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.

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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

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The Sequel

If you’re a reader, you know the feeling you get when you are in the middle of a really good book – one you just can’t put down. You eagerly read each word, turning the page to see what happens to the main characters. One chapter folds into the next, leading you through a tale of love or perhaps mystery. You lose concept of time as you become heavily invested in what will happen next.

And then before you know it, the book comes to an end. Perhaps you take some time to think about the entirety of what you have just read, the way the characters developed and changed in the novel. You replay some of the scenes over in your head, vividly seeing the characters you’ve created in your mind’s eyes. And maybe you’re a little sad when the book ends because you want more – what happens to the hero after the rescue? What happened to the strong willed child or the mother who sacrificed so much?

And that’s where I find myself today, only it’s the closing of the second book in the series chronicling my life. I see life divided into segments, not just as chapters in one book but as separate books – a series of sequels recounting a life. For me, “The Life of a Child” would contain chapters of my life up until I got married. The sequel entitled “Milestones and Miscues” would follow, narrating the highs and lows of marriage and parenting, telling stories of how two became three and then four.

So I don’t feel like a chapter of life has come to a close – I feel like a whole book has been written and read, and is now put on the shelf to be brought out occasionally and reread, through the memories in my mind. It’s a hard book to put down because I’ve had such a wonderful life. I’m not bragging – it’s not always been easy and I surely haven’t always done the right thing. Some chapters were more easily written and enjoyed, while others were much harder. But as I close the book and reflect on the time I have spent with my husband raising our children I feel abundantly blessed.

So I have a book in front of me that is now over, one that I do not want to end. I cautiously open up the next volume, not sure of what words will be written.

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But I know this – Jesus has been my friend throughout and has always been there with me, through the milestones and the miscues. And I trust God has a plan for me, even though I don’t know what it is today. So I’ll adjust, sending care packages to foreign places and cooking when my children come home for a visit. I will focus more on my husband and less on PTO meetings and high school drama. I’ll find new friends in new places and strengthen the relationships I have.

“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)

So to all my empty nesting friends, it’s OK to grieve that book coming to an end. It’s OK to be a little nervous about the sequel. But know this – Jesus is always with you, right by your side no matter what chapter you are writing.

So today I’ll begin writing the next book in the series of my life, filling the blank pages, creating chapter after chapter with Jesus leading the way.

Blessings!
Leigh

The Perfect Outfit

For those of you with children going back to school, how long did it take them (or you) to pick out that first day of school outfit?

In the world of digital photos and social media, wearing the right oufit for that first day picture is crucial. For a girl, the amount of time she spends picking out her ensemble in which she will walk down the hall is a complex math formula that could be taught in any pre-cal class:

Final outfit = Age of girl multiplied by infinity divided by the number of hours until designated event.

Because let’s face it girls. Even to this day we spend countless hours picking out our perfect outfit for anything from a Pilates class to a cocktail party.

But I digress.

It seems like yesterday I was going through this ritual with both children. Now my son cared somewhat, but he was able to pick out a favorite shirt and pair it with one of his 8 pairs of khaki shorts. There. Done. Finished.

My daughter? #Notsomuch. Her love of clothes comes second only to her love for Jesus and her family. For years we went through the ritual of going through her closet the day before school and trying on countless pieces of clothing and never-ending combinations until she had the “perfect” look. That ritual continued until college, when her first day of school outfit consisted of her favorite swap t-shirt and a pair of Nike shorts (I know this because she would always send me a first day of school selfie from college. Sweet, right?)

And then yesterday it happened again. Only this time she was picking out her outfit for her first official day of her new job. And yes, she tried on different combinations from the pieces we bought together a few weeks ago to start her work wardrobe. And when she left yesterday morning, all grown up, put together and polished, a flood of first day photos flipped through my mind like someone was shuffling a deck of memory cards through my brain.

I can see the little girl in her glasses and flowered headband, white tennis shoes ready for first grade. I see the 12 year old now with ears pierced and braces wearing a blue jean jacket because it’s always cold in the upper school buildings. I see the high school senior in her yellow and white striped polo shirt posing for her senior page portraits…

I see all the years of a new school, a new grade, a new cheer squad, a new locker, a new monogrammed backpack and yes, a new outfit. And now, as she drives away to start her new job, I see the all the years of encouragement and discipline, prayer and petition floating away with her, as if I have blown on the top of a dandelion full of hope and love into a gentle breeze that surrounds her wherever she goes.

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And I both reminded of, and comforted by, these words 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.”

I send her off into the world knowing I didn’t do everything right, but did the best I knew how. I send her off with hours of prayer behind her and hours of prayer to come. I once again put my trust in our heavenly Father, who loves her far more than I ever could and in ways I can’t fathom to guide and protect her in this new chapter in her life.

Today I know the new job is a blessing. I know this day is a gift. And I know the first day outfit was definitely on point.

Blessings!
Leigh

The Nest

I have two seniors who will both graduate in May. One will graduate from Ole Miss (Woo hoo! One off the payroll!) and one will graduate from high school and go on to college. So the term “empty nest” has been floating around the house like a large bubble a child blows out of a soapy wand. As the words whisper around our lives they sound pretty, but eventually reality comes in like a sharp steak knife and pops the empty nest bubble leaving a soapy film of sadness because the bubble is gone.

A part of me has come to loathe the term “empty nest.” My children were involved in all sorts of activities during middle and high school, and therefore my husband and I have been very involved parents. I’ll be honest. I don’t really want my nest to be empty. I want to go to cheer camps and basketball games. I don’t want to give up awards ceremonies or proms. And one of the worst thoughts to me is not having a child come home after school asking me “What’s for dinner?” and then looking at me with excitement or dread, depending on my answer.

A momma bird spends so much time carefully building her nest for her babies. She picks out twigs and branches and then uses them to build a foundation where she feels confident she can hatch her young in safety. Often times a momma bird will find pieces of something soft to line parts of her nest so that those little chicks will not harm themselves on the prickly parts of the twigs.

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself – where she may have her young…” (Psalm 84:8)

And the babies come, and the momma bird then works even harder to provide food for her hungry brood and to protect them from the many different predators that would seek to harm them. Who knew being a momma would be so hard at times and so exhausting? Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years…

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And then one day, it is time. It is time for the babies to leave the nest, to fly on their own. Is the momma bird ready? Are the chicks ready? Neither may want this moment to happen, but it does. Babies grow, and then all of a sudden it is time for the babies to fly away and build nests – build lives – of their own.

And the momma bird is left alone, staring at her empty nest. She thinks about all the time she spent building the nest and recalls how easy life was at times, and also how difficult. She feels the gratitude in her heart for all the blessings her babies have given her over the years as one tear, and then two begin to trickle down her cheek.

I know, birds don’t cry. But human mommas do. No, this momma isn’t ready for an empty nest, but it’s coming. I can’t begin to thank God for the blessing of my family, and I can’t stop time from running away like a toddler runs after the ice cream truck. And it’s strange to be both sad and happy at the same time, but that’s where I find myself these days as I watch my nest becoming emptier with each passing day.

Happy, sad, thankful, grateful, peaceful.

A momma with a soon to be “empty nest.”

Blessings!
Leigh

The Sky is Falling!

If there’s one thing satan loves, it’s to make Christians ineffective.

He’ll use all sorts of ways to beat us down to the point we can’t function – distractions, busyness, etc. But one of his greatest weapons is fear. And specifically, he’s using fear of the outcome of this election to drive a whole bunch of us Christians to a place where we are simply useless to the kingdom. I feel like so many of us are going through our day resembling Henny Penny:

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Now let me just be real here: I’ve had to reassess my focus during this election season. I have found myself at times letting fear of the future overtake the reality of the present. But thanks to some wise words from other writers and a lot of prayer I can honestly say I’m OK with whoever wins. That person may not be my choice, but after reading and rereading Romans 13:1 I know the next President is God’s choice.

As we Christians face the days ahead, we need to hold on to the truths found in God’s Word. When you find yourself fearful of November 9th, read these words found in Scripture:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (1 Peter 2:13-15)

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

“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.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“The Lord is no my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Memorize one of these verses, or pick your own because repeating scripture in times of fear is one of the best weapons we have against the enemy.

And for heaven’s sake, let’s stop being so dang scared of who is going to win and what is going to happen after they do. Let’s be about the business of sharing the gospel and giving people around us hope instead of joining in their despair. Get up! Be excited about the day! Look to the future with great expectation! For our hope, our salvation, our joy will never come from what a President can give us. The truth is that whatever an earthly king may give us will always be fleeting, but what our heavenly king gives us is eternal.

And that, fellow Christians – eternity – should be our focus on November the 8th, November the 9th, and all the days that follow. I’m not saying the election isn’t important – it is. I follow politics fairly closely and am aware of all the implications that come with the winning side (Supreme Court nominations, 2nd Amendment rights, etc.) But shouldn’t we be more concerned with who we will bring to know Christ and share eternity with us than who lives in the White House for a few years?

Focusing on eternity brings an earthly peace that cannot be bought, earned or explained. But I’m here to tell you that peace is real – it’s powerful – and it’s available.

Blessings,
Leigh

P.S. For some outstanding words of wisdom on the election, read The Reflection of a King and Max Lucado: My Prediction for November 9 Election.

Are you ready?

If you are a football fan like me (and if you’re not I really cannot understand why not, except maybe you were raised by monkeys on a deserted tropical island), you know that many cheers start off with:

ARE……….YOU………READY?????

And then the cheerleaders initiate various chants and cheers, working the crowd into a frenzy. (Depends on how well your team is doing that year, so some years fans aren’t quite as enthusiastic, I know). I’m always ready when the head cheerleader yells that out to the crowd – always.

But sometimes I’m not ready.

Take for example the first weekend in June. I flew to New York City with my 21 year old daughter because she was getting ready to start a 7 week internship there this summer. Neither of us had ever been to New York, so if you think this momma was going to put her baby on a plane by herself and hope she just figured out the city that never sleeps all alone you are sadly mistaken. I had to check things out for myself before I left her alone in one the largest cities in the world.

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Fortunately one of my BFFs used to live and work in NYC and was able to meet us there and give us the ultimate tour. We went to fantastic restaurants. We saw the Lion King on Broadway and spent time in Central Park. We shopped, walked and ate our way through the city in 4 short days. I’m still 3 pounds heavier because of everything I ate there. But it was so worth it…

All was well until Monday morning, the day I was to leave my daughter alone in New York and fly home. I woke up before her and tried to have my quiet time, but tears kept dripping on my iPad and the sobs I attempted to choke down eventually woke up my sleeping child. I wasn’t ready.

Slowly but surely I got myself together. We got up, went and ate breakfast together and then it was time to say goodbye. I had played this moment out in my head a million times. I had been praying about it and asked friends to pray for me. I didn’t want the last picture of me in her head to be one of bloodshot eyes with black mascara running down my face and uncontrollable babbling of how much I loved her and have fun but be careful and don’t do ANYTHING with anyone you don’t know and always know where your purse is and…

And I still wasn’t ready.

But then it happened. The peace which transcends all understanding invaded my spirit and set me free. As the cab driver put my suitcase in the cab, I gave her a hug (I think it was pretty low key – I didn’t grab onto her clothing or beg her to come with me or anything) and got into my cab. As I drove away I looked out the back window and caught a glimpse of my strong, independent child with her beautiful blonde hair slightly blowing in a breeze hailing a cab to head over to what would be her home for the next 7 weeks, looking every bit the confident young woman she had become.

I thanked Jesus for the wonderful weekend we spent together and prayed for her, all the while trusting that He loves her more than me, that He would watch over her while I could not. As I made our way to the airport I truly felt Philippians 4:7 – “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer works. My prayers and the prayers of my friends lifted me out of the pit of worry and anxiety to a place of peace and trust. I want to encourage you to pray about that area of anxiety in your life today. The peace may not be instantaneous, but it will come. And then, like me, you will say,

I am ready.

Blessings!
Leigh

3 Hour Summers

This morning I made my way up to my son’s high school to get a bunch of young, healthy, energetic (well, maybe not so energetic) high school kids to volunteer to work at a golf tournament this summer. Our area hosts a PGA TOUR event each year, and we need young bodies who can withstand the elements (it happens in July, in Alabama, for heaven’s sake) out on the course to work during that weekend. (We do feed them and give them service hours to help them graduate, so it’s a total win-win. Or at least that’s how I present it.)

Anyway, while I was in the gym a group of younger kids started filtering in, kids ranging in age from 7 to about 12 years old, ready for day 2 of the youth basketball clinic hosted by my son’s school. Sweet, young faces looking up to the older kids as “cool,” a look that I so remember on my daughter’s face when she went to youth cheer camp and on my son’s face when he attended the very same basketball camp many years ago.

And as I drove away, my thoughts turned to summers past, summers filled with Vacation Bible School, art camps, basketball camps, cheerleading camps, and 9-hole golf tournaments. Summers filled with playing on swingsets and building forts. Days spent at the neighborhood pool trying desperately to deplete my children of every last drop of energy, and other days sliding down the Slip N Slide in the front yard (until it got so muddy that the turf was completely destroyed underneath and I got in big trouble). I took trips with my husband and kids to places like Orlando, Jacksonville and Chattanooga because he traveled for work, and I would find aquariums, hands-on museums or yes, even an alligator farm for the 3 of us to explore during the day.

Slip N Slide

But now, those summers have been replaced by more grown-up pursuits. Instead of dropping my daughter off at art camp, I listen to her stories from New York, where she is interning for the summer and has opportunities to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Modern Art. Watching a 12 year old boy fuss and cry when he missed a four-foot putt has been replaced with cheering on a young man who is in control of his emotions during a 4-day tournament, good play or bad.

I told my husband last night I wanted to be a mom again – a young mom. When I was a young mom and dropped my kids off at camps I would think, “Thank you Jesus. Three solid hours of ‘me time.’” (And by “me time” I was referring to barreling through Kroger on 2 wheels to get only what was on the list and not the 7 items we didn’t need but I would buy just to make everyone quiet while I tried to shop, or three hours to throw in laundry and fold towels without hearing “Mom I’m bored. What can I do?” Then offering an untold number of options to which I would hear back, “Nope. Don’t want to do that. Did that yesterday. What else can I do?”)

 Three. Solid. Hours. All to myself.

What I would give for one more “3 hour summer.”

As the mom of a senior in college AND a senior in high school I’m trying my best to hold it together and mentally prepare for May when we will celebrate not 1 but 2 graduations. Both of my children will be starting new chapters in their lives. As rewarding as it is to see all that they have accomplished, it’s tough to think about what’s next – for me, not for them. I’m not gonna lie.

And that’s when I have to hold on to a verse that is so well-known, and so precious to remember: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

My young-momma days are long gone. And while I cannot go back to them, they are a blessing and a comfort when my children are far away. I try not to dwell on them too long, because the string that will unravel my heart is already starting to be pulled and like I said, I’m trying to keep it together for not one, but 2 senior years coming my way.

I’m thankful for my faith, for Jesus who is my best friend and for my husband who listens to my craziness. I’m thankful for all the past accomplishments and future opportunities. I’m thankful for the 3 hour summers, as faded as they may seem now.

And I’m thankful God has a plan for this ‘ol momma.

Blessings!
Leigh