Thinking About Thinking

Thinking About Thinking from LPV on Vimeo.

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My Deliverer

Some of you may or may not know that before I came on staff at LPM, I was on staff at the church I had grown up at and worked as the Girl’s Ministry Director in our student ministry department. Having worked mainly with middle school and high school girls, our family life pastor asked me if I would consider coming along on the Father Daughter Retreat to share a few of the teaching times, talk to the dads about girls, and spend some time getting to hang out with the girls themselves. I didn’t hesitate to say yes because it sounded like a fun and different opportunity. Because of my yes, I found myself camping out in the wilderness with a bunch of daddies and daughters on spring weekend. Though my ministry mainly focused on the young women in the student ministry, the majority of the girls that attended this retreat were in elementary school. To say I loved meeting some new five-year-old friends is an understatement. When I was student teaching, Kindergarten happened to be my favorite placement. As you well know, they truly say the most hilarious things! Most elementary girls haven’t learned the gift of a mouth filter.

One evening I was given the interesting opportunity to steal the dads and talk just to them about all things girls. What girls need, different developmental stages and especially what these girls need from their dads. After the initial intimidation (because hello, I’m not a dad nor do I have children), I have to say, it was a blast. All of them were on the edge of their seats, pens out taking notes and asking a lot of questions. I felt as though I was preaching to the choir since they were the ones who brought their girls to a daddy-daughter weekend, but I ended up loving it. To this day, I can honestly say this was one of my favorite teaching opportunities.

The last morning of the retreat they invited my dad to the retreat as well so that he could be a part of a Q&A between us and the dads and daughters. They were given the freedom to ask us anything they wanted. Can you say nerve wracking?

I’m not sure what question prompted this, but my dad ended up telling the story of the day I was born. A little side note in case I’ve never mentioned it before, but I was five weeks early and very tiny. The night I was born my mom, thinking she was in labor, went to the hospital only to be sent home. The doctors were convinced she wasn’t in labor and still had some time. My parents were not home long enough to fall asleep before my mom’s water broke and back to the hospital they went.

To make a long story short, once they got my mom settled in her room, the doctors and nurses left to attend to their other patients when all of the sudden my mom exclaimed that I was coming and I was coming now. In sheer panic mode not knowing what to do, my dad called for the doctor, but realized at that moment that I was indeed coming very quickly. He only knew one thing, someone was supposed to catch me and I was not supposed to fall on the floor.

In one single push I was out and after all was said and done, my dad caught and delivered me just as the professionals were arriving.

Of course, I recall none of this, but have heard the story countless times.

This may seem insignificant to you, but I think it is very special, especially in light of Easter Sunday quickly approaching.

My earthly father delivered me into this world, and my heavenly Father delivered me, from me, at the young age of five. I didn’t know then all that Christ would mean to me now, but I did know then that I wanted to spend eternity with Him.

If I desire anything, I desire to make much of Christ. To intentionally live in a way that brings most glory and honor to Him. Do I do this perfectly? Heck no. Does my desire wane from day to day? Absolutely. I didn’t really grasp that until my senior year of high school, but since then, I have known Jesus as my Deliverer from all of my ugly shortcomings and I am ever so grateful. He loves me too much to leave me the way I am, and I can promise you He feels the same way about you.

Though we should daily celebrate our living Savior, in a few short Sundays we will celebrate a risen Savior corporately. He is risen indeed and is very alive and active. I’m proof of His mighty deliverance and sanctification. Christ was delivered over to death so that we might be delivered from death.

People who don’t know Him as a Deliverer will sit beside us on that day and wonder why we marvel at something we cannot even see, but love and worship anyway, simply because we KNOW Him.

They need to see that He has delivered us from eternal separation with Himself.

They need to see that His deliverance has given us a different perspective on suffering.

They need to see that by delivering us, He alone sustains us.

They need to hear that the same God who brought Israel out of bondage after YEARS and YEARS of wandering is still powerful enough to deliver them out of bondage, too.

They need to hear that it is the enemy who oppresses and that it is Jesus who delivers.

They need to hear our testimony of deliverance from that stronghold that held us captive for 30 years now doesn’t have a hold on us.

They need to hear that this Deliverer loves us independent of what we do, but simply because of who we are.

They need to hear that the Deliverer is intimately acquainted with each and every one of us. Mind blowing, really.

I’m not saying we pretend like it is all fun and games and easy. Quite the opposite, actually, becoming more like Christ is the hardest thing ever. It requires a lot of dying to self, something that doesn’t come naturally to me, to you, to any of us. But knowing Christ as your Deliverer is knowing what true peace is. What true love is. What true grace is. What true mercy is. Knowing that He won’t remove all your trials, but He’ll walk with you through them.

This Deliverer? He’s the only One who offers a love that cannot be earned, but rather, is freely given to anyone that will accept it.

I can promise you this, just like my dad knew someone was supposed to catch me and not let me fall, Christ will catch you. He will not let you fall to the floor. Cry out to Him. He’s got you.

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Romans 4:25

“He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” 2 Corinthians 1:10

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

 

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Let’s Have a City Roll-Call!

Ok, Sisters, your replies to the previous post have inspired me to pen this one. As I read through your comments to our walk through the woods, I was stricken with a fresh sense of awe over the lovely grace of God to tie our lives together in Christ from so many different locations. We are a clickstream from a spider web in thousands of ways but this screen can also become a coloring book of connect-the-dots for people who love Jesus. Last night when I did Bibby’s Secret Closet with Annabeth and Jackson, I gave Annabeth one of those CraZArt Spiral Art sets. You know what I’m talking about:

 

Since I talked in the previous post about where I live, lots of your comments referenced your own surroundings. By the time I’d noted the locations of the first six, I practically had a lump in my throat. The gift I gave Annabeth last night popped right back into my mind. Your comments swirled the page like geographical Spiral Art, and of the sacred kind, bright and multicolored. Just take a look at a smattering of them and behold a glimpse of you. Each of these sentences are copied and pasted from comments to the last post that took us on a walk through the country.

 

I live in Guelph, Ontario, Canada and we are just waiting for Spring.

 

I’m here in the Mid Atlantic on the shores of the Delmarva Peninsula where the winter won’t loosen its grip and we still have snow on the ground when we should be about ready to cut grass for the first time this season.


Next time, let’s do a walk in New Zealand!!


I have been out enjoying our Spring weather too because before we know it we will be trapped indoors with the air conditioning
here in Az. (Arizona)


We are still waiting for it here in Ohio—it snowed yesterday!


My family has the privilege of owning a cabin in the NC mountains and it’s a little slice of heaven on earth.
(North Carolina)


Wave surges are shockingly high – my fair Island
will be swallowed up in the storm surges. So thank you for the glimpse of Hope in Spring.. -6 C wind chill feels like -29 just in case we thought we might like to put our face outside tonight… 
(I loved this one because I don’t have a clue where it is but it’s a “fair island” and COLD. Thank you, Iris! You took me there through your words without my even knowing where I’d gone!)


I love long walks in the country, but being from Illinois, I don’t quite have the same scenery you have (and might I say in a whining voice…I also don’t have your TexMex), especially those slithering things (except the black snakes).


l appreciated, being a California girl, all the references to various snakes, and remember the “rattlers” we used to see all the time…now living in Costa Rica, snakes have taken on a whole new meaning: we have some deadly AND aggressive snakes here, not shy, like the rattlers, but snakes that will actually “hunt you down.”


Living on the Portage River for nine years in MI, I experienced lovely spiritual moments: our giant blue heron flying low down the river, a white mother swan swimming down stream with a baby swan on her back, a shy deer family eating apples from under our apple tree. precious moments I’ll treasure now that we are living in the desert in AZ.
(She goes on to identify Fountain Hills, AZ)


Thanks for the refreshment…still feels like winter in PA…longest winter ever!
(Pennsylvania)

Your back woods look alot like mine up here in Central Saskatchewan – except for the fact that we’re still layered in a few feet of snow.


Loved taking this walk with you! I love your wild woods! They remind me of the woods around here in TN
(Tennessee)


AHHH where were those boots last night? We had a black snake on our porch and here in my neck of the woods in Uganda…

 

Come on, somebody! Give the Lord some praise! Is that gorgeous, or what??

So here’s what I want you to do if you feel like participating. Leave a comment telling us where you live and, if you don’t mind, add a description heavy on adjectives so we can picture ourselves there with you. I am looking so forward to this!

I’m so blessed to serve you, Sisters. The beauty of sisterhood in Christ is a work of divine art.  I kept thinking that last week at the Colour Conference in Sydney because my friend, Bobbie Houston, has been so phenomenally used by God to gather a sisterhood of servants around the world to aid the poor, the oppressed, and the abused. We are a part of the same sisterhood because we are also in Christ and called to do some good in this weary world.

What an honor to seek Him with you. Unity is not about lining up on 100 points of doctrine. It’s about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God, born of a virgin, crucified for our sins, raised from the dead, and returning to take His Throne. If that’s what you believe, you’re blood to me. I think sometimes the stuff of unity is all the sweeter to Christ – not when we already see eye-to-eye on all our doctrine but – when we don’t. Sometimes just agreeing that Jesus Christ is Lord is bond enough. When we only agree to love people and walk with people just like us, that’s tantamount to making our goal to become more like ourselves. Ick. Somebody else can have that. I’m trying to figure out how to forget myself, not make a mirror out of every woman of God I see. I want people to sharpen me, to cheer me onward when I’m discouraged or harassed, to make me think, and to keep me growing. A mirror can only make me more like me.  Give this girl a seat by the window and let her capture the features of Christ gathered from the faces of many.

OK, rescue us all before I get sappier. Let’s hear about your locations!

 

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If We Could Walk These Woods Together

I am back from Australia and have a whole week off. See?

That means I’ll take lots of walks in these country woods that I pined for while I was away. If we could walk these woods together, you and I, this is what we’d do:

We might first take one of these…

 

…since bright yellow flecks of smiling sun are blanketing every surface in sight. Negative people might call it pollen but let’s try to be positive. It makes it easier if you will simply agree to see sneezing as cathartic. Use it to get some stuff out of your system. Go ahead and yell out from the gutter of your soul while you sneeze and make yourself heard. Scare somebody. It will do you some good.

We’d then put on our snake boots. What basic black pumps are in the city, snake boots are in the country.  A must, and you wear them with everything including shorts. Before we put them on, let’s have a quick tutorial on which snakes out here are poisonous:

This is a Coral Snake. A bad mama but she’s a pretty thing, isn’t she? Sometimes we find one curled up on our front porch, a fact that I find somewhat unsettling.

This is a Water Moccasin. That’s a bad dude right there and an ugly one at that. We’ll be most careful to watch for him when we’re near the creek.

While our black snakes are not poisonous, they tend to score high on the creepy meter. You sort of have to talk yourself out of a panic attack when you see one because they tend to be impressively large. They’re often right on the dirt road or up the side of an oak tree.

As a bonus for still agreeing to go on our walk, I’ll let you choose which pair of boots you want to wear and I’ll put on the other ones. The camos are most comfortable but let’s just say that no pair of fangs on earth is getting through that steel mesh on the other pair. Those are my rattlesnake boots for the cactus land in West Texas. You can breathe a sigh of relief that we do not have rattlers here in the country. So, which pair do you want?

 

The dogs have already spied us putting on our boots so they are yelping to high heaven at the iron gate in the back yard, begging to be set free. They will race down the path toward the creek like their tails are on fire but Queen Esther, my Border Collie, will come in a distant second to Geli (short for Angelina), Keith’s bird dog. She soars like a greyhound. They love the unabashed joy of the wild as long as they get to come home to the air conditioner, eat a fine supper peppered with people-food, and sleep on giant pillows. A few weeks ago I had them on a walk and nearly fainted dead-into-the-dirt when Geli ran through the brush back onto the path with a coyote right behind her. I’m not making this up. It’s almost like we live in the African bush surrounded by hyenas.

I yelled and waved my arms like a crazy woman. It might have been a good time for cursing which Keith has tried diligently to teach me to do but, as it was, the coyote sauntered off, probably out of embarrassment for me. I have yet to capture a good picture of Queen Esther and Geli romping the path so you’ll have to confine the image to your imagination. Sometimes, however, we have to wait to go outside until a rabbit finishes its breakfast. Why? Because Geli is also hungry for breakfast.

 

We’ll walk on down the path and talk about all sorts of things. These woods are good for that. Trees don’t tattle. If you tend to be bigger on manners than honesty, you’ll probably try to tell me it’s beautiful out here but that might be a stretch except to us. We chose not to manicure these acres so it’s mostly wild and bushy and viney right at eye level but if you’d lift your chin, you’d see oak and pine and sycamore limbs stretching out like everlasting arms over your head. This time of year, you’d also catch a tease of wild dogwoods peeking out like they don’t want anybody but you to know they’re there.

 

You’d have to come soon to catch this little glimpse of Texas Spring because they’ll disappear with the late April heat. We have a little meadow on our walk that sprouts a tiny patch of wild bluebonnets this time of year. Nobody but God planted these. Keith and I discover a few more every year and it delights us to no end.

If you’ll stay alert and wide-eyed, you might get to see a pileated woodpecker swoop overhead like I did yesterday, then you’ll hear all manner of hammering.

Think Woody.

 

We’d probably pass by Jackson and Annabeth’s swing set on our walk.

They love it so much and, when they’re on it, I’m usually somewhere on it with them. If you haven’t been on a swing set in a long time and swung as high as you could, you don’t know what you’re missing. It makes me laugh really hard which makes Annabeth laugh really hard.

While we’re on our walk, we might stroll past our neighbor’s fence and say hi to the donkey he got to keep company with his steer.  Ever since this mischievous little guy wandered up in my yard a month or so ago, I’ve been in love with him. I’ve asked Keith to buy me one but he’s been as stubborn as a mule about it. He says the next thing we knew, that donkey would be up on the couch watching TV with us. This was taken the first time I met him.

 

Come on, now! Just try to tell me he’s not fabulous! We’d then pass around by Big Pops’ and Memmaw’s house and visit their chickens. Big Pops and Memmaw will be sorry that Annabeth and Jackson aren’t with us but the chickens won’t.

 

We’d circle back around to my house by way of this bridge. It is just over a gully but, when it rains a lot as it often does in Houston, it turns into a respectable creek. Jackson and his friends love to look for frogs and tadpoles under here. This bridge is my favorite man-made thing on our property. My man built it for me long before the house went up. I sit on it often just to think about things.

 

We’d then make our way back to my front porch, pull our boots off, and sit on this bench, just the two of us, and talk.

We’d say that the Lord is good and that His love endures forever.

And we’d be right.

I sure love you.

 

 

 

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A Word From our Faith Father

This morning I read this particular portion of scripture out of The Message and it fell on me so afresh that I couldn’t help but share it you with you fine ladies on this Monday morning! I don’t think we should live in the past, but occasionally it’s good to remind ourselves how faithful He’s been in the past so that we can believe Him for the future.  God knows what He’s doing and sometimes, that’s good enough. If I may be a little bold, oftentimes in a blog post we can scan over the scripture references because we’ve read it so many times that we don’t feel the need to waste another second on it, but don’t sit this one out, read it slowly and let it sink into the marrow of your bones. And for the record, you’ll never waste a minute in God’s word, and neither will I. Something I have to preach to myself daily. I pray it encourages your Spirit like it encouraged mine.

 

“That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed. If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it.

This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.

We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”

Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.”

Romans 4:13-25 (The Message)

 

And all the people said amen. I don’t know how your day, your week, your month or your year is going, but rest in the truth that God made and is making all things new and right through Jesus Christ. And that includes us. Our faith. Embrace God. Embrace what He’s doing. Embrace what He has done. Embrace what He is going to do. Whether you’re currently sitting in the valley or perched on a mountain top, “believe the One who brought Jesus to life when conditions were equally hopeless!” If you know Jesus as your personal Savior, rest in knowing that you are set right with God. And if you don’t know Him yet, what better time to take Him up on it than right now? If you’re looking for peace with God and you don’t fully understand what that means, we have a page on our website to help you. Nothing, and I repeat nothing, is too hopeless to redeem!

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Hey, Y’all! It’s Me From Way Down Under

You guys have been so patient with me while I’ve been under a tremendous work load! There comes a time when you just have to put some things on hold – even things that involve people you love – to get as focused as possible to wrap up a project. Since New Year’s Day, I’ve been finishing Children of the Day, teaching a new series on Tuesday nights in Houston, serving at Passion, and at a Women of Faith event called Unwrap the Bible and simultaneously being a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a coworker at LPM. Even recounting it nearly gives me an anxiety attack. I have absolutely no doubt that most of your lives have been just that full. God has been so gracious to us, hasn’t He? He carries us even when we’ve loaded ourselves down in ways He wouldn’t have ordained.

 

I had originally planned to be finished with COTD before the Christmas holidays. I never would have scheduled all that craziness at the same time. God knew what the 18 months surrounding that project would entail and He sustained my family and faithfully carried us through a very rough season. I did the last editorials for COTD on a conference call with LifeWay a week ago Friday, got on a plane with Amanda and Melissa to Sydney on Monday, then got an email two days later from my editor saying that COTD was on its way to the printing press. Thank you, God. Many of you prayed me through and I am so grateful. A writing project going to press brings a very vulnerable feeling. Some of you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been so close to it for so long that you often have no idea if it’s decent writing or makes a whit of sense. All you can know is that you gave it everything you had.

 

And the beautiful side of writing Bible study curriculum is that you have the promise of God that His Word will not return void. At the end of the project, I only allowed myself one question: will the readers be able to say at the turn of the last page that they’d diligently studied 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, whether or not they’d always agreed or embraced each lesson? Because of God’s great faithfulness to bless His Word, I pray so. That is my peace. May God bring a 100-fold harvest to those who end up investing their time and energy in the series.

 

SO, ladies, I am writing you this morning from a hotel room overlooking the gorgeous Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is Sunday evening to you but Monday mid-morning for me and the sun is shimmering on the face of those waters so brilliantly that it’s nearly blinding. I had the privilege to serve at the Hillsong Colour Conference for women that lasted from Thursday evening to Saturday evening then at their main campus last night. I will serve again this coming Thursday through Saturday.

 

Their women’s conference is so well attended each year that they do it over 2 weekends to accommodate the numbers. The weekends are identical in schedule and content but Colour 1 takes place in a large arena then Colour 2 (the very next weekend and a whole new group of women) takes place at their largest church campus here in Sydney. It only takes the first hour of the conference to figure out why 17,000 women flood the venues. The Spirit of God falls so powerfully during worship that you can hardly sing for wanting to cry.

 

You would just love Colour. Women of every age and all sorts. Scads of really young women whose faces are just beginning to come alive with the radiance of Christ. The older women are gorgeously fervent in the Spirit. To say that the atmosphere of worship is lively and spirited is understating it. The name of Jesus is outrageously declared and praised. We sing, we get into the Scriptures, we laugh our heads off, and we get mobilized to meet needs and to fight injustice. It’s a full package and that’s one of the beautiful things about it being 3 days long rather than how we normally schedule events in the States.

 

In between conferences, we get 3 whole play days! Starting today! YAHOO!!!!! I have not had a couple of days off in a row in many months. I’m about to take them and run like there’s no tomorrow. We will start off today being shamelessly predictable: petting kangaroos and koalas. I know, I know. But we just can’t resist it. All we’ll need to top the day off is an Olivia Newton John sighting.

 

I’m still in my pajamas and we’re leaving the hotel in an hour so I better get with it. It feels so good to have touched base with you, Sisters! I have missed you so much! Thank you for your patience with me. We’ve got some busy months ahead on the blog so I hope, to some reasonable degree, we will make up for lost time.

 

I love you!

 

 

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iPhone Dump: Just for Fun

Good morning, lovelies!

We’ve been neck deep in seriousness around here wrapping up Bible study, supporting our dear Beth however possible as she turned in Children of The Day (her new Bible study releasing this summer) for good, and then, putting her on a plane to Sydney, Australia yesterday for the Hillsong Colour Conference. So, between all of that and Women of Faith and Passion, I know we all took a deep breath of relief yesterday. Beth, Amanda and Melissa are traveling together this trip, and as far as I know, they still have a few hours of air travel left. So, join us in praying them safely there with little jet lag? Before Beth left she texted to tell me that she will try her hardest to do a blog post while she’s gone. I told her y’all would do back flips if you got to hear from her, but also to be free and have zero pressure! Some have asked if Beth has completely handed over her blog to me for good, and while I understand that y’all miss her and that tickled me so, I can promise you, she has not. She has just had her hands more than full and WILL be back very soon! So no stress to you whatsoever. I’ll do my best to keep y’all informed and entertained until she returns! But you can take a deep breath and know that all is so well.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve done an iPhone dump, so I thought in honor of Spring Break approaching (or maybe some of you are ON Spring Break) I’d drop a few of my random iPhone pictures on here just for fun. Note: There is no rhyme or reason to these, so don’t read into anything! Laughing.

I don’t know how any of you feel about Brussells Sprouts, but I happen to be a big fan. For me, any meal that includes the brussells is a win. Once I learned how to cook them the right way, I was smitten. So, because I rarely talk cooking with you fine ladies, I’m gonna be brave and post my very simple recipe in case you’re looking for a yum-o veggie dish. This is dedicated to all you rookie chefs, like myself.

Instructions:

1) Cut each sprout in half.
2) Place on baking pan (if you cover that pan with foil before baking them, you eliminate the step of actually having the wash the dish. You’re welcome.)
3) Drizzle the sprouts with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt & pepper.
4) Bake at 375 degrees for seven minutes on one side, while they’re still in the oven flip them over using a spatula, then cook on the other side for another seven mintures or until they’re slighty browned.
5) Enjoy!

I came across this lovely sun flare on a walk a few weeks ago. It was a beautiful day.

I know I’ve introduced you to my love, Ellie. She is my best friend’s little girl, and well, I’m smitten. This was a few weeks ago at lunch when we were doing everything we could to entertain her before we were done eating. She slays me.

This was one Tuesday night before Bible study, Nancy’s daughter Sara was finishing her dinner so we took it as a chance to snap a photo. Sara is loved around LPM!

Watching the sunrise is one of the benefits of having to be at church super early on Sundays when I serve.

One day a couple of weeks ago all of those Art History classes I took in school paid off when I took a visit to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. For once in my life, though I appreciate art, I was captivated by it.

For those of you who live in Texas, you know you’re looking at a Texas staple, the one and only Whataburger. Until now, I’ve grown up in Texas without ordering an actual burger from Whataburger. What can I say, I’m a chicken finger and gravy kind of girl. Since this news sent people swirling, I ordered myself a burger one late evening for dinner and documented the blessed event. Is it safe to admit here that it was okay? Laughing.

I recently moved and as you now know my love of sunsets, this was the last sunset outside my balcony before completely evacuating. It was a gift.

The next morning, this was the cloud structure. I had never seen clouds in the shape of a rainbow until that moment.

On one of our “wintry weather” days in January, I realized that my lunch resembled that of a five-year-old. Impressed?

On that same chilly day when a cup of ice nearly shut the entire city of Houston down, my family from Colorado texted us this picture of their backyard. Yeah, that’s not Houston. If only.

I happened to be the last one left in the apartment. I immediately inserted myself into the very last episode of “Friends” as I bid farewell to my home of three and a half years. Except for my friends weren’t there. Wah, wah.

Anybody have a good green smoothie recipe they’re dying to share? I’ll receive it! I’m on a kick right now!

Right before we left Tuesday evening, our staff snapped a quick picture before heading out. Our dear friend, Mark, who is WORKER EXTRAORDINAIRE popped in there with us so very confidently. We love him so much. Such a servant.

This is the part of the post where I talk about the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Because I’m feeling very wordy and passionate today, this might be the unabridged version. If perhaps you’re weary of my randomness, you might choose to bow out quietly right now. If not, well, here goes ALL MY WORDS on the Houston Rodeo.

Meet my friend Leslie. This is Leslie enjoying a Fried Snickers at the carnival. Behind her you can see a tiny glimpse of all things fried you can eat at the rodeo. For instance, a fried twinkie, or maybe you’re more into fried cheese cake? How about fried nutella, or fried oreos? Take your pick. The world is yours.

Welcome to the petting zoo at the livestock show. Also known as Farm Animal Palooza.

Enter: Lindsee. Note: I don’t do well in petting zoos. Is that obvious? And please take note of the goat behind me trying to fish for food.

Warming up. (Notice my hand isn’t actually TOUCHING the sheep.)

Ahhhh. My new BFF. I MEAN LOOK AT ME SITTING (SQUATTING) WITH THE FARM ANIMALS. Leslie + Lindsee + A sheep and a Pigmy Goat = Best friends forever.

Can we talk about the pregnant Pot Bellied Pig? Do you feel sorry for her? Because I do. She needs to be laying in a corner preparing to give birth. THAT LOOKS PAINFUL. Poor mama.

And here is the baby kangaroo in a mock pouch. I honestly thought it was too cute for words.

Meet my new obsession, the pigmy goat! Have y’all heard of such a thing? Oh my word I wanted to take him home and put him in my pocket.

K-Mac and the pigmy.

And lastly, the Houston Rodeo. Before the concert starts later in the evening, the bull riding, muttin’ busting, horse races and all things exciting take place. Honestly, in March, there’s no place like the Houston Rodeo. It’s the best!

It’s been a year of firsts for yours truly. I went to my first Houston Rocket’s game on Friday night and can SOMEBODY TELL ME WHY I’VE WAITED SO LONG TO GO? It was such a blast! And we won!

Well, folks. You’ve endured the longest, most random post ever. You’re the best.

If you don’t mind, be thinking and praying for Beth and her girls while they’re Down Under! I’ll keep y’all as updated as possible. Much love!

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A Journey Through Bible Study

A little over ten years ago, Tuesday nights quickly became one of my favorite nights. You see, ten years ago it was the fall of 2003 and I was a freshman in college. I was living at home while attending a community college. It was that year that my mom suggested I come with her to Tuesday night Bible study just to see if it was something I’d be interested in attending that year. Being that it was Bible study and being new in my own pursuit of Christ, though I’d grown up in church, I knew I had nothing to lose so I went. That Tuesday night I was introduced to my first Beth Moore Bible study and from then, I’ve never loved the Word of God more or studied it for myself more.

Yes, I’d grown up in a wonderful, Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church, but that semester the Word jumped off the pages and came alive to me. That Fall Beth was re-taping Living Beyond Yourself and I sat up on the left-hand stairs near the top of Houston’s First Baptist Church. (Well, my left, her right.) I’d never, in all my years in church, seen somebody teach with such passion and authority. Needless to say, it was contagious. So contagious, in fact, that I went home and devoured my homework. I did it at night propped up in my bed because let’s be honest, I had no interest in setting aside an hour each morning, but that worked really well for me. The homework became so addicting that when all was said and done, I was so sad it was over. I can honestly say that in 18 years of being in church, that was the first Bible study I’d ever finished. To this day, Living Beyond Yourself still continues to be my favorite Bible study of all. It marked such a sweet season in my life. One that I hope I never forget.

That semester started my love affair with not only Bible study, but also Tuesday nights.

The next spring we did When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. For a girl that grew up in church, it was both tough and incredibly eye-opening. And let’s be honest, I needed it just as much as anybody else in that room.

There were many Tuesday nights that I went to see dear Beth. For me, she so held my attention and captivated me. I wanted what she had, and frankly, I was drawn to her spirit. Yes, I wanted to hear a Word, but I loved that she made me laugh and love Jesus all at the same time. I’m not sure that’s not how God ordains things. As we are babies in our walk with Him, He plants people in our path to point us to Him. For me, she was that person, among a handful of other ladies. Eventually I stopped depending on her and started to study the scriptures on my own and wanted Christ Himself. Her in-depth Bible studies are still unmatched to this day and I still hold her to the highest regard and my respect for her has only grown as the years have passed. In as much as she’s still very much a spiritual mentor to me, I’ve matured with time, thank you, Lord. I know that what she’s after, women falling in love with Jesus through the study of His Word, I am living proof. And yet I’m just one of thousands she’s so graciously and passionately pointed to Jesus.

After my year at community college ended, I knew I’d be leaving Houston, at least temporarily, and the thought of missing Bible study made me sad. But isn’t it just like God that, after arriving in my new hometown, He sent another Bible study to me? In fact, Truth, what the gathering was called, was on Tuesday nights and we were gifted that four years with one of the most powerful pastors and Bible teachers I’ve ever had the joy of sitting under. It was in that study during those four years where I learned to serve behind the scenes, work with my hands and pray that the Lord would bring salvation to our campus. It was there that the Lord did a lot of surgery in my heart. Moments of surrender I still haven’t forgotten.

When I graduated I was sick that I’d no longer be able to go to Truth. I shed tears and grieved the loss of one of my favorite Bible studies, but then it dawned on me that I had Beth’s Tuesday night Bible study to attend again. Oh, the excitement!

That first semester I came home we did Breaking Free. Since I was student teaching and was still technically a full time student, the homework overwhelmed me and I didn’t even attempt it. Some might say I cheated, but the meat I received every week was enough to chew on throughout my crazy weeks at that time.

Then came LIT. Can we just give Him some praise for that class? To this day I still have my LIT binder and refer to my notes. LIT was a one-semester study offered to 250 young women my age, focused on how to study God’s Word. We met in the fellowship hall while they were remodeling the main sanctuary. For those of us that have never attended seminary, but have thought about it, this was the place to be, taught by both Beth and her daughter Melissa. It was such a rare opportunity that I didn’t take it for granted one minute. And I still don’t.

Since then we’ve studied The Inheritance, Revelation, David: A Heart Like His, James, The Law of Love, Children of the Day and just this semester, Breath: The Life of God in Us, a study on the Holy Spirit. And through all that, Tuesday nights have still continued to be my favorite nights.

Over the years my intentions changed. Where as before I went to see Beth, now I go to hear a Word from my God. And when I go expecting to hear a Word from Him, He always comes through. Because He’ll come through anyway, willing heart or not.

And most obvious, over the years, my position in Bible study has changed. Or rather, my job has changed. For years my mom and I had a little date on Tuesday nights. On our way to the church we’d grab Wendy’s, would arrive around 6:15, take our seats near the balcony with friends and when Bible study was over, we’d let the traffic die down a bit then head out. To us, it became like a little church service, getting to hug, worship and study along with so many of our sweet friends.

Little did I know that would all change very quickly. One semester, I think during The Inheritance study, Beth called all the young women, 25 and under, down to the altar to pray over us. I hesitantly walked down to the front and knelt as she paced the stage, arm stretched out and prayed the house down over our lives. At one point I looked up and she and I made eye contact at the exact moment when she uttered something to the effect of, “Lord, fulfill your calling in each of these young women.” Nothing profound, but I received it.

Through a series of events over the next year, God would fulfill part of my calling by bringing me to LPM. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know for such a time as this He is using LPM as an avenue to fulfill what He’s called me to do.

With that change came a shift in my Tuesday night ritual. No longer would I waltz in at 6:15 and gracefully walk to my seat for worship. Now I had a spot on the very front row (truly a spot I would never choose for myself) and I would be one of the first at the church (think 1:30) with our Tuesday night coordinator, Jenn. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was my greatest joy and honor to serve Jesus and support Beth alongside my new coworkers.

Last night as Beth walked up on the platform, I took my seat on that beloved front row one last time. She gave an incredibly powerful word on the Holy Spirit, commissioned the ladies to go out and live a life worthy of Jesus and in a step of sacrificial obedience, and said goodbye to Tuesday night Bible study as we know it at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

Just this morning I asked her if she’d rather me leave that out, but she gave me the freedom and blessing to make it known here as well. You may or may not remember the blog post she wrote on January 1st. If not, you can read it here.  This is just the first step of obedience for her, for her family, for LPM. Last night she mentioned that she’s spent 29 years in that beloved church teaching the scriptures. That is some loyalty and faithfulness if I’ve ever seen it. As she wrapped up our series last night, we prayed for that church, that the pastor and his wife, Gregg and Kelly Matte. And in return, they blessed her to go with MUCH joy and blessing.

In the end it’s certainly not about me, I am just ONE that has been deeply impacted, we all have our own Bible study story. It’s not about Beth as faithfully as she’s poured out and served. It’s not about a specific church. It’s about Jesus. He’s the common bond between young and old, different denominations, statuses and everything else in between. And she’s going with Jesus, wherever He leads her. We’re going with Jesus. And if there were one thing we’d encourage you to do, it would be to go with Jesus!

Here are a few sweet pictures from last night.

Pastor Gregg Matte and his wife Kelly, and Houston’s First Baptist blessing Beth with this amazing hand-made wooden shield of faith.

And here is Beth blessing the church in return for opening their doors to her for nearly three decades. This was right before we prayed over them.

Pouring out our praises to Jesus one last time through worship.

Thank you, Lord, for breathing life and revelation into our beloved teacher year in and year out. You are faithful.

Our amazing team of volunteers! Thank you so much for your faithful service. We love y’all dearly.

 Jesus, you are so good, so faithful and so worthy. We love you. Teach us to love you more. To follow you wherever you lead. We’re going with YOU!

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Time to Testify!

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Philippians 4:8 (The Message)

I woke up this morning grateful for all the good I see God doing in and around me. This past weekend Beth spoke at Women of Faith here in Houston and on Friday night, we as a staff worked the product table. It was kind of a rush because women are hungry for truth and that alone is thrilling! Having never worked the product table here at LPM, I was really encouraged by the ladies (of ALL different ages), who came to the table having never heard of So Long, Insecurity or even Beth herself! They had so many questions; to be able to introduce her to them through her resources, and to offer them something you yourself really believe in as well…easy.

All that to say, when there was a lull at the table while the worship and teaching was going on, I had the privilege of going in to hear Kari Jobe lead my new favorite song, Forever. (Go search “Forever (Live)” on iTunes by Kari Jobe and be blown away. You’re welcome.) While we were singing, my coworker Sherry looked over and whispered to me, “After being at Passion last weekend with thousands of college students, and now being in this room with thousands of women, it is mind blowing.” And it really is.  How do we get to be witnesses to such extravagance? I have thought about that so much these past few days. The fact that two weekends in a row I got to hear thousands proclaim the name of Jesus, sing His name loud and proud, and study His word. That, my friends, is good.

Here’s a little glimpse into Friday night.

On the flip side, I also know and see the awful happening all around us, the heartbreaks, the evil, the ugly so I’m not naive enough to think or believe that we all live in a happy-go-lucky bubble. But for the time I got to experience His goodness, I’m going to receive that and dwell on that.

Since we are called to witness to Jesus Christ and what He’s done for us despite our sinful selves, can we just bear witness today on the blog? Can we take a day to proclaim the good things He’s done? The good things we see going on around us? Like Philippians so beautifully paints, can we fill our minds and meditate on “things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”?

In the comments, let’s encourage one another today! Write down one good thing you’ve witnessed recently. One good thing the Lord has done in you, through you, through your family or friends, corporately or privately. Jesus isn’t just good because of the good things He does for us, that’s not only why we praise Him, but we have full permission to praise Him for those things regardless. And He deserves the praise anyway!

So, let’s make it easy and just testify today! Testify to His goodness, His mercy, His grace, His redeeming love, His power, His Spirit! Whatever it is, we want to testify with you!

Side Note: Our dear Beth who I know y’all miss hearing from is trying, by God’s grace, to finish writing her new Bible study by the end of this week! It’s been an eighteen month journey that is coming to an end, so now is the time to persevere. Along with writing, we’ve had Tuesday night Bible study and Passion and Women of Faith, which is why she’s been quieter as of late. So, know that she sends her hello! You would not waste a prayer on her right now. That lady pours herself out in the name of Jesus more than anyone I know.

We love y’all dearly. Let’s hear your praises!

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Stunned. Seared. Sent.

Stunned by God.

Seared by His grace and mercy.

Sent to proclaim who He is and what He’s done.

Those are the three words Louie Giglio ended Passion 2014 with this past weekend and it was so appropriate. After 17 years of Passion conferences, I’m always stunned by the way Louie can wrap up the weekend and tie everything together. I think it’s safe to say Houston was given a double portion of the Spirit this weekend. I am just one that is so grateful Passion 2014 landed here this year. Our city has so much darkness, and this weekend brought so much light. If you were anywhere near downtown Friday or Saturday there is no doubt you were overwhelmed by a sea of college students. I was always encouraged when I would hear from either the door holders (what Passion refers to as their volunteers) or the Toyota Center staff that this group was so easy to serve because they were kind and polite. Thank you, Jesus! Kindness goes so far and speaks volumes.

In all reality, it’s really hard to sum up Passion in one blog post. In fact, I’ve been writing this particular post since Monday morning and I still can’t seem to get my thoughts clear enough to write anything worthwhile. When you get the rare opportunity to sit under teachings like Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, Judah Smith and our personal favorite, Beth Moore and on top of that worship with Christy Nockels, Matt Redman, Hillsong, Chris Tomlin and many more you walk away a little slack jawed. But more importantly, when you get to sit in the presence of God and soak Him up, you are left speechless.

It all began Friday evening when the girls arrived at the hotel to get their room key and a little treat. (Did I mention Passion started on Valentine’s Day? Perfect. Every girl needs a little something. So we did the best we could to deliver. Honestly, things like this make me so happy.)

Once all the girls arrived we found a corner in the hotel to huddle at and scarf down pizza. That’s when I learned that every girl we were taking had never been to Passion. This would be their first time and that made me both undeniably happy and anxious. (We all assume everyone would love Passion, but WHAT IN THE WORLD IF THEY DON’T?!)

Soon after that we hiked 12 miles (I may be exaggerating JUST a little) to the Toyota Center and promptly found our seats. (I have to give a shout out to Passion at this point for reserving us seats. Thank you doesn’t cut it! We are so grateful and the caused our stress level to decrease majorly!) Once Passion began, though I was in the mood to worship, I couldn’t pry my eyes off of our girls. I wanted to experience it for the first time all over again and I loved watching as each of them just stood there wided eyed and bushy tailed. If you’ve never been, the conference is the epitome of overstimulating, in the best way possible.

From that moment until 11:00 Saturday night we worshiped, sat and listened to the amazing speakers while taking notes, walked a million miles, asked the girls what they were thinking when we had two minutes of free time and slept all of eight hours all weekend. It was 24 hours of non-stop excitment. So much so that I woke up on Sunday morning feeling as if I’d run a marathon.

I think my favorite moment was getting to hear Hillsong lead Oceans. I get chill bumps just thinking about it because, y’all, oh my word. It was a sacred moment I won’t soon forget. Not to mention hearing 17,000 students singing the lyrics, Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith would be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior! Yes and amen, Lord. Let that continue to be the cry of their hearts; of my heart.

Something that will be seared in my memory forever is that as we were walking back to our hotel Saturday night after Passion ended, I watched countless college students minister to the homeless. It was a beautiful sight. Food was being given, conversation casually taking place and prayers being offered. The love of God is what compels and if we’re not getting that after something like Passion, then we are doing something wrong! I will never forget that.

Since I feel like I’m stumbling over my words and not making a ton of sense, I’ll leave you with some pictures from the weekend! Because usually when words fail, pictures and hugs are the next best thing.

Friday morning walking around downtown getting all things situated and ready for the girls and this made me so happy. Welcome to Houston, Passion!

And so did this! Just a sneak peak of Downtown Houston looking out from the Toyota Center.

Our group of girls walking on Friday night to the Toyota Center! Such excitement in their smiles!

Welcome to Passion!

Waiting in line to get into the Toyota Center Friday night.

Finally in and seated! Thank you, Lord!

My dear partners this weekend, also known as my coworkers. There is no way I could have hosted 15 girls alone! I’m so thankful for coworkers that become fun friends to serve with! Thank you, Jenn and Sherry, for giving up your weekend for these girls! I love you forever!

Just a glimpse of Oceans being sung.

Saturday morning we got to the Toyota Center in time to take a picture in front of the End It Movement X. This isn’t just for kicks, I am praying that some of these girls would be called to fight the darkness of slavery, in Jesus’ name. That is no small calling. One thing I do know for sure, we are all called to get on our knees and pray!

A few of our girls eating lunch in the sun! It felt so good.

Our beloved Beth BRINGING IT.

The four Moore’s after Beth taught her heart out. We join them in applauding her and saying, “Well done, faithful servant!” Isn’t this picture so great?

Something else that is really fun for you all to see is Beth getting to run into Jack Cottrell, also known as Travis Cottrell Jr. Is that so fun?! I wish I could have heard about Passion from his perspective.

Jenn, Sherry and myself as we were about to start the last session. At this point we were so tired we were delirious and would pretty much laugh at anything.

Thank you, Passion, for coming to Houston and taking a risk on us. We cannot wait to see you next year!

Thank you, Lord, for all you’re doing and all you continue to do in and through us. We are not worthy. But you, Jesus, are stunning.

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