Monday, June 16, 2014

Shout it from the rooftop...

People lie.  It's true.  Particularly when it comes to age. I do not.  I gleefully shout my age from the rooftop.  (OK- I don't actually shout from rooftop but you get my point)

Nine years ago I went thru the biggest scare of my life.  I suffered symptoms unique to ALS with a life expectancy of 3-5 years.  Thankfully, those symptoms were due to Neurological Lyme Disease, and with an exhaustive oral/intravenous antibiotic protocol, and the grace of God, I was restored to health.  Cue the shouting from the rooftop!

Two days ago I turned 39!  THIRTY NINE.  A number certain to scare the average pre-middle aged woman.  I, however, planned a day of celebration.

My friend Michelle and I took our daughters to the Witness Festival in Quarryville, PA.  The lineup included Unspoken, Selah, Meredith Andrews, Vertical Church Band, Francesca Battistelli and Kutless.  I couldn't have been more excited about this because both Mere and Franny have been sweet influences in my Kylee's life and are considered extended family in our home.  To have them together at the same event made us giddy.

We joined the crowd, on our blankets, in the festival atmosphere of shoulder to shoulder, muddy toed- selfie taking- folks and made memories.  The girls spent our money on merchandise and concessions all in the name of the "girls weekend" and we happily obliged every purchase.

Mere took the stage for sound check and Kylee yelled her name more times than she should have...  I didn't stop her.  I love that she adores her and sings her music when she is getting ready in the morning.  The same holds true for Franny.  I love that my daughter does not look up to Disney personalities but to authentic, bible believing, women of God that serve Him first, then family, then the body of Christ.  I love that in moments of hardship my daughter can recite lyrics that remind her that we serve a "Strong God" and that "Not For A Moment" will He forsake us.  And that when she faces mean girls or criticism for her faith she can sing the chorus of "Unusual"  (I call you Brave, unique and set apart.  A masterpiece, a work of art.  Living out what you believe.  Being who you're made to be.  I love to see the way that you are so unusual ) and know that she was created in His image and needn't fear man.

At one point in the sound check the girls saw Mere pull out her phone.  Seconds later I saw a message come across from her for our girls.  It read, "Yeah, hey!!!  I see y'all!!! ;-)"  You could have sent the girls home that very moment and their days would have been made.  How special she made them feel.  What good it did this mama's heart.  As usual, the show was fantastic.  Vertical Church Band is amazing and the worship is just that- worship.  From our lips to God's ears.  It's not fancy, no pyro technics, no flashing lights... it's heart felt praise & worship.  Written out of a need for God to meet them in their moments of distance, despair, joy, discontent, worry.  Written to bless and honor the one that instilled the talent and ability into not only the writers but those listening.  Those signing along.  Songs that apply to all of us.

After their set we joined the masses in an attempt to chat with the band.  When things settled a little we were able to tell VCB what a great set it was and to thank Mere for being so sweet to our girls.  We snapped a few pics as well.  And then I turned a shade of pink few have encountered as Mere and the band sang Happy Birthday, quite loudly, to me.  While I happily acknowledge another god-given year of life... I usually do so person to person and not in the center of a crowd.  ;-)  Of course the girls thought it was great fun and sang right along.

As if this wasn't enough awesomeness for one day Franny took the stage.  She sang many of our favorites.  Unusual, This is the Stuff, Let it Go, Write Your Story.  Then she explained to everyone that unfortunately she couldn't stay to sign autographs because she had a 14 hour bus ride and a flight out of Nashville in the morning that she had to make.  She turned and looked right down at Kylee and said, "But you come find me" and continued with her last song.

I have tears in my eyes just capturing this day in writing.  Just when I thought it couldn't get any more special- it did.  Our girls were loved on in ways that far exceeded imagination.  After the show Franny invited us onto her tour bus with Matt and her children.  She allowed the girls to ask questions, take pictures and tell stories.  She asked them about school and things they enjoy doing. She let them play with her kiddos and told them different sweet stories.  She confirmed what I've known which is that she loves Jesus, loves what He is doing in and thru her and loves those that are encouraged in the Lord via her ministry.  She (and Mere) selflessly give of their time, treasures and talents as they invest in youth and the mamas (in this case :) that are raising them.

We were also blessed to spend some time with Becca, Franny's cellist and back up singer, that we met back in April.  She is a sweet, dear thing that recently released her own EP full of amazing, Godly music.  She is a talented, humble, beautiful young lady that has a huge career ahead of her.  We were fortunate to snag both time and pics with her.  :-)

Outside of all of this, God also blessed me with friends who graciously supported our "27 tote" campaign allowing us to raise $130 in 12 hours to help local human trafficking victims AND I was notified that I'd won a Father's Day contest and would receive a Bulova Precisionist watch to give to Paul from our kiddos.

My heart is full.  My cup truly runneth over.  I am blessed beyond comprehension- far above what I deserve- and all I can do is say thank you.  To God for blessing me beyond what I could ask or imagine.   I am nothing apart from Him and I pray my Kylee would continue to grow in grace and truth, moving from glory to glory, steadfast in her pursuit to know Him more.  Thanks to Franny, Mere and VCB for loving on us this weekend and making us feel special.  To Michelle and Asli for being part of this girls' weekend.  To Kylee for making my everyday something worth celebrating.  And to all of you who took time to wish me a happy bday, donate and most importantly walk this walk with me daily!

It really was the best birthday.

Witness Festival 2014

photobombed by VCB :-)

VCB still singing Happy Bday in background <3 td="">

My Heart...

Franny and Eli 
K's selfie w/Mere

The girls :-)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Growing Kids...

My kiddos seem to have grown up.  Not sure when this happened but not long ago 2/3 of them brought home their school pictures.  

Brenden, our oldest, is in 8th grade- his last year of middle school.  Over the past year he has grown in both inches and knowledge.  He is funny, smart, kind and a bit of a class clown.  He excels in "noise" (dub step) broken spanish (second year) and ice hockey. He is far too cool for a class picture so you'll have to "see him" in your mind's eye.  :-)

Caeden, my middle child, is in 6th grade.  He is witty, intelligent, soft spoken and athletic.   Like his brother, he too plays ice hockey and he still loves his mama which is a bonus.

Kylee is in 4th grade.  She is kind, friendly, compassionate, and sensitive.  She fights for the underdog and is a great friend.  This year she participated in both recreational and competitive cheerleading.  She loved it so much she had her school pictures taken in her uniform.  

I am blessed to be called their Mama and don't take one second of our time together for granted.  They make me laugh, cry, beam with pride and fester with anger  sometimes all in the same day.  I am all the better for the time spent raising them and pray they are growing in grace and truth every step of the way.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Girls' Only Road Trip

I threw Kylee in the car last Thursday night and headed East on the turnpike.  She hadn't a clue of our destination.  We drove to grandma's, to her surprise AND delight.  She snuggled with grandma for a few minutes and then it was bedtime.  We had an early start on Friday.  

We left at 7am on Friday.  Headed East once more.  Within three hours we were having brunch with Mom-Mom.  We don't get to see Mom-Mom very often so brunch was such a blessing.  

By noon I informed Kylee it was time to get back into Charlotte.  NJ, NY, CT and finally MA.  She's the best road trip buddy, ever.  

I revealed to her our reason for the trip.  A christian artist that she adores was giving a concert/night of worship and we'd been gifted tickets.  We stopped in at the venue and saw Meredith doing her sound check.  It confirmed in me that this trip was the right trip for the weekend.  I needed a night of worship. Kylee was so excited.  Especially when she found out we had tickets for her pre-show meet and greet.  

We grabbed some dinner and then returned to the venue for the meet and greet.  Meredith Andrews came in and instantly looked at Kylee and said her name.  She was so sweet to make her feel so special.  She informed the room that we had traveled 9 hours for the concert and said she was honored.  She spent a good bit of time talking with Kylee and making Kylee smile.  

Within minutes it was "concert" time.  Meredith came out on stage and again, made sure to highlight our travel, thanking us in front of all in attendance.  Kylee couldn't help but squirm and giggle.  She said, "Mom, she really is so glad we came."  *How sweet* 

Meredith sang many of our favorite songs.  And between them she PA-REEEEACHED!  She is by far one of my favorite artists.  Her honestly, vulnerability, wisdom and talent are nearly unsurpassed.  And her "concert"... well it was much more of a night of worship.  She sang Revelation Song!!!   As my boys would say, "Ughhhhh!  The 8 minute song"  I loved every second of it.  

We really enjoyed our time with Meredith!!  She is authentic and a wonderful role model for your growing girl.  

After the concert we had the opportunity to CAR CAMP!  Seriously.  We parked Charlotte (our Pilot) in a rest stop, put all the seats down and inflated a queen size mattress.  Kylee thought I was the coolest mom in the world.    I'm fairly sure I am as I surprised her with freeze dried ice cream to complete the car camping experience.  :-)  It didn't take her but a second the put the DVD player down, headphones on and fall comatose into Oz, The Great and Powerful.  

She slept soundly thru the night.  An amazing accomplishment considering it was 30 degrees and I was FROZEN solid.  At 3am I turned the car on just to blast the heat.  By 6:30 I was ready to start driving JUST so I could have heat blowing on my face and feet :-)

We jumped on 95S in CT.  A great drive.  Quite aesthetic.  About an hour into our drive I told Kylee I was pulling off to find the beautiful homes/yachts we kept seeing off the highway.  Our jaunt led us to Rye, NY... or as I will refer to it from now til forever, "Heaven on Earth."  The most beautiful, lavish, pristine area I've ever laid eyes upon.  See for yourself.  

I hate to say I told you so but in this case... I'm right aren't I???? Rye, NY.  Heaven on Earth!!  We loved our short visit.  We'll visit again... soon. 

We drove the rest of the way back to central PA and spent the afternoon napping.  We were also able to have dinner with Paul's mom.  Something we don't get to do often, which was nice, and then traveled back to Pittsburgh the following morning.   

It was a wonderful, whirlwind, weekend.  Kylee is a great road tripper... This will NOT be our last excursion in Charlotte.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Update and Prayer Requests

I had the best morning.  Truly.  Up by five to get my house in order and spend time in the word/prayer. I covet those moments I can have with the Lord while others have yet to rise.

Once all the kids were on the bus I met my best friend at Panera for hot tea and fellowship.  Time spent with Stacy always ends up being time spent with the Lord.  So grateful for friends like that.  While at Panera, I ran into a dear friend who recently endured a traumatic brain injury and continues to recover.  On Monday she will undergo another surgery to replace a portion of her skull that was removed to allow her brain to swell immediately after the accident.  Though we've never discussed faith and or God I asked her if I could pray for her upcoming surgery.  She was sweet to oblige.  While I asked God to move on Megan's behalf, and continue to put his hedge of protection around her and return her to her favorite things like biking, running, swimming and teaching I noticed she was in tears.  I ended my prayer only to hear her apologize, "I'm sorry for crying.  It's just that those things you prayed are exactly what I want. "  My heart nearly exploded.  Please pray for her surgery, recovery and relationship with the one who is able to heal her both here and for all eternity.

In other news, I had abdominal surgery 2.5 weeks ago.  My recovery has been wonderful and I feel nearly 100%.  (Minus the fatigue- which they say will continue for a while)  God has been faithful yet again.

I'm spending a lot of time reading the book of James... reading a new book, Covenant Marriage, by Fred Lowery... and seeking Him in worship, word and prayer.  A few songs that I have playing on repeat include Oceans (Hillsong United), Mercy Mercy (Hillsong United) and Great Are You Lord (All Sons and Daughters)  Don't link to any of these songs if you're not prepared to be face down in full on worship mode :-)

Lastly, my marriage is struggling.  Deeply.  Has been for a while which is why I haven't blogged.  Please pray.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Yes Is Not Enough

Guilty.  I am.  Absolutely. 

I've said yes many a time, to many a question.  Sometimes, I've even said yes in frustration when the question seemed rhetorical in nature, yet awaited an answer. 

This morning, while reading from John 21, God clearly showed me that there are times when "Yes" is simply not enough.  You remember the passage.  The disciples have spent the night fishing without anything to show for it.  Jesus appears on the shore and tells them to cast their net to the right side of the boat to find fish.  They obey.  And the catch is abundant. 

They join him on shore for a much needed meal of fresh fish and bread when Jesus asks Simon Peter if he truly loves Him.  Peter's response, three times over is "Yes, Lord, you know I love you".  And three times over, Jesus responds with a command.  An action. 

Read it for yourself...

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these? " 

"Yes, Lord, " he said, "you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Fed my lambs."

Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"

He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?" He said, "Lord you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep,  I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old and you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. "  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.  Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

What a call to action this passage is.  What a reminder.  We don't serve a passive God.  Our God acts.  And as children made in His image, we too are to act.  We are to share His love, to serve. 

Peter learned this as he spoke with Jesus next to the fire.  Peter's frustration grew as Jesus continued to ask Peter the same question.  Not because Jesus didn't know the answer.  Jesus did, however, love Peter enough to make clear His point.  James 2.17 clarifies further yet, "Faith without action is dead."

I understand Peter's frustration.  Boy, have I been there before.  No doubt, I will find myself there again.  But this I know, I will be make every attempt to attach an action to my yes, from here on out.

How about you?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Look who found Lyrics...

I admit it.  I'm one who likes music for the melody.  The catchy tune.  The hook. The sing songy nature of it all.  I'm also the one who can be caught singing the WRONG WORDS to any song at any time.  I'm not usually detail oriented enough to listen to the lyrics. 

Which is why it's truly a surprise that I'm recommending that y'all read the lyrics word for word to Casting Crowns' new release, Jesus, Friend of Sinners.  It has captivated and convicted me.  I can't point to one line that means more to me than another as they all hold such meaning.

My prayer is God would speak to each of us, through these lyrics, by His spirit. 

Jesus Friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus friend of sinners the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours

Jesus friend of sinners the one who's writing in the sand
Make the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring your people to their knees

Nobody knows what we're for only against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did

Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came

Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me a grateful leper at Your feet

'Cause You are good, You are good And Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever

Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy Help us reach with open hearts and open doors

Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks Yours
And I was the lost cause and I was the outcast
You died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

Monday, July 2, 2012

Outside Looking In...

It's difficult to witness painful occurrences from afar with no option to pray with, encourage or cry with those enduring hardship.  My new job is proof of this.  Several times a day I encounter women faced with decisions that in my strongest moments... well, you know...

I want to embrace them.  Pray with them.  Cry with them.  Listen to them.  Acknowledge them.  Mourn with them.  Sometimes, it's not even the outcome that bears mourning.  It's the process.  The decisions.  The uncertainty.  The risk.

But I can only look from afar. I'm in no position to advise, interrupt, encourage.  So, I pray.  Powerfully.  Mightily.  Unceasingly.  I go to the one who can advise.  Who can interrupt.  Who can encourage.  And I ask Him to move.  Swiftly.  To surround with peace.  To envelop with love.  To guide in wisdom.

And I wait.  Because He is alive and active.  In His power, He moves.  In His sovereignty, He wills.  And in His love, He surrounds.