It's not as odd as it sounds...

Prayer happens everywhere, even in the tanning bed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Please remember about a good Christmas."

My Christmas will be merry. I can't remember a time when it hasn't been. Even now, I can reflect upon different Christmas celebrations before and after my parents divorced and they are always merry thoughts. Well, happy thoughts. Kate wrote "Happy Christmas" on something she was making the other day and Josh told her she was wrong. "It's Merry Christmas, it's supposed to be MERRY!" Hmmmm. Nope, Happy Christmas is exactly what it is. And from her perspective THAT is what a good Christmas is.

Kate came home with a note she wrote in school. She was so proud to show me that it was supposed so be a note to Santa but she crossed out the "Dear Santa" and wrote in "Dear Mom and Dad" She was proud of that because we don't do Santa and she was threatened within an inch of her life to keep the truth about Santa to herself. We told her that was for each child's parents to decide when to tell their children. Now, in second grade, she has found other children in her class that don't believe in Santa. The fact that these other children are Muslim and Jewish seem to be lost on her and the kids that do believe in Santa don't seem to be phased that there are kids in her class that reject the celebration of Christmas altogether. I guess the truth is, if our kids want to believe in Santa, they will regardless of what other kids say or do.

The point I am taking a long time to get to is what she wrote in her letter.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I want more Wii games. Can I have a little dog? Can I have a nice Christmas?
I love you.
Can I have an American Girl Doll? Can I have a My Twin Doll?
Thank you for everything.
You are the best ever.
Please remember about a good Christmas.
Love, Kate

She handed this to me and as I read it I thought "well, she's not getting new Wii games but Josh is so she'll be able to play with them. And she knows better than to ask for a puppy! and yes, she is getting an American Girl doll but not the one she asked for but she'll realize why I got her the one I got her. And NO she already has a My Twinn Doll and for heavens sake does she think money grows on trees? And of course we are the best ever because it's almost Christmas and she knows she getting presents and she is happy with us." Then I said to her aloud. "Kate, what do you mean you want an nice Christmas? You also said later you want a good Christmas. Do you mean you won't have a good or nice Christmas without the toys you want?"

"Oh no mommy" she explained. "I mean a good Christmas, one where we are all happy and get along and no one is upset or disappointed and we all have fun together and you know..... "

And yes, I knew what she meant. She meant like last year when we all spent Christmas in Florida and we had no agenda, no one calling or coming over or close quarters. A Christmas where a 19 and 16 and 11 and 7 year old could all be in the same house together doing the same things TOGETHER and everyone was laughing all the time. That had to have been the best Christmas by far that we all had together.

How could I tell her that there was most likely not going to be that kind of perfect scenario this year. It's not that we don't have "happy" Christmases as a family it's just that there are 6 of us and we each have our own personalities and there's nothing new here. We have the same stressors and the same people to deal with and the same responsibilities. Being in Florida was like an escape to a special heavenly spot. I almost wish she didn't remember what it felt like to be us when we were there.

This year will be a bit different for us though. We have a 19 year old who is seeing an Air Force recruiter this week which means by Christmas he will have an idea of how many days he has left as a permanent resident in our home. I have a 16 year old college freshman who, as exciting as it is that he was able to get into college early, the reality is that he will be leaving home early too. I had a conversation with Kate about how in less than two years our home will instantly be a family of four. She is diametrically opposed to this fact. But, as I told her, it's the way it's supposed to be. She and Josh beg to differ with me on that point stating emphatically "We will live with you forever. We will never leave. I promise" Thankfully, I spoke those same words to my mother in 7th grade. I can remember saying them as clearly as I remember yesterday and I remember what house we lived in at the time and that I was on the screened-in porch when I said it. She told me "You will leave and it's ok because you are supposed to and I will be happy for you when you do" or something like that.

I had a better answer for them. "The Bible says you all are supposed to leave. That God created you to leave your mom and dad and fall in love and get married and concentrate on making your own wonderful family. And I am always happy when you do what God tells you to do." What is it about children that makes them think that if they leave their mommy will be lonely?

So, in reality this will most likely be the last Christmas we will be together in the same way we've been together for years and years and years. Maybe that is why I have been crying for a month. Me, the woman who hates crying more than almost anything and I can't stop. I can't have a conversation about anything without crying through it. I cannot understand it except to say that my heart understands the reality of my changing situation and although my head is thrilled about it all because it is the way life is supposed to be I am not sure my heart can hold back the implications of the way it's supposed to be. I had a dear friend once tell me that I was the best compartmentalizer she's ever known and she is absolutely right. But the truth is that I think my compartments are full and I have no where else to hide my emotions.

So, Kate, my sweet precious daughter. I will do everything I can to give you a good Christmas. Because from now on, our Christmases will never be the same.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

MOM!!! You're Embarrassing Me....

I love Emma, no, you're right, my daughter's name is Kate, but Emma is her BFF. I really mean that, they are closer than almost any two girls I've ever seen in my life. To be honest, not only can I not imagine Kate without Emma, I can't imagine me without Emma. She makes me smile. Just seeing the back of her head brings a smile to my face. She is the tiniest little thing. She and Kate are only 30 minutes apart in age but Kate is a whole head taller. They have almost everything in common and it's amazing to me to watch them together.

The other night Kate went to Emma's for dinner. We went out and left the big boys in charge. I told Sam that Kate would be home shortly but by 8pm she was still not home. I called Emma's mom and she had totally forgotten Kate was there. That's the definition of Kate and Emma. They are so happy together that they make everyone else around them happy, whether it's because they play so quietly and happily together or because they are just so much fun to be with.

Today Emma came over for a couple hours. As is typical for them, they immediately found some clothes to change into so they looked like twins. Oh, if you saw them you'd laugh at the thought! Of course, they had another plan, they were writing a song. They ran outside to the trampoline and in about 20 minutes they came in with a song written on a piece of paper. They wanted me to read it and as I did, I noticed a real obvious chorus. I asked them how the song sounded and they didn't have any melody for it yet so I added one of my own. It was actually pretty good and Emma just laughed and laughed. Kate laughed too but through her laughs she giggled "Mom, stop, you are embarrassing me!" Normally, that would have stopped me in my tracks and really almost hurt my feelings but I could tell that whatever embarrassment she was feeling it wasn't severe - she had her bff with her and Emma felt perfectly at home here with us. They just continued to laugh and skip off to Kate's room. Within minutes they announced they were going to Emma's. Then they bopped out the door and down the street.

When Rebekah died and I found out I was pregnant with Josh, my mom was sad for me. Oh she knew my little baby boy would be beautiful and wonderful and fun but she insisted that there was nothing like a little girl. I found that hard to believe because all I knew were little boys and I adored my little boys. I was sad that I didn't have a daughter to raise but I couldn't imagine that they would be so different that she was actually sad I didn't have one in my life. Of course, God knew exactly what He wanted to do all along and having a daughter was part of His plan for me. Just months after Josh's 4th birthday Kate was born. And almost immediately I learned the differences between the genders. As my dear friend Cindy, the mother of 4 daughters, said to me "Girls will rock your world!". And she was right.

I can't imagine my life without her. She adds something to my life that I can't explain. One thing that excites me is how much we enjoy being together. She is becoming quite a pal to me. I miss her when she's gone and am excited to see her walk through the door on her way home from school. I love the person she is becoming and delight in the comments other mothers and her teachers at school and church say about her: she's sweet, kind, welcoming to all new students. She plays well and has compassion on those who she thinks are being left out. She's polite and respectful and they all love having her around. Notice they don't say that she's cute, popular, or oh, so talented... although she is cute and talented, popular is not an impressive thing to me. I am delighted in how others view her, she makes me so excited to see what God's got in store for her, she's got what it takes to follow Him to the ends of the earth. I hope that's what she wants to do.

Had we not been blessed with Kate, I wouldn't fully understand my mom's sadness for me. But now, I understand what she was feeling. My daughter is doing for me what her daughter did for her. Although I think having Christ in common takes my relationship with Kate much deeper, my mom and I love each other very much and we really enjoy being together. I hope Kate and I don't have the friction that my mom and I had when I was a preteen but a lot of the struggles she and I had are not part of the life that Kate and I share. I am thankful that Kate has the examples of her brothers to watch. Three much older boys who love their parents and are just as happy to hang out with us as they are with their buds. Of course they will choose their buds over us if that decision has to be made (a decision I think is just fine - we like their buds) but they don't feel a constant pull away from home. And they have rarely had lapses in judgement to the degree of disrespecting their parents. I pray that she sees what a wonderful family she is a part of and delights in us as she grows into adolescence as we will delight in her. God's got quite an adventure planned for her, I can't wait to see where He leads her.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's just safer that way...

I'm so thankful it's November. Not for the obvious reasons, MJF's birthday, beautiful fall weather, Thanksgiving holiday... but because October was the month from Hell for me. I am usually, at the end of a hard time, thankful for what I have learned and encouraged by the person I had grown to become through persevering and allowing God to work in and through my experiences; this time, I learned absolutely nothing... some rules on how I interact with my kids were confirmed though and I guess that is a good thing.

One rule, that I learned the hard way was to understand that teenagers will rarely "diss" themselves. Therefore, whether they lie purposely or not, they will rarely share the truth about a bad situation they get themselves into. I'm not even talking about getting in trouble. But if they find themselves in a negative situation that they need their parents to help them out with, especially if their negative situation involves another adult, parents, I am telling you, you will not get the whole story. I have found teenagers, boys AND girls, to be over emotional, easily embarrassed, and lacking realistic perception of their situations.

If they are telling you about something that happened to them with an adult involved and you hear that this adult did "this", said "this", failed to say "this", embarrassed them like "this" chances are you are not getting the whole story. We allowed this to happen ONCE and assumed we were getting completely accurate information and by the time the circumstances were laid out on the table, MJF and I were crawling under it in embarrassment. I am just thankful that the relationship we were dealing with wasn't one of great importance or emotional connection. It is hard to look at your child and explain, in the midst of tears, that before you are going to rise up to their defense, that you want to hear what the calm adult has to say about the circumstances. Many times not only is the problem not as severe as they are making it out to be but more often than not, your precious child isn't giving you the whole story.

These are hard things to read, I know. They are even harder things to write. We all want to believe certain things about our kids but we also have to understand who they are, at least as teens. I have found that understanding my kids' true natures at particular ages has helped me to move them from being "self-focused" to "other focused". When I make it clear that I want the WHOLE story they realize that there were two or more people involved, then they have to look at what part they played in the interaction and not just what someone said or did to them.

I am not saying that I wouldn't stand in front of a speeding train for my kids. I would, in a heartbeat. I am also not saying I would never believe my child over an adult. What I am saying is that I have learned the hard way that "everything is not always as it seems" and I don't want to be quick to sacrifice or damage a relationship because I don't want to admit or realize the true nature of my child. I am still on my child's side - always - I just want him to learn that there are consequences to his behavior and he will have to accept what comes his way based on his words and deeds. I am very thankful that this learning experience took place in a "business-type" relationship. I have found, and am guilty of myself, that friends don't always want to tell you the truth about who your kids are. In this instance, we were given a pile-ful of information on our child, most of which was hard to hear but it explained quite a lot when all was said and done. It was at that point that we determined we needed to take a good look at all our kids. We needed to understand their strengths and weaknesses. We needed to take a look at our parenting and if we were being honest with ourselves about who our kids are and was our image of our children more than it should be. It's not easy to size up your kid but it has helped us, when any of them have been in trouble of any kind, to know for sure if we felt they were capable of doing what they were being accused of. Sometimes we've just responded with a big apology and knew immediately that, yes, they were most likely very guilty of what they were accused of and we knew what had to be done to fix the problem. At other times we were able to say, "No way did our kid do that" and in the end, the truth prevailed. To be honest, I have found very few parents willing or able to do this. I can tell you, it will be worth more than words can say, if you come to terms with the realities of who your kids are. You will never regret it.

Another rule that was confirmed for me in October was one I came to on my own. I had read enough over the years to develop this rule and it surprised me when I vocalized it to someone, only then realizing it was something that was part of how I parented my kids. Never allow your child to become your best friend. Yes, I know, I said Never - YIKES. Aren't we told that "never" and "always" are two words we should stay away from? Of course, so then, OK, to appease some of you - "almost never" - how's that? I guess when they are 60 and you are 80 it's OK. Notice, I didn't say "don't become your child's best friend". That my friend is a different story, maybe equally as problematic but I've not seen the damage from that that I have seen from the other. Why do I say this? Because, they can't handle it. Understand that for most teens and young adults, regardless of how they act toward you at any particular phase in their lives, they adore you! They love you to the point of wanting to defend you and protect you in a way similar to the way you want to do the same for them. By the time they are teens they feel they have the strength and intelligence to be able to do that for you so the "mode" kicks in. But they are still very immature. They rarely understand idiosyncrasies of words, phrases, and relationships and still view many of them literally.

Here's where things get complicated. Ladies, your need for a best friend comes from your need to just dump your thoughts, feelings, emotions, trials, tribulations, etc... If you choose your teenage or young adult child (boy or girl) to share those thoughts with you will find those thoughts repeated to another. Worse, you will find them repeating the thoughts you shared about someone TO that same someone. Here's the rub, most of the times, the thoughts you shared about another won't have been shared in the manner in which you meant then but in the manner in which the teen perceived them. Therefore, what you end up with is, in a negative situation, regardless of how it got there, your teen, in protection mode, throws out your dirty laundry and the comment you made about the adult she is speaking to. Hard to follow? yes, I know, it's hard for me to follow too and I wrote it. But the point I am trying to make is that our teens aren't mature enough to handle the mess that we need to occasionally unload and before you know it, you have found yourself in a situation that in irreparable.

I have to check, often, my conversations with my oldest boys. At 19 and 16 they are good buddies to me. I love taking them to lunch and talking about their thoughts and ideas. But I have learned to rarely share many of mine with them. Not only do I not want them burdened with my "junk" but I also don't want their perception of anyone to be skewed because I have an issue with someone that they may take out of context or even if it is in context, they don't need to have negative thoughts of. Once I plant a seed in their minds, I can't take it out. So I save my deep-seated thoughts and emotions for MJF or Pam or Cyndi. Not only can they separate my issues from their own and not take them upon themselves, but they also know how to perceive them. And I trust that they will not only be honest with me in our discussions but keep them to themselves.

So, for those of you who think that I have some gift at advising you on parenting (that is always questionable) I hope that you chew on these things right now, especially if you have yet to hit the teen years with your kids. Some of you are going to be aghast and will have a hard time imagining a relationship like "best friends" with your child going awry.. if you choose that route, I hope it goes well for you. But although my children will all tell you we are friends, and the two boys, I am sure will tell you we are great friends. There are a lot of things in my heart that they will never know. Even when they are much older. I think it's safer that way for everyone.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Revelation 21:4

I saw a girl in my Intro to Law class meltdown today. She didn't have her act together. She was missing classes, not ready for the test, and couldn't handle it when I mentioned a paper I thought was due today but not due until next week. I felt bad for her but I didn't know what to say. We all, in the class, have had some opportunity to melt down. Whether it's been on campus or at home, we are, some of us more than others, hanging on by the skin of our teeth. Most of us have our meltdowns because we are behind on our laundry, forgetting to fix dinner, not attending to our classwork because we have to attend to our children's classwork. Or just feeling like we can't put the right amount of time or attention into all the things we've heaped onto our plates. We as women, more so the older ones, like me, heap way too much on our plates. We have this intellectual knowledge that we can't do everything but our hearts have a big "S" for Superwoman branded onto them. And those were the very reasons that her tears were flowing. I didn't have it in me to say "Hey, hang in there, you can do it." Mostly because I didn't think I should. Maybe she shouldn't be doing it. Maybe what she imagined she was capable of right now isn't what she is capable of. Maybe she needs to wait a few years, until her children get older and more independent and then it will be the right time. It's not that I didn't think she could handle the coursework which would lead her to a good job, I just wondered if she should be attempting it at all right now. But then, maybe I was wrong and I should have put my arm around her and encouraged her. Maybe my own desperation to have one more look at my index cards to cram just one more bit of information into my head to be successful on my test that morning kept me from being the support she needed. Maybe my own selfishness blinded me to her hurt and I was able to find a good excuse to make me feel better.

And that brings me to something I've been wrestling with for a month now. Why do I choose to behave differently from one person to another? Why did I not see in her the need to hold her but maybe would have considered that for another? After a month of seriously pondering this and even losing sleep over this I still have no answer. I can only think that I see every situation differently. And even then, I still will rarely hold someone while they cry. I don't think I've held one of my crying children since they've been 9 or 10. It's not that we aren't affectionate, we are all very affectionate. I guess it's just, having boys, I've had to almost have it beaten into me that I have to be very careful about how I manage their emotions. Granted, I'm not the most compassionate woman in the world; that has been made plenty clear to me by many, many people. But I am not heartless or devoid of the ability to feel tenderness toward anyone.

So, I guess this will just be something that I wrestle with for the rest of my life. I have never turned away my crying children, I've never left a crying baby in a crib all night because I care more about my sleep than my child. I've never let my preschooler dry his own eyes after falling down on the sidewalk and skinning his knee. I have always held my daughter close when the girls in 1st grade made a "club" during recess and wouldn't include her. There's just something that happens when they get older. I guess it's almost a feeling that I have that I don't want them to cry. After all, I NEVER want to cry myself. I work very hard at not crying even in front of my closest friends and even in front of my husband. I was even very uncomfortable with MJF when he cried as he held our daughter Rebekah Joy after her death.

I guess the question is this... what is wrong with me?

It's not as if I haven't asked this question of myself before. Not regarding this particular issue, there are many.

I don't anticipate knowing what is wrong with me but I do know one thing. I am not a heartless, calloused person. I never have been and I never will be. I have a very private part of me that will most likely never be unearthed by anyone. I will die with thoughts and feelings and parts of me never being known by anyone but God. The lesson for me here is to remember that if I have those parts of me, most likely others do as well. For me to jump to a conclusion about anyone because of who they appear to be is folly. We are all so complicated, and we put so many expectations on ourselves and others.

I am truly looking forward to heaven where all is clean, honest, and pure. Where our relationships are joyous and our eyes are all on the same prize. I can't wait for heaven. I can't wait to restore broken relationships and be reunited with old friends in Christ. I am excited to realize that I won't do anything to hurt someone's feelings and that there's not a person in heaven who will disappoint me - EVER.

And in heaven, I don't have to be concerned with whether or not I think to comfort a sobbing acquaintance... no one will be just an acquaintance and no one will be sobbing.

Friday, September 11, 2009


It is Friday. I have come to love Fridays. I have a rule in my home, have had it for years, that no one, upon returning from school, is allowed to mention the word homework. I hate homework because of the responsibility I have to make sure it's done and put in the right spot so that it gets handed in the next day. To be painfully honest, I hate responsibility period, but that is a post for another day.

Although Fridays usually start with me going back to bed after the little kids leave for school, it didn't work out that way today. So I found myself sitting in the big, comfy, recliner listening to Laura Ingraham interview Andrew Breitbart (he rocks); sipping hot tea in my jammies. Out of nowhere I heard a "ta-da" and realized that it was a cell phone text or calendar alarm. I knew it wasn't mine and that it came from a pile of old cell phones MJF was organizing to send to some organization that pays you according to their worth. Anything to make a few extra bucks!

I pulled Drew's old cell phone out, opened it up and there it was in bold letters: 9/11/09 NEVER FORGET, and I started to cry. My precious 19 year old son, only 11 at the time those towers were hit, had set this reminder to go off every year.

That's really why I couldn't go back to sleep this morning. That says a lot since I relish being able to climb back under my covers and doze on and off listening to my favorite morning radio guys Rick and Bubba. The memories of 9/11/01 flooded my mind and the sadness of how far down the slippery slope our country is going just made me unable to relax and rest. So when that "ta-da" sounded and I saw that my son had made sure he would NEVER FORGET, all the emotion that I didn't even realize was still there flooded my heart.

That day 8 years ago changed our whole family. With MJF being a special agent in the FBI he was immediately taken from our home and told to be clear with his family that a return date could not be given. I didn't know on the day he left if he'd return in a week, a month, or longer. We had just moved into a new home in a new town and didn't have phone or cable television yet (that was immediately remedied). I was pregnant with Kate and very, very sick. The boys - 11, 8, and 3 were still not completely unpacked and I was homeschooling. I knew no one, most of my home was still in boxes and I was using all I had to be "supportive" to MJF who had a huge mission ahead of him, pulling bodies or what was left of them out of the pentagon. Each night he was gone I fell asleep to Fox News playing and replaying the towers being hit and woke throughout the night and each morning to the same pictures. I had to decipher what was best for each child regarding what they'd watch and what they wouldn't. But the one thing we would all watch was our precious President George W Bush give one of the most moving funeral messages I'd ever heard.

By the time MJF returned I had arranged for Josh to be put into preschool and told him that upon getting off the train (planes were still not flying) he was to go to the elementary school and arrange for the boys to be enrolled. Ten days without MJF wasn't difficult. Ten days without MJF immediately following the 9/11 attacks was unbearable. That event changed him in ways I will never understand. It changed me in ways I can't articulate. It changed the entire course of our family dynamics.

Of course there are many, many people whose lives changed in far more serious and sad ways than mine. I write this not to in any way assume that what the attacks on 9/11/01 did to change our family and ourselves mattered at all to anyone but us and God. I write this to share my thoughts and my memories.

Ronald Reagan said many years before that horrible event:

I believe with all my heart
that standing up for America means
standing up for the God who has so blessed
our land.
We need God's help to guide our nation
through stormy seas.
But we can't expect him to protect
America in a crisis if we just leave Him
over on the shelf in our day-to-day living.
I firmly believe in God's total Sovereignty. I believe with all my heart that not a germ goes by or a thought is expressed that isn't known to God. I am convinced that He allows whatever He wants to allow for purposes that we may or may not one day understand. He is God and we are not. I can't help but wonder if our leaving God on the shelf in our day-to-day living as Americans had something to do with God allowing those planes to hit the towers. I, of course, will never know on this side of heaven but it wouldn't surprise me. What is so terribly disappointing is that for the few weeks that followed the attacks it seemed we, as Americans, were going to get our lives together and focus on eternal things again. Sadly, in the end, that didn't happen.
For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill.
the eyes of all people are upon us. so that if we shall deal falsely with our
God in this task we have undertaken and so cause
Him to withdraw His present help from us,
we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.
john winthrop,
governor of the massachusetts bay colony 1630
America was born a Christian nation. America was born
to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness, which
are derived from the revelations of Holy Scriptures. Part of
the destiny of America lies in their daily perusal of this great
book of revelations. That if they would see America free and pure
they will make their own spirits free and pure by this baptism
of the Holy Spirit.
president woodrow wilson
Our strength lies in spiritual concepts.
It lies in public sensitiveness to evil. Our greatest
danger is not from invasion by foreign armies.
Our dangers are that we may commit suicide
from within by complaisance with evil, or
by public tolerance of scandalous behavior.
president herbert hoover
I pray that these words from men who long ago had no inkling that anything like the attacks of 9/11/01 would ever take place, would pierce our hearts and remind us that "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
(2 chron. 7:14; italics mine)
May we truly never forget.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Let the Boys Be Boys, Please!

I have been thinking a lot about boys lately. And I've been realizing something, not all parents are cut out to be "boy" parents. Maybe it's more like not all moms are cut out to be "boy" moms. Most of the women I'd put in that category don't have boys, or if they do, those boys are grown men today. I say that because the women I put in that category don't know how to pick their battles. I find they wear themselves out over things that are just plain meaningless. It may take me a bit to elaborate on this, but hang with me, hopefully by the end of this post I will have made my point.... hopefully.

Years ago when the liberals were working harder than ever before to damage the morale of the military, Rush Limbaugh quoted a friend of his saying "The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things". I bring up this quote because I think we have to keep this in mind when we raise boys. Yes, I know, we do have women in the military and I appreciate all Americans who are risking their lives to further democracy all over the world but the reality is that it's our boys who were made for that kind of work. Many a doctor, psychologist, or even a pastor will make the statement that failing to give our sons guns to play with will only result in them creating guns out of their own fingers and thumbs. Our boys were created to be rough, to be loud, to be fast, and to be reckless. It's our job to smooth out the edges not to completely flatten them.

Boys don't care what they look like, what they smell like, or who they are running after. They don't even really care who's running after them as long as they can either outrun the other kid (or animal) or if they turn and face their "attacker" that they can "take" them. Boys are funny like that - when they get upset with each other they beat the snot out of each other and then get up, dust themselves off, and go about playing what it was they were playing to begin with.

Of course as their mom (I have three boys) I did care what they looked like when they went off our property and always cared what they smelled like. I worked with them on this in the midst of compromise. I had one dresser drawer full of play clothes that they pulled out and put on whenever they were around the house or in the yard. Once we went somewhere they had to pull clothes from another drawer and match. They had to be clean before they went to bed and when we went out but otherwise I told them that if they returned from playing outside clean I would send them back to get dirty, clean meant they didn't play hard enough. They learned there were times and places for every activity but they could always look forward to being boys every day.

I tried really hard to not shriek when I thought a jump from one item to the other (of course no jumping on the furniture - a line has to be drawn somewhere) might cause a tooth to be knocked out or a lip to bleed. There are just some injuries these boys are going to get. A scar on the chin of man is rugged, shows he was a bit of a risk-taker as a child, and there's always a good laugh that comes from the telling of where that and other scars came from. Let the boys get roughed up. It's good for them.

They also need to be allowed NOT to cry. Of course, we want our sons to be able to cry when it's appropriate... it's rarely appropriate and truthfully, as they age, they need to learn when it's not appropriate. My favorite saying around here is "Suck it up and take it like a man" My seven year old daughter doesn't really like it when I say it to her though. The boys don't need to quiver their chins every time they fall and skin their knee. They don't need to cry each time their feelings get hurt. (Although the tears I get from my sons when other people they care deeply for get hurt emotionally or otherwise warms my heart to say the least). They need to realize that although frustration may make them want to cry, they can't, they have to take a deep breath, pray about it, and advance.

They have to learn to do all these things because one day there will be a wife and children that will look to each of them for rock solid stability when something happens to make them wonder if their world is about to crash around them. Because when the world is crashing down around them their wives are going to want to be held by them while they sob and know that until it's all over they have one who is stronger than they are seeing it all through. Because those children will learn to view their heavenly Father in a way based on how they view their earthly father.

Don't misunderstand me, there will be times when my boys will become men (2 almost are) and they will want to cry; they will have to cry. But it's my job, our job, to help them learn when to cry.

I don't want them to be afraid, not for one split second. If I spend my time saying "Oh, honey, don't do that you could get hurt. Don't do that it might break. Oh, Oh be careful" then they will be afraid of everything. I want them to grab onto a rope and swing as far and as fast as they can and free fall into the water. I want them to try to go further and faster and have more fun than they had the weekend before. I want them to try to do everything that they can and attempt to do things that they never thought they could. I want them to do that because one day they may need to protect their families from an intruder. Because one day they may need to stand their ground in opposition to something that is important to them. Because some day their wife or their children will need them to stand up to something that could define my son's character for a lifetime and they can't be afraid to do that. The implications are endless and I don't want to look back and wonder what I did to hold them back.

Of course, all of this comes with guidelines, common sense, and balance. When our daughter Rebekah died, my sons saw their daddy cry, but it wasn't until the funeral. They saw their mommy cry much more often. And they saw their mommy and daddy comfort each other as well. When our children got injured we worked hard to be calm and make clear how there was never a reason to get worked up. When it was something as meaningless as a cut on the knee we put on the band aid and sent them on their way. But when we needed to go to the ER we went. When Kate's toe got cut off by the weight machine, all three boys witnessed it and they screamed all the way up to their rooms. It was a horrible experience and it was appropriate for them to react that way. But they saw their parents being calm and in control in spite of what had happened.

I don't want the boys throwing knives at each other for kicks but if they want to get a bucket of ping pong balls and wing them at each other while shirtless to see who can cause the biggest, reddest welt then by all means, have at it. The only rule is: if you join in the game, there's no crying afterward. The best story of all is when Michael took Sam to play paintball and within the first 5 minutes ruined the whole game by shooting Sam in the groin with his first shot. Sam went down and rolled on the ground in pain for 15 minutes or more. Michael hit the ground as well, he was laughing hysterically. Both Sam and I learned lessons from that experience. Sam's lesson was that playing any shooting game with an FBI agent was probably not a good idea. My lesson was that although he was in excruciating pain and he never wanted to play paintball again (and he never did) he was more than delighted to share the story and hold up the pants with the white paint stain on the crotch. To this day, almost 5 years later, he still tells that story with pride.

I debated on writing this but a story I heard recently led me to this point. It was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back. The story was from a missionary couple I know who before their retirement watched young missionary couples come and go year after year because the parents of those young couples would call them and whine and complain about how far away they were and how they'd never see their grand kids or how dangerous it was. It broke their hearts as young couples who believed God had called them into the mission field couldn't stand firm in their resolve because their parents didn't want their children so far away and in possible danger. What have we done? What have we become?

My oldest son wants to become a full time missionary. He wants to go wherever God leads him, that might mean to China, Africa, South America, or maybe San Francisco (yikes). It's my job to make sure he's ready to leave our home, able to confidently say good bye, and know that his parents are praying for him, loving him, missing him, and available to him. But never should he worry that we can't get along without him or that we worry about him so much that we would tell him we need him to be here with us.

I don't know for sure what the other two boys want to do with their lives. Whatever it is, we will support them. Most likely it will take them away from us. But then, a long time ago, when they were small enough to fit in our arms from head to toe, we brought them before the Lord and our church and gave them to God. Yes... we GAVE them, with our whole hearts, with our whole minds. We GAVE them knowing full well that God would have His way with them.

We need to realize that boys NEED to be boys. We don't allow them to be disrespectful, uncaring, calloused, disobedient, or rebellious. But we do need to raise our sons to grow up to be the men that they are created to be. We need to raise the kind of men that God called to be judges and that Christ called to follow Him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Marley and Megan

I really am not much of a movie watcher. I don't know why. I don't inherently dislike movies, some of them I adore. Shadowlands, the story of CS Lewis, is one of my all time faves. But then so is My Cousin Vinnie and X-Men. I know, what a combination. But I rarely love movies like Shadowlands because some parts are sad, very sad, and I think there is enough sadness to go around in real life, I don't care to experience the sadness of others very much.

Two weekends ago, I didn't have a choice. Megan died on June 2nd and we left on the 4th to drive to Jacksonville, AL for her visitation and funeral. We stayed with some of my favorite people in the world so we decided to stay for several days. Sam had been there for two weeks with Bradley, Megan's brother, trying to be supportive through Megan's last days and I really missed him. Plus we were going to bring Bradley home with us, I was looking forward to that.

So we spent a lot of time watching a lot of people shedding a lot of tears. It was hard but it was good, in some ways. I sat in the funeral, with plenty of time before it started, watching the power point presentation of Megan's life loop over and over. Many of the pictures on that loop were from her trip to Disney just before she was hospitalized. It was at that moment I realized who those "Make A Wish" trips were for. Those left behind. That memory of Megan having a blast at Disney and Sea World and all the places she went to will be forever with Gary and Ian and Bradley. It was good because I saw my 6ft 185 pound almost 16 year old virtually cradle his 7 year old sister on his lap during the funeral as tears streamed down his cheeks. I knew then he related to Bradley in a way he didn't realize he could relate before. I knew then that he realized that could have just as easily been him burying his sister.

But then, one day a long time ago, it was him. He did bury a little sister before. To my surprise, I realized a couple weeks ago that Rebekah was born the same year as Megan. Those girls are the same age. I wonder if Sam had any memory of the day he sat at the graveside of his sister as they buried her. We've been through our own times of sadness and I really don't enjoy living through other's whether they are real or imagined even if it all ends well.

Unfortunately I found myself last night watching Marley and Me. I'd not seen it, I never planned on seeing it. I love Jennifer Aniston but not enough to see a movie just because she's in it. But it was on my TV and I wanted to cuddle with my daughter so I sat through the last half. The only problem was as I watched the tender scene when John stared at Marley, knowing he was about to die, and told him all the wonderful things about him; then John laid across Marley's body in pure sorrow as his beloved pet died before his eyes, I couldn't help but think of Gary and Megan.

I wondered if Gary sat next to her bed and held her hand as her eyelids fluttered while she was unresponsive. I wondered if Gary told her all the incredible things that made her Megan. I wondered if when they pronounced her if he laid across her body to try to make a lasting imprint of her on him, that somehow if he laid on her long enough he'd forever have her with him. I wondered those things because that is what I did with Rebekah, I thought if I put my hand on her face long enough that her face would forever be etched in the palm of my hand. It wasn't, and Megan will fade in a way over time for Gary and Ian and Bradley, too.

On the way to Jacksonville I was thinking about how this long haul with Megan was finally over. She was in Glory with her mother. Gary and the boys, although incredibly sad, would be able to pick up the pieces and move on and maybe after 10 years of battling cancer, they could get a break. My thoughts were interrupted by my cell phone. It was my mom. My sweet sister-in-law, Na just received word that her cancer had returned - after almost 6 years of being clean. They are all devastated. I am devastated.

See... life is sad enough.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wake Up To Shouts of Joy... With Friends.

Psalm 30:5b says, Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning."

Megan died yesterday. I spent a lot of time thinking about writing this blog today. I had held off until this day because I just haven't been enthusiastic about anything lately. I have been thinking about Megan, wondering what she was thinking as she was getting weaker. I wondered if she was curious about heaven, if she was excited to see her mother again who died 3 years ago from breast cancer. I wondered mostly if she was scared.

I spent time thinking about Gary. I wondered if it was true, that missing a child that you've had years of memories with wasn't as bad as missing one you never had a chance to build memories with. I think it would be worse. I realized after 1am last night that Megan died just before her 13th birthday and Rebekah will celebrate her 13th birthday in heaven next week. Well, not really, I don't think there are birthday celebrations in heaven, but that's for a different post. I wonder if Megan and Rebekah will be friends in heaven.

I was thinking about Ian, Megan's big brother. His birthday is today, June 3rd. I think he's 20 today. He just finished his second year at the Univ. of Alabama. How, more than ever, must he want to be a little boy again and just cry like a child. I bet he doesn't think he can. He can, there would be an awful lot of shoulders more than willing to bear his tears.

I was thinking about Bradley, Megan's other big brother. His 16th birthday was Monday - the day before she died. Bradley, as many of you know, has a special place in my heart. It's a special God-made spot that I don't understand but am so thankful that God can do that and is happy to make that place for him. I worry some about Bradley. He's not really emotional and very few of us will see his tears. And there will be people that won't approve of that. I told him that he can't pretend to be someone he's not. But he does need to be honest with someone about his feelings - all of them. I have been trying to be that adult that he talks to. I really have no agenda and since I'm not related I'm not defensive about anything he says. Mostly, I want him to understand the perspective of the adults in his life so he's not rebellious against them and I want him to have a correct perspective about God in the midst of all of this so that he doesn't hate God or think God has something against him.

I have been thinking a lot about Sam. We took Sam out to stay with Bradley almost 2 weeks ago. He had a lot of jobs for an almost 16 year old boy. He was determined to be Bradley's accountability. Bradley would have had a lot of alone time; with Sam, not so much. But in the end, Sam, the huge hearted young man with compassion the size of Texas, was to be there to love his best buddy. Sam has been there through a lot of this with the Brittain's. As young friends, when we lived in Alabama, Sam and Bradley used to go into Sharon's room and lay on her bed when she was too week to be in the living room with her kids. When Sharon died, we had already moved to WV. I can remember like it was yesterday the phone call from Bradley telling Sam his mom had died. Michael rushed Sam to Bradley's side - telling the school that Sam was leaving for a couple of days and to get over it. Driving all day long for Sam to put his arms around his dear friend and stand beside him as they watched his mother's body lowered beneath the ground.

And now, 3 years later, Sam will once again stand beside his best friend as they watch Bradley's sister's body lowered beneath the ground. I think about my precious Sam and wonder if I will ever know all that God is doing in his life even as I write this. I wonder if Sam really has any idea. I pray that as he pours his love out into the life of his friend that God will pour more of Himself into Sam and that this will be a turning point in Sam's life.

This is my commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." John 15:12,13

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Dancing Sparrow....

Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7

I am amazed by God often. So often that any form of "Amazing Grace" brings me to tears. But today put me over the edge. It was Kate's first dance recital with Ballet Magnificat! There's very little in the performance of 7 seven year olds that should bring a grown woman to tears but there were several times when my composure was pushed beyond it's limits and it was all I could do to not look visibly emotional.

About 20 years ago, married only 5 years and with children far from my mind, I sat in a small Christian school auditorium in Fayetteville, NC watching a performance of a dance troupe I'd never heard of before. Ballet Magnificat! hailed from Jackson, MS and gained fame among the Christian community as a dance arts group that performed for two reasons only - to glorify God and bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It was a small group of young women performing and I adored the music that they chose. Some contemporary Christian (at that time) and some classical but always pulling me in to their message through beautiful movement. I sat there thinking, "If I have a daughter, I would love her to dance with this company."

What a silly thought though. I had no idea when we'd have children or if God would even bless us with a daughter and to be honest, I had no intention of ever living in Jackson, MS.

Children came... first a son, then another son, then a daughter... a very sick daughter who God took home to be with Him. We did move to Jackson, MS and while there we had another son and we decided to be happy with our sweet little, healthy family. Still, when we saw little girls dancing in church it was very hard to not weep. In our minds, our little girl would dance - it always reminded us that God was raising our daughter, not us.

Then, to our surprise, we were blessed with another daughter. By the time she was three she was dancing with Doxa Dance Company in West Virginia. Terri Stutler, her teacher went every other year to Ballet Magnificat! for classes. WOW, I remembered all those years ago watching that performance. Isn't God weird? In a good way, I mean. She danced for two years before we found out we were moving... back to Jackson, MS.

She sat out a year from dancing. She wasn't sure she wanted to dance under anyone else but after seeing DVD's of "The Christmas Dream" performances of Ballet Magnificat! she decided it was time to get back in the game.

Less than one year later, I sat in an audience of hundreds watching my daughter fulfill MY dream. But really, it wasn't she that fulfilled it - it was God. Oh how true that He cares about the smallest of hopes and dreams. So now, we watch little girls dance to music that worships our Lord but we don't cry because our second daughter is dancing with them. Well, that's not true, I cry but it's because I am amazed at His grace, His love, His pleasure at gifting me with the realization of a little hope I had over 20 years ago.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Would I?

So, I'm reading Trial and Triumph (stories from church history) by Richard M Hannula during my quiet time. It's not all I read, obviously, but it's a great end to my time of scripture reading and prayer and by reading one chapter at a time I am able to get the whole book read in a couple of months. Seventeen years ago, that last sentence would have made me cry. Taking several months to read a book sounds awful. How could I have let my life get so busy? Kids. 'Nuf said.

It's been this book that I think may have exacerbated my little "funk" for the past 6 weeks that I have talked about in a couple previous blog postings. This book begins with the story of Polycarp (69-155 AD) winds through the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and into Modern Times with the closing story of Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs. From the first to the last these men and women of Christ found themselves tortured day and night for one thing and one thing only, loving Christ with all their heart, mind, and soul.

Day in and day out these men and women were beaten within minutes of their deaths but kept alive and in severe pain and encouraged to renounce their commitment to Christ. I use that word carefully - commitment - we have no idea of the true meaning of the word. Not all of these martyrs were older adults with years of experience seeing God's hand move in their lives and thus building the faith of a mountain. No, many were young, some no older than my own son Drew who although I think has a stronger spiritual foundation than most his age, I wonder if he's seen enough of God to enable him to stand against any "power or principality".

The question really is, could I? I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. Of course, here I am in what is currently a country that allows the freedom of worship. Certainly, there is a chance of getting teased or heckled or maybe on a really bad day, getting spit at but unlike in most countries in this world, my life isn't on the line because of Who I trust in. So it's relatively easy to say "Absolutely, they could burn me at the stake like they did Polycarp or they could imprison me and beat me for years like they did Richard Wurmbrand but I'd not recant, no way!" But really? Would I be as brave as I'd like to believe I would be? I don't know. And those three words bring me to tears and almost to nausea. What I think is true for all of us is this - the Holy Spirit is powerful in those of us who call on the name of Christ. It's the Holy Spirit that will lead me to say, like Polycarp said to his captors:

You threaten me with fire that burns for a little while
then goes out. But you are ignorant of the fire of
eternal punishment which is prepared for the
ungodly. Why do you wait? Come and do what
you want with me?
And then, once the wood and straw was doused with oil and the torch was being carried toward him, he lifted his head toward heaven and said:
Oh Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved Son,
Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received the
knowledge of You: I bless You for granting me
the honor of this day and hour that I might be
numbered among the martyrs. You are the
faithful and true God. To You be glory both now
and for the ages to come. Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Convicting Innocence...

I began this post close to the Easter holiday. I wish I would have posted it. This was the beginning of what grew into a 6 week funk for me and had I posted this, it would have been in my face to remind me of what I needed to remember for the last several weeks. I rarely like to come to terms with my disappointments, mostly because I don't like to admit I have them. After all, look at my life... I live in America to begin with and the rest is just icing on the cake. Of course the most delicious of all is that I've been adopted by the King so who could look at any part of a life like that and see any disappointments? And yet, I'm guilty of it and find myself using that term to describe circumstances in my life lately far too often. Maybe that word, disappointment, should be stricken from my vocabulary as another word is that you will read about here:

I've gained a new understanding about what Jesus said to the rich man when he wanted to go back to earth to warn his siblings about hell. .... I say that because I tried to clear my name the other day and it was a big mistake. I generally don't believe in defending myself because I've felt for many years that my history, my behavior, my words should be all the defense that I need. I even think this way about my kids. Last year Sam was accused of defacing property. I about fell out of my chair laughing. The truth is that had he been accused of kissing a girl I'd have totally believed that - but defacing property, come on! There is no way. I know what my kids are capable of. I am honest about the faults of my children and have rarely if ever shouted "Not my kid!" but I know what their issues are and defacing property is not one of Sam's.

I should have followed my own rules. When I break my own rules I shouldn't be surprised by how things fall apart. I had just had enough of being some one's scapegoat and felt that there was a chance that this particular issue could have damaged my reputation and possibly affected what some people thought of MJF as well. But I learned some valuable lessons from this experience and had other truths validated:

The biggest thing I learned is that ultimately I have to trust God to reveal truth to other people. He will orchestrate situations that cause the guilty to get punished. He promised that in His word and I don't need to doubt it now. I only get in His way and it's my job to just step back and watch.

I realized that in the end, those who I care about the most will either not believe what they hear or they will come to me with questions. Even I am smart enough to realize when people are being falsely accused. I've often said to others "That doesn't sound like something "?" would say or do. I wonder if your facts are wrong?" If I think that why wouldn't others think that as well regarding me? Once again I have to trust God to work in the hearts and minds of my friends.

As I wrote this I realized that this is a story of Christianity in a small way. I can in no way believe that I have been persecuted and treated in the same wretched way that Christ was but we are, at this time, celebrating the crucifixion of an innocent man... an innocent God/man. He always did the right thing - always. He rarely defended Himself but just spoke truth about who He was and who God was. In the end, He trusted His Father through the Holy Spirit and His friends to tell others about Him so the TRUTH could vindicate Him and so other's would believe in Him. It's times like these that bring me comfort and make me realize that Christ is not unaware of my negative experiences and that He can turn those into positive ones even if it's just by teaching me a lesson. It also reminds me why I hate the word FAIR and why I don't allow my kids to use that word and why I need to stop allowing that word even in my head. The punishment of the innocent is never fair but His definition is probably a bit different than ours.

I've Become My Mother...

Yes, it's true what the title says. I can't decide if I'm glad about that or not. After all, I adore my mom. And she spent most of her adult life sacrificing in many ways for my brother Jimmy and I. I love to spend time with her when we visit and I love when she comes to my home. I get to ask her suggestions on decorating and she gets to see me in my element. We both love hanging out together even though the definition of that changes each visit. She's aging, just like I am, and our time together has to adjust to allow for that.

I remember how literally devastated I was when a few years after MJF and I were married she came to visit. I was so happy to see her I wrapped my arms around her neck and as I leaned away from her and saw her shoes and then her purse I declared "Mom, I love your shoes and purse!" and no sooner did I utter those words when I was crushed... HER tastes hadn't changed, MINE had... I felt that was the beginning of the end for me.

Once I got over that shock I vowed to be my own person. I thought about all the things I loved about how she mothered me and what I wanted to pass down to my kids. I wasn't raised in a Christian home but none-the-less there were basic truths that were part of my upbringing that my parents knew I'd appreciate when I was a parent. They were right because truth is truth regardless of your age. I have held on to some of those things especially the work ethic that both my parents instilled in Jimmy and I and I am thankful for that daily as I see how rare that is today. But there were things that I didn't want to bring into my mothering. Thinking back on my senior prom made the vast differences jump out at me.

I went to a small private school for my senior year. We had just moved to the area and my parents thought that might make my transition smoother if I was able to go there instead of the public school. They thought I'd make friends faster there which would be nice because I was a senior. And they were right, by the end of my senior year I had enough friends that I felt like having the "after-prom" party at my house was a good idea. It was at a time when many were worried about the safety of the kids from midnight until 6 am and I thought that at my house there could be some control. We had a big, beautiful home and with the furniture pushed aside on both floors it'd be a nice place to celebrate.

And celebrate we did. Without any thought my mom went to the local liquor store and got 2 kegs of beer. Of course, like a responsible parent she took everyone's car keys as they walked into the door. And then, in order to leave, they had to return to her up in her bedroom reading, to get them back - not all got them back. Honestly, I cannot believe we really did this. Not just because as a Christian it wouldn't dawn on me for one second to allow alcohol at one of my kid's parties but the fact that it was flat out illegal. I am not sure that that truth was realized by us for one minute. If it did cross her mind, she never let me in on her thoughts but I think we were totally oblivious to it.

It ended up being a good party. My mom, to this day, expresses her amazement that there wasn't a stain on the carpet anywhere when the kids left. Except I wouldn't agree. I think that a lot of kids left with stains. It was true that more kids ended up in my mom's room talking the night away with her than were anywhere else in our home, but in spite of how cool they thought my mom was - they should have realized there was something terribly wrong that night. Why didn't either of us realize that it was wrong to have that beer there?

I often ask myself that question. Almost 30 years later, that behavior haunts me. Isn't that bizarre? I wonder why I even remember that or think about it, but it's pretty true to my character to be concerned with what impression I leave on people. I have friends who think I obsess too much over that but my thinking is that the only way to get credibility is to have integrity.

So, I'm sitting in MY bedroom tonight at almost 1:30 in the morning but the difference is that I only have 4 prom-goers in my living room watching Slum-dog Millionaire and drinking Dr. Pepper and bottled water. They won't stay to watch the sun rise and as they drive home they will pray and thank God for a fun and safe night. And hopefully they will thank Him for Sam's "not so cool" mom who loved them enough to provide her home for them to hang out in and loaded them up on junk food and soda... and that is all.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Have I got a deal for you!

God amazes me... I know, MJF hates it when I say stuff like that - it's all so simplistic. Of course He amazes me, He's God. But there are times in any given day that He does something that doesn't matter to anyone else but me and if He didn't do it, well, it really wouldn't change my life in any measurable way. It's the fact that He does do those little things, for me. My goodness why, after all, I am nothing. But then again, to Him I am everything because, after all, His Son did die for ME.

Let me elaborate. I had a very hectic day. Wednesdays are full every week but this week even more so because it's Kate's birthday. So I had to leave early from the house to get the cupcakes to take to her class at lunch. Then I had to leave my Precept study early to get to her lunch period to eat with her and pass out the cupcakes. Then I had to go early to my library duties so that I could leave early from my library duties so I could go to the store and get some balloons to put out front before she got home. When I got home from my library duties, before I went for the balloons, lo and behold my 19 year old had just gotten up - yes, I know, it was after noon and that's another story. The begging in his eyes told me everything so off we went to MacAlisters because, frankly, where else would we go for lunch?

I had time. I figured if I left for Kroger at 1:55 then I could get her balloons and be home before they (Kate and Josh) got home from school. It was a beautiful day and they rode their bikes. So, right on time I went to the floral dept and discussed with the girl there what I wanted. While she was filling my balloons we got to talking and realized that we were both Christians and we both had a large family and had kids about the same age. We were encouraging each other and sharing fun stories and I was desperately tracking the time and realizing all my planning was going down the drain as I continued to talk. The truth was that I had to go to make MY plans work out. And with proms coming up she alone had 120 arrangements to make TODAY! She didn't need to be talking to me because SHE had her own plans.

But, obviously, God's plans for us were different. It was clear that she needed to be refreshed and I was glad to do it. And I needed to be reminded, as I shared about my kids with her, how wonderful my kids are. So as I glanced at my watch while I was fighting a sprint to my car I just asked God to allow me to make it home before the kids did because I SO wanted to have those balloons there for Kate to be surprised by.

The truth is - if I got home after they did it wouldn't matter a bit. BUT, I pulled into the subdivision and there were no children anywhere. I drove into my driveway, pulled into the garage, pulled out the balloons and tied them around the mailbox. I looked around and still, no kids. As I leaned against the mailbox I marveled that He even cared. I guess I knew He did or I wouldn't have even asked but what I do know is that He doesn't have to care. I also know that sometimes He doesn't work things out the way I'd like.

In the end I love knowing that I don't have to live this life all by myself. He loves me enough to let me get the balloons up before Kate got home. He loves me enough to let me go through a big hassle because I told someone something I shouldn't have even though it was meant with the best of intentions. He loves me enough to allow my daughter to die in order to show me how powerful He is in my life if I will let Him be. He loves me enough to adopt all of my children so I can rejoice in knowing that no matter what else He allows to happen in my life, we will all be together in eternity. For a woman who loves being wrapped up in security, I couldn't ask for a better deal.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

46 Candles

I turned 46 on March 1st. I really can't believe it. To be honest I am not sure how this happened. If I close my eyes I can remember how horrible I felt turning 20. I was no longer a teenager and couldn't fall back on that anymore to explain my immature behavior (although at that time I would never have admitted that I had any) but I wasn't 21 and therefore was still not old enough to be considered an adult.

Only 6 months after I turned 20 I got married. Seven years later I began having kids. Just last August MJF and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. And now, I'm 46. WOW. Thankfully I can say I've learned a lot. I've become a better wife, a better mom, a better woman, most importantly a better disciple of Christ. I've been thinking this week on some of those exact roles I just mentioned and how my behavior in those roles have changed over the years.

I've been, since adulthood, a very black and white person. I wouldn't describe myself as legalistic but I find security and comfort in rules and guidelines. I have no desire to be a leader but if forced to, I will acquiesce and become one (although that still seems like following to me). I dread disappointing anyone but I won't compromise the truth in any form to please anyone. And that last bit about me is what I've been reflecting on most this week. I've actually become more determined to hold firm to The Truth than ever before. I am not sure that can be said about most people as they age. Honestly, I can say, I understand that.

The more experiences that I have, the harder it is to remain so black and white about everything. I know many people that as they age, as their experiences take them from valleys to hilltops and back again, say that there is more gray but I don't agree. I believe that although gray exists I have to be careful that I don't mistake compassion and understanding and love for those that matter the most to me for lies (for lack of a better term). It's not that I would ever set out to lie to anyone about anything but there's a big difference between telling a friend that she doesn't look fat in a dress that she absolutely does look fat in and telling someone that her child is just a little "challenge" when he's got serious discipline problems and she needs to get to work on clearing those up.

Of course we all have to have earned a place in any relationship to offer truth up to anyone but then, maybe not. The older I get the more frantic I get when I realize that pastors and lay people alike are "taking their time" sharing the truth of what expectations there are of us as believers. We, for some reason, don't want to step on toes or turn someone against us or make someone upset or worse, we don't want them to go to another church. It's like throwing a life preserver to a drowning man but leaving the attached rope untouched so that although he floats and avoids drowning he's left to wander in the sea (as the sharks begin to circle) without help to reach solid ground. Whatever the reason this is dangerous territory that church leaders are treading on. The truth is that everyone wants to see people "saved" but for some reason few want to pull the line that's attached to the life preserver.

Few would argue with me that while building their child's first bike, it's best to read the instructions carefully. If something isn't put together in the way the manufacturer intended there is a good chance the child would be injured, in some cases, severely. In the same way, if we get all excited about a visitor "walking an isle" or someone we meet praying to receive Christ but fail to disciple that person honestly about changing their behavior to become more Christlike, we run the risk of allowing that person to believe they can come to Christ without repenting of sins that they might not even realize are sins at all. What's worse, as a church body, we run the risk of seeing our church become exactly what Paul was disgusted about in the church at Corinth. It seemed that he was the only one brave enough to be honest with the church body there. By the time he wrote his second letter and referring to his 3rd visit, he acknowledged that some who were living immoral lives had repented but that there were still some who were reluctant to do so. Why, I couldn't tell you but none of them could claim they were ignorant of God's expectations of them as believers. Paul told them that they could choose to do what was right and pleasing to God and he'd come in grace and peace. If they chose to rebel, he's going to arrive with a nightstick (Ok, so he didn't say nightstick - but you know what I mean). I find it hard to believe that Paul's threats weren't all Paul's idea. I am pretty sure that whether Paul shows up or not we are in trouble because God has his own nightstick. He won't let his church get mired in sin. One way or another He will cleanse the body.

That is why, for the most part, I am not bothered by people leaving our church. Some leave for pure logistics. They move to a new community and there is an excellent church that is far closer and participating in a community church is one reason why "there is a Baptist church on every corner". Others, for one reason or another, find something they don't like about what is currently going on. I have my own problems with that because your church should be your family and most of us wouldn't leave our blood family just because we didn't like what our sister wore to school or what poster our brother put up on the wall. Most wouldn't leave even if mom or dad created a rule or a requirement they didn't like. Most would stay because as long as Christ was honored they could adjust - after all - there were probably some things about them that their sister, brother, mom, or dad didn't like but put up with because they loved them. All that said, in the end it doesn't matter what I think. I have learned though that the grass is NEVER greener. But lastly, and mostly why I don't usually shed a tear over a church defection, is because there is a great chance that the defection is going to leave our church more pure. There's an element of spiritual immaturity that comes from defecting for reasons that are purely emotional and have no basis in scripture. It's not that I don't understand defection - we've done it - but we left a church, only once, for purely Biblical reasons - mostly because much of what was being preached was becoming more and more UNBiblical as each week progressed. We did confront the pastor in a mature and loving way but could make no headway, so we left. It was horrible, it was gut-wrenching and we fielded a lot of phone calls and let a lot of people down. But to not do that would have been sin on our part. I do understand being bummed about something here or something there but if we are praying for our church leaders and on our knees for our staff and pastor, shouldn't we be assuming with great confidence that the vision that is progressing is a Godly one? After all, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever but He certainly didn't perform in exactly the same way from one generation to the next. He used different people, different tasks, different approaches, all to reach the same goal... people recognizing who His Son was and to give their lives to glorify and honor Him. I find it amazing that people expect everything to stay the same in their church from year to year to year even they everyone around them is growing and changing and NOTHING else around them is staying the same. After all - stagnate anything breeds disease. We should all -regardless of age or history - be delighted to see our pastors and staff develop new ways to reach our communities for Christ. His truth doesn't change, it NEVER changes, but we do... constantly.

Which leads me back to being 46. I've never been more excited than I am now to see the man God is bringing to our church. We have been just under a year without a Senior Pastor and it's been harder than I had ever dreamed. I have been more disappointed in my fellow believers than I thought possible and disenchanted with the lack of trust, faith, and confidence that so many around me have displayed openly without hesitation. I have prayed for our Pastor Search Cmmt. I have prayed for the man that God wants for our church, therefore, I am assuming that should our cmmt follow God in His leading, the man that He blesses us with is exactly who we need to bring us through this time in our spiritual journey. Is he going to "move our cheese"? Absolutely, and I hope he does. It's his job to look at where we are and to encourage those who are doing a great job and to speak honestly to those who aren't. For anyone to expect less is only encouraging our church toward the Corinthian model. I want God to send us a Paul, nothing less will do.

So, although my life experience pulls me toward emotional responses, I must resist. Nothing good comes from that. I don't discount what I've experienced in anyway. Understanding people at their most vulnerable is important, but leading them down a path of destruction is unforgivable. Those of you who know me... know me... Those of you who don't, or have yet to spend quality time with me will be able to count on at least one thing. I will let you cry on my shoulder until the tears dry up and then I will tell you how to get yourself up off the couch and on toward living a life that is Christ honoring in spite of what brought the tears in the first place. Well, maybe I won't wait for the tears to dry up...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Problem with pancakes...

I have a love-hate relationship with pancakes. They are horribly inconsistent. Today we began our Spring Break period and I wanted to make breakfast, not pour it. All the boys wanted to do was eat Lucky Charms (rarely found in our pantry) but I made them eat pancakes. And whole wheat ones at that. The problem is the process never starts out right. I only had enough chocolate chips for two pancakes (OK, so the chocolate chips cancel out the whole wheat but after all it's spring break). I made the mistake of using up the chocolate chips in the first two pancakes which never turn out. That's all Kate wanted was chocolate chip pancakes. When she saw the burn on the bottom of the first two she shrugged her shoulders and settled for less.

I got to thinking about the book of James and the verses that talk about how we are not to be like waves tossed in the wind; inconsistent.

And so this much of the post has sat here for over two months...

So now, it's not spring break anymore but just days before the end of the school year. It makes my observations no less accurate. However, I suppose, being the person that I am, I began writing this out of frustration I was feeling about an other's behavior. Today, I write realizing that I am the one who needs to be reminded of consistency. The reality is that I struggle with the Sovereignty of God. Not does it exist but maybe it exists too much in my life.

How does that equate to consistency? For me, it's the basis of it. Resting completely in Christ's saving work and God's complete control over everything allows me to look at the unsaved world and be relatively unscathed. It's not that I'm not disappointed or discouraged or just plain bummed out -especially right now, but I'm not surprised. It's the believing world - or more particularly, those who claim to be believers, that absolutely throw me for a loop. After all, only God REALLY knows who are saved and who are not. I can look at the lives of some and question based on their behavior or what they hold dear or how they respond to situations, to be completely honest, that's a guess that I admit I make but isn't really mine to confirm. So since I don't hold the unbelieving world to standards that Christ is clear about they can't surprise me. But do I not have every right to hold brothers and sisters in Christ to standards that Christ Himself made clear?

And so to me, there's not much to get worked up about, really... because God's got it. It's short and sweet and not very intellectual (which is how I prefer to view the world most of the time) but it's true. So when I see people who claim to know and love Jesus to the depths of their being totally lose control over circumstances that they can only leave in God's hands... I come unglued, really, I do.

So why then did I spend the last 5 or 6 weeks behaving as if I suddenly had the responsibility to make sure everyone handled themselves correctly? Correctly, as in MY definition of the word. I wish I could say that's unlike me, it's not. I constantly have to fight the "30 minute sit com" syndrome. That is to say - I have just the right words for every situation and in a sweet 3o minute time slot, with my help and excellent guidance, every situation can be resolved to the approval of all involved. I am constantly reminding myself that I possess no such ability and most likely rarely have just the right words for anyone let alone everyone.

But I do have to say that for the most part, the last 6 weeks have been a struggle for me emotionally and spiritually. I want so much for God to SHOW me his plans for precious Megan and her family. I want to SEE that He's got something incredible that He's working on. That's a tough thing to admit since as the "queen of sovereignty" I'd like to keep those thoughts in the closet. I have struggled with some heavy "christian" hitters in my life lately doing and saying things that have totally thrown me for a loop and will forever change my view of them and to some degree "the church" as a whole. It's made me more determined than ever to dig deeper and deeper into the word and allow fewer people to influence my understanding of my walk in Christ. Actually, I am not sure that's a bad thing. The initial sting of it all was less like a bee and more like an ice pick but if the end result is spiritual maturity and growth in biblical knowledge then Rom. 8:28 won out again! Of course there is also the graduation from high school of my first born. I have been waiting for this day for 5 years. Tapping my watch semi-jokingly letting others know that I'm ready for this young man to move on. There are many reasons for that and I've been completely sincere in my desire to see him advance to another stage in his life. Except... now it's here and I am realizing that the day he gets an apartment and moves out is the day that I must realize that I could go days without hearing from him. College was the most fun part of my life and I am excited about this time for him too. I just didn't realize there would be so many tears that come along with that. I thought I was tougher than that. I'm having trouble admitting the truth of that as well.

So, instead of resting firmly in the arms of God, the thing I love to do and thought I did so well, I've been eaten up by one thing or another for 6 weeks. I finally realized that it was my own inconsistency that had me unglued this time. And I also realized why my first two pancakes never turn out - I have the heat up too high from the very beginning. Once it's too hot the cakes can't cook through without burning first. The key to a good pancake is to allow the pan to heat slowly and gradually so that the temperature is consistant throughout. I need to remember that for myself, too. When I rest in God's arms, I don't have to turn up any heat. My emotions don't rule my behavior only the truth that comes from His word. He IS sovereign so it's not my job - period. Like my good friend says "I have no dog in this hunt". It's my second favorite saying these days. Those who know Craig Brown will know my first! So, it's time to discover what hunt I am on and pursue that with a vengeance. I can leave myself out of everyone else's.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Comment Settings

I want to apologize to those of you who have wanted to post comments but weren't able to. I had a blog troller make comments several posts ago and I wanted to delete his post and ban him from posting. Unfortunately, by doing that, I somehow managed to keep everyone from commenting. I have changed the comment section to allow posts with the least amount of trouble but to run through my email for approval so that I have some control over the trollers. I am not trying to quash dissent, if there is any, but I am trying to keep people who spend their days googling topics so they can thrust their skewed opinions on us from posting a comment here.

Thanks for reading. Comment away! Have a great week!


Monday, March 9, 2009

Well done....

Bob and Catherine are in my Lifegroup class. That's the new term for Sunday School. I guess there are too many negative connotations that go with Sunday School so they have changed the name. Good luck, it's still Sunday School to me. Ewww, I'm old now - I've just admitted I can't adjust. I've got to do something about that.

Anyway... I like Bob and Catherine. I got to know them before we were in Sunday sch.. er... Lifegroup together because their son and Josh are in 5th grade together and they are great friends. I figured that if their son was such a great kid, they must be pretty great as well. And they are. They are both engineers. I really didn't think that two math-types could co-exist but they do and they've done it well. Neither of them are big talkers. Everything they say in Lifegroup is well thought out and worthwhile. I don't think they talk to hear their own voices. I'm always enthusiastic when they begin to discuss something they uncovered from our assignments for the week. They are just great people and folks that you are so thrilled to have as part of your church family.

Well, last week, Bob's grandmother died. I'm glad for her. She was 90 and according to Bob, had a great life. I'm glad for her because of what Bob had to say about her. I am not sure that she lived a day of her life without Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Of course there were one or two days but I'm not sure that there were more than that. To hear Bob talk about her, and he had a lot to say, she was what Timothy's mother and grandmother were like as Paul described them in 2 Timothy 1:5. Paul talked about the faith he knew those influential women had in Timothy's life and how it was modeled and passed down to him. By they way Bob spoke of his grandmother, I am sure that most of his knowledge and trust in Christ was beautifully modeled by this woman.

When I talked to Catherine on Saturday she and I discussed what she thought the funeral would be like. I couldn't imagine that it would be anything less than a glorious celebration. Who could be sad on such a day? Of course those she left behind will miss her for all that she meant to them but think about what she left behind. The memories, the advice, the example... I can only imagine. I wonder what her entrance into Heaven was like for her. Knowing the woman Bob said she was, I will bet she fell flat on her face before her wonderful Savior and He gently picked her up to face Him and said "Well done, good and faithful servant." I hope that all those in her family who are sad about her passing will think of that and be glad, no, delighted in the knowledge that she is in the presence of the One she's been longing for since the day she became a new creation.

I long for Him too. More and more as each year goes by. Most of the time I long for Him when I think things are really going poorly. I don't mean in my personal life, I mean in the life of the church, in the life of the country, in the life of the world. But the way Bob talked about his grandmother made me rethink my longings. Of course we should all long for our Father in Heaven but I'm not sure that it should be something that we rush to verbalize. After all, I will bet Bob's grandmother showed her faith masterfully during the most dreadful of times. If she died at 90 in 2009 that means she was born in 1919. Only history class gives me some idea of what she lived through and how she lived through it. I am sure that her faith in her Creator and Redeemer held her fast when she wanted to give up. I am sure that her children and grandchildren saw her confidence in her Provider which led them to have confidence in Him as well. I want to be that woman to my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. I want my funeral to be a celebration. I do hope there are some tears, after all, there's no positive relationship that doesn't draw a tear when it's over, but I pray that it's a celebration too. I want everyone that loved me and that I loved to KNOW that being with my Father is where I ultimately want to be. But in the midst of the celebration, during the after-funeral gatherings, I hope everyone has a story to tell about my faithfulness to my Lord and Savior. I hope that all those that I loved will be able to point to at least one particular event in my life or a conversation that I had with them that led them into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Blood, sweat, and tears.

I have been putting the finishing touches a women's Bible study I teach on Friday mornings. I am using Elizabeth George's Woman After God's Own Heart loosely as a guide. The chapters I am teaching on this week are about "making a home", and "watching over our home". In the middle of reviewing I became convicted about the clutter that was coming close to getting out of control. Michael has been away all week and will be home on Saturday. Knowing what I want the house to look like when he arrives, I knew if I didn't do even a little picking up it would get out of control and I'd spend my entire Saturday morning cleaning house before he arrives.

So, I started with our bathroom, picking up the things Kate got out while bathing in our big tub last night. I saw my shaver there and a memory flashed from long ago. You see, Kate came out of the bathroom, towel dried with her arm cut and bleeding. The fact that she didn't scream for me (girls plus blood equal screams) from the tub meant that she got cut doing something she thought I'd not approve of. It had to have hurt, I've sliced myself like that many times and it was really bleeding. She told me that she used "that thing that I use to shave my hair" on her arm and it cut her. I bandaged her up and explained what it was for, why it cut her, and when she most likely would choose to start using it. But, I told her, whenever she felt that she needed to shave, she needed to come to me and I'd show her how to use it.

My memory flashed to the day my cousin Barbara and I decided to start shaving our legs. Barbara and I are only 2 months apart in age. She was one of 5, the youngest child, who's dad was killed by a drunk driver when she was 5 and her oldest sibling was 12. Her mom, my dad's oldest sibling brought her family to our town where we lived within blocks of my dad's parents and his youngest sibling and her family. We cousins, there were 10 of us, would spend time together constantly. Even in school, the Andersons were together and occupied every grade and every school. As Barbara and I grew older we often watched, no stalked, her older sister Linda. We pretty much got our cues from her. I even chose to play the clarinet in band many years after we moved away because Linda played it. That's another blog post...

So the day came when we discovered that Linda shaved her legs. I can't remember the details, just that Barbara handed me a shaver and away we went. It wasn't long before Linda caught us and told us that we were too young. I didn't know why we were too young and don't remember if I even asked her why she thought that, I only knew that I wanted to appear to be "older" so I kept shaving my legs. It wasn't until my father started to complain to my mother that she was ruining his shavers by using them on her legs that my mom deduced the truth. She came to me and asked me if I was shaving my legs.

Honestly, the whole thing wasn't a big deal and she really didn't care, she just didn't want me to use dad's shaver anymore. She told me that it never dawned on her that she needed to talk to me about shaving my legs and told me that her mother never talked to her about anything and the first time she shaved her legs she thought she had to remove the whole top layer of skin in order to get rid of the hair. OUCH! Mom really never talked to me about much of anything. Her mother didn't and I guess she just thought I'd figure it out. Mom and I are great friends but I think about the things that she and I missed out on because she allowed me to discover them on my own.

That's not what I want for Kate. I want her to realize that if she wonders about anything she can come to me without me "freaking out". I have learned to pick my battles and am comfortable with the battles I've chosen to pick and those I've chosen to let go. Others may battle things that I wouldn't. It's OK because the Holy Spirit speaks to us in different ways and every family is different. I work hard to make sure Kate, and the boys, know that asking me about things doesn't indict them. And I work hard, sometimes REALLY hard, at masking any emotions that may make me appear less then confident. I want them to come to me, to us, for answers, opinions, even to vent. Of course, ultimately I want them to go to God's word for those things too but we are the first step in that process and my confidence in the answers I give from His word convince them of the confidence that they too can have there.

I want a relationship with Kate and my boys that far exceeds the one I have with my mom. I want it based on the foundation provided by God and it doesn't happen without a lot of work. Blood, sweat, and tears is an understatement but when we have the conversations that really matter because they wouldn't consider discussing those issues with anyone else - THAT's when it will all be worth it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

All the bells and whistles

So, I'm reading Tim Challies blog (linked on this site to the left) and his latest post is talking about all the choices we have and if we really need all those choices in everything from food to cell phones. He made me think, a lot. And I had several flashbacks - almost like in the movies but with not as much make up.

I remembered an economics professor (remember now, I was in college before Reagan brought the Iron Curtain down) discussing the USSR. He talked about a young man who was able to escape to the United States only to feel like he was losing his mind just going into the grocery store. To his dismay, when he went to choose a can of beans he was completely befuddled. There were baked beans, green beans, french cut green beans, waxed yellow beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, on and on they went. There was an entire section in the store with hundreds of canned beans. He left in tears because he wasn't capable of making that decision. Whew, I was floored. I had never known a time in life when I wasn't able to make a decision. Not all my decisions were good ones (mom finally had to give me only three choices of outfits daily because left to myself, I'd have not made good clothing choices)but because I was raised with the practice of decision making daily and parents who had the presence of mind to teach me how to make good decisions, I usually did pretty well. And most of the time, when I didn't, I knew full well that they weren't good decisions but did them anyway...

Another flashback reminded me of a huge revelation I had in my life when I was only 30. I say only because I am far from that now. Michael and I owned our first house. It was modest but in some ways not so much when you considered others in the same age category. He made pretty good money and we got a good deal on the house. We weren't living above our means but we did have debt and I was thinking that it'd be a good idea to get rid of it. I didn't know how to go about that. (I'd never heard of Dave Ramsey at that point, actually he was probably neck deep in debt at that time anyway). I found myself at my friend Ginger's house. She lived down the street from me and her house was more modest than mine, she and her husband were older than Michael and I, and they had their house furnished much more sparingly than we did. Until that day, I sort of felt bad for them. But on that day, she revealed (I'm convinced led by the Holy Spirit just for my benefit) what their mortgage payment was and that they were debt free. I felt like I was hit in the head with a baseball bat. I looked around at her house. Sure, I thought that mine, overall was prettier, maybe "fancier", maybe more "decorator-looking" but it served them well. They had plenty of room, they lived in the same nice subdivision we did AND they knew exactly how much money on any given day they had to spend if they wanted to go out to dinner. They had money in a savings account to take a vacation - actually 3 if they wanted to. It dawned on me that maybe, less IS more!

Then I thought about my sister-in-law and a conversation she and I had several years ago when she was building her house. She and my brother-in-law were building quite a nice house, on a beautiful lot and to be honest, they could have purchased the highest end appliances that they desired. Although I assumed money was no object to them, in their minds, it probably was, maybe a little. But she is reasonable and she knows where their money comes from and to her, being stewardly was and still is important regardless of how much money is in her bank account. So she told me that she chose one refrigerator over another because the price difference was astronomical and because the cheaper one looked the same, performed the same, it just didn't have all the bells and whistles and to be honest, she didn't need the bells and whistles.

I just got off of the site. Do you know you can save 500 dollars just choosing a decent stainless dishwasher over a top of the line maxed out dishwasher? I had no idea you could spend over 1000 dollars on a dishwasher period. Of course, stewardship includes buying wisely, not all brands are equal, but you know what I am getting at. Why do we buy what we do? And should we not look at our purchases more wisely?

I say this because if I had budgeted 1000 dollars for a dishwasher and chose to be more reasonable and bought one for 500 dollars, I could give that extra to the church building fund, to an organization like Samaritan's Purse, or to a youth in my church trying to afford to take a mission trip to Peru. (More on that later since that is where Drew is headed in June) The point is that these times are hard times and hard times call for us to examine ourselves. What or Who are we living for? It's wonderful to drive a nice new car but if you had one that was used and performed just as well but cut your payments in half, wouldn't it be worth it to do that if by tithing the left over you provided space for 5 more babies in the nursery? Or if sending that boy to Peru meant confirming his call to missions which over his lifetime meant he had the chance to lead hundreds to Christ? What if being committed to a building program instead of Ruth's Chris's on a regular basis meant expansion of the worship center which allowed for hundred's of family's who wanted to hear the pure word of God preached to sit comfortably and grow in their Christian walk?

I went last weekend to a thrift store in Alabama with a friend who's husband makes more money in a week then we see in months. She is a thrift store freak. She is always dressed beautifully and looks like she stepped off of a magazine cover. The other day - she found a black sequined gown for a formal gathering she had to attend, at a thrift store, for 15 bucks. I can tell you that the extra couple hundred she could have paid went to sending someone on a mission trip.

I guess our emphasis on tithing last Sunday has me focused on how we, Michael and I, and we, the body of Christ view our money, our possessions, and our talents. I guess I am remembering that they come from our Heavenly Father and I know so much about Him that my life is different than it was 25 years ago when I first met Him. And most of my growth has come from church or Bible Studies attended at church. I want that for a whole lot of other people. But if I think that having all the bells and whistles, the best of everything, the most state-of-the-art electronic device is the most important thing then I am going to have to come to terms with the fact that I may not hear God say the one thing to me that I long to hear Him say. That is "Well done, my good and faithful servant."