A chronicle of our lives. One day, maybe a book...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Summer 2017

I glimpse into our summer 2017. Click the link to see the video! It took me a while to get it all put together, but I finally got it! We had a blast this summer--water parks, New Orleans, Destin, Vicksburg, Eustace and lots of time with the cousins! Summer culminated with us finally moving in to our new house! God has blessed our little family more than I could ever imagine. There's a song that says, "Where there is no way, You make a way!" And that's exactly how I feel about our house. God made a way for me to be a homeowner and for me to give my girls a home.

For my 38th birthday, we went to Keller Pointe, which is a local water park. They have an indoor section with a slide and play area, as well as a large outdoor park. It's intimate enough for us to be able to just play and not worry about our stuff.The girls were on the swim team for the Northwest YMCA. They practiced during the week and had meets on Saturdays. Macey went to Gym n' Swim camp at Sokol the first week of the summer. Another reason I love living out here--I used to go to Sokol when I was her age, as well as swim at the YMCA for swim team. Mikayla went back to Leta Andrews' basketball camp at Country Day.

Lauren, Sadie, Titus, Eli and Emmie returned with us to Miramar Beach this year as well. We took an extra day to drive down and stayed for an evening in New Orleans. We stayed at the Hilton, and Mikayla was in awe of the hotel. She mentioned several times that it was the nicest hotel we've ever been to. The next day, we went to Cafe DuMonde and ate beignets for breakfast. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but it was a donut with powered sugar. They were good, but I just thought there would be more to it. The cafe doesn't serve anything else, either. After breakfast, we went walking down the French Quarter. We went to St. Louis Cathedral, and it was overwhelming. It was so beautiful. We walked out on Jackson Square, and there were lots of palm readers and voodoo booths. The girls did not like it one bit. They cold feel the presence about the place, and it wasn't one of the Holy Spirit. Before we left, I took a picture of myself reading "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" while standing on the banks of the Mississippi River. I'm sure I'm the only one who would think that's cute

We stayed in the same condo complex in Miramar Beach that we stayed in last year. It wasn't the same condo, but it was the same floor plan. We were on the 4th floor, and it actually worked out really well. It rained on us a couple times, and a torrential downpour let loose the day we left. We went on a shelling and snorkeling tour this year as well. We saw several dolphins, then went to a shallow coastal area to look for shells. The captain found a blue crab for us to all hold. We found a ton of seashells. When La-La and I got back to the condo, we were cleaning the shells, and two hermit crabs had made it in the shell bags! We took them back to the ocean so they might be able to live. As we were washing the shells, we were talking about how clean they already were, and how it was odd that there were so many shells right where we docked the boat. It then dawned on us that the Destin Snorkel Company planted the shells! They had to go out prior to our boat trip and place all of those shells there. We felt pretty foolish and laughed about it. I guess it's more fun to at least pretend we are finding the shells than just to buy them in a store. Then we wondered where those shells actually came from.

On our way back to Texas, the girls and I stayed in Vicksburg, Mississippi. We stayed at a casino hotel on the Mississippi River. The view was breathtaking. There was a pool, so of course the girls jumped right in. We ate dinner in the hotel that night, and it was half price appetizers. We had shrimp and crab claws. The girls were still wet from the pool, and it was so cold in the dining room. We shivered all the way through dinner.

The next morning, I found a Chick=Fil-A, because we all wanted Chicken Minis. When we pulled up, there was a man cutting the grass. When we got out of the car, Macey said, "It smells like grasshole!" We all got a good laugh out of that one. We then went to the National Military Park Museum. I didn't know what it was, but I thought it looked interesting, and it delivered! It's a drive-through park with monuments all throughout it that honor the men who fought in the Civil War. We got out of the car several times and took pictures and read the monuments. There were cannons, and the girls pretended to shoot them. After having read a lot of men's names on the monuments and tombstones, Mikayla said, "Where are all of the women's names?" I explained to her how only men fought back then--not women. She was incredulous. "But why?" she demanded. "Women are just as capable as men to fight in a war." The USS Cairo is also on display in the park, so we got to walk through the warship. Macey was especially interested in the museum artifacts. We had a wonderful time at the beach and our stops along the way.

As soon as we got back to Fort Worth, we spent a couple days at home before heading to the farm. We spent the 4th of July there, and the kids loved it. We went fishing, and there was a giant waterslide for the kids. We shot fireworks, and even started a fire! The fireworks smoldered and caught fire in the middle of the night. Quick thinking Papa Rock saved the farm from going up in flames. Mama Rock had just gotten two barn kittens, and the girls were smitten. The girls caught their first fish, and Mikayla wouldn't even hold the line to take a picture with it.

The cousins came to Fort Worth later in July as well. We went to Burger's Lake with them, as well as Eagle Mountain Lake. Justin rented a boat, and the kids got to wakeboard and tube. The girls had never gotten to do that before, so they had a blast. I'm so thankful for a sister and brother in law who can give my kids these amazing experiences that I can't.

One night, I couldn't sleep, so at about 2:30 in the morning, I pulled Mikayla and Macey out of bed, and we went to Whataburger to eat breakfast. The only reason was just to make a memory. Because sometimes, it's just fun to do wild and crazy things to make memories.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Prodigal

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the father represents God the father, while the prodigal son represents those of us who have strayed away from God and come back home. It teaches us that no matter how far away we stray, God will always be there waiting for us to return. It also teaches us the relationship with God is what He longs for.

We know that the prodigal son represents a person who is already a Christian. How do we know that he represents a Christian? Ephesians 1:5 tells us that God "predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ." (NIV) Romans 8:16 says that, "The Spirit himself testifies that we are God's children." (NIV) So when we are His children, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17 NIV) This lets us know that the Prodigal Son was indeed representative of a Christian--not someone who doesn't know God.

When the prodigal son went his own way, he broke off the relationship with his father. He did horrible and degrading things. He squandered his entire inheritance. At his lowest point, he ate the food of what was considered one of the most unclean animals. He realized that even the servants (not sons) of his father lived better than he was living. He was so ashamed and distant, he was willing to trade his son-status for that of a servant. He just wanted to be back in the presence of his father, even if that meant he didn't have a relationship with him anymore. He never thought he would be worthy to continue being his father's son or be in relationship with him. He had just done too many horrible things.

At what point did he stop being a son? He never did. He always remained a son. What he lost was relationship. Upon his return to his father, he was greeted with compassion, hugs, kisses, and a feast. He was immediately provided a robe (the father's protection), a ring (the father's authority), and sandals (the ability to go and do the father's work). He never stopped being a son, and he re-gained the relationship when he was able to humble himself and turn away from the pigsty.

So how does this look to us in the 21st Century?

It's the same picture. We fall away, we do degrading horrible things. We sin. We have sex outside of marriage. We drink. We do drugs. We're selfish. We're arrogant and narcissistic. But we never stop being sons or daughters. However, we are out of relationship with the Father. God deeply desires the relationship with his sons and daughters. James 5:8 says, "Come near to God, and he will come near to you." (NIV) We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ to the kingdom of heaven, yes, but God wants the relationship with us, too. We only have to humble ourselves and turn away from the pigsty. That's the key. The son decided to leave the pigsty. He had to leave the sin behind. He had to take action. He didn't know how it would turn out--but we do. When he returned to his father, he knew he couldn't live in both worlds. He had to leave the sin behind to be in his father's presence and to live as his son. Do we? Do we try to live in the pigsty of sin, sex, drugs, selfishness, lust, gluttony--but then turn around on a Sunday and all of a sudden be in His presence? We have to humble ourselves and leave the pigsty behind.

Special Thanks to Greg Jenks for co-writing this one with me.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Chester

This past week, the lead singer of the band Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, committed suicide. Unlike other recent celebrity suicides and overdoses, this one has affected me more than any other. Maybe it's because he's so close to my age. Maybe it's because I liked Linkin Park so much. Maybe it's more than any of that.

When I was in college, the band Linkin Park released their first studio album, Hybrid Theory. With their grungy guitar-heavy rock sound combined with Chester's scraggly voice and Mike's near rapping, the band was a perfect combination of all that I loved about 90's music. Most importantly, for the first time, there was a band who played music with lyrics that spoke to my soul. They talked about real-life issues like suicide, depression and rejection. Not thinly veiled allusions and artistic interpretation of lyrics. This wasn't scar tissue that I wish you saw, the world isn't a vampire, and who really wants to destroy my sweater?

These lyrics were straight-forward. They cut like a knife. "Everything you say to me takes me one step closer to the edge, and I'm about to break." And I was at a time in my life that I was about to break.

I dealt with thoughts of suicide starting in my early teens. And I always thought I was alone. Thoughts of suicide only happened to people who are super screwed up. I wasn't super screwed up--I was only screwed up. I was a Christian, after all. I went to a Christian school. I had good parents. I had a good life. Why would I ever want to commit suicide? But those thoughts entered my mind frequently. Sometimes, I would be driving down the road, and I would think, "What if i just steered the car right over this bridge?" I was convinced I would die before I turned 21. I thought about shooting myself, hanging myself or cutting my wrists? Which would hurt the least? Which would make the least amount of mess? Pills. That's the ticket.

There was no one I could talk to; there was nowhere I could turn. I felt utterly alone, and I suffered in silence. Because no one else would ever understand why this middle class Christian girl would ever think about suicide. I was ugly. I was unloved. I felt like no one truly knew me. No one truly cared. No one would ever understand. It resulted in my drinking (a lot) and doing other things that are unbecoming of a young lady. Then came Linkin Park. All of a sudden, I realized I'm not alone. Chester and the band sang songs about suicide. They sang songs about real life. They sang about all the pressure there is to be perfect. "I kept everything inside, and even though I tried, it all fell apart. What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when I tried so hard." The pressure from society, the pressure from teachers, parents, relatives, everyone in your life. He talked about the walls closing in; he talked about real hurts--my hurts.

I felt like finally, there is someone else who feels the same way. And if the music is that popular, then maybe there are others out there who feel like me. It opened up conversations with friends, and it made me feel not quite so alone. It took much more than Linkin Park to pull me out of the drunken stupor of depression and into God's presence. But it was the first step. That's why Chester's suicide has affected me so greatly. He didn't have to die. There was a Way out of the pain. He believed the lies for one day too long.

No one can walk this journey for you. When you're in the midst of the lies, you can't hear the truth. Nothing anyone says really matters. It's you and your mind, your thoughts and Satan's lies versus God's Word. It's your choice which one you believe. And it is most definitely a choice. By not making a choice, you are choosing the former. To choose the latter, you must consciously say it out loud, "I reject the lies of Satan, I believe God's Word for my life."

In order to make the choice to believe God's Word, you have to know what God's Word says about you. That takes reading the Bible and choosing to take the time to read it. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to, "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." That means that EVERY thought that comes into our head must be taken to God's Word and be put to the litmus test of whether it is from God or not.

And this is where Satan is ever so tricky. Satan's lies to us always sound like they are coming from us--from our own mind. Satan's lies are always in first person. "I am ugly." "I am alone." "No one loves me." "I am worthless." Notice that his lies are not in second person saying "You". It would be much easier to identify Satan's lies if they were in second person as if Satan himself was talking to us. But he doesn't work that way. He gives us the lies as if they are coming from our own head (or heart), so they seem real.

God's Words to us are usually in second person. "You are loved." "You are worthy." "You are My child." Because they are coming from God our Father, Jesus our Bridegroom, and Holy Spirit, our Truth and Counselor. It's a lot harder to believe something when it seems to be coming from someone other than ourselves. But it is the Truth. Jesus is the Truth. And the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth (John 16:13 NIV).

Walking through this broken world will never be easy. But it's our choice if we are going to be broken in the broken world. You are not defective because you have suicidal thoughts. There is nothing wrong with you because you feel this way, but you don't have to feel this way. In the end, it DOES even matter. You matter.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Little Comediennes

A couple funny moments from the girls over the past six months or so.

December 18, 2016
Macey says, "I know how to spell Cowboys! C-O-W-M-E-N!"
"Macey, that spells Cowmen!"
"Yeah, because they grew up!"


December 10, 2016
As an ACU guard turns over the ball, Mikayla says with complete disgust, "She just gave it to them. Like, here you go—an early Christmas present!"

Mikayla Quote of the Day #2— In the car, and "Mary Did You Know?" starts playing. After several lines, she says, "Um, it says in the Bible the angles told her, so, Yes. She knew." *throws hands up in exasperation and rolls eyes*

December 16, 2016
I forgot to move the Elf on the Shelf last night, so I told Macey it was just too cold for Peppermint Angel to leave—she wanted to stay warm. Macey pops her hip out, cocks her head and says incredulously, "Mommy, Peppermint Angel lives at the North Pole. Nothing is too cold for her."

December 17. 2016
As we are headed to dinner, Mikayla was just reading a chapter from the Bible aloud to me. She stopped for just a second, and I said, "I'm starving." Then she looked at me pointed to my phone with the Bible app open, and said, "But you're being fed the word of God."

December 23, 2016
After the three of us opened all of our packages to one another on "Christmas Eve," Macey stops me and says, "Ok, so I know like, Santa is you—that you give the presents, but where do you get them?" Confused, I asked what she meant. She pointed under the tree and said, "There's nothing under there. Where do the presents come from?" I told her, "That's part of the magic of Christmas!" as I kissed her on the nose. Then she cocked her head and said, "But Mommy, I need to know, because I'll have kids one day!"

January, 2016
At school, Mikayla was supposed to choose one of the characteristics of God to study. Mikayla chose Prince of Peace. When I asked her why, she said, "It's because God gave me peace when you and Daddy got a divorce."

March 5, 2016
So the girls came home and told me that Adam and Joni were fighting a lot today. Macey said she thinks they are going to break up. She was crying and was asking a lot of questions...who'll she still be my stepmom, will I see her again, etc. Through tears, she said she didn't want them to break up because she would miss Joni. I said, "Oh, honey. Know that you are never alone, even when you feel like you are." Going in a different direction than what I was thinking, she sniffled, "I know, because I have the best mom in the whole wide world!" And she hugged my neck. Touched, I hugged her back tightly and said, "Oh my goodness! I don't know what I did to deserve such a sweet daughter like you, but I am so glad God gave you to me!" Macey pulled back and completely serious, as if she has thought about it a lot, she said, "I think it's because you praise God." 😍😂

May 2017
Mikayla learned about idioms, and I was asking her about what they were and to give me an example. She says, "You're an idiom."

June 13, 2017
Yesterday, we saw a LC student in his Jeep on the road. We waved at each other, and the girls started asking who it was.
I told them, "That was Matthew, and he's going to be in 12th grade."
Macey, gently shaking her head with raised eyebrows says, "They grow up so fast."

June 14, 2017 After sneezing 4 times in a row and then coughing for about a minute straight, I said, "Wow! Something got me today!" Macey said, "Maybe it's your face?"

June 26, 2017
Listening to "The Sound of Music" soundtrack song, "I am 16 going on 17," Mikayla says, "Why is she letting her boyfriend tell her what to do?" 😂

June 30, 2017
We went to the Vicksburg, Mississippi National Military Park today. She's looking at all the names of the soldiers. "Where are all the women fighters?" I had to explain to her that only men fought. "Well, that's not right. Women can fight just as good as men!"

Macey said, "It smells like grasshole out here"


Lindsey Mercer

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Revolving Doctor Door

I have suffered with hypothyroid symptoms now for more than 10 years. It started with a multi-nodular goiter. My general practitioner wasn't even the one who found it. It was my OB/GYN when I was confirming I was pregnant with Mikayla. I had to wait until after I gave birth to her, but as soon as I stopped nursing, we started to work on my thyroid.

In addition to bloodwork, I had sonograms, a thyroid scan, a radioactive iodine thyroid uptake exam and a fine needle biopsy. The fine needle biopsy was one of the worst experiences of my life. In 2009, it was eventually determined that I should have a partial thyroidectomy to remove the goiter and affected tissue. I found no relief from my symptoms following the thyroidectomy. Doctors monitored my thyroid hormone levels, however, and they concluded that my half of a thyroid functioned normally, because the bloodwork said so.

I still felt awful, and eventually grew another goiter. My general practitioner refused to do anything about it—or even believe me. So I went on my own to get a sonogram to prove there was a goiter. When I brought him the results, he still wasn't alarmed. I asked if I could just try a low dose of Synthroid to see if I felt better, and he said he could lose his medical license if he did that.

I switched doctors. Repeatedly. I begged each one to listen to me and my symptoms—not the paperwork from lab results. So more bloodwork, thyroid scans, another radioactive iodine thyroid test. Each new doctor gave me a renewed sense of hope. Maybe this doctor will finally be the one to help me.

All "normal". So again and again, I was told that my headaches were from stress—so reduce my stress. My fatigue is stress, too, obviously. My weight gain was from overeating—so eat better and work out more. My muscle weakness is because I'm not working out enough and my muscles are atrophying—so hit the gym! Not being able to control my body temperature—well that's odd, but probably not related to your thyroid. My elevated LDL cholesterol—I need to eat better (remember, because I'm fat?). My hoarse voice—I talk all day as a teacher. My hair loss—that's stress, too. My plantar fasciitis—not related at all. Maybe it's my hormones—let's put you on birth control to regulate your hormones. Maybe it's my adrenals—so off I go to have an adrenal function tests and cortisol levels checked. Maybe it's my kidneys—so off I go to get those checked out, too. Maybe it's a gluten allergy—stay away from gluten. Eat more iodine; consume less iodine. Eat kelp. Eat this. Avoid this. You'll be fine.

I've also developed tinnitus. I've always had it, and I thought it was normal until someone told me it's not. And I was nearly in my 30's then. Lately, it's getting worse and worse. I'm starting to lose my hearing, and I can't separate sounds when there is background noise. I find myself turning my head and straining to hear. It takes all my mental faculties sometimes to hear someone speaking. The ringing is incessant, and the worst at night. I had no idea tinnitus could even be related. But one night, I was googling, and I found there is a direct correlation to tinnitus and hypothyroid. Again, another symptom I clearly have hypothyroidism.

I've asked a couple doctors to be referred to the Thyroid and Diabetes Center in Fort Worth. One doctor flat refused. Another said he would do it, but not to expect anything, since my labs were all normal. When I hadn't heard from the TDC in more than a month after the referral, I called them myself. They told me that they had received my referral and labs, but there was nothing they could do for me, since all my labs were within range.

I go through periods where I resign myself to always feeling like this. Always being overweight and feeling awful. Losing my hearing and my sanity. Then I'll get determined to find the answer with yet another new doctor.

In all, I had ten doctors —TEN—tell me that I have normal lab results, so I must be normal.

Last month, I went to see Dr. Number 11. As I told her my symptoms, a wave of despair washed over me as she dismissed everyone one of my symptoms as related to something else. Stress, hormones, adrenals.

So here we go with the bloodwork. "Please, God! Let it show *something*!"

I receive the results, and Hallelujah! I finally had abnormal test results! That means I haven't been imagining it! My hypothyroidism is finally bad enough to show up on a lab test!

Then I get the letter from Dr. Number 11 containing all of my results. She says that the thyroid numbers aren't significant enough, and she's not going to treat me. That my TSH level is normal, as is my T4, so my T3 Uptake and T3 Total don't really matter, because it all cancels each other out. I was dumbfounded. I have never felt such despair and hopelessness.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Our Response to the Broken

I saw a post on Facebook today that went something like this, "My heart is broken in two for my three year old son. Why? Because a teen-aged bully hated his hair. My precious son won't stop asking me why people hate him for his hair color. He's left so confused and upset."

I completely feel for this mom. She had no idea how to answer her son, and she expressed her empathy toward her son. Unfortunately, the mom's broken heart is misplaced. I'm not saying she should not feel empathy for her son. When our children hurt, we hurt. But ultimately, her heart should be broken for the teenager who is so cruel that he would make fun of a three year old little boy's hair. That's what's happening to God's heart. His heart is broken for the teenager. Of course God's heart hurts for us when we are hurt, too. But should we even be hurt by these words? We know that we will hurt in this life, because we live in a sinful world. God never said that we won't feel pain or affliction. John 16:33 says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." It's what we choose to do with the pain and affliction that comes our way that makes all the difference. In addition, we have to teach our children the appropriate response to darts that the enemy flings our way.

We have to stop being victims, and we have to stop teaching our children to be victims. By allowing our child to be hurt, frustrated and upset by a stranger's words is unwittingly teaching our children that we should allow other people's negative words to have profound effects on us. And that's not healthy or biblical. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." If someone's words don't encourage me or build me up, then I have the power to reject their words. I don't have to accept those words spoken to me to have power over me. I don't have to choose to be hurt or upset. The old schoolyard retort, "I'm rubber; you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you," is aptly appropriate. Words spoken to me that are unbiblical can bounce right off of me, and never enter my heart. I am who I am because God says that's who I am. If someone tells me I'm anything other than that, then I know it's not from God, and it's not the truth. We should I cry over lies?

When my children overhear others being mean, or others are mean directly to them, we talk about how that person might not have Jesus in his or her heart. We talk about how Jesus can teach him or her to love. We pray for that person instead of turning to ourselves, feeling sorry for ourselves and wondering why someone could be so cruel. We know the answer to why someone can be so cruel--they are missing Jesus. Our response to the broken shouldn't be to be broken ourselves. Our response should be to love and show the broken who Jesus is.

Sometimes, even when people have Jesus, they themselves are still hurting. In our ever-growing, narcissistic, "but first let me take a selfie" world, it is imperative that we teach our children that it's not about me, me, me. People's hurtful words toward us are rarely about us. It's usually more about the person speaking those words.

I'm not saying that parents shouldn't show empathy for their children when confronted with cruelty. What I am saying is that we must measure our response in light of the Truth of God.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

You are a Treasure

My dearest loves, I want you to always know that you are a treasure. You are bought with a price--and that price was the shedding of Jesus' blood at Calvary. Giving up one's life for another's is the ultimate price to pay. People are only willing to pay an ultimate price if they value what they are getting in return.

It really all comes down to value. You have to know how much your value is, and you can never forget it. The value of any item is always dependent on how much someone is willing to pay for that item. If someone is willing to pay $100 for say, a baseball card, then the value of that baseball card is $100. So remember that Jesus paid the ultimate price--his life--for you. That's how much He thinks you are worth.

When I was your age, I knew all of this, as well. I had all the head-knowledge that I could have. I knew scriptures by memory, and everyone always wanted me on their team for Bible trivia. But I didn't understand in my heart what any of it truly meant. I didn't realize my value. I didn't realize that I am an heir to the Throne of Glory. Romans 8:17 says, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." These aren't just words-they are actions. It means you are entitled to and have the right to everything God has if you choose to follow Him.

Following Christ is a daily decision. It takes every single day of your life choosing "to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." We sometimes forget the "daily" part of Luke 9:23. Even when we don't feel like it, even when it hurts--Jesus will be there, and He will love you, because He already does, and He already proved that on the cross.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Testimony

God put it on my heart to give my testimony in chapel to the students at school. I thought I would post it here. I haven't made any changes, so it might be confusing at some points, but remember that I graduated from the school at which I now teach, and that I was speaking to high school students.

Dear Lord, I pray that you open ears and hearts. Speak into each and every student here today. I pray that you would show each person here today your love.

God never meant for us to learn by experience. He meant for us to learn by faith. We are supposed to hear a word from him, and believe and trust in Him that it is true. Take for instance the original sin. God told Adam & Eve not to eat the fruit. He wanted them to trust Him. But they had to learn from experience, and it had some pretty dire consequences. Here’s an example from our time. When your parents tell you to not run out into the middle of the street, they want you to learn through faith—believing what they tell you—instead of having to learn first-hand. Why do we think that matters of our heart are any different than learning with our physical bodies? That’s my heart for you today. I want you to learn through faith. Don’t shut this message out and think you have it all figured out, or that this message doesn’t apply to you. That’s a lie of the enemy who comes to kill, steal, and destroy you. I don’t want you to have to experience the pain that I have in order for it to bring you the joy of the Lord.

I am one of you. I have sat in your seat. I come from a great family. Many of you know my parents. They have attended church here since 1983, and my dad is a deacon. My mom taught here for years—she still comes around for Youth & Government, and she’s on the school board. To know my parents is to love my parents. Both of them are mighty in their faith. They are both pillars of this church, this school, and the kingdom of God.

My upbringing was probably similar to a lot of yours. I was in church every time those doors were open. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, potluck dinners, home fellowship groups, prayer meetings, you name it. I started Kindergarten right down the hall in the very classrooms some of you learned in with Cindy Lindstrom and Barbra Storie. My parents valued Christian education, and I never knew anything different. One day, someone brought a “Good News” tract and talked about it in chapel. It used a multi-colored glove to tell about God and how much He loves us. Each finger on the glove was a different color, and represented a different aspect of salvation. I took home this little tract, and I told my mom I wanted Jesus in my heart. My mom prayed with me, and that was that. A couple years later, in the baptistery right above me, my dad and Jesse McElreath baptized me.

When I was in elementary school, I would doodle things like, “I love Jesus,” “I hate the devil,” and “God is good” next to crosses, flowers, and kittens. I read my Bible when I was supposed to, and I always knew I was a Christian. The older I got, the more scriptures I memorized for Bible class. I could tell you any Bible story. I could answer the trivia, and I would beat anyone in a sword drill. I had a long list of “I will nevers”. I will never drink alcohol. I will never do drugs. I will never smoke cigarettes. I will never have sex before marriage. I was the “good kid” I was supposed to be.

Growing up in church, I heard message after message about God, about living right, about making right choices, about doing the right thing. I heard how important all these things were, and if I didn’t do all of these things, I felt somehow that I was less of a Christian. I looked at all of the Christians around me, and I would place each of them on a totem pole according to their “goodness.” Jennifer was a good Christian because she goes to youth group on Wednesday night. Tyler must be a good Christian because he raises his hands in chapel. Katie is a bad Christian because she made out with her boyfriend. I learned through my experiences that Christianity was about appearances. If you acted right on the outside, then for one, you could fool people into believing you were a good person. For two, you obviously didn’t care that you were being two-faced, so I guessed most Christians were probably like that. Every Christian I knew never really talked about their day-to-day struggles. They never talked about how they had to bring their hurt and brokenness before the Lord daily – or even if they did. They didn’t even talk about the fact they WERE broken. It affected me in a way that I’m not sure I was aware of at the time, and I would have never been able to put into words.

And the older I got, the more serious chapels became. There would be several people each year who would come and share their “testimony”. These were people who had been alcoholics, drug addicts, people addicted to pornography, the worst of the worst, and God had redeemed them. These were powerful stories that would really move the audience. But yet, there was an aspect with them that I couldn’t identify with. I’d always say, “That’s not me.” Of course God would redeem these horrible people who had done horrible things. But I wasn’t a horrible person. I was a good person. I didn’t drink; I didn’t smoke; I didn’t have sex; I didn’t do anything that bad. “That’s not me.”

The problem was that none of those stories were even remotely close to who I was in high school. My struggles weren’t about extremes. My struggles were about who I was. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted people to like me. I wanted boys to like me. I wanted my parents to understand me. I didn’t want to be controlled. I felt everyone was trying to control me and my behavior. My parents tried to control me by taking the car or other privileges from me if I didn’t conform to their rules. My teachers were trying to control me by giving me bad grades if I didn’t do my homework the way they wanted. My coaches were trying to control me by making me run suicides if I didn’t perform in practices or games to their standard. God was trying to control me by sending me to hell if I didn’t conform to what the Bible says. I felt I lived my life for everyone else, and if I didn’t, I would suffer the consequences. I saw no one else truly struggling like I was, so I figured I was the only one. God didn’t work for me. He didn’t come rescue me, and He wasn’t showing me grace. I thought, “Well, I guess God isn’t what everyone says He really is.”

By the time I went to college, God still had never been real to me—despite all of the head-knowledge I had. I decided in my heart that I wasn’t going to live for anyone else any more, and I wasn't going to let anyone control me. If no one was going to control me, that meant I could do whatever I wanted. So I drank for the first time. Nothing bad happened. My life had been a lie! All those people telling me that alcohol was bad were lying! It was fun! I liked it, and I wanted to do it again! So, I started drinking—a lot. It eventually came to me partying just about every night, and I figured out how to get the boys’ attention.

It was all in an attempt to assert my individuality and how no one could control me. I made horrible decisions for myself, my body, and my life. All the while, I was attending a Christian university, and completed my degrees. On the outside, I still looked like the same Lindsey to friends and family, but on the inside, I was dying.

My junior year, I wanted to quit it all. I wanted to quit college; I wanted to get away from my “friends” who would influence me to drink and party. I started to go to church, and I prayed a lot. It lasted for a while, but old habits die hard. I eventually started drinking again and hanging out with the same friends.

In my senior year of college, I had a boyfriend named Matt. We dated for about two years, and we talked about marriage quite a bit. After college, I moved in with my best friend Courtney in Arlington. We had a large group of friends who all lived in the same area, and we hung out all the time. I thought I was in love with Matt, and that I would marry him. I was the perfect situation. We had the same circle of friends, and he came from a good family. God was not at the center of our lives, but he was raised in a Christian home, and he was a Christian, so in my mind, we were all good. I started getting this strange feeling though. We were watching a movie one night, and in the movie, a bride-to-be stood in the mirror and had second thoughts. I thought to myself, “That can’t be me.” I told Matt that I thought we needed a break. He left my apartment, and I broke down in tears. I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I went to tell my roommate Courtney about it, but instead of comforting me, her response was, “We need to talk.” She proceeded to tell me that Matt had cheated on me—with her! My entire world crashed down on me. I not only lost my boyfriend, but now I lost my best friend! How was this possible? I ran to the only place I knew for comfort—God. After lots of prayer and healing, I was ok. I was able to function again. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I realized then that it could have saved me a lot of heartache had I done it His way instead of my own. After a while, though, I started slipping back into old habits. God didn’t answer my prayers how I wanted him to. My trust in God faded a little. He didn’t move as quickly as I thought he should, so I “helped him along.” I started making decisions for myself again. I started doing what I wanted to do.

Then came Adam. Again, I knew what I was doing. God was taking too long to bring me a husband, so I was going to find him myself. He came from a good family, he was a Christian. Neither of us were really living what most people would call a “Christian lifestyle.” Then one day, I didn’t feel right. Something was going on with me that I couldn’t explain. Later that day, a positive pregnancy test explained it. And there I was. 26 years old. Pregnant and not married. How in the world was I going to ever going to tell my parents? What would all my friends think about me? I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. I was mortified. I would literally be carrying my sin in my belly around for nine months.

Adam and I quickly got married, because I was terrified to be a single mom. Our marriage was not built on God’s Word—we didn’t even pray together. I knew that I always planned on going back to church and getting back to God, and I was confident that we could come back to God together. As soon as Mikayla was born, I knew I had to get to church. I knew I had to renew my relationship with God. The closer I got to God, the further I got from my husband. To make a long story short, Adam decided he didn’t want to be married any more, and he definitely didn’t want to be married to a Christian. He made a lot of bad choices that hurt me very deeply. I’m not going to go into all of those, because you might meet him one day. Once again, my world came crashing down. This time, it was my family. It was my future – my kids.

When Adam left, I was devastated. The only place I knew to turn was up. God used this horrible, awful, heartbreaking experience to nudge me back to His plan for my life. So many times, we think that God’s plan for our life is scripted out. That we have to make all of the “right decisions.” I don’t believe that at all. I believe that God’s plan for our lives is to have an intimate relationship with Him. Everything else is just details.

God’s perfect plan for me was never for me to go through a divorce. His perfect plan for my life was to have an intimate relationship with Him. His perfect plan was for me to follow Him, put Him first in my life, and to never allow anything to come between our relationship.

Through my divorce, God revealed Himself to me in such a real and tangible way. He scooped me up and held me in His arms. He healed my heart beyond anything I ever thought possible. He taught me that my true love story has nothing to do with a man here on earth. He showed me that my true love story is written in the Bible. My love story is Jesus.

My whole life had been a series of ups and downs. I wanted to follow God, but I just couldn’t keep going after a couple months. As Jesus tells Peter in Matthew 26:41, “The spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.”

But this time it was different. I finally “got it.” And here it is—I surrendered my soul to God.

Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

All those other times that I was trying to get my life straight, I was still holding on. I still refused to give over complete control to God. I wanted the relationship. I wanted God to be in the car with me, but I wanted to drive. What I failed to see was that’s not how God works. If you invite him into your car, you either allow Him to drive, or He will get out at the next stop sign. He doesn’t work that way. He’ll be waiting there to get back in, but He wants to drive. He HAS to drive. Allowing God that control in my life was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because it’s scary. And remember, I vowed years ago that I would never let anyone control me, and now I have to give God control of my life? Plus, I didn’t even really know *how* to give God control.

It started with Luke 9:23: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

That means I have to decide—every day—decide to follow Jesus every day. It means that I have to choose to deny myself and what I want to do in order to do what God wants me to do. That’s hard. But it gets easier the more you do it. But when you love God, it gets really easy.

Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Except that I didn’t even know *how* to love God. All my Christian upbringing and schooling, and here I was: I don’t know how to love God. Because here’s the question: how can I love God when I don’t always feel it? It’s because love is a choice. Love is an action. You choose to love. You choose to be thankful and rejoice.

I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

It doesn’t tell us to do it just when we *feel* like it. Action always comes before the feeling. You choose to love, obey, honor, and glorify God. The feeling comes afterward. The feeling follows after your attitude. If we wait until we *feel* like it to praise and honor God, we’ll be waiting a long time.

Not only did I have to learn how to love God, I had to learn how to be loved *by* God. If I was going to give God control of my life, I sure needed to make sure He was going to love me through it.

I John 4:8 tells us that “God is love.”

It's what He is. It's His state of being. How awesome is it that I am loved by Love Itself?

When God looks at me, His heart smiles. I make him exceedingly joyful. He beams with pride when He looks upon my face. He melts from the inside when he thinks about my name. ME! He feels this for ME! When I think about how much He loves me, how can I not help but fall in love with Him?

When we look at God this way, it makes it much easier to rest in Him and trust in Him that He is in control of my life. It makes it easier to believe that the things He tells me to give up - that I really want - aren't always what He wants for me.

Now say it to yourself:

When God looks at me, His heart smiles.

I make him exceedingly joyful.

He beams with pride when He looks upon my face.

He melts from the inside when he thinks about my name.

ME! He feels this for ME!

If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.

If you are a Christian, then you have to believe the Bible—all of it—not just parts of it. That’s what the Word of God says about every one of you. Don’t you dare believe the lie of the devil who is whispering to you, “That’s not me.” The king of lies and the king of darkness will tell you that right now. Which one are you going to believe? The Word of God, or the word of Satan? It’s your choice right now.

Dear Lord, I pray for each one of these students right now. I pray that you would rest upon each person right now. Allow your Spirit to speak to them, and let them know that you love them more than they could ever imagine. I pray that those who are struggling with giving up control to you would be empowered to do so right now. “I give you control of my life, Lord.” Say it right now. You don’t have to say it out loud—just in your heart. If you mean it, say it. “I give you control of my life, Lord.” Lord, speak to your children. Let them know how precious they are in your sight. Let them know that they are safe and secure in your arms. Let them learn by faith and not by experience. I pray that you would pour out your spirit upon these students like you never have before.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Mikayla's Answers

Childs Name: Mikayla Vei Mercer
Age: 8 years 2 months

1. What is something Mommy always says to you?
I love you

2. What makes Mommy happy?
Me massaging her

3. What makes Mommy sad?
When we disobey

4. How does Mommy make you laugh?
By tickling me

5. What was Mommy like as a child?
A christian

6. How old is Mommy?
35, about to be 36

7. How tall is Mommy?
I don’t know that!

8. What is Mommy's favorite thing to do?
Cuddle on me!

9. What does Mommy do when you're not here?
She usually goes to school.

10. If Mommy becomes famous what will it be for?
Being pretty! And being sweet.

11. What is Mommy really good at?
Schoolwork

12. What is Mommy not very good at?
Hmmm…She’s not good with passwords.

13. What is Mommy's job?
Being a teacher

14. What makes you proud of Mommy?
When she says,”WooWho! WooWho!”

15. What is Mommy's favorite food?
Red Velvet Cake

16. What do you & Mommy do together?
We usually swim and cuddle together

17. How are you & Mommy the same?
We have the same blood

18. If your Mommy was a cartoon character who would she be?
Wonder Woman

19. How are you & Mommy different?
Different shoe sizes

20. How do you know Mommy loves you?
She says it all the time. And she hugs and kisses me all the time, and she comforts me.

21. What does Mommy like best about Daddy?
Massages

22. Where is Mommy's favorite place to go?
Church

23. How old was Mommy when she had you?
27

Monday, May 11, 2015

Best. Cat. Names. Ever.

Because you love cats so much, and I'm an English teacher, I have put together a list of some of the best literature-related cat names. I will add to the list as I come up with new ones. When you get older, and read more, you will come to appreciate these much more. :)

Inigo Meowntoya
Jay Catsby
Romeow
Cat of Monte Cristo
Edmeownd Dantes
Cat Dracula
Hucklepurry Finn
Catticus Finch
Hester Purryn
Puurl
Meowpold Bloom
Purrcutio
Purrlock Holmes
Purr Lancelot
Meowll Flanders
Anna Katrenina
Tomcat Ripley
Catman

Thursday, March 5, 2015

It's Snow Fun to Poke Fun of Texas!


Ok, so northerners laugh at us Texans when the weather turns cold. We seemingly panic and shut down schools, churches and businesses. While I’ll agree many Texans panic when the mercury drops anywhere below 60 degrees (where’s my jacket?), there are some things northerners and non-native Texans need to understand about Texas when it snows and ices.

First of all, you have to understand the sheer massiveness of our state and our metro area. To show comparisons, I will stick with three major metropolitan areas that are traditionally cold-weather, Chicago, New York, and Boston. The DFW Metroplex covers more than 9,200 square miles. By comparison, the Chicago metro area is about 7,212 square miles. The New York City metro area is about 6,700 square miles, while Manhattan is a measly 22 square miles, 4 square miles smaller than our airport. Boston, well – the entire state of Massachusetts – is 7,800 square miles, Boston being only about 3,200.

When the land size of the DFW Metroplex is taken into consideration, coupled with the fact that there is virtually no mass/public transportation, there is an inordinate amount of drivers on the roads. Dallas has the DART bus and light rail system, but once you leave the city center of Dallas, the routes are sparse and so spread out; one would most likely need another mode of transportation to arrive at his or her actual destination. Dart “bus services moves more than 220,000 passengers per day across our 700-square-mile service area.” The Trinity Rail Express is another mass transit light rail service that transports 51,000 passengers per week, make that about 7,200 per day.

Chicago has the Chicago Transit Authority, and their website states, “The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system. On an average weekday, 1.7 million rides are taken on CTA. The CTA is a regional transit system that serves 35 suburbs, in addition to the City of Chicago, and provides 83 percent of the public transit trips in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area either with direct service or connecting service to Metra and Pace.”

Compare both of those with New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, the nation’s largest mass transit system, which moves 7.3 million people per day. According to the MTA’s website, four of every five rush-hour commuters to New York City's central business districts avoid traffic congestion by taking transit service.

In Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, according to their website, transports nearly 1.3 million passengers per day.

So, Dallas transports 227,000 passengers daily to Chicago’s 1.7 million, New York’s 7.3 million, and Boston’s 1.3 million. When compared to population, see the table below.

It shows that only 3.5% of the DFW metroplex’s population rides mass transit. That means the rest most likely drive. That’s a substantial amount of more drivers on the roads than other cold-weather metropolitan areas.

 
Mass Transit Passengers
Population
Percent of the population that uses Mass Transit Daily
DFW
227,000
6,500,000
3.5%
Chicago
1,700,000
9,520,000
17.9%
New York
7,300,000
19,900,000
36.7%
Boston
1,300,000
4,500,000
28.9%

 

Next, the infrastructure of the DFW Metroplex needs to be examined. There are eight interstates through DFW. In addition to the interstates, six US routes go through the metroplex, eight state highways, seven loops, and five major tollways. That makes 34 major highways in the DFW metroplex for more than 6 million people to drive every day.

In order for most people to travel from one place to another in the DFW metroplex, it is necessary to use the highways. There are rarely backroads or less dangerous or congested routes to take to get to work or school. Most backroads or side roads are not thoroughfares; interstates and highways are.

It is important also to note that the majority of these highways do not contain traffic lights. They are non-stop, three-to-four lane (sometimes six-to-seven lane) freeways that must intersect at some point. At these intersections, enormous mixmasters are erected with the primary purpose of keeping the traffic moving without interruption. Some of the bridges over interstates are 100 feet in the air. For example, the “High Five” is a five-level stack bridge interchange system where Interstate 635, and US 75 converge. According to Wikipedia, “the interchange is as high as a 12-story building and includes 37 bridges spread across five levels, 710 support tiers, and 60 miles of additional highway. The highest ramps are 120 feet (37 m) above ground.”

While the High Five is the largest of these mixmasters, it is indicative of the type of infrastructure the DFW metroplex has across its 9,200 square miles. There are close to 40-50 mixmaster bridge systems in the DFW metroplex where the 34 major highways intersect one another. Many of these bridges are high in the air, as well as some bridges being nearly .25 miles to .5 miles long.

When the extensive infrastructure of DFW was designed, it was not designed to withstand the freezing temperatures that only visit down here maybe once or twice a year. It was designed to handle the heavy flow of traffic the other 363 days of the year.

Not only are the roads built to suit the 363 days a year of warm/hot weather, so is all the equipment the people own. The cities are not equipped with large numbers of sand/salt trucks. We don’t own snow shovels, snow blowers, or roof brooms. Most of us only own one set of tires for our cars, and they don’t leave the car, and we certainly don’t have chains. It would not be economically wise to spend that kind of money to snow-proof our vehicles for something that *might* only happen once or twice a year for a day or two at a time. It would equate to a northerner purchasing an outdoor pool for $25,000 if he could only use it once or twice a year for one or two days at a time.

Lastly, we rarely get snow here. It’s usually ice. Snow is drivable, and snow can be cleared from the roadway. It compacts, and there is traction between the snow and the tires of the car. In Texas, we get ice. When it sleets, it clings to the roadways, especially bridges, and the roads get slick. Sometimes the ice is inches thick. No amount of training or experience in snow driving can keep control of a car sliding on ice. Think about trying to drive a car on an ice rink. That’s what the Texas roads are like when it sleets and we get snow days.

When considering the number of people on the roads of DFW, the number of roads in DFW, and the infrastructure, it makes much more sense why Texas “shuts down and freaks out” when there is cold weather. It can be extremely dangerous on the bridges, as well as the roads. So please keep these things in mind the next time you want to make fun of Texans when we get a snow day.

 

Sources:

I know; I’m an English teacher, and it should be in APA format, but it’s just a blog. Sorry. Deal with it.

Wikipedia, mta.com, tre.com, dart.com, cta.com, bmta.com, and google.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lies From the Devil We Have to Stop Telling our Daughters

For some time now, I have been asking the Lord about some roots that have taken place in my life. I've been trying to figure out why I behave in certain ways, and why I think the way I think. Some of those roots are quite unhealthy, namely my not-so-stellar track record in the dating/relationship department. All of the men I have been in serious relationships with have had one thing in common. They would tell me they loved me, cared about me, didn't want to hurt me, etc., but then they would act in ways that were definitely not loving, and sometimes not even kind. I stuck around in each relationship far beyond what any emotionally healthy person would or should. I would get hurt by their actions, confront them, then they would apologize, profess their love, and we would make up. I believed their words, and I refused to believe their actions. Obviously, I was the common denominator in these relationships, but in the two years since my divorce, I've been searching for the root of why I would stick around in these unhealthy relationships.

The other day while I was talking to Mikayla, God seriously hit me up the side of the head with a truth so real that I was left speechless.

"Mommy?" Mikayla's sweet voice asked as we drove in the car.
"Yes, my love?" I responded.
"Dylan is really mean to me," she confided in me.
"Oh, honey! I am so sorry he is mean to you. What does he say to you that is mean?"
"He tells me that I'm ugly and no one wants to be my friend," her sadness was evident as tears welled up in her eyes.
"Oh, honey, You know that you're not ugly, and did you know that most boys say mean things to girls because they secretly like them?" I comforted her.

And there is was. I was stopped in my tracks. That - right there - was the lie I believed my entire life: Boys who are mean to you secretly like you.

My mind raced as I thought about all the boys who were mean to me since I was five years old. Every time I would come home crying because some boy made fun of me or teased me or pulled my pony tail, my mom would comfort me and tell me that it was because they thought I was beautiful, or they had a crush on me, or they liked me and didn't know how to show their true feelings. Obviously, I release my mother from any responsibility, because she was doing what any mother would do: comfort her crying and hurt daughter the best way she knows how. And she wasn't the only one who unwittingly helped perpetuate this lie of the enemy. Teachers, school administrators, youth pastors, friends all have told me very similar things about boys who were mean to me growing up. I was even telling my own daughter the same thing.

But it's a lie! Boys are mean to girls because they don't know how to treat a girl. And perhaps they are just jerks. That's the bottom line. Boys aren't mean to girls because they like them, and they aren't mean to girls because they think they are pretty.

After realizing all of this, I thought about how this seemingly small "comforting" line that mothers across the globe tell their daughters is creating a foothold for the enemy to set up young girls for a string of failed relationships. Then I thought about how it applied to my life.

I believed the lie. I believed that a boy's actions don't matter. I believed that if a boy was mean to me, that meant he secretly liked me; he just didn't know how to express his true feelings. And it suddenly all made sense. It made sense why I stuck around. It made sense why I continually forgave and forgot their transgressions against me. It made sense why it was a continuous cycle. It made sense why I kept repeating the same mistake in each relationship. I thought their actions didn't matter. But they do.

"You know what, Honey?" I started to correct myself. "Some boys are just mean to girls, because they haven't been taught how to treat girls."
"Yeah," is all Mikayla replied.
"How do you think you could show Dylan some kindness tomorrow?"