#896 Model Mustang

Riley loves 1st grade! Adjusting to school last year was a bit of a struggle. He loved his teacher, and he made great friends. He really had a hard time getting used to going somewhere every single day and being there for 8 hours straight, though. He also experienced quite a bit of anxiety. We talked through what the Bible says about worry and how we should pray instead of being anxious, but it was very rough at times.

This year is totally different, praise God! He is having so much fun learning, and he's doing such a great job on his work. In fact, 2 weeks ago he was awarded the Model Mustang title in his class for the first 6 weeks! In order to be chosen for this award, you must be kind, helpful, listen well, have no conduct forms, and be a good student. Needless to say, Daniel and I were so proud when we found out! In our eyes, he'll always be a Model Mustang, but we're pretty biased :) It's nice to know others see that in him, too! We love you, Riley, and are so proud to be your parents!


#897 He Will Protect

I'm not even sure where to begin. It's been so long since I last posted, and the season our family is in right now is so different from 6 months ago.

I remember after going through Hurricane Katrina and all that went with it, I wondered how I would handle the next life-altering trial. I mean, let's be honest. Jesus promised that life in this world would be hard. And it is. So, it wasn't a question of if I'd go through another difficult experience, but when. And here's some more honesty for you...I did not handle the aftermath of Katrina the way a God-fearing woman should. I was determined not to do it that way again.

So, here we are in the midst of fostering two precious girls with the hope and intention of adopting them, and I find myself asking, am I truly trusting the Lord through this trial? Do I believe He will protect these girls and continue taking care of my family? Do I trust His sovereignty, plan, ways, thoughts, and timing? Am I trying to manipulate the system and those "in charge," so I can get my way and fulfill my goals? You see, we have no clue at this moment if we will remain a family of 6 for much longer. There's a good chance we could go from 4 kiddos to 2 in a matter of hours. How do you prepare yourself for that? Honestly, I don't know. If anyone does, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

So what if the girls are taken? Is God no longer good? Does He not love us as much as we thought He did? Will He quit caring for and protecting the girls? The answer is a clear and resounding NO!

Not too long ago, I needed a lunch date with the Lord. I asked a friend if I could spend that time at one of my favorite places in town, which happened to be on her property. She graciously agreed, and I was able to share 2 hours of uninterrupted time with my Abba. It was so good. Not too far into the conversation, I began complaining to the Lord about how our desire and goal was to adopt these girls. That's been our goal since the beginning. And up until a little over a month ago, everyone said it would happen. God allowed me to gripe for a few minutes and then He gently reminded me (we're so unworthy of His gentle ways, yet He's so gracious!) that adoption is not His goal. His goal is that He receive the most glory, whatever that takes. Bam! And all I could say was, "Yes, Lord!"

And then I heard, "What if you never adopt? What if I ask you to continue fostering and it never leads to adoption? Will it be worth it? Am I worth it?" And again, I had to say, "Yes, Lord!" Because He is! He is worth every tear I cry, every visit I have to take the girls to and from, every tantrum the older one throws because she's confused and scared; He's worth it all.

I've resolved that for however long we have these children (even our biological ones...we're not promised tomorrow with anyone), I will love them wholeheartedly, trusting that He is their ultimate protector and provider. He sees all, He knows the future, and His plan is so much better than any I could come up with. I simply must trust and obey.

"Not to us, O Lord , not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!"
Psalm 115:1


#898 - Date nights with them

Last night Daniel took Ella on a date, and thanks to our wonderful helper, Halie, I was able to take Riley on a date at the same time.

Ella went with her daddy to our town's annual Father/Daughter Valentine dance. When I told her they were going she was SO excited! She couldn't wait to put on her beautiful dress. She was so giddy when I told her it was time to get ready. We made sure Daddy did not see her until just the right time. And Daddy made the night extra special by picking Ella up at the front door - with a rose in hand. Ella was too cute..."Thank you for my rose, Daddy!" And off they went to dance the night away!
Once we said goodbye to them, Riley and I got ready to go to the 2nd annual Mother/Son Valentine Dinner at the church. My sweet date and I had a great time. At one point he climbed up in my lap and just sat there for the longest time. How much longer will that happen?? Not much, I'm sure. How thankful I am for our loving and kind boy!

Such a fun night celebrating our love for one another that's only possible because HE first loved us!


#899 - Love for Learning

Riley loves kindergarten! It hasn't always been this way. The first day of school last August, he came home and said, "It wasn't what I expected. I don't think I'll go back tomorrow." Poor guy...he learned real quickly that's not how it works out in the real world. It took him about a month, or so, and he adjusted to his new normal and began enjoying life as a 5-day-a-week school attendee. 

Last week he came home with the biggest smile on his face. "Mom! Guess what?" (First, let me just say it still saddens me a bit that my baby no longer calls me Mama) So I replied, "What, buddy??" "I'm an AR reader!" AR stands for Accelerated Reader, and apparently it's a pretty big deal for kindergartners to be on the AR level. He then proudly showed me his certificate. Daniel and I are so proud of this little guy! He loves school and is quite the conscientious one. I pray he will always enjoy learning!


#900 - Gift that keeps on giving

New Years Day, 2015, the Baylor Bears were scheduled to play in the Cotton Bowl. I wanted to be there. You see, when I was a Baylor student, we were excited if we just won one game a season. We never dreamed of going to a bowl game! The Cotton Bowl is a short 2.5 hours drive down I-30 from us, so as soon as I heard they'd be playing there, I knew I needed (ok, wanted) to go. I very clearly hinted toward what a great Christmas gift the tickets would be. So, when December 25 came and it was my turn to open my gift from my hubby, I just knew that heavy box of whatever he was handing me was just a decoy. I tore into it to find a large container of Ghirardelli hot chocolate mix. One look at his proud, look-what-I-got-you face, and I knew there was no need to continue digging in the box. This man knows how much I love chocolate (I'm confident it will be in Heaven), and he thoughtfully researched to find the best bang for his buck. At first, I was a bit surprised he would even want to spend his money on hot chocolate for me, but as I went in the kitchen yesterday afternoon and made myself a cup (on February 3), I couldn't help but be thankful once again for this delicious gift that just keeps on giving!
P. S. I still love my Bears, but as you probably know, they lost the Cotton Bowl. Again, I'm thankful for my hot chocolate :)


#901 - 1st day of gymnastics!

Two years ago I decided to start documenting 1,000 things I'm thankful for. About 6 months ago, life took over and I just quit posting. It's time to start again. I said in my original post that it may take me 5 years to get to #1 (counting down from #1,000), and I'm right on track for that length of time, if not more. But, that's ok! My goal is to just do it, no matter how long it may take. So, here's the latest gift I'm thankful for...

This little girl was SO excited to begin gymnastics today at Steel Belt Academy in our small town. I love that we can literally walk out our door, past the church and across the street to a gymnastics academy! I know she's going to have so much fun learning. I just wish I could've stayed and watched! Counting down the minutes until I can pick her up and hear all about it. Love my girl's energy and excitement for life! 


Do You?

Do you pray for your pastor and his family? I don't mean a prayer like, "Lord, please be with _______." The truth is He's always with us. We don't need to ask Him to be there. I'm talking about a true warfare prayer, where you name family members by name and ask The Lord for specific things (protection, boldness, repentance, etc.). 

In case you didn't know, I am a pastor's wife. Have been for a whole 5 years now. My husband and I have been married for 7 years, but for the first 2 he was a part-time chaplain while a student in seminary. In 2 weeks we'll celebrate 5 years at our church in Northeast Texas. What an incredibly humbling, frustrating at times, completely rewarding and exciting experience it's been so far. 

I didn't ask for this 'role.' In fact, I told The Lord when I was in college that I didn't want to be a pastor's wife, and I certainly didn't want to serve in an American church. (I don't really suggest telling the Creator of the Universe what you will and won't do.) My plan was to serve overseas. I have such a heart for the nations. I miss living in another country. But then, I met this boy from southern Arkansas, and God said, "Guess what?? I'm in charge, and My plan for your life is so much greater than any you could ever think up. Just trust Me and see where it takes you." And in 2010, I found myself unpacking all of our belongings in a church parsonage in tiny town Texas (I also once said I'd never live in Texas again after college...there's that dangerous "never" word again). On a few occasions (ok, probably more than a few during the first year), I thought, "So this is what You had in mind??" It was definitely an adjustment, but I wouldn't trade it for the world now. God has been so faithful to show Daniel and me that He can and will use us right here to impact the world if we'll just be obedient. And He has. I could tell you story after story of ways people from our church and small town are spreading the message of Christ to people around the globe. However, that's a post for another time.

Back to my original question. Do you pray for your pastor and his family? Why do I ask? Because simply put, we need it! I'm pretty confident in saying that any pastor and his wife covets your prayers. I look back on when I wasn't a pastor's wife, and I'm ashamed at how little I prayed for my pastor and his family. 

Let me be very clear. I am in no way trying to elevate your pastor and say he and his family are better than you or have a more "direct line to God." Because of Jesus Christ, we all have the SAME access to the Father! Praise God we can approach Him with confidence knowing He hears us when we pray! I am saying, though, that we have an enemy who is alive and very active, and he absolutely abhors everything your pastor is doing to bring glory to the Father. Satan cannot have believers as his own, so instead he tries every scheme he can come up with to render them useless. Clearly since pastors are vocationally focused on spreading the Gospel and discipling those who choose to follow, the enemy is going to spend some focused time attacking them and their family. I have seen this over and over in the past 5 years. Attacks can come in all forms - sickness, nightmares for children, distractions, temptations to sin, dissension in the church body, etc. The one I've noticed most in my life recently is discouragement. 

Let me give you an example. My husband and I have 4 children ages 5, 3, 1 and 6-weeks. The older two are biological, and the younger two are foster children we hope to adopt one day. To say our house is a bit wild at times is an understatement! But, we see God's hand in our family and know this is His plan for us. Have you ever woken up on a Sunday morning and spent focused time praying for your pastor and his family? Let me just be completely honest and say that I hate Sunday mornings. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love gathering with our church family and worshipping our Lord together at 11 am every Sunday morning. It's what occurs in our home from about 6:30 am until we head out the door that I dread every week. My husband heads to the office between 7:30 and 8 each Sunday morning, so once he leaves, there I am by myself, outnumbered by 4 little ones. And the enemy goes to town. This past Sunday was probably the worst I've experienced so far. Some of it I brought on myself, like deciding to bathe 3 of the 4 kids before church because I didn't get to the night before (Dumb! Just dumb! I learned my lesson, and all 4 children went to bed clean tonight!). But I could clearly feel the fiery darts Paul refers to being hurled at me several times that morning. At one point, I was standing in my kitchen crying, watching the time quickly tick by and trying to figure out how in the world I could get us all to church before 11, when I thought, "I'm just not even going to go this morning. I'll use the (at the time) 5-week-old as an excuse. I'm going to all this trouble to get ready for 1 hour of my life, and I'm just so tired!" And y'all, The Lord in that moment said so clearly, "And am I worth it??" I about fell on the floor. His voice was so clear that I responded out loud, "Yes, Lord! Of course You're worth it!" And we walked out the door at 10:48 am.

I tell you this to give you just a small glimpse of what a pastor's family may be experiencing. There are so many more examples I could share, but my main desire was just to beg for you to please take time to lift up your church leaders and their families in prayer. My husband's a pastor, so that's the only experience I have to share from, but I know all other minister's and their families need just as much interceding! A great place to start is in Ephesians 6, where Paul talks about putting on the full armor of God. I can guarantee you that before I roll out of my bed tomorrow morning, I will be putting on that armor and asking The Lord to protect me and my family! He is faithful, and He will do it, but we must ask! As you're preparing for church tomorrow morning, will you take just a minute and bring your church staff and their families before the Father? I know they will be eternally grateful, and I promise you will see The Lord move in a new way in your church if you do.

And on behalf of the Bramlett clan, I just want to say in advance, THANK YOU! We could not keep on keeping on if it weren't for the prayers and encouragement of the saints! May God be glorified as we seek to serve and honor Him in all we do!