Friday, September 28, 2012

5 Minute Friday: Grasp

Five Minute Friday
Today, I'm linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker over at Lisa-Jo Baker: tales from a gypsy mama and participating in 5 Minute Friday. Even if you don't blog, join me for 5 minutes to write. Set your timer. No editing, no overthinking, no backtracking. Just 5 minutes. Today's prompt?

GRASP...

READY...SET...GO.

I try to keep a tight grasp on everything.

Kids.

Money.

Youth.

Weight.

Friends.

Family.

Time.

LIFE.

The things I try to keep the tightest grasp on seem to slip right through my fingers. Like water.

I need to let go.

And hold on tight to the One who has the tightest grasp on me.

STOP.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gentle Is...Part 3

As you know, I've been thinking on what the word gentle means to me and how I have experienced this in my relationship with God. Yesterday, I talked about how I came to the conclusion that I have experienced gentleness in my relationship because He has shown me comfort, compassion, mercy and grace.

This gentleness that I have experienced in my relationship with God has also manifested itself in my relationship with other people. Now, not everyone may agree with my assessment here, but I'll go ahead and say it anyway: my approach and my reactions have improved significantly when I deal with my family. Somehow, they seem to get the raw end of the deal a lot of the time. When I've had a bad day or am at the end of my rope (or someone has bumped into my happy, as Lysa TerKeurst is fond of saying in her book Unglued), my family members are the ones who experience the raw emotion I'm feeling. I'm not proud of this, but many times I talk to them in a manner that I'd never speak to my friends or acquaintances, and I'm willing to act in a way that expresses my displeasure with the situation (even if it has nothing to do with them), all the while knowing I'd never conduct myself in such a manner around anyone else.

I guess part of it has to do with the fact that I feel safe around them, I know they aren't going to judge quickly, and frankly, maybe they're used to the rare Heather-tantrum that gets thrown.

All excuses aside, I know that I have the ability to act and react better than I do. Which is one of the reasons I'm reading Unglued.

I find that when I've searched out my Father, asking Him for the gentleness, the compassion, the mercy, the grace, and the understanding that I need (and He does freely give it, all I have to do is ask), then I am much more likely to show that same gentleness, compassion, mercy, grace and understanding when I have to deal with difficult or stressful circumstances.

My daughter and I tend to have the same...tendencies...when we react to stressful or disappointing situations. We both have the same penchant for raising our voice {ahem} and to show our displeasure rather than calmly voicing what is bothering us. It drives me CRAZY when she acts like this, as she is completely unreasonable and contradictory. (Am I talking about myself or my daughter?) I've probably not been the best of role models, but I'm working hard to make every day better than the one before. What I'm learning is to first be aware of what comes easily to me when I react and work to react in a more positive manner. The other day she was almost to the point of being absolutely absurd and silly, all because she was in a bad mood about having to do something that she didn't want to do. What comes easily to me in that situation is to demand she straighten up, get mad when she doesn't, not pay close attention to how she's feeling and discount her words (and my voice might rise an octave or two somewhere in there...). When I react this way, the situation will always escalate quickly, going from bad to worse. That day, I made a conscious effort to be calm and give her the chance to speak. I tried to be gentle with her, showing compassion, mercy, grace and understanding. I was still angry, sure, and so was she, but I found that when we were able to both voice our frustration without the, er, passionate reactions, the situation was actually diffused. What a relief!

I'm no expert at this, but I do know this much: the more I go to God to be filled with His love and compassion, the more I'm able to give it out when it's needed the most (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gentle Is...Part 2

Gentle: adj.-having a mild or kind nature

I've really been struggling over the question I posed yesterday: How have you recently experienced this kind of gentleness in your relationship with God?

First, I had to come to some sort of decision as to what I think gentleness actually is (to me), and, after some thought, this is what I've come up with:

Gentleness is...
comforting words,
compassionate actions,
mercy and
grace.

So, have I even experienced these things that define gentleness to me in my relationship with God?

Sometimes I still don't know...

But here's what I do know:

That God's Word comforts me when I am feeling scared, unsure, or anxious with words like these from Joshusa 1: "...I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous... 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

He has relentlessly persued a relationship with me, even when I turned my back on Him. At one point, I called myself a Christian, or a follower of Christ, but my day-to-day actions revealed what was truly in my heart, which didn't have a whole heck of a lot to do with following Christ. I thought that because I went to church, I was saved and that's all I needed to know. But God has and is showing me that there is so much more to life than what I was living. I do feel like He could have left me to my own devices, even though I was hurting in my heart. Instead, He saw my hurt, had compassion for me, and is leading me down His path. He has shown me mercy and grace beyond what I can comprehend. He has showered me with blessings (and I'm not talking about just the phyical kind of blessings, but the sort of blessings that I couldn't live without, like a freedom from depression and a gentle leading down the path to freedom from anxiety and from a dependence on physical appearance and weight for confidence and security). His Word is full of mercy and compassion and grace, meant as a love letter of sorts.

My Biblegateway App describes gentleness as "an expression of compassion", and this only confirms what I already believed, it just hadn't made it's way to my head yet: God has compassion for His people; He is our refuge in good times and bad. I don't have to be scared of Him, because I know I can trust Him. And it's moment to moment; I don't have to wait on Him to show me that He loves me or has compassion for me.

So, have I experienced the kind of gentleness I described earlier in my relationship with God? Well, the answer can only be this: a resounding yes--daily.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us
Psalm 62:5-8

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gentle Is...

I went to the library today so that my son could play Legos in the Lego Club, my daughter could do her homework, and I could work on my current bible study, Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst. I was humming along at quite a nice pace, when I came across this question: Use three or five words or phrases to complete this sentence: To be gentle is to be....

After some thought, I was able to come up with a few words that I felt were a good description of the word gentle, like peace and understanding.

Then came the next question: How have you recently experienced this kind of gentleness in your relationship with God?

And if that weren't enough, then there was this: Based on your experience of God's gentleness, how would you describe the power or strength that is the foundation of gentleness?

Say wha?

I have to admit, I'm still stumped. I don't know if I was just too distracted by kids yelling, people moving about and my daughter's homework to really concentrate on the questions (I found out the library isn't really the place to be for some peace and quiet), but I really could not answer them.

Contemplative Block Person (Carol Peace)

I think it's partly because even though I have a relationship with God, I haven't come to terms (yet, anyway) with some of my old views of Him. Like I tend to view Him as severe and stern, and not gentle or understanding. And yet, I know He is the latter two, not the first, and I know this because I have gotten to know Him. So what gives here? I'm not sure, but what I do know is this: I still can't answer the question. So I thought I might ask you for a little help...

How have you recently experienced gentleness in your relationship with God?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Food for Thought: Life

The life we waste today because we want a better one or because we are never satisfied is the life that many wish and yearn for and would give anything to have.
--CNN Photojournalist

Friday, September 21, 2012

Leading by Example

I don't want my kids to make mistakes. Like, ever. I don't mean the little ones, like they did their math problem wrong and it needs correcting. I mean the kind that could take a person down a dangerous, life-altering path. It's not a simple thing, raising children, because all of my fears and insecurities tend to come to the forefront, and if I'm not careful, they'll get dumped all over my kids.

I want so badly to be able to tell them all the things I did wrong so that they can learn from me and not have to make the same mistakes I did, but I know that there is a process in growing and maturing, and at times it takes making mistakes to learn some of life's hardest lessons. I wish they could avoid some things, like overexposure to violence and sex or the temptation of alcohol and drugs. I wish I could tell them what they don't know, like that Miller Lite makes drinking beer look like a lot of fun, but it's no fun hanging over a toilet while you throw up. Or, that having sex instead of waiting when I was 18 made me feel cheap and used, not confident or empowered.

The fact that I'm insecure about the way I look, that I'm scared of rejection, that I'm scared of looking stupid, that I have a tendency of being a follower instead of a leader, and that I have an issue with perfectionism means that I have be extra careful about how I conduct myself around my sweet babies because they are taking their cues directly from their parents: the good, the bad and the ugly. A while ago, I decided that I eat too much salt and I needed to cut back (just as an aside, I have since decided that a saltless diet isn't all it's cracked up to be, and those people who say that you'll get used to it and actually start enjoying the taste of the food instead of the salt are lying through their teeth). I went and got some Ms. Dash, stopped putting salt on the table, and had generally improved my overall salt consumption, but never said a word to my family about the need for them to cut back. I was only cutting my own intake back. But my daughter took to that like a bee to a flower. She, too, started using Ms. Dash and stopped using salt. I even told her that she could use some salt, but she was too busy taking those silent cues from me to listen to my words.

Dealing with my own issues isn't easy; in fact, it's not something that I even want to do on most days. But I know that it's essential to do so if I want my kids to avoid making some of the same mistakes that I did. Talking to them is important, but leading the way by example is even more powerful. We probably all have things in our past that we aren't proud of. So be it. Learning from those things puts us all on the path to growth and maturity, so that today we can live out the example we want out kids to follow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Midweek Confession

Today, I'm linking up with E over at E, Myself & I  midweek confessions. She doesn't want to be the only one out there who makes confessions, and neither do I, so fess up, y'all...



* Today, I gathered myself up and went to a cycle class at the gym during the time that my son is typically in art class. He loves for me to come in art, and I knew today would be no exception, but I really wanted to go to cycle. I felt so guilty as I drove by the school, thinking of his sad little face missing his mommy that I almost turned in, but then I took a deep breath and went on my way to the gym. If I don't take care of myself, then who will? The true confession here is that I think I give myself a little too much credit. He didn't even notice that I wasn't there.

*While at cycle, the instructor always does this little arm stretch at the beginning of class (which I don't get because you don't even really use your arms in cycle, but what do I know?), and so I, like everyone else, was stretching my right arm high in the air. Right at that time, a woman came into class late and grabbed the fan that was sitting near me. I was so involved in watching her and thinking that I was actually going to use that fan and wondering if maybe she would share with me (which she totally did NOT) that when I turned back to the instructor, she was totally done stretching AND had actually begun the first song. I had been sitting there with my right arm straight up in the air the whole time! So I wouldn't look like a complete idiot, I went ahead and stretched my left arm, then laced my hands behind my back...all while the entire class is cycling to the first song. What a dork.

* I had to run by the school to make a few copies (well, I was actually hoping that someone would make the copies for me...), but I got sent up to the copy room to do it myself, which is fine, but when I got up there, I couldn't figure out the stupid copy machine. I'm almost positive that it does not take a degree in aerospace engineering or brain surgery to operate the above piece of equipment; however, I could only get the thing to make 1 copy at a time. And I needed 120. So I pushed RESET hoping that it would--I don't know--reset something and then work. And then I noticed at small sign taped to the machine: PLEASE DO NOT RESET. Uh-oh. Just then, another teacher (who happened to call me "so pretty" last week, which thrilled me) walked in, and I was all gross and sweaty from cycle and my hair was pulled straight back from my face (which I never, ever do because I look terrible with no bangs but I haven't washed it in 3 days so what's a girl to do) and I felt like I needed to apologize to her for not looking pretty. Wha???

* I have a pretty strict double-standard going on in my head when it comes to my husband and some of the things he likes to do, like playing the Wii with our kids. So, I gave him a bit of a hard time the other night when he mentioned he was going to play with them. Why it annoys me, I cannot say, and I wish I could blame it on something else other than the fact that I'm just annoying and a total curmudgeon (SOMETIMES, only sometimes...). I give myself complete and total permission when the tables are turned and the kids want to play the Wii with me, though, and would absolutely give a self-rightous flip of the hair if given a hard time about it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

All Who Are Thirsty

Today, I have a guest contributor writing a post for us to enjoy! Sharon and I have gotten to know each other through bible study at church, and she is an amazing way of expressing herself through the written word--and I know you'll agree.

". . . but whoever drinks the water Igive them will never thirst. Indeed, thewater I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternallife." - John 4:14 (NIV)
Water has been on my mind lately. We need water to live, but I'm all too oftenguilty of not drinking enough to provide my body with what it needs to functionat its best. Laziness, thy name isme. Hoping to do better, I recently readan article on dehydration that outlined various suggestions to encourage goodhealth. One tip in particular caught myeye. It advised readers not to waituntil they were thirsty to drink water because by the time you feel thirsty,you're already partially dehydrated. Therefore,you should make it a habit to drink water throughout the day before thirstoverwhelms you.

It struck me that this applies to my spiritual thirst, too. I help my soul function at its best when I makeGod a regular part of my life, i.e., making a habit of reading the Bible and praying,rather than putting Him up on a shelf and waiting until the storm cloud isright over my head to pull Him back off the shelf. I'm so much better prepared to face life'schallenges and crises when my spiritual thirst isn't running wild and depletingme.

We all have an inner thirst ("He has also set eternityin the hearts of men", Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV) - a thirst for somethingmore, for some meaning to life, the universe and everything, some greaterpurpose. It nags away at us, sometimesup front and center, loud and clear, other times soft and quiet, buzzing away atthe back of our thoughts. Everyone hashis or her own way of filling that hole inside.

So many times we react as if it's a physical thirst that canbe fixed in a physical way - with food; maybe with any number of fun thingsmoney can buy; or possibly with something more dangerous like drugs or sex. I've fallen into these traps myself, wrestledwith an eating disorder, wild shopping sprees, inappropriate relationships;regrets, I have a few. Or we may goanother route and try to fill our lives with love (I'm ashamed sometimes tothink how often I've tried twisting myself into whatever shape will be mostpleasing to someone - what can I do to make you love me?) or power or otherintangibles. Like I said, I've dabbledhere and there, and I'm sure you have, too - who hasn't?? And let's be clear, not all of our pursuitsin life are BAD in and of themselves, it's just that when we rely on these thingsfor ultimate meaning, they can't truly satisfy our thirsts in any sort oflong-term capacity. They may mask thethirst symptoms for a little while, but "[e]veryone who drinks this water willbe thirsty again . . ." (John 4:13, NIV).

So if deep down we all have this incessant thirst, and allthis other stuff doesn't work, what DOES work? The Bible teaches us that only the water God provides can satisfyus. Jesus told the Samaritan woman atthe well, “. . . whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become inthem a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14, NIV).

Similar to how water is a crucial component of our body'sgood health, daily drinks of the Living Water can fortify a believer's spiritualhealth. Our souls need a personal relationshipwith God, and that is only possible through prayer, Scripture, worship. When we set aside a time each day to read theBible and learn from it, and pray and really seek God's will, we have an opportunityto draw near to God and know who He is and who we are in Him. This gives our spirit the fuel it needs tokeep going, day in and day out; it refreshes us, sustains us and keeps us from becomingspiritually parched. We gain examples ofother believers used by God despite their flaws; we are reminded of God'spromises; we find verses that provide encouragement, wisdom, discipline,guidance, and on and on.

Confession time, though - I'm not always diligent in my dailytimes with God. So just like I neglectmy need for water, I also neglect my need for Living Water. I've experienced extreme physical dehydrationat least once in my life, and I can tell you firsthand, it's ugly. On a broiling hot day, I had the brilliantidea of going for a jog. I never takewater with me, but I also didn't drink much or eat much before headingout. After about thirty minutes, I feltso weak and trembled so much that I could barely stand. I had to try to keep moving, though, to getback, but the smallest movement exhausted me. I had to stop and sit down every few feet because I simply could notforce my body to move any further without a rest. I had burned out my body's storehouse ofwater and it simply could no longer operate normally. The hour it took me to get back was probablyone of the longest of my life. Trust me,I'll never forget the lesson I learned *that* day.

I really wish I could tell you that I've never been sostupid spiritually, but that just isn't true. I've struggled with clinical depression and anxiety for many years. It's frustrating, and above all,exhausting. And when I get tired enough,it's all too easy to be lazy and not make any effort, not even to read theBible. The problem, though, is that whenthe next wave of depression crests over my head and comes crashing down, I'mtotally vulnerable and weakened. Withoutthat strong foundation to stand on, I'm just spiraling further and furtherdown. Reaching out to God gives meperspective - that I'm not alone, that this moment is so small in comparison toeternity, that I'm loved and valued. This isn't a "magic", cure-all answer, but it helps me hold onuntil I've got my equilibrium back. Godis faithful and he won't give up on me.

Bottom line? If I maintainan ongoing relationship with God, I'm more likely to be spiritually healthy. Without water, our bodies would surelydie. In the same way, without God, wewould surely die.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Safety Net

The other night, I woke up with a start from a bizarre dream that felt so real, for a second I had to make myself believe that I was actually in my bed, and not caught in a tornado.

In my dream, I was with my family and we were walking around, but we weren't in our yard or near our house, it was somewhere totally unfamiliar, yet I felt like I had been there before. I reached up to put my hair in a pony tail, when the wind lifted it straight up, and, laughing, I told my daughter to check out my hair. But before she could look at me, the wind turned into a tornado and began to lift me up. I was screaming, but no one, including my family, could hear my screams and they didn't even see me spinning in this twister. It felt so real; I could feel myself spinning around. That's when I woke up with a start; my heart was beating out of my chest and I was sweating. Scary!

She'd be smart to run...

I have plenty of nightmares, although the one above doesn't really count as one to me. Sometimes, they are so scary and violent that I am scared to move when I wake up and I have to reach over just to make sure my husband is still there and that my dream was only that--a dream. His presence, even though he has no idea what's going on in my head, is a comfort to me. As long as I know he's there, then I start to feel calm and steady again.

Sometimes life feels like that tornado in my dream. I feel pulled in so many directions that sometimes I can't catch my breath. For some, I know it's not just being pulled in different directions, it's mentally battling the fear and upheaval that comes when we read the paper, watch the news, or experience the nightmare of a difficult, strenuous situation that seems like it will never get better. What are some of the things you are facing today? An abusive relationship? An illness? Are you watching someone you love dearly struggle? Sometimes, that nightmare doesn't seem like it will ever end. It's real. It's life. And it's scary.


David struggled with similar emotions as he ran from King Saul, who had a death sentence written for David's life. I can only imagine how scary that would be. He writes in Psalm 54 "Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might.2 Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth...Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me" (verses 1, 2, 4). (Also read Psalm 55 to get an idea of the fear and anguish he's going through).

When I am scared, all I have to do is reach out for God and He is there, ready to offer His steady hand to comfort me so I can feel calm and steady again. It's a daily thing, though, because I need that comfort daily (and sometimes by the minute). I don't think he'll zap me with confidence or security so I'll be done once and for all; then I wouldn't need Him and we wouldn't have a relationship. Just like I wouldn't want my husband to offer his comfort and support one night, and then the rest of the time expect that when I have a nightmare, I won't need him.

God is there anytime I need Him, though, and that's the part that I like the most. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, He's available and at the ready. I like that about Him; that He is so constant and reliable, my safety net when the rest of the world feels like it's falling out from underneath me.

When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
Psalm 56:3,4

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Like A Tree Planted By Streams of Water

Blessed is the one...whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1: 1-3



The other day, I was going through my closet and trying on some clothes that I haven't worn in a while. I selected a pair of pants and, preparing myself for the worst, slipped them on. Well, almost on, seeing as how they didn't go above my new, slightly rounder bum. I could feel a scowl coming on, even though I knew that they wouldn't fit before I tried them on (I really don't even know why I tried them on, other than to chastise myself for having gained a little weight at the beginning of the year). As I tried on yet another pair of pants (with no luck. Those didn't want to go above the bum, either. Blast!), I at least had enough sense about myself to decide that I had a decision to make. I could be totally miserable for the rest of the day or I could, well, not.

And I hate being miserable, especially over a silly pair of pants (or two pair, as it were).

I guess it was hard for me because I, at one time not too long ago, fit perfectly in those pants, and in my mind, I was happy at that time. But was it because of the pants? Probably not. I think I just choose remember things differently than they really were at the time (just as an aside, my grandmother does this, and it drives me slightly bonkers because I know that things were not all roses and rainbows like she makes it out to be. But I digress...).

So, back to making that choice. First, I thought through how I feel generally, day to day, because I couldn't trust my emotions in the moment. And you know what? Even though I am heavier than I was when I wore those pants...I am happy! As I recall, one of the things that would stress me out at the time I was thin enough to wear those pants was the fear that one day I wouldn't be thin enough to wear those pants. And here I am, standing tall and happy, having trusted God enough to begin conquering one of my fears.

The thing is, I wouldn't be standing firm on the other side of my proverbial fence if I hadn't gone out on a limb and trusted God. I knew (even then) I didn't want to be miserable for the rest of my life because of my weight, and after some time spent searching for stable ground, I found it in Him.

I've found that when I trust Him that, even if some of my fears do come true, He is strong enough to handle my "stuff". And, when I'm rooted in His love, I will flourish like never before (even when I was thin enough to wear THE pants).

So, am I totally elated to have to give my pants away? Not really. But I know that it isn't really about the pants, anyway. It's about finding my confidence in Him, and not in the unstable and shifting sand of weight and appearance.

Besides, now I get to go shopping. ;)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Happy(er) Life: Cute Suggestions

According to Self magazine, there are a few ways that we can up the happy factor in our lives. Aside from the obvious (in case the obvious isn't obvious to you, it's God), I thought these were cute:

*Puppy Love Talk about a best friend! People with pets say they get as much emotional support from their furry pals as from family, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports. That may explain why pet owners tend to be happier and more confident (and fitter) than petless folks. No pup of your own? Volunteer to walk shelter dogs (contact ASPCA.org) and give them--and yourself--some exercise and companionship.


*Spoiler Alert Don't fault a pal who gives away the outcome of a novel you're reading. The slipup may enhance your enjoyment, helping you detect more plot nuances as you go, Psychological Science indicates. Happy endings!

*Power Walk For a sharper mind, start striding. People who took a speedy jaunt 10 minutes before studying did better on a word-recall test than those who stayed seated, the Journal of Cognitive Psychology reveals. Walking seems to increase blood flow to the brain. Step to it! (Note from me: Find a friend to walk with. It makes the time go by faster and it's more fun!)

*Rush Hour Commuting is four times more stressful for moms with young kids than it is for dads, the Journal of Health Economics shows. Not only do we miss the kids, but we also worry how chores will get done while we log travel time. Put your guy on laundry duty.  ;)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Exploited

I turned on my daughter's iPod and found a video she had taken of herself, dancing in her room. It was cute, sure, to watch her be-bop away as only a 9-year-old can do. The problem I had was with the music she was be-bopping to. While I was downstairs fixing dinner for everyone, she had turned on a local top-40 radio station.

She later asked me if she could download a couple of the songs she had heard to her iPod. I probably don't have to tell you that I found the lyrics highly questionable, especially for my baby girl. I explained that I would not allow her to download those songs (and we had to have a chat about what radio stations she can listen to as well) because of the lyrics. Then she countered "But, mom, I don't listen to the lyrics. I won't remember them. I just like the beat."  Famous last words...

As we were out later, she was skipping along, humming a little tune to herself. No doubt one of the songs she heard earlier. And what do you know? Those words she said she didn't listen to and swore she wouldn't remember escaped from her little lips as she innocently hopped along.

I really hope she doesn't sing those words at school.

The problem?

Honestly, I like that music, too. I enjoy a great beat, I like fun music, and I like to dance. It's fun. And I've sworn to myself that I won't pay attention to the lyrics, either. But somehow, as much as I hate that it happens, those lyrics creep in and suddenly I find myself meditating on Chris Brown instead of Psalm 51. And I think we can all agree that Chris Brown's lyrics aren't exactly edifying.

I, along with millions of other parents, face a huge problem as media becomes a bigger and bigger giant in our lives. It's easy, and sometimes fun, to just go with the flow and follow along with what everyone else is doing, but at what cost?  It's important that we protect the younger generations from being exploited as they grow up, even if it means making tough decisions that aren't popular, least of all with our children. Even if it means sacrificing the things I like to watch and listen to for the sake of my kids. Because eventually, what goes in will come back out (above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23)...

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.Psalm 19:14

Friday, September 7, 2012

I Never Left

I've been watching one of my favorite movies while I workout (I love watching movies while I'm on the elliptical because I become completely engrossed and mostly forget that I am actually working out, which is a win-win as far as I'm concerned!), which is a 007 movie, Quantum of Solace (just as an aside, for all you James Bond fans out there, I thought Pierce Brosnan was my favorite Bond until Daniel Craig appeared on the scene). Anyhow, the fire scene at the end of the movie really captured my attention.  If you haven't seen it, I'll try to describe it: the entire hotel is an inferno. Railings, balconies and floors are collapsing as the fire takes over. The intensity of the fire is palpable, and Bond is fighting his enemy while the Bond Girl fights hers inside a hotel room. Finally, the fight is over, but now the girl is stuck inside the burning hotel room, and Bond will stop at nothing to save her. He (in classic Bond fashion) jumps and fights his way through the fire and into the room, where she is sitting, arms around her knees and head tucked in. She's terrified, and saying "Not this way, not this way". He covers her with his body to protect her, and pulls out a gun. She thinks he is going to shoot her and then himself so they won't have to die such a painful death, but instead, he shoots out the side of the building and they escape.

Quantum of Solace

Then, at the very end of the movie, M says to Bond, "I want you back", to which Bond replies "I never left".

Quantum of Solace

I guess the reason that it caught my attention is because of his passionate determination to save her no matter what the cost. But, I say to myself, that's only a movie. A piece of fiction written from the imaginations of a guy named Ian Fleming. That kind of passion doesn't seem humanly possible, and yet, I crave it in my heart of hearts. So I look to many different avenues of "passion" to fill the aching hole in my heart: the decor of my home, my own appearance, my friends and family, my possessions...many different things promise to fill the void, but there is only One that can make good on that promise: God. Things will fail me, and people will disappoint, but His love is everlasting, and yes, He is quite passionate for us.

So, consider this (and even if you think it's kindof cheesey, read it anyway)...

The sky is dark, overcast, and ominous. You're caught in a fiery inferno with no way out. The heat is unbearable. You pull your knees into your chest and cry, not wanting life to end this way. Not this way. This isn't what I wanted. This isn't what I expected. Suddenly, He bursts into the room, having fought the enemy and jumped over holes in the floor and escaping falling railings overhead just to get to you. He comes over, covering you with His body to protect you. You are scared to put your trust in Him, thinking His way could be fatal, when suddenly He busts through the wall with a Mighty Strength and carries you out. To life. To freedom. You realize that you need Him, that maybe you used to know Him but have strayed away. You begin to understand that life without Him is unimaginable.

You say "I want you back", to which He replies "I never left".

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our Help and our Shield.
Psalm 33:20

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Don't Throw It Away

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 receive what He has promised.  Hebrews 10:35-36

I found the following prayer in the book A Confident Heart by Rene Swope, and it was so appropriate for me today that I thought I would share it with you. I've had a hard time remembering how much God really loves me today, and what I should put my confidence in. It's easy for me to lose sight of God's love when I'm struggling a little, and lately I've been tempted to put my confidence in the things that are right before my eyes rather than looking to God.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I may know Him better. I want to know and rely on the love You have for me, Jesus, and live in that love. You say that whoever lives in love lives in You, and You in him. In this way, love is made complete in me, so that I can have confidence today and forever. I want an up close and personal relationship with You, one where I don't have to pretend or hide.

When I feel insecure, insignificant, or unloved, remind me of Your perfect love that has the power to cast out my fear. Thank You for Your love that is patient, is kind, and keeps no record of my wrongs. I trust that because Your love is perfect, I don't have to be. I will remain in Your love and be confident of this: that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

In His name I pray,
Amen

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Let Go and Let God

So, here's a little recap of my week so far:

Last Wednesday I reaggravated an old injury in my left foot, leaving me stuck in a (very) hot and uncomfortable boot. I don't like wearing said boot, so I tend to take it off when it gets really hot and wear my normal shoes, which does no good in actually healing my foot.

Monday, I got stung on my leg (source unknown but it hurt like heck), and it is now a huge, ichy welt.

Then, I completely forgot that my brother-in-law and nephew were staying with us after the Tech game so I didn't clean our guest room of the doll clothes and paraphernalia littering the floor, nor did I clean the bathroom. I woke up at 12:34 AM wondering if I should get up and go clean or let it go (I let it go).

Tuesday I read an article in the paper about a local young man who has had a serious drug problem since he was 13 and is now going to prison because he sold his friend heroin and that friend promply OD'd and died. He is quoted in the paper as saying that "Doing drugs was fun". I wanted to grab my kids and run for the hills, because the thought of them even possibly being in that same situation makes me sick to my stomach. I couldn't stop myself from the "what-if" questions, and I literally want to pull my kids out of school and homeschool, keeping them at home until they are the responsible age of 30. Maybe 35.

That same day, I rushed my kids through snack time and homework so we could rush out the door at 5:30 for a 6:00 game ONLY to discover that the game is next week. And, to add insult to injury, it's not even on Tuesday, but on Monday.

This morning I found the shirt I have been looking for neatly stacked in my daughter's laundry pile in her closet.

I feel this picture says it all and needs no caption. Yes, the real Midweek Confession is that this is ME.

What. Is. Happening. To. My. Brain??

The world seems scary sometimes (ok, for me, the world seems scary a lot of the time). I tend to get easily overwhelmed and frustrated with everything that is asked of me (expecting perfection out of myself only adds to the problem), and when that happens, I get snappy and irritable with my family. I don't like the feeling of not being in control, and I hate it when I forget and am not on top of things. These feelings only further my mounting frustration and before long I am a hot mess. Hence the total brain freeze mentioned above.

So, the quesiton is, how long before I really believe God? The fact of the matter is that I don't trust Him (I am sensing a common theme here...trusting Him seems to be the central issue of my life). I could read all day long about how I can trust Him, about how trustworthy He is, and about how other people trusted Him, but until I start believing those truths for myself, I won't be able to let go of feeling like I must be in control of everything. And everything includes what I eat, because I'm scared of gaining weight; what my kids do and where they go, because I'm scared of letting them make decisions on their own; and what my house looks like, because I'm scared of what people will think of me when it's messy (rest assured that there are many more things that I'd like to control and make an attempt at doing so, but it would take 8 years to list them all).

Basically, I'd like to put God in a (rather small) box and tell Him exactly how I would like my life to run (smoothly, please), but by doing this, I'm A) not trusting Him and B) not allowing Him to be the God who promises in Ephesians 3:20: "Now 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...".  See, I'm not allowing Him to work in my life. It's kinda like being offered a piece of yummy cake and saying "No, thanks" even before you taste it. The cake is still there, it's still yummy, and you could still eat it, but it's your choice. Poor analagy, maybe, but bear with me: God is still there, He's still offering His benefits, and I can still take Him up on His offer. But when I say "No, thanks, I believe I'll have a go on my own. I rather like control and the resulting anxiety and stress", He's not going to force His way, even if it is "immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine".

Time to let go and let God? Something to think about.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Trash Talk

I don't watch a lot of TV unless I'm working out in my basement on the elliptical machine, which could quite possibly be the most boring piece of workout equipment (aside from your standard treadmill) on the face of the planet. I'd love to say that I spend my time while I'm working out catching up on some sort of edifying spiritual DVD or meditating on Scripture, or even to listening to uplifting music. Instead, I watch my favorite trash TV channel, E! Entertainment News (and Gossip, of course). And no other show quite holds my attention like my favorite (for the fourth year running), Keeping Up With the Kardashians. I often question why I am so fascinated by Kim, Khloe and Kourtney and their outrageous behavior (and you might be questioning me at this point, too...).

Yesterday (sadly, yes), my favorite show wasn't on and I was forced to resort to flipping either one channel up or one channel down, which gave me (surprise!) two equally charming (please hear the sarcastic tone here) options: Big, Rich Texas and Real Housewives: New York City. Instead of picking one, I just flipped between the two. Both shows feature women (where are the men in these shows? Apparently not quite as entertaining as the back-stabbing, hissy-fit-throwing, sassy-mouthed women) who, in a nut-shell, were mean girls who grew up to be mean women (just my opinion you understand). I was a little aghast (and also admittedly a little {gasp!} entertained) at the behavior of these women. As I watched, I started thinking about how absurd the whole concept of these two shows actually is.

I also started thinking about how we as women can be so unpleasant and mean sometimes (I'm not leaving out men here, simply focusing on my own gender). There are, of course, mean people everywhere, but instead of being part of the solution I sometimes find myself as part of the problem. Listening or taking part in gossip, making snide or disparaging comments about someone, or even just making unnecessary facial expressions {insert eye roll and deeeeeep sigh} are all ways that my mean girl comes out in me sometimes. No one is innocent; we all at some point or another have done something that would have really hurt another person's feelings if they knew what we had said or done. The difference with these shows is that these women seem to take pride in the fact that they are mean, and they only try to one-up the other as they try to claw their way to the top.

Unfortunately, because these women are in the position of being watched by millions on national television, it puts them in the situation of being somewhat of a "role-model" for those of us who choose to watch and for the younger girls in their lives.

I don't have to let that get me down, though. We, as women, can (and should) come together and stop the hatefulness. We do not have to take part in what our culture is promoting as common and acceptable behavior. We can take a stand and say "NO MORE", but we have to make the effort to start in our own homes and neighborhoods. So there is no Real Housewives: SW Virginia or Keeping Up With Heather (although I might take E! up on the offer...just kidding ;)), we can still make an impact in the areas where we live, and we can be a positive role model for those around us and for those coming up behind us. We do not have to claw each other to pieces on our way to the top (understanding that the top is a lonely place to be). The relationships we form with other women can be some of the sweetest, most fulfilling ones we have, but we have to value the other person instead of using and abusing her. We can promote love and acceptance in our actions and attitudes, looking to our ultimate Role Model for direction and guidance.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:10

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hard Work

The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.
--Thomas A. Edison

Have a great Labor Day

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Food for Thought: Patience

Let me ask you something...

If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience?
Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?

If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous?

If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

--Morgan Freeman in Evan Almighty