It Takes a Village

I have never really put a lot of thought into the statement “it takes a village to raise a child” and that may be because I heard Hillary Clinton say it once and I some how associate that phrase with her.  But in the Christian community, in the church family, it does take the village to raise our children to be people who understand what God did for them, then to teach them what it means to have a relationship with Jesus and to live a life that honors God.  That church family of precious believers are the family that pours truth into their lives.  The family that cheers them on, encourages them and often comes to their rescue.

This weekend I saw this village of believers came to rescue the wedding day of my youngest daughter.  My girl had been dreaming of this day at this perfect outdoor venue for well over a year.  Our area of Alabama is known for unpredictable weather.  It is said, if you don’t like the weather, hang around for about fifteen minutes and it will change.  Saturday morning, just as forecasted, was rainy.  Not torrential, downpour rain. But steady rain.  I stood inside the house of the Historic Malbis Nursery watching the puddles form outside, trying to devise a Plan B.  I could not fathom how we would get over 150 guests, the food and the ceremony inside the building.  We decided to wait it out and be flexible with some of the decorations.  Thankfully I had brought a stack of towels “just in case”.  We delayed putting linens and centerpieces on tables.   And we prayed.  Yes.  We asked God to make the rain stop for a wedding.  It seemed shameless and selfish to ask such a thing when people in other parts of the world were praying for food!  But we prayed.  We asked our friends to pray.  We asked social media to pray.  My husband and I went back to the hotel to get ready while our baby girl was in the bridal suite getting hair and make-up done.  We got a phone call right before we were leaving to return to the venue.  We were needed for a “first look” picture asap.  As we rode back to the venue we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to shine.  We just smiled.  God in his sovereignty had chosen to answer our prayer.  As soon as we arrived we were wisked away to see our baby girl for the first time.  We were in awe at the young woman standing before us.  No longer a little girl.  No longer our baby.  But a beautiful young woman ready to marry the love of her life.

When we stepped inside the venue there was a beehive of activity.  Friends were everywhere blowing rain off the outside brick flooring, drying chairs, wiping down tables.  Linens were being put on tables and centerpieces arranged.  The caterer was busy organizing the banquet of food.  The one desire of my girl was to have chiffon draped at the ceremony site with a beautiful wooden cross draped in eucalyptus.  With the rain it didn’t seem an option because of the continued light dripping of rain off the greenery that covered the venue.  One of our friends told me to send him the picture of what she wanted and he would make it happen.  Within a short time I looked out and two wonderful men had intricately draped the chiffon exactly like the picture I had sent them.  I grabbed my daughter as she was headed back to the bridal suite and showed her the ceremony area.  Bit tears welled up in her eyes as she smiled.  She was so happy.

The events of the day progressed.  People kept coming.  Chairs were pulled from the reception area to accommodate the number of guests.  First the pastor, groom and groomsmen.  Then the bridesmaid along with my grandson wearing a sign “Uncle Zach, here comes your bride?”

Then the moment came, my sweet big guy escorting his last daughter down the aisle.  My memory raced back to a year ago as he escorted our second daughter down the aisle for her November wedding.  He had only been out of the hospital for a week from his last week long chemo treatment.  He was weak, bloated and hairless from five months of treatment, but he was there, walking her proudly down the aisle.  Here we were a year later and he looked amazing.  New suit, bowtie, goatee and a huge smile.  He proudly held her arm in his.

The ceremony began and then finished with our girl and her young man washing each other’s feet as their first act of love toward each other as they served each other just as our Savior did for His disciples in the last days before His return to heaven.  It was sweet, it was moving, it was precious.

The reception followed with lots of dancing, hugs and laughter.  They were surrounded by people who have poured into their lives.  People who love them and have watched them in their walk with Jesus.  People who willingly came and made this day perfect for them.

They departed in a flurry of confetti, bubbles and silly string. All appropriate for these to kids who fell in love in their church youth group, then dated for two more years before becoming engaged.  Then they went to their hotel, quickly changed clothes and went off to bowl with a group of friends until almost midnight.  I have to laugh at this last part.  It just speaks volumes about the relationship and personalities of these two kids.  Because in reality they are still kids at heart.  Two twenty year olds stepping into adulthood, filled with love and excitement for what the future has for them.  They have a wonderful support group around them.  A village.  A church family.  They love Jesus and desire to live for Him.  So here’s to a new life for Molly and Zach Johnson.  I have a feeling God has big plans for these two!

As a postscript….I received a text from my baby girl later that night, while they were hanging with friends and bowling.  It said “thank you for making my dream come true today, it was perfect.”

 

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Happy Fall Y’all

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!

Being Obedient

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

 

A Year and a Half Ago

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.

 

He Knows Me….

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.

Psalm 139:1-12

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.

Isn’t the Name of Jesus Beautiful…

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.

Jesus!

 

Rocking Out With The Eagles…

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.