Serial Killer Part 2…Liar Liar Pants on Fire!

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I stood behind the chair, shaking in my Princess dress. My friends were running around the living room, laughing, eating candy and acting like nothing was wrong!

“HELLO PEOPLE!!”, I screamed in my little 4 year old head.  “There was just a devil at the door!! Did you not see that? How could you miss the red face? The horns?…Mommy! Get me out of here!!”

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It happened :::gulp::: 47 years ago, but that Halloween was just one of the many vivid memories I carry of dozens of childhood fears. I was afraid of the clown pictures on my wall, the shadows created in my bedroom by the trees outside my window, vampires in my closet, dinosaurs tromping across my room…the list goes on. I was a child with many irrational fears that seemed oh so real at the time.

By the time I made that trek across the country with my two small children, my fear of little boys in devil masks and imaginary monsters in my closet were long gone . Fear, however, still had a nice comfortable place in my life. My fears just grew up with me.

Fear of being alone forever…

    Fear of something happening to my children…

        Fear of not being able to survive on my pitiful salary…

            Fear of being homeless…

                Fear of driving in a HUGE city with MASSIVE traffic…

                    Fear of losing my children…

Blah blah blah blah blah! The list goes on. When I look back on this list of things that seemed like very real fears, I realize one VERY REAL THING!

never give in to fear

It’s true!  Fear is a big fat liar! Those things I stayed up at night fearing, certain they would all happen?

Well…

I was never alone. For starters, I had children! When you have small children, there’s not even a single chance of going to the bathroom alone! I knew I didn’t want to spend too many years single, so you know what I did? I made a list of what I wanted in a husband then I gave it to God. Within 4 months of making this life changing move, I met the man I would soon marry. After all that time spent in fear of being alone, I was NEVER alone.

Fear is a liar!

My salary as a single mom was never great. In fact, it actually WAS rather scary. When I look back on those years, though, I never went without. My children never went without. When I would lie in bed at night wondering how I would buy groceries for the week, crying out to God for help, it would never fail that at some point in the week, help would come. I’d get an unexpected check in the mail. A friend would bring food or money. I NEVER went without something we needed.

Fear is a liar!

I lived in several different apartments as a single mom. I may have longed for a home with my own 4 walls that I didn’t have to share with sketchy neighbors, but I was NEVER homeless.

Fear is a liar!

During my single mom years, there was always that fear looming over my head that my children’s  dad would one day make good on his threat of a custody battle. He was married, made more money, had a nicer house, nicer things and was just able to provide better. But it never happened.

Fear is a liar!

Most of my former fears have DIED, NEVER to return again. Some have changed. For instance,my fear of driving in crazy big city traffic has changed . I no longer fear it but I’ll NEVER like it! Atlanta traffic has been known to bring people to tears! Atlanta traffic makes me long for a time I never knew. A time when your biggest concern might be making sure your horse stayed hydrated and your buggy wheels didn’t fall off if you hit a rock! Oh Laura Ingalls Wilder, do you know how good you had it? But that “fear” of something happening to my children? Good gracious! I’m a mom! Isn’t that one in the Mom handbook of “Things You Should Worry About for All Your Days”??

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Did you know that you can find 365 different ways of telling you to NOT FEAR in the bible? If God has this fear thing covered EVERY DAY, why oh why do we spend so much time cowering in fear over this and that? Good question, huh?

We’ve got to loose that “serial killer” once again…..it’s done away with selfishness.  Now…

FEAR

     MUST

          GO!!

 

 

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Oh No! There’s a “Serial Killer” on the Loose!

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She went to bed every night crying for her daddy. She was only 2 and honestly had spent very little time with him in her first years of life. But something inside this little girl knew she needed her daddy and she loved him fiercely.

What was I to do? Her daddy and I were separated and our divorce was looming in front of us. He now lived in another state 1000 miles from the comforts of the home we had established together. My family, my friends and my life were rooted in this west Texas college town. How could I make a change this big? This drastic? How could I do what he asked and pack up our children and go to where he was? This divorce was his idea, not mine. His move to the other side of the country was his idea, not mine. None of this was my idea, dadgumit!!

Why should I do things his way?

I would’ve been perfectly comfortable staying in our quaint 3 bedroom home close to my family. I could’ve continued on in my job. I could’ve finished school and gotten that degree. I’d have stayed in my church and continued playing in the bell choir. The school the girls would start in a few short years was within walking distance of our home…it was a good school. My friends didn’t want me to move. My family certainly didn’t want me to move. There was a MALL less than half a mile from my front door! Good grief!!

Why should I do things his way?

My way made so much more sense. If he wanted to live 1000 miles away from us that was his business. I’d stay where I was, with my children, my job, my life. I’d survive, find new love, get married again. I’d stay put … in Texas … surrounded by loved ones, Whataburger and Blue Bell ice cream! Priorities, you know! I mean, who in their right mind would leave all the comforts of home to move to a strange city where the only person you’d know was your very soon to be ex-husband? Why, in the midst of such great trial in my life, would I even consider leaving my support system of awesome people? How would I ever take care of my two preschool age children by myself as a single mom in a town I knew nothing about? I didn’t like to make phone calls…( I still don’t for that matter!) I wasn’t crazy about having to start over on my own …completely on my own!

I would not do things his way!!

Nope…no way Jose!

There was one problem, however, in being insistent on getting my way in this. There was a precious 2 year old crying in her room for her daddy. I was broken. I knew I didn’t want to leave. I worried what staying would do to my children. So one night in a fit of desperation, I stayed up all night crying out to God. This was new for me, a first…this crying out, screaming at God thing. I mean, would He throw lightening bolts from heaven down on my house because I admitted my extreme anger at Him? Would He send a swarm of large flying insects to devour us all because I had the audacity to question Him? I had done nothing wrong! I didn’t deserve this! How could He be letting this happen? It was all so ridiculous and unreal to me.

Worn completely out emotionally and physically , I remember laying on the couch barely able to see out of my puffy cried out eyes. I lay there completely numb when suddenly I heard my answer. I can’t say it was an audible answer but I felt it so strongly in the depths of my soul that it might as well have been someone standing over me gently whispering one word …

“GO”!

What? Go? Really? Go? You’ve got to be kidding me, right?? That is NOT the answer I need to hear !! Surely I heard wrong!

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I sat up and walked over to the kitchen table where a workbook I had brought home from a Sunday school class I had visited the previous weekend was sitting. It’s been 24 years since that night and  I so wish I could remember the exact verses I read from that workbook. I could sit now and give a pretty educated guess. But I don’t want to do that. I do remember, though, feeling God was speaking to me through them. It was so very clear to me that He was telling me it would be OK. That He would go with me. He would never leave me, He would never forsake me. But I needed to trust Him and GO.

Why should I do things His way?

Then He told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow Me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, My way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?…” Luke 8:23-25 (The Message)

Someone was about to die and it was me. Little did I know that there was a “serial killer” on the loose and I would be the victim over and over and over…

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… Stay tuned for part two of this three part blog challenge…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Are a Few of My Favorite…

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There’s one question you can ask me that will stump me for hours. It’s not that it’s a particularly difficult , deep or terribly thought provoking question but I rarely have a quick answer for it.

What’s your favorite________? Fill in the blank…..food, color, TV show, movie, etc. etc. There are just too many things in life to love to pick a favorite anything!

I was challenged today with this super hard question wanting to know what my THREE favorite songs are and why? Oh good gravy!! Do you know how I’ll fret over this question for hours trying to figure this out? Songs are like kids to me. I love them all…..well, not rap songs. PLEASE no rap songs!! Is that really even music? I can’t possibly pick favorite songs for one big reason. With as many songs as have hit the airwaves of my very musical brain, my favorite “ear worm” changes daily. Today it’s a song from VBS this morning…”Can’t stop! Can’t stop singing! Whoa….o…o”! Over and over and over…….please make it stop!!!

That’s actually a great song and it is one of my favorites but if I was to actually tag it as a song that has effected my life and truly been a favorite, well, I couldn’t do that. As I’ve thought over this question, the three songs that popped into my head surprised me. None of them are songs that play over and over in the shuttle of songs in my head. But they are all three songs that create a great stream of emotions in me. If a song can make me feel something, can bring a tear to my eye, or a sweet memory EVERY time I hear it, I think it might have earned a place in my “favorites”. My answers may surprise you…

 

  1. “Pomp and Circumstance”….I dare you to stop what you’re doing right now and play this song in your head. If I stop too long and do this, I’m pretty sure tears will spring magically from my eyes and leave water spots on my shirt! I think of my own high school graduation and the joy I felt in finally being finished with school . Yes, this song was played at graduations even 152 years ago! And unfortunately , it was played at the high school and college graduations of each of my kids who has reached that milestone in their lives. After carefully making sure I looked just perfect for each of these events, two notes into “P and C” and I was a mess! Why can’t they just change this song? I think kids would enjoy marching down aisles in coliseums and around football fields to say, oh, Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out for Summer”. My mascara would not be in such danger if this was the song they graduated to. Because I’m sure it’s entirely the fault of “Pomp and Circumstance” that I have bawled my eyes out at every graduation I’ve attended. It IS! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
  1. “The Wedding March”…You know, the more traditional song that brides have walked down the aisle to join their groom for a million years. That song….that evil, evil song that causes me to pour rivers of tears down my freshly made up face every .. single…time! It doesn’t matter if the bride is the best friend of my second cousin’s hairdressers boyfriend or if she’s my own flesh and blood, I cannot stand dry eyed watching a bride walk down an aisle if THAT song is playing!! Period….

And lastly….

  1. “Jesus Loves Me”…Like most children raised in church, this is a song I can’t remember ever NOT knowing. Sadly, it became just rote words that lost a bit of their meaning for me until about 16 years ago. I was at a spiritual retreat… one where the love of Christ and the grace He pours out on us was so deeply embedded in me that my life was forever changed. On the last morning of this weekend retreat, we were woken up by a group of “angels” softly singing Jesus Love Me, except as they sang the words of this song, they changed the words to Jesus Loves YOU! I lay in my bed that morning, tears streaming down my face, as I fully grasped the truth wrapped in this song from my childhood. I’ve had many opportunities to return this song to others laying in the same bed I lay in that morning so many years ago. And guess what? More often than not, I have had to stop singing and just let the tears flow.

 

Adding a video to your post about your favorite songs wasn’t part of this Writing 101 challenge, but I found this video of Whitney Houston singing one of my 3 favorite songs.   So I’ll leave you with that today and hope that if you’ve read this or have taken the time to watch this video, you know how much Jesus does truly love you !

A Fresh Coat of Paint

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I very recently (like last weekend) finished a rather cumbersome project in my house. Inspired by a dwindling budget and a few too many memories of afternoons watching Trading Spaces, I put on my Super Hero cape, threw away some formerly bad attitudes and tackled what I once saw as impossible. With paint brush and roller in hand and lots of time to just think as I painted, lots of memories came flooding back to me through the paint fumes…

 

When I was a little girl, I got such great joy from a new coloring book and a fresh box of never, used crayons! A blank picture just waiting for me to add my own little twist of color still puts a smile on my face! Some of my first memories include sitting down with my mother as we shared a coloring book. I’d watch carefully as she would first outline each picture on the page with a dark line of the color of her choice. Then she’d either lightly color it in or boldly add color inside what she had so carefully outlined. Her pictures were always awe inspiring to me. I wanted to some day color just like her but I can remember my pictures never looking quite as beautiful as anything my Mom colored.

 

I just knew it was impossible!!

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My love for coloring has carried into my adult life. God gave me a love for color…however, I must’ve had my head in a coloring book when He was passing out true artistic abilities. I can draw a mean stick house complete with a winding front sidewalk surrounded by little flowers. And my little stick family that lives in that little stick house? They’re pretty awesome too! So when some friends and I planned a night of “paint party” fun, I was really excited….until we learned that this masterpiece we were about to paint was going to have very little guidance. Most of those popular “paint party” places offer step by step instructions as everyone in attendance paints the same picture. But the studio we were in, thanks to a great deal on Groupon, was a “ See this picture? Cool! Now paint it” sort of place. Uh oh!

 

I just knew it was impossible!!

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With all this love for making things in my life colorful, it surprises me that for most of my adult life, I have lived in homes where I was begrudgingly content with dull beige walls. For years, I have visited friends homes where every room was a different shade of some magnificent color. I’d leave these beautiful, colorful homes and come back to my monotone walls and sink into my “I can’ts” and “I don’t wanna’s””

 

“I can’t afford to pay someone to paint my house for me”…”I can’t possibly do this myself! I’m afraid of ladders!”…”I can’t find the time to even think about what color to paint”…”I can’t possibly get it all done in a weekend so why bother”…”I don’t wanna do that much manual labor!”…”I don’t wanna get paint on my clothes”…blah blah blah

 

I can’t…

               I can’t…

                             I can’t…

 

I just knew it was impossible!

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As I stood there on the second rung of my step ladder (the third is just too super scary!!) with paint brush and steady hand, cutting in “Mushroom Bisque” or “Green Tea” like the pro I am, it hit me. I had overcome something huge to get to this point.

My S E L F – S T O P P E R!!!

How many times in my life have I known I needed to do something…anything…and excuse after excuse as to why I can’t do it surfaced? I’ve wanted to paint my house since we moved in 8 years ago. But I stopped myself with negative thoughts and fear of falling off ladders, blah de blah de blah. This is just one example. I’ve let negative thoughts stop me from going to back to college in my 40’s. I’ve let negative thoughts keep me from going on mission trips even with thoughts of the precious orphaned babies I could hold and love on while there. I could bawl a bucket of tears thinking of the children I’ve missed ministering to because of my self stopper. My list could continue for days but you get my drift here.

 

Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

Was my fear of making a royal mess of my house by painting it myself “evil”? Is feeling I’m too old and dumb to tackle college again “evil”? Is not liking to sweat or having to use bathroom facilities that aren’t up to par while in a foreign country “evil”? Nope…not one bit. But there’s a “but” here and it’s a biggie.  This “baby’s got back”!   (Sorry, y’all but I couldn’t resist!) Those thoughts in and of themselves aren’t evil BUT the one who put those negative thoughts and fears in my pretty little head IS! We have an enemy who is very evil and he enjoys nothing more than to see us fail or not even start something that might possibly bring even an ounce of glory to God.

 

A 50 year old woman finally finishing her college degree would be a huge God thing…at least for THIS 50 year old woman!

 

Mission trips, bringing the love of Christ to those who are orphaned or widowed or needy in any way shines a big old light of glory onto God!

 

And y’all, yes…even this formerly self-stopped painter can bring glory to God through every roll of paint on the walls of my house. It took me 9 weeks to get the main living areas of our house painted. This was a sacrifice of my time. A sacrifice of my energy… I was an exhausted mess at the end of every painting day. But through all this sacrificing, I was wildly reminded of the One who made a much more humungous sacrifice for me. When my arms ached and I didn’t think my feet could stand on that ladder for one more second, I thought of the pain Jesus endured on the cross for this little old Self Stopper. As I sit now and look at the colors we chose to paint our home, I THOUGHT it was inspired by a rug I recently purchased. But there’s more here…

 

My Green Tea bathroom and dining room reminds me of the everlasting life I have in Christ.

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My Mushroom Bisque hallways and living room remind me of the cross.

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My sunny yellow Jackfruit kitchen reminds me that I am Daughter of the One True King, the SON of God!

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And this fabulous Awning Red accent wall that runs across the living room and into the breakfast nook reminds me that Jesus loves me so much that He shed His blood for me . That He saved Me from myself and my sinful nature.

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So take that evil!! I have , at least this once, OVERCOME you with GOOD!

 

Y’all the more we overcome evil with good, the easier it has to become. Right?   The more we do anything, the easier it gets.

So do it!

Paint over that doubt!

Paint over the “I can’ts”!

There’s not much more beautiful  than a fresh coat of paint!

Glory to God!

 

 

 

 

Let’s Choose Chocolate!

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It was a busy day like all the rest. Meals to prepare. Laundry to finish. Faces to wipe. Diapers to change. Songs to sing. Games to play. Books to read. Crafts to complete. Hugs to give. Learning to guide.

During one of those really busy moments, I heard a sweet little voice coming from the bathroom…

“Mrs. Becky I’m done! Come help me please”

“Just a minute Sweetie. I’ll be there in a second” (I was in the midst of a very important load of laundry, you know!)

So I commenced with my laundry rotation . But because it was so quiet and because my brain was so full of things I needed to get done, instead of going straight to the bathroom to offer whatever assistance little Sweetie needed, I walked into the kitchen to wipe the counters or some other truly unimportant task. Then I heard it. A sound coming from the bathroom….

Leaving a 3 year old in need of assistance in a bathroom could’ve resulted in many different scenarios. There could’ve been toilet paper pulled completely off the roll and scattered all over the floor. There could’ve been hand soap smeared all over the mirror as torrents of water spilled over the sink. There could’ve been other things that were far worse and harder to clean up!  But what I found was almost as shocking.

She was sitting on the potty, patiently waiting for me……SINGING! I stood just outside the bathroom door and listened, trying to make out the song she was entertaining herself with. It wasn’t Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It wasn’t the ABC Song. It wasn’t even Itsy Bitsy Spider. As I tuned up my ears, what I heard nearly brought a tear to my eye……

 

Come on and rain down on us. Rain down us Lord.”

 

Over and over…….

When I opened the door all the way to see this precious angel, she was not only singing this praise song, her hands were in the air and her eyes were closed. I promise…..I’m not making this up!!!

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Not your normal every day preschool sing along song but I was deep in the midst of preparing music for a women’s retreat. In trying to learn this new song I would be leading, I played it ad nauseum throughout the day. It was our lunch music. It was our dancing music. We made up hand motions for the song. And within a very short time, not only did I finally know the song, the children I kept during the day obviously had it memorized and were ready to spout it out like a fountain in moments of boredom!

:::S I G H:::

As I think back on this day, it causes me to stop and think of the stuff that flows out of my mouth…especially during those times I’m not getting my way or I’m having to be super patient. Is it as sweet as chocolate flowing from a fountain or is it as smelly and nasty as garbage falling out of a garbage truck hitting a speed bump? Am I singing praises or spouting ugliness? Am I lifting up those around me or crushing their spirits?

Then I have to stop and think….when my responses in times of waiting are , well, less than stellar, what am I filling my head with during the day? Because you know, what goes in, must come out. Sweet chocolate or disgusting garbage.

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Mmmmm….I like chocolate sauce!

When the baby just won’t stop crying, am I sitting in a corner crying with him or am I mustering up all the love I can find to bring comfort?

When the teenager is shoveling around an attitude that he surely picked up from who knows where , am I shoveling it back at him or am I responding back with grace and love?

When I’ve waited too long in line and my feet hurt and I can’t stand it one more minute…..or my patience has worn thin…..or it’s just been a long day and I want some quiet…..how am I responding to those who need or even demand my attention? How are YOU?

That initial gut reaction can so quickly become something you’ll regret….something you probably will wish you could take back. When I think of Little Miss Sweetness in the bathroom, she could’ve so easily changed her response to my lack of immediate attention by, oh, I don’t know…playing in the toilet, making a mess of the bathroom, screaming out of impatience, crying from unbearable boredom. But earlier in the day, she had been filled with a simple song that overflowed from her heart and when she needed it most, she reached into her tank

 

and poured out praise….

 

                                                              she poured out love….

 

she poured out thankfulness

 

I’m gonna close this little blog post with a video. It’s the song we were listening to that day and so many days before then. To this day, every time I hear this song I still think of that sweet baby girl waiting on me ever so patiently, singing like a little angel , praising Jesus in her own way…..from the toilet of all places. And I’m reminded how I need to work on waiting more patiently for attitudes to change , for things to work out as God wants them to, for each storm to pass. And I’m also reminded of how much I need to fill my fountain with good things so that when I need it most, the good things will flow out and splash on everyone within my reach!

 

Are your fountains flowing out “Chocolate” or “garbage”? Let’s choose chocolate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golf Carts, Jesus and other Eastery Things

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The BeBe Dye-aries

Raise your hand if you just love, love, love change? Not the “change” you get when you hand the cashier a $20 bill for your purchase of a candy bar and a Dr. Pepper but the “change” that throws you from the comfort of your little place in the world into something brand new and different….something that might be a little bit scary. Are your hands raised yet? I’ll give you a minute to think about this…(Cue up the Jeopardy music please! Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo) ……OK, didn’t think so.

Change can be H A R D!!!

She was 2 months away from her 2nd birthday when I first met her. Cute as a button. Tiny, petite little blonde thing with big blue eyes and a huge, sweet smile. Simply adorable. She had a very definite comfort zone that was tightly wrapped around two people…..Mommy and Daddy…

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Golf Carts, Jesus and other Eastery Things

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Raise your hand if you just love, love, love change? Not the “change” you get when you hand the cashier a $20 bill for your purchase of a candy bar and a Dr. Pepper but the “change” that throws you from the comfort of your little place in the world into something brand new and different….something that might be a little bit scary. Are your hands raised yet? I’ll give you a minute to think about this…(Cue up the Jeopardy music please! Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo) ……OK, didn’t think so.

Change can be H A R D!!!

She was 2 months away from her 2nd birthday when I first met her. Cute as a button. Tiny, petite little blonde thing with big blue eyes and a huge, sweet smile. Simply adorable. She had a very definite comfort zone that was tightly wrapped around two people…..Mommy and Daddy. I was neither of these things for her. Yet in spite of that, it was time for some ch-ch-ch-changes in the life of this little sweet pea. And well…..

Change can be H A R D!!!

Our first few days together were…well… difficult. She had known no other life beyond getting up in the morning and spending the day playing with her Daddy. With no explanation suitable for her little almost 2 year old self, she was suddenly being dropped off in the morning at my house….no Daddy. No Mommy! This did NOT make her happy to say the least. I believe her little personality completely changed with this one movement out of her cozy little box of comfort. Her world had just been rocked off it’s foundation and she dealt with this by producing rivers of tears…..and cries for something very unique and special to her. In all my years of caring for the children of other mommies, this was a first for me. This precious angel cried very loudly and very persistently for her Golf Cart. Yes, you read that right…..she wanted her golf cart! Not a baby doll…not a paci…not a blanket…but a golf cart! What was I to do? I didn’t have a golf cart!! How would I ever comfort this child and make her feel loved in this place that wasn’t her own?

Change can be H A R D!!!

I was so completely certain that God had sent this little girl to me. That’s another story for another day but I trusted totally and completely that this child was a humongous answer to my prayers. I knew if I didn’t do something to make this new relationship work out that I would totally be shoving this little gift back into God’s face with a “thanks but no thanks” sort of attitude. Something had to change….and this time it was me. I very clearly felt that my little at-home business was about to hit the road. I knew in my heart that if this relationship was going to work I was going to have to bend and meet her where she was…and not vice versa.

So I did . I met her where she was by going to her house every morning. I found her in HER space, where she was most comfortable. I learned to drive a golf cart! And you know, after the first few rides in that golf cart, I totally came to see and understand her obsession with this little activity! We’d go out in the morning while it was still relatively cool (this WAS June in Georgia!) . The bunnies would be out hopping around in the dewy grass. The birds would be singing. The breeze was cool as we raced golf cart style down the hills of her neighborhood. There was peace and calmness in our rides. And most importantly, there were NO TEARS! There were smiles and giggles. She’d snuggle up next to me as we rode side by side and I could feel her slowly entering a new comfortable place with me as the face she’d see between 9am and 3pm every week day !

It took a few weeks of me greeting her at her doorstep every morning before we started making the gradual transition back to my house. Slowly but surely, though, as I met her where she was her comfort zone expanded and she was ready to try new things. Oh we could’ve kept up this new routine longer but the goal was to get her to leave her old comfortable routine and move on to this new “big girl” routine.

Because change may be hard…but change is good!

This all happened nearly a year ago and we all lived to tell about it. Little girl is now months away from her 3rd birthday. She happily leaves the comfort of her own wonderful home to step into mine every day. There are no more tears, no more anguished cries for rides on her golf cart…only hugs and “I love you’s” every day. Her comfort zone grew as she felt assured that this once perfect stranger could really and truly love her back.

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As I’ve pondered Easter coming up this Sunday, this experience came rushing back to me. Why, you ask, would a crying , nervous child and a golf cart make me think of Easter?? Well, I’m so glad you asked!

Most of us, whether we’re in church every time the door is open or we’ve never graced the doorstep of a steepled building know the first part of the verses I’m about to share ….

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17

Y’all, Jesus had to have been quite comfy in Heaven with His Dad. God must’ve loved every minute of having his Baby Boy with Him all the time, sitting next to Him on His throne. Streets of gold, constant angelic music….nobody off key! Living the good life! Yet in spite of this, God sent Jesus out of His comfort zone into ours. And He came willingly! If this part hadn’t happened, the all important Easter part wouldn’t have happened either.

He meets us right we are…no matter where that place is.

Then He hangs out with us as He gently pursues us.

He doesn’t condemn us.

He doesn’t judge where we’re at.

He simply loves us and longs to save us from being stuck in whatever self imposed pit we find ourselves in.

We find ourselves comforted by His presence and well….we change!

And it’s a change that’s easy and comfortable and welcome!

I know most of you reading this now are in your “happy place” with Jesus. This is all old news….Good News…but still news you’re very familiar with. So my challenge to you this Easter and beyond is to find someone you know or even some new friend who needs the hands and feet of Jesus to step up beside them. Love them where they’re at but love them too much to leave them there. Help them to see Jesus through you.

Then sit back and watch this beautiful thing happen as they crawl up beside Jesus in their own proverbial “golf cart” to find that He’s not so bad after all!

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Happy Easter Y’all!

Lessons from a Little Princess

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We had denied ourselves the pleasure of this particular big family vacation for years. 18 years to be exact. We determined early on that we would wait until our youngest child was 5 years old to embark on this journey…..and well. We just kept having kids! So the excitement my family felt as we boarded the Admiral Joe Fowler early that morning was palpable. There was a promise that at the end of our voyage we would embark upon a land full of magical excitement, fairy tales and promises fulfilled. I had no idea then that this land full of princes and princesses…..flying elephants….pirates….talking mice, ducks and dogs would give me more life lessons than just “when my kids are all having fun at the same time they get along so well!! “ It simply promised to be “the happiest place on earth.”

I like happy!

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As we drew closer to our destination, we saw it! The castle! It took our breath away. For our entire lives, we had seen pictures of this castle but the sight of this place that had only filled our dreams for so many years was truly…well…magical! There’s really no other word to describe it. The look on the faces of my 5 children was utter happiness!

I like happy children!

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Everywhere we looked that week, there were happy kids. ( Well except for that occasional grumpy kid with ice cream smeared all over his face , evidence of no nap abounding. Come on Mom!! That 3 year old you’re dragging around needs some down time!! Mickey will still be here when you get back from nap time!) Big kids and little kids were dressed like Mickey and Minnie……like Cinderella and Prince Charming. Some of these “kids” were paid to be in costume. They’re the ones your kids are convinced are the “real” Jasmine, Snow White and Belle. They shriek with delight at having just had their picture made with these Disney super stars!

There’s nothing better than a happy kid!

Then there are the non-paid characters roaming around….holding their adult’s hand as they skip along, tiara in place, princess dress flowing out behind them, ice cream smeared all over their smiling faces. They prance around the park all day long with heads held high so those tiaras don’t fall, singing their Princess songs at the top of their lungs. In their little minds, they are every bit as much a true princess as the Cinderella they just posed with…..just as beautiful, just as worthy. And JOY just exudes from them!

I really like a JOYFUL child!

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I hear so often, “Oh I just want to be happy!” Or “I deserve a little happiness in my life”….blah blah blah! That ice cream smeared , grumpy child likely started her day in a very happy mood. Then she got hot. Her feet started hurting. Her belly hurt from too much ice cream and well, the happiness was shot. She was a total grump now and it showed! Happiness is so fleeting! Why in the world do we seek it out so much??

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But the little princesses. Oh the sweet little Princesses! They still had ice cream everywhere. Their feet probably hurt from those little princess shoes they’d had on all day. They were very likely hot as well because, well, it’s Florida in June. How can you NOT be hot then!? But the difference here is that they believed with their whole beings that they were princesses and no matter how hot and sticky and tired they were, that would not change. They were princesses, by golly…..

….and the JOY just exuded!

I want joy like that!! And I think most of us really would prefer joy over happiness. But how, you ask, can we cross over from just being happy to feeling pure, extreme, radical joy? It just seems easier said than done some days, huh?

We’ve all been there. The scenarios are endless. We wake up in the morning and we get our hair just right and we have the perfect outfit on. It’s gonna be a grand day! Then one of a bajillion things happens. 1) It’s raining and our hair is now a wet mess 2) We spill coffee on our white blouse 3) The baby wipes his sweet little snotty nose all over your black pants 4) We get bumped in the car pool line and the other person swears it’s all OUR fault 5) The teacher calls about little Johnny’s behaviour again 6) The hubster calls with bad news 7) The cat gets sick all over the freshly cleaned carpet……and the list goes one. The day that started seemingly happy seems to go down hill from there. But where’s the joy??

I don’t have the perfect answer and many days I struggle to find joy as well. But when I think back on our time at Disney and all those little princesses….those who in spite of the ice cream smudges, tired feet, and sweaty hair had a smile on their faces… I have to wonder if they carry a big old fat clue as to where we can always find joy?

And here it is…..the clue….But you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…….”..Galatians 3:26

Did you grab that little tidbit? We are all sons (or daughters) of God when we believe in Jesus. He is a King. If He’s a King and we’re His sons and daughters, then what does that make us? Princess Jasmine can only wish her dad the king was as amazing as our Dad , THE King!

So we our His. We belong to Him as His children. When we belong to Him, He gifts us…..with things like love and peace and kindness and JOY, just to name a few.

Joy! Our goal over happiness! So think about this. What if…just what if…we woke up each morning fully and completely BELIEVING that we are truly Princesses? That we are truly daughters of the One True amazing, fabulous King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Now beware!! We don’t want to get uppity about this or anything. After all, our King is quite humble and He might ground us to our rooms if we get snooty about this whole Princess thing! But what if we woke up each morning and tapped the top of our heads to remind ourselves that’s where our tiara sits ….the one our King placed on our heads when we became His?

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Think like a humble Princess! The smudges of life just won’t matter. You’re a princess! The aches and pains of life can’t get you down. You’re a princess! You have amazing potential! You can handle the hard things in life! You are worthy and beautiful! You’re never alone!

Embrace these things…….and guess what?

It might take a little practice but it’ll happen! The JOY will come!

Thank you sweet little ice cream smudgy wannabe Disney Princesses for this lesson. You’re precious!

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(Disclaimer:  None of the Disney pictures in this post were from our actual trip.   The trip was taken before I had a digital camera so all my printed pics are carefully placed in a family scrap book that we still love to look at!  The little princess in the final picture, however, is one I personally know …and she’s precious!)

(Disclaimer Two:  If you’re a guy and you’re reading this, don’t claim the whole Princess thing.  That would be weird! BUT please do claim your place as a PRINCE cause your Father is the King of Kings!)

 

Keep Calm and Know …

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I put them in a car to spend their first weekend away from me. It didn’t matter that the person they were leaving with was their dad. They were 2 and 4 years old and I had legitimate concerns. Would their hair get brushed in the morning and would he know how to attach the all essential hair bow in that mane of hair ? Would their clothes match all weekend? Would they eat the right things? Would they be afraid at bedtime because I wasn’t there to tuck them in? Would they sleep OK in a bed they weren’t used to? Would they play in the street or fall off a swing or skin their knees or get eaten by a pack of hungry mountain lions?? Would they miss me as much as I missed them?

And a little voice deep within my soul gently whispered to me, “It’s OK. You’re their mom but I AM God.”

It was kindergarten registration. I sat with my sweet little 5 year old boy on my lap in a tiny little chair that I’m not sure I would’ve fit in comfortably even if I was 5. As I sat and watched other parents come in and out of the room with big old smiles on their faces , anticipating the freedom that was about to ensue in their lives as their kid finally started school, I sat with tears streaming down my face. Oh I was about to go into the full out ugly cry right there in front of 24 other beaming parents and God Himself. Then the sweet kindergarten teacher came and sat next to me, patted me on the knee and said she understood how difficult it can be when it’s time to send your first born to school. I looked at her with tears welling up into big Lake Michigan sized puddles in my eyes and said ,”He’s my FOURTH child!!” Then I proceeded to release the dam of tears that was blocking my vision from filling out the mountain of paperwork required to send your precious baby to school. Would he make friends? Would he be too shy to even say a word? Would he eat his lunch? Would he fall off the monkey bars during recess ? Would other kids make fun of him? Would he get eaten by a pack of hungry mountain lions roaming the playground? (Those darn west Georgia mountain lions!! They need to leave my kids alone!!)

Then a little voice deep within my soul gently whispered to me, “It’s OK. You’re the mom but I AM God.”

We were standing out on the front porch, about to go shopping for this , that and the other when she looked up at me and very matter of factly said these words. “ I know I’m only 13, but I’m pretty sure that if I could drive, I could completely take care of myself and have my own house, pay my own bills and all that.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at my darling baby girl. This wasn’t a fit of teenage rage, mad at me and wanting to be away from her family as soon as possible. She was a 13 year old girl wanting me to know that she felt she could handle life on her own one day. I loved her spirit of confidence and independence but the thought of my first born child on her own, away from me, doing her own thing….forever…..well. Was she really ready to face those pesky mountain lions? I wanted to cry….she was growing up too quickly.

Then a little voice deep within my soul gently whispered to me, “It’s OK. You’re the mom but I AM God.”

The music started. It was a familiar tune . My vision blurred. Babies in long black robe – like garments with weird looking hats on their heads began marching in from the other side of the football field. Oh wait….they’re not babies. They’re full grown mini-adults finishing high school … or college. Ready to make their marks on this big old world. Ready to face life’s challenges and excitements and adventures. On their own. Without their momma’s by their sides. I’ve done this five times now (3 high school graduations, 2 college graduations) and I still have at least 2 more to go. Will it ever get easier? Will I ever be able to watch my children pack up and leave the safety of our home without getting a big old lump in my throat? Will I ever stop having mini panic attacks when I think about those proverbial “mountain lions” waiting to pounce on my kids and devour them whole?

Then a little voice deep within my soul, One I’m way more familiar with now that I’m older, gently whispered to me, “It’s OK. You’re a good mom. But I AM a GREAT God.”

I am Mom……not God.

Let me tell myself that again, just one more time.

 I AM MOM…..NOT GOD!!!!

Ok, so I yelled it that time but sometimes I just need that loud reminder that as a parent, there comes a time when I just have to trust that I’ve done a decent-ish job as mom and let go and trust God with the rest.

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When they want to drive a car…..God is riding shot gun.

When they want to go off to college and haven’t invited me to be their roomie….God is there with them.

When they have to make those first grown up decisions and they don’t want my opinion….God is waiting to guide them.

When they become parents themselves and they see Mom through new eyes…….God gently starts this process with them.

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And a gentle voice will speak into their souls just as gently and persistently as He did mine, “You are Mom ( or Dad). And I am God.”

 

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”..Luke 1:45

 

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Oh My Poor Aching Toes!!

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I stand in front of my open refrigerator door and just stare as if into space. I need something for dinner and there’s nothing to eat!! I exclaim with a sigh “There’s nothing to eat in this house!!” My boys often do this . I actually learned HOW to do this from them! Yea, I did! I DID!

….whatever….

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I stand inside my closet and just go into this blank stare hoping that SOMETHING would appear in my closet that was interesting, fun, and exciting to wear. I have no clothes!! Sigh…… out of my 5 children, the 3 who still live at home are the boys. They are perfectly happy wearing the same pair of jeans and a rotation of 2 or 3 shirts every week. I rarely hear the “I have nothing to wear” woes from them. But I bet my girls have stood in their closets and thought my same thoughts! It’s frustrating to be a girl with nothing to wear!! Geez!!!

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As I’ve heard it said before “First world problems”……. “first world” or not, in the moment, they seem very real, don’t they? How about a change of perspective? (You’ll thank me for this later…..maybe WAY later. For now you may want to kick this little blog post to the curb and reconsider ever reading anything I write again!!)

On the other side of town, a little boy grabs his mommy’s hand and holds on tight. His face is smudged with dirt, as are his clothes. A baby sits in Mommy’s lap. Mommy has this look on her face that can’t be denied. She’s hungry, scared and destitute as they sit on the corner with a cardboard sign asking for money or food.

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Another mommy and her little girl left home in the middle of the night, fearful , running for their lives. All they took with them was the clothes on their backs and Mommy’s purse. They live in their car.

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…….you’re welcome…….

That’s hard to think about, isn’t it?? I think I like my old perspective better. It’s easier.

I’ve recently been FORCED….yes FORCED to change my perspective. Twice a year, I pick out a great bible study that will draw me and a group of friends closer to Christ and I facilitate it. That’s just a fancy word that means I have to make sure I do my homework each week so I can decide which discussion questions to ask each week when I meet with this group of fabulous. fearless friends. This past January as I was perusing the aisles at the Christian bookstore looking for a study on the Proverbs 31 woman, my eyes were averted to something else. Just felt a nudge ….more like a giant push….towards this study that had the words “clothes”, “food”, “spending” and few others on the cover. Oh great! I like those things! We’ll do that one instead. I really had no idea what this Jen Hatmaker chick had up her sleeve with this one……but Someone who was being sorta bossy that day did. I would soon embark on a 7 week journey into cutting out the excess in my life and shifting my perspective on many different things. I wasn’t going to add clothes, food and spending into my daily routine. I was going to take them away. Thank you Mrs. Hatmaker. Thanks a lot……..really……

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I’m not meaning for this to be a free advertisement for the book or bible study I’m doing right now. But I just wanted y’all to know that this new perspective didn’t just happen on a whim. God nudged me that day at the bookstore for a reason. He knew I NEEDED a new perspective and He can use any means He so chooses to get me there. This was just the means He chose for me.

Confession is good for the soul, right? So here…..

See, I have a bad tendency to compare myself and the things I have with “the Joneses”…..the wealthy Joneses, that is. The ones who live in bigger houses with perfectly manicured lawns, who have better things, nicer toys, fancier clothes , who go on expensive vacations every year. And this makes me feel…well….so underprivileged, like I surely deserve more. I rarely ever take time to consider the “other Joneses”…..those who live in true poverty, in homeless shelters, who don’t know for sure where their next meal is coming from, who wear the same clothes every day because it’s all they have. I never bother to compare myself to those who actually have far less than me. With those who might actually look upon ME…..little old me…..as being wealthy and having it all. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that, you know. But why not????

It’s not fun to think about people living in shacks with dirt floors. It’s not fun to think about people who hope upon all hope to have a single meal of anything before the day is over. It’s not fun to think about the child living with her mom under a bridge. It’s not fun to think about the fact that I have so much and they have so little. It’s not fun to think about the fact that I don’t do enough to help those in need……that I so often feel I need to hold on tightly to my stuff because those I don’t find it “fun to think about” could so easily become ME.

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There are far more “other Joneses” in this world than not. And when I take a minute or even a measly little second to consider this fact, I am humbled beyond words. I become GRATEFUL for what I have and in that moment I can stop thinking about “the Joneses” with the big screen TV’s and the fancy cars and the closets so packed with clothes they really need another closet. And I can see how truly blessed I am. I can be truly thankful for what I have and stop yearning for the “wrong more”……….I don’t need more stuff. I don’t need a fuller closet. I don’t need better or even more food in the fridge. I don’t need fancy vacations, big screen TVs, Saturdays where I shop till I drop.

I just need a better perspective. One that will cure my whiny neediness. I mostly torture myself with this and try hard to hide from others that I do have a whiny neediness at times….for needs that don’t even exist. One that will help me to loosen my grip on the things I falsely believe will make me happy. One that will make me a more giving person….one who gives without fear.

The pictures I shared at the beginning of this post are real. It’s my real closet.  What you see represents the 54 items of clothing I have left hanging after I “purged”. 54 doesn’t seem like a lot…..until I look at it through a renewed perspective. Then it almost seems like I need to purge some more because how can I be so richly blessed??

The fridge picture is also actually my real fridge . I’m totally calling myself out on this one. This is embarrassing because I DIDN’T purge it. But it is what it is……full to the brim with plenty of food. How dare I or anyone else in my family ever stare blankly into the face of this bountiful blessing and exclaim we have nothing to eat? Oh the shame!!

This hasn’t been terribly comfortable to share. But I think if we all get blindingly honest with ourselves, more of us than not might find that we get our desire to buy more this and more that because we’re looking to the wrong source of inspiration. If you fill your life with stuff because someone else has the same stuff or better stuff, then step back .

Count YOUR blessings….not someone elses.

Ouch!! My toes hurt!!!!