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A Blessed Romance

A Dance Through Life With The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The “A” Word and the “H” Word

Once upon a time there was a little boy who lived in a place not too far from here.
The little boy’s brain saw the world differently than most of others, which sometimes made him sad, but for the most part it was a very good thing. The little boy had a very big brain and was able to do a lot of things other people could not because of the big brain his Maker had gifted him with.
The world was uncomfortable with how the little boy’s brain worked, because it didn’t work quite like what others would call “normal”, so they raised a banner over him and wrote “Autistic” on it, and called him by that. But his family, who loved him dearly, they just called him by his name, because he was exactly who he was supposed to be, and they knew that God had knit him together perfectly, and for a mighty purpose. His family knew he was to be a great knight, a warrior, and that no banner the world placed over him would ever overshadow the banner of God was flying over him even before he was born. The little boy was a beautiful and perfect gift given to his family.
Over the years the boy’s parents thought and prayed long and hard about what the right decisions were to raise their knight. The little boy had faith in God like they had not seen in a child before, and he bore beautiful witness to his Maker in the school that was teaching him the basics of knighthood- reading, writing, and arithmetic. He tried very hard in school, and often did well. There were fair maidens there who guided him and equipped him to be ready to do battle when he faced the world, and even one year a lady in the lake gave him a sword, she taught him to read.
It came to pass that the little boy’s time at the school was over. He was ready to move to a new adventure. These are the chronicles you will find here…

 

Caleb and I have given much deliberation and many prayers to the thought of home school for quite some time. It really started to hit home (no pun intended) when I did an interview for a lady who was writing a paper on children with “special needs”. One of the questions asked why I wasn’t homeschooling my “special needs” child. That question struck me. I had not considered it but for a second when Josh was diagnosed, because we felt like school was imperative for socialization. From there my wheels started turning. Never in my life, never EVER had I considered myself a teacher, not in the “Three R’s” sort of sense (reading, writing, arithmetic). The thought of dealing with kids all day long while I was growing up made me nauseous and I started to tremble if I thought about it. My house is normally a tragic mess. I am not at all organized. I’m definitely the “free spirit” of my household. I like to tell people “I keep my head in the clouds while my husband holds my feet on the ground”, so I always have felt I was more of the starving artist type than level-minded teacher.
But God……But God, But God, But God………Oh how He loves to take all of my plans in that hand that holds the whole world in and say “Little girl, you think you have a good thing going, but watch what I can do with this little that you give me….You just need to give it to me.” Our family has been through some gut-wrenching things over the past few years, things that broke us, things that crushed us in almost every sense of the word, emotionally, physically, etc. But through those terrible experiences, just has He did with Job, He has restored us with better, better than we could have imagined.
So here’s something I’m taking away from this recent experience:

Had we not been through those nasty, stomach churning events that in some cases forcefully severed me from what I thought was God’s best for me the past two years I would not have been open to trusting God with giving up public school. Public school was not bad thing. I myself had an overall exceptional public school experience. However, my husband and I both feel it’s not God’s best plan for our son(s) at this point in life. Those experiences we went through over the past few years made it easier to trust God and take the leap of faith across the unknown into the arms of our Maker, so that He could make room for something bigger in my son’s life, so that Josh could get God’s best.
The decision was easy and confirmation after confirmation poured in after we took the leap. But walking out the beast of a call to homeschool has been difficult. Did you know that picking out homeschool curriculum can give one heart palpitations? Seriously, they should have that in fine print at homeschool conventions. I don’t know why all the bloggers who write on homeschool are not putting a disclaimer in their posts: “Warning, walking through the door of any homeschool convention can potentially cause a mild heart attack. Not for those with pre-existing conditions.” This goes especially for people like me who see something shiny and are on to the next subject.
I’m still not a mom naturally geared for homeschool. I don’t know if I will ever be. What if I mess him up? What if he turns into some weird kid who grows his hair out over his face so he won’t have to make eye contact with people? What if he is with me so much that he won’t be able to function without me? What if I am such a helicopter parent that I ruin any chance of him getting married and I lose my opportunity for grandchildren….and he has to stay in my house…..FOREVER?? But, what if, just what if, the Lord allows me the privilege of establishing a firm foundation in the areas of his struggles? What if through the grace of God I can give him starting point so stout that he stands tall, as tall as he possibly can. What if I get to see him fly and then soar in the things he loves? What an honor to be given this opportunity.
So today, my son’s last day of public school at least for the foreseeable future, I found myself in the school office withdrawing him, almost in tears at the secretary’s sweet words. There are so many people in that place who love my son. Today I went through the car pool line for the last time and watched his teachers past and present give big hugs to my baby as they said goodbye, people who have spent as much time with him over the school year as I have. I cried as I drove off people. I cried a lot. With my precious knightly cargo in tow I drove off into the sun set to a new, exciting, scary-as-all-get-out, but God ordained adventure, knowing that though his time has been good in public school I’m willing to surrender it for his best time yet.

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When I am Weak, That’s Really When I am Strong

Of late I have been measured. The verdict: I am severely lacking: lacking as a wife, lacking as a mother, lacking as a family member, lacking as a volunteer, lacking as a business owner, lacking as a human being. I’ve been overpowered, outnumbered, insufficient, inept, and downright melancholy, to be honest.

A delightful person, whom I cherish, commented to me once that it seemed so easy for me to be so vulnerable with people and share, about my inadequacies, about life issues. How did I get there?  I was brought to a place by being hard pressed and struck down, to the point where I surrendered my pride and fear of judgement at the foot of an all-redeeming cross. One may perceive this of that as a bad thing, the letting go of pride, but in that process something beautiful happened.

I got a story. I got a purpose. I got a mission.

I came to understand that one of the reasons for my existence was to boast of my weakness, because when I am weak, then, THEN I am strong. I can walk around with my head held high, in spite of my past and present issues, wrong decisions, or terrible behavior. Why? Because my life is not about me…it never was intended to be about me. My life holds a much higher purpose and calling than, well, me.

When the world brandishes its measuring stick it sees me as a mom who loses her temper, as a volunteer who doesn’t do what she is supposed to, as a wife who neglects her husband, and as a family member who forgets birthdays, doesn’t call after surgeries, and other important events (yeah, sometimes I really blow it). It paints a picture of a business owner who has made tough and sometimes wrong decisions, and quite frankly, it exposes those who have suffered due to my inadequacies: kids, husband, family, employees, those whom I serve in volunteer aspects, and many others. “What a wretched man that I am!?”

So yes, I have been hard pressed, perplexed, struck down. I have messed up, stirred up wrath, neglected obligations, you name it. But I was never alone, never destroyed, never defeated. In my repentance and requests for forgiveness I was made new.

The One who never leaves takes me by the hand, although I have done these things, although I have been measured and found lacking, and says

“My grace is sufficient for you, for MY power is made perfect in weakness.”

This makes me unashamed to put a picture with no makeup, overweight, no hairdo, and 33 year old crow’s feet out for the world to see (which, let’s face it, folks, is how I normally look anyway). This makes me walk, head high, despite my shortcomings. It has nothing to do with me. It is because His grace is sufficient for me, for even me!

Therefore, like Paul, I will boast all day long of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. For when I am weak, that’s when I am strong.

The Second Week of Second Grade

To my precious son, Josh,

The one who refuses, absolutely refuses, to make a straight face at the camera in this stage, insisting on never taking this world too seriously.

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The one who can take a pile of Lego and create something amazing from what others perceive as a mess.

The one who takes apart every flashlight, alarm clock, remote control, or any other piece of equipment that will accept a screw driver.

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The one who sees beauty in another’s ashes.

The one who has an impeccable sense of humor.

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The one who loves his brother unconditionally and is his self-proclaimed advocate/care-taker/ally.

The one who has a fascinating desire to read and does so exceptionally (but isn’t so crazy about math).

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The one who loves amazingly well, without limits.

The master of all video games and the programmer of technology for the household.

The one who is quick to forgive.

The one who gives ever-creative, mind-boggling answers to the most simple of questions.

Son, you are amazing. I am so proud of you.

When the world hands you a big lemon and then turns its back you refute by gathering condensation off of plants, inventing the latest all-natural sweetener, Judo-chopping the lemon open, and scaling the mountain in front of you to reach the exact elevation which will birth the proper temperature to concoct the perfectly sweetened lemon Slushie. You are beautiful on the inside and handsome on the outside. You are thankful for the good things, and you love without limits. Boy, I think you are outstanding.

You see the world about three shades differently than most. I find your mind fascinating. It is one thing I absolutely adore about you and never want to change. I can sit and watch you think through situations for hours.

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Son, this year, as I pray is full of good memories, I know will have tumultuous times accompanying it. People will make fun of you. People will hurt you. People will let you down.

That’s ok.

Albeit hard, just know that their teasing has nothing to do with you, but is derived from a place deep down inside of them that they don’t like. Keep your focus on who God says you are.

Son, befriend the child in class who acts differently, because you don’t know what battles they face inside of themselves.

Befriend the one who wears ragged clothing, as they may not know where their next meal will come from.

Befriend the one who is angry. You don’t know what they’re dealing with at home.

Befriend the one who has a different smell than you. They may come from a different back ground, or may not have a Mom and Dad looking after them like you do.

Befriend the one who looks differently than you. Each of us is a unique building block that makes up this beautiful world. We are all loved equally by the One who created us, and are called to love everyone the same.

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Befriend the one who spends his or her time quiet in a corner. They may desperately want a friend, but not know how to make one.

Befriend the one who would rather read than talk. It’s ok to just sit with someone and not say anything.

Befriend the child who is ok with themselves in their own skin and loves you for exactly who you are.

Love yourself for exactly who you are.

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Son, I’m not saying that everyone should like you, because they won’t, and that’s ok. You were never put on earth to make everyone like you. I’m not saying that you should allow someone to bully you or consistently treat you badly, either. I’m saying that everyone deserves an opportunity to be loved, to be cared about, and to be appreciated for who they are, even though they sometimes hurt your feelings. It’s a hard thing to do, but you can do hard things. I have every faith in you, and the Lord working through you. He will allow you to reach out to someone when it is not easy, though your “friends” may make fun of you for doing so. You might just realize those people laughing are really not the kind of friends you want to be around in the first place.

Josh, be Jesus to someone who otherwise may not see Jesus from anyone else in the world.

I love that you’re so good at going against the grain, at marching to your own beat, do it in every aspect of your life. Do not conform. Do not give in…and don’t give a second thought as to what someone thinks of you. Your focus is what Jesus thinks, no man alive has dominion on that aspect of your life.

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Every inventor or artist I have met first started with a dream of their creation, a deep-seeded thought that consumed their days, down to the seconds. I would imagine the same of our Father. He started you in a dream. He thought of how you would look, from the shape of your toe nails to your facial expressions. He loved you in that dream and imagined how you would dance, what your voice would sound like, how you would sing, and he reveled in every second of it. He utilized that dream as a blue print to meticulously orchestrate you into being, to lovingly weave together every fiber of your being into a beautiful tapestry. He was thinking of you the whole time, glad that you were coming into existence. Son, the Creator of the universe so lovingly made you for a purpose…just as he did every single person on the planet. Respect the purpose of those around you by being kind, compassionate, and understanding.

I don’t often pray for you to have a good day. I pray instead for God to show up for you in a mighty way.  Why?  Because life is hard, son, and those hard days draw us nearer to the One who created us…and they give us the opportunity to see what we are really made of: grit, grace, and perseverance. Remember, perseverance does not disappoint. It builds a rich character in us that allows us to reach into the lives of others and love without limits. I pray for you to drink deep of his goodness, mercy, and his love, oh, the love the Father has lavished upon us…You’ve only just begun your pursuit of discovering God’s love for you. What an incredible journey lay ahead of you.

With more love than the earth and sky can profess,

Mom

The God of Miracles: Levi’s Story

4.5 Years we waited.

My arms ached for a child. We had our first little one, who was absolute perfection, and I was desperate for another. We had endured the grief of losing two precious babies along the way, and I walked around heartbroken.

Then one day, hopeful, there were two lines instead of one on the test! Now, so many of us who have miscarried do not get excited until we are told it’s “safe” to do so. The thought of going through this again excited me, but at the same time I was oh so cautious, so careful to remind myself that this one may not stay, like the last two.

After several trips to the doctor, and some early pregnancy complications, we saw that beautiful heartbeat.  I hope I remember seeing the heart beats of my children until I take my last breath. There is nothing more awe-striking than watching the life inside you grow right before your eyes. Each pump of that tiny heart, every movement, spurs that child one step closer to your arms. I felt at peace, my hormone levels seemed good, the medicine seemed to be working….and there was that amazing heartbeat.

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Things were basically smooth sailing after our initial “scare”. I had to give up a few things because of the complications combined with my history, like the 3 day walk that we were scheduled to do, but, wonderfully, Levi thrived. The last several weeks proved slightly complicated and I spent 6 weeks laying on my left side, two of those weeks I vacationed at the “Baylor Bed and Breakfast” (aka the hospital).   Shout out to all my sisters who failed at home bed rest!

Levi came late one night via c-section, and was precious. Red hair. Blue eyes. He was perfect, just like his brother. And healthy! We had two amazing children!

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As Levi got older, we started to see strange things. He was gaining weight and doing well, but there was something that just wasn’t “spot on”.

When we started to try solid foods we saw our son deteriorate further. We made a switch to soy milk, to almond milk, to virtually every kind of “milk” you could find at the store and nothing was helping.

It was a completely helpless feeling, trying everything you can for your child, but your efforts continually deem themselves fruitless. Caleb and I watched our son deteriorate before our eyes. We were changing 12-15 dirty diapers a day. Levi’s hair was falling out by the hand full. He would literally reach up and brush his hand against his hair and bring his hand down full of hair. He had no color. His eyes were tired all the time. He could not sleep because of the pain and would scream for hours on end. He had blood in his stool. He was vomiting constantly. He had no energy. We were scared. It felt like we were watching our son die before our eyes. I work from home, so either I sat and held my son all day or my beautiful friend did, because that was where he was most comfortable.

We had been to the doctor several times, trying different things, but this time we needed to run those terrible tests and got a referral to a pediatric Gastroenterologist.

We waited for those tests to tell us that our son did not have cancer (Praise God!), or any of the other wretched diseases that could potentially be causing these issues.

We got in to see the GI and she scheduled a scope for the next day, which was amazing. She instructed us to feed Levi only chicken, rice, and vegetables until further notice. The scope revealed his little GI tract was so very irritated, and she got some biopsies to send off to hopefully give us more answers.

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Those answers eventually came in the form of a million dollar word: Eosinophilic Esophagitis. One in 10,000 people were diagnosed with it when Levi was first diagnosed. We suddenly found ourselves in the realm of rare disease. Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) is a disease that acts similar to an auto-immune disease but is not actually classified as such. It is allergy related and children who have EoE often have food allergies along with it, but it is not a food allergy. When Levi would ingest “trigger foods” (food that his body did not like) his body would react to them in the same way they would a parasite. The eosinophil is a white blood cell that combats things like parasites. They were prominent in his esophagus, where there should actually be none. When these eosinophils set up shop in an esophagus it renders the esophagus useless, and causes permanent damage. We also knew he was having issues somewhere else in his GI tract but he was so young we couldn’t pin down the exact cause just yet. There’s no cure for Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE), and less than 10% of children outgrow it. There is no medication approved to treat EoE, but research has found that food avoidance and off-label use of medications like Budesonide (used by asthma patients in nebulizers) when they are swallowed do help.

We switched from the GI we had to the best GI to go to in DFW for this disease. In our opinion we would try him out before we headed to Cincinnati, which is basically the headquarters for research for Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs). It turned out that we loved this GI, he had Levi’s absolute best interest at heart, and he loved Levi. He had our back, he was very knowledgeable about EGIDs, and was one of the few doctors who adhered to the TIGERS consensus (the prominent written document on how to treat EGIDs in regards to medication, food trials, etc.), so we kept Levi’s treatment with him.

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Levi now found himself on 4 new medications, one to help heal is intestines, one to stimulate his appetite (when food causes pain the last thing you want to do is eat), one to bring him out of an EoE flare and to hopefully stabilize the disease, and one to promote gut flora. He was to drink a special hypoallergenic formula which is where he would receive most of his nutrition. In the meantime Levi could not eat wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts, as these were all common triggers for EoE flares. All restaurants except one were out of the question. We had to get new cook ware only for Levi’s food. We found special food for him (that often tasted terrible). You name it in our lives it changed. He was having regular scopes to watch his esophagus and colon to see how the disease was affecting him.

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In the next turn of events we also learned that he was infected with c-diff, salmonella, and shigella, so we started the road to clearing all of that up.

Eventually we started to see a change in our son’s health. The blood was gone, he was not at all to the energy level of a little boy his age, but he was better, he was sleeping a little better, his hair was staying on his head, and the diaper changes were still significant, but nothing like they were. People commented on how fussy he was, as he was still in pain. He came in and out of flares because something in the environment was a trigger for his disease and we could do nothing about it. But it was our Levi, we loved him with all of our hearts. Our families worked diligently to learn how to cook for Levi. I would often get text messages containing pictures of food labels with the caption “Can Levi have this?” My husband searched for restaurants and recipes that were “Levi safe”. We saw a nutritionist on a regular basis to help us balance his diet and an allergist for other issues.We learned words like cross-contamination, counts, flare, and a whole host of other words. We went nowhere without the $45 can of formula he was supposed to drink. People looked at us funny when they saw a child his age drinking from a bottle, but, that was the only way he would drink it. They looked at us when Levi was so fussy because he was hungry or in pain. We had good insurance but the medical bills still piled up. My husband fought the insurance company to keep us from spending $600-$1200 a month on formula, and his company showed us much grace. God got us through. He blessed my business enough with income and workers so I could take care of Levi. We had a dear friend and family members who were not “afraid” to take Levi to give us a break. We were so moved by the compassion those beautiful people had for our son. I still am. I remember crying in the grocery aisle, tears of joy when I saw a company carrying a new “Levi safe” product, and sadness when the bother of reading every single label was overwhelming me. We were tired, but we had our son and he was no longer wasting away before our eyes!

It was disheartening to know that this was our son’s future. I cried out to God, asking him how my son was going to function in ordinary life. He told me that he would take care of him. Looking back on it now I wonder if he smiled when I was asking these questions, knowing the whole time what was going to happen, in his omniscient presence.

We went like this for about 2 years. Levi was trudging along. He was sick a lot, because EGIDs suppress immunity. We joked with the pediatrician and nurses about naming a wing of the building after us, or dedicating a room for perpetual visits, because we were there all the time. There were so many blood draws and tests, but he was a trooper through it all.

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One day I received a phone call from a dear friend/mentor. He was telling me about stories he had heard of children being healed miraculously and even told me about his great-grandson being so sick but suddenly getting well. He told me he knew who was behind his great-grandson’s healing, God, completely. He asked me at that point why we hadn’t been praying for God to heal Levi. Caleb had I had talked about taking Levi to the elders of our church (like it says in James 5:14) and having them pray over him, but honestly, our faith was small. We knew that God could heal Levi, but what if he didn’t? We both wondered what we would do if God “told us no”. Would our faith be able to handle it? Would we still see God as good if nothing happened? Ridley, being the incredible man he is, let me know he was going to be praying for Levi’s healing, and I very much was thankful.

The Lord used this conversation with our friend as a catalyst to get my mind thinking. I had several conversations with our Lord over it. It seemed like God was telling me “I have already healed him, all you need to do was ask.”

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One night we were going to a special service at a church that some friends had invited us and a few other friends to. When we got there I explained to the young lady in the nursery about Levi’s condition. I normally just tell people he has food allergies because people are more familiar with it and it makes it easier, but this night I was frustrated with people not understanding Levi’s disease, or just brushing it off as food allergies. She was overwhelmed and frightened because of his condition. Before I knew it the manager of the children’s area was involved in the conversation. I thought for sure they were not going to let him stay. It was far from that, though, and they just wanted to make sure they were taking care of him in the best possible way. That night, for the first time ever, I walked away with the realization that my son was a special needs child. He may not look like your average child with special needs, but he most certainly was. I knew I was going to have to fill out “the paperwork” when he started school, but it never dawned on me that he had special needs. To us he was just Levi.

Interestingly enough, as soon as we got into the service they started talking about healing, about how God has worked so many miracles and how he still does today. They were naming story after story of God’s provision through healing. They mentioned a few children with food allergies who were healed. Obviously the Holy Spirit was working on us. We got the point. An elder of that church came on the stage and said that he wanted to pray for people whose condition was terminal. He said the medical definition of terminal was actually an illness a person would take to their grave. Caleb and I both knew what we needed to do. He asked me if it was ok, and we cried together as brothers and sisters in Christ laid hands on us and prayed for our son.

At the service’s end we went to get Levi from the nursery. Once we were in the parking lot Caleb assembled the friends we were with after asking me about what he was about to do. Caleb was asked if we wanted to go back in and have someone pray for Levi, but he said no, that God hears the prayers of every man. So there we stood, at the request of my husband, surrounding Levi and praying for his healing. I couldn’t muster an audible prayer so I prayed silently. I knew the requests of our precious friends and us were heard that night. God had told me “you have no because you ask not”. We asked. God delivered bountifully.

After we were finished praying the kids were hungry, so we stopped and got them BOTH chicken nuggets, something we had never done before, because wheat is a huge trigger for Levi. The next morning I was cautious, almost expecting him to be sick, but he woke and was perfect. I gave him an egg sandwich, and he said “I LOVE BREAD!” I took pictures of him eating things he had never eaten before!

Two weeks later we found ourselves with a brand new Levi. The pain that once riddled his little body was gone. He had a color that he had never had before. His eyes were bright, and there were no dark circles around them. He slept!! He was all but climbing the walls with his new-found energy! He had normal GI function. Two weeks before we asked God to heal Levi he was in the middle of a flare. We knew the disease was alive and active in his body. We knew that the foods I was now feeding him were major triggers. We have no human explanation for his healing, except for the intervention of Jehovah Rapha.

Almost nine months later he is still a different kid than before that prayer. We know, we know, WE KNOW God healed him. He has no symptoms of the disease, no evidence at all of the disease in his body. He eats and drinks whatever he wants. I have had nursery workers from our church approach us and say “what is going on with Levi, he is a different kid than he once was?”

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(Levi now)

I often think, “Wow, God, I never deserved such a wonderful gift”, and I am right I don’t. That’s where the grace of God comes in! In Matthew 7 Jesus talks about how good of a Father we serve who is so willing to give us good gifts, all we have to do is ask him!

We have hesitated making our news known to the world. It’s not about the scoffers; we know there will be those who do not believe, or try to explain away Levi’s miracle, and that’s ok, we do not expect everyone to understand. It’s because we know several whose children still walk around with this wretched disease, and other diseases. We understand, even if just a tiny piece, of the hell that you walk around in when your child’s body is consistently failing them. People ask the question, “Why has my child not received healing?” I don’t know that answer. I know that every child is beautiful and has a precious purpose, and please know we want to support you and love you any way we possibly can.

Please PLEASE share Levi’s story! Give God the glory he is due through it! For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things! To HIM be the glory forever and ever!

The Titus 2 Woman

We hear so much about the “Proverbs 31 Woman”. She has become so popular there are companies named after her, and even a workout program for Heaven’s Sake! She is in the face of every Christian woman, used properly and beautifully sometimes, and sometimes manipulated as an unreachable bar set before the Church, leaving women with yet another scar of insecurity in a world rampant with those who are more than willing to beat her down.

But my focus is not the P31 woman today, but another, extremely valuable, but often overlooked woman. Today my thoughts and dreams drift toward the New Testament, the Titus 2 woman.

Titus 2:4- “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Recently my heart has given itself over to a longing. Deep in my spirit I have a need, a burning desire, a passion, and so I set my feet upon a journey, a mission on which I do not know exactly what I am looking for, but I feel I will know it when I see it.

I’m looking for a mentor, a spiritual grandmother. I’m looking for an older woman, close in proximity, who is willing to speak into me spiritually, to step up and wrap their arms around me and point me to the cross. I’m looking for a friend, one or more steps ahead of me in life, one whom I can confide in and trust. I see sweet tea and cookies at a kitchen table, talking, sharing, and pouring: pouring of one, more experienced life, into a younger, less-wise one.

Where Is She? It’s exciting, the journey to find her. It’s also exhausting. I find myself peeking around every corner, as if a child amid a game of “hide and seek”, asking myself, “Could that be her?” The most exciting part of this road so far is all of the amazing women I am meeting along my travel as I seek her out.

Older women, are you ready to step up? Younger women, are you ready to receive?

I do not refer to “older” as an age necessarily, but a spiritual walk. If you are walking along the path with Christ, whom are you pouring in to? Who is pouring into you? If you are not getting at least one of those there’s a swamp somewhere, and swamps stink. The insight and wisdom gained by the preceding disciple’s years of previous experience is pivotal to the next generation of Christianity.

Christianity is a process of discipleship, no matter your walk, your age, your life goals; we have been called to reach out to another…   Discipleship does not require perfection or a seminary professor level of the Bible.  It required a humble and willing spirit.

Sisters, The harvest is plenty, and the workers are few and often weary from the load that can be lightened by the addition of hands.

So, as my search continues I press on toward the goal to which I have been called, with her in my mind, knowing God will cause our paths to collide in his perfect timing. I wonder, have I already met her? Is she already here? Where is she now? What is she experiencing? What is she praying for? Is she already praying for me? How will we meet? How will this relationship start? Is she someone here now whom the Lord has yet to reveal to me?

The wait has been beautiful.

Sisters, I implore you to reach out to someone today, someone who can pour into you, and another person you can pour into.

God bless your discipleship journey!  Much grace and peace to you!

 

Trista

 

 

 

Help in the Valley of Defeat

The phone call.

Bad news.

Hours of questions.

No understanding.

Why did this happen?

Overtaken, I find myself face-down, the dust of the valley of defeat in my mouth. My bones ache. My soul is parched. Where are you? Why didn’t you come? Where is the triumphal entry we thought we would get? Where was the miracle we hoped for?

The miracle was not ours this time. No, this time we have been given another valley to tread, more treacherous than I thought it could be. Surrounded by black barren trees whose roots lie beside a stream of gray water there seems no hope to continue.

But I get up, something tells me to. The rocks give way to sharp, piercing pain for my bare feet. My exposed soul wastes away amid the elements of a dusty land. The blood-stained trail behind me marks the path I’ve trod, beaten and bruised, pressed…

but not yet crushed.

My entire being is bared. The fragrance of brimstone fills the air, divulging the presence of he who walks near, waiting to devour. He circles ‘round like a vulture, waiting for my next move. He lurks in the shadow, contemplating his strategy.

The dim yellow light from a faint and distant sun illuminates a swelling storm in the distance.  Upon the realization of the storm, I encounter two roads, converged in the place I stand, but sharply departing thereafter, one narrow one broad.   The brimstone fragranced man entices me to the well-traveled, broad path, casting convincing arguments to succumb to the despair that lay in wait there. The other path, still dimly lit, gives no promise of escape from the brewing tumult in the distance.

My choice? I follow the Wind on the narrow way:

Are You still good, even in the valley? Yes, undoubtedly, unequivocally, yes. One thousand times over, yes.

Your stillness surrounds me. My eyes close. Your cool and gentle breeze consumes me, down to the bone. It stings, as it normally does when you break me. But, ah, you are so gentle. I feel my will break. Not mine, but Thine. Have Your way. This valley is Yours, I’ve given it to you. You remind me that You created me, You created the valley, You created the rocks that penetrate the skin on my swollen and weary feet, and all things will be used to glorify Your great Name, for that is the reason it all was created.

Among the lifeless and dark thorns I see in the valley one Rose, the Rose of Sharon, a most beautiful rose, red-stained. He makes himself known to me and His smile brings comfort. I fall, broken, empty, lifeless, and hopeless into the arms of the One who brings hope, abundant life, fullness, and the balm and cloth that bind up the wounds of the broken hearted. The man fragranced with brimstone flees, a scowl replacing his once haughty smile.

Hand in hand the Rose and I walk toward the storm. The valley grows strangely dim. Nothing matters except He who guides me. My focus remains on the One who presses me firmly into his side where, even amid the turmoil, I find rest. The winds bluster. The rain pelts. The lightning births brilliant scenes across the darkening sky. The thunder rings majestic across the valley. It’s beautiful, but dangerous, just like You. This walk, it is why I was made…for such a time as this.

As my focus remains on the Rose my feet never falter. My vision is clear, but I can only see the next step in front of me, waiting for direction from the One who holds me. He covers me with his feathers and under his wings I find my refuge.

The storm subsides, a storm, which before I gazed on the Rose, seemed a place for certain death. But no, the valley was no match for Him.

trust You in the valley. I trust You with the valley. I trust the help You have sent. You are ever-faithful and always prove Yourself true. You send rescue just in time.

What am I to do with the freshly trod valley behind me? I choose to give you glory and praise because of it and the good things you have done to help me navigate it. Great is Thy faithfulness. In my lament You are my song of praise. Because of You I was not consumed in the vicious storm, in the depths of the valley. Your compassions fail not. Never. With the sun rise You bring forth new mercies. You are my portion. I will wait on You, my deliverer, my rock in whom I take refuge.

And so I stand, thankful for the valley, for it is by the valley You reveal Your true beauty to me, and I know that Your victory waits for me at the top of the mountain that now lies before me, just past the valley.

For from Him, and to Him, and through Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

The God of the Aftermath

There I sat, on the floor, against the wall of my bathroom, head in my knees, once again, sobbing relentlessly.   I could no longer control myself.  This was too regular.  I knew no way to stop.  Frankly, I didn’t want to stop.  This emotion was the only one which I could feel.  It was raw.  It was real.  Everything else seemed like a mere day dream and I was only floating through the motions of life.

My precious husband walked in and handed me a necklace.  He said,

“I’ve carried you as far as I can carry you, now God has to carry you.”

I looked at the necklace.  Its charm held the image of two little feet and Isaiah 46:4:

“Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

I had a one year old son who was precious.  I had a great job, a great life.  I had a house, a new car, I was free to do virtually whatever I wanted.  My husband loved me very much.  From the outside looking in I had it all.  Yes, I had lost a baby during pregnancy a few months before, but so many get over it so quickly!  I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t one of those women, why did I not even want to be one of those women…who could move on.  I lived in a house of cards, desperately hoping the slightest breeze wouldn’t come and my world would crash around me…again…    I found myself in the wake of a storm of life, picking up the pieces in the aftermath, in vain, fruitless, void of all things good.  Life seemed meaningless.  I was stuck.

I needed a rescue. 

I needed a hero to ride in valiantly on his white horse, a fearless knight to swing me up on the back of his steed, then carry me to his castle to live forever.  I was about to get just that.

I cried out to the One who made me.  I couldn’t do this anymore.  I had so much to live for.  I was needed.  I was damaging the relationships I had.  I was detrimental to the people who loved me most.

“God, save me!” I cried.  “ I need you Jesus!  Come and rescue me!  Save me from myself!  Save me from the hurt and the bitterness!  Deliver me from this anguish!  I have tried this on my own and it just isn’t working.  I know there is more for me.  Sustain me like you say you will!  Make me who you want me to be through this!”

And he did.

It was ugly, but beautiful all at the same time.  It was treacherous, but blissful, serene yet chaotic.  I spent the next years crying out to my Savior, resting in the deliverance he was providing.  I sat in my bathroom, my back yard, my car, my kitchen table, where ever the event happened to hit, sobbing, crying out to my Creator the things in my heart I so desperately wanted him to heal.  There was always Kleenex by us at church, but at this point I didn’t mind one bit using my sleeve.  I cried during most worship opportunities I experienced in that season.  It was truly terrible but so, so stunning.  I don’t know that there are human words to describe the process.    In the quiet he would come to me.  He would wrap his arms around me.  He would minister to my heart.  He compelled me to draw nearer to him.  He called out for me.  He gave peace in the middle of unrest, and I would fall arms open, face-first into the chest of a precious Savior.  The more I poured out to him the better I came to know him.  The more I came to know him the more I wanted to know him.  He made himself evident to me in the small things, a smile from my son, the beauty of a flower, a sunset, the beauty in his glorious creation.  During that time I came to really take hold of the fact that his Word was true and I could fully trust in the God of the universe.  I had given it lip service for years and years, but I neglected to fully embrace the God of the promises he had laid out in his Word.  I was too busy trying to survive on my own.

He never, ever left (and still hasn’t), no matter how terrible I was to deal with.  He never turned his back.  He never needed a break.  When others could not bear my burden, because my burden was never meant for humans to bear, he gladly took up my troubles, my chains that I was not ready for him to release me of, and walked with me.  Those times are precious to me.  Yes, so much pain, but yes, so, so much love from a precious Daddy.

Healing is usually a process.  It seems the times you realize you’re healing is when you look back down the long traveled road and realize just how far you have come.

I often pray for God to wrap his arms around people.  I pray this because I know how it feels.  It is better than any drink, any drug, any promiscuity, or any earthly relationship, and I desperately desire for every person I encounter to experience that precious time with their Maker.

I could go on forever about this season.  I am so thankful for it.  Its experience was invaluable, to really learn more of who our Abba Father is, how he operates, and just how much he truly loves us.  To really lean in to him, just as he wanted, was/is a priceless experience.

Our Savior used that season in my journey to pave the way to bring healing to other areas of my life, to learn to offer forgiveness in several aspects, even those which had not come to light just yet, those that had already happened but I never realized I harbored.  He broke the chains that bound me and kept me from a closer relationship with him.  He used this time to amplify the precious spiritual gifts he has blessed me with.

It was precious to me, to learn that, no matter the circumstance He will walk with me through it.  I used to live in fear of things that could come.  Now I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, regardless of the trial I face, I have a friend, a Comforter, who knows my pain even better that I know it myself.    That relationship does not release me from suffering, but it grants me peace, and the knowledge that my Father holds me all along the way.

Focus not on the pain.  Focus on the hero, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who always comes to the rescue.  Friends, He will be faithful.  He will always be faithful.

Romans 8:18-21:  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed .  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Romans 8:37-39:  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You know what, just read all of Romans 8…

Love you all,

 

Trista

 

 

 

The Lifeboat’s False Security

 

In the last chapters of the book of Acts Paul and his companions find themselves on their way to Rome after an appeal from Paul to Caesar. Paul is in chains and is escorted by a centurion, and to further complicate things…

 

There’s a storm a brewin’.

 

Here’s what starts to happen:

Acts 27:13-16

“When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster”, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure.”

To give you some backstory, there was no room, typically, for the lifeboat on board a ship, so it was towed behind the ship. When the wind started to drive the boat and gained control of the ship they scrambled to save their life boat from being crushed by the ship, because it was their “hope” for salvation in case the ship wrecked.

When I read this, well, I read it again. Then I thought, “What is my life boat?”

For years and years my security has been in my finances. My identity was defined by my ability to pay bills and buy what I wanted when I wanted it. I even foolishly said (several years ago) that if God would never mess with my check book I would be just fine. I could handle anything except financial trials. Want to guess what happened?

You bet, Refiner’s fire!

Over the next few years (and still some now) Caleb and I, me especially, learned some very hard lessons on where our security should lie: not my pocketbook, not my husband, not my house, not my car, not my kids, not their behavior or performance, not my extended family, not my pride, not my weight, not my vanity, and not even in maintaining the appearance that everything is fine when it is absolutely not.

Our Lord brought me to my knees in the areas which I was weakest, breaking me so that He could be glorified, so that I could decrease and He could increase. His refiner’s fire tested us and drove us a step closer to holiness. Those tough lessons and trials in the fire caused me to, well, first repent, and turn toward Him for guidance, and find rest in Him for my security. He has showed me how to lay down my pride at the foot of His cross (something I still have problems with), accept grace, and by all means gave me a healthy dose of humility. Does this make me perfect? Of course not, it actually makes me realize I have so much more left to learn, but it brings me one step closer to the goal to which I have been called in Christ!

I’m asking myself today, what is my new life boat, have I picked up another material object to cling to? Do you have a life boat, some earthy thing you are holding to desperately for security? I want to challenge you today to surrender that “life boat” to Christ. Trade in the “life boat” for the “Eternal Life Boat” and see how He blesses you through it!

Love you all!

 

Trista

 

Reference:

Acts 27:13-16

John 3:30

Malachi 3:3

Philippians 3:14

1999 Texas A&M Bonfire Collapse

November 18, 1999

2:41 A.M.

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Texas A&M University’s beloved “Bonfire” stands proudly.  The work of many students coming together, differences aside, protrudes through the darkness and boldly displays itself against the skyline.  Approximately 70 students work diligently through the night to ensure “stack” will be ready for its big day, which is quickly approaching.  Students stand in awe atop a 60 foot uncompleted stack of logs, each log placed with precision and dedication.  The mindset of A&M has always been “build it bigger, build it better”, and of course Bonfire was evidence of that mindset.

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Each student on stack that night stood for something.  They stood for the congregation of a diverse student body, convening to display unity.   Bonfire was a successful effort to bring harmony amid students, to connect brother with brother (we are Aggies, you are my brother, not just another person on campus) for the purpose of cutting, stacking, tying, and essentially burning logs.  Bonfire united student with former student.  The ideal of Bonfire reached across majors, outfits, reg and non-reg.  It was truly a sight to behold.

Bonfire, to these young men and women, was a lifestyle at 2:41 A.M. on November 18, 1999.

  At 2:42, just one minute later, Bonfire forever changed.  Stack fell.  A huge crack followed by Stack twisting to the ground left 27 students injured and 12 dead.  Chaos erupted, people were crying out, desperately looking for “buddies” and helping those in need.  Massive logs tumbled like sticks seemingly swallowing their victims.

Unsung heroes were born that night.  We will never know all the names of those who stepped up to save lives, who showed compassion when it would be easier to run.  One young man, Tim Kerlee, despite his severe injuries, declined rescue and insisted his friends receive help before medical personnel attend to him.  That young man saved people that night by pointing rescuers to those injured who could not be seen from the ground.  He sacrificed himself so that others may live. He was one of the 12 who left us too soon.

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I, honestly, did not know what stack stood for until it fell.  I was a junior in high school.  My husband, a sophomore at A&M at the time, happened to be tethered to stack that night, on a swing, slamming against logs when the collapse happened.   A young man saw he was going into shock due to the circumstance and his injuries and gave him the shirt off of his back to keep him warm.  So many touching stories came from that night, students leaving their Aggie Rings in honor of those we lost, since those perished would never receive the chance to have theirs, notes, flowers, memorials, may tears shed, so much love was poured onto A&M’s campus in the aftermath of that tragedy.

Our family is a walking testimony of Romans 8:28.  The magnitude that Caleb survived that event and others did not is by all means not lost on me.  The Bonfire Collapse was the commencing event and then a catalyst that set forth a series of events which allowed me to meet my husband at a Baptist Student Ministry on campus at a small junior college in my hometown.  Our marriage was a covenant of two very broken souls who were made complete through Christ and joined together for some motive which our Savior envisioned.

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It is not lost on me that for some reason God determined Caleb’s work here on earth was not complete.  It is not lost on me that our union has a specific purpose which God has called us to fill.  It is not lost on me that in the middle of such tragedy the blooms of newness, recovery, grace, and mercy were made clearly evident.  It is not lost on me that truly all things, ALL things, work together for good for those who know our Lord and are called according to his purpose.

I know the only reason I have the privilege of kissing my husband and hugging my children tonight is the mercy exuded by a loving and generous God.  I don’t deserve this.  There is nothing I will ever do that will deem me “worthy” of such.  That’s where his marvelous grace comes in, wrapping me in a garment of royalty when what I really deserve are scraps from a poor man’s table.

Friend, what valley lays before you?  Is it too wide for you to cross?  You were never meant to do this alone.  He will carry you.  He’s gone before you and knows exactly what you need and when you will need it and is longing to give it to you.  All you have to do is ask.

Our hearts and hands are extended to those who mourn this day.  Your loss is great.  I pray that you have peace, and that the longing for your lost one is eased, even just slightly, by hope, the Blessed Hope we all have access to.

Today we stand in the gap and answer “Here” for our fallen in the role call for the absent:

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Miranda Denise Adams ’02:  “Here”

Christopher D. Breen ‘96:  “Here”

Michael Stephen Ebanks ‘03:  “Here”

Jeremy Richard Frampton ‘99: “Here”

Jamie Lynn Hand ’03:  “Here”

Christopher Lee Heard ’03:  “Here”

Timothy Doran Kerlee, Jr. ’03:  “Here”

Lucan John Kimmel ’03:  “Here”

Bryan A. McClain ’02: “Here”

Chad A. Powell ’03: “Here”

Jerry Don Self ’01: “Here”

Nathan Scott West ’02: “Here”

Though your light no longer shines on earth your legacy will never be forgotten.

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Thank you to those who gathered at the Polo Fields in their honor.

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