Monday, November 10, 2014

Remember, remember, remember

It is easy to forget. Too easy.

It’s even easier to look the other way. And act like nothing outside of our own little worlds is happening.

We have all done it. Flipped the channel on the tv to see starving children in Africa. Quickly changed the channel as that is not something I want to see right now. What about the starving pets in the world? I’m not an animal person but even that gets to me. Cue the sad music, the hungry people/dogs, a narrator with a deep voice….give your money to stop the hunger.

I am guilty as charged. Change the channel, flip the station, ignore the ads. To think of others is sometimes a bother to our personal agenda.

On our recent trip a friend recommended this sermon: And IT HAS MESSED ME UP AGAIN. It’s an hour long, but God will use it in your life to renew your love for people. I needed that.

It is easy for me to plan and organize a trip and then get caught up in all the logistics. But, that’s not what Jesus taught us. He showed us how to love like He loves.

Do we truly care that children are being abused verbally, physically and sexually every day? Do I cry for the women who are sold into prostitution in my nation? Do you mourn for the lost of the world?

If your answer is no, and my answer to that question has been “no” during multiple seasons in my life, what do you do?

First, we pray that God would give us a heart for His people. Pray specifically for a love that can only come from Him.

Second, find out the name of a person who is suffering. Print a picture of the person and begin to seek the Father on her behalf. Knowing a name makes it hard to forget the situation.

Third, go. Go to the people who are dying to hear the Gospel and those who are suffering daily. Hold the hurt child, share the Gospel with the lost, listen to the dying….

Please don’t forget. They need you to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Monday, November 3, 2014

But God....

Yesterday was orphan Sunday in churches across the United States. I almost forgot. It’s easy to forget these days. With the schedule of a ministry, five kids and homeschool, I forget my name sometimes.

It has been almost 7 years since we brought Jett home and almost 4 for Zeke and Elly. I barely catch a glimpse of our lives before them. It was a good life. Two girls who were compliant, obedient, peaceful (most days)….life was just fine.

But God……in all of His wisdom and knowledge, had a different plan for our family that called for great sacrifice and a roller coaster ride of emotions that we were clearly not cut out for.

But God….robed in power and majesty, chose three children from around the globe to weave into our family in such a way that only He could get the glory.

But God….full of grace and mercy, knew that our lives didn’t reflect His enduring love to the extent necessary and changed that.

I look back and see lives full of ourselves. There were six years where the world revolved around JT and me. We ate what we wanted when we wanted. We went to the bathroom by ourselves, and our house was always clean. No chaos. No worries. Serene.

Children change that. God can show you depravity and self-entitlement through a child better than any other avenue!

Marriage showed me the extent of my selfishness. Chlildren showed me how selfless God wanted me to be.

Praise God for the way He has taken us through the journey of adoption to weave our family into His desire. He has taught JT and me more than we ever thought possible about His great love, endurance, patience and joy. It has had moments and years that were dark and hard, but praise His name, there is a Hope that sustains!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Running with an attitude

As soon as our day begins, I can sense the attitudes of our various children. This past week I tried to observe in detail so that I wouldn't miss the lesson for me...

One came down the steps with a smile on her face ready for a good morning hug. The two boys bounded down the steps, skipping every other one, and made their grand entrance. One checked the garbage and threw his hands up in relief that it wasn't in need of being taken out. He celebrates not working. The other begins to set the table and looks like he is still asleep. He sets out 7 napkins but only 6 forks. Some people get vitamins and others do not. I have to remind him several times of some key things he is missing. He gently wakes up during the process. Another kid comes to the table completely exhausted which seems to be a typical day around here. And the final one comes in sucking her thumb and asking to be held. We like to call her "milk it" because she tends to be a bit dramatic to get what she wants.

Their personalities shine through in the early morning hours, and it is easy to see what the day will be like for all of us. Inevitably, someone is not having his/her best day, and we all know it. I want to yell, "If you would just have a good attitude and focus your thoughts eternally, your day would be so much better!" And, God gently reminds me of my stinky attitude even earlier in the day.

Running is going well in that I am doing it. That's about all I can say. My attitude is still in need of some serious adjustment. I tend to think negatively, harshly and just stinkily when I'm running. I want to stop. Quit. Give up. Uugh. It is frustrating and overwhelming. And IF I WOULD JUST FOCUS MY THOUGHTS ON ETERNITY AND THE THINGS OF GOD, my run would go so much better! It's like one of our pastors said a while ago, "I need to preach the Gospel daily to myself lest I forget my need for a Savior!" Oh, how I need to just preach the Gospel to myself and keep going. Pressing on for the prize that lies ahead.

Please join me in refocusing my heart and mind in ways that honor and glorify the Lord above all else. And, if you will, ask the Lord to change my attitude for my good and His great glory!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Bestest Day of My Whole Life


"Yes, Zeke."

"This was the bestest day of my whole life."

Exhaustion had set in as my eyes could only see tail lights of all the traffic ahead. But, my heart? It was full and even overflowing. I could still see every moment of that day as his eyes twinkled and his heart leapt over and over.

As he nestled into his seat and closed his eyes, my mind quickly recalled seeing him for the first time almost 4 years ago. His little head peaked around the corner of a church in Uganda and saw my face. He ran away. He was scared, and I cried for his unknowing little soul.

It didn't take long before he realized that we were going to his "house." And he was going to ride in an automobile for the first time in his life. Climbing into my lap in the front seat, his smile was contagious. He felt the air conditioning and couldn't understand it. Putting one hand up to the vent, he would look at me and laugh. He tried the other hand. Then, his foot. And finally his face. His amazement at the things I thought nothing was mesmerizing.

And it brought me back to this past weekend. Some sweet friends gave us tickets to the Alabama vs. Texas A & M game. JT immediately decided that I should take Zeke. He already had plans to watch Jett play soccer in Gadsden. Knowing how much this little boy (well, maybe not so little anymore) loves football, we rearranged our schedule to make it happen. And boy am I glad we did.

You see, life has not been easy for this kid. He has known hunger. He has walked for miles to carry water. He has been lonely. And there's a lot more. But, for the sake of his tender heart, I'll leave that to him to tell one day. And oh, the stories he will tell. God has given him a past that will show His faithfulness and love for Zeke in a way that only the Lord can.

I got a glimpse of what God is going to do at that game. From the time we walked to the stadium to the moment we got home, he was full of excitement, wonder and enthusiasm like I had never seen. He yelled "Roll Tide" louder than anyone around us, danced to every piece of music played, and shouted for EVERY play of the game. His passion got the attention of everyone around us, and it was pure joy to witness.

While reading and math do not come to him easily, his love for football has allowed us to teach him in ways we have never employed before. Using an Alabama football program has improved his reading dramatically and making word problems about football? That's a winner around here. Using his passion to teach him has changed his mindset about learning. He wants to know more.

We pray that as he grows and begins to play football that God would use Zeke's passion for His great glory. May his love for the game foster opportunities to share about God's greatness in ways we cannot fathom. And may the sparkle in his eyes never diminish as he seeks to serve the Lord through his love of the game.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I Had Only Heard About It.....

I’ve heard about it. I’ve even read about it. And oh, how I’ve dreamed about it. But, I have NEVER experienced it. I’ve wanted to, but it has eluded me time and time again.

One time, JT told me that it happened to him. And I was remarkably jealous. Since that day, I have longed for the same thing, but alas, I have yet to know it.

The runner’s high. Doesn't it even sound delightful. Running in such a way that you are oblivious to how far you are even running. Time seems to stand still.

And maybe I didn’t actually get the full effect, but I definitely got a glimpse of it. And it was good. And glorious. And elusive. And I want it again please.

So, here's the scoop. Yesterday, I ran two miles outside with JT near our YMCA. My calves were still aching from a 10 mile run on Saturday, and I just felt off. I didn’t feel up to par and went to walk the other two inside on the treadmill. Keep in mind that I haven’t been on the treadmill in several weeks and am actually enjoying being outside again. So, I was already feeling defeated and down. I grabbed a towel and stepped on the dreadmill with a great sense of the blahs.

I walked maybe 1/4 of a mile and decided to run just to finish earlier. Who wants to stay on the treadmill longer than necessary? But before I knew it, I had finished two more miles. And I was honestly a little shocked. What caused this? Did the treadmill miscalculate the mileage? Can I not read numbers accurately anymore?

I double-checked my Nike app, the clock on the wall, and the numbers on the treadmill. It was true. I had gone two more miles while thinking I was only at 1/2 mile.

I was watching the replay of a football game which did keep me distracted, but I don’t think that’s it. I have NO idea why it happened, but I am rejoicing that it did.

And now I want it again. Preferably in the form of 26.2 miles in January.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Breathe Deep and Plan On.

A child hanging out laundry. A freezer full of prepared meals. Organized and color-coded school books. A written agenda for the day. Running gear ready to go. What do these things all have in common?

They require a plan and much preparation to come to fruition. Teaching a child to handle laundry does NOT happen overnight. It takes time and patience and training and guidance and about 78,000 reminders. His future wife will thank me, I think.

The meals in the freezer...many ideas, recipes, calculations, shopping, a couple of days of cooking, and much tweaking are necessary to pull this off. It is the planning of these meals that makes most people shy away from the task.

Organization in the school room? Well, I must admit that I am partial to this one. Anything involved organization and color-coding are right up my alley. And, if there is a label-maker involved? Well, I am more excited than a kid in a candy shop with unlimited funds. But, in all seriousness, there is a lot of planning involved just to get to this point with 5 very different children. Trust me.

And finally, that running gear. It is so much more than the picture can even represent. It tells a story of days of running when I have not felt like it one bit. I just want to nestle down in my covers and get some extra sleep. I don't want to get up early and get going. But, the plan requires it.

In a conversation I had today with one of my older girls, I reminded her that her work would show when the time comes. How much effort and time she has put into a particular subject would be obvious in time. And, it's the same way with running. The amount of time and effort I have put into the training will show up on marathon day.

And speaking of the marathon, it is looming large on our horizon. We both feel under-prepared, and so, we are in need of a plan that will help us get past that. We have found one from Runner's World and are trying to make sure that we are getting in long runs of the appropriate length to get us to the marathon in good shape.

Please pray for us as we continue this journey that is seriously depressing at times. It is frustrating and hard. We don't want to do it. But, we know that He who called us to this will accomplish this with His great power. We just have to be obedient!

Monday, September 29, 2014

It is ON.

Vacation is over. Nine days away with the family and friends was fantastic for the soul. Time to laugh and rejuvenate. Not to mention the 5-7 miles of walking every day.

JT and I were able to get a few runs in at our resort. We ran around the Boardwalk to the Swan and Dolphin resorts, The Yacht and Beach Club Resort, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. It was picture perfect in many ways.

But, let’s have an honest confession. I ate whatever I wanted with no regard for marathon training or weight loss or health. And I’m paying the price now.

Exactly the way I feel right now too, Zeke.

So, tomorrow begins the marathon training FOR REAL. And I could use your help. You see, my motivation is severely lacking if not non-existent at the moment. Sure, I don’t want to embarrass myself during the race, and I certainly don’t want to fail. But, neither of those desires is trumping my longing to stay in bed each morning for a little more sleep or to eat whatever is desirable. Uuggh. And I despise that. I wish I felt differently.

But, that’s just it. My feelings can come and go. They wax and wane in ways that I cannot control. And, they cannot control the marathon training.

Training is on. I need some accountability for the next three months. I am craving it. Please feel free to slap those chips out of my hand if you see me at a Mexican restaurant. And, water is all I can drink (anything with sugar does not help my tummy). Running and training are essential to the process…and I have NO desire whatsoever right now. But, I need it, and the discipline will come if I persevere.

Ask me how it’s going. I need you. You are all a vital part of this training. I cannot do this alone. Thank you in advance for making this journey possible!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Will I Survive?

We started 2014 with a countdown to our family vacation...254 days until a trip to Disneyworld. And, now there are only 3 more days until we leave! I wish I could adequately describe the sense of energy and excitement in this house. And oh, the determination we all have to get schoolwork done so well....I could bottle this and sell it. I'd be a millionaire overnight.

Everyone is looking forward to the time away mainly because it means that we don't have to cook one single meal, wash dishes, do schoolwork or do any kind of chores for over a week! This momma needs a break...desperately!

And so, a break it will be. Not from running though. Still gotta log those miles and keep my body preparing for the marathon in January. There will be no off time from that. But, I will be taking a break from my phone and computer. No e-mails, texts, phone calls, etc. I'll be snapping pictures and posting them and using my Disney app to keep me updated on our schedule (as I would forget every single reservation we have), but that's it.

I don't know about you, but I am longing for the days when we didn't know everything about everybody. If I needed to talk to someone, I called his/her house. If that person didn't answer. Well, there was no answering machine or voicemail. Just call back later! I kinda miss those days!

Obviously, I need some time away. And, I'm gladly taking it. I'll be off the radar for about 10 days. I'm sure you will all survive just fine. I know I will.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hitting the Wall...that I built.

My goal was met yesterday as I hit 100 miles for the month. It's never happened before, and it must happen over and over before running the marathon in January. Up until now, the most miles I have run in a month was 87 (and that was just last month)! So, there's a huge part of me that is celebrating that victory. God's grace allowed me to get to that number.

And yet, I am mad at myself. I can't seem to get past the fact that I hit the 100 miles on Friday and didn't run again all weekend. It wasn't that I didn't have the opportunity. I just didn't want to. I hit my goal and I was done. D-O-N-E, done. No desire left to run. Excuses all around...not enough time, out of town, unfamiliar area, goal already met, etc. Nothing within me had one lick of unction to all.

Am I just running to be ready for the marathon in January? If I do some soul searching, then yep, that's the main reason. And, that's not acceptable. It's a lofty goal - yes, I see that. And I must run to achieve it. Yes, I've got that part of the equation. But, I need to run because my body requires it, my Lord has commanded it, and I desire it. Of those choices, none are the reason I am actually running right now. My heart is just not in it at all. My head is DEFINITELY not in it. And, that's the biggest problem.

I am basing my attitude on my feelings. And that will get me into trouble every time. Feelings come and go with time of day, environment, what I ate, and so much more. They are not reliable and must not be the basis of my runs. I must not focus on how I feel during a run because I will quit every single time. No matter when and where I run, I find myself desiring to quit every half mile. I want to stop. I do not want to run.

I have hit a wall...a wall that I built. I am sabotaging myself with my negative thinking, fear of failure and constant worrying about quitting. I realize that running is largely mental, and I am losing that battle right now. I am not sure how to get past this point so I'm recruiting your advice/wisdom/help. What gets you past a wall in your life? How do you cope with negative thoughts that permeate your desire to obey? Through me a rope people....I need you.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Goal in Sight....

Jett running ahead of me in a recent race for Unadopted here in Birmingham.

The goal has been set, and honestly, it has scared me. One hundred miles in a month. With a husband, kids, homeschooling, soccer, helping to run a ministry, piano/voice, co-op classes, teaching a small group, keeping up a home, etc, etc, etc, life is a little busy these days.

In 2012 the most miles I ran in a month was close to 75. I haven’t come close to that until last month when I hit 86. The 100 mile month has eluded me so far, but I will have to do it over and over again in order to train properly for the marathon in January.

And now, it’s within sight. I’m at 81.4 with a week left to go in August. And, I’m fearful. A fear that I will give up. A fear that I just won’t make it.

But, who is the author of that fear? Not the Lord! It’s the enemy who whispers shame and guilt and fear into my life. And I listen…constantly. It is disappointing to say the least. But, the voice of the One who called me to do this is so much greater. It may not be louder some days, but it is clearer, and it is faithful. And, I will trust in His plan.

Please pray that I will be dedicated to the journey He has for me. I give in to my fear of failure too often, and it is embarrassing. It is shameful.

Do you have something God has called you to do? Are you scared? Will you do it anyway?

Let us press on toward the prize that He has set before us. For me, it’s trusting in Him for every step, knowing that He alone will sustain me. Keep my eyes off myself and my feelings…look to Him alone for every single need.

Thank you all for your love, support and encouragement along this path!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Big Mistake and A New Record

Have you ever seen two things that just don't seem to go together? Like a vending machine that sells bait. A beauty shop where you can file your taxes. Burger King selling fish.

I always laugh when I say the opposite ends of a spectrum but things that aren't even in the same category? Those things make me laugh. I have a friend who orders a hamburger at a popular seafood restaurant. Another who gets her nails done at a gas station. I am entertained to say the least.

I guess it's not as funny when it happens to me. As soon as I realize that I hit a new record, I simultaneously encounter a new low. And, I'm not amused.

Last week, I ran six days for a total of 29.9 miles. It's the most I've run in a week EVER. Along with the previous week's mileage of 26.1, my total for the month is now at 56.0. I'm on the way to hitting 100 miles in August...and that's will be a new record! Increasing mileage every week has been hard but necessary for training. God is stretching me in ways I have never encountered, and my prayer life has been at full force. It's amazing how much God brings to mind in an hour long training session!

At the same time, I made several huge mistakes this past weekend....and I write them down to help me remember what NOT to do again and to help anyone else who might be heading down the wrong road:

1. Because of our schedule, we had to run 6 miles early on Saturday OUTSIDE. We've only run 4-6 miles total outside at this point. With the heat and humidity (and the people we are responsible for caring for once we get back home), it's just not a good plan right now. We were soaked, hungry and tired. Way to start the day.
2. We didn't plan our eating and hydration well. We left our home after running to participate in a local run with Unadopted here in Birmingham. Great race and great cause. Poor timing on our parts. We had to run another 3 with the brilliant idea of getting in an additional two after the race. Wonderful concept. Poor judgment. We didn't consume enough carbs or protein or liquid before arriving and were pooped out by mile two.
3. Again, the race was outside which means miles 7,8, and 9 were outside too. That's a big increase to run outside when we've been running inside primarily. Not to mention that we were exhausted at this point.
4. Running after the race was a huge No No with legs that already felt like jelly, a stomach begging to be fed protein and carbs (and there were plenty of those available...but I didn't want to see them again on the trail), and a head that was spinning from the heat and lack of hydration.

So, I got in 10 miles for the day (coming up one mile short of my goal of 11) but it felt like 20. I made some major mistakes (I'm still a rookie, you know), and I am still paying for them. Lessons learned.

I think I'll focus on the new record and just learn from the error of my ways. Maybe you can too!

Monday, August 11, 2014


Not long ago I sat across from a young twenty-something year old beauty who told me a little of her history with the Lord. She had packed up her belongings, said goodbye to her family and planted her life in Africa. She was serving the Lord when He began to convict her about her motives. She moved back home realizing that she had some growing to do. God showed her that her intentions were not pure or holy…instead, they were self-glorifying and self-gratifying and brought the honor and praise to her, not God.

I think we can all relate. Many times our motivation is not God-honoring. So, we must re-examine our foundation often, daily, hourly, every minute!

In light of that, I have found myself frustrated with not being able to run sometimes. And during my quiet times I have gone before the Lord to ask Him to reveal my motivation for running. He has refined me way more than I ever desired or thought I needed in that area….and it has been very good.

Why DO I run?

1. Because God directed us to run. We’ve tried to do many things, but God continually brings us back to running.
2. Running allows us a platform to share our journey for His great glory. We struggle DAILY (sometimes, it’s an every-15-minute-kinda-thing) with our health, and God is most honored when we submit and obey Him.
3. My physical and mental discipline when it comes to health/exercise STINKS. God has stretched me over and over again and taught me to remain focused on Him. Often, God has used physical principles to teach me spiritual truths. Running develops a discipline that I otherwise do not have.
4. Finally, running gives me great alone time with the Lord. God allows me time to meditate on the Word I’ve read that morning or pray specifically for friends/family or on most days, I wrestle through something He is teaching me.

This past week was my first 25+ mileage weeks in over a year. And, it was tough. Again and again, I wanted to quit and just give up. But, God sustained as He always does. When I keep my eyes on His purposes and plans and not on my own inadequacy/weakness, the run continues.

I am hoping for a first ever 100 mileage month….that will be by God’s grace ALONE. I know that I cannot do it. But, He is greater than my insecurities and fear of humiliation. He will accomplish this by His great power. And, my only part is tiny…submission and obedience. It’s the least I can do.

Monday, August 4, 2014

God's Plan A

“It’s just a little walk from here,” she said with a sparkle in her eyes. I already knew that her definition of “little” and mine were quite different. “Shortcut” is another one of her misnomers. I am quite aware of the hike we are about to embark upon.

I step out of the van with nothing but my Bible and a rain jacket. Members of our team are waiting and I can see that they are blissfully ignorant of what lies ahead. With Gladys carrying her youngest baby, Marleni walking with her daughter, Anayeli, and kids running circles around us, we started down a paved path.

Soon the path became gravel-like and took several turns. Like Hansel and Gretel, I wondered if I shouldn’t have thought of leaving a trail of crackers or bread. Directions are not my forte, you know. Talking is less and I hear the huffing of others. I sure am glad I’ve been running lately.

“Right there,” Gladys calls out as we walk past a make-shift fence and a tin door. We stop and run around, making our way through the entrance. Immediately, my eyes shift from side to side to see the ratty conditions of the place but then, I look up. Quickly scanning the landscape I see a house ahead and a steep path above that leading to a shack on the top of the cliff. Somehow, I have a feeling that the summit is where we are headed. Sadly, I was right.

It’s a tiny home (think 250 square feet) with a rigged grill in the front area. A pot of beans is on the coals, and the smoke is wafting out over the sheet covering the door. We are led to the back partitioned bedroom with one full size bed. Light is pouring in the plastic that acts as a wall. Flash cards of sounds hang as decoration on one wall, so someone is learning to read. A picture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus hangs on the cardboard behind the bed…”There’s the starting point,” is what I sensed in my spirit.

We engage in small talk and introductions. The woman is in tears already as she pours out her heart about two sick children (one has a heart condition from birth and the other has been in the hospital lately), a husband who drinks and beats her, no money to feed the kids, and a hope that does not exist in her world.

God has, of course, appointed, Marleni to be on this team, and the similarities in their lives are numerous. You see, God designed a time just a few months ago, when Marleni was pouring out her struggles to a few of us in her home. She has been a faithful Christ-follower for years and has invested in the mission church in Lantana since its inception. With every team she gives of herself and her family to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, her life is not without hardships, and she was crying out to God for His great comfort. Today, she stood in a home where another woman shared a similar story.

Opening God’s Word, I quickly went from one passage to another as the translator rattled off the words. God is holy. Man is sinful. Man is separated from God. He is just. We are dead in our sins. He is gracious. Jesus lived a perfect life, died for us, and rose again. And, all you need to do is STOP….um, what? STOP is clearly what God impresses upon my heart. STOP RIGHT THERE. That’s all you are to do.

I gotta admit that the moment was a little awkward. The problem has been laid out - we are sinful and God is holy. We cannot get to Him because we are a depraved and wicked people. The answer has been shared - Jesus Christ came and lived a life without sin, died a death in our place and was raised from the dead three days later. Silence. Silence. Silence. The translator stares at me with questioning eyes. I just stare back. And then, Marleni’s shirt is my peripheral vision….it hits me like a ton of bricks. She taps me on the back and says, “Ask her if she wants to accept Christ now.” I can’t. It’s not my role to play. The question is Marleni’s to ask. This is why she is on this team.

I have never heard her share the Gospel personally because she often prays while we are reading God’s Word. She steps up and looks at me like a baby wanting to be rescued. She is nervous and shaking and not sure what to say. My mouth is closed…just as it should be.

It was not by accident that Marleni was able to share how a personal relationship with God is possible and how Jesus made the way. She talked about believing in God, knowing what He has done for us, admitting and confessing sins, and accepting His free gift of salvation. Then, she said that the road would not be easy and told of her own struggles with a husband who left her earlier this year. She didn’t dwell there long. Instead, Marleni was able to share how God has brought her great joy and peace during this time. Only God did that. And it was good. And glorious.

Isn’t God’s plan amazing? I stand in awe of how He brought us all together to accomplish His purposes as only He can. Praise His name for His great will and the ways He brings it all to pass.

Monday, July 28, 2014

No Running...

No running for the next week for me…yikes! Just knowing that strikes fear deep within me. My mind immediately anticipates failure. And yet, that is not the case.

You see, I am in Guatemala leading a mission trip team. While sometimes we are able to run in the mornings, it is not a possibility in this particular colonia. So, I have to do strength training, stretching and other cardio (think “standing in place” or “how to use a 3 x 3 square for all of your exercises”) until I can return.

And, I am scared knowing that I will be unable to run for 7 days. I start to ponder how hard it will be to run when I come back, whether or not I will lose any of my endurance and how far behind I will be in training. Well, that’s pessimistic….and honest. The enemy gets a foothold in my thoughts and my mind races with things that do not honor the Lord. That is hard to admit but true. God always reminds me to look back at how far He has brought me. And I remember…again. He is faithful, and He will continue to be so. Praise His name!

Oh, how I wish I could tell you that training has gotten easier but it has not. I dread every single day. Well, that’s not true. I look forward to runs downtown before JT and I hit a local coffee shop for breakfast and then walk around the farmer’s market. Of course, it’s not the running I look forward to but the time with my hubby afterwards!

Although the runs are not any easier, they are progressing. I have just finished 86 miles for the month…that’s the most I’ve ever done in a month. And if I had the extra days of this month to run more, I would’ve hit 100 miles! That will be my goal for August - 100 miles!!! I’ve already built up to 25 miles per week from 15…that’s progress. And longer runs are at 8 miles already!

It’s a daily process of dying to self and surrendering to His plan for my life. I fight, I kick, I scream….and yet, when I obey, I experience great freedom in Him. Just like a child who doesn’t know what’s best, I find myself often questioning the “why” of running every day. At the same time, I am seeing His plan little by little. And I rejoice that He wakes me up each day and gives me another opportunity to honor Him.

So, I challenge you, my friends, to keep obeying. No matter how mundane, monotonous or menial it seems, your obedience is critical to your freedom in Christ. Battle on!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Marathon Cooking

After last week’s marathon cooking day, I had an onslaught of messages requesting more information. And I’m obliging…but let me share a bit of news….this took way more thought than I had the day after cooking. In fact, four days later, I’m typing this. So, marathon cooking can suck the brains right out of your head temporarily. But, you will have plenty of good food to eat while you wait for them to come back to you.

If I had been thinking of writing this while cooking, I probably would have taken some awesome photos. But, I didn’t think of anything except cooking, so you are left to see the end results only. And that is good enough for now…plus, it’s all I can do.

Here goes.

Once upon a time. Wait, wrong story.

First, priorities have to be set. Are you wanting the cheapest? Healthiest? Biggest? Do you like processed foods or whole foods? Do you want to take meals to others and share of your bounty? Decide what is important to you and what you would like first!

Our family wants quality food (very little processed, no added sugar) for the best price possible - the biggest bang for our buck. We’ve done plenty of processed, sugary foods before, and well, that just doesn’t line up with what works well for us. Plus, we love to take meals to other people when they are in need…and taking a meal that’s already cooked is a bonus!

Second and THE MOST IMPORTANT factor is finding a friend to share the duties, costs and meals with….this is critical. It must be a person with a similar sized family (or at least eats the same amount) and like priorities. We have that in our people, Andrew and Lora, who are both excellent in the kitchen. And, they have 7 young ones that range in age from ten to two.

Helpers are essential too. This time, our younger kids (from age 6 to 10) helped quite a bit. And we had 3 teenagers (our two girls and the ministry intern) who also assisted at all times. The more hands that can actually be helpful, the better!

So, all of those factors are critical to the marathon cooking day itself. But, a big portion of the day is made possible by the planning that takes place at least a week in advance. Here’s what we do:

1. Make a plan for what meals are to be cooked. We do this formally - like sitting in Lora and Andrew's living room with coffee in one hand and the Pioneer Woman cookbook in the other. We flip pages and if enough people say “Yum,” we try that. If you are just starting out, take 4-6 meals only and make 4-5 of each one. We prefer The Pioneer Woman’s recipes as they are tried and true and suit our families! For this particular day we made her whiskey-mustard meatballs, meatloaf (oh my word….I think I tried to bite my arm off when I smelled this one), stuffed potatoes, chicken pot pie, corn dog muffins, lasagna roll-ups, and beef stew. We also had cooked chicken, browned ground beef, grilled chicken, chicken stock, enchilada mix (with chicken) and chicken chili. Try a variety of recipes including a pasta, chicken dishes, beef entrees and soups. Check out Lora's site for our grocery list and recipes.

2. Multiply the recipes using an online site to determine how much of each item is needed. On Pioneer Woman’s website, simply click on Print Recipe. A new page will pop up and you can change the serving size to get all new quantities. Fair warning, you will be buying huge amounts of certain things (e.g. 64 cans of northern beans). It is possible to ask your favorite grocery store (aka Publix) to special order large quantities. We always end up with extra grocery items that we just split down the middle (this time we had a couple of items that seemed odd to have remaining. Only after eating the meatballs did we realize that we needed to make more of the whiskey-mustard sauce. Thus, the extra ingredients.)

3. Make a list of items needed. I made this list for us using Numbers and separated items by category. We had columns for each item’s name, quantity needed, any amount either of us had on hand, how much was still needed, who was going to buy it, and who was going to cut/dice/cook it.

4. Then, we shop. Warehouse stores are good for this as they tend to carry items in bulk. However, we also made trips to Publix and Whole Foods. We had chicken and beef already in the freezer that we had previously bought for cheap!

5. Some items that are time consuming are prepared ahead of time. THIS IS HUGE!!! It saves a ton of time on cooking day which ultimately, saves our sanity! We have learned that grilling items, cooking ground beef, dicing veggies, making soups and cooking pasta are time consuming and cut into our cooking day tremendously. So, we divide the list and take a few days ahead of time to do these in the comfort of our own homes and at our own pace. Lora and Andrew cooked all of the potatoes and a few chickens, made chicken stock and cooked all of the beef stew (the most labor-intensive of the meals). We grilled the chicken, cooked some chicken, browned the ground beef (a roaster works wonders here) and made the chicken chili.

6. Everyone needs to bring large mixing bowls, measuring cups, baking sheets, muffin tins, etc. Plus, we have found that we use 3 specific containers - freezer Ziploc bags, quart sized plastic containers with lids (ordered online) and aluminum 1/3 size steam table pans with lids.

7. We pre-make labels for each item…if there are any special instructions for cooking, they are listed on the label. Plus everything tends to look alike after a while, and it’s good to know what’s what in the freezer!

8. Since the marathon cooking day is held at my house (the layout of our kitchen is just more conducive to this), I do not have to pack up all my food or appliances or utensils. Instead, we clear our counters…completely. The dining room table is also wiped clean and plastic table cloths are used to catch most of the mess. The buffet in our dining room acts as the catch all for all bowls, pans and utensils for the day. A small table in our keeping room holds the cleaning supplies, packaging materials, recipes and food labels. Two more small folding tables sit directly under one of our countertops and hold all the canned goods, baking products and spices.

9. An order of the cooking planned is also a necessity! All items requiring the stovetop can’t be made at the same time, one assembly item at a time on the table, and meatballs and meatloaf can’t fit in the oven at the same time (even though we have double ovens, they were jammed packed with one recipe at a time). Stagger items so that something is cooking in the oven (meatballs) while another recipe is being assembled on the table (lasagna rollups) and even another item is cooking on the stove (chicken pot pie).

10. Cooking Day! Wear comfortable shoes and aprons. Have plenty of paper towels, dish towels and hot pads on hand. Also, make a plan for lunch, snacks and drinks during the day. Plenty of paper products helps to make this easier! It was rumored that we had Cream Puffs on our recent marathon day but alas, they left the kitchen to never reappear!

11. We make sure to have a babysitter or two on hand to watch the kids. This time, three little ones played upstairs and all of our “big” girls were able to help as well as most of the kids. They rolled meatballs, stuffed potatoes, filled lasagna noodles, dried dishes, and more….

12. As we cook we just put at least two people on each dish. We spread out and everyone takes what they need from the food and supply areas and cook away. Someone also mans the sink and keeps all of the dishes washed as we go. A runner takes finished items to the freezers downstairs or the iced down coolers.

13. We keep a list of how many of each item is for each family. A dry erase board in the kitchen helps with that! Then, we don’t have to remember numbers at the end of the day! This time each family ended with 4 chicken pot pies, 12 beef stew, 13 chicken chili, 12 ground beef, 4 cooked chicken, 10 grilled chicken, 10 stuffed potatoes, 11 lasagna rollups, 10 meatballs, 7 meatloaves, 4 chicken stock,
13 chicken enchilada mix, and 10 corn dog muffins. At the end of the day, it’s easy to count out each family’s meals and be on our way.

14. Clean up is an all hands on deck kinda deal. Everyone helps to restore order to the kitchen and be sure that everyone has all of their stuff. Normally, we are super exhausted at this point but this week we worked pretty fast and had some energy left since it was only 3:30 in the afternoon (we've gone until late at night before).

While this can seem overwhelming, it is not at all. It is much easier to start by finding a friend who is willing to help! Then, begin with some tried and true recipes. You can even make 3 meals at your house (make 6 of each meal) and have your friend make 3 meals at her house. You would both leave with 18 meals! That’s a great way to introduce yourself to the concept of marathon cooking.

At the end of the day we walked away with over one hundred meals each. That’s one hundred nights that we don’t have to think about our main entree. One hundred nights of avoiding eating out because supper is already determined and ready to go. Marathon cooking also allows us to take meals to other families quickly and easily! Just pull 2 quarts of chicken chili out of the freezer, grab some cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips and bake up some brownies. Done and ready to go!

Marathon cooking takes some planning (it gets much easier as you do it...MUCH easier) and preparation, but it is worth it. We spent about $650 per family which is awesome considering the quality and quantity of food we got. And it provides me with numerous opportunities to display hospitality to others and my own family. Not to mention saving my sanity which is priceless

*The photos above are courtesy of Jett Turner who has a tendency to take lots of photos of unimportant things. In this case, he was simply following my instructions because I didn't have the energy to go down the, there's some honesty.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hiding from God

At least once a month, I get a message or call from another woman who shares my struggle with food and exercise. And I sigh. A big, huffy, deep sigh. Because it is a reminder to me of where I have been and how much further I have to go. It encourages me to recall that my life is not my own. It was bought with a price, and I am not in charge. And aren’t we all glad for that? If I was in charge of me, I would be a wreck. Just looking at back at my poor eating decisions, bent toward laziness and lack of exercise is a good indicator of what a mess I’ve made of my life.

So, I sat across from one of these ladies recently and we commiserated about our unhealthy choices and desire for those things that are not good for us. We are both drawn to sugar and are often tempted by well-meaning friends who say, “A little won’t hurt you,” or “You deserve it.”

Amidst the confession, God was faithful to remind us of His goodness. He used His Word to reveal Himself to us in such a way as to bring conviction, repentance and renewal. Psalm 90:8 says, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” NOTHING we do is hidden from Him. What we eat, how much we eat….He sees it all. We can even fool other people, but not Him.

We both talked about times where we have hidden things. I can remember a time when the girls were younger (old enough to see what was in the trash) and I would hide candy wrappers in the bottom of the garbage can. I didn’t want them to know what I had done. I wanted my choices to be hidden from them. But, the results were obvious….weight gain, no energy, etc. So in essence, I wasn’t fooling anyone.

But we often think that if something is hidden, NO ONE knows about it. They can’t see it so how can they possibly know. Do we really think that God doesn’t know? Have we compartmentalized our lives in such a way that we think we can deceive the Lord? He only sees the good things we do or what we want Him to see?

For many of us, we want people at church or friends who are believers to see the “good” side of us. The part of us that is kind to our husbands and children, the healthy eating, the great exercise, patience, servant leadership….Why? So that others will think highly of us. But, that is WRONG. It is unbiblical. Hebrews 4:13 reminds us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” He knows it all.

And thus, I leave us all with a challenge today. Confess your sins to the Lord. Lay it all bare before Him. Know that He already knows, and He loves you anyway. Do not keep anything from Him.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Changes, Changes Everywhere

With school starting in only four weeks, it seems like the summer has flown by…and it has. Trips to New Mexico and Guatemala, catching fireflies in the evening, swimming, spending time with friends and lots of running have occupied the summer of 2014 for us. And we are grateful. It has been good.

Looking to the next year brings a range of emotions that I haven’t had to deal with in quite a while because change is a-comin’! And change has never been my forte or strength. In fact, I love routine and organization and plans…LOVE them, like hang on tight and never let go love them! But, my passion for those things has been slowly stripped away and I can see that they are often idols in my life. So, change is about to be my middle name…

Our first born child will be heading to college this time next year. I can still remember her as a toddler, strong and determined. I hear her playing hide-and-seek and yelling, “Here me am!” I recall a 9 year old barreling down the stairs in stripes and plaids and polka dots that in no way matched because she wanted to show her independence. And now I see a passionate, artsy, encouraging young woman who is always ready to try something new and loves people.

The next child in line has been sick off and on for a while (it will be two years this September). Though for a while we thought she was struggling with asthma and allergies, we have seen new symptoms lately. And yes, we have tried every single medicine prescribed, herbs, oils, diets, exercise/no exercise, etc. known to mankind. Recently, she underwent some additional testing and had blood work. Thus, we will be seeing a rheumatologist in August and hopefully be headed in the direction of a diagnosis and treatment.

School for the 2014-2015 year will include many changes for our younger three as well. New reading, language arts, Latin and spelling curriculum. What does that mean? It means that Momma has a lot of learning to do! I’m excited for the changes but basically, it means that I’m starting over. And I’m too old to be doing that. But, for the sake of the kids, I don’t really have another choice! With the older two working independently, it just leaves me and the younger kids. So, a new schedule, new curriculum and a new learning curve. We will survive…hopefully.

Do you feel me? I am feeling like life is just up in the air, and I have no control. Which is TRUE. It is true for all of us. We are not in control, and if we think we are, we are fooling ourselves. This life is not our own. It belongs to God and to Him alone. He created us for His purposes. He does not need us but desires to use us FOR His great glory!

I am laying it all down at the feet of the Almighty who is sovereign over all. He is not surprised by my emotions and fears and challenges. He knows them. He loves me, and He wants what is best for me (which generally involves some kind of pain in order to get to where He desires for me to be). So, I hang on for the ride and know that He is trustworthy. He is good, and He is to be praised. Blessed be His name!

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Marathon Looms

Running a half marathon in November of 2012 was one of the most nerve-wracking yet exciting times in my life! God had broken me many months before, and the training had been complete. I laid my clothes out the night before and rehearsed the run in my head. My fears of not finishing or embarrassing myself replayed over and over in my mind. But, God’s faithfulness was even more overwhelming. And it was good.

Fast forward two months later, and Kaitlyn and I ran the Disney Princess 1/2 marathon at Disney. It was a magical time and something I will never forget! Disney knows how to run a race WELL, and we were not disappointed.

Even though we’ve run a few races here and there, our running over the past year has been spotty at best. Just like the Israelites of the Old Testament, I need to be reminded EVERY SINGLE DAY that my body is the temple of the Lord, and it is my responsibility to honor Him with what He has given me.

Thus, He led us to sign up for a marathon in January of 2015. And I can tell you this without hesitation…I am frightened…I am scared…I am anxious. And I don’t think I’m alone, but I could be dead wrong. When I cannot see what is coming, I worry. I allow the enemy to take root at times, and he can sink in deep very quickly. But, the One who is greater always shows Himself to me in His Word. He reminds me that He is faithful. He will sustain. He will bring glory to Himself. All that is required of me is obedience.

Obedience doesn’t show mean running the marathon. Obedience is the daily run…the get up and go run whether you feel like it or not run…the I’m not interested in your excuses run…the mundane…the monotonous..the boring.

For it is in the every day routine that endurance is slowly built. Each step builds a foundation that grows stronger with every run. Every completed run is a stepping stone to a great one that is to come.

So, I run. And sometimes I do it with a great attitude. Other times, my outlook stinks! But, I must continue…and run..and run some more. For the prize is out of sight right now, but each day brings it closer…and closer…and closer.

Monday, June 23, 2014

When Life Stinks!

When was the last time you had a week that just stunk? It was hard. It was exhausting. You were done. Finished. No more.

Obviously from the question you can tell that I had one of those weeks. It was a doozy. And I have a tendency to get down and out when things are overwhelming. I was biding my time each day until the littles went to bed.

Without JT, things get rough. And the younger kids thought they would pick this past week to act out accordingly. How thoughtful of them.

There were a myriad of things that went wrong…dead wrong…all week long. And I thought about praying those psalms where David is crying out to the Lord to kill his enemies. Only my enemies were loads of laundry, a worrying mind (my own), the absence of my husband, a constantly sick kiddo and several little people who shall remain nameless. I decided not to go the “kill my enemies” route.

Instead, God reminded me of His Sovereignty in His Word. As we are reading through Deuteronomy, we hear Moses remind the people OVER and OVER and OVER again about God’s rules and commands for them. It is a repeat of Leviticus basically. They’ve had forty years to review the laws…you would think they would’ve gotten it. But, they did not. They turn away from Him so easily and quickly.

And so do I. I grumble and complain. I am selfish. I am full of pride. I worry. I get easily frustrated. I sin. I sin again. I sin again and again. I forget God’s faithfulness. I neglect His Word.

But, He remains faithful and draws me close. I read His Word, seek Him in prayer and hear from fellow believers who push me to go deeper with Him. His Word is so good to show us His character:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” -Philippians 4:6

“The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” -Psalm 145:9

“For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” - Psalm 100:5

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." -Proverbs 3:5

As I peer until the next 7 days, I don't want to live just waiting for the day to be over. I desire to have a heart and attitude that magnify Him despite the circumstances of life. No matter what happens this week, I KNOW this. He is God, and He is good. He is faithful when life seems good and He is faithful when life seems hard. He loves us and He wants us to be in a daily relationship with Him. Whatever He chooses to do is for His ultimate glory and our good. I will trust Him.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Read it and weep.

Every Father’s Day is the same…or it has been for the past 14 years. JT is gone on Father’s Day. The summer is the prime time for most people to go on a mission trip, and so, he leads others as they serve our Savior. And we are grateful beyond adequate words.

Since he’s away the kids have a little extra time to make their Father’s Day cards. As I prepared dinner, I sent the three youngest upstairs with only this instruction, “Jett, write Happy Father’s Day on the board so Zeke and Elly will know how to spell it.” And he did.

Then, they proceeded to laugh and make a lot of noise (not sure exactly how working on a card can cause that much commotion). The ceiling of the kitchen shook and I could hear them giggle. My high hopes for those cards pretty much went out the window.

And, then he brought me his card. Jett had the biggest smile on his face and placed it right in front of me. He’s not much of a writer and usually just puts the basics…the specific holiday, who the card is for and his own name. He’s more of a bottom line kind of kid.

I read it and wept. And I think you will too. There are no more words needed, but this kid pretty much summed up JT for all of us. Happy Father’s Day indeed. (we're still working on that spelling thing, just so you know).

Monday, June 9, 2014

This Kid

When God matched our hearts to his, we were all scared beyond words. He had never used an indoor bathroom. He had never eaten at a table or used a fork. He had never ridden in a car or felt air conditioning.

Without telling too much of his story, I'll suffice it to say that we all had a steep learning curve to be a family. His energy was unmatched by anyone in our house. And, as you can tell, he lives life to the fullest. Our family has never been the same, and I am grateful.

(Credit for the last two photos to Allison Lewis Photography)

No one has challenged us more or sent us to the foot of the Father faster. But, God has a plan, and I see it playing out before my eyes. We struggle daily but the determination he has to succeed is far beyond his years.

Lord, would you show Yourself faithful in and through Zeke's life? Please mold him into the young man You desire for Him to be. Give us strength, patience and discernment to follow after You whole-heartedly so that He will do the same. Help us to raise him in a way that brings You great glory. Thank you for the opportunity to parent this beautiful child. May he serve You with total abandonment all of his days.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Glimpse of Glory....

I dread it for days…just knowing that JT is leaving town makes my heart sink. Oh, I KNOW that it’s what God has called us to do…that’s clear. And I LOVE that. It’s our lives…investing in people around the globe for His great glory. I am content and joyful and at peace with what God is doing with One Way Ministries.

The difficulty comes in leaving the youngest kids who still struggle with abandonment issues. They often act out when he leaves, and it is a great reminder of the grief that accompanies adoption. Wet beds, temper tantrums, fighting, grieving fits, yelling, crying, screaming, and on and on. I replay every possible negative and catastrophic possibility of what could happen while he’s gone. It sucks the very life out of me.

Friday morning, I awake to see the team from my house leave…I jealously watch them pull out of the driveway knowing that they are going to a place I love. I am anxious about the littles waking up just not knowing what will likely come my way.

But, here’s my chance to just say how GREAT our God is. Even when we are faithless, He is faithful…AMEN (2 Timothy 2:13)! Jett Turner woke up a young man I have only dreamed about. I’m seriously about to list his accomplishments for the day (and people, this is HUGE…HUGER than HUGE…GINORMOUS!)

-He initiated cleaning off the table without being asked. He led his siblings to do the same. AND FINISHED THE JOB WELL!
-He worked on his multiplication facts on the Ipad making a 97 out of 100!!!!
-He read ALL of his reading book and answered every comprehension question correctly!
-He opened all doors and allowed every female to go first without being reminded!
-He ASKED how he could help with lunch and dinner.
-He followed EVERY SINGLE instruction the FIRST time and with a cheerful heart!
-He cleaned out the pool without being told or given any instructions.
-He helped fold two loads of clothes without being asked.
-He cleaned out the toy basket in the living room in an orderly fashion.
-He said “Yes Ma’am” to every request and did not complain even once.
-He prayed for his family that went out of the country and thanked God for the opportunity to stay home with his younger siblings.
-He initiated playing a game of tic-tac-toe and memory with his brother. He even congratulated Zeke on winning!
-He played Uno with all of us and was joyful for whoever won!

Can I tell you what strides these all are? Initiating servanthood, working diligently, finishing projects/work well, excelling in schoolwork, following instructions, being thankful…oh, I could go on and on. My heart overflows today with God’s goodness and faithfulness through our oldest son. I have seen a glimpse of what God is doing in and through His life.

And just for your entertainment, here's a sampling of the 30 selfies he put on my phone while bringing it to me in the kitchen from the van (an approximate 30 second walk)...

I have no idea what the rest of the week will hold, but I will cling to this day knowing that God showed me something AMAZING that I will not soon forget. I saw a young man today…one that is chasing after God’s own heart. And my heart is bursting with joy!