Monday, November 24, 2008

Grace on a Thursday

When we feel unlovely we want to hide because we can’t imagine anyone could love us in those moments. Let’s face it - we all have those moments, and that’s usually when God speaks the loudest.
My Grammie was one of the loveliest women I have ever known, but one Thanksgiving she didn’t think so. Our tradition was to dress up in our Sunday best, dine at two and go to the movies. We all knew with Grammie being sick there would be no movie this year. Released from the hospital two days earlier, we were just happy she could be with us for the holiday. But now another storm was brewing.
“Mom!” My sister ran into the kitchen. “Grammie says she’s not coming to dinner. She says she doesn’t have anything to wear, her hair isn’t done and she is not about to come to dinner in her pajamas and robe.” Laura’s green eyes pleaded with Mom. “What are we going to do? We can’t leave her in her room all alone…not on Thanksgiving.” Nervous knots formed in my belly as I wondered what would happen.
A few days earlier I had taken a trip to the hospital. My mind hadn’t comprehended the seriousness of Grammie’s condition until I stood in the doorway of her room and was struck by her frailty. I paused for a moment taking in the image of my sweet Grammie lying in that hospital bed looking like a small child. Without the benefit of going to the salon, her normally jet black hair had turned gray. Her milky white complexion had grown sallow and pale. Broken blood vessels from her IV etched the skin of her once smooth hand.
The contrast to her usual self was startling. Throughout my childhood, Grammie had come over for dinner on a Thursday after her weekly hair and nail appointment. Smelling of Estee Lauder perfume, she would sink into the sofa and beckon to me with her beautiful hands. I loved sitting next to her, and my heart would sing at the invitation to be near her. I breathed her in while listening to her soft, gentle voice tell me about the events of her day, and then she would ask me about mine. Her hands stroked my back or played with my hair. She made me feel safe and loved. But in the past few years the allure of college and my social life had kept me from spending Thursdays with her. And now she was in the hospital.
I moved closer to her hospital bed and picked up her IV pierced hand. She smiled at me and asked me about my day. It felt just like our old Thursday afternoons, only we were conversing over the starched white sheets of her hospital bed, with the scent of antiseptic lingering in the air. She couldn’t reach out and stroke my back anymore, but I could curl up beside her and stroke her hair and smell her sweet perfume. Even in the hospital she still smelled like flowers. I cradled her hand in mine while her words curled around my heart. She loved me unconditionally and in that moment I saw Jesus. Like Christ, she gave to me even though I hadn’t made her a priority over the past few years.
The hospital released her for Thanksgiving and as the scent of roasting turkey and pumpkin pie filled the air, my sister and I watched our mother, wondering what to do. Mom told us not to worry while she placed an apple pie into the oven. I could see her shoulders quietly shake as she tried to hide her emotion from us.
“Mom, what if I fix her hair and put a little makeup on her,” Laura said. “I think that might help her feel better.”
“Yes, I think that’s a great idea, but let’s do more than that.” She stirred the gravy and then a smile broke through the clouds that had covered her face. “I know…let’s wear our bathrobes to the table. We can surprise her!” Pausing for a moment to let the idea sink in she continued, “We can wear our normal clothes underneath and each of us can come to the table in our robes. That way she will know that she fits right in. What do you think?” Her face shone with excitement, and I knew we had our answer.
Laura nodded her head in agreement. “I’ll go tell her that we aren’t taking no for an answer and insist that she let me fix her hair. Even though we all think she’s beautiful without being fixed up, knowing Grammie there isn’t going to be any other way to convince her.”
We thought we would surprise her so we didn’t tell Grammie of our plan. After a “We’re not taking no for an answer” conversation with my mother, Grammie finally let my sister Laura fix her hair and apply a little color to her cheeks.
I will never forget how excited I felt when I stood next to my chair at the dining room table. I looked around the table at my family. We were attired in our Sunday best, our bathrobes draped over our shoulders. My little brother even had on his slippers and was grinning from ear to ear. We barely contained ourselves with the excitement of our secret and hoped that Grammie would feel a part of our family as she had on so many other Thursday afternoons.
Dad wheeled her into the dining room, her normally robust frame wilting in the wheelchair. We stood quietly at the table until she looked up. When she did, we shouted “Surprise!” Her face went from pale gray to a soft blush, and a giant smile engulfed her face. She giggled my favorite giggle and for a moment she was my joyful, adoring Grammie again.
Tears of relief rolled down my cheeks, she was with us again, and we were all overjoyed. Conversation bubbled across the table as we shared our Thanksgiving meal. I believe we were all thankful that our family was complete. It would not have been the same without our Grammie.
Grammie died two days later. For her funeral we dressed once again in our Sunday best. I wished we could have worn our robes again. It seemed appropriate that in one of her final moments here on earth Grammie was more beautiful to me than ever, without the earthly adornments of hair color and makeup. Grace is God’s way of pouring out His love upon us regardless of our clothing, whether we feel lovely or not. To Him we are always lovely, a fragrant aroma and a blessing. He accepts us, offers us grace when we don’t deserve it and puts on our humanity out of love, every single day of the week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giving Thanks

What are you thankful for? The truth is, when someone poses that question to me I often can’t answer right away. For me it’s the kind of question I don’t want to skip over with a pat answer like, “Oh, I’m thankful for my family and friends.” Who isn’t? That kind of thankfulness just goes without saying. No, what I’m talking about is that deep swell of gratitude that floats across your heart when you realize you have been on the receiving end of God’s favor.
One Thanksgiving I was not feeling thankful as my family had just endured a season of challenge I thought we would never recover from. My heart was burdened by the heaviness of battle and I felt abandoned and alone. Looking back on that time I’m startled to see the coldness in my heart and the sadness in my demeanor. The contrast to who I am today is mind boggling and can only be explained by the truth spoken in Titus 3:3-4, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Now I can testify that my family has been restored in ways my human brain could never have imagined.

God is acutely aware of our suffering and knows the reality of our pain. Because He is committed to loving us freely He lays some of His authority aside allowing struggles so that our faith will grow and we will know more of Him. The challenge for many of us is to face our struggles with faith. When we successfully stand on the foundation of our faith God’s kingdom is magnified. I’m thankful that as God’s child I can go boldly to Him with my needs, casting them at his feet with confidence, knowing He will provide me with the grace and mercy that I need.

Taking Action:
Reflect for a moment on what challenges you are facing at this time and then answer the following questions.
· What would you like to see happen?
· What steps can you take today to move towards your goal?
· What are you thankful for? Tell someone.

Life coaching is a powerful alliance that God will use to uncover his purposes for your life. For more information visit my website: and contact me for your free 30 minute consultation.

Blessings, Ally Johnson

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tough Times

I've been thinking about the tough times so many people are talking about right now. Whether it's financial, spiritual or emotional so many people I talk to are really struggling with finding hope and peace for their lives. Interestingly enough I find myself in the same category as I too look for ways that I can find hope in times of financial struggle.

I spent the first week after Glorieta wondering if it was a profitable use of my time to pursue writing and coaching. Even though I had heard nothing but positive feedback from the editors and other writers who had seen my work, I wondered if I should go and get a real job. I allowed myself to linger in this doubtful place and proceeded to bury myself in it.
I wondered why God allows bad things to happen and why good people struggle when it seems like people who have no integrity prosper. I felt frustrated by my lack of connection with God, especially when I had felt so connected with God while I was at the writing conference.

The turning point came for me this week when I was talking with my own life coach. We were discussing the very painful struggles that people often face that cause them to turn away from God. I was reminded of Hebrews 4:15-16 "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."

There was my answer, I had forgotten that God has a very real perspective on pain and suffering because he himself experienced every sort of struggle there is. He is acutely aware of what we go through. He lays some of His authority aside and allows us to struggle for a purpose. He desires to grow us in our faith and wants us to come to him with our needs. When suffering is met with faith it allows us to demonstrate the power and glory of God.
It would be easy for me to abandon the call on my heart to write and coach and go and get what some people would say is a real job. The truth is, coaching and writing is my real job and it's what I'm called to do. These are things I love to do and regardless of the challenges or struggle s that accompany me staying true to my calling, I will not compromise my commitment to these endeavors.

What ever your circumstance and wherever you find yourself today I want to encourage you to listen to your instincts, stay true to your heart and believe that you are a person of influence in all you do.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Barbies, Barbies Everywhere!

Kayla is the Barbie Queen. We just spent the last two hours sorting her barbies, accessories and all the Barbie cars(4). She declared herself too old for Barbies now, and maybe someday her daughters will want to play with her stuff. I too had a similar mindset back when I was the Barbie Queen, and when I presented her with said Barbie stuff circa 1970's she promptly turned her nose up. I tried hard not to be offended but my Barbie stuff was cool! I couldn't see why she didn't want to mix my authentic, antique stuff with her very hip, very modern Barbie Ballerina, Barbie MyScene and Barbie Hannah Montana.

My favorite Barbie was Cindy. She was based on the Cindy character from the Brady Bunch. I had all of her stuff right down to the cardboard decorated walls that you could set up and make a four square house. She rocked! I was really excited to share her with Kayla. The only problem was, when we pulled her out of the box awhile ago her hair had grown sticky and a lot had fallen out. No one told me back when I was lovingly boxing my Barbies up for my future children that the hair would be the first thing to go. Her eyes had grown pale and her skin had yellowed. But still, I thought she was beautiful and remembered the long weekends I spent in the basement of my house with Barbie town set up all over the place. My girlfriend Jayme and I would cart grocery sacks of our stuff between our houses. Those were the days when we could actually walk down a public street and not worry about getting hit or kidnapped. Ahhh, I miss those days.

Anyway, as Kayla and I were sorting her stuff she decided that maybe she didn't want to get rid of all of the Barbies afterall. Maybe we could just put them in boxes and stash them up on her shelf? So, that's what we did and she can get them down if she wants to. She made comments about some of her favorites, that was fun. I had forgotten that there was a Belle Barbie from Beauty and the Beast and a Barbie Jasmine from Aladdin.

We created a Barbie tote just for the Barbies. If I had Barbie's body I don't think I would want to be boxed up and stored just to lose my hair... And would someone please tell me why none of them had clothes on? So we have a tote filled with naked Barbies and in about ten years we will have a tote filled with naked, sticky, hairless Barbies. YIKES! Maybe when she's ready to move them from her shelf to the goodwill pile we can talk about it. Or maybe not. Why ruin a good thing?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Three Steps to Transformation

“Mom, you’re different.” Kayla sat on the edge of her bed, preparing to snuggle into her blankets for the night. Wrapping her arms around my neck she whispered, “It’s okay. You’re still the best Mom ever.” Kissing my cheek, she released my neck and dove beneath her covers. Her words confirmed that God had indeed transformed me. Ideas that were once foreign had become the building blocks of my new life.
Know Your Values
You were created with your own God-given design. Within this design is your individual set of values. These values are the foundation upon which you build your life, empowering you to steward your life well because you are clear on what is important. Recognizing the values He instills within you allows you to live with clarity and purpose. Knowing your values gives you the ability to partner with the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 where God “plans to prosper you.” You can release yourself from the world’s expectation of being someone you are not and instead trust God to show you the truth.
Do you know your values?
Know Your Passion
Discovering your passion begins with God and it’s through this relationship that you can become a person of influence. Operating in your passion makes everything fresh, meaningful and filled with purpose. Passion is what gives you the energy to dream the impossible, believing it is possible.
God places this passion in your heart, desiring for you to seek Him so that you can live out your passion. Ask God to break through the lie that says you can’t do anything and embrace the truth from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
What is your passion?
Know Your Way of Being
It takes courage to admit when we aren’t content and it feels risky to appeal to God for a new way of being. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.”
Christ calls us to seek Him because He wants to be our way of being. Now, the words “You’re different Mom,” are words that fill me with the affirming truth of being in a transformational relationship with Jesus. The old has gone, the new has come. Will you let Him transform you?