God. Love. Chocolate. Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

It was a simple question.

"How have you been?"

That's all. Four little words and a question mark contained very neatly in a text message.

But I didn't have an answer. To say I was fine didn't feel honest, nor did saying I wasn't. So, I decided to wait to figure out how I really was before responding. The day passed and I still didn't have an answer. I spent the following day pondering what I would say and finally sent a reply being as real as I could in the moment: "Still working on it...".

The truth is life is full of many good things right now. I'm on the other side of an intense battle with depression. I can get back into my favorite pair of jeans which feels great! My husband is thriving in a new position he took on last fall. I'm finally getting back into the studio with some new songs. My son got the summer camp job we had hoped and prayed for. We will watch my daughter graduate from high school in a few short weeks. All good things!

But in the midst of these good things, I have found myself struggling with increased anxiety. Tears flow easily. My heart feels like it's doing somersaults throughout the day and doesn't stop for rest at night. Sleep is at times elusive. The not-so-little littlest one of my crew asks me daily if I'm ok and sometimes multiple times over the course of the day.

In an effort to get to the root of my issues, I decided to write out all the things that were weighing heavily on my heart and lay them out to pray over...world events, financial needs, health concerns, big changes coming up for us as a family. Some of these things could have had subcategories with multiple bullets under them, some were interconnected, but they all had a common denominator: I was trying to carry the weight of them on my own.

It wasn't coincidence that one of the first verses I read that morning was "Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you." (I Peter 5:7) Give them away. All of them. With the verse came the gentle reminder that I needed to let God take his rightful throne in my life and be sovereign over all these things that have been weighing me down.

I've been working on release this week. And to be honest, it hasn't been an instantaneous thing for me. I've held those papers in my hands and prayed over them again since that morning. But I can say that in acknowledging my need to relinquish my grip on these burdens, my load has felt a bit lighter.

In a moment of feeling incapable of navigating through the next couple months, my daughter reminded me that all that's needed to get by is God, love and chocolate. Unfortunately, I can't rely on chocolate right now because of dietary restrictions (that's a whole other story), but I'm grateful to be surrounded by family that loves immensely and I have faith that God who has proven to be faithful time and time again will continue to be so.

To my dear friend who was checking in on me...I hope this answers your question.

posted by Leslie McKee on 04/28/2015

Leaving Our Mark Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

Walking with Maddie usually proves to be a bit challenging. Don't be fooled by her cuteness! She's strong-willed and likes to exercise that trait when we're strolling the neighborhood...well it's more of a dragging than strolling experience. If I don't choose the path of her choosing, she plants herself firmly on the road and won't budge. Sometimes it's right in the middle of an intersection. These displays of stubbornness can go on for what feels like forever until I cave and go where she wants to go. We're usually quite the spectacle while we're out.

Another challenge on our walks is her frequent need to stop, sniff and squat. This is what dogs do, right? She leaves her mark all over the neighborhood - making her presence known and perhaps even staking some territory along the way. Even the simple act of her walking leaves a trail of her essence behind because of having scent glands in her paws.

On one of our walks, I started thinking of how we, as people, leave marks throughout life. The Bible says we were made in God's image. As Creator, He has left His mark in us and we take on His characteristics, such as being compassionate, loving, kind, forgiving, faithful and creative. As man, we pass on distinguishing traits and tendencies to our children using the genetic codes God created us with. If you look at our kids, you'll see dark hair and brown eyes. You'll see they all got the tall-gene from Dave. Once you get to know them, you'll find that they each picked up musical abilities from me. Each one unique, yet we all share similarities.

We have no control over the genetic markings in our lives and in what is passed down through the generations, but we do have a hand in the heritage that is passed on to future generations. What do our words say about who we are? What routines do we have? What do our actions say about us? How we live will leave a far greater impression than our spoken words. These are the things that reflect the mark in our lives from time spent with the Father.

I've been blessed by having a godly-heritage in my family. Earlier this year, this world lost the champion of all prayer warriors and our family celebrated the life of a patriarch of faith. My grandfather never missed an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. On visits to see him, I would lay in bed at night and listen to his prayers for his family travel through the walls. As he lost his eyesight to macular degeneration, he passed the time by reciting scripture and singing the old hymns. To this day, I have the image of my mom kneeling beside her bed to pray at night...she was probably unaware that I took notice. While we were growing up, there was seldom a time that the church doors were open that we weren't there. I didn't appreciate that so much at the time, but looking back now, I can see the significance of that in my life. In our home, my parents modeled grace, unconditional love, dedication and commitment.

And so I wonder...what marks am I leaving as I walk through this life? Am I living and loving well? Do others see Jesus in me? What is the legacy I'll leave behind?

"We will not hide these truths from our children, but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders." ~ Ps. 78:4

posted by Leslie McKee on 03/25/2015

Joy to the World! Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room and heav'n and nature sing."

~ George Frederick Handel and Isaac Watts ~

An ordinary night for some unsuspecting shepherds many years ago turned into a momentous occasion that would impact mankind for eternity.

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!", he said. "I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior - yes, the Messiah, the Lord - has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!" Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others - the armies of heaven - praising God: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors." ~ Luke 2:8-14 NLT

Imagine being chosen to receive the greatest news ever given, and from an angel, none the less! Their initial response was one of fear, which the angel recognized and offered assurance that all was well. As he spoke, I wonder if they recalled hearing what had been prophesied about the birth of a child who would be called Immanuel - God is with us, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6 NLT)

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said. ~ Luke 2:15-20 NLT

As Luke's telling of the Christmas story unfolds, more insight is given into the response of the shepherds. They believed that what the angel said was true. Without hesitation, they ran to find the baby; and then, they, too, shared the good news. In fact, they were so excited that they told everyone they could about it. After taking all of this in and returning to their fields to resume caring for their sheep, they spent time "glorifying and praising God" for all they had seen and heard.

This is news that demands a response from each of us. We have the choice to believe that God did indeed send his Son into this world to be our Savior, or we can reject the truths of his Word. Once we acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord, what are we going to do with his message of salvation and hope for the future? As the angel said to the shepherds, this "good news of great joy" is for all people. It's up to us to go and share this amazing gift that God has given.

As we celebrate another Christmas season, have you made room for Him in the midst of the parties, the shopping, and special programs? Have you taken time to truly reflect on his coming and what it means for you and allowed Him to be sovereign in your life? Have you spent time in praise and adoration of who He is and in thanksgiving for all He has done?

May you experience the joy and peace He came to bring...Merry Christmas!

"Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy."

posted by Leslie McKee on 12/19/2014

More Than a Song Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

On any given Sunday morning in churches throughout the community, people will fill the pews and each congregation...each individual...will have a different worship experience. Some churches offer services that use traditional hymns during their worship times which are led by a song leader and accompanied by organ and piano. Some services offer a blended style in their worship service and use both hymns and older praise choruses. Some offer a more contemporary style of music and have a worship leader backed by a full band and use lyrics projected on screens with fancy backgrounds. Other churches go the extra mile and add fog and light shows to offer a rock concert type of experience. And others simply lift up their voices in praise without any instruments at all.

Regardless of the style of service, much planning goes into creating the experience: choosing songs that compliment each other, making sure they are in keys that are singable for everyone, adding scripture to be read, planning transitioning times, band rehearsals, working with media systems and the tech crew, and the list can go on and on. I think it's crucial that we clearly define exactly what it is that we want to be experienced. What's really important? Is it a flawless performance by the band? Is it adhering to finely orchestrated time allotments and closing the service on time? Is it following the trends and growing in numbers because of the "cool" environment? These things in and of themselves aren't bad. We're called to a level of excellence...to use our abilities to their fullest extent. Sure...we want an experience to be enjoyable. But, have we, as a modern society put so much of our focus on all these things that we've lost sight of the One who we are worshiping?

Hopefully, the desire is to facilitate a time of personal response to our Savior. As worship leaders, what is the posture of our hearts? Are we leading from a place of transparency? Do we draw attention to ourselves or the the One to whom we sing?To be able to effectively lead a congregation in worship, our hearts must be filled to overflowing from our personal encounters with the Father, and this comes from spending time in his presence and in his Word. We cannot give what we don't have. Is our well dry or bursting with praise? Have we been changed by his grace? Have we been broken for our sins? Have we torn down idols that have replaced our devotion to the Lord? Are we truly in love with Jesus? Is He sovereign in our lives? Are we in awe of his greatness? Are we worshiping in spirit and in truth or are we just going through the motions?

One of my voice students recently introduced me to the song "Clear the Stage" which was written by Ross King (http://rosskingmusic.com) and recorded by Christian artist Jimmy Needham (http://jimmyneedham.com). I was subsequently reduced to tears. Listen to the song. Read the lyrics. Be challenged.

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze

if that's the measure you must take to crush the idols

Jerk the pews and all the decorations, too,

until the congregation's few, then have revival

Tell your friends that this is where the party ends

Until you're broken for your sins, you can't be social

Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store

and know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

'Cause you can sing all you want to...Yes, you can sing all you want to

You can sing all you want to and still get it wrong...worship is more than a song

Take a break from all the plans that you have made

and sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper

Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak

and pray for real upon your knees until they blister

Shine the light on every corner of your life

until the pride and lust and lies are in the open

Then read the word and put to test the things you've heard

until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

'Cause you can sing all you want to...Yes, you can sing all you want to

You can sing all you want to and still get it wrong...worship is more than a song

We must not worship something that's not even worth it

Clear the stage, make some space for the one who deserves it

Anything I put before my God is an idol

Anything I want with all my heart is an idol

Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol

Anything that I give all my all my love is an idol

'Cause I can sing all I want to...Yes, I can sing all I want to

And we can sing all we want to...And we can sing all we want to

We can sing all we want to and still get it wrong

Worship is more than a song

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze

If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols

posted by Leslie McKee on 10/31/2014

Be Still Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

"Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress." - Psalm 46:10-11 (NLT)

The challenge comes with the first two words of the verse - "be still". Lately I feel as though there is no time to be still. Life has become full of busyness and noise. I think it is something we, as a society, have become accustomed to and accept as the norm. Our bodies have become programmed to be on the go and find it hard to be still when there is an open window of time in the day to do so. Even if the body is momentarily resting, the mind is still running on overdrive.

Perhaps I am putting too much emphasis on stillness as a physical response. Maybe to "be still" is better described as an attitude of the heart. Maybe it is simply allowing his voice to quiet our soul when there is chaos and confusion. Maybe it is having a spirit of gratitude for his blessings and goodness. Maybe it is holding on to the truth of who He says he is regardless of what our circumstances are.

So, who does He say that he is?

In Exodus 3, God called on Moses to lead his people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt. Moses voiced his feelings of inadequacies for the job to God who in turn replied, "I will be with you." Because the Israelites had been exposed to the polytheistic practices of the Egyptians for such a long time, Moses then argued that they would not believe him if he told them 'the God of your ancestors has sent me' and asked God what his response should be, to which God replied: "I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them 'I AM has sent me to you.' " In the next verse God goes on to say: "Tell them, 'The LORD, the God of your ancestors-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob- has sent me to you.' This will be my name forever; it has always been my name, and it will be used throughout all generations." (vs14-15)



His name reflects his nature which is unchanging. He is the same living, breathing, moving God today as he was in the days of Moses and as he will be through all eternity. Part of "being still" and being able to rest in God - in His peace, in His presence, in His provision - is acknowledging who He is and embracing His sovereignty.

If we don't have moments of stillness - whether it be a physical response or a heart response- we are missing out on time to experience God: to feel his heartbeat, to see his hand of grace, to hear his whispers, to marvel at his creativity, to recognize him for who he is...God.

posted by Leslie McKee on 09/24/2014

Bunk Notes Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

My thoughts have been taken back to my childhood this week as I am serving as the nurse at the camp that was my home away from home for many years. As I reflect, I am in denial that what feels like just a few years ago, is in reality thirty some years ago.

Many things are the same. The original cabins are still here and some newer ones have been added. The gym has had a facelift, but the pool which hosted cheers from cabin mates during water olympics is still inviting on these hot summer days. A modern day splash-ground sits beside it and offers it's own refreshing fun. Canoes are still heading downstream and bows are finding their mark in the archery range. The old chapel has been replaced by a new, bigger and better building which doesn't offer the nostalgic rattling of window units running on hot summer nights. Tonight, the campers will gather around a fire in the outdoor chapel and share songs and testimonies. I suspect they won't sing Sing Halleluia to the Lord or Ha-la-la-la-la-la-la-le-luia...and there probably won't be the back scratches that came along with it.

While some things have changed, one thing remains the same. The love of Jesus Christ is being shown and many are hearing of His grace for the first time. It has been both a blessing and a challenge to see camp through the eyes of an adult. Watching the counselors interact with the campers has been a beautiful experience. I'm quite certain that I was not as confident and mature in my faith when I served as a counselor as they are. They are very intentional in connecting with the campers on both a spiritual and personal level. While one camper was in the nurse's station for an extended time, the counselor sat with him and instead of making small talk, took the opportunity of some one-on-one time to go deeper with questions about his faith. I watched through a cracked door as another counselor sat in the room praying while his camper was sleeping due to illness. I've watched the counselors handle relational issues within the cabins with grace. And yes, the counselors are right there in the middle of the fun times, too.

I'm not one who likes to function in the midst of urgent situations, so the idea of being here for a week as the nurse was rather intimidating. Fortunately, nothing has come up that I have not been able to handle. There have been lots of mosquito bites, bee stings and more scraped knees than I can keep track of. More often than not, a bandaid or some Tylenol is all that is needed, but some things can't be "fixed" so easily. I've been handing out more psychiatric medications than I could have ever imagined which leaves my mind to wonder what these kids have walked through in this short span of their lives. I've seen the urgency of wanting broken glasses to be fixed so parents wouldn't find out, and the subsequent anxiety that erupted when realizing the best that could be done is holding everything together with tape.

Battlelines have been drawn this week and I have found myself on the frontlines of a spiritual attack. Campers have been lined up at times by the cabinful with not feeling well. Discerning what is real and what is just a ploy of the enemy has been difficult. Staff members are running low on energy and running high on fevers. The medicine cabinet is running out of Sudafed and cough syrup. I'm thankful that our God is bigger than these obstacles and has given us His armor to wear. I'm grateful for the victories that have been won in the lives of kids who have been unaware that a war was being waged for their very souls.

More than anything, I have witnessed the hands and feet of Jesus this week and I have been blessed. I know how hard it can be to leave a mountain-top experience and return to everyday life. Seeds have been planted and I pray they will take deep root and grow to bear much fruit.

An old camp song is ringing through my mind as I close:

" Let us lift our voices in song. Come and join us...and sing along.
Let the praises ring through valley and o'er hill.
Listen to God's call for you surrender to His will.
You'll find real joy you will want to tell
Of all God has done for you at Camp Joy-El
The joy of the Lord I've found can be yours as well
As God speaks to you and me at Camp Joy-El."

For more information on Joy El Ministries, go to http://joyelcamps.org/

posted by Leslie McKee on 08/11/2014

The Number Games Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

I've played them.

Truth be told, I still do.

Chances are you've played them to.

The games started for me when I was in elementary school...in the fifth grade, I believe. The school nurse told me I was overweight and made me weigh in every week. And so began a preoccupation with numbers. A system started forming in me that measured the value of my worth in numbers.

Through the years, the number games would be played out on various platforms. Would I be the last to be picked for a team in gym class? Next to last? Where did I fall in the batting line-up on the softball team? Would I be a starter on the volleyball team? When I decided to give up sports, the numbers shifted to the musical side of my life. What chair did I place in the flute section? How did I place in the piano accompanist tryouts? What position did I place at districts? At regionals? If it wasn't first place, I would push to prove myself at the next tryout.

It didn't stop with extracurricular activities. Academic achievement was an obsession as well. Grade letters equated to numbers and anything less than an "A" in my mind was unacceptable. I returned to college to get an associate's degree in nursing after working as a licensed nurse for many years. Because of having my nursing license, I was able to test out of the first year of nursing classes in college, which was great...until it came time to graduate. I maintained a 4.0 GPA during my two years in college; but, when I had taken the challenge exams to test out of those nursing credits, I had a "C" average on those tests. At the time I was pleased because after all, I passed two semesters worth of classes without having to take them. Not a big deal until someone else...whose GPA was only 3.7...received an award for having the highest GPA in the class. The "C" from those challenge exams had been figured into my final GPA and pulled it down. I was completely and utterly devastated. Instead of being thrilled to be finished with school, I moped around during my graduation. (It didn't help that I was seven months pregnant when I graduated and hormonally imbalanced, but I can't hide behind that excuse because a pattern of being an overachiever had already been established in my life.) Rather pathetic, don't you think?

There have been times in my life when I have not been bothered by numbers and rankings, finding satisfaction in simply being a wife and mother to three amazing kids. But here I am...middle-aged (gasp)...and still playing the game. It looks different now in this age of technology. How many likes do I have on my Facebook page? How many followers on Twitter? Connections on LinkedIn? In the music industry I'm too old because I'm over 20. If only I lost a few pounds...okay, more than a few...then I'd look really great in those trendy fashions and maybe wouldn't seem so "old".

But over the years, I'm learning that there is only one number that really matters and that number belongs to The One who loves me unconditionally despite what other numbers may show. Father, Son and Holy Spirit all wrapped up in One. As Father, he loved me enough to send his only Son to redeem me and bring me into relationship with himself. And as if that weren't enough, he gave me his Holy Spirit to live and breathe and walk through this life with me. He also left a love letter full of his thoughts toward me that I can reflect on and remember the depths he would go to to show his love for me. In his letter are the numbers of Hope... for me, for you, for everyone... John 3:16... For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. All He asks is that I love him in return, with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength and with all my mind. (Luke 10:27) As I continue to grow in my love for him, I find my desire to be in letting him take first place. Letting him be the drive behind my music. Letting him receive all honor and glory and praise. First in my heart...first in my life.

posted by Leslie McKee on 01/18/2014

A Big Challenge in a Three-letter Word Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

Over the past year and a half or so, I have been using a devotional supplement called "Jesus Calling" (written by Sarah Young). You may be thinking that a year and a half is a long time to be using the same book for devotions, and normally I would agree. But, what I have found with this particular book is it seems to be Spirit-breathed. By that, I mean that there is something about this book that amazes me. There is seldom a day that something in the reading for that day doesn't reach out a grab me. Whether it be a challenge, a conviction, or maybe even reinforcement of one of God's promises to me, the words come alive and meet me where I'm at on this walk in life. Some days I feel that this book was written just for me.

The devotionals are based on the the author's interpretation of Bible verses through her personal encounters with Jesus. I enjoy taking the verses she references each day and exploring them for myself directly from the Bible, which then leads to deeper study of the Word as I look at the bigger picture of what transpired before and what took place after the verses. And as I spend time reflecting His words, I'm then able to hear His voice and what He wants me to walk away with from our time together.

It was through this process that my challenge came today. This was one of those "seldom" days that I wasn't feeling particularly moved by the writer's thoughts. In fact, I almost didn't even open my Bible because one of the verses referenced today had been sealed in my heart from childhood memorization. But, in search of some "meat" for the day, I opened the pages of my Bible to the familiar passage in Proverbs 3:5-6 - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths." ( emphasis added)


That three-letter word is what I was supposed to take from today.

Had I not turned to God's word, and simply relied on the author's words as my inspiration, I would have missed it. It's a small word, but it holds a big challenge.

The "trusting with all my heart" part of this has been an ongoing journey and is not a new challenge to me. But, what I needed to hear today was the "seeking His will in all I do" part.

It's not that I don't seek His will in my life. I do. But sometimes I fail to seek His will in all that I do. Some decisions seem easier to make than others and I fail to ask God what he thinks about it. Most days I go through my routine without much thought about my actions or responses to situations. When I do seek Him with the bigger questions and uncertainties, am I truly seeking his will, or am I relying on the emotions of the moment to make the decisions?

I don't won't to miss all of what He has for me in this life because I'm not trusting with all my heart or seeking in all I do. So big or small, I want to give my all to and for the One who gave his all for me.

If you would like to learn more about the "Jesus Calling" book, here are some links to get you in the right direction:


posted by Leslie McKee on 07/21/2013

Thoughts from the Produce Section Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

My husband and I were recently doing some grocery shopping together. This is not a new experience. Sadly, this is often how we spend a night out. However, there is no one else I'd rather have by my side to shop with, as he truly is my dearest friend in life. Though we journey the aisles together for the most part,we do, at times, take a "divide and conquer" approach during the process. He does not leave me for long though, because I will inevitably load more in the cart than what is necessary, or allowed in the budget, without his watchful eye.

On this night, I was hanging out in the produce department and taking much longer than the average person to pick out some fruit. Now if you know me, this comes as no surprise because making a decision of any kind just does not come easily for me. It doesn't matter if it is picking out a banana, ordering off a menu or buying a new car. It is a painful process. Maybe the banana part is stretching things a bit - or maybe not. I must confess, I do like to pretend I know what I'm doing by sniffing the end of a melon or grapefruit to check for ripeness. It might help if I actually knew which end I was supposed to sniff to be able to tell if a piece is ripe or not...I'll have to read up on that in my free time.

In this moment of time, I was hung up on choosing perfect apples. Given that we're not exactly in harvesting season, I was having a difficult time. Each apple I picked up was flawed in some manner. The color wasn't bright enough. It felt like it would have a "spongy" texture inside. There were too many bruises - some that couldn't be seen but were felt. As I was sorting through the apples and discarding most as not good enough, I was struck by the fact that we often do the same thing with people. We withhold our love because of a person's appearance. We keep our distance because of someone's smell. We place judgement on someone because we heard the latest rumor about them, or even more-so if we know the truths about their past.

We all have a past - maybe some more colorful than others in our own opinion. But in God's eyes, sin is sin and all sin is weighted equally. We have a God who looks beyond our faults and wants to cover us with His grace and lavish us with His love no matter who we are or what we've done in our lives. Unlike a piece of fruit which will ultimately become rotten and discarded if it is left on the shelf too long, He looks at our bumps and bruises and longs and wants to restore us, give us new life and turn our life story into something beautiful.

Perhaps you feel that the choices you've made go beyond the reach of His grace. Don't be deceived by those feelings. They are lies that the enemy wants you to believe to keep you from walking in freedom. God's Word is Truth and we can hold on to His promises with confidence.

"We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us." - Romans 3:22-25 (NLT)

posted by Leslie McKee on 04/19/2013

White as Snow Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

White as Snow
All winter I have had my hopes on a good old-fashioned snowstorm- you know, the kind that leaves you snowed-in and brings a halt to the busyness of life. Winters around south-central PA aren't very exciting anymore. Though the east coast had a couple big storms this year, they managed to skip our neck of the woods. I miss the big snowstorms I remember from my childhood. Of course, as a kid, my perspective was probably a bit skewed, making me think six inches was more like a foot. But all in all, the winter season seemed to be longer and snow started falling earlier. I remember making the drive to Cincinnati in the snow as we headed out to spend Thanksgiving with family. Having a white Christmas was commonplace and there was always an abundance of snow for building forts and snowmen throughout the winter season.

So, as we anticipated the arrival of "Winter Storm Saturn" overnight, I was excited by the thought of waking up to a winter wonderland. The kids went to bed knowing that school had already been cancelled because of coming snow. Imagine my disappointment when I awoke between 2:30 and 3:30 this morning to find no snow on the roads, or anywhere else for that matter. I headed back to bed feeling somewhat less excited about the "east beast" that had been forecasted to impact our area. Snow did eventually find it's way to our little town and I woke up to a blanket of white...just not as much as was expected.

There is something refreshing about newly fallen, unadulterated snow. It covers over the brown, dead grass and plants that are anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring. It drapes itself over the tree branches and they fall under it's weight. When the clouds have passed and the sun peaks through, the snowy landscape glistens and sparkles.

After taking in the beauty, I knew it was time for the inevitable. Maddie, our yellow lab, was also awake and needed out to do what dogs do. The snow quickly became matted down with paw prints and colored with shades of yellow and brown. It was also time to bundle up and start digging out before the snow became too weighted down and was harder to shovel. Dirt and pebbles mixed in with the snow piles and things didn't feel so fresh anymore...kind of like the canvas of our lives. Impure thoughts can creep in and taint our minds. We hold on to anger and bitterness that take root and weigh us down, suffocating our joy. Sinful habits leave stains that seem too deep to remove. We reflect the patterns of the world more than the glory of our Savior.

In the midst of it all, I was reminded of a song we sang in church on Sunday: "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow." ( Elvina M. Hall and John Thomas Grape) God tells us in the first chapter of Isaiah, verse 18: "No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool." This promise is just as true for us today as it was for the Israelites so many years ago.

We can start over with a clean slate when we recognize the sin in our lives and turn to Him with a truly repentant heart. This can be seen in David's life after he had an affair with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband in an attempt to cover up his sins. He cried out to God for cleansing and forgiveness: "Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my shameful deeds-- they haunt me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner--yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me--now let me rejoice. Don't keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don't take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you." ( Psalm 51: 1-12, NLT)

posted by Leslie McKee on 03/06/2013

Expectations Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

Progress has been made and our tree is finally completely down and packed away. I will admit that it was my husband's doing and not my own. He seized the opportunity Sunday afternoon while I took a long winter's nap. But there are a few traces of the Christmas season that still linger...garland and stocking holders on the fireplace and the Nativity set on my piano. The stocking holders are snowmen and they certainly fit in with the ongoing winter season- not counting the two days of spring this week- and the garland kind of blends in without looking Christmasy. In fact one year the garland remained proudly displayed on it's mantle until summertime...embarrassing, but true! As for the Nativity set? It was one of the last decorations to make an appearance in the days before Christmas and I am in no hurry to take it down as it represents a life lesson for me.

Christmas has been my favorite time of year for as long as I can remember, mostly due to fond memories of the season from my childhood. The house was always decorated festively, cookies were in abundance, candles and the fireplace were burning and the sounds of music filled the air. In fact, a few months ago, my daughter discovered the old albums we would listen to through the holidays- Elvis, The Beach Boys, Snoopy's Christmas and Bing Crosby to name a few. My brother hooked her up with an old record player and we were able to bring those memories back to life. Sarah was so excited and decided we would get the albums out when we decorated the tree. Sadly, the record player stopped working when the day came and so those memories went back to the file box in my mind.

My expectations for Christmas were high this year (well, technically last year, but for the sake of this blog, it shall remain this year). The season had come and gone in a blur the past 5 years because of juggling an almost full- time job, several part-time jobs and being a wife, mom and chauffeur. But this year, I was without the most time-consuming job and was determined to enjoy the season once again and make it an extra special time for our kids. I wanted them to have the same experience I had growing up.

Well...two weeks into December we finally got around to putting the tree up and that was it for decorations for much of the season. Life was just as busy as ever and time was flying by without the cookies and music and softly glowing fires. Time was short for shopping, as were funds since I no longer had the steady income of a nursing job. Once I did find time to head to the stores, everything was picked over and I didn't feel much like buying presents in the light of our nation mourning the loss of beautiful children and teachers. Tears flowed easily and my dreams of the "perfect" Christmas were crushed.

Christmas break came upon us and it became now or never for adding any extra touches with decorations. I took advantage of an early school dismissal and extra time at home to hang the garland and stockings. My youngest son offered to set up the Nativity set for me. And so began the lessons for the day. I relinquished my need to have the figures set up "just right" and allowed my child to create a scene that would change my day and my perspective.

As he finished setting things up, he noticed I had another angel on my piano, in the form of a music box. He then proceeded to remove an angel off it's post over-looking the manger scene and replace it with the music box angel. As he turned it on, the tune of "Amazing Grace" filled the air, a smile covered his face and he said "that's how it should be". How appropriate that this angel should be there singing of amazing grace over the manger scene of our Savior! Tears danced on my cheeks as I looked in wonder at how much this little boy "gets it". I needed to let go of trying to "make" Christmas perfect with shopping and baking and decorating and music. I was reminded that it's about a gift that has been given so freely to each of us. I'm sure as Mary and Joseph anticipated the birth of their son, they never expected to be far away from family and friends or to be away from the comforts of home. Yet, they found themselves alone and in a dark, smelly and dirty cave. There was nothing perfect about this but the Baby himself.

And so, the angel still is perched on her post and my heart is reminded each time I pass by of her song and there's no rush to put it away because the story didn't end at the manger. This baby came into our world as a baby but grew into a man and became our Redeemer in giving the ultimate gift of His life as a sacrifice of love and covering of grace for each of us. He is still very much alive and waiting for our hearts to prepare room for Him to dwell. And my heart joins with heaven and nature in singing of His greatness!

So...what about next Christmas? I'll still decorate and try to find time to bake some cookies and hopefully even find time to relax with my family around the fireplace. I'll treasure the memories of childhood and hope that as a family we're making memories that our kids will cherish some day, too. But I'm trusting that the lessons from a little boy and a Nativity set remind me to expect only the joy that comes from celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

posted by Leslie McKee on 02/01/2013

Real or Artificial? Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

As I sit here this morning, I must confess that I am sitting beside my Christmas tree. Yes, it is January 15th and our tree still stands tall in the living room. I did manage to take the ornaments off two days ago, but the lights are still strung and it is starting to take on a stale presence in the room. By now you've probably presumed that this tree is indeed artificial, otherwise it's needles would surely be in a pile on the floor by now. But you would not know to look at this tree that it has never had a life-giving source.

Many years ago, we decided to take advantage of after-Christmas sales and get a fake tree. This was a huge sacrifice for me because I thrive on the whole experience of taking the family out to a tree farm and cutting down the perfect tree with our own saw - often a pain-staking event for my husband as finding "the one" could take quite some time. In exchange of this experience, a fake tree would have to meet some pretty tough standards to make it into our home. And so, we found a tree that passed the test. Now, each year it is quite a chore to put this tree up because it was before the days of pre-lit branches or trees that open at the push of a button or that come in two pieces and can be stored easily between seasons. It has to be put together branch by branch and each stem must be "fluffed" and adjusted to pull off the deception of realness. When friends come over at Christmastime, they're amazed that our tree is indeed artificial. And this, of course, causes my heart to smile.

As I was stringing lights and hanging ornaments on the tree this year, my thoughts went to how much our lives can be like decorating a Christmas tree. We shower to keep our bodies smelling clean. We style our hair to keep from looking unkempt. We put make-up on to conceal our flaws. We put on clothes to hide our nakedness. We add jewelry to give just the right touch. We put on smiles to mask our true feelings. Some go a greater distance and add more permanent effects like tattoos or piercings in places that cause the rest of us to cringe. We put on an air of confidence to cover our fears and insecurities.

We put a lot of energy and expense into our appearance and trying to look like the real deal, but what's really going on on the inside? Are we drained of energy? Are we at war with low self-esteem and worthlessness? Are we weighted down with bitterness and unforgiveness? Do we have a stinky attitude? Are our relationships crumbling? Are we wrestling with sinful behaviors and addictions?
Do our lives mirror the truths we claim?

As I think of the task before me in disassembling the tree, I realize there are some things in my life that may need to be uprooted, some branches that may need to be removed that aren't bearing fruit. I also realize that the pruning process is not always pleasant and can, in fact, be painful. But I want to be authentic. I don't want my life to be a grand charade. I want to be relentless in my pursuit of deeper intimacy and a closer walk with Jesus - Giver of life and peace and joy. Unlike our artificial tree that will never have the fragrance of fresh pine, I want my life to exude a fragrance of grace and love and acceptance.

I want my Father's heart to smile when He looks at me.

posted by Leslie Mckee on 01/17/2013

Cravings Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

ˈkrā-viŋ - an intense, urgent or abnormal desire or longing for some particular thing

Have you ever noticed that once something is forbidden it becomes all the more desirable?

Over the past couple weeks, I have been making an honest attempt at trying to eat healthier, not only for myself, but for my family as well. My diet has consisted of lean meats, eggs, veggies and fresh fruit. Not allowed on this plan are breads, potatoes, pasta or the sweets that I've come to know and love. Oh how I've longed for just a bite or two of something fun...a cookie, some ice cream, a piece of chocolate. I've come to learn through the years that avoidance is the best policy. Once you allow that first bite in, it becomes easier to give in to the craving the next time it comes along. Before you know it, the little bite turns into eating the whole brownie and since you've already blown it, you might as well top it off with some ice cream!

After visiting with a dear friend over breakfast this morning, I had to pick a few things up at the grocery store. A new cereal was being proudly displayed on the end of an aisle. Wouldn't you know it was called "Krave"! It comes in "two irresistable flavors- chocolate and double chocolate". One looked to have a vanilla "whole grain" shell and the other chocolate. Both come with a smooth, creamy chocolate filling and both are sure to satisfy any chocolate-lovers cravings - especially one who has been carb - starved for a couple weeks!

So how does this fit into my journey from the heart? After all, that's what I said this blog would be about.

My companion on this journey to better eating habits has been a book by Lysa Terkeurst called 'Made to Crave'. It has been both challenging and encouraging and has been a perfect fit for me on my journey of longing for deeper intimacy in my walk with Christ. We were created to be in relationship with Him. God wants to satisfy our deepest longings with His perfect peace, love and presence. Giving in to food cravings - or other physical things we use to fill a void - only provides temporary fulfillment and often leaves us feeling guilty in the aftermath.

Psalm 42:1-2 is a good reflection of my heart's cry: " As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God." When we look to God to fill us, we will find lasting joy, lasting peace and lasting hope.

May He truly be my heart's desire.

posted by Leslie McKee on 02/03/2012

It's Time! Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

It's Time!
Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is upon us. Not unlike you, I have many goals for the year and thoughts of things I would like to see come to fruition in my life, both from a lifestyle perspective and from a ministry perspective--and I believe I'm going to find that those things are connected to each other in the long run.

One of my goals is to stretch myself in sharing thoughts from my heart and do this blogging thing. This has been on my to-do list for some time now...well, a couple years, in fact. So... it's time! It's time to dig out the list that I've been compiling of things I could write about. It's time to stop worrying that what I share may not be "spoken" with the eloquence I would like it to have. It's time to put to words what God has been showing me and speaking into my life.

I believe that journaling from my heart will have a healing effect on some of the difficult things I've journeyed through over the past few years. I also believe that it will help birth some new songs to be used in ministry. I hope that something I share will be an encouragement to you in wherever your journey is taking you- or perhaps where you feel you've been left and forgotten.

So, come and walk along with me on the road to restoration and redemption. It's time!

posted by Leslie McKee on 01/21/2012

Challenge for the new year Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

In my devotions this week, I've been inspired by a short, but powerful comment in my Bible's footnotes: "Divine guidance comes only to prepared hearts." In thinking ahead to what the new year may hold, I'm feeling challenged to dive deeper than ever before into my relationship with my Lord. When I am loving him as I should and I'm pressing in to know him more, my desires will become aligned with his plan for my life, and the paths I am to follow will become much clearer.

posted by Leslie on 12/30/2009