Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No Christmas Presents

Perhaps, like me, you have heard over the years about the many families who won’t “have Christmas” because finances won’t permit the purchasing of gifts.  My heart fills up with compassion and a deep desire to help out motivates me to buy a toy, wrap it up and make it pretty….so that a child can “have Christmas”.

Really?  We can’t “have Christmas” without gifts?  Yes!  Really!!  Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?  (Read with a bit of sarcasm in my tone)  After all, even as Believers we know the kings brought gifts to Jesus….so, it is Biblical to give the people we love and people who are in need—gifts.   So…..every year there were piles of gifts under our tree!  Lots of them!  Not expensive ones—lots of items on sale—we never would go in debt for Christmas--but there were gifts under the tree.  I remember the first Christmases our son-in-law and a few years later, our daughter-in-law had with us—they were amazed at the gifts.  I love giving gifts!!  (By the way, and this may be a major shocker, we did not "do" Santa!!  We can talk about that another time....I am getting off track!)

Our family has grown so much over the past few years and I started noticing that the joy of shopping was slowly turning into a burden.  Even though we did not purchase expensive gifts, the number of people made it more expensive….so there were less and less gifts per person.  It was exhausting trying to be sure to be fair—did we spend the same amount (or close to the same amount) for each family?  Does everyone have the same amount of gifts to open?  Will they even like it?  Will it end up in the bottom of a closet or stuffed in a drawer somewhere?  Would it end up at Goodwill?  The hustle and bustle of finding the time and just the right thing had begun to overshadow the joy of giving.

Not too long after Christmas 2011 I was reflecting on all of this….Christmas was over.  Everyone had gone home.  I was second guessing what I had bought….did they like it….blah, blah, blah.  I was visiting my dad in Carlsbad, CA at the time—a place our children would visit every year to see their grandparents and two of my brothers also live in CA.  They LOVED going….so much to do….beautiful weather.  Fun times spent with family we rarely got to see.

After they married and began to have families of their own, their trips to CA had diminished.  Ernie and I still went but our kids and grandkids could not.  My dad has never met two of his great-grandchildren!!  None of my three brothers have met any of them!!  This is not right and we are doing something about it!!

Thus back to Christmas gifts.  Last February I asked the kids what they thought about not getting any gifts in 2012—no birthday gifts, no Christmas gifts, no anniversary gifts and, instead, Ernie and I would save that money to purchase airline tickets for a trip to California instead!!  They were super excited and all on board!!  So….that is what we are doing!!  In a month or so we are flying all 11 of us to CA for a time with my family.  All three of my brothers will be there with most of their families too.  My dad is soooo excited and my mom would be elated if she were still alive.

You might wonder if the kids (big and little) have been sad about not getting to open gifts—and I can honestly say—NO!  We will be making memories that will last a lot longer than any toy or new jeans would.  Maybe you might want to rethink how you “do” gifts….I can honestly say it has been so freeing and am wondering how I can pull it off again this year!!  Making memories instead of clutter!

Now….I must confess!!  I lied when I said we gave no gifts!!  Christmas Eve, Eve I could not stand it any longer!!!  I ran out and bought a California tee shirt for each adult and a book for each child!!  After all….it wouldn’t be Christmas without gifts under the tree, Right??!

Is God Done With Me?

For those of you who have been “following” this blog for a while know that the five of us who contribute/write do so weekly on a rotating basis according to a predetermined schedule written out a year in advance.  The week of Christmas 2012 was my “turn” but I did not “post” anything…..and trust me….it was not because I had forgotten—I remembered.  It was not because I didn’t try to write— I tried.  I really did try.

It was not because I didn’t have anything to say—I had lots to say! 

I wanted to share with you that I just didn’t have it “in me” this year to drag all of the Christmas decorations out of our attic--yet our home looked beautifully Christmassy—using greenery and candles instead.  I was even going to be OK with not putting up the Christmas tree—but my husband brought it in from the garage—assembled it—lights were already attached and so we had a beautiful, mostly naked tree!  No ornaments from the attic—only ones that were given to us this year or ones the kids made or things that never made it to the attic last year--you know--the after Christmas sale items :).  Simple.  Beautiful.  Easy.  Crazy if you knew me and how I love to decorate for Christmas!

I wanted to tell you that my husband and I purchased no Christmas presents this year for any member of our family.  Not for our kids, not for our grandchildren, not for each other.  In fact, we did not give any birthday presents this year either.  Crazy if you knew me and how I love to give gifts!!  (More about this later!!)

I wanted to tell you our kids made the best snowman ever!!  His name was Tom and he looked in at us every day through our window with a silly carrot grin on his face!!  His cucumber eyes smiled at us and he stood tall and strong for days in his snowy wonderland.  (More about this later).

I wanted to tell you that I stepped away from teaching the ladies Sunday school class and am now helping with first graders.  Crazy if you knew how much I love those ladies and how much I love teaching them!!  (More about this later)

Yet I could not write and I felt so guilty.  I was not following through with my responsibility.  Did I need to step away and let someone else do it?  Then I wondered….was the reason I couldn’t write because God was done with me?  Was God finished with me? 

There are a lot of things I don’t know!!  Lots!  And it is hard for me to always know when I need to step away from something and do something else….but one thing I do know....and He had to gently remind me....God is not finished with me!  I will know He is finished with me when I breathe my last breath!! 
You too, my friend!!  If you are discouraged, feeling defeated or if God seems far away or silent….He is not done with you!!  Don’t be like me and forget that!!  He is not done with us!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Friendship Part 4

A good friend is one soul in two bodies.  Aristotle

Ah! Good ole Aristotle and his wisdom.  I recall reading (and falling asleep) several writings of Aristotle but it is only recently I came across this quote.  Now, I cannot tell you one idea of my past readings of Aristotle, but this quote struck a chord with me.

I do have a friend who has a kindred spirit to mine.  We have been separated by hundreds of miles yet our friendship still remains strong.  Our husbands laugh when we do get together because often we will show up in a similar outfit.  A few times it has been the same outfit down to the accessories!  She is my road trip/mission trip buddy.  We love chocolate covered raisins and peanut M & Ms.  The only difference between us is that she is a tall, slender brunette who loves the mountains and I am a short, stocky, blonde who loves the beach.  Yet we are one soul in two bodies.  The best thing about our friendship is that not only do we share it here but our friendship will last for eternity because we are both Christ followers.

I firmly believe God create a special friend for all of us-even ministers’ wives.  Maybe you do not have that special friendship with another lady.  Well, have you prayed for a friend?  If you have not done so, maybe you should try it. 

Every time God moves my husband and me to a new location I begin praying for a true friend.  I ask specifically for a godly woman who will encourage me, be honest, and who loves to have fun.  Of course, she must love chocolate too.  So far God has not let me down.  I have had some beautiful women as friends over the years.  They are still dear friends even though miles keep us apart and the years have passed.

Each friend blessed my life for the better.  From one I learned the art of stripping wallpaper and painting.  Another friend taught me how to cook and to pray for people when they are brought to your mind.  One friend is my encourager.  Several friends taught me that there is power in praying God’s word.  All my girlfriends love to laugh, have fun, and they are prayer warriors.  However, there are a couple who I consider my closest friends because we tend to know what the other is thinking before it is said.  That is when you know you have a friendship that does not require words.  They can simply “be there” for you.

Ladies, I would love to hear about that special friend with whom you share a special bond.  Please tell me how you met and how you have managed to develop your friendship.  Also, share if she is a minister’s wife as well. 


Friday, January 25, 2013

Friendship Part 3

A friend hears the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory

I cannot find who made this statement but isn’t this a beautiful quote?  When I read it my heart just sighed.  How many ministers’ wives need a friend who understands her heart and can lift her up when ministry life or life in general slaps them in the face? 

I know in our ministry we have gone through some tough times.  Some have been church related and others have been anything from children to financial issues.  I hate to admit it but at times my faith has been shaky.  Okay, I will be brutally honest.  At times I wondered where God was.

I am one stubborn girl and at times God has to really to resort to drastic measures to keep me in line.  When I finally hit rock bottom and I am bruised, God always hugs me.  It amazes me that God usually sends a dear friend to do His hugging.  These ladies will pick me up, brush me off, and wipe my tears.  They don’t reprimand but instead they point me to His word and sing to me His promises.  They know me heart and remind me over and over of the blessings I have.

One sweet friend I have did this last year for me.  Ms. Emma is an older, wiser, African American woman who is truly a servant of the Lord.  She is a prayer warrior and encourager.  She is my prayer partner.  Last year was difficult with moving, losing my mom, and dealing with my father’s failing health.  There were many times that I felt alone and wondered if God really did care about everything going on.  When things got really dark I always received a note from Ms. Emma reminding me of God’s goodness, mercy, and love.  I firmly believe God allowed her insight into what I was struggling with and prompted her to send these notes.  In a sense Ms. Emma was singing to my weary soul.

Sisters, it is my prayer that you have a friend who knows your heart and can sing to you when you memory of God’s goodness fails.  


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Friendship Part 2

Friends Are Treasures
-- Horace Bruns

I have lots of treasures.  I have a cute M & M jar that never runs empty. I have seashells from the different beaches I have been to.  I have three pieces of my mom’s doll china.  I have tons of photos of my family and friends.  I have costly jewelry.  There are precious books and a comfy blanket.  I have several items that belonged to my grandmothers.  I even have several handmade quilts that belong to my great-great grandmothers.  However, I have learned over the years that my most treasured possessions besides my salvation in Jesus are my friends.

I do try to take care of each friendship like I would any of my earthly treasures.  I do not just claim my friendship and then sit them on the shelf to collect dust.  I like to spend time with my friends and catch up on their lives.  Oh, we may only see each other on rare occasions and sometimes years, but we still visit through email, phone calls, letters, and now Facebook. 

I have even been known to share a girlfriend with another girlfriend.  Isn’t that what you are supposed to do with treasured family heirlooms?  Pass them on or share them?  It has been funny to watch when two of my treasured friends meet for the first time and a brand new friendship begins.   I love it!  I secretly have a desire to one day have all my girlfriends in one big room and introduce them all to each other and see what happens.  I firmly believe there would be a mass of treasure discovered in that room.

Friendships are a treasure.  Even God’s word tells us the story of David and Jonathan.  Their friendship was special.  These two godly men were more like brothers.  They knew each other’s hearts and protected one another.  Even our Lord surrounded himself with a few close friends.

So ladies, do you have a special friend that is a treasure?  Tell her/him.  If you do not have a special connection to a friend, I encourage you to make the effort to develop, nurture, and then treasure a friend.   If it was good enough for a young shepherd boy, the son of a king, and Jesus, then it should be good enough for us.



Monday, January 21, 2013

Friendship Part 1

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one. ~ C.S. Lewis


When I ran across this statement by C. S. Lewis, I immediately loved it.  I cannot tell you how many times the start of a friendship for me has begun with me jokingly saying, “M & Ms are my nerve pills” or “chocolate is a major food group for me.”  Inevitably, the comment back is “Me too!”  That’s when I know I have a true soul sister who shares my love of chocolate.

However, there are times as a minister’s wife that the comment of “I thought I was the only one” arises.  For ministers’ wives we are often isolated from our church congregations.  Oh, we have friends but sometimes they are “arm-length” friends.  Very seldom can we fully open ourselves up to a friend in our congregation. 

Friendships are truly born.  They have a life of their own.  They develop over time as long as we nurture them.  I have found that sometimes a friend does not have to say anything.  All she has to do is sit beside you and hold your hand.  That is true friendship.

When we are able to share openly with a sister in ministry we can get rid of stress.   We can learn that we are not “the only one” who struggles with certain issues like loneliness, jealously, sharing our husbands, criticism, etc.  Having a friend to share with can allow us some peace and freedom.  While one sister is struggling the other sister can encourage and be understanding.  However, never ever let the struggling sister stay rooted in her misery.  Show her the positive.

I am only beginning to form friendships with the staff wives at my new church.  We are beginning to connect as we learn things about each other.  There have been several “What!  You too?” moments followed with laughter.  I find great comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this thing called ministry.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Life

It will be a few months before we can welcome new life in nature, flowers blooming, trees budding, and grass growing, especially since we are smack in the middle of winter with its cold temperatures, ice, and snow.
But we can celebrate new life in Christ every time a person gives his or her life to the Lord for the forgiveness of sin.  Our church recently had this type of celebration: on the very first Sunday of this wonderful new year, six young souls were baptized, signifying that they now are children in God’s kingdom!
I am always excited when people come to Christ, and the fact that these new saints were children, all the more brought extra joy to my heart since I teach little ones at my church. I don’t know about you, but I never want to become apathetic about what it truly means when a person gives their life to Christ, and are now and forever in a loving relationship with our Savior.
God’s word says that there is even rejoicing in heaven among the angels over sinners who repent. (Luke 15:7,10)   So, rejoice and celebrate with me as we welcome these precious children into our Father’s family!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Press On

12Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

In my blog earlier this week, I wanted to encourage you to make a list of your trials and triumphs, so you would see how the Lord worked in your life in 2012. For some of you dear sisters, there may have been more trials than you care to name or even think about. Perhaps it is emotionally difficult and mentally draining to think on the past, but you are not alone. 
In 2012, we all have had our share of life’s challenges, things that can debilitate and cripple us as we go about our daily routines. We probably desire for those things to be behind us, so we can move on with life. But you and I need the Lord’s guidance to be able to move forward, to press on.
Our God is such a wonderful Father, He loves us, and He knows just what we need from His Word to bring us the hope and the joy to put past hurts and issues behind.  The verses from Philippians 3:12-14 can encourage us to keep going, to press on.  This is what I know:
We are not perfect yet, but we press on!
We are not totally Christ-like yet, but we press on!
We do not allow the pass to imprison us, so we press on!
We have blessings to reach for, so we press on!
Because of Christ, we press, we press, we press!
Never forget that we have an awesome Savior who is loving and compassionate, and if we keep our eyes on Him, we are assured of His presence and His love. Learn from the past, but don’t get “stuck” there.
So PRESS ON in the name of Jesus Christ, and let Him make all things brand new for you in 2013!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Trials and Triumphs

Happy New Year, my sisters!   I know that this year is already two weeks old, but this is my first time greeting you in 2013. 
I don’t know about you, but with each year, I look forward to what new opportunities and blessings await the next 12 months.  I am also well aware that since life also brings tribulation, I ponder what challenges await as well.  But you must admit that there is something wonderful and exciting about a brand new year, anticipating what the Lord will bring “new” to our lives.
With the dawn of every new year, I like to look back and reflect on the highlights (good and bad) of the previous year.   In fact, I like to write these in a journal so I can have a tangible list of how the Lord worked in my life and how He is shaping me more and more into the image of my Savior. Journaling is actually very “therapeutic”, because it brings comfort knowing that God cares about every little detail of my life. It also becomes an exercise in gratitude, thanking Him for the joys and for getting me through the rough times.
If you find yourself wondering exactly what happened in the blur of last year, the year that was 2012, perhaps you can make a list of the trials and the triumphs that helped to shape your life.  You may be surprised that your triumphs outnumber your trials! Sometimes when we look back and see the trails in the rearview mirror, the Lord reminds us of the wonderful promise in His word, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.
So, ladies, get out your pad and pen or get to your computers, and for my “high tech” sisters your iphone or ipad, and list, list, list!  I am sure the Lord has been gracious to all of you this past year.  Also, look forward with joyful anticipation to what He will accomplish in and through you this year.
May our Savior shower you with the fullness of His grace and peace in 2013!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

God is Good...ALL THE TIME

This coming Sunday will mark our 16th year of serving as pastor of Whites Creek Baptist Church.  What a journey this has been!!!

When we first went to the church, we walked into a hornet's nest.  Every pastor for years had been run off by one particular family; large family I might add.  There were 12 for Sunday School and 32 for preaching and the youngest deacon of 77 years old, praised God for the large attendance for the visiting minister.  Did I mention that we were 4 of those numbers?

Anyway, like lots of small country churches, our church had died.  The only members left were "the large family" and the faithful saints, but the church was not growing.  All of their programs had died and there were no children there.  The first Christmas we were there, all of the able bodies went to Knoxville to go out to eat.  We were the ONLY couple that did not get the senior citizenship discount.

Everything that was done at the church.......classes taught....activities, etc., Roger and I had to do them or at least organize them and lead them.  But, I am happy to report today that through lots of PRAYERS, Patience, PRAYERS, Perseverance, PRAYERS and MORE PRAYERS.....our church runs in the mid 50's for Sunday School and over 100 for preaching.  We have an assortment of ages....young and old.  This year for the Back-to-School Bash, the young couples class handled that and Roger and I only had to show up.  For the Fall Festival, the young couples class also handled that.......and it was WONDERFUL.  For sixteen VBS's I have been the Director.  This year, one of our ladies came and said God has called her to do that.  Praise the Lord.  God is Good.  ALL THE TIME.

Now, it has not been an easy journey.....we have seen lots of folks come and go.  We have had many funeral, many weddings, many baptisms, counseled many divorces, witnessed many Christians going astray...........but, on the other hand, we have watched children grow up to be leaders of the church.  We have watched our members grow closer together and closer to the Lord. 

God is Good....ALL THE TIME.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

God's Will

Are you doing what God wants you to do?  Have you found your passion in the church?

I know....everyone EXPECTS the pastor's wife to do EVERYTHING....that is impossible.  Even if we attempt to do "everything", we will fail.  God only wants us to do what he has called us to do. I wrestled for quite some time with the fact that pastor's wives were suppose to
  • play the piano
  • play the organ 
  • sing solos 
  • teach the Ladies Bible Classes, etc." 
  1. I ONLY peck the piano.
  2. I DO NOT play the organ
  3. I DO NOT SING...except to my grandson and to the little children at church."    
  4. I can teach the Ladies Bible Classes, but that is not where I feel God has placed me and  where I am more comfortable.
 My passion is "the Little Children."  I guess God prepared me for this early in our ministry when we worked with the Bus Ministry and Children's Church.  So many times I have seen the pre-schoolers thrown into a "play" room and baby-sat.  We MUST teach our children at an early age.
For several years, I have taught the younger children on Wednesday nights.  Our Sunday School teacher for this age quit back in March, so we had several ladies that "filled" in when we had pre-schoolers.  I mentioned Tuesday that we prayed for younger couples.........God began sending them and Roger came to me and wanted me to pray about taking the Sunday School class also.

Being the submissive wife that I am (jokingly) I pitched a fit and told him that I already taught a class on Wednesday and I already had a Sunday morning job working in the church office, copying the bulletin, etc. He told me that all he asked is that I pray about it.  After the initial outbreak.....I did PRAY and I did get convicted .  We had asked God for younger folks and with that comes pre-schoolers, etc.  To shorten my story, I took the class.

WHAT A BLESSING IT HAS BEEN.  Those children depend on me.  It has been so refreshing to watch them "grow".  It never fails to amaze me the things they say and their prospective of things.

I say all of this to let you is important to find YOUR PASSION in the church and what God's WILL is for you in the church....because when you are in God's Will......there is no end to your joys and blessings.  Just remember....everyone can not do the same job, so find yours....and DO IT.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Years!

Cameron - 5 Weeks Old!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Year of Changes

I know that this is the 8th day of January, but I am still reflecting over this past year.  Wow.  This has definitely been a year of changes for us.  It has also been a busy year.
  • January 7th - Our son, Cody and Melanie got married.
  • February - Our son-in-law found out he was being transferred from East Tn. to West Tn.
  • March - Our daughter, Kacie and son-in-law, Chase announced that they beat the odds and were expecting a baby in December.
  • May - Our daughter-in-law, Melanie, graduated from college.
  • July - Our son-in-law got transferred back to East Tn.
  • November 28 - Cameron Lee Hicks was born.
As you can see....there has been lots of changes in our personal lives....but that is not all.  There have been lots of changes in our church family also.  About a year ago, Roger and I both got very burdened because our church seemed to be at a stand-still...and we were not attracting very many younger couples.

We turned it all over to God and BINGO....God began to use what we had to bring them in.  Three or four years ago, our church joined the church softball league and several young friends of some of our members came and played softball with us.  Through the softball league, several of the younger folks got to know our members better and began visiting our church.  To shorten the story, God sent us three couples under the age of thirty and they are all on fire for God and want to work.  Our Couples Class/Youth Class has grown by leaps and bounds.  (We had no one working with the couple of youth we had, so the "Couples" decided to "sponsor" the youth and let them join until they reach the point that they can venture out on their own.
We have little kids "EVERYWHERE" at church and all ages. 

PRAISE THE LORD.  We are currently in the process of planning for a Family Life Center.  God is Good All the Time.

What amazing things has God done for you or your church this year?  I would love to hear from you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sorry --- I could not resist....

Being a Bama Fan from Alabama......I am sorry, I could not resist.
This picture was made before the game.
Check out Baby Cameron's right hand.
He got it right when the media missed it.


Happy "FIRST" Anniversary Cody and Melanie Britton!!!!  Where did the year go?  It seems like just yesterday that we were trying to move Cody from Kentucky to Nashville area and planning the rehearsal and wedding...
Time marches on....and it seems as if the older we get, the quicker it passes.  Melanie and Cody both still look like kids, although they are both out of college and in May he will complete his 4th year of working for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer.

Continue to pray for this young couple as they continue to seek out God's guidance in their lives.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

To Resolve or Not to Resolve?

I have very mixed feelings about making New Year's Resolutions.

They never seem to last. They are usually unrealistic or unattainable. Personally, I know my resolve is weak and I can do nothing apart from Christ.

However, I am so glad that we serve a God of new beginnings and second chances. I love having a clean slate in front of me and the opportunity to start something new.

All this said, I have prayed about one of my "resolutions" and seriously thought about the other.

What have I prayed over? Starting a Bible study with an accountability group for me. I have been in the Word quite a bit in 2012, but honestly, most of it was simple and easy unless I was preparing to teach. Then it was for someone else. God was patient and gracious teaching and growing me this way but this year He has given me a desire to dig deeper and really study for my own spiritual growth.

So I have emailed a few friends and we are praying about meeting one evening a week at a nearby Starbucks after we've fed our families and gotten bath times out of the way. We haven't decided what we will study yet. I think we will discuss that on our first gathering. If you have any suggestions, I would really appreciate your input.

What am I seriously thinking about? Weight loss. I mean who isn't at this time of year? I would like to lose about 10-15 lbs but I know that even if that is going to happen I will need to move beyond "seriously thinking" about it to praying over it, submitting it all back to God.

What about you? What are you resolving or not resolving to do in 2013?