Joy that comes in the "mourning"....

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I can't start this without giving thanks. As tragedy has swirled around my sweet family these are just a few images that show the joy that comes in the morning! Thankful for they way God is using pain to define purpose in my man!

Smiley (red shirt) is a fairly new recruiter in Brent's office. From the first time my children met him they deemed him one of their most favorite people on the planet! He wrestles with them, he plays with them and he is just a big kid when he's with them! He's never too busy to have a little fun. And I quickly noticed that Brent was stretching outside his normal work compartment to really invest in him. I truly think that he sees alot of some other special kid we love in him. His similar story and his success is encouraging when you have watched so many fail and quit and give in to the cycle from which they come. Smiley isn't any of that. And I think he allowed Brent to see hope again! He also allowed him to see our responsibility to put action to our words that defines our faith. Words are empty, but he loved this guy enough to truly invest far beyond military regulation. Never ever had he invited any of the younger guys to our home for dinner. Never had he even mentioned anything personal about others at work even really. But somewhere In the midst of chaos God started to work an Brent began to invest his own emotions and story in someone else.

Tragedy struck him. Hard. It hit home or what once was home. It erased his beginnings from this Earth and took with it the people who planted the seeds for the amazing man he became. He lost all that when the flames took over his childhood home and took with them the lives of his grandparents.

And he grieves and the people around him watched. The little people at home, the people in his circle of friends and the people he works with, those guys that became more a part of his thoughts on a more personal level. Conversations began taking place, questions of how in the world he had hope or a smile or a genuine peace started rolling out like thunder and the testimony continued to write itself.

God's love for him became real and in return his love for God became a part of every conversation, every breath.. Life changed, what's important took on that new rebirth. And people were listening.

These photos are so sweet to me for many reasons but here's a few. First- the group photo of all the boys was at Smiley's baptism last week!!! We traveled to watch him make public his decision along with about 70 of his closest friends!!!! It was one of the most amazing times of worship I've ever had. What a celebration!! Second, the picture gives me hope. Someone planted the seed for Smiley's physical life, another watered it and invested in him and took him to the next level, another Mom and Dad- another family willing to just live the gospel. Then others like Brent were willing to man up and lead along as adults, to encourage and not be hesitant about revealing the hope that lives even in the face of absolute devastation. We will all face it one day, why not walk the road alongside someone else now? Your experience may very well be the source of encouragement for them later!

And then there is my sweet boys and a fairly new friendship that has blessed is all beyond measure. You know when your child has one of those really good friends, one who brings out the best in them. A friend who is lucky enough to have amazing values and beliefs and is pleasant to be around. Meet Josh. Thankful for being at AJW. Thankful for saying yes to the school board bc I would have probably not gotten to know he and his Daddy as well otherwise. Everyone tends to gravitate to Jax or Mary Cohen at first bc they have that infectious extrovert personality where Aden is more like his Daddy. Quiet, scanning the situation, lost in his thoughts of things that interest him. He has lots of friends, don't get me wrong but no one else has ever been immediately drawn to him from the get go. These boys are two of a kind. And I love seeing there little friendship grow. Thanks to his Daddy we have gotten to see alot of Josh lately and it has been such a blessing. To see your child grow relationships that build them up and satisfy that boy spirit of adventure and playfulness yet still manage to be loving and kind is a precious gift that I think most parents would agree is there even if we don't always think about it. These 4 kids had an instant connection and it is a joy to watch. Josh Is an only child so watching him become part of a sibling group of chaos has been so incredibly fun! He actually adds a calming effect I think. And knowing that there are other parents out there that are taking the time to really try and mold their children to be more than the clothes they wear or the toys they have or all the places they can go is priceless. Josh's Dad has done an amazing job loving him and imparting in him the things that really matter; your character, how you treat people, how you give your best effort and how you just love people for people. Makes my heart smile to know that my kids get to have such an awesome little friend at such a young age. I love tucking them all in at night and hearing them all pray and thank God for eachother. It's funny to think that such little ones can leave an impact on is adults but they do. I am thankful that we said yes to AJW and for all the kids and families there. I think about how different our life would have been had we never moved the kids. Our circle would be so void of so many of the things that we love so very much. So Josh is a treasure within himself, but he also represents the many faces that we have been blessed to love through our children's school who live all over Greenville County. we would have likely never met Josh or many of the other kids my children love so much had we stayed here in Simpsonville. Of course there are many many wonderful peoe here. please do not put words in my mouth. i just mean that there always seems to be that perfect fit for each family and we found ours and cant imagine doing life without the people we now do it with from our school connections. ;) There are so many ways to make a difference and have people make a difference to you if you only stop to get to know them, to meet your children's classmates parents, to be involved enough at school to know what's going in with the kids there and learn their little personalities. It's a gold mine waiting to be uncovered for your children and for you! I have had great joy playing the role of hugger and encourager and just that Mommy presence to many of these little guys and girls this year. To be the face in the crowd cheering them on when their parent couldn't be there. What a blessing I have to be able to be able to be there not only for my kids but for whoever needs to feel like someone special is cheering them on and calling them out as special! And I see other parents do it as well. We are family. Your kids are my kids and mine yours. It's a beautiful thing to see beginning to unfold!

In this season of tragedy and loss we have also felt a renewal. A rebirth of purpose for Brent, a renewed energy for me as I am so encouraged by watching my children model their Daddy's strength and hope in how they have grieved. I feel constantly in awe of the friends who have become family. real, drop everything and run family ;) for the bond growing in our small group and the men who are stepping ip and out. Praise the Lord! if it takes tragedy to do all that then bring it and to GOD be the glory!!! My thankfulness for these people that God is placing in all of our lives who may only be here for a season but for a season they help to better us for a lifetime.

We all know that to grow we must be pruned. And it hurts. To produce fruit the seed must fall and the soil must be tended and watered and nourished. We have been pruned alot, and we have been watered and nourished by so many. There were alot of dead areas in our lives keeping is from saying yes to God and there are alot more! We have plunged deep in God's word and we have found rest. We are far from where God wants us to be but in this season which is by no mistake Thanksgiving, I see the abundant harvest and I am so so grateful beyond words for each and very thing that has contributed of the bounty in which my family feasts.

I pray that we are worthy of our calling and that as we continue to be pruned that as the boys were singing together earlier "we won't go left and we won't go right we'll keep on traveling and be the light..."

So simple, even three 9 year olds can understand it! ;)

Love and Blessings,

Manda

Manda





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