Monday, December 29, 2008

The Conclusion of Swindoll's Esther

Pg 186 "Her strength is revealed as much in her restraints as in her responses, and her dignity as much in her humility as in her integrity." Like the Proverbs 31 woman, Esther gives us a high standard to strive towards as women.

She's not in the first chapter nor the last yet her influence continues to this day. After I'm gone, who will I have influenced while living that will continue on.

Her story should give us all hope, triumphant hope in God.

Pg 188 "Vashti is no longer queen; Esther is queen. And she is a queen who has won her husband's overwhelming respect and loyalty."

Pg 189 3 Principles found
1. "When God wins, the people He uses are often unexpected." Humility is "an attitude of the heart." Phil 2:3-4
2. "When God wins, the qualities He upholds are usually unpretentious."
3. "When God wins, the message He honors is a universal message."

It kind of makes me sad that this is the end of the story. It doesn't go on to tell us if she had children and other ways she was effective. It's like the story has been cut short, but God told the part of her story that needed to be told and retold. Her story serves as a reminder to the Jews of how a Jewess living in exile rose to become queen and allowed an unseen God to move her and the people in her life in order to make a way for His people. This story is like when I read Emilie Richards books or Sue Grafton's books -- I feel like I've gotten to the know the characters personally and will miss them once I close the book. I know that I will glean even more in Beth Moore's Bible study which will start on 1/18, so I won't mourn for long.

Dear Father,

I truly want to be a vessel you can use. I pray that I have the humility, dignity and strength of Esther. Mold me and make me into the godly woman you would have me become. Lord, I want to teach these ladies and do things in this class that they will remember long past the last class. I want to encourage these women where they are, and I know I can only successfully do that through you. Please use me. I pray for each woman who will make it her goal to be there every week. I pray that this Bible study will be food for her soul. Lord, I also pray that we will be allowed to have the Sunday morning kick-off and that we can use this time to edify you and entice the women to come and participate. Please speak through me and my mom. Give us wisdom and discernment. Lord, thank you for answering prayers and being in control even when we can't see you, feel you or hear you. Thank you.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

More notes on Swindoll's Esther

Pg 147 "This is life, as relevant today as when it was first recorded. This is written to people who face intimidating, stubborn souls. Perhaps they live with them, are married to them, or have grown children like that. This is written to people whose lives have been scarred by documents and lawsuits, bad reports, or rumors. This is written to people whose lives are lived within the thick, stone walls of depression and doom...There is home!" Ps 30:5

Pg 148 "God is in the business of breaking down walls. The wall may be your own stubborn will." Ouch! Can he walk on my toes or what?

Pg. 150 " 'And many among the peoples of the land became Jews...' The gladness of their hearts, the joy on their faces, the delight in their dancing, the overall unrestrained fun among them attracted others to their Lord."

Chapter 10 talks about self-control -- The Jews had been given permission to protect themselves and then take the things belonging to those who they slayed. The Jews refrained. How easy is it to get carried away at getting back at someone, to enjoy it, to see them suffer like you suffered? Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. When we fail to exercise self-control, we are allowing Satan to control us.

The way I have started looking at this is like this. When someone tries to attack me or make something my problem or my business when it is not, it's like one of those yellow stickies I use at work. I imagine them writing whatever it is on the paper and then sticking it on me. Do you know how easy it is to knock those off? It requires very little effort. I just have to do it. So I flick them off one by one and they fall to the floor. IF SOMETHING ISN'T YOUR BABY TO ROCK, THEN BY ALL MEANS DON'T ROCK IT! Just because someone tries to make a situation or problem yours doesn't mean you have to take possession of it. If you feel you need to do something with it, put it in God's lap and leave it. Walk away. It's when we take possession and hold onto things longer than we should that anger and retaliation and vengeance is birthed. The Jews planned to defend themselves, utilized self-control, and left the rest to God.

Then there is celebrating. The enemy is defeated. God's favor has been seen again on the Jews. His timing was perfect as usual. People were converted to Judaism due to the rejoicing of the Jews. People are still looking for excitement and joy and enthusiasm. People are drawn to those people. Have you ever been around someone who has been miraculously healed, someone who had one foot in the grave just for God to kick it out? I know of a man like that. As a matter of fact, in the middle of one night while he lay in the hospital I was awakened with this impression that there were angels all around him. No faces. No solid form to touch but rather to be seen. My chest was so heavy and tears flowed like streams. He had been placed on my heart at 3 AM in the morning. I got up and prayed. I was disturbed by what else had been laid on my heart....he was not going to make it and I knew he still had 2 kids in the house to raise. So I prayed. I prayed how the Spirit led because I really didn't know the man. I wrote him a letter about what had been put on my heart, but I refused to write down that he wouldn't make it. Early the next morning on the way to work, I took the letter and dropped it off in his room without signing it. I wasn't suppose to. It wasn't for several more months when I was led to tell him I wrote the letter. We both wept. He said he had kept that letter by his bedside ever since. He brought it to church for me to sign, and I did as he requested. I told him I didn't sign it originally because it wasn't about me, it was about the message, and he completely got it. His doctors had said he won't make it (a death sentence) just like the Jews, but God had other plans. He is now a walking, dynamic miracle of God and when he worships and rejoices you see the purity in it and people are drawn to him. It gives him such opportunities to tell about what God has done for him. It opens doors that would never have been opened. This is what celebrating God's victories in our lives will do.

My mom fought Stage 3 breast cancer in 2007. Every time she had a chemo treatment, Lori and I would plan for something to happen or someone to surprise her. We wanted to offset the dread and fear with something to look forward to. We didn't get permission from the chemo lab, we just did it. The last treatment though was different, I asked if we could have a quartet come sing. They said it would be great. Well, it turned out to be about 12 people instead with a CD player, scripted verses, and word sheets. We sang praise and worship songs while she got her last treatment. Nurses joined in. Family members and patients joined in. People had their cell phones on holding it in our direction letting their loved ones hear. The machine started beeping as we sung about the works of His hand. It was an awesome time of praise and worship. They are still talking about it to this day in the chemo lab. In January 2008 after she had completed her chemo and radiation treatment, we held a victory party. We were claiming she was healed even though she hadn't gotten a bone scan or PET scan to confirm it. My sister and I planned the party. We had cakes, punch, door prizes, testimonies, singing, and a table showing the journey. We gave the glory to God Almighty and testified as to what He had done in each of our lives individually during 2007. It was amazing the people who showed up that cold day.

People are drawn to those who are joyful and and rejoicing. And anyone who has been given a death sentence or a scare like that rejoices like no one else can. In the old testament people would build altars when God had done something that way those who came behind would hear the story of how God provided and how He was faithful. Celebrating is a way to build an altar. We need to tell our children, talk to our children and tell them how God has been faithful in our lives. What stronger testimony is there?

Christmas Exhaustion

I love Christmas. I truly do. I am so thankful to celebrate Christmas in liberty not only in the US but in Christ. But even in keeping everything in perspective, after the candlelight service, opening presents at Honey and Poppar's house, the three gifts at our home, Santa Clause this morning, brunch with Patrick's family, we all came promptly home to take a nap. I rarely nap but my body forced me to. I couldn't have done one more thing, and we still have one more Christmas celebration to go...25 people at my house tomorrow afternoon for turkey, ham and the fixings with my mom's side of the family. We do white elephants for the adults and considering the warpedness of this group it is a scary prospect...I'm planning on donating a bowling ball. Then there is the free-for-all with the little kids and their presents. There will be more mass chaos, laughter, one long-distance call from Hawaii to a cousin and wife who couldn't make it in, wrapping paper balls thrown up into the fan, and all sorts of goofiness. Patrick will miss it this year. He is leaving early in the morning for a fishing trip on the border with three of his buddies with my blessing.

The best present for me this year was watching my son and daughter's faces at the Christmas Eve service when not only Santa was present but ELVIS in a little drama about the true meaning of Christmas. They were so attentive. Their sweet little faces hearing about the nativity. My second favorite was to see Pearce laying down in the spoils of Honey's house trying to make "snow" angels from all the tissue and wrapping paper that had been discarded on the floor, and then it would have to be how excited Erin was for everyone when they opened a present, especially her cousins. You would have thought the gift was hers. Then there is the picture in my head of Pearce and Patrick racing cars on the race track just to see them go flying off when going to quickly around the curves or not fast enough around the loops. We practice the three gift principle in our home. If Jesus received three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, we can receive three gifts too. The kids get three nice presents from Santa with stocking stuffers and three gifts from me and Patrick. Now, their Honey, on the other hand, tends to go overboard, but that is a grandparent's prerogative.

Now, there is silence. Patrick and Pearce are outside. Patrick is getting ready for his trip. He's so excited, he can barely stand it, and the Lord only knows what Pearce is into, but he's in his father's domain now. We surprised Patrick this year with gift cards to Ranchland and he got some really nice boots. Erin is in her room playing with her American Girl doll bed and other accessories but is ready to play on the computer to enroll her new Webkinz.

Before supper, we will get our baby Jesus out and put Him into our nativities around the house, since this is the day He was born...helps to refocus our thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas. Little reminders are good for all of us.

Thank you, Holy Father for such a Holy Night all those years ago. Knowing the pain and humiliation You would suffer you still submitted yourself to human limitations all because You love me even back then. Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Principles for living with difficult situations found in Esther

More notes from Charles Swindoll's book "Esther"

Okay, so here Haman is and it is really getting at his goad that Mordecai refuses to bow to him because Jews did not bow to any person. Bitterness turned into hatred, and hatred festered into uncontrollable rage. It wasn't good enough to kill Mordecai, Haman wanted all the Jews killed. But in the meantime, Haman personally had a gallow built BESIDE his house! According to the book the gallow was 75 feet tall or 7 1/2 stories (pg 106). Persia didn't hang them. They impaled them. "A stake was thrust into the body, and then the body was hung on a pole." What an excruciating death.

On page 107 there is a list of four principles for dealing with difficult situations:
1. When preparing for an unprecedented event, wait on the Lord before getting involved
2. When dealing with an unpredictable person, count on the Lord to open doors and hearts
3. When working through an unpleasant situation, trust the Lord for enduring patience
4. When standing against an unprincipled enemy, ask the Lord for invincible courage

The edict had been issued that all the Jews were to be killed and the date given was almost a year away. For those who like to worry and for those who don't tend to worry, this is plenty of time to develop an ulcer. Waiting for the Lord can be quite difficult. I'm not a good sitter. I don't wait well. As my friend Lee calls it "God's waiting room" -- not my favorite place, but acting without the Lord's direction can be detrimental. For the dealing with the unpredictable person, we are to rely on God as well. I have found the principle in Matthew 5:44 to hold true. When you pray for your enemy or the one who is giving you grief, God changes things. He not only changes the person for whom you are praying but also the one who is doing the praying. In Proverbs 21:1 says the kings heart is in God's hand and He directs it where He wills. If God can do that with a king, He can most certainly do that for anyone He desires. God provides what we need when we need it whether it be wisdom, timing or courage. He is faithful.

On page 113, he sites 4 principles for all of life:
1. When all seems lost, it isn't.
2. When no one seems to notice, they do. (King overlooking rewarding Mordecai. King eventually does reward. God notices. God cared and brought it to the king's attention the night the gallows were being built. Mordecai never tried to get back at Haman. To me, this also shows that God has a sense of humor and irony. There are people who get bogged down in "I've been wronged," "I deserve better than what I go." When we take the focus and attention off ourselves and trust God to take care of it, life is so much better. God sees it. Let Him be the judge as to whether or not you've been wronged and then let Him do the sentencing. As my Mammaw says, "It all comes out in the wash."
3. When everything seems great, it's not. (Esther 6:10). After being promoted throughout the city, Mordecai returned to the king's gate -- back to his old job WITHOUT COMPLAINT. There aren't many people in today's world who would be able to that.
4. When nothing seems just, it is.

When God seems distant or unseen, remember the song, "When you can't trace His hand, trust His heart."

I thought not hearing from God or feeling God move for a period of 3 months was the worst feeling, but what about the period between Malachi to Matthew -- 400 YEARS -- God was silent. Does that mean He isn't moving? Absolutely not.

"In the mystery of God's timing, subtle things occur that the sensitive heart picks up. That's the role wisdom plays in life. Reading life's subtleties is what Christian maturity is all about. And rather than thrashing around, thinking, 'I will not make it through this. I will never hear God's voice,' we determine, in wisdom, to watch for the slightest turning of events." Pg 129
There is a book out title "When God Winks at You" by Squire ______(I can't remember his last name). His book is about when God allows us to see or catch a glimpse of his working. That is my next book to read.

Are you sensitive and patient enough to wait on God's timing? Esther was asked three times before she answered the king. There is a time to be quiet and a time to speak up (Eccl. 3:1-7). When it is time to speak up, word selection is crucial. Esther utilized such self-restraint, diplomacy and yet she effectively used her words for the most effective blow not only to Haman but to the king. She used the words "I and my people."

One of my favorite people in Esther is Harbonah in Esther 7:9-10 -- Harbonah is the one who tells the king that Haman has just completed that gallows meant for Mordecai. You can hang Haman on his own gallow. Can you imagine being at the dining table that night with Harbonah? "And then I told the king..."

Silence does not mean absence.

Pg 135 Concepts about silence:
1. Silence is neither accidental nor fatal. Don't panic. Listen.
2. "The workings of God are not related to our clocks, they are related to our crisis." Pray.
3. "The surprise in store are not merely ironic or coincidental, they are sovereingly designed."

Impending doom had still been ordered and since the king's orders could not be revoked another provision had to be made. He gives his ring to Esther as well as Haman's household which she gives to Mordecai.

Stay tuned...
More to come.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Esther and Calgon

I've been sitting in my OBs office, and like most women in there, I had a book to read. I was reading Charles Swindoll's book on Esther. In his book I'm up to the point where Esther has been taken from Mordecai because of her beauty and is now being prepared for her introduction to the king. You know, a year's worth of spa treatment doesn't sound too bad, especially on particularly difficult days or days that just wear you out. Some days, let's face it, there just isn't enough Calgon in the world. Last week, Pearce came in the house with mud on his jeans...nothing new, but when I asked him what he had been up to, he said he had been making snowballs out of dirt. THAT'S when I noticed his peculiarly dark tongue. "Pearce, have you been eating chocolate?" I asked wondering where in the world his stash might be hidden. "No ma'am." That's when I realized the little darlin' had guessed it -- dirt! Like I said, some days Calgon just doesn't cover all the territory. But if all this primping was for me to be paraded in front of a judge to determine whether or not I was to be queen, I'm afraid I wouldn't be as gracious as Esther.

At any rate, Esther had been taken from what she had known and put into a rather large group of women who could have anything they wanted. Can you imagine the back-biting, the gossipping, etc.? Yet, Esther was able to keep her head and she found favor. Dr. Dobson points out six characteristics of strength and dignity in Esther.
1. Grace-filled charm and elegance -- So desperately missing from the education of our young ladies today.
2. An unusual restraint and control -- The Lord knows I can use all the help I can in this area. However, in the area of keeping secrets or confidences I do well in due to the nature of my job.
3. A continually teachable spirit -- "Someone has said, 'Education is going from an unconscious to conscious awareness of one's ignorance." Pg 47
4. An unselfish modesty and authenticity
5. A kind winsomeness, regardles of her surroundings -- " A person who is winsome draws you to him or to her." pg 50
6. A humble respect for authority

Shortly after her innauguration, Haman starts hatching a plan, an evil plan. He didn't just want to kill Mordecai...this wasn't enough. Have you ever been around someone who was bent on vengence? It's not just enough to get back at the person who has done you harm or wrong, it explodes to include the whole family. Giving full vent to anger and hatred blows things totally out of proportion. That is what Haman did. He didn't just want to kill Mordecai, he wanted to "destroy" the whole race. Sometimes it's not even about vengence. Sometimes it's about holding on to hurt longer than we should. Sometimes it's about not letting go and moving on.

Then to top it off, Haman gives the Jews a good long time to think about their fate. An edict is sent out just to let them know what they have to look forward to. How many of us have dealt with a death sentence? My mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in April of 2007. I can honestly tell you there were times when we didn't know our own names for all the stress and information we were given to process. And yet, there are those who are worse off than Stage 3. Some have been told they have 12 to 18 months to live at most. In this scenario, the people were given the life sentence, but God chose to intervene. Just because a death sentence has been given doesn't mean that God can't work in it and through it and overcome it...afterall, He has already conquered death. There is hope in Christ Jesus. Thankfully, my mom received a clean bill of health in April of 2008. I love her oncologist Dr. Hargon who is a Christian. He said he does not give time lines as to when a person may or may not die because he is not God.

Haman was promoted even though Mordecai was the one who thwarted the assassination plan on the king. Where is the justice in that? Life isn't fair, and it doesn't pay to get mad when it isn't because it doesn't change things. I have come to learn that if I do my best, God is faithful to do His best and will take care of it. It all comes out in the wash, as someone once said. Plus, God's timing is perfect.

I'm skipping forward but I'm making notes of things I want to remember to use.

Then I look at Esther, the Bible said she stood before the king. After three days of fasting and praying she stood before the king. She wasn't bowed (she was a Jew who didn't bow to men). She didn't show weakness or fear. She was prepared for whatever was to happen...her life was on the line for what she believed in. In March of this year, I went to Rome, Italy, and I stood in the Colleseum where numerous Christians died for their faith, and it was so overwhelming to me. I wonder how many people who call themselves Christians today would be willing to take a stand for their faith and be willing to die for it and actually go through with it. I wonder. I pray that I would have the strength and determination of Esther.

There's also the famous phrase that Mordecai says in his speech sent to Queen Esther..."for such a time as this." Rev. Swindoll focuses on Esther's character. Mordecai had raised Esther to obey, to be respectful, to have dignity, to have grace, and to know where her value came from. For a man, he done good raising a girl. Esther took those things she learned into her adulthood. She also obtained great courage along the way.

Rev. Swindoll pointed out something I found quite interesting. During the three days of fasting, what was Esther doing? Yes, she was fasting and praying, but she also wasn't idle. In Esther 5:4, it said she had prepared a feast during this time. I don't know about you, but sitting in God's waiting room isn't my most favorite place to be. When my mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, there wasn't one single, solitairy thing I could do to help, to fix, to remedy, or to heal her. In essence, He put me on the sidelines...I hate sitting. Being ADHD, I'm not a good sitter, but Rev. Swindoll points out somethings for those who have been or for those who are in God's Waiting Room --
1. Just because nothing appears to be happening, doesn't mean God isn't at work. He also says,
"the adversary wants you to think: 'waiting's a waste'." Pg 98
2. He uses verses Isaiah 41:10,13 and Psalm 32:6-7 and Psalm 32:8 -- He points out that when we wait, we listen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Esther in Exile

While I'm reading Charles Swindoll's book, Esther was in exile. I don't why I didn't see that before other than maybe God didn't want me to see it until now. Exile. Banished. There were Jews who had returned home, but Mordecai and Esther remained exiled. It doesn't say why they didn't return specifically. I guess the why isn't what's important. Have you ever felt in exile? Like God has put you on some island and has said He'll get back to you. Shoot, maybe he hasn't even said that. He just put your tiny hiney on an island away from comfort, from peace, from the things you know...maybe it's a new job, a new location, a situation at work or school that has made you the odd man/woman out. I am one of those weird ones that finds change invigorating. My husband detests and loathes any change whatsoever. But there's a difference between a voluntary change and being forced into an uncomfortable position. Esther was in exile. God could have returned her to her people and her home land. He could have saved her parents. He could have done a lot of things, and if I were Esther, I'd have to wonder where in the world He was in the midst of all the pain and changes forced on me. But He chose to leave her in exile. Why? His plans are not our plans. His ways are higher than our ways. He was preparing a way to save His people once again. Regardless, exile isn't a place I'd like to vacation or spend time in. If you are in exile or feel like you are in exile, be on guard. God's always at work, and it could be He's getting ready to use you. Are you ready?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Esther -- Beth Moore's "It's Tough to be a Woman"

I have to admit I have never done a Beth Moore Bible study. I work full time, and these Bible studies have been during the day or at night when my kids are at home. I have always felt my first place of ministry needs to be my family. I did a book/Bible study this past fall over the Internet and blogging, and thoroughly enjoyed it and the women I was able to meet. But I was asked to facilitate Beth Moore's Esther Bible study for the spring. My mom will be doing the morning session and I will be doing the evening. I prayed about it, and then I asked Patrick what he thought about it. When he said he thought I should do it, I agreed to facilitate. This will be like nothing I have ever done before. I'm exhilarated by the new adventure and the possibilities. I'm excited about teaching...I love to teach. At work when there is an opportunity to train, teach or mentor I do it. Some of the classes I teach are challenging, but it's not because of the material or subject matter because I can teach it with enthusiasm because I love what I do for a living, but it's the audience. Those challenging students are typically packing heat, sitting with their arms crossed, sipping coffee occasionally, and just daring me to prove that I can teach them anything they don't already know. Yes, it's a room of law enforcement ranging from the parish, city, district and federal levels and typically men. I spend the first 15 minutes telling war stories and gaining status UNLESS there are some guys in there who know me and are willing to give me an "in" to the other guys.

I'm excited about facilitating the book of Esther for several reasons. First, it's one of two books in the Bible where a central character is a woman. Second, God is never named -- the unseen God. I have had a time in my life when it felt like God could not be found. I thought I was going deaf for trying to listen to Him, but was hearing what I thought was nothing...just the crickets. That is a mighty tough spot to be in, if you've never been there. I went through depression because I thought, "How can God expect me to call Him my Father when He's not even talking to me?" I just wanted to be in His will...plain and simple. Problem was -- I was. Had God moved? Had God changed? Had I finally ticked Him off or pestered Him to the point of getting the silent treatment from Him? No, no, and no. Just because we can't see Him moving in our lives, just because we can't feel His presence, just because He isn't whispering to our spirit DOES NOT mean He isn't there.

Esther didn't hear God. He didn't come down and speak to her about saving His chosen people. Esther didn't see God. She was living in a pagan land and had assimilated to that way of life to the point some, probably most, didn't even know she was a Jew. (Have you ever assimilated to a way of life to the point that no one knew you were a Christian?) And yet, God led her, used her, and moved her into the position she needed to be in to serve His purpose. Like Beth Moore says God can't fulfill your destiny without you, but He can fulfill His and Christ's destiny with or without you.

The third reason is Esther herself is an intriguing character with great depth, intelligence and courage. I think she was an observer of those around her. She followed sound counsel and was obedient, and when the time came, her past and the character traits that came as a result of it and her observations, put her in a position to go head-to-head with one of the top dogs of her day. And Haman NEVER SAW IT COMING! Love it! Absolutely love it.

So, as I study, I'm going to be blogging my notes, my thoughts, and who knows what else.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chaos to Attention

And so it begins. Friday was the day it hit. Have you ever felt like you are running and doing as fast as you can but can't keep up and you are constantly getting further behind? And yet, if you stop or quit, you'll just get run plum over with life leaving its tread marks on your backside. Then to top of the day I couldn't go to sleep until midnight. I am not a late night person. I am what is considered a morning person. I wake my children with singing and tickling and get them moving by the threat of more singing. I got some of my monthly grocery shopping done and picked up the last few presents. By the time I picked up the kids, my brain was short-wiring and nerves frayed. The day had not started well, and now I wasn't much more joyful when they had seen me earlier in the day. These are not my favorite kind of days.

God has a way of reminding me of what is important in life by reminding me about the lives He has put into mine. Erin, her dad and I had a discussion about what she had said that morning. She intended to hurt her daddy because she was angry, but the words stung past that and needed to be addresses. She had told her daddy she wanted to go live with her "real" parents. She said she meant to say her birth parents, but regardless, the punch had been delivered. I know it has to be confusing and she's working it out. Erin and I cuddled in her bed, and I talked to her a little more about it. I know every child at some point in time has said or thought, "I wish I had different parents," but adopted kids think they have that option. I explained to her that her birth parents had struggled with the decision they made. They sacrificed and it was the most difficult decision they ever had to make. I reminded her of how we knew that God had chosen her to be our daughter, and I asked her if she knew better than her heavenly Father, her birth parents, and her real parents as to what was best for her. She began sobbing. Her little heart was breaking, and I hated it. All these people loved her so much and she had chosen to act so ungrateful. I held her while she sobbed and I cried tears from an aching heart. She wants to see her birth parents, and I would truly like for her to be able to I just don't know that they are ready to meet Erin. Her birth mom still deals with depression and guilt over it even though she has said on numerous times that we are the best parents for Erin. There are many blessings attached to having an open adoption. Many people fear them, but they fear what they do not know or understand. That night Patrick slept with Erin just to give her that little extra attention.

Since I couldn't sleep after that knot-building conversation, I watched TV til midnight...not my most productive. At midnight, I went to check on everyone, and as I covered Pearce, he stirred. Oh, how sweet he is at night! "I love you, Mommy," he said as I covered him. I moved to turn the light off in the kids bathroom, my heart still aching from the evenings conversation and the longing for her babyhood when I heard more rustling in Pearce's bed. I returned and he was a little more aware. "You want to come sleep with me?" I asked. "Yes, ma'am." He stood up in his bed. I grabbed a stuff animal not knowing which one it was. I thanked God he was still small enough for me to carry, and as he snugged up to my neck he draped his arm around my shoulder. I carried him to my bed. We held hands as I cried myself quietly to sleep.

I wonder how God does it. He never sleeps. He hears every prayer of every person on the face of the Earth -- past, present and future, and yet He can maintain a personal relationship with each person. He's never hurried, harried, frustrated, ruffled, stressed, surprised, or outdone by the things I might say or do. He's ever patient, loving, consistant, gracious and merciful. I just wonder how He does it. The wonder of this Christmas season -- He chose me to love on; He chose me to redeem; He chose me to forgive; He chose me to be called His daughter. He chose me. Hallelujah, He chose to adopt me as His own. He chose me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving -- Being Thankful for the Thorns

I got an e-mail today that told the story of a woman who had suffered a great loss -- she had miscarried a baby as the result of an accident when someone rear-ended her. She went to a florist to get an arrangement because this was when her baby would have been born. The florist asked her if she was looking for a floral arrangement for Thanksgiving. The lady said "no." She was interrupted by a woman who came in asking for her "usual," and the florist disappeared and returned with rose stems without the buds. She thanked the florist and paid and left. The woman who had lost her baby was dumb-founded. The florist explained that a couple of years prior the previous woman had lost her father to cancer, family business was failing, and she had another disaster or two. The lady couldn't find anything to be thankful for. Another man came along and asked for the "special." When the florist disappeared, the man explained that his wife and he had a marriage falling apart when he brought home this bouquet. They chose a problem for each stem and how God had used that problem to grow them and use them. They learned to thank God for the thorns. The florist returned with his budless, thorny stems, and he left happy with his purchase. The original shopper told the florist she would take the "special." The florist said that she had hoped that she would choose that. The florist gave the flowers and the shopper asked how much it would be. The florist said the first one was free, but next year, if you come back, you can pay then. The florist gave her a business card. It was up to the shopper to find the reasons to be thankful for the thorns.

Last year, my thorns were the issues surrounding my mother's stage 3 breast cancer. We found many reasons along the way to be thankful, and we rejoiced this year when her PET scan and bone scan came back negative for cancer. PRAISE THE LORD! This year God was working on me and my marriage. It reminds me of the song I learned as a child..."He's still working on me to make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars the sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be. He's still working on me." When I look to God to fill my needs, He meets them. He doesn't disappoint. He doesn't fail. I am so thankful. He loves me perfectly. He loves me wholly. He loves me without conditions and strings. He has my best interest at heart. I am thankful for a husband who is willing to fight for our marriage, who is open to counsel and marriage retreats. I am thankful for a husband who is a diligent and hard worker and a good provider for our family. I am thankful that God has allowed Patrick to stay with me. Before coming to Mississippi for Thanksgiving, I attended the funeral for the 44 year-old husband of a friend of mine who had survived cancer twice, but died of a sudden heart attack. I am thankful that at night, I can crawl into bed and curl up by my husband to get warm. I am thankful.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Husband Patrick

I realized today that when I've blogged it's primarily been about my two little crumb crunchers, but I do have another very important person in my life, and his name is Patrick.

In June of 1990, we were set up on a blind date. We both tried to get out of it but failed, and the rest, as they say, is history. He told someone that night that I was the girl he was going to marry, and while I was attracted to him physically I had found out he wasn't a Christian and didn't go to church. These were deal breakers for me. He pursued me heavily that summer, but I was rarely home as I was going on trips with the youth group as sponsor. When I was home, flowers, candies, singing telegrams would arrive at my work. In August without my having anything to do about it, Patrick asked Jesus into His heart, and we started dating. It wasn't anytime before Patrick dropped the "L" bomb. He whispered it in my ear one night at the end of the date. "I love you." I looked up at him quite shocked. It was only September how could he know that when I didn't know that myself. I explained I wasn't ready to say that to him, that I had never told anyone else that, and really had only planned on telling the one I married that. It's not that I hadn't fallen in love. I just wasn't sure. I knew I was definitely infatuated with this slim, broad-shouldered, 5'11", dark hair, green-eyed, nice butt guy. OH MY GOODNESS! Swoon!

I eventually told him I loved him, and his chasing of me slowed down tremendously. He thought he had caught me and that was that. Well, like most men, he wanted more, and he knew it wasn't going to happen. We broke up for a summer while he struggled with his parent's divorce, but as you know the end of the story, Patrick and I got married after 4 1/2 extremely long years of dating. I do not recommend long dating or engagements.

Before Patrick, the guys I dated were all church going, Christians, musically talented, pre-med. When I met Patrick , he wasn't a Christian, didn't go to church, had dropped out of college, and the only thing he played was the radio. He was a "bad boy," and I couldn't resist the bad boy being the good girl. Shortly after meeting me, he returned to college and obtained his degree. During the course of our dating, one of the funnier things that happened were the adventures Patrick would have with my daddy. Both love to camp and fish. One time when Patrick was camping with daddy and one of daddy's buddies, Patrick awoke in the early morning hour to see the other two had left the tent. Not knowing what he would find, he opened the tent flap to see in the full moon light my daddy and his buddy fishing on the bank of this remote bayou stark NAKED! In spite of that, Patrick still asked me to marry him. Patrick was the only guy I dated who lasted longer than three months. I'd get claustrophobic about three months, and I'd move on.

Our first year of marriage was hell on Earth to put it mildly. One of the things I liked most about Patrick was that he would not allow me and my strong personality walk all over him. I respected him for that...until our first year of marriage when he didn't let me have my way hardly at all. All my neat ways of doing things drove him nuts and would purposely mess up my orderly fashion of things. We lived in a loft apartment in the 'hood of Desoto, Texas. I remember our first week back our having an argument, my asking him if he wanted an annulment, him telling me I was being ridiculous, and my stomping up the stairs. I stomped up the stairs a lot while we lived there. And the only door I could slam was the bathroom door, and the bathroom was so small that I couldn't change my mind much less anything else. I would quickly come out of the bathroom totally removing the effect I had hoped to make in slamming the door in the first place. It was immaturity on my part and lack of communication on both our parts. We were living in the 'hood because Patrick had lived on a credit card his last year or so on a credit card, so we were paying them off. And yes, I had him cut up every one of those suckers. We paid off a lot of debt that 6 months to 1 year and managed to save up money over the next year to have money for a down payment on a house.

Each year got better and better. It seems like we go through cycles, and we've had to address trust issues he has because of a past relationship that ended horribly for him, we've had to address anger, resentment, walls around my heart, walking on eggshells, and many more things. God has been so faithful. He is a great healer. I always tried to blame Patrick for what was wrong, but in reality I was looking to him to fulfill my needs when there is no way on God's green Earth he possibly could. He is, after all, human...very human. When I started looking to God to fulfill those, acceptance, comfort, etc., it took a load off my husband's shoulders. I think it allowed him to work on himself and open himself up. We still struggle, but we've come from such a dark place. I was to kick him out. I had already figured out in my mind how we could make things work for the kids. My heart had become so callous and had so many walls built up around it out of protection and I felt justified in doing it. But then I submitted myself to God. God changes things. He humbled me. He broke me down to the bare medal. What God tears down, He rebuilds. I am counting on Him to rebuild not only me, but to continue to rebuild my marriage. Satan will do what he can to destroy a marriage of Christians, but my God is bigger than any issue I may have, Patrick may have or anything that Satan may try to use against us.

I am thankful for my husband. I am committed to our marriage and our family. I commit myself to remain open to God's way and look to Him to meet my needs.

So let me tell you about my husband's wonderful qualities, he is a hard worker. He's diligent. I love to see and hear him when he belly laughs because he covers his mouth with his hand and his shoulders bounce up and down. He can fix anything he puts his hands and mind to. When he allows the God to have control of his heart and mind, Patrick is quite generous. He is tenacious and has chosen a good business partner who also prays for him.

I am praying for Patrick in the area of our marriage, his parenting, his anger management, and his words. He has grown so much this year and matured, but like us all, we all still have room for growth. I love him. I am committed to him and no other man for there is no other man who would have put up with me for this long.

My God is sufficient.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Devil Doesn't Wear Prada. He wears 4T and He's Sitting at My Dining Table Burping

I adore my children. Love them with every fiber of my being. We worked so hard to become parents and are truly rewarded with some beautiful children. And while my title is very tongue in cheek, there are times when I do pray the blood of the cross from the top of his beautiful, black curly-haired head to the bottom of his stinky, size 10 1/2 feet. My husband truly has little to no patience with Pearce's strong-willed nature. Patrick was raised with yelling, and yelling is not only unacceptable it's ineffective. So, he is learning some new techniques but still sometimes falls back into his old ways.

So, that leaves it to me to handle most of Pearce's discipline. Toe-to-toe. Bullhead to bullhead. When he's good, I am sure to praise. I took the kids to target to get their Christmas pictures made, and they did so well, and on the way home from the back seat of the car, I hear Pearce say, "We were just little angels." After I regained my composure, I whole-heartily agreed.

I was pregnant with Pearce in my heart from January of 2002 till his delivery on August 27, 2004. Most women have about a 9 month pregnancy, but I knew about Pearce in January of 2002. I was sitting at a girlfriend's funeral of all places, and they quoted Anna Jo's life verse, Jeremiah 29:11. That still quiet voice said to me this was to be the life verse of my next child. Erin had just turned one, and I was having so much fun with her that I really didn't want to even think of another child and told God in essence, "no thank you." After AJ's funeral that verse became an active part in my life. Every time I followed God's lead about adopting again, the verse was quoted by someone, used in a sermon, came up in my devotional...some way God was always giving me confirmation through this verse.

My husband was totally against adopting again. Erin was old enough and pushing heavily for a baby sister Sarah. I just followed God's will and Patrick reluctantly and often times kicking like a two-year old came along. When the social worker came to our home, Erin insisted she give the tour of the house and told the social worker that one bed in her room was hers and the other was her baby sister's bed. When the social worker suggested she may have a baby brother, Erin became rather emphatic that she would have her baby sister named Sarah. While Sarah is a perfectly lovely name, it's not one we would have chosen...there are a lot of Sarah's at our church.

My sweet Pappaw had a aorta hernia. He was 81. He had surgery and never came out of a coma. But faithfully, I went to the hospital every morning before being at work at 7 AM to exercise Pappaw's legs and arms, and I'd talk to him telling everything that was going on, and then I'd go back at lunch to do the same. Sometimes I threatened to paint his toes "Hortense Red" if he didn't wake up. When I knew that Pappaw wouldn't be leaving the hospital in August of 2003, I told him to tell Jesus to send me a baby boy. I wanted a baby boy. I told him on several occasions.

In May or June of 2004, I knew. I knew we would have a boy even though we weren't matched. I started buying baby boy stuff...I couldn't help myself. We were matched with a b-mom that we met with, but whom went MIA (missing) shortly thereafter, and while I wasn't devastated like I thought I would be, I was fine with it. We had talked to another b-mom and she said she was going to choose us to adopt her 10 month old, but we got the call from the agency that she had chosen someone else. Daggers in my heart. That sent me to the sofa for the weekend of August 27, 2004, my parent's anniversary weekend. The Monday following they wanted me to talk to another b-mom, and I just didn't have it in my but did it anyway. It was on Wednesday that we got the call we had been selected to be the parents to a Hispanic baby boy born on August 27th, my parent's anniversary and the b-mom's birthday. His b-mom's Sarah. I DO NOT BELIEVE IN COINCIDENCE AT ALL. THIS WAS ALL GOD.

Women who are able to give birth to their children never have to wonder, "Is this my kid?" "Is this the one who is to be my baby, my child?" Children who are adopted, their stories tend to start way ahead of conception. Some of the parties may not be fully aware of all the events surrounding it, but God is steadily working His will in our lives.

BTW, one year from the date of my Pappaw's funeral, I placed Pearce into my Mammaw's arms for the first time, and it was the first time I had told her what I had done. I believe God is in control. I believe that nothing catches Him by surprise, and I believe that God doesn't waste anything.

So, while I may say my little devil wears a size 4T please understand, he's my little devil. He's charming, intelligent, beautiful, funny, inquisitive, perplexing, honery and cantankerous, but he's worth every minute of it.

He just got out of bed and walked into the den. "Mommy, I'm sorry for my behavior." "Thank you, babe. I appreciate that, " I say. "I'll see you in the morning then," he states. "Yes you will. Yes you will." Maybe something I'm doing is sticking. Maybe something we're doing is working on his little heart and mind, but one thing I do not doubt is God chose me to be His mother knowing since I had been an ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), strong-willed child I was up for the task.

Please, Lord, help me to be the mother Pearce needs me to be. Help Him to see You through me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chapter 10 -- The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

In 2005, I was in Little Rock on an overnight business trip. An occassional overnight business trip is what I consider my "mental health" time. The drive up and back is peaceful. The hotel room is quiet. When I eat there is no arguing or children's meat to cut up. I actually get to eat a hot meal, taste it and digest it. What is there not to relish about this experience on occasion? It's also time I get to spend alone with God. My coworkers and colleagues wanted me to go out to eat, but I wasn't interested this trip. I donned my comfy but pretty pjs, took off my make-up, put on a cleansing mask, took off my slippers and plopped onto the king-sized bed. I had the clicker in my hand looking forward to watching a little TV -- something other than Disney or a children's show. But before I could push the button, the Holy Spirit led me a different direction. I put the remote down and I sat in the dimly lit room and bowed my head. I never said a word, but the Holy Spirit wrote things on my heart that broke my heart and I wept.

For too long I have put my identity in my job. I love telling people I investigate fraud for a living. I love the reaction I get. I love telling war stories. I really love my job. But I have put my value and my identity in it. The Spirit revealed to me that my job could be gone in a heartbeat, and what would my value be? He stripped me down to bare metal in order to rebuild me, to show me my value is found only in Christ. This trip was just another step in God preparing me for my future job, my future leadership. He also provided a mentor -- a lady in my church that I didn't even know very well at all, but her name was the name the Spirit put on my heart over and over, so I followed. She agreed and she shared her testimony with me. She was real about what she had done in her life and she had been down a very similar path as myself. She would also serve as a mentor and support for me when my mom fought Stage 3 breast cancer last year because she was the same age as I was when her mother fought for her life. I don't know why I'm so surprised by the things God does, but I am...and I am so grateful too.

The Spirit also convicted me that night of my dislike of my spiritual gift. Talk about humbling. I was basically taken to the woodshed like my Mammaw says. I had been so vain as to ask God to take the gift away from me at one time, and it went dormant. I refused it because it made me feel uncomfortable, made me feel burdened, and to be quite frank it exhausted me. How egocentrical was I? He has given me a gift to use for His glory and I didn't want it because of what I felt. PLEASE! The truth was He was growing me. Truth is not fun and not easy and not always pleasant. Truth has a way of maturing a person. He has restored His gift to me but now I see it in a different light.

And like Lisa, I have this mom who I strived to be like, but there's just no way. My mother always looks so classy and put together and is so calm. I feel like a strung out version of that pink rabbit with the battery... some may say I strung a bit tight at times. I have opinions and a mouth (that I'm constantly trying to bridle). I am creative and resourceful. I am not my mother. When God made my mom, He broke the mold just like when He made me and when He made you.

Before my daughter was born, I had chosen a life verse for her and it is one that Lisa quote about being fearfully and wonderfully made and about God knitting me in my mother's womb. Do you realized that knitting requires not only time He's spending but requires His hands? I've seen people paint with their mouths, play a guitar with feet, but I've never heard or seen anyone knit with anything other than their hands. God's hands formed you. You are wonderfully made because God made you that way. I'm constantly telling my daughter Erin that she is wonderfully made. Her build, her form, her coloring -- these are no accidents. God doesn't want us all to be bean poles. He didn't want us all to be vanilla -- how dull the world would be! And how creative is God that no two of us are exactly alike! I could really go off on a tangent here, but I'll try to refrain.

Do we have choices about how we live with what we were given? You bet. Just like when I asked God to take away my spiritual gift. We have choices, and I don't always make the right one. But thankfully, my God is a generous, merciful and forgiving God waiting on me to return. There are so many choices we can make in this day regarding our bodies, our lives, our beliefs, our actions, our attitudes and our's inevitable, we're going to screw up. So, I've joined Lisa in being a self-proclaiming "mess up" (pg 178), and like Lisa I whole-heartedly embrace His forgiveness.

On page 182 "We need to praise God for the downsides to our personalities and gloriously embrace them because it is not really a self-esteem issue but a spiritual one. For were He to have made us without downsides and weak areas of our personalities, we would have no need for Him in our lives!" Amen, preach on. We definitely need His truth, His love, His acceptance and His forgiveness.

Thank you, Jesus!

Monday, November 10, 2008


"Ladies and Gentleman," he cried as he whipped off the blanket to reveal his treasure from the treasure box -- blocks, Thomas the Train cars, flashcards, and other highly valuable items.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," she proclaims "presenting the collection series." She removes her blanket to show two trophies, a jewelry box, and a tooth holder.

With great fanfare they show their most prized possessions. Then they present each treasured item and tell why it is of such great value. Pearce's box is of things that he makes move or he makes them into something altogether different. Erin's treasure are trophies she's won and two little pretty things. She claims that God is number one of importance, but her jewelry box with her dancing ballerina is second.

We got home late today. We took their Christmas pictures at Target today. They did so well. I told them how proud I was of them and their behavior they had chosen. On the way home, I hear Pearce (my strong-willed child with an anger-management problem) say, "We are just little angels." I chuckled. I couldn't help myself. I said, "Yes, you are."

Now Erin is Pearce's assistant helping him to organize his cards. They are cooperating and using their manners and being polite. They are being respectful. This is such a treat for their very tired mom. It gives me hope that some of what we are working for is possibly sticking.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ch 9 We Are Completely Flawed Yet Completely Forgiven

This is the second time I've attempted to blog about this chapter. I don't know why I'm having such a difficulty putting it into words because I'm not one to be in want for words.

I have no problem accepting the completely flawed portion of this chapter. Having ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) and acting on impulses growing up, I more than made up my fair share of flaws. Now that I'm a parent, I realized how early the flaws come out. I know there are some parents who live in denial of their little darlings being flawed saying, "Oh, my kids are perfect. They wouldn't do that," or some other ridiculous nonsense, but that isn't me. As a matter of fact if you don't believe God has a sense of humor you should check out my family. Both of my kids are adopted, but Erin is her daddy, and Pearce is the answer to my mother's prayer (PLEASE GOD, GIVE HER AT LEAST ONE JUST LIKE HER!). We brought these wonderful little babies into our family. We love these little babies with all our heart and maybe more so because we fought so hard to have children and to be parents. But as soon as they learned right from wrong, it's just their sinful nature to try out the wrong side of the fence, and some more frequently than others (See my blog on my Dr. Dobson's Strong Willed Child).

I guess it's the forgiveness part that I struggle with at times. I know I have justified so many things in my life -- one more bite (gluttony), this show is fine to watch, I can say this... But in reality, regardless of whether we have justified our sin or not it is the Lord's to redeem us from our sin and sinful nature. There is no justification of our sin except through the cross. It's His choice to do this and His alone, and He does it day in and day out. That grace and mercy is limitless and unfathomable to me. I love my children dearly, but there are times when they push me to my limits, and I wonder why my heavenly Father hasn't just yanked a knot in my neck for my sins and pushing Him. Why doesn't He just take me home? It's not that I'm a murderer or adulteress or thief, etc. But in the eyes of God, there are no shades of gray for sin. One is just as bad as the next because regardless of what the sin is it still caused the death of His son. What "amazing love, how can it be? That you my King would die for me. Amazing love, I know it's true, and it's my joy to honor You. In all I do, I honor You."

My Lord and Savior, I try to split hairs and justify my behaviors, attitude and actions much like my children do, but I know my sin breaks your heart, and I am truly sorry for my sins. I'm sorry for the grief I've caused you. I'm sorry for my lack of faith at time. I'm sorry for my ingratitude. I apologize for taking things into my own hands and not trusting you. God, I'm sorry for putting on my different faces and not being real so others can see you in me. Please forgive me. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for you love. Thank you for life eternal. Thank you for the blood. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dr. Dobson's child

If you've ever wondered if God has a sense of humor or not, you only have to visit my home and my family. Because to genetically not be my children, I might as well have shot them out of the hatch myself. I believe our daughter is about to be diagnosed as having ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and I was diagnosed in seventh grade as having ADHD (a derivative of ADD, but just add a good helping of hyperactivity to bless you). My son is the answer to my mother's prayer. You know the one. "God, please give her at least one child like her." That prayer is often said in the thralls of exacerbation and exhaustion. Apparently, my mom prayed it frequently because God has given me Dr. Dobson's strong-willed child. Second to my mom's Bible was her book by Dr. Dobson. Both were highlighted and dogeared. I now have my own copy of that book and have read it twice. I'm about to start high-lighting and dog-earring the pages.

I had to go to the preschool today. It was the second day this week I had gotten "THE" call, and I told Pearce he would see my face if I got that second call. I couldn't let him down. When I arrived at daycare, he had, had plenty of time to think about my appearing. He is so relentless, persistent and stubborn, and I know that one day God will use them to His glory, but for right now, dear Jesus, help me! I have tried rewards, punishment, discipline, time-outs (where he thinks of more he can do), and spankings. When his anger gets the best of him and he loses control, we put him in what we call "the hold." When I was in junior high and high school, I worked with a little girl who had cerebral palsy, and in order for her to be down on the floor with the other children, I would have to sit like an Indian and put her feet between my legs. This stabilized her legs so they wouldn't flop around. Then I crossed her arms in front of her and held them close to her body until it was time for us to move them (hit a ball, pick up an object, etc.). I found this hold is very effective with Pearce, and it allows him to get his anger out and gets his fight out. He'll try to buck and fight and that's when I have to hold tighter. He knows he controls how loose or how tight everything is. When he regains control of himself the hold on him is looser, but by then he's exhausted (and so am I).

I know this is but for a season in my life. Before I know it he will be up and gone. My prayer for Pearce is that he learns to have a teachable and moldable spirit, that his anger works against him and will learn to use his words and not his actions when he is angry, that God will give us the wisdom we need to raise a godly man who is destined to be a leader, and that Pearce will choose God's way, always doing his best.

UGGGHHH!!!! Thank God, He made him so darn cute. Thank you, Lord, we can afford to send our children to a Christian school. Thank you, God, for wonderfully making Pearce.

I'm taking Erin to see her psych nurse today. We saw her counselor last week and will see him again tomorrow. I'm praying for an accurate diagnosis. Up until now, we have been having to work on symptoms because Erin hadn't matured to an age for us to really see and understand what is going on with her, and while we still don't know or understand it all, I do believe we are closer. I'm praying the proper diagnosis will lead us to the correct medication and compensatory skills, so Erin will be able to function and succeed. She has such a sweet heart and loves to tell others about Jesus. I know He has a special purpose for her.

My prayer for Erin is she will know exactly how wonderful she is and that she is wonderful because God made her so, that she will see her value is from God, that she will accept His love as it is -- pure and without condition, that she will learn to be a truthful and honest young lady, and that she will try to do her best in all things and giving God the glory.

Thank you, God, for a beautiful day -- light breeze, golden leaves floating to the ground, branches swaying, squirrels scampering, birds singing. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

First Day Back and It's Wonderful

This is my first day back to work after being off for 6 weeks. I have to admit I rather enjoyed being off the last few weeks and could get spoiled to that way of living (mind you I'd still want my income). And while I wasn't dreading coming back to work, I wasn't extremely over-joyed either.

I investigate insurance fraud, questionable insurance claims of all varieties arsons, bodily injury claims, staged accidents, medical provider fraud, etc. If you were to meet me in person and get to know me without knowing what I do for a living, you would laugh because I don't "appear" to be the sort to do this type of work, but I am a natural at it and have a blast doing it. I am blessed because I absolutely love what I do and the people I work with and the results I get. This morning, my FBI agent told the chiropractor and his wife who I have investigated for years was indicted at the end of October for 73 counts in the federal system. Most of those indictments are from investigations done by me and my company. Can we say WOOOHOOO!!!!! What a buzz! What a high! I love it when we can get the bad guy.

Now, I found out that the state police are going to be handing one of my investigations of another medical provider over to that same FBI agent. We'll see how it goes. In order for me to get the chiro indicted I had to light a fire under some behinds before it got to this point. I am tenacious if nothing else. Thankfully, my energy has held out for this long. We'll see how hard I crater at the end of the day.

This is a day in my life at work. I'm about to head to an impromptu meeting with the FBI and LSP to discuss a medical provider who needs to be indicted and put in jail. I feel like I should be jumping for joy.

It's days like this that make me question my future. I know I'm to lead women's ministry at my church, and I've known it for some time. I know there will be trials and difficulties with that ministry getting started, and here I am enjoying a career I excel in. I must be nuts! Down right crazy! But it is better to be in the service of the Lord than out of His will, and He will change my heart, excitement and energy to that course when the time comes.

Now, after leaving a victorious day at work, I have picked up my kids. We had to stop by Brookshires which is where there is normally a fight as to who will drive the little buggy to collect the small number of items needed, but not today. Erin offers to carry the list so Pearce can drive the buggy. Pearce and Erin are so incredibly polite to one another, using 'please' and 'thank you.' They are complementing one another and saying 'good job.' HAVE I ENTERED THE TWILIGHT ZONE? This continues all night. A pleasant and even enjoyable meal. They played well with one another laughing and everything. IS THERE A FULL MOON OUT TONIGHT? At supper tonight, I told them how much I appreciated their behavior and their good choices today and how proud I was of them.

NOW...what will things be like once Patrick makes it home? HMMMM.

Thank you, Lord, for a glorious day!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ch 8 -- We are completely loved and accepted completely

God's timing is perfect. The timing of this chapter in my life is perfect.

I was raised in a very conservative, Southern Baptist home, and my parents took me to church every time the doors were open whether I thought I needed it or not (Thank you Lord for godly parents). I also attended a Christian school from kindergarten through high school. It was at school that I felt that God was all about discipline and damnation. I learned of God's harshness and how everything is either right or wrong. The results, a lot of kids rebelled and were turned off from the church rarely to darken the door even now. Some kids like me lived in fear of failure and condemnation. I have to admit it made me stronger because I bucked up to it and towed the line, but it hasn't been until recently that I have been willing to accept God's love unconditionally. I have had an amazing walk with God with peaks and valleys, and He has proved Himself over and over again to me throughout my whole life. He took me and my husband through such a journey just to become parents and has restored my marriage on more than one occasion. And yet, here I am at 38 really feeling, learning, and accepting His love. It started when I read The Shack by William Young, and when the main character returned to the shack and met God. It was such a healing book, and I didn't know that I needed healing.

The Bible said there's no greater love than this that a man should lay down his life for his friends. If God, knowing that I was going to royally screw up in my life from time-to-time and that I was going to need redeeming, decided to sacrifice His son for me before I was even created and yet He created me anyway, does that not speak volumes as to His love? His love cannot be measured. It's incomprehensible to me at times. "I could sing of your love forever. I could sing of your love forever."

I have been loved by my wonderful godly parents, and I love my husband and children dearly, but in my life next to God's demonstration of love, there are two women who have shown what sacrificial love truly is. These women are the birth mothers to my beautiful children. One I've never even met, and the other allowed me in the delivery room when our daughter was born. It was the most gut-wrenching event when she had to place Erin in Patrick's arms and leave the agency without her. People tell me that they could never place their child for adoption, and yet, birth moms and dads make the choice to give life to their children and bravely, boldly, and lovingly choose a better life for their child. That sacrificial love is rare, and I am doubly blessed as are my children for the selfless act. God made that same choice for His Son. The only difference is God knew in advance His Son would pay the highest price in order to show us His love, His sacrificial and redeeming love. Birth parents place their children for adoption to give those children hope and the possibility at a better future, but God gave His Son to Joseph and Mary and all humanity knowing -- HE KNEW -- He would be brutally sacrificed so we would KNOW -- not hope for a better future, we would KNOW that He has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11). Plans that include hope and a future in Him the One who loves us without strings or conditions or limitations. He loves us despite of ourselves, and there is great freedom in that.

Sorry, I went off on a tangent.

Lisa wrote, "God's love is without pretense, without conditions, and without limits. His love feels good the night before, the morning after, and every time in between. It is like water to a thirsty soul, food to a hungry heart, and freedom to a confined prisoner. It is nothing short of amazing, and I am constantly amazed by it. I cannot believe He loves me like He does..." This is what I have been learning this whole year. Could not have said it better myself. You know, I looked to my husband for love, and while he loves me, it isn't always the way I want to be loved, and to be honest, he's human. He's going to screw up like I do. I cannot expect him to fill the need only God can fill.

Acceptance -- here is another area this chapter has had perfect timing in my life. Since being off from work for 6 weeks recovering from a partial hysterectomy God has been laying some things on my heart that requires action. One of them is, for lack of a better term, a charm school for girls in the 3rd through the 5th grade. Keep reading. I'm not talking southern belle stuff. If you knew me, I'm more of the Steele Magnolia sort. It is my sincere desire to find a curriculum or create a curriculum that focuses on manners, physical changes and acceptance, and spiritual. I want these girls to know their value comes from God. Lisa sited Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb I KNEW you, before you were born I set you apart." THANK YOU, JESUS! Psalms 139:13-14 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I pray you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." God does not consider a life a choice, nor does He consider the work He is doing in a woman's womb, a choice. For those who have struggled with fertility issues, we may be keenly more aware or more sensitive to how miraculous pregnancy and the creation of a life is. Your life is. You are precious in His sight. The creation of a human being and a healthy delivery is truly a miracle. If a baby makes it through delivery, they are already over-comers.

I want these girls to not only accept themselves but to accept others the way God made them. He takes His time to knit them together -- do you realize knitting requires hands? God's hands? Do you realize that knitting takes time, patience, and He uses those terms only when talking about the human race. I haven't found in the Bible where He does that with any other living thing on this planet. I want these girls to know how precious they are to God and to not believe what the world and Satan are selling which is women have to be toothpicks to be beautiful; to be popular is the goal and will make you happy; to have the designer toy, etc, will make you fit in and belong. HOGWASH! I have a 7 year-old, little girl named Erin, and Wednesday night on the way home from church after having some special mommy-daughter time before, I told her I was so thankful that God created her so wonderfully. She told me she didn't think so. She told me she wanted to be thinner! SHE IS 7! And Satan has already started feeding her the lie.

We don't have to do one thing to be accepted or loved by God. He loves us despite ourselves. We just have to be willing to allow Him into our hearts to work.

One more thing before I close. Last year when my mom was going through a grueling round of chemo to fight Stage 3 breast cancer, my worship pastor went to visit her. He asked her if there was anything, anything at all he could do for her. My mom said that there really wasn't. She said, "It's enough to know that Jesus loves me." Why would God send His Son to the cross all those years ago just to harm my mom now? He wouldn't. He's not cruel. One of the most valuable lessons my family learned last year was the love of God and how He uses other Christians to do His loving for Him.

I hope the little girl in you will sing: Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones (God's children) to Him belong. They (we) are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

My prayer is that we have the courage to leave our fear and insecurities and jealousies at the feet of Jesus and that we willingly accept the loving arms of God around us and the Spirit's gentle hands around are hearts. And then, my prayer is that we emanate God's love to those around us, accept them as they are, and lead them to the One who loves like no one else every can.

My Daughter

My sister says that my daughter was prayed into existence (Erin's story can be found in my first blog -- A Little History) which means I have a huge job on my hands, and so often I feel that I fail or I'm not doing what needs to be done by her. God has given her such a precious, compassionate heart for all living things all the way down to the crickets (she released my husband's bait on a camping trip after she saw what he was using them for). She has a heart to share with others the love of Jesus, but for all the outgoing and bubbliness of the little girl who is my daughter, I'm seeing now she through her drama, through her words, and through her actions she doesn't value herself the way God does. I'm taking her to see a Christian counselor tonight so she can talk about her bad dreams, her nightmares, and now, I'm going to bring up her self-image.

Yesterday, I picked Erin up after school for an afternoon of just her and me to celebrate her "anniversary" until church began. Erin's adoption was finalized on October 26, 2001. Patrick and I had bought a special outfit for her earlier in the day to commemorate. Erin and I went shopping for her fall shoes and we visited my grandmother and another elderly lady at a nursing home. Erin was expressive and energetic and excited. She had a wonderful time at church and Awana's. It was on the ride home when I was past the point of exhaustion that I said, "Erin, I am so glad that God made you the way you are. He made you perfectly the way He designed you to be you." My seven year old daughter told me she didn't think her body was all that perfect. She said she wanted to be skinnier! SHE IS 7! Broke my heart that Satan had already wormed his way into this part of her life.

My conversation with her that followed was about how we are all made differently but made in God's image. "Look at the Cheetah Girls," I said, "they don't all look alike. They are all built differently." I explained that God made Erin's body the way it is for a reason. We just have to figure out what that reason is. I also told her that come high school she is going to have curves and the boys are going to be calling and I'm going to have to knock some heads of those boys too. I said she is still growing. God is still making her into the one He wants her to be.

I believe Erin's love language is Words of Affirmation. I have to step up my A game because Satan is doing better, but I refuse to allow this little girl to think less of who she is. God has big plans for Erin. It would not surprise me if she was called to be a missionairy. It would not surprise me if God used her ability to entertain and make people laugh to draw them closer to Him. She has a calling for her life.

For several weeks God has been placing on my heart a strong desire to set up a "charm" school of sorts at our Christian school in Shreveport, but unlike "charm" schools as in years past, there would be a time to learn about manners, a time to learn about their bodies and behavior, and a time to learn where they get their values from. I had already talked to the children's pastor and several moms who are more than eager to get this off the ground. My goal is to find or develop a program and have it implemented by Spring 2010. The future of our little girls are at stake, and if we can raise a group of girls who will back each other up, who will encourage one another even though they are different, who can accept each other's differences, and who know not only where their value comes from but Whose they are, maybe just maybe some things in our society will change.

My daughter wears anywhere from a size 12 to 14 in children's clothes, and do you know that it is hard to find little girl clothes that don't look like "hoochie momma" (as my 4 year old son would say). Modesty and self-respect go a long way with little girls who mature into young ladies and who develop into virtuous women. Lord knows, our homes, our churches and our society need for us to raise them up right.

It's time to fight! Fight for our daughters.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Forgotten Joys Renewed

Do you remember riding your bicycle without a helmet?

Do you remember standing up in the back floorboard of your parent's car?

Do you remember riding with the windows down on the car and sticking your head or hands out the window?

Do you remember sleeping with your windows open?

Do you remember visiting your grandparents as a small child?

Do you remember going to Vacation Bible School as a small child and the joy it brought you?

Do you remember shelling peas till your fingers turned purple?

Do you remember shucking corn till your hands were so tired you couldn't grip?

Do you remember feeling the cool dirt as you walked barefooted down trails or played outside?

Do you remember dancing in the rain and making mud pies?

I remember my mom cleaning the 12 by 60 trailer we live in for about 10 years. When the weather was cool, she'd raise the windows, turn on her favorite Christian record that included "The Doxology" and some other songs. She'd have on a duster and this brown thing on her head. The house smelled of cleaning fluids and sounded of Christian anthems. That is a warm fuzzy for me.

I remember the four of us, my mom, dad, sister and myself, sitting around the kitchen table playing a game called Paddle Ball, and laughing so hard I had tears rolling down my face.

Oh, and I remember during the summer, my parents would invite some of their friends to our house for cake and coffee after evening worship. Lori, my sister and I, could sit and listen to my dad tell his stories that had our guests gasping for air, and even though we had heard them so many times we could recite them in our sleep, we too were laughing heartily.

I get so busy and so stressed with work and life that sometimes I miss those little joys. This is my last week off work, and I was reminded today of the joys of my childhood through the eyes of my children. I am so thankful for this time. Thank you Lord Jesus for precious memories.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


One of the things I have missed over the past few weeks since my surgery is the boy, MY boy. I haven't been able to rough-house with him like I normally would. He is a riot. (He is currently pusing the buttons on my laptop with his face. I've had to retype a few sentences.) He is full of life and energy, and when he laughs it is contagious! And I know I'm a bit partial, but he is JUST BEAUTIFUL! We are in the process of teaching him the manners of a gentleman...he opens the car door for me this morning, he opens the doors at school for the teachers and girls (even though his girl cousins like to hold the door open because it's considered a priviledge to get that assignment in class). You know, there are things you don't have to teach a boy however -- how to burp, how to aggravate another sibling, especially a sister, how to maximize the most out of a mud puddle, how to take apart things, how to make car noises, or how to use other toys as weapons, or how to love on their momma (even though Pearce is definitely not a momma's boy).

He just came over to me and raised his shirt, I get to have a big, fat zerber with the bonus of his belly laugh.

What got me on this tear to begin with was Pearce playing on his hand-me-down, pink and purple Leapster (he is very sure of his manhood. He's the only 4 year-old I know with a moustache!). He explained to me that should I need to talk to him, I'd have to ask him first. I asked how should I do that if I'm not allowed to talk to him? He chuckled and said, "Just ask." "But then I'll be speaking to you," and it just went downhill from there. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had been tackled.

There are days that Pearce is more than a handful. He's strong-willed and energetic (the answer to my mother's prayers), and he is just over-flowing the cup with himself. These are the days I refer to him as THE BOY. When I receive a call from preschool about Pearce hitting someone or something, there is a principal over the high school who is family. I call, leave a message that goes something like this, "Mr. Rodney, would you please go see THE BOY. He's done (fill in the blank), and I think he really needs a man to speak to him." I don't even have to tell him who I am or who THE BOY is!

Before adopting MY BOY, I never knew how that three-letter word was so expansive as to cover such a vast amount of information, material and action, but there is nothing like the presence of a little boy in your life to infuse it with energy and excitement and adventure.

Thank God for little boys. Amen and amen.

PS I'll have do a blog on little girls another time, but this time was about the one who currently calls me "big momma" (for what reason, I don't know, but then again, he doesn't have to have a reason.). ;>

Friday, October 24, 2008

Big Momma is Cleaning House

Many have heard of spring cleaning, but at my house we have spring and fall cleaning, and it was this weekend. I have recovered from my surgery to a certain degree and with frequent rests I was ready to tackle it. I had cleaned out my closet -- not to the extent I would have liked, but I tried it a couple of weekends ago. The cleansing for this weekend started yesterday with stripping down the beds, and as I was bending over and the waist putting the sheets on my four year old son's bed, he walks in and says, "Watcha doin' big momma?" Yes, I thought it was funny. He's also been known to ask me if a woman he sees in public is a "hoochie momma." A sense of humor is a must when raising kids because it wasn't long after the big momma remark that Pearce had one of his meltdowns.

At any rate, the house for the most part has been cleaned, and this evening's agenda? The daunting task of cleaning out the kids rooms. I clean out summer clothes, put them in tubs to be used for hand-me-downs, supply the closet with fall and winter clothes, inventory what is needed, and then I clean their closets out of the ridiculous toys from Sonic, trivial toys of no value, or toys that Pearce has taken apart. I don't know how he can dismantle little cars, toys, books, and flashlights which are his specialty. Right up until the last hurricane, we didn't have one working flashlight in the house. We found one that was missing the springs that held the batteries, one was missing the bulb, one was missing the back that held the batteries in place, and yet another was missing the batteries and the lens. We have now hidden a cache of flashlights and pray he can't manipulate the chairs to get to them. In Pearce's room, I also found a transformer that had been taken apart, tires removed from the wheels of cars, and puzzle pieces that had been used for other things.

In Erin's closet I found a stack of papers plates and some unused q-tips. She keeps the most minute items and covets them as being precious belongings. We lightened her load by taking 1/2 of her stuffed animals to take to church to donate to an orphanage in Guatemala. By the time, I got threw there were 2 garbage bags of what I considered trash.

They are so creative to use toys they have and make them into something altogether different. Granted, when we want to complete a puzzle we are inevitably missing at least 1 piece. But all the toys have been put in their proper home. We have collected toys that haven't been played with in order to donate. I take Erin to the Shreveport Rescue Mission to deliver the toys. I want her to know there are people with so much less and we need to be careful to be grateful for what we have.

One of Erin's new (hand-me-down) nightgowns is a pink, satin, dreamy gown. She has been floating around the house claiming to be a fairy blowing us kisses as she says good-night. She informed me that fairy's don't sleep with nightlights or with their doors open, so she does not need me to do those for her tonight nor does she need me to check on her. I assure her that I would not leave her door open or turn on her nightlight, but it was my prerogative to check on her as I am her mother. What a riot!

Oh, the joys of parenting!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chapter 6 - 7 Behind Those Eyes

We make judgments about people every day based on what we see and hear. It's part of what I do for a living. I'm trained to look at people, cut through what they want me to see, and to get down to the meat of the matter, but when it comes to the spirituality of someone else, PLEASE! If we focused on our own relationship during that time wasted pondering someone else's appearance, how much further would we be? This means it would give more time for the reflection to turn on ourselves, cut through what I was putting up for others to see and get down to the meat of the matter.

Did you know that when a person lies the body has an automatic adverse reaction? I know this because I look for these when I'm interviewing someone at work and sometimes with people in general. The pulse quickens. There is the fight or flight syndrome -- do I flee from the source of my stress or do I fight it? The stomach tightens. Maintaining this lifestyle leads to digestive issues and ulcers and worry. Is it any wonder the Bible refers to the Belt of Truth? It girds our waist and stomach area that becomes bloated by our consistent swallowing and telling of lies. It can also be cinched back when we take an honest look and be truthful...but it's not necessarily easy, pleasant, or comfortable. Especially when we've swallowed so many of Satan's lies.

Why are we so willing to swallow Satan's lies? What are we wanting to cover up? Why are we so eager to accept lies as truth? Lack of depth? Lack of faith? Lack of enough faith? There can be such liberation and sweet freedom in living in the truth, but getting to that point is a painful journey.

Lisa Whittle talks about the Cover up:

Insecurity -- masked as drama at my house. My husband and daughter are the drama people, and typically, the drama is taken to a new level the higher the insecurity. I'm just now figuring this out. DUH! Now I just have to figure out the best way to cut through the drama to address the insecurity and encourage and strengthen the best way I can, and pray for them in a different way. This is not to say that I don't have insecurities it's just that is what was revealed to me during this quiet time. After all, I am considering a drastic career change in the next year or so...who wouldn't be insecure about that?

Jealousy -- I am very much like one of the authors Lisa Whittle quoted and talked about. I work in a male-dominated field, and have preferred it to working with women because of the trivial, non-sense some women put out there. But God has blessed me with some truly wonderful girlfriends, and now He has put a passion on my heart for women's ministry. It has to be from Him because this isn't something I would have volunteered for. I believed God has used my girlfriends to show me how relationships with other women can be. It doesn't have to be petty. It can be complementary like Lisa's relationship with Colleen. I am so thankful for my girlfriends who compliment my life, and I pray that I compliment there's as well.

Loneliness -- There is a difference between loneliness and being alone. Loneliness sounds to me like someone is craving contact, wanting to be seen, heard, and held but not succeeding in having those needs met. While I have been lonely even in my marriage at times because I was looking to my spouse to fill a need that was meant for God to fill, it's those who live in loneliness that scare me, like I'm going to be sucked into the vacuum of their life. It has happened to me before, and I got hurt badly by her. I feel for those who are stuck in loneliness.

Being alone, for me, is more of a choice. I have to admit I have gone to the woods in a travel trailer for several days by myself to be alone, to be without children, husband, work, responsibility -- it was the most rejuvenating and life-giving time for me. I loved it, and I am thankful I was allowed that luxury.

Fear -- Some people think the opposite of peace is chaos, but in reality, it's fear. Fear and peace cannot coexist happily together like childhood chums.

I am claustrophobic, and in March of this year, a girlfriend invited me to go to Italy to see a friend. While there, we ventured to several other cities in Italy. It was while we were in Rome that my girlfriend got to see my claustrophobia in full swing. We got into an elevator the size of a coffin in order to go up to our flat. Truly there was only room for 2 people if they were standing in line like school children. My girlfriend was in front and when we got to our floor in my heart I was praising God I had survived and could finally exhale, but after sliding back the first door, she began to try to open the second which would let us out of our coffin. The second door would not open. I tried. We banged on it. We pushed the second floor button again, but there was nothing. Then we heard a rather large, loud Italian man on the other side of the door yelling in Italian at us. He wasn't angry but seemed to become more passionate about what he was saying as my panic went off the charts. We called the host who said he was on his way. Then Cheri, my girlfriend, pushed the button for the first floor. When we got down there the door opened and I was free. Free from my fear, my panic and the coffin! I never took that elevator again. It was the only time Cheri has ever seen me wig-out. There was no peace for me in that elevator only fear -- no matter how unrealistic my fear was, it was real to me. When fear gets a grip on us, no matter what that fear may be, it affects our thinking. It prevents us from thinking accurately and clearly. Had we just pushed the first floor button after realizing the door wouldn't open, I would have been out of that contraption, that predicament in a minute, but instead, I was in that elevator for what seemed to be a minimum of 15 minutes! Fear can be paralyzing and prevent us from doing what we need or should be doing.

I am so grateful that our loving Lord and Savior sees through our defenses, scams, and lies to see the heart of the matter and loves us regardless. He's willing to lovingly remove these "barnacles" as a friend of mine has called them, and heal us completely without guilt and shame. As a matter of fact, God knew what we were going to do before we were conceived and He created us anyway. He knew before we were conceived that we were going to need redemption causing His only Son to have to shed His own blood, and He created us anyway. And not only did He create us despite all that, He loves us in all our humanity. He loves us. Hallelujah, Thank you, Jesus!