What Are You Bringing To The Table?

November 18, 2022

By Stacee Helton

           On Sunday mornings, I have the privilege of leading a class of teenagers at church. One of my favorite things about that class is the challenging task of getting them to open up and talk. (Challenge accepted!). Some weeks, they feel like sharing more than other weeks, and I can usually tell if they either didn’t get much sleep the night before, or have already had a lot of sugar that morning. There is absolutely never, ever a dull moment in our class. They really are a lot of fun!

Most of them would tell you, we typically begin our class by talking about our week. Anything new or exciting happen? Anything tough, you feel like sharing? Some will stare me down, as if we are in the middle of a heated staring contest. Others will start sharing, before I even get my question out. Such different personalities, yet I try hard to ensure that they all feel safe enough to participate as much or as little as they need. And again, each week is different, but they do a pretty good job at keeping me up to speed with what is going on in their world. This past Sunday, we opened class by talking about our upcoming youth convention. (It’s always a fun topic!).  After much discussion, it was time to get serious.

“So”, I began… “What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?”  Of course, every single one of them (even the non-talkers) loudly proclaimed, “the food!” Then I asked them to tell me their favorite food item at Thanksgiving. The answers varied, and included turkey, ham, pumpkin pie, sweet potato casserole and pecan pie. (In case any of you were wondering what they love: it’s the meat and the sweet stuff!). I went on to ask them if they would enjoy the Thanksgiving meal if it were only turkey, or only ham, or only pie. “No”, they said. “That’s not a meal”. I went on to explain how, even though their plates at Thanksgiving are made up of several items that aren’t necessarily their personal favorites, it might be someone else’s favorite and together, each item makes up the whole meal. 

I always like to end our time by pulling together the things we spoke about earlier in class, and segue into biblical truths and things that the Lord has laid on my heart to discuss with them for that week. For this particular Sunday, I reminded them that just like the Thanksgiving meal is made up of many parts, the church is the Body of Christ. It wouldn’t function with just one person. Each of us, together, makes up the Church. And yes… not every single part of the group of believers known as “the Body” will be our favorites all the time. But it is still important to be thankful for what each person “brings to the table”, as their act of service, and to live at peace with one another. (Colossians 3:15).

In this season of Thanksgiving, may we all take time to reflect on the ways in which we serve.  Are we helping others, or are we simply content to enjoy what others have served us? I’ll ask you the same question I asked my teenagers: what are you bringing to the table? Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours! 

Anxious for Nothing

November 11, 2022

By Stacee Helton

          Two months ago, I made an appointment for an annual checkup. At my visit, I mentioned that I had a few heart palpitations the day before. It was nothing new. I’ve experienced them at other times; usually when I’ve had too much caffeine, etc. But these lasted longer than usual, so I decided to mention them. My nurse practitioner suggested an EKG, just to check it out. Unfortunately, while the test came back good, it also came back as abnormal. There was mention of a questionable old heart attack, and a recommendation to retake the test in 3 months. (OK, first… What in the world?  When would that have even happened?  And secondly… I was not going to be able to wait 3 months for my answers). My nurse practitioner is wonderful, and she is always very kind and reassuring, for my anxious self. She told me that it might not be anything to worry about, but understood why I would be concerned. When I asked if I could come back and take it again (this was only a few days after the first one) she graciously agreed, and that EKG also came back good, but abnormal… same result. Questionable old heart attack. So, my next visit would be with a cardiologist. 

That appointment was scheduled for 6 weeks later. It felt like forever! The first 2 weeks of waiting can only be described as self-inflicted “torment”. My mind was in overdrive, and the enemy knew just how to use it against me. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always been an anxious gal, but anxiety decided to manifest itself a bit differently this time around. The proverbial “elephant on my chest” became a reality for me, for the first time in my memory. Fear had a grip on me so tight, I began staying awake at night, for fear that something might happen, while I slept. And guys… I KNOW that Heaven will be wonderful and so much better than anything in this life. But my human self was really struggling.

After those two terrible weeks of waiting, something changed. Up until this point, my prayers had been something along the lines of, “Lord, please let my heart be healthy. Please just let me be OK. Please let me live long enough to see …xyz…" (you name it, I prayed about it). But one day, the rambling stopped. In surrender, I prayed “Lord, please give me peace. Your unexplainable, incredible peace. Help me to remember all the ways you’ve been faithful, and how you’ve always had me in the palm of your hand”. My focus shifted from me to Him, where it had belonged all along.

The peace was immediate. I was reminded of how the Lord has answered my prayers in the past, and how He had brought me through other rough times. He reminded me of my grandpuppy Teddy, and how He had recently helped me with that lifelong fear… simply because I asked. “Why would you doubt me this time?”... It played in my ears, almost like a song.

Unexplainable peace washed over me in that moment, and I began laughing. I was near belly-laughing, for the longest time. It was incredible! Joy and peace were mine, because I asked, and He provided. I had complete confidence that no matter what, I would be OK.  And I was fine, while the next four weeks passed, until I finally had my visit. Another EKG, with the same results as the previous two. An ultrasound of my heart followed, and wow! I was overwhelmed with emotion, watching and listening to my heart beating; doing what it had been created to do!  It was an amazing experience. 

Almost two more (very long) weeks after that, I finally had my results. All good! No blockages, no valve disease, all numbers in normal range, etc. No mention of any old heart attack. I still don’t know why the EKG’s kept coming back with that possibility. All that waiting and my final result was simply a lesson in patience, and a reminder to trust Him with every detail of my life. You and I have been given an amazing gift; the ability to communicate directly with our Creator, and to know Him! We just need to trust Him and His timing, and to be “anxious for nothing”, as instructed in Philippians 4:6 (even though it’s easier said than done). God is still in control, and wants to give us that sweet peace we long for, as He works out the details. During my 2 months of waiting on this answer, a song began playing on Christian radio that helped me to keep my focus and attention on Him. God Is In This Story, by Katy Nichole and Big Daddy Weave. Take a listen, and let your heart be reminded today!  

The Great Debate

November 4, 2022

By Stacee Helton

           Welcome to November! I enjoy this time of year, so very much. The temperature begins to drop, our warm and cozy clothes and blankets come out from their resting place in the back of the closet, and trees become decorated with brilliantly-colored leaves, on their way to dying off for the year. November ushers in my most favorite time of year: the holiday season!

And that brings me to another big reason I love November. I can actually speak about Christmas (decorating, music, and of course, movies!) and for the most part, no one complains too much about my subject matter. But occasionally, I encounter that person (and we all know at least one) who decides to be the “offended Scrooge”, jumping in to defend Thanksgiving. “You can’t just skip over Thanksgiving!"

Before I go any further, I want to say: I absolutely love Thanksgiving. I love everything about it; family and friends gathering to enjoy good food, remembering our blessings, and just being together. But it is my personal feeling that the holidays (any and all of them) can be extra-special, when celebrated in the soft glowing light of the Christmas tree. (I also think that we should count our blessings, way more often than one day a year, but that is another subject for another day). Seriously… who doesn’t love a beautifully decorated Christmas tree? 

Some years, we will wait until after Thanksgiving to put up our tree, especially if November has been really busy. Other years, we might decide to put it up just as soon as November arrives. The holiday season is just that: a season of holidays. Why can’t they be celebrated together? Afterall, my cute little ceramic pilgrims were placed on my kitchen table, along with my decorative pumpkins, before Halloween. The pilgrims didn’t seem to mind. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a rebel, and I don’t say things, just to get a reaction out of people. I’ve been a rule-follower my whole life. But I also know that a person makes the decorating decisions in their own home, and that includes making the decision about a Christmas tree in early November. Or December. Or even October! (And… how long to keep it up! Oooh… that’s another great debate!). 

If you prefer to wait to put your tree up until after Thanksgiving, feel free to wait. If it makes you happy to decorate early, then I say…do it! (And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it!). Enjoy every single minute of it! Whatever you decide, include the choice to let this “season of holidays” be filled with both joy and thankfulness. And above all, may it be filled with sweet, heavenly peace.