Friday, September 28, 2012

The Kind of Person I Want To Be

Every morning my grandma wakes up and says, “Lord, what can I do for you today?” That’s what she told me.

That may seem nice. Not all that unremarkable for some people. Except, my grandma is 86. She lives in a retirement home. She’s gone through the death of my grandfather, breast cancer, a partial mastectomy, and stage 4 skin cancer.

Today, she is cancer free and in fantastic health. She still drives (not at night). She still serves. She still loves.

She has become a hero for me. I see this amazing woman. A humble, humble servant of God who looks for ways that she can pick up prescriptions from fellow residents who don’t drive. Who looks for little ways every day that she can still serve and help others.

She says she’s getting to be an old lady – yet God has blessed her. She knows it. And she seeks to give back to Him each day because she says there must be a reason and a purpose that she is still around.

I am blessed to have a woman like that in my family. In my life.  It humbles me. It encourages and motivates me to adjust my own attitude and outlook.

I am given each day. God sustains me through the night. I am blessed. Sure, I go through hard things – but there is a reason He has me around each day.

May I wake up each morning, as my grandma does, and say – “Lord, what can I do for you today?” and place the focus of my life in the right place where it belongs.  If I can do one thing…just ONE THING every day for my God – I think I’ll be on the right track of living truly for Him and not myself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Was So Close To Doing The Wrong Thing

I’m a committed Christian. Committed. I don’t do things in life unless I feel they are “God-blessed” or “God-okayed.” I just don’t.

That’s why I was really astonished at myself in the not-too-distant past. Without going into details, let’s just say that I almost did the wrong thing.

And I knew it at the time.

I knew that the direction I was pushing in was not the right one. Or at least the timing wasn’t right. I knew it. I could feel it. God was convicting me about it. And because of my own personal feelings on the matter – I forged on anyway.

And that scares me.

It scares me that I knew I wasn’t obeying God’s prompts – I knew I was ignoring His voice – and yet I kept going in MY direction anyways.

I was so close to doing the wrong thing.

My heart is so saddened. So ashamed. I LOVE my Lord! I adore Him! He is everything to me. And yet I didn’t want to hear what He had to say because I wanted my way. And I knew it at the time.

What I’m thankful for; is that I did end up listening. I did end up giving up my will for God’s. But not without tears. Not without sadness.

The thing is, that as soon as I did that? My heart no longer felt in turmoil. It became at peace. Even though I was going to accept an answer that I wasn’t wanting.

I want to clarify that when I say, “I almost did the wrong thing” – I’m not referring to most things that would come to your mind. For me, it was about obedience and my personal pride that wanted to interfere with that obedience. It was about my wishes regarding something when I was just needing to trust God and wait instead; on Him.

It is so easy. No matter how much we love God – it is so easy to put our own wants in front of what God would have for us. And in doing so, we mess with His blessings.

I don’t ever want to live outside of God’s favor. Or His voice. I don’t want to do things that block my ability to hear Him when He speaks.

It takes courage to lay things down before God when they are really important to us. But that courage will pay off for our hearts will be right with Him and they will be right with ourselves.

Listen TO Him. Listen FOR Him. Even if His voice is saying what you don’t want to hear. That feeling inside of getting right with God – is worth it all.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Protecting One Another's Feelings In Public

My family loves to have a good time. We love to tease and laugh. We laugh A LOT.  You can imagine with two kids growing and maturing that sometimes the teasing gets out of hand. It tramples a feeling or two – or ten. Sometimes it’s uncalled for as my girls learn where to draw the line when it comes to teasing and laughing.

As much as we love to have fun, I’m also very hard-nosed about loving one another. I try to be very intentional about having my girls support one another in their ventures and try to encourage a strong bonding relationship between them.

As someone who loves to observe human interaction and people’s behaviors – I have seen many, many families and observed how they relate to each other. I cringe whenever I see them mock, ridicule, or “jokingly” put each other down in public. For I know if it’s done in public, they probably feel a lot more comfortable doing it in private!

I say, “Be nice” a lot in my home. A LOT. I don’t like sassy tones and I don’t like jokes told at someone else’s expense. Those aren’t jokes, in my opinion. So recently, when I was embarrassed in public over something small and then again when I saw one of my daughter’s embarrassed over something and observed how laughter was given anyways and fingers pointed openly – I knew I needed to pay more attention to this issue.

For love always protects.

And love protects someone else’s feelings when they’ve been hurt or embarrassed. It doesn’t laugh openly or point it out so the person is further embarrassed. No, it protects. Sometimes that means a distraction or maybe sharing something similar you’ve done to put the other person at ease.  But love never turns the handle on the wound and risks placing an embarrassed or hurt person further out in the spotlight.

I heard someone once say that they knew their spouse’s “hot buttons” and that over time, the longer you are married, you just choose not to push them. It’s the same for parenting or siblings. You know what gets to someone but because of your love for them, you make the conscious choice not to go there.

I want to be part of a family that laughs a lot. But I want to be a part of a family that has ALL of us laughing a lot because of joy and a sense of fun. Not because some of us are laughing at someone else.  For if we aren’t all in it together, none of us should be in on it.

We hold a powerful role when we know someone so intimately as we do our own families. We can easily crush or lift up. I want to lift up and I want my children to lift up. I want us to know that the other person has our backs – even when they see our flaws and failures.  For that’s what love does.

It protects.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sometimes You Just Need To Look For Him

I have been in a stage of life recently where I have just been longing for God. I’ve been longing for more than just knowing Him in my heart or serving and worshipping Him. But I’ve been longing to hear from Him and experience His hand moving in my life.

You could say I’ve been longing for more of the supernatural.

I’ve been asking God to show Himself.  And I’m discovering that He is.  Not only is He revealing Himself to me, but I’m finding out that He’s not really hiding all those other times. I’m just not looking for Him.

I’ve been looking so hard lately. And I’m finding Him. I’m seeing what a personal God He is. Answering my heart’s prayers when I don’t really utter them – but the wishes sit there inside of me, anyways. I’m finding how often He looks out for my best interests and how often He does things out of love. And I feel that love. Greatly.

Want a couple examples?

We discovered that a sexual offender had moved across the street from us. He’d been there almost a year but we didn’t know of the circumstances all that time. I was so upset about it. I have two daughters and you can imagine how unnerved I was. Summer was coming and the location of this person – well they could see right into the back of our home and yard.  I started praying. HARD. I prayed in God’s name. Within ONE MONTH of praying, not only was this man gone, but the other unsavory people with him and the owner of the home as well!  I don’t see that as coincidence.

On our road trip this summer, I prayed for safety. We drove clear across the country. We skirted major, deadly storms in several states by one day. ONE DAY. Coincidence? I don’t believe so.

Those are just two recent examples of how God has lavished His love on me and done things that I could never do for myself.

And it only makes me long for Him more. To see more of His glory. For it is a feeling like no other and it touches my very soul.

God is out there. He’s right there in your life moving on your behalf. Doing things for you that you have no idea of. Sometimes you just need to look for Him.

And then you will find Him. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

5 Ways To Add Rest Into Your Day

Go. Go. Go. That’s the environment we live in. It’s fast-paced. Stressed. Tiring. 

We could all use some moments of slow. Moments of calm. Moments to think!

Here are 5 simple ways that you can begin to add some rest back into your days and into your life.

1.     Go to bed when your kids do!  If they are little, this might mean an early bedtime. But you don’t have to sleep. You can read for ½ hour or listen to some music by a bedside radio. But give your body time to be still. To ponder. Relax. Slow down.

2.     Turn your cell phone off for ½ hour. It’s the best way to not be tempted to jump and read texts or notifications when they come in. Place it in a room where you won’t reach for it and set a timer, if you have to.  Use that ½ hour to color with a child, read a book, fold some laundry, or simply sit in a chair and look out the window. You’ll be amazed at how much calmer and clearer you will feel after a ½ hour of slow!

3.     Eat in your car while out doing errands. Believe me. I’ve done this and it’s so nice! Either take a sandwich with you or grab some food to go somewhere and then just pull over in a parking lot and eat. By yourself.  If you have a baby, of course, only do this when you can leave the little one at home with a spouse or sitter.

4.     Set your alarm for ½ hour before you need to get up. Then just stay in bed.  I feel so much readier to face the day when I get up slowly instead of bouncing out of the bed and racing for the day first thing! Start slow. Start calm.

5.     Go for a walk. Not a fast walk. A slow walk. If it’s cold where you live, go inside your local mall in the morning.  Don’t rush through it. This is not a walk to burn calories, but rather a walk to burn stress. Look around. Collect your thoughts. And enjoy.

None of these ideas are magical. They aren’t super “stress busters.” They are simply little ways to help you slow down your fast pace.  They may not seem like much, but they do help. 

Add a little more rest into your heart today by grabbing each little chance you have to collect your thoughts.  Your heart and your mind will thank you.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's Compromise, That's What It Is

My girls were on Itunes one day loading up on some songs with a gift card they’d gotten. Since they don’t get to do that often, they were excited.

They had a list all ready for me to look over the lyrics and approve their song choices. But one song on there, we’d already discussed that I wouldn’t let them get. They were still trying to get it past me because they really liked the song.

The song wasn’t awful in and of itself. I mean, it could have been a little bit cleaner but it wasn’t horrid. My issue with it was one “D” word. One “D” word.

My girls didn’t understand. They don’t say that particular word, and were aware of its presence, but still wanting the song because it was only “one word.”

My issue is this.: It’s more about compromise than it is even about the word. And compromise always starts small. It starts with one word. One low cut top. One drink. One lie to mom. And we rationalize to ourselves that it’s “only one.”

But what it is, is its compromise of our values and morals.

So if this song has only one bad word – is it then okay to get another song with only one bad word? And another and another? Pretty soon – how many songs on their iPod do they have of bad words that they are constantly hearing in their heads?  How do they know when to stop? Do they stop at just ONE song with ONE bad word? Or do they rationalize that they have that one song and they feel they are okay so it’s okay to get another song and then be okay?

No. Because we can’t always draw a line for ourselves. We move our own lines out of lack of self control. Our wants and desires grow stronger than our limits on ourselves. That’s why we have to have boundaries in place ahead of time and stick to them. We have to have morals and standards by which we choose to live.

It may just be “one word” to them now – but I’m hoping to show them how it’s really one compromise. One compromise too many.  For compromise is always a slippery slope. One that I don’t want them to ever stand on.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I'm Only One Person

Sometimes when I’m really overwhelmed at home, I tell my family, “I’m only one person!”  Those words can be used in so many situations in life.

When the school wants me to come up with a costume for a special party, and I need to prepare for that Bible Study meeting, while getting my daughter some much needed personal items at the store, and coming up with something for dinner, while giving my husband some needed one-on-one time, and not forgetting  to submit that article that has a deadline, but never neglecting friends and family who I’m long overdue in speaking to, and diligently giving myself over to some quiet time with God, and……
….and more.

There is always more.

There is always something someone needs from me.

Usually, I’m very happy to give it. But then I discover, at times, that the “someone” is always happy to take it.

And I’m left feeling empty – needing refueling. Refilling.

There are people in your life right now, who freely and lovingly give to you. They don’t do it for recognition. They do it out of joy. Love. Servitude. However, they do it, they still have families. Commitments. Responsiblities. Dreams.

It is so easy for us to take from those who are willing to give to us. It’s a blessing to have people like that in our lives. Yet, we tend to forget their needs. Their wishes. Their time. Their strength.

No one has endless strength. No one has an endless supply of joy. No one gets enough rest every day. And no one – at times -  doesn’t feel taken for granted.

I don’t know who God has placed in your life that has given to you. Maybe it’s your hairdresser, your Pastor’s wife, your babysitter, or that person online who always leaves an encouraging word on your blog.

I’m not talking about the obvious person. But the not-so-obvious person.  The parent who is faithfully helping you out in class. The friend’s mom who endlessly takes your child to and from social events without complaint. The mentor at church who always stops to hug you.

Whoever it is, whenever it is – they are God’s gift to you. Pray for them. Appreciate them. Give back to them once in awhile.

For if they grow discouraged enough, they might think about quitting. They might give up on encouraging.  And that would be a tragedy.

They are only one person.

One person we need.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why Some Dreams Never Come True

I have some dreams. Some of them have come true, some I have abandoned, and some I am still pressing towards.

I’ve always been a dreamer. I could always see the “possible.”   “Why not?” I would think. I could actually visualize myself in certain places, at certain times, living out certain dreams.

I’m also a people watcher. And watching others teaches me a lot. It helps me see things played out in living color and learn how to “re-work” parts of myself that need a little help.

In my life and in the life of those I’ve watched, I’ve seen why some dreams come true and why others do not. Of course there can be varying reasons. Sometimes life deals someone a hard blow and there is a huge setback. Sometimes someone’s interests change.  But the main reason I’ve discovered that my dreams and the dreams of others don’t come true? It’s because they get too hard. And we give up on them.

A simple reason. We give up because things get tough.

Sometimes the road to what we want is longer than we’d anticipated. Harder than we’d planned. The odds seem so stacked against us. Eventually we get discouraged, frustrated and we begin to believe that things ARE too hard, they MUST be stacked against us….and we resign ourselves to live our lives without.

We shortchange ourselves so many times. Limit our God. And we give up just before the dream can become a reality. For often, things ARE the hardest and toughest just before the blessing. Just before the victory. It’s right around the corner.

I believe God has gifted us with dreams. It’s what fuels us. Drives us. And often, what we were meant to be a part of. Don’t give up on them.  If your interests change – so will your dreams and that’s okay. But then go for that new vision in your heart and that new passion in your soul. 

Don’t be one of the many that fails to believe in yourself or your God.  Don’t let a little bit of “hard” and “tough” sway you so much that you give up on the joy that is waiting for you around that next bend.

Dreams DO still come true. You just have to be determined to hang in there until the process of getting you there is completed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

It Isn't How You Begin, It's How You Finish

The path of life. It just doesn’t often go in the way we dreamed it would go when we were little kids.  Let’s face it. Life sometimes stinks. We are given raw deals more times than we can count. Things aren’t fair. We are left out, overlooked, hurt, and left disillusioned.

Oh, that sounds so gloomy!

For many, life started out rough.  Maybe you were born into the home of an alcoholic, or one that was full of abuse. Maybe death slammed into your life in many ways – taking away the people who were dear to your heart or who really believed in you.  Maybe life simply has felt unfair and your hopes, dreams, encouragements, and wishes have long since vanished.

What is the difference between people who overcome adversities and those who fall prey to them? Why do some of us rise above every “ill-conceived” thing that happens to us when others seem to only grow deeper in bitterness, resentment, and anger?

It’s not how we start the race of life. For many of us started out in unfair circumstances. It’s how we finish the race, that really matters.  Sure, the playing field seems stacked at times. Some people have many unfair advantages. But the one thing we all get a fair shot at is determination, perseverance, heart, soul, and hope. Those are given out to all of us if we would only reach for them.

The race of life for each one of us is still going on. It’s not over. There is still time to join in, catch up, and even get stronger.  Don’t let the stinky things in the past negatively impact the present. Don’t let it contaminate your life.

Let the past go. There is still time to come out a winner.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Have You Ever Had To Stand Up For Your Faith?

I’m just wondering…have you ever had to stand up for your faith? If not, why not?  We live in a world that confronts us at every turn and is increasingly hostile and intolerant of our faith.

Do you stand by quietly – or when an occasion presents itself, do you stand up for your God?

I think of Mordecai and how he refused to kneel before anyone but God. He could’ve. He could’ve quietly gone along with others. But he didn’t. And of course, that takes courage.

It takes courage to stand up for your faith.

I’ve had the chance to stand up for my faith. Some times, it is easy. If it’s something morally wrong or offensive – it can be easy. If it’s something socially deemed acceptable yet goes against God’s word….not as easy. It’s not easy to be in the minority. To know you will be met with resistance, mockery, ridicule, or even bitterness and anger.

But it’s the right thing to do.

If we don’t stand up for our Lord, who will? If we don’t fight for our faith – why do we believe in it? Why do we devote our lives to something that we don’t feel strong enough to fight for?

I’ve let moments go by when I could have said something – SHOULD have said something. I’m imperfect and often ashamed when I felt the Holy Spirit convict or prod my heart; only to ignore it because it went beyond my own comfort level. But when I HAVE spoken up – I’ve felt good. I’ve felt right.

I would never EVER let someone badmouth or trash a beloved family member. How much greater should I take a stand for my faith and my God?

This… I ask you as well.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mamas, What Are We Doing To Our Girls?

Went to the fair recently. LOVE the fair. The smells, the sounds, the atmosphere. It’s just fun. It brings back memories of being a kid and it’s just a carefree time of enjoying the outdoors and all the things/activities around you.

My husband and I roamed around together – alone – for the first time in years. It was so enjoyable. But we roamed into the amusement park ride area several times to check up on our girls and their friends. What I found there…broke my heart.

I saw girl after girl after girl after girl AFTER girl – dressed like – well – a slut, basically. YOUNG girls. Girls dressed in super small, tight shorts, half shirts that showed everything when they bent over, lacey tops, half shoulder tops, ripped tops – you name it. They were showing it off.

The thing is – I think they probably thought they were being trendy. Pretty. Sexy. But they just don’t understand.

The real vibe they are giving off is anything but a young, beautiful girl. And don’t get me wrong. Even young girls have a need to feel beautiful! But the vibe they were giving off is one of, “Here is my body – acknowledge it. Acknowledge ME!”  They were enticing, inviting, and tempting every young boy AND OLDER MAN who happened to lay eyes on them.

It’s no wonder sex crimes are up.

Men are responsible for how they think and for how they act on those thoughts. But we are also responsible for how we dress and how we incite or tempt wrongful thoughts. Don’t think we aren’t.

Mamas – where are you? Why do you let your precious daughter dress that way? Why do you not see a problem with her going out in barely nothing at all?  Girls 10-16 are much, much too young to be dressing (much less thinking about dressing) to show off their physique!

Girls in large part take their cues from their mothers. They see how we dress and take their cues from us on that. But also, they need boundaries and guidelines. We need to approve what clothes they buy and wear and enforce guidelines for decency and modesty. There are adorable, BEAUTIFUL tween and teenage girls out there who do not wear super short shorts and sexy shirts. 

I want my daughters to feel valued and valuable for more than outer beauty. I want them to respect themselves enough to dress elegantly and with class - and yes – even wear trendy clothes without compromising what someday only their husband should see and adore.

But from what I saw at the fair? Sadly, a lot of mothers aren’t doing their job of protecting the purity and value of their daughters.  And there’s just no other way to say it.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

You Can Have Fun, You Can Be Pretty, You Can Serve God

I know a girl. She is amazingly beautiful, super sweet, and  very committed to her faith as a Christian.  Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But it’s not.

People are often surprised after they get to know this girl. They think from her attractive image that she will be snobby or mean. I’ve heard people say how astonished they were at how down to earth she was; how sweet.

Not only that, but she doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks it. She loves her Lord, God. She strives to serve Him in all she does. She doesn’t just go to church on Sunday and then act differently the rest of the week.

She is the real deal.

I think it’s sad that people think an attractive woman can’t also be a committed Christian. I think it’s also sad that they expect certain things from a certain image. But as sad as I find it, I’m not surprised. Because I know why they feel this way – it’s what they usually get.

A beautiful woman usually compromises somewhere. Image is important, after all. It might be in compromising some of her modesty, or her values. It might be in simply believing her own “package deal.” After all, if everyone says you are wonderful…you must be, right?

It takes great courage to maintain humility, honor, and a deep faith. It’s not easy to walk that road and not compromise somewhere down the road. But it can be done.  And when it is, it’s an amazing example to everyone else.

You can have fun in life. You can laugh without being cruel. You can smile, without having ulterior motives, and you can enjoy all the funny moments in life and still be pure, honest, and good.

You can be pretty and still 100% devoted to God. You don’t have to be immodest in dress. There are plenty of trendy clothes that cover what only your husband should see.  You can take care of your hair and makeup, have fun doing your nails and toes – and still be humble and sweet. Caring for your appearance is not wrong.  In fact, I think a pretty woman who loves God can draw people to Christ! 

It’s possible to be the real deal.  It’s also tricky. But it can be done. I’ve seen it firsthand.