See You Real Soon

By Stacee Helton

February 25, 2023 

Greetings from sunny Florida! My husband and I left town on Sunday, and after a night in Atlanta, (and two stops at Buc-ee’s) we landed in Orlando on Monday. We went to Disney Springs that afternoon, and even took in a movie. (They were separate movies, because I really wanted to watch “The Confession” Musical, showing for one day only, and he did not. So, I grabbed him a ticket for the new Ant Man movie instead). Our afternoon timed out perfectly, we left to go to our first Disney reservation: supper at Beaches and Cream at The Yacht and Beach Club Resort. It is a favorite of ours, and we even watched fireworks while we were there.

We took a couple of days to enjoy Disney World as empty-nesters (that was fun, but also a little bit sad because our kids love it so much). Epcot was first up on Tuesday. It is my most favorite park, and my husband was really anxious to ride the new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster there. We got online and grabbed a spot in line for later that morning. No spoilers, but it was definitely a thrilling ride. He handled it very well and loved every minute of it. He talked about it for an hour after the ride. That’s about how long it took for my nausea to subside. I knew better…but wanted to check it out anyway. 

About the time I started feeling better (Sprite, Tums, and some trail mix to the rescue!), some of our friends from church came walking up to our table. My husband knew they were coming, but kept it as a surprise for me. I was so happy to see them, and we rode a few rides together before our day together ended. We took a quick trip over to Animal Kingdom long enough for my husband to ride Expedition Everest. It was closed down the last time we were there. At the end of the day, my knees were quick to remind me that I’m not as young as I once was. However, we still started each day super early and I soldiered on. We weren’t going to miss out on anything!

Our second day began at Hollywood Studios and ended at Magic Kingdom. We have many rides at each of these parks that are always “must-do’s” and we did all but one, I think. It is always hard to leave such a magical time, but we had places to be. We left Disney World on Thursday morning and headed south. We stopped off to see some of our high school and youth group friends who have always been more like family. It had been about 5 years since we last saw them, and we laughed and talked at a restaurant for about 3 hours. 

From there, we traveled south to Lake Wales, where we are currently attending a retreat weekend for youth pastors. We never dreamed we would see so many familiar faces here! Friends we have known over the years (some we first met over 30 years ago!), some we attended college with, and others we have served alongside. It amazes me how God can orchestrate such wonderful meetings with friends who can make you smile, make you laugh, make you cry, but always…make you better by offering support and encouragement. We weren’t meant to “do life” alone. Each of the friends we have met up with this week are people who are so dear to me and would appear in a showing of my “Life’s Greatest Moments”. Goodness… I’m just so thankful at this moment. Ministry can be tough, but it is worth it, and we are blessed to have wonderful friends all over the world. 

Today, we leave early to head to Atlanta to pick up our son at the airport. He is planning to spend a long weekend with us before flying back to Oklahoma where he attends college. I’m looking forward to spending some much-needed time with him, too. I hope you have a wonderful week, and that you can look back on some of your memories and see where God has placed people along your path to lift you up and encourage you, as well. That’s all for now folks. I’ll “see you real soon”!

Be Mine

By Stacee Helton

February 12, 2023 

Advertisements on television and on social media are quick to remind us that Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching. A recent commercial had me thinking back to grade school celebrations, when I would pick out fun Valentine cards for my friends, and decorate an old tissue or shoe box, to take to school. Some kids had very elaborate and nicely decorated boxes, but mine were usually pretty simple. I spent most of my preparation time picking out the perfect card for each of my classmates, and making sure that I didn’t pass out a card to a boy that said “be mine”, causing him to get the wrong idea. (HeHe!). Remember the cards that had holes made in them, so that you could attach a heart-shaped sucker onto the card? I always thought they were the coolest. (Personally, if I were receiving a Valentine card from a friend now, I would hope to receive the Fun Dip card! I think they are quite awesome. And yes… the pattern here is clear: I want candy with my cards!). 

While receiving a Valentine card (along with a special treat, apparently) sure makes me feel special, today I have been thinking about the times when I not only feel special, but also loved. I would imagine the typical answers for each of us, of course, would be when someone says “I love you” or gives us a thoughtful gift. But the first time I can remember truly feeling an overwhelming sense of love, I was a teenager, attending a weekend at a local church, known as the Chrysalis weekend. 

Chrysalis is a weekend designed for teens, where we would sing, listen to speakers, engage in activities and discussion with other students at our table, served meals by members of the community who have attended a weekend before, and were just served, the whole weekend. One night, we were instructed to go to the sanctuary, and before we even walked into the room, we could hear it… the sound of people singing. As we entered the room, we realized that, not only was the room filled with people singing, but the entire sanctuary was lit, only by the light of the candles they were each holding while they sang, “Jesus, Jesus… Can I tell You how I feel? You have given me Your Spirit. I love you so”. (Over 30 years have passed since I attended that weekend, and I can still hear them singing this song). They literally filled the whole sanctuary and lined the path in which we walked. When we all got to our places, we sang the same beautifully simple song back to them, and then they left and went home. At that point, our leaders showed us large poster boards, filled with time slots and names, where these same people had been praying for us by name, 24/7, for the entire weekend. Not a single blank was empty. People were getting up at 2am, 3am, etc, just to pray for us. These were also some of the same people who had volunteered to come serve us meals, and write us letters and leave gifts for us. Agape love. It was overwhelming, indeed.

These people were an amazing reflection of God’s love for us. Like them, He shows up. Like them, He provides for our needs. Like them, He rejoices over us, with singing! (Zephaniah 3:17). Valentine’s Day is a great reminder that we all need to love and be loved, but the One who loves us the most doesn’t need one special day to remind us. He shows us every single day in multiple ways that we are His beloved creations, and He simply longs for us to hear His invitation… “Be Mine”.

Talk to Me

By Stacee Helton

February 4, 2023 

I moved away from my hometown in Kentucky 30 years ago, when I was 19. My then-boyfriend, who later became my husband, and I left “the Best Town on Earth” and set out for Oklahoma, to attend college. We never could have imagined it at the time, but that one giant step of faith would affect and direct the course of our entire adult lives.

We made many friends at college, from all over the country. Some of them are still our closest friends, all these years later. With each move we made in our ministry, we created friendships and relationships that were always hard to leave behind with the next move. Social media might have a few downsides, but allowing us the opportunity to keep in touch with folks from our past is definitely a positive thing, in my opinion.

We all have those friends and family who live a distance away, but when we talk to them, even if much time has passed since the last time we spoke, it feels like it was only yesterday. We pick right up where we left off, and start filling each other in on what we might have missed. That’s the way it is for me, and several of my closest friends. You ask yourself each time, “Why do we let so much time pass between conversations?”  or “Why don’t we get together more often?”  We always have so much fun and share many laughs when we are together. The answer is simple… life gets in the way. Sometimes, we do have those friendships that can suffer, due to lack of correspondence or communication. People grow and change, and if we aren’t there for at least the highlights, these old friends might move on without us. 

When our kids are little and demand so much of our time, it’s hard to find the time to squeeze-in one more thing. Add a pastor’s schedule to the mix, with all the demands involved there, and the stress of life can just be overwhelming, at times. Our love for our friends is still there, even if the regular conversation is not, but in order to have that close connection, we have to be intentional about making time to talk to them. 

Last year, my husband reached a milestone of 25 years in ministry, (ordained for 20 years, next year) and as of this very week, 12 of those years have been spent serving in this special little town. It’s the longest we’ve served at any church. As you can imagine, we have made some dear friends here, and I’m thankful, because all of our close family lives in other states. These friendships are strong because we can spend time together and share life experiences.

I can sometimes sound like a broken record, but I find myself very often telling our teenagers at church: “It’s hard to have a relationship with someone you never talk to”. Read that sentence again, and let yourself feel the weight of it. How often do we allow our chaotic schedules or our screens to steal time from us? Time we could be using to actually talk with one another, but even more importantly… time to talk with God, and strengthen our relationship with Him. Our conversations don’t have to be extended, lengthy dialogues. We can acknowledge that He is there with us, and include Him in our day. To seek His guidance for decisions, big or small. To thank Him when our prayers are answered, and to praise Him, either way.