Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Battle Begins

I've been posting some entries on my blog from my journal just before I went on Survivor in 2007, along with some reflection from today and some stuff to get you thinking about your own life.  Today's entry is my second entry after they finally called me to interview to be a contestant on the show after 11 auditions.  The battle began almost immediately - in my mind.  Maybe you can relate?


May 9, 2007

I have days when I am excited and other days where I’m just full of fear. Some of the questions and accusations that keep coming to my mind are:

  • What about your family? How could you leave them for six weeks? You are such a bad mom.  Everyone is going to think you are selfish.
  • What if you are killed somehow? You know it’s possible. What if this “dream” you’ve been chasing is the very thing that kills you off? Then what good would you be to God?
  • What if you get really sick out there and what if you end up in a Chinese hospital? Then what? Isn’t the water going to give you parasites?
  • What if it’s really hot? What if it’s really cold? You are going to be miserable.
  • Christians can’t possibly play this game. It’s out of your league – these sharks are going to eat you alive. You can’t maintain your witness out there. You’re delusional.
  • You are going to have a panic attack. Don’t risk doing that in front of the entire world! 

Oh, the list goes on. I wish I had more time this morning to type more, but I’m going to have to go. I do want to say that LORD, I give you this list of worries. You know my heart is to please you. I know you are in control and I pray that you will give me peace in every area listed above. I pray you will be in and around me at all times while I’m there and that the scriptures you have me memorize will be exactly what I need to hear. I love you and trust you!!

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Reflection Today:

Oh, yes. I’ve heard it before. “You must be doing something right when you get the devil all uptight.” I was living this out - big time! I don’t think I’ve ever had such a struggle mentally in my entire life before. I truly had to trust God in a whole new way. It was excruciatingly difficult. Yet, He gave me the strength to persevere. I’m eternally grateful for that.

Have you ever noticed that when you run up a big hill, the closer you get to the top, the harder it gets to run? You can almost taste the reward as you climb closer and closer to your goal. Oh, but the pain is so intense and the mental fight is exhausting. All of that makes the victory so much sweeter, though!

It’s like that with a call from God. Often, the closer you get to fulfilling your call, the more intense the battle will become. Expect it. Prepare for it. And trust that God will give you everything you need to push as hard as is needed in order to reach the top. Don’t give up – give it over to God and allow Him to work through you. He knows you cannot possibly do this. That’s why He’s going to do it through you.

Truth for Today:

Exodus 14:13-14 But Moses told the people “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before so many witnesses.

Philippians 4:8-9 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise…then the God of peace will be with you.

What About You?

Doubt and fear are two ways that the enemy will try to discourage you during your walk with God. Are you dealing with any doubts or fears right now? What is the truth about those situations? Give yourself the “Philippians 4:8 Test” by checking to see if the thoughts you are having are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely or admirable. If they are not, you are falling for a lie. Focus your attentions on the truth of your situation and allow God to give you the courage to walk fearlessly against those doubts.




Saturday, October 13, 2012

Leaves in the Wind

Fall is here!  Oh, how I love this time of year. Driving down the road the other day, I noticed the colorful leaves "dancing" on the ground all around us.  My first thought was "What on earth would they have to dance about?  Don't they know they are dead?"  The poor little leaves.  It looks like their "hayday" is over.  They are withered up and they've fallen to the ground only to be raked away and toted off as trash.  It's a shame, because they look so beautiful on the outside with all the reds, oranges, yellows, purples and browns scattered across the walking trail.  But just because they were beautiful, that didn't change the fact that they were not alive anymore.

But they were dancing...

I wonder... if the leaves could think, what would they think?  Maybe they would recall the days when they were just a tiny bud, bursting into the warm sunshine with excitement and a zest for life.  Each precious day, they would soak in the rain, the sun and enjoy the warm breezes that blew through, prompting them to sing in unison with the other leaves holding tightly to the tree branches as they all rustled with the wind in harmony.

I wonder... if the leaves could think, would they think back to the day that they realized things were beginning to change? Life was beginning to get more difficult and the sun wasn't shining down on them as much.  Their colors became more beautiful and vibrant on the outside, but inside they were not feeling beautiful or vibrant at all.  I wonder if they knew something was wrong.  Instead of a welcoming breeze, the winds were chilly and uninviting.  I wonder if they recall the moment they realized they were hanging on by a thread to the tree...ready to fall to the ground, to give up and just let go at the first sign of the next breeze. 

I wonder... if the leaves could talk, would they tell us how it felt to float gently to the ground the day they finally let go?  The force of the wind was more than they could bear.  They had to surrender.  Would they tell us tales of how they would lay there, among other beautifully colored leaves, wondering what was going to happen next as they huddled together, terrified and vulnerable.  Would they admit that they pondered if this was the end of the road for them - that there was nothing left?

Then I wonder...if leaves could talk, would they tell us about the day the wind gust began to blow through their huddle with a powerful blast and instead of singing with the other leaves up in the tree as they did in their youth when those gusts would go through, they found themselves dancing with those very same leaves, all dressed up in their autumn colors, as if they were celebrating their new life!  A chance to dance freely - given only by the strength of the powerful and mighty wind.

Yes, the leaves may have been dead...but the wind brings life to them.  So they celebrate!  They are filled with hope again.  Life is different now, and their path is determined by the wind these days, not by the security of the tree branch they so tightly held onto before the change.  They must trust not in their own strength to hold on now, but in the wind's strength to carry them through to where it would have them go.  Their mourning has turned to joyful dancing and they are clothed with joy!

What a beautiful picture this has given to me of the life God gives to us through His Spirit.

Psalm 30:10-12

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
      You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
      O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!


John 3:8
 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
 
 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Refreshing Honesty

I share an office with a guy named Brian Sumner.  Brian is new to His Radio, too.  He works in the afternoons, so we rarely get to see each other since I work in the mornings.  But the other day, we just happened to be in the office at the same time so we had a pleasant conversation.  We chatted for about ten to fifteen minutes when he finally said, "Leslie, you have a big black 'something' on your cheek."  I laughed as I realized he had been looking at a clump of mascara that whole time we were having a conversation!  I dusted it off and thanked him over and over again.

He must have been so uncomfortable!  We are new friends, so he wasn't sure how I would respond.  He probably squirmed as he tried to decide how to look at me without staring at my big black clump.  He had no idea how I would respond to him - would I be embarrassed?  Would I be angry with him for pointing out a flaw?  He had to have known this was not something I wanted to hear.  He had no idea what would happen if he told me the truth.

What impresses me the most, is that in spite of that fact that he didn't know me very well yet, he took a minute to be honest with me so I wouldn't walk around the rest of the day with a big black clump of mascara on my face.  How sweet is that?  Needless to say, there was not one moment of offense on my part - just gratefulness that he spoke the truth.  How rare and precious when we find a friend who is honest - even when it is something we don't necessarily want to hear.  I know a clump of mascara seems silly and not like a big deal, but be honest - have you ever had this happen to you?  It can be uncomfortable, no matter what.

This silly situation got me thinking about how many times I am uncomfortable with telling others the truth, out of fear of embarrassment, their reaction or hurting the relationship.  I respected Brian for being honest, and I truly believe others respect us when we are honest, too.

Do you struggle with telling people the truth?  If you see spinach in someone's tooth do you tell them? What about a dress stuck in the pantyhose of a stranger?  Or someone you barely know walking down the hall with toilet paper stuck to their shoe?

What about telling those you love the truth about their sinful condition and how Jesus died in their place so they wouldn't have to spend eternity apart from God?

Fear keeps me from telling the truth at times, but the Bible tells me that God's people are to tell the truth to each other (Zechariah 8:16).  What am I so afraid of?  Praying today that God will help me tell the truth, in love and with gentleness and respect, even when people don't want to hear it. 

Yeah, I got all of this from a big old black clump of mascara on my cheek. (smile)




Saturday, October 6, 2012

Grace

Grace.

How I love this word!  Grace is something we receive from God, a gift that we do not deserve, but He lavishes it on us anyway be cause He loves us so much.  God does give us grace for the moment, right when we need it.  But He doesn't give us grace for what we imagine could happen.  Have you noticed that?

I spent the past year dreading saying goodbye to my daughter, knowing she was traveling across the world for 2-3 years to Asia to work in linguistics.  As I imagined how it would be, I was literally sick at times.  I felt overwhelmed, like it would be impossible.  I imagined how I would never be able to smile until she came home again. I cried buckets of tears. Oh, what an imagination I have!

Well, the day arrived on Thursday and I swallowed hard and drove her to the Atlanta airport.  I'm not gonna lie,  I cried sobs that came from a very deep place in my soul when I hugged her - you know that sob I'm talking about.  The embarrassing one that makes people stare. It's the one we've probably all experienced at some point when we have had to let go of someone in our lives we cherish.  And as hard as that time was for me on Thursday, I can honestly say it was not as hard as I imagined it would be. 

As I drove home, I kept hearing texts come across my phone.  When I would stop to get gas or rest, I would check the texts.  One after one, the texts came from the hearts of people who were thinking of and praying for us, knowing how hard this day would be.  My heart was so full as I read each one and soaked them in.  I cannot tell you how comforting it was to know so many people were on their knees for me and my family!

I believe those prayers worked, and are still working!  The grace I feel is nothing short of a miracle.  Yes, I've cried a few times and have been grieving, but somehow I'm having more moments of joy - the ones when I realize and contemplate the incredible privilege she has to travel, meet people and share her amazing heart and smile with others on the other side of the world.  It's grace for the moment.  And it's real.  I'm serious - this is amazing.

So...if you have prayed for us, thank you.  We can feel your prayers.  God is using you to minister to my family in amazing ways and it's such an incredible feeling!  I'm beyond thankful for you and want you to know that God hears you and He's answering your prayers.

Now, I know I have to work on that imagination of mine.  When I think of all the time I spent this past year crying, worrying and doubting, it makes me wonder if the dreading of what could happen is actually worse than the actual thing I dread so much!  It's rarely as hard as I think it's going to be.  Maybe it's because of that grace for the moment.  The grace that comes when God knows we need it most.

Worry and dread are symptoms of a grace-less moment.  Next time I feel them coming on, I'm going to remember that.  If God knows I need the grace, He will bring it.  I trust Him to keep His promises!

For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.  Psalm 84:11


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stephanie


The doctor walked in, looked me in the eye and said, "We're not sure she's going to make it."  After that, I think I must have blacked out.  I woke up and there was a religious-looking man dressed in black with a white collar in the room, asking me in a gentle and sympathetic voice if I wanted him to pray for me.  He prayed and then once he left I said my own prayer.  

I thought I didn't deserve to have my prayer answered because I wasn't living a life for God at all - as a matter of fact, since I left home to get married and start a family, I had completely turned my back on God and didn't even go to church anymore.  But things seemed dire at this point.  Would He listen?

A few days prior to this my daughter Stephanie, who was four at the time, came down with the chickenpox.  She was very sick from the get-go but the second day of her illness, it got much worse.  Her fever spiked to 106 and I was terrified.  I'd taken her into the doctor several times and was told, "It's just the chickenpox.  Give her ibuprofen and give it time, she'll be fine."  But things weren't fine.  Her body was swelling and she was moaning as if she was in tremendous pain.  She couldn't even stand for me to touch her.  I finally called the ambulance and said, "You are taking her to the hospital right now and I'm not bringing her home until you tell me what is wrong with her!"  They took her to the hospital.  Mother’s intuition can save a child's life!

At the hospital, they ran several tests and we began to wait.  The following day, Stephanie was unconscious and four doctors with very serious looks on their faces filed into the room with clipboards.  They were telling me she had the flesh-eating bacteria and that her body had gone into septic shock.  The nurses had to cut off her hospital bracelet twice and replace it because it kept getting so tight from the swelling that ballooned her tiny body.  She was now unconscious and it seemed hopeless.  Doctors crowded around her, poked at her, took x-rays and blood and now they were telling me they did not think she would make it.  I was absolutely devastated.

I think a part of me believed God was punishing me for running from Him.  I even think a part of me, due to a legalistic upbringing, believed I deserved it.  But that morning I found myself praying for the first time in years.  Through loud sobs, I begged God not to take my baby away.  I told Him I was sorry for turning my back on Him and that if He took her away I was I afraid I would not survive.  I begged Him to please let me keep her.  I told Him that if He would allow me to keep her, I would dedicate her to Him - she would be all His.  I wasn't sure how that would all work out, but I remember vividly that I was not willing to give up myself, but that I was willing to give her to Him.  I knew I had already proven that I couldn't live up to the standards of a good Christian, so maybe she could?  My ideas of God were so twisted.

God chose to heal my daughter, much to the doctor's surprise.  She was in intensive care for two weeks at a Children's Hospital in Norfolk, VA.  It was the longest and most frightening two weeks of my life.  But God gave me the grace I needed to get through this time.  To this day I think, "How did I do that?!" and then I remember the grace.  He helped me through it.

The doctors said she would have permanent lung damage after her terrible bout with this life-threatening illness.  But she would prove them all wrong and heal completely!  The only thing permanent is the scar on her side where they made an incision to help drain fluid from her right lung.  She is truly a miracle!

Over the next few years, Stephanie developed a love for Jesus that I cannot explain.  I certainly cannot take credit for it!  She wanted to go to church.  So my husband and I would drop her off and come back and pick her up or we'd send her with her grandparents.  I didn't go with her - honestly I think there was a part of me that didn't want to ruin it for her.  She was doing so well and I thought I was a failure in God's eyes (or at least that's what I was convinced of).

As I watched my daughter grow up loving Jesus, I saw something in her that I desperately wanted. She wasn't religious at all - it wasn't about keeping rules and playing the church game - it was about grace and relationship.  It was beautiful.  I began going to church to see if I could find what it was that she had.  Eventually, the Lord did open my eyes to the Truth and I gave my life to Jesus in February 2003, along with my husband.  I often smile when I think about how I thought dedicating my daughter to Him was such a better idea than dedicating myself. God knew that He would use that relationship with her to get to her father, and me too!  He's so good.

Today, Stephanie is 22-year old graduate of North Greenville University where she majored in Intercultural Studies.  She is passionately in love with Jesus.  In two days, God will be taking her on an incredible adventure on the other side of the world where she will be working in Southeast Asia as a Storytelling Facilitator in Linguistics.  I’m not surprised!  I’ve known for a very long time that God had big plans for her.

I look at her often and thank God for allowing her to stay here with us for so many years and for allowing her to be a vessel for Him to show us Himself through her witness.  I know that few weeks back in 1994 had to have been the most difficult of my life, but I also know that through that difficult time, God brought me into a real relationship with Him.  

And saying goodbye to her will be another difficult moment in my life that I can honestly say I’m feeling quite bitter sweet about.  She’s special.  Anyone who knows her knows this.  We will definitely feel a void in our lives when she leaves., no doubt about it.  My mom heart can almost feel the pain that Hannah had in her heart when she left Samuel at the temple after dedicating him to God (1 Samuel1).  Her husband spoke to her once, saying, "May the Lord help you keep your promise."  What a beautiful thing to say.  May the Lord help me to keep my promise, as well.  But just like Hannah knew about Samuel, I know Stephanie was never mine to begin with.  I just get to be her Momma – and what a blessing it is to be her Momma! 

Stephanie…go get’em girl.   You were born for this.  The plans He has for you are beyond your comprehension!  I’m so proud of you and I love you more than words can express. 

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  – Jeremiah 29:11

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