One of the things I'm most excited about on these Testimony Tuesdays is sharing some of my close friends with you. I've told y'all many times that I'm blessed with amazing friends - they are all SO much cooler than me. If you met them you would like them a million more times than me. Most of them don't have blogs or even social media. One of my absolute favorite people in the world is Kacy. She is someone who I just call "solid". She is hilarious, smart, caring, giving, fun and has one of the biggest servant hearts I've ever known. I've taught Sunday School and AWANA with her along with just being good friends. And she has two of the cutest little boys in the world. I'm so thankful she was open to sharing her story with you today.
I placed my hope and trust in Christ when I was 8 years old. I understood that God had created a perfect world, that man had sinned and was separate from God but that God had shown mercy and sent his Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life and die on the cross to make a way for us to be with Him again. There was such an emptiness in my soul that was filled with peace and joy in that moment when I believed. I made this public and was baptized. I didn't understand everything in the bible (and I still don't) and I didn't know what walking with the Lord looked like (and I'm still figuring that out because I mess up every.single.day), but I had faith in Jesus. Since that time, the Lord has been faithful to me and my relationship with Him has grown deeper as I trust Him with every aspect of my life. I pray that everything I do shines His love through me. I'm not an eloquent speaker or a sharer of feelings, so just writing this is a leap of faith for me!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
When I talk about home, I say I grew up in L.A. Now take whatever you have in your mind and switch it up to be this L.A.:
Lower Arkansas. Union County, to be exact. I was surrounded by people who said what they meant and meant what they said. I love fried green tomatoes, pine trees, common sense, fireflies, swimming in the lake and cowboy boots. This is where I began to learn what walking with the Lord meant as I grew up in a Christian home. My parents aren't perfect, but they do the best they can to live out what they believe and I am very thankful for them. When I was a little girl, I thought my dad knew everyone, but as I got older I realized he just talked to everybody he saw. That is one way to show the love of Christ. By taking the time to speak to someone that you meet in passing, you show them that they have value. In our crazy world, people forget that they matter. They matter to Jesus.
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
My mom taught me about service and commitment to a community of believers. She visited people and took food, taught at church and picked up kids for VBS every summer. That was before car seats and seat belts; there would be 10 kids in a Chevy Blazer going 55 down a country road and we'd all want to be sitting in the "very back". Those things take time and energy. There is not a lot of earthly glory in fixing a casserole or spending an hour with 7 preschoolers, but those things matter to Jesus. He sees where your heart is and He loves your commitment to serve others in His name. He uses you when you are willing to do those things that others aren't. He doesn't demand big, huge things. He delights in small sacrifices as well.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
I was blessed with friends who loved the Lord in high school and college. Those years could have been so much more painful without the support of good friends. Growing up is hard and there are lots of stories I could tell but the bottom line is the Lord was faithful to protect me at every turn and draw me back to Him whenever I began to think I had it all figured out on my own. These are my dear friends from kindergarten and we still get together every time I go home:
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.
My husband, Mike, and I met while living in Northwest Arkansas. I had prayed for my husband and God answered every single one of my prayers in Mike, even down to loving SEC football. He is a Mississippi State fan and as a Razorback, I have to deal with things like this:
Bully was wrong for that. As you can see, we have a marriage filled with laughter and good natured fun. Mike is my rock. He's solid where I can be weak and I am compassionate where he can be tough. Marriage is wonderful, hard work. It is a commitment to love, honor and cherish. That sounds so easy when you're planning a wedding, but the truth is it is always a work in progress. It's wonderful work because I'm working with my best friend, who knows me better than anyone else and who loves me anyway, just as Christ loves His church. We are growing together and we have a long ways to go. If you are married, it's worth fighting for:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
1 Corinthians 13:4
We joined our current church soon after we got married. We began by visiting several churches in our area and once we decided on one where we felt comfortable, we began going to Sunday School. It was uncomfortable to be in that smaller group because we didn't know anyone. We kept going and before we knew it, we had met some really nice, genuine people (Kelly Stamps included). Never would I have imagined that I would love serving in the preschool ministry when I signed up to fill a need, but through answered prayers, the Lord has grown my heart for little ones, my patience and my abilities to teach. I am so very lucky to belong to a church where I can grow and serve and have friends to "do life" with. I encourage you to not only attend church but to take the steps to get plugged in. Pray, asking God to show you what talents He has given you and where they are needed. He will put you right into the business of blessing others and you will receive the biggest blessing through your service. This is one of my sweet preschoolers that I've come to love:
I'm not perfect by any means. I think sometimes Christians feel like they need to be perfect or at least act like they're perfect. Nothing turns me off than someone pretending that they've got it all together. Ain't nobody got time for that. I'm a hot mess. Oh, I may look normal on the outside. Sometimes I even manage to run to Wal-Mart with makeup on, my hair fixed and without yelling at my children. Not often, but sometimes.
But inside, I struggle. I struggle with decisions. I struggle with a sharp tongue (Oh Lord, do I struggle with that tongue. It's just so EASY for me to be witty instead of real about how I'm feeling or what I'm struggling with. Humor is a great defense). I struggle with admitting I'm wrong. I struggle with doubts. I struggle with fear.
Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer.
After the birth of my second child, I was overwhelmed. I had a toddler and a newborn and I was a crazy, hormonal mess. The calm, cool, collected girl that I had always been jumped out the window and left me to be humbled in every way by the two people I adored most in the world. That's where the real trouble started: I adored them more than anything else. I was putting those babies on a pedestal. I mean, who wouldn't? They are adorable:
I realized I was putting them first in my life. I wasn't handing them over to God every second of every day. Instead, I was spinning my wheels in fear trying to control everything myself. From what they ate to how much television they watched, simple decisions that parents are called to make became HUGE and I would question every choice I made and how it would affect their future. I was a ball of anxiety. The Lord is faithful and used these fears to draw me closer to Him. I began earnestly praying about my fears and my children and spent time in the Word, where God showed me over and over again that He is in control.
Come near to God and He will come near to you.
These boys have a heavenly Father who created them, who loves them more than I could ever imagine. Worry does not add another day to my life. It leads me into a spirit of fear and I was not made for that. I was made to live in hope. I chose daily to turn my eyes upon Jesus and trust in His plan for our lives. I spent most of my energy where it counts, spending time with my Savior and loving on my people fiercely and that is all I can do. It is enough. I'm a much more fun mom now that I can relax and let them be the kids they were designed to be and I am trusting that He will take care of the rest.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7
A few weeks ago, we were at a playground with friends as an elderly man pushed his bike up to a picnic table and began going through the food in his bike basket. Wells walked up to sit down at the picnic table with him. My first instinct was not "Stranger! Danger!" but a peace to join them. The man was very meek, almost apprehensive that I would be upset with my son for being around him. We talked for a bit about his bible study, how his teeth were bothering him and our recent trip to the zoo. He gave Wells a small pack of Oreos that he wouldn't be able to eat due to his teeth and we gave him some grapes, blueberries and tomatoes. We went back to play with our friends and he ate his lunch.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
The very traits that drive this child's parents and teachers batty - independence, self assurance, curiosity, tenacity and the ability to talk to a brick wall - are the traits that God is using in him to show love to others. I pray that as his parent I will not stifle those gifts, but that they will flourish. When will I learn that the very traits that I despise and consider weaknesses in myself are the ones that God wants to use to teach me and to help others?
For Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12: 10