Monday, November 29, 2010

Hot And Cold

Sometimes it seems I’m eternally meant to live in situations I don’t feel I was hard-wired for.

I hate cold weather yet live in a state that has very cold winters with snow and ice.

I dream of living life at a methodical pace yet it seems to often tag me and drag me along behind it!

I long to have a problem that someone has dealt with before but often my situations are “different” and “unique.”

Do you every feel that way? Like you’re the only one or rather, that you are doomed to be in whatever-state-you’re-in for forever? It seems like when you want hot, God gives you cold. When you want wet, He dishes out dry and when you pine for slow – He gives you fast. Life is so ironic that way.

Something has begun to calm my heart about these types of situations. It’s the fact that I’m not “stuck” in them – but rather – I’m intentionally placed in them.

What if….what if God places each one of us in the opposite place that we’d choose on purpose? What if we hate wind and God places wind in our town all of the time? What if we’d rather live life as a loner or a hermit and He’s constantly putting people in our path?

Why would He do such a thing?

Because He loves us.

I think our God is a God who loves us too much to let us sit in a state of perpetual bliss so much so that we’d never need Him. After all, if we had that perfectly warm weather every day of our lives – at some point, we’d forget to talk to Him about it – forget to praise Him for it. And if we lived that slower life that we dream of, then at some point we’d forget how to get back in the race for Him when He called us to!

I don’t think God intends on frustrating us. Or then, maybe He does. Maybe He wants to frustrate us into action. Maybe He wants to refine us so that we can be thankful in “all” circumstances instead of merely the ones we prefer. Maybe He loves us so much that He wants us to learn to love what we find unlovely – whether that is people or weather. Maybe He puts the same problem in our path over and over again because we’ve yet to discover that there is joy in it. Some of us have a hard time finding joy in those things we hate, don’t we? But there IS joy. There IS joy in the rain – I’ve experienced it. And there IS joy in a storm. There IS joy in the busyness and “aliveness” of life! We just need to be open to finding it.

I don’t know if I’ll ever love cold weather (let alone “like” it.) But I do know that God has me in it for a reason. And I do know that He loves me. So if the only thing the cold weather does for me is cause me to seek and ask of God…then for that I can be thankful.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Legacy of the Kitchen

The kitchen. The smells and memories of a kitchen stay with us for a lifetime. We so often are pulled back to a certain occasion or moment, by the food cooked inside of a kitchen. It evokes special feelings and emotions inside of us…simply by a smell or a taste.

That fascinates me.

I love bottled coke. Not just because it’s fun and cool to drink out of (although that is a huge part), but because it brings fond memories of my childhood. I remember drinking out of a bottle at dinnertime or when I’d visit my dad at his office. It brings a smile to my face and love to my heart.

I yearn for certain foods at certain times. Pizza seems like it’s almost mandatory after a full day of working in the yard just like leftover turkey sandwiches are a must for dinner after a big Thanksgiving lunch. It’s how I was raised.

I recall certain foods that I’ve never seemed to be able to recreate to the same perfection as my mom did. She’d cook chili, fritos, and cheese on a cookie sheet and it was so delicious. Or she’d melt cheese in a corn tortilla and roll it up for us as a before-dinner snack. My grandma made sopapillas. I crave these sometimes.

I just love how our memories are tied up in food. It’s a way of solidifying a moment in time by using our senses. Any time we meet up with a friend, it’s usually over food. Celebrations are over food and oftentimes grieving brings in with it…food.

What kitchen smells do you savor from your childhood? What dish do you crave that you’ve never been able to have again; for it’s lost somewhere in the memory of your past? What traditions do you carry on, not because they are chosen necessarily – but because they are comfortable reminders of a way of growing up?

The next time you’re in your kitchen, think about what legacies you are leaving your children. Embrace the dishes they want you to make for them and enjoy the fact that you are stamping a part of their memory forever…with the smell, taste, and enjoyment…of food.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

He's So Good To Me

My heart was overwhelmed. It was overwhelmed to the point of tears. Happy tears.

God had given me several blessings in the span of a week. One was a long-held prayer request. The other, an unexpected gift of love. Both came at a time when I was starting to feel silence from my beloved Lord.

I told God ‘thank you.’ Many times. I told someone else how I owed the praise and blessing to the Lord. And then in a moment of solitude and quiet – I got down on my face, spread out my arms, and let my emotions speak for me as I tried to convey to the Lord how thankful I was for His grace, His compassion, and His kindness.

I know He answers my requests so many times. Oftentimes, I can utter a “cool” or a “whew!” out loud and move on with my day. But not this time. This time, I wanted to let God know that what He’d done for me was no small thing in my heart. I was feeling it deeply – to the core of my heart and soul.

And it felt good.

Sometimes the reward that seems out of reach for so long tastes that much sweeter when it comes. All the years, the tears, the wondering…they are worth it all when the investment of the heart finally has a pay-off. There is nothing like it. God truly shows His glory and His goodness in those moments. I feel love for Him like no other time and I feel loved BY Him like no other time.

I don’t want to forget to thank my Lord for all He does for me. The big, the little – all of it. I owe Him so much. He is so good to me.

I used to sing this song as a child in Sunday School…

My God is so great,
So strong and so mighty

There’s nothing my God cannot do.

Sometimes God sweeps into my life and shows me His strength. He shows me how mighty He is. Sometimes He simply sweeps me off my feet with His lavish goodness and love for me. But I do know there is NOTHING my God cannot do.

It may take getting down on the floor on your face and acknowledging that fact from time to time. With a heart that is overwhelmed

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Something To Ponder

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart….” Luke 2:19

When I read my Bible or when I sit in church service and hear God speaking personally to my heart…. I’ve noticed something. I’ve noticed how easy it is to leave that moment in time and continue on with my day – my life. It’s like, “Wow, that was good – now it’s time to get on with my agenda!”

But when I take the time to truly let something God is saying to me, soak into my heart and soul – those are the times where I truly grow.

The key is in taking the time to ponder over what has been revealed to us. Whether it’s a Bible verse that is relevant, a Bible Study lesson that strikes a chord, or a sermon that is conveniently aimed at what we are feeling or experiencing; we need to take the time to ponder those lessons and think about why it is that God wants to share them with us.

If I listen, but don’t absorb – I don’t gain much.

If I ponder, absorb, and let God’s messages to me permeate my life – I gain a lot.

It doesn’t matter how many Bible Studies we go to or how often we attend church. It doesn’t matter how many verses we know if they don’t go from our head to our heart and we have the spirit to apply them. Going through actions isn’t enough. We need to ponder and invest our hearts and minds into truly hearing what God wants to tell us.

I have been guilty of going through the motions so many times. Putting in the time, getting the job done and then moving on to what I really want to do without truly absorbing. The times I have pondered on something, are the times that I’ve really seen God work in my heart and life. He’s moved me.

I want God to work in my life. I want Him to use me. Move me. Thrill me. Speak to me. In order for that to happen, I need to take a little extra time for Him. To ponder what He’s telling me so that I won’t miss something really big. His Words really are treasures. Just waiting to shine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Being Called "Mom"

One of the most beautiful sounds to my ears is hearing my name called. But not my given name – my “parenting” name.

“Mama.” And “Mom.”

My oldest daughter calls me “mama.” Always has. She spells it when writing a note to me as “mamma.” And I love it. My youngest calls me just “mom.”

My ears never grow tired of hearing those words. They are like salve to a wound as soon as I hear them. I know they are not always said in adoration. Sometimes they are uttered in frustration as in ….”Moooooommmmm!” Or more recently, as in “Moth-er!” My oldest decided to use that term with me when she wasn’t happy. HA HA

But I still love them.

There is something so powerful – so magical – so gripping in the words. It’s as if I’m needed. I’m loved. I’m claimed.

Even if spoken in a casual statement, my heart is immediately tendered to my child. They look to me for something. They are seeking me out, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally.

“Mama.” And “mom.”

I love those names.

I think I will be 90 years old and still smile and feel my heart flutter when I am spoken of as a mother. (And maybe at age 90, as a grandmother too!)

I accept the responsibility that comes with being a parent, and I welcome it. I embrace it.

For it has changed me forever.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Does Grumbling Accomplish?

There is so much that we aren’t pleased with in life. Sometimes the issues that bother us are big ones and other times, not so much. It takes some time and focus to sort out which issues need to be prioritized in our lives and how we should handle them.

I have looked back on my own life and seen many times where maybe I could have handled a situation a little bit differently. Maybe something resolved itself on its own in time or maybe the way something went down was in my best interest in the long run even if it wasn’t fun or comfortable during the duration of it. I do know, however, that I hate looking back on the times when I felt like I was simply a “whiner” or a “complainer.”

Those are two words that I don’t like associated with my character.

I’ve learned through some trial and error in my life that grumbling usually doesn’t accomplish much. If I am proactive and set a course of action to remedy something or be part of a solution – that is much better use of my time and my discontent. But if I simply sit at home or with others and utter my grievances about something; that doesn’t do anyone any good. It only creates an atmosphere of division.

I am not going to like everything. I am going to disagree (probably quite often) with how things are handled. I may be frustrated and confused. But there is a difference in how I choose to handle those issues that either help me rise above it, find a purpose in it, or come to peace with it. If I feel something is really wrong or I see injustice being done; I certainly would hope that I didn’t sit back and bite my tongue. But this is where positive action comes into play and can change a situation for the good of a lot of people instead of ranting about it from the sidelines.

I won’t lie to you. It’s hard not to grumble and complain. It’s hard to not vent when something really gets under your skin to ruffle your feathers. But the times that I have chosen to handle it in what I feel is the “right” way – by going to God in prayer or simply discussing the matter with my husband so that I can get it out of my system – then I can pull myself together better. Oftentimes, God will even show me very quickly how my attitude can reveal His greater plan through the issue.

Everyone has choices in life. When it comes to those grievances that we deal with; we can either grumble or choose to find purpose in them.  I know that for me, I long to get better at laying aside my complaining heart and tongue and seek out what it is that God wants from me in the middle of these times and situations. It makes the suffering easier and the trial seem less burdensome when I do.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Something Gets Left Behind

Mark 8:34

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

I’m learning more and more what God meant when He said “he must deny himself…and follow me.”

I have a heart that wants to serve the Lord. I want to be used by Him. I want to impact lives for Him and I explicitly feel like I was called by Him into ministry. Yet in that desire and quest to do “great” things for the Lord, I think we sometimes forget that there is a price…a cost.

When God said “he must deny himself;” I’m finding out more and more what that means - if you really want to obey His call when you feel Him speaking and bidding to you in life. You see, sometimes denying ourselves means relationships and friendships must take a backseat. Sometimes it means we will forever be feeling like we need to catch up on housework because we’re always doing that “thing” that God has called us to. Sometimes it means that we will be low on sleep for a long duration of time.

Taking up our cross and truly following God often means that something gets left behind.

People often sound really encouraging if they hear you want to be a missionary or you feel that God is telling you to do this or that. But then when you embark on that road and they see that they are part of the price/the cost – they don’t like it so much.

I wonder if Mother Teresa’s family complained that she gave more to the world than she gave to them? I wonder if they felt left out; neglected? I wonder if she felt guilty or longed for things that she gave up in her quest to love, reach out, and encourage? Did she ever think about quitting?

Denying ourselves is the true test in life. It’s not an easy thing to do. Maybe we can do it for a time but then we grow weary or long for the comforts of life we are used to. It is the rare person who can truly deny Himself always without looking back. Yet, what a treasure they will find and they will BE if they can master that task!

I’m learning to deny myself in certain areas. I’m learning that in order to follow God in certain areas of life, I have to let some things come second. Some things will be left undone. Some areas I will forever feel like I’m trying to bring them “up to speed.” But I’m seeing more and more how this is the price and cost of following God when He calls. And my heart is learning to grow at peace with it – slowly – step by step. Because I want to be His servant and I want to work for Him. Him and Him alone.

Something HAS to get left behind if I’m to listen and obey. If I’m to “go.”

It’s just the cost of the call.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Talk To Myself

I’m not sure when it started. One day I just noticed that while I was shopping a department store, I was talking to myself. I really have to laugh at myself, though. I find it kind of funny how I can grumble to myself about a price on something or comment about someone’s driving as I’m heading to my car in the parking lot.

I tell ya. I think I’ll blame it on motherhood. You know. You start talking to your babies when you take them to the store with you. I just think that somewhere along the way, I never stopped. And now I have to fight the urge to speak out loud when no one’s shopping with me – lest I look like a weirdo.

Oh yah. And it’s tumbling into other areas of my life too. Now, I’m talking back at the TV.

Please tell me I’m not weird or abnormal. Tell me that you do it too! .

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Life Shaping Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

Words. They do change and impact our lives. We can chant all we want to – but the words that are directed at us are sometimes life changing and life – shaping.

Do you remember words that changed the course of your life or words spoken that caused you to have a significant shift in how you viewed yourself? There are so many conversations we have over the course of a lifetime. What is it, about certain ones that just stick with us? A phrase possibly or even just a few words that stand out in our memory over time and cause us to make a change?

Sometimes my daughter will comment about something I’m wearing which will cause me to never dress that particular way again. I look at that as a positive since I never want to look dorky! HA HA But there have also been words spoken that aren’t positive. Or words that I maybe even watch in a movie. Profound words. They penetrate my heart and instead of simply thinking, “That’s good.” They are strong enough to motivate a change.

What words have changed your life? Were they good words or bad ones? Who or what was the source? You know, sometimes we give power to words that we shouldn’t. The giver of those words intended to harm us all along and we never should have digested what was said; but instead, consider the source. And sometimes we sidestep words that we should have given more credence to because they were aimed to help and strengthen our lives. Whatever the situation or occasion – words are powerful.

What we say, can’t be taken back. No matter how much we apologize. We need to be so careful. What we say to ourselves however, can be taken back and in fact, changed. We need to make sure that we don’t live in a cycle of battering ourselves.

Words live on even when we don’t. Sometimes they continue to give power to those who hear them over and over again. Sometimes, the words we replay in our heads should have long since been forgotten.

Choose wisely which words you let impact and shape your life. Choose wisely, which words you use to shape someone else’s.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Things Have to Remain Just Between Me and God

There is a common trap that writers and bloggers fall into. It’s the trap of viewing everything in life as a potential article “piece.” Our minds tend to always be on the lookout for that next great “grabbing” column, article, book, or blog post. It’s very hard not to view anything that happens to you in the context of written word. It just is.

In a way, I love that. I love that inspiration is possibly around every corner. But on the other hand, God has shown me something personally that I’ve had to apply a few times.

Some things just need to stay unknown to the world. Some things just need to remain between us and God.

My life is very open. I choose to have it that way because of the burden and passion I carry with me to impact and encourage others. It’s a hurting world. There are so many people who need to hear they are not alone. They need a little kick-start at times; at others – a hug through words from a stranger who can understand and empathize.

Yet there have been a few occasions when something profound or deep-to-my heart has happened, and I’ve been ready to pen it down lest I forget. On these occasions, I’ve sensed God speak to my heart. I’ve sensed Him tell me to let them go. To leave them in the moment. To keep them personal – between Him – and – me.

There are just some things the world doesn’t need to know. There has to be something left for myself sometimes. Something that is so personal, so touching or impactful on my heart and life; that I just let it drape over me and let it remain anonymous to those who aren’t in the “know.” I have to do this for my own walk and relationship with God because if I threw absolutely everything down onto paper or churned it out on my computer, then I’d tread near the line of using God. I’d be using personal things for professional gain or notoriety. And I never want to do that.

For me, I just have to be reminded by Him from time to time that it’s okay to let some things slip away in the recesses of my mind. It’s okay to not shout out what happened to the world or repeat what priceless truth and lesson He’s taught me. Because it was just for ME. Me. Not everyone else.

As a writer, that’s a hard lesson to learn. But my God is so good at reminding me and He gives me plenty of other material to use to minister to others in His name.

I never want to use my Lord just to get a great article. I never want to use my relationship with Him to garner attention or grow fans. In order for me to be real and authentic, I have to let Him tell me to sometimes let something good fade away without it being said. For it was a personal gift to me – not the world.

It’s been good for me on the occasions I’ve done that. And I pray there will be more moments where my God tells me to cherish the moment and then let it go. For it keeps me humble and it keeps me focused on what I want my life and ministry to truly be about. My relationship with Him.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hidden Gems

The ordinary. Mundane. Same-o-same-o. Common. Normal.

Those don’t even seem like exciting words when I type them out. I know they don’t sound exciting when they are spoken and people don’t seem to enjoy them, either. Why, I wonder?

There are some pretty ordinary things in life that I treasure.

I treasure the “ordinariness” of my kids coming home from school. I treasure the ordinary fact that the sun comes out (most days) or the ordinary time my family spends eating dinner together at night.

I love having a “normal” day after a week of hectic ones. I love the “normalness” of having a husband and knowing that he will take care of certain things for me.

I like the common fact that I can check email each day or get in my car and drive myself somewhere. I like that.

There are so many things that are ordinary, normal, and common. We seem to look at them as though they are plain and boring. But I think we are missing hidden gems in our lives. I think it’s the ordinary and common things that often-times become the most sentimental and special.

The repetition of going to Sunday school as a child brings with it special memories. The common smell of your father’s cologne stirs up great emotion and the normal laughter that an aunt or uncle lends to a funny story or joke is suddenly missed when they are no longer there to give it. Hidden gems.

The ordinary, common, and yes, “plain” are often those very things that impact us without us really realizing it at the time. They mold and shape us – often propelling us or directing us in life.

We overlook those things until sometimes it’s too late. Until we miss that common homemade meal by grandma, or that familiar checker who always smiled at us at the grocery store. It is then, that we realize we had something special and we never even realized it.

If we could all take but a minute each day to really look around and take in our lives – I think more of us would see they are riddled with priceless jewels. Gems that God has given us each and every day.

Ask someone who has cancer if they miss “normal.” Ask someone who has lost a loved one in a war if they don’t crave “common” again. Ask. Find the richness that has been given to you in your own life, before you miss it forever.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Will Keep Fighting

Doubts. Temptations. Messing up. Any one of these things can make you feel like a failure as a Christian believer. They can pull you away from God and isolate you from where you need to be the most…at church and with other believers. We are so often made to feel that church is only for “perfect” Christians; but we are wrong.

The world and Satan have waged a war on Christians. They want us to fail. They want us to beat ourselves up for being hypocritical (another whole article in and of itself.) Satan will do anything to get us to doubt the truth and authenticity of what we believe about God and who He is.

I, however, have made a vow. I will fight as long as there is breath in me to stay true to my beliefs. I will keep fighting against temptation, and against my doubts. I will continue to fight to do the right thing, to hold true to my morals, and to grow in the Lord. Because I don’t trust my own human heart at times, and I made the concrete choice when I was very young to believe in God. So, believe Him I will – no matter who is against me or how alone I may feel at times.

I think sometimes people think that to be a Christian; it means all of your problems will go away. They can get confused and frustrated when Satan only attacks all the harder. I think sometimes people don’t dig their roots deep enough into the Lord or His Word. So when the tide comes in full of temptations, doubts, and accusers – they are easily swept away. I don’t want to be one of those people. I realize that to be a follower of Christ means that I have to be a warrior at times. I have to put on my shield and carry my sword and I have to fight on His behalf. I have to fight for what I believe is right. For I am His representative. I have taken up His cause.

I don’t read my Bible as much as I should. I don’t have the answer sometimes to give people to their searching questions about God. I sometimes neglect prayer and turn to God later rather than sooner. But I will keep fighting. I will keep fighting to read my Bible more often. I will keep fighting to have the knowledge to answer people’s questions and I will keep fighting to show people that my faith is a personal relationship – not a religion.

I will keep fighting because God means everything to me. I love Him. And that’s what you do for someone you love. When you mess up, you dust off and you get back at it. You don’t give up. You keep fighting for that relationship. So that’s what I intend on doing. Forever.