"I want God and I want nothing more." – AW Tozer

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37

Today, I turned 37. I probably shouldn’t admit that, but at this point in my life, I’m ok with it. It’s who I am, and I’m exactly where God planned me to be at this moment. I may not be where I thought I’d be, but God’s plan is perfect. 

Today has been a day full of reflection and blessings. And as I lay here on my couch, snuggling up with my sweet pup, I keep thinking that she is a perfect example of how God knows is better than we know ourselves.

Five months ago, I was perusing Facebook and ran across a rescue group’s post about a sweet, gray, scruffy puppy named Leroy who needed a home. And I just had to have him. I blame my recent break in dogsitting and the Netflix NCIS-binge I was on at the time (hello – Leroy Jethro Gibbs!) my landlord graciously agreed to a change in my lease, and I convinced my mom to go meet Leroy at Petco while I was out of town. Well, Leroy was adopted by another family. I was disappointed but figured it wasn’t God’s timing. 

And then the rescue group emailed me this photo:  

These two sweet girls, Kate and Pippa, named after THOSE famous sisters, were rescued from a hoarder and then placed in a rural, high-kill shelter. I mean, they definitely weren’t the the cutest with the bad skin conditions, but the white one – those eyes… Something about her drew me in. 

Three days later, as I walked up to Petco with all the big dogs outside barking in crates, I saw a tiny little white dog, shaking in a cage ON TOP OF the big crates. My heart broke for her and all I wanted to do was comfort her.

Meet Kate. They put us in the cat room of the store, with soothing music playing the background. And she shook the whole time, and stood so stiffly on her skinny legs, and fur barely growing back. I picked her up to try and hold her, and she wouldn’t bend her legs, and clung to me…  My heart broke for this little creature who hadn’t known what it meant to be loved and cared for, who didn’t know who she could trust. I knew at that point, even if I didn’t adopt her, she was coming home with me until she found her forever family. She needed quiet and love. And lots of it. 

And so I picked her up the next Saturday from the foster mom, wrapped her up in a blanket and brought her home.  It was a weeklong test to see if she could recover from the neglect and craziness she experienced the first 11 months of her life. She shook the whole way home -so scared, she pooped in the blanket I wrapped her in. It wasn’t going as well as I hoped. But even as she shook, she had a different look in her eyes – one of hope and relief as she leaned on me, waiting to she where we were headed.   

That first week was hard – I had to take her to the vet 3 times for a general check up, possible worms and then I thought she had eaten something that made her sick. Seriously. But we survived. 

And that weekend, four months ago today on what was probably her first birthday, I made it official. I signed the papers and put her name around her neck. 

Kate found HOME. And I found my heart. 

One of my favorite artists, Leigh Standley, has a piece featuring her own sweet dog, that says it perfectly: 

copyright – Curlygirl Design

 

You see, as Kate learned to trust me, God was slowly using her to heal my heart. My  35th year was full of some of the hardest days of my life, and my 36th year was just recovering from them. I mean, as soon as I turned 36, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Likely from stress. 

Having this sweet, timid, playful pup at home has helped me get back my time, put down the electronic devices at home, forced me to exercise (bored dogs are bad dogs!) and no longer feel so alone at home. 

So at 37, I’m thankful that God knows EXACTLY what I need, when I need it. 

“Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”

‭‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Even if it’s a small, scruffy, white dog who sheds on everything, chews my favorite shoes and expects long walks in the freezing rain. I never thought I’d appreciate rain boots and lint rollers as much as I do now. I may have adopted her, but she has rescued me. 

Happy 4th sweet Kate!

   
    
    
    
 

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My Source

  
I love coffee. It doesn’t take long for folks to figure that out. But it’s not until you’ve been to my house that you discover that I also love mugs. All different kinds of mugs. I have mugs from all over the world and from close to home. But my most treasured mugs are a set that my grandparents had in their house. I always loved them. Even as a child who hated that black stuff the adults drank (oh coffee, sorry it took me so long!). Each one has a different floral design on one side and the other has a motivational/encouraging phrase on the other. 

This morning as I sleepily grabbed a mug to fill up with the coffee I hoped would make me move faster, I noticed what it said: “God is my source.”

GOD IS MY SOURCE.

What a gut check this morning. One I needed. So often we keep going and going… Drinking one more cup of coffee or pushing thru one more hour at work so we can relax better at home or one more episode of the show we’re binge-watching on Netflix, just trying to relax enough and get enough energy for the next task or day. I know I do. 

But the reality is, I don’t get any rest or energy or relaxation from coffee. Or one more hit of the snooze button. My source of energy, joy, peace, love, hope and faith comes only from the One who created me. The One who created the glorious coffee plant. The One who died for me. And for you.

Jesus. 

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

‭Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭1-2‬ HCSB

Good Friday

i recently heard the New Living Translation of Isaiah 53, and I can’t seem to stop thinking about it, reflecting on it, especially today. Tears fill my eyes as I think about the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice for myself and every human being that has, is and will walk this earth. So I wanted to share it:

Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭53‬:‭1-12‬ NLT)

Welcome Home

I moved a week ago for the first time in 7 years. Out if my sisters house and into a place of my own. I’m still renting, but it’s just mine, and I love that. I have my very own coffee bar where I can keep all my mugs out and make coffee every morning exactly how I like it…it’s great.

The hardest part of the whole process was the preparation–collecting boxes and packing materials, figuring out what’s mine and what belongs to my sister, organizing packed boxes so on the day of the move it’s easy for my friends and family to help me… But most of all, the hardest part for me was going through and purging stuff that had collected over the years, uprooting furniture and decor that hasn’t moved in years, and seeing what had been neglected over those years.

I’ll be honest–I am awful at keeping up with the dusting in my place. When we moved the furniture out of my bedroom to go to the new place, I was appalled at the layer of dust underneath the dresser and nightstand that I never even thought to vacuum under. Thoroughly embarrassed that my friends and coworkers who volunteered part of their Labor Day to help me would see this side of me that had gone unnoticed. It was humbling, that’s for sure.

In this whole process — pack, move, unpack — I’ve had a song on repeat in my head:

Welcome to this heart of mine
I’ve buried under prideful vines
Grown to hide the mess I’ve made
Inside of me
Come decorate, Lord
Open up the creaking door
And walk upon the dusty floor
Scrape away the guilty stains
Until no sin or shame remain
Spread Your love upon the walls
And occupy the empty halls
Until the man I am has faded
No more doors are barricaded

Come inside this heart of mine
It’s not my own
Make it home
Come and take this heart and make it
All Your own
Welcome home

Take a seat, pull up a chair
Forgive me for the disrepair
And the souvenirs from floor to ceiling
Gathered on my search for meaning
Every closet’s filled with clutter
Messes yet to be discovered
I’m overwhelmed, I understand
I can’t make this place all that You can
-“Welcome Home,” Shaun Groves

And it’s become a prayer during this transition for me. In the dust and junk and stuff that I was having to pack and clean, I saw my heart… In the busyness of life, I had let the dust and vines take over in my heart just as much as I had let it take over in my bedroom.

The good news is, there’s nothing that I can do clean and purge my heart–Christ took care of that when He died on the cross and defeated the Grave. Praise The Lord! I’d be a straight-up hoarder in my heart, if not for Jesus.

So now, as I unpack (and clean off) items to find their locations at my new place, my prayer is that God would use this time to show me where I’m letting the dust gather in my relationship with Him-those things in my life that need purging and cleaning and reorganizing. My time, my money, my energy…. Is it where it’s supposed to be?

my favorite spot in the new place… My coffee bar! (I promise I didn’t pick out the wallpaper)

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Final Thoughts

I’ll be writing up a post of my own in the next few days, once I’m feeling better, but I wanted to go ahead and share these final thoughts from our team. What an incredible trip and opportunity to see God working in Brazil. Can’t wait to go back!

Graystone in Brazil

What a week. Our goals for the week were to partner with local ministries and experience another culture. We have seen the hurts of Brazil and played some role in ministering to them. God has been gracious enough to allow us to see our role in his story this week.

In one of the orphanages that we visited this week, there was a house mom that wasn’t sure if she could continue serving. She was considering putting in her notice in the next few days. Monica, one of our drivers, was blessed to be able to speak into her life and share what God had put on her heart. This changed the mothers mind and she decided to stay. God used our presence and the heart of one of the locals to answer this house mother’s prayer and meet her need.

Because of the size of our group, the President of…

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We’re here

Graystone in Brazil

We’re all accounted for. No one lost any limbs or had to stay behind at any airports, despite the efforts of one of our teenagers which will remain nameless (but you know who you are). No sickness, just good old fatigue.

We left the church yesterday afternoon at 4 PM and and all had boarded a plane by 9 PM for the grueling 8 hour flight. I think it’s safe to say that no one got more than a few hours of sleep on the flight.

Because of the travel arrangements we had two very different experiences when we first landed in Brazil. Heath’s team left Atlanta last and traveled to Brasilia and had no troubles boarding their flight to Curitiba. Several of the teenagers took to napping on the floor in Brasilia. Lack of sleep combined with youth seems to allow you to sleep anywhere.

Sleeping in Brasilia

Alan’s team, however, had to go…

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T minus 24hours…

My last 2 posts were about my upcoming mission trip to Brazil, and guess what?  It’s finally here! I’m so ready to board the plane in just over 24 hours, leaving behind the craziness of life as I know it here in the United States, and go to a country I’ve never been to, meeting new people and learning as much as I can from those we meet.

You can follow along on the trip by following our team blog at https://graystonebrazil2014.wordpress.com.  You can find out more about what we’ll be doing in Curitiba and the ministry we’ll be working with, Hope & Life Brazil, as well as find specific ways to pray for our team. It’ll also be updated while we are there, so you can follow along from home!

Thank you so much for your prayers and support! I can’t wait to share more when I return!