21 Days

This week started one of my favorite season at Highlands – 21 days of prayer. Twice a year the church body sets aside 21 days to focus on prayer (January is prayer and fasting). It is my very favorite time of year at church! Earlier this week I was in bed remembering past seasons. I’ve entered these times with many different emotions. I was at Highlands for a couple of years before I ever participated. I’ve had times when I was eager and excited to see what the Lord might do but I’ve also had times when I’ve entered the 21 days completely desperate for an answer and a move of God! I vividly remember times when I so desperately needed God to come through because on my own the problem or situation could not change. Times when it felt like the air was completely knocked out of me and I needed His fresh air to revive me.

Have you felt like this?

Maybe your marriage or finances are struggling? Or maybe a child or a loved one is spiraling out of control and needs help? Or maybe someone dear to you is literally fighting for their life, their health? Maybe you’re longing for a spouse or a child? Or mourning the loss of someone?

Whatever the situation, I think everyone comes to the point of desperately needing God to come to their rescue.

Over the summer, I was in a small group that studied Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle, the prayer challenge that goes along with Circle Maker. (This book is amazing!! Get it if you haven’t read it!) Anyway, it talks about praying bold, audacious prayers because bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers. We only attribute the miracle to God, when God is the only one that could have made that miracle happen – make sense?

Anyway as I read the book, I realized that when I was praying those desperate prayers (or circling a prayer), that too often once I saw God moving and changing a situation my fervent, constant prayers turned into passionate once a day prayers and then turned into once a week prayers. I saw God moving and PRAISED Him and thanked Him and then slowed my prayers for those situations. The Lord showed me during the summer semester that I was settling for a partially answered prayer because the situation moved from bad to good rather than pressing in and continuing to circle my prayer until God completely answered my prayer.

But God is not just a good God – He is a great, almighty God.

God is a God of order and details. He knows and cares about every detail of my life (and yours!). His desire is not to give us an ok marriage or a “we’re makin’ in it” finances. He sent His Son that we “may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

According to Webster, Abundance means an extremely plentiful or over sufficient quantity or supply; overflowing fullness.

There is nothing average or common about the life God desires to give us. There is no situation that is too big or too messed up that He can’t handle.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! Ephesians 3:20 msg

So this 21 days, I’m reminding myself never give up, never stop praying. Even when it looks like the situation is getting better, never slack off praying until the prayer has been answered entirely.

Is there anything you were praying diligently for and then for whatever reason stop or slacked off? Never give up. Never stop praying. We serve a faithful God.

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THE Church

It’s really no secret how much I love my church. But occasionally there are moments when I feel like my heart very well may explode at any given moment. Occasionally I step back and just watch – It’s a beautiful thing when you can watch the church be the church, love the church and build up the church. When pride and competition are out of the picture and all that is left is a common goal: to Love Jesus and make Him known among all nations.

Tonight we just finished up Day 2 of GROW, a conference specifically aimed to help churches under 1000 exceed 1000. Many of these churches are young church plants, but oh how these pastors and leaders are desperate for a move of God in their cities. It blows my mind that in one night I was able to talk to leaders from London, Tampa, Houston, Chicago and Idaho. I get the honor and privilege of telling them how small groups and serving on the dream team has literally CHANGED MY LIFE. Not in some fake cliché way, but authentically changed my life. My walk with the Lord is stronger than ever, I’ve learned how to pray bold audacious prayers, how to lead like Christ. I’ve learned the importance of having a mentor, accountability partner, and mentee. We were never meant to do life alone! I’ve learned to dream God-size dreams. My relationships from small groups literally saved my marriage. My life is noticeably different – I pray my life is noticeably different.

So the fact that I get to share even the tiniest bit with these pastors about the heartbeat and the DNA of our church is such an honor. I am literally watching global missions take place under one roof . {What other setting are you able to serve for such a short time period and touch people from so many different places!} These pastors are being trained, equipped, encouraged, and prayed over and they are going to go back to their churches and change the world. Because the local church mobilized is the hope of the world.

One of the things I love about this week every summer is watching all these churches come together. When you boil it all down, church isn’t about us. It’s about reaching the lost. God is distracted by the lost. He loves seeing his kids gather to worship, but his heart is breaking for those still away from home. So as a church, it’s our responsibility to steward well (not hoard!) the resources the Lord has given us in order to leverage them in such a way to reach more people. It is so exciting to be able to freely give everything we have to these churches and then watch as the Lord blesses and used them to reach areas we would never be able to impact.

So tonight my heart is full. THE church is a beautiful thing. I’m praying that each church represented would experience fresh vision and passion this week. That the Lord would show them unprecedented favor and when it’s all said and done millions will come to know Jesus as their personal savior.

21 questions with Bethany

Today I asked Bethany the same 21 questions I asked Lane. Her answers cracked me up. Some were exactly what I thought she would say. Others were SO random!

What is your favorite color?
 pink
 
What is your favorite t.v. show?
 Doc McStuffins
(I thought she would have said Peppa Pig)
     
    What is your favorite Movie?
     Leap Frog
     
    What is your favorite toy?
    carrots
    (Maybe she means picnic? I’m not completely sure. I thought she would have said her doctor kit, trains or Dora house)
 
What is your favorite game?
dinosaurs
(Again, random. I thought she would have said Hide & Seek or Pop the Pig)
 
 

What is your favorite animal?

 Elephant
What is your favorite song?
 The Mommy Song
(random, but she makes up a new song everyday and today it’s the mommy song)
What is your favorite book?
Peppa Pig
 
What is your favorite food?
carrots
(Really it would be strawberries, any kind of rice, cereal, honey and chips)
 
What is your favorite holiday?
Church
(I guess every Sunday is a holiday at Highlands? 🙂 )
 
What is your favorite sport or activity?
gymnastic 🙂
(we’ve been talking about starting gymnastics when school starts)
 
 
Where is your favorite place go?
church!
 
What is your favorite thing to wear?
red shirt
(I thought she would have said boots or sparkly shoes)
 
Who is your best friend?
Mommy

 
What do you want to be when you grow up?
a doctor

 

What makes you happy?
Doctors!
 
What makes you scared?
dinosaurs
 
What makes you sad?
shirts
  
What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy?
train tracks
 
What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy?
play blocks
 
What is your favorite thing to do with Lane?
go to the zoo

 

21 questions with Lane

Several months ago I got the idea from pinterest (here, and here, and here, and many more if you do a search) to ask the kids a set of questions every year on their birthday to watch how they grow and change. I’m a couple months late but today I asked Lane his 21 questions.

 

What is your favorite color?
 red, green, blue and pink
 
What is your favorite t.v. show?
 Henry Hugglemonster and Daniel Tigers Neighborhood
What is your favorite Movie?
 If I Sang a Silly Song
What is your favorite toy?
 all of them
What is your favorite game?
Pop the Pig, Super Why, and Balloon Bounce (keep a balloon from touching the ground)
What is your favorite animal?
 Elephant
What is your favorite song?
 Jump by Go Kids Music
What is your favorite book?
All of them
What is your favorite food?
wafflers, cinnamon toast waffles, gogurts and smoothies
What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas and my birthday
What is your favorite sport or activity?
Basketball and Spanish at Meadowbrook Baptist Preschool
     
Where is your favorite place go?
Veteran’s Park, Chuck E. Cheese and Treetop Family Adventure
What is your favorite thing to wear?
My animal zoo shirt (a shirt he had when he was about 3. Clearly he loved that shirt!)
Who is your best friend?
Mrs. Kay, Patton, Olivia M. , Mia, Julie, Caroline, Maggie and Miller
What do you want to be when you grow up?
a fire fighter and an artist
What makes you happy?
everything that you (mommy) say
What makes you scared?
Giants and Bats
What makes you sad?
If you weren’t my mommy
What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy?
Go to the Beach
What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy?
Be silly
What is your favorite thing to do with Bethany?
Play

    As you can see he has a bit of a hard time narrowing down his favorites to just ONE favorite.

    New recipes: Two-timin’ Chicken pasta and Bean Burritos

    A friend and I were talking recently about freezer cooking – possibly getting together and making/freezing several recipes. But really, I have no desire at this point in my life to spend a whole day cooking. But I have two recipes today that we have made and frozen several times and LOVE!

    The first recipe came from a Birmingham Bargain Mom facebook post years ago ( I have NO idea who posted the recipe, but I love you sweet lady!) asking for your favorite 5 ingredient or less recipe 5 INGREDIENTS! woot woot! I makes a ton!! For a long time this was my go-to recipe when having a large group over for dinner. Then one night we decided to make it and freeze 1/2 to see how it turned out. Glory! It worked! So here is the recipe:

    Two-timin’ Chicken Pasta

    1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
    1 Jar Alfredo Sauce
    1 box penne noodles
    2-3 Chicken breast (cooked and cut bite-size) (I’ve used rotisserie chicken too!)
    2 C Mozzarella cheese
    1 handful Parmesan

    {I know, I know there are six ingredients. She must have felt like a rebel. I never use the Parmesan. The first time I made this, I forgot to buy the Parmesan. So, we just added more mozzarella and it turned out great.}

    Cook chicken then cut it up. Cook pasta and drain.

    In a large bowl, mix together Spaghetti sauce and Alfredo Sauce. Stir in 2 C mozzarella cheese and chicken. Then mix in the pasta with the sauces.

    Pour into casserole dishes and bake 30 minutes at 350. Then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and broil until browned.

    Let sit for about 10 minutes for sauce to thicken.

    To freeze: I either use 3 of the square foil pans or 2 rectangle pans. I freeze before baking. When I want to cook it, I pull it out of the freezer either the night before or that morning letting it defrost. then cook as directed above.

    ** I usually make this for dinner and then freeze 1/2 -2/3 before baking. Cook once and have dinner for 2 or 3 nights!

    My other favorite freezer recipe, Bean Burritos, is a pinterest find from Oven Love. Here is the recipe:

    Bean Burrito:

    1 1/2 cup rice (brown or white)
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 medium onions, chopped
    4 garlic cloves, chopped
    1 jalapeno chile, chopped (ribs and seeds removed, for less heat)
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    Coarse salt and ground pepper
    3 tablespoons tomato paste
    3 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
    1 bag frozen corn kernels (10 ounces)
    16 burrito-size flour tortillas, 10 inches each
    2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
    Salsa and sour cream, optional
     
    {The original recipe says you only need 8 flour tortillas. I have NEVER been able to use only 8. Every time I make these, I make a different about (I guess we all know mine are clearly not uniform sized) but I usually make 13-15)

    Directions:

    1. Cook rice according to package. Set aside
    2. Heat oil in skillet. Add onions, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook until golden, about 10-12 minutes. Add tomato paste, cook stirring about 1 minute
    3. Add beans and 1 1/2 C water; bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally until thickened, about 10-12 minutes. Add corn, cook until heated through about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
    4. Heat tortillas according to package.
    5. Assemble: Mound 1/4 cup rice, 3/4 cup bean mixture, and 1/4 cup cheese on one side of tortilla. Fold sides, and hold them in. Starting from filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly roll into a bundle. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and prepare remaining burritos
    6. Serve immediately or wrap and freeze up to 3 months.

    To reheat from frozen:
    Remove frozen burritos from plastic wrap. Place on a microwave-safe plate; microwave on high for 3 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees until crispy, about 10 minutes.

    If only using a microwave, remove from plastic wrap, and place on a microwave-safe plate, covered with a microwave safe bowl. Defrost at high power for 3 to 4 minutes; uncover, and microwave on high 3 to 4 minutes longer.

    **We prefer to reheat using the microwave and oven – the burritos get a little crunchy. But when Chris takes these to work just the microwave works fine too.

    Again, I usually make this for dinner and then freeze the rest for a quick lunch or dinner.

    Oceans

    The beach has long been my favorite place in the world. There is a beauty and majesty that leaves me in awe. It’s impossible for me to stand on the shore of an ocean and not be overwhelmed with how big our God is yet he still knows me intimately and loves me deeply.

    This morning I’m up watching wave after wave crash on the shore and I am so overwhelmed by the love of God. A love that I’ve known for almost 20 years. But every now and then I experience it in a new way, a deeper way.
    I’ve realized how similar my relationship with God is to this huge ocean.  I imagine sitting in the water and with each wave that crashes over me The Lord is teaching me something new about His character, His love or His passions. Sometimes he’s teaching me the same lesson but taking me a bit deeper. Because just like this great ocean, if I was instantly dropped out in the middle or immediately saw the full glory of The Lord I know that I couldn’t handle it. I would be fully consumed by His goodness and holiness. So I wait and press in and eagerly anticipate the next wave the Lord sends over me.

    10 years from now

    I am blessed with some truly amazing friends. People that EVERY time we are together push me closer to Christ, sharpen and challenge me. Friends that ask questions – hard questions- that leave me thinking and praying for days. Do you know anyone like this? 

    On my birthday I got to spend time with a few of my very favorite people in the world. My sweet friend Amy asked me what should have been a pretty easy question. I turned 30 this year, so she asked “where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I gave some crappy, vague answer that basically the last 10, even just the past 5 years, have been so life changing, so full of thing I never could have imagined that I can’t imagine what life would be like in 10 years. Way to avoid the question, right? I’m gonna say she gave me birthday grace because normally she would call me out on that vague mess! But it did get me thinking and even better got me praying. 
    It’s VERY easy for me to be happy doing what’s in front of me right now. I am not a task oriented person AT ALL. I am very relational. So I tend to have a hard time planning things because I think more about the people than the task. Does that make since? I know that I want to help others grow in their calling, help them develop leadership skills. But it’s so much easier to think about that with a specific person or group in mind than A broad checklist. But like the old quote says “fail to plan, plan to fail. ” So here is my new answer to the next 10 years:
    First, 10 years from now I want my marriage to be stronger and healthier than ever. I look forward to sharing what The Lord has done in our marriage and how far he has brought us.  Lane and Bethany will be 15 and 13 😳 I pray that they will both love the Lord with their whole hearts. I pray they still want to talk to Chris and I and that they trust us. I pray that they have a passion for purity. I pray they are full of kindness and compassion. I want them to know what they believe in and stand firm but be known for what they are for rather than what they are against. 
    If you know me well, you know I have a huge passion for Called to Lead. I love serving in this area – helping leaders discover their purpose and helping to equip them to lead the way Christ led. I have a desire to share this with other churches. I don’t know exactly how this will look or when this will happen but I know the Lord has put this on my heart. 
    Finally, I believe writing will be a big part of my life. Several months ago I felt like the Lord was telling me to blog more – so I have. I’ve also started journaling more. I’m not sure why – I don’t view myself as an especially gifted writer. I’m sure many of my former English teachers cringe with each post. But for now I will be obedient and trust that if He wants to use me and I make myself available he can do something extraordinary with my average at best words. Like my son learns in kids church – do your best and God will do the rest. 
    So now I’m in the process of figuring out what I need to be doing now to prepare myself for then. 
    Have you thought about what the next 10 years might look like for you? It’s pretty exciting to dream and the beauty of it is that if I’m wrong and the Lord has something completely different in store, I still know that all my preparation will not be in vain. I will have grown and my family will be stronger.  But if I don’t plan now and simply drift through life for the next decade then I certainly won’t be ready to be used by God.