27 April 2011

Replacing the Sigh

Pulling into the driveway last Saturday, I took one look at this mud pit in my front yard and let out a big old sigh. The kind of sigh that causes Travis to make fun of me. And if it's become a joke, it probably means I've sighed a few too many times during our marriage. Well, on this particular day, I have to admit it was the Holy Spirit who gently convicted me over that one. That sigh was one of ingratitude. The mud pit was there because a few hours earlier, a pretty large tree had been lying across the yard and into the driveway. It was one that the wind had blown over as a very bad storm (and tornadoes) were approaching our area the weekend before. God immediately brought to mind that I should have been thankful that we weren't at home when it fell, meaning no cars were in the driveway, and no children were playing in the front yard. I should have been thankful that a couple of friends did everything from help Travis cut it up, to dig up the stump and haul everything away. The Lord had showed protection and provision, and what had I done to show my gratefulness? I had sighed. I knew He wanted me to replace that sigh with gratitude. Thankfully, He convicted me for it.

"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Eph. 5:20

Do you believe God's in control? Or do you believe that events are simply "coincidence"? Does God care about only issues of death and life, sin and obedience? Or does He also nudge our hearts to conform to His through something as mundane as housework, as well as bring us moments of happiness through something as simple as the twinkle in a child's eye?

I think the way we answer those questions depends upon how surrendered we are to His shaping, His conforming -- whether or not we are filled with His Spirit, or, instead, preoccupied with our own desires and ideas.

The Apostle Paul explained that giving thanks in ALL things was one of four signs of a spirit-filled life. Not just giving thanks for good things. Not just giving thanks for "spiritual things." But giving thanks for all things. I don't know about you, but for me, that is a hard pill to swallow.

All things.

It's hard to find a way around "all." And that is why the Holy Spirit must show us the way to give thanks for the all. He is the only One who can open our eyes to how God may be using that "something" to conform us, to draw us closer to Him, to work "all things" together for good to us who love Him.

Am I jabbering on about this because I have gratitude down pat? Um, no. God has been prodding me, poking me, shaping me -- changing my thinking. But when I choose to be thankful (which means allowing the Holy Spirit to reign over my thinking), I am forced to ask God to reveal how He is working in situations that are unpleasant or even downright bad. Choosing to be thankful to Him causes me to see that GOD was ultimately the One behind the "small" blessing that brought encouragement and joy. I wish I were a faster learner. But I am so thankful that He continues to teach me more of His Way. And His Way is life abundant!

**Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a book that God has used to challenge my thinking. It's one that I need to read again to more fully digest!

12 April 2011

A Little More Fun from OK

You know, I probably should have titled this "Tons More from OK." But that title sounded downright scary. Oh, well. It is what it is. So here goes....

Here, we're about to eat at the largest McDonald's (in the world?) - it spans the highway near Tulsa.

The boys chillin' with some ice cream after playing games at Incredible Pizza.

Jen and I loved watching the girls put on jewelry and shoes!

Having fun in Uncle Sam's boat!

This is the little guy we met at the Wilderness Drive-thru Safari and petting farm in Arkansas.
He's a 7 week-old baboon.

While we were in Oklahoma, it was really neat to see how God has blessed Sam and Jennifer's hard work and their desire to bring others to Christ. Three years ago, they founded a Free Will Baptist missions church in Grove. The Lord has blessed them with a building of their own and over eighty in attendance on most Sundays. Forgive me if this sounds like a "missions report," but I'm excited for them!

On Monday, Jen and I met with a small group of ladies for their monthly Young Mom's Bible Study. It was a blessing to see how Sam and Jen have counseled, discipled, and led those ladies and their families - and to hear from those ladies own mouths how their lives are changing! So if you're looking to add a missionary family to your prayer list, consider Sam and Jennifer.

Here's Sam in front of the church.

Jen teaches the Wednesday night children's class. My boys took the place of two regulars who were absent that night.

We really enjoyed being in the services with them on Sunday!

Now, I have to admit that we dreaded driving with three children halfway across the country. However, it was worth getting the families together. And you know what? Driving was not as horrible as I had envisioned. (Especially since Travis decided to let us get a hotel on the way back. Whew!) In fact, driving helped the boys develop a better concept of just how vast and varied our country really is. And now that they have an inkling of that concept, I hope to happily put them on a plane next time!

09 April 2011

Shootin' with Sam

On our last day in Oklahoma, we did something that made us feel like we really belonged. You know, like we were just one of the locals. We went target shooting.

Sam, a certified gun safety instructor, taught the boys and me HOW to shoot a gun and how to SAFELY shoot it. The boys loved it! ( So did I!) So here's a few pics.

Thomas is now asking when he can go hunting. We'll see if we can talk Grandpa Russell into it....

Daniel couldn't stop talking about shooting this one!

Travis and Sam, for some reason, got a real kick out of this. Don't I look completely natural with an AK-47?!

I wish I had a picture of Colton (my nephew) shooting, but the dads didn't get one for me. However, all three boys had a blast! Literally.

05 April 2011

A Pirate Adventure

Pirates in Oklahoma! The foothills of the Ozarks were once home to a band of pirates that terrorized the settlers along Spavinaw Creek -- well, at least today they were. And here's their leader, Ornery Oliver (formerly known as Uncle Sam). And yes, if you look closely, you can see that the name of their fierce ship is the "Bass Buggy." Pretty intimidating, don't you think?

The adventure started with a real pirate map...

...and tales told by Wiley about the the real pirate gun. (Do not ask me where in the world Sam picked that up!)

And here's our pirates getting ready to dig for treasure on Oklahoma's Treasure Island!

And after a little help, they dug up a REAL wooden treasure box full of gold coins, medals, a pirate knife, and pirate jewelry! A little boy's dream!

And then we were off for a little bass fishing. This was the first catch of the day. Thomas reeled in a black bass!

And while everyone else was doing some serious bass fishing (as serious as you can get with a boatload of little boys) "the mom" was checking out the baby water moccasin. Just trying to help it get up on the rocks. And away from the boat.

Here's our proud little fisherman! When he would cast his own line, we would scramble like mad to give him a good four-foot clearance. Seriously! (He would shout out a warning that he was getting ready to cast, and we would all start moving quickly to the other end of the boat - haha!)
After we finished fishing, we had a delicious lunch made by Wiley and Peggy: fried catfish, french fries, homemade hushpuppies, and homemade tartar sauce. Lunch was followed by a real treat for us North Carolinians - Blue Bell ice cream cups and chocolate chip cookies!
We love Blue Bell! All I can say is Southern Living needs to come visit Peggy for their next issue. It was that good!
Then after lunch, we admired Peggy's pretty "fraidy hole."

And then Thomas, Daniel, and Colton explored it. You can tell we're from the East Coast.

Many thanks to our very gracious hosts, Wiley and Peggy! Sam and his dad and step-mom did an awesome job creating a pirate adventure for three little boys!