The Ghost of Christmas Past

It happened. AGAIN. The Ghost of Christmas Past came back to haunt me. AGAIN. Stress… turned into Sickness… turned into Frustration… turned into Anger… turned into Despair. They were all present, wrapped up in the middle of my living room on Christmas day… Uninvited, by the way. But they were settled in my heart, locked in to my thoughts and exposed in my actions. Sure. I told myself — (hashtag) ###ChooseJOY. Yea, right. It doesn’t work like that. I’d had the wind knocked out of me and #Joy was nowhere to be found… or chosen. I was so pissed. Another holiday ruined. The Ghost of Christmas past haunting me again. I could not #wish for my holidays to be merry and bright, more than I could hope for santas’ fat ass to come down our chimney. I try and ###ChooseJOY every year. And every year seems like something f*cks it all up. Sorry. Not sorry. These were my real. raw. transparent. truthful feelings. #Exposed.

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Thankfully, Christmas morning was lovely. Coffee and waffles, warmth and cuddles. Although I blew my nose most of the way thru the kids opening their gifts, it was wonderful. I took a few pictures, capturing moments of #happiness. We skyped with family far away, blowing kisses at the screen and sharing digital hugs. As we cleaned up from ‘Christmas’, and the mountains of kleenex I had made, the walls began to close in again and I had a feeling the Ghost of Christmas past might make a visit. #Seriously, can I make it thru one Christmas without some kind of a meltdown?! Yet that is exactly what I needed. An honest with God, good old fashion meltdown. The Ghost of Christmas past drove me to my knees and to prayer. I was at my own end and in the most vulnerable place I could be. #blessed. That last hashtag was #sarcasm. sorry, couldn’t help myself. #Truth.

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#Seriously. Enough with the hashtags. On with the story. After dinner, I unraveled. I went into my room… and bawled like a baby. I wept thru my emotions and laid my feelings out before Him. God spoke gently to my soul. There was no guilt or shame for my ridiculous actions. No ‘I-told-you-so’, ‘get over yo-sorry-self’ or judgement of my reasons for unravelling. He is a good good Father, full of kindness, mercy and patience for His daughter.

He whispered one word. Grace. 

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In a moment with tears spilled out, with honesty of heart, with one word, He spoke Grace over me. Grace over my feelings, Grace over my thoughts, Grace over my actions. Grace over my family. Grace over our Christmas.

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The Ghost was gone because Grace took its place. Our Christmas was redeemed. We enjoyed the rest of the evening and a renewing hike the next day. We can honestly say we had a MERRY CHRISTMAS. Gifts are being enjoyed, memories are being treasured, and the kids are loving fighting over their new bean bag chairs.

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Before the brawl broke out…

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Selah enjoying popping bubbles, mostly

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Thanks for reading friends 🙂 I know I’m not the only one who has been visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past. So fess up and feel free to share your stories. If you need Grace, there is an overflow awaiting you… God is always giving His gifts, even after the holidays 🙂 The end, for now… I’d love to hear from you!

In Him, Leslie

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We need self-control even MORE than gun control {and no offense, Mr President, our Prayers ARE Enough}

For the moments when this world seems upside down…

It's my birthday and I'll cry if I want to...

I have no experience with guns. I have never owned, used or even held a gun. I know very little about ‘gun control’… however I DO know those two words evoke a range of emotions from a range of people. This is not a debate on the pros and cons of gun control but rather a call for self-control.

I have a quick temper. I have wounded many people with my anger in the course of my 38 years, navigating thru this life. I, along with every other human, need self-control. I have clenched my jaw in frustration, raised my fists to bang on doors, cracked a car windshield with my feet, thrown my shoes at the walls, and slung my words in rage. I, along with every other human being on this earth, need Jesus.

We are all vulnerable and fragile people, in need of a Savior. We are crying out for salvation and yet… in the same moment, we are blind to recognize and acknowledge the gaping soul wounds we carry, which only He can mend. The reality of worlds brokenness is glaring at us. We do not have to look far to see the hopelessness and desperation our world operates in. We are scrambling to ‘get it together’… We are scrambling, grasping for control.

The tragedies we are facing daily in our nation are not rooted in gun control, but rather self-control. And with all due respect to President Obama, our PRAYERS ARE ENOUGH

Self control is rarely exalted. But losing control is. Let’s change this! Do we want to see things change? Or do we want to continue bemoaning the same issues with the focus constantly on ourselves? Adults — We need to get over ourselves! The world is not going to change with lawmakers and political discussions, throwing fits about who is right and wrong. The world is going to change with our KIDS. We need to PRAY over our kids!

I have the privilege of working with 200 elementary students, teaching Art and watching over them when they are at recess, in their classrooms and in the cafeteria. Part of my job is having eyes to see when issues arise with the kids, and address those issues before they grow into bigger issues. I support the teachers and help teach the students navigate their own self-control. I help them recognize the responsibility they have for their own choices, actions and emotions as they go thru their days, as they study and work in class, listen to their teachers, eat their lunches and play during recess. Kids have a lot to sort thru as they go about their days. They experience stress as much as adults do. Never cease in PRAYING for our kids. 

My heart along with many others breaks for the senseless tragedy at Umpqua Community College this week. We must honestly ask ourselves – Are we numb? Do we believe our prayers are enough? This is not just another mass shooting. We honor the 9 lives lost too soon. This is another moment in our lifetime to grieve, mourn and cry out on behalf of our nation, our world. To cry out and pray against future mass shootings. To pray for those contemplating using violence in any form to hurt the innocent. To pray for the souls of those who lack self-control and whose actions impact our nation with senseless shootings. To pray, pray, pray and PRAY some more. How are we responding?

If we merely see the surface of this and so many tragedies, we will only see the cracks caused by brokenness. But if you look further… you will see beyond the hopelessness and desperation. You will see beyond the rage of a gunman and see God working thru this tragedy. You will see people rise up in prayer and surrender to Jesus. You will see we have a choice. We can operate from a place of peace and self-control.

Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of he Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.” We are human, we are people born into sin, and we need to learn self-control. We need to PRAY for the fruits of the Spirit to invade our individual lives, and our world. We cry out for YOU, King Jesus, our Savior who is King of all the earth and King of self-control. Show us what it means to operate in the Fruits of Your Spirit, rather than our human sinful nature and terrible tendencies.

If you are a follower of Christ, this is not a time in our nations history to continue the ongoing political debates about gun control and what suit looks best on President Obama. This is a time to pour into prayer for change. To lift our voices for the next generation… for them to walk and RUN thru this earth, bearing every fruit of the Spirit!

It is time for more prayer and self-control. Thank you for reading, sharing and responding!

In Him, Leslie

screaming on the way to church

screaming on the way to church is perfectly acceptable.

this is me — screaming on the way to church. i reenacted it for you to capture this lovely image… you get the picture. (photo cred: my hubby 😉 )

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i woke up to a beautiful day. had some coffee. had some eggs. had plenty of time to get myself ready….. and as i was heading out the door to leave for church, i became super agitated and angry. i was running a few minutes late, which is not unusual always for me. but… this was not about me running late. this was not about me being on my period. this was not about anything anyone did that pissed me off. the frustration that came over me was sudden and ugly. i didn’t want help loading my guitar. i didn’t want to hug my kids good-bye. i didn’t want to kiss Adam good-bye. i wanted to scream. 

i rushed out of our driveway. gave a fake smile and fake wave to our next door neighbor — during our ‘love your neighbor’ sermon series, nonetheless. and screamed on the way to church.

as i was driving (and screaming), i was battling. i was battling lies infiltrating my thoughts telling me i’m a terrible mother for leaving the house in a huff and not hugging the kids good-bye. i’m a terrible wife for not kissing adam good-bye. i’m too angry to lead worship today. i’m too angry to be in church leadership. i’m too angry to even be a Christian.

Oh. WHAT. THE. HELL?!? these thoughts lies were from the pit of hell. from the father of all lies — satan himself.

on the way to church my mind was a battle field. i was pushing into enemy territory. i was on my way to lead worship — to lift up the name of Jesus above all other names,  proclaim Him as the Son of God and sing of His glory and Lordship over all the earth!

before long, the screams flowed into prayers. the lies ceased and Truth pierced thru — taking my thoughts captive.

every time we worship, we are engaging in spiritual warfare. we are participating in an unseen battle and we need real protection. we need the armor of God. i don’t recommend screaming every Sunday on the way to church, but there will be times to use your tongue as a spiritual defense weapon.

as i screamed on the way to church, warfare was waged. my tongue was on fire and it wasn’t pretty — battle never is. it is messy when we follow Jesus. my worship on Sunday was an overflow of the battle i had just been part of. my worship became warfare and celebration simultaneously, as the light of Jesus broke thru the darkness and the Kingdom of God advanced.

Have you ever experienced hearing and believing the lies of the enemy? How has your thought life been affected? How has your worship been affected? Please share – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In Him, Leslie

Go to Hell

I am, what some might refer to as, a hot head. 

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Me, age 11 (bottom right) with my family at Knotts Berry Farm 🙂

My temper flares, my patience unravels, my emotions explode… and sometimes collateral damage is shed on those around me.  I am not a hot head, just for the hell of it. There is always a logical reason stirring beneath emotions which can lead to my eruptions. Sometimes I do fly off the handle for no reason, but most of the time, there is a completely logical reason, underlying the outbursts – I become enraged when it comes to acts of unfair treatment. My anger stems from my desire to see justice.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer. Why? There were 3 reasons I was planning to go the law route, which made perfect sense to me: I was good at yelling, I was good at arguing and I had an overarching desire to see justice. In school, I loved studying, talking about, and writing reports on subjects like the Holocaust, racism and abortion. I enjoyed discussing why things in our history were wrong. Unjust. Should. not. have. happened (and should not be currently happening) Yes. I was a fun child to be around.

While ideas of what actually constitutes injustice might vary, even varying levels of injustice, my interpretation is from Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Your God?” As a kid, and now as an adult, I desire to see justice. I desire to love kindness and to walk humbly with my God. All of these actions are forms of love we have a responsibility to live out as Christians. As a Christ follower, I have a life calling to do justice. 

I never became a lawyer, but I am still responsible for justice.  Growing up, I had no problem bringing the court into the playground and standing up for justice. Kids can be mean! I sensed a calling to be the playground policewoman. I placed myself on the stand as the judge, responsible for pounding the gavel and calling the bullies into order, and sentencing any unfair treatment my ears heard about or my eyes laid hold of… at school, on the playground, and at home.

One afternoon, my brother and I were playing in our front yard, creating sidewalk chalk masterpieces on our driveway. At the time, I was 11 years old and my brother was 9. Two of our neighbors, who were brothers, came over and began to bother us. They started throwing water balloons around our chalk artwork, and I told them to stop it. They did not stop and continued throwing the water balloons, each time nearing closer and closer to us, threatening to hit us with one of their balloons. It may appear as innocent water play, but their actions were not innocent. Unfortunately, we had a like/hate relationship with these brothers. Some days we could play together having a great time, and the next day, they would act like jerks and treat us like crap. Some days they were our best friends and other days they were our worst enemies. I knew that. They did not stop throwing the balloons, even though I had asked them kindly to do so.

So. I. Snapped. 

“GO TO HELL!” 

I yelled at the brothers and they ran home.

My brother and I ran inside to tell our mom what had just happened. Heavy breathing, holding back tears… we cried out to our mom, “It’s not fair! We were just playing, not bothering them. They wouldn’t leave us alone. I told them to go to hell!” Our mom, listened with understanding ears, and gently corrected my overreaction. “Perhaps, next time you come inside and ask me to help you before telling them to go to hell.”

A few moments later, <<<knock, knock, knock>>>. The brothers mother was at our front door. “Did your daughter just tell MY SONS to go to hell?” Yes. My mom calmly replied. She asked their mother, “Did your boys tell you what they were doing to my kids first?” That shut her up. My mom was fully aware of our on again/off again friends/enemies relationship with the brothers. She knew how they sometimes treated us. She was proud of us for standing up for justice on the driveway.

Today I still desire to stand up for justice. It is at the core of my every longing, intertwined with my very being. The injustice in this world is daunting. My heart cries out for all forms of injustice of every form, especially the injustice which takes shape as modern-day slavery and sexual trafficking. Anyone can google statistics on these subjects and become informed. The more information we know, the more we become aware of the level of injustice happening today. The more we are aware, the more we can intercede and pray. The more we intercede and pray, God will show us how and where to respond.

I have asked the Lord, “Why won’t You just eradicate slavery and human trafficking?” You can end it with a miracle. I believe these are the most unjust forms of behavior in our world today. And I believe God is eradicating this injustice, through His people. There are many amazing organizations praying, working and rescuing. One of the most life changing documentaries you can see on this subject is Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. Warning: it is not for the faint of heart and it will change your life.

So I asked the Lord, “Why?” and His answer has come in many ways – through His people. God is asking me, He is asking us, ‘Who and what are we fighting for today? Who and what are we defending today?’ We are all called to do something. I believe it is time we stand up, take notice, become informed and become the everyday justice police in our families, on the playgrounds, in our communities, and in our world. It is time to tell human trafficking to “Go to Hell!” We must respond to the call – As a Christ follower, I have a life calling to do justice.

In Him, Leslie

*You may disagree with my “Go to Hell!” approach for a start to calling out injustice. What’s Yours?

weeping may endure, but joy comes in the mourning.

A familiar visitor came to my house…
I was faced with feelings I didn’t want to have.
The desire to turn numb, to stop caring, to give up…
Silently those feelings crept into my heart.
Discouraged, depressed, disgusted…
Everything turned ugly. 
Anger and irritation toward Adam and the children took the helm of my attitude.
Words exchanged between Adam and I, clanged in my ears…
My children’s inquisitive nature became an annoyance…
Their crafts on the table infuriated me.

Their messy faces from playing in the dirt outside overwhelmed me. 
Their petty fights sounded like a world war. 

My mind raced with angry thoughts and questions…
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I was overwhelmed, overtaken, overcome by the ugliness I perceived as reality.
Depression had come to my door, let itself in, and settled down for a visit. In my kitchen.
NO!
I had to tell it to “Get the hell out!”
I recognized the familiar symptoms of pain and despair early on.
As those feelings clung onto me with their last effort, I took a moment to call out the depression for what it was, and began healing.

I went on a walk, and waves of weeping came.
A while later, I went downstairs to lift weights and I wept more. while I was trying to lift weights.
I was on my face.
I could not stop weeping… and I did not want to.
The Holy Spirit began to overwhelm, overtake and overcome me.
As the depression tried clinging to my spirit with one last effort, the weeping washed it away.
As the tears ran down my face, I could see more clearly.
I began to see Truth.

It could have been much worse.
I have been there before.
When despair and anger take up a chair at my kitchen table and stay a while longer. 
When the feelings become my reality for longer than a few moments.
When the whole day is spent crying and frustrated.
When the floor of my car is covered in kleenex at my feet, and I blow my nose so much, my nose ring falls out. 
Those times are hard. They are really tough.
And I’ve been there.
But I don’t have to stay there. And neither do you.

One thing I have asked of the Lord is to see. 
To see things like He does.
To see people like He does.
Including myself.
He loves me so much.
He loves this world so much.
He is breaking my heart for the people He loves. the things He loves.
When my eyes are focused on seeing Him, He will move me to weep for the people He weeps for, and for the things He weeps for, even more than myself.
He will move me to pray for the people and for the things He loves.
He will restore my Joy.
And I will not be silent.
I will be honest about the weeping, and sing praise thru the depression, as my Joy returns.
And I will say, “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”

Have you struggled with depression?
I’ve been there.
I’ve seen my joy returned.
And I know He can restore your joy too.
Praying for your journey… feel free to share.

In Him, Leslie

Psalm 30:5b “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning…” 
Psalm 30:11-12 “…You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”