Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Going With His Flow

We are spending a few days at the beach this Christmas and really enjoying some down time together as a family. Today my husband and I decided to go for a bike ride once the rain and clouds let up a bit. As we rode for many miles away from the place we are staying, I was enjoying the breeze and the smell of the sea air - so refreshing!

The time came when we had to turn around and go back toward the house. I realized that the reason the bike ride seemed so effortless on our way there was because the wind had been pushing us. Today, the winds are 30-miles per hour at the beach. And now they were pushing against us!

My legs were burning and they felt like they weighed about 800 pounds each as I pedaled with tremendous effort against the roaring wind.  The same wind that made me feel so refreshed and invigorated just minutes before was now making me feel overwhelmed and exhausted. How did I miss this?

I've actually had this happen to me, spiritually speaking, as well.  I remember moving a few years back to take a job in a different town with a radio station. I loved the people there, loved the station and had many reasons why I should have taken the job.  But I recall not having a real peace about it in my heart. From the get-go, it was a very difficult four months.  Our apartment flooded, my kids would not adjust and one of them was in a tremendous depression, my husband traveled all the time, we all were in and out of the hospital with various illnesses and my job was not going well because I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Everything was a mess.  I was going against the wind and I knew it.

We ended up moving back into the house we left a few months before (of course, it never sold - another big problem).  I felt like a failure and wanted to just disappear. Fast forward to this past year, 2012. I was offered a job at His Radio to do the morning show with Rob Dempsey. We learned in our past experience that we really needed to have peace about it before taking the job and after much prayer, both my husband and I agreed it was the right thing to do. We truly believed God was leading us to His Radio.  So, a few months ago we made the big move.

We can honestly say we are certain we are going in the right direction. Things are completely different this time around. Everything is falling into place without much effort at all.  We have confidence we are right where we are supposed to be and that God lead us here. Now we feel invigorated and refreshed. I wish I could put into words the difference it makes when I go with His flow instead of my own. I suppose you could compare it to an eagle who submits to the wind and allows it to take him where it desires. Sure, we've had our share of challenges, but the peace has never left us.

There are people in my life who really thought I would move right back to where I was in a few months. I suppose I lost credibility because I made an emotional decision rather than a right one years ago. But I know God had a plan in all of it. I've really learned to listen to His leading!

As we approach 2013, I want to encourage you to really seek out what God has for you in this new year. Don't settle for a "good" idea that may not be "God's" idea.  I've made some decisions in my life that seemed like a good idea, made sense and felt right - only to find they were not the right decision. And I've made some decisions that did not make sense, but I felt peace in my heart that God was telling me to go for it - and they ended up being the exact decision I was supposed to make.  Go with His flow and you will always find refreshment for your soul.

Happy New Year - and may you feel refreshed and invigorated in 2013!

Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. -Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I awoke from my nap yesterday to the tragic news of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My daughter, Kennedy, was the first to tell me. I ran to the internet and found article after article about it and with every moment, my heart sank more and more. Tears were falling down my face as I began to imagine the pain and horror this community was feeling. I felt so helpless. This will be one of those days that I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.

I couldn’t help but think about a time in my life when my daughter, Stephanie, who is now 23 years old, was four years old. She had a terrible, painful and deadly illness that almost took her life. The doctors said she had a severe infection in her bloodstream that had invaded her little body through an open sore. She was in septic shock and she was dying. I remember the day the doctors told me they didn’t think she would survive. I just went numb.  After a long and agonizing 2-week stay in the pediatric intensive care unit of Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and a couple of surgeries later, she was miraculously healed and released from the hospital! We do believe it was a miracle.

The reason this came to my mind after hearing about the shooting in the elementary school is because when I asked Stephanie what she remembered about that time in her life, her memories are nothing but good ones. She remembered the visitors. She remembered the nice, caring nurses. She remembered me being there the whole time. She recalls this time of her life with a sense of peace. After seeing what she went through and how much pain she was in, I must say I was really surprised to hear this.

Friday as I struggled to make sense of how someone could hurt an innocent child intentionally, my mom heart immediately began to grieve as I thought about how scared those precious children must have been. But then I remembered Stephanie’s ordeal and how she came away from it with nothing but good memories. I truly believe those children felt the presence of God in their final moments. I truly believe they felt peace. I believe God sent His angels before it even happened to be there to calm them, love them, and bring them into their eternal home.

Why do I believe this? Is it in the Bible in a verse somewhere? Not that I know of. But I know God’s character. I know He loves children deeply and He does not delight in seeing His loved ones die. I know He loves our children even more than we do. And I know what I saw in my own daughter’s life during her desperate hours. Her face was strangely peaceful. Her memories are nothing but good. And her life has never been the same since then.

I will never believe, for a single moment, that God was not present in that room with those precious babies. His precious babies. That brings my mom-heart such comfort. And I pray the same presence those children felt will be felt by their grieving parents as they begin to face a reality that no parent should ever have to face.

Evil is real and it is all around us. But it is temporary. Evil will eventually be destroyed. This is our hope as believers.

Psalm 10:17 “LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.”

Monday, December 3, 2012

Toxic Chocolate

It started out as a quiet evening at home. The lights were low, the Christmas tree was twinkling softly, we were all in our pj’s snuggled up on the couch, Christmas movies were playing on the television and the intoxicating aroma of chocolate chip cookies filled the house. Ah…a nice, quiet Saturday night at the Nease house! Rare, but precious.
Max “checking himself in” at the Doggie E.R.

And then it happened.

Our puppy (who is now 44 pounds) Max, our newest Nease, who will be five months old on December 14, was making a strange noise in the kitchen. Kennedy got up to see what it was and screamed, “NO! MOM! MAX JUST ATE A WHOLE BAG OF CHOCOLATE CHIPS!” After more thought, we realized that it was actually more like 3/4 of a bag – the other 1/4 of the bag was baking in the cookies in the oven. Apparently, our “puppy” has now grow tall enough to put his paws on the counter in the kitchen and grab whatever is on the counter top for himself. And that is just what he did.

I’d heard that chocolate was bad for dogs, but I never knew if that was true, so I did what any person would do in today’s world – I posted a status on Facebook asking people if they knew what I should do. Lots of responses later, I was more confused than ever and decided to call the vet. They told me to take him to the Vet ER right away.

We loaded him up into the car and figured he would probably throw up on the way to the ER – I mean, he gets car sick every single time we take him anywhere in the car. But not that night. He was too hyped up to get sick. We finally arrived at the ER and Max ran to the counter, put his paws up, as if to show her what a big boy he was and how he actually got the chocolate in the first place, and proceeded to lick her face. “Oh, this must be our ‘chocolate puppy’! We’ve been expecting you, Max!”

As it turned out, Max needed to stay the night and the entire next day in the hospital. Semi-sweet chocolate chips are very toxic to dogs, even more so than dark chocolate or milk chocolate. His heart was racing at 200 beats per minute and they needed to help him get rid of the chocolate before more of it absorbed into his bloodstream. Had we not taken him, we probably would not have a puppy today. I’m thankful I took him in!

Well, as we picked him up last night, he came running out to us and we cried our eyes out. My husband proclaimed, “Merry Christmas! Your dog is alive!” Which seemed sweet until I realized it meant that the $520 we had to pay was our Christmas present…. Oh well, I couldn’t ask for more. Max is pretty awesome. But we’ll keep the chocolate out of reach from now on.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Son, Whom I Love

I have a confession to make and it's going to be hard for me, so bear with me for a few minutes.  Being a mother has been very rewarding and my most incredible blessing from God, but it has also sometimes been a very heart wrenching time for me, as I've learned to grow in ways I never realized I needed "growing".

My son, Tommy, is an extremely talented photographer. He has been into photography for a very long time, since I can remember.  He started taking photographs when he was heavy into skateboarding as a young boy and was very successful throughout his teen years.  His work was just recently on display at a gallery in Atlanta, GA and they made a video about him to introduce him to folks.  It was very well done! And it brought tears to my eyes. Gosh, I love that kid.

The issue came when I saw it and I wanted to share it on my Facebook page.  I had this internal struggle because as a mother, I am so proud of my son and how he expresses himself, how he's not afraid to be who he is and how he is so authentic as a person. He is really an amazing human being and people who know him would all agree with me that he is probably one of the most likable people on the planet.

But Tommy doesn't fit the "mold" that some in the Christian community would expect from a "son of a Christian speaker, writer and radio host".  Unfortunately, this expectation is something he has always resented and I don't blame him. I hesitated in sharing the video because I did not want to expose him to any judgment that might come from people who would see his tattoos, observe him smoking a cigarette, talking about his photograph he took of a woman "levitating" and hopping trains across the country and completely miss the point that he is a beautiful human being with so much to offer.  Are those things I would have chosen for my son? Probably not. But I trust God with him and I still love him and accept him for who he is, right where he is, without question. The problem is, some people do not. 

I decided to post the video on my page (and I am posting in this blog, as well).  I am at that point in my life where I'm just not afraid anymore.  I'm not afraid of what people think like I used to be. I'm not afraid of exposing my son to the judgment now because I know that in that, he will also be exposed to those who understand grace and will see him for who he is (by the way, my facebook friends have been extremely accepting and loving - I am so overwhelmed by their love).  I am not afraid to tell the world that I have a son who is not going to be the person you desire for him to be in order for you to like him. He's the real deal.  He's on a journey and he's one of the most authentic people I've ever known in my life. God has really used my son to teach me about grace, unconditional love and about my own judgmental and fearful heart.

My confession today is that it took until recently for me to get to this place.  I have hidden my boy away from my world like a protective mama bear and I have tried to separate my life from his.  Initially, I do believe (sadly) it was because I was afraid people would question my mothering and my own faith. But as God worked on me, over time, I realized it became more about protecting him from people who would judge him. He already looks at many Christians as judgmental and I can honestly say he has every right to feel that way.  He has been judged, criticized and told he must change by many people in his life.  I don't see that in the Bible though.  God accepts us just as we are, and as He gets a hold of our heart, He will make the changes He wants to make in His time.  Our job is to love people like Jesus did, not to point them to a behavior modification program that never works in the long run, but only produces a short-lived outward change.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I love my son and I'm proud of him for being an individual who loves deeply, creates from the depths of his soul and is not afraid to be himself in a world where that is increasingly fading away.  I'd like to introduce you to my son, Tommy....and whether you appreciate who he is or not is not of my concern.  I love him with all of my heart. And it is a privilege to be his Mom! 

If you have a grown child who is taking a "unique" path or is not going in the direction you planned, please don't try to change them.  Pray for them, trust God with them, love them right where they are, and watch how God will change you, instead.  Could it be that was what He was trying to do all along?

Got Questions?