Giving Thanks in *all* circumstances {even the tough ones…}

The day has come and gone to give thanks.
December does not carry the expectation of giving homage for that. one. day.

but Thanksgiving is more than a Thursday, it is a lifestyle.

The scent of turkey and stuffing has dwindled.
Full of goodness, the pounds have been gained.
The dishes are washed up and put away after holding the delightful meal.
Loved ones have gone back to work, school, or their own home, some miles away.
Murmurs echo… ‘Who were the Pilgrims?’

The flood of thankfulness on social media has all but vanished…
and we are left with a decision. 
To give thanks in *all* circumstances {even the tough ones…}
To give thanks *all* the time {even when it is no longer Thanksgiving…}

When the tingly thankful touchy turkey feelings have diminished, and we are left with the reality of going back to work, school, chores, appliances breaking down, car trouble, stressing about money, caught up in Christmas drama, kids screaming, spouses arguing, sickness, depression, loneliness, losing loved ones, missing family far away … we are left with a decision.

When the voices shout ‘You are entitled! 
There is a whisper … Give Thanks. 
When the stores scream ‘Buy this!’
There is a pull … Give Thanks.
When the culture displays ‘It’s all about YOU!’
There is a draw … Give Thanks.
We live as if we are entitled to everything.
We glorify selfishness and call it success. 
We expect good things because we are ‘good people’.
The truth is – we do not deserve anything. I pray we will be content.
The truth is – selflessness is honorable. I pray we will be humble.
The truth is – ‘good people’ do not exist. I pray we will be grateful people. 

Give Thanks in *all* circumstances {even the tough ones…} 
When you are angry.
When you are full of hope.
When you are worrying.
When you are full of worship.
When you are weeping.
When you are full of joy.
When you are drowning.
When you are walking.  
When you are empty.
When you are fulfilled.
When you are sowing.
When you are reaping.
When you are in bondage.
When you are fully free.
When you are existing.
When you are fully living.
When you are scraping.
When you are fully thriving.
When you are dying.
When you are fully renewed. 
When you are lost.
When you are fully found. 

Give Thanks Always.
and this is tough to truly live, but. we. can.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in *all* circumstances {for this is the *will of God* in Christ Jesus for you}.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

In Him, Leslie 


counting sheep.

Easter is coming up here soon. in one week and one day to be exact. 
Easter is one of the two Sunday’s when many people visit churches as ECC’s – “Easter & Christmas Churchgoers”, or so the stats say… 
sooo… many of the churches ’round here -in Picktizzytown– are pulling out all the stops and prepping for a full house, lights-camera-action, hit one outta the park, bangin’ Sunday service! 
including advertising additional service times and easter eggs falling from the sky…sorta like “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” minus the scientist making it happen, but – and of course there is a but – including the news coverage and expecting a large crowd response / uh-hem turnout. 
and we are pulling out the cross. 
and the ‘stations of the cross‘. 
and having a 7a.m. sunrise service. *bonus*.
dang. this chick is sure being critical of the churches in her town…
perhaps it sounds that way, and i will tell you why. 
[they deserve it
ha ha. no – for realz…
it’s not that an extra church services or easter egg hunt [with an unprecedented number of eggs] on land are wrong, or a shower of easter eggs falling from the sky is un-biblical… 

you see, eight years ago we began serving in our church as the youth and associate pastor, and me {his awesome wife} as one of the worship leaders.

fast forward a few years and adam became the senior pastor… and shortly afterwards, we became sheep counters. 
we settled into this really bad habit of counting sheep.

not the before you go to bed kind of counting sheep. 
rather, counting the number of sheep in our field -the sheep we were shepherding- the number of sheep in our church kind of sheep. 
and all of sudden we found ourselves competing with the church down the street.
‘i bet such and such church has more people than we do because they have bigger programs and a better parking lot and cooler signs and a hip website and a larger sanctuary and a formal sound system and tastier coffee [well, this one is most likely true] and blah blah blah…’ the list could go on and on.
and… ‘maybe so and so who just left our church now goes to such and such church down the street’. 
you can see this ‘lil bad habit of counting sheep was exhausting the Shepherds… not numerically… but spiritually. 
and we noticed something – this was a sneaky habit – a lie from the enemy, dripping with distraction.
and this was a distraction which focused our hearts more on pleasing man than God.
ugh. and ugly.
many of the regular attenders in our church don’t attend every. single. sunday.
life happens and it’s nearly impossible to have perfect church attendance.
and many of the regular attenders in our church are reading this blog and wondering, ‘is she talkin’ ’bout me?!’ 
please, no worries.
and some, who were regular attenders for a long time, no longer attend. 
again, no worries.
so we counted our sheep, wondering why they did not attend more often, and where did some of them go?
and we would plague ourselves with questions and counting… 
perhaps they grew tired of hearing Adam’s sermons or were irritated with the way I led worship one Sunday, or the songs I chose, or the way I parted my hair that day… or perhaps they were hurt by us, or someone else in our congregation… or perhaps we don’t know why. and this is okay.

does this mean once you visit our church you have to commit to a certain number of years together and sign up to attend all the events, drink the coffee and eat the donuts? no. 
does this mean the people who have left our church are going to hell? hell no!
since our churches birth in the year 2000, many people have entered our creaky glass doors, slobber-stained from our three year olds lips…some have stayed a while, some for a short time and some have walked out those glass doors, never to return again.
so if you’re there… we will hopefully notice. and if you’re not there, we will probably notice.
does this make us a horrible pastor / awesome pastors wife combo? no… but it certainly makes us human. 
graciously, the Lord turned our hearts affection back to Him alone.
we no longer count our sheep in competition with the church down the street.  
we know who we are called to be as a church and our identity is fully in the Lord Jesus ~ the True Shepherd.
we are counting our sheep because we care for them within our calling to Shepherd them.
the grass is not always greener on the other side. 
you have to beg the question ‘where [to which church] are you called?’
you have to listen to the answer with the intent to obey.
it is a continual commitment to consciously commit to Christ. 
and it takes a continual commitment to consciously commit to a church. 
it takes work to get your ass to any church, peeps. and believe you-me, i understand. on the off Sundays when i am not leading worship, i usually stroll in about 10:05am… a little late and a lot irritated with myself for being late. i have no excuse. sure, i have to motivate three small kids to get their rears in gear and get out the door and around the corner for our two-minute commute to church. oh, did i mention we live 1/8 of a mile from our church? and yes, some days we are still late. sad but true.
if you profess to be a follower of Christ, He is calling you to commitment. 
He calls us to commitment to Himself and to His bride ~ the church body. 
our walk with Him is a narrow road, filled with joy and pain, rejection and love, persecution and gain.
it is not so easy, but it is so rewarding.  
we want new sheep, not sheep from another field. 
we want committed sheep, not those accustomed to changing fields. 
we want sheep who will know the Shepherds voice. JESUS. 
we want humble sheep who will are willing to be led. 
we want hungry sheep who are called to graze with us.
we desire to see lives changed, new disciples committed to Christ Jesus and His church.
we hope if God has called you to a church, you will commit there and won’t hop around.
we pray you will hear the voice of the Lord and *know* His voice.
we look to see what the Father is already doing and join Him in that work. 
we are hungry for God’s word and want to grow and learn with those who called to our church {field}.
there are so many great churches in our town… and there are still so many seats in all of these churches yet to be filled ~ with people yet to hear about Jesus, and know that He loves them and to be committed to a church. 
so, we will not compete. we will commit. 
we will be true to who we are, as a fully human prone-to-mistakes pastor and his fully human {and awesome, also prone-to-mistakes} wife. 
we will pray for and shepherd those people God calls into our church.
we will stay true to who God has called Eastside Vineyard Church to be. 
and we will not have easter eggs falling from the sky. sorry
well. not really 😉  
In Him, Leslie 
*please note, this blog is not all-encompassing. nor i am addressing all of the circumstances for every “should i stay or should i go?” from my current church situation. it’s just a piece of our lives in ministry, so far…half written.

just George…

a few weeks ago, my sweet grandpa passed away… he was 85 years old.

I traveled to oklahoma to celebrate his life with my family.
a friend of mine who is a flight attendant gave me a pass to fly on Southwest – for free. score. {seriously, such a blessing!}
i knew my grandpa’s health was declining and that his time was coming for a few months. so we drove to oklahoma over thanksgiving and christmas to spend time with my family and grandparents. we were crazy enough to travel those 4,000 miles mostly because we knew it was important to see my grandpa. the night before he died, i sensed it was going to be soon. i am grateful that the Lord prepared my heart for his death and made a way for my journey to honor my grandpa’s life and say good-bye. and though i miss him greatly, i have peace knowing he is with Jesus now… {for we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens~2 Corinthians 5:1}

my grandpa was very well known in the community where i grew up ~ edmond, oklahoma. with a doctorate in education from oklahoma state university (osu)… cowboy fans, anyone?… he served as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent of schools all over oklahoma for a total of 39 years, the last 15 years of his career as superintendent for edmond public schools. he received many honors and accolades during his career, including induction into the osu college of education hall of fame. as i was growing up, every time we were out with my grandparents, they would inevitably run into someone they knew.
but rather than being called Dr. Rowley, he always prefered just George…

and to me, he was always just Grandpa…

rather than talking about himself or boasting about his distinguished career, my grandpa was a kind hearted, humble man who loved serving his family and others.
most of all, he loved his ‘doll’, my grandma ~ alice fern doll. he always put her first, even until the end. pushing the button for the elevator and waiting patiently behind his walker for her to enter the elevator first.
they met at age five, were high school sweet hearts and were married for 66 years. they were best friends, deeply in love, complete with their license plate: ‘HAD2BU’.

my grandparents in their silly ‘shot gun wedding’ picture 🙂

my grandpa was a generous man. he gave love effortlessly, with hugs, kisses, words of affirmation and genuine care about my life. how is school going? how are you doing with your homework? when is your next vocal music concert? how are your friendships?

he was my first valentine. i dated very little in high school and i never had a boyfriend on valentines day. but every february 14th, i got a chocolate heart from my grandpa ~ even my first valentines day with adam in 1996 ~ i still got a heart from grandpa.

he was a hard worker even beyond his career. when we were kids, my grandparents owned an 84 acre farm with cattle and a few horses. my brother and i loved going to the farm, being outdoors, riding the horses, fishing, searching for snakes and other critters 😉 so many memories built on the farm soil…wrapped up in the hay…which we will always cherish with our grandparents and entire rowley family.

he loved to explore the world…and take his grand kids with him. full of vision and an adventurous spirit, my grandparents loved to travel. they were always wise with their money and were able to travel extensively throughout the united states and abroad. sometimes, they took my brother and i with them. one of our favorite trips was to san fransisco when we were eleven and thirteen years old. yes. our grandparents were brave enough to take two teenagers on a trip from oklahoma to san fran. wow! and we had an amazing time. our grandparents rock. 
after retirement, our grandparents rented a condo for several summers in gunnison, colorado to escape the oklahoma heat. here we are together outside of the condo.
he was an educator in every area of life. he was an example of giving, saving and using money wisely. grandpa always paid for dinner…and he gave me a tip card to carry in my own wallet, so i would always know the right amount to give a server. my grandparents would pay me to do chores around their house, like mowing the lawn, removing stains on their carpet with a q-tip and vinegar cleaning solution… and vacuuming their shoe boxes. i was paid the ‘grandkid’ rate of $20 an hour to do these simple chores. they loved having me over to visit and the money was just an added bonus. on my sixteenth birthday, my grandparents let me drive their truck -my first time truly driving- to our family dinner. i was so nervous, but they trusted me, and i succeeded. my grandma was also an educator and completed her masters degree while raising four kids. she taught as an elementary music teacher and taught me piano. one of my grandpa’s favorite songs was ‘the rose’. growing up, i would sit by grandpa on grandma’s piano bench and sing it for the family. and i was honored to recently sing it for his funeral. aaaand… at every family gathering, my dad and his two brothers would play guitar, serenading the rest of us in song and laughter…. the gift of music truly runs in our family. 
starting young, singing on grandma’s piano bench
singing ‘the rose’
my parents and grandparents at one of my high school vocal music concerts. they never missed a performance 🙂

he had a heart full of love. more than anything, my grandpa loved his family. i am blessed with having such amazing grandparents and cherish the memories of us sitting around their dining room table, laughing and sharing life together. the joy our family had grew even more when i met adam, and the rowley and babcock families intertwined.

i go from being a rowley to a babcock ~ here we are with my family and Adam’s not long after our engagement. my grandpa’s big toothy smile ~ it’s a ‘rowley’ trait which i inherited as “horse teeth” 🙂 

over the holidays, when we saw my grandpa i took time to hold his hand and just sit with him. we didn’t say much… few words were exchanged except, “i love you, i miss you”… and we continued holding hands as the hustle and bustle of 50 family members gather for a thanksgiving feast surrounded us. during our christmas visit, my brother and i took a walk down the hallways of their building with them, and then took a picture together…i treasure this last picture we have.

my grandpa was a wonderful man. i am so grateful for these 35 years i have had the privilege of being one of his beloved granddaughters. his amazing life has shaped my life and for this i am so blessed. you can read more about his life and all his accolades here.

take time with the ones you love.
slow down.
be still.
sit with someone.
hold hands.
whisper i love you.
we are not promised tomorrow…
love. well. now. 

my grandma ~ keep her in prayer ~ she really misses her best friend.
my grandma said it would have been better if grandpa had been a horses butt. joking, of course.. but the pain of missing him wouldn’t be so great, if he had not been so lovable. but he was…
he was joy filled.
he was kind hearted.
he was generous.
he was wise.
he was easy to love.
to so many he was known as just George… but to me…. just Grandpa


happy. freakin. holidays.

ours went something like this…
a psycho tree. fighting off sickness. two long road trips. consumerism craziness…
and peace.
Emmanuel ~ God with us.
’twas the night before Christmas and all thru the Bab’s house, no one was stirring ~ not even the mouse who had pooped in their mini van last month…
the stockings were hung by the window with care, in hopes that mom and dad had all the presents wrapped up with care ~ under the most prickly, pointy, painful Christmas tree known to man…

the wee babs were nestled all snug in their beds ~ while visions of mom and dad wrapping what they written down on their Christmas lists danced in their heads…
and i in my stretchy pants and p.a. in his beanie cap ~ had just settled down to watch Trapped In Paradise as we wrapped… 

after the wrapping was finished, there arose such a laughter ~ as we then watched Christmas episodes of The Office and stayed up a lot later…
we sprang from the couch after the clock turned two a.m. ~ the kids will be up extraordinarily early and we will regret staying up late, yet again.

coffee would need to be consumed first, before they opened their gifts ~ our kids should know…
and they patiently waited on us between the hours of 5:45am [when they woke up] and 8:30am [when we woke up] ~ wouldn’t you know…
inhaling coffee, devouring cinnamon rolls and the Bible Christmas story was read ~ before any gifts were opened around here…
and their anticipation grew ~ as the time to find out what they were getting for Christmas drew near…
excitement enveloped the living room ~ and the time to open presents came quick…
each child was handed a gift to open since they couldn’t be near the tree, or they would be pricked ~ by the dagger needles on the psycho tree we picked from the lot on 256…
squeals of joy and thanks followed each unwrapping ~ as we had previously encouraged no one to complain…
and focusing on the birth of Jesus as the reason we celebrate, thinking *whew* ~ we survived Christmas shopping, once again… 

~happy*freakin holiday*truths~
about our psycho tree…
we picked out our tree from a lot on the main drag in our ‘burb.
it’s basically like the wal-mart of Christmas tree shopping.
every year we look forward to the tradition of picking out our tree.
we’ve bought trees from this lot in the past – but this year this one turned psycho on us.
we watered it – but the needles were so sharp – we could’ve drenched it with water and it would not have mattered.
so we threw the decorations on – and enjoyed it – from a distance.
about consumerism…
when the week before Christmas rolls around, we always seem to think up some last minute shopping to do – for crap we don’t need – no matter how much we plan ahead or tell ourselves we will limit our shopping. 
we plan to spend around $50 on each of our kids – but usually we manage to spend closer to $75 per kid – and that seems like a lot of money to spend on what is – essentially – crap.
this year Soleil (8) said, “mommy, i think you are buying me too much stuff.” *ouch*
out of the mouths of babes… this girl has wisdom.
she made Salem a Lego board game – it was one of his favorite gifts.
but we love to give to our kids – so we buy stuff we know they will enjoy – thinking ‘it will bring them happiness’. 
and once again we -walk right into- the trap of consumerism.
and the gifts we have utilized the most since christmas are the *family* gifts we bought – dominoes and table top ping pong – because what our kids enjoy most is spending time with us.
thankfully, they know the gifts they receive are only temporary – they won’t last forever – and they are all made in China.
about our road trip…
this holiday season we did something we’ve never done – we drove to and from Oklahoma (to visit my side of the family) for Thanksgiving and Christmas – that’s a total of 3,700+ miles with three kids 8 and under.
we’ve now declared ourselves legally insane -not really- but we are slightly crazy.
in all seriousness, we had a peace and excitement for the travel. 
there were many moments the Lord reminded me my purpose in going was to just “be”. 
be with family and friends we rarely see – enjoy the brief moments of time we had with them.
enjoy the moments with the kids and Adam – even the moments we felt ‘trapped’ in the car for 17 hours.

about sickness…
we were all sick on and off during the month of December – Soleil and Salem missed several days of school – and Soleil missed out on her holiday party 😦 
our kids always want to make a gingerbread house every Christmas – and i never do because i never feel like making one – so this year i tried, since Soleil missed her party – and it sucked (but the kids didn’t care-they were just happy i tried)
i never stressed too much about Christmas while we were sick – there was so much out of my control – and the whole experience taught me a lot about trust, rest and peace.
in our sickness, we were weak – and in our weakness, we had peace – and in that peace, we had rest. God was there.
Emmanuel ~ God with us.
thru the freakin holidays and always. 
Happy New Year Everyone!

New Years Eve

 New. Years. Eve.

so…what’s the big fuss about this day, anyway?
it’s like, December 31st. 
*surprise*. it comes every year.
staying up until midnight? 
i already do that like 337 days out of the year.
getting plastered and kissing someone?
welp. that can be done any day – although i don’t recommend it.
watching other people party at the ball dropping countdown in times square? 
we lived in NYC for four NYE’s and never attended that silly shindig.
listing your new years resolutions that you have every intention of keeping?
you will probably fail.
there can be a lot of pressure for people on the eve of ringing in a new year.
you must stay up late.
you must have lots of alcohol and kiss someone.
you must have your list of resolutions prepped and ready to attack on January 1st.
you must be tuned into the television watching the times square ball dropping party hopping slobber kissing commercial driven countdown…
you suck. 
for us… the eve of the new year is special for a few different reasons other than the ones traditionally celebrated.
it is a celebration of our past, present and future
all wrapped up into one crazy day.

Every New Years Eve, we celebrate our past ~ December 31st, 1996 we got engaged.
here’s our super cheesy engagement pictures.
be kind.

Adam proposed to me on new years eve 1996. 
and this wasn’t a simple ‘get down on the knee and ask. sweating. hoping i’d say yes.’ proposal. 
this was an all day affair.
he made me breakfast and then took me on a scavenger hunt throughout the Oklahoma City area and left notes with clues and meaningful gifts at each location. 
he even ‘popped the question’ in the newspaper. but that wasn’t the real proposal… yet.
Adam is a romantic. 
he has always been extremely affectionate and thoughtful.
i am thankful to know how loved i am.

part of the scavenger hunt in front of the dorms at University of Oklahoma, the announcement Adam put in the paper on 12.31.96 and my wedding ring
our engagement announcement in the Edmond, OK newspaper-June 1997
personal fav 🙂 


so after our fun day and scavenger hunt ~ we went to Opening Night in Oklahoma City. 
it’s a big nye celebration on a similar scale of times square ball drop. 
well not really… 
but it is a lot of fun.
there are activities, festivities and performances happening throughout the evening.
i thought we were going to see the “Sound of Music”, but he surprised me *yet again* and took me to the Edgar Cruz concert happening a few venues over.
i was onto him when i saw our parents and siblings (previously trying to hide from me) show up at the concert.
so in front of 300-400 people, Edgar Cruz announced ‘there’s a young man in the audience i would like to invite down to the stage’. Adam took me with him and i was freaking out knowing this was ‘the moment’ he would really ask me to marry him.
i said yes. obviously.
after the proposal our families joined us on stage and next we were whisked off in a golf cart to the Fox Channel 25 news area covering the nye opening night action.
we were interviewed and there was a clip on t.v. highlighting our engagement. 
it was super fun and exciting.
similar to our lives now 🙂 …we are never bored.


love birds + goof balls = us.

and there is something you should know about *my wedding ring*.
it didn’t come from a fancy jewelry store – it came from a pawn/antique shop.
it wasn’t expensive.
it was used – but it shines – and i love it!
my ring reminds me everyday of Adam’s great love for me.
when i see it shine and sparkle, i am reminded of our love increasing thru the years, not fading.
God’s love for us is the same ~ 

it never fades.

we were bought by Him, not at a fancy store, but he paid the highest price with his life and death on the cross. 
*we are used, but shine, for His glory*

Every New Years Eve, we celebrate our present ~ December 31st, 2009 Selah was born.
she just turned three years old!
there will be more to her story later…
in her own birth story blog.
*aaaand… i can sense the anticipation as you wait for this forthcoming blog*
Every New Years Eve, we celebrate our future ~ we dream of what will the next year will look like…
we list our goals and resolutions…
we talk about our dreams, hopes, passions…
we pray for continued wisdom, direction and humility…

i already know i’m gonna fail miserably at many of the new years resolutions i set…
i am perfectly comfortable with my gifts and talents of procrastination, running late and forgetfulness.

but in spite of ourselves, the plans we make and what happens in 2013…
this year we will continue to *surrender *trust and *obey the Lord.
as we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God 
{Micah 6:8}.


i love that in any community, even a blog, we can learn from one another ~ 
What are your New Years Resolutions? 
please share.
and thanks for reading!