Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Most days I wake up, get dressed and begin my day of motivated and focused work.
And then, there are some days when I stare at important documents, emails, registrations and speeches and all I see are words.
Take today for instance; today would be a great day to focus. Beyond the things that hinder me, there are campers registering for summer camp, caterpillars signing up for Chrysalis, a sermonette to be prepared for Thursday and a speech to be critiqued on Saturday. Today should be one of those focused and inspired days, but instead, it is a day where I am lost in my thoughts, my eyes seem blurry and all I see on my desk are words.

The cause: anxiousness (the enemy)

I am anxious about all the words I will have to use in the varying situations of this week. What words do I put where? What words do I use in the tricky and controversial situations, the speeches that are meant to inspire and to the friend struggling just to make it to tomorrow?

Words change the world. Words are the start to every powerful movement. Words from the Bible tell us how to live, love and give. Words in a job description tell us how to work. Words in a poem show us how others have fought and conquered.
Today, I have no words.

When I let anxiousness rule me, I find myself in this wordless, unmotivated blur. I keep picking up my work and going through problem solving in my head but I quickly lose focus and find that the things that worry me overrule the things that I can control.

I have a key verse for this point in my life: Philippians 4:6

This verse has been sticking with me for the past few weeks and it wasn't until this week that I truly learned why I needed it (it's funny how God works that way). This week is challenging in many different ways and focusing is becoming harder by the minute, yet the Lord has already instilled in me the perfect reminder and scripture for this time.

Although it is hard not to be anxious, I know God hears my prayers as I present Him with my requests. Although this time is challenging, I give thanks for my blessings and the lessons I am learning as I grow through each situation.

I am wordless because I am anxious. If I loose my anxiousness, I will find my words. Thanks be to God who takes away my anxiousness and gives me the words that He wants shared in all situations.
Time to get back to work.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Beautiful Distraction

Has it ever taken a storm of beauty to slow you down and appreciate what you have and whom you have it with?

Early Friday morning, Evan and I loaded up our car and hit the road towards Gatlinburg, TN. We were blessed to end up with a mostly paid for trip to Deer Ridge Mountain Resort in the Smokey Mountains (a place in which I have many fond childhood memories). When we left Sumatanga, we were excited to have some down time a few hours away from home but sad because we were going to miss the most beautiful snow fall that Alabama has seen in quite some time. We talked on the way up the interstate about how great it would be to have snow while on our trip but we knew it was not in the forecast.

After arriving in Gatlinburg (a place where it and its surrounding towns have grown to be quite populated and gimmicky since my time there as a child) we met a few friends and sat down for a great meal of pancakes (apparently that is the thing to do while in Gatlinburg). As we chomped on mounds of sugary and fruit covered buttery fluff, we noticed snow coming down outside! We each hurriedly paid our bills and ran out to "frolic" (yes, this word was actually used and executed). After spending some time downtown, we headed our separate ways as Evan and I went to find our condo and check in. At this point, the snow had been nice but didn't look like it would turn out to be anything substantial or snow-angel worthy.

Our plans were to check in, check things out and then head back down the mountain for supper, groceries, shopping and sightseeing. Note to self: never go up a mountain when there is a chance of snow (even if there isn't a chance of snow, just pretend there is) without first stopping for food. We were welcomed to the resort with smiles and open arms and found our living quarters to be quite pleasing and comfortable. The next thing we saw was simply beautiful but not as comfortable: snow, ice and LOTs of it! Where had it come from? We had only been up the mountain for 30 minutes!

We were quickly informed that no cars would be going up or down the mountain (without tragedy at least) and for everyone to enjoy a self prepared meal made in their own kitchens and settle in for a relaxing time of beauty. All of this sounded like a perfect vacation. A perfect time of tranquility and togetherness; a perfect time to enjoy in each others company and enjoy a breathtaking view. There was only one problem: we had no food and there were still places to go and things to see. Now, I was under no illusion that Evan and I were going to starve (we had consumed a large number of pancakes earlier in the day) but we are two humans that like to eat and we had pretty much planned our vacation around food stops in town. At first thought, we were quite annoyed at the interruption of our plans.

So, we hesitantly visited the resorts vending machine and settled in with two bags of chips, a mountain dew and a Gatorade. The Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games were on and we had plenty of time to relax and marvel at the show. Before we knew it, we found ourselves calm and without an agenda for the first time in a long time (maybe the first time since we have been married). We laughed as we crossed our fingers and called the pizza delivery place each hour on the hour (there was no reason not to hope right?). We opened all the blinds and watched the snow accumulate, we watched every TV in the place and sat on every piece of furniture just because we could, we napped, laughed and simply just were. It was amazing.

We were still snowed in when we woke up on Saturday morning and that was fine with us. We were getting hungry but the excitement of making a snow-angle, building a snow man and walking the snow covered trails was much greater! We hurried out of bed, dressed in our warmest clothes and ran out the door to be the first to pelt the other with a snow ball (I lost at this game). We saw parents playing outside with small children who were acting much like we were. It was great. We didn't rush to be anywhere (there was no point) and took the time to have fun. Pure, unplanned and timeless fun.

At noon we got the go ahead to go down the mountain. It was still slick but the roads had been scraped and they were drivable. Instead of getting straight in the car and starting another hectic agenda, we took our time getting ready, spent more moments looking at the beautiful mountains and then easily made our way to town to break our fast. We were more peaceful that afternoon while in town and found ourselves eager to get back to the serenity of the snowed in life. Instead of shopping or getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, we went to a closed park to walk in the snow for a few hours and then found a grocery store before returning to our temporary home (where we did not get snowed in again but we were prepared just encase). As soon as we were back on the mountain, we easily morphed back into the homebodies we were that morning and day before.

We were sad to leave Gatlinburg yesterday afternoon but I had learned a lesson. Instead of trying to make the quickest time record getting home to get back to life, we took our time and stopped where we wanted and cruised the roads at an easy pace while driving. Once we were home, I took more than just the usual glance at the house before running inside to start chores.

It is amazing what it takes for me to learn a lesson. I often get upset when my plans get distracted but how often do I need that distraction? How often do I need to realize that what I have is enough and to simply enjoy the beautiful surroundings God has blessed me with and be content. How many times do I expect Evan to keep up with every single thing I have put on our calendars instead of just taking joy in having him, his love and support that is at my side? I praise God for interrupting my plans of a busy trip, with eating and shopping stops from place to place, and showing me the glory that is found in slowing down, enjoying creation and having precious time with my husband.

It turns out that it WAS a perfect vacation. It was a perfect time of tranquility and togetherness and a perfect time to enjoy in each others company and enjoy a breathtaking view.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Global Impact

On Friday, Evan and I were privileged to spend our day representing Sumatanga at a Global Impact Conference. It was such an honor to be counted as missionaries next to those from Togo, Kenya, Mexico and China. I often think of missionaries as those serving outside of the United States and certainly not something that I am. We were able to eat, fellowship and worship with these individuals that were born and serve all around the World. It was a phenomenal experience.

I was completely fascinated to sing old hymns and new praises in English and then sing them again in Swahili and Spanish. It was beyond encouraging to think that there are individuals of all ages and races, singing and praising the same God as I do.

One of my greatest friends, Halley, has been gone since August on the "The World Race." She is serving as a missionary to 11 countries over 11 months and is currently making her way through Africa. I miss hear dearly but it has been awesome to talk to her and hear what she is experiencing and who she is meeting in each place she visits. I cannot fathom how touching it must be to be ushered into worship with those who risk their lives to be Christians, those whose villages have just heard of Christ for the first time and those who unashamedly lift their songs and dance to God in awe of Him even after horrible wars and tragic deaths.

I have not yet had the experience of serving Christ over seas but I like to live vicariously through Halley and those I met on Friday. I feel somewhat more globally connected after standing at the conference with my new foreign friends and by asking Halley to hug everyone she meets on my behalf. I feel a little closer to sharing a little piece of my life with orphans and refugees by sharing a quick word with Hal as she stays up late at night to talk to us back home and through a simple day of fellowship with people I may never see again.

I have no doubt that Halley and her team and those I met serving in Togo, Kenya, China and Mexico are simply doing so out of divinely inspired love. Each of these individuals have made me feel loved and I can only imagine how their love is reaching to all the ends of the Earth. Each of these missionaries have only encouraged me to love more here in Alabama as they are doing the same across their own lands. How awesome it is to be connected all around this World through Christ! I find myself inspired today.

Who is inspiring you?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Better Than A Hallelujah Sometimes

If you know me, then you know that I am possibly Amy Grants biggest fan. I am fan enough that my sister is afraid that I have achieved stalker status and my husband worries that meeting her this past October and seeing her with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in November were bigger deals to me than our wedding last April (they weren't, but the events were a close 2nd).

I spent hours upon hours singing "Big Yellow Taxi," "Father's Eyes," "House of Love," and "Children of the World" while jumping up and down on my bed when I was younger (which was usually followed by my sibling threatening to throw each of my albums out the window once she couldn't handle any more of my repeated non since). To this day, when I am over stressed, tired or just in a bad mood, I can pop in any Amy Grant album (be it from the late 70's, 80's or 90's, it really doesn't matter) and be back to the swing of things in no time.

*Side Note-Have I mentioned that the name of this blog and its tag line both come from one of her songs released in 2003: "Simple Things"

Anyway, all this fandom isn't why I decided on this post, this past week Amy Grant released a new song on her Fan Club website (it is OK with me if you think I'm lame because I'm in the fan club) that will soon be out with her newest album. This song did not jar me because it is a familiar tune with a catchy beat, something I've sung a million times or even because it is performed by a beloved artist. This song caught my attention because of the heart strings it pulled and the vivid imagery it leaves in my head. It goes like this...

God loves a lullaby
In a mothers tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
God loves a drunkards cry,
A soldiers plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
But honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah.

Woman holding on for life,
A dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
Tears of shame for whats been done,
A silence when the words wont come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

Better than a church bell ringing,
Better than a choir singing loud, singing out.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
But honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah.

Do these words touch anyone else? Be you an Amy fan or not, these lyrics are simply beautiful.

As soon as I heard this song I began to think about both the overcomings and tragedies of life. I think about how freeing a "Hallelujah!" or "Praise the Lord!" can be in the a moment of victory and how spirit filled a worship service can be as we ask Christ to draw near to us. Then, I think about how awesome the touch of God can be in the face of struggle and in a moment of surrender.

I often imagine this awesome moment in Heaven with an army of angels singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" at the pearly gates as we are able to see the face of God for the first time (this may not be in your imagination, but I sure do like it). But, how many times do we cry out here on Earth and not realize how close the face of God is to us at that very moment?

We sing praises and Hallelujahs to the Lord for our blessing and for His help and when we are brutally honest and open with our prayers and pleas, the Lord hears our cries and hopes. They are a song to His ears as we trust in Him and except a power that only He has.

In a World where we are expected to answer "fine" when someone asks "How are you?"- I rest in the knowledge that I cannot fool my Lord. My God knows when I am running a fake facade and gives me strength and comfort when I admit to what a mess I am.

"We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody. Beautiful the mess we are, but honest cries of breaking hearts, are better than a hallelujah sometimes."