December 14, 2011

My Christmas post :)

In historic St Charles with my beautiful mom.
Merry Christmas! How on earth did it get here so fast? I wanted to blog a post at this most important time of year so here it is, such as it is. (But don't get too excited :/).

Well its two weeks until Christmas and the annual eleventh hour panic is beginning to set in. Last year I had nearly everything purchased by Black Friday but a November grandbaby kind of distracted me this year. ;) Don’t think I’m complaining though. I’ll take having our lives completely turned upside down and eternally enriched over proficiency and organization any day. He grows more dear and beautiful every day and we are falling deeper in love with him. I love how his smell lingers on my clothes after I’ve held him. Makes me not want to throw them in the washer (I do though in case any of you are worried :). I love the expressions and movements he makes. These things were once such a huge part of my life when I had newborns but I didn’t even realize how much I’d forgotten until it all came back with my grandbaby. The other day I found an article my Dad had written when Haley was born called “Bear with me, I’m a first-time grandfather”. I now know exactly how he felt. So bear with me when I gush about my grandbaby. He is just so wonderful and amazing!!! I can’t help myself.
This is our first Christmas in our new house, in our new state, in our new church. So far I’m having a blast. The crisp, cold weather, the family close by, the novelty of decorating a new house…it’s all combined to give me the Christmas cheer in a concentrated dose.

Now let me tell you about another new thing we got to be a part of here. Each Christmas our new church, Faith Chapel does something called the Advent Conspiracy. The concept behind it is to substitute our culture’s consumption with Christ’s compassion. Where instead of being swept up with the commercialism of Christmas, we make a choice to spend less and to give more. The cause our church chose this year to give to was Samuel’s House. Samuel’s House is a ministry that rescues abandoned children in Caracas Venezuela. They have eight homes with house parents for these children. Last year at Christmas, the generosity of Faith Chapel helped to build one of these homes. This year, Faith Chapel’s Advent Conspiracy project was to give each of the children of Samuel’s House a great Christmas. Families and individuals sponsored each of the 38 children housed there. We were given their sizes, hobbies and interests. Every child at Samuel's House was sponsored by someone in our church. We were so blessed to be here this year to participate. And on Christmas morning this year, each of these precious children will open up brand new presents picked out just for them for the first time ever. A lot of these children were rescued from the streets and the garbage dumps of Caracas. Many have never had anything new before. What blessing to be a part of a church that prioritizes the Kingdom during this materialistic season that is really supposed to be all about Jesus. I’m so thankful to have been a part it. It made Christmas seem like Christmas this year for the first time in a long time. If anyone is looking for a good cause to give to this year, Samuel’s House is a great ministry that is really doing the work of Jesus here on this earth. Check it out by going to and clicking the “Giving” link.

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Four Generations
Also this month, my Mom came the week before Thanksgiving to stay with us for three weeks and she just left today.  We all miss her. I declare we gained 5 to 10 pounds having her here. What’s with Mommas wanting to feed you all the time? But trust me, none of us complained about this. We just shoveled it in and kept going back for more. It was fun showing her around and showing her off. She really was able to relax and just enjoy being here at home and worshipping with us at church. Watching her see her great-grandson for the first time and seeing all four generations together just made me step back amazed with gratitude at the goodness of God. The Lord has done so much in our family. The righteous sowing of prayer , worship and repentance has led to a harvest of blessing. He delights in blessing the generations when we obey. When tempted to sin, if nothing else will get my attention, when I think of how sin opens a door that will affect the generations after me, I am stopped in my tracks.

Oh did I mention that my Mom taught my husband to make her famous pralines and fudge? I’m afraid we’ve created a monster. We shall be fat I’m afraid. But although we’ve moved North we are still cooking like Southern folks. Tonight Keith whipped up a Sauce Piquante that would make you want to slap your Grandmaw. Just this month we have had Seafood Gumbo, Shrimp and Corn Bisque, fried chicken, fried okra and hot water bread, plus the best pecan pie on earth and of course the ever present pralines and fudge… I think my husband missed his calling. He so could be a chef or at least a Cajun caterer. There just might be a market for that up here in the Midwest.  We just love food way too much. And like my dad used to do, Keith photographs his food. So I will add a tantalizing photo for your viewing pleasure and you can have pity and not judge me when I have to buy new jeans.

Well unfortunately I haven’t totally avoided the seduction of materialism and commercialism this year.  Again I've spent way too much and (as mentioned above) have eaten way too much. How sad but prevalent it is to forget to invite Jesus to His own birthday celebration. But thankfully some Venezuelan orphans and a sweet grandbaby have helped to refocus me on Jesus. I told Haley one day when Gabe was still in the NICU… just think how careful they are with sanitation and how worried they are about viruses and germs yet Jesus was born in a barn. I think we glamorize it a bit. My manger scene on my bookshelf looks quite inviting and sterile but in reality our God left the glories of heaven to come to this earth clothed in human skin as a tiny baby boy and born in a dirty, stinky barn. He was born helpless, dependent, vulnerable.  Its quite amazing when you just sit and think about it. How He loved us to do this. But despite this reality, for many, Christmas is a sad time, a time of stress and anxiety and loneliness. The enemy can’t change what Jesus did by coming here to earth, being born to die for our sins, but he can try to corrupt our celebration of it by making it into something ugly. He always comes to steal, kill and destroy. He steals the focus from Jesus. He kills joy causing depression and suicide to become rampant during the holidays. He destroys finances through gross materialism and over spending.  But everything he destroys, he does with our help. Our pastor’s wife Beth Riley said it best. She said, “Satan’s agenda hides in the disobedience of God’s children.” Ouch. But its true. We have a choice. When we “Submit to God and resist the devil, he WILL flee.” Without our cooperation, he doesn’t have a whole lot of ammunition to use against us. I've definitely given him plenty throughout the years with being caught up in the worry, strife, stress and materialism during what should be a simple joyous celebration of my Savior's birth.

But its not too late to stop and refocus. It's never too late for Jesus. Let us determine with what is left of this holiday season to not get caught up in the world's shallow, corrupted Christmas. Instead of focusing on the procurement of the latest must-have gizmo or gadget (which will probably be obsolete by the end of next year) may we primarily pursue and invest in the eternal One we are supposed to be celebrating-- Jesus. The Lord once spoke to my heart in the midst of a financial struggle to stop grieving over finances and possessions because these things are temporary but relationships are what is eternal. Only our investments in a relationship with Him and with others will endure and bear fruit in eternity.

I pray that in the midst of the chaos, the noise and the clutter of what has become the Christmas season that He would be found  as we seek Him above all else. May the peace and presence of Jesus invade our homes this year and transform our lives. Merry Christmas guys and God bless you, every one!

November 29, 2011

Beyond the Walls

I was looking back through this blog at some very old posts and I found this one that I had forgotten I had written. It really jumped out at me as something I needed to share again. So I am resposting it in part. Here it is... :)

God is purifying me! And wow am I seeing lots of dross! Too much it seems sometimes. At times I want to say, “Stop! That’s enough! Don’t show me anything else!” But thankfully, HE knows when to stop! Praise Him for that!  I’ve definitely seen some walls coming down in my life. Okay, maybe not all of the way down… I’m not sure the state of the walls… but I DO know that some mighty big cracks are showing. You’d think that would make for an exciting, joy-filled time, wouldn’t you? Ha! As walls come down, they EXPOSE what’s behind them! When Jericho’s walls came down, the Israelites didn’t just throw a party because the walls were down and then that was it. They had to go in and continue the conquest of Jericho. They had to put to death the inhabitants of the city. The Lord showed me this but I wondered how to fight, and Pastor shared the answer the next Sunday- We don’t battle with natural weapons, we put those things to death through the cross--through dying.  The walls ARE coming down (hallelujah), but I’m seeing ugly things behind those walls. Things in me that need to die! And they’re not dying easily… Some of them are fighting to live on! But I am determined! I will not go round this mountain again. I will not jump off this altar again. Jumping off may give me a temporary reprieve, but rest assured- I'll be back at this same place one day again if I do not remain and let God finish what He's begun.

I believe there is an anointing, RIGHT NOW, for breakthrough- to deal with deep-seated strongholds we’ve dealt with for years. Strongholds we’ve become so familiar and comfortable with that we’ve ceased to even fight them. Yes, we hate them, but it’s easier to live with them in the land than to fight them and put them to death. I’m reminded of so many of Israel’s kings who may have been good and who destroyed the idols of the land, but who left the high places… or left some of the inhabitants in the land and didn’t deal with them. And those inhabitants are still a thorn in Israel’s side to this day. The descendants of the children of Israel are today, battling those same enemies who were not dealt with back then. If I continue to leave the high places in my heart and life, if I continue to leave certain strongholds and open doors to the enemy- am I not hurting more than just myself? Am I also leaving that door open to my children? My grandchildren? My great-grandchildren? This go-'round, I feel a determination in my heart that I’ve never felt before when I’ve faced familiar strongholds once again- This time I will not stop fighting and dying until the walls are down and Jericho is conquered. This is the last time I will face this. Because I am going to not only face it, but conquer it in Jesus name! If I won’t do it for me, then I’ll do it for my children; for my generations. As I said before- there is an anointing for breakthrough right now! And it’s not just for me. It’s for everyone. Perazim- breakthrough! Yet we have a choice. Will we respond to Him in this season? Or will we jump and run before He’s done? Lord, help us to remain in the flame! (That sounds like a song! :^).  So if I've seemed not myself lately, just know, I am in the fire. It hurts and it isn’t fun. But I have hope in my heart that after the breakthrough, there will be more of Him! What more could I ask!? HE’s gonna be worth it all!

"Purify our hearts
Cleanse us from our sin
Open up the doors
And let the King of Glory in"

November 17, 2011

Gabriel's birth

Isn't he just beautiful? :)
As promised here are the details of little Gabe's birth... but rather than me telling it, I will instead give you his mom's perspective. Here's a  beautifully written post my daughter Haley posted on her blog at I have been so impressed by the maturity, the faithfulness and selflessness my daughter and son-in-law have displayed throughout this long week. They have stood together in unity as they've tirelessly put their baby's needs before their own. Needless to say, little Gabriel is very loved. Anyway, here's the story, in Haley's words:

 I would like to officially announce and update you on the birth of my sweet little boy. Gabriel (God is my strength) Michael (Who is like God?) born November 11, 2011. (11/11/11!) He weighs 8 lb and 7 oz and is 23 inches long. He is definitely the cutest thing I have ever seen, with dark blue eyes and good bit of dark brown hair. He is so handsome!

Labor was long, 24 hours, but it was also the most amazing experience. I felt God's hand on Josh and I through the entire progress. I know there were a lot of people lifting us up in prayer and I could feel the covering of the Lord. Like most things in life, things never go quite you like you plan. I've been thinking and dreaming about those first few moments and days with my son for 9 months. It didn't quite go like I had planned. Here's an update on the events of our lives over the last few days...

Gabe: Upon arrival, Gabe was having some trouble breathing. At first it was no big deal, seemed to be pretty standard for him to have trouble catching his breath. After several minutes of labored breathing they called the house pediatrician to take a look at him. She wasn't initially concerned, but after awhile of the same labored breathing she ordered X-rays of his chest. X-rays revealed what is called a Spontaneous Pneumo thorax ( a pocket of air between the lung and membrane wall) or collapsed lung. Gabe had two. Apparently this occurs in 2-5% of babies and usually corrects itself with no therapy. She consulted with a Dr at St. Louis Children's Hospital and was advised to send him to the NICU there. One of the pockets of air in Gabes lung was large enough they used a small needle to remove the air to prevent it from expanding and causing any pressure. After running some more test they also discovered that his white blood cell count was high. Over the next few days, all of Gabes X-rays and test came back great. Due to the initial results of the blood test though they have decided to keep him at Children's until Thursday. They want him to finish up his antibiotics just to make sure he doesn't end up back at the hospital. I absolutely appreciate the caution of the Doctors and as a parent definetly want to use wisdom...but I do know that Jesus healed my little boy. It's just kinda hard to explain that to a doctor.
In Daddy's arms

Josh: Is amazing! I didn't think it was to fall deeper in love with my high school sweetheart..but I did this weekend. He was so incredibly supportive. He never left my side through the whole long process. He must have told me how awesome I was doing 25,000 times. And even though I didn't always feel so awesome, having him believing in me and cheering me on made all the difference. Seriously, the guy that can still call you princess and beautiful when your in the worst pain of your life, throwing up, and experiencing all the other glamorous aspect of labor is...a liar, and totally worth marrying and keeping forever. :) I got to meet a new side of Josh this week, the part of him that is now a Daddy. When they took Gabe from me, to a hospital almost an hour away, I was beyond devastated. I had such reassurance in knowing that Gabe went with the presence of God and with his Daddy riding right beside him in the back of the ambulance. Josh was going on 72 hours with 5 hours of sleep, but he never left Gabe. Going through things like this as a couple will either make you or break you. I am so thankful that Josh and I both carry the presence of Jesus Christ, and in moments like these I just grow in love and respect for the man of God that he is. And oh my goodness! Is there anything cuter than a man and a baby? Josh is so smitten its not even funny. I love to watch him fall in love with that smooshy little baby. 
Mom and Gabe making eyes at each other

Me: Well...needless to say the last several days have been emotional. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would spend the first day of my baby's life almost an hour away from him. I was seriously devastated. I knew Gabe would be ok. I kept saying, "I know my God, and I know he is a healer." The real struggle was just not getting to connect with my son. I got to hold him for about 15 min before he left. which I was very thankful for...but of course it was not nearly enough. So since my arrival at Children's Saturday afternoon, Gabe has hardly been put down. I don't think you can spoil anyone with we seize every cuddling opportunity possible. He is just so good at snuggling...oh I could just eat him!! I just love being the momma of Gabriel. Words just can't express how in love I am with this beautiful, sweet, screaming, bright eyed, squishy boy. I speed shower and rush through eating so I can get back to him. As hard as this week has been...probably the hardest I've ever had to go through...I know God is our author and finisher, and he is so faithful. Without realizing what i was singing, i realized this morning I was singing the line, "You are faithful, from generation to generation.." God has never failed us and he continues by showing such faithfulness to Gabriel. Josh and I had the opportunity today to pray with three people who had babies in the NICU. One has been here for over 7 months. I know so many of you have been keeping Gabe in your prayers this week. Words can't express our gratitude. We've been so blessed by all the text, messages, and comments we've received. As you pray for my baby, would you please also take the time to lift up little Christian, Josiah, and Mitchell...all three little boys who have been here entirely too long and need a touch from Jesus. The NICU is such a sad place to be. Thankfully the presence of God goes with us even into the most dismal places. I pray that if for no other reason God used us here this week to show love to a hurting heart. What an honor it is to be chosen and used by God in those moments. So we count it all joy :)

Baby Gabey

November 15, 2011

Indescribable Love

Me and my grandson. So in love...
When I first found out, I was concerned about what I'd be called. People tried to tell me it wouldn't matter when the time came and I don't know if I quite knew what they meant... But now I do.

Gabriel Michael Ortego has made me a grandmother. He was born this past Friday night. Yes on 11/11/11 at 3:01 am weighing 8 lbs 7 oz and 23 inches long.

I guess he'll call me Mimi. But he can call me whatever he wants because I love him. I just want to get this down and out there while the emotions are high but although he isn't even a week old and I've only held him once, I love that baby more than life itself. I would lay down my life for him, no questions asked. Gabriel cannot yet speak, show me love, do anything for me. Heck, he can't do anything much at all right now but eat and cry and make dirty diapers. He's totally helpless and dependent. So why do I love him so much already? How can this be? Just because. He's my grandson. Just like I love his beautiful mother and each of my children. Just because. They are mine. And just like that, I begin to sort of understand Jesus' unexplainable love for us. He loves us... just because. He did give His life for us and He longs every day to be with us. He doesn't 'need' us and we can't really do one thing of ourselves to even come before Him... But He paid the highest price, because we were priceless to Him. He made a way because He loves us. I think I am kind of getting it now.

We love Gabe. The love on Haley and Josh's faces for their baby is just beyond beautiful to me. I love watching them with him almost as much as I love to watch him. Its like a whole new layer has been pulled back off of my heart and I feel love at a new, raw, holy level.  He's absolutely priceless to his parents and to each of us who are blessed to be a part of his family. Our lives have each been forever changed by this tiny little soul that my beautiful daughter and son-in-law blessed the world with.

There's much more that I haven't found expression for and more details about his birth which I promise will come at a later date. But right now I am almost speechless. Hard to fathom I know :). And if you haven't been there yet, I'll tell you like they told day you will understand. But you probably won't be able to explain the emotions any better than I just have :). It's indescribable.

So here's some pictures of our precious  baby boy. You gotta admit... he's pretty dang cute! :D
Gabe and Mommy

I will still and quiet my soul like a well fed child with his mother.

Bright eyes

October 12, 2011


"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Psalm 82:3-4

Gabriel Micheal is already standing for LIFE before he's even born. My daughter Haley posted the picture of his sonogram on her facebook page and his photo was picked up by Bound For Life Orlando and posted on their facebook page with this caption: "Actual picture from the womb! I think we all can agree - that IT IS a baby!".  Haley said it was her first 'proud mommy' moment. Since she's known she was pregnant, Haley and her husband Josh have prayed that Gabe would stand for justice and be a voice to the nations. He's been prophesied as a Daniel or Joseph, having great influence at a young age. And already his voice is being heard.

Its hard to believe this picture isn't a photograph of a sleeping baby but rather is a sonogram of a 36-week old 'fetus'. I think of those who would say that this isn't a true Life. I don't know how they could look at Gabriel's picture and say that. Just look at that face... Snuggled up, safe and secure with his mommy, in the womb. The picture reminds me of this Psalm.131:2 "But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a well-fed child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me." And the love Haley feels for Gabe is like the love of mothers down through the years. It's a God-given love that is at our very core. God understood it when he spoke in Isaiah 49:15 saying,“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!

There should be no safer place for a child, than with it's mother. Even the animal kingdom knows this. Just try crossing a bear or lioness with their cubs and you will find out how fiercely and violently they will defend their young. Yet as most of the Church remains silent, every day millions of women selfishly choose to end the life of their unborn babies as a form of birth control. This behavior goes against the most basic of natural instincts...Yet it happens every day as the world applauds our right to choose and the judges of the land uphold our 'choice' as reasonable...

But the Word of God says:

"God presides over heaven's court. He pronounces judgment on the judges. 'How long will you judges hand down unjust decisions? How long will you shower special favors on the wicked? Give fair judgment to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and the helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people. But the oppressors know nothing; they are so ignorant! And because they are in darkness, the whole world is shaken to the core'... Rise up, O God and judge the earth, for all the nations belong to You." Ps 82:1-8.

There is a day of reckoning coming to our nation and to mankind. God WILL make wrong things right, but until then, who will stand up for the voiceless? Who will rescue the poor and helpless? Who will give justice to the widow and the orphan?

Let it begin with you and I. We really can make an impact. I saw this article posted by one of my facebook friends about a young lady who overheard a converation while getting her hair cut and her obedience to speak about LIFE, saved a life.

Our sweet Gabriel is loved and cherished and wanted. He's been blessed to be born into a family who already values and loves him. But sadly so many babies as precious and full of potential as our little Gabe won't get the chance to live and fulfill their potential. Trust me, I understand how people make mistakes and I do get how overwhelming it must be for young mothers in difficult circumstances to think of being responsible for a child. But death is never the answer. There really ARE other options out there. Adoption is dear to God's heart. It is at the very core of the gospel message.

"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15

 If you or someone you know is thinking of getting an abortion, please contact or a similar life organization that will help you. There are so many families, deeply desiring to adopt, many with a burden for special-needs babies. Just through facebook alone I personally know of several ministries that serve through placing babies in loving homes. Please let me or someone else know if you need the name of these organizations.

Every single life is valuable to God. Your life is very valuable to Him. He took what we deserved- death and hell and instead gave us what He, the sinless Son of God deserved- life and heaven. He did it because He loves us. He loves YOU. You are as cherished to Him as our little Gabe is to us. Choose Jesus and you choose LIFE.

And Church, let's let our voice be heard. Even the most simple encounter could mean the difference between life and death. We must realize how dear this is to our Father's heart. Even Dr Seuss said in Horton Hears a Who, "A person's a person, no matter how small". And I know Gabe agrees. His little voice is already being heard loud and clear :).


Psalm 139
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!...

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

September 20, 2011


Gulf Shores Family Vacation August 2011
(Keith, me, Hannah, Max, Joseph, Josh and Haley)

Jer. 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I’ve realized that I process things very slowly, usually after the fact. I’ve also realized that I am not a multi-tasker. So when life gets crazy busy, I just cope as best as I can in the moment and process it all later. Well, since my last post, lots has happened. Lots and lots. And now that I’m on the other side of it and have somewhat processed it, I can hopefully give a decent account of the past few months of blogosphere silence.

This will be a long blog post. I apologize in advance.

In a nutshell, we are now officially Missouri residents. Finally. If it’d been up to us we would have been about three or four years ago. But God has His own timetable. And for good reason.

Before I go any further, let me tell you something. If you feel God is being unfair in making you wait, for not giving you what you long for… trust me… He really does know what He’s doing. And we really don't. You know what? When people have said to me: “Hang on. God’s timing is perfect”. I admit sometimes I really just wanted to slap them. Its one of those phrases that is overused and depending on your experience can seem very ‘pat’.… But can I tell you something? It. Is. True.

Okay, moving right along.....

About five years ago we started venturing north. The first time I went to the International House Of Prayer's Onething conference with my best friend Stacey Neely and my (then) teenagers Haley and Max, I felt I was among kindred spirits. Their 24/7 prayer model of non-stop worship and intercession totally resonated with my spirit. It completely changed my life and my worship. Like me, Max too was impacted. We then began an annual trek to the conference, with us eventually dragging the entire family along with us. Then my friend Stacey and her family felt called to move there. When Max also was eventually called there, I naturally assumed we’d not be far behind him and the Neelys.

Soon after our first visit to Kansas City, I visited St Louis with my worship team to make a CD with Kent Henry. Then that spring we came as a family for my soon to be son-in-law Josh’s graduation from ministry school. I remember REALLY feeling at home there and the thought briefly crossed our minds that perhaps we might ought to consider moving there instead of Kansas City.  But life got busy, we had a wedding to plan and kids to raise and time just ticked by… but that pull north just didn’t go away. After their wedding Haley and Josh moved to O'Fallon, Missouri, where Josh became worship pastor at Faith Chapel. (O'Fallon is just northwest of St. Louis).

As time went on the stirring grew stronger and Keith and I knew that our time in Baton Rouge was drawing to a close. However, practically speaking, we couldn’t begin to figure out how God was going to do it. We prayed and thought and talked and prayed some more. Finally we got a definite green-light from the Lord and after some time-consuming updates, we triumphantly put our house on the market July of 2010.

When we would tell people we were leaving our lovely home and Keith’s steady income and just moving to Missouri, they’d usually ask us, “Does Keith have a job?” which would lead to our passionate explanation about how we didn’t know how it was all going to work out but we KNEW the Lord was leading us there. The responses we got ranged from encouraging nods to undisguised skepticism. But still we waited and believed, and waited some more.

A whole year we waited. But during that time the Lord tweaked our ‘plan’ and tweaked on us as well. We realized that although we had initially thought Kansas City was where He was sending us, it soon became crystal clear that it was the St. Louis area. I guess at least we’d had the state right. The Lord also graciously moved Max from Kansas City to St Louis  (O'Fallon actually) as a worship intern at Faith Chapel, several months ahead of us. Plus after we'd started this whole process of putting our house on the market and attempting to move north, we found out in March that Haley and Josh were going to make us grandparents in November. Although both of our adult children were now in the St Louis area,  I honestly think that we’d have wanted to move there even if they weren’t there. Faith Chapel of O’Fallon was where the Lord wanted us. This Presence-seeking church felt like home the first time we went there. Things were happening there and we wanted to be a part of it. And having all of the family together, plus a new grandbaby was definitely icing on the cake!

Now I tend to be a worrier and planner by nature. So the fact that all along I’d had a peace about moving without Keith having a job there or us having a house was proof enough to me that it was God. But as time went on, I’d find myself lying in bed at night trying to figure out how it was going to work out. “Would Keith wait and put in his two weeks notice at work when we got an offer on the house or would we wait until we were 100% sure and the buyers had signed on the dotted line? If so, where would we stay those two weeks? What about the dogs? Speaking of the dogs, how would we rent with the dogs? Heck, for that matter, how would we even rent at all without a job!” Whenever or however, we’d hoped to make enough on the house to live on and then during that time Keith would job hunt. We’d stay in Haley’s basement with the dogs until the said job and rent house was secured. Not the greatest plan but it was the best one we could come up with.

But still, the house didn’t sell. Almost an entire year went by…. We had plenty of traffic through it but nobody was interested in buying. We lowered the price three times, we advertised in different places, we planted more flowers, we added ‘or best offer’ to the ad. We got to the point where money wasn’t even important any more. We knew the Lord wanted us to go so we had to believe that if He was guiding us there that He would take care of our finances. We wanted to just drop everything and go but we needed Keith’s job to pay our bills until we sold the house which would get us out of debt so we could survive until he got another job… Yet we remained convinced God was leading us… So we continued to wait. But we just couldn’t understand why if the Lord wanted us there, He wouldn’t allow our house to sell so we could just go.

Then one day after he’d gotten home from work Keith called me into the bedroom to talk to me. He told me that he’d just been told that day that his company was closing down their Baton Rouge office and that he along with most everyone else was going to be laid off. The office would officially close its doors at the end of June and he was being asked to work from home until the end of July 2011 and then after that would receive a severance pay for several months. Hmmm….

It wasn't long after this that Keith confidently proclaimed… “We are going to sell our house in June”. It was the first declaration my prophetic husband had made all year concerning the selling of our house. But I wasn’t so sure…

Then one day about a month later, we got a call that a young couple wanted to look at our house. By this time, we didn’t get too terribly excited with these calls because we'd been disappointed so many times, but as usual we went through the cleaning routine then once again I loaded up the dogs and took them for a drive while Keith showed the house. We didn’t hear back anything and since we were heading to St Louis that weekend for a quick trip, we didn’t think much about it. After driving for ten hours, the very second that we crossed the city limits of O’Fallon, Missouri, Keith’s phone rang. It was the young couple’s realtor. They wanted to put an offer on our house. After some negotiating, some drama with the inspection and several major concessions on our part, we settled it all on the last day of June. There's another traumatic side-story involving the actual selling of the house and some things the Lord taught us but I'll save that for another day...But after frantic packing, throwing out, giving away and loading up (on what I think was the hottest day of the year), we finally closed on the house July 8th at around 1:30 pm. We didn't waste a moment. After leaving the lawyers office, we then immediately loaded up our children and dogs, cranked up the UHaul truck that was also pulling another trailer stuffed with our possessions, and caravanned non-stop to St Louis. We got here at 4 am.

Now lest you think I am finished. Just hang on. It was obvious to us that the Lord had blessed us by delaying us because had we sold the house when we wanted to, Keith would had given his two weeks notice, we’d have left with no money coming in and that would be that. Its what we expected to happen and we were okay with it. But the Lord had us wait, so that Keith would get laid off and still get paid for several more months while he looked for a job. Since he was still working from home when we moved, we were able to get into a nice rent house that let us have our dogs (which had seemed like a huge obstacle in my mind but wasn’t at all!).

Also, several months back, not knowing when (or even if) we’d be moving we’d planned to go to Gulf Shores with the entire family. We’d not been on a family vacation since Josh had joined our family and it’d been three years since we’d been on one with Haley. Plus with her being pregnant she really wanted to go to the beach one more time before the baby arrived… so our beach vacation was planned for August 15th. Well, as God and His perfect timing would have it, his job asked him to stay on two more weeks past the original end of July. His last day? August 15th. We had a blast at the beach, then returned to our new home all together and then settled in and Keith began searching for a job. There wasn’t a huge rush but he definitely wanted to start work as soon as possible and not wait until his severance ran out. Then one days soon after we returned he gets a phone call from the company he had worked for in Baton Rouge. They wanted to know- would he be willing to continue to work for them? From home? With a raise?

I am sure that you can imagine what our answer was….

Now I admit I’ve felt somewhat hesitant to tell this testimony. Mainly because I know that there are so many people hurting, waiting, wondering, struggling, needing and these thoughts might be passing through their heads “Wow, look at how the Lord is blessing them so much. I’m so happy for them but…..what’s wrong with me? Why isn’t God blessing me like that? Did I do something wrong? They must be highly favored and I am not.” How do I know that is what some may be thinking? Because for several years, that was me. I would be genuinely happy when the Lord blessed others, but I admit, I also felt a bit jealous and felt a bit rejected by God. We lived through a very long season of having very little. Of not knowing how we were going to buy groceries or pay the bills. We had made some stupid financial mistakes and I think there was a big part of me that since we were reaping what we’d sown, even though we had confessed and repented, that I thought I really didn’t have a right to even ask God to help us. One day as I wrestled with this the Lord spoke to my heart, “Kayla when you were saved, did I cancel your debt because of anything YOU had done?” And of course the answer to that was, “No, Lord. Jesus paid it all. I could never pay off my debt of sin.” And the Lord asked me, “then why don’t you ask me to help you? Yes ya’ll made mistakes and you don’t deserve my help…but NOBODY does. That’s why it’s grace. Its all me. Ask away.” And so I began to ask. As a mom, I pictured one of my kids asking for help, even though they may have made a mistake and what my heart towards them and their need would have been. And of course God’s heart is so much bigger than mine.

The very most I expected was that we’d sell our house and get out of debt and Keith would eventually get  some kind of little job and we’d do okay. But I knew even so, we’d be where God wanted us and we’d be in a great church and with our kids so we’d be happy.

But God did so much more.

Eph 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”.

But this isn’t just about provision. Its about God and His faithfulness and love and yes His TIMING. It’s about trusting Him and His goodness and His love and good will towards us, even when it doesn’t seem like anything is happening or we feel we’ve blown it too many times. God loves us and has good plans for us. He can be trusted. If there is something you are to do, then do it, obey… but also trust Him to do what you cannot. Reject the lies and trust His word. The word of God is our standard. Not our feelings. And He really does want to bless each of His dear children.

So when I tell you,“Hang on. God’s timing is perfect.” Please don't slap me. Because I'm telling you the truth :).

Ps 18:30 “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”

September 19, 2011

"The Anger From Within" by Keith Mitchell

Hey guys, You may remember earlier in the year I shared our friend Keith Mitchell's testimony of his victory over addiction. ( I'd like to let you all know that he has now written a book. We are so very proud of him and I want to recommend it to you if you are struggling with addiction or you know someone who is. The Lord is already using Keith's testimony to lead others out of bondage and to Christ. Please keep him in prayer, that the Lord will expand his influence and that this book will get into the hands of those who need it most. I read it and although I already knew the story, I was definitely moved to tears. It just reminded me once again of the faithfulness of God to reach out to us even when we aren't reaching out to Him. He is the initiator and He loves us so much that He will go to every length to get to us.

You can get your copy here at Books A Million. If you get it, give some feedback and let us know any testimonies of how it impacted your life or the life of someone you know. Thanks and God bless.

Keith Mitchell, Leanne Mitchell, me, Keith Johnson (my hubby :)

June 24, 2011

The Threshold

I haven't posted in forever... sorry faithful followers. I will explain why in a few weeks when we have landed on the other side of this busyness :) We have lots to do and a short time to do it in. Kind of overwhelming, but its all good, so no worries.

But I wanted to pause for a moment and to share this. While sorting through my closet this week I found this simple poem I wrote a while ago. I have no clue when I wrote it. Actually I have no memory of ever writing it. But it blessed me to read it so I thought perhaps it'd bless someone else who might linger here at my blog. Leave comments. I like to know who reads this thing. Anyhow, so here it is and I'll be back before long with an update and more details on our current doings :). God bless you all.

The Threshold
"At the threshold of Your throneroom, I cannot enter in
I stop to ponder my shame, my fear and my sin
I've tried to be worthy, in my own strength to do right
But my deeds and efforts fade away as I approach Your light
I can never do enough I see, as I sadly turn to go
But then You call out 'Come back, weary one and I'll restore your soul.
Your price has been paid by the blood of the Lamb
Cease striving, stand still and know Who I AM.
I've provided all you need to do and to be
You are my precious child, made to glorify Me'.
Oh what joy I now know, I have nothing to fear;
I'm accepted, I am loved; without shame I draw near
I embrace You my Father, the God of all might
And boldly stand cherished in Your pure holy light."

May 16, 2011

Happy Birthday to our Double Blessing!

It was October of 1994 and the last day of our beautiful adventure in Scotland. Three years before it had been a dream come true for me when Keith had received orders from the US Navy to Edzell, Scotland. Those years had been some of the most fruitful and memorable of my life and I did not want to leave. But despite our familiarity with the transient lifestyle of military folk, this particular tour had passed all too quickly for me. Our new orders would send us halfway around the world to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The plan was for me, Haley and Max (ages 4 and 7) to fly out of Glasgow the next morning headed to Louisiana to visit family, followed by Keith a month later. We wanted a good long visit with family because we knew we’d probably not see them for another 3 years. After a day filled with packing and tearful goodbyes I don’t know what made me think to do it. I had no symptoms or signs but for some reason that night I decided to take a home pregnancy test. I really didn’t expect it to be positive, but being the ever-prepared one, I figured that on the slight chance it might be, that it would be a good thing to know before leaving Keith for a month. And as you can guess, the test was positive and we were surprised and very pleased.

Well as it turned out it was a good thing I took that long flight a month earlier than Keith because about two weeks into my visit I became unrelentingly, violently sick. Had I waited a month and flown home with Keith, well you can imagine what a nightmare that would have been. God mercifully spared me and the airline. Once he arrived, Keith spent the bulk of his leave tending to me, half out of my mind with misery. We endured multiple ER trips and my frightening allergic reaction to the nausea meds. But during this chaotic time we managed somehow to make it to a car dealership and bought a gnarly Pacific-blue van that I wasn't convinced we should buy. However I was too sick to argue so Keith prevailed. And then, some time before the end of our leave, I emerged from my misery- a bony, pale shell of my former self. But thankfully alive and still pregnant.

Somehow we made it through the flight to Hawaii without incident and settled into a hotel suite awaiting an opening in base housing. In order to get a four bedroom house we had to prove to the Navy housing office that I was indeed pregnant .Were they blind? But we went to the doctor to get the official diagnosis. And we got it all right... and so much more! Later as I was prepped for my first ultrasound, the ultrasound tech asked me if I wanted to know the sex of the baby. I jokingly remarked, “I just want to know its not twins”. The tech began the exam and pointed out the head, the heart, the tummy, then she stopped……… and said, “Ummm excuse me I’ll be right back” and promptly left the room. Keith and I were silent, afraid to even venture a guess at what she could have seen that would elicit such a reaction. Soon she returned with a doctor. She mumbled something about a mirror image, then just pointed at the screen and looked anxiously at him. The doctor smiled broadly and said, “No, that’s no two headed baby, you’re having twins!” Then he nonchalantly sauntered away leaving us in stunned silence. Um...come again? But there in the midst of our suspended disbelief, a holy awe settled over me and Keith as this thought came to my mind, “Wow, we are so BLESSED! He gave us TWO!” But ever practical, I think the first words out of my mouth actually were, “It’s a good thing we bought that van”.

Well a double pregnancy certainly explained my mega morning-sickness. But as reality began to set in, so did the panic. I wrote about my fear in my "The Grace Ticket" post.

Other women had twins- calm, capable, confident women. Not me. Definitely not me.… "Twins God? Me God? Are You serious?" But the fact remained that for some odd reason God DID choose me to be the mother of twins and it has forever convinced me that He definitely has a sense of humor. :) That night as I lay in bed, a thousand different scenarios of taking care of two babies at once were played out in my head.

What if they both were crying at the same time. What if they both needed their diaper changed at the same time. How would I choose? What if we were in public and they both needed me. How would I carry them both? Could I take care of two babies by myself while Keith was at work? And what about my other two children? Would they feel neglected? And when would I ever find the time to homeschool? Would I ever be able to go to the grocery store again?

These kind of thoughts made sleep impossible and worked me into a panic. But as I frantically questioned God about this…. as sure as I’ve ever known, the Lord spoke to my heart at that moment and He said (basically), “Kayla, my grace is sufficient for you. Right now you are picturing and worrying about things in the future that you aren’t facing now. You are pregnant now. You need my grace for that, not for handling two babies at once. When you have your two babies, that particular grace will be yours as well. But you won’t have it until the exact moment you need it. So quit worrying and looking ahead and deal with today. Relax and trust in me. My grace IS sufficient”.

I cannot tell you the peace and relief that flooded my soul at that moment. I breathed a prayer of gratitude and turned over and fell fast asleep. And from that moment forward a confidence and excitement stirred in my soul.

Well, we soon moved into our four bedroom Navy house and I was promptly enrolled in the hospital’s ‘twin clinic’ for close monitoring of my pregnancy. And true to form, the pregnancy was a wild ride of multiple appointments, preterm labor, gestational diabetes, bed rest, hospital stays and a dangerous overdose by an inattentive nurse (which got her fired by the way). I spent the entire last month of my pregnancy at Tripler Army Medical Center, the largest military hospital in the Asian and Pacific rim, located on the slopes of the Moanalua Ridge. I suppose if one has to be stuck in a hospital for a month, it might as well be on a lush mountain slope overlooking Honolulu. Needless to say, I got to know a lot of people there during my extended stay and was able to share my faith with some of them. We had some close calls but I can attest to the fact that the Lord was so near during that time, keeping us in His peace. His grace really was sufficient during what would have normally been a fear-filled season.

Tripler Army Medical Center. Honolulu, Hawaii

When we discovered we were having a boy and a girl, our joy knew no bounds. It was like from the beginning the Lord let us know that He was enjoying this, He was stretching us but He had a good plan, He wanted these babies to be born and He’d chosen us to raise them. During my pregnancy, I began to get a foretaste of their personalities. From my many ultrasounds I was told that Twin A, a very active little girl, who was positioned right in front, would be born first. Twin B, our little boy, tucked quietly in my side, would be born second. Through all of the close calls with delivering too early I asked the Lord to please let them be born by 36 weeks. And on May 17, 1995, the very day of my 36th week, our double blessings dramatically entered our lives. Hannah Ruth weighing in at 7+ lbs and Joseph Ian at almost 6 lbs. And there’s not been a dull moment since!
Yea, I know... the hair... but look at my babies :)

Dad looking a bit like a deer in the headlights

Our family is complete :)

Despite the extra work of two babies (two of everything- think diapers, strollers, car seats, clothes, toys, etc) I can honestly say that they have truly been a double blessing.

As they were in my womb, Hannah has proven to be energetic, active, sassy, competitive, emotional, warm and extremely funny. Joseph has proven to be quieter, deep, creative, thoughtful, artistic, intense and also warm and extremely funny. I’ve never seen two twins who were more opposite. But thankfully they were each other’s best friends while growing up. And as with many twins they had their own language. They had many a conversation with each other that only they understood.
My favorite picture of my twins. Our last day in Hawaii.

And from that blessed day in May when they entered our lives I want to say that they have blessed me and their daddy from day one. Hannah, called to be an intercessor and a worshipper. Joseph, called to prosper and to prophesy. God created these two beautiful, interesting, priceless treasures and for some reason He chose me to carry them together in my womb and he gave me and Keith the honor of raising them. Their heritage has been paved with righteousness and their destiny is greatness in the Kingdom. And I for one can’t wait to sit back and watch it unfold. So Happy Birthday to our double blessing. We love you Hannah and Joseph!!! Its definitely been double the fun!

Here's some photos of our twins down through the years.

At Bellows Beach Hawaii Oct 1995
Hawaii October 1995
San Diego November 1995

Joseph's first Christmas (Ewa Beach Hawaii 1995)

Hannahs first Christmas (Ewa Beach, Hawaii 1995)
First birthday :) Ewa Beach 1996

Twins while stationed in Connecticut

Baton Rouge 2000

Hannah through the years

Joseph through the years
Hannah 16 years old

Joseph 16 years old
17 years old

20 years old

May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day. No Regrets Repost.

In honor of Mother's Day I want to repost something I wrote last year sometime. Have a wonderful Mothers Day all the moms out there. You may not think it now, but you are impacting eternity in the every day, mundane tasks you do. I honor you! Enjoy! :)

I want to say this to all of you young parents out there. It is WORTH it! THEY are worth it!

I married Keith at 18 and got pregnant with Haley before I completed college. So I never got my degree. But I don’t regret it! I didn’t join the corporate world and have a successful career like some of my friends. But I don’t regret it! I’ve not achieved fame or fortune or done anything very glamorous, dangerous or scandalous. But I don’t regret it!

I’m not going to say I haven’t sometimes had moments of frustration or feeling bad about myself when compared to the world’s view of success. I remember when the kids were small sometimes wondering-- "what about me God? What about my dreams?" I spent a lot of time wishing I was in the future and I didn't fully appreciate those precious present moments. But NOW I know, as insignificant as I sometimes felt, that no accomplishment, no reward, nothing compares to the opportunity I’ve had to BE THERE and to pour into my children. Nothing! Today they bless me more than I could ever have imagined when they were little and I was so very tired.
I ran across this poem someone else wrote and I want to share it…

A hundred years from now,

it will not matter what my Bank Account was,

the sort of house I lived in,

or the kind of car I drove,

but the world may be different

because I was important

in the life of a child.

My kids are getting older and I am beginning to transition out of this season I've been in for so long. Its not easy. But now I see that this has been a very important (probably the MOST important) part of my destiny. And at this juncture of the journey, I am so humbled and thankful to have been chosen for such an honored calling in the Lord’s eyes as the Mother of these four precious children God has given me.

When we reach heaven, I do believe there’s going to be some surprises in store at who the Lord honors. I believe that many of the earth’s and the church’s big names will have to take a lower seat to the little mothers who honored God in the hidden place of their home, with their children, in the simple things they did for them. The sleepless nights rocking a sick child, the innumerable diapers changed, meals cooked, stories read, the time spent with the least of these… these things, I believe, will be honored in heaven far above the fame, fortune and accomplishments that were praised and honored here on earth.

Nope. I don’t regret it ONE bit.

April 18, 2011

The Secret :D

Well I've been keeping a secret for the last few months. It's been extremely difficult to keep. I am not that good at keeping juicy secrets but by God's mercy I somehow managed to not explode. So for those of you who asked for the details and for those of you who have no clue what I'm talking about, here is the story of how it all went down in more detail than you probably care for...(sorry, I'm a fine-liner and not a headliner. Just how I roll... ;)

In February we spent a wonderful week with our kids in Missouri. I had been asked to lead worship at the women's meeting at Faith Chapel and we were all too happy to make the long trip there. We made a mini-vacation out of it and spent a wonderful week just kicking back, visiting with Haley, Josh and Max and attending every single thing Faith Chapel had to offer that week. It just further confirmed to us that this is where we belong. The reluctant trip back to Baton Rouge was made a bit more exciting when Keith nearly gave some stoned dude a heart attack by pulling his .45 out on him at a gas station when he opened my door and tried to get in our truck. (Yep I'm married to Rambo).

Anyhow, we reluctantly settled back into our routine in Baton Rouge. The following weekend Keith and the twins made a quick turkey hunt to St Francisville. That Sunday evening they returned tired so we decided to make an early night of it (which we hardly ever do). We were in our jammys and settled in bed about to go to sleep, with the laptop watching Faith Chapel's morning service online when both of the dogs started barking. Zeke our German Shepherd barks at everything but Lucca our Akita doesn't bark unless someone is in our yard. So when she barks, we pay attention. Keith headed down the hall muttering something like "who in their right mind would be at our front door at 10 at night". I stayed in the bedroom because I was in my jammys and didn't particularly want to greet guests in such attire. When I heard the door open and then muffled yelling... I started to get concerned. Although we live in a relatively safe neighborhood, this is Baton Rouge after all. Then Keith yelled, 'Honey you have to come see this!'...and I honestly couldn't imagine what on earth I was being summoned, in my jammys, to see. I cracked open the door, cautiously peeking out and there in my front yard stood my daughter and son-in-law (and his sister Joanna with a video camera) laughing and smiling... What?! I mean, Keith and I had just been in bed watching Josh lead worship at Faith Chapel that morning and my sleepy brain couldn't wrap around the fact that he was on my computer and in my front yard at the same time. Then as I tried to digest this I noticed something else-- in their hands they held a sign that said- "Congrats You Are Grandparents". What?! Yes, our precious kids left St. Louis after church that morning and drove 10 hours just to come tell us, face to face that Haley was pregnant. They had found out she was pregnant the night we left their house. We absolutely couldn't believe it. Josh's parents got the same exciting surprise and about half an hour later they joined us for a celebration (and a cake Josh's sister Joanna made and brought- yes they thought of everything! :) We were each given a teeny baby sock with two scriptures on them that they are praying over their baby. We spent a joyous Monday with them and Tuesday morning they turned around and headed back to Missouri. What an unexpected and joyous visit that was! The only bad thing was.... we had to WAIT to tell this wondrous news ! They asked us to wait until she was around 8 weeks and after they told their church. So we waited................. a month! It wasn't easy folks.

So if you've seen me this last month and I seemed to be avoiding you... Now you know why. The excitement and joy have been about to burst out of my pores. But somehow... I managed :)

My baby girl is having a baby. She's due 11/8/11 (but she's hoping for 11/11/11! :) And until the day I die, the way they told us will be one of my most precious, treasured memories. God is SO good!!!

So now you know. :)