Monday, July 28, 2008

God's Provision

It's been quite an overwhelming month for me and Wes, especially as we're preparing to move in just over a month. Finding out we were pregnant brought on a flood of emotions ranging between fear and excitement. But lately those have been shadowed by the "how are we going to pay for this" fear. We don't have insurance, and therefore I have not been able to schedule our first real doctor's appointment. We've been looking into getting Medicaid down in Florida, but that kinda doesn't help with Kentucky, because by the time we're in Florida, I'll already be nearly 4 months pregnant. So sweat beads have formed as we've tried to figure out what to do. Then God reminded us that even when we don't know what to do, He always provides a way.

After the worship service was over yesterday, our pastor called us into his office and closed the door. We had no idea what to expect. Was this trying to work out some final details before our move? Then he told us...something that left us speechless. Someone in the church found out our situation, recommended a doctor to go to, and gave us the money to pay for the first appointment. They also will be covering our second appointment if we're still in town for that...then we can bring the medical records with us to Florida, where I can then apply for Medicaid. The person or persons asked to remain anonymous, which is frustrating in a happy way because all I want to do is run up to them and hug them.

Every time I sit and wonder how we're going to make it through a particular situation, God always reminds me, "don't worry, I am here." This was such tangible evidence of His love and care for us...and how He NEVER leaves us. He always provides even in the midst of our doubt of that provision. How could I doubt?

All praise be to God for His never ending mercies and blessings!!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On June 29, 2008.... approximately 2:30pm (and after nearly 8 years of trying)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Derby Dilemmas

Wes and I live in Louisville, KY, home of the Kentucky Derby. It's a long celebrated horse race here with festivities beginning a month before, starting with Thunder Over Louisville, a semi-large fireworks show. Then a couple weeks before the race, there are parades, hot air balloon races, among a host of other activities. When Wes & I first moved here, it boggled our minds to see how much emphasis was put around a day of gambling. Did you catch that? Gambling. I think as they watch the race, people sometimes forget the whole thing is about people gambling their money away. And there are festivities that celebrate this!! And the thing that gets us even more is that they call it a "sport." Would people even watch a horse race if it didn't involve the possibility of winning money? Unlikely. On top of that, it's a day people celebrate getting drunk. The infield is well known for this...and people start drinking early in the morning and are already drunk before the first race of the day even begins.

It amazes me in particular the number of Christians that get sucked into this. They will denounce flying over to Vegas and playing the slots, but will turn around and place a few bucks on their favorite if it's somehow different because it's a long time Louisville tradition. I wonder when it became ok to replace godly stewardship with gambling "tradition." And I don't want to sit here and say that all Christians gamble their money away on the Derby, but it does sadden me those that do. And here's opening a Pandora's box...I also can't quite understand the Christians who will go and support it by watching it and cheering it on, even without the money involved. Would we go to a bar and cheer people on as they get wasted? Would we stand by their side at the craps table crossing our fingers their dice lands on the right side? Why then would we cheer horses on so that people can win money off them while they're getting trashed? I'm sure these comments are not winning me any friends at the moment....

The Derby also brings another dilemma...the strain these horses are put under. Yes, horses like to run. But horses were not created to be put under such physical strain all so someone can hopefully win some money off them. And before someone brings up working horses, there is a big difference between a working horse and horse trained to raise the gambling odds. On Saturday as one horse won the Derby, another was euthanized. I was so angry about the situation that I cried. Wes watched a recap of the race to specifically watch Eight Belles, the horse that broke both her front ankles, to see if there was anything he could spot. He said you could tell she was running funny but it was also clearly evident the jockey was really pushing her. It made him angry, I could tell, as he he said "she came in second place and then died...I hope that was worth it to them" (them referring to her jockey, trainer, and owners). What kind of selfish desires do people have that they are willing to have a horse die so they can win some money? Were they sad? I'm sure. Does the sadness justify what happened? Hardly. And this is not the first horse to be euthanized due to injuries sustained on the track. I'm sure many have heard the story of Barbaro, the 2006 Derby winner who fractured 3 bones two weeks later during the Preakness Stakes. After several surgeries and many complications, he was euthanized in January 2007.

Gambling, drunkenness, unnatural physical strain resulting in death...and society celebrates this. A friend from church, Sarah, and I discussed this last night and talked about how the Derby really shows the depravity of mankind. Maybe it's the large Derby hats that are blocking our views of the reality behind this race. In any case, you won't be hearing me returning the greeting the next time someone wishes me a "Happy Derby Day."

Photo of Eight Belles, moments before she was euthanized

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Journey Ending

In the summer of 2001, we moved to Louisville so that Wes could attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It's been many years of being challenged spiritually to grow and learn. At the same time, it felt like a never ending that seemed to go on year after year. And while we loved the seminary and Wes so enjoyed sitting under the teachings of such Godly men, we were feeling restless. Part of it was me ready to get back to school myself, and part of it was Wes ready to be done with school, period. Southern is known for academically challenging work, and the Masters of Divinity program, which Wes is in, is roughly 90 hours...compared to a roughly 30 hour program a typical school offers for a master's. It's not uncommon to hear laughter when a first year student comes in wearing rose colored glasses saying that he plans to finish school in 3 years. All in good fun, of course, but there's also a sense of "yeah, that's what we said too."

It had been a while since I had attended the seminary's chapel service. I had regularly attended when we still lived on campus, but since we've lived off campus, it's made it difficult to get over there. Wes works on Tuesdays and Thursdays (chapel days), and I wasn't going to walk during the winter and I needed to save my bus money for getting to work. But today was perfect. I had the day off, the weather was warm and beautiful, so I got up, got ready, and walked to chapel. I spotted some friends from church who are also seminary students and sat with them. There was such an awesome feeling of familiarity as we sang and worshiped our Lord. How I love going to the chapel service!! So while we were singing, I thought to myself, "I need to check my work schedule next week and try to come on over again." Then Dr. Mohler, the seminary president, announced it was the last service of the semester. I was stunned. I mean, I wasn't stunned that it was the last service of the's April 24th! But what stunned me was the date's April 24th!!

Wes graduates in 3 weeks. How the heck did time go by so quickly? After years of wondering whether we'd ever see a light at the end of the tunnel, we are now just about out of the tunnel and I'm sitting here thinking, "wait!" Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited about our upcoming move. But for the last 7 years, the seminary has been our home. How odd to think that we'll rarely see it any more after Wes graduates.

It blessed me to sit through chapel service and to be a part of it again. It saddened me to know it was the last one I'd be at and saddened me even more that Wes couldn't be there with me. After chapel, I walked to the cafeteria to grab some lunch. Wes and I used to eat there often when we still lived on campus...and some of my favorite moments were when I had class and would head over for an occasional early morning breakfast. After lunch, I walk to the seminary lawn and sat with my shoes off, enjoying the day and the sights. Soon after, I got up and walked back home.

I am not who I was 7 years ago when we began this journey...I barely recognize that person. And for that matter, Wes isn't the same person either. Being at the seminary has helped us grow as individuals, as a couple, and as followers of Christ. And while I spent a good amount of time telling Wes how nice and warm Florida is compared to Louisville throughout our 7 years, I really wouldn't have traded our time here. We love this seminary. Like a parent raises their child to one day say "go, it's now time to be an adult," so the seminary is now telling us "go, it's time to carry on your ministry." And funny how like I child I am, after so many years of saying "I can't wait to go," that I'm now clinging on and crying "but I'm not ready! We're just kids!!" But we're not kids, are we? Of course not. People always talk about the "real world" and how hard it is...sometimes it feels like that plus a hundred fold when it comes to the ministry's "real world." Fellow ministers and their families surely understand. So on one hand, I feel wide eyed and hopeful for the future. On the other hand, I'm like a scared kid asking "what now?" It's a weird feeling. But it's time. It's time to go in the confidence that God has laid out the path for us.

Seven years. I feel so blessed that God chose us to be a part of this incredible journey.

Alumni Chapel, SBTS

Saturday, March 29, 2008

In Confidence

Last night I had a dream that has really stuck with me. I had been brought into a room by an old friend of mine who told me he wanted to sit me down and talk to me about something I probably didn't want to hear. "Great," I thought, while trying to look for the quickest escape. But I sat anyway and waited. Finally he came in, sat down, and went into this speech about guys and gals who like each other but never ask each other out...or maybe they finally are together but the guy is too scared to ask her to marry him. After letting it sit there for a minute, I finally asked...
"What does this have to do with me? I asked Wes out for our first date and Wes proposed to me...and we've been married nearly 8 years."
"Mary, why do you think these people didn't have the courage to ask each other out or propose?" he asked in reply.
I sat there for a minute thinking...what was he trying to convey to me? Then I realized what it was.
"They lacked self confidence."
My friend nodded and took my hand as though he knew I would need comfort at that moment. I turned my head away and slightly shook it. He was right. At one point in my life I was very confident...confident enough to ask out a guy I was head over heels crazy in love with...knowing a rejection might follow. Wes was confident enough to propose to me, knowing a "no" could be an answer. I sat there thinking about the ups and downs with confidence I've had over the years and I wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn't come. Instead I felt angry at myself. My friend patted my hand and told me how I was going to get this make over. I was going to get the haircut I've had a few times, but have lately not had the confidence to get it though I've really been wanting it again. I was getting this crazy printed dress and a pair of really funky shoes...things I would have loved but never would have purchased for myself because people who see me like to see me in "safe" things. I absolutely loved the shoes in particular and commented how great they would look with a pair of jeans and my super cool retro Rainbow Brite tshirt (oh yeah, I love that shirt of mine!). My friend said that would be awesome, but right now, I'm wearing it with a new shirt. So I chose this teal colored short sleeve satin shirt that had various designs on it that I can't quite remember. My hair was done, I had my shirt, my jeans, super cool shoes, and big earrings and a chunky bracelet on...I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "so this is where I've been hiding!!" I loved how I looked. Shortly after, I woke up.

The dream has been on my mind all morning. I thought about things I have passed up because I wasn't confident enough to do them. When I was getting new glasses last summer, I spent forever looking at the same three frames. I really wanted these green frames, but I kept thinking about how ridiculous people would think I I sat them back down. Then it was down to a pair of maroon-ish frames or a pair a light brown pair. Wes & I really liked the maroon-ish one, but I eventually settled on the light brown pair, justifying it by said that it will go with more things. I like my frame, but I wasn't confident enough to get either of the other two pairs that I liked even more. But thing is, it's not just my clothes or my glasses. It's so many things in life. I've been invited to join the praise band at church a few times. And each time I'm invited, I sit in the pew watching them as they practice, never once going up to join them. Our music minister asked one time after practice if I was waiting for any particular reason. I knew what he was hinting at and was asking in a delicate way. Why didn't I join them? I told him I just felt awkward and didn't know if he was just asking me to join just to be polite. He told me that he wouldn't have asked if he didn't think I was good enough...that if he knew someone who wanted to join but didn't really have the skill, or still needed lots of practice, he wouldn't ask. So I felt better, but I still doubt myself when it comes to joining them. I sit there in my pew on Sunday mornings thinking "I'm glad I didn't join this week because that song reaches too high for me and I can't figure out where to pick up the harmony." I justify my lack of self confidence.

Why do I do this? I do things because they are safe, not because I necessarily enjoy them. That's not to say I always dress in this funky manner...there are some "safe" clothes I really like. But there's also this part of me that likes what some would consider "weird stuff"...heck, one of my favorite shirts is my Nightmare Before Christmas shirt that I wear along with these big Jack Skellington hoop earrings. For the record, I have never received so many compliments on any clothing item I own more than I have my Nightmare shirt. I feel that if I dress a certain way or do things in a particular manner, more people will accept me and I'll have all these friends, blah blah blah. It's a need for validation. But why can't I validate myself? Why can't I be content in what I like and can do? Why have I lost the self confidence to accept myself? It's ridiculous! I should be praising God for how He made me rather than try to conform myself to how others think I should be.

I'm telling you all this in confidence. Not in the sense it's some secret, but in the sense that I finally realize that there are changes in my life I need to's time to start growing in the confidence God wants me to have.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Definition of a Family

"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'...So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.' For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."
Genesis 2:18, 21-24

For the last several years I have contemplated what "family" meant. Stop and think for a moment about the word "family." What immediately comes to mind? Many people go directly to the poster image of a mother and father with their daughter and son. Some families may include a single child or more than two, some may be all girls or all boys, or a mix. Whatever the case may be, you'll rarely, if ever, hear someone say "a husband and wife." I think about how often Wes and I feel excluded from various "family" days at whatever location, family photos in which only parents with their children get that special picture while we look on and think "maybe if I hold the camera with this hand and in this position, we'll be able to get a picture of ourselves together," and the list goes on. has the first definition of family listed as parents with their children. Merriam-Webster first defines a family as "a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head." I like M-W's definition a lot more, not only because it doesn't define it as having children, but also defines it as being under one head. Talk about a biblical approach, in spite of it being a dictionary!

I've been thinking about the above passage in Genesis and how the real first family came to be. God realized that it was not good for Adam to be alone, that he needed someone. So does God put Adam to sleep and POOF! there's his wife and kids? No! He creates a wife for him...and that's it. Adam is now complete. Adam didn't need kids for God to know that the situation was now perfect. And the passage doesn't go on to say, "but Eve felt incomplete and desired children in order to become a family." Again, no! They already were a family! Notice that kids didn't enter the picture until sin did... Ok, please don't twist my words there, I am not saying that kids are a result of sin and anyone who has children are sinning...what a laugh that is! But what I am trying to point out is that so many people miss the fact that Adam and Eve were already complete before kids entered the picture. It's not like God saw them as any less of a family and thought them incomplete. If that were the case, I doubt Eve would have been the only one created when He put Adam to sleep.

Wes and I may never have children. It's a reality we have to face. But we are no less a family. So when you're organizing a family event for something, perhaps think of activities that the not often thought of family groups can participate in. When you're snapping family portraits, ask the husband and wife family if they'd like one too. If you have some sort of family support group, maybe include a small group for the families that don't have children. Just think of ways where the childless ones can feel included.

We're a family too. may not say so, but the Bible definitely does.

Photo by Kara Guffey

Friday, March 14, 2008

For the Love of a Piggy

My precious baby Mocha passed away on Wednesday. Over the last few weeks, he struggled with two upper respiratory infections. But the worst news was when we found out he had a stone in each ureter and needed emergency surgery. We left him with our vet on Tuesday, with his surgery scheduled for Wednesday. Tuesday night, at almost midnight, we made a 20 minute trek to the vet office to visit him and to bring him his most cherished possession, his cuddle cup. The cuddle cup is about 3 years old, so worn and ragged from several washings, but he absolutely loves it. We spent about half an hour with him, taking turns holding him, feeding him blueberries (his favorite treat), singing to him (he always looked at me and purred when I sang the song from Dumbo, "Baby Mine," to him), telling him what a good piggy he was and how much we loved him. He purred away in contentment as we rubbed him and held him close. We asked the vet if it was ok if he had his cuddle cup with him so he had something familiar with him and she said it was fine. As I was preparing to give him back, I held him close and breathed in his scent several times. I felt at the moment that it was so important for me to just breathe him in. I looked at him and said "precious, you smell like Mocha." He purred, I told him I loved him...and that was the last time I saw him.

Wednesday afternoon around 1pm, our vet called and said he made it out of surgery, but that one of the stones went back into his kidney so she'd need to go back in for it in another day or two, but he was resting well in the mean time. Three hours after that, she called again...the first words out of her mouth were, "I'm sorry." She explained that his intestines started to bloat and they couldn't stop it...and finally he "went to sleep" as she delicately told me. She kept apologizing and through my sobs, I told her how much we appreciated that she did all that she could for him. The drive to pick up his little body was painfully long, but it was even worse when we got there and they handed me a little box with his name and a heart drawn on it. I also got back his cuddle cup. When we got home, I opened the box, took off the towel he had been wrapped in, held him close, and just cried. I think even the other piggies knew something was wrong as they all were incredibly subdued...and still remain so, Eggnog in particular.

Piggies can live anywhere from 5-10 years. Mocha would have turned 3 in June.

We've lost three piggies. One died in my arms, one died due to the fault of a former vet, and now Mocha. With each, we wrapped them in a shirt of mine so they'd forever be wrapped in Mama's arms. We also put in clippings from the other piggies' fur, as well as little things they loved. Mocha will be no different. And as much as I want to hang on to his cuddle cup, he deserves to have it with him. Some people can't imagine why I would do this. After all, I've been told, it's just a guinea pig. Why do I do it? Because I loved him. I adored him. He trusted me. He was not a disposable pet to toss to the side when things went downhill. He was a creation of God, entrusted to my care...and he deserved to be cared for. Mocha was an incredibly affectionate piggy with such a sweet disposition...and anyone who "could care less" truly doesn't deserve his love.

I realize that the entire world is not as passionate about animals as I am, and some barely even care. I realize that not everyone cares about creation in general. I think what saddens me even more is when Christians are the ones who could care less. We are the ones who should be front and center when it comes to caring for God's creation. Instead, many Christians look at me and Wes and we're considered "moderate" or "liberal" because of our beliefs regarding conservation...and some have used the term "tree hugger." For the record, I have no problems being a tree hugger...I do have problems with people who use that term in a derogatory manner towards me. When Adam and Eve were created, the first command was to be fruitful and multiply. The second command was a charge regarding our rule over the earth. Why do so many Christians happily accept the first command while completely ignoring the second? They're both in the same verse. I'm not saying that everyone needs to be right where I am regarding my passion for the environment. It just makes me sad that the very people who are called to be stewards of the earth are the ones who look down upon those who actually take the job seriously.

For you Lord of the Rings fans out there...remember Denethor? He was called to be the Steward of Gondor. He was to take care of the kingdom until the king returned. And what happened? He let it get to his head...he stopped caring about his kingdom and refused to give up "his" throne for the return of the king. He declined into madness. We, as Christians, have been called to be stewards of this earth with God as our High King. This world is not our's not ours to mess up. And yet, some stewards could care less about it. While we are anxiously awaiting the return of Christ, what kind of earth are we having Him return to? Have we seriously declined into madness like Denethor and refuse to give up our throne for the rightful King? Are we really proud of what we're offering to Him? Can we stand tall when asked "what did you do in your role as steward?" When we chase after animals to scare them, throw things at another animal for fun, care less about the plight of an animal in need...stop and think about just Who created that animal...and Who we are hurting when we take delight in their suffering.

Mocha, I love you...and I feel blessed that God gave you to us...even for a short time.

Photos by Mary King