Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why did I eat all that??

It happens every year--but this year it happened even bigger. First off--we got a zillion delicious variations of sugar and butter and cocoa in little bags tied with ribbon. YUMMY! I'd tell myself every morning to stay away from the treats...but, I'd end up eating little bits throughout the day.

Then, we left Tennessee for our annual Christmas pilgrimmage to Georgia, and my mother (who happens to be the BEST COOK IN THE ENTIRE WORLD), greets us with...pecan pie, coconut pie, plum nutty cake, raisin cake, cocounut cake (made from REAL coconut peeled and grated) and assorted goodies her neighbor dropped by. I told myself that I would have just one piece of the coconut and raisin cakes (we only get those at Christmas) and that would be enough.

But, I had a sliver of pecan pie on Christmas Eve, a pile of coconut cake crumbs and sliver of raisin cake after feasting on turkey, dressing, squash casserole, sweet potato casserole, strawberry congealed salad, lettuce and mayo --with green peas and bacon salad, AND green beans. THEN in the afternoon I had my own personal spoon that I used to scrape the crumbs all the others left behind on both those cakes. I also took another sliver or two of the coconut cake and when the leftovers were set out for people to pick on for dinner, I did my fair share of picking with the rest.

I went to bed and my stomach looked like the grinch's when he finished taste testing the fudge in who-ville.

December 25.

So, on December 26 I said, "Leighann, no more sweets for you--that is enough!" In fact, I decided that I could most likely go until 2009 before I needed anything else to eat. But, by ten, I feasted on my friend Laura's leftovers--hashbrown casserole, egg casserole, ham, creamy grits, and ambrosia! YUM! (Their family had brunch on Christmas Day). Then, I actually asked her if I could munch on her daughter's chex mix??!! How ridiculous is that? But, since I'd been away from my mom's house all day, I did keep my promise to leave the coconut and raisin cakes alone. Until...I made my way back home for dinner. We ordered out Chinese. So--I ate rice and chicken with cashews, and pork and cabbage and who knows what else that always tastes good after eating ham and turkey AND for dessert? You guessed it, another pile of coconut cake crumbs and a tiny sliver of raisin cake.

December 26

This morning I got out of bed, squeezed myself into the biggest pair of jeans I own, went downstairs and ate a bowl of oatmeal. My stomach thanked me sincerely...finally something normal. (I even sweetened it with splenda). But, while I was eating breakfast my mother was making another pecan pie.

Why was my mother making pecan pie? Did we lack sweets in our Christmas house? NO...but my sister made this innocent comment last night when she was packing her Christmas sweets to go: "Oh, I missed the pecan pie. Bummer!"

That's all it took...with that, my SWEET Mama got up this morning and baked my poor sweet-deprived little sister her very own pecan pie to take home with her today.

So, what does that have to do with me? Well, you see, Mama had just a teeny bit of crust leftover when she made her pie. And so, she spread that little bit of crust in another pie pan, and topped it with just a dab of pecan pie filling. The result? One of the most delicious pecan pie tartlett/cookies you've ever tasted! And, yes...I tasted it.

But finally I made it home. No more pies...no more cakes. Oh, except for those candied pecans that are still sitting on my kitchen counter AND that chocolate pound cake I had to eat to top off my lean cuisine.

December 27.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Facebook and SNOW!!!

Oh my, I just couldn't pass this weekend up without taking a minute to talk about it. Wasn't the SNOW incredible? I felt like we were in a Christmas card!

Mikel got stuck in Columbia (much to her delight and my chagrine), Allie (Kaleigh's friend) got stuck here with us (much to Kaleigh's delight) AND TJ's Coach Kelly had to come home with Tom for dinner (much to everyone's delight). We had country ham, eggs and biscuits.

It was like the old days when traveller's dropped in when the weather got rough. The next morning Tom and I got up and out early...I'll show you the picture of the barn across the street when I get around to downloading the photo's.

Then..to top off all the excitement, Kaleigh decided to set me up on facebook. Within 2 days I had over 41 friends!! WOW!! Now that makes one feel special!! I'm feeling five years younger with each friend request that comes my way! Of course some of my friends are other mama's and married's but LOTS are my kid's friends!!

Oh yea, I'm cool!!

Hope you had as much fun this weekend as me! Maybe we WILL have a white Christmas even in Tennessee!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Preparing your heart and home for the holidays

I bet some of you are thinking, "It's about time we heard from her!" Others might have wondered if we fell off the mountains somewhere in North Carolina. Then the rest of you might be so busy with your own holiday preparations you could care less that I haven't updated my blog in weeks.

But for those of you who are wondering, chomping at the bit to hear from your favorite "sister pastor" I'm back. I've been here all along, just writing in another place. My project? A book I'm calling "preparing your heart and home for the holidays." It is a book that challenges you to "make the holidays holy" mostly by not doing too much. The hiliarious irony of it all is that I am the least qualified to write such a book!! For, I of all people, need to STOP DOING SO MUCH!!!

Anyway, since the 2nd week of November I've written 57,612 words. I'm not sure how many pages that is, but it's about two of my books that are sitting on Lifeway bookstore shelves right now! The chapters are really daily devotions. They cover topics from "Don't miss Thanksgiving" to "What about Santa Claus" to "Preparing for the New Year." If we get this one published (which I sincerely hope that we do), it will take you from the week before Thanksgiving through Christmas and into the New Year--are you ready for this?....

....in 40 days.

Clever, I know. All I need now are a few more home decorating ideas and recipes to sprinkle throughout. We've been hosting this book as a class and have picked up quite a few decorating tips and recipes, but I could use a few more. So, if you have any you'd like to have published in next year's holiday bestseller--send them to me (just include your source).

Hope you all have been well. I'm now off to "prepare my heart and home for the holidays." So, you might not hear from me again until the New Year.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Several years ago, we stopped doing the "family thing" for Thanksgiving. Before that we would trade years. One year we'd go to the McCoy's and spend Thanksgiving at a catfish restaurant or at Montgomery Bell State Park buffet. The other year we'd drive to Georgia and gather with my Dad's family for the holiday. I loved my family members, but I didn't enjoy either festivity.



Catfish or the country buffet simply didn't seem enough like Thanksgiving to me. And driving to Georgia to turn around and drive back through the holiday traffic didn't appeal to me either. So, one year we told both families that we were breaking tradition and going our own way. So, we have a new tradition. The Thanksgiving holiday is spent with our immediate family. Just us--Tom, me, Mikel, Kaleigh and TJ. The first year we did this, the kids loved it! We found a condo in the mountains and took off.



We spent the holiday hanging out with one another, making Christmas presents, and doing whatever there was to do in the locale where we were staying. Then, about 3 years ago, we started going to North Carolina. My parents had a place there--oh my, it was incredible! We took all our food with us (I have this little envelope with the menu's, shopping lists and recipes in it.) and we played games, put together puzzles, watched ball games, took hikes and roasted marshmallows. My parents would come up on Friday after Thanksgiving and we'd all go together Saturday morning to cut our Christmas trees. Then--we'd haul it back home.



But my parents had to sell their house this past year. That, my friends, was a sad day. And so when this week was approaching, I was in a quandry as to what to do. I tossed around the idea of staying here. And, we almost opted for that. But, then I realized that all 3 of my kids would want to be anywhere but home, and I'd have to "ground" them just to have time together!!



So, just a few days ago, I got online and found us a cabin to rent--back in North Carolina. I'm leaving tomorrow (Sunday) and Kaleigh's going with me. Tom, Mikel and TJ are coming up on Wednesday to meet us. I shopped today using the lists in my Thanksgiving Menus envelope, and have all the food packed in my Highlander.



Just in case you are picturing the picture-perfect family all nestled in a mountain cabin enjoying one another's company--I want you to know what each of my children have said about my plans:



Mikel--"I found someone who will let me go with them to their Thanksgiving dinner if I can talk you out of taking me."



Kaleigh--"I don't know why we have to go over there. This is a perfectly good place to be. I'll miss my friends."



TJ--"Awe, Mom. Do we have to go?"



People tell me this is simply a phase we're going through. It seems that if you don't have a last name different than my own--my kids don't want to hang with you. Why is that? When did I lose my appeal? What happened to "Oh mommy, can I go with you?!" I'd even welcome a tear or two when we have to part for school in the morning!!



But...I'm still the Mama so I still get the "say so." And I say we're spending Thanksgiving together--far, far away. Where cell phones won't work, and computers won't link into the internet! We're eating pumpkin pie, turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce and WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A GOOD TIME!!!



I hope that you have a Happy Thanksgiving too. And, that you'll take some time to thank God for giving (I'll be thanking Him for giving me these teens!).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Black walnuts and old bananas

There is something you need to know about me. I have a very hard time throwing away old bananas. It's silly I know...I don't have any trouble tossing out bad lettuce, oranges or even old apples. But those bananas...they are hard to toss. My mother used to make delicious banana muffins out of old bananas, and although I travel most every weekend to the far corners of the nation--and work at the church in what time I'm at home. Although I push myself to write two to three books a year--and all three of my children are playing sports (that I support by watching) I still feel like I need to make something out of those bananas.

Then there are also those black walnuts. I have the hardest time not going out there and collecting those walnuts. They are falling all over the place, and staining the streets. When Mikel was a toddler, she collected them for me, and got covered with black "stuff." I don't remember actually cooking with them--I most likely gave them to my mother. She loves to bake with them. If the truth be known, I don't even like black walnuts--they taste like they've musted even when they're supposedly good.

What is it about me that is plagued by bananas and black walnuts? Come to think of it--wouldn't they both be tasty in a bread???

Friday, November 14, 2008

Moe's Barbeque Fish and Things

Okay, if you live in Thompson Station or Spring Hill--you know how exciting it is when new restaurants open. For heaven's sake, when Captain D's opened--there was a traffic jam in front of Lowe's!! I was NOT in the line mind you. The last time I ate Captain D's I was pregnant with Mikel, catching a quick bite with Tom before spending the afternoon helping him with some of his doctoral work, and I regretted it the entire afternoon!

However, I did notice that O'Charley's is "NOW OPEN!" And I do hope to get Kaleigh down there soon for some of those big hot yeast rolls. (She loves O'Charleys!) And, the Olive Garden is coming soon. I've been meaning to taste some of Gigi's cupcakes, and I've heard great things about that new mexican grill (can't remember the name). I remember when our choices were two: the Spring Hill Restaurant (a meat and 3 in downtown Spring Hill--now for sale) and the Steeple Chase Inn (where Pancho's used to be and the Mediterranean restaurant is now. In fact, it was at the Steeple Chase that we interviewed with the entire congregation --in the large corner booth--on the last Sunday of January 1989 when Tom preached his trial sermon).

But the most recent banner that caught my attention is just outside the new Kroger gas station (beside the new Kroger that is beside the middle school--YES!! I plan to send TJ shopping in the afternoons timing it just so that I can pick him up in the Kroger check-out line to pay the bill.).

The banner reads "Moe's Barbeque Fish and Things"

I've nearly had an accident craining my neck to see where exactly Moe's is located. Is it in the Kroger plaza? No. Is it back there with that new childcare center? No. Sharing the building with the oil change place? Nope. Today I discovered Moe's restaurant. It's a trailer in the TSC Hardware (not church) parking lot. I kid you not--you can enjoy Moe's in the comfort of your own car--parking for FREE at TSC!!

Something about barbeque....fish...and things... kind of concerns me when it's served out of a trailer! but, more power to you Moe!! You're one MOE choice we have for dinner!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

I like sex

Bet that got your attention!! We had a church member who said to Tom, (when he announced we were pregnant with TJ--which made our third pregnancy in three years) "I know that people do that--I just don't want to think of my pastor doing it!"

It's kind of like thinking of your parents doing it. UGH!

But, I'm just gonna say...I'm married! I never partook before I was married. I've been married for almost 22 years and I've been partaking ever since--I enjoyed it from the first and I enjoy it even more today.

There...did I make you blush??? (Tom is so going to get on me for this blog...)

Anyway, I've been amazed at the people God sometimes plops right into my path. For instance, I met D. James Kennedy--sat in his office and practiced my EE presentation with him. Morris Chapman (CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention) gave me my annual review when he was chairman of the personnel team at TSC. I've served lasagna in my dining room to Jerry Rankin (president of the International Mission Board) and his wife Bobbye, toured India with Rebekah Naylor (former missionary doctor there--a hero to Girls in Action), had dinner with Dave Ramsey, done jumping jacks and lunges in Travis' Cottrell's home (with his wife Angela)...the list could go on and on.

But just this month, I've met two new friends. One is Neil Anderson (author of The Bondage Breaker, Victory over the Darkness and Breaking Free), AND my neighbor is Joe Beam! If you google "sex expert" on the internet, you'll find his name. How cool is that???

Tom and I went to lunch with Joe and his wife the other day, we sat right in Jeffrey's talking about ------ (I will restrain my freedom of speech just a bit.) I love how God places people in my path.

So, if you like sex--visit my neighbor Joe's blog. Because he makes his living talking about it--you can get a good sex talk daily. I've added him to my links.

This will be the one and only time you'll get it here. :)

I'm closing now--but just let me say this. Sex was God's idea. And I think it was one of His BEST!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

How 'bout those Titans?


Okay, let's get back to the real reason we blog--to yick yack about the really important things in life.

Things like our Tennessee Titans! How about those Titans?

Now, I have to confess that I know very little about football. I'm one of those moms who says, "that's why I'm glad my son doesn't play." And when I watch those guys tackle one another--I praise God my son loves basketball!

But, I have to confess that I'm all caught up in Titan fever. We're undefeated, and I'm just sayin- that's something to brag about--don't you think?

Tom and I got to go to a Monday night game. Our good friends, the Chapman's invited us to join them in their high dollar seats. I'm not sure how high the dollar is--but since the seats are on the fifty yard line and the night we went we could practially talk in a normal voice to Eddie George, Steve McNair and that guy who owns the team--I figure they cost a pretty high dollar.

Anyway...sitting amongst the crowd I got a good taste of what it's all about. The game was great (we beat the Indianapolis Colts)--the booze was sloshing and the language made me blush (as did the scantily clad cheerleaders). I wish I could tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed my time--but I have to confess I'd rather have my seat at home.

In my own house I can enjoy the game, actually see the instant replays, and listen to the commentators explain what's going on. I can control the noise, and monitor the language. The only thing sloshing is diet coke and maybe hot cocoa. I don't want to sound like a prude, but if preferring a wholesome atmosphere --and wishing the cheerleaders were clothed--makes me so, then I'll simply let you call me "a prude."

Don't get me wrong, dear Chapman's. I'm grateful for our time together. I actually admire the way you live your witness week in and week out as you dive right on in to the middle of that mayhem! I'll pray for you like I pray for the missionaries serving in the places we cannot mention.

But as for those Titans' we're going all the way! And when we get there this time, we're beating our opponent! Go Titans!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I really like Stretch Marks post better than mine

I just finished reading my friend Melissa's blog--and all I can say is "AMEN." Go to hers...she says it all much better than me. It's kind of like Norman Rockwall meets Evelyn Christensen. :)

Well then...

Well. I guess we learned a few things this week...
...we learned that one can be evasive and non-committal and still get elected to office.
...we learned that America has come a very long way from the racial injustices of yester-year.
...we learned that while we stood together and cried patriots tears on the evening on 9/11/01 when our president told us we'd have to fight a long, expensive, difficult war if we wanted to win against terrorism--7 years is long enough for many Americans (although the battle has yet to be won).
...we learned that the Bible belt still votes values--but that the influence of those who live there doesn't reach very far beyond the "buckle."
...we learned that the majority of Californians still consider marriage being a union between one man and one woman--no matter how their state court wants to redefine it!

This is a new day indeed. Change is what we've been promised--

For too many years America has grown to expect those who are Christians to sit down and be quiet. My friends, It's time for us to stand up and be counted!

God put us in this country for such a time as this.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Salt and Light

I'm going to do something I will rarely do on my blog. I'm going to get on my soap box for just a minute.

I read from Matthew 5 this morning in my Praying Toward the Election prayer guide. You know the passage, "you are the salt of the earth...you are the light of the world..." Jesus urged us to be salty and to shine brightly.

I heard a preacher remind me once that salt was more than seasoning in Jesus' day. Salt slowed decay. When I moved to Tennessee I was introduced to "country ham." I'm thinking that salt didn't quite slow that ham enough! But, nonetheless, the salt-curing process make that ham "ok" to eat long after it was alive and kicking!

Salt was also used to heal wounds. (ouch!) So...when Jesus said "you are the salt of the earth" He was telling us that we are here to "slow the decay" and "heal the wound" of sin's festering sore!

Jesus also said "you are the light of the world. He said, "people don't light lamps and put them under bowls! They put them on lampstands!" And boy do they ever! What good is light if not for shining in the dark?

I'm sitting here hours before the election. Perhaps the most interesting presidential race ever. And although I don't know what the majority of American's will say with their vote tomorrow, I do know that just the fact that we're faced with such a choice tells me that America is much darker, much more decaying and much more wounded by sin than I knew before we got to this day.

And I have to wonder, why is that?

Is it because our salt has lost its saltiness? Are we hiding our lights under the bowls?

Perhaps we've seasoned our fellowship with other Christians and forgotten that our salt was given to us for much more than flavoring our worship gatherings.

Perhaps we've illuminated our houses of worship so brightly that we've completely forgotten how dark it's gotten outside those doors.

I don't know if Obama or McCain will be elected tomorrow. But I do know Who I trust. And I know Whom I serve. I know Who's called me to be His own. I know that He will remain where He's always been--on His Throne. And my friends...I know what He's told me to do:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16 NIV

Don't stop voting your values when you leave the polling place tomorrow. Keep casting your vote as you live your life. God has always blessed America--He's longing for us to join Him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Yesterday was "Some Day"

Okay, I do have two other children and a husband, but I've got to do one more post on Kaleigh. Yesterday was "Some Day" for her--you know what I mean: Some day I'll give up my bottle, some day I'll learn the alphabet, some day I'll start school, some day I'll lose my first tooth...the some days come and go.

Some day...I'll get my learner's permit.

That's what happened yesterday. I got Kaleigh from school later than usual. They get out at 2:30something but I don't dream of being in that line waiting--why should I get out in all that traffic when if I wait just 20 minutes I can avoid it all together?! I've always believed this--to the point that TJ was picked up last almost every day when he went to elementary school. He thought that my not being in the front of the line 45 minutes before school let out meant that I didn't love him. What is up with that anyway? Why do those mothers have to do that? It only makes the rest of us look bad. I knew one woman in our church who led a Bible study for the early liners!!! Not me, I could hardly make it before the flashing light stopped flashing! Anyway, to let TJ know that I did truly LOVE him! I flip flopped his way of thinking. I promised that each time he was last being picked up I'd give him $5. From then on he saw my tardiness as his reward (and I made a greater effort not to be the very last mother there).

Kaleigh still pouts a little when I'm well past 3 getting her. And tomorrow was no different. We rushed home to pick up a birth certificate, a utility bill (that needs paying), her social security card and her school attendance form. And off we went to the Franklin Driver's License office. We almost drove to Columbia for her to take her test because the people are nicer down there and the wait is a whole lot shorter. Not only that, but I just sent a complaint to the office of complaints regarding the people at the Franklin station not being very friendly--and I was afraid they might know I'd done that and take it out on Kaleigh. BUT---we decided on going there anyway--it's closer.

An hour later Kaleigh went into the room to take her test. She was excited to miss only as many questions as her sister missed (we live in a very competitive family)--she made a GREAT picture, and came out a licensed learner.

It was some day.

I took her right away to Starbucks to celebrate (we celebrate everything!! I still remember the $10 march we took around the kitchen when she kept her pull-ups dry 10 days). After that I took her to the church parking lot for her first driving lesson. Do we ever have a great place to learn to drive! It's like a city of possibility outside that church!!! We drove, parked, turned on the blinkers and I got bored after about 10 minutes and talked her into driving to the Tucker's. Off we went--maybe the scariest ride down TS road that I've ever had! But she did great. When the Tucker's were not home to help us celebrate we decided to take off to TJ's house (our student pastor)--it was another 4 miles or so away.

They were having their own celebration inside when we got there! TJ and his son were singing at the top of their lungs and didn't hear us at the door until we knocked and rang the bell 3 times!! But, it was definitely the right place to celebrate--after Kaleigh was duly rewarded with "way to go!" from her student pastor, his wife, son and daughter--we headed home. (I drove.)

It was Kaleigh's "some day." She showed her Dad her license, we all oohed and ahhed over how pretty she is in the picture--and she settled back into real life with her Euro history "friend."

It was my some day too--only I didn't "settle." Instead, I cried a little and remembered a lot. The some day I discovered she was on her way...the some day I thought I miscarried her...the some day she finally arrived...the some day she took her first step...the some day she learned to ride her bike...so many some days.....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kaleigh's essay on Nicaragua







Kaleigh McCoy
English II H, 4th period
Mr. Keathley
7 October 2008



A Journey Much Further Than Nicaragua



Going to Nicaragua in my seventh grade year changed my life forever. After seeing the poverty-stricken people that still readily embraced joy and love, my life, and the very fiber of my being was transformed. Never again would I go a day in my life without thinking about those people, and so many others that consistently love and serve their God and one another, while struggling simply to survive. However, even more that that, my heart goes out to those who do not have faith in Jesus Christ to hold onto; day after day they have no hope and no purpose, but only to continue to exist.



When I stepped off the plane, though I did not know it at the time, my life would never be the same again. The ride to the mission house was seemingly endless. As the rain pounded on the windows, and the lightning lit the sky, my eyes were opened to a world different than anything I’d ever seen. At every stoplight, children would be banging on the windows, shouting, trying to sell everything from food to watches to birds and turtles. These little children had been driven by desperation to earn what little money they could to avoid the shame of having to return to their parents empty-handed, and, here I am, complaining if my parents give me too many chores. The streets were full of people simply walking around in the chaos of their everyday lives. When we finally arrived at the mission house, we quickly unloaded and had a brief orientation from Guillermo. The room that I was staying in had no air conditioning, but we did have the luxury of fans unlike some of the men. It was there, in the hot humid bedroom, that my eyes first began to overflow. How could a child, younger than me, be forced to go and sell tings on the street, just so that their families can afford a meal? Why couldn’t they just be kids? Why were there countless people in the streets that appeared to be homeless? I could not understand how this was not even that traumatic, and these people were blessed compared to millions of others around the world, but I had only barely had a glimpse.



The following day, after a church service in Managua, we embarked on a journey to Juigalpa. On this three hour trip, I saw many average Nicaraguan homes. Most consisted of about a 12x12 building made out of scrap metal. I stared in astonishment when a boy, who could not have been more than six years old, was outside wielding a machete in order to “mow the lawn.” Just like the kids in the city, this boy had much more responsibility than any child I’d ever met. Not thirty minutes later, I noticed a group of boys playing baseball with a piece of wood and a rolled up pair of socks. They appeared to be having the most fun ever. I could not understand how anyone could be aware of this kind of poverty, where little boys could not even have a real ball and bat, and not do anything about it.



The most influential experience I had while in Nicaragua was on the fifth day when we visited a rural village. As we drove through the dirt roads, towards the local church, my heart grew heavy and my eyes filled with tears. As far as I could see, small, concrete, two-roomed homes lined the streets. Children with inadequate clothing, some too small, most too big, were running after the bus playing. After we arrived at the open air church building, our team split up into groups and filled the streets. We each had an interpreter with us. We went from one doorless house to the next, inviting their residents to a service that evening at the local church. Many people invited us into their homes. All of the houses were the same: two 10x10 rooms, a bedroom, and a sitting room. All the cooking and, in reality, living, was done outside. Families as large as seven or eight would share a single bedroom. The image was almost embarrassing to me. The thought that these people lived like this their whole lives, not even thinking twice, and I, in my lavish American lifestyle, always seem to find something to complain about. I realized how self-centered, selfish, and materialistic I was.



The few weeks I have spent in Nicaragua have made a massive impact on my life. I can not be satisfied living my comfortable life, after seeing firsthand what so many people live through. The fact that I had so much, and wanted even more, while there are children, that cannot even afford clothes that fit them and are lucky if they get a meal, are all over this world, put me to shame. Ever since that trip, I cannot stop thinking about the poor in this word, physically and spiritually. I pray that I never let myself forget them, but even more than that, I pray that I allow my life to be used by God, now and in the future, to help change. Knowing about that pain in the world and ignoring it or doing nothing but talk about it is far worse that not knowing at all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kaleigh's Mission Trip to Nicaragua

Okay, Betty just reminded (comment on last post) that Kaleigh went to Nicaragua this past week. OH MY!! This week is always the longest week of the year for me. Ever since Kaleigh first started visiting Nicaragua when she was 12! I am so proud of her--and so pondering what God has in mind for her life.

She wrote a paper for school the other week about a life changing event. Her life changing event was her first trip to Nicaragua. I'm going to get that paper from her and print some of it here one of these days. But this was the part that really got me...she said, "now that I've seen poverty. I cannot NOT do something about it."

Wow--how many of us should be so pro-active. The past 3 years Kaleigh's earned her own money for this trip. She wants nothing all year except to raise her funds to go again just so she can hold the children, renew friendships with the people she's met before and work to share God's love in tangible ways. Every year she comes back different. More grateful, sometimes almost feeling guilty (this year she asked me to make her only a half a sandwhich because she'd been tossing the other half in the trash and she said, "I can't do that anymore.").

I saw something new in her this time--it's confidence and a real passion to get her friends to go back with her. She's right now planning another trip for June of next summer. I am so excited to see her embrace God's love for people through this trip!!

Of course Kaleigh couldn't have this experience without Mrs. Donna (our preschool minister who coordinates the Nicaragua mission trip) and the other adults who always fill in as Nicaraguan Moms and Dads for her during this week. THANK YOU EVERYONE who love my Kaleigh and pour into her!!

I'll get some pictures and post soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pictures from our weekend








Thought you might enjoy some pictures.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Sister's Wedding

My sister got married this weekend so I went to celebrate with her. Mikel went with me--It was quite the trip.

Here are the things I liked:

Mikel and I actually got to hang out together all weekend! She didn't drive off in the car to text me 3 hours later asking for another 30 minutes to be tacked on to her curfew. I like the fact that she still likes hanging out with me (when she doesn't have a choice).

My parents made the trip down, bringing with them the chifferobe (not sure at all if I spelled that correctly-but it's a large piece of furniture that my grandma used for a closet). I like the fact that a parent's love never stops giving no matter how old you get to be.

My sister has her own house! She bought it with her own money and has decorated it beautifully. I liked that they have 3 "Dans" surrounding them--how fun is that? Three men named Dan. One on the right, one across the cul-de-sac and one behind them.

My new brother-in-law Steve. He helped my sister put the pieces back together, and loves her enough to say "I do." What kind of sister wouldn't like the man who loves her sister!

My neices. They are simply precious. Fun, behavin', honest and incredible survivors. I like them a whole lot!

Here are the things I pondered:

Making vows to one another in front of a very few friends and family members is much more serious it seemed to me than making them in front of a church full of strangers.
Hmm...

My neices stood with their mother, and their step-grandmother, their step-cousin, their step-uncle and their step/step-cousin. (At least that's the way they described him to Mikel. When she asked what that was supposed to mean, Kes said, "Well, it means he's hardly related to us at all!") Hmmm...

I sat next to my (old) brother-in-law at dinner (yes, he came to the wedding and the dinner after--special guest of the groom) and he made me a hang man's noose out of the straw wrapper (with a working knot!). He told me it was his only dinner table trick and that he gave it to me because his girlfriend had already seen it before. That was in response to me asking if it was some kind of wedding party favor. Hmmmm....

And these are the things I observed:

Love really does conquer all--all sorrow, all pain, all broken promises and regrets. Love believes and receives, tries again and one more time.

Life is full of regrets. And we're all broken people. But children bounce back. I think they have Tigger in them. They take life in stride, trust their parents and simply love the people put in their paths. They don't judge, they don't criticize and they don't try to figure it all out.

The more I learn, the more I realize I will never know. And the more I think I know, the more I realize I simply have not yet learned.

Only those who don't have a clue would dare pass judgement on others--for unless you've been where they've been, walked in their shoes, and collected their tears--you just don't have a right to go there.

"til death do us part..."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I met some more amazing women yesterday

I was in Grundy, Virginia this weekend. It's a tiny coal mining community with a great big vision and the power of move mountains! (literally--they have moved a mountain, and I met the wife of the mountain-moving man who did the deed!) I was in Grundy (or Maxie, or Harman) to partner with the women at Harman Memorial Baptist Church who were hosting their first ever women's conference. And...

I met some amazing women. One was Dee Dee. She is a physical therapist who told me right off that she met her husband in a nursing home. No, he wasn't a patient--but rather an optometrist. His office is in "town" (I couldn't ever quite figure out where 'town' was, but evidently neither can those who live there. For when they moved their mountain, they also opened a discussion as to where they want to move their town! The final decision is still up in the air).
Dee Dee called me several weeks ago--said she found me on the internet, and wondered if I might be interested in leading their conference. As I listened to her tell me what the Lord put on her heart, my mind wandered back to the early years at TSC. Something kindled inside of me (I learned this weekend it was the power of the Holy Spirit responding to the prayers on their end of the phone). And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Grundy, Virginia (where ever that was) was where I needed to be on October 10 and 11.

Another amazing woman was Belinda. She's the pastor's wife. She grew up in a pastor's home (which is always encouraging to me when I see beautiful women embracing the ministry even after growing up in a pastor's home! There is HOPE for my three!!). She tole me that because her father was a pastor, she told the Lord that when she got married, she would NOT marry a pastor. However she did marry a Gideon and that Gideon later became a pastor! When she told me this story she laughed (with genuine joy) and said, "God tricked me into being a pastor's wife!" Isn't that funny???

Then I also met the former pastor's wife, Billie Joyce Owens. Her husband died in a car accident four years ago, and although I detected an undeniable loss --it was resting safely beneath a fountain of joy that bubbled over with faith, peace and abundance. She spoke of God as if He were her very BEST FRIEND (I've no doubt He is) --and told me of the amazing gift He gave her in her grandson.

And I can't remember the names of everyone I met--but I will remember the face and the testimony of an elderly woman who sat on the front row Saturday morning. She caught me in the break and shared how her husband of nearly 60 years (would have been 60 years October 23) died this past June. She shared how much she missed him. I exclaimed "what a gift to have a marriage for that many years!" and she responded, "there's not ever been another woman who was loved as good as me." She went on to say that she married him when she was 13, and had 5 beautiful children. She told me that her firstborn was married this past August, and he told his mother that he wanted what she and his Dad had. She told him "then do what your father did. Listen when she tells you what you need to hear!" I thought this was some of the best marriage advice I'd ever heard!! When she told me that her husband was 81 when he died, I said, "you must have taken great care of him." to which she responded, "we took care of one another." Isn't that sweet? I pray I can have a testimony like that when I use a walker to go to church.

I had a traveling companion this weekend. My friend Kim. She too amazes me. Kim is a single mother who has done an amazing job of raising her daughters. As we talked (and talked and talked) during the 8 hour drive from here to there and back home again, she became a hero in my eyes. But everytime I said, "wow, Kim you are amazing!" She would respond, "no, not me. I'm nothing! I would've crashed and burned a long time ago had it not been for the Lord."

So---maybe it's not the women that are so amazing, but rather their God. I learned this weekend that some people MOVE MOUNTAINS~ I learned this weekend that others conquer the storms, and I learned this weekend that women in the backwoods of Virginia are changing the world.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Textbooks are like siblings

My AP European History taking sophomore informed me yesterday that textbooks are like siblings. She and her classmates have pet names for their textbooks. Their teacher (whom they love all except for the massive amounts of homework he assigns) encouraged them to have an amiable relationship with these books--he said, "they need to be your best friends."

That's what spurred Kaleigh on to tell me that her textbooks are definitely NOT her best friends. She said, "my Euro textbooks are like a siblings. I have to spend a whole lot of time with them and I don't like them at all. In fact, the more time I spend with them the less I like 'em!"

There you have it.

My eldest (the daughter that has deserted us on her march to ZION)...told me several years ago that she didn't have issues, she had siblings. She said, "if you'd never had Kaleigh and TJ I never would've had any problems."

Well then...

TJ doesn't even engage the matter in conversation. Now that we've moved him up to the attic he slips in and out trying hard not to say the wrong thing or look the wrong way. Honestly I think he's got it best...two older sisters that have tried to direct his life from day 1, and a great understanding of what he'll be getting into if he decides one day to marry. Come to think of it, no wonder he's immersed in basketball!!

I have to agree with my 3. Textbooks ARE like siblings--siblings ARE problems--and basketball sure beats being nanny-goated by a couple of older sisters.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Prayer meeting in the Equipping Center

I thought I was going to stay home last night and work on my book-- "Learning to Love the 'S' Words: Surrender." But, Kaleigh had another plan. She invited me to join her at the prayer meeting for the Nicaragua mission team. They leave this coming Saturday--and Kaleigh's going for the 4th year in a row!

We had the prayer meeting in the new Equipping center. We met in the preschool worship room. There were between 25 and 30 of us there to pray for the 12 members of the mission team. We circled up our chairs, and when Donna asked me to open the prayer time I was suddenly overwhelmed by the moment.

I have moments like that...right out of nowhere I'm bombarded by the irony of where I am, where I've been and where I'm going! Here I was on the Sunday evening of the first Sunday we opened this new building for ministry. I was sitting next to my 15 year old daughter who was sitting between me and one of her best friends--inviting God to pour His safety, leadership and love on the mission team. That was my present.

But then came my past.
  1. I was sitting in another room (one that no longer exists due to the renovation going on in the old building for our new youth center) and I was leading our first mission team (first ever for TSC) as we were preparing to go to Nicaragua.
  2. Then I was standing in the kitchen area outside the Venue (which was then the worship center), posing for a picture with Kaleigh (age 5) and her friend Will (also 5) and his mother--the two of them dressed in those little white baptism robes; Terra and me beaming from ear to ear-- YES LORD! YOU SAVED MY CHILD!
  3. I was in the "Red Brick" garage talking with the Vision team and our construction company about our vision for this next building. We passionately said that if we were going to spend this much money to build this kind of building smack dab in the middle of the belt buckle of the Bible belt--then we would be intentional about sending people out from this place!

And in my present, God let me see that the past was all coming together. Our church is sending 3 groups out this week. One to Mexico, another to east Asia and this one to Nicaragua (these 3 are part of many we've sent already this year). It all began many years ago--with that one little group I took to Nicaragua. My daughter and Will are walking in their faith! Both of them growing--he committed to pray for her during her trip--and she eagerly anticipating another great week serving the people she loves--sharing Jesus with those who have so little. And only God would put me in a prayer service (for the sole purpose of sending missionaries out) on the very day we opened our Equipping Center.

As I prayed I almost choked on the teeny little glimpse of what is yet to come. Kaleigh will continue to grow. She'll keep seeking after the Lord and He will continue to guide her into the very work He had in mind that she would do. The 3 women who've never been on a mission trip before will never be the same again. And this brand new building we just opened Sunday will send out hundreds, yes...even thousands of missionaries, preachers, lay leaders, counselors, teachers, mighty men and women of God in the years to come.

To God be the glory great things He has done!

Great things He is doing!

And Great things He will continue to do!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

We won, we lost, we won, we lost, we won, we won





We WON!! Our sophomore class of '11 beat all the others. Our float blew the judges away and we took first place!! I was so proud of these students. They had a great time, worked hard and worked together! This week is rapidly becoming a highlight of my year. Way to go guys!!

We lost...both our high schools had their homecoming games last night. Tom and I went to Zion first (their game started at 7 while IHS started their game at 7:30). Unfortunately the Zion eagles were playing the number 1 ranked team in their division. We lost...but we had a great time watching! The homecoming court was beautiful. I loved the way the attendants all wore black dresses and the queen wore white. They all rode in convertible classics. Very classy. Mikel's boyfriend plays center--and he did great. Not a single "hike" was missed. :)



We won!! Tom and I left Zion Christian Academy's game at half time and arrived at IHS right as the 3rd quarter began. The score board wasn't working so I never really new what the score was. But, we won!! I love IHS football games, the fans are so TOTALLY into it!! This was also a big night because Kaleigh found her own ride to the game. If you know my Kaleigh you know this is HUGE!!



We lost...if you know have more than one child, you know what it's like to have the best of times and the worst of times at the same time. Today--after a week of hosting the float building at my house, Kaleigh ended up at home alone during the homecoming dance. She was a little bit down so I made a pan of brownies. :)



We won...Meanwhile, Mikel rushed in at 3:45PM and dressed in record time to go to her homecoming dance with her very good-lookin', FINE boyfriend. Tom and I have to be careful not to be too excited over him!! He's great for her as far as we can tell-but we can't like him too much or that will work against him in her book.



And, we won...TJ had 3 friends over to make a simple machine today--I think it's a project for his science class. There was one very smart boy and two very pretty girls. Way to go TJ! All I know is they used the saw quite a bit, ate a pepperoni pizza, and the boy left TJ with the two pretty girls. He left with both girls to go watch HMS play in the Independence Bowl. Then, TJ came back home just in time to shower and prepare for his "not date" with a beautiful little girl and her Dad. :) TJ--what a boy!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A picture speaks a thousand words...

Class of '11 Float Construction. Tissue paper flowers in my living room, snacks, sloppy joes, chili and lemonade in the kitchen, a plywood and chicken wired trailer in my garage and lots of teenagers EVERYWHERE!























This was TJ's gift from the women who work the 5AM shift at the rec center. They wanted to congratulate him for making the basketball team. :)








And...Kaleigh's surprise birthday party!


















Sunday, September 28, 2008

Let Others See Jesus in You

Tom and I visited some of our church members at Vanderbilt Hospital on Friday afternoon. And I was once again impressed with the presence of God in some amazing women. We visited with little Brenden Roach first. He's 10 and fighting leukemia. His Mom, Micki was all smiles and a tower of strength as she and Brenden's Dad hosted our visit. As I walked down the hallway of that special section of Vanderbilt Children's hospital I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is one place no parent EVER wants to be! But, when Micki found herself there-she did what mother's do...she's being strong for her son!

Brenden showed us their project. Together he and his mom have organized all his Dad's baseball cards--and I mean ORGANIZED! It's really quite impressive. Not just the cards...but that his mother thought to do that to fill the hours that are otherwise filled with pain. Micki amazes me. As she is walking in the strength that God provides--step by step.

After visiting with Brenden we went to the pediatric cardiac floor to see Charlie and Leslie and their newly adopted daughter Susannah. This story is far too long to even summarize in my blog. But you can go to my links and click on Room for At Least One More to read Susannah's story from her mom (who is a very good writer)! When we arrived Susannah had just been brought out of the procedure she had done Friday to prepare for open heart surgery on Tuesday. Because we were their pastor and wife, we were privileged to go back behind closed doors and visit with them both and their baby girl. As we heard snippets of their past week (they just got back from China a few days ago); Tom said to Leslie, "You are radiant hope." And she was!! Then I looked at Charlie, holding Susannah and rocking her (she was still somewhat sedated. I LOVE the way this hospital invites the parents back to be with their children in recovery!) --and I said, "and Charlie is peace." There we stood with peace and hope in that room!!!

Leslie said they've nicknamed her "spitfire" up there. And I've no doubt they have! But she said, "God knew Susannah needed a Spitfire for a Momma!" And He did. :)

We then went over to the adult hospital and visited with one of my favorite women at TSC. Mrs. Laverne has been in our church right by our side, supporting us, praying for us and serving with us almost 20 years. She's funny, practical, and simply amazing. Laverne took great care of her husband for most of the years I've known her. He was disabled and suffered a slow painful process toward his own death a while back. Laverne has had heart surgery and now pancreatic cancer surgery this year and last. We went into her room--visited with her for just a bit and after we prayed with her, she said, "Tom, I have already experienced the miraculous power of God. Here I am and in all of this I haven't sensed the slightest bit of worry." Wow. What an amazing woman.

I teach a conference where I encourage us to put aside our pre-occupations with what the world calls beauty and success. Instead we ought to realize what God longs to see in us. What God longs to see in us is the reflection of His Son. I see Jesus in Micki as she fights the good fight with her son. I see Jesus in Charlie and Leslie as they have chosen the "least of these" to call their own--and especially Leslie as she clings tenaciously to her confidence in God's sovereignty and His love. And I see Jesus in Mrs. Laverne (actually I always have--He just shone pure in that hospital room).

These are women who are skiing the black diamond trails of life and they're doing it with amazing grace and peace that passes all understanding. And in so doing, they are allowing God to shine bright in dark and desperate places. Wow.

(I made reference to black diamond trails of life--pick up my book Women Embracing Life...All of It! at a Lifeway bookstore near you to read more about that.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

HE MADE IT!!!

YES!! YIPPPPPEEEEE!!! HALLELUJAH!!!!

Some of you charismatics need to express what I'm feeling in those heavenly TONGUES!!!

Thank you for all your support, prayers and comraderie in the deep unexplainable corners of a mother's heart. :)

The last time I was this excited I had that little tiny test in my skirt pocket--the one with a pink dot that said, "Mikel's on her way." :)

Oh, alright I won't be too melodramatic. Maybe I felt a little of this when Mikel hit her homerun at Page Middle School--or when Kaleigh's face turned red and tears ran down her cheeks Monday night when her friends yelled "SURPRISE!" Or...when that woman pressed that prod against my stretched belly and said, "It's a boy...see right there? That's a boy!"

Yea...that's MY BOY!!!

I'm Terrible With Numbers

It's not a secret, I'm miserably challenged where numbers are concerned. Here are the TRUE stats (in case you're reading this, Coach)...TJ shot 44 out of 50 free throws the other day, 17 in a row!

He didn't actually shoot 17 3-pointers in a row--but, I'm here to tell you, HE COULD!! :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

C'Mon, Coach!

So, tomorrow's the big day! He's suppossedly going to post the team (by numbers) in the locker room. TJ is number 105. So pray that 105 is on that list!

This afternoon when I was taking him to the rec center (fueled with nutritious #10 from the McD value menu); TJ said, "When I get to school tomorrow morning, I'm going to head right for the locker room and look at that list. I'll be looking for 105. The absolute worst thing that could happen would be for me not to see it. Then, if I don't see it, I'll double check, hoping that somehow I missed it. And if I don't see it the 2nd time I'm going to look once more. If it's not there then..." that's when his eyes filled with tears and he continued, "you know, that's the worst thing that could possibly happen."

I encouraged him, "Your number's going to be there TJ--I just know it!"

"Yea, but I know how it feels for it not to be there. And I'll never forget that feeling. But you know what, Mom? It really worked out for the best. If I had made the team last year I would have never made it this year. I wouldn't have worked so hard, and I would've been like (another kid) who just showed up expecting to get on--and would've gotten cut right off at the beginning."

"Hmm--so see there? God always knows what He's doing even when we don't have a clue." I responded.

"Yep, He always does!" TJ agreed.

And with that we started talking about how bad all those other boys are going to feel (the ones whose numbers aren't going to be on that list).

So, Mr. Coach--if somehow you're peeking in on this blog--you know TJ? He's the kid who's all heart. Did you know he shot forty something free throws the other afternoon, and 17 3-pointers without missing? He'll come in my room tomorrow morning at 4:45AM and say, "c'mon Mom, let's go!" And then...when I drop him off at school, he'll say, "thanks, Mom. I love you." Because that's what he says every morning that he drags me to the rec center. He's never made a "B" and he had to tell us so last year, because he never makes a big deal out of it either. He likes everybody and everybody likes him--just because he's cool like that. And all he wants right now is to play on your team.

C'mon, Coach--please, put 105 at the top of that list, please...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Keep on prayin!!



Keep praying for TJ! He made the two cuts this weekend, but it will be Wednsday before we know of the final cut. TJ's still getting us up with the roosters, and dustin' his Dad (and the other old men) in the afternoons at the Rec center.

We're pulling off a surprise bday party for Kaleigh today. (Today is her 15th birthday!) I am so excited my stomach is jumbled! (And since we're eating pizza that is not good.) We're having her party at the Party Zone (a jumping place where Mikel works). All the friends are meeting us there--She things she's getting ready for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. :)

I wish you could know how much this child has transitioned from who she was to who she is today. I went by the school this afternoon to take her some clothes to change into (she wanted to stay after to play tennis with friends) and she met me with a birthday crown that said, "It's my birthday!" She looked hilarious and loved it. Her friend Lauren made the crown for her. I'm going to try to get her to wear it to dinner (party) so I can get a picture. Several years ago we were on our family vacation when I told Kaleigh that I wanted to meet her friends.

She accused me of implying that she didn't have any friends. And if the truth be known, I was concerned. She used to hang out at the church office every afternoon after school to help the assistants. She called herself the assistant squared. (that would be assistant to the assistant I think) And she loved the women and the work they'd let her do. But I was worried that her favorite people were more than 30 years old! And, I thought she buried her nose in a book at lunch time. I said, "Kaleigh, when we get home from vacation I want you to invite some friends over to the pool." She said, "Mom, you think I don't have any friends!" And I said, "then prove me wrong."

That's all it took. The next weekend we had 12 kids over at the pool. Kaleigh gave me that look she gives and said, "see, I told you I had some friends!" And boy does she ever! From that point forward I got a pool full of friends and hardly a weekend goes by that we don't have someone sleeping over or a group of them coming for a movie, cards, diving lessons, you name it they'll be here. Overnight my little bookworm turned into a socialite. So today when she came out of school with her friend-made birthday crown, I just smiled.

Next week her sophomore class will be over here building their float. We're going for the gold this year. We came in 2nd to the seniors last year. So this year...we're taking first place!! I'll try to get some pics of that too.

Never a dull moment at the McCoy's!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TJ and basketball


Okay, so my friend Melissa just brought home a baby boy. I remember when I brought mine home--he was so sweet. Just a bundle of potential that overnight grew into a bundle of curls!

Then just about a week later he grew out of those curls and into the girls! UGH!!! And now...he's totally into basketball. I dont know what possessed him to choose basketball for his sport. Could've been the bloody nose he got when he played baseball (or the swollen lip that made me think he looked like Cindy Loo Hoo). But, no matter what made him choose this sport (that only allows 5 players in the game at a time)-it's his choice.

And tomorrow he goes to try-outs. Just the word makes my stomach lurch. Try-outs...fertile soil for damaging a boy's ego forever! Last year he begged us to take him to Velocity or D-1 to prepare for this ordeal. We were too busy, and he was too laid back. He went to try-outs and got cut (the first day!). I'll never forget how sick that made me. OHHHHH, my dear Melissa--just you wait.

Fortunately the coaches invited him back to be team manager. They loved him--let him practice with the team and before the end of the season, he actually played. But, he'll never forget how it felt to "be cut." I don't have the time to go into all of it right now, but God had a tremendous plan (that culminated with his coach accepting Christ). We're all great friends even now, and that coach is TJ's number one fan and encourager.

Unfortunately he no longer coaches the middle school team. None of us know this new coach. But, here's how TJ handled defeat. After playing with the team last year he begged us to participate in camps this summer. We put him in camps (5 of them!). Then when school started, he got us out of bed at 5AM every morning (Tom and I take turns--he gets Monday, Wednesday and Friday...I take Tuesday and Thursday), and we go to the rec center for him to shoot and practice. Then, on most afternoons, Saturdays and even Sundays between church TJ plays basketball at the rec center.

Now it's time to see if all this hard work will pay off. He's nervous, I'm nervous, Tom's nervous. I think his last year's coach is even nervous!

So, I'll let you know how this all plays out. If you think about it, just say a prayer for my TJ -it seems like just yesterday I wrapped him in a blanket and swore I'd never let anything hurt him!!! But tomorrow I'll tell him how great he is, how proud I am and off he'll go...into the lion's den of middle school basketball

TRY-OUTS.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Pastor Tom, I'm about to bust!"

Wow! I hope your Sunday services were as powerful as ours were yesterday. There is hardly a Sunday that goes by that I am not amazed as I stand in the presence of God!!! Each week I enter the worship center wondering what God's going to do time. And, He always does SOMETHING!

Yesterday we sang. One of my good friends was already back from her miracle journey to adopt her brand new baby boy. And having walked with her through many sorrows then through many joys (in the adoption of her daughter) I was thrilled to watch her worship as she led us. (You can read all about all of that on her blog. Follow my link called "stretch marks.")

Then, Tom whispered to me to look at Mrs. Alys.

Mrs. Alys lost her husband of MANY YEARS just months ago. And after he went on to heaven, she joined the choir. I'm not sure how old she is, but she wouldn't mind me telling you she is old enough to remember when we worshiped with a hymnal in one hand and a funeral home fan in the other! Tom and I both love to watch her sing in that choir. She stands on the front row, with her hands raised and her eyes closed--I can only imagine what she is seeing as she loves on the Lover of her soul even through life's valley of the shadow of death.

Once our singing came to a soft hum, Tom went up to the pulpit and prepared to share Scripture that would lead us into a time of prayer. All of a sudden a man in the congregation cried (I mean literally cried) out, "Pastor Tom, I'm about to bust!" And with that, Tom invited him to the front, introduced him and gave him a microphone--"Church, this is my friend Jesse," Tom said, "Let's listen to what he has to say."
Jesse wept, then gained his composure and said to us, "I just want you to know how much this church means to my family. We moved here recently and you all have loved us. That love has meant more to us than I can share. I praise God for you! I thank God for you! I just want you to know that." And then he took his seat.

When he left to sit down, Tom told us this, "Jesse mailed me a letter before his family moved to our community, and in his letter he sent his tithe check." Can you imagine that? Tithing to a church you have yet to join! No wonder God met Jesse and his family here. When your heart is right with God (and my friends in America, the tithe check is a great indicator of a right heart) God opens the floodgates of heaven and pours Himself out on you!!

I took pictures last Sunday because my heart was warmed as I watched my friend Caitlyn worship. Caitlyn is the most innocent person I've ever met. She has known deep pain and loss. Just last year her father went to be with the Lord. She and I talk on the phone. Last week when she called she said that she wished I could have known him (they had only recently moved here and I hadn't had a chance to get to know her family when he died). I assured her that I would get to know him one day when we get to heaven. She said, "Mrs. Leighann, you are going to love him! Everybody loved my Dad." And I smiled.

I'll get her picture downloaded here. (If I could just find that little cord!) Then you'll see how Caitlyn worships even in the aftermath of unbelievable loss:


We had worship Sunday! I hope that you did too.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Women Touched by Jesus

I traveled this weekend to Dunlap, TN (the Hang Gliding capital of the east!) to begin my "fall tour" of speaking engagements, and WOW what a weekend we had!! In my book Women Touched by Jesus I've written fictional stories of the women who Jesus met personally. This weekend I met them in real life. I'm not sure I've ever been more impacted by three personal testimonies.

On Friday night Mary shook like a leaf as she shared her story--raped at 9 and again at 18, abused and shamed--she shared how Jesus came into her life and redeemed her past. I was awed at her willingness to share her story and at the joy that shone from her face when she did.

On Saturday her daughter boldly stood before us and proclaimed, I am a child of God! She then told us that although for many years she was taught to keep her feelings and hurts to herself, she intended to "spill the beans" with us. And "spill the beans" she did! She shared with us what it was like to grow up with a mother who taught her not to trust anyone especially men. My favorite part of her story was when she said that after her mother married a wonderful man (I'd love to meet!)--they moved to Pennsylvania, and "the church people started coming."

What might have happened to these women had "the church people NOT started coming!" She then told us that she knew she was changed by God when she could look at people and see them NOT as a threat, but as people whom He loved.

After she sat down, a beautiful inmate from the local jail came to the microphone, and asked us to listen to the words of her song--not to her voice. I listened to the words, but was deeply moved by the rich melody of her voice as well. She sang a song with these words that were simply thanking God for a roof over her head and shoes on her feet and the privilege of knowing Jesus in her heart. WOW!

God moved in such a powerful way! Women from several different churches, across denominational lines agreed together that we are indeed LOVED BY GOD and therefore free to love others to Him.

I am so privileged to get to meet women like these when I travel. Women who have been transformed by the power of God. The women in Dunlap are serious about their mission. They have a ministry to teenage girls, they're starting a pregnancy resource center, they are active in the jail ministry, they reach out to mother's of young children, the list goes on and on.

My new friends in Dunlap, TN --you go girls!! God is changing His world through you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Send your recipes!

So, if you have some apple recipes, I still have 65 apples. Send them on! Alex and Jill, how about that pie? It sounds almost HEALTHY!! I figure anything you put an apple in has to be counted as a fruit serving, right?!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

An apple update

I promised pictures...here's some pictures! I collected about five of those baskets filled with apples. We have 87 apples remaining. Now they are being sliced and diced and frozen in quart-size freezer bags. So, if, this winter you get your taste buds groovin' for apple pie, apple cake, fried apples or apple turnovers, come on over and I'll share a bag with you!

By the way, I bought a copy of the September issue of Southern Living magazine--82 Great Tasting Recipes, including "our best ever apple pie!"



Saturday, August 30, 2008

Spring Hill Place and my friend Robin

Last night I did what I do so many nights...taxied Kaleigh and a few of her friends to a party. We were running late (which is amazingly typical of me!!) and in our rush, I never once considered where I was going. They told me that Shelby lived in Spring Hill Place, so to Spring Hill Place we went. They told me it was a pool party, but when we got to the pool, there wasn't a soul there. "Oh yea, we're going to eat pizza and cake at her house before we go to the pool!" My party animals informed me.

So, "where's her house?"

"Uh, we dunno."

"Does anyone have her address?"

Brad happened to bring his invitation and YES, we had an address...34## Round Hill Lane. So, armed with information we proceeded. Round Hill Lane we were on, so we drove forward, only when the addresses got to 3054 they stopped, no 3100's, 3200's and certainly no 3400's. The road ended into a construction trail (we have lots of those in our community, hard packed dirt and gravel with dump trucks and bulldozers parked at the end). Hmmmm. So what were we to do next?

That's when I got all excited about going to TSC. When we turned onto Round Hill Lane earlier (before we remembered the pizza/cake part of the party plan), we saw two of our TSC preschool teachers getting out of their cars and carrying casserole dishes with them. I mentioned that some of our church members must be having a party that night in that house. I didn't know which of them lived there--but I recognized the party guests. So...we turned around and headed back to the house when I saw my friend Robin. She's actually one of only two people I know personally that live in Spring Hill Place. Robin was headed to the house, casserole dish in hand when we caught up with her.

"Robin! Wow, am I glad to see you." I explained our dilemma, and she knew exactly where the "other" Round Hill Lane would be found. Here's how it worked, eventually Spring Hill Place neighborhood plans are to connect Round Hill Lane from the front to the north side of the neighborhood. But right now they are unconnected. If we would take a left then a right then another right we'd find a round about, vear to the right and there we'd find the rest of Round Hill Lane.

Go figure. The only way we could have found Shelby's house would have been if we'd gone online and mapquested it--OR we could have called her, OR we could ask someone who knew (Robin!). But since we didn't have the foresight to mapquest, we were at the mercy of someone else telling us how to get there.

I got to thinking about that. How many times do I start out on a trip certain of my destination, only to find myself confused along the way? How willing am I to ask for help? How often does God intervene and take care of me with an expert! (Like He did with Robin.) How often am I someone else's "expert?"

We followed Robin's directions, found Shelby's house (it was the one with the pink sweet 16 balloons tied to the mailbox). Everyone had a great time, and my backseat is only a little bit soggy from their wet bodies on the way home. (Did anyone think to take a towel to a pool party??? I don't THINK so!)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I made applesauce this morning

We have one apple tree in our yard. The first year it produced 3 apples. We stretched them to make one pie. The next year was last year, we had that late frost in April and it killed all the blooms so we had no apples last year. But this year! Oh my did our little tree produce! We've been picking apples for a month, and I still have a few hanging on!

And these are not your typical backyard apple tree apples. They look like the ones you purchase at Kroger! I kid you not, when I get a little more time than I've had these past few days, I'm gonna download the pictures I took and put them on here so you can see what I'm talking about.

We've given away bookoodles of apples--I furnished my neighbor Lisa's entire school. She's a teacher and she took some with her to share with the others! They were so well received she came back for seconds (which we were more than happy to give.)

I've made two pies and three cakes, and today...I made applesauce.

That's a first for me, and when you get to be my age, "firsts" are red letter days on the calendar! I took the bag of apples my other neighbor shared with me (on Saturday her two little grandsons came over lugging a sack filled with apples between them. They explained that their grandma sent them over--we smiled, said "thank you" even though we didn't need anymore apples and thought they were incredible cute until the little one said, "I'm a Alabama BAMA!" Still kinda cute, even for a bama fan.) When they went home we did the taste test. Her apples were more the backyard variety. But still good for making applesauce.

Now this you need to know about me. I can't stand for anything to go to waste! (That's why I've gained the typical 20 in my 20 plus years of marriage and 16 plus years of parenting.) I HATE IT! I either freeze or make muffins out of brown bananas. I just can't toss them out. So, with apples piling up and all my friends supplied, I just thought, why not make some applesauce?!

As soon as the girls left for school, I started peeling apples. It was 7AM, I was in my nightclothes, knife in hand, apples rinsing in the sink, peeling and coring 24 cups of apples. (I'm sure I lost count) That's when it hit me...memories of Grandma Smith. I spent a week of each summer at her house, and she was always doing something. Shelling peas, stringing beans, blanching apples, soaking pickles--always something. She had a pantry that was really a closet in her kitchen (a very dark closet). And her closet was stacked with Mason Jars. Jellies, Jams, Preserves, Relishes, Pickles (sweet, dill, even watermelon rind!)...such amazing memories. I could almost see her wrinkled hands holding wormy apples, peeling them with ease (I must tell you that I've yet to find one worm in my apples--they are amazing!!).

If made me kinda sad remembering her and Papa like that. They got up so early in the morning that they'd already worked two hours before serving breakfast. I waited to rise to the smell of bacon frying for the breakfast. My papa always ate breakfast with us, and he read the daily Bible reading from his little devotional booklet--I think it might have been "My Daily Bread." Grandma would fiddle with the napkin as he read, then we'd all bow our heads for his prayer. I can't remember all of his prayer but this is how it always ended, "Lord, bless the bereaved, the poor and the less fortunate than we. Amen."

Sweet memories. I don't ever remember seeing my Grandma sit still--unless she was showing me how to crochet, or showing my mother the quilt she was working on. As my apples boiled, I could almost close my eyes and imagine I was in her kitchen. She'll be 95 next week. We're almost exactly 50 years apart in age. (Hmmm, I'm almost to where she was when I was born!) She never wanted this to happen, but it happened anyway. Tiny little strokes and dementia robbed her of our mind and today she sits in a nursing home still fiddling with her napkins. If only she could know that I made applesauce this morning...she'd be proud.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm Gonna Blog About That

Every day I haul kids around in my toyota highlander, we talk--they say something profound (usually profoundly funny) and I say, "I'm gonna blog about that!" They say, "Mom, you always say that. You'd be a better blogger if you just would rather than talking about it!" So...Kaleigh and TJ here you go...(not that they are reading, blogging is for "old people" did you know that?)

Yesterday on the way to church TJ said, "Mom, here's the thing. Mikel just got to go to Zion. You're paying her tuition to a private school and that's gotta be a lot--but it's a Christian school and I understand and everything and it's good. (then before I could interrupt, he put his hand up and continued) AND, Kaleigh--she goes on mission trips and stuff, and you and Dad always make sure she has enough money to do that after she raises her support. So, I was just thinking...from here on out, I'm just going to ask for things from you and Dad like this--Can I play basketball and get some training for that IN JESUS' NAME?!"

There you have it. I've blogged about that!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The First Week of School

Okay, so Tom's home--all is well with that, AND we survived the "First Week of School." If you want the spiritual version of this, go to my website and check out my devotion at www.prayalltheway.com

But, for the "real" scoop, you're in the right place.

Day 1 was great. Mikel and Kaleigh came home excited about their classes, seeing friends again and basically getting back into the groove of things. Kaleigh hosted a "back to school" pool party and TJ hardly noticed he was in class (isn't school about the friends???).

Day 2-pretty good as well. Kaleigh and her friends had yet to realize school had begun, and once again they were in my pool. Mikel was invited to eat outside with the seniors at lunch and after school she and TJ went shopping. The evening was spent organizing notebooks, relocating calculators and talking about the teachers.

Day 3--not so good. Kaleigh and her friends started pulling together their summer homework (but still found time to be by my pool); TJ realized classes had actually begun; and Mikel couldn't find anyone to sit with at lunch.

Day 4--good and bad. Kaleigh and friends--oh yes they were still in my backyard now picking apples (the pool was getting old). TJ--totally in his element. And Mikel begged off suffering from allergies she took her first sick day.

Day 5--the best of times and the worst of times. TJ-he's fine! Kaleigh--I'm thinking we STILL had friends over after school! But, Mikel...text I received at 10:40AM--"Mom, can I please go to another school? I'm miserable here."

What's a mom to do when she gets a message like that? High School's supposed to be fun. By the time you're in the 11th grade you should be running with your friends, ruling the hallways and juggling parties. But Mikel's friends were scattered out, and hardly any of them in her lunch period (those 20 minutes can make or break your day. I thank God for her friend Kaitlyn who ate with her when they found one another Wednesday), and she was one of about 35 in her classes, had already had to change her schedule because they'd given her two study halls--and she told me the "schedule changer" was in a terrible bad mood...it's tough.

Mikel has several good friends who attend Zion Christian Academy. It's a small Christian college preparatory school about 30 miles from us. For the past two years Mikel's begged to go there. But with our schedules 3 hours on the road daily (to take and pick her up) was out of the question. So, we never entertained the thought. However, Mikel's driving now. Last year she attended many of Zion's sports events, and this summer she visited back and forth often. So when she asked to change schools I had no doubt where she wanted to go.

However, another school invites another entire community into our lives. And we already share many communities in our home. There's Thompson Station Church (which is really several communities in one--the youth group for the kids, women's ministry for me and all of it for Tom); then we have Tom serving the TN Baptist Convention as president this year, Mikel playing travel softball, TJ playing basketball, Kaleigh PLAYING, and me traveling most weekends to the far corners of the world speaking. Then...we have Independence High School and Heritage Middle School. There's quite enough juggling going on already!

But here's the deal. I'm learning that as my children grow up--my parenting shifts a bit. When they were young, they were an extension of Tom and me. I chose who they played with, where they went--even what they were involved in. But as they grow, they start choosing some of those things for themselves. And thus, we find ourselves now carefully meandering through five individual lives that come together for support--mostly financial and maybe a little emotional, eating and sleeping. As I study my individuals (and wonder at the way God is growing them), I reluctantly realize that they (not me) will determine the course of their lives! So, the tricky part is knowing when to expand the boundaries and when to draw them in. With teenagers it's an ebb and flow kind of thing.

Tom and I listened to Mikel's pain. I took her shopping when she got home from school Friday afternoon so I could spend time with her and hear her hurt. We didn't find much to buy, but I did give validity to her by hearing her out. When Tom got home I tried my best to translate what was going on (remember, he was fresh off the boat!). Our hearts broke over what she was experiencing and we prayed. Sunday at church we prayed--I LOVE HOW WE CAN PRAY IN THE SETTING OF OUR WORSHIP SERVICES!! God meets us there in powerful ways!

Then Tom suggested that we go to Zion and talk with the headmaster. So, on Monday we went--just the two of us, praying as we drove down and asking God to give us total peace if we should let Mikel enroll. He gave us peace! Tuesday she "shadowed" one of her friends so that she could see how different Zion would be from IHS, then today she enrolled.

Is this going to be easy? NO!
Do I like her driving 40 minutes one way to school each morning and returning those same miles home in the afternoon? NO!
Would it be easier for her to stay where she was? YES!
Is public school fine for my kids? YES!
Do we love Mikel and want the very best for her? YES.

And we have determined that this just might be it for her. No more arguing with us over spending time with her friends down there to the detriment of developing better friends here. No more juggling her time between school, church and her "Zion connection." Now, she simply has two worlds--school and church! It's a little larger perimeter we've allowed her. A little more "letting go" in preparation for the life she'll be facing a few years from now. And I'm thinking a little more of God's plan unfolding for her.

I am incredibly blessed to be Tom's wife (and Mikel is even more blessed to be his daughter!). Tom's normal response to all this would have been, "Mikel, you just need to get with the program!" And, in time she would have--but this time, through his leadership he said, "maybe Mikel's program is different than what I thought." What a powerful lesson for us as parents to learn!

I hope your first week of school was all that God had in mind for you too!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Want to know where Tom is really???

The last time I saw him he was here.

Says he's sleeping here.

He traded us for these guys.


But I'm sure ready to have him home!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I think the women at TSC are amazing!

I know, I should be writing about the first day of school (and I will--hopefully before the last), or I should tell you all about my trip to Spanish Wells, Bahamas and swimming with the dolphins (and I will because it was one of the most incredible things I've ever done) but right now I want to talk about the most amazing women in the world.
They go to my church. But that's not what makes them amazing. It's what they do when they're not at church that amazes me. Kari's the wife of a soldier who's serving in Iraq. He responsible for over 300 Iraqi soldiers. Kari's suffered multiple losses in her family this year (grandfather, aunt, more...) and she's had to be here while he's there--he's had to travel two hours to get 30 minutes on the phone just to talk to her! And Kari praises God. She praises Him for holding her, for watching over her, for leading her husband as he baptizes men in Iraq, for teaching her more than she ever knew she needed to know...Kari amazes me.
Melissa amazes me. I'm not going to say another word about it--just go to her blogspot and read for yourself!(She's on my list)
Angela amazes me. She leads the preschool ministry at our church, but a long time ago she kept the resource room in order when I led the preschool ministry at our church. To see how Angela has yielded her life to God, and allowed Him to work through her-you'll just have to come to our church, put your baby in one of our classes and see for yourself! But what I love about Angela is that she hasn't met an obstacle she's not prepared to conquer (including skis behind my boat).
Mendy amazes me. She serves faithfully and thoroughly!! This summer she coordinated one of the greatest gatherings of women we've ever experienced at our summer Bible study! She covered every detail and begged us to never mention a word of this to anyone. That amazes me...
Kathleen and Alicia and Jill amaze me. They took off to Africa and wrapped their arms around those African children and loved them and got covered with dirt and came home exhausted and cry when you ask them to talk about their experience.
Then, the women who shared their testimonies at our Bible study this summer amaze me, my dear friend Kate, my new friend Lisa, my fun friend Kimberly, the list goes on and on--everyone's still talking about it and I just can't get over how God is working in the lives of these women!!Truly I am most blessed--to live, work, and share the building of this piece of the kingdom with such amazing women!

I know, they are the women in my very own church. And many pastors wives are terrified of that group--but not me. They simply amaze me. I LOVE the fact that they're my sisters, that they're my friends and that they display JESUS in such a beautiful way.