Category Archives: life

the time to decide

20120822-204054.jpgThe timer is set for 10 minutes. The paper and pen are in front of you.

–You have 10 minutes to decide how you are going to spend the rest of your life.

Ready?

Go!

Its scary! We’re more comfortable maintaining the day to day “dull-ities” than we are chasing our biggest life desire. So we dream, fantasize, drool and ponder the what if’s. We spend just about every free moment discussing what we long to be doing, while we give our life away to what we long NOT to be doing. Doesn’t make sense does it?

The Apostle Paul says it clear to the Romans, (7:19), “I do what I don’t want to do, but then I don’t do what I want to do.” Even the great apostle recognized his lack of decision-ability.

How many months and years drag on before actually deciding what your going to do “when you grow up?” I’ll confess, as of 33, my major in life is still “undecided.” Or rather, life has been much like my college days declaring a new major based on the cute boys or the potential career earnings. (My apologies to the Atlanta Braves, for never finishing that sports therapy degree, and to the Department of Education who could have hired me has a Kindergarten teacher, and to McDonalds Corporation who surely would have hired me as their Global Marketing Director). Lets face it, I have jumped more ships than Captain Sparrow.

My honey man and I recently evaluated the number of years we have been dreaming of the life we want to live. We quickly realized we have both spent a lifetime, as Paul says “doing what I don’t want to do.”

Maybe the deadline doesn’t need to be 10 minutes, or hours or days. Or maybe it only takes one single life altering moment, to be forever changed.  It’s time to decide.

Deadlines are to decisions as fuel is to fire…extremely flammable!

Armed with this truth what do you do?

The paper and pen are in front of you.

The timer is set.

Ready?

Go!

  • Warning: this exercise may lead to heart palpitations, stomach ulcers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, heartburn, nausea, dizziness, migraines, dry mouth, irritability, stress, chronic fatigue, depression & researching WebMD for signs of BiPolar disorder. Proceed with caution.

Friends and The Nitty Gritty

It’s time for this nitty gritty post to go live. I’ve been drafting old “nitty” and hiding all the “gritty” even from myself. But today is a new day and I’m letting it out. So, hide yo’ wife, hide yo’ kids, here goes, ya’ll…

Confession: The recent months have seemed like a blur. It felt like the roller coaster ended, but my head was still spinning.

I was having one of those weeks where every stitch of clothing in our home that “should” be washed, was not washed. Every single mug, cup, saucer or storage container was pilled high in the sink – all dirty. We had resorted to drinking coffee out of measuring cups.

Unfortunately we were giving into the nasty habit of piling the clean, clothes-to-be-folded stack all on top of the guest bed, in hopes that the laundry fairy will take care of them overnight…only to find the pile much bigger the following day. So poor GuestBed was caving under about 60 pounds of laundry.

My Orlando sister-friend – the one who helped me christen my love for all things Audrey Hepburn – let me unload all my luggage of the “Mean Reds” on her. she listened. again.

It’s not like the blues. And it’s not like the yucks. And it’s not even like my case of “I’m sick for pickled pigs feet” either. – this is beyond all that. Just beyond.

You know there are days you just feel – frumpy. or gross. or just blaghk. But you can get in the car, or sit in front of the mirror and do your make up for an extra 10 minutes while listening to The Morning Show in the background, read a devotional, say a prayer and it all seems to start balancing out. You just move on. Well the past few weeks….or maybe, months, that “moving on” button was not resetting. I think it got some syrup on it, from eating too many pancakes in bed one day – and I just could not muster the energy to fix that “I’m ok today” reset button.

Honestly, I haven’t been ok. And my husband, poor sweet baby honey tender soul, (bless his heart), has dealt the brunt of it — along with my heavenly husband, Jesus. (bless his heart too.) They have loved me. unconditionally. Although somedays I’ve questioned even that much. I’ve pleaded with one and prayed to the other, “please just love me.” Knowing, they surely do, but feeling, truly “how could they?” I mean LOOK at me! I’m a mess. I’m beyond a mess. I’m a wreck.

I’ve gone for months with no prayers, just tears, since saying goodbye to the beautiful life. And then there were no more tears to cry, only questions, anger, new realms of resentment and bitterness.

And I got to that point when I thought it must be the lowest possible point ever, hanging on by a thread. Another week goes by, I realize “now this is the lowest.” – and then the next day hits hard. nope. here it is. I found myself no longer comparing days of glory, but instead the depth upon new depth of my sorrow.

But the moment the rope slipped out of my hand, the very moment I lost my grip, letting go of every shred of hope left inside me, I get a text message. A friend was thinking about me. She asked us to dinner that night. The following day, more emails, facebook love and letters from friends who were just thinking about me. The next day, a whirlwind of love from another friend. And a few nights later another sushi dinner date with friends.

But that friday Afternoon in the midst of all of these beautiful hands extended, as if God were saying “this is how I love you,” I received a very timely phone call from one special Audrey-loving friend. It was our second long-distant-friend call that week. A few days earlier, she shared of her own “red moments” and I listened, we committed to “link arms” and prayed, like I know to do. But I hung up questioning how God could hear a prayer from this heart that was in so much disarray. But He did.

He used that sweet friend to bless me back two days later when she called me and listened. I broke down and balled like a baby while confessing how disordered and discontent my life was. YES! ME! The one who is supposed to always have it together. The Church Girl. The Sunday School Teacher.

Instead of simply patting me on the back like a good Christian friend, she did more. She took action. Immediately. She overnighted me a book. Express Mail. Saturday morning special delivery. And it was not just any book. It was the EXACT book for my moment — and for her’s too. She counseled me with the grace and wisdom of a little old church grandma.

The following day was filled again with FRIENDS and football!

Thank God for friends.

Thank you Lord for beginning a great new work in me and for purging another layer back from the onion of my soul.

I am happy to report, the guest bed is cleared of its six…teen loads of laundry.

And sweet tender soul honey bunny has been happy to see me smiling at 8AM while making homemade pancakes for him.

…and I finally let Jesus help me clean that sticky syrup off my reset button, and is helping me move forward.

If you have found yourself living out the nitty-gritty or the mean reds, I know our God can help rescue you too!

in the storm

Wednesday night the rains came in. Lots of rain. Black clouds over head. I was driving through the middle of it. Zero visibility around 6 o’clock, the roads super slushy, cars driving home from work, out to church, all moving at a snails pace. I cant even see the lines on the road, weaving into both lanes. Right-brain chides left-brain, “This is Idiot Weather. Idiot.” Why am I continuing on this journey, driven to my destination. What was I thinking with all that ambition, that I could actually do this? I realized I was fighting through the biggest storm of the season, darkly daunting just above my head. I keep going.

Because the car in front of me keeps going. Their tail lights my guide. Even when I felt that urge to merge off to the side, I kept going. My rear view mirror reflecting the cars behind me. They were depending on my lights to guide them through this storm too. That kept me going.

Maybe we think we can’t make it through the storm. After all, this could very well be the scariest storm of our life. Its dangerous and seemingly has the power to destroy us. The black that looms on through the night. We have every reason to stop, cower down and take a moment to cover our heads. Everything in us screams self preservation. But what if our tail lights are the only thing keeping someone else safely on the road behind us?

Later, I notice how that most powerful storm on the out side created the sweetest atmosphere on the inside, and cozied in the most peaceful night’s rest.  {Keith and I have one of those soothing-sounds alarm clocks, and our go to sleep sound is always the Thundering Rain Forest, ahh its so delightful.}

How is it that the sound of a billowing storm can sooth ones soul?

We were created with a propensity for resting in the storms. After all, our Maker’s Son did that while at the bottom of a boat in the middle of a stormy sea.  To his disciples amazement, he slept right through the storm!  And when questioned about His unfathomable peace, he simply went out and proved that a few dark clouds are nothing that His power can’t conquer.

A C. H. Spurgeon thought on storms…

“This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison.”

Today:

~ Hold on to His Power.

~~ Rest in it… Rest in the Storm.

~~~Take note of fellow pilgramers looking to you to guide them through the storm.

~~~~Take note of what this storm may be “heralding” in your life of what the Lord has in store.

I don’t always post music, country music at that! But this one was my song for this moment. “Stand”

“Cause when push comes to shove, You taste what you’re made of, You might bend till you break, Cause? it’s all you can take, On your knees, you look up, Decide you’ve had enough, You get mad, you get strong, Wipe your hands, shake it off, Then you stand…. Everytime you get up, And get back in the race, One more small piece of you, Starts to fall into place.”

the good luggage

My Sunday School teacher (i.e. husband) asked our class this past weekend, ‘If money were no object, what would you do?’

Me: Buy some good luggage…the Louis Vuitton luggage…

I mean you did say that money was no object, right?  Because, when I stroll through the stores I often find myself in the luggage department.  Whether I’m at Ross or Sak’s Fifth, I love to test out and pretend I’m actually “leaving on a jet plane” and I’m shopping for the perfect bag for my perfect trip!

Barnes and Noble, walking through the travel section I mentally photograph every book I plan to someday purchase for our trips overseas.

Airports make me happy.  They make little birds fly out of my heart and sing a song.  The smell of the exhaust fums billowing out of the back of a big beautiful Prevost, intoxicate my entire day like a Venti Java Chip Frap does on a hot summer afternoon.  YES!!  I love all things travel.

Now, while I was dreaming rather superficially on my designer selection, my reasons for this choice are entirely different.  All of these tangible items I mentioned Sunday lend to my hearts desire to travel to the nations, to minister in song and spirit.

Pastor Chris Hodges @ Church of the Highlands said in his message on Sunday, called “Baggage” that he was absolutely not a fan of travel, He was all about the destination.  I know, it’s not something for everyone.  So, he asked the audience if they were Journey people who liked traveling or Destination people who like arriving!  I have to say I’m a completely exhilarated Journey girl!! (btw: my brother and his kids made a cameo appearance in the opening of the Baggage message – the guy on the laptop with the kids around…yup, that’s Dave and my adorable niece and nephew!)

Our Sunday School class is talking and opening up our hearts more and more to this Dream Giver God of ours.  Dreaming beyond our limits.  Imagining beyond the bonds of our financial barriers.  Truly looking deep down into our soul to those core gifts that were planted there before we were born and asking the question at this middle of the road in our life, “Who were we created to be?”

This week, I’m stretching my heart’s eye to no longer look at the obstacles preventing me from moving into “REAL JOY” – but actually beginning to take the journey, and traveling where it leads.

So, what would you do if money were no object?

~~~~~

….”all my bags are packed, I’m ready to go”

Bless the hands…

A few months ago I invited my grandmother over to eat dinner with us in our tiny love-shack-of-a-kitchen.  Not just the quick and easy kind of dinner either.  It was the full home cooked spread.

Given my previous lack of skills in the kitchen, this moment was truly an amazing feat for me.  I have kitchen stories from the early days of our marriage that we won’t even speak of…there are jello disasters and dish rags full of tears from the trials and “terrors” of my efforts with Mr. Uncle Ben…moments that had prevented me from even opening the cabinets, forcing me to accept my fate as a future drive-thru mom.

However, I am blessed with a heritage of heroic Godly women, and also of great southern cooks.  Dinner is traditionally more than just a meal, it’s a moment.  My mom and grandmother, and their mothers, made sure of that.  We eat at the prepared table, and we eat together, when it’s just ready.  There’s a call to wash up, then the call to “gather round.”

After the rounding, we “gather” hands and pray.  Each one has their own favorite words, “Dear Lord,”  “Dear Heavenly Father,” “Thank you Jesus.”   But there is one that phrase resounds at the end of every prayer.  You can almost feel it coming, the breathing pause, and then these precious words, “…and bless the hands that prepared it.”

I’ve never really given a second thought to why we prayed this.   Gathering over our meal that night, I hear my grandmother praying the family blessing over my hands.  That moment awakened me to the secret of how, and why my favorite women have been so richly gifted with great cooking hands.  It’s not the special cast iron skillet, its not from her special spoon or pan, or even the particular brand names she favors, but rather from the many gathered hands simply asking God to “bless them.”

Now, the more I cook, the more I hear someone blessing me, helping me move a step further into this rich heritage.

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”               — Mother Teresa.

The bible says, “In all things we are more than conquerers…” Rom 8:37

~What things do you need God to help you make great?

Bubbles

Most of our worlds are remiss from moments that shake or shatter the core of our being.  Most of the time we are protected and sealed off from painful heart ache spurred by tragedy.  We see it on the news, read it in  magazines or books of how it has happened to other people, but we never want to believe it could happen to us?

No. Instead we float.  Like Bubbles.  Our life  seems to glisten and shine floating individually, to the pattern and rhythm of our own beautiful micro-world.  Our safe space. The place where where we imagine nothing can happen to us, as long as we are floating.

Bubbles.

As I washed my dishes Friday afternoon, on my 31st birthday, having just returned from a week away to Virgina for my precious cousins funeral, I found myself pondering those vanishing bubbles in my sink.  Also, mulling over my afternoon spent making phone calls and getting quotes for “grown up stuff” a.k.a. life insurance, better vehicle coverage, medical insurance, etc.  I made a round of calls pursuing things I have avoided and never really gave a second thought to…until now.  Because life, for me, has seemed to exist as a series of moments, floating from one dance to the next.

Just like those bubbles disappearing in my sink, my perfectly pleasant bubble instantly burst on June 12th when I received news that my 33 year old cousin – a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a mother to two little children had tragically died in a climbing accident.  No one wants to believe it will ever happen to them or to their family.

I am guilty as charged for portraying the grotesque role of false empathy.  A pat on the back, a hug, a simple “I’m so sorry,” or “Ohhh, that’s tough.”  A card, an email, maybe even a prayer or two.  But secretly in my shiny bubble world, moving away as quickly as possible as to not interfere or collide into a world of pain or sorrow. Because it’s not my world and it’s not my problem, my heart is sadly relieved that it’s not me wearing their shoes.  And only moments later moving along and floating once again.

For years, I have boycotted the news.  I avoid hearing the tragic stories. My ignorance has been my bliss.  It’s been my safe place.  But I have now awakened to a realization during this season that as a Christian, that ignorance is not truely bliss.  It’s simply one of the nasty offspring’s of fear….denial.   My ignorance is unintentionally denial.  Living in fear, is not from the Lord, neither is living in denial.  I’m realizing this now, and principles from the Word are leaping from my heart as reminders of how I can move forward:

“Cast your cares upon the Lord — for he cares for you!” 1 Peter 5:7

~

“Bear one another’s burdens.” Gal 6:2

~

“I can do (emotionally handle) ALL things through Christ who gives me strength” Phil 4:13

My confidence in this confession only comes from recent conversations of friends who share the bubble life with me.  We say it doesn’t matter that we don’t call each other during life’s trials and celebrations, because we “know” we love each  other.  Every year when I flip over the December calendar, I renew an age old promise that ‘this’ will be the year that I celebrate my friends and loved ones special days…but the calendar rolls on, and I continue to float.

Moving beyond this tragedy, time has been an epic enemy.  It’s like the further time moves beyond the moment of our loss, the more our life exists without our beloved. However, this challenge of passing time has given me a newness for living life beyond the floating bubble.  I’m learning to richly soak in each hug, to notice every tear and to embrace even the smallest of treasures, for they are fleeting and priceless.

the Ambassador

Do you ever have brain freezes over a single word?  A word that makes you ponder amazingly deep and profound ideas?  It’s the power of a word.  The momentum, the possibility of a verb, a noun, an adjective.

My recent juncture found me deep in thought over a single noun:  “Ambassador.”

Ambassador.  The dictionary grips my heart and translates this moment best with part three and four, of it’s definition:

3. An authorized messenger or representative.
4. An unofficial representative, “an ambassador of goodwill.

Many adjectives come to mind when I heard this word in my heart. “Brand” Ambassador – as mentioned on my favorite reality show, Celebrity Apprentice by the hunky chef Curtis Stone.

We even have “National Ambassadors” given to the heads of nations.

When my parents were growing up, their youth were called C.A’s for “Christ’s Ambassadors”. If they were here reading this article, they would be lifting their hands in the air with hippy movement, singing a song that sounds like “Kumbaya’s” cousin.

When I was growing up, my Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag accompanied me each summer to “Camp Ambassador.” We didn’t have a special song, but we did sing and have a competition for ‘Camp Queen.’ And I humbly wore the “runner up” title to my friend, Haley “future Miss America contestant” Spates…who at age make-me-sick-seven could sing perfectly like Sandi Patti. Ahhh, not bitter, nope not one bit. (haha! Haley is a dear friend, even still today, which makes our memories even sweeter!) Our election speeches were given on the back of a big old camp bus, called “The Glory Land Express.” Mine went something like this, “Hi my name is Jennifer, I’m from cabin number seven, if you vote for me, you’ll go to Heaven.” The little preacher even in 5th grade – guess you can see why “Sandi” won the crown that summer!

So this idea. Ambassador. Pounding in my heart. I responded as usual. Scribbled the word out on a 3×5 index card and jabbed it to a bulletin board for some pondering. My thoughts immediately went to charity, evangelism, missions and discipleship, which I sub-jotted below the giant word with my fine tip sharpie. A month later I realize why this blog has been in “draft mode” since April 17th. God has been preparing me for something greater than my own human mind could surmise as a meaning for that simple index card. He has opened the door wide for me to become what I can only imagine to be the greatest type of ambassador possible, a “Prayer Ambassador.

Three weeks ago today, on May 11th, a journey began for me that has truly “renewed a right spirit in me.”   The Lord simply asked me to launch a “call to prayer” and start a facebook group for a friend in my church who was having severe post childbirth complications, which developed into a blood disorder. She is still in the hospital. Her baby girl, who’s name is ‘Journey’ is out of the hospital doing wonderful! My friend however is still in need of a miracle. I was not sure who would join me in the prayer initiative, if any. Honestly, it felt like a crazy irrational, emotional idea but I pushed through that great wall of doubt and on Tuesday night at 7pm, the invitation opened and I sat hoping for “one or at least, God, please let there be two” who would join me! I literally started sweating and hoping for people to join me in this “if my people” type of cause. I’m super excited to say three weeks today, we have over two thousand who have joined our “little prayer group.” Look what God can do! Nothing less than a perfect miracle, and His amazing Glory working though us!

All God asks is for obedient hearts, and in return there are blessings beyond measure! We think we have to be the ones to bring the “measure” – but we are so wrong. We could NEVER accomplish His Measure! Not even if we tried. I have been overwhelmed by how much God can do with so little. What is the “little” that God is asking of you? The little whisper, the little thought? The one that seems so insignificant, that would surely be idiotic or crazy or worse…unimportant? Trust today my friend, that God is looking for those things…not our twelve hours of labor and sacrifice, he wants the small and insignificant things, so he can prove to us His Might, His Worth, and His Glory — through us.

My Five

At the recommendation from my smart, bigger, little brother, I started watching a sermon series his pastor in Birmingham preached recently, called FIVE.

It’s been on the “I’ll get around to it someday” list. And someday just happened to stumble my way recently. This series has, for me, been one of those epiphany, life-altering type moments. If you are looking to step up your life, this leadership principle will get you there. It’s called the Rule of Five, as taught from leadership guru, John Maxell, to help you obtain success, by mastering simple steps today. Pastor Hodges, bases the series on a Proverbs that says, “an intelligent man aims at wise actions…but the fool starts off in many different directions.”

He also advised FIVE seekers to take the ’30 Days to Live’ TEST. If you had 30 days to live…what would you do?

“Teach us to number our days
and recognize how few they are;
help us to spend them as we should.”

John Maxwell’s five:
-Read
-File
-Think
-Ask Questions
-Write

Pastor Chris Hodges five:
-Spending time with God
-Spend time with Spouse
-Spend time with Family
-Lead (Think, Communicate, Lead, Minister – Who did I touch today?)
-Take Care of Me.

My Five?
Still a work in progress. But having five seems to take the pressure off the list of 500 that I try to fit into my life. Clearly defining who we are in life, can happen with five simple, easy, daily routines. I like how Pastor Chris said it, “actions do not necessarily mean accomplishment.” I will have to apply that one from now on.

Jillian, on our jet?

Do you ever have those moments, ironic-type moments when you realize that, what you are saying does not match what you are doing? Isn’t it Ironic…don’t you think? (ok, enough Alanis lyrics this week–the 90’s are stuck in my brain lately!)

For instance…/em>
Eating Oreo’s and watching Biggest looser. (check)

Sitting at a burger joint, drinking coke, talking about dieting. (check, check)

Putting the last bag from Target into the trunk of the car, while talking about debt reduction (check, check, check!)

So the millionaire man and I found ourselves in the kitchen around 2 am this weekend…after sleeping for oh 2 hours, we both had one of those weird, I’m changing my sleep habits and were starving for bacon and eggs moments. To which he whipped up the meal of the century while I watched from the couch. Ahhh. Good times. K- so anyway. We started small chatting about what woke us up in the first place. I started thinking back and said, well, I never really went to sleep, I just kept laying there thinking, thinking, thinking…at first it was about the previous day, then it was about the next day, then it was about next week. The action plan of life kept playing out on the stage in my brain. But my biggest – most daring thought is my deep down desire to get over this weight issue, once and for all.

Many of my more noble female counterparts are out smokin’ that scale, in Weightlossville. They are actually successful, changing their lives and accomplishing goals. Actually making it happen, instead of talking about when it’s “going” to happen.

So. Here we are, 2 a.m, in my ironic moment, enjoying the most delicious sandwich. Bacon, cheese and yes, fried egg with just a tiny bit of mayo, smashed together between a fresh toasted sesame seed bun! mmmmm…it was soo good. And when the sandwich is not enough, I dig out the Doritos, the mother-of-all-taste-buds bag, and dig into a few rounds of cheesy fingers. And I’m telling my sexy chef just how irritated I am with myself for my current reading on the big mean fat scale. And I really need him to fly Jillian Michaels out here on our jet to come kick my big butt all over the gym. I mean what’s it going to take? As I dip in for my round two, I tell him, with orange crumbles falling onto my pink robe, how I JUST heard Dave Ramsey say that “you have to get a healthy disgust with your situation in order to start making changes.” And the chat turned hysterical as he looked at me as I’m gazing lovingly with doe shaped eyes back into my delectable bag of Doritos, and simply says with his perfect used to wear braces smile, “Baby! You are eating chips straight out of the bag, honey, I think the first step might be to simply start now.” Ok, 2 more chips, and then we are done…forever…ok, maybe 3, no 4. OK, that’s IT!!!

The January first, new year, new me day has come and gone. So this weekend, I decided to take my rich mans advice and simply start now, after all it’s the first of February and who says I can’t start now? It’s baby steps people!

Summer Blueberries

We went blueberry picking early this morning.  It was my first official “blueberry pick” – which started out around 8 AM on a nearby farm.  Keith and I picked until our hearts content.  It was super warm and continued heating up the two hours we were out there.  It was such a peaceful and fresh morning.  There was such an abundant harvest of these berries that our 20 pounds of picking did not even make a dent in those berry bushes.  We could probably go back every morning for the next two week and still have more left.

God really revealed himself to us this early morning.  Keith kept having revelations about finances and the principles of sowing and reaping.  I kept thinking about  the God of the harvest – the Lord of the Breakthrough.  As I reached my hand up to the vine to grap a bunch, one or two would often slip to the ground before I could get my hand back to the bucket.  I kept hearing him whisper, “I am willing that none should perish.”  I kept thinking about the parallels of harvesting souls, capturing them before they fall to the ground.  Also when I came home they had to be washed, weeded of bugs and plucked of the stems that held them to the vine.  Then laid out to dry, and stored…quite the process.  But just like Christians, there are several processes we must go through post salvation – or lest we may fall.  Thank you Jesus for keeping me always in the palm of your hand and teaching me something new and beautiful today on the blueberry farm.