Wednesday, October 27, 2010

when i knew i was in love

Honestly, I never thought I'd write a post like this.

I remember for SO long being SO dumbfounded by the idea of knowing when you're in love and when you've found "the one" and all that. I had boyfriends and even had a pretty serious relationship and dated one guy for four years, but I never had that moment where I knew I was in love with him. I remember so many people always saying, "You just know." That drove me crazy! I wanted something more than that. I would always think, "But HOW do you know???" I mean is there a certain feeling? A certain thought you have? A certain moment? Do you know because you talk about it?

I really thought I'd never figure that one out. I thought love was just going to be a decision I made and I would just hope with all my heart I said yes to the right one and wouldn't regret it later. I never thought I'd have that "I know I'm in love" moment. Maybe not everyone does. I know that love IS so much a decision and a commitment and something SO much more than a feeling. It's something you have to DO and stick to. It's not NEAR the lightening bolt experience that so many movies make it out to be.

But, I will say this... there was a moment when I realized that I truly LOVE Martin Summers in a way I have NEVER loved anyone in my life. And that is a moment I will never ever ever forget.

It happened a year ago today.

A year ago today my twin cousins, Will and Ryley Mayden, were born. I remember my professor (Dr. Alston-Miller) letting us out of class (Advanced Public Speaking) like 45 minutes early, which is SO not common for her. I was so scared I was going to miss their birth because of this class, so for her to randomly let us out early that day was a huge blessing! Since the hospital is right across the street from UCA, I made it over there in no more than 10 minutes. As soon as I got there I joined the rest of my family in the waiting room and anticipated the big moment! It wasn't but a few minutes later that we got word the first one was delivered successfully and we were waiting on the next. Within minutes they were brought out to the little room where my uncle, Dan, got to show them off and we got to take pictures and admire them through the glass.

The whole evening was just so special. There's nothing like being there when a baby is born, much less two! They were both EXTREMELY healthy for twins and everyone was just so happy! I loved it.

After the initial excitement and celebration, I just sat back for a minute taking it all in, watching my family experience this great joy and just thanking God for the moment. That's when my mind started doing something it has never done. As I was sitting there just soaking it all in, I looked around at my family and realized that the next time we are all sitting around a hospital waiting for a baby to be born will most likely be for me. I remember thinking, "WHOA Nelly!! Back that train up. Calm down. What in the world!?" I didn't want to think like that. I mean, sure, I want to be a mom. I long for the day I hold a child and call it my own. But in that moment, I was NOT ready to start thinking about that being a reality. NO WAY.

But for some reason, my mind wouldn't let go of it. I just kept picturing what it would be like for that to be ME in that bed and MY child everyone is looking at. Joy filled my heart that is so unexplainable. I had this deep, pure longing to be a mommy. As I kept watching my aunt interact with her new babies and her six-year-old, I just kept picturing me. It was weird! It freaked me out!

But then something even freakier happened.

I saw this:

That is my uncle, Dan. You can see me in the background of this pic just watching and smiling. That's pretty much how I was for the next hour. Because the whole time I was watching him I was just so filled with joy and respect at how gentle he was as a daddy. At how sweet he was as a husband. He was just so great. He would so carefully carry the babies to different family members while making sure my aunt was feeling okay and at the same time making sure he gave equal attention to Lauren, the big sis, so she didn't feel left out. I got this overwhelming respect and admiration for him that day and just thought, "Now this is a picture of a faithful and loving husband and daddy." 

And that's when it happened. As I was watching my aunt and picturing myself.... I was watching my uncle.... and I pictured Marty. Just as I had that longing in my heart for that mommy to be ME one day, I had an even stronger longing in my heart for the man kissing my forehead and holding my hand and holding our child to be Marty. There, in that hospital room, I pictured us as a family. Loving each other. Loving our children. 

And that's when I knew.

I didn't know what to do with that. I thought things were happening WAY TOO FAST for my taste. I wanted more time to pray about it. To analyze it. To question it. To think about it. To question it some more. To pray about it more. To think about it more. You get the point. But by this point, it was undeniable. I had no question. I knew without a doubt. The next few days were TORTURE for me because I wanted to say something but I had no idea how. I didn't say a word to anyone because I thought people would think I was crazy. 

A few days later we were watching a movie in the middle of it he randomly said, "Hey..." and I said, "What?" and he said, "Uhhh... what are you doing??" I was actually kind of annoyed because, hello, what do you think I'm doing? I'm watching the movie! So I just kind of ignored him and kept watching it. But a few minutes later I got the same hesitant, "Hey..." Trying to be patient I said, "Yeah?" That's when he paused and his voice got a little nervous and he said, "Is it too soon to say I love you? Because I do."

I THOUGHT MY HEART WAS GOING TO BEAT OUT OF MY CHEST! I froze. Everything in my wanted to just blurt out the whole hospital experience and tell him how I was ready to marry him and have his babies. But I thought that would be a little too much. So I just kind of softly said, "No... I don't think it's too soon. Because I do too." 

I think we were both a little freaked out because we didn't talk about it anymore that night. But a few days later we had the "I only say I love you when I mean it" talk and the next day we went for a walk and I told him the whole hospital experience.

From that point on it was just a time of patience and prayer until we would get married and be on our way to starting this happy little family that I pictured so vividly in my head. 

Now I am here, a year later, married to the man I pictured that day. Hopefully we'll have a little while before we have the whole hospital/baby-bearing experience. I know when that day comes, I will be the happiest person in the entire world. But until then, I am just enjoying every minute of being with him and KNOWING I am in IN LOVE with this dude. From the minute I pictured beside my baby-bearing hospital bed, I just knew. 

I guess what they've said all along is true... you just know. 

Now I wonder... when did YOU know you were in love?? How did you know you were going to marry the one you did? If you have a story about that, leave a comment! I would love to hear it! 


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

humiliating humility

Yesterday God humbled me in SO. MANY. WAYS.

I'm not one to show weakness. I hate asking for help. I hate being pitied. I hate anyone knowing that I am less than okay physically, mentally, emotionally. It just literally makes me feel like I have boiling water going through my veins to even think about this.

My whole life people have given me a hard time about being "miss independent." My husband even gets mad at me sometimes because he just WANTS to be able to do things for me and help me, even if I don't necessarily NEED him to. I'm having to learn day by day to sit back and let him, even if that's WAY out of the norm for me.

Well, over the last 2 years or so I have had some not-so-fun health issues going on that resulted in me having surgery yesterday. The good news is that after dealing with this for SO LONG, I think I am FINALLY going to feel good. (I have almost forgotten what it feels like to go a whole week without being sick.) The bad news, however, is that surgery means HAVING to depend on people for help. You have no idea how much I hate this. This is going to sound horrible, so don't judge me, but I hate this so much that I didn't even tell anyone I was having the surgery-- not even my grandparents. Marty, my mom, and a very small number of friends were the only ones I told. I just didn't want a bunch of people asking questions or seeing me at the hospital or coming by my house to check on me. I can't stand that stuff. When I'm sick or hurt I don't want anyone to know and DEFINITELY don't want anyone around me.

This is the only surgery I've had (besides wisdom teeth) since I was 2 years old.  Needless to say, it was kind of a new experience and I wasn't totally sure what to expect. I mean, I knew it wouldn't be pleasant and I'd need some help, but I really was not prepared to have to depend on people to the extent I have had to the last two days. I definitely learned that when you have surgery, you have to let go of all pride. I was humbled big time, by being humiliated big time.

Here are some pictures for your enjoyment:

Apparently I told Marty to take a picture. If you know me, this is NOT a normal request. I HAD to be high to ask for that.

Slowly fading away...

And I'm gone.

Over the last two days I have had to let someone dress me. I don't care if it was my husband, it's still weird! I have thrown up while my husband was in front of me holding the barf bowl and my friend was behind me holding my hair and rubbing my back. Can we say EMBARRASSING!? I have thrown up at least ten times after that, each time resulting in Marty having to clean up after me. I have had to straight up call and ask friends to come over and babysit me while Marty went to work. I have had people watch me slowly fade into looniness and say some off the wall things. I have had to have help sitting up, getting to the bathroom, eating, drinking, etc. I've had to rely on people to hand me anything. I can't bend at all and I've just had to lay flat on my back the entire time. It's frustrating. It's humiliating. It's made me in a bad mood at times.

But, above all of those things, it has taught me quite a bit about humility. See, I've always had the mindset of humility being shown in serving someone. We have the ultimate example in Jesus when he washed his disciples' feet. That takes humility... to serve someone you don't HAVE to serve. But sometimes, I wonder if the greater humility isn't show in the times we allow others to serve us. Like when Jesus, from cross, cried out, "I am thirsty," and then took a drink from a sponge (John 19). What humility for the God of the universe to admit a human need while hanging in humiliation on a cross meant for the lowest of people. Of course, I see his humility in washing the feet, but his humility in this episode just speaks to my heart.

I think it's because this is the type of humility that's hardest for me to exhibit. I can get down and serve someone else's feet WAY more easily than I can let someone else get down and wash mine. I'd MUCH rather be the one holding your hair while you throw up. I really don't have a hard time serving other people (okay, sometimes it's easier to do than other times), but I won't even lie, I have a VERY HARD TIME letting someone serve me. But there is necessity in that. In order for Scripture to be lived out and for us to truly "carry one another's burdens" (Gal 6), we have to have both sides... the person willing to serve and the person willing to be served.

Now don't get me wrong, I know very well that people can take this to the other extreme and almost walk all over people and create ways for others to serve them. That's not humility, that's selfishness. And those people need a spiritual spanking.

But the issue I'm talking about here is one that I believe requires real, true, biblical humility. When I let down my walls of pride and allow you to see my weakness and help me in a way I can not help myself, I am denying myself. I am letting go of my own strength. I think it's a beautiful picture and reminder of our reliance on Christ. Salvation requires real, pure humility that says we have a huge weakness and need that we CAN NOT meet on our own. We need help and we have no other choice but to reach out for that help. The prideful in life will never receive this eternal gift because they will never admit that their logic and common sense isn't sufficient. But those who encounter God's grace will encounter it ONLY through this kind of self-denying humility.

Not only does this type of humility invite grace into our lives, but it also serves as a opportunity for love to be displayed. During this surgery experience, I have been humbled. I have had to ask for help. I have had friends do some pretty embarrassing things for me. And while the humility allowed this grace to come, it also gave an opportunity for me to see their love. Just because I admitted my need or showed my weakness and asked for help didn't mean that they HAD to help me. Morgan didn't HAVE to hold my hair and rub my back as I made disgusting regurgitating noises. Marty didn't HAVE to pick me up every time I needed to go pee and he didn't HAVE to clean up my throw up every hour. Other friends didn't HAVE to sit there and hand me my drink every time I was thirsty or get me some crackers every time I said I was hungry. They didn't HAVE to miss class to come sit with me. But they all chose to do these things because they love me. And because they WANT to serve me. This was so cool for me to see because it was such a vivid reminder of the love I have in my life... the earthly love... but also the love of Christ. These people love me the same way Christ loves me (of course, not to the same extent). On the day of my salvation when I cried out to him from a humble heart admitting that I was a sinner in desperate need of something only a Savior could give me, He didn't HAVE to give me grace and mercy. He didn't HAVE to forgive me. He didn't HAVE to serve me on that cross. But He chose to... He chose to serve me, forgive me, and pour His grace on me... because He LOVES me.

I am thankful for the Truth I have been reminded of, even if it was in such a not-so-fun time. I am so very thankful for these friends who served to remind me of God's choice to love and serve me. I am so thankful for my Savior who chose to love me and pour His grace into my life.

Now I pray that I can continue to go on each day putting this type of humility into practice more. To allow people to serve me in ways I can't serve myself. To allow my weakness to be shown so others may show me grace. This, by no means, will be EASY for me. It's going to all but kill me at times! But I have no doubt it will invite more of God's grace and love into my life.


Friday, October 22, 2010

proverbs 31... not so much

Anytime I even hear someone mention "Proverbs 31" I cringe and try to change the subject and avoid any further conversation.

Now don't get me wrong, I know all Scripture is wonderful. But it's not all easy or pleasant to hear! And this passage is one that, for so long, has been a tough one for me. This is the proverb that describes what we often refer to as the "virtuous woman" or the "Godly wife" or the "woman of noble character." If you've never read it- check it out. If you've read it before, even only once, you know EXACTLY why this is hard to read. The traits and virtues described in this passage are ones that only the greatest of all super-moms or super-wives or super-women can obtain. It's so easy for me to read that and to feel so insecure about my own womanhood or abilities as a wife and (future) mom. I don't wanna hear that stuff because I don't wanna hear all that I'm not!

As a female growing up the church, I have heard MANY bible studies and lessons taught on this passage. Some say that this was merely presented as the "ideal" woman... traits that we all strive to become. Some say it is a combination of virtues from many women. A common agreement, however, has pretty much rested on the fact that a woman, on this side of heaven, will most likely never reach ALL of those traits to their full. Now, I know MANY women who come STINKIN CLOSE!

I am not one of them.

Growing up, I was a tomboy. A big time tom boy! I never was interested in the things most girls were. I hated barbies. I hated wearing dresses. I hated getting my hair done. I hated the color pink. I thought make-up was the most ridiculous thing in the world. You get the point. Transitioning from childhood to adulthood, things were much the same. I finally started accepting a few more "girly" traits, but for the most part, I still wasn't as interested in things most women/ladies/girls/females (I never know what to call us!) are. Things like cooking, decorating, baking, designing, scrapbooking.... those things aren't really my forte.

From the age of 18 until about 21 I was pretty insecure about this. I looked around and all of my best friends were the sweet, soft-spoken, nurturing, emotional type who loved to cook, sew, decorate, etc. THEY MADE ME SICK! I am none of those! And I thought that was a bad thing. I went through a major growing period where I realized that God has designed my personality and my traits VERY specifically to fit my life and his purpose for it. I have realized that this is who I am, and it's exactly who He created me to be, and that's fine!

HOWEVER, that doesn't give me an excuse to neglect the virtues in Proverbs 31 or my duties as a wife. The natural things that come to girls when they get married aren't so natural to me! Cleaning, cooking, decorating, nurturing... not so much. But I'm not just sitting back and saying, "That's just not me." I'm trying to embrace these things a little more each day. I'm cooking as often as I can, I keep our house spotless (that's mostly just my perfectionism), I've tried really hard to make it look as "cute" as I possibly can. I have REALLY been working on my speech: making it more gentle and comforting. I'm slowly but surely becoming more emotional and more okay with showing my emotions. Some of you might look at me and think I have a looooong way to go-- but hey, I'm a work in progress!!

The trait I love the LEAST about the Prov. 31 woman is the whole waking up early thing. I LOVE MY SLEEP! And I try to get AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I absolutely hate waking up early. In college, my earliest classes started at 10:50 every semester. That's how I roll. When I have a day off and no where to be early, I will generally sleep until at least 9:00... but I'll try for 10:30 if I can! I love to sleep in! Sometimes I feel convicted about it, because I know I can be doing so much more with my days, but for the most part I just set that conviction aside and enjoy my sleep. (Pathetic, I know.)

I am off on Fridays. (Thankful to work for a church who sees the value in giving us that day off!) Fridays are usually my days to myself. I never schedule any appointments, counseling sessions, or lunch dates. I like to just chill on these days. I usually sleep in until about 10 and then clean my house and do whatever I need/want to do that day. But today, on this lovely Friday, I had to be at the high school at SIX THIRTY IN THE MORNING to feed breakfast to our football team.


I thought it was the worst thing ever. I complained all week. I dreaded it. But, I knew I needed to do it. So I was planning to just roll out of bed, go, and then come back and sleep the rest of the morning. Sounds like a good plan, right?

It was. Until my lovely friend, Lynzie Lamb, decided to randomly bring up a topic in a conversation with me last night. And what topic might that be? Oh yes, none other than the lovely PROVERBS 31. And just which section was her primary focus for our conversation? Oh yes, the waking up early part.

Needless to say, I was convicted. I woke up this morning, still with the intention of going back to sleep ASAP. But the more I really WOKE UP and thought about it, at 6:30 am, the more I felt convicted, and the more I wanted to try this whole waking up (and staying up) early thing.

So after we feed all 140 HUGE boys, I left and began a morning of chores, errands, and activities. Can you please listen to what I did this morning:

Starting at 6:30 a.m. I... (drum roll)...
-Served football players breakfast.
-Did our monthly grocery shopping.
-Unloaded the groceries and reorganized the cabinets.
-Did THREE loads of laundry.
-Went to the bank and opened a new savings account.
-Delivered flowers to a friend.
-Cleaned both bathrooms (toilets included).
-Dusted EVERY piece of furniture in my entire house.
-Cleaned the floors.
-Cleaned out the refrigerator.
-Washed the sheets.
-Organized the bills.
-Straightened the "junk".
-Cleaned out my car. 
(It's always clean, so that wasn't a big task, but still.)

ALL before 11:45 a.m. That's right. It was still the A.M. and I was DONE with everything I had planned to do "before the weekend is over."

Seriously-- if you EVER would have told me I would do all that before the morning was over, on a Friday, on my DAY OFF, I would have laughed in your face. But... I tried it. And, I have to admit, I LOVE IT! Now I have the entire day to just eat lunch, rest, catch up on reading that I've been needing to catch up on for a LONG TIME, and take a nap! I can rest! I can enjoy my day! And in a few hours... I'll start preparing supper for tonight. Marty and I have been SO BUSY lately so tonight decided we're just eating at home, renting a movie, and chilling. I can't wait! At least now I can do this with nothing else on my plate and a house that looks and smells good!

So I guess this whole embracing womanhood thing isn't SO bad. Sure, it's tough at times. Sure, it's discouraging at times. Sure, it's totally not natural for me. But it's actually kind of fun. And rewarding. And really, makes me feel so much better about myself.

Today, I am thankful for the challenge of Proverbs 31.
(I can't believe I just said that.)


Monday, October 18, 2010

archie turns 13!

Last night we celebrated a big milestone in our family! My little cousin, Archie, is turning THIRTEEN this Friday! The whole family (minus mom and Jess) got together at his house for some cake and ice cream and had a great time!

Archie is a very special person to me. Growing up it was always us girls on the Morgan side of my family. Me, my cousin Caitlin who is 6 months younger than me, and Jessie. Little did we know that years down the road we'd be getting a little boy! When I was 10 my little cousin Archie was born. He was all our pride and joy!

I remember when he was a toddler Caitlin and I LOVED to go to the mall. We would dress him in his cutest clothes, gel his hair, and then fight over who got to push him in the stroller. We were his little mommas. When we were real little, he and Jessie were buddies while me and Caitlin were the mommas. But as we got older, Jessie and Caitlin really got close and became buds and Archie and I did the same. Anywhere we go, he's my buddy. We have a very close and special relationship and that's something I am SO THANKFUL FOR! This dude has the biggest heart I've ever seen in a boy his age and he always has.

I have no doubt that God has huge plans for him and I can't wait to see what all he becomes.

Happy 13th birthday, Clyde! I love you!

Here he is with his 13 candles!

The Jones family!

Him with his grandparents who sure do SPOIL him! :)

He will NEVER be too old for kisses from us!!!!

Now we don't exactly do things the normal way. Since he's the only boy AND the youngest, he's been the victim of some pickin on. Over the last few years I've developed a tradition of giving him a holiday wedgie. This year I held him down (he'll never be too big for that, either) while Caitlin and I gave him his birthday spankin... then I followed up with an amazing wedgie. 

I had to make sure he'd remember it. 

Now that's a wedgie!! Happy birthday, kid! 


Sunday, October 17, 2010

retreat: to step back

Retreat: To step back.

No, that's not the real official definition but that's kind of mine that I'm using right now. This weekend our college ministry went on the annual fall retreat to Shepherd of the Ozarks. Marty and I aren't in the college ministry anymore but I lead the girls bible study and we both help out with different things in the ministry so we decided to join them. We didn't go the whole weekend. We just drove up early Saturday morning and came back Saturday night. Even though we weren't there the WHOLE weekend, it was still a very nice break for me.

I got to thinking about the whole concept of taking a trip such as a retreat. MANY churches and other organizations do this. It can seem kind of weird.. to go to a place WAY OUT THERE with absolutely ZERO cell phone reception, no TVs, no cable. But I love it. It literally forces you to step back. You step back in time for sure. [Which makes me think, life before all this technology seems SO much more peaceful.] But, it also forces me to step back mentally. Without all the technological distractions, it literally allows my mind to just  chill out. To rest. And during that chill out and that rest it's like I'm able to just kind of step back for a minute and look at my life in a way that I am not really able to during the normal rush of life.

While spending the day there yesterday I realized a few things, but the one thing that keeps sticking out to me is this: I seriously LOVE lifestyle ministry. Not the religious kind of ministry. Not the paperwork kind (although I do know its importance). Just ministry by doing life with people. I love just living-- and through living-- encouraging, building relationships, teaching, nurturing, discipling. I absolutely love being around people and just getting to know people more, hearing their stories, learning what they like, etc. I love it. I love teaching them as they teach me at the same time. I love experiencing things together. I love discovering truths together. And the more I fall in love with this, the more I am realizing that this is so much how Jesus ministered. I've found lately that THIS is what's important. So much more important than preparing the perfect lesson for Wednesday night or creating the most enticing video to start off a night or putting together the most appealing set list for the band or any of those things. They're important, sure, and should be given time and effort... but they're not what matters most.

It's the time to just talk, or better yet, listen. Time to joke around and laugh. Time to eat together. Time to visit each other in our homes. Time to just hold a tearful hand. Time to just have a conversation and hear a person's story. These are the things that matter. These are the moments that will teach the most and encourage the most. THIS is the type of ministry I want to be part of. The kind that just happens when life happens. And if THIS part of ministry EVER gets put behind the "other" parts of ministry, that's when I'll know I'm in the wrong place. That's when I'll need a big check-up. That's when it will have become a religious practice. Or even worse, just simply my job.

This was a GREAT Saturday. It was LONG and felt more like 2 or 3 days, but it was so worth it.

A few pics to capture the day:

The drive up there was just GORGEOUS! There's nothing like the Ozarks in October. 

When we first got there, we had to stop because there was a DONKEY in the middle of the road! It wouldn't move! It let us pet it and everything.

I LOVE THESE GIRLS! This picture is a shining example of the style of ministry I'm talking about. SO MUCH ministry has happened in these relationships. 

And we're off on the hike. 

:) Love that man. And if you're wondering about my outfit, well let me just tell you. I got there in jeans and was NOT even thinking about hiking clothes. I didn't bring any extra clothes so I borrowed everything! The shorts look a little ridiculous because they were huge! But thats ok. We had fun "dressing me." It was an ordeal. 

Some of the girls from the hike. Love them!

This basically sums up my whole hiking experience. Helping Katie Martin. The girl was HILARIOUS. 

Wow, God. Just wow. 

At the top of the caves.

After the hike... heading to the petting zoo.

 It's just not a real retreat without a little fire!

That's about all for now! Post coming very soon in honor of one my FAVORITE people of ALL time! Have a great day! 


Thursday, October 14, 2010

a post from the past

I love looking back over my life and seeing what God has done, what he's taught me, where I've been, where I was this time X many years ago, etc. I kept a blog in high school that I started in early 2004. This blog is VERY special to me because I was so honest and transparent in it, and it journals my journey through the time in my life when my world was turned upside down. It began when everything was still very wholesome, picture perfect and ideal in my life. Then it went through the time as I faced unexpected tragedy, loss, heartbreak, and all the fixins that come with those things. Then it tracked through the period of life just after, noting different things God taught me, ways he was healing me, people he brought along beside me to help me cope. I wrote about how I felt, what I experienced, who I met, what I feared, what I prayed. I was very open. Almost too open. The blog ended as high school ended but I still like to go back from time to time and read some of the stuff I wrote and just remember. I thought it would be cool to do that today so bear with me as this may be a bit lengthy:

This time 6 years ago (2004) I wrote this:

"she lies awake. her body is so weary and tired, but her mind won't let her rest. she opens her eyes and looks at the clock. 3:28. she tries to keep her eyes closed. she counts to 100. she fights her thoughts. her eyes open again. 3:29. she sits up, just enough to see over the mountain of blankets on her bed. her blinds are closed, but a single ray of light comes in from the closest street light, landing on the foot of her bed. she crawls to the end of her bed and peaks out the window. all the world is alseep. the wind has even found a way to rest itself, keeping the branches of the trees motionless. not a creature moving, not even the neighborhood cat. nothing. everything is so lifeless. she glares down the road for a minute, hoping to see a sign of life in a near-by house. nothing. not a flicker. not a whisper. she just wants to know she's not alone. just one sign of life. just to know one other life is awake with her. she turns her focus back to the clock. 3:33. she needs to get sleep. but tomorrow seems like it will never come. 

she makes her way to the kitchen to get a class of water. the light on the fridge turns on, just long enough for her to glance around at the still photographs. her family. her friends. everyone she loves, captured in a little box. still, lifeless. her mind searches frantically for something, anything else to be awake. everything is so dead. she takes a big, long gulp and sets the cup down to rest. she knows she can't go back to sleep. she doesn't even try. she steps outside. just to get a breath of fresh air. as she opens the door, something catches her eye. 

she looks up at the black, chalky sky. and there in the center of her focus was a single, shining star. she just stared. with every blink, the star seemed to take on a new form. as if... it had... life. her mind begins to race. she can't capture the thoughts, but they're there. she takes a deep, long, breath and in that moment a small breeze begins to pick up. it brushes through her dark, straight hair and hits the small leaves on the trees, just enough to make them shake. she just stands there. staring. breathing. she's found something. she just keeps staring though. 

tears begin to fall from the corners of her eyes. slowly, she can see the chalky blackness begin to move slowly. she doesn't blink. one by one, the clouds vanish into the darkness of the night. and one by one, the stars, dem, but bold, begin to appear. her eyes, still focused on that one, but perceiving the ten, twenty, even forty other ones slowly coming into view. what is causing this? who is doing this? what is this? where is this all coming from? her mind wanders. her head spins. but she just stares. 

she's been searching for so long. for some answer. for some hope. for some sign that she's not alone. could it be? she still gazes into the depth of that one star, only this time her focus goes beyond. she tries to look behind the black canapy. surely there's something more behind all that. suddenly, her tears are gone. her mind is calm. her heart is setteled. for a moment, she's not searching anymore. she's not wandering. she's.... not alone. she's found a comfort. but what is it? what was behind that? 

she turns to go back inside, comforted, but still a little perplexed. as the door closes behind her, a book comes into view. one she doesn't really recognize. she looks closer and noticed the words HOLY BIBLE written across the spine. her heart begins to beat faster and faster. has this book always been here? she wants to keep walking, but her feet won't move. her hands reach down to touch the dusty antique. she begins to break the seal that has seemed to have formed between the pages. her fingers are shaking- she begins to feel weak. 

she opens to a page, but doesn't know what to do. her eyes move sparatically across the the letters, not able to focus on one word. her legs are getting weaker. she falls down to her knees, holding the precious book in both hands, clinching it so tightly the pages are beginning to get damp from her sweaty palms. she just wants to focus. just on one word. just to see what it says, but her mind is moving so fast she can't. she finally manages to read a word. "Be.".... "Be Still..." her body calms. she stops shaking. but she must go on. still on her knees, she continues. as the twinkle from that one star shines through the dining room window, she strains her eyes for one last attempt. "Be still and know that I am God." be still and know that I am God? 

she looks up at the window and takes one more long stare at the single star. be still and know that I am God. could it be? still on her knees, she begins to sob. she tries to stand, but can't. she just kneels. right there in the hallway. be still and know that I am God. her heart is so overwhelmed... beating so hard she can feel it in the ground. she can't move. she can't speak. she just stays there, on her knees and puts her hands in the air. with tight fists shaking above her head, she lets out a single word. "Jesus." be still and know that I am God. it keeps going over and over in her mind. all she get out is "Jesus." for the first time in all her life, there is life in her night. she is not alone. she knows she has found something. she just stays there, on her knees, broken. "Jesus.... Jesus!" ...her heart can stop searching. she is found. she is whole. she is home."

I had totally forgotten about ever writing that. I'm not going to lie. When I read it again today, I was shocked. I do NOT remember being that deep or mindful when I was 16 years old. No way. But I am amazed at how God was already revealing himself to me at such a young age.

5 years ago today I wrote this:

"Today most of my teachers told me what my first nine weeks grade was in each class... and after school today it really hit me that I'm already 1/4 of the way done with my senior year. After this year, I have no idea where I'll be. I could go somewhere out of state or possibly somewhere pretty close, but no matter what, this is the last year of "this life." Wherever I go, things will be different. This life I've lived so comfortably in Conway, Arkansas will be different. I won't return to the same place next August just to see the same people and do the same things. I may not even return to Conway... maybe not even Arkansas. I've been telling myself, "Oh that's still so far away." But I mean I'm already a quarter of the way through and it feels like I've only been in school for 3 weeks. I just kept thinking about this as the bell rang to go home, and while I walked through the halls and saw all the faces I've seen for the last 13 years of my life I realized that these people had become a part of my life. Whether it was someone I could tell you almost everything about, or someone I could barely tell you the name of, they've still made a mark in my life somehow. Driving home, I drove down the familiar roads I've been driving/riding down my whole life. Not only the people at school, but the people of Antioch, Conway soccer and all the other things I've been around since I could walk... all these places and faces...they'll all still be here, but it'll be different. Some of the friends I'm so close to, I could lose contact with completely. Some people, I may only talk to every once and while. Some, I may stay suprising close to for the rest of my life. But no matter what happens, after May 19th, things are going to change.
And as I thought about that today... I just thought to myself, how are they going to remember me? When my classmates or friends or people from Conway look back and remember Jordan Morgan what are they going to remember? Most people here have known me since I was little bitty, so they know the real ME. When we all come home to the reunions, what will be the first thought that people think when they see me? Quite honestly, I know that for some people their thoughts of me won't be too pleasant... for others... they may not even remember me at all... and for some, I may have just been "another girl in Conway." And as I think about that... I don't want the first 18 years of my life to be pointless. I don't want it to be filled with just a static rememberance. I'm not here to just fit in. I'm here to share to others through my love and actions the amazing grace of Jesus Christ. I'm here to love those who don't have much love, to help those who don't get helped very often, to accept those who are always rejected, to forgive those who have forsaken friendships and morals. Mostly, I'm here so that when others look back and see me, they can see Christ. We all are... and I can be the first to say there are days when people can look at my attitudes and see everything but Christ. But I've still got a semester and half left. Others have got longer... but high school won't last forever. Conway probably won't last forever.
I've got to be who I want to be before it's too late."

This was not quite a year after tragedy struck my life. This entire year was spent in some BIG TIME self-evaluation and just really focusing on who I am in Christ and who I wanted to become. He had made himself SO known to me that year and I was seeking to be used by Him SO bad. 

Reading both of these posts were so encouraging. It was so neat to go back and remember and to see how God was preparing me SIX YEARS AGO for who I would be today. So many decisions I make today are a direct result of self-searching and praying I did back then. I love that. God is so GOOD. In ALL things, during ALL circumstances. If we really let Him have us, let go, lose control, and trust... He WILL provide. 

"Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart. Lean NOT on your own understanding. In ALL your ways acknowledge him and He WILL make your path straight!"
Prov. 3:5-6


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

i love you because...

When Marty and I were driving home from our honeymoon we went through a bad "Are we there yet?? How much longer? THIS DRIVE IS AWFUL" phase. We were bored and tired of being in the car and SO close to home, yet still so far away. So... we played games. I spy. Guess who. I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 1,000. And then we played I love you because.

If you've never played this game, it's real simple. You simply say, "I love you because..." then follow it with a reason why you love them. I would say one, then he'd say one. Those who know us real well know that HE is actually the sweet, sentimental, more sensitive one. I am the one more likely to be like, "This is weird!" And at first I kind of did that. I started off just saying some silly things... like, "I love you because you don't wear skinny jeans." But then he would throw in a real serious one and before I knew it, it actually became a very close, intimate time for us to truly just love each other with our words of affirmation. It was TOTALLY not my "style" and out of my comfort zone, but I am so thankful for it. We both said some things to each other that had never been spoken before but sure encouraged our socks off. This last for about an hour and I will never forget that time. (Granted, I still had to throw in a few silly ones for some comic relief from time to time).

Well of course we got home and started getting settled in our new routine of life. And let me just say this-- the last 2 and a half months of my life have been amazing. I seriously married the kindest heart I have ever known. Marty treats me better than I deserve to be treated honestly. And I truly believe it's not just because we're still in the "honeymoon" phase. That's just who he is. And in these last few months he has been so good with words of affirmation. He's always complimenting me and telling me he loves me "so much" and that he's so thankful for me and that I look hott even when I don't and all that jazz.

If you've ever studied the 5 love languages, let me just tell you, words of affirmation is definitely his language. Well, that and physical touch. Ha. But don't worry, not going there. ANYWAY... He's great with those things. Me, not so much. I love him and respect him and adore who he is but it's not as natural for me to just randomly speak those things out of the blue. But that's no excuse. Just because it's not natural or comfortable or "who I am" doesn't mean I shouldn't do it.

So I really prayed about that and asked God to help me better love my husband through my words. I didn't want "I love you because" to end just because our honeymoon drive was over. I still want him to know daily why I love him and how I'm thankful for him. So one day while he was gone I wrote about 20 different reasons why I love him on these little sticky notes and hid them in random places in his room for him to find as a surprise at random times. **Note: NO, we don't have separate rooms. Our closets are just really small so we keep all of our clothes and stuff like that in different rooms. Don't judge.** He began finding them one by one and it was so much fun! He has a collection of them on his dresser and I just grin because he hasn't even found half of them yet.

Here's an example of one... I thought this one was just funny. And it's true. He's not too proud to buy me anything.

Well, the other day I was getting ready for work and noticed he had left me an "I love you because" note on my mirror. And then this morning he left me this note:

They both made me so happy! I love things like that and this is actually becoming so much fun! We just keep surprising each other and every day it's something new that I had no idea he even noticed about me or liked about me. I'm hoping that this can kind of become an on-going tradition and just a norm in our house. How fun would it be to have some kids one day to join in this?? It'll just be a little house full of love! :)

Anyway, this has just been on my mind and I had to write about it before I forgot! He's been on my mind a lot today so I thought I would just publicly share.

Why I love my husband today:
-He hates going to sleep as early as I do, but he will come and lay in the bed with me until I fall asleep so I don't go to bed alone.
-He ALWAYS has to hug me. Sometimes I act like it drives me crazy, but secretly I think it's cute. 
-Like I mentioned earlier, he will go buy me anything. Seriously. Nothing is too embarrassing or too awkward. If it means saving me a trip or me not having to get up off the couch, he'll do it. 
-EVERY SINGLE MORNING when I'm getting ready for work I look and see him reading his bible and starting his day off with Jesus. 
-He is never above saying sorry. He is always the first to apologize.
-He will jokingly try to act like a hard, macho, sexist man... only because we both know he is everything BUT that. He is the most kind-hearted, respectful man in the world. 
-He just laughs about me being complicated when he could get really frustrated by it. 
-He gets so serious about animals. He is such an animal lover and believes they have emotions and feels sorry for them all the time. Even though I think it's ridiculous sometimes, I love his heart. 
-When I'm asleep he'll say, "Hey are you asleep" and wake me up. It usually irritates me, but I know it's just because he just wants to talk to me some more. 
-When I'm talking about something that he DOES NOT care about, he at least tries very hard to act like he does and participate in the conversation. It usually ends up with him saying something WAY off the wall, but he at least tries. 
-He smiles really big when we see something that he knows really excites me or makes me happy. Like Christmas stuff. 
-He will probably read this post and want to kill me, but then just laugh about it and say, "whatever" because he really doesn't care what people think about him. He is so stinking real and honest.

Okay, I'll stop there. Now you can go and gag and laugh at me and call me cheesy... but whatever! You know you like it! You should try it... with a spouse, parents, friends, roommate, whoever. It's such a neat thing to do and helps keep your heart where it should be with that person.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

broken hearted little girl

I don't know how else to say what's on my heart right now other than to simply say this: I have been so let down. 

Because of different circumstances and experiences in my life, it has been so very difficult for me not to be cynical of people. I have had my share of people I loved so very much, respected above anyone else, and looked up to in every aspect break my heart by decisions they made. After experiencing this a handful of times, I think my heart started to harden toward people and I began to develop a sense of cynicism. It would become so much easier for me to just look for the faults in people and from those just expect bad things to happen. To me, it was easier to just expect that... that way, if they didn't "screw up" I was just encouraged and proven wrong. But if they did, at least I wasn't expecting anything. 

I know that sounds awful, but after many trials I faced and many people who were supposed to be so strong in my life fell so short of what I needed them to be, this is how I became. 

Outside of my pastor, there really was not anyone I could truly say I looked up to... for years. Until my last year of college. Within that last year I developed a relationship with a teacher/leader figure in my life who was about 13 or so years older than me. She was so solid and passionate about God's word. She inspired me in ways that seriously NOBODY has inspired me for years. Through her teachings, challenges, conversations, I truly overcame some battles in my life that I had needed to face for a very long time. For the first time in years, I had found someone I could honestly say I looked up to. I talked about her to ALL of my friends (though none of them know her). I spoke about her at many different speaking times. I wrote papers about her. I journaled about her. In fact, I have honestly considered pursuing a path that she took in order to influence and inspire people the way she influenced and inspired me. Of course, I never put her above "her place." She wasn't a god to me. She wasn't what my hope was in... none of that. But she WAS a hero. A role model. The ONLY person I have ever truly said I want to be just like (besides Jesus, of course). 

Over the summer things got a little weird and she stopped responding to any messages and pretty much acted as if I was not present in her life. I had no idea what was up with that until yesterday... Wow. Yesterday I seriously felt like a little child as I found out that over the course of time that she was pouring into my life, teaching me, molding me, inspiring me... she was living a lie basically. In the course of about 30 minutes I found out time after time after time how she had lied, faked, misled. How she had neglected integrity, faithfulness, and honesty. And I'm going to be honest, I have been so broken over this. There are many details to this that would make a lot more sense and add a lot to understand why this hurts so bad. But just trust me when I say I have never... NEVER... NEVER... NEVER looked to someone the way I looked to this lady. NEVER. 

And right now I feel like I never will again. I have spent all day in mourning almost. I know that sounds so dramatic, but that is truly how much this has impacted me. I know that right now she is broken and in desperate need of grace, mercy, love and healing. I pray so hard that the Lord will restore that. I am trying so hard to believe that what I learned from her was not in vain. I know it wasn't. Because I know that ultimately it wasn't HER teaching me, but it was my Father teaching me. He was the one putting the inspiration in my heart. He was the one loving me. He was the one challenging me. He was the one convicting me. He was the one I trusted and really looked to. I have to remember that. She was just his choice of vessel. 

Why? I have no idea. Maybe to show me this valuable lesson... that ONLY He can be that role in our lives. ONLY He is enough. HE is my ultimate hero. HE is the ONLY ONE who stands forever. HE is the truth. HE is the source of inspiration. If it comes from ANYWHERE or ANYONE else, we WILL get let down. 

I know this. I know this truth. I am trying so hard to be uplifted and encouraged by it. But right now, I am seriously just in shock. Numb. Hurt. Right now I am really just having to seek him. With everything I have. I am trying to fight anger and bitterness. And I have learned and am learning MANY valuable things like these:

-People fail. Good people fail. Great people fail. Heroes fail. We can't expect anything different.
-Satan is working. We've GOT to open our spiritual eyes. 
-Putting on God's armor daily is A MUST if we EVER expect to survive.
-It is SO IMPORTANT for me to be living according to what I teach those who are following me.
-Real, faithful examples to follow in life are absolutely priceless. 
-We have to be so careful who we allow to lead us.
-Accountability is huge. I need it in EVERY aspect of my life because I am NOT immune to sin. And it can destroy me if I allow it.
-Our leaders, more than anyone, need our prayers. Every day. Satan is ALL OVER THEM.
- “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.”
-He is the only one who can meet my needs. He is the only one I can FULLY put my trust in. And He wants me to trust Him to that absolute highest degree.


Monday, October 11, 2010

my friend brittany vick

God has blessed me with some extraordinary people and friendships in my life. Seriously, when I stop and think about it... I am blown away. From elementary school all the way to friends I've gained just in the recent weeks, I am so blessed.

It's interesting how different friendships work. Some grow so fast and so strong, then just suddenly straight up die. Some last only a few months. Some slowly grow, plateau for a while, then slowly fade. But there are those rare friendships that seem to NEVER die. No matter how long you've gone without speaking, the next time you do, it's like no time passed at all. It's like you just have that special connection that you know can only exist within the realm of God's love. I have many of those, but one of those friends I want to highlight right now is Brittany Vick.

I met Brittany at the beginning of my junior year of high school. She moved here and joined my soccer team, then we ended up having some classes together. Our friendship really only lasted for two years because when we graduated high school we went to different towns for college and it was difficult to ever see each other or even talk for that matter. But within those two years, we grew one of the richest friendships I have ever had. We had similar struggles so we were so able to laugh, cry, talk, pray, and just sit together.

Some of my favorite, most hilarious moments from high school were shared with her. Like...
-The time we opened a tampon and colored the end of it with a red marker and stuck it in Rusty Paulley's backpack during Physics.
-"Coach... what are all these holes!?"
-Vick laying in the grass looking up at the sunset, "Ahhh coach, I just wanna fall in love."
-When she had a seizure on the way to the nurse's office and I was the ONLY ONE in the hall to help her.
-When we roomed together at a soccer tournament and sat in the bathroom with a teammate as she told she thought she was a lesbian and had NO IDEA what to say!
-Going to talk to Mr. Wendall (an old, awkward, weird English teacher with a big pop belly) and falling over our crutches, pushing the podium into his belly, leaving him trapped with the most confused look EVER on his face.
-Trying to teach her how to drive... "okay now break..... break.... break!!... BREAK!!!!"
-"Jesus loves stupid people." ..."Yeah, well he doesn't love mean people!"

And then there were some other, not-so-funny, hard moments that we shared. I think it was the combination of the intensity of our laughter and sorrows that really built us up in each other.

And now... I am so proud to say that she is living in Nicaragua serving God and the people there. I'm not sure when I'll see her again but I know that no matter what, she will ALWAYS be considered a great friend.

Click here to see her blog and follow her journey, praying for her every time you remember her.

A few pics of our past... crazy that most of these were FIVE years ago! Before either of us started wearing make up or dressing up, ha.


Friday, October 8, 2010

unfailing love

Have you ever gone through a 'bad friend' phase with someone? You totally didn't mean to, but for whatever reason you just let life happen and you found yourself looking back over the past few weeks and thinking, "Man... I've been such a bad friend." You forgot to return a phone call... didn't respond to a text... haven't made time to see them or talk to them... have no idea what's been going in their life or what they've been going through lately? 

I've been there. And when I get in those times, I have a big tendency to feel really shameful about it and almost want to hide. The next time I do see them or talk to them, I just want to crawl in a hole. I have no idea what to say. I have no legit reason for being a bad friend. It's awkward, it makes me feel awful, and in that moment I wonder how in the world I ever let it go that long.

My relationship with my friends aren't the only ones that take this hit. It happens with Marty, with my family, with the students in my ministry... and all too often, with God. I know I am not alone in this struggle, so I hope my transparency won't make you think any less of me. But lately, I have all but neglected my relationship with Jesus. Sure, I've been very busy working for him and serving him... teaching classes, speaking, leading bible studies, discipline girls, counseling, etc. Oh, I've been working hard. But I haven't been praying hard. I haven't been loving him the way I should. I haven't been seeking him with all my heart. I've let life and my "work" consume me and distract me.

I woke up this morning with the feeling of my soul literally just longing. I wasn't necessarily depressed, but I wasn't "okay." I was broken. I was joyless. I was lonely. I needed something, and I knew exactly what it was. I needed to restore my fellowship with my Father. I needed to pray. I needed to be still in his presence. I needed him.

I wasn't sure how to start that prayer. Wasn't sure what to say. Wasn't sure where to open my bible to. I literally just felt lost and desperate. I just sat in silence and let him soften my heart for a while, then I just started writing to him. I wrote out a prayer that was so full of honesty. I told him exactly where I am, how I feel. It was a sweet time for me. I have missed that over the last couple of weeks. After writing for a while, I just prayed, "Lord... just show me what you want me to know right now."

 I'm not normally a "open to a random page" bible reader. But today I was seriously just so desperate and so confused as to where to start, I just prayed this exact sentence, "Lord... just show me whatever it is you want to remind me of right now. Whatever truth I need to be restored to my heart today... please just open your word to this and let it rest in my heart."

I sat in silence for a few more seconds and then just let my fingers softly run up the closed pages of my bible until I just felt a tug in my heart to stop. I opened it, and this is what the Lord spoke to my heart:

How sweet is that? He didn't rebuke me-- though he had every right to. He didn't remind me of my shame. He simply reminded me of his unfailing love. His love that is steadfast, even when mine is not. This was so inviting to me. I just sat there and prayed for a long time thanking him for this love that I DO NOT deserve. I then sat for another hour and a half and just continued reading, and the Lord just continued speaking.

I'm so thankful I didn't let my shame and awkwardness and feelings of "I have no idea where to start" keep me from this time with him today. I needed this. I feel so filled up. So refreshed. So ready to continue living in his fellowship the way I am supposed to. 

Let's face it-- we ALL have these times. Don't let anything keep you from coming back. He's not there to scorn you or look at you in disgust. He's welcoming. And He wants to remind you of this love.



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Punkin Patch!

So, I'm a little kid when it comes to this time of year. Okay, maybe a little kid year long--but this time of year REALLY magnifies it! The first even HINT of fall... I'm talking one brown leaf in a tree, one gust of a breeze, one smell of spice, one morning of not sweating... and I'm ready to just hit the ground running with holiday celebration. I try not to be TOO annoying with it for the sake of those around me (okay, so I could try  harder).

However, this first weekend in October just seemed like the PERFECT weekend for a trip to the Pumpkin Patch! I wanted to go all week, but there never was a convenient time so Marty and I decided to go Sunday after church. Sunday morning I woke up SO EXCITED! The only thing that could make a pumpkin patch more fun would be a couple of kids. So I texted Kristi and asked if we could take our little cousins (Tinleigh and Eleighana) with us. She said sure! (This is kind of a big deal if you know them... not many people are trusted with those precious girls... so I felt pretty special).

After church we ran home and ate a sandwich, picked up Jonathan, then went and got the girls. Jonathan had never been and Marty hadn't been since Elementary school. Needless to say, it made for a FUN day! I was so happy and thankful that my guys had great attitudes and participated in the fun. I love them. :)

Here are some pics of the day:

As soon as we got there, there was a big  wooden picture of what Jonathan called a "ghetto pumpkin". The girls thought that was too funny and had to get a picture with it.

Time to start picking out the pumpkins! Tinleigh was an expert!

Eleighana's favorite thing to do was pick up a pumpkin and walk it over to the next row and put it with those. She'd set it down right where she wanted it then go get another one. She didn't care about keeping any of them-- just wanted to move them! She was pretty stinkin strong, too! Moved some that were half her size! 

We finally settled on a few good ones to keep! I'm glad they let me participate. 

Jonathan found quite a few he liked too. We let him carry the big heavy ones!

Then we headed over to the petting zoo! The girls absolutely loved this part! Tin was THRILLED when they let her hold a baby chick all by herself! She went back to the chicks about 4 times before we left. I'm thinking she needs one for Christmas...

Wouldn't be right if we didn't take a snack break! We stopped here to eat some goldfish and cookies. It was actually REALLY COLD in the shade, which was so fun! We loved it!

The whole day was fun but I think my favorite part was seeing my husband interact with these girls. It was so cool to see him just love on them. He's great with them! I can't wait to see him as a dad. He'll be the best ever.

That's about it for our day at the Pumpkin Patch! It was so great to spend some quality time with Tin and Ele. I kinda can't wait to go back again! Maybe soon I'll be taking my own kids....??? Okay, not soon. But soon enough! 

Happy Harvest! Go enjoy the season!