APRIL 2023

The Long Way Home

By Stacee Helton

April 30, 2023

Earlier this week, I received a phone call from my son, who is currently attending college in OKC. He was headed to the north side of the city to shop at a discount sporting goods store, in hopes of finding some summer clothes on a college-kid budget. He is more than 8 hours from home, and I’m incredibly thankful that he and his sister still include me on their list of regular phone calls. 

What I thought was going to be a quick phone call while driving (don’t worry… it was a hands-free call, and he was speaking to me through the car) turned into taking me shopping with him, keeping me in his ear the whole time. I didn’t mind, and always enjoy any amount of time that we can spend “together”. I have now learned exactly what length of shorts he prefers, that this particular discount store doesn’t have any pickleball equipment, and that the girl in the checkout line is a flirt. (I don’t even think he realized that… but his Momma sure did). 

After leaving the store, he continued his conversation with me all about his busy week, and how the next two weeks were going to be very busy, also.  It is almost time for final exams, and he is definitely feeling the stress. As I offered words of encouragement and shared words of wisdom from when I was his age at college (nevermind that it was 30 years ago), I asked him where he was. He told me he didn’t know, and that he wasn’t using his GPS today, as he was trying to find his own way there and back to campus, and was sure that he would “run into an interstate soon”. Based on his description of his surroundings, I wasn’t so sure. I checked my Life360 app (which I highly recommend for families of all ages) and found that he was headed due north, instead of south. He would have eventually figured it out, but he also would have gone out of his way, and wasted a lot of time and gas in the process. 

This morning, I awoke with thoughts of our shared afternoon. He would have managed without me watching that app for him, but because of its information, he found his way… much more quickly and effectively. You and I have an amazing source of direction and guidance, too. And like my son, we often fail to take full advantage of it. God can see where we’ve been and where we’re headed, and is quick to point us in the best direction, if we will just seek Him and ask. He offers His Word, to help us see how He has guided His people all throughout history, and how He longs to be included in our journey, even now. The Holy Spirit can guide us along our path, and offer peace and discernment, along the way. 

Unfortunately, we often go about life, trying to do it all on our own, when God never intended that for us. We can forget that He knows the very best route for us to take, how to avoid potholes (and maybe some toll roads!), can offer the best alternate routes, and ultimately… He knows the way home. We can trust Him with our plans, and know that His are always better. He’s proven that, time and time again in my own life, and is still finding ways to remind me, even from a city located 500 miles away.

Today, I’m including a link to another one of my favorite songs. (I know… I have so many of them). This one is a great reminder to take God along on the journey, and trust Him for the directions, even when the road feels long. The destination will surely be worth the trip! 

Long Way Home, Steven Curtis Chapman *lyrics!* 

Thank You, Jesus!

By Stacee Helton

April 8, 2023

It’s Easter time! As a Believer, this week is a time when the name of Jesus is on our lips even more than usual. We think about His sacrifice, His terrible death, and His resurrection. And if we truly understand what all of this means, at some point during this “holy week”, we should also take some time to reflect and respond with gratitude. That is exactly what our community did last night, as we came together in praise and worship, thanking Him for His amazing sacrifice.

Jesus endured a punishment worse than that of a criminal. He took a beating so horrific, it should have killed Him before He was even nailed to the cross. He chose to forgive those who put Him there, and He took on the weight of all of our sins. Jesus bridged the gap between us and God, caused by sin, and made a way for us to be forgiven, by becoming the sacrifice needed, paying our impossible debt and giving us the hope of Heaven! He didn’t have to endure it, but He chose to, because of His great love and understanding, where we are concerned.

Jesus. If ever there lived a man who understands us… it’s Him. Times when we are happy and surrounded by great friends, when we are going through rejection or heartbreak, when we feel that no one believes in us, when we or our loved ones experience pain (physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually), when we feel that we need better friends, or when we think no one else could ever understand… He does. The NIV translation of Isaiah 53 refers to Him as a “man of suffering, and familiar with pain”. Other translations say “A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief”. No matter which translation you read, the reality is the same… Jesus is no stranger to suffering, and He surely knows about ours. 

Psalm 34:18 tells us that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted”. At some point in all of our lives, we will feel broken. It’s a part of living in a sinful world. But when we are broken, we can be thankful that we are not alone. The same One who died for us is right there, walking beside us, reminding us that He is faithful and that He can be trusted. 

How do we know that He can be trusted? Because after a very dark Friday and a super-silent Saturday, Sunday arrived and death was not the end! Jesus arose after 3 days, just like He said He would. As my husband said last night to our church, “If you’re in a dark Friday, or waiting for your Sunday to get here, just know that your Resurrection Day is coming. It might not arrive in 2 days or even 2 months, but it’s coming!”. We can trust Him to keep His promises and to remain faithful in our dark times, in our times of waiting, and in our rejoicing! 

Thank you Jesus, for everything.

A Few Days Later

By Stacee Helton

April 2, 2023

It’s Palm Sunday! I’ve decided to take some time with my thoughts this morning, before the day gets too busy and decides to carry me off with it. Early mornings are my favorite! I’ve been watching the sun come up, while sipping on my coffee and thinking about the last few weeks. (Talk about busy!). We haven’t really known if we are coming or going lately, so this morning, I’m enjoying some much-needed downtime, while I have it.

Two weeks ago, we held our annual Jesus Girls Conference at church for girls in grades pre-K through 6. It is a wonderful evening of singing, worshiping, learning, laughing, sparkling (lots and lots of glitter!), and a dance party thrown in, just to make sure everyone completely wears themselves out before finally crawling into bed at the end of the night. The girls love it, our teenagers who help with it each year love it, and all of us volunteers think it’s simply the best. This year, we had well over 200 girls attend, and over 170 volunteers. It was our biggest one yet and it was amazing. In my class of 2nd and 3rd graders, the girls learned about ways to let their lights shine for Jesus and were reminded to never let anyone, anything, or any circumstance dim their lights. (Afterall, Jesus Girls were created to shine!). 

A few days later, my husband and I were taking 6 of our high school students to OKC for a college visit weekend for youth groups. What an amazing time of worship we had there, and the students enjoyed fun activities, staying in the dorms overnight, and getting to know some of the college students who came alongside them, to show them around campus and to speak into their lives. We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend, or a better group of teens to take with us. We continue to pray for them, as they make some major life decisions over the next few years. (We had the added blessing of getting to see our own kids, hug their necks, share a meal or two together, and snuggle with our grandpup. Seeing them always gives me a boost until I can be with them again. I am so proud of each of them!).

A few days later (this past Thursday), our church came together for our annual egg-making day. We sell chocolate covered eggs at Easter time, and around here, they are well-known. Our kids and youth ministries sell thousands of boxes each year, so it has to be an “all hands on deck” kind of day. I usually go over after work, but my husband is one of many who are there all day. It takes a lot of volunteers who mix, roll, count, dip, decorate, box and sort eggs, and we have a lot of fun with it.

A few days later and here we are together, this Palm Sunday morning. I can’t help but notice that my last 3 paragraphs all began with “a few days later”.  A lot sure can change in a few days. A crowd of people can be singing the praises of a man one day, and crying out against Him the next. They can be waving palm branches one day, and shaking their fists, only a few days later. Our Savior can be dead and buried one day, only to arise back to life a few days later, reminding us that He does keep His promises, and that our bad days are nothing, in comparison to what He endured, to give us the hope of Heaven.  Yes, a lot can change in a few days, but when it brings life, and hope, and peace… we can be assured that victory awaits on the other side of it. Have a wonderful day! Hosanna in the Highest!