Posted in authenticity, doctrine, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, spiritual growth, transformation by truth

a pivotal moment

The floor felt like it opened up to swallow me.  Thoughts and words and ideas and foundations were challenged as I sipped a frozen coffee and listened.    

At 21 years old and a senior in college, I assumed I would be a bit more stable.  In the prior year, I had seen my foundations fracture due to my own choices.  What started as hairline fractures burst into chasms in which I could not charm my way out of.   I hurt others.  I chose my own comfort for the moment.  I began to see that my self-righteousness was a front for the sin that lay beneath.  What stung the most for this people pleaser was that others called me out on my mess.  In 2019 terms, I was having a “brand crisis.”     

Looking in the mirror, the person I thought I was faded, and I did not know who this young woman had become.  One might be thinking I had gotten into a scandal of epic size, but it was not.  A poorly handled breakup and a poorly handled rebound where I hurt others started the snowball down the hill.  I kept trying to spin my choices in the eyes of others, and I found myself further in a hole.  I had lost fellowship with God as I walked my day to day life, and it became about my own wisdom.  Spoiler alert:  I had an overinflated picture of my own wisdom and resources. 

I could recognize and feel the grossness and inconsistencies within me for the first time.  Up until then, I really thought I had it together.  I know—yuck.  I had depended upon God, but I did not have a truthful view of myself and Him. 

So, as I sat looking at God’s word in a totally different way, I was greatly sobered.  Before, I had cherry picked verses that were encouraging or convicting.  Never had I studied through a book of the Bible or listened to teaching in that way.  I did not know how.  Never had I let God’s word inform me of what God was like.  I took what people told me and the wisdom that I had and formulated my faith. 

Ephesians 1 was before me…had I ever read it before?  It was plain, and it shook me. When I allowed the Bible coupled with the Spirit to speak…I was confronted that I was not the center of my story.  Though humbling, it was so freeing.  This freedom and joy only came after a war waged within.

This was the beginning of my journey of looking at God, His word and my faith in a different way.  See, I totally would be a different person today had this change not occurred. Every year and in every pain, He leads me deeper and deeper into His truth.  Sadly, I see where I could have been apart from His grace to show me the treasure of His word and who He is.  From my background, I assume I would still be in church.  I would still be a people helper.  However, knowing myself, I think the authenticity and vulnerability would not be there.  The richness of relationships would not be there.  I think my view of God would have shifted to be more culturally acceptable. I would not have had the anchor of God’s sure character within pain.  In infertility, in death and loss and grief, in ministry…I literally would be unrecognizable if I still thought I was the center of the story.  I would have missed the beauty of who He is.

If I can encourage people of anything in this life, it is to examine His word and to ask Him for wisdom and grace in learning from it.  For, from it, He shows Himself and in turn, one sees the reality of who they are. 

See, if God is the center and the praise of His glory is the point, I have found and am finding that there is meaning and worship and hope and eternal purpose in all things—even the most crushing of blows.  I can go to His truth preserved and find my identity and meaning there—even when I don’t understand and don’t like what I read.  He does not shift or change as everything around us does.  His purposes are true and eternal and good.   So, wrestle friends. It is worth it.

Posted in discipline, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, prayer, rest, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God

Hope In One Thing

We use the word “hope” often.  I hope my child grows to love Jesus.  I hope my husband experiences healing here with his rheumatoid arthritis.  I hope that you have a good day.  I hope you enjoy the holiday season.  I hope that I live fully to glorify Christ.

The only place to put my hope “IN” is God–Jesus–the Holy Spirit.  Where does my help come from?–from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.  If my husband suffers the rest of this life from RA (and thus, I feel that suffering) and my child rebels and never knows Jesus and I see unspeakable tragedy–My hope is still to be found IN God.  He is the only stabliizer, the only True One.  “The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.”

It’s totally okay to hope for things…but our only hope “In” can be found in Christ.  Everything else fails and fades and disappoints.  He IS MY ROCK AND MY HOPE.

Posted in authenticity, comparison, discernment, eternal things, God's word, idols, infertility, self-absorption, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Where does my hope come from?

Jack turned one a few Sundays ago.  My heart was full with thanks, memories, relief that that first month was not to be relived:).  What a beautiful, fun-loving, joyful, strong, funny, determined little one we are blessed with.  In the time of postpartum depression, I could never have imagined the beauty of his life and liveliness.

Sleepless nights, deferred goals, multiplied chores, inconvenient days…all of those are included in parenthood.  I stand today thankful.  I am thankful for this opportunity and humbled by it.  It is so easy to become overwhelmed and forget the miracle and not stop to experience the joy of moments that are racing by.  The giggles, the new milestones and funny tricks, the little mumbles and squeals…all can be easily missed.

You know what I hate, though?  These nagging thoughts that pull on my joy.  I am still trying to figure out balance–time in the word, time to keep house, time to cook, time to minister, time to do business, time to invest in my relationship with Greg, time to teach Jack, time to play with Jack, time to invest in family, time to invest in friendships, time to exercise.  I seriously do not know how to do it.  The thoughts that play in my head include the word “fail” a lot.

We all choose ways to try to make life work.   I have found myself struggling with two things…seeking peace where it is not to be found and comparing my family situation with others.  Everyone needs breaks to regroup.  The Lord has convicted me that I think that breaks and a vacation and date night and quiet times is where I will find my peace…where I will finally rest.  The only problem is I have not been getting any of these regularly or at all.  So, as with every expectation that is blocked, I get frustrated.  I think “if I could just…if they would just…I need more of…”  Until the last two weeks, I have not been diving into the Word consistently.  I have been expecting little breaks and laziness to be my solace.

This backward thinking has been designed in the sinfulness of my heart.  I have been seeking my idols of comfort and ease.  See, I have always sought after them before God.  He has been teaching me for a long time about this, and I always forget and forsake Him to try to be comfortable again.  I then begin to prop up my idols by comparing (coveting) my situation with other parents who are leaving their kids with grandparents a lot or going on vacations alone or even with their family.  See, I have not been joyful for them…I have just been thinking that they have it made…poor old me.

The Lord woke me up to the grossness of my thoughts.  He reminded me that peace is only found in Him.  No vacation or quiet or pampering or girl’s night or date night will give me the peace that passes understanding…only Him.  I have found solace and true joy in His Truth again.  He has allowed me to see where I have allowed these thoughts to take control–the more I have spent time in Him, the more I see the battle for these thoughts of covetousness.

Weirdly enough, I have entertained them much more as a mom than as a woman who struggled with infertility.  In infertility, I spent a lot of time in the word and in trying to guard my heart against sin. I spent a lot of time then reminding myself that the purpose of life on earth is not to be fulfilled with marriage and children and vacations and stuff.  I remembered daily that my hope is found in Christ and in eternity where we will see fully and experience fully His joy.   Since I have less extended time to spend in the word and I have not guarded my heart against sin in this area, it has been covetouspalooza in my mind and heart.  I have experienced amnesia of where my hope is to come from.

I am so thankful that the Lord has graciously awakened me to this sin pattern and the truth of His grace and hope in the midst of this season of my life. I do not come to you today with seven steps to get “cured,” but I come reminded of His grace in the Gospel, the power and efficiency of His Word, the joy that is experienced in Him.  Instead of having a free for all of jealous thoughts, I have been working toward remembering truth, rejoicing with those who rejoice and choosing to be thankful for so many blessings in my life.  It is still a struggle but one that I see the lie in now.

I want to be faithful…I want Greg and Jack to be spurred on in that…to see the richness of Christ.  That is more important that any momentary comfort on this earth.  I also remember that there is an eternity to travel and rest on the new earth.  Following Christ I lack nothing.

Posted in discipleship, discipline, doctrine, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, trusting God

Feelings, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings…

In the last few days I have had several conversations that remind me that our feelings can be tricky.  We have feelings for a reason.  They help us express joy and enjoy life.  They can be exhilirating.  They often can alert us to something big going on in our heart and relationships.  Feelings are not bad in themselves.  The danger comes when we elevate feelings and experience to god status.

Think about relationships…in the beginning the feeling is like flying.  Studies even find that chemicals are released in the brain that are euphoric at the beginning of relationships.  So fun.  But then, what happens when they go away?  Some panic thinking their love is not true.  Some try to recreate that same feeling and when it fails they are despondent.  Some move on to the next relationship to capture that feeling again.  Some get married and fight a new battle of feelings.  Those who push through and learn see that love deepens and matures over time.  They may not experience euphoria, but they enjoy the person and trust is built and friendship is deepened and they are fully known, scars and all.  There is a peace and reward to that kind of commitment.

A marriage, over time, has peaks and valleys, but with the goal in mind, much growth can occur.  Endurance through those highs and lows and commitment and focus bring maturity and intimacy.  This can be likened to our relationship with God.

At first, when our hearts are made new, it is so exhilirating.  We are new creatures learning a new life and so full of love.  We see God so many places.  We want others to know Him.  We hear Him.  Like a child, we grow quickly because there is so much to learn.  We long for more…and then something happens and we may lose that “feeling.”

I remember as a teenager and a newer Christian looking at adults and thinking they didn’t get it.  Mind you, some of them really did not know Jesus, but some did and did not have the same “passionate” response as me.  I made a judgement on them.  I discounted their faith.  Now, I am on the other side of that (twice the age I was then).  I understand a little more.

Think about adulthood.  Once you hit a certain age, your growth changes from outward to inward (at least we hope).  The early and mid twenties are about finding out who you are and asserting that relationally in the world.  I work with young women everyday who have hit the wall of adulthood and say “is this what all this is about?”  They easily get depressed.  It is hard.  They feel lost.  I remember those exact feelings.  There’s the F word–feelings.

Part of my purpose is to point them to truth and to bring them to bring their feelings underneath the truth.  As a person, if you do not learn to do this, you will continually be seeking the next thing that will create good feelings within you.  This could be a new spouse or relationship, a new job, a new city, another kid, new friends, walking away from faith, walking to a new faith, self-help, drugs, status, material things, vacations.  I could go on and on.

In our relationship with God, He wants us to know Him despite our circumstances, in and even despite of our feelings.  Many think when they lose that first feeling and passion of the early days in their walk with God that they have lost Him.  He may be teaching us not to trust or rely on feeling but Him.  He may want us to seek Him and find that He is true even in sadness.  We all have seen people who are so driven by experience that they are always chasing the next new thing in Christianity because that’s where people are really “knowing” God.  A lot of times that can be mysticism without God at all.  We can make our religious or spiritual experiences an idol.  He will not stand for that.

God is so much wiser than we make Him to be.  His word says that those who endure to the end will be saved.  This life is not a sprint but a marathon.  Ask runners if the whole marathon is a high–they will tell you there are definite highs but there are moments that they want to quit and do not think they can make it.

God, in His word, calls us to trust in Him and not our own understanding (feelings), and He will direct our path.  He calls us to mature in Him, to grow in intimacy just like a marriage.  As we mature, change comes in long and often painful periods of trust.  To become more like Him, it involves the shedding of and dying to our sin.  This does not feel good because we have come to trust it (sin) and treasure it more than Him.  If we cannot process our feelings and bring them under His truth and choose to trust His truth even when we do not feel it, we will run away to try to get a better feeling somewhere else (in marriage, we call this adultery).  We will miss some of the richest parts of knowing who He really is–not what we’ve made Him to be.

The biggest places God has refined me to know Him despite and even in my feelings are marriage and the struggle with infertility.  In His grace, He continually called me to make a decision to study and meditate on His word.  Was this easy? No.  I wanted to run…and at times I did run to get a “high” somewhere else.  However, in His grace and love, I submitted to His truth and chose to trust His sovereignty.  Oh what a deeper joy…even such that I am thankful for the time of infertility for I would never have known Him in such a way.  Faith is submission even when we are sad or angry or all over the place with our feelings.  Faith is the submission and believing in His truth when we do not feel Him.  We make this decision everyday.  I pray that you not give up or run to something that seems easier or makes you “feel” better for the moment.  Intimacy and maturity in Him do not rely on the circumstance of the moment but continually meditating on His truth and who He is and choosing to place your trust there for the long haul.  I would not trade the long marriage for the false beginning high, and I pray that I continue to remember that.

Posted in community, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, prayer, thankfulness, The body of Christ

A Beautiful Symphony

         My heart is full, pondering, and noisy at times.  These last few weeks have been full of well-wishers, buzz, and a continued sickness.  I have thought often of Mary “pondering all these things in her heart.”  (I am not comparing myself to her–cannot imagine pondering the immensity of that gift of life!)   I have decided that my ponderings are best suited for a blog.  Not only do I share with others what is on my heart, but blogging and journaling helps me sort out these thoughts that tend to swish around in my head and heart. 

      Let’s rewind to the fall of ’97 through the spring of 2000.  Picture less wear on my face and body and more cluelessness.  I graduated from UT Knoxville in the spring of ’97, got a job with Delta, experienced difficulties with my heart which made it impossible to continue with Delta, lived with my parents for two months unable to drive, moved to Nashville to nanny my sister’s children, worked for Centrifuge in New Mexico the summer of ’98, met my future husband (a three year journey), waited tables, moved to Dallas, Mom got cancer, experienced deep depression,  then moved back to Knoxville for grad school in school counseling.  (Life moves much slower than that in the midst, but you get the picture.)  In the many months of loneliness in this period, I longed to be known.  I wanted a plan, and God said “wait on me.”  I wanted deep friendships and rootedness, and God said “wait on me.”  I wanted to walk into a room and be valued, and God said “wait on me.”  The word roots screamed from my journal.  I prayed for them, longed for them, thought that I wound be a roving wanderer my whole life.  I embraced each new adventurous move thinking that the answer was on the other side.  In the last months, I have seen those longings and prayers answered in very unexpected ways.  I thought I had seen the answer seven years ago, but I keep seeing God’s work roll out…I thought He was on to the next thing on my list–He simply added layers to the list. 

  Because I have been open on this blog and with friends along the way, I knew people were praying for Greg and me on this journey.  Because of Greg’s position at Fellowship,I know there are people who feel like they “know” us when we do not neccessarily “know” them.  They show a love and care and pray for us when we are unaware.  I know that God has laid people on my heart throughout the years to pray for not even knowing their struggle–just knowing the urgency to pray, and He has laid us on people’s hearts to be the object of petition in prayer. 

           These past few weeks, I have felt the culmination of all of those prayers from friends, aquaintances, church members, strangers.  There have been Facebook messages, comments, conversations, notes that individually were beautiful.  However, they have not come as individual instruments.  They have been a beautiful symphony.  The tears of women that have been praising God for his work in our lives, in my womb–I cannot fully comprehend.  The way God has taught others about Himself in the midst of this is beautiful.  The way He has been the One to call them to prayer and perseverence is another testimony of His grace.  The fact that I get to hear this is a gift.  To hear His praise on the lips of His children is beyond what I can process.  I love that they are not praising the doctor or Greg or me or modern science or circumstance–they are praising the Giver of Life, the Raiser of the Dead, God with Us–Immanuel.  Praising with a symphony–individual instruments moving together for the expressed purpose of  creating something more than they ever could on their own.  They do not play for their own glory–this glory is too big for them. 

         As I reflect back, I see that the longings that I shared with God as a 22, 23, 24 year old for roots, for being known, valued,  loved, for deep friendships.  I see the evidence of HIs rooting me, His knowing me, valuing me, loving me, His deep fellowship with me have spilled out from the body.  Little did I know that pain that would come to get to this place–pain that is real but is of no comparison to Him–the richness that I can see dimly right now.  I do feel unspeakable joy, but I cannot comprehend or ponder it all.  This is a brief glimpse into eternity where the culmination of all of our prayers and longings and desires will be completely fulfilled in the richness of His overflowing kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 

         This, my friends, is so much more worthy of praise than a baby’s birth.  This is what we are created for–to know Him, to treasure Him, to love Him fully and completely, to speak His praises. 

          In the coming months, my goal is to put together a scrapbook of stories that are shared with me, comments on here, on Facebook, notes, encouraging words, so that this child may hear and know and learn of God’s character and work in his or her conception and life from a young age.  I long for them to know that He alone is good and He alone is where their help comes from…that He alone is the reason for their Momma and Daddy’s life and purpose.  I thank God that He has given me the gift to look to Him more than this child–He is where my hope comes from in whatever circumstances, tragedies, joys, triumphs, trajectories this little life will have and bring.   To Him be honor. 

           This is just a measure in the ongoing symphony.  My heart is heavy for those who have lost loved ones to suicide this week, who have lost jobs and are looking at unknown transitions, who have deep crevases in their heart from losing a loved one, who are in the throws of depression, who have loved ones who are battling and perhaps giving in to drug addiction, who are trading their birthright for a cup of the soup of the day…We continue on trusting God, asking Him, serving those alongside us.  I am thankful that He has been so gracious to call others to prayer on our behalf, and I am honored that He calls me to prayer and care on the behalf of others.

Posted in eternal things, infertility, random thoughts, thankfulness, trusting God, Uncategorized

A brief feel of home…

Life does not happen like you think it will. False expectations we hold are crushed, and we learn what it really means to live. Sometimes we allow those crushed expectations to define us–sometimes we counter them with the truth of Christ and find a greater hope in the midst. Is that not what our lives are—the battle of truth against the sometimes brutal reality that we live? Whether it is being disappointed by marriage, children or lack there of, unfulfilling jobs, parents, sickness and death, finances, a dream crushed…we all live in this battle.
I grew up in the beautiful small town of Athens, Tennessee. My dad and mom served at a big baptist church there, and I grew up in front of and in the midst of many loving people–young and old. My dad was a phenomenal man and was probably the most respected person I know. I was so blessed that he was my earthly father. The church was our life–many afternoons and nights and weekends were spent there. In my parents, I had an example of what it meant to serve alongside one another in ministry. I would need hours to tell of people, memories, service, gifts, and warmth of my growing up years in Athens. I was truly blessed.
Never in a million years would I have expected to not feel at home there now. The trajectory of life there changed about 10 to 15 years ago. There was a brutal split in my home church. People who were once one began to disagree with one another. I was broken over it, and I did not live there. The body fled to many different churches and ministries began to weaken. The church has never fully healed. To me, it felt like a death of all that I once knew and treasured. It was a profound marker in my life. Many cling to what used to be, but that can easily become idolatry–being defined by crushed false expectations. I can count on my two hands the times I have been back there to worship in the last 10 years–my wedding, my dad’s funeral, other funerals, special occasions to honor my dad.

Everytime I enter, I cannot cling to once was because it is gone. Home is forever redefined. Nostalgia could be my middle name–but this crushed dream of going back there with children and seeing many familiar faces reminds me that my home is not on this earth.

In everyone, there is a sense of longing for roots and for the familiar of home. Whether it is that first semester on a college campus where we ache for anyone to know us or to see anything familiar or to walk into a place in life where everybody knows your name. There is something that helps us be at peace in familiar surroundings. I do not feel that peace in my hometown, but now I see that as gift because I long for my true home with Christ. Every hope (home) that I construct here is torn down as seasons change and life rolls on. I hate it when it happens, but it inevitably brings me new life in Christ and new hope in Him alone.

However, there are those brief moments on this earth that I feel the kiss of home. I experienced that a few weeks ago at my Aunt’s house at the beach.

Home brings some sense of peace, of memories, of smiles, of rest, and of letting the guard down. Home is not on this earth for those of us who are in Christ. However, Fripp Island gives me a brief glimpse into eternity. Deer were grazing near the beach and barely looked up as I walked past. Birds of every kind formed a choir line together on the beach singing to their Maker. Everything seemed to naturally point to the Maker–to fulfillment in Him. I thought of a David Wilcox lyric–“Prosperity will have its seasons and when it’s here it’s going by…”

From the age of 8, I have gone to the beach at Fripp with my mom and dad—when dad still had some playful youth of playing in the waves, digging in the sand, and riding bikes. The beach in front of my Aunt’s house is a marker of the years. In my youngest days, the growling ocean splashed us on the porch with fury. The beach began to mature and build up as I did into teenage angst. Then, year by year, more growth, more beach with maturing seagrass, plants, bushes, and dunes as I grew more mature as an adult. Now, at 35, I walk at least a quarter mile to reach the tide’s heighth. Like a marker of growth on a door, the beach reminds me of time gone by.
In my younger years, I used to loathe the lack of action on the beach. Now, I breathe in the air and so enjoy the silence of sometimes being the only person on the beach.

Reflecting back over the years, many friends have made the journey with me, but I do not think they feel the call of home here. Childhood friends, a senior trip for girls, college aged friends and boyfriends, a girl’s trip after my 21st birthday, spring breaks, summer vacations, my niece’s senior trip, my nephew and his friends on spring break, our honeymoon, trips when the nieces and nephews were tiny, labor day vacations with Greg, times with my Mom and Aunt, and even a trip by myself this winter to grieve and paint and rest. As an 8, 15 or 25 year old, I would have never conceived of the idea of going to the beach by myself to grieve barreness. In that time, I was so comforted to be in a familiar place with my loving and faithful Eternal Father’s arms around me.

On the beach a few weeks ago, I remembered many thoughts and many former selves that have been here. I took stock and measured growth. At 15, walking the beach scoping for guys–I had no idea. At 18, with my friends on the cusp of my “adult” adventure as I headed off the college, I was invigorated with energy and spunk. At 18 and 20 and 23, I prayed and sought direction on dating relationships. As I thought back to my “former” selves, there always seemed to be a part of me that lived life adventurously–definitely not looking for the easy way. The beach reminds me of my adventurous spirit. The older we get, the less we live in adventure. Perhaps, the less we step out in adventure as we have responsibilities. I am thankful for the adventure of Women’s Discipleship Concepts…the adventure of barrenness…the adventure of being on the journey with my husband for the sake of the gospel…the adventure of growing as an artist in this last year. Who knows what other markers I may measure as I go “home” the next time to Fripp Island–only the LORD.

As I am reminded of home, I am reminded of the Lord. He is our home for all generations as change comes like the ocean tide. I am thankful that He does not give me everything I demand or want because He has a much higher and bigger dream for my heart than feeling nostalgic with kids about my hometown. He has a much bigger adventure written than roots here and now. I trust Him, and I thank Him for brief glimpses of my home that is to come.

Posted in eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

35 and counting

Well, here we are…or rather here I am. Today is the day I turn 35. I awoke with a heavy heart this morning. A heavy heart for friends who are hurting to the core of who they are, a baby who is fighting for her life, even pets of friends who are very sick. The effects of sin and its curse are screaming–and my body is showing it too.

Usually on birthdays I pop out of bed excited for the day ahead–not so much today. Romans 12:2 tells us to not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. That is where I had to start this morning–with the basics of thankfulness and the life giving truth of God. So, here are 35 things that I am thankful for:

1. God the Father drawing me to Himself and giving me life in Jesus Christ who conquered sin and death by being resurrected from the dead.
2. The things listed above are the effects of the curse of sin, but these are conquered through Christ and the full promise will be revealed when He establishes the new earth. Those lost babies will be reunited in life with parents. Those tears shed for infertility will be dried and we will be overwhelmed with the joy of being with Him and living fully. Hopefully, those beloved pets will run with us as we enjoy the Father.
3. God has given those who are in Christ everything we need for life and godliness.
4. I am so grateful for the body of Christ and how they work together and encourage one another on this journey.
5. So thankful for deep rich friendships. Those who know me know I love to have fun—but I also love to go deep. We are made to encourage and challenge one another–and I am thankful for friends and family who enrich me!
6. So thankful for my husband—the way that God has sharpened and changed each of us through our union together. I love that we can laugh together and enjoy one another.
7. Thankful me and said husband got away last week to the beach for the first vacation together in a long while.
8. So thankful for the opportunity to love and walk with young women with the truth and love of Christ. I am so blessed by what I do everyday.

9. Blessed by what I have learned by prepping curriculum for WDC and learning as I teach.
10. So grateful for the time to paint and the growth in creativity through this year. Here are a few of the paintings from the last few months.

11. I have heard that once a woman reaches a certain age, she begins to grow in a new confidence. I can feel that in me just in the last few months. I am thankful for more gray hair and the wisdom that God brings through the trials of life.
12. I am thankful for fun and creativity–I was obsessed with these birds that my aunt had at her house and posed them in pics throughout her house last week. There is a playfulness in life that I am grateful for. Is that not fun?

13. So thankful for Fripp Island where we went last week–actually so thankful for my aunt and uncle’s generosity in letting us go! I have been going to fripp for 28 years. It is more home to me than any other place. (Further blog to follow) Here are some pics of last week…

14. Our church…I cannot explain the numerous ways we are blessed through this group of people–the heart of leadership–I am so thankful. God’s in charge, but I cannot imagine being any place else.
15. My family…young and old…history and future. I am blessed. Here is a pic of last year’s birthday lunch with part of the women in my family.

16. The many college students who have gone through Crossroad and Fellowship Church. Last night marked another year end for Crossroad–year 7 is over. I got very emotional. It is wonderful to know and pour into college students and young adults. It is bittersweet to see them leave and sprout their wings–so good to see maturity–but I look forward to a time for eternity to be together.
17. Times this year to get away with WDC girls…Such a blessing.

18. Time to read at my favorite place last week. I know, true JP fashion reading about sin at the beach.

19. I am grateful for nature and the way it speaks to God’s creativity, beauty and a tiny speck of His glory. Here is time at the beach enjoying the view and reflecting.

20. My dog–these are not necessarily in order. I love to snuggle with her–she’s my baby.

21. New additions to life this year–including precious Lilly Claire and Davis Winn, Andrew Parker, and Emily Hull. The baby boom for friends continue to grow with soon to be Alex Stooksbury! Casey hopes sooner than later.
22. I am so grateful for people who have shared that this blog has encouraged them or challenged them to go deeper in Christ. Just had a conversation last weekend with a woman who encouraged me in that. I am thankful that God brings fruit from pain and has a purpose in ALL things. Let me know if you are a regular reader!
23. Thankful for the fruit of ministry as I see more and more women–and hear of more and more women who are growing in the truth and hope and joy of the truth of the gospel. God is so faithful to multiply!
24. Thankful for spring—can I get an amen?
25. Thankful for the many people who have told me personally they are praying for me. I am so blessed, and God is so faithful to lay us on the hearts of people we do not even know need prayer.
26-35. I am thankful that God renews my mind by thinking on His truth and living in His hope. I do not know the future, but I do know there are numerous ways He is going to work in this 36th year of life.

Let’s just call this my birthday dance!
Last but not least, thank you to my Momma, who at 38 was surprised by my entrance into the world. She has been so encouraging to me this past year and as I continue to grow as a woman…