Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Hollow Tree

There used to be a dead, hollowed out tree lying in my yard. It had fallen over in a terrible storm. It was really in the way and though I had tried to move it several times, I never could because it was very heavy and awkward and I couldn't do it by myself. I began to step over it, mow around it and eventually stopped noticing it was even there.

A friend came over one day and noticed the tree right away. Her "fresh" perspective and unfamiliarity with the scene made it obvious to her. When she asked why I hadn't moved it, I was so embarrassed. I admitted my previous attempts to move it without help, and how after awhile it's like it was almost invisible to me! I didn't even notice it was still there. And I had never thought to ask for help!

This entire scenario really cut me to the core. You may be wondering what the big deal is...well, what if there were people in my life like that tree? People who are so hollow, so dead inside, that the storms of life have knocked them down. I try in my own strength to pick them up, but it's just too heavy for me, so eventually, I begin to step around them or over them. They become invisible...

God help me not to try to manage things in my own strength. Send people into my life who will help me see what is around me with a fresh perspective. Please don't allow me to become so oblivious that when the storms of life come knocking others down, I don't even notice the casualties. Give me eyes to see...and arms to serve. Give me wisdom to notice and a heart to love.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

He Hears Our Prayers!

It was my last day of Bible study with some of my best and dearest friends last month on a sunny, Carolina Wednesday. Lots of tears and lots of laughs. I knew this would be the hardest part of leaving SC...leaving my sweet Bible study friends. Friends I met through HUB Fitness, but who stayed with me long after HUB was a memory (a good one).

As our time together ended, my friends circled around me, laid hands on me and prayed. They prayed beautiful, specific prayers. They prayed for my family. They prayed for my heart - as they knew it was breaking over leaving. They prayed God would lead me quickly to a women's Bible study so I would make divine connections. They prayed I would find a good Gospel-preaching church that felt like home. They prayed for my new neighbors. They prayed God would make the rough places smooth. They loved on me so well. And as I left that day, tears fell down my face in thankfulness. I knew God brought these women into my life and I knew He heard their prayers.

Fast forward to today. As I am sitting here in my quiet time spot that my husband made specifically for me in our new home, I am overwhelmed as I think back to that day. Their specific prayers have ALL been answered already. Already!! 

My family has been a trooper about everything. Kennedy is adjusting well - thriving actually. Rod loves his job and we have spent a lot of time hiking the beautiful Utah mountains already. Peyton is back in SC at college and really doing a great job. She's been to visit and has already started making her room "hers" by decorating it. She studies interior design at college, so you can imagine it's the cutest and most exquisite room in the house so far! Answered prayer...check!

My heart is not broken anymore. Though I miss and love my friends dearly, it's really easy to keep in touch with them. I'm still on the prayer chain with my friends, so I know everything and can pray for them - which I do often. I'm happy to say that I found out a sweet young woman I went to church with YEARS ago in SC lives here and not only welcomed me to the area, but brought me a care package and lunch from Chick Fil A on the day we moved in - and she said, "You have to meet my friend, Chrystal! You remind me of each other! You will love her!" So she gave her my info and we connected. Chrystal said, "I'd love to have coffee with you on Monday! We have two options: you can meet with me at 11:30 after my Women's Bible study, or you can come to the study and we can chat afterwards!" Are you kidding me?! I went to the study and have been the past two weeks. I have already made some amazing connections, had lunch with one, and I felt at home immediately with these precious ladies! Oh, guess who lives RIGHT NEXT DOOR to me? Yes, one of these precious ladies! We are having coffee together on Friday. Answered prayer....check!

We have been to three different churches, and still have a couple more to visit. So far, they have all been amazing. I'm not worried at all that we will find a church home here that will be a wonderful place to serve and grow. Answered prayer...check!

And let's talk about neighborhood. Oh my word. The day we moved in, we had about four people come by. The next few days, several more. We've received cookies, cakes, bread, home-made jelly, candles, hugs and even had one of our neighbors throw a block party to introduce all the neighbors to each other (there are three houses here on our block that just had new people move in). I even got to dress up for Halloween and go to a special "tea" with five other neighbors! The connections are coming fast - and they are dear to my heart. Our movers said, "I've never seen anyone so welcomed to their new home before! You all must be in a great neighborhood!" Seriously, God. You are the sweetest. Answered prayer...check!

Friends, I say all of this to remind you that God hears our prayers for one another. Don't ever think for a moment that He's not listening! And don't be afraid to pray specific prayers. Because their prayers were so specific, I am able to see exactly where He answered with such clarity. I'm a walking testimony of His heart to lead us well, to make the rough places smooth, to give us all we need. Sure, there have been tears and even hard days. But God is so evident in this move that I cannot imagine not being here. I am home. I am right where He wants me. All is well!

James 5:16 "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results."

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Change in Perspective Can Change Everything

For the past few weeks, I felt a feeling of dread fall over me. As our "Move to Utah" date inched closer and closer, each day I was in mourning, feeling overwhelmed with sadness and even a bit of fear at the thought of leaving South Carolina. We've been in SC for 22 years now. That's a long time to live in one state - especially since I was a Military Brat, moving across the country and even around the world at times. I was used to moving. But nothing has ever felt like "home" the way SC has. This is hard.

As I sat on the porch praying and crying (again) a few days ago, God impressed on my heart that I should not be mourning at all. I should be celebrating! This season of my life has been an incredible blessing that He's given to me. I've met life-long friends, lived in my dream home, and have seen my last two children graduate with honors from High School here. The quote from Dr. Seuss came to mind: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened!"

This change in perspective has changed everything.

I now begin every morning celebrating one thing that I'm thankful for each day I have left in this lovely state. The first day, I was thankful for HUB Fitness, a business we owned on Main Street in TR that connected me with many dear friends and taught me some important life lessons. The second day I was thankful for HIS Radio because that is why we moved here! I was on the morning show with Rob and Jim for a few years. I would have never had the privilege of living here if it weren't for them. Today is the 3rd day - day 14 of the "countdown" and I will be sharing something on Facebook shortly that will encourage my heart again.

I don't dread the countdown now! I look forward to it as each day I'm reminded of a blessing that came from this time in my life.

I'm sure we all realize that not everything in our lives is sunshine and rainbows. And moving can be hard. Change in any sense can be so hard for us, can't it? But what if, instead of dreading, we celebrated? Even though life is not about sunshine and rainbows everyday, we do get seasons of them! Beautiful seasons that we can celebrate and remember fondly. Seasons that give us strength to endure the difficulty of change and even find beauty in it.

I am actually finding that I'm beginning to be excited about our move since changing my perspective, too. There is no room for fear in the heart of a child of God! He's got me. He's had me all along. I know there will be tears when I leave, and yes, I will be sad. But I will have all of those fond memories to look back on and remember the faithfulness of God isn't just in my past. It's for my future, too. :)

If you are interested in following my Celebration on Facebook, please do! I am making the posts public so you can see them even if you aren't on Facebook. The link is here. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

You are NOT Forgotten!

As many of you know, my family is in the process of moving to Utah. My husband was offered a job in the Northwest area of the country, and the Salt Lake City area is central to his territory, so it makes sense for us to move there. We are excited, but also very sad to leave this area!

Part of our "letting go" of our home and the beautiful area surrounding us is a checklist of things we want to do before we move on September 21. This weekend, we checked off one of the things at the top of the list - visiting Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, NC!

I've definitely noticed that over the years, the popularity of this place has exploded! And with good reason. The place is absolutely gorgeous, has yummy home-made apple donuts that are warm when you get them (they melt in your mouth), they have fresh apples of all kinds, the best home grown tomatoes around, hayrides, and views that take your breath away!

As we walked through the miles of orchard, I noticed there were apples lying on the ground, and they were beginning to smell rotten. The soft-hearted side of me said out loud how sad it is that they are just lying there, rotting and forgotten. Nobody would pick an apple on the ground, especially one that smelled like decay and death.

My daughter kindly said, "Don't worry Mom, these apples are useful, too! They will go back into the soil and make it richer and better for the future apples to grow." Okay, first of all can we just talk about how sweet and smart my daughter is? She could have laughed at me and said I was crazy for worrying about those useless apples...but she knew what I was thinking.

I was thinking about how some of us feel like those apples on the ground. We feel useless, forgotten, stepped on and rotten. We forget that if we have breath, God is using us! Yes, some apples are used for pies, applesauce, apple butter, donuts (yeah!), cider, wine, and other useful purposes. But those apples wouldn't be as sweet without the ones who stick around to enrich the soil. Those rotten apples are leaving the world in a better condition than when they first bloomed into it!

It's the same with us. Friend, if you feel useless or forgotten, please know that God has purpose for you today! You are breathing so I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have purpose in this world. Purpose to enrich the lives of those around you. Purpose to love. Purpose to make an impact and leave this world a better place than when God brought you here! Don't allow the negative thoughts from the evil one make you feel useless. Remember, you are the "apple" of God's eye! ;) Spend some time asking God for direction and wisdom to know how you can make a difference in someone's life today.

And then, go eat one of those donuts at Sky Top. You will thank me later! ;)

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. 
My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
John 10:10

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Letting Go Test

Oh my word. 

It's about to happen. 

My baby, my last child, is going away to college on August 18. I am already sensing a need to go to Costco and stock up on Kleenex and possibly Rocky Road ice cream. It was so hard letting go of my first child, back in 2008. Now...I'm letting go of my last. 

This hurts in an even deeper way, I suppose you could say.

When my oldest daughter went to college, I wrote this poem. I can't even read it without crying right now because I know I have to live this out all over again - and for the last time. But in life, we moms know that we are constantly letting go. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of control. Letting go of making decisions for them. Letting go of all the noise that we used to complain about, but now all of a sudden we kind of miss... The list goes on. 

My girl leaves in just sixteen days. So, I have time to pull myself together. But for now, I will leave you with this. And I hope you will share it with any mom you know who is in the middle of her own "Letting Go Test", and please let her know she is not alone. I get you, girl....

Nine months of growth inside of my womb
And in what seemed like an instant, she was there in the room

My heart was just bursting – I could barely compose
As I looked her over intently and counted fingers and toes

I barely had time with her when they took her away
To bathe her, to weigh her and make sure she was okay.

I handed her to them, but inside I was torn
My first "letting go test" was just after she was born

The pain in my heart, I could not ignore
As I realized this test was the first of many more 

I nursed her eight months, and then it was time to move on
So I gave her some cereal – yet another era gone

When she was five, it was time to let go again
As I walked her to the school bus, she wore a huge grin

"Oh, God! Please protect her! I cannot be there.
But I trust you are with her and you'll keep her in your care!"

And I was grinning, also, though my heart broke in two
As I watched my little girl learn to tie her own shoe

Little by little my girl needed me less
As she picked out her clothes and got herself dressed

A few months later, she lost her first tooth
(I cried like a baby, if you want to know the truth!)

This "letting go test" was a challenge indeed:
When she took the story book from me and started to read

I blinked and in an instant I realized much time had passed
As she went off to middle school – she was growing so fast!

The "letting go test" intensified, I remember with dread
When I drove her to the DMV, and she drove me home instead!

Her face lit up with excitement as we handed her the keys
And she drove off alone as I dropped to my knees 

"Oh, God! Please protect her! I cannot be there.
But I trust you are with her and you'll keep her in your care!" 

My prayers were more frequent, I really must confess
As she was gone more often now, and I saw her much less 

My girl was growing up and I was completely shook
As she picked her favorite photos for her Senior Yearbook 

And just a few months later, my girl turned eighteen
A young woman she was becoming now – what a sight to be seen!

"God, where did the time go?" I began to pray
As our family dressed up for Graduation Day.

She walked across the stage with her head held high
And as she took her diploma, I began to cry

But these tears were so different, more like tears of delight
My girl was a woman now and she was going to be alright

All the "letting go tests" that I'd had over the years
Helped me let go, trust God and release all my fears

The "tests" were sent by Him to prepare my mom-heart
For the ultimate test – when we'd begin to live apart 

The day quickly approached and we loaded up the car
We drove her to college – it just seemed so far 

We unloaded her things and we hugged her goodbye
And I tried not to do it, but I couldn't help but cry 

This "letting go test" was the hardest test yet
The drive home was long – one I'll never forget 

But the sadness I feel is not the same as before
I feel such joy for her – there's so much in store!

We taught her to love, to respect and to learn
And to always put God first - there's no need for concern!

"Oh, God! Please protect her! I cannot be there.
But I trust you are with her and you'll keep her in your care!"

-Leslie Nease

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Hold On


There’s no question in my mind that the disciples must have felt these
emotions as they watched Jesus being brutally crucified. What was going on? They gave up everything to follow this man and believed He was the Son of God – the promised Messiah!

Just days earlier, the people of Jerusalem lined the streets while shouting, "Hosanna!" with palm branches and shouts of joy as Jesus made His triumphant entry. But now, there He was, dying a humiliating and horrifying death on the cross. Some of those same people who had earlier hailed Him were now cursing Him and spitting on Him. Some were, along with the disciples, weeping over Him as they still had hope He might be their salvation, their King.

The disciples could not understand at that moment that all was well. They could not understand that the plan was going just as God designed from the beginning of time. At that moment, things looked so dark and discouraging to them…. but resurrection was coming.

Hope was around the corner. If only they had a glimpse of that coming glory!

Friends, if life seems hopeless, overwhelming or confusing, please hold on.

There must always be a death for a resurrection to come.

Death of a dream, death of a relationship, death of a habit that you feel you can never break or even death of our foolish pride – these are types of deaths we all experience in our lives every day.

If only we could have a glimpse of the coming glory! If only we could know that things will get better!

Maybe we cannot understand at those moments that all is well, that things are going just as God designed from the beginning of time. Things may look dark, difficult and discouraging…but resurrection is coming.

Yes, things looked hopeless the day Jesus took His last breath.
But resurrection came. 
And resurrection is coming for you, too.

Hold on.

Monday, February 19, 2018

When God Feels Far Away

When my son was twenty, he spent six weeks in Iceland, hiking and backpacking all over the country. I picked him and his buddy up at the airport afterward. They looked disheveled, filthy and like they hadn't had a bath in weeks. Apparently, they hadn't had a bath in weeks! I wanted to give him a big hug anyway, after all, he's my son!  I didn't care what he smelled like, I was just glad he was safely home. But he was too embarrassed, so I told him I'd give him a hug after he got cleaned up.  Once he got home, he got took a long bath and then I was finally able to hug him and welcome him home! I would've hugged him no matter what, but I understood what he was doing. I do it, too.

Sometimes, I feel like that with God. Like I'm too dirty to approach Him. I stay away, as if to protect Him, thinking He certainly wouldn't want to have anything to do with me. I begin to avoid Him, and eventually, I feel far away from Him.

One thing I do know: when I feel far away from God, or unworthy of approaching Him, it's never because of Him. He promised to never leave me or forsake me. So, clearly it's me that moves when this happens. I begin to believe lies..."God probably really regrets making you His child since you can't seem to get it right." or "You're never going to get it right because you know, no matter how hard you try, you will never measure up." You know.... lies. Big ones, that seem so convincing and real.

Why do they seem real? I can tell you, if I'm being completely honest, that when I begin to fall into these thought patterns, I'm usually not in the Word. I think I can manage on my own, I've gotten "busy" or "distracted" and haven't taken the time to let the truths of His Word sink into my heart and mind. So, I'm easily deceived. We are all easily deceived by lies when we don't know the truth.

I was meditating on Ephesians 5:25-26 the other day, and God revealed something very sweet to my heart. Read this carefully:

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,  that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word." (Ephesians 5:25-26)

As I meditated on this Scripture the other day, it struck me how imperative it is that I study God's Word. I've always known that it was important, I've always felt it was necessary. This verse showed me why, in a way that I had never thought of before.

If you read the verse above again, you'll notice that Christ sanctifies (makes us holy) and cleanses us with the washing of water by the Word. When I'm not in God's Word, learning and meditating on the truths, I begin to feel dirty, in a sense. I begin to only see my sin, not my Savior. I begin to focus on my efforts instead of His. I begin to believe things that His Word clearly tells me are not true. So, what this verse shows me is that I need a "bath". A really good one! From the inside, out. He cleans us up by His Word!  It cleanses our hearts and our minds so we can hear from Him again. It restores hope where despair has set in. It replaces the lies with truth and it gives us peace where anxiety has slipped in.

If you find yourself feeling far from God, here are some practical steps you can take to draw near to Him:   

1. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8 Take some time each day to be still, with no distractions, and meditate on His Word. Before you begin, you'll want to pray that He will meet you there and draw near to you as you draw near to Him.  There is actually a wonderful app called Abide that can help you as you learn to meditate and connect with God on a deeper level. I highly recommend it if meditating on God's Word is a new activity for you!

2. "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." Joshua 1:8  Take one verse each day and try to remember what it says. It doesn't have to be word-for-word, but if you can just remember the content of the verse, the context, and the application for your life, you can take your mind there throughout the day. Perhaps when you are at a stop light, when you're waiting in line, when you have a few moments.

3.  "Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Talk to God throughout the day, like you would to a good friend. Prayer doesn't have to be with your eyes closed and on your knees all the time. It's just talking to God throughout the day, giving Him your cares, speaking Scripture back to Him and remembering that He is there, with you, every moment of every day. 

4.  "Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord." Psalm Psalm 89:15  Worship God throughout your day! When we worship Him, which basically means "the feeling of adoration and adoration for a deity", we bring delight to His heart, walk in His presence and find true joy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Podcast with Jonny Fairplay

Had a great time chatting with Jonny Fairplay tonight on his podcast, Survival of the Fairest! We talked about life after Survivor, how I'd play differently if I played again, our thoughts on the season that just wrapped up, and we even got to chat about our faith! If you're interested in checking it out, here's the whole conversation:

Friday, December 29, 2017

Spiritual Terrain

"Like this mountainous planet, we have a mountainous spiritual terrain. Every traveler climbs heights and plunges to depths. As long as you have a pulse, your timeline won't be a flatline. Welcome to the journey of the beloved child of God." -The Quest (Beth Moore)

My husband loves to climb mountains. Really big mountains. Scary ones that I am not sure I am thrilled he wants to climb. He enjoys the discipline of training, the hard work, meticulous planning and the view from the top... but I can honestly say that the climbing part is probably not his favorite part. Crazy thing is, that's why he loves it. He likes to push himself - to take risks that have been calculated carefully and test himself in ways that help him to be a better man, a better leader, a better father & husband. I respect him so much for that. Though I'm sure he's given me a few gray hairs!

As I was reading through The Quest this morning, the above quote made me think about my husband and his excursions. I realized that his climbs are probably just as spiritual as they are physical; because it's a parallel of our journey with the Lord. There are highs and there are lows. There are disciplines, challenges, risks and the more adventures we go on with God, the more we test our character, our hearts and our minds. As a result, our faith grows. The views from the top are always worth the journey that can be extremely dark and difficult. There are times when we will want to quit out of complete exhaustion or frustration. There are times when we almost feel like He is just not with us anymore - that He has left us on our own.

Are you a follower of Jesus who feels like you are currently in a dark depth in your journey? Your journey is not finished. God is working in you and through you and this season, as dark as it may seem, is for a purpose. God wastes nothing. His promises are STILL the same:

"I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." (Matt 28:20)

"Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be open to you." (Matt 7:7)

"I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind & heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid." (John 14:27)

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (Romans 8:28)

"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise." (Hebrews 10:23)

There are so many more scriptures that I could list. Perhaps taking time today to look up some of those scriptures that give you hope will help bring some light into the dark places you are experiencing today? "What I whisper to you in the darkness, shout from the rooftops when daylight breaks!" (Matt. 10:27) This means the light is coming, friend. It's on the way!

Don't. Give. Up.

Trust the process.

God is in this.

And He's got you.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Why So Much Evil?

I have struggled with what to say since hearing about the shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I have literally felt numb. Heartbroken. Grasping at what to say, if anything, that wouldn't sound trite. I have wept as I've seen friends posting things on social media that seem to blame God. Why would He allow this? If He is good, why doesn't He stop it? Why do Christians just say they will "pray"? These are all fair questions.
Before I give my thoughts on this, I want you to know something very important. Just because we don't understand why God is allowing things, just because we don't think He's being fair....that doesn't mean we cannot know His heart. He reveals His heart throughout the Scriptures. I may not understand His hand, but I can always understand His heart. Once you really know God's heart, you don't blame Him. You go to Him and ask Him for understanding. That's what I have been doing these past three days.

Just like light, good exists. Darkness is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good. God is Good, God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) We have been pushing God away in America for years now. He allows us to choose to do this. And when we push the Light away, we are left with darkness. The choices we make as a result of our free will are delivering dire and sickening consequences. That's what evil does. Hear me clear: this is not His will for us. His will is that no one should perish. His will is that all of us would turn to Him. (2 Peter 3:9)

God is not allowing evil to exist for any other reason than the fact that His heart is for all of us to turn to Him. If He extracted evil (and He very well could), He would have to extract the lot of us. It's clear that we are all sinners and fall very short of God's standard of righteousness. (Romans 3:23)
Some evil is way harder to swallow than other evil in our eyes. In His eyes, evil is evil. Sin is sin. It separates us from Him and His heart grieves about that so much. He hates sin so much that He sent His Son to die for us, in our place, taking the payment for our sin, so our sin"would not be counted against us". (Romans 3:21-26, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20) When we recognize and admit that we have evil and sin in our hearts, go to God for forgiveness and receive this unimaginable gift of salvation, when God sees us, He sees us as righteous. Not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done for us. (Romans 10:9, see this article on GotQuestions.org)

If you hate evil, if you hate darkness, I want to let you know that you are loved and God is pursuing your heart. He hates it, too. The evil that happens in this world is a reflection of life without Him, and if you are tired of living that life - a new life is waiting for you. As a believer, I still suffer injustice, I still grieve, I still have to live in this world that pushes God away, but I don't have to look at every single thing as hopeless. Because I know God is good. God is Light - and in Him is no darkness at all. He helps me through the questions, He gives me peace that passes understanding and He helps me make sense of things that seem to make no sense. And when I can't seem to make sense of it, I know I can trust Him - because I know Him.

So yeah, we've had some horribly bad news recently; but I'm here to testify that there is also very, very Good News. And I believe, with all of my heart, that those precious souls who were taken on Sunday were met by Him instantly. They are now in His presence, free of this evil and complete in Him. Their suffering was not in vain. 

I'm not trying to simplify this. I know it's complicated and extremely difficult. I don't have all the answers...but I know the One who knows everything and I know He is good. That gives me tremendous peace.

Pray, friends. Pray like you've never prayed before.  I'm so weary of hearing people say that prayer is a cop out, because it's absolutely not. If you could see the battles raging in the spirit realm, you would know that our loved ones and friends who pray are fighting a tremendous battle. Join with them. And trust me, God hears. He sees, and He is faithful.

Evil will not have the final word.

Got Questions?