Saturday, September 11, 2010

It Worked!!!

Tonight I had a very productive conversation with my 10 year old.  He's been really difficult lately with lots of whining, disrespectful tones, bad attitude, disobedience and bad choices.  Tonight, he deliberately disobeyed 4 instructions in a row and seemed to completely ignore the consequences and then blew up when I told him to go to bed.  I'd had enough.  In a moment that could have very easily escalated into one of our "intense fellowships", I had a God-moment.  I was both a parent and a teacher of God's word to my son.  I'm excited about the message that I believe God gave to me and how He lead me to share His message with my son!

We sat on the landing of our stairs and began to talk. My son began to spew his all-too-common monologue of the "freedom" that he is denied in our home.  I didn't argue. I didn't get irritated by the sense of entitlement coming from my son.  Instead, I listened to him and asked him "what type of freedom do you want?"  He gave me a list of demands that were mostly impossible to accomodate (my own room, not sharing his DS games /w his brother, etc).  Then, God spoke to ME.  He said "teach Him about honoring authority and obedience."

So, I began to talk with my son about the authority position that God has given to me, as his mother, and that one of the very first rules God gave to us is in the 10 Commandments - "Honor your father and mother."  Then, I talked to him about the concept of obedience and I told him that, as sons and daughters of God, we need to obey God's rules.  I told him that it is my job, as his mother, to teach him how to honor authority so that when he is a man, he will know how to honor God, his boss at work, and his wife. I told him that I have to teach him how to obey, as a child, so that when he is a man, he will obey God. I explained that if he learns to obey, when he is a father, he will be able to teach his children to obey. 

He wasn't getting it and started the "freedom" talk all over again.  He started talking about how we "treat him like dirt" because we "don't let him live his own life." 

So, I paused, again, and waited for God to tell me where to go.  He gave me Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not turn from it."  I gave that verse to my son and I asked him if he knew what it meant.  We talked about the meaning, which allowed me to reiterate that God was telling me, as a parent, to teach my son about rules, respect, honor, and obedience so that when he is older, he will remember. 

My son asked me why we don't allow him to make his own decisions (which we do, as appropriate!) and I explained to him that he hasn't earned the right to make the kinds of decisions he wants to make.  He hasn't honored his parents in a manner that shows he can honor others. He doesn't show us the respect that he should, which means we can't trust him to be respectful in other situations.  I explained that the types of "freedom" he wants will come to him when we believe he has learned the lessons that God wants us to give to him.

Then, something terrific happened.  My son thought about a particular instance of disobedience and disrespect recently and began to talk about why he had done what he did.  I asked him if he knew that it was a bad decision when he did it and he admitted "Yes."  I asked him "What is it called when we make a bad decision and go ahead with it, even when we know its bad?"  In his hesitance to admit what I could tell he knew, he said "I don't know".  He even avoided giving the answer when I gave him a hint.  His heart was really struggling and Satan was trying to get him to avoid the Truth.  He knew the answer was "sin."

I then reminded him that the Bible says there are consequences for sin and asked him if he remembered what that consequence is.  He said "Death".  So, I asked him if he had accepted Christ as his personal Savior and he said "Yes." (He took this step of faith in May 2010).

Full Circle. This lead me back to the initial point of our conversation - God's rules and my job as his mother.  Teach him to honor and to obey.  I explained, again, how if I teach him to honor his father and me, he will know how to really honor God and His rules for life.  I explained, again, that if he learns to obey his father and me, now, he will be better able to obey God's direction over his life, as a man.

He got it.  In that moment, my son got the message.  It didn't go in one ear and out the other.  I know that tomorrow may be different and his sinful nature may take-over again, but in that moment, I believe that God allowed me to speak to the heart of my son.  I allowed God to come into that moment in a way that I've struggled to do before and I trusted that God would give me the right words to speak His word to my child, and it worked.  That's exciting!!! 

The meeting on the stairs ended with two big hugs between my son and me.  We exchanged "I love you"s.  Then, he calmly went to bed, as he'd been instructed to do. 

Thank you, Father, for teaching me to pause, listen to You, and really let You parent my child through me.  Amen

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Woman's Work

Yep.  This is completely and totally how I feel lately.  At work, I need to totally rock out at my new job, hire a new employee, start a new program, figure out what hasn't been getting done and what needs to be done and manage a caseload, and be available to attend lots of meetings.  At home, though, I'm supposed to be this amazingly patient mother with lots of energy, time to cook a meal, do the laundry, clean the bathroom, supervise homework, study spelling words, and spend 20 minutes EACH night reading with EACH child, and spend time with my husband without falling asleep on the couch by 9 pm. 

It's exhausting. Its stressful. Its frustrating. Its fulfilling. Its rewarding. Its meaningful.  Its my life. 

So, what is it about that Proverbs 31 woman that is so intimidating...(verses 10-31)

"A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.  She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."  Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

Oh yeah, she works hard.  She gets little sleep.  She watches over the affairs of her home.  She is praised in the city, by her children, and her husband.  She is generous.  She's GREAT!!!
Where does all that come from?  How can one person possibly do all of that and do it well? 
I guess the only answer is that God wouldn't expect anything of us that we cannot do.  It is only by Him that we will reach this goal.  It is only with His strength, encouragment, and guidance that we will live up to this standard.  We need not measure ourself against the expectations of those around us - not our boss, our co-workers, our children, our husbands, our friends, or even other women in society.  We need only to strive to reach the goal that God has laid out for us.  When this is ultimately the "little red dot" we're moving toward, we're likely to get there because He will not let us stray.
As a side note, we, as women, should not set ourselves up for disappointment and unhappiness. We need not compare ourselves to the woman next door, the friend who is in a different season of life, or even the older women in the church who seem to have "done it all".  God says no where in this section of scripture that we should compare ourselves to any other woman.  He also does not suggest that one woman's role in life is any more difficult nor any more valuable than anothers.  All women have the same goals.  To be strong, hard-working, nurturing, loving, watchful, mindful, and responsible.  HOW we do that is determined for each of us, individually, as daughters of Christ.
My Father in Heaven loves me enough to know where and how I can serve, in my family and in my work.  My life is His mission and I will live it that way. I will also recognize that there are seasons to life and that new seasons bring change. I was with my children, focusing completely on my family when they were young. Now is the season for me to work outside of our home AND to be a great mom.  That is my goal...for now. 
Take a minute to encourage a woman in your life who does "Woman's Work" and let her know she's doing a great job! God may use YOU to make her day!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blessings in Change

Monday, August 16 was a big day for our family.  Three of the kids went off to school for another year of learning, friends, activities, and excitement.  Mom started a brand new full-time job.  It's a big, big, big change from being at home for 8 years and I was more nervous than my kiddos.

I teared-up at the bus stop, had an emotional breakdown at work on Tuesday, and heard my 10 year old son raise his fist and say "Curse your new job!", on Wednesday, as he talked about the fact that I wasn't really home at all since starting the new job.  By Friday, I was exhausted (partly because I had been up all night Thursday on a road-trip that had been planned for months with my girlfriends and partly because I had really only been home for about 5 hours that week, with my kids).  I missed talking to my husband about his day, telling him about mine, listening to the kids share their stories and I was sad that I'd missed the whole first week of school.  I was determined to spend the weekend, at home, with my family.

So, here's where I recognize the blessings of the week...

First blessing: my new boss, Mrs. Anne Duncan. Anne is the Executive Director of CASA of Sedgwick County and is a Christian woman.  I believe that God put me in this position so that I could freely share my faith at work, impact the lives of children and families, and make a difference in my county.  Its great to hear your boss say "pray about it" over a work-related issue.  Its comforting to hear your boss honor your family.  Its a testament to God's grace in her life that she can offer grace when a new employee is struggling to make that adjustment.  Anne has proven to be a compassionate woman who understands the transition I'm experiencing.  She's told me nearly every day how "glad" she is that I am with the agency.  She trusts me and I trust her. That's HUGE!!!  I am praying that we can make a very big difference in the lives of our CASA volunteers, the children and families that our agency serves, and in our county's child welfare system. As I start a new adventure, and that journey can be a little scary, I have to admit that being involved with this cause feels very right!  Philippians 4:13 says "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."  I believe that He will help transition me from stay at home momma to working momma as smoothly as possible and that He will help me maintain my balance. 

(To learn more about the mission of CASA, visit and watch our video!)

Second Blessing: the comfort that this will allow my family.  For the past 8 years, our family has really struggled financially. It has been only through God's provision that we've made it on one income. I praise Him for that completely, even when we've lost everything and spent many sleepless nights worrying about our needs.  It was hard to borrow money when we had to and even harder to admit when we'd made poor decisions. Matthew 6:25 tells us "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"  I have clung onto this verse more times than I can count over the years and now God has provided me with an opportunity to help my family's financial situation, relieving a great deal of the burden on my husband and enough flexibility that I can still fulfill my role as wife and mother!

Third Blessing: a great friend to care for my preschooler.  Finding daycare I trusted was always a big reason why I chose to stay at home. I just couldn't leave my children with anyone and God knew that I needed a daycare provider that would love my children enough to care for them as I would.  We found this sort of daycare provider for Shawn, when he was an infant/toddler, in a family friend of my husband's. How comforting it was to leave my newborn baby with someone that my husband's family had grown to know over 25 years.  Now, we have my good friend, Jackie Arndt, to take care of our youngest little angel.  (Well, we call her "Angel" and, on days, she lives up to that). Jackie is patient and understanding and kind to my daughter. She loves my daughter and gives her a safe place to play during the day.   I've grown to cherish not only her care over my child but also the friendship that Jackie and I have come to share.  She is a fantastic woman and I'm glad that I can go to work and fulfill my duties there without having to worry about Sarah at all!! To top it off, because I know that Jackie is also a Christian, I can trust that Deuteronomy 6:7 will be fulfilled and my daughter will receive a Christlike influence in her time with Mrs. Jackie, as she would at home.  "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  What a comfort that provides! Thank you Jackie!!

Finally, I have always believed that the experiences of my childhood occurred so that I could be a testimony to God's faithfulness and protection and devotion. I have never believed that my life has turned out the way that it has for my glory, but for the Father's and His alone!  1 Corinthians 4-6 says "I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you."  My new position is giving me the opportunity to design a program geared for older youth in care, who are very likely going to "age-out" and be on their own. I believe that I can really impact the lives of many young people.  I can use my story as a testimony to God's grace and reliability. I can be an example of "making lemonade out of lemons" and I can give God the glory over and over again! 

So, I am excited to enter this second week of the new chapter in the life of my family.  I am excited to see my kids off to school - to watch them grown in knowledge and excitement is exciting. I am excited to see what positive things can happen in my work with CASA.  I'm excited to continue to grow in friendship with other Christ-loving women and I'm excited to see where God will lead!  (Oh, and I'm very excited that my work-days will be so much shorter this week and I'll get to see my family in the evenings!!!) 

Thank you, Lord, for the many opportunities in front of me! I pray that I will exceed the expectations of the Proverbs 31 woman and that my family will feel the blessings of my efforts. I pray that I will be a positive testimony to You and to Your undying love for us.  I pray that you will receive the Glory in my home and in my work.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's the Start of Something BIG

On July 26, I decided to begin walking and to cut out pop out of my diet.  I typically drink pop from the moment I wake until the time I go to bed. I have a strong distaste for water.  I don't typically like to exercise.  I've never been athletic and have NEVER done much physical activity. 

On that day, it hit me...I don't know if it was the result of reading all the facebook posts about working out, preparing for the upcoming marathons or several of my friends losing weight that did it but it hit me hard. I've been complaining for years about my appearance and I'm ashamed of what I've let myself become, physically.

So, this is it.  I dedicated to walking 5 days a week and walking no less than 3 miles each time.  In the first week, I walked 17 miles with the support and encouragment of some great friends.  I've also only had 2 pops since that day.  Granted, its only been 7 days but I've decided to fulfill one of my New Year's Resolutions this year and really work at this.  I'm doing it. No more excuses.  No more whining or complaining. I need to get healthier so that I can be around for my kids for a VERY long time!  This is it.

I've started and I'm not stopping! I'm even considering committing to walking a 1/2 marathon (yeah - that's 13 point something miles!!) in 75 days!  Can I do it? I don't know but I'm sure gonna try!  A friend of mine posted my favorite Bible verse a few days ago...Philipians 4:13 "I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me STRENGTH" and I believe that God is BIG ENOUGH to take away these pounds and inches (if I meet Him halfway) and that He can help me walk that 13.? miles on October 10, 2010.  I KNOW that Christ can do that.  I also KNOW that I can do it, if I put my heart into it and really make it a priority.

So, here it is...the first of many blogs to come...53 days of walking * 3 miles/day = 159 miles before the half marathon...Here Goes!!!!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Specks, Planks, and Billboards

Matthew 7: 1-5
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Man, oh man...its easy to fall into this trap, isn't it?  We are so quick to look at our neighbors and think "why would they do that?" or to look at our friends and say to ourself "I would never have allowed this to happen."  It's easy and I believe everyone has done it.  We even do it inside our homes and within our families.  We look at our children and tell them how we would have never behaved that way when we were kids or we argue with our spouse about all that he/she did or didn't do and how we could have handled this situation or that circumstance so much better.  Our way is always better, isn't it?

The truth of that matter is that our way is the way of a sinner! We are not perfect.  We can never begin to say how we would have handled a situation because we weren't in that person's shoes, in that moment. We really can't look back on a circumstance and know that we would have made any decisions differently. We simply believe that we would have because now we can see the whole picture. We also cannot control the actions of others.  We can only control what we say and do.  We can't expect everyone around us to behave the way we wish they would, respond how we hope, or react in a manner that we find appropriate. We can only control OUR choices, OUR behavior, OUR reactions. Our circle of control is really only the very small area immediately around us, as an individual.

I'm reminded of this today as I take a good, hard look at myself. I expect my children to do this or that, say this or don't say that, feel grateful for the action of another and to always be respectful.  I expect my husband to always stay calm in his parenting over them and to always express himself in an "appropriate manner".  I demand that my children respect him and submit to his authority in one breath and I undermine him in the next.  I expect that "intense fellowships" in our marriage are always well thought out but I also push to "address" the issue until a solid resolution is reached, which is really an oxy-moron.  I make the kids say "I'm sorry" before they're really ready to offer a heart-felt apology or even really understand why their actions have hurt another person and yet I sometimes find it very difficult to be the first to offer up an apology of my own.

I see the speck in the eyes of those I love all too easily. In fact, I often look at those specks and see them as ginormous planks that need to chiseled away until they're completely gone, and I am the self-appointed carpentar!  I forget, though, that I am looking through blocked vision.  I am trying to peek and peer around the forests of sin in my own life, in order to even see their specks.  I spend so much energy trying to push those billboards of self-righteousness out of my way as I bulldoze my way into the lives of those around me, that I forget that God may be using those specks of sin I see in someone else to remind me of that billboard I had moved aside.

I read this verse today and am gently reminded by my Heavenly Father that I need to go back and spend some time tearing down the sinful roadblocks in my own life. I need to re-examine my actions, my thoughts, my relationships with others through the always clear vision of God.  I need to let him be my guide and I need to allow him to point out the signs I've forgotten to read. Only when I am able to recognize and repent of the sin in my life can I truly impact those around me and be an example of true repentance in my home.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

15 Valentine's Days with My Sweetie!

Justin and I met in early fall 1994 (when we were 16 yrs old). One day, he walked down the hallway of our high school wearing a shirt that showed off the fact that he worked out.  He caught my attention.  A few days later, he actually talked to me and then a few weeks later, we started dating....

That's how our story starts.  There were fights and break-ups. There were other people.  There were make-ups and getting back together.  There were hoops to jump through and major obstacles to overcome (I was in foster care, as a teen, which forced our relationship to be different, to say the least). 

Thankfully, our story was already written and God knew where it would lead...

Justin proposed to me on August 2, 1997.  He was in Colorado, with his mother, and had been trying to get a hold of me by phone for several days.  You see, we were not technically together, at this time.  It had been a rough year while Justin was dating as many other girls from high school as he could and I was starting college and working (I graduated in 1996 and he still had a year of high school to go).  During July, I had decided that I was done being hurt and I left the state for a while.  In fact, I had gone to Colorado to a church camp with my bestie and her new husband. I was searching for answers and guidance.  I was finished with the back and forth of it all.  During worship services on Wednesday, I tearfully prayed and asked God for a clear sign about my relationship with Justin.

Upon returning from camp, I received several messages that Justin had been trying to get in touch with me.  On Saturday night, he called my best friend's mother-in-laws house and found me! I still don't even know how he got that phone number, but he did.  He was diligent enough in his pursuit to keep looking, every day and by calling everyone of our friends to try to find a way to reach me.  Talk about persistance! He was apparently a man on a mission.

When I answered the call, these are the words I heard: "Serena, it's a long story but I love you and I wanna marry you." 

There was no bended knee. There was no candlelight or flowers, no candy, no big message on a jumbrotron or a song dedication on the radio.  There was no romantic setting in a special "moment".  There was just the phone call and the proclamation that he wanted to marry me.  I was stunned!  We weren't even "together" when he proposed!  WHAT?!?!?! After all he'd just put me through for months, now this...I don't know.

I spent the next several hours thinking and praying and crying.  We spoke several times on the phone, during some quite lengthly long-distance phone calls.  He made promises to never hurt me and to never leave me.  He made promises to always try to make me happy and to make our life together, worth it.  Justin promised to love me forever and I realized God was giving me just what I'd prayed for - a very clear sign! How much more clear could a proposal be? (He'd even talked to his mom about his desire to ask and gotten her support!) 

So, here we were - engaged at 19 years old.

We were both excited about our lives together and all that would come our way and although we each had some things to rectify and prove to one another, wedding preparations began.  We spent that fall semester on opposite ends of the state at college, but he came to see me nearly every weekend.  He would drive for hours in the middle of the night just to spend some time with me and our phone bills were astronomical!  We both moved home at semester break, so we could be together.

We were married on October 10, 1998.  (This year, our anniversary will be 10-10-10 and that's kinda cool.)

In the past 11 years and 4 months of marriage. Justin and I have experienced great highs and bad lows.  We've grown a very special family with four great kids.  We've grown closer to one another and to God. We're happy.  He is fulfilling his promise to me and our life together is totally worth it!  I couldn't ask for a better husband to me.  He works very hard for our family. He protects our family.  He makes our family his number 1 priority.  He loves me more today than when we were married and he loves our children.  Even when we have "intense fellowships", I don't have to worry about his committment for faithfulness to me and our family. Justin is exactly the husband that God knew I would need. He is my Valentine, every day of the year. 

Today, as we celebrate our 15th Valentine's Day together, in no big, special way with no grandiose displays of our feelings for one another, I celebrate the promises that we've made to one another; the obstacles and valleys we've overcome; the committment we have to forever; and our beautiful, funny, loving chidlren..We love each other more every day, and that's really what makes our love special.  I'm thankful God answered my prayer that Wednesday and I'm thankful that He brought Justin and I together! 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Forever. For Real.

My husband and I met in high school, when we were about 15 years old.  We dated for 2 years through high school.  When I graduated, leaving Justin to finish his senior year, things became rough and our relationship was tested.  In the end, we decided we really belonged together and Justin proposed to me in August 1997.  That's a funny story, I'll save for another day.  Three weeks later, we both went away to college on separate ends of our state, but managed to see one another nearly every weekend.  Deciding that we couldn't stand to only see one another on weekends, we both moved home at semester and started to plan our wedding.  We were married on October 10, 1998, when we were both 20 years old.

I wish that I could say we've been blissfully happy ever since, but that would be a lie.  We've had major ups and major downs.  We've experienced times of great joy and times of despair. We've been madly in love with one another, and we've stayed together because we "needed to".  We've talked about growing old together, and we briefly visited the idea of growing apart.  Through it all, we've stuck it out and are currently experiencing one of the best times in our marriage!!!!  We've remained committed to the vows we took and we've remained committed to one another.

This past weekend, Justin and I were able to get away, on a little trip to Oklahoma City, without our kids.  It was really great to spend some time without the yelling and fighting from the kids, the constant answering of questions, the echoes of "Mom" and "Dad" coming from four different directions and to just be together. We held hands, we cuddled, we talked, we laughed.  We were "us".

A major part of our trip was attending the "Forever. For Real. marriage seminar".  The day included opportunities to think about how we communicate with one another, the expectations we brought into our marriage and how those expectations have changed, the way we love one another.  It was a really great day and a great workshop for us to do together. We're looking forward to working through the rest of the workbook together, in the coming weeks, and applying all that we took away.  When we arrived at the seminar, Justin and I both believed we have a "good marriage" and we left the seminar both believing we can continue to have a "great marriage"!!!!

Another really cool part of that experience was the chance to meet several young, engaged couples.  I think Justin and I were the oldest couple at our table of 6 couples (and we're NOT OLD!!!).  We'd also been together for 15 years and married for over 11 years. The only other married couple at the table had been married for 1 year, 9 months (awwww, the sweet bliss of newlyweds!).  The remaining 4 couples were all getting married this year. One of these couples are both serving in the US Air Force and are getting married on February 9!  He will be deploying in June, she will deploy in January (just as he returns).  Another couple has a 3 year old child.  Another one is trying to build a life as he is a full-time student.  The final couple is 19 years old and will married in May; they're both college students.  I was able to look at all of these couples and see something special and sweet about each of them.

I believe that God put us at the table for a reason.  We were able to share our story, a little bit, with these couples. We warned them about how expectations will change, how children effect a marriage, how important communication about all sorts of topics will be, to not be angry or scared when the married sex life doesn't end up being exactly what you imagine, to talk openly and honestly about money and seek out teachers and mentors in this area, the importance of a strong support system, and how there are seasons in a marriage.  Justin and I had a chance to be an example to these couples, of striving through hard times and being committed to making it work.  That's a big blessing and I'm thankful God granted us that opportunity.

I pray that Justin and I will continue to grow our marriage in the Lord.  I pray that He will continue to make our love stronger and more intense every day.  I pray that He will bless our family with a long life together!  I pray the our children see God's impact on our life and our marriage. I pray that we can be a good example to our children of a godly marriage and family!

I pray for the younger couples at our table. I pray they will continue to invest in their relationships, as they did on Saturday.  I pray that they will communicate and always be honest with one another. I pray they will always respect one another and I pray they will have strong support systems.  I pray they will invite God to be a part of their marriage and the families they will create together (with or without children). I pray they will stay committed to their vows and I pray that their love for one another will only grow deeper over time!

As for me, I do love my Sweetie! He's a great guy and I feel truly blessed to have found him so early in my life!!!!  Here's a picture of us at dinner after the seminar at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill.

Friday, February 5, 2010

2010 Update - So far

So, it's 36 days into the New Year and my 5 goals.  I was thinking it's about time for an update...

This morning, I'm a little frustrated. I'm back up the 6 lbs I was down a few weeks ago.  It has to be the pop!  I really NEED to give it up, but it has such a hold on me and apparently, the Diet Dr. Pepper is just as bad for me as regular Pepsi. I'm disappointed in that fact, as I have a rather intense love of the soda.  Ugh. I'm not eating as well as I should, however well-intentioned I am, and I've yet to join the local YMCA (again).  However, I read everyday about my friends who are working out and I'm inspired by their enthusiasm for it.  I've failed miserably at the Body for Life thing I signed up for and I'm overwhelmingly frustrated by it all.  I look in the mirror and try to remind myself that my husband loves me any way I look - but I wish I was happier with my physical appearance.

I also haven't been great about spending the 20 designated minutes with God that I told myself I would commit.  Why? I don't know. I have no excuse, really.  I have still allowed myself to waste away countless minutes on facebook but I haven't given God what He deserves from me.  I must do better!  My Savior deserves to have me visit with Him every day.  He has so many great things to say to me.  I will do better!

I AM doing better with the kids. I'm turning facebook and the TV off in the evening, when they're home.  Its seems we spend so much time in the car, for various reasons, that we all get frustrated and tired of being cramped together, but we're trying to make it work. (For those of you who may not know - we were in a car accident on 1-10-10 and our Suburban was "totaled", according to insurance.  For the mean time, we are driving my in-laws 6 passenger car and reminding ourselves to be content and grateful.  We look a little like the clown car at the circus piling in and out of that thing!)  The kids are getting tired of getting up at 5:30 a.m. to take Daddy to work, but overall, they're doing great!  I'm being more intentional about giving them all affection everyday and focusing less and less on the mess.

I am also doing better with my husband. I'm being more intentional about making time for him and trying to show him how much he means to me everyday.  We had so many crazy things happen in January that we didn't really get a date night, but we are going away this weekend for a Valentine's Day celebration.  We're dedicating some time to our marriage and attending the Forever.For Real. Marriage Seminar in Oklahoma City, OK.  We are planning to enjoy a romantic dinner and a cold-weather walk around the river-walk in Bricktown.  It should be a great weekend for us to just be, us!

I've also been more intentional about our budget and have been more watchful of when I NEED to go to the store vs. when I just feel like I have nothing to cook.   I still need to organize the coupons that are piling up on our counter and have made that a goal for next week.

Overall, I feel like I'm doing "better" in 3 out of my 5 goals for the year.  Progress is still a focus and I'm not allowing myself to feel guilty over the stumbling blocks. Instead, I just need to re-focus and renew my will to succeed at all of my goals.  That's all I can do.

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Friday, January 22, 2010

In Memory Of

  Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in our country.  Since that time, nearly 50 million babies have been sent home, prematurely, to meet Jesus and to be cradled in His arms.  I know a few women who have made this difficult decision. Some of them, I know, look back on their decision with regret. Others continue to believe they made the best decision possible, at the time. Either way, I love these women and do not seek to judge them for their decision. I love them.  I just love them.

As a woman, I have never understood this decision.  I have never really been able to grasp a circumstance that would lead me to consider this decision.  I have never even really understood the whole idea of "preserving the mother's health".  But, that's just me. I don't get it. I can't get my mind to wrap itself around the idea of purposely ending a pregnancy, but I've never walked a mile in the shoes of those women who, for whatever reason, exercised their legal right to terminate.  I have no right to judge them for their decision, or to condemn them for the decision they made. It is not my place to pass judgement. Instead, it is my place to pray.

I pray for these women. I pray for their healing - physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I pray for their babies. I pray for the doctors and medical staff who take these women through the process and perform the procedure. I pray for our country and our lawmakers. I pray that someday our country will see that we cannot play God forever.  I pray for the activists who believe they are protecting life by taking life; that they may see 1 life doesn't justify the taking of another. I pray for those who are struggling right now, with a pregnancy they're not sure how to handle.  I pray for the people who work, every day, to show these women the different options that are available to them. I pray that more and more families would make themselves available to adopt the babies of these women or to help these women recognize their potential as mothers, so that their babies may have life.  I pray.

That's all I can do.  This is not in my hands.  It is in God's hands and His hands, alone.  That's all any of us can do. Pray and pray hard.

Take a moment, today, to remember all of those precious babies, today, who are living in Heaven with Jesus and enjoying eternal life and hug a child in your life extra tight while you thank the Lord for their life!

Good Morning

It is really not unusual for mornings at my house to be hectic, crazy, loud and repetitive.

Most mornings, I find myself repeating a few phrases to the point that I feel like the proverbial "broken record".

Time to get up. 
Get dressed. 
Brush your hair and teeth. 
Find your socks. 
Get your shoes on. 
Do you want milk in your cereal? 
Get your coat. 
Where is your backpack? 
Have I signed your agenda?  
Did you brush your teeth? 
Hurry! The bus is coming!

This morning. Success!!! No one threw a major fit. There were no major meltdowns over which shirt didn't' fit just right or the shoe that refused to be found.  There were no arguments about who was brushing their teeth first. (We have 3 bathrooms, but they all insist on using the same one - explain that!) There was no bickering over who would sit in what chair at the table or who would turn on which cartoon.  There were no crises about missing backpacks or agenda books.  It was still a bit repetitive, but it was relatively peaceful and easy going. So much so, that they each had a whole 20 minutes to spare!!!!


How did this thing happen? Was it a once-in-a-lifetime fluke?  Did I do something different?  Did they sleep better?  Was the weather a factor?  Did a swarm of bees come into my house overnight and fly away my real children and replace them with clones?  How did this great morning come into being?

I'll be thinking about that all day so I can try to repeat this pattern next week, for sure!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Fly on the Wall

Isn't it funny how God's Word allows us to really be a that proverbial "fly on the wall" so we can learn and observe from watching so many different stories play out like a movie?  I had an opportunity to come to this realization in a time of crisis and I want to share what I watched and learned...

Last week, I felt my world come to a crashing hault. No, it wasn't the car accident my family and I were recently in.  No. It wasn't a financial mistake or a lack of resources (which has so often felt like an unbreakable wall for my husband and me). No. It wasn't the tragic loss of a loved one or the shattering of a lifelong dream.  It was much worse.  The very structure and existence of my family was threatened.  The very make-up and protection of my family was in danger.  There were questions asked and scenarios examined.  Every possible doubt existed for our family.  We were facing a pit of doom and despair. (I am so not exaggerating, here. It was bad and the potential outcomes were really bad!)

It was in this moment of desperation that God gently reminded me of a Bible story I'd heard a long, long time ago.  I felt called to read the Book of Job.  It was the first time that I'd felt called to a particular passage of scripture, and to be honest, it was the first time that I really sought out God's answer to my prayer in His Word.  Before, I'd prayed and believed He would answer, and I'd even read a passage here and there, but had never really felt God telling me exactly where to look for an answer.  In fact, I'd always wondered just how people always seemed to find a specific answer in scripture, because the ability had completely alluded me!

On Friday, January 15, I was led to Job's story.  I began to read about how well-off and blessed Job had been.  Then, I read about Satan asking God to let him "test" Job's faith in God.  Satan was trying to prove a point - no man was so righteous that he wouldn't curse God in the face of extreme suffering. God knew Job's heart and knew that Job would refrain from cursing Him.  He knew it. God had no concerns and no questions, so He allowed Satan to test Job.  Job lost everything. He lost his family, all his loved ones, his livestock, his land, his prosperity. He lost everything!

Still, he did not curse God.  So, Satan approached God (see - he couldn't go to Job on his own).  This time, he received God's permission to strike Job with a horrible physical condition.  One that would burn his skin away and cause extreme pain to Job's body.  Satan assumed that such extreme physical suffering would drive Job into cursing God.  It didn't.  Job questioned why God would allow such suffering to come upon him and wondered how he had sinned against God in order to deserve this type of suffering, but he never cursed God.  Never. (Job, chapters 1-2)

Job had 3 friends, though.  I hadn't remembered this part of the story (which is the bulk of the Book of Job, actually).  These 3 friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) listened to Job talk about how he was suffering and then each chimed in with their two cents.  Each of the three believed that God would only inflict such pain and suffering on a man who was wicked and who had sinned a tremendous sin. These three men pushed and pushed at Job to repent of his unrighteousness against God.  The men assumed that Job had done something evil enough to deserve God's wrath.  They looked for ways that Job had sinned and tried, for several chapters, to persuade him to admit guilt and repent.  Job continued to testify to his innocence, but to call out to God for audience with Him, to plead his case.  (Job, chapters 3-27)

Then, we meet Job's 4th friend, Elihu, and we hear him speak to Job and the other 3 men.  Elihu basically tells them all to "be quiet" because they were speaking without knowledge and understanding.  Elihu tells Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that they have incorrectly assumed that they knew God's heart and intentions.  He then tells Job that questioning God's judgement is wrong and ignorant.  Elihu points out that God is omniscient and that He makes no mistakes (Job 34:21-28).  He tells Job that God is not answering his pleas or giving him audience because Job's motivation to ask is not right.  (Job 35: 12-13).  Elihu reminds Job and the others that God punishes and rebukes those He loves in order to guide them to repent and be obedient, so He can restore prosperity (Job 36:10-11).

God enters the story in a storm! Wow! What a way to make an entrance.

He points out His majesty and complete ownership over the universe and everything in it.  He points out that He directs the weather, the animals, the plants, and man. Everything is under God's ultimate control.  Oh, and he points this out through a series of rhetorical questions to Job.  (Is it you who does a, b, and c?)  Job is humbled and is no longer quick to speak in order to assert his innocence before God.  He remembers that God knows all of Job's actions and inactions.  The need to testify before God is no longer present for Job. He is submitting to God's judgement and to his lack of understanding over it.  Job NEVER cursed God, like Satan thought he would. Job asked questions and requested God's explanation, but he never cursed God.  In chapter 40, Job is admonished to leave his judgment and vindication up to God, without question (Job 49:8-14)

I can only imagine that Job's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, stood back in awe and shock at the sight of God and the sound of His voice!  Can you say "foot in mouth?"  My Bible makes the following statement in the footnotes (NIV Study Bible) of Job 42:7-9:

"Despite Job's mistakes in word and attitude while he suffered, he is now commended and the counselors are rebuked. Why? Because even in his rage, even when he challenged God, he was determined to speak honestly before Him. The counselors, on the other hand, mouthed many correct and often beautiful creedal statements, but without living knowledge of the God they claimed to honor. Job spoke to God; they only spoke about God. Even worse, their spiritual arrogance caused them to claim knowledge they did not possess. They presumed to know why Job was suffering."

In the end, Job's prosperity and contentment are restored by God, two-fold. He had more children and lived to 140 years. He had twice as much as he'd had before Satan threw a giant wrench in his wheel.  Job was richly blessed - in love and possessions - and he continued to be righteous before God.  The friends followed God's instructions in his rebuke over them and were forgiven for their mistakes.  All ended well.

Except for Satan, who now knew that a truly righteous man would not curse God, even in times of extreme suffering and pain.

I should also point out that while Job always proclaimed his innocence and righteousness, he never claimed to be sinless!  Remember, no man was ever free from sin except Jesus Christ, himself.  No one!

I learned a lot from watching this story unfold.  In my own time of extreme pain and suffering over the past few days, I was reminded of God's omniscient power and control over EVERYTHING in my life!  I was reminded that He loves me and that He will only allow pain in my life to the point that I can stand it.  I understood that God doesn't cause pain and suffering, but he may allow it so that we may learn a bigger lesson from it all. I also learned that sometimes, those we turn to for counsel, fail to speak God's truth in our lives and that men can be quick to judge and assumptions.  I was reminded that God's truth will be revealed and that He, and only He, can restore His followers to prosperity.  I was reminded that even though we sin, God loves us.  He loves us unconditionally - unlike man, who only love us when it feels "right".  I was reminded that only God will administer punishment that truly fits the crime and that we can always depend on God to be just and fair.


Yesterday, January 19, we received the news that our pain and suffering is over.  Now, we can move on and try to regain some sense of understanding over these circumstances. Praise God!  He truly led us out of the darkness and into His light and we have more faith in Him than ever before!!!!

Thank you, Lord, for showing me just how You lead people to your Word and reminding me how much You love us, even in our times of suffering. Thank you for showing me how to turn to You for support and encouragement, over man, because I can always depend on You for truth, love, and fairness! Amen. 

First Week - Done.

In the first real week of my efforts to have a more intimate relationship with God, my husband and my kids, and trying to be healthier in 2010, I feel I have some success to share.

First, I've lost 6 lbs by limiting my pop in take (which was super hard!), drinking lots of water, limiting portion size and carb intake.  I feel good about that and only hope I can keep it up.

I've also spent some time with God, though I wasn't as good about staying on top of that goal.  In fact, I'm ashamed to say that I didn't really realize how much God had to say to me through His Word until my family was thrown into crisis (another post - stay tuned).  Through that time, I felt God speaking calmness and encouragment directly to me through His Word and finally get it! Thank you, Lord.  I only wish you could have shared that with me without putting me through that particular crisis.

I enjoyed some special time with my girls. Sarah helped me to make pancakes one night for dinner while the other 3 all played the Wii.  She loved "cooking" and had a great time.  It was a real joy to see real, enjoyment on her face out of such a simple thing.  Then, my girls enjoyed some quality time with Mommy as we read about 12 books, of their choosing.  They were so excited to have Mommy read to them, they didn't even notice we'd turned the TV and computer off.  In fact, I've been intentionally turning the computer off several times per day, just so I don't get sucked into wasting hours with the screen rather than my kids. This week, I've been more content to read God's Word than to watch TV or Facebook/Twitter.  In fact, I'm feeling a little lost in Twitterverse right now...but my life is no worse! That's okay. This week, I'll spend some time with the boys (and by no means will I ignore the girls) - intentionally - and will continue to turn the screens in my house off!!! I will continue to tell them everyday that I love them and I am super proud to be their Mommy!

My husband and I were really tested this week, and we've survived.  Our love for one another was really tested and I believe we passed the test.  We were put together by God and nothing will tear us apart.  We draw together during times of crisis and we stand beside one another, and our family.  There will be no thundering black clouds hanging over our marriage - we will force the sun to shine them away!  I am so very grateful to have him to share my life with!

So, first week? Done. Successfully. On to the second...

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Will Not Share!

This is my best friend, Staci.  Staci and I met in 1995. She's told me that upon first meeting, she didn't think too highly of me and I still can't figure out why.  We were both young and full of dreams.  We were both in love (No - not with the same guy! But there is a funny story there!!!!)  I was a senior in high school and she was in college, but our interests were very much alike.  She was engaged and planning a wedding while I was planning a graduation.  Life was just starting for the both of us.

We grew to discover just how much alike we were and really enjoyed one another's company.  Quickly, we became as close as sisters and would spend lots of time laughing and talking and going dancing (she was never really as into that whole scene as I was, but she went! What a trooper!) We've walked beside one another through 2 weddings, the birth of 6 children, 8 household moves, 44 children's birthday parties, 23 wedding anniversaries, 3 women's conferences, 2 New Kids on the Block concerts, car accidents, trips to the ER, surgical procedures and overnight stays in the hospital, and too many overnights and hours of babysitting to count!

Staci's "my person". She's the one I call to share joyful news. She's the one I call on in a crisis. She's there to meet me at the ER when my daughter is seizing. She's there to pick up my kids from school when my car won't start. She's there to give me a hug. She's there to take me shopping and she's there to be brutally honest about what I'm wearing and should not be or to teach me the highlights of TLC's "What Not To Wear". She's there to tell me that its okay to go to Wal-Mart, alone, at 10:00 p.m. just to get away.  She's there to help me throw together a birthday party for my son when my husband is ill.  She's there to take my kids to AWANAs every week for 2 years. She's there to pick up my husband at 6:00 a.m. and take him to work so we don't have to get the kids out of bed. She's there for my kids, praying for them, correcting them, and loving them. She was there to make sure that they had a Christmas when we couldn't afford to do it ourselves. She's there to invite me to a women's conference and to encourage my dreams and goals! Staci was there to support my marriage when it all seemed to be crumbling.  Staci's there.  She's always there!  That's the true blessing of Staci.  (Oh, and she promised to bring me paraphernalia if I'm ever committed for treatment of my NKOTB obsession! That's the mark of a good friendship, right there.)

To my friend - I love you and I only hope that I've been able to give to you a fraction of what you've given to me over the last 15 years!  You are a truly amazing woman and I'm so happy that God brought us together, to be sisters and friends.  I cannot truly express how special you are to me and to my family.  Happy Birthday! We keep getting better with age, so by the time we're too old to care about how much weight we've gained or what we're wearing and laughing at one another over scrapbooks we can barely see - we'll be too much for this world to handle!

To the rest - I will not share my best friend, but I'll pray you find someone just as great!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Puttin' It In Writing

The Date: January 9, 2010

The Task: Put the goals for the year into writing

The Reason: Makin' It Real and Makin' It Mean Something

The Goal: To Enhance the Commitment I have with my God, my Husband and my Children, my Body, and my Budget - Makin' It All More Significant!!!!

Okay, so here goes. I'm a little nervous but I'm forcing myself to do this.  Why would any woman alive post her goals on the World Wide Web? Holy Cow! That's crazy, right.   OMWord.  What am I about to do?

I'm going to post this so that you, my friends and family, can help to hold me accountable.  I'm doing this so people can and will ask me how it's going. I'm doing this because I believe that God is telling me these are the areas of my life that need my attention.  I'm doing this because I know that my success will only be as strong as my commitment to success and my commitment to seeking Him in everything I do - from losing weight to being a better wife and mother to being more frugal and watchful of how I work to stretch the family dollar.  I know that God will meet me when I ask, but I also know I have to do my here goes.

These are not RESOLUTIONS because those are ALWAYS broken. These are GOALS that I will work toward and will NOT feel unsuccessful if I fall a little short. Instead, I will Praise God for every step I make toward these goals.  I will Praise God for every small point of success and I will Seek God when I struggle to stay focused.

1) I will spend 20 minutes with God, at least, 5 days per week. (Of course, I'm shooting for 7 days a week, but I don't want to get stuck in a guilty rut if there's a day or two here and there when it doesn't happen.) I will seek Him through more meaningful prayer throughout my day and I will delve into His Word regularly.  When I'm feeling good, I'll thank God for that. When I'm feeling down or I'm struggling with my focus, I'll ask God to pull me up and through that valley.  

2) I will work to lose 70 lbs  and be wearing a size 10/12 by December 31, 2010.
That will take me from 225 lbs to 155 lbs.  I will monitor inches lost more than pounds lost, because I WILL be exercising and gaining muscle.  I will do this through more careful monitoring of my food intake and portion size and I will make exercise a lifestyle change. I will make my health a priority because I want to be around for my kids and I want to avoid the diabetes and cancer history of my family's past.  I want to treat my body as God's temple and home - that makes it special and makes it worth something. (I will also be trying to limit my pop intake, but if you know me, this is very likely to be one of the more difficult parts to this plan! I sure do enjoy my Pepsi or Diet Dr. Pepper.)

3) I will create an opportunity to spend time, alone, with my husband at least 1x per month for a date night.  We enjoy our time alone together, to just be a "couple" rather than "parents".  We love to laugh and talk and play like we did when we were dating and we need this time together. Eventually, our kids will be out of the house and all we will have is "us".  That needs to be a BIG DEAL and something that we focus on!  We DESERVE to have time to just be "us".

4) I will be a more attentive mother to each of my four children by spending individual time with each of my kids each month - even if its just a trip to Wal-Mart or to get a Slushee or a walk around the block. I will turn the TV and Video Games off.  I will focus a little less on the housework and I will gripe less about what messes have been made that day.  They deserve that much from me. I will read with them more, play with them more, and will pray for them and for them more. I will be an example to them of a Devoted, Christ Follower and they will SEE ME seeking God in my parenting over them.

5) I will be more vigilant in looking for ways to stretch our family dollar. I will start couponing. I will search online for better deals when shopping and I will work with Justin to implement the Dave Ramsey plan into our monthly finances.  We will be more focused on responsible financial stewardship and will invite God into this area of our life. We will meet Him half way through faithful giving to Him from our wallet and our time.  No more excuses.  No more riding the fence. God talks about money more than 800 times. That tells me that its a subject He expects us to be knowledgeable and watchful over.

So, there it is. In writing. I'll click "publish post" in a second and will be locked in. I'm turning these things over to God and committing myself to being reminded of these goals, all year long.  Pray for me and stay tuned as I share successes and struggles throughout this year.