Friday, June 29, 2012

The Cool Factor

Do you ever look back at yourself when you were thirteen and wonder how you ever survived the teen years?  I do. I look back at myself when I was 13 and wonder (after I ask what in the world I was thinking with that hair) how I made it to adulthood in one piece.

Photo
I know what you're thinking--you want those glasses!

I was naive, too trusting, way too gullible, and too needy for my own good. I tried hard to be "cool" because that's what I thought other people (i.e. other kids in my junior high who were trying just as hard as me to be "cool"), but it wasn't until I actually became an adult that the cool factor made a difference. By the time I was 30, I had tried to change who I was to match who I thought I should be, and I went to many lengths to do so.

I was watching the movie 13 Going On 30 today (with Jennifer Garner--so cute!) when it occured to me something that should have occured to me a long time ago: it's ok to be just plain me. Not me pumped up with fancy clothes, or a fresh mani-pedi, or with a face full of make-up. Those things are all ok, but when I'm using them to hide the real me, then I've gone too far. Sometimes I've gone so far that I've forgotten who I really am, who I was when I was thirteen years old and what truly mattered to me was if I got to go horseback riding with my grandfather, or got to spend the weekend with my grandma. When playing horses outside with my sister was the most fun a girl could have, when my dad watched NASCAR races on Sunday afternoon and then everyone took a nice, long nap. I tried very hard not to show that side of me, though. And now, somehow, I've lost that sweet girl in the midst of trying (still) so hard to be "cool".

My grandma and me at Lakeside!!

The funny thing is, being cool now isn't so different than being cool then, it's just in a grown-up way. I've noticed it more now that my kids are in school and I'm around lots of adults. Remember when being friends with the "right" people and wearing all the "right" brands was super-important? Has it changed much now? I don't think it has, it's simply expanded to include driving an expensive car, having name-brand accessories for your home and living in a big, nice house. We are adults still trying to live up to that "cool" image. Today, it matters to me less, but at 30, like in the movie, I was all about it. It's comical; in the movie, Jenna (Jennifer Garner's character) is looking through her old yearbook (after she's suddenly become 30 and doesn't remember anything since her 13th birthday party) and she says, "I can't believe it. I got everything I ever wanted!" (meaning popularity, etc.).

But is that really everything?

Most of us would probably know, and say, the right answer here: of course not. But when I look a little deeper, I know that what I know to be the right answer and what I truely feel are two separate things. Sometimes I want all of those things because I think it will make people...what? Like me more? Want to be around me more? I'm not sure what I think I'll gain from having "everything I ever wanted", but sometimes having "everything I ever wanted" just sounds good. But I can look back and see that everything I ever wanted then and what is truly important are not the same. They're aren't even similar.

Sometimes, I wish I could go back with the knowledge I have now and tell that insecure girl who stands in my pictures, with the curly permed hair and crazy pink Reebok high-tops that it's ok to want to play horses with your little sister. It's ok to want to spend time with your grandma and grandaddy. It's okay to go without make-up, to dance like crazy when a fun song comes on, to smile at a stranger, to stop for a moment and see what shapes I can find in the clouds, to play, to laugh, to cry...it's ok to be me. I would tell that sweet girl to live life to the fullest, with no regrets because of trying so hard to be "cool". Then people can relate to you, they can identify. You form true relationships that way, and then--then--then you are "cool".

Enjoy life--take the time to laugh and play :)
I'm still fairly naive, still gullible, still trusting and still needy. I haven't changed that much from the 13-year-old me, and sometimes that's ok.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Constant Change

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn't stop for anybody.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

A several years ago I was at a retreat with the ladies from my church when the speaker said something that I will never forget: Sometimes you're friends for a season. Sometimes you're friends for life.

I looked over at my friend who was seated next to me in alarm as she looked at me, both wondering to ourselves, "That couldn't be us...could it?"

I'll be upfront. I have an extreme aversion to change. The only great amount of change I appreciate is when I get new clothes or I change the decor of my house. But those changes are the kind that have a Heather Seal of  Approval, so I'm okay with them. Otherwise, I tend to get a bit...disgruntled. Like I've said before, I am a creature of habit; I like routine and I like the sameness of a life of routine. I mean, seriously, I eat the exact same thing for lunch every single day. I don't have to think too much about it, it makes me comfortable, and I like to be comfortable.

So as I looked at my friend that day, one of the things that scared me the most (aside from the obvious: the possibility of losing her as a friend) about what our speaker said was the fact that things could change in my world, and I didn't like the sound of that one tiny bit. I'd had enough change, thank you very much.

I had no idea how much my life was about to change.

A few years ago my husband came home and announced that he had found the perfect house for our family. My first reaction was say WHA?? (as you can imagine, the thought of that kind of change was not so appealing at first, no matter how beautiful the new house may be) and to immediately begin dreading the change. How could I possibly move away from my friend, who I spent every afternoon with out in the driveway watching the kids play? How could I move my kids away from their school? And how could I possibly move away from a house I had finally gotten into a routine of cleaning?

But...how could I know the change wouldn't be better for me? Better for our family?

My husband was right (as an aside, he is right a great deal, which doesn't necessarily mean I'm wrong a great deal but does mean that he happens to be much more of a logical and phlegmatic thinker. I find this hard to admit to at times and will vehemently deny his logical ways when in a heated arguement. However, I am admitting it here and now, that, yes, he was right then and is often right other times). It was the right time for a change for our family. After prayer, we decided to move. Away from my comfort zone and into the great UNKNOWN (at least the unknown has a garage ).

Of course, I still talk to my friend, but it's not the same as living right beside her.

You see, God has a plan for my life that is beyond what I could imagine for myself
([n]ow to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us...Ephesians 3:20),  and "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). I am just mostly too stubborn to realize that I need to let go. Of course He will lead me out of my comfort zone, because that's where I start to really rely on Him.

I need to accept the same for my insecurities. He is leading me out of my comfort zone (as far as what I think is an acceptable weight for myself and what I think makes me beautiful) and leading me toward a greater dependence on Him, which is where my confidence lies as well. Do I resist this change? Absolutely. But the more I resist Him and fight for my own way, the more miserable I become. I have to trust that all His promises are true even for me. He "is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with [me]..." (2 Peter 3:9), which is a good thing considering my history with fighting change.

God is good, this I know. Sometimes I cannot understand His ways. Perhaps I'm not meant to. There is no way for me to understand the whole big picture that He is painting, and maybe, just maybe, I need to stop trying. What I can do is trust that I am safe with Him, that He is working for my good, and that He is ever by my side. I don't have to have a brave front, pretending I'm not scared when I am. He will not ever let me go, even in the midst of all the change that life brings ("Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9).

Someone once said, "The only constant in life is change".

Ooops, they forgot something. Or Someone, I should say.

"The only constant in life is GOD...and then change!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Auto Pilot

Last summer, I was on my way to take my son to the park before picking up my daughter from a friend's house. I was looking forward to spending a few minutes with just him, and he was excited about going to the playground without his bossy older sister. We chatted as we drove down the road (too fast, probably, I have a bad habit of slightly going over the speed limit), and I was feeling so happy that we even stopped at Sonic to get a cherry limade (yum!). As we got back on the road, he said something to me that I didn't hear, so I turned my head a bit toward him so I could understand what he was saying. I was still looking at the road, but I grew up here. I'd driven that exact road a million times.

What I didn't expect was that the little red Honda Civic in front of me would suddenly decide it needed to turn left.

You guessed it.

I slammed on my brakes and skidded right into the back of that little red car.

Luckily, no one was hurt, not even the Honda (thank goodness for plastic bumpers!). At least no one was hurt on the outside. But I was beating myself up on the inside. How could I have done such a stupid thing? How could I have been so careless? How could I have not been paying attention?

It was understandable for me to be upset, but I needed to realize that I had gotten in the car that day, as I do on most days, and set myself on auto-pilot. All the roads around here are very familiar to me, and I don't pay as much attention as I should. I've gone down the road before, mind on other things, and realized that I don't even remember driving the past mile. I notice that when I'm in unfamiliar surroundings that my radar goes up and I pay close attention to what I'm doing. It's probably good practice for the roads I drive around here, too, even as accustomed as I am to them.

It's the same with life. How many days do I get up and set myself on auto-pilot because everything I do is basically routine? There are days when I think Good grief, I need a little fun, a little excitement in my life, a little change...but maybe I just need to start paying attention. There's nothing wrong with routine, and frankly, I'm a creature of habit, so I actually like the daily routine of my life. It's when I go looking for a little fun that I get into a little trouble!

When I set my life on auto-pilot, though, I miss the small stuff that makes life so precious. I miss out on the little things that makes life exciting even in the midst of the humdrum of daily living.  I'm a complete robot, not slowing down to look around me and covering up or ignoring my feelings to just try to get through the day.



Even more importantly, though, I'm likely to not pay attention when little red Hondas decide they need to turn left!

Life is constantly shifting (I've said before that the only constant in life is change), and when I'm on auto-pilot, I am not paying attention to the changes around me, and it's then that I'm most likely to get hit. And when I get hit when I'm not ready for it, the damage is always worse than if I had just been alert and aware of my surroundings. And when something unforseen does happen, I'm liable to look back and ask myself: How could I have been so careless, so stupid? How could I have not been paying attention?

Of course, no one can be prepared for everything, and to live life on the edge of panic because you're constantly afraid something bad will happen is no way to live at all. As with everything, there is a healthy balance, one I'm still striving for.

Today, I'm making a consious effort to pay attention to life, to enjoy the minutes I have in the day, and to not the routine of life get me to a point where I'm set on auto-pilot from the second I get up to the second I go to bed. To slow down and make life enjoyable, not allow it to just carry me where it may.

And I'm paying a little closer attention to the road :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

To Pray or Not To Pray-Part 2: From the Mouths of Babes


Since I write a blog, my daughter wants to write a blog, too. Very cute! She was "writing" her blog post on a sheet of paper on Wednesday night as I was writing on the computer. Side by side, we were. It was very sweet. She asked how I knew what to write. I told her that I pray each time before I begin and ask God to give me the words to write. We prayed that prayer together (well, I actually did all the talking and but she did bow her head and close her eyes), and this is what she wrote (I didn't change any of the punctuation so this is entirely hers):

Praying (by Anna)

praying is very important. most people pray before eating meals. some people don't. if you don't listin to me and pray at bad times and at good times. (pray before eating too). you can pray whatever you want, if your writting a blog or in one of your secret books* just think "god put these words in my head to write or type".


I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Praying is very important. If you don't pray, listen to me and pray at bad times and at good times!

*she said a secret book was like a diary

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cracked Wide Open

It was a normal Tuesday evening. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened, I wasn't in a bad mood, my kids were behaving and my husband wasn't going to be late. I had no red flags waving at me, letting me know that a particular situation would rock my boat. But it did. And my confidence was shaken.

Thursday morning I was getting ready to go out for the day. I felt  prepared, ready to take on whatever the day threw at me...until I tried to put on my shorts and I couldn't button them. I felt confident until the second pair I tried on wouldn't fit, either.

Friday started out with a bang. I was running late to aerobics, but knew it wouldn't be a huge deal. I had a fantastic workout, then with some anticipation, I drove my kids to a local children's museum. I had expectations for a fantastic day. And it was. Until I saw a picture a friend took of me, and I thought "Do I really look like that?" (Just as an aside, it's probably time for those shorts to go, too.)

That's when I felt like my confidence was really starting to crack wide open. What was left of it, anyway.

Surprisingly, my reaction to my shorts not fitting was...low-key. I had a moment of silence, where I remembered them fondly, them put them aside. After I wondered for a second how I used to fit into them in the first place. And I promptly chose to dismiss the picture.

But my reaction to all of these separate episodes on the inside is what has been the most concerning for me. I think that sometimes I assume that other people see me the same negative light that I see myself in.  That same negative self-talk that I use against myself is what I conclude others must be thinking about me. So I feel myself pulling away. I feel such negativity inside that it's hard for me to connect with my family. I don't laugh easily, I don't feel like having fun. I feel weighed down, heavy, almost sick, like a heavy rock is at the pit of my stomach. When I had that all-want-to-do-is-sleep feeling, I knew my perspective needed to change, and quick.



My shaken confidence and depressed feelings came on quickly, but this time I was able to recognize them for what they were: negativity and insecurity. I had put my confidence in something else besides God, who cannot be shaken. What insecurity can do over a long period of time is frightening, and sadly I can look back and see where I've allowed it to really have an affect on my entire life. The negative self-talk, the heavy, dark feelings, the sadness, the inability to laugh and get some enjoyment out of life, the withdrawal from my family and friends, the desperate feelings and even more desperate actions--all that happened, but it happened over such a long period of time that I barely noticed I had changed. But I did. I changed slowly, but dramatically, over time, and got to the point that my insecurity was ruling my life and I didn't think I could make it through a day without my anti-depressants.

With a little help from my sister (everyone needs a little help from their friends, yes?), I could see how I experienced in a week what had happened over the course of years. But now, I can also see how God is working in my life. He has come in, swaddled me in His love, and is changing my perspective on what security is. Security isn't clothes, or what seems like an unflattering picture, or even the ever-elusive "beauty". Security is in Him. I have gone from believing in God to actually believing God and believing His Promises for my life. As Rene Swope so aptly puts it, she is "relying on the power of His words and living like they are true no matter what my feelings tell me...I've found that when I choose to dwell in the assurance of Whose I am and who I am in Him, I have a confident heart." (Rene Swope, A Confident Heart).

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will recieve what He has promised.

Hebrews 10:35-36

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

To Pray...Or Not To Pray?

I'll be the first to admit that I have a problem with prayer. I hear about some of these saints, these "Godly" people like Corrie Ten Boom or Martin Luther who seem to have no problem sitting down for hours and just praying to God. And I'm assuming that God isn't speaking back--at least audibly.

I don't have an issue with knowing that God is present. I tell my kids all the time that he is like the wind. You know it's there because you can feel it and you can see the effect it has, but you cannot see it.

I've been backsliding a bit as far as my faith goes over the past couple of days. The time I've spent reading devotions and His Word haven't penetrated my heart, and my prayers seem like they are bouncing off the ceiling...if I even get to a spot where I can pray. I've been distracted and emotional, and even though I've said a few prayers, I haven't really felt close to God.  It's a hard spot to be in, especially when I can look back and see days where it seemed like He was walking right beside me during the course of my day.

But, in talking about all this, a question that I try to keep silent keeps popping it's ugly head up: why do I pray at all if I don't feel like God hears me?

When I suggested to my daughter that maybe she should try to listen to what God was telling her about something (and this wasn't too long ago), she responded with "But I don't hear Him saying anything." Huh. Good point. Sometimes I don't either. But is it because I don't hear Him or because I'm not open to hearing Him, or maybe because I'm not even in the mood to try to hear Him?

Does He hear my unfocused, vague prayers that are said in the midst of chaotic days? Does He hear the frantic one-liners that are prayed in the middle of one of life's storms? Does He hear "God is great, God is good...", the somewhat obligatory prayer that my kids recite before we eat?

Here's a better question: if I can be easily convinced that God does not hear my prayers, then would I stop praying? Could I be convinced to stop communication with God simply because I'm wondering if He does hear me when I talk to Him?

Because that's what prayer is: communication with my Heavenly Father, who stands beside me even though I can't see Him. Stopping that communication with Him would severely impact growing my relationship with Him, which would be scary. How can a relationship flourish and grow if one of the individuals involved completely cuts off all contact with the other?  Even though it may seem like my prayers are only reaching the roof of my house, I can take comfort in knowing that "[t]he LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer (Psalm 6:9). I have the privilege of being able to talk to Him whenever and about whatever I want to--focused or not, chaotic or not, frantic or not. Yes, a prayer time where I am not foggy or half-asleep would be super, but I think He accepts me for who I am, and He doesn't expect me to be the "super-prayer" I think I should be. I don't have to be a marvelous prayer, filled with all the right words at all the right times. But I do need to keep all the lines of communication open so that I can pour my true heart out to Him anytime I need to. The worst thing I could do is give up.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

Monday, June 18, 2012

White As Snow

What a weekend!

It flew by. In the blink of an eye, I'm right back here at Monday, trying to help my house recover from the neglect! I hope everyone had a beautiful father's day, and that you were able to give your daddy a hug :)

So, as I was doing laundry today, I discovered that I accidentally threw a white sock in with my dark load. I did not discover this until I took the load out of the dryer, though, so the damage had already been done. Or at least what I thought would be damage. But my white sock, upon getting it out of the dryer, still looked white! Yay! I put it aside so that it could go into the right drawer and went on with folding all the dark clothes. Crisis averted.

Until.

Until I went to put my freshly washed white sock with it's mate. To my dismay, it wasn't white. It was kind of a grey-ish color with big, albeit faint, blue splotches on it. I thought to myself, "This simply will not do".


It made me think of how I can get far, far away from God in the "dark loads" of my life. I just toss myself in and allow them to influence me. Those "dark loads" can be anything, really, but in my life they represent things like music of the questionable sort, gossiping (even if it's just listening in on a really juicy conversation), hanging out too much with friends who aren't uplifting and encouraging in my faith, skipping church too many Sundays in a row (it gets to be a bad habit), or not spending time with God everyday, meditating on His Word and spending time in prayer (also gets to be a bad habit). I find myself justifying my actions in my head and to God, thinking that "just this one time" won't hurt...but it does. It has an effect on me, whether I realize it at the time or not. And just like how my sock still looked white when I compared it to all the dark clothes, I may think I'm standing on a firm foundation when I'm actually on sinking sand.  I don't always recognize the effect it has on me, especially when I'm not in God's Word, because then I don't have anything to compare myself to except the standards of the world, and those are pretty loose, to say the least!

The world is not kind, either. If I'm not careful about who and what I toss myself into, I will get a little roughed up in the wash, rinse and spin cycles. And when life turns up the heat? I better have myself firmly rooted in God's Word, otherwise I may get permanently stained, and be at the risk of falling completely apart.

Those dark blue splotches on my sock remind me of my sin and how tainted I am. My sock may not have a chance in bleach of ever being white again. But with Christ, this "simply will not do". I don't have to live with the shame or guilt of my sin. With Him, I can be washed white as snow.

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
Isaiah 1:18

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wisdom

It is a wise father
who knows his child.
 But maybe it's a very wise child
who takes time to know his father.
-Anonymous

boston.com


Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Anger Solutions: Part 3--Please Forgive Me

OK, so I have a confession to make after all this talk about dealing with anger: I tend to get very offended over minor infractions. When something doesn't go my way, whether I have actually voiced what I want or not, I get upset. And I totally expect the other person involved in said infraction to know exactly why I'm mad. But here's the thing: I don't always voice what I want. Sometimes I wonder if I even know what it is I want, or if I'm just setting someone else up for failure. Kinda like, darned if you do, darned if you don't, because you can't make this girl happy.

Is my life so boring that I need to go looking for drama? I love my life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but at times I wonder what the big deal is. Why don't I let things just roll off my back? And it's not just that I can't let them roll off my back; it's that I am, like, majorly offended and can't (well...won't) forget what that other person said or did to make me irritated. I will remember stuff from 1987 when I was 10 years old. Ridiculous. Especially because I can't seem to remember what it is that I did yesterday or what I need to do tomorrow.

Since it seems my tendency is to hold on to anger, then what I posted yesterday is very appropriate for me to remember: do not hold your anger inside.

OK, so I work on expressing myself, and have even seen a counselor or two in my lifetime to help me deal with how I feel, with how I react, and to learn to be more proactive. BUT, I have an issue with something that no counselor has ever touched on and it's name is FORGIVENESS.

Ugh.

I know the Bible talks about forgiveness about 100 zillion times; however, I for one am not a fan of it. I know it sounds bad to say it out loud, but that's how I feel. Most of the time, I feel that when someone else hurts my feelings, even in the slightest, they need to know they hurt my feelings (and yet, I am unwilling to say anything to that person because I don't like confrontation. Wha??) and I am afraid that should I choose to forgive them, then I am saying that what they did was OK. Which it's not, so why should I forgive them?

I tell my kids all the time (because they ask why all the time) that I don't just make things up to say them because I think they sound good or because I felt like saying something especially clever. I say things to them because I know what I'm talking about. I've been where they are and I know better. The same goes for God. He came to this world as a baby, grew up into a young adult, experiencing all the same emotions that I do. I would think that He came across a person or two (um, Judas??) who was hard to forgive. He has the Bible available to us because He's been there, He already knows better. And He made me, so He knows how I work anyway.  He knows that forgiving someone else isn't good just because it's the right, kind thing to do and so that's what I should do to be a good, perfect Christian with a halo around my head. He knows I need to forgive because it frees up my own heart. Holding onto unforgiveness in my heart (i.e. anger) makes me bitter and cold. After so long, it spreads like a cancer throughout my body, making me an irritable and cranky person who is hard to deal with. Getting rid of the anger (i.e. forgiving) keeps my heart open--yes, open to be hurt again--but also open to the joy that can fill me to overflowing when I invite His healing grace in.

I can't imagine getting to heaven and having God be like, "So. You decided not to forgive so-and-so for thus-and-such. Give me a good reason why I should forgive you." And I would just stand there, going, "Ummmm...cuz I'm...a good person?". Do I really think that I can throw my sin in His face and have it not affect Him? He's my Creator, my God, and yet I hurt Him daily with my I'm-too-busy to fit Him in attitude and my brazen sin.

Besides all that, I do have expectations that when I mess up and offend someone else, that they will forgive me. Why shouldn't they? After all, I didn't mean to hurt their feelings...

“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Matthew 18:21

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Anger Solutions Part 2

She walked into my room with a lower lip that stuck out so far I feared she might trip on it (at least that's what my good grandaddy used to tell me). When I asked her what was wrong, she said "nothing"--but her body language was telling me otherwise. After a good deal of prodding, she, near tears, said "Daddy is being mean to me and he hurt my feelings." Now, I happen to know that in this particular instance, my daughter was simply being reprimanded for being difficult and she didn't like it one bit--hence the "he's being mean to me" bit.

I told her that she needed to go talk to daddy about how she felt, but she didn't want to, and I'm sure it would have been easier for her to just ignore how she felt or feel sorry for herself and not address how she felt with him. It takes courage. I'm like that, too. I have a hard time talking about how I feel, and I tend to bury my hurt feelings and anger instead of addressing it. Especially when addressing it means that you have to deal with the person who hurt your feelings or made you angry. I do not, do not, do not I repeat do not like confrontation. It makes me very nervous and uncomfortable, especially when I know the offender, even worse when I know them well.

I told her that she has all the colors of the rainbow inside of her--blue for sadness, red for anger, purple for joy, pink for love, aqua for excitement, white for peace, and many more, and she can express those feelings anytime. But when she starts holding her anger, frustration or sadness in and not expressing them, then all those colors would turn to grey. How sad that would be. I think that I'm like that, too. I have all these colors inside me, just about to bust out waiting to be communicated. Yes, it's anger, it's sadness, it's grief, but it's also joy, it's happiness, it's glee, it's excitement, it's peace, it's bliss. But the minute I start covering up how I feel (and I have, so I know what I'm talking about here), I start turning all those beautiful colors to grey. It reminds me of the song "Grey Street" by Dave Matthews Band:

There's a loneliness inside her
And she'd do anything to fill it in
And though it's red blood bleeding from her now,
It feels like cold blue ice in her heart
When all the colors mix together
To grey, 
And it breaks her heart

It leaves a once vibrant, bright person sad, depressed, bitter...grey.

My mom died from cancer in 2006. Many different things contribute to cancer, I know. Sometimes I get anxious about it and try to control everything around me in a feeble attempt to avoid the possibility that I might get cancer and die the same miserable death that she did. The thing is, though, that I can't control it all. It's out of my hands, which is what she would tell me if she were here today. I can do my best to live a healthy lifestyle. She gave me a very valuable piece of advice that I will never forget as long as I am alive on planet blue: do not hold your anger and stress inside.

My mom believed something that I think has a great deal of truth to it. She believed that holding her anger and stress inside and not dealing with how she felt contributed to her cancer. Has it been proven by science? I don't know, but it has been proven that stress lowers your immune system's ability to fight off sickness. What I do know is this: I think that she was definitely on to something, and it's worthy of my attention.

I don't want all my colors to mix together and turn grey. I don't want to hold in my anger until I explode when I least expect it. I want to live the life God planned for me, an abundant life full of promise...and color.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Anger Solutions by Heather (Admitted But Not Recommended...Except the Last)

What happens when you feel angry enough to scream, shout or punch something...but you totally know better than to let that happen? And you know you're probably overreacting, anyway...

What happens when you feel that angry and it's directed at someone you love?

My solutions for this anger have been the following (at one time or another):

The Silent Treatment: (a personal favorite) This treatment involves silently stewing over an incident for minutes, hours or days. The "stewer" (myself) is hoping that that the "stewee" (the offender) will recognize what a ignoramus he (or she...I'm not indicting anyone here!) has been, in addition to how grievously offended I am and come back to me to apologize profusely. Unfortunately, the aforementioned "stewer" does not ever say exactly what is on her mind, therefore creating a situation where she is likely to stew endlessly, plus slam many cabinet doors, as the "stewee" has no clue anything is even wrong. Bonus: the "stewer" will likely never identify her anger and therefore let it sit and rot in her soul, making her an angry and depressed person and much more prone to #3, especially when minor violations occur.

The Sarcastic Reaction: (normally elicits a sarcastic response, making an already tense situation worse)  This involves responding to the other person with enough sarcasm to make them mad, with the intention of making them understand that I am 1) smarter, 2) quicker and/or 3) more clever than they are, thereby ending the argument immediately. This reaction almost never works as I am not that clever.

The "I'm So Friggin' Mad I Will Just Scream And Yell" Reaction: (tried; however, not true) This response involves two people yelling mindless accusations at each other, usually elevating a stupid argument to dangerous levels. Almost always involves saying things I don't mean and would never repeat, as well as the use of foul language. Also involves losing one's mind temporarily. Not recommended.

The Accusation: (when you have been keeping score, this is the time to use it) This involves keeping score in a relationship so that I know every wrong the other person has ever committed against me, my kids, my family, my house, the dog, the cat, and the neighbors. The intention is to make the other person feel so bad about previous offenses that he (or she!) will forget why we are even arguing and admit defeat. Me: brownie points for winning!

The Exaggeration: (never works, but always should!) This involves the above accusation but magnifying it by 100 so that the other person looks like a dog, with the hopes that they feel like a dog enough to be sorry for 1,000 years. Always requires the use of the words never, always, and should.

The Loving Response: (absolutely the best, but the hardest to elicit in myself) This reaction involves putting myself aside, and saying a prayer under my breath, asking God for the patience I need to deal with the situation at hand. It involves not stewing over minor infractions but saying calmly, and without exaggerating, exactly what is on my mind without bringing up past transgressions. Asks that I put all sarcasm aside and that I keep my tongue in check. Requires that I put the "offender's" feelings ahead of the "offendee" (that would be me), and that I look at the plank in my own eye before I make poisonous accusations aimed straight at the heart of another. The Golden Parachute? The relationship is able to grow by leaps and bounds, and God is honored. Love is able to thrive, and intimacy is fostered. Happiness develops, joy is thrown in, and a healthy relationship is born. A bargain if you ask me.

So, what happens when I'm that angry? I need to go straight to God.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:25-27).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Model Behavior

I asked my daughter the other day what she wants to be when she grows up. Without hesitation, she replied "A teacher!" (just as an aside, I have a feeling it's due to the fact that a) she likes to be in charge and b) she's a wee bit bossy). I thought back to when I was in third grade. If anyone had asked me what I wanted to be, I would have told them three things: 1) a teacher (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree), 2) a model, or 3) an actress. The first one was because I loved writing on Mrs. Millington's blackboard (Yes. A blackboard. With chalk. No, I'm not 80.). The last two are because I thought that being a model or an actress meant you were pretty, and more than anything, I wanted to be pretty. I wanted someone to want me to model for them, I wanted to be beautiful, famous and popular like Brooke Shields (confession time: I even had a Brooke Shields doll).

There she is! The one and only Brooke Shields doll! I guess pretty is a matter of opinion...

As I got a little older, I continued to want to be a model or an actress, but I added "video babe" to my repertoire. As I watched models like Helena Christensen flaunt their bodies in videos on MTV (now I'm really showing my age because that's when MTV actually played videos!), I found myself longing to be thought of as beautiful enough to be one of "them". A Cindy Crawford, a Christie Brinkley, an Elle Macpherson--I wanted to be somebody beautiful. It didn't help matters any that my mom thought these people were beautiful, too, and reinforced my idea that these supermodels equaled beauty. We would sit there, almost in awe, as we would watch certain videos featuring these women. My behavior began to prove that I needed a little charity in the attention department. I would do (as I suspect most people have at some point) what my mom would call "fish" for compliments. I would say something like "Oh, I'm so ugly" with the intention of getting someone else to say "No, you're not! You're so pretty!"  You get the picture.

As I got older still, I began to realize that shorter skirts and lower tops meant more attention from boys. I thought it meant they thought I was pretty--finally, I thought I could get what I after, which was someone to fill me up, to give me confidence, to tell me I was worth something in their eyes. It just never was quite enough. No matter how many times I got attention for the way I looked, it never filled me up. That secret longing to have my worth be known, to have confidence and security--it never happened. My bank account was empty.

When Christ came to earth in human skin, He came to set me free from that nagging sense of worthlessness. He came so that I can understand the full extent of The Father's love for me ([f]or God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16).  While He was on this globe, He modeled behavior that everyone should follow--Love. Peace. Kindness. The list goes on. Then, He died and rose again, and He sent the Holy Spirit to be with me always and forever, so that I can have a gentle reminder: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).

Now, I'll admit that today, if a modeling scout came to town and I was "discovered", I would be thrilled to death. I would probably immediately think "Finally! I'm finally pretty!".  But because God has worked so much in my life lately, I know that being discovered, being on MTV, or being an actress wouldn't fill that void inside. Only He can do that, which I've discovered over time and after much searching and discontentment in what I found over the years. His security is lasting, His confidence will stand the test of time, and He has proven that I am worth everything to Him--He died an excruciating death on a cross. He's been trying to get my attention for 35 years, and now--finally--I'm beginning to see that in Him lies everything I've been looking for.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Apology Not Accepted


Last night at my daughter's softball game, I was scheduled to volunteer in the concession stand. I really wasn't prepared for how busy it would be, and I just couldn't seem to make my brain work when I needed it to. A family came by with a large order, and then handed me a twenty. Since there was no calculator, I had to get help to make the change! Humiliating!! I could feel my face getting red and hot as I said, "I'm sorry, y'all, I've never done this before".  It was my way of covering up how insecure I was feeling about needing a little helping hand, and excusing my embarrassment because I felt really stupid. I was convinced that the two people working with me were probably going to leave and say negative things about me. It's actually a little difficult for me to write it out now. UGH!

To me, feeling stupid is about as bad as it gets. I hate that feeling, and have a tough time shaking it off when I do feel that way. I feel like everyone is looking at me or saying things about me. I feel so insecure about it that I will do just about anything to cover up how I'm feeling--including apologizing for it.

I can think of many times that I have apologized when I didn't need to because I was feeling insecure about something. I have apologized and tried to explain away the way I look ("Sorry I look like this but I didn't take the time to put any makeup on today") because I felt that people were looking at me and at the least thinking in their head how bad I look or at the very worst going somewhere and saying something negative about me. I have apologized for the way my house looks ("Sorry its such a mess" or "Excuse the mess, I haven't had time to clean") because I don't want people to think I'm a messy housekeeper. I have apologized for the way my kids have behaved ("Sorry, she's tired") and looked ("Obviously, he's picking out all his own clothes now") because I don't want people to think I don't have it together enough to take care of how my kids look and behave. I have wanted to apologize for misspeaking, misspelling, and making simple mistakes.

I have been around people who apologize more than I do, and I just want to say to them "Stop apologizing. You have nothing to apologize for!" And the same goes for me. A simple "I'm sorry" goes a long way--when it's needed. The thing is, the things I'm apologizing for don't need an apology. I probably should apologize to myself for expecting perfection at every turn. But that's what I am--a perfectionist who hates to make mistakes. And one who feels like in order to maintain a perfect exterior, she must apologize for things that make her look less than flawless.

My worth isn't measured by how perfect I am, how I look or how smart I am.


And there is freedom in surrendering my perfectionist tendencies to Him.

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The only one who is perfect is "the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he" (Deuteronomy 32:4). I don't have to make myself into the perfect wife with a perfect house and perfect little children to be loved and accepted by Him. He loves me no matter what, and I can rest my soul knowing that He is in control--not me. It's a daily battle in my life, because in my human nature, I strive to be perfect. All the time. No matter what. The stress that it causes is unnecessary and frankly, it's stupid to put that stress on myself for a goal that is unattainable.

The next time I catch myself wanting to apologize, I will try to take a second to evaluate: does the situation merit an apology? Or am I simply trying to cover up the fact that I am insecure?  If the latter is the case, then I already know where to go for confidence and security, and all I have to do is take a deep breath, say a little prayer under my breath, and take comfort in Him. No apologies needed.

"As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him." 2 Samuel 22:31

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mess With A Capital M

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The first day of summer break and I'm already thinking negatively. Not about having the kids home; I love that part. It's the part that I find myself whining about every time I'm feeling down: Everywhere I look there is a mess. How am I supposed to keep up with this mess? There is no way. No way. I can't do it. Maybe I don't want to do it! And now my shorts don't fit. Why don't my shorts fit? What did I do to not make my shorts fit??? I work hard, I watch what I eat. Why does it all have to be so haaaaaarrrd? Can you hear the whine in my voice? I can, and I hate it when I do.

It wasn't even a bad day. I just kept thinking negative thoughts all day until I heard a little excerpt on the radio about thinking positively. I forced myself to see the positive even though my very bones were saying the opposite.Yes, right now my house is a mess, but the people who live in it are happy, and I can clean tomorrow. No, those particular shorts don't fit, but I will not be a person who is defined by which shorts fit and which ones don't.

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Turning my thinking around like I need to is hard to do when I'm in that mindset, especially when my circumstances match up exactly with what I'm thinking. Everywhere I walked in this house today, there was a Mess with a capital M, and no two ways about it. What my brain was perceiving that my eyes saw was all negative. I have a hard time turning my thinking around when the circumstances don't change! Even as I sit here tonight, there are still dishes in the sink from last night. Deep sigh.

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Life is like that. Sometimes people can be stuck in the same circumstances for years with no real change, and then they get stuck in this rut of negative thinking. Especially when they aren't trusting God for...well, for everything. There is nothing we can't trust Him with. In fact, Proverbs 3:5 says to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Even when I'm feeling negative about my house or my shorts. I know it seems silly, but I believe it's true. There is nothing I can't trust Him with because He wants to be that intimately involved in my life. He cares that I'm overwhelmed and anxious, and He doesn't want that for anybody, so He asks us to come to Him. Even with the small, seemingly insignificant stuff.

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It is possible to change my entire thought system even though my circumstances haven't changed a bit. Maybe they never will. I want them to, and in certain cases that's okay, but sometimes I think I have to be okay that maybe they won't. Maybe I will never fit back into that particular pair of shorts. Maybe that's okay. Maybe for the duration of the time my kids still live at home, they will makes messes because they are playing. Maybe that's okay, too. The point here isn't just to accept status quo, and if things need to change, then prayer is a necessary first step. The point is to see that I can choose to think positively even when I want to think negatively.  Even when the circumstances urge me to think negatively.

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Eventually I hope to have this all figured out (ha! and double ha!), but for now I accept that I need God to help me make the changes I need in my life. You know what? I will most definitely always need Him. I can't do it without Him. I've already tried. I'm thrilled that He is willing to change me, and look forward to being changed, molded and transformed into His creation, not my own. What I had tried to create myself to be was turning out to be worse than I planned: cold, bitter of heart, selfish and negative. I didn't start out with that intention, and thank goodness I don't have to stay that way.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What's Your Motive?

What's your motive?

Mine is searching for joy and peace in my heart that lasts; something that goes beyond my circumstances, stays with me when I'm on the proverbial mountain-top and is evident when I'm in the deepest valley.

I'm not sure my motives for following hard after God should end there, though. Those things are all good by themselves, but is there more?  Proverbs 16:2 says "All a man's ways seem right to him, but the Lord evaluates the motives". I already know that God knows the ways of my heart and He knows what I'm thinking, so I suppose it stands to reason that He would know and evaluate my motives as well.

Is it possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason?

I think the answer is absolutely!

I've done the right thing for the wrong reasons too many times to count. Sometimes it's not for any other reason than just because it was the right thing to do and someone else urged me to do it. I have attended church, but while there had a heart that was not receiving any message because it was cold. I have given my money away, but not with a cheerful heart.  I have even prayed for the wrong reasons.


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People do what they do for different reasons, both good and misguided. Good can include love, compassion, generosity, and faith. Misguided can be pride, insecurity, ambition, greed, guilt, anger, fear and hurt.  When the motives lack God, I think they are missing out on the joy and love that only He can provide.

I think it's easy to want to serve, maybe to help others or just to try make the world a better place. But sometimes I get caught up in the serving part and skip the part where I am spending time with God, in His word, and determining whether the serving I'm doing is actually what He wants me to do.  If it's not, I will quickly get burned out. It's hard to say "no" once I've already said "yes", but if the motive behind what I'm doing isn't for the love of God, then it's all for none.

I want to be a good person. I want to serve others and do my part to make this tumultuous world a little better. My motives for following hard after God won't stop at only bettering myself or improving my own situation. They will include showing other people where my source of strength, love, joy, peace, and patience comes from: God.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

OMG

OMG.

It's just an expression.

Or is it?

I find when people use the term "Oh My God!", they are usually not referring to the Creator of the Universe, but rather making an exclamation point. A "wow" statement.

But the name of God isn't meant to be a substitute for "wow", "how exciting" or even "oh crap". Using God's name without respect turns what is meant to be holy into an ugly vulgarity.

God has many names, and they actually do mean something.*

Emmanuel: My God with Me
El-Channun: The Gracious God
El Roi: The God Who Sees Me
El Shaddai: The All-Sufficient God
El Sali: The God of My Strength
El Olam: The Everlasting God
El Elyon: The Most High God
Elohim: God, My Mighty Creator
Jehovah Jireh: The Lord Who Will Provide For Me
Jehovah Rapha: The Lord Who Heals Me
Jehovah Nissi: The Lord My Banner
Jehovah Shalom: The Lord My Peace
Jehovah Rohi: The Lord My Shepherd
Abba: My Father

God's names are a promise of who He is. His name is not something to be taken lightly. I like Jennifer Rothschild's perspective in her study "Me, Myself & Lies": "It's acting toward God as if approaching a king who invited us into his royal chamber. We are keenly aware of God's high position and the honor of approaching Him...we esteem His truth more highly than our feelings or perceptions of truth...[we] hold His knowledge and truth in higher regard than our own..[we speak His name] with reverence--never casually or crassly...We should guard ourselves against using God's name without respect or 'in vain' as the Third Commandment says".

It's so common to hear God's name used as a stand-in for "wow" that I'm not sure people even hear what they are saying. It's not only His name that is used inappropriately, though, it's also the name of the Messiah. I'm hearing "Jesus" or "Jesus Christ" used as a stand-in for "That's really, really bad" all too often, and it makes me cringe when I hear it. I've encouraged my kids not to say "oh my God" and I've tried to explain why, but sadly, they hear it all the time. It frustrates me when people who are familiar with my beliefs say it because I feel like it's disrespectful of what I believe and also of our God.

In order to begin showing respect for My Father, I have decided to cut out "Oh My God" and "Oh, Lord" from my vocabulary. It's one small way that I can show honor and adoration to Jehovah Rapha.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Five Minutes

I find that when I sit down to pray, I often feel like it's an obligation, something I need to get over with so I can move on with my day. I always want to start my day off with some quiet time, and when I don't I'm always sorry, but it shouldn't feel like so much of an obligation. In my opinion, Christian leaders oftentimes make too much of a fuss over getting it right--like it's a 1-2-3 step process, when in my life it isn't. When I pray during my quiet time, I feel this pressure to remember everyone on my prayer list, to thank God for everything that is good and then some that is not-so-good, to not forget to praise Him and last but not least to remember to ask for something "Godly", like more peace, or extra patience, or a little more joy, or a little boost of kindness.

Of course, all of these are important elements in prayer, but I tend to find that my quiet times ebb and flow with the currents of my life.  The other day I read something that stopped me in my tracks.

It was a challenge to sit quietly and listen to God.

Oh. Hmmm. I talk quite a bit but listening isn't really what I do best.

I find that when I quit talking and try to start listening, my mind begins to wander. I'll start thinking about painting a room, then jump to wondering why one of my kids is acting a certain way, then to what to have for dinner tonight. I can't seem to focus on listening. I don't really know how to focus on listening to an inaudible voice.

I've tried meditation, which is an excellent way to memorize verses but not so much a way to listen to God. When I meditate, I repeat a verse over and over in my head--but I can do that while also doing the dishes and the laundry. If God is trying to talk to me, I think the distractions of my life often override any sort of conversation we could be having, and I'm back at square one: a busy, restless mind.

I was intrigued by this challenge of sitting quietly. And listening. It somehow seems less like an obligation and more like something I want to do. How exactly does one sit quietly and listen to God? For me, I have to purposefully choose to ignore all the distractions that present themselves to me. I also have to purposefully and carefully choose my time. Obviously, right when my kids get home from school isn't the best time to be trying to sit quietly and listen! Then I ask God to help me practice and enjoy stillness and quiet.

The other day when I read the challenge, I decided to see what I could do. It was 2:26, but the bus comes at 2:27, so I figured I could try to be still for at least a minute, right? I wanted to commit to 5 minutes like the prayer proposes, so I prayed that God would give me 5 minutes, even knowing the bus was coming, and honestly not really believing that God would even hear that prayer. I prayed the following suggested prayer* as a way to get started, and I'll share it here: Dear Lord, my soul is having a hard time being still. I lay down my resistance to silence, and commit to five minutes of silence with You for the next month. I praise You in advance for what You are going to say to me in the silence. I thank You for the rest only You can give. In Jesus' Name, Amen. Then, I meditated on this verse: "But I have stilled and quieted my soul..." (Psalm 131:2). And the most amazing, beautiful thing happened! I could feel my soul actually rest. I felt God's peace enter into my heart. I felt...still. Quiet. At rest. I heard a breeze rustling through the trees, along with the most beautiful silence I've ever heard. It was almost as if my mind, along with my body, was collectively sighing the most satisfying sigh ever.

I would highly recommend this to anybody and everybody.

There is none more satisfying than God's peace. My soul is often restless and parched, searching for "that thing" that will satiate my soul. And even though I have an ongoing conversation with God, it's usually me doing all the talking. I need the complete and total calm of God.

Oh, and the bus?

It dropped my kids off at 2:31.


*from the Proverbs 31 ministries devotions page. Devotion called "Silencing Our Soul" by Wendy Pope