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)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Confessions ...

This post is going to be a time of confession. If you're uncomfortable with that, then I'm sorry. If you're just plain nosy (like I am), you'll probably get a kick out of it. By the way, my saying that I'm nosy wasn't meant to be a confession, but I guess it was. Anyway, on to the real confessions ...

I was the weird kid that loved school. I idolized my teachers. I liked studying. I liked making good grades. I always put out the extra effort. I read ahead ... studied for tests early ... raised my hand to answer the questions. I even played school during the summer and on weekends! Basically, I was the one who always wanted to excel and make the best grades ... and be the teacher's favorite, of course. Learning was fun for me.

Hmmmm. Learning was fun for me. I'd love to say that's still the case, but it's not totally true anymore. I thought when I graduated my learning was over. Excuse me while I laugh hysterically at that last statement. How I WISH that I had come with a handwritten note from God that said I would continue to learn and be taught all of the days of my life. It would have been nice to have been prepared! Oh yeah, I did. It's called the Bible. Anyway, I like to say that I haven't been prepared for the constant learning and teaching that God does with me.

And I have to confess another weird fact about myself. I tend to think in parables. I told you that I liked to learn, right? Most of the time anyway. Well, more times than not during the day, something will happen and I'll think to myself, "Hmmmm. What is the lesson here?" and my mind will whirl and work to see what I can learn from what just happened ... or what I just saw. Yes, I admit it. I'm a learning-addict. I need to start a support group for other like-minded people. "Hello, I'm Diana and I'm a learning junkie." Example: Wes and I were driving home from church and I made a comment about how green the grass looked after our recent rains when it had been sun-browned just a few days before. Immediately, I thought of the verse about how God's teaching is like dew on the grass. I'm just like that grass in times of my life -- sun-browned, dried out, and then I hear a word from Him and I'm revived and brought to life again, just like the grass is after a recent dew or rain. So, that's an example of my parable-type, always learning mind. My poor family has heard enough of these parables over the years that they don't even blink twice anymore. "Poor Mom. Thinking in parables again. God love her."

The thing is ... I love those simple lessons. I love looking at nature and seeing what God wants to teach me. I love learning from things other people say or do. I love reading God's Word and seeing new and different things. In fact, I'd be extremely grateful and happy if those would be the ONLY ways that God would teach me. On the other side, I'd be even happier and MORE grateful if lessons never had to hurt, were always easy, and didn't require any real work on my part. This is where the not-liking-to-learn comes in for me.

Strangely enough, there are many, many simple lessons throughout my day where my parable-thinking mind comes in to play: like why you have to thin a peach tree of the good fruit so that the branches don't break, of the necessity of a butterfly having to struggle to get out of a cocoon, of the memory of walking in my father's footsteps after a heavy snow so I didn't struggle through the huge drifts (I'll let you think on those and come up with your own lessons. Maybe God will teach you the same way He taught me!!). There are many more things that come to my mind, but honestly -- I tend to forget them just as quickly as I think of them. They're good little lessons, and I'm grateful for God's Spirit pointing them out to me and taking the time to teach me ... but they're still easily forgotten.

It's those stinking painful lessons that I always remember. Those are the ones that usually require tears, much prayer, heartache, grief, humility, and a total sense of "I can't do this"!! The times that God has shown me that I SAY I've forgiven someone but we both know I haven't, and I need to ... the times that I'm trying to control my life, my families' lives, the postman's life, the store cashier's life, your life (you get the picture) and I see I HAVE no control ... the times when God instructs me to step out in faith and do something (like forgive, or relinquish control) and I snap back that I'm uncomfortable with that and I don't want to. Yup, those kinds of lessons. The ones I don't like. The lessons that I prefer to not have to deal with, particularly when I've already had to deal with those exact same lessons before. Uhm, excuse me. I've already learned this lesson. How many times is this particular thing going to be on the test? Yes, I know -- until I get it right.

It all boils down to the fact that God is faithful. He's promised to be my Teacher for every moment of my life. He doesn't let a single thing go by that can't be used to better our relationship and to help teach me. (More parables courtesy of Diana for you to think on: small children who insist on dressing themselves when it's obvious that someone bigger can do the job better; the people of Gotham City who had the "hotline" to Batman, who could "fix" all things; the importance of actually unfolding and following the road map instead of just having it.) And He loves all of those teachable moments -- from the peach trees and grass, to the forgiveness and control. My prayer is that my heart will always be sensitive to His Word and His Spirit. When I feel like I'm not learning anything anymore, it's a danger sign to me. The older I get, the more clearly I see that there are so many things I need to be taught, even if those lessons aren't particularly welcome and they're painful. At the same time, I'm yoked with a wise Teacher Who is faithful and desires to do just that -- teach.

So, yes, I admit it. I still like learning. I'm a parable-thinker. But it's my prayer that you're the same way. I'd LOVE to have you share with me some of your parables and lessons that God has taught you ... for the learning junkie in me!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mouse Traps in the Dishwasher

I've always known that men and women are different. I'm pretty smart that way. And they're NOT just different for obvious physical reasons. But they were just flat put together differently. The way they walk, talk, look -- all different. Nothing, though, tops  how far apart they are as in their thought process. For a long time, I thought it was just my husband who was different. Poor Wes. I misunderstood for years. Little did I know that it was the entire male species who thought just like my husband did.

This was brought very plainly in to light this morning at our house. I'll give you the background ... and then let you see just exactly what I'm talking about. We had been noticing tell-tale signs that we were having a "minor" mouse problem. To my husband, it was minor. To me, it was a major catastrophe. The SIGNS were even major, as far as I was concerned: a wrapped granola bar that had been gnawed in to ... mouse poopies on the pantry shelf and floor. (Ugh! I shudder now even thinking of it!) We reacted a little differently to the signs. Wes just got a whisk broom and swept up the debris -- I cleared the shelf, disinfected it, mopped and disinfected the floor, and worried about getting the bubonic plague. Then Wes, being the great hunter and protector that he is, bought a couple of mouse traps, filled it with peanut butter (we hear mice like that better than cheese), and set them out for the unsuspecting rodents who were mooching our food and pooping in our pantry.

Wes discovered a dead mouse this morning, but didn't tell me. He just cleared out the trap, and took care of it. A little later, I was nervously checking to see if we had gotten a mouse ... and one of the mouse traps was gone. My fearful mind imagined a 25-pound mouse who had eaten the peanut butter and then dragged the trap off ... or even worse, eaten the whole trap. Then, I checked the other trap, and there was a poor, little, mangled mouse lying dead on our pantry shelf. (Why I always feel sorry for the mice after we catch and kill them, I'll never quite understand ... but I do.) I did what any self-respecting woman would do. I began screaming, jumping up and down, and hollering for our youngest son to come save me from the dastardly creature ... and then went to the other part of the house so I didn't have to see the whole cleaning-up process. From the back part of the house, I was shouting out instructions: "Put the body in a bag! Throw the whole trap away! Don't bring it for me to see!" I'm very brave from a distance. Anyway, our wonderful son took care of it all, and I sent a text to my husband, telling him that we caught a mouse.

He came home a little later to get some work supplies, and casually mentioned that it was the second mouse we had caught today.Well, that's good news, I guess. We're killing off an entire mouse family one by one. He also casually mentioned that the first mouse trap had been rinsed ... and (get this!!) put in our dishwasher to be cleaned. I had to write those letters in bold for emphasis. And even as I write them, I am still astounded at how I feel hearing it all over again. A mouse trap, that had killed a mouse, that held the disease-ridden body of a mouse, was in our dishwasher ... with our dishes ... and silverware ... and glasses. I was stunned. I was shocked. I was totally grossed out. I remember vaguely saying something about how maybe the plague in England in the 1600s would have been averted if people had just rinsed off the nasty mice cooties. I threw such a fit that Wes removed the dirty little trap from the dishwasher. He couldn't understand my hysterics. "I rinsed it off." Our son, being a man, was in the same thought zone as his father. "Yeah, Mom. He did rinse it off." Excuse my mistake. Since you couldn't see the blood anymore and water had been run over it, it was apparently just fine. Even now, neither of the men in my family can understand my complete melt-down about the obviously cleaned-off mousetrap in the dishwasher. Ewwww! (By the way, I've been googling about how to disinfect the entire inside surface of my dishwasher.)

Actually, now that I've calmed down and I don't feel like throwing up anymore, I can see the humor in all of this -- almost. The thing that is the funniest is just exactly what polar opposites we are. And God put us together! That's probably the craziest part. You have a man, who thinks a certain way, with a woman, who thinks a completely different way, and put them together to live happily ever after. We've learned that in order for there to be a happily ever after, you have to accept that your partner is YOUR perfect gift from God (intended just for YOU) and is just different than you -- not necessarily wrong -- just different. We NEED that difference. That's how a marriage grows and is strengthened. God, in His infinite wisdom, pulled Wes and Diana together -- two totally unique individuals, and put them together. Together, we make one fantastic person! I'm sure Wes thinks I'm a hysterical, dramatic female (and he'd be right after this morning!). But he's accepted that my thought process is different than his, and he loves me anyway ... just like I've come to the same conclusion about him. It's all a process anyway -- life, marriage, kids -- and we're learning each step of the way. Fortunately, those lessons are sometimes a little less painful (not for mice) and a little more humorous (for us)!

This has been a fun post, but you'll have to excuse me now though. I've got a dishwasher to disinfect.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

God's Photo Shop

My husband and I just had our picture taken for our church directory. Both of us were really dreading having to go in to the photographer's. Wes was dreading it because he's not big on dressing up ... or smiling. It's not that he's a cranky guy. He's just not a "smiler". I, on the other hand, have all of these wrinkles laugh lines covering my face. I am extremely expressive. Once in a Bible study, I had a guy tell me that he just loved to watch my face as I talked. He never paid attention to anything I said -- he just liked to watch my face contort into all of its rubbery expressions. I think he meant that as a compliment? At least, that's how I chose to take it.  Anyway, I wasn't looking forward to having our picture taken because this will be our first directory as an "empty nest" couple. There wouldn't be any smiling, toothless grins (unless something drastic happened to Wes or me) ... no working with unsmiling teens who didn't want to be there ... no coordinating outfits for the whole family. Just Wes and me. And neither of us were too excited about going through this anyway.

We dutifully made our appointment and went to the photographer (basically because we're both cheapskates and we didn't want to have to pay for a directory. Everyone who had their picture taken got a free one). Our photographer asked us if we wanted some casual poses, like sitting barefoot on the floor. Right. Poor delusional man. We smiled at him and tried really hard not to let him know the huge amount of pity we felt for him. Since we are a middle-aged couple, we promptly axed that suggestion, basically because we knew there would be a serious possibility that we wouldn't be able to get up OFF of the floor. On top of that, my toenail polish desperately needed a touch-up and I was unprepared for my feet to be showing in the picture. "No, we'll just take the traditional, classic old-fogey poses, please." We smiled ... turned our heads this way ... held our shoulders that way ... sucked in our tummies ... and acted like we had a marvelous time. I was determined to not buy any of the pictures, but to just pick the pose for our now-free directory and leave. Wes had other ideas. Wes won.

Now that we've gotten the pictures back, I've got to say that I'm grateful Wes insisted on buying pictures. Yes, he was right and I was wrong. (For the record, he told me to write that last statement.) First of all, we actually look kind of cute as a couple. Sometimes it's easy to forget that we were a couple first BC (Before Children). We started out that way -- we're ending up that way, and honestly ... we look kind of cute that way! Secondly, I want to say I'm thankful for Photo Shop. If only Wal-Mart could bottle that as a cosmetic! Our photographer turned back the clock and we looked 20 years younger. We seriously don't look like we've lived through the teen years -- four different times! I don't know if he appreciated it, but I asked Jeff (he's become my dear and personal friend) to come and apply my make-up every day so I could look like my picture.

The strangest thing about all of this, though, is the fact that God taught me through all of our photographic experiences. I've been going on and on (and on and on!) about the fact that we look so much younger in our picture. The photographer, with his Photo Shop, was a true miracle worker (in my humble opinion). Then, God reminded me that HE has Photo Shopped my life. What started as a not-so-pretty canvas, God is turning in to a beautiful masterpiece. He's working to remove the impurities and uglies ... adding his beauty and grace ... and constantly striving to change my inner being from what it was to what He knows it can be. Do you know what's even better than that? As long as I'm living, He'll continue working. This isn't a one-shot picture, but a lifetime canvas. God is not finished with me ... thank You, Father! And then? We'll take it in to eternity, where He'll finish the job. :o)

It's funny, isn't it, the different ways that God teaches us?!? In the meantime, we rejoice that God is the True Photo Shopper (and we're thankful for good photographers here on earth, too!).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Change Churches?

I tell my husband a LOT that we need to change churches. We need to go to a place where I can leave each week without feeling convicted ... or the challenge to grow isn't a huge stretch for me. I'd like to go to a place where I don't cry my make-up off every single Sunday in the worship service. Wes tells me not to wear any make-up in the first place and that would solve the problem. Since I have a teeny-weeny vanity problem, that probably won't work. It would be just hunky-dory if we didn't sing songs that tugged at my spirit and caused big ole' fat tears to pour down my face. It would be nice to feel like our pastor did NOT call my husband the week before and say, "So, are there any specific issues that Diana is dealing with that I'll need to address from the pulpit?" So, when I tell dear Wes that we seriously need to change churches, he just laughs because he thinks I'm really cute and funny, and that I'm joking, of course. And yes, I guess I am ... darn it. Sigh. No, I don't want to change churches. I love being where I am. Believe it or not, I'm really grateful for a church home where the Word is celebrated so faithfully by so many.

Today, one point that really stood out to me is as follows (and I quote ... word for word, by the way!): "Our unrealized expectations can be major sources of discouragement when we take our eyes off of God." Ouch! This, by the way, is just one of the examples where our pastor called our home, asking Wes where I needed to be challenged. Yes, I've been suffering a little bit from discouragement. I'm not going to go in to all of the gory details. Let's just say that I've struggled with feeling like I've failed in certain areas, that my wonderful and perfect expectations haven't been met, and I've had a hard time not wallowing in a pity potty. For those of you who call it a pity party, that's fine. It's never really seemed like a party to me ... definitely more like a potty. And there are times I'm not just swimming in that potty, but wallowing in it. Enough description. I'm sure you understand where I'm going with that. Anyway, when our pastor said that specific statement, it was as though God's Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Be sure to write that one down. I meant it especially for you." Sorry if you were sitting in the church service today and had to hear God's and my private conversation, but maybe it could be of benefit to you as well.

Just one of the things that I really, REALLY love about our Lord is His extreme faithfulness. To me, my discouragement was a natural reaction to what I was dealing with. I mean, when I have absolutely no control over something and it eats away at me, I'm supposed to feel sorry for myself, right? But God reminds me all of the time that He is sovereign and in control, and contrary to popular belief, He is NOT performing strictly for my benefit. In actuality, He has a plan and a purpose. He knows what He's doing. There are times I don't understand (many, many, many times!) ... there are things that happen that are emotionally and physically draining ... but in each and every circumstance, I can hold on to the fact that God is in control. My tendency is to be all about me -- I know that comes as a shock to you because I give the outward impression that I've always got it all together, but it's true -- and I take my eyes off of my Lord and put them on me and my circumstances. This next part, though, is the part that's really incredible. Get ready for it! God knows all of that ... and He still loves me anyway. What He wants is for ME to realize that as well, and then to step in line behind Him to follow. He is faithful to point out to me when I'm looking elsewhere for things to make me happy. Because you know what? God KNOWS that I'll never be happy when I'm looking anywhere else but at Him as we go through this life together. Since He loves me, His desire is the best for me ... and the best is that my eyes are fixed firmly upon Him. Unfortunately, God has to remind me of that ... a lot. But fortunately for me, He does.

So, that's what I came away with today as I walked out of church with mascara smudged around my eyes and a bright, splotchy, runny nose. I wasn't particularly attractive, I admit ... but the strange thing is that my heart was singing. God so graciously and faithfully taught me once again through His incredible Word. He loves me. My hope is that you, too, suffer from going to a church where you feel God's Spirit poking you to see if you're paying attention. We can celebrate in His faithfulness and grace together!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wishing For Long Arms

I know what you're thinking. Diana, what an incredibly beautiful picture of two models you've posted! Well, sorry to disappoint you ... but those two gorgeous, young, unwrinkled blondes are my husband and me a few years back. And by a few years, I'm talking 31 years ago. This was the picture that we put on our wedding invitation. Wes has been likened to Grizzly Adams with his full, bushy beard and headful of hair. Now that I think about it, I think this is one of the few times I've ever seen him wear a tie. Man! He really loved me to wear a tie for our picture!! I, on the other hand, had the Farrah Fawcett hairstyle (accented beautifully with Sun-In Hair Color) and lacquered down with about 100 pounds of hairspray. Considering that I only weighed 98 pounds at the time, this was quite a feat. Yes, it's true -- the hairspray I used doubled my body weight. But, my hair looked great.

Weren't we a cute couple?! Little did we know what was ahead of us. Here we are 31 years, 4 children, 2 grandbabies, and 9 dogs later. Neither one of us have quite the hair that we had once upon a time, and the gray is way more noticeable now than the blond. We've added a few pounds, but Wes has somehow managed to dodge the wrinkles better than I have. And there is no way in the world that we'd agree to sit down in grass like this picture shows again. First of all, because I'm deathly afraid of getting a tick, but secondly because I don't know if either one of us could manage to get up again. We'd be stuck in this pose until we died and then a special casket would have to be made to hold us both. But you know what? I think we're still a cute couple!! We still walk down the street holding hands. We can still practically read each other's thoughts.He still makes me laugh and giggle like I was 18 again.

Last night, as I was almost asleep, I felt this shaking from the other side of the bed. No, it wasn't an earthquake. No, it wasn't one of the many dogs that tries to sneak in to the bed to sleep with us (by the way, we only have 3 dogs now). It was my husband trying in vain to reach an itchy spot on his back. When he realized I was awake, he said, "I wish my arms were longer so I could scratch my own back." And I laid there and laughed. Now that I'm wide awake, I see that I should have offered to scratch my poor husband's back. Instead, I managed a weak giggle and then promptly fell asleep. Sorry about that, Wes! I definitely owe you a back scratching!

We've had a lot of "wishes" over the years. In our poorer days, we'd wish for money enough to go out to eat ... or for the ability to buy a car that was younger than we were. Once our house was full of children, we'd wish for a night alone in our bed without children and pets invading us ... or the opportunity to have a full, uninterrupted conversation. Now that we're dealing with an empty nest, we wish for the children to come home more ... or that I could actually make it to 10:00 pm without falling asleep on the couch.

Wes and I married young. We met just a few weeks after I turned 18, were engaged 3 months later, married a year later, and had our first baby a year after that. Life has been a whirlwind ever since. And it's been full of wishes. But even better than that, it's been full of promises kept and dreams fulfilled. Honestly, I'm sure he has wished more than once over the years that I would lose the ability to speak ... or that I would quit trying to organize everything around me. He still laughs at my spices that are in alphabetical order (but he can find anything he's looking for in there!!). Regardless of what he's wished, he's managed to do what he promised when we stood in front of 300 people. He's hung around (yay!), provided for our family, been an incredible dad, loved me like I'm forever 18, and been my best friend.

Wishes are definitely fun to make. But you can't build a home on wishes alone. It takes the foundation of a promise kept, a commitment made, and a vow taken. And I'm so grateful that I met a man who stood by his word. To add to all of that, he opens the cemented jelly jars, kills the deadliest spiders, changes light bulbs, and looks at me like I'm still 18 ... but that's another blog. :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Favorite Moments

I've been trying to think on what have been my favorite moments of being a mom. I guess that's maybe a weird thing considering that I'm STILL a mom ... I'll always be a mom. It sounds like I'm thinking of retiring or something. Yes, my kids would probably appreciate that sometimes, but oh well! It can't be helped -- I am what I am. A mom. In essence, when they grow up, I kind of "retire", I guess. But it doesn't take much for the mom in me to come out full force when the need arises!! There have been a lot of incredible memories over the years though.
  • Boys running imaginary bases in the living room
  • Waking up at night in our full-sized bed and having 4 children laying between us ... on us ... over us (you get the picture)
  • Having my son tell me he was going to live with me forever (he's a liar)
  • Crawling in to the hospital bed with my daughter as she had tubes both going in to her and coming out of her. I remember trying to not squash any of the tubes or the cords, but she wanted me to hold her ... and there wasn't much that I wanted any more than that.
  • Opening Christmas presents at 4:00 in the morning. Our pictures weren't very impressive that year. It was dark outside, and my husband and I had only had about 2 hours of sleep because we had been putting toys together. But the kids had awakened, been put back to bed, awakened again, put back to bed again, and awakened yet again before we finally gave up.
Just a few of my memories. I hang on to those memories, just like I hang on to the hand-drawn pictures and cards that my kids made over the years, or the stories with misspelled words and crazy illustrations. They're priceless to me. Examples? Oh! I'd LOVE to!
  • The anatomically correct picture of me getting out of the shower that my son made for the Mother's Tea at preschool (Momma learned to lock the bathroom door).
  • The note that one son gave to his brother threatening that "I know where you sleep". He didn't sign it ... just drew a face wearing glasses (he was the only child we had who ever wore glasses).
  • The letter that my daughter wrote to the family that she now wanted to be called Lightning because she could run really fast.
I look back at my almost 30 years of being a mom and can honestly say that there hasn't been one favorite time for me. They've all been favorites. I loved the baby stage of rocking, cuddling, nursing, and playing. Seriously, is there anything any better than holding a precious sleeping baby? I loved the preschool stage of learning. Children at this age think you know it all and are sooooo wonderful. And what about the elementary school years when the kiddos are growing so quickly? They start branching out, finding friends, but are still firmly anchored to home. I loved the craziness of middle school. We always seemed to have a houseful of kids here -- ours and everyone elses. It was fun! I even loved the chaos of the teenage years -- driving cars, playing sports, deepening voices, hairy legs (The hairy legs just apply to the boys. Our daughter would NOT appreciate being grouped in this category.). True, there were moments in all of these stages that I wasn't too crazy about ... that brought fear or uncertainty, but overall -- it's been good. And now that all of our kids are young adults, I'm finding that this is a great stage as well. Okay, I admit there were times that I've cried over our kids, prayed over them and for them, cried some more, worried, and panicked way more than I should have, and probably didn't like a kid for some reason or another (my kids don't read my blog. I can say that.). I always loved our children though, even though I worried and cried and prayed and panicked and got mad. Now that they're adults, I like the people our children have become.

I continue to hang on to memories though. They're just not as "tangible" as the anatomically correct drawing or the photo of two boys covered in mascara and lipstick. They're more in my mind -- young adults sitting around a table playing a game, hollering and laughing ... getting a phone call to ask my advice ... helping with college homework in a class I've never taken before ... experiencing my husband and our sons watching a football game together (and it IS an experience, let me tell you! Shouting, body contortions, jumping, and screams. Gotta love it!). Regardless of how the memories are made, whether they're drawn or photographed or merely lived, they're all priceless and precious ... and have made me extremely grateful for what I've been given in the gifts of my children.