We play cards at midnight.
When uncertainties gnaw at stomach. When fear bears down. When sleep is hard to come by. When words don't comfort and anxiety steals peace.
We play cards.
We say little, letting minds be distracted by momentary diversion, using it to push aside nagging thoughts.
We play cards.
To ignore the irrational thinking, the worry. It isn't spiritual, but it is battle, resisting Satan's attempts to take control of our minds. Prayer and reading the Bible are the ultimate weapons of course, and we use them, but honestly some days comfort doesn't come quickly or easily. I think it's because God wants us to endure. How do we grow in patience if it's never tested? How do we learn to hold our ground if we never have to? So instead of lying fitfully in bed, letting our thoughts get away with us, we fill our time in simple activity. In the quietness of the late hour, the moment feels sacred.
We play cards at midnight.
And together we stand against the powers of darkness.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
“We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord. We will tell of His power and the mighty miracles He did. So each generation can set its hope anew on God, remembering His glorious miracles and obeying His commands.”
Psalm 78:4,7 NLB
It's easy for me to get down on myself over my parenting. I read verses like this and guilt creeps in. I can't say I've ever sat my kids down Sunday school style and imparted God's Word to them. We've learned verses over the years, but not in regular fashion. Family devotion time has been inconsistent at best. We've tried working with the kids one on one in Bible study, but sadly it hasn't become a habit yet.
So, when I think about proclaiming the "glorious deeds of the Lord" to the next generation, I assume my husband and I fall short. Have we failed as parents? Is God looking down at us, shaking His head in disappointment?
While it's true we could do a better job intentionally building faith into our kids, I am amazed as they get older how much they've caught. They've espoused our values without our formal training. I see them apply Truth in every day situations and I scratch my head wondering how it happened without more deliberate attempts on our part.
Do I forget teaching comes in many forms? Is it possible to proclaim God's Truth informally?
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
This sounds like day to day living to me and you know what? I have accomplished this. We've talked plenty about God and relationships sitting at home at the dinner table and along the road in a vehicle. Spiritual topics come up when I'm ready to lie down (Why, oh why do kids save questions for bedtime? Why must my favorite conversations come after midnight?!)
In these daily interactions my kids have picked up on the "glorious deeds of the Lord." They hold their own convictions about drinking and marrying believers and reading their Bibles. Their ability to match Scripture to real life without even realizing it, astounds me. They possess wisdom in relationships beyond their years. Did they get this from our preaching to them? I don't think we've been consistent enough to reap rewards from that.
Is it possible that what we've lacked in formal teaching we've made up for by living out our faith authentically?
I wish I was more successful at purposefully teaching my kids about God, but I'm thankful another way they can learn is through His Spirit working in me. I'll keep trying intentional instruction, because it is important, but I won't beat myself up about my failures.
My kids have taught me not to underestimate the power of a good example.
For more ideas about this quote, visit Karen at In Love W.I.T.H. Jesus.
Monday, June 27, 2011
I got the vibe I didn't measure up and when we talked about it, I wasn't convinced otherwise. She was kind, intended no malice, and gave me honesty which I asked for, yet her words stung.
We're human. We do this to each other. No doubt you've experienced it yourself. I've brought others pain too. We don't understand and assume too much or expect too much and cause each other grief.
But if love keeps no record of wrongs, why does the hurt linger? Why can't we overlook it? Why don't we let it go? Why do we harbor ill feelings instead of lovingly moving on? What stops us from believing the best?
Do we lack self-control when we let our minds dwell on the negative? Aren't we empowered by the Holy Spirit to forgive? Do we need to force ourselves to forget too?
I suspect we put what we want ahead of what God wants. Is this why we carry the hurt? We want to be right, justified. Do we think we keep control by hanging on to the pain?
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
My sinful nature desires to point fingers, to debate, to blame, to win. But what does God want? What does the Spirit desire? Would He approve of me holding on to wounds from relationships? Does He want me weighed down by them? Don't I damage myself by doing so? Aren't I missing the victorious life the Bible promises?
Shouldn't I give others the clean slate Jesus provides for me?
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:4
If I love well, I keep no record of wrongs. It won't feel natural, because it isn't, so it will take some practice. I need lots of practice. But it's right. And good. And worth working at.
It's time to throw away the record, friends. Only then can we believe the best about others and maintain the kind of relationships Jesus desires for us.
Friday, June 24, 2011
1) Kevin sang in a men's quartet on Father's Day. As soon as he finished and sat down, Drama Queen motioned to me from across the room to check my phone.
Her text said, "Your husband is a stud. Hands down."
The poor guy can never tell if he's going to be "old school" or a stud.
2) Apparently Ladies Man has a new concern.
Ladies Man: What kind of car am I going to have to get so I can fit in it?
Kevin: What do you mean? It's not like you're ten feet tall.
Ladies Man: But what about my big feet? They can be a hazard.
Kevin: Oh brother.
Ladies Man: No really. I googled "big feet and cars" and saw a video where this guy got his foot stuck trying to use the brakes and got in an accident because of it.
This kid has so many issues.
3) Case in point:
Drama Queen put this picture on Facebook with a caption that said something about him being too lazy to pick up the bottle. Lord, have mercy. And are you diggin' the new faux hawk look he has now?
4) You can tell when a person has spent plenty of time around our family. My sister-in-law proved herself an adequate judge when she said this about my kids the other day:
"Other than having volume issues, your kids are so normal."
Amen sister! And the kids pretty much proved her right one night when Ladies Man was using his outside voice inside at dinner and Drama Queen made a funny observation.
Drama Queen (to Ladies Man): Every time you open your mouth, Dad's eyebrows do this.
She bunched her eyebrows into a scowl. And she was right! It was almost like Kevin had no control over it.
Ladies Man: Do I make you crazy, Dad?
Drama Queen: Ha! See!
A weird squeak out of Ladies Man.
Ladies Man: Do I annoy you, Dad?
The kids could hardly take it, laughing their heads off, and soon Kevin grew weary of it too.
Kevin: Are you done eating yet? Isn't it about time you left the table?
5) Miss Innocent One: I should start a blog.
Ladies Man: That would be boring. What would you write about?
Miss Innocent One: My blog would be interesting. I'm the one who watches everything. You guys do all the talking while I take it all in.
Ladies Man: Our family is boring.
Miss Innocent One: Are you kidding me? Have you been listening to any conversations we have?
You go, girl. I think your blog would be a hoot.
6) The salad was gone before Drama Queen got any so I told her to go rip up some more lettuce for herself. When she finally came back to the dinner table she sat down with a sigh.
Drama Queen: That was such a hassle.
We said nothing, only smiled at each other and stifled our giggles.
Drama Queen: What?
Kevin: Welcome to your mother's world. This is one tiny piece of what you'll have to do the rest of your life.
Yeah, I was a little smug about it. These opportunities don't present themselves very often.
7) We're going through Drummer Boy withdrawal at our house. We haven't spent any time with him in three weeks! I saw him briefly yesterday, but it wasn't enough. Luckily we'll all be at a wedding this weekend and get to see him try his hand at being a groomsman. Should be fun. All of the groomsmen are forming a worship band to play prior to the wedding. And he said something about them wearing Chuck Taylor's too. Sounds like they'll be funking it up.
Oh no. Suddenly, as I imagine my kids' response to that last sentence, I feel like an old person. I'm sure "funking it up" is old school. How is it I've already lost my edge in being aware of modern vernacular. Oh brother, using the word vernacular surely pushes me into the nerd category. I guess it's the mother's job to give her kids something to make fun of. After all, if I wasn't so uncool, how would they know they were?
I've reached the point of no return. I better quit before I give them too much ammunition. Have a terrific weekend, friends, and find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Miss Innocent One swung, the bat cracked and the softball flew over the shortstop's head. Luckily (?) her siblings were in attendance and when she got to first base Ladies Man shouted.
Yeah. That's right. That's who you be!
We've been hearing a lot of the phrase lately. When I compliment him on his hair I get it . . .
That's who I be.
If we mention how loud the kids are getting at the dinner table . . .
That's who we be.
When I question his summer routine . . .
That's who I be.
I wonder if I should apply the phrase to myself. When my eyes wander and come up short in comparison, I need to remember I have my own style, my own way. I am unique and created perfectly.
I may be a slow runner, but wasn't it the slow, steady pace of the snail that won the race?
That's who I be.
I may not possess the poetic, gorgeous flow of my favorite writers, but I have my own voice.
That's who I be.
I'm no theologian, but God still speaks to me.
That's who I be.
I'm not the smartest or the strongest or the prettiest or the -est of anything, but my life is good and full and blessed.
That's who I be.
Who I be is not such a terrible thing. Who YOU be isn't either. Can you see it? It may take practice since you might be used to dismissing yourself, but your beautiful, distinctive you is there. Find it, accept it and embrace it.
That's who you be.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
One friend speaks often about how fat she is, and she's not. Another tells me she doesn't feel worthy and it isn't true. Then there's the friend who worries about having too many chins in photographs and I have no idea what that's about. Or the girl concerned about losing more weight before a big event because she's afraid of her pooch showing.
I want to slap them. I want to take shake them. I want to face them to the mirror and shout, "What is the matter with you?! Would you look at yourself?!" Do you see how wonderful you are?
Only when I look in the mirror . . .
Uh huh. I do the same thing.
What is the matter with us? Where does all this self-berating get us? What good does it do?
Why are we able to see the good in others but not ourselves?
It's a sneaky trick. If Satan can keep us preoccupied with our weaknesses, we aren't as likely to put ourselves out there, to shine our light, to shine God's light. If we're consumed with all we aren't, we tend to hide ourselves, and how does that benefit His kingdom?
It's time to rein in those yucky, destructive thoughts about ourselves, friends. It's time to apply truth.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5
And that includes thoughts about ourselves. I know it's not easy to ignore imperfections, but why can't we accept things about ourselves without judgment? I'm bottom heavy. Always have been. I can lose weight, but still I carry it there. It's just how I'm made. Why have I spent so many years feeling inadequate because of it? I have big feet too, but it doesn't bother me. Why can't I look at other problems the same way? I have big feet. I'm bottom heavy. My mouth drops open when I sleep. My hair gets bushy in humidity. I'm small chested. Aren't these things part of a unique me? Weren't they placed there with some good stuff too?
Why don't we accept the good with the bad? Yes, I'm bottom heavy, but does that alter my good listening skills? It's true my hair gets kinky and bushy in the humidity, but it doesn't affect my ability to be a good friend. I wish I was more endowed in the chest department, but does that matter when I sit at my computer cranking out words to build others up?
We can't be perfect. God gives us deficiencies to keep us humble, not hold us down. Chances are nobody else is noticing your flaws because they're too focused on their own. Why don't we give ourselves the same courtesy we give others? How about believing the best about ourselves? Why don't we look for our strengths instead of dwelling on our negatives?
Can you imagine what would happen if we would? If we started taking our bad thoughts about ourselves captive, would we be happier? Would we be more effective? Would we enjoy life more?
I challenge you to try it.
Photo Credit: creedbean
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
When I'm in a hurry, I'm short with my family. I don't take time to look the clerk in the eye. If there's lots to do, I'm more likely to mutter under my breath or think bad of someone. As my list for the day grows, so does my stress level and Lord have mercy on anyone in my wake.
“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence . . .”
Is Merton hitting the nail on a head I've never noticed before? Do I wear myself out in my busyness and thus violate my relationships with my family, my friends, my God by giving them what's left of me?
Violate . . . violence. They are related, no? Do I inflict violence by dismissing my loved ones and my Lord, for the sake of proving myself worthy in my activities?
I don't like the sound of that. Am I guilty? I never thought filling my days was violent, but when the pressure mounts, I know people close to me could claim abuse. Just because society pats us on the back for being productive, doesn't mean it's right.
"Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything.
Not even my pursuits, my goals, my activities.
Lord, open my eyes to what is most important. Help me use my time wisely. Give me the ability to stop inflicting punishment in the way I manage my days.
To see what others thought of this quote, visit our host, Emily at imperfect prose.
Monday, June 20, 2011
I blame it on the fact that yesterday was unusual. We aren't terrible parents. Really. Are we?
There's always a lot of commotion after church. We talk with friends, the kids hassle us about where we're going to eat, people are swarming, etc., but yesterday there was added confusion as immediately following the church service, a lovely couple renewed their vows after twenty years of marriage. It was very heartwarming and illustrated the beauty of tried and true love. Weddings are wonderful, but the young couple has no idea what they're getting into. REAL love is being able to look your spouse in the eye with sincere appreciation and say you'd do it all over again after twenty years together.
Anyway, the daughter of the couple is a friend of Miss Innocent One so they asked her to take some pictures of the ceremony. Afterward she gave the camera back and ended up chatting with her friends, Ladies Man was in a toot about leaving because we were running later and he had to eat and meet some friends in less than an hour, Drama Queen complained about where we had chosen to eat and we were just trying to get out the door which is no small feat when we park on the opposite side of the building. There's always so many people on the way we want to talk with!
Because they don't like to go to church as early as we do, our older kids often drive separately. Miss Innocent one rides with me TO church, except yesterday she had spent the night with a friend and was not with me. Usually we're good about knowing who's leaving with who but on Father's Day, of all days . . . not so much.
We sent our high school kids ahead of us (mainly because they were driving us crazy) and as is our frequent custom, Kevin and I got in a vehicle by ourselves. About a mile or so away from church, both our phones buzzed.
"Wait a minute," I said, checking the caller ID, "Who has Miss Innocent One?"
At the same time, Kevin answered his phone.
"Yeah, we're on our way. We'll be there soon. What?! Where are you?! Oh. Sorry. We'll come get you."
Yep, we left Miss Innocent One at church. On Father's Day. Lovely.
A few years ago something like that would have been traumatizing for her, but she was a good sport about it. As I walked in to find her, she said, "Geez, Mom. I thought, what the crap? They left me?!"
Once we retrieved her I got a text bomb (TEN texts!) from Drama Queen saying, "Holy Cow! Where are you guys?!"
For years she and Ladies Man have called Miss Innocent One "Perfect Baby Angel Child," so when I told her we had to go back to church to get her, they got a huge kick out of it. Her next text said, "YOU FORGOT YOUR PRECIOUS LITTLE ONE?!?!?!?!?!?!"
I tried to pin in on her telling her we thought their sister was with them, but had to admit it was our fault in the end.
Sigh. Everything is always our fault. Bleh.
Once the excitement died down and we "collected the children," as Kevin likes to say, he gave his commentary on the matter.
"Well, that's really disappointing," he said, "I think I was in the running for Father of the Year until this."
Don't worry, babe, you're always tops in my book and if you go by Drama Queen's Facebook status, I think you're okay in the kids' eyes too. Here's what she wrote later that afternoon.
Drama Queen "quite frankly has the studliest dad in the world."
Friday, June 17, 2011
1) Apparently Drama Queen did not miss her calling as a hurdler. Last Friday night, she and some friends took Ladies Man and Miss Innocent One out to play some tennis. At some point, Ladies Man started jumping the net and a new game was born. Not to be outdone by her little brother (it doesn't feel right typing that as he's got over six inches on her and just surpassed his dad in height), she gave it a whirl too and did okay while he held it down, but when he stopped she caught a toe in the net and crashed to the other side.
She came home with a wrist she couldn't move which was especially painful for her because she found out that very day she made the first cut in the University of Nebraska drum line. She's been practicing her fool head off all month and planned to spend her summer doing likewise.
Fortunately we found out the next morning it's only a sprain, but it's been bothering her all week. I'm hoping she turns the corner this weekend. Prayers are appreciated.
2) Poor Miss Innocent One was stuck at home with her parents again while her siblings were out. She's pretty good with this until she's the only one who has to go to bed.
Kevin: Tell your mother good night. Time for bed.
Miss Innocent One: Ohh. Come on. Why do you guys have to be good parents? Gosh!
3) With summer comes more time for reading and I've had my nose in two books this week which are outstanding, so good they make me envious of their authors. Why can't I read a book and say, "It's wonderful," and enjoy it without thinking, "I wish I could do that"?
If you haven't read A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp yet, get your booty to the nearest Christian bookstore or website immediately. This book is heavy and rich and deep and beautiful. My first run at chapters one and two left me in tears and I reread them the next day. There's a lot of meat in this one. I'm going to digest it slowly.
My other interest is a novel called Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. How does a woman write as if she were an elderly black preacher? Amazing and mesmerizing, with profound observations on life. No wonder it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. I highly recommend it.
4) I'm sorry to say no anti-hoarding happened this week. I went to the pool instead. Normally, I'm not crazy about going there. There's so much noise--kids squealing, the radio blaring, splashing, parents hollering at their kids, you get the picture, but since my body shows no signs of summer (a.k.a. is as pale as white bread), I decided it was time to soak in some sunshine.
Miss Innocent One and her friend directed me to their favorite spot which ended up being away from the pool a bit, separated from the crowd by some trees. At first I thought this fantastic and while they swam I settled in for a snooze, but the whispering and conversation around me soon told me I'd landed in adolescent alley. "Go ask him if we're still going out. Did you hear what so and so said about so and so? Shh shhh, here he comes, here he comes. What does she think she's doing? Yeah, he thinks he's all that." Gossip turned to giggles as boys strutted in and out. I drowned it out with a good book.
I didn't realize how surrounded I was by teenagers until a friend came over to chat and mentioned it. Gilead turned out to be fantastic (I guess I already said that. Sorry.). I was so engrossed (which is tough for me in a crowd), we ended up staying an extra hour.
Sun, sleep, a chance meeting with a friend and a wonderful book. Isn't this what summer is for?
5) I wish I could say the pool day put me in my summer groove, but I'd be lying. I think my problem is that no one has a regular schedule. Everybody's doing something different every day. My house is swarming with kids day AND night. All of the activity at all hours of the day is putting a crimp in my style. We have a big house and there's places to get away by yourself, but the uncertainty about how any day may turn out makes me a little crazy. I suppose God's teaching me to be more flexible and I'm trying. Maybe I need a few more lazy afternoons at the pool. Anybody want to join me?
6) I've been spending way too much time talking to Verizon representatives on the phone this week. I switched my phone from a prepaid version to a regular plan, but wanted to keep the same number. This was a week ago, and though I have my new phone and it's activated, it's still not working. I think I've talked to at least six different people throughout this process and I'm not done yet. What's the record for how many customer service reps you can talk to in the same company? I may hit it today.
Let's hope I actually get phone service too. I'm going through texting withdrawals. (And now my kids are rolling their eyes.)
7) As I type this, I just finished running an hour ago and I'm smelling myself (EW) which reminds me--does anybody know how many blocks equal a mile in the town of Beatrice, NE? Apparently each city is not the same. I always had it in my head that twelve blocks equal a mile, but google says no. I've been doing more running outside and thought I was improving my snail pace until it occurred to me I may be figuring the mileage wrong. Can anyone help me?
As I read over these, they seem pretty boring today. If you're still awake, congratulations. You've just lost five minutes you can never get back. If you're serious about your Quick Takes, catch more at Conversion Diary.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Miss Innocent One has no idea I'm listening. She goes about her business, cleaning her gerbil's cage without my help, being careful to dump the old shavings into the garbage outside so it doesn't stink up the kitchen. As she contentedly does her work, she plays the radio and because it's just who she is, soon she can't help but sing along.
"What if the blessings come through raindrops? What if the healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?"
Her sincere, beautiful voice floats up to my office and my heart bursts. Her satisfaction and enjoyment of life, even in the chore of cleaning out a gerbil cage, move me. In the sweetness of this moment, I wonder why I ever worry at all. Why do I let things get to me, when every day these instances, moments where my soul weeps in gratitude for the blessings in my life, are waiting to be experienced? How many have I missed?
Truly God is good.
Make me more observant, Lord. Cultivate in me a spirit of thanksgiving for the now.
Join other Thankful Thursday participants at Grace Alone.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I often get discouraged at how impossible it is to please everyone. Of course I want people to think well of me, I mean, who wants enemies? But the older I get, the more I wonder if it's just not possible in an earthly world. We humans take our impressions, our past experiences, our wounds, our insecurities and use them to make assumptions about others which may or may not be true. Sometimes our notions hurt others, but more often we hurt ourselves as we assume too much (usually in a negative light concerning us) about the behavior of others.
And we hide, hoping our weaknesses aren't exposed.
And yet every woman I know has insecurities, even the ones who seem "together." All have issues in their past that cloud their thinking. All possess sensitivities and deficiencies and addictions they fight to overcome. Why do we assume otherwise? Why do we keep our tender spirits guarded thinking no one has the same trouble we do? How has Satan blinded us into believing we are inferior to each other?
And why do we keep it all inside? Why aren't we out there talking about our struggles, dispelling the idea that we must maintain a certain persona to be respectable and accepted? Why don't we let the pressure out and work on our problems together? Why do we hide ourselves, think the best of others, the worst of ourselves and live lonely lives when there are people out there dealing with the same things we are? What are we afraid of?
Would sharing ourselves in a vulnerable way--opening up our struggles, our weaknesses, our ugly thoughts--help us relate to each other better? Would knowing where others have come from and what demons they fight make us softer towards each other? Would hearing of their pain make us want to fight for them instead of retreat from them? Would sharing our humanness make us better grace givers?
The truth is we stink. All of us. At some point in our lives, we've all been an unpleasant aroma to our Lord. What makes us think we're alone in that?
I say it's time to break Satan's chains and be honest, open, authentic. I say it's time to risk damaging our pride for the pursuit of real, uplifting relationships. Isn't it time we worked together? Isn't this why He gave us each other?
It's time to quit hiding, to quit feeling isolated, to stop yearning for more meaningful friendships. They are attained at a cost--our vulnerability. It may seem too much to pay, but every time God's given me the courage to admit to my own failures, others breathe a sigh of relief and together we say, "How can we work on this?"
Stop hiding, my friend. Open up. Be honest. Push aside your wrong assumptions. Find common ground and support.
Know what you've been missing.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Because of one slip up in forty years of dealing with the incessantly whiny Israelites, God told Moses he would not enter the Promised Land. It seems a little harsh. If it were me, I would have been pouty about it, yet as they prepare to take over their new land (and Moses faces death), he recites a beautiful tribute of praise to His God which starts with these words.
Pay attention, heavens, and I will speak; listen, earth, to the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my word settle like dew, like gentle rain on new grass and showers on tender plants. For I will proclaim the LORD’s name. Declare the greatness of our God!
Deuteronomy 32:1-3 (HCSB)
Moses knew he would not enter the land he worked forty years to see, yet he understood his lack of opportunity or reward or satisfaction had nothing to do with the power and glory of His Lord. He reminded the Israelites one more time of God's faithfulness to them, of His promises to be with them as long as they strictly obeyed His commands. He accepted God's plan for his life and praised Him for all He had done.
I would be wise to follow suit, whether I like the situation He's placed me in or not, even if I don't understand. He is God. And if He is God, I will pay Him the respect and honor He deserves. There are days my spirit droops, days I don't feel like declaring anything except LEAVE ME ALONE! God may seem distant and uninvolved. I may not like what He's doing or not doing. Or I just may not feel like singing. But if God inhabits the praises of His people, shouldn't I praise Him anyway?
For God's greatness is not dependent on our interpretation or appreciation or mood.
Just as we vow to love our spouses in sickness and in health, in plenty or in want, we show our love for God by lifting His name in joy or in sorrow, in celebration and in pain.
He always deserves it.
Join Patricia at Typing One-Handed for more thoughts inspired by this quote.
Monday, June 13, 2011
It was a nice evening, great food, good conversation, yet as we left our friends, I felt uneasy, sad, disappointed in myself. I didn't like the person I was there. The words that came out of my mouth displayed the condition of my heart lately--cynical, whiny, ungrateful, discouraged, even distrustful.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm having a crisis of faith (most likely I just think about things far too much). The stresses of life suck the daylights out of me and I feel so puny, so weak. Something unpleasant happens and I take it as God humbling me, of putting me in my place. Maybe I've been reading too much in the Old Testament and my brain is stuck on God's wrath instead of His grace. I pray and I study my Bible, but don't really expect God to answer because He doesn't work in ways I comprehend. I wish I could have big eyes waiting for God to do His miracle. Instead I use my energy ignoring doubts.
I confess this to my husband, the man who listens to my over analyzed droning over and over, yet still maintains attention and sensitivity and patience (God help him.).
"Is there something wrong with me if I feel like this?" I ask, "Is this a symptom of a bigger faith issue?"
He knows how I obsess over thoughts, how my mind dwells on the negative until my self-berating kicks in. He knows how many nights my brain has trouble shutting down, how hard it is for me to let things go.
"Having feelings is not the same as living by feelings," he says calmly, "You might not feel great, but it hasn't stopped you from following God."
His gentle words didn't question my faith, but pointed out an important fact.
A feeling is not a belief.
I may feel like God's not hearing my prayers, but I know that isn't true. I may feel a little beat up, but I know God's not doing the beating. I may wish for something different, but I know He works all things for good.
Having feelings is not the same as living by feelings.
My husband is right, of course. Because I get so caught up in my feelings, I forget (how, I don't know) that they pass. In obsessing about my emotional state, I may create a problem that isn't there.
Do your feelings get the best of you? Do you dwell on your mood and miss what is true? Do negative or conflicting thoughts distract you from your faith?
Fight your feelings by doing what is right, whether you feel like it or not. God is not upset with our feelings, but how we respond to them. When Cain was mad at God because He didn't accept his offering, God told him this.
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.
Do you see it? No condemnation for feeling angry, only an admonition to do what is right.
Having feelings is not the same as living by feelings.
My husband taught me it's okay to feel yucky. What's important is how I act on it. Do I do what is right? Do I fill my mind with Truth? Or do I react according to my feelings and let sin crouch at my door?
What will you do with your feelings?
Friday, June 10, 2011
1) After taking the picture of the instruments in my kitchen last week, I got to thinking about how many other instruments we have in the house. There's a piano and guitar in the living room, an electric guitar in Ladies Man's room, a soprano sax, a tenor sax, a flute, a recorder and another clarinet in the foyer closet, an alto sax on the upstairs porch, another trombone in our guest room and an antique pump organ in our foyer. Oh, and that doesn't count the trap set and oboe we've loaned out.
But we're not musical. Oh brother.
2) And speaking of the foyer closet, I'm happy to say I finally got it organized. This was no small feat as this closet wraps under the front staircase. It houses pictures, coats, folding chairs, shoes, toys and instruments. It's the place we dump things when we don't know what else to do with. I know I did a good job because Miss Innocent One opened the door looking for her shoes and went, "Whoa! Who cleaned out the closet?"
Of course that was about the dumbest question I ever heard. Really, there's any doubt who did it? Who else in my family would even THINK about cleaning out a closet? (If you're offended, my dear loved ones, feel free to prove me wrong!)
This anti-hoarder thing has been great for my house and knowing I have to report to you is just enough motivation to keep going. Plus on those days I'm feeling uninspired in my writing and the hours tick away as I stare at my computer screen, I feel less stressed about the time I spend thinking instead of putting my house in order. The way I look at it, having an organized, de-hoarded house will make me a better writer. (One can dream, right?)
3) Get this. Ladies Man is even growing out of his socks! They barely stay on his heel! I've been noticing tons and tons of holes all over his socks in places one doesn't normally get them, like the bottom of his foot, not the heel or the ball, but the arch or the side. I couldn't understand it until I saw this and realized he's stretching them out so bad they spring holes wherever.
He tells me the new shoes he got in January are ripping out and feeling a little tight too. Yikes!
I thought it might be fun to take another picture of our feet next to each other. As you look at this, keep in mind that my foot is no small potato. I wear a size 10 shoe!
As Drummer Boy says, "That kid is huge."
4) This week we caught an episode of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. Talk about inspiring! This 23-year-old kid lost around 250 pounds in one year! He basically got a whole new life. With his weight loss came more confidence in himself and a greater willingness to put himself out there and experience all life has to offer. It was an amazing transformation, not only physically, but emotionally. I was so happy for him and his new found freedom.
5) My children thoroughly enjoyed watching me watch Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. They mock me on a consistent basis. There must be a secret code for adolescents, requiring them to make fun of their parents. They noticed me getting a little teary over the show and couldn't let it go.
Drama Queen: Are you crying, Mommy (Hint: Use of the word "Mommy" is a dead giveaway I'm in for it.)?
Ladies Man: Are you going to be okay, Mommy?
Drama Queen (sticking her face into mine): Are you?
Ladies Man: Do you need a kleenex?
Me: You people are mean to me.
Ladies Man: SHUT . . . UP!
That got a big laugh out of Drama Queen who went to Ladies Man immediately for high fives. Then the two of them bombarded me in a gigantic hug nearly smothering me to death.
Drama Queen: Oh, Mommy, it's okay. We love you.
Ladies Man: Yeah, we love you, Mommy.
Yeah, yeah, whatever. Love me by not treating my like an idiot!
6) Drummer Boy is not living at home this summer and I have to admit I kinda miss him. With his busy, busy schedule, we didn't see him much this last semester. I know he's in good hands, though, as he moved in with my mom last week. He's already told us he enjoys being spoiled by Grandma with food.
Just in case you're reading this Drummer Boy, make sure you don't take your wonderful grandmother for granted and buy some groceries yourself every once in a while.
Oh, and yeah, we love you.
7) I think we may actually have a full Saturday with nothing on the agenda. My girls are talking about hitting the water park and after seeing my bare, white shoulders and legs, I think I may need to join them. I need some sun, people! Now watch, it will rain or be like 50 degrees. If so, we'll make the best of it and this lady will make a cleaning list for us to complete.
Or just sit around the living room on computers. We're pretty good at that.
Whatever you do, ENJOY your weekend, friends. Take a peek at more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Childbearing was only the tip of the iceberg. Genesis 3 doesn't come out and say it, but when Adam and Eve bit into that stinkin' piece of fruit, we women inherited raging hormones. Think about it. If all was butterflies and roses before then, Eve certainly didn't do the ugly a few weeks each month like I do, right? That came AFTER the Fall. And what makes childbearing painful? Don't unstable hormones play a part? The curse brought on much worse than tough birthing. The pain of childbearing passes. Hormones keep coming back.
Last week my hormones convinced me life was too hard and everything looked terrible. This week life seems manageable. What made the difference? Yeah, you know what I'm talking about, that is, if you're female! I HATE the mood fluctuations. Shouldn't I be able to be more consistent in my emotions? What kind of weak sap am I if I can't overcome the way I feel? Isn't the Holy Spirit within me? Am I not relying on His power? Am I some kind of wimpy Christian? Does falling victim to fluctuating hormones make me unspiritual?
But see, there he is again, that crafty serpent suggesting I may as well give up. What's that verse about smacking him with our heels? Get kickin', girls, we have truth on our side.
The truth is, though I had a tough week emotionally, I used self-control and didn't rip anybody's head off like I wanted to. My family still got fed (maybe not well, but nobody starved). I was a fairly functional adult if you don't count my little weepy bouts. Though it was tougher, I DID keep it together. I DID.
I think God smiles at that. He knows we women struggle. He knows we must rise above a lot of yuck on some days. He knows we're giving the best we can and even though we don't feel too lovable, He sees us through the eyes of our Savior, Jesus, who made us holy, and says, "Isn't she beautiful?"
It's true the curse makes life harder for us. It presents us with a continual temptation to give into our feelings and I know how easy it is to go there friends. Believe me! But we need to remember WHOSE we are. We are daughters of the Most High God. He has declared us holy and righteous through the blood of Jesus. The battle is already won. We need only to press on, stuff the ugly and endure.
I'm right there with you girls! May He continue to give us strength and self-control. Hang in there, you awesome women, deeply loved by God.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Life wears on me.
Last week nothing monumental happened, nothing tragic or earth shattering, yet I deemed it a rotten week. Trouble in a relationship, unexpected major expenses, growing pains in our family, raging hormones and inconveniences which felt like they might send me over the edge, sapped my strength.
I asked God more than once, "Why does life have to be so hard?"
Can you guess the answer? I know I've talked about it before.
It doesn't have to be. TRUST ME!
If we can trust God for our eternal salvation, how can we not trust Him to provide for the “little” things of life?”
It's not that I don't trust Him, but Satan masterfully uses the "little stuff" to distract me from what I know to be true. He's the one who suggests I may lose it. He gets my mental calculator humming. He brings the worries to mind and throws in annoyances to keep me off kilter. He knows all he has to do is adjust my eyesight slightly and I'm a goner.
And I let him do it!
It's time to start fighting back and remembering what is true instead of falling for what isn't. Will you join me? When the "little stuff" wears on you, will you gain peace of mind and freedom from anxiety by focusing on God's promises instead of the problem? I gotta admit I really stink at this. I'm a dweller. I'll need your help. Remind me to rest in words like this, okay?
. . . those who hope in me will not be disappointed.
Amen Lord. Renew our hope. Keep us focused on Your Truth.
Join our host, Urailak, at Living for God for more takes on this quote.
Monday, June 06, 2011
People say I'm hard on myself.
I suppose it's true. The race I talked about last week was just a taste of how I struggle being satisfied with anything I've done. In my eyes, most everything I do is never quite good enough. If there's anybody who's ever done it better, then I think my efforts worthless.
I suppose there's nothing wrong with understanding who you are (and aren't), but it means I don't celebrate much. There's no satisfaction in reaching a goal, only a nagging thought that someone else could do it better. And while there's a benefit to continually wanting to improve yourself, it can get old to feel like you'll never arrive. So when the issue came up again at the race, I had to ask myself.
What is the matter with me?! Why can't I be happy with anything I do?
I've been reading The Search For Significance by Robert S. McGee and finding some disturbing insight. McGee says most Christians mistakenly define their self worth this way:
I'm probably guilty of that, but here's the quote that really smacked me upside the head.
Our behavior is often a reflection of our beliefs about who we are . . . if we base our worth on our abilities or the fickle approval of others, then our behavior will reflect the insecurity, fear, and anger that comes from such instability.
Why was the race so hard for me? I was one of the last to finish. I didn't feel my "performance" would be deemed respectable in the eyes of others. Why was I angry? I was doing my best and it wasn't good enough.
No wonder I'm frustrated so often. I'm looking for significance from an unstable, ever-changing source through people with differing opinions. My lack of satisfaction comes from trying to find my self worth apart from God.
Now to show good faith that I'm working on this, I must tell you that McGee also says this is a problem for all of humanity (not just me) ever since the Fall of man. When Adam and Eve took that fateful bite, our security and significance in God alone took a big hit. We will all struggle with this. Please tell me I'm not alone!
What is the antidote? How can we find our worth in Him alone?
We must learn what is TRUE. Only when we correct our faulty vision through the lens of His Word, will we gain right thinking and find our meaning. We will never be good enough. That's why we needed Jesus in the first place. And once we have Him, we don't have to be or do anything to prove ourselves. We may actually find it easier to live a life pleasing to Him because of the Holy Spirit within, guiding our every step.
God doesn't want us living defeated lives. His word speaks of victory and praise. I want to know triumphant living. I want to be free from performing and trying to prove my worth to others. I want to feel happy about something I've finished. I want to feel satisfaction and joy at a job well done.
I want to find my significance in God alone.
Photo Credit: eschipul
Friday, June 03, 2011
1) Ladies Man is on a new bike riding kick. He bought himself a bike last week and has been getting up early to take it out. Yesterday morning he was out of the house before 6:AM! I'm not sure why he insists on doing it so early. It's not like his schedule is so jammed that it's the only time he can fit it in. He says there aren't a lot of people out at that time of day, but in a town of 13,000, traffic is really not an issue. In his words, he's planning to get "buff" this summer. I'm not sure his plan is going to work if he gets up early only to sack out on the couch the rest of the morning, but more power to ya, bud! Ride like the wind.
2) There wasn't much anti-hoarding going on this week unless you count cleaning the papers off of my bread box. Other than that, I'm not sure what I spent my time on this week.
I need to be working on our Christmas musical and am feeling the pressure of it, but I'm in the beginning bang-your-head-on-the-table stage that requires lots of deep thinking and divine inspiration which hasn't come yet. It's so tough! When I have no ideas, I revert to research, looking up Bible verses on the theme of the show and reading other related material. But soon an outline must be done and I am SWEATING IT! Let's move on before I depress myself, shall we? Prayers are appreciated!
3) Kevin and Drama Queen had a GREAT trip to Chicago with the high school choir. One of the highlights was Drama Queen getting brought on stage at a Blue Man Group performance.
I'm sure she gave them lots of great reactions.
4) I wanted to crawl under the covers more than a few times this week and ignore life. It started when Ladies Man discovered a flat on his new bike. Of course, this became the central problem in our lives and had to be taken care of immediately if we wanted to live with him peaceably, so we took it in right away. When we went to pick it up, I left my van because it was overdue to have the tires rotated. I decided to walk home and get the van later and Ladies Man set off on his bike. Ten minutes later he calls me and says his brakes are a mess and they bent the wheel or something, forcing him to walk the bike home too. We both got home but couldn't return the bike because we had no vehicle and didn't feel like hoofing it back. Shortly after, the tire place called to say they found a "surprise" on the van when they put it on the lift. To make a long story short, my free tire rotation turned into a $650 bill!
On top of all this, my laptop has been having some issues and basically I've been without it for five weeks (This, of course, is a problem for a person who spends a substantial amount of time writing and has a major production to crank out this summer.). The same day I got the fateful call from the tire place, the computer place told me the CHEAPEST route was to send it in to the company who would fix all its issues for a flat rate of $479.95! I BOUGHT it for less than that! Thankfully I have a friend who says he can fix it for a fraction of the cost. THANK YOU BRENT!
ARG! Money stuff completely stresses me out. Add on top of this my kids' ever changing schedules and plans I can hardly keep track of. I never know how many people I'll find in my house at any given moment. And it didn't help that it was a hormonal week either. Sigh. One day at a time.
Obviously I have not hit my summer groove yet. Maybe a sunburn would make me feel better.
5) A little guy who's not quite two years old hung out at our house a few hours this week and we had a HOOT with him. How does a person forget how entertaining small kids can be in the way they repeat your words and find something new every time they turn around?
It made me think being a grandma might be okay some day. SOME day. Since none of my kids are married, it better not be soon. Are you hearing me, kids?
6) People often make comments about how our family is "musical" which confuses me because I don't think we're more musical than any other family. Then yesterday I noticed this in my kitchen.
How many families have a clarinet, a trombone, a french horn and a marching snare drum sitting in their kitchen on an ordinary Thursday? Okay, now I get it.
7) Our weekend is full with a bridal shower, a baby shower, a wedding, a graduation party and my nephews spending the night. (Hmm, little kids twice in one week. You don't think God's getting me ready for the grandma thing, do you? Yikes.)
I'll try not to think about it too much and just enjoy the weekend. I hope you do too. Start it off right by taking a gander at more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
Thanks for the well wishes for my first 5K race last Saturday. I wish I could say I enjoyed it, but I'd be lying. Gotta say it was tough. Tougher than I thought it would be. Here's me with my running buddy, before the race, LONG before we knew what we were in for, I mean, look at us, we're smiling!
This woman deserves BOTH our medals and a thousand dollars for talking sense and speaking truth to me the last half of the race. (More on that later.)
It all started on a cool, cloudy morning. And we're off . . .
I've run three miles (and more) lots of times, but I guess the pressure of finishing respectably among a bunch of strangers got to me. About halfway through the race, my emotions tanked. I was doing my best, giving my all, but found myself at the back of the pack. As I watched people ahead of me stopping to walk a bit then run, walk, then run and still be ahead of me though I was running the whole time, discouragement set in.
"I totally suck at this," I told my running friend.
"What are you talking about? You're doing it!" she replied.
"I hate this. I really hate this. Why did we think this was good idea?"
"You've got this. You can do it."
"I'll do it. I'm not going to quit, but I'm SO BAD at it."
"Stop that right now. Do you know how many people never even try this?"
"What kind of stupid person does something they're terrible at?"
"It takes a lot more courage to do things you're bad at than those that come easy to you."
I knew she was right, but my stomach knotted and emotion welled up inside, causing me to fight back tears the entire last mile. My friend kept speaking truth and I tried to believe it. Six months ago I couldn't run half a mile straight and here I was running a 5K, over THREE miles, but all I could see was the hoards of people ahead of me. Soon God started screaming at me.
GET YOUR EYES OFF OTHER PEOPLE! RUN YOUR OWN RACE!
My problem was not my slow, old lady legs, but my wandering eyes. My frustration came from comparing myself and coming up short.
"You are totally robbing yourself of the joy of this moment," my friend chided, "You're doing something you've never done before. Now stop it. You're going to cross that finish line and be happy about what you've accomplished!"
I tried, but sadly I couldn't muster up any pride in myself. Kevin said he could tell I was mad as I crossed the finish line. What do you think?
Though the race was tough, I was glad to have run it with these great friends. They were the best part of the day. Here we are AFTER it was all done. We don't look too worse for wear.
And you'll never believe it (I'm still doubting it myself), but I won my age division! I HAD to have been the only person in the 40-49 group.
I think God is trying to tell me something through this running
torture adventure. Apparently I have a lot to learn about humility and running my own race. This is not about a fitness regimen. He's working on a spiritual issue within me. So even though I hate it and completely suck at it, I'll keep running. I'll try another race. I can't ignore God's consistent message.
I want you to do something that's hard for you.
I'm not sure why He's asking this of me, but I'll stay at it. I'll persevere and give my best, even if my best is last. If it will make me a better person, the pain (and humiliation) is worth it, right?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
I will run the race marked out for me and I pray He makes something good of it.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Five years ago today, FIVE YEARS AGO!, The Next Step was born. For five years people have been reading my mind here, discovering my flaws, hearing way more information than they ever wanted to know about my family.
I started this blog in response to God's nudging. You can read that story by clicking here. I had no idea what I was doing. I only knew I was supposed to do it. I could never have predicted my first post would set the tone for years to come, articulating my goal in this blogging adventure. I want to point people to God. Though I've tried not to make it all about me, I know the nature of the medium brings attention to the writer. I pray you are able to look past me and see God working in an ordinary woman. I hope by reading my thoughts you see how He fits into everyday, ugly, real life.
Over 800 posts later, I still have no idea what I'm doing, but I've discovered we humans are alike in many ways. As I admit to my struggles, others chime in to say I'm not alone, that they struggle too. When I open up about my fears and weaknesses and anxieties, I find others battle the same way. Being transparent and vulnerable gives others permission to do the same and suddenly there is relief among us all. I love that. If the time I spend here helps us relate to each other better and enables us to be who we really are, it is time very well spent.
I know it sounds weird, but sometimes I think I can sense the people who read this blog, even if they've never said anything. They carry a knowing smile. They look at me differently. They react softer to me, like they have a better idea of who I am. It's like they know my demons and how I fight them and have some kind of respect for me, though they have little contact with me in person. Because I put it all out there, they have better understanding. I wish everybody could know that feeling, to be given that benefit of the doubt.
Hmmm, want to start a blog and share your guts? I'd read it!
I would be remiss if I didn't thank you, the person reading these words right now. It baffles me why you come back day after day to read my babbling, but I am grateful for the opportunity to interact with you. I often feel sad I don't get to know you the way you know me. Be assured your thoughtful comments are treasured. They matter. They spur me on. They affirm God's nudging. If this blog has any effect on any lives, you have a huge part in it. Thank you for giving me permission to be who I am and somehow accepting me for it.
I could never have predicted five years ago I would have so much to say, especially since I spend many days staring at a blank screen wondering what in the world I'll talk about. But as I faithfully approach my computer, God faithfully brings the words and the courage to put them out there. So I must thank Him, for not giving me an out, for stretching me and teaching me about trust and discipline, for showing me vulnerability not only opens me up for hurt, but also for authentic, satisfying interaction.
He has been good to me. If you read this blog consistently, I hope you see that. And I hope you see that He is good to you too. Thanks for joining me on this journey.
Soli deo Gloria.
To God be the glory.