Saturday, July 28, 2007

Deaths. Living. Clean Carpets.

It struck me just a moment ago but this time last year..... in a matter of 5 weeks, there were 7 individuals who passed on. Talk about a hard, hard few weeks. As strange as it may sound, a couple of those trips to different cities/towns ended up being a far bigger blessing than I could have realized at the time. My daddy and I had real in-depth conversations about illness, death, dying, and of course real life and living.

One trip found hubby and I alone as the individual who passed on was a dear friend of ours from the church in which we had come from before. It was during this road trip that I rec'd the phone call about the possibility of starting a group for pregnant teens and single moms. It was started a couple of weeks later and shortly then after I stepped down from the ministry in which I had been on staff at. Daddy was in the hospital then. Mom had had her surgery just in the middle of August.

Daddy passed on back in November. I cannot tell you the number of deaths of individuals since then that we have known personally or have had some sort of connection to. Yet, clearly life has definitely gone on and living life honestly has never been so exciting.

Oh yeah.... The carpets are clean. The furniture has been dusted and polished. And I smell bad even though I took a shower earlier this morning. At some point this evening.... Austin is due home as is my mom and her ????????

Life in the moments yet again. God is good all the time.

At A Loss For Words Part II

This morning the phone rang. It was her - the now widow of the man that died while mowing his lawn on Sunday. She asked me if I knew who she was and when I answered, "Yes, ma'am" - she then asked for the lawn pastor.

She was calling to ask him if he could come over one day this week to discuss his taking care of her lawn now that her husband is gone. She was unaware that he not only knew that her husband had passed on but the manner in which he had done so. She also did not know that the lawn pastor had indeed attended the celebration service on Thursday. While he made it a point to sign the guest register, he had mainly slipped in and out on purpose.

He shared with her that he had planned on coming over on Monday after the weekend had past to visit with her. To him it is quite natural that he would now be doing that lawn again..... but not because of the lawn itself you see. One of the reasons why hubby has the title lawn pastor is because of the time he invests in the individuals whose lawn he is taking care of. He and this woman had numerous conversations before and after during the time that he had taken care of their lawn before. It is only appropriate that they will be again now.

For while this couple are not members of the church in which we are a part or even of the same denomination affiliation... they are still family all the same.

I have no doubt that the lawn pastor will listen like no body's business and may even be at a loss for words while doing so. There are times in life when just being willing to listen is far more important than any thing one can possibly say.

Please continue to pray for this family. Their grown son found his dad on the lawn... already gone. The grandson mowed the lawn yesterday because he needed to do something. The woman is now a widow when this time last week........ she was still married and thinking there would be a tomorrow.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Rain. Rainbows. Renew.

Last night the four of us (Park, Travman, hubby and myself) headed out to a big city. On the menu was dinner and some shopping. Really more than any thing else - just hanging out together. This week it has been a high priority to spend a good amount of quality time with the boys and as hubby and wife.

While out and about in the big city - the wind started blowing and sure enough - the rain started coming down. It was truly refreshing. Our eyes could not help but look at the sky in every which direction and take notice of all the different patterns in the clouds and all the shades of gray and blues around.. When coming out of one store, a man said to me, "Look at the rainbow!" One of the most gorgeous rainbows we have ever seen in all our years put together. It wasn't just one rainbow that was in the sky - it looked more like three. Vivid colors like they were freshly painted with Crayola markers.

As we were driving back to the highly secure gated community which is located in the country, we couldn't help but turn the music up high and singing ourselves silly with one song in particular as we are known to do. If you've ever been behind us while in the van - if our hands go up in the air - we are singing the words, "Can I get a witness?" The song is by Mark Shultz. It also happens to be my ring tone on hubby's phone. Which that alone cracks us up..... It was a very nice evening indeed. Oh, one thing about Travman - keep him out of stores that have kitchen gadgets. He definitely takes after his dad on that. My guys all love to cook.

This week has been a very different one for our family since moving to G-town. Long gone are the days when we lived as just one hubby, one wife, and three sons. While we live in this house - it is not ours. Our time here has truly been the most growing period of all of our lives. We are thankful and know that can only come from Him. Tomorrow, my mom and her boyfriend are due back from their vacation. We honestly know not what to expect from their journey together. We have not heard from her since she left the driveway Sunday morning. Yet, we know that this time has afforded the five of us and then the four to create some new memories as well. For that - we are thankful. As Christ-followers we should want to grow in our relationships with Him daily. As husbands, wives and children - we should make the most of every opportunity to be together whether in serious times or when out and about in the rain or sunshine.

I am thankful, O Lord, for the time to renew in all the various ways we have this week. For no matter what tomorrow brings - we know that You are always painting pictures in every crack and crease.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lessons on Tuesday.

It is no secret that hubby and I take seriously the privilege, responsibilities, and blessings that come with each child we have been given. I am not too proud to say that they honestly have taught me more than I probably ever have them. You'd have to ask hubby if he is... (just kidding) Oh, Tuesday.... lessons on tuesday...

Our family had started off the day by hanging out at the house together. I had received a call asking for help with Healthy Kids due to a friend's grandmother passing away. It was a privilege to step in for her. Hubby had also agreed to take another one of the sites. We were doing Healthy Kids as a family. The boys really thought this was really cool.

The boys and I have a favorite site that we go to. We have really started developing some precious relationships with the children and a couple of parents/relatives as well. Little Laura just comes running when she sees us. Her uncle told me that they had wondered where we were last week. Oh.. there were other people there with Healthy Kids to feed them.... just not us. When I told him that we were at VBS, he replied, "Oh, about that... We didn't know where to turn the permission slip in at for the kids to receive a free ride. They could have come." OUCH! Austin looked at me and said, "Mom, we should have followed through with making sure that was taking of." He was 100% right. That didn't stop us from enjoying our time with them and the promise of more times to come. The playground being fixed is always a part of our conversations.... It was even more so since the kids were wanting to play on it. We will follow through on that. Our own kids will hold us accountable on that one.

After hugs and tickles were given... we headed back to our local church building and on to eat as a family. After we were finished eating - the younger boys needed haircuts... so off we went. Since we were right next door to one of our whole family's favorite stores - we popped on in. Little did we know we'd be buying school supplies then. A certain Ms. Schoolteacher came in and told us about a great bargain taking place. We couldn't help but buy school supplies with that knowledge in hand. Austin made a point of saying to me, "Mom, maybe we should buy some school supplies for the kids we've gotten to know through Healthy Kids." Oh... got me again. They will indeed be getting some school supplies too. Our own kids will hold us accountable on that one too.

It came time to go to a movie together as a family. Okay. Now one thing you must know about my hubby and I is that we are exceedingly strict about what our children are or are not allowed to watch. Austin tried several times to tell me that he did not think the movie we were going to see was appropriate for his younger brothers and probably not for him either. Knowing hubby usually really researches movies first - I assured him that it would be okay. WRONG! Hubby hadn't really check out the movie but was trying to enjoy all five of us hanging out together the whole week day.

Long story short..... We should have never gone to see that movie. It was inappropriate for many reasons. We should have walked out of the movie when we first realized it wasn't going to suitable for our family. We didn't. We sat there - each one of the five knowing we needed to get up and walk out. OUCH!

When leaving the movie, Austin, said to me, "Mom, I tried to tell you but you kept shhhhing me. I was just trying to help the family. I knew you and dad really wouldn't be okay with it if you knew what I did about it." And yes, I apologized to our sons and my hubby for not really listening to him. Had I let him finish one sentence - we would have never set foot inside that movie.

There were lessons learned on Tuesday in more ways than one. Being a parent is a tremendous privilege, responsibility, and blessing. And sometimes we parents make mistakes and it is the child that truly teaches us. This too can happen even when that child is a teenager and his mom has to look up to see his face when talking with him.

Always a student

At A Loss for Words.

Hubby is on his way to a celebration service for a man who died on Sunday. It has been reported that the man had a massive heart attack while mowing his lawn. He had been told by doctors not to mow his lawn. For two summers, hubby was his lawn pastor. This summer he decided he could mow his own lawn.

Our prayers and thoughts do go out to this family. There are times when one is just at a loss for words.


Testimonies. M & M. On the Road Again.

The testimonies last night were amazing. Given the fact that it has been a week and a half since they've returned.... EVEN BETTER! Linc's video was definitely worth the price of buying one. All those faces... of the children there, adults there, and our own missionaries - priceless. The music - unbelievable!

"M & M" were two of Austin's sponsors. I believe they sponsored at least one other as well. They shared with Austin last night after the share time was over that they would definitely be a part of "adopt a missionary" projects again. They were so incredibly impressed with the whole thing from start to finish. Of course, realizing that with something like this just because the missionaries return home and report on what all took place, does not mean it is finished. I'm not saying they were just impressed with Austin... they have loved him since before he was even born. I think this also goes hand in hand with what hubby said in the video about having adults in individuals lives who are willing to be there for them, especially children and teens. We need more of that.

This morning a group of teens and adults set out on the road again from our local church building. Austin is on this trip. At first I wasn't so excited about him being on the road again. Yet, the teen was up and ready to go by 7:30 a.m. I think that speaks volumes about why he is on the road again. There is excitement and enthusiasm beaming from him. And no, that's not because he is Austin.

Look for more testimonies to come! If you're reading this and are thinking to yourself, "I should really share a testimony on this blog." What are you waiting for? SHARE! You don't need my permission to. Really, you don't need any one's 'cept HIS.

What's my email addy again?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Austin's Letter to His Sponsors.

Greetings to my sponsors!

Well, the trip is over and I’m back. I cannot express my gratitude for your prayers and support that went into this trip. It simply amazes me how the LORD can give people the things they need in order to perform at their best during an excruciating trip, both physically and mentally. The LORD was present everywhere in that trip – on the bus ride up and back, in VBS, in our job sites – everywhere. And white water rafting was a blast!

VBS was amazing in all terms. Shelley told us that the YMCA people said that they had never seen a group so well prepared, and later in the week they said it was the best VBS they’ve ever had. What great compliments! The children were attached to us and it was probably the hardest thing on the trip to say goodbye to them. I had a few kids that followed me around all week. One of them told me that this was his first week at the YMCA and that I was the first friend he had there. Lincoln Wiseman did amazing songs and music that got the kids excited, and Daniel Stull hosted the recreation that gave the kids and teens a chance to have fun.

The house work was a great time too. We split the youth into 2 different groups, and worked on two separate houses the whole week. My house was literally on the side of a mountain and the mountain was falling down on it. We weren’t able to finish the house unfortunately, but we were able to get most of it done. We put tar on the roof, put new siding up, made a new deck and porch, put new windows in, and made the lady who lived in the house a new address sign. She was so nice and sweet; she made us food and gave us snacks when she had little to eat herself, and there were 23 of us. She made the BEST biscuit and fried chicken I have EVER tasted in my life. She made our job worthwhile and fun. The physical labor was intense, but a major blessing of the LORD was giving us the strength to make it through each day of work. The sun was hot and there were wasps and bee’s everywhere. One of our workers got stung by two wasps in the first 10 minutes at the site. Thank the LORD that I didn’t get stung at all this week, but everyone else got stung a lot. We gave her pictures of the week in frames, and she brought smiles to everyone this week.

As we debriefed Friday the 13th (ha-ha) at the church we were staying at, Shelley asked us a question that only one answer could be given. We weren’t able to come up with anything, therefore the only answer was ‘we cannot describe this week in a word’. This is simply the truth; there is no word to describe the week. But combine all the words like ‘great’ or ‘awesome’ or ‘amazing’ and put them all together, even then I still think a word is missing – God-filled. This was one of the best weeks of my life and at times I didn’t want it to end, and I cannot thank you enough for your financial support and prayers.

God bless,
Austin Gravley

Mission Trip Testimonies!

Tonight (Wednesday) at 6:30 p.m. in the Attic (aka student ministry wing - 2nd floor).

Come hear about how not having vans proved to be a huge part of God's plans for the week.

Look for testimonies to be coming here too for those unable to attend tonight's gathering.

Are YOU on mission this moment wherever YOU are at?

Skunk. Bleach. Other Random Smells.

Being the mother of three sons and the wife of one hubby..... the following are my unbiased thoughts on a few smells in our daily lives.

1) Skunk - While none of our sons or hubby is one.... there was a dead one in our neighbor's yard a few days ago. You think that smell would be gone by now. NOPE! We definitely live in the country....

2) Bleach - It can be smelled all over the house at this moment. While I am thankful that the septic tanks are able to handle laundry being done at home today.... You'd think someone could come up with a bleach that actually smells good. Oh wait.... maybe the bleach smell has more to do with having three sons and a hubby.

3) Apple pie - you can buy a candle that smells like one but frankly..... it will only make you hungry or never want to see one again. There is no in-between.

4) Eggs - hard boiled eggs are great for many things like chicken salad sandwiches, salads, deviled eggs or just with some salt and pepper..... This does not change the fact that they smell like farts.

5) Deodorant - this always works better when put under the arms. While there is much to be said for "aiming straight" when using the toilet - the same can be said for underarms.

6) Bacon - in the frying pan smells great. Baked instead...... OH MY!

7) Hairspray - I kid you not.... NO matter what anyone says..... there is one male in our household who uses more of it than I could ever come close to..... He also primps more... (*coughhubbycough*) And we all know I have way more hair...

8) Popcorn - Travman eats popcorn like nobody's business. There is a huge difference in smells when it has butter on it or not.

9) Steaks - yummmmm that's what's for dinner. What a smell......... What a treat!

10) Coffee - I think I could stand to smell some of that right now..... Green tea just doesn't smell the same....


Unbiasedly biased

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Don't Touch That. Latex Gloves.

Last week as I reported here... I had the privilege of serving individuals in our volunteer lounge during VBS.. It has come to my attention, yet again, that several individuals are now having dreams as a result of my saying, "Don't Touch That."


There... If you need additional help.... get yourself a pair of latex gloves and try it for yourself. I've been told it's working wonders for some mothers at the dinner table.

This has been a public service announcement from the lounge lady. Always happy to be of service.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hallways. Highways. Mind. Heart.

Hallways - You should have heard the buzz about VBS & Randal's sermon! These are just a few I heard while walking in the hallways:

1) "This was the best VBS we've ever been a part of. I can't wait to be a part of it next year."

2) "The children really learned a lot at this VBS. They really stayed engaged through every part of it."

3) "Did you hear about all the decisions that were made this week? I wish I would have a part of VBS."

4) "You could tell that the volunteers really love the kids. I watched a couple of them talking with the ones in their group. It was really touching."

5) "You could sense the presence of God all this week every time you stepped in the doors."

6) "God used Randal to really challenge me today."

7) "I wonder if Randal has been a fly on the wall of our home?"

8) "I know I shouldn't be putting all that junk in my head. It was like Randal was reading it. Man, that made me realize that God knows it's there."

9) "That was the best sermon that Randal has ever preached here. He wasn't claiming to be perfect. That helped me want to listen."

10) "God at work ahead. That sign is definitely true."

Highways - Yesterday morning my mom and Hoover set out on their vacation. This trip would require driving on many highways. This morning, a few parallels have struck me.

1) Trust. In order to go on a trip with someone - trust is needed. The level of trust may be higher by the time the trip is over or it may be lessened for whatever reasons. Checking the speedometer doesn't necessarily mean the one driving will slow down. Of course, it doesn't mean they will go faster either.

2) One highway can take you away from where you've been and yet it can bring you back again. This doesn't always mean you are the same person. Sometimes that can be for better or worse.

3) There are many twists and turns that can take place on highways. Long and winding roads so to speak....... Where does your highways in life take you? Closer to Him or away?

4) Sometimes you come across a highway that requires money in order to stay on that road. There are times when the toll is worth paying and others when it is best to get off that road and turn around.

5) There are many highways that bring individuals to our churches. What are their roads like when they leave?

Hallways and highways can reflect our very minds and hearts.

What would you be overheard saying in the hallways of your life?

Does your highway help bring God's love to others? Does it reflect the work He is continuing to do in your life?