We all do it. We eat some incredibly, delicious food. Maybe it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert… it doesn’t matter the type of food; we just eat it and we love every bit of it!
So, naturally, we go back for seconds…
Maybe it was our absolute favorite food ever, or perhaps it just looked really, really good when we first saw it. Regardless, we missed out on it the first go round, so we figure we will just get a little bit of it to see how we like it.
…then comes the regret.
“Ugh, I did NOT need that.”
“I am waaaay too full.”
“Whoops, I didn’t realize that (insert name) hadn’t even had any yet!”
“I can’t eat all of this. I was just worried it would all be taken!”
“It looked really good, but uhh not so much. What was I even thinking?!”
…Ashley, what are you talking about? Are you blogging while hungry? Yes, in fact I am (when am I not hungry?), but that’s not what I’m talking about!
…I’m talking about going back for seconds, in our individual lives, on our individual plates.
Our life plates.
You know, the ones we fill up every day, week, month, year, with tasks we need to accomplish, groups we want to join, or relationships we have.
I recently went to a women’s retreat and heard a speaker reference sitting down with God to evaluate her plate. “I’ve just got too much on my plate right now!” We have all said that phrase or heard someone we know use it. She went on to discuss how she evaluated her plate over the course of 30 days and prayed and asked God to show her what should either stay on or come off.
I thought to myself, “ohh I JUST went through this in my own life! What a great lesson for SOMEONE ELSE to hear. We all need to do this, and I am SO GLAD that I JUST did this!”
So after a full day of sessions, the retreat ended and I was super encouraged… until I wasn’t anymore.
I have been battling, and I mean battling, myself, the enemy, the ones I love, the media, the lady at the grocery store, the guy two lanes over from me, I mean literally EVERYONE lately! But the battlefield has not been one that anyone else could see. It has all been in. my. mind.
Irrational thoughts (check)
Negative self talk (check)
Self doubt (check)
Questioning the voice of God (check)
Raining down fiery darts like in the movie 300 (double check)
It has been a MONTH, if you know what I mean! I go to sleep, exhausted from a day of constant thinking, evaluating, and questioning, all of which is done in my very own head. I wake up and the mental battle starts again. Someone asks me how I am, and I’m like…hmm they probably don’t want to know all of the crazy that is happening inside of this head of mine!
So where did all of this come from, and why does it feel like I am stuck in a hurricane of my own thoughts and emotions?
…it’s because I went back for seconds.
So what does that mean? What does it mean to go back for seconds?
Last November, when I cleared off my plate, I quit my job, was kindly let go from helping my husband with his company (hah!), and then I put back on, in order of priority, God, husband, and children. Evidently, I wasn’t personally finished filling it yet, but I didn’t realize that then.
Within the course of a month while holding my newly cleared plate, I took on leading worship more frequently at my church, doing a few photography sessions here and there, and then was asked and decided to commit to FIVE volunteer teams at my church! Talk about a buffet!!! I mean, c’mon people, it was God’s work! All good things are ALWAYS good, right?
I had kept a little bit of worship on my plate, and a little bit of volunteering, but I had enjoyed them SO MUCH, that I went right back and grabbed myself some seconds, even though the Lord had distinctly told me to clear off my plate! I let that last all of 2 minutes before throwing stuff back on it. And I mean, it’s not unlike me to keep myself busy, or get ahead of God, but this time I really didn’t even see it. I was trying so hard to fill it with the good, Godly stuff, that it took me 3 1/2 months to see that it was making me spiritually sick!
Because here’s the thing… when we load up our plates, whether with 4 things or 14 things, we have got to take the time to properly digest all that we are trying to consume. Otherwise, we are just stuffing ourselves full of really wonderful things, that we just don’t have time or room for!
And how does it feel when you stuff yourself? When you have a gluttonous spirit? It’s awful! It becomes hard to even “feel” anything other than miserable. Sensing the discernment of the Spirit and the voice of God become almost impossible! Why? Because we are sick from all of the stuff on our plates, yet we keep adding more good, when really what we need is more God!
And when we do that, y’all, we take away those great things from someone else. We put too much extra on our plate, and we don’t leave any for the person that perhaps God intended it for in the first place.
The things we already have on our plates can nourish us, grow us, fill us, but we won’t ever experience that if we just keep pilling things on top of what we already have!
And understand me on this, those things that you feel like you just HAVE to HAVE…the pan of brownies that NO ONE WILL EVER MAKE AGAIN…y’all, that’s just not true! There will be another pan of brownies. And if you live in my house, a weekly pan of brownies! But what I’m trying to say is, that good thing you feel like you aren’t getting a taste of quite yet…it won’t be gone forever. One day, when you least expect it, but when God most purposefully intends it, you’ll get your chance to try it…or maybe you won’t.
If I can digress for a moment, I’d like us to discuss a passage from Hebrews. In chapter 11 we read about great people of faith from the Old Testament. The verse above specifically pertains to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These great men did bold things with patient faith, knowing that the Lord was working in and through their hardships. They took on JUST what the Lord told them to and then they waited in faith until He directed them. And the Lord did. He directed them and gave them people to share their faith with, but these men died never experiencing the best thing they could’ve ever experienced, and that was the promise of the coming Christ. Yet, they were long suffering. They kept believing and they kept doing EXACTLY what God had placed on their plates. Even when it wasn’t, perhaps, the things they wanted the most.
That’ll preach, y’all, cause it’s preaching to me! When you are walking in all of the good, but not the path that God has set for you, you might as well be behind enemy lines! That battlefield of the mind that I mentioned earlier, was my own doing, yet there I was giving the enemy all of the credit. I think he was likely relishing in how easy I was making it for him, but never the less, I was there because I wasn’t satisfied with what God had given me. Ouch! That hurt to type.
But God, through Jesus, gave us a way to ward off some of this “going back for seconds” nonsense. In Matthew 6 when Jesus is talking to His disciples (sermon on the mount), He instructs them on how they should pray. “Give us this day, our daily bread…” Jesus doesn’t say, “Give me this day, absolutely everything good that I want to have!” Negative. And aren’t we thankful for that?
“Give us this day, our daily bread…” don’t worry about tomorrow, and don’t try and get all you possibly can today, but instead, Lord, give us what we need that is sufficient for this day, and this day alone. Because really that’s all we can handle. And honestly, WE aren’t even handling that! It is only by the power of Christ and the grace of God given to us each day that allow us to handle what we have. We are also reminded of this in Proverbs 30:8, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need.”
So let’s each take a good, long look at our plates. Let’s not keep adding all of the things, going back for seconds, to then never even try all that we’ve added… because, guess what? We end up throwing those things away, becoming spiritually sick, or going to battle against ourselves, when God is over on the sidelines with a kitchen sink and dish rag whispering, “just let me clean this up for you.”
It’ll be so good. And it’ll be so hard…but also, SO worth it!
…and for the love of Pete, don’t go find yourself a bigger plate! :)
With love & laughter,
The other morning I woke up, sat down, prayed that God would show me something in His word and then asked that He would tell me what to do with it... here it is.
I’m currently reading the book of John chapter 4, where John recalls Jesus declaring His Messiahship to the woman at the well. He begins describing this metaphor for living water and never thirsting again, but in this passage she just wasn't following Him. Jesus was trying to speak to her spiritual needs and when that didn’t work, He kind of called her out.
Now, I don’t want to make Jesus sound rude or insensitive, but He knows us, right? Sometimes (often times) we need to be told straight up, how things are in our lives. I am a real person and I need to be talked to in the same way. Too much fluff and flowers and you can lose my very direct, straight forward mind.
This woman at the well had been with several men and Jesus brought it up to her. She was at the well at a time when no one else was, due to what I imagine was great shame and shunning by her community. But Jesus met her there AND acknowledged her.
After talking with Jesus, the woman was so moved by her encounter with Him, the one who knew all of her sins and still offered her an eternal “well of life." He showed up and her shame left. Scripture says that she left her waterpot at the well and went straight to the townspeople in the city to tell them of her experience with this man called Jesus!
I have read this story before and I've heard this story told in sermons several times, but when I read it the other morning, it seemed different in some way.
The shameful woman at the well was no longer the focus in my mind.
Her sin was no longer the focus of this story for me.
It was her going immediately to the townspeople and telling them about her encounter with Jesus.
Here is this woman, who wouldn't even collect water at a well when others did, leaving her waterpot, and going to the townspeople to declare boldly about her meeting with this man who "told (her) all things that (she) ever did!"
For a woman with her reputation, bringing up past sin wouldn't normally be an encouraging thing (I mean, who would enjoy that?)...but it wasn't about her sin. It was that this man, Jesus, knew her sin and STILL HE MET WITH HER. Still He acknowledged her. Still He offered her what He knew she needed most.
When we encounter the LOVE of Jesus...the grace filled, forgiving LOVE of Jesus, we are compelled! We run! We share it! WE LOSE OUR SHAME.
Shame that keeps us hidden away, disconnected from loved ones, drowning our feelings of worthlessness or self pity in anything and everything. Sometimes it's substances and sometimes it's other relationships. Sometimes it's actions, things we do, and other times it's things we buy or partake in. But guess what? Typically those things create more shame or only a temporary haze to keep our shame just out of view for a little while. None of those things take it away though.
But here, in just a moment... it was gone. And as a result, she reached out to others who were then so moved by her words, her testimony, that they left the city and went to find Jesus.
How often do we let fear of others or influence of others keep us from sharing what God has done in our lives or better yet, BROUGHT US THROUGH? We've all done things, said things, experienced things that we are not proud of. That's called sin.
My name is Ashley, and I am a sinner. I sin. Every day. Major bummer.
Ok, now that that's out of the way, guess what?....
There is forgiveness for that, BUT....and it's a big one...there is also an undeniable influence in that! When we turn our shame into a testimony of what God has done, that brings Him GLORY! And glory is evidence of Him; it's showing the world that my God is real, and here's how...
"But I don't want to share this horrible thing with others!" ...no one is making you, but if you have come out of it, whatever situation "it" is or was, there is a story to tell. Maybe your ending was better than you could've imagined, or maybe it was worse than anything you've ever experienced...either way, don't let the shame keep you at the well by yourself.
Maybe you're there, at the well, pulling up your bucket and you don't even see Jesus anywhere, so how could you possibly hear from Him?
Ask Him to meet you at the well. Sitting by yourself with nothing but your shame, looking for something, anything, that will fill the longing you have. the thirst. the hunger.
He will meet you. But you've gotta be at the well...that place of humility where you know no one else is gonna show up and sit with you. It's gonna be hard. But if we don't all go there at some point, our shame will keep us so far from the one who takes away our sin. The one who breathes life and love back into us again.
I think that's why God gave me these words. Too many people I know are walking through tough things right now, but not sharing it with anyone because of their shame. Because of their concern with other people's perception of them or their situation.
Maybe you know someone who is walking through something right now. And man, it looks bad. It's covered in filth and what looks like a long road and so you've just checked out. You've left them in the middle of their shame, all for a little less "ick" and a lot more comfort on your end. I get it. I've been there before too. But maybe try and revisit that person or situation. Maybe it's only in prayer, but maybe it's also in person. There's nothing that says "I'm here for you" like a warm, living, breathing, body knocking on your door.
So I want to challenge you. I want you to think about your life, or maybe it's someone else's life that comes to mind, and I want you to pray and ask God to help you. Maybe helping you looks like bringing you to a place of humility, so that you can make your way to the well. Or maybe helping you looks like the Holy Spirit giving you courage and grace to step back into someone's life who could really use a friend...and if you have a box of donuts and a movie, those wouldn't hurt to carry on you either.
Sometimes we need those too.
With love & laughter,
1st Photo by Qang Jaka on Unsplash
2nd Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash
3rd Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash
Yesterday was a first of an upcoming year of firsts. In January, my mom went home – to her real home. So this was my first Mother’s Day without a mom, without my Mama. I really wanted to just move on past the day and pretend that it wasn’t Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way so I just kinda muddled through the day.
I was so blessed to have precious friends send sweet texts throughout the day. One even made the most amazing cake to let me know that she was thinking about me. I was blessed to have most of my children with me but, and I hate to admit this, I just wasn’t feeling overly grateful for the blessings that were around me.
This morning a sweet friend said, “You made it through your first ‘first’. You did it.” She knows what she’s talking about because she has walked this same road. She knows that there will be many “firsts” this year. As I left her house to head home, I started thinking about how much I don’t want to just make it through the next year of “firsts”.
As I drove, I began to become so aware of my ungrateful heart. God had so lovingly surrounded me with loving friends and family and I had just neglected to recognize it. But then He brought a precious memory to my mind. I want to share it with all of you, especially any of you who, like me, have a year of “firsts” ahead.
Back in January, early on a Monday morning, my Dad called to let me know that he thought Mama had just had a stroke and she was in the ambulance on her way to the hospital. We had made several trips to the hospital over the last few months. Her health had been declining and her body was worn out. I remember that my only prayer on the way to the hospital was just that God would be merciful and that her suffering would not escalate even more.
When we got to the hospital, she was on a respirator and was heavily sedated. We were told that she had had a catastrophic brain bleed. After a few more tests and much prayer, the decision was made to remove the respirator. That night, her family surrounded her as she took her last breath.
One by one, family left the room until the only two left were my son, Dalton, and me. His eyes were swollen and red and I knew his heart was crushed. I didn’t want to leave him in the room by himself so I just stood there, watching him out of the corner of my eye. My own heart was so heavy as the finality of what had happened sank in.
But as we stood there in that dark, cold room the most amazing thing happened. All of a sudden, Dalton’s eyes grew wide and his whole face lit up. “Mama, just think what she’s seeing right now…can you imagine what she’s seeing right now!” It was as if God had cracked the door to heaven just enough to allow us a tiny glimpse of what the real reality was. The whole room seemed to light up.
His words washed over me like a river of healing water as I was reminded that the empty shell lying in the hospital bed was nothing more than just that, a shell. But my Mama, well, she was face to face with her Savior. No more pain. She was free. And maybe, she was even dancing.
The reality of what death is for those of us who belong to Christ had escaped me for just a moment. But my son’s words reminded me that the truth is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)
Who was I to want anything else for her?
So, as I drove home today, I realized that I, again, had lost sight of the truth. I confessed my ungratefulness to my Father and asked that He renew a right spirit in me. I told Him that for the rest of my year of “firsts” without my Mama, I was going to celebrate her year of “firsts” with Him. I was going to just imagine what she was seeing and how she looked now that she was fully healed.
I also had to smile because I’m pretty sure she is rearranging all the furniture in the Mansion and telling the angels what to do.
Have a great week!
Yesterday was a big day for the family. Dalton, child number 3, graduated from The University of South Carolina. Three Marlowe children down, one to go. To make things even more special, Robert, whom I claim as one of my own was also graduating.
Because we are so academically oriented, we all headed to Columbia for the momentous occasion. Actually, that’s a lie. We mainly get excited over these kinds of things because it gives us an excuse to get the families together and, well, eat. And, because it wouldn’t be right to celebrate the occasion without actually attending the graduation, we decided that it was only appropriate that we go.
Certainly picture taking is also an important part of such occasions, not as important as food, but important all the same. The problem is that none of us are good at:
A. Actually taking the pictures
B. Posing for pictures.
I think this is because there are so many of us and out of the entire group, there are only a few who know how to focus for longer than 60 seconds. Well actually, that’s probably not true either.
Thank goodness for my daughter in law. If it weren’t for her, there would be very little documentation of family events. Sadly, I think we have started to wear off on her somewhat. She is the one standing on the far right. Obviously, she is struggling with the whole focus thing, too.
Special thank you to my friend Julie, Robert’s mama, for capturing our dysfunction.
So, after the trauma of the picture taking with the Coker family, we all were so worn out that we decided to take one of the shuttles from the Horseshoe to the Colonial Life Arena. That was also an experience, but not one we will delve into right now. Once inside, we had to sit in the nosebleed section because all the good seats were taken. My guess is that either everyone else decided to wait and take pictures after graduation or they are better at taking pictures than we are.
Once in our seats, we all sat politely and waited for the ceremony to begin. Philip fell asleep. Twice. People were asked to behave respectfully and not holler so as to not drown out the name of the graduate following their child; most were courteous, some were obnoxiously not. I, myself, was so distracted by the fabulous artwork on the top of the graduates’ caps (Remember we were in the nosebleed section) that I almost missed my own son’s name being called out.
The soon-to-be graduates were assured that they were ready to take on the world – to change it. We were all told the same thing when we graduated. Do you remember? I remember. So much value was placed on that simple piece of paper I held in my hand. And it is valuable. But it is not in itself able to empower anyone to change the world. What will cause change is found in the heart of the one holding the diploma.
To Dalton and Robert I want to say that I’m so proud of the hard work and dedication that brought the two of you to this moment. But this moment, this degree, is not what you should ever allow to define you. Instead, see it as the catalyst through which God will direct your steps - for His glory. Don’t let your main ambition from this point forward be to earn lots of money and be financially set for life or to attain a high job status or even to be impressive in man’s view. Instead, make it your life’s goal to, “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
One day, all the finances accumulated and all the accolades bestowed by man will be left behind and you will stand before the One who created you to do great things that He has already chosen for you to do. He has given you all the gifts and talents that you will need. Use them selflessly and wisely. Remember that God’s view of greatness is different from that of the world’s. While the world looks at the outward appearance, God is looking at your hearts.
Make Him proud. I have no doubt that you will.
Love you both. You too, Hunter.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. - Proverbs 16:9
One week ago, today, I received the phone call I’ve been waiting on for eight years. The call was from the Principal of a 3A High School offering me the Head Football Coaching job. I was shocked; I really could not believe it. It seemed to be an answered prayer from God. While I was somewhat nervous about the task, I was inwardly swelling with pride thinking about becoming a Head Coach at age 26. This was it; all that I had worked so hard for, prayed so hard for, and dreamed so much about was finally going to happen for me.
The reason I say that I thought this was an answered prayer is because two hours before the principal called me, I was sitting in my office at Sumter High School having my quiet time. I felt very burdened. I fell on my knees and I begged and pleaded with God to send me something, anything that would allow me to “move up” in my career. My heart wanted so badly to have the opportunity to lead my own football program and begin to accomplish things that I wanted to accomplish in my life. Exactly two hours later, that call came.
I’m blessed to have some very wise people in my life, so I began talking to some of them about the job, it’s problems, and what I could do to overcome them. While I still had some doubts, I was sure that God was in control and He would work out all the details. I worked diligently to prepare for my meeting with the high school principal that was scheduled for the end of the week. I was looking at houses, watching film of last year’s team, thinking about how I wanted to arrange my coaching staff; you name it, I was on it. I didn’t know how I was going to make it all work out, but I was absolutely determined to make it work because it was what my heart wanted more than anything else in the world.
Friday finally came and I was nervous because I wanted everything to go right. The principal and I began talking and for the most part he was saying “yes” to every single thing I was asking for. The more we talked, the more I really believed that this was it. We finished our conversation and I took a tour of the facilities and went to my hotel to gather my thoughts. I spent Friday night wrestling with the few problems that were going to come with this job.
Saturday morning, my wife and I woke up early and began our quest to find a place to live. As we began searching, it became apparent that finding an affordable place to live might be tougher than we thought because the cost of living in the area was so expensive. We found a house, but the rent was double what our current mortgage was! Still, even knowing this, I was determined to make this job work.
Just before I left Saturday to head back home, my wife and I were ready to make the call that would officially make me the Head Football Coach. We decided to give it until Sunday afternoon, maybe by then we would feel just a little more confident about taking the job and God would send us a firmer peace about this decision.
On the ride home I began to feel conflicted. The questions that I had been asking all week suddenly became a heavy burden on me. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling like taking the job might not be the right thing to do. Certainly the Lord would not have given it to me if He didn’t intend for me to accept it. I became keenly aware that by me accepting this particular job, my wife would have to make some huge sacrifices.
I got home and the burden became heavier and heavier, I was beginning to have a lot of doubt about whether or not this whole thing could work out. Even with every burdensome thought that came, I was nowhere near willing to let this opportunity slip by me. I was going to become the youngest Head Coach in the state. I was going to turn this program around, and by age thirty, I was going to have a “big” job, one with big lights, big community support, and big money. I was finally going to raise that big state championship trophy high in the sky at Williams Brice Stadium… the same one that had twice been denied to me, once as a player and once as an assistant coach.
On Sunday morning the burden was so heavy I felt as though I might not be able to carry it. I convinced myself that I must need to find a way to fill myself with more faith in God. I went to church thinking, “Surely God is going to speak to me this morning. He will calm my spirit, and give me this overwhelming peace that all these people keep talking about.” As I sat through the sermon, I was doing a very good job of twisting the words of my pastor into pretty much telling me that I should call the principal right after the service and accept the job, after all, I had worked hard for eight years and I deserved it.
After church, I was at home attempting to make myself as busy as possible so that I wouldn’t think about all of the problems that would come with the job. Problems that I knew God could and would handle for me. After all, He was calling me to this job; He had answered my prayer. My mom, whom I am very close with and am told by most everyone who knows both of us that I am “just like”, came by my house. She wanted to share something God had laid on her heart with me and give me a book she was reading. She thought I needed to read a chapter in the book before I made my final decision. In my mind I thought, “Great! This chapter will talk about having strong faith, it will talk about all of the rewards we get when we follow God’s plan.”
What the Lord would reveal to me over the next three hours would rock me. I had fallen so far, I wasn’t even aware of where I really was in my life. I had made for myself an idol that I had built so big it had consumed my whole entire life. The reality is that I have woken up every single day for at least the last four years wondering what I could do to become a better football coach, so that I could become a head coach. I woke up every morning trying to find what steps I could take that day towards becoming a Head Football Coach. I dreamed about it, I thought about it all day, I talked about it most of the day, and every day I asked God in heaven to give it to me because I wanted everyone to see me as a Head Football Coach. I wanted all of the glory, honor, and praise from man. That is the ugly truth behind my story to this point. In an effort to shorten this story, I called the Principal at the High School and turned down the job that I had wanted so badly for so long.
So, exactly one week later here is what the Lord has shown me:
When I walked into my office this morning the Lord began revealing to me all that He had been doing during the previous week. When I fell on my knees one week ago, I was not asking for my Father to lead me and be Lord over my life. I was asking, in fact begging with all of my soul, for Him to make me a Head Football Coach. I was on my knees asking him to give me my idol. I was much like the Israelites who begged God to send them a King because God being their King was apparently not good enough for them. I was behaving much like them except I wanted to be a King. I wanted to be a head coach more that I wanted to be close to the Lord, more than I wanted to serve him, and more than I wanted to love him. So, God gave me exactly what I had been asking for. I imagine He got sick and tired of me asking to be a Head Coach instead of me asking what I could do to be more like Him or how I could serve Him better. So, as only He can do, He gave me what I wanted even though it was not what he wanted for me; at least not right now. He used this as a test for me to see if I was willing to put my idol on the altar and sacrifice it to him.
What God taught me (with the help of my mother and Tony Evans in his book Dry Bones Dancing) is this:
“I can say with absolute certainty that you will be tested on that which your heart clings to. I guarantee it. He will test your willingness to sacrifice something that represents one of the most valuable things in your life, something that’s as precious to you as Isaac was to Abraham.”
“The test will take every bit of spiritual reserve we have to pass because He’s ready to move us up to the next level in our journey of following Him and growing closer to him.”
“Is there something God wants you to now put on the altar? If you. Like Abraham are in the middle of a test that you can’t figure out, then the one place you want to be is at worship. Approach his heavenly altar where the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, has opened the way for you into the presence of God. Worship the Lamb and worship God on his throne, even though you don’t understand what He’s taking you through. Worship even though you can’t begin to figure it out. Follow through in sacrificial worship. And there at the altar God will show you his way. He’ll come through for you.”
“The passion of our lives must be for God and not merely for his blessings and gifts. He’s interested in responding to people who are in active pursuit of his heart and who’ll make the appropriate sacrifice in order to experience it.” (Dry Bones Dancing by Tony Evans)
In order for me to please God and truly follow him, I MUST be willing to put my idol on the sacrificial altar of the Lord and be at peace with the possibility of never receiving that idol back. Not all stories end the way the story of Abraham and Isaac did. We must understand that there are times when we place what we love most on the altar and the Lord does not entrust it back to us. We must be at peace knowing that they are sacrifices we will never see again, and that it is for our good. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if our desire is truly to please God, it becomes so much easier.
Yesterday at this time I would have rather died than be told that I would never be a Head Football Coach. I now realize that I was put on this earth to praise, honor, and worship the Lord, not to be a Head football Coach. So, this morning when I walked into my office and saw an image of myself, only one week earlier, on the floor begging for that which my heart most desired, I smiled and knew that I had finally found the “overwhelming peace” that comes from following my Father in heaven with my whole heart and having no idols before him.
Now on the other side, I am so overwhelmingly thankful to my Father in heaven for sending me this test. I recognize that it was only by the grace of God who used a complete stranger, an old friend, a mentor, a wife, a mother, a father, and a pastor to save me from myself that I was able to pass the test.
My family vacations near this high school every summer. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that God used a school located in a place where I will visit one time every year, right before the beginning of football season, as the place for this test. God chose this specific place to establish a “marker” for my walk with Him. For the rest of my life, I will remember the day and the time that I truly laid my idol on His altar and decided to let nothing be bigger in my life than He who created me.
Assistant Football Coach
Sumter High School
All this, David said, ―I have in writing as a result of the Lord‘s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan. -I Chronicles 28:19
We are so excited to welcome Ashley Cook to our PSF team.
She married her high school sweetheart and together they have three children. In addition to raising three busy children, she also serves part time as Children’s Director in her home church where she also sings on the Praise and Worship Team.
Ashley confesses that she has wanted to be a writer since elementary school and she uses blogging to fulfill some of that desire. She has a love for storytelling, photography, and music. She loves to help people find humor in the craziness of life and she is passionate about making God’s grace and love tangible for people.
Visit our Mom 2 Mom page to read her blog, Resolutions, Rambles & Roles.
Gosh, another year has come and gone. I just learned to write 2015 on my checks – just in time to have to start over learning to write 2016. It’s crazy.
The older I get the faster time seems to move. Really, the faster changes come. For example, not too many years ago I was smarter and wiser than my children. Obviously, as time has marched forward, they have become much wiser than me in many things, one being how to properly raise children.
This fact has come to light due to the careless way they perceive that I am rearing their youngest sibling. They recently felt the need to correct my parenting or lack of parenting skills by bringing my woeful parenting ways to my attention. It seems that I am way too lax with the youngest. He is allowed to get away with way more things than they were ever allowed to get away with.
Because I am not one to turn down a good argument, I decided to present them with a brief rebuttal:
1. He has perfected his “badness” by watching and learning from his older siblings.
2. If the older siblings had not been so difficult, I would not be so tired and would be better able to keep up with his antics – which as you will remember he has learned from them.
Summer is done. It’s over. I know this because school starts tomorrow. I am just devastated. I’m not ready. My brain has not recovered fully and now I have to throw it right back into the chaos of learning? I cannot do 10th grade for the 5th time.
I cannot even…
I did it once personally then 3 other times on behalf of my three older kids. Now I am being forced to do it with my youngest, least interested in school child.
It might kill me this time, it just really might.
He and I have had a sort of partnership over the years when it comes to all things “school”.
I do all the worrying. I keep up with what is due and when, though I don’t always know why. I devise study strategies, none of which have ever been successful. I develop very close working relationships with his teachers, which might explain why they act like they don’t see me when I wave at them in the grocery store.
His part in all of this is to somehow make it to school and back home. What happens in between is somewhat vague because he never seems to be able to recall when he gets home.
Teachers, I’m sorry. That’s all I know to say. And I will give you a very nice Christmas gift. VERY NICE.
I have another child getting married.
ANOTHER CHILD GETTING MARRIED.
I’m sorry, but when did this happen? I was just trying to convince her to leave the ginormous bow in her hair because it matched her outfit. Never mind the fact that she kept falling over from the weight of the thing. And now, she’s trading in her bows for a veil?
“How exciting!” Everyone keeps saying.
OK, you know what? NO. It’s just not all that exciting to me. It is to her, just not to me. I’m just being honest here.
I’m not real good with change, never have been. I find myself even less good when the change involves my children growing up.
I think being a mom is the best job on all the earth…ever, and I’m just not ready to retire yet. I can remember being a little girl who wanted nothing more than to grow up and be a mom. While others were aspiring to be lawyers, doctors, teachers, Wonder Woman (seriously? I personally would have never admitted to that one), I just wanted to be a mom.
But time stands still for no one. So here I am, child number 2 just graduated from college and in just a few weeks, she’s getting married and moving to another state. Granted, it is the one right next door to my state and only a few hours away, but it’s still, “away”.
So I was kinda in a mood the other day and I found myself telling God that I really needed His help because I wasn’t really happy about His plan. How sweet is it that we can confess that to Him and He just loves us even when we’re being bratty?
Anyway, I asked Him to help me change my heart so that it aligned with His. I asked Him to help me remember all that I needed to be thankful for because it was all a gift from Him. I asked Him to help me remember that my joy and peace and contentment were found in Him alone and not in a house full of children.
You know what He did? He gave me the sweetest of blessings.
That morning, after my time with Him, a chain of events happened and all of a sudden I realized that all four children were going to be home for supper that night, like years ago. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.
Philip had put two and two together also and he may have been almost as excited as me…almost.
When night came, each one straggled into the kitchen just like they used to and sat where they used to sit. As I watched them while I was getting supper ready, my heart was so full I thought it might burst.
When Philip got home, he rounded the corner into the kitchen with a huge smile on his face and said, “I’ve been waiting for this all day long!”
While we were at the table, Philip posed this question, “What is the best memory you have of growing up here?”
And the stories began…
We laughed and reminisced for quite a while. There was a lot of ground to cover because this family tends to do a lot of stupid things, which in turn makes for lots of stories.
I want to make sure you understand that I absolutely love my daughter that I gained through marriage and my future son that I will gain in a few weeks. My joy wasn’t in them not being there. My joy came from being able to go back in time and experience that sweet feeling of having all my chicks under the same roof. Even though none of them are “chicks” any more.
But as we sat there, I realized that there was a little emptiness, like things weren’t complete. You know what I realized it was? Sarah Kathryn and Tony weren’t there. Even though I loved remembering what it was like being a mama with her children around her, I missed my new children and our family wasn’t complete without them.
So God gave me this sweet taste of the past, but in doing so, He showed me the preciousness of the future. And I found my heart aligning with His.
What an awesome thing it is when we ask Him for help and He answers so perfectly!
Have a great week!
If I asked you, “What is the heart of your home?” what would you say? It’s really an important question, and it is deserving of some deep thought.
Some of you, I’m sure, answered right away. Some of you might need a minute to think. It’s okay. Take your time.
The heart of my home would be the kitchen. Not because there are elaborate meals prepared there, though we are quite fond of food in my family…a little too fond. It’s not because it is an awesome room that once Southern Living Magazine discovers it, they will be calling me for an interview. Nope, don’t think there is anything about the kitchen that would intrigue them at all, though it does have a fireplace, which is the other love in my family.
We like to eat and we like fires.
Doesn’t get much better than that.
In my family, we are masters of setting fires. We could start a fire on a glacier without wood or matches. I hate to brag, but we are just really that good. We’re just not so good at controlling them or putting them out, but that’s for another story.
Yeah, we like to eat, we like fires, and oh, how we love telling stories.
That’s the real reason the kitchen is the heart of our home, because that’s where we do life together. It’s not the food. It’s not the fires. It’s the time spent together. It’s the stories we tell; the adventures we revisit, the things we pass on.
There in the kitchen, as we sit around the table, we nourish our bodies.
But it’s more than that…so much more.
There’s the laughter and the storytelling that feeds our sense of family, that reminds us of who we are, where we came from…maybe where we’re going. Sometimes where we probably shouldn’t have gone and had better not go back again.
It’s the building of memories – the reinforcing of memories so that when we’re apart, we can remember. It’s the glue that keeps use together.
Now that my family is getting older and feet are slowly vanishing from under the table, I realize something about the importance of my supper table that I didn’t fully realize before. For those of us who have been called according to His purpose, time spent around the table, after the eating is done and the chairs have been pushed back, can be nourishment for our souls. The real nourishment around my table happens when the stories turn to the One writing the chapters of our lives. The One who intricately weaves story lines of grace, mercy, and redemptive love into those chapters.
I wish I had fully realized this when my kids were younger.
You know, if I had it all to do again, no discipline would ever have been issued at the supper table.
To the ones who left home before I had this epiphany, sorry I’m just realizing this.
There would have been no fussing about grades, or lost things, or fires set that required several fire trucks and a backhoe. Not that these things shouldn’t be addressed, just not at the supper table.
All that would have been reserved for another room in the house. Instead, the supper table would have been reserved for stories both old and new. It would have been reserved for diligently teaching our children about the faithfulness of God toward His children with more intentionality.
We would have recanted stories of old. I would have talked of things – amazing things – my God did long ago. I would have talked about things – amazing things my God was still doing. I would have shared more of my first hand experiences with my Father. The times He rescued me from my stupidity. The times He showed me mercy or lavished me with His grace. I would have been painfully honest about my shortcomings and ecstatic over the victories through His power.
I would have remembered that it’s not the meal that is of greatest importance, it’s the time spent around the table, the legacy of faith passed down to the next generation.
We talk about the importance of sharing our faith stories with others, but before we take those stories to others, we need to talk them out with our children or anyone else He sends into our home. And what better place to do that than the supper table?
When we remember, we gain strength. When we share, we offer hope, and others gain courage. When we warn, we protect; we give an opportunity for another to be spared the hard road we walked as a result of poor choices or flat out disobedience.
We make sense of experiences through our stories.
Painfully honest, vulnerable, miraculous, grace drenched stories.
Start the tradition of sharing stories when your children are young. If they are older, introduce it to them anyway. Just do it.
We are changing the name of our Domestic Diva page to “The Supper Table” because we believe with all our hearts in the importance of sharing our faith stories around the supper table. And because we don’t believe that elaborate meals are necessary, we want to give you suggestions for great meals without all the fuss.
We want to help you just get them to the table.
Then when the meal is over, linger at the table a little longer. Don’t rush off. Talk about your day. Share what God showed you, taught you. Talk about your experiences with Him. Revisit those old stories of the Bible.
Be intentional until it becomes unintentional-just a part of who you are and what you do as a family around the supper table.
Invite others to sit at your table, often.
Years down the road, it’s not the food they’ll remember; it’s the stories.
It’s the legacy of family and faith.
Have a great week!
“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” Ronald Reagan
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