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.

books.jpg

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

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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

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.

news

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

A Momma Moment of Panic

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

basketball

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

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

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

Two minutes of momma panic felt a whole lot longer

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings!
Leigh

The Mississippi/Alabama Line

I always think it’s gonna get easier. I always think I’m past these feelings, that I’m better, that I’m used to it. I constantly play out the scene in my head long before it happens, having full confidence I can do it this time.

Nope. Once again I failed miserably.

Only in this area I don’t mind failing at all. In fact, maybe something would be wrong with me if I didn’t fail.

I went to Oxford, MS to be with my daughter on her 20th birthday. (She thinks that sounds old. I told her just wait until you are 47…) We enjoyed a weekend together, not doing much of anything except eating A LOT and yes, watching football. (Congrats, Mississippi State – y’all definitely deserve that #1 ranking after what I saw.)

Anyway, as with all visits, the time comes when one person has to leave to go back to where they came from. This time it was my turn to leave and I already had it pictured in my head – a quick hug and a kiss, I get into my car and drive out of town with a happy smile on my face.

That’s not exactly how it played out.

I hugged her a little too long. I really think that’s what started it because then I didn’t want to let go. I wanted to rewind the years back to when I brought her home from the hospital. (Ok, maybe not that far back – those first 6 weeks of new life are enough to make a saint lose her religion…) As I squeeze her with the death grip of a child squeezing her favorite teddy bear the tears start rolling, and I knew I had failed once again.

I fought them back as long as I could, which was about to the end of the parking lot. Good thing for me I had a 5 hour drive in front of me and I was wearing mascara. You can’t drive with mascara running down your face, getting in your eyes and covering your contacts. I should know.

So I had small outbursts of tears, wiped away with the one napkin I located in the glove box in my car. And I felt that depression looming large over me, like the ominous dark grey cloud that seemed to be following me out of Mississippi.

Somewhere around the Mississippi/Alabama state line my mood lifted.

AL sign

Now it didn’t magically get better by itself, but my mood lifted because I poured out my heart to Jesus for a couple of hours and let Him work in my thoughts and in my spirit. My mood went from one of sadness and loneliness to one full of peace and joy. I can’t explain it except that I truly felt “the peace of God that transcends all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)

So I’m a failure and proud of it. But I’m also victorious, because I claimed and experienced God’s peace when I surely couldn’t find it on my own.

So here’s my prayer for you all today: “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26) 

Blessings!
Leigh

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

Are you a Coach Elliot?

If you regularly read my blog you know I got on a roll last week about football. It’s that time of year and I’ll watch every minute of football I can including a rerun of Kentucky vs. Vandy on the SEC Network today while I was folding laundry.  (Yep, I’m that southern, football-watching, pigskin lovin’ momma.)  

I started scanning the internet for football stories to write about – I really wanted an uplifting football story because of all the bad press the game has received the last couple of weeks.  In my search I came across the story of Liam Myrick and a coach who made a profound difference in a young man’s life, and the lives of his family as well.  So this story has a little to do with football and a lot to do with Liam and Coach Elliot.

Liam is 6 years old.

Liam has terminal cancer.

Liam does not have much more time here on earth.

You can read Liam’s full story here courtesy of FoxNews: Liam Myrick’s Touchdown.  Sadly we all know a Liam. We all know a young person who is full of life, who wants to live, who has a family praying for a miracle.

We all know a Liam. He’s in our hometown, our neighborhood, our school. And for every Liam out there we can be a bystander, a person who hears the sad story but chooses to do nothing, or we can be the Mountain Grove Mighty Mite head coach, Jerry Elliot who chose to do something. Coach Elliot took time out of his busy life, his hectic schedule, his personal family time to reach out to a family who has already been through so much and has yet more to face.

Coach Elliot asked Liam to be the captain of the team and call the coin toss. And during the game with the help of his honorary teammates Liam scored a touchdown from the 15 yard line – his first and most likely his last.

LiamsTouchdown

How much time and effort did it take Coach Elliot to reach out to that hurting family? Probably not a lot of either one. But what it did take was a man to stop his life for a few minutes, recognize he could make a difference in the lives of the Myrick family and then do something about it.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)

Do you know a Liam? Can you be his Coach Elliot?

Don’t be so busy you miss an opportunity to be a blessing to someone else.

Happy Hump Day!
Leigh

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

She’s Missing

Today I had to deliver some t-shirts to the elementary wing of our school. As I drove to the front of the school I watched a small group of 5th graders lower and fold the American flag with care and dignity. While in the elementary building I held the door of the teacher workroom open so another group of young students could take the recycling out to where it needed to go. While that group exited the workroom I spied a class of 2nd graders returning from a trip to the library. And that’s when I had a moment – a momma flashback moment.

I could see her walking down the hallway in a yellow floral sleeveless top and matching skort, glasses framing her sweet face, her smile a mixture of baby and grown-up teeth. Her blonde hair was cut chin length, bangs covering the birthmark on her forehead that I repeatedly told her were angel kisses. She carried a monogrammed backpack on her shoulders, and her Keds were still as white as the day we bought them.

Today I didn’t miss the almost adult, sorority sophomore college student. No, today as I stood in that hallway and saw a faint reminder of my little girl walking toward me, I missed my little girl.

2002 Field Day

I’ve been in those hallways countless times, including just about every day this school year. Why this flashback hit me today I don’t know – but sometimes memories just flood your mind and your spirit and you have no way of knowing why or how to stop them.

And I realized that I get so caught up in the here and now I can lose my past if I’m not careful. I’m not saying we should live in the past, but if we don’t occasionally let our minds drift backwards we can lose a little part of our families, our hearts, our story.

So I took a minute to remember an ordinary day when I watched my little girl skip down that same hallway and disappear into her 2nd grade room, giggling with a friend and saying good morning to her teacher. As I left the elementary building with a few tears welling up as a reminder of a precious time now gone, I thanked God for the blessings of my family and for all the time He gave me with her and her brother while they were growing up.

Many days we see as ordinary when they are happening only to realize much later on how significant they really were.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

So as you go about your day today, thank God for the ordinary. One day you may look back and realize how important that day really was.

Blessings!
Leigh

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