Saturday, September 27, 2008

Got Gas?

By now you all know that I am not super savvy when it comes to the pictures and links and whatnot. The truth is...I'm just not and don't really want to be. However, I would like a picture of the gas stations here in my neck of the woods. The picture would have 2-3 police cars parked in front with lines wrapped around the station and backed up into the road. Then there would be another picture of a vacant station with yellow or white bags on all of the nozzles indicating that the well is dry. So, there is your I'll start my blog...

As you can see from my picture (hee hee hee) the gas stations around here are crazy. The other night I was headed to a jewelry party and I couldn't figure out why the traffic was so slow and why there were police officers at Kroger. Then I saw the gas station...good grief...the line was wrapped all the way around and was flowing over into the parking lot, and into the was insane. Immediately I checked our gauge...full...imagine that. Then I passed Wal-Mart, same thing. What on earth? Of course I said what I say when things seem odd, or funny, or whatever, "I'm gonna blog about this." Upon my arrival, I immediately asked the ladies what was up with the gas and they just said that we were running out and people didn't want to be left high and dry.

I wasn't sure of what angle I was going to take until it hit me while I was on my way home. I had just met with my sweet friend and we had a chance to read and pray through Psalm 121, then we could just sit back and be satisfied in who God is and how He loves His children. While I was passing the now deserted stations I thought, "That's it! God's grace!"

Let me just say that by the end of the day I have used up all my good works, my kind words and my happy heart is just plain tired. I begin to see more of "me" and less of Jesus...and sometimes I'm just discouraged. I really see it at bedtime. I kiss the kids, tell them I love them and enjoyed the day with them. We breathe a sigh of relief and then the door opens. I try to be kind (usally I'm not) and say, "Go to bed." This happens at least 2 or 80 more times and finally I'm just like...a crazy person. My voice changes, my face the looks on their faces I morph into a raging lunatic with 2 heads...both screaming! I run out. I just can't do it all. I don't want to, either. Are you laughing? Nodding your head? If haven't put your kids to bed yet!

One of my favorite verses (I say that alot!!!)can be found in the book of Lamentations. "Because of the LORD'S great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" Lam. 3:22-24That is such good news for me. Because I am easily exhausted, I tend to believe that God is as well. Now, we can read through the Old Testament and see that He is pretty patient! The Israelites were brutal to God. They moaned and groaned. They argued and complained. They even worshipped a golden calf that they crafted themselves. We would never do that would we? Well, this isn't about us worshipping our idols, so I won't go into that...but the point is that He is patient. He remains fully Holy and fully God when we are completely depleted of everything good that we have in us (which there are several verses that would tell us we ain't all that). God's grace is sufficient. God's grace doesn't run out. God's goodness is part of who He is. He cannot forsake Himself, which means He cannot just stop being what or who He is. Think about those empty gas stations. That is US. We run out. We run dry. Then we freak out! One thing that will never be in short supply is His grace. Now, I will not get into the arguments of the book of Romans, but I say with Paul that we shouldn't continue sinning so that grace might increase!

Sometimes I start a new paragraph to stop rambling...I don't need to try to fill up on grace the night before so that I can be sure I'll have enough to get me through the next day. I don't need to "top off" my tank in case the well is dry. His mercies are new every morning. I cannot tell you how much of a relief that is for a woman like me. I love it that there is grace enough for me. I'm not stealing from you, and you are not stealing from me. God is sufficient. (If you are friends with me, this is where we say, "Praise Him" or "Amen")

I don't want to keep going...I just want that to be enough. I want Him to be enough for me. I want Him to be enough for you.

As you pass gas stations whether they are full, empty, or uneffected by Ike...just spend some time thanking God that He is abounding in love and faithfulness. He does not change like shifing shadows. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? Ladies...He is full, and because of are we.

Let us remember to pray for those people who are missing more than gas due to Ike. There is still alot of work to be done.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hornworms and Caterpillars

I do not garden. I think that gardening is a noble thing, a very eco-friendly way to get your veggies and what not. Some people say that it is therapeutic, others say it's just their way of life. I say, "I'm just not there yet!" My friend Kelli, is totally there. This year Kelli started making her own bread, and they planted a square foot garden. The bread is delicious and the vegetables are full of flavor. She has done an amazing job.

This week we went over to Kelli's house to just hang out. I hope some of you have at least one friend like that. The girls baked cookies, the boys played whatever they made up, it was just fun. However, they were all getting a little rowdy and it was finally in the 80's here (my kids keep saying that it's freezing!) so we went outside. Kelli's garden is always the first place the kids go. It is neat. It's so full of great stuff and this time we found some not so great stuff. I always ask Kelli to tell me what everything is and she, with great joy and pride in their hardwork, shows me. As we were looking at her cherry tomatoes she said, "Dang it, look at that. Those caterpillars keep eating my cherry tomatoes. I picked about 7 off already and now there are two more." I just giggled because she was so serious about her frustration, to me they were merely caterpillars. I asked her what she was going to do when she picked them off, "Kill em'." She replied without hesitation. "Kill em'?" I questioned. "Kelli, they're just caterpillars. Can't you just toss em' over the fence?" "NO!" Was her emphatic reply. "They'll just come back and they are eating my plants!" So, she squashed them, just like that. I was sort of sad, we had a caterpillar garden a year or two ago, and I loved watching them change and grow. They seemed rather harmless. I looked at another plant and said, "Man, what's that?" There was this big, fat, green thing sitting on the stem. "Look at that!" Kelli was getting fired up, "that is a hornworm and it has stripped that entire stem of it's leaves. Look at that! That makes me so angry." Now, I must tell you that Kelli was really mad. It makes me laugh out loud...what we have to remember is that it is HER garden. These little pests were destroying HER work. This is HER crop.

"What are you going to do with it?" I questioned curiously. "I have to get it off and kill it!" Kelli was on a mission now. "Well, how you gonna get it off?" "I don't know. I don't want to touch it." She tried scraping it off with a newspaper, but that bad boy was on there to stay. It had already made that plant breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and was hanging around for a little snacky-poo. I grabbed a bat, half joking, and said, "We could knock it off." "Try it." Kelli said with a determined tone in her voice. "I think it might break the stalk off." "I don't care, it already ate everything on it. See if you can hit it off." Now, I must stop there to say that Kelli and I are in our thirties. This hornworm was not going to like, jump off and eat our faces. We are not covered in leaves and should not have felt threatened by its 2 inches of nasty. That being said, I whacked it. I had to whack it two or three times before I finally broke the stalk where it was. Now what? Who was going to pick it up? I did (I picked up the stalk that it was on...not the actual pest...gross), but I was squealing and so was she. We called the boys because we figured it was a teachable moment, and they thought it was awesome. It really was beautifully made. It had these amazing designs...but it was a worm nonetheless. So, of course Kelli is ready to kill it. I told her she shouldn't kill it on the pavement because what if it splattered. Who wants a splattered hornworm on their sidewalk? Not me. So, she took it futher down in the grass and squashed it with her shoe. I was far back (avoiding the spray) and she said that it just sort of flattened out. It was just empty. Hm. Empty. All that fuss over an empty hornworm.

I've been thinking about that for a few days and today at Zumba it did form into a blog. Here's what I've got...

Many times people talk about the garden of our heart and how God pulls the weeds so that the flowers don't get choked out and we are able to live blameless lives by His grace. But, riddle me this. What if we pulled the weeds and fed the flowers/veggies and didn't do one thing about the pests? What if we just said, "Well, you've just got to expect that. It is, afterall a garden. Just let them be." We would NEVER produce a harvest. What if my friend just said, "Well, I'm just glad that I can help those little pests out. Give them a little something to munch on." That was not her response at all. She was angry because these little buggers were destroying her crop. They were actually eating and enjoying that which was meant for her family and friends. They were not welcome. She was legitimately angry and wanted them not just over the fence, she wanted them dead...never to return.

Ladies, sin is sin. Before I say that we are all sinners and it's just something that we need to live with, let me remind us all of Psalm 103:12, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Jesus not only died for our sin, He did with our sin. It is defeated. It has no dominion over us. "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." Romans 6:14 and "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." Romans 6:18. Having that said, we live in a fallen world. We are fallen people. There are little pests in this world that can cling to our lives and nibble away until we have been stripped of our leaves first, and then our fruit. We will still belong to the Father (Kelli's garden is hers with our without the pests)but our lives are no longer healthy and life giving. They have been invaded. That's bad news. As I watched how Kelli really got angry at these little nasty things I thought, "I want to be that angry about my little pests." I want to be furious at the little things that crawl into my life almost undetected and nibble away until I am an impatient, merciless, and aggravated mess. I want to be able to recognize them, pick them off, and put them to death. That sounds pretty aggressive doesn't it? The enemy is aggressive. Let me remind us all what John 10:10 tells us about the thief, "The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Those bugs are not offering Kelli squat. They are not paying rent or leaving tips. They are there for themselves and themselves only. How is Jesus different? He comes to give life to the full.

Let me remind you how beautiful that thing was. It was a lovely color of green and had these really neat black zig zags all the way down it's body. I have things in my life that are pretty. I have friendships, gifts and talents...but used outside of God's goodness and enjoyed without His grace, they are dangerous. I must be aggressive with the pests that creep in. They might be in this world, but I do not have to let them munch on me. Not my time, not my energy and not my mind. I belong to Christ. All that I have is His. Anything that threatens that should be put to death. Just like that. I shouldn't just dismiss these things (gossip, laziness in lovng God with my mind, being short-tempered with my list goes on)as natural. They are natural, but Christ has overcome the world. In Him, I do not have to live like that. I do not have to allow these things to choke out the fruit that God is bringing forth in my life. I know that I will struggle until Glory, but perhaps I should allow a little fire to well up in my belly. Maybe I should get angry at these things. Let me remind you that the hornworm was empty inside. Empty. So is the sin that we pursue willingly and that pursues us with a vengeance. It has nothing to offer. It only takes. It gives no nourishment. It leaves no tips. It comes, with it's master's permission, to steal, kill, and destroy.

I want you to be encouraged that freedom from any sin that has attached itself to you is fogiveable. If you are struggling to live in the freedom that Christ has provided, pray that God would give you grace to repent and the ability to walk in freedom. Ask a trusted friend to pray with you and for you so that you can live the life that God desires for you.

I feel like I could go on and on. I want to be understood (an idol of mine). I want you all to know that we will struggle with sin, but that we are no longer ruled by it. We can be set free from it. We have been set free from it...through Christ's death and resurrection.

We do not have to live with hornworms and caterpillars. They might be pretty, but they are dangerous and they have no place in the garden of our heart. Get angry. Pick them off and put them to death. I'll be doing the same.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will."

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and od not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

How can we be aggressive? Memorize scripture so that when you find yourselves struggling with sin, you can fight with God's word. Surround yourself with people that can love you and help you. When we bring things into the light...they tend to lose their this in a safe and trusted environment. Declare that the victory is yours. Pray. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Follow Me...

I don't often say, "I need a break." I have periodic "breaks" as I attend Bible Study, Sunday School, dinner with friends etc. However, that doesn't mean that sometimes I don't look at Mike and say, "I am going to the store...ALONE!!!" This past week I needed a break. Ella was getting molars (or something) I think I am allergic to my house, I wanted to be back at the beach...I just wanted to be Ali. Thankfully I had a baby shower to attend in Atlanta and by the power of God I would also be meeting some of my favorite friends for lunch.

I actually thought twice about leaving on Friday night. I still needed to plan math and history and thought maybe a Friday night at home would be good for me. I called my friend to tell her I may not make it, but upon hearing her voice, I began grabbing my stuff and getting ready to have a mini road trip. I got all of my directions printed and my phone numbers written down and stapled together and I was ready to go. The kids began melting. You would think that I never see them the way they began carrying on. I peeled everyone off, and hit the road.

I'm trying to get to the point, I just like setting these I sat in a little bit of traffic where I was able to pluck my eyebrows and read a book. I had some wonderful prayer time with my good friends Watermark.

Now would be a good time to tell you that I do not enjoy driving on large interstates. I do not see well in the dark and I do not do well with directions. Having that said, it was getting dark. Have you ever tried to navigate in the dark? I was a nervous wreck! I had to keep turning on the light to know what I was looking for next. "Alright 285 to 85, 285 to 85 was that north or south? Rats, why can't I turn the light on? North, right, that would make sense Atlanta is north of Augusta, right? 85 in 1 1/2 miles...will I need to be in the right lane? Am I merging? What's this idiot doing? Oh, that's me..." I had to turn the radio down and really concentrate. I didn't enjoy the ride. It made me nervous and I wondered if Mike would remarry if I got into an accident and would his new wife Classically Homeschool my children. Seriously, I go there. I decided that it would be much easier to have someone with me that either knew where they were going and would drive, or could at least tell me where to turn. My mind started thinking of the "God is my co-pilot" signs. That leads me to believe that people are still in charge, but at least God is telling them where to go...but the Lord refined this picture for me.

My friend is expecting her first baby, so she had a good bit of family in town and I was going to spend the night with her friend. I met at Jenny's house and got to visit with her for a while before I headed to Elise's house. The drive to Elise's was much different from the drive to Jenny's.

There were several similarities; it was dark, I was alone and I didn't know where I was going. The differences were that I didn't have directions, but I was following someone who knew where they were going. I had the radio up and was singing along. This time I was enjoying the ride. Elise knew where she was going. She has travled that route probably hundreds of times. I could depend on her sense of direction, I could trust her. Now, wouldn't it have been silly of me to flash my lights and pull over and tell her that she missed her turn, or that I knew of a shortcut? She would probably laugh at me and tell me to keep following. What if I insisted that I knew more? That although I had never seen her house, and had certainly never traveled this route, I knew of a better, more efficient way. Now, all of you would say that is just plain foolish. It is. You know what, you are just as guilty as I am of doing this on a regular basis. Did I say regular basis? I meant to say daily.

As I thought about that drive to Elise's house, this thought came to mind, "Following someone who knows where they are going is way easier than navigating myself." The Lord was like, "BINGO!" Now, I could go in several directions, different twists...having God in my car, He is in control of the steering wheel...but for the purpose of this post, He is the car in front of me. I didn't take my eyes off of that car. If I would have lost Elise I wouldn't have known where to go. I would have just parked my car until she came to find me. (Jesus leaves the 99, that's another post, though) I enjoyed the ride. I sang my music, but I didn't take my eyes off that car. I didn't look at the scenery. I didn't allow people to get in between us. I was following, and following closely. Without her I was lost. In the night. Without a map. Without directions even. Without my husband. Lost.

My favorite verse to study, especially with new believers is Matthew 6:33, " 'Come, follow me', Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.'" Almost everytime Jesus called His disciples the next verse is usually, "Immediately they dropped their nets and followed him." No questions. There were no negotiations. They weren't asking about insurance packets or the safety aspect. They knew Him, they had heard Him, they were honored to be called by name. They did the only thing they could do, drop everything and follow.

I followed two other people to various places while I was there and I never had to turn around once. I got home quickly and was glad to be home. Every time I followed someone I kept thinking of that passage and what blind faith really is. I totally believed that the people I was following were going to get me where I needed to be. I wasn't anxious. I didn't question whether we had missed a turn or if we were going the long way. I didn't ask them to explain the route. I just stayed close. I didn't stop and shop or look around. I followed. I put my blinker on when they put their blinker on. When they got over, I got over. When they arrived, so did I.

We are following Jesus somewhere. For now He is navigating us through this life, but our ultimate goal is Home. We've never been there, but He has gone before us. He actually tells us that He is preparing a place for us. Take that in. Jesus is preparing a place for us.

Just like it is foolish for us to flash our lights at the lead car and declare they are going the wrong way, it is foolish of us to tell Him that He doesn't know where He is going and He should get behind us. Oh please, Father, never allow us to get ahead of you. While I was traveling I thought of the passage in Exodus where the Israelites have been freed, and Moses is questioning who is going to help him lead the people. Come with me... "'If you are pleaed with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.' The LORD replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I wil give you rest.' Then Moses said to him, 'If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?' And the LORD said to Moses, 'I will do the very thing you asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.'" Exodus 33:13-17 I love the first part of that, "If your Presence isn't going...neither are we."

Following God, being led by His Presence, is what sets us apart. Moses knew without being led by Him, all was lost. They might as well stay put.

As I followed those people around Atlanta I decided that I really want to enjoy following God. I want to be as confident in God to get me where I am supposed to be, as I was with the near stranger (a dear friend of my dear friend) that got me back to I-85. I want to rest in the Truth that the Maker of Heaven and Earth can get me safely home...whatever that looks like. It does not mean we sit idly by. We fix our eyes, like glue, on the Hand of God. We listen to His heartbeat and go where we hear it beat loudest. We don't stop to shop...or ask directions from someone else. No, we follow, and in following we will not only arrive at our destination, we'll maybe bring a few others with us.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1-2 (3 is awesome too!)

Well, now I'm late for's that for following close?! I enjoyed that, I hope you did too. I'm easily distracted as a follower. I must remember that without keeping my eyes FIXED ON HIM I am absolutely alone. Lost. In the night. Without a map. Just lost.

Follow close. I'll see you there.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I interrupt this brag!

I'm still not good at arranging pictures and making things look neat. I just wanted to give some of you and idea of what I am like...who I am. I let my son spell as a pirate...maybe I would have to walk the gang plank (is that what it's called?) if I didn't. Sometimes, my kids watch T.V...together...while I do whatever! We are studying the Story of the World with Mike and we built a tent as we pretended to be the nomad family from the story. We took a very last minute trip to the beach last week. We love funnel cake, but recognize that one is enough for the entire family. I have several ideas in my head that I look forward to getting out some time soon. My sisters teased me while we were at the beach. Ashley wants me to blog about her because she is looking like "Post Pardom Barbie" HA! I want to blog about how Ashley played in the band, but she never really played when it mattered. She pretended to play on Friday nights so that she wouldn't be ridiculed for messing up. I wish to blog regarding the discipline of the Olympic Athletes. I want to blog about my brother-in-law who told Ashley that running 26 miles with 80 pounds on his back saved his life while fighting in the war. That's just to name a few. So, keep checking back, you never know what you are going to get.

For Christian's family...I will get a Bear blog up soon...

Thanks for checking in. I hope you enjoyed your little peek into my world.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fun Friday?

Alright ladies, this is just a day in the life of Ali Wessner. I just want to keep it real...and to share motherhood. So, last Friday night we decided to go to the beach for a to we packed up our clean clothes, school work, and headed out. We arrived home yesterday and got unpacked and enjoyed Daddy since he couldn't be with us all week...I probably will not do that again...although I had a great time with my sisters.

So, today was "Fun Friday." We work on a 4 day schedule, so Fridays are reserved for movies, playdates, and planning. I figured we would go to the lending library (if you live in Augusta and you have not gotten a personal tour of this place, let me know!!) I figured we'd invite my friend because I knew she would love it, she did. The lending library is a place where you can check toys/books/games/puzzles/manipulatives out for a month. It's awesome. So, they ran around there and then it was time to go. We checked out and I looked at Mods and said, "I feel like a Cappucino Blast." For those of you who know me...those are a weakness. I actually fasted from them one time because they were becoming an issue, lame, I know. So, of course the kids want donuts...whole donuts. Usually we get 2 munchkins a piece, but it's D week...what the heck! Sprinkles and all. Of course my friend comes in and we have our blast (it's always a blast with Mariam, though!) The kids have their donuts and now we are creeping up on nap time. Actually, we were creeping past naptime. Do you ever do that? You just keep pushing. I have been in nap prison for 6 years. I am a firm believer that children need naps and that they need them for a long time. Today, I decided not to believe that! So, we left there at roughly 2:30 (did I mention I'm still in nap prison) and we still have to return our library books. I figured I should return them before Mike takes my library card because I keep running up ridiculous library fines due largely in part to my irresponsibility. So, guess what, Wal-Mart is just down from the library and I REALLY want to pick up a few things AND I have a gift card. I know I'm pushing it. Ella is screaming for everything. She has pulled her bow out and looks sort of like a street child. She has eaten an entire donut and is CRASHING. However...I WANT TO DO WHAT I WANT TO DO!

Do you know what I just HAD to go to Wal-Mart for? I'm sure you are dying to know...diapers, photo paper, page protectors and cassette tapes. We have stretched our diapers as far as we could. You know, rounding them all up and only changing the "necessary" ones. We found the diapers that were in Grandma's bag, the church bag, the van and my purse. I could have waited, but I didn't want to. I wanted cassette tapes because I borrowed a tape recorder from the Lending Library and I wanted the kids to be able to do their memory work on it. As I was standing waiting to know where they were, the ladies were talking about fancy phones. I felt like a cavewoman standing there gnawing on a turkey leg asking for cassette tapes! They do still make them! The page protectors were for my "week in review" that I do for my pictures and of course the picture paper was for the pictures. So, it wasn't a MUST it was a WANT. Somedays I just want to be first. Somedays I want my schedule to matter the most. Somedays I just want to prioritize me. It's pretty ugly...but I do it. I don't do it often, but I have to admit...I do it.

As we were leaving Wal-Mart there was an older couple loading their car and she was just smiling at me. Ella was, of course, HYSTERICAL! I said, "I pushed it. I knew I was pushing it and I didn't care. I wanted to come here!" She laughed and said she had 3 grandsons. I got in the van and thought, "Please, just get me home!!!"

So, now I'm home. The kids are unwrapping the tapes, and Ella is sleeping. I probably will not put myself first again for a long time...until I need some other really important items from Wal-Mart.'s hard bein' human!

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." Philippians 2:3

I'm not saying I should not be a priority. My time with God should be a priority, my time with Mike should be a priority...but in motherhood...on most days...they matter more. I'm sure there will be plenty of time to leisurely walk around stores and not say, "Alright, here's the deal...we're going in for these things and we're coming out with these things. Stay in the cart and don't ask questions." Maybe one day they'll even call me to shop with them. We'll maybe get lunch. We'll laugh. Hopefully we'll magnify the Lord together. So, until then...I'll be home by 1:30!!!

Enjoy this day and enjoy your children. Life is but a breath.