or circumstances, you’re able to find delight in something as small as rain boots, silly or small as they may seem.

Anyway, can you believe it’s already been a week since our last giveaway? All of the sudden I realized today was the day to reveal our next fun giveaway so my fingers went to typing. It snuck up on me!

Do y’all remember (and I bet you do because it happened to be a pretty popular post and you also happen to have a sharp memory), when our Siesta Mama asked you to share with each other something really random that you love? That particular day she was gushing over her Bible atlas and felt the urgent need to share with you the joy it brings her. I distinctly remember her telling me she was posting a fun, random blog that day so that I could be watching for comments, and watch for comments I did! Y’all didn’t just come through; y’all went above and beyond with over one thousand comments or something fun like that. We were really tickled! Needless to say, people are passionate about things they love.

To refresh your memory, here is a picture of the Bible atlas.

To make a really long story short (I know, I love words), B&H Publishing Group was really generous and sent us ten Holman Bible Atlases to give away on our blog, just like the one she gushed over! Y’all, how kind was that? So, today not just one, but ten of you will be receiving this amazing Bible atlas.

This is the box of atlases sitting in my office.

For a chance to win here is what you need to do:

1) Make sure your comment has your first and last name.
2) Please comment only one time to give everyone a fair chance.
3) For fun, and you don’t have to do this to win, but it would be really fun to hear, if you could give away one book to anybody, what would it be?
4) Lastly, your comment on this post automatically enters you into this contest. So if you are not interested in winning a Bible atlas, please hold your comments until after the winner is selected. This will help us as we randomly select our winners. Thank you so much!

That’s all ladies! We’ll keep comments open for 24 hours and close the giveaway at 4:00 EST Thursday afternoon.

Also, like I’ve stated before, Australia is 16 hours ahead of Houston time, so when Beth and Amanda wake up it’ll be time to start the second conference. I know for a fact Beth and the team would covet each of your prayers as they labor with joy to teach God’s Word and share His gospel with this next group of ladies. If you’ve been following them on twitter, it’s been obvious that God has blessed their time there. In fact, I saw that they got to feed kangaroos. How fun is that? I’m with you, though, I can’t wait to hear and read all about it upon their return. Let’s pray they end strong in Jesus name!

Alright, ladies, time to hear from you! Be sure to check back Friday morning as I reveal our winners!

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

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My Sister Gay’s Final Installment: Jesus Saves

First Installment: Meet My Sister

Second Installment: The Functioning Years

Third Installment: The Maelstrom

Fourth Installment: Like Sunlight Burning at Midnight

Fifth Installment: Stepping Out On the Water

Sixth Installment: A Different Street

With a heart spilling over with affection and wonder, I hand you joyfully to my beloved sister, Gay, for her final installment in this powerful series. Don’t worry. I don’t believe this will be the last time you ever hear from her on this blog. I’ll get her to chime in here and there if she feels the leadership of God. But, still, this is a tender moment, watching her wrap up this gorgeous streaming testimony of Christ’s unfathomable grace. That same grace also saved and delivered me. Saved and delivered you, if you’ve let Him. If you do not know Jesus yet and you have never received the gift of His life offered for you on the Cross – a gift you cannot earn or deserve or be born into – and the power of His resurrection that strips us from our grave clothes and covers us in robes of righteousness, do not wait another day. Today is the day of your salvation. Get down on your knees, lift your face toward Heaven and express to God in your own words that, by faith, you willingly and earnestly receive His glorious Gift and desire to be saved, to turn from your own destructive way, and to follow Him. Believe with your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. And, Child, YOU WILL BE SAVED. And nothing – I do mean nothing – will ever be able to take eternal life from you.

My beloved big sister, I will let you take it from here. Words fail me to express my appreciation. We are changed by what Christ has done through you here. He alone will be able to give you a precise account of the lives altered. “My brothers (and my SISTERS), if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20  You, Gay, have been this “WHOEVER” to so many.

 

And, now, from her pen…

Hi Sisters!

My life is so sweet today both on the outside and on the inside.  Much has improved since I walked off the concrete.  Improved would be an understatement.  Wildly improved, exorbitantly improved, inconceivably improved would be far more expressive.  Gregg was right when he said that we cannot fathom the dreams and plans that God has for us.  Paul knew it too when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians.  God might have told him about it but my guess is that he had experienced it after he fell to the ground on the dusty Road to Damascus.

“However, as it is written:

What no eye has seen,

what no ear has heard,

and what no human mind has conceived

the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” 

1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

 When I got here in mid-April of 2009, all I asked for was sobriety and a roof over my head.  I’ve said many times to many people, “Sobriety is the best gift I’ve ever been given in my life and if it’s the only one I ever get, ITS ENOUGH!!”  And it would have been enough, Ladies.  Quality sobriety has brought great abundance into my life:  trustworthiness, integrity, self-respect, meaningful relationships with my children and siblings, employment, housing, improved health, the ability to feel, etc.  I am so grateful for it that I sometimes burst into tears and I always, ALWAYS thank God for another day sober in my every prayer.  I am still very clear that it comes first, that the devil is not very creative and that He hasn’t forgotten how to tempt me and lie to me in the same old ways.  So I keep it first on my priority list, always.  I never become complacent to the fact that I have the disease of alcoholism.  It’s in my brain and all I have to do is tip that celebratory drink and the beast will come forth just like it did the last time.  It doesn’t have to prove that to me again.  (Step 1, by the way.)

However, sobriety is not all I got!  I have gotten, first and foremost, a continually healing and fully restored FAMILY.  Although Tut and I did not reconcile marriage-wise, our relationship today is one of acceptance, trust and solid teamwork where the boys are concerned.  We are today – and will forever be – very dear to one other.  I know, I know, we girls like a Cinderella story but really, don’t fret. I’ve got my Prince!

The two little boys in Sugar Land?  They are just WONDERFUL!! The three of us are wound so tight that they sometimes wish I would pop free.  Not happening!!  They’re not getting rid of me, not any time soon anyway.   Zach is now 26 years old, a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Effects and has been gainfully employed since 3 weeks after graduation in 2008 as a 3D Render Artist.  He is the best person I have ever known and never loses sight of his God-given purpose for this season of his life which is to take care of Josh.  He has laid his life down for his brother and their souls are knit together as one.  They will have that for a lifetime, long after Tut and I are called Home.  God so wonderfully works all things together for good for those who love Him. 

Josh is 17 years old and in his senior year of high school.  I don’t know which one of us has enjoyed his senior year more, him or me.  I’ve spent this entire school year with him soaking up every single minute trying to make up for years lost.  I know that our days together are numbered now that he is becoming a man.  There have been many miracle moments between a redeemed mother and a once abandoned child where I have so wished to press the pause button to freeze them in time yet a moment longer.  He has grown so much inside and out, come out of his shell, become Josh apart from the rest of us.  I have fallen head over heels in love with him as with his brother.  One especially thrilling moment was during opening night of this year’s high school musical, The Wizard of Oz, on January 28th.  I sat perched on about the 5th row of Rogers Auditorium as the curtain opened on Kansas.  Josh had been cast as the Cowardly Lion just two months before.  Although some of my family members have quite a stage presence, I certainly didn’t know Josh was one of them.  I was impressed out of my mind that he had learned his lines.  All of them!  When he sprung onto the stage in all of his Cowardly Glory I squealed with laughter, cried for reasons unknown and cheered out loud all at the same time.  I had seen him grow over the weeks but I was, in no way, prepared for fully Josh.  He was confident, accomplished, ironically COURAGEOUS, adorable, funny and oh so entertaining.  He was fully himself, fully Josh, fully alive.  He stole the show and it took my breath away.  I sat in awe during those miracle moments with my hands clasped at my chin whispering “Thank You, God” over and over again.  I realized that God had not only healed me but that He was healing my son as well.  Josh’s performance that night was brilliant with the absolute highlight being his delightfully humorous delivery of the song King of the Forest.  How appropriate is that?  Applause please!!!

One quick note:  I haven’t had to preach to my children or grovel over my past mistakes.  I have simply had to stay sober, be present and fully engaged, and shine the Light.  God so masterfully takes care of the rest.

I also got the best job on the face of the planet, handpicked just for me.  I work at Mercy Street!  You knew that already.  At around one year sober, I just so happened to be making my way through the still buzzing Mercy Street hallway that I had come to call home.  I rarely got an opportunity to have a personal conversation with Gregg Taylor, most beloved, most popular “street” pastor.  He most often has a captivated audience.  But somehow (we all know how) I did this particular night.  I was looking for a job, uh … an office job, and Mercy Street just so happened to have had their Administrative Assistant’s position come available that very week.  Now, you might think that was mere coincidence but I have come to believe that coincidence is simply God’s way of remaining anonymous.  That job was mine!  I knew it from the minute Gregg spoke it and I cried all the way through the service that night.  God meant for me to be employed at Mercy Street where I could most effectively carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers and to anyone who might have lost hope.  I heard Beth say during the Esther series that our destinies cannot be severed from our histories.  I was so perfectly placed at Mercy Street not despite where I had been but BECAUSE of where I had been, and where I had been delivered from.

When I got to New Hope 35 months ago today I looked long and hard at the steps hanging on the wall and my eyes rested on the words “a power greater than ourselves.”  I was a weakling when I got there.  I was beaten up, burned out and practically in a fetal position.  The cat was a power greater than me!  I didn’t need a power greater than myself — I needed a power greater than King Alcohol.  I needed the biggest, baddest power of them all!  I needed a great power with extraordinary muscle, strength and COURAGE.  I needed the King of the Forest.  I needed the King of the Universe.  I needed the King of Kings…

“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”  Jeremiah 32:17

… so I set out to find Him through His way for my life that day and each day since.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.”  Jeremiah 29:13-14 NIV

On the 20th day of next month I will have 3 full years of sobriety.  Wow!!  None of us humans, especially anyone who knew me before sobriety, would have ever dreamed I would have YEARS of sobriety.  The fact that I am walking through this life, taking care of business, parenting, working, paying bills, doing laundry, laughing, crying (and everything in between) SOBER after a lifetime of drinking is, well … a flat-out miracle from God!

I try to imagine sometimes what exactly happened in the heavens that night under the bridge.  In my limited mind’s eye, I see Almighty God in the image of man sitting at a grand oak desk drumming His holy fingers across the surface among dozens of beautiful, INCONCEIVABLE plans, drawings and designs.  He’s waiting, whistling and waiting, drumming and waiting, patiently but not nervously waiting.  He’s known it was coming since the foundation of the world but I like to think that He gets a hint of sweet satisfaction in being the Boss and whispering, “Hurry up, Gay, we’re waiting!”  I think that even before the aching, desperate cry of “God, please help me” fully crossed my lips He had already leapt from desk to chariot and, with a loud trumpet sound, shouted to His angel armies, “She’s ready!  Go get her!!”  He knew, even though I didn’t know, that I had surrendered and that I would be willing to lay down my own failed plans and follow the ones He had custom drawn for me, just for ME.  Upon His great command, the armies must have flown across the heavens in all of His Amazing Glory to the intersection of Sabo Road and the Sam Houston Tollway where the first appointed angel stepped through the veil as Tut in the flesh.  Or maybe the first appointed was Zach who, knowing where I was, had asked his father to go fetch me for fear I would die that very night.  Or maybe the first appointed was Jerry who had gotten us from Galveston to Houston in the first place that rainy Spring in 2009.  Who knows?  Only One.  All I know is that they were all appointed. 

I did not do this by myself, Sweet Sisters.  An ARMY of “angels” wrapped in human skin have helped me and were strategically placed in my life by Almighty God Himself.  There is no amount of white space for me to list them all and some names I don’t even remember if I ever knew them at all.  From the street to New Hope to The Women’s Home to Mercy Street to Living Proof — from Southeast Houston to Pasadena to Montrose to Sugar Land — from a power greater than myself to Jesus, the One and Only.  They were and are everywhere if we only open our eyes to see, our hands to receive and our hearts to feel.  I don’t believe that any two of us cross paths by mistake or mere coincidence.  I believe that the positive, negative and seemingly insignificant people, places and situations add value to our lives based on how we respond to them and learn from them.  Its all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?  If we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change — being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  I only hope to have the most honorable assignment of being divinely appointed by Almighty God Himself to reach out to a friend in need, a fellow sojourner, a perfect stranger, a ragamuffin, the hurt, the lost, the seeking.  Here am I, Lord.  Please send me.

I stepped out on my back porch the other morning and in more of a casual talk with God rather than a prayer I cried, “Oh thank You, oh thank You, God, for not letting me die before I got this, before I got You, this sweet relationship, this rollercoaster of a ride, this ebb and flow of faith, trust and sheer awe that leaves me begging for MORE.  I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this.  It would have been such a shame to have missed this.  Thank You for saving me so that I could experience this … experience You.  You are the Love of my life.  You are the Great Love of my life.  And I am Yours.”

I know today despite my shortcomings, failures and imperfections that to Him I am Beautiful, I am Redeemed and I am Loved.  I have been seized by the Power of a Great Affection.  I have been Saved.  I have been Forgiven.  I have been raised from the dead to walk in New Life.  I have been Resurrected.  Wow!  It just doesn’t get any better than that, does it?  Not in this life. 

I have a CD of Travis Cottrell in my car that I like to listen to LOUD.  Track 9 is an old hymn with a new and wildly improved sound.  The ending words have never once failed to bring on the tears.  They go like this:

The redeemed will sing forever,

The redeemed will sing forever,

The redeemed will sing forever

Jesus Saves.

Amen and Amen. 

Dear Sisters,

I thank you for letting me share with you my story or, better yet, Christ’s story weaved into mine.  It has been one of the greatest privileges of my new life.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for each and every comment and word of encouragement.  This divine assignment has been quite a challenge and I needed you all to charge me on.  You became like my angel army in this endeavor.  Isn’t that so cool?  I have watched you minister to each other and pray for each other and pray for ME.  I’ve experience many miracle moments sitting at this computer, reading and typing and trying my best to let God speak to you through my mumbling and fumbling to express the Inexpressible.  Our testimonies have much power, don’t they?  People love to hear that Jesus still saves even today.  We love to see tangible evidence of it too.  We love to see living proof!  Thanks Beth, for giving us this beautiful venue and for giving me an opportunity that would have only lived in my dreams.  You’re the best!  I’m pretty sure that I’ll never be the same after this experience.

And again, thank You, oh thank You, my sweet Jesus for loving me and showering me with Amazing Grace.  I love you with all my heart.  I am Yours always.  All of me. 

Loved you are,

Gay

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Life Essentials Study Bible – A Giveaway

(Drum Roll Please!)

According to our random drawing, the lucky winner is…Gail Denlinger! (Comment posted on March 15, 2012 at 6:40 am.)

Gail, if you would please email me at blog@lproof.org with your mailing address, we will get this Bible in your hands as soon as possible. Congratulations, Sister! Y’all check back next week for another fun giveaway. Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Update: Comments are now closed. Ladies, y’all are SO incredibly fun. And might I add serious about your Bibles and Bible translations. Praise the Lord! Check back tomorrow morning for the fun announcement of our lucky winner! And while I have your attention, our Siesta Mama actually gets up to speak at the conference for the first time in about 2 1/2 hours (It’s already Friday there). Your prayers would be so appreciated! See you in the morning!

Good Wednesday afternoon, Siestas!

By now you may have seen on twitter (if you’re a twitter user) that Beth and Amanda made it safely to Sydney! Jet lag is no joke there because in case you were wondering, Australia is 16 hours ahead of us. I kept joking that they were flying into the future. Whoa! You honestly would not waste a prayer on them as Beth and the team prepares to minister to the folks attending the Colour Conference. They are so pumped, but it doesn’t come without sacrifice and a lot of work. If you’ve not already been praying, start praying now because since they’re almost a day ahead of us, the conference begins sooner than later!

Anyway, we didn’t want the blog to suffer while our Siesta Mama was gone, so I’m here to do our first fun giveaway! (Yes, we’re doing another one next week. I know you’re pumped!)

I don’t know about you, but I love getting a new Bible.

In fact, just this past Sunday at church I was thinking it was time to put my old one aside and start searching for a new one. True story. I don’t know how much longer it will actually survive as it is literally falling apart (I don’t say that because I’m so spiritual, but more so to prove to you how old it is) and I don’t feel like digging out the duct tape to repair this one. (You know you’ve done it before, too!) Since I’m a creature of habit, I tend to stick with the same study Bible time after time, but I’m feeling kind of rogue and might venture out this time into the land of the unknown.

As much as I love getting a new Bible, there is a certain degree of separation that is hard to part from my old Bible. We’ve been through a lot. And I love looking back at all I’ve underlined and marked up. But I suppose a new season calls for a new Bible.

Anyway, I know you’re probably wondering why I’m going on and on about my Bible, and maybe I’ve convinced you that you need a new one to, to which I’ll say you’ve landed in the right place!

We have a really fun giveaway that I think you’ll like.

Recently our sweet Beth received a Life Essentials Study Bible (“The First Multi-Media Study Bible”) with her name engraved on the front. For those who are curious, the translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Here’s the deal, if our Siesta Mama hadn’t just purchased a new Bible for herself just prior to receiving this one, she would have kept it for herself. It was such a kind gesture from the publisher, but she really wanted to gift it to one our Siestas!

Besides this being a study Bible, it has some other really neat tools that I’ve personally been playing with to make myself familiar with it the past few days.

With our technology changing and updating as quickly as newborn babies change outfits everyday, it’s no shock to me that this Bible has a new addition to it that can be used with your smart phone.

If you look at the front cover (pictured above), and inside the Bible (there’s a little peek below), you’ll see a bar code looking symbol. That nifty little symbol we refer to as a QR code. If you own a smart phone, you can download a free QR Reader app, and then all you do is use that application to scan the bar code to find out more information about that particular item. All throughout this Bible are hundreds of QR codes that take you to a website to find out more information about that particular scripture. How fun is that? You certainly don’t need a smart phone to win this Bible, but that’s just a little bonus for those of you that do own one.

So, who is interested? Listen, if it weren’t for you, Siestas, I would have already claimed it for myself.

Here’s how it will work:

1) Leave a comment with your first and last name. If you don’t leave both, you won’t be eligible for the drawing!

2) For fun, if you’re into this kind of thing, go ahead and tell us in brief your favorite Bible. Shout out to all the Precious Moment’s Bible owners out there! I’m pretty sure I still have that one stowed away somewhere safe. What joy!

Ready? Set? Sound off in the comments! We’ll leave the comments open until 3:30 on Thursday afternoon (CST) and then we’ll do a random drawing and post the winner at the top of this post later that day. That means you will have a little over 24 hours to enter, so be on the lookout to see if your name appears!

Although I don’t want to assume everyone is on spring break, I would imagine most of you are, so if that’s the case, we so hope you’re enjoying every minute of it. And if you don’t get that luxury, I’m praying the Lord delights you where you’re at and gives you an extra dose of rest.

We love y’all!

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Just So You Know Where the Mama Is

Hey, Darling Things!

I am packing up an overseas suitcase to board a long flight to Sydney tomorrow evening and I just want you to know where your blog mama will be all this time. I’ll be in Australia for two weeks and that is substantially longer than I’m ordinarily away so I thought you might need a heads up. I have the privilege of serving alongside my beloved Priscilla Shirer at the Hillsong Colour Conference for two weekends in a row. (The conference repeats a second weekend for another group of women.) It feels so good to put my head together and plan messages and themes with Priscilla again. We got in that habit with the Deeper Still events and I’ve missed it! Not only does she inspire me. She also gets me tickled. We will also serve with a panel of other speakers that I’ve not had the privilege to meet yet. Priscilla has been several times so she’s a veteran and will teach me the ropes. I am looking so forward to Colour and to gazing upon all those gorgeous faces, alight with the Spirit of Christ. I can hardly believe the trip is finally upon us. Amanda is going with me and we ferociously wanted Melissa to go, too, but she was unable to swing a week of it and was afraid the one week she had would be almost wasted amid the long flights and jet lag. We will miss her like nobody’s business.

Here’s a picture of the brochure and also the Queen who is staring at me 24/7 because she’s caught onto the fact that I’m about to skip town. I would give anything to take her. We have never been apart this long. Don’t you think they’d be blessed by my darling little Dingo?

I still hope to check in with you here and there in a couple of brief posts over the next two weeks but the best way I can probably keep up with you is on Twitter. For those of you who haven’t joined us there yet, our Twitter address is @Siestaville and we have tons of fun on there at times like these when a blog post is harder to make happen. You’ll hear from our Lindsee a number of times in the next two weeks (watch for some fun giveaways!) and Gay’s final supplement will also appear on the blog while I’m gone. I know you’ll be rocked by that. Her contributions over these last couple of months have been priceless.

I will miss you so much but will try to keep up. I am serious when I say that I think of you every single day and you are always on my heart. Hold tight to Jesus and stay in the Word. Please pray us there and pray us home and pray safety and joy and lack of negative drama (I love positive drama) on our family members as we all scatter for two weeks. Curtis will head to Missouri with the children to see his family for Spring Break while we’re gone. He’s a brave man indeed! And please, please pray for the Lord Jesus Christ to fall with enormous power and fiery affection on us at the Colour conferences. We want Him so badly.

When I get back, we’ll start planning Siesta Summer Bible Study. Oh, yes, ma’am, we are having it. We have active blog days ahead! You are so loved here, ladies. So very loved here.

Keep walking the thing out. Jesus is worthy of it.

 

 

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My Sister, Gay’s, 6th Installment out of 7: A Different Street

First Installment: Meet My Sister

Second Installment: The Functioning Years

Third Installment: The Maelstrom

Fourth Installment: Like Sunlight Burning at Midnight

Fifth Installment: Stepping Out On the Water

First, from Beth…

Last week in our staff prayer and devotional time at Living Proof, we talked about restoration. I told them that it had occurred to me afresh that, for the word “restoration” to technically (or perhaps literally) apply, something had to have been lost that was re-found. I, then, asked if any of them wanted to share examples. For the next fifteen minutes we got tears in our eyes over one story after another and also erupted into raucous applause. It was such a powerful time. I know my coworkers well but, with the theme of restoration re-framed in its most technical sense, so much sounded brand new. I have no bigger personal testimony of restoration from the last five years of my life than that of my own beloved big sister. Someone asked me a few days ago how often I talk to her. I shrugged my shoulders, looked at the person a little blankly and said, “All the time!” We are in touch in one form or another – text, email, or phone – all the time. Or without such generalizations: most weeks, multiple times a week. Just like we used to be. (Not just when we were growing up, but when we were young wives and young mothers.) It is a miracle. And not one I have taken for granted for a single second yet. Gay and I tried hard to hold onto one another through the years she described. Never think for a moment that we gave up easily. Life’s just really hard at times and circumstances complicated. I had my own trash. My own issues. And even in the midst of them, I missed her terribly and with much turmoil. Anyway, humans prove inadequate saviors and demons prove relentless. On every side. But they did not win. Praise You, merciful L0rd. I love you wildly, Gay. And, because I do, I will now shut up and hand you the microphone.

 

Hi Sisters!!

Praise God, Jesus in Heaven, that in this particular story, my story, we are finally on the road to recovery, right?  Whew!!  As I reread my own words in the last installment about my having to “do something different,” I was reminded of Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson.

Chapter 1:
I walk down the street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I fall in.  I am lost.  I am helpless.  It isn’t my fault.  It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2:
I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I pretend I don’t see it.  I fall in again.  I can’t believe I am in this same place.  But it isn’t my fault.  It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3:
I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I see it is there.  I fall in … it’s a habit … but my eyes are open.  I know where I am. It is my fault.  I get out immediately.

Chapter 4:
I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I walk around it.

Chapter 5:
I walk down a different street.

I love the growth in ALL of the chapters and I am encouraged that each fall I took, although unbeknownst to me at the time, brought me closer to a different street and ultimately closer to God and His perfect will and purpose for my life.  It has been that way stumbling forward as well …

At New Hope I sat with Great Hope in literally hundreds of meetings and as I applied everything to my life and situation, there were two things that I heard loud and clear.  I heard that if I wanted to stay sober I must be willing to go to any length and I heard that I must enlarge my spiritual life, heavy on the must.  Without those two ingredients, I would surely fail and I was not about failing, not THIS TIME.  To fail was to die or wish I was dead.  At this point, neither was acceptable!  I had committed my life to God and although my freedom from the bondage of addiction had come divinely from AA and the 12 Steps, I had a yearning within my heart to return to the Jesus of my childhood.  I had an unquenchable thirst to know more of this God who had saved me from underneath the bridge.  I had MET Him there and had grown closer to him as the chains of addiction fell but, like a good addict, I wanted MORE!!  When I had gotten to New Hope just weeks before, I could barely form a thought much less a sentence.  I was so sick and tired and broken in all ways, not just physically.  Through the fog though, wafted a scripture that Beth had given me during my first stay in treatment years before.  I couldn’t even begin to quote it but I remembered that it was a promise of hope and a future.  As soon as I could get a Bible, I flew across the pages of Jeremiah and rested on what became my signature verse, my mantra.  I ate, lived and breathed these words.  Man shall not live on bread alone …

 

Jeremiah 29:11-14
New International Version (NIV)

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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

At 5-1/2 months of sobriety (wow!), I moved to a beautiful, well-established, highly-respected transitional living facility called The Women’s Home.  Ladies, I was 54 years old when I walked off the street on that sunlit night in April 2009 and I had lost everything.  I not only needed sobriety and a whole lot of God in my life, I needed to recreate my life and I could not do it alone.  The Women’s Home is an 18-month, whole life (emotional/mental, physical, fiscal, social, vocational and spiritual), 3-phase residential (dormitory, transitional housing, independent living) program and it gave me a new life.  As I dealt emotionally with leaving New Hope where so many miracles had happened that I don’t have enough space to list them all, I knew that God was leading me elsewhere.  I could feel His warm favor at what I had done in response to His call at New Hope and I could feel it as I continued to step outside my comfort zone onto the living water of faith.  I was not afraid.  Not one bit.  I was able to work through such issues as divorce, loss of family unit, childhood trauma, grief, guilt and immense shame through group and individual therapy and lots more step work!  Although sobriety remained my number one priority, I was able to delve deeper into what had made me what I became — what the “father of lies” (John 8:44) had pampered and watered and nurtured for a half a century, trying his level best to bring me down.

But God …

I arrived at The Women’s Home on Monday, October 5, 2009, and as I was also on a mission to enlarge my spiritual life, I got on the church van the following Saturday night like a first-grader waiting for the bright yellow school bus on the first day of school.  Remember I had been “raised up” in AA and I had a deep love and respect for the steps and the fellowship.  I was not too keen on abandoning what had “brung me,” as my Nanny used to say, and just diving off into Bible study!!  (That would come later.)  I had prayed many times something like this, “Lord, can’t we put the two of those together somehow, You and me?  I need the steps in my life but I need Your Word in my life too.  Please God.”  I stepped off the church van and walked through the doors of a very unique, yet warmly comfortable and inviting “church,” or better yet “community,” so appropriately named Mercy Street.  It was held in a traditional Methodist church yet the hallway was hustling and bustling like no church hallway I had ever been in before.  I can barely describe it!  Maybe it was what was going on inside of me; maybe it was both.  First of all, NO ONE was dressed in their Sunday best; quite the contrary, everyone had on jeans and shorts and flip-flops (it was too hot yet for leather!), some sporting Harley Davidson shirts and some baring the most beautiful tattoo art I’ve ever seen, although modestly dressed.  They, or should I say we, weren’t all like this.  There were the Nancy Wilfongs too — actually there is but one Nancy Wilfong.  Nancy is the epitome of the traditional church lady all the way from her beautifully salon-coiffed do, not a hair out of place, to the tip of her pedicured toes. She has a smile as big as Texas and sits happily on about the 10th row of Mercy Street every Saturday night without fail with all the rest of us ragamuffins.  I think there must be some ragamuffin in Nancy somewhere.  I think there is some ragamuffin in ALL OF US.  We are all in such need of God’s grace, aren’t we?  In need of His mercy.  I was just right comfortable at this place called Mercy Street.

I browsed through the bookstore and spied a daily meditation book entitled Breaking Free Day By Day which was written by my first favorite author whom I had just spoken with for the first time in over a year just a few days prior to that.  The wounds that I had gouged during The Maelstrom were more than my family could bear and they had the same fears that I had, that I would REPEAT yet again.  They had not been on this journey with me this time thus far.  They had not seen me do something different.  God had a very nice surprise in store for all of my siblings but most especially for my littlest sister with whom I had played Barbies, shared secrets long forgotten, raised children beside, adored and admired as an upcoming leader in women’s ministry while I was bursting with pride yet green with envy. One whom I had also lost in my plunge to the bottom of the pit.  Beth and I had finally talked (major milestone) just 5 days before I was standing at the bookstore cash register with her book in my hand. While I was waiting impatiently to check out, I thumbed through some key chains on a display close to the register.  Hanging on that display was a round key chain with “29 eleven” on it.  Twenty-Nine Eleven, 29-11, Mmmm, 29:11!!!!!  I flipped it over and my MANTRA was on the back of it.  My mantra, nobody else’s mantra (haha), MY MANTRA!!  God’s promise to ME.  I was in the right place.  I knew that without a shred of doubt even before I entered back into the buzzing hallway toward the service.

I found an empty seat close to the back and, although much healed in comparison to what I had been, I still felt a little out-of-place, not quite together, not quite good enough, stained, soiled, UNWORTHY.  The lights soon went down, the band started to play and I heard Richard (but didn’t know his name then) sing to me, “You bring hope to the hopeless and light to those in the darkness and death to life, NOW I’M ALIVE.” And he sang them straight to me and the tears streamed down my face.  Because I was dead and now I’m ALIVE.  I saw people from all walks of life, both rich and poor, more together and broken, black and white, addicted and non-addicted, tattooed and non-blemished, walk up to a microphone and celebrate things that we only whispered about, judged and ridiculed in the church I was raised in.  I saw the pastor’s son celebrate a period of sobriety right there in that room.  I heard people celebrate that they were getting their children back, getting jobs, serving in their communities and STAYING SOBER against all odds.  To this day, Ladies, I still cry during Celebrations because it is Mercy Street at its best.  Because at Mercy Street we have the freedom to be WHO WE ARE, just as we are, past, present and living into our God-given futures.  No frills, just AUTHENTIC.  It’s beautiful.

Gregg Taylor, Mercy Street Pastor (and my sweet, sweet friend) did a sermon that night, or in his words, a Talk entitled “Awake.” It was the first sermon I ever heard Gregg preach and I’ve heard many since but few have impacted me like this one.  God meant for it to be that way.  He meant for it to GET MY ATTENTION, for me to know that I had been delivered by none other than the Deliverer, Jesus Christ, Son of God, and for me to know exactly where He intended for me to enlarge my spiritual life!  Gregg preached that very night on Jeremiah 29:11 and, oddly enough, he preached again on it this last Saturday night just two days ago before I’m writing this installment.  I heard him say that very first night that our wildest imagination cannot fathom the dreams and plans that God has for us.  I heard him say that I am more than they think I am; I am more than I think I am; I am more than I think God thinks I am; I am who God thinks I am, who God says I am!  Since then I heard Gregg say that we humans do not have the capacity to forgive some wounds, that only God has the power to put that forgiveness in our hearts if only we will receive it.  I heard him say that I was created just below the angels and that God loves me with a love that is jealous and furious and shameless.  I heard him say that the greatest display of God’s glory is the human being fully alive. (Quoting Irenaeus) I heard him tell us just a few weeks ago to look around at who was sitting next to us if we wanted to see Jesus.  After all, we are the Body of Christ, this church, this community, are we not?  I kept coming back week after week after week until I believed what I heard and it began to sink in all the way down to my toes.  I heard it and I received it and I saw it in others right there in that very room.  I was home.  I LOVE THIS CHURCH!!!

At Mercy Street we desire to create a safe harbor for the hurt, the lost, and the seeking so that we might experience the radical grace of God.  We believe that our “believing is conditioned by belonging.” We “come to believe” within a relational environment of shared experience.  Our community forms a mosaic of people diverse in our experiences and backgrounds but common in our desire to seek a closer relationship with God and with each other.  Whether you have faith, struggle with your faith or have lost faith, a place like Mercy Street opens its doors to everyone seeking a spiritual roof over their head.  A lot of us are involved in recovery from addictions or bad church experiences, and the stuff of life that has left us bruised, battered or broken.  We believe Jesus is the healer and restorer of our hurt, pain and brokenness and invites us into a safe community where the progress of healing and growth occurs.  Our gatherings are filled with live music, authentic faith journeys and practical messages set in a casual, come as you are environment.  We extend a gift of Christian community to everyone, no matter what faith, religion, addiction, or experience.

I walk down a different street … a street named Mercy.

Thank You, My Jesus.  Amen.
PS from Beth. Many of you unfortunately don’t have access to a church like Mercy Street but any church can learn to extend authentic Biblical love, mercy, and grace even amid our human imperfections and inevitable trials and errors. Churches are not made of bricks and steeples. They are made of people. Any street could become a mercy street if we’re willing to stand on its curb with humble feet, open our arms wide, and welcome wanderers in Jesus’ Name.  There on that “street”, no matter what their background or previous belief, we get to show them the way to the one and only Savior, the living Lord Jesus Christ. May they “taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8

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LifeWay Girls Conference

A week ago I took a flight from Houston to Nashville along with my friends Kelsey and Megan, both juniors in high school, to the LifeWay Girls Conference. Here are a few reasons I was excited for the trip:

1) It was my first visit to Nashville ever. Not sure why it took me so long to get there but after hearing so much about it, I loved it.

2) I got to spend the weekend with some super fun high school girls.

3) My job at LPM is two-fold. Although I do media, my other focus, and for sure more important, is young girls. I’ve been learning all things media lately, so the other half has taken a back seat. To be neck deep in girls ministry all weekend was not only good for my heart, but has my mind spinning in all things girls ministry. Which is a very good thing.

LPM and LifeWay have a good relationship already so to hear from their staff and other girl’s ministers was a total bonus. Why re-invent the wheel when we’re all reaching for the same goal?

LifeWay has hosted this conference for three years now and I am so thankful to LPM for sending me. By the way, LifeWay was a wonderful host. Each and every staff member and the way they loved on the guests was so inviting and loving. It came at just the perfect time as I’m praying through and seeking what young girls ministry looks like at LPM. Young girls are a different in respect to the issues they deal with, but we all need the same Jesus.

Girls, just like women, need authentic relationships, vulnerability, honesty and some good, solid Bible teaching. They can smell a fake a mile away. But at the same time, they’re so self-aware it’s hard to sometimes crack the shell, but certainly not impossible.

My favorite aspect about the conference was the breakout sessions. They had separate sessions you were able to choose from for the leaders and the girls. I attended one called “The Secret Addiction”, which dealt with the issues on girls and pornography, which is another post for another day, but it was very powerful. Another one that really spoke to me was about pressing in and pressing on in ministry, which was all about taking care of yourself and your relationships in ministry. Can you say relevant? How often do people in ministry pour themselves out to the point of exhaustion or worse, burn-out, but never attend to their own soul? I walked away very encouraged, built up and much wiser.

Not only did I benefit from the conference, but the girls did as well. I know for a fact they enjoyed the different breakouts they got to choose from.

I’m not saying I have answers, but I have ideas. I’m asking the Lord to press in and reveal what the next step is. Where do we start? I’m so ready. Have I mentioned before that I dearly love me some young girls? Oh, I do.

The conference ended Saturday evening, so before taking off Sunday morning, we had Saturday night to explore Nashville’s hot spots. After eating some authentic Tennessee BBQ, my friend Heather who lives in Nashville chauffeured us to visit the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It was beautiful and we loved getting to walk around, explore and eat gelato.

It was an excellent weekend. It you’re a girl’s minister, high school girl, or have a high school girl, I’d say it’s worth sending her next year. Let’s get these girls immersed in some Bible study and life-giving, life-saving truths.

One thing I know is true; this generation of girls certainly has my heart and my attention.

Morning worship with Jamie Jamgochian.

My sweet friends Megan and Kelsey. This was Friday night at the main session!

Saturday afternoon during break-time with the girls. I think we were ready to take a nap at this point.

A little Tennessee BBQ. SO good, y’all.

You know you’re spent when you look in your backseat after a long weekend and see this in your backseat driving home from the airport. I love it!

Thank you to both LPM and LifeWay for investing in our weekend. I am so grateful.

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How About a Livestream Devotional Tomorrow? Want to?

It’s been too long, Sweet Things! Let’s hop on line for a livesteam devotional tomorrow at 11:30 AM CST. Want to? I’m hoping to hit many of your lunch hours so it could be a tad more convenient.

This one can be open to anyone so you’re welcome to invite women to join us who aren’t regulars in our community. I’ll look so forward to visiting with you then!

Remember, if you hop on there early: the password is up there while we get set up but it comes down a few minutes before we air.

Here’s the link:   www.livestream.com/livingproofministries

I’m wild about you guys!

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