Go Build a Deck

My parents are about to complete a 10-year dream. Actually, in all honesty my dad has had this dream for the last 10 years. He’s always wanted to add a screened-in deck to the back of their house, complete with a rather large flat screen TV from which he can watch countless hours of PGA golf and Auburn football.

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The deck has been 10 years in the making. Ten years of planning, thinking, doing other things, thinking about it again, getting serious about it, backing off from it. Ten years of wishing they had one, glad they hadn’t spent the money on it. Ten years of not now, maybe later.

So for whatever reason (actually I know the reason – my mother finally said OK. He wore her down after 10 years of persistent hint dropping) the deck is finally being built. A little late for this year’s Masters, but in plenty of time to enjoy spring and summer evenings without having to fight off the annoying official Alabama state bird – the mosquito – and then on to what will hopefully be a more enjoyable fall of football.

And that got me thinking – in 10 years what will I wish I had done today? What do you wish you had done more of 10 years ago? Read more books to your grandchildren? Served a little more at church? Had a weekly date night with your spouse?

It could be something not so thought provoking – heaven knows I wish I had been working out regularly for the last 10 years. And when I say “working out,” let’s be clear. I actually detest working out because my body tends to revolt in a series of swellings, aches in pains – mostly in areas I didn’t even know could hurt – when I get a consistent routine in place. (And when I say consistent, that really adds up to about two solid weeks of mediocre effort, like walking my dog.) I wish I had been working out for the last 10 years so that my clothes would fit better and certain areas wouldn’t jiggle like jell-o, but I have consciously made the repeated decision to do something else with my time (like eating M&M’s while binge watching some dumb show on Netflix).

I’ve come to realize that little choices I make every day lead to a week of choices, then a month, and on to a year… and then all of a sudden I’ve made 10 years of choices that hopefully add up to a purposeful life as the decades add up.

Proverbs 13:4 says, “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” I personally like the Message version: “Indolence wants it all and gets nothing; the energetic have something to show for their lives.” I’m not always energetic, but I try. And I definitely want to have something to show for my life when Jesus and I play my highlight reel together.

So what should you be doing now – today – to keep you from saying what my daddy did about his deck: “I wish I had built this 10 years ago!” Make that first decision today that will build a decade full of intentional choices and purposeful living.

Blessings!
Leigh

Because I Said So

“Because I said so” are four of the most awesome words a parent has at their disposal. You can use it at any point in a discussion to slam the door on the ridiculous demands of your kids, no matter their age. Now most of us don’t pull this tool out of our arsenal of parental weapons immediately – we usually spout it out after one of our children has systematically worn us down to the point of total frustration. Your response usually starts with a “No!” followed by that one fantastic phrase.

Does any of this sound familiar? You utter those four words after you have argued with your four year old about why they can’t flush their fish down the toilet to find its family (thanks, Nemo for that one). You blurt them out when your ten year old daughter asks you for the zillionth time if she can start wearing make-up to school. And you give your 16 year old son an eye roll as you speak those words over the fact that yes, he will indeed be the only one in the 11th grade with a curfew.

And all the while you wonder why your kids don’t just listen to you? Why do they insist on going their own way – the WRONG way – and continue to strive against what would (in your head) obviously benefit them?

And then they become teenagers and young adults. Get a firm grip on what little sanity you still possess, people. I mean really, have you ever met someone smarter than a teenager? Have you ever known anyone to get any smarter than they are around age 19? They’ll argue with a brick wall if necessary to make their point, but then end up going along with your decisions because 1)they really have no choice; 2)they want to prove you wrong; or 3)they too, are worn down and just can’t argue anymore. They don’t particularly believe that the result you have laid out for them will actually happen – they just do whatever it is, muttering under their breath, “because you said so.”

There’s a story in the Bible about some fishermen who were out all night fishing but not catching anything. They were tired, frustrated and had quit for the day. Back in the day if you didn’t catch anything you probably didn’t eat, so they were most likely hangry (hungry + angry) on top of everything else. So these fishermen are standing on the shore of the lake washing their nets when then they received a “Because I said so” moment from Jesus:

“When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’” (Luke 5:4)

Now if you’re a teenager, your response would be something like this: Seriously? Have you not picked up on the fact that we haven’t caught anything? Do you not see how tired we are? Why can’t we just go into town and buy some fish? Why can’t we just eat some figs off that tree? Why… why… why…???

And Simon Peter might have been thinking it, but here’s what he said: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)

And guess what happened next: “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” (Luke 5:6)

miraculous-catch

God rewarded their obedience
with an oversupply of what they were looking for the whole time.

Too often we try to go our own way and handle situations all by ourselves because we act like the smartest person on the planet – a teenager – when all the while God is trying desperately to steer us in the right direction through His Word and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We want our way because clearly we know best (yeah, right). But after we try to reason with God, after we challenge Him, and yes even argue with Him we hear it:

“Because I said so.”

God has the best plan for each one of us ready to be lived out. Maybe it’s time to stop acting like a spoiled teenager in some area of your life and be obedient. Do you have an area like that? I do. We all do if we are honest. So I encourage you (and me!) to stop acting like a hormone-crazed adolescent and be an adult in that area. Seek God’s wisdom and plan, pray through it and see if the benefit (peace – the healing of a relationship – financial stability) is not abundantly more than you could have imagined.

Blessings!
Leigh

Curve Balls

Life is full of bumps and bruises, isn’t it? (Thank you, Captain Obvious!) Not only for parents, but what’s worse – life will throw your children some major curve balls along the way.

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When your children are young you see the curve balls coming. You have your bat ready, and when those curve balls leave the pitcher’s mound you stare them down, steely eyes ready to take action. Whatever problem is now flying in your child’s direction will be no match for momma bear wielding a wooden bat.

Enter teenage years. Maybe your eyesight is getting a little worse, or maybe it’s just the fact that the world throws curve balls we could never even dream about at your kids, but regardless the bat might swing a little slower, and you may even miss one or two.

Oh and then let’s get to college, where for the most part you don’t see your child for days or weeks on end. The lucky parents (I consider myself one of those) still talk to your college kid frequently but it just isn’t the same as seeing them every day. And you hope and pray that you have taught them how to see curve balls coming and what to do if they swing and miss (or get hit by one).

Sometimes they see curve balls coming, sometimes they don’t.

And what do we really want for them? A life free of from curve balls – i.e, stress? So many parents try to take every little teeny-weeny bit of stress out of their kids’ lives but I got news for you parents out there – there’s no way you’ll be able to do that in every situation, nor should you.

So as we work our way though parenting, I ask again – what do we really want for our kids? A good job? A successful marriage? What do we really want?

I got to thinking about that today, and one word kept coming to my mind.

Peace.

Life ain’t easy, and to go through it being tossed around like a beach ball in high seas leads to confusion, disappointment, chaos and even anger. Is that what we want for our kids? Of course not. But without a solid anchor, we are sending them into sea of life with a paddle and a prayer, hoping they make the right choices and end up “happy.”

So back to peace. Peace when things are going well, peace when life is flipping them upside down. Peace knowing that they are not in control, God is. Peace trusting that God has a much better plan for their lives than they could ever imagine, even if it isn’t the life they thought they would be living.

That’s what I want for my children. Peace. But I know I can’t give them peace, nor can my husband. There’s no friend, boyfriend or girlfriend that can provide true, unshakable, rock-solid peace. There’s only one place they can find true peace, and that place is in the arms of Jesus.

So I pray for my children to have a relationship with Jesus so that they can claim and experience the indescribable, undeniable peace He offers, no matter what the enemy throws at them. Holding on to the promises found in Scripture is the only way to hit the curve ball when it leaves the enemy’s glove.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Peace in the chaos. Peace in the calm. Peace in the arms of Jesus.

Blessings!
Leigh

Less than the Best

Have you ever been left out?

Sure you have. If you’ve survived middle school you’ve been left out.

I actually have vivid memories of being left out at a much younger age – elementary school. It typically revolved around the picking of teams for Red Rover, dodge ball or kick ball. I was a pretty scrawny kid, skinny, no power, no coordination – an overall glasses-wearing spaz-ma-taz who hoped not to be the last one picked – again.

But I was usually picked last, over and over. Left out, yet again. And being left out doesn’t stop in elementary school for sure. Once you get into middle school that’s when kids really get mean for some reason and it’s almost a sport to see how many kids the “cool kids” can leave outside the circle, watching the outsiders as they hope for an invitation to become part of that coveted group.

kids

High school – isolation can intensify, for sure. Fortunately by the time you hit this age high schools usually have a whole bunch of opportunities to find a group to belong to, whether it is with the band, basketball team, math team, ambassadors, debaters, etc. But thank you, social media for showing kids what they aren’t a part of as much as what they are.

And then off to college where mommas and daddies drop their kids off with half a room worth of their stuff (actually it’s their entire room from home crammed into less than half the space they have at home) and for the most part feel good about where they’ve left them, hoping and praying for the friends who are sure to come, groups where their kids will find acceptance.

Can I just say being left out doesn’t end in college? Hate to burst all the bubbles of all the mommas (and daddies) of high school seniors, but going to college doesn’t guarantee acceptance. In college I went through a period of being tormented by someone for reasons I didn’t even understand at the time. And the more I talk to parents of college students, the more I hear that this phenomenon still exists and happens to even the most popular, the most handsome, the most athletic, etc, etc…

And we, as parents can become so desperate to see our children be happy and have friends and be accepted that we can fall into one of satan’s biggest and worst traps he can set. We become so desperate for (fill in the blank – friends, acceptance, etc) that we are willing to accept whatever satan puts in front of us.

In other words, we become so desperate for earthly happiness we are willing to accept less than God’s best for their lives.

Think about it. How many times have you made a snap decision because it solved a short term problem? Have you been more accepting of certain kids that you know aren’t trying to live godly lives just so your kid will have friends?

I’m guessing as parents we’ve all done it. Let’s just be real – if we are really honest we’d all rather our kids have some friends than no friends. Now I don’t mean you give junior a kiss as he heads out to the weekly satanic ritual, but we find ourselves excusing behaviors, making up reasons for this or that when really, honestly, we just want our kids to belong – because we want to belong and we know how it feels when we don’t.

What a dangerous place we find ourselves in, because decisions made in desperation have long-term and potentially devastating consequences.

One of my constant prayers for my children is that they will know their identity is in Christ, not in their friend group, not in their academic achievements or their sports accomplishments. That’s not to say I don’t pray for all of those things, but we have to spend more time praying over their character than over their – and our – earthly desires.

Colossians 3 is a great chapter of Scripture to read if you are struggling with this issue, as I think all parents do from time to time. This verse seems to sum it all up however: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2) When we set our minds on Jesus, on the eternal, we are equipped to make better decisions because we begin to see situations as God sees them.

Don’t be so desperate for things of this world – especially where your children are concerned – that you fall into satan’s trap and miss what God has planned for them.

And remind your children of this truth: “And you are also among those who are called to belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 1:6)

Yes, they have a place. Yes, they belong. And that’s truly the only group that matters.

Blessings!
Leigh

It’s 4:11 a.m. – again.

My inability to sleep through the night is well documented in my blog. So is my addiction to Simply Sleep – just one little shot of Benadryl to help me sleep through the night. And it may say “non-habit forming” on the bottle but I’m here to tell you that’s a lie, because every night I take it I sleep like a teenager (forget trying to sleep like a baby – teenagers are much better sleepers) and every night I don’t – well, I don’t sleep well. And yes, I’m writing this at 4:11 a.m., so point proven.

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Well, for the last couple of weeks I have removed Simply Sleep from my routine. Why? Why in the world would I give up my awesome, restful, peaceful, full nights of sleep? Because I read an article that quoted research showing long term use of a sleep aid like that one can lead to early onset of dementia.

Wonder if 8 years is considered long-term…

So in my effort to overcome my addiction to Simply Sleep, I have given up sleeping until my alarm goes off, and instead I get out of bed when I realize I’m not gonna get any more sleep, and that seems to be consistently around 4:11 a.m.

It’s amazing what I can get done in the quiet of the morning. Quite time? Check. Balance the bank statement? Done. Fill out my entire 2016 planner with birthdays and anniversary? Complete.

Two hours is a lot of time before the rest of my household wakes up. I have a lot of time to think, a lot of time to pray. A lot of time to seek God’s will and wisdom.

So…much…time… (yawn)…

I don’t suggest setting your alarm clock for 4:11 a.m. to make sure you get your time in with God every day, but wow these early mornings sure have been enlightening. I do urge you to carve out time to spend with Him every day however, especially in the morning (if possible) before your day escalates into the hurried, crazy day we experience all too often.

Check out what Jesus did before He made one of the most important decisions in His ministry: “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…” (Luke 6:12-13)

This passage from Luke is just one example of Jesus spending time in prayer, seeking God’s will and God’s wisdom. Before Jesus chose the 12 of the most important men in Biblical history he spent all night praying, and that ensured he would make the decision that would be most pleasing to his Father. God never disappointed Jesus after those many nights and mornings spent in prayer, and He’ll never disappoint you either when you take time to talk to Him, pour out your heart to Him and then listen for His responses.

Make time to spend with your Creator, the One who loves you like no other. He wrote the book on your life – don’t you want to know what’s in it? Don’t you want to make the best decisions every single day? How else will you find out if you don’t talk to Him on a consistent basis?

If I got to pick my time, it wouldn’t be 4:11 a.m., but I’m thankful for it anyway.

Find your time.

Blessings!
Leigh

Flag Man

My father-in-law sent an email with a link to a video to my husband back on November 16th and my husband forwarded the email to me that day. The subject of the email was “Flag Man,” and honestly the title didn’t really grab me at the moment. So like many emails it gradually descended to the depths of my email inbox where it – along with so many others – remained in email purgatory until today.

Today was the day I was determined to clean out all 3 of my inboxes (don’t ask why I have 3 – I’m still asking myself that). I decided to answer all emails I hadn’t already answered, delete what the ones I really didn’t need, file away the ones I did need and yes, watch links to videos if they existed in any emails.

But I wasn’t prepared for this link. Didn’t have my Kleenex handy (dadgum it – I had just “put my face on” as Granny would say), and wasn’t ready for the emotions this video brought out of me. I think watching ESPN’s College Gameday live from Philadelphia where Army will play Navy this afternoon served as a moving precursor to this video and I don’t think it’s a coincidence I watched all of this in one day.

What possesses a man to do something as gut-wrenching, as moving, as honorable as this? Where does he get the strength, the energy, the will to keep running day after day after day? When did he get the idea and what made him get off the couch and make it actually happen?

Many answers exist to these questions. But more importantly than asking them is to reflect on what one man did to honor so many who laid down their lives for you and for me.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Amen.
Leigh

Gimme a Light

I usually refrain from writing about political matters for two reasons. One, the purpose of my blog is to point people to Jesus (not to politics) and two, when I think about what is going on in our country it makes me want to wrap my head in duck tape to keep it from exploding.

But these days I can’t escape the chaos that is currently rearing its ugly head all over the planet – and particularly in the good ‘ol U.S. of A. Pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV and you’ll find yourself wandering down Confusion Street or Fearful Avenue. And I quite frankly don’t like wandering down those streets – at all.

College students protesting their schools’ administrations. Terrorists killing innocent people. Citizens rioting over perceived and real racial biases. It’s enough to make anybody freak out and become a doomsday prepper, loading up on prepackaged meals, gold bars and a whole lotta ammunition.

So you may find it difficult this Christmas season to sing Fa-la-la-la-la while the country burns down around you.

Yet as Christians, that is exactly what we are called to do. While I don’t suggest all my Christian brothers and sisters break out in song (‘cause that would scare a lot of nonbelievers if they heard my version of Angels We Have Heard on High) I am suggesting that we who have hope eternal spread that good news to those who are freaking out over what they see happening all around them.

Our country is crying out for clarity, for wisdom, for hope. And we Christians CANNOT let fear stop us from living our lives. We CANNOT get depressed over who holds an office or who doesn’t hold an office. We CANNOT give up hope that we can make a difference in this scared, confused world.

Jesus says this to you and to me: “You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before men…” (Matthew 5:14-16) Simply put, we are called to be the light in this dark, dark world.

light

And how do Christians do it? How do Christians get up day after day, face the chaos the world is throwing around and be a light? How do we keep on smiling, serving and encouraging through it all?

By knowing, believing and sharing this truth: “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)

Our world needs to hear that truth. People need a hope that supersedes the many scary issues they face every day. People need security in a world that is anything but predictable, and there’s only one way to experience true peace – through a relationship with the Savior of the World.

So this Christmas season, share hope with someone around you. Use whatever gift God has placed in you (because he’s placed unique gifts in all of us) to share the hope that is found in Jesus – the hope that can only be found in the baby born in a manger all those years ago.

Blessings!
Leigh