Thursday, March 29, 2012

Make a Move

Frustrated with the way things are in your life? 

Feeling “stuck?”

Wishing you had more friends? Any friends?

Make a move.

Often we sit back and wish things in our lives would change. We can often point the finger at others. The boss at our job, the friends who ignore us, the spouse who won’t do anything. But we can be the difference. We can make a change. We just need to make a move.

Maybe we can’t move out of our neighborhood like we’d like to. Maybe we can’t switch churches or get our husband to get a different job. But we can make moves in our life that help make our situations more enjoyable – more bearable. Sometimes it just takes a little creative thinking.

We can change the way we respond to the situation around us. We can improve things or do some research and explore different avenues that are more workable and are more of a compromise for where we are at – today. Now. But still…they are moves. They are action points. And often our outlook can change dramatically simply by feeling like we are doing something to move forward in a different, new direction.

Pray about it. Take some time to think about it. Talk it over with someone you trust. And make a move. Do something to help yourself. To inspire yourself.

You won’t feel stuck anymore and it may just open up the opportunities for your life even further.

No one has to sit back and just accept discontentment. Do something to about it. Make a move that excites you. Watch your whole outlook shift and expand.

And brighten.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Getting Sloppy In Marriage

Comfort. It’s something we all seek. Whether it’s comfort in a group of people, comfort on a vacation, or comfort in our homes. Comfort is something that helps us feel secure, safe, and relaxed. So it’s no surprise then, that we seek comfort in our marriages either. As we should.

It is so neat to know that I can say certain things and not face condemnation from my spouse. He gives me comfort in those times. And it’s so “comfortable” to know that wherever we go, we have certain preferences that fit just “us.” We like to sit in certain spots at church, the movies, or a ball game. We like to eat at certain times or keep the temperature in our house at a certain level. It’s a comfort that is needed – because it helps us feel focused, safe, and well….comfortable! You can face so much more of life with a positive outlook when you feel comfortable with who you are.

But there is also a side of “comfort” that I think is overlooked in a marriage. The level of “comfort” that gets distracted, and a bit sloppy.  These are the things and areas where you start forgetting that you need to be intentional about someone else’s feelings, thoughts, and preferences. It’s actually about respect.

When couples are first married, most details are paid attention to. You pay extra special notice to picking things up around the house, tidying up after yourself, and making sure you look nice for each other. As time goes on, the “comfort” eases in and you start to slack a little bit. The nice nightgown turns into flannel, the time you spend grooming yourself is done a little bit less privately, and things are more out in the open.

This can kill romance.

We forget to think about what our spouse might be thinking about. What do they think when they see our personal things sitting out openly in the trash? What do they think when our dirty laundry is no longer discreetly put in a hamper but is carelessly left in the open? How about our lack of attention to what we wear or how we wear it?

Comfort is good on a lot of levels – but it also can be sloppy and inconsiderate if we’re not careful.  It’s good to give ourselves “spot checks” at times and reevaluate how we behave compared with the beginning of our marriage. If we no longer give sweet gestures to our spouse, kindly pay attention to details that might be embarrassing, or figure our spouse doesn’t care how we look anymore – then maybe it’s time to make some adjustments.

In this day and age, no marriage is exempt from temptation. No marriage is solid enough that we can keep one another’s affection and desire without some extra work here and there. It takes effort.  And in the process, a lot of romance, spark, and excitement can be recharged and brought back into your lives.

Comfort is good. Comfort is actually, great. But let’s not let the gift of comfort grow into something that is sloppy. For if we do, instead of bringing us security and joy, it just might rob us of something even greater.

Friday, March 23, 2012

You Mean Everything To Me

When I feel like I messed up or made a big mistake, it is You that I look to for forgiveness, acceptance, and reassurance.

When I’m thankful for an answered prayer or a long-held heart’s desire coming true, it is to you whom my heart immediately wants to thank and praise.

When I’m scared, it’s to you – my God – that I turn to for safety and protection.

When I’m unsure about what direction to head in – it’s to you, Lord, that I ask for advice and wisdom.

It’s because you mean everything to me.

You’re my song, my sunshine, my motivation.  There is no hope, no promise, no joy in my life apart from you.  I don’t know what it’s like to live a life without you and I don’t want to find out.

I want to please you. I want to make you laugh. I want your look to be tender when it’s gazed upon me.

God – you mean everything to me. And I love you so much.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

And Then It Is Understood

I read this verse the other day…

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Romans 1:20

God has invisible qualities that He has made known to us. Those qualities represent His power and they are shown to us through His creation. 

They are clearly seen. Clearly evident to us.

When you look at a rainbow – God is making Himself known to you.

When you see a flower sprout through the ground – that is the work of God.

When you feel the rain on your face or the warmth of the sunshine, those are gifts from the Lord.

Sometimes we seek Him. We wonder where He is. He is all around us.  He is in the beauty of creation that we live in. From the majestic power of the ocean to the delicacy of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. He is making Himself known to us. For no man could make those things. They are God’s signature.

And so none of us is without excuse.

We can’t say, “No one told me about God.” In each one of us, there is something inside of us that God has placed there that realizes He exists.  When we see the world around us and see His power through nature and His creation, it is clear and we understand.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Being Around Teens

Being around teens keeps me young. I love these young men and women and the youth and vitality that they have. I love it when one of my girls’ friends comes up to say hi or give me a hug – even though my child is not around.

It brings joy to my heart.

A lot of people dread the teenage years. Yes, there are some emotional roller coasters you have to wade through. Some hurtful moments and some tough lessons. But I love this age. I love the energy and positive outlook that most of these kids have for life. I love that they aren’t jaded yet or that society hasn’t created bitterness in their hearts (most of them.) And I love how they remind me to have fun.

Because of teens, I rock out in my car to music. I used to always sing and belt out my favorite songs – but now, now, I dance as well. And yes, someone may be looking, but it’s okay.

Yes, being around teens helps keep me young. It keeps me moving when my girls rope me into doing “wii just dance” or pull me out in the yard to bounce the volleyball around with them.

Being around teens keeps me informed of the trends. Who wants an “out-of-date-un-hip” parent? I certainly don’t want my kids to feel that way about me! So when a daughter’s friend needs to borrow a pair of my jeans and laughs uncontrollably at the ultra-high waist…I know it’s time for a new, trendier pair. And I thank her for helping me not get lost in the dark ages but moving along with the times.

Teens are great. Truly. If you take the time to talk to them, get to know them, and show an interest – you will find that most of them are very intelligent. They are compassionate, and they have things they want to do in life. For themselves and for the world.

Some are bullies , of course. Some are mean, insecure, or rude. Some live in clich├ęs. But most teens have a lot of enthusiasm. They are still willing to listen, and learn.

I love this age. I love these kids.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It Leaves An Impression

When I had a kidney stone when my oldest daughter was in first grade – it was a dramatic event. That night was followed by a change in lifestyle for me as far as what I drank. Soda (something I’d formally adored) became an indulgence instead of an everyday occurrence. Water became my best friend.

The pain and trauma of what happened left an impression on me.

When my husband and I fought a physical and spiritual battle for what seemed like forever – one that resulted in going to court to fight for our rights – I was changed. I saw life differently after that.

Every “almost” traumatic health crisis….every “close call” with my kids – every little mistake I made that almost ended up into a HUGE life changing mistake …they all have left huge impressions on my heart and my life.

And God has changed me bit by bit, step by step through each one.

I look back and I’m so humbled. I’m so thankful.  The pain is still so near to my heart that I can almost touch it. That’s how much some things in life are still held so close to me. For I know – I saw and I felt so much through each one.

I look back and yes, sometimes there is a glimmer of sadness over having had to go through certain things or deal with things. Sometimes I grieve over a loss that occurred. But I’m also acutely aware of how indebted I am to my Lord for changing me – molding and shaping me into a better person through each thing.

I think (I certainly hope) that I’m more of who God wants me to be after having had to deal with some of it. I pray to be stronger, less doubtful, and more ready to listen to God’s voice when it comes. If I should lose my way, I know He will come in with a strong wind or a whisper on the breeze and remind me of what I could lose – all that I have invested.

Yes, life leaves an impression. But so does my God.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Still Working It Through

It seems to me, that a great deal of our lives are spent on working emotionally through the “tough” stuff that has happened to us. For most of us, we can’t seem to get past the injustices, unfairness, and deep pain that have wounded our souls.

I’m right there with you.

I feel things deeply. I kind of have grown to love that about myself. I don’t just “lightly” love someone. I love them all the way to my toes. I feel pain not just like a pin-prick, but I feel it penetrate and go through me straight to my heart. That’s just the way I was created. I feel everything with great intensity. So, when I go through something particularly painful, hurtful, challenging, or a hurdle that stretches me to no ends – it can pretty much take over. I have to be mindful and intentional to not let it.

Life is full of disappointments. It’s full of situations where we end up being taken advantage of, for granted, and just plain used. Not everyone is going to see our value, potential, or core heart.

If we can acknowledge that, I think it’s a huge step in helping us come to terms with the bad things that happen to us. For just because something horrible may have occurred – doesn’t mean we need to keep living in that moment for the rest of our lives! I think the majority of us are still working through those issues; instead of moving on from them and letting them make us stronger people. And if that’s true like I think it is, the majority of people walking earth are walking wounded.

There is so much more!  So much more we could be doing, giving, learning, and getting from life! There is so much more to us than whatever “it” was that happened to us and with us! We don’t do ourselves or anyone else any favors by holding onto the past.

Instead of going through life 10, 20, or even 30 years past a traumatic event and still trying to mentally process and work it through – let’s try to let it go.  We can say, “This is what I got and I’m going to make the most of it. I’m going to make the most of me!”  Then, and only then can we transform and let the painful things become the growing things in our heart and soul.  And I sure want that for myself. Don’t you?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What We Miss

Our head is down so much. Any spare time we have whether it’s waiting in the car for our kids to get out of school, hanging out at one of their basketball or volleyball games, or being at a doctor appointment – we seem to use that time to hang our heads and be on our electronic devices.

I’ve done it. I’ve seen it. Everywhere.

I’ve seen parents at their children’s sports game playing games on their cell phones. Or while they are waiting for their child at sports practice, they are feverishly working on a laptop.

Head down.

I understand the need and desire to use our time wisely. But I also realize that we are losing time constantly. Especially when it comes to our children. For me, I want to watch every moment that I can when my children are playing a sport. And even if they aren’t in the game or the game hasn’t started yet, I want to observe who is impacting their life – whether that is their teammates, coach, or the students and parents in the stands.

If I’m waiting for my child to get out of school, I can learn a lot by observing the kids hanging out. I can see what they are wearing, how they act, and learn a lot about my child’s world.

I think we’ve forgotten how to observe. How to engage in life, sometimes. We forget that we can gain valuable information by watching.   Even if I’m not with my child and I’m on my own at a doctor’s office, I have gained valuable insight into our society and culture by observing others. And sometimes, I’ve simply gained what I needed the most – a few moments to relax.

We don’t always need to have our heads buried or on the phone. We don’t need to fill up every spare minute. We can look up and around us. We can have our eyes and heart opened to what is going on in the world and we can remember how it feels to converse with others instead of simply shutting ourselves off into our own world.

Life goes by so fast. We have more than enough time to be on our laptops, Ipads, cell phones, and Ipods. Unplug them. Leave them at home or in the car. Focus on real living and real life. I promise, it’s much better.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sometimes Going in the Direction God Wants For Us is Hard

It took me a long time to realize I had the wrong perspective on what God's will for my life was. Somehow, as I was growing up, I came to believe that if something was hard for me; if things didn't go as planned - that that must be a sign that it was not God's will for my life.

I've since corrected that assumption.

As an adult, I've learned that the exact opposite is true. In fact, I think that sometimes things are the hardest when we are headed in the direction God wants for us.   God says in Peter 4:12-13, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

God told us that we would have troubles and trials.

In John 16:33 God tells us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

1 Peter 5:8-10 says, "Be controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

There are so many more verses in the Bible where God tries to prepare us for difficulties and spiritual trials. He tells us that facing tough times is pretty much a "given." So why do we give up so easily? Why are we so easily deterred? Why do we quit when the going gets tough?

I believe that God raised us up to be warriors, not quitters. I think Satan knows that we are far too easy of a target. All it takes is some temptation, pushing of our buttons, some delayed outcomes, busyness, stress, and illness - and Satan knows he's got us. You see, he doesn't want us to fulfill God's will! That would make us more powerful because we'd be growing in the Lord and thriving. God's power would be unleashed in us! That's the last thing Satan wants. So when things start to get extra hard....we just may be on the exact RIGHT path.

I do realize there are times where God tries to communicate that we are making poor choices in our life. There are times of correction. But I think when those times come; we've already been hearing God whisper (or yell, as the case may be) to our hearts for quite awhile first. The circumstances only solidify what the Holy Spirit has been trying to already tell us.

Life is hard. Oh man, is it hard! I've done some hard things. I can only imagine if I'd been allowed to flee and run away as I'd wanted. How I would have missed some deep blessings.

We are not runners. We are not quitters. We are warriors. And as much as we'd like to pretend that we don't have any enemies - we have a very real, spiritual one who is out to hinder, provoke, discourage, and detour us any way he can. He's out to make things HARD.

God tells me that my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord are going through the same thing as I am. That encourages me. Together, we can all fight through the "hard stuff" and be determined to set out in the destination that God wants for us. Any other way is quicksand.

*Published at - April 2011

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What I Find Special, My Children May Not Find Special

I am very sentimental. I have many things from my childhood that I’ve just struggled to get rid of. Stuffed animals, photos, baby toys, etc. I also have things from my kids when they were babies and things from when I was dating – like a shirt my husband wore so often when he’d pick me up at the door.

They are special.

As time goes on, I am learning that what I find special and sentimental…my kids necessarily do not. So many things I have kept with the intention of passing them down to them. But the hard fact is, that they will only want some of them. Maybe even only a few.

I can’t force my children to find the same specialness in an item, that I find.

For example: my wedding dress.  Now it’s sat in my closet for all these years. I knew that my children may not want it, but I thought maybe they’d want a “part” of it. Sure enough, my oldest daughter has no interest in it whatsoever. My youngest? There’s still hope, for she’s telling me to hang on to it for her….for the time being.

But how about all those baby clothes I kept? I’ve kept special outfits so that my grandkids could some day wear them again and my kids would think that it was “so special” that they were wearing what their mom had worn as a wee one.  I got them out one day and my girls laughed (actually laughed!) at some of the outfits I’d kept. They were horrified at the style and look.

We all see life through our own lens. It’s colored by how we feel and what we’ve gone through. Our children haven’t felt those same feelings like we have. So how can we expect them to treasure everything that we treasure?

I’m very thankful that I have children who are sentimental. And they do want a great deal of things that I’ve kept. But some? Some, I’ve learned, that I need to let go of. Hold on to the memory in my heart, hold on to the moment in time, but let the item go. It’s time.

Our children will feel special about their own things in life. And it’s okay.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Want To Believe

When I pray to God, I must admit, that I often fail to believe that what I’m asking or hoping for will really happen. It’s an unflattering flaw in my human soul. The flaw of doubt.

I want to believe.

I want to believe that God will say yes to my request. I want to believe that He will perform that unlikely miracle. I want to believe that my fears won’t come to pass.

That’s why I love the man in the Bible who proclaimed, “Help me with my unbelief!” Because I understand his heart. I understand when everything inside of you wants to believe – and yet you just struggle to do so.

You don’t really believe that God will heal you physically. Yet you ask. You don’t really believe that He will heal the sexual addiction in your marriage or bring your prodigal child home to you. You don’t really believe that that loved one will change. But still, you ask. 

It’s because we WANT to believe. We WANT to hope. We just struggle to find it amidst the pain, the doubt, and the chaos.

Sometimes the only thing I can do is ask God to believe for me. I can lay down on my knees or my face – I can lift my hands up to Him and let Him know that I realize He’s in charge; and that has to be enough for me. But I SO want to believe!

We can, you know……believe.  If we truly want to, God can help us believe. It may take time and some healing or molding of our own heart and soul in the process. It may mean some chipping away at some things or ideals we’ve clung to…but we can believe. We can believe God when we ask the impossible. We can believe in who He is and in what He has promised.

The next time you find yourself struggling with unbelief – ask anyways. Ask for the impossible. Ask for the dream. Ask from your heart and remember that God can help your unbelief and fill in the holes for you until you’re strong enough to look up in confidence and ask for the world on your own.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Compliment Yourself

I get such a kick out of my oldest daughter. She will compliment herself.  She’ll say things like, “Oh my hands smell good,”  “My hair looks good today” or “My feet look really cute in these shoes.” It’s adorable.

I laughed at her at first. I thought it was so funny that she would compliment herself.  Then, I started thinking about it.  I thought, “Why don’t more of us compliment ourselves?” We’d sure feel better about ourselves! We don’t have to do it in a vain, I’m–all-that kind of way, but rather a way that makes us enjoy who we are.

I’ve decided that I need to try it. I need to wake up some morning and look in the mirror and find something to compliment myself about. Whether it’s my nails, having a good hair day, what I’m wearing, or a facial feature – why not enjoy it? Why not relish the fun of knowing that it’s a good, positive thing?

We are so used to talking down to ourselves and telling ourselves all that is wrong with us. Why not start talking to ourselves about  what is right?

I think my daughter has tapped into something that is good, upbeat, and fun. She is enjoying the gifts that God has given her.  And I think that’s great.

So, it may feel a little odd at first to speak out loud about something that looks good on me or something I’ve done well, but it will be good for me in the long run. It will be good for me to focus on my strengths and positive qualities instead of running myself down and beating myself up for how I feel I don’t measure up.

I’m just wondering why we haven’t thought of this before.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Never Underestimate the Power of the Church

Flashing back a little today to my youngest daughter. Never underestimate the power of the church. :) For I sang "Rise and Shine" to her every morning but learning it at church is what stuck in her mind.

Oh - the impressionable young mind. :)