Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An exhortation for Godly living

"Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily. Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers. Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Don’t be led astray by various kinds of strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be established by grace and not by foods, since those involved in them have not benefited. Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Pray for us; for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, wanting to conduct ourselves honorably in everything. And I especially urge you to pray that I may be restored to you very soon." (Hebrews 13:1-9, 15-19 HCSB)

When I read this list in my Bible this morning, I felt totally overwhelmed. And to think this is only an excerpt from one chapter in one book of my Bible! In the end, it is all the more reason to depend on God and not try to live righteously on my own. I definitely cannot do anything without his help.

Lord, help me today to do your will and to walk in holiness. I can't do it on my own, but I know that with you, nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An appointment with God's grace

My kids currently go to the closest dentist that takes our insurance. This particular office is a half hour drive from our house, but there is no co pay and they do a thorough job of cleaning and examining their teeth. We have been taking our kids there since our daughter turned three and have always been happy with the office. We have never been keen on the secretaries that work there, as they can be rather demeaning and short with people, but with little to no wait and excellent care, we aren't picky.

Last week my daughter had an appointment and came home with a good report. In response, my three year old son has been excited for his turn in the chair so he can get a new toothbrush, sand timer, and a prize. Monday it was finally his turn and he was thrilled. It was a whirlwind trying to get out the door on time, but we managed, and we walked into the office at exactly 10:10, the time of his scheduled appointment. The waiting area was packed full with people. I thought to myself, "great we will have to wait a while to get in." I signed us in and sat down to wait. Other people came in after us and signed in. We waited a good half hour before people came out of the exam rooms. Then the people who came in after us got called in and I thought that was a little funny. When the receptionist returned to her desk from dropping off paperwork to a hygienist, we had been waiting a full 40 minutes and I decided to check with her to find out how much longer we would have to wait.

"Are they running behind?" I asked her. "They could be," she responded. "OK well we have been here 40 minutes so I just wanted to check and see how much longer we need to wait," I told her. "OK, what is the name?" she asked me. I told her my son's name and she gave me a shocked look. "Did you check in?" she asked me. "Yes, we are number 15 on the sheet, right there," I answered. She looked and saw plain as day, our name, which she crossed off when she started the check in process. However there had been an error and somehow she marked us as a "no show" and we would need to reschedule. She was glad that I came forward to explain because otherwise we would have been sent a bill for the missed appointment.

I had a full day that day and more appointments to go to, so I was more than annoyed that I had driven a half hour and made my kids sit and wait for 40 minutes for no reason. However, I gave her the benefit of the doubt because people make mistakes and I wanted to show Christ's love and grace towards her. I calmly rescheduled the appointment for later in the week and wished her a good day.

The following day I check the mail box and I find an envelope in there from the dentist.I open it up and to my dismay it was a bill for a missed appointment. Forty dollars that I now owed for a missing an appointment that I went to. I knew that it was just another mistake and they would fix it, but I was angry with them. How dare they send me a bill and give me one more thing to deal with after what they put me through the day before! My husband and I prayed together about it, but I couldn't help but fume about the injustice of it all.

This morning, the day of the appointment, I wake up horribly sick. My allergies are hitting me full force and I have a nose that won't stop running, a head that won't stop pounding, and eyes that won't stop itching and burning. I am miserable that I have to go to this appointment, but I know that if I don't go, I will end up REALLY owing them forty bucks. My husband called when they opened and they apologized for the mistake and deleted the fee. It was no big deal and everything was taken care of, just like I knew it would. I drag myself and the boys out to the van and head to the appointment. However, we get stuck behind a construction vehicle driving well under the speed limit. The traffic is heavy so I can't pass him. I check the clock and begin to stress out because I know we are going to be late. In my head I envision the worst case scenario. I am going to be late and they are going to cancel his appointment. I am going to have to pay forty dollars for a missed appointment and have to come back AGAIN. Emotionally I am a wreck. I am sick, exhausted, and a worried mess about making it to this appointment. Fortunately the vehicle turns just out side of the town the office is located and I am able to make up lost time and walk in the door only three minutes late. The waiting room is empty. We check in and are called in almost immediately. Thing are running smoothly and as they usually go.

I park the stroller with the toddler in it just outside the room and get my son settled into the dentist chair. He and the hygienist are jabbering away about halloween and what he is going to dress as. He gets his paper towel bib thingy clipped on and the hygienist asks if bubble gum toothpaste is ok. My son looks a little puzzled. I point to the different toothpaste favors and ask which color he wants. Literally out of no where he panics. "I don't want this!" he shouts. "I don't want my teeth cleaned! I don't want a new toothbrush! I want to go home!" He starts thrashing around, kicking, throwing things, tearing things apart and climbing out of the chair while screaming at the top of his lungs.

Mind you he has had dentist appointments before and LOVED it. He has never behaved like this in public. No matter what I said or what the hygienist said we could not calm him down. The hygienist asked if he should get the doctor so he could take a quick peek before we leave so the appointment isn't a total waste. I say yes and he leaves. I literally do everything I can think of to get my son to follow through with the appointment. I try to validate his fear and comfort him. I try to bribe him. I try to demand that he follows through with the appointment. I try to guilt him into it. Finally as they walk in I am literally begging him to do it for me. He refuses. The dentist and hygienist try to convince him to show the dentist his teeth so we could get out of there. He refuses.

The dentist says "I guess you will just have to come back tomorrow." "This is my second time here this week! I cant come back AGAIN!" I tell him. He asks the hygienist what happened the first time and why we had to come back. He just stands there blankly. Apparently he never caught wind of what happened on Monday. As I am explaining what happened I lose it. I am so angry, frustrated, sick, miserable, exhausted, humiliated, and stressed out that I just burst into tears. I stood there helplessly sobbing while my son stubbornly repeated that he wanted to go home, over and over. The dentist throws up his hands and says that he doesn't have time to wait and we will just have to figure it out and leaves. I drag my son out of the chair and head for the door. The hygienist calls after me asking if I want to try again in a couple weeks. I said I didn't know and I would have to call back.

As we are heading out of the office, another hygienist stops us and tries to talk to my son. Apparently, she overheard what was going on and wanted to try and help. I am pathetically standing there, tears streaming down my face while he tells her bluntly that he is going home. He bolts and is nearly to the parking lot when she stops him and calms him down. She convinces him to go with her and try again. He turns and hugs me and says "I'm sorry mommy. I will get my teeth cleaned now." He follows through with the appointment just fine, his teeth look great and he does everything he is asked to do. I stood outside the door still bawling my eyes out the entire time. Different people stopped to try to encourage me, reminding me that he's is only three, that everyone there is a stranger to him, that he will get used to it, he will do better when he is older, not to take it personally and on, and on.

The hygienist finishes the appointment, and we make our appointment for a six month check up. The same receptionist that made the error on Monday checked through our account and confirmed that the missed appointment charge was removed and we were all set. I thanked the hygienist multiple times and we leave. I get into the car, turn on a DVD for the boys and just sat there and cried. From the backseat, my son is throwing his prizes at me, demanding that I open them for him. I ignored him so I wouldn't turn around and either number one beat the tar out of him or number two scream profanities at him.

In the end he did what I asked him to do. He followed through with the appointment. But I had been totally humiliated by his behavior and unable to be supportive of him when he felt so uneasy. In hindsight I can see where the first hygienist may have gone wrong, and how the other hygienist did things differently to ease my sons fears and help him get through the appointment. I felt like a total failure as a mom that a total stranger had to do my job as a mother to bring comfort to my son because I couldn't do it. I am so grateful for her because it saved me from having to go back yet again, but it got me wondering what on earth happened.

I never did figure out what spooked my son, but I know for one that my reaction definitely made things worse. It all started in my mind, with the assumptions, worries and fears that I had built up surrounding the appointment. I worried that we would miss the appointment. That would have upset my husband because we would have had to pay the fee, plus the gas to drive out a third time. It would have been a inconvenience to me to have to reschedule when I am feeling so sick and miserable. I was afraid that I would be seen as a bad mom because I didn't have it together enough to get my son to the dentist on time. Then when he threw a fit, I was horrified that his behavior showed that I don't know how to parent my children to behave properly. Then I felt guilty that I wasn't being there for him when he needed me and that made me a heartless monster instead of a loving and responsive mom. I worried that he would be traumatized by the experience and never want to come back and every future experience would be a fight to get him to follow through with the appointment. I had assumed that he was excited to be there and was able to "handle it" and didn't have worries and fears of his own running through his mind. I was caught off guard by his behavior because I was so caught up in my own "worst case scenario" that I hadn't even considered his feelings about the appointment.

I know I am not a bad mom or a failure. The appointment is done. We made it there just fine, we got through it just fine. God knew how it would all pan out and supplied me with his favor to get through it. He supplied me with grace to extend to the secretary's error. He corrected the bill mix up smoothly. He helped get us to the appointment safely. He was there with us through the kindness of the other hygienist. He brought comfort through the words of the other employees when I was so upset.

This is the reality of humanity. We are all fallen and all make mistakes. The secretary made a clerical error. My son refused to do what I asked of him. I wasn't there for him when he needed me. But that is what Gods grace is for. If life was a bowl of cherries, I wouldn't need God. The truth is, I am a sick, overtired, emotional mess, and without him I am nothing. Because of his grace I can forgive the secretary. Because of his grace I can go apologize to my son. Because of his grace our relationship will be restored. Because of his grace my stupid allergy flare up will stop and I will feel better soon. Because of his grace, I can pick myself up, dust off, and just keep moving forward. I can do nothing in my own power, I am just miry clay. But "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Today, I thank you God for your grace, I sure need it!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nothing Else Will Do

Life is not always what we had hoped for. It can disappoint us and leave us feeling discouraged and hopeless. However, I can make the choice to be all I can be, despite my circumstances.

Last week, I felt frustrated with how my life has turned out thus far. I feel like I am not doing anything constructive in my relationships and my ministry. I was mulling over my frustrations in my head while driving and listening to Jesus Culture, when a song came on that really spoke to me. The lyrics say "My soul longs for you, nothing else will do." I got to thinking about the man singing those lyrics, Chris Qualia, and the life he lives. He is an incredible songwriter and musician. He has a very successful music career and ministry. He has an incredible wife and beautiful daughter. He lives in an amazing place and attends one of the best churches. He has everything I could ever hope for in life. Yet, he sings those lyrics and means it.

I sat there baffled. His soul longs for God. Nothing else will do. Not his marriage. Not his children. Not his ministry. Not his church. Not his home. Not his success. Nothing else will do. I realized in that moment that God was calling me to long after him, and that nothing else in my life will do. Even if I have the perfect life, my soul will still be longing after God. That is where joy, and peace, and happiness and fulfillment are found. It's not found in anything else. This doesn't mean I shouldn't still care for and tend to those other things, God wants me to be responsible for the things he has entrusted to my care, but it means that the state of those things in life does not determine my level of satisfaction. If I am fulfilled in God everything could be perfect or it could be a disaster and yet my heart would be full.

The next part of the song says "...and I believe you will come like the rain." When the rain comes, everything soaks it up and is saturated with the rainwater. In the same way, as my soul longs after God, he will not just give me a glassful of himself, but rather he will come like the rain, covering me, filling me, saturating me. Nothing else in life can do that. Nothing else can stimulate all of the senses, emotions, thoughts, and spiritual realm like the coming of Gods presence can. That is why He needs to be my only focus and my only desire. That is the way to a full and content life.

Tonight I began to reflect on certain relationships in my life that are heading in the wrong direction. I could choose to react in a way that lashes back at pain and frustration. However, I know deep down inside that no matter my reaction, there is nothing I can do to change anyone else or their behavior. If I respond in love and kindness, it has no effect. If I respond with bitterness and sarcasm, it has no effect. If I react with rage and hatred, it has no effect. My actions will never shape another persons behavior.

Knowing this, I know that what is most important in my life is walking in faith righteous before God. God cannot bless sinful behavior. He won't bless some one else's behavior, nor will He bless my sinful reaction to it. What He does bless is walking in love. "But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:44 KJV)" If God is calling me to go the extra mile for people who are my enemies, how much more is he calling me to do for friends and family, even if they make poor choices and unintentionally do things which hurt me.

In light of that, I am making the choice to "be the better person." I know it won't make any difference whatsoever in what they do, but it makes a difference to me that I walk in a righteous manner before God. If I focus on seeking after him, I will be fulfilled, regardless of what is going on in my life. Not that it will be easy, and I know I will have to make the choice again and again to humble myself and be kind in the face of cruelty, but in the end, I know it will be worth enduring. God sees, and God has experienced what I am going through, and worse. He is my strength and my support, especially when he is asking me to do something that is so difficult.

I will not look to be satisfied by whether or not my actions make a difference in another person's life. Rather I will sow good seed in faith that God will bless me in return, regardless of the choices others make, and then be on the lookout for his favor to be poured out in my life.

I am so grateful that God takes the time to show me things that I can change about me so I don't become so entrenched in only seeing the faults of others. I am grateful that He has freed me from anger so I can walk in joy and peace, even when others don't. I am choosing to embrace the season I am in right now, and do all I can to glorify God with the life I have been given.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Trusting God

All my life growing up I have had a big empty space inside my heart. Although I had a relationship  with Jesus, I didn't know how to dig deeper to fill my heart with his love. Instead I filled it with dating relationships and addiction. I pursued good feeling after good feeling so I would never have to feel the pain and emptiness. When I got married, I seared off that part of my heart and gave it fully to my husband. I ignored any hurt and pain, determined to be faithful and righteous before God. 

When my husband was unfaithful to me, my heart became cold and calloused to protect myself from how much it hurt. I depended on the Lord, but I didnt listen for his voice, I wasn't drawn in close to him, and I didn't seek him in order to fill me up. When I found he has decided to continue to compromise his purity, I realized my husband was never going to be faithful to me. He will always hurt me and let me down. I can't depend on him to fill my heart and complete me like I had hoped for. I expected him to fill the emptiness and I was told that my expectations were right. They weren't.

Out of fear that the pain would consume me, I sought out an answer for my anger. The answer was Jesus. I was to use my life as a living sacrifice for him, and allow him to begin to soften my heart and walk in close relationship once again. As I have been pursuing a relationship with God, my heart has once again begun to shed its icy cloak. I am feeling more deeply and he is changing me.

However, this has once again opened that part of my heart I seared off. The part that feels lonely and is starved for love and affection. That part has once again turned outward, seeking approval and love from men and not from God alone. The aching I feel inside is a horrible sick feeling, one that nothing will stifle. I used to cover up the pain and cope with it through relationships, addiction, and denial. None of those are an option now. I will have to allow God to deal with it, to once and for all sacrifice my loneliness and pain before him and let him fill the space. It is a scary place to be in but I have no other option. I will not return to addiction, and I will not compromise my devotion to my husband, even though he has compromised in return. My only option is to bow my knee at the throne and trust God.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I bet they would give anything...

It has been extremely rough in this house lately. Our family has gone through 6 solid weeks of illness. We have been through ear infections, strep throats, and stomach bugs. Theres been infections and injuries and just plain insanity.

I babysit for a friends girls on weekdays so there are often 5 little ones crammed into my way too small trailer, arguing, whining, yelling, etc. Not that I don't adore these kids, but it is a lot for one person. Especially one who is cleaning up puke, dispensing medication, disinfecting the house a million times, staying up all night with kids crying from fever, doing endless loads of laundry, going back and forth to the doctor office, and at one point even planning a vow renewal. I have been yelling at everyone. I even yelled at my mom, not because I was mad at her but just because I am yelling all the time.

I got out of the house yesterday, but it was no relief when my eyes opened to more endless work. I am VERY happy that everyone is healthy at this very second, and I am finally catching up on much needed rest and getting back on top of the house work. However, the stress is still there and I feel like I have been shouting all day long. So at one point, I thought to myself, "Boy what's my deal, my circumstances are better now but I am still freaking out? Why is it these kids make me so darn mad!" Two minutes later I find the baby amidst a mountain of torn up paper, he had demolished something that was super important and it was like the last straw.

 I was ready to tear every last hair on my head out. I sat at my desk ready to explode when I glanced at the computer screen and noticed a new notification on my Facebook. I clicked on it and saw that someone had posted to my friend David's prayer site, the one who died in a horrible accident 2 years ago. It was a post about grief and sorrow and pain. It was a nice post, but what really hit me was what happened next.

God quietly whispered to me "You know, I bet they would give anything." I replied, "What do you mean?" "I bet his parents would give anything to have their son tear their important paper to shreds. There are others who would give anything to HAVE to change another of their baby's diapers. Others who would give anything to wash and fold their little girls clothes. Others who would give anything to hear their children shouting, running, and jumping through the house. Others who would give anything to just have one more chance to say 'I love you,' one more cuddle, one more hug, one more kiss. What about you?"

It doesn't make my day any easier, my house any cleaner, my kids any better behaved. But maybe adjusting my attitude is exactly what I need to be able to do those things with a cheerful heart. Maybe an attitude of gratitude is the only way to pick myself up and take the next step forward. After all, I have SO much to be grateful for. Even those life can be hard, at least I still have life.

And one more chance.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Realm of Acceptance

I have finally realized where my struggle lies. It is not in a place of misunderstanding where I need to find a magical key that will answer all my questions and solve all my problems. It is in the realm of "acceptance."

I kept trying to find my place in my walk with Christ, my place as a mother, my place as a wife, my place as a person, and I just kept getting lost and increasingly more frustrated. Well I have realized that my place is RIGHT HERE, where I am right at this very minute. The trouble lies in accepting the here and now as just right.

I have been pushing and pushing to become something else. I have to hurry up and fix all my issues so I can be a good mom, so I can be a minister, so I can finally BE who God made me to be. Thing is, I already am!

I yell way too much, I struggle with staying organized, I get overwhelmed easily, I like to sleep in and stay up late, I battle perfectionism, I like to always be right, I use my computer way more than I have time to, I cannot sew a straight line, I hate putting away laundry, dishes, and paperwork, I don't read my Bible or pray enough, I get cranky easily, I always compare myself unfavorably with other mothers, and much much more. But that is all ok! That is me. I may always yell too much, I may always sew crooked, but God knew! It's not that I need to learn who I am in Christ and force myself to fit into this mental mold of who I should be, it's that I just need to ACCEPT where I am at. once I can accept me, then God can work with me.

This is the conversation that often takes place between me and God...

Oh Lord I wish I could be that gentle with my kids as that mom is...

But you are not her, you are you, I made you differently.

Oh I know Lord, but I don't like that about me and I know you don't like it either, I need to work on that.

But sweet child, I love YOU for who you are, you don't need to do anything.

Oh but God if I do his and this or maybe that or look at this or learn that, THEN I will be like her and you will be happy.

But I am happy! I am pleased with who I made you to be.

Yeah but I know I can be better. I'll work on this and get back to you. I can't wait to see how proud you will be!

I AM proud! You don't need to change a thing!

Well I am glad I figured this out, thanks for your help!


That's about how everything goes when it comes to God. I want to act like this one or minister like that one or have kids like that ones kids, but that is not His intention for me! His intention is for me to be exactly who I am now and to accept that fully. I wanted to study Philippians to learn all about joy and being content, and I know now acceptance is contentment! Many people look at that scripture in a sense of material things, but I see it now in a deeper sense, a contentment with who I am as a person and where I am at right now.

I understand that time is short. I understand that my kids need stability and consistency and love and support. I understand people are dying and going to hell and need ministry. But I need to accept I CANNOT DO IT ALL! Right now I am being held back from ministry, and that is fine. I cannot carry the guilt of the entire planets salvation and discipleship. It is in Gods hands. I am only responsible to do what he calls me to do right this second, even if that is praying with my five year old or smiling at a cashier or blessing someone by meeting one of their needs. I don't need to hurry up and rush my life and rush my kids growing up so I can get out there and do "real" ministry. I need to just be in tune with God and be content with where I am at right now.

My life is one step at a time, not one jet ride going Mach 20 at a time. I have to accept right where I am at right this moment and only look to take the next tiny step forward, instead of forcing myself to become someone else so I will finally measure up and be acceptable. I am already accepted. Even if I never grow another millimeter spiritually, God still accepts me! Even if I am a "yeller" forever, God sill accepts me. Even if I never sew straight, God still accepts me. He knew all my faults when he created me and he still loves me and found me worth dying for.

I honestly believe my journey to find myself is finally over. I started this blog nearly three years at trying to find me, and I have, I was here all along! The next step is to look hard in that mirror, smile, and give myself a big hug and say to myself, "I love you, you are truly beautifully and wonderfully made."

It's as if I have lived my entire life wishing I could be a bird. I am constantly telling God "but Lord I can't fly, only if I could fly then everything would be right!" and God sees that I don't have wings and never will have wings and it's ridiculous for me to spend all my time and energy trying to figure out how to fly when I will never be a bird! There are things he really wants to work with me on, but he can't because I am obsessed with changing things that cannot be changed and are just ridiculous to the Lord. I think they are faults and shortcomings when it is just not my make up as a person! Once I accept that I am a person and not a bird, then God will finally be able to say, "finally! You are where I have been waiting for you all along. Let's walk this way and see what things I can do."

I am laying down my dreams, laying down all the ministry and work I have done in my own strength. I am laying down all the people I wish I was. I am laying down everything I think is wrong with me. I am laying done everything I think I want to become. I am only then reaching out my empty hands and taking Gods hand in mine. Then I can allow him to lead me to where he wants me to go and make the changes he sees necessary in his way and his time.

Until then, here I am, and I am wonderful, just as I am.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Today has not been a good day.

I found myself sick and tired of my life. I am sick of my house being a disaster because there are five of us crammed in our trailer. I am sick of not having enough money to buy batteries for my baby's swing. I am sick and tired of having to live on food stamps, of struggling to survive every month. Im sick of knowing that a lot of people my age are so much better off financially and have such higher quality of life.

I wondered, I am a smart, beautiful, talented young woman, when did I become such a loser?

I turned on the computer to type out my frustrations but when I turned it on, my husband had left open a window from this morning. He was reading an article on CNN. It was all about the children starving in Somalia. I read the article and watched the video and just sat here crying.

How dare I sit here in self pity and whine about my circumstances. How dare I compare myself to my American peers and be so depressed. My peers in Africa have to hold their babies and watch them starve to death, and there is nothing they can do.

I get so frustrated when my kids ask for a snack or cry and I have to stop what I am doing to deal with them "hassling" me. When things don't go my way and I am not feeling great (I have been sick for a few days) I yell at them and put them down.

But to hold them and watch them die and know there is nothing I can do? I can't bear to imagine it.

Needless to say I am out of my pouty fit. I am so blessed to have a trailer to live in, to have food on my table, to be able to feed and clothe my kids. Those poor mommies cuddling their dying lifeless babies in despair while I sit here typing about their sad situation ON MY COMPUTER!!!

What they wouldn't give to be me for even a day. To spend hours playing in the garden hose with my kids. To snuggle on the couch and watch a movie eating popcorn. To have three meals a day plus snacks. To nurse a healthy baby. To have a happy healthy home. To be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. To have a great doctor and access to whatever my kids need to battle disease. To go school shopping for new clothes at my leisure. To have eternal security in Christ so even if this life IS bad, I face a wonderful future with my Savior.

And I take it all fore granted because I feel like a "loser" compared to other Americans.

How twisted and sickening the whole prospect of it all is.

I am humbled, and my priorities are officially readjusted.

Thank you Jesus, I needed that.