Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I'm Where I Belong...

soooo much going on right now...

and I feel like I'm split in 2 places at once.

First, my dad's younger brother, Chuck, passed away. Uncle Chuck's wife just passed away within the past year or so...and it's just getting harder and harder on my dad. He's lost 2 of his younger siblings now. It makes my heart hurt. I love my dad's family so much. Although I may not have seen them as often as we'd like, there's nothing like a room full of Lathams to make you laugh. They are quite a bunch...it's hard to say goodbye to another one of those special family members.

Then Hurricane Issac is hitting my hometown of Buras. My parents decided to stay. We've weathered storms before. Some have turned into a hurricane right before hitting landfall...just a lot of wind and rain. Not too much flooding. But, I know that they are already without electricity...and it just gets scary knowing that they are down there. They aren't alone...my dad's older brother, Uncle Max, built a fortress of a house...and it's not quite complete yet, but it's a safe place really, really high in the air if they need to go there.

So, all that is happening back in Louisiana. My family that I love is there with wind and rain and hurting hearts...and here I am in sunny Colorado.

And as much as I am praying for them (and feeling helpless)...I have things to do here. I have 2 rambunctious kids to take care of...plus a church that is getting ready to start...and I have some responsibilities to make sure happen for that. We didn't move 1400 miles from home just to sit back and watch one person do all of the work.

I don't feel overwhelmed with the work I've been assigned or have taken on, but I have to make sure that it happens.

And even in the midst of it all, I still get reminded of things from home.

Today, as Amy & I were finishing up an early morning of Connection Church office supply and nursery shopping, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat. (It was an early morning for both of us...)
As an older gentleman and his wife were leaving the restaurant, he called out to the owner, "Keep the faith..." It took everything in me not to bust out crying...that's a phrase I've heard my dad say over and over and over for years...probably since I was a child.

I miss my family. I am sad that I'm not available to help them in this craziness.

But I know that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Lee & I are thriving in this new adventure. We are excited about all that God is doing in us and through us. Not every day is easy, and there are times when I get really sad about being so far from Louisiana. But I know that this is where I belong.

None of my feelings or emotions are catching God off guard. He can handle it all. I just have to trust Him...which I can do because I know I'm where I belong.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stephanie...the Breast Cancer Champion

I grew up in a small town where I was related to half of the community. Literally. I know who my 4th and 5th cousins are and on my mom's side...I can probably go further than that...and I don't just know who they are... I talk to them on more occasions than just family reunions.

Lee's extended family lives mostly in Arkansas...and he would see them once a year at Christmas Eve...sometimes another occasion throughout the year...but their Christmas Eve celebrations are warm and full of love and life. It's a really special time.

I've been blessed to be able to go to the Blakney/Currington Christmas events and a few other family reunions for Lee's family. And it's there that I met Stephanie Currington...another lucky girl like myself who married into this wonderful family.

Stephanie and I hit it off quickly. We both had little girls around the same age...we both had trouble nursing our little girls...we both were working through finding the balance of being a wife and a mom and having a job...just some common ground...

Stephanie impressed me so much. She is super sweet, absolutely beautiful, and athletically fit. She talked about her running and racing experiences...her training...and I just admired her so much.

We have stayed in touch through Facebook...just enough to see what is going on in each other's life and offer a little encouragement.

And earlier this year (2012), I was in shock as I read on Facebook that Stephanie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tears filled my eyes. I couldn't believe it. She is so young, so healthy, so vibrant and full of life...she has a wonderful husband Danny (Lee's cousin) and 2 beautiful little girls...how could this be happening to her?

Then even more admiration for Stephanie developed in me. Her faith in God remained strong...I mean, really strong. When I read her posts on Facebook about doctors, appointments, tests, results, decisions, and surgery, she seemed positive and peaceful...she knew that God was in control. That is amazing to me!

I asked her if I could share her inspiring story and her team link for Race for the Cure...this is what she told me:

I would be honored if you would share my story and link for race for the cure. The only thing that is getting me through this is my faith and sharing with others my journey. I really believe God has allowed me to get breast cancer because He wants me to use this to share His word. So I want to honor that even though I don't always know what that means or how. 

Amazing...she's giving God glory even though she had to (and still has to) go through such a hard, trying time...and I know that God is going to honor her for that.

Stephanie is doing great. She's recovered from the surgery well...her little girls are able to play with her, and she's even returned back to work. I'm so thankful to know someone who is so strong...not just physically or mentally, but strong in her faith.

Thank you Stephanie, for sharing your encouraging story!!!! She is more than just a breast cancer survivor...she is a breast cancer champion...

Stephanie had surgery earlier this summer, and she and her family still entered into the Race for the Cure in Tulsa. If you would like to contribute to her team, you can click here to help her reach her donation goal!

Also, if you would like to leave a comment for Stephanie, feel free to do so! I'll make sure she sees them all!!

Be encouraged! You can be a champion too!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My New Design Leads to a Giveaway!!

My new design is up! I absolutely love it!! I was getting frustrated with trying to figure out the graphic design part by myself - even pre-made free ones from online - so, as I was looking online, I found http://shabbycreations.com/...and the creator, Michelle, has pre-made designs for $10!

Honestly, I wasn't completely convinced until I started talking to my friend Jessica, and she bought a pre-made design first! (Check hers out at http://jessicalblood.blogspot.com/ - so cute!)

Anyways, I was going to go with a new title/heading for my blog instead of "A Moment with Bri..." I even brainstormed and asked a bunch of opinions...but then Lee, my loving husband, convinced me to keep it as it was. So, I told him that he is going to have to write a guest post to tell that story...it's really sweet.

So, along with my new design, I've created some tabs at the top...and the newest one is for giveaways! I would like to start having sponsors or advertisers and give things away often. How fun is that!?!?!

I'm doing the first one myself. You can click on the "Giveaways" tab at the top of my blog to find out more! (it explains the rules as well as directs you to the correct post for the giveaway!

If you would like to give me some feedback on this (since it is my first one), I'd really appreciate it!!

Have fun entering!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dreaming Big Enough

I've been saying this for years...and I really believe it in my heart.

I want my dreams to be huge...because I know that God will exceed my expectations.

In the Bible it says in Isaiah 55:8-9:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than your ways,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

His thoughts and ways are higher than mine...and if I dream big...He will still exceed my expectations.

So I feel good (most of the time) in believing for the impossible. Of course there are times when my faith is not strong...when I don't have the optimistic outlook...BUT

I try my best to believe that God is going to go above and beyond what I think He can do.

This takes my eyes off of myself and what I can accomplish and watch God with such a high expectancy...which creates an excitement in me that I cannot explain.

Now, I don't believe that I can just sit back and wait for God to do everything...I have to do my part. I have to respond when He asks me to do something...I have to listen, believe, and work.

But when I do my part, I know that He is going to do His! And His ways are perfect!

There are times when I am guilty of not dreaming big enough. When I don't believe things can be accomplished...or just set low expectations for myself.

But I want those times to be rare in my life. I want to live a life of huge, extravagant faith!! And I would love that to be a legacy that I pass down to my own children.

I love this quote...

If my dreams scare me because they are so big...that means that it's only God who can make them become a reality! That's the kind of life I want to live!!

I don't want to be scared to dream...I want to be scared that my dreams are too big for me alone!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Readers = Leaders...Some books that have helped me along the way

I'm an avid reader. I've always loved to read. As a teenager, my cousin Sylvia and our friend Amy and I would pass around books...we would rush each other to finish reading it, especially if it was in a series. And our moms did this as well. Our libraries were huge!

I haven't been reading as much since I had kids...for one thing it's hard to carve in the time...and as much as I loved loved loved staying up late reading...I don't get to sleep as late with the little ones. (Especially right now since I'm having some pregnancy insomnia...ulgh)

But, I'd like to share some books that I have read recently that have helped me - both in my personal life and in my marriage and as a mom.

1) Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
    This book has changed my life. I love the subtitle...Knowing when to say yes and how to say no to take control of your life. I have taken on guilt in the past - unnecessary guilt that I bring on myself - and this book has helped me deal with it and so much more. So much more. I highly recommend this book to read at any point of your life...it brought me freedom that I needed...that I wasn't allowing myself to have. I loved this book! I'm also reading another book Dr. Henry Cloud wrote called Raising Great Kids...and there are other specific areas of Boundaries...including Boundaries with Kids (another future book I'll be reading).

2) Baby Wise by Dr. Gary Ezzo & Robert Bucknam
    This book as well as the next one - PreToddler Wise - really helped me in dealing with our kids. I didn't really follow the schedule/routine with Brennan, but I'm planning on doing it with this next kid. It worked wonders with Bella. Even last night, Bella was tired so she announced, "I'm going to bed..." and walked to her room and got in bed waiting for us to tuck her in and pray with her. She does that regularly for naps, too. I attribute that to these books helping me.

3) A Million Miles in a Thousand Years...by Donald Miller
   He wrote Blue Like Jazz, which was a great book...but this second one is about him turning Blue Like Jazz into a movie...and how he realized he needed to live a life that was worth telling. This book challenged Lee & me so much. A lot of why we moved to Colorado to help start a church was because of this book. We want to live a life that is worth telling...and we want that for our kids too.
One of my favorite missionary families is the Tilleys. Rodney Tilley has some amazing stories to tell...crazy things that don't happen in most peoples' every day lives. It's those kinds of stories and faith that inspire me...and this book helped that inspiration become a challenge that was even more real - and we believe that we can have that for ourselves.

4) Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
This book is not one that you can just sit down and read cover to cover in a week. There are 12 disciplines that are covered, and you should take at the minimum a week to practice each discipline. I would recommend practicing one for a month. Focusing on one discipline at a time was challenging. The first time we did this was during our Chi Alpha internship. It's something like I've enjoyed repeating. This is also a book that changed our marriage. It helped Lee & I get on the same page...and the chapter on confession brought a whole new level of honesty and openness to our marriage that we had never, ever experienced before.

There are soooo many more books that have challenged me and helped me grow. And the authors of these books are soooo different in their writing styles and techniques, but I've enjoyed reading them - and would consider them to be an "easy" read.

And for those of you who are thinking, I hate reading...It takes me forever to read a book...I have one more suggestion for you...

5) The Princeton Review has a book called Ten Days to Faster Reading. It's a book about improving your reading speed, comprehension, and retention. I used it when I taught an ACT prep class at Pineville High School. I personally increased my reading speed with this book, and I had several students increase theirs as well...even to the point of improving their ACT scores in the reading section. So, this can work for you too! It's worth the investment in the book and the 20 minutes for 10 days that it will take to go through it.

I've heard it said before, "Leaders = Readers & Readers = Leaders." God has given us the opportunity to improve our knowledge with the plethora of books available to us. I want to do my part by reading all that I can to be a better person...and help others grow along the way!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Role...

My role in life is changing...

It's a good thing...even though I'm not always good with handling change...or really the approach of change - and then I'm ok once the change arrives...if that makes any sense.

I'm about to be a mom to 3. Brennan is about to be 2, and he's definitely a toddler and not a baby anymore. I'm thankful that he still likes to cuddle with me, but when he's playing, he's so funny and silly, and he is just bursting with personality. He's definitely all boy.

Where Brennan is all boy, Bella is all girl. So girly...she loves to dress up and play with dolls...and she is becoming so much more helpful to me. She loves to help me cook and clean...most of the time...and in just one short year, she'll be in school a lot longer than her 2 day a week pre-k. It's flying by so quickly!

I know that this 3rd baby will add a whole new dynamic to our family, and we're really excited about it. Our kids play well together...they are kind and friendly, and they are going to be wonderful with this new baby.

My role in ministry is changing too... 

I'm getting to help Lee first hand on a lot of things. It may not seem like a lot, but I've been able to make him business cards and flyers to put up to find musicians. It's little things that I enjoy doing, and I've been able to do it for him to lighten his load a little. We enjoy working together, and we work well together. It's been fun being able to do this kind of stuff for him and with him.

I'm also getting to work on things for the teachers at the school we will be meeting at. It is a lot of fun for me to get to give back to teachers. It's been 5 years since I've been in the classroom, but I remember what I appreciated...and I'm getting to share that information to be a blessing to our school.

And I'm getting to plan events for the future ladies of Connection Church. This is awesome for me! I've already been researching some things to do in Highlands Ranch, and I can hardly wait for our first outing!!!!!

My role in marriage is changing too...

This is for the better. I feel really good about being involved in the church plant as much as I can...but I am loving taking care of my home...and of my husband. I love having dinner around our table at night...and keeping up with the housework hasn't seemed overwhelming at all.

Honestly, I've pressured myself before to find a way to make extra money. Tutoring, selling things, substituting, teaching...any kind of ideas to bring in an extra income. Lee has told me repeatedly that I don't need to feel that pressure...I just need to focus on taking care of our home and our kids. I think I'm starting to accept that...which is making me a better wife.

I don't think God intended for my life to remain the same. I know that He didn't. And by embracing His challenge of change, I will grow to be a better person...a better wife, mom, and minister. So even in the tough times, I can know that He is still challenging me to change in the role that He has given me.

What's in a Name??

we are still trying to figure out a name for this active baby girl that is growing in my belly.

It makes me think one of the famous quotes Shakespeare wrote for Romeo & Juliet...

 "What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet."

But there is such importance in a name. 

Lee says that we need to make sure that we like hearing it because we'll be saying it over and over and over again...which has proved true for our other 2 children.

Bella & Brennan's names seem to fit them so perfectly...so I feel so much pressure for us to find the perfect name for the next Blakney that is coming into the world. 

We've gotten suggestions, input, opinions, and it we still haven't made a decision...

I want a name that is going to fit into our family's personality. Fun, vivacious, unique, life giving...so many hopes and dreams...

So...as we get closer and closer to our due date...(I'm now 28 weeks along)...I'm feeling pressure (both from myself and my anxious family...specifically my cousins who want to monogram her precious little name on everything) :) 

I know we'll name her soon. She won't leave the hospital without a name. Ad we've had fun looking at names...there was even a list of hipster names that I looked at...Tallulah was my favorite on that one...but we are trying to stick with the "B" names...

So, hopefully in the next few weeks we'll announce Baby Blakney #3's name - and it will be perfect and just fit her little personality wonderfully. We'll let you know as soon as we figure it out ourselves...

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Want a Marriage Like That...

I feel so blessed to have a great marriage. Sure, it's not easy...there are some rough moments and days, but really, I believe God has blessed me with a wonderful husband and marriage.

While we were at UL Chi Alpha, Lee & I would often have students tell us how much they admired our marriage...how they hoped that some day they would have a marriage like ours.

These students came from a variety of backgrounds...some from Christian homes, some from broken homes, some from miraculous situations...

And no matter what kind of background they came from, Lee & I still lived an authentic, healthy, attractive lifestyle that these students wanted to have for themselves.

We have been blessed to have parents who love God and love each other deeply...and this has set a priceless foundation for our own marriage.

But also, we've looked to other couples who have marriages like we wanted to have...and not just marriages but families as well...and when those couples are close enough to us...we allow them to speak into our lives.

Chris & Felicity Buckel have been a constant source of encouragement to Lee & me. They have spoken positive words to us about finances, ministry, family, life, and love. I know that every encounter we have with them, we will walk away better people...encouraged people.

Paul & Cyndi Burke have been long- distance mentors to us for many, many years...they have spoken into our lives even though we don't see them on a regular basis. We know that they believe in us...they love us...they support us in what we do...they show us this by encouraging us when we are with them and when we are over a thousand miles away. They are the people whom we can call when we are having a tough time, and they will walk through it with us. And they are awesome at celebrating our victories with us too. Their words and actions bring life to us. Lee & I are better spouses to each other because of our relationship with them.

If you are married or not, you can find marriages that you want to emulate...and write down the things that you admire and want for yourself. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and build you up...who will speak the truth to you, even when it hurts...who will challenge you to be a better person and a better spouse.

Then others can say about you...I want a marriage (or a life) like that...

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Importance of the Journey

It's getting exciting around here.

We've been here for 2 months now. Sometimes it seems longer...other times it doesn't seem that long at all.

We've been working on getting things together and ready for Connection Church to start on September 9th at 10 am in Highlands Ranch, but now things are really starting to pick up the pace!

There's a lot to be done...a lot to get ready...and just like the past 5 years of Chi Alpha events that we were a part of...we don't have any clue how many people will be there for our first Sunday!!!

We know that a large part of having people there that Sunday (and many of the Sundays following) will be by us personally inviting them. I can honestly say that I'm way more comfortable doing this now than I would have been 5 years ago thanks to our time at UL Chi Alpha. I learned and gained a new boldness that wasn't there before.

I love looking back at my life and seeing where God has taken me, what He's brought me through, and how all of that has led me to where I am today. It really is amazing.

I know that it's easy to focus on the destination...but the journey is just as (or maybe even more) important. It's not about who I will be when I get there...but who I will become along the way.

I know that I'm not the same that I was 5 or even 10 years ago...and I hope to be even more improved in the next 5 years. I would do such a disservice to myself, my family and friends, and to God by staying the same.

I'm so excited about this journey...I'm excited about who I am becoming...I'm excited about how I'm growing and stretching...even when it is uncomfortable.

I'm thankful for God's grace. That He allows me to look back and see how He's been working on me...how He is working on me...that I'm able to embrace where I am and know that I'm still changing and developing...and it's only by His grace.

I hope that you get to experience that grace too...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick Fil A Day

I took the kids to Chick Fil A today for lunch.

We left our house at 10:45 to get there close to 11. The line was just coming out of the door...at least we were inside very quickly. When we left around 12, the line was wrapping around the back of the building...all the way by the drive-thru sign.

I usually don't do things like that...like majorly go out of my way to support a cause.

I mean, it was just me and the kids. I knew the lines would be long. The play area would be crazy. It would be easier to stay at home and just go tomorrow. Or any other time. They need my support then, too.

But something inside of me knew that I needed to go today. I needed to be a part of supporting them.

I don't boycott businesses that promote homosexuality or planned parenthood or other things that I don't agree with...even if the businesses are not necessarily "religion friendly." I still buy stuff from these stores...lots of them. And I know that there are many more stores who give money to programs that don't line up with my personal values.

But I know that I do agree with the biblical principles that Chick Fil A stands for - like the sanctity of marriage.

And I wanted to be just one more person to show that I support that.

I wasn't really sure what it was going to be like here in Colorado. I know that there are conservatives here, but there are also a lot of liberals here too.

The area we are starting the church in - Highlands Ranch - is a place filled with families. And according to the statistics, they are broken families...hurting families where 2 parents are living in the same house but their marriage and family is falling a part. And I saw a lot of families at Chick Fil A today...and a lot of young moms with children. It is hard to know if they are just smiling on the outside but hurting on the inside. But I'm happy that my kids and I were a part of representing something in Highlands Ranch that we want to see. Happy, healthy marriages and families.

I already planned/budgeted to spend more time at Chick Fil A in Highlands Ranch. I even invested in a tumbler that can be filled with sweet tea for just a $1 when I bring it back next time we go. That's a good deal to me! The tumbler even says "Highlands Ranch" on it. And every time I drink out of it, I can know that I'm here to invest in the families of Highlands Ranch...the ones who need to see Jesus in me.

I believe in divine appointments set up by God. I believe that God can orchestrate me meeting someone...and it being way more than a coincidence.

Today I met Tammy. She has 3 beautiful daughters...she told me about a great preschool in the area. She started talking to me first. When I told her that we moved from Louisiana to plant a church, she was so curious about what kind of church it would be...and the girls seemed to light up as I talked about it.

I gave Tammy all the information of when the church starts...I even gave her my phone number. I'm praying that I will see Tammy and her family at Mountain Ridge Middle School on September 9th at 10 for our launch service.

But I think it would be even neater if I got to see Tammy and her girls at Chick Fil A one more time before then. That would be yet another divine appointment. And God is totally able to do that.

I am excited about all that God has in store for me...for my family...for Connection Church in Highlands Ranch...This is a great, wonderful, beautiful adventure. And part of it just happened to be spent at Chick Fil A today...