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But now, those summers have been replaced by more grown-up pursuits.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

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Letting Go

“It’s my life.”

When your child is under your roof you have more opportunities, more time to have conversations that matter. Conversations about a summer job, where they want to attend college or if they even want to go to college. When your kids live at home your conversations can last as long as they need to (or you want them to).

But when your child goes to college, it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation in snippets. I talk to my daughter every day (literally) but it’s more of a what’s going on today type of discussion because she’s either on her way to study, to do something for sorority or to work. Deep conversations now feel like Bigfoot sightings – elusive and very rare.

bigfoot

Last weekend we went to visit my daughter to celebrate her 21st birthday (I know, I know, clearly I am too young to have a child who has been on this earth 21 years. But I digress.), and I had an agenda with 3 important topics up for discussion. One was to establish a plan for next summer, which we all agreed needed to have the word “internship” in the plan, but that’s where the agreements ended.

When my husband or I would make a suggestion that she didn’t care for, her response was, “But it’s my life.” And I’ll just say at first I was completely annoyed by that response. Of course it’s your life, but you need our wisdom, our experience, our contacts, our money

While we were talking about “her life” I mentally drifted from the restaurant. I had a flashback to when she was almost one. As she was learning to walk she held both my hands as she tentatively put one foot in front of the other. I was always behind her to catch her if she were to fall. Slowly but surely she let go of one of my hands, took a step, then another, and eventually she let go of my other hand, took some more steps, and carefully looked behind her to make sure I was still there, just in case she needed me as she walked all by herself.

And yep, that’s when it hit me. We are in the same place, just 20 years later. I’d say we are at the point where she is holding on to the index finger of my right hand, ready to let go completely and walk her own path. Yes, I will be right here should she fall and need some help to get back on her feet, but it’s getting to the point of – dare I say it – independence!

So hold on to your hearts, mommas (and daddies) – that day is coming where yep, it is your child’s life to live. And as hard as it may be, we’re gonna have to deal with that little dose of reality. So how do we handle that transition?

Through prayer. Pray for them, pray for yourself – “…pray without ceasing…” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and trust in God’s plan for their lives. “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)

And then watch. Wait and watch as that toddler who learned to walk on her own one day slowly but surely lets go of your hands and begins to walk on the path God has laid out for her.

It’s her life.

Blessings!
Leigh

“Me Time”

I used to want more “me time.”

I used to. When I was a young momma with a husband who traveled I would fantasize about the day when my children were a little more grown up, a little more independent and I would have time to read the ever-growing pile of Real Simple magazines (those were supposed to make my life more simple but if you don’t ever read them, well…), paint my toenails or watch a chick flick without someone announcing they just went potty by themselves. Those daydreams usually came about the 3rd day of my husband being out of town while I tried to keep the younger one occupied with a coloring book while I helped the older one with math homework on probability. (I never ever understood why we needed to figure out if you put 3 blue chips, 7 red chips and 4 yellow chips in a bag what the probability of pulling out a yellow chip would be. I still don’t.)

chips

Fast forward 12 or 13 years. And I do mean fast forward, because it feels like it was just yesterday I was breaking up fights in the front yard over which neighborhood boy shoved who first and making what seemed like endless carpool runs to gymnastics lessons in hope my overly tall daughter could find the courage to throw her long, lanky body backwards and do a back handspring for cheerleading tryouts. (She did. I could never.)

Fast forward to today, when I now have a sophomore in college and a sophomore in high school. True, I have one at home that can’t drive yet, but all his friends can so he might as well as have a license. I still have a husband who travels and for the most part I work out of my house, so that “me time” now comes in abundance.

Maybe it’s the amount my husband has travelled recently, maybe it’s the fact that the heavens have opened and poured down enough rain to annoy every soul in sight, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve cleaned out every closet and reorganized my pantry (twice) and even caught up on my son’s sports scrapbook that makes me realize this one simple truth:

I don’t like this much “me time.”

I’m a people person, a social butterfly. I get unnerved by too much quiet in the house.

So the question becomes, what do I do with all that “me time?” I wish I had a good answer today, but I don’t. I realized today that this is a precursor of days to come, when my daughter is out of college living her own life in another city and my son is off at college.

Why didn’t anyone warn us mommas how hard this stage of life is?

Oh there’s plenty of warning to young mommas – if you can survive the first 6 weeks of mixing up days and nights you can survive anything, make sure your baby sleeps on her stomach (or back, or side – depends on when your baby was born as to the “best” sleeping position), and keep your son in his car seat until he can shave.

But oh no, no, no, – no one warns you about this stage. No one tells you the pain you feel when you send your firstborn to college will feel like someone took your heart out of your chest and stomped on it. Or when your last one gets his license and no longer needs his momma to drive him places the sadness you will feel as you realize another string of dependence has now been cut with a rusty, hurtful pair of life scissors.

As I tell my “older mom” friends frequently, being a momma ain’t for sissies. At any stage of the game.

And the question comes again – what will I do with all this “me time?”

So I’m on a quest of sorts, and I’m determined not to look back with sadness over what is no longer but to look ahead to what is to come because I am truly thankful for every memory, the good and the notsomuch. I don’t know exactly what the future will look like for me, but I do know this:

“’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)

That, my friends is TRUTH. And I’m looking to Jesus to help me figure out the best use of all that “me time” that I so desperately wished for all those years ago.

Blessings!
Leigh

A Gardener I’m Not

Here is a picture of my planters as they currently sit on my deck.

IMG_3243

Nope, I didn’t stage the photo. This is exactly what I’ve let my pots and plants turn into over time.

Now I know what you may be thinking – that ain’t so bad – I mean, it’s February and it’s been another nasty cold winter, so dead plants and pots that are all askew just go with the wintery season we’re in right now.

Wellll, not so much.

You see every spring I ask my husband if we can plant some “cute” flowers around the deck. And he gives me the same look every time – the “Well, sure we can. We can also just drive down I-85 and fling money out of the car windows, too.”

After 25.3 years of marriage he knows me very well. He knows I start out with a bang, with very good intentions. He knows I have my own gardening gloves and a favorite little trowel, and I will indeed spend exactly one Saturday morning after the last freeze creating very pretty planters and putting them exactly where I want them on the deck.

Aaannnndddd that’s where my involvement starts to fade and eventually just die off all together. Kind of like my plants. Now I do I tell all my plants the truth – “It’s a cruel world I’m bringing you into. If you’re gonna survive, you’re gonna have to do it on your own.”

Isn’t our spiritual life like that at times?

We have some mountaintop experience. Maybe it’s a moment in church or we attend a men’s or women’s conference and hear a fresh word that sends us soaring to the top of Mt. Faith. And then, if we aren’t careful to water and fertilize our spirits, slowly but surely we slide back down that mountain to a state of – well, just look back at the picture of my planters.

Beautiful, thriving plants on my deck will only happen with constant attention, making sure they have water, sunlight, fertilizer and gosh if someone could help me figure out how to keep the squirrels and chipmunks out of them that would be great. But if I treat them like I typically do every year, I won’t have to wait until February to see the sad result.

Again, our spiritual life is like that too.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes, its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

If we want to grow and flourish and bear spiritual fruit we are going to need to spend the time reading the Bible, studying God’s Word and seeking His will for our lives. If we don’t, well, take another look at my planters. You get the picture.

Blessings for a warm weekend!
Leigh

Love and a HoneyBaked Ham

In honor of my 25th wedding anniversary today, I’d like to share the very funny, almost unbelievable way I met my husband.

There I was, a sophomore at Auburn University home for Christmas break. My roommate at the time had previously worked at HoneyBaked Ham and was planning on working there again over the break. She talked me into working with her to earn money – you know, the one thing college students never have. It was a no-brainer because all I had to do was hand over hams to hungry people. The ham store closed at 6:00 I think, so it would be an easy job and it wouldn’t interfere with my social life.

One day at work I was at my register, my roommate standing at her register to my left. A tiny, old, sweet grandmother shuffled up to the counter with her cane, looked up at me with the gentlest eyes from behind the largest, thickest glasses and asked with the straightest of faces:

“Do you have a 10 pound butt?”

For one crucial moment I forgot where I was (at work, selling hams), and my attempt to stifle my belly laugh fell way short, especially after my roommate said, “I don’t know – we’ve never weighed hers.”

Gee, thanks.

I’m not sure if it was that day or a maybe the next (memory is the first to go with age, you know) but there I was, again manning my register handing over all sizes of butts to hungry people waiting in line.

And then, just as if I were in a Lifetime movie, I turned around to see the freezer doors open, the wooosh of the frozen condensation spilling out of the freezer. And in that moment, my future husband walked right out of that freezer and into my heart. I couldn’t move. I could only stare at him. He was truly the best looking guy I had ever seen.

When I finally floated back down to earth, I looked at my roommate and said, “I’m going to get a date with that guy.” She snarked back, “Yeah right.”

Turns out my mother-in-law had talked the manager into hiring her two children who were in college to work  there on Christmas break – that’s how Todd ended up walking out of the freezer that day.  You can guess the rest of the story because here we are, 25 years later. Still married, and yep we still like each other – a lot.

My story just goes to show you never know what God has planned for you. I would never have guessed God would use the HoneyBaked Ham freezer to bring love into my life. It’s a real life example of this Scripture: “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9) It also proves Jeremiah 29:11 – “’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.’”

Everything we do has an opportunity associated with it. That opportunity may not be as big as meeting your future spouse, but if we go through life grumbling and complaining instead of looking for the blessings, we’ll miss the wonderful life God has planned for us.

So here’s to the HoneyBaked Ham located in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, distributor of delicious spiral sliced hams with a yummy glaze on the outside, and a freezer full of love on the inside

honeybaked

Happy Anniversary, Todd. I truly love you more today than I did when I walked down that aisle 25 years ago.

Blessings!
Leigh

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

Footsteps

All my life I’ve been blessed to spend time with my family on the beautiful, white-sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. I grew up spending many summer vacations in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach with my sister, parents, and occasionally my grandmother. My family was the typical family on a beach vacation – we built sand castles, swam in the water (that was before Shark Week got everybody so freaked out), and took long walks on the shoreline looking for unusual seashells of every size and color.

Many times on these walks I would see footsteps ahead of me, footsteps much larger than my own. Instead of walking I would leap from one imprint to the next, trying to stay in step with the one who went ahead of me. If I was too slow or got distracted by a tiny sand crab or people playing on the beach those footprints in the sand would be washed away by the surf, never to be seen again.

 footsteps

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)

Those of us who claim to be followers of Christ should be looking for the larger imprints from the One who goes before us. As we take our leaps of faith from one step to the next we keep in step with our Creator. When we dawdle in this world and get distracted we lose sight of the steps that have been laid out for us to follow.

“I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord…” (Proverbs 20:24)

In whose footsteps are you walking?

Blessings!
Leigh

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

Something Better

When I was in high school I thought I wanted to go to a hoity-toity school. I had good grades, lots of activities on the ‘ol high school resume, and friends in the class above me had gone on to Harvard and Yale. My parents took me to visit Duke and yep – that’s where I wanted to go to college.  (Never mind how in the world I thought my parents would pay for that.  I didn’t even give it a first OR a second thought in my self-centered teenager brain.)

 Duke

And I thought I’d get in. I thought it would be a slam dunk based on my grades and activities.

It wasn’t.

I can still remember opening the rejection letter from Duke. I remember literally wailing on my bed thinking my life was over and I’d never amount to anything because I didn’t get into the school I wanted.  (OK, so I acted like a spoiled brat.  What teenager doesn’t when they don’t get what they think they are entitled to???)

Looking back on it now, I know God was protecting me from failing out of school. See I thought I was smart in high school, but then I went to college and realized how hard it is and how many REALLY smart kids are out there. If I had gone to Duke I seriously think I would have failed out. And I never would have lived with my roommate at Auburn who dragged me to a Christmas break job where I met my husband (which is a GREAT story for another day).

I was so disappointed over one situation not happening like I thought it should. I know God was trying to get me to hear Him say, “If you’ll just hang on I’ve got something better planned for you.”

But I wasn’t listening.

Disappointment is a tough horse pill to swallow (kind of like those fish oil capsules. What’s up with the megapill anyway?).   When we are in the middle of self-pity it’s almost impossible to trust in His plan for our lives, to truly believe He has a better plan for us. And if we don’t trust Him we worry about the outcome. And we can be bitter if the situation doesn’t turn out like we think it should.

As I heard on the radio the other day, “Worry is believing God won’t get it right. Bitterness is believing God got it wrong.”   Ouch.

Look at what happens when we choose to trust in God’s plan for our lives: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Trusting in God’s plan for you will help you grow strong. You will not fear when problems come and you will be able to bear fruit even in times of mental, physical or even spiritual drought.

God’s plan > Leigh’s plan. Every. Single. Time. 

Blessings!
Leigh

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

And if you like what you read, please share with others!  God told me to write for Him and my goal is to spread the gospel with a bit of humor and a lot of grace.