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A few weeks ago, I pick my almost 11-yr old (gasp!) son, Will, up from school. As we are driving off, he makes the offhand comment “Hey, there’s one of the Anti-Wills….”

 

Ummm, the what?

 

“One of the Anti-Wills, Mom.  You know, the kids who are against me, that actively don’t like me…”

What?  Who ever heard of such a thing?  Why would someone NOT like Will?  He’s like the greatest kid EVER (at least according to his momma…)

 

After talking with Will a bit longer about it, I get the full story on at least one of the Anti-Wills (and he says there are exactly 5 out there).

It seems that one day, as Will was eating breakfast in the cafeteria all by himself, minding his own business, several other 5th grade boys come sit all around him.  They are talking and cutting up and one of them asks Will to trade places with him so that he could sit next to another of the friends.

Me, I would have said “Sure!  No problem” and scooted over.

 

What does Will do, you ask?

 

I cringe even as I type this….

He says “No.

 

As if “No” wasn’t bad enough, he follows it up with “Try and make me. ”

 

WHAT???

It gets better… “I was here first,” he says, “You can either both move and sit somewhere else together or you can try and make me move.   You sat down next to me, remember?” (did I mention he has no filters?  Zero. Nada. Every single last possible filter is MIA.)

As a mom, I’m wanting to slap him upside the head, even as he is telling the story.

 

So what happened?  Well, the kid came around and tried to make him move, of course.  We are talking about 5th grade boys here.

When I asked Will how it resolved, Will says “I did my best rock impression…and he couldn’t make me move.  He had to go sit somewhere else.”  And since then, this kid has been active Anti-Will and shown his dislike for my son through his words and actions at school.

 

As I relay this story to Dallas, expecting him to back me up with my more gentle approach, I instead get this –  “Dang straight! I’m proud of you, son.  Way to stand up for yourself…”

Huh?

 

Guys, I’m not kidding you.  God has been messing with me on this one.  SERIOUSLY messing me with, and I have a feeling He’s not done.  Hang with me….

I get so frustrated when I think about how our modern culture characterizes Christians as intolerant hatemongers, but then, all too often, I see Christians do what I consider to be stupid things in the name of taking a stand for the Gospel that don’t appear to reflect His love at all to me.  Are they all missing the boat on what God wants from us?  God cracked the door open on this one for me when I was listening to Jen Hatmaker speak at the recent IF: Gathering.

She says:

“We can’t make the Gospel real for people if we keep thinking of people outside our circles as enemies…  I see Christians take the Gospel, which we love and treasure, and try to guard it so nobody can mess with our Gospel. We have a defensive  posture, guns blazing, daring people to come near it. Here’s the problem with that—Christ came to seek and save those who are lost. It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, it’s the sick. So if we had the eyes of our Savior, we would view them not as our enemies, but as future brothers and sisters in Christ…”

So I have been rolling this around in my head and heart, been talking with God about it, trying to figure out whether the answer is always to love people, even if it means backing down from what I know to be truth and justice, or whether it means bowing up and defending that truth – taking my proverbial stand – even if some of the unintended consequences of that means I have helped push people who need to experience God’s grace or God’s love a little bit further away from that.

 

I have hesitated to put this down in writing because I know people may have strong reactions one way or another – just like Dallas and I did in Will’s situation.

What I am wondering is this – is there a set right answer or response for every single Christian?

Don’t get me wrong – I will always err on the side of loving people.  That’s one of the ways God made me – with a heart for shepherding people.  Love God and love people.  But there are those who are called to be evangelists – to preach the gospel, loudly and proudly, to be out front.  There are those who have the gift of service – to serve quietly and humbly in the background.   And there are those with the gift of mercy.

There are warriors and there are peacemakers – by God’s own design.

And then there is, as Christians, our mission field –  hurting people who need to know and understand the love of Christ and the grace He offers.  There is no set formula for expressing this message because every one of the individuals who need to hear of His love are different  – some will best understand His love through deep theological debates, some will understand it thru emotions and acts of selfless love.  Why do we think there is a right and wrong way (and that we always know the right and wrong way) and give no grace to other Christians around us who are (hopefully) seeking to express this message in the way God designed them to do, just because they may do that differently than we do?   Are we so perfect that we always know Jesus’s heart (and act accordingly) while they do not?  What if – just what if – it was God’s design all along that it takes the whole Body of Christ, with all of its diverse giftings and experiences, to represent Him and who He is?

We serve a God who loves variety, who loves diversity – I see it every morning in the colors of the sunrise.  I mean, the same God who created the vast stillness of a desert also picked up his paintbrush and created the rain forests, full of life and movement.  The same God who created the delicate ladybug also created the majestic blue whale.  What if, in order for the body of Christ to function like He intended,  we need Christians who will be willing to love on people, no matter what the cost, AND Christians who will proclaim His truth (and hopefully avoid actively hating on people in the process)?

 

Jen Hatmaker makes reference in that same talk about how our God doesn’t really need defending – He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

There is nothing..let me stress that again…NOTHING anyone can do – our culture, our government, even Satan himself – that will defeat Him.   He has already won.  We can stand in confidence, knowing this to be truth.

With that foundation of truth in mind,  what if everyone in the body of Christ actually sought God’s heart and direction before we jumped into action or before we started bashing each other in our reactions or responses?  What if we actually put His love and His heart for people above our own agendas? What if we took a good look at our own self-righteousness and stopped assuming we have all of the answers?  Novel concept, right?   Not every Christian is going to get it right every time, but if we started by not throwing each other under the bus, would there be less hate in the world? Maybe, maybe not.  But perhaps there would be less hate within the global body of Christ, which only hinders our ability to truly show the world His amazing heart and incomparable love.

Can we stop fighting with each other in an attempt to “be right” and start battling the real enemy?

 

All of these thoughts sprang out of some random 5th grade cafeteria antics. God is pretty funny sometimes.

                                                    – Kacey                               

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Well, it’s been awhile, friends!!  How’s everybody doing out there?  How’s life?

 

Life for me has been a little cra-cra….(a/k/a CA-RAZY!) Christmas 2012 has just done gone right up and snuck up on me.  How does that happen?  We all know how the Christmas season can seem to just pile extra “to do’s” on us and how simple things (like getting a can of frosting for my son’s class Christmas party – working on it, Ms. Sewell, I promise!) can be a casualty of a list of things to do that just STRESSES us out! 

 

And don’t even get me started about work.  Clients are worried and freaked out and that translates into lots of work for us – all on a deadline of getting it done before the end of the year.  One giant stress storm in our offices right now.

 

We all just need to chill out a bit….

 

Well, for at least one of you out there, we can offer a teeny little bit of help…Melody Dawes and HOME&FAMILYMAGAZINE have kindly donated a ONE HOUR MASSAGE for a giveaway!!!  WOOO to the HOOO!!!  It’s from massage therapist Katherine Irwin.  She works out of Global Health Chiropractic Clinic–North at 4716-4th St. inside the Compass Bank building.  Who couldn’t use a nice one hour massage?

 

So – if you would like to find yourself relaxing and enjoying that massage, here’s what you do…answer the question I’m about to give you in the comments section below before Saturday, Dec 22nd, 10 a.m.  We will then use a random numbers generator and whoever’s comment matches up to the number will win!!  How easy is that?  Just think!  You could be nice and relaxed in no time!

 

Here’s your Christmas themed question:

 

What is one of your favorite Christmas traditions ?  It can be something global – like singing Christmas songs – or something more personalized, like a tradition your family has that’s unique to you!   You pick…

 

When my kids were really little, I used to think – we don’t have any family Christmas traditions for our little family of 4.  I would just scratch my head and couldn’t come up with any.  Then, as Abby and Will got a little older, they started asking every year about things we had done the year before…and it hit me – we DO have our own little traditions – from everything to special ornaments we put up, nativities for each of their rooms, to Christmas snacks we like to make.  One of my most favorite family traditions of late is that Dallas, Abby, Will and I go and volunteer at the South Plains Food Bank every December.  Sometimes we have packed boxes for giveaway, sometimes we have just gone through MOUNTAINS of cans of green beans to mark out the barcodes with a sharpie, but it’s something the 4 of us have done together for the last 3 years and something that I intend for us to do every year…when Ella is old enough to not want to eat everything she sees, she will join us. And maybe someday my grandchildren will join us, too.

 

Another favorite Christmas tradition of mine is a rowdy game of “white elephant” Christmas at my extended family get together…it gets rowdy, let me tell you.  And we always wonder who will end up with things like “the pea pillow” or the actual “white elephant” or the NSync doll – just some of the many wacky things that show up for a recurring re-gift each year.  So many laughs and such awesome memories with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

 

Now it’s your turn.  What’s some of your favorite Christmas traditions?  Let’s hear it!

 

 

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Some of you may have heard my moaning and groaning and whining all summer long…I am now the mother of a middle schooler.  Ouch.

Middle school brings back painfully awkward memories for me…the first plants of the idea that I’m not ENOUGH –  “cool” enough or “popular” enough or “pretty” enough or “athletic” enough….losing the cheerleader election….none of the boys wanting to ask me to dance…not having a boy give me a mum for my small school homecoming (although – on this one, I have to admit, my daddy is amazing.  He bought me a mum and made me feel pretty darn loved).  Middle School was a time of learning to be more responsible or suffering the consequences when it came to papers, tests, athletics…

In all honesty – Middle School/Jr. High sucked…there’s no way around it.  (sorry, Mom…just couldn’t express it any other way!)

You see – that was the time in my life when I first stopped having grace for myself and became my own worst enemy and my number one critic…

So now, as my sweet daughter, Abby, embarks on her middle school journey, I find myself bracing for it…cringing every day she comes home from school.  Yes, I’m waiting for the eye rolls, the “fine” answer when I ask her about her day, the slamming of the bedroom door that often comes with being a middle schooler, but I’m also waiting for the heartaches and the bumps along the way and for glimpses of that “not enough” thought to raise its ugly head.

So far – we are through our third week and no major catastrophes.  She’s rolling with the punches and hasn’t changed into a preteen gremlin or anything.  In fact, she has made me smile just about every single day as she regales me with stories of her day…

Here’s one such story:

On Monday, Abby is getting her usual after school snack as she takes her
30 minute unwind time before hitting the homework, when suddenly, she bursts out:
“Hey, Mom!!!  Guess what!!!”
 
Me:  “What, Abs?”  – she seemed so excited, I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to share…
 
Abby:  “I got 43rd place in a race in pre-ath today!”
(That’s pre-athletics.  They are learning all about cross country for the next several weeks
and had a race, with a distance that totaled about 1/2 mile, she later told me.)
 
Me:  “That’s awesome, Abby!!!  How many were racing?”
 
Abby:  With a gleam in her eye and a nod of her head and in all seriousness, she responds:
 “46…..My goal – was to not get last!  YES!” as she pumps her arm in victory.
 
After I got my encouraging momma face
(as opposed to my wanting to fall in the floor laughing face) back on,
I responded with “That’s great, Abs.  Set a goal and work towards it. 
What’s your goal for next time?”
 
Abby says, without missing a beat, “Better than 43rd!”

What a sweet memory for me as a momma. I’m storing that one away.  You see, right in the midst of middle school, here she was walking in grace. Instead of hearing those voices telling her that 43rd place was not good enough and she wasn’t good enough, all she heard was a number that meant nothing about who she was and was only an indicator of whether or not she met her goal.  She was tuning in to hear what God thought about who she is.

For our upcoming women’s retreat – the theme will be Grace – Breathing In, Breathing Out and Standing in Grace.  Yes, this includes grace for others, but it also includes having grace for ourselves and understanding God’s grace for us and living right there in the middle of it…

Romans 5: 1-2 says:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our

Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace

in which we now stand. 

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” (NIV)

Registration for our upcoming retreat kicks off this weekend.  Make plans to join us – Oct 19-21, 2012.  Let’s learn together how to breath in, breathe out and to stand in HIS grace…

 – Kacey

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Ever have one of those days when you cannot even take a breath without experiencing the overwhelming love of our God?  Well, today is such a day for me.  My sweet Ella Joy turns one year told today…and God reminded me of this personal writing from a little over a year ago and prompted me to share it today.

– Kacey

So I have a story to tell…one that spans many years and one I never thought I’d be able to tell….one that God has pressed upon me until I can hardly breathe to share…one that is so close to my heart that if I tried to share it outloud rather than in the written word, I’d probably end up a mush puddle with swollen eyes, crying  because of how incredibly amazing our God is…

 

And one that is a little lengthy – but worth it.

 

This is the story of Ella Joy Stevens.  I started to call it Ella’s story, but in actuality, it’s our whole family’s story.

 

I’ve been debating in my head whether this story will make the most sense if told backwards or if I just picked a beginning point and went with it…so here goes.

 

From a pretty young age, I’ve struggled with issues of trust.  I’ve put up lots and lots of walls.  I’ve bought into the mindset, hook-line-and-sinker, that God loves me and is there for me always, but that I can handle most of the junk in my life all on my own without having to bother Him with it. I tell you that to try to give some perspective on where I was when I got married.

 

The concept of allowing someone else – even if he was the man that I loved and married – to be the head of my spiritual life was completely insane to me.  I loved Jesus with everything in me,  we had a very real, very personal relationship.  I did not need someone else all up in the midst of that.

 

That is how I helped to set my husband up for failure from day 1 of our marriage.

 

As young newlyweds, we struggled in this area, but figured it was something everyone struggled with and we’d eventually find our way…no rush, no pressure, really. I was finishing up law school, taking the bar exam, looking for employment…it wasn’t at the top of our priority list.

 

Then life got way more complicated.

 

Abby was born.  Dallas made some very poor choices that I pretty much allowed to destroy any trust I may have thought about having in him in the first place.   Will was born 20 months later…my pregnancy with Will was full of drama with family and stress, Dallas again made some bad choices, and I was emotionally a black hole.  There was this cloud of gray that just hung over me…and we were not truly living in community.  I was fearful that if anyone REALLY knew how screwed up we were, about the poor choices Dallas had made, then we would be judged, that he could even lose his job in the ministry.  I was in a very lonely, isolated place despite having tons of people who loved us around us because I chose to cut myself off – thinking I was doing the best thing for my family, that I was somehow “taking one for the team…”

 

There was no color in our marriage no real joy in my life – despite having 2 beautiful children that we loved with everything in us.  I think I really hid from the reality of my marriage by pouring the very little I had to give into my children.…I gave all I had to Abby and Will, leaving next to nothing for my husband.  Our marriage was basically just getting by, doing the best we could to avoid divorce.

 

During the midst of all of this, as I would cry out to God, he was always there.  He was always encouraging me to hold on, to reach out and allow my husband into the most sacred place in my heart – the place where Jesus and I walked together.  I could not do it.  I was too hurt, too crushed.  But there was a longing  in my heart for another child…the only way I know to describe it is that I loved Abby and Will with everything in me but there was  someone missing from our little family.  That feeling would not leave me…it began to just linger with me all the time.

 

When I tried to talk to Dallas about it, he shut me down very quickly and left no room for him to change his mind.  He was not at all interested in another child.  I think that at least part of his reluctance could be credited to how I basically gave up being a wife when Abby & Will were babies and toddlers.  He was very low on my priority list, and he knew it.  We were coming out of that phase of life, he thought, and he didn’t want to go back there.

 

But the thought would not let me go…I prayed and prayed about it. I asked God to please, if this was my own selfish desires, to help them go away…I asked God to change Dallas’s heart, otherwise…I remember one particular moment (in the shower, of all places) when I was completely broken about it…and, in tears and with a broken heart, I cried out from a place of despair.  And God answered me…as clear as day.  I will never forget that moment.  As if He was standing right beside me, He held me and wiped away my tears and told me that there WAS  another child for our family…and that she would be a part of the restoration of joy for our family and our marriage….and her name would be Ella Joy.  This was in 2006, folks….5 years before Ella makes her grand entrance into this world.

 

At first, I questioned whether that was really God or me just wishing it was….so I held it very close to my heart and didn’t share it with anyone.  Dallas still wasn’t budging and wouldn’t even consider another child.  2007 hit and was, to this date, the most devastating year for me personally and for our marriage.   Without going into any great detail because it would take a whole other blog post just for that time of our lives, I’ll just say that I lost all confidence in Dallas as my husband. In my mind, he could not do anything that I expected from a husband – I couldn’t trust him, he could not provide for me or my children with any kind of security – emotionally or physically – and I honestly did not like him very much.  I loved him, but could not respect him.

 

Somehow, we came through that phase of our life…no, not somehow..by the grace of God.  We began sharing our struggles, we started easing into the idea of community, and God placed people in our lives who could walk us through.  And our marriage survived and began to actually grow a little….and I shared with him, 2 years later, the promise God had whispered to me about Ella.

 

But I still could not bring myself to a place of allowing my husband to step into the role of my spiritual leader.  That was too personal, too close to my heart. If he were to let me down again, I thought I could handle it in just about every part of my heart EXCEPT there…

 

And he continued to resist the idea of another child.  His pat response was – “I’ll pray about that….” Then months would go by without talking about it.  Then I’d bring it up again…”I’m still praying about that, but I’m not getting the same answer as you on this one…let me pray about it some more.  Give me some time.”  More time goes by.

 

I finally reached a point where I began feeling very defensive – he wasn’t taking me seriously, as if Dallas did not believe me when I shared with him, from a very deep place in my heart, what God had promised me, what God had spoken to me.  That he did not believe I had heard from the Lord…I know now Satan was whispering all kinds of lies to me and trying to again put obstacles up to destroy our marriage.  We had many arguments about this – until I finally just was fed up and asked him point blank if he thought he was the only one who could hear from the Lord….and why was it not good enough that God had spoken to me rather than him?  He had no response…This was in early 2010.

 

This resentment continued to grow in me.  I was so angry with him.  We had come so far in our marriage and what I saw as his selfishness was threatening to just wipe all of that out….

 

Then, out of the blue, he comes home one day…and as I acted like a brat and was pretty cold to him out of my anger, he pipes up and says “Ok – let’s have a baby.” I think I got whiplash, seriously.  You can’t just change on a dime like that.  What the heck was up?  He tells me that he still didn’t feel like he had heard anything definite from the Lord about this, he wasn’t crazy about the idea of another child, but that he trusted me and he knew that if I said I had heard from God, then he believed me and would trust me and God on this one.    I hope you get a chance to hear his side of this story someday, because God was doing some pretty amazing things in his life through this whole experience as well.

 

So we began this scary journey of having a baby 7 years after Will was born.  We talked about her name…Ella Joy.  We decided that we would call her Ella Joy but that she needed a longer name – just as we had Abigayle/Abby and William/Will.  So we settled on Ellasyn but knew we’d call her Ella.

 

Early summer, 2010, we discovered we were pregnant while he was away leading worship at camp…I still had all kinds of fears about how he would react – knowing he still was not really at a place of wanting another child.  That was a long week for me, waiting for him to get home, waiting to see what his reaction really was and how he would act.

 

He was not excited.  He was resolute about it, but there was no joy, no sparkle in his eyes.  As my pregnancy progressed, I tried to draw him in, to get excited with me, but he just couldn’t connect with this baby.  I was hurt., but I believed God’s promise and we began sharing with friends and family about our exciting news. But Dallas would tell me that I just needed to give him time to get used to the idea…and he would talk of how life was going to be totally different and how we needed a bigger car to carry this baby or a bigger house because there was no room for this baby…

 

I had more than 1 person suggest to me that I start a scripture book and read those scriptures when the enemy tries to attack…not knowing about God’s promise to me or really, most of our story, they suggested I look up every scripture I could find on joy….seriously.  So I did…and I would read those scriptures every single day and every time I had any doubts or fears creep up on me. My JOY book.  I carried it everywhere.

 

Then, out of the blue, I start to see a tiny change in Dallas…he came home and played me a couple of songs that God had put on his heart for our child – “What Joy” and “I Cannot Help But Dance”

 

At this point, I still had not really shared about God’s promise to me except with Dallas.  I may have told others there was a promise but never went as far as to speak her name or that she would be a girl…there was a part of me that still was holding out doubt that God would do what he said he would do.  I never spoke a word about the fact that the baby was a girl or what her name was supposed to be.  I had not bought anything for the baby.  I was leaving myself room just in case this baby was a boy…..

 

So, standing in the middle of Walmart, God convicts me on this.  He asks me if I believe him and his promise or do I not.  Psshhh..of course I do, God!  Here I stand 11 weeks pregnant.  You obviously knew what you were talking about!!  He asked me again – do you believe in my promise?  Yes,  God, I believe!  What do you want me to say or do to prove to you I believe you?  I didn’t really expect an answer…but God gave me one…right at that moment.  He tells me that I need to go buy Ella something right then…not to wait another minute.  I thought it weird, but I agreed…and I bought Ella Joy her very first outfit that day.

 

That very night, I began spotting…I spent all of the next day in bed in horrible pain, not wanting to really admit I could be losing this baby.  I mean – God promised me!  This was just a rough patch…..but the spotting continued and grew worse.  I read and re-read my JOY book scriptures.  Dallas sang the songs God had put on his heart over me…But, by the next day (Sunday morning), I knew we were losing this child…and we did.   And my JOY book went flying across the room in anger…and there it would sit, untouched, for the next several months.

 

I’ve talked about the miscarriage before and what I felt during that time, how God worked in my life…but there was a lot of anger in those first few weeks.  I thought God was cruel…how could he ask  me to buy my daughter something on the day before I would beg him to heal my child and he did nothing.   I couldn’t’ understand what he was doing and saw him as a cruel puppet master, playing with my heart.

 

Ok, I’m getting to a significant point, I promise.  And this is where Dallas’s side of the story becomes the most significant.

 

I was a mess.  I was devastated.  I didn’t know if I could even trust God, really.  I had no strength left to carry myself, as I had done during every other crisis in my life.  I found myself relying completely on Dallas…I found myself looking to him for strength, for leadership….I had no choice, in my mind, because I couldn’t do it myself.

 

Dallas describes it as a “switch” that just flipped inside of him.  He felt God place this mantle of leadership on him for our family…and he truly accepted it and stepped into it, following God’s lead.  Up until this point, when he would try to be the spiritual leader in our family, he carried with him shame and a feeling of not being good enough for that role.  However, this time was different.  And I began, for the first time in our married life, to see him as a spiritual leader for me and for my children.  I began to find myself looking to him for strength, to carry me and – crazy enough – loving him more deeply than I had ever loved him before, in the midst of my grief and my anger at God.

 

One other way that God revealed himself to us during this time was through the idea of how difficult times bring us closer to him, they strengthen our faith in him…just as Luke and Kathleen had shared at the conference at church that summer about the olive tree…and how the more the wind blew it, the stronger it became and the more fruit it would produce…

 

It was Dallas who insisted we were not giving up and that we would have another child.  It was Dallas who would not let me stay in the dark place I had found myself.  The best way I know to describe it is he took my hand and pulled me along into what He felt God had for our family…

 

And then, just 6 weeks after the miscarriage, we find ourselves pregnant again.  My heart  – overwhelmed, fearful.  Dallas’s heart – joyful, steady, full of belief that God does what He says He will do.  We kept it very very quiet – out of protection for Abby and Will, who had been devastated over the loss of the baby a few short weeks before – and, as I look back, that was a very private, intimate time spiritually for Dallas and I and our marriage.  It was changing…it was becoming something it had never been before – almost like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon.

 

We got through the first trimester and shared with the kids and our families at Christmas about this baby – and I began to feel joy rising up in me, joy in my marriage, joy in my heart.   God was doing something in our lives. I had no doubt.  I felt it, I saw it in my husband.

 

As we prepared to go in for the sonogram at 19 weeks into the pregnancy. I still had not really spoken outloud to many people God’s promise.  There was part of me that was afraid that perhaps Ella was the child we lost…because it was through that loss that we first began experiencing this restoration of joy.  Dallas, however, knew that this baby I was carrying was our Ella.  He had no doubts. And the day before the sonogram, God tells me it was time to pick my JOY book back up.  And I did…and Dallas was right.  We saw Ella Joy that day…and I could hardly speak.  God’s promise was there, right in front of us on that sonogram screen.  God’s amazing goodness and joy filled my heart over and over again…

 

And do you know what Ellison (we spell it Ellasyn) means?  We didn’t discover this until after we had decided on Ellasyn as her full name…. it means “The Lord is God….”

 

Yes He is….

 

And here we sit, Ella Joy turning one year old today.  I cannot take one look at her sweet eyelashes, one smell of her hair, or listen to one single giggle or cry from her without being overwhelmed by a God who loves me so very deeply.  My tears today are tears of awe, tears of gratitude, and tears of joy.

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“With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer!”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all. . .”

  Come on, I know you are out there singing along in your head.  I love Christmas songs…I’m not sure if it’s because they are so familiar and bring back memories or if it’s because we can sing at the top of our lungs and nobody cares if you are particularly out of tune or what…

BUT – in honor of Christmas this week, we are doing a GIVEAWAY – woot woot!!!  Been awhile, I know, folks…

Here’s the script – Leave a comment telling us your favorite Christmas songs – new or old – by midnight on Thursday!!!  That’s it.  Then, on Friday, we will use a random numbers generator to pick the winner of – drumroll please!!!……a $25 iTunes gift card so you can download as much music as your little heart desires (insert fine print: limited to $25)

 

Here goes – my favorite Christmas songs:

 Traditional:  The First Noel, O Come All Ye Faithful, Do You Hear What I Hear?

For Dancing Around Like a Crazy Person:  Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Newest faves:  Sing by Josh Wilson (this is the one we’ve been singing in church the last few weeks!!)

Here with Us by Joy Williams

And – did you know that Santa has a secret agent bird?  Abby and Will’s favorite:  James Penguin by Brad Paisley

YOUR TURN!!! 

– Kacey

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Love Came Down…

Here we are 10 days away from Christmas…normally at this point in December I’m more than a bit frazzled and incoherent if you try to talk to me…my mind is dashing from one thing to another, trying to make sure I’ve gotten the cookies to the right classroom by the right time on the right day, that I haven’t forgotten anyone’s present, that the clothes for piano recital are clean and not too wrinkled (I hate ironing, folks), that my clients at work are all happy and appeased,  etc.,   Just this morning on the way to school I got the “MOM!! You were supposed to remind me!” when Abby forgot to take a boardgame for boardgame time at school today.  Ummm…oops.  

 

You all know what I’m talking about. 

 

But this year feels different to me.  I still have just as much to do, but JOY seems to have taken up residence in my house and PEACE is more real to me than it has been in a very long time.  The things that have stressed me out about the holidays in the past just seem to be not as important as they have been…

 

I have seen some Christmas decorations in the stores that simply say “Love Came Down…” and, every single time I read it, my heart skips a beat. 
That is really what Christmas is about, isn’t it?  God packaged up all of His love for us and sent it down to earth as a baby.

 

  Wow.  That idea takes my breath away…

 

Sure, I love dancing around to Christmas songs or having hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies with my kiddos just as much as the next person, but the thought of God loving us so very much….

 

Well, it leaves me speechless.

 

And it leaves me wanting to relish every single second of this Christmas season and give Him thanks over and over and over again…

 

So, sweet friends, when the hustle and bustle and craziness starts closing in on you this Christmas – stop and think “Love Came Down…” – stop and give God thanks for the things that bring you joy in life – let this time be more than presents and sparkly lights and too many sweets.  Let it be what God intended from the very first Christmas – all about His love for us.

 

– Kacey

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You know we’ve been practicing naming the things we are thankful for, right?  Well, I am very glad that I live in a time without kid-eating dinosaurs…read on and you’ll see why.

 

In our house, Abby has always been the crazy animal person.  Anyone who has visited knows she sometimes has weird pets.  Right now, she has 2 bearded dragons and 1 rescued wiener dog named Rainee Deigh.  We have another dog – a present to me one Valentine’s Day from Dallas – named Rosie Mae. 

 

Will felt left out and wanted a pet he could call his own.  Being pregnant and about to bring another person into our house, I was not in the mood for another dog.  So, for his 8th birthday back in April, Will got a pet hamster.  He was so proud.  He named her “Hershey” – because she’s a her and she was brown, like chocolate.  Isn’t he so clever? 

 

So Hershey lives in Will’s room.  Will takes pretty good care of her – he changes her bedding himself (when I remind him) and he feeds her and makes sure she has water.  He also takes her out and lets her get exercise and play in her little exercise ball.  There are days when Hershey comes rolling down the hall all by herself and she will just wander all over the house.  Quite amusing really.

 

Well, on Friday, after we got home from Thanksgiving, Abby – being the animal lover that she is – decides Hershey needs exercise.  She puts her in her exercise ball without Will’s permission.  Abby also had let the dogs back into the house to feed them.  Abby then got busy…

 

Well, let’s just say that our sweet, mischievious Rainee was intrigued by the little ball rolling all over the house…and by the creature in it.

 

As I sat on the couch feeding Ella, Rainee jumps up next to me- with Hershey IN HER MOUTH. 

 

Much chaos ensued after that.  Dallas somehow rescued poor Hershey from the grasp of Rainee’s teeth.  He was pretty sure she was a goner, but knew it was going to cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth (no pun intended!) in our house…so he gently put her back in her cage.  And…Will.was.not.happy.

 

Dallas tells Will “It’s not Rainee’s fault!  She’s just doing what dogs do, man!”

 

 

Dallas then had to go break the news to Abby.  She was devastated.  I mean truly torn up and her heart was breaking.  There were tears and “it’s all my fault!” and offers to buy a new hamster (followed up by requests to borrow money to pay for said new hamster)…

 

Dallas talks to Abby – “Abby, you learned a lesson.  Lessons are hard sometimes.  We all make mistakes.  I’ve made them as a parent….luckily for you, there were no giant dinosaurs roaming around to carry you off in their mouths when I messed up!” 

 

Great, babe…way to break up the intense moments with humor. 

 

As I’ve thought about this little incident in our house that will be remembered as the Thanksgiving when Rainee tried to eat Hershey, I WAS actually grateful that mistakes I’ve made as a parent haven’t resulted in my kids getting carried off in the mouths of some carnivorous dinosaur (literally and figuratively).  I got to thinking about consequences to not only our poor choices, but oftentimes to just not paying attention to the relationships or gifts God has given us – not doing anything in the affirmative to hurt them, but hurting then all the same by not investing in or nurturing that relationship.

 

This Christmas season, I don’t want the “busyness” to take over. I don’t want the stress of all of the Christmas activities or the list of gifts to buy or anything else to take away from what (and who) God has placed in my life today, in this very moment.   I want to invest and spend time with the people I love.  I want to nurture and appreciate God’s gifts of even the smallest things.  I want to do what I can to help others to experience the overwhelming love of our Lord.   I want to truly experience the “Joy” to the world that God intended when He gave us the greatest gift of all – Jesus.  And I want that for you, too….

 

Update:  In follow up, believe it or not – Hershey is still alive and kicking.  It was touch and go for a few hours there, but as of this morning, Will was still a pet owner.  And apparently I don’t have as good of a knack for humor as my husband – I don’t think Abby found it too funny when I referred to Rainee as “Killer”….

– Kacey

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