Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Photography Contest - Please vote and share!

Here is today's friendly reminder to please vote for my photo at the website for Arkansas Graphics!
You must use their website or Facebook page for it to count, and I've included the link below. The contest ends on May 31.
The prize is a generous gift certificate that I would use for printed business cards and brochures for my Missionary Care ministry, "Women Helping In Missions."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Remembering Joplin...

As I looked back through my Facebook history I was faced with my timeline from the Joplin Tornado 5 years ago. It reminded me to pray for the people in and around the Joplin area when the tornado hit. I know the area is rebuilding well, but I also know that hearts and heads don't forget something like that, and many are still recovering from the effects of it, mental images seared in their souls. 

We lived near Joplin for 18 years, and all of our kids attended college there. Both of my sons-in-law grew up and have family there. We did shopping and doctoring and date-nights and other errands there. It was a part of our life. At the time of the tornado our son was living and working in Joplin.

I remember FB messaging with a friend who had just finished performing at the Stained Glass Theater. She was desperate to let her kids know she was ok, and one of her sons (that I knew) was out of the country at the time. For some reason, she could communicate with me, but couldn't get through to him, so I got to be a messenger between the two. 

Like many structures in this mile-wide tornado, the theater took a direct hit. It was so hard for her to comprehend how and why her life was spared, when those literally right beside her perished. 

I looked back at my feed and saw the messages I wrote to update family and friends as I spoke to my own son, Jason, on the phone. 

I was home in KY on the phone with him, reporting to him everything I heard and saw on the Weather Channel. He had no idea the storm was so bad, having just driven in past that very same area. For whatever reason, they were running late from returning from a retreat, and he had to move his belongings back into his own car and was meeting his friend Kory for the evening. 

He nearly drove into the path of the storm a second time, only to be stopped where he was when a large hailstone landed in front of him as he went to his car, and he decided to wait out the storm he was in and call me. Neither of us understood the enormity or the intensity of what was happening.

As soon as the hail passed  (and the tornado) he drove as fast as he could through destruction and debris laden streets to find his friend Kory's apartment. Landmarks were completely removed, even the large Walmart store that marked the apartment complexes entrance was gone. 

Jason eventually found the apartment, and Kory with his dog tucked inside the bathroom. He was ok, where others had not survived. It was a miracle on so many levels.

There are so many stories that came from that devastation. We personally know many who were spared, and know many who lost so much. 

Take time today to call your parents, your kids, the people that you love and don't say it often enough. 

Pray, and praise God for all the miracles that happen all around us every day, for the decisive moments that stop us in our tracks for just a second, that end up keeping us from harm. 

Continue to pray for Jason and Kory, and all the other people who have carried these memories as they continue to see Joplin rebuild from the rubble. Pray for those who still need healing, and for those still putting pieces of their life together ... that they find it was the hand of Jesus covering them and protecting them... that they find He is still walking with them today. 

Yes, let's pray. Let's remember. #JoplinStrong

(Please share your memories of this day, whether from the Joplin, Oklahoma or Alabama twisters that share anniversaries this week.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sister's Outing: Lake Pleasant, Arizona

My sister has been a good sport to take me out and about while I visit with her this week.

I know that I haven't finished editing the photos from the Botanical Gardens yet, but I wanted to share where we went to today, Lake Pleasant, AZ.

We enjoyed lunch at the Marina, and drove through many areas of the park. We found many little nooks and crannies of the lake, but also found the beautiful mountains that surround the area.

Here are some of the photos from our outing! #LakePleasantPark #Arizona

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Photo Journal: Desert Botanical Gardens, Part 1

I'm visiting my sister in Peoria, Arizona and today we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens in nearby Phoenix. It was evident we missed the FULL spring blooming, but there were still many things in bloom!

If you go, go early (it gets HOT), watch the weather (you don't want to be there in a dust storm), bring your water bottle (there are fountains to refill at), and wear your sunscreen and hiking shoes. We did a LOT of walking!

I hope that you'll enjoy this first installment of photos from today's hike!

Book Review: Catch a Star - Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion

I don't know what led me to want to read a book on three-time Gold Medalist and WNBA All-Star basketball player Tamika Catchings life. I'm not a basketball fan at all, don't follow the sport and didn't know her name or any of her story. I think I was just looking to expand my reading horizons, and this book caught my eye!

It also held my interest. From the get-go, reading about her home life, her upbringing, her personal story, was interesting.

I admit, I got a little lost in all the stats of her college and career games, but a true sports enthusiast would enjoy that part of it. I was more interested in the person rather than the game. Still, the relationships and activities that made her who she is was good to read.

I found many nuggets of gold towards the end of the book, as she grew in faith and saw God's hand leading her through difficult circumstances and injuries. It is an inspirational story as much as it is a story about an accomplished woman, and we can all learn from it.

There were some writing quirks that caught me off guard through the book, and it made me wonder how carefully it was edited. Perhaps it was more a writing style that didn't jive with me? It annoyed me, but didn't keep me from reading the book.

Overall, the book was very good. I would recommend it to any person interested in sports and needing to read about someone overcoming adversity on or off their field of play. It would be a great motivational book for most people. Her tenacious living is inspiring, and she displays the benefits of hard training and pushing through difficult life circumstances, whether in family relationships, or on the court.

I received a copy of the book "Catch a Star" from Revell House Publishing, in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Reflections on Psalm 121 - By Roy Lessin

A few weeks ago, I checked in (via email) with our dear friend Roy Lessin and his wife Char to see what they are up to, and let him know what's been going on here. They have been enjoying everything blooming in their gardens around their home. Roy thought you might enjoy this reflection he wrote on Psalm 121... 

Reflections on Psalm 121
Roy Lessin
I found real help when I stopped looking in the wrong places, stopped depending on the wrong things, and stopped leaning on the wrong people. I found my help in the Helper, the Lord God Almighty, and the One who reigns on high and reaches down to lift up the lowly.
He not only gives help, He is the help! The reasons to trust Him as my true Helper are endless…after all, He is the One who formed, shaped, and brought me into being…He created everything that exists beneath my feet, above my head, and all around me. The Maker of it all is the Helper in it all. He is The Helper at sunrise, through the day, at sunset, and during the night. I can live and thrive with help like that!
My Helper, God, is a won’t-allower…He won’t allow my foot to be moved. That doesn’t mean I am frozen in place…rather, it means I can totally trust Him not to lead me to places that have slippery slopes, or instruct me to build my life upon shaky foundations.
My Helper, God, is also a won’t-sleeper…He does not nap and doesn’t go to bed early…He is a 24/7 Helper…no one else can be that kind of helper…not even close!
My Helper, God, also puts around me a hedge with super hybrid thrones that causes any would-be intruder to be totally miserable, leaving them fully regretting their attempt to enter a “no trespassing zone.”
No one is going to be able to sneak up on my Helper in the shadows of day, or in the darkness of night. And when I’m walking in the bright sun I won’t need an umbrella to shade me…my Helper will provide me with all the shade I need by simply placing His hand above my head. At night, when the light of the moon is dim, I still have all the light I need to take the next step safely.
My Helper, God, is my Watchman. He is my preserver because He is my observer…He knows everything about me and everything that is going on around me.  Nothing gets past Him, or sneaks around Him to get to me.
What is even more wonderful is that He is my traveling companion. When I travel from home I don’t leave my Helper behind, in fact, He blazes the trail before me and gets me to my appointed destination. When it’s time to return home, He is my personal escort, and the first greeter to welcome me home.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore. Psalm 121:1-8 (NKJV)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

When Mother's Day Brings Baggage

Sometimes Mother's Day brings baggage along that's sad or bad. I try to see God's hand in it...and don't always find it... but I know it's there.
I don't know why I lost my mom to cancer at such a young age. The year prior to her passing was tough, and because I was a pre-teen and "knew it all," I didn't understand what she was going through or may of been thinking.
I still don't, but I have a better idea.
I often thought my mom didn't love me (my sisters too) enough to fight for her life. I know that's not true, and I refuse to believe that lie anymore. I think I let it live so long to ignore the deeper pain of missing her so badly.

I missed her as I shopped for my wedding dress. I think that was my first awareness of missing her. I vividly remember a Bobby Goldsboro song ("Honey," a favorite of hers) coming over the piped in music, as if God was letting me know she was there, watching from heaven. I still cry at the thought that my husband never got to meet her. I'm pretty sure they would love each other.
I missed her so much when I gave birth to my own children. It may of been selfish of me, I didn't have a mom to help me navigate those early days of motherhood. I was sad that my kids and my mom would never meet. They would never get to be babysat by her and she would never get to root them on in their life achievements.
As my kids approached the age I was when she died, I tried to think of having to say goodbye to them.
I couldn't imagine it.
I don't remember her ever communicating her love for me back then. Was it too painful? Did she not know she was going to die? Did she say "I love you" well and often and did I just blocked it out? I don't know.
I was so blessed when one of my aunts commented how much one of my daughters looked like my mom at that same age. I had never seen a photo of my mother as an early teenager.
As my kids hit milestones in life, I missed her more. Although I was told by my aunts that my mom had a sour disposition and even a mean streak in her, I think she would have cheered grandkids on in life. I hope they would of softened her heart and made her laugh more. That she would of swelled with pride as her grands received educational accolades, celebrated their marriages, and their families grew. I looked around for godly women living near me who gave a good example on how to grandparent... I didn't get to see how this was supposed to be first-hand, and mentoring wasn't much around then.
It became harder to remember things about her as a mom, and although she cherished my older sisters' babies, she herself was just starting her journey as a grandma. She was just learning this for herself.
Now, as I get to see my own grandkids grow, I think about how I want to be remembered by them, and by my grown children and their spouses too.
I've lived beyond my mother's years, and I don't take that lightly. I want to be intentional with my days, my words, my attitudes. I hope I'm planting seeds in my family to grow with them as they mature and become the moms and dads and grandparents God will have them be in the future.
It's not about the recipes and traditions I want to pass along, but the open arms, the ready smile, the laughter and joy, the songs. I want to build my memory makers. I want them to remember that naps are good things to combat "grumpy grandma," and how I love hugs and lullabies at bedtime. That they can "always come home." That I value arts and crafts, and walks to see the neighbor's flowers and God's sunlight filtering through His leaves. I want them to remember me reading my Bible as much as I was taking pictures on my phone (still working on that, and ditching my Bible app for the real book when they are here!). I want them to remember how I loved playing a game more than winning, and how much I enjoy learning new words. I want them to see me love God by loving others, even when it hurts, and how the power of forgiveness before hearing the words "I'm sorry" is so freeing.
No matter how close or far away we are, I want each one of them, kids, in-laws, and grands, to remember how much I love them. Always. Unconditionally.
"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12
What things do you hope your kids and grandkids will remember about you?
Do you grandparent from afar? What's your favorite tip?

Romans 12: Recipes for Good Relationship Part 1

  Romans 12 | Part 1 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather t...