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Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday pick-me-up

”Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
--The Doxology. Thomas Ken
I mentioned last October that I wanted to share a few of the lessons the Lord has been teaching me over the past several months. I started with the principle of “keeping a quiet heart” (Nov. 4). I have shared of His calling me to a deeper faith in Him (Jan. 18). Today, I would like to share about gratitude. My associate pastor defined gratitude as understanding what we deserve and aren’t getting (for instance, hell). I know of no better day than a Monday to share about it. At the end of last year, the Lord, in His grace, began revealing some qualities within me that weren’t very appealing – a critical spirit, negativity and jealousy. Yuck! It wasn’t pretty, and it was quite evident, these qualities were hindering the healing process of my heart as well as hindering my ability to be used by Him. My husband would call it being a “grumpy pants.” And, as I looked at my reflection, I often discovered a “grumpy pants” staring back at me – especially on the rough days.

So, how does one conquer a negative spirit? Through several different channels, the Lord showed me it was gratitude. My BSF leader said habits can either imprison us or free us. She challenged us to make gratitude a habit in our lives and she promised our joy would be found in Christ. So, I began praying each day for a heart of gratitude . . .  for the Lord’s grace to open my eyes to who He is, to His promises, and to the work He’s doing in and around me. I asked Him to enable me to thank Him not because I knew that was what I was supposed to do but to thank Him because it was my very heart’s desire – that I couldn’t help but thank Him. I wanted this gratitude to well up within me until I couldn’t contain it. I asked Him to make my gratitude evident to the world around me through my actions, my attitudes and my words. I didn’t want the gratitude to be about me and the “things” He was doing in me. That sort of gratitude is circumstance based. I wanted my gratitude to be about Him because He never changes.

As I’ve studied the life of Paul this year, the Lord has shown me one of the greatest human examples of gratitude. Paul always had a reason to thank God and his gratitude was evident in every letter he wrote, in his actions, in his words, in his life. When you read Paul’s letters, you see Christ. I believe his gratitude flowed from a deep love for His Savior (who rescued him from the pit of hell), from the calling the Lord had given him, and from the love he had for “his children” (those with whom he shared the Gospel and discipled in the faith). The ironic thing is from a human perspective Paul had very little for which to be thankful. His life was anything but glamorous – beatings, imprisonments, poverty, false accusations, death threats, humiliation, etc (2 Cor. 11). And yet, his heart was overflowing with gratitude. It was a choice. It was the manifestation of His relationship with Christ.

Paul calls us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:4-7
Well, the Lord has been answering my prayer. I’m still a definite “work in progress” but I am growing in my gratitude. And what is so crazy about gratitude is when you really begin to cultivate the discipline of gratitude, your heart changes. There is joy in Him and joy for others in what He is doing in them! I inevitably find myself praising God after I thank Him. That’s why I shared the song, “You are Worthy” a few weeks ago. It’s just the obvious response to my gratitude.

My associate pastor said gratitude or lack there of is a good indication of our relationship with Christ. It’s a gage for our heart. It indicates who we worship and what we idolize. So, where is your heart today? Are you critical? Are you questioning the Father’s hand in your life and grumbling about the outcome? I challenge you to ask the Father to help you see Him in whatever you are facing and enable you to say “thank you.” Joy will come, my friend. I promise you, there will be joy in Him!
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Evidence of a Good Man

All Alexa wanted this afternoon was for Daddy to hold her (or as she says, “Daddy, hold you”). Chris was in the midst of preparing case studies for grad school. He’s been consumed by studying the past several weeks – going to work early, working through lunches, and staying up until at least midnight every night to study. It’s been a challenging semester with a full-time job, graduate classes, weekly ministry commitments . . . and yes, he’s a husband and father (a very good one at that). He told me the other day he didn’t feel like he was doing anything well. I would beg to differ. You have a daughter who lights up the minute you walk in the door. You have a wife who deeply respects you – your drive, your determination, your ability to balance a very full plate. You have a reputation for dependability and integrity in the workplace, and I know of a friend overseas who is greatly encouraged by your weekly Skype sessions. No one would ever know any of this because you don’t talk about yourself and you don’t complain. I think this picture says it all . . . 100% hubby, 100% daddy, 100% servant leader, 100% man . . . just a sleepy one.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rescued–The Heart of Adoption

Adoption isn’t charity, it’s war.
We had a great . . . let me rephrase . . .we had an awesome weekend with some very incredible family friends this weekend. Meet the Wintons (minus one beautiful wife/mommy and two adopted daughters). Randy Winton was Chris’ former youth pastor from CA but he and his family made a life altering decision to “live life together” and tour the country in a motor home playing Gospel bluegrass. Brave, isn’t it!? But not if you are in the center of God’s will . . . and they were. They are incredibly talented musicians – incredibly!! They have recorded two albums and they would love to share their testimony in song with you. Check them out at

In the midst of touring, the Lord gave the Wintons a vision for film making. The Lord led them to direct and produce a documentary concerning the church’s role in adoption and the care of orphans. (They have firsthand experience as they are an adoptive family). The end result was a movie titled Rescued – The Heart of Adoption and Caring for Orphans. It is straightforward. It is powerful. It is convicting.

The movie is based on the truth from James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”  They claim if the church is to practice “true religion” and say we are pro-life and pro-family, we must be willing to obey the Biblical command to look after orphans. For some, that means adopting a child or a home full of children. For some, it means giving financially and serving adoptive families. For all, it means advocating for life, praying for the souls of these children (in the womb and out) and being willing to do whatever is necessary to bring these children to Christ . . . even if it means allowing a single mom who chose life to live with you. The end goal being the spread of the Gospel..

Posing with the Wintons - Cody (19 yrs old), Randy & Jesse (17 yrs old).

The Wintons visited Norman this weekend to perform a bluegrass concert as well as provide a showing of the movie, Rescued. I say all of that to say this, check out this movie! Just click on the image above and view the trailer. We have the movie and our church library has a copy. If you live in another state, you can order the movie or we can mail you ours. The Wintons’ heart is for this movie to get into every evangelical church in the US, for believers to begin living out James 1:27, and for souls to be saved. 

For more info on Rescued . . .
Find Rescued on Facebook: Rescued the Movie
Rescued Dove Foundation review: Rescued

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday pick-me-up

We had some very special guests this weekend . . . more coming in my next post. Our guests, however, were the perfect excuse to whip up my current favorite muffin. These tasty treats are loaded with goodies even Alexa can’t resist – coconut, apples, carrots and raisins. They are so moist and packed with flavor. I double the recipe so I have oodles of muffins to freeze when I’m not feeling like Betty Crocker. Enjoy!!

2 c. flour
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
2 c. carrots (grated)
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. nuts (chopped)
1/2 c. coconut (shredded)
1 apple (peeeled, cored & grated)
3 eggs
1 c. oil
2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. Stir in carrots, raisins, nuts, coconut & apple. Beat together the eggs, oil & vanilla. Combine all ingredients until moistened. Spoon into well-greased muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes.
--I omit the nuts and recommend adding more raisins.
--I make mini muffins and bake for approx. 12 minutes. Alexa loves ‘em bite-sized.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Day O’ Luv!

Random pic – Alexa’s so excited to see the first snow of 2012. She loved it!!

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day (probably because I was single for 27 years), but I do enjoy an excuse to let others know I love them. I’m also a fan of hearts. Here’s a look at our day spreading “luv” to others  . . . we do plan on making chocolate chip cookies for our neighbors after A’s nap but I thought I better use this time wisely and get the blog posted before the day is done. If you take the time to read our blog, we want to thank you, wish you a blessed Valentine’s Day, and let you know we love you very much!! 

Happy Heart Day everybody!!

Alexa and I made Valentine’s Day cards to send to family and a few friends. She provided the original artwork for the owl – thanks to crayons and an eye for the abstract. I simply cut them out and pasted wings & feet on them.

The inside message asked “Hoo loves you?” with a resounding “I do!” from Alexa Hope. We included wallets of Lil’ A from our fall session by my dear friend & coworker, Shannon Ho.

Nothing warms the heart more than a warm cup of hot chocolate – especially in a heart mug. Since it snowed yesterday, it was the perfect excuse for hot cocoa.

Since Daddy has grad school this evening, Alexa and I surprised him at work with a yummy cookie cake (also for Mommy too). He reciprocated by taking his two girls out for lunch. It was a special treat for us all! Thanks hon! I loved our lunch date!!

Alexa giving Daddy her homemade Valentine’s Day card. She enjoyed punching out the hearts and gluing them on the card. Yep – this is the best pic of Lil’ A. I have no idea why her mouth is wide open. Maybe the cardstock tasted yummy. 

I’ve got my arms around my two very favorite sweet things – one requires lots of discipline and the other requires a gallon of milk.

This is my bragging Mommy moment. Sorry – I do have these moments on occasion. I just had to share these hearts Alexa colored today (I drew the hearts but she colored them in). I was so excited to see how well she stayed in the lines – thrilling for a Mommy who LOVES art.

At the end of this day, however, we pray you know the deep, deep love of the Father who sent His only Son to die for our sins so we could experience His forgiveness and spend eternity with Him. Now that beats a delicious cookie cake any day!!

”This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:7

Monday, February 13, 2012

Woah Nelly. . . Alexa’s Almost Two!

Could it be possible? Is it really true? In just four weeks, Alexa Hope will be celebrating the big #2!! I feel like I was just making invitations for her first birthday and here we are planning another shindig. But before we celebrate that milestone, there have been several moments this month worth sharing (at least digitally recording for Mommy’s sake so she has some reference when she actually makes that scrapbook). And, you know I’ll throw in a bunch of random pics for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy one more month of our little one-year-old.

Here . . . kitty, kitty! This winter has been unseasonably warm. Which meant many trips to the park. On two separate occasions, there were kittens visiting the park. Alexa desperately wanted to play with this particular kitty. Although you can’t see the kitty, Alexa is trying to convince the kitty she won’t grab its tail.


-- Alexa said her first prayer this month and now enjoys praying whenever we do. She’ll say, “Alexa pray.” She closes her eyes, folds her hands together and prays with intense concentration. She tends to whisper her prayer that goes something like this, “Thank you God. Thank you family. Thank you friends. Thank you Jesus. Amen.” When she shouts “Amen” she throws hands up in the air. Then, she wants Mommy and Daddy to pray. Precious!

-- Alexa has also figured out our real names. She often calls Daddy, “Chris.” Hmmmm . . . Mommy’s got to get better at calling him “Daddy.” Then, the other day, she called me “Kels.” I think she said, “I need fresh milk, Kels.” We both cracked up because I don’t really think she knew what she was saying.
-- Alexa enjoys abbreviating words these days. Crackers have become “cracks.” Her pacifier is a “pass.” And if she asks for a “blank” it’s her blanket. Don’t ask me why. I believe it’s evidence of living in a world of “texts.” She’s already figuring out how to communicate in code. However, at night, we let her drink milk and/or water while reading her Bible story. She calls that combo her “milk-water-milk.” Oh, to jump inside her head for just one moment.

-- She loves to follow me around asking, “Mommy, what are you doing?” I think this is in response to a moment when I asked her the same question and then followed it with my own answer, “I believe you’re making a mess.” Now, when I ask Alexa what she’s doing (if it is something we’ll have to pick up later), she’ll say, “I making a mess!” She’ll also tell me, “Mommy’s making a mess.” (This sentiment normally happens when I’m cooking in the kitchen).

-- When she wants any of her cups filled up, she asks us to “pull up” the drink. She says Daddy’s prickly facial hair feels “sparkly.” Other cute words include: “kolala” (koala), “lellow” (yellow), “muscles” (pretzels), “barnimals” (barnyard animals) and when we sing the song “The B-I-B-L-E” – she says, “Yes, that’s the book by be” instead of “Yes, that’s the book for me.”

-- We memorize at least one scripture and one hymn a month. In January, Alexa learned the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy.” I didn’t know how much she was getting until one morning, I heard her sing the entire first verse in her crib (I was listening through the monitor). It melted my heart. There is nothing sweeter than hearing your child sing, “Early in the morning my song shall rise to Thee.” Hearing her voice made me smile and I think it pleased our Heavenly Father too.

-- In the midst of twirling a wooden fishing pole, I told Alexa to be careful. I didn’t want her to hurt herself. The end of the fishing pole ended up hitting her arm. I asked her if she was okay and she said very sadly, “I hit (a little pause) me.” “I hit me” has become a common phrase these days- often after she throws a temper tantrum.

-- Alexa enjoys saying her full name – Alexa Hope (with a resounding “puh” sound at the end of Hope) Kennedy.

-- Alexa LOVES purses. She will throw one on her shoulder, say “OK, see ya later, bye!” and head to the door. She’ll open it, pretend to be gone, and walk back in shouting, “I’m back.” And she loves to pretend talk on the phone – especially to Pop.

-- She associates colors with family member’s favorites colors, so green is Mommy’s color. Blue is Daddy’s color. Red is Mimi’s color, etc . . . although she knows her colors, she typically calls them by the person’s favorite color.

-- Alexa asks to hear the song, “I are worthy” everyday. I posted the song on February 6th and the actual title is “You are worthy.” Don’t worry – we’re working on her theology. I’m just glad she enjoys listening to it (and dancing a bit too).

-- When we get home from running errands, Alexa likes to “drive the car.” I let her sit in the driver’s seat while I unload groceries. The blinker and wipers are usually on when I get back in. She totally frightened herself when she accidentally honked the horn. It was a classic moment. 

It doesn’t get more precious than Alexa reading the Bible with her Daddy. I love the Chiquita banana sticker on Chris’ shirt too.

Mommy & Alexa sporting our red ensembles for church yesterday. Cheese!

Rockin’ the boat. Alexa decided her book basket would make a much better boat until it threw her overboard.

We had some guests stay with us last week. Alexa enjoyed pretending she was a big girl sleeping on the guest bed. She insisted on sleeping on a pillow with her paci and her blankie. Of course, she was only still for a moment but she loved the routine of “going to bed.”

Driving the “fire truck” is Alexa’s favorite feature at this particular park. She looks like she’s been driving an eighteen wheeler all her life.

She even shared the “wheels” with these two precious girls. I told her it was also important to learn how to shift.

It’s no wonder Alexa loves her crib. There’s a party inside. These are the current staples for a good night’s rest: four pacifiers, a baby doll, two puppy dogs, three teddy bears, a giraffe, an owl, and of course, Alexa’s “blank.” And trust me, she knows if one of them is missing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Three Little Miracles

We know the Lord is faithful. In His Word, He promises us He is and always will be. However, this week He took the opportunity to reveal His “blow my socks off” goodness and faithfulness. There were moments this week I had to stop right in the middle of “life” to thank Him for showing me so tangibly He’s at work and His plans are perfect. His plans are good and I’m so grateful to see His mighty hand manifested in my friends’ lives. 

The three little miracles happen to be three precious babies – all arriving within 24 hours of one another. We want to welcome Ruth Ann Chase, Baby J and David Elliot Taylor. Here’s why each one is so special . . .

Ruth Ann (Ruthie) – Born Tuesday, Feb. 7th. She’s our newest niece (born to John and Kelly Chase) - that makes her incredibly special to us. She’s a cutie! Alexa grinned from ear to ear at the first glimpse of her newest cousin. She wanted to rock the iPhone and sing “Rock-a-bye Ruthie” to her sweet picture . . . so we did. I can’t wait to see the two girls playing with dolls and wearing pink together. Although Kelly’s pregnancy was pretty much flawless, she experienced high blood toward the end of the pregnancy. The docs knew just when to induce Kelly and deliver precious Ruthie. Kelly and baby are doing well and heading home today. Thank you Lord for your provision, for the doc’s wisdom and your protection over two very special gals!

Baby J – I can’t say much about this handsome lil’ man because it’s an adoption. But he was also born this week to two unbelievably deserving parents who chose adoption and have been waiting over a year for God’s answer. This little man is so blessed to call my friends his mommy and daddy. Baby J is a miracle because his birth mom chose life and God chose my friends to raise him in a home that will be bathed with love and filled with His presence. This couple follows Jesus like few people I know. I’m overjoyed for this perfect answer to many months of prayer!

David Elliot Taylor – David was born early Wednesday morning to some of our dearest friends, Eric and Melanie Taylor. We’ve been praying over six years that she might be able to have a biological child. They adopted Wesley almost two years ago and were in the midst of adopting another child when . . . surprise! The Lord had much bigger plans. A little miracle was growing in her womb. Melanie was a high-risk pregnancy for many reasons. She was placed on bed rest at 23 wks due to early contractions and other concerns. God intervened again. She delivered David naturally at 38 wks!! He is healthy. Mommy is doing fine and God receives all the glory from this little man’s life.

To add to this news, another incredibly precious friend told me last week she is expecting a little one in August. We’ve been praying two years for the Lord to bless her with a baby. So far a beautiful pregnancy. God is good!

Oh Father, thank you for miracles! They help us see your hand in such tangible ways. They strengthen our trust in your plans. They point straight to the throne and shout to a lost world “to God be the glory!”

Here are a few attempts at including lil’ A in the photo shoot. She rarely stands still unless sleeping or watching a video. (Notice her crawling away in the picture above.)


Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday pick-me-up

Alright – if this little face can’t brighten yours than you may be out of luck on this Monday. Who couldn’t love a chubby-cheeked, brown-eyed girl who has a fettish for hats? I do hope Lil’ A brightened what’s left of your Monday.

On a more serious note, if you do need a reason for hope on this Monday, I’m sharing seven minutes I pray will inspire your soul. It did mine. I was in my sister’s car a couple of weeks ago when she played this song for me. Her choir had sung it. I was moved to tears as I listened to voices proclaiming who Christ is. So many of these attributes of Christ have become increasingly meaningful in my life over the past several years – faithful, promise keeper, Savior, my strong tower, comfort, mighty warrior, victor, healer, sovereign master, creator. At the end of the day (good, bad or ugly), He IS worthy! I told my sis she needed to pause it so I could pull myself together and go into my niece’s elementary school to see her do a presentation.

This video is by Prestonwood Baptist choir & orchestra. Bradley Knight arranged the piece. I would call it an epic praise chorus. I listen to it everyday and now Alexa even says, “Play it again.” I still can’t listen to it without tearing up. I encourage you to grab a Kleenex, turn up your speakers, close your eyes and get ready to worship the Father. (Watch out  . . . you might even raise your hands). I look forward to the day we will see Jesus face-to-face and sing this glorious chorus to Him.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

(Sigh) They’ll be there tomorrow . . .

Just looking at this image makes my stomach turn but it’s almost midnight (not an unusual time for us to retire). Even a Type A girl who thrives on order, crossed off checklists and a shiny stainless steel sink has her limits. After assisting Valentine’s Day sessions for my dear friend/boss this morning, running to the grocery store and Sam’s Club (which was mayhem in and of itself being Super Bowl weekend), unloading groceries, prepping, cooking and freezing nine pounds of ground beef, six pounds of chicken, one pound of sausage, and one recipe of sausage balls (which have to be hand rolled), I decided the dishes will have to wait until tomorrow. It’s just one of those days when it’s not worth the crazy OCD in my head. Sleep is more valuable and it’s incentive to eat leftovers. In case you missed it, we aren’t vegetarians. I’ve got too much Oklahoman in me. I did, however, buy some spinach and broccoli while I was out.