Picture This

When I was a young mom (wow, does that feel like a reaaalllly long time ago) I was determined to be very intentional and organized with the pictures I took of my children. (Now this was back in the day when people actually took pictures with a camera of some sort, removed the film out of the camera and had them developed at a photo processing store. What a hassle, right?)

I stuck to the plan. Printed picture after picture, roll after roll. I bought album upon album and had my children’s lives laid out in chronological order just as I envisioned (well, sort of).

Yes, I produced album upon album full of printed pictures. But when one album would fill up I often couldn’t find the same one, so over time my album collection – although organized – was mismatched in size and shape. And because I was so thorough in documenting our lives in pictures these albums began taking up a whole lot of space in a closet. But they were safe and sound, not hurting anything, even forgotten at times, so I wasn’t really thinking about all of the issues with having so many photo albums until…

It was time to move. Oh great, what to do with all these books of pictures? Where will I put them in the new house? Turns out I didn’t have a closet to stuff them in like I did in the old house, so after we had unboxed everything else in the new house the boxes of photo albums sat upstairs in the bonus room, all alone, unpacked, making a mockery of my goal to be boxless. Those organized albums of life became my nemesis to declaring our home box-free after the move.

I needed a new plan. As I may have mentioned before, I didn’t think I was a hoarder until I had to clean out all the stuff I had saved in my parents’ rather large basement “for one day when I need it” or “for the kids when they move out.” Well, well, well, the last time I was visiting my parents I found some white photo boxes that I used for – hmmm, what did I use them for originally??? I had saved them so long I don’t even know what I used them for when I bought them – but with those boxes I devised a new plan for my pictures.

I brought all those boxes to the new house and am now taking out all the pictures from the mismatched, falling apart albums and placing them (in chronological order, of course)in these picture boxes. Those will take up far less space, still be organized and will be uniform in their appearance (ahhh, music to an OCD person’s ears!).

IMG_2534

I’ve been looking – examining – every picture as I remove it from an album and put it in a box. I’ve noticed details that were long ago forgotten, such as furniture we had when we first got married, horrible paint colors I chose, and I don’t even know what I was doing with my hair in the 90’s but it wasn’t a good look.

Sometimes it takes a major life event to reevaluate areas that have been tucked away, safe and sound like my photo albums. Sometimes we just need to spend time examining our lives and relationship with Jesus to see where we can make improvements. Just because an area hasn’t been looked at or dusted off in awhile doesn’t mean we can’t make it better.

Let me be real for a moment. The latest (I say latest because I will always be a work in progress) area the Lord has revealed to me to work on is the words that come out of my mouth. A couple of weeks ago the Holy Spirit spoke to me Ephesians 4:29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Mmmmm hmmmm. Let that marinate awhile.

My goal is to be a huge encourager, nothing but good words coming out of my mouth. I fall short every day, but I’m working on it. I say that verse every morning in the hope I will recall it when needed.

So let me encourage you to take some time to be still and listen for the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit to convict you in an area that may have become bulky and forgotten but through the power of Jesus can be renewed and redeemed. Take a fresh look at an old or perhaps forgotten problem area in your life and let Jesus guide you to a new and fresh start!

Blessings!
Leigh

Advertisements

Little Hands and Sweet Faces

In the course of packing up my house to move I ran across a little bit of artwork I had saved from my children’s school years. (OK, so it wasn’t a little bit. It was more in the range of the hundreds of boxes of evidence amassed in the JFK conspiracy hearings.) Moving was as good a time as any to go through all that I had saved and make the tough choices of what to keep, and what to let go. My husband was working at his new job in the new city, so momma here was all alone and had a lot to get done in a short amount of time!

I saved all this artwork for a reason, right? Every piece of their handwriting, every picture drawn, every scrap from preschool through high school. I found it in tubs of all sizes and even some shipping tubes (I think I read back around 2005 that shipping tubes were the best way to save it all but now I hate it’s all rolled up and won’t lay flat). Anyway, just when I thought I had gone through it all, I’d look in a closet that I swore was all cleaned out and there would be another tub full to the brim with the smell of Crayola and paper, laughing at me in my defeat to conquer the artwork.

I knew I couldn’t keep it all. But where does a momma draw the line?

I looked at every single piece of it. Read every word, attempted to decipher every picture. Struggled with what was worthy of being packed up and shipped to the new house to be stored for my children to go through one day and what could go to the recycle bin. Enter mom guilt, as each piece that was discarded felt like I was throwing away a little piece of their childhood.

I had to have a plan – a definitive method for dealing with the mounting piles of artwork and memories.

So I finally decided to keep anything that they wrote/drew it for a special occasion (Mother’s Day, a birthday, etc.), if it had their little handprints on it, or it had a picture of their sweet faces on it.

Whew! Well that was easy – NOT. Each piece of artwork held a memory. A memory from a time that had come and gone without realizing its significance. Memories came flooding back as I worked my way through the tubs and tubes. Memories of learning to write the alphabet or draw stick figure families, of handmade birthday cards and “You’re the Best Mom” Mother’s Day drawings.

The process of reliving their childhood through their artwork was painful, as I ached to receive a piece of their heart through their drawings one more time. I cried many times, begging God to take me back in time and let me raise them all over again. I desperately wanted my babies back.

But since Michael J. Fox and the DeLorean didn’t every show up, I had to work through it and forge ahead and attempt to pack up the memories as we headed to our new adventure.

car

How did I do it?

Prayer.

I finally quit begging God to take me back in time and started praying He would be with me throughout the process of moving. I kept telling Him I trusted Him and that He knew what was best for us. I thanked Him for the years He gave us in that home and for all the memories I would carry with me to the new chapter of our family story.

I love the promise found in Deuteronomy 31:8 ~ “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

God goes before us wherever he calls us. We can take great comfort in that promise, knowing he is always with us and will never leave us. We are to be strong and courageous as we trust in the days he has planned for us, even if some of those days are extremely hard to work through. Take comfort in that promise today, tomorrow, and in all your days to come.

Blessings!
Leigh

The Emotions of Moving

I have so much to write about the moving process – funny stories, sad stories and stories with every emotion in between. I think I could write from now until Jesus calls me home about the lessons I’ve learned over the last year, but I’ll start with the most recent and work my way through what has felt like a thick, dense fog that rolled into my life and hid most of the world around me, only letting me see the day in front of me, one moment at a time for the last year.

One of the tasks of moving to a new home is hanging pictures, mirrors, etc. in your new space. I am fortunate to have two friends who do this teamwork hanging thing, so they came to my house this week and sifted through the artwork, family photos, mirrors and sports memorabilia and began to work like two picture hanging fairies throughout my house. (That was awesome, I’m not gonna lie.) In the course of those few hours I got to talking to one of them who is going through what I recently experienced. Her husband got a new job in a new city, and they just sold their house and are moving from the life she has known to a new, unknown, unpredictable life.

I feel ya’, sister.

Another issue with moving is hoping the post office actually forwards your mail to the new address. This week my father went to my old house (he lives on the street behind where I used to live) to pick up some mail that hadn’t been forwarded. I’ve known since the closing of our house in Auburn that the couple who bought our house was moving here for the husband’s job. They moved totally across the country – seriously they moved to Alabama from California. In talking to the new owner of my old house, my father learned that she too is struggling with their move.

I feel ya’, sister.

And then I have one friend who just did a major move last year to a new city and state, and one who is moving to a new house in the same city this year. In every case whether moving near or far, I’ve heard the same words from each one of them:

 Moving ain’t for sissies.
(OK, those are my words, but that’s what they all said in one form or another.)

IMG_2316

My daughter in front of the moving van crammed with storage crates which were crammed with all of our earthly possessions and stored at some warehouse in Savannah I never saw for a two week gap between house closings… not stressful at all…

Research may be inconclusive on the rank of moving in the list of stressful events in life, but it always shows up. Many reasons add up to make it a task that ain’t for sissies – it could be financial, just so time consuming or the fact that no move can happen 100% easy peasy.

For me, and for what I am hearing from my friends going through the same situation, it’s emotional.  (OK yes, so we’re all women. What did you think the reason would be?) And I have a lot to say about the emotions I worked through over the last year, but that’s another post(s) for another day(s).

God continues to reveal two themes to me throughout this process: We are not alone in our struggles (See The Stuggle is Real) and He is trustworthy in all situations. Change is hard but it keeps happening, doesn’t it? So no matter what the change in life may be (new home, new city, new church, new empty-nester, new job, new friends…) how do we best handle it? By trusting in the One who has authority over our lives and this whole earth that He created.

Many times during the move I clung to Scriptures that would keep me from losing the last bit of sanity I still possessed. One of my favorites to repeat was (and is) Psalm 9:10 – “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord have never forsaken those who seek you.”

For all of us movers out there we must lean on God’s word and trust that His plan is better than our plan. We must trust He knows why He is calling us out of our comfort zone into a new life.

And even if you aren’t moving, trust is paramount in your relationship with Jesus. Trust Him with your finances. Trust Him with your relationships. Trust him with your job, and your health. When you start feeling stressed about your situation just say the words, “I trust you Lord,” over and over.

Your situation won’t immediately change, but your view of it will as you learn to lean on Jesus more, and the things of this world less. Lean on Jesus. Trust Jesus.“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”(Psalm 62:8)

Blessings!
Leigh

The Struggle is Real

Recently one of my children was struggling with a difficult situation. It was a frustrating time when the problem seemed to get bigger and no answer was to be found. And the more my child struggled, the more frustrated I became – not with my child but with the problem itself and my inability to fix it, because mommas are fixers. It’s what we do.

From the time babies born mommas fix their problems, meet their needs and nurture their spirits. And then gradually, over time we teach them how to solve their own problems and overcome frustrations (or at least we better try if we don’t want them living in our basements at age 30…).

My children now 23 and almost 19 pretty much handle every day issues on their own. I’ve become more of a sounding board than a problem solver, and that’s a hard transition for a momma who’s a fixer. (Just ask them – I’m sure they’d agree!)

So when this particular problem surfaced I wanted to fix it. But after a few days of being frustrated and knowing the whole time I couldn’t, I sent my child a text that went something like this:

Good Morning. We all go through painful, frustrating times in life. It isn’t if they’ll come, it’s when. And when they do, how will we respond? Satan wants to punch you while you are down and take you out. Don’t let him. Seek God with all your heart. Trust in God and pray constantly and He will see you through this. As hard as it is, be a light to those around you even though you may feel like you are in darkness. Go read John 16:33 and trust in His word. You have a calling on your life and you are a leader. I’m praying for you today and every day. Love you!

art backlit dark dawn

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

And then I felt that tender but firm smack on the back of my own head (thanks, Jesus) after I read those words because I needed to do take my own advice.  I know our move to this new city and state is God’s will for our lives. And 99% of the time I’m rolling right along with peace in my heart and overflowing thankfulness for this new opportunity. But yes, that 1% of homesickness and sadness does come from time to time, which is normal (I hope) after building a life and raising our family for 17 years in one place. (Literally – we never moved in 17 years!)

Oh how true John 10:10 is – “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.” If he can steal our peace, kill our joy and destroy our lives he’ll do it any way he can. And as a professed Christian momma, how will I respond when something hard comes my way?

I start by reading and internalizing John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Armed with the truth that Jesus as overcome EVERYTHING in the world (loneliness, rejection, criticism, hatred, etc.) and as a Christian I have the power of Jesus, I try my best to go out and be a light for others. How? I give myself a big kick in the rear for starters. Then I try to be an encourager, a bright force of Jesus in what can be a murky place for someone else. I take a friend to lunch or I call my parents. I might text my child or just smile and chat with the cashier at Harris Teeter.

People’s struggles are real. Make someone else’s struggle a little easier to bear and watch how yours becomes the same.

Blessings!
Leigh

It’s Time

It’s time to start writing again.

When I look back over my blog, I see a large gap in time from one post to the next in the last 2 years. When I first starting writing I couldn’t stop the words from appearing on the page in front of me. Then life got very hectic (which I’ll unpack in future blogs) and the words seemed to dry up.

I never meant to stop writing, never meant to stop using the passion God gave me for His glory.

It just happened.

I could blame it on life in general – the daily demands of raising my children, supporting my husband and working, but the truth is I didn’t make it a priority. I chose to use my time for other pursuits, other interests. It was my choice not to turn off the radio (I’m a huge talk radio junkie) during the day or get up 30 minutes early (I like to “ease into my day,” as my husband would say) and listen for the words that once came so easily.

But now I have time. Lots and lots of time. Both of my children are out of the house – one fully out of college and supporting herself (praise Jesus!) and the other one in college. We’ve moved to another state for my husband’s new job and I finished up my job last summer.

So as Mick Jagger would put it, “Time is on my side, yes it is.”

pexels-photo-707582.jpeg

Now I have time to recount the last couple of years and all the lessons God has taught me through this process (and is still teaching me today). The biggest and most important lesson I had to learn and remember is that God has a plan for my life. In January of 2017 I never thought I’d be moving to a whole new life in 2018, but that was God’s plan for my husband and me. We are in this new life today through prayer and doors that could have only opened with God’s mighty hand.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) If you memorize Scripture at all, this verse is probably in your arsenal.

Over the years it became so easy for me to repeat that verse without really thinking about the words, but this past year I’ve thought about them – a lot.

The plan for my life isn’t random and it isn’t a mistake or a fluke. The Lord of the universe has made a declaration that He knows the plans He has for me. So whether I know that plans today or not, He does. And that declaration has provided unexplainable peace when anxieties about moving and figuring out what is next in my life frequently crept into my spirit.

God has blessed me with an enormous amount of time to myself. What will I do with it? How will I use it? I’m not 100% sure yet, but that’s OK because my heavenly Father is. And you also can trust Him with your time, because he has great plans for you!

Blessings ~
Leigh

Get out of your boat

God is calling me to get out of my boat.

boat

I’ve lived in the same house on the same street in the same city for nearly 18 years. That house is so packed full of memories that if you opened the front door they would tumble out into the front lawn like a bunch of clowns piling out of a Volkswagen at the circus…

The first day we toured the house my small children ages 5 and 1 stood at the top of the banister waving to us. That memory is still so vivid and clear to me. And from that day on we’ve had many birthday celebrations, Christmases, homecoming pictures, homework sessions, laughs and yes, some arguments and tears along the way in that house. We had a neighborhood full of kids to play with as mine grew up and a slew of basketball games in the driveway because ours was flat. We spent countless hours pushing children in swings on the play set and more hours waiting up for them to come home from proms. I have neighbors who watch out for each other, and I’ve been blessed to live one street up from my parents who have been able to watch their grandchildren grow up from their toddler days all the way to days in college and consistently spoil them over the years.

But God is now calling my husband and I to a wonderful new place with an awesome new opportunity. For the last 7 months we’ve been renting a condo in our new city and keeping the house in Auburn. We had a crazy year in 2017 (another post for another day) and didn’t want to make any quick decisions on such a major life change.

2017 is now over.

Time to make some decisions.

And we know this new job and new city is where God wants us to be. We prayed about it and every door didn’t just open a crack and let a little light through – each and every door, one by one, swung wide open to the point we’d have to be blind not to see the light shining on the new opportunity. I’m excited for what God has planned for us, but in all honesty I do have periods of sadness trying to leave the only home my children have ever known.

Yesterday and today I read accounts of Noah being called out of the ark (Genesis 8:15-16), Abram being called away from his land and his home (Genesis 12:1) and Peter being called out of his boat (Matthew 4:18-20). All three were safe and secure where they were, yet God had other plans for them – plans that required moving away from their comfort zone and into unknown territory. And the only way to make any major move in life is to trust God 100%. Trust that he loves you, that he has great plans for you, and he knows what is best for you.

So that is where I am today, repeating what will be my mantra whenever the anxieties of whatever 2018 may hold begin to well up inside me: I love you, Jesus. I trust you, God. I know you have great plans for me.

Is God calling you out of your boat in 2018? Listen to him. Trust him. Go where he calls you to go and receive the blessings of the One who is sovereign over all.

“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, Soverign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant – and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human…How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you…” (2 Samuel 7:18-19, 22)

Blessings!
Leigh

Thanks, Santa

God make me rich.

God heal me.

God handle my crazy co-worker.

God bring me a spouse.

Have you ever prayed to God like he was your heavenly Santa Claus?

I have.

Santa.jpg

But as I’ve grown older I’ve stopped treating God like he’s my personal Kris Kringle and tried more and more to pray for His will in each and every situation. I’ve stopped demanding He do things my way and now try to figure out how I fit in His eternal plan. I complain less and thank Him more.

(No, I’m not perfect in that category – I complain less (which means I still have my moments) and thank Him more (i.e. I don’t thank Him enough). But, hey – I’m a work in progress!)

In John 12: 13-14 Jesus says to his disciples: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

If we aren’t careful, we turn verse 14 into a wish list of how we want things to be in our lives. That attitude is both naïve and dangerous, because it assumes we know more than the one who created the world and everything in it.

I for one am not that smart.

Yep. It’s not about running down a wish list for God to handle every day like He is Santa pulling toys out of his sack for us. And if we ever get confused on that point and start spouting out our wish list like we are a five year old sitting on Santa’s lap, we should remember Isaiah 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

I once heard Rick Burgess from the Rick & Bubba show say “It’s not about doing my will God’s way. It’s not about doing God’s will my way. It’s about doing God’s will God’s way.”

And with that attitude in mind, our prayers could sound more like these:

God thank you for meeting all my needs. Let me glorify you with any income you provide.

God thank you for the opportunity to show others your healing power in my life.

God thank you for my job. Let me show kindness and patience to everyone I work with.

God I trust you to bring me a spouse in your perfect timing, if that is your will for my life.

As we pray for specific needs, let’s start each request with “God, if it is your will…” or “God, I trust you…” or even “God, use me in this situation…” so that we can fulfill John 12:13 ~ glorifying our Heavenly Father.

And as we adjust our attitude, the peace of God – which truly does surpass all understanding – will enter into our hearts and minds and chase away fear, doubt and anxiety. It’s a daily decision to acknowledge the Creator as sovereign and holy, not as a heavenly wish granter.

Life should truly be about seeking God’s will and doing it God’s way… what a powerful yet humbling way to start each day.

Blessings!
Leigh