Little Hands and Sweet Faces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How did I do it?

Prayer.

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

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

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

Blessings!
Leigh

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The Emotions of Moving

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

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

I feel ya’, sister.

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

I feel ya’, sister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings!
Leigh

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

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

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.

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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

It’s a Mad, Mad World

I haven’t posted a blog in a couple of weeks. I’ve actually started some but before I could finish some other crazy thing would happen and I couldn’t get them finished. Just to run down the breaking news stories from the past few weeks:

  • We have a world class male athlete who has decided he wants to be a woman and we are all supposed to accept that as normal and even celebrate it no matter or religious convictions;
  • We watched in horror as a young man sat in church for an hour and then killed 9 people in a house of worship and our answer is to ban some flags instead of dealing with the root of the problem;
  • We wake up to a jail break by 2 murderers with the help of a woman who actually believed one or both loved her;
  • We listen to the Supreme Court make a law what they want it to be instead of adhering to the words that were actually written by Congress;
  • We see ISIS coming up with all sorts of new ways to murder people and we wonder if anyone can stop a purely evil movement that seems to gain momentum every single day.

I could go on and on, but those are the big news items of the last few weeks. It seems that every time I started to write about one of those another one would blast into the news cycle out-sensationalizing the last story.

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And I have a lot of snippy, snarky, sarcastic comments about every one of those news stories.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t posted anything.

That, and the fact that these stories are just plain depressing. One bad story is enough, but the enemy seems to be running rough shod over the earth right now and piling up death, destruction and chaos one layer at a time. And of course he likes to add to our personal lives some confusion and problems just for fun. The weight of our own issues plus the fear of what is happening in the world can make us feel like we are being smothered under a thousand blankets of confusion that satan is piling on top of us as we try to function each day.

But that’s only if you have a world view. For Christians with a Biblical view, the chaos thrown out by the enemy can be see for what it truly is. Evil. Demonic. Wrong, but confined to this world. I’ve quoted this verse numerous times in my blog, but it’s a truth we need to cling to when we feel like the world is spinning out of control:

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…” (1 Corinthians 14:33) 

That verse is a standard you can use when the world hurls its craziness in your direction. Does a story or issue cause confusion or peace? Just answer that and you’ll know who’s in the driver’s seat – Jesus or satan.

And so what do we do in this mad, mad world? One option I’ve considered frequently lately is to hide under my covers and pretend that all of this isn’t happening. And sadly, too many Christians have done just that. Another option is to come out swinging (i.e. my snippy and sarcastic responses to today’s top stories) but I’m pretty sure that won’t sway anyone to want to get to know Jesus better. I firmly believe though it is time for Christians to take a stand against the enemy before there’s nothing left to take a stand against. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy… (John 10:10)

And how do we do that? First, we must build a strong, personal relationship with the author of peace, the only One who can heal the hearts of the hurting, the lost, the confused.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

In other words, love God with everything you’ve got. I’ve learned that when I come to my senses and trade my panic over what is going on in the world for a focus on the Creator of the world my outlook totally changes, and then I’m in a better position to help others through their times of pain and confusion.

Turn your feelings of fear into power. Turn your thoughts of confusion into peace. Turn your outlook of hopelessness into hope with the only One who can do all of that for you – and more.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

That’s Jesus talking in the rest of John 10:10. What a contrast we find in that one verse. On which side of that verse do you want to be? It’s a choice we make every day, in every situation.

Stop being scared, confused, hopeless. Seek God with everything you’ve got, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Blessings!
Leigh