Confessions Of A Worker Bee

If you are a worker bee like me, you probably find great satisfaction in accomplishing tasks. Some part of my mind finds worth and value in my productivity, and my days are filled with goals to be accomplished. Some are mundane like laundry or chores. Others have more impact like mentoring or counseling. Whatever my task, I feel most valuable and significant when I’m doing something.

Confession: sometimes, that idea translates to my faith. There are times that I feel more valuable to God because I’m doing something for Him like serving at church, or coaching someone in ministry, or leading a bible study. When I’m busy doing good things that honor God, I’m tempted to believe that He loves me more than when I’m not, as if my activity earns or prevents His acceptance of me.

Thankfully, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of people who grappled with the same issue, and he clearly refuted the idea that Christians can work hard enough or be good enough to earn God’s approval.

“Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ.  Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” Galatians 3: 2-3 NLT

In this Thanksgiving week, I’m reminded of how thankful I should be in light of what God has done for me. The 10 Commandments….the Laws of Leviticus….the commands in Scripture to be pure, holy, and blameless….well, I could never, ever live a life of perfect obedience! I mess up. Daily. Paul taught that Christ came to free us from the prison of guilt and shame from the sins we commit. Our failure to perfectly obey the Law reveals how desperately we needed a Savior who could provide another way for us! Just as importantly, Paul taught that no human effort earns God’s favor….only belief in His son does.

So, the next time I lose my senses and confuse my activity and God’s favor, I’ll remember Galatians chapter 3. My human effort cannot make me worthy in God’s eyes. Even my best efforts fall short of His standards. Yet, I’ve been made worthy because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Worthy. Loved. Accepted. Forgiven. Valuable.

I can’t comprehend His love….His pursuit of mankind…His desire to be my friend….but I’m oh, so thankful. Nothing I do (or fail to do) can change His love for me! 

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A little Easter reflection….

I’ve been a Christian for a long time. Long enough for some aspects of my faith to seem routine. Sundays can be pretty predictable as my family follows the same schedule each week. Wake up, get dressed, grab breakfast, listen to praise music as we drive, attend church, eat lunch, and then host a small group in our home.

Other areas follow a routine, as well. Reading my bible, investing into other people, prayer, and even certain behaviors are habits and seem to happen without thought. And, sometimes it’s tempting to go through the motions of the habit without experiencing the passion of the practice.

But this weekend is Easter, a time when Christians the world over will remember the passion God has for us and the bold sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. Even now, as I meditate on what my sin cost my Savior, my throat constricts and tears fill my eyes. While I was a sinner with no desire to know God, He sent His son as a sacrifice for my sin. He loved me when I was unlovable! And, as I’ve walked with Him for 32 years, He has been my friend. He has defended me, been my Father, provided for me, corrected me, blessed me, taught me, and revealed Himself to me. He has been big and loud, and He has been soft and quiet. He has shown me His goodness and grace and allowed me to see Him at work in the lives of others.

None of that would have been possible without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Without His death. Without His resurrection. 

But His sacrifice wasn’t just for me. It was for my husband and kids. It was for my friends. It was for YOU. My heart is incredibly happy knowing God has made a way for all of us to live an abundant life here and a spectacular life in eternity.

If life has become routine for you, I pray that this Easter will ignite a new passion in your heart. God loves you. Meet Him at church this weekend, and celebrate the incredible gift He gave you 2000 years ago.

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It’s 23 days away….

easterIt seems like we just counted down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, and Easter is already upon us! Geez, times really flies. But, I don’t want Easter to fly by; I want to savor the meaning of the holiday and build memories with my family. So I turned to my best ally: Pinterest.

The other evening I surfed and pinned all kinds of Easter frivolity: inspirational quotes for the handy-dandy chalkboard that sits outside my front door, table center pieces that welcome spring, and recipes that will fill us up.

I’ll be honest. I surfed way too long. I got sucked into the Pinterest vortex and hours – literal hours – passed by. Don’t tell my husband. He probably thinks I was being super productive, but alas, I was mesmerized by the insane creativity of other pinners.

I scored several ideas, and I’ve already been to the store to purchase some fun decor. A teal wooden cross now hangs on my front door, a huge dough bowl of these oversized eggs in multiple colors now adds some Easter fun to my dining room table, and a wire basket of theses speckled, foam eggs  sits in my foyer.

Better still, I discovered Bunny Bait which I will surely make, and I wrote out my Easter menu. Our extended family will be with us, we’ll have an egg hunt for the littles, and we’ll enjoy the afternoon together…..on Saturday the 26th.

I know you’re probably wondering if some weird thing happened in this Leap Year causing Easter to fall on a Saturday. Nope. Our family is simply celebrating a day early so that we can all attend church on Sunday without have to rush home to prepare a meal. Less stress = happy people.

So those are my plans. What about you? Do you have a favorite go-to Easter recipe or decorating tip? Don’t let life fly by and miss celebrating this incredible holiday! Hop to it! (See what I did there? Some of you will get that one later.)

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Happy Birthday, Shawn!

Head Shots 047Another Lovejoy celebration ensues today: Shawn Lovejoy turns 45! Birthday’s are big deals around here, and a vegan feast will kick off the party. I know the word “vegan” just killed it for most of you, but it floats Shawn’s boat, so we are in full support!

Although Shawn enjoys gifts, he’d rather just buy what he likes himself. What speaks to him….what makes him feel valued and significant….what puts a smile on his face? Knowing he has helped someone. Knowing he’s impacted their life for the good.

I could shout from the rooftops all that Shawn has done for me. He has been my confidant and encourager. He has believed in me like no other person ever has. He has loved me with a love I’m sure I don’t deserve. He has disciplined himself to be a co-laborer in the home and in our ministry. He has led our family spiritually. He has sought forgiveness, and he has forgiven. He fights fairly and with respect. He protects my heart. He meets my needs at the expense of his own. He takes care of our family financially. And he has the cutest legs ever! I love Shawn Lovejoy!

Many of you know Shawn personally and have been impacted by him, too. Would you take a moment to celebrate him today? @ShawnLovejoy on Twitter. You can always send a direct message if you’d rather keep it personal.

Happy birthday, Shawn! You are the best man I’ve ever known.

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The Only Thing That Matters Today….

aROLL TIDE, ROLL!

Ok, that’s not exactly true. There are, in fact, many other vastly more important issues in my life and in the world today, but I live in the great state of Alabama and am a die-hard fan of the Crimson Tide. Since we play for the National Championship tonight, everyone around me is going nuts…including me.

So, my Alabama “A” wreath is on the front door, and my family is decked out in Bama apparel. More importantly, the DVR is set to record the main event so we can watch it 42 more times when it’s over (trust me, I know this will happen because I live with Shawn Lovejoy who re-watches EVERY Bama game win or lose many, many times). 

If you are a Clemson fan, save your trash-talk. I have much respect for what your team has accomplished, and it’s been fun watching you celebrate an amazing season. But, when our teams meet on the field, I’ll be rooting for your fast demise. Just sayin’.

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The Final Countdown

its-the-final-countdownMay 1, 1999 was a monumental day in my life. It was the day my husband and I moved to Cumming, Ga to start Mountain Lake Church. We had no idea what awaited us, but we rolled our sleeves up and got busy.

We knocked on doors to invite people to a tiny church in a primary school that smelled like pizza and corn.

We joined civic groups and mom’s clubs to meet others.

We wrote curriculum for our children’s ministry.

We developed security procedures for childcare.

We created a guest services team.

We decorated environments.

We wrote sermons.

We shared our vision with everyone we met.

We posted signs all over our community, mailed flyers, and rented a billboard.

We crafted budgets, devised a financial plan, hired team members.

And then….

We watched God work….time after time after time.

We baptized people. Over 2000 of them.

We witnessed people meet Jesus.

Marriages were rescued. Relationships were healed. Sin was overcome. Purpose was discovered.

We were blessed the most incredible team of talented, God-honoring pastors and staff that I’ve ever known.

We were blessed by hundreds of Christians who linked arms with us to accomplish the mission….to help people Belong in healthy relationships with God and others, to Become more like Jesus each day, and to Bless our world.

We were blessed with random notes of encouragement, offers to stay in vacation homes, prayers of spiritual warriors, unwavering support and loyalty, and the trust of thousands of people.

And, we were blessed with the opportunity to expand our ministry to thousands of pastors and ministry teams as we began mentoring others along the way.

I’d be lying if I said it was all unicorns and rainbows. It wasn’t. There were nights both my husband and I cried ourselves to sleep as we suffered a loss, experienced a defeat, felt the sting of betrayal, or bore the burden of the decisions before us. There were days I thought I had no more energy to put the next foot forward. There were moments I wondered how a need would be met. Yet, God allowed us to experience every thrill and each defeat, and we were drawn closer to Him as a result. I know God deeper and more intimately because of our time at Mountain Lake.

Now, the final countdown begins. We have 2 weeks left to pastor MLC before we launch Courage To Lead in an effort to mentor other pastors and ministry leaders. This weekend, MLC is blessing us with a housewarming reception to help us set up a new house. I absolutely cannot wait to hug necks, reminisce with friends, and celebrate all God has done over the last 16 years. Then, the next weekend we introduce the next lead pastor and his family to everyone as we pass the baton of leadership from the Lovejoy’s to…..well, you’ll have to be there to find out! Trust me, you’ll love them.

The final countdown is here. Two weeks to go before my next adventure begins. I’m relishing every bittersweet second. If you have a MLC story, a God-moment, or a memory that stands out, I’d love to hear it! Feel free to email me, leave a comment, or find me at the reception this weekend. I’ll be the one with tears in my eyes and a smile on my lips. Sending BIG love to you, Mountain Lake!

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Pinterest Paid Off

My middle child, Madison, turned 12 years old this month, and since she has been the recipient of far too many hand-me-downs from her older sister, I decided to surprise her with a birthday bedroom makeover. We sold all of her furniture (thanks to online yard sale sites on Facebook!) and designed a fresh, more mature environment for her to enjoy. Can I just say, I had a blast?!

She chose gray, navy, white, and a pop of chartreuse for her color scheme, and I began hunting for bargains. I found an upholstered headboard on clearance, chests on sale to use as nightstands, bargain bedding (with a bonus coupon discount), and a stunning chest of drawers for free (thanks to a major find in my in-laws’ garage). Toss in a few knick-knacks for style, and her room was a wrap.

But, I haven’t mentioned my favorite part. Madison wanted a full length mirror, but I didn’t want something too typical. I wanted barn wood. I wanted big. I wanted a bit of color. So, I did what any woman would do: I searched Pinterest. And let me tell you, Pinterest paid off! I found a pin about weathering new wood to create an older look. The lumber cost $15, I had all the paint I needed, and I grabbed a set of Christmas lights from the attic. This first picture shows the wood after I had painted and sanded it.

before

This one shows the completed project. The lighting is poor, but you get the idea:

after

Apparently, all those hours surfing on Pinterest in bed late at night really do pay off….which is shocking since I have hundreds of pins I have never actually put to use.

So this project can get marked off of my to-do list, and I have one very happy 12-year-old!

Do you guys have a Pinterest pin that really paid off? 

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What My Family Will Be Doing In 2015

Wow. December was a blur of doctor visits, pharmacy runs, and Lysol. 

Lots of Lysol.

Our family fell victim to the flu bug. Yes, the flu. 6 days of the flu for my husband, and 9 days for my daughter. The fun didn’t end then, either. Upper respiratory infections and sinusitis wreaked havoc, as well. I had little time for extra activities (like posting blogs) while I was busy sanitizing every item that Shawn and Madison touched. I couldn’t help but smile in the chaos, though. In one of my wiser moments, I had decorated for Christmas and completed most of my gift shopping before December 1! I can’t tell you how much less stress I faced during December because my to-do list was done. My neighbors probably rolled their eyes at my Christmas decor in November, but my family was happy and peaceful. Score!

Last night we said goodbye to 2014, and I’m still shocked that I didn’t fall asleep early. As I blinked my sleep-starved eyes, I listened to my family walk down memory lane. They looked at pictures we had taken throughout the year and read all the notes in our 2014 Memory Jar. It’s the only thing that kept me awake. We laughed as we reminisced, and I was thankful to be home – alone – with the people I love most.

This year, I plan to once again fill a Memory Jar with special moments, but we’re adding a twist. Each month of 2015, our family will focus on a new virtue. Love, contentment, respect….12 different virtues in all. Our goal? To practically apply the principles by which God wants us to live. Sometimes (ok, most of the time) people find it much easier to talk the talk but not walk the walk. Well, not us. Not in 2015. We are going to find creative ways to live out our faith each day. Up first: encouragement. We’ll write notes to others, memorize bible verses, and speak positively to friends and strangers all month. I’m already pumped about the potential of this plan to disciple my family and bless those around us.

What about you? What are your New Year Resolutions? Happy 2015, friends!

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Griswold (Don’t) Wannabe’s Part 2

griswold houseNext week the first wave of holiday festivities rolls in with Thanksgiving! I, for one, can’t wait for walks in the woods, pumpkin pie (which I’ve already been enjoying), and the Alabama/Auburn game. Some years I have hosted the festivities; other years I’ve been a guest in a family member’s home. Either way, all those festivities require responsibilities of me.

Yesterday, I shared a Holiday Help List for those of us who will be guests this year. Our goal should be to be a blessing not a burden to those who host us over the holidays. Our hosts likely spend hours, if not days, in preparation for our arrival, and the least we can do is to show our appreciation while we visit.

If you are hosting people in your home this Thanksgiving and Christmas, you might be overwhelmed with a never-ending task list: fresh linens, polished furniture, the perfect menu, a manicured lawn, and the facade of a peaceful family. Yikes! By the time your families arrive, you might be already tapped out! Never fear. your Holiday Help List is here! I’ve compiled a few tips to help you manage a house full of people and still keep your sanity.

Do lower your expectations – things aren’t going to go perfectly. Don’t expect your dysfunctional family to suddenly act like Miss Manners has personally mentored them.

Do provide your guests with a space to call their own – make space in a closet for their items and clear out a bathroom for their use. Giving them space means their clutter is out of view and not underfoot.

Do delegate – ask others to pitch in to set the table, get something out of the oven, or take out the trash. Ask kids to put ice in the glasses and refill drinks. Request everyone to help clear the table when the feast is over. Asking for help doesn’t make you less of a host; it actually invites people into your world where memories are made.

Do model the way – begin the holiday meal by sharing why you have invited everyone to your home. Be specific as you share why you are thankful. Your words will be a blessing, and they just might be contagious.

Do share your plans – letting your extended-stay guests know what to expect will help everyone. Planning a few activities at specific times gives everyone something to look forward to (movie night, shopping day, meal time, etc).

Do relax – sit on the couch and chat with your family for an hour or two. Play cards. Drink hot cocoa and go for a walk. Don’t do…just be. Your guests will actually relax more if they see you relaxing, too. Trust me, if they need something, I’m sure they can find the fridge or the TV remote.

Let’s not just “make it through” the holidays. Let’s relish our time with family and friends! Let’s not sweat the details….let’s lavish our families with love and attention. Perfection isn’t the goal. Memories are. So, clear out a closet and pull a few extra chairs to the table, and then be with your family and friends. No, really. Be with them. Love them. Make memories with them.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

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Griswold (Don’t) Wannabe’s

griswold familyI thoroughly enjoy this season of the year and all of the traditions my family has come to love.

Like watching our all-time favorite movie, Christmas Vacation. Even though we’ve seen that movie hundreds of times, we still laugh at the true-to-life scenes.

Remember the scene in Christmas Vacation when the extended Griswold family arrives? Too loud. Too many critiques. Too much information. And as their visit continues, they are needy, messy, demanding, and yes, even embarrassing.

I love that family because it’s a fictional one that makes me laugh at the awkward moments they cause, but no one – trust me, no one – wants that family to come for a visit. Ever. So to help us all avoid being that family, I’ve compiled a Holiday Help List to ensure our families are a blessing to our hosts, not a burden.

Do take a gift – a small gesture of gratitude at the beginning of your stay goes a long way to setting the tone of your visit. Remember, your host likely spent hours preparing for you. Be appreciative.

Do lend a hand – pitch in to prepare meals and cleanup afterward so that the host isn’t overwhelmed. But be sure to follow the host’s lead. It’s not your kitchen!

Do contribute some groceries – bring a few side dishes or desserts. If your visit lasts several days, consider taking your hosts out for dinner one evening or supplying a few meals at their house. (Unless, of course, your name is Aunt Bethany. No one wants Jello Mold with kitty litter topping.)

Do show interest in others – disregard any notions you already have about your extended family and get to know them in a fresh way this season! (That includes getting to know crazy Cousin Eddie. You can do anything for a few days, right?)

Don’t leave your belongings lying around – keeping your items in your room helps to eliminate a little clutter from an already full house.

Don’t let your children run wild – your hosts WILL talk about you after you leave. Don’t give them ammunition. Send the kids outside to play or keep the noise level to a minimum. Prep the kids in advance to say please/thank you and be respectful.

Don’t be a couch potato – get out of the house! Being gone for an hour or two each day of an extended stay allows your host to have a mini-break. No matter how much they love you, they need a break!

Trust me, even if we follow these guidelines, we can still find ourselves in the middle of frustrating or awkward moments over the holidays (think: the swat team busting through the Griswold’s windows after Cousin Eddie hog-ties Clark’s boss). If we plan to be a guest in someone’s home this Thanksgiving or Christmas, let’s at least make a plan to be a blessing rather than a burden.

If you are the host rather than the guest this holiday season, check back tomorrow for a Holiday Help List just for you.

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