{Southern Gal Hostess of the Year? Not so much.}

A few weeks ago, it was my Dad’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Dad!) We decided to have an impromptu gathering to celebrate — at our house. I, being the southern belle that I am, had suggested a nice dinner out. After all, the house was a mess, the fridge was empty, and I was tired. Very tired. But, no. Dinner out wasn’t going to do. There had to be a celebration. For my dad. With other people. And I would host.

So, we came home from Sunday lunch and had a few hours to prep for the party. Any southern gal worth her weight in butter can prep for a party on short notice, right? Um, no. I came home and took a nap. Yes. Fell asleep. In my favorite spot. With my favorite pillow. Don’t judge me!

After my Sunday afternoon nap, the house was still a mess, the fridge still empty, and people were still coming over in an hour. On the way to grocery store, I whined and complained at my lack of preparation. I moaned that I know better than this. Why couldn’t we just take everyone out for pizza? My awesome, superstar, worth-his-weight-in-gold hubby assured me it would be fine. He has a beautiful gift of calm. We scurried through the store like a couple of crazy people. We still had 30 minutes to spare. Then, we realized we forgot the cake. Did I mention we were halfway home at that point? Yikes.

When we pulled in the driveway, we were late. (Now, you can judge me.) Our guests were already there. And so, I did what any other respectable southern gal hostess type would do. I put them to work. What. In. The. World. It’s shameful, I know. Pizza really would have been better. I promise the next gathering at my house will be better. I do have it in me.

Here’s the thing: While I may not have scored high marks this time on the “Southern Gal Hostess of the Year” chart, I still had an opportunity that evening to practice hospitality.  It didn’t necessarily look the way I wanted it to look — ok, who am I kidding, It looked nothing like I wanted it to — but, even still, I was being hospitable. See, I’m learning that hospitality is about a heart that says “You are important to me.”  I opened my door wide and invited these folks into my mess because they are important. I opened my door wide and made a place here where it was perfectly acceptable to be a hot mess! Because, hello, did you notice? Hot. Mess. Right here.

Opportunities for hospitality will sometimes interrupt our daily routines with no regard for our empty fridge or our mess. But, it’s ok. It really is. I’m learning that there’s more to it than a perfectly executed five-course dinner or beautifully executed party. It’s about leaning in with a tender heart towards the people that God has put in my path. I can be hospitable when I greet the clerk at the grocery store. I can be hospitable when I greet my neighbor with a smile. I can welcome people into our home despite the mess. Why? Because people are important. Hospitality says I see you and you matter. That, my friends, is the kind of southern gal I want to be. One who is worth her weight in butter because hospitality isn’t just something she does, it’s who she is. Kind. Gracious. Warm. Tenderhearted. One who loves others well. That’s what we’re meant to do, isn’t it? Love people. Hospitality starts there. 
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{One Step at a Time Gets Me There.}

So, I have a confession. I am an emotional eater. There, I said it.

Now, before I go any further, I should explain that I understand there’s an underlying spiritual issue — the emotional eating, that’s just a symptom. More on that another time. For now, let it just be enough to get that out there.

So, where was I? Ah, yes — emotional eater.

I realized there was a problem when I started gaining a reputation for the girl who loved donuts. I do love a good donut, it’s true. But is that the thing I want to come to mind when one thinks of me? Um, no. My poor, sweet friends. They really had no choice as much as I raved about donuts. Trust me y’all, it was bad. One evening I stopped by the Krispy Kreme and bought a dozen hot now glazed donuts. I ate four of them within five minutes — on my way to a workout session at my church. I saved the other six for my post-workout drive home. That’s right. And, I unashamedly boasted about it during the class. What?! Who does that?! {ahem}

Here’s the thing: I don’t do well with transition and there have been several major (GIANT) transitions in our lives over the past five years. I did have a baby during that time; even still, three years seems a reasonable amount of time to lose the pregnancy weight.  The pregnancy weight wasn’t the problem, though.

The problem was that food (junk food) became a form of stress management. If I was upset, I’d grab a fruit roll-up or three. If I was sad, I’d grab a dozen donuts. If I was confused, back to the fruit roll-ups. If I was feeling uncertain, I’d eat half a bag of cheese puffs. If overwhelmed, ice cream. You get the idea. No surprise when the scale told me I weighed nearly 200 pounds. (Did I mention all the major transitions?) Yep, almost 200 pounds! Even in my skivvies, even when I shifted around trying to distribute the weight differently, more evenly, even after I inched my feet backwards so my heels hung off the back of the scale. But, the scale wasn’t the only issue either.

Poor choices in one area of life affect all other areas of life in some way or other. I was watching that happen right before my eyes. I felt a little hopeless. One morning after tearing off the third blouse as I tried to get ready for church, I lamented that I was tired of being chubby and hated my clothes. There were tears. The big, ugly cry kind of tears. My sweet husband did the only thing he knew to do — he told me I was beautiful, wiped away my tears and then bought me donuts on the way to church. Really though, this wasn’t about being beautiful or weighing less — it was about being comfortable in my own skin. It was about living well. 

At the end of May, I joined a clean eating group. In June, I signed up for a 21Day Challenge Group and started using Shakeology. After that, I signed on with Team Beachbody as a coach. Sure, the discounted Shakeology and workout packages are great. But, what’s even better is having the opportunity to tell someone it’s not too late to live well, to live healthy, to be better.  That’s why you’re seeing more health and fitness posts on my social media lately. If you feel stuck or discouraged in this area of your life, I would love to help you.

I am happy to report that I have not eaten a donut since the end of May! I dropped 13 pounds after my first round of 21Day Fix + Shakeology. But, more importantly, I feel better. I am better. And stronger. I haven’t reached my overall health and fitness goal yet, but I am making progress. One day at a time. One workout at a time. One healthy decision after another. One step at a time. That’s what gets me there.

I can. I will.

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{Letters to My Daughter} {No. 2}

Sweet Girl,

You wrote me the most lovely letter. Thank you. Because I know you are dying to know — yes, it made me cry! Big. Tears. I didn’t cry just because you said nice things about me and to me. I cried because as a momma it is pretty awesome to see God working in your life.

God used you and your words in that letter to encourage me. That makes my heart swell to the point of bursting. Do you hear me? God used you. Let that sink in. 

There are three things I want you to know and remember.

1. Words are powerful. Use them well.  Speak life. Speak hope. Speak words of encouragement. Once you release your words, it is impossible to get them back. It’s like squeezing an entire tube of toothpaste out onto a plate and trying to put it back inside the tube. (I used to do that on the first day of school in front of the class. Trying to put toothpaste back into a tube is quite messy!) It’s the same with our words, you know. If used unwisely–carelessly–words hurt, leave scars, cause damage to relationships. And always, always remember your words reveal your heart. Guard your heart and use your words well. Let every word you speak be a reflection of Jesus’ love being perfected in you. The letter you wrote me is a glowing example of what I’m talking about. You spoke life and encouragement to me. What a gift!

2. God will use you. Look around and listen to Him. I am sure when you wrote my letter you didn’t think you were doing anything extraordinary. Yet the words you wrote were exactly the words I needed to hear in that very moment. You should know that there are people around you who need the same kind of gift you gave me–words of life. Can I challenge you to look for them? On purpose. Ask God to use you to encourage someone each day. Ask Him. I promise He will. This is not the first time you’ve used words to encourage. You have a gift of encouragement. Once you wrote an encouraging message to a kid who was a few years younger than you. You leave sweet notes for your siblings and for us. Keep doing that. Remember, you may never know how God uses the words you speak and that’s ok. You just be brave and bold. Be obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit and speak life.

3. I love you. You are extraordinary. If I could line up all the girls on the planet and pick one to be my daughter, I would choose you. Every single time.

I’m glad you’re my girl. (Even when we’re having a bad day!)

XOXO.

Guest Blogger :: Maddie Grace

My sweet Madeleine asked if she could share a portion of her story here. I was happy to oblige. I am so thankful and grateful for all that God is doing in her life.


Hi everyone!! I’m Maddie, and in 8th grade Bible this year, we were given the assignment to write milestone moment speeches. Basically what these are is you think of a time in your life where you felt God working in you. I shared my speech with the class and many people were inspired. I hope that my story can help inspire you as well. Hopefully it’s good 🙂

I’m just an average girl, I live with my mom and my stepdad and honestly, I’m extremely grateful that God has blessed me with such a great Christian family now, but life hasn’t always been easy.

Earlier in my life, I really struggled with the fact that my parents were getting divorced. I was really young at the time, about 3 years old, with a younger brother only a few months old. I don’t remember much, but in the midst of all the arguing and confusion, I do remember feeling really alone.

Things got even more complicated in 2008 when my dad remarried to a woman was abusive to my younger brother and me. I remember her telling me, you’re not beautiful, you’re not worth anything, and she told me I didn’t deserve anything special. Being only 8 years old, it really affected my self-confidence and I remember being in tears most of the nights I spent with my dad and stepmom. To make things more confusing, my dad NEVER took up for me, the man in my life who is supposed to tell me how beautiful and treasured I am, just stood there and let a woman ruin my confidence. But, one night I remember my mom sharing a verse with me that really encouraged me to not care about what the world says about me, but to know that I am God’s masterpiece, created in Christ to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

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My relationship with my dad is very damaged because of my stepmom’s influence. I honestly couldn’t trust him anymore, and I still have trouble trusting other people, even if they seem completely innocent. Somewhere in the middle of my broken relationship, I realized that what I needed was a strong relationship with God. I knew that in the book of Psalms it says to call on God and He will rescue me.

So in 2011, I really began to pray and read my Bible and figured out what it means to have a meaningful relationship with God. I especially began to pray that God would work things out with my dad.

In 2012, my dad and stepmom announced that they were getting a divorce. It took them 7 years to realize that their marriage wasn’t healthy. I saw them getting a divorced as an answer to prayer. I thought that maybe, a new, restored relationship with my dad would be made possible. But I was wrong. My dad has continued to make some very bad choices and he recently made a huge mistake that has again, affected my brother and me in a very negative way; but I will definitely keep praying that God will continue to teach me through these tough spots.

God is truly amazing. I’m so grateful that He is always there and I know now that even in the darkest points in life, I can fully trust him no matter what. I’m also very thankful that he gives me opportunities to share my story and show his unconditional love to others.

~Maddie Lewis

{Letters to My Daughter – No. 1}

Remember our first mom-daughter date. We put on nice dresses and went to a fancy restaurant. We talked. And laughed. I might have cried a tiny, little bit. We had fun being together.

You looked beautiful. Your sweet smile lights up the room. I love your smile.

Do you remember what we talked about? It’s been quite some time since our date. So, I want to remind you. We talked about being a girl who knows that she is God’s masterpiece. I reminded you that being this girl means that you make choices for yourself that reflect that very important truth. This girl knows who she belongs to. She cares about modesty and purity. She values good character and integrity.  She is the daughter of a King.

You are valuable and beautiful simply because you are YOU. You are created by the God of the universe, the Master Creator. You are unique. A masterpiece. That is what Scripture says, which means that what God says. About you!

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that and even harder to really believe it. There is so much pressure to look like everyone else and fit in. There are so many competing voices and ideas. It’s hard to make choices about some of the important things – like modesty and purity – without worrying about what all your friends will think. After all, we all want to belong. To be accepted. We were created with that basic desire (every single one of us). And you, my sweet girl, belong to God.  That is the truth. When it seems hard to make choices that reflect that truth, come talk to me. And, talk to Him. He hears you and sees you and is concerned with all the details of your life.

Let me also remind you that real beauty is not about what you wear or how you fix your hair. Please do comb your hair. And brush your teeth. And wear clean, stylish clothing. But always remember that there’s more to it than that. It begins with a heart that loves Jesus. It begins with believing what He says about you and carrying those truths with you into every moment of your day.

Remember who you are and who you belong to. Make choices that are wise. Be the girl God created you to be. Make those wise (sometimes really hard) choices even when you don’t feel like you are that girl. Then pray that God will help you really believe what He says about you.

You were created on purpose. For a purpose. You are highly favored. You are valuable. You are His masterpiece. Believe it. Live it.

I love you. So does He.

Remember that time when . . .

Every now and then, something will happen that reminds me that God is concerned with the details of my life. He is concerned with the details because He has a plan. And I know that The Lord will work out His plans for my life. . . (Psalm 138:8)

I love that. You, too?

Someone asked me not too long ago if I felt called to lead worship. At first, the question caught me off guard and it took me a moment to form words. On the inside, I wanted to jump up and down and scream, ‘Yes!! Of course!!’ But I was able to exercise a bit of self-restraint and answer the question with a simple “Yes!”.

[Sidebar: I just dumped my iPad over onto my wireless keyboard. Of course, it managed to “post” my draft…oops! And, I’m sorry if you received a link to a half-baked, unfinished post!]

I walked away from that conversation feeling encouraged because it seemed someone else recognized that God had a specific calling and plan for my life that involved worship. God always offers encouragement at just the right moment. I needed it that day.

So, I started thinking.  I’m writing this to serve as a memorial of one time in particular that God blew me away. A time when He reminded me that He was aware of and concerned with the details. A time when He reminded me (again) that He is working and has always been working.

He gave me a piano. A brand new (off the showroom floor), beautiful piano. Delivered, free of charge. I had a beautiful baby grand piano, but I was going to have to sell it. The baby grand was purchased used a few years earlier. I rarely played the piano during that season of life, but found comfort in knowing it was there. (Weird, right?) I was going through the painful process of divorce, downsizing from a giant house to a tiny house. Space was limited; the baby grand piano simply would not fit. I tried to figure out a way that I could use it as the kitchen table, but that just seemed like a bad idea. Besides, the kitchen was too small! I was sad.

I called and left a message with the piano dealer asking if they would be willing to broker a deal on my behalf or even take the piano back. When they called me back, I hesitated to answer. I simply did not want to talk about it in that moment. I answered anyway.

“Mrs. Lewis, we would be glad to help you sell the baby grand; but, first let me ask, would you be interested in a trade?”

I had no idea that was an option. Of course I was interested in a trade. I assumed I would get a much less expensive, much smaller piano. We talked a few minutes and arranged for pick-up of the old piano at my old address and delivery of the new piano to my new address. I had no idea what I was getting. The new piano showed up, and I thought there must be a mistake.

It was a brand new, full-size, professional grade, upright piano. Shiny. Beautiful. Perfect. Unbelievable! What’s the big deal, you may be wondering. This new piano was far more valuable when compared than the original value of the piano I traded in. So, if I had walked into the showroom to buy either piano (brand new) the baby grand would have been less expensive (at full cost). Am I making sense? It would be like taking a 10 year old car to the dealer and making an even trade for a brand new 2015 model, When does that happen!?

After the delivery guys left, I sat down at my beautiful, new piano – eyes full of tears, fingers fumbling across the shiny new keys – and was overwhelmed with gratitude. Even though I was too shy to play with people watching, i played for Him.

It would be years before I stepped onto a platform to play while people sat and listened. (Never mind playing and singing or playing and leading worship.) But He saw that moment well in advance. In His perfect faithfulness, He worked out the details like only He could. So, I played (and sang) at my mamaw’s funeral, in honor of her – but still, playing for Him.

Here’s the thing: Not only did He see that moment, He has seen every moment since. And, He’s working out His plans for my life.

I am so thankful that I belong to Him.

Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1

To My Little (not-so-little anymore) Brother…

Yesterday was little brother’s birthday.

Sometimes I forget that we are grown-ups and not little kids running around in the yard or playing basketball in the church parking lot. Time flies.

I am sure I would have never earned the “Big Sister of the Year” award. I was most likely being bossy or sassy. On a good day, I was probably making you play some kind of game that you didn’t really want to play or curling your hair and dressing you up like a life-sized barbie doll. And, I laughed when dad plugged up the vacuum and gave you a bad haircut with the flowbe. (You have to admit, it was funny!) It’s a wonder you survived. You were a good little brother. And I know you thought I was cool – even if you won’t admit it in a million years. You still think I’m cool, right?

I joke about how I taught you everything you know and how you got all your coolness and wit from growing up with me. The truth is – I think you really are awesome.

You. Are. Awesome.

I am so glad that God picked me to your big sister. I’m so glad that we grew up to be friends. Sometimes, I wish you lived right around the corner so we could take our fabulous spouses and go on a double date. Or, we could get together and make music, just for fun. I wish my kids could spend more time with you and Auntie T. They would be crazy about you. Even more than they already are. But, it’s ok. Why? Because God is using you right where you are to do great things.

I love watching you do and be what God has intended for you to do and be. I admire your courage and your patient endurance. I admire your obedience.
I love watching you lead worship. Above all, I admire your love for Jesus. You are a beautiful picture of God’s grace – a masterpiece, a treasure.

We are celebrating you from across the miles. We are thankful for you. We love you. Happy birthday!