Monday, December 14, 2015

The Breaking of the Morning

Grabbing her nude lipstick, she looked at herself in the mirror and suddenly realized, "I look like I'm on a date with Jackson, not a business meeting!" Her cheeks flushed and heart began pounding out of her chest.
"What am I going to do? This isn't a date, and he's not Jackson!"

Emily, held back the tears that threatened to streak her makeup as she threw the lipstick back in her purse.
His voice echoed in her mind as she stared at the old, worn out tube. "I love that shade on your lips. It gives them life but doesn't take away from their natural beauty. It just makes me want to lose myself in your kisses."

A few tears breached through their prison door. Most days she could hold them back, but not today.

"Jackson is gone," she repeated her mantra out loud to remind herself of the reality.

"Jackson died 10 months ago. He is not meeting me here. Declan is here and this is not a date. This is a planning meeting, not a date. Now pull yourself together Emily!"
Declan had already texted  her, "I am a running a little early. If you want to tell me what you like, I'll have your coffee waiting here for you."

Thoughtful. Declan was more than thoughtful. He was a gentleman, the kind women can only hope for. The kind that would have been the epitome of chivalry at King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. It only took one evening at a friend's party last week to remember that much about him. The summer they spent together almost two decades ago had confirmed to her that true gentlemen were out there, although a severely endangered species.
This morning she guessed he wasn't just "running" early, but made a point to be there early, probably to have an excuse to buy her coffee so there would be no back and forth about who will or won't buy.

Reaching back in her purse, she grabbed the red lipstick she wore more often now that Jackson was gone. She couldn't bear the thought of running out of that nude lipstick, the one that made her late husband swoon over her. Over the last 10 months, she hadn't even considered wearing it until today; she knew why she wanted to wear it today, to this meeting, but she was unwilling to allow herself to feel hopeful, especially in love again.

It was too late to change out of her current outfit that consisted of one of Jackson's favorite blouses, but she could choose a different shade of lipstick.

Walking to the door of the coffee house, Emily was surprised as the door swung open and  to reveal Declan, waiting at the door for her.

"Oh, wow. Now that's front door service," she laughed nervously, trying to sound light-hearted and pleasant.

"I, uh, saw you drive in." Declan smiled.

Emily felt her heart sink as she stepped inside the coffee shop. "So, did you see my little breakdown in there? I'm sorry. It's just that..."

"It's okay, Em. If this is a bad time, we can reschedule, or I can just find someone else."

"No. No. I mean, I want to do this; I like the distraction, and it's just one of those days. It's only been 10 months since Jackson died and I still have bad days where something hits me unexpectedly. Today is one of those days."

"I'm sorry."  His voice was low and uncertain. Emily hated these awkward conversations followed by an even more awkward silence.
"I know this is probably a stupid question, and one you get asked all the time, but is there anything I can do to help?"

It was trite. No one could truly help. What she needed was Jackson. No one could help her unless they could bring Jackson back somehow, or make the pain and emptiness magically disappear. It was a useless question.
Before she could give her polite, "No, I'm fine, really," answer, Declan's eyes got wide as he handed her the biggest mocha she'd ever seen. .

"Never mind, that was stupid of me. I have an idea. Are you up for a little road trip?"

"I hope it will require lots of activity, because if I drink all this I will be bouncing off the walls." She stared wide eyed at the gallon of coffee in her hand.

"Sorry," he unknowingly gave her that smoldering smile she had imprinted on her brain all week. "I wasn't sure what size you'd want so I figured you could drink what you want, instead of wishing for more."

Thoughtful indeed.

"Actually it's just the opposite, it's a peaceful place. I think you'll like it."


Declan pulled into the lake campground a few minutes later, making Emily a little uneasy.

"I hate to break it to you Declan, but I'm wearing a skirt and heels. Hiking, boating, or swimming isn't really what I was planning for a business meeting this morning." She couldn't help but poke fun at him for his location choice.

"It's okay, I have some spare swim suits in the trunk. It'll be fine." He was stone faced and completely serious. Emily's smile faded fast.
"I'm not wearing a bathing suit in front of this guy!" she thought.

"I'm just kidding! Don't worry! You look like you're going to punch me or something."

Thoughtful, funny, and witty.

"You had me. I was trying to think of an excuse! I was just going to go with, 'No! Way!" Emily no longer worried about letting hope in. It was the furthest thing from her mind. She was laughing for the first time in months, without forcing it, or feeling the tight grip of guilt for being happy without Jackson.

"See that bench over there? That's where we're going." It was early and the sunrise was just kicking off it's morning show with bright colors and orange clouds streaking across the sky. It was breathtaking.

Declan sat a good distance from Emily on the bench, turning his body in her direction he began. "This is where I go when I just need..." he let out a sigh as if he was trying to find the right word. "rest. When I feel like I'm drowning in worries and anxiety, I come here and watch the sun rise. It makes me think of Lamentations, 'His mercies are new every morning,' and then I feel at peace again. I thought maybe it might do the same for you."

Declan then just sat silent, not saying anything, while Emily watched the sunrise colors morph into a bright morning sun, glistening off the placid lake. A few more tears escaped their iron clad prison again, but Declan pretended not to notice.
"Thank you." she forced the words out of her clenched throat through a whisper. His arm was stretched across the back of the bench. Without turning toward her, he moved his hand to her shoulder. She patted his hand to say "thanks". Without even thinking, she picked up his arm, moving her body closer to his and placing his arm around her shoulders. She felt the comfort of his warm body close to her, dispelling the emptiness that had become familiar as she watched the sun warm the cold, empty surface of the land, bringing light and  life to all that lived there. Declan didn't protest or move a muscle, but watched the day come alive beside her, in silence.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Let It Be

This is absolutely, beyond a doubt, my favorite picture as a mother for more reasons than you might think.

 I remember this day so well. I remember how tired and wore out I had become. My hormones were crazy, I was getting little to no sleep, and I had four other children that needed attention, food, schooling, and refereeing in addition to the consistently needy newborn. I was barely hanging on.
My mom set up this photo session at her house. The photographer was a friend to her and wanted to give this to my mother as a gift. Truly I was the one who received the gift. It was God's provision because had it not been offered and planned by an outside party, I would have none of these precious memories preserved. Over the following year my body gave up on me. My thyroid and multiple essential processes for life began to shut down and I found myself unable to get out of bed in the morning. I have little to no memories, but I have these pictures.

Most people look at this picture and see that angelic baby face and a mama in love with her new son. When I peel my eyes away from the angel baby, I see black eyes, hair that's not fixed, and a mama just trying to do her best with what she was given.

That morning, I did my best to dress my children for their pictures and make the memory of them from this day look worthy to be digitally embedded for eternity. It was all I could muster. It wasn't much. I wanted to be in the picture, but I could hardly make myself look acceptable. I wore very little makeup, a T-shirt and some athletic pants. My hair needed fixing. I sometimes wonder if the photographer didn't take one look at me and think, "No way am I going to be able to make these pictures work with her looking like that."

But she did. Honestly, I think it was all those factors that make this picture so perfect. I don't take good pictures... ever. Not even the most talented photographers have been able to capture good pictures of me. I have seen the look on their face over and over again after snapping that camera, wondering why I look so awkward or unnatural. They've tried to coach me and help me, but it always turns out the same. My mouth turns down naturally which makes me appear as if I'm frowning, unless I have a big smile on my face. I feel uncomfortable on display, which is translated and exaggerated by a camera lens.

This day, I didn't try. I just was. I reconciled myself to this bland version of me, knowing it couldn't be any worse than all those times I actually tried.

It was in the giving up of trying to capture the perfect image that allowed me to have this honest image. This is me. My mouth may turn down naturally and make it difficult to capture a good smile, but it doesn't matter here. My eyes may have been black from exhaustion and illness, but it doesn't matter here. It's me.
Turns out the honest, raw version of myself is the one I like the most. Of course, the baby helps an awful lot too since I can't take my eyes off him.

Four years later I am so grateful I allowed this to happen despite my lack of preparation. I am so grateful I didn't obsess over not having everything perfect. I'm so thankful I just let it be. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

American Heroes and God's Heroes

My Love and I went out to see American Sniper the other night. I have been fascinated by this man's story for the last two years, since I watched his wife give his eulogy at his funeral. This was a well-known warrior, but I had never heard his name until that day I saw his casket placed perfectly over the Dallas Cowboys' star. I was suddenly filled with sorrow that I had never known who he was in life.

The book was always on my "to read" list, but with a household to care for and five kids to homeschool, a home-based business, and an obsession with writing, reading hasn't been priority lately.


But then there was the movie. I had to see it. I needed to see it. I don't know why. I don't like war movies.


Maybe it was because the thought of standing and speaking about my just-murdered husband to thousands, or millions of people, with the strength and courage I saw his wife speak that day, inspires me to face what scares me most. Maybe it's because I want to know what kind of man could have touched so many lives that his funeral should be held in the largest building I have ever seen. Maybe it was that he was Texan, and no matter how much I joke about or make fun of Texans, I know that Texas is still so much of who I am, so I feel a connection to a fallen Texan hero.


I didn't know why, but I had to see the movie.


Honestly, there was a one-dimensionality about his character in the movie, but it was that vacuum I felt in watching it, that drew me in even more, recognizing that that was just a cover for something so much more complicated hiding behind his simplicity. Something about him, was familiar. Something about who he was, what he believed, why he did what he did, the way he loved his wife and his kids, and that "thing" that drove him to be the hero that he lived to be, was so familiar... in my husband.


I still couldn't figure it out. My husband is not a fighter, or a warrior. If you pick a fight with him, he'll most likely walk away or take it without hitting back, not that he couldn't. Given the right circumstances, like someone hurting one of his kids or me, he could do some real damage to someone's face.But he's not the hero type that runs into a burning building. He's not the kind of guy that faces a threat with his own gun. No, he just gives them what he wants and prays he can walk away unharmed. So why in the world would this legendary hero make me think of my gentle husband?


Then it struck me, he is the same kind of hero, in a different realm.


Chris Kyle killed physical enemies from a rooftop, to protect his boys. He went into buildings ahead of them to make sure they stayed safe.


Kyle was driven by his loyalty to his country, and his value and his morals and his beliefs.


Kyle was even driven by his love for his wife and kids, his brother and parents, and all people.


Kyle struggled between his loyalty and love for his wife and kids and his loyalty and love for his country and the soldiers out there fighting.


Even greater, Kyle was driven not just by the love for his fellow Americans, but by a love for all people, especially the innocent, the oppressed and even those related to the enemy trying to kill him.


My husband, a pastor by calling, is a warrior just like Kyle except the enemy he is fighting is in the spiritual world.

When my husband is acting as a pastor, he is fighting and running down enemies in the spiritual world, enemies no one can see, to protect the church, the believers, and his family.

He is driven by his loyalty to the Lord, by his values and morals and his beliefs.


He is driven by his love for me, and the kids and his parents and all people, especially the lost or oppressed.


He struggles daily between his loyalty and love for me and the kids and his loyalty and love for the Lord and the ministry to which he has been called. He struggles because if he drops the ball and doesn't reach that person, they don't just lose their life, they lose their soul.


Just like Kyle, my husband isn't just driven by the ones in his church or other good looking, nice Christians. It's the hard cases that he loves. He once found out a friend had been hurt by the church and no longer attended. His response was so classic as a pastor, "Oh good! I can do something about that!"



He sits on rooftops, shooting those enemies before they can reach the ones he is called to protect. He does it with the Word of God, with teaching the Word of God, and with prayers. Sometimes, he does it with just time or a hug.

When he was a children's pastor, he had an afterschool program at the church where the kids could just come and hang out and play games. There were some little girls that would just wrap their arms around him and not let go. He told me once, "I may be the only man in their life that loves them." He stood between the enemy and that little girl, with a hug. It doesn't seem like much, but in the world today, a man who just hugs a little girl, could be called something ugly, ruining not just his reputation but his life. But he hugged her anyway.
 Sometimes, he stands between the enemy and its target, taking a beating or a shot or two, without anyone ever being the wiser. Most of the time, those beatings come in order to protect his family. One of the worst beatings he ever endured lasted not days, not weeks and not months, but over a year. He took it for our son's sake. He was mistreated, abused mentally and emotionally, bullied and slandered, in order that we might do what was best for our son. But that's what good soldiers do, protect the people silently and without recognition.

You see Kyle didn't shoot down the guy that was aiming the bazooka at the US troops doing their job on the street, and then holler out, "Hey Guys! I got one! Look, right there! I took care of you!"

It was just understood.

In the movie an officer tells Kyle that those boys feel invincible knowing he is on the roof watching out for them. They can't see him, they don't know what it is that he does up there, but they know he's there watching over them and protecting them from the unseen enemy.


A pastor is the same. He doesn't stand in the pulpit and say, "Look at this enemy I destroyed for you, and the injury I sustained while battling him." But almost daily and weekly, a pastor is facing the unseen enemy and protecting his people. It may come in the form of a disgruntled member or something far worse like a flirtatious woman or even the temptation of pornography. He faces it with courage because he knows who is fighting the battle for him. It's when they face those enemies without the Lord being the one fighting the battle for them, when the pastor thinks he can extinguish the enemy all himself, that he loses.


When you watch the movie and you see The Butcher drilling a hole into the head of a child, Kyle trying desperately to get a shot at the monster but finding it impossible while yet another enemy is firing continually at him, you'll cringe. Imagine if you were the pastor, watching as the enemy drills a hole into the soul of a child, but you can't reach him in time because the enemy is firing rampantly at you from another direction. Now imagine you are that shooter, with your complaints and your dislikes and your threats. You are the enemy, preventing your pastor from doing his job because he can't get around you to help the others.


Most offenses people take in the church are stupid. They are.


Very few offenses on which people take action against their pastor are legitimate. Most revolve around something that starts out with "I don't like...." Guess what, a good pastor doesn't make decisions based on what he thinks you will like. He is only interested in pleasing the Lord, and willing to take the shots from people in order to please the Lord.


Most of the battles a pastor faces, are not with unbelievers. It is not a battle between whether or not homosexuality is okay with God. In fact, most unbelievers couldn't care less about what pastors think.


The majority of battles a pastor will face come from his own people, the very people he serves. Imagine if Kyle was trying to save that little boy, but it was his own men firing away at him. Imagine if while Kyle was trying to shoot that man with the Bazooka, the soldier the bazooka was aimed at was firing at Kyle. His job would be impossible. He would probably give up, go home and try to forget about protecting them.


This is happening every single day, every week.


Here is one example from the book Toxic Church.


"One of the greatest pains that wounded pastors have shared is how good friends and godly individuals within the congregation stood by and did nothing to stop the carnage" 


Do you know that most pastors want to quit? Hundreds of pastors choose to leave ministry every week, not because of unbelievers, liberals, democrats, homosexuals, pro-choicers, or any of those people. They leave the ministry because of Christians.

Now imagine, fighting that kind of battle against your very own people, the ones that you thought you were going to protect when you signed on the dotted line. Imagine if there was a scene in the movie where Kyle goes to shoot a bad guy with a bomb, and it is close to one of his soldiers. When the soldier realizes how close he was to the shot Kyle took, despite the fact that it was to protect his life, the soldier becomes angry and starts shooting back at Kyle. Now Kyle is being attacked by his own man and he can't just shoot him down. Not only that, but that soldier gets more soldiers riled up that starting firing away too. Now all a soldier can do is hide behind the wall from the onslaught of gunfire, talking on his walkie to the Commander, asking teh Commander to talk to the guys and get them to stop shooting at him. Meanwhile, the enemies are sitting by laughing at how the US soldiers are killing each other. All they have to do is just sit back and watch.

This is the current state of the American church in more cases than not. The pastor is being attacked by his own people, sometimes by other pastors.


And imagine, after finally escaping your ally that was shooting at you, going home to a wife and children who so desperately want more of you, but the battle has beat you down. Every time you sit down to have dinner, you get a call that someone else's child needs you right then or someone drops by and just wants a minute to talk with the pastor.

There were nights my kids missed out on time with their dad because he was expected to be at other kids' ball games. There were evenings he didn't spend with his children because another parent needed him to talk to their kid about salvation. There were days when he was supposed to be on vacation, but daily the calls came in wanting to know this or that. 
There were even times my kids made comments about how they wished their dad didn't have to spend so much time at the church and with other people so they could see him for a little while. 

When I watched that movie, I could relate to his wife so well. The desire to have my husband home with me, not at the ball game. The desire to go out on a date without having to do visitation first. The desire to let my kids be kids without judgement, or to make decisions for our family without having to get permission from people who care so little about us that they will take a shot to wound every chance they get.


I understood what it was to have my husband home, but not really, because his mind was still "there". I know what it is like to watch his personality disappear into oblivion, wondering how it would change my children and our marriage. I also know what it is like to have him give up the fight for a while, come home and come back to us. 


At the end of the movie, Kyle is caught in the middle of a huge fire fight. In order to take out the enemy that had been taking out many of their men, he reveals their presence on the rooftop of a building when he shoots and kills the enemy. As soon as he fires, extinguishing the enemy with a single bullet, hundreds more descend upon the building, thirsty for blood. This is the life of a pastor. Distinguishing an enemy doesn't bring rest and peace, it reveals your location to the enemy who descends upon you with terror in tow. This is how lives are destroyed. Sometimes he comes out alive, sometimes the whole family goes down in flames. I have seen it first hand more than once, unfortunately.


I am guilty of complaining and starting a sentence with "I don't like..." but the older I get the more I pray and beg God to keep me from being the enemy to my pastor and our church.


 Pray for your pastor the way you pray for our soldiers. God made warriors to fight wars and protect us from enemies. But He also set apart an entire tribe of people to be the spiritual warriors. Pray that God will equip them, strengthen them, and make his arrow true. Pray that God will fill him with courage, and despite whatever enemy he faces, may he never give up fighting for the ones for whom he has been ordained to protect, teach and lead. Pray that he is given adequate time with his wife and kids to lead them as a man of God should.


There is a scene in the movie when Kyle says something like, I wonder why I am here at home, perfectly capable, when there so many more out there that need me. That is the constant struggle of a pastor as well. "My family is home, with the knowledge of Jesus Christ, but there are so many out there that need the Gospel and I have it!"

The fact of the matter is, Kyle seemed to be something beyond human,or a modern day superhero, but he wasn't. He was just man with an extraordinary love for his country and his people. He made mistakes just like you and me. He bled, he got angry, he loved, and he could be hurt.

This is the quandary of a pastor too. The fight is difficult, but it is that question, "I am capable. I am available. How can I just ignore the need. If not me, who will go?" 

Pastors sometimes seem to be spiritual superheros, but they aren't. They are just men and women with an extraordinary love for the Lord and for His people.
Stand by him and pray for him. Love his wife and his children as if they are your own family. Give them grace, even if they don't deserve it. And remember, they are just people too, just like you and me. 

Don't forget all our heroes from military, to pastors, to our first responders and our police officers.They all need our prayers.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Think Positively Or Honestly?

I sat through an almost 9 hour conference in a freezing cold room yesterday, listening to a man talk about motivation, vision, and affirmations.
This kind of thing is hard for me as a Christian, especially when it is not particularly Christian focused. At some point I feel a bit like I am listening to the meaningless drivel that flows freely from the Houston pastors that make me cringe at every quippy and cleverly penned quote.

You see, I am a network marketer recommender of an amazing product that has changed our lives. I did not set out to make money recommending a certain product, but when it changed so much about our health and our lives, I couldn't help but tell our friends. Soon, they told their friends, who told their friends, and then this remarkable thing happened; the company compensated me for recommending their products to others. Wal-Mart doesn't do that.

 I did not set out to give anyone a plan for financial freedom, or piles of cash. I simply shared a good thing. As of now, I am not rolling in piles of cash, not even close. But I have a bit of extra money to buy some groceries.

For months I prayed for an opportunity to help our family out financially. Each month our financial situation grew tighter and tighter. Not because we aren't making money, or  because we are making less money, but because our kids are growing and eating more and more, and groceries are getting more and more expensive.

Despite my best efforts to be frugal and price match, coupon, and implement every possible avenue for cheaper prices, our kids' appetites were quickly outgrowing our budget. Something had to happen. So, I prayed and asked God to provide.

Within a month or two, I got a check in the mail for recommending a product I use. At that time, I listened to the message God was sending, and I made the decision to put forth effort to make money, instead of just sharing randomly.

Now others are doing the same and looking to me for guidance, so I am looking to others for guidance as well.
At the end of the conference I was more than happy with the tools I gained to lead my team even better and share what I was able to glean.

However,  my mind and spirit struggle with this new concept of speaking positive affirmations.

The lesson summed up was this; to be successful (his definition is to be successful is to have joy on the journey of whatever you are doing, not to make lots of money and gain lots of power and respect) you must be motivated, and to be motivated you must speak positive things to yourself. Sounds a bit Osteenish if you ask me or at least that's what I thought at first.

But, in reality, as I listened I prayed God would speak to me, and indeed He did.

The message of speaking positively and letting your mind dwell on positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts is not a heretical message. It is indeed Biblical. Philippians 4:8 says,

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

It is Biblical to control your thought processes and not allow them to be subject to every evil and whim that comes along.
"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," 2 Corinthians 10:5


The problem with the message we so often hear about positive thinking is that it is separated from Christ. Jesus said in John 15:5


"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing." 


Did you get that? Without Christ you can do anything you set your mind to NOTHING!


We ended the conference by evaluating our values, our gifts, and then writing a vision in the form of positive affirmations. Such a good practice, if done correctly. But here's the problem. So many people wrote things like, "I am a good person." 


But you may ask, Isn't that just what Paul said to do in Philippians? What is wrong with that? 


Paul indeed said to DWELL on good things, not bad. But the very first quality he lists when it comes to your thought processes is TRUTH. Let me give you an example of a lie.


People don't like me. 


Do you know that for sure? Has anyone told you they don't like you? Have you asked? Such a good question to ask yourself when you are allowing negative thoughts to consume you. Can you be certain this is true? But an even more important question to always ask is,


 "Does the BIBLE say this is true?" 


 The Bible is your standard for truth. Period. Anything else is a waste of time. If your answer to either of these questions is, No, stop wasting your time on such a destructive thought!

So what's wrong with saying I am a good person? You must ask yourself the question, do I know this to be true? Does the Bible say this is true?
In fact, the Bible tells us this is a lie. Romans 3:12 says, 


"All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."

I could say every morning and every evening, I am a good person. I might even truly believe it. But at some point, it will fail me. No matter how much I say it to myself, I will never, ever, be a good person. I will still do bad things, say bad things, and think bad things. If I was a good person, I would have no need for Christ. I would BE Christ.

I can say to myself, "I deserve good things." I could say it all day long, but the truth is, I do not deserve even one good thing. The Bible says that no one is good. It also says in Romans 3:23;


 "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  


And Romans 6:23 says the price for being a sinner is death.


"For the wages of sin is death."


I deserve good things death. Not jail, not a spanking. No. Death.


 I have sinned, I have lied, and said bad things. Therefore, I deserve... death.  I can say all day long, "I deserve good things,"  convince my mind it is true, but my spirit still knows I have sinned, and what I deserve is death. My spirit is still not satisfied, nor will it ever be satisfied through speaking those things. Because speaking myself good just doesn't work. Only faith in Jesus Christ can truly, without a doubt, change me. 


Instead of daily positive affirmations and meditations about myself, daily positive meditation on TRUTH that is found in God's word will change the heart of a human being, thus changing their life.

I no longer say, "I am a sinner. I am a wretch. I am a horrible person. I deserve nothing good."

I can say, "I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus. I am a new creation. The old is gone and Christ remains."


2 Corinthians says, 

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

What are the new things? Those new things are your truths, given to us in the Bible.

 I no longer say to myself, "I am a horrible mother." Instead I say, "I am a good mother through the power of the Holy Spirit who has given me everything I need to be their mother, because God in all his sovereignty and wisdom, gave them to ME."

I no longer say, "No one will listen to me." I say, "Because God has not given me a spirit of fear, but rather, He has given me the Holy Spirit that brings with Him, power, love and a sound mind. Therefore, I can speak what He puts in my mouth." 


I no longer need to be afraid of what people think of me. I can say, "I am dearly loved and how great is the love the Father has lavished on me, that he would call me a child of God!" 


This also means I no longer need to dwell on all my faults, and fears, and failures, but rather I can dwell on the truth that is Christ is in me. I have access to the power of the Holy Spirit in me, and it is because of the work of Christ that there is anything good in me at all. Although I do not deserve anything good, Christ has redeemed me and I am an heir with Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven and as a child of God, He will bless me with whatever He determines to be good for me, in all his sovereignty and wisdom, even if it appears to me to be anything but good


For example, when I am digging in the foot of my child with a needle to remove a splinter, I am doing something good for him. However, he can not understand that what I am doing is good. He only feels the pain, so he may only think I am hurting him. God does the same with us.


The other night we watched the movie, Mom's Night Out. It speaks volumes to me because, really, that is my life on the big screen. I am inadequate as a wife, a mother, a housekeeper, a teacher, a friend, and most of all, a child of God. But in the end, the mom character has a transformation from totally down on herself to confident and successful. She doesn't transform because she started telling herself she was enough. She could never be enough. No one can be enough for this job.


Her transformation came when she realized, Christ in her is enough, and because of Christ in her, she is free to be who He made her to be, instead of perfect. 


She didn't change what she did or her circumstances. She simply changed her thought processes, she replaced the lies with the truth.


"Do not be conformed any longer to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2


You see, the people who begin to speak good things to themselves, may indeed experience a self-fulfilling prophecy and become skinny, rich, successful, and get everything they ever wanted.

But, that won't be the end of the story.

 I was relieved to hear our speaker end the conference yesterday with this little nugget of truth. You may get everything you ever wanted,  but your life, that is your heart and mind and spirit, will still be incomplete. No amount of things or money can make you happy. It can only give you a bit of shallow entertainment, ultimately leaving you empty. 


Romans 12:2 gives us what the positive affirmation message does not. Transform and renew your mind, to be like that of Christ in order that He may be glorified. 

"I am good because Christ has redeemed me." 

"If I have to boast I will boast of what pertains to my weakness." 2 Corinthians 11:30


"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14


"But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil." James 4:16


The most important part of Philippians 4:8 is that you DWELL on what is TRUE. Anything else is evil. Anything else is fruitless. Anything else, is pointless.

So what does  the positive thinking and affirmations in light of truth look like? It looks like taking our eyes off ourselves and putting them on the only ONE that matters, Jesus.

Matthew 6 tells us not to worry about tomorrow or what we eat and drink, what we wear or where we will live. It tells us we think too much about the body and waste too much time worrying about it. Instead, we have only one thing we need to do.

"Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33


To be successful in marriage, parenting, business, friendships, or anything in this life, simply, 
"Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mama's Boy

It's been a whirlwind 48 hours. Just a little over 24 hours ago, my step father and I put some finishing touches on my grandmother's new "house", that is the garage that we renovated into a small apartment for her.
She and my mother pulled into the drive to settle her in permanently after my mother has been away taking care of her for the last 2 months in Texas.
It was an exciting day, to finally come to the end of this long process of renovating and have them officially home.
They were accompanied by my brother and my uncle in his pickup and trailer hauling a small portion of my grandmother's belongings. It was a fun evening and morning, with the family milling around and talking and catching up. Then it came time for my brother and uncle to go back home to Texas.
I watched as a son sat with his mother and told her goodbye with tears in his eyes. I realized it was the first time in his 60 years that his mother would be more than a couple miles down the road. And they talked, and they cried together.

I saw a little boy saying goodbye to his mother, and even at 60 years old,  with her, he was still her baby boy. I looked at my own baby boys, growing so big, so fast.

My heart ached for him. And for her. And I saw the evidence of the deep, deep bond between a mama and her boy. And I hugged my boys a little tighter and prayed that my uncle will come back to see us soon. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Best Chocolate Cake and It's Secret Ingredient

Last week, I went to my grandmother’s house to prepare to move her to Oklahoma to live with us. My heart ached to see the once strong and independent woman, in all her frailty and need for constant care.
I took a day and went through her house, to look for trinkets or memories I might want to keep. I found a memory in every closet and every drawer, on every shelf and every photo album. It was difficult to see how much life had passed both for me and for my grandparents.

Then I came to her cake cover. There it sat in her ugly, 70’s, china hutch plain and unattractive, but so very meaningful to me. I don’t eat cake… anymore. I don’t have any need to fill my already overcrowded home with useless things like a cake cover. But I couldn't help but sit and stare at it as the memories of the last 35 years came flooding back, especially the ones that included that cake cover and my chocolate cakes.

I never could contain my excitement on the 7 hour drive to Bovina, Texas tosee my grandparents. Mom and Daddypa were the most stable and loving things in mine and my brother’s life. And I cried every time I left.

At just two years old, my parents had divorced. My brother was 8 years old and our world was a mess. My mother had always stayed home with me, and now she was gone. My dad took my brother and me to Mom and Daddypa’s house and there we stayed for almost 2 months while my parents relocated and settled down to separate lives.

During that time I was loved and cared for and given security in a world where all my security had been lost. 

Once my mother and dad had a life in a whole new state, 700 miles from Mom and Daddypa, we went to join them. I was scared all the time. There was not one daycare or babysitter that I liked. My mother tried church daycares and one babysitter after another. But every time she left me, I could feel the pain well up inside me, as if I had swallowed a dagger that was trying to make its way out through my throat dragging my heart with it.


Those years were hard and painful for all of us.  My mother worked hard to provide a nice home for us, and I know she missed her days with my brother and me.

My parents did their best in a bad situation. However, I was a volatile and unstable little girl in desperate need of security.

Mom and Daddypa were just that for me. We spent every summer with them, and all our holidays too. I have more memories of Mom and Daddypa as a young child, than I do of my parents.

Mom told her friends that her and I got along so well because she did whatever I wanted. It was true. She was there with me every second of every day. She held me in her lap and read Pinocchio and Hansel and Gretel to me. She would carry me around and I would play with the little gold flower bud necklace around her neck that Daddypa had given her.

In the afternoons Daddypa would come home from the farm and take a nap. Sometimes he would play “Go Fish” with me or hold me in his lap while we watched old TV shows like “I Love Lucy” or his favorite westerns with John Wayne. In the fall, it was his favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys.

After he went back to the farm, Mom and I might mow the grass or go grocery shopping, where she would always buy me ice cream sandwiches.
After dinner, Daddypa would settle in for the evening and Mom and I would walk down to the school running track, sometimes with her friends and sometimes with just the two of us.
I loved to play in the “sandbox” while she walked around, 4 times. Sometimes I would walk with her and we would talk.  Sometimes other kids were there playing in the sandbox too and we built tunnels and castles in the sand.
On the evenings when it would rain, Daddypa and I would sit on the front porch and watch the  heavy, summer raindrops fall on the smooth concrete driveway. It washed away the smell of manure and cows and brought the smell of rain and dirt. The sun would shine down through the rain and make the entire earth look as if it was glowing orange. He’d sit beside me, his legs crossed and his arm around me, telling me how good the rain was for his crops, or how lightening formed. I still think of him when I smell rain and dirt mixed.

Some days, most days, Daddypa would take me out in his old, brown, Dodge pickup truck that smelled like West Texas dirt. He’d drive down the road not going more than 5mph with the windows down. That’s what I miss most about him, the way he loved to just take life slow and enjoy it. We’d stop at the local gas station and Gaylen, the owner, would tell me I was so spoiled I was rotten, like a rotten egg.  I didn’t know how right he was. Then Daddypa would buy me a coke and candy bar, usually a snickers and Dr. Pepper because that’s what my brother always got. 

But of all the memories of the place that was more of a home to me than anywhere else has ever been, my chocolate cakes are the greatest memory of all.

Every time I would get ready to go, I would talk to Mom on the phone and she’d tell me, “I've got your chocolate cake made.”

When I was younger it was all homemade and the most wonderful deliciousness to ever enter my mouth. The best part was her homemade frosting. She made the best chocolate fudge frosting. As I got older she started making her cakes from a boxed cake mix, but her frosting was still homemade, so it was okay and I couldn't tell the difference.

Every time I went to her house, she made me a chocolate cake. She didn't make it for my brother, she made it just for me. I don’t remember a time, even up into college, that she didn't make me a cake. I always had a cake, until she couldn't cook anymore.

I would walk into the house, and there sitting on the dining room table would be that chocolate cake waiting for me, under her cake cover.

Today, it’s not the cake that means so much to me. It’s the love that each cake represented. I was a mess. I was insecure and afraid, but one thing I could always depend on was that Mom would make me the most wonderful chocolate cake. Just like her and Daddypa’s love. It was always there. They always took care of me and loved me.  They always kept me safe. I never  felt afraid with them. I never felt insecure with them. They were my rock and my safe place.


Daddypa has been gone 15 years this December and today, I prepare a new home for Mom.  She will come live with my mother and me and we will care for her until we say goodbye to her as well. I don’t make or eat cake anymore, but I am keeping the cake cover to remind me how much love I have had in my life, much more than I deserve. I will let it serve as a reminder that all they really did to give me what I needed was love me more than anything else. When caring for her gets to be more difficult, I will have the cake cover to remind me why I care for her in her greatest time of need, because she cared so greatly for me in my greatest time of need.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Poem: Time Chugs On

I know I said I would be writing more, and I have. I just forget to post it on here. I have more stories to share, soon.
In the meantime, here is my poem for the week. My class is working on poetry this week, and this morning we will have a Cafe Day and Poetry Reading. We are going to drink coffee, dress like poets and read our poems. I am very excited to hear what my students wrote. Here is my poem I wrote this morning at boot camp, where I ran for 30 minutes for the first time EVER! Yay!



Time Chugs On

It is said “time marches on,”
As if it is an army,
Consistently,
Rrhythmically,
Marching forward.


I say time is a train.


Some occasions it meanders through hills and valleys,
Taking its sweet time as we wait;
For baby’s arrival,
Illness to end,
The Sun to show its shining face
In a cloudy situation.

Some occasions, it crashes into the heart of my home,
Pulling loads of chaos,
Loss of memories and moments,
Hauling away pudgy fingers and legs,
And Hugs and kisses.
It brings with it a blaring whistle
That says, “Goodbye, precious moments, that are much too short.”


All the while, the train chugs along.
I am forever the tiny caboose,
Clinging to every last moment,
Watching as each one fades into the distance,
Wishing I could wrap up each giggly kiss,
Each chubby bear hug,
Every single, I love you Mommy,
And Put it in my pocket,
To hold in my hands just one more time.