“THE” Gift

When your children are young, their anticipation over what is in the shiny wrapped boxes under the tree is about as big as waiting to find out if your team is going to make it into the college football playoffs. (For some of us, that anticipation may actually be bigger…)

When I think back to Christmases past, various gifts became “THE” gift of Christmas for my children. One year it was the life-size Barbie house for my daughter, another year it was an xBox for my son. My son is a snooper by nature, always looking at the “To” and “From” tags on gifts, picking them up and giving them a shake to see if he can tell if “THE” present is already under the tree.

Barbie House

And as the days leading up to Christmas pass, a new present here or there appears under the tree. For whom is the new gift? What is the gift? Will that person like it? Need it? Enjoy it?

But the truth about Christmas is this: “THE” gift we really need isn’t under our trees – it has already been given freely by the only One who can give it.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

So as you look under your tree, whether it is overflowing with shiny wrapped boxes or perhaps it is a bit scarce under there this year, remember the truth about Christmas: God has already given the world “THE” gift, but you have to receive the package. You can have “THE” gifts you want, “THE” gifts you need by receiving Jesus into your heart.

And the truth about Christmas is this: while we run all over town shopping and charging and wrapping and fussing and worrying, Jesus waits patiently with “THE” gifts He has been waiting to give us every single day, all year long. Jesus doesn’t run around like a half-crazed shopping lunatic because He possesses these gifts in His very nature. Jesus doesn’t go into debt buying us something He cannot afford to give. Jesus doesn’t worry about whether we will like His gifts or not because He knows exactly what to give us. And Jesus doesn’t force His gifts on us – He can’t. We must have a heart to receive what He wants to give.

“THE” gifts Jesus wants to give us don’t come in a box and cannot be bought online. They have no size charts, no shipping charges, no return policies.

Hope. Love. Security. Forgiveness. Freedom.

Each of those is a gift waiting to be given to you from Jesus himself. But it is only by spending time with the ultimate Giver that you will be able to receive each of those precious, precious gifts.

Merry Christmas!
Leigh

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I Hate to Run

I am not an athlete. I did not play high school sports of any kind. I’ve never been the one to say, “Hey! Anybody want to go lift some weights or do a few hundred crunches with me?” And I hate to run. My feelings on running are about the same as the Grinch’s feelings about all the Whos in Whoville – “Hate, hate hate – double hate, LOATHE ENTIRELY…” And as Rick Burgess says, “If you see me running you better take off too because it can only mean something big and scary is chasing me.”

But seeing how I’m not getting any younger, I decided to join a couple of my friends at a work out class that had recently been started by a new trainer at our club. And to my shock and horror, how do you think they start every single stinkin’ class???

Running.

running

Now I don’t want anyone to think we start off with a 5K every day or anything like that, but 4 laps around the parking lot to a girl who hates to run sure does feel like a marathon. And the first few classes I dug my heels in and proclaimed I would run maybe one lap and walk the rest. Ain’t nobody gonna make this girl run laps. I had enough of that in high school.

(Oh my gosh I dreaded the days in middle and high school P.E. class when our coach would come in and yell, “Everybody to the track!” I would have rather had an extra week of awkward, geeky middle-school style square dancing instruction than to have to run a mile on the track.)

ANYWAY, it wasn’t long before our trainer Stanley started pushing me to run. “You can do it, Mrs. Leigh. See Mrs. Anne up there? Let’s catch her. Don’t you give up. You’re an athlete. Pump your arms. Breathe. Now pick up that pace. Here comes Mrs. Beth – don’t you let her beat you.”

It only took a couple of times for Stanley to run with me and motivate me to get me to the place where I was doing something I didn’t want to do and quite frankly didn’t think I could do. And these days when I go to class I don’t wear an “I love to run” t-shirt or anything, but I run my laps with the group without grumbling, knowing full well I can handle it. And now when I am running I don’t hear my thoughts because they are negative. I hear Stanley in my head, encouraging me and pushing me to do more.

And you know, that’s really where we want to be spiritually. If all we hear are our own thoughts in our head, it won’t be long before we are jealous (Why don’t I have as big of a house as they do?), angry (I cannot believe she just said that to me – well I’ll show her!), depressed (Nobody likes me. I’m worthless.), etc., etc…

What we need is a big dose of Jesus in our heads every single day. Jesus loves you, He wants the best for you and He will push you out of your comfort zone to do things you can’t even imagine if you will let Him. But the first step is to get to know Him on a daily basis so that you can hear His voice inside your head.

“The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents (the minds) of the righteous: ‘The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!  The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!’” (Psalm 118:14-16)

Jesus can do mighty things in us when He is our strength and our song. So take some time to fill your head with the truth of God’s Word, and run the race He has set out for you today!

Blessings!
Leigh

You can follow me on Twitter @LeighThompsonAU and enjoy my sometimes inspirational, sometimes humorous, sometimes quirky Tweets!

Atta Girl!

Last night we had our annual Atta Girls Christmas party. The Atta Girls are a group of women who play tennis for FUN – yes, for fun. We do not compete outside our group and we hardly compete inside our group. But we are called Atta Girls after the phrase our coach uses on the rare occasion we actually do something the right way on the tennis court. (For instance if I bend my knees and follow through when I hit the ball, I might get an “Atta Girl” out of Mike. But then again, I might not. He’s a bit stingy with the phrase to keep us humble.)

IMG_3136

I heard one of the very best momma stories I think I’ve ever heard at the Atta Girls party last night from a friend who had enough of one of her children’s mouths and attitudes the other day. I can’t tell the story because I have to protect the not-so-innocent momma and save the child from unabashed embarrassment, but it went something like this:

Child: Wah, wah waaa, waahhhh, WAHH!!!!!
Momma: I’m not going to engage in this.
Child: WAHHH, waaaa, wah wahhhh, WWWAAHHH!!!
Momma: I am going to remain calm and deal with my child after school.
Child:   WAAAAAH, #?*!, #?*!!!!, WAHHHH, WWWWWWWAAAHHHH!!!
Momma: Oh yea? Ya’ think so??? WELL LET ME JUST SAY __________________________!!!!!

Oh my gosh she snapped. Totally lost it. And we laughed and laughed because what she said back to her child was so out of character it was just hysterical. And we laughed because we’ve all been there and lost it – most of us on more than one occasion.

You probably have someone in your life who knows which buttons to push, when to push them and how hard they have to be pushed to send you over the edge of normal, sane, rational momma (or dad, or employee) to “I’m gonna reach across this car (or table, or living room) and snatch you up so hard it will be next Tuesday before you realize how much pain you are in” momma.

Who, me? Well I never…

Actually I have. More times than I care to admit. But listening to that story made me feel normal because I had confirmation that I wasn’t the only momma in the world to be pushed so far by a child that I just snapped and said words that would normally never come out of this lily white Southern momma mouth. And since we are friends, she knew she could tell us what she said without fear of judgment or gossip. (Does posting this on my blog count as gossip? Gosh I sure hope not…)

Jesus had his buttons pushed – frequently. And He even lost it in the temple when the moneychangers were using it for less than holy purposes. I’m not saying we are justified in losing our temper – I’m simply saying He has been through every single experience we have ever faced. He knows every feeling, ever heartache, every outburst of anger, every fear because He was a man who lived here in the middle of the fallen creation we still inhabit to this day.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

So if you are afraid, talk to Jesus. If you are sad, share your feelings with your heavenly Father. And if you have a little anger-filled freak out, repent for your outburst then work on restoring that relationship with His help.

And I’m just guessing when we do those things and get a little closer to Jesus, He looks down, smiles and give us a big ‘ol “Atta Girl!” when we finally get it right.

Blessings!
Leigh

You can follow me on Twitter @LeighThompsonAU and enjoy my sometimes inspirational, sometimes humorous, sometimes quirky Tweets!

 

 

A Momma Moment of Panic

My son plays high school basketball, so most of my weeknights are spent in various gyms situated all along the I-65 and I-85 interstates. Last Thursday night we were in a gym in Autauga County, Alabama for a game (you’ll have to googlemap that if you care to know where  we were), ready to take on the Generals.

basketball

It was a very close game, hard fought on both sides. Now my son is tall – 6’3” so part of his job on the court is to rebound and block shots (duh). At some point in the third period a player on the other team faked his shot, my son went up to block it, THEN the player moved to shoot the ball and cut my son’s legs out from under him when that player made his move to the basket.

The “THUD” heard when my son hit the floor was VERY VERY LOUD. So loud that the whole gym hushed to that deathly still silence, not sure how bad the injury would be. When he hit the floor I shot up off those extremely hard and uncomfortable wooden bleachers like a Jack in the Box, panic setting into my heart. I watched him lay face down on the floor and then start to roll around a little as the trainers ran out to determine which body part was injured.

My friend sitting next to me and I both thought the same thing, that the deafening THUD we heard was my son’s head hitting the hardwood floor somewhere on a county road in Autauga. My friend very sweetly rubbed my back as my mind started racing, my thoughts sounding something like, “Oh my gosh, Lord no. He’s hit is head. Does he have a concussion? Where are we in Autauga county? Are we going to need an ambulance? How come we have ambulances at football games but not basketball games? Do I run down there and check on him or stay in the stands? What happened?”

Two minutes of momma panic felt a whole lot longer

And then by the grace of God my son sat up a bit and walked off the court. Turns out the large THUD we heard was his elbow, not his head. (Thank you Jesus!) His elbow is swollen and according to him is a 5 on his pain scale, so I think he’s just gonna need a little time to heal.

My plan was to go to Autauga, woop up on some Generals and go home. My plan did not include a freak accident, a concussion or an ambulance ride to a county hospital. And thankfully that’s not what happened, but here’s what I know: life doesn’t go the way we plan every day. Accidents happen. Illnesses happen. Financial difficulties happen. Unforeseen situations can happen at any time, and when they do, what do you do?

I would think most people would have their own “Momma moment of panic” first – it’s human nature because you have to take a minute to process what has happened, what the initial issue is and your role in the situation. But after your brain pushes through those initial thoughts, prayer is paramount to your dealing with whatever is coming next.

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:13-16)

Combat your own Momma moment of panic with prayer. Jesus is always with you, even in a high school gymnasium somewhere in Autauga County, Alabama.

Blessings!
Leigh

The Concession Stand

Every high school has one. It strikes dread in the hearts of all parents. It’s the inescapable concession stand and the shift you must work for a small portion of your life so that you can raise money for your child’s team or organization.

concession stand

It’s not a hard job. It’s not like you have to figure out how to get a spacecraft to the moon and back or anything. It’s handing out slices of once warm pizza, Dr. Pepper and ring pops to the families who have been at a basketball (or football, or baseball) game anywhere from one hour to the whole night. But when that piece of paper comes around to sign up for a shift, parents look at it like someone has smeared the ebola virus all over it and ain’t no way we’re gonna touch that thing.

But we do. We have to. We are the few, the proud, the “sign me up” parents of the high school.

So Tuesday night was my shift. Our school has it set up so that you work a game when your child isn’t playing, so a friend and I worked during the varsity girls’ game since we both have boys playing in the later game.

Have you ever watched a high school girls’ basketball game?

Now don’t get me wrong – a lot of these girls are really good and play extremely hard. So it’s not their lack of talent, ability or desire that is the issue. For some unexplained reason though, a girls’ game usually gets totally congested with fouls and jump balls. And jump balls… and jump balls…

The girls’ game Tuesday night was no exception. So it was running way looonnnnng. My friend and I got so bored in our jail cell – I mean the concession stand – we cleaned tables, swept the floor in the eating area, scrolled through Twitter and Instagram… and then the unthinkable happened.

At the end of the girls’ game we were tied. And yes, we play stinking overtime.

HALLELUJAH!!! (Said no one.)

So the varsity boys’ game that was supposed to start at 7:00 started at 8:40. Yep, 8:40. Now that may not seem late to you, but I’m typically in my pj’s by 8:00 watching a meaningless, mindless but entertaining show on TV and napping until it’s time to get up and go to bed.

We seriously thought we would never be free from the concession stand – stuck there forever surrounded by a now-empty Chick-Fil-A heated sandwich holder and boxes of Snicker’s bars and Skittles. (At least we wouldn’t go hungry.) The cheese machine for the nachos was well on it’s way to retiring for the night and ain’t no way we were popping any more corn.

And then FINALLY though God’s great mercy the girls game was over (we won, BTW) and we were set free. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But a one hour shift turned into a 2 hour shift which felt like a 10 hour shift. Now the length of my shift really wasn’t the problem. The problem was that my time of confinement didn’t match up with my expectations of what I had signed up for.

All too often as Christians we think we’ve signed up for “the good life,” that we are going to do whatever we think being a Christian is all about and we won’t encounter problems or unexpected events along the way. (Doesn’t God save those for unbelievers? Hmmm?) We forget that God is in control of the game clock, and if He wants us to serve somewhere a little longer or serve in a way that is out of our comfort zone we should be open and ready for those opportunities. And we should serve with joy and without complaining (which I did until the game went into dadgum overtime and then all bets were off) because we are Christ’s ambassadors every single day, in every situation.

If I could serve the unexpected events as well as I serve those that I know are coming I’d have a lot more peace and joy in my life.

“If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11)

In all things. Not in the things I want to do, things I expect to happen, but serve so that God will be glorified in all things – even a never-ending shift in the high school concession stand.

Oh and to my 3 friends who told me “I never got the sign-up sheet,” don’t you worry.

I got you all taken care of. (;

Blessings!
Leigh

You can follow me on Twitter @LeighThompsonAU and enjoy my sometimes inspirational, sometimes humorous, sometimes quirky Tweets!

Home Alone

I love that Christmas movie. It is just hysterical to me! The youngest McCallister child Kevin is forgotten and left home all by himself while the entire family flies off to Paris for Christmas.

Now Kevin has a really creepy neighbor. Before the family leaves for Paris, Kevin’s older brother Buzz tells him that Old Man Marley has the nickname of “the South Bend Shovel Slayer” because he murdered his family and others who lived on the block with a shovel back in the 1950’s.

Well that’s enough to freak a kid out, I’m sure.

Fast forward in the movie, to Kevin walking into church all alone on Christmas Eve. He is approached by Old Man Marley who scares him to death – at first. But the more they talk, the more Kevin understands that Marley isn’t a murderer at all. Marley has been carrying around the burden of a broken relationship with him for years, and has never talked about it with anyone.

Until that night in church.

marley

Young Kevin is able to provide child-like wisdom to Old Man Marley, and at the end of the movie we see the result – a restored relationship between father and son.

My point?

Everyone struggles with something at some time. It’s the world, people – a fallen, broken creation. So it ain’t gonna be fine all the time. In fact, we will encounter many struggles along the way. And on the one hand we judge others for secrets we know nothing about, while on the other hand we feel like we can’t let our own little struggle secret out, for fear of what others will think.

The one thing that has help me the most is being a part of a small group (that’s what my church uses to get our super large membership down to a smaller more personal level) where you can just blurt out whatever is on your heart – you hate your job, you are struggling in your marriage, your children are making really stupid choices, you are jealous of your neighbor’s life – whatever it is and people get it because they, too are struggling with something.  They get it, and they pray about it.

NO ONE has it all together. (Not totally, anyway.) NO ONE gets to skip around the playing board of life and miss all the bad squares. NO ONE should be judged for secrets we know nothing about. And NO ONE was meant to carry life’s burdens alone, either.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

You don’t have to be in an official small group to make this happen.   I go to lunch every few weeks with a couple of friends and it is just awesome to lay out on the table whatever is going on, trust them to listen and pray about it. It’s comforting to know someone else sharing your burdens. Old Man Marley found comfort in Kevin’s simple words, and they were enough to start the healing process in Marley’s life.

So don’t walk alone as though your life is perfect if you are carrying a heavy burden. Find that person or group you can trust, share your struggles and pray over them. We can all learn a very important lesson from Kevin and Old Man Marley today.

Blessings!
Leigh

You can follow me on Twitter @LeighThompsonAU and enjoy my sometimes inspirational, sometimes humorous, sometimes quirky Tweets!

My Outside is PERFECT!

So yes, the outside of my house is decorated – finally. No more Kranks on our street. And even though I was still working on some of the inside decorations, from the outside we looked like we had our Christmas swag in full swing from the den all the way to the mailbox. My friend said she would rather get her outside decorated first so that it looks like she has it all together even when the inside of her house is a total wreck.

“There’s your next blog post,” she panted to me as we were running in the parking lot last week. (Yes, I was actually running. It’s amazing what the right motivation will do for a person who hates to run.)

I started thinking about that yesterday as I finally tackled the box of Snow Village buildings. It’s not like I have enough pieces to make up a city the size of Atlanta – I only have 7 buildings and about 20 miscellaneous pieces that make up more what I would call a country town.  It’s just a pain to take all the buildings out of their protective Styrofoam containers, place them under the tree, put the lights in, get the smaller pieces out of their containers, place them where it looks natural (y’all know I’m OCD so I can’t have the tree house stuck between the McDonald’s and the Coca-Cola plant or the Starbucks near the dairy barn).

And the worst part is hooking up all the cords that lead to each perfectly snow-covered building so that each one comes alive with light. When you look under the upstairs Christmas tree it is a beautiful scene of perfection. But underneath the mountains of fake snow is a mess of cords attached in such a way that I’m sure the fire marshal would write me a serious citation.

 Snow Village

But who cares if I burn the house down, right? As long as it looks good.

And that’s how we go about life. We look in the mirror and think, “That’s the look I’m going with for the day,” (although many days I’m in such a hurry I look in the mirror and think, “Well that’s gonna have to do”) and don’t take time to look underneath the hair, the makeup, the clothes. Do we have perfection on the outside and a mess on the inside?

“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

We all need to take time to untangle our cords. You can start by spending time with Jesus, asking Him to show you which cords are a mess, and which one you should work on first. Or you may already know what your issues are, you just don’t know how to get going. Just remember you don’t have to take on the wad of cords all at once – if you’ve ever untangled Christmas lights you know you have to start with one strand, get it all untangled, and then start on the next one. The important thing is to take the first step and get started!

Tomorrow I’ll share what has really helped me the most in this area. Until then, have a blessed day!

Leigh

You can follow me on Twitter @LeighThompsonAU and enjoy my sometimes inspirational, sometimes humorous, sometimes quirky Tweets!