Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Keep Moving Forward

Everyone is doing their "looking back" on 2008 today. And it makes sense. For many, my family included, this has been a year of many milestones, and not all of them were "happy" ones. (In case you don't live where I do, or haven't been watching even the national news, our last two weeks of 2008 have been entrenched with lots and lots of heavy snow--stop everything, put down your shovel, leave your chains in the trunk--heavy snow. In fact, I live less than 1/2 mile from the grocery store whose roof collapsed as reported on NBC news. We have put two days into shoveling out our roof with another day still ahead of us.)

But it is my deep belief that as Christians, we should not spend so much time looking back. We cannot go back and undo this year. We don't have that power. And I don't believe that is what God wants for us anyway.

(12)Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been
made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (13)Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (14)I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

--Philippians 3:12-14 NIV


So in light of today's date, I leave this as my farewell to 2008. I'm going to keep moving forward (I borrowed this from "Meet the Robinsons", a Disney movie with a fairly decent message), pressing onward toward the goal--a closer walk with Jesus, and preparation for the final days.

I wish you peace, hope, grace, and love in each of your lives as you enter into the new year. Know that I will be praying for each of you and your families. Only the Father in heaven knows what our futures hold, and praise God He wants the best for us!

Keep moving forward!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Whiter than Snow



Seasons Greetings




Here is the meditation of my heart this Christmas eve during a season marred by disappointment economically and weather impediments. Oh, and a few pictures of our joyful day!



7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins

blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
--Psalm 51:7-12 NIV





Elizababy wishes you a very Merry Christmas!


The view from our living room window
(note: the fence that is almost gone between the two yards is 4 feet tall!)


The view on the way to Vancouver, five days ago
May the love of the Father, the sacrifice and gift of Jesus Christ, and the remembrance in the Spirit bless you this holiday, and every day. Loving you each with the love of Christ, because how else could I?
~Ceci

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'll be waiting

I'll be waiting
I may be young or old and gray
Counting the days
But I'll be waiting
And when I finally see your face
I'll run to meet you
(lyrics from "I'll Be Waiting/The Prodigal's Song by Amy Grant)

Last week at midweek service, Brother Timmy delivered a message that really spoke to me. Or, perhaps I should say that in the time I was in service with my heart and soul quieted, seeking for God's will and a bit of His wisdom, I heard some things that He spoke to me in that still small voice. (Brother Timmy, I apologize if it seemed I was distracted...your message was great...but I was hearing another voice too...I'm confident you'll understand and forgive me!)

In about twenty minutes, God placed some pretty powerful points upon my heart. In the middle of the hype and anticipation for Christmas, God showed me how this really does apply to my walk with Him, or how it should.

If you have children who can count, or at least who can make some approximation to counting, you know that children LOVE to countdown to big events. My daughter listed a countdown in her calendar a year ago that was over 180 days until she flew east to spend a couple of weeks with her grandmother. Each and every day, she checked off the date and knew she was getting close to something spectacular. She could not wait for the day to arrive when she would board the plane and fly 2000 miles to see her grandparents...alone.

We are currently in another countdown. Most of society is in a countdown, even if they do not align themselves with a religion. Everywhere we go right now there are signs telling us how many shopping days are left until Christmas.

In our home, we are counting down the days until our family will be altogether to celebrate Christmas (even though we will be doing this early this year). We've been known to count the days until payday. We've counted days until a vacation begins. We even counted down days until our baby arrived (which due to the unpredictable nature of babies was a little more challenging).

We count down to these events because they are exciting for us. We anticipate them happening because we know, or believe, that something wonderful is going to happen.

The Israelites were also given the opportunity to wait in anticipation for something wonderful. In Egypt, they waited for a deliverer while being bound as slaves.

When the deliverer came to them, they mocked him for his previous service under the Pharoah. He wasn't what they would have chosen for a deliverer. Moses wasn't their choice for the golden child. Yet God knew what He was doing. He set aside Moses to lead the people out of bondage and into the Promised Land.

The Israelites were given the opportunity to wait anxiously to go into the Promised Land. But the spies that they sent into Canaan decided to accept fear instead of a promise, and they wandered for 40 years. The original Israelites who were delivered from Egypt, all but one of them died before setting foot in the Promised Land.

The Israelites were repeatedly given opportunities to wait in anticipation, eager to see God bless them, deliver them, love them, take care of them. And they failed to see the blessing and wait with joy and excitement for what God was going to do for them.

In fact, they went so far as to miss the birth of the Messiah. The baby Jesus could not be the Messiah that was going to be sent to deliver the nation and restore Jerusalem. He was not an earthly king. He was a Nazarene, no less, and nothing good came from Nazareth. They missed the biggest blessing delivered to them although the signs were everywhere around them!

How do you miss the decree from a king to have all baby boys under the age of two murdered? Especially after the history in Egypt with the massacre of Israelite babies during the time of Moses, they should have known that this was a foreboding of something BIG. And what about a bright star that magically appeared in the sky? If this happened today, I could understand and suggest that maybe the lights from the city drowned out the light from the star. But these were times when there was no electricity, and the towns were much smaller. They studied the skies to determine the calendar for planting and reaping. They had no clocks. The sky was their clock and calendar. So how did they not question the appearance of a new bright star? And why were they not even more suspicious about this star when it aligned with the decree by Herod to have the babies killed?

And yet, for each reason I feel that they failed, I know that I am failing also.

In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks to his disciples. He tells them that there are going to be signs that may alarm them. He warns them that wars will break out, there will be famines and earthquakes. He tells them, He tells us, that these are the signs that the time is coming. He warns them about false prophets and a false Messiah. He tells them what to watch for, and to be ready.

And then at last, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man will appear
in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the nations of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. --Matthew 24:30 NLT

Are we ready? We know that Jesus is seated in Heaven and He is
waiting to return to the earth. His Second Coming is going to be glorious.
But
will we be ready? Are we counting the days and getting ready? Or, will
we be
like the Israelites and reject the truth and the blessing because it
doesn't fit
our schedule or our idea of how it should happen?

Is there a sign upon my heart declaring "X days until Jesus arrives!" ???


Father, you have told us that Jesus came to earth to save the lost. And we know that He will make his return soon. The signs that He gave us tell us that time is rapidly approaching. And yet, I fear that I spend less time getting ready for the second coming and rapture than I do for Christmas or summer vacation. How can I be so misled? Illuminate the wrongness of my spirit and let me fix my eyes upon a mark that I cannot put into temporal terms, but which should hold my complete attention. Help me put my efforts into preparing my heart, my household, my community for your glorious reappearing--better than any Christmas gift I could ever buy or wrap. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head
The stars in the bright sky look down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my side until morning is nigh


You know, I really envy Mary. She must have felt somewhat like she had it made. I mean, it Martin Luther got it right and the human baby Jesus didn't awaken and cry at the commotion of the animals in the stable, she truly was most blessed among women!

I write this after letting my baby girl finally cry herself to sleep. I struggle sometimes with knowing whether or not I do the right thing with my children. I suppose that we all do. I know that my last baby (he's 7-1/2 now) was spoiled darn near rotten and I battle undoing that damage each day. But still, nurturing a child isn't wrong. It just can't be. Mind you, I don't hold her all the time. She is not delayed in her development because of being coddled (quite the opposite, her early milestones are the stuff of frantic prayers because at 7 months she's almost walking!). But when she has trouble going to sleep at night, and she cries and cries and cries, it breaks my heart. I want so badly to pick her up and just rock her until she goes to sleep, but I fear that by doing that I will create a situation where she simply won't sleep without me holding her.

(Who am I kidding, I think I have already created this situation!)

I wonder, if the belief of Biblical scholars is correct that Mary was only 14-16 years old when Gabriel visited her, how did she handle motherhood? It was her first baby. Did she know when to let him cry, and when to let him cry himself to sleep? Or, is Martin Luther correct that Jesus in his earthly baby form simply didn't cry?

At sixteen, Mary must have been something for God to choose her to mother and carry his child. I think my children are something special, but they are so common next to baby Jesus, the only begotten son. And yet, I know that Mary was just like me.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.--Luke 2:19 NIV

Being a mother has brought me much closer to understanding how Mary might have felt. And it has made the death of Jesus Christ even dearer to my heart as well. I don't know if Mary truly understood that her baby boy was going to be born for the purpose of becoming the paschal lamb. But I know that as I watch my children, as I've held these babies in my arms, I've tried to imagine what it would be like to raise them with that kind of knowledge. And the closest I could get was the simple knowledge that their bodies are mortal. We are finite. Perhaps if Mary knew that He was going to die such a brutal death she also knew that it could not hold him.

And there is such joy in knowing that although my children are mortal, their human lives are finite, they have the opportunity to accept Christ into their hearts and lives and have eternal life spiritually, if not physically.

Father, as a mother, I can't imagine what Mary may have felt watching Jesus be led to the hilltop where he was crucified. I wonder if, in that moment, she had flashbacks of his glorious entry into the world--praised by angels, announced by a spectacular star, sought by foreign kings, and feared by the rulers of nations and religion. Part of me wonders if by understanding Mary and her position as a mother, I can know you better. In this season of celebrations, of commercialism and greed, help me keep my life, my heart, and my eyes centered on you and on your gift for all humanity. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas as I know it

Now to you who believe, this stone [Jesus Christ] is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message-which is also what they were destined for.”--I Peter 2:7-8 NIV
(my emphasis added)


No matter where you live in the US, or even in the "Western World", you know that Christmas is approaching, regardless of whether you are someone who practices active religious faith. In many ways, Christmas has become a cultural holiday and is no longer much of a religious observance. It has been commercialized, and degraded by the desire of greed--children making long lists of toys they have no need for and that most of their families can't practically afford to get them and parents who go deeper and deeper into debt to provide a fraction of what is on that list.

If you follow my writings, you know that I have been struggling for weeks with the commercialism of this season. I am not sure which is worse--commercials almost non-stop from 7am until 9pm of toys, toys and more toys, or the onslaught of commercials depicting a man giving his "beloved" a large, expensive piece of jewelry. Both nauseate me.

And yet I am tied up somewhere in between detesting the commercialism of the holiday and loving it. Sounds ironic that I should at first complain and then be brazen enough to claim to embrace it? Not really. Most of what we do today, even if we are people of faith, to celebrate Christmas is little more than pagan ritual. The winter festivals of yonder year have come home to roost in the Christian home under the guise of "Christian symbolism". Our trees, evergreen, of course, derive from the European festivals of Yule, which sprouted long before the catholic church had reached beyond the Roman Empire. Yule was celebrated in late December into early January, to celebrate the shortest day of the year and the sun god.

And caroling...even caroling has its roots in pagan celebrations.

So, are we truly surprised that this holiday has become synonymous with secularism, pagan rituals, and consumer spending?

But the question is this: HOW DO WE GET BACK TO THE ROOT OF THE CELEBRATION OF CHRIST'S BIRTH?

I don't know just yet. I have had many, many ideas. And I'm going to be perfectly honest, I am afraid of them. Well, not of the ideas, but I'm afraid of the resistance of my family and friends to them. I mean, who isn't going to think I need psychiatric help when I take down the tree and replace it with a crude manger with hay, flanked by a cross with a crown of thorns atop it?

And yet, it may just be that it requires something that drastic to get back, to move back to the real meaning of what we are "supposed" to be celebrating. And if we, as Christians, aren't willing to create a separate celebration, perhaps we should just call it the detested "X-mas" as we have already taken Christ and the mass/holy day out of it.

Just a thought.







Oh, and please keep grumpy comments to a minimum. This is really about me seeking the truth and sharing my journey more than it is an absolute truth or stand at this point. But my goal is to get back to a loving Father who sent Jesus as a tiny baby, knowing that He could never have the relationship He wanted with us without a Savior. And He was wise enough to know that we would reject an adult who just "showed up" one day to die for us. I mean, most of us rejected him as a baby...

Father, this continues to press upon my heart. I am less excited about Christmas this year and I think it's because you are telling me that we really are missing the point. Speak to me clearly, and guide me. Encourage and strengthen me so that as I continue on this path toward Your heart and Your will, I will not cower when it seems tough to do what you have asked me to do. And let the devotion of my heart be upon you, and not upon packages, presents, wrapping paper and bows. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

When God Calls...

I have often struggled with a message being placed on my heart, or a person who I know I must lift up in prayer (even when I don't know the specifics of why). Sometimes these things happen when I am doing nothing important. I have gotten the pleading of the Spirit to pray for someone while driving on the freeway, and have prayed immediately. But other times, God urges me at times when it's just not "convenient".

Oh, yes, I am going there!

I don't know how many times I have gotten online at nearly midnight, flat out bone-weary and spent an hour or two writing, because God has put something on my heart that I just had to write. I would love to tell you that I'm always faithful to this urging, but I'd be lying to you, and that won't help you or me. In fact, here I am on a Saturday morning, on vacation more or less, at 7:30 in the morning the only one awake in our hotel room. I'm sitting on the floor in the dark (so I don't wake the others) typing this because God is placing that urging upon my heart.

(I'd much rather climb back in bed and be sound asleep and wake totally refreshed in like two hours. I would...but I know that this is not going to happen. I know that if I ignore the Spirit, my day is going to be "off"--emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally--and it will have nothing to do with a lack of sleep. Remember Jonah?)

When God calls, we must be ready to listen. Sometimes His call is going to be inconvenient to our earthly, selfish desires. In fact, I am going to go so far as to say it ALWAYS is inconvenient to our earthly, selfish desires. That's because the Holy, Righteous, True Will of God is entirely in conflict with our human, sinful, selfish, deceitful desires. That is the nature of our sinful being.

But we must be ready to listen. We must take a moment to step back and prepare ourselves to hear God when He speaks to us. I believe it's not unlike what I see modeled in my son's second grade classroom. When Mrs. D has the children working in groups independently of her leading and needs to bring them back together, before she begins to speak she claps a rhythm. The children are instructed the first day of school that when they hear her do this, they stop talking, put down whatever is in their hands, and clap this rhythm back. But Mrs. D does not always use the same rhythm to gather their attention. The rhythm changes. And if they do not stop and listen to her rhythm each time, they will not be able to clap it back.

There are several things that really remind me of how Gods calls me in this. First is that I must be listening, at least on some unconscious level for God to "clap His rhythm" in my heart, just as Mrs. D does in her classroom. The children do not sit still and quiet all day waiting for her. In fact, it is generally because they are so busy, so loud, or so other-focused that she uses this tool. But they must know when they hear it to stop.

Oh, Father, I know what you're thinking...and I'm not ready to hear it, but I know I have to stop right now and clap! (Well, at least within my heart--the other four people sound asleep in my room will NOT be happy if I wake them up!) The second that God begins to place that urging of the Spirit within my heart and soul, I have to stop.

But stopping alone is not enough. The children stop and...........

LISTEN.

If they do not listen, they cannot repeat her rhythm back to her. She calls. They stop. They listen.

How much like God is that? (I have this theory that all you have ever really wanted to know about spiritual growth you can learn from raising, or simply studying, small children!)

He calls us with His Spirit, the Holy Ghost. We are to stop--think of Samuel, of Jonah, of the disciples--and listen. But like Mrs. D, God commands to know that we are paying attention. There is some exercise to show Him that He has our attention. He requires that we clap back His rhythm. This morning, clapping back His rhythm meant that I got up, turned on my laptop and went to a site where my soul could be ministered to. It prepared my heart for the message He was going to give me.

Once the children have clapped back the rhythm, Mrs. D continues with her next instructions. She knows that she has their attention and can move ahead with the certainty (well, they are second graders, so I suppose there never is 100% certainty of anything! LOL) that they are going to hear and follow her instruction.

That is exactly how God works too! When we stop, when take the moment to repeat back to God the rhythm He is placing on our heart, He knows that we are ready to listen. Sometimes that is as simple as saying, "Okay, Father...I'm here. I'm ready." Sometimes it is simply saying, "Jesus." Sometimes it is removing yourself to a quieter situation where you can listen. God will shout if He needs to, but neither one of you (or me) really want that situation. It's not ideal. And then, when He knows He has our full attention, He gives us His instruction!

Now here is where we become second graders, all of us...we still have to choose to follow directions. We have to do what He has told us. (I know that I've gone so far as staying up late, getting up in the middle of the night, etc...to listen, but have ignored His instruction.) When we do what the Spirit leads us to do, there is immense blessing for us and for others. But when we ignore Him, that is where we invite trouble in (remember the whale and our good friend, Jonah?).

God is our teacher, and we are all just a bunch of "grown up" second graders. God needs our attention, and we have to stop, listen, and obey.

(I just did.)

Father, thank you for loving me enough to call me. And thank you for blessing me this morning with an early morning wake up call. I know that I didn't want to get up. Who am I kidding? You already know that too! But I thank you for trusting me with this message, and I pray that I have been faithful enough to touch others, as well as to learn from your instruction. Continue to reign in my life so that although I may be busy living life, I am never too busy to hear your call, to stop, and to obey. I know today is going to be a wonderful day because You were first in it! In Jesus' name, AMEN.

For more about hearing and answering God's call...
--I Samuel 3: the calling of Samuel in the middle of the night
--Jonah: chapter 1 is his first calling, but it's a short book...read the rest!
--Matthew 10: Jesus' calling of the disciples and sending them out

Be blessed, and Happy Saturday!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Some disenchanted evening

Every year about this time, things change. My simple life seems to be not quite enough. Everywhere I look I see things that remind me that my life just really doesn't measure up--from Martha Stewart shows that model finely carved pumpkins, to perfectly browned turkeys on immaculately placed tables, to jewelry commercials where an unsuspecting woman is swooped off her feet by her boyfriend/fiance/husband with a gift that we can't afford in a situation I will never find myself, to the myriad of toy commercials with adorable children perfectly dressed opening toys under a department store-worthy tree on Christmas morning. These things seem to mock me for about eight weeks each year, screaming at me that my life is just not quite good enough.

I suppose the irony is what this season is really, truly about.

In a week, we will spend hours cleaning our homes and cooking, baking, sauteeing traditional foods such as green beans, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce/relish, followed by pumpkin pie (or apple, or pecan, or whatever suits your fancy). We will stress out about whether there is enough room for all the adults in the dining room, and if there is a relatively "stain-proof" area to host a dozen small children eating without adult supervision (because 17-year old zit-covered Wii-playing cousin Brent doesn't count as supervision). At the last minute Thursday morning we will realize that some critical ingredient for our feast was forsaken and will send our poor husbands running to find a grocery store within ten miles that is actually open to pick it up. Never mind that it will never truly be missed from the recipe. And we will urge the children to sit quietly and not touch anything in front of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. We'll remind Tommy and Sarah to stay out of the kitchen, to wash their hands and face (again!), and to keep their voices down. And Dad will count the seconds until Santa draws up the rear of the parade and he can switch over to the football games.

At dinner, we will put on "airs" and hold hands while Grandpa blesses the food and every other thing he can possibly think of that has happened in the last year that could be considered "prays-worthy". Grandma will pinch his hand after eight minutes, while the kids poke their fingers in the dinner rolls and mashed potatoes. Uncle Joe will spill wine on the new fine linen tablecloth. Aunt Nora will again tell the now infamous story about her first turkey baking fiasco. And your loving spouse will have one eye glued to the TV in the other room (or even worse...receive text updates on the game! on his cell phone at the table).

Afterwards, the men will collect in the den watching the game and fall asleep, feet up on the coffee table and snoring, each to his own drummer. The kids will run to the basement to play which is a blessing only for the minute while you attempt to clean the dining room, kitchen, and living room from a feast to feed twenty. Later, much later, you will tackle a family room that appears to have only barely survived a grenade attack. (You will do this alone at 11pm, barefoot and on hands and knees while wishing you could just go to sleep.) Your mother-in-law will stand and tell you every bit of gossip she has heard in the past month about her co-workers/neighbors/other family without reaching to help with a single dish. She'll ask if you need help halfway through only to pull your poor sister-in-law with a two-month old baby out of the den where she was attempting to calm the baby.

And at nine, the house will be empty once again. The only sound will be your yawns over the third load through the dishwasher and your husband's snoring.

This is what we get for Thanksgiving. But I think it leaves us all a little bit disillusioned. We are bombarded by the media with idyllic settings that we will never experience. And we spend the day stressed out, irritated, short-tempered, snippy, put-out, and overwhelmed. Never do we really stop to take account of our blessings.

I'll be honest. Right now I'm not looking forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas. Not at all.

Why?

Because I am caught in the midst of the commercialism of the holiday. I am caught in the human elements of the holiday. I am weary because I know that it will never be for me what it really ought to be.

I will never experience a truly thankful Thanksgiving the way the first one was. The Pilgrims didn't fuss over what brand of turkey they were going to have, or what kind of stuffing they were going to serve with it. No. They were ecstatic because they had food and had survived! They had learned how to cultivate crops with the help of the Native Americans. The Pilgrim women weren't concerned about whether or not their table linens were the same ones they'd used the last five years (okay, so that was impossible for them....), or whether their hair and makeup was perfect, their clothes as nice and new as could be.

They had food! They had each other! They had survived a year!

What can I be thankful for in the last year? Perhaps by looking at that, I can strip the holiday of its commercialism and truly be thankful.

1. A new big family!
2. A beautiful new baby girl
3. Being able to stay home to raise my children
4. Financial blessings that were unexpected
5. Labor/delivery blessings
6. Time spent with my kids
7. One year wedding anniversary
8. Opportunities to serve and bless others
9. My health and my family's health
10. Freedom of religion

These are just a few. I could go for hours. But the point is simple:

Strip the season of its commercialism and get back to "THANKS-GIVING".

I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
--Psalm 69:30

I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
--Psalm 95:2

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
--Psalm 100:4

Father, it is easy to see why this season is difficult for so many. Without your Spirit dwelling within us, it is impossible to grasp the truth and embrace what this time of year is truly about. Strip from my home, my heart anything that would keep me from seeing and celebrating the blessings that you have given me over the past year, and the promises you have given me that have yet to be fulfilled. Let each moment be a moment of praise and thanksgiving for all that you have given me. Remove the parts of my heart and mind that dwell on what I don't have. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can't afford to join a gym or expensive weight loss program?

Are you wanting to lose weight?

Do you balk at the high prices of a weight loss program like Jenny, WW, or N/S? Intimidated by the trainers at the gym? Not ready to read a tome before you get started?

ME TOO/EITHER!

But, I am lucky. I was a pre-nursing student back in the day and took a good general nutrition course back in college. (I know, great...she's armed with knowledge that she doesn't use!) So I know what I need to/should eat, I'm just unsure of the quantities that are best.

It's all good though. Our tax dollars are still hard at work! Check out this site which has been around for years and run by the USDA, MyFoodPyramid. It's simple to use. You've already paid for it (assuming you've worked in the last decade within the USA), and it's not nearly so intimidating. I am going to use it as a jumping off point for my own weight loss.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Taking a step back

I have spent a large majority of my adult life overweight. After getting married at 18 and moving across the country, I put on almost 50 pounds immediately. A year and a half later, I got pregnant and broke 200 pounds. We had our second child almost immediately, and I weighed 200 when I found out I was expecting again. That was in January 1998. I did well during that pregnancy and only put on eight pounds. But I struggled taking the pregnancy weight off. In spring 1999, my doctor put me on phentermine (the safer half of fen-phen), and I drop over 60 pounds in less than six months. I wore clothes smaller than what I wore at age 18.


We moved across the world, and I did pretty well keeping the weight off although I struggled with adjusting my schedule and routine, battling the blues of being a whole world away from my friends and family. I put on just a tidbit of the weight I had lost again, but I held my loss for a year. And then I got pregnant with baby number three.


There was so much going on in my life at this time. I had a child with special needs, we spent 12 weeks in Hawaii on medevac during the early part of my pregnancy with two small children and no help or vehicle. I got dehydrated and was ordered not to do heavy activities. We ate out because we had no other option. Slowly, I put weight back on during this pregnancy and blossomed to a whopping 225 when I was checked into L&D for delivery in February 2001.


A year later my world fell apart. My husband and I separated. I lost 15 pounds within 6 weeks without even trying. But I never could break below 195. Until 2006.


I resolved one afternoon when I was home sick from work, that I was going to do it. I was tired of being the "fat single-mom" who everybody felt sorry for at work and at church. I was a good mom, I knew, but I felt like I had no value beyond that. I believed that I could never expect to find a good Christian man as long as I was so overweight. What was my body screaming about my lifestyle and about my ability to love me?


So I joined LA Weight Loss. I refused to use their diet bars, and I stuck to the program. I ate foods that I enjoyed. I did well in a culture of food and snacking at work. In fact, my weight loss was so remarkable that it encouraged many others in the office to lose weight, and the company eventually sponsored a "Biggest Loser" competition.


In April 2006, when I signed up for LA Weight Loss I weighed 209 pounds. In mid-November 2006, I hit my goal weight of 154. Along the way, I found that I could get by on mini-snacks of M&M's (10/day) and fruit instead of candy or cookies.


Last summer, I found out that my husband and I were expecting. I was working full-time, something I had never done in my previous pregnancies. And my job was demanding emotionally and mentally. A moment of "off" in my job could cost the company hundreds of dollars. I came home in the evening and couldn't hold my head up until dinner. I wasn't working out. I wasn't eating right.


And guess what? ! ?


That's right, I had a beautiful baby girl, but I also put on almost 90 pounds in a year. Yes, you ready that right. I put on more than 7 pounds a month. In fact, I put on more weight in a year than my 12-year-old daughter weighs. That's alot of weight.


I don't consider myself a yo-yo dieter because I have really only made a massive commitment to weight loss twice, and both times I did lose weight and keep it off, until I got pregnant...sigh.


But I have really been struggling to get my motivation and stick with it since I had our baby girl in April.


And there have been several factors influencing this. I'm not going to go into all of them here as some are very personal. I am dealing with them elsewhere. But I am determined to make the changes I need to do this.


And this is not going to be easy because we are heading into the holiday season and part of our family traditions have included lots of cookie baking. So this means that I have to find a new tradition to start with my family. I have to make changes that last through pregnancies, and not just until they happen. (I would love to have another baby someday...yes, I said it...but I won't do it at this weight.)


My goal is to weigh 150-155. My goal is to be able to run in the park with my kids, to hike in the mountains without losing my breath, to stand and do dishes without my back and knees hurting before they're done, and to be vital, healthy, and alive for my husband, children, and grandchildren.

Goal number one: Stop drinking soda, more than one cup of coffee, and increase my water intake.

I know I can do that. And I will continue to deal with the emotional issues that undermine my ability to believe in myself and stick with it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Few

1-3 Jesus responded by telling still more stories. "God's kingdom," he said, "is like a king who threw a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out servants to call in all the invited guests. And they wouldn't come!

4"He sent out another round of servants, instructing them to tell the guests, 'Look, everything is on the table, the prime rib is ready for carving. Come to the feast!'

5-7"They only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop. The rest, with nothing better to do, beat up on the messengers and then killed them. The king was outraged and sent his soldiers to destroy those thugs and level their city.

8-10"Then he told his servants, 'We have a wedding banquet all prepared but no guests. The ones I invited weren't up to it. Go out into the busiest intersections in town and invite anyone you find to the banquet.' The servants went out on the streets and rounded up everyone they laid eyes on, good and bad, regardless. And so the banquet was on—every place filled.

11-13"When the king entered and looked over the scene, he spotted a man who wasn't properly dressed. He said to him, 'Friend, how dare you come in here looking like that!' The man was speechless. Then the king told his servants, 'Get him out of here—fast. Tie him up and ship him to hell. And make sure he doesn't get back in.'

14"That's what I mean when I say, 'Many get invited; only a few make it.'"
--Matthew 22:1-14 (The Message)

Jesus used stories or parables to speak to his disciples and to teach the people. He did this because he knew that there would be many drawn to his teachings who had no real kingdom interest in his life. Many just simply followed the crowds. He would teach using parables to the large crowds knowing that those who had true interest would ask questions or understand the symbolism. At times, he refused to explain himself to the twelve because they lacked faith and understanding.

This parable is representative of his life. In this story, the King is none other than God. His Son is the bridegroom, Jesus Christ. I believe that the servants He sent out where the prophets of the Old Testament plus John the Baptist. They were sent to warn the nation of Israel, the chosen people, of the Messiah's coming. They were invited to share in the wedding feast, and yet as Isaiah had predicted, the nation of Israel denied Jesus as being the Messiah promised to them.

So God extended the invitation through the apostles to the Gentiles, here characterized in verses 8-10. These are common people. They are not friends of the family. They are not distant relatives. These are the people in the busiest parts of town going about their business. All who will come are rounded up and brought to the wedding feast.

And yet, this parable ends on a sad note. The king arrives and finds that one "guest" is not dressed appropriately. The king is angered by this man's lack of respect and throws him out. Jesus ends the parable with a simple yet profound statement:

Many get invited; only a few make it.

I believe that Jesus taught this message to his disciples as a warning. They were a very select group. They were the ones who he explained the meanings of the parables to. And yet, he does not explain this one to them. Here he seems to weed out who will make it and who won't by not explaining the meaning of this parable. Perhaps it was a warning for Judas Iscariot. Perhaps it was meant to thrust a dagger into the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Or perhaps it was meant for us to read and to think about and ponder.

We know that in John 3, Jesus declares that he did not come into the world to condemn or judge it, but to save it. That lines up with the "many are chosen" part of his warning. It's the second part that becomes a challenge to us.

Few make it. Which makes me think of the Marines. And perhaps that analogy isn't all that bad. The Marines have prided themselves on being the elite branch of our military. Their basic training is more physically demanding, and longer than any other branch. They take immense pride in their uniform (oh how well I know this one...open mouth, insert foot--those dress blues ARE blue, not black...sigh). In fact, the Marines are almost always the first troops sent to any conflict. It is my understanding that the number of enlistees who drop out of basic or are disqualified are highest within the Marines. They are the select few.

In our spiritual lives, which are we? Are we recruited because no one else is left? Will we make it through the physical? Will we fail the first time we are sent out to train in the real world? When our time here on earth, our basic training if you will, is done, will Jesus look at us and choose us? Or will we be like the man who showed up but lacked the foresight to be respectful to his host?

Father, I know that I fail you so many times. I have reflected many times on chance meetings where I dropped the ball when I could have witnessed for you or lifted up a sister or brother who was struggling. I have come into your presence with disrespect in my mind and heart--holding onto the commonalities of human existence instead of shedding them for joy, thanksgiving, praise and worship. Forgive me for my disrespect. I am proud to have been chosen at all, and it is my goal to make it into your eternal kingdom. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Knee time

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.
16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
--2 Chronicles 7:14-16 (The Message)

I began this series of entries from 2 Chronicles chapter 7 last week before the election. I see so many parallels between Israel and the United States. And I know that I'm not the first or the last person to draw these parallels. It's a type and shadow.

God tells Solomon the same thing He has told His people since He first spoke to Adam in Eden. "Listen to me, follow my instructions, and your life will be simple and blessed. But if you ignore me, if you forgo my commandments and seek after wordly pleasures, your life will be filled with terrors, calamity, illness, war."

I almost need to take a step back to write this. I feel so much right now that I am unclear as to where I should start, how far I should go, and where I should end.

At this point, Israel was in a pretty good standing with God. Solomon, although not a perfect king, was a great ruler and had a deep faith in and relationship with God. He was king for one simple reason: God had promised his father, David, that if he remained in God's way, his line would be seated on the throne. Solomon himself had done nothing to earn his seat. His father had secured it for him. Solomon remained a powerful king because of the choices he made once he was anointed.

That is so much like our relationship with our Father. We have been given a seat, a place in eternity with the Father, not because of anything we have done, but because of what our Father has done. Our Father bought our place in heaven with the sacred blood of His child, Jesus Christ. We can certainly mess that up. We can back slide. We can deny God of His power. But we can not earn our place in heaven. We just can't. All we can do is disable ourselves from getting there.

Even so, God had a desire to be with His children Israel. Time after time, they went their own ways. They sought unions and marriages with peoples who served false gods. They turned their back on God and griped about their position. "There's nothing to eat! Not more manna! Can't we just go back to Egypt, at least we had onions and leeks to eat there!" And they fell from God's favor.

For a time.

The Israelite history is a circuitous one. The children of Israel would repent, would re-establish the law as the norm for their lives and government, and then something would happen to test them, and they walked away from God. And God knew their hearts. He knew what it would take to awaken their souls and bring them back to Him. Perhaps His punishments seem harsh to us. Can you imagine how they seemed to the Israelites?

But always, God has given them, us, another chance. But if my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and PRAY and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Our country is called by the name of God. It was founded upon the principals of religious freedom, one nation under God. The cornerstone of our Constitution and Bill of Rights are biblical truths. We are Israel, we are His children, called by his name. But we have not humbled ourselves. We have not prayed and sought God. We have not turned from our wicked ways. And we live in a broken, troubled world because of it.

How do I know this? I know this because a man was elected today who will legalize partial birth abortion. I know this because many states are voting to redefine marriage as a union between members of the same sex. I know this because it is offensive for my child to say a blessing over lunch in the public school. I know this because our country is hated by countries of other faiths. We serve greed and the "redistribution of wealth." We award business leaders who practice high-risk tactics while tax money is being used to bail these businesses out. I know this because we wonder if it should be okay for a critically-ill person to ask a doctor for lethal doses of drugs.

Our country has turned away from God. I venture to say that today many people went to the polls and voted for "change" without looking at what cost they were going to pay. And it reminds me of the beginning of the darkest periods of the Israelites' history--the periods when they were oppressed by other nations, when their kings were power hungry, and when the blessing of God was removed from their nation.

There are two things that give me peace at this moment, perhaps three.
1. Even in the periods of history when Israel as a nation turned from God, He protected the minority of His people who remained faithful to Him.
2. So long as we are alive and standing, we still have the ability to get down on our knees and pray, seek His face, and be delivered and receive His blessing again.
3. God has promised to listen when we finally get "it" and turn back to Him whole-heartedly.

It is "KNEE TIME" in our country today. We are entering a period that would terrify me if I did not know the Word of the Lord. I know that God still is there. I know that God will still listen. I will hear from heaven. God will hear us when we call on Him.

I think of Jeremiah and Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets. They must have been highly unpopular in their day. Can you imagine telling the leader of a mighty nation that his country and his people, including himself, would be delivered into the hands of Babylon? I wouldn't want that job. And yet, I feel some of that burden today.

In the United States, we have watered down what it means to be a Christian. We say a nice little prayer at an altar call, we put bumper stickers on our cars with the "Jesus fishy" on it, and if we're really good Christians, we join a small group Bible study and perhaps put our children in private Christian schools. In some ways, we walk the walk. But we fail so miserably in other ways.

I have a pre-teen daughter. I love her with more love than I could dream of. I want her to wait until she is married to have sex. And yet, even in the "church" community, it is not uncommon to hear of lowered standards. "Everyone does it anyway, you might as well plan that she will too."

Excuse me?!? God created marriage and sex to be mutually inclusive. Can you have sex before marriage? Sure, but don't count on a blessing coming out of it! And that is exactly what I've taught my daughter. AIDS? HIV? Sin! Birth control? It's called abstinence! If you aren't married, and you don't want to have a baby, you don't participate in sexual activity. This isn't a radical thought process! This is the way God designed it for our best interest.

This is only one example of the "dumbing down" of our faith in the United States. If you vote for a political candidate who will support further abortion rights and claim to believe the Bible is the infallible word of God, something just doesn't jive.

I heard today that Evangelicals in the United States were/are disillusioned with the Bush administration. Why? He is a human, imperfect like them. And they believe that by voting en masse for the opposite end of the spectrum is going to help restore their illusion? See the key here is this...it's all an illusion.

Our country has wandered so far away from its Christian roots, it's almost hard to believe that there were any to start with. What our country needs is change, but not Mr. Obama's marxist, socialized government-style of Kool-aid change. Our country needs revival.

My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

I believe God chose our country to be what it was. It was to be a place where we could seek Him, serve Him, worship Him, free of the encumbrances of the government. And yet today, our country is exactly the opposite. But we have His promise to us, just as He promised Israel that when we seek Him, when we repent, when we pray, He will listen. And then He will heal our land.

We need more knee time. Don't settle for the lines that you are being sold. Don't accept anything less than what God has for you and for our country. Pray for revival to sweep our land. Pray for the restoration of a mighty country "one nation under God". Pray that we will again become "indivisible".

Whatever you do, PRAY.

Father, you continue to lay this upon my heart. I believe we are entering into a dark period in our country's history. And yet, we have chosen this path. We have turned from you and your promises to us. I cannot be change for everyone. But I can continue to write what you lay upon my heart without fear of being offensive knowing that my desire is to bless you and to do your will. And I will continue to come to you in prayer, in repentance, and seek your face, your will for my life. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Choosing a mindset

If you know me, you know where my allegiances lie in light of the election. The candidate I voted for did not win. In fact, I haven't even seen a number listed for how many votes he did receive, not even in estimation as a sidenote. But that is because for the first time in my life I voted in line with my spiritual beliefs and not with the "big parties". (I'm going to forgo a spiel about how our country has forgotten that there are other parties...)

My vote was not a wasted vote. When I lay my head down tonight upon my pillow, I can rest assured that if I wake up standing before my Maker and He asks me why or how I chose to vote for the person I voted for, I can say that I voted in line with my beliefs, in line with the Bible and the law. I am at complete peace with that. My vote is my voice and my voice says, "I believe in Jesus Christ, in life, and in standing for those values in the face of a society who doesn't embrace them."

But since a new president has been elected, a man whose views are heavily contradictory to my own, I have some choices to make.

First, I am a Christian. I need to make the decision to do what Jesus would do. I know that Jesus looks at Mr. Obama the same way that He looks at me. He created Mr. Obama. He longs to have a personal relationship with him. He loves him just as much as He loves me.

Second, I am a mother. There are four children in my home (sometimes six!) who are looking at how I respond in light of a political leader rising to power who I vehemently disagree with. However, he is the chosen leader of our country, a country that I love, that I am blessed to live in because it allows me freedoms that I take for granted. My children are watching to see if I respect this man's leadership. They are watching to see how I balance my beliefs with the moral barometer of our country. They are going to watch how I act compared to how I speak.

Third, I am a former military wife. I understand the importance of the role of commander-in-chief. I know that Mr. Obama's role as such will have far reaching impact, in ways that many other presidents have not had.

So I need to make choices. I need to choose right now how to balance respect for the election and the person elected as executive to our country while still not approving of that person's views. And I plan to do what I know that my grandmother would do.

I plan to pray. I plan to write letters. I plan to email members of Congress. I will practice creative non-violence, if need be. But I will respect Mr. Obama's role as the elected leader. I will continue to be proud to be an American. I will continue to live with morals dictated by my faith and not the radical left or popular opinion. I will continue to live for Jesus. And I'm going to talk about my beliefs with my children more.

I'm choosing a mindset that is positive without embracing what I see as a moment of darkness for our country. And I choose to pray with a new fervency,
GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Face Time

12 Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices.

13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.

14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.

16 For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart...



19 “But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods,

20 then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations.

21 And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’

22 “And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them.’”

(from 2 Chronicles 7:12-16, 19-22 NLT)



Once upon a time ago, I was a military wife. And I remember hearing the enlisted guys talk about "face time". The term referred to the amount of time they worked with or directly under an officer who would have the ability to help them get promoted. Most of the time, you wanted face time. The enlisted members who received the most face time (for positive reasons and not for correction) had a great advantage for getting nominated for service awards and medals. Especially in the upper levels of the enlisted force, this face time which equalled being known paired with awards and medals can make or break a promotion.

Here in 2 Chronicles, God speaks to King Solomon after the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem. This has been Solomon's pet project, an inheritance from his father David who could not build it because of his military background. Solomon has spared no cost on parts, materials, and labors. I guarantee you that Solomon did not accept a single "lowest bid" to have this temple built. This temple was to be grand. It was to be legendary. It was to state for all the future generations on earth how much David and Solomon loved and served their God.

"I have chosen." God assures Solomon that this is a pleasing thing he's done. God's spirit must have laid upon Solomon and David as they chose the plan and location for this temple. God has chosen both men to be king in their due time, and He has chosen Solomon to be the architect of His Temple.

In the upper enlisted ranks, there is a selection process. Packages are put together, and there are sometimes interviewing boards to select nominees for promotion. Again, face time leads to being chosen.

"I might shut up the heavens, or send plagues among you." Wow! I'm not sure how Solomon responded to this declaration from the Lord. I can only imagine how I would respond. And well, I would have been indignant. I would have wanted to point out this temple yet again and ask why the Lord might send disaster to my door. I mean, this was one of Solomon's greatest accomplishment which the Lord had just blessed, how could He turn in the same breath and say He might send calamity?

But then I think about character, especially how we develop character. I've heard it said more than once that character is defined by how you responding when everything is stripped away from you. And at the root, our real character is evident when nothing and no one is around. While tragedy and crisis work to develop our character, how you respond or act when no one is looking really defines your character.

And I wonder if Solomon understood that God was not attempting to be mean or cold-hearted, but would seek true believers but putting their character to the test through famine and pestilence. Perhaps in his magnificent wisdom he could see that the Father knew what He was going to do. Or maybe, unlike me, he was patient and waited to hear everything that the Father had to say before responding.

I would bet that when there are selection boards in the military, one of the things that they look at is a soldier's ability to stay strong, rational, and effective in the light of crisis. And, if they have done this while under the direct supervision of a high ranking officer, I'm sure that the "face time" is immense.

We need to seek God's face more. It is too easy for us to seek the admiration and glory bestowed by men. Who doesn't like to get a Kudos or an "Atta Boy" every now and then? And our society is based upon achievement which only further propagates our desire to be the best and strive for excellence in the sight of men. And yet, it seems to be almost impossible to seek fame and adoration by the masses and still have a heart that seeks God's face first and foremost.

I believe that so many of my problems today arise from my desire to seek the face of the world and ignoring God and His will for my life. I put hours into training for career skills. I worked long hours, pushed aside my family in the attempt to pay bills so that we met the "status quo", and longed for promotion. And yet, I believe had I sought God's face first, I would have made my bills without the struggle to be the best employee by going above and beyond. In fact, I believe that I likely hurt my chances for promotion because I tried so hard. I was taken for granted by my employer. And who wouldn't take someone who works hard and for little pay take that for granted?

But if I had instead sought God's face, face time with the King, I believe things may have been different. My desires would have been different. My relationship with my children would have been different.

And the amazing part of it all is this: When I realized my error, and I turned away and began to seek the face of God, grace was there to wash away my past mistakes. God forgot about my misplaced priorities. He restored me--to my children, to the community, to the church, and to a loving marriage. All I had to do is seek His face.

Father, I am amazed at how easy it is to please you sometimes, and yet how ignorantly I choose to do things that are anything but pleasing. Please forgive me for the error of my ways. I come to you now seeking your face and the glory that only you can give me. And I pray that the beauty of your face will be reflected upon mine as I strive to know you more and more and serve your people. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Check back for Part Two: Knee Time

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

[silence]

Sigh. I am taking a break from the political scene. I can't stand it anymore. The media bias has overwhelmed me--from both sides, from the mainstream left to the "backwoods" right views. I am tired of this campaign.

To be honest, I think the two major political parties have NOTHING new to offer. And I know that the smaller parties don't have the money to gain the support needed to win the election.

I am voting, rest assured. I wouldn't miss it for anything. Because above the irritating whine of the media is the knowledge that I have a voice, even if it is a small one.

And even bigger than that...I'm praying. Because I believe that the only thing that can save our country from where it is right now is God.

So I'm turning off the TV news. I'm avoiding some of my favorite blogs and websites. I'll be back on Wednesday. Until then, I'm going to pray. Perhaps I'll fast and pray too. Join me, won't you?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Starting over...again

So, I'm going to be perfectly honest with all of this. Two years ago, I joined LA Weight Loss and in just seven months, I lost nearly 70 pounds. I didn't do the supplements. I just changed the way I ate. The program really worked for me. I felt great, I looked great. I WAS GREAT!

And then I met my wonderful husband. I stopped going to the gym four times a week. We started keeping sugar and white flour in the house. I got pregnant. I worked fulltime during my pregnancy which sucked out all the energy I had to start with, so I sat on my rear end for nine months. And surprise, surprise...I put back on EVERY SINGLE POUND plus a few new ones.

UGH!

And while I know that I can do what I did back then again, it has alluded me. I've tried other diets, only to find them expensive and then quitting. But tonight, I set out to find a diet plan online that was similar or identical to the eating plan I used before.

AND I DID IT!

So this weekend is payday. I resolve to sit down and plan "our" menus for the next two weeks using the plan. I resolve to get exercise back into my routine EVERYDAY. And I resolve to really work hard on the maintenance this time because it is absolutely embarassing to know that I did so well before only to put it back on.

Check back later. I'm going to post a "before" pic. In it, I will pose very similarly to what they do on the Biggest Loser. I'm going to mark out a spot in the house and an outfit to wear. Every four weeks, I will pose again. I am going to keep the diary and record the water intake, the food, the exercise. Why? Simply because I know it works.

So here's to starting over again!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The problem is me

That may seem like a big statement to make. In fact, even as I sit here writing this, I want to say no and go to bed and ignore what is on my heart. And yet I know that like Jonah, I will be tossed in the sea and spit out by the big fish if I am not faithful to the command of the Lord.

We all have problems. Jesus said in Matthew that in this world, well, we would have problems. We would persecuted because we love him. But from the time that rotten old serpent slithered his way into Eve's vision and brought doubt into her mind, this world has been full of problems. Sin created our problems.

But, what of the born again, sanctified, blood-washed saint? Paul said in Romans 6:14,
Sin is no longer your master, for you are no longer subject to the law,
which enslaves you to sin. Instead, you are free by God's
grace. (NLT)

If we are no longer slaves to sin, than how is it that we still have problems?

With the economy what it is, and the choice we have made for me to stay home and raise our children and manage the household, we are struggling at times to make sense of it all. As we pay off debt, our utilities increase. We never seem to get ahead. We continue to tithe, as we continue to pray believing that no one can afford not to tithe, nor can anyone afford not to spend time in prayer.

God continues to be faithful. He was, He is, and He is to come. Not one letter of His word has changed since He first delivered it to the writers via divine inspiration. And yet, with all of the Bible that I have read and studied, with all of the witness and testimony from my own past, I get afraid. I worry. I doubt. I cry out in exasperation. And I wonder what my problem is.

THE PROBLEM IS ME.

Without grace, I am nothing. I am nothing more than a leaf blowing in the wind. I am here for a season, and then I am swept away. Without grace, I am a sinner who deserves nothing but death. I am a child who needs discipline and reproof yet laughs in the face of the teacher. Without grace, wisdom bestowed upon me is wasted and thrown away. Without grace, I have no value.

But I know that I have been bought with the price of Jesus' blood. I know that His blood has bought for me victory, joy, breakthrough, blessing, and a whole host of other gifts that the Father has given me. Through grace.

And yet, I see myself as having no value. Although I strive to be like Jesus, I badger and belittle myself when I fail. When I feel as though I have no value, I blame my children, my husband, my family, my friends for not seeing and praising me for my value. I tell God that no one appreciates me. I ask for another blessing, but only with my tongue in cheek because I have just told Him that I have no value.

The problem is me.

I have two wonderful boys who God has entrusted me to raise. They share a bedroom and a great distaste for taking responsibility for their own actions. I am actually starting to believe that there is a third boy sharing their bedroom. His name is "Notmee". I say this because I can be assured that this third child is destroying the room that the other two have cleaned. I know this because when I ask them who made the mess on the floor, who took the books off the shelf, who threw their dirty clothes on the floor, they always tell me, "Notmee."

But perhaps the bigger point here is learning to take responsibility for the actions that they blame on each other. The younger of the two always tells me it's not his fault when he spends all of dinner time in laughter because his brother made him laugh. The older one tells me it's not his fault when he hits his brother because his brother made him mad.

To which I ask, "Did he tickle you?" or "Did he get inside your head and tell you that you had to be mad?" They don't like those questions. They dislike the whole idea that while we cannot change the past actions of those around us, we are always able to choose how we will respond to them. Of course, if you are 7 or 10-year olds, you just respond without thought. But not so as an adult and parent, right?

But that's it exactly. When I get a utility bill that has almost doubled, I immediately panic and get afraid and want to blame the utility company for raising their rates. I pray to God and ask Him why He's letting them do this to me. Why am I being punished for their desires? And what I fail to see is that the problem here is not the utility company, it is not my family's fault (well, not entirely...at least), and it is not God's problem. God did not create this problem. And in a heartbeat, I have taken the problem away from Him by becoming irrational and forgetting His promises:
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
(Matthew 28:20),
or:
So I tell you, don't worry about everyday life-whether you have enough
food, drink, and clothes. Doesn't life consist of more than food and
clothing?... your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable
to him than they are. (Matthew 6:25, 26b)

The problem is not God. God's faithfulness has not changed. His love for me has not changed either. The problem is my own doubt and fear.

Perhaps you are experiencing this yourself. Perhaps you have come to the conclusion that the greatest detriment to your own faith deepening isn't the "horrible" choice of songs during praise at church, nor is it the offensive perfume/cologne someone beside you decided to wear. It is not the teaching geared to the soul who is sitting there for the first time hearing the good news, nor is it a baby crying or giggling. The biggest stumbling block in the growth of our faith is ourselves. We tie ourselves to the past, to our failures, to our fears and doubts and then we become the problem.

God has already promised over and over to provide for us more than we can begin to hope or ask for. We need to get out of the way.

Father, I realize that the problems I am experiencing have nothing to do with my intrinsic value in your eyes. They have nothing to do with your faithfulness and promises. The problem is that I want me first--not you. Father, search me and know me. Let me see these things just as you see them, and then remove them from my character. And above all, remove all of my selfish nature. Teach me to ask to be a blessing, and not to just receive one. Teach me to lift others up instead of just trying to stand on their shoulders. And above all, give me more of you and less of me so that I can be light and salt in this world, my temporary home. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Checking in

I have been on a hiatus called life. The summer was very busy with up to seven kids in the house on a given day...softball two or three days a week for my oldest daughter...trips to and from Portland to pick up my husband's children and drop them off...camping in Montana...oh, I couldn't begin to list all the excitement!


The kids are back to school now, and that means days are much quieter. I spend my days volunteering at the middle school (I am doing this for the first time and jumped right in as a Volunteer Coordinator!), cleaning the house, and chasing my beautiful five-month-old baby girl who sits and crawls and rolls! *sigh*


I am alive and well. The family is also alive and well, although we ended the summer with the first fractured bone and stitches caused in an accident--not bad considering I have four kids from 5 mo. to 12 years old! (My youngest son, seven years old, fell off the jungle gym at a city park and landed nose first into a metal beam--fracturing his nose and requiring a few stitches for a small laceration across the bridge of the nose.)


Here's a pic of the baby. Enjoy! And thanks for checking up on me...I hope to be more acclimated to this new lifestyle and more active here again soon.


God bless!


(this picture taken just moments before brother, in orange, broke his nose....)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Penelope--now available on DVD

It's a rare thing to see or hear me tout a movie, music artist, book, or author. Part of this is because I believe there is so much difference in personal taste. Part of it is that I dislike free advertising for products. However, I'm going to break from my own personal ban on such flag waving to tell you about a most charming movie the children and I have discovered.

"Penelope" is directed by Mark Palansky. I could find little about Mr. Palansky, but the movie, I believe was strongly encouraged by Ms. Reese Witherspoon, of "Legally Blonde" fame. I do think Reese is adorable and have enjoyed many of her movies. But none of them left me touched the way this film did.

The main character is Penelope, a young aristocratic "blue blood" heiress who through some cruel twist of fate and the poor choice of a great-great grandfather is born with a pig's snout and ears. Imagine the horror of the upper crust family upon the birth of the dear child. The curse can be broken but only when the girl finds true love with one of her own kind.

Enter the mayhem that ensues as a good meaning mother attempts to match her daughter with a suitor of like kind. Boys enter unaware and as men run away...or perhaps, it is the other way around. But all believe that the only way for Penelope to become "normal" is through true love and marriage.

I don't want to give too much away, in case you haven't seen it. I highly recommend this movie to anyone with daughters. There is a strong message about learning to love yourself the way you are. And that same message really touched my son (born with cleft lip/palate) who also identified with Penelope's struggle with the mirror and herself within.

Christina Ricci and James McAvoy (think Mr. Tumnus in the first of the Narnia movies from Disney) star with Catherine O'Hara (Home Alone) and of course, the darling Ms. Reese Witherspoon. The movie was released on DVD this past Tuesday, and it is a MUST SEE for anyone with children (I would suggest age 5 or 6 and up).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Forever

"For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations." --Psalm 100:5 NIV


What a great verse to consider as we prepare for another beautiful summer weekend! The Lord is good! Sunny, lazy days in the backyard with the kids, on the beach by the lake or ocean, camping in the wild, or wherever your weekend will take you, the Lord has been good to you. He has given you good health to enjoy the day. He has surrounded you with friends and family. He is truly good!

And his love endures forever! Just how long is forever? Forever goes back before you were born. It reaches beyond the time when your grandparents, great-grandparents, their grandparents were born. It goes back beyond the first day on earth. And it reaches out before us beyond any generation we can begin to fathom. Forever means without beginning or an end. His love, unlike our own, has no end. It is not subject to whim or mood. It will not stop because we have done something to upset Him. Nothing we can do will cause Him to stop loving us. NOTHING! How wonderful is that???

And his faithfulness? It continues throughout all generations. Well, that's pretty much as good as forever, right? His faithfulness--his ability to be what He says He is, to do what He says He's going to do--is going to continue on beyond us, beyond our children, their children, and their children's children. His promises are forever. His faithfulness is without end.

What a great promise to grab onto and dwell on during a beautiful Friday like today!

Father, I am amazed that you have chosen to love me at all, but to love me forever--without beginning or end--that's too much for me to grasp. I love you because You first loved me, and that is all my human heart is capable of. I praise You for the works of your hands, the kindness of your heart, and the faithfulness of your Spirit. Continue to work in me as I raise my children, as I help my husband, and as I encounter those around me who do not know you. Make me a blessing and a witness to your love without end and your faithfulness throughout the generations today and each day! In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Justice

"He who gives me justice is near. Who will dare to oppose me now? Where are my enemies? Let them appear!" --Isaiah 50:8 NLT

Justice is a tricky thing, I've learned. There are many types of justice, but only one has eternal consequence--God's justice. And I have also learned that it is nearly impossible for me to grasp even a jot of what that is. Here is what we call justice:

jus*tice: n. 1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. the moral principle determining just conduct.
4. conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
5. the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
6.the maintenance or administration of what is just by law, as by judicial or other proceedings: a court of justice.
7. judgment of persons or causes by judicial process: to administer justice in a community.
8. a judicial officer; a judge or magistrate.
The definition that applies to this verse, this promise from God is most likely the administering of deserved punishment or reward. And we are pretty certain as Christians that we know exactly what the punishments and rewards should be.
All too often, the church today is ready to throw accusations at leaders, at its members, its community. We are quick to point out the reasons others have failed and how they should be punished. We are also quick to point out how we have not tripped over the same issue and to expect some reward for being "good".
I have learned that what I believe is deserving of punishment is not always what God sees and punishes. At least not in my timing. I am reminded of a woman who continues to scheme ways of keeping her ex-husband from seeing their children. To me, it would seem appropriate for God to cast some punishment upon her NOW so that the children are able to build a relationship with their father. I mean, that would seem to line up with God's will, that a child be able to grow a relationship with their father, right?
But this is one of those places where my sense of justice doesn't match up entirely with God's. Perhaps it isn't that my sense is off, perhaps it's just the timing. ("Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." --Rom. 12:19 KJV)
Or what about the teacher who ridicules a kindergartener with special needs in front of his peers? And yet the school district does not remove the teacher from the classroom until further investigations can be completed. How is that fair? Why is that not punished?
Two things are laid upon my heart as I read this verse from Isaiah:
1. God protects me from unfair accusations and punishments.
2. God has given me grace at the cross of Jesus so that I don't have to face the just punishments that I deserve.
Both of those things are pretty powerful to me. I am protected from my enemies would unfairly accuse or try to punish me. I may never hear those accusations. They have been thwarted and muted by my Father. And because of that, I never have to face unfair punishment. I have nothing to fear! Also, I am protected from the punishments that I should receive (death) for my sins because of God's great love for me.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever beleiveth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." --John 3:16 KJV
Father, what a wonderful promise and gift you have given me. Even while I look at others and "judge" what they have done and try to assign blame and punishment, you protect me from unfair accusations and punishments. If that weren't amazing enough on its own, you also have paid the price, served the punishment of punishments on the cross so that I would not have to. I am not worthy of such love. And of course, that is what makes it grace. Thank you, Father, for loving and wanting me so much. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Becoming an emotional woman

I think we have all heard people stereotype women as being hyper-emotional. They blame female hormones for it. (I have to disagree with that!) And as women, I think we sometimes feel like we have to apologize for it. But I believe that God created us, as females, to be nurturing, caring, and thus emotional. If we weren't emotional would we still be caring? Isn't it a soft heart that allows one to cry when someone dies unfairly in a movie or when a small child calls her grandpa to wish him goodnight on a TV commercial for long distance service?

Of course, it is. And God designed us to be in relationships with others. Men, who have less tendency to be hyper-emotional, are created to balance us out as we are created to balance them. God created woman for this purpose:

"...but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner...this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." --Genesis 2:20b, 23b NRSV

I used to be a stay at home mom in what seems like another lifetime. When my first marriage failed, I was forced back into the workplace to help support myself and my children. I was no longer mom and wife, I was now employee and mom.

Did you notice the order of my words? Before the separation and divorce, I was mom then wife (okay, I know someone may want to debate the healthiness of this...but that's for another time...). Afterwards, I became an employee then a mom. It was a difficult balance. I was also filling most of the role of father. I lived in constant exhaustion. I hated myself on many occasions for my role in the failure of my marriage that forced my children to be raised by only one parent. I hated telling my children that they couldn't play sports because I couldn't commit the time to all the practices and games. I hated having to leave my sick children with friends because I didn't have any vacation or sick time left and I couldn't afford not to get all my hours to make the bills. And somewhere in that whole process, I learned to be like a man. I forced myself to be less emotional. I wasn't cold or heartless, but crying at the drop of a hat wasn't going to serve me well.

In fact, I had vowed that my children would see me cry, but not so much that it would upset them and cause them to cry. I didn't want to transfer my pain onto them. I didn't want them to bear my grief or feel responsible for it. I knew that the divorce would weigh heavily enough on their little hearts and lives.

I think the hardest thing was having my son tell the daycare director that Mommy was very sad and he wished I could be happy. What a tearjerker!

When I was blessed with my current husband (my forever husband), I had learned so deeply how to stave off emotion, I still held back tears. He is a very kind and deeply feeling man and will cry at times before I do. But I can assure you that when he cries, it reassures me and I am able to cry myself. At our baby girl's birth, Mr. D cried. He was so blown away by seeing and finally holding our little angel, he cried. And I cried too. I cried because I knew how much he loved her and me. I hadn't been in that place for a very long time.

We both cried while watching the "John Adams" series based on the book by David McCullough. And Mr.D was shocked to see me in tears. (He read the 700+ page book, not me...although I'm an avid reader...I'll have to wait until my SIL B finishes until I can read it..."hurry up, girl!" LOL) I was so blown away by the love that John and Abigail had for each other.

Many nights, I sit beside my baby girl in bed and watch her sleep. I am blown away by how blessed I am to have this little angel in my care. I cry. I pray that I am worthy enough to train her well.

Basically, I have finally come to a point where I can be a woman again. I have a wonderful man who loves and takes care of me and our children (his, mine and ours). God has blessed me so many more times than I could have asked for. I am still working on accepting and embracing this new side to me, but Mr.D assures me that it's a good thing.

Father, thank you for making me so wonderfully female. You have created me just the way I should be even though circumstance has sometimes forced me to avoid my natural temperament. I figure at some point, I'm going to cry a river of tears--because you love me, because you have blessed me, and because I know how much I need you. Keep your hand upon me as I continue to embrace and rediscover my natural temperament. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Friday, June 27, 2008

What no one tells you about divorce and remarriage

When my first marriage failed, I received lots of advice. Most of it was about finances and parenting alone. Some of it was about surviving the pain of the divorce itself. But what no one told me, what no one suggested or warned me about was the hazards that would befall me if I ever got married again.

Perhaps that is because within the Church, there are those who believe that there is no right for a divorced Christian to remarry. Perhaps it is because the rate of divorce for second marriages is higher. Perhaps people secretly believed, as I did, that I could not find a man worth marrying. At any rate, I am stumbling upon lessons that I wish could have been imparted before I remarried. (I hate making mistakes...sigh)

I entered into my first marriage at the very tender age of 18. I took the commitment very seriously. I got married to him for life. To me, divorce was not an option. I believed that there was nothing that our love and God wouldn't get us through. I was right about the second part, just not the first. And we were not set evenly on the faith field. At times, neither of us was seeking God's will for our marriage.

After two years of separation, we divorced. It was traumatic, but I knew that God wanted me to be at peace. I knew that God wanted me to find healing. And in time I did.

In time, I found the kind of love and marriage that God had wanted for me from the beginning. I could not fairly compare the two marriages, so I won't. But what I am learning is that what happened in the first marriage continues to haunt me in the second. There is still a fear of abandonment, although highly irrational. It's there whether it's logical or not. When you go into a marriage with belief that it is forever, and then the marriage falls apart and ends, it is nearly impossible to face a second with the same belief that it will be forever. The ghosts in the closet will attempt to follow you and haunt you. They whisper, "Yeah, but remember how it happened last time...wasn't it alot like what you're feeling right now...you can't honestly think he'll love you and stand beside you no matter what, especially after what you've already experienced." And you have to take a stand to ignore them.

So today, I am learning that healing is an ongoing process. I am learning that the scars from the first marriage can scab over and affect the new marriage. And I am flawed and so, so human. All I can do is go to Jesus, fall at his feet and ask Him to help me.

Father, I love my husband with all that I am. He loves me with the devotion that you have directed husbands to have for their wives. He loves me as Christ loves the church. And yet I have been wounded by past relationships. And because of this, I get afraid. I fear what is not present and real at this time because of what has happened in the past. In fact, I know that if I am honest, there is not an inkling of what has gone before present in my marriage. And I know that we both go to you when things get tough--on our own and together. We know and trust that you are the giver of all good things and the healer of all hurts. Heal me of the wounds that make my heart so cautious to let my husband really love me. Remove all doubt of his genuine-ness of heart so that I can be my best for him. Give us both the ability to be patient as we work through the myriad of challenges that a second marriage poses so that we can know and be absolutely sure that when our lives on earth on through, we will still be standing side by side, following you. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Not Afraid

“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
--Christopher Robin to Pooh(A.A. Milne)

My son, Mr. M was born in 1997 with a complete bilateral cleft lip and palate. We were fortunate in many ways. We knew before he was born from an ultrasound that he was going to be cleft-affected. He was also born with a very symmetrical cleft which made it much easier for the surgeons to repair his lip and make him look "normal".
Before he was born, we met the cleft team that would be responsible for his medical care. We met other cleft parents. We were warned about the possibility of overt oral defensiveness. We met parents whose children had been to the orthodontist 20 times and still had not allowed them to place a single bracket or wire in their mouth. We were told about all the different surgeries that his future potentially held. We were informed of the possibility of cluster defects that might not be obvious until birth and of learning disabilities which might not be detectable until age 3 or 4, or even until after he began school.

But God knew me. He knew my son. And He knew how much we could handle, and what we couldn't.





Mr. M is the bravest, most courageous, fearless boy of 10 you'll ever meet. Today at 7am, he walked into the oral surgeon's office with a large toothy grin on his face for his 12th (no...that is NOT a typo) surgical procedure. The plan was to pull six ankylosed baby teeth from the bottom jaw, continue with a third vestibuloplasty, and open the hard palate to expose and pull down his adult bicuspids. OUCH.

They were unable to deal with the bicuspids. We will go back in two months to deal with those then.

But Mr. M came home without a single tear. He has taken the Tylenol-3 prescribed, but has not whined once. His upper lip is swollen to three times its normal size. He has a large mouthguard covering his upper teeth/jaw. He can barely talk. He can only take thin purees. And yet, he continues to walk into these appointments and surgeries with a smile on his face.


And I stand amazed. I cannot claim any responsibility for his bravery and courage. I cower at the idea of having wisdom teeth pulled or my tonsils removed. I made my OB doc promise that they would only do a caesarean section on me if it was a medical emergency.

And it makes me wonder, does he entertain angels unaware? Or, is he aware?

Maybe he knows this:


So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
--Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)


Father, I cannot begin to thank and praise you for your hand upon my child. He continues to model for me what bravery is. He teaches me things that I would think I should model for him but do not posess. How great it is to know that he doesn't need to be afraid, and neither do I. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Diet Update: Day 8

Starting weight: 226.6 on 5/5/08
Current weight: 220.7
Loss so far: 5.9 lbs

I'd love to tell you that the change in how we're eating is going along without a hitch. But I can't. I am no longer having physical cravings for carbs, however the habit to eat them (it's not breakfast without toast, a bagel, oatmeal, or something like that) still hasn't been broken. It's amazing to me how much of our diet was filled with carbs. We have six days left to go on the first phase of the diet before we can begin to reintroduce "good carbs" and "whole fruits" to our diets.

Hubby has lost almost 10 lbs so far. Sigh....must be nice...his brand new jeans are starting to sag off his hips!

Today's going to be warm and sunny, but not hot. So I think baby and I will have a walking date. Watch out park! Here we come!

Faith-sharing

"I'm eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to each other."
--Romans 1:12 NLT

Once upon a time, what seems long, long, long ago, I was married with three beautiful children and stayed home fulltime to raise them. Initially, the decision to stay home came out of necessity because daycare for two infants was too expensive to justify me working outside of the home. But then, as I sought my degree and grew into the mothering role, it became the place I wanted to be until my children all started school.

Then life happened. My world fell apart as my marriage crumbled and my definition of family was augmented. I no longer had the option of staying home with my children.

My re-entry to the workforce as a single mom happened six years ago.

But today, my life is in a much different place! Because of God's blessing and grace, I have found a wonderful Godly man who loves God first, then me, then "our" children (his two, my three, plus our one). And in celebration of that kind of life and love, we have had our first child together. I have been on maternity leave for almost 10 weeks now.

When I decided to take 12 weeks of maternity leave, I had reservations. I knew what having a new baby meant. I knew that there would be nights with no sleep, days with no awake hours, and lots of little moments that I would not want to miss. But I decided to take the FMLA leave because I didn't know if I would want to return to work for sure or not.

But now, as my leave is drawing to an end, I have faced a struggle many mothers have faced before me. I look at my baby girl, my three older children, and the lifestyle we are leading right now--walking to the elementary school each afternoon to meet the older kids, napping with the baby in my arms when I need to--and I struggle to let go of it and return to work.

Perhaps where the story is a little different than some is that I don't "have" to go back to work for our family to survive financially. Since we wed, my husband and I who both fully embrace the idea of Biblical finances have been steadily paying down and paying off our debts (most incurred when we were younger, in our previous marriages). We have tithed faithfully and avoided new debt.

But yesterday, I took the baby out to my office to show her off. (I'm a very proud mama!!) And while I was there, I knew that I had to make a decision. The end of my protected leave is drawing near, and that meant that I had to come to a decision about returning to work.

My husband and I have talked about this exact scenario over and over. Yesterday, I asked him exactly what God was laying on his heart about it. I knew what I felt God was telling me, but I also wanted to test it. I know that when God speaks, He doesn't contradict Himself. If my husband was hearing the same thing that I was, that would confirm that the voices we were hearing were truly God's voice.

"Don't close the door if they make you an offer that is better (i.e. telecommuting, part-time, pay increase). However, I feel that you should stay home. It's where your heart is, it's what I want for you, and I feel like it is where God is leading us."

And my only concern was that I had this small, niggling fear that with the economy what it is right now, closing the door completely could be disastrous for our family financially. I immediately added to that concern that it could be Satan raising this concern. I know how motivated he is to raise questions about God's faithfulness to take care of us. Satan knows that he can only pull us down when he causes us to question our faith and God's ability and desire to do what He has promised us He's going to do.

"Listen to how they respond. If they don't seem concerned that you want to walk away, if they don't try to dissuade you at all, we'll know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you should not go back. If they make you an offer, listen and ask for time to think it over. Then we'll pray about the offer to see how God speaks to us."

I know that God is faithful to take care of us. I have seen God's hand be shown mighty and powerful. I have experienced victory at His hands too many times to really doubt. And yet, I do. At moments that seem too big for me, I struggle over and over with letting go and letting God. My faith needs to grow. I need to get back to a place where I have resided before in the arms of God.

"Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God's presence, assured of his glad welcome."
--Ephesians 3:12 NLT

I won't go into all of the details of the conversation, but the results were amazing! I decided to leave it to God, although I was afraid of the possible outcomes. However, my employer was sympathetic to my desire to stay home beside my children. They had anticipated (with the help of one of God's angels) that I would struggle with this decision and had already begun discussion about a way that I could continue working for them, but in a different capacity. Several different scenarios were given if I should decide to continue working, including the option that I had in my heart as being the only way I would decide to work without much struggle (and that was a scenario that I was sure existed only in my head and heart and not in a tangible "real" possibility). I asked that they firm up how they felt they could use me best and to get back with me.

I was forced to make no rash decisions. No doors were closed. And a possibility (which could lead to an additional source of income later) was presented.

Although this story is not over, it is a testament to what God will do when we have faith in Him and let Him work in our lives. Only God knows for sure what offer I will ultimately receive. And only He knows what I will decide to do, although I do know that it is my heart's desire to do only what He leads me to do.

But more than what this has proven to me about God and faith, is what it can show you.
"These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to take care of their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God."
--Titus 2:4-5 NLT

Father, each day that I have been given by you is a day that I can learn to be more like you, to walk more closely in faith to you, and to be blessed by you so that I can give those blessings forward to others through you. Continue to give me wisdom in this situation as well in each decision I have to make. And continue to make me submissive to your will in my life, to my husband, and to the lessons of faith that you will teach me in my life and through the witness of my fellow sisters in Christ. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Other verses to consider:
  • Matthew 18:6
  • Matthew 21:21
  • Acts 14:22
  • Romans 1:8

Please remember to share your stories of faith and faith-development with all your sisters in Christ. It should never be tiresome to them to hear them, or for you to share them!