Sunday, August 1, 2010

Obsessive Belief

The field workers in Murcia know many Moroccans and there are two particular ladies whom I have grown to love; I’ve spent an accumulated time of perhaps five hours with them. They are the same wonderful cooks I spoke of in my last post. They are wonderful in the kitchen and today fixed quite a spread of lemon chicken and plums. As my cousin would say, “They can sure throw down!” Without being paid anything extra and simply out of the kindness of their hearts, they come and sweat over a hot stove of food and always provide limited, yet much welcomed conversation, as well as comic relief. Try learning to belly dance from a 50 year-old Arab woman and then, in turn, trying to teach her to country line dance (especially when you’ve never country line danced before either)!

I knew today would be the last time I would see Moulu and Fati and as I kissed their cheeks, as is the custom here, I embraced them as well and they both made sure to say in their very broken Spanish, “Tell your mom hello from us and pray to Allah. He can heal her.” They believe in God. The recite their prayers five times a day, but Jesus is never on the forefront of their minds. And I’m reminded that the only way to the Father is through His Son. Moulu and Fati never enter a mosque with stained or soiled clothing. They must be spotless and they must wash before praying as well. Afterall, only the best for Allah.

Unfortunately, they do not know that the spots and stains that need to be removed are from their lives, not their garments, and those imperfections can only be removed by the blood of Christ, which, as my brother likes to say, “is better than Clorox.” So, for these two women, their very best garb and head covering will only gain them permission to enter a mosque. If only they knew the veil was torn long ago. No more rituals. No more self-reliance. Only Jesus…

These two months in Spain have, at points, seemed endless. Then I look back to when I met my team in Kentucky and then at the friends we made when we first got to Spain and those moments seem to have come and gone so quickly. I’m sure the question will be posed, “Are you glad you went even though you didn’t want to?” (I was very close to packing my bags and heading back to Virginia just two days before I boarded the plane to Spain.) I feel obligated to say, “Of course.” I feel compelled to simply say, “I cannot thank God enough for being omnipresent. If He weren’t, this trip would not have been possible. If anything, I learned that God restores the faint-hearted and turns disbelief into obsessive belief.”

I’m one of the “lucky” ones. In fact, I just sat down with a twenty-something girl, named Mil just two days ago. She was asking about my mom and when I was finished giving testimony of God’s provision and faithfulness. She rejoiced with me and then she proceeded to tell me about both of her parents dying from cancer. She cried and I just sat there speechless feeling guilty for being so abundantly blessed. What do you say to that? The girl is a Christian. Her parents were faithful to Jesus, but the “why them” and the deep wounds don’t just disappear. All I can think is that my obsession with God and His existence is the only “thing” I have that keeps me going. Despite the hurt and hindrances that life presents, God is there. I can only hope that my faith should remain as strong as Mil’s.

Another obsessive moment with God was listening to the testimony of a couple at the church here in Murcia. They were married as non-believers. Ten years in to their marriage, they yearned, not for each other, but for a way out. Then they were introduced to Jesus and slowly they recovered the love that was lost between them and with Jesus added to the equation, their marriage is 27 years more beautiful than ever!

God is still a God of miracles. He heals cancer and he takes cares of spoiled whiny children like ME. I should be the last to complain about leaving my family for just two months and the first to whisper of His unending compassion and sweet existence in my life. (I could also shout it from the rooftops, if you prefer.) God is so good!

I started this blog several days ago and am just now getting to wrap it up. I’ve spent some time in the Sierra Nevada mountains here in Spain eating up the majesty of God through His creation and also through a few of His precious children: Ben, Brittney, Stephen, Rachel, and Katie…my interns. I met them just a few months ago and we’ve lived our lives together this summer and have each grown in different ways. One feels possibly led to full-time missions in Spain. One feels led to full-time missions, possibly in Costa Rica. Another would love an opportunity to serve in Asia. Another would like to return next year to plant more seeds through English camp and another in his passion for capturing people and activities with a camera is looking at doing another internship with a partner organization next year.

One of our final prayer times was spent asking God to work in the lives of specific non-believers we met over the summer and had direct contact and conversations with. We sat for several minutes and, one by one with our eyes closed and our hearts growing fragile, listed at least 100 individuals, children and adults, who have not considered making Jesus their Lord, their Savior, their…well, Everything.

I look back and and think, “Isn’t it amazing how God transcends everything?” My interns spoke and still speak very little Spanish, yet they feel connected to and deep love for so many people that God has put in their paths this summer. If nothing else, I pray that they have grown in the image of Christ, learned to pray for lost people and those who leave everything behind to go to other nations, and to live their lives intentionally and without regret when considering the Great Commission that was given to them a couple thousand years ago.

There are stories that need to be heard. People need to hear about Moulu and Fati and Mil. People need to hear about Elis and the fact that she’s never considered any religion…ever. She says she atheist because she doesn’t know any better. People need to hear about “C” and her desire to read the Koran because she hungry to find the one and only Way, yet no one has told her that the only Way is Jesus. People need to hear the story of Si and Er and their labor among Arabs and Latin American immigrants and their desire for Spain to belong to God one again. People need to hear stories of hope, like with Incarni, a Spanish woman who has recently been introduced to Jesus and desires so much to know Him more and the story of Gen and how her sharp tongue and heated confrontation with a non-Christian eventually brought her to repentance at a small Christian camp.

God is at work here in Spain. It certainly hasn’t been a trip that I would put on a personal resume because of particular battles I’ve faced this summer. I’ve not been the coach or mentor that was expected of me, but I did give my everything and I left nothing behind…just perhaps in not all the right places. My interns were neglected quite a bit; the summer was hectic and time outside of direct ministry activities was beyond scarce, but I’m still left with no excuses. There are things that I wish would have been different, but my hope lies in the fact that Jesus’ grace is sufficient for me.

If only the individuals listed in this blog could rest like I will tonight because of the knowledge of His grace and mercy…if only they lived like me with an obsessive belief in a God who gave His life for them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Christmas in July

My team and I are doing well. In just 15 days we will be on a plane headed back to the United States. It’s been mayhem until this point with language classes, host family stays, three solid weeks of English camp with a total of about 150 campers, and three cities under our belts. Four weeks were spent in Granada, two weeks in Madrid, and just two days ago we arrived in Murcia. We are here 9 more days until we have our long-awaited team retreat back in Granada (just before our departure at home on August 2nd). Here’s a brief synopsis of each city:

GRANADA: southern Spain, tourist city, Arabic influence, nominal Catholics, many foreigners and middle-class Spaniards. We took formal Spanish classes where we had a spectacular view of the Alhambra. Google it and be jealous of the view! We also spent a week in preparation for and then a week of facilitating the first of hopefully many English camps for the neighborhood of Ojijares where we lived. The interns also stayed in Christian host homes where their Spanish was tested and where their patience with the culture and themselves was certainly tried!

MADRID: central Spain, tourist attractions and bull flights, Catholic influence, composed primarily of middle to upper-class Spaniards. We lived with non-Christian Spanish families where our Spanish was tested again and where we started to really get a feel for the lost-ness of the country. We taught English for two weeks to elementary school kids (350 kids sign up and only 100 are chosen at random to attend camp…HUGE outreach!)

MURCIA: southern Spain, high South American and North African immigrant population, Catholic and Islamic influence. Our time here is much more relaxed with down time, which I, in particular, am very grateful for. We spend most of our time entertainlng the missionary children. They are Nicaraguan so once again, our Spanish is being put to the test. We will attend and help run a four-day Christian camp this coming weekend. Next week we’ll sneak away to see the Mediterranean Ocean with the church family here and then we have a day to visit downtown Murcia with the youth before heading back to Granada.

We’re staying busy, but strong.

What does this have to do with Christmas in July? Nothing…just keep reading.

My mom is doing amazingly well. She is through cycle three of six. Her spirits are super high and she continues to encourage and bless those around her. Her faith is astounding!

Dad just had surgery to allow him to breath better, sleep better, and to eliminate risk of further sinus infections. He’s recovering well and hopefully will soon begin to see benefits of the procedure.

Please keep them both in your prayers! It’s been a long haul. We’ve got a few more months to go before they are in top notch, but God is most definitely leading them in that direction it seems! Thank you so much for praying for them! Christmas in July, you ask? Keep reading…

I’ve committed to reading the Bible in chronological order in 61 days. Yesterday was Day 47. And Day 47, you guessed it…Jesus was born! Hence, it was Christmas on July 18th this year!

Years of prophecy and expectation come to fulfillment in a tiny stable in Bethlehem. Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, a precious little face…all wrapped up in a perfect package, or ”swaddling” clothes. There certainly wasn’t a bright red bow on the top of his head, nor did everyone consider Him to be the Messiah or long awaited gift of a savior from God the Father. But He was. The shepherds went with “haste” to behold Him. The wise men “rejoiced with exceedingly great joy”, while Herod obviously had other plans. Years passed and multitudes began to search for and follow Jesus. Others sought to slay Him, just like Herod.

And He was, for sinners, slain. Three days later, however, He arose and gave hope to a world of law-breaking citizens. Grace was bestowed and mankind no longer rested on his own offerings and sacrifices, but rather on the Lamb of God, whose blood sprinkled the nations of the past, present, and future.

As I write this blog, there are two Moroccan muslim ladies in the kitchen making Arabic food for my team. These ladies’ Spanish is limited. One is illiterate, even in Arabic that we know of. One is divorced. They both work diligently as maids where jobs are available here in the town of Murcia. They live as foreigners in Spain to have a better life than what they had in their home country, from what I gather. They are full of smiles and laughter, yet the Holy Spirit constantly reminds me that, without Jesus, they are but wanderers here without purpose. Their smiles will fade. Their laughter will cease. They are condemned without hope if someone doesn’t introduce them to that tiny baby boy who was born for them 2,000 years ago.

It’s the same with my friend, “C” whom I got to go out with two more times, thanks to many prayers! I was not able to share directly about Jesus and His redeeming grace, but I was able to clarify some specifics about Christianity as opposed to the Muslim faith. “C” needs to be introduced to that tiny baby boy.

One of my host families along this 2-month journey desperately needs to know Jesus. They are VERY adamant that Christianity is mythical and a just bunch of rubbish. Those weren’t their exact words, but It doesn’t sit well with me when someone bashes my Jesus. I understand why they still seek to “slay” Him. It’s because they don’t know Him like I do.

I just wish, with all my heart and soul, that they did.

61 days. I will make it. I’ve never read the Bible through before with the exception of when I was in Bible college when the Bible was a textbook to me. While in Spain it’s been an action/thriller/suspense piece of non-fiction that I can’t seem to live without. No, I don’t absorb everything, but I certainly haven’t skimmed anything either, not even the genealogies! God has blessed me and once again reminded me of His plan for the world. 2.4 billion still don’t know…

…about that tiny baby boy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fool's Gold

Psalm 14 and 53 both say, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” So what does the term “fool” actually mean? Does it mean innocently ignorant or just pain idiotic? Online sites provided me with the following:

Fool: a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding
Fool: a weak-minded or idiotic person
Fool: a person who lacks judgment or sense
Fool: a silly or stupid person

I prefer to define “fool” as someone who lacks understanding, or who is perhaps weak-minded, but only because of the lack of knowledge or insight. And if that’s my definition, I’ve met some pretty foolish people lately. Again, not stupid or idiotic, just ignorant of Truth because they have not been taught any better. It's like a child looking for treasure and when the come upon iron or copper pyrites, they jump for joy...because those "pyrites" are sometimes mistaken for golden treasures.

While in Spain with my interns, I encourage each of them to never sit together on public transportation. Perhaps I’m a bit strict in this, but I firmly believe that if we throw ourselves into the culture and language, God will open our ears, loosen our tongues, and bless us with conversation, as basic as it may be, and opportunity to sow some spiritual seeds. If nothing else, the interns grow comfortable in their shoes as foreigners and learn to quickly rely on the Spaniards for language learning. As the leader of the group, I must set the example, right? And so I strive to do just that. It doesn’t always happen, nor do I always follow the Spirit’s prompting, but on one occasion, a relationship was established. Here’s my story of “C”:

I thought to myself, “What in the world do I say to this girl?” I made up something to ask her…something about a particular tourist attraction in downtown Granada and she started explaining to me how to purchase tickets and such and the conversation progressed from there. “Where are you from…” to “How long will you be in Spain…” to questions about education, culture, and life in general. After 30 minutes on the bus, I asked her what her name was. I’ll refer to her as “C”. We quickly exchanged e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers. She rang the bell on the bus and hopped off at the next stop…

I waited 2 days and decided to be proactive in seeking her out. She immediately responded to my email and reciprocated the fact that it was wonderful meeting on the bus and that we should indeed partake of some strong Spanish coffee together. The next day, we met and sat for almost 2 hours over coffee and donuts. (She had NEVER had a donut, by the way. She LOVED them!) We talked about our families in our home countries and our perspective of the Spanish family as we are both foreigners here. We dug a little deeper…in our best Spanglish.

“C” is a 25 year-old French girl who has resided in Spain for 10 months now. She is a Spanish and Music major who is paying her way by being a nanny in the home of Spaniards. Her first language is obviously French, followed by English, and then Spanish. Her parents are divorced and she detests her father and brothers. Her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and she admitted that even if he were to get very ill that she would have to carefully consider whether or not she would care for him and if she did, it would most likely be financially and not personally. She is, however, very close with her mother.

At the age of 21, “C” mentioned going through a “storm” and that is when something quite “mystical” happened. She denied the existence of God until that moment, therefore having lived the first 21 years of her life as an atheist. I am still unsure of what that storm was, but I will admit being grateful for it. It caused her to search for God. And so we dug a little deeper…

I asked “C” if her parents had any influence on her religious decisions and she said that it has been just within the past year that her mother has verbally expressed being Catholic, though she has never attended Mass or church events that “C” can remember from growing up. I’ll assume then that her parents have had very little to zero impact on her spiritually.

So four years have passed since “C” began her search and within the past 5 weeks she has settled on a religion that she says is “rude” yet “beautiful”. She said her frustration, however is that the Koran she is reading is in Spanish, her third language, and not in French. Yes, I said the Koran. She considers herself to be a Muslim woman. She admits seeing nothing wrong with the oppression of women in the religion and also feels that those who live out their faith in militant and violent ways are not living out their religion properly. She does not want people assuming she is a terrorist or that she encourages such behavior.

As we left the coffee shop and donut crumbles behind, my heart began to feel as if it weighed a few tons. She asked about me and I briefly mentioned being a Christian, which of course she chose to relate to the Catholic church. She thought it was very odd that I did not believe in Evolution nor of the teachings of Darwin. She did recall that Darwin denied his theories and admitted to Divine Design before his death, but she thought it was absurd that he would do such a thing after having provided “a way” to believe. And yes, she does think she evolved from a monkey.

We stood on a street corner and said farewell. I invited her to help teach English at an English camp that my team will help facilitate next week. She seemed very interested and even mentioned that two of the children that she lived with would probably be interested in attending. However, I have yet to hear from “C” since we last met. Almost a week has passed. I wonder if that was the last time I was to be used in her life. Makes me think and wonder why God would put her in my path and then allow her to disappear back into her dark world of contemplation.

Perhaps the seed was just for me to plant. Perhaps someone else has been chosen to water that seed. And of course, it’s God that will infuse some Miracle Grow…

Pray for “C” today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm Not Happy

It's one thing to be happy about what God's doing in my life; it's another to be content. Happiness is fleeting. It's that feeling you get when you see an old Spaniard (Yes, I'm writing from Spain!) couple hobbling down a cobblestone street hand in hand, knowing they've probably been married for 60 years. And the fact that most of the old men wear v-neck sweaters and golfer hats makes it even better! It's that feeling you get when you ride the carousel at a lawn party or amusement park...or maybe that's just nausea. Happiness is what you feel when a soldier returns home from war and sees his daughter for the first time or kisses his bride after seemingly years, when it's "only" been months. Happiness is eating that one comfort food(s) (Reece Cups, beef jerkey, and Dr. Pepper for me) that makes reality disappear for as long as it takes you to chew and swallow. Happiness just doesn't ever seem to last very long, does it?

Contentment, on the other hand, is sought and can actually be lived out continuously. It doesn't fade or weaken unless you let it. Happiness disappears faster than you can snap your when your favorite sports team is winning and all of the sudden they lose with a last second goal or home run or buzzer-beater half-court shot from the other team. You sit there looking at the TV in disbelief and all the rush and thrill and excitement disappear instantly. Or like when everything is going your way, nothing can stop you, and then an unexpected bill comes in the mail and your checking account won't cover it...or like the day that my mom got that phone call. Or the day that I had to board a plane knowing Mom would face chemo and that I wouldn't get to "fight" the battle with her. Happiness, I've decided, is for the birds...

Contentment, however, is a gift.

Contentment. Paul learned to have it and he was tortured. We're talking about being on a ship that was destroyed, being stoned (probably not with pretty smooth river pebbles), being whipped, being naked, cold and hungry. And that thorn in the flesh? Seriously??? Who was he to talk about contentment? And joy sandwiched in between each trial and tribulation? I'm thinking that Paul was just a sinner gone mad, wouldn't you agree? Hopeless, downtrodden, afflicted, and beaten to the point of losing his mind and assuming life couldn't possibly be something enjoyable. He was a sinner gone mad and figured, "What the hell...if I'm gonna live this life, I may as well learn to like it...even if it absolutely sucks. Maybe...just maybe my luck will turn." RIGHT?

Oh my...that's so wrong.

Poverty, loneliness, war, natural disaster, failed relationships, messed up marriages, broken homes, abuse of every type, cancer, every other sickness, depression,and even death...all are evidence that a hopeless generation exists. They are things that obliterate happiness. But they don't have to deprive us of contentment. None of these things are things that God created. They derive from a fallen world; sin really messed this world up. There's nothing we can do about that. That's why Jesus lived, and died, and rose. He cares for the less-fortunate and comforts the lonely, drives away our enemies, calms the winds and the sea, restores trust between friends, rebuilds and sustains marriages, turns cold houses into warm homes, forgives abuse, heals illnesses, gives hope and purpose to the downtrodden, and yes...He still raises Lazaruses from the dead.

I don't really know why I wrote this post. I guess somebody out there needed to hear it or maybe I needed to...

I was going to update you on my mom and tell you how God is at work here in Spain and among my five interns, but that's just going to have to wait for another day. As for now, know that my mom is doing very well. Chemo is no fun, but she is handling it with GOD-size strength and perseverance. She's not happy about cancer or doing kartwheels, but I honestly believe she's content in the fact that God allowed her to have cancer so that somebody else wouldn't be plagued with it. And Spain...Spain is just as beautiful as it was when I came last'll just have to sit anxiously until my next post to hear how God is moving here. I'm not exactly happy about being far from home right now, but I'm very content about some specific people whom God has placed in my life here for "such a time as this"...

Thanks for reading...
Thanks for praying...
YOU are appreciated!
God is still rockin' my world.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Little Pink Ribbons

Growing up, I wasn't much on pink. I wore nothing with frills or lace; I detested dressing up for church on Sunday mornings. Now that I'm 30, not much has changed. I'd still choose Tonka trucks over Barbies ANYday and I'd rather wear my "holy" jeans to church as opposed to a freshly ironed blouse and slacks. Pink ribbons...I rarely wore them in my hair. I cut off any pink bows on shirts and dresses mom would buy for me. Pink wasn't part of my life and I was okay with that.

Don't get me wrong. God made pink. I look at the flowers of the fields, the sunsets, watermelons and grapefruits, certain fish of the sea. God made pink. Sometimes pigs look pink. My cheeks turn pink when I'm embarrassed. Those white rabbits have crazy reddish/pink eyes! I like my steaks cooked medium, which makes them pink in the middle. For some reason the doctors like it when your fingernails are pink when you press on them. Pink is a good thing. Newborn babies are pink and look like miniature old people. Pink is precious.

Most of the time. But what about those "little pink ribbons"...

Little pink ribbons. You see magnetic ones on cars. You see them on license plates. Some women have little pink ribbon earrings and necklace pendants. Men and women alike have pink ribbon tattoos. You can get pink ribbons on mugs, water bottles, phone covers, blankets, shoes, socks, underwear, scrubs, keychains, mousepads, screensavers, and countless other items including t-shirts, one of which I was wearing this past Monday, April 19th, 2010.

My t-shirt said, "I wear pink for my mom." And yes, a little pink ribbon accompanied those words. Pink isn't so precious when it refers to the big "c", in this case, breast cancer.

I officially moved back to Port Republic, VA on Monday, March 29th. (I lived for two years in Louisville, KY.) It was on March 30th, just 24 hours later, that I walked past mom's office where she works for Rockingham Memorial Hospital as a medical transcriptionist. Phone calls and faxes are a routine part of her job, but not that one particular call. She hung up the phone and through tears she whispered, "I have breast cancer." I was knelt down beside her desk as she told me and my only response was a silent cry. We cried together for a few minutes and the phone rang again. An immediate appointment was scheduled for the following morning.

Psalm 119:71, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."

Dr. R. explained that we caught it early and that surgery would need to happen in two to four weeks. Just 20 days after that phone call I cried as I embraced Mom once more before she headed to the OR for extensive surgery.

Mom was always the one to kiss our cheek and forehead and squeeze our hand one last time as we kids underwent hospital procedures. My older brother had a kidney transplant. She assured him that she'd be right there waiting when he got out. She sent dad in, too. He was the donor. My younger brother had major ear surgery. She sent him in. I had extensive shoulder repair. Who sent me in? Mom.

Granted other family members were there, but I wanted to touch her last and kiss her last and be the last smile and wave that she saw. I think I was. I've certainly not been the "strong" one throughout all of this. I've been the most emotional. Despite my tomboyish appearance and personality, I do have that maternal instinct which is to worry about those I love and to mother them as best I know how.

Mom came out of surgery and her first slurred question to me was, "What about the lymph nodes?" Thankfully, I had good news. There was no cancer detected in the nodes.

Psalm 30:11-12, "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever."

Mom didn't exactly dance, but she smiled and drifted back to sleep. And let me tell you, she's not being silent now that she's back home. She's giving praise to the One who deserves it!

Let me conclude by saying this. We've not posted anything on Facebook or in blogs prior to this one and Mom approved everything written here. My purpose in writing isn't for anyone to pity my mom or our family, but to prove to you that the ONLY "thing" getting us through these days is Jesus. We are confident that He has not given us anything greater than we can bear. We rest assured that He is sovereign and that He is a healer of broken spirits and broken bodies. He chooses to take some from this earth. It appears that He will be lengthening the days of Mom. For that I am grateful, not only because she'll be here with me, but because I know that God has more for her to do. More people need Jesus. Perhaps having cancer is her avenue of service and worship right now. That makes me smile...

Psalm 40:3, "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD."

Just last night a dear friend in Venezuela said (after I told her that I cry because this is all happening to Mom when I wish it were happening to me instead), "Steph, don't wish for a second that you could rob your mom of this opportunity to give God the glory through hardship. This trial is for her and she is doing with it what God intended...she's giving Him the glory and remaining faithful. She's being a true witness. Let her do that." Wow, I was floored. And crying again because I knew those words were true.

Little pink ribbons aren't always cute or wanted. But,

I do not blame God.
I am not angry with God.

In fact, I love Him more today than on March 30th.

I'd still be okay if pink weren't a part of my life, but it is...and to God be the glory for what He is doing in, through, and all around my mom!

We are still awaiting official pathology reports from the entire procedure, but so far, so good. Please pray for Mom. May she continue to lean on that Solid Rock and may our faith be polished, refined, and ever so radiant to those in our midst. People keep saying, "Just stay positive." It's not really about being's about being faithful and obedient to our Maker. The victory is His and for that we will never cease to rejoice. This is the day that the Lord hath made...we will rejoice. We will be glad!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Grandmas rock...

It's true. They sit in their rockin' chairs and do just that...they rock.

I remember growin' up and sitting on my grandmas' laps. Mostly it was a time to have them hug me and tell me how special I was to them. That was always the case with Grandma Kate. I loved her for it. Other times, especially with Grandma Violet, it was to tell me things like, "Pretty is as pretty does." That meant that little girls were to be quiet, gentle spirits. Little girls were to act properly at all times. Growing up with brothers, that certainly was rarely the case, so Grandma Violet was that constant reminder of a woman's place in this world. I shall never forget that either. I loved her for it.

Other things stick out. Grandma Violet loved giving out one dollar bills. On October 16th, I could always expect a cute little birthday card. I never paid attention to the message, but rather the delight of that one dollar bill magically appearing inside every year. Grandma Kate was the big spender, though. She always gave the very same type of card, but with a five dollar bill...every year. Six bucks to a kid was the equivalent to the lottery for an adult. Okay, maybe not quite to that extent, but was awesome!

God provided many things through my grandmas. Green beans that none can compare too (Violet). Outings to Long John Silver. (Hush puppies tasted better when Grandma Kate was around.) Outings to KFC. (I hated those trips, but now find myself ordering what Grandma Violet did...three wings and a biscuit.) Puppy love (Kate). Animals are from God and should be treated humanely. Hard work and perseverance. Both grandmas taught me that. Chinese Checkers (Violet). Othello (Kate...and she never let me win). Crazy Eights (Kate). Grandma Violet ate dandelions while raking leaves and always added, "They'll do ya good and help ya too!" Ice cream eating contests. The older Grandma Kate got, the faster she ate. And she said the trick was to not let the ice cream touch the roof of your mouth. (I still haven't figured that one out!) And so many other things that only grandmas can provide. And it was all rooted in that four-letter-word...LOVE.

I thought I had seen the last of my grandmas when they passed on to be with Jesus. I knew I'd have the memories, a special dish or trinket from their belongings, but I didn't expect any more dollar or five dollar bills.

Little did I know, that at just the right time, one of those special old ladies would come alive again with generosity.

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I will be going back to school this fall and so my first registration fee is coming up on Monday, the 22nd of this month. I didn't know where the majority of the $800 was going to come from. I've prided myself in not having to use a credit card, but reality hit and I knew that I would unfortunately have to join that club of being in debit to a piece of plastic. And then...

Mom called.

"Ya know how when you're are really in need of some money, how God always chimes in at just the right time?....Well, I think most of your first school bill of $760 is going to be covered."

I just smiled and let her finish telling me the story...

Last week, she (mom) went to pull out a recipe from an old recipe book that she hadn't used in ages. An envelop fell out and she noticed it had something to do with my Grandma Violet, my dad's mom who passed away almost 2 years ago. Mom set the envelop on my dad's stack of mail. Dad finally got around to opening the envelop just four days ago and it happened to be a $500 savings MY name. My jaw dropped.

Needless to say, when I get home to VA in just over a week, I'll be cashing that in to pay for my first two prerequisite courses!

Maybe mom should keep cookin' from those old recipe books! Who knows what might fall out next! :)

Isn't God good!?

And isn't it true...

Grandmas really do ROCK!

In memory of Grandma Kate (passed away December 2007, she was 79.)
In memory of Grandma Violet (passed away July 2008, she was 102.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A runnin' fool with loose hinges...

The Message version of the Bible says in 1 TIMOTHY 4:8,
"Exercise daily in God-no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever."

It's true. I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm a runner, but I have become pretty darn adamant about training for an upcoming mini-marathon. I ran 10 miles this morning. Was snowin' here in the "lou" (Louisville, KY) and so I once again alternated between the indoor track and the DREADmill. I clocked out after 1:38:34. So I'm keepin' it just under a 10min/mile pace. Nothin' to brag about, just something new that you now know about me.

As far as the "loose hinges" are concerned, that would be a reference to my joints. Since middle school, I've had some issues with my...sing along if you would..."head and shoulders, knees, and toes". Okay, so not with my head (though I did get nine staples in my scalp last year, but that's a story for another day), OR with my toes (they just suffer blisters), but my shoulders, knees, elbows, and hips are hypermobile, especially the elbows and shoulders. In fact, my basketball and volleyball playing days are in...I won't even step on the court to goof around. It makes me sad, but makes me cringe.

I had my right shoulder tightened 2 1/2 years ago. That surgery was unsuccessful and I'm back to square one. In fact, I dislocated it just two weeks ago and am in a brace just about 24/7 to keep it from slipping. Hence...I'm a running fool because it's really all I'm physically able to do right now. I can bike, but believe it or not, that can be hard on the shoulders, too.

I've been to a few orthopedists and most recently, a shoulder specialist who has given me the order to see a geneticist. On May 4th, they'll be testing me for a syndrome called Ehler's Danlos (body's inefficiency to produce collagen, the stuff in the connective tissues (ligaments/tendons) that keeps them tight and cohesive.). Basically, they think that I'm a "loose young lady" (go ahead...laugh...we all have) because of this particular syndrome. We'll soon know. If I test positive, I've been told that surgery really isn't an least not the typical surgeries. If I test negative, then who knows where I'll end up. I'll keep you posted.

Timothy said that going to the gym is a good thing; it's "useful". But in all sincerity, I hope I'm MORE concerned about my soul and MORE disciplined in my devotion to my God than I am about my loose hinges or in my physical training. How 'bout you? How are you treating what God has deemed a TEMPLE? Is there some spiritual flabbiness that's weighin' ya down?

"Take you everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering." ROMANS 12:1