He is GOOD

(I wrote this shortly after Hurricane Michael attempted to destroy my home town on October 10, 2018. Not sure why I never published it.)

I was born, raised, and taught what family legacy is all about in Panama City, Florida. Even after my parents relocated to Atlanta, we were in PC at minimum once a month. It was where we would spend the weekends floating from family member to family members homes. We would visit, laugh, hear stories of the past. While several family members have passed, I am still flooded with amazing memories.

My family on both of my parents side is full of rich heritage of serving the Lord. As a young child I remember the process of my great grandparents and parents literally building the church, Life and Praise. It was a beautiful church building. But more than that, Life and Praise truly was a place of deep worship and deep growth for things of the Lord.

I remember my Grannie and Pa, and Aunt Roberta studying for hours the Sunday School lesson for the coming week.

I remember my Pa serving faithfully week after week as an usher.

I remember Fred Andrews always giving me bubble gum.

I remember running up and down the halls with Brandi Cook and Candace Hathaway, as we giggled like we were at home, but to us Life and Praise WAS home.

I remember the smells and the taste of dinner on the grounds.

I remember during services my Aunt Roberta passionately testifying of the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness in her life.

I remember the creaks of the pews and the sound of the piano throughout the building.

I remember watching members of my actual family and my church family worshiping with boldness and gratitude for all the Lord had done in their lives.

I remember the texture of pages hymnals pages as we turned to the song choice of the day.

I remember accepting Jesus in my heart on a Wednesday night during my missionettes class, during a summer visit to Grannie and Pa’s.

I remember the specific sounds of the voices blending together during various worship songs.

The memories are endless. The heritage I was raised in was so full of experiencing glimpses of Heaven on Earth. The influence that people directly and indirectly had on my life were intertwined and connected to Life and Praise.

On October 10, 2018 Hurricane Michael caused devastation to Panama City. Life and Praise was no exception. My heart is broken for PC. Every video I watch, or post I look at is full of recognizable places, that have been completely destroyed. Homes that I have spent cherished time in, are unrecognizable.

Over the years my family little by little have been welcomed into their forever home in heaven. One by one I have mourned the loss of family members, while celebrating the legacy each person has left. I cherish the memories and frequently reflect on them.

And now, I mourn the losses from Hurricane Michael. I mourn the loss of tangible things and buildings. Even through Life and Praise did not weather the storm, as I close my eyes I hear generations and generations before me signing. I hear them singing with boldness, declaring the name of Jesus.

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; there’s just something about that name.

Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain;

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all Heaven and earth proclaim

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,

But there’s something about that name.

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,

But there’s something about that name.”

What a reminder that things will pass away, but the name of Jesus is CONSTANT. He is our very help in the time of need. I celebrate ALL that the Lord has allowed me to see and experience, in plenty and in times of need. I have seen His hand in so many lives from generations to generations. And while I may mourn today, I know that He works ALL things together for His good. Despite the unknown at this present time, despite the devastation that so many of my friends and family members are facing in Panama City…. one thing remains, He is GOOD.

BLINK

Ten years ago I held my baby girl for the first time, it was by far the most exhilarating and the scariest time of my life. Drew and I had been gifted from the Lord with the most beautiful baby girl. She was ‘ours’ to raise, love, instruct, and guide.

Immediately I began hearing the phrase…DON’T BLINK! Or she will be grown. As a new Mom I interpreted that as: if I’m not careful I will miss this amazing opportunity of being a Mom. It brought about crazy – PRESSURE.

You are completely sleep deprived and dealing with insane hormonal emotions… someone says, “awe I know your exhausted, but don’t blink – you will miss this one day”

What?!

You have a toddler in the midst of an insane tantrum – in public of course, and you hear from a stranger, “don’t blink – you will miss this one day.”

What?!

As you are dropping your child off to Preschool for the first time and they have a death grip on your leg screaming DON’T leave me!! You hear in your own head, “DON’T BLINK! Enjoy this moment, because if I blink I will be dropping her off at college!”

You get the picture and if you’ve been a parent for more than an hour – you’ve heard the phrase and you have felt the pressure.

How do you savor every moment – even the moments you can’t wait to get through?

You BLINK!

Dictionary.com defines ‘blink’ as a verb, used as action word, “to open and close the eye, especially involuntarily; wink rapidly and repeatedly.”

When I read that I think of all the times that I could INVOLUNTARILY blink, and miss out on my babies childhood.

Oh. The. Pressure.

Oh. The. Mom. Guilt.

But, surely I’m alone in this irrational feeling…. surely I’m the only Momma who has wanted a stage to END!

I mean, potty training – if only I could go back to the long days of negotiations to get my child to use the potty!! Um, NO!

So through various stages in my decade of being a Momma I have learned, a different tense of the word BLINK, “a gleam or a glimmer”.

Every single stage gets more and more fun. Every stage I become more confident in my parenting, and I enjoy my kiddos more and more.

I SEE with every blink, a glimmer that I’ve never experienced before. Each blink I have a new closeness to my children. I get to experience them growing in the gifts and talents that the Lord has placed in them.

I get to look back at ALL of the glimmers, do I miss various ages and stages at time? Of course! But, I get to look forward to new GLIMMERS of their precious little world. I choose to BLINK and enjoy every minute of this journey with my babies.

I have learned, and want to encourage you that, it’s OK to BLINK!

Take the pressure OFF, sure some stages go WAY to fast and some stages feel like they will NEVER end. But it’s OK the BLINK.

Each stage is a new journey filled with new memories and new experiences that you have to blink in order to see, so chose to see the GLIMMER.

It’s OK to BLINK. 

Our Disney Experience

If you know me or Drew, it’s no secret that we LOVE Disney.

We love the anticipation of going, the details in the theme parks, the crowd watching, the feeling of being in so many different “worlds” all in one day…. the way our kids light up seeing their favorite character…

And ….. The Fireworks… oh I love the fireworks and the nighttime shows!

We just LOVE it… ❤️

In March of 2016, Drew and I made a private yet extreme “life change” for our family. We decided that it was time to step out of  security, into a world of unknown, and a season of truly walking by faith. Two little words changed not only our identity, but it would completely impact our kids worlds too…

Church Planting
It was time to DO what our hearts had been preparing for…

We knew that it would NOT be easy.

We knew our lives would dramatically change.

We knew our work load would be insane at times.

We knew in someways we were putting not only ourselves, but our two kids, in a glass box.

We knew the responsibility of what God was leading us to was BIGGER than ourselves.

We knew that we would not fully understand both the weight AND the reward until we were IN the middle of it.

We knew more than anything that we had a calling to PURSUE the Lord and to SHINE the light of Jesus to our city… and no matter what, no matter how hard it became… we wanted our kids to know that their Mom and Dad trusted the Lord and His leading for the enormous dreams He had given us.

So we did what we tell our leaders to do…

DIVE INTO THE DEEP…
We knew that the Lord would NOT lead us into something that would harm us or our ‘babies’… but we also knew that He gives us ideas and wisdom on ways to honor them (yes, honor our kids) and ways to celebrate during our first year of those two little words that carry SO much weight..

CHURCH PLANTING

Yes, I am married to a planner… If you know Drew and I at all, you know I’m the spontaneous one… with what Drew calls “burst of creative fun and ideas”… and Drew is the PLANNER. We are about as opposite as you can get in this area… but that’s why I’m so crazy-giddy about him. Twelve years of marriage has taught us how to embrace and USE the strengths of each other!

So.. Drew made a plan… an outrageous plan…to honor our kids while at the same time walking through the church planting season.

2017 Disney Annual Passes
What?!?! Um, I am ALL about Disney, and ALL about burst of FUN… but he was QUITTING a job and we were…

CHURCH…PLANTING.
We were stepping out into the unknown. We had financially prepared for our first year…as well, felt the leading to financially invest in ways that would stretch our faith and OURSELVES to a completely different level… so… my crazy brain was NOT processing that we could ADD..

2017 Disney…Annual…Passes… say…what?!?
No worries, Drew had a plan… and I love sharing this part of our experience…

For eleven months Drew, sold donated Plasma. Yes… Blood. For a purpose.

On average of two times a week, Drew would arrive at the donation center at 5:30 a.m. – with a GOAL in mind… he would spend approximately one hour connected to a machine that would filter the plasma from his blood.

(Side story: the previous year we lost our incredibly loved Bert – “Pepa” to our kids, from Leukemia. Plasma donations extended his precious life.. and Drew donating could also provide for other families, like it had for us.)

Once the donation was complete, the donation bank would load money onto a Visa gift card. Drew would do things to increase the amount per donation… he would go during “happy hour” for additional income, he would refer people, and he would reach the “goals” for the monthly bonuses…

Why in the world????
Because he had a goal and his mind set on a “prize”. He knew that 2017 would be potentially one of the hardest years not only for us but for our kids also, and Drew wanted to provide EXPERIENCES for our family.

Getaways, where we could get lost in magical places and we could spoil the mess out of our kids building insane memories. And out of that goal… a silly quote..

“Plasma for Disney”… became a reality.
Through plasma donations two times a week for eleven months, Disney Annual Passes were purchased…

But that’s not all…
My planner, budget-er, goal setter Drew, needed a way to actually HAVE the resources to go TO Disney, to USE the passes… so, while donating plasma he ‘worked the system’ of a Travel Reward Credit Card.

*Disclaimer: we do NOT operate on credit cards. From previous learning ‘experiences’ – we choose NOT to live under the control of debt.*

Drew began using the card to pay our monthly household bills. He would pay them on the credit card, and then immediately pay them off from our checking account. Thus, banking travel points for hotel stays.

Because, what good are annual passes if during this financially “tight” season – we can’t use them.

In a little over one year – we booked an insane amount of points to use.

By Christmas of 2016, Drew had met his goal! **I’m pretty sure Disney style fireworks went off in my mind and heart!!**

And…

It has been BEAUTIFUL.
Despite what on paper could have looked like our ‘slimmest’ – Christmas season EVER. We were able to give our babies a year that they will NEVER forget. We gave them ‘A year of Disney”.

Between plasma donations and travel points:

We have spent 29… TWENTY NINE … nights at Disney in the past 8 months. Out of those 29 nights, we have only been out of pocket LESS THAN – $300.

With our annual passes, between free parking, merch discounts, food discounts, free photo pass… we have SAVED – approximately $675.

Yes, of course it cost money to go. We have been extremely blessed that our family have given Disney Gift Cards for Christmas, Birthday’s, and random special occasions. Our kiddos have embraced that we do not do simple things often such as eat out, go to movies, buy random toys, etc…. all because a ‘small no’ has allowed us to say a huge YES, to an amazing experience.

So, why am I sharing all of this? I’m simply sharing this to hopefully encourage someone to truly evaluate the season you are in… are you like me and listing all the reasons you CAN NOT do something? Because if so, I want to encourage you…

You can do ANYTHING you put your heart and mind too…

With – a LOT of hard work!

Sometimes it’s easy to look at others experiences and judge them, or think – “that must be nice”…and I know it’s EASY because I find that trap at times… but I want to encourage you today…

FIGHT – for experiences with your kids and your family.

WORK HARD – I don’t know of a season where we have worked harder. Remember those two little words: CHURCH PLANTING? They also come with Drew and I both teaching full time, and two cleaning businesses. Teach your kids that it’s OK to work hard and to be committed to providing… as long as you:

PLAY HARD – find something that you and your family LOVE and put your energy into making it happen!

I am crazy enough to believe that every time I tell my kids NO to the Lego set while grocery shopping… they are going to forget that NO, because we get to say YES to BIG memories!

Are we perfect… heck no. Do we spoil our kids… absolutely.

But wow when I think of how the Lord LOVES my imperfect self and SPOILS me with His insane Goodness…

It makes me enjoy this year of our “Disney Experience” even more…

disney experiences

Shadow Stepping

Sometimes I believe we can learn the biggest lessons, and gain the biggest insights – simply by watching our kids. Recently my husband and I spent the afternoon with our kiddos at a water-park. As soon as we got to the park we found a few empty chairs, threw our stuff on the chairs and jumped into the lazy river. The heat was insane, and the best relief was to be IN the water to beat the heat. My kiddos let me get nice and relaxed and then decided it was time to get OUT of the lazy river, and to move to the SLIDES, they were ready for adventure! Drew and the kids were first out of the lazy river. As we started walking on the concrete path, both kids immediately started jumping up and down and searching for ways for their little bare feet to handle the heat. For about a minute it was like a little game for them, they were helping each other find little puddles to splash in and they were looking for any shady spaces along the path.

But then, while both kids were trailing behind their 6’4” Daddy – Davis found the perfect ‘protection’ for their little feet from the heat. He started saying, “Look Maddy! Look! Just follow Daddy’s shadow!!! Try it! Try it! It’s not as hot if you chase his shadow!”

I watched their 4 little feet bounce from space to space making sure to never leave his shadow. They were following his leading to the water slides, they were not watching him to know where or how he was getting to the slide – they were simply bouncing and laughing behind him TRUSTING his leading and KNOWING that they were SAFE as long as they stayed in his shadow.

It was in the giggles, silliness, and carefree moment of my kids following their Daddy’s shadow that I was reminded of something so simple yet so remarkable; my heavenly Daddy wants me to follow His leading just the same. He wants me to stay so close to Him, that I am protected under His ‘shadow’, that my every single step is guided and protected by Him and Him alone.

Too many times I am guilty of wanting to take the ‘lead’, to take the HOT steps outside of the shadow, simply because I think that I can HANDLE this journey on my own. But it’s in those moments that I become so aware, that I can NOT take ONE safe step alone. It is the closeness to my Heavenly Father that keeps my journey on the RIGHT path, the BEST path for my life. You see, my kids weren’t concerned about WHERE they were walking, or how they were getting there. They were simply concerned about staying IN the shadow, staying CLOSE enough that there feet would not burn.

Did the shadow really keep their little feet from burning on the hot ground, no. But rather the shadow kept them in the proximity of safety. The safety was there to provide relief from the heat, as well, to provide direction on the journey. So this week watching my carefree giggly kiddos, I am reminded that no matter WHERE I am going or how HOT and uncomfortable my life gets at times – as long as I take every STEP in my Father’s Shadow leaning not on my own securities or own understandings, I can NOT miss it.

For years I have been able to quote Proverbs 3:5-6 – trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean NOT on your own understanding; in ALL your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. But it was in this simple life moment that it became alive in my heart. The same way my kids followed their Daddy’s shadow, NOT understanding it and simply submitting to his direction – that they found PEACE and DIRECTION. If they can find that in the small shadow of their Daddy, what does MY Father has planned for me as I follow Him?

It is when I try to take my walk alone, that I mess up. It’s when I try to lead my life on what I think is the best path, without His leading that I get it all wrong. It is when I look to solutions on my own to make my life easier that I realize the ONLY thing I have to do is lean into my Father’s shadow and His presence and I have all of the comfort and safety that I need. Following Him doesn’t always mean it’s the EASIEST journey, but I have found time after time that it’s the ONLY journey I want to be on.

So, what is it in your life that you need to stop trying to walk all alone in, and that you need to lean into the ONLY one that can LEAD you while PROTECTING you? What do you need to begin to TRUST the Lord with and lean NOT on your own understanding for?

It’s amazing WHERE He will take you and how He will PROTECT you as you walk WITH Him. So today, I challenge you to throw the flip-flops aside, and walk on the HOT pavement as you stay CLOSE to Him – SHADOW STEPPING.