Friday, February 13, 2015

The Roots of Friendship

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." Isaiah 6:8

It is a blessing in life to have complete strangers become family. November 2008, I walked into a church as a single mother. Having been judged by the world, I had thick skin. Unfortunately, the demeanor I carried blocked out God's will in my life. I sat under the preaching of Pastor Justin Gallaway that Sunday morning, and felt loved and welcomed by those in his college and career class. After class he introduced me to his wife, Whitney, and they asked for my contact information. I thought they both smiled too much, but I would quickly find that I wanted that same genuine joy in the Lord that they had. Through five and a half years, the Gallaway family were my mentors, parents, shelter, best of friends, confidants, marriage counselors, and my rock. They are now following God's will to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to start a college and career program to the students and young people there. When I was first told they were moving, I cried and could only think, "What do I do now?" Now... I can reminisce on the events and victories that I have had the privilege to have them with me.  It has been amazing to see God work in their lives and my family's since their move, but still often reminded of them.

When Dallas was 1 year old, I was in a place of growth and healing. Justin would always have great parenting advice for me; rap music did not seem to be suitable for Dallas at such a young age according to him. Having him hold me accountable to my influence truly was a blessing. Thankfully, I can say that I honor Justin like a father and was able to see the love in his "suggestions". Being able to trust him was a building block to the support I would need with trials to come. Forever, I will remember his guidance when Wes passed away. Being in his home when a police officer vaguely told me the news of Wes' passing was a "God thing". I felt safe yet so lost. On the drive to the police station where the events of his passing would be told to me, John Tesh was giving marriage advice on Sunny 92.3 for the ways to have a successful marriage... Justin's intuition led him to change to a Christian station where "I Can Only Imagine" started to play. To this day, when it's just too hard to understand, I go back to that song as God's promise of salvation to Wes. When a group of loved ones took me back to my home after the police station, Justin was one of two men that stood guard against the flock of media wanting answers to a story I didn't want to be living. Luckily, Justin had his Cowboy mean mustache groomed that night. I don't even think the poor journalists even got a toe on my property.

Behind the tough exterior was a sappy, cry at everything, love the Lord, completely surrender in brokenness man. He is not afraid to shout "Amen" or "Glory" in a service. The Holy Spirit flows from him. When he married Chris and me, I had placed restrictions on him to not joke and keep it serious. Surprisingly, my wedding ceremony is one of the greatest moments of my life. I knew that with Justin marrying us that he believed Chris and I would make it no matter what... Having his blessing and officiation of our wedding was the greatest gift he has ever given us. Thank you for your prayers when I have had to walk through the lowest valleys of my life. Thank you for showing me and guiding many others to a life of holiness- set apart and living for the Lord. 

(Look how little you are! How are those size 34 pants working out in Myrtle?)

Whitney is Justin's better half. (His words, not mine!) But I do have to agree with him. I had an extreme bitterness towards women before I met Whit. Learning of her testimony over the years has only brought us closer. She is not one that I want to speak at my funeral- the 4 am talks on her couch will go to our graves! It is so good to have a friend that I can be completely real with- failures and showing brokenness, sharing successes without worrying if we are sounding too proud, being able to say that life just doesn't seem fair sometimes. I love this lady so much. I barely want to write about her, because I want to keep all of her goodness exclusive to our friendship. 

But let me tell you, she is stretched far and wide in the area of friendship. I don't know of any enemies that Whitney has. She is supportive, kind, and genuine. The girls of the college class would joke at the advice that Whit would give and we wouldn't take. Most breakups were summed up with, "Should have listened to Whit that my ex wasn't the one for me!" Although we should have led her to a life of craziness, she was always there to support and lift us up in prayer and God's Word. 

I cannot count how many things I have struggled with or number the prayer requests that I have carried to Whit for accountability, but she has always been someone I can count on. Most importantly, she has taught me that God always has a purpose for His timing. If nothing else, I know that my life is watched over by a loving God that wants the best for me. She has been an encouragement to me and many others to recognize our worth in His eyes. 

I have had many "Ah ha!" moments under Whitney's teaching. I remember her filling a cup of water, shaking it up, water splashing everywhere, telling the story of Jonah, and just sobbing while she talked... Being at a point where I felt like everything had been taken from me, that night I just knew God was preparing to fill me back up. Fast forward three years later, and I am still being filled. Her encouragement has helped me to see the Savior that my Lord can daily be. It's so real to Whitney, one can't help but to want what she has. 

I pray that the Lord blesses your ministry with relationships to help sustain you in the valleys and triumphs that make climbing the mountain a beautiful journey. May you always feel that your life has purpose and that the words hitting sorrowful faces are sinking to the heart. I pray that God opens doors wide and that you have the strength to stand in the hallways. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Winter Season

Journal Entry: January 19, 2015 "It's only Monday and I'm a little stir crazy. Usually this doesn't happen until Thursday. If I can hold off until Friday, then I give myself a pat on the back. But Monday? I don't know how we will survive." 

I recently had a conversation with several college ages girls about hair and washing and styling the hair. When asked how often I shampoo mine, "About twice a week." I received blank stares and half smiles. I then explained that I trained my hair to only need to be shampooed twice a week. How? Well, because that's all I had time for so oil production just had to slow down while I made breakfast in the mornings and did the pointless sleeping thing at night. 

A lot has slowed down besides the amount of times I am able to wash, dry, and style. With homeschool lessons and toddler tantrums, home is where my time is spent. It barely labels me as a hermit; I have constant companionship with my three best friends.  And my son reading under a homemade tent is in no way a reflection of his socialization outside the home. I am thankful for this season. God knew I needed a winter season to carry me through to the spring where I am sure things will be in bloom. I can feel it. These little seeds I'm sowing are ready to sprout up. The cold has brought hibernation but soon the sun will shine. 

I started this the beginning of 2015 to chronicle the next 5 years of my life. I have a feeling that these fleeting years to come will be the hardest. It's a balance and self sacrifice that the days demand. A kind word is found after walking away and saying one of those out loud, pleading prayers. Teaching moments are taught when Lillie-Mae tells the stranger "I don't like you! Go away!" in response to their praise of good behavior. I want to have these moments in word so that when these kiddos are grown and gone I can remember these {hard yet rewarding} times at home. I pray I don't fill it with fluff but that I point out the good and the bad. Notice the bite marks? I think it gives it character. Truly, this slowed down, hibernating season is a time where all things "Mommy" are marked by a child's needs. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I'm Mary and I'm Martha...

"I'm Mary and I'm Martha all at the same time;
I'm sitting at His feet and yet I'm dying to be recognized.
I am a picture of contentment and I am dissatisfied.
Why is it easy to work but hard to rest sometimes..."

Wake up. Make coffee. Pray. Sit in silence. Map out day. Prepare for family waking. 

Stand. Make healthy breakfast. Serve. Ask for child to pray. Bless. Talk in peace.  Show love. 

In the midst of the sitting and standing tango of motherhood service, there is a constant pull to be Mary and Martha. To be Martha, we serve with an intent filled heart. Serving to fulfill a physical need. As Mary, we step away from the lack of thankfulness for grace at Jesus' feet. 

Floors ask to be mopped. Child asks to "Hold me..." So I hold and rock and assure that all is well. You are loved. I can show love. Because it was given to me... the child can feel it too. 

The ever present ding of the phone is a friend whose heart is incomplete. Struggling with the loss magnified this holiday season. I want to bake cookies and drive to give a hug. I want to deck her halls as she naps with a newborn. But despite the intent of service in my heart, only the Mary in me can console. Only words of joy and remembrance. Because I have been shown peace... I can assure that it can be found. 

Six loads of clean laundry needing to be folded is the only thing standing between me and a perfectly clean house. The ever punctual child reminds me that 36 minutes ago I promised that we would make ornaments in 30 minutes. The heart to serve is now torn in two. They need clean clothes, organized and placed just so. Sitting at the feet of Jesus, I am reminded of the times I have split His calling in two. He has shown me flexibility {because that is one face of mercy}... so I can turn my heart to the desires of the child. 

"I'm restless, and I rustle like a thousand tall trees;
I'm twisting and I'm turning in an endless daydream.
You wrestle me at night and I wake in search of You...
But try as I might, I just can't catch You
But I want to, 'cause I need You..."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

They said... He said...

"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10 

"Buy a white slipcover," they said... 
     "It will show stains. But you can wash it and put it right back on! It's a clean, simple, look to pull a room together." 

I inherited a good couch from my sister. It was tan and in good condition- minus the cat scratching post that the sides had become. It was perfect for the playroom. I had always wanted a white couch, so I took to blog land to seek the expertise of veterans of the white slipcover. One such blog had a seamstress make an inexpensive shabby chic, ruffle, couch slipcover from heaven... I jumped over to the chic seamstress's website for a quote on my couch. Two days later, I received the practical quote of $750... And by practical, I mean someone who has a trust fund set aside to specifically purchase a slipcover. I contemplated following the advice of one thrifty blogger by throwing a white sheet over the couch and strategically tucking and pinning until a desirable fit was achieved. I found an old green sheet turned drop cloth before dropping the big bucks at Wal Mart for a new white sheet... No tucking or pinning could keep the sheet in place with 3 kids, 2 cats, and a husband that abused the new to us couch on a daily basis... I found a friend in blog land who had purchased an Ikea slipcover and did a happy dance while typing in my credit card information to get me one. The husband put it on the day it was delivered. It took me a week to get over the imperfect fit (an inch or two too short in the back). But really, it did provide a type of serene sense of relaxation in the middle of what was usually a battleground of dolls and play trucks. However, my friend, if I can even call her that anymore,  forgot to clue me in on how frustrating it was to put the piece of happiness back on once washed. I let a few stains happen. You know, the usual I'm going to use the couch as a chalkboard, jump on it like a
Trampoline with muddy socks, pee on the couch like its the best cloth diaper ever to touch my hiney, and let's sleep on here forgetting we have a Frappuccino in our lap kind of stains... My handy dandy Norwex detergent and hot water, heavy soaking washer removed the stains with one cycle. Woo hoo! I do love this slipcover, I thought... My friend had said to dry the cover to dampness and then put on so I would not have to iron. Isn't she a gem for getting me out of ironing. I mean, I do enough ironing with the hand towels, underwear, and fancy silk dresses we wear daily. I came upstairs to re assemble some peace in the playroom, occasionally glancing at my son doing his seat work all on his own, the gas logs bringing a warmth up to us, and my cat preparing her paws for her bed to be made. After halfway fitting the first cushion, I had to remove a jacket, then socks, wind my hair up in a bun and give myself a pep talk to do the same thing 5 more times. It was a full body workout. I deserved a Coke and sugar cookie for my efforts. I pushed, squeezed, kicked, twisted, and finally had it all together. I laid down and cried... Really yall, I cried... So to the sweet real life friends that came to my daughters birthday and said, "I love you, but white? Really..." Well, I love you back, so much so that the next time it's wash day for the dreaded white slipcover, you're coming to help me. 

While I let my tears dry and sucked in my silly petty ways of letting things get to me, I started in prayer. You see, getting those cushions into their place was therapy for me. I have had many adjustments in the past four months. All have been met with either skeptical words of love or wise discouragement. But it really hasn't taken me long to be shown God's grace in taking me through the impractical to a place that can only show His glory. 

For starters, homeschooling Dallas was the absolute last choice on "my" list of options for his education. Plenty of people told me it would be too hard with two babies under feet. And they're right, some days are too hard... because I let them be. I rely on my strength and patience. But the Lord reminds me "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13 

When Whitney Gallaway moved from Georgia to South Carolina to serve where God needed her family, I had well meaning friends tell me not to get any ideas in taking her place at our church. I was too busy and just learning how to say "No" to overwhelming responsibilities. However, I knew that their moving would reposition my place of service. I determined in my heart to seek Gods will above mans. Two Bible lessons, a Bible study group start up, and a few ladies seeking counsel later have shown that I do not even have a clue what my life's purpose is in connection to God's timing. Palms up, head down, I will not be listening to naysayers... "Watch ye and pray, lest he enter into temptation. The Spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." Mark 14:38 

I woke up the other morning feelkng discouraged and lacking... My biggest enemy had my number and called me out on it. It wasn't long before I was unsure of my husband's faithfulness, my children's preparedness, or my own hearts motives. The Enemy doesn't have a blog or iPhone to direct thoughts into our minds, but he does work through others. Those people saying there are "9 signs of a cheating husband", "Public school is the only way for your child", or "Your judgement is leading others to hell" have no clue what my God is doing. 
"The Lord will fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." Exodus 14:14 

My God has painted a pretty picture for each and every person's life. I'm not about to let someone else purchase mine, frame it in a distasteful way, and hang it up in their front room to have their guests criticize. I will take it home with me and hang it in my prayer closet. Untouched and admired by me, myself, and I... 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Beach is to Relaxation as God is to Goodness

If you've been around me more than once, I hope you know that I KNOW that God is good... All the time. Most recently, I have strived to look for Him in the corners, closets, and open spaces of my life.

 I started reading "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp about 10 months ago when I had just given  birth to Mindy.  I felt like I was in a tornado similar to the one that led Dorothy to Oz. I wanted so badly to leave my "Kansas" to go to a perfect Oz. But my tornado wasn't calming down. The things, people, and ideas I had about my life and purpose were sucked up into my storm.

 Realizing that I was the tornado, I was the source of the storm, was rain to my parade. I needed help, the Lord was my help,  the Lord was my strength. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)

These things, this tornado, it wasn't draining strength from me. It was giving me the strength for future things. Things unknown to me. My tornado landed me back on Larry Drive in Ringgold, GA. Surprisingly the things and people that had recently spun out of control were in a place. The perfection of their placement isn't, and won't be important, what mattered was that my focus was focused on the joy of the things provided.

I like the little things best that just work out through God's grace. The son that sees the goodness of the day when I just can't. When the husband smiles, shakes his head, and says, "Oh Elle..." The time the dogs ran away and brought back a half starved black kitty cat to their home, where they knew there was love enough for it. Checking out at the grocery store and wincing as the cashier prepares to tell me my total, only to my amazement it is half of what I had anticipated. 

Life can be so busy and full of the little things yet we still feel like God is holding back on us. For me, I am usually the one holding myself away from His goodness. Fear, anxiety, obsession over details are all things that keep me in the shallow end. If I really want to be honest, sometimes I am tip toe-ing on the steps into the shallow end with a life vest on; watching people jump from the high dive, submerging feet first down as far as they can go; rising up with a smile of triumph. If that same water in the deep end is the that is tickling my toes, why am I not diving in? If God is still the God of Abraham and Moses, can He not lead me to a Promised Land that is just as fulfilling? 

Being able to go away to the beach with my family for a week showed me that my Promised Land was home. The fruit and other food is there, I just have to harvest. Blessings and purpose don't come without some work. Plowing and sowing can be enjoyable when you put a whistle to it. And you know what the best tunes are? The ones that have the most memories are the songs that stick. 

I've got a river of life flowing within me;
It started gushing up when God set me free.
That I keep the flow is my only plea. 
I've got a river of life springing within me. 

Spring up, O well, within my spirit!
Rise up and tell, so all can hear it!
Spring up, O well, so I experience
That life abundantly.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Believing God

"I don't want to be counted among the faithless who never claimed the land God promised them... I know I'm going to heaven because I've trusted Christ as my Savior, but I want to make it to my Canaan on the way."

Are you living today for yourself or for the Lord? My prayer most recently is that God will show me what He has for me today. What task? What blessing? What of His glory will be shown through me? He has your life written out. Had it all planned while you were in your mother's womb. What separates us from God's plan is a lack of faith in Him. 

How many times have you heard someone say, "I believe in God; I'm a Christian." There is a difference in believing in God (His existence) and believing God (His plan for your life).  I believe we go through some trials to be put into a position where only God showing up and working things out could put some order into our lives. I am currently in a place where I don't even have a wheel to turn to get the gears going. I frequently ask Chris, what should we be doing right now? Have I missed an assignment; misheard what God has asked of me? And his response is always just to have faith... Believe God. At this moment, God is not silent. He is there when I am completely worn out. He is there when I am rejoicing over a letter in the mail saying a bill has been paid in full. He is there when I am saying, "Oh! That's what You had planned all along!" 

My Papaw would always say, "There's only two things you have to do in life: be born and die." What's in between the being born and dying is really up to you. 

{I hope this post has started a small fire making you want to know more on how to "believe God". Go and read Beth Moore's book, Believing God. It holds so many little nuggets of direction for a Christian.} 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Nine Years

Nine years ago, I met my husband for the first time. I thought he was a new student and was introducing him to our classmates. I came to find out later that we had shared classes for the past five years. Guess that's a good example of cliques- I was in the band and he was a jock. We dated most of high school until I made the {stupid} decision of "breaking up" with him at the beginning of our senior year. I still have no reason why. We had made plans while dating to be married within seven years time, living in New York City. We would be well awarded graduates from the University of Georgia. Chris would be working as a graphic designer. I would do modeling on the side, because we really wouldn't need my money from all that he would bring in. The closest we came to planning for children was picking the name for a boy-Dallas and a girl- Kinley. 

I often get stuck on the "What if..." train. While I believe God knows my life from beginning to end, free will is mixed into the situation. Bad choices on my part can become God's best work! Why? Because God is good- all the time. Not just "God is good when I am good." But also "God is good when I am bad, wrong, hurtful..." 

Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

Some days I just wish that I could lead my life in a way that others only saw the good. But without also seeing the mistakes that I am mostly ashamed of, they wouldn't see God's faithfulness. His love! God's complete protection over my life. He has kept me here on Earth with an able {and willing} body to serve Him. "It's not about me, it's all about Him." 

Nine years ago I was "only 15" as my parents would so often remind me. Now at 24 years of age, I could look back and say "I wish I knew then what I know now..." But instead I will look back and thank God for all He has done for me despite myself!