Friday, November 27, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like....

Every year I say... "I don't think I am going to decorate this year." And then every year I drag all our Christmas stuff out and kill myself to get it up and take it down. Tim is a huge help but he could care less about bows and ornaments and lights. He does it simply because he loves me. He even hung Christmas lights up all around our back porch and they make me so happy! Mom helped me tons this year and that is fun because she does like bows and ornaments.
I have also been hard at work preparing for the college girl's weekend that I am SO excited about. I can hardly stand it!!
I am preparing to speak on three topics:

1. Desiring the King more than the Prince.

2. Pure and Holy Passion

3. Our Redeeming God: Hope in ALL Circumstances.

Not to mention we will be studying the Song of Solomon, having live worship, yummy food, a panel of cute godly guys talking about marriage and dating, powerful testimonies of following God vs. following your own emotions and desires for marriage, etc.

I wish I could write all that I am learning and studying on the blog but I am going to save it for the girls. Girls are coming from Ole Miss, South Carolina, Bryan College, UT Knoxville, UTC, just to name a few. I cannot wait to meet and hug each one of them. Stay tuned for pictures and news about the weekend. Pray for God to produce beautiful fruit in the lives of these girls and to bless them with strong Christ-centered marriages. But most importantly my prayer is that they would fall in love with the King of Kings as they wait on Him to send them their Prince.

The backbone verses for the weekend are from Titus...

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
Titus 2:11-14

Isn't that cool? It is God's grace that teaches us to say "no" to sin. Not the law. Not a heavy hand---It is His grace! When you realize all that Christ has done for you... you WANT to live for Him!! Because of His grace!! Because of realizing how much he loves us. Now, sometimes, we have to obey simply out of faith- not sight. In times like those... when obeying seems like walking out on a gang plank- we have to know God's Word and put our FULL trust in what we cannot see-that we will we either walk on water or Jesus will catch us. But we will not drown if we obey God- NEVER. We will drown if we don't.

Satan can use the smallest of compromises to get what the Bible calls a "foothold" in our lives to slowly begin to destroy us, our testimonies and ultimately hurt all of the innocent people near us. A foothold is any opportunity we hand over for Satan's advantage. Like a rock climber only needing the tiniest ledge to put his foot on to climb and get enough strength to gain momentum.

"...and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:27

How I pray that I would represent Jesus Christ accurately. Being set apart. Obeying Him completely and immediately and being willing to be changed by Him. Being EAGER to do what is good.


Tim and I went away for a romantic night. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel in Atlanta. I almost always find amazing deals on Hotwire. We stayed in Buckhead and went out to eat, worked out, had a leisurely brunch, shopped, flirted... it was amazing. We bought Hope her first few outfits. I still shut down when I walk into the girl's section of the store. I am starting very simply. She has nothing so we are starting with the basics. I will never forget shopping for her for the first time with Tim. We didn't buy her anything over-the-top. Just picked out some simple things we both liked and looked confused the whole time doing it. People say, "Is this your first?". I should just say "yes" because it sure feels like I have no idea what I am doing. Please tell me your favorite places to shop for baby girls.

I love Tim so much. He is a gift from God. I did pray and pray and pray and wait and wait and wait but never dreamed marriage could be this good. Our marriage is a refuge. Not that we don't work through things like everyone else but the foundation of both of our lives is built on Jesus Christ so 99% of the time we are on the same page because we are teammates for Christ. Simply 2 sinners seeking to serve Jesus for the rest of our lives out of utter gratitude for all He has done for us.

And, Scripture says that marriage is a picture of Christ's relationship with His Bride, the Church, to the world... we want our marriage to be the best it can possibly be. I heard a teacher say the other day, "If a husband and wife are operating in the roles that God created them to operate in and functioning as God intended them to... they are UNSTOPPABLE." I believe that is true. I have absolutely no problem submitting to Tim because He is submitting to God and seeking God's direction for our family. Because I know that He is seeking God and praying when He makes decisions for our family, it is a no-brainer for me to come underneath His authority-- easily and quickly. I happily submit because it is such a safe place to be. Marriage is easy when two people are seeking to obey God. But, I still want to make our marriage the best it can be so that means asking vulnerable questions like, "How can I be a better wife?", "How can I encourage you more?", "How can I pray for you?" "What are you struggling with?". We have to work on our marriage and safeguard it from the enemy's attacks. I know that Satan wants to destroy our marriage but if we are cutting his avenues of attack off, he fails. Most importantly, if our marriages are securely wrapped by the Holy Spirit, we are unshakable by the attacks of the enemy.

"A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."

Ecclesiastes 4:12

There is much opposition in every believer's life and marriage but there is victory and freedom found in Christ. We have the power to overcome sin, temptation and the attacks of the enemy. But, if we compromise, we give the enemy such an opportunity or that one tiny "foothold" to slowly come in and wreck our lives, testimonies and the lives of the people who we love the most in this world. I am amazed at the destructive power of sin. I am currently walking (screaming, praying, and crying) with one of my close friends after discovering that her husband is not only addicted to pornography but has also had numerous affairs. I feel like I am watching her slowly die of cancer. Even though she had nothing to do with this sin, the cancer has set into not only his life, but now hers.

We have to stop our sin early and we have to hit it with repentance and the chemotherapy of God's Word immediately. If we catch it early, it will save our lives. If we ignore it, it will kill us.

Jesus did not play around when He counseled about sin. He said, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off... And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." (Mark 9). To the woman caught in adultery, He said- "Go and sin no more." (John 8:11). The beautiful part about this is, as Christians, that we do have the power to say "no" to sin. Praise God He ALWAYS gives us a way of escape from the power of sin! We used to be slaves to it but now we have been set free!

"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-" Romans 6:6

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Romans 6:22

"But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it." 1 Cor 10:13
If you are drowning in sin, please know you can get out. I have been there. Shackled by sin-- but Christ set me free and He can do the same for you. You are more than an overcomer through the power of the Holy Spirit.
"where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Cor 3:17
And if you don't know Christ personally, let me urge you that today is the day for salvation. If you want to know this freedom that I write about-- accept Jesus' death on the cross as the penalty for your sins. He took on your punishment when He died in your place. He knows how sinful you are and yet, He still loves you desperately. Run to Him, acknowledge Him as being the Son of God and commit the rest of your life to following Him. Don't wait. I wish I hadn't waited 20 years to fully surrender my life to Christ.
"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God."
1 John 4:15
We went to see the play Screwtape Letters last weekend at a beautiful old theatre with my parents. It is based on a fascinating book by C.S. Lewis that shows what the view from the demonic realm may look like. You watch as the demons try to take out a Christian and throw everything at him to make him sin and ultimately deny God's goodness. The Christian overcomes their tactics by prayer and the Word of God. My favorite part was when "Screwtape" (the main bad guy) says... "the Christians we can't get to are the ones when, in the dark valley, cry out to God wondering 'Why have you forsaken me?'...and yet they still obey... THOSE are the dangerous ones". I thought that was so insightful. We don't realize how powerful our obedience in the valley is... how crucial our response when we are walking through a trial. When we believe God at His Word over circumstances. When we continue to pray the same prayer 10,000,000,000 times- STILL believing God to hear us and move on our behalf. When we ask and believe God to do THE IMPOSSIBLE. When we are so wearied by trial that we can hardly breathe--- yet we still praise. Now, of course, all this can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit who enables us to be "strengthened with all glorious might so that we may have great ENDURANCE and patience" (Col 1).
Seems like we are always doing a project lately. I am not sure it is healthy. I don't know the last time we have just 'hung out' at home. We are painting or moving things or putting up Christmas decorations or whatever. I am ready to have nothing to do. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving with family in Knoxville. Of course we ate way too much. I heard one of my little cousins say, "my tummy is so full... but I don't think my legs are full so I can eat a little more". :) I am still working out but starting to get uncomfortable as I near the 3rd trimester. I may already be in it. I am losing track of everything. I see the OB every two weeks now and get my free 4D ultrasound soon. I can't wait to see a better picture of Hope. I have this strange feeling she will have red hair. I don't know why. I am probably wrong but when I try to picture her, I see a little girl with red hair.
Bubba (Evan)is turning 5 next week so we are planning a little party for him and so thankful for every minute we have had with him. I have shared this on the blog before but when he was about 8 months old, his eyes rolled back into his head and he went limp. I was holding his lifeless body in the front seat of the car as we rushed him to the ER. I ran in saying, "Somebody help me!!!!!!!". It was a nightmare. I don't even like to think of it other than the fact that it makes me rejoice even more at every one of his birthday parties. I didn't think he was going to get to have any birthday parties that night. (He had a severe bacterial infection called Shigella that caused him to have a seizure).
Here are the few pictures I do have from the last couple of weeks. Un-edited because I don't have time to edit them....
We ate at a restaurant in Buckhead called "The Flying Biscuit". It was so good. I had this French toast with raspberry sauce & crème anglaise. WOWZA!!! Made these 2 girls (me and Hope) very happy!!

Tim let me sleep in one morning while Lake happily dumped a whole brand new bottle of bubbles in the bathtub. That was fine with me! I got to sleep! :)

I love Christmas!

The train is all the boys care about. Here are some of my favorite ornaments.

Cheering for his brothers.

Still working on keeping our heads in the game. :) Poor Tim may have a nervous breakdown coaching both of their basketball teams this year. A pastor told him that God would really use coaching little kids... to make him more like Christ and more patient. I believe it. That is hard work!!!

Hope's newly painted room. Brown walls. Pink ceiling.

We had to paint over the boys' verses since she will be moving in their old room. I am pretty sure they will be moved to their new room.
"Write them [God's Words] on the doorframes of your houses..." Deut 6:9

God bless! Love hearing from you!!


Carrie said...

Stephanie, EVERYTHING looks beauitful! I love your decorations! Christmas is so fun...I just love having all our lights out too :)

Sounds like you and Tim had a great getaway...and Hope is doing so well! Thanks for sharing your beautiful family with us! Take care!

Meghan said...

Oh girl, you definitely need to check out for cute handmade girl clothes. I have bought several cute outfits with Brennan's name on it from some great sellers. Your house is beautiful at Christmas time!

Emme said...

AMEN!! Stephanie, I love the new look/title of the blog. It's perfect. :)
Also, I can't tell you how much this post meant to me while I was reading it. You spoke to a lot of things going on in my heart right now. Thanks for reminding me to seek the King first. I REALLY wish I could come down in December, but that's the weekend before finals for me... I hope the weekend is blessed and fruitful for all the girls who do attend (and you, of course!). Love you all!

House Queen said...

Everything looks beautiful! I am so excited for you and your new "first' baby! She will be the perfect addition to your life!

fleurcottage said...

yes, an AMEN! but esp a 'God bless' in your ministry!

Erin Southwell said...

Hey Steph! What a wonderful post! I have been thinking about you and meaning to check in-can you believe how soon our babies will be here!!!??? I cannot! Janie and JAck is my favorite baby clothes shop-girl or boy-hands down. Wait for the sales. :) I am still making a dress for Hope.

Your words on your marriage to Tim are exactly how I feel in my marriage to Edward and I am so so so so thankful that I waited on the Lord for the right guy!!! Our 7th anniversary is in January and I never knew life or marriage could be this good-and now our sweet miracle baby on the way. I'm sure you have some fabulous speakers lined up for your college weekend to testify to this very fact. I absolutely would have benefited tremendously from that kind of ministry during my "wait." I don't think I was a very patient waiter! But at least I waited-it was worth a wait a million times as long. I have no idea how I got so lucky (other than the Lord of course).

Love you and precious Hope and Happy Birthday to bubba and hugs to everybody!


Rachel said...

I LOVE the new name for the blog. It brings me to tears...I know how very much you love your family and are blessed! Btw- when is your college gals weekend? Just wanted to send a little prayer that way!
Take care and stay healthy!