Portraits

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In the midst of the packing spree that was taking place at our (old) house a few weeks ago I realized that we had no current pictures of Ephraim in that house. I know he will never remember living there, but I will always remember him living there because that is where we became a family. In what a later felt must have been a moment of sheer insanity, I decided to schedule family pictures at our house to commemorate our time there.

We have a GREAT photographer who quickly sheduled us in and worked around boxes and a termite inspector (literally). I was so concerned that we would not get any good pictures. For one, I HATE having my picture taken. My face gets all stiff and then quivery and I have a hard time just being “natural”. Michael is an old pro from his Monk and Neagle days of photoshoots and requires very little direction. Ephraim just could not sit still and Lezlie even joked that she needed her “fast baby” lens. So my concern about whether the pictures would be good had way more to do with me and my emotional state and exhaustion. Fortunately Lezlie has an artists eye and was able to capture some stunning pictures of our family in our first home together for the last time. Enjoy!

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Update and nostalgia

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Hello all, I am coming to you from a brand new address. Our house SOLD! It was on the market all of 4 days and was bought by the second people who looked at it. So thankfully we never had to endure endless showings and the dreaded “Open House”. What was even more incredible and insane was that the couple who bought the house wanted to close super quickly …like seven days quickly! We decided to take the money and run and thus began a marathon packing session completed at a break neck pace. Thank God for family because we needed help BIG TIME! The Neagles are blessed with amazing brothers, sisters and bro and sis in laws. They came and helped pack, load, unload and unpack. Amazing. And thanks to Michael’s mom for keeping Ephraim so Mommy and Daddy could get the job done.

 

I am not going to say that this has been an easy time. While it is an incredible blessing to have had the house sell quickly and to get almost full asking price, it has also been exhausting physically and emotionally. When we made the decision to sell it was not without a little trepidation. We made a decision in favor of wisdom and not comfort. Michael will begin clinicals next semester which will severely restrict the number of hours he is available to work setting tile. We knew that we could either keep the house and I would have to work probably full time again. Or, we could sell, downsizing our expenses and I could continue to be home with Ephraim. That was pretty much a no brainer. I want to be home with my little boy. It is still an incredible sacrifice though. 

I have battled my emotions from the moment we put the sign in the yard. I was counting on the fact that it would probably take some time to sell and a month to close. Wrong on both counts. In hind sight it is definitely for the best … better to go ahead and rip the band aid off rather than draw it out. I think what has been difficult is knowing that we are not really moving onto the “next” or “bigger and better” thing. It feels like we are sort of on pause. We decided rather than rush into getting into something else by renting that we would accept a more than gracious offer from my mom to move in with her. She is single and has a house that is much to large for her. It has a very unique layout that allows for a lot of privacy in the master suite. Because of that mom moved into one of the guest rooms and Michael and I are now settled into her old room. (We are secretly hoping that we will just buy this place from her and she will downsize into something smaller that will better suit her needs.)

So here we are mostly unpacked, but not quite settled. We painted E’s room the same color as it was at our house and although the room is slightly smaller it looks almost exactly the same and he seems none the wiser. He has been battling a fever for a few days so we finally took him to the doctor today. He has an ear infection and got a shot. He was pretty whiney and clingy all day (mama doesn’t mind), but is sleeping away right now.

Stress has been pretty crushing for Michael and I. We are both just wiped out from all the transition. Michael severely cut his hand at work on Monday with a box cutter. He got five stitches, but is almost good as new. He starts summer school next week so it will be back to the daily grind. We are looking forward to this weekend for some serious R&R. We are contemplating a beach vacation in the near future. I think we deserve it.

I will post some pictures of the new place soon. I am doing a lot of updating here and we have moved in a lot of our own furnishings and decor. My mom said the only hitch is that we have to leave it all when we leave because it looks so much better. Michael told her that the stuff could stay, but one of us would have to go then. I think she is actually very relieved to have us here. I can imagine that a big house can get very lonely when you are the only one living in it. It is also going to be nice for her to have a man around who can work on this place. She has been here about seven years and the wear and tear that comes with home ownership is a bit to evident in this house. We plan and helping her out with all that stuff in exchange for room and board while here. So begins a new season in our life. One we really did not see coming. Life has been nothing but transition for us ever since Ephraim was born. Slowly but surely we are figuring it out and just know that ultimately Jehovah Jireh is our provider. He always has been and we are blessed with His favor and grace.

 

 

 

Remodel ( A photo essay)

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So this is what we have been up to for the past 2 weekends: remodeling our hall bathroom. Michael started demoing before I could get full on “before” pics, but I think the fugliness of this room is discernable even from what I was able to capture.

Countertop and what lies beneath the mirror when it was removed.

Countertop and what lies beneath the mirror when it was removed.

The cabinet and countertop

The cabinet and countertop

 

Where the big ugly mirror was

Where the big ugly mirror was

 

Tile floor, mid removal (layer one)

Tile floor, mid removal (layer one)

 

Cabinet gone ... good riddance!

Cabinet gone ... good riddance!

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New backer board on floor

New backer board on floor

 

Tub surround pre re-glazing (it has freckles)

Tub surround pre re-glazing (it has freckles)

 

Bead board up

Bead board up

Daddy's little helper

Daddy's little helper

Side note here:  This is not the first “makeover” this bathroom has received. When we moved into the house almost 4 years ago all of the woodwork in the bathroom was a maple stain (brown) and there was purple brocade wallpaper on the walls. I knew we couldn’t do a full on re-do then, but I also knew I could not live with it as it was. So, I painted the would cafe au lait (creamish) and stripped off the wall paper. I then textured the walls and painted them a light khaki color that I bought for $5 for a gallon off the mistint section at Lowes. 

Our intention had always been to rip out the existing bathtub and replace with a jetted tub. And of course take out the tile tub surround and floor and replace with natural stone. However, since we have decided to sell our house we wanted to get this done quick and on a serious budget. The tile was free (left overs from a job. Handy that the hubs does tile huh?) We got a bid for the reglazing of the “freckled” tile. It was $500 + so we decided to do it ourselves with a kit from Home Depot. Cost for two kits $100. The sink was a $99 all-in-one set (meaning it included all the plumbing and hardware as well as the faucet) Paint was left over from the color E’s room was when it was a guest room. Beadboard and trim were about $30. And my favorite bargain in the mirror that I found at Ross for $25. All total we estimate we spent approx $300 or less. 

Results:

 

New mirror

New mirror

New sink. Not my original choice, but it was a bargain!

New sink. Not my original choice, but it was a bargain!

 

New tile set on a brick joint

New tile set on a brick joint

Re-glazed tile (no more freckles!)

Re-glazed tile (no more freckles!)

 

Ignore the frog pod!

Ignore the frog pod!

Ten days of sporadic work and $300 dollars later, we are pretty happy with the finished product. Should all a lot of value to the house!

So, I have some thinking to do (and homework too!)

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Greetings friends. Sorry I have been absent of late. Lots of things happening around the Neagle house that I will catch you up on later. We have been busy, busy, busy. This weekend Michael and I both spent time at different church retreats. Michael was a part of the First Presbyterian Church Men’s Retreat in Glorietta, New Mexico (I was sooo jealous, love Santa Fe!) He led worship for the event, but was also just blessed to hang out and get to know some the men from our new church family (I told you guys we were Presbyterians now, right?) He got home this afternoon and E and I were soooo happy to see Daddy after a few days apart.

I wonderfully got to be a part of the More Women’s Retreat this weekend. My wonderful sister, Samantha, was able to keep Ephraim for me during the evenings so that I could attend the night time sessions of the conference. The retreat started Friday night and ended Saturday night so I actually only missed one session. Since Michael was out of town I was not able to spend the night (the retreat was in Amarillo at a local hotel) or really hang out much after, but it was still such a blessing. I didn’t think I was going to be able to go for lack of babysitter and finances. As the weekend was drawing near I just felt so bummed to be missing out and made a simple request of the Lord, “If you want me to be there, work it out so that I can go.” By that afternoon he did. Babysitter, check! Scholarship money, check! So I knew that something good must be in store! 

The speaker for the event was Jenn Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, CA. If you do not know of Jenn I cannot encourage you enough to check her out. She and her husband, Bryan, are the worship pastors at Bethel where her father in law, Bill Johnson (AMAZING), is the senior pastor. I had never seen Jenn before and only heard her and her husbands CD a few times. She was at another church in Amarillo this past fall and although I did not attend the event I heard incredible things about her. I have to admit though that going into this I had some doubts. I just wasn’t sure what the experience was going to be like …would I enjoy it, would it be “worth” the time away from home, etc.

She opened up the evening with worship which was so wonderful and sweet. She has a great voice and her song choices were just spot on for what my heart needed. Then she began the evenings talk explaining that when the retreat organizers contacted her last fall about speaking she immediately knew she should come because of the theme of the event “Seasons of Life”. Turns out she was/is in the process of writing a book called “Seasons” about that very thing. It didn’t seem like she had a specific “message” (read: 5 point sermon) to share with us. It was more like she was just speaking from her heart and in the moment. She is an incredibly gifted communicator and also very beautiful. She is also hilarious. At 27, she is mom to three kiddos, married and in full time ministry. On top of that she has written books and recorded CD’s so you could say that any doubt the older set might have had about receiving from someone younger was quickly put to rest.

I can’t remember exactly what she began speaking about. She tells lots of stories and is very animated but it did not take long for her to get right to the heart of the matter. She told us to get out pen and paper and be ready to write down a few questions because we were going to have homework. Okay … What she said next is that we were called to have an action plan for our life and that it begins by answering a few key questions:

#1. Who am I?

#2. What do I love?

I was floored right there in that moment and left completely broken. For perhaps the first time in more than a year or two she encapsulated the biggest thing I have been struggling with … I have completely lost sight of who I am. I am utterly at a loss for words. This is something that my husband has been delicately trying to broach the subject of for a while. In vain attempts to be subtle and sensitive at the same time he has hinted at what I have known deep down for quite some time: I am floundering. I have lost my way and have had no clue and really no motivation to find my way back.

I could psychoanalyze the situation pretty easily and surmise that for so long the quest was to get pregnant and once I was the focus was on the pregnancy and eventual child. Child is born and new mommyhood takes you over (literally) and before you know it a year has gone by and you wonder where it went and how you spent it. I think that is correct in part, but not completely. I am moved to go a little bit deeper, but as Jenn said this weekend, it really doesn’t matter. The why or the how I got here is irrelevant at this point. The objective is to move forward. So that is what I am going to do.

I have only just begun to ask God these two questions and I can’t say that I have heard a lot back yet. I am trying to decipher his voice from my own and really lay down the idols of self that have been erected in my mind. I also can see now that he has been moving me or preparing me for this over the past few weeks. About 3 weeks ago I was cleaning out some stuff in our attic an unearthed a box of treasures from the past. One of these was a home made “yearbook” from my freshmen year in highschool. (Those suckers were expensive and we were broke so I made my own for people to write in) As I read threw the pages and pages of  things people had written about me I found myself quite perplexed. The girl they were writing about was pretty unrecognizable to me. I couldn’t conjur her up if I tried. It made me so sad for I have no idea what happened over the years. It reminded me somewhat of when people experience some sort of trauma and completely forget or “block out” a part of their life. Weird, I know. Then I found a scrapbook containing tons and tons of photos from college. Party Time pictures from fraternity parties and date party events. Pictures from Tech football games and Carol of the Lights, Young Life camp and Kanakuk as a counselor. The pages of this book contained the smiling faces of people who had become a surrogate family to me while I was in college. I loved them and thought that with at least a few, if not many, I would remain close friends. It didn’t happen. Somehow between graduation, moving to Amarillo, working full-time, getting engaged and married and embarking on a new life, I let the old one slip away …for better or worse.

I think this probably happens to a lot of people. Maybe it is the norm and not the exception. I don’t know, I can’t speak for anyone else. What I know for me is that it sets a dangerous trap for me to fall prey to in that I can drift very easily into isolation. And I think that is where I have been for a long, long time. You know the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none?” I think what I could say about me is “Known of by many, really known by few (if any).” What really scares me about this is that I have no idea how I got here. It is like I woke up one day and changed places with someone who was extroverted socially and introverted emotionally and intimately. Who wants a friend like that? OUCH.

The second question seemed a little vague at first. She said not to over think it, keep it simple. And not to say stuff like “Serving Jesus” or “Ministering to the Body” We all love that, or should anyway. Be real and personal. She surveyed the crowd. People said things like “Books” and “Skiing down a mountain” “Being a mommy”. I said, “A damn good cup of coffee” (outloud) and “Red wine” (quietly). I do love both of those. What else though? I used to love to run. Loved it. Then I hurt my back and yada yada … I love music. I love to drive on a cool night with the sunroof open and listen to great songs that tell great stories. I also love pop music. I love it to be fun, especially when I am working out. I love the mountains and the beach, but the mountains more. Old Rachael loved a great pair of worn out mens Levi’s that cost her like $5 at some thrift store. Recent Rachael loves expensive denim. Why can’t I just be both. Old Rachael could go anywhere alone. Not because she was a loner but because she wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t afraid. And it just hit me. Fear is what changed it all.

Somehow I opened a door to fear in my life that has eaten away at the very core of who I am. At times it has stolen my  joy, my peace, my health (mentally, physically and emotionally), my sleep, my confidence. I have been robbed blind and I think I just realized it.

Something else Jenn said confirmed my answer to the following question she asked. She said

“Fear can hold you prisoner, but HOPE can set you free!”

That will preach, I don’t care who you are!

So knowing all that, here were Jenn’s next questions:

#3 Jesus, what is my most effective gift in my life in this season? (I felt like He said hope)

#4 Jesus, who in this season of my life, should I be friends with/parter with?

#5 Who am I supposed to be affective to in this season? To give to? To equip?

Can you hear the crickets y’all?

So here is where I am. I am praying and asking and waiting and I am not moving until I get an answer. I do not want to go one step forward in this life on my own. I want to take the steps that He is leading me in and follow the path of his making. I don’t want to flounder any more. One thing Jenn said that really hit home was “There is no pause button for your life and your role in building His kingdom. Get over it.”

I have been living in pause land too long. So here I go. Tomorrow is my new beginning and I am really excited and really ready to set what is next for me. For my marriage. For my family. And for my giftings.

I’ll keep you posted as I know more. And hey, if you knew me then/know me now do me a favor and send me your thoughts on this stuff, specifically about changes good and bad you have seen in me. I could use some direction.

Passover Hell

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For the second year in a row our church, More, held a Seter Supper to commemerate The Passover. Michael and I were not able to attend last years event because we had just had Ephraim and I was too terrified to breast feed anywhere but my own home. Needless to say, we were both very excited to celebrate the Seter with our tribe. This was not my first Seter. My family used to have a Passover meal as part of our home group when I was a kid. This Seter I was very excited to experience having been to Israel two years ago and experiencing the Holy Land firsthand.

The menu for the meal was already set, there would be lamb and brisket, green beans and the rest were traditional Jewish delicacies like Matza Ball soup, Matza muffins, and Blintzes. Several women in the church were asked to prepare these cultural favorites and I was one of them. I was assigned the blintzes which apparently are similar to a crepe. I have never made a crepe, but I knew it was like a small, paper thin pancake. I also knew that crepes were fairly difficult to master. Oh well, how hard could it be? Famous last words.

I should have known I was in trouble when I was instructed that these had to be made the same day as the Seter. They couldn’t be made ahead of time like some of the other baked goods. I also should have known when my phone started ringing at 10:00 a.m. and found some of the other women assigned to make the blintzes frantic on the other end of the line. I had a doctors appointment that morning and was not able to get the project underway until about 1:00 that afternoon. Just as I was beginning to start the process my mother called (who was sort of in charge of the blintz making) saying not to use the original recipe. She was bringing me a new recipe and some additional ingredients: potato flour and matza meal as well as another 2 dozen eggs. Apparently the Jews really like to use eggs. Mom showed up about 2 o’clock and I started the blintzes.

The basic directions were to whisk 6 eggs until light and fluffy and then add them, along with 1 1/2 cups of water, to the matza meal and potato flour that had already been sifted together. The directions said to blend until smooth. I am pretty sure I could have blended for hours and that mixture was never going to get smooth. It was a nasty, lumpy mess. The only thing I knew to do was keep adding water. That seemed to help thin them out, but when placed on the griddle they would only cook on one side. I had no choice but to flip them and cook on the other side as well. This would have been fine, except that once all the blintzes were cooked and cooled they were to be stuffed with a cheese mixture and then wrapped (folded up) and fried in oil (oh joy). Since they had been cooked on both sides already it made the process of wrapping them very difficult. When I tried to fold them up they would start to break and the cheese mixture would run out into the oil. It was becoming quite clear that these blintzes were not going to work out as intended. I finally decided that I would just bring the flat, pancake like blintz thingies to the church in a big casserole dish and bring the stuffing mixture in a seperate bowl. I figured if anyone wanted to actually risk eating these things they could just get a pancake and spoon the cheese mixture on top.

Somewhere in the middle of all this chaos Ephraim awoke early from his nap. I had no choice but to get him up and put him into his pack-n-play, which I had moved into the kitchen. He pretty much just sat there and watched his frazzled and filthy mother stomp around her stinky, messy kitchen trying in vain to salvage the blintzes. Finally, Michael came home and was able to take over Ephraim duties while I finished up. Michael took him out in the backyard to swing while I continued cooking. It was during this time that I made the decision to put all the cooked blintzes into the casserole dish. I had no available counter space so I moved the dish to our pub table. About this time Michael came in with E and put him back into the pack-n-play. He also moved it slightly backward, toward the pub table. I am sure you can imagine what came next. Yep, Ephraim reached a little paw out of his pen and grabbed the aluminum casserole pan, pulled on it and dumped all the contents onto the floor. I didn’t know whether to laugh, scream or cry. I think I did all three. I decided not to completely freak out and knew I had one of two choices: employ the less than 10 seconds rule and figure what unsuspecting eaters don’t know can’t hurt them -or- chalk this event up to fate and know that my son just saved me from forcing 200 of my favorite people from ingesting food that was slightly less than edible. I opted for choice number two. I loaded the 20 or so completed blintzes into a new casserole pan and headed to the church. The Seter started at 6:30, we arrived at 6:15.

Thank God this was a real Seter and we used real wine, not grape juice. I don’t think I have ever needed a stiff drink more!

The evening was amazing. The ceremonial acts and recitations were so incredibly moving. If you have never celebrated a Passover Seter I encourage you to find one to participate in next year. It is truly wonderful. Just don’t let anyone talk you into making the blintzes!

Here are some pictures of the days destruction!

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The Sink

The Sink

img_1385img_1386img_1387img_1388Flour bomb?img_1390Ephraim will eat anything apparently

Yucky

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I just saw something on my Facebook feed that made me feel physically ill and also broke my heart at the same time. In the interest of anonymity I am not going to use the individuals name. I will simply say that is someone we used to be aquainted with through our old church (TFC) in Amarillo. He is now on staff at one the largest (read as Mega) churches in the DFW area.

This is what his status read: 

John Doe: Learning why every church must twitter with Anthony Coppedge.

Someone other guys response: 

“If we as a church don’t stay on the leading edge of technology we will lose people. Aren’t churches already social networks?”

 

I will cop to the fact that I love FB as much as anyone else. I have not yet joined the Twitter bandwagon, mainly because I thought it was something you could only use through your cell phone. My basic understanding is that people use Twitter in the same vain that I use my status update on FB: to fill you all in on the various nuances of my day. What I think, eat, smell, feel, watch, buy etc. I think the concept of a status update (or Tweet) is more for the individual posting it and not necessarily the reader. What I cannot figure out is why every church must Twitter.

As previously mentioned, I saw this and my stomach just turned over. I wasn’t so much angered or even disgusted, but really, genuinely greived. How will Twitter reach and save a lost and dying world who at the very core of creation is in the throughs of deep travail? How will the homeless, the widow, the orphan, the addicted, the oppressed and demonized be reached by Twittering. Jesus called us to be HIS hands and feet. To personally lay our hands and give our hearts to the diseased, afflicted and broken hearted of this world. 

To give the off our clothes off our backs and turn our other cheek in a manner reflective of His own laying down of his life. When I think of hands and feet at work I see Mother Teresa and other missionaries, I see families that feed and cloth the poor through various outreaches, I see the banqueting table of the Bible where the last are first and the fist are last.

What I don’t see is a bunch of people on their iPhones or laptops using Twitter to tear down the walls of oppression gripping the hearts of friends, family and neighbors. I am not saying there is no place for technology …or maybe I am. I don’t really know. In my gut I just think the man addicted to porn that lives down the street will be anymore moved by the spirit of Twitter than a starving child in Africa will be. Where is the relevance of technology in the culture of death and despair pervading the Earth today. My heart is not moved by walking into Starbucks and seeing a bunch of Christians drinking latte’s and wearing designer clothes and trendy tenny shoes pecking away at the keys of a Macbook or thumbing away on some sort of texting device. If my heart is not moved, I have a hard time believing the world’s will be either.

The person who responded said “If we as a church don’t stay on the leading edge of technology we will lose people. Aren’t churches already social networks?”

What in the world?! I don’t know whether to weep or get a soapbox and start screaming in the middle of the city like John the Baptist did. Am I wrong in feeling this way? Possibly, but everything in the Spirit within me is crying out that this cannot be right. I know technology has its place. I just wrote a blog last night about Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA and how they have made these simple and beautiful movies that  profoundly affected my heart. I think there are spiritual truths in these films that resonate to both believers and non-believers. Technology can be a wonderful tool. Look at the internet and how it has allowed millions all over the world access to online Bibles, sermons, music and ministry. Technology has allowed the Message of Christ to be spread throughout the globe at an unprecedented rate. There are several blogs that I follow that have brought genuine healing and ministry into my life. But to say that people will be “lost” to the church is we don’t become techno-geek chic … I do not believe. That sounds to me like a call to become immitators of the world, rather than the WORD.

Jesus said, “Be in the world, but not of the world.” When will we ever learn? I know this latest “trend” in church growth for some time has been to become “seeker friendly.” What does that really even mean? For me, I think a church that is seeker friendly is one that is inclusive, not exclusive. It is a place where anyone who walks in off the street could feel embraced by the people of God. The Spirit is already at work to embrace, but again, we are the hands and feet. The word says if we seek we will find. Find what? The answer should be God. Jesus. The Holy Spirit. Forgiveness. Deliverance. Healing. The Fruit of the Spirit. (Do I really need to go on?) Someone tried to explain the “relevance” of the seeker movement to me once. That we structure our church services so that people who are “curious” do not feel threatened by an atmosphere that they are unfamiliar with. Sing songs that are christian, but some adult contemporary ones they might know as well. Make church FUN! Have the Pastor ride in on a Harley and where trendy clothes to overcome the perception that christianity isn’t “cool.” 

What I just wrote may offend you on some level, but you and I both know this is the kind of crap that is going on in houses of worship all over the United States every week. 

The Bible describes the appearance of Jesus as not being “comely”. Read that as “he was unattractive”. Maybe unattractive is a stretch, but his appearance was such that no one was going to be “drawn” to him because of it. Perhaps “average” or “ordinary” would be better words. How ironic that someone so average in appearance was so above average in every other conceivable way. Extraordinary. Supernatural. He did very little to ever draw attention to himself (the only that comes to mind is when he overturned the vendors tables in the temple) and even withdrew from crowds. Yet people were drawn to him, like moths to a flame. When he stood on the mountain to deliver the “beatitudes” there were throngs of people gathered to listen. his words were simple, but Truth has a way of piercing right through to the heart of the matter. The Word had become flesh and it was intoxicating. The people simply could not get enough. You just have to wonder if this average guy showed up in church, or the mall or Starbucks today how would He go about reaching those who needed him most? Would it be through Twitter, or FB or appearance or state of the art buildings and church programs? The Bible says Jesus is the SAME yesterday, TODAY, and TOMORROW. I think it is pretty clear He would move in the same way, by relationship with people. Through conversation and community and serving and giving and helping. 

The individuals above are entitled to their opinion, just like I am mine. I am not anti-mega church, I just don’t want to go to one. I would love to have an iPhone, but I don’t need it to reach the lost. I want to be beautiful and dress nice and smell good, but I don’t want these to be the reasons people want to know me. I want them to see and encounter Jesus through me. My words, my actions and my friendship. I want to share my testimony and know that hearing it somehow changes the life and gives hope to someone who can identify. 

I just want to be talk like, smell like, be like and be a friend like Jesus.
You can follow my journey to become more like Him on Twitter …JUST KIDDING!!!

Fireproof and Facing the Giants in review

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About two weeks ago Michael and I watched the movie “Fireproof”. My mom had Netflixed the movie and then suggested (not super subtley now that I think about it) that we watch it. She brought it over one night when when she was baby sitting E and left it for us to watch. Poor Mom, it was several weeks before we got to it so she had been waiting for us to send it back so she could get another film. One Saturday night, with nothing else on TV, we decided to pop it in. By the end of the movie Michael and I were curled up in each others arms, both if us confessing our love and repentance through a river of tears.

The movie stars Kirk Cameron, but he is the only professional actor in the film. Everyone else is part of the congregation of the church (Sherwood Baptist Church) that produced the movie. At first, I thought “Okay, I am preparing myself for the fact that since these actors are not professionals the acting will probably be sub-par and thus hard to overcome.” I could not have been more wrong. In actuality, the fact that they were not professionals somehow made the performances more endearing and realistic. Also, the portrayals of marital arguments were brutally realistic. I can remember seeing the movie “The Break Up” a few years back with my sister, Alexis, and thinking that the movie was hard to endure because of the very real and painful portrayal of the fights in the movie. Trust me, the Hollywood blockbuster has nothing on the Indie film when it comes to realistic portrayals of fighting. Fireproof literally made Michael and me cringe during the confrontation scenes. This was because we could both identify with the context of the arguments and how quickly they can escalate.

If you have not seen this movie, I definitely recommend it. Look, it is what it is. It had a next to nothing budget and 99% of the cast had no professional training. Somehow knowing this made the film all the more impressive. While I could not identify with the exact same struggles as this couple, I am well acquainted with the fact that marriage, under the best of circumstances, is hard. It will always take work and there will be seasons where it will  seem that quitting is the only alternative. That is a lie. Quitting may seem easier, but remember the scripture …”There is a way that seems good to man …But this way leads to death”. “Narrow is the gate and few are those who pass through it” (my paraphrase for both). For Michael and me it was a wake up call regarding our relationship and the fact that marriage is a “locked garden”. In other words, “Do Not Disturb” and if you do, face the consequence. However, it is our duty to enforce the will of our Father here … you gotta get rid of the riff raff. If something or someone is trying to drive a wedge between you and your spouse, TAKE ACTION NOW! Seek the Lord! Be vigilant about your actions AND your thought life. During several scenes of the movie there is a “musical montage” and the song used is Slow Fade by Casting Crowns. The words sung ring with such Truth …”It is a slow fade when you give yourself away”. No one knowingly does this, it simply takes its toll over time. 

I really wish I had written more about this when it was all “fresh”. You will have to forgive me, we have had a rough week or so around here.

Last nights film is still rather fresh on my brain though. “Facing the Giants” came out about 2-3 years ago I think. The film is co-produced and was distributed by Provident, the label that Michael used to be on. At the 2007 Gospel Music Awards (GMA) week (read as Christian Grammy’s) Monk and Neagle (Trent and MIchael) attended several Provident functions, one of which was to promote “Facing the Giants”. Michael was sent home with a goody bag that included a lot of candy (yippee), a DVD of the movie and a “Facing the Giants”  football. Once I found out I was pregnant, and with a boy no less, I knew I could put that football in the nursery. “Why” you may  say. I have no good answer. Just decided it, or so I thought.

During this time I was very much in the throws of depression and bewilderment. Michael and I had been trying for children for what seemed like an eternity. Our tests were always normal, but for inexplicable reasons month after month, there was no baby. (I have discussed this before in the blog On Barreness). I continually gave myself “pep talks” and clung to an increasingly insane hope that children were in my future. When Michael returned home that spring (football in tow), I had no idea of the changes poised by God to take place. Within weeks, I had become pregnant. Who knows how or why. (well, clearly we know “how”. It’s not like it was immaculate conception!) When we took the test and it was positive we were in shock and complete awe, knowing this was done by God.

As most mothers do, I began to dream immediately of this child growing within me. Somehow I “knew” from the beginning that it would be a son. It was the desire of my heart and God placed it there. At 20 weeks pregnant, when the sex can be determined by sonogram, neither Michael or I were shocked to find out we had a son. Somehow we knew all along. I battled a lot of fear during those 9 months. This was something I had longed for and I was terrified that it would be taken from me. How little I understood (and still do) about God’s divine nature and love. each day required me taking a stand and confessing what the Word said about my situation. This helped immensely, but I also needed a revelation from God. Thankfully, many faithful saints in our church, MORE, had had visions of our son before he was ever born and these promises helped build and increase our faith. When I was 8 months preggo, Michael and I began the process of decorating the nursery: painting floors and walls, adding new baseboard and quarter round, replacing light fixture, etc ..When it was ready for the final touches (accessories) we added two shelves in order to display assorted decorations, one of which was the Facing the Giants football. This may seem inconsequential (after all it was a little boys room) but after seeing the film I now know it was anything but. You see, in the movie the main character, a struggling football coach, and his wife have been trying to have a baby for several (4) years. Warning …SPOILER ALERT! After being told that it will take nothing short of a miracle to get pregnant the couple continues to persevere despite the odds. Brought low and to the point of brokeness individually, both declare that no matter what God is GOOD and they will “love him no matter what!” After watching the DVD last night, I realize there is no coincidence in the fact that the “promotional” football was placed in my son’s room. It was prophetic revelation and confirmation of the work God had always intended to do. The God of Heaven and the Angle Armies was at work in my life (and Ephraim’s) from the beginning, even before the beginning. That football means a heck of a lot more now!

Let me just say that I full out wept during this film. It hit REALLY close to home for obvious reasons. Though painful to remember that struggle, it was also terribly beautiful to reflect on Gods work during that season and even now. I won’t tell you how the story ends. You can try and guess, but I suggest you see the movie and experience the same blessing I did. for yourself. In a complete coincidence, I came across this today. Cheri is an old friend from our Trinity Fellowship days. Her testimony had me praising through tears. What a great week to be reminded of the faithfulness and miracle working power of THE ONE TRUE GOD, JESUS! Immanuel, God with us! Thank you Lord that we are not alone.

I have decided to focus on LOVING my Jesus this week. Won’t you join me!

 

**Also, if you have not heard Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Rise” I encourage you to get on iTunes (or whatever you use) and download this song. It is an amazing reminder of why we celebrate this week!