If You Build It, It Will Come…and It Did!

My son is turning 10 in December. He has not had a single pet. Every boy needs a dog. I finally broke down and got him one.
My husband was set on a puppy. (ay, yai, yai) I was set on a German Shepherd.

My son spent some homeschooling time building a doghouse himself (great measurement lesson!). It is almost finished. Phillip (my son) and I laid hands on it and prayed earnestly that God would bring us not just any dog– the perfect dog for our family.

I believe we definitely found him! We found a 1/2 Golden Retriever 1/2 Black Lab puppy. He is so gentle, fun, and 90% housebroken. (We let him rule the “finished” basement while he’s adjusting. It has no carpeting.)

My son is so smitten that he wants to sleep down there with him. (The basement has actual bedrooms, too)
My heart is thrilled.

Following his human–his best buddy

Marriage: Conjunctions Can Change Your Life

I am celebrating my 3rd year of marriage. My favorite new saying is “Nothing will bring you to Jesus like trying to stay married.” As a married woman and an English major, I came to realize that conjunctions often get substituted. “Or” is often considered interchangeable with “And”.  It really shouldn’t be.  That little conjunction can change your whole life.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not trying to make a grandiose argument or anything. This is just a random observation I had one day. So if you think I'm completely off my rocker, you're probably right and therefore starting ruckus in comments is probably extraneous.

Wedding vows: For Better- OR-  for worse. For Richer- OR- for poorer. In sickness- AND- in health.

I was randomly noticing one day that all of a sudden the conjunctions in wedding vows change.

OR, means that one or the other things can or cannot happen. I think that this means there is a chance that we are entering a covenant that may be ONLY worse the entire time and that better will never come. Now, I don’t want to sound like Debbie-Downer so let’s remember that this could also mean that better could come the entire time.  My point isn’t to abase the institution. Really. I’m simply realizing that God did not leave out “the fine print.” In deeper reflection, I think it makes entering the covenant even more sacred. God meant marriage to be so lasting that even the conjunction is perfectly chosen to stress the no matter what.

The hardest part of that is accepting it and staying married anyway. (This doesn’t apply to abuse– duh.) I have found in my own relationship that the first 3 years have been difficult. I am not implying that my husband is a bad husband– he’s not. I have found that I give out 50% and then wait for his 50% and am disappointed when I think I haven’t received it. (I also have the ‘comparison’ problem, which is my struggle not of his doing.)

I read in a book recently about a spouse giving 100% and not expecting a return from the other spouse. Simply put, true love is giving our all despite what we get in return. True love is wanting the best for the other person even at your own cost- no matter how angry, unsatisfied, or lonely you feel at the hands of your spouse.

Only Jesus can really do it all the time.  My human nature just keeps killing my best laid plans to be that wife. And guess what – my spouse is human, too. He mucks it up. Just like me.

God gives us spouses as leaders, helpmates, and overall another imperfect human to help us practice the 100% love. He knew what he was doing when he planned it this way.

I toy with this thought all the time:  Marriage is the opportunity to fine-tune our character qualities.

It’s easy to demonstrate integrity, true love, and grace when everything is going great. That doesn’t really speak  much to one’s true character. It’s the reactions and choices one makes when all is shaken loose that shows our areas of weakness that need improvement. And hey, practice makes perfect, right?

Marriage gives us lots and lots of practice.

For some, not all, matrimony also gives us someone on our side to help us when it’s the outside world that’s beating us down. (It’s kind of like when you were a kid and had siblings or a best friend that you fought with all the time but if someone else fought with you they would whoop their ass. Same principle, only stronger bond.)

And the outside world will come. I have learned this– The Enemy wants our marriages to fail. He wants our Homes to be Broken. He wants our Children to suffer from divorce.

I’m going to share some of my ugly character flaws with you- much to my chagrin.
For me, even so much as entertaining the thought of divorce leads to wrong action in little ways. I listen to him just a little less. I make a few more snide comments just a little more often.  I get quick to anger a little more. Guess what all that does for me– provokes him to do the same.
Voila!- A vicious cycle. Voila!- Satan’s foot is in the door.
(Biblical example of this: David’s first accidental glance at Bathsheba. He entertains the thought of her. We all know the next step: Thoughts=Action.)

  • I throw myself face down on my bed, sobbing, telling God that I give him my marriage broken and to return to me fixed. I make sure to stay deeply in touch with God.
  • I try to change my actions with nothing but the hope that it will inspire him to change his.
  • I choose my hills to die on and let the rest go– no matter how hard it is. Then I take my resentment on some of those to God.
  • I continually seek out wise counsel and Christian literature to help me.
  • Every day I think of one wonderful quality in my husband that I love and speak it out loud to myself. On really bad days, I speak it and then write it down. Yes, sometimes it feels difficult to think of even one, but it’s really not that hard once you get started trying. Even “he didn’t do anything stupid TODAY” is a start. 😉 Ha-Ha.

All I know is that I knew what a conjunction was when I chose to say it.  All I know is that today is not the day I get divorced. All I know is that tomorrow is not the day I get divorced.  And so on.

For the record– my husband is a really good man. He tries really hard to be a good husband. I did not share this post with you as a complaint about him— it is about the reality of how difficult dedicated marriage is.

365 Gratitude Project: Week 7

Wake up every day with at least 1 thing that makes you grateful you are alive, who you are, and exactly where you are– that was the mission.

The first few pictures are from my son’s list. He joined the project over his Spring Break. This is a picture of him doing this. I couldn’t let that moment pass: 

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Okay, the first on his list were his mom (me!), his dad, and God. Everyone knows what I look like, I don’t know if I had permission from my DH (dear husband), and God is fickle about being seen in person. So let’s start with his next three.

 His church. Isn’t that music to a mother’s soul?!

He is very active with his youth group. It is an amazing group!

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 What 9-year-old isn’t grateful for a Dairy Queen on his block?!

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 His school playground. Note: He did not say “school,” he said school PLAYGROUND. 🙂 🙂

According to the very interesting Multiple Intelligences study, he is a “movement smart” child so I’m not really surprised by this.

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Okay, let’s start mine for the week.

Modern Medicine. I know amongst some this is taboo, but I also think sometimes we overlook how readily available medicine is when we get sick. Imagine having something serious, like strep throat all the way to Lupus (a very real, very painful illness!). Can you even fathom never, ever having medicine for it? To have to live with it every moment of the day until you die? We call the doctor and they call the prescription into the pharmacy for us.

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 This is two-fold. A) Being a homeowner instead of a renter. We can actually plant our own garden in the backyard. B) Homegrown, fresh organic produce to eat straight out of the ground and to can for awesomeness in the winter!

(Obviously this is from when we first started planting)

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Still being at least cool enough to play soccer with out where people can see us. I love playing outside and having a child is the perfect excuse and someone to play with instead of having to kick it against the house! 🙂

And having a job that allows me the time to be at home with him over Spring Break.

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 The funny ways God gives moms to earn respect from boys. If you look closely enough, you can see the perfect outline of the soccer ball. This is what I get for blocking a great kick in capris. I didn’t whine, cry, or even stop the game; earned a lot of kudos from the man-child.

365 Gratitude Project: Week 6

Wake up every day with at least 1 thing that makes you grateful you are alive, who you are, and exactly where you are– that was the mission.

 God’s Faithfulness. He gave us a tangible promise that he’d never flood us again and we still have it to this day. Faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

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The ability to HEAR. We take our sense for granted because we have them all the time and use them without realizing it. A few mornings ago I woke up to the sound of birds chirping right outside my window and it was so delightful. I didn’t even open my eyes so that no other sense could overtake or distract the experience and then it hit me like a brick–imagine a life where you never hear anything ever. Thank you God, for creating the complex ability to hear and interpret.

 

 

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 I am grateful for my son being able to enjoy an activity that was just as fun in my generation and my parent’s generation. In our ever “upgrading” culture, it makes this small joy even more poignant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Yummy cheap popsicles. Are they so delightful because we only get them during one season of the year? I don’t know and I don’t care because I love ’em! (Oh, and so do the kids)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I’m grateful that God likes pretty things! ‘Cuz I do, too!!

 

 

 

 

 

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 Green Grass that inspires the beauty of just being still with the Lord.

(Technically I was swinging..but whatevs)

 

 

 

 

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 The jolt when you have random moments of clarity about how truly small you are in the universe. I flopped down on the trampoline from exhaustion and this was my view. The sky was so massive; perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

Money is Like Pickles- And God Wants Us To Have Pickles!

There once were two farmers who desperately needed rain. Both men prayed for the rain, but only one went out and prepared his fields to actually receive it. Which farmer do you think trusted God for His faithfulness?

Which farmer am I? I mean in real life with real life-altering circumstances: which one would I be? I have had to ask myself this question recently and that led me to suspect that others struggle with this as well. When times are good, I am absolutely positive as to which farmer I am. It is when times get really, really tough that the other side of me is brought out. In the last 8 months my circumstances have gone to crap, but I learned a lot about myself and about what God expects from a true believer. I have found that I should do everything that I can do on my own end and then wait on the Lord’s voice and His timing. He will meet me there, but I have definitely found that He wants me to move forward proactively in faith and diligence.

To keep this started off on a light note, let’s first compare this to when a child realizes that the proverbial tough pickle jar needs opened.

(Stay with me here because it gets real after this)

Step 1: We don’t just say, “Well, the jar won’t open so I guess we aren’t using any pickles ever again.” So, for argument sake, let’s just say right out that perhaps we should never just do nothing during our dark times because God wants us to have pickles!! That’s why He created pickles!

Step 2: The child tries by her (or his) own strength to pop the lid off. Fail. Our own strength will never be enough; we need God.

Step 3: The child starts to look around at the resources available and relevant. Said child gets a butter knife and taps the lid jar all around. Now we are getting somewhere, right? The child has realized that although she does not have the strength, she does have the resources God provided; He provided the butter knife and the knowledge of how to tap the jar.

Let’s take a side-trip here for just a brief moment: How did the child know to tap the jar? Two important ways!!

A. The child asked the parent after step 2 what she should try. We should be praying fervently to God about what to do. He will tell us.

B. The child has watched the parent do this trick a hundred times. We should be reading the Bible and emulating Jesus.

Alright, back to the regularly scheduled programming.

Step 4: The child hands over the jar to the parent. We have diligently, faithfully acted. Now it is time to hand it over to God. He’ll handle it from here.  What does a parent say to the child here after step 4? We all say something like, “You totally loosened it for me!!! I’m really proud of how hard you tried!”

Are you still with me? I know that’s a ridiculous example but it’s the setup for the example I’m going to give you from my own life.

My Personal Backstory:

About 8 months ago, my household hit a very dark financial stretch. My husband’s new(ish) job had offered him fantastic health insurance for a great price. We signed him up for it immediately. John (my husband) had a collapsed lung the previous year so we were really excited about this really great coverage. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

His next two paychecks were both $200 short. The divorce decree from 8 years ago states that if he ever has insurance that all 3 of his kids will automatically be put on it. Yikes. John had completely forgotten this (not that I can blame him, it was almost a decade ago!) It would all be fine and dandy, except…
My 3 step-children have military insurance for free that covers them completely. They live across the country so even if they wanted to use my husband’s insurance the co-pay would be outrageous because they are “out of network”. So naturally, their mother decided NOT to use John’s insurance and to stick with her husband’s military insurance (as any intelligent woman would do!).  So here we are with $400 a month missing from his paychecks for a product that no one was using! This is completely separate from child support, mind you. So we were paying child support AND the $400 a month. The part that really bothers me is the: NO ONE WAS USING IT. (John never saw a doctor, I wasn’t on it, and our son in the home was not on it, and the boys never used it because they had their own, better insurance)

Child Support + $400/mo insurance = actual take home pay is lower than minimum wage.

You now have the very  basic backstory. I’m going to share with you now how God moved in our life. He nudged us when we needed nudged, He blessed us when we were obedient, He strengthened our marriage, and He revealed to us our weaknesses and strengths.

Step 1: We did nothing.We actually lived this way for about 1.5 months because we trusted that God would fix it for us without any effort or realizations on our part. (1 Samuel 17: 1-16. A huge, strong, completely armored, well-trained military giant has an entire tribe of God’s people “dismayed and greatly afraid” for forty days.) They did nothing for over a month. Unfortunately, we were even worse because we did nothing for over forty days.

Step 2:  We try by our own strength to solve the problem.
We decide that all we need to do is live even more below our means. We decide we need a stricter budget and stricter adherence to said budget.  (1 Samuel 17: 38-39: Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor. David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” And David took them off.) – My perception of this as applicable to my situation is that our modern-day armor/helmet/garments were our creative budgeting. We donned our new budget the way that Saul was dressing up David—in completely inappropriate, unnecessary armor that didn’t even fit. We thought that our own, familiar armor is what we would need to solve the problem instead of stepping out in Faith.    Epic Fail.
We were already living below the norm of the average American household. We already had no cable, no internet, no Netflix, no date nights, no little family treats (like renting movies from Family Video—nope, not even that). All of our expenses were fixed, general stay-alive expenses. (Water, power, etc)

Our grocery and house supply bill were the only bills that were flexible. John does manual labor so he has to have food to fuel his body and Phillip (our son) needs food to fuel his growth, but I sit behind a desk all day so in this triad my body needs the least fuel. I ended up eating 1 meal a day and it was carrot sticks or cucumber slices. (Cheap, but super healthy so I didn’t die)
I was dubbed “The Girl with the Carrot Sticks” as a nickname at work.  Get it? It’s a pun off the book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Librarian humor! On the positive side, the “poverty diet” did slim me down to fit back into my skinny jeans from pre-marriage. 🙂 Poverty Diet= Size 9 to Size 3.

The worst part of this scenario though that I feel I need to share with you is that it left no room for “life happens” to happen. It eroded our family from the inside out. My son, being only 9, took his over-shirt off at school and left it there. Obviously no one turned it in to lost & found (probably stolen) and we had to replace it. When you don’t even have enough money to the pay the bills, a lost shirt seems like a huge crisis. I reacted soooo badly; I’m talking about off- the-deep-end rage. I had him in tears with my poisonous words and tone– and over what?– 1 missing shirt that he certainly did not lose on purpose. I hate that this kind of stress has the ability to reduce me to monsterdom. (Yeah, I’m coining this make-believe word) John and I started bickering over petty, stupid stuff too and it finally took us all to such an ugly place that we knew we could not stay.

Step 3: We start to look around for the resources available and relevant. We decide that we can’t count on our own strength and need to take some action. Of course, God had gone before us and laid it out all—He was just waiting for us to do our part. (1 Samuel 17: 40: He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.) – David didn’t want the one-size-fits-all armor of Saul; he went and found the resources that God provided that fit his talents, willingness, and what he already had with him. We did the same.

Resource 1: A second part-time job. I decide that my husband needs to get a second job, part-time. My husband decides that he shouldn’t have to get a second job; instead he thinks I should quit the job I have and find something that pays more.

Huge argument ensues. Deep wedges of resentment building, but commitment still intact. We seek outside counsel from our pastor.

Resource 1B: Pastor that is fair and truly cares enough to counsel us. He listens to the financial woes. He then lets us discuss it at with one another for a good few minutes. He holds us both accountable for the way we are not communicating to one another. I think quickly and I talk even more quickly. Our pastor likes to call this the “fire hydrant.” When unleashed, my poor husband takes a big ole drink of every single thought I have all at once. To top that off though, then I get angry when he doesn’t/can’t respond. John thinks slowly, and talks even more slowly. He likes to take in one piece of information at a time, work it over slowly in his mind, and then come back to discuss it. Unfortunately, we just never seem to come back to things until they blow up. This pattern starts a vicious cycle that ends up with us never communicating. (And, oh yes, it has been this way from the time we started dating.) Our pastor gives us extremely good advice about how to go forward together from now. He recommends that we discuss 1 piece of the topic at a time, we write our thoughts down, and then take a break to think those over separately, and then come back to discuss them. This has actually worked out really well. He also discusses ideas about different ways to make the money we need to at least survive. He discusses what the Bible says about John being the provider and protector of the family. He refers us to Dave Ramsey about possible extra jobs that won’t exhaust my husband since he works manual labor in the daytime. Dave Ramsey suggests pizza delivery.

Not even a week later, John and I sit down to discuss the situation again and he admits to me the real reason that he didn’t want to get a night job. He had been married once before and had always worked two jobs while he was married to her because she was staying home with their infant children. (I do not condemn this situation by the way. I believe mothers that can stay home with their newborns should definitely do that if that is what they want!)  He was terrified that I too would get lonely, or feel abandoned and would similarly seek solace in the arms of another man. This broke my heart, but it also gave me a good look inside of his. I reassured him that although I’m a lot of things, unfaithful is not one of them. Plus, of course, stating the obvious: I’m deeply in love with my husband. Not the love-goggle kind, the I-see-the-real-you-and-I-would-still-starve-before-let-anything-happen-to-you kind. His honest confession softened my heart the way that nothing else would have. I had been assuming that he was just lazy, or didn’t care, or wanted me to be the man of the family. I was angry. After hearing his confession, I was ashamed. I saw a lot about myself that I didn’t like after that. Why would I assume the worst of my husband? This forever changed me.

God Meets Us There: Our relationship has never been as close as it was/is after that. We needed that type of counseling long ago and never received it. If this situation had never come up, John and I would still not be communicating and we still wouldn’t know each other as well as we do now. God strengthened our marriage through this awful situation. John and I demonstrated how committed we are to making this marriage work even through the “or for worse” of our vows—because God gave us this opportunity. We actually communicate better now, we speak more truthfully now, and we know now that we are teammates in everything now. We like to say, “We’re all in!”

God Meets Us There: Not even a full week after that conversation (so about 2 from seeing our pastor), a pizza delivery job was posted to our local Craigslist. I kid you not! That is how specific God is. John responded to that ad within the hour that it was posted. He was hired the same day he was interviewed. In an economy where the unemployment rate is at an all-time high, he managed to find 2 jobs within 1 year.

Resource 2: I ask my work to cross-train me in other areas and they do. I end up picking up a ton of extra hours.

God Meets Us There: It turns out that the hours of the other positions I learned are actually better than my regular hours. I can go in, get 6 extra hours every day, and still be off in plenty of time to pick up my son from school. I don’t have to pay a babysitter when I’m working in the new positions, which makes those days all profit. I was making (and still am) almost as much as my husband at his real job now. Plus, now I have also become one of the most highly-trained employees there.

Resource 3: We decide we don’t need our fancy smart phones. It is the third most expensive thing we have– barely below our car! The family package, internet for both of us, and unlimited texting (not to mention all of their miscellaneous extra charges) is crazy expensive. We decided to take it back down to regular minutes with unlimited texting because we may need it for emergencies.  We had to remind ourselves that people used to do just fine when they only had a landline. And besides, we aren’t supposed to be on our phones when we are at work and we don’t need to be on them when we are at home with our families so when/why exactly do we need them??
I have to admit here that this step was by far the most difficult for John. He was addicted to his phone. It was never out of his hand. Ever.

God Meets Us There: This change earned us approximately $100 extra dollars back into our house a month. Yeah. That’s huge. But besides that, it completely changed our family dynamic. Now when you talk to my husband, he can look you in the eye and you have his full attention instead of competing with the games on his phone that he is simultaneously playing. We aren’t interrupted at the dinner table by it beeping that he has a Facebook update of some sort. It’s nice. I didn’t even realize how upset I was over it until now that it’s gone and things are different.

Resource 4: We take a huge leap of Faith and decide to go to court to get the insurance dropped. This is where the story starts getting intense, folks. This is the pivotal turning point that displays what an amazing God we serve.  This is where everything gets difficult but God blesses our obedience. This is where I start getting chills every time I tell what happened.
The issue here is that anytime you go to court for something, it is a gamble that it will work completely against you.
We were going to ask that they drop the insurance and raise the child support a little instead. We think this is a fair trade because the insurance is being wasted–at least if we increase the support we know our kids are actually using the money.

However: this could go terribly wrong. The insurance is a completely separate order from the child support. The court could raise the child support AND keep the insurance, in which case we would end up foreclosing on our house. We are talking grown-people-moving-back-in-with-the-parents-and-commuting-an-hour-every-day-for-work scenario. We are literally discussing losing our house territory. But John was working 65+ hours a week at this point and I’m exhausted because I’m working full-time and inevitably acting as single-parent because he’s at his second job and we just cannot continue this way permanently. But still, this is a huge gamble; throw in an ex-wife and you have the recipe for what I call ‘Calamity Soup’.

We decide that we trust God to take care of us. We decide that as long as our intentions are honorable and we deal with the courts and the ex with integrity, then He will bless us.

And He does.

God Meets Us There: The court orders the insurance dropped. Here is the part that may make you tingle. The judge says that in all her years as the judge in that court, she has only ever had 2 other men voluntarily ask to raise the child support. She commends John for his integrity, and doesn’t raise his support to the ultimate maximum! The support is now the same amount as our house, but we gained about $90/month back. I’ll take it and be grateful!

I am absolutely positive that because of our integrity with handling that circumstance and those people, that God continued to bless us for our obedience. This next resource showed up simply because He is an amazing, generous God:

Resource 5: The car dealership calls me out of the blue and asks to buy back our car at the same price we bought it for! Let me explain why this is so powerful!! We had tried to get out from under my car 3 months before this and again 2 months before. We owed waaaay too much on it still. We had written this option off.
Two nights before I got the call, I had woken up in the middle of the night for no reason and couldn’t get back to sleep. I couldn’t get out of bed and go watch t.v. in the living room because my nephew was spending the weekend with us and he was asleep on the living room couch. So I was stuck laying in bed, wide awake.

So I prayed. I prayed fervently. I literally prayed for 2 hours before I finally fell back asleep. (I had looked at the alarm clock right before I forced myself to close my eyes again, at which point I fell asleep) Wanna guess what I prayed about? That we would find a way out from under the car!!

Two days later. I kid you not.

God Meets Us There: We ended up trading the car for a nicer vehicle. We walked away clean from our expensive car. We didn’t have to roll any of the money over or anything. In fact, we got money “back” (we just had them pay it towards the new car) from not having to carry specialized insurance anymore.  My son actually fits inside of it, it is the same year, it has lower miles, still has a sunroof, and it actually drives better. We gained $100/mo from the trade and it will take us 1 whole year less to pay off. So we gained instant money and long-term money.

Another tingly “coincidence“: the new car had just finished being serviced because it had just been brought in that morning. It has the window sticker of a woman kneeling at a cross on the back windshield. That sticker even made my husband’s jaw drop. What were the odds that the very car we needed was brought in on the very day we needed it, from another Christian person?

God Meets Us There: God used this opportunity to strengthen our family once again. You see, this was my “dream” car. We thought that because we owned our truck outright that we could afford to take on my dream car with such a high payment. I really liked it. But God revealed the weakness in my own heart about loving earthly possessions too much. When John started working his second job, he was away from home 65+ hours a week. (40 regular job, 25+ second job) I missed him so much I couldn’t stand it. It didn’t take very long before I realized that I loved my husband more than I loved my dream car. I was “over it” with having a fancy car instead of a present husband. My priorities and loyalties became crystal clear to me. He, being the honorable man of God that he is, wanted to keep it. He wanted to fulfill my dreams. It actually took me convincing him to let me trade it in. That it was no reflection on him being a “poor provider”–that I wanted him more, I loved him more, that I would walk if it brought him home more. Ultimately, he was my “dream”.
Something about hearing all of this out loud clicked with him because he has been more devoted and attentive than ever. We are even closer now than we were when he was “fulfilling my dreams”.  Praise be to God!

Step 4: We hand it over to God. We have literally done everything we can do on our own end. From here we trust Him and wait on His timing to bless us. We cannot sit around and do nothing. David did not sit around with the rest of the tribe and wait for God to smite Goliath. He went out after him dressed in Faith and then let God deliver him into his hand.

Do we still face every day with the fact that one emergency will completely ruin us? Yes. Are we afraid of that fact? No. When we start to feel afraid, we simply review all the different ways God has met us where we are and how blessed we have been. We have nothing to fear. (1 Samuel 17: 33-37: Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.”  But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”)

David simply remembered all the ways that God was faithful in the past when he was faced with big challenges. I am simply remembering the last 8 months of all the ways God was faithful to my family.

I serve an Amazing God, and so do you.

I hope this post fuels your inner courage and your trust of His faithfulness for your own circumstances.

Guilt: It’s What’s For Dinner

My grandmother is very old and very sick. She suffers from Alzheimer’s. She is admitted to the hospital for dehydration and an inability(/unwillingness?) to eat. Two weeks ago the hospital admitted her for a urinary tract infection and further testing for small strokes. (I was told then that it is very common amongst the elderly in nursing homes because, of course, I was enraged.) With this being her second admittance within a month’s time, the level of concern is much higher.

My father is on vacation in Hawaii. I know that if something happens before he can return, he will never forgive himself. Any logical person can explain it away as “how was one to know” and “he needed that time to refresh for what may come”; although accurate statements, when regarding one’s mother, logic doesn’t hold a candle to emotions and/or guilt. I mention this only because it started my wheels churning about guilt in general.
(I wanted you to see how my thoughts link together)

I started thinking about my own guilt in regards to my grandmother then. She was presenting the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s back when I was still in high school (15 years ago). They were subtle and undiagnosed so we really just thought she was “slowing down” due to age and the loss of her husband. My grandpa died just a few years before this. I love my grandma with a fierce passion from my soul, but I was a rotten teen and I didn’t understand what was really going on. The way I spoke to her is enough to want to punch myself in my own eye. I had no patience, graciousness, or empathy for her struggle to get and keep her thoughts together. My expectations were for the same grandmother I had grown up with and when she couldn’t  pan out anymore, I was rude, impatient, and sometimes just mean. (I want to reiterate though that even through all this, I loved her then with the same fierce passion from my soul, I was just a rotten young woman.)

This brings me to the main conversation point of this post: guilt.

I am hanging on to a guilt from 15 years ago. I know that if she could remember all those times that she would still forgive me because this is a woman who is the purest beacon of God’s love I have ever known. And God and I have been through it together and I know that He has forgiven me. So why then am I still crushed under the weight of the guilt??

Because I never verbally apologized when she was still “present” in life enough to understand. I never said what I should have said when I should have said it.

This woman deserves that and so much more from me.

I had not turned my life over to Christ yet during any of her coherent years, but I bombard myself  all the time with that anyone with even a normal amount of morals beneath their messiness who genuinely loved their grandmother would have said it (even if they didn’t mean it at the time). I am ashamed. I am ashamed to even blog about this for others to know.

I discuss this with you because it really illustrates how great a change that accepting Jesus makes in a person and how vitally important it is to know God’s love before being able to express unselfish, real love to someone else. I mean, I loved her more than any other yet I couldn’t eat crow just once for her to feel better? Nope. Because I didn’t know God’s love and therefore couldn’t give real love to anyone else.

But, even knowing all that, I am still suffocated by my guilt.

That thought led me to this one: should I apologize to her now?

I am going to the hospital to sit with her so my sister, who has been there overnight, can take a rest. This will give me alone time with her.

Should I apologize to her tonight? She has long since lost her ability to speak at all or recognize people so even if she can still understand words, she wouldn’t know who was speaking them or why.

My question to everyone is this then: in apologizing now, under these circumstances, is the apology valid? Or would it be just to make myself feel better? That would make it selfish.

I leave you with the question and a closing thought: Do NOT let this happen to you.  Apologize when you should. In the moment, even if you don’t want to/feel like you should or after the moment when you have another chance just to reconcile the relationship.

I still had opportunities after the initial fact and I didn’t take them because they were “so long ago” and “I already knew she’d forgiven me” and “she doesn’t remember anyway.” It. does. not. matter: You will run out of time.

A good dose of crow– make it for dinner.

 

(PS- This is not the “big” post; this is the life that is continuing while I’m still writing the really big one. Stay tuned!!)

2012: Resolutions Unlike Infomercials

“Mission: Better Me” time is upon us again. I’m still trying to shake off my self-disappointment from the epic fail that was my last resolution. It’s ironic really how my resolve to become better actually renders me even more broken and paralyzed then I was the previous year because of my imminent drop in self-worth from failure.

I realized that somewhere along the lines something went haywire in the whole one-year-to-the-better-me scheme.

My resolutions actually remind me of infomercials: for just 10 easy installments of a piece of your self-worth, you too can be the perfect you that God intended and never have to try ever again! Hey, that prize is big and the wording  makes it seem you are giving very little–yes? I mean, what’s just a little chunk of disappointment, self-doubt, and a long “losing streak” against your morale going to effect you?

I don’t recall having ever accomplished my New Year Resolution(s) all the way through a year. So I discussed it with myself.

Me: “Why do I never complete my New Year Resolution? What’s the problem?”
Myself: “Could the problem be…*gulp*… ME?!”
I: “Pffft, no way.”
Myself: “Yup. You have terrible taste in resolutions.”

After this inner dialogue, I took some time to really examine not only my past choices but what motives drove me to said choices. It turns out all of my resolutions have been completely superficial and did nothing to promote God or even righteous living. All my goals were to promote my own image or to make myself  feel “happier.” (Um, no wonder they all failed!) Shallow resolutions are an attempt to fill a hole that I feel.  I believe we all know somewhere inside of us though that only a closer relationship with God can fill that hole.

So the new question I pose to myself (and to you if you’re with me):  what resolution(s) can help me become closer to God or to promote Him and his lifestyle?  Here is my list so far. I am adding and subtracting from it still.

  1. Read my Bible every day for at least 30 minutes, alone and uninterrupted. New house rule: No blood, no bug mom. No more “squeezing it in” around other things.
  2. Memorize 1 piece of Scripture each month for the whole year. No restrictions on which piece.
  3. Do the 365 Gratitude Project all the way through.
  4. Start my Bucket List.
  5. Post to my blog 2ce a week.
  6. Find a charity and volunteer routinely.
  7. Be less guarded; listen more, actively care, and hug someone (not in my family) 1ce a week. (I have serious personal space issues that I need to work through.)
  8. Exercise 2ce a week. I figure the lower amount keeps me away from vanity interceding, but keeps me focused on being healthy so that I am not physically restricted from any task God wants me to accomplish.
  9. Learn to say no without feeling guilty.
  10. Scrapbook 1ce a week or every 2 weeks.
  11. Set a specific day & time for Devotions with my son. No more “squeezing it in” around other things.

Well, this is all I have so far. I researched success in new year goals and the overall consensus was that if the goal(s) is specific and measurable then success is more likely.

I also read that an accountability partner almost triples the likelihood of success. So, would you be my accountability partner for one or all of these? Or do you  have one or more that you think should make the list?

Christmas Traditions: Christ-Centered Edition

*Christmas = The Birth Of The Savior!!

Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, the holiday portion of CHRISTmas in my house is about traditions that my kid will (actually) remember and that will draw him closer to God. I say poo-poo on the run-of-the-mill busy work to-do list that makes the whole season pass in a blur; if, after the one big day, I don’t feel closer to God, my family, or mankind then I say the whole holiday was an epic fail. So a few years ago we did away with what was expected of us and made our own list.

Here are our ‘Big 3’ as we call them:

3.  Making cookies for people who we think probably get overlooked. We bake & decorate cross cookies for the garbage men and the mailman. (We make a mess, have a ball, and spend the time discussing how important it is to look for ‘overlooked’ people in all areas of life, all the time, and draw them into our life.)

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2. Praying a “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” first thing Christmas morning before even donning our slippers and heading to the tree of presents.

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And the #1 tradition that elicits the most excitement:

1. Making a Birthday Cake for Jesus! †

He informed me that Jesus would totally prefer Funfetti cake

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Special Note: The most obvious tradition in our house is attending Church on both Christmas Eve & Day.
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What are some of your special traditions? How do you keep Christ in Christmas?