September 25, 2018

I saw a sign

I saw a sign the other day...

"You will never look into the eyes of someone that God does not love. Be kind"

This reminder is for when you are sitting at the stoplight. See the man or lady beside your car holding the cardboard sign? I am not suggesting you give money or advice... I am not offering guilt or praise over your choice on how to handle this dilemma... However, God loves them... a kind smile, a wave, an acknowledgement that you see them instead of changing lanes to avoid the awkward stare...

This reminder is for when you are in the huge hurry at the grocery store. See the older gentleman in front of you struggling with his checkbook? He may be flustered. His wife may have always done the shopping and now he has to do it alone. He may be in pain or the years have taken a toll and he simply needs more time. A smile to let him know that you are not angry could bless his entire afternoon as he leaves the store to go home all alone yet again.

This reminder is for when you are in the restaurant. See the mother at her wits end with her toddler? Remember back to what it was like when you just didn't have the will power to cook anything, the fridge was empty, and you just wanted to go out once... but the toddler refused his nap, isn't feeling good, and has decided that all the food you've ordered was not what she wanted... Maybe silly faces to the toddler and a smile to the frazzled mom could brighten her day. Let her know that we have all been there.

This is a reminder when you see signs of protest or anger. See the hurt in their eyes. See the rejection they feel... You do not have to believe what they do. You do not need to comment on their signs or beliefs. No one is asking you to make a religious decision or change your politics. However, God loves them as much as He loves you. A kind smile, a hug, or a listening ear could show them that you care about them even when you disagree.

God gave each of us our own will... Thank goodness we are not all robots. That would be incredibly boring. I understand that "life would be so much easier if everyone just believed like me or did what I wanted".... however, reality is that we live in a mixed up world with a hodge podge of people who all look differently, act differently, and believe differently...

We need to do a better job of being kind, showing respect, and loving regardless... 

at least I know that I do.

July 06, 2018


Eight years ago, my husband was blessed to get a job at SAS in Cary, NC. It took months of applying, interviewing, praying, visiting the campus, and waiting... I will never forget standing in the hallway on my preschool when he called me to tell me that he got the job... I jumped up and down, squealed, ran down the hall hollering at all of my friends with excitement. It was a game changer for our family. The salary was not going to be a big change, but the benefits effected our lives greatly... 

Two days later, our family drove onto campus for the first time. It was the annual family night. There were people everywhere. Gourmet food tents, inflatables for the children, live music, dancing, free drinks, pelican snowballs, games similar to the State Fair... we were overwhelmed... 

With everything going on around us, my oldest son (who was 12 at the time) sat up and said "Dang, look at the grass. Perfect rows... This place is beautiful. I would kill to cut this grass. Could I work here one day?"

Of course, we all laughed and said, "who knows, wouldn't that be great?"

Then my son took botany in school and loved it... Then my Eagle Scout found a teacher who was also an Eagle Scout and was willing to give up his planning period to teach my son even more in the greenhouse and called it Botany II... Then my son and his friend started their own lawn service, had shirts made, and agreed to cut more than 15 yards every two weeks... After graduation from high school, my son started working for the Garden Shed... He would work through 100 degree weather, and be upset when it would rain and keep him from working... 

fast forward

This past May, my husband saw on the SAS website that they were hiring for the Landscaping Team. We thought it might be a long shot, but my son really wanted to try... so he applied. He received a call for an interview, however, he was working out of state. So, we started praying. The job recruiter agreed to wait three and a half weeks until my son returned home. We couldn't believe it. He had three interviews.

This past Monday, my son received a life changing phone call... The recruiter called and offered him the job. Soon, my son will cut the grass that he fell in love with over 8 years ago... 

We are beyond proud!

Listen to your children - Let them follow those dreams - 
And celebrate when those dreams become reality!

We have a lot to be thankful for with my son... he has overcome a lot in his life... schooling, expectations, poor choices, and a tragic accident that could have ended his life... but prayer and perseverance have won. In a couple of weeks, he will live his dream.

I love you, my boy... (Whose initials, by the way, are SAS - how cool is that?!?!)  

April 03, 2018


so incredibly blessed

today, my husband went to work at a company that is in the top five companies in the world... not every day is glorious, however he enjoys his job. His job has benefits that are the envy of every human resource director. He is given time off for scouts, family events, and more.

so incredibly blessed

today, my oldest went to work at a company that provides him with training for a trade that will hold value for him for years to come. He has benefits and is able to travel all over the country. He is seeing places that I could not have shown him. He loves his job.

so incredibly blessed

today, my middle went to classes at a small, private college where she is planning to earn a degree to become a nurse. She is safe. She is on the Dean's List. She is at her parents' college. She is meeting people from all over the world who love the Lord, and will be future leaders. She is excelling.

so incredibly blessed

today, my youngest walked over 11,000 steps all over the zoo. He told us about every animal. He explained subjects to me that I do not understand. He was funny and entertaining. He actually enjoyed hanging out with his mother all day long. He is a middle schooler who loves school and his siblings.

so incredibly blessed

today, I spoke with each one of my children. I ate supper alone with my husband. I chatted and joked with both of my parents who live right across the street. I texted with close friends. I am enjoying my spring break, but will also enjoy going back to a job I love on Monday...

so incredibly blessed

Like most people, I have a lot to complain about every day. I am too cold or too hot. My butt is too big. I am tired. I am cranky. I am too busy. I am bored... but overall... I have no business complaining. I am blessed. Not rich, not thin, not famous... but so incredibly blessed.

Lord, help me to focus on my blessings and point my friends to their blessings as well!

February 19, 2018


Dad - JC - John C Atkins - Papa - Johnny -  DIDDY

Today is an important day in history... February 19, 1943 marks the day my life would be forever changed. A little baby boy arrived to rule the day... He would grow up having three sisters and two brothers... He had a hardworking mother and a father that was not known for greatness... but he watched him and did the opposite! He started working while still just a child - he would rise early in the morning and deliver papers, and then give his mother the money to help with bills.

Fast forward

He started his first date with my mother waiting for her while sitting on a trashcan holding a lollipop for her - she still has this sucker (the candy and the man). It was a quick romance... my mom could see that he was a hard working man who loved to laugh and joke. They married young.

Fast forward

They wanted children, but it was not happening. Medicine, procedures, appointments, paperwork, and finally they discovered the greatest lady - Judy Upchurch... she was the social worker that brought them the sweetest, most amazing little bundle of greatness... ME

Fast forward

Growing up, my dad would call me Amanda Jane, much to my mother's horror (she hates nicknames). I knew how to work it! A little back rub, sweet talking, love on him and call him "diddy"... and if all else failed, wait until he was dozing in and out on the couch to ask permission! As a matter of fact, that is how I was able to go on my first real date! I asked my dad if I could go out without a chaperone, and he said yes... I had mom stand there as a witness... after that, there was a new rule in the house... "No asking dad for anything while he was dozing"

Fast forward

When planning the music for my wedding, my main goal was for me to NOT cry and for my dad TO cry... I must say that I was successful! It was so important to me to have my dad think that I was beautiful that day. I wanted to see his emotion. I needed him to be proud of me.

Fast forward

Getting off the plane, I knew my mother would cry and lose her mind. I guessed there would be balloons and gifts - I was right... but leaving the airport, there was the sight... my father carried Alex the entire way from the gate to our red van. Never a prouder papa. He cried over baby Jessica and adored her. He was scared to hold Caleb (he was 5.5 weeks early, 5.1 pounds, and had some issues), and cried/worried over him as if he were his father... His grandchildren know they are loved. They will grow up knowing that there is a hard working man across the street who will have their back forever.

Fast forward

My Diddy is 75 today... still working way too many hours... still doting on my mother and me... still volunteering at his church... plays on a dart ball team (we have to have his birthday celebration at 4:30 today so he is not late to dart ball!)... still adores his grandchildren (just returned yesterday from driving to Georgia to spend the weekend with Jessica)...

Happy Birthday to one of my greatest gifts. God had to do a lot of maneuvering to get us together, but He knew it would be worth it.

Happy Birthday, Diddy! 

February 10, 2018


I hate rain...

yes, the flowers need it
yes, the sound is relaxing
yes, people say we need to fill the lakes and reservoirs


I have white indoor dogs - they seem magnetically attracted to mud
I teach preschool children - they need the playground time

I am sure there are more reasons... deep psychological reasons...

but regardless,

I hate rain...

I need to move to Arizona... or San Diego...



February 05, 2018


My Hazel... My Linda Hazel Autry Atkins... my number one fan... my first friend... the lady who is in my corner... the one in every audience where I sang... heck, the one in every audience where my choirs sang that I directed... the first one I call for major life events... the one with the biggest smile and sweetest tears in the airport in 1998... the first one inside the hospital room in 1999... the one holding my left leg inside the hospital room in 2005...

Y'all, my mother has a birthday today... it is a big one. She turns 75 today. I have promised her that we would celebrate her 85th though... my mom has never understood those ladies who lied about their age or would keep it a secret... to tell someone that you are less than you are, she thinks that is crazy... If anything, she says, you should add ten years so that people think, "Dang, you look amazing!"

So, therefore,


I can not begin to imagine all of the amazing things that she has been able to witness. I have watched this lady have numerous surgeries, several hard times, hundreds of laughs, and tears from good and bad...

She is my rock.

Mom, I love you more than I can type or put into words. I hope you feel celebrated on this Monday. I can not wait to celebrate your day with you... your cake is ready and already has the "85" on it!

January 28, 2018

fun in the dorm

It has been fun having my daughter going to my alma mater... it has been interesting to see the changes on campus; the new buildings, the differences in the rules, the new professors... it has been funny to hear the same complaints; the yucky cafeteria food, no toilet paper in the dorm bathrooms, people not picking up after themselves... Scott and I have re-lived a ton of memories over the past 6 months. Jessica's best friend is actually living IN MY DORM ROOM which I loved dearly. So many memories and so many laughs...

Jess had the perfect roommate last semester. She was neat, kind, considerate, quiet, musical, and a wonderful student. Jess loves her. They did not hang out, but enjoyed being together... the perfect rooming situation. I told Jess often that she will never have such a great roommate! We were sad to hear that her roommate was moving back home to become a commuter this semester... we were also concerned to see what kind of girl would she be placed with after having such a great semester with "L".... well, there was not a ton of new transfers, so Jess will have the room to herself for now.

I travelled down to Georgia for a quick 24 hours visit this past weekend to help her set up the room. We dressed the bed for overnight guests, yet comfy enough to be a couch when she wanted... We added rugs to try to hide the same yucky carpet that I would swear was there when I was a student. We put pictures on the wall and hung cute little lantern lights. She added her favorite Bible verses to the walls. Basically, we kept command strips in business... seriously!

It was crazy to see that girls were just starting to get up and move around after 2pm on Saturday. It was so quiet in the dorm. I do not remember the silence.

I am proud of my girl. She has worked hard, kept grades up, and kept her eyes focused on her goals. She is definitely her daddy's girl.
It was nice to be with her, even if it was for a short moment.
It was a quick reminder that she is amazing...
I love you, Puddin'.

Jess, I love your room. I think you chose wonderful colors, rugs, and pictures... but my favorite thing in the room is the beauty sitting at the desk - xoxo