Thanksgiving

I know that Thanksgiving looks a little different for all of us this year. The year of 2020 has been one for the books for sure, BUT God has been so, so good and faithful. Yes, we are watching our world in turmoil around us but with a God perspective that view is a little different.  Let’s go deeper on this subject.

This year has thrown a great deal of adversity and chaos our way, including the diagnosis of new health issues, online education of our kids, working from home exclusively, stores running out of Clorox wipes and no one will be able to forget the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. Living life during a pandemic has been something. But let’s get down to the amazing things that we can take away from 2020. My family went on a much needed pause in the Spring time. We were able to sit down to dinner and simply talk. No one had to dart out the door to practice. The sad but true fact was that we maybe had dinner together once or twice a week prior to the pandemic. I am beyond grateful for the pause that allowed my family to be a family unit together. Some of our best discussions as a family happen around the dinner table. It was the most amazing opportunity to just be in the moment together. I am grateful that I will take a stand I will value the family unit as a whole. We will not go back to what dinner looked like pre-2020. We have a new standard.

I cannot believe I am saying this, if you worked in the IT department at my work you would certainly agree.. but I am thankful for modern technology. I am so grateful for the ability to zoom, facetime and video chat. I find myself struggling with the need for human interaction. That is saying a lot because I can sometimes need time to decompress. I believe there is something to be said when something you normally take for granted is taken away. Modern technology has allowed our family to visit with family and friends. I have so enjoyed our Facetimes with my grandparents and parents. Of course, I would prefer to HUG them in a big way. If anyone finds a deal of hazmat suit, I am in the market.

I am also thankful to be able to explore adventures in cooking together as a family. The kids and I took advantage of Hello Fresh meals and were able to make gourmet meals together. This opportunity allowed Brogan to find a love for cooking that I dare to say, he probably would not have otherwise found. We also purchased a pellet smoker that has completely wrecked our dining world. Um, all I can say is get yourself one and your stomach will certainly thank you for it. I am grateful for the ability to see personalities show through when we cooked together. Kinsley naturally as a the first born, led. Brody liked the technical aspects of cooking but not necessarily the cooking itself. Our resident other 40 year old, Brody, who lives in a world that is very black (he does not understand his twin Brogan who is 100% living in the gray) made us follow the directions line by line on the recipe cards. The conversation was nothing short of priceless.

Another big one for me is simply TIME, no not the magazine. For example, my commute in the office was approximately an hour plus depending on traffic one way. Now days, I roll out of bed read my devotional and Bible and find one of the greats to tune in to. You know, like Louie Giglio, Jack Hibbs and some guy named Bo Gerken. I have found myself turning to the Word, worship music and speakers of the Word more and more. I have found myself reading my Bible and researching online classes to grow my knowledge base. This is a good problem to have. I am without a doubt grateful for the TIME to be able to focus and dig deeper. I have been able to focus on writing for my blog and book. There is so much peace that comes from expelling my thoughts into written word. Peace and contentment are attributes that I have been able to find a lot easier these days. I am finding who I am through my relationship with Jesus. There is so much FREEDOM to be had with growing your relationship with Christ.

I turned the big 4-0 this November. I was seriously struggling with this number. I also randomly struggled with 26- not entirely sure why. I am a bit quirky I guess. I am about twenty days into 40 and I am learning that I am proud of who I am. I cannot really say that about my 20’s or 30’s. I was constantly searching. I was searching so desperately for a relationship with the King of Kings. I did not know this then of course. I like who I am. I like who I have become. I am a perfectly imperfect mix of somewhere between an ample splash of hot mess meets a Jesus lovin’ Proverbs 31 gal, who fervently loves her family and friends and tells every dog in her path that she loves them- type of gal- otherwise known as quirky or even perhaps different. I am ok with that. I have no desire to be normal. I have reached a point in my life where I am living for Jesus not the world. I am flawed and I fail but I am not quitting, I AM PRESSING IN DEEPER. Join me!

I am grateful for church services and the ability to worship freely. At the end of the day, we all know how the story ends. I will be transparent in the fact that there have been times where I have struggled with hopeless and anxiety. For me, that is a trigger to dig deep. Some nights, I fall asleep while praying. Some nights, it is freezing cold or pouring down rain and I will stand outside and worship. I have to go outside because I was not blessed with a singing voice that sounds like angels-I might need to send apology cards to my neighbors. I am far from it. I also enjoy the alone time, just me, God, the stillness of living out in the country and with hands lifted I worship. You guys, I just know that I need God more than ever before. I need Him to be with me all day, every day.

I am thankful to belong to a family of believers who are focused on the hope that comes with having a personal relationship with Jesus. I am thankful for HIS grace and the Freedom that we can experience as a result of grace. I am thankful to be a part of something that words will never adequately describe. I am blown away by how believers come together in the face of a pandemic and pray collaboratively for a loved one. Words cannot begin to explain the gravity of what it feels like when Jesus enters the scene. Lives are being changed. God is not finished. He is moving and working behind the scenes. There is hope. I mean God knows you. He knows what you are going through. He knows your hurts. Press in. Be different.

Jesus, I come to you today with a grateful heart. I pray for our world. I pray for our country. I lift up those suffering. I am praying for healing. I am praying for believers to go viral with their faith. I am praying hearts, minds and relationships. Jesus, I am thankful for your unforgiving love and mercy. I will continue to lift you higher and bless your name during the storm and the times of prosperity. I pray that we enter the holiday season with grateful hearts and contentment and peace. Lord, we lay our burdens at your feet. In your loving name me pray. Amen.

This is the #givethanks song I am listening to while preparing for Thanksgiving.
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Worship

I grew up attending the Catholic church.  I loved my little hometown church.  I love the people that made up this church.  I loved our priest.  He was not your typical Catholic priest.  He was an older gentleman who wore leather pants and drove a Harley.  He had a zest for life and deep love for Christ.  Attending Catholic Mass was what I knew and I have never been one for change unless I initiate it.    

As someone who grew up Catholic, I never understood how people worshipped with their hands raised and danced in the aisles.  I call these folks the “front row Hallelujah sisters.”  The raising of hands was so foreign to me.  I grew up attending service that was extremely regimented.  I loved the structure of it all.  I knew what to expect and I liked that. 

My life began to take a turn that I did not see coming when we started attending our current church.  I love our church.  It is a church family based on a relationship with Christ not a membership to the church.  I felt a calling to re-dedicate my life to Christ.  I felt myself growing closer and closer to God.  Little did I know, my life was about to be forever changed. 

I am not a singer.  I honestly cannot carry a tune.  I would mouth the words but did not really vest my time into worship.  I tolerated the singing to get to the message, you know the real reason you come to church- so I thought. I will be extremely vulnerable and honest and say that I had a stirring to raise my hands long before I ever did.  I knew God was telling me to re-dedicate my life to him through baptism. but raising my hands… nope not happening- I will fight you on this one.  I full-heartedly believe that was the Holy Spirit trying to grab ahold of me and I resisted.  I was embarrassed to be considered a Hallelujah sister, I thought these gals would have shouted hallelujah at about anything. Honestly, I kept thinking about the Mississippi Squirrel Revival and at that point that was the ONLY way this girl would raise her hands at church.  

A few years later (yes years, I am a little head strong), I went to Desperation, a youth conference with Kinsley in 2018.  I went with the purpose of getting Kinsley from Kansas to Colorado to Wichita for a softball tournament.  I was not expecting this to be a life changing event.  I was not planning on experiencing an “ah ha moment.”  While at Desperation, I was surrounded by thousands of teenagers who were on fire for God.  One of those teenagers was Kinsley.  It was almost like I was on the outside looking in.  Kinsley is one of those kids that is on fire for God.  I never really witnessed her worshipping.  I was humbled and blown away.  This girl worships like it is just her and God alone in a room.  She is all in no doubt about it.  I remember just being overwhelmed with emotion watching her.  I started crying and could not stop it.  Deep down I knew this was the blockage to a more meaningful and deep relationship with God.  My hands went up and my heart opened up to God like never before. 

Throughout the Bible, we hear of characters “worshipping.”  Psalm 95:6 says, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”  Worship and prayer go hand in hand.  Psalm 29:2 2 shares, “A scribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” 

I wish I would have had a better relationship with God when my grandma JoAnn passed away, when our twins were born and when Brody broke his femur.  In each of these moments, I needed that relationship with God.  I needed those assurances.  I needed that peace that comes with having a strong foundation in Christ.  Instead, I had wavering faith.  I carried the weight of the world on shoulders that could not endure that type of burden.  Even when I was not engaged with Christ how I should have been…HE was still there.  He brought our family Kinsley when we lost my grandma.  He knew we needed a gentle soul to mend our broken hearts.  Sometimes I am blown away by their similarities- like crying on cue and having this amazing heart filled with love for kids at St. Jude’s.  God was also with us in the NICU.  He loved on us when we were treading on new paths.  He was most certainly there with us when Brody broke his femur.  He comforted our son when he should have been in horrific pain.  He calmed our heart as we raced to the emergency room to get Brody the care he needed.  When I was not present….He has ALWAYS been PRESENT.    

I am not on the front row, but yes, I am a hallelujah sister work-in-progress.  Let me tell you, raising my hands and truly worshipping God has transformed my faith journey.  I have a deeper personal relationship with Christ that entails worshipping, praying and daily conversations with God.  I start my day with worship music.  I clean the house to worship music.  I fight my best battles with Biblical scriptures, worship music and prayer.  Especially the song below.  I will praise his name through the storms, enemies and unbelief.  I believe in the hope that comes with being a believer.  I don’t think that means all my prayers will be answered in the manner I want them answered.  It means that I coming to God with my concerns and I rely on him and him alone.  He can handle my burdens.  I am simply am not equipped as a human being to handle such things.  I am able to find peace knowing that I stand firm in God’s presence and the plans he has for me. 

Hugs, Tara

“Raise A Hallelujah”

I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, Heaven comes to fight for me

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

I raise a hallelujah, with everything inside of me
I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee
I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery
I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me!

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

Sing a little louder (Sing a little louder)
Sing a little louder (Sing a little louder)
Sing a little louder (Sing a little louder)
Let’s sing a little louder (Let’s sing a little louder)
Sing a little louder (In the presence of my enemies)
Sing a little louder (Louder than the unbelief)
Sing a little louder (My weapon is a melody)
Sing a little louder (Heaven comes to fight for me)
Sing a little louder (In the presence of my enemies)
Sing a little louder (Louder than the unbelief)
Sing a little louder (My weapon is a melody)
Let’s sing a little louder (Heaven comes to fight for me)
Sing a little louder!!

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!
Oh, I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah!

Just begin to raise your own hallelujah
I can’t do it for you
There’s a song written on your heart only you can sing
And when you sing enemies flee
When you sing prison walls come falling down
When you sing Heaven invades the earth
So just begin to lift up your hallelujah
Raise it like a banner
Raise it like a flag
Raise it in the middle of the storm
Let it rise, let it rise
Like a symphony to the King
Everything to You, Jesus
We raise it all
Sing a little louder!!

I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah (In the presence of my enemies)
I raise a hallelujah (Louder than the unbelief)
I raise a hallelujah (My weapon is a melody)
I raise a hallelujah (Heaven comes to fight for me)