Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Letters to Our Children

"The word that is heard perishes, but the letter that is written remains." 

Imagine there was someone out there that loved and cared for you so much that they wanted you to know everything about them. How they thing, how they feel, why they do what they do. So they take the time to sit down and write it all out. This person pours it all out onto the page there for you to read at any time. If you feel alone and sad they have advice on how to handle it. You are worried or afraid? No sweat just look to the letter. Having a great day and want to celebrate? Sure! Read through the words of cheer, and happiness, and love. This is the ultimate guide book for everything you might experience in life. The only thing that would better than this letter would be to have that person right there physically with you.

That is a great picture right?

The funny thing is that we DO have that. Its called the Bible. It is God's amazing love letter to us, those who choose to put our faith and trust in Him and His plan.

This is the way that I have always heard my husband explain the Bible. It's more than just a book of stories, poetry, history, and songs. Its a living thing packed full of valuable information given to us by a Father who LOVES us so much He gave us the ultimate sacrifice; His One and Only Son's life for the sake of all the rest of his creation.

For someone who grew up without a father or that strong male influence in his life, over the past 16 years this is a concept that Dusty has really clung to.

It is also the reason that he made the decision when we found out we were pregnant with our first child to begin writing letters to our kids.

In 2009 for Christmas Dusty gave me a journal. It wasn't anything fancy. He probably picked it up in the notebook isle at Wal-Mart. But the meaning behind it was wonderful. This would be Collin's love letter from us to him. From before he was born up until he is 18 and ready to leave the home we would take the time to write to him. We would write down his accomplishment, share some of his struggles, and provide as much guidance and wisdom as we possibly could. Then when he is grown and ready to leave home and start out in the world that book would become his to take. He can add to it, or leave it as it is with the words we felt God was laying on our hearts to share with him.
Collin's journal is the green one on the bottom
RaeLynn's is the purple one on the top.

Of course we picked out a beautiful journal for RaeLynn when we found out we would be having a little girl. The plans are the same for her as they are for her brother. Write, share, and love through the words God gives us to share.

Life has a way of getting busy and we have not been as consistent with writing in the journals like we would like BUT we plan on changing that now. So starting today (only because it's the last day of the month) we plan to be writing in their journals at least once every month. It may not be the same day for each kid every month but at some point we will be sharing each month.

This is something that we have felt is really important for us to build the legacy for our kids. Sometimes actually sitting down and writing isn't your thing but you would still like to begin some type of keeping track of your kids as they grow. Here are a few other suggestions:

Create your child individual e-mail accounts.

This is a suggestion I have heard being done several times. Parents will create each child an e-mail account. They will then send e-mails to their kids and once they get to a certain age they will be given the account and password. Then they have not only all the e-mails you sent to them as they were growing up but they also have a way to continue to communicate with you when they grow up and move on. Another great feature on this one is that you can use your digital photos from your phone or tablet and send them in the emails and the kiddos will have access to childhood photos.

Create a Scrapbook for your child.

My mom and I LOVE to scrapbook. It is always fun for us to look through the different albums that we have created and see all the pictures. The old saying is that "a picture is worth a thousand words" so why not give your child thousands and thousands of words though picture scrapbooks. These are fun because you can really create something that fits with each child's individual personality or based on a particular event.

No matter what you do take time to pour into your legacy. You children are the mark you are leaving on the world. Leave them a love letter, tell them who you are, so that they can then tell their children and their children's children, and so on down the line.

What do you do to pass on your thoughts to your kids as they grow? Share your ideas in the comments!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Guard Your Quiet Time

Monday night last week I was blessed to be able to attend a welcome dinner for all women associated with Southwestern. Students, Student wives, Faculty, and Faculty wives all gathered together in one large room and had the opportunity to sit, eat, and fellowship. Old friends were brought back together after a long summer apart and new relationships began to be forged. The buzz of conversation was electric and the smiles through-out the room lit up everyone's face.

After a time of food and fellowship there came a time of introduction to the various amenities afforded to women of all stages of life on the Southwestern campus.Professors, Organization leaders, and faculty wives all took some time to stand up and share with the women how they can get plugged in and involved during their time at the seminary. The evening ended with Mrs. Dorothy Kelley Patterson, First Lady of the Seminary, sharing a bit from her heart about how pleased she is to see the women's programs growing the way they have over the course of her time at Southwestern.

Throughout the night a running theme was that no matter what is going on be it classes, jobs, educating or transporting children, or supporting a spouse the most important thing to remember during this time at Seminary is to guard your time with the Lord.

We live in a place where deep theological discussion takes place like every day conversation. Academics are the name of the game when it comes to the happenings around here. However, it is not hard to find a person who is spiritually dry. We as students pour into our studies. We read the Bible as another homework assignment looking not for the food God wants us to be nourished on but rather for the answers for the upcoming reading quiz.

But the biggest piece of advice given by all the wonderful women who got up to speak was

Guard Your Quiet Time with the Lord.

For me, this is an area that I hate to say I lack in. I have fallen into the trap of reading for the assignment at hand but not for the assignment given by God. And this is an area I want to improve in.  With the start of the new semester on us here are a few ways I am working toward guarding my time with the Lord.

Getting up a little bit earlier.

This semester I will be taking 2 early morning classes. That means getting up early will be a necessity. By getting up just a bit earlier than I would normally do I can spend just a few extra minutes reading my Bible and start my day off in prayer. This way my family will be able to reap the benefits of the lessons God is teaching me.

Going to bed a little bit earlier.

If I am going to be getting up earlier then it would stand to reason I need to be going to bed a little bit earlier. This means being more intentional with my evening time and making sure that I have my schedules set to be a bit more consistent.

Following a sound Study for Guidance.

There are some people who are really good about just sitting down and opening up their Bible and reading. They read until something stands out to them and then they stop and meditate on that stand out passage. It could be 3 verses or it could be 3 chapters but at some point God shows them what they need to know for that day. I am not one of those people. I need guidance and direction.

Lately, I have been following along with the Women Living Well/Good Morning Girls Studies. This helps me to know what to read and helps me to know what I am to be looking for. When I have the accountability that comes with the different Facebook groups I can get involved in I look forward to diving into my Bible Study each day.

Being gracious with myself.

Life happens and sometimes its messy. This means that some times I might not manage to get to my reading that day. But as long as I know that my Jesus loves me that is really what matters the most anyway isn't it?

How do you guard your time with the Lord?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Thank You Just Isn't Enough

Monday I shared about our latest adventure that culminated in a 4 day stay in the hospital. During those days as well as the several days following a lot of individuals came together to make sure that life was able to continue moving forward while we worked on getting Dusty well.

Today I want to take a minute here in my little corner of the internet to say thank you to all those who made everything possible. With out these people I truly would not have been able to get through the last few weeks.

To Michael and Jessica Payton:

Words can not express how much Dusty and I want to thank you. The way that you opened up your home without hesitation to love on and care for our kiddos was above and beyond what we could ever have hoped for. Life with three young kids in your home is crazy enough so I know that taking on 2 extras was not a walk in the park. However, through your willingness to help us out I was able to focus on what was going on in the hospital with Dusty and not have to worry about what was going on with the kids. I was able to rest easy knowing that they were in a safe environment. In the words of Dusty Marshall: "You guys rock!

To Carol and Bob Dvorak

First of all Carol thank you for encouraging me to let go of my stubborn ways and my fear of the financial and taking Dusty into the doctor. We all know that I tend to get weighed down with the material side of things and your words, as simple as they may have been, were what I needed to push me to taking Dusty to get the medical help he needed.
Secondly, Bob and Carol thank you for taking time out to come and see us once we got ourselves settled in the hospital on Sunday evening. Seeing you guys come in, knowing you cared and were concerned, really brightened Dusty's first day. It is often times hard to be away from family during these events and knowing that we have people like you to lean on is comforting.

To Jimmy and Serena Jackson

Thank you for taking the time after your busy days to come and visit us while we were there on Monday, Your visit brightened up our day and we enjoyed getting to sit, chat, and laugh with you. You guys have become like family for us also and it was a joy to get to spend some time with you.

To Tim and Rustina Bausum

Over the course of my time here at seminary I have prayed for the "forever" friends that I had heard so much about before we moved here. I was told that I needed to make lasting friendships and cherish them because there will come a time, once we leave seminary,  I prayed often that I would find that forever friend and I am thankful that God saw fit for it to be you guys. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to bring me food while we waited in the ER and then to bring us pizza again later in the week. To top it off bringing us dinner at our house so that I could work on getting the house back in order and not have to worry about cooking was the icing on the cake. I couldn't ask for better friends than you guys!

To Jonathan Atwell and Cos De Leo

Thank you for taking time to come by and see us in the hospital. It was fun to have you guys there and to take our minds off of the crazy things that were going on. Any time we get a chance to just sit and talk we always enjoy it. And thank you for making an extra trip back to bring me some Starbucks. We all know how that can brighten a day!

To Ashley Dawson, Christy Medina, and Amy Swaner, and Jodi 

Thank you Jodi for setting up the meal train for once we got home from the hospital. Thank you ladies for the meals that were provided as we adjusted to being back home. Life after a hospital stay and be hard to readjust to no matter what the length of time. By opening up your kitchens and providing us with meals we were truly blessed and able to recuperate so much quicker. The meals were all delicious!

 To the Staff at Texas Harris Methodist Hospital Soutwest

Though you may never read this I just want to say thank you to the amazing and wonderful staff. Each and every one of you that we encountered were professional, caring, and a blessing. We never once felt like we weren't being listened to, cared for, or important. The nurses were amazing and the bed side manner for all involved was beyond what we could have hoped for. We will be sure to use your facility again if we should ever have a need for a hospital visit.

To Brooks and Andrea Danley

Thank you for always being ready and willing to help us out when we need it. You picking up our kiddos and taking them with you for the afternoon when we were being sent home from the hospital was a huge help and a wonderful blessing. Our kids always look so forward to getting to spend time with your kiddos and for them that was just the best afternoon ever. We couldn't have done it without you! 

And Lastly, To Everyone who Texted, Facebook Messaged, Called, and Commented:

Thank you for caring and loving on us from afar. Though I know many of you would have liked to have been able to come by and see him in person just know that the comments on Facebook posts, the texts or private messages, and the phone calls to check in or let us know you were thinking of us meant the world to us. Often times we forget that we aren't in the world alone and even the slightest reminder of that brings us joy. And to Brenda, thank you for being patient with me as I did my best to stay up to date on the information that I could relay to you. I know it was hard for you to be away from him while he was sick but thank you for trusting me to take care of your boy. And thank you for all the other help you have given (you know what you do! We love you)

So there it is. The best I can do to say thank you to everyone involved over the last few days. I am truly blessed to have you all in my life.

Monday, August 22, 2016

God is in Control

This week in Sunday School our kids learned all about Job and the suffering he went through. The focus of the lesson this week was that even though sometimes bad things happen God is always in control. The kids learned all about how no matter what happens in life it all fits into God's good plan.

This afternoon as I thought over that lesson I looked back on the past few days that we have gone through.

On Wednesday August 10th Dusty came home with a headache. That is nothing really unusual since he just got a pair of sports goggles and he is still adjusting them. Wednesdays he stays out late with the guys playing Amtgard so he usually is hungry, tired, and has a slight headache when he comes home.

Thursday he woke up feeling off, his head still hurt and he just didn't feel well at all. However, being the guy that he is he decided to push through and go on into work. It was later that afternoon he shared a picture on his Instagram of it being 103 degrees INSIDE the workshop he was working in. Again, the headache and feeling crummy didn't seem like anything outside of the ordinary because it was hot, he probably didn't drink enough water, and he was tired. So once he got home he ate a bit and went to bed, with both of us thinking he would be better in the morning.

Friday rolled around and he was not better. In fact he was worse. Finally, he made the choice to stay home and try to fight off the cold we were both sure he had. Fridays are the day that I am out and about all day so he had a perfect opportunity to rest and recover in a quiet, calm house. While I am not sure how much rest he actually got I do know this is also the day his fever spiked the highest. And that should have been my first clue something was really wrong. But because we are both stubborn the doctor was not ever something that hit our radar.

Saturday came and went much like Friday. We alternated between meds trying to keep his fever under control and tried for him to get as much rest as possible but he just wasn't getting any better. This was by far the worst cold I had ever seen. By Sunday morning, when he still wasn't feeling better I was done. I was cranky and tired of him being sick because I needed help and I was tired of doing it all alone. (I am sure I am the only one who has ever felt that way though right?)

When I got to church on the 14th I got the usual questions about why the kids and I were there but Dusty was missing. After consulting with a dear friend who is also a medical professional it was decided that I really needed to take Dusty in to be seen somewhere. And then I was told to go. I was informed my kids would be cared for and I was to take him to the ER right away. So I did. And just a few short hours later we were being admitted to the hospital with a fairly serious case of pneumonia and a slew of other tests being run. 

Throughout the whole process I just kept thinking about the amount of time that was being taken off work, the insanely large bills that would be hitting my mailbox any day now, and the extra burden that was being put on others as they cared for our children and the other responsibilities that we had to put off.  And at no point over the 4 days did I stop and think that God was in control of this situation and He would take care of things if I would just get out of the way and let him.

Its easy to see God having His hand in all the good things that go on . When a new life is brought into the world that baby is a miracle from God. When a new job comes into play we have been blessed. If we come into some type of unexpected money God must have had some way of bringing it about. 

But when we fall in to hard times we are quick to jump to the conclusion that God has abandoned us. That we are no longer loved or under God's protection. We ask questions like "Why me?" and "What have I done to deserve this?" But the reality is that we are living in a time and a place where bad things happen. And often times we believe that if there is something bad happening God must not have any control over it. However, when we read in Job we see that God was in complete control over everything that he went through. And in the end, Job drew that much closer to the Lord through his trials and his sufferings. 

Genesis 50:20 tells us that what is meant for harm God will ultimately use for our good. And in Matthew 6 we are told that God cares for the birds and the plants and makes sure they have everything they need so why do we thing he would do any less for us. 

You see, over the course of the last week the one thing I have really come to see is that as long as I get out of the way and let God be God He is going to make sure that things are taken care of. Sure, it may not (and usually isn't) be done the way that I thought it should be or would have done it. But usually that is because God has handled things in a much better way than I could have ever imagined.

Do you have a hard time letting God be in control?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Running the Race

I have been trying to get this post written for several days. But for some reason, life just keeps getting in the way.

To start off we started school for the kids. I made the decision to start early because I knew that when my classes started I would not have the time I needed to get us really going.  Getting into a new routine is just plain hard, especially after spending way too many weeks being "wild and free".

Secondly, the Olympics started. This post is actually inspired by the athletes in the Olympics but I will get to all that in a bit, however, the biggest reason why I haven't sat down to write is that I have been streaming one sport or another almost continuously on my laptop. (I watched rugby 7s for the first time EVER! It was intense!) That makes writing a little bit difficult.

And then, to top it all off I have been sitting in a hospital room since Sunday evening with a husband who has pneumonia. After the 4th day of running a fever over 100 degrees we finally made the decision to bring him into the ER only to find out that I probably should have brought him in a lot sooner. The good news is he is now on the mend and hopefully we will be heading home in the next tomorrow.

So here we are. Things are finally slowing down a bit and I can finally get to writing what has been on my heart and my mind the last day or two.

As I mentioned above the Olympics are in full steam at the moment. (As if it would be hard to not notice that on TV or any social media outlet) I LOVE the Olympics. Every 2 years (yes I'm an equal-opportunity Olympian fan) I get excited about watching the best of the best come together to compete in sporting events I both love dearly and that I have never even considered looking into. I love watching the way that the countries come together to cheer for on another and support each other through various feats of strength, character, and determination.

Its like all the animosity that is held between our different nations is placed up high on a shelf and ignored for 2 weeks. It reminds me that no matter what our differences we are all created by and loved by God.

I watch these athletes and I see them push through pain, frustration, and expectations and I think about Paul reminding us to continue to run our race.

24Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

These AMAZING athletes are running their respective races to receive a pretty nice prize. National pride,  a shiny medal, and all the glory that comes with it. To say that I haven't thought about what it would be like to be on that international stage would be a lie. I think at somepoint everyone dreams of winning the gold for their country.

But then I am reminded I am running a race so much more important. I am running a race for eternal glory. The prize I am pushing for is so much more precious than gold, silver, or bronze. I am running for my place in the kingdom of heaven. I am training my mind, body, and soul for the work that God has called me to do.

My race currently is being run in my home; teaching, training, and raising up the next generation of racers. My end goal is to pass the baton on to my children so that they too may run the race. I am not doing it so that others can say to "She is such a great mom." or "I wish I could do (insert ANYTHING HERE) like she does." My goal is to lead my children to the love of the Lord so that I will be blessed to spend eternity with them. That is the race I run.

The Olympics remind me that it takes constant training to stay at peak competition level. For me, that is the same. I am to train through the reading of the 'training manual' God's Word, through the practice of maintaining my relationship with both God and His people, and focusing on the best for my race not worrying about how another might be running theirs.

Every 2 years in the summer and the winter the best of the best come together and put on a display to entertain and to win. Everyday, I strive to put forward the best of my best so that I might please the one Judge handing out the ultimate prize at the best finish line there is.

Do you watch the Olympics? What are your favorite sports to watch? Are you running your good race?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Just Be Still

the past few months I have watched and participated in conversations that have left me shaken to the core. Beliefs I carry have been questioned repeatedly and at some points even completely dismissed as bogus.

I have felt underappreciated, undervalued, and unloved on a whole lot of levels. It has left me questioning a whole  array of areas in my life.

To say that I have been baffled at the way individuals are talking to and about one another would be an understatement. And to say that I don't really see an end to the unpleasantness anywhere in sight would probably not shock anyone.

As I was sitting at my kitchen table in the quiet (a rare luxury around here for sure) the words "just be still" popped into my mind. That is a verse that I have heard over and over again.

"Be still and know that I am God"

The problem is I couldn't for the life of me remember where it is found in the Bible. (This is where Google came in handy.)

Quickly I was able to find that this verse that I have heard all too often, seen on any number of t-shirts, mugs, and tote bags, is found in Psalm 46.

I pulled out my Women's Study Bible which happens to be the Holman Christian Standard Version and flipped to that particular location in the Psalms.

I was caught off guard by what I read.

"Stop your fighting and know I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth."

Stop your fighting

Wow. What a picture. Stop. Stop fighting and KNOW that God is God.  For some reason that just hit me so much more than to just simply "be still."

Being still is easy (mostly). Meditation is something that individuals use often as a way to center and focus. Be still. Empty your mind. Allow God to come in and show you what he would have you know.  Rest.

All of these are what I have heard accompanied with this particular verse.

Fighting is hard work. My husband has been involved in a fun live action role playing game for around 20 years. Every weekend he gets together with a group of other individuals and they sword fight with weapons created by golf club shafts covered in pool noodle foam and fabric. Each weekend I watch them "fight" together. The physical exertion that takes place is sometimes unreal. By the time time day is over exhaustion has usually taken over and the body is just worn out.

If fighting is hard, stopping the fighting is equally hard, if not more so. Letting go of the "rightness" of our opinions. Letting go of our justification, our anger, our hatred for those on the other side. You see, fighting has to have fuel to continue to burn the fire. The longer you fight the bigger the flames get. Anger takes root not because it belongs there but because the door has been opened

That picture is what comes to my mind when I read "stop your fighting" Put away your weapons. No matter how hard we work we are doing little to no good in the grand scheme of thing.

And it is no different with the verbal fighting and emotional fighting going on all around us today. The weapons have been drawn and there are casualties on all sides. Love is no longer the universal language. Sadly, anger has become the norm.

John 13:34-35 say
"A new command I I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

My heart has been saddened by the lack of love that has been shown by one another to one another. Jesus loves in a sacrificial manner. He put himself last so that others may be first. While he carried the truth in his message he did it gently and graciously. He did not resort to petty arguing, slander, insults, and negative thinking. Instead he listened, observed, and responded. In that order.  We are called to be doers of the word and not mere hearers but I fear that calling is falling on deaf ears.

So today, I am choosing to stop fighting. I am laying down my weapons. I am making the decision to love as Jesus loved, listen as Jesus listened, and be a doer of the Word in which I so firmly believe in.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Jumping into James

Happy Monday!

One of the areas that I have really been working on doing better with is reading my Bible and staying more connected with God.

Sure I pray on a regular basis (I am a stay at home mom after all I talk to God A LOT during the day) and I enjoy digging into the Scriptures when we have our Sunday morning Bible Studies or our Tuesday night Home Group. But where I really fail is in my daily Bible study and quiet time. Part of that is because I don't ever really have quiet in my home. I mean, I suppose if you count the few hours when we are all sleeping, but for the most part that is it.

With the semester approaching fairly quickly (can you believe that classes start in just under a month) I really need to work on getting myself into a better routine of waking up early and starting my day off on the right foot.

That is why when I saw that the Good Morning Girls are going to be doing a 2 week study on the book of James I couldn't wait to get my hands on the materials.

Luckily at the time we had a bit of spare cash and the study guide/journal was on sell for about $10 so I scooped it up.

I am super excited to be going through this book as I prepare to enter into the new semester here at Southwestern.

photo credit:

A Little Intro to James

James is often considered one of the most practical books found in the Scriptures. This book, much like that of Proverbs, holds its focus on wise Christian living for those transformed by faith.

Who: James' the brother of Jesus, is the author of this book.

Who (again):  It is likely that the recipients of this book were Jewish Christians living in and around Jerusalem and Antioch at the time.

When: This book happens to be one of the oldest of the New Testament books, having been written between A.D. 48 and 62.

What: James shares how faith and works relate to one another, provides practical ways for Christians to live out their faith, provides tools for trials and tribulations, shares the power of speech and wisdom, and outlines the relationship between the rich and the poor.

James' Key Verse

"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. " James 1:22

How the Study Works

The Good Morning Girls use what they like to call the "SOAK" method.
SOAK stands for
K~Kneeling in Prayer

Lets break that down a bit


This is where you read the scripture passage for the day. Once you have read through it a couple of times pick 1 or 2 verses that really just jumped out at you and write them down. There is no right or wrong verse to write out. The Holy Spirit will lead you in what is most important for you for the day. Spend the rest of the day meditating on the portion that you picked out.


This is where you dig a little bit deeper. Take a look at the 1 or 2 verses you wrote out and break them down. Write out a few observations about those particular verses What stands out? What are you learning from them? Is there something you have never noticed before? A promise, command, or teaching from God? Write what you see.


This is where you make those 1 or 2 verses personal to your life. How do the apply to the season you are in? How can you incorporate whatever God is showing you in to your life? Is there something in your life that you might need to change? Or a specific action you might need to take? Write it down so you will remember.

K~Kneeling in Prayer

Now that you have read, observed, and laid your action plan now its time to go to God in prayer about what He has revealed. Praise God for his word and the way He is working in your life. Pray for Him to continue to work this passage in and through you so that the action plan you set out will be glorifying to him.

Originally this was known as the SOAP (with the P just standing for prayer) however, I REALLY love the picture of SOAKing in God's word as you go through each passage day by day.

Each day also has a reflection question that helps with the application aspect of the study. Good Morning Girls posts the reflection question on various social media platforms and invites women all over the world to connect and reflect over the reading for the day. That is one of the best aspects of social media today!

I don't think there is any better place to begin my semester journey than in the practical living aspect of James.

How do you study the Bible? Have you ever done a Good Morning Girls Study?