Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 7 Posts of 2013 -

I saw that Emily did this over on her blog, and I had to join in. It seemed like a super fun way to sum up the year on my blog without a bunch of work and sorting!!! And I'm super excited about ending this year. It's been a hard, emotional, crazy, but also good, fun and exciting year. I suppose it's been normal....haha. jk. My life never comes close to anything normal!! I only wrote up seven on the list because....I'm writing this at 1:15 in the morning and I'm exhausted. 


The Top Seven Posts of 2013. (with #1 being the most popular!) 

1. A B&E Family Photoshoot -
this one actually has amassed the most views of any post EVER on my blog in its running of 5 years. Fun, right? 

And I thought I'd share the top seven posts that meant the most to me. These are posts that I wrote my whole heart out, cried over or when I felt I communicated the best what I wanted to say. I often tell people...the reason I write....is for me. I'm so encouraged by going back and hearing my own heart all over again, and knowing God brought me through this, or God taught me that. I love writing and remembering! 

My Top 7 Favorite Posts of 2013

Hands down, one of the most raw and true things I've ever written. I still go back and cry over it. 

(I never get tired of going back and laughing at this memory!) 


So there you have it!! Two fun lists of blog posts. 
And now it is...1:45 in the morning, and I'm crazy for blogging this late. 

Much love always, and have a wonderful New Year's Eve! Oh and speaking of that....
This is my favorite version of this song - EVER. I love it. Happy New Year's Eve!! I've been singing this pretty much ALL DAY and will continue singing it into New Year's Eve and into next year. Hahaha!!

With love,
~ Jean Marie ~

Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sweet Libby -

"Life is just better with you. Smiling with you, rejoicing with you, laughing with you. 
Sometimes I catch you staring out the window and moving your head to the music, and tilting your head to the breeze and I just know.....that God meant for us to be friends. God knew I needed something sweet." 

I've known Libby since she was little. We used to play dolls together, she, Amanda, Kim and I....and we've sort of kept up with each other throughout growing up. But not until this past year have we grown really close. It took me a little bit to jump into the new relationship, because she was so adventurous, I didn't know what we would possibly do that would be safe!! Hahaha! jk.

We found things we loved to do, and went out and did them. We went to the beach and boogie boarded. We went to a Sovereign Grace Conference and learned and worshipped. We prayed and sang. We went to the beach. We went manatee scouting. We went wildlife hunting and exploring. We went go-karting and took iPhone videos. And we did lots and lots and lots of photography .... Like this sunset photoshoot in July. 

Libby, thank you for taking on my heart with such fierceness and patience. You have proven to be a special friend to me, and I love being with you. You make me laugh, encourage me to go for my dreams, challenge me to dig deeper, ask me how you can pray for me, listen when my life hurts, hug my sadness away, you invite me in and desire to share life with me. It has meant so much, and I love being friends with you. 

When I describe you to my friends, I say "She is tiny, adorable, cute and sweet.". And then everyone meets you, everyone wholeheartedly agrees! And you are one of my most fashionable friends!!! :D

Thank you for all the ways you make me feel loved and cherished!! I'm so excited to see you today. 
I love you, little sassy sweet adorable Libby. You mean so much to me. I thank God for you!! 
Happy 21st Birthday!!! Oh, and for the world to know just how adventurous she really is...she and her daddy are going skydiving tomorrow morning. You can bet I'll be there to take photos. And watch from the safety of God's green earth. Hahaha!!

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Engagements & Weddings! -


There are so many weddings coming up, that I can't even......even. haha. And the really neat thing is, is that they are almost all in our gang of friends!! It's an amazing, sweet, and super fun thing to watch your friends get engaged and married. I'm so excited for everyone!!! 

I've already been to two weddings in December, and they were downright SO fun and gorgeous. 

Now we've got a whole bunch more coming up!! Our family is attending Gracie & David's wedding up in Jacksonville today, AND it is Gabe & Leah's wedding day! Haha. Popular day. 

Gabriel & Leah got engaged August 26th, 2013. Lauren took their amazing engagement photos, and Emily is taking their wedding photos today!!! So excited for them! :D Emily also took this photo at the bonfire night at the Browers the night that Gabi & Abi got engaged! (Yes, it does cause confusion, yes we are all quick to set things straight. Sisters marrying Gabes, but NOT the same one! hahahaha) I adore this photo. I love them. They are so sweet, I want to squish them.

And y'all know that Gabi and Abi got engaged Nov 3rd, 2013. Their wedding is set in February, and I'm second shooting their wedding with Shannon!!! SOOO excited. Like you needed to ask. Emily shot this of them the night of their engagement!! So adorable, I can barely stand it. I love them! 

And Jeff & Nichole got engaged December 21st, 2013!! I couldn't be more excited if I tried!!! 
Oh and I....commandeered this photo from Jeff's FB - yay! haha. 

I took these photos of them last month at Barberville. :) 

... taking his glasses off and looking away into the distance like Elvis ...

aaaaand then getting made fun of for it (by me) and taken care of (by Nichole). Nichole is so sweet with him, I just love to watch them grow closer in friendship and love and now to see them engaged is very sweet and fun for me. I gave them a (ahem) screaming surprise hug attack on Thursday. 
SO happy for them!! Their wedding is set for sometime next year (obviously). 

And then BAM. Three days later, on December 24th, Joel and Becky got engaged!! Yeah, now that one there was a real surprise .... because I had no idea Joel had a ring and was going to propose! We are SO happy for them, and so excited that they are engaged. Congratulations, you two!! 
(This is the Sparling's photo, by the way! I.....commandeered it as well.)

Ok, and because you might not already know this....Becky's brother, John, and his fiancee, Katrina, are getting married New Year's Day 2014!! So two weddings for the Sparling family! And Jeff and Joel are brothers, so two weddings for their family! And Leah and Abigail are sisters, so two weddings for their family! HAHA!! :D 

Here we go for a list of the weddings, ones I've already attended in Dec, and ones to come! 
Sidney & Kaylee: Dec. 13, 2013
Marc & Kelly: Dec. 19, 2013
Gabriel & Leah: Dec. 28, 2013
David & Gracie: Dec. 28, 2013
John & Katrina: January 1, 2014
Graham & Meredith: January 25, 2014 
(I'm flying to NC for this one! It's my Christmas present this year, yay!)
Gabi & Abi: Feb. 22, 2014

And then more to come!! It's so wonderful to SEE and watch it unfold how God brings two people together and prepares them for life and Godliness and sharing His story with others. I've been so blessed by these friends, and I'm so excited for all the engagements and weddings!! :D 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!! -

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!! 

After we unwrapped our gifts, shared some stories, admired our gifts, ate some chocolate and started puttering around doing things....Daddy snuggled up with Lucy Mae on the couch for a nap, and so I grabbed Lucy Mae's new blanket and joined them. I'm so glad I did. There's nothing like a good nap on Christmas Day with carols playing in the background and all the twinkling lights blinking you into sleep. 

So, so thankful to be with my family today, all of us together and well. 
"Peace on Earth, and goodwill to men" indeed!!  

And now I'm going to go do some Christmas puzzle with my Momma and drink some apple cider! 
I hope and pray your Christmas holiday is as wonderful as ours has been. 

Much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let me draw you with me -

We were washing our hands in the restaurant bathroom, laughing and joking and just like that, we slid into the topic that was underneath it all. She says "This is my funeral blouse." and I say "I know."... I had seen it and I had known, because I was with her when she bought it. When I'd met them at Target hours after their sister had died, and we hyped up on caffeine to buy clothes we didn't want, but suddenly needed. 

And I'm hugging her goodbye, one of our long, wonderful hugs that few people allow me to give. I'm pulling out all the stops on tenderness and comfort, and I ask her how she is, and then I pull a "Tricia" on her, and ask how she REALLY is. Everything drops away and in her eyes is the same look I saw 2 years ago. The look when I walked into that building, straight home from Colorado the night before and they weren't expecting me. That shattered look right before we fell into each others arms in tears. She tells me the next two days will be hard, and that's an understatement. She moves her hands and tries to put it into other words and completely fails....she can't even say how hard it will be to miss the mother they've adored and missed for 2 years. 

and I say "I know". Because words never cover loss like we think they will. 

But I tell her I'm praying, will be praying, and she says it means so much, and we hold back the tears even though our voices have dropped to that hallowed whisper where we know we can't let go in a restaurant full of people no matter how much we hurt. 

And I never stop aching for them. Yesterday I ached so much my skin felt bruised with hurt. 
Getting a bad cancer report on a friend was the exactly wrong day to hear it. I couldn't stop crying all day, and into today too. It seems like cancer is following me around and taking out people I love.

On December 9th, I woke up at Molly's and knew something was horribly wrong. I could just feel it, and I couldn't stop thinking about Abby Smith. I got on Facebook, and there it was....she died the morning of Dec.7th. You can watch the video of her HERE. I sat there and cried. A few hours later, I realized it was the 9th, the day Barbara went to Heaven, and I cried all over again that night.

Some things you never want to hear, you don't want to know how bad it is. 

But there it is. Christmas seems pushed aside by grief, and yet the carols march on, and so does life, and years go by.

Photo taken the morning of Dec. 18, 2011. Monument, CO. 

We sing how Love came down, how Glory filled the night, how JOY was present, how Grace was given. 
We sing and we hold on, we rejoice and we pray, we laugh and love, and then we go to bed and weep for those we miss.

We want it to be perfect and beautiful and "all is calm and all is bright...." and when the calm and the quiet
is broken by sobs and brokenhearted cries and unspoken prayers, we think something is wrong. 

It is. And It's not

"It was not a silent night, there was blood on the ground. 
You could hear a woman cry in the alleyway that night on the streets of David's town.
And the stable was not clean, and the cobblestones were cold. 
And little Mary full of grace, with the tears upon her face and no mother's hand to hold." 
~ Andrew Peterson ~

How have we forgotten that the Lord of all was born in a manger with nothing, because no one had room for them? Have we been so quick to move on that His kingdom is coming that we've forgotten it came once in a brilliant shining splendor, in a glory wrapped up in a baby who would die to break our death and bring us LIFE? Have we hurried too soon from the stumbling shepherds with nothing to give, but amazed hearts and tear filled eyes?

There is Mary, in exhilarated pain and love, there is Joseph, in tender protectiveness and care, there is the Christ, the promised Savior, the One Whom multitudes of angels sang of His glory, the One who was Lord of all, the One Who was promised was HERE.

But did we think that when Jesus came into our world, He would not know pain? Or did we think that once we knew Him we would not know pain.....or perhaps that our broken world would cease to break? Our tears, our aching, our pain, He understands all this. He knows this. He walks with us in this. He did not tell us we would be unbroken in our world, but to look to the eternal world as our Home. 

We are not Home yet. 

"Noble Joseph by her side, calloused hands and weary eyes. 
There were no midwives to be found on the streets of David's town in the middle of the night. 
So he held her and he prayed; shafts of moonlight on his face, but the Baby in her womb, He was 
the Maker of the Moon, He was the Author of the Faith that could make the mountains move!" 

Photo taken Dec. 19, 2011, Monument, CO. - Snow clouds hanging low over the mountains.

And it was not just 8 or 9 months and the days accomplished that she should be delivered, it was years and years and years of aching and longing and "How long, o Lord?!" prayers from His broken people, desperate to SEE and KNOW the Savior promised to them from time before. 

It was not a birth to make them a family, the three of them - Joseph, Mary and Jesus...
No, it was a birth to graft the Gentiles into the Jews birthright. It was a birth to bring all the nations to Himself. 
It was a birth to adopt millions of sons and daughters to be heirs and beloved and redeemed by God. 
It was a birth to claim us all as His own; It was realms of endless days born into human flesh, so we might know Who loves us with everlasting love. 

It's so beautiful it makes me ache....and well it should. 

"For everyone who's been left standing on the outside looking in, everyone with dreams that will never come true;
and when the story of your life gets re-written overnight, well this is all part of the Christmas story too.
And I believe God knows and He is right there with you!" ~ Steven Curtis Chapman

Because if your parents are going through a divorce and a custody battle and you don't know how it will all turn out ...
If you just got bad news right before Christmas and you are devastated this might be your last one....
If you are missing your Mom, your Dad, your grandparents, your baby boy, your little girl, your brother, your sister, your friends....
If you've seen more funerals lately than you want, if you hate the feeling of helplessness like I do....
If "holly, jolly" and "sleighbells ringing" and "mistletoe" and "snowflakes and snowmen" just seem to fall short this year, and your desires for a great Christmas aren't turning out the way you'd dreamed....
If prayers for healing seem like they are going unanswered and you've prayed so, so long....

Come here. Take my hand. Let me hold you in a hug for a little while. Let me draw you with me, as He draws me. 

Turn your eyes from what is SEEN, and look to what is UNSEEN. Turn your face from this dying earth and look to the Heavenly glories. Take your eyes from all that will not be here and look to what WILL be, and what will be soon. Here there is life quickly fading, with Him there is life that will never die. Here there is memories that won't bring enough back, with Him there is promise of an unfading Forever.

Take your eyes from the flowers upon the graves in the cemetery and look up toward Heaven in anticipation to one day see their faces, whole and new. Look to the cross to see where it was determined and finished. Look to the resurrection to see what He started and will do in all of us. And this Christmas look with thankfulness to the manger to see the One Who made all of it true for all of us. 

I promise you that you will not look back at the grave again in the same way. Jesus changes all our tears.

Photo taken the morning of Dec. 18, 2011. Monument, CO. 

"Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh, 
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory." 
~ 1 Timothy 3:16 ~ 

Amen and Amen. Be glorified in our pain and in our joy and in our brokenness, O Lord, we pray.

To everyone who mourns .... I love you, dear friends. I'm praying for you this Christmas. 

With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

3 Years With Lucy Mae -

Three years ago today, Laurie, Mom and I got in our car, drove to the other side of town, walked in a door, shook hands with some people, stood by a Christmas tree and were surrounded by 6 (I think!) of the cutest mini-dachshund puppies you've ever seen in your whole life. Almost all were chosen...but it didn't matter. She crawled into my lap and looked straight up at me. Her almost identical twin sister tumbled around too, and all the puppies were held and cuddled and allowed to chew on our fingers, shoelaces, and seemingly everything else. I would put her down and she would be settling in somewhere else around me. Tucked in against my leg, nudging my hand, and even with another puppy in my arms, she found her way into my lap. 

And she stayed. I looked into those little eyes and knew love instantly. She was mine. Laughter swirled, details discussed, a check written....but she stayed in my arms. We walked out of there with a puppy, and I named her on the way home. "Lucy" because once I mentioned it to Laurie's girls, they were adamant it had to be Lucy. From Narnia, of course. But Lucy wasn't long enough...and so she became "Lucy Mae". Mae was Southern, the added double name like mine. It was perfect. She was perfect.

It was one of my favorite days ever. Because not only did I choose her to be ours, she chose me too. I got into the car with her on my shoulder and cried for a solid 5 minutes, I was so unbearably happy. 

She cuddled her way into our hearts and has stayed true to her joyful, cheerful, excited, playful, loving, kissable, huggable, adorable spirit that made me fall in love with her that first day. I can't believe I did this, but I left to go see a movie with friends up in Ormond, and when I got home, I was so excited to see her again that you would have thought it was my birthday and Christmas rolled into one. Which, I suppose, she was. I crept into the living room, looking for that small black thing.....and in the Christmas light glow of the Christmas tree, my Daddy was sleeping on the couch, with Lucy Mae tucked into his arm, all cuddled up sleeping. And then I cried. Tears woke up the puppy, and she licked my joyful, happy, salty tears away. 

She was ours. She was mine. She was here to stay and heal my broken heart. 
And she has. Every single day. I love her so much. There is a comfort and a knowing between our pets and us that is unexplainable. She brings joy to me every single day.... And goodness me, is she not the cutest little thing ever? Look at these pictures. ;) 

The day we got her - December 17th, 2010. She was just a few days short of 8 weeks old! 

Oh my heart. Asleep on my lap. 

Such a tiny little puppy. She was less than a foot long, and you could literally hold her curled up in both hands. 

See? Oh my goodness. My heart can't take it. 

Christmas pictures the day after we got her. 

Seriously one of the cutest things I've ever seen. She was wrapped up in a blanket, and sound asleep under the tree. 

That little nose. Oh my.  

Eating leaves outside in January, all wrapped up in my leather coat. 


"Oh? What was that!" 

"Nevermind. I shall eat this leaf now." 

"That was a tasty leaf." 

Yes, that is a sandal, and yes, it is as big as her. AAAH. 

Snuggle baby. 

And last night she was so extremely cuddly and playful, and I took some pictures of us which I love. 

Surprise Kisses Attack. 

When I got home from Illinois last Friday morning, she dragged away my socks and curled up with them and went to sleep on them. I think she might have missed me. 

She is my favorite nap-buddy. You don't know what comfort is besides a cuddly dachshund and a blanket. She brings such peace to my heart. 

I love everything about her. She comforts me when I cry, seeks me out when I am alone, comes to me when she is scared, looks to me to know for sure that all is well....she is happiest on my shoulder or on my lap....or dragging around something of mine. 

She was given to me and I've never wanted anyone else. She was the best Christmas present that year and every year since then, and birthdays rolled in as well. She makes us laugh and we just love her so much. 

When I put my hand down, she does this. She knows I need her, and she knows I need loving. Animals are so intuitive to feelings! 

And of course she keeps watch over us all, out the front windows. She could care less about squirrels, but will hunt lizards tirelessly.....yes, she is my dog. Thank God for a lizard killer and one of the sweetest dogs and friends I've ever had. 

Some days I can't even think about getting out of bed, and then I feel the bed move and then *stomp stomp stomp* over my leg, onto my stomach, and a head appears over the blankets. One smile and she's onto me, kissing my nose....I start to turn over and she puts her paws on my lips to get my attention...I sit up and she runs in circles and jumps off the bed and runs out of the room....and suddenly I want to start the day and see what it holds. She brings me alive. 

This has been a hard three years, but a much better three years for having Lucy Mae as our dog. Thank you, Mom and Dad for buying her!! And thank you Laurie for telling them how seriously I needed a dog....you knew when I kept telling you with tears in my eyes how I needed a dog, and you understood. I'm pretty sure the person she loves best next to our family is you. :) 

We love you, Lucy Mae!!!!!!
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy 20th Birthday, Becs! -

Today is Becs' 20th birthday!!!! Happy Birthday, darling!!! 

And look.....your graduation photo portraits...on.my.blog. It's a birthday miracle, I tell you. Poor darling. Maybe someday I can share them on my photo website! Becs begged me to blog them back in March of 2012, but then...life went all insane and I was way too tired and sad to do any blogging. So they sat happily on my computer and happily on hers, and sometimes you'll see one here or there. 

We did two shoots: Tuck Everlasting and Railroad Hobo. She was the prettiest hobo I've ever seen. 

I'll tell you what else....she's one of the most loyal and fun friends I've ever known. I've been so incredibly blessed by her friendship. She's quick to laugh, whether at herself or with others. She loves to be with you, to hear from you, to talk with you, to do nothing with you. She is insanely good at pretty much every instrument she takes up to play. It's downright annoying, I tell you. She's quick and witty and funny and FUN. She's tenderhearted and compassionate and an extremely complimentary word that won't make it on the blog that basically means she wins at life. She's so special she should get a degree in it. Becca Elizabeth BA of Winning at Life. HAHAHAHa. 

She's graceful and awkward all at the same time, and manages to make me look like a total white girl with no moves every time we start dancing. She can bust a move like dancers do. Oh, and this girl can SANG. She's quick to pray, quick to empathize, quick to comfort, quick to encourage. She's there for me when I am sad and life falls apart, and holds me when I cry. She's my twin in music. I'll find something, e-mail her about it, get an e-mail back that says "THEY ARE MY FAVORITE.". It happens every.single.time. 

She posts stuff like this on my FB and in e-mails and it is all soooooo truuuuueeeee. IT IS US.

We love the ocean and we hate jellies (except moon jellies) and seaweed. We are both freakishly scared of sharks. I love crabs. She does not love crabs. I love picking up dead crabs. She loves screaming at me.  
She understands my insatiable need for photographs, and good ones. We love our photoshoots together. 
We love exploring, up until we think we're gonna die by being torn limb from limb by a 10' gator. 
She's honest and hilarious and can totally take all of my "if we share this on the web, we will be disowned" pinterest pins and funny quotes and everything else that strikes us as funny - we will laugh and joke about it for forever and ever, amen. And that is what makes good friends. 

We probably get on each other's nerves sometimes, but we just let it go, because we love each other. 
She loves my family and I love hers. She laughs and sings and dances and shrieks and hugs.
We went to Mumford and Sons this year and it was honestly one of the most amazing nights of my life, and I'm so glad I spent all of it singing and jumping, dancing and being crazy right by her side. 
She makes my life so much better by being in it. I love you, Becs. Happy 20th birthday!! 

~ Jean Marie ~ 

P.S. These portraits are some of my favorite I've ever taken. EVER. She is so stunning and perfect. 

Merry Christmas to Myself -

I just unwrapped my big Christmas gift. Hey, I know it's early, but I even waited 10 days to open it, okay? Life has been SO busy with photoshoots and pictures and I knew once I opened it, I'd be gone for days with absolutely nothing on my mind except learning how to use it. So I waited, and Lauren fidgeted and my dad squirmed and asked a few dozen times when I was going to open it. haha. 

Sure enough, I opened it and walked around the house with it in giddiness. haha. Now I can't put it down, or let it out of my sight....oh wait. It is in the dining room right now. That's okay. It's only....12 feet away. I bought it refurbished from B&H, like I did with my d90, and I just bought the body, and I got it for a great price! I just sold my d90 body to my Dad's coworker, and so that cut the price of my d7000 in half!!! So thankful and excited and life will be perfect.....once I figure out how to turn Auto-Bracket off, because my Manual self will go insanely crazy in 3...2...1 seconds shooting like that. Haha! 

I've been wanting to upgrade for about 10 months now, and I've been watching this d7000 in the Refurbished department of B&H for about a month and praying about it. I don't like to just buy things that I want instantly, I want to be wise about it! But I really felt like I've outgrown the d90, and once you start feeling like that, you are ready for something more capable. Plus, now that I'm shooting a whole lot more for other people, I want to be able to handle the best!! I'm super excited and happy. :D 

So Merry Christmas to .... myself. From...myself!! 
"Merry Christmas, self!!!" - "Well, thank you, self, Merry Christmas to you too." 

Oh and because I'm the secret keeper of all big news things (apparently), I'm leaving tomorrow morning with Molly for a roadtrip from FL to Illinois, from my house to her house! In her car.....traveling for 2 days just the two of us and our cameras and tons of music and snacks.....ROADTRIP!!!! So stoked. Then I'm staying with her and with Shelby (aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!) for a few days in the absolute FRIGID weather they have, and then I'm flying home on Thursday night, and Daddy will pick me up, we will go see The Hobbit at the midnight showing with lots of friends, drive home at 3am, and then I have a wedding that night to attend. 

HAHAHAHAHa. Yeah, I'm so busy that I think my brain has stopped working. Oh and did I mention I have a piano recital tonight, too? Yes, yes, yes. haha. 

Alrighty. I should go pack now. Love y'all!!
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Do Not Lose Heart -

It all started with this video shared on Abby Smith's FB page where they keep everyone updated on how she is, while she fights her terminal cancer. They mentioned this is on her playlist, so I watched the video. I cried through the whole thing. Then I watched it again, and cried again. I've since played it about 25 times in just a few days, and been encouraged and moved every time. I've bought the song on iTunes, and went even further and downloaded the sermon by John Piper and listened to that (and cried through that as well).

I thought it amazing and such a gift from my Heavenly Father that it was just exactly what I needed after such a hard asking for prayer that I wrote recently. Because I wrote that through so many tears, and suddenly, here was a song and a sermon to ground me and remind me that in the ugly, He is here. In the hurt, He is God. In the pain, He is able. In it all, He is the beautiful Giver, the Healer, the Father...He leads us in suffering for our good and His glory.

We don't like to think about being slayed or wounded or ruined or hurt or brought low. And least of all that it could be for our good. We love to think of how God will bless us richly and lead us in triumph. What we miss the mark on is whose triumph it will turn out to be. If we are aiming for our own triumph, we are missing the mark by such a long shot, but if we are aiming for His glory to be evident in our suffering, our perspective changes. It is truth that we will be wounded, we will be hurt, we will be brought low, we will suffer. The most precious promise is that it is the Lord that is leading us purposefully and in love through it, whatever it will be. And I needed to be reminded of that so, so much.

So here, listen to the song (it has John Piper's voice in it) and then read part of the sermon below.

"Though You Slay Me" by Shane & Shane.  {Produced by Desiring God}

Are you crying with me? :) I'll bet you are, if you've been through some suffering or sadness recently.

I encourage you to listen to the whole sermon on Desiring God, or download it as well, but I wanted to really share the part that just made my heart heal in all the right places, the places that have ached so much recently in light of hard cancer news of friends and other sorrows.


"Do Not Lose Heart" by John Piper - Legacy Conference 2013 
2nd Corinthians 4:16-18 *read in John Piper's voice or follow along! (10 minute mark to the end)*

"(16)Therefore we do not lose heart. 
Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 
(17)For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, (18)while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. 
For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 
~ 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18 ~

"So he (Paul) could see beyond the grave, according to promise ... GLORY. The glory that would be SEEN and the glory of God that would be given to him, and it makes his lifelong suffering look momentary, and it made the weight of the pain look light....

You are kidding me, you are going to die for Jesus, and you call that light? - Yes.
Why?!  - Because I look to the unseen.
 Why?! - GLORY.

Glory beyond the grave that is so going to make up for this brief life it will look momentary
 and it will look light. That is the unseen that you've got to look at!

One more thing. And this, I end with this, because it is so, so relevant for so many suffering people, and so precious to me. This word, in verse 17 - "preparing". Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity, and the glory there,
but all of this is totally meaningful.

Now that is a very controversial statement. Because of how much insane suffering there is in the world. Every time something horrific happens, an interviewer will say "Meaningless!"! That is what it looks like. SEE! Look at it! This is meaningless! These 23 kids in India, what did they do? They ate lunch, and they're dead! Or Moore, OK, or Boston! .....

This text says, "Our light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight.". It doesn't say "will be followed by an eternal weight of glory", that would be good enough! That would be good enough. But that's not what it says. The word means "produce, prepare, cause to bring about".

I'll venture this: "Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or the fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that!"!

I don't care if it was Cancer or criticism. I don't care if it was slander or sickness. It wasn't meaningless! 

Because verse 17 says "My light, momentary, lifelong, total affliction is doing something." It's DOING something! It's not meaningless, 'course you can't see what it's doing! This is the main unseen thing verse 18 is talking about. What's the unseen you are supposed to look at? You are supposed to look at the promise of God in verse 17 that says "Your pain is doing something for you!". You can't see it, you can't feel it, either you see it with the eyes of faith, believe it because the text says it, or you lose heart....

I believe the main "because" for not losing heart, in this text, is that none of your suffering is meaningless. It'll feel that way! That's why verse 18 says "Don't look at what is seen!" Don't look to what is seen.

When your Mom dies, when your kid dies, when you got cancer at 40,
when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don't say "It's meaningless!".

It's not.

It's working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore. Therefore, do not lose heart, but take these truths and day by day, focus on them. Preach them to yourself, every morning. Get alone with God and preach His Word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for."


I hope you are as encouraged and grounded and moved by the Almighty's love for you,
no matter the suffering you are going through. We do not need to be strong, He is strong for us. He is with us, Emmanuel.

With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~

Monday, December 2, 2013

Praying in Christmas -

It is Christmas-time again!!

 My heart is filled with joy and excitement and also with the bittersweet feelings that come along with memories and wishes and prayers. Because you see, I want something, yes, many things, that may never come true here. I desire this earthly healing, healing from His hand, for some beloved friends, and I know that God may not give that. I have to adjust my view from Earth to Heaven, and see this in the light of Eternity. That's what I'm praying for myself. To view all of this in the light of Eternity. 

This doesn't come easy to me. It's only Dec 1, I'm in church singing of Emmanuel coming, and tears are already gathering, because I'm right back in that room where my best friends' daughter and sister lay, the heartbroken sobs that would not stop, and that cold, cold day in the snow when we were promised MORE, but not here. And it is Dec 2, and Henry is the same age that Avery was when Avery went to Heaven. It is so unbelievable, so hard, so aching to remember we have to wait a while to see him again. 

I'm in tears all over again, and all it takes is one Christmas carol to remember how much we need a Savior. Christmas is full of memories, some sweet, some sad, some bitter, some aching, some tender. 

Christmas of 2011 was a hard year. The Pattersons lost their daughter and sister in Barbara, and the Sprouls lost their mama and wife in Denise. I went from one sorrow to the next. A few months later, and the summer of sadness of 2012 came into full view. I can't tell you how much it aches

I believe it is important to pray in Christmas every year, but this year I'm also asking for others. 
I've begged and prayed and dreamed and wept and cried and moaned in sympathy for these people.
I want here and now and MORE and joy and no cancer, no goodbyes, no grief, no pain.

But as I read recently....earthly healing IS only temporary after all. Death still follows earthly healing.
But Heavenly healing is FOREVER. There is no sadness, there is future loss, there is only wholeness for them. 

Please continue to pray for Kara and her family. Pray for a wonderful, special, restful, amazing Christmas.
Pray for many years on this earth for Kara, and her cancer to lay low and allow her body to be restored. 

Pray for Abigail Smith. I followed her photography years ago, and was devastated to find her FB page recently and learn she has terminal cancer, and is dying. No one can forget those red curls of hers. :) Pray for strength and sweetness with her family, and for the cancer effects to be minimal, so she can enjoy this Christmas. 

Pray for our dear family friend, Wade Williams. He has Glioblastoma, and is fighting it bravely. Wade is one of my dad's best friends from GA, and we've been family friends a long time. Please keep Wade and Jennifer and their family in your prayers as they fight fatigue, and keeping their hope strong in God. 

Pray for a wonderful lady from my church whose cancer has come back, and larger than before. Her name is Elise, and her husband's name is Joe. They work with Wycliffe Translators and are special people. Pray for wisdom as they seek how to approach this news and treatment options. 

Pray for the Notgrass Family as they miss and mourn the loss of Avery, and Melody and Glory. Pray for a special Christmas with Henry, even as they miss their Avery-man, and their other little ones. John wrote this this morning:

"Henry is as old today as Avery was when he went to be with Jesus (16months and 7 days). Henry is doing great, and we are super thankful for him. (I know Avery is doing great too, but I don't get to enjoy him right now). December 2nd is also the date in 2009 when our first daughter Melody went to be with Jesus. 

Life is hard. My heart goes out to all of you who are suffering today, for whatever reason. 
It's not wrong to feel mad, upset, and disappointed....I also know that life is good. 
We must be on guard so that our feelings do not lead us into a dark place of despair. I want to celebrate today. It's the only day I have!" 
(Thank you so much for sharing that, John!) 

And keep all those who have lost loved ones in your prayers as well.
Holidays are hard, no way around it. 

For me, and for everyone I love, I'm praying for peace, for rest, for joy, for grace,
for eyes to SEE this...all of this sad, aching, tiring....life - in the glorious light of Eternity. 

The One Who came to dwell with us, He is making all things new, and will keep us safe in His arms of love.

With much love and thanks,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Remembered -

I went back this morning and read what I wrote last year for Thanksgiving, and I cried all over again. 
I can't write it any better this year than I did for last year, so here is a re-post.
 It amazes me how God has blessed us through sorrow, through joy, through unexpected mercies, grace and beauty. 

A Kinship With The Pilgrims

"I too, have loved ones buried on hills. 
I too, bow my head in worship. 
I too, raise it again in thankfulness. 

This life is so hard. Harder than I ever dreamed. But oh, God has been so good."

Today I plan on hugging and snuggling, rejoicing and praising, remembering and believing, being present and loving hard. 
Thanks be to the Giver for all things. Praise is here, because the Holy Spirit has not been silent. 

With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~

Monday, November 25, 2013

You need a friend like this -

Birthday posts are hard to write. Why? Because there is so, so, so much to say. And you feel like if you don't get it all down, you might explode. Or if you don't get it out correctly, it doesn't sound like a birthday post. But I'm such a huge fan of just writing, so that's what this will be. A lot of words that would never fit in a birthday card (even one of mine, haha!). 

There is a friend that I can call in the middle of the night, if I need to. 
There is a friend I call about anything, everything, nothing....and know she will always pick up with love.
There is a friend who will hold you in her kitchen after it hits you like a train of sadness that her son is the same age as Avery was
and will stand in the kitchen for 20 minutes and rock you while you weep into her shoulder. 
There is a friend who doesn't try to make it better, when she knows there are no words. 
There is a friend that will laugh hysterically with you about nothing at the drop of a hat. 
There is a friend you get excited about telling news to, because you know she'll love to rejoice with you.
There is a friend who you can stay up late into the wee hours of the morning,
skyping and trying not to wake your whole household because you are laughing so hard about something so true. 
There is a friend who takes you just the way you are, and loves you that way. 
There is a friend that means so much that your hearts seem connected. 
There is a friend that will take all your sorrows in and will pray for you. 
There is a friend that will write an e-mail out of nowhere, just to let you know you are loved. 
There is a friend you call when you see a bad accident on the highway, and need someone to calm you down. 
There is a friend who will sit in silence and hold your hand for a little while, just to be

Everyone needs a friend like this. Like Tricia

And darn it, if I'm not crying already. I have lots of friends, but there are not many people like Tricia. 

I've rarely felt so much compassion and care from anyone in my life. Tricia is not comfortable with the seen, she is driven by the unseen that rarely wants to be touched by the rest of the world. By the second or third "Really, Jean...how are you?", I'm either spilling my heart or my tears. She has such a heart for knowing someone deeply. She almost skips the mundane, the new. She wants to know how she can minister to you, in 5 minutes you are known, loved, cared-for, asked about, wanted. It is something I try to be every day, and yet she does it every time I see her or have a conversation.

She, as I wrote here, ... puts out the fires in my soul. And it isn't always big things. Yet she is such an incredible listener and encourager that you come away thinking it was a big thing, just because of how she responded in love. She reminds me constantly that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" and to say that we talk about Heaven a lot would be a vast understatement. She has such a Heavenward view on life here that has comforted me time and again. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else and remind you it's true. 

She is honestly one of the most empathetic, amazing, caring, loving, genuine, true, brave, compassionate and deep people I've ever known. I'm so thankful God has given me friendship with her. I am so incredibly blessed by her friendship, and I love her so much that I cried this morning, just thinking about how dear she is. 

We all need someone to speak Truth into our lives, especially when it aches, and Tricia does that to me.
This verse makes complete and utter sense when applied to her: 
"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now." ~ Philippians 1:3-5

Taken a few weeks ago, trying really really hard to hold in the hysterical laughter. 

So Happy 21st Birthday today to one of the dearest friends I've ever known. 
I love you so very much, Tricia. I thank God upon every remembrance of you. 
Thank you for all the hugs, tears, laughter, joy, dancing in the kitchen, hysterical jokes, grace, love, and sweetness you give.
Thank you for sharing life with me, it is so much better with you in it.

With love always, 
~ Jean Marie ~