Wednesday, October 27

Pictures of our Smoky Mountains Vacation

I know these are long over-due... but here are some pics from our vacation to the Smokies!! My sister Courtney took some that are much better than these... and I was hoping to get some from her, but she's been pretty busy preparing for her New Zealand trip! (She flies out tomorrow and will be gone for 1 month- please pray that she has a safe journey!) Anyhow... back to our trip- I'm just getting over a cold which I caught immediately upon returning home from our vacation. I know my immune system has been very down due to the fact that it's difficult for me to take vitamins with all the morning sickness... but I'm starting to feel MUCH better! As you will see from the beginning photos, we got to see some amazingly beautiful parts of God's creation while on our journey!

On Day 5 while staying in in Pigeon Forge, TN, we met up with my grandparents (who were staying in their RV there the entire month.) We don't get to see them often so visiting with them was wonderful and they were gracious enough to drive us into the mountains for a little sightseeing!!

The colors had not turned yet as much as we had hoped, but it was still breathtakingly beautiful!

Check out our elevation... almost a mile high into the mountain!

This is probably my favorite part of the Smokies- these gorgeous rivers and streams flowing through the mountains. As kids we used to jump from rock to rock up the river- trying not to get wet. I think perhaps Nick was a little surprised when, as soon as he took the baby, I went skipping about doing that very thing. I couldn't help myself! I could sit by a river like this for hours... in fact, I'd like to just live by it.

On Day 7, We toured Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. It's the largest private house in America and quite breathtaking!

Me and Benjamin at Antler Hill Village on Biltmore Estate:

Here is Benjamin riding his very first ride ALONE in Dollywood- which we were at on Day 4(This scared me quite a bit, but he did great!)

Goofing off in the RV...

Baron & Amy's WEDDING in Brevard, NC!! (The entire reason for our trip :)

After making our way back into Texas on Days 9 & 10 we stopped by Big Sandy for the tail-end of our beloved Annual Family Camp!

"Wow, Dad! This place looks like paradise! This is gonna be a blast- mostly because I get to be outside nearly every waking hour!"

And so began the many adventures of Benjamin...

first time in a sand box:

first time in a canoe:

first time wearing a life jacket... which miraculously didn't seem to bother him:

NOT his first time in a swing... which is probably why he didn't care to stay in it very long. Too many new things out there to discover, Mom!

first time sliding all by himself:

Benjamin with Jesse Peach, who was also at Family Camp!

first time petting a baby lamb... (an ewe???)

first pony ride:
(which he really loved! he didn't stop smiling the entire ride!)

Yep... Benjamin sure enjoyed those last 2 days! Well, that concludes our trip! Some days are missing due to the fact that Courtney took all the pictures of certain activities, but I will post those eventually.

It certainly was fun!

Monday, October 4


Tomorrow, we will be embarking on an 11-day journey to the
Great Smoky Mountains!
 We will be attending my cousin Baron's wedding on Sunday, plus vacationing on the way and back.

Much of our time will be spent in the great outdoors, as we are taking an RV, and camping some of the time. My family usually takes a camping trip around this time of year, and it always seems to be a time of spiritual refreshing for me. There is something about being out in nature that causes me to feel closer to God... I love that special time of communion with Him! This year I am especially excited due to the fact that we are going to one of the most beautiful parts of God's creation!! I know we are going to have a great time!
I will be sure to take lots of pictures and post about our trip when we return.

In the mean time, we would appreciate your prayers for the safety of everyone traveling to the wedding, and for blessings in the marriage of Baron and Amy.

I'll leave you with the lyrics to a song that's been on my heart all day...

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Text: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748   Music: Lowell Mason, 1792-1872

Friday, October 1

Trying to "Fix" Myself

There once was a preacher, who's friend worked in the coal mines. The preacher was constantly telling this man about Christ and the hope of salvation that was offered. "And it's free!", the preacher had told him time and again. "Salvation is free to all men!" One day as the preacher reminded his friend of this fact, the coal miner furrowed his brow with a look of disbelief. "Well, no disrespect..." he started, "but, I'm just not sure if I can believe that. I mean, if I've learned anything in all my years here on this earth, it's that NOTHIN' is free! Everything costs ya somethin'..." At that moment, an idea entered the Reverend's mind. He asked the man, "How did you get down into the mine this morning?" "Well, I took the elevator down of course!", the miner answered. "And it didn't cost you a cent, did it?" "Well, no... it didn't cost me anything... but, it cost the company a whole lot!" As soon as the words left the miner's lips, a look of realization swept over his face. The reverend smiled, knowing his point had finally hit home. "Salvation is free for you and me- just like that elevator. But, it did cost somebody a whole lot... Sacrificing His only Son was a pretty steep price for God to pay, but He did it... so that salvation would be accessible to you and I!"


Needless to say, the coal miner finally understood that he really could be saved... and he received Jesus into his heart that day.

Our pastor related this story to our congregation. Although I've heard him tell it before; it seems that every time I hear it, a light bulb goes off in my brain... and I can't help but smile. What an unimaginable hope that's been given to us by our Savior! What a liberating feeling to have an overwhelming debt lifted from your shoulders and paid in full. Salvation IS free.

If you had asked me several years ago if salvation were free, my response would probably have been, "Certainly not! There is a price we have to pay! We can't simply drift through life doing nothing... we must become holy like our Lord!" While grace through salvation does not give us a license to sin, nor does it negate our responsibility to follow God's commands, I personally was missing the entire point. I thought following God's commands was, in essence, "earning" my salvation. Of course, I wouldn't have worded it that way, but looking back, I know that is exactly what I believed.

If Romans 6:23 were re-worded to fit my prior view of salvation, it would go something like this:

"For the wages of sin is death... but eternal life is something you can work for, and God will give it to you if you make yourself into a holy person."

I can see people reading this feeling a little antsy now... maybe you're thinking, "Well, that IS true... I mean, doesn't the Bible say we must become like Christ?" Yes it does. But, for some reason, Paul chose not to word Romans 6:23 that way. He chose these words:

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

 He used the word GIFT. Why?

I used to think to myself, "I hope I live to a ripe old age so I'll have plenty of time to kill this "old carnal nature" and reach perfection (as Matthew 5:48 tells us to.)" Sure, I may have mentioned in passing that we need the power of God's Spirit to help us, but I secretly knew the work was mostly up to me...

Ha... please excuse me while I laugh/roll my eyes at my arrogant logic. I can't believe I really thought I had it within me to somehow "pay back" the debt I owe to God. Allow me to put it quite plainly: if I worked my very best for the next million years, I would not even come close to deserving the love and grace of a holy God. I AM A SINNER! I entered this world already condemned!! (John 3:18) There was no hope for me- until Christ. How could I ever "measure up" on my own to become a child of the most high king?? The answer is: I can't. And you know what? God knows that. 

You see... When we allow the blood that flowed down from the cross to surge into our being and wash clean that dark blot of sin from our lives, there is a word for us: justified.

justify = to declare innocent or guiltless; absolve; acquit.

Romans 3:23-27
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith."

Wow. That means, that I being justified, can go before God the Father and He will look on me and see the righteousness of His perfect, spotless Son Jesus? I don't know about y'all, but that AMAZES me!! How is that even possible?! Maybe that's what Steven Curtis Chapman was thinking about when he wrote those words, "believe the unbelievable... receive the inconceivable."

When I began to realize how absurd and impossible it really is for us to earn our own salvation, the phrase "abiding in Christ" took on an entirely new meaning. No longer do I need to "beat myself over the head" whenever I make a mistake. It's not a surprise to God that I am a feeble human being, incapable of doing anything on my own. He's just sitting up there, waiting on me to stop trying so hard to be independent.

Here is something I learned which helped me a great deal:
Justification is an instant act
Sanctification is a process

God wants to sanctify you and make you like Him, but if you are a believer, make no mistake- you are already justified!

You know what happens when you try to serve God in your own strength? It becomes hard. It becomes a struggle... it becomes a DRUDGERY. I don't think it was God's intent for us to be miserable, frowning Christians. After all, Scripture tells us that Christ was anointed with, "...the oil of gladness..." above all His fellows.(Psalm 47:5) If we are following in His footsteps, should we not be overcome with joy? If we are not filled with joy, there may be something wrong.

Well, as you can see, there was something wrong with me. I just didn't know it. By focusing all of my energy on trying to "fix" myself, I was neglecting some key commands in Scripture, such as: helping the poor, visiting the widows and orphans, and making disciples (to name a few.) (James 1:27, Proverbs 21:13, Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19) It seems I didn't have time to think of anyone but myself.

But, in His great mercy, my Savior began to gently prod and nudge me... softly encouraging me to acknowledge my spiritual nearsightedness. Admitting that you have been wasting time is never an easy admission to make... but, God knew my heart all along. He knew that I was trying my best and He lifted me out of my confusion.

When God began opening up these truths in my mind, it suddenly became clear to me that I will never become holy by making that my focus. Only by devoting my energies to serving and fulfilling these commands in which I lack, will Christ be able to complete His work in me. And only by fastening my eyes upon the cross will I be able to remember that in my own strength, I am nothing. That was quite an epiphany for me, I must say. But, time and time again, God shows me that His ways are surprisingly...........simple.

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