Thursday, November 28, 2013

Denyse's Top Ten Thankful List

2. My family, friends, church, the bible, my house, my car, my cats, having a know...the "BIG" ones.

But then...I'm thankful for these:

3. Contact Lenses. I've been wearing them for 27 years. I just can't see right out of glasses. They almost make me dizzy.
4. Living three miles from work. It has changed my life. I can get to work in five minutes most days. I can run home during specials and change my pants if someone accidentally spills their lunch all over me.
5. Flat irons. I don't think I have to explain that one. You know. 
6. Fiesta Mexicana. It's my favorite food. The fact that my family loves this place probably has more to with the way the people there make us feel than anything else. We've taken nearly every good friend or family member there to eat at least once.It makes us happy. Love.
7. Lowes Foods to Go. Because I can't take my children into the grocery store after we've all been at school all day. I just can't. And there are better things to do on Saturday.
8. Clumping Cat Litter. Praise Jesus!
9. Heated Car Seats. Heaven on earth.
10. Facebook. It has its down side. But I love seeing pictures of my niece and nephews and my friends' children on a daily basis. I love the perfect passage of scripture that pops up on my feed exactly when I need it. I love that it's the fastest way to get 200+ people praying in less than five minutes. I love redeeming technology, one post at a time.

Oh, I could go on! But I will get back to my Loves now. Happy Thanksgiving! EnJOY!! <3

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.                                                                            


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Renae's top 10 Thankful List

1. Our Heavenly Father who saved me from eternal darkness & brought me to Light
2. Sweet baby tooshies
3. A Redhead that loves me despite of my annoying flaws
4. Deodorant
5. Coffee. Really really great coffee
6. Freedom. That MANY men & women sacrifice time with their own families to protect. 
7. Pie. Cheesecake. Cookies. And appetizer dips.
8. Clean water to drink. All. The. Time.
9. My family & 'village' who help me with my litter of children
10. Flip flops (and sunshine and sea breezes)

Today we will be on a huge country farm that belongs to Kdog's aunt & uncle. We enjoy the simple things today, slowing down to embrace the gorgeous landscape our Heavenly Father has created. Praying we learn to slow down more & rush less as we head in to the Christmas season. 

Being grateful is a constant effort in a fallen world but through His grace & love it is possible to find JOY. Always.

'Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.' (Psalm 100:4, 5 NIV)

Gobble gobble, y'all!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Different Thanksgiving

In light of Thanksgiving coming around the corner I'd like to share about how my definition of thanksgiving has been forever changed.

 Thankful is a very heavily used word around our house.

You see, we are thankful for death, disease, pain, & suffering....

HUH?!? Yeah. I know. You thought we were weird before but now I'm telling you I'm thankful for some terrible things?

Let me explain...

About twelve years ago (give or take a few) Kdog & I began an unimaginable journey to thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving in the terms of being thankful everyday for the small things. 

But also for being thankful for circumstances & life events that hurt. 

Being thankful for pain.

Thanking God for the struggles Because of where we are on the other side.

After the rainy stormy foggy crappy dark hole of desperation & anguish that held us in bondage there was LIGHT & beauty.

There is JOY.

I know, right?!? I'm such a perfect wonderful thankful Christian. Pfssssst.

Go ahead. Kick my face.

I mean, come on, do you really think we got here easily or without strife?

When Kdog & I were first married we noticed his mom forgetting things. She was YOUNG. In her 50s. Clinically depressed for years after losing her husband (Kdog's daddy-o). But one of the sweetest (unless you crossed her wrong & that redheaded woman would cut you with a look so deep it would make a grown man pee himself) & soft spoken women I've ever met. She was modest and could bake up the BEST poundcake & poppyseed bread. She treated me like her own & once I got to know her, fell in love with her sweet spirit.

She loves The Lord & instilled in her children the importance of God, family, & perseverance (after kdog's Dad died [when he was 12] she went back to nursing school).

I LOVED listening to stories of how much she loved Kdog's father. She would say 'I had the best & nobody will ever compare.' 

She ALWAYS had her bible beside her chair with lists & lists of people she was praying for.

She was an intrugal part of establishing my solid faith & at the time I didn't even know it.


At the age of 56 my mother in law was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. And we began the journey that would change our world forever.

When you're 22 you don't exactly have the maturity level to take on the responsibility of being a caregiver for a parent. That comes later in life, right!!??

You learn fast when times get REAL.

Taking away car keys 
Moving out of houses
Assisted living

We also found out quickly that in order to cope you have to find humor. And boy was there some humor!

I've clipped toe nails
Washed buttcracks (what, you've never washed your mother in laws buttcrack?!?)
Gotten phone calls from assisted living about naked dancing in hallways (kdog's mom would have NEVER done anything like that in her right mind.)
Accused of taking her to jail (Kdog was the sherif, you know.)

But in the midst of the humor there were walls being built preventing us from feeling. Loving. LIVING.

Fast forward:
A good five years went by and we were melting. Fading. 

We thought we were clinging to The Lord.

But little by little we started realizing how bitter we were becoming.

Then God opened our eyes:

"For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:24-26, 28 NIV)

There was so much bitterness in this house for a long time & holding on to why & how long...what should of been, etc (the list is huge).

 But ever since we prayed together to release ALL of this to Jesus we've been freed of the stronghold stealing our joy.

There are still tough days but they are manageable through Jesus's gift of amazing GRACE. 

 Kdog is a much better husband & father bc he realizes how precious time is...

And I'm a better wife & mother because I realize tomorrow isn't guaranteed.

My mother in law is still clinging to life here on this earth. We've stopped asking why & pray His will be done.

I'm thankful for what this whole experience has made our marriage...solid. Centered on Christ. And I can guarantee without having lived the dark, difficult years before, we would never have gotten to where we are now.

" Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6, 7 NIV)

We are thankful.

Everyday we are thankful.

Focus on the good.

Find the joy.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


This has been on my mind the past two weeks, I've been all over the place trying to organize these thoughts into words that make sense.

Denyse and I were always singing as we grew up. I can't tell you how many times Crazy Rathma has asked us to 'sing for me, honey.' (You know, in the church fellowship hall in front of random people after our Poppi's funeral). So, 'I'll Fly Away' (as did our embarrassment after we started singing) we sang to Granny's delight...

Music moves me. It speaks deep into my inner self. Singing is one of my most important spiritual connections to The Lord. I've sung at church for years. Inconsistently since I've had an entire litter of Keffer offspring.

So, this weekend I officially start back feeding MY spiritual soul singing on vocal team at church.

Hooray! Right?!?


Honestly, it comes with so much scheduling, arranging, practicing, logistics of just getting there that it makes me feel old. And whiny. AND STRESSED OUT.

SLAP. <----- that's Jesus. 

He spoke directly to my human, flawed, judgemental face on Tuesday evening after rehearsal.

Singing is a spiritual gift. It is to honor Him. Worship Him. It helps feed my soul to form a deeper & closer connection to Him. 

It's actually a passion of mine. 

He leads me to this verse:
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:16 NIV)

We who are in Christ have a responsibity to serve. And finding your spiritual gift helps you figure out where you 'belong in ministry'. 

I learned at a VERY young age that I loved to sing. But it took a long time to realize that it was a specific gift given to minister to others and share His love. 

Now, let's also get it straight that I am by no means Aretha Franklin nor am I any where close to BeyoncĂ© in vocal talent. (Dance moves, maybe). Whatever. 

Spiritual gifts are given to those in Christ to encourage, help, minister, & love others.   

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4, 6, 7 NIV)

It is important to find your passion in ministry. The Lord has specifically given you, YES...YOU, a gift that is especially intended to further His Kingdom. YOU have a gift that He wants you to use for His good. 

Working with children?
Organizing closets in the church warehouse?
Cleaning toilets in the youth room?( that is a gift bc teens are stinky)

You can be a blessing to others no matter where you are in your relationship with The Lord. He will meet you in the middle...wherever you are...He will guide you and plop you right where you belong! 

Denyse has an awesome testimony about finding and applying her spiritual gifts:

So...what if you don't know what your spiritual gift is? Or what if you know but you are utterly and completely terrified to use it? My spiritual gift is the same as my sister's, yet my experience with this gift is completely different. To make a very long story short...years ago I used my gift of music through both church and secular opportunities. It was a path I considered taking as my profession. I didn't, for several reasons. Along with that dream, my love of serving God through my gift died away.

Fast forward twenty years. Yes, I said twenty years. I didn't sing much more than the Good Morning song to kindergarteners and Itsy Bitsy Spider to my own two little ones for TWENTY years. (And those times that Rathma forced me to.)

God had been gently pushing me toward my return to church. Not just a go to church kind of thing, but a be the church kind of thing. He not so subtly shoved me into newhope church's Garner campus on it's opening day in 2010. I cried every Sunday for a year knowing that His presence was so thick in that place that I couldn't brush it off of me when I left each week even if I had tried. When the first plea came for serving in this budding campus I opted for the children's ministry. I knew how to do that. And I did, but without complete fulfillment. But that was ok, I was helping and I was happy to be helpful.

For one whole year I sat in service each Sunday trying to sort through what God was trying to tell me. About lots of things in my life really, but specifically about serving. I LOVED the worship music! It was loud! It was fun! And best of all, it was not a four part hymn sung in a dragged out 4/4 time, heavy on the Southern drawl! I wanted to sing those new songs all week!

This went on and on within me until the following summer. I went home to Virginia to visit my family and attended my family's church like I often did. Soon after I arrived my sister said, "Hey, I'm singing this Sunday. I know it cuts our time a little short but I've had to say no the last couple of times they've asked me."  I didn't mind. I liked her church.

Sitting in my seat that Sunday, watching and worshiping with my sister, God said to me, "NOW! YOU GO DO THIS!"

Petrified, a few weeks later I talked to our worship arts pastor. We arranged an audition. It was scary and my rustiness was apparent. But I had no doubt that I would be invited to be a part of the worship arts team, not because I was anything amazing, but because this was what God had told me to do. I listened. Good things happen when I listen.

Two years later, I am still using my gift of music to serve God through my church. I never grow tired of serving. My body may grow tired...because it's a long day with three worship services each time I do serve...and it seems that somehow I am now twenty years older. But I never tire of the actual serving part.

Serving feeds my soul because I use the gift that God gave me.

If you feel like you haven't found your gift...just listen. Pray about it. Talk to people you know about how they found their gifts and listen to the advice they have. Think about your passion. What do you love? Maybe not focus quite so much on what you are good at...although that can certainly be beneficial if your gift does happen to be singing! ;)

If you know your gift but have been a little afraid to use it...please allow me to encourage you to give it a try! You know if God is speaking to you. Listen to what He is saying and listen to his direction. He is always right!

Isaiah 30:21 (NIV) 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

And I will say this as well...if you are not so sure that your relationship with the Lord is exactly where you want it to be just yet...(Is anyone's?? Mine's not!) there is a very good chance that by jumping in and using your spiritual gift to serve Him...that you will actually become that much closer in the meantime.
God gave us gifts for a reason. His plan is oh so perfect and I promise you...someone out there needs for you to use your gift! It just may be that using your gift will help them find theirs!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


On December 17, 2007 I called one of my best friends to tell her that I was pregnant with my second child. She answered the phone with "I've been meaning to call you! I'm pregnant!" Two friends pregnant at the same time for the second time? To say we were excited would be a complete understatement. We both had little boys who were under the age of one...ok hers was nearly one and mine was only six months old. But regardless, we were excited to share another pregnancy together and were, of course, hoping for girls to round out our families.

It turned out she was a few weeks ahead of me so she got to go first to have the 18 week ultrasound to find out if she was having a girl or a boy. She was going on a Friday so I waited excitedly for the call. Friday ended and turned into Saturday. I fretted but chalked it up to a busy weekend. Sunday rolled around and I thought surely their appointment was cancelled...or something. I'd call tomorrow. But later Sunday afternoon the call came. The technician had seen something concerning on the ultrasound...something on her back...maybe on the spinal column...they weren't completely sure...spina bifida...sending them to Duke for more tests...the baby might not be able to walk...but they were going through with the pregnancy.


I don't remember what I said. I just remember trying not to cry. Trying to be supportive. Trying to reason through something that hurt worse than anything I could think of up until now in my life and it wasn't even happening to me. My friend's little girl would likely not be able to walk.

This couldn't be happening.

We prayed for a miracle.

I had to wait two more weeks for our ultrasound. It was an eternity. And it was worse than you think. You see, my husband was born with a birth defect called cranium bifidum. You can google that if you'd like, but honestly I don't recommend it. The photographs are upsetting.

Encephalocele, sometimes known by the Latin name cranium bifidum, is a neural tube defect characterized by sac-like protrusions of the brain and the membranes that cover it through openings in the skull. These defects are caused by failure of the neural tube to close completely during fetal development. Encephaloceles cause a groove down the middle of the skull, or between the forehead and nose, or on the back side of the skull. The severity of encephalocele varies, depending on its location. (Wikipedia)

Here's a glimpse of what an xray of someone with encephalocele/cranium bifidum would look like at age 3 months and after the skull has had time to continue to grow by age 2 years:

My husband is part of a less than 1% population with cranium bifidum who survived during the 1970's. Even though he had large skull openings, there was no membrane or portion of the brain protruding through his skull openings. In short...

My husband is a miracle.

We had already been through genetic counseling with our first child. We knew that there was an 80% chance that our children could be born with cranium bifidum or any other nerual tube defect. Spina bifida is a neural tube defect. Our friend's baby, more than likely, had spina bifida.

It was supposed to happen to us.

But it didn't. 

After many level 2 and 3D ultrasounds, it was determined that our baby was fine. 

In July of 2008 Miss Awesome was born on the very day that our family closed on and moved into our new home. (Still not sure how I did that 8.5 months pregnant.) I will never forget that day. Awesome's mom was on bed rest for the latter part of her pregnancy because of low amniotic fluid so they scheduled a c-section a few weeks early. I remember the text:

Me: We have keys!
Her: We have blood tests!

We got to see Awesome a few weeks later because she was in the hospital for awhile right after she was born. I was so distressed that I couldn't visit at Duke because I had my own little one with me who had just turned 1. If I was distressed I couldn't even fathom what my friends were feeling.

Exactly four weeks after Awesome was born, I went into labor with my little one. The texts from that day:

Me: My water just broke.
Her: Go to the hospital. (although I think that one was courtesy of Awesome's dad)

Few people know this and I often forget, but we did find after our daughter was born that she had a very diluted form of cranium bifidum where only her top fontanel was larger than normal - the diameter was about three inches - but it closed on its own by the age of three. She even has the classic hairy spot at the base of her spine that can indicate a neural tube issue. 

We know what 'almost' feels like. But we don't really know.

Not long after that, two little girls began a friendship that would permeate any type of disability, struggle, or stereotype. They were like two peas in a pod from the beginning.

All these years later my husband and I have watched our dear friends live life with complete grace, facing something that is just plain hard. Somehow, they have made this unknown a part of day to day living that is more seamless than brushing your teeth each morning.

We have watched this unshakable family tackle clinic days, braces, therapists, and medical bills for five years now. We have watched this unshakable girl learn to sit up, crawl, scoot, climb stairs, wheel, and even to walk.
We know a miracle when we see one. A miracle is what everyone prayed for, after all.
A few weeks ago we had the privilege of walking in the Walk and Roll for Spina Bifida. I was not expecting all of those memories to come flooding back, but for some reason they did. Teary-eyed with gratefulness, I just said a prayer of thanks for the love we share with this family who is so special to us. I thanked God for every what if, almost, and unanswered prayer. Because everything that IS, is just as God intended it. And I believe that this little girl is just perfect exactly the way she is.
She is, of course, full of awesome!
Psalm 139:16-19 ESV        
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.