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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Night of Worship

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One of my first experiences at a ‘Night of Worship’ was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, led by the worship leader Dennis Jernigan. I was 16 years old and one of my best friends invited me to attend the Night of Worship with her. I was eager to go, and I had no idea what to expect. But God…

My heart was beating to know God more. I grew up in church and “knew God”, but the desire for more was unquenched. I hungered to know Him more deeply. I sought to understand Him more intimately. As a 16 year old, my thoughts we on homework, friendships, choir practices, a few boys … and God. I attended youth group with my friends, but there was always something missing. My soul was searching to know God personally, beyond what I learned from my parents, my youth group, my youth pastor, and thru friendships.

During the Night of Worship, I weaved between listening to the voices around me singing, observing expressions of worship I had never seen before, and participating in a realm of worship I had never experienced. At one point during the evening, Dennis gently said, “Lift your hands to the Lord” … and I did. I had never lifted my hands in worship before. The moment my hands were surrendered, heat filled my palms. The Holy Spirit touched my hands. I didn’t fully understand what I was experiencing, but after that moment, my life was forever changed.

My friends and I continued attending Nights of Worship with Dennis Jernigan. They were crazy and wild. We would worship for hours, dancing before the Lord. Every single time, we would leave the church drenched in sweat. Those sweet moments with the Lord began to build upon a foundation of worship I would grow in.

Twenty years later, and I am a changed Worshipper.

Worship is a force that changes people. When all our affection, our attention and adoration is focused on the worship of Jesus, everything changes. As we worship, He changes the atmosphere. I am forever changed in worship. I am changed when all my affection, my attention, my adoration is focused on Jesus. Worship is our response to Jesus. When we are surrendered in worship, we are surrendering to Jesus. His great love for us changes us. And our response is more worship of Him. 

Dennis Jernigan’s story is one of redemption and response. After experiencing the love of Jesus, he was redeemed from a homosexual lifestyle, and his response was worship. As his life was changed by Jesus, he began leading worship… leading others into response toward Jesus. His journey as a Worshipper has profoundly impacted mine. His songs spoke profound truths I would sing continuously, carrying the melodies beyond the Nights of Worship and into my daily life. One Night of Worship can change everything – Here is a quote from his testimony.

“Upon my graduation from OBU in 1981, God began to move in supernatural ways that even I couldn’t see! One of these instances was a simple music concert. A group called The Second Chapter of Acts was going to be in concert in Norman, Oklahoma, and I knew that I was supposed to go. By that time in my life I was looking for anybody who was real, someone who had a real walk with the Lord. Among Christian musicians, I was looking for more than entertainers. So, I went to their concert. I knew by the words they said and the music they sang that these people were genuine, and the message was born out of times of desperation in their own lives. I needed hope. As I listened to Annie Herring speak and sing I was overwhelmed by the love she spoke of. This was the love I had dreamed of but still couldn’t believe was available to me! So I listened very intently with great expectation–until she came to the song Mansion Builder. This song caught my deepest attention because of the simple phrase, “Why should I worry? Why should I fret? I’ve got a Mansion Builder Who ain’t through with me yet?”18 All of a sudden she just stopped in the middle of the song and said, “There are those of you here who are dealing with things that you have never told anyone and you are carrying those burdens and that’s wrong–that’s sin and you need to let those hurts go and give them to the Lord. We are going to sing the song again and I want you to lift your hands to the Lord–and all of those burdens that you are carrying, I want you to place them in your hands and lift your hurts to Him.” This was all new to me–worship and praise. I had always thought before that this was just an emotional response that didn’t really mean anything. But you know what it did for me? As I lifted my hands, God became more real to me than I had ever imagined! The lifting of my hands was more than a physical action. My hands were an extension of my heart! I realized that Jesus had lifted His hands for me–upon the cross. I realized that He truly was beside me and that He was willing to walk with me and carry me and just be honest with me. And I could be honest with Him! At that moment, I cried out to God and lifted those burdens to the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, I can’t change me or the mess I’ve gotten myself into–but you can!” And you know what? He did change me!”

Worship changes everything. Jesus’ love for us changes everything. Our response to Jesus changes everything.

Have you been changed in worship? I’d love to hear your story! Feel free to share and comment.

In Him ~ Leslie

Yesterday, I lost my mind

Yesterday was one of those days… You know the ones.  Where your 2-year-old wakes you up at waaaaaay too early o’clock in the morning, screaming, “Ake up Mommy,  AKE UP!” while pulling on your covers. One of my biggest pet peeves is when anyone pulls my covers off of me.  That’s my job.  I don’t need any help with my covers.  Before I could even say, “it’s too early, go back to your bed”, I had a headache to kick off the day.

I was emotionally, mentally and physically drained before I even got out of bed.

I had hit my boiling point.  Frustrations had piled up and were weighing heavily on my shoulders.  My 2-year-old screaming was the thing that sent me over the edge.  You know those things.  The piled up frustrations/worries/fears/anxieties that you hold in/push down/shove under the rug… until something small morphs into something big.  Something simple, that you could normally handle as “no problem”, becomes the biggest deal on the face of the planet…and you lose your mind.

As custom with my emotional roller coaster days, the rest of the day followed suite.  I took out my frustrations on the wee Babs, P.A., the dishes, the dirty laundry, the dinner…. and myself.

I lost my mind.

I ran out of Grace.

Eventually, I put myself to bed.  at 8pm.

But before I gave myself a time out – the dishes, dirty laundry, dinner, P.A. and the wee Bab’s were the brunt of my lack of grace.

I had ZERO patience for P.A. and the wee Babs.  I cleaned the dishes with contempt.  I threw the dirty laundry around.  I wrestled with dinner until… I won.

All of this while I was feeling guilty, and growing more and more angry with myself.

I didn’t really win anything.  I hated the way I was treating my fam, the chores, and the feelings I had toward myself.  But I couldn’t stop the emotional roller coaster of ugly events.

I had lost all sense of reasonableness… and run out of Grace.  

After reflecting, forgiving myself, and asking forgiveness from my family, I could see I needed a break for myself.  Not just a “I need to get away from my kids/out of the house for a few hours” break, but Grace.  I needed Grace… for myself.  2 Corinthians 12:9.

Grace is a Gift from God.

There is no way to manufacture it, conjure it up, or create it within ourselves.  It can only be received from God.  If we don’t accept His Grace for ourselves, we can’t extend it to others.  Only the Grace He gives can overflow from our own hearts, and then be extended to others.

God’s Grace is His patience with us. His forgiveness toward us. His unending love for us.

I am thankful for God’s Gift of Grace, and for those moments when He reminds me how much I need His Grace.  For Myself.  And for others… including my dishes, dirty laundry and dinner.  Amen.

How are you experiencing God’s Grace in your own life?