It's not quite a quiver full, but it's a start!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On the Mountaintop

As Christians we've all been there. The passion that overtakes us, the desire to be great, the emotion, the calling. We are on the mountaintop. We have never felt closer to God, never felt more passionate about a certain ministry, never had such "clarity". But it fades, and what happens as we begin to travel back down the mountain? In that moment, at the top, we want to change the world. It may last a few hours, a day, a week, but usually that passion begins to get replaced with something else. Without even noticing it, the passion turns to comfort.

“We have hearts that lead us to do nothing. We do not deliberately withhold compassion, but we do not think beyond our personal worlds.”

I love when God begins to stir up something great. I love when He begins a movement of something that is close to His heart. Stirring up a desire in masses to seek out Scriptures, stirring up in masses a desire to serve, stirring up in masses a desire to get closer to Him and to become who He has called us to be. My friend shared on her blog today about "The Ordinary Heart". It spoke to me so much knowing where she was coming from in this. Knowing that God has been secretly stirring up a desire in the hearts of many women I love and that He is beginning to make it known to all of us what He is calling us to do. The mountaintop is just not enough, not if we want to actually make a difference, not if we want to change the world.

"We see a video on one of the big global issues and it makes us sad for a moment. We may even shed a tear or two. We are moved, sometimes to action for a short time. But then life goes on, we get wrapped back up in our own little worlds and we forget that there is an entire world of injustice out there. That is not compassion. That is emotion. And emotion is not is what is needed to make a change."

We go to conferences, we attend conventions, we constantly seek after ways to be "better". We seek after the "self-help" aspect of religion as if it is the very bane of our existence. And you know what, it actually is. Not the seeking, but the self-seeking. The Old English word "bana" means "slayer", the bane of our existence is "something that kills you". But how can seeking ways to be better kill us? No, technically, our self-seeking won't kill us, but it has the very real power to kill our influence, to kill our impact. My God is not a "self-help" God, my God is a God who serves and calls me to serve along side of Him.

“When we have to hold a conference like this to remind the Church to be compassionate, something is fundamentally wrong.”

Amen! I will take it a step further and say if we have to hold conferences to get people excited about being a Christian, something is fundamentally wrong. If we are constantly seeking to better ourselves, but it never sticks; if we are constantly having these brief moments when we want to change the world, but do not go out and do something about it; if we keep treating our relationship with God as if it has everything to do with us and nothing to do with the rest of the world, we're just missing it. As Christians we are called to be filled with Christ. Filled with His love, His purpose, His compassion. If we are not able to live out our calling without being on the mountaintop then something is fundamentally wrong.

"Anyone who sets himself up as 'religious' by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world."

Something that God has been laying on my heart over and over and over the past 2 years is that religion is not as "bad" as it has been made out to be. Yes, it is all about a relationship with God, no, it is not about following a bunch of rules, and, no, there is absolutely no amount of "good" that we can do to work our way into Heaven. But there is a vast seperation between our salvation and our lifestyle. Anyone can talk the talk, but not many are walking the walk. And we as the church scratch our heads and wonder why many have turned away from established religion, we wonder why the hurting are the ones turning away from the church, we can't understand why the message of Christianity is being met with such distaste. Our actions have no effect on our entrance into Heaven. Once we accept the Lord as our Savior and believe that He died as a sacrifice for us, it is finished our fate is sealed. But our actions have absolutely everything to do with our wittness to others, and absolutely everything to do with whether or not they will make the decision to believe. If we go about our lives bound for Heaven heaping upon ourselves abundant grace, why would anyone believe they need what we have? If they look at your life and it looks the same as theirs, what would they need our God for?

"The sum of your faith is only as good as the sum of your works. Because we know Jesus Christ as Savior, our practices manifest our devotion to Him."

If we as Christians were actually being "religious", people would not be running from God. They would be running toward Him. If we as Christians were actually living by the Word people would not feel shunned. They would feel loved. Being religious is not being self-righteous. Being religious is not just following rules because they are rules, but following rules because they are right. If we were truly being "religious" calling others to live in accordance to their high calling wouldn't make people feel judged, it would make them feel encouraged. Maybe the problem is that as Christians we forgot about our religion as soon as we gained our salvation. We are judgemental rather than encouraging, we are turning people out rather than loving them in. We don't follow the rules because we are forgiven, and they see only hypocrisy not grace. Then we continually go to the mountaintop to find God, but we leave Him behind as we come down.

"Why is there still so much injustice in the world? Some blame God. They ask why He hasn’t done something. Why He allows it to continue. It isn’t God’s fault. It is ours."

Monday, February 27, 2012

All in the details

There on the arm of the couch were their little outfits. They were lined up nice and neat and ready to go. I saw them and wanted to completely lose it. I felt unloved and ignored all because of these little outfits still neatly folded up on the arm of the couch. How threatening these little things can sometimes be to our feelings.

Sunday mornings are hard on me because leading praise and worship means I have to leave early. I can't eat breakfast with my family, I can't help get the kids ready, and I can't drop them off in their classes and watch them run off to play with their friends. There's something about missing out on those little moments that makes it hard. And despite the fact that I absolutely love leading praise and worship, I was almost in tears this morning as I left the house before anyone else was even awake. I left my hubby and three babies all snuggled comfy in our bed, and I headed to church. I left with a heart full of love at the site of them all asleep, and I headed off to do what I love to do, but for some reason the desire to be with my family was so very strong this morning. Perhaps it was because a local pastor lost his 17 year-old son yesterday and I was feeling especially sensitive to that tender spot in my heart for my family. Insert reason number one I was already vulnerable.

Last Sunday, when I picked our daughter up after church she was wearing grey sweatpants with a completely un-matching dress (yes, a dress over sweatpants) and her brother's big brown jacket. It really caught me off-guard A) because it didn't match B) because it was not her nice clothes by any means and C) because I forgot her daddy had to get her ready for church in the mornings. He doesn't always do a bad job dressing them, and I know it's hard for him to get them all ready for church and drop them off without my help, but I made sure to mention to him that it really bothered me how he had dressed her for church. I don't dress my kids in the latest styles and they are by no means the best dressed, but it was just something that really bothered me deep down in my core when I saw how they were dressed. Insert reason number two I was vulnerable.

This week, I decided I was going to make things easier for my hubby, so I picked out their outfits for church, put them on the arm of the couch, and showed them to him. I made sure I told him that I got their outfits ready at least three times the night before. I made sure I even showed him where they were. I was half-joking because I wanted to "make sure" he had no excuse to forget where the clothes were. He laughed and said, "I will not forget." Insert the reason those clothes still sitting on the arm of the couch made me want to completely lose my mind.

After being so upset having to leave my babies that morning I excitedly went to pick them up from nursery. My son, who is 8 months old but wears 18 month clothes, was stuffed into a nice outfit that was a size 9 months. My daughter was wearing a blue and white hand me down sweater that has been loved to death and is falling apart with bright pink pants that are about 3 inches too short. Insert the straw that broke this momma camel's back.

As irrational as it may seem, in my vulnerability, the sight of my children in these clothes made me feel completely disrespected. I had lovingly picked out their clothes, laid them out in an effort to make my husband's job easier, and made sure he knew where they were. He told me that he could not find the clothes that morning, that he did remember me telling him, that he did look for them, but that he just didn't see them. And I walk in to see them right there on the arm of the couch in the exact spot I left them. Insert my feelings of uselessness, being unloved, like my words mean nothing, like my feelings mean nothing, like everything I do is a waste of time.

It sounds funny reading this to some I'm sure. I know there is a woman saying, it's just clothes, and I really, honestly wished I could have seen it that way. But in that moment it was about all of the times I have felt ignored. In that moment, it was all about my husband telling me with his actions that what I said to him and what I did for him just doesn't matter. In that moment, I was d.o.n.e. We all have that moment. Whether it's over a little thing, like an ignored request, or whether it's a big thing, like a broken promise, or whether it's just a long string of everything. Insert my "what do I do now" face.

I wish I would have been able to respond graciously to this, but I didn't. We were meeting my family for lunch, but, honestly, the sight of my kids in those clothes was just too much for me to handle, so I went to the restaurant and asked my husband (who was already sitting at the table with my family and our kids) to meet me outside. And I did lose it. The tears poured down my face, and I told him that I could not believe that he would treat me that way. I threatened that if he went to baseball that afternoon that I would never forgive him because the thought of him following through on a commitment to someone else when he had deliberately ignored a request from me was too much for me to handle. Insert my "I wish I could turn back time" face.

We don't always act appropriately when something goes wrong, no matter what that is. It's all in the details when it comes to our feelings as a woman. The little things remind me that you will respect me in the big things. If I'm feeling insecure, the little things are the things I will cling to the most. Friday night we had spent the night celebrating Valentine's Day. The fact that we had gone to my favorite sushi restaurant, gone to an amazing Cirque du Soleil show, and had a completely perfect night enjoying each other's company meant nothing in that moment when, because of a few pieces of clothing, I felt completely disrespected. Sometimes we really can't control how we feel about a situation, but we can control our reaction. It reminds me of the verse, "In your anger, do not sin." Our feelings are not sins, sometimes we cannot control it. How I felt about those clothes, there was nothing that I or anyone else could say to convince myself to feel anything differently about it. But, what I could have done was chosen to react a completely different way. Insert me here, praying that next time I can act with self-control and grace rather than acting out of my hurt feelings.

Those clothes are still there, sitting on the arm of the couch. I figured it makes it easier on me tomorrow when I need to dress them. Luckily, after a good cry, a good nap, and a fun night of laughter with friends, my feelings are being mended. Now I just have to pray that in my moments of hurt I will learn to lean on God rather than allowing these moments to place the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

God LONGS to Be with You

In the beginning when God created the Earth, He walked among His creation. He walked through the garden with Adam and Eve, talking with them. It wasn't until sin entered the picture that God had to separate Himself from man, yet even then He continued to find ways to be with them. Speaking to them audibly, appearing to them in dreams, making covenants with them. God desperately desired a relationship with a fallen creation. Even when the world became so wicked that He wished He had never even created it, He found Himself so filled with compassion for His creation that He still longed to save it.

In Exodus, The presence of God led the Israelites in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God instructed Moses to construct the Ark of the Covenant, and filled it with His presence and symbols of His covenant with His people as a constant reminder to them that He was among them. God desperately desires to be among His people, loving them, leading them. He seeks to remind us of His presence and power in all that He does. He longed for a relationship with us so much that His own presence, in the form of Jesus Christ, came as a man to dwell among us, paving the way for something even better.

I've always wished I could have been blessed to have been on the earth during the life of Christ. To see Him, to walk with Him, to learn from Him. It wasn't until recently that I learned of the blessing of this time here on Earth. In the here and now, we are still called into His presence. In fact, we are constantly in His presence, or maybe a bit more accurately, He is in ours. Jesus stated in Luke, that He must leave to pave the way for us to do even better things than He had done while on Earth. He promised us a helper to endwell in us, to lead us the same as the God of the Old Testament, to teach us the same as Jesus, and to empower us in a way that had not been done before. God longed so desperately to be with us that His own Son, was led to the slaughter in order to pave the way for the Holy Spirit to endwell in His people.

God provided a permanent bridge to cross the gap that separated Him from His creation when sin entered the world. Now there are no boundaries. He endwells us, filling us with His Spirit. He empowers us with greater strength than we could ever imagine, strength to fulfill any calling He places on us. God is in us, and through us does great and powerful things. Despite all of our short comings, God longs for us to allow Him to enter in, to allow Him to change our hearts, to be sanctified unto Him, and for us to ultimately spend eternity in His Holy presence just as He had created us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are you content to be on the outside of God?

Are you content to stand on the outside, watching others as they are bathed in His presence? Are you content to see the joy fill the faces of others, but to never know how that feels? Are you content where you are? Are you content to be a Christian who is "saved", but not set apart? Let us find God, be filled with God, and fervently seek after Him at all times. We are called to a high calling. Are you living up to that call? Are you a light in the darkness? Let us desire to be taken into the Holy of Holies, be cleansed by God, be used by Him.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Child's Keeper

When I consider what it means to be a mother I am filled with honor and excitement. When I think that God has given over to me these little beings, fresh and new, unblemished by the world, to grow them up in His calling, I am amazed.To know that He found me worthy of the calling of "mother" can be an overwhelming thought. It brings so much freedom, yet so much fear at the same time. Fortunately the freedom is the true calling and the fear is of my own making.

The freedom of God's calling of mother, is that while I am the mother, God is the one who is in true control. My job as my child's keeper is to plant in them the seeds that will grow to create the beauty God is bringing up in them. As a mother I carefully plant the seeds of love, confidence, self-worth, and purpose. I tend to them, keep the weeds of the world from choking them out. I use every opportunity to do the best I possibly can, but in the end God is the one who grows those seeds, who matures those seeds, who causes those seeds to bring forth fruit. The freedom is that I do the best I can in everything, apologize and try better when I fail, and love as much as I can then I pray in those moments that I have no control, and know that it all is in God's hands. My children don't need perfection from me, they already have a perfect heavenly Father. They need someone to teach them the right path, so that when they feel God's leading them they will recognize it. They need me to lay the foundation for God to build on, and then I can be there to help them along the narrow way.

Yes, there is great freedom in the calling of mother. There also seems to be a great bit of fear as well. Fear that our children will stray, fear that our children will not come to know the Lord, fear that we will not do enough. We need to be able to separate our convictions from our fears, to recognize when we need to change and when we need to pray. The convictions God lays on our heart to change the things that we have control over, our attitude and our methods, these things we can change to keep ourselves in His will. However, our children's attitudes, the choices they make out of their own free will, the path that they may decide to take that we do not agree with, are all things we fear, yet these are all things we can do nothing about. In those moments we need to recognize the freedom in our calling, that our job is to plant the seeds, but we cannot make them grow into completion. We need to let go of the fear of losing control, the fear of who our children will become, the fear that we will mess everything up if we do something wrong, and recognize the truth in our calling. The fact that God is the true, perfect parent and our job is to lead them in His direction.

And as they grow, if when they mess up, and if they choose to stray, have faith in the seeds that you planted and in the foundation that you laid. Recognize the calling you have on your life, but recognize the responsibility that your children have to apply these things themselves. Our children are not our puppets anymore than we are puppets to the Almighty Father. We cannot, and do not want to, control their every single move. We want them to be their own people, with the ability to make their own decisions, and we know that God can turn their greatest mistakes into the greatest growth. We lead them, not leash them. We love them, not lure them. We do what we can, and God does the rest.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When was the last time you felt "Angst"?

Anguish: Grief, often used to convey the added element of mental distress.

I would be five months pregnant right now. This morning, I found myself holding my stomach, as if I were waiting to feel the little flutters. As if I truly thought I was still pregnant, but I'm not pregnant anymore. You may say, "God doesn't let you be tested beyond what you can bear." To that I say, oh, yes, He does. The rest of that scripture is "with your testing He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it." It is not that He does not allow us to face more than we can handle, it is that HE brings us THROUGH it. And no matter how it feels at the time, He WILL bring us through it.

Beth Moore describes anguish as "pain + anxiety", "suffering + dread", "hurt + harassment".

It could be physical pain, emotional distress, or rejection. There are things going on in our lives at all times that can stir up in us these feelings of angst. Sometimes it's sparked by a situation that pulls every single emotion out of us. Sometimes it drudges out the things of our past that we had convinced ourselves were buried. What brings me anguish may seem silly to you and vice versa, but the only thing that seems to matter during our times of anguish is how it feels. Emotions are hard to overcome, hard to see through, and I'm convinced that in our times of anguish the root of it will always be emotion. In every one of these definitions there is an emotion involved. Anxiety, dread, hurt. If we were just feeling pain, suffering, or harassment these times may not cause such grief. It's the added emotions that we naturally associate to every single aspect of our life that has the ability to bring about such mental distress, such harm. There have been times when I have thought this has been way more than I could bear on my own. But God. Through it all God has provided godly friends and leaders who have supported me, held me up when I couldn't do it on my own, and encouraged me to follow my calling in all situations. God provided me with insights that I would never have gotten otherwise.

The great thing about angst is that it doesn't end there. It is but a moment, and it has the potential to change everything you know yourself to be.

Yes, anguish has the potential to completely devestate you, to make you give up on God and turn away, to make you forget your purpose. That is why Satan uses it to come against you, he knows that so often we will give up in the middle rather than sticking it out. But God sees the potential that can come from the anguish as He lovingly leads us through it. He wills for us to place ourselves in His hands and let Him carry us. He has a plan for our lives. He has a place He wants us to get to, a place of His perfect will for our life. He will use every single thing in our life to get us there. He turns our greatest pain into our greatest purpose.

I love and wish I could share every single word and scripture from week 3 in the "Mercy Triumphs" study on James from Beth Moore, but I will simply share the main points and why we are able to, in God, consider the fact that joy is about to come through our sorrow. Did you ever consider how anguish and joy can coexist? James 1:2. Did you know that anguish and joy can trade places? That in a moment of anguish you will be given a moment of joy that will replace it? Isaiah 61:1-3. Have you been able to recognize that anguish can morph into joy? That a moment of anguish can itself be turned into joy? John 16:20.

Anguish is always meant to lead to a birth. No matter what anguish it is we face, we can glory in the knowledge that it is for a purpose. That if we let these trials produce their completed work in us we will become "perfect and complete lacking nothing" as James shares. There is no greater joy I feel than knowing that even here on Earth I can find myself abiding in His perfect and completed will for my life. Will I be the world's idea of the "perfect" woman? Will I never sin? No, but I will be exactly who and where God wants me to be. My life will be exactly what he has purposed for it.When I consider what can come from anguish, what better option is there than to give it over to God and allow Him to turn it into something glorious?

I know the promise that is held in allowing these trials to be used, in allowing myself to let anguish bring about a completed work in me. So I will push through it. Come what may.

Friday, February 10, 2012

8 Weeks to Adoption: Moving Mountains

'"You realize you're pretty much asking us to do the impossible, to move mountains.' My response was, 'Yes, I realize that. But that's not a problem for God. He's in the mountain moving business.'"

In early December, a family was made aware of a beautiful 13 year old girl in need of a home. I shared with you their testimony in late December, asking you to flood Heaven with prayers for this family, and I have been absolutely bouncing off the walls to share with you their success! I've been trying to figure out a way to type this out that truly conveys the absolute miracle that has been performed, but I feel like there are no words that can truly capture the mountains that God has physically moved for this family. I'm not going to be able to give every single detail of every single miraculous step that has happened, just know that it was an absolutely impossible situation in which absolutely impossible things had to happen over and over and over in order for this to happen. I will try to relay the amazing things that have happened, I will try to give you a picture of the sheer magnitude of what God has done, and I know that even if my words fall short the evidence of God's hand and of His purpose is just undeniable!

This was a literal battle against the clock. The only way I can describe it is that here was this little girl trapped in an hour glass, with sand pouring over her, about to run out of time, about to be lost forever. This beautiful, precious daughter of God turns 14 at the end of February. Yes, that is just a few short weeks from now, and it was only 2 short months from the time this family discovered her. If she does not have her "gotcha date" by her birthday, she can NEVER be adopted. Even if there is a family desperately wanting her, they cannot get her, there is absolutely nothing that can be done. She would most likely be turned out to the streets, a victim of sex trafficking or other terrible high risk situations. The problem was, a file had never been made for this precious girl. She has grown up in an orphanage, watched all of her friends get adopted, but no one thought anyone would want her so they never even made a file. It would be impossible to get a file made and to find her a family and to get everything finalized before her birthday. As the adoption agency said, the family was asking to do the impossible, but they said to at least try.

"In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears." Psalm 18:6

Getting a file for this beautiful child of God was, at the moment, the least of this family's worries. They had adopted a daughter just a year ago. Those who have adopted know the financial burden that comes with adoption. How would it be possible to adopt another child so soon? Less than two weeks into the new adoption process they had already received 75% of the money they needed! January 5th, one month later, they have a file for this precious girl!!! This means they should now be able to get pre-approval. In order for things to happen as they need to, they need to happen immediately. By January 10th the impossible was seeming even more impossible and by now time was absolutely critical. The document that was supposed to have left the embassy needed to be there the next day, they needed immediate pre-approval, a log-in date within 24 hours of receipt of their dossier, and LOA (letter of acceptance) before January 23rd.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

On January 13th they had received pre-approval (meaning they were "officially matched") for their beautiful, hopefully soon-to-be daughter. Just hours before  pre-approval they had received a donation that brought them 100% of their needed funds! Praise to the Almighty Father who holds the hearts of the orphans in His hands, who provides for their every need! Also on January 13th their dossier was delivered, and they had been issued a log-in-date the same exact day! Again, praise God for continued answers to prayers! By January 20th they had been issued their LOA! God's continuous provision was completely overwhelming. There is usually an 80 day wait between the time you get your log-in date until the time you receive your LOA. The agency was 98% certain that this would never happen. BUT GOD! On January 21st, Eliana was told that she has a family!!!

On February 1st, their Article 5 had been issued and overnighted (this is approval for Eliana's visa once the adoption is complete). It normally takes a minimum of 2 weeks for this to be issued, but they had theirs within 24hrs. The only thing left was the official invitation to bring their daughter home! Within 2 days they had their travel approval!!! Despite all of the impossible circumstances, the road blocks, the literal mountains that needed to be moved, the only thing left to do is to go get their little girl!!!

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" Matthew 19:26

Thursday, February 9, 2012

You are my Everything.

When I was leading worship for our youth group, this was one of my absolute favorite songs to do. I cannot even say how many times I feel myself singing this out to God. How can we find ourselves in the presence of God and not be moved? He truly is all that we want, all we need, our everything. My hands are lifted up in praise to the God who was, who is, and who is to come! We praise you, Almighty Father, Maker of Heaven and Earth, for being absolutely, completely, 100% everything!

When people fail me, He is JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH "the Lord who is present" in Him I am never alone.
When I need Him to fight for me, He is JEHOVAH-NISSI "the Lord is my banner" in Him victory is certain.
When the trials have filled every aspect of my life, He is JEHOVAH-SHALOM "the Lord is peace" in Him there is sanity.
When there are doubts, He is EL-ROI "the strong one who sees" in Him there is comfort.
When I stray, He is JEHOVAH-ROHI "the Lord is my shepherd" in Him there is restoration and a clear path.
When I long to be everything He has called me to be, He is JEHOVAH-MACCADDESHEM "the Lord my sanctifier" in Him there is purpose and fullfillment.
When life seems too hard to bear, when I wonder who it is I serve, He is EL-ELYON, EL-SHADDAI, EL-OLAM "the most high God, God Almighty, the everlasting God" in Him there is no weakness.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Best Friends Forever or Just For Now?

Is it just me, or is the term "Best Friends Forever" just a set-up for disappointment? I remember when we ran into one of my mom's best friends from college, I was about 10. When she told me she never even talks to her anymore I could not understand it. I even told my friends as soon as I saw them how ridiculous it was. I was never going to be my mom, and I would talk to my friends forever! I figured maybe my mom was halfway right and I wouldn't talk to my friends from elementary or even high school forever, but certainly college. It just didn't make sense. I thought we were supposed to be friends forever. What are you supposed to do with no best friends? Those best friends I had when I was 10, I don't talk to them anymore either and I'm pretty sure my 10 year reunion will be the first time I'll even see most of my friends since high school. Even my roommates from college have started their own lives and I am not a huge part in it. We all grow up, go separate ways, find new friends. Even my husband, who grew up in the same house his entire life so he doesn't have the excuse of moving 8 times like I do, has new friends. He actually had the same friends throughout college and even until we were married. I thought it was weird, I thought maybe I just didn't understand this best friend thing after all. But, as soon as we were married and his friends were still single the relationships started to fade away. By the time we had children we never even talked to any of them anymore.

I would certainly love to think that we will have best friends forever, friends that have been there for us since we were 5, friends that knew us before anyone else, but I don't want my children to think that this is how relationships neccessarily work. I know there are some people who have been friends since they were 5 and that is amazing, but for the majority of us that's just not reality. When I was in 5th grade my parents decided to move me to a different school. I remember my best friend and I pleading, absolutely begging, her mom to move her to that school as well. We just couldn't imagine not being in eachother's lives. She did, but do you want to know what happened? My best friend soon found a new friend and they began to bully me mercilessly. Most of my friendships have not ended in such a dramatic way. Most of them begin to fade away over time until I realized those people are just not a part of my life anymore. Our interests change, our physical appearance changes, we move, there are so many reasons our relationships don't stay the same as we grow up. We are constantly growing and changing, getting closer to some people and farther apart from others, trying to live our life the way we want to and not the way others are living theirs. I certainly don't want my children to feel like there is something wrong with them if the person they once considered their best friend one day just isn't anymore. I do want to teach them to nurture their relationships, to value and cherish their friends, and to enjoy every single moment making memories, but I want them to know it's okay if it's not the same person that they are making memories with every single time.

I've learned to value my best friends for now. Those best friends I had growing up had a huge impact on me and who I am no matter how it ended. I needed them at that time in my life, and we really were best friends even if it wasn't for forever. My babies have started to form their first friendships, and I guess it's normal given my history of being bullied to want to protect them, but I know that these friends are going to be some of the most important people in their lives and I can't just keep them away from people for the rest of their lives or hand-pick who it is they hang around with. I want them to enjoy these friendships, and it's up to me to help them learn how to define what friendship even means. In order to do that I had to learn to define it myself.

It doesn't matter how long someone is your friend, if they're there for many years or just a week.  A friend is someone who knows the real you and loves you for it, someone who doesn't pressure you to do things you know are wrong and always encourages you to do what's right. A friend is someone you can talk about your hopes and your dreams with, and who will help you think of ways to accomplish them. It doesn't matter if they agree with you 100% of the time or not, you may even fight but you always forgive. A friend is someone who when you truly need them they will always be there, someone who you don't feel bad about calling in the middle of the night. A friend helps you find the strength when you feel like you can't do it anymore, and who will carry you if you need it. A friend is someone who you can pick up the phone after 20 years and you can still carry on a conversation.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Information Overload

Lately, I have read article after article after article about parenting. Why French parents are the best, why African parents are the best, why basically every parent except American parents are the best. There's new research proving that certain parenting methods are harmful to a baby's developing brain, certain parenting methods create anxiety in children, certain parenting methods create a lack of boundaries, certain parenting methods are too involved, certain parenting methods are not involved enough. On, and on, and on. The last thing I need is to read one more article telling me what I'm doing wrong, what everyone else is doing right, how I'm ruining everything. The last thing I want to do is be the author of one of these articles.

I'm not an expert, I'm just a mom. I'm very much aware that some of the things I do with my children will not work with everyone else, I'm very much aware that I am not completely perfect. The things I write in this blog are not a step-by-step guide of how to raise your children. My #1 fear is that some who read my blog will feel like that is exactly what this is. I write what I do. I write about my successes, my failures, my victories, and my struggles. I do not feel the need to constantly say, "this may not work for you," or to constantly point out that I am not perfect. When I'm reading articles like that I feel like maybe the person doesn't even believe what they are saying themselves. I feel like you, as the reader, are definitely smart enough to know what works for you and what doesn't, I feel like you know that I am not perfect because none of us are. What good would it do for me to constantly point out my flaws? I don't want to read about someone's failures over and over and over without reading of their success. And when someone does write about their success I am not going to immediately feel like they are pushing down my throat the idea that they are better than I am. I know that is not what they are saying. I really hope that I'm not the only one who feels that way.

I recently read an article...yes, I read a lot of articles, and I mean an insane amount of articles, because that is something that I love to do. Anyway, I recently read an article that said facebook causes feelings of depression because we see everyone else's life and feel like ours just isn't good enough. It made it sound like people are putting forth a false image that their life is perfect. It reminded me of a few blog posts recently about people feeling bad about themselves when they read blogs. Now, I'm not saying that I have never looked at my friends' pictures of their trips abroad, their lavish weddings, their beautiful homes and thought "Oh how I wish." In fact, I'm not even saying that there haven't been times that I didn't give in to those feelings of worthlessness based on someone else. I'm not saying that I've never looked at a blog post and thought, they are doing it right and I am not. But I refuse to believe we have really gotten to the point where we believe people are trying to fake everyone into believing they are perfect. And I refuse to believe that the purpose of these posts are to make us feel badly about ourselves. I just believe that we are so much smarter than that. I think this idea of how we view others just speaks to our own perceptions of the information provided.

Honestly, in my non-expert, just a mom opinion what would really create a feeling of depression is looking at someone's facebook page or blog posts and to have it only talk about everything negative that has ever happened. So are we really creating this lose-lose situation in our life where we're upset if someone posts something negative and we're upset because someone posts something positive? Again, this is why I think this speaks to our own perception. Are we caught up in this endless cycle of comparisons?

All-in-all, I would argue that we should have the attitude that people are not setting out to create in us any feelings at all by what they post. By sharing something with us, they are just sharing how they felt in that situation. "My vacation was awesome, I want to share how awesome it was because it was so exciting for me." In the small minority of people who may post their vacation pictures to make you jealous then shame on them, but in the end shame on us for letting them have that impact. If someone posts something negative see that as an invitation to encourage, cry with, and love on them. The majority does not share something negative for the sole purpose of dragging everyone else down with them, and if they are why should we let it effect us in such a way?

Am I speaking to anyone other than myself? Maybe I don't take personally everything I read just because I read so much. It would be absolutely impossible for me to take everything I read into account in my life. I read articles about every parenting style from every country from every type of person. There are a lot of things I agree with, a lot of things I don't, a lot of things that are interesting, and a lot of things that are down right wrong. In the end the only thing I have to answer to 100% is the Word of God, everything else provides me the freedom to pick and choose what I want to believe, what I want to think more about, and what I want to completely discard. Most of all I'm just excited that these people have a passion for what they are doing, that they are sharing their views with the world. I think it's amazing that we have the ability to have the world and it's opinions at our fingertips. Yes, this can be a very overwhelming thing, that's why we should take it for what it is, a bunch of people just trying to share their life with the world and make a difference just like everyone else.

Something Happens to the Old You

When you are a Christian something happens to the old you. It's like someone flips a switch on your life, and you are completely changed. Things that never made sense before finally do, and others can't understand how it is you know the things you do. When you are a Christian the things that you used to take pride in no longer matter, what used to be entertaining does nothing but leave you empty, the things you used to feel seem so shallow and mundane.

When you know Jesus something happens to the old you. It's like your life finally has a purpose, and you can't wait to begin each new day. Things that used to seem unimagineable before begin to happen, and others can't understand the blessings in your life. When you know Jesus the people you used to ignore now take center stage, the fallen world brings your heart pain and you seek to bring redemption, a soul saved brings your spirit joy and you long to celebrate the eternal.

When you change your life something happens to the old you. It's like no one can recognize you anymore, and you can't even recognize yourself. Things that used to define you are changed, and others can't figure out what happened. When you change your life something happens to the people around you, they begin to notice something is different and want to know what it is, you no longer have to tell others about Jesus because they begin to ask you.

When you become the Light of the World something happens to the old you. It's like you are set apart, and others are drawn to you. Things that become a daily part of your life are so different from how everyone else lives, and others want to know how you do it. When you become the Light of the World people are drawn to you like a moth to the flame, the difference you make in another's life is done before you even open your mouth to speak, they no longer see you but see Jesus Himself.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Loving the Terribleness of Toddlerhood

The other day, I posted about the toddler in me, and it really got me thinking about the comparison between my toddlers and myself. Immediately after having children there were warnings of the terrible two's and horrible three's, but the thing is, I love this age. Toddlers do everything out of emotion. If they feel it, they do it. If they want it, they take it. If they think it, they say it. In reality, aren't they doing exactly what we want to do? I'm not saying what they do is right. On the contrary, living out of the flesh is exactly what we as Christians are instructed not to do. So how does my children acting out in their flesh play such a huge roll in my parenting style and why do I love it so much?

I love it because as adults we have gotten so good at one thing: hiding our flaws. We hide them from the world and, most importantly, we hide them from ourselves. This is the complete opposite of my children, who don't care what other people think about them and don't have the slightest desire to try to hide anything from me. So how can I use this to my advantage? If I am paying attention to my children, listening to them when they speak, watching how they act and treat others, it doesn't take very long to figure out exactly what areas I need to work on with them. In fact, their honesty and inability to hide their feelings makes my job so much easier. Just this morning, I was able to take advantage of my son's honesty and use it to teach him a valuable lesson. As I was fixing my hair my three year old told me, "I don't want to go to church today. We have toys here at home." Oh how I wanted to say, I know exactly how you feel buddy (again recognizing the toddler in me too)! But I was able to recognize in his honesty a teachable moment. We spent the next minute or so (he's 3, so this did not go into a deep, theological discussion) talking about why we go to church, that it's not just about toys. We talked about learning about Jesus from our wonderful teachers, gathering with our friends to talk about Jesus together, and the importance of going to church so we can take some time to focus on solely God. And then I made sure I thanked him for being honest about his feelings, because oh how I love their honesty.

Whenever my children are acting in a way that toddlers do, testing the limits, standing their ground, being rude, you name it, it is always an opportunity for me to teach them something based on how they are acting in that moment. It's like a big neon sign pointing to exactly what I need to do. How could I not love that? I'm not saying it's not difficult. In fact, sometimes I want to pretend I didn't just hear what they said or ignore their actions so I can finish what I'm doing rather than having to "teach" my child a valuable lesson. The reason I love it is because the older they get the harder it will be for me to recognize what they need me to do to help teach them. In the exact same way that it has become harder for me to recognize my own short falls at times because I have gotten so good at covering it up, my children will also learn the art of masking their struggles.

The only difference between a toddler and an adult is our ability to act with self-control and responsibility. So, I will embrace these times of toddlerhood because the things that make it so "terrible" are the exact things that will help me effectively raise up my children to be self-controlled, responsible adults.  Like I said, the feelings we have as toddlers never really go away, so why not teach our children how to deal with them in the moment rather than leaving them to try to figure it out later?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Journey of James

I recently shared where I am in my Bible study, at a crossroads between the Word of God and the words of man. I shared my excitement with my newest Bible study and how I will be challenging myself to memorize the entire book of James along with women all over the country. So, here I go with my printed pages, my highlighter, and a mind ready to learn. I am giving myself five months to memorize it (give or take). That is a pace of one chapter a month. I chose the NASB version because I felt it was the easiest to speak and was still in keeping to the original text. Here is a quick comparison of translations. This month I will be memorizing chapter 1. I will go verse by verse, line by line. Feel free to join me if you want. I can't wait at the end of this journey to post myself reciting the entire book of James by heart!

James 1

Testing Your Faith
1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Toddler in Me

It took having kids of my own to be able to recognize some of my biggest flaws. The toddler that is in my head saying, "Mine, mine, mine" and the temper tantrums just fighting to get out. I guess the only difference between being an adult and being a toddler is not giving in to these feelings. If you pay attention you can see this inner toddler coming out in everyone. The teenage girl who argues with her mother over her wardrobe, the grandma who wants to have Thanksgiving at her house and do it exactly her way no matter what, the husband and wife who argue over what to do with the budget. The desire for control, the desire to do it our way, the desire to do it just because someone wants to do something else. It's something that is in us no matter how old we are. It's the same things I try to correct in my children on a daily basis that still try to come out in me. I try to remind them to put others ahead of themselves, to always share, to compromise when someone wants to play a different game than they do, to admit when they are wrong. Yet, here I am with the toddler in my head trying to go against everything I am teaching them. When something unexpected happens there I am wanting to throw a tantrum because they aren't going the way I want them to. When we need to use the money I've set aside for something special for an unforseen expense I want to stamp my feet and hold my breath just hoping that I can get my way and do what I want. I don't want to think about what's best for everyone else, I have my own ideas. I don't want to think about priorities, I just want to do what I want to do. Oh the little toddler in my head. Sometimes she'll make her way out, and I have to correct her and put her back in her place. Instead I have to remember to act with self-control, to be responsible, and to actually act out the things I teach my children everyday. No, the toddler in us never really goes away, it's too stubborn for that. But at least I can recognize when the toddler in me starts to come out and correct it.

Proverbs 29:11
A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Enjoy the Night

I enjoy the night...
I enjoy the quiet that comes when the sun goes down, the comfort when surrounded in darkness,
the sound of peacefully sleeping babies and a softly snoring husband.
I enjoy the privacy of being the only one awake, the feeling of being alone without having to be lonely,
the sense of being me and only me.
I enjoy the ability to let my mind wander, the peace of spending time alone in my own head,
the joy of listening to my thoughts uninterrupted.
I enjoy the closeness I can feel to everyone around me, the cloak of invisibility that surrounds me,
the secret way I can sneak from room to room to watch my babies sleep.
I enjoy the way I can forget the pain of the day, the hope of a new morning,
the escape into my dreams.
I enjoy the night, it's my favorite time of day...