Sunday, August 3, 2014

Three Nights In a Row...

It happened three nights in a row.

I generally have no problem going to sleep. Usually I kiss all three of the boys goodnight (Pepper counts too) and head to bed an hour or so before them. That gives me plenty of time to get my ear plugs in, turn on the sound machines (yes, more than one), and fall asleep before the snoring trio settles in for the night. Lately, the trouble has been staying asleep.

I'm an incredibly light sleeper. The slightest amount of light. The faintest hint of a snore. The sharpest jab of a bony 9 year-old's elbow (well, I guess that would wake anybody). The point is, it doesn't take much to wake me. But of late, it hasn't been those things waking me in the middle of the night.

I could lie and say, "Hey, I've got this!" Or I could be real and say, "You know what, friends? There's a little fear trying to seep in here." (I'm being brave and choosing the latter....)

I've been waking up with a million different things running through my mind.

         "What if I don't find a job by the end of August?"
                                    "What if I do get a job and I never get to see my family?"
    "How will I have the energy to teach Sunday school and lead the women's ministry?"
                    "How will I suddenly get used to waking up at 4 a.m. again?"
                                        "Why haven't they called me back?"
                         "What if nobody EVER calls?"
                                                "Why didn't I finish college?"
                                                             "Why do I feel like such a failure?"

Here I am, two months into my employment search, and I still have no job. It's. A. Bit. Scary.

Friday night was the most difficult. I was awake, tossing and turning, for more than two hours. My shoulders shook and tears fell. I prayed, more than anything, that God would be glorified in my suffering. And then I fell back asleep.

I shared my struggle with Scott yesterday morning while I was sweeping. I kept my head down, concentrating on each grass clipping and ball of dust as I swept it into the dustpan. He stood in the doorway, listening intently. I quietly wept as I told him how I'd been waking up in the middle of the night with so many fears running through my mind. Slowly I lifted my head and he looked me straight in the eye and said, "Fear is okay, Kari."

Fear is okay? FEAR IS OKAY?

I stopped sweeping and said, "But I'm NOT afraid God won't take care of us! I'm afraid of the unknown. I don't understand this. I KNOW God is at work. I just need a little glimpse of what He is doing because I don't understand it!"

    "When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear..." Psalm 56:3

We talked a little longer about all the reasons we have for concern in our circumstances. (There are many.)  I think my greatest fear is that I don't know what God will allow. I've surrendered this situation to God. I'm doing all that I know to trust and obey Him. But I don't know what is to come.

So. What is the remedy? How do I resolve the fear? FAITH. There is obviously a gap between my own understanding and the possibilities of God's will. That gap can only be filled with FAITH. I might not know what is in my future, but I can put my trust in the One who does.

                "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will
               strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold onto you with my righteous right
                                                            hand."  Isaiah 41:10

                 " God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Psalm 56:11

I finished sweeping and Scott returned to his errands outside. The rest of the day was spent cleaning, enjoying dinner with friends, and shopping for paint supplies. I don't think I gave my fears another thought.

And, you know what? Last night I slept like a baby.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Compassion, Mercy and....Coffee

I slept until nearly 10:00 this morning.

If you know me, you know that's a big deal. I just don't do that.

I rolled out of bed and the only thing I could think of was coffee. It's not the caffeine. My nerves can't handle too much of the hard stuff. It's just the taste and the warmth and the idea of a fresh cup of sweet decaffeinated goodness.

To me there's just something comforting and satisfying about a morning that includes an unhurried, laid-back cup of coffee. This morning I savored every sip.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning the house, organizing closets, and planning projects to complete around the house later in the week. (I still have no job, so I have a lot of free time, you know...) This afternoon when Scott suggested Jason's Deli for dinner, I was more than ready to jump on board. We ran into several friends at dinner and ended up sitting at the restaurant talking for a long time after we finished eating. Freezing from all the free ice cream I'd consumed during the conversation, I grabbed a cup of decaf coffee to sip on while we continued to talk. Scott jumped up to grab some regular coffee, but returned to the table with more sweet tea instead. "That coffee is terrible," he said. Apparently the regular coffee wasn't as fresh as the decaf...

When we got home tonight I sat down to read a little. I've been doing a word study on faithfulness and this evening it led me to Lamentations.

"Yet I call this to mind, 
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!
I say:  The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in Him.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the person who seeks Him."
Lamentations 3:21-25

Would you believe that Scripture reminded me of coffee? 

I get up each morning and brew a fresh pot of coffee. It's new. It's fresh. It's comforting. It's a delight to my taste buds.

If I don't finish the whole pot I leave the rest sitting until the next day. What if I woke up one morning and decided to just finish off the pot from the day before? I have a feeling it wouldn't taste so good. I have a feeling my taste buds would promptly declare their disgust. My response would be to turn away and grab something else, just like Scott did tonight at Jason's Deli.

The Lord's mercy and compassion are new every morning. His faithfulness is unspoiled. It's fresh. It's comforting. It's a delight to my soul. I have no need for anything else. If all other comforts in this life (including coffee) are removed, He is my portion. He is sufficient. 

Savor your coffee. Savor Him more.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I Don't Deserve This

Twenty-one years ago I was sitting in my political science class at Carson-Newman pondering whether or not to take the LSAT. I'd always wanted to be in broadcasting, but I'd recently grown increasingly interested in politics and law. In the midst of mulling over my future, a sudden wave of nausea and panic came over me and I felt the room spinning. Somehow I made it out of the classroom and into the nearest bathroom. Fellow students helped me to the infirmary where the nurse suggested I see my family doctor. Later that day I was sitting in my doctor's office listening to him tell me that I was pushing myself too hard and that I'd obviously just suffered a panic attack. I shrugged it off until a couple of days later when I couldn't force myself to go back to class. I was scared to death that it would happen again. Needless to say, I never returned to Carson-Newman.
And I said, "God, I don't deserve this."

Fifteen years ago, after 8 years of marriage, Scott and I decided it was time to have children. I quit taking birth control and we were certain it would happen right away. After all, my mother and sister both became pregnant at the snap of a finger (well, not exactly, but you get the idea). This might be too much information, but my menstrual cycle completely stopped after I quit the pill. During the 6 years that we actively tried to conceive, I did not have one.single.period. Not one. I saw specialists at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill during our time in North Carolina and no one could explain why I wasn't cycling and why I couldn't get pregnant. One doctor told me it was all in my head, stating that subconsciously I really didn't want children and that my mind was telling my reproductive system not to function properly. I cried many tears during those painful years.

And I said, "God, I don't deserve this."

Nearly two months ago I was told I was losing my job. I was hurt. I was scared. My mind raced with the fears and anxieties that come with knowing you're losing a needed income and facing a job search. I cried the 'ugly cry' for a month. Tears soaked my pillow, my desk calendar, my treadmill, my steering wheel.... You name it, I cried on it.

And I said, "God, I don't deserve this."

Tonight I was driving home from a day trip to visit friends in Manchester. Franklyn was asleep in the back seat and I was blaring praise and worship music. I was singing along and deliberately studying each word as it came out of my mouth. Praises rolled off my tongue with ease and I felt indescribable joy.

And I said, "God, I don't deserve this."

And you know what? That's the truth. I DON'T deserve this. I don't deserve the peace I have right now. I don't deserve to have had the joy of working from home for fifteen months. Absolutely NOTHING I've done merits the delight I have when I look into the eyes of my precious son. I don't deserve an incredible husband that loves me in spite of my nastiness. I look back and I know God protected me when He kept me from going down the path that leads to law school. I would've been a miserable woman and a terrible wife if I'd become an attorney because the stress would've eaten me alive. If I were given my due, I'd be destined to hell and this life would only be the precursor.
I do know that I'm blessed beyond measure, simply because I honestly don't deserve this.

"He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses." Psalm 103:10

That being said, I challenge you. What are three things in your life that you don't deserve? What has happened to you to cause you to say, "God, I don't deserve this"? Can you now look back and see those things as blessings in disguise? Feel free to comment below or share with me on my Facebook page.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ain't That Peculiar

Here I sit.

I have a little over a week until my job with the company I've served for 8 years ends. ENDS.

In the midst of it all, there's something peculiar about the way I feel today. I guess that's the right word. It's peculiar because it's not something I expected. At all.

I feel peace.
I didn't feel it a week ago. I didn't feel it two days ago. I feel it today. 

"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful."
John 14:27

Understand, I have a lot of reasons to be worried. I have no real job opportunity lined up. Our savings will be depleted. The joy and convenience of working from home will no longer be my reality. Reasons to be fearful are piling up, accumulating like the dust on my stove (wink wink). I'm most likely looking to be unemployed for the first time in my life with no promise of a new job on the horizon. It's not something I'm looking forward to.

My hope isn't in my next job. My hope isn't in the assurance of something better to come. There might not BE something better in my future.

My only hope is in the knowledge that there is a sovereign hand at work. I expect nothing but what is right for Him to give. That being said, I trust Him with what it is to come. He is still good.

"Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him."
Psalm 62:5
This peace has been a long time coming. I've had a lot of people tell me over the course of the last five weeks, "This might end up being the best thing that ever happened to you." It got to the point that each time I heard those words I wanted to say, "Really? How about if I reach out my hands and strangle you? Would that be the best thing that ever happened to YOU?"  Don't get me wrong. I know people meant well. But at the time, it was the last thing I wanted to hear. Now I look back at the last five weeks and realize it's ALREADY been a blessing in a strange way. I've been able to take a day off every week due to company pay cuts across the board and I've felt less stressed about my job. I guess I lived with the fear of losing my job for so long that now it almost feels like a weight has been lifted.

I honestly can't understand how anyone can live this life without the hope of Christ. In the light of day and deepest darkness of night I know He has my back.
"I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
He won't let you stumble,
your Guardian God won't fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel's
Guardian will never doze or sleep.
God's your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you--
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.
God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always."
Psalm 121

My God doesn't sleep. My God offers hope and a peace that surpasses all understanding. I'm giving up some control and learning to accept the peace He offers. Now, for me, THAT is peculiar.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Stretching Hurts

I don't like stretching.

As a child I hated being made to stretch before soccer practice or dance class. In high school my least favorite part of cheerleading practice was stretching. As an adult who loves to run, I HATE to stretch. Like I said, I've never liked it.

Maybe that's why today has been so hard on me.

I feel stretched.

This morning it felt like I propped my leg up on a bench, reached over to touch my toes, and....SNAP!  I just couldn't handle it anymore. Tears flowed. Cries wailed. Prayers went up (again).

Someone once told me stretching would make me more flexible and that it would get my muscles in balance and help them work more smoothly. I've read that muscles that are warmed up before they're put under stress are more likely to be able to handle that stress.

(I'm hoping this isn't just a warm-up.)

So here's the deal... I'm having a hard time with the whole 'losing my job' thing. It's painful. It hurts. It's stretching me and it is QUITE uncomfortable.

I've spent pretty much the whole day in tears. My eyes are red and bloodshot. My tissue boxes are nearly empty (thank God for Charmin as a backup) and there are tear stains all over my desk calendar. It's. Not. Easy.

So, in my pity party, I was thinking back on last week and how difficult it was to start training my replacement in Murfreesboro. I spent the week in a hotel, away from boys, schooling my predecessor on the ins and outs of the job I love. I watched life go on like normal for my co-workers, wishing I knew the feeling. Then, amidst the craziness of that week I got the most incredible message on Facebook from a dear friend. There's no way I can summarize it for you, so I'll just paste it below.

"I was so blessed thinking about and praying for you in your trial at work. You know how Joseph (with the colorful coat) was a righteous man and a responsible employee. He could relate to you, as he was wrongfully imprisoned because he wouldn't be seduced by the most powerful woman in the land. After all the injustice done to him, he still interpreted the Pharoah's dream years later and served him well. God was working all things for His glory and Joseph's good. In fact, Joseph said, "God sent me ahead of you [my family] to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance." Unjust imprisonment was the best thing that could ever happen to Joseph. Through the actions of bad leadership, God was accomplishing the BEST thing that could happen to him. And by faith, that's what we can be certain of in all our life. You can work like being fired is the best thing that could happen to you, because of your faith in God's sovereign goodness toward you. God will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly. The words of George Muller at his wife's funeral always make me cry. He grieved deeply over his wife's death and it took years for him to recover. Knowing that God is sovereignly good to us doesn't change the grief over injustice and the fallenness of the broken world. Anyway, this is the truth he clung to at his wife's funeral: 
     "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing
      does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11
Muller said, "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly--I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ; and I do not live in sin, I walk uprightly before God. Therefore, if it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again; sick as she is. God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me. And so my heart was at rest. I was satisfied with God. And all this springs, as I have often said before, from taking God at His word, believing what He says." I am praying for you that you would have faith to believe that God is sovereignly good to you. I am praying that as you feel your weakness and turn to the Spirit, you will work with all your heart toward your weak employer, for you know this is the best thing that could happen: for you, and for God's kingdom. I am out of time, but sometime I will tell you how your trial has brought me comfort as I pray for you!!! Love you, Kari!!"

I came back to this message tonight just to read it. Just to feel the encouragement and remember the truth found in those words.

Yes, I'm being stretched. Yes, it's painful. Yes, it hurts like nothing I've experienced before. But, oh, HE is so good. He is sovereign. He knows so much better than me what is good and what is best. I'll hurt and I'll grieve over the loss of something I loved, over the injustice I feel. But I'll move on. And I'll remember His lovingkindness to undeserving little me. I'll hold fast to what I know is true. I may have bloodshot eyes and a wastebasket full of tissue, but I've also got a Savior holding my future in His hands.

(Again, thank you, Angelica.)


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Letting It Go....

My natural reaction last Thursday morning was, "What am I going to do?! I can't handle this!" I walked out of the office building feeling completely numb.

As soon as I fell into the driver's seat of my car I felt the numbness and disbelief turn to shock... and hurt.

I wanted to close my eyes and get rid of the pain. I wanted to believe it wasn't true and just climb under a rock and feel nothing. That didn't happen.  The tears started to fall and so did the rain. It poured from the moment I pulled out of the parking lot until the second I hit the Knox county line a little over two hours later. The rain AND the tears.

I always wondered what it must feel like to lose a job. Always thought it would floor me. I was right.

It floored me for two days. I had no appetite and all I wanted to do was cry. The thought of food made me absolutely nauseous.

Thursday was a rough day. I worked on my resume and applied for some positions in Knoxville as soon as I got home from Murfreesboro. Then I prayed and cried and prayed and cried some more. Scott and Franklyn spent the afternoon and evening at his parent's house. When they came home I had to tell Franklyn why my face was a twisted mess. We sat him down and I told him that I'd lost my job that morning. He looked up at me with the most sweet and innocent face and said, "Mommy, if you work at a gym will you get a discount? Or a lunch buffet?" Aaah, the innocence of babes... and na├»ve 9 year-olds.

Friday wasn't nearly as bad as Thursday, but it was a hard day. Scott and I went to watch Franklyn graduate from his Vertebrate Zoology class at UT and then we went to Chili's as a family. Chili's is one of my favorite places to eat. That day all I could do was sit and stare at the menu. Nothing looked good. Nothing smelled good. I ate fries and a few bites of a skillet cookie. And tears filled my eyes all day long.

The hardest part about this loss is knowing it means I will have less time with Franklyn. The last year of my life has been incredible. I've been so relaxed, so laid back, so happy. I've enjoyed going to bed late, waking up late, picking Franklyn up from school, not being nearly as stressed as I used to be... I've even skipped cleaning the house a few Saturdays! What? Really? Yes, really! Life has just been, well, good.

I've done a lot of praying. I've spent a lot of time on my knees.

By Saturday the tears were done. By Saturday my faith took over. By Saturday I let it go.

Finding another job is honestly out of my hands. I'm online every day searching. I'm networking on LinkedIn and Facebook. But there is only so much I can do. I know God allowed this in my life and I know it's for a reason. So I'm leaving it to Him. There is no sense in me worrying because it won't do a bit of good. He is good and He is in control. In my eyes, He is protecting me from something I know was coming. I was playing in a losing game and now I have the chance to move on. That, my friends, is a good thing.

Now I wait. I let go and let faith take over. I trust that He is at work and His plans are good. I hold to what I know is true and how I've seen Him work in the past.

"Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

I shared those verses on Facebook the day before I was told to look for a new job. I knew God was good then and I know it now. I'll take the trials. I'll take the pain. And I'll draw closer to Him through it all.

"Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning." James 1:16-17

He was good then and He is good now. I look forward to what He has in store.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

E.D.E.N. - What It's All About

It started with a simple question.

"Would you like to lead the women's ministry this year?"

That was around August or September. Can't remember exactly. It's all a blur now. 

Needless to say, I agreed to take on the task. Having been a part of different women's ministries in the past, I felt like we needed to do something different. This couldn't be your typical women's ministry. After a little searching I found a book that seemed to lay out exactly what I had in mind. Something different.

Fresh Ideas for Women's Ministry
I remember being excited to host our first women's ministry team planning meeting at my home in early October. The five of us met around my kitchen table and discussed what we felt the Rocky Hill women's ministry should be all about. We decided to have the women of the church complete a survey to get an idea what type of ministry would 'fly' at Rocky Hill. We initiated the survey in mid-October and then things got busy. Not with the ministry, but with the holidays and our personal lives. We didn't meet again until February. 

Photo: Ready for our first RHBC women's ministry team meeting for this year! So excited to welcome these ladies into our home!

I had lots of anxious nights in the months between October and February. There were times I'd lie in bed feeling guilty for not having a meeting and not being a better leader. Life calmed down a bit in January and we decided to meet in early February. I emailed everyone and asked them to finish reading the book and pray about a name for the ministry before our meeting. Driving home from Murfreesboro one afternoon all I could think about was the women's ministry... I prayed for God to lead us to the right name, one that would encompass everything we wanted the women's ministry to be about. Then it hit me. I emailed everyone the next day to see if they liked the idea. We decided to go with the name and E.D.E.N. was born!

Evangelize. Disciple. Encourage. Nurture.
The Women’s Ministry of Rocky Hill Baptist Church.

When we all finally got together for our meeting in February we discussed everything we'd read in the women's ministry book. We had so many ideas! I can't even remember how many more times we met over the next several weeks, but we laid out plans for the ministry and set dates for the kickoff and the monthly meetings. We decided to have one big kickoff event and then hold monthly meetings on the third Saturday of each month from 10:00 a.m. until noon.

Can you see a common theme in these team meetings? We like to eat...... I think I ate more hummus, pita chips and grapes during our meetings than I've eaten in my entire lifetime!

We did do more than eat.... We discussed our vision and the format for each meeting. We also determined the mission of our ministry. From those discussions, and much prayer, the Mission Statement for E.D.E.N became:

·        To see all women come to know Christ personally
·        To strengthen and equip women with the wisdom of God’s word
·        To encourage women to live according to God’s purpose
·        To nurture and reach our community through service and hands-on 

We seek to EVANGELIZE the lost and see all women come to know Christ personally. We seek to strengthen and equip women with the wisdom of God's word in order to DISCIPLE each other. We seek to ENCOURAGE women to live according to God's purpose. And we seek to NURTURE and reach our community through service and hands-on ministry.

Believing that every E.D.E.N. meeting should follow our mission and adhere to our vision, we were intentional in how we set up the two-hour monthly sessions. We felt that women should have the opportunity to evangelize, disciple, encourage and nurture each time they attended a meeting. In order to make that vision a reality, we set up the following meeting schedule for the first six months:


10:00 a.m.- (“for me”) Women participate in a Fellowship Class to attend for 6 months. Options for the first 6 months are:
              Bible Study:  The Christian Atheist, a video-driven study 
                                        Led by Kari Whaley
              Crafts for a Cause:  Craft projects to support missions                                                                                              Led by Suzie Dulaney

10:45 a.m.- (“for us”) Women enjoy a time of fellowship with donuts and coffee!

11:00 a.m.- (“for Him”) Women participate in a Ministry Team to “be doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22) for 6 months. Options for the first 6 months are:
             Clothes Closet: Clothes Closet manned by E.D.E.N. participants                                                                             Led by Judy Goins and Cheryl Barnfield
             Outreach Ministry: Team members visit our community by reaching out to local                                                              hospitals, nursing homes, and members that are homebound.
                                         Led by Juanita Rucker
             Quill Ministry:  Write encouraging notes to college students, visitors to RHBC, shut-                                              ins, etc.
                                         Led by Suzie Dulaney

I suddenly became best friends with VistaPrint. Over the next month I ordered business cards, kickoff event invitations, promotional items, posters, etc. It was so exciting to see everything come together and it was almost surreal...

Photo: Our banners, posters and decals have arrived!  The Whaley house is full of excitement! Lol

Franklyn was right there in the middle of everything and I think he was just as excited as I was every time something new arrived for E.D.E.N.! 

Eager to dive in and prepare for the Bible study portion of the monthly meetings, I ordered the books and participant guides for The Christian Atheist. I started studying and the rest of the ministry team started preparing supplies for their individual classes and groups. We began asking for donations for the E.D.E.N. Clothes Closet and things started piling up! It was so exciting to watch everything come to fruition!

Photo: Reading back over one of my favorite studies. This is the study I'll be leading every third Saturday at our women's ministry meetings. Can't wait!

And then.......

And then it was time for the kickoff. I was so unbelievably stressed that day. The picture below reflects how I felt the entire time - like a DEER IN HEADLIGHTS.

See the resemblance?

The E.D.E.N. kickoff event was the culmination of months of preparation, hard work, prayer, and dedication on the part of the women's ministry team. Juanita Rucker, Judy Goins, Suzie Dulaney, and Cheryl Barnfield are the BEST team a leader could ask for! We put so much time and energy into that one event. It may have been stressful, but it was worth every second! 

Here's a rundown of the evening.....

Women started arriving about an hour before the event. I was just glad people were eager to get there! The deacons were enlisted to cook and serve, so several men were there as well.

We began the evening with an icebreaker. It was a purse scavenger hunt. For future reference, I can now tell you who to see if you need a screwdriver, a chewing gum wrapper, a battery, exactly .37 cents, a tape measure, a used tissue, and a theme park map on any given Sunday morning. Lol. The winner, Tammy Stevenson, received a beautiful hanging plant for her front porch.

The deacons served lasagna, salad and garlic bread while the ladies listened to members of the ministry team explain what E.D.E.N. is all about. I shared a bit about how E.D.E.N. was born and then each of the team members shared about the different ministries offered during the monthly meetings. 

They laughed.

They ate.

They talked.

They smiled.

And they learned a little about E.D.E.N....

And then they smiled some more.  

Two of the BEST parts of the evening.... 
                                              ....HAD to be the CAKE and the Soggy Bottom Boys!

I ordered the cake from Sam's and we were not disappointed! They did a great job and it tasted incredible!

Sorry for all the cake pictures... It was just so pretty and so tasty.....

What fun is a kickoff event without entertainment? Knowing what a fan my husband is of the Soggy Bottom Boys from "O Brother, Where Art Thou," I had a feeling I could talk him into enlisting a couple of other men from the church to perform with him...

I was right. Scott, Dr. Charles Machen, and James Cable put on a surprise performance as the Soggy Bottom Boys. They started with a comedy routine that had every person in the room doubled over in laughter. I could barely stand up straight to watch because I was laughing so hard. They were the hit of the night.

We enlisted Jerry Barnfield, our resident artist, to create a portrait of the Soggy Bottom Boys during their performance.

                                             It turned out better than expected!

We gave the portrait to Scott (my wonderful husband, performer, and pastor) to hang in his office. Come to think of it, I haven't seen it since that night.....

We also gave away door prizes. Random winners were chosen based on where they were sitting. 

At the end of the evening we asked the ladies to register to be a part of E.D.E.N. They were asked to sign up for one fellowship class and one ministry team in which to participate during the monthly meetings. We were blown away by the number of women that registered. We were only a week away from the first meeting and excitement was high!

The monthly meetings began on April 19th. 28 women attended the first meeting! For a church our size, that was incredible! We've had two monthly meetings so far and they've both been successful. We've completed two sessions of The Christian Atheist, made 'wordless' books for the Good News Club, provided snack baskets for the waiting room at Parkwest Medical Center, provided for those in need through the Clothes Closet, encouraged our community through notes and cards, and, in the midst of ministering to others, enjoyed Christian fellowship.

We provide permanent name tags for each lady. Name tags are passed out when the women sign in and then returned to us when they leave.  This way we don't have to keep making replacements!

Ready to study!

Ready to encourage!

Ready to serve!

Ready for pastries, coffee, and fellowship!

E.D.E.N is open to women of all ages. You don't have to be a member of Rocky Hill Baptist Church to join us. If you live in the Knoxville area, we'd LOVE to have you as part of our ministry!

Well, I'm past the 'deer in the headlights' thing. I'm now in the 'life is good' phase.


It's hard to believe I get to be a part of such an amazing ministry. I'm looking forward to watching E.D.E.N. grow, watching women grow, and watching Rocky Hill grow. 

Evangelize. Disciple. Encourage. Nurture.
The Women’s Ministry of Rocky Hill Baptist Church.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Illegal U-Turns

I made an illegal u-turn Monday.

Innocently enough, I didn't KNOW it was illegal. But the motorcycle cops did. 

As the story goes, I was taking my lunch hour while working in Murfreesboro and had decided to spend my time browsing around Target and then grabbing a bite at McAlister's. Driving up Old Fort Parkway I realized 'browsing' around Target wouldn't exactly be beneficial to my checkbook ('cuz we all know you can't just browse in Target), so I decided it would be best to just head back to the office and get something from the break room. CHEAP, healthy, and quick. Coming up on an intersection, I decided to make a u-turn and head back to the office. I didn't see a sign prohibiting it, so I got into the left lane and proceeded to turn. The moment I began to complete the turn and straighten out the steering wheel to go in the opposite direction I noticed two motorcycle cops on my tail end. Literally, On.My.Tail.End..... At first I assumed they were just trying to get by me to chase a speeder. But it didn't take long for me to realize those blue flashing lights were for me. The fact that one of the officers was waving at me in the rear view mirror and sharply pointing at the emergency lane kinda clued me in too.

I had a little conversation with one of the officers while the other stayed on his bike and stared at me non-stop in my side mirror. AWKWARD. After me clarifying why the address on my registration and the address on my driver's license weren't accurate, the policeman asked what I was doing in Murfreesboro. I had to spell out my 'work from home' situation and explain to him that I traveled to the area about every two weeks to work in the office. He eventually asked, "So, do you travel THIS road much?" Knowing I used to travel it at least five days a week and not wanting to lie, I replied, "Yes, allllllllllll the time." As soon as the words came out of my mouth I realized I'd probably just dug my own grave. He proceeded to tell me that there was a sign CLEARLY stating that u-turns were illegal at that intersection. I promised him I didn't see a sign, which I honestly didn't. He made his way back to his motorcycle with all of my information in his hand. I sat in the car shaking and trying not to look into the face of the officer staring at me in my side mirror. Again, AWKWARD.

After about seven minutes that seemed like an eternity, the officer returned to my window with a pink piece of paper dangling from his right hand. He gave me back my license, registration, and insurance information and said, "I'm gonna give you a 'gimme' today." Confused and completely unsure of what he meant, I prepared for the worst. Then he said, "Most people wouldn't be so forgiving. You said you travel this road all the time, so you should know there's an illegal u-turn sign back there. But, you were honest with me."  He handed me the pink piece of paper with WARNING written on it and said, "I'm just giving you a warning today. That means no court appearance, no citation, just a warning. But next time you decide to make an illegal u-turn, DON'T do it with two motorcycle cops on your tail end!" Shocked, I said, "What?!? You were behind me when I turned?!?"  He replied, "Yes! How do you think we pulled you over so fast?" I laughed and said, "I don't know! I would HAVE to be an idiot to do something like that..." He laughed and replied, "No, you're not an idiot. I understand. You were probably just focused on getting to work." I kind of chuckled and told him that what was so crazy about the whole thing was that I was actually on my lunch hour and had decided not to spend any money so I was turning around to head back to the office and eat something cheap out of the break room. He laughed and said, "And then you almost ended up spending $130 on lunch!" I sunk in my seat and let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that a $130 ticket would've been very difficult to pay. Then, with a charge to drive carefully, he sent me on my way.

I think my legs were jell-o for the next thirty minutes or so. 

I thought about my interaction with that motorcycle cop all the way back to Knoxville that evening. I also thought a lot about u-turns... My u-turn was a criminal offense, whether I knew it or not, whether I believed it or not. Truth is, he could have given me a $130 ticket and been justified in doing so. I may have thought there was nothing wrong with what I did, but Murfreesboro's criminal code says differently. Absolute truth is that it is illegal to make a u-turn at the intersection of Old Fort Parkway and Stones River Mall Boulevard. Remember that, my 'boro friends.

According to that truth, I should have been cited for my offense. But this particular police officer showed me mercy. Some might say he showed me grace. But it was mercy. It was compassion. He gave me something I didn't deserve.

I think it's difficult to understand grace until you first understand mercy. Mercy is NOT punishing me for my sin (or my illegal u-turn) like I deserve. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. In light of the law, I should have been punished and there should have been a judgment. But, thank God, that officer gave me mercy instead. I could've rejected it. I could've denied that I'd done anything wrong, using the fact that I didn't see the 'no u-turn' sign as my excuse. But that would be nothing but an excuse, and it would be ludicrous. Why would anyone deny mercy and choose judgment instead?

So many people make this choice in life. Turning away from the mercy and grace offered by God, they choose to deny what is freely available. Some believe it's a lie. Some believe Christians are fools. Some are simply blinded by sin.

Eternally, there is no mercy and there is no grace without Christ. There is no merciful motorcycle cop standing at the gates of Heaven waiting to allow you in with just a warning. There is no 'gimme.' There is no hope for eternal life without Him.

God's grace is a person...

"For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession,eager to do good works." 
Titus 2:11-14

Jesus Christ is grace personified. 

You know, not all u-turns are illegal....  

"Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord..." Acts 3:19