Monday, June 27, 2016

Eternal Salvation Movie Review


Every once in a while I am contacted by someone to review a book on my blog and because I love books, I am happy to do this. A while back I was asked if I would review a movie by FishFlix. I enjoy supporting Christian media and watching movies with faith themes so I agreed. I'm so glad I did! 
christian-movies-eternal-salvation-dvd

Eternal Salvation is about Jonathan, who has built a successful career working for an investment banking firm. He has done whatever it takes to get ahead in this competitive industry and has quite the reputation for success. While in his prime, Jonathan has a brain aneurysm that leaves him comatose. After he wakes up and begins the long road of recovery, Jonathan begins seeing that there may be more to life than he thought and that perhaps winning at any cost wasn't the way he wanted to do business. Jonathan finds a friend in the last person he would have expected and they journey together to help him discover what is important in life.

If I were to pick this movie up and judge it by the front cover, I probably wouldn't give it much thought. It's hard to tell what it is about or that it is anything that would interest me. I am certainly glad I gave it a chance. This is a great movie for a movie night within your small group or even just to watch at home. It is certainly family friendly, although it wouldn't appeal to young children. Eternal Salvation kept my attention throughout the entire movie and I found myself investing in these characters emotionally, caring about what happened to them. I thought the acting was good and the message was powerful. I would highly recommend this movie and its message. I am looking forward to viewing other movies from FishFlix, as they are high quality entertainment.

                                                     Christian Movies
If you are interested in Eternal Salvation, or other movies by FishFlix, I encourage you to visit their website HERE.

I received this movie at no cost in exchange for an honest review. I am not obligated to give it a positive rating, but I am highly recommending it because I enjoyed it and think you will too!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Divided House


I have received texts and Facebook messages all day asking how General Conference is going and what the mood and attitude is like out here today. I'll be honest. It's been a tough day. This morning Bishop Ough made a statement on behalf of the Council of Bishops regarding the Church's division over human sexuality. If you didn't see it, you can watch it here.

While it should have been common sense to me that the bishops don't necessarily know what to do with this nor do they agree on what should happen, it hadn't really occurred to me before. It was an unsettling revelation and I think the tension was felt throughout the convention center. A motion came to the floor requesting the Council of Bishops meet and come back to our General Conference with some sort of guidance on how we as a church proceed and work through our division. Our bishops are our spiritual leaders and to think that they don't have answers either leaves us feeling at a loss. Their advice would not be something as a body are bound to, we are earnestly seeking a way forward within the denomination.

So if I had to sum up how I feel right now it would be unsettled. I'm not sure how we as a church can find unity or come to any kind of agreement. I pray we do. I pray that our bishops will bring wise counsel in the morning and we can find a way forward through this to love one another through these differences.

During one of our breaks this afternoon I spent some time in the quiet of the prayer room, walking the labyrinth and praying at some of the other stations for the Holy Spirit to envelop this place and give peace and wisdom. My prayer is that we can see each other through the eyes of Jesus and love as he loves.

We will see what tomorrow holds. I'm nervous and unsettled tonight as I go to bed. God is here, He is with us and my prayer is that we will keep our eyes focused on Him and keep the main thing the main thing.
John Wesley said, "Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.” While this doesn't seem like a small difference, I know we serve a mighty big God. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Does It Matter?




I am serving on the General Administration Legislative Committee. A large part of what my sub-committee is dealing with is Plan UMC Revised. For those that don’t know, Plan UMC was a plan to restructure agencies within the United Methodist Church. It was adopted at the 2012 General Conference and then ruled unconstitutional afterward by the Judicial Council. When a revised plan was submitted for GC2016, the Council of Bishops asked for a declaratory ruling from the Judicial Council to determine whether or not it would be constitutional. This was to prevent the same situation as four years ago when so much time was spent on something that couldn’t be implemented.
When our sub-committee met yesterday, we moved fairly quickly to suggest adoption or rejection of petitions that were not related to Plan UMC. I was elected secretary of our sub-committee, which means that I am responsible for writing the recommendations of our sub-committee to the larger committee. Our sub-committee could take several actions: recommend approval of a petition, recommend rejection of a petition, or amend a petition and recommend approval. Once a petition goes to the larger committee, if it is approved it moves on to the entire General Conference for a vote. If the petition is rejected, it dies in committee. This are still ways it could get back to GC for a vote, but I’m not going into that here.
Today our job was a bit more tedious. We began to dig into Plan UMC Revised and its constitutionality. There are so many different opinions around the table about what needs to happen as we seek to streamline the structure of the church. It seems we have had a lot of discussion but not come to any kind of consensus or resolution. We still have some time to work on this, but it has felt like we were spinning our wheels this afternoon.
A few minutes ago we went out for a 20-minute break. While on break, I went to the prayer room to clear my head and talk to God. As I walked the prayer labyrinth, I began to pray for clarity and really ask God what He wants for His Church. These are some questions and thoughts I had:
God, You are the Creator of the Church. Does it matter to You how we structure the Church? Is what we are doing making a difference in kingdom building? How does this restructuring make disciples? God, You created us. Created us to worship You and we are called to make disciples. Agencies like the General Committee on Race and Religion and General Committee on Status and Role of Women do make a big difference to many people in the world. Because of our structure, and these agencies are a part of that, we are a connection that reaches people all over the world to further build God’s kingdom. We are called to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. A change in structure to redistribute resources is a part of being good stewards.
As I walked to the center of the labyrinth, my prayer was simply this: Jesus, be present. Jesus, be the center of all we say and do and guide our time together so that what we do matters for building your kingdom.

Many times when people hear of my involvement in the General Church or within our annual conference they say things like “That sounds boring,” or “I have no interest in getting into all of that political stuff.” For me though, it is so much more than church politics. It is about a structure that reaches around the world, providing resources and showing love to God’s people. It is about doing the most good with what God has given us and in doing so making the greatest impact. Does this committee work matter? It may not be something recognized in our local churches but I think it does matter and the impact is far reaching.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Peace When Life Gets Crazy




Y'all, sometimes the going gets tough around here. I'm not gonna lie. It's been one of those weeks. I'm trying to get ready to be gone for 2 weeks, Hubby's back is out and he is in a lot of pain, I got a call yesterday that Prince had thrown up at school and I needed to come get him and Princess is mad that she has to go to school without Prince this morning. When I opened the freezer to get ice for my water bottle an exploded glass root beer bottle that Prince forgot he put in there fell out on my foot and shattered everywhere. Oh, and my washing machine quit this morning. UGH! Did I mention I'm about to be gone for 2 weeks?! You can't make this stuff up!

Yep. It's been a challenging week. There are times when I would have crawled back into bed and just cried, feeling completely defeated. There are many times when I would have hollered and yelled at Princess to suck it up and threatened her within an inch of her life. This morning I managed to remain calm.

This morning I took deep breaths, counted to 10 and used my essential oils. I cleaned up the sticky root beer mess in the freezer and on the floor and dug the piece of glass out of my foot. Yes, Princess did go to school and no, she wasn't happy about it, but I didn't lose my cool through any of this. I would like to think that this is because I am a really awesome mom and I just decided to stop yelling one day. I would like to think that this is because I have perfected that whole self control thing and it was just that easy. I know that it's not. What I do know is that I have been spiritually armoring up for the stress that comes with leaving my kids and for a trip that will be exhausting. I have been intentional with my Bible study and my prayer time, spending time in quiet to listen for God and to allow Him to calm my spirit. I regularly invite the Holy Spirit in and ask Him to take over and make me over. The difference is my connection with Him. When I allow God to work and trust that He is going to move in and through me, I am a completely different person. It's not anything I can do in my own strength.

This isn't a post to brag that I have it all together. There are many times when I don't do this. I fail miserably and I worry and try to accomplish things in my own strength. During those times I am a stressed out, yelling, crying mama. It doesn't work out so well for me. It's really a post for me to see the difference so next time when I mess up I can remember the difference and turn things right again. It's also meant as a word of encouragement for those mamas who may be in the same boat, feeling like they just can't anymore. Yes you can! You just can't do it alone, and the good news is that you don't have to. Take a deep breath and ask God to be your strength and give you peace.

Click here to hear my favorite song at the moment...Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli.


Friday, April 29, 2016

On Taking a Sabbath Day


Sabbath, a day of rest. When I hear of other people taking a sabbath I recognize its importance and in fact, I encourage it. The last few weeks and months have been busy and even at night my dreams have been occupied with all I have coming up so I haven't really rested. Hubby and close friends have encouraged me to take some time and I always have a million excuses of why I can't. Most of those excuses have to do with my unwillingness to allow other people to step in and help. After all, I'm supposed to be Supermom, Superwife, Superpreschool director, Supereverything. Right?!

Finally, after feeling completely overwhelmed at the beginning of this week, I decided that I had to make the time to rest and take a sabbath. So on Wednesday, as part of my preparation for the upcoming General Conference, I took a sabbath day. I needed to get my head clear and my heart in sync with God. With the sunroof open and the windows down, I headed out to the beach. On my way there, I sang at the top of my lungs...some praise and worship and some oh so spiritual Jimmy Buffet and Zac Brown Band. With one hand on the wheel and the other out the window dancing in the wind, I enjoyed the ride. Isn't that what we are supposed to do in life? Enjoy the ride? Sometimes I forget that.


Playalinda Beach is a sacred place for me. I always feel closer to God with sand between my toes and the sounds of the surf. Walking over the boardwalk, that first glimpse of waves with the sun glistening on the water, I take a deep breath and smell and taste the salt. This is heaven. With only one other family on the beach, I could spread out my sheet and just be. I had invited a friend to join me and she was on her way. Until she arrived, it was just God and me. I took deep cleansing breaths and felt the stress melt away. By the time my friend got there, I was ready for fellowship. We laid there talking about life experiences...things that mattered and things that didn't. We laughed, we commiserated, we enjoyed being together. We had such a good time that we lost track of time and I almost made her late picking up her kids!

It was a good day. I came home in a very different frame of mind. I felt rested, connected and put together for the first time in a while. I don't know what took me so long to do this, but I will learn to listen to my soul the next time and make the time.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Preparing for General Conference


In a few weeks, The United Methodist Church will hold its General Conference in Portland, Oregon. General Conference convenes every 4 years and United Methodists come from all over the world to worship together, pray together and discern together the direction God would have our denomination go. That is the hope anyway, that when we come together as a body, we will listen for the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and hearts into action and polity that is of God. Changes will be made to our Book of Discipline, a book that states what we as United Methodists believe and also our Book of Resolutions. As you can imagine, this is quite a difficult task. There are many important issues we will be discussing, although the one that is getting the most press and attention is human sexuality.

This is the legislation we are reading to ahead of time!

Florida has 18 delegates going to General Conference - 9 clergy and 9 laity. I was elected as one of those delegates. Our delegation has been preparing since we were elected last June. We have met on Saturdays, learning all we can about what to expect and educating ourselves on petitions and resolutions we will vote on at GC. While GC lasts 2 weeks, the first week is spent in legislative committees, going through each petition and resolution within your committee to refine, rework and avoid duplicates. There are 12 legislative committees, I am serving on General Administration, which has to do with the structure of the Methodist Church, its boards and agencies. The second week we meet as a body, all 874 delegates to discuss and votes on the petitions that have been worked on in each committee. I have ordered "The Idiot's Guide to Roberts Rules of Order" because I found that 4 years ago when I attended as an observer I got a bit lost in the process. When there is an amendment to the amendment, but that isn't passed so you are back to the original amendment, it gets a bit confusing. Especially because it moves quickly and in layers.

A week ago Sunday our Bishop visited our local church to preach. When it came time for the Children's Message Pastor Charlie talked to the children about laying on of hands and why people do this. He asked if they would like to learn how to lay hands on people and pray for them. Bishop Carter and I were invited to come and kneel at the rail and the children (and a few adults) laid hands on us as the church prayed for us. When Charlie first told me he was going to do this I loved the idea of involving the children in such a way. It's one of the things I really love about our church. I wasn't prepared for how meaningful this would be as it played out. As I knelt at the rail with all of these little hands on me, some who were rubbing my arm. At one point I looked up and there were these two little eyes looking right into mine and the innocent smile of a 3 year old who may not have fully understood the importance of that in which she was taking part, but she is learning and will continue to learn and grow in this intergenerational body of Christ. It was a sweet moment and I'm finding it hard to describe in words how it felt, but my heart was warmed and I found such meaning in this act of prayer.



Last Thursday night we gathered as a church for a prayer service for General Conference. We prayed for GC as a whole and for the work to be done there and we prayed for each delegate from Florida by name. Pastor Charlie read several passages of Scripture, we sang hymns and he gave us a word, which was actually more of a conversation. We talked about the mystery of our Unity in Christ and how the light that He brings in the world means that he has already won the victory over death, no matter what happens in Portland. It was an uplifting service and I felt encouraged and supported by the prayers that were lifted up.

I have received cards and letters in the mail from people I don't know who have let me know they are praying for me and for all who are going to General Conference. If you think your prayers don't matter, they do and it is really special when someone lets you know they are praying for you specifically.

I covet your prayers as I prepare to go to Oregon. It is exhausting, as we are in meetings from early in the morning until very late at night, but there are times especially during worship that are quite powerful. Worshiping with people from all over the world, knowing that the business that occurs there has an impact on Christ’s Church and setting the vision of where the Church will go during the next four years gives what we do purpose. Please pray for our time in Portland, that it is fruitful and for a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to descend upon the Conference. Also, please pray for my family, as they will be home without me for two weeks.
          If you would like to follow along with what is going on during General Conference, there are two ways to do this. One, follow my blog. I will be blogging as I can about what is happening. Also, you can visit the General Conference website at http://www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2016 for more information about legislation that will be discussed and voted on. The plenary sessions and worship will be live streamed and you can find the information about that either on the GC site or I will post links on my blog.

          Thank you for your support, prayers and words of encouragement as I go to Portland. I hope to represent you well and carry you all in my heart as I go.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Preemie Mamas, You Aren't Alone

This morning on Facebook I came across an article called
When Birthdays bring Fear: Birth Trauma and PTSD. I shared this article on my feed because lately there have been several women in my life who have shared with me that they too, relate to this experience. For the longest time I thought it was just me and I felt very alone in this. After reading the article and hearing feedback from friends who also identify with it, I have decided to share a journal entry I wrote last summer, right before the twins' birthday. I share this in hopes that others will realize they aren't alone, that this is a real thing and it's not something silly you can just "get over."




Saturday, July 11, 2015

On Tuesday our sweet miracle babies will be 11 years old. I don’t know where the time has gone. As the day approaches each year I have so many mixed emotions. Of course I am looking forward to celebrating the lives of these two incredible little people. They are indeed miracles and have grown from the tiny 3 pounders that seemed so fragile into smart, strong, fun people that I truly enjoy being around. I am so privileged that God chose me to be their mommy. Every year Wes and I give them a huge birthday extravaganza. This year they don’t want that. They want a simple party at home with family. That’s it.
The other part of their birthday isn’t something I like to talk about a lot. The circumstances surrounding their birth were traumatic  for Wes and me. Let’s be honest…the big birthday celebration is more for us than it is for them. It’s a distraction from all of the grief and sad memories associated with the trauma of their birth. I thought that through the years the flashbacks, anxiety and nightmares would go away. It’s been 11 years and they haven’t. What I have learned is that I have PTSD. It has taken me a while to come to terms with this, to admit it to myself and it is extremely difficult for me to tell other people about it. I’m not sure why I find it so difficult to talk about. Perhaps I feel like using a term like PTSD makes me sound overly dramatic or perhaps because it feels like there is something wrong with me…like I’m damaged. What I have come to understand is that their birth was traumatic. I almost died, they could have died, and the weeks and months after they were born we were literally fighting for our lives. This isn’t something I can just “get over.” Well-meaning people have said to me, “But everyone is alright now. You are all 3 healthy and you should think about how incredibly blessed you are and how good God is.” Yes, perhaps I should concentrate on the goodness of God and how He blessed our family. In fact, I do thank Him every single day for how He has worked in our lives and for the privilege of raising Sarah Grace and Jonah.
 Here’s the thing I didn’t understand until recently...PTSD is the result of trauma and we have wounds that haven’t healed. So often I think of PTSD as associated with soldiers coming back from battle, but we did fight a very real battle. A life and death battle. I don’t always know what is going to trigger a flashback. I can be walking along minding my own business and happy as I can be and then suddenly I smell something that takes me back to the hospital and I am there all over again, reliving the trauma all over again. Sometimes it is the sight of adorable baby shoes, a maternity top on a mannequin in a store, it comes right up and punches me in the gut and I’m stunned, trying to recover. It’s a dark place to go and I don’t want to be there, but I can’t always avoid those sights, sounds, smells, memories because I don’t always know what is going to be a trigger. Yesterday I was home minding my own business when I started smelling this smell like the NICU. I hadn’t been anywhere near a hospital and I wasn’t cleaning with chemicals so I’m not sure where it came from, but I had to light a candle to try to smell something different so that I wouldn’t go into a full on flashback. I am learning strategies to deal with this and sometimes I can keep myself in the present.
I hope that someday I can look at their baby pictures and not feel panic as fresh as if it had just happened. I hope that someday I can eat at Chick-fil-a and not feel nauseous as I remember that I ate at the one in the lobby of the hospital almost every day when they were in the NICU. I hope that someday I can complete their baby books and photo albums and not have a panic attack just from looking at ultrasound and baby pictures. I do have a lot of mommy guilt that these kids don’t have completed baby books. I have faith that someday all of these things will happen. I am not there YET, but someday I will be.
These are the things I know to be true:
  1.             I can’t do this alone. The Holy Spirit will empower me, strengthen me, walk this out with me every step of the way and on the days that I can’t walk on my own, He will uphold me.
  2.     .       I need my network of family and friends to support me. They may not understand completely and that’s ok. I just need to know they will be there for me, hold me and encourage me on the days when I feel stuck.
  3.     .      My children don’t remember any of the trauma surrounding their birth and I thank God for that. They aren’t affected by these circumstances except for what they have been told. They know that they were born early and were fragile and we were very afraid. They know they are miracles and that we are so thankful God gave them to us. They know they were very sick and God grew them up to be strong, smart, big kids. They know they are loved – by us and most especially by God and that He has a purpose for their lives.
  4.             Healing for me isn’t going to come overnight. I am making progress and some days are better than others. I am learning to put our time in the NICU into perspective. My week in ICU and their month in the NICU were certainly scary and traumatic – HOWEVER – it’s really only a one month period of time in the span of 11 years. Yes, there were other scary times and health challenges I faced, but in terms of the birth of the babies, we are talking about one month and then a couple of months that followed as Wes and I were scared that something would happen after we brought them home. Anyway, that’s a whole lot of good days compared to the 30+ really scary ones.
  5.             I am not alone in how I feel. For one thing, my very best friend, partner, advocate and true love lived this with me. We have both been changed by this experience. You know that talk you have with your spouse where you say “If anything happens to me I want for you to get married again?” Yeah, that one. We had that talk right after they told me my body was shutting down and they weren’t sure they could fix me - just before they wheeled me to ICU. If I close my eyes, I can instantly be transported back to that room, him holding my hands and sitting on the edge of my bed. I meant every word of it. My point is, you don’t go through something like this and not come out changed. We grew closer to God and each other in those moments and learned not to take one moment for granted. In some ways I think Wes had it worse than me because there were points in time that I was so sick that I didn’t realize how bad things were. It was during those days that he held it together for both of us, driving back and forth between Americus and Columbus to make sure the babies and I were looked after.
  6.             I am much stronger today because of what I have been through. I had lived with such fear my entire life. I was afraid to die. In those moments in my hospital room, when the doctors told me that they weren’t sure of anything but that there was a chance I could die, I wasn’t afraid. The one time I should have been afraid, I knew I was safe in Jesus and either he would heal me or he would take me to live with him. Either way, it was all going to be OK.
  7.             God uses every experience for His glory. I know that all things work together for good for them that love God who are called according to His purpose. Some days I can’t see what that good is, but I do trust that God knows and He wastes nothing.
  8.             My thoughts and plans are not His thoughts and plans. I am coming to terms with this and I know that not only do I not get to choose Plans A, B, C…I don’t even get to know what those plans are until God is ready to reveal it to me and chances are, He isn’t going to show me the plan anyway. I only get to see the next step, then the next, then the next. I am becoming OK with this although the control freak in me still freaks out a little bit with fear of the unknown.


I guess that’s all for now. I could go on and on about what I have learned and what I know to be true. I just needed to get some of these thoughts out of my head and into some sort of journal so I can process them…or maybe not. Maybe I just need them out of my head and to leave them alone without processing them. I just need for them not to be so much at the forefront of my mind. The counselor is helping me to see that I have unrealistic expectations of myself when it comes to healing from all of this. I spent years thinking that if I relived it enough I would be desensitized to it and it would go away. Instead, I sunk deeper and deeper into a dark place that I didn’t know how to get out of. It’s going to take some time to figure out how to deal with this and what to do with all of it. In some ways, that dark place is comfortable because I know what that feels like. I no longer remember my life before that. It will happen though, and those moments of grief will be like one snapshot in an entire book of photographs. I am clinging to that hope and praying that it happens sooner rather than later.