Positive Vision

I will go ahead and give a disclaimer – this is a post about something I’m really struggling with right now.  Positive vision.

The last few weeks, even months, have been full of disappointments.  Both personal and relational.  The older I become, the more I am aware of the sins of those around me, and the sins of myself.  This has made it hard for me to invest fully into the lives of those around me and the spiritual ‘mutualness’ of people – if that makes any sense.  In other words, I struggle with people who claim Christ as their Savior, yet live, intentionally, lives that say otherwise.  I quickly become the judge of their soul, rather than the friend to their heart.  This is something that I’ve wrestled with ever since my early teenage years.  Being raised in a godly Christian home, with the advantage of being homeschool for most of my life, I – even thought I don’t ‘regret’ it – was pretty sheltered from the realness of this world.  Once I saw things in this world that put a bad taste in my mouth, my conscience and my heart said to flee.  So, I would.  This is not so easy to do – nor should it always be the case, as an adult, however.   We are not asked, but TOLD in Scripture to BE the salt and light to this fallen and dark world.  How can one BE salt and light if one instead chooses to completely hide in the shadows of their comfort zone?  They can’t.  I can’t.

   This particular season of my life has brought much sadness.  Dear friends left our church, dear friends are getting ready to move half way across the USA, a dear friend had a miscarriage.   Family members are struggling, some family members are suffering.  I feel a somewhat ’emotional persecution’ for simply not changing my mind, my actions or my beliefs for what I believe in, Truth.  It’s been a very whirling, tossing, nauseating last few months.  Months full of change of which I didn’t see coming, nor did I want. Today, I had a sudden epiphany, that I – ultimately – have NO control over life circumstances. Shocking, I know.  You would think that I would be grateful for this fact – that I would feel less ‘pressure’ or burden, but rather I get a sense of helplessness and uneasiness.

   This next season of my life brings many changes, as well.  Good changes – exciting changes!  I am getting ready to start a new job that has to do with my favorite age group (PreK) AND teaching music, James is going to 4-day Preschool, Peter is entering 2nd grade, I have a bunch of new students coming on board in the Fall, my Thursday morning Bible Study is beginning a new book (that’s big news for us …. we know how to extend just about anything!), our Youth Group will be gaining a few more new faces, my sister is going to have her FIRST baby, a little boy (Owen) in September – I’LL FINALLY BE AN AUNT!  Tim and I are talking house addition starting the beginning of next year.  Lots of new and exciting things.

   With all of the ‘good’ in my life, why do I allow the ‘bad’ things to completely overshadow the good?  I fear that even if there were only one or two things on the ‘bad’ list, and a dozen or more things on the ‘good’ list, I would still – somehow – focus merely on the bad.  Why do I do this?  Sin.  Plain and simple.  Worry is a good, close friend of mine.  Even when the situation may have absolutely NOTHING to do with me, personally, I make it a personal goal of mine to take on the responsibility of worrying for someone else’s sake.  I don’t know why.  I need worry to be an enemy.   I need to flee from that.  I need to hate it, badly.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

I don’t.  Well, not all of the time.  (I’m not being a total debbi-downer and ‘woe-is-me-er’)   I talked to a friend about this today.  It was very assuring to know that I’m not the only one who has ever struggled with this and it is EXTREMELY comforting to have friends to go to who do not struggle with this as badly as I do.

Most everyone knows the verse ‘Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say, rejoice!’ – but I LOVE the verses that follow it, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”

  I need to do this more often.  I need to get into the habit of rejoicing, not being anxious, praying more, not freighting, focusing on those things of for which I am undoubtably thankful for, not feeling bad for myself.  I could sure use some help with this.  That is why I serve a Mighty God, Who loves me and desires for me to seek Him.  He listens and He understands.  He cares and gives grace.  He allows me to go and grow through trials BECAUSE He loves me.   I serve a Great Savior!

So, with the help of my Lord and Savior, my Husband and my friends – I can have a positive view, a wonderful (freeing) attitude of thankfulness.  I bet I’ll be able to see things better, to sleep better and to have a better, more positive vision of everything and everyone around me.  Wouldn’t that be nice?!

Law. Like it or Leave it.

Nothing makes me more aware of my own sinful nature and total dependance on God MORE than being a parent.  Seeing how much my kids need me, rely on me, trust me and feel secure, comforted and loved by Tim and I.  This is how I (need to always) feel about my Heavenly Father.

One of my (many) goals as a parent is to make sure that everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is brought back to Christ.  Our lives should be revolving around Him, surrounded by Him, involved by Him, so I’m trying my hardest to do so through my kids as well.

One day, while grocery shopping with James, he noticed the sign on the top of the cart that has a picture of a kid standing on the cart with a big red ‘X’ over it.  He asked what it meant.  I told him that it means that kids aren’t allowed to stand on the cart.  His reply was, “Oh, yeah.  Because God said so, right Mom?”  Wow.  Wasn’t prepared for that question.  Now, he did exactly what I’m trying to do with him, but did it in the most bizarre way! 🙂

So, I thought for a minute and said, “Well, James.  The ‘rules of the cart’ are that children aren’t allowed to stand on the carts, and the Lord HAS told us to obey the law, so if the law of this cart is to not stand on it, than the Lord wants us to follow that rule or law.”  He nodded in assurance.  Whew!!!

That got me thinking, what kind of rules/laws do I need to follow, as a parent?  What are some basic things that I can do to uphold the law?  Well, Tim – unfortunately, got a real good taste of his own medicine a couple weeks ago, after getting pulled over – in the church parking lot of ALL places – with the boys in the car.  He had expired tags and had completely forgotten to have them renewed.  The officer was very nice, and very nicely gave him a ticket.  The boys, stunned by the fact that he got pulled over thought this was something far more serious and asked if Daddy was going to have to go to jail.  After we laughed a bit, Tim explained to them how he broke the law.  He should’ve renewed his tags a long time ago, and got caught.  His punishment was going to be that ticket, that he would have to pay.  Even though it wasn’t a fun experience in the least bit of sense, it gave Tim a perfect opportunity to explain how even we – as parents/adults – have rules and laws we need to obey, and if we don’t, we will get in trouble.  I was super proud of how well and mature he handled the situation and used it as a life lesson for our boys.

I consider church-going as a ‘rule’ or a command.  God clearly instructs us on this in Hebrews:

Hebrews 10:23-25   Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

This verse is so encouraging to me, as a parent.  On one hand, it makes me very aware of my HUGE responsibility as a mother to these two precious boys, to make sure that they are being raised in unity with the fellowship of His saints and to be a good example of a faithful attender.  On the other hand, it shows the perfection of His will.  If we obey His calling to His children, He rewards us with so much grace and fruitfulness.  I can’t imagine going through life without my church family.  Talk about encouraging!!!  The fellowship and friendships I have formed from my church are eternal and precious.  I am constantly loved, encouraged and challenged by so many there.

There was a Sunday morning, many years ago – when Peter was small and still in the nursery.  He had ‘escaped’ without us noticing.  Now, our church building isn’t at all what I would consider ‘huge’ but with a hundred or so people in the halls and sanctuary, it may as well be a thousand people, in the mind of a parent who can’t find their child.  Tim and I looked at each other and we both said, “He’s good.  Someone will see him and bring him back”.  At that moment, an adult brought Peter to us and said, “We found Peter wondering around and thought he may be lost”.  Totally watching out for us!  It was so comforting to know that we have a hundred eyes looking out for our kiddo’s.  Tim and I knew that, at that moment, that we are surrounded by people who truly took their oath to help us raise these boys in the admiration of the Lord, seriously!  We are indeed blessed and honored to be serving in this church!  His church.  Our church.

Modesty ….. it’s not just about YOU!

This is a video that we shared with our Youth Group last night – A.Maz.Ing. video!  If you are a mother – of any age of kiddo’s – watch THIS!  This totally opens up eyes to our responsibilities as moms, as daughters, as sisters, as Christ’s children and as women.

*click on the subject ‘modesty’ below to watch the 8 minute video.

Modesty

The Power of Providence

I am a big fan of God’s providence.  I say that partly kiddingly.  His providence, of course, is always perfect and has nothing to do with what I think is right or wrong, good or bad.  He has the best way of doing things, because He is the One who created those things to even have their existance – so Who better to know??

One of my favorite verses comes from Jeremiah 29:11 –

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

  Sounds like He cares, doesn’t it?  I LOVE having a Heavenly Father Who knows, Who cares, Who loves, Who likes, Who promises, Who sanctifies, Who teaches, Who sympathizes, Who gives second, third, ….. a bizillion chances.  Who never turns His face away from His children.  Who reaches out with open arms every time we screw up.  Who has been there in the midst of temptation, just so that He may sympathize and be the ultimate example of patience, endurance and victory over our own trials and temptations.
His providence is great – but I have been recently reminded of those ‘smaller’ providential moments.  Those small, and what (at the time) may seem insignificant moments that make you think, “Hmmmm.  That was pretty cool”
Tim and I had quite a difficult week while James was on Spring Break.  Although he is only going to Preschool two days a week – his vacation week seemed to last an eternity!  Thursday was the worst of the days.  I won’t going into all of my reasons and complaints …. but, let’s just say it went from bad (lying, talking back) to worse (peed in Tim’s car on the way home from Maunday Thursday service – just because).  So, Friday was looking grim, although it had not come yet.
   Tim and Peter had off on Good Friday, so we decided to make the most out of our day off.  We had a humungous list of errands to run, places to be, things to get, etc.  We were taking Tim’s car (i.e. ‘no dvd, no radio, no cd, no room for toys, total ‘sports car’ – every Moms nightmare!).  That just about made me panic, knowing how much James needs stimulation constantly.   I went under our bed, that morning, to get out some shoes I had stuffed underneath and noticed a huge plastic container.  As I opened it, I just stopped and laughed.  I guess you could say, I ‘L-O-L’ed!! 🙂   There, filled to the top, was Christmas presents I had planned on wrapping and giving to the boys for Christmas.   I totally and completely forgot that they were there!!!  Tim suggested that I give some of the little ones to the boys NOW, so that they would have something to play with in the car.  Well, to make a long story short – we left the house at 9AM, ate both meals out, ran multiple errands and did not return home until 4PM.  The boys (AND James) were angels!!!!   I was in as much shock as one could be in at this age, without passing out!
  I told Tim that those toys were a God-send.  And, I really was being literal.  I had no idea those toys were under my bed.  It could’ve been very easy to find them at any other time …. yet, for whatever reason, I only saw that box THAT day.  God was SO good to us.  Again – I know that this seems silly.  But, I’m trying to see the simple, little things in life, and see how they fit in the big picture of our lives.   God allowed me to find that box that day, knowing that my kids needed something to entertain them during our busy day.   It was a smooth-sailing day for all of us.  And, we had the most fun family day that I could ever imagine!  So many laughs and not a single tear shed.  That’s big news for us! 🙂
   Anyway.  I’m choosing to pay close attention to these little providential moments, from God.  And, I want my kids to capture them as well and to always give thanks to our Heavenly Father in and through all things!

Oil Change

Tim and I lead a ministry in our church called, simply, Oil Change.  It would seem that the title kind of perfectly describes our mission, but it goes so far beyond a simple oil change – we aim to touch the lives of single moms, wives with husbands serving overseas and widows.  We are called to be the salt and light of this dark world – and in giving of our time, our gifts, our abilities and our love, we can serve these broken people (as we all are) better for His glory.  Some of these women are at the end of their rope.  Some have major financial struggles and don’t know how they are going to pay the next bill.  Some of these women have children and are looking for an extra meal that day for their kiddo’s.  Some of these women have been forced to live in a situation outside of their control, and are completely unaware of the problems that their cars are experiencing.  That’s where WE come in!

We do it all.  Everything from changing and replacing filters, to topping off all fluids, sometimes we do brakes, sometimes we buy them new tires …. once, we even gave a single mom a car!  We have many men, in our congregation, who know a little something or two about what’s under the hood of the car (understatement, for sure!) and they are drawn to help these women.

Indoors, we have women from our church who get to meet, talk and often have the chance to even pray with these mothers.  We have ladies who make home-made goodies to share.  We have ladies who give a helping hand, who bring their children to play with the other kids, who sit with these women who are alone and just be a friend ….. you never know who will walk through our front doors ….. we may be the only Jesus they’ve ever seen.

Here are some pictures from our last Oil Change, last Saturday.  We had the MOST women signed up – that we’ve ever had before.  18 women!!!!  God was soooo good to us.  Despite the low attendance in help, and despite the stormy weather that was predicted, we were able to finish all their cars, before 1:30 AND with the added blessing of perfect, sunny, clear skies!!!  He is good – always!

My two biggest guys – hard at work!  Peter was beyond thrilled that he was allowed to help out this year.  He really, literally, got his hands dirty and you would have thought he had won the lottery!  It was a true blessing to watch him learn about this ministry and share in it’s blessings!

This was ONE of THREE tables full of supplies, filters, oil, etc.

This table was also almost completely cleared off by the time they were done.  Crazy!

We even had some of our Youth Group guys show up and give us a hand!!  It was awesome!!!

We will have two more of these, Lord willing, before the calendar year draws to a close.  If you are interested, at all in assisting, in anyway – by attending, baking, childcare, car repair, tools or monetarily – we sure could use your help! 🙂

Broken, but not dead.

Today, this is how I feel.

With everything going on in my life right now, I feel kind of broken.    I used to feel like this tree (before the lightning and thunder storms) blossoming and beautiful.  Ready for any adventure.  But, then you begin to go through a hard times, the mental exhaustion, the emotional heartache, the sleepless nights and the wondering ‘why’s that slowing crawl in and begin to break you.  Now, I believe that the Lord uses ALL situations for our good.  All of them.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  This tree is a beautiful example of myself at this point.  It’s so pretty when it blooms although I know that as soon as it does, my eyes water, my nose runs and I feel pretty miserable.  It’s beauty on the outside doesn’t ‘protect’ me from it’s natural causes.  It just helps to hide all of the nastiness that it brings to my life (and my eyes) and for a while – I forget that I’m miserable.  It helps me to focus on HIS beauty.  His love for His children.  He wants us to lean soley on Him during these trials and tribulations.  He allows these kinds of hardships to draw us closer to Him.  How can we ever see our real need for Him, our real beauty unless all of this world is rotten, nasty and broken?

Here’s the good news.  We may be broken, but we’re not dead yet.

I’m hurt, I’m sad – things happen completely and totally out of my control, but I can choose joy!  I can choose to grow through these pains rather than wallow in them.  I can choose to be a good example to my children.  To not give up hope.  To press on.  To, one day, look back and tell my kids, “Do you see what the Lord brought us through?  Isn’t He good to us, always?”  I am a little excited to see what will come about this change.  How the Lord will bless us for keeping close to Him and His Bride.  I choose to follow wherever He leads me, and if that means I have to pull up my pant legs and muddle through some crappy soil, than I say, ‘bring it on!’  I know it’s for our good.  For His glory and for His will to be made complete.  The end.

Now, look at a close up of this broken tree.

Look at how beautiful this tree still is, up close!  It’s very broken.  It’s been damaged beyond repair.  But, it’s still going strong.  It may mess with my sinuses, cause my eyes to water and force me to take some heavy-duty allergy pills – but look at what it still has left in it.  Pure beauty.  Blossoms that could brighten any day.

We are all a broken people.  We’re supposed to be.  That’s where God’s strength is most powerful in our lives.  His love comes alive in our souls and we thirst the most for Him during those times.

This brings me great joy.

Amen!

Update on Susie:

I write this post in udder praise to our Father.  Just an amazing story of faith, assurance and hope in God, our King!  To Him be all of the glory and honor and praise!!!

3 days after brain surgery, Susie is home!  I can’t believe it.

It feels great to be home.  Susie will still need to rest quite a bit as she recovers.

The kids are excited to have mommy at home.  Please keep them in prayer as they adjust to mommy needing to rest, and with the black eye and stitches that she has.   Talya said, “I don’t want to see mommy’s funny face!”

God continues to show Himself true to us each and every day.  We know we have a journey ahead, but as I was reading in Exodus this morning, God told His people to just take the manna they needed for that day.  In the same way, we are trusting God for what we need today, and not worrying about tomorrow.  Such a simple task can prove to be quite difficult.

This was updated by Susie’s husband, Ben.  It’s such a great feeling knowing that she gets to be home – and so soon – with her beautiful family!  Also – they did an ultrasound to check on that sweet baby growing inside her – and all is well!  Amen!!!