I live in the south. No, wayyyy down south. Where the real, real southerners live. We’re the last city you see before you hit the warm gulf waters. Mobile is a beautiful city filled with true southern hospitality and charm. We boast yummy foods that most northerners do not understand. We love tradition. We love the coastal life and we love each other. However, we do not completely understand a life filled with distinct seasonal changes. Our landscape doesn’t change that much from one season to another, with the exception of spring when our cozy little spot at the most southern part of Alabama explodes with color….and allergies! As we stroll through our spring enjoying azaleas of every color, every imaginable shade of green in our foliage and relishing in the salt air floating in from the gulf, we find ourselves loving the world. It’s hypnotizing! A few days later, summer stomps in announcing a season of sunbathing, island living, hammock swinging, barbecue loving, horseshoe playing, baseball throwing, outdoor concert dancing, boat riding and every other warm weather, summer loving, activity you can think of. Did I mention we have very long summers? We are located on a bay, connected to an island by a small bridge, an hour drive to a sandy white beach and a quick thirty minutes to a small artsy town. Again, our summers are long. So long we find ourselves every year saying “Summer was never this hot and long when I was growing up!” Every year. We long for fall weather, pumpkins, sweaters and spiced lattes and yet, they are very slow in coming. We do our best to bring on cooler weather with our fancy fall door hangers and decorations. We sit in our air conditioned cars, warm lattes in hand, wishing for that pre-thanksgiving crisp air. We fear we will jump from summer straight into winter, completely skipping the cozy fall weather. We’ve even been known to have a late season hurricane, as if nature is making a last ditch effort to show us her skills. Thanksgiving is a toss up as to whether it will be cool or warm, we never know. We just hope. Today it is cold outside and rainy. Our hopes rise. Sweaters are jerked out of the bottom drawers and the lines at Starbucks are long. It’s fall y’all….at least for a few days! Winter will be upon us before we know it…..at least for 15 minutes! Then we will head back into spring and then summer. It’s been said about Mobile that if you don’t like the weather, hang around for about fifteen minutes and it will change. It is so true. I believe this has produced a culture that adapts quickly to any weather change. Well, except for that occasionally snow flurry that happens about every five to ten years and causes school and work shut downs because we have no clue how to drive on ice and snow. No worries, though, it will be gone tomorrow!!! But today it is fall. Like legit fall. Like in the mountains of Tennessee fall, except we still have green leaves on the trees. Enjoy it while you can, because we Mobilians know Thanksgiving is coming and we’ll probably be wearing t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops while eating smoked turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, sweet potato soufflé, dumplins, carrot cake, pecan pie and sweet tea! Happy Fall Y’all!
Walking with Christ is about obedience. It is about surrendering your own will and desiring the will of God for your life. It is about throwing off the old and putting on the new. It is about creating in me a clean heart. It is about doing the hard things, even when we don’t want to. It is about walking in the spirit and not walking in the flesh.
Yesterday I did something that I didn’t want to do. Something that I believe God was prompting me to do. I’ve chewed on it for a long time. It meant choosing to be obedient. Choosing to suck it up and do the right thing. Taking the step was difficult. First I had to play the conversation over and over in my head to formulate exactly the right words. Then I took a deep breath and made contact. Then I waited.
It didn’t turn out as I thought it would. In fact, it didn’t go any further than making contact. The other person didn’t want to engage. I retreated, a little confused with God. So for the rest of the day I pondered it over and over with the Lord and came to a final conclusion. It had been about obedience. That is all. I took a step toward obedience and did what I thought God was telling me I needed to do. The amazing part is this, I now feel free to move forward without continuous thoughts of needing to do the right thing. He just wanted me to be willing to do what was hard, and to actually take action toward doing that hard thing.
Not everyone would understand this situation. Not everyone has all the details. But that is okay. It is not about everyone. I am putting it to rest. I have done all I need to do in this situation and can move on.
God is good. He knows us so well. He knows exactly what we need. He knows what it will take for us to continue on in this journey with Him. Obedience. When I was thinking about this blog post I kept trying to remember a verse that I thought was about being obedient to Him. I searched and searched with the words I could remember. Then I found it…..and it wasn’t about obedience. It was about trust. I laughed because trust is the ongoing thing He has been teaching me for the last year and a half. Complete and unwavering trust. But I guess they go hand in hand. Trust and obedience really are the same thing!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
I woke up this morning still tired after a night of sleeping and waking and thinking. My life has changed so much in the last year and a half, and continues to change and move into a new season. A year and a half ago I lost my job. But it didn’t seem to matter so much because we were in the trenches of cancer and I was thankful to walk every step with my big guy, holding his hand, praying, listening, hoping. After the “all clear” words came from the doctor, we went home and just sat in our living room quietly. The words we had hoped for and prayed for had come. Now for finding normal. That was in May and life has continued to move forward as if the year of cancer never happened. A year and a half ago we were welcoming a new grandson into our lives. A year and a half ago we were in the midst of planning baby girl number two’s wedding. A year and a half ago we lost my sweet Daddy.
I began keeping our new grandson when my daughter returned to teaching during this past year. It has been a joy watching him grow and getting to love on him on a daily basis. But this past August, when school began again, my daughter decided to put her boy in daycare in preparation for a second baby on the way. I am told finding and getting into a good, reliable, and desirable daycare is both competitive and difficult. I had no idea. So he went to daycare after a year of staying with Lolly. He loves it and has adapted quite easily. My man cub is growing up too fast!
So, now, for the last two months I have been trying to figure out what next. Yes, there are wedding plans still going on for baby girl number three, but that will be over in another thirty-nine days. But then what? I guess last night it was on my mind and I would go to sleep, dream, wake up, think about it for awhile, then start over again by filing asleep. I’ve talked about getting a job, but I’m not sure if I’m even supposed to get a job right now. I’ve prayed about it, and I get the sense from the Lord that I am exactly where he wants me to be for now. I’m just having trouble adjusting, even after a year and a half. I’m trying to find some routine. I’m trying to write a little each day, even if it is just to blog a short piece. I’m trying to figure out what the next step the Lord has for me. I’m trying to establish a regular morning time with Him. I even got out my daughter’s Kurig and am trying to drink coffee like a real grown up….decaf, of course! The crazy thing is I can’t remember the last time I had quiet time like this in the mornings. I’ve been raising baby girls for the last twenty-eight years. I remember dreaming of slower mornings, peace and quiet, a clean house, time to write and here I am.
For now I will enjoy the peaceful and quiet mornings. I will enjoy having time to spend with the Lord. I will enjoy the slower pace. Maybe I will eventually be able to write about my big guy and I going on adventures. But today I’ll sip some decaf coffee and enjoy this rainy morning…..and maybe check my to do lists for the wedding, prepare my devotional to deliver to the students on Sunday afternoon, do some laundry, clean the kitchen, make the bed……
For anyone reading this blog, don’t stress over the season you are in at this moment. If you have a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, you are not alone. He is with you. He will walk with you and guide you. He will listen to you as you tell Him about your concerns, your dreams, your life. He truly cares. Only He can wrap you in a peace that passes all understanding.
Today I sat and read scripture I have read many times before, but God in His grace and mercy allowed His presence to surround me and remind me of the truth, He knows me. I assumed He had led me to these verses for someone else, so I promptly shared the verses with a sweet friend. My thoughts were sincere, she needed to know that God created her uniquely and that He took time to make her who she is, and He is with her. He is there when she looks and lives out her life exactly as He planned and He is there when she stumbles and finds herself face down in the pit that tripped her up. I wanted her to be reminded of that because she is His child, He knows her thoughts, as scary as that might be, and He loves her. He is “acquainted” with her ways. There is nowhere she can go from His Spirit. Such beautiful and comforting words.
Then as I pondered, who am I kidding, I chewed hard on all these words all morning. While I know they were for her, I believe they were also for me. A sweet reminder in this season of change, in this time of asking what He wants me to do next, in my searching for the direction I am to go. I kept going back to one of the verses that kept ringing truth in my heart, “You ‘hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” A memory floats around in my mind of one of my girls when they were small. I see my husband and I walking with a three year old full of energy. Curious about everything around her, unaware of the possible dangers or obstacles that may be in her path. We stand on each side of her, watching where we are walking, scanning the area around us, clasping her tiny hands as she struggles to break free and run ahead. We see an unfriendly dog and my husband instantly pushes her and myself behind him. I pick her up and stand protected behind him, his arm and hand extended back to protect. I am reminded that God is watching me, that He is looking ahead, He is scanning the area for any threats there may be, hemming me in when needed, laying His capable hand on me to protect and, yes, comfort from any fears that may arise.
We often think we can get so far from God that there is no way back. We think, somehow we are capable of going to a place He cannot go to bring us back. He pursues us, always. You cannot hide from God. He knows you. He’s watching and knows the path you have been on and He is waiting for you to realize He is there, waiting for you to acknowledge Him and call out to Him. To know that He knows and that He cares. He won’t push in. He waits for you to allow Him back into your life.
As you read these verses, take in the comfort and rest in the promise that He is watching and He knows you. He has plans for you. He is making a way for you. He is protecting. There is nowhere you can go from His Spirit! Turn toward Him now and be wrapped in His embrace and let Him love on you.
O Lord, you have search me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol (hell), you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you.
As you read the title of this blog, didn’t you just find yourself smiling and nodding your head in agreement? There is no way any believer in their right mind would say no to that statement. Because a true and active relationship with Jesus Christ allows for the believer to understand the beauty of whispering the name of the Son of God and knowing what the privilege of knowing Him personally means in their lives.
I’ll tell you something about myself (like you haven’t already read enough about me through this blog!), but I have a weird habit of OCDing (if that is even a real thing) on a song, and playing it over and over and over and over. I usually will put it on in the morning, hit the repeat button, and walk away while it blasts on my bluetooth speaker. So lately it has been the beautiful song “Isn’t the Name” by Bethany Music. I start most mornings listening to the truths inside that song. It comforts, it inspires and it empowers.
As I listened to the lyrics this morning as I got ready, I found myself sitting there, eyes closed and tears burning my eyes. Not sad tears, but overwhelmed tears. Overwhelmed by the fact that I have full access to Jesus. When life is good or when it’s bad, He is there.
The truth of the words “all the world can come to Him and have their sins removed”. Saving grace in a moment. Salvation. Surrender, come to Him and He will make all things new. We don’t have to work harder, live better, give more, we just come to Him. “Eternal King, you will reign forever and we will see the glory of your name. Be lifted high, for all the world to see, your name is all we need.” His name is all we need. When we shut out the chaos of this world, the constant social media, the news, the chatter and breathe deep His presence and whisper His name. He is there. He promises that. Over and over in scripture He tells us through words written thousands of year ago, “my children, lost souls, broken hearts, come to me. Those of you with heavy hearts weighed down by life’s circumstances, call on me, whisper my name, and I am there.” But we have to surrender our own will, we have to realize He is all we need….His name is all we need. Because, “There’s freedom in the name, healing in the name, there’s power in the name, salvation in the name, there is life in the name, there is no other name, but Jesus.”
So if you are reading this, and your heart hurts for whatever situation or circumstances you feel are closing in on you. If you feel like the chaos of this world is just too much right now. If you are dealing with illness, pain or loss. Perhaps you are looking for something that has meaning and truth. Let me tell you that there is salvation in His name. There is power in His name. There is healing in His name. Close the door on the world right now. Close your eyes and just whisper His name. Call out to Him. He will be there for you. Find comfort in His presence. Find forgiveness in His presence. Find strength in His presence. Find life in His presence.
Last night I rocked out to the Eagles. Well. Not the ACTUAL Eagles, but a really good band that sounded just like the Eagles. I stepped outside my normal, humdrum, square life and went to a concert with my big guy. He was so excited. Our daughter and her husband dropped us off at the door. Our friends, who met us there, gave us a hard time, saying “It used to be that our parents dropped us off at the door….now your kids are dropping you off at the door.” He was right. After finding our seats, which were perfect may I say, 3rd row in the balcony dead center. I started people watching right away. I quickly surmised that the average age in the room was again 50! It’s really fun to watch a room full of 50 somethings rock out to a band that 35 years ago they were jumping up and down, screaming and singing at the top of their lungs. These adults, now all sat in their seats, heads bobbing, and reminiscent smiles on their faces as they mouthed the words to Take It Easy and Desperado. I felt pretty cool sitting next to my big guy, as he sang every song, word for word. Truth is, 35 years ago we wouldn’t have been together at an Eagles concert. He was too cool and I was about a million miles from cool. After intermission, The Black Jacket Symphony returned to the stage to play the Eagles greatest hits. I am happy to say I knew most of the songs….but not necessarily all the words. Near the end of the concert, people were finally getting a little rowdy….maybe because they had had time to loosen up from drinking, and things were really getting cranked, when the band finally finished their last song. I was again amused by the orderly and quick manner everyone exited the theatre at 10:30pm, possibly a late night for most! Uber and Lyft vehicles were waiting outside, people laughed and swayed as they left, enjoying the moment of reliving their youth jamming at a rock concert.
Our daughter and her husband pulled up to the sidewalk and opened the doors for us to get in….”Did you crazy kids have fun?” they laughed. “We did!” we quickly responded, just like two teenagers.
On the ride home we talked about the songs, the people and memories of certain songs. Then I told my sweet man, “I’ve loved coming to the concerts with you. I kind of felt like I was one of the cool people for a change. But, I’ll be honest with you, I’m not coming to hear Led Zeppelin in January.” He laughed and said, “I wasn’t even going to ask?” He knows me.
Eighteen years ago at this moment, I was standing in my living room, my 2 year old was running around singing, carefree, and I was staring at the t.v. watching a plane fly into the 2ndtower of the World Trade Center, my phone was still in my hand and I could vaguely hear my husband’s voice calling my name. I remember the words I said to him “Is this real?”. It was real. Moments later I saw scenes from the Pentagon, a gaping hole in one side of it and people running in all directions. Then suddenly the scenes changed again and I watched first one, then the second tower collapse in a cloud of smoke and debris. People running from the billowing cloud chasing them, terror on their ash covered faces. They were in shock. Running for their lives. Then, yet again, breaking news of a plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania. By this time, I’m sitting on the couch, no longer on the phone, holding my little girl who was begging me to read her a story. I couldn’t quite collect my thoughts. I had a sense of fear creeping up from somewhere inside me. What was happening? These things happened other places. Not in America. People bombed other places. Other places dealt with this kind of violence on a regular basis, not here. As I sat taking in scene after scene, I heard my two-year-old ask me with concern “Why you cryin’ Mamma?” I didn’t even realize that tears had slipped unnoticed down my cheeks. “I’m okay, sweet girl, let’s find you a fun movie to watch.” I took her hand and led her to her chair in her room, popped in the first video I came to and she promptly sat down to watch it.
I felt numb. In a matter of minutes, our world had changed. Violence and hate from other places had spilled over into our world and now fear was roaming free across our country.
This is the crazy part. I had made plans to go shopping with a friend and her little boy. For some reason, we decided to go ahead. Maybe it was our attempt to try to be normal. Maybe we thought it would make things normal. It did not. We drove to the outlet mall, our conversation strained as we talked about shopping, then about the events of the morning, then quiet. We walked around for forty-five minutes looking, but not really seeing what the stores had to offer. People were acting strangely. Awkward. I told my friend I thought we needed to go home, and so we loaded the little ones back up and headed back to the safety of our homes.
I was in line early to pick up my older two girls, so were many anxious parents. I formulated over and over what I would say to them, how I would explain that our country had been attacked by evil men who hated America. I watched as teachers lead students out, dazed looks on their faces as they watched carefully after their students. Children, kept unaware of the events of that morning, laughed and skipped and held their friend’s hands. “They have no idea.” I thought to myself.
As they got in the car, my oldest who was ten asked “What’s going on today, Mom, the teachers have been acting weird all day.” So there it was, the acknowledgement that things had changed and they sensed it. “Let’s talk about it when we get home.” I looked in the rearview mirror at their faces as they exchanged looks that said more than words.
At home I fixed them something to drink and we sat down. I slowly started to tell them about what had happened that morning. I chose my words carefully. I did not want to stir up fear in their hearts. My seven-year-old, in all her innocence asked “Are they gonna blow us up?” I looked at her and said “I don’t think so, I’m sure we are going to be fine. But we need to pray for all those people in New York and Washington DC who were hurt, and the families of those that were killed. I’m sure they are all in shock and afraid.” But were we really going to be fine? My ten-year-old, who was more serious about life, came and sat beside me. No words were necessary. I decided that the t.v. would stay off, it would not help them to see scene after scene of the carnage in the aftermath played over and over.
I teach 11th& 12thgrade girls in Sunday School, and I realized a few weeks ago that to them 9-11 is just a history lesson. Something they read about in school. Just like I did when I was in school when I read about Pearl Harbor or WWII. They don’t know that life was different before that day. This life they live now is normal for them. They live in a world that is a constant intake of news and media in the palm of their hands.
So today, we remember. We remember all the lives that were taken by people who have some twisted reasoning for causing so much death, so much damage, so much fear. We remember a day when bombings or shootings were not news worthy for a moment, until the next act of violence grabbed the media attention. We remember a day we didn’t look at people who were different than us with some trepidation. We remember the heroics of the police, the EMT’s, the firemen, the medical personnel, the average man or woman who ran to help others. We remember the victims on board those planes, who knew in an instant that this was the end for them, yet they still bravely fought back saving lives and losing their own. We remember a president who we didn’t always agree with, yet he stood on that mountain of what was left of the World Trade Center and shed tears and hugged average people who had done above average acts of bravery.
People in other parts of the world say we are indulged Americans who are self-centered and arrogant. Maybe so. But we average Americans love our country and we love helping people. We live in a world now where we are more aware than ever that violence and hate roams within our borders. We are more aware of the dangers. How could we forget because the media tries to keep a spirit of fear stirred up every day. But there is still goodness in this world. We Americans may not agree on a lot of things: politics, immigration, and global warming, all are topics that stir up heated discussions and anger. But one thing ties us together. We are Americans. We come to the rescue of the injured, the weak, the hungry. We send food and medical help to people who are suffering in disasters or war-torn countries. The world may say they hate us, but they come to us first when they need help. I believe, that if the need arose, we Americans, we would stand and defend our people, our country, and our borders, against a twisted religion that condones violent acts. We will stand up against a people who are invading our country under the guise of pursuing the American dream, only to try to force us to change our laws to their laws, or force us to accept their mindset. We won’t do it. We may make efforts to respect your beliefs. We may offer help if you need it. We may even try to call you friend. But we are not ignorant of your hidden agenda. We are not idiots. We see. We listen. We stand against the ugliness that has taken root in your mind and in your hearts. We were not defeated or disabled on September 11, 2001. We were awakened. We were educated. We will remember. We will teach our children to remember. We will remind each other of what is right and good. To all those families and friends who lost people they love on that day. We remember. We pray for you.