31 December 2007

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!


In years past, I always looked upon the tradition of setting resolutions for the new year with disdain. "New Year's Resolutions," it seemed to me, were only set to be broken. In theory, I never *officially* set any.
Looking back, however, it occurs to me now that just because I didn't go through the specific act of writing them down and telling everyone doesn't mean that I didn't have any.
Certainly, there have been many things that I have hoped for in years past -- perhaps silently wishing them to happen with the turning of the new calendar. And I find myself pondering the many disappointments of things that didn't happen in the past year that, I was so hopeful,
would.

So, as I sit here on New Year's Eve 2007, I have decided to give up my pseudo-intellectual snobbery and actually share with you here what I hope for the coming year.
Here are my 2008 "Resolutions."
1) I would like to lose weight and get healthy again. I have type II diabetes and my thyroid is a mess. A year ago, I was on NO medication. Now, I am on 4 different types per day! (yikes!)
For Christmas, I bought myself a membership to the Women's Center for Fitness so I could start working out regularly again. I actually love to exercise and miss it when I go long periods without it. Before children, Clay and I were pretty serious weight-lifters (NOT body-builders! There IS a difference! I prefer to look like a GIRL, thank you very much). I also used to be a pretty good kick-boxer (NOT Tae Bo, actual KICKBOXING).

2) I WILL finish writing my book. This will entail some sacrifices in other areas of my life (see the following resolutions):


3) I MUST cut back on so
me of my commitments. I am praying earnestly to decide what these will be, but something has to give. My time is stretched so thin now that my family is starting to suffer. And I don't EVEN want to talk about the laundry that is piling up!!! So, something will have to be cut or, at the very least, cut way back.

4) I would REALLY like to keep my 'A' in Elevate and I would like to devote more time to studying the topics that we are covering in our classes. I don't want this to simply be a passing fancy; I want to actually learn this stuff and carry it with me, always.

That's it -- at least for now.
Those are four things that I am truly hoping will come to fruition in the coming year. It's kind of cool posting them here because now I have a permanent record and can come back a year from now and see what has been successful and where I still need work -- an annual "checklist," if you will.

What about you?
What are you wishing for, believing God for, wanting desperately to happen in 2008?

Whatever your dreams, goals, or ambitions, I hope that you realize them all. May 2008 be a wonderful year for you and your family.

Much love, Summer =)

27 December 2007

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!


Like my background?
Could be the only snow we here in Baton Rouge see this year...
*sigh*
If there's one thing I miss about Arkansas (besides my family and friends), it's the snow. Most years, we would get at least one decent snow -- or at the very least, a dusting! Some years, we were snowed in for days! The year before we moved here, it snowed so hard, my car got stuck coming home. We had to walk the last 2 blocks to our house. Clay couldn't even get out to go to the hospital so we spent the next 3-4 days building snowmen and sledding down the steep hill near our house (another thing I miss: hills!).

Yes, if I could just have one truly selfish and silly prayer request this year, it would be for SNOW. Natasha *vaguely* recalls what it's like, but poor Raisha has never even seen it! I would love to see her face watching those beautiful flakes fall from the sky...
Then again, there IS such a thing as TOO MUCH SNOW -- like the winter I lived in Denver, Colorado.
Um, yeah.
You gotta REALLY like snow to live there.

I absolutely LOVE living in Louisiana -- in fact, we have permanently "adopted" it as our home state (sorry, Razorbacks). But couldn't we just have an occasional snow day? Is that really too much to ask? I don't think so. After all, it snowed in L.A. a couple years ago... so anything is possible, right?

25 December 2007

24 December 2007

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas & a blessed New Year!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog.
Don't eat too much fruitcake and make sure the eggnog's not spiked.!
Love, Summer =)

21 December 2007

I Am Legend

Ok, so I'm not really a "horror flick" kind of girl, but I had heard my mom talk about this book and I knew it was a modern remake of the cult classic, Omega Man., so I thought it might be worth seeing... Fast forward to Wednesday night:

It is, without a doubt, the SCARIEST movie I have seen in a REALLY long time!!! I am not kidding. This movie will mess with your mind.

But it's also intriguing.
A modern film with a clearly religious message and an obvious Christian allegory -- who woulda thunk it?
SPOILER ALERT
(don't read unless you've already seen it or aren't planning to):

Will Smith (one of my favorite actors) does a superb job as the film's main character. Intent on "saving the people of the earth from certain demise," he ultimately surrenders his own life in order to save theirs. Just before he lays down his life, he pleads with the "monsters" who, though once human, have lost nearly all evidence of their humanity.
He tells them: I can save you; just give me a chance -- I can save you.
But they are only intent upon his -- and ultimately, their own -- destruction.

I couldn't help but think, if we were "exposed" for what we truly are -- with the effects of our sinful nature displayed for all to see -- we would not be so very different from those hideous "monsters."
And Christ is pleading with us to give Him a chance to change us into something new and better than what we are now.
But (like those degenerate beasts) so many choose to stubbornly press forward in their self-destructive, chaotic existence, refusing the only glimpse of hope they will ever see.
Death is certain, yet still they resist.

The acting is wonderful, the suspense and scare factors are through the roof, but the story of man's self-destruction through his own intellectual arrogance is a message that is so relevant today. In this age when we -- through scientific progress and modern innovation -- act as though we are nothing less than gods, ourselves: This movie is a wake-up call.
It demands a reevaluation of what we think we "know," and what we believe.

Would I see it again? I don't know... Like I said, I'm not really a fan of scary movies, but the message behind this film definitely deserves consideration. If you are not weak of heart, I highly recommend it.
You can check it out here:
I AM LEGEND TRAILER

As Promised...

I forgot to post a pic of my Christmas tree. Here it is...
It's about 9 feet tall and very full so it takes us a good day or two to get it up and decorated.

Clay and I aren't allowed to have a real tree anymore. The first year we were married we had a little, live, "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree.
We, um, well.... We forgot to water it.
Ever.
After about 3 weeks, it was getting pretty crispy. I still have a scar from when I walked past and received a laceration from one of its branches.
About a week before Christmas, we noticed a slight hint of smoke coming from the tree. We immediately unplugged the lights and thus avoided any catastrophe, but ever since, we have resigned ourselves to using an artificial tree.
Plus, it's jut better for the environment, right? =)

20 December 2007

Temporary Fix *sigh*

Well, I had to completely change my template to get my title pic to work properly. I don't understand it; I re-sized the pic 3 or 4 times -- ultimately reducing it by more than half of the original pixel size! -- and it still didn't work.
I hate that.
Anyway, until I have time to sit and play with it a bit more, this will have to do...
Carole!!! I need your help!!!

19 December 2007

WHAT is Up With Blogger???

For those of you who have asked... I have NO IDEA why my title picture is messed up.
Actually, I kinda do:
It's SUPPOSED to be a picture of my eyes, but Blogger did some ridiculous update to help those who are upload-challenged and (essentially) ruined the title pictures for the rest of us!
I am trying to get it fixed, but this is just FYI so you wouldn't be wondering...
Anyway:

What a Weekend!

Last Saturday, my girls and I had the opportunity to volunteer at the NEW Baton Rouge Dream Center @ Winbourne for the Christmas Outreach. It was SO AMAZING!
There was food and games for everyone -- space walks, basketball, face painting, and cookie decorating. We gave a toy to each child who came and boy,did they come!
People in the neighborhood were curious as to what was going on in the old Winbourne church. This is what they saw:


Later that evening, my middle daughter was in the Christmas production given by the Children's Praise & Worship Team. They did a fabulous job! I wish I had more pictures to show you, but my camera was acting funny...
These kids performed for ALL 4 SERVICES at the Highland campus! And at the 10:00 service they got to perform for a very special guest: Governor-Elect Bobby Jindal!

14 December 2007

God Is Not a Republican...



And neither is He a Democrat.

But I am constantly amazed at the number of Christians who will fight to the proverbial death, declaring He is one or the other (usually the former rather than the latter).
I don't believe that God thinks *politics* are all that important anyway and I'm pretty sure He doesn't care for the way we sling around our points of view as though we are spouting His Gospel.

The fact is, political stance is NOT a SALVATION ISSUE.

Do I need to
repeat that???
Seriously, I think some of my acquaintances would disown me if they new my true political leanings.
I am a MODERATE.
No, that's not a fence-rider; it's someone who actually thinks and considers each issue and each candidate and doesn't just cast a partisan vote.
I know many Christians who would question my sanctification should they find out that I once campaigned for Pres. Bill Clinton. And some of my Democrat friends would gasp in horror if they found out I voted for George W. Bush. What I don't get is why they think they have a say in how I vote at all.

Typical of Americans, we often take for granted our
freedom to vote as we choose and to express our political differences. In MANY countries of the world (and I'm not naming names), political dissidence is grounds for imprisonment or even execution.
And while I might not agree with everything you say regarding your political beliefs, I would fight to the death for your right to say them.


Yes, I admittedly have some regrets in my voting record -- not for my decision in voting -- but for the person(s) whom I feel have let America down in so many ways. Take that however you want.

One thing I cannot do, however is base my decision on whether or not I think that candidate is TRULY a Christian. Seriously, I don't have the audacity to pretend that I am privy to such personal information as that is completely between that person and the Lord.
Some very bright, well-meaning Christians have asked me to do just that:
"But can't you tell by their past behavior? Can't you judge a tree by its fruit?"
I have given this a lot of thought since that conversation and I think
if that were true, I'm sure there are moments -- whole days even -- when observers would question MY faith. Indeed, there are a LOT of great, Godly leaders who would be considered "bad fruit" if judged only by their faults:
*David had an affair with Bathsheba and then had her husband murdered.

*Moses killed another man (an Egyptian) in a fit of rage.

*Noah got stinking drunk not long after God spared his life on the ark.


Am I disparaging these great men of the Bible? No, because I don't judge the extent of their lives by their moments of human frailty. Shouldn't we use the same measure of grace that God has extended to US when weighing the faults of those seeking public office?
This is not to say that we should turn a blind eye to an immoral lifestyle. Indeed, we should pray fervently over our decisions and we should consider ALL of the available information before making up our minds.
Ultimately, my point is this:
Stop using God as your political endorsement.

It's disrespectful to Him and it's awfully presumptuous of you.

Give people the RESPECT and the FREEDOM to make up their own minds.
And then let God take care of the rest.
He is more than capable.

12 December 2007

Quick! Somebody Get a Geek In Here!

I think I can breathe now... The past 8 days have been such a whirlwind that I have not had a moment to do much of anything I've *wanted* to do (like write on my blog).

About a week ago -- for no apparent reason -- my computer crashed. Yes, a week before my Elevate FINALS, my computer crashed.
And I mean, CRASHED. I could not even pull it up in "Safe Mode" -- never a good sign. I couldn't even get it to perform a System Recovery! My computer has been showing signs of *issues* for several months now, but since it was only 3 years old, I kept putting off getting it looked at.
BIG MISTAKE.
My CD-RW drive stopped working awhile back and I kept MEANING to buy a key card to store my backup information. Unfortunately, I never did.
EVEN BIGGER MISTAKE.

The lovely, well-paid folks at "Geek Squad" have determined that the crash was NOT caused by any virus or trojan or even by spyware. Fact is, they really don't know what caused my computer to stop responding! No lightening storm; No physical injury to the PC tower; No kool-aid on the keyboard. Nada.
THe only culprits I can see are one of two (or a combination of both): In the week before the crash, my computer was updated automatically with a Norton Internet Protection update and (the next day or so) with a Microsoft Windows update.
I'm pretty sure one (or both) of these caused the problem.
What I DON'T understand is why the damage was so extensive.

I took my PC in for data extraction, but they were not able to recover ANYTHING.
NOTHING.
Everything on my computer's hard drive is gone. Pictures, letters, important documents, tax info, all gone.
By the grace of God, Clay had suggested to me to email some of my more important documents to myself via my web-based email addresses. I last did this 2 days before the crash.

The thing I regret the most is the loss of pictures.
Sure, it's going to be a pain getting Quicken reloaded and caught up, and there are SO many important emails that I am now remembering and cringing that I never forwarded!
But, you live and learn.
The computer was a total loss, so "Merry Christmas to me:"
I have a new computer!
I have heard NOTHING good about Windows Vista, but can I just say, (so far anyway) I LOVE IT! It works so much better than the old Windows XP -- and it's so much more chic. Very cool, almost-Mac'esque visual qualities.
True, I really wanted to buy a Mac Notebook, but I will wait for that.
Besides, it costs about $2,000 more than what I spent on this puppy. =)
Maybe this is a blessing in disguise?
In any event, at least I can get back to blogging now!


03 December 2007

There's No Place Like Home!

Whew! It's good to be home! We've been out of town for 10 days and I must say, even though I love seeing my family and in-laws, it's really nice to be back in my own bed. =) Thanksgiving was good, but now that we're home, I feel rushed to get into the full swing of the Christmas season. Thanks to the "virus from hades" that I experienced before we left, I did not get even half of my Christmas decorations up like I had planned. My tree is now up and we are going to decorate it tonight. Hopefully, I can get all the yard decor and lights up in the next day or two. I have Elevate finals in 1 week so add that to the stress as well... I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I will be posting more soon. Stay tuned...

27 November 2007

China-Free Shopping


Is anyone else having a tough time shopping for Christmas gifts NOT made in China???

This is driving me nuts!

Nothing is safe it seems...

On the other hand, this is the perfect excuse to get creative with my Christmas shopping. I have come up with several "non-traditional" gifts for my kids this year. Of course, I can't list them here because my older kids read my blog. LOL!


Someone was telling me that Target had a HUGE ad in last week's pre-"Black Friday" sales flier promoting:
AQUA DOTS -- BIG SALE!

Ummm... guess someone didn't get that memo.

Hopefully, everyone reading this knows about the horrible discovery regarding the popular toy, "Aqua Dots," but if not, you can read it here: AQUA DOTS RECALL

Makes you wonder if the Target employee responsible for that ad going out is looking for a new job right about now, doesn't it?


22 November 2007

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I am SO blessed!
I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is wonderful & may the Lord bless you and your family in abundance!
Happy Thanksgiving!


17 November 2007

Compassion International

At the Hillsong United concert Tuesday night, Brian Houston announced that Hillsong was formally partnering with Compassion International
This is a reputable, Christian organization that operates as a child advocacy ministry. From their website:

"Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, physical, economic and social poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.

Founded by Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, Compassion began providing Korean war orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training.

Today, Compassion helps more than 900,000 children in 24 countries."

Simply giving up pizza once or twice a month will more than pay for some child to have enough food to eat and provide them with clothing, shelter, and education. Seems like a pretty good deal to me!

Cool story:
Our oldest daughter's name is Nadia, our middle daughter is Natasha, and our youngest is Raisha. We chose the spelling of Raisha's name (since we weren't going with another 'N' name) based on the letters in our two older girls' names. The vowel sequence of A, I, A (from Nadia) and the ending of S, H, A (from Natasha).
When I went to the Compassion table to pick out a child for us to "adopt," I couldn't decide! There were SO many sweet faces of children from all over the world! I thought, "OK, God, show me which one..."
Just then I looked down and saw a sweet little girl in a bright blue dress.
Her name?
AISHA
I'm not making this up! How cool is that?!
She is 7 years old and she lives in Tanzania.
I think this is a wonderful opportunity that any family can do with a bit of sacrifice... and it's such a good cause. Check them out: Compassion International

15 November 2007

From The Inside Out

My favorite Hillsong United song (video below)
LISTEN to the words:

A thousand times I've failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again,
Still I'm caught in Your grace.
Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never-ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame.

In my heart and my soul,
I give You control
Consume me from the inside, out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
to love You from the inside, out.

Your will above all else
my purpose remains,
the art of losing myself in bringing You praise.
Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never-ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame.

In my heart and my soul,
I give You control
Consume me from the inside, out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
to love You from the inside, out.

From the inside out, oh my soul cries out.

(segues into:)
In my life, be lifted high.
In our world, be lifted high.
In our love, be lifted high.




No matter how many times we let Him down or think we have failed, He is always willing to forgive and will draw near to us.
We need only to ask.

14 November 2007

Blah

I have strep throat and bronchitis. Oh, and my asthma is stirred up thanks to the bronchitis.

Just FYI.
I'll try to post something interesting soon...

11 November 2007

Planting a Seed...

Our Church held their annual MIRACLE OFFERING this morning and it was amazing. This was an offering for our future building and for our new church in Swaziland, Africa. I consider it to be a privilege to be a small part of something so big.
I just feel like God is about to do some pretty awesome things in our church and that we are on the verge of something huge. I can't explain it, but there is a sense of excitement and anticipation that you can't quite put your finger on...

Our church is a church who puts their money and actions where their mouth is. I never wonder where the money goes; I often wonder where it all comes from! HPC has got to be one of the most GIVING churches I have ever been a part of -- reaching out to the widowed, the orphaned, the homeless, the poor, the abused, the addicted, the unwanted. There's not a need that we aren't trying to find SOME way to fill. At times, I truly wonder how it's all even possible.

I am a firm believer in tithing (giving 10% back to the church), but today was an offering.
An offering is anything you give to the church over and above your tithe.
You see a tithe is not an option; it's a command. But it's a command that SO many people ignore or put last in their list of priorities.

I know that for years Clay and I believed that we did not have the money to tithe.
I rationalized not tithing with our need to pay the bills each month. You see, I thought that if I tithed, there would not be enough money at the end of the month. How could I possibly give 10% of our income when we had so many bills???
The funny thing is, after years of this kind of rationalization, we found ourselves deep in debt.
Yep. Even with keeping the money in my pocket, there was never enough money to cover our needs and wants and we kept putting more and more on credit cards.
My logic was so twisted that when I would have a flat tire or need a plumbing repair, I would think, "Wow, it's a good thing that I didn't put that money in the plate last week or I wouldn't have had enough to pay for this."
How messed up is that??

Two years ago, Clay and I were out walking on our street with our children. We had been going to Healing Place off and on for over a year and had made the decision (a couple months' prior) to become full-fledged members. While walking we started talking about tithing and how we both felt like we needed to do it on a regular basis (we had tithed off and on in the past, but not faithfully).
This was not an easy decision.
Despite Clay's position and income, we had gotten ourselves so deep in debt that our mounting bills made tithing seem illogical.
Interestingly, we had both been feeling the need to begin tithing again so we made a firm agreement, right then and there, to start that week.
WITHIN 30 MINUTES OF THIS DECISION,
a car came speeding into our street going insanely fast. My middle daughter, Natasha (who was 8 at the time) was on her bicycle in the middle of the road. Clay was carrying our 16 month old, Raisha, and Nadia was walking beside us.
As the car whipped around the cul-de-sac in front of our house, my only thought was
"He's going to hit Natasha! She'll never be able to get out of the way in time!"
I ran in front of his car waving my arms for him to stop.
The sharp curve forced him to hit the brakes and he came to a stop in front of me.
I put my hands on the hood of his car and looked right into his eyes. I started to make my way (with my hands still on his car) around to the passenger side to tell him to slow down, but the driver, sensing his opportunity, hit the gas.
The side of the car grabbed my body and pulled me to the ground and before I could roll out of the way, his right, rear tire had run over my leg.
Miraculously, not a bone was broken. The doctors were amazed.
I was so thankful to God that no one had been seriously hurt, but I have to tell you,
I was MAD.
This hit-and-run assault brought decades of repressed anger and depression to a hilt.
Years of pain and frustration (from my childhood), that I had kept pushed down for so long, bubbled to the surface. I don't fully understand why this experience was so cathartic, but it was. Thus began a long and painful journey for me. I sought solace in my Bible and in prayer because when you feel like that, there's not much else you CAN do. In my desperate prayers to God, a healing began to take place...

Despite my swinging pendulum of emotions (my poor family!), our decision to give back to God had not wavered.
Indeed, I saw this "attack" by the enemy as resounding proof that I was doing something very "dangerous" to the enemy through my obedience to God.
The next year for us was NOT fun.
Hurricane Katrina hit our state, followed by Hurricane Rita and everything was in turmoil. Due to the huge loss in our state, some of our credit card companies TRIPLED our interest rate (no, I'm not exaggerating; I have proof!) -- even though we had always paid on time before.
Our bills were mounting and there didn't seem to be any way out.
But still we tithed.

That was 2 years ago and I have to tell you that Clay and I are today on our way to becoming debt-free. We have paid off nearly 80% of our unsecured debt owed before the decision to start tithing.
But even greater are the things that God has done in my heart and in my life since making that momentous decision.

NOW, I have never felt more free. I still struggle with my temper and emotions at times, but I know God is faithful and "will finish the good work" He has begun in me. And He has given me a promise for the future -- something I did not have before.

This is my testimony and I want to stress this point:
Once we began tithing, even though money was STILL really tight and at times, the situation seemed hopeless, there was ALWAYS enough money at the end of the month.
Don't ask me how.
It was just THERE.
Sometimes it was just a nice surprise: I would have a REALLY good sale on eBay items or I would find some cash in an old purse, but sometimes, it was just plain FREAKY: like we would receive an unexpected check from an unlikely source.
The point is, it was always there. ALL of our needs were met and no bills went unpaid.
Furthermore, we have received financial blessings that have made it possible to consistently pay off our debt. Without a doubt, we could not have done this alone!

For those who think giving to the church is not important, or believe it's not even possible for you, I urge you to search your heart and give God a chance to work a miracle in your life.
God LOVES to do the "impossible," but YOU have to give Him the opportunity to do it. He's not going to force it on you. You have to step out in faith.

As they always say, "You can't out-give God." The seeds you sow in your giving today, will come back to you in BUSHELS tomorrow. And you are not just sowing into your own life, but into the lives of every person who will benefit from your gift.

But do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' for the pagans run after all these things and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.
-- Matthew 6: 31-33

That's why I now give with a cheerful heart -- because I know this money is going to bless someone else's life and I have no need to worry for my own. And I know it's going to build a building where SO many more will be blessed as well. We may never know the full impact of our sacrifice today.
As Pastor Dino says,
"It's for those who are not yet here."

10 November 2007

SICK of being Sick...



Today marks day 13 that my family has been sick with this crud that's going around. The weird thing is that I feel WORSE today than I did a week ago.
???

What's up with that?

Fever, throbbing headaches, chills and sweats, sneezing, sore throat and chest congestion.
Sounds like a garden variety head cold, right?
Then WHY won't it GO AWAY???

I'm sorry to whine and moan, but I have too much to do to be sick.
Hillsong United concert is Tuesday night and I would have to be in the ER to miss that.

I need to go with Carole to paint the "clothing boutique" at the NEW BRDC (Winbourn). I am trying to call nursery volunteers and get them scheduled. I'm designing the Thanksgiving meal menus for the Thanksgiving outreach. I'm scheduled to work nursery tonight and tomorrow and there are so many nursery workers out sick that I cannot possibly call in myself. I am praying that no one catches what I have, but after 13 days I find it highly unlikely that I am still contagious.
This weekend is the Miracle Offering, so we will be busy. And tomorrow night is our annual FALL FEST which my kids have been looking forward to for a month.

You may think I'm crazy, but I started putting up my Christmas decorations last night. I'm hoping to get the tree up and decorated by Monday. =)
Seriously, this is for my own sanity.
I've got Elevate Finals in a month and I know that as the date draws near, the LAST thing I'm gonna want to do is hang holly and ornaments.
As soon as I get everything up, I will post some pics.

In the meantime, please say a prayer that I would shake this and that my family can get WELL.
For that matter, say a prayer for my whole church because it seems like everyone I know is sick right now!

07 November 2007

TO ZION by Lauryn Hill

One of my favorite songs by one of my very favorite artists... (guitar by the amazing Carlos Santana)

06 November 2007

Pass the creamer...


Ok, so CAROLE seems to think I should lighten up a tad...
What am I? Coffee?
I'm sorry.
I can't help it.
I try to sit down and write something light-hearted, but nothing comes to me.

The fact is, I find that blogging is something that I put off doing until I feel strongly convicted to write.
In other words, a thought or idea comes to me and I HAVE to write about it; otherwise, I'm always seeing things or thinking thoughts that I'd LIKE to write about, but my life is so chaotic that I never take the time to actually do so.
Does that make sense?

I could post one of those informational quizzes about myself and you could come away knowing that my favorite color is purple, my favorite food is popcorn, and my favorite author is Maya Angelou.
OR
I could write about how I LOATHE doing dishes and that my husband and I have this awesome, unspoken agreement that I will handle most of the other cleaning as long as he does the dishes every day. =)
OR
I could write and tell you just HOW EXPENSIVE that cute, little lab puppy is actually going to cost just to get him through the first year (we're talking acquisition, shots, surgery, maintenance, and REPAIR costs!!!!).


OR
I could tell you my favorite recipe for what I like to call "Mexican Jambalaya" or my top-secret recipe for "Fresh Coconut Cream Cake,"
But honestly,
if I'm going to take the time to sit and blog, MOST of the time, you are going to hear what is on my heart. I don't mean to preach or lecture, but when I write, I write with passion and conviction and sometimes I might get carried away. =)
If I think of something "light" to write -- and I'm having a slow week -- I'll be sure to post it here.

In the meantime, I hope you'll comment and let me know what you think of my rants...

04 November 2007

Hey! You talkin' to me??

It's no big secret that I am writing a book. Anyone who knows me at all or who has talked to me at length in the past 6 months knows that I am writing a book. It's something that I feel called to do and I'm both scared and excited in doing it.
Actually, I'm writing more than one.

I don't talk about this much because I am only actively writing the one, but the others are constantly forming and taking shape in my head. A couple of them already have titles and I know the general outline. Others are still a vague mystery -- kind of a shadowy, generalized concept...

Pastor Dino (as per usual) hit a home-run right out of the park today with his message on how God can use ANY life -- any hurt, any situation, any struggle -- for good. The very thing you are going through right now: loneliness, fear, anger, rejection, heartache... can be used for a greater purpose.
Don't get all cynical on me now.
Hear this out:
God doesn't make bad things happen to good people.
That's a lie from the enemy (please see previous post).
But you can't have it both ways, people.
You can't have FREE WILL without consequences. That doesn't mean that some things don't happen unfairly or the way we think they should. But you can't have a God that lets you choose how you want to live AND a God that makes everything "all better, all the time." And it's not necessarily resorting to the "clockmaker vs. puppet-master" theories, either.

God is in control, but He doesn't control us.

Sin and evil are in the world; partnered with these are sickness, disease, abuse, hatred, fear, and pain.
Just because a person is a Christian does not automatically exclude him or her from the realities of this world.
But as Christians, we have the power and authority to call on God to see us through ANY situation. And once we get through the crisis, God can use our testimony to bolster others who are going through rough times of their own.
But we have to get through it.
We cannot stay in the middle of it -- dwelling on the things we cannot change.
As Pastor Dino said this morning, it's not about you. And the sooner you take the focus off yourself, the sooner you will find healing.

How did he put it?
Give away what you want for yourself.

Hate your job? Start giving your all at work and you might just get a better one!
Need a miracle with your finances? Start giving money to those who are even less fortunate than you; Start tithing.
Lonely? Think nobody cares? Be the first to reach out and be a friend to others.

And don't keep your story to yourself.
How can others be blessed by the testimony of what you have survived if you never speak it?
God can get you through ANYTHING the world throws your way, if you let Him. But if you want to get to the point where you can praise God for what you went through, then you have to tell your story.
Speak up.
Start a blog.
Write a book.
Wait a minute... was he looking at me when he said that???

01 November 2007

I'm Not Listening...

God can't use someone like you.

Your life has been a waste of time.

Look how little you have accomplished; what have you got to show for yourself?

You don't deserve forgiveness.

It's too late for God to give your life purpose.

You are not special... or important... or beautiful... or wanted...

These are all LIES of the enemy and I just want to say,

I'M NOT LISTENING!!!!! to them anymore.

Last week at the HPC "Live the Dream" Women's Conference, Tammy Trent gave an amazing testimony. She is a powerful singer with an awesome message. I bought her newest disc and my favorite track (so far) is titled, "I'm Not Listening." It's a message to the devil to just SHUT UP. The enemy uses all kinds of tricks and lies to make us think our lives don't have vision or purpose.
He is relentless.
And so often we fall for his lies hook, line, and sinker.


My dear friend, Carole, over at Wardrobe and the White Tree told me something kind of frightening.
Last weekend, when Christine Caine was speaking, the devil was attacking various women in the audience with quiet little whispering lies of self-doubt...

"You're almost 40 years old; what have YOU done with YOUR life?"
"You could never be a great leader for Christ like Christine Caine..."
"You have wasted your life; you are of no use to God now."

CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT???

Well, yeah, I can.
I believe it, but it makes me angry. How DARE the enemy try to steal the promises we were given during the conference?!
I don't know about you, but I came away from last week with renewed hope and zeal for what I believe God is doing and about to do in my life. And I don't want to lose sight of that...
Some may scoff and think it's silly, but I have a peace and a joy that no one can steal. I truly feel sorry for anyone who DOESN'T feel that promise -- that sense of purpose.
Life is too hard and too short to not feel there is a reason for being here.
Why would ANYONE want to go through it alone?

Oh, I'm as vulnerable as anyone.
Satan messes with my mind and attacks my ego... I start doubting my own purpose and value, but

No matter how hard the enemy tries -- whispering all those lies into my ear -- this will be my new mantra:
I'm NOT listening!

30 October 2007

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME =)

Yeah, yeah, yeah... I can hear you grumbling loud and clear.

I know it's been several days since I posted, but cut me some slack will ya?

After an INSANELY BUSY weekend -- HPC Women's Conference -- I have been physically "crashing" for about 2 days. I think I'm trying to get sick, but I'm fighting it with everything I have. I'm doing the full arsenal of Airborne (yes, it really works), Cold-Eeze, Vitamin B complex, and LOTS of fluids.
I still feel awful.
Did I mention today is my birthday?
I turned 38 today and so did my very good friend, Monette.
How crazy is this? I live across the street from one of my dearest friends and we have SO much in common and we were born about 5 hours apart! Seriously; same day, same year.
I have to tell you, though: she's older. HA!
Love ya, Monette!!!

I have SO MUCH to say that I don't know where to begin...
I am REALLY wanting to post about the various sessions of the women's conference, but I think I might do that on my website and just post the link here. I will let you know if I decide to do that.
Also, I realize now that I never got around to talking about the amazing clean-up we did a couple of weeks ago at the Winbourne Church (soon to be the NEW Baton Rouge Dream Center). So, I will try to go by there and take some pictures and post about that soon as well.
I guess that's about it for today. I really want to take a nap before class tonight, but I haven't played Runescape in over a week...
Then again, it might be good if I folded the several baskets of laundry piled up on my floor.
Oy Vey!

25 October 2007

Believe What You Want...

But you better be able to back it up.

Someone asked me recently to define "apologetics."

The dictionary states: the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity.

But I think it's better summed up this way:

Know WHAT you believe and WHY you believe it.

Nothing frustrates me more than talking to a Christian who doesn't really know what they believe.
This is not the same thing as not knowing theological facts or memorizing Biblical history.
This is a thoughtful, inward examination of what you REALLY believe to be true and right.

I first became interested in apologetics my senior year in college. I was only a few hours from graduating when my advisor discovered that I was missing my Philosophy credit. So, I enrolled in a Freshman-level philosophy class on "Argument & Debate."
The professor was a brilliant man -- witty and animated -- and also a die-hard atheist.
Fully 95% of the class were wide-eyed, innocent, just-out-of-high-school and first-time-away-from-home freshmen. Being smack-dab in the center of the "Bible Belt," (Conway, Ark), most of these students had been raised in church. But when that seasoned, atheist professor got hold of them, he (philosophically speaking) ripped them to shreds.

In their innocence and naivete, they could only defend their faith with emotional rants and tear-streaked pleas. Nothing made this professor happier than to reduce his audience to a quivering mass of dejected, raw DOUBT.

There were two of us in the class who were not the norm and with whom he found greater resistance. We were both considerably older (wiser?) than the rest of our class and didn't feel the need to thrust ourselves on our daggers to defend our religious beliefs.
In the end, I told the professor that he was privy to the same information I was and that if he was dead-set against considering the fallibility and falsifiability of his OWN stance, then I would no longer "cast my pearls before swine."

I got an A in that class.

For a time, I even considered getting a PhD in Philosophy because I loved the spirit of argument and debate, but then I realized that I would definitely be the minority in a field of god-hating agnostics. And that's what they really are; there's no such thing as a true atheist.
But that's a whole 'nother blog entry...

I came away from that class adamant that my children would not grow up blindly believing what I believe simply because "that's the way we believe." I want them to question and study and really THINK about what it is they believe and WHY they believe it.
My children will not be reduced to tears by some faith-bashing, so-called atheist who thinks it's "fun" to prey upon the fragile beliefs of young Christians. At least, I hope not.

You see, it's not just our job (as parents) to take our kids to church and read the Bible with them and listen to their evening prayers... It's our job to empower them with the education and the tools with which they will need to forge through this world that is so unkind to anyone of faith.
It's all fine and good to have the love and emotions, but you better have some theology to back that up.

22 October 2007

HPC Women's Conference!!!

Click on the banner above to be directed to the LIVE THE DREAM Conference page.
There are only a few seats left!
This is going to be such a WONDERFUL event -- If you're a woman, you don't want to miss it!

21 October 2007

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace... That's the only way I can describe how I got through the past week!

Elevate mid-terms for my level are in TWO DAYS and I have never been busier! This past week was truly a test in faith and endurance. I had stuff going on EVERY DAY. I was either working or volunteering every day and my study time has been extremely limited. I was really worried about it and I was completely "stressing," but a few days ago, a friend of mine said something profound to me:
"If I were able to do it all on my own, then I would not need God."
Wow.
That puts things in perspective, doesn't it?
I don't ever want to "not need God." But even more, I want to do so much MORE than what I, alone, am capable of.
That takes faith and trust that He will see me through ANYTHING that comes my way.

Two days ago, I was studying in CC's and met a young lady named, Tova. She said something that really got me thinking... Her friend is doing a program similar to Elevate through her church, Bethany. She told me that when her friend started the ministry internship, she was literally assaulted by "stuff" from every direction, but more importantly, she expected it.
Well, yeah.
Strange how I never thought of it that way before.
Why would I expect anything different?
I mean, I guarantee that the enemy (Satan) is not happy that I am doing Elevate. Why would I expect my life to get simpler or slow down when I am doing something so *dangerous* to him?

What did I expect???
That life would be smooth sailing while I did something of utmost importance?
That all of life's problems and issues would work themselves out or (at least) wait on hold until I get through with this semester?
That's not faith. That's wishful thinking. Mortal wishful thinking.
Anytime we are in God's will, we can be sure that things are not going to get easier for us -- especially if we are stepping out to do something the enemy considers "dangerous." But we don't have to do it alone!

Instead of wishing for easier days, more hours in the day, or less stress in my life, my prayer needs to be for more GRACE to get me through anything that comes my way.
And not to just "get me through it," but to help me to excel at EVERYTHING I do even when it seems impossible to do so.
God loves to do the impossible, so why not give Him a chance to do it?

His Grace is enough for me.

14 October 2007

BRDC Clean Up!!


I am SO excited about this!
NEXT Saturday, we begin clean-up on the church/shelter that is currently known as Winbourne Avenue Baptist Church. This will become part of the Baton Rouge Dream Center!!!
Click on the pic/logo above to hear a short word from our pastor, Dino Rizzo about what we are doing here and to see some cool video of the new location and our current outreaches...
We need all the help we can get; this place is HUGE and needs a lot of work. If you're not afraid of a little dust, come on out to help us.
This is going to be so awesome!

13 October 2007

Disney Pictures

Here are just a few more pics from our trip to Disney World... Enjoy!


































It's a Small World, After All...
But it's a REALLY long LINE!
















Dining at Biergarten
in "Germany" @ EPCOT




EXPEDITION EVEREST
Have you SEEN this ride??? It's amazing!


We waited an hour to ride it, but it started to rain so we never got a chance... =(







Raisha & her daddy riding the train. =)














The girls @ "Minnie's Country House."






Our last night in the Magic Kingdom... Goodbye Disney World!

11 October 2007

The Glass is Half Full... I Think.


Yeah, yeah, yeah... stop grumbling.
I know I haven't posted in 2 weeks, but I *did* say I would be back SOMETIME after we got home from Disney World... LOL! Seriously, we have been "recovering." :D Ok, so it was a good trip. Really, it was. But when I was thinking about how I would blog about it, I realized that really, this post could go 2 ways: REALLY negative or REALLY Positive. For example,
*Orlando was experiencing unusually hot weather (mid-90's) and 90-100% humidity while we were there
-- BUT HEY! WE WERE IN DISNEY WORLD!!!!


*It RAINED every day we were there -- and not just an afternoon heating shower, either -- pouring, drenching rain for hours on end
-- BUT we just donned ponchos and slogged our way through the parks anyway! (we're starting to dry out now)


*Our flight was delayed 5 times going and 6 times coming home and Raisha
threw up IN the airport -- BUT we arrived safely and had a good flight and they didn't lose a single piece of our luggage!!

*We didn't get to ride Expedition Everest (raining), Rockin' Rollercoaster
(maintenance), or Spaceship Earth (upgrade) -- BUT we DID ride Pirates of the Caribbean about 50 times and It's a Small World 30 times and Natasha and I rode Space Mountain until we nearly passed out. Oh, and we sat in the FRONT on Splash Mountain and can I just say, wearing a poncho does NOTHING to protect you from getting soaked if you are riding in the front!!! It was a blast!
And did I mention, we were in DISNEY WORLD???!! Bottom line?
It was an AWESOME trip and I thank God for giving us the opportunity to go and the many blessings we received as a family along the way...
We are already planning our next trip to the "Happiest (Soggiest??) Place On Earth" for sometime in 2009... Here are just a few pics from our trip:
I took over 200 pictures, but I'll spare you and not post them ALL here... I will have more up in a separate post later, I promise! =)

PS: No, Raisha did not get to wear her Minnie Mouse costume OR her Cinderella dress to the Princess dinner at Akershus (sp?) because it was pouring rain and I didn't want them to get ruined... she's really too young to care anyway but she did LOVE seeing all the princesses!!