November 27, 2016

Count Your Many Blessings

As my Thanksgiving break comes to a close, I feel I should take some time to count my blessings.

I'm thankful for so much! My Savior, first and foremost. My family, especially my selfless husband and my beautiful children. My job, I love teaching English and coaching debate. My church, love my Jesus peeps. My blog, love this outlet for my thoughts, my words. My friends, special shout out to my Jaimee! And, of course, running. Sooo thankful for running!

Truly, those last two blessings often go together. My friend Jaimee and my love of running.

Recently, my best running buddy came with me as I ventured to Chatsworth, GA, for the fifth year in a row to participate in "A Walk to Remember and 5K."

Every year, this event provides me an opportunity to remember my Angel and all babies lost too soon.

This year, despite the smoke from all the wild fires in North Georgia, my Jaimee and I ran/walked the 5K.

We both took it easy, not wanting to inhale too much smoke, and I was too tired from having chaperoned a speech and debate overnight trip with teenagers the night before to push myself too hard. Although, none of that really matters cause WE DID IT!

Aside from the 5K, we enjoyed seeing all the vendors at this event to support pregnancy and infant loss awareness - including my friend Kristie at Footprints on the Heart. And, of course, they had their awesome raffle to raise money for the March of Dimes. I usually win something from the raffle, but this year, it was not meant to be. Even though that was a bit of a bummer, knowing the money I put toward the raffle was going to such a great cause made my heart happy.

We left after the raffle concluded, so we missed the candle lighting that ended the event. But Jaimee and I each got to take home a candle. And later that night, she sent me this pic.

She had lit her candle for my Angel.

So, you see, I have much to be thankful for. Events like these. And my Jaimee.

And Angel. Always you, my Angel.

Today's forget-me-not: all my many blessings

November 13, 2016

Why God Prunes His Church

I have a black thumb.

Hello, my name is Jamie, and I kill plants.

Truly, I have tried to grow various types of greenery, but it never ends well. So because of this sad reality, I leave the outdoor work to my husband.

Every year, in late winter, hubby takes up the task of pruning our Crape Myrtles. The website Fine Gardening explains, “Correct pruning [of Crape Myrtles] yields gracefully shaped trees with more blooms that are held upright on strong stems. Also, flowers arrive earlier than do those on unpruned or mispruned plants.” And to these truths, I can verily testify! My hubby’s pruning efforts never go to waste as each year we are met with an abundance of gorgeous blooms come summer time.

I was reminded of my spouse’s shearing of those Crape Myrtles after reading John chapter 15 during my quiet time. In that text, Jesus explains to his disciples at the last supper, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

When I first read this, I was a bit confused. Why remove (prune) good, healthy and fruitful branches? How could that possibly yield more fruit?

Now remember, I have a black thumb, and this is accompanied by a good deal of ignorance in the laws of gardening. So in order to understand what Jesus was trying to say in John 15, I did a little research, and this is what I found.

Pruning is necessary to promote growth in plants. And evidently, as Jesus was trying to point out, it is also necessary in the life of the church.

Reasons God Prunes His Church

1. He prunes us to stir growth.

Pruning involves cutting away fruitful branches in order to facilitate new growth. Growth that will end up being even more healthy and abundant. I have seen the spiritual side of this principle at work in my own church.

When my husband and I first joined the church we continue to attend today (17 years ago), we were both actively involved in children’s missions programs on Wednesday night. However, the attendance in these programs, although good, was stagnate. Additionally, children were learning about the Lord and missionaries, but the curriculum was lacking an emphasis on bible study and scripture memorization. So while these programs were good, there was clearly room for improvement.

After looking closely at our options, the decision was made to cut those events and search for something new. And while my husband and I had our reservations about removing these activities that were producing fruit in the lives of those in attendance, we knew more could be done to attract a greater amount of children and pour out a greater investment in those lives. So while it was painful to let go of these programs, the cuts were made, and God used a new children’s curriculum to double the amount of young lives our church was pouring into for His kingdom.

It’s hard to let go of good things, but it’s the only way to make room for greater things.

2. He prunes us to inspire productivity.

In the course of my research on pruning, I discovered how vineyards grow top notch grapes. They cut half of the grapes from their vine and throw them away. Yes, you read that right; they toss out half of the crop!

Evidently, grapes are lazy, and in order to get them to produce better grapes, it is necessary to cut half of them away from the vine. This, in time, will force the remaining grapes to work harder and pull more nutrients from the soil creating the finest wine ever tasted.

I believe our church is in the midst of learning how God at times employs this technique of cultivation. Sadly, of late, we are seeing many good, fruit producing, children of the Lord leaving our church family. Each person that chooses to depart is a tremendous loss! However, as grape growers can attest, the loss of some amazing grapes can force the improved production of the remaining grapes, and I have begun to see that principle play out in our church. Those that remain in our body of believers are producing more for the Lord than before our time of pruning. Although we are no longer great in numbers, I see greater things being done for the Lord. It’s the principle behind John 3:30 at work: “He must become greater; I must become less.” Less is more, and I am excited to see the continued results of this pruning time in our congregation!

3. He prunes us to make us stronger.

Pruning is a very interesting topic! On the Vintage Tree Care website, I found this additional information about the subject: “Pruning a tree can influence in what way the tree grows. With proper pruning, a tree can be made to grow into a certain configuration of limbs and branches that is more ideal for the structural integrity of the tree.”

Proper pruning improves that which is pruned, and this reality should make every church currently going through a season of change hopeful. Perhaps God is working to improve the “structural integrity” of your church? Remember, He knows what storms are coming that you will have to withstand.  Or perhaps, as is the case at my church right now, He’s attempting to repair damage done by a storm that has already swept through?

Whatever the reason, it may not make sense to us, but the tearing away of fruitful foliage can produce a greater amount of quality fruit. As long as we leave everything in the hands of the master gardener, there is nothing to fear. He can work all things together for the good of those that love Him. (Romans 8:28)

As I sat outside today, I noticed the foliage donning new colors. I watched as some of it began to fall from the trees. It was snowing, leaves.  In that moment, I was reminded that soon enough it would be time again to prune back the Crape Myrtles.

Ecclesiastes chapter three reminds us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

If today, you find your church going through a season of transition, be encouraged. He is at work! As I leave my Crape Myrtles in the more capable hands of my husband, trust God with your church. He knows exactly how to get those “gracefully shaped trees with more blooms that are held upright on strong stems.” Joyfully yield yourself to His pruning.

October 20, 2016

The Smile Run

A year ago this month, a beautiful little boy met Jesus sooner than anyone would have expected.

Christian Egner, the son of Keith and Tricia Egner, and little brother to Caleb and Kyle, succumbed to complications from asthma, and suddenly, this amazing family was forced to face the darkest days of their lives.

But in the midst of the shadows of grief, this family vowed that their little boy's life would be remembered. They pledged to honor his memory by finding a way to celebrate his life and, simultaneously, leave a legacy in his name. It would have to be something that would produce a lasting impact, as he had done in their lives and in the lives of all who knew him.

This was where the idea for The Smile Run came from - the hearts of grieving parents. Because Christian was always smiling, that name for this 5K, fun run, and tot trot was perfect. So a group of individuals got together with the Egners, the Christian Egner Foundation was created, and The Smile Run became more than just an idea - it became a reality.

"The Christian Egner Foundation was founded in 2016 to provide an avenue of giving back to the community.  Their main purpose is to raise monies that can be donated to various causes, mainly those that impacted the life and family of Christian Egner.  Their primary event is "The Smile Run."  This event was appropriately named after the smile that always encompassed Christian.  Whether on his face or on the faces of those who were around him, these smiles will never be forgotten.
The beneficiary of The Smile Run is the Ralph Bunche Preschool in Cherokee County.  This is an amazing preschool that specializes in special needs, offering services such as teachers, therapists and nurses.  One of three Cherokee County School Preschools, they host Head Start, Georgia Pre-K and special needs preschool classes for Cherokee County residents." - from The Smile Run website.
This race was by far my favorite race this year! It was a GREAT family event. Even if running isn't your thing, I would encourage you to set your calendar for October 7, 2017, and get ready for a great time with the entire family! My husband ran the 5K, and I ran the fun run (1K) with the girls. They even have the cutest tot trot this side of Georgia!

Upper left (Keith Egner - 5K), Upper right (Michael Wills - 5K)
Both were first place winners in their age groups.
Again, no worries if you are not a runner, there is so much to enjoy with your children (for free!): bounce houses, games, delicious cupcakes (made by Tricia Egner), and face painting!

Honestly, you can't help but smile the entire time at this event!

It was great to honor the life of Chrisitan Egner while at the same time investing in the lives of other children in our community as the proceeds of this event go to a local pre-school for children with special needs. Christian has truly had a lasting impact in the hearts and lives of so many here and now and in the future. It just goes to show you how God can take such a little life and make a huge impact for His kingdom.

Please join us next year! You can run, or walk, or both. Or you could give a donation to the Christian Egner Foundation. Or you can just come and love on this amazing family and honor Christian with your smiles.

Today's forget-me-not:

October 15, 2016

Tortoise and the Hare, and Us

Better late than never!

It is a cliche, somewhat overused, but there's a tremendous amount of truth in that phrase.

Anyway, On September 3rd, I ran the Tortoise and the Hare 10K with my running bestie, Jaimee.

And then, I forgot to write about it.

Yes, yes. I know. Shame on me!!!

We've run this race before and enjoyed the fact that it was a 10K, a trail race, and an overall unique experience, so we signed up for it again this year.

Flashback to September 2015

I'm glad we did it again. It was long and the course was hard, but that's what makes running this race so rewarding.

Just like life, right?

Get ready for another cliche: the best things in life aren't free.

Truly though, it's after those hard times when you can look back in retrospect and say, "I came through that alright." Or even better, "I came through that a stronger individual."

Those are the best of times; those are the most fruitful and fulfilling of times. 

Sorry. I can't seem to help myself tonight.

I've been talking about this with my students lately. No. Not how to utilize cliches and formulate puns. We have been talking about how our identity can be shaped by our circumstances for better or for worse. The choice is really up to us. 

As Lou Holtz once said, "Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it."

Like when you find yourself running a race you didn't train for, but you run it anyway, throwing every ounce of energy you have into it while striving to maintain a smile on your face. #likeaboss

It's just like when the tortoise ran against the hare. Yes, that timeless tale. No one expected the tortoise to win. He would surely be defeated. Deflated. Destroyed.

But he "ran" that race. The best he could. And then he won it.

Now, allow me to switch gears and change my tone to make an important connection: It's just like those who have suffered the loss of a child.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (October) is soon to be upon us, and this idea that our tragic circumstances can be used for good is truly exemplified in the lives of those parents who have lost a child and yet work tirelessly in that child's name to bring beauty from ashes.

If you haven't seen NBC's new hit show "This is Us," you need to see it. *Spoiler Alert!* In the very first episode, a father and mother lose one of their triplets, and the doctor, in an effort to comfort the grieving father, talks about when he and his wife lost their first child. He explains how it inspired him to become an obstetrician - with the hope of saving the lives of other babies. He admonishes the father to do this: to find a way to take the worst this life can give an individual and make it into the best.

I've put the clip below. Please watch it. Be inspired. And whatever life throws at you, just keep running even though it seems as if everything is working against you. If you do that, you can't lose. Just ask the tortoise.

Today's forget-me-not:

September 4, 2016

The Prodigal Daughter

My oldest daughter, Beth, went to two church camps this summer. That’s two full weeks my baby of nine years was away from her mama. (And yes, I know, at nine, she’s no longer a baby, but to me, she will always be my baby girl.)
When she was gone, I missed her something terrible! Especially after she went off to the second camp, I immediately yearned to have her back. I guess the reason it was so hard the next week she was gone is because it was a camp I wasn’t as familiar with. She went to the second camp with a neighbor’s family and not with our church, so I knew she would be surrounded, mostly, by people she didn’t know. People I didn’t know...

Please continue reading to find out what happened next!
Today's forget-me-not can be found by clicking on the image below:

August 19, 2016

for the truly terrifying times

(Adapted from John 6:16-21 NIV)

It was evening. It was dark.

But they were traveling. Trying to reach a destination.

They got into a row boat and set off across a lake.

Suddenly, a strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.

They pressed on.

The disciples were surely tired. They were probably desperate for relief from the fierce wind and wild waves.

But they rowed on. For approximately three and a half miles, they rowed on.

Because what else can you do? Stuck in the middle of a lake. In the midst of a storm.

When life gets dark and the winds of unexpected change and the waves of shattered dreams begin to crash over you again and again and again, what else can you do but row on?

And when you are the most terrified? When you're not sure if you can make it through on your own? Guess who shows up?

Jesus. Walking on the troubled waters. Toward you. The absolutely terrified you.
And he says, "It is I; don't be afraid."

See Him. Let Him in the boat. Let Him take you to your destination.

It's okay. He's got you. He's got this. Trust Him.

"Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately, the boat reached the shore where they were heading." (John 6:21 NIV)

Today's forget-me-not: my hurting friends

August 12, 2016

Win Win

Last Saturday, Chick-fil-A sponsored a race to benefit education and special olympics in our county.

I wasn't sure if I was going to get to run this race. My hubby also wanted to run it, so I tried to find a babysitter so we could go enjoy the race together, but that didn't work out. Since someone was going to have to stay home with the kids, I was gonna sit this one out so hubby could go, but then my awesome, selfless, and giving husband said I could run it! And then I caught a nasty stomach bug. But praise the Lord, the day before the race found me feeling much better, and I got to enjoy the day with some of my favorite running buddies!!!

Pre-run selfie with running buddies Jordan, Jaimee, Bruce and Pamm!
It was a hot day, but, in my humble opinion, this GREAT course will always be worth the run. It is almost entirely flat, and it takes place inside two connecting parks - beautiful parks! The only elevation runners experience is when they go over an awesome bridge. #win

It was just that, a winning day. My run felt great despite the fact that my running time of 36:32 isn't my best for this course, and I also won a free three month membership to a nearby gym complete with access to a personal trainer!

My buddies were winners too! Jordan improved her 5K time, Jaimee's school (she's a teacher) won $1,500 in prize money, Bruce placed second in his age group, and Pamm ran a race for the first time in a long time (way to jump back out there!).

That's how you score a win. You take a chance. Put yourself on the line. And when you hear the gun go off, run. And keep on running. Never hold back. Have faith. Stay the course. And ultimately, child of God, you win.

With Jesus, we always win.

Today's forget-me-not: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No. I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Back to TOP