Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back ... and Moving Forward

Quite an interesting year -- 2010. From what I hear, it's therapeutic to go over the highs and lows of the year. Personally, I think it's always interesting to look back and see God's fingerprints all over everything. There are times that I feel like things are so out of control and so stinking chaotic ... and when I look back, I'm pleasantly surprised by His control. Isn't that sad? Not that He's in control, but that I just can't seem to see it as it's going on. Since you're reading this blog of mine, you get to be in on the therapy with me. Fortunate you!!

Our year began with someone (I won't mention names, but I happen to be married to him) turning the big 5-0. Within a month, we had kids moving out of our house and other kids moving back in. Wes's dad had been diagnosed with dementia that affected him very much physically as well and we helped move him to a facility, which was very difficult for all of our family, including Wes's sweet mom. Wes and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary by taking a small, welcome trip to a neighboring state to enjoy each other and our family who lives there.

By the time summer hit, our youngest son had gotten engaged (to a girl we adore and who fits in with our family wonderfully!) Our daughter had been hospitalized with intense symptoms that were eventually diagnosed as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Her recovery process was lengthy and fairly life-changing. A second grandbaby was born -- a precious little girl who has already captivated our hearts, just like her older sister has done. I joined my husband at the half-century mark (how is that possible? I don't feel that old!) Our grandbaby went BACK to the hospital at 4 days old with a cyst in her tear duct and an infection, but she recovered quickly and well. And then, my mother had a heart attck, had stent surgery, and a hospital stay. My mom has always been in great health, has been feisty and active, and that was scary for all of us.

When autumn rolled around, three of our four adult children had moved back in to our home, bringing all the furniture and boxes they left with ... plus some! We somehow managed to fit a 4-room apartment in to two rooms (and a storage unit - we cheated.) Our middle son finally had shoulder surgery to correct an injury from three years back. At the time, he was told that at the age of 26, he had the shoulder of a man in his 70's. Not encouraging, but again, we know that God is in control, and we're grateful for the wisdom He gives our doctors so that they can help him. Our oldest son smashed and mangled a finger at work, but fortunately there didn't have to be a surgery. Finally, our youngest son was deep in the middle of taking all of his teacher certification tests (and passing them all, might I add proudly!).

There have been some big events in 2010. Some we welcomed ... some we weren't too crazy about. But in each and every circumstance, God has shown His bigness ... His control ... His sovereign power ... and His incredible love. He never lets go, and for that I'm extremely grateful. My daily recitation is that God loves me, God's in control, and He wants the best for me ... it's true!! And He does for you as well. My prayer is that we'll continue to keep our eyes fixed firmly on Him as He takes us through this 2011's adventures.

Enjoy some of our year in pictures!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Child at Christmas

There is just something about having a child around at Christmas. For us adults, we get caught up in all of the planning and activities. There are still gifts to buy ... still gifts to wrap ... parties to go to ... cookies to bake ... not enough time ... not enough money ... and we tend to be a little "Grinchy". Our focus is on what we have to do, or what we don't have, instead of the celebration that it is.

Add a child to that mix, and all of a sudden, Christmas takes on a whole new twist. It becomes fresh and new ... it's exciting ... it's a joy.

Our oldest granddaughter is four. She loves to get baby Jesus out of His stable and sing "Away in the Manger" to Him as she cradles Him in her arms. She loves to look at all of the family ornaments on the tree and hear the memory related to each one of them. She loves to turn out all of the lights and help her Nammy light the candles. She loves setting up the little villages, turning on the lights to the houses, and playing in the artificial snow. She loves driving through neighborhoods to see all of the different Christmas lights and how people have decorated. She loves singing "Jingle Bells". She loves reading Christmas books and hearing the different stories. She loves seeing all of the different stockings for family members and telling others which stocking is whose. She is excited about helping Jesus celebrate His birthday ... and her sweet little heart helps this Nammy become more excited and child-like as well.

Isn't it a little ironic? Christmas began with a Child to bless the world... and He continues to bless the world through other children as well.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

God's Personal Advisor

Planning is a good thing, right? When you plan things out, then everything is organized ... and put together ... and not chaotic ... and perfect ... and all is right in the world. Well, that's how it should be. I am a planner. I love to organize. I love order and routine and check-lists. And yes, I especially love checking things off with a red pen. I love having a plan and seeing it work out just as it's supposed to.When things come together as "they should", it's a wonderful feeling!!! It's fun to organize myself and everyone I know around me ... for me, at least. Everything in its place and a place for everything. Sigh! I get goose bumps just thinking about it!

If only God would just let me take over and organize everything like I want. Oh, I give Him lots of advice. I'm always telling Him, "Don't you think it would be nice if {insert something here}?" To be honest, I don't know how much stock God puts in to my wisdom. God loves me. I don't think He especially loves my advice. For some reason, I don't think He wants me to be His personal advisor.

I've given Him a lot of guidance over our years together. He knows who I think would be suitable companions for our single children ... how I think our country should be run ... how Wal-Mart should stock their shelves for short people. I've had my family's entire future planned out in advance for God (just to help Him out, you know). I chose husbands and wives ... chose occupations ... chose living locations ... chose friends. If I thought it would help, I would type up my suggestions, file it under Important Stuff that Diana Thinks, and then harrass talk with Him daily about it all.

I guess this is the time that I should probably confess something I've learned. Believe it or not, I'm not always right. I know you're gasping in total disbelief at that ridiculous confession, but it's honestly true. And this is one lesson that I have NOT enjoyed learning ... and relearning ... and learning again ... and learning once more.

God made me a planner. And that's a good thing. At least, I think it is. But when MY plans and MY ideas begin to take precedence over what God's plans are ... well, there's bound to be a collision of some sort, and unfortunately -- I'm not going to win. Why? Because He's God and I'm not. He sees the TOTAL picture and I see only part of it. He sees with eternal eyes while I see with my temporal eyes. He sees with perfect, holy vision and my eyes are ... well, mine.

So, even though I continue to keep check-lists, and even though I continue to plan and organize, I have made a choice. What seems to be a good idea to me at the time might not be the "best" according to what God has in store. I don't want to settle for just "good" when the "best" is out there and available, and God doesn't want me to either. The hardest part for me is sitting and waiting on God to work while I have a plan of action that sounds incredibly "good". But I sit ... and wait ... and pray ... and sometimes complain, then apologize for my complaints ... then sit some more... and wait again ... and pray constantly ... and cry loudly ... and watch for God's work ... and then, all of a sudden I'll see a glimpse of what He's doing and become absolutely overwhelmed at His incredible goodness. And it'll dawn on me what a brilliant idea God has when He does it "His" way. It's at this time that He reinforces to me that HE is the Master Planner, HE has complete control, and HE has good in mind.

Let's all be glad that God is God ... and I'm not.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Taylor's Words ...

As I was listening to my Taylor Swift CD on the way to work today (yes, I love Taylor Swift. If you've been reading my blog, you should know that by now!!), she sang the following lines (and for Taylor Swift purists out there, yes, I'm skipping around on the lyrics here a bit): "...who you are is not what you did ... I hope you remember today is never too late to be brand new ... who you are is not where you've been." Uhm, yeah ... I LOVE that song. Maybe because I've lived a life with regrets? What Taylor (I have all of her CDs so I feel like I know her and we're on a first name basis) didn't continue on with in her song is WHY today is never too late to be brand new, WHY who you are is not what you did, WHY who you are is not where you've been.

Lamentations 3 spells it out for us: "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every moring; great is Your faithfulness." The chapter goes on to talk about the youthful indiscretions, the wrong choices, the suffering of consequences, and God's salvation. In the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!"

I am NOT where I've been ... I am NOT what I've done ... because of what God in Christ has done for me. Every day IS a new day and a fresh beginning because of His love and faithfulness. Something to be grateful for ...

Monday, November 29, 2010


Over the years, we've had all kinds of fun Christmas traditions:

* going to see Christmas lights and then drinking hot chocolate topped with marshmallows. When the kids were really little, they'd wear their pajamas and house shoes and got to all pile up in the front seat with us as we drove through the neighborhoods.

* going to the mall for a picture with Santa Claus. We'd dress in red or green, wear our "Happy Birthday, Jesus" buttons and go! There's a picture of each child crying on Santa's lap (I love those pictures. Am I a horrible mom?) and then pictures of them as they got older and we added more children. Santa ran out of lap!

* baking and decorating Christmas cookies. I remember having all purplish black cookies because the kids mixed up all of the icing. Not pretty cookies, but they were good! Over the years, we've had Oklahoma State cookies, Santa falling off the roof cookies, and other cookies that I refuse to discuss. Remember, I had three boys living here.

* making Christmas bon bons ... and Christmas cake. Our Christmas cake is a tradition that goes back to my grandmother. I grew up eating it as a little girl, and my kids have all learned to love it and look forward to it, too. The cake takes over an hour to mix, over an hour to bake ... but it's so worth it! We referred to this cake as Jesus' birthday cake. He was wonderful to share it with us!

* buying an ornament that represented a milestone for each child or that represented something they were involved in/interested in that year. These are the ones that I unwrap each year and get a little misty-eyed -- baby's first Christmas (from 1981!) ... a cowboy hat when our youngest son wore his cowboy hat everywhere, even to bed ... a santa playing baseball that represented when our middle son played his first season of t-ball ... a baby angel for our sweet little girl who followed after three rowdy older brothers. This is a tradition that we've continued. When our oldest son married his sweet wife, we bought a bride and groom ornament for our tree. When our precious granddaughter was born, we bought a grandbaby ornament. We're adding another grandbaby ornament this year!

* putting fake names on the presents so no one knew which presents were theirs. Each year, there would be a "theme" to the names. One year, every one was a candy bar (Twix, Snickers, etc.) ... another year, the kids were all members of The Gang (Scooby Doo, Shaggy) ... we've had the Seven Dwarves ... the Three Stooges (plus Shep) ... Mexican Food (Taco, Chalupa) ... Classic Toys (Checkers, Lincoln Logs). Each year, our grown kids will give suggestions on the aliases we need to use this time around.

* stockings. We began this the year Wes and I were first married in 1980. We still hang those two stockings ... and we've added seven more more since then as each of our kids were born, as two sweet girls joined our family through marriage and/or engagement, and as God blessed us with grandchildren. This year, we'll  hang up another one for our second grandbaby who was born in August. But the stockings aren't just for decoration. These things are overflowing and filled to the top on Christmas Eve!! I've tried to let this particular tradition fade in to oblivion, but each of our kids have thrown a huge fit. They've declared they'd rather get one less present and continue to get their traditional stockings.

* Advent calendars or Advent wreaths. We'd read a Scripture passage each day that would lead up to the Christmas story, light candles, and have a family devotion/celebration. We'd end up singing Christmas carols as we'd take the children to their rooms and tuck them in for the night.

* eating chocolate doughnuts and drinking orange juice Christmas morning before we open presents. This has happened as early as 4:00 am (not by Wes's and my choice!) and as late as 8:30 am. Not a fancy breakfast, but one that our family looks forward to each year. Christmas brunch always follows around 10:30 at my parents' house ... so the doughnuts tide us over until then.

* playing our Christmas music beginning the day after Thanksgiving until December 25th -- every day, loud, and often!

* using our Christmas plates, placemats, and cups

* reading different Christmas books as a family, but always reading the Christmas story out of the Gospel of Luke

* placing candles all over the house and burning them every night. We rarely have our lights on in December and live by candlelight.

* family pictures. We'll always take a "good" one. You know, the type that you'll put on a Christmas card to send to people. And then we take a "real" one -- one that is goofy and shows what the Allens are really like.

* watching Christmas movies. Although this one is an area of great disagreement in our family. We all agree that "Miracle on 34th Street", "It's A Wonderful Life", and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are all Christmas classics. Those are just a few. There are LOTS of wonderful Christmas movies. But the men in my family insist that "Die Hard" (because there's a Christmas tree in it) should be put on that list, too. Uhm, no. They'll never convince me otherwise.

What wonderful memories we've been able to store up over the years through our Christmas traditions. It's my hope and prayer that our children will take these ideas, maybe add to them or tweak them a bit, and carry them on in their own homes with their children to build their own memories.  I've seen that the traditions have helped us slow down enough to enjoy the simpler moments ... have helped us focus on family ... have helped us experience Christ in the celebration of His birth. It's a wonderful time of year!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

God Speaks Through Cashiers

You want to know what I hate? Probably not, but unfortunately, I'm going to tell you anyway. I absolutely HATE when I feel like what I'm doing is the right thing, but it winds up being the absolutely last thing I should be doing. It is a miserable feeling to look back and see all of the "wrong" when you were blindly going your way. You'd think that at my age (which is still relatively young ... if you're a tree or a fine wine), I'd recognize that kind of stuff by now. But just this week, I was reminded vividly of how far I still have to go.

And, of course, that just devastated me. Honestly, my intentions were good. I was trying to do the right thing. But, it was all in my power. There's the give-away -- MY power. I had been experiencing a struggle and was trying to work through it on my own, doing what I felt was best. I had prayed about it, but obviously hadn't released it to the Father and was still working as mightily as I could to "fix" it.  God was faithful to bring me up short and remind me that what I "feel" and "think" aren't necessarily what is right and true ... and yes, I hate that. I hate the fact that I continue to mess up over and over and over and over (you get the idea, right?).

It was a routine trip to Wal-Mart. As I was standing in the grocery store line, watching the bill add up for the 5 people living in this house, I guess my face was like an open book. The cashier, who is one of my favorites there and I always try to get in her line, was chatting as she was ringing up the groceries. Suddenly, she stopped and said, "Is everything okay? You seem like something is wrong." Well, I certainly wasn't going to go in to all of life's drama with the cashier at Wal-Mart, so I very politely lied (yes, I lied) and said, "No, everything's fine. I'm just preoccupied and busy, I guess." So, I made it a point to chat her up a little bit more, like I usually do, just to prove my point that I was, in fact, "fine". As I was leaving, however, she said to me, "I just want you to know that God is in control ... and He loves you very much." I stammered a thank you to her, and then hurried out of the store as quickly as I could so she couldn't see me dissolve in tears. I very definitely appreciated her kind word ... but even more, I appreciated the fact that God used her to encourage me as He continues to teach me a hard life's lesson.

The cashier may never know how she ministered to me this morning (I just might tell her one of these days if I could manage to do it without crying!). But I felt like she was literally God's mouthpiece to me -- to encourage me to hang in there, to remind me of His love despite my failings, and to assure me of His sovereign power and control. Even in the middle of a difficult circumstance, God took the time to reach out to me, all through a sweet lady working at Wal-Mart ... and THAT I love!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gross, Icky, "Don't-Mention-in-Public" Things

There are just some things that shouldn't be discussed in public. Since a blog is a public forum, I'm not going to tell you those specific things, but I imagine you can think of a few yourself. Actually, that would be a hilarious blog ... but it would be in extremely poor taste, and since I'm such a high-class person, I'll stay away from all of that. One of the parts of being a mother, however, is participating in these types of "don't-mention-in-public" things. It's not that we're voluntarily participating -- it's because there's no one else who will and we're stuck with the clean-up or prevention. And since these are "mother jobs", we're going to be discussing them today. Please keep in mind, these ARE things that have been performed in the "line-of-duty" as a mother and it's not just a gratuitous way of being able to speak of icky things.

* My child had an extremely clogged nose and I was helping to "remove the clogs". I had a kleenix in hand, had plugged up one nostil of my child, and was giving instructions on how to blow a nose - a nostril at a time. Since this particular child was young, we hadn't necessarily done the blowing before (I hate to admit it, but I used to tell my children: "Sniff really big. I don't have a kleenix". As I was preparing to cover the stuffed up little nose, my child decided to go ahead and blow ... and covered my face (and sunglasses) with the nose clog materials before the kleenx was in place. I can still remember the horrified feeling as the rest of my family, who all were fortunate enough to witness the famous unclogging episode, collapsed in hysterial laughter.

* My middle son loved to ride in the front seat of the car. Since I also loved to ride in the front seat while his father was driving, the answer was always "no" to his question of trading places. We were driving through the winding roads of the Ozarks in Missouri when the boy said he was car sick. Okay, he was 5 years old. He had never been car sick, and honestly, I don't even know where he heard the term. I told him we'd be there in a bit and he needed to just rest. Yes, I figured he was just trying to get in to the front seat and thought he could use the excuse of being sick. It wasn't until he vomited on the back of my head that I realized the little guy actually knew what he was talking about.

* I was lying on my back, holding my precious baby boy up over my head. He was cooing and babbling to me, grinning that sweet toothless little smile that I loved ... and then he without warning spit up -- right in to my open and talking mouth. I learned then and there to NOT hold up a newly fed baby over my face.

I could go on, but truthfully, I'm starting to gross myself out walking down Memory Lane, so I'm going to stop while I'm ahead. But the fact is that as a mom, I've had to put up with some disgusting things. All moms do. It just goes along with the job description. Though I laugh about it now, it was something that was pretty icky at the time.

I love my children. I really do. But there comes a time when I had to quit "cleaning up after them" and let them experience the consequences of their own actions. It was soooooo much easier to clean up the icky, unspeakable things of childhood than to sit back and watch as they were older. After all, I was DOING something, and for me ... well, it was sure better than just sitting and waiting. God, being the Perfect Parent, is a great example of what I needed to do. In my own life, God sometimes rescued ... and sometimes sat and watched as I had to dig myself out. And He's taught me to do the same thing with my children. Let me tell you, everything in THIS momma wants to ALWAYS run in and rescue, to ALWAYS clear a path to make it easier, to ALWAYS do what will make my child happy. God has taught me that those things are NOT what my child always needs. So, I've sat and watched children make wrong mistakes ... cried and prayed as an adult/child took the dangerous path ... and longed for the clean-up days of long ago.

Regardless of the mess, God is there with my child wherever s/he may take Him. Despite the ickiness, God never leaves. Sometimes God rescues ... and sometimes He watches us experience the consequences. But in every single situation, God IS THERE with my child -- something I'm incable of doing. My job as teacher and "cleaner-upper" is basically over ... and God's never is. Throughout the rest of their lives, God will be with them -- celebrating the victories, teaching through the defeats, cleaning up and preparing them for the future. And I can rest, knowing that He is in control and our kids are in very capable hands.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kid Talk

This is a picture of our four children (20 years ago!) Aren't they adorable? Weren't they the cutest things? We had a lot of fun with them while they were growing up. For years, I kept a journal of different things our kids said, or how they pronounced certain words. Educators would have told me I was wrong, but there were just some things they mispronounced that I thought were so darn cute, I didn't correct them. I'm not going to embarrass any of my children (I'll save that for another post) and tell you who said what. We're just going to savor the moment of their thinking  and their mispronounciations ...

* Kiddo was sitting in the back seat of our car on a hot summer day. "Mom! Turn on the air 'tioner! I'm defecating back here!"

* Child's weeping reaction to singing "Away In A Manger" (in particular: the part where we sing " room for a bed") "Jesus could have had my bed!"

* Our little one asked why Jesus had to die to pay for our sins. He wanted to know why Jesus couldn't just write a check.

* One of our children wanted to know why the Easter Dummy didn't come to our house.

* Another child would tell us he needed a Kleenix to wipe the "snore" from his nose.

* One of our kids would complain of "nitches" in his bottom, but he'd want you to scratch it because he didn't want his "pingers" to get "tinky".

* One child wore a "baby soup" (bathing suit) ... all of them said "horkie" (horsie) ... another would "scare" (stare) at things s/he wasn't supposed to be "scaring" at ... another used "tulip paper" to wipe after using the restroom ... and when one was sick, he had the "kazoo" while his brother had the "flute".

Probably one of the best things, although I really shouldn't put it down, was when one of our sons was teaching his younger brother, our 3-year-old, a Bible verse. They were working on I John 5:17 -- "all wrong doing is sin." The older brother was trying to explain to the younger brother what sin was, and he said, "Sin is when you say a bad word." Recently, they had heard the s-word while they had been at a house of a neighbor boy and had been instructed that it was not a word that we should say.  So, the older brother told the younger brother, "Sin would be saying the s-word." Ahhh! That was a good explanation, right? The younger brother very definitely understood that. Later in the evening, the boys were very excited to share what they had learned. The older brother instructed the younger boy to tell us his Bible verse ... and this is what he proudly said: "I John 5:17 -- All wrong doing is s@#%."

I am extremely proud to tell you that all of my children (who are now in their 20's) no longer need Kleenixes to wipe the snore from their noses ... they don't scare at people anymore ... they don't wear baby soups (that I know of) ... and they don't swear while reciting Bible verses. Sigh. I certainly miss those days.

The good news? I have a granddaughter who loves to watch "woovies" (movies). She asked after hearing talk of a storm: "This sounds serious. Is there a tomato coming?" And, she told me that she loves to ride "alligators" (elevators). The fun and blessings continue!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mangling Songs is my Specialty

Yes, it's true. I love listening to country music. I love the red-dirt country (which basically originated in Oklahoma, by the way), thanks to my middle son who got his whole family hooked on Cross Canadian Ragweed, Stoney Larue, or the Zac Brown Band (BEFORE they were famous). I love Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift ... love Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw ... love Darius Rucker (formerly known as Hootie from Hootie and the Blow Fish) and Miranda Lambert. Yup, I pretty much love it all.

I have a major problem though. I find myself singing along to the songs and then adding my own twist, or changing the words around. This has been a secret, because it's really ridiculous how I mangle these songs ... but it's usually for my own enjoyment and entertainment as I drive in the car alone. But, now I'm sharing that with you. I'll share the song ... and then show you how I change it to fit me. If you're a country music fan, you'll maybe see the humor in it. If you're not, this blog will be really strange ...

   The song says: "If I die young...", Diana sings: "If I die young ... ooops! Too late!"

   The song says: "God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy." Diana sings: "God is great, beer is gross, and it makes me hazy."
   The song says: "Jesus take the wheel...", Diana sings: "Jesus, take the wheel ... and then give it back really quick because I have a good idea where we need to go."

   The song says: "I had a barbecue stain on my white t-shirt, you were killing me in that mini skirt." Diana sings it: "I had a barbecue stain on my white t-shirt, I never learned to eat right, what can it hurt?"

Okay, I never said that my mangled versions of the songs were particularly impressive or brilliant.

Country songs aren't the only ones that I'll destroy. Remember the Christmas song that goes: "...beautiful sight, we're happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland." Diana usually sings it this way: "...beautiful sight, we're happy tonight, walking in our woolen underwear." Yup, I can't think of a reason off the top of my head why I always sing about underwear in this song, but I do. There's other songs that I've managed to put in phrases about dirty or holey underwear, but I'm sure you've heard enough mangled lyrics for the day.

The sad part is that I'm the only person who thinks it's funny. And now you know my secret and think I'm extremely strange, just like my family does. But I sure crack myself up as I'm driving along making up goofy words to popular country songs (all songs are considered fair game for me, however). Who knows? Maybe someday I'll be famous (like Weird Al Yankovic) and you can say you knew me "when." Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Prayers for My Children

For my precious children and grandchildren, I pray ...

that you're never too comfortable. With comfort comes the feeling of being fine just where we are and not needing anything else.

that you might recognize the lies of the world and realize that you were created for much more than this.

that you'll never be truly content unless you're walking with the Lord.

that no matter what you've done or where you've been, you'll be able to forgive yourself as Jesus forgives you ... and that you'll see yourself as He sees you -- precious, worthy, and absolutely His.

that God's incredible gift of grace will be abundantly clear to you as you rock your sleeping babies ... or as you wake each morning, knowing that every day is a new beginning.

that you'll always recognize your need for Christ. Being needy isn't a bad thing. When we recognize our need and walk with Him, then we become stronger and are more able to withstand more of what the world throws at us.

that you won't neglect to see the danger signs that are placed before you. And then, once you see those signs, you'll do the right thing ... and run!

that you'll hear God's voice at all times -- especially in those times when He's the last One you want to be hearing from.

that you'll be sweetly broken by the depth of Jesus' love for you ... and that it will overflow from you to those around you.

that you'll recognize the blessings you've been given by family members who have walked with the Lord and prayed for you all of your life ... and that you'll do the same for your children and grandchildren.

that you might feel the security of knowing that God loves you, He has a plan for your life, and He is in absolute control. He's never caught off guard and always cares what's going on where you're concerned. Even when things seem bleak and you feel alone, may you rest in His presence, sure that He is Who He says He is.

that you'll always be confident of my love for you ... but even more than that, that you'll be certain of God's  love for you.

I love you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Big Honkin' Pill of Discomfort

Life is full of things that make me uncomfortable. I can go down a list:
1) The house is too cold
2) Too many dogs in the bed and I can't find a spot
3) Being around someone that I don't like or that is really different from me
4) The chair is too hard ... or too soft
5) Aging
6) Walking by a homeless person asking for money
7) Taking a huge pill
8) My jeans are too tight
9) The audio to the movie is too loud

I have decided that my entire life is dedicated to my comfort. I love to be comfortable. I have also seen that God is NOT dedicated to my comfort ... and He honestly doesn't care if I'm comfortable or not. He loves me. He wants the best for me. But my comfort is not the highest point on His list (if it even makes His list or not!).

Just recently, I was complaining to God about a situation. To me, what I was describing to Him was something that He definitely should change -- not because of my comfort level, but because it was "right"!! He needed to intervene and make it "right". Apparently His perfect will wasn't being done in this situation, and He needed to step in and change things (according to my infinite wisdom and superiority). I spent time in prayer ... I spent time in His Word ... and then felt totally empty and alone because there didn't seem to be an answer for me. It was like God was silent, and it hurt.

As I was sitting there sniffling and feeling sorry for myself, I picked up Crazy Love, by Frances Chan. I've skimmed through the book before, but that had been about it. So, I began thumbing through it again ... and then God spoke.
Life is comfortable when you separate yourself from people who are different from you.
That epitomizes what my life was like: characterized by comfort.
But God doesn't call us to be comfortable.
He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations
where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.
What? Repeat that, please? God doesn't call ME to be comfortable?! In fact, He's asking me to step out in faith and trust Him ... and in this situation, that's what He's doing.  I realized that God orchestrates the day-by-day circumstances of my life. There's never a situation too big that He can't control. But, once again, He calls me to lean on Him, to trust in Him, to place my hand in His ... and keep continuing despite my comfort. In this particular situation, I've learned that God is looking for my perseverence, and He's teaching me through each step of it. While I call out to Him to deliver me so that I can be "comfortable", He's intent on my learning a lesson regardless of my comfort level. He also assures me that other people that might be involved in this situation are not my concern -- He loves them and deals with them and He's got it under control. In other words, God doesn't need me to worry and fret and complain!!

I'd love to say that this is a lesson I've loved to "re-learn" (because I've definitely learned it before), but that wouldn't be true. It's one of those bittersweet lessons -- like a big honkin' pill that hurts on the way down, but you know it's what you need. Today, I'm thankful that God "re-teaches" me ... that He's more concerned with the end result than with my comfort. My role in this uncomfortable area is to persevere and trust in the God Who is sovereign. And God assures me that He'll be with me each step of the way as we walk through this together ...
"Be content with what you have; for God Himself has said, "I will never, never
let go of your hand; I will never never forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5a (Weymouth New Testament)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Doggy World

We have three dogs in our house. Our furniture and clothes are covered in dog hair (although HOW the furniture is covered, I don't know because the dogs aren't allowed on the furniture. I think they wait until we're not home and then they wallow all over the couches. Just a thought.). We have three different food bowls on the floor that each dog shares with the other dog. Pommer, the youngest and definitely the one that is the most roly-poly, grazes out of ALL of the bowls all day long. When I'm home cleaning, cooking, doing whatever, I have three dogs that follow me in to each room that I go in to and they lay there until I get the job done or until I move in to another room. Cooking can be a definite chore when there are three dogs lying on the kitchen floor ... and getting up from the couch or easy chair always requires a quick glance at the floor to see if there's a dog underfoot. We are literally a house full of dogs and people.

We've always had a dog in the house, and we swore we'd never have more than one dog at a time. So, we had Snooker, a little rat terrior that lived with us for 17 years (until we had to put him down about a year ago). When he hit 14, we figured he'd only be around for a year or so, so we "allowed" our daughter to adopt a Pomeranian/Pug mix puppy that was named Pommer. We brought Pommer into our house and Snooker was NOT a happy camper. We thought Snooker would "train" Pommer and that Pommer would learn from him. Yeah, right. THAT didn't happen. The only thing Pommer learned from Snooker was to NOT come when you called him and how to gorge himself and become fat.

Then, our youngest son decided he needed a dog while he was at college and when he came home on weekends, he brought Stoney with him. Stoney is a beautiful German Shepherd/Blue Heeler that was rescued from the pound. The only problem with Stoney?! He is BIG ... and hyper ... and needy. He wants to be a 40-pound lap dog. He loves to drink out of the toilet and has gotten to the place where he'll stand at the bathtub and whine so we'll turn the water on for him to drink. Gotta have that "fresh", not doggy-bowl water, ya know!

Not long after that, our son also brought home Gracie, a Schnauzer mix, whose owner didn't want her anymore and he was going to take her out and shoot her. Our son was horrified by that, rescued her, and brought her here for us to "find an owner for her" -- uhm, that was about 3 years ago. We named her Gracie because she was "saved by grace" and instantly fell in love with her because of her gentle spirit. Gracie has become the mama dog of the bunch; she'll groom Pommer and chastise Stoney. It's a crazy house!

All three of the dogs like to sleep with my husband and me. Pommer was little enough that we didn't mind when he first got here. He'd sleep curled up next to my legs, and my husband never knew he was there (until Pommer started getting up at 4:30 in the morning to go outside and get a doggy treat! I would just ignore him or get after him, while Wes would actually get up and get that goofy dog what he wanted!). Since Pommer didn't disturb Wes's slumber, he was allowed to sleep with us. Gracie, who was an outside dog when we first got her, has never particularly been interested in sleeping in the bed (thank goodness!). She sleeps in a upholstered chair in our room or on the cool tile in the bathroom. But yes, she's in here with us. Then, there's Stoney ... the big dog ... the dog that is literally the size of a man (okay, a small man, but still a man!) when he stretches out. Stoney LOVES to be in the bed. Stoney wants to be in the bed, lying on the pillow, under the blankets next to me and he'd really prefer for Wes to sleep on the floor. Yes, Wes isn't particularly fond of that scenario. Wes usually (okay, always!) wins, and Stoney either tries to sleep pressed up to me somehow, or he'll sleep on the upholstered bench at the end of our bed (if Wes totally kicks him out).

The dogs also love to greet people at the door. Gracie has this high-pitched bark that is piercing. She'll bark and then run off and hide. She is scared of strangers ... well, actually, she's pretty much scared of everyone except for immediate family. Little, fat Pommer will bark and get so excited that he can barely breathe. He'll wheeze and jump around and then exhaust himself (we really need to get some weight off of that dog). Stoney has this deep, extremely scary bark. He'll turn in circles until he gets dizzy and frantically try to kiss anyone who comes in the door. People are usually traumatized before we can even get them out of the entry way in to the living room.

None of our dogs like to take a bath, although they ALL love to be brushed and will let you brush them forever. They don't like to share chew toys, so we don't get them anymore, but they do share their food. Pommer likes to punish people by pooping in their room (for years, we blamed it on poor old Snooker, thinking he had "lost it", but Pommer just pooped by the chair Snooker slept in. We finally caught him and broke him of the habit pretty quickly). Stoney has horrible, loud, stinky gas ... Gracie's tummy gurgles ... Pommer likes to nip at your toes when you walk by (fun game!). And every single one of those silly dogs are just sooooo grateful to be loved and in a home with people.

I know a lot of people don't like dogs. They think they're obnoxious and smelly ... and those people would be right! But, we can learn so much from our pets. Dogs love unconditionally. They accept their lot in life. They're loyal. They protect the weaker ones. And they need us -- their owners and masters. I had to think -- do I love unconditionally? Do I accept what I've been given without complaint? Am I loyal to those I serve? Do I protect and care for those who are weaker and need help? Do I act with God like my dogs act with me? Seriously! When it's time for God and I to meet, do I act like my entire day has been made just by being in His presence?

Yes, I still have lots to learn from these furry little friends of mine. They ARE just dogs, but for some reason, God has placed these dogs in our house for the time being. They're the "furrier" part of our family, and we can learn from them just as they (occasionally) learn from us.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Random Thoughts

1. I want to know who the middle-aged, wrinkled woman is who jumps in front of me each morning when I look in the mirror. She seems vaguely familiar, but when I try to get closer to see just exactly who she is, she has this strange ability to make herself blurry. Seriously, she is really starting to get on my nerves.

2. Why is it when my 2-month old grandbaby yawns, everyone smiles and says "how cute", but when I yawn without covering my mouth, my family thinks it's disgusting. "Ewwww, Mom! Cover your mouth!"

3. Sometimes I wish God would pay just a little bit more attention when I'm trying to give Him advice on how to run things. Honestly, I think I have some pretty good ideas.

4. Why do mice and fleas (that nobody likes or wants) seem to multiply exponentially, but money does just the opposite?

5. It has been stated that wearing a shirt with horizontal stripes makes you look heavier. Puhlease! Like if I wore a shirt with vertical stripes, I'd look taller than 5 feet and less round than I already am? Let's be honest. I'd look like a chunky, middle-aged jail cell.

6. Whatever I think always sounds funnier, smarter, etc. than when I actually say it.

7. Just because I occasionally mix my words up and say things like "stooting shar" or "palt and sepper" does NOT mean that I'm losing my mind. Losing the ability to talk distinctly maybe ... but not my mind.

8. My dog thinks I'm wonderful. It would be nice if everyone else shared his same opinion.

9. Note to self: Never lick a steak knife.

10. If God really wanted me to write a blog, He'd give me brilliant ideas for posts instead of ten random thoughts.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mommy Radar

For some reason, God gave me "Mommy Radar". For those of you not cursed blessed enough to have this strange ability, let me explain it to you. Much like Doppler Radar (anyone in Oklahoma is familiar with that term) can see and predict a violent storm within a weather pattern, Mommy Radar can see what's going on in the lives of her children. The radar isn't particularly detailed in that I know all the in's and out's of a situation, but it's there enough for me to know something wrong is going on. Some people may call it intuition. Others have been known to hint that there are spells and voodoo involved (those are only my children who have hinted that -- they're a little bitter). But I call it Mommy Radar, and it simply is a family-coined term for the Holy Spirit revealing something (always something neither me nor my children want me to see) about one of my children.

The Radar usually starts with a sense of unease that something is not as it should be. That unease not only doesn't go away, but it just continues to get stronger as time goes by. Within 24 to 48 hours, something will happen (e.g. someone will say something or I'll piece together different events) and I'll have a general idea of what's going on. Yes, it sounds pretty sketchy, but the amazing thing is that in 100% of the cases where Mommy Radar has gone off, it's always right. It might be a little late (like after the event), but it's never failed. They can't run. They can't hide. They can't wear aluminum hats made of foil to keep their brain waves to themselves. My kids hate it, and honestly, I'm not too crazy about it myself, simply because of the pain that often accompanies revelation.

My kids have always hated the dreaded conversation that Mommy Radar brings about.

Me: We need to talk. (Yes, those are the words that can make any of my four children sweat profusely, become nauseous, and experience insanely fast heart rates.)

Kid: Uhm, what about? (At this point, his/her mind is racing wildly over anything s/he's done lately that could bring this conversation about. His/her eyes start seeking out the nearest exit to the room.)

Me: [Deep sigh] My Mommy Radar is going crazy. (By that, Mom means that she's unable to sleep and has calluses on her knees from constant prayer.)

Kid: [Rolling of the eyes] Seriously, Mom. This has got to stop. I'm {insert age here] now! (Meaning: I'm old enough to do what I want and I shouldn't have to answer to you or anyone else.)

Me: Believe me when I say I would be only too happy if it would stop!! But I can't help it. God just keeps revealing things to me! (At this point, Mom's eyes are beginning to get a little teary and her voice is getting shaky.)

Kid: [Slumping the shoulders, wiping brow wearily] Fine. When did you find out? (There's no argument that everything is hunky-dory. Both Mom and Kid know the truth. Kid knows the details ... Mom knows the generalities. Discussion follows.)

It is at this point that my kiddo and I will have a serious discussion about what God has revealed to me. I'd love to say that all of these discussions have had "happily ever after" endings, but I'd be a big fat liar if I did. I'd also love to say that in each situation, my child repented of {take your pick: wrong choice, sin, dangerous life pattern, etc.}, hugged me enthusiastically, thanked me profusely, and our relationship was stronger and better than ever before ... but, in the extremely slim chance that any of my children read my blog, I need to set a good example of always telling the truth. Sometimes, everything WAS positive and immediate changes came about. Other times weren't quite as "rewarding", but my child definitely heard the truth according to Scripture ... and it was his choice as to what he was going to do with it.

I haven't totally understood why God chooses to do this Mommy Radar stuff with our family, but here are some theories. There have been times that I needed to be my child's self-control and discipline when he was having a hard time exercising his own. I've had to be the brick wall to hedge my child in to protect him from the world ... and had to be the "bad guy" to protect him from himself. I've had to show my child he was believing a lie, justifying wrong behavior, or going down a dangerous road. And, as they've gotten older, I've had to confront as one Christian adult to another.

There has never been a time when Mommy Radar has gone off that I thought it was wonderful. It's always been painful. But I learned a long time ago that I need to be obedient when God's Spirit says something to me. He doesn't reveal just for revelation's sake ... a salvation (of sorts) is always involved. Honestly, if I could see that my child was driving a car and ignoring the "Bridge Out" signs and continuing merrily on his way, I wouldn't hesitate to stop him as much as I was able simply because I could see the road ahead and knew that he was in danger. In fact, Scripture tells us to step in and to "save a lamb from slaughter" when we see a Christian brother heading down a wrong way. Mommy Radar does the same thing. And God has chosen me to torture (Sorry! That's how our kids have seen it) serve our children in this way.

Blessing or curse. I guess it just depends on how you look at it. As for me, I see God's extreme love for my children through it all ... and that makes it a blessing (definitely in disguise sometimes), but a blessing nevertheless. My prayer? That every one of my children will be given this strange ability as well. No, not for revenge or pay-back on my part (although that's a little odd it even occurred to me), but so that they, too, can come up alongside their children (my wonderful grandchildren!!) in a time when they desperately need to hear the Truth.

"I have no great joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the Truth."
3 John 4

Saturday, October 16, 2010

All the Bunco Ladies ...

One Thursday night a month, a group of twelve women (and usually a few extra women who are filling in as subs) get together to play Bunco. All of us love our chocolate ... love talking about our families ... and love not having to think through a strategy (or even really have to think!) as we throw the dice. Some evenings, it's a rowdy and loud evening, particularly when there are quite a few Buncos! There's hollering and the throwing of a green monkey (yes, it's true. We throw small animals) and loud laments about never winning. There's talk of ditties and "What number are we on?" or "Who's keeping score?" On other nights, it can be fairly subdued. No one seems to really be winning ... no one seems to really be losing ... and everyone else is just consistently winning AND losing.  But, the food is good, the fellowship is great, and I've never been where I haven't thoroughly enjoyed myself. By 9:00, most of us are yawning and looking at our watches (or cell phones), commenting that it's getting close to our bedtime. We either have to work bright and early in the morning ... or we're just plain getting old -- we haven't really stopped to figure out which.

We all met through our church. Some of these women, I've known for more than 25 years ... others, maybe closer to 15. We've had babies together and talked about nursing and diapers. We attended MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and enjoyed getting out of the house, away from Sesame Street and Legos, and actually experiencing adult conversation. Some of us had children attend the same school and we went on field trips and supervised elementary class parties. Others of us homeschooled together and attended the annual homeschool convention to purchase educational supplies for the upcoming year. Our kids participated in youth group together ... played sports together ... went on retreats (sometimes with a few of us moms as adult sponsors) ... and some of our kids even got grounded together (ahhh! The memories!). Some of us have gone on family vacations together or on double dates.  We've gone to weddings of our children and held each other's grandbabies. And, if we haven't gotten to actually meet those grandbabies, we've definitely seen pictures!! As we've gotten older, our conversations have turned to chin hairs, menopause, hot flashes, and weight control. We'll discuss mammograms, colonoscopies, and which cereal has the most fiber. Over the years we've rejoiced with each other ... cried with each other ... prayed for each other ... seen tragedy ... witnessed triumph ... and still we continue.

Why? Because we're more than just the Bunco ladies. We're part of a family -- God's family. There's a bond that goes deeper than just throwing dice and eating chocolate. We might come from different backgrounds or states ... we might look totally different ... we might be in different income brackets ... we might be a "new person" coming in, or a substitute who isn't there that regularly ... but ultimately, we're the same. We're bound together in Christ, learning and growing as we love each other, love our families, and love our Lord. And THAT is priceless!!

Some of our Bunco Ladies ... and a few subs! :o)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Full House

Well, it's happened. Our kids all grew up and moved away ... moved back ... moved out again ... and now we're at the point where three of our four adult children have moved back in to our home. We just finished moving two of them in this last weekend. There are still boxes, trashbags, and crates of things sitting around ... but the kids are here. I know this is not the first choice for any of them. It's more of a financial necessity than an overwhelming desire to live with Mom and Dad.

My husband and I are excited about their being here ... and nervous at the same time. We're excited because our kids are fun to be with. Wes loves watching football, guy movies, and Ghosthunter with his boys. He likes all of the guy jokes and the looks exchanged between the kids when Mom says something "mom-like". He enjoys all of the laughter, the inside family jokes, and the cuddling he gets from his daughter. Me? I like the fact that our house doesn't seem to echo with emptiness, that I'm not the only female in the house anymore, that the dogs don't follow only me because there's no one else around, that there's always someone to talk to (I don't know if THEY appreciate that!), and that we all basically enjoy being around each other.

But we're nervous, too. Our children are all adults. They're not 15 anymore. We can't treat them like they are. We can't MAKE them pick up socks ... can't MAKE them eat green beans ... can't MAKE them make the choices we think they need to make. Do you know how difficult it is to NOT act like a parent to your own child? After all, I've been doing this for a loooong time. At this point in their lives, our kids don't need a mommy.

For me, that's really difficult. I AM a mom ... and I'm THEIR mom. Our relationship with our children, however, is temporary. Eventually, they all will move out and have families of their own. Yes, we'll still have a relationship, but it won't be the same as when they lived here with us. They won't be here anymore ... leaving shoes in the living room ... leaving dishes by the dishwasher ... leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor. What will they be taking with them? What will be their memories?

My prayer is that while our adult children are living with us that Wes and I will be godly witnesses ... that the kids will see Jesus in us and in spite of us. I don't want them to have memories of a mom hagging about the cleanliness of the house, but one who served cheerfully and gratefully as if she were serving Jesus. I want them to see me as a woman who lives deliberately for Jesus and doesn't react to circumstances. I want them to feel accepted and loved for who they are regardless of their choices ... and their cleanliness!! To me, this is another opportunity to teach, just in different ways than we did when they were younger.

So, it's a full house around here again. What I thought had been a finished chapter has been opened up once again. Obviously, God's not quite finished with the writing of it! In the meantime, we're bursting at the seams (this once empty house is packed!!) and looking forward to all God is doing in our lives and in the lives of our children.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Southern Girl

I was raised a Southern girl. I've lived in Oklahoma my entire life and will be content to be here forever. Why? I love the people ... love the conservativeness ... just basically love it. The only thing that would make it better would be to have a beach. Of course, I could move further south and there are plenty of beaches there! I have to admit it ... if I DID move anywhere, it would still be here in the South. There's just something about the South ...

When I was a little girl, we lived in the "country" about 20 minutes from the "big city". We'd drive down the gravel roads and everyone we'd come in contact with would wave at us as we drove by. No, we didn't know those people ... it was just the friendly, Southern thing to do.

If you're from the South, when someone asks you if you want a Coke, and you reply yes, they'll usually say, "We've got Dr. Pepper, Sprite, or Pepsi. Which do you want?" And that's not strange. Coke refers to all kinds of pop. And folks from the South LOVE their biscuits and sausage gravy and corn grits (I like mine with cheese, please!). We're also partial to ice-cold sweetened tea -- and it doesn't have to be a hot day to enjoy it.

Or how about when someone from a different region of the US comes to visit, and they are enthralled with our accents? I had a man tell me once that he absolutely could NOT understand how I could make "man" in to a two-syllable word ... and in the next breath, he said he loved my Okie twang. He told me to ask his wife what time it was, and then would just laugh his head off at the way I drawled out the word "time". I take great pride in the way we speak here. Some folks may think it sounds hick or backwoods, but I seriously love it. We roll down a winda in the car ... we're fixin' to go to the store ... we get tuckered out ... and, we have dawgs that live in our house. The best Southern term, though, is our famous "ya'll" (although some spell it "y'all"; regardless of spelling, it still means the same thing). We Southern folk are experts at chopping words up and smushing them together to create our own unique language. Examples: like-at (like that), like-iss (like this), yaunt to (you want to), goff (get off), and whatcha (what do you). See! We're creative!

Our names are often uniquely Southern, too. If you're from this area, I'm willing to bet you know of at least one girl with the middle name of Jo, and she'll often go by both names (Laurie Jo) ... and don't forget the middle name of Lou or Sue, again used with the first name most of the time. My aunt (Sheri Lou) and my mother (Tomi Sue) have about as southern a name as you can get. And it's the same for guys in the South as well. There's Jim Bob (yes, I actually knew a few), Icky Dale (I promise!), and John David. My father-in-law is Bert Ray, and his family called him that for a long time.

What I love about the South the most are the people. We're friendly! We smile at folks in the stores. We make eye contact as we're walking down the street. We hold doors for each other. While waiting at a stop sign, men drivers will wait and let the lady drivers go first. It's not unusual to be called "ma'am" or "sir". Being polite is looked upon highly.

Above all, Southern people tend to have a strong faith in God and a deep attachment to family. I think those two characteristics are the sweetest things to me about Southern folk. Roots grow deep here, and lasting connections are valued.

I'm sure it's wonderful living in other parts of the US, too. Since I've only lived in the South all of my life, I'm sure that's why I'm partial to it. But it seems to me, when you're content where you are, and it's pretty wonderful ... well, no use messing with what works, right?

And so I'll close up my little blog praising my neck of the woods. As Jed Clampett used to say, "Ya'll come back now, ya hear?"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Doctors Love Us

Okay, I don't mean to brag or anything, but I think my family deserves to win an award ... or at least the lottery. I'll explain, you'll understand, and you'll definitely agree with me.

Back in 1996, we were a sweet little family -- Dad, Mom, three boys, and a girl. We were just living life as all families do ... and then it started. The Allen curse. Our youngest child had a ruptured appendix that led to a 2-week stay in the hospital and a second surgery. And that, my friends, is what started the whole process. In 14 years, our family has had a total of 17 surgeries. Count it up ... but you need both hands and both feet to count that high. Seventeen!!! Fortunately, we've had insurance so that has helped tremendously, but even then, if I were brave enough to total all of the out-of-pocket expenses that we've had, we probably could have purchased a summer house in Hawaii. Okay, that's maybe an exaggeration, but I bet we could have at least bought a house on Grand Lake in Oklahoma!! Most families buy expensive furniture or houses or cars. Not the Allens! We're way past that kind of stuff. We buy medical equipment, pay doctors, and help furnish new wings to hospitals. And I'm not counting the other hospital stays (just one) or emergency room visits (broken nose, five sprained ankles, three sets of stitches, etc.) that don't include surgery!! In fact, I'm not even including the four previous surgeries our family had BEFORE 1996. I think doctors love us.

AND, we're getting ready to add another surgery to our Allen family resume. Our middle son will be having shoulder surgery to repair a three-year-old injury. This will bring our surgery total (from 1996, mind you!) to a grand total of 18.

There was a time when we'd go to the doctor and I'd come home crying. I'd worry endlessly about how we'd pay the huge mountain of bills. But in each and every circumstance, we would up paying everything off (sometimes after a period of 10 years!!). Even more than that, it's been God's miraculous provision sometimes.  After one surgery, our insurance company cancelled us and we were stuck with the $30,000 bill. Talk about sheer panic!! I was neck-deep in it!! Within two days, however, we had a surgeon who called every single person involved in the operation, and they ALL forgave the debt. When just two days before, we had a HUGE bill, on this day we were totally out of debt because of the surgeon who called everyone on our behalf. Now, when one of our family members is told there's an upcoming surgery, I don't cry or needlessly worry because of what I've seen God accomplish in our past. God's in control. He's the One Who mends the bones, ligaments, and tendons. He's the One Who reconnects the nerves. He's the Master Physician. And He's also the One Who provides so that we can pay the bills -- our Jehovah Jireh.

So, there you go. We're heading in to familiar territory. Familiar territory ... definitely not fun territory. But we don't go in to that territory alone e-v-e-r!!! God always goes with us.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Parenting Debate

I was in on a discussion today about parenting. In the room was a mom of a baby and a preschooler ... a dad of an older elementary student, a middle schooler, and a highschooler ... and me -- an old, tired woman with four adult children. There was a semi-debate on which stage of life was hardest. Hmmmmm. Let's see. Where do we begin?

Was it difficult to get up every two hours and nurse a baby, go through constant diaper changing, all while trying to love and nurture the older child, cook, clean, go to the grocery store, and be an attentive wife? Boy, do I remember those days! I figured up the other day that I was pregnant and/or nursing for a total of 108 months (that's 8 1/2 years, folks!!). I think I spent most of my time sleep-deprived, babbling about Bert and Ernie, stepping on GI Joes, and wiping noses and/or bottoms. And, at the time, I thought it was the hardest stage of parenting simply because of the physical exhaustion that accompanied it. Having adult conversations or going out to eat without cutting someone's meat was a treat! But absolutely NOTHING can compare to holding a sleeping baby, or checking on your precious toddler as she's sleeping, or listening to a preschooler say his prayers to Jesus. It was worth it ...

Then, our children entered the grade school/middle school/high school years. We were every bit as busy, just in different areas. Now we were deep into trying to figure out fair rules for our family (curfew, movies, dating, driving, friends), driving all over the state for athletic events, and surgeries and doctor's appointments (unfortunately, that went along with sports for our family!! During this time, it seemed like most of my time was spent behind the wheel of a car, going from one activity or another. And, a lot more emotions came in to play. I discovered that teenage boys desperately want to be independent and don't want "mommy". It was during this time that our children began pulling tightly on the apron strings, trying to see how much those strings would stretch.Yet, there were times when we'd all be sitting around in the living room, laughing and sharing a family inside joke ... or a teen would sit on our bed at midnight just to talk and share what was going on in his life ... and it was soooo worth it.

Our kids grew up and became young adults. We're not as busy as we were, but we're defininitely older (waaaaaaay older, as a matter of fact). Our young adult children have lived with us and lived in their own places; they've made incredibly smart decisions and unfortunately stupid ones. Mistakes made at this age can't be fixed with a kiss and a band-aid, and we as parents know that and have worried about it. When our kids are living here, we find that we still wake up during the night -- no, not for night feedings, but to check and make sure they've gotten home safely. I think my children turned in to vampires as they got older -- they just didn't seem to require sleep and liked being up all night long, and for parents who can't sleep until everyone's home safely ... oh well!! This stage has been emotionally exhausting, but it's all been worth it when we've seen them become parents ... or they've made an incredibly difficult decision that has shown maturity and wisdom ... or we get a random phone call just to visit.

Each stage of parenting has been difficult ... for different reasons.  But those stages of parenting have all been as incredible as well. Would we do it over again? Yes!! Why? Any parent would know the answer to that question: because it's just been worth it -- every second, every minute, every hour.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Money Tree: Fact or Fiction

 It's really true. I hate to break the news to you, but there's seriously no such thing as a money tree. My dad always told me that we didn't have one and I reluctantly believed him. My husband made that emphatic statement shortly after we were married ... but it took years for it to finally sink through this thick skull of mine. Nope, no money tree.

I don't know why this has been so difficult for me to understand. When I'd sneak in and turn the thermostat way up because "this house was freezing to death" and Dad would tell me that money didn't grow on trees, all I knew was that I was cold (apparently so was the house!). Besides, how hard was it to turn the thermostat up? How could that cost anything? I mean, it WAS just air, right? And air IS free. (Isn't that in the Bill of Rights -- something about the right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and air?)

And, when I got married, and called my mother ranting hysterically over the phone because the city had the nerve to send us a bill for water ... well, she didn't use the same line about money growing on trees, but she DID tell me that water wasn't free. Are you kidding me? You have to pay for that?! I was astounded. I honestly and truly believed that since it came out of the faucet and everyone had it that it was free. Now if Pepsi came out of the faucet, I could understand paying for it ... but water?

I'd go to the grocery store and throw whatever I wanted in my grocery cart.  Ding-Dongs, six packs of Coke, Lucky Charms cereal, Oreos -- oh, I'm sure we ate other things, too, but those things were the best! And it was fine because there were always checks in my check book. And, when you've got checks, you've got money, right?! Seriously, doesn't that make sense?! Well, it didn't make sense to my husband ... and it didn't make sense to our bank.

I guess you're seeing a pattern in all of this. I just didn't particularly understand money ... or the lack of it ... or the abundance of it. I'm very pleased to tell you that I've learned the value of a dollar over the years. I've learned to comparison shop ... to do without ... to scrimp and save. I've learned that having a check book ... or a debit card ... or a credit card doesn't mean that the bank will continue to give you money after you've run out just because you're a nice person. I've also learned that just because I WANT something doesn't mean I NEED it (dang it!!) ... or that I'll actually ever get what I want (double dang it!!).

Yeah, that was the hardest lesson for me. It's been difficult for me to want something and not get my way. I really, really like getting my own way. In fact, that pretty much rates up there as one of my all-time favorites. I'm sure I'm the only person that has ever suffered with this particular problem of wanting what I want when I want it ... and I've definitely suffered with it my entire life. I can pout with the best of them when I don't get what I want.

Because I have a relationship with an incredible God, He's taught me a little bit about myself ... and my wants. He's been gracious and given me what I didn't need (but I wanted!!), and it wasn't the best for me. God knew that -- I had to learn, and He gave me the time to do just that. He held back things that I wanted (and didn't need) and I saw that life was still wonderful without them. In all of our years of marriage, we've had some real ups and downs financially, but I can truthfully say I wouldn't trade a single day simply because of the lessons God taught us. We learned to be content with what we had, and saw the incredible richness of the blessings we'd been given in our relationship and in our children. Beyond all that, however, He's taught me that He is Jehovah Jireh, the One Who Provides. His provisions are so much more than money! He gives peace, comfort, strength, wisdom ... "things" that are sooooooo much more than just "things". That's probably been my ultimate lesson regarding the mythical money tree -- that there is so much more to being wealthy than money and things. In fact, even receiving the gifts mentioned above are second to the joy of being in a relationship with Him. It's only when I've walked with Him that I've learned how to be content.

Nope, there's not a money tree. Honestly, I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't be lots of fun to have one of those growing in my back yard. My family would see me cheerfully doing lawn work if there were, and I don't think I'd gripe about dirty fingernails or being sweaty. (Okay, maybe not griping about lawn work is stretching it a bit, but I'm trying to make a point.) Having a money tree would be fun, but it couldn't make me any richer than I already am in Him.

Romans 11:33-36
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Do - Be - Do - Be - Do!

I just can't help it. I have to talk about my grandbabies today. We have two granddaughters ... and they're gorgeous ... and precious ... and intelligent ... and adorable ... and everything else wonderful that you can think of. Seriously, they're probably two of the cutest little girls you'll ever have the privilege of seeing. Of course, I just happen to have pictures to prove that fact, and I'm only tooooo happy to share the proof with you. Add to all of the above qualities of our sweet girls that they think their Nammy is absolutely one of the best things in the world, and well -- they're pretty close to perfect. I'd like to take full credit for the incredible genes that went in to developing these little girls, but one look at them and you'd realize that's not entirely true. But, they ARE blessings like you would not believe. Yep, a day with them will brighten even the darkest day ... guaranteed!

I've always loved children. When I was a little girl, I wanted nothing more to grow up and become a wife and a mommy ... and I was granted that special request. God blessed us with three boys and a girl. We learned really quickly that there's nothing quite like being a parent. Three o-clock feedings ... stroller rides in the park ... watching little boys play with the dirt in the outfield at t-ball games ... standing next to a little one as she rides the merry-go-round for the first time ... trying to sleep while sharing a bed with dogs, a husband, and four children ... regularly cooking a dinner for 10 because of all of the extra kids that were around ... going to sporting events ... lying in bed listening for the door to open as curfew nears ... watching our child walk across the stage to receive a high school diploma ... planning a wedding ... sitting with our child as he holds his baby. What incredible memories we've been given. What a fantastic life we've shared!

And these grandbabies?  Like I said, we LOVE our children and loved the time with them in our home. But so often we were caught up in appearances as parents. We didn't want the boys to wrestle around with each other in public. The kids always needed to be clean, in unwrinkled clothes, polite, well-behaved, and perfect. If they competed, we wanted them to win or be the best. Our expectations were high. Looking back, I can see that I could have relaxed so much more and just enjoyed them. I was a mom ... and I wanted to "do" my job well, which meant that my kids needed to "do" their jobs well, too. With my granddaughters, I've learned that I don't want to "do" a job -- I just want to "be" their Nammy. It's not that we don't have expectations of being polite, or doing the right thing, but at the same time, we have relaxed and just enjoying the act of "being" with our precious little girls.

I've learned the same lesson with my Father in Heaven. I've always wanted to "do" for Him ... for many reasons. One is because I'm sooooo aware of the sacrifice He made for me, and I want to show my appreciation and love. But secondly, and unfortunately probably the primary reason, is because I am a "do-er". I tend to prefer to "do" things. If I'm "doing", then I'm trying to be in control, and control is a favorite thing of mine. God keeps reminding me that with Him, I just need to "be". I need to "be" in a relationship with Him, I just need to "be" watching for His leading and direction, I just need to "be". And, as much as I delight in these two little girls that light up my world, God delights even more in me. Actually, that's really kind of hard for me to believe, but it's true.

So, as I pray for me, I pray also for you -- that we'll learn to just "be" with God: that we'll treasure the time that we spend with Him, that we'll draw closer in this love relationship we've been allowed to have, and that we'll let go of the "doing" and control. As absolutely perfect and incredible as our sweet children or grandbabies are, the relationship with our Heavenly Father can be so much more.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Questions, Questions, Questions!

I'm a naturally inquisitive person. I was the annoying little kid who always asked, "Why?" or "What's that for?" It wasn't out of disrespect. Well, sometimes it might have been to put off doing something I had been asked to do ("It's time for bed, Diana." "Momma, why are there hungry kids in the world?") ... but usually there was a genuine desire to know.

Some of the things I've pondered over the years:
* Why do some people's feet stink soooooo much more than others?
* Why do people seriously like the taste of coconut? Wouldn't eating dried grass from the back yard be cheaper?
* How much longer? Are we there yet?
* What purpose do colors serve ... other than just being pretty?
* Why do little boys and little girls play with dolls differently? Boys smash the dolls together and have them fight. Girls have their dolls shop and accessorize.
* What in the world was the first person thinking who ate a mushroom? "Uhm, there's a fungal thingie growing over there in the shade and moss. I think I'll eat it."
* How come the Tin Man was able to walk and talk if he didn't have a heart? And come on! The Scarecrow didn't have a brain, so why was he the smartest out of the trio of Oz travelers?
* Why did we seriously have to take algebra if we never use it?
* What is it about looking at the sun that makes me always sneeze?
* How come my body literally freezes up and I can't move if I'm in a high place? Other than my hyperventilation and sweating palms, there seems to be no sign of life.
* Why do we have an appendix if we can live so easily without one?
* What is it in me that always convinces me I need to touch something to see if it's really sharp? Like my eyes alone can't tell me! But yeah, I wind up touching it, cutting myself, and then promising I'll never do it again ... until the next sharp item comes along.
* Why, why, why am I so freaked out about mice?! Yes, that still continues ...

Lots of questions over the years. And some things I've found answers to ... others I just continue to wonder. I'm no Albert Einstein. Most other people probably could care less to find any of the answers to the different questions that have baffled me. There's one, though, that I really, really, REALLY want to have an answer to ... and that is "How did Jesus look as He was living His life?"

Jesus hung out with all kinds of people. He loved little children. He loved big, burly fishermen who didn't know when to quit talking. He loved women who were caught in adultery. He loved tax collectors. He loved weird guys who ate locusts, wore camel skin clothes, and preached. He loved sick people who no one else had time for. He loved thieves and murderers. He loved the stupid ... the smart ... the old ... the young ... the rich ... the poor. He loved 'em all. And most responded to that. There was something about Him that drew people to Him. I don't think He hung out in a church all day, holding His Bible, and yelling at people about burning in hell. He wasn't the type that looked down His nose at people who were different or who were judged by the religious leaders. In fact, HE was the one that was judged by others. Jesus was radically different. He loved people ... not because of who they were, or what they did, or what they didn't do. He just loved people.

When I think of applying that in my own life, I'm sad to say that I have a hard time coming up with a fool-proof way to do that. Unfortunately, it's because I get in my own way. I have a hard time separating what someone does from who he is. I tend to think that people different from me are ... well, different. And different is usually not a good thing. But I want to love people like Jesus did. I want to look past the outward appearance, look past the sin, look past the hurts, to the person inside. To Him, everyone was of worth. Everyone was worth the ultimate sacrifice. Everyone was also greatly different from Him ... but He didn't condemn. He was welcoming, accepting, and eagerly seeking relationships with people whom He knew needed Him.

I have to ask these hard questions: How do I look as I'm living my life? Do I in any way at all resemble Jesus? Or am I all me? I ask these questions ... and sadly, I know the answers. The most incredible thing, though, is that Jesus knows the answers as well and is content to continue working with me, teaching me, stretching me, growing me so that I can learn to love as He did, accept as He did, and be as inviting and warm as He was. I told my husband this week that I wanted people to be able to see Jesus in me ... and my very wise husband responded that we need to ask God to help us get out of the way so that people can see Jesus in spite of ourselves. (Isn't he a smart man?!?) Ah! An answer to one of my hard questions!!

Questions, questions, questions. Just another part of the learning process in Finding Me in Him ...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cootie Invasion

The most disgusting, despicable, horrible thing has happened in our house. I hate to admit it because I'm afraid you'll not want to come to my house again (IF you've ever been here before, that is!). But, they say confession is good for the soul, so here it goes. We have a mice infestation. We're overrun by creepy, crawly, scurrying, wiggly, dirty mice. Nope, they're not the cute little mice from Cinderella like Gus. They're not the big ole talking mice like Mickey, who just happen to have cute girlfriends in red polka-dotted dresses. These mice don't drive cars like Stewart. Although, these ARE extremely clever mice like Jerry (from Tom and Jerry) because they've learned to lick the traps clean and wait for us to rebait them again. They're icky looking little field mice. They've invaded our house and are seriously trying to take over. And don't let this picture fool you. OUR mice have big fangs, are black as night, and are very probably rabid.

We have caught a total of eight mice so far in our pantry/kitchen area. Yep, you read that right. Eight!! Six of those were dead ... two were just hurt, so we let them go by throwing them over the fence to run with the horses in the pastures. Yes, we realize that's probably something stupid to do, because those very mice are probably the ones who have recruited all of the other mice in the world to come live in the house with the nice people who feed them unlimited peanut butter and whatever else is available. But neither Wes nor I are particularly great at hunting. We don't want to actually do the killing ourselves. That's why we bought the ridiculous traps (which aren't dishwasher safe -- see past post, please -- and which don't work 100% of the time).

Anyway, on Sunday morning, we actually spotted Mouse #9. Wes had heard a noise in the pantry and went investigating by removing things off the shelf, and interrupting the mouse in the middle of its explorations. The mouse dropped off of the pantry shelf onto my husband's shoe (ewwww!). Wes said the poor little thing was scared to death and was trying to get away, but I'm still thinking it was an aggressive, killer mouse that was bent on revenge for his eight friends who had been murdered or maimed. Wes is an extremely brave man ... but he even jumped and drop kicked the nasty little thing across the room when it landed on his shoe. #9 (as the mouse is now known) did a graceful somersault in the air and then stuck a landing on our dog Gracie, who promptly yelped and ran away (Gracie is a female dog. Enough said.). Then the unspeakable happened. The mouse ran in to our living room! Yes, it learned that our house is bigger than just the pantry. Oh boy, new territory to explore! I'm convinced #9 was mapping out the rest of the house for all of its relatives who are even now on their way here.

I just happened to be in the living room at the time with my sweet little granddaughter. We were gathering up our things getting ready to go to church. I saw the mouse, shrieked, scooped her up, and we both flew on to the couch. I'm an incredible Nammy because I saved her life. That's just what we Nammys do. Of course, with all of my screaming, she chimed right in, having no idea what she was screaming about, but it was quite fun to be hysterical with Nammy for a bit. So, the two of us females were screaming on the couch (with our feet on the furniture -- a definite no-no, but in this instance when our lives were in danger, that rule was waived) while my son chased #9 around, trying to catch it with a plastic bag, and my husband chased it from the other direction (with his brave bare hands). Our son's fiance heard the ruckus from the back part of the house, came to see what was happening, saw the mouse heading in her direction, made a beeline for the opposite couch -- and performed an incredible dive without ever touching the floor. Quite impressive! She's going to make a lovely addition to our family, by the way. In the meantime, our three dogs were lying peacefully on the floor (Gracie had settled down by this time), enjoying the show. Sadly, to say, the little varmint escaped and we wound up heading out to church with sore throats from screaming, leaving our food and all of our belongings to the mercy of the deadly mouse.

Today is Monday. We haven't spotted #9 anymore, but we have seen his icky little calling cards (i.e. mouse poopies) in the pantry. He's laughing at us, mocking us for putting out peanut butter baited traps, throwing a huge mousie party for all of his gazillion relatives, spreading ooky cooties, and biding his time to do whatever little mice do. I literally tiptoe around my kitchen, scared to death that a mouse is going to run across the floor and attack my feet like it did Wes's. I cringe when I enter the pantry, and make as much noise as possible so that the mice will hide or abandon their quest for food. And, I'm thinking it's a good idea to eat out every single night so I don't have to fight with mice for our food. They win. We lose. It's as good as that.

As I sit here on the couch with my feet on the furniture (#9 is still on the loose, so the rule has been waived until he's apprehended), I can't help but wonder about all of the little mice in my life. No, they're not all furry. No, they don't all leave poopies. But they DO generally disrupt and cause me to fear or fret. It might be a relationship that I have no control over, a procedure at work that I can't figure out in a simple way, or a hospital bill that just continues to grow out of control. The Song of Solomon refers to it as a fox in the vineyard -- same idea as a mouse in a pantry, but not quite as pretty of a word picture. You get the idea though. It's something that I allow to steal the joy God has given me, something that causes me to fret or fear. Something that causes me to remove my focus from Christ and put all of my thinking on to my circumstances. God allows these types of things in to my life and the choice is mine as to how I'll respond -- with grace, with confidence that He's ultimately in control, with faith that He is Who He says He is ... or kicking and screaming and raising as much of a ruckus as I can. God's desire is that I'll learn to be joyful in all things, because let's face it -- we live in a fallen, fearful world. There are ALWAYS going to be things that are warring with me for a victory, for joy, for peace. God assures me that He's already won the victory -- I just need to live with that in mind. Whether those things come disguised as a cootie-spreading mouse or a disruption to my life, all are opportunities for me to experience God's grace, learn from His love, and bring glory to Him.  We all need to continue our fight with the mice in the pantry, the foxes in the vineyards, and the thieves of our joy. Remember! Our side wins!! :o)