Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Women of Christmas...week 4

It's Christmas Eve!! I know most of you won't read this today or tomorrow simply because you are inundated with family and festivities. That's okay! I do hope you will finish this little study though! Please make room for a little time reading about the events we have record of after Jesus' birth. If you're like me, the story fades in your mind about as soon as the decorations come down, only to be picked up next year around the Friday after Thanksgiving. I've contemplated some fresh ponderings this year though, and I'm not ready to put the story away yet. In fact, I'm full of new questions that just might take me all the way to Lent and Easter!

The assignment for the final week is simple. 

1. Ask Him to give you time and a hunger for this part of the story, then read about the wise men in Matthew 2:1-12. Follow up by reading pages 141-145 in chapter seven of The Women of Christmas. 
•Does this biblical account challenge anything you thought you already knew?
•What were the Magi's reactions to the star, Herod, and the baby?

2. Read Luke 2:21-40 and make note of any questions you have. 

3. Only after you've read the scripture, finish chapters 7 and 8. 
•What do we KNOW from scripture about Simeon? What do we KNOW about Anna?
•What does Simeon say about Jesus and about Mary? Do you think Mary completely understood his ominous "blessing" at this point? When do you think she may have remembered Simeon's words later in life?
•What does Anna do in this passage? Note the timing of her interaction with Mary. Don't you think she might have been an encouragement after Simeon's blessing?

4. Here's a last question to ponder and research. In every aspect of the story we've read, the Holy Spirit has played a part. Go back and make note of when the Holy Spirit was mentioned and the roll it played. So often we think about the Holy Spirit as having come only after Jesus' ascension, but clearly this member of the Trinity has always been at work! 

Thank you to everyone who followed along with this little study! Whether you've actually done it or you've all just been a hope in my imagination, you've driven me to do it and I've been changed! I've contemplated and learned more about Christ's early human life than ever before. Christmas will forever mean far more to me from now on...and I pray the same is true for you!

I'd love to hear what you've learned!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Women of Christmas Week 3

If you are at all like me, now is the time in this little Bible study journey that you are tempted to give up! We are one week away from Christmas so now is the time to finish shopping and wrapping and baking and cleaning and...now is crunch time!! Surely there is no time to sit quietly and read, to contemplate and meditate! We've got things to do, people to see, places to go, and expectations to fulfill! We can be still later, right?

But we won't. I won't. It's basically now or never, because if the enemy can't tempt us to totally forsake God then he will tempt us with "busy-ness". The enemy wants us to celebrate Christmas like crazy but never slow down enough to contemplate the Messiah. 

Thank you for slowing down with me!

This week's assignment:

1. Pray for God to show you at least one fresh thing about the story of John's and Jesus' births this week. Document that request in writing right on a page in your book.

2. Read Luke 1:57-79 and Matthew 1:18-25. When was Zechariah allowed to speak? What does Zechariah say God has come to do? Were these words spoken before or after Christ's birth? Note all that Joseph says in the Matthew passage.

3. Read Chapter 5 of The Women of Christmas, highlighting anything that jumps out at you.

4. Read Luke 2:1-20. This is the passage we have heard all our lives at Christmas! Are you ever tempted to let it go "in one ear and out the other" because it's so familiar? What Christmas carols do we sing that accurately portray the scene? Do you ever visualize it based on carols or nativity scenes instead of what scripture recounts?  I realize this comes across as shameless mom bragging, but here's one song that I base my nativity visualizations on sometimes...anyone with me?  And by the way, this is my oldest son's public school chamber chorale group Una Voce!  Yes, I said public school...I almost shouted "AMEN" at the end!

5. Read Chapter 6 of The Women of a Christmas, and please tell me you learned something! Did reading Liz's well researched commentary give you any new insights? Any new questions?

Enjoy this week in The Word! Please comment on the blog so that the rest of us can learn too!

And by the way, I'm praying that you can't get the story out of your mind this week...even amidst the "busy-ness"! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Week 2 of our study The Women of Christmas

It was such fun to study with at least 30 of you last week as we contemplated the beginning of the story of Elizabeth, Zechariah, and baby John the Baptist! I've heard from about 30 friends and family, even friends' family, saying they were participating! I love picturing all of us together, bibles and books and pens in hand, sharing what God is highlighting afresh in this story! I know you all would love getting to know each other because I love you all! I wish we could meet at Starbucks...I'd buy all your favorite hot drinks and then tell stories about fun times I've shared with you!

And speaking of sharing, thank you to those who have shared so beautifully and honestly on the blog! I seriously received such encouragement and fresh insight from you! Several of you, like me, have walked or continue to walk the infertility road so I knew Elizabeth would stir us up. The truth is, we likely all have dreams we've yet to realize, so being reminded that there is no time limit on God's answers was hopefully encouragement. 

This week we will begin to read about Mary. You may have noticed that we didn't finish the story of Elizabeth last week. The book, The Women of Christmas, basically covers the announcement of Elizabeth's pregnancy in chapters 1 and 2, then the announcement of Mary's pregnancy in chapters 3 and 4. I promise we'll get to the births of both the Messiah and His forerunner in chapters 5 and 6 before getting to the third "woman of a Christmas" in our last week together. And just in case you are behind where I am...PLEASE DO NOT QUIT!! This will be a blessing to you no matter when you do it, not because of anything I'm doing but because it's God's Word and Jesus' story! It says so right in the passage we are studying this week:

""For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:37 NIV)

So here's your assignment this week.

1. First pray! Pray before you read, asking Him to teach you, encourage you, remind you, and reveal something new to you! Write that prayer in your book or a journal so you will have a reminder when He does it!

2. Read God's words in Luke 1:26-38. Make a list of what Mary says and what Gabriel says. Does making this list give you any insight into Mary? What do we learn about Jesus from what the angel says?  Do you wish you knew more about anything in this story?

3. Read Chapter 3, highlighting anything that jumps out at you. This just made me cry at the thought:

4. Read Luke 1:39-56. (Doesn't a lot happen in this one chapter?! Typically we just rush right into chapter 2 at our house on Christmas Eve or even in church, but oh the richness of the story even before Christ's actual birth!)  Use your imagination a little and tell me what YOU think Mary and Elizabeth talked about for those months together!

5. Read chapter 4 of The Women of Christmas and highlight anything you found interesting or particularly encouraging.

6. Here's an extra challenge: write these verses on an index card and memorize them this week. 

For no word from God will ever fail.” 
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (Luke 1:37, 46, 47 NIV)

Now tell us on the blog what God's revealing to you! 

Thank you for keeping me accountable! I am honestly, and I really mean this, praying for you to be blown away by Jesus this week as you study!

I love you!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Week 1 of The Women of Christmas...a personal connection

I've posted a little something personal. Please let it help you connect in your own way to Elizabeth's story. I'm no video wiz, nor am I particularly great on camera, but this is me just being honest!

Reading about Zechariah's angelic interaction in the temple made me want to know a little more about what he was doing and where he was in the temple. It seems that there were a lot of priests in that day...I read from 7000-8000 of them were walking around! Evidently they were organized into 24 divisions and assignments were made by casting lots, sort of like rolling dice. We know there was no "luck" or "coincidence" involved though because God arranged for Zechariah to be exactly where He wanted him to be to receive this announcement! And remember, no one had received a fresh revelation from God in about 400 years. God, for all human understanding, had been silent for 400 years! And Zechariah gets to hear from Him first! Wow, no wonder he was surprised at the least scared to death at the most! Yet Zechariah receives this news right there at the Altar of Incense...in front of the very curtain separating this altar from the Holy of Holies...in front of the very curtain that would be torn from top to bottom when Christ died! Right at the altar that symbolized their prayers being lifted to God just like the smoke and scent wafted heavenward. This is the exact place where the angel announces that Zechariah's prayer has been heard! 

My friend Mandy said it well in her comment on the previous post when she wondered if he'd actually given up praying for a child since they had waited for so long. Let me assure you that Elizabeth had not stopped! Oh sure, she may have wearied of the request, but her deep deep longing was a child. Barrenness, at least for me, never is far from a woman's mind if she's afflicted with it. And even if she'd stopped actually asking God, her heart still ached, so God still knew her longing and cared!

Because I'm probably just a little odd, I would love to know what "signs" Zechariah made to the crowd! They expected him to pronounce the blessing probably found in a Numbers. 6:24-26. Oh please go read it!!! I find it so ironic that, though Zechariah could not literally pronounce the blessing, what he'd been told by the angel Gabriel was indeed ACTUALLY what God was about to do...turn His face -the face of Jesus who was the exact representation of God-toward them and bring them peace with God through this Jesus!  No, Zechariah could not utter the verbal blessing, but he was about to parent the one (John the Baptist) who would pronounce that Jesus was that very face of God and instrument of peace.

I also noticed that verse 15 of Luke 1 says that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. Verse 41 says that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when Mary arrived and John jumped in her womb. And verse 67 says that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit after he regained his voice. This has become a heartfelt prayer of mine, that my entire little family would be filled with the Holy Spirit and submit to serving Him!

I pray that you have read verses 39-80 of Luke 1. The time Mary visited Elizabeth is such a sweet story! If ever I've wished for a video gospel it's as I'm reading about these two women, years apart in age yet forever connected in divine ways. 

I am a bit sad to read that Elizabeth and Zechariah probably died while John was young. I have to wonder if his diet and wardrobe would have been different had Elizabeth been around! However long she had with her boy, she must have taught him well because John pointed to Jesus as the Messiah whenever he got the chance. What an important roll Elizabeth played!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Online Bible Study Week One: Let's Get Started!

Welcome to the Christmas season! It's my very favorite time of the year, and I have a feeling that this Bible study may turn out to be one of my most cherished parts of the celebration! Thank you for taking this journey with me! I mean it every time I say it, and I say it every time I begin any new study, but this really is a selfish act on my part. I desperately need to be in God's Word daily for any peace and sanity to rule in my mind, my actions, my words, and my reactions. Having you on this journey with me keeps me accountable! I need you, and I have a sense that God is okay with that. He made us with free will and a need for community so surely it honors Him whenever we exercise that will to study His Words together!

If you're just deciding to join us, you'll need your Bible, the book The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs, and maybe a journal. Sometimes I use index cards when I study to help me remember specific verses as well. Honestly, the method you use and the specific tools you utilize aren't specifically important as long as you are reading scripture. We all probably have or will develop methods that work best for us.

Just briefly I want to say that I know several women who are taking this journey, and I'm so excited! Ladies I've known from every stage of my life are joining together to study this time! Typically I am blessed to be able to study with women from my church and community here in Kansas City, but this time I get to interact with friends from high school, my niece and niece-in-law in Texas, a sweet friend I once taught in Sunday School when she was in college, and my best friend from Atlanta! God is so creative and brilliant to baptize technology and use it to help us connect through His Word! 

And oh how I'm praying specifically for you all! Prayer is sort of the main way I feel God uses me at this stage of my life. As a stay at home mom, I honestly spend so much time during my day praying for friends and family as I complete the necessary but sometimes mundane tasks of keeping a home together. So...please let me know if you're joining us so I can visualize you and pray specifically for you...by name! It's my sheer joy and gives me a sense of usefulness in His Kingdom.

Enough talk! Let's go! Here are my suggestions for what and how to study this week.

1. Pray first each time you sit down to study. I often even write brief prayers right in my book or journal like this...absolutely nothing fancy!

2. This week we will study about Elizabeth. Before you read the book, please take time to read The Book! As much as I'm loving The Women of Christmas, I want us to study God's words. So read Luke 1:5-25 and write down any thoughts or questions you have as you read.  I'd suggest reading the same passage everyday this week in different translations. I use the YouVersion app on my phone to read those translations I don't actually own in paper form.

3. Read chapters 1 and 2 of the Women of Christmas throughout the week. They actually are short, and you have 7 days to do it! Liz Curtis Higgs writes in a way that interacts with the scriptural text and helps me ask deep questions. Write in that book, underline, do whatever it takes to help you really engage in the text!

4. Interact with us! As you study, I really would love it if you would talk back on this blog. Comment on one or all of these questions. If, for some reason,you have trouble commenting please send me a Facebook message with your comments and I will post them to the blog with your permission. Of course you can always message me privately with anything meant for just me and you and I won't post it!

So answer these questions:

Was there anything in the biblical story you had never thought about before? Did God highlight any part of it afresh for you?

Can you relate to Elizabeth or Zechariah in any way? Is God encouraging or challenging you in any way through this story? Are these words reiterating anything God's already been trying to communicate to you?

What does this story tell you about the character of God or how He works?

5. Join me in memorizing this part of the passage this week from verses 24 and 25:  "...Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (NIV)

6. Make a list of the miraculous things The Lord has done and is doing for you!

I'm praying for God to reveal His constant presence to you this week and to make you desparate for His Word! I'm praying you get just a little seclusion with Him like Elizabeth had...and that you can joyfully say, "The Lord has done this for me" as you go through this week! 

Feel free to invite a friend to join us! 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Join me for Bible study this Advent!

Happy Thanksgiving! If you are reading this then I'm definitely thankful for you!! Writing is my therapy and an act of worship for me, but it's a bonus if someone cares to read my words.

I don't want to miss Thanksgiving, but I do want to invite you to think about something "Christmassy" today. Many of you are friends I've studied with over the years. I'd like to invite you to an online Advent Bible study! Here's how it would work!

I need to stay in The Word throughout this typically busy season or I will be miserable and make everyone around me miserable. I've come across a wonderful little book that I want to use as a study guide for the 4 weeks of Advent.

Liz Curtis Higgs recently wrote The Women of Christmas. Starting Monday December 2, I want to study these women of Christmas with you. Each Monday I'll post on this blog a reading assignment and some "discussion" questions. Jump on the comments and study with me. This is a great way to have some direction, interaction, and accountability without actually ever meeting together. We can meet together with longtime friends and make new ones. We can pray for each other! There are no videos to watch, but some weeks I might post something I'm learning. 

You'll just need the book, your Bible, and maybe a journal. I bought my book at Mardel this week and even just saw a 40% off coupon in the paper today! I'm sure you could find it at other Christian bookstores or major retailers.

So who's in? Even if no one joins me, I'm going to do this, but it sure would be fun to have you joining me! Comment below if you're interested!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving away from home...and who's making the gravy?

As Thanksgiving week gets into full swing, of course I have so much for which to be thankful.  I am indeed thankful for my family's decision to follow God's leading to Lee's Summit four years ago.  I love this place more than ever , and it's the perfect place for my children!  The people here are hardworking, generous, compassionate, real, and anxious to have a vital relationship with God. They seem to love us and joyfully encourage Blake by letting him lead however he feels God is leading. What else could this pastor's wife want? We are blessed!

However, Thanksgiving can sometimes be a lonely holiday for families in ministry. Most ministry families who live away from their parents and grandparents must choose whether to "go home " for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Very rarely do staff members have enough vacation to travel both times. Since leaving Arkansas almost 12 years ago, we've never been "home" for Thanksgiving. 

Honestly Blake and I don't mind so much, and our kids haven't really ever known what it's like to live near family. Truthfully, Blake and I have always been the family rebels. I figure it's part of the reason I have a degree in Home Economics, so I can pull together an entire Thanksgiving meal without a mom's help. (And truthfully, my own mother wasn't much of a cook. Now Blake's mom? That's totally different !! She will always be able to cook circles around me!  All our family favorites are her recipes.)  Even though I have no problem cooking, I do sort of miss the whole family vibe of Thanksgiving. 

The closest thing to an extended family Thanksgiving my we've had was spending the day with our dear friends, the Carman's, during our time in Georgia. Now to be direct, not everyone wants the preacher's family for a holiday! We get that! Trust me, it's as stressful for us as it is for anyone who hosts us. We have a hard time being ourselves, always afraid we'll blow Blake's reputation. But the Carman's aren't church members as much as they are true, real friends! They always let us be ourselves, and they were themselves! Our boys enjoyed crazy fun before lunch and we all enjoyed dominoes afterward! There was the annual planning of Black Friday complete with newspapers , then watching football! And Lord have mercy, they can cook! Jim. (Aka Kermit) Carman's smoked ham just about kept me from following Blake to Lee's Summit! And to this day I cannot make gravy without texting Kermit and Andrea because we had the annual argument over how to do it. So when we think Thanksgiving, we are thinking about lunch with the Carman's!

We are thankfully within three hours of my sister these days so we can have time with family for the day. I'll be hosting her family on Thursday, and it will be a fun time with a house full of teenage boys. (I'll be cooking extra to feed said bottomless pits!) Sarah and Caleb help me cook so we have lots of fun preparing! My sister and I are making up for lost time because she was on her own and working in retail when I was growing up...never coming home for Thanksgiving. 

I said all this to ask you to please think about the ministers at your church! I'm not saying you should include them with your family, but just an acknowledgement of them would be an encouragement. I often see young ministry families try to figure out how to have tradition for their young families without over stretching their budget at Thanksgiving. Whether it's plane tickets home or the cost of the entire traditional meal, it's tough to make that stereotypical Thanksgiving happen! Sometimes it's even tougher to host parents and grandparents because of limited space. It's one of the things we readily sign up for when we go into ministry, but it's still hard and melancholy at times. Just telling your younger ministers that you appreciate them makes a difference. 

I'll be forever grateful for my friends Kermit, Andrea, and Jimmy as well as Andrea's sister and father who gave us a place to "go home to" for several years! As much as I miss being with family on Thanksgiving, I truly miss our Carman family too! I wish we could make gravy together again!

Monday, November 18, 2013

One "flu" over the cuckoo's nest

Sometimes you don't appreciate the blessings in life. Sometimes the loudness of my house just about makes me scream...which is ironic, huh! Not today though. Today I've been given the gift of health...and perspective.

One week ago I was writhing in anguish with the flu. That sounds a bit dramatic, and let's face it, my middle name is "dramatic", but it was horrible! At one point, and I'm not embellishing this, the thermometer said my fever was 105 degrees. I was sicker than I've been in a very long time. And my ears were totally clogged. The only sound I really heard most of last week was the ringing in my own ears. 

This is not exactly me, but trust me when I say you wouldn't have wanted to see me anyway! I'd like to think I looked this good.

I've heard from friends around the country that also had the flu last week so I realize I was not alone in my misery. Honestly, at one point I was a little suspicious that bioterrorism might be amuck, because it would be a fairly successful evil plan to give every other mom in America the flu. Imagine the fallout!! Every kid would be eating takeout pizza and skipping homework and instrument practice! It would be the fall of our society I'm sure!

That, however, did not happen at the McKinney house, and I'm ever so grateful to Blake for holding it together. Somehow he managed to get everyone to school with lunches and homework, drive kids to multiple practices and rehearsals, work, and plan a marriage retreat we were previously scheduled to lead. The fact that he didn't leave us and become a monk is testimony to God's calling on his life. Here's what I did last week: lay in my bed, cough, moan, pop Motrin like it was sweet tarts, complain about my ears ringing, and cough some more. I might have also checked Facebook and Twitter periodically, but only to see who else was sick and pray for them. It was my only ministry last week! Did you know that Beth Moore had the flu too? 

Thankfully the flu doesn't last forever, and today I joyfully hopped out of bed to enjoy being a part of the morning routine again. I'm not sure if the kids were thankful I was back or not because there was a bit more nagging involved, but I'm sure they will be thrilled when they get home and once again are reminded to practice their instruments and do their homework. Sometimes a little setback is all you need to appreciate all you have! I'm once again looking forward to hearing screeching violin and banging drums and tap shoes clicking on my kitchen tile.

And here's my advice to you: GO GET A FLU SHOT!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Quick trip by myself!

Last Thursday I drove to my home town in Arkansas all by myself. It's not a big deal for me to drive 7 hours alone, other than I'm never alone in this season of life. Well, unless you count the 5 hours every day while everyone is at work and school, but I'm actually rarely alone then either. Anyway, though I was going for a sad reason I was pretty excited to spend some quiet time in the car. 

I purposed to make that trip as fun as possible by stopping at all the little places between Lee's Summit and Norman, Arkansas. We make that trip a few times a year but it's usually in a hurry or late at night. We always stop in the same places, but I've had my eye on a few "off the beaten path" destinations since we moved to Missouri. So stop I did!! I discovered a little something about myself...do you see the pattern? These were my first three stops!

Evidently food is my love language. I would like to add that I also stopped at one of my favorite shops in Fayetteville (Riffraff on the square...love it!) that involved zero food, just clothes. I would also like to say, in my defense, that I did not buy anything. 

I did finally make it to Norman in time to celebrate the life of my aunt. I enjoyed some time with most of my family and heard some great stories. Less than 24 hours later I turned around and made the trip home, stopping only at Chickfila! I did manage to listen to 15 chapters of Pride and Prejudice so when I entered the house Friday night my British accent was awesome! 

I live such an exciting life...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

An open letter to my pastor's kids

Dear Justin and Caleb and Sarah,

I'm writing this because I want you to have a written testimony of what your father and I have said to you from the day you were born about being pastor's kids.  It's often said that PK's are holy terrors, and certainly you've all had your moments. It's also often assumed that you are held to a higher standard than other kids because people know what Dad does so they expect more of you. My least favorite assumption is that you are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time at church. Dad and I have tried diligently to dispell these common assumptions, and we will continue to do so until you are adults.

Not one of you has ever been more trouble than the average child or teenager. Granted, we've been at our wits' end with each of you at times, however we are very aware that you have been far more obedient and less trouble than most kids. Just today, when we were sad about a certain disappointment, we had to remind ourselves that it could be so much worse. Having said that, I want all three of you to know that we have higher expectations for you than just "average".

If that makes you think we hold you to an unfair standard, you are wrong. I promise you that our standards are indeed based on Whose you are, but you don't ultimately belong to us.  You belong to God. Justin and Caleb, you have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Our standards for you are based on God's standards for His children. When we expect you to give your best, respect and obey authority, be not just polite but truly helpful, use language that is Christlike, and be full of truth, it's because that's exactly what God expects and the Holy Spirit empowers you to be. I not only expect that of you, but also of your Christian friends. Dad and I are held to that same standard. 

We do, in fact, spend a lot of time at church. We do expect you to be there too because that's one place you can learn from other Jesus followers. It's also where you get practice ministering with the gifts and talents God continues to develop in you. You know well that you've been allowed to do other activities besides church, and we've attempted to let you lead "normal" lives.  We will continue to expect you to be an active part of this ministry team we call family. Although Dad and I chose this life, God chose all three of you for this life! My constant prayer is that genuine service in Jesus' name will be second nature to you and that you will continue this lifestyle even if you aren't getting paid for it as an adult.

The bottom line is that I love you, and I believe God's plan for you is to radiate His character and love in whatever you are doing. I won't back down or back away. I won't lower my standards to less than God's standards. But neither will I ever let anyone hold you accountable for more than God's will for your lives. I won't give you everything but I'll try to make sure you have everything you need. I'll continue to mess up on a daily basis and I'll probably embarrass you like crazy! 

You are not pastor's kids, you are our kids. That's enough to make you different  so don't blame the church or God. My prayer is that you will love Jesus more than you love me, that you will know that He cannot let you down, and that you grow to find joy in serving Him!


Sometimes you just have to laugh!

October has been Pastor Appreciation Month, and I've seen several great blog posts about everything from how to appreciate your pastor to how hard it is to be a pastor's wife.  I'd like to add my two cents worth. Our current church doesn't need to celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month because they appreciate Blake year round!  (Many have indeed taken time this month to verbalize their thanks to Blake as well as the whole family, and some have even blessed us with free babysitting and money to eat out! For these gifts we are so so thankful!  There's just nothing like a steak with just the two of us!)  But seriously, we wake up every morning so incredibly thankful for First Baptist Lee's Summit and their unconditional grace toward us! They have helped us to love ministry more than ever and sealed our callings once again!  Without even knowing it, they've healed me in ways I wasn't even aware I needed.  I've never met a local church more supportive and kind to not only us, but also to their community.  Not one hint of ugliness prevails in this church, and I'm convinced that God is their ultimate desire!  We McKinney's do not deserve to live life with these gracious Midwestern folks, but we sure are grateful for the HUGE blessings and support they have been to us for four years now!  I'm not a Midwestern girl by birth, but I am now one in spirit and truth!  I'm never leaving... which is so funny because I said I was never coming!  Praise God He knew what He was doing!

A blog I've read recently articulated a great blessing that makes ministry fun!  Another pastor's wife wrote about how we, as ministry spouses, have a front row seat to so many wonderful things!  She talked about how being married to the minister means that we hear daily of God's miraculous and merciful acts.  She mentioned how blessed we are that our families have opportunities to meet and hear stories of great saints who are living out their faith in reckless ways and seeing Him faithful.  All this is so true, and I'm very grateful for this reality; however, we as pastor's spouses also have a front row seat to some pretty funny stuff too!  I have Blake's permission to share one recent example.

Just last week a dear friend and church member passed away.  Jackie Voris was absolutely the most servant hearted person in Lee's Summit!  She served our family and our church in the preschool department, rocking babies with the joy of Jesus every week!  She cooked the best cinnamon rolls in the world and was probably the very reason Blake decided we were being called to Lee's Summit four years ago as he is an avid cinnamon roll lover!  Jackie cooked for every Disciple Now and youth camp our boys attended....and she made those cinnamon rolls a million times for hungry teenagers!  She was a massive supporter of every single women's ministry event I worked on, and she encouraged me in more ways than I know how to put into words.  Needless to say, Jackie was a saint to us, our church, and this community.  Blake was honored to preach her funeral last Friday at 10am at FBCLS.  Then he rode to Boliver, MO with Jim Carter in the hearse to preach at the graveside service.

On the way to Boliver, Blake developed a kidney stone.  Poor Jim must have wondered what in the world he was going to do with a pastor in excruciating pain!  Was there time to take him to the ER and make Jackie late to her own funeral...literally?  Would poor Jim have to do the service himself?  They at least needed some pain medicine, and evidently that's not a normal addition to a hearse.  So here's the funny part! Jim and Blake (and Jackie's earthly body) stopped at the only place they could find in rural Missouri to buy some pain medicine:  a liquor store!  Oh my, how Jackie must have been laughing in heaven!  Can you even imagine that sight - a hearse at the liquor store?  I've been wondering what the family must have thought if they were following behind!  By the way, Blake assures me the only "medicine" they purchased at the liquor store was Motrin.

Well, Blake made it through the trip and the graveside service.  Incidentally, he also made it through a band competition, three worship services, and hosting a small group at our house last weekend while nursing that kidney stone.  The entire bottle of Motrin was used!  These are the everyday, normal life occurrences that even pastor's have to deal with.  And these stories, in addition to all the great miraculous and merciful moments, make ministry memorable!  God is indeed faithful, even using well placed liquor stores.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Lost Sheep...continued lessons

I have not forgotten some of the lessons from Luke 15 and the parable about the lost sheep.  It's been marinating for weeks now and I'm still shaken by it.  I've already written about how the tax collectors and sinners leaned in to listen to Jesus as they ate with Him, while the Pharisee's and teachers of the law simply muttered and criticized!  Sometimes, the so called "lost" people of our world listen and actually hear way more than we realize.  I love this quote from biblegateway.com's commentary on Luke 15:

"The fact that tax collectors and sinners listen to Jesus while the leadership does not is a cultural reversal of expectation. Sometimes hearers are found in surprising places."

Two questions for myself from this:
Do I even have friends who are "lost" or do I live in my own little Christian bubble?
When I am around nonChristians, do they lean in and hear Jesus on my lips?

 I'm still convinced that they will listen intently if what they're hearing is actually Jesus...if we are speaking Jesus' words in His merciful and eternally loving ways.  Sadly, what my lost friends hear more often from me and other Christians is more of the muttering and criticizing as opposed to Jesus' words of grace.

Having said that, I'm also mesmerized by the rest of this parable.  The basics as I see it are these:

1.  God goes out of the expected way to search for and find those who are not close to Him.  Scripture plainly says that He leaves the NINETY- NINE in the open country.  Are you kidding me, Shepherd?  Leave the majority of those sheep, the ones who aren't wandering off, just to find ONE?  Isn't that ridiculous math? I mean seriously, aren't 99 safe sheep more important than one drifter? That seems upside down from how it should be!!
There's no other way to put this...Jesus values individuals!  The shepherd thought that one sheep was as worthy of being rescued as those other sheep who never wandered off!  All those Pharisees could do was condemn and gossip about the tax collectors and sinners, but Jesus is saying that they are as worthy of His mercy and attention and fellowship as those who devoted their life to keeping the law.  Yet again, Jesus shows us the "upside-down-ness" of God's Kingdom!  He values not only the lost, but the individual.  When's the last time I invested in a lost individual as opposed to trying to impress the masses of church people?

2.  Once He finds that one...that ONE...He brings them home and celebrates!  He doesn't lecture, He doesn't refuse to ever take that sheep out again, He doesn't complain. He lovingly carries the sheep home on His shoulders and then throws a party!  This also underscores the absolute value of one soul to God because a party is expensive and time intensive and messy, but it was the only reaction we see recorded here. When's the last time I genuinely celebrated that one lost person who was rescued as opposed to shaking my head and just feeling relief?  And I love that the shepherd called his friends to celebrate!  Those Pharisee's should have been willing to celebrate with Jesus that tax collectors and sinners were being rescued, but they weren't true friends of Jesus.  They were only rule followers, not willing to even consider the upside-down principles of God's Kingdom.

Am I living and leading an upside-down faith?

I want to value one lost person so much so that I notice them missing, I pursue them persistently, and I celebrate over their safe return with my friends!  What changes would I have to make in my belief system, my submission, my ego, and my daily life to become an upside-down shepherd or at least a partying friend of the Great Shepherd?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

When a lesson is more for you than the group to whom you were speaking...

Just recently I prepared a devotional thought for a group of friends who are each coordinating a large women's event in their area.  These friends have been charged with the challenge to lead their teams in prioritizing inviting women who are not a part of a church or who do not have an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  While the time with my friends was necessarily incredibly brief because they had many items on their meeting agenda, I have not been able to get away from the larger lessons I learned while studying for this devotion.

I was really forced to ask myself some questions about my own personal ministry and the ministries in which I participate.  The primary question I am still struggling with is this:  am I prioritizing relationships with women outside the church, and especially those women who most likely don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? As a Midwestern, suburban pastor's wife and stay at home mom, it's really easy to fall into the sinful trap of living inside a "Christian bubble".  If I'm honest, I have very few good friends who are not Christians, and I tend to find myself primarily around Christians throughout the week.  I have this sense that God may be pruning me in some areas to foster a rearrangement of my priorities and opportunities when it comes to stepping outside of my little bubble.  Can I honestly say that scares me?

Luke 15:1-7 is a parable with which I am quite familiar.  If you're reading this blog, I"ll bet you know it as well.  Check it out at http://bible.com/111/luk.15.1.niv.  Over the next few days I hope to share a few of the truths in this passage that are shaking me up and making me rethink some ministry strategies in my life.

For today, verse one is enough to both encourage me and challenge me!  Verse one says, "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus."  Just this first verse, not even getting into the parable itself yet, actually surprised me!  As you probably already know, tax collectors were those Jews who worked for the Roman government to take money from their Jewish neighbors. They were considered traitors by their Jewish peers because, not only did they work for the Romans, but they extorted extra money from their Jewish neighbors in order to make money themselves.  They literally took the money from their own people for themsleves as well as for the oppressive Romans.  Jesus was obviously Jewish, as were the Pharisees, so he should have despised the tax collectors like every other Jew.  At the very least, He should have distanced Himself from them.  Because of this, the tax collectors should have felt ostracized by Jesus and His followers...as ostracized as the Pharisees attempted to make them!  But not only are tax collectors hanging out with Jesus, just plain old sinners are eating with Him as well.  One resource I read described these sinners as those who refused to follow the law the way the Pharisees interpreted it.  In other words, sinners were those who didn't even attempt to be "perfect".  Who knows why they didn't follow the law?  Maybe the hypocritical Pharisees made them sick at their stomach and it was a sort of passive aggressive way to get back at them.  Maybe they just honestly realized that they were completely unable to be perfect so they gave up.  Maybe they thought it was just too much fun to be bad.  I have no idea why they chose to be sinners, but I can honestly relate a little.  Anyway, these tax collectors and sinners were definitely outside of the Pharisee's "religious bubble". These tax collectors and sinners were considered, by the Pharisees and obviously not by God, to be the riff raff, the secular humanists, the appalling losers who obviously deserved to be separated from God.  (As if we don't all deserve that?!)

I am very much impressed that Jesus wanted to hang out with the tax collectors and sinners, but honestly that isn't even what grabs me the most about this part of the story.  I'm not at all surprised by the mercy and grace of Jesus because He's extended it to me and my family over and over again.  I think the tax collectors and sinners must have been surprised by Jesus' attitude toward them, though.  No one "religious" had ever accepted them.  I firmly believe that is exactly why it says they were gathered around "to hear him."  The Message renders it like this, "...they listened intently to Jesus..." This is precisely what has most captivated and encouraged me today!

Totally honestly, I usually assume that people outside the church or those we would call "lost" wouldn't possibly listen to me tell them about Jesus.  This is why I rarely invite them to church or Bible study or women's ministry events. For many reasons, I think that most unchurched friends are unchurched because they just don't want to hear it.  I mean come on, this is the Midwestern US, haven't most people heard of Jesus and just decided either they are in or out? And if they don't seem to be searching then why would they listen to what I've got to say about God?  But here's the deal:  they weren't listening to anyone but Jesus in this passage.  And again, I cannot help but believe that they listened because He actually valued them.  My NIV study Bible notes on this passage say, "More than simple association, eating with a person indicated acceptance and recognition." So, of course, no one is going to just listen to me talk ABOUT Jesus, but they very well might be willing to associate with someone who values them as Jesus did.

I can hear some of you say already, "But I can't accept the way they live or their views or their actions."  No, but I can value them, because God valued all of us enough to send His Son.  I can deeply care about those outside the church or those who aren't really seeking God...at least don't realize they are seeking God.  I can eat with them, engage in ongoing encouraging conversation with them, be a true friend with them.  All the while I want to pray for them and share with them when they are struggling.

I am encouraged that "the lost" and "the unchurched" will listen to Jesus.  They will actually lean in and listen intently.  This encourages me to actually invite my friends into situations where Jesus is accurately represented and praised.  This encourages me to stop assuming that people won't listen to Jesus.  So the question becomes, am I speaking and living Jesus' words alongside them?

 Or am I muttering about them as the Pharisees were in this scene?  (That may be a totally different post!!!)

And to those friends with whom I shared this devotion on Tuesday:  be encouraged that if you value the "lost" and "unchurched" in Jesus' name, they will listen.  Don't just throw some tickets in their direction, really invite them and engage them and make them know they are more than your ministry.  Make them true friends!

No real earth shattering new thoughts, but ponderings that will hopefully rearrange how I'm living.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Change is good. Obedience is best!

It's been an interesting week!  First of all, I decided to go back to being a brunette. 

Let's just be honest, I'm married to a pastor so I don't really go very crazy with fashion or accesories. Changing my hair is about as crazy as I get! I love watching people's first reactions when they figure out who I am! Crazy Gayla...I usually like a little change every season and I'm praying it is actually cool enough very soon to call it a new season. 

Speaking of changes, we are making some at the McKinney house.  I assure you that God is always at work, but I've seen it more in my own life this week than I've noticed in awhile. As I've said before, you really should be careful how you pray! 

I've been praying for some specific things for my kids and their schools. I've also been praying some huge things for the women in my church as well as 118 different churches in the Midwest with whom I work on behalf of LifeWay Women. I've been asking God to move in those people, but He's moved in ME!

That's just like Him, isn't it!

As I've asked God to give my children at least one believing teacher who will hold them accountable for living out their faith at school, God has undeniably spoken to me that I'm missing the privilege of being more present with my children. I hold them accountable for being Christlike, but they need me actually with them more. (I'm sure my teenage sons would not agree with this need for Mom, but what do teenage boys know anyway!)  I've been so busy with work that I've missed gym practices, concerts, curriculum nights, and homework duties. God has spoken to my heart, "You be more involved in those schools and your children. Put feet to your prayers!"

As I've prayed for women all across the Midwest, He's tugged gently at me to say, "You minister to the women in your own community!" I've become quite adept at encouraging and teaching women how to do women's ministry and forgotten my own true calling. I am not called to teach ministry, I am called to minister. 

So, to make room for obedience, we are making some changes around our house. Today I gave two week's notice at my part time sales job. That job was a gift from The Lord to enable Justin to travel last spring to NYC with his school orchestra. I've enjoyed the opportunity it provided but I hear The Lord saying, "be available for more time with your kids." 

That job has also kept me from ministry opportunities. I know that women's ministry is my calling, so I'm recommitting to being available to the women and girls in my own sphere of influence. At this point I don't really know what this will involve, but I'm excited about whatever He works out. 

I've taught my children from the day they could understand it that disobedience brings consequences, but obedience brings blessing. These changes are more than just a new season, although I believe that is part of what He's up to in my life and ministry. My job change is an act of obedience. 

Father, this is a little scary but a lot exciting! I want to be completely obedient! Thanks for speaking to ME even though I was asking You to speak to everyone else!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Be careful what you pray for...

Happy Tuesday!  We enjoyed a wonderful holiday weekend and were blessed to spend lots of family time together.  As the kids headed back to school today, I headed downtown for jury duty.  I cannot tell you how much I've been dreading this.  I know it's my civic duty, and I've heard all the videos by now about how it's a privilege.  I know those things with my head, but my heart wants to be a million miles from here.

Get a grip, Gayla!  You have nothing to complain about!!

I do find it very interesting that this experience is so different from other times when I've been waiting to hear my name.  Don't judge, but in my old days I did a few beauty pageants.  Yes, I know, I hear you gasping!  I know what you're saying...well actually I know that many of you are saying different things. Some of you are saying, "I'm not surprised at all.  I saw Toddlers and Tiaras, and she's got that same accent.  I've seen those bows in Sarah's hair.  I knew it all along.  Well, bless her heart."  (It is a well known, but little verbalized fact that this phrase is the classic judgemental phrase in the south.  "Well, bless your heart" actually means "You're an idiot!")

Some of you might be saying, "I'm completely shocked.  She seemed so above all that."  I am shallower than I'd like to admit.  Besides, I only did pageants that would provide scholarships and required talent.  And I've made very very sure that no photos exist of my former beauty queen life.  NONE!

Anyway, when you are in a pageant, you long to hear your name called.  Jury duty...not so much.  So far, so good.  Of course, I don't doubt that I will, at some point (assuming I don't get picked), wonder why I wasn't good enough.  I mean, honestly, wouldn't everyone want me on their panel?  I'm a likable person!!  Again, I'm complex.  As we say in the south, well bless my heart!

The actual reason for my post is to remind myself that I'm called to pray for my kids' schools.  Perhaps jury duty will remind me to pray harder.  God forbid my children or their friends end up here.  God forbid I ever see one of their teachers in a court.  And God forbid my children ever go to law school...insert lawyer joke here.

I've learned a lesson this past week:  Be careful what you pray for!  I stand by my theory that praying helps me see God at work. I've been praying for some very specific things at my children's schools.  While I have definitely seen God at work, I have also become keenly aware that the enemy is constantly on the prowl. We have specifically chosen to put our children in the public school system, and we are very aware that they are exposed to things that Christian schools and home schools don't offer.  We also must completely remember that our children are in process...they are not perfect!  We have normal children, and they make mistakes.  This past week was a rough one because one of the boys made a mistake.  I was so tempted to give up on this prayer experiment.  I was tempted to lash out at God and say, "How dare You let my own child mess up when I've been so verbal about praying for my kids and their schools?"  Over the week I've been reminded that my children are no different than others, that the enemy will attack them, and that they must learn to make decisions for themselves. God wants to redeem their own mistakes and give them their own stories. My job is to continue to provide discipline and boundaries, teach them about Jesus, include them in our family's ministry, and pray for them.  I so wish parenting were easier, that living for Christ was easier.  It's just not.  Tough times, especially tough parenting times, make me long for heaven.

So this week, I'm praying for protection from the enemy for all three schools.  Most importantly, I'm asking God to give me a renewed understanding of my role as prayer warrior.

Please, Lord, don't let the enemy fool me into thinking that my kids, my family can't make a difference.  Use us to encourage believing teachers and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who don't know You.  I'd ask You to protect my kids from the enemy, but also give them such a sense of Your presence that they have extreme courage to live for You in a very difficult environment.  Raise up at least one Christian teacher this week to be a role model for Justin, Caleb, and Sarah.  And don't let them or me get away with anything less than what You've called us to be.  Thank You for Your constant presence!  Without it, honestly I'd give up.  Because of it, we can be real and vulnerable and honest witnesses even when we are so imperfect!  

Monday, August 26, 2013

I spy God at school...I really do!

Last week I began to journal my prayers for my kids' schools.  I firmly believe that this is one of my primary responsibilities this year!  I am determined to obey God and do this consistently.  With the privilege of being connected to three schools, I need to write down some things or my 40 something year old brain will self destruct.  Plus, when I write things down, I can go back and see how God has answered and is answering.  I spy Him at work!  It's been amazing to see Him working this week as I've prayed some very specific things for my kids' schools and teachers.

Last week I spent much time asking God to make the believing teachers at Justin's high school bold in their visible spiritual walk.  I asked God to help these Christians even use the name of Jesus Christ.  I even asked that the kids would notice the difference in these teachers. I've been asking for 2 years now that God would bring a few more kids to our church from Justin's school.  For those of you unfamiliar with our little part of the world, we have three high schools in Lee's Summit.  Justin attends Lee's Summit West.  Though we have an amazing group of students at First Baptist, we only have a few kids from LSW.

I undoubtedly saw God at work in teacher interactions and emails and hearing Justin talk.  I also almost scared a couple of kids to death at church yesterday when I was able to welcome 2 new LSW kids who were visiting!  God is working!

I also asked God to show me some teachers at the middle school who were passionate followers of Christ, and He used my good friend, Suzanne, to give me some names of believers there.  Thank You, Lord, for them!  Now I can pray for them by name!

Sarah joyously came home two days last week talking about Noah's ark after school...so I know God used a sweet teacher to connect a biblical reminder of God's faithfulness to her class.  I'm so thankful God is pulling back the curtain just a little for me and showing me that He reigns...even in school!  I'm convinced that He's always working, but I see it more clearly when I'm engaged through prayer!

I just read the best quote by Priscilla Shirer in her Bible study on Gideon that is shaping my prayers this week.  Get this:

"...You and I, as a part of His church, have been commissioned to rise up in our own way to serve His purposes in our generation...God has deliberately positioned each of us to be His representative, beckoning our ailing culture to Him - one person at a time...No matter what God's plan looks like in our lives, His hand is on us to wage war against the enemy within our spheres of influence."

So I'm praying for every Christian teacher at LSW, SLMS, and LFE to specifically see their "job" as their CALLING!  I'm praying they absolutely cannot get out from under the weight of it!  May they teach, care, nurture, discipline, organize, lecture, conduct, and encourage with the understanding that God empowers them to point students and families toward THE ONE who holds it all together so mercifully.  I'm also asking that those teachers will encourage my own kids to live out their faith boldly in their school.  I need some teachers that Justin really respects to show Him bold faith, and hold him to it!

I'm also asking for some miracles in teachers's families this week, this year!  Heal children, heal marriages, Lord!  Orchestrate circumstances so that nonbelieving students and coworkers ask questions that lead to testimonies of Your faithfulness!

I spy God at work in my schools!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Unbalanced and not afraid to admit it!

I have a love/hate relationship with Fridays. Fridays are great because Blake takes the day off.  For the first time in 5 years, we have some time with just the two of us.  We both manage the morning craziness so that we can get a little extra sleep, so what's not to love?  Fridays are also great because I typically get to spend a little time with my teenage girls from church, Hannah and Lilly.  We try to meet around 3pm to talk about God and have a little ice cream or Sonic drinks.  Friday nights are always fun as we can have a family dinner, sometimes even at a restaurant!  I can hardly wait for high school football season so that we can head out to LSW and cheer on those mighty Titans! (By the way, I know what the rest of my LS friends say, but the Titans are THE BEST team in LS!)

But here's the deal: all the fun of Friday means that Saturday will be a day full of catching up!

I have a confession, one that's not at all a surprise for those who really know me.  I am a person of zero balance!  I'm either one way, or I'm the complete OTHER way...all the time!  Seriously!  I'm either on a completely OCD kick about something, or I couldn't care less.  For example, when I'm trying really hard to be healthy and drop a few pounds, I write down every single calorie I take in on my phone app.  But give me about 2 weeks of that and I'm tossing it all to the wind and eating twinkies and Dr. Pepper for lunch.  I'm either engrossed in Bible study, and I mean something like Daniel or Revelation, or I'm barely even reading Blake's daily devotions that are emailed to me.  I'm either freaking out over the tiniest bit of dust, or you can't even see the floor next to my bed because I've accumulated stacks of books and papers and clothes I decided didn't look right at the last minute.

So Fridays are very tempting to me.

Fridays I usually revert to the "do nothing" side of my personality.  This make Saturday no fun for anyone!

Today, because I slept late and then had several ministry appointments, I didn't make the bed.  I didn't unload the dishwasher while Sarah was eating breakfast like I would normally.  That means I still have breakfast dishes in the sink.  I didn't stay on top of the kids to tidy their rooms this morning.  I didn't dust or clean windows, I didn't lay out anything for dinner, and I didn't even sweep the kitchen.  I talked on the phone to a dear friend, played with a sweet little boy at our church's teen mom's daycare, and I had lunch with my husband.  It was great, but tomorrow will kick my tail.

When the kids get home in a minute I will still be doing nothing, and I'll probably give them the afternoon and evening off as well. We won't do homework. We will likely watch DVR episodes of Duck Dynasty. Sarah and I will eventually do our nails whil finishing up the night with a few episodes of Say Yes to the Dress. It's an exciting life we lead!

Tomorrow I will wake up totally freaked out about how messy the house is and the axis will again tilt.

My poor family.

I'm not saying that my way of life is healthy.

However, I am grateful for days like today.  We all need days like today.  Fridays are my Sabbath days...which for some might be Sundays but we are a pastor's family.  Sundays are NOT Sabbath days for us.  I love Sundays, but we can't relax on Sundays.  Fridays were made for relaxing at the McKinney house.  Fridays are also great days to realize that if I let down my guard, God will still handle the world.  I'm not necessary.  Only He is necessary.

So here's to Friday Sabbaths!  I'll deal with the mess tomorrow and be thankful that I have a house to have to clean.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...

I love love love that movie!  Sound of Music is just classic!  And I love the idea Maria has when the children are frightened.  You remember when they all end up in her room because they were afraid, right?  What did she tell them?

"I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad."  You know you want to sing it with me!  I hope it's rolling around in your head for days...

I'm not currently frightened or terribly stressed, but I was thinking, this morning, about how my life is small in terms of things I read and watch and listen to.  I thought maybe I'd share a few of my current favorites and hoped that many of you would share some of yours with me.

My current favorite book is my bible study book, Gideon, by Priscilla Shirer. I've just started this study even though it came out last spring.  It just about killed me to wait, especially since I had the opportunity to hear Priscilla talk about it right before it came out.  Finally, everyone is in school and I'm preparing to lead the study at my church soon so I've jumped in to prepare.  It's already the best bible study I've ever done!!  Seriously, I mean that!  I know I say that about every bible study, but this time I really mean it!  So far, I've learned so much about Israel's tendency to half hardheartedly obey God, or totally disobey Him, only to find themselves in dire straits yet again.  I've realized my own tendencies to obey just part of what He's called me to, but expect Him to provide and protect me as if I was being completely obedient.  Of course, as he did with Gideon, He always is faithful to draw me back to Himself, but I must suffer consequences.  Oh how I want to be completely obedient, because He knows what's best for me!  If you are looking for a bible study you can end your search right here!  Get it.

My current favorite music is Matt Redman's album, 10,000 Reasons.  Honestly, I can't even pick a favorite song on the album because it's all just so great! I'm swept into worship, even here at home, when I listen to it.  I cleaned two bathrooms this morning while listening to it and was actually a little sad when I was done. (OK, maybe not sad, but looking for another reason to keep listening rather than work on the computer.  I can't write and listen to music with words at the same time...crazy I guess.  I was never the kid who could study with music going on...I digress!)  Last week, while in Nashville, I was introduced to the video for Never Once and can't stop singing it.  You'll be blessed by this:

My favorite food right now is this:
Yep, I'm THAT mom!  We don't eat clean or paleo or even homemade.  I throw these babies in the lunch boxes in the morning, and they love them!  I even took one to work myself last night.  Oh sure, we'll all be tired of them in two weeks, but for now I love them.  Please don't judge.

My favorite tool at home these days is my crockpot!  I'm making everything from spaghetti to tacos to alfredo in it!  And I have three crockpots so sometimes I'm making side dishes and desserts or even breakfasts in them.  I haven't turned on an oven in a week.  Again, please don't judge!

My favorite television show is Duck Dynasty.  Who am I kidding?  That's all I've been watching.  I'm not judging anyone else, but I simply cannot find much on TV these days that isn't bad for me.  I do occasionally watch the Food Network but then I'm tempted to eat so I try to stay away from that too.  Duck Dynasty does hit a little close to home for me since I'm basically from south Arkansas (which is minutes from North Louisiana) but I'm learning to embrace it!  I'm convinced I'm related to the Robertson clan.  Si is my Uncle Edmond!  If you knew him, you see it too, don't you??

My favorite time of the day is picking up the kids.  I get an hour or so with just the boys each day, and that hasn't happened since Sarah was born!  We've found another favorite place together after I pick them up...the shaved ice barn!  Then I love sitting in carpool at the elementary school and watching that precious tiny little Sarah bound out of the doors and to the car!  Our conversations on the way home are full of details...things I never got from the boys!  Girls totally rock...but so do teenage boys!

Well, this was the most random post ever, but it was fun for me!  What are some of your favorite things?  I wish we were like Oprah and could just give them to each other!  Look under your chair...oh wait, that's just the dust bunny I should be sweeping!  Sweeping is NOT one of my favorite things!