Saturday, May 31, 2008

I Hear a Still, Small Voice...

...and his name is Sam! Are we busy? Are we hurried? Are we too stressed? Do we take time out to escape the noise of our lives to listen to the voice of God? Peace. Stillness. Tranquility. Contentment.

Peace, Stillness, and Tranquility were strangers to my day today. Tom is out of town with Scotty Hicks and Steve Mathis, so it's just me and the young 'uns again!

Katie, Lauren, Ben, and Natalie invited us to join them for "Reading Day" at World's Fair Park today. How could I pass up such an opportunity to expose my children to literature, learning, words, poetry, and culture? The kids had a great time and the weather was perfect!

The highlight of the day was our trip to that icon of the Knoxville landscape-the Sunsphere! Katie has lived her entire life in Knoxville, and today was her first trip up the "Big Ball!"

We opted for lunch at Moe's on the strip. Poor Katie, being unfamliar with the ordering process and menu at Moe's, she got a little stressed. She was pushed to her limit and almost said to forget the whole thing, but she managed order enough tacos to feed the young ones. Just as she made her way to the patio with her tray of goodies, Natalie dumped her drink out as she made her way out the door! I think the look on Katie's face pretty much sums up her reaction to her experience at Moe's! Priceless!
After lunch, the Crawfords headed home to check up on the "big kids." Turns out Drew was with Dane at the lake and Chelcie was preparing to go fishing with Becca Jones and some guy (poor dude, he probably had no idea was he's getting himself into with the two of them)! I'm not exactly sure what they were hoping to catch!
About five o'clock, Addie, Sam and I decided to head out to the Cove so they could go for a swim. I sat in the shade on my blanket and watched and listened to the people around me. I felt overdressed in my shorts and t-shirt as every female, regardless of size, had on a bikini! And the majority had at least one very prominent tattoo! Several yelled at their kids while simultaneously holding a cigarette between their lips. I actually saw one guy take a dip wearing cut-off bib overalls!
As I sat perched there on my blanket, with my nose stuck up so high in the air, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that we are ALL loved by God. How dare I judge them? I had no say into which family I was born. God blessed me by giving me parents who love me, an education that allows me to "know better," and enough modesty not to show my stuff to anyone who happens to glance my way! What grabbed me most was watching the children. They were all beautiful! And you know what? When I looked at the women with their bikinis and tattoos, and the old men in bib overalls through my enlightened eyes, I saw them as innocent, little children who didn't know or care that someday in their future a lady on a blanket would learn a lesson from them that she desperately needed to learn!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Had to See it to Believe It!

Wednesday's highlight was our first broken window due to a baseball. I figured one of my boys would be the culprit, but NO! Addison Claire did the honors. She, Sam, and Taylor were playing a cut-throat game of "Wall Ball" when the incident occurred. Now we may be able to work out a buy one, get one free deal with the Glass Doctor because Tom accidentally broke the kitchen window back in December. Feeling more and more like the Griswalds from Vacation every day!
The kids and I decided to spend some time in a bookstore because the day was cloudy and rainy, so we cashed in some more donated books at McKay's. Yee-Haw! $25 in trade for us! Now we just need another rainy day and the third grade summer reading list to make for another trip to McKay's.

I woke up early Thursday morning feeling kinda lonesome and out of sync. I think it's because school is out, summer hasn't hit me yet, and it seems like all my friends are busy. Just
feeling BLAH. I spent a few minutes talking to God about stuff and would you believe He took care of me again! He said, not audibly, "Go to Cades Cove and talk to Me." So I did! Sam came jogging back to my bed and we snuggled a little bit. Tom had left early to go to the office, so my one-on-one time with Sam was unhurried. I told Sam we were going to the mountains today!
While I took a shower, he woke up Addie and we threw a change of clothes in a bag in case of emergency. We gave Grandmom a call in the hopes she could join us and she DID!

God blessed us with an overcast day on the cool side. I filled up my car with gas for a whopping $50.52, and we were off! Once we arrived at "the Cove," Grandmom begged and pleaded for us to walk the cove (11 miles). Addie has walked it before, but Sam? I didn't know if my six year old had it in him to walk 11 his crocs! Since Grandmom was near tears (not really, I'm exaggerating), I relented and parked the car! At 11:15, we set out for what was sure to be an adventure!

We had no water, no food, no band-aids, nothing but our determination and sheer will to take us through this perilous journey. The cicadas were out in force! Every 17 years they emerge from dormancy in the ground, mate, and die. They were everywhere! Dead cicadas littered the road. Flying cicadas occasionally flew into our hair, or landed on our shoulders and looked at us with their fierce red eyes. We say many of Addie asked about that, "Is that like getting married?" Grandmom and I looked at each other and said "Yes!" at the same time!

We saw three of the largest bears I have ever seen! Sam wasn't impressed. He told us he'd seen much bigger. When we asked him where, he said, "In my dreams!" He cracks me up sometimes. The smells of fresh earth, newly mowed grass, horses, wildflowers, and nature made me wish for a bottle to keep it in so I can open it on those cold, winter days ahead and remember... We saw 14 deer, one salamander (Grandmom saved its life by throwing it back in the creek with a leaf), a furry, black caterpillar, a dead frog, a dead snake, and a dead mouse.

Miraculously, Sam walked all 11 miles without out giving up or giving out! He complained a little bit and told me when he finally finished that he was "never, ever, going to do this again!" He walked about half the way around barefooted!
This was a day to celebrate Sam's great accomplishment! We praised his effort and his success and gave him hugs and high fives! He frowned and reminded us that he was never, ever going to do it again, but we know he'll change his mind...hopefully!
No trip around the loop is complete without an ice cream cone reward, all four of us indulged our craving and devoured our treat in record time! Addie and Sam each got a root beer from Grandmom because they were "so, so thirsty!"
We headed back to the valley at about 4:00, tired, but happy. We took Grandmom home to babysit Bennett and I crawled onto the trampoline fully intending to finish my book. No such luck. Tom cruised home and gave me a 15 minutes heads-up to be ready to go meet someone to sign a contract, then we'd grab a bite to eat. O'Charley's was our restaurant of choice tonight because Addie loves the big, fat yeast rolls! I was thrilled to see one of my former students, Danielle DeFayette, working as the hostess, and another former student, Amanda Collins, was working as a server!
Obviously, God took a look at me this morning and decided to fill me up some more! I am abundantly blessed!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

42 + 50 = What Did You Do With the Time I Gave You?

Tonight I am feeling rather philosophical, so you'll have to bear with me through what may appear to be random thoughts. I started reading a book yesterday entitiled, The Shack by William P. Young. It started out as just a typical book about a father who takes his kids camping when a tragic accident occurs. Then, through a strange series of twists that left me scratching my head wondering, "Now where did THAT come from?" the father ends up back in the same place where the tragedy occurred three years later, but the surroundings are vastly different. Without spoiling the book, or giving away the ending (I haven't finished it yet anyway), let me say that this book has caused me to examine my relationship with God in a new light.

There have been moments while reading that I have rolled my eyes and thought, "Puh-leeze! That borders on the ridiculous!" I've even been slightly offended in places that the concept of God would be treated so seemingly lightly! However, now that I am nearing the end of the book, I'm asking myself profound questions about my Savior. How do I think of the Holy Spirit and what role does He/She/It play in my life? How about God, the Father? And Jesus? What about Him? I tend to think of Jesus as the easiest one of the Trinity to love. He is the One who paid my debt, right? He is the One who went willingly to the Cross, right? He's the One who interprets my prayers to the Father, right? I can get my head around Jesus, but who is God? What is His nature? I know the Sunday School answers; God is love. Yeah, He is, but what is it like to KNOW Him? What is it like to see through His eyes?

There is a particularly moving situation in the book when the main character, Mackenzie, is forced to judge his children. He simply cannot do it! He loves them too much. This is similar to the way Jesus loves us. How guilty I am of judging others! Who am I to judge them? Who am I to judge anyone? Even murderers, rapists, and "bad" people. What about people who drink too much, use drugs, cheat on their spouses? I am in no position to judge anyone.

Another thought from the book-Do I do what I do because of what the world expects of me? Are my decisions to love people based on social boundaries of what is acceptable? Could I love people more deeply, more like Christ, if I was not preoccupied by what "people" thought? I see their hurt; I feel their brokenness; I want to reach out and comfort them, but at what cost? For the purpose of clarification to anyone who might misinterpret my thoughts- I do not mean to cross physical boundaries or provide physical comfort, other than a hug or hand to hold. I'm referring to demolishing emotional walls and allowing myself to truly know another person and allowing that other person to know me back. God created relationships in order for us to see a glimpse of Him on earth. I have tasted the initimacy of relationships that have Christ at the center and they are by far the best relationships I've ever had! My soul craves that kind of intimacy!

God is at work on my heart right now. He is teaching me that He is enough. He is growing me in ways that will help me better serve whatever plans He has for my life. Serving Him is my heart's desire! I want to be used by God. I want to be the proof to the doubters that God can take someone like me-ordinary, limited, full of faults, and make me into something useful to the Creator of the Universe! It's laughable, isn't it? To think that I, selfish, insecure, impatient, sinful Amy, could ever do anything lasting for the Kingdom of God. I have no idea what His plans for my life are, but I know He never wastes a hurt, and when I give up control and allow Him to be Lord in my life, He proves Himself worthy every single time!

About the time factor. I am forty-two years old. Realistically, I could have, maybe, fifty more years, should life go easy on me. Or I could die in my sleep tonight. I'm already feeling the effects of time on my body. A passing glance in the mirror tells me that I look more like my mother than my daughter these days. Time passes quickly, but it passes one single day at a time. What will I do with TODAY? Tomorrow is gone forever. There is no use looking back. Why worry about the future? All my thoughts of "What if..." are wasted thoughts. Today is it. This moment. Now. Am I going to continue to live for myself, or was I created for something more than that? I believe that God made me to fulfill a plan He made for me before I was born. The only way I can ever fulfill that plan is to give up my independence and live for Him every day. That doesn't mean that I will be perfect, or some scary holy-roller, crazy woman, it just means that I have to make a conscious choice every day to listen to His voice, to follow His steps, to refuse to listen to the persistent hiss of the snake who calls me to what I want, to what I think is best, to what I think I need. It is obvious to everyone who knows me that I struggle, and I fail...miserably...a lot! That doesn't mean I should give up, and neither should you. If you've read this much of my ramblings, maybe God is using my words to speak some truth into your life too. We can't even imagine what He can do with our lives when we turn them over to Him! For about the tenth time today, I'm laying it all down at His feet. I'm not looking back...I'm walking away from my pile of "junk"... I'm going...I trust Him...I'd better go to bed now before I run back to pick it all back up again! Good-night Wednesday. Thursday? I hope to see you tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Checked Out and Ready to Play!

Finally, finally, finally! I'm checked out of West Valley Middle School and ready to enjoy the lazy days of summer! I cleaned out my desk and loaded up some junk that will likely stay in the car until the first day of school this fall, but my check-out sheet is complete!

I spent most of the day hanging out on the trampoline with a good book. The Shack is a faith-stretching story of triumph over tragedy. I've enjoyed it so far, but it's weird. I'm reserving judgement until I finish it. I guess you could say it's making me think of things in a different way. God is represented by an overweight, African-American woman! That alone is enough to shake up my preconceived notions!

Addie went to Natalie's house to spend the night. She was so excited! She started getting ready about four hours before she was to be there! Drew is at the beach with Andrew. He has texted me one word since he left. I asked him, "Are you alive?" and he texted me back, "Yes." So I guess all is well.

Chelcie was a little bored this afternoon, so I offered to fix Petro's for her and some of her buddies. Now, my backyard is crawling with so-to-be college freshmen! Cassie, Becca Cox, Sarah Hope, Kelli, Kelsey Crabtree, Charley Park, Hunter Daniel, Scruggs, Luke, Corey, Patrick(?), Jennifer, and Abby are here. They are good kids who have grown up WAY TOO FAST! Delaney was here earlier, but she left to go to her grandparents' house. Then she came back!

Sam is having fun hanging out with the "big kids."

I've included some pictures from Grandmom's and Papaw's Memorial Day Cookout as part of today's update.

There is a funny picture of Bennett going potty outside. The funny part is that Katie almost broke her leg throwing her body in front of the camera lest her baby boy's private parts be displayed on the Internet for world-wide viewing!

There is also a picture of a painting the Drew created for his Advanced Art class. This is a portrait of Andrew Soreano at Krispy Kreme with Central Bapt. Church of Bearden in the background. He's an amazing artist and I am a proud mom!