Wednesday, December 31, 2014

reformed

Here's one from August...enjoy your New's Eve Celebrations. Be safe!

Happy Weekend!

It's been an odd week. Several strange events, several important events, all culminating in me forgetting to take my son to meet the teacher on Friday, because I was hyper-focused on my daughter's middle school orientation.

No mother of the year award here. Nothing like sending the message that one of your children is more important than the other.

Then. To add to the weirdness of the week.

I witnessed a car crash this morning on my way home from the gym (BodyFlow=ahhhhh). Apparently, someone was trying to turn left across two lanes of traffic, and altogether missed the visual of the minivan that was traveling at 40 MPH toward them.

15 seconds earlier and it could have been me.

And a couple of months ago, my husband and I were traveling on the same road we travel every single day, and when we came around a blind curve at 55MPH, there was a car at a dead stop waiting to turn left. The motorcycle that was right in front of us didn't expect a stopped car, either, and had to swerve around (I think he had to swerve into the opposite lane, also a blind curve--thank goodness no one was coming or that would have been really bad). It scared me.

Ya'll, what I'm trying to tell you is that I am a completely reformed driver.

Tailgater becomes tailgatee.

That's right. I no longer suffer from road rage. Now I am the one who minds the speed limit carefully, travelling at or below (that's right--below!) the limit, who stays in the right lane (at least I stay in the right lane if I'm going to be slow--a slow person in the left lane really chaps my fanny), who tries to remember to signal, who does not get stressed out about other people who are travelling at a snail's pace.

I did not think it was in me, and now look at me. Turning over a new leaf.

My husband does not like the way I drive. "Indecisive" and "slow" were two words he used to describe me.

I'm okay with that.

The way I see it, if I can revolutionize the way I drive, other areas of my life are up for a make over, too.

Gossip. Pride. Greed. Selfishness. Negativity. Doubt. Faith.

It's time to get to work.

P.S. Apparently, mini-me (my daughter) and her dad  had words this morning over...a missing plastic baseball. No one has seen said baseball. No one knows where said baseball could possibly be. Everyone claims "not me" did it. Did what? Stole the baseball out of it's rightful habitat, I guess. Anyway, mini-me was grievously offended over the exchange and vowed that she would not (WOULD NOT!!) be making his birthday cake after all. As in, today we are celebrating dad's birthday, and I said I would make him a cake because I like to bake but I am intensely and distressingly offended over the earlier dispute and now I am refusing to make a cake for him. Even if it is his birthday.

It's just not right for someone to be without a birthday cake on their birthday. So I'm filling in as Master Baker. A Sous-Baker, if you will.

Sometimes the smallest people can make the biggest fuss!




Monday, December 29, 2014

Seven

Hey, y'all.

It's been awhile, no?

Hope you had a very merry Christmas, and are looking forward to a fresh start (which never really feels like a fresh start to me, because I still feel like my same old self and I don't do resolutions) with the new year. (And don't forget the New Year's Eve festivities!)

My sister and brother-in-law--two of my fave people--were in town over the holiday, and we stayed up way too late talking and discussing like only sisters can, and even today I don't feel like I've fully recovered from the late nights. BodyPump this morning was...slow, and even know I'm feeling like a nap might not be such a bad idea.

Hello, caffeine.

Have you ever felt called to do something? Like really, really called to do something?

I've always wondered about "those" people--the really spiritual ones--who have felt called to other countries, or to start a new ministry, or to do good things for other people at their own personal sacrifice. I'm always like, what does that feel like? and where does that come from? Because I've never felt a strong calling to do anything. I just kinda like do what I think seems best, especially when I remember to add some prayer to it, and voila. A pseudo-calling!

Jen Hatmaker might have a calling. (I say might because, really, how do I know? Seems like it from the outside.)

I'm not sure I do.

However, I remember a few years ago, sitting in the church library during a particularly banal bible study session, (I say this not because bible study is boring--okay, most of the time bible study is not boring--but because I don't remember anything from it. I don't even remember the title. I just remember the mentioning of this book.) and there was discussion over the next book to be read, and Jen Hatmaker's book The Seven Experiment was mentioned as a possibility.



All she had to do was read the back of the box to have me hooked.

Do you feel trapped in the machine of excess?
Are you finding that more isn't always better?
Is abundance holding you back from something greater?

Now, I'll admit, the general state of my mind goes something like this: if I could just have _____, then I would be happy...and if I could just change ______ about my _______, THEN I'd be really happy...and if I could just have more _______, then I'd be really, REALLY happy.

But somehow, even in the midst of gaining more and having more and storing my excess in the basement (i.e. gaining happiness???), the happiness somehow eluded me. And I have been all like what the what? Because THIS IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE ME HAPPY!

So perhaps you can understand where I would be interested in getting off the Pottery Barn Wheel of I Must Haves.

Then again, I'm not interested because I like stuff, and I like changing things, and sometimes changing things around means new stuff, and who can help it if Pottery Barn happens to have exactly what I need and look, they just sent me a coupon for $25 off $50, so really, it would be stupid to pass it up.

My mind is diametrically opposed to itself. No wonder I have so many issues.

But this bible study, The Seven Experiment, has been on my mind ever since those first three sentences were read out loud. Seriously. It's been years. (Okay, that might be a touch dramatic, because the copyright is 2012. Whatever.) Almost like I need to do it.

So the plan was to read it on my own, which I conveniently forgot about the minute I walked out the door, because really, who wants to be called out on the excess they have squirreled away in their basement?

I've finally been given the opportunity to actually read, and discuss, the study with a group of more of my fave people--my Sunday morning bible study girls.

I am so excited, like soooooo excited, like whooo-hoooo excited about this bible study.

And then I wonder--is this what people feel when they feel called to do something? Because the calling doesn't have to always mean a trip to the Congo. It could mean doing something as small as facilitating a bible study with a group of awesome women at church on Sunday mornings. Right?

So, starting in January (next week!!), we will crack open the pages of The Seven Experiment by Jen Hatmaker and read about what fasting from the excess really means, and maybe even do some of our own experiments.

Why seven?

There are seven categories: clothes (yikes), spending, waste, food (double-yikes), media, possessions (triple-yikes) and stress (okay, I can handle a fast from stress). We will read what the bible has to say about the excess in each of these categories, we will identify where we have excess, and we will spend a week doing something about it. Maybe it'll be a week of giving stuff away (for example, Jen Hatmaker and her family gave away seven things--a day--away for an entire month). Maybe it'll be a week of eliminating different categories of spending. Maybe it'll turn into a month.

Maybe it'll turn into a lifetime of "staging your own mutiny against excess", as she puts it.

Whatever happens, you can be sure that I'll have something to say about the experiences--because I know that with eliminating waste, I'm doing okay, (I'll never forget when Oprah said to turn off the water while brushing your teeth. It changed my life.), but I can already tell you, clothes and food will be difficult. I've read through some of the book and have already come up with excuses as to why a certain idea just won't work for me.

Even so, the next 9 weeks of this study are going to be really, really fun.

"Discover how temporarily disengaging from excess can allow God's heart to break through your stuff and open you eyes to the things that really matter."--Jen Hatmaker

Here we go.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Made for More

Hey.

You know who you are.

I haven't gotten to see you yet, but in the few conversations we've had, you seem like you're doing pretty good. We've never actually gotten to hang out without an agenda, only for the couple hours every few months when I come in to see you. But even though those times are few and far between, I still feel like I know you. I think you might get me. I don't know, some people are more transparent than others, and you are one of those people that I love because you are real and transparent and honest and everything in between.

When our friendship first started, I had heard that you were the best in town at your job, and you know what? They were right. I hope you know how much confidence I have in your abilities! You are blessed with a gift, because let's face it, there are people who do their job and there are artists, and I think you fall squarely in the second category. As we got to know each other, me sitting in your chair, you doing your thing, I started to learn more about you. Your past. Your present. Your future.

It's a cool thing to get to know other people.

The last time we got together, your words healed my wounded heart just a little bit. Because, and you already know this, I have, as you said, allowed other people to define what is beautiful for me. And I've listened to them for too long. The things I had used and leaned on and grasped tightly in my hand, those things that defined beauty for me, I slowly had to let go. Not that they were mine to begin with, but I slowly started to separate myself from the definitions I had so long held with a white-knuckled grip. And you know what? I'm beginning to be my own person. That doesn't mean I don't have my days where I'm more concerned about what other people think about me than anything else, or I slip back into my old mindset. But I've grown.

I'll never forget that conversation.

Expand your horizons, I always tell my kids. You just might find you appreciate something new.

But old mindsets can wreak havoc on growth. I know this personally, because sometimes I am so emotionally tied to what I used to know, and I'm terrified of change, of the unknown.  Sometimes it's much, much easier for me to stay complacent with the habits than to try to work to change them. I mean, heck, I just managed to PO both my kids, at the same time, and it wasn't even something I was initially involved with. Sometimes, with them especially, I just need to step back and let them work it out. And then I made a comment to my daughter about ruining her relationships. She looked downcast as she walked away from me, but, I reasoned at the time, at least the smirk wasn't on her face.

I think I hurt her feelings.

Mistakes. There isn't a single person on the planet who hasn't made one. I've made my fair share, thinking I was either above getting caught or too emotionally weary to care. It's just a part of life, I guess, and the thing is, I suppose I'll continue making them. But hopefully, eventually, I will learn from the past and I won't continue to make the same mistake over and over.

This is something I'm currently working on. Understanding that the definition of insanity, according to Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I looked in the mirror this morning and thought about how I don't even come close to the girl on the cover of the magazine at CVS. Moving back. Then I remembered that I am my own definition of beauty, made unique by Christ. Moving forward. The rhythms of daily life.

You need to know that I'm thinking about you more than I say, and I want you to know that you have my support. When we fall, it's always such a relief to know that there are people, whether they are far away or right next to you, that will help pick you up and dust you off.

People who will tell you that you were made for more than living with your face shoved in the dirt, allowing past mistakes to force you to look down, wrists chained by the oppressive lies you believe. You--and me--we were made for more. We were made to hold our head up high, basking in the forgiveness of Christ, knowing that as soiled as we come to the foot of the cross, he cleans us white as snow.

Stand for something, or you'll fall for anything. I tell that one to my kids, too. I think I may have heard it in a song or something.

But I don't want to fall for anything. I want to stand firm for what I believe in, because when I don't, all I see is mud.

And I'm done with mud.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 

That's Galatians 5:1.

We were made for more. Freedom. It has a beautiful ring to it, doesn't it?

And freedom came, in the form of a baby, who was ultimately headed to a brutal death on a cross, to take on the sin of the world, so we could finally be free.

Freedom. Forgiveness. Love.

Merry Christmas!

Love,
Heather

Monday, December 22, 2014

She's a Mean One, Mrs. Grinch

I was reminded today by someone who has been counting that it is Christmas Eve Eve Eve.

And tomorrow is Christmas Eve Eve.

And Wednesday is CHRISTMAS EVE. (This can only be expressed in all caps, as the excitement level exceeds what I can adequately convey on these pages.)

As if I could forget that it is Christmas week. I'm getting roughly thirty emails a day reminding me that I don't have much time to order before Christmas.

Which is what I hate about Christmas. It is actually one of the least enjoyable holidays for me. (Go ahead, gasp your complete and utter {surprise, shock, horror} that a girl like me could dislike Christmas. But you're so ________, they say. I can't believe you'd say that, they say. I've heard it all. Let's go back and analyze just a sec. I am the least sentimental person I know. I don't like feeling rushed or stressed. I don't like commercialized crapola. I don't like Christmas. Sorry.)

I don't like the fact that this is the only time of year that is touted as the best. Or the most wonderful. Or the time that means so much. Because March is pretty awesome, too. So is August.

Don't expect me to fall for that, Hallmark.

I don't like marketers pulling on my emotional heartstrings so I'll spend more money on things I don't need to buy so that retailers can say that their numbers were up this year. I don't like the rush, the hurry, the stress, the moving of the elf, the never-ending sugar rush, the I-must-find-a-gift-even-though-I-have-no-idea-so-I-won't-be-lame-or-thoughtless. I don't like that we skip Thanksgiving just so we can listen to Christmas music for two months straight.

I was listening to an XM station the other day, and the DJ came on with "Blah, blah station, where we don't play Christmas music." And I silently said a thank you, because when you're not in love with Christmas, you're not in love with the revolving tracks of Christmas music, either.

Other people love Christmas. I get that. My husband and I were wrapping gifts (did you just ask if I like wrapping gifts?) and I started in with my "we must start fazing out this large gift-giving extravaganza" spiel when he looked at me with that look and asked me to just let him enjoy this. Ooops. I let my Grinch-like ways spill out onto what should have been fun.

I feel like I'm painting an ugly picture of myself. So let me set you straight.

I love finding gifts when I think the person I'm giving them to will squeal with excitement and joy over something they really wanted.

I love singing traditional Christmas hymns in church. And I loved the cello/piano duet during the offering this past Sunday morning. It. Was. AMAZING.

I love spending special time with family.

I'm a model, you know what I mean, as I do my little turn on the catwalk...yeah, I know. I pose. I can't help it.

I love the excitement I see on my kids faces when they announce that it is Christmas Eve Eve Eve. And I love seeing them carefully pick out just the right gift for just the right person. (Until they get distracted by all the things they want to buy for themselves, because then it becomes a matter of me picking out a present for them to give to someone else, and I'm all like do you like this for so-and-so? how about this? would you like to go here? or there? or anywhere?, and then we're just done.)

But here's what I love the most...

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; 
he is the Messiah, the Lord.
{luke 2:11}

Have we forgotten the one event--the main event--the reason we can even mark December 25 on our calendars? The one that causes great joy among us? It isn't the gifts or the carols. It's that God sent his only son to live among us, so we could be saved.

I'm a Grinch, I'm a Scrooge, I'm a stoic non-believer of the over-commercialized holiday called Christmas.

But I'll never lose the joy that comes from the reason I celebrate.

Emmanuel. God with us.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Quick Thought for the Holiday Season

Transformation in the world happens 
when people are healed and start investing in other people.
{michael w. smith}

She poured her whole life into others. A good example for us all!
google images

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Uniquely You

I am afraid of failing.

So I often don't try things that I think I might fail at.

And even if I did want to try something just for the experience, like bungee jumping off a bridge, I probably wouldn't ever do it because 1) I am scared of heights and would definitely pee my pants, 2) I am not a thrill seeker, although I enjoy adventure, and 3) I am afraid that I would be the statistic when the cord breaks, because they do break, don't they? And I can just see myself falling from the bridge, thinking, well, you shouldn't have tried, because this clearly isn't going to plan.

Some might call it what it seems to be: fear of failing. But others might see it for what it is: self-doubt. (Self-doubt may not apply to bungee jumping. This is a risk that is not worth taking.)

Self-doubt would imply that I have a lack of confidence in myself or in my abilities, even the ones that God has given me. Especially when I start comparing myself to other people.

I know it's a terrible habit, but it creeps up on me even before I really have a chance to ward it off. There is this almost innate pattern of comparing myself to others that I've recognized happening all the way back to elementary school, and while I understand in my head that I am me and you are you, I can't help but compare. And it never turns out well in the end.

Even the rich, famous and beautiful compared...
google images

I have a neighbor who is completely and totally awesome. Really. Her house is decorated, her clothes are cute, her kids are sweet--she has got it all together.

A friend told me not too long ago not to compare my behind the scenes to anyone else's highlight reel.

Her highlight reel rocks.

And my behind the scenes--well, my behind the scenes could use some help.

And this self-doubt, it begins to creep in. With thoughts like "Who said you were good at _____?"

The feel-bad part is when I start to agree.

Because really, who did say I was good at what I thought I may have been good at? Did I say that? Someone could use a good dose of reality.

And then the reality hits me: I am not good at some things. (STEM projects, which my friend Victoria totally rocks at. I am confounded by these supposed-to-be-fun-and-rewarding activities. Make a trap out of straws, Popsicle sticks, those fuzzy-bendy-wire things and toilet paper rolls? No. My brain does not accept this as a possibility.)

And that's okay.

I'm good at other things.

Yes. It is okay to accept the fact that I will never be an engineer, but that I can create a gallery wall of black-and-white prints. It is okay to accept that I don't do math quickly in my head, but I can envision a room in my head before I start decorating it. Not all the time. And it doesn't always work out. (There's this thing called money that often gets in the way. Reality. Ugh.)

See, validation can't come from other people. The well of public opinion is as deep as it is wide, and it is historically very unreliable. So whether we are searching for validation through beauty or skills, people will never be enough to fill the cup we hold. We are all human, and whether we are depending on someone else or someone else is depending on us, people will let people down. But God created us, He knew us before we were even born, and total security and validation comes from him. We just need to turn our eyes toward his light. His nature is steady and solid as a rock, and searching for any validation from any other source besides him will lead to self-doubt.

Each of us was made uniquely, unlike anybody else, and the world would be drastically different if there was no you in it. We were all given different talents and gifts, and to not use those things to benefit others would be a shame. They make you...you. And you can have an impact on the world.

The more you like yourself, 
the less you are like anyone else, 
which makes you unique.
{walt disney}

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Finding Him

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says 'Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. {isaiah 43:1-2}

There are circumstances in life that make it difficult to feel the presence of God.

I know this.

I see it when I look around at the world and see the sorrow and devastation. I hear it when I talk with a friend who is going through a difficult time, filled with doubt and apprehension as she wonders what, if anything, there is in the positive realm she can look for in the future. I know it when I hear the pain of a parent who is lost, feeling the effects of the battles their children face. I feel it when I ache for the company of my mom, and I saw it in her battle against the cancer that was ravaging her body.

How does one explain to those who are drowning in an ocean of fear, doubt and worry; those who are facing the flames of circumstances that are too hard, too much, too heavy and too brutal that God's hand can be recognized?

I expect a safe and easy life. I just do. So when I'm thrown a curveball, I want to abandon my faith and my God because I feel like He has abandoned me. And it makes me angry, this feeling of abandonment, because I don't think that I've done anything to deserve it.

Why me?
Why not me?
{rosanne cash, when asked about her brain surgery}

Life. It's just hard. And there are no guarantees on it being safe or easy, however much I may wish otherwise.

You will not drown in the difficulties, even though the water feels overwhelming, and the flames will not consume you, even though the heat seems unbearable. You will not be burned up.
{isaiah 43:2, in my own words}

But.

You might just be in the water. You might just be surrounded by flames on all sides.

That's the part that kind of sucks.

I make plans for my life. I like control and I like knowing what is coming. And when difficult circumstances arise, I'm the first one to fall apart, because my plan did not include this. Maybe things don't go according to plan, and maybe that's an okay thing, because it forces a trust in God that wouldn't come otherwise.

He made me individually. I'm not just another number to Him. There is no depersonalization. (I may have made that word up.) He created me and formed me, and he knows me. He knows my mind and the way I think and my emotions and the things I'm likely to get up in arms about. He gets me because he made me, and he has already paid the debt for my freedom--freedom from worry, doubt, and fear. And he continues to remind me over and over again in his word: do not be afraid.

If we look, we can see God in the regular, everyday rhythm of life.

Go look. And find him.

Monday, December 15, 2014

In The Dark

Raise your hand if you own an Elf on the Shelf.

Raise your hand if you own an Elf on the Shelf and have forgotten to move him.

Raise your hand if you own an Elf on the Shelf and a teeny part of you will be happy when no one believes that the Elf is magic so you can go to sleep at night without fretting over said Elf's location.

I have one that knows The Truth, and one that still believes in magic. The Truth-Knower thought that being the magic in our Elf's movement around the house would be fun at first, but the novelty wore off somewhere around night 2, and now we are back to trying to copy over-zealous Pinterest Elf on the Shelf ideas. But the laugh I got this morning from him after seeing our Elf's predicament was worth the few minutes of sleep I lost putting it together.



Last night I had to retrieve the Elf from his hiding spot in the basement.

I've always had issues with basements.

Maybe it's because they are dark. Maybe it's because in scary movies, things happen in the basement. Maybe it's because even as an adult, I happen to possess a very over-active imagination. But when I go down to the basement, I turn on every light in my path. Because the dark is scary. And then, because I have to turn out the main light, bathing the room in black, I run up those steps like somebody is chasing me. (Because in my head, somebody might be.) Except for last night, when I stuck our Elf in the waistband of my pajamas (one still believes he is magic, right, so I can't be caught moving him just yet), and it just so happened that the Elf was facing out, looking down those steps, like a rear guard.

Except that he's a toy, and I thought what a stupid thing it was for me to think about a toy elf sticking out of the back of my pants as a rear guard.

Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, 
I fear no danger, 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff reassure me.
{psalm 23:4}

I don't have to walk through a dark valley to fear danger; it lurks behind the couch in my very own basement.

Don't judge. The basement is different from the rest of the house.

Sometimes I don't sleep well at night. (Could be due to that over-active mind that never turns off. Caffeine after noon+ me= terrible mix.) And when I'm lying awake at 2:18 AM, watching the clock and waiting for sleep to come, my mind goes into overdrive. Every single scary, dangerous, alarming worry I've ever had or thought comes back to haunt me in the wee hours of the morning. Fear taunts me and with every thought I become just a little more crazed with worry and anxiety. (I get jealous of the guy sleeping soundly beside me, oblivious to my plight.)

What if the bus wrecks on the way to school, what if my husband is in a car accident, what if someone breaks into the house, what if my kids don't have friends, or they have the wrong friends, or they make bad choices, etc, etc, etc, etc.

It's exhausting. Mentally and emotionally, anyway.

This morning, when I read the verse from Psalm 23, it made me think about having a rear guard a little differently. An Elf on the Shelf toy won't do much to protect me from the dangers of the basement, but when it comes to the very real and present insecurities of fear, worry, and doubt, God is my very real and present rear guard, reassuring me with his presence, his might and his strength.

I guess how you see midnight hours all depends on the perspective from which you take them in.
{priscilla shirer, seed}

Sometimes I view my circumstances from the dark. And then "we sit in the dark, thinking that life will get brighter when circumstances change. We are completely unaware that the glorious beauty of God's plan and purposes are displayed even when...especially when...darkness is on the flip side." {priscilla shirer, seed}

But darkness disappears when you turn toward light. It has to; a lack of light is all that defines dark.

This day I ask you to turn around--to turn your face away from the empty. I ask you to turn to the full, away from the dark and to the blinding light. I pray that God calls your name with such sweetness and authority in the midst of the darkness that you will not be able to help but see His face in your circumstances. A decision to change your perspective, my friend, can change your whole life. {priscilla shirer, seed}

Friday, December 12, 2014

Good, Clean Fun

"Let's drive to Blacksburg and find a club to go to!"

We both thought it was a good idea at the time. Let's sneak out and drive our unreliable car 45 minutes away without telling anyone where we are going so we can party all night.

I've taken bad advice before, but this one proves that thinking through my decisions was not my forte. My friend and I decided to go together, so I couldn't blame her and she couldn't blame me, but neither of us was thinking about the possible dangers. We had a laser-focus on one thing: fun.

We knew that as 19-year-old kids, we couldn't get into any of the bars around town,  but we could get into a bar in the neighboring college town, and we wouldn't even need fake IDs to do it. So we hopped in her car and sped off, following down the path of what we hoped would be good (although maybe not clean) fun.

Lots of things could have happened that night, and it's only by God's grace that we didn't get in more trouble than we did. Neither of us expected to walk out of the bar after the last call at 2AM and find an empty parking lot.

Empty.

As in, no car.

We looked at each other in panic. WHERE IS THE CAR?!!???!

Apparently the Blacksburg PD expects you to follow the signs that say NO PARKING, and when you don't, they tow your car away to an undisclosed location.

google images

Then we really panicked. Remember the little orphan in Annie, when they break out of Miss Hannigan's to go find Daddy Warbucks, and she keeps repeating ohmygoodness, ohmygoodness, ohmygoodness? Yeah, our mouths weren't that clean, but the meaning was the same. We had spent all our cash on cover charges, it was 2AM, and we had snuck out of the house. No one even knew we were even in Blacksburg. (Read: WE WERE SCREWED.)

Happy is the person who doesn't take bad advice, 
walk down the path like everybody else, 
or join in the group of doubters and cynics.
{psalm 1:1, in my own words}

There is a progression, Priscilla Shirer points out in her study Seed. We had taken advice, walked down the path, and joined the group. All in.

Avoid the first, and you'll probably avoid the last, too.

The person who takes delight in God's Word and meditates on it daily
 becomes like a tree planted beside streams of water. 
His fruit shows and his leaf does not wither; he prospers in life. 
{psalm 1: 2-3, in my own words}

I've learned over the years, and only because God has showed me His mercy and His grace time and time again, that when a person takes advice from God's word instead of from the world at large, searching for instruction and guidance, meditating on it and allowing His Word to influence thoughts, actions and words, then this allows us to become like a well-watered, well-fed tree planted beside a stream, rooted in the one thing that can give life and hope: His Word. And in this place, the results of our time spent in His word start to show as we become people who have God thoughts, which lead to God actions. The leaves of our tree don't wither, and we do not become faint of heart. We become more discerning, more knowledgeable, and less likely to take bad advice--even if the bad advice is coming from our own head.

We both got in trouble that night--even after we called a friend and woke him up, asked him to come to an ATM, borrowed enough cash from him to pay for the car, called her dad and woke him up so he wouldn't wake up and find us missing, and drove home with a lot of 7-11 coffee in our system and a little less pep in our step. It wasn't the last time I made similar mistakes, either. I guess it just takes me falling flat on my face over and over again, and being picked up every single time to realize that I need to open my eyes and see The One who is pulling me up.

google images

Blinding ignorance does mislead us. 
O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!
{leonardo da vinci}

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dedication

We all had dentist appointments on Monday, which I dread because I have what has been deemed "soft enamel", meaning I get cavities a lot easier than the normal human being. So it seems like every time I go, I have a "watch" on "number 18" or some such nonsense.

But I digress in my complaints re: my teeth. Which I'm glad to have, as I have spotted some unfortunate souls lately who have not had the benefit of consistent dental care.

Moving on.

It was reported to me that my son, an avid Virginia Tech fan, was given a pair of University of Virginia sunglasses to wear. (Everybody knows these two schools are huge rival; everybody also knows there are three categories of college football fans: 1) avid 2) bandwagon 3) no allegiance because your own school didn't have a football team, and therefore you are forced to cheer for whomever your family cheers for. This last category is the one I find myself in. I apologize to those of you who looooooooooove college football, because there is a difference in how much you care and how much I care.) Anyhow, my son was given a pair of UVa (gasp, double gasp) sunglasses to wear (to ward off the rays of that bright dentist light), which he apparently wouldn't even touch (UVa pathogens present, probably) and then he looked at the hygienist, who is thankfully very nice, very jovial, and also a VT fan, and said "Seriously?" At which point she knew there was no way those blue and orange glasses were going anywhere near my son's precious eyes, and thus handed him the broken Virginia Tech sunglasses to wear instead, which he gladly did, missing side piece and all.

I apologized for his sassy mouth, and in hindsight should have made him apologize, but disciplining your kids when your mouth is full of dental instruments is hard. I'm sure John Rosemund would have excused himself from the chair and properly parented, but I did not.

Anyway.

 My son has a strong belief system. Virginia Tech rules, UVa drools. That's just how it is in my house. And his dedication to VT is so strong that even in the midst of an abysmal season, he will stay enthusiastically devoted to his favorite team.

And it made me think, in terms of faith, that there are several different kinds of faith fans, too. Avid, bandwagon, and none. I believe I've fallen into the last two the most consistently, although my son has inspired me. If he can have this passion for his losing team, why can't I have an equally as strong or stronger passion for my winning God?

Pick something to stand for, even if it means wearing broken glasses for awhile. 


Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.
{c.s. lewis, the magicians nephew}

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Selfish Pride

My son says he doesn't like people who are show-offs. I get what he's saying. In my teen years, I was inexplicably drawn to people who were, in fact, show-offs. The guy who was voted best looking in our class. The kids who were good at sports and knew it, the ones who seemed to have everything going for them--except for being genuinely kind--but as an adult, I've almost come to an complete 180-degree turn in my opinion of said "show-offs". I'll admit it on these pages. I don't like it.

I overheard a man--not a gentleman, but yes, a country-club bred, money-having, finery-wearing man--allude to his opinion that if people don't belong to a country club, then they weren't really people at all. It was a long time ago, and I don't remember who he was talking to (but it was pretty obvious who he was talking about), but I couldn't believe he had the boldness to speak his opinion out loud.

I shook my head in disgust. Really. Some thoughts need to stay right where they belong. In your head. 

But even as I write this, I'm taken back to a time when I was just out of college, working full-time, expecting a paycheck and a job title a lot bigger than the one I received: Teller. SunTrust Bank. I don't remember my exact salary, but it was somewhere around the $15,000 a year mark. A year.

Yay, me.

I mean, hello! I have a Psychology degree, people.

Clearly, SunTrust Bank does not care about Psychology degrees when one is applying for jobs.

So to try to make up for what I felt like was a complete failure and a lack of confidence and competence, I became the biggest show-off I could be. I showed off my new jewelry. I joined the Junior League. I showed off my new car. My clothes. I talked about everything I had to make up for what I thought I lacked. (The funny thing is I didn't have anything to actually show off.)

I was in a teller training class downtown with about 15 other men and women when I overheard a conversation about cars...

Fellow teller-in-training: ...blah, blah, blah...Dodge Durango...blah, blah, blah...

...and I was so eager to prove that I was more than, well, me, that I interrupted the conversation to interject "Are you talking about Dodge Durangos? My husband has one of those, they are so nice." I wasn't anxious to connect; I was anxious to prove. To prove that I was more, I was worth knowing; in short, that I was totally awesome. (Because totally awesome people have totally awesome husbands who drive Dodge Durangos. Duh.)

But the withering look that my compadre gave me was anything but friendly. To say she didn't appreciate my comment, and probably said something really nasty behind my back is an understatement.

I'll never forget that moment, because in all my pride, I also felt embarrassment, which made my whole showing-off attitude even worse.

There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; 
which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; 
of which hardly any people...
ever imagine they are guilty of themselves...
it was through Pride that the devil became the devil; 
Pride leads to every other vice; 
It is the complete anti-God state of mind.
{c.s. lewis}

I can compare my former self to my present self and see that I've grown since my early post-college days, and I hope that I don't come off as trying so hard, but I can hardly get comfortable in my own skin, because as soon as I do, I am reminded that while my attitudes have changed, the pride still remains. It looks different. Nicer. Fair. A little more amiable. But that same superior attitude still surfaces, although it's not over cars anymore. (However, it would be hard not to be prideful if I drove my very hip self around in a hardtop convertible Lexus like the one I saw on TV the other day. This must be why I don't have one ;))

The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, 
but the naive go on, 
and are punished for it. 
The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord 
are riches, honor and life. 
Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; 
He who guards himself will be far from them.
{proverbs 22:3-5}

The smart person identifies their temptation and avoids it altogether. The foolish one either can't see the trap or sees it and goes for it anyway, and is faced with the consequences of their actions. Can we just say I've been more than a little foolish in my lifetime? I've continued down the same path time after time, expecting a different outcome each time, and have fallen into the exact same hole, only to drag myself out, and take the same walk. Again.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
{albert einstein}

Could my own prideful self also be foolish by walking the same path over and over, thinking I will make (or force) a different outcome than the one I've already experienced? I do think I have it all under control--until I fall into the hole in the sidewalk again. Then I crawl out, planning to control the circumstances differently, to have a tighter handle on things, but never intending to take a different path. 

The fact is, I have grown over the years, but I've also learned that instead of identifying and avoiding a temptation altogether, it's much, much easier to just ignore it. That way, I don't have to acknowledge my flaws, and I can continue thinking that I have it all under control enough to continue down the same path without consulting God or His will in my life.

I think I can play with fire and not get burned. But the thorns and snags I've encountered because I have this attitude have burned me:
anxiety
depression
fear
worry
regret
guilt
more pride

So the very things I pray against, I am inviting into my life.

Insanity.

So if the same path leads to the same dark hole, what does my different path look life?

A quiet respect of God's will for my life.

A faith in God, and not in myself.

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, 
the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.
{c.s. lewis}