I Came Kicking and Screaming All The Way To Kansas

We were living in Atlanta at the time and marrying a southern man I never expected to live anywhere else but the south until, that infamous phone call came. It was so long ago, telephones hung on your wall.   We call them landlines now, and if you lived back then, you might have had one in several rooms of your home. We had one in the front of the house in the kitchen and another in the back of the house in a bedroom. My parents had two as well in there home where they lived in Kansas.

One day my parents and Jeff and I were having what we would now call a conference call when each of us just got on one of those phones connected to the wall in our home and we all talked to each other.  In the process of the call my parents once again invited us, or maybe it would be better described as begged us to move up to Kansas where they had retired. Being raised an only child and now having the only grandchild, my parents were desperate for us to move closer to them. But I was confident that was never going to happen. I knew our fate was destined to stay in the big city. I was completely okay with that because I had been to Kansas (as my grandparents and extended family lived there) and there was nothing there I wanted.

Once again my parents were asking, but I was convinced that I would, as my parents had, live so far away from my family that we would simply only see each other once or twice a year. Until, Jeff told my parents “Well, I tell you what, if you find me a job up there we will move” I didn’t say anything while we were talking to them on the phone, but as soon as we got off I asked Jeff “You were just pacifying my parents right? We aren’t moving to Kansas, are we? To which Jeff responded ” Yep! We’re moving!” I immediately reminded him that Kansas was in the North and we lived in the South. Because I was certain he had lost his mind for a moment.  In my attempt to bring him back to reality I reminded him of all the reasons why we would need to stay in Atlanta, before moving back to the forgotten world of this place they called Kansas.

Finally, after much aggravation on my part, Jeff just said ” I feel like God wants us to move to Kansas” Well, Now I was confident not only had my husband lost his mind but so had God. Because this was not in my plan and if you looked at our bank account, as I informed my husband, there wasn’t enough money for us to get down the road, let alone move from Atlanta GA to Kansas. Jeff assured me he believed this is what we were supposed to do.  Still, in disbelief, I informed Jeff. Okay, I will go but only if God provides the money and you know it will take at least $2,000 to move. Confident that I would not have to worry about it happening because it was such an outrageous idea,  (now I wish I would have said $10,000) I am certain God was sitting up there saying  “Oh! ye of little faith” because in 2 weeks we were pulling up in a U-haul to my parent’s driveway. Miraculously, in that time God provided the money and we moved. (and that is another story)

See none of that was in my plan, and even after God proved himself by providing the money for us to move, I was still in doubt and confused as to why God was taking us to Kansas. Frankly, I did not want to move here even though it is my birthplace. But God began to uncover His plan for us just 6 weeks later. When my mother, in the middle of the night, called out to us from my parent’s bedroom as we slept in the next room ” Alesa, Jeff come quick your daddy is dying” As Jeff and I raced to my daddy’s side.  I got to experience something I had prayed for. You see many years earlier I had prayed ” God,  Please don’t let me by like my parents and live so far away that when one of them is dying we have to hurry and drive thousands of miles away just praying we get there in time.”

As Jeff and I talked after daddy’s death. He revealed to me that while he was working in Atlanta one day. He was under a house and felt like God had said ” If you want Alesa and Lee to spend any more time with her family, you need to move to Kansas and you need to move to Kansas now ” Jeff said he knew that something was gonna happen and he wanted to make sure I was with my family. There was just something about what he felt God was saying that Jeff knew we had to move. Jeff didn’t know the prayer I had prayed. But God did!

Last week I shared in this article, about how circumstances that come into our lives, might not be what we expect or even want but we can trust the one who brings them to us.  Just like Joseph did as he told his brothers that God used the bad things they did, for good.  (Gen 30) I can look back now and see what God was doing, and how my dream that Jeff and I being the original Chip and Joanna Gains was not in His plan! He had a greater calling for us. Kansas is where our ministry began, Kansas is where the miracle of last 2 children came, and for the past almost 30 years we have loved and lived in Kansas.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God said ” I know the plans I have for you” notice that word plan is plural. My daughter reminded me of that the other day. So that means God has multiple plans for us to do. If Jeff hadn’t listened to God or worst yet if he had listened to me and we had stayed in the south. I am not sure what would have happened, but I am confident of one thing, our lives would not be the same,  we would not have been touched by the special people we have met here in Kansas and I hope somehow we have touched peoples lives here as well. I am so glad we can trust God’s plans for us. As we enter into 2018 let us resolve that we will trust His plan even when we don’t understand it and especially when we dislike it!

Advertisements
Happy Birthday to Me!!

Happy Birthday to Me!!

We recently spent sometime with my kids in honor of Mother’s Day and My 51st Birthday since the dates are just 2 weeks apart. We went to one of those break-out/escape rooms, and then sat around a table at a local restaurant and just chatted and reminisced.  As I sat back and looked at each of my kids I see the adults they are becoming and I revel in each and everyone of their successes.

See I had many opportunities to do my life differently from what I have, but I don’t believe I would change a thing. See, I could have finished High School, before I got married, but I didn’t. I could have chosen to go to College right after High School but instead I choose to have my first son. I could of chosen to have a musical career when a famous christian artist offered to write songs and produce an album for me, But I didn’t. I choose to stay at home and be a mom. I could of been an ordained minister like my mother who was one of the first ordained woman in the Assemblies of God in the state of Oklahoma, but I didn’t, instead I choose to stay at home and minister to my kids. I could of continued in a successful career as a Assisted Living Director, but I choose to focus on living with my husband and assisting him in every way I could.

Many would say I have given up a lot. Some would even say I sacrificed myself for my family. See to me, none of my successes matter, if I don’t have a family to sit around and enjoy it with. Jeff and I made a commitment a long time ago, truth is, it is our family motto. For we committed, that “What good does it do to win the whole world for Christ, if we lose our own families soul”. Now I know some would say I could’ve had it all and perhaps I could have, but one thing I have learned in this half a century of life, is you can have it all, but something in that equation always has to sacrifice and I wasn’t willing to take a chance that it might be my family that did.

I wouldn’t give up, being up all hours of the night with my babies,  dinners around the family table, family nights, friday field-trip days, or piles of dirty laundry for any of it! (okay, maybe the laundry haha!)

See because as I looked around the table and saw each one of my children and the amazing adults they have and are becoming. That is my successes.

My oldest who is an amazing father, who married a wonderful young lady, and has a Master’s Degree in Family and Marriage Therapy.  He is a Psychologist making a difference in young boys lives in a boys home everyday. He is beginning to make his way in the political world as well as serving as the online campus pastor at his church and he will forever be the future forward thinking farmer. That is my success, with each success he has, it is my reward as well.

My daughter the up and coming Graphic Designer, on the Dean’s list the last 2 yrs of school, member of Phi-Thetta-Kappa, she has been an Intern and Personal Assistant to the Senator, Amazing Nanny to 8 kids under the age of 11 that she has helped homeschool. Assistant to the online campus pastor at her church, where she led people 2 and 3 times her age. That is my success.

And my youngest son, Who is growing into an amazing adult. Passing all his classes last semester, the hardest working teenager I know.  The kid with a heart as big as he is, who will always be my protector, I know God is going to use him in a mighty way, more then just behind the pulpit, he will use him to share His love with others in so many ways. His life is already a testimony and the way he has chosen to live his life.  That is my success.

Then there is the up and coming grands, oh what will the future hold for them? I do not know. But, with each of their success it is my success. Because I am confident that because I

Have poured myself into my children, therefore when they pour themselves into their children it is part of me pouring into the grands. Whether my kids choose to teach them similar values and traditions or they choose to go in a totally different way, either of those choices reflect what I have taught them.

Has our lives been perfect, No. Do we fight and argue, Yes. But I am thrilled to know when I look in the eyes of each of my family members, I get to see a love for Christ and a desire to serve Him with so much passion that I know it runs to the core of who they are and for that, I am very thankful. Because what good would it of been for us to win the whole world for Jesus and lose our own children’s souls?

Do I think we are home free and I don’t have to worry about my children any longer? Not for one minute! I pray for them regularly, the older they get the more prayers they need and the more I worry about them. And if somewhere along the way any of them find that they have made a turn forgetting what they learned, on their journey in this relationship with God. I know that He is forever standing there with His arms outstretched, waiting for them to come home. Because they know, that all I expect of them is to be there! (Heaven) Because none of their successes matter if they aren’t.

But I do trust in the one that gave them to me and I have chosen to believe that He will honor the choices I have made in raising them and because I thoroughly believe, I did what He asked me to do,  to the best of my ability and so I have no regrets as I tip over the half a century mark, and I am thankful, that I still only feel like I am 29 on most days!

The Ananais Complex

The Ananais Complex

You are in ministry. You have given your life for the call of God. That means doing things like staying up late at night with strangers because they need to talk; maybe missing a meal with the family because a parishioner is in need. It means getting a late night call and running out to be with the family of someone who was just in an accident. It means surprise guests for dinner; driving someone to the next town because they have no other way there. It means sometimes spending your family’s budget more on the ministry then on your family. It means you probably drive a used car and live in a house where you have no say as to what color it is or where it is located.
Well, that is ministry in the “traditional sense.” You know, the one where it is just understood that the Pastor is the only one who can tell someone about Jesus because, after all, he has the degree and gets the pay check.
Often times in ministry, whether in the “traditional sense” or not, those of us who tell others about Jesus have felt like, “Why should I even keep doing this? I am not appreciated; and I am not doing any good?” We are the unmentioned in the Bible; you know, the kind who do what they are supposed to do but never really see great things happen in their ministry, like thousands coming to hear them speak! No, we are that rural pastor in the town of two hundred, faithfully serving His community and church of twenty souls.  We are the faithful turtle in the Tortoise and the Hare story; just plugging along, maybe working a secular job simply to make ends meet. Why? – Because of our passion for Christ and desire to serve Him. We wait and listen for that still small voice so we can do what God has called us to do, to be some instrument of His will.
Recently, I was reading the story of Saul’s conversion and something jumped out at me I had never noticed before and it got me thinking…..
Acts 9:10-16 New International Version (NIV)
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”  “Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

When people read this story, their focus usually is on Saul, but today let’s looks at the other main character in this story:  Ananias. Not much is said about Ananias. In fact only this and one other verse comments on him in the whole biblethe-story-tortoise-and-hare-clip-art-1788881.
Acts 22:12-16 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, 13 came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. 15 For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

It says he was “a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews” . . .
That’s it!  A devout man . . . having a good testimony! That’s all the Bible says about him. Nowhere else in the Bible is this man mentioned.

Perhaps Ananias was a faithful pastor or maybe just an ordinary follower of Christ, giving his best to God every day. Probably feeling like he wasn’t making a huge difference in his community. Possibly feeling some days, like “What’s the use? I am not making a difference.” It is very possible he never really knew, in this life, the impact his obedience to God had when he went and prayed for Saul. Little did he realize what Saul would go on to do and the tremendous impact Saul would have on the world. I seriously doubt that Ananias ever thought Saul would write almost two thirds of the New Testament when he spoke the words, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know . . . For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard . . .” I am pretty sure Ananias was only considering the healing that had just taken place in Saul’s body and had no idea of the magnitude of what this guy, who was later called Paul, would do for God.  Little did he know that the Bible, which Paul was a huge part of writing, would still be being sold over 2000 years later. WOW! Talk about IMPACT! So many times we get focused on the “here and now” and forget that God’s vision is so much bigger than the “here and now!”  His thoughts are eternal!
I don’t know what you are feeling today, but you need to know that, as long as you are following what God has called you to do, you are not a failure and you have no idea of what impact you are making on those around you. We don’t know who the “Paul” may be, in your life. So don’t be disheartened; don’t give up; never quit! Just trust in God. Continue to do what He has called you to do. You may feel like the tortoise in this race of life, but remember: in the end, the tortoise wins!

Reasons your daughter should not move out of the house!!!

I am a firm believer in helping others in this walk of life. I believe we are all on this journey together and as I walk my path of faith, I need to look back and hold out my hand to encourage someone who may be behind me. In the same way, I believe there are others further along on this journey who reach back to me and pull (and, let’s face it, sometimes they DRAG) me along!

Because of that I am compelled today to write about this whole empty-nest thing that my husband and I are experiencing. Granted, we still have our 17-year-old (gulp – can’t believe he is that old!) son at home. But, for this week we have been empty-nesters. You see, our son has been at camp for two weeks and during that time we moved our daughter back to Kansas City to attend college. So, for the past week we have been practicing empty-nesting.

I have to say, it is quite different than what I expected. My overall view of it is that, while I have gained an almost-perfectly-clean house for the first time in 29 years, it is WAY too quiet! I have to honestly say, as much as I ranted and raved about keeping the house clean when the kids were at home. I would give it all up to hear them laughing in the other room or break out in song while driving down the road.

There have been some specific disadvantages to our daughter’s absence, that I didn’t feel the effect of when our oldest son moved out over 10 years ago. (Yes, there is 10 years difference between our first 2 children) While lamenting to my husband over the fact that our daughter was leaving, he responded to me, “What am I, chopped liver? I will still be here.” To which I replied, “Are you going to go shopping with me, paint my nails, and dye my hair for me?” To which he promptly retorted, “Nope, not me!”

There have been some other disadvantages of her leaving as well:
1. She took HER clothes out of MY closet!  How rude! I thought possession was 9/10 of the law!
2. She took the good fingernail polish with her! The fact that it was HER fingernail polish to begin with is beside the point!  Couldn’t she have left me a parting gift? (Smile!) 
3. She is/was my right hand in almost everything I did. And now that she is an adult, I can say with full confidence, we are “BFF’s – BEST FRIENDS FOREVER! Therefore, I miss her terribly!

Amy's Empty Closet

Amy’s closet looks awful empty

Yet, with all the changes – and  my selfish reasons for missing my daughter – I am so thankful to hear the joy in her voice when she calls; to know the excitement she feels when returning to the comfort of what she calls home. I draw peace from the fact that she has a huge support system with our church family back in KC and I am confident that, as much as I love her, there is a Heavenly Father who loves her more than I do, and He is watching over her.

Oh, I know the next few years will hold many changes for me and for our family but there is one thing that will remain the same: the steadfast love of God. He is faithful, and He will never leave us. I know that I can call on Him whenever I have a problem and He will always be there.

And in those times when I feel alone and afraid, unsure of what the future holds, I rest in the confidence that I know who holds the future! When I have that desire to be in control and try to figure it all out on my own, it is in those times I must learn to sit back and lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus because He is my rock, my fortress, and the only one on whom I can depend

A friend posted these words on Facebook this week and they are absolutely true. “I know that God always supplies our every need according to his riches in glory. I’m starting to understand that walking with God is just one leap of faith after another. I don’t think it ever gets easier, I just think we learn to trust God more.”

 ” I’m starting to understand that walking with God is just one leap of faith after another. I don’t think it ever gets easier, I just think we learn to trust God more.”                                                                                                                                                   January Lare                                                                                                                    

”Isn’t that the very basis of our foundation in Christ – “Trust”? We have to trust or there is no foundation for our faith walk. And that is what this life is, whether you are a new mom, empty-nesting mom, or unsure if you will ever be a mom. It all comes down to trust. If we have truly surrendered our heart to Him, it is just one trusting leap of faith after another.

My daughter states there is one phrase that has helped her keep it together through this time of transition for her and it is this: “If your dreams do not scare you, then they are not big enough”

 ” If your dreams do not scare you then they are not big enough ” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

I hope today, that whatever dream God has put in your heart, it is so big it scares you to death! Because, I know there is a God who is right there beside you, ready to hold your hand and walk with you.  He cares for you and wants to see you succeed in everything you do.  Sometimes it can get scary, getting to the place where He wants us to be, but we can rest on the fact that He is working “all things for our good !”……..

Won’t you trust Him today?

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASB