Saturday, December 19, 2009

God Shows Himself at WalMart

My last post talked about the financial stress that my husband and I have felt lately, which makes this story that much more amazing.

While we were grocery shopping last night at Wal-Mart, to fill our completely empty refrigerator and pantry (which was going to mean a rather large grocery bill), my kids needed to go potty.  My husband took the kids and went off.  On his way back to me, a woman, who was totally unknown by my husband, walked up to him and our 3 older kids and said "God told me to give this to you, as soon as I saw you."  She handed him a crisp, new $100 bill!  Justin was speechless and my 9 year old son was so excited.  Justin said "Thank you" and she responded with "Merry Christmas" and walked away.

WOW!

As Justin and the kids found me, still shopping and loading the cart, my 9 year old son runs up to me and says "Mom, some woman just gave Dad money!"  I looked at Justin, with shock, and he showed me the bill in his hand.  I began to ask him questions like "What did she say?" and "Are you sure you don't know who she is?" He assured me that he had no clue and that all she said to him was that God told her to do that.

WOW!

That woman, whom we may never see again, has blessed our family!  God has truly shown Himself and reminded my husband how much he is loved.  God used that woman to remind my husband that He will always provide.  God spoke to my husband, who has been struggling a lot in his faith lately, through that woman.  God showed me that He is really faithful in all things and will meet all of our needs.  I'm so grateful to God and I'm grateful to the woman who heard His voice and chose to obey and to sacrifice for us.

Today, we will discuss this incidence with our children and we will tell them how God provides.  We will talk to them about the effect of prayer.  We will talk to our children about how much God loves us.  We will share wtih them the important of obedience to God's word - which apparently can be heard, loud and clear, inside a Wal-Mart!

Thank you, God!  Praise you, God!  We love you, God!  Amen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Perfect Imperfection

This holiday season has not been one of joy for me or my husband. We've been so stressed out about all that our children want for Christmas and the fact that we just can't afford to give them everything on their list this year, or even close. We've been so focused on the struggles that we've faced this year and the stress that we've allowed to enter our lives that it has really distracted from our joy and happiness during this magical time of year.  We've allowed ourselves to get caught up in the "world" of Christmas rather than the "heavenly world" of the holiday.  A few days ago, something occured to me, after I'd spent the morning in silent tears and worry.

Around our house, I'm typically the person the one who drags the box out to the living room and sorts all the branches, assembles the tree and proceeds to fluff each branch, until the artificial tree is as full as I can get it.  I, then, set out to string the lights and the garland and open each ornament box, carefully, while making sure each child gets to hang an equal number of ornaments on the tree and that each child gets to hang the ornaments that he/she has made.  I make sure that every ornament we own is given a place on the tree. I gently instruct where each ornament should go, so that the tree is evenly scattered with these precious memories and reminders of our life, as a family.  I place the angel on the top of the tree. I put the Nativity scene out.  I, typically, am in charge of the decorating for Christmas and then I don't complain.  That's just the way it's been. 

However, this year, in my lack of desire for the holiday to come, I was just not as excited about Christmas as my kids.  I wasn't looking forward to lugging all the decorations out and I was not looking forward to having that huge tree up in my living room.  To be honest with you, I don't think my husband was, either.  We were kind of hoping the kids would forget it was Christmas time, I guess.

Nope. That didn't happen. The kids were so anxious to get the tree up.  They kept asking "Can we put the tree up today?"  Finally, Daddy gave in and dug everything out. 

Justin and the kids set up the tree and decorated it this year.  He tried to "fluff" the branches, but they're just not as "fluffed" as I'd like them to be.  He forgot to put the garland on the tree at all.  He didn't pull out all of the Christmas boxes out of storage, which means not all of our ornaments are on the tree.  There's one small section of white lights on the tree that will not light.  The tree skirt is constantly in disarray and messy.  The ornaments are not evenly place.  My tree is not perfect. 

But, you know what.  Neither was this world when Christ was born on Christmas Day.  His mother was made to give birth in a stable!  He was laid in a manger, out of which livestock ate their meals.  He was wrapped in rags.  Our perfect Lord entered this imperfect world, without complaining.  He didn't tell the Father "You need to move things around and clean it up, first.". (Read Luke 2)

What's even more amazing to me is that I was not perfect when Christ later died on the cross to cover my sins with his perfect light.  No one was perfect. No one will ever be perfect. We are always messy, disorganized, unfluffed, and full of flaws.  Christ doesn't care.  His light covers all of that ickiness!  Everyday.  Every minute.  Every single time.

Now, think of my imperfect Christmas tree.  It was decorated by my children and my husband during a time when I really did not want to mess with it.  I can look at it and find lots of "flaws", but guess what.  When the lights are on, you can't notice even one!  You don't see the holes where the branches are unfluffed.  You don't notice the messy tree skirt. You don't notice the missing garland or all of the ornaments that aren't on the tree.

What you do see is a beautiful glow of multi-colored and white lightes.  You do notice all of the ornaments made by my children and you remember all of the years we've had together, as a family.  That's what Christmas is all about.  Letting the light outshine the imperfections...on your tree and in your Life.  Christ's light is that powerful.  My children will remember the example we show them of Jesus' amazing sacrifice when he came to this world as a babe and left this earth in a horrible death, only to conquer the grave and save us from our own imperfections. 

I will remind myself, this holiday season, and I will trust that God will use the financial struggles we face right now to remind us to lean on Him, not on this world, to give our kids happiness and joy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Takin' It to the Extreme

Last week, I was chatting with my mother...some of you know her, most do not.  Mom and I have been through a lot in our journey as mother and daughter.  I struggle to have a lot of respect for her and the decisions that she's made in her life, but I know that I need to honor her because she is my mother.  I love my mother.  I really do. Even with all that's gone horribly wrong in our relationship, I love her and I'm grateful that we've been able to restore some small resemblance of a relationship in the past several years. 

As we were chatting about random and useless things, last week, she mentioned to me that I "shelter" my kids, too much.  When I asked her about why she believes this, she said its "because of all the things that you don't let them do - you don't let them 'be kids'." Huh?  What?

(If you know me well, at all, you know that this statement is really almost ludicrous because I'm fairly cognizant of NOT sheltering my kids - I want them to be knowledgeable about their world and life, so that they can stand against things that are wrong, with strength.)

I probed her for more specifics..."What do you mean? What do you think they should be allowed to do that we don't allow?" 

Here it comes...some criticism over my parenting decisions to go along with how much I let the kids run my house and I don't "discipline" them enough - which means I don't "spank" them enough. 

Her answer was that "You don't let them watch certain things, like certain cartoons or Harry Potter and you don't let them dress in scary costumes at Halloween."

Are you kidding me?  Remember, my kids are 9, 7, 5 and 3.

Then, she goes on to say that there are times when I am "stuck up" and "think that I'm better than everyone else because I am a (insert air quotes here) born-again Christian."  Yep.  That's right.  I think that I'm better because I'm a Christian.  Okay.  Really?

"What does that mean, Mom?", I say.  "How do I think that I'm better?"  In an effort to really hear what she's saying and trying to do some self-reflection, I really want to examine whether I put that out there.  I want to live a life that is an example of Christ's love and compassion - especially to my family who are not believers.  I want to show them that living with Christ isn't always easy but it's full of motivation, inspiration, forgiveness, love and grace.  I want them to see that Jesus is the reason that I can have a relationship with them at all.  So, when she says that the image I give off is that I'm better than they are, I'm mortified. 

Mom couldn't provide me very many examples and she couldn't really justify her statement.  All she could do is point out the decisions that I've made in my life, with my husband, for your family that are different than she would make.  She fell back to her stand-by "I raised you and your brother differently and you turned out just fine."  (Remember, I went into foster care at 12 years old and my brother has struggled with healthy relationships and substances off and on.  Really? She's going to take credit for how I turned out.  I'm not sure how to feel about that.)

I tried to explain to Mom that the things she was saying only explained why I made different decisions for my family.  She tried to tell me that there are pieces of the Bible that are completely true and other pieces that aren't relevant anymore.  She actually said that God was wrong on one point! As I quoted scripture to her to justify my point, she began to get more and more uncomfortable. 

Was she uncomfortable with me or with the Word? Is this what she means when she says I think I'm better than she?  Is it really about the differences in our core values? 

The realization I came to is that its not that I think I am better...I think that Jesus is better!  The Bible says "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me" in John 14:6. That's not ME saying that being a Christian is better - that's the Word of God saying it! I want to have Life.  I want to get to the Father.  I want to know Truth and be reassured that I'm on the right path.  I want to seek out that kind of certainty.  I don't want to have wander around in the grayness of today's "everything goes" mentality or the believe that "its all relative". 

I pray that my mother, my brother, my father, my step-parents and step-siblings come to know the Truth.  I want to see them in eternity. I want them to know the peace that comes from being born-again. I want my children to know that every decision we make, even if its about a show we watch or dont, a costume we wear or pass by, a relationship we honor or discard, matters to God.  I want to make decisions that can be jotted down with pride by my Heavenly Father.  I want to hear my Lord say "well done, thy good and faithful servant..." (Matthew 25:23) at the end of my life.  I want my children to see a legacy full of Christ's example in me!

So, if that means that I have to take it to the extreme - I will! Everyday!