Sunday, February 21, 2010

Still trying to be thankful in all things

As I ponder the situation of a particular family tonight, I realize that I have so many things to be grateful for. With the sorrow and grief that will overwhelm this family in the coming days, I know (and they know) that God will hold them so very close. He will pour his compassion, grace, mercy and all of those other amazing gifts He has upon this precious family. Heaven will be a little sweeter, and one will receive that healing many have requested in prayer on his behalf. After all, He is the Great Physician. I've seen enough to know that the healing does not always come on this earth, and it doesn't always speak of physical healing. As I pray for this family and in a fury search for things I can do to help them in this time of need, a feeling of inadequacy spreads throughout my entire soul. Only God is capable of filling in this huge loss they are experiencing. I am just here to pray and offer a helping hand in the meaningless day to day tasks. Again, I'm honored He allows me to do these things. There are so many that are worlds better and more holy than me.
In the meantime, I'm thankful for the loud noises tonight. Thankful that my boys are healthy enough to be loud and run around the house even though it's waaay past bedtime. Thankful for a husband who loves me in spite of myself and because he wants to, not because he feels he has to. Thankful for a Savior who left his rightful place of royalty in Heaven to enter this dark and sinful world as one of us. Thankful that He will be with me no matter what lies ahead. I'm still amazed at what He teaches me. As I watch my brothers and sisters travel through those dark valleys, they are teaching me invaluable lessons just by their faith and unwavering walk with God. To all of you who continuously touch my life, thank you. Thank you for allowing God to teach me through you. May you be blessed in ways you've never imagined.

With all my love,

Friday, February 19, 2010

...and they bowed down to John Curtis

During the Christmas musical of 2007, John Curtis was the baby in the manger. Now, Andrew was almost 5 at the time. He and I waited on the last pew as I held John Curtis anxiously awaiting the moment when I would deliver him to David and Kathryn (aka Joseph & Mary). Andrew pleaded that I not take John Curtis "up there". I guess he was afraid that Mary & Joseph were gonna' ride off into the sunset on a donkey with his baby brother. Now, if it had been Aaron, Andrew would have probably gladly let him ride off into the sunset with complete strangers - don't you feel the love between those two??? As our "cue" came, we climbed the stairs to deliver John Curtis. On our way back, Andrew had a complete nuclear meltdown. After calming him (miracle from God), we made it in just in time to see the shepherds arrive at the stable. Andrew's eyes began to dance. He watched in awe and wonder at the majestic parade of kings that arrived to worship. Speechless - until he noticed John Curtis in the manger. "John Curtis is baby Jesus?!?", he inquired. "No, dear, he is just part of the play that we are watching," hoping this would calm him and prevent another nuclear meltdown that would disrupt the spirit of worship there. That answer was sufficient for that moment.
The next day, Andrew recounted every second from the entrance of the lowly shepherds to the pomp and circumstance surrounding the kings' entrance. His story climaxed with "and they all bowed down to John Curtis!!" After all, he was the proud big brother. That night, I began to wonder, what/who does my heart bow to. Yes, I am a Christian, but how many times do I allow the world to distract me from who should be my focus of service and worship.
Over the past 2 years, I have become painfully aware of the "whats" and "whos" that attempt to distract me. One way I feel that Satan is distracting God's people is by blurring the lines and creating gray areas where there should only be black and white. When I begin here, I'm usually told one of the following:
-you are way too conservative.
-loosen up a little.
-there are no absolutes.
-I'm a Christian too, but I at least I have a sense of humor and can have fun.
-enjoy life a little.
-too serious, back off a little.

I posted on my facebook that I "kinda' like being the outsider". In high school and even my early adult years, I never wanted to be the outsider. I'm learning that being the outsider can be okay.
I won't take a stand on something until I know why I am agreeing with that particular view. I usually have a pretty sound argument. It may be opinion, but it is based on fact and usually some research and scripture. I have been known for making some snap judgements, but I'll be the first to admit that I was wrong.
Sometimes I wonder how much more "tolerant" we as Christians will become. Now, I know most of us loudly proclaim our belief on abortion, the institution of marriage by God, and so forth. But, the smaller issues that are being compromised bother me. The literature we allow our kids to read. Not "adult material", but other "children's literature" that expose our precious young children to some things that I feel are not of God. If you know me, you're familiar with my Harry Potter argument - again it's based on research and scripture. If you ask - no my child has not seen Snow White, Cinderella, or the Little Mermaid. There have been some I disagree with that were shown at school, but Andrew now knows how to deal with this. We've explained to him that we don't watch it because it contains some content does not portray how God would have us act. Yes, I know some of the most recent children's movies have adult humor and my child probably wouldn't "get it". However, he probably wouldn't understand a horror movie or one that addresses witchcraft , etc. Am I going to show him those? Don't think so. Just because a child won't understand the content, even if it's a cartoon is not a good enough reason for me to expose my boys.
The second major concern I have is the breakdown of modesty among our Christian women. The way some women dress for church, the things discussed among some Christian women, and even particular places/events attended are different from the convictions I hold to. I'm not saying that I'm better than anyone. I'm not. My sin is just as big as the next person's. I believe a lack of modesty has gotten our country to the shape it's in now. (By modesty, I mean dress, actions, topics of discussion...) I need not go into detail, you know what it's like. Not everyone has to be as conservative as me, but just please let me be. I do however feel that if I could stick to this like I really should and more of use would draw that line in the sand, the world might just take notice.  I'm just attempting to make sure my heart bows down to the Right Person. I am probably have to be this way because I'm more easily distracted than others and that's why I have to be so careful and conservative. Whatever the reason, my convictions run deep and I when I fall, it's usually pretty hard. However, He still loves me and is working on every second that I'm breathing on this planet. Not guaranteed tomorrow. Just trying to do what I can today before He calls me home. 
So many distractions - husband, children, family, job, household chores, the list goes on and on and on....However, please God, turn my heart toward you. May my focus of service and worship have YOU at the center. This will be accomplished only with your power, mercy and grace.

I have to remind myself not daily, but moment by moment:
Ephesians 2
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
21 in HIM the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the LORD.
22 And in HIM you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Weaknesses plus some Aaron"isms"

God is so amazing. Although I experience His grace, mercy, and compassion on a daily basis, it still amazes me how He works. Peace that settles over my heart in times of need can only be provided by Him. Two very rough weeks are about to come to an end (hopefully). However, there has never been a moment when He wasn't beside me. There were no surprises for Him - now it was full of surprises for me. Many things on my agenda fell to ground, trampled by the realities of my life. This is because my agenda was not completely in line with His - good intentions, but not His itinerary for me. No matter what, He still loves me and has been quite patient with me this week.
I fail miserably on a daily basis with particular struggles in my life. Particulary, the one that I feel the need to be in control of everything in my life. Alright, the small group of you who are shouting "Amen," and "I've been telling you that for years," can stop reading and leave me alone. Waves of panic flood every fiber of my being when there is a hint that I've lost any bit of control in any given situation. I'm learning. He is the one in control. God has been holding my hand, showing me through others that He is so much better in control than I am. My two biggest weaknesses definitely are my OCD and the control fanatic factor. Many times, I've prayed that God would wave his magic spiritual wand and rid me of these two horrific personality flaws. Most days, I resent these traits. After all, they have to be the culprit that is holding me back from true greatness, RIGHT? My lack of patience and intolerance have NOTHING to do with that. Anyhow, I'm slowly learning that even in my weaknesses, He is able to work in ways I couldn't even have imagined.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

My weaknesses fixed by his perfect power. He is never surprised. He loves being the hero that saves my day.

Aaron: I won't be able to come to school anymore.
Aaron's teacher: Why is that Aaron? (no doubt, the teacher's voice is full of curiosity and concern)
Aaron: I'm allergic to school.

Setting: Wednesday morning after we had been at the doctor until 10:00 pm. I was allowing Aaron to sleep a little longer thinking he'd be tired.
Aaron: (bouncing into the kitchen with 1bazillion watts of energy) Mommy, you forgot me.
Me: What, forgot you?
Aaron: Everyone else is dressed, but not me. You forgot me.
Me: Seriously Aaron. I was letting you sleep late. I didn't forget you. Mommy knew exactly where you were.
Aaron: (with a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye; cackling with that "yeah right" laugh he has) Yeah, mommy, don't be silly. You forgot me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Being thankful in ALL things

Between Aaron and Reese, I will probably one day have enough material to write several books and complete a 2-year tour as a stand-up comedian. Although, they both have some very funny moments, Reese's prayer a couple of weeks ago stuck in my brain and won't leave. It was at the time Granddaddy was in the hospital and Grandmother's knee surgery was rapidly approaching. Now, to appreciate this, you have to understand Reese. She will talk to me on the phone, but when she tires of the conversation (approximately 5-6 seconds) runs away from the phone, yelling over her shoulder - "Byebyeiloveyou". Apparantley, Reese's bedtime prayers are as short-lived as many of her telephone conversations.
Dear God,
Thank you for my family.
I imagine this is stated very quickly and without much hesitation. Let's face it, she's a girl who knows exactly what she wants and precisely what she desires to say.
Katrina recently was telling me about Reese's "extended" prayer. Now, extended for Reese and Aaron is all of 10-12 seconds.
Dear God,
Thank you for my family, Thank you for Granddaddy in the hospital and making him better. Thank you for Grandmother's hurt knee.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Now, I've heard this most of my life. The "all circumstances" part has been something I've really tried to grasp over the past few months in my life. Think about it. All circumstances - the 9/11 attack, earthquakes in Haiti, tsunamis taking the life of thousands within minutes, diagnosis from a doctor that the cancer is everywhere and they're stopping all treatments to send you home on morphine - the list goes on and on.
Was Reese glad that her great-grandfather was in the hospital? Absolutely not. However, she held high expectations for God to work. She was thankful for how He would heal Granddaddy. Does she understand all this? Well, she is a pretty smart little lady, who knows?
Thoughts of Reese's thankful heart have consumed me lately.Any tragic situation I can think of is not one where God will abandon. He's there all the time. I should be thankful for that. On those days that I feel as if a category 5 hurricane is about to make landfall on my soul, God will work. He will do something mighty. I might not see it immediately, but He's still there. He will carry me through. Remaining thankful in all things proves quite difficult sometimes. My aunt always told me that hard times will make you "better or bitter". She often reminded me it is a choice that I make. Thankfulness is a choice that I make. To be honest, I don't really know how thankful I was for the actual attacks on 9/11. However, in retrospect, I've heard stories of how God moved in a mighty way in people's lives. We witnessed selfless individuals rise to the aid of complete strangers. Now I don't know about you, but I have some days almost given up on the self-centered society we live in. 9/11 was a day when God restored that urgency to share the gospel in people like me who had grown lazy in this effort. Think about the people already sent to Haiti just in the past few weeks. Many more will be traveling that way I expect. They perhaps would not have gone without the devestation caused by earthquakes. Some of these will share the gospel and the love of Jesus with those so desperatly longing for His love and saving grace.
Maybe sometimes, I try to "overspiritualize" things - yes, April and Katrina, I know that's not really a word. That verse said to be thankful IN all circumstances. I don't necessarily need to spout off to everyone that I'm thankful for the death of a loved one, or earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc. Being thankful for how God will work and guide me in all those circumstances is how I'll attempt to accomplish this. Although, I'm messing up quite a bit. The last part of that verse was about God's will for us. He wants us to be thankful and joyful.

I was not really thankful when Aaron and John Curtis would NOT go to sleep tonight. However, I'm trying to remind myself to remain thankful for what God will teach me through this. A particular individual suggested that I'm not very patient, and God's using that to "grow you in that area". Maybe so........although I'm not enjoying it, I'll try to remember and be thankful what I'll learn in the process.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

yes, I did really say that

As Andrew returned to school from a pretty nasty virus, he kept letting me know how much he wanted to just rest in his bed. I explained to him that I completely understood that. I knew he was tired; however, he really needed to be at school. As the morning passed, I went to his classroom to check on him. His teacher said that she had been trying to convince him to make the journey to my room so that I could examine him. He kept responding with, "My mom knows I don't feel good, she just doesn't care." After she had asked him several times about this, his response was:

You just don't understand my mom. She said that unless I was throwing up in front of her, or my leg was broken, I HAD to be at class. She would not listen to anything else I said.

All of this was stated with a dramatic flair and many hand motions to convey the desparation of his situation. Mrs. Hightower looked as if she was waiting for me to scold him - not believing that any mother would be so lacking in compassion and mercy. I had to admit, "Yes, I really did say that." She reminded me that I'm too hard on him..that he's really a sweet boy. (She spoils him, and we think she's the best 1st grade teacher ever!!) So, now Andrew's entire class thinks that his mommy is some horrible person. Each time I've passed their class line in the hallway, they seem to cower back as if I'm going to turn into some green monster with 3 heads. Little do they know all of those are the democrats in Washington filling Congressional seats.

Now, on the same day, Aaron was throwing a mortal fit because I had taken away something. He declared very loudly and sternly, "I want that. Give it back." Well, needless to say, I didn't respond well. After a swift pop on the leg, he declared with a glare, "That's not cool." Yes, he's only 3.

Now.... more of what I ought not have to say:
-Don't take your cherry icee into your bedroom and eat it while sitting on your crisp, clean WHITE sheets.

What I really ought not have to say in the same 24 hour period after I've stated the above:
-Don't take your cherry popcicle into your bedroom and eat it on the quilt your great-great-grandmother quilted generations ago.

Something I learned this week...
You have to tell a first grader that writing sentences due to misbehavior is considered discipline. So when I ask you if you've had any discipline at school, say YES if you've had to write a particular rule 25 times.