Monday, December 30, 2013

A Thousand Years

I'm sitting here looking at the ocean, the way it goes in and out, all the way to shore it seems... and then it pulls everything right back out...the ground shifts right under your are never still here. The kids get in the water and they steady move to the right, I don't know why but it's a thing.
People gaze at the endless possibilities of the water hitting the sky and I can tell (because I am a people watcher) we are all dreaming of something bigger, how can you not when you are among  a billion grains of sand. 

And I'm thinking too, a lot. Well, I'm actually mostly praying. I talk to Him in fragments. It's one of the things I adore about Him...He could care less about me. It's the broken pieces of conversation he is so good at putting together...He completes sentences...he loves run-ons. He is reading the books we are all writing in our heads.  

And so here we are, hanging onto the edge of 2013, it's on all of our minds. Some of us could-care-less about the number aspect of it all, and some of us are completely wrecked by the passing of time. I can relate to both.  

There have been years that were so full of pain and loss and confusion that I was begging God for calendar to change, as if that was my permission to grab a blessing or get a "new thing" from Him that would somehow heal the mess. Ridiculous. He changes things and makes us new anytime we ask. Even now, today, the last holdout of this calendar year...could be the launch. He can’t be contained...especially by a number.

And there have been years that were so full of just plain goodness, wholesomeness and all those wonderful feelings you can’t seem to express and I was almost terrified to hear the fireworks and sip the champagne because, surely, goodness can’t last forever and the next year was sure to bring something horrible. You know the saying...Waiting for the other shoe to drop. (Honestly, I don't even know what that means but I've said it and I've certainly heard it and it doesn't sound positive.)

I know my God...I trust Him...His timing isn't our timing...His ways are not our ways...I know this...but I can’t wrap my head around it so I fret. Because I guess that's what I do. It's not good. I don't recommend it. Fretting.  

 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. 

    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so my ways are higher than your ways

    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." 

Isaiah 55: 8-9

So anyway, after all thing rambling, if you are still reading this, you must need this Word as much as I did...I want to share with you a few things I know for sure God has whispered to me among the waves this week. I hope so much that they bring peace to you.  

When I close my eyes and open my heart, I mean really open it up, tears may fall in the quietness of *it all* but then God... 

"But do not forget this one thing, With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day." 2 Peter 3:8 

I call out to Him like a child who has just been given permission to stay awake an extra hour to read a few more chapters in her favorite novel..."THANK YOU SO MUCH GOD." 

I don't know about you but there are so many things I will have to call unfinished, or even failures if I have to call them done or completed by 2013. Goals I didn't meet, dreams I didn't grab, relationships I didn't mend, adventures left un-ventured.

I NEED MORE TIME to get all this done, and I am suggesting to the rest of you who maybe don't feel ready to hit 2014 wide open because there are still strings attached, dangling’s from 2013...ITS OK.  

This isn't so much a new year for some of us as an extension. As long as you and I are breathing we still have time to complete our callings and perhaps the only ones putting hard dates on it all is US. Maybe...God didn't ever intend for us to finish something in a calendar year. I just want to throw it out there that 2014 can be the year of “Still mending up pieces that are worthy of the mend."

It's possible this is just a me problem, that's OK. But I need to know that a 12 month time frame doesn't make or break a person. Whether it was a great year or one you really would like to see go up in flames. I needed to hear from God that he wasn't even on the same calendar of achievement I was.  

Bring on the celebration of life and opportunity to keep keeping on. The good stuff you want to hang onto...hang on tight baby, and the stuff that you need to change or put more work into, let’s bring that with us, it's not finished until It. Is. You know what I mean? Today is not that day.    

 So I'm looking at 2014 in a different light this year. The one through Gods hour glass. Who wouldn't like a thousand more years to get it all done? The good the bad and the redemptive. 

Pace yourself according to God’s grace. It’s like a thousand years more than we thought we had. How awesome is that!? 

Don't give up on your thing...whatever it is that you thought was going to be a 2013 thing...guess have more time. Here is your extension, refocus and go for it. Or you know what...don't. Take this New Year off and rest.
God is not angry at those who sit by The Stream for rejuvenation. The waves are still going to roll in and out, God's going to complete His work in due time.

Happy New Extended Time... (I know how stupid that sounds, just go there with me...) Grin.


Monday, December 23, 2013

A Love Story

You go into marriage knowing as many things as you can about the man who has swept you off your feet. Our love was young and fast...I didn't even know his favorite color or preferred meal but I knew how his eyes sparkled under clear fall nights on top of that hill in Alabama...and I knew how it felt to ride shotgun in his open top jeep and spontaneously park on the side of the road just to dance under the stars  to our favorite song.

We talked about eloping after only six short weeks of dating. We dreamed wide eyed about having a large family moving all over the country and working our way up the ladder. We didn't have a dime. We were barley in our 20's...most people thought we were crazy. "Rushing into things when for the Lords sake she's not even through with school!" But we never had a doubt. There wasn't ever even one pinch of hesitation in our minds...this was going to work. I knew it like I knew his phone number...I dialed it one hundred times a day. It was written on my heart.

We held hands all the time, I became pretty good at doing most things one handed, the other one was finger locked with his. I knew a lot about this young man, we talked long hours, but at the same time...all I really knew was what he said he was going to do...

We know nothing about a man until we see him not as just our spouse...but as a father. And we have no way of testing these waters. They see the belly growing and they notice "all the changes" happening to your once well maintained body...but they don't know...I mean really know...until the day they hear that deep swell of first breath air filling tiny lungs...and the wail that follows.   

Then begins this journey...the one you planned for but don't have a map. The one where character is built or destroyed. And just as a mother waits expectant to see the color of her new borns eyes and the shape of its she waits to see the response from her man. She wants to witness his reaction to the introduction of himself. It's magic.  

I'm sitting here typing this and I can here my husband downstairs playing a new game with the girls. It's an app of charades called heads Up (I think) and they are roaring with laughter. And I cant help but stop and just weep at the miracle of it. The bonding that has taken place with a man and his children over the last 15 years. It can not be replaced in a child's life. And God knew that. It's not perfect, I'm laughing as I even say that, not at all, its so messy this parenting thing.  But the process, when not given up on, IS the gift. It is the story. There is no final result, you are always on the the game. 

Here on this Christmas Eve, Eve (My youngest made up that name for today so she could try and get an early present) I'm thinking about Joseph.  He was leading his soon to be wife into the delivery room, the one with out doctors and nurses and God Bless her soul an epidural. The one without heart monitors and latex gloves and oh my word there wasn't any hand sanitizer. And there he was...a man, a newbie dad...delivering God's Son. Deep Breath.

A love story like no other...were they holding hands, Mary and Joseph, as the labor began? Were they anticipating the color of His eyes and the shape of His nose? Would He resemble Mary? Did Joseph  bond right away or was he just terrified and exhausted? If he was...rightly so! An adoption, a step earthy father for the Son of The Creator of the Universe...God.

Is this how they had planned it when they were in courtship, dancing under the stars...I'm going to just say Um, no. But Joseph, being a man of God, stepped up to the plate...stayed in it for the tough stuff. The stuff that married couples really hope they don't have to deal with until years after vows. The stuff of doubting, the pit in your stomach that makes you wonder..."This is more than I bargained for...Is this really going to work?"

And then He came...just as God said it would happen. Born of a Virgin...delivered into the hands of a man who didn't run away. A man of integrity, who stood by his woman even when her story was ridiculous. When the public was glaring at this unwed teenager, he was faithful, and he didn't have to be. He could have chickened out and God would have rewritten the story but he stayed. And we are all better for it.

What a beautiful picture of fatherhood. The kind with a beginning no man would desire and the one with an ending that was the raising of a man who would save the world. The kind that honors God. An example any man can follow. Trust God, stick around and raise your children...the ones God gives you.

If I made you a list of the top 10 things I love and admire about my husband, four of those reasons would include how he fathers our four girls. Nothing can replace his role in their lives. His protection, his providing of spiritual guidance, the food he works so hard for to feed them, the time he invests.... From the delivery room wonderstruck man who *just like that* became a father. The role of a lifetime...the one that is hard to mess up if you will only commit it to God and just show up...stay. Lead with grace and love and the rest will tell the story of the greatest daddy in the world, you.

I am thankful God included a man in the story of the birth of our Hope, our Salvation. He didn't have too, but he wanted too. He continues to set examples for us all....we need our men. Our strong fathers who hold double fisted to the voice of God. Our Daddies....thank you Lord.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Remembering Mary

I grew up in a small neighborhood where the moms all knew each other and the front doors swung open without knocking needed. I was completely comfortable pulling up a chair to the kitchen table of any of the surrounding homes and asking for food and a drink.

Conversations were had with ease...political correctness wasn’t a thing...the disciplining of children verbally was a group effort. I knew that my behavior was being monitored and would be corrected by any woman on that street...with permission from my own mother.

We were all slightly different, of course we were, but we seemed more alike than not. Everyone had a mom and a dad, a job, a dog, and grass that needed to be cut on Saturday. And on Sunday, the cars all pulled out of driveways around 9am and headed to a church.

Where I’m from there is a one on every corner, a church that is. I am not exaggerating. There are so many different denominations to choose from. I can remember my nose pressed to the glass of our car window, counting all the churches we passed before we arrived at ours, the big Baptist one, white columns and all. I would wonder...why aren’t we all together? I want to know what they do differently than we do.

My best friend, who lived directly across the street, was Catholic. I spent a lot of time in her home. If I close my eyes I can smell her mother’s laundry detergent, I loved it so. She also had Sprite in her refrigerator. This was a big deal to me...we didn't keep sodas in our house. I would sneak sips of that Sprite every chance I got.

I also recall the way they had figurines of Mother Mary and open Bibles around the sitting areas. Candles set up for lighting and long strands of beads with crosses on the end. This was captivating too me. I would stare at Mother Mary; run my fingers over her folded hands and bended knees. I wondered why we never really talked about Mary in our church. I mean we did at Christmas, but that was the last I recall throughout the year. (She might have been talked about more than once, This is just the way I recall it.)

We certainly had open Bibles in my home too. My mother studied the Word of God as if it was her life line, and prayer journals were filled year after year. I thank God for that. I am very certain it is the reason I am living the life I have now...the prayers of the ones who love me...God has granted. But no talk of Mary, really.

I gathered that adults were afraid that if they talked about her too much, they were breaching some sort of contract or allegiance to Jesus. It was like walking on thin ice or something. I didn't get it.  

Still...I wanted to count beads like my best friend, and I had longing to know more about this Mary she adored. I would ask questions but I was hushed. I imagine it was the same hushing I give my children when they ask questions I don’t want to dive into.

My best friend and I both loved Jesus. We were comfortable talking about Him. I remember her telling me about going into the confessional. My eyes were wide and it was as if she was reading me a Nancy Drew Mystery...I would ask, “Were you afraid? Did he make you list EVERYTHING? Did you tell him anything I did? (Whew) Is he going to tell your mom???!!!!"


My fascination grew and I guess I had pestered her mom long for the 100th time I asked she finally said yes. "OK Allison, yes, you can come to Mass with us on Sunday." (Mass? I thought we were going to church? Don’t ask her anything or she will change her mind...)

I jumped and clapped and ran home to ask my mom’s permission.

That Sunday came and I was dressed in my best. We parked and walked into the church. I whispered to my friend "Is this Mass?" She giggled and said just pay attention and don’t talk or we are both in HUGE trouble. I pinkie promised her and we took our seat on the soft velvety pew.

I immediately noticed a long bar with pads on it down by the floor. I thought, "How nice, a place to prop my feet!" Her mother squeezed my leg and said in a low firm voice I had never heard come out of her mouth before..."Get you FOOT off the kneeling bench."

The kneeling bench? I had never kneeled in church before. This was going to be awesome!

The preacher was dressed in long robes with cords dangling and he spoke in rhythm. He read the words from the Holy Bible and the congregation would repeat long paragraphs back to him in unison. I stood there...lips sealed. It was so much to take in and then the next thing I knew I was on the floor, kneeling, we all were...bowed low before the giant Jesus hanging on the giant Cross on the platform. I could see the nails and all...

Then came the time for the Lords Supper. I was asked to stay in my seat and not participate. I didn’t question it. I wasn’t offended. I just obeyed and observed as they each went up for a blessing. A BLESSING! I wanted that blessing.

I had never seen someone touch a person’s head and say "May God Bless You In the Name of Jesus Christ." (How beautiful…how important. Bless me someone, please bless me I thought.)  It was followed by a loaf of bread ripped and then dipped in red wine. Real wine, the kind that leaves a smell on your breath. The kind Jesus served.

We did a bunch more praying and up and down kneeling and songs and Scripture reading and then it was over. I loved it. And as we were leaving, there she was...Mary. An ivory statue standing with her arms down to her side, slightly open with her head tilted. I went up to touch her dress and stare at her eyes...The one God picked to be the mother of Jesus. Mesmerizing.

That was the last time I went to a Catholic Mass service. Not for any reason really except I wasn’t invited back. I don’t blame them. I was touching everything and asking a bunch of questions. Plus, we were really involved in our own church so it’s not good to have a lot of absences when you are in the learning phase of it all. Sunday school teachers have sticker charts for attendance and I wanted my sticker. (Grin)

Let me say here that I adored my church. It was filled with love and worship and praise to Jesus. It is where I sat at the feet of hundreds of faithful volunteers who taught little children the word of God. I fell in love with Jesus there, had my head submerged in baptismal waters there and married the man my soul is eternally connected to there.

My preacher makes no bones about hard truths of God’s Word yet also speaks of  mercy and grace and forgiveness of all sins. He is passionate about the gospel, about serving the poor, about the great commission and he loves his wife in such a way that set an example for even me...a watcher from the day my husband would love God and love me like that. And he does. I love my church. It feels like home....but I still carry a space of curiosity.

Not a wandering from God…but a searching of His mysteries. Surely, they cannot all be bound up in these walls.

I’m asking God to take me deeper. To follow the things and ways of Him…Certainly, we are all robbing ourselves of a piece of His creativity by setting such hard lines that divide us…brothers and sisters of the One True God. The One who came to set us free, and here we are getting all caught up in our "rules". But the Cross...

I grew up and moved away from home, as one does. I longed to find a church of my own.  My man and I have had the privilege of attending several denominations in the process of seeking God’s will for where He would have us become members. As we moved from state to state we researched and visited and prayed and landed in many different churches attached to different denominations. We have learned from them all.

I am quite fond of the Methodist church seeing as my dad was raised in that church and my sister attends one now. I am blessed to have a first cousin who has gone "the preacher route" and he is a Presbyterian. I listen to his online sermons...that boy can give a good word. See for yourself...

I have a Catholic best friend again, I met her in my adult years, and we talk of Jesus often and with great ease. There are differences, yes, but far more that binds us. I am surrounded by new this and new that churches...all trying to name themselves something different in the hopes of breaking down walls that seem unwelcoming. I respect that. Call yourself whatever you want to if it brings people in to worship Jesus Christ.

I am currently a member of Baptist church. I am raising my children there. It is a place of imperfect people who radically love Jesus and do their best to follow the Scriptures. Though, I am not married to it, and I don't see myself staying there the rest of my life...especially if they do not move towards putting more women's voices alongside the men's. The Holy Spirit is rooted in us all equally (Galatians 3:28) and more and more I am longing to hear from both genders. According to Acts 2:17 God declared He would pour out His spirit out on all flesh and “your sons and daughters” shall prophesy.  Don't let that bother you. My heart is sealed to Jesus Christ alone. He wasn't a Baptist. And yet He still saved the world...

This Christmas, really just this past week, I am drawn back to the lure of Mary. The Virgin girl who was seen as highly favored by God. He could have picked anyone to deliver The Son...and He picked her. A girl. A human. She was His choice.

From the dust He created Adam, from the rib a woman…from a girl…Jesus. I want to focus on her for just a minute. I don't think that in anyway takes away from the Glory of our Lord. It is in fact a key part of the fulfillment of the Scriptures. (Isaiah 7:14)

I will not pray to her, that is reserved for my God, I don't pray to any humans... but I will acknowledge her role of greatness in the story that woos my heart. The birth of my Savior and yours...The One that will ride in on His white horse according to Revelations and collect all of His people ...from all denominations...

I want my home in heaven to be just like the one I had as a little girl. The one wedged in between the Catholics and the Methodists...the Presbyterians and the Jews. The Non-Denomination the Lutherans and Pentecostals and Episcopalians.

So my attempt to try this "advent"... I'm reflecting on Virgin Mary...thanking God for giving her favor, thanking Him for choosing a young unassuming girl to be an intricate part of the greatest gift man has ever received. 

And who knows I may even light a candle and kneel before God in her remembrance. That 80 mile journey on a donkey…full term body aching, baby boy kicking....radical obedience of a 12 year old girl who's response to the Lords call on her life is one to be admired...

 And Mary said, “I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

"Oh how I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation forever shall call me blest of God. For he, the mighty Holy One, has done great things to me. His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who reverence him."
Luke 1:47-50

I’m raising four little girls…what an extraordinary example Mary is to them for multiple reasons. In preparing our heart for the birth of a King, We must not leave out his mother.

The One who put a longing in my heart to climb over man made fences... and search for the things that He deemed important, the whole story, is worthy of the search that makes us uncomfortable.  

So you know all about Jesus, but do you know His Mama?    



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This Is My Gift To The King

I want to live like this all year long. This gratitude, this thanksgiving, and this river of emotional indebtedness flowing onto everything I encounter. It’s all new and fresh right now in this season of cold air sneaking in, turkeys running for their lives and Santa setting up shop.

It's spasmodic joy over the simple, seemingly common. When red apples piled high on your kitchen counter make you know your soul is tapped into reverent acknowledgement of God's grace. I don’t always see life through this lens...but right now, I do.

I see a house that holds warm air, hand crocheted blankets wrapped around little girls reading library books three days overdue, a grey rescue dog who is overweight from table scraps and a man whom I still sleep close too, head on his chest drifting off to the sound of his heart beating and I think, "These are the gifts."

Recognizing *the gifts* as just This is the intentional pause that binds my faith.

Gift- Something given voluntarily without payment in return.

That I didn't "do" anything to earn this life. Camping on the idea that God, in His compassion...gave a gift...many me...a nobody.

What could I possibly bring in return to reflect my hearts cry of thanksgiving? I refuse to get wrapped up in all the "doing" for acceptance and I am far too good at the "being still and knowing" He is God. And I find that now more than ever the most appropriate thing I can be is the acknowledger. Is that a word? I so hope it is...I want it to describe me.

I feel small in a world that is swallowed up with big people grabbing for stars to make themselves shine bright. I want to shine too...but I want it to be the reflection of my God, The Light.

I will acknowledge the Giver. This is my gift to the King.

All anybody ever really wants is to be thanked. Don't you agree? Not a big fuss, just a verbal recognition. It's the very least thing...but the most important thing.

There is nothing revolutionary about this notion, yet I find it missing among most people I know. The credit is seldom given to the Giver of all good things...

Not me Lord. Not today. Not now.

Here I am, a mess of a sinner still holding tight to The Gospel. The simple version. The one that starts with a virgin and a manger... skips all the theology and debates... and ends on a Cross. Miraculously beginning again through the Resurrection. I confess this truth.

It's just me, Allison Lee, the acknowledger. Jesus, you are everything. In this statement I find the root of all thankfulness. Let the feast begin.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Let Her Hear...

When I picked up my first born from Sunday preschool, gosh I guess it’s been about 12 years ago now, the lady who greeted me at the door said with a chuckle, "Your daughter is so precious. She is singing the words to Jesus Loves Me This I Know wrong and it is so sweet.

I looked at her, tilted my head to the side and said "Singing it wrong? How so?"

She placed her hand on my shoulder gently and replied, "She thinks it goes...Jesus loves me this I know, for my Mama tells me so, little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me...For my Mama told me so."

McKenzie was standing there waiting to hear my response. I put my Bible and my purse down and got on my knees...eye to eye with that wide eyed toddler I said "You didn't sing that song wring baby. Your Mama DID tell you so. You sing that song however you want to." Her smile could have lit up the darkest corner...all was well and confident.

It was at that moment I realized, The Bible may tell her so, but for now, her mama's words are her truth.

For these tender growing years, the nursing through the weaning years, the hand holding while crossing the street years and the spreading of peanut butter and jelly packing her lunch years. The potty training and learning to read years, tucking her in tight and bending the knee nighttime prayer years, long hours in the carpool line and napping together rubbing her back years...the brushing her teeth and braiding her hair years, putting on her socks and tying her shoes years...

These years.... the molding years, the clay soft and not hard years...the foundation voice will be her lighthouse. What I say and do will be her gospel, Lord, let it guide her straight to you.

Let her hear me singing praise the shower, reciting Scripture in the kitchen, and speaking love over our neighbors. Let her hear me call out to you in times of need and in moments of plenty. Let her hear my silence when gossip surrounds and let her hear my voice rise up in defense of the poor. Let her hear me stand for justice in the power of the Name above all Names. Let her hear me foster equality. Let her hear me be bold, brave and firm in my womanhood...and in my God given calling. Let her hear me when I'm prideful, when I’m apologizing, when I'm humbled, and when I'm forgiven. Let her hear words that give those around me strength, life, hope, and redemption. Let her hear the offerings of second, third and fourth chances fall off my lips. Let her hear me confess. Let her hear me supporting my sisters in Christ, let her hear me pray away jealousy. Let her hear me expressing love and faithfulness to her father. Let her hear me tell temptation no...


A mothers words are powerful life shaping tools....let me never forget they are listening, and my words are always preaching. 


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dear Teenage Girl

Dear Teenage Girl,

How I adore you. I see you with your cowgirl boots, perfectly curled hair and that thing you have around your legs you are calling a skirt. It is nearly killing me, truly taking every single bit of restraint I have not to run over to you, throw my arms around your beautiful neck, hold you really close and whisper a story of freedom in your ear.

I want to sing you a redemptive song that's melody softly reminds are a hand crafted chosen daughter of a mighty jealous God. Do not sell your soul to the deeds of popularity. The cost will be high, the debt will be forgiven but the healing will be will be scarred. There is a better story written for you.

You want to be want to wear the homecoming crown and have your shoulders kept warm by the jacket of "the guy" you know the one. You want to ride in the jeep, top down, doors off, wind in your hair...his hand on your leg.

You want flowers on Valentine’s Day, or any day at want hand written love letters promising you that your relationship will be different. It will deify all logic, stand the test of time and y'all will get married, and everyone will be all like, "Awwww I KNEW they would stay together forever!"

So yeah, with all that stuff he're pretty much married in your heart...what’s the point in waiting to have sex? Life is short. #YOLO

You add that extra layer of mascara, wear that shirt a little lower, brush up against him a little longer, in all the right places. You want to be the last thing on his mind when he falls asleep at night and trust are. Well played love, yes, you have power over the thoughts of these unassuming little's intentional. I know...I remember. Guilty.

You want to be invited to the parties with the "chaperone's" who stay upstairs lost in their wine. You want to be the one who can casually drink or dabble in won't get addicted...that doesn't happen to well educated girls who drive nice cars.

You can hold your liquor on Saturday night and your Bible on Sunday morning...after know you are forgiven and that God is your only judge. *Who cares* what anybody thinks about you right? This is YOUR life.

Deep Breath.

OK so you aren’t the top aren't THAT bad...but you want to be in her circle. You want to be in the group text, to at least be know all the inside jokes and be tagged in the photos. So you do just enough to fit in, it makes you feel dirty but least you aren’t at home alone with your parents on a Saturday night right? #foreveralone #looooser

Your language is getting out of hand and what was once whispered among friends is now spoken loudly with no shame in public...and written online. It's your mouth; you can say what you want to. No body’s going to tell you what to are almost an adult. I mean a few years you will be in college so the parenting is pretty much over anyway...right? I am who I am. Sound familiar? How did I get in your thoughts like that?

Baby girl. Beautiful, wonderful, marvelous, brilliant you. I'm standing here suggesting it might be time to take the road less traveled. Make a U turn. Really have a good long discussion with yourself about what your dreams were...and what they are now.

I'm raising my hand telling you "It doesn't always turn out OK. The pain drives deep and years after the choices have been made the memories are not erased."

Have you lowered the bar for yourself? Have you compromised everything, or even just a few things? Have you crossed the line so many times it's not even a thrill anymore? Is there even a line still drawn? A place you have personally decided you will not go? And not because someone told you it was a bad idea but because you know it is in your heart and you care about yourself.

My hands are on your face and my eyes are dead locked with yours...

"It's OK. You are still good. Worthy. Whole. Redeemed. Wildly loved. Forgiven. There is never a point in which you have gone too far that Christ cannot restore. He is not angry at you...but rather standing right where you left Him heart aching. Waiting. He never changed His mind about you. Not once. Aren’t you getting tired of this race? You don't want to be the winner of me...there is a better prize. "

I'm not a bitter old woman pointing my finger at you. (well I am older but let's don't rub it in) We are in this together. I'm extending my hand, not slapping yours.

I get it. It's brutal.

Growing up with too many resources, too many opportunities, not enough adults willing to call you out and love you through a bad choice rather than making you the topic of the next gossip chain. Not enough willing to tell you "No", and not be afraid of your fit pitching. Not enough of us who have gone before you willing to admit, “I made that mistake. Here were the ugly consequences. Here's how I got through it."

Girls, what you are chasing is temporary. It has a life span of about 4 years. High School. That's it. Of all the people you look up too, the ones who have made great names for themselves, accomplished things that brought them fame and honor, in the Christian realm and otherwise...none of them, let me say that again...NONE OF THEM, peaked in High School.

I love you too much to say nothing...I'm begging you to revisit why you are here. Don't get caught up in *it all*. Pick your head up and lift your eyes farther...look beyond were handpicked by Jesus Christ!

You already wear a Crown. You already have His robe around your shoulders. Stand firm and stand tall. YOU are the daughter of a King.

John 15:16-You have been chosen.

Ephesians 2:10-You were created to do good works.

John 1:12-You are His daughter.

Isaiah 61:10-You wear His robe of righteousness.

1 Corinthians 12:27-You are a member of the club. You're in.

Colossians 2:9-10- You are complete.

Colossians 1:13- You are forgiven.

Romans 8:11- You are free from condemnation.

Philippians 1:6-He will not give up on you.

Psalm 17-You are the apple of His eye.

Romans 15:7- You are accepted.

Galatians 5:1- You are FREE.

I believe in you. I believe in you. I believe in you.

Don't sell out. Don't settle. Grab whats rightfully yours...

I promise you, hand on my heart, the best is not now...the best is yet to come. Wait for it.  


Monday, October 21, 2013

Moving On

Everyone I know is too busy. I do not leave myself out of this statement. Yesterday I put the car keys in the freezer...I don’t even know people...let's be kind and say it's because "my plate is full." And if the way I drink coffee is any indication of my multitasking gone really wrong I'm close to completing zero out of 100 tasks. There are no less than 3 cups of half empty mugs on all levels of the house by 10am. I suppose I just forgot I already poured the other two cups? Tragic. Thank God I'm not a smoker...the house wouldn’t be standing.

Most of us go from morning to night with all sorts of alerts and alarms going off on our phones reminding us of our next appointment. Very little down time, very little room for interruptions and for the LOVE of all things hurried up... very little time to run into a long winded talker in the parking lot.

And I wonder sometimes if there is anything under the sun that will make us stop. As it turns out there is. Death will make you stop. Not your death, although come to think of it your own death sure will do the trick, but the death of someone you greatly love...makes you pause.

Even Jesus, upon hearing about the death of His cousin John the Baptist, stopped.

"Now when Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself."

Matthew 14:13

Last week we paused to mourn the loss of a loved one. It was beautiful and holy.

But I read on...verse 14

Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.

15 Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”

16 But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”

17 “All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said.

18-21 Jesus said, “Bring them here.” Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.


So in his grief, in his time of mourning, the people found him alone.

Instead of asking them to go away and let him reflect on the death of his family member for a bit longer...He poured out compassion and continued His ministry.

He healed the sick, He performed a miracle, He lifted his face to heaven, He prayed, He blessed, and He broke bread with the congregation and there were even LEFTOVERS.

I like Jesus. OK I Love Him.

I am not suggesting at all that the feeding of the 5 thousand was a funeral for John the Baptist, so please do not email me with your outrage of my theology misconception....I am simply relating a scene that happened in my own life to the flow of a story in scripture.

The food y'all. The FOOD involved after the death of a loved one is all around you in massive quantities. It is so yummy wonderful made by the hands of Saints. The people come out of every corner of the church and they are a living storyboard with all the lifting of heads to heaven, blessing, praying, and breaking of bread.

How I adore the body of Christ and its ability to pause for just long enough and then spring into action...mirroring Jesus...continuing the ministry.

My gratitude abounds.

Below is the recipe for one of the best soups my Grandma ever made. It makes a big amount. Fills my largest Crock Pot to the rim. I want to thank each and every one of you who paused with me last week in my time of grief and whispered my name to The King. I felt your prayers...they sustained me.

Here I am on this Monday morning...moving on... holding out my ladle and filling your cup in gratitude.

Mom Sasser's Famous Festive Fiesta Soup
4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
2 family sized cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 large jar of roasted red bell peppers, chopped
3 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
2 (16oz.) jars mild salsa
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Teaspoons pepper
Sour cream for topping
Tortilla chips, crushed for topping
In a large pot, saute' onion and garlic in olive oil for 6 minutes. Add roasted red bell peppers, bay leaves, salsa, pepper, mushroom soup and 2 cans of water. Mix Well. Bring to a boil, for 45 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add chicken.
Pour into Crock Pot and set on low for 6 hours. Serve with a drop of sour cream and crushed tortillas on top.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When Grief Looks More Like Joy...

                                                                  Photo by Jarrod Cecil

And then you wake up and she's gone. And you feel nothing. You are numb and the tears that should be falling are bottled up somewhere in your person and they aren't falling. You want so badly to start the grieving process but you can''s been such a long death. And you wonder, am I even sad?

Your best friend brings you homemade fudge and as it turns out fudge goes really well with red wine and you start to smile and the "feelings" are coming back but this time your grief looks like joy.

You recall the way she swayed back in forth in the kitchen, her apron brushing the countertop as she made you ice cold tomato and mayo sandwiches, dashing them with the perfect amount of salt and pepper.

The way she opened up the screen door and hollered for her dog, "Ma-GGIE" and mumbled under her breath when the spoiled beagle ran away. The way she could point to any tree in the forest and tell you what it was called and when its foliage would turn color and drop. The way a sighting of an ordinary Red Bird or Blue Jay caused her to pause and consider the very nature of God.


You recall the way the Lord's Prayer flowed off her lips and how Scripture was framed throughout the house. And peace drapes a blanket across your shoulders. 


Today I will stop long enough to allow whatever shift happened in my heart the day she drew her last breath, to settle in down deep...


Her hands served the poor, her soul was sealed to her God, her feet carried out His commands, her spirit was filled with joy and thanksgiving, and her voice spoke of love and kindness and most of all....conviction.


She was modest, humble, and unapologetic in her pursuit of Jesus Christ. And I was chosen to fall in her family line. Why God would be this kind to me will remain a mystery… 


Her legacy looks like pontoon boat rides, jumping off docks and floating in lakes wearing  swimming suits that adorned long skirted ruffles.  It looks like loving her family members unconditionally and rallying the troops through difficult times.


It smells like fresh from the farm scrambled eggs and big bowls of steamy creamy smokin hot grits wrapped in butter…homemade meatloaf floating in her special sauce and the best ever creamed corn bread.  


And it sounds like the pages of a Bible flipping through arthritic hands. 


It feels like a *strong will* submitted in prayer and warm kisses on the cheek. It feels courageous. It feels passed on and it feels received.


Your little girl weeps at the news and then with all seriousness asks if she can paint her fingernails black for the party. I remind her it is called a funeral and she looks confused.


"Are we celebrating her life? Then it's a party."


Yes little Margaret…It's a party.   

On Thursday we are going to a "party", some of us will have our nails painted black and wear a little make up on our eyes, to celebrate a life that stood for something substantial.


We will raise a toast to a woman who loved purposefully and profoundly. We will eulogize her by bending the knee to The King in which she spent a lifetime serving and worshiping.


And now, wrapped in His righteousness she stands holy, worthy, redeemed, fully restored and glowing in the Light. If I close my eyes I can almost hear the Fathers voice saying to her...

"Well done my good and faithful servant. WELL done. Welcome home."

When I get to Heaven, I will find her one of two places...this I know for sure. Either she will be on her face worshiping her King, or I will follow the smell of fresh brewed coffee and sour cream pound cake... there she will be with her radiant smile and a chair pulled out waiting for me. I will ask her where my grandpa is and she will say "listen." and I will hear his voice in the choir singing Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lamb..."

And I will say to her....well, "Thistle-do-me -too" and we will laugh at the family inside joke...


But for today, as I allow this to process, you will find me wandering around gathering details for the party, singing…


"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul."


Because she taught me that hymn and because it is indeed...well.


Friday, September 27, 2013

A Chocolate Hug For You

I witnessed the largest temper tantrum ever in the history of mankind today thrown by a darling and I mean d-a-r-l-i-n-g little girl who looked to be about 3-ish.

All I could do was cover my hand over my mouth and try to hide the laughter. It exploded out of my body and the woman glared at me so I quickly said "Oh no no I'm not laughing at you. I mean I am laughing at you, or with you really but I'm laughing because I AM you. I mean I was. (About 12 years ago anyway.)"

And so yeah I was totally laughing at her. Busted.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who by her very existence made me a mother. At a fresh 23 years old I dedicated my every breath to the raising of this brown eyed beauty.
She was going to obey and wear hair bows, learn her ABC's before any other children her age and never talk back or throw a fit.
That all went according to plan for about 12 months. And then you know, the whole talking thing kicked in. She formed her own opinions faster than I anticipated. And she was fantastic at acting out her own will.

My fairy tale shattered somewhere between apologizing to the librarian who was escorting us out of story time because my precious child who talks at volume ONE THOUSAND wouldn’t hush, and apologizing to the Kroger cashier trying to guess how many grapes she had eaten before I had a chance to pay, all the while she was hurling items out of my buggy onto the floor of my humiliation. 

Then there was the neighbor who uninvited us to the weekly play date until my daughter did one of two things. 1-stopped making the F sound in place of the T sound. (speech developmental issue) Or 2- stopped playing with Fire *T*rucks. Let that sink in. Got it? That was a strange phase FO SHO.

There were too many blunders to count including the time my 2 year old locked me out of the house for over an hour and I used a neighbors hammer to bang off the backdoor handle, because after all there was a 4 day old newborn I just delivered inside too. I think that was the day I discovered "hide a key rocks" really were all the rage...
 Anyway, feelings of total and complete inadequacy overtook me on a weekly basis. I would close my eyes at night and pray that God in His graciousness would please erase the memories from their tiny minds of me losing my temper and shaking my finger in their face.

Begged Him to not let them recall the long hours they spent “playing in the crib “so I could grab a moment of sanity. And you know what moms…turns out there is a reason we can’t remember anything before age 4. God heard our pleas. We get to start out our journey in the toughest job of our lifetime with a learning curve of about 3 or 4 years. Thank you Lord.

When I walk around town with my now eight years old and up children, I’m a little less frazzled. I actually get to have a shower…every single day…amazing right? I drink hot coffee without fear of scalding a baby if it splashes over the mug, two cups even. We go to public bathrooms and everyone wipes their own butt, and scrubs their own hands…it’s like a miracle really. They buckle themselves in the car, look both ways before they cross the street, and order their own food at a restaurant. Can you even imagine? They even babysit themselves so my man and I can run out late at night for a movie. It is pure awesomeness. Hang tight ladies.... It's coming.

You will no longer sleep with your ears tuned to a baby monitor or wipe boogers with the inside of your sleeve. Soon. Very soon. You will rise to the sound of a clock alarm and you will not wonder if it’s because the children have died in the middle of the night…the fear of dark will soon be removed and it will once again be reserved for sex and sound sleep…Oh yeah, I went there. Your body will one day, without hesitation, be returned to your husband, because you know... your boobs won't be human bottles anymore. It's ridiculously wondrous. 

Very soon the child who couldn't tie her shoes until first grade will be slipping on high heels and her knees that were once covered in scabs from learning to ride her bike will be smooth from shaving. She will ace her PSAT and you will be tempted to call the preschool teacher with the results of the child she labeled "unable to focus". (Really tired of labels for preschoolers y'all.  )

Those of us, (I'm raising my hand) that had preschoolers who nearly got you “dismissed” from Sunday Wee School because hands are being used to pinch her friends and that mouth of hers isn't so much singing Jesus Loves Me like the rest of the kids but rather biting the arm of the little boy who apparently won't share the blocks. That little punk, I mean toddler will one day stand next to you in The Chapel with her hands raised high in worship. happens. God favors you Mom...  

It will all return to “normal”  whatever that looks like, very very soon, so would you do me a favor and be kind to yourself? Grace. Grace. Grace.

I’m laughing with you, not at you, when all hell breaks loose in the grocery store, waiting rooms, and restaurants. I’m cheering you on when that little devil escapes from your death grip in the parking lot and takes off running like a Kenyan Olympic gold medalist. I’ll drive slowly and I’ll slam on brakes for you. I’ll hold the door when I see your hips covered in car seats and diaper bags. I’ll let you cut in line, I’ll respect your "Baby On Board" sticker and not ride your bumper, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt every time when I see your grip on their arm tightening , and I’m whispering prayers for you sister…I really am. You can do this. I know you can.

Very soon you will be handing her a Starbucks, trying on jeans together and talking about boys. And you will watch her in awe as she sprints across finish lines and gets elected to represent her class for student government. She will not recall your failed attempts while gaining your footing as her mother…she will be secure and rooted deep in your love, because you've put in the long hours. And it will be beautiful…and it’s right around the corner.

 All I want to do is reach through the computer screen and hug you tight. The kind of hug that feels like a piece chocolate melting in your mouth…sweet with a kick of sugar to get you through the day. I want to tell you that you are important, and you are doing an amazing job. Soon, in the blink of an eye, this season will be gone. And you will be proud of the work you put into that baby and you WILL see the fruits of your labor pay off.

I promise.