Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Teaching my teenage son about women!

I just have a quick minute today, so much to accomplish in such a short time!  I did, however, have a funny moment this morning in the midst of the chaos that is a typical McKinney morning, and it might be worth sharing.  As I've said before, this blog is mostly therapeutic for me anyway so if no one needs this it will at least help me process my thoughts!

Wednesdays in Lee's Summit, MO are "Late Start Wednesdays"! The public schools have students come in one hour later in order to give our amazing teachers an extra hour of preparation each week!  If you ask me, those teacher/super heroes surely need more than an hour, so I'm all for it!  I realize it does make it difficult for many families, but we are willing to do our part.  The only rough part for us is that it does mean Dad is not around for our family devotion in the morning, and mom gets to drive the boys to school.  This is tough because Dad is the nice one in our house, the morning person, the kind and sweet encourager when the rest of us are just NOT morning people!  As you can probably imagine, the conversations might be a bit less encouraging when Mom's in charge by herself!  I'll bet you can just picture it!

This morning I "gently" reminded the boys that, while I don't make them keep their rooms spotless throughout the crazy week, I wanted them to at least pick up the clothes and close the drawers.  I believe what I said to them both was something like, "GUYS, PLEASE STRAIGHTEN THOSE ROOMS BEFORE WE LEAVE TODAY!"  It was 3 minutes until breakfast/devotion when I said it.  Justin, being the ever so obedient and good natured teenage boy that he is (NOT) proceeded to actually do it!  Five minutes later, when we were late for breakfast and devotion I yelled, "Justin, what are you doing!?  Get down here for devotion and breakfast!  Now we're running late!"  He replied, "I was cleaning my room like you strongly suggested!" 

It's hard to put into words the range of thoughts and emotions that played out in my head just then.  At first I wanted to smack him for being so sassy!  Then I quickly realized I was expecting him to read my mind!  Are you kidding me??  My poor sweet husband can't do that and we've been married for over 21 years!  How could I possibly expect some 14 year old boy to do it?  What I meant and maybe should have said was, "In your extra time and quickly, without being late for devotion and breakfast, pick up your room so that it is not perfect but adequate."  That's not what I said though, and for once, Justin did exactly what I said. 

I had to apologize to him at devotion time.  I tried to explain that, bless his heart, welcome to having a woman in your life!  So often we expect the people around us to read our minds in addition to our behaviors.  Then we want them to combine it with what happened in the past and do what I want but know is way too much to expect from anyone so I don't even say it!  Does that make sense to anyone?  Maybe it's just me, but I swear that's so often how I communicate.  For heaven's sake, Gayla!  Say what you mean!  If it's too much to ask, change your expectation!  And have some empathy for those around you!  If I'm feeling crazy and rushed, chances are they are too.  Let some things go!  Family unity and credibility with my kids is infinitely more important than a straightened room that will have no one in it til the kids get home anyway!  A little perspective here, MOM! 

Maybe Justin learned a thing or two about women...we don't always mean what we say and we often say mean things.  We'd like for the people in our lives to love us enough to try and figure us out, but we often haven't figured out ourselves.  I certainly was reminded of several things!  Thankfully God means all that He says, and He says it with the ultimate compassion that comes from knowing and loving us as He created us!  My talk needs to match the way my Savior communicates! I'm going to straighten my own room now!  While I'm doing that, I'm going to pray for God to give me another chance next Wednesday!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

HOW have you prayed for your children today?  HAVE you prayed for your children today?  At this season of parenting, I'm convinced that I can do no bigger thing than PRAY for Justin, Caleb, and Sarah!  It scares me to death to think about the challenges they face on a minute by minute basis.  I have one in high school who is undoubtedly exposed to more than I want to admit.  My middle schooler struggles with ADD among other psychological issues in addition to being in MIDDLE SCHOOL!  That's enough drama to drive a mom to her knees!  And my preschool baby girl?  Well I've only been raising a girl for 4 years now but I've been one for 42 years so I know some of the things she already faces.  Why is it that we often see prayer as the smallest thing we could do...for anyone?  Haven't you heard people say, "Well, I can't help but the least I can do is pray."?  Are you kidding me, the LEAST??  Oh no, that's the best thing I can do for my children!

I've been recently reminded of this simply because it's been about the only thing I could do in some situations!  It's completely unavoidable that children grow up.  They eventually need to be independent, and I can't control them or everything around them.  Hopefully Blake and I have done much to feed them Truth about God's faithfulness and His plan for them.  Hopefully we've modeled an honest walk with God, but my older two have come to a point where they have to make some decesions for themselves.  They live in worlds I cannot completely control.  Oh sure, we have strict rules at home about what we watch, listen to, have access to, etc., but we've made the decesion to put them in nonchurch schools, teams, clubs, etc.  We don't live in a Christian only village, so they see the real world.  My friend Suzanne assures me that high school is more "real world" than I could imagine.  I have a love/hate feeling about the story that her boys said, "Mom, you know high school is rated R, right?"  That's life for the McKinney''s the decesion we've felt best for our family and our ministry.  So how do I react as a mom?  I'm on my knees every single morning claiming scripture and begging for God to protect them.

But I'm also asking Him to do whatever it takes to make them trust Him and feel His presence with them.  Yes, I said whatever.  Some days I almost choke on the word, but I mean it.  I'm praying for God to use every single circumstance to drive them to a deeper knowledge of and longing for Him.  I want them to have faith based in personal experience!  And if that's what it takes, then my prayers are even more important! 

Another reason I believe prayer is maybe the most important part of my job is that what I pray for, I'm invested in.  Does that make sense?  Seriously, think about that!  What I take the time to pray for becomes HUGE to me.  I want to know how He's answering my prayers and what's going on "behind the scenes".  This motivates me to be "all up in their business"  on a daily basis because I want to know how God is moving!  It changes our conversations from "How was your day?" to "What did God do today?" and "Did you sense Him working?"  Those are some powerful conversations!

Praying scripture for my children also keeps me in His Truth and never fails to convict me as well.  How can I pray "Give Caleb Your Spirit of power, love, and sound mind...(2 Timothy 1:7)" without also realizing I need to pray that for myself as well as act on it in faith!  How can I pray "Please help Justin work hard at whatever he's doing not because he is to please teachers and coaches, but because he's working for You and in Your power...(Colossians 3:23)" without realizing that I need to do the dishes or writing or even selling olive oil at the store in His power and for His glory?   How can I pray for Sarah to love Jesus and spend her life serving Him if I'm not modeling that for her?  This is yet one more divine way God activates and enlivens His Word in me (Hebrews 4:12)!  When I'm praying for them, God's working in me too! 

Here are two resources I have used for some time now to help me pray for my children.

This beautiful book is probably out of print by now because someone gave it to me when Justin was born.  It is a compilation of scriptures to pray for your children catagorized into topics.  I've used it for 14 1/2 years now and I'm so thankful for it!

This one is a prayer journal where I write every name and prayer request I'm praying for on a particular day of the week.  There's so much to bring before Him that my ADD would kick in and I'd be chasing rabbits all day if I didn't use something like this.  It was actually a suggested resource on the Living Proof Blog, and I've been so pleased with it! 
What resources do you use when you pray...either for your children or others?
I'm thankful for a community of believing friends who also pray diligently for my children!  You would never waste a prayer on us!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A little input???

Hey Friends!

So much is going on with the McKinney's these days!  At this stage in our marriage (over 21 years, glory to God!), with 3 really busy kids, Blake and I find ourselves rarely able to spend vast amounts of time together alone.  Who am I kidding?  We have little time together even with other people or the children around.  Mind you, I'm really not complaining.  Oh I miss the opportunities to just sit and talk, but the LORD has been gracious beyond my wildest dreams and we have great jobs, invigorating opportunities to minister, and talented kids! I watched a video blog from Christine Cain the other day that spoke to me when she said sometimes it doesn't take huge segments of doing nothing to recoup, it just means that we should be invigorated and inspired by what we do!  That's how it is for me right now, I'm refreshed and invigorated by almost everything I'm deeply involved in.  I love my job, I love women's ministry, I live for Bible study, and being a mom is the richest experience I'll ever have.  And honestly, I love high school band, lacrosse, gymnastic, and dance...which is really what I spend most of my time watching these days.  It's a great life, a deeply meaningful life.  Thank you God!

Having said that, I'm super excited about an upcoming opportunity Blake and I have to work on something together.  This will be the third year our church has allowed us to lead a couples retreat in Branson in November.  Each year we've done this, the preparation has been a bit of a nightmare.  By the time we've gotten to the retreat, we've managed to do and experience all those feelings and situations that we're trying to teach other couples to deal with in a Godly manner.  I've said this before, but surely you realize we are as human as anyone and, dare I say it, we disagree at times! Every year after the retreat we say, "That was worth it!  That was better for us than probably anyone else!"  So when we discovered that we would be allowed to lead again this year, we started approaching the preparation a bit differently.  We are going to take advantage of the blessing of morning preschool and meet for vanilla spiced chai while studying the word and preparing together a least one day a week.  Instead of using curriculum from someone else, we are writing and developing it ourselves.

If you know Blake, you are aware that he is an amazing writer.  I've never claimed to be a great writer, but I am coming to see it as therapy so I enjoy it.  We have no preconceived ideas that we know anything about marriage but we are searching scripture together.  I'm so stinkin' excited I can hardly stand it!  Bring it Lord!  And please work a bigger miracle in our marriage and family than anyone elses! 

Here's where I would love your input.  If you are a wife, I would love for you to share with me what you pray about most for your marriage?  What passages give you encouragement as a wife?  Do you ever feel like your marriage could be better? 

If you are single, do any of the marriages you see up close point you to Jesus?  Why?

Please feel free to share this with other people who might have something profound (or not so profound) to share.

Thanks!  Pray for us as we write together please.  We know the enemy will attack as never before probably, so we are desparate for your partnership through prayer.


Monday, September 10, 2012

What I've been up to lately???

Many of you know that I recently had the amazingly fun opportunity to fly to Nashville and tape a short segment for the Lifeway Women's Simulcast team about my experience with Living Proof Live events with Beth Moore and Travis Cottrell.  In the process of preparing for that, I was asked to write a bit of my story.  I'm sharing this today on my blog simply because we are preparing to host our first Living Proof Live Simulcast at FBCLS this coming Saturday.  If you live in the area, I'm begging you to's so much fun and really might change your life!  I don't get paid by Lifeway to say that!
If you don't live in KC, then you can watch the simulcast from your own computer for only $20.  Join me and 125,000 women around the world for this live internet streaming event at  Here's how I got connected to Lifeway and what God's been doing...

I started teaching in depth women's Bible study almost 20years ago as a young pastor's wife and college minister in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  Looking for something to study with college girls, I discovered a new Bible study published by Lifeway titled A Woman's Heart: God's Dwelling Place, and it happened to have been written by someone who grew up in that small town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  Maybe you've heard of Beth Moore?  God used that study to plant in me a ravenous hunger for in depth Bible study that hasn't since subsided.  His Word is my lifeline, my standard, the only thing that keeps me sane, and the sheer delight and love of my life!  It has always provided so much more guidance, grace, and hope than I deserved. Leading women in Bible study as they experience that "aha" moment of understanding more of Him and His word is the most fun thing I'll ever get to do in ministry.  I say all the time, "It's more fun than I deserve!” After 21 years of ministry, I've been a part of countless ladies Bible studies, including every single one of Beth's! It has also been a privilege over the years and in two other churches now to take ladies to Lifeway events such as Living Proof Live, Deeper Still, YouLead, and Going Beyond.  Many of my deepest friendships and funniest memories were solidified on these trips to events!  This year marked my eighth event to attend in 7 years and every single time I've taken women they've been changed and challenged to love Him with abundantly more!  In 2011, I took a small group from my new Kansas City suburban church to Lincoln, Nebraska for Living Proof Live. While God showed up as usual and worked in our group to deepen our commitment to Him, He began something new in my life that has been, most assuredly, above and beyond anything I could have dreamed. The Lifeway team announced in Lincoln that they would be coming to Kansas City for Living Proof Live in 2012.  A new chapter of my life started the minute I heard that announcement. 

I immediately prayed for God to use me however to make that event eye opening for my women's ministry and my new city.  Through a series of seemingly random situations, I received a call from the city coordinator in late 2011 asking if I would be willing to serve as the prayer coordinator for Living Proof Live KC2012!  "Sure!" I said, "I can pray!”  What a perfect job!  I could hardly believe that I would be involved in bringing Beth and Travis to Kansas City, and all I had to do was pray! 
As I drove to my first steering team meeting, I prayed out loud in my car, begging God to bind our team together in miraculous ways.  I asked Him to make us not just love each other, but really like each other!  It's always a risk to put that many women together to plan something…and we were from such different denominations and backgrounds that I was sure it would be work!  I immediately loved them and we became lifelong friends! God stirred on our hearts that day to make Ephesians 3:20 as our constant prayer for the event.  We even set our phones to go off at 3:20pm every day to remind us to pray for details and people involved with the event.
Now honestly, I really did think all I had to do for this event was pray.  ALL?  Thankfully, one of the most meaningful parts of working on an event like this is the relationship with Lifeway team!  As I began to talk, almost daily, with Patricia Murphy from Lifeway she helped me understand the necessity of involving more people in our prayers. She challenged me to write a prayer strategy for LPL KC 2012 incorporating various ways to remind partnering individuals and churches of prayer needs.  I began to understand how we needed to invite many women to be consistently praying for every aspect of the event.  This is when I realized that this would be more than just my own personal prayer project, this was an opportunity to lead something with lasting community impact, and something above and beyond what I'd ever assumed was needed!  So I prayed, "Lord, what should our strategy be?”  I talked with my pastor, who also happens to be my husband, about it.  Blake said, "Well, let's just brainstorm some ideas."  We talked about easy plans, things we'd done or been a part of before, and then this big dreamer of a pastor said words I'll never forget.  He said, "Wouldn't it be so meaningful if every woman that came in that building knew, really knew, she'd been prayed for?  Maybe if she received a hand written note telling her she was special and you had prayed for her it would lay the ground work for her letting God speak during the event specifically to her."   

I cannot lie. My reaction was a couple of things, most of which I actually did say out loud to him.
1.  "Honey, there are 9000 seats in that auditorium!  You want me to write 9000 handwritten notes? No one expects that, and I'm pretty sure that's impossible."

 2.  "Ok, in the true spirit of brainstorming I guess I can't totally disregard the idea, but seriously???"
 3.  "Why did I ask a big picture thinking, dreamer type, anything is possible believing MAN?  It's not like he's going to be writing notes anyway!" Okay, well I didn't say that one out loud, but I certainly thought it!
We let the idea marinate and I wrote down every other idea but that one!

 The next day I spoke with Patricia at Lifeway again, and for some reason, when there was a lull in conversation I mentioned the crazy prayer note card idea.  I'll never forget her sweet southern voice when she said, after a brief pause, "Um, that's 9000 ladies.” We didn't speak of it further in that conversation and I made a mental note to never listen to my pastor-husband again when it comes to women's ministry!
 The very next day Patricia called my cell phone to say she'd been praying and reading in her quiet time that morning, and she felt God urging her not to disqualify this crazy idea, not to underestimate what He could do.  She gave me the challenge to think about how we might pull this off. Honestly, my next mental note was to call my husband and say, "Look Buddy, you're going to be writing half of these cards!”  I was overwhelmed with the impossibility of this!  I spent about 40 minutes partially praying about what He'd have us do and partially doing the math to see how many note cards we'd need from each of the 10 girls on the steering team…I'm not a math major!  Within 45 minutes of Patricia's first call that day, she called back to say that she'd been in touch with DaySpring cards, a subsidiary of Hallmark which is based in Kansas City, and they were thrilled to donate all the note cards we would need.   All I had to do was find women to pray over the cards and those who would receive them, then write the notes!  You should have seen the looks on our church staff's faces when boxes and boxes of note cards arrived from DaySpring at the church office.  I remember many of them nervously laughing and saying, “What has Gayla gotten us into?”  They were really laughing when the pastor had to fit them all in his little Camry to bring home.  My dining room was note card central for 12weeks!

 The steering team immediately began to ask partnering churches and individuals to take cards, pray over each one for the lady who would receive it, and write a brief note of encouragement.  The response was astounding, above and beyond what we expected!  Over 300 hundred women from over 25 churches of all denominations prayed over and wrote 9000 cards.  It was such an overwhelming experience for me to watch Him work in the women who graciously prayed!  It seemed to help the women all around Kansas City own the event, become excited, and anticipate miraculous God stories! Each time I dropped off a box of cards or returned to pick up completed cards women would assure me they were praying diligently for every aspect of the event.  I received daily phone calls and emails of encouragement for 12 straight weeks!  I saw God literally doing immeasurably more than I knew to ask or even imagine.  I logged over 300 miles on my minivan dropping off those cards and picking up completed ones, taking my own children to help carry the boxes.  He was even teaching my family that He had infinitely more in store for all of us than we could anticipate! 
Our steering team prayed for God to put just the right card in the each lady's hand as they entered the auditorium on that Friday night.  Of course, He did!  Many women came down to speak to our steering team just to say how the card and prayer they received was absolutely miraculously tailored to their specific situation!  We couldn’t believe it, and yet we knew He was doing exactly what we had been praying for every day at 3:20pm.  You see, Ephesians 3:20, our prayer verse, says, “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us…” God had indeed been working in ways we wouldn’t have dreamed, so above and beyond! He’s just that sweet!

 His above and beyond ways continued in the weeks following the event.  My own women's ministry was deeply affected by this event and our involvement in prayer for it.  We were studying James: Mercy Triumphs during the weeks leading up to the event, and about 80 ladies wrote note cards and prayed each week prior to and immediately following Bible study time for those who would be attending the event.   Many of the women from my own church served as encouragers and hospitality volunteers for LPL KC 2012.  They were able to actually hand out those cards to every woman and pray with the abundance of women who made commitments. One of the sweet young moms who had been attending in depth Bible study for a year with us attended the event.  She'd written note cards and prayed diligently for so many who attended, but I knew she needed to accept Christ as her personal Savior.  Her name is Tana, and she was the face of all my Ephesians 3:20 prayers. Tana even came down to the arena for our prayer walk the morning before the event started! While at the event, Tana felt compelled to receive Christ as her Lord and Savior!  It was ultimate joy to walk with her down the aisle of our church that next Sunday to make her public profession of faith.  My husband had the sheer privilege of baptizing Tana just a few weeks after LPL KC 2012! As I stood within feet of that baptistery watching Blake baptize Tana in front of a church full of ladies who had prayed for her for a year, I thought, “This was it all along, Lord!  Way to go, God!  This was what you were working that was above and beyond, immeasurably more than all we could have imagined or asked!” 
But wouldn’t you know it? God is still working above and beyond what I thought to ask of Him.  Now Tana and a group of young moms at my church are diligently and excitedly working to host the Living Proof Live Simulcast at our church in a month!  An anonymous donor noticed their recent spiritual interest and growth so she provided the $1500 cost to host our first ever simulcast! There are simply not enough words to express the joy and fulfillment I feel as I watch those girls accept the responsibility to offer the teaching of this LPL Simulcast to our local community and their dear friends because it was life changing for them! This might be my favorite "above and beyond" detail God has orchestrated so far!  Our women's ministry has been unified and recharged, our entire church senses the depth of commitment and excitement, our men's ministry is being supportive and appropriately challenged, and families are making ongoing commitments to trusting and serving the God Who continually does "immeasurably more"!  

 The words of my prayers haven’t changed – I still pray every day at 3:20pm for God to work in Ephesians 3:20 ways.  However, my faith has changed, deepened, and been refined!  Who knows what else God will do through the ministry of these simulcasts, but I do know that He will go above and beyond anything we could ask of Him or imagine.  He’s done it for me, for my family, for my church, for my friends! I don’t want to miss an opportunity to see Him continue!  That God can and does permeate even technology with His very power and presence is more than I can imagine certainly.  The very same excitement I felt at the live event is evident and assured through the simulcast because God is bigger than even technology! I'm so hoping many many women from my church and my community will come to this event at FBCLS on Saturday from 8:15 - 3:15!  I'm even praying that some of the girl's in our youth bible study will attend.  God has used this Living Proof Live event to mark me, transform me into any semblance of His image I may currently exhibit.  I know Saturdays are busy, but come if you can!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Having a Lion King moment here...

Can you hear me singing "The circle of life....and it moves us all..."?  I'm having on of those Lion King moments this morning!  I had one of those yesterday too when I put my two sons on the middle school bus and high school bus...they are growing up so very quickly.  But today I'm having one of those moments as I work on women's ministry "stuff"!

I had the joy this summer of getting to know three girls who just graduated from high school!  Taylor D., Taylor E., and Caycee H. were sweet enough to include this old 40 something in their "girl talks" on our youth mission trip.  I was hooked!  Girls never really outgrow that need to belong, and that they included me endeared me so much to them that I've prayed for them every day since.  They've changed my ministry dramatically and helped God renew my calling to women's ministry and girl's ministry!  All three are in the process of moving away to college today.  I'll miss them terribly and can now think of a million things I wish I'd said to them.  Of course, I really only had the privilege of being close to them for about a month and a half, but I wanted to look them all the eyes and say things!  I want them to know that they are beautiful, inside and out.  I want them to know they are brilliant and talented...all different from each other and everyone else in the world because He planned it that way!  I want them to know that college will be the best time of their lives, and the best opportunity to see Him work miracles in their lives!  I should have looked them straight in the eyes and made them look at me while I said, "Don't stray from Jesus and church!  Find a church that teaches scripture and go...every chance you get!  Read and study scripture every single day, preferably before you do anything else!  Find someone who is a believer and hold each other accountable for being in His Word! And be involved in mentoring younger girls to trust, love, and live for God every minute!  Make your family, your church family, me, but most importantly Jesus proud of your desire to live for Him!" I should have done that, but then again I would have most certainly bawled like a baby and made a fool of both me and them so much so that they would have run so far from church and Jesus that they'd never come back.  God is merciful to have kept me from this opportunity!  Maybe they will read this and know how much I want and pray for them!

Ironically, today I'm madly working on some writing for our newest girl's Bible study that starts this Sunday!  I'm also finishing up some things for a trip to Nashville to lead a women's seminar on prayer at Lifeway.  It's the circle of life!  Women and girls sail into and out of our lives on a constant basis, providing beautiful opportunities to say those things you should have said to a new "generation".  I'm even balancing playing with my own 4 year old daughter as I work on these things, realizing that she is perhaps the most important ministry to a female I'll ever have.  I'm newly committed to telling her and any other females I have a audience with these things, the things I should have said to Taylor, Taylor, and Caycee:


So there it is!  That's why I'm singing that catchy and poignant Lion King song!  It's true, and actually biblical I think.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."  Revelation 1:8

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Typical Sunday Morning at the Pastor's House

I've said before that this blog is often just a place for me to process things, not necessarily a ministry tool.  Today it's possibly both.  I'm not sure how well you know your pastor and family, but I try to be as real as possible with those around us.  We are not living a fairy tale, and we struggle with the same stuff everyone else struggles with.  Today was a hilarious, well now it's hilarious, example. 

If you attend church on Sunday morning I wonder if your family has it all together as you get to church?  Do you arrive eager to hear from the Father?  Does your sweet family sing hymns or worship songs as you drive leisurely to church, arriving early to lovingly chat with those who sit around you each week?  If you do, then you should probably stop reading right now!  Our church is next door to the Methodist church and they always have the bells ringing on Sunday mornings as I park and walk the children into church.  It's the perfect backdrop for a Norman Rockwell painting except that our family isn't quite the Norman Rockwell family!  The pastor's family at your church might be different, but our family is barely hanging on to the Holy Spirit as we screech into the parking lot!  I'm just going to be honest here!  Today was one of those days! 

You see, last week was one of those days too so I was pretty excited that no yelling had occurred this morning by 9:15 when I was gently but firmly suggesting we all make our way to the car.  (You do realize that the pastor himself was already at church, right?  He hasn't driven to church with us in about 21 years.  He gets up early, has his quiet time, reads through his sermon, arrives early to pray, and then genuinely enjoys greeting those who arrive early.  And honestly, that's just fine with me because it's one less human I have to get out the door on Sunday.)  So anyway, Justin even helped buckle his little sister into the car for me.  I commented that we were only about 10 minutes later than I'd hoped, so we were doing pretty good for us!  We prayed for dad, which we've done every Sunday morning for 14 1/2 years, as I drove.  (I don't close my eyes during this prayer!)  We were a little late though, so I snagged a close parking spot today rather than parking across the street to allow close spots for the senior adults and visitors.  They were on their own today in my book!  A few last words to the boys to remind them how to act, take their bibles, don't embarass us, etc., and then they were off.  I got out of the minivan and proceeded to take Sarah out of her car seat...then I noticed where we went so wrong!  SARAH HAD NO SHOES!!  Seriously???  How did all three of us "big kids" miss the fact that she had no shoes on?!  She's four years did she miss it??  At this point I had a quick choice to make.  For about 1.5 seconds I thought, "Well, we are from Arkansas so would anyone be surprised?"  But then I remembered today was the first day Sarah was to attend "big church".  I knew pretty quickly that I'd have to high tail it home and get the shoes!  Thank you, Jesus, for your sweet mercy in not ordaining a speeding ticket for me this morning!  That would have been funny, but not for awhile. 

We got back in time for me to run, and I do mean RUN, Sarah to Sunday school and then fly to the sanctuary.  I entered, oh so discreetly, just as the announcements were ending and everyone stood for that glorious greeting each other time!  Oh how I love that time...for so many reasons!  You see, greeting time is kind of like what the Bible says somewhere about love.  Greeting time covers over a multitude of the pastor's wives sins!  Gives me time to make it to my seat fairly unnoticed.

Remember this if you are ever tempted to say, "That pastor's family is so sickenly perfect!  What would they know about REAL life?!"  And if I screech into the parking lot in your sight, please don't take it personally!  I'm just keeping it real...and giving Blake some serious sermon illustration material! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Twenty one years of grace

Tomorrow Blake and I will celebrate our 21st anniversary, and I'm wondering where the time went!  I swear it was just yesterday that we were holding hands on campus and planning a lifetime of fairytale ministry together!  Now we are older, still serving together, and ever aware that life is no fairytale...but God is bigger and more able than we ever gave Him credit for being back then!

Blake is God's biggest gift of grace to me.  I'm whiny, rude, mean, grumpy, inconsistent, unorganized, unbalanced, and lousy at laundry on my best days.  I hate to clean, I love to sleep late, and I have gained and lost and gained again 20 pounds since our wedding.  I'm not well educated or theologically brilliant.  In spite of all this, Blake has shown me and continues to show me God's love and unending grace every moment of our 21 years together.  He literally has never lost it with me.  Too good to be true for sure!

I love you, Dear, and I would follow you to the ends of the earth just to watch what God does through you!  You are the best pastor, teacher, writer, father, son, and husband I've ever met!  I never could deserve you!  Thank you for loving me!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Have you ever had one of those "A ha!" moments with God, where you feel like He peeled back the clouds and let you see something so profound and yet simple that you wondered how you'd missed it for a lifetime?  It's pure grace when this happens, and I'm grateful for the times He's allowed it.  It doesn't happen often enough, but when it does I just long for heaven in a brand new way!  Yesterday I shouted, cried, moaned, and begged this: "Come Lord Jesus quickly!".  It was an "A ha" God moment!

Twenty one years of ministry and I learned yesterday that I will never cease to be surprised by our human addictions to the world.  And yet, God risked His reputation on us...on me!  Often I'm so prideful and self centered that I'm unwilling to risk mine on a fellow sinner and struggling sister, but my Maker has continually risked His perfect reputation on a purely sinful me!  Whatever the Christians in my sphere of influence think about my connections must be irrelevant.  I must love and pursue anyone Christ would love and pursue.  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.  That's pretty clear cut!  I'm going to try to maintain a connection with someone who might make me look like a sucker.  I'm going to extend grace and love.  I'm going to treat sisters the way Christ treats us, not the way the world treats us.  It won't be easy, but it's just part of having the attitude of Christ while His Holy Spirit literally lives in me.  How could I do anything less?  I'm newly resolved to love unconditionally in the name of Christ.

Will this be easy?  Even with all the human resolve I can muster, it will not be easy! It's only in the power of the Holy Spirit that it's even possible.  I was remind of this yesterday as well.  Last night Blake was leading our family devotion on Matthew 7:12 which says, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."  We asked the boys why we don't REALLY do what this says.  Caleb, the least easy to love in my family and yet the most profound, said, "Because it's hard and we're lazy."  I heard that!!!  That's it exactly!  So stinkin' profound that I cried!  I don't want to be lazy because it's hard!  I want to do what the Word says.  I want to be willing to risk my reputation without a second thought on a sister I love and believe God is pursuing!  He's been pursuing her all along and I'm not scared to continue loving her!  In the words of a very popular Christian song, let our hearts be led by mercy...Jesus is the friend of sinners and I will be too.  There are no lost causes!  I was that lost cause and He died for sinners just like me.  His love endures forever, and He obviously doesn't give a rip about His reputation. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I am slowly continuing to read Mark on my own.  Actually, I'm going so slowly that I'm still in chapter one!  Some days I just read the entire chapter and marvel at how busy Jesus was in just that first chapter!  Some days I stop and really study part of it, reading commentaries and other writer's thoughts.  Having read over and over the beginning, Jesus's baptism and temptation, and His proclaimation that the kindom of God is near, today I'm really studying the calling of His former fishermen disciples. 

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people."  At once they left their nets and followed Him.  When He had gone a little farther He saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Can I first just say that one day I want to walk beside the Sea of Galilee?  I realize these guys were at work and it was hard, but seriously!  This is gorgeous!  Forget the fact that they were leaving their very livelihood, who would want to fish for people who talk back when you could call this your office every day? Simply beautiful!

They left their assumed futures!  I'm newly struck by that!  They had probably always assumed that they would either work as an actual fisherman or run the family fishing business, but they left it when Jesus invited them to follow Him.  I've recently been reminded of my age and the fact that I'm still home with a preschooler while staring down the barrel of paying for college in 4 years!  My assumed future included working full time again in a fulfilling career that I loved by now, but here I am following Him down a risky path full of humanly frightening possibilities.  I think I can identify somewhat with these guys!  And yet, something about Jesus was so compelling that they did indeed leave their assumed futures behind to follow Him on the adventure of all time! What if they hadn't followed?  Undoubtedly Jesus would still have fulfilled His mission, but would they have missed it?  Instead of seeing His miracles and experiencing His power at work, they'd have been working steady jobs looking at this gorgeous water.  They might have heard Him speak or even eventually come to believe, but would they have really known Him so intimately?  They would not have been to the wedding where He turned water into some really amazing wine.  They would not have seen Him cater a meal for over 5000 with just a few fish...they might have simply caught the fish and never seen the miracle!  They wouldn't have seen Him walk to them on the water during a storm, but they would have likely heard the story from someone else only to doubt!  They might have had every material thing and the comfort of stability, but then again they probably would have still experienced hard times and financial scares without knowing their Redeemer personally.  They would have caught fish, but that's all they would have caught...and dead fish really can't fulfill a person's need to experience soul fulfillment.  Oh what they would have missed!

That's it!  Today I want to be excited about what our entire family might experience because we've chosen to follow Him in ways that are different from what society says is our assumed future.  I've been excited for 21 years about ministry, but I must admit that I assumed Blake would get to do ministry while I made the money that allowed him to do ministry.  Honestly, it's not like I have much of a choice right now anyway...Sarah's just three!  However, I do have the choice to follow Him excitedly anticipating how I'll experience Him in ways that I would miss if I were doing what I always thought I'd be doing!  Afterall, His ways are not my ways anyway!  Just in case you thought pastor's wives were completely fulfilled in every way, never worrying about the future, thrilled to I am being real with you.  I'm just like most other stay at home moms who love the impact we can have on the children God's given us, but missing the opportunity to have a fulfilling career.  Please know that I know I'm making a kingdom impact at home...I'm just being honest here!

I'm also struck by the simplicity of what Jesus required of them.  Come to me.  Follow me. Just follow, don't make the plan yourself.  OOH, I hate that part, but the irony of what I'm trying to teach my own children is not lost on me here.  I'm trying to teach them that they must obey me because I know better than they do what is appropriate and best for them.  I'm trying to teach them that they can trust and obey me because I love them.  Hmm...isn't that why these disciples could just follow Jesus? 

And there it is God is taking my daily existence at home with kids and using it to teach me (wasn't I supposed to be home so THE KIDS were learning and growing!!) how to respond to Him!  This week in homeschool preschool I'm teaching Sarah that obedience means doing what you are told, right away, with a happy heart, without being reminded!  Well, I'm being reminded that obedience is the same for me.  Doing what I'm told (stay home for now), right away (this moment, really being at home with my whole body, mind, and will), with a happy heart (most days I'm happy, but most isn't enough), without being reminded (oh but thanks for the constant reminders, God).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ah...sweet summer!

Today is the last day of school, and for this mom it is indeed bittersweet.  I am ready for no alarms at 5:30am and letting the boys sleep til they wake up.  I am ready for the leisure of getting to run in the mornings while Justin is home to watch Sarah and Caleb.  I am ready for later bed times, family movie nights, time at the pool, and no rehearsals or practices.  We will enjoy evenings at home as a family, slower paces, and less pressure.  That will likely last about 4 days until we are all tired of each other.

Let's just be honest!  I'm not looking forward to having everyone around all the time.  With that comes a messier house, more cooking, and the inevitable fussing at each other.  Yes, that happens at our house too.  I hope that most of the sweet friends who care to read my blog know this, but this family is just like everyone else's.  Justin, Caleb, and Sarah love us and each other I'm almost positive, but they are normal kids who argue with us and each other, can be pretty self absorbed, and will make you want to pull your hair out before 1pm.  I love them, but this is the part of summer that gives me the most opportunity to practice patience.  That being said, I'm stepping up my determination to be in the Word and in prayer every morning before they pounce out of bed.  It's my only hope!!  Before you judge, I know I'm supposed to be treasuring these moments they are still at home.  I know they grow up all too quickly!  I know all that but let's just be's tough raising kids.  I love them, but the reality is that some days will not be the ones you want to cherish.  I'm sure the "cherishing" days will outnumber those tough ones, but I have a plan just in case.

This summer looms before us, not yet tarnished and full of ideas.  I'm making a summer bucket list for us.  I offered this idea to the family two evenings ago and they pretty much just rolled their eyes and said, "Oh no!".  Caleb actually said, "A bucket list?  Are you dying this summer!?".  Who knows the answer to that, but I certainly hope not.  I do, however, want to accomplish some things while seeing and experiencing some things this summer...just in case! 

So here's what I've come up with so far.

Gayla's Summer 2012 Bucket List
Teach Sarah to swim
Robotics camp for Caleb
Host the LSW Drumline for dinner
Visit Deanna Rose Farmstead with Caleb and Sarah
Take Caleb to Legoland and the new aquarium
Ride roller coasters at Worlds of Fun with Justin
Go to the Parker's Lake House in Alabama
Eat at Lamberts Cafe
Teach Sarah to read
Take beach pictures on our vacation
Study the book of James with my girls at church, Hannah and Lilly
Go to a Royals game and a Cardinals game and a Braves game
Write some Bible study stuff
See at least 10 new fountains in the KC area
Eat BBQ at a KC place I've never tried before
Go camping

If you can think of something I should really do this summer let me know!  If we accomplish a couple of these I'll feel fulfilled! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gran...her legacy

Blake's grandmother exchanged this world for heaven yesterday.  She was an amazing lady, the kind I want to be like not just when I'm older.  The title of this blog is Ministry in the Mix of the Real World, and our "real world" is so busy that we won't even be able to attend Gran's memorial.  I want to memorialize her in my own way here. 

Eva Thornton, Gran, joined our family only about 6 months after I did.  She and Blake's grandfather, Poppy, found each other after both lost their first loves.  One of my most favorite memories of Gran will always be watching Poppy fall for her, like finding water in a desert!  She was this independent, strong, older fashionista who loved Razorback games, pottery classes, cross word puzzles, reading, and church!  I did not know my grandmother and I haven't had many brave, strong, and beautiful female role models who were also gracious and genuinely interested in me so I fell in love with her almost as quickly as Poppy.  She reminded me of a nicer version of the strong southern ladies on Designing Women!!  Poppy married her as soon as he could, asking Blake to do their ceremony!  They traveled and thoroughly enjoyed life together when the times were good, and they held each other tight when tragedies with family and illnesses surprised them.  When Poppy looked at her, his eyes twinkled about as much as they did when his grandchildren were around!  She not only adored him, but made our family feel like we had belonged to her from the very beginning!  When Poppy went home to be with the Lord, we despaired that we might lose our connection to her, but she never separated herself from us. 

Justin and Caleb have only known one great grandmother in their lives.  She was there when we brought both boys home.  In fact, she helped me change Justin's diaper for the very first time!  She's never missed a birthday or Christmas, always sending them generous gifts out of her limited income.  She actually asked for Caleb to come to her small home and play his violin for her every time we visited Arkansas!  Now that's a loving grandmother...he's tone deaf and a beginner violinist!  When Sarah was born she said over and over how much she loved her and wished Poppy could have met her because he would have adored a little girl.  She was just a loving, deeply interested grandmother.  In fact, so involved and interested in our world that we'd sometimes forget that she had an entirely different family who had her blood and with which she was intimately involved.  I know she saw those grandchildren and great grandchildren daily because she never failed to talk to me about them and show me photos when I visited her!  I want to be that involved with my grandchildren!  I want a home like hers, covered in photos of children! 

One of the sweetest heirlooms I have is a cream and gold ceramic nativity Gran made for me.  I love Christmas, and this is really my very favorite Christmas decoration.  Each year it sits in the most prominent place, our den mantel, reminding us of Gran's love for Jesus and family.  I'll pass that down to a daughter or daughter in law one day, telling her the stories of this strong, brave Gran who was an absolute role model for me and my children!  I will miss visiting with Gran and listening to her stories, but I'm actually really excited for her to be at home with Jesus!  I'm sure she'll be calling the Hogs in heaven and her robe will be blinged out with jewels!  

I loved you, Gran, like you were my own grandmother!  And you made me feel like I was your own!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Celebrating Caleb!!

Blake and I have a brief reprieve from elementary school!!  Caleb graduated from Longview Farm Elementary last night and we are so so so proud of him!

Many of you are probably familiar with Caleb's story, but today I'm compelled to tell it again as a testimony to how God has worked in our family's life in surprising ways!  In January of 2000, we were chosen by a birth mother in north Arkansas to adopt a yet to be born little girl.  Justin was 2 years old.  We planned and prepared and anticipated her arrival with great joy! When she was born her mother couldn't bear to part with her and so we were left with empty arms.  I thought I would never recover.  If I had not needed to pull myself together for Justin I would have likely fallen into complete despair.

However, on June 1st, while we were camping at Lake Degray in Arkansas, Caleb McKinney was born!  We were completely unaware of our new son until he was 11 days old. His young birth parents were experimenting with various drugs while she was pregant, and their lifestyle was anything but stable.  How the Lord reached down and convinced them to spare Caleb's life is a miracle and a mystery I'll never get over.  They not only somehow miraculously chose not to abort him, but they also chose to give him a forever family through adoption.  He came to us at 11 days, a scrawny, sickly, fussy, addicted baby...and he was the perfect match for our family.  He still struggles everyday with what we believe to be the effects of much of his time in utereo and genetics, but he's making strides like crazy!  He struggles with social interactions, but he's the most compassionate, loyal, brilliant 6th grade boy I've ever known!  He's the hardest thing I've ever done, and yet he teaches me more about God's unconditional love than I ever imagined.  He struggles with obedience and rarely outright obeys without a real fight, but I've been forced to admit that I'm just like that with God.  He has very few friends because he's so socially inept, but he loves kids that no one else loves.  He feels other people's pain deeply, and wants to right their wrongs.  He can't spell worth a flip, but he might just discover the cure for cancer or go to the moon.  He can't write or hit a ball or run a mile because his motor skills are lacking, but he knows every baseball stat about the Tigers, Braves, Royals, and Angels!  He needs me more than any of my kids and yet he pushes me away more than the like me with God!

I literally have no idea what Caleb's future will look like.  We savor the good MOMENTS with him, pray for him, and beg God to give us wisdom as we raise him.  We've always said that he is really hard, but parenting him is the richest experience we'll likely ever have.  Watching him graduate from elementary school was rich last night.  We will celebrate the Caleb God created for Himself and allowed us to learn from and love! 

Caleb Andrew McKinney, you are loved no matter what!  I am so very very thankful that God graced me with you!  I pray for you more than anyone else in my world.  You've taught me so much about grace, eternal love, forgiveness, and my own ugly failures.  You are a blessing!  Thank you for calling me MOM!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Four years ago things were different...

Four years ago on Mother's Day I got a new chance at mothering.  Honestly, I truly hate telling the story because it makes me look like an idiot...but then again doesn't mothering in general kind of work just like that!  I found out that I was pregnant 4 years ago. 

If you love me enough to be reading this blog, then I'm assuming you know my story.  Blake and I have two gifts from God through adoption, Justin and Caleb.  I love them more than I know how to convey.  They have brought such joy and delight to me that I never ever could love anyone more than them.  We did enough infertility treatments to truly believe that God just did not plan to build our family through giving birth.  I was 38 years old and perfectly content with mothering boys, even rather excited that we were almost half way to empty nest.  Blake likes to say that God simply had a different time in mind for answering all those prayers we prayed in our 20's...Blake's much holier than me. I was about 7 months pregnant when I found out. 

If one single person comments, "You're kidding me!  You mean you really didn't know?" I'll probably swear off blogging ever again.  I'll probably never tell the story again or even allow my holy husband to use it in a sermon.  The answer is "NO, I really did not know."  When you've been told as many times as I have that it's impossible, you really come to believe it.  I was never sick, did not really gain that much weight, and honestly thought I was either dying from cancer or just getting old.  My best friend says she knew, but she didn't tell me!  Anyway, after spending a week at Disney and NASA with Justin on a school field trip, indoor skydiving and riding every ride, even doing some astronaut training, I discovered I was pregnant. 

I had two months to prepare for Sarah, but thankfully I had more than enough love and support from friends and our church.  Sarah was welcomed into this family on July 15, and yes she had a completed nursery and full closet!  My life has never been the same.  She is my mini me...and it honestly scares me to death!  My constant prayer is that she will not be like me at all.  Oh Lord, please let her inherit her father's brains and emotional stability! She does make me rethink mothering though.  Mothering a girl seems like so much more pressure to me.  I want her to see a strong, Jesus-loving, consistently courageous and yet tenderly compassionate woman as a role model.  I want her to see that she can do and be anything, even lead and teach!  I want her to be graceful yet thick skinned.  I want her to be just like her brothers, but sweetly girlish and full of feminine nurturing.  It's a lot to mentor a daughter when you haven't really figured out yourself yet, but it's my second chance at mothering.  Oh how I hope I don't mess it up, but I will and I already have.  Thank God for His mercies that are new every morning, and thank Him that she has other "village moms" from which to learn.  Thank God that Sarah teaches me and reminds me to rely on Him.  It's tough being a mom, but I'm glad that I'm different today than I was 4 years ago, or 11 years ago, or 14 years ago.  Thank You God for new chances!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A new beginning

I've recently been studying the book of Mark in my own private study time...which of course is not a lot of time because I have 3 busy kids and 1 busy life!  I was drawn to Mark simply because it's been a long time since I've spent extended time in the stories and words of Jesus.  See, I'm a professional bible study girl, but lately I've been in texts other than the Gospels.  I've missed Jesus actual words I think.  So I just did it...I dove in all by myself and decided to just marinate in the book of Mark and Jesus' life as Mark records it.  I'm married to a pastor who loves to study and write, I'm a massive Beth Moore junkie, and I've literally done every Bible study written for women published by Lifeway.  You'd think this would be easy or at least natural but I'm not exactly sure how to do this study thing on my own.  I usually need a group of ladies holding me accountable for bible study, but I'm going solo this time.  Sometimes I'll blog maybe, but maybe not.  I'm 43 for crying out loud!  I've been a Christian for 37 years!  Shouldn't I be able to do's time!!! 

So here I go...
And by the way, am I the only one?  Does anyone else really struggle with wanting to be in the Word and live life devoted to the One Who loves me more than anyone or anything, but just can't keep together?  I suspect that everyone I know has similar issues but sometimes it feels like we are all alone.  It certainly seems like the days I'm most committed are the days that my kids are outright disobedient and disrespectful, some unforeseen expense falls in my lap, and I eventually lose it before the day is done.  Those days, as often as they are, are reminders that Jesus was just completely amazing!  He had to be divine, because everyday was like this for Him and He stayed faithful to the purpose for which The Father sent Him.  Granted, He never had children, but honestly the religious people and His own disciples were so selfish and clueless that they made everyday of His ministry the utmost of challenges.  And they were "mature" adults!  Yep, He had to be divine because He never zapped them, quit, went completely postal, or lost all hope...all of which I'm tempted to do on a daily basis. This is why I'm newly committed to studying Jesus, our only hope of sanity and stability.

Mark 1 begins with a title..."The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah...".  This was the beginning of Jesus' ministry proper, and yet I'm realizing that it really was turning the corner toward the actual end of His earthly life.  Mark doesn't start with Jesus' birth, His childhood, or even His early adulthood.  Mark says the beginning of the good news was actually the beginning of the end.  This was the beginning of a new revelation and the beginning of the walk toward why He actually came...Jesus' atoning and redeeming sacrifice on the cross.  How ironic, and yet how totally like God.  What we would see as the end, He sees as the beginning.  Again, I'm reminded that the way God sees things is really "right side up" from His perspective.  He looks from heaven and sees the reality of life, and I'm so often looking at things upside down.  What looks like the end to us is almost always a new beginning! And I am so glad that we have the whole scripture, reminding me in Philippians 1:6 that completion will only be in the day He returns and sets everything "right side up.".  Come Lord Jesus, COME!! 

But just in case He doesn't come today, I'm beginning something new.  I want to hear God speak deeply and personally to me without relying on Beth or Blake.  Oh I hope I can be just a tiny bit faithful to this because I think it could be life altaring! 

"The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God..."