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..."