Wednesday, December 22, 2010

CHRISTMAS ADAM!

Incase you didn't know, tomorrow, Dec 23rd, is Christmas Adam!  You should celebrate!  What a fun day!
In the 6th grade, I went to spend the night with a good friend (here is a shout out to the wonderful Brittany Goss Price) on the day before Christmas Eve.  We were beyond excited for our holiday pajama fest held at her home that I fondly called the "jungle house" due to the cool plants that could be seen from the bathroom window (it's amazing the weird things I remember).  The day kept being described as Christmas Eve Eve and that wasn't really our cup of tea.  So, as the bright 6th graders we were, Christmas Adam began!  The idea dawned on us while sitting in the jump seats of her dad's black 2 door pickup truck.  It really makes a lot of since doesn't it?!  Adam came before Eve, thus making the day before Christmas Eve, Christmas Adam!  If we never have a bright idea again, we had one that day!

Christmas Adam can now be found in the Urban Dictionary and is occasionally mentioned on the radio. I about had a stroke last year when a TV anchor wished everyone a Happy Christmas Adam on a live show!  My husband, on the other hand, refuses to buy into the fact that Brittany and I came up with this phenomenon (ok, it's not a phenomenon yet, but it is only a 13 year old discovery people). However, I know this fact to be true and plan to take to the gave grave, with my family to vouch, that there was such an occurrence of brilliance on our part on Dec 23, 1997.  I am pretty set on Hallmark taking off with the Christmas Adam idea before I die, but if they don't, nothing stops you from enjoying the day and spreading the word yourself!

So, if you haven't gotten in the Christmas spirit yet, what are you waiting for?  For Pete's sake, it's Christmas Adam's Eve already!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Need A Silent Night

It's that Time of Year Again! For what, you ask?  Christmas, yes, but ALSO time to see Amy Grant!

Ahh, it's the small things in life that excite me.  This year I will not be dragging my husband or my parents to see Amy.  I will be joined by a few of the lovely woman I work with.  We have all had a busy 2010 and we are looking forward to an even busier 2011.  With this said, we are all frantically looking for some time off around Christmas to relax with our loved ones and refocus on Christ before we get back to it as we bring in the New Year.

One thing I love about seeing Amy in concert is the relaxation I feel.  I know, during those few hours,  that I am there and my mind can let go of everything else as I sing along with the songs that are so familiar to me. The songs will be even more familiar this time since Amy will be joined by her husband Vince Gill to perform their Christmas show.  I am so glad that the ladies I work with will be able to join me in a night away just to fellowship, relax and think about what Christ has done for us through His birth (and to make a big deal over Amy Grant too, of course).

There are several songs performed by Amy that hit home with me (some of which I have blogged about before) but there is one Christmas song that is beyond real in my life and I am sure the lyrics will hit home for many of you as well.  Amy's "I Need A Silent Night" portrays how I often feel around the Christmas season.  What about you?

I've made the same mistake before
Too many malls, too many stores
December traffic, Christmas rush
It breaks me till I push and shove

Children are crying while mothers are trying
To photograph Santa and sleigh
The shopping and buying and standing forever in line
What can I say?

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?

Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

What was it like back there in Bethlehem
With peace on earth, good will toward men?

Every shepherd's out in the field
Keeping watch over their clock by night
And the glory of the Lord shone around them
And they were so afraid

And the angels said fear not for behold
I bring you good news of a great joy that shall be for all people
For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

To end this crazy day with a silent night 

Amy sang this song the last time I saw her in concert, and before she started, she asked everyone in the audience to raise their hand if they almost didn't come that night due to their busy and over booked schedules. Evan and I joined many other individuals when we raised our hands (we had moved into our current house that day and barely made it in the door in time for the concert).  Before the song began, she spoke about the importance of a silent time with Christ.  She spoke from the heart about the times in her life when things felt like they were spinning nonstop due to all that was going on.  As I sat in that large audience, I thought about how crazy life had been that month.  Now, I sit at home and think about how crazy life is now.  With our goals of giving our best performance at work, taking care of the ones we love and getting all the errands taken care of, it is so easy to run and run and forget to take the time to sit, listen and appreciate what we have.   I spend a lot of time telling others to have a silent night with Christ but I don't take my own advice often enough. 

So, here is a challenge for us both.  Do you need a silent night with Christ?  I do.  Let us decide to make that happen this week.  Let us decide to make this happen more than once over the Holidays. And for Christmas, let us give those silent nights to ourselves as a gift and share those precious moments, the ones we find when God meets us where we are, with the ones we love!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Need an Inspiration? I've Got One for You!

My Inspiration For You: Genae Lanier, my sister-in-law and kindred spirit

A little over two and 1/2 years ago, I was lucky enough to meet my future husband and find out that he had a sister my age.  I was lucky that his sister was the kind of girl who would share her bedroom and clothes with me.  I was lucky that she, Genae, liked me (or at least she acted like it) and welcomed me into her family with no questions asked. Now, I am lucky to share my initials (MGL) with Genae and have a sister-in-law that I would have picked to be in my life even if I had never met her brother.

Not just any friend or family member would lay around in their sweats and watch girly movies and chomp on smoothies with me. Not just anyone would accompany me to a tear jerker movie (see my previous blog to read about my need for Genae's sleeves). And most of all, not just anyone would share their hardships and triumphs with me and let me share mine with them.  But, Genae does all the above and I am always excited to spend time with her. I am truly blessed to have her in my life.

HOWEVER, there will not be a lot of time to spend with Genae in the next year.  You see, Genae will be leaving for The World Race on January 5th and will return a year from now.  She will spend 11 months serving Christ and His people in 11 different countries.  If you keep up with my blog, you have heard me speak of The World Race and the way it impacted my life through my friend Halley (who just returned from her journey in July).  After missing my friend dearly while she adventured, I now prepare to support Genae as she does the same.  Wow, right?!  Who knew I would be connected to such great ladies who are so willing to serve our Savior in a BIG way?!

I can't help but be anxious for Genae as she prepares and, to be honest, part of me wishes I could go too.
It will be a different feeling to have a family member serving in such a capacity and wanting so much to be a part of the work she will be doing.  So, while Genae is gone, I will settle for stalking her online and crossing my fingers for a Skype call.  I will pray for her faithfully and do my best to support her financially until she returns.

I often wonder what Genae will feel and go trough while she is serving?
I wonder what lives she will impact and what impacts will be made on her life?
I wonder what will change in my life while she is gone?
I wonder what I will do when I am dying to talk to her and she is in Timbucktoo?
I wonder how the family will hold up without a fundamental part of the unit around to hug and laugh with?

But, do you what to know what I DON'T wonder about?
I don't wonder if Genae will raise enough money to finish her mission with The World Race. I know she will (and you can help)!
I don't wonder if Genae will change the World.  She will!
I don't wonder if Genae will come back and use her experienes to continue to shape lives.  I am positive that will happen too!
And, I don't wonder if Genae will be ushered through this experience by God.  He already is and He's not one to give up!

So, would you like to stalk Genae's blog with me while she is gone? If so, it can be found here:
http://genaelanier.theworldrace.org/

Would you like to join me in praying for Genae, everyone traveling with her and those she will meet? You can. Start Now!

Would you like to support Genae to assure God's plan is carried out throughout the Nations? Do it:
https://www.adventures.org/give/donate.asp?giveto=worldrace&desc=For%20Genae%20LANIER&tuid=3633905

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Aren't you glad you aren't a turkey? I sure am!

I love Thanksgiving. Not only do I get to spend time with friends and family but I get to eat like food is a new discovery on this planet, and for that one day only, no one looks at my like I'm a crazy person when I go back for a 3rd plate (I tend to eat like a mad woman the rest of the year but the looks aren't as accepting outside of the Holiday season)! I must admit, though, Thanksgiving preparations tend to stress me out a little. I know when it comes down to it that my family won't lose their minds if there is a little dirt on the floor or a spot in the kitchen but I want it to look perfect for them. I like things to be in their place and shine. It isn't like Evan and I have the most exquisite furniture or dinnerware and our floors certainly don't go unstained or unscratched but I like to take pride in what we have and where we live. I never want my OCDness (yes, I am making that a word) of our home to take precedence over the love for the people in it but I want it detailed enough so the conversation can flow easily and never be hindered by something I didn't get done.

When our home is at its best, I feel at my best. When things are in order and ready to welcome anyone who may venture through the doors, I feel confidant and welcoming myself. The only problem in getting to that point, is the stress it takes to get there. When the cooking and cleaning begins, I am eager and ready to get it all knocked out but it is hard to keep up with all the chores that seem to magically appear once I get started. Why is it that the dust bunnies have such a great relationship with the mud tracked on the floor and the dirty toilets? It's like they talk to each other and demand a multiplication movement just as I begin to tackle the first order of business!

Anyway, I eventually overcome these pesky chores (ha! I am a winner after all) and tell myself to chill out so the hosting can begin. It has been a joy (once all that previous stuff is taken care of) to host Thanksgiving at our house the last few years. I was especially thrilled this year to share one table with our family. I truly wanted the group of us to sit around one dinner table and enjoy each others company so we could take time to look into the faces of those in which share our lives with. Thanks to the weather, and our great God, we were able to do that this year. My faithful husband helped me move the front porch furniture and a dinning room was assembled just in-front of my favorite red swing! With two 8ft tables, end to end, the 20 of us were able to gather in one spot to dine, laugh and have conversation. What a joy!

It was especially great to look down the full table and see the different generations that currently help shape my life. I was fortunate to spend this Holiday with my grandparents and Evan's grandfather. How lucky I am to still have them in my life! Also in attendance were mine and Evan's parents, my sister-in-law and cousins. What a blessing to have families that can get along and are willing to share their traditions and celebrations with each other. Beyond these generations, it was pure bliss to pass around the new baby of the family and share in Madison's very first Thanksgiving.

As we all sat together, stuffing ourselves to the bone and laughing, all the worries about the house, dinning table and serving dishes went away. Now, this feeling of anxiousness only left me for a little while but it was nice nonetheless. While seeing the family together, all the craziness of taking care of the house was more than worth it. I think my madness of preparation is part of what makes me enjoy the Thanksgiving lunch with everyone so much. It makes it stick out like no other day in the year. I love to share my home with my family and I hope they feel at home here too. I am unsure of how many more Thanksgiving we will all be able to attend together or how many times we will all sit around one table, but I no matter the number, this year was a win. Take that dust bunnies! And, Mr. Turkey: I'm sorry, but you sure were delicious!

2010 Thanksgiving Video (thank you Evan for your random video making skills)

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=536182550064

Table Ready for the Family:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Am My Mother

After too long of a break, I have been itching to blog! Sumatanga hasn't stopped buzzing with people and excitement since Summer Camp ended, so needless to say, life has been fast and crazy with little time for simple pleasures like blogging. I plan to write soon about the ins and outs of what is going on here, but until then, how about the subject...

I AM MY MOTHER!

I recall time after time growing up (especially in my teenage years) jabbing and laughing at my mom while she cried over sermons, movies, TV shows, songs and even commercials. I mean seriously, what was wrong with this woman? Where were all those tears coming from and how could she be so silly to let them spill so easily?! I am sure you can guess that she was NOT thrilled with me when my laughter and smart-alec comments started going her way. My gracious mother, however, would simple say "Meagan, you just wait and see. You've got it coming to you one of these days." And of course, I would follow that comment with a bout of rolled eyes and something sophisticated and grown up like sticking out my tung or making a beautiful face that would "get stuck like that" if I held it for too long.

Well guess what? Mom was right (yeah yeah, I know, moms are always right). I did, indeed, have it coming to me and it has caught me BIG TIME. I now not only cry over sermons, movies, TV shows, songs and commercials but I cry at the THOUGHT of them! Geeze Louise, I am a nut case of tears. When the heart starts going, the tears start flowing.

I obviously owe my mother many years of apologies for the finger pointing and giggles, but I also owe her quite a bit of thanks. Although I have been known to use both of my sleeves and the sleeves of my sister-in-law in a public theatre while watching "The Time Travelers Wife," the humiliation is worth it. I think I would feel like I was missing a part of me if my tears didn't join my emotions so often.

I get a lot of weird looks from my husband (and people at red lights when inspirational radio starts rolling in the car) when my face starts squinting and the water works get started, but I've decided that is OK. I may be an emotional roller coaster that can't hold it together when Jesus shows up or when songs start playing but I love that I get to feel connected. Is that weird? After I cry, I feel like I've been part of something real (bear with the cheesiness here). Seriously, after I get so caught up in someone else's character or story that I can't hold back the tears, I feel that I have experienced their circumstance too.

Now I find myself wondering how many times my mom cried not only for the stories found in the media but for mine and my sister's stories as well. I wonder how many times the only way she could experience our joys and fears was to cry too. I am sure our graduations and weddings were almost too much for mom's tear ducts to handle. I can now understand why mom was "mrs cries a lot" when I was growing up. The commercials on TV are tough but real life is almost too much emotion to handle. I don't know how I'll hold it together when I have kids that make fun of me for crying, or how I'll hold back the tears when they hurt or shout for joy, but I do know I'm glad that I'll have the tears to join with them. So here is a shout out of thanks to mom for crying and caring and making me someone who cares too. Here is to all the tears that make me one step closer to becoming my mother.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Camp

It has been 3 months since I have dared to write a spiffy new blog. Summer camp has the type of ability to take away everything beyond the grounds of Sumatanga (not saying that is a bad thing). As many of you know, I was originally hired to work year round to make summer camp happen. The brochures, marketing, curriculum, crafts and shirts were taken care of months in advance but May began with last minute preparations for staff training and the almost 2,000 summer campers that would join us. From there, we hit the ground running and haven't stopped.  It is hard to believe that the last 9 weeks are almost over. The individual days seem long but it all seems so short when looking back.

My constant prayer through summer camp has been for the campers to be safe both physically and spiritually. We have been blessed to have had no emergency room visits (and we are keeping our fingers crossed that we keep that record up for the next 24 hours). We have also been blessed with a fabulous group of counselors. This years crew has really impressed us with their spiritual maturity and willingness to share their hearts with all the campers that have come through. I have found myself inspired by the core group of counselors that keep everyone encouraged and spirits lifted even when they are spending 6 weeks in 100 degree weather at a camp that happens primary outdoors.

Now my prayer, as the campers leave, is for them to have found a basic faith and relationship here that they can carry with them throughout each day. I remember being a 6th grader at Sumatanga's summer camp and realizing for the first time that, not only did I believe in Christ, but that Christ was personally mine and I could have as much of Him as I wanted. I pray that the campers (from 1st to12th grade) have also found Christ in some form or fashion while being here. If not, we have failed in our jobs as Christians and as a camp. Please join with me in praying for the campers that we have shared our summer with. Our prayers have been answered while they have been here and I know they will be answered for continued growth while they are beyond our grounds.

Thank you to everyone who blessed us with your prayers and support this summer. I am proud to report that it has been a phenomenal summer with hundreds of lives changed. We have learned about Faith through Hebrews 11 and now we all step out in Faith to share our love of Christ with others!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Happy Birthday

If I haven't mentioned it before, let me mention it now: I am a blessed girl.
Not everyone is able to enjoy a spouse, family and friends the way I do and I am truly thankful for that.
Last Monday, I celebrated my 24th birthday. My family and friends went above and beyond to make me feel loved on a birthday that isn't even any type of milestone. The gifts were wonderful (and unnecessarily amazing) but the thought that went into the celebrations were what made them the best.

The love fest first started way back in November. While I was at a friends house, I got a message from my sister that simply said "check my Facebook." Once I logged onto the o-so-popular website, I found Julie's status to say, "I am taking my sister to see Bon Jovi for her birthday." The excitement of seeing this wonderfully handsome man in concert did not lesson the entire 5 months we waited for the event! So, a week and a half ago, we loaded up the car, shared a great dinner and then headed for Atlanta! Needless to say, Bon Jovi did not disappoint as he wooed us with both songs of new and old (and his looks of course). Seeing Julie's face while she waited for him to sing "Livin' on a Prayer" was worth the 5 months wait!
Next, came Sunday's family birthday celebration. Not only was it great to hang out with my immediate and extended family, but it was beyond wonderful to hang out with them while eating ribs, mac & cheese (the holiday kind) and mashed potatoes! Man oh man could I eat that everyday! My parents must really love me to spend their already busy weekend preparing food that they know I love.

Once my actual birthday arrived, I already felt overly celebrated. However, Evan did more than he should have to make sure I knew that he remembered my birthday and a surprise video from my friend oversees put me over the top (and did more than make me emotionally unstable). Between eating at a Japanese Steakhouse (I sure do love it when they make the volcano out of the onions and set it on fire) and receiving the very special video (that you can view below) and all the well wishes from practically everyone I know, I cannot help but feel loved and supported this week. And, as a cherry on top, I am able to post this blog with the contraption that Evan surprised me with on Monday night.

Thank you to everyone who loves and supports me. I am truly overwhelmed and blessed.

Video:


    

Friday, April 23, 2010

Soul Medicine

I know it has been said a million times, but today I honestly believe that laughter really is the best medicine!
I have written before about my friend Halley who is currently serving as a missionary for The World Race. She has been gone for 9 months and will return in July. I miss Halley greatly and I have especially missed her knowledge and counsel over the past few weeks.

Today, while Evan was playing around on an old camp computer, he found this video of Halley and myself from last summer. It may not be funny to anyone else, but the laughter it has brought me has given a bit of healing to my soul. It has been nice to be silly and spend some time laughing with Halley again today. My heart is joyful as I am blessed with wonderful friends.

Meagan and Halley, 2009

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Year, For Real?

On April 1st, 2008, I walked into Alex City FUMC as their new Arbor Director. I was told during the interview/hiring process that it was down to me and one other person. Little did I know on my first day of the job, that one of the first people I would meet was that "other" person and would soon be my husband.

Evan was working with the after school program at Alex City FUMC when he applied for the job at The Arbor. He continued to work for the church after I was hired. When I came on the scene, it was a stormy day that forced Evan and his 5th and 6th graders to find shelter at The Arbor. When they arrived, they found a girl who was frantically trying to read emergency manuals and find Tallapoosa county on the TV map encase a tornado planned to take a trip through town. When I introduced myself to Evan and asked for his assistance, I had no idea what he was thinking in his head, which most likely sounded something like this..."Why in the World would they hire this crazy woman over me. She doesn't even know where we are on the map!"

After a month of working, getting to know my new community and conveniently parking next to Evan daily, I was asked to "hang out" with Evan's group of friends. Even though I was suspicious of sabotage, they were my only chance of having friends within a 30 mile radius. Conveniently, my first outing with friends became a lunch between just Evan and myself. I quickly realized I was on a date. I also realized I was comfortable around this man that looked like Hulk Hogan with his blonde curly hair and handlebar mustache. After having Bar-B-Que, we took a stroll down to Wal-Mart (which means we saw most of the town and started numerous rumors). I was hosting a sports banquet that night but when it was over, Evan let me follow him to a friends house where I met a large group of strangers (who offered me ice cream and macaroni). I met almost every friend Evan has that night. I realized then, that there was a core group of good and goofy people around town and that I desperately wanted to be a part of their circle. I had only know Evan for a month and it was the first day I had been with him outside of work, but I couldn't deny my growing love for him, his passion to serve and his friends (that soon took me in as one of their own).

By the end of May, I had decided to "dual church" on Sunday mornings. I would worship at the church where Evan and I both worked and then speed down the road to 6th Street Baptist where Evans family attended and where he also served as Youth Minister. The night before my first dual worship experience, Evan and I spoke on the phone about how this would be a significant step in our relationship and there would be no turning back. The town would know we were dating and we would have to endure whatever came from that (he grew up in this town and people were very protective of "their Evan" and were suspicious of the "new girl"). After making it through both church services and meeting what seemed like a million people, we boldly took our relationship a step farther; I jumped in Evan's Jeep and headed straight for the town's Amphitheater that was hosting Kansas in concert! I will never forget following behind Evan, to our spot in the grass, at the Kansas concert. The entire town, literally, was in attendance and I could feel stares at the back of my head the entire night.
By mid June, we were expected to be found together. It turns out that Alex City FUMC ended up getting both of us by hiring me as their Arbor Director. Evan became my second hand at most activities and I became his sidekick for his youth events. By this time, we knew each others families and my parents had forgiven him for the streak of blue that was in his hair when they first met him (yes, a streak of blue...who does that)?! In July, we celebrated making it through our busy summer of work by taking a trip to the beach with his sister, Genae, and our friend, Justin. I wonder while Genae and I shared a bed, clothes and sunscreen that weekend, if she had a hunch that I would become her sister-in-law within a year?
August, September and October flew by with our busy schedules. It was obvious to us both that we had found our last first date. I thought I would be scared out of my mind when I realized I had found the right person for me, when actually, it seemed natural (which I guess was a hint to us both that we were doing the right thing). By Thanksgiving we were engaged and I had taken my dream job at Camp Sumatanga (my parents later told us that they knew we wouldn't make it to New Years without a proposal).
In January I moved a few hours away to start my job and then God showed off by providing Evan a job at Sumatanga as well. God took me on an adventure to Alex City to meet Evan and then He quickly took us both to Sumatanga, but this time, our adventure was together. Evan moved and began work in March and our beautiful wedding day followed on April 4, 2009. We were married 1 year and 3 days after we met. I was the type that would date the same guy for a year and 1/2 and then debate if he was right for me or not. Evan was the type that didn't date for long because he wasn't going to date anyone he couldn't see himself marrying. Needless to say, when I found myself in love after only a few dates and he found himself dating for several months, we knew that we were it. I married a man that wasn't "my type." It was the best decision of my life.
         
This Sunday, we will celebrate our One Year Anniversary. We are thrilled to share our marriage day with Easter this year (you can't one up the Risen Lord). We keep hearing that the first year is the hardest and that it gets easier from here (the people that say that obviously haven't ran a summer camp with their spouse).
It feels like just a few weeks ago that all of our friends and family joined us at camp to worship at the chapel and eat great food by the lake.
I hope I never forget the beauty and joy of our wedding day. I hope I never forget that curly haired man with a handlebar mustache (that we quickly got rid of, mind you). I hope that on the days when we are at each others throats that we remember the time we spent getting to know each other and that beautiful day in April of 2009. I hope we never loose that feeling of quickly falling in love and knowing that we have someone to serve the Lord with for the rest of our lives.

Monday, March 22, 2010

YAC

I can't begin to explain the peace and love I feel this morning. I am certainly dragging my feet and my mind isn't with the program yet, but I wouldn't change the busy and tiresome weekend for anything!

I had the extreme blessing to serve as Lay Director for Young Adult Chrysalis #66 this weekend. Chrysalis is a weekend get away to focus on the love and grace of Christ. These weekends aren't like any other retreat because it launches its participants into a lifetime of service and a community that lasts a lifetime as well. Chrysalis has become a fundamental part of my life.

I originally joined the Chrysalis/Emmaus community in 2004 when I participated in my original weekend. At that time, I didn't know just how much love and work went into making the event happen. Now, 6 years later, I have been on the other side and know that the love that goes into the event trumps the work (and it is a lot of work).

This weekend, even though I was the leader, I was much more of a follower. Each committee took on its own life and once the participants showed up, they didn't need me. I was able to worship and fellowship with the 27 beautiful "caterpillars" (aka participants) and other team members in the conference room. I felt like it was my first time to experience the love all over again. God showed us all our true beauty and worth that can only be found through Him.

Saturday will forever go down in my mind as the highlight of the weekend. It was a day so special that there are no words to describe it. It is something I will never forget. All I can say is that there were 51 of us that got to simply experience Heaven. Yes, I said Heaven!

"I am my beloved's and my Beloved is mine." Song of Songs 6:3

Then I heard the voice of the Lord Saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here I am. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8

"Behold He comes riding on the clouds, shining like the sun at the trumpet call! Lift your voice, it's the year of jubilee, and out of Zion's hill salvation comes!"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Life's Blessings!

What a week!

I have been beyond honored in the last week to share in the memories of two of the biggest days in the lives of a few of my friends.

First, our friends Maria and Ben brought a perfect baby girl into the World! Ann Shepard Murray came to meet everyone on Wednesday afternoon (and was looking quite comfortable in the arms of strangers by Thursday morning). The only person more beautiful than the new born was her mother, Maria. Maria is always beautiful but you could see the love for her child on her face. The entire family seems to glow! The miracle of birth simple blows my mind!


Then, this weekend, Evan and I were privileged to take part as bridesmaid and groomsman in a special wedding between our friends Whitney and Eric (now the Miller's)! Eric and Evan have served side by side for years in youth and music ministry and they are now able to stand side by side to encouraging each other in their marriages. Whitney was one of the first to take me in when I moved to Alexander City and didn't know a soul. She quickly became a kindred spirit and I was beyond honored to stand beside her while she said "I do."

Both of these occasions have left me to think about the blessings of life.
Evan and I have been married for almost a year and taking part in Eric and Whitney's ceremony gave us a reminder about what marriage is all about and just how special our union is.

Spending time with Ben, Maria and Ann Shepard gave us a look into the future (the far future for those of you who are determined for us to get pregnant).
I am not ready for children yet, but seeing Ben and Maria with their new little one made me smile at the thought of being a parent one day.

When life starts rushing too fast, it is nice to have a reminder of just how blessed we are and see how God is working in the lives of others. I know there are miracles around us everyday, so I challenge you (and myself) to find them in both the big and small things.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Snow Day

Yesterday the sun was shinning, a breeze was blowing and it was 60 degrees (the day I found perfect for a drive).

Today, clouds cover the sky and snow covers the ground.

Once again, I find myself in awe of how God works and how silly he can be with the forecast. I have seen it snow at Sumatanga before, but toady I've witnessed the most accumulation since we moved here a little over a year ago. I decided the World deserved a pick-me-up of just how beautiful things can be.

Here are a few shots of the lovely place I call both work and home.

Side note-we also took the picture for our Christmas card today! We may be 9 months early but it is never too early to get ready for Christmas!


Monday, March 1, 2010

THE SUN IS SHINING PEOPLE!

I never get sick of being surprised by how amazingly beautiful God's creation is. It is a beautiful day for a drive and I am about to take one!

There is no reflecting on this blog entry but there is a challenge to enjoy the beauty of the day!

Most days we complain that it is too cold, too hot, too rainy or too dry. It isn't often we realize that the day is just perfect (it isn't often that we don't complain about something). Although today requires a bit of a jacket, it is a perfect day! The sun is beaming, this birds are singing and God is shining down on us, no matter the situation!

Now, get outside and enjoy the air! If you don't have time, then clear your mind and forget about what worries you and embrace your drive home, drive around town (or wherever it is that you are driving to) long enough to enjoy what is around you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Words

Most days I wake up, get dressed and begin my day of motivated and focused work.
And then, there are some days when I stare at important documents, emails, registrations and speeches and all I see are words.
Take today for instance; today would be a great day to focus. Beyond the things that hinder me, there are campers registering for summer camp, caterpillars signing up for Chrysalis, a sermonette to be prepared for Thursday and a speech to be critiqued on Saturday. Today should be one of those focused and inspired days, but instead, it is a day where I am lost in my thoughts, my eyes seem blurry and all I see on my desk are words.

The cause: anxiousness (the enemy)

I am anxious about all the words I will have to use in the varying situations of this week. What words do I put where? What words do I use in the tricky and controversial situations, the speeches that are meant to inspire and to the friend struggling just to make it to tomorrow?

Words change the world. Words are the start to every powerful movement. Words from the Bible tell us how to live, love and give. Words in a job description tell us how to work. Words in a poem show us how others have fought and conquered.
Today, I have no words.

When I let anxiousness rule me, I find myself in this wordless, unmotivated blur. I keep picking up my work and going through problem solving in my head but I quickly lose focus and find that the things that worry me overrule the things that I can control.

I have a key verse for this point in my life: Philippians 4:6

This verse has been sticking with me for the past few weeks and it wasn't until this week that I truly learned why I needed it (it's funny how God works that way). This week is challenging in many different ways and focusing is becoming harder by the minute, yet the Lord has already instilled in me the perfect reminder and scripture for this time.

Although it is hard not to be anxious, I know God hears my prayers as I present Him with my requests. Although this time is challenging, I give thanks for my blessings and the lessons I am learning as I grow through each situation.

I am wordless because I am anxious. If I loose my anxiousness, I will find my words. Thanks be to God who takes away my anxiousness and gives me the words that He wants shared in all situations.
Time to get back to work.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Beautiful Distraction


Has it ever taken a storm of beauty to slow you down and appreciate what you have and whom you have it with?

Early Friday morning, Evan and I loaded up our car and hit the road towards Gatlinburg, TN. We were blessed to end up with a mostly paid for trip to Deer Ridge Mountain Resort in the Smokey Mountains (a place in which I have many fond childhood memories). When we left Sumatanga, we were excited to have some down time a few hours away from home but sad because we were going to miss the most beautiful snow fall that Alabama has seen in quite some time. We talked on the way up the interstate about how great it would be to have snow while on our trip but we knew it was not in the forecast.

After arriving in Gatlinburg (a place where it and its surrounding towns have grown to be quite populated and gimmicky since my time there as a child) we met a few friends and sat down for a great meal of pancakes (apparently that is the thing to do while in Gatlinburg). As we chomped on mounds of sugary and fruit covered buttery fluff, we noticed snow coming down outside! We each hurriedly paid our bills and ran out to "frolic" (yes, this word was actually used and executed). After spending some time downtown, we headed our separate ways as Evan and I went to find our condo and check in. At this point, the snow had been nice but didn't look like it would turn out to be anything substantial or snow-angel worthy.

Our plans were to check in, check things out and then head back down the mountain for supper, groceries, shopping and sightseeing. Note to self: never go up a mountain when there is a chance of snow (even if there isn't a chance of snow, just pretend there is) without first stopping for food. We were welcomed to the resort with smiles and open arms and found our living quarters to be quite pleasing and comfortable. The next thing we saw was simply beautiful but not as comfortable: snow, ice and LOTs of it! Where had it come from? We had only been up the mountain for 30 minutes!

We were quickly informed that no cars would be going up or down the mountain (without tragedy at least) and for everyone to enjoy a self prepared meal made in their own kitchens and settle in for a relaxing time of beauty. All of this sounded like a perfect vacation. A perfect time of tranquility and togetherness; a perfect time to enjoy in each others company and enjoy a breathtaking view. There was only one problem: we had no food and there were still places to go and things to see. Now, I was under no illusion that Evan and I were going to starve (we had consumed a large number of pancakes earlier in the day) but we are two humans that like to eat and we had pretty much planned our vacation around food stops in town. At first thought, we were quite annoyed at the interruption of our plans.

So, we hesitantly visited the resorts vending machine and settled in with two bags of chips, a mountain dew and a Gatorade. The Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games were on and we had plenty of time to relax and marvel at the show. Before we knew it, we found ourselves calm and without an agenda for the first time in a long time (maybe the first time since we have been married). We laughed as we crossed our fingers and called the pizza delivery place each hour on the hour (there was no reason not to hope right?). We opened all the blinds and watched the snow accumulate, we watched every TV in the place and sat on every piece of furniture just because we could, we napped, laughed and simply just were. It was amazing.


We were still snowed in when we woke up on Saturday morning and that was fine with us. We were getting hungry but the excitement of making a snow-angle, building a snow man and walking the snow covered trails was much greater! We hurried out of bed, dressed in our warmest clothes and ran out the door to be the first to pelt the other with a snow ball (I lost at this game). We saw parents playing outside with small children who were acting much like we were. It was great. We didn't rush to be anywhere (there was no point) and took the time to have fun. Pure, unplanned and timeless fun.


At noon we got the go ahead to go down the mountain. It was still slick but the roads had been scraped and they were drivable. Instead of getting straight in the car and starting another hectic agenda, we took our time getting ready, spent more moments looking at the beautiful mountains and then easily made our way to town to break our fast. We were more peaceful that afternoon while in town and found ourselves eager to get back to the serenity of the snowed in life. Instead of shopping or getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, we went to a closed park to walk in the snow for a few hours and then found a grocery store before returning to our temporary home (where we did not get snowed in again but we were prepared just encase). As soon as we were back on the mountain, we easily morphed back into the homebodies we were that morning and day before.

We were sad to leave Gatlinburg yesterday afternoon but I had learned a lesson. Instead of trying to make the quickest time record getting home to get back to life, we took our time and stopped where we wanted and cruised the roads at an easy pace while driving. Once we were home, I took more than just the usual glance at the house before running inside to start chores.

It is amazing what it takes for me to learn a lesson. I often get upset when my plans get distracted but how often do I need that distraction? How often do I need to realize that what I have is enough and to simply enjoy the beautiful surroundings God has blessed me with and be content. How many times do I expect Evan to keep up with every single thing I have put on our calendars instead of just taking joy in having him, his love and support that is at my side? I praise God for interrupting my plans of a busy trip, with eating and shopping stops from place to place, and showing me the glory that is found in slowing down, enjoying creation and having precious time with my husband.

It turns out that it WAS a perfect vacation. It was a perfect time of tranquility and togetherness and a perfect time to enjoy in each others company and enjoy a breathtaking view.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Global Impact


On Friday, Evan and I were privileged to spend our day representing Sumatanga at a Global Impact Conference. It was such an honor to be counted as missionaries next to those from Togo, Kenya, Mexico and China. I often think of missionaries as those serving outside of the United States and certainly not something that I am. We were able to eat, fellowship and worship with these individuals that were born and serve all around the World. It was a phenomenal experience.

I was completely fascinated to sing old hymns and new praises in English and then sing them again in Swahili and Spanish. It was beyond encouraging to think that there are individuals of all ages and races, singing and praising the same God as I do.

One of my greatest friends, Halley, has been gone since August on the "The World Race." She is serving as a missionary to 11 countries over 11 months and is currently making her way through Africa. I miss hear dearly but it has been awesome to talk to her and hear what she is experiencing and who she is meeting in each place she visits. I cannot fathom how touching it must be to be ushered into worship with those who risk their lives to be Christians, those whose villages have just heard of Christ for the first time and those who unashamedly lift their songs and dance to God in awe of Him even after horrible wars and tragic deaths.

I have not yet had the experience of serving Christ over seas but I like to live vicariously through Halley and those I met on Friday. I feel somewhat more globally connected after standing at the conference with my new foreign friends and by asking Halley to hug everyone she meets on my behalf. I feel a little closer to sharing a little piece of my life with orphans and refugees by sharing a quick word with Hal as she stays up late at night to talk to us back home and through a simple day of fellowship with people I may never see again.

I have no doubt that Halley and her team and those I met serving in Togo, Kenya, China and Mexico are simply doing so out of divinely inspired love. Each of these individuals have made me feel loved and I can only imagine how their love is reaching to all the ends of the Earth. Each of these missionaries have only encouraged me to love more here in Alabama as they are doing the same across their own lands. How awesome it is to be connected all around this World through Christ! I find myself inspired today.

Who is inspiring you?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Better Than A Hallelujah Sometimes


If you know me, then you know that I am possibly Amy Grants biggest fan. I am fan enough that my sister is afraid that I have achieved stalker status and my husband worries that meeting her this past October and seeing her with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in November were bigger deals to me than our wedding last April (they weren't, but the events were a close 2nd).

I spent hours upon hours singing "Big Yellow Taxi," "Father's Eyes," "House of Love," and "Children of the World" while jumping up and down on my bed when I was younger (which was usually followed by my sibling threatening to throw each of my albums out the window once she couldn't handle any more of my repeated non since). To this day, when I am over stressed, tired or just in a bad mood, I can pop in any Amy Grant album (be it from the late 70's, 80's or 90's, it really doesn't matter) and be back to the swing of things in no time.

*Side Note-Have I mentioned that the name of this blog and its tag line both come from one of her songs released in 2003: "Simple Things"

Anyway, all this fandom isn't why I decided on this post, this past week Amy Grant released a new song on her Fan Club website (it is OK with me if you think I'm lame because I'm in the fan club) that will soon be out with her newest album. This song did not jar me because it is a familiar tune with a catchy beat, something I've sung a million times or even because it is performed by a beloved artist. This song caught my attention because of the heart strings it pulled and the vivid imagery it leaves in my head. It goes like this...

God loves a lullaby
In a mothers tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
God loves a drunkards cry,
A soldiers plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
But honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah.

Woman holding on for life,
A dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
Tears of shame for whats been done,
A silence when the words wont come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

Better than a church bell ringing,
Better than a choir singing loud, singing out.


We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
But honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah.

Do these words touch anyone else? Be you an Amy fan or not, these lyrics are simply beautiful.

As soon as I heard this song I began to think about both the overcomings and tragedies of life. I think about how freeing a "Hallelujah!" or "Praise the Lord!" can be in the a moment of victory and how spirit filled a worship service can be as we ask Christ to draw near to us. Then, I think about how awesome the touch of God can be in the face of struggle and in a moment of surrender.

I often imagine this awesome moment in Heaven with an army of angels singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" at the pearly gates as we are able to see the face of God for the first time (this may not be in your imagination, but I sure do like it). But, how many times do we cry out here on Earth and not realize how close the face of God is to us at that very moment?

We sing praises and Hallelujahs to the Lord for our blessing and for His help and when we are brutally honest and open with our prayers and pleas, the Lord hears our cries and hopes. They are a song to His ears as we trust in Him and except a power that only He has.

In a World where we are expected to answer "fine" when someone asks "How are you?"- I rest in the knowledge that I cannot fool my Lord. My God knows when I am running a fake facade and gives me strength and comfort when I admit to what a mess I am.

"We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody. Beautiful the mess we are, but honest cries of breaking hearts, are better than a hallelujah sometimes."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Inspired by SPAM

Have you ever sifted frantically through your belongings looking for something you are 99.99% sure you never had? I have.
This past Tuesday afternoon, as I layed out my clothes for Matt Miller's visitation and funeral, I was surrounded by a pile of Sunday best and all I wanted was a SPAM t-shirt (thus insuing the search for a SPAM shirt that I have never owned but thought might appear). Have you ever seen anyone wear a SPAM shirt as proudly or talk so joyfully about SPAM as Matt Miller? I doubt it.

After having no such luck with my wished for wardrobe, I dressed in my black pants and jacket and headed out the door. On the way to the funeral home in Pelham, I reflected on my thoughts of Matt and how he registers pretty high on my "who I respect the most" list.

I have numberous memories of Matt from outings with friends, weddings, Chrysalis weekends and Summer Camp.

Matt was my "go to" guy. As I looked around the funeral home at the hundreds of poeple who had come to hug the family and the hundreds of poeple who came to the church to celebrate his life, I couldn't help but think about how he was the go to guy for so many people and for so many different reasons.

For me, Matt was the go to guy for Summer Camp and Chrysalis questions, ideas and feedback. Others spoke to him about collage, church, hunting, football, relationships and a million other things. With all these people talking and asking, he always kept up the friendship and never left out the needed advise and laughter. Matt never worried about time or what he needed to be doing. He focused on the here and now and whoever he was talking to or helping at the moment.

When I came on board at Sumatanga as the full time Summer Camp Director, Matt knew me and we shared plenty of stories and memories but he had no reason to put as much faith in me as he did. Matt believed in me, shared his belief with the other directors and did nothing but encourage me in a time when I could easily have been cut down or put out. Soon, he became the guy I called when I had any questions about Summer Camp. The curriculum, half of the hiring and my sanity all would have gone out the door for the 2009 camping season without Matt Miller (I suppose I owed him a bit of a salary for all he did).

Matt has been helping me diligently a few times a week to prepare for the 2010 summer and for the Young Adult Chrysalis I will be leading in March. I am missing his input and support desperately. I know that the Lord has blessed me with these opportunities and won't let down but it sure was nice to have an angel on earth to help consult and sooth amidst the madness of ministry.

I am reminded of Matt each time I walk into my office and each time I talk to a camp friend that we have shared a hug or a celebration with. I am honored to live and work at a place where Matt was so influential. I am honored to have known Matt and know that he called me friend.

Matt said I would always be Meagan Gray and forbid me to leave out my original last name off Facebook when I became a Lanier (he was a fan of Evan but didn't like to store changed names to his memory). Matt could jump and scream higher than anyone I've ever met while fencing. Matt loved to sit back at parties and take in everything that was going on while making a commentary to himself. Matt and I shared the unbelievable gift of sweating year round and without control. Matt loved to talk about Alabama football when I obviously wanted to focus on Auburn. Matt was never afraid to take on the hard to answer questions at Chrysalis and was never hesitant about sharing deep parts of himself while preaching and teaching. Matt cared deeply for his friends and accomplished more in 25 years than most people do in 80 simply due to his passion. Matt was the first to admit when someone had a better idea and the last to push his thoughts just for the sake of talking and being right. Matt believed passionately about the message of peace, love and grace (and inspired my facebook and twitter statuses that said the same on January 11th after a long phone call with him). Matt was and always will be an inspiration. Matt has challenged myself and anyone who knew him to be more caring, more passionate and more like Christ.

"I strive to live life different. When I die I want people to say that I had a positive impact on the lives of the people that I came into contact with because I was willing to do things, say things, and give things others only dreamed about, and I want to have have fun while I do it." - Matt Miller

have a look into Matt's life: www.umcmatt.com

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hurt for Haiti


I cannot get Haiti off my mind. To be honest, yesterday morning or the night before I couldn't have told you one thing about the earthquake in Haiti. I wasn't trying to be compassionless, but I hadn't turned on the news or ran into anyone to hear what was going on.

Last night, however, Evan and I were up to speed and settled down in front of the TV with a blanket and the remote control. Once we turned on the 24 hour coverage of Haiti on CNN, it wasn't long before the blanket and remote were accompanied by a large amount of toilet tissue to help catch the water works coming from my face.

Have you ever watched something and felt so helpless? I can send money but what I want to do is jump through the TV screen. If I feel this helpless at home and I'm not in the situation, I cannot fathom the helplessness the Haitians are feeling. I am a believer in a God that can do and heal all things. How do you make it through something like that if you aren't?

What got me the most last night was, of course, the live video. I had made it decently through the pictures of the despairing but once the video rolled, the situation came to life and my emotions were overwhelming. At one point, a reporter scanned a small portion of a sidewalk. In this small area, there were several adult corpses piled on top of each other, 10 or so men, woman and children waiting on medical assistance and then one small covered body. This is the image I cannot get out of my head: one small covered body.

With the thousands of people dead and injured and hundreds of pictures shown, why is this the one image that is burned into my mind and paralyzing me? Maybe it was the fact that the body was alone or that it was harsh enough to be covered when the rest of the bodies were left to the open air. Or maybe it was the injured and lost people sitting so closely waiting and wondering if they will be the next one covered by a sheet or left in the street with the growing pile of others. How old was the child that was covered? What life experiences did he or she have while being so small and innocent? Did this child have a chance to know Christ? Was there anyone to tell him or her that they were loved here on Earth but most of all by a Heavenly Father? Who brought them to this sidewalk knowing that there was no hope?

I cannot imagine having to leave a small child there on the sidewalk while my World is crumbling around me. I cannot imagine walking the streets full of lifeless bodies when just 24 hours earlier the same streets were filled with my friends and family going on about their lives.

I heard an interviewer say that the nation was poor but they were proud. Even if they had nothing, most people were proud. How many times are we selfish and ask for more? How many times a day do we think we deserve better? How many times a day are we not simply satisfied with all we have been given and proud of who we are and where we come from? How many times a day do we have choices as to what we eat and what clothes we put on? These people don't have these choices, and if they did, they most likely don't any more.

Let us pray for Haiti. Pray for the lives that were spared that they will become lives that follow Christ and have a hope for their future. Pray that their Voodoo to be found senseless so they know that it is not the answer. Pray that water will arrive, that violence will lesson and that children will have compassion taken on them. Pray for our egos here in America and for the finances to be given (including the amounts that should come from our own pocket books) to help make a difference to these suffering people. Pray that Haiti doesn't quickly set in the back of our minds but that our hearts will continue to be broken for them as they try unfathomably to rebuild what is left of their lives.

We are called to love. I cannot think of a people in need of more love today than those in Haiti.

A Few Facts:
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. 78 percent of Haitians live on less than 2 dollars a day. Only 20 percent have access to clean water (on a day when there hasn't been a national tragedy). Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Haiti, but voodoo may be considered the country's national religion.