Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Two Cents Worth

So, I got a summer job today! Yes, it's on a farm and I couldn't be more excited about being outside all summer with kiddos and cute miniature horses! 

AND in completely unrelated news...

Baby M is 2 months {and 3 days} old! She has now been with us for 57 days. 
Our little cutie pie is growing like crazy! 

I have been trying very hard not to plaster her picture on any social media. Even though she is only a baby, her privacy is still priority. But after talking with the family, I have decided that I will share a little glimpse into exactly who Baby M is! You are going to fall in love, stay tuned..

We still continue to have weekly visitation with her family. Most of the time, both parents are present as well as the paternal grandmother and a few siblings {sometimes other family like aunts or cousins} We will have court again next Monday to try and have the perm plan approved {it was rejected last time}. They have told us that parental rights for the mother will most likely be terminated. The parents are planning to wed, I don't know how all of that will work but it should be interesting to see what transpires. 

Baby M: this past week, you finally slept through the night! YAY!! You continue to have rough nights mixed with good but at least mom & dad get a little break. Moving on up, you have completely outgrown newborn clothes and are filling out a 0-3 month quite nicely. I'm so happy it is finally warming up - so many cute clothes were awaiting the sunshine! 

Things that make you happy: swinging on the back porch and your paci. My kind of girl, loving the outdoors! You are finally starting to give us a few grins here and there {so sweet!}

I don't really like to think about what the future may hold, because I know it is all in God's hands. I can only trust that He will do what is very best for you! We will keep loving you as long as they let us.

Sweet sister, you are a blessing to me. I love you! 
Happy two months Baby M!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fishy, Fishy Swim With Me

"There are plenty of fish in the sea", is what they always said.

Whoa, ew. You had to have known this was coming. Seeing as my blog has been on a steady roll and my love life has not. The topic of singleness is one that I used to despise and probably still do {a little}. It's definitely not as fun to talk about as a new hubby or a thriving relationship. 
 But it's my life and this is what I am learning {in a very scatterbrained post that could probably be broken down into several posts, oh well!}

It's funny, I had most of this post written when I read Grace's blog post. After reading it, all I could do was send out a resounding - YES! This is it. If you have not read her post please please read it. I will fumble through the thoughts that she so eloquently lays out, but she says exactly what I'm thinking.

I always thought that if I was still single towards the end of college that God would give me a heart of contentment. That a void that would have been filled with the love of a man would now be filled with God until he came along, prince charming of course. But maybe that thinking was wrong but not entirely wrong, just very misguided? The love of a man is good and God will use that to bless you, but it won't replace God's love or His goodness. The love of a man will not fulfill all of your needs. 

I have wanted to write on this topic, to address how I feel about singleness and purity. But honestly, I wasn't quite sure where I stood with myself, with the church or with God.  

If I told you that I would be a peace with being single forever, that would be a complete lie. And yet, I felt that by saying that that I was an awful person. For some reason, I have put contentment and intimate relationships in the same category for years. If I am content in God, he will give me the things that I wait for. An ultimatum of sorts. Coming to Christ with an ungrateful spirit.

It turns into a never-ending wait and miserable future. If we are waiting for our future, how can we live now? How can we be present in the present?

After years of purity bible studies, girls weekends, and true loves waits talks,  my sister and I stopped wanting to go to church youth events. We heard it over and over and over. An emphasis of waiting for a future and not screwing that up left me feeling empty and not sure where to turn. One more thing to add to my list of "good girl" rules

And that is where they lose us. The church tries but in my youth, I was misguided. The focus is somehow twisted. Yes, purity is extremely important and God gave us guidelines about sex before marriage to protect us. But being pure for the sake of being a "good" person is not enough. It will never withstand the waves of temptation.
 And the focus is not God, it is waiting and sex

Purity is essential. But if you have messed up, God forgives. Yes, we will have to suffer the consequences of our sins but He forgives you, He loves you. The misguiding in my life came from taking the focus away from our love and relationship with Jesus, Lord of Lords, Abba Father.

From where I stand today, being content in singleness and staying pure are things that stem from a close and loving relationship with God in my life. Not that we will be 'always happy & smiling' about being alone, but that we can find joy in a season. We find joy in the Lord - That's where the emphasis should be. It's God. He fulfills, He loves. That is what holds us through the years of high school and beyond, through temptation or loneliness. It is our God. 

"If I’d had on my bulletin board, “Fall in love with Jesus.” That’s it. Bottom line. That’s everything you need to know, to work toward, to put your hope in."

 God has stripped me of my expectations and plans so that he can work a greater plan, HIS plan. It is what I work towards, what I strive for - loving Jesus, giving Him the glory & imitating His character. 

 This week, I was talking with my mom about my plans for the future. I expressed to her that I am stepping out of a thought process that has held me back in my mind. Now, I am living - truly living and not waiting. Because after all, what am I waiting for?! God can use me, and in Him I am enough. 

"I just didn’t want to wait anymore – didn’t want to live like I was waiting on anyone to get here."

Being single has allowed me to do some growing up. Stepping away from potential relationships has allowed me to think with a clear head about many decisions. After all, a marriage proposal your senior year of college is not guaranteed for anyone. And focusing on that or waiting patiently for that is exhausting. 

God is using me and He fulfills me. I didn't strike a deal with Him in the beginning of this relationship {I will love & follow you if...} I love Him because He is God, the end. He saved me, He redeemed me. He has put marriage and relationships in place so that we can better serve God alongside that person. That is my truth and I want to live like it. Falling in love with Jesus, putting my hope in Him. 

This Q&A with Jefferson Bethke & his wife Alyssa is really good. It might answer some of your lingering questions about dating & relationships! Check it out!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Currently {vol. 3}

reading: Hosea. I am just falling in love with God's love. Hoping to start re-reading Redeeming Love very, very soon! It's a wonderful story, too!
listening: to Grey's Anatomy, my guilty pleasure. Gotta catch up before the finals madness begins and the TV is off!
smelling: A hot dog, leftovers from the cookout/couples shower last night. mmm left overs are the best.
loving: That I got to talk about the Philippines and missions this morning; it is so close to my heart and I love that other people get to share in my experience. 
thinking: Playing laser tag and throwing a wedding shower for this girl {see picture above} made for a wonderful weekend! Don't you love our 'fierce faces'?!
wishing: school was OVER! I need summer, like now. 
hoping: that it is a wonderful, sunny, happy week! We all need a little sunshine and a little less rain.
wanting: a big ole' cup of coffee - maybe I'll go make some now! 
feeling: tired, blessed and a little like I just bathed in pollen - achoooo!  
clicking: Katie's blog - Hope Engaged, I love keeping up with people that live abroad. Her sweet blog is awesome, her photography is gorgeous!
wearing: I just can't tell you, because it slightly resembles what I am wearing every sunday afternoon. 

Happy Sunday sweet friends! Enjoy your last few days of April, May is ALMOST here! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday's Letters {5}

Dear Philippines, after preparing to speak about you this Sunday, I miss you! Last summer changed my life. Looking at all of the pictures takes me back and makes me very excited for more opportunities. I miss my teammates, I miss the long rainy days and most of all, I miss the people. A beautiful country that beat my emotions up, left me at the bottom. But God taught me to trust, to have faith and that He is ever present in our times of need.

Dear Ashley, come home now. First, ace your exams and then come. home.

Dear Allyn, you are getting married in one month. Oh. My Goodness. Is this real life?! We cannot be old enough for marriage and all that god stuff. To all my bloggy friends, pictures of wedding shenanigans to come! 

Dear Baby M, you are 2 months old tomorrow! You will get your own letter later, I promise! My heart strings are wrapped around your adorable little brown eyed self. It's impossible not to love you to pieces.

Dear blog, I may be too attached to you but you give me a place to speak - An outlet for my thoughts, my feelings. A place to meet others with similar beliefs - Girls that love life and love to share their lives with me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

40 Day Challenge {Day 10}


It's just one of those books I have always started to read, only to get a few verses in and say whaaaa? It is kind of a weird one at first and I am SO thankful that 'She Reads Truth' has started a new reading plan all about this little book of the Bible. We are on day #2 and it is already blowing my mind. So much insight! 

If you don't know much about the prophet Hosea, here is a short summary of His life up to chapter two. The Lord speaks to Hosea and tells him to take "an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from from the Lord." So Hosea finds Gomer, they wed and she bears three children {not all of which are his blood}. Hosea is about to be a real-life example for the people of Israel. It is a heart-breaking story to read! But Hosea is about to show us the character of God. The Lord uses Hosea to bring the glory to Himself. He is teaching us just as He was teaching the people of Israel.

Today, I read through Hosea chapter 2 and 2 Samuel 12: 1-10.
As we might would expect of an 'adulterous' woman, Gomer is unfaithful, disobedient and wicked to her ever faithful groom, Hosea. 

As I read, I judged Gomer. What a horrible person! Hosea would be perfectly justified to leave her behind, right? 
Thankfully, the Lord thinks differently.

I am the unfaithful bride of Christ. Over and over again he offers me mercy, an abounding love and an intimate relationship. And over and over again I turn, I run to something else that will fulfill my desires. Until that thing no longer satisfies, and He is there with open arms. Waiting.
It's beautiful, really. A story of redemption. A story of love.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wake Up {guest post}

Guest Post: Ashley

Recently while worshipping with my BCM family, I heard some scripture about awakening sleepers. I loved the song that went along with it but I had never really looked into this before. So, in scripture in Isaiah 52:1-3 the Bible says:

1 Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. 2 Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion. 3 For this is what the LORD says: "You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed."

This really strikes me. As Christians I feel like we really do just sit on the shelf and collect dust. We go to church, read our Bibles, talk about how we can best serve Christ, sing songs about serving Christ, meet in small groups and talk about serving Christ, but when will we actually start putting these words into action. I mean what would you do if this happened:

Mom: Ashley, I’m going to the store. I need you to wash the dishes and set the table while I’m gone.
Ashley: No problem! 
*Mom gets back from the store*
Mom: Ashley! I told you to do your chores!
Ashley: But Mom, you don’t understand. I read your instructions over and over, I wrote a song about washing the dishes, and I even met with my friends to talk about how amazing doing the dishes and laundry for you would be! 

What would your reaction be? I know I would not be very happy. 

We need to WAKE UP! God has not sent us out into this world alone. He has given us an entire armor to take with us (see Ephesians 6:10-18). You are a child of the King! Rise up and put on your garments of splendor. The Bible also says in 

Ephesians 5:14
“This is why it is said: 
  ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

You were once dead but Christ has saved you and redeemed you. Since we have been crucified with Christ, we should be as clay in his hands being molded to HIS will. So, I encourage us all to WAKE UP all you sleepers and take up your cross daily.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Walking in Memphis

My home, my love. 
Friday night, we decided to head downtown after dinner and catch a sunset over the Mississippi River. 
The weather has actually turned a bit chilly but it was still absolutely gorgeous! 

It was so nice to slow down, enjoy the beautiful outdoors and remember some of the great things about this city. 


Best parents ever. Aren't they adorable?!
I love this picture. Dad, holding Baby M. This mans love is the closest thing I know to unconditional. 
This picture blesses me, anddddd makes me cry! 


Sunday, April 21, 2013

40 Day Challenge {Day 6}

Today is day 6 of the 40 day challenge that I have taken with Overcome the Lie. The past few days have been focused mostly in prayer for me. Lately, my prayer life has struggled. It seems forced, at times, and I really don't like that! It's a conversation - not an obligation. More on that later.

Yesterday, Ashley encouraged us to get into 1 John 3:1 
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"

Words that speak to my soul.  I am a child of God.

Today, I decided to keep reading into the rest of 1 John 3. It's a short little book that is packed full. 
As Christians, love is our defining characteristic that makes us most like Christ. We walk by faith, live in hope and love those that walk on the earth. 

And then this apostle gives us a very clear example to live by:
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us."
It is the greatest love story of all times. I can't help but question my own life...do I embody that sort of love? A sacrificial love? 

I question my own life and then I look around me and I try to justify my actions. I find myself guilty of this far more than I know is right. I have talked with my mom often about how unfair it is that other can live self-indulgent lives. Lives with no sacrifice, that do not {from the outside looking in} differ from those that do not proclaim to be followers of Christ. But verse 17 is just like Jesus whispering in my ear, He leaves me with instructions to obey - the choice to be obedient.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

Let the Holy Spirit be your guide. 
Through this challenge, He is bringing me back to a heart that is focused and fueled from God alone. Today, I am pulled out of my self-righteousness. The reminder of Christ's love for us leaves me gasping in breathless awe. Not with condemnation, but with a spirit to move on. To pursue a sacrificial love. An obedient heart that lets his love crash over me - It is beautiful.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday's Letters {4}

Dear anyone who reads this little blog, It's Friday again and although I am happy to see an end to this devastating week - it saddens me to think that it is not over. After watching the news this morning, it seems almost impossible to address anything except for the lives lost and the families that are hurting today. Between Boston, Texas and now the earthquake in Japan - my, what a week. With so much chaos, so much hurt, it forces me to think about my life and about death. We are not guaranteed another breath on this earth and honestly, that freaks me out. But I know that I have Jesus. Evil surrounds us, but that is nothing new. Now, it comes to the front lines threatening our lives in the most belligerent of ways. It steps onto our TV screens and makes us question the human race. But that's just the thing, we are not good. Without Jesus, I have nothing - I am nothing. Dear friends, readers, family..whoever happens to be reading out there today or one day down the road - take a look into your life, do you know HIM? Do you know where you will spend eternity when this world ends? If the answer is not a resounding yes, I encourage you to email me or talk to someone in your life that can lead you to His truth. He will come again. And until that day, I wait in anticipation. I look at this tragedy with a heavy heart but a heart that is spurred on to tell others the good news. 

Hug your lovies a little tighter, be bold in the truth you speak. 
It's Friday, ya'll! 


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

40 day challenge

Cry in My Heart by Starfield on Grooveshark

I have decided to take part in a challenge with many others in the blogging world. Over the next 40 days, I will be seeking Jesus in a new way. My quiet moments with the Lord will be refreshed. Laying aside social media, I hope to lose all distractions as I focus on growing closer and learning more about my Savior. 

This semester has drained me mentally. My spiritual life took a bit of a hit too and I need some recovery as we head into summer. I know God will use this time. I have so many distractions every day that I rarely take time to sit down, be still and listen. 

I would love for you to join me in this journey, it runs April 16-May 26th {but you are never too late!}
You can sign up HERE for daily encouragement from the ladies at Overcome The Lie. 

Left To Tell {Book Review}

I just finished reading the book Left To Tell. I will just say, whoa.

This book tells the story of a young woman, Immaculee. She lived through the Rwandan genocide that happened in 1992 by living in a bathroom with 7 other woman for many months. All the while, fearing for her life. Living to tell about this reign of terror, Immaculee gives first hand accounts of the things she saw, heard and witnessed. 

If you are looking for an inspiring story of faith and tenacity, this book is definitely worth the read. A little warning, this book tells the graphic story of a gruesome war and I would not recommend it for everyone. {It gave me some awful dreams, not gonna lie} It is a part of history that we should all know about. I had no idea this war even happened and it was the same year I was BORN! The story seems to be archaic because of the ways people were slaughtered by the thousands. How could something like that happen in the modern world with no response? It is mind blowing.

I have a hard time getting through some books, but this one did not lose me! The story is truly incredible. 
What books have you read lately? I'm going to need some good ones for the summer! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Clearing Things Up

First off, I am very saddened by the events that took place yesterday. It seems that events, such as this, are occurring far too often. I am heart broken for each and every family that is affected by this. I know these are real people, with real hurt and real sorrow.  My sincerest prayers are with Boston. I cannot imagine the pain or the suffering. The fear that these people will have to live with everyday. The nightmares. The deep loss. In times such as these, I wonder how people are able to mentally cope without Jesus. If not for Him, we have no hope. BUT in HIM, we have hope. This world is not our home. He has overcome the world. He will overcome sin and suffering. Take heart sweet ones, take heart. 

This week I have had multiple people that were very confused that we still have Baby M. In an earlier post {here}, I explained some of my thoughts on the heartbreak that I experienced one day in a courtroom. 

1) Baby M is still here, probably for a very long time. 

2) You have to understand, some people that know me in real life still think we have the sibling group of 5 - those kids have been gone 11 months...it is hard to take time to explain the details in person when you know this is the reality. People want to care, but they do not take the time to listen. 

3) It is difficult to give you the full story while also protecting Baby M's privacy - I will try to get a little more into the full story so that you can better understand where I am coming from. 

We were supposed to have visitation with the family yesterday, but everyone was a no show {including the social worker that called 2 minutes after the visit was supposed to start} That was an hour of wasted driving for my mom. It is maddening and sadly, the reality for foster families. I have been busy, busy, busy today trying to play the part of "mom". Since mom actually had to work today and I live at home, I get to take over her responsibilities while I am not in school. Babies, doctors appointment with the grandparents and so much more. I really do love it!
{but I don't see how she does it all, every. single. day.}

More about Baby M here, here and here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Diary of a Recovering Good Girl {part 1}

"He breaks all social etiquette in relating to people. He acknowledges no barriers or human divisions. There is no category of sinners he isolates himself from. Simply stated, Jesus is a miserable failure at meeting religious people's expectations of him. He connects with the kinds of people he should disregard. He attends the wrong dinner parties. He is rude to respected religious leaders and polite to whores. He reprimands his won followers and praises outsiders and riffraff." 
Fil Anderson

I can genuinely say that on most days, I care far more about what people think about me than who I am for real. I want to be Jesus to others around me, but most of the time I want to do it with as much tact as possible. It is so easy to put up that wall, to justify my actions because of who I am surrounded by. The people that seem to have it all together, the "perfect" ones, that is who I put myself up against. Most ladies in church have it all together, toned, tan and dressed younger I am. That is tough to compete with. I struggle. My thoughts are not always pure, my words are not always honoring and uplifting. I fall into the gossip trap. And so, I put on my best face because nobody wants to see that! How humiliating. People tell me they want their children to be like me, they support me when I leave this little town to minister to the poor and neglected in other towns and countries. I can't be that person, I can't fail. So instead of being honest, I put forth the ever present "I'm doing great" lingo. 

 The book I am currently reading, Grace for the Good Girl, is changing my world. God is teaching me, through scripture and spiritual insight from Emily, that I put a smile on even when things aren't great. It deeply saddens me to think that in the church, a place we should be able to seek refuge in Christ and in those around us with loving arms, that most people would never be willing to admit their struggles. I know it would take a lot for me to, anyways. It's just not how things work here in the South. As women, we are taught social ques and etiquette that we are to obey. But when I look at Jesus, it seems that there is more to life than this. If we never cross a line, if we are never persecuted for our faith, are we truly walking as Christ did? Is our smile letting people into our struggles? Allowing others to be changed because of a fellowship of believers that have found victory and freedom from sin and oppression in Christ and not through our own efforts?

As I look at my own life, I see past my smile and into a heart that is broken and put back together again. All in private. Out of the prying eyes of anyone who doesn't truly care about me. I couldn't let them see that! A sin shredded heart, given to God and redeemed from hell? It's messy, it's personal. It probably wouldn't be accepted and if it was, you know people would talk.

Jesus was hated. The things He did we definitely not socially acceptable. He loved to dirty, the smelly, the scandalous, the liars.

My story before God is not much different than my story after God. Being saved at such a young age, I did not have a dramatic story of redemption from something horrible. I'm not the person that is asked to give my testimony because of the shock factor. And yet, I am a sinner all the same. You see, while I put on this face that everything is great all of the time I seem to exclude myself from that list of icky things that Jesus associated with. I am willing to go to far away countries and love people that are those things and worse, but that's not me. No sir. Not on the outside, not to you. I don't want to be hated. I don't want to be mocked. I want social acceptance.

 And then I read a little into the scripture and Paul throws this curve ball,

"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." 
Philippians 3: 1-11

This life that I live is to be holy and set apart. As Paul said, it is righteousness that comes through faith in Christ that I seek. It is not this self-serving, make-it-look-easy, I-can-sustain-me life that I try so hard to find. I am the icky sinner. I am hated as He was. I offer my life to share in His sufferings and to see as He did. It's about HIM, not me at all.

I want to let people in. Being a follower of Christ is not easy, at least not to me. Taking a step into the background and allowing people to see the beautiful me through Christ is the challenge. Trying to make everything look easy-peasy, I get in the way. The Christ-centered sinner, saved by grace is more beautiful than anything I have to offer. The icky one that will not be accepted, that is who I am. Lord, may my smile be inviting - may my heart be reminded to draw near to you. 

  As Emily says, "I choose my reputation over authentic relationship. That is not the way I want to live. What about you?"

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ashley's Birthday Weekend

This weekend, we traveled to East Tennessee to celebrate my baby sister’s 19th Birthday. It was a whirlwind trip but worth every minute of the 7 hour drive it took to get there.

 Since we don’t know our way around Knoxville as well as she does, Ashley planned out our Friday. It was a fun filled weekend and the first trip that I got to document with my new camera! Plus, getting to see Ash on her actual birthday was the best. God has blessed me so much with that girl - there is just no relationship quite like that of a sister!

Anyways, we grabbed lunch on campus after Ashley got out of class and headed over to Ijams Nature Center. It was a beautiful day for a make-shift picnic and the park was wonderful. Located right along the Tennessee River, this park had leisure trails and a really neat boardwalk. 

After the park, we headed back to campus and had a little dinner at the Copper Cellar - it was a great burger! Ashley has fallen in love with women’s softball at UT actually has one of the best teams in the country. The game was a blast and the Lady Vol’s pulled out a victory over Auburn. Nothing like a little SEC rivalry! 

We ended the day exhausted but back to the cabin for a little late night birthday treat!

Ash spent the night with us and this morning we got up for a little hike around the park. This past year, I have really enjoyed time in the Smokey Mountains - the park is just such a great place for outdoor adventurin’ and being able to enjoy the gorgeous spring weather! We drove around for a while and then stopped off at the old Elkmont logging camp for a short walk through the valley. 

We stopped along the way for a little “educational” reading at each marked point. It was the perfect length and Baby M’s new sling was AWESOME! We enjoyed it all weekend {a great purchase} 

We headed back towards Knoxville to drop Ashley off and say our goodbye's. Thankfully, I didn't cry this time {i HATE goodbye} because she will be home in a little less than three weeks. 

I hope that your weekend has been full of sunshine and some quality time with the ones that you love! 

Linking up with Sami!
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