Clinging

“To grip tightly, to hold as if glued firmly,” that’s how the dictionary defines clinging. I have experienced a lot of clinging this week. I helped with the 13-18 month olds at Vacation Bible School this week. They are precious, every single one of them. But since I was there all morning working with those little ones, I was away from my daughter every morning. The little guys would cling to me as the morning wore on and they become tired. They wanted their own mommies, but in the mean time I had to do for them. Then I would come home and my sweetie would go crazy trying to get to me in her own way. I would pick her up and she would desperately cling to me, pleading with me not to leave her again.

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All those snuggles!!!

It makes me wonder what have I clanged to in my own life? What have I run to when I am hurt or tired or afraid? The things we cling to show where are heart really is because these are the things that we love most, the things we truly treasure. I personally have clung to my husband, to food, to worry, to writing, to busyness, and to television. It is in these things (and probably lots of other things) that I find comfort from the hardships and worries of life.

A man from my home church used to sing, “The Anchor Holds.” It is a beautiful song and so true. The chorus says, “The anchor holds though the ship’s been battered. The anchor holds though the sails are torn. I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas. The anchor holds in spite of the storm.” In the midst of life, worries, and hardships God is still there anchoring us to Him. He desires us to cling to Him. Just as Abigail would not let go of me when I have been away from her all morning, He wants us to run to Him and hold on tight.

As Father’s Day is this weekend, I cannot help but think about how my heavenly Father has loved me and watched over me all my life. I live a very tiny life, but it is blessed in so many ways. I am thankful that God is a Father who loves us despite ourselves. He loves us despite what we have done or how we look or even how we love Him in return. He loves us because He made us, and desires us to know Him and His own Son. I am so thankful to have a heavenly Father who holds us, who comforts us, and who gives us grace and mercy every single day when we deserve none of it.

When worries and troubles come, or when times of joy and celebrating arrive, I want to run to my Father and cling to Him alone. I want to be so close with God that I know His heart and can reflect His love to others. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” That is the God we serve, a God of all comfort who we can cling to tightly despite what we have gone through or what we have done. He desires us to come close to Him, and see whom He is. God loves you so much. My prayer is that this Father’s Day we all cling to the Father who has given us so much!

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Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there!!!

Thus Far

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I love the Old Testament, and right now I’m reading through 1 & 2 Samuel. In 2 Samuel chapter 7, God has just revealed to David the Davidic Promise of how he will always have a relative on the throne for all eternity. David goes in, sits before the Lord, and says, “Oh Lord, who am I and who is family that you have brought us thus far.” I obviously cannot relate to how David felt at this moment, but I can repeat those words. “Who am I oh Lord, that you have brought me and my family thus far!” I was reflecting today where the Lord has led me in the last 10 years. I would never have planned any of it, but I am thankful to be here and to know God has brought me thus far and He will continue to lead me and my family!!

When I was fifteen I got serious about my relationship with Christ. I knew it was something more and that relationship needed all of me. God needed all of me. So I made the decision to jump head first into my relationship with God and I never looked back. There have been lots of times of doubt, struggles, and fear but God has been with me every step of the way! I had my life all planned out by the time I was a freshman year of high school. I had always wanted to be an elementary school librarian (my dream since second grade) and I planned to go to college at Berry in Rome, GA. I like plans and hate change so when I make my mind up it does not change a lot, but low and behold God had other plans for me. I had already applied for Berry and a few other choices by my senior year. But my friend was looking into a school named Truett-McConnell for a soccer scholarship. The ironic thing was this friend did not have a relationship with Christ, and to apply for Truett you have to have a written testimony. She even asked me to write a testimony for her. Needless to say I had to explain that was not an option. But because of this friend I found myself at the TMC table during a college fair talking to the admissions rep. The rep was great at her job and convinced me to tour the school and meet the librarian there. I was so excited to meet a librarian I agreed to come visit the next week.

My mom and I went to TMC to meet with the Admissions team and take a tour. The weather was awful and I had to sit in my moms lap while taking the tour so I would not get wet. An eighteen-year-old riding around a college campus on her mom’s lap was not a good start to the tour. But the last stop before we went home was the library. I do not even know why but I told the librarian I would be there in the Fall. I went home and applied to TMC that night and was accepted in the following weeks. I was going to TMC to major in Education to get one step further in my dream of becoming a librarian.

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Me as a little tiny Freshman. The hair cut was a huge mistake!

Truett-McConnell changed my life in many, many ways! I wish I had the time and space to write everything, but since I don’t I will just have to hit the highlights. The first and biggest thing was that God continued to change my plans. I felt God tugging at my heart and leading me into ministry but I struggled because if I heeded to Him all my plans would be shot. I had already changed schools (which was a marvelous decision) and now He was taking away my only other dream. But by the end of my fist semester of college I was ready to surrender my dreams to God too. It is a story in itself, and everyone who knows me calls it my FROG story. Maybe one day I’ll share it with you too, but I accepted Gods call to ministry, changed major to Christian Studies, and again never looked back. Three years later I graduated with a Christian Studies degree, and I pray to use my calling to encourage and disciple women all my life!

But not only did I receive a whole new calling and a degree there, I received a husband and a child. My family grew there, literally. I was not even planning to get married going into college. Having a family was not a thought for me. I just was not one of those girls who dreamed of marriage and family. I guess I figured one day I would get married and have kids, but it was not something I desired. I liked living my life, and growing closer to God, but as always God had other plans for my and my mystery man.

Jordan and I both became Resident Assistants for the 2012-2013 school year. That was fated to bring us together, though I am not sure exactly how. We could not be more opposite. He was your typical athletic, popular, blonde hair jock, and I was your shy, dweeby average nerd. We did not hang out in the same circles (mostly because I never left the all girls’ dorm and he never left the all boys’ dorm), we did not share the same interests, and we had no clue the other existed though we sat a couple chairs apart in most of our classes the semester before.

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I think this is our first picture together at the TMC Hoedown.

But the summer we came to school for RA training we got to know each other and kept having weird, awkward encounters around campus. One time we passed each other in the stairwell and just stared at one another for about a solid minute without saying anything. I practically ran back to my dorm room mortified! Oh, to be a young college kid again. So after a lot awkward encounters, and a lot of volleyball games later we both confessed we liked each other for some reason or another and we became, as the kids say, ‘official.’ That was September 4, 2012. We both knew after two months of dating we were going to get married. Jordan proposed in June the following year and then in February 2014 we were married.

Our first year of marriage was probably kind of weird looking back, but we did not think anything of it at the time. Our first home was a small apartment inside the all girls’ dorm where I resided as Resident Director. So Jordan lived with 60 other girls for about four months. Then we moved down the hill to another on campus apartment to become the Resident Directors to more college kids. Six months into marriage I was pregnant and sick as a dog most days. Again, not the life I had planned but I would not trade these things for the world. They have made me who I am today.

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The day we left our ‘first home’ aka Otwell. I had lived there for three years by then.

Soon after Abigail was born we left TMC. It was a sad farewell, but we both knew it was time to move on. This is when the adventures with Abigail started. At two months we knew something was wrong with our child, and it has been a journey since. I will not go into details because I have told Abigail’s story so many times, but she is yet another thing we did not plan. We planned the having a baby part, but not the ‘your baby has special needs’ part. No one can plan that.

I could tell story after story of how God continues to change our plans. How we have interviewed at countless jobs for Jordan’s ministry position and yet have been turned down for one reason or another. I could tell of the tears that have been shed or the questions we have asked God as to why He continues to change our direction and path. But today I want to celebrate where God has brought us as David did all those years ago. I want to thank God for the life He has led me on. I want to praise His name for His faithful and continual care and provision for us. We have never been without what we need. God is good all the time and all the time God is good. He may not seem like He is always there or that He is listening to our pleas for answers and direction, but He has a bigger plan than I could ever dream or imagine. So while we are in the unknown in so many areas of our life, all I can do is trust God to see us through, and remember how far He has brought us thus far.

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My family! We are BLESSED!!!

Things Treasured

My blog was original titled “Treasured Encounters.” It started as a blog about my treasured encounters with God as I spent time with Him. But then I became a mom, and I learned that you have many, many treasured encounters with your children that people love to read and I love to share. And these moments are more sharable moments than intimate moments between my God and I. Like Mary I love to ponder these moments in my own heart. So I began what my blog is today, sweet moments about Abigail. But with resurrection Sunday tomorrow, and yesterday being Good Friday I wanted to share my treasured God encounter with my readers.

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The Bible tells us that Mary “treasured these things” on multiple occasions especially when Jesus was first-born. This young mother treasured all the moments she could with her son, the very Son of God. As Easter is approaching this weekend I love being able to take an extra long look at the cross and what God has done for all mankind so many years ago. Easter is a beautiful time of remembrance for an event that impacts our life every day. An event that should be thought about often as we humble ourselves and worship God in awe of what He has done for us. I want to be like Mary who ponders these things in her heart. She knew these were moments, when she saw shepherds bowing down to her newborn baby and wise men bringing gifts fit for a king to her bouncing toddler, that she would remember and look back on years later.

Since having my own child I can relate more with Mary as a mother. Obviously, I have no idea what it is like mothering God himself, nor would I ever want that. Just think of the worries and pressures that come with that!! But I can sense her mother’s heart as she looks lovingly into her newborn son’s perfect face moments after giving birth. I can feel her panic as she realizes her teenage son is no longer with them, and they cannot find him anywhere. And I do not want to imagine her grief and sorrow as she follows Him up Golgotha’s hill. But she has watched Him become a man and known in all her pondering that her son, God himself, was leading to do something more. He was never hers to hold on to forever. God blessed Mary with a wonderful gift of birthing and rearing the Son of God. However, Jesus answered to God alone, and was here to do His will, to save man from sin and death. But Mary had to watch.

There are things about Abigail and mine’s relationship that I could never put into words. My pride, my joy in her, my love for her are all too much for basic words to describe. The bond we have is something I never knew existed until I was blessed to experience it myself. Yet, this love pales in respect to the love Jesus showed for us that day on the cross. Two thousand years ago a young Jewish man died a gruesome death for people crosswho despised Him, rejected Him, and hated Him all because they did not understand Him. God knew His Son was the only way to reconcile man to Himself. God desired a relationship with us so badly, he sacrificed everything to bring us back to Him. My human love stretches to just a few people in this world, but God’s love is “never stopping, never giving up, unbreakable, always and forever.”  (Jesus Storybook Bible) And it reaches every. single. person.

God always reveals a new aspect of the Easter weekend to me each year, and this year I want to ponder as Mary did. I want to store these things in my heart and reflect them in my life. I want to learn more about God’s mysterious love for me and for mankind. I want to put my fingers in His nail scarred wrists and trust Him with everything. I want to learn to surrender all in the light of my Lord and Savior who was beaten and broken for my name’s sake. I want to remember the torn veil, and know I have a mediator who stands in my defense. I want to be like the ground under the cross where Jesus gave His all, and be covered in His blood. I want to be more like Jesus, and be willing to carry my cross as scary as that is. I want to worship Him in spirit and in Truth daily. I want to live in His resurrection power, and know that same power lives in me. I want to experience that same joy Christ experienced as he reconciled sinful man and holy God. I never want to forget what God gave to show His love for me. I want to find my hope and peace in this God who loves me unconditional. Oh, and I want to treasure the moments of our relationship in my heart forever!

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Transformation in the Waiting

You wait in check out lines. You wait on big news to come. You wait on deadlines and release dates. You wait on your husband to get home. You wait on your baby to arrive and you wait on them to fall asleep every night. Waiting is just a part of life. Some people are good at waiting and others are very impatient. While you are waiting what are you learning? Life is not always about the destination at the end, but about the journey on the way there.

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:13-14

Jordan and I have been waiting for what seems like forever and we still have no clue what God is leading us towards. He has called us both into ministry, yet neither of us is anywhere close to that calling. When we first got married three years ago we were helping at a church with the youth group. We then moved to a part-time youth ministry positron, and then we moved here where we are not in any ministry. We have interviewed at countless churches and been told no more times than I’d like to admit. It’s tough knowing what your passionate about and what God has called you to, and yet not finding an open door to do that calling. I can only hope that God has something bigger out there than we could imagine, and this season is our time to prepare for what God has planned.

We are also still waiting on answers about Abigail. Why is she so far behind developmentally? Is there hope for her to talk and walk and be independent one day? This journey started when Abigail was two months old. We have waited on many different doctors to do many different tests. We have waited for MRI, EMG, EEG, and blood work results. All these point to the same answer – that Abigail is completely ‘normal’ on paper. So we wait. We wait for her genetics screen to come back. We wait for answers. We wait for her to determine if she is ready to advance or not.

We are living in a time of waiting. Waiting is not fun. We want answers as to why God has led us here and what He wants us to do. We want answers about Abigail and hope that things will be okay. But for now God has led us here – to this community, to this job, and to this child. We are trying to serve where we are because for now this is where God has us.  And as long as God has us here I want to be intentional with every moment. So many days I get caught up on the to do list I forget there’s a bigger world out there than just my own. I’m not sure how long God will have us here. It could be for 60 years or for two, but while we are here God is molding us and growing us. I can see it in my own life and in Jordan’s. We are growing up and learning so many things about our community and ourselves. We need to be here. We need this time to mature. We need this time of waiting to mold us into vessels God can use.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

The Bible uses a lot of comparisons to pottery and a potter when it talks about God working on our hearts. I have a very special piece of pottery from when I worked at a camp one summer. It doesn’t seem like much of a pot from the outside, but our theme that year was about the Potter and the clay. During our worship night two leaders would sit on the stage and make a pot as worship music was played. It was beautiful picture that God is still working on you and me. As the girl made this particular pot it started to fall in the middle. She didn’t give up on it though. She just started reshaping it and now the line where it dropped gives this pot personality. That’s exactly what God does in our lives. When we mess up, when we choose what our flesh wants, when we fear and doubt His ways we feel like we are messed up and cannot be fixed. But our Potter takes his skilled hands and forms all our mistakes into beauty. He is a master Potter and what He designs is never wrong. So these times of waiting, while painful and long they may be, are necessary to make us into the vessels God needs to serve Him today. And to do that I have to stay moldable and in my Creators hands no matter how tough it may be. It hurts to be pressed and pounded into something new, but in the end I want to be a beautiful piece of pottery that my God is proud to display to the world around me.

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“Where do you want me to go?” That is what is written on my piece of pottery.

What is Excellent?

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In Philippians, Paul instructs the believers to approve what is excellent. Not what is good, but excellent. So often I fail to reflect on the good much less what is excellent, but as I stopped and read that verse over and over this week in my study I could not help but wonder why those words stood out to me. The excellent. When Jesus came over to Mary and Martha’s house to eat one day Martha got upset that Mary was not helping her but instead she was just sitting at Jesus’ feet apparently not doing much. Jesus gently rebuked Martha and reminded her that Mary was doing the excellent thing – listening to Him. There it is again the excellent, not the good. Jesus told His disciples He came to give life, and not just any old life but the abundant life. Over and over the Bible lists examples that God is not a good or just good enough kind of god, He is the God of abundance and overflow. He is the God of the most excellent way.

God knows we have a tendency to dwell on the bad. To dwell on what worries us and what has gone wrong with our day. We are people who lean toward the negative.
I would even claim to be a positive person but I still worry and think about the worse outcomes at times. But He tells us again and again to find all we need in Him. Do not fear, do not worry, do not rely on ourself. Why are these instructions in the Bible so much? Because we so often forget and worry, and do not trust the God of everything.

I often struggle with trusting God. With Abigail it is easy to dwell on the bad and the what ifs. What if it was my fault she is like she is? What if I had not taken that medicine while I was pregnant or been induced for convenience sake? What if it is a genetic issue with Jordan or myself? What if she never walks? You see, there is a lot of bad to dwell on.
There are also a lot of cannots in Abigail’s life. She cannot sit up. She cannot talk. She cannot feed herself. She cannot stand. She cannot do a lot of things. But I hate looking at these! These things do not define my child, they are simply a list for people to use to determine where Abigail is in life. But Abigail is not a list of what she cannot do.

My Abigail can make anyone smile. My Abigail can giggle and make you laugh too. My Abigail can drink from a straw, and has done so since she was six months old. My Abigail can tolerate tummy time now. My Abigail can clean out a basket of toys and make a mess in about 30 seconds. My Abigail can clap joyously. My Abigail can find her nose, ears, and hair. My Abigail is beautiful!

It is so easy to be worried and distraught over Abigail’s situation. It is easy to say what she cannot do. It is easy to think things will never improve or change. But I choose to make the harder choice. I choose to see what Abigail can do. I choose to have hope that her improvement will only continue. I choose to be my daughter’s biggest cheerleader and her strongest fighter. I choose today and all the days of Abigail’s life to keep working with her, keep making her stronger, and keep showing her that she can do these things. I choose the more excellent way.

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Being the mother to this beautiful, perfect little girl is my more excellent way!

Yes, she will probably always have to work harder than other children her age to do the same things, but I think Abigail will have a fierce little personality that will be hard to contend with. She will be a fighter, and she will know what hard work and determination are. She is already stubborn and independent, and these qualities will make her into a little lady who will make a difference in this world.

So my prayer for my child, myself and for my readers is that we would all see what is good and excellent and right in this world and in the people we encounter everyday. That we would not define people by what they can’t do or what they can’t give, but we would see what is good in people and desire only good for them. I pray we can all be fighters in a world where it is easier to sit back and watch. I pray we will intentionally love others and show them there is a battle to be fought, and that there is only one winning side to be on. May we be able to approve what is excellent in our lives!

My Hope Restored

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My first Mother’s Day we were leaving the hospital! Abigail was two days old

It seems like a lifetime ago that we sat in our pediatrician’s office as he told us our baby’s vision was not normal. I really do not remember it too well because at the time I was not that worried about it. I knew nothing about babies, so what did it matter that our two month old daughter was not tracking or focusing? She would grow out of it (and she has). He referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist in Atlanta, and a few weeks later we had our appointment. The first year of Abigail’s life was like this. The doctor would tell us something wrong with Abigail and then refer us to yet another doctor. Every doctor we went to was confused or puzzled by her condition. Abigail does not fit any textbook they have seen so far, so we have done a lot of testing to try to find answers.

I used to worry and dread about Abigail’s future a lot. In the beginning we were worried her brain was not functioning or developing right. We were worried she would not grow physically, or that she would be blind and disabled. A lot of these fears have been proven wrong. We have learned we have a very healthy baby with a very functioning brain and other vital organs. She is tiny for being 22 months, but she is still growing every day! And her vision is no longer a worry; it has come a long, long ways!!

In the last couple of months since becoming a full stay at home mom I have had a heart change towards Abigail’s disabilities. They are no longer hindrances and burdens. I no longer worry about them in the way I used to. Yes, do I wish my daughter would sit on her own? Every day! We could do so much more with her if she could just sit on the floor and play. Do I wish she could communicate with us better? Yes, to know what she needed or wanted to be so much easier. Do I still worry about her ever being able to walk or play with children her age? Of course, but if you could see the improvement that Abigail has made in the past few months you would share my joy that there is still hope.

That is what has changed the most in the last few months. I have hope! I have hope that my child can learn to do new things every day if she wanted to. She changes and gets stronger everyday, why could she not be rolling over and eventually sitting in the next year? I have hope that her future looks good no matter what it holds because we have such a huge support system behind us. I have hope that just maybe I can do this special needs parenting thing and be the voice in the world my daughter needs. I have hope that Abigail will continue to grow and strengthen and amaze us all with her uniqueness that God has made her with.

At times, I have struggled with finding this hope. I have cried over Abigail’s disabilities as I watch others little babies crawling, walking, and talking. But these last few months I have come to realize that if I do not think positively about Abigail’s situation, and give her the encouragement she needs then who will? I have prayed and wrestled about my feelings, and God has graciously given me grace as always when I do not deserve it. He has shown me that being my daughter’s biggest cheerleader is my calling for now. Jordan has encouraged me to keep my head up and not to give up on my hopes and dreams for Abigail. I am thankful for this small but significant heart change. It is so easy to lose our hope and our faith when obstacles surround us on every side. But God gives us the strength to keep fighting when we do not think we can. He is beside us to lead us and to help us see that there are bigger things to fight for. My daughter is one of those things, so my faith rests in God as He sees to Abigail’s daily development. May my hope always rest in Him, and not how I feel or what the world tells me.