Dan’s Story

Dan’s Story

By Andrew Hall:
I’ve hijacked my sisters blog. 
I meant to do this months ago because a story came into my life that needed to be told and we Halls, being story-tellers, I wanted to tell it.   I haven’t told a story in a long time but this one was close to me, strong in my mind and it pulled at me in ways that most stories don’t. But for some reason at the time, I didn’t tell it.  I don’t know why. 
Well, the story changed this week. In fact, someone died.  It’s tragic and it hurt and I’m still reeling. Now I know, it’s time to tell the story.
At this point, I want to give credit to my sister. She is a writer because she writes. I am not a writer because I don’t write. The formula is that simple. And because Sara writes, she has become a very good writer.  Again, it’s that simple. Good job Sara, keep writing. 
I originally wanted to call this article, ‘Doctors On Drugs’. I wanted to talk to you like Sara talks to you: honestly, upfront, in a Mike Rowe, down-home, back-porch kind of way. I can often hear in my mind, softly in the background, the evening cicadas calling and my nieces and nephews playing in the backyard as I read her blog. I like that kind of scene and it is the sign of a good writer to create a place like that, were we can all meet.
On the porch you can be at your best and most real.  On the porch it is usually your best audience because they are your best friends.  But the danger of the porch (you have to remember) is that this audience knows you best and they won’t let you get away with anything other then you being authentic.  My sister has perfected this in her blog and in respect of this tradition, I will do the same.  
Months ago, I really wanted to tell you about Dan. He is a patient of mine and no, that’s not his real name.  I’ve changed a few other details as well, so don’t worry about that.  Dan came to my office at 28 years old with back pain, neck pain, trouble sleeping, headaches and migraines; depression and fatigue.  All of these were made worse by his morbid obesity.
Being a chiropractor, these are the things I see pretty regularly and frankly, I’m really good at helping people get better. Not just good, really good. I’m not bragging, it’s just the truth for those who don’t know. 
What caught my attention most though was Dan’s story. 
It was hard to hear, even for a doctor.  With the help of his Dad, who was with him at his new patient exam, I heard his story. 
Dan told it to me unblinking. He did not hesitate once, he did not turn his eyes, his voice did not waiver, like he was telling me about his morning routine or what kind of work he did. It’s not an easy story, so if you are not in the place for this, here is your exit ramp. 
At the age of 9, Dan took swimming lessons at the local YMCA. During the time, he and eight other boys, over a period of months, were severely molested and sexually abused by a swim instructor.  His parents did not know about this for years. Dan’s parents are not neglectful parents either, they are upstanding Christians that hold esteemed places in our community and were/are engaged in their children’s lives.
 Again, kudos to Sara for writing about talking to your kids about sex and protecting them here. Most parents have no idea of the predators out there. They are there and are very, very real. 
By the time Dan’s parents found out and the man was brought to justice, the wounds were very deep. So deep and horrific was the abuse, that of the nine boys molested, eight of them committed suicide before reaching 25 years old. Sit on that for a minute. Dan was the only survivor of this abuse. 
As I sat and listened to his story in my new patient exam room, this is the part where my hands started to tremble and sweat. I can’t remember that ever happening during a new patient exam. 
He continued on.  
He said that during his late teen years he coped with the abuse by working out and going to the gym. He became quite strong and proficient at lifting weight.  I imagine that not only was he trying to find solace in lifting weights but he was trying to build strength so that no one could ever hurt him again. A wall of muscle. But those are just my thoughts.
As he worked out at the gym, he injured his low back lifting weights. A common injury for weight lifters, especially young, inexperienced weigh lifters. Most gym-rats report that at one time or another they have had at least a sprain/strain injury of the back. It was the same for Dan.
Dan’s parents, being concerned, took him to the local medical doctor and he prescribed heavy pain medications. Vicodin to be exact. 
For those of you who don’t know, Vicodin is a very strong pain analgesic, of the opioid family; in the same group as opium, morphine and heroin. It’s strong, efficient and addictive. After taking his first dose, Dan remembered thinking, “This is the high I have been looking for.” He was 17 at the time.  
He told me that a month later he was shooting heroin into his veins on a regular basis. He says he spent the next 10 years of his life an addict. He stole, he lied, he did anything necessary for his next high.  When his parents finally threw him out of their house after repeated attempts at rehab, he slept on heating vents during the winter nights on the streets of Boston, stoned out of his mind or in such bad withdrawal that he could barely move. He did this for ten years. Ten years as an addict. 
There is a lot of noise in mass media about ‘Gateway Drugs’ and for good reason. The illicit drugs out there being pushed towards kids are dangerous. But the most available and often times the most addictive ‘Gateway Drugs’ are the ones in your medicine cabinet right now. The ones that you have forgotten about or the ones you use only now and then when the pain or the headaches get really bad.  Those are the ones your kids find and try. 
I remember as a young man having four of my wisdom teeth being pulled at once and having a prescription of OxyContin given to me. I took them once right after the surgery and was a total zombie for an entire day. I remember never wanting to be in that state again. 
Later that week, I had a co-worker at the restaurant I worked at offer to buy them from me because, “They were a great high.  The real professional shit.”
I didn’t sell them, but I do remember never wanting to be involved with that kind of scene. I was 19 years old, busing tables in a breakfast restaurant in the suburbs.  
But back to Dan’s story.
Dan continued with his story about drug abuse, the multiple times in and out of rehab, in and out of his parents house. He said that it had all started back with the sexual abuse and wanting to get away from it, wanting to get away from he pain. 
He sat in front of me and said that he was now in a place of recovery and that he wanted help with the migraines, the neck pain, the back pain, the obesity he was currently dealing with and he wanted to get his health back on track.  He felt like he was finally ‘waking up’ after 10 years of addiction.  
Dan started care with me and I began adjusting him.  It was hard for him; he didn’t like being touched, (understandable) and he had a hard time getting out of bed some days because of the depression. (I would have too).  
Dan did get better.  Dan’s body responded well and he started down the road to recovering his health.  He even got a job at the local Salvation Army helping other addicts to go through the recovery process.  He was doing really well. 
That was the original story I wanted to tell you:  Dan’s story with lessons about protecting your kids, knowing that some of the most addictive and dangerous drugs out there are given to you in round orange bottles; that the road to recovery is possible, that even when health seems to be lost, it can be recovered.  But all of that is over now.  Dan died last week.
His dad emailed our office and told me that it wasn’t because of drugs;  Dan died in his sleep because of sleep apnea that was made worse by his obesity.  His heart stopped and he died, I pray, peacefully and quietly.  
I have heard an idea that at certain times in our lives, God gives us an ‘out’ of this life.  We reach a point where this life seems to have taken so much from us: the pain, the despair, the dirtiness of existing in time and space seems too great and God speaks to our spirit and we can choose to come Home early.  
The freak accident, the young marathoner dying from a heart attack, the fatal occurrence that would have never happened without perfect timing, a loved one slipping away in their sleep; these things that seem unexplained and tragic really aren’t.  It is just a life-weary soul whispering to their Maker, “I am ready for Home.” and our ever compassionate Creator reaches out and whisks this soul immediately into His Presence. No more pain, no more suffering and with the view of Eternity, the soul understands all of the ‘why’s’ of their journey.  
I believe this to be true and I believe that Dan took his ‘out’ last week.  
I’m not writing this to give a lesson at the end, not anymore.  I think there are lessons to be learned here if you choose to hear them, but that is not why I write about Dan.  
His life, like all of our lives, was too big, too complex, too meaningful to sum up in one simple cliche or sentence like, ‘Don’t do drugs’ or ‘Watch out for sexual predators.’  
I wrote this because Dan’s story touched me, from the time he began to speak during his new patient exam, to the point where his father wrote an email to my office telling me of his death.  It is still touching me, affecting me, pushing me deeper into this life.  Into the dirtiness, yes, but also into the glory of it; the beauty of each moment and the overwhelming Grace of God that is always with us.  
Dan’s story needed to be told. Here, on this porch of my sister’s creation, here amongst friends and the evening calls of the cicadas, because I am a story-teller and maybe even a bit of a writer still, I stepped up and told it.  Thanks for listening.
Andrew  

The Greatest Lie Pastors Must Silence For Their Kids

The Greatest Lie Pastors Must Silence For Their Kids

When I walk into a new church, I immediately try and make visual contact with the pastor’s kids, and NOT for the reasons other congregants try and pick out the pastor’s kids. I try and find the pastor’s kids because I want to see their faces, take a mental pictures of them (in a non-stalker like way 😉 and begin to pray prayers of protection over them. I have the absolute biggest and most tender heart for pastor’s kids, because I am one.

Thirty three years of surviving tried and true “PK jokes” with predictions of my rebellion and scandal waiting at the punch line. It would just be best if no one ever told another “pastor’s kid” joke. EVER.

There are often deep waters of insecurity, panic and indifference pulsing through the hearts of a pastor’s kids. There are unspoken standards, many in the church, try and presume on the life of pastor’s kids. And when pastor’s kids are unprotected by their parents, from these pressures, lies begin to seep through to the inner chamber of their souls and take root.

Here is the SINGLE greatest lie pastors must silence for their kids, in an attempt to circle the wagons around their eternally, impressionable hearts.

Lie: The church and her members are more important than your mother and you.

My heart threatens to burst into a million pieces anytime I see pastor’s kids suffering from this despicable lie. Unfortunately, for many in full time ministry, this lie, in all actuality, is the truth being written in our pastor’s homes. Pastor’s kids are more damaged by the reality that their dad is having an affair with the church and all her alluring ways, then any other pseudo reasons one might want to derive. Pastors, YOUR GREATEST ministry is your marriage and your children!! The best sermon you will EVER preach is faithfully and passionately loving your wife. The kryptonite to bitter, broken, pastor’s kids who choose rebellion and scandal, is the CONSISTENT message in word and deed to them “YOU WIN! My ministry to you is more important then my ministry to the church and her members.”

Pastors, if your church, church members and church leadership do not value your marriage and your ministry to your children, ABOVE your ministry to the church; RUN, do not walk out of that church.

Church leaders, if you do not value your pastor’s marriage and your pastor’s ministry to his kids, ABOVE his ministry to you and the church, you are allowing a foot hold for the devil in the destruction of a family, and ultimately the destruction of a church body.

With tears streaming down my face, I have witnessed this destruction far too many times.

It doesn’t have to be this way!! By the grace of God, I am the daughter of a pastor who CHOSE ME! Who chose my mother, my siblings, and our family above the white noise of full time ministry. Pastor’s marriages and pastor’s kids hearts, do not have to be the collateral damage of seminary degrees and pastoral robes. When a pastor’s full time ministry is his marriage and children, the church will benefit from the sweet aroma of joy filling the pulpit and the pew.

Oh friends, we must be fierce in fighting to protect such sacred places and spaces. There are so many hearts at stake when this lie is allowed breathing room and false validation in our churches. The church is constantly under attack, and our pastors, their marriages, and their families are often the first victims Satan picks off.

I am card carrier of a unique club, “pastor’s kid; unscathed.” There is so much beauty and redemption when a pastor is given the freedom to pursue his first loves; his wife and children.

Now go on and be a voice seeking to cherish and protect such sweetness!!

~Sara, a pastor’s kid

What Our Kids Learn The Last Month of School

What Our Kids Learn The Last Month of School

I asked Mark to stop and get me some coffee on his way home from work yesterday, because my stash was running low. Me – coffee =’s a national security crisis. Coffee is one of my love languages. I’m not afraid to admit I’d give up food before I’d give up coffee. This is what he delivered.

There is a reason he didn’t pick up JUST one or two, but THREE packages of coffee. We are in the final stretch of school. The ninth hour, the ninth month, the ninth inning. However you want to label it, we are nearing the end. Four weeks, and the 6:15 AM alarm goes from green to gray, and the whole house shouts HALLELUJAH! If Lucy’s eyes were a downloading ticker, it would indicate she is 99% complete. When Lucy gets tired, she gets crazy delusional. Last week, she walked in the door from school, laid down on the ground with her back pack STILL on, and stared at the ceiling for an hour. God love her. I believe she is ready for the third grade train 🙂

We’ve been going to bed earlier and earlier, and waking up later and later, because our bodies are all, “I love this bed! I love this bed! I love this bed! I can’t get up! I can’t get up! I can’t get up! One more snooze! One more snooze! One more snooze!”

Based on rough estimations, I have made and packed 360 lunches and 480 water bottles. At the conclusion of this school year, I hope to pass Kindergarten for the 5th time, 2nd grade for the 4th time, 3rd grade for 3rd time and 6th grade for the 2nd time. I have relearned so much this year; I am a complete wizard with my multiplication math facts. ‘Go Dog Go’ is STILL a really long book for a new reader. I have totally enjoyed reading Harry Potter through the eyes of my daughter. I increased my historical knowledge of Chinese Emperors. And seriously, I can do a mean Brachiosaurus impression (yes, I had to Google the correct spelling!) I’ve learned A LOT, and so have my cherubs. But like Lucy, my brain is full, my body is tired and we’re all ready for a small fast from school.

But all the the teachers, who feel the exact same way, respond in unison, ” DON’T QUIT YET, THERE ARE STILL FOUR WEEKS LEFT!”

Yes.there.are.

While our brains have broken the standard rule, “all things in moderation”, and we are teetering on obesity of knowledge; we press on. In between dodging the “can you check us out early?” requests, and “do we have to go?” pleas, I’ve decided these final weeks of school are SO MAJOR in the lives of our kids.

Major, not because the bulk of their educational foundation is being laid in these final days, or the climax of passing their current grade is at hand, but because their character will be solidified in pushing through the uncomfortable.

Littlejohns don’t quit!

So much of life is bearing down and holding on in the uncomfortable. Leaning hard and heavy until the work is done. Be it physical work, spiritual work, martial work, parental work, or just work-work. We don’t have the luxury or the permission to walk away when life gets complicated and messy. In real life, you don’t get a summer vacation.

My kids are incredibly blessed to watch their dad live out a life of faithful, hard work. Every morning, rain or shine, spring or summer, cold or hot, tired or awake, encouraged or discouraged, excited or bored, bank holiday or not; Mark shows his love to our family by consistently showing up to work. This writes perseverance on the story of our children’s hearts.

“Finish well” I’ve whispered to sleepy, after school eyes.

Or some days, when you turn an olive oil bottle into a weed vase, it’s just “Finish, my love! Finish.”

Y’all we can do this!
Cheers! *and all the olive oil bottles clank*

~Sara

What Do You REALLY Want For Your Children?!

What Do You REALLY Want For Your Children?!

Lucy just walked out of the house in purple shorts, a red and white striped shirt, and fake camo Toms. Julia left with her “boy” tennis shoes on that she insisted she get for the school year. Not caring one lick they came from the boys section of the shoe department. Neither one, pausing at all with insecurity and doubt about their wardrobe choices.

I shook my head as my little women exited. I love how incredibly diverse, unique and JUST SO THEM, they have grown to be. I decided a million years ago, that clothing was not going to be battle I fought with my girls (or my son). Obviously, if it was inappropriate or outrageous, we’d have to go to the mattresses, but other than that, ‘Shake It Off’ mom, ‘Shake It Off”……

I have struggled my whole life with reading, spelling and math. I had to receive significant help from a tutor just to pass the second grade. School was never just ‘natural’ for me. Every grade, every course I had to work my bootie off. Therefore, my heart is INCREDIBLY tender to anyone who struggles with these areas. I want my children to champion these subjects because pain was stirred into the paint can of that canvas for me. I want confidence and victory to be their paint brush.

Spelling and reading out loud, has not come as naturally for my Julia, as it has for my other two girls. Every week, we spend hours, HOURS, working on spelling words. I know that my motivation to help Julia conquer every spelling list, oozes out of my own insecurity.

So often, the nudge we give to the rudder of our children’s lives, comes from the very deep waters of our own weaknesses, strengths, failures, hurts, victories, challenges and experiences.

You were an athlete and benefited from kind coaches, the physical challenge and the comradery of being on a team. Therefore, there is a high emphasis on sports in your home.

Athletes were cruel and unkind to you. You were cut from the basketball team in the 7th grade, and have loathed all things sports since that day. Therefore, you do whatever it takes to steer your children in the opposite direction of sports.

You quit piano at age 11, and have regretted it everyday since then. Therefore, all of our children are enrolled in piano lessons somewhere….. And BY GOLLY, they aren’t quitting 🙂

The stress of performing a piano piece in front someone, almost sent you to an early grave. Therefore, you are completely ok if your children NEVER play the piano.

You were a complete book worm, and spent your childhood traveling from adventure to adventure between the covers of a book. Therefore, books are valued and encouraged in your home.

You struggled with reading and were laughed at when you read out-loud. You never received a stupid Book-It prize from Pizza Hut, and never once attended an AR party. You could care less if your kids love books.

OR…. You are hell bent on every single one of them living on Pizza Hut pizza for the rest of their lives, and you read like ninny to them every day.

You see, our children can become the sum of our own, personal equations, unless we are VERY, VERY careful.

I’ve not been a Mama for long, but I feel like 12 years and 4 children later, I have a better understanding, a clearer viewpoint. It is SO incredibly important to know in your gut your personal equation. Walking THROUGH and not AROUND your own childhood, will enable you to sift through why certain things light you up more than others.

In my insecurity about spelling, there are times I have pushed and pushed Julia, and sometimes I’ve gone too far. If I didn’t know WHY I did that, it would be VERY difficult for me to back off and see the harm I could be causing. Even more important, I might create a whole different can of pain for Julia, by being blinded to my motivation for her success. Julia is NOT ME! Julia is apart of a whole new equation that does not have to be tainted and stained by my own.

On the flip side, there are BEAUTIFUL and DELICIOUS lessons we can pass on to our kiddos because of our own equations. Finding this balance is the journey of parenthood.

One such delightful moment happened for me last week. I am kind of in love with words, and have made no bones about passing down my love to my children. They have heard me say countless times, “UGH! Find a different word, that one is so tired!” Now, altogether, we roll our eyes when any Duggar uses the word ‘surreal’, because they’ve said it like 345,755 times…. (More money to the counseling fund!)

Any way, Lucy wrote us a song. I love when my kids write anything…. But a song. I used to write songs when I was little. There are many of you who had to suffer through my songs, I’m just so.sorry. But suffer we did not, when Lucy sang this piece for us. I did not take a video, but I have one in my head. And maybe someday she’ll sing it for me again. In the meantime, here are the precious, precious words my SEVEN year old penned.

What Happened To This World?
By Lucy Littlejohn

What happened to this world, or did I become evil?
What happened to this world, but did you know that I’m ashamed?
Did you know that I’m loved.
Did you know that I’m saved.

I trust you Lord, I trust you Lord, I trust you Lord.

What happened to this world, or did I die?
You gave me yours, I gave you mine.
You’re my God, You’re my God, You’re my God.

I trust you!
I trust you!
I trust you!
YEAH!
You’re my God!  

I don’t know your sweet equation. I don’t know you child’s sweet equation. But I know everyday, we have an opportunity to evaluate our equations, learn from them, decipher where errors were made, and write and rewrite until a more tender and gracious balance is reached.

Happy Writing!
~Sara

How To Help Children Who Are Fearful

How To Help Children Who Are Fearful

All 16 of us waited in a room just beyond the sanctuary. Together, we were all going to enter the celebration of Mama’s life. Together, we had walked the long road of Alzheimer’s. Together, we would now walk the long aisle of goodbye. I clutched Mark’s hand as the ushers pulled open the sanctuary doors. My legs shaking, my heart aching, and my mind unsure I could take another step. The congregation rose, daddy took the first step down the aisle and we followed his lead, like we always had done.

Her fingers pressed boldly upon the piano keys. She did not play from a place of loss and weakness, bur rather a place of sweet victory and blessed assurance. She played from a place of complete confidence and bravery. She gave our family, our Mama, and our Great God a love offering like no other. As one of my mom’s nearest and dearest friends, Ms. Janice played, “Because He Lives!” It was as if the sermon of her fingers said, “Walk on dear ones, walk on!”
Mark and I desperately desire for our kids to know their God as the God of the WHOLE WORLD, not just the God of the United States of America. We want them to know the grandeur and majesty of a God who is NOT just the God of the American-Caucasian, middle-class, but the God of all created things. In order to push the boundaries of their boxes, we do not “hide” world wide conflict from them. We do not hush their age appropriate questions about ISIS, terrorism, persecution, torture and death. Naturally, when tackling such weighty topics, we then have to be ready to combat some heavy fears. 
Fear held my heart in captivity for so long, that every alarm goes off in my body when one of my children say. “I am afraid!” I learned from my own story, that fear is a VERY real and a VERY fierce emotion, that when unchecked can paralyze and control every aspect of our lives. 
1. When working with children who are struggling with fear, NEVER EVER ignore the emotion.
Over the weekend, we had SUCH a tender conversation with our kids about fear. One of them shared, “I am afraid ISIS will come to French Camp and hurt us!” Both Mark and I acknowledged the fear, validated how we can TOTALLY understand why this child might be fearful of such a thing, and then we did the ONLY thing we can do as parents;
2. We DID NOT offer false hope!
“Oh baby! ISIS is NEVER coming to French Camp, MS!” 
“Oh baby! We will NEVER be harmed by terrorists!”
“Oh come on, statistically you’ll die in a car accident long before you die by the hand of ISIS!”
ALL THINGS NOT TO SAY!
What we DID try and express to our kids was this, “Kiddos, we have something FAR GREATER, FAR DEEPER, FAR LONGER, and FAR MORE SECURE than a make believe promise. We can only offer you the same thing our parents offered us, and it’s the BEST OFFERING EVER. The only sure thing we have for you is this; JESUS! His presence and the promises in His word, are the firm foundations we have stood on our whole lives, and we want you to stand on them also. Mama and Daddy have faced MANY sorrows and fears, we too had NO IDEA how we were going to survive some days, but God’s grace covered us. God’s grace was sufficient and went before us, behind us and all around us. It sustained us. There are little girls and little boys on the other side of the world, sitting in living rooms and expressing the same fear you are expressing tonight, and their Mamas and Daddies CANNOT offer them any type of circumstantial relief with, “Oh kids, ISIS isn’t in this part of the world!” Imminent danger DOES surround them in a way it doesn’t surround us today, and their Mamas and Daddies are offering their kids the EXACT SAME HOPE we are speaking over you, JESUS! 
3. Jesus is the only kryptonite to fearful bondage!
Positive thoughts pitter-out, numbing tools leave us naked, reality returns, and we face our fears again. Until we give Jesus access into all the shaking and uneasy parts of our fear, fear will be our master. Fear will boss us, control us, paralyze us, motivate us and make us its slave, and then we poison others with our contagious fear.
One of mine and Mark’s prayers is, that we will have the clarity to call out and tear down generational sin that has been allowed to seep through. Fear is one of those struggles we have called out. And ONLY through the grace and power of our living God, we plan to help our children tear down fear.
On Sunday, “Because He Lives” was pinged out on an old, out of tune piano, that sits in a dusty Delta church, way beyond her prime. But nothing old and out of tune was shared in the sacred place of those tired walls.
“How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy He gives;
But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days
BECAUSE HE LIVES!”
My fake tattooed body just received a new print. Just the last 3 lines. I’m not excessive you know 🙂 
I’m going to place these words, painted on a plaque (made by one of my artsy friends) by my front door. As my children’s souls come in and out, I’ll see those words and my fear will fade, my faith will rise, and I will not be enslaved and held in captivity…..BECAUSE HE LIVES!
~Sara
             

Midlife-Crisis Meltdown

“Discontentment is holy when it compels us to dream of redemption”
~Allender
I’ve been pacing the floors of my soul; slow, methodic steps. Allowing my inhales to give me a spiritual high and my exhales to hang in the pollen filled air. 
Somewhere between having tasted and seen the absolute power and sweetness of an abandoned life, and living in a culture of the gross excessiveness, I stand bewildered today. Has the persistent call on my heart that says, “follow me, and I will turn you into a fisher of people” led me astray? Or has the trap of indifference captured my heart? Has the repeated, overemphasized, frozen teaching of,  ‘faith is not a feeling’, caused me to compartmentalize and twist goodness, telling myself, ‘faith feels nothing.’ If so, I am a betrayer of true faith. Because if anything, at the name of Jesus, I feel. I feel some bat-shit passionate things. Shocking. I know 🙂
In my discontentment, my desire is NOT to do ‘more’ for Jesus because some guilt-ridden inspiration has led me to an altar call of doing more. My discontentment does not stem as an attempt to earn God’s love and favor with a gold star. I OWN His love already. His love is written on my heart, and is the cover story of my life. His favor pours from His eyes when He looks at me, because He sees the cross. My discontentment doesn’t come from a yelp that says, “Be radical! Be EXTRA-ordinary!” In and of myself, I’m just a radical sinner in need of an extraordinary Savior. That’s all the radical and extraordinary I have to offer. But for the first time EVER in my life, I pace into my inner chambers and whisper in my holy of holies, ” Lord Jesus, this cannot be it! Throwing all my energy, wealth, and gifting behind building the ‘American Dream’ for myself and my family cannot possibly be the ‘good works’ you have set apart for me. It feels completely contradictory to everything I know about You.” 
I’ve been contemplating this week before Easter, how Jesus EMPTIED Himself, and I sit here like Gus-Gus, stuffing my mousy pockets and running budget numbers and complaining, “if we only had more!” I CANNOT think of a more disgusting picture. He emptied Himself, so that I can have a buffet of the “American Dream??!!!” It’s not sitting right, folks. It’s just not!
When I snucked (how AJ says the past tense of the word ‘sneak’) home, I was able to sit and marvel and the endless,  🙂 ENDLESS 🙂 stories my dad was able to share with me about his current work at  The Sending Project. My innards woke up.  My dad is writing the final chapters of his life (no dad, I’m not killing you off!:) and it could NOT be more Christ-centered and selfless. I WANT THAT with an absolute, scandalous passion!
I do not have a very clear idea why I’m so unsettled right now. Why such a discontentment is stirring in my gut. But I can tell you it has something to do with redemption. His redemption. 
Acts 2:24 “But God raised Jesus up, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held by death’s power!”
SHUT.UP!
When I survey the littered roads of so much secret brokenness and pain, pain that wakes you up in the middle of the night and won’t let you go, I cannot sit here and ask someone to pass the popcorn while it all unfolds on the screen of life before me. I want in on this. Whatever this IS! 
I cannot think of one person who doesn’t need this message engraved on their heart today;
The agony of death is OVER!
Death could not hold Him!
The grave could not keep Him!
IT IS FINISHED!
And the beautiful, messy consequence of His death? Our eternal LIVING!! 
I don’t know what is God is up too. Maybe it’s a bad case of gas, or a midlife-crisis meltdown, but y’all God is moving in this home. He has ALWAYS been moving, but this time I’m putting on my dance shoes, grabbing my handsome hunk of a husband and my gaggle of geese, and I’m beginning to sway to the music…..
Here is my cry;
Come Lord Jesus, come into this place.
Undo us, renew us, and have your mighty way with us!  
He is RISEN!
He is RISEN, indeed!
With much Easter love,
~Sara
That Time I Yelled At My Kids

That Time I Yelled At My Kids

Stars, ya’ll! S.T.A.R.S!!

Confession, the title is a bit deceptive in that there hasn’t just been ‘A’ time that I have yelled at my children (pick up your jaws) there are many timeS (daily) in my nearly 12 years of motherhood, that I have lost my stuff and spewed on them. Just so we are all on the same page here…. 🙂

The enormous amount of words required to parent four children baffles me at times.  If a courtroom recorder followed me around all day, I think we would all stand in shock at the amount of times I repeat myself like a dementia patient, “Do you have your glasses? Have you brushed your teeth, because EW? Do you have your lunch? Your water bottle? Your homework? Your permission slip? Please turn off your bedroom light (OK, I NEVER say this, but Mark (my little energy conservationist) has said it a bagillion times!:) Please clean up the wet towels (stepping on wet towels makes me cuss), please clear your dishes, please pick up your dirty clothes, please put your back up in your room, please put your lunchbox and water bottle in their home, please refill the toilet paper roll, please empty your trash, please take a shower, please go to bed…. And let me tell you something….sometimes it’s too much and I stop saying please and just start pointing and yelling, “TEETH! TRASH! WATER BOTTLES! HOMEWORK! GLASSES! TOWELS! DIRTY CLOTHES! ENERGY! BED! SHOWER! SLEEP!    

Yesterday, I had spent the entire afternoon swallowed whole in the winter/spring clothes exchange. It is a MULTI day affair. Tub after tub that has to be sorted, sized, and exchanged….TIMES FOUR! The house becomes tornadic, because the tubs clutter all the open spaces, and the breathing room is shut out because there are piles stacked to the moon. It is a tedious process that sometimes causes much tension and lunacy in my soul, “This is RIDICULOUS! No child needs this much clothing! No one human can wear all these clothes in a single season! These kids are excessively, spoiled little beings. I am NEVER buying another single stitch of clothing!” Like I said, lunacy.

Enter, 3 unknowing girls, who have each had a day of their own. If you only have boys, let me tell you how my girls debrief after school; they walk me through the ENTIRE 8 hours we were apart, minute.by.minute. I get it all. Who ate what for lunch, who had drama, who got in trouble, who said what about who, who was absent, who got sick, who was sad, who was cranky, who was nice, who was silly….Like, play by play. A lot of words, a lot of details! Please don’t hear what I’m not saying, I don’t want my kids coming home to anyone else! I *mostly* cherish the insane debrief and grieve the day it ceases. And yes, I know it will different with Anderson.

Any the who, we had an event we needed to be at, at 615, which meant we needed to leave at 6. Mark gets home from work at 535, and being on time is the sixth love language in my book. As the kids and I sat down early to have dinner, I said “right after dinner we are all going to go outside and clean up the yard, it looks like trailer trash out there!” (It’s a joke, laugh 🙂 The evening before, the 3 youngest kids had pulled out every bike, helmet and scooter we own and left them in the yard. Which was fine, except it was scheduled to rain last night.

I cleared my plate, stood up and said, “Ok, time to pick up the yard!’ I walked outside and started moving bikes. NO.ONE.MOVED! My blood pressure rose as I walked the first bike to storage. As I was coming back for the second muddy bike, I thought about walking up to the back door and firing off a snotty, guilt ridden exhortation for them to get off their booties and move it. I didn’t. Something came over me, I admit it was rare and not of myself. Something I long for, desire and beg God to give me took over, “Help me to not be a reactionary parent. Help me to be reasonable and intentional in my responses.”

On trip number three, while 2 scooters which were clanking against my ankles, threatening to cut my Achilles in half, the Lord spoke to my heart, “Sara, they will know ME by YOUR love! This whole world can testify to your patience and love, but if your husband and kids cannot; you are nothing. If others outside your home can claim your tender and gentle ways, but if your husband and kids cannot; you are nothing! If you would sacrifice for a friend, but not your family; you are nothing! If friends can see your love for Me, but Mark, Katie, Julia, Lucy and Anderson cannot; you are nothing! Love means making 10 round trips with scooters beating your ankles, without losing your stuff!”

OUCH!  

Ask me what my greatest hope is and I will tell you, “I want my husband and children to know from their head, through their heart, and down to their toes the love of our stunning God!” I want this so much for them I would die for that truth to better cemented in their core. And…that’s exactly what I’m called to do. Die to myself, my selfishness, my anger, my bitterness, my spewing, my schedule, my wants and whims, my lusts and desires, and all my disgusting places. Die to live. The greatest calling on our lives.

And in all that dying, a resurrected Savior lives.
He is the deflection of my spewing.
He is the calm in my calamity.
He is the tender in my tense.
He is the patient in my pain.
He is the faithful in my failure.
He is the kind in my cranky.
He is the love in my loss.
And HE is the life in my death!

Here is to a day of dying and finally living!!
~Sara

  

When Your Heart Says, “Go Home!”

When Your Heart Says, “Go Home!”

The changing seasons seem to always tap into my “missing mama” chambers. My mom came alive in the spring. Winter was hard for her, but she faithfully stood in the watch tower announcing every sign of life, “SPRING IS COMING!”

Maybe it was the changing seasons, maybe it was the thought of spending spring break cooped up in the double-wide during unending rain and gloom, maybe I just needed to see my dad and family, maybe the 10 day forecast in Kansas was sunny and 70… Regardless, I made the decision at 3pm the Friday before spring break that was I going home to Kansas in stealth mode. In all my years of traveling, this was the first time I would ever take a stealth trip. It was also the fastest packing I’ve ever done. Usually, I prep for an entire week leading up to a trip. Saturday morning, when I pulled out of the driveway at 6 am, I just made sure I had all 4 kids my cell phone, my contacts and glasses. Everything else was replaceable.

Christmas in Kansas was so wonderful, but I hardly had time to see my dad. Typically, when I go home, I kid you not, I take an excel spreadsheet to keep up with all the different friends/family we want to see. Maintaining relationships with people far away is like one of my core values, it’s incredibly important to me! But this trip I needed to see my family.

I stayed at my dad’s house, which is the first time I had spent the night in his home since July 2011. Which also means it was the first time I had spent the night in his home since Mama died. Obviously, when we lived in KS from July of 2011 to July of 2013, we had no real need to spend the night, and since moving back to MS we have stayed at my sister’s house when visiting. The inn at Dad’s had been full 😉 I was not really prepared for the flood of emotions that accompanied staying there. It was SO sweet and SO right, but harder than I expected. Mama was every where! It was purging for my heart to be in the space where memories of her abounded. It was good to run my hands over her clothes, and pull them up to my nose to see if I could smell her. I took time to flip through scrap books she made and see reminders of her face and her love every where I turned. I wandered through the basement opening random boxes and seeing her handwriting on endless cards and recipes, and I kneeled at her old book shelf and pulled off books of hers that she had underlined and highlighted to death. As I sat by her book shelf, I heard my kids and their cousins storming through the upstairs giggling and yelling, “Poppo, WHERE ARE YOU!? Pops, Pops, POPS?!” And dad could only respond with deep belly laughs and, “I’m out here grilling your food!” My throat tighten, “Oh mom, I so wish you were here! You would LOVE these moments!”

Katie has been on a Jr Beta Club Convention trip this week (for those outside of the south, Beta Club is an academic club) she was competing in the speech category. The first round of speeches was yesterday, and she was allowed one person in the room to support her. She and I discussed at length if she wanted me there for the first round, I left the decision up to her. Of course, I would travel ANYWHERE she needed me to go! However, this time we agreed that she would have a teacher come with her to round one, and if she made it to the final round, AJ and I would make the trip to come hear her compete.

I won’t tell you how many times I have thought about her since she climbed up on that bus. I won’t tell you how many times my eyes (and maybe Mark’s 🙂 have blinked back tears, reeling over the fact how grown and fiercely independent she has become (I think some of Mark’s tears were tears of remembrance and apprehension regarding his former Jr. Beta Club trips!;) I woke up yesterday scanning my bible, trying to pick the perfect verse to send her right before she was due to give her speech. I didn’t want to make her more nervous by sending a bunch of public speaking advice, but I wanted her to know that we were so proud of her and we stood behind her!

It was a loooonnnnngggggg three hour wait before we finally heard from her. I cleaned like a mad woman while waiting. Half way through, Mark called to see if I had heard anything, I hadn’t. He said, “make sure you let me know when you do!” Finally, her text tone pierced through the double-wide we chatted back and forth and then this happened…..

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had spent all morning thinking about her, closing my eyes and envisioning her doing her speech. Let’s be honest, I had heard the speech so often, I too had memorized it! I had covered her in prayer and sent my most powerful cheers 82 miles north up the Trace. I was WITH her in every way I could be, while physically still in French Camp. When that text came through, “Wish you could have been there!” the plea resounded so familiar in my gut, I walked to the bathroom and fell to pieces. I cannot tell you how many times my lips have whispered that EXACT request over the last 28 months, “Mom, I wish you could have been here!” And for the first time, I feel like I got a small glimpse into my mama’s answer, “Oh Sara, I was there! Small pieces of me are all over you. Wherever you go, I GO! And love, for as long as I lived on that earth, and now dwell in Glory, I’m covering every inch of your life in prayer!” I spent the rest of the day feeling like I had received a small gift of clarity. I knew EXACTLY how Katie was feeling, and for the first time I felt like I understood a little bit better how my mom might be feeling.

And as with most life stories, it came so easy for me to connect this concept to the Eternal. How many moments the darkness have found me begging the Lord, “I wish you were. I wish you were IN THIS!” And then the urgency I felt yesterday, He too feels, but he does it perfectly, without the boundaries of space and time and humanity…He really, TRULY, is always here. Not just in spirit or prayer, but THERE! Ever abiding, ever so close….

~Sara

#FindingFrenchCamp: The Beginning

#FindingFrenchCamp: The Beginning

I was laying in bed the other night, wide awake in the wee hours of the morning. Insomnia is not my typical M.O. when I’m struggling with something.  I love my sleep and everyone in my life can vouch for that fact. However, the other night I was plagued with a tour of restlessness. Why is it that we think we should solve all the world’s problems at 2am?! I mean, I can solve some mean problems at 9am with a cup of java in hand.

2am is too, two-ish.
Too, irrational.
Too, dark.
Too, unknown.
Too, heavy.

But…. I’ve learned, some pretty big thoughts cross my mental radar when no one is talking to me or needing me. It dawned on me, this May will mark my NINTH year of living in Mississippi. Obviously, not nine consecutive years, but nine years when added up altogether. Next to Kansas, Mississippi is the longest lasting home for me. That is SOOOOOO bizarre-O to me. In all the writing I did as a little girl, never ONCE did my mid-west heart land in the south, let alone, Mississippi. Never once, did I title a chapter “Southern Living!” Never once, did any of my imaginary characters have southern accents. And I definitely never penned my personal biography to include four-wheelers, deep freezes, camouflage, double-wides, grand front porches for sittin’, pick-up trucks  for spittin’, bonfires, doilies, monograms, (not to be confused with mammograms) and red lip stick.
NOT ONCE!

I was the BIGGEST home body growing up. I told everyone I was going to live with my parents forever.. I was 16 not 6, when I said this.  I hated sleepovers and summer camp. I almost failed 1/2 day Kindergarten, because I was absent so often. I could not imagine why people wanted to leave home as badly as they did. When I dreamed about my future, I was going to be a Kansas girl forever. I was going to graduate from JUCO then KU. I was going to marry a local flavor, be a junior high history teacher and coach, and send my kids to KCCS. I had a brilliant plan.

Then, at 16 (just weeks after swearing I was never leaving home) a series of miraculous events took place and I packed my bags for French Camp, Mississippi. I cried the entire 12 hour trip here. 17 years ago this May, my little, size 7 foot, encountered its first ever Mississippi mud. And the rest is history, or is it? That’s just it, French Camp, MS is as much as my history now as it is my unwritten future, and I feel like I still don’t know her the way I should.  Oh, I’ve been learned in MANY Mississippi traditions since then, but my heart is still a bit resistant to the reality she is my home. Lord willing, she will be home for a very long time, because this Mama cannot stomach the thought of moving. EVER.AGAIN (this kind of statement usually initiates the heavenly realm to start rearranging my grand plans for a glorious kind of laughter to erupt! 😉

Today, Anderson and I were studying the map and he said, “Mama, where IS Mississippi?!”

And the idea bloomed.

I’ve learned that the kryptonite to bitterness is story. In order for my heart to grow in admiration and respect for something, I need to know its story. Not just its cover on “Southern Living”, but the deeply-rooted, untold story underneath.

SOOOOO…. I’m starting a new, little project. It’s called #findingFrenchCamp!! In the upcoming weeks and months, I’m putting my blogger hat on to uncover this little space of land we call home. I think it will cause my love for her to deepen, my admiration for her to grow, and for some of the BEST stories to be told.

I need your help!

First, using the hashtage #findingFrenchCamp I would love for you to join in on the project. One of my amazing best friends inspired this idea (thanks, Jess) You can follow me on Twitter @saraslittlejohn. Instagram @saralj4. And FB @ Mark Sara Littlejohn.

Second, I need your stories. I’ve lived here for like .8 seconds and have only a portion of experiences to share. I’d LOVE to meet with you, sip java with you, and just LISTEN to your endless stories. Contact me @ mslittlejohn@gmail.com, swing by the doublewide and sit on my porch, or honk at me at Leonard’s… I’ll find you, and I’ll find the stories!!

Come on, get excited! This is fuuuunnnn. And everyone needs a little fun in their fire!

~Sara

What Is Next For Us?!?

What Is Next For Us?!?

We bundled up under layers of clothes and sat on our front porch. The snow whispered “hush” over the darkness of our tiny little town. Even in the darkness, everything was brighter with a layer of snow reflecting its purity. Everything was quieter with a layer of snow to dampen the miscellaneous noise. That’s what captivated me, the quiet. Since moving back to French Camp 19 months ago, I have had to reintroduce myself to quiet. I’ve seen more glimpses of her in the last 19 months, than in all of my life previous. Quiet hasn’t been a regular visitor in my life. Growing up in a bustling home constantly full of people, (WHICH I ADORED!) I didn’t know I even needed quiet. I left my parents house and moved in with my delectable groom, Mark, and the silence unnerved me. I often thought, “Why is it so quiet? Are we doing something wrong? Where are all the people? Aren’t we suppose to be hosting a party right now?”  We had a small chapter of quiet while living in the Love Shack at Twin Lakes. Although, I never allowed myself to enjoy the quiet. I fought against it and turned on the TV, radio, or talked on the phone. Quiet meant empty for me, for a long, long time. Then we started making babies, and all hope of quiet exited stage left for the last 11+ years. After moving to French Camp, all the girls started attending brick and mortar school, and we all know the immediate silence that fell over my house. It’s not completely silent, my little man is a fine little chatty Cathy, and Kindergarten has kept us busy. Nonetheless, (nonethemore) there have been pockets of quiet that have called my name, and for the first time in my life, I sprint with passion toward it. I let it wash over me, I taste it and I crave more of it.

Two months ago, sitting in our cozy little living room, I peeled a vulnerable layer back in my heart and asked Mark to come in and see what was taking root there. It was December, and I felt it rushing toward me….CHANGE. Enormous CHANGE. Anderson goes to first grade in the fall, and so for the first time in TWELVE YEARS (or really my whole life) this woman right here is facing something I’ve never faced before in my life; utter silence.

I began to weep as I described how emotional I was feeling, “anyone who walks away from doing something they have LOVED for 12 straight years, will naturally grieve this major loss.” When I was young and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I always said, “I want to be a mom!” In my mind, I could only wrap my brain around the mom part that included this season of always having someone at home. That season, for now, is coming to a close. Since that day in December, I cannot talk about August without bursting into tears.

I am VERY aware that my role as Mama is NOT ending. Trust me, everyday from 3pm-9pm, I am reminded how much my children (and their homework) need me. I call it the 6 hours of triage. I KNOW in all reality, their need for my presence in their daily lives will be at an all time high. Every other day, when the sweet secretary calls me from school, asking me to bring the left behind item, or pick up a sick kiddo, or volunteer for an event or activity; I know my calendar will not be bare come August, but y’all it hurts. For a second, I feel lost. I feel without. I feel that silent emptiness creeping into my world.

People are already asking, “So, what ARE you going to do come August?!” My palms begin to sweat, I feel like I have to quickly justify my answer before them. Or create some grand plan of success of how I’m going to fill 8-3, M-F and shout “BOO-YA” when I conclude. Some deep lie in me feels like I have to prove my worth, validate my cause and track the hours my children are gone on some time sheet for all to evaluate and approve. LIES.

Mark is so brilliant in his love for me! He is so gentle and kind as we face this major force of change. I feel him eagerly watching and waiting WITH me, helping me paint a melody of hope. No pressure, no demands, no rules. He quietly stands next to me, holding my hand in his and whispering, “let’s go sit on the quiet, front porch!” No pushing and prodding for me to start bringing home monetary proof that I’m valuable or have a voice. He has ALWAYS valued my zero dollar contributions to the bank account, and elevated my million minutes of investments into the hearts of our children, by being present in our home.    

One of my best friends Amy, whose life has eerily mimicked mine in motherhood, just walked through this season, and she gave me the BEST advice a friend could give.

“What you are doing to do next year is this; tell the whole world that you just swam across the ocean of raising four babies into semi-normal little people. You nearly drowned in gold fish, sleeplessness, baby vomit and diapers on a daily basis for 12 years. You have made it to the shore of survival, a shore you swore would never come. And now you are going to sit on the darn beach, drink a few margaritas, reclaim some missing brain cells….. and everyone can just deal!” (Paraphrased)

The silence tripped me up last night, it got so silent I was forced to think long and hard about what is coming next for me, for us, for our family. Whenever my innards begin to panic and my mind begins to spin out of control with thoughts like, “maybe we should have more kids, maybe we should be adopting to fill the silence (a very bad reason to do either!) maybe I should go back to work, maybe I should go back to college, maybe…maybe..maybe” I stop and exhale, and I envision myself sitting on the beach of survival, catching my breath, running after silence and embracing the major change headed our way.

I do not know what is next. We have some ideas floating around the double wide, floating around our hearts, but nothing seems concrete, fathomable, or attainable. This restlessness will bloom into an idea and the idea will birth a story that will just HAVE to be told. Reminds me of a November night in 2002, when I told Mark I had this idea….”let’s have a baby!”

~Sara

(Thanks Em, for the pic!)