Monday, April 7, 2014

My Un-Day

I was having an un-day. Have you ever experienced one of those? Pick any positive word and put "un" before it. That's an un-day. I felt unattractive, unloved, unsecure, unworthy, unpopular, undisciplined, unsure, uninspiring, unaccepted ... and some made up "un" words as well (unfun, unskinny, untall, unfashionable, unsmooth, unyoung, etc.). There was absolutely nothing that I liked about myself on this day. I knew I was having a problem and God and I had talked about it at length in our morning time together. 

One of the things I absolutely adore about God is that He doesn't bang you over the head with something. He has faithfully let me know of His love, of His acceptance, regardless of my circumstances and how I feel about myself. And in those times when I am having an un-day (whether it's real or imagined), God GENTLY reminds me of my worth in Him. He doesn't condemn me for my feelings, but loves me in spite of them.

So, I was having an un-day. I was desperately trying to change my perspective so that I wouldn't dwell on my failings and shortcomings and make myself more miserable than I already was. Plus, I knew that intensely disliking myself wasn't pleasing to God and didn't particularly make me loveable to those people around me either. And since I'm in the middle of the Joy Dare (a year long program of focusing on everyday gifts in life to be thankful for), I already had some help in working towards changing that perspective. The assignment for today was to find three surprising gifts in unexpected places. Hmmmm. Seemed a tough assignment, especially when I was coming from such a negative place anyway. But I was going to look for the unexpected gifts.

And I found them ... in my husband's hug that seemed a little longer that morning ... in our dogs that sensed my mood and just wanted to cuddle with me. But it wasn't until I was on my afternoon walk that I found the last one -- the one that brought tears to my eyes and truly was a thank-you moment to God. I was walking along the walking trail in our park, and there in the middle of the rocky pathway was a big, fat, yellow dandelion. The dandelion didn't belong there. Dandelions don't grow in blacktop pathways. Someone had picked it and then dropped it. It had been put there specifically ... for me! Just like the days when my children would lovingly make me a huge dandelion bouquet and present their gift to me in their chubby little hands, so I instantly knew that God had placed this dandelion in this time, in this place, for me to find. And like my children always said "I love you" as they gave me their precious flowers, I heard God whisper to me, "I love you today and always".

My un-day quickly disappeared. It's amazing how focusing on God and His gifts can change our negative attitudes and thoughts. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at a dandelion in the same way again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Security Addict

If you've read any of my blog posts, you know that my biggest "need" is security. For me, it's a little like oxygen or water -- it's an absolute necessity. And that's not a bad thing. In fact, security is a very, very, very good thing. The time that it DOES become bad, however, is when I put my security in things that are temporal or not lasting, in things that are fickle and changing, in things that falter and fail. When someone is a "security addict" like me, it becomes easy to put your security in all types of things -- relationships, health, bank accounts, government, insurance, jobs, looks, youth, etc. And why is that? Looking at that list ought to convince a semi-intelligent person that there is really nothing here on earth or within me that will fill the deep need for security. Every single one of the things on the above list changes. Relationships falter or fracture. People become sick. Bank accounts run dry. Governments change at elections. Insurance goes up and refuses to pay. Jobs may be cut off. Looks fade. Youth disappears in time. But I've tried to put my security in each one of these ... time and again.

In each and every instance of my life when I've put my security in something other than God Himself, I've come crashing down. My world is shattered. My hope is tarnished. My feeling of security is basically nothing. And, as I lay there among all of the broken dreams and my broken heart, God reaches down to me to pull me to my feet. He removes the imbedded glass from all that is shattered within me, cleans my wounds, and reminds me ONCE AGAIN that HE is unchanging. He never fails. He's not temporal. He doesn't falter. He is secure.

Will I learn? I'd like to think so. Although it might not be until I leave this earth and see Him face to face before I actually quit having a security problem. Even though I'm sometimes shattered by security issues, I'd like to believe that it's a part of God's grace. He sees me wandering off and putting my security in all the wrong places. He allows for me to experience the hurt of misplaced security because He knows His child. He knows I'll see where my error was (again!) and will come running back to my Place of safety and refuge, my one and only true Security. And the best part? He welcomes me each time, knowing my tendencies to bag up my security issues and hand them off to someone (or something) else. Because He patiently teaches, continuously reminds, and unconditionally loves me as His child. And that, my dear friends, is true security!
Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
Malachi 3:6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Letters To My Children

For the last several years, I've been writing letters to my children. That seems kind of odd considering that I see my children fairly regularly and talk to them quite a bit. There's soooooo much more that I want to share with them though. More stuff than how OSU messed up their last football/basketball game ... more than how Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory reminds us of someone we know, but we never can figure out who ... more than how the dogs we own have taken over our lives. We do a lot of surface talking. Don't get me wrong! I'll take it! In fact, any time I can get any of my children to talk, I'll sit and listen for hours! But it seems that I don't get the "quality" time to really sit and visit with them, to find out what's going on in their lives, to delve in to feelings (which is pretty much downright torture for my sons to have to do anyway), and to share all of the wisdom that I have bottled up inside of me. (Yes, that was meant as a joke. My children will tell you that I never hesitate to share my "wisdom".)

So, because I really and seriously don't get that opportunity, I write letters to my children. Sometimes I write letters daily. Sometimes months might go by before I write to them. Most of the letters are fairly short, although a few ramble on for what will seem like forever. Unfortunately, my letters to my children are kind of like my blog posts -- erratic and who knows what they'll be like?!? But the heart and intent are there.

Topics in the letters might be: what God is teaching me, areas in my child's life where he's struggled but I've seen growth, gifts and talents of our children, praying for them, difficulties and struggles they're currently going through and seeing God's fingerprints in the midst of them, how much I love them and all of the reasons why I do, and so on. Many times I sit and laugh as I write because I'm so dang funny and my children will be reading these letters after I'm dead and gone. Maybe they'll appreciate my humor and wisdom then? I kinda doubt it, but a mom can dream, right? But even more often, I cry as I write. Why? Because there has really been no other area in my life like being a mom. It was my greatest challenge, the area where I felt my biggest defeats, my hardest struggles ... but at the same time, it was my biggest blessing, the largest arena of learning, and I'd love to still be in the midst of it.

I remember days wondering if my child would ever "get it". Will he ever learn to pick up his clothes and put them in the clothes hamper? Will she remember to look both ways before crossing the street? Will they hear God's voice telling them which path to choose? Will they look back on their childhood days fondly and want to repeat the same things with their own children? Will they remember a mom who had time for them, who listened to them, who loved them with a crazy and pursuing love? Or will they remember the mom who was impatient, demanding, and insecure in her own skin?

Even though my children have moved out of my home and have started families or homes of their own -- even though my children have jobs and are independent of me, God's showed me that my days as a mom are never over. Though I'm not tucking them in anymore, or listening for their car to drive in the driveway at curfew, or rocking them to sleep, I'm still praying over them, loving them, and writing them letters that are full of my heart. I expect them to read them after my funeral. Of course, I have several children who don't like to read, so it would be nice if someone would read the letters to them. 

And I'm grateful to their father -- the man who made all this possible. He was the one who encouraged me to stay home when our first child was born. I'll never forget when he told me that if we needed to eat beans every day for the rest of our lives, if that was the only way we could afford for me to stay home, then we'd do it. He was the one who told me he was 100% confident that I could homeschool our children and they wouldn't turn out to be social misfits or total idiots. He was the one who taught me that we need to pick our battles with our children. Having a spotless room did not qualify as a battle worth "dying on a hill" for. He taught me to relax, to laugh, to chill, to be less critical, and to be more patient (I didn't say that I mastered those lessons, but he definitely was a great teacher).

My job isn't done. I still pray over my children. I still tell them of my love. I still teach them. But this go-around, it's in letters ...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Disney Life in a Box

There are some things that I don't plan for. A loss of a job. A change of my plans. Needing to buy a new toilet because ours regularly overflows at least twice a week. Getting sick. Having to purchase a back door because ours gets stuck and refuses to open. Car repairs. My plans always seem so good and right ... exactly like things should be, you know? No catastrophes. No strange, last-minute items popping up. I wind up planning things like I'm living in a Disney fairy tale -- everything turns out "happily ever after" and I'm happy to get my way. The woodland creatures are singing (except for the mice -- no mice allowed) ... the stars are shining ... my hair, clothing and make-up are flawless ... and yay for me and my incredible planning. But it often (VERY often!) doesn't turn out like that. And it usually throws me for a loop until I'm reminded that ... (repeat with me, please!) -- "God's in control. He has a purpose. He loves me." Why in the world would I fight against that?!

But I do. A lot. Often. More than occasionally.

Just today something else happened that didn't go according to my plan. My concern was for the life of the person I had planned for (honestly!), and in all actuality, things turned out to be a huge mess. My first instinct was to get upset and pray for God to do things my way. I HAD thought all this through and this was definitely for the best ... right? And God reminds me that He's in control, He has a purpose, He loves me (and the person I'm praying so desperately for).

You see, I live in a box. It's quite a lovely box, thank you very much. But it's still a plain ole' cardboard box.There are sides with a top and a bottom that will close very nicely around me so I can be snug and content in my cramped space. And the box is set out in the middle of a huge, endless field with only the borderless sky as a ceiling.When I make my plans, I'm limited to what's in my teeny tiny box. That's all I can see. That's all my mind can imagine. My dreams and plans are small and ... box-like. And I tend to be content with that. I don't live alone, however. God's with me ... and He is waaaaaay bigger than my box. I'll make my small little plans and think they're so perfect in my tiny, boxed-in life ... and God will change my plans. Why? Because He's outside the box. He sees all of the potential, all of the growth, all of the ways it could be. Simply put, He knows what's best.

As long as I'm living here on earth, I'm somewhat limited to my tiny little box. But God, in His infinite grace and mercy, gives me glimpses of life beyond. And He reminds me that HE is not limited. God loves me too much to let me stay in my cardboard home. Rather than get upset when my dreams don't go according to what I've envisioned, I need to remember that I'm in the box ... God's not ... and yes, "He's in control. He's got a plan. He loves me."

So glad my God can't be put in a box.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I Clean, He Kills

I like to think that I'm a fairly determined and persevering person. When I start a job, I like to see it through until completion. We've talked in past posts how I enjoy organizing things. It's personally rewarding to take a mess and organize, transform, and change it from chaos to something of order. That was my goal today -- to go through the three big closets in our bedroom and make them beautiful ... until my husband cautioned me about the spiders that are sure to be hiding there. He proceeded to talk about mixing up some chemicals for me to spray in the closets after they were emptied out, rounding up some rubber gloves for me to use, and then informed me to have a good day. Gulp! Kill spiders? Guard against dangerous chemicals? All to have my shoes nicely organized and my purses beautifully displayed?

So, I did what any normal woman would do. I passed on cleaning out the closets today. I figure I'll wait when Wes is home and HE can wear rubber gloves, pull things out from the corners, and smash the dastardly, murderous spiders for me while I run hysterically screaming from the room if we happen to spot one.

My next thought was to clean out the storage shelves where Wes keeps all his tools, electrical supplies, plumbing things, blah blah blah. None of it is pretty, but it needs to be organized and put in labeled bins for easy access. Sounds like a good plan, right? When I informed Wes that I wouldn't be cleaning the closet, but would be organizing the shelves instead, he casually told me to not be surprised if I see any mice. Are you kidding me? Don't even get me started on my fear of mice. Ever heard of the bubonic plague? I've got news for you -- mice (and their close cousins, rats) were behind all of that! As I sat there wide-eyed, my husband kissed me good-bye and left for work -- leaving me to the mercy of fanged, deranged mice that are hiding around my home. I'm in the process of finding a super-duty antibacterial, anti-mousal (I just invented that word) cleaning agent for the shelves.

My day of organizing has been ravaged by spiders and mice. Granted, these spiders and mice haven't been seen, so technically they're not a threat. Who am I kidding? Of course, they're a threat! Considering that I hadn't even thought of varmints in my closet or storage area, now I'm scared to death to change out my shoes due to deadly spiders (I'll be wearing black flip flops for the rest of my life because those are the only pair not IN my closet at the moment) and do NOT ask me to go get a light bulb because a disease-ridden mouse might contaminate me.

Instead, I'll just plan a day where my wonderful husband can help me organize. He will be so happy to hear that. Since he was kind enough to point out the spiders and mice, surely he'll be kind enough to take care of those critters for me while I clean. Just another example of our working together ... I clean, he kills. And that's why God put us together.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Life Olympics

It is a good thing that I'm not an Olympic gymnast. First of all, my age might be a little stumbling block. It definitely would NOT be good to have my joints and bones creak more than the uneven bars. Secondly, my fear of heights would keep me from even attempting to go any higher than 2 feet over the vault. And going over the vault sideways or upside down or any other way where I'd feel a little out of control and could hurt myself? No, thank you. Thirdly, I'd think it would be fairly important to have some kind of abdominal muscles to do any type of gymnastics, and yeah ... we won't discuss my abs. Not at all. So don't even try. And lastly, if something hurts, I am NOT going to want to do it repeatedly (the only exception to this in my life was having four children, but notice that four is the magic number for me -- I didn't do it daily for years!). No, I was NOT cut out to be an Olympic gymnast.

I love watching them though. I can't help but admire the height they get as they go over the vault (better them than me!). I'm in awe of the way they can move, and bend, and contort. And balancing on that beam (which is just 4 inches wide, by the way!)? Puh-lease! I have a hard time balancing on my high heels!!

It's exciting to see what these gymnasts can do. They're the best of the best. The cream of the crop. Their mommas must be so proud. But the thing that stands out the most to me is their determination and their perseverence. I'm sure that when they were tiny little girls who went to the gym the first day, they didn't do incredible floor routines or death-defying tricks on the balance beam. Pointing their toes when they learned to walk, working up to a sommersault, actually climbing UP on the balance beam and just walking across it -- that was probably more what happened. It took years of practice, of failure, of continuing on when it got difficult, of determination. But these are the very things that led to these Olympic gymnasts' success.

These are the same things that lead to my success as well. No, I don't do elaborate gymnastic floor routines ... but I've played on the floor with my children and grandchildren. No, I don't swing through the air on the uneven bars ... but I've journeyed through an uneven life with my husband. No, I  don't vault my body up in the air ... but I've vaulted in to the unknown and established relationships with people I never knew. No, I don't walk the narrow balance beam ... but I've walked with my Lord. In every single one of my relationships, in every single aspect of my life where God is leading and teaching me, determination and perseverance is required. Just as He doesn't give up, so I'm to hang in there as well. And, at the end of the day, I won't be standing on a podium and receiving a gold medal. Instead, I'll be approaching a throne and will hear a "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

And THAT is worth it all ...

If Jesus Had Facebook ...

If Jesus had a Facebook, what would He update? If I disappointed Him, would He change His status to single? Would He delete my pictures and erase me from His timeline?

If there's one thing about Jesus that I can count on, it's His consistency. Not changing His relationship status. No game playing for Him. He committed years before I was born -- years before man walked the earth, years before the world was formed -- that He would be in a relationship with me. He has instructed me to give my earthly relationships a permanence because all that is here is a mirror of what is in eternity. One word that perfectly describes Him is permanent. Jesus is unchanging. Jesus isn't like the shifting sands or the variable winds. He's solid. He's firm. He can be counted upon. Just as when I argued with my parents, I didn't suddenly become an orphan -- so God doesn't disown me. Just as when I have a spat with my husband, I'm not divorced until we make up -- so God doesn't sever our relationship. Just as when my children make wrong decisions, I'm not suddenly childless because of my disappointment -- so God doesn't turn His back on our relationship. And that's me! Me -- the one who struggles with consistency, the one who is wishy-washy and lacking, the one who is weak. How much more permanent is my Father in Heaven?

When Jesus and I began our relationship, my relationship status was changed to "In a Relationship". Through the years, there have been highs and lows. There has been unfaithfulness. There has been reconciliation. There has been new birth. There has been changes. Changes in the relationship ... not an ending in the relationship and starting a new one. God Himself has never changed. He's waited patiently as I grew, as I learned, as I truly began to value what He had given me when He gave me Himself.

Jesus might not have Facebook where He daily updates His status. But He's got the sky where He writes His love for me daily in the sunset. He's got the sun that rises daily to remind me of His consistency. He's got the laws of gravity that remind me of His strength. He's got the nail-scarred hands to remind me of His sacrifice and love. Those scars? I put them there. Yet, He doesn't hold it against me. Instead, they are there to show me just how far He'll go to demonstrate His love for me. Once ... for all ... forever.

Jesus and me.