Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Living it out

I love when God shows me stuff over and over again. His word is just so cool. I started reading through the new testament a few months ago. I like doing Bible studies, but I've never been one to just read the Bible for what it is and decipher it myself. In the words of Matt Hammitt from Sanctus Real the lead singer from Tenth Avenue North, I used to read to finish, not read to change. I love that line. Tomorrow I will begin Revelation and my goal for 2011 is to read the Bible from cover to cover... for the first time in my life. I can honestly say that while it started out as a chore, now I eagerly get up in the morning, fix my coffee and curl up with Bingo on the couch and read with enthusiasm. God's word is full of good stuff and He shows things to me everyday. 

God has been working in me and Tevie all year. We have felt so convicted to live out Christ's love. Anyone can say they are a Christian. In fact, the Bible says that even the demons believe their is a God and tremble at His name. I have been sooooo convicted lately to really live out the love of Jesus.To be His hands and feet and serve "the least of these". I think that's why I love this clip from Stephen Colbert. I could say a million things about it, but what I love most is when he says, "If we're going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are or we have to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it." I know he was making a political statement, but that'll preach! The New Testament is full of awesome stuff about this. The following verses have torn me up the last couple of days!  (All emphasis is mine.)

 James 1:26-27
 26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 2:14-24
 14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.[f] Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”[g] He was even called the friend of God.[h] 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

1Peter 1:21
 22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters.[d] Love each other deeply with all your heart.[e]

 Now it's time for a little honesty. I am a talker. That's not really a secret. Ya'll know I can't go more than five minutes without saying something! I have prayed for months that the words of mouth and the meditations of my heart would be pleasing in His sight (Psalm 19:14). I still struggle with that, but I am better than I was! (One another note, in reading through the NT I have fallen in love with Paul. He says stuff like that all the time! "You know how screwed up I was, and I am not perfect now, but God is changing me daily!" Thank you, Jesus!) 

I feel as though God works with me in stages. So, we had to get my thoughts and speech on track. And now that we're seeing some progress, He's saying, "OK, baby girl, next step. You're talking the talk, now walk the walk." Whew, that's hard! Especially since I am fallible human being. Lord, people are going to judge me, they will think I am crazy. "So what," my Jesus says, "Would you rather be known as one of theirs... or one of mine?" Oh, I am in tears as I type that. I don't want to conform to this world. I want so desperately to be transformed.

Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. So, here I go, friends. One small step for Jesus, but one giant leap for Allysa's kind. Sometimes this walk gets lonely, I hope you'll join me.

PS: Shout out to the World's Great Dad on his 47th Birthday! 333

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Joseph's Lullaby

I have been overwhelmed lately with just how BIG our God is. It totally blows my mind that someone so perfect and holy would come to save us, get this, while we were still sinners! He didn't wait for us to get our act together. The Bible says He came at just the right time. Ahhh, that gives me goose bumps! How cool is that?! Just the right time. While we were still deep in the pit, in a total mess, with no hope, He came to earth to bring us a life fuller than we could have ever imagined. I love that my Savior comes to me in the pit. He doesn't throw down a rope or call from higher ground. Nope, He puts on his work boots and climbs into the muddy mess. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me that much.  

While we can all agree that all too often we get carried away with the commericalism that is Christmas, I hope you can also celebrate the fact that for one month each and every year the entire world celebrates our Savior's birth. For one month (or more, our local Wal-Mart had Christmas stuff up in October!), the radio is filled with songs about angels and the coming of Jesus. 

I wanted to share with you a song that has pulled on my heartstrings this season. We listen to Christmas music as we get ready in the morning. The first time this came on Pandora, I put down my makeup brush and just listened. Of all the things I have considered when thinking about Jesus' arrival I never imagined Joseph's feelings. Can you imagine what he was feeling? First, he thinks his girlfriend has cheated on him, then God sets him straight,then he takes his big ol' pregnant wife on a journey to his hometown... then... then he sits in a barn with his precious wife as she gives birth to the Savior of the world. Overwhelming? That's probably an understatement. Can you imagine looking at that precious little face and knowing he was going to save the world? Knowing he was yours for but a short time and then He would embark on the most amazing ministry this world has ever seen? 

I think Mercy Me sums it up perfectly in their song "Joseph's Lullaby". Keep this picture in your mind as you read (emphasis mine):
Go to sleep my Son
This manger for your bed
You have a long road before You
Rest Your little head

Can You feel the weight of Your glory?
Do You understand the price?
Does the Father guard Your heart for now
So You can sleep tonight?

Go to sleep my Son
Go and chase Your dreams
This world can wait for one more moment
Go and sleep in peace

I believe the glory of Heaven
Is lying in my arms tonight

Lord, I ask that He for just this moment
Simply be my child

Go to sleep my Son
Baby, close Your eyes
Soon enough You'll save the day
But for now, dear Child of mine

Oh my Jesus, Sleep tight

Sweet Joseph. As he held his perfect baby boy he was overwhelmed with love. Such a beautiful story. My Jesus left the throne of glory to come to earth as a little tiny baby. He learned to talk, learned to walk, scraped His knees, cried as his little teeth came in, learned his Father's trade... and died a criminal's death to save.the.world. Your Jesus did that. Do you ever stop praise Him for that? How incredible is that? Most days I can't even get that to sink in. He knew, in the words of Isaiah, He would be despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows acquainted with the bitterest grief. And he came anyway. If I'm being honest, when I know something is going to be that miserable, I usually bow out pretty quickly. What about Mary? What if she'd said "no". "No, God, I will not carry that baby. Do you know what is going to happen to my reputation?!" Do you know what, friends? SHE SAID YES! She said yes and she was blessed beyond comprehension. Kind of makes you wonder what you're missing out on because you keeping telling God no. 

Max Lucado says, "I have eternal life because Divinity entered the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter." Isn't God good? Out of mess... came the Messiah. 

I'll leave you with another good one from Brother Max: "Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking. Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas Memories

This is, without a doubt, my very favorite time of year. I cued my pandora radio to Christmas music on November 1. I have furiously researched recipes, decorating ideas, and creative ways to set a table. I've made out my Christmas shopping list and picked up a few new items to decorate the house. I think the best part of the holiday season is the time we get to spend with family. I cherish every minute, especially as I get older. 

Last weekend, I got to spend some time with my family in North Carolina. I hoped someone would mention decorating the Christmas tree while I was home, but I wasn't going to ask in fear of looking like an idiot. I shouldn't care, my family already knows I am over-the-top ridiculous with stuff like this. You can imagine my excitement when my dad casually asked if we should put the tree up while I was home. Ecstatic! You see, we have this super cool tradition. We all load up and head to the Hallmark store. We painstakingly analyze every ornament in the store, try to talk each other into our favorites, and have a ball pushing all of the buttons on all of the musical ornaments and making that obnoxious dancing-whatever sing loudly throughout the store. I'm hoping you never get too old to have this yearly excursion, because it's just so much fun.

So, ornaments in hand, we head across the parking lot to Lowe's to buy a new tree. Thankfully, all of our Christmas items were stored in the detached garage... however, the 10 foot tree isn't going to fit in the tiny little rental house. :) 

I left mom and dad's house on September 22, just six days after the fire. I've seen a picture or two of the demo/construction process... but I still wasn't prepared for the mess. There is no house. Of course, rationally, I knew it needed to be torn down. I knew there would be tractors and equipment and huge mess... but I wasn't prepared. I stood in the driveway just staring... feeling the gravity of the situation as if for the first time.I couldn't keep back the tears. I stood there in the driveway, crying in my mama's arms. Actually, we were all crying. The funny thing about grief is that it's a process. Just when you think you've mastered it and are moving on, these strange emotions come back. I wouldn't wish this hurt on my worst enemy. People say over and over again, "they're just things, they can be replaced." I wonder if those people have ever lost everything. If they've ever stood in front of the dirt pile that used to be their home, Christmas ornaments in hand, and ached for home. For that cozy bed fitted with the same worn flannel snowflake sheets that come out every winter, for worn-out old slippers in the closet, the decorations in all of their usual places and stockings hung on the mantle.  
We love the Christmas album from Alabama. As we decorated the new tree in the rental house, the words of their song "Christmas Memories" came to my mind. 
"Though it all looks the same so much as changed from the way it used to be
Christmas memories of happy years gone by
They come back to me and keep me warm inside
Still those Christmas memories make me cry." 
This year we'll wake up on Christmas morning in house that isn't ours, create a beautiful table setting on a table that isn't ours, and eat Christmas dinner on plates that aren't ours. But do you know what's great? The memories are ours, the time together is ours, the love is ours. What a blessing that those most precious of things can't be taken away.

Maybe your holiday season will be less than ideal too. Maybe you're lonely, maybe you're not home, maybe, and most tragically, maybe you've forgotten why we celebrate this season to begin with. For the Pruitt's this year, and every year to come I pray, it's not about the presents and the stuff, it's about togetherness. It's rejoicing in the fact that our Savior was born so we may have life and have it to the fullest.

I challenge you to make some extra-special memories this Christmas season. Eat off the special china, take those fancy nutcrackers out of the box so they kids can play with them, bake too many cookies, stay up too late, watch Home Alone for the one millionth time. 

I am reminded each day that you can't take it with you. I hope this Christmas won't be so much about accumulating stuff (though presents are fun!) but about sharing in the joy of Jesus' birth with your family and friends. 

Much Love,

Luke 2:8-14says,
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises: 
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I have about a thousand other things to do and yet I sit here writing a blog post… I am a master procrastinator. A few weeks ago I “changed” jobs. I’ve been busy since I stepped foot in my new office and I love it. There’s just something about feeling productive that this type-A loves. However, I only love being busy with things I like doing… hypothetically, a grad school paper would not be something I would love to do and I would put it off until the very last minute. Choosing instead to write a blog post than do research or reading… hypothetically, of course.
When something is weighing on my mind I usually benefit best by putting it to words, that way it stops taking up space in my head where more important, grad-school-paper-type-thoughts should be resting.

I have mentioned before how God tends to use lots of repetition to get something through my head. My most recent revelation is no exception to that rule. And I guess isn’t really isn’t a recent revelation… since He’s been saying it for months and I'm just too dumb to listen! In January, Jesus woke Tevie and I up and we started following him a way that we haven’t before. After reading and studying, we realized that writing a tithe check every month is good and is service… for us, it wasn't enough. Now, I firmly believe that God convicts different people for different things at different times, so you may be serving Jesus to the fullest by sacrificially giving each month. What we wanted, what Jesus wanted from us, was to actively serve him… to be His hands and feet (which we all should be convicted to be, it’s biblical!).

It was around that time that He began laying the local pregnancy resource center on my heart. So, we started giving… when we remembered. And then I started taking donations of clothes and things by… when it was convenient. All the while praying, “God, put something in front of me that allows me to minister. Give me something to do.”

So, one month I sent dear sweet CJ, the president of the board of this little center, a note saying that I wanted to help out if they needed another hand. Now, I was thinking I could fold clothes, stack diapers, you know, the easy stuff. I almost fell out of my chair when she called and asked me to serve on the board! This was not what I had in mind. And so began my wrestling with God. If this is getting long and you want to know how it ends, I’ll tell you…. HE WINS! He always does!

I know you can sympathize with me here, and if you can’t my friend and OT prophet Jeremiah can. You see, God told Jeremiah that he was set apart and would be a prophet to the land. Jeremiah fell before the Lord saying, “I’m only boy and I don’t even know the right words, LORD!” But the Lord reached out and touched Jeremiah’s mouth and gave him the words to speak… gave him the words to speak. Don’t you love that?

God brought that story to mind as we wrestled. I said, “but Lord, I wasn’t a pregnant teenager, heck, I’m not even a mom!!! How on earth am I supposed to minister to these girls?” And do you know what He said? “You won’t find anything on this earth that will help you, Allysa. Not one thing. And you don’t have to know what to say because I will give you the words to speak.” Okay, Lord, sign me up!

And that’s when satan gets you, isn’t it? Ugh. he makes me so mad! I have prayed that my work as a fundraiser would be a ministry for me. I want for every donor to see Jesus in me… One thing this little center needs is some help in the fundraising department. “Now wait, Allysa”, satan slithers. “You don’t know the first thing about being a mom… you have no idea what these girls are going through. The center needs more help than you can give. You’ll be overwhelmed, go ahead and quit now while you're ahead. What you're doing is enough.”

Isn’t that where he gets us? “I’m doing enough…” Man oh man. I think the one who struggling under the weight of recognized sin is better off than the one who thinks she’s doing enough. I read my Bible enough, I’m nice enough, I did enough... If you ever hear those words come out of mouth, smack me, please! I don’t ever want to have enough of Jesus. We weren’t created for enough, we were created to desire more and more… to have life and have it ABUNDANTLY, not enough of it- an abundance of it. Praise the Lord for that!

Sitting in church on Sunday I felt as though I was a phone call with God. Everything was being spoken to me; don’t you hate that and LOVE it at the same time? So, there I was thinking I was good enough. I could help enough Lord. I’ll give them a little bit of my spare time, God. And that’s the speaker, Greg, says, “The King of Kings wasn’t too proud to ride into Jerusalem on the colt of donkey, so who are you to stay on your high horse.” OUCH! Ouch, ouch, ouch.

What I heard in that moment was this: “No, Allysa, you aren’t a mom, but your love of kids and desire to be a mommy will speak volumes to those girls. Yes, this is out of your comfort zone. These people won’t be impressed by your designer bags and fancy shoes, in fact they’ll see right through that. But if you’ll let me, Allysa, I’m going to use you in a way you’ve never thought possible.”

How many times have you told the Almighty that you couldn’t do it? How many times have you said, “I’m not enough, I don’t have what it takes”. I’ll just be honest, that’s a battle I've had with God my whole life. I find great comfort in these words from Jeremiah 1:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
6 “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young (or too big, too small, too dumb, too shy, or not a mom).”
7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
First, I am not quitting my job. I love it (and paying my mortgage) too much to do that. I am committing to use my talents and abilities as volunteer at the Agape House Pregnancy Resource Center. I hope that you will join me in prayer for Agape. Pray that the sweet smell of Jesus emanates from that place and draws the lost to Him. You should probably pray for the volunteers and other board members because they are going to have to deal with my bossy, Monica Geller-esque attitude, all in the name of Jesus, of course. :)

Believe that you're enough… because you are. The Bible says you were fearfully and wonderfully made. To steal another illustration from Greg: since when does the clay have the right to complain to the potter that they don’t like the shape He chose for them? He’s molding and making us into something so beautiful. You may be a little lopsided right now, but He’s smoothing that out and, trust me, it’s much easier if you relax and let His hands guide the wheel.

More than Enough in Jesus,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I tend find that when I hear something over and over again, God is preparing me for something... or trying to get a message across. For example, for weeks before the fire, my daily Bible reading revolved around God's faithfulness and goodness. I heard over and over again, "I am Faithful, Allysa, I am always good and I am always in control." One Sunday on our way home from church, I even told Tevie that I felt as though I was being prepared for something hard, a tragedy, if you will... that I had this feeling that something was about to happen and I needed to be prepared... not because I had some psychic vision, but because, through repetition and other divine interventions, God was telling me that NO MATTER WHAT, He remains the same.
I heard someone say a few weeks ago that if you feel God is distant from you, it's because you moved. He never moves. Aren't you grateful for that? Grateful that we don't have to chase Him, that He isn't making us play some supernatural game of tag. He stands, arms wide open, patiently waiting for us as we throw our pity parties, follow the paths of the world, and search for fulfillment outside of His grace.
I don't know about you, but for me, song lyrics can speak to me in a way that spoken words can't. Maybe because I am so musically minded. If you put something to music, I can remember it. Weird, I know. It's been that way since I was a kid. During those weeks, or months, of preparation one song came up again and again. Which, to me, means it's important and I better listen. Here are the words and you can find the Hillsong United version here.

Hide me now
Under your wings
Cover me
within your mighty hand
When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are king over the flood
I will be still and know you are God
Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know his power
In quietness and trust
When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are king over the flood
I will be still and know you are God

The first time I heard this song I wept uncontrollably... in my car, of all places. The most comforting words in this song are the prepositions. Knowing that when life's storms are raging, Jesus and I are ABOVE them and He is King OVER the flood. "Who is this man that even the wind and waves obey Him?", his disciples asked. So, when I feel as though I am drowning, it's because I took my eyes off Jesus and began to sink. Now, we're human and because we have to live in chaos every day, it's going to feel like we're wading right through the middle of Hurricane Katrina. I find comfort in knowing that I'm not wading alone. There's Someone with a huge umbrella and (Praise Him!) a bigger paddle than mine, because I'm too weak to paddle the whole way.
In the words of my beautiful, precious, Jesus-lovin' friend, Kristin, I've been overwhelmed lately by the fact that Jesus is a pretty big deal... and most people have no idea. As I sat around with my dear girlfriends last night, we talked about just hard life is right now. How satan is at us from EVERY angle (that jerk!) but even in the midst of the mess, we have a peace that passes all understanding. My heart aches that there are people who don't know that peace. Who have no idea what life with a Savior is like.
I have no idea what's going on in your life right now. I know most days mine feels completely upside down. I'm exhausted, busy, depressed, joyful and various other emotions all in the same hour sometimes. I heard a preacher say one time that if you don't feel the devil hitting you head on, it's because you're moving in the same direction. SO, when satan attacks and attacks and attacks, I praise God because it means I must be doing something right!
Life.Is. HARD. But, praise be to God, He's in control and is weaving our current struggles into a beautiful tapestry, even though all we see right now is the messy, tangled underside.
Stay strong and keep the faith- the reward is SO worth it!


Late Night Ponderances

First, I am not even sure that ponderances is a word and, if it is, if it's spelled correctly, but it was the first thing that came to mind. I started this blog weeks ago... I don't why I am just now posting it, but God knew exactly when I needed to post it. It may mean more to those I love now. Ironically, I wrote this the day before the house fire... I am so grateful I have to opportunity to say all of these things, but there's another reminder that we aren't promised tomorrow.

September 15-
I don't know whether to blame it on stress or the 4 diet cokes I had yesterday, but I couldn't fall asleep last night. For all you type-A's out there, you know the feeling. When you didn't finish assignments at work, your homework, or even the laundry, you lay there feeling too guilty to go to sleep but not guilty enough to get out of the bed and actually accomplish something.
On Sunday afternoon (9/12/10)  my family learned that my Great Aunt Faith and Uncle Greg were in a very serious motorcycle accident. While I love my Aunt and Uncle very much, my mom has been an emotional wreck. She and my Aunt Faith have always been extremely close and since losing my grandmother in 2002, she has, in my opinion, looked to Faith for maternal guidance. While their injuries are very serious- we still don't know the extent of my uncle's brain injury- we praise the Lord that they are alive. (update: both are out of the hospital. My uncle is in rehab and doing better all the time).
My mother-in-law was with me when mom told me the news. She said, "Well, that's how life is, isn't it? You never know when it's going to turn." Okay, maybe I shouldn't put that in quotations because it's not verbatim, but that's essentially what she said. She's so right. We just never know...
So, last night when I couldn't sleep, I worried if my family, the people I love so much, know just how much I love them? In your life, do they people who mean the most to you KNOW that they mean the most to you?
I hope that you'll indulge me while I give a couple of shout-outs to people who make a differene in my world. These words by no means capture the full meaning of my love for each of them, they are, rather, in the words of Julie Andrews, a few of my favorite things.

(You'll notice all of these are members of my family, that's because it's impossible to include all of the friends and LWC family that I hold so dear. That will be a seperate post of these days. Even better, because I am a Southern woman, not by birth, but by the grace of God ;), hopefully you all will receive a little handwritten note of these days. Southern women love pretty stationery and a reason to use it.)

To Gran- thank you for always singing while you worked, letting me watch you cook and bake, and teaching me the secrets to Mario 3, and for never making an excuse for Loving Jesus with all your heart.

Chuck- you instilled me a love of art, The Princess Bride, words games, and pretty clothes. Thank you for playing the same games over and over, reading the same stories again and again, and tickling my back until I fell asleep. But most importantly, you always let us catch you sitting quietly reading your bible.

Brynnie Sue- I'll never forget making our bunk bed into a rocket ship, countless hours of playing Barbies and house, and no matter how many times we moved, taking my best friend along. You are so beautiful.

Chaser Racer- your goofy, funny, crazy, laid-back attitude is so refreshing, and a total surprise since you grew up with two diva sisters. I am jealous of your athletic abilities and so proud of your desire to live for Jesus. You are growing into an incredible man of God. Stay strong and keep the faith. I love you, Francisco Rodrigo El Chupacabra Ramirez. :)

Dad- thank you for studying in front of us (you too, mom), striving for success and admitting when you're wrong. It's not easy to do but by doing so you've showed us that it's okay to make mistakes. Without that, this perfectionist would be out of control. I believe you want to be a man after God's own heart. Thanks for getting back up each time you fall and for loving me so much.

Mom- thank you for standing by your man, even when he drives you crazy, because by doing so you've been such a beautiful example of a faithful and loving wife. Thank you for being a confidant, my shopping buddy and my friend.

Tevie- you love me far more than I deserve. You are smarter than you give yourself credit for and I am so proud of you. I thank God everyday for blessing me with a man who lives to be a servant of His and strives to be more like Jesus everyday. You are all of those things AND ridiculously handsome... it's not even fair to the rest of the men in the world. :) Mostest. xo

Maybe one of these is exactly what you need to say to someone you love. Feel free to copy and paste. No need to cite the source. :)
We aren't promised tomorrow, so take full advantage of today.

Much Love,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The House That Built Me

I am sure each of us has a moment of our life we wish wouldn’t continue replaying in our mind like a broken record. Almost a week later, I can hear the voice of our dear family friend Staci when she answered my dad’s cell phone and I can still hear the panic in Dad’s voice when he took the phone… I’ve never heard that distress and terror in his voice and I pray I never do again.

After a relatively minor fire while camping in the mountains last weekend, my Dad’s Excursion was in the shop. He picked it up Thursday evening and, as he always does, pulled it into the garage, shut the garage door and came inside. Less than thirty minutes later, Chase is sitting on the couch eating Cheez Whiz (he’s 14, that’s what he recalls from the evening) and he smells something funny. He and dad begin checking the house. When dad opens the door leading from the house to the garage he sees thick black smoke and an orange glow coming from the corner where the truck is parked. He tells Chase to call 911 and, thinking it’s a garage fire, races around the house to use the outdoor key pad to enter the first bay to rescue his 2008 Shelby GT 500 (Any car-loving guy can understand that). What he didn’t know was running up the wall next to the burning truck was the main gas line for the house. The truck, now engulfed in flames, burned through the wall, ignited the gas line and the fire then chased the gas line through the house. By the time the little county volunteer fire department arrived, the house was on fire. What should have just been a garage fire was now a 3-alarm house fire.

Nearly 100 firefighters responded, flushing over 141,000 gallons of water onto the fire and through my parents’ home. When the fire was finally put out, almost nothing remained of their home… my home.

The six hour drive to their home felt twice as long. Although I had heard my dad say nearly a dozen times, “it’s gone…. All of it”, I wasn’t prepared. I guess I had hoped he was exaggerating, or that it was mostly smoke damage that could be repaired. When we turned down their street early Friday morning I was stunned. Seeing a 5,600 square foot pile of ashes is enough to shock anyone, but when it’s 5,600 square feet of your memories it’s breathtaking in a way I have never before (and hopefully will never again) experience.

There stood my sister, brother and my dad staring at our home. In Dad’s arms was my cat, Montie, who we thought didn’t make it out of the house. Squeezing that fat, furry, mean old cat brought a brief respite in that time of sadness. During our tears and squeezes we realized all four paws were badly burned and Brynn and I rushed him to the vet. We arrived home just before my Mom, who took the first flight out of Vegas where she was sitting in the ICU with my aunt and uncle who were just in a very serious motorcycle accident, arrived home… my mom needs an island vacation, she’s had entirely too much trauma here lately.

Nothing. And I mean NOTHING can prepare you for walking into your home after it’s been destroyed. There is no smell in the world like that of a burned home. The mix of burned wood, melted plastic and tears gives it an odor unique to itself. I know that we only lost things. My family is safe, the dogs are safe, and the kitties are safe. But those things were our things. Walking through my brother’s room and seeing that he has nothing left… no more messy bed, no clothes, no baseball card collection, nothing. Holding that precious boy while he cries is absolutely heartbreaking.

We haven’t cried over the lost clothes, the dishes, the DVD collection, or the furniture. We have cried over the family photos, family jewelry, baby toys, vacation souvenirs, and small things that have no monetary value but carry countless personal value. I pray that you never hold your Momma while she cries over the charred remains of her hope chest, your baby toys, and her grandmother’s trinkets. I pray you never lay in bed beside your Daddy, running your fingers through his hair as you cry with him over the ache from just feeling so overwhelmed.

As you can imagine, 141,000 gallons of water can do a lot of damage. What survived the fire was destroyed by the water and is under about 2 foot of soggy insulation, drywall and ashes. All that water caused the front porch to cave into a 10 foot sink hole and cracked the basement’s concrete supporting wall allowing a couple of inches of mud to rush into the basement. I can now kind of empathize with the people who lost homes in Katrina… you wouldn’t think plain old water could do so much damage.

Sunday morning we gathered ourselves and headed to church, because there’s no better place to be, quite frankly. As we sang “Oh to be like thee, precious Redeemer, this is my constant longing and prayer. Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus thy perfect likeness to wear…” I was overwhelmed with emotion. Where was my focus? “How much do you love me, Allysa?” God asked… “Enough to give me everything?”

How many times have you sung those words? This little church-of-Christer has probably sung that song a million and one times and Sunday morning, September 19, I felt as though I’d heard it for the first time. It was at that moment I realized that they were just things. We had lost the possessions but not the memories associated with those possessions. I prayed the entire trip to North Carolina from Kentucky that God would allow me and my family to minister through this tragedy and I was finally beginning to see how we were going to do that…

And then stupid satan got in the way! Damn him. Seriously, damn him. Just when you feel God calling you in one direction satan pulls as hard as he can in another. I began growing more and more bitter at the HUNDREDS, wish I was exaggerating, of people who drive by to stare at the charred remains of the house. How dare you enter a relatively private estate neighborhood, hidden off a county road, drive down our dead end street and take pictures and video of MY home. Who do you think you are?! How dare you, anonymous jerk, comment with your mean, hateful, nasty comments on the story about our home on the newspaper website. Just because our home is 5,600 doesn’t mean we deserved this. I wanted to comment back to them, to justify our situation. A situation that needs no justification. No, my parents’ mortgage wasn’t worth more than their home, yes we did have lose our motor home to a fire as well, and yes we have had previous garage and house fire. I tend think we either have really bad luck with fire or that God is trying to get a point across. Bitterness was eating me alive and that’s exactly what satan wanted. I wasn’t ministering to others through this, instead I was beginning to throw a pity party… not beginning, never mind, I was throwing a full-on gala of a pity party.

Now, a week later, I am not bitter, though I still don’t understand how stupid people have nothing better to do that to drive by our home and stare and I realize that if I had remarked on those anonymous people’s comments it would have just given their meanness more fuel. I do believe that jealous is an ugly thing- I am assuming that’s why people made ugly comments on the article in the newspaper that for some unknown reason listed our home’s square footage.

For days the only word we could find to describe the situation was “overwhelming”… now, as the restoration company packs up the few salvageable things and the smoke clears (literally) I don’t feel as overwhelmed.

Over the past few days I have watched my family come together. We have prayed together, cried together, laughed together. Everyone has put on their work clothes and sifted through the ashes for things of no value to us but of infinite value to another, grabbed a bottle of water for everyone even when we didn’t ask for one, and shared clothes, shoes, makeup, food, you name it. I have been blessed with the most amazing army of friends. The Story family put us up in Hotel Story for 2 nights; the Mitchell’s… don’t even get me started on what the Mitchell’s have done. What a blessing to have those loving, godly people in our lives. Laura packed a snack basket and took care of my dogs when we hit the road in the middle of the night. Countless others have prayed over my family and been their when I needed to talk because I was hysterical (thanks, Linz, Sonja, Paula and Em), picked me up at the airport (Frannie) or commented with beautiful, kind words about my family on my facebook wall or on the newspaper’s site.

I pray that you never have to go through something of this magnitude, but if you do, I pray you are surrounded by godly loving friends and family and that you never forget that GOD IS FAITHFUL and so, SO Good. The Pruitt family firmly believes that “all things work for good for those who love the Lord” (Rom 8:28) as HE proves this to be true time and time again, and this will be no exception.

We may be setting up the Christmas tree in the travel trailer this year, and we may have lost everything, but my family will gather around that tree with everything that truly matters- each other, our God… and our animals (you know I can’t leave them out!)… Plus, how easy will Christmas shopping be this year! :) When you’re grieving, you have to find the humor in things because if not you’ll never stop crying.

Last night, I arrived back in Columbia and as I walked down the hall to my bedroom I began to weep. Here I was about to crawl into my big, comfy bed…something my parents’ wish they could do. I would walk to my closet and choose from an assortment of clothes, something my parents don’t have. I didn’t lose my house, so why do I feel like I don’t have anything? I never lived a day at 165 Regency Road… but I snuggled into that king- size bed with mom when dad was away for work or when I was sick, I’ve eaten countless meals around that dining room table, I’ve done hours of homework at that desk, I’ve pilfered the clothes in that closet looking for something of mom’s to wear to a special occasion, I bought Dad some of those neck ties… I didn’t lose my house, but I did lose my home and many precious things from my childhood.

Hug your family. And remember that you can’t take it with you and you can’t guarantee it will be here tomorrow. Enjoy the earthly blessings God has given you but don’t covet them and never stop praising God for His infinite blessings. That’s unsolicited advice from the Pruitt- Gooden family.

Much Love,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me...

These days everybody and their mom has a blog. I know that what I am attempting is not very original, however, my intentions are that what you read here is original... thought provoking... stimulating... and because I don't feel that I am able to come with something so deep on a regular basis I end up only writing every six months. Or at least that's how it feels.
Please know that the above was not the diving board from which we will plunge into some deep thoughts...
A few weeks ago my family got to together to celebrate my sister's 21st birthday (which is today- Happy Birthday, Brynnie Sue!). It was for me, perhaps, the most enjoyable weekend of the many we've spent together in the last couple of years. I think it is such a blessing when you reach the point in your life when your parents become some of your very best friends, and mine are truly that to me.
Saturday evening we sat around looking at some pictures my dad has on a cd. Beautiful pictures of my great-grandparents from the 1930's. I wanted to print out 8x10's of all of them and fill my walls with these beautiful pictures. Not just because they are beautiful pictures, but because of the beautiful people in those pictures.
My great-grandfather, Perry Lou Crawley (you can call him Papa, he preferred that), passed away six years ago but his memory... his legacy, is still so fresh in my mind. I wanted to share a few of my very favorite pictures of Papa and Gran. Johnie Lee Holland married Perry Lou Crawley when she 15 and he was 20, why my great-great-grandfather allowed that nonsense I'll never know. Beyond raising 5 children, owning a couple of bakeries, and making the best bread, rolls, and pies you've ever had, they enjoyed 65 years of marriage, would give you the clothes off their back, and saved probably a million dogs and cats... guess that's where I get it. :)

Johnie Lee Holland- so young and so beautiful!

Perry Lou Crawley- seriously, how handsome is he?

My handsome Papa in his Navy uniform- this is sometime in the late 30's, I think.

Gran Johnie with her youngest daughter and my grandmother, Charlotte, we affectionately call her "Chuck".

My beautiful Grandma Chuck and that precious little boy she's holding is my dad! Too cute!

So, all this has me thinking, what is MY legacy? One of my very favorite songs is "Legacy" by Nichole Nordeman. In it she sings,
"I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me. I enjoy an accolade like the rest... but in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides the temporary trappings of this world".
I have to stop and remind myself daily... okay, if I am being honest, it's hourly, that my worth is not measured by the things I have. Jesus doesn't offer salvation only to those who are size 6, carry designer handbags and have a closet full of Stuart Weitzman's (that's a brand of shoe, for you men out there), drive the biggest car, have the cleanest house. Praise the LORD for that! God doesn't require us to accumulate all of those temporary trappings. He has given me, US, something that is so much better than all of those things. It's more beautiful than a new pair of Jimmy Choo's (again, shoes), it's softer than the finest Coach leather, and it's one size fits all! Have you guessed it? It's the Holy Spirit! This morning I read from Acts 1:8
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
We are called to be witnesses- to leave a Legacy, and not just any old Legacy, the legacy of CHRIST in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of this earth? I have never been to those actual places, but I live in a similar setting. I can be a witness in my Jerusalem (city) of Columbia. I can be a witness in my Judea (state) of Kentucky. I can be a witness in my Samaria (enemy territory)... and since satan is every where, unfortunately, almost every where we go can be Samaria, maybe even our own homes.
I am blessed to have so many people in my life who serve as examples of being a witness and leaving a glorious legacy. I don't think I will ever tire of telling my Aunt Lesli's beautiful story- that while enduring chemo treatments, she shares the Gospel with her nurse and all she meets. She shared the love of our Lord with a man who died the very next day. What a beautiful legacy. Though it isn't easy to share her faith with her unbelieving nurse, she does. Though it probably wasn't easy for my great-grandparents to share their food, money, time, and talents with people in need, they did.
Not only have they left a beautiful legacy on this earth, beautiful memories of great acts of service, God was well-pleased with their witness. I believe Papa heard, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." As will Gran and Lesli when they meet our sweet Jesus face to face.
I am striving to leave a legacy... to be remembered not for the clothes I wear or how skinny I ever was or was not or much stuff I collected... I want to be remembered as a good and faithful servant. Because I have been given much, way too much in fact, I want to share too  much. To give until it hurts. To share my faith outside of Sunday school and bible study, even when it's incredible uncomfortable.
What kind of legacy are you leaving? Here's to witnessing to the people in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth and striving to make sure that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are pleasing in His sight.

Much love,

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blessed Be Your Name

Now, for those of you keeping track... which is just me since this blog hasn't been advertised to friends yet, it's been too long since I posted anything.
I started this blog as a way to journal through my journey of spiritual awakening and abiding with God. Trust me, my blog doesn't show it, but it's been quite the journey.
In my last post I mentioned a group of Godly women that, for the time being, I firmly believe I couldn’t live without. We have cried together, laughed together, ate our weight in chocolate chip cookies and brownies together, and most importantly, we have studied God’s word together. And I mean STUDIED. Like, letting God really speak to you, having your toes stepped on by the truth of His word kind of studying. It’s been awesome! (Thanks, Em, Alicia, and Frannie!)
Right now, we’re working our way through the book of Ruth through a Bible study written by Kelly Minter. The past week’s lessons have been directly written to me. Have you ever read the book of Ruth closely? I honestly hadn’t. I’ve also glossed over it as the sweet love story. But, wow, is it ever more than that! One of the touching things Kelly brings up in her book is the idea of weeping forward- weeping while you walk. Ruth lost her husband, was in a foreign land, following her mother-in-law- no doubt bawling her eyes out the entire way. But she NEVER stopped walking. So, this makes me think… am I weeping forward or sitting in the floor throwing a 2-year-old temper tantrum?
Over the past few months I have been moved to tears by a song that I have heard a million times. My favorite version is by Newsboys. Have you ever really listened to the words of “Blessed be your name”?

When the sun’s shining down on me, when the world’s all as it should be, Blessed be Your name.
On a road marked with suffering… though there’s pain in the offering. BLESSED BE YOUR NAME!

Hello? Huge stuff there! The music geek in me is terribly frustrated at this song. The tempo is too fast and upbeat for a song of such deep lyrics. In fact, I think we sing it so fast it’s easy to gloss over some of the toughest words we’ll ever say.

In my experience it’s easy to Bless His Name when the sun’s shining and the world is exactly as (I think) it should be… it’s exceptionally difficult when the road is marked with suffering and there’s pain in the offering. If you’ve followed my facebook page, you’ve seen numerous updates and links to the blog of the Sexton 3. Benson and Kristin are incredible people who are truly Blessing His Name on a road marked with suffering and pain. Yesterday Kristin posted something that brought me more inspiration than perhaps any other thing she’s written:

“So many of you tell me that you think I am strong - and I will be first to tell you, my strength is only from the Lord. My flesh is broken and weak. I am a mother without her baby to hold and I have quickly realized that there is no earthly strength that is strong enough to get me through this on my own. All I can do is praise God that He is the lifter of my head and that He is near to the brokenhearted during this time.”

If that’s not Blessing His Name when the sun isn’t shining, I don’t know what is. I long for that kind of strength… Another incredible godly woman who’s been inspiring me in more ways than she knows right now is my dear Aunt Lesli. A beautiful, courageous, Jesus-lovin’ woman, she is currently undergoing chemo after a mastectomy. This precious lady laid the very first stone on my path to salvation. She made me Bible flash cards and would tell Bible stories in a way that they can’t be read. She made the Bible come to life for me and created in me a desire to learn more about God’s word. Another example of weeping forward and Blessing His Name on a road of suffering, check out this excerpt from her latest journal on Caring Bridge:

“The outpouring of love and friendships I am making/have made through this whole ordeal has been nothing but Supernatural. EVERYONE knows SOMEONE and they connect us, there is an instant relationship. Funny, how the Lord works these things out! Folks I never would have never encountered, conversed with, physically hugged . . . it is just unreal. There are walls that come down in the process. Healing continues, even for those that are cancer-free for years (just ‘met’ one that is a 36-year survivor! You rock, Terri!). This precious Spirit of healing and love and sisterhood just flows from one tender soul to the other . . . . and goes on and on and on.
Isn't that how things should be? Isn't THAT what Jesus was talking about when he said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself"?
Not wanting cancer is natural. Not wanting to be unhealthy is sane, too. But, there IS something to this journey that I am clinging to. Something that God has taught me (and YET continues to teach me, see note at bottom for Isaiah 30: 18-21) that I never want to give back. I own this because HE gave it to me.”

Funny how God works these things out, she says. Weeping and walking, giving God all of the glory that is due Him. SOOO, why I am raving about these women of amazing God-given strength and perseverance. Is my season of life anything like theirs? Healing after the loss of your precious little boy, fighting breast cancer… no, it isn’t even close.

As I strive to draw ever nearer to the Author and Perfector of our Faith, I need the stories of these beautiful women to encourage me to keep pressing on. When I am overwhelmed with life; when mortgage payments, debt and work seem overwhelming; when the constant barrage of hits to my self-esteem is crippling-I must remind myself that, as Kristin says, the lifter of my head is near and, as Aunt Lesli would say, there is something in this journey that I must cling to because HE gave to me in order that I might share it with someone else.

Today, I pray that you would rejoice over small things in life. Pray for Kristin (www.lukesexton.blogspot) and my Aunt Lesli (www.caringbridge.org/visit/leslimoser). Find peace in the promise that, as Proverbs 16:1 says, “We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.” These women would not have chosen the path they currently walk… how many of us would?... but they keep walking nonetheless, even as they weep. This control freak, Type A personality finds such comfort in knowing that God gives the right answer, that my plans arent the ones I have to follow (praise the LORD!) because His are so much better… sometimes the road is marking with suffering,but it's always more beautiful, scenic and lined with the greatest success.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Learning to Abide

"We all read about the life Jesus describes and are painfully aware that our lives don't match his words."
Vince Antonucci

I guess this whole thing started back in January… actually, if I’m being honest it started way before that, I just chose to ignore God’s gentle nudge until it started to feel more like a shove.

Enjoying a three-day weekend (thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr!), Tevie and I were snuggled in our bed on a cold January morning. Our morning devotional became a great conversation starter and before we knew it, hours had passed and we were in the middle of the deepest conversation we’d ever shared. On one hand, it’s kind of sad to think that it took us 5 ½ years to have that moment… but on the other hand, I don’t think we could have been so open and honest with each other before then.

For some reason or another, we had drifted way too far from God’s guiding. Not on purpose, of course, but because we hadn’t been purposeful in our study and prayer, satan had found a crack in our foundations and wormed his way in (on a side note, you’ll never see me capitalized satan or devil because I don’t think he deserves that privilege). Had we become immoral people? No. Did we look followers of Jesus… unfortunately, that’s a no, too. It was “small” things… cussing when I stubbed my toe, harboring bitterness, getting annoyed with the sweet little checker at the grocery, ignoring the needy, mindlessly writing our tithe check. What was so frustrating was that I KNEW those things were wrong… I just didn’t care enough to do anything about them.

Enter Crazy Love. Upon the recommendation of our very best friends, we bought this book last year… yes, last year, and finally read it in January of this year. I firmly believe that we weren’t supposed to read that book until this year… we just weren’t ready last year. For probably the first time in my life, I felt myself entrenched in spiritual warfare. (Keep reading, I promise I won’t go all charismatic on you.) The devil did not want us reading that book because every time I read, I was moved to action. As an avid reader, I seldom choose TV or other activities over a book I;m enjoying, but there I was finding reasons not to read. This encouraged me to read it more.

In this book, Francis Chan encourages the reader to really consider the way you’re living your life; to firmly grasp the reality that you could die tomorrow; to remember that you can’t take it with you. But most importantly, for the Gooden’s anyway, is the crazy idea to serve “the least of these”… the least of these… and that by loving the least of these we are loving God himself… GOD HIMSELF! In Matthew 25:40 (New Living Translation), Jesus says,

“I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Who are the least of these? For the Gooden’s, they are everyone we meet. That’s not an elitist view, at least, it isn’t meant to be. It’s honest realization that there will always be someone hurting more than I am, needier than I am, more lost than I am, more tired than I am, hungrier than I am, more neglected than I am, lonelier than I am, sicker than I am, less appreciated than I am… in these moments I must praise God for where I am, and because I remember what it feels like to be hurting, needy, lost, tired, hungry, neglected, lonely, sick, and unappreciated, I am called to serve the one is now where I have been.

This is not easy! In fact, it’s the hardest thing I have ever set out to do… Our first act of serving in this way was quite possibly one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced. Perhaps what I found most rewarding was the feeling of, rather than giving out of our excess, giving sacrificially (we really could have sacrificed a LOT more, but this was our first time leaping out on faith like this- baby steps, I guess)... we didn’t see the faces of the recipients of our gift, but knowing that I filled a need this young family had was gift enough. Giving without the hope of getting is quite possibly the purest feeling in the world.

What we learned all too quickly is that that spirit of giving can’t stay if the spirit of God isn’t residing in you. And my dear friends, I felt like I had helped the Holy Spirit back his bags (or hers, if you’ve read The Shack). I have prayed over and over again to feel God’s presence in my life, to be surrounded by people who love me and will hold me accountable. For a church that can, for right now, lead me into a spirit of worship because I can’t get there on my own.

Enter Divine Intervention. Praise God from whom all blessings flow for girlfriends! With my mom, sister, and best friend in different states I was longing for companionship. Someone to lunch with, gossip with, cry with, but Most Importantly study God’s word with! One of my favorite verses in all of scripture comes from the book of Esther. Moredcai is encouraging Esther to stay strong and he tells her that she has become queen “for such a time as this”. This phrase perfectly describes my newfound friendships. A dear friend, through God’s leading, brought me and my very newest and dearest friend together. A godly woman and ministry partner with her precious husband, she shares my passion for fashion and loving Jesus wholly. As Tevie and I prepare to start our family, her wit and wisdom from raising two beautiful little girls has blessed me richly. Beyond all this, she has invited me into intimate bible study and I have found two new girlfriends who I firmly believe will provide me the same rich blessings. These girls, partnered with the awakening in me and at our church, are blessings straight from heaven. I feel as though I have been created for such a time as this.

I am currently reading Vince Antonucci’s book I Became A Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt. I mentioned earlier that this spirit of serving the least of these and giving sacrificially cannot go one without the presence of the Holy Spirit. This book encourages you to live life with Jesus, rather than living the Jesus-life. So, for now through prayer- and I mean LOTS of prayer- and study, I am striving to abide with God. To feel His presence in every moment of every day. To savor the “thin places”, times when God shows Himself to me.

I could go on and on, but no one wants to read all of this nonsense… well, not that anyone will actually read this anyway… but I digress. For now, I’ll leave you with this quote from the book:

“Prayer is allowing myself to be gathered up into the arms of my heavenly Father, and listening as He sings His love songs over me.”

I hope you'll hold me to this:
"whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did"
1 John 2:6