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!

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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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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

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