Friday, January 31, 2014

Love

I celebrated with my grandmother's for her 90th birthday today.

Ninety years. Almost a full century.

She's got a lot of perspective. A full life to look back on, memories, mistakes and victories all filed away in her head, making their appearance as she tells story after story of her childhood, her marriage, her children and her family.

It's interesting. All her memories are of people, and sometimes places, but only if it has to do with her people. Not on how she never liked this certain picture of herself, or on how she busted her tail to keep her house clean, or of how much stuff she's acquired over the years.

Just people.

And how much she loved them.

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
{1 corinthians 13}

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Isaac

I did not watch the Grammy Awards the other night.

Except for 90 seconds worth of a performance by Beyonce (I felt like I was watching something I shouldn't be), Lorde's rendition of her own song Royal (one of the strangest performances I've seen), and enough of scans of the crowd to see a Smokey the Bear hat paired with space-age helmets (which they apparently never take off in public? Odd.)

All in all, I thought the 10 minutes that I saw was very...let me choose my word carefully...random.

Of course, I've heard plenty. (People that don't want to give the Grammys any more attention than they must sure do have a lot of fun posting things on FB about it.) Enough to know that Natalie Grant walked out, Katy Perry is a satanist and Beyonce and Jay-Z are exhibitionists.

Moving on from the most talked about topic of the last 24 hours. Please.

My daughter actually wanted to record the Grammys so she could watch it later. Because of course she was in the room while I was flipping the stations, and she saw what I saw: Beyonce. Helmets. Black fingertips.

Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. Always has been. Always will be.

And apparently this was enough of a teaser for her to want to watch the entire show, beginning to end. Obviously, she thinks her parents know nothing about real entertainment, because an argument ensued over us not letting her record said spectacle show. I've heard that there is something in a pre-teen's brain that automatically makes them want to do/say the exact opposite of what their parent does/says.

Now I'm starting to believe it.

Have mercy. It's gonna be a long 10 years.

Parenting babies was exhausting. Sleepless nights, crying fits, slave to the nap schedule.

And I thought, "This is hard."

Parenting toddlers was tough. All the "NO!" and "MINE!" and coy little smiles that any parent knows mean their child is up to something.

And I thought, "This is really hard."

Parenting young children. Learning how to deal with outside influences, playing nicely with other children, an introduction into sports and social activities, going to school for the first time.

And I thought, "This is really, really hard."

Parenting a pre-teen is exhausting and tough and complicated. Grades, school, attitudes, having a child that thinks she is all grown up in a world that has no mercy...

And I think, "I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I have what it takes."

Lord help. They're not even full-blown teenagers yet.

As they get older, my fist gets tighter. I don't want to let go. I don't want to watch them make mistakes. I don't want to. I just don't.

There's an invisible line that I keep weaving over, back and forth, back and forth, trying to find the perfect balance between parenting and trusting, between holding on and letting go. But is perfect balance ever really achieved, or is it just perceived? I'm afraid that if I did find that perfect life balance, I might stay stuck there, for fear of messing it up, having to deal with ups and downs and imbalance and truth and consequences. And I'm not a person that deals with any of those things very well.

Nothing in life is ever easy, I don't care what other people say. And loosening my grip on my children is one of those things in life that I'll probably never do well. It takes trust and strength and faith, none of which I have enough of to let go. But in the meantime, the anxiety that has taken hold in my heart has brought me to my knees.

Letting go doesn't mean being less strict or not looking out for my kids.

I think it might mean taking them off the throne of my heart and trusting that God loves them even more than I do.

I do not know how to live that out, and I certainly don't know what that looks like in everyday life. But I do believe it requires a second-by-second trust that the Creator of the Universe, who loves me enough He died so I could be free, also loves my children. A second-by-second trust that I can lean on Him and give my anxious thoughts to Him.

 
Trust Me with Your Isaac
by Beth Moore
 
For every Abraham who dares
to kiss the foreign field
where glory for a moment grasped
Is for a lifetime tilled...
 
The voice of God
speaks not but once
but 'til the traveler hears
"Abraham! Abraham! Bring your
Isaac here!"
 
"Bring not the blemished sacrifice.
What lovest thou the most?
Look not into the distance,
you'll find your Isaac close."
 
"I hear the tearing of your heart
torn between two loves,
the one your vision can behold
the Other hid above."
 
"Do you trust me, Abraham
with your gravest fear?
Will you pry your finger loose
and bring your Isaac here?"
 
"Have I not made you promises?
Hold them tight instead!
I am the Lover of your soul-
the Lifter of your head."
 
"Believe me, O my Abraham
when blinded by the cost.
Arrange the wooded altar
and count your gains but loss."
 
"Let tears wash clean your blinded eyes
until unveiled you see-
the ram caught in the thicket there
to set your Isaac free."
 
"Perhaps I'll send him down the mount
to walk right by your side.
No longer in your iron grasp
but safer still in mine."
 
"Or I may wrap him in the wind
and sweep him from your sight
to better things beyond your reach-
believe with all your might!"
 
"Look up, beloved Abraham.
Can you count the stars?
Multitudes will stand to reap
from one dear friend of God."
 
"Pass the test, my faithful one;
bow to me as Lord.
Trust me with your Isaac--
see,
I am your great Reward."


Monday, January 27, 2014

Where to stand

Last year, I got my husband a book for his birthday called The Romance and Tragedy of Banking by one T.P. Kane.

I don't know how T.P. Kane filled 547 pages on the romance and tragedy of banking, but then again, it wasn't my book to read so I could figure that out.

I thought it a very clever gift-book myself.

It sits proudly amongst other titles like The History of Money, Dobbs' Complete Mental Arithmetic, Financial Peace and If You Play Golf, You're My Friend. (I understand that last one has no ties to the others, but when decorating with books, sometimes one must use what she has. Old books are expensive.)

What office is complete without the Little Brown Handbook?

I haven't read a single title sitting on that shelf. They don't mean anything to me. They're more for show than anything else, really, and all they do is collect dust. And then I get mad because I have to clean the dust off, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.

For a long time, I was a person that did things just for show. To make myself look good to other people. And pretend that maybe I looked good to myself. And I was completely empty on the inside.

I would get up in the morning and paste a big, bright smile on my face, but I knew. I knew that I was empty and my smile was fake. I knew the the things I was using to fill the emptiness weren't so fulfilling, and I knew I was ignoring the One who was calling my name.

I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.
{roar by katy perry}

And then one of my worst fears came true. My mom died. And my sister and I watched, helpless, as she fought with every ounce of energy she had left. When she had no more fight left in her, she let go. I lived in fear of her dying from the time I was 18 to the time she died, but nothing could have prepared me for the absolute emptiness that swept through my very being. Her clothes, her jewelry, her shoes and perfume and hot rollers and pillow--all her stuff---it was all still there. But she was gone. I couldn't wrap my head around it. When the phone would ring, I would hope it would be her. When I saw a stranger that reminded me of her, I would pray that that stranger would take off their disguise and reveal who they really were hiding--her.

Darkness permeated my being.

And I still had my big, bright smile. I still pretended that I was really good. I still chased after everything, because I stood for nothing.

And then.

He opened my eyes.

I can only say it was out of mercy and grace that He did.

And now I know exactly where I stand.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
{psalm 40:2}

Friday, January 24, 2014

Gray


I found a gray hair last night. My second one, in fact.

It doesn’t seem fair, really. A gray hair? Two gray hairs?

I had hoped for a few more years before I spotted a gray hair. A few meaning forever.

My Great-Grandmother Webb had black hair up in to her eighties. Never mind that it was dyed.

Obviously.

She also had dentures, which I discovered in a most gruesome way in her bathroom at age 8.

And now I will be joining the masses of women who choose not to let gray hair get in their way, but reclaim their youth in a bottle.

Two gray hairs on my head. Unbelievable.

I’ve always talked about wanting to age gracefully, but now that wrinkles around the eyes and gray hair on my head are appearing at a more rapid pace than I expected, I’m thinking of taking that stance back. (Not really. But really.)

Last night I learned of a friend who had suffered from a stroke. Not a mild one, but one that requires daily physical therapy and relearning certain motor skills. One that could ruin your career. And possibly your identity.

I’ve been wrapped up in appearance. That’s how I’ve defined myself. If I feel pretty, then I’m okay. If I don’t, it’s a bad day. If the number on the scale reflects what I perceive as bad, then I am bad. And now that I’ve made The Gray Hair Discovery, I’m suffering a bit of an identity crisis.

I know other people who admit that they get wrapped up in the things they do, and they let them define who they are. Career, kids, appearance, grades, house, car—they are any number of things that vie for attention in our lives and that ultimately end up deciding for us how we view ourselves, for good or for bad. But those things are as unstable as shifting sand, always changing and they all have the very real possibility of disappointment. What happens when you do find a few gray hairs and you realize your youth is fading, but your identity is completely wrapped up in appearance? Or you have a stroke and your career is over, but your identity is completely wrapped up in your job? What do you define yourself by then?
 
 
24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
{matthew 7}

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Growth Opportunity--(not that I want one, but it is what it is)

Is there anything more anxiety producing than raising kids?

That's a rhetorical question.

This world is full of danger at every turn, and while I want my children to learn how to live, I also want to reduce risk and harm. I want to step in and save them from their mistakes, and I want to force them to make responsible decisions and good choices.

I didn't say those were the right things to do. It's just my natural inclination. I want to protect my kids. And by protect, I mean keeping them under my wing. Forever.

So what does one do when other influences enter the picture? Friends, teachers, other parents, music, TV, movies, social media--you name it, and it is a possible influence. And it scares me. But instead of boldly facing my anxieties, I want to run and duck my head in the sand. 
google images


Maybe if I stay there long enough, the world will pass me by and I won't have to deal with anything.

Trying to wrap my brain around all the possible moves I could make on this giant chessboard of life makes my head swirl. This parenting article says these are the top 10 mistakes parents make, that article says these are the best 5 examples to show your kids, and John Rosemond continues to be completely uncompromising in his convictions.

{Incidentally, even as I write this blog post, my daughter and her friend are blasting a Marc Anthony/Pitbull song I have on my iPod for my fitness classes (no, I didn't say it was appropriate or otherwise) so loud that I cannot even think, or yell over the bedlam, so although I want to be part of the solution, at times I must admit that my lazy parenting puts me in the "problem" category.}

As I read my devotion from the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, I was reminded that although this life is sure to bring about anxiety, the problems aren't necessarily what I need to be focused on.



"Anything that tends to
make you anxious
is a 
growth
opportunity."
{sarah young}

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Afterthought. (That's Me)

A few years ago, I saw a family member--my second cousin, to be exact--while I was out shopping at Target. I had not seen this particular family member in years, but I still recognized him instantly (and I expected him to do the same, but alas). I must have looked quite different from the last time he saw me. Either that or he had totally forgotten that he had a second cousin named Heather, as once I stopped him in the middle of the aisle, I had to reintroduce myself to him:

"Hi, Tony**, it's been awhile!"
**Obviously not his real name. Not that he reads this blog.

Blank stare. Wife and children eyeball the woman addressing their husband and dad in the middle of the laundry detergent aisle. Uncomfortable silence, followed by a slow "Hello."

Then nothing.

"Uh, well, I'm Heather. I don't know if you remember me. (Clearly you do not, or this conversation would have gone down a much different path.**) Our moms are actually cousins."
**Obviously I did not include my parentheses thoughts in my actual conversation.

"Oh, hi."

And then. Yes, then he extended his hand to shake mine. As if this Target reunion weren't awkward enough. Cousins. Who have actually met before and hung out, although not frequently, shaking hands as if we were two strangers meeting at a Southern Baptist church picnic.

AWKWARD.

I walked away feeling a) really, really stupid and b) like I am completely and utterly forgettable. An afterthought.

And it's really hard to feel like you are an afterthought.

Or, as it were, not thought of. At all.

I was reminded again of that chance meeting over the weekend when my daughter had a friend spend the night. I remember sleepovers. I remember acting crazy and rude to my parents because I could get away with it while the friend was there. So why am I surprised that my daughter does the exact same thing? Maybe because I see myself as a completely different kind of mom than my own mother, one who is hip. And very, very cool, who does not deserve to be forgotten.

But my daughter may as well have forgotten all about me. It was almost as if she was surprised by my presence in the house, as if she were silently saying, "Oh, you. You're still here?"

Ugh. An afterthought.

My cousin may not remember my name. (Or the fact that he even has a cousin, but I'm trying to get over it.) And my daughter may put her friend ahead of me on the totem pole of people she'd like to hang out with. But I was gently reminded of this:

God made me. On purpose. He has a plan for me. On purpose. And He loves me.

On purpose.

And I am not an afterthought.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
39 neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
{romans 8}

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Who's The Hottest?

Working on the world's slowest and dumbest laptop does actually have some advantages:
1. I have plenty of time to think while I wait.
2. No one ever asks to use it.
3. I don't feel compelled to spend any more time than I have to on it.
4. I never have to worry about it being stolen.

So, because I have been working on this very blog post for the past thirty minutes, and this laptop definitely has a vendetta against me and it erased the entire blog post, leaving me staring at a blank white screen (awesome), and I feel like throwing it out the window and smashing it, watching it die a slow and violent death, I'm going to try to remember the above four advantages I have over people with newer, brighter, smarter machines.

{As fate would have it, this will, in fact, be my third attempt at writing said post, as during the second go round, my computer shut down without warning so it could perform "updates". I will not repeat my one-sided conversation from that time.}

Moving on.

A few days ago, I found this picture online:



And for (more than) a few moments, I felt vindicated.

Finally. The world has figured out that not all of us fit into the model mold, although we wish we could. (OK, so maybe I speak only for myself here.) Now we have a new ideal to compare ourselves to. And maybe, just maybe, the world will start to recognize that we non-super-model-types look good. Maybe even better. So ha-ha, Victoria's Secret.

I felt so confident that I thought I might even leave a comment, along with the other couple of thousand people who felt the need to have their voices heard. Sometimes two or three times. Comments about body parts and weight as men and women took aim at both sets of women in the picture.

Women who were being evaluated and gawked at, examined and criticized and broadcast all over the Internet for all to see.

Skinny shaming. Fat shaming. How do they look? How do we compare?

Who's The Hottest?

And I realized (although it was only after my moment of vindication) that it is degrading to us as women to even post that picture. It is degrading to prompt a debate about who might be hot/pretty/appealing based solely on their weight. And yes, it is degrading to even decide we would take part in the comparison game. And it's damaging to us and future generations. We are all made unique. Original. Individual. We don't fit into a mold and we don't fit into the same jeans. Our worth isn't determined by a number on a scale or by how we might fit into an equation of attractiveness. Our beauty can't be evaluated by what other people think, or how we think we might fit in compared to others.

Confidence and beauty shines from the inside.

And trying to look at a picture to see where we might fit in, to try and determine if our husband/boyfriend/spouse/significant other agrees or disagrees, to compete and compare and analyze and examine--it gains us nothing but mental exhaustion.

And I am tired of being tired.

When they measure themselves by themselves
and compare themselves with themselves,
they are not wise.
{2 corinthians 10:12}
 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Something Beautiful

 Photo
 
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful,
for beauty is God's handwriting.
{Ralph Waldo Emerson}

Monday, January 13, 2014

Afraid of What?

One of my babies got glasses over the weekend.**

**I have been strictly forbidden from sharing with the masses the cutest picture ever of him in his glasses. (But next time you see me out, I'll show you. Just don't tell him.)

And speaking of this particular child of mine, I set my mind weeks ago to clean and organize his closet so that I could sell some of the toys he doesn't play with anymore. But knowing what I was getting myself into, I've put that nefarious chore off. Until today.

It was worse than I imagined.

I think that every time I have asked him to go clean his room for the past four years, he has taken the things on the floor and tossed them into various containers in his closet. Honestly, I found Legos that haven't even been opened, and this kid loves Legos. It's because he didn't even know they were in there, this place of mayhem.

I just searched "mess" on thesaurus.com, and this word came up: salmagundi. Apparently the formal definition is a mixed dish consisting usually of cubed poultry or fish, chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, oil, etc., often served as a salad. (There is a most definite possibility that I could also find these in his closet, as I found a clean pair of socks, an opened package of new underwear, and a random sock not belonging to anyone in this family.)

Or any mixture or miscellany.

Which is definitely what I'm going with.

Salmagundi. My son's closet.

I feel a label coming on.

But I digress.

The child had to get glasses. We knew it was coming. We could see him squinting at things that were far away, indicating what we knew would turn out to be the inevitable nearsightedness (which he vehemently denied doing at all. Um, well, see, I can see you squinting, so I actually know that you are, but whatever.) My husband and I are both nearsighted, and were not surprised when we took him to see the eye doctor, who proclaimed: He's nearsighted!

Yes. We knew.

And it will continue to change (that's doctor speak for "get worse") as he gets older!

Yes. We know. Good news. Thank you.

So a trip to the frame store was in order. Besides being fairly difficult about picking out frames, it went rather smoothly. He knew exactly what he wanted (black square frames, or the super-cool red aviator sunglasses that he sooooooo wished they would make into glasses for him--not happening, by the way. Talk about getting made fun of.) And no matter what frames he tried on, he didn't like any of them. Like none. Except for one. Which the woman said were not the best fit, and maybe he should try another pair.

Um...no.

HE HAS TO LIKE THEM. I want him to want to wear them. So he has to like them. I know they should probably fit better around the temple. But he likes them. We'll worry about fit the next go round.

He was amazed at how clear everything was. (Perhaps it would have been a good idea for his parents to take him to the eye doctor earlier. Fail.)

So he wore them around all weekend, getting used to them.

And then last night, after calling me back to his room for the 43rd time, he finally said what was truly on his mind:

I'm afraid {sniff} people will {sniff, sniff} make fun of me.

Oi, my heart.

I tried to reassure him, give him some funny comebacks (well, I guess "I don't care what you think" isn't that funny, but I've never been quick on my toes with a good comeback anyway), and tell him that if he's happy with how he looks and is confident, that's really all that matters.

Right?

But how many times have we as adults been afraid of the same thing, when it comes right down to the truth?

What will people think if I...

...go out without makeup?
...my hair isn't done?
...my toes aren't painted? (a personal worry of mine in the summertime)
...my outfit isn't right?
...I gain weight?
...my house is messy?
...my car is old?

The list could go on and on as one insecurity after another presents itself in our mind.

When I asked my son if the kids in his class had ever made fun of someone else in the grade who has glasses, he shook his head no. I was confused. Then what was he so afraid of?

Sometimes I get so caught up in the things that I'm not happy about, whether that be about appearance or any other insecurity, that I think other people will notice right away and judge me on the spot. But I can't control other people's thoughts or opinions, and what does it really matter anyway? Confidence doesn't come from what other people think. It comes from knowing who you are and who you belong to.

So what are we so afraid of?

No one
can make you feel
inferior
without your
consent.”
 {Eleanor Roosevelt}

Friday, January 10, 2014

So Long, Farewell, au Wiedersehen, Goodbye

(Five points if you recognized the title from the Sound of Music, which is only one of my top five favorite musicals.)

My third and final lifetime/New Years resolution is to take the focus off of myself, and in theory, it sounds like a great plan.

But I've been putting off writing this post today because I'm not sure if I really a) can commit to this b) know how to put it into practice or c) know why I even should.

No one likes someone who only thinks about themselves, but is it a bad thing to think about yourself? Or does taking the focus off of myself mean I never think about my wants and needs, my desires and passions?

In her study Stronger, Angela Thomas devotes an entire week to dealing with attitude struggles, and one day out of those five is entitled I Think Too Much of Myself.

And my hearts begs me to answer this question: Do I? Do I really think too much of myself, or is Angela Thomas just talking about everyone else who might be reading her book?

Well, I suppose that if I have to ask the question, I probably already know the answer.

Dang.

As a teenager, I struggled with wanting desperately to fit in with the "in-crowd", those superior individuals who never seemed to look in my direction. In response, I tried harder. I wrote down every single outfit for every day of the week so I wouldn't have a repeat. I wouldn't leave until my hair was perfectly teased, my jeans perfectly pegged, my socks perfectly crunched. And my goals for life were planned with a purpose: My reputation. My happiness. My dreams.

Photo
From "Stronger" by Angela Thomas
You don't have to agree, but it is thought provoking

As an adult, my focus changed because it had to. As Angela Thomas points out, I, like others, realized "it's not necessarily socially or spiritually acceptable to continue with an intense self-focus, so [we] pretend something different on the outside, yet remain in bondage to [our] image, insecurities, and pain on the inside." (pg. 124)

 I do feel remorse over thinking too much of myself, but am unsure of how exactly to change my thought patterns. I do recognize that it has put me in a little bubble where only I exist sometimes, where I get frustrated if others try to pop my bubble, and where it's easy to suffocate.

In high school, lunch tables were incredibly important. Where you sat and who you sat with said everything about your social status, and I did everything I could to improve mine.

There was a friend of mine--a really good friend of mine--who had the same lunch period as I did. She was shy, a little introverted, and had probably figured that we would sit together. But I was invited to sit with some friends who might boost my status a little, and so instead of sitting with my friend, I chose the new group. They didn't invite her, and neither did I. And I walked by her everyday to throw my lunch away.

Sitting by herself.

Every. Single. Day.

I said nothing to her.

It didn't work out like it does in those tween shows on Disney, where the offender gets a second chance and apologizes to the offended. My self-centeredness cost me one of the best friends I had ever had.

Being selfish will cost. Even if, at 16 years old, one refuses to acknowledge that truth.

Eventually, it will cost relationships. Marriages. Happiness. And it could cost spiritually, as it seems to me that it would be impossible to have self as priority number one, and also try to keep God there, too.

It seems like focusing on myself would bring the most amount of happiness. I'd get what I want, my dreams would be the most important, and my goals and priorities would be number one. But it also costs me the most. It seems backwards to think that sacrificing my own number one position and placing God there instead would cause an unspeakable joy, but the truth is, that's the way it works. True joy and happiness, a fulfilling life, comes from placing God in that number one slot and allowing His will to work in my life.

So Long, Farewell, au Wiedersehen, Goodbye, Self.

Hello, life.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Persistent Faith

A few days ago I was pondering over the story of the ill woman who followed Jesus through the crowds, waiting for just the right moment so she could touch the hem of his garment. Matthew 9, Mark 8 and Luke 5 all record the story of this woman's remarkable faith. According to Matthew, Jesus had been called to go to the house of a synagogue leader because his daughter was dying. I don't know much about the social implications of this time period, so I'm going to make a couple of assumptions here.

 First, I'm assuming that the synagogue leader was a pretty important person. Probably one who, when he said jump, people would ask how high. So it may have been just assumed that when the leader asked Jesus to come to His house, He would come. Immediately. And not stop. I'm also going to assume that a woman who had been "subject to bleeding for twelve years" (what?!) was a little lower on the social totem pole. Probably because she was a woman. And probably because she wasn't in perfect health. It doesn't really give any details about this woman. She doesn't even have a name. She's just known as "the woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years". She had been under the care of doctors and had spent all she had, but in Mark, instead of getting better, she only got worse.

We have precious few other details about that day. Only that a large crowd was pressing around Him (Mark 5)--and Luke says that the crowds almost crushed Him.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I attended a Virginia Tech football game in Blacksburg, VA. It was a night game, and the atmosphere was electric, the air was heavy, and the crowd was huge. We didn't have enough seats in the section we normally sat in, and since his brother was in town to see the game also, we decided that I would go across the stadium to sit in an extra seat. By myself.

Have I ever told you that I don't like doing things like that by myself?

When the weather turned ugly, the sky that was so heavy started shooting out massive sparks of lightning that lit up the sky, and the game got cancelled, that huge crowd turned into a chaotic mess. People were everywhere, trying to get out of the few stadium exits. There was nothing else to do but go along with the throng of people, swaying this way or that way toward what I hoped was an exit. The crowds were pressing, almost crushing, and I had no way to find my husband. It was claustrophobic. And had something frightening startled that crowd--well, it could have been terrifying.

I've read that people really liked seeing the miracles that Jesus performed. I'm guessing that's true because to be honest, I'd love to see a miracle of that caliber. To see a paralyzed man get up and walk (also in Matthew 9) would be amazing. To see Him heal the blind man and the leper, raise the dead--Mind. Blown. So I'm assuming that the crowds were so thick because they wanted to see what I want to see--a full-blown, all-out miracle of God.

In a crowd that thick, it probably would have been near impossible to actually get to Jesus, but the amazing thing is that this woman--this woman who was ill, who had spent all she had on doctors, who didn't really have much social standing--she wasn't going to let that stop her. It says in Matthew the she said to herself, "If only I touch His clock, I will be healed."

Faith. The confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11). I am astounded by this woman's true faith in a teacher she hadn't even had the chance to meet or research. All she knew was that she was in desperate need of help, and help was in the form of a man right in front of her, almost within reach.

So she persisted. And she was just able to touch the hem of His cloak as He walked away.

Matthew records that He knew when she touched His hem, and He turned and saw her, saying, ""Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment." Her bleeding stopped.

In Luke 18, Jesus talks about praying and never giving up. Persistence. Faith.

The things I want to be made of.

On most days, when I'm caught up in life, I don't live out a persistent faith. I might pray once or twice, and then forget about it or just give up. Not so much a prayer warrior, as it were.

When I first got married, I prayed every single solitary night for a Chihuahua. Every night for like 2 or 3 solid years I prayed. And all these years later, if I were to invite you over to my house, you'd see nary a Chihuahua or any other small, yippy dog in sight. Because I don't have one. I gave up.

Maybe it's not meant to be for me to have a Chihuahua. Maybe I like the idea of having a dog much more than I would like actually having one (people are forever telling me how much work dogs are, which if I were to be honest with you, bursts my bubble a little bit). But here's the thing: just because I haven't seen an answer to this prayer, no matter how silly or insignificant it is, doesn't mean I should just give up.

My second lifetime goal is to live a life of persistent faith. A faith that never gives up, never gives in, and in the words of Natalie Grant, "will not be moved". A faith that doesn't stop asking, doesn't stop believing. A faith that believes a new heart is possible and that a renewed mind is a reality. A faith that hopes for an abundant life, that knows that the desires of my heart are achievable. A faith that brings freedom, that endures past the doubts and frustrations. A faith that is strong, despite what everyone else says or does, a faith that knows the true source of joy and peace, a faith that shines forth, speaking the truth that is undeniable:

"If only I touch His cloak,
I will be healed." 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A More Generous Heart (yes it's long, now you've been warned)

Yesterday, I was one of a handful of houses in my area that lost power in the frigid cold. Luckily, our gas logs did a fair job of keeping the basement warm, and we were no worse for wear.

This year, I'm making a resolution to be more thankful. And electricity is at the top of my Thankful List.

Followed by men who are willing to endure the 10 degree temperatures to work on the blown transformer in my neighborhood so that I could have my power back.

We all know the New Year brings about many New Year's Resolutions, full of promises to eat healthier, exercise more, spend more time with family, or save more and spend less. A full 45% (http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/) of us think it's exciting to look at a whole new year, full of promise and possibility, ready for whatever we can throw at it. But resolutions come with challenges.

The main one being that it's really hard to keep them.

January 1 we have a clean slate. January 23, we are struggling to keep the new resolutions and regular life in balance. February 2, old habits take over and we spend another year dejected and disappointed. According to this website, only 8% of us will actually stick with and succeed at the resolutions we make.

It is for this reason that I never make resolutions for a new year. The couple of times I've attempted, they've been lame resolutions and I never follow through. (Yes, I totally skipped the year resolution and went from never making them to making lifetime ones.)

This year is different, though. Not only am I making a New Year's resolution, I'm making lifetime resolutions.

I want to have:

1. A More Generous Heart
2. A Persistent Faith

And it is my goal to:

3. Take the Focus off of Myself

(Today I'll talk about having a more generous heart, and Thursday I'll talk about having a persistent faith, and Friday, I'll talk more about taking the focus off of myself.)

One of my goals in life is to have a more generous heart. I've read countless books, bible studies and articles about generosity, yet I can't seem to make myself just be more generous.

When we were younger, my sister and I were like polar opposites when it came to saving and spending money. My money burned a hole in my pocket and I spent it almost as soon as I got it. But only on me. My sister would carefully count and save, only spending money on things that she knew she wanted and could afford. She ended up with some pretty cool stuff.

I ended up with a whole lot of junk. And I couldn't even tell you what I had spend my money on. Besides the fact that it was only on me.

I've gotten smarter with my money as I've gotten older, but I still have a hard time being generous with it. And it's not about the money; there's an underlying issue that has nothing to do with cash. It has to do with the fact that I don't have a very generous heart. I am selfish and I hold onto things that are important to me. Like time. Like money. And other weird things. Like food. And I've been known to buy so many tubes of toothpaste/shampoo/razors because I have a coupon and can get them cheap that I don't have room to store them.

I know that might be a little odd. But it's true.

I've read multiple times from mulitple sources that when you really look at the things you think about when you let your mind wander, when you take a closer look at the things that disappoint you and cause you the most frustration, when you look at the things that you spend your money on and the things that cause you to get really excited--that those are the things that are you are committed to. Where your heart truly lies. And I just read this morning from the book of Matthew 6 this convicting message:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (19-21)

My "treasure", if you will, has been my house and my appearance. I think about room redo's when my mind wanders, I am eternally frustrated and disappointed by the appearance of my house, I spend money on decor, and decorating is my absolute favorite thing to do/talk about--followed closely by working out and nutrition.

Not that there is anything inherently bad about those things. But when they start consuming your thoughts, you may want to take a closer look at what your heart is truly committed to.
 

gen·er·os·i·ty

[jen-uh-ros-i-tee]  

noun, plural gen·er·os·i·ties.
1. readiness or liberality in giving.
2. freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.
3. a generous act: We thanked him for his many generosities. 
4. largeness or fullness; amplitude.
 



Origin:
1375–1425; late Middle English generosite < Latin generōsitās, equivalent to generōs ( us )
generous + -itās -ity
 
The thing is, I can't just make myself become more generous. I know this because I've set my mind to do it and it hasn't worked. I think it's because I still put a lot of value in the things that I'm not very generous with, and so even though I've decided I'll be more generous with them, I can't. I still place more importance on those than I do anything else.
 
So I have got to start with asking God to change my heart.
 
It's not easy. Sometimes it's not even something I want to do. But I know that in order to become a more generous person (remember, that's a lifetime goal of mine), my heart has got to change. So that I'm placing more value on unselfishness--and frankly on more giving than receiving--than I am on the things I want to be more generous with. Like time and money.
 
Matthew 7:8, Luke 11:10, and Mark 11:24 all echo the same thought: ask and you will receive. For a long time I thought that those verses meant I could ask for any thing I wanted and I would get it, but I had totally missed the entire point of that verse. It doesn't have anything at all to do with stuff. It has to do with the heart.
 
So now I'm asking for what I really need: a brand new heart.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Opinion Is...

Beth Moore says that sometimes when we are really struggling with something or someone, that it might be a good idea to take a look at the bigger picture. Like what the struggle represents.

As in, could this struggle really have more to do with me and God than it has to do with me and the other person?

I have a hard time when the people in my life start wanting their opinion to mean as much to me as my own does. That sounds way more harsh than I mean it, I think. Of course they can have their opinion. Everyone does, and I encourage all people to learn to think for themselves. But when someones opinion actually affects my life, well, sometimes it makes me unhappy. I want to do what I want to do. What I think is best. And honestly, it's not like I'm going out, causing trouble and rabble-rousing. I have really good intentions.

It's just that I want to paint the cabinets black and he wants them to stay the same. 

I don't appreciate his opinion sometimes.  Can I confess something to you? I don't even want him to have one.  He knows this about me, and I don't think he will be shocked to read it in black and white. It frustrates me to no end when he will not agree with me. To the point that I might stew about it, I might get pushy--I might even try to manipulate the situation just to get what I want. Especially when it is something I feel passionately about. Like tattoos and home decor and pets. 

But as my sister reminded me, there is this one, tiny little word that can have a huge impact on a marriage

Respect. He deserves it. 

And sometimes, I do not want to give it. 

He makes me mad when he won't give in to what I want just agree with me because I know my idea is a good one/that it will work out well/he just doesn't know how good it will be yet (or until he sees it). Or when he would prefer that I not do something--even if it only involves my own person (but once "two become one"--and those two have kids, when does anything really only involve just you without having some sort of impact on someone else?). 

He wants me to listen to him. To respect his opinion. Even when I don't agree. 

So does God. 

He wants my time. I don't think I have much to spare. He wants my money. But I have other ideas that don't involve giving or tithing. He wants me to worship freely, but I'm not a raise-my-hands-in-church kind of gal. 

He wants me to respect my husband.

God has great ideas. He has laid them out for me in His Word. Step by step. But the struggle comes in when He asks me to put His will above my own. When He starts getting too personal, when He wants to change me, when He wants to do something different from the way I do my own life. 

When He starts telling me His opinion. 

Ahem. My life. Not yours. Thank you. Respectfully, of course. Amen. 

Could it be that relationships begin to break down when the people involved simply stop caring what the other person thinks? That they stop caring about respect and only look at the "me" instead of the "we"? That they take understanding out of the equation? 

That they get cute wrist tattoos even when their husband says "please, I'd prefer you not". 

That they paint the cabinets in the basement black even when their husband says "please, I don't want to mess them up". 

That they hear the phrase "Christ died for you" and simply shrug their shoulders at the words because the passion and respect and understanding has all but evaporated from their lives, leaving in their place a blase attitude about His sacrifice?

"Christ died for you".  Those are beautiful words, and should cause more of a reaction in me than a "uh-huh" and a casual flick of the hair. And moreover, it should cause me to want to give Him my respect, to listen to His opinion. To put His will above my own. 

Way back in  middle school, my youth group went to a summer camp that involved the biggest food/shaving cream/unknown substance fight you've ever seen. And because I didn't bring any clothes so I could participate in the fight, I put on the brand new, white summer camp teeshirt I had just gotten. I didn't want to ruin any of my own clothes, and I guess I thought that my summer camp teeshirt would be one I would just wear around the the house, so who cares if it got a little stained. Or ruined. (You have to understand. Mayo. Ketchup. Mustard. The stuff that ruins clothes.  All involved.)

But when Allie, my youth pastor (and confidant for many years after the teeshirt incident) saw me in my brand new, white summer camp teeshirt, preparing to go get splattered with substances of all kind, he was understandably upset and asked me to change. It wasn't that he was upset over my choice in clothing. It was that I had totally disrespected the point of the teeshirt, which was to commemorate summer camp and, more importantly, show the world that I was part of a youth group that loved Jesus, and be proud of it.

I don't want to be just another divorce/unhappy married couple statistic because I cannot (or will not) get my head out of my own behiney. And I don't want to be just a fan of Jesus because I don't trust that His will for me is far better than anything I could ask or imagine. I want to be a follower, a person who is truly committed. A person who can give up the things I want with the understanding that an abundant life awaits.

And that's my opinion.

 

Friday, January 3, 2014

The After Christmas

I finally got all the Christmas decorations down, only to be able to actually see exactly what a state of disaster my house has become. Live in the present, live in the present--or some other sweet Pinterest saying that I pin on my board entitled "Thoughtful" but never actually put into action--I keep telling myself over and over, trying to block out mental images of toys and books and Legos and ribbons and bows and clothes and those uber-colorful rubber bands and anything else you can imagine laying haphazardly on every floor, in every room--and the ensuing anxiety it causes.

google images

If I am a pessimist when it comes to Christmas, then I am a complete Debbie Downer when it comes to after Christmas. While everyone else is basking in some sort of after-Christmas glow, I'm taking down decorations and snapping at those (who shall remain nameless to protect their identity) who leave their Christmas goods just laying around.

I know. It's probably not so much fun to live with me sometimes.

And after Christmas we get to celebrate New Years, the annual I-can't-stay-up-to-watch-the-ball-drop-so-now-I'm-a-Debbie-Downer-times-a-thousand extravaganza. Honestly. I cannot/don't want to stay up sometimes.

I know.

So it looks like I've done again what I've done so many times before but promised myself I wouldn't do again. I totally missed out on the joy and magic of Christmas. And what do I have to show for it? The house is still messy. The toys are still unorganized.

Maybe I should start taking those Pinterest quotes to heart...*

*2014. A new year. A new me.