Whose Girl Are You?

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Since we are going to spend the next bit of time together, I thought it would be fun for you to get to know me a bit.

I was born in Texas . El Paso to be exact. I have the certificate that grants me the right to wear my 10-gallon hat with pride. I grew up in Michigan, which pretty much makes me a northerner. I live in Georgia now and according to them I am a “d______ed Yankee.” If you are not from the South, a “Yankee” is defined as someone from the North. A “d___ed Yankee” is someone from the North who came to the South and stayed.

I do, however, come by my southern heritage rightfully.

My parents are Southerners. Born and raised in the solid, rural south.

My mom’s parents were Mamma and Pawpaw and they lived out in the country in Magnolia, AR. My dad’s parents were Grandma and Grandpa and they lived at the end of dirt road that literally deposited the unsuspecting driver in their front yard. As far as I know, Shongaloo, LA consists of a post office and maybe a stop sign.

I think everyone, regardless of who they were, called my grandma – grandma. I remember once hearing someone ask where Zera was and I had no idea who they were talking about. They were just always Grandma and Grandpa.

Every year during my growing up years we traveled to my grandparents homes for vacation. They lived about 30 miles from each other; just across the state line.   I loved being at both of my grandparents’ homes. All I have to do is close my eyes and I can smell the home baked blackberry cobbler that Mamma made because she knew it was my favorite. I can hear the cows in the pasture surrounding their home farms and I remember the rude dawn awakening of the rooster crowing.

We called my grandparent’s farm “The Farm.” I know, really original. But to this day that is how all of us in the family, even my boys, refer to it.   Living on the farm was a short two-week novelty to me full of egg collecting and cow milking (a talent my grandmother just about gave up on us city girls ever learning!). We relished the old truck rides out to the fields where we tossed the hay bales out to feed the livestock, riding double on the horses down to the country store for a bottle of coke, and shooting BB guns at cans down by the creek.

To me, this was vacation. To my parents, living on a farm was their life. The Farm was home. When we visited, there was always this one particular experience that happened only at grandma and grandpas.

My dad is one of 5 children and I am one of 17 cousins – not counting the two or three subsequent generations that would include all of “the cousins” children.

My grandmother had 10 siblings and my grandfather had 5.   For the most part – a good majority of the family stayed in the relative area of Shongaloo, this wide-spot of a place where they had all grown up.

On Sunday afternoon, after we all attended morning services at the tiny country church my grandparents raised their family in, and after we’d all eaten our fill of fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, fresh corn, black-eyed peas, and oh the best biscuits I’ve ever had …

“the family” would come calling.

That is a true and old – probably dying – southern family thing. I did not ever experience that in Michigan where I grew up. I have never experienced it in my own adult life living in Georgia even though my kids are grown and certainly could come visit.

This was unique to my visits to the Farm. I never knew most of the people who came to visit. They all seemed to look alike to me: blue-gray teased hair on the women and their best blue jean overalls with a ball cap for the men. To this day I don’t know the difference between Uncle Waylon and Uncle Dale.

Yet somehow they always knew who I was. Who I belonged to. It was always “You must be Nita and Larry’s girl.” As a child I never quite understood that. There had to be 50 people crammed into my grandparent’s sitting room that had space for 5 and they would only see me once a year. But somehow they always knew – if not my name – at least who I belonged to.

Fast forward to a few years ago. My parents were living in a small town in central Arkansas. Not quite rural, but just as southern.

My parents knew everyone. I knew no one. One evening, as we were heading in to see a movie at their local theater, my mom ran into a friend – Mary Ellen.

As they greeted each other, mom turned toward my direction to introduce me but didn’t get a word out. I was instantly transported back to those days on the Farm when all the family would come visit and somehow know who I was as Mary Ellen said, “Anita, you don’t have tell me who this is – you can’t deny her – she looks just like you.”   I was “Nita’s girl”

My name did not matter to her – she knew what was important. She knew who I belonged to because I bear the image of my mother.

In my office I am surrounded by pictures of my family taken over the years. In each one I am struck by how different, yet similar we all are.

Blake – 1963, Ben – 1990

 

My oldest son, Ben, favors his father – both in build and temperament.

 

Denise – 1964, Jordy – 1992

Our youngest son, Jordy, favors his momma (that would be me).

 

 

 

 

 

The boys each have their own characteristics, just like my husband, Blake, and I do – things that make them unique, distinctive, and unlike the rest of us. But they carry enough of us in them that when you put all of us together, there is no denying that we all belong together.

Photography by Dana Mixer

I bear the image of my mother. Our boys bear the image of me and the image of Blake. You bear the image of people who have gone before you.

We all bear the image of those who created and molded us; those we allow to influence our thoughts and our actions.

We might not get to choose whose image we reflect biologically, but we have a whole lot of say-so in whose image we reflect through the words we speak and the things we do.

The question of flourish is “whose image do you most desire to reflect?”

Whose image do you most desire to reflect? Join the journey. #flourish Click To Tweet

Next stop…. Created in the Image of….

Reflection / Discussion – and please leave comments. I’d love to get to know you a little better too!

  1. What memories do you have of where you came from?
  2. Have you ever experienced someone knowing who you belonged to, even if they didn’t know your name? How did that make you feel?
  3. Who do you bear the most resemblance to? I understand some of you may not know your biological parents. Instead of physical characteristics, what about your personality characteristics? Or, how has some else stamped you somehow with their image?
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The Journey Towards Flourish Begins!

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Welcome to Flourish!

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.

I am tired of always going. I am tired of people needing things from me. I am tired of the traffic I drive in every day. I am tired of feeling like I’m on a treadmill. I am tired of being tired. And I don’t even have kids at home anymore.

When they were home, I was even more tired. Tired of rushing home from work to get someone to practice. Tired of cooking dinner. Tired of eating out. Tired, quite frankly, of being a mom and a wife at times.

Lately, I’m tired of our Christian-bashing culture. Sadly, it isn’t only non-Christians bashing Christians. We are not very nice to each other. We have a black eye and we have given it to ourselves.

There is a ginourmous disconnect in the lives of so many of us who sit in a worship services professing to believe in and even follow Jesus Christ. In the 2016 election cycle I was astounded by the venom being spewed by people who professed to love Jesus. I want to run and hide when I see news reports of “Christians” behaving badly.

I recognize I sound mighty judgmental. Andy Stanley once made a comment in a message that we are most likely to be bothered by (judge) someone’s behavior because it hits close to home. We see in them what we, ourselves, are just as guilty of. I am bothered by the disconnect I see in the body of Christ because I am achingly aware that the disconnect is evident in my own life. My heart carries a burden that those closest to me have not seen the evidence of Jesus Christ in my life enough to want him in their lives. I do not always live a life that bears out the witness of the power of the Holy Spirit. I say I believe it but I often fall very short of actually living in that reality.

And it shows. It shows when we don’t live a life that draws on the nourishing power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible clearly says that my life, and yours, should bear abundant fruit born out of nourishment from the True Vine. I am tired of feeling like I’m dying on the vine instead of flourishing.

Can you relate at all?

During one of my most tired times I was reading the words found in John 15 that most Bibles label The Vine and the Branches.   This time, in Jesus’ words, I distinctly understood that I wasn’t supposed to be tired all the time. There is more to life. I am, no, we are supposed to be influencing our world. We are supposed to be bearing fruit that changes, not only our lives, but the lives of others.

Jesus’ words to his disciples challenge me. We are not supposed to be merely surviving. We are supposed to be thriving. Flourishing. Bearing fruit and living a life that brings Glory to God.

God intends for his people to flourish! Click To Tweet

This study is our journey toward discovering how to flourish. How to live in a way that our lives bring Glory to God.

Most posts will include some questions that you can use on your own for personal reflection or please feel free to engage in this conversation with your small group. It is my greatest desire to simply share what the Lord teaches me with you – so please share it with your friends.

If we can get even a smidge of what Jesus was teaching his disciples in this passage right in our own lives, we’ll change the world. For the better. I am so glad you are here!

John 15: 1- 8 New International Version (NIV)

The Vine and the Branches

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

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Is Your Christmas Incomplete?

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Whew! Christmas is over! The New Year is upon us. Many of us are taking down our trees, putting the lights away, returning gifts that didn’t fit or weren’t right, shopping after Christmas sales, and trying desperately to get rid of all the sweets so we don’t gain another 5 pounds (that might only be me….).

Is Christmas really over?

For me, Christmas is more than just a day. More than a single celebration. Christmas is something we experience in our hearts every day as a follower of Jesus. But Christmas, by itself, is incomplete.

Christmas, by itself, is incomplete. Click To Tweet

The incarnation of God himself in the baby Jesus, the second person of the trinity, God’s only son is, the most amazing gift. Christmas is the beginning of God making good on his promise of salvation. It’s an invitation for the unbelieving world to witness God’s immeasurable love for us; to wrestle with the idea of a love so big that it takes on human form. It’s an invitation for the believing world to, again, bring our weary selves to him and find rest.

But there’s more. At the risk of sounding slightly heretical, I propose to you that the baby Jesus is not our Savior. Stay with me. Many of our hearts are opened to God at Christmas. Many of us have come to faith through the manger. If that is you, I praise God for your salvation, because yes, if you believed in Jesus as your Savior at Christmas, you are saved, fully reconciled to God.

Too many of us leave Jesus in the manger. Christmas is only the first chapter in this redemption story and we cannot fully understand or embrace the baby if we do not view Christmas through the cross.

See, the baby grew up. His purpose was not completely fulfilled in his birth, but in his life, death, and resurrection. Through the life and ministry of Jesus portrayed in the Gospels, we are beckoned to grow in our knowledge of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh. We join the disciples walking with him, learning from him, hearing his words, and witnessing his miracles. The life of Jesus confronts us in our own lives, messing with our attitudes and our priorities. We are a long way from the cute baby in the manger when Jesus asks us, just like he asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Christmas demands we answer that question.

The climax of the story that God begins with Christmas comes with the events of Holy Week when Jesus fulfills the prophecy of the suffering servant. We experience the drama of the last meal Jesus shares with his disciples; the stabbing wound of betrayal by one of his own; the heart wrenching desertion and denial by his closest friends. We watch as Jesus is beaten, ridiculed, and crucified. We wonder why he doesn’t say anything in his defense.

It’s the man Jesus who is nailed to the cross. It is the man Jesus who bears the crown of thorns and has his side pierced. It is the man Jesus who is buried in a tomb. We are a long way from the baby in the manger when we join Mary at the foot of the cross watching her son die. But faith in the baby means join her we must.

On the third day, the incomparable power of God raised what was dead in the flesh into glorious, and eternal life. The risen Christ claims complete victory over death. Jesus, fully man and fully God, is the perfect and final sin sacrifice reconciling all of mankind to God. When God gave us the gift of his son at Christmas, he also gave us the gift of the cross, and the gift of the empty tomb, and the gift of our place in his family forever.

God's gift of the baby includes the gifts of his life, the cross, the empty tomb and his… Click To Tweet

What God begins with Christmas, he culminates in Easter. To separate Christmas out as a stand-alone event is to miss the breadth of God’s pursuit of his beloved. In fact, we can’t separate them. Christmas and the cross are a package deal.

Is the baby Jesus our Savior? Yes. But not if we leave him in the manger. Our faith must grow, just like that baby did, to include the cross and the resurrection.

Christmas is not complete without Easter. As we leave this time of outward celebration, take steps to ensure the celebration of the birth of the Savior continues in your heart. Engage in a community of faith where you can study and learn God’s Word. Let the life of Jesus inform your mind and transform your heart. Experience the glorious power of the resurrection that is your inheritance in the risen Christ.

Don’t let Jesus stay a baby in a manger in your life.

Don’t let Christmas be incomplete.

 

 

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