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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Bonus Click

I love roller coasters.  And I'm super happy that my 10-year old has inherited my love of roller coasters because we love to ride them together.  We rode one a couple of months ago where you started out on your back and left backwards out of the station.  We were both pretty scared but it turned out to be so much fun!  When we left the station, it flipped us over as if we were flying.  What a cool feeling.

Whenever I step into the coaster and pull down my chest harness, I'm always very particular about making sure I'm secured in there really tight.  I suck in my gut and pull the harness down as tightly as possible.  I buckle the extra seat belt at the seat.  I pull on the seat belt several times just to make absolutely sure it's hooked tight.  And then I do what a friend of mine refers to as the "bonus click."  That's where you have the harness as tight as it seems it can go but then you suck in and push it down just one more click... the bonus click.  It feels so satisfying.

Yet, even with the chest harness, seat belt and bonus click, I still find myself wrapping my arms around the harness in front of me... just in case.  I figure if the harness is going to malfunction and come open during the ride, the sheer strength of my arms will hold me in place.  It's quite a mental process I have going on in those minutes before the ride begins.

My favorite roller coaster launches out of the station.  It pulls up very slowly to the opening and pauses for a moment just long enough to get the butterflies going in the pit of my stomach.  And then, without warning... blast off!  I'm holding really tightly to my harness now and screaming a half-nervous, half-excited type of scream.  I see the 90 degree drop coming up ahead.  I check my bonus click one more time as we inch toward the fall.  I'm holding on as tightly as possible as I suddenly feel weightless and lifted up in my seat.  I start to remove my arm from the death grip I have going on so that I can put it over my 10-year old next to me to ensure he doesn't fall out since he's so much smaller than me.  Yet as I reach next to me to secure him with my massive strength, I notice that not only is he not holding on for dear life, he has both of his hands straight up in the air and a huge smile on his face!

Sometimes I treat God this way.  I try to take control and handle things myself.  I need that extra bonus click because I don't believe that He truly sees what's going on and that at any moment I could fall if I don't hold on tightly.  Oh how I wish I could be like my son, completely trusting that everything is going to be okay and just enjoying the ride.

God is teaching me that He is good and He knows what is best for my life.  He is teaching me how to let go because He is trustworthy.  He sees the big picture while I only see the tiny bits as I go.  His Word promises that He is working everything out for my good, even when it doesn't seem like it from my viewpoint.  I don't always have to understand.  There are so many times in my life where I can remember feeling like things would never work out, only to look back in hindsight to see that God was there all along.  I can trust Him.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God."  Romans 8:28

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Lesson on Holiness in the Fast Food Drive-Thru

"Be ye holy; for I am holy."  1 Peter 1:16

I was sitting in the drive-thru at McDonald's.  It was one of those fancy new drive-thrus that has two separate ordering lanes to choose from.  I pulled in on the right and placed my order.  The car to my left finished and pulled ahead.  As I finished my order, I began to pull forward assuming that it was my turn to go.  Just as I started to inch forward, the next truck on the left started to push his way into the line ahead of me.  I paused and wondered out loud, "Hey, I thought the lines were supposed to take turns... what is he doing trying to get in front of me?"  As I continued to pull ahead, two little voices from the back seat proclaimed with excited anticipation, "Mommy!  Let's pay for the car behind us!"

What?  That car behind us?  The one that was trying to push me out of line and get in front of me? You want me to pay for that car?

At that moment, I had a choice to make as I pulled up to the payment window.  The innocence and compassion from my 8 and 11 year old touched my heart.  They were right.  

The Bible says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy."  To be holy means to be set apart.  Later that evening, I continued to think about that.  If I want to be holy as He is holy, my responses should be different than those of the world.  

I am so thankful that when Jesus was hanging on the cross as an innocent man, being mocked and beaten, that He didn't choose to say, "Forget them.  I'm not doing anything special for those people who have treated me so terribly."

Instead, he chose to say, "Father, forgive them.  For they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

That is the holiness of God.  He didn't respond as the world would respond.  Instead, he responded with grace.  As I think about this, I realize that I have a question to ask myself in the face of injustice:

Should I respond with holiness or should I respond as the world would respond?

Father, I ask today that you would grant me holiness in every situation that presents itself. Help me to put aside my own feelings of injustice and bitterness and respond as You would respond. In your Name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

In Defense of Anna Duggar

"Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."  Matthew 10:16

Very rarely do I jump on the social media bandwagon of trending discussions.  However, the current trending story regarding Josh and Anna Duggar makes me sad.  Everyone has an opinion... as they always do.  It comes from every side of the issue.  It's easy to think we have all the best answers as we casually swipe across the screen of our Smartphones and then move onto the next topic of the day.

One story I read today came from a mom in Georgia.  I liked her statement that she wished "more people would talk about Anna" because I think it's easy to overlook the pain of others involved in a scandal like this.  But then she talked about her thoughts that Anna Duggar's parents had "utterly, utterly failed her" by not teaching her to stand up for herself against mistreatment.  While she made some good points about women not allowing abuse (and most definitely protecting your children from it), I couldn't get over the fact she probably doesn't actually know Anna Duggar or her parents.  All that any of us know about the circumstances are based on reports from any given media outlet.  Anything other than that, we can only assume based on observation which may be biased based on our own beliefs and past experiences.  This is true of any story in the media on any given day.

If I were to make an assumption based on my own past experience, I would assume that Anna is struggling through a traumatic time in her life right now.  Since she recently had a baby, Anna would be experiencing a lot of hormonal change.  That alone can make the emotional side of dealing with the recent events in her marriage and family one thousand times worse and difficult to sort through what is real and what is not.

On top of the hormonal changes following childbirth, it is likely that this newest baby is not yet sleeping through the night.  That leads me to believe that Anna is probably not sleeping through the night, either.  I remember how it felt to be experiencing deep pain and grief compounded by hormones and a lack of sleep.  It's very difficult.  Add to that taking care of a newborn plus three other young children.  Then compound that with the fact that her husband's past and current affairs are being played out in front of massive audience of wolves poised and ready for attack.  And the attacks are not only directed toward the person who committed the sins, but also of those hurt and devastated by them.  This is a reality that we know is true of the world, but don't really expect to experience in such a radical way in our own lives. It is shocking and devastating to find out that the person you married and love and had babies with may not be the person you thought they were.  Lord, I pray that Anna would a experience a calm and quiet spirit that only comes from You as the world around her is spinning. 

Yes, I also wish more people would talk about Anna.  But what I really wish was that more people would pray for Anna.

Pray that she would be wise as a serpent and also harmless as a dove.  But be wise.  "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves."  Matthew 10:16

Pray that the Lord would give her eyes to see and ears to hear.  "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them."  Proverbs 20:12

Pray that she would guard her heart and protect those of her babies.  "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."  Proverbs 4:23

Pray that the Lord would bring other believers alongside her to support her and pray for her. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Pray that truth would sink into her being.  "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts:  and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom."  Psalm 51:6

I pray that Anna would have courage to walk the road ahead with boldness to stand up for what is right. These are the same things that I pray for myself and for my own children.  I also pray for her in the wee hours of the night as she rocks her sweet little one to sleep, that the Lord would quiet her soul to find rest in the comfort of His arms.

In the coming days, weeks, months, years... Anna Duggar will make good decisions, and she will make decisions she will later regret and wished she had done differently.  She will make decisions for right now and decisions that will impact the rest of her life.  It's hard to live righteously in a wicked world even without all of the added pressures that she has.  But with every decision that she makes, whether good or bad, I believe that God will use them all to mold her every day into His image.  It may not look like that to us, the outside judging world, as we read the latest stories and news feeds. But I trust that the Lord knows what He is doing... in Anna Duggar's life... in my life... in my kids' lives... in your life.

It's easy to say Anna Duggar should do this or that but it's another thing to actually be living it and making those decisions in real life.  It begins with prayer.  My prayer for her right now is for comfort and wisdom in making decisions for her and her children.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Should Have

I am a thinker.

I am an analyzer.  

I am introspective.  

I am sometimes borderline neurotic.

Over the years, I've gotten a better handle on personal boundaries and being proactive rather than reactive.  But not always.  Recently, I've found myself saying, "I should have..."

I should have spoken up more.

I should have done this instead of that.

I should have kept my cool when my kids were fighting with each other.

I should have just stayed out of a conversation that didn't have anything to do with me.

I should have...

Should have is a reactive statement and self-defeating.  It doesn't build me up.  It tears me down.  It leaves me clothed in guilt and regret.  The glass is half-empty.

Recently, I have learned a new technique.  Instead of saying "I should have..." say "I would have preferred to..."  

I would have preferred to have spoken up more in that situation.  Thank you, Lord for helping me to see that and I pray that you would give me the boldness and confidence to speak out when appropriate and to use my tongue wisely.

I would have preferred to do this instead of that.  I am not going to beat myself up over this, but will remember these preferences as I face similar situations in the future.

I would have preferred to keep my cool when my kids were fighting with each other.  Instead, I yelled.  I could have handled the situation better and will humble myself and apologize to my children for losing my temper.  I will lead by example of how to respond to anger and frustration.

I would have preferred to stay out of a conversation that didn't have anything to do with me.  Instead, I joined in the gossip.  Going forward, I will be intentional about not involving myself.  I may even come up with some simple one liners to politely excuse myself from the conversation such as, "I'd prefer not talk about that."

Saying "I would have preferred to" instead of "I should have" gives me power over my own emotions and reactions and allows me to be proactive and focus on the future rather than remaining reactive and focusing on the past of all the things I should have done.

Instead of I should have... I now try to say I would have preferred to...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Finding my Happy Place in the Darkest Days

Tonight, I was reading through my old journals as I randomly do every once in a while.  I came across a conversation I had with the Lord back in 2011 that I really liked:

I'm siting at [Y] Park right now and it's just as peaceful and relaxing as I remember it.  You and I had some good talks right here at this park, Lord.  It's a beautiful day out, too so I'm just sitting here in my old usual spot with the windows down.  If I ever need to go to my "happy place," I think this should be it.  Not because I was always happy here.  I used to come here on some of the darkest days of my life.  But I met God here.  There is peace here.  Will you meet me here now, Lord?  I really don't even feel like I need to ask because I know You're already here.  I just know.

I love that.  I used to sit in my car at that very park almost every day.  Sometimes I would write. Sometimes I would read.  Sometimes I would listen to a program on the Christian radio station. Other days, I just sat in silence and watched the clouds go by.  There was nothing special about that park, in particular.  There was no beautiful landscaping.  The walking trail was old and cracked.  In fact, there was a big rain gutter right by the area where I always parked.  But for me, it is my happy place. Although I could meet with the Lord at any time and place, that corner spot in the parking lot over by the soccer field was special to me.

I think I'd like to visit there again sometime soon.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The View From Here: Seven Years Later

A few weeks ago at church we sang Shout to the Lord.  I love that song.  It always takes me back to my life almost seven years ago... in a good way.  My life was so different seven years ago than it is now. It wasn't too long after that, that I started this blog as a way to cope through the grief of separation and divorce.

In December 2007, the world as I knew it fell apart.  I had experienced pain both physically and emotionally before, but never anything like that.  I won't repeat everything from that very first post, but it was honestly the hardest thing I'd ever been through and I desperately wanted something to make the pain go away because it felt unbearable.

The outpouring of love and support I received from my friends and family at the time was tremendous and helped some to focus less on the emotional pain. People commented a lot on how "strong" I was.  I was good at acting that way.  But let me tell you the truth.  I was not strong.  I was terrified.  I felt lost.  I thought tears would surely kill me.  Although somehow my faith never waivered, I was left with a lot of questions.  Especially one in particular... 

Why?

I may never know the answer to that question this side of heaven, but I do know the answer to the most important question...

Who.

El Shaddai.  God Almighty.  Back then, I thought there must be some mistake.  I was living in a bizarre world that I was sure would eventually come to an end and things would become normal.  I was completely bewildered.  I never in a million years imagined that those divorce papers would actually show up on my doorstep.  I knew that God hated divorce so I didn't understand how He could allow this to happen.  Up until that final moment in a courtroom, I believed with every part of my being that God would step in and make it stop.  But He didn't.  I was left with a very troubling question...

What?

What do I do now?  I had to eventually pick myself up and function in everyday life.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do but I knew I had to do something.  I lived with my parents for about a year and a half and started seeing a wonderful Christian counselor every week for a while.  That was definitely a provision that God allowed to help tremendously in the healing process for me.  This was a person who wasn't involved in my day to day life.  She was able to see my situation objectively and see down to the deeper core of who I am.  It took me a while to let my guard down.  I ended up switching to a different counselor part way through when my original counselor grew ill.  I was still very guarded. But she was so gentle and patient with me and let me work through what I needed to work through without fear or feelings of condemnation.  She helped me to answer an essential question...

How?

How can I not only move on, but grow and be happy again?  I really didn't think it was possible.  I tried to picture myself years down the road, further distanced from the pain.  I would always look forward to the day when I didn't think about it for at least one day.  Would that ever happen?  I had been so consumed with my feelings of loss.  Amazingly, those feelings drove me to the Word of God.  I spent more time in my Bible during that time than I ever had before.  Sometimes it takes something big and terrible to drive us in that direction.  That was the first positive thing to come out of a terrible loss.  I also journaled a lot to help sort out my feelings.

In the summer of 2009, I started to branch out and become more independent again.  I moved out of my parents house and into a house of my own with my two boys.  I didn't have a lot at the time, but God was gracious and provided for so many needs and then some.  I started to decorate and make it home.

The boys kept me pretty busy.  In the evenings, though, I would start to feel lonely after they went to bed and it was just me in that quiet house.  As I laid alone on the big living room couch, I would remember the times when I would lay on the couch with my husband in the evenings and watch all night marathons of Alias and 24.  I missed that closeness and companionship.  I'd also had a pretty tight knit group of girlfriends from church up until then but when I started attending another church, our relationships changed some.  We were still friends, but we didn't spend as much time together as we had in the past.  I started to feel that maybe if I dated again, it would take away some of the loneliness.  I did date one man for a short time a couple of years after that, but rather than take away the loneliness, it really just distracted me.  I became consumed.  I began to think that if I got married again, I would be happy and all of this pain that I had experienced would simply go away.  It wasn't until it ended that I realized I really wasn't ready for that.  I had foolishly thought that it was earthly things that would fill the empty hole I felt inside my heart.  It was simply a bandage.  True healing only begins with Christ.

So here I am, almost seven years later.  So much has changed in my life.  The day finally came when I didn't think about it every day.  I started to become my own person.  I had been very co-dependent and extremely shy before.  I didn't think that anything I said or did was that important.  I thought that I was only worth something if I was in a relationship with someone who was worth something.  When my ex-husband and I first separated, I used to say that when everything got better and God healed our marriage that we should write a book together because he was good with words.  What had never entered my mind before was... maybe I had something important to say.  Maybe I could make a difference because God has given me unique talents and gifts.

I feel a lot more confident now than I ever was before.  It's not because of anything that I have done but because I have seen the Sovereign hand of God at work.  I have seen that not everything works out like you thought or hoped it would, but God is still in control and He has a plan for each and every life He has created.  I have also seen God's hand of provision too many times to count.  Through that, He has taught me that He is worthy to be trusted.  God always provides.  Always.  We just have to keep our eyes open to see it through the hard times.

My life feels full and complete now and I feel happy knowing that whatever happens, God will always carry me through.  His Word promises that He will never leave me nor forsake me and I have seen that first hand in my life.  Whether the next seven years are full of sunshine or rain, I feel confident in knowing that "He which hath begun a good work in [me] will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."  (Philippians 1:6)  




Saturday, May 24, 2014

What Does the Bible Say?

Last Sunday night my pastor asked a question of the congregation.  Honestly, I can't even remember what the question was, but I remember the answer everyone gave was "no."  No was the correct answer.  But it was the wrong answer.  It was sort of a trick question.  The actual correct answer was,

"Let's see what the Bible has to say about that."

It's so simple.  But honestly, it's not usually the first answer I give.  My kids ask me a LOT of questions about God, the Bible, Heaven, sin... you name it.  I usually answer them based on what I know from the Bible rather than actually going to the Bible and showing them.  So basically I'm really asking them to just take my word for it.  Even if the answer I give is accurate, I don't want their faith to rest on mom's wisdom.

"And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.  That your faith should stand not on the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."  I Corinthians 2:4-5

"For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."  Hebrews 4:12

My goal is to get better about pointing my kids to scripture when they have questions and finding the answers together.  Not only do I want them to learn that the Bible has the answers, I want their first thought when they have questions to be Let's see what the Bible has to say about that!  Mom's not always going to be around.  And mom's definitely not always going to know the answer.  After all, I'm only a sinner saved by grace.

I really want my kids to be equipped with the tools to find the answers they need.  When you teach a child math, you don't just tell him all the answers.  You teach him how to solve the problem.