Saturday, September 27, 2008

Walking for the Lost

It was a beautiful day . . . Of course any day is beautiful if you're winning souls over for Christ.

This past Saturday was "Soul Walk" in downtown Nashville. I wrote on it a few posts ago, but for thos eof you who may be new to this blog and don't feel like going back and hunting it down, Soul Walk is a fundraising event where people sponsor the participants to walk/run a 5k. Half of what I (and everyone else from our school who participated - pictured at the left) raised went right back into our school (YAY!) and the other half goes directly to funding programs that gets the message of the Gospel to those who need to hear it most. (DOUBLE YAY!) THAT was what this event was supposed to be about and what I was all set for it to be about at 8am Saturday morning.

But as the race got underway and the air horn blew, this race took on an even more personal meaning. First, let me explain that I have never ever been involved in any kind of a race before. I'm just not the racin' kind. Really. For field day in elementary school I tried to sign up for every event that did NOT involve racing. It's just not my cup of tea. And this wasn't really a race, race, but the air was charged with enough positive energy to light up the New York City skyline. As you can see, by the picture to the left, I was pumped! (And so was our school superintendent who is just behind me to the right.) So we start out and I make up my mind to stick with someone from our group because, not having participated in a race like this before and not realizing how well they were going to mark it, I was really afraid of getting separated, turned around, and . . . well, lost.

I had a group of gals that I work with (pictured to the left - the three in the white shirts and the one in the back with the white sun glasses) around me to start the race so I just decided to hang with them so I wouldn't end up on the wrong path, never to find my way back to the bus. Obviously, the adrenaline must've gotten to my brain because these ladies are fit. Elizabeth and Beth, the two in the front on the right, walked the Music City Half-Marathon this past April! And Kim in the back with the white sunglasses has coached volleyball in the past not to mention she has legs about as long as I am tall . . . well, okay, that's a slight exaggeration. Kim on the left is spunky and full of energy. And here I am with an ankle that had been hurt and I thought, "Okay, God, I may not BE lost, but I sure FEEL lost."

Lost. How many different kinds of "lost" are there? There are those that are lost to the Lord - those that I was walking for. Then there is being physically lost - what I was afraid of. And then, more often than anyone will ever admit, is the state of knowing where you are and knowing you're a Christian but not knowing much of anything else - just feeling lost. I've spent some time there. Recently, my laptop crashed with my entire manuscript and some other documents on it (which is partly why I haven't made a post in over two weeks). I felt really lost then. Other times, I allow myself to fully consider the responsibility of being a godly mother to Alison and Olivia, and I know I do so many things wrong. I want to give 100% of myself to each of those two precious girls . . . and to my husband . . . and to my students . . . and to my coworkers . . . and to my readers and sometimes I end up feeling really, really lost - like I want to say, "God, where am I now, where am I going, and how on earth am I going to get from here to there?"

So, back to the race, I decided that I was going to "draft" the Kim with the long legs. So I got behind her and kept my eyes on her stride and I drafted her . . . And I kept on . . . And I did some more. Granted, Kim was not walking as fast as she could've been, but it gave me hope that I wasn't going to go through the race alone and, more than that, since she has such long legs, even though she wasn't going as fast as she could've gone, she really, really pushed me. And she cheered me on and kept encouraging me so that I never felt like I couldn't do it. It's one thing to just make it through the race, and certainly that would've been an accomplishment, but it's an astronomic difference to be pushed to achieve far beyond what you thought you could have. God sends you people to make sure you don't go through your "race" alone and sometimes those people don't just lead you when you are lost. THEY PUSH YOU!

I've been blessed to have had lots of people push me in my life. One of my dearest friends, Jana (pictured with me at the left), has helped and encouraged me so much on my spiritual journey and I feel I've grown a lot because of her lead. She (and God, of course) also get the credit for me being at the wonderful school that I'm privileged to teach at. It's quite a story. Really. I've had my friend and superintendent of our school push me to be a better teacher and coworker. I've had my publisher, Joan, and a wonderful mentor, Ramona, encourage and push me with my writing. I have my mom who has always been the best example of a wife and mother that I could learn from and now I'm pushing myself to be just like her. I love you, Mom!

I know we can't push ourselves continually or we would fall apart. That why we are human beings and not machines. But I hope that I can regularly push myself - like Kim pushed me on Saturday - and maybe, just maybe, through my children, my teaching, and/or my writing, I will lead more lost souls to the finish line.

PRAYER REQUESTS AND UPDATES: It has been a while since I've been on here and I apologize. I should have at least posted the prayer request that my manuscript could be recovered from my laptop. Bits and pieces have been retrieved. I'll find out exactly how much tomorrow. Either way, it's okay. I've got the whole story in my head and there are more important things to pray about. I will have prayer updates for you by mid-week when I post the first of the two bios of the contest winners' nominees. In the meantime, I am going to ask for you to pray for one of the contest winners. Her name is Brenda Olien. She lives in Norwalk, Ohio but her job has recently taken her to Cleveland - about an hour from Norwalk. Obviously, with the housing market the way it is, she is faced with possibly a long commute for a considerable amount of time. She needs her house to sell. Please pray for that. You'll learn more about Brenda and her husband, Dan, next weekend. As a praise today, I want to give you an example of the quality of student that our school turns out. Please check out One of our high school seniors has created a wonderful blog where she is using her resources to serve God to the best of her abilities at this point in her life. She is truly a remarkable young lady with an incredible home and church life in addition to a Christian education. I'm so proud of her and of many of the students we have that are as dedicated as she is. I think you'll find her passion and fervor for serving the Lord and her zeal for life to be similar to that of the young woman I'll be introducing you to mid-week, so make sure to check back! And in the meantime, if you have a prayer request, even an unspoken, feel free to email me personally through my profile and I will be happy to post it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Life, Love, Loss, and Letting Go

September 11th. I don't think today's date typically brings to mind cheerful thoughts. (Unless it's your birthday like it is my nephew's. Happy birthday, Dev!) Bottom line - our country and the mindset of just about every American was changed on that day seven years ago. Can a person get on an airplane any more without the word "TERRORIST" crossing their mind for at least one brief second? I know that people have said, "I'm not going to quit living or that'll mean the terrorists have won!" But certainly those individuals don't live the same carefree way they used to, especially if they have children.

But the sad fact of life is that . . . well, it goes on. As much as we want it to stop when a tragedy occurs, it doesn't. I am certainly not by any means an expert in this area. I'm not a philosopher or a theologian. I have experienced a great loss in my life, though, the December before our country suffered her great loss, and this is what I think on the topic of life, love, loss, and letting go:

I've come to believe that it is absolutely essential for life to go on after loss because for your typical, average, ordinary person (like me) if it didn't go on, if there was a way to stop the world from turning, to stop Father Time from marching right on as if nothing ever happened, then the grieved would have no reason to let go, move on, and experience all the richness and fullness life still, even still, after a devastating loss, has to offer them.

The Bible says in the book of Romans chapter 8, verse 28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." I believe this whole-heartedly. I believe that in times of hardship, those that love the Lord will rely heavily upon Him and in return grow in their relationship with the Lord. I believe this because I've experienced it. The Bible also says in the book of Proverbs chapter 3, verse 5, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding". Oooo. Lean not on your own understanding. That's a hard one for me. I want things to make sense, but I've learned that despite what your teachers taught you in grade school, there's NOT a clear cut answer to everything . . . at least not here on Earth. I don't understand why our country suffered such an overwhelming tragedy those seven years ago, but I trust in the Lord, and I know that those who love and serve Him are able to see some good come out of the devastation.

For one, I have seen a surge in pride for our wonderful country just in the past seven years and a new respect for our country's men and women in uniform - not just our military men and women who are willing every day that they serve to lay their life down for the freedoms that we take for granted, but also for our police officers and fire fighters. I might be naive or maybe simple-minded, but I believe that within the last seven years many families have grown closer, friends cherish each other a little more, parents hold their children a little closer all in an attempt to savor every precious moment we've been given on this earth. We hear everyday on the news that our economy is falling apart, people are losing their jobs while the price of oil is continuing to rise, recession, recession, recession, but no one reports on the number of men and women who are saved for all of eternity because they've come to the end of their ropes and they have no where else to turn. They have no hope, no way out of the pit they're in . . . until they see Jesus there with His arms out. They jump. And He catches them. Call me an optimist, but it happens! After all, we are promised in Deuteronomy 33:27 "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."

I wish that it wouldn't have happened on that September 11th seven years ago today. I wish that the families of all of those brave men and women could have their loved ones back. But, no matter how painful, life does go on. It's been going on now for seven years and it'll continue to go on. I pray that those families have (or will) let go and jumped into Jesus' awaiting, everlasting arms.

In my upcoming posts, I will be introducing you to the two nominees who won my "What a Difference You've Made in My Life" contest. I believe that you will be moved by their story. I also want to share with you a very special nominee who didn't win, but whose story changed my life. So stay tuned!

PRAYER CONCERNS AND UPDATES: I want you all to know that I am honored to be able to serve you in this way. I have seen first hand the difference prayer can make for a person in his/her time of need. Just this week, I (either alone or with a group) have been asked to pray for the needs of five different people. Please add these concerns to your prayer lists at home and pray mightily for these families. (I'm listing them in the order that I received them.): Please pray for the Belsich family, and especially for 16-year-old Amanda. It was discovered that Amanda had an orange-sized tumor in her neck which was removed. However, it was cancerous and had gotten into her lymph nodes so she will be undergoing treatments in the near future. Please pray for strength - both physical and mental, and for both Amanda and her family. Also, pray for health and healing for this young lady. And pray that after her treatments are over, she will experience a strength like she's never known - in her mind, in her body, and in her faith. Please pray for Sue Tatum. Sue was in a boating accident in Alabama and is clinging to life. Lift her up to the Lord and pray for a miraculous recovery. Also, pray for her family during this time of unrest, that the Lord will give them all a peace that passes understanding. Please lift up Kelly M., the daughter of one of the authors published by Sheaf House. Kelly has been very ill so please pray for restored health and returned strength for her and peace for her mama, who has been very worried. I also need for you to pray for the family of Dick Hohler. He passed away on Monday of a heart attack just shy of 67 years old. Please especially pray for his wife, Ron Anne, his son, Mark, and his brother, David. Pray that they will be comforted in a way that only the Lord can comfort in this time of loss and that they will experience the Lord's peace in the months ahead. Lastly (for today) please pray mightily for Robin Baughman, a 40-year-old mother of an 11-year-old daughter, a 10-year-old son, and 3-year-old twins. It was just discovered that Robin has a mass on her brain that has turned out to be stage four cancer. She also has a mass on her breast, and a spot on her lung. She will be having surgery to remove the mass on her brain next week and then undergoing chemo treatments. Please pray for strength for Robin and her husband, Gary. Please pray for healing for Robin. Pray that they are abundantly blessed with help and encouragement from family and friends. Pray that the Great Physician is with the doctors of Robin, Amanda, Sue, and Kelly, giving them guidance and wisdom to know exactly what to do for His children. I have one update: Larry Harris is still in the hospital and not out of the woods quite yet so please continue to pray for him and for his wife, Kathy. And remember, if you or someone you know has a prayer concern (even if it is unspoken - God knows all of our needs after all) please email me personally through my profile and I will be more than happy to post it. There IS power in prayer!

Monday, September 8, 2008

What a Difference YOU'VE Made in My Life!

The contest is officially over, and I just have to take a minute to express how blessed I have been through these past two months. Those of you that entered have allowed me to become a teeny tiny part of your lives, sharing precious memories of loved ones that have entered the church triumphant or very special loved ones here on Earth, making a difference in the lives of others everyday. At the risk of sounding sappy, you all quite honestly made a difference in my life. I never planned on having this contest affect me the way it has. I was just hoping to make others happy by honoring their loved ones, but the stories you shared with me touched me very deeply - the way my mom still misses her grandmother or how my sister learned more about life and herself from her son. I received more nominations than I can possibly mention here, but one that truly changed my life was sent to me by a grandmother who wanted to nominate her precious young grandson (he would have been 7 this past April) who courageously battled a brain tumor for a year and a half and hung on long enough to see his baby brother into this world. And then, unfortunately, he left this world for a life with his Father. Obviously, the female nominee was the boy's mother. I mean, imagine bringing one child into this world as another one is leaving. I wept as I read this entry mostly because I just felt so heavily grieved for this family but also because this grandmother, as was the case with many of you, though she desperately misses her grandson, she maintains a positive outlook. And that's when it hit me - people make a difference in the lives of others when they are able to look at any situation and find the good in it - the "little somethin' special"! That was certainly the case with the winners of the What a Difference You've Made in My Life contest. And, without further ado, the winners are . . . DRUM ROLL PLEASE!

Dan Olien, nominated by Brenda Olien, and Cassie Ground, nominated by Tammy Ruthsatz. Congratulations to all! Both are very compelling stories and I can't wait to introduce them to you. More details to follow in the days, weeks, and months ahead, but keep those names in the back of your mind. You will see them again in the pages of The Heart's Journey Home! (On a side note, aren't my girls cute holding their little cowboy hat for me to pick a name from? They'd just gotten out of the bathtub and were smelling so sweet in their Hannah Montanna jammies. How'd I ever get to be such a blessed mama? Oh, and of course I have to give kudos to my husband, Chris, the photographer. It was a family affair!)

PRAYER CONCERNS AND UPDATES: This has been a busy week! I have two new prayer concerns to add to our list. First, please pray mightily for Larry Harris. He is the husband of one of the ladies in our writer's group. Kathy took him to the hospital Saturday night and from the updates we've received, he needs to have a triple or quadruple bypass tomorrow which will be a risky surgery because his heart rhythms are not good. Please pray for miraculous healing, that Larry's heart strengthens and heals. Also pray for God's loving arms to wrap Kathy up in his comfort and peace. She seems to be a strong person, but I'm sure she'll need a heavy dose of prayers during the days and weeks to come as Larry's recovery may take a while. Also, please pray for Phyllis Gentry, the caregiver of the grown disabled child of another lady from our writer's group. Phyllis has chronic back problems and is in a considerable amount of pain right now - obviously in no shape to care for Ramona's daughter. So please pray for strength and healing for Phyllis. Oh, and btw, Ramona has a new book out. To find out more, click on the link down the page that says "Author Ramona Richards". You won't be sorry! Onto updates . . . I'm very happy to say that Grace Burris has recovered from gallbladder surgery and has been back to teaching now for a couple of weeks. Also, Laura Marske is doing much better from her appendectomy, so I've taken both of those ladies off of the list. My dear friend Patty Smith began her third round of chemo on Friday which was supposed to be "the bad one" but as of yesterday afternoon she was still doing okay. Please pray for continued healing and strength for her. She has FIVE children to help take care of! She needs mountains of strength! So please continue to pray for my dear friend. Little William Hickson has had some trouble this past week with seizures. Please pray for him and for his mama and daddy, Alice-Lyle and Stan, as they work with the doctors to find just the right combination of meds to minimalize the sweet boy's seizures and pray for peace and patience for Alice-Lyle and Stan. My grandma, Angela Dominick, is continuing to heal from her broken hip. She is still getting around with a walker and trying to graduate to a cane, but either way, she's just not able to enjoy the active, independent lifestyle that she'd always known until recently. Please continue to pray for patience and healing for her. Sadly, I do have one update that's not good news. Amber Grant seems to be becoming more lost. She has moved away from her Christian parents with her non-Christian boyfriend and his parents. Please pray that her Christian roots are stronger than anything she is being exposed to and that this road she's on will be an eye-opening journey causing her to do a quick U-turn! God allows and even welcome U-turns!!! Please pray mightily for Amber to come back to the fold. And remember, if you or someone you know has a prayer concern (even if it is unspoken - God knows all of our needs after all) please email me personally through my profile and I will be more than happy to post it. There IS power in prayer!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request

I received an email from a friend tonight asking me to add Deborah Fast and her son Andrew Patterson to our list of prayer concerns. Deborah's 17-year-old daughter Shay died this past Wed. I can't imagine the grief and heartbreaking loneliness Deborah must be feeling right now and the questions poor Andrew must be asking - the whys and hows and what ifs. Please lift them up. Pray for comfort and for a peace that passes all understanding. Please pray for all the students at the high school that Shay attended. A tragedy like this can be incomprehensible to adults let alone teens who are just beginning to learn how this big, sometimes scary world works. Pray that God will wrap them all in His loving arms and that in the days, weeks, and months to come the love of Jesus will heal them all. Thank you.