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The story of an amazing God's work in our family.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2-0-1-7


Each year, as the calendar counts down to 1-1 again, I start to pray about what word would be the theme for the coming year.  As we roll into 2017 I felt like God was telling me that it was a year to rest.  (Lord knows I need it....2016 was....tough)

Rest is the one action that I’ve never been able to get right.  I guess because I forget it really is an action.  

As a wife and a mom it's seemingly impossible to look around and NOT see something that needs to be done/taken care of/handled.  I feel like I'd be of much better use if I had 6 arms and wings like a hummingbird.

But rest….there’s no time for that.

On December 27th, my first day back to work after the holiday, my co-workers noticed that my cough had stopped sounding cough like and started sound like a barking seal.

The next day I could barely hold my head up.  I was down for the count.

Let me just interject this point of knowledge, for those of you who already know where this story is going...

When God asks you to rest...it's not a request.  It is a call to obedience.  (One that I CLEARLY didn't heed.)

SO....here we are, six days later, and I still feel like a zombie version of myself.

I haven’t been able to do anything.  I jokingly told the kids that I was going to have to start paying one of them to hold my head up!

For us...well…me, 2016 was a year of manufactured happiness.  

I tried everything in my power to move our family out of one season into the next. 

I was working as much as humanly possible, taking on as many side jobs as I could, trying to make sure that we could still afford to keep our lights on and buy our kids yearbooks.
Mark was drowning.  Depression and anxiety are beasts of another realm that can't be conquered with sheer willpower.  If I started now I don't think I could ever count the number of hours that our community of believers poured out prayer for this man.
Camber was dealing with giants of her own.  Thirteen is a tough age.  Girls are mean.  And this world is trying to do everything in its power to drag our babies down with it.
Then there was Coop.  This kid y'all.  He's either going to cure cancer or take over the world.  This las year was rough for him as well.  I'm pretty sure the vice principal of his school had me on speed dial.  

So...with all that drama I was desperately trying to keep our family together...and functioning...and growing....

Many times my efforts failed miserably.  We cancelled a lot of plans because one or more of us was having some sort of existential crisis that day.

You see, as much as I wanted to be...I’m not the author of grace. (Gasp.  I know you're shocked)

I got exhausted.  And honestly, I just stopped trying.  I didn't schedule anything.  I didn't say yes to anything.  I started shutting down projects that were floundering because I.CANT.MAKE.THINGS.WORK.

Slowly but surely, as I sat on the couch and watched 1 million hours of Netflix in hopes to connect to the husband that I was sure I was losing, little bits of light started shining through.

After a fairly dramatic (And we Thomas girls KNOW dramatic) knock-down, drag-out, we were able to talk some sense into our struggling 13 year old.  

We discussed the life-cycle of a friend.  How important it is to keep those who are like-minded close to you, how important it is to keep those who continuously stir up drama at an arm’s length, how hard it is to genuinely love someone and see them set out on a path of destruction that you can't do anything about, how to earnestly pray your guts out for those people...and how to set them free from your life.

Redemption for Coop came at the changing of schools.  We had always known that he was a grown up trapped in a kid’s body.  This summer/fall we really got to see that in action.  It started at youth camp…

*****Side bar - I can’t say enough how important youth ministry is.  Get a group of leaders who are in it to win it.  Don't cycle through babysitters.  These kids are smart enough to know that it's not worth it to build a relationship with someone who is going to be out the door when a "better opportunity" comes along.  Secondly, pray for these people....Seriously...you've met your kids...and their friends.  This job ISN'T easy.  Kids are nuts and annoying and barely listen (except when they do and all the hard work pays off).  Third, support them.  Donate.  Get a crappy car wash.  Buy a bad cupcake.  Just write a check to cover a couple of kids going to camp.  Don’t make these guys beg you to support the next generation of disciples.*****

Ok...enough from the soapbox...

Youth Camp - Y'all I was TERRIFIED!  This kid hadn't gone a week without having some sort of major breakdown with a classmate....how was he going to survive a week at camp without me there to thump him in the head and get him back in line???
Well, thankfully, the leaders know him all too well.  They put him on the team of a girl woman who loves him almost as much as I do.  She knows him, knows his heart, and protected him and gave him space to learn to interact with his peers.  She believed him (honestly, the kid REALLY doesn't lie) and went to bat for him against people who didn't have his best interest at heart.  She is my favorite.
Somewhere in this week away Coop showed these people who he really is.  Not just the rowdy kid who that they had seen before...but who he was evolving into.

I'm still not sure on the details...But the bits and pieces of the story tell me that there was fire (of course there was) and Coop prayed over the people in his grade...and the entire group as they prepared to go back to school.  (Although, all I could get out of him was that there was fire...)

In November, a friend from church hooked Mark up with an interview at the Starbucks in the mall.  He was hired right away and started the week after Thanksgiving.  He seems to enjoy it.  It's a much more extroverted position than he's used to, so he usually comes home completely exhausted.  But everyone who has seen him in action say that he's amazing (I TOTES already knew that).  A little bit of purpose (and two different anxiety medications) have gone a long way.  I'm excited to see what God has for this man in 2017.

As for me.  I feel like I've been hit by a bus.  My head is WAY too heavy to hold up and my chest burns when I attempt to breathe.  I CAN, however, successfully make it from the bed to the couch. (High five me!)  But....I can rest.  I have two kids and a husband who are willing to entertain my ridiculous wishes for a dusted and vacuumed living room (even though we're the only ones who will be seeing it).  I have a job that I've been at for a year and still love.  (And because I've been there for over a year I can take a few days to rest up without worrying about how we're going to pay the light bill).  I've closed doors on all the ventures that had me running like a chicken with my head cut off and I enjoy the down time watching old episodes of Smallville with my main squeeze.

I look forward to a year of rest.  Nothing too pushy.  Just organic growth and genuine joy.  

What is your word for this year?

Monday, November 10, 2014

I Guess I'll Go Eat Worms

I have been in a funk.

There.  I said it.

For those who don't knowI lost my job in August. 

It was a shock to say the least. 

I had been with the small, family-oriented company for over a year.  Mark and I were talking about buying a house.  Then, out of nowhere, I was called into the owner's office and told that because of our heart for missions, and our desire to one day leave this country, they didn't see me as a permanent employee.  Thankfully I was so shocked that I handled myself with as much grace as I could muster.  I gathered the things from my desk, loaded everything in my car, and cried the whole way home. 

After a couple of days of wallowing I applied for unemployment and started exploring other options.  A few short weeks later I had my first unemployment check and a fairly lucrative cake business. 

God is good.

I decided that I would apply for jobs and go on interviews but that I would be selective until November (as my unemployment runs out at the end of December). 

Well....it's November. 

I have been on several interviews and nothing has really panned out.  I feel like I'm fairly bright and capable of doing whatever is asked of me, but because of craptastic decisions earlier in life (mainly resulting from my selfishness) I don't have any experience to back those claims up.

It's no secret that I've struggled with my identity.  As days turn into weeks, and the call backs never come, I have struggled with feeling inadequate, useless, and unworthy.

Unfortunetally these feelings have migrated into my relationships as well. 

This has resulted in me wanting to crawl in a hole and sing:

"Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
I Guess I'll go eat worms."

Thankfully I have a husband who calls me out on this childish behavior and encourages me with "Suck it up buttercup."

I hope that the handfull of you reading this understand what a huge deal it is for me to pour out my heart like this.  I don't usually open up to people.  I have not had good results with it in the past.  More often than not my deepest struggles have been locked away inside another person to be used against me later.  I just don't trust people.

I would love to say that there is a bright side to this depression narrative....but, alas, I'm still waiting for....something. 

Right now I rest in the fact that God is who he said he is, he will do what he says he will do, and I am who HE says I am.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Way We Were

I saw a high school marching band for the first time in years tonight.  Actually I saw 5.  It's crazy how memories can be attached to sounds and resurface so quickly.

The second band that took the field started their show with Beethoven's 5th symphony.

Immediately I was 15 years old, my first season of marching band, with my hair pulled too tightly under my hat because I was terrified that one strand was going to be misplaced.  Under bright stadium lights, pouring sweat, I stepped onto a football field for the first time.  Y'all....my heart.

After that one show seemed to bleed into another.  Football season lasted forever.  But one memory remains so clear I can almost feel it.

District marching festival.  1997.  Tommy Oliver Stadium.  Panama City, Florida.
We lined up on the field like so many times before.  The lights were blaring and the stands were filled with people.  (This time our audience was made up of fellow musicians and exhausted parents.)

The show was like any other, only this time it meant so much more.  We had 30+ years of tradition riding on our shoulders.  Our band was 'superior' (the highest ranking that a marching band can get) and had been for years.  Everything rested in our hands now.

During the last song (Ode To Joy by Beethoven) we performed a 'company front.'  Basically the entire band formed a straight line, paused for a bit, and then marched 5 more yards forward in unison.  During that brief pause no note was to be played.  It was dead silence for a few seconds then we all came back in together and played our guts out.

Those brief seconds are forever burned into my memory.

We formed our company front.  The music went silent.  Seconds before we were to play the next note a voice called out:
"Come on band."

There, from the sidelines, the man that challenged us to be better, chastised us when we made stupid mistakes, yelled when we refused to listen, and praised us when praise was due was cheering for us.

He knew what we had inside and he compelled it out.

That's what he did.  He challenged us to greatness.  He taught us that there is no excuse for not being excellent.

Tonight I saw bands take the field running with their instruments and waving wildly to people in the stands.  I saw musicians dance rather than play.  I heard melophones "trying to save the world" and tubas who were trying to see if they could get their tongue to come out of the bell.  And I heard Mr. D's voice in the back of my head, not being critical, but demanding more than mediocrity.  

I have waited 11 years to be a band mom.  As I watched not only these bands, but their proud parents in the stands, I silently prayed that Camber gets her own Mr. D.

Words can't express the impact that he had on my life.  I will forever be grateful for his influence.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I have found the one my soul loves...

I'm a math nerd.  I always have been.  Numbers just make sense to me.

So, here are some numbers for today:

5,113 Days
7,362,720 Minutes
14 Years
2 Kids
1 Cat
3 Dogs
25 Houses
4 States
9 Countries

In those numbers we have laughed and cried.  Hurt each other and carried each other through tragedy.  We've seen new family members be born and said good bye to others. We made made lifelong friends and watched relationships dissolve. We have lived with family and we have lived on our own.  We have had much and we have had very little.  

We have literally grown up together.  We have learned to be adults.  We have learned to rely on God in situations that we never dreamed possible.

14 years later I still do.
1999
2000

2013

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Where Feet May Fail

I'm not good at expressing emotions.  I spent most of my childhood hiding the way I feel so that it couldn't be used against me.

'My heart' is a phrase that you will hear me use when I can't express the deep emotion that I'm feeling.

Y'all.

My heart.

Last night our small group had its last meeting for the semester.  We grilled burgers and dogs and sat around chit chatting about baked beans recipes and the conundrum of ab workouts. (You workout your abs so you have a smaller waist, but the workout makes your abs hurt so much that you can no longer 'suck it in.')

I didn't realize at the time, but while I was downing Mountain Dew like it was my job, my childhood friend was losing his life.
Yesterday, in a freak accident, a boy that I had known since I was 2 years old was shot and killed in his home.  His family was gathered to celebrate the birth of their first son.

On the way home from my last small group meeting I read the short article posted on Facebook by mutual friend and immediately started to sob.
A million questions started going through my mind:  What just happened?  Is there anything I can do?  Is his wife ok?  How is his mom?

I immediately remembered that this is the same boy that used to get blamed for pulling my hair...even though it was really his best friend.
I thought about baby Jax and how he will never his father.

Of course, in times like these people squeeze their loved ones extra tight and try to remind themselves that God has a plan.

If I'm being honest, as my head hit the pillow last night, I repeated over and over through cold wet tears:
"Lord, I believe but help my unbelief."

Today, as Facebook is flooded with pictures, and memories, and condolences, I am praying for Jess.  I literally can't imagine what she's going through.  I pray that the peace that passes all understand will be real to her.

I pray for Mrs. Sandy and Mr. Billy, that they would have wisdom in the words that they speak over their daughter.

I pray for Mrs. Vicki.  That she would be comforted.  That the pieces of her heart would begin, even now, to weld together.

I pray for Brian, Justin's best friend.  That he would continue to draw close to God and that he would be a source of wisdom and strength for the family.

I pray for Emily, Jess' best friend, that just her touch would be a source of comfort for Jess.

I pray for baby Jax.  That he would grow to be a man of integrity, like his father.

 I pray for those who will feel Justin's absence in the days and weeks to come.

I don't have answers.  I don't even have anything comforting to say.  But I can pray, so that's what I'll do.

Donations to support Jess and baby Jax can be given here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dance Recital

Another year has flown by!

This past weekend Camber celebrated her 2nd year dancing ballet with Chara Christian Dance Academy.  Y'all, she loves it. 



This year recital was especially interesting.  The ballet classes came together and told the story of creation through dance.  It was literally breath taking.

To make the day even more special Camber was joined by her "friend" from school, Goku.  (His parents are as weird as we are and named him after Dragonball.)


Is he not the cutest kid?

They spent the evening making googly eyes at each other and pretending the rest of us didn't exist.

Aunt Amanda and Uncle DoDo

Daniel and Elizabeth Clark (My office girlfriend)

Grandma and Pop Pop (With flowers from Mema who couldn't be there this year)


I'm sorry, how old am I right now?  How can I possibly have a child who is going into middle school and inviting boys to her dance recitals???


Monday, April 7, 2014

Contentment

Contentment is a tricky beast.

Surely you know when you're not happy with what life is handing you.  It should be easy to see, right? 

Funny story.  It's not.

I didn't recognize my own discontentment until my friend Elizabeth confessed that she's been struggling in that very area.

When she said those words out loud I remember snickering and saying "Yeah, I can see how you've been in 'fake it till you make it' mode."

I didn't realize that those words were true for me also.

Ever since we stepped foot back in the United States I have longed to leave again.  (How's that for patriotism!)

I saw this season of our lives as "hurry up and wait."  We were just biding our time until God got his ducks in a row and we could get to doing what he called us to do.

Please understand that I see, now, how horrible that sounds.


After sharing our hearts (and history) with our pastor and his wife we were encouraged that this season is not to wait, but to grow.  We were in a safe place, surrounded by people who genuinely love us and are willing to speak truth into our lives with love. (Which is something we haven't had in recent past.)

I believe that the Great Commission is carried out 'as you are going.' I have continued to stay connected to the body and have been active in my local church.  I invite friends to church, hold babies in the nursery so their moms can enjoy service, make coffee and set out communion, and have lunch with friends so that they feel involved and connected.  I haven't stopped serving.

The issue with all of this is my heart.  I never served begrudgingly, but it was just something to occupy my time until we moved on to something else.  If God wanted me to grow in leadership I was going to show him just how ready for being a leader I was.

I feel like I've been saying and doing the right things (most of the time) but my heart was in the wrong place.  

It's time for a re-boot.  Time to speak my soul into submission and get my heart lined up with God's.

It's time for me to see this season for what it is and be willing to use up every second of the incredibly generous opportunity that God has given me.

During this time of growth I am learning to open up every part (yes, EVERY part) of my life with the people closest to me.  I am  learning that admonishment, when handled in love, doesn't have to leave spiritual and psychological scars.  In short I am learning what genuine biblical community is really like.