Monday, December 12, 2011

100 Joys: 10-18

10 - Spent a couple of hours catching up with my best friend last Thursday while we treated ourselves to manis and pedis.

11 - Date night with my hubby. Yummy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and some power shopping for Christmas gifts. As a bonus, we didn't have to pay a babysitter since all three girls were at a friend's birthday sleepover!

12 - Finally managed to get the house clean. That's no small feat when you have three messy children!

13 - Mark decided to stay home instead of going hunting!!...so we took the kids on our annual Christmas trip to the Bass Pro Santa Shop. The girls wrote letters to Santa {so sweet}. My youngest asked Santa for "snow outside." {Wonder if he'll deliver on that one?!} After the BPS, we ate dinner at Cracker Barrel...one of the girls' favorite places to eat...then visited my great niece for her birthday. While we were at my niece's house, we watched a little bit of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation {the greatest Christmas movie ever...in my opinion}.

14 - We found three strands of clear lights that we'd been searching for all over town! {Read more about it here.}

15 - I sat in the audience of my church choir's Christmas program this year instead of singing. It was great to be reminded of what the audience experiences when the hope of Jesus is shared through song.

16 - We hosted our Sunday School class Christmas party. {Read more about it here.}

17 - Listening to my girls sing Christmas songs along with the radio. During our afternoon running around, I had to stop and enjoy the season {and the Christmas carols} instead of rushing through it. Sometimes I want to rush through the busyness so I can enjoy times of rest. This afternoon I took time to enjoy the busyness of the season.

18 - Seeing my baby's smile with yet another missing tooth. She's missing three! I told her we might have to start feeding her applesauce if she lost more teeth.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

God's In the Details Of A Party

Back before our lives changed so much, Mark and I used to host a lot of social activities and parties in our home. One of my favorite times was to host our core group of friends at Christmas. It was an annual gathering of our friends and kids.

But we haven't hosted other couples in our home in six years. We've had friends over occasionally, and I've had several girlfriends over at one time; but, we've not hosted a gathering of couples. Until tonight.

In November we volunteered to host our Sunday School's Christmas party. We're a small group, and honestly, Mark and I don't know our classmates all that well outside of one hour on Sunday mornings. So we decided we'd have the party in our home.

We've spent the last week cleaning our house like mad people. In fact, Mark said to me, I like having people over. It gets the house clean. {me smiling} But last night we were trying to find three boxes of clear lights as two strands had burned out on two of our trees, and we needed a third strand for our outside tree. We'd already looked at several different stores, and they were all sold out of clear lights.

We stopped at one last store for a last-ditch effort. Just before I jumped out of the car, I said to Mark, Say a little prayer that they have some lights. I found the seasonal section and looked all around. There were a lot of boxes of multi-colored lights, but I wasn't seeing any clear ones. I'd about given up and decided that we'd just have branches without lights on our trees for the party when I shoved aside a box of multi-colored, and there sat three boxes of clear lights. I grabbed all three and made a beeline for the checkout. I told the cashier that they must've been the only store in town that still had clear lights. The bagger overheard me and said that they hadn't had any clear lights, but those three boxes had just been a return. There were no more clear lights.

I was excited, and when we got home, grabbed a strand to put on the outside tree first. Without really even paying attention to the strand, I put it on the tree, called it a success, and headed inside to replace the two strands on the other two trees. As I picked up the box off the table, I realized the strand I'd just put on the outside tree had a white wire. I panicked as I realized that white wires would stick out like a sore thumb on the indoor trees. I grabbed the other two boxes and was relieved to see that they both had green wires. They'd match perfectly!

In that second, I thought how much God cares about our lives...the details. I forget sometimes. He had not only provided three strands of clear lights, but also the exact color wires I needed and the order in which I put them on. Had I put on a strand with a green wire on the outside tree first, I would've had to take them off and redo them once I opened the package with a white wire.

I know it was just a small party, and in the grand scheme of life, was no huge deal; but, it was important to me to have everything look nice since I was already nervous about hosting the first party we'd had in six years. God knew that and provided peace of mind. The party was a success, and we're starting to feel like we could do this again. The fear of the first time is over, and maybe we'll open our home a little more often now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Don't Be Afraid

Sometimes I live in and act out of fear. Like when I walk in my daughters' rooms to check on them at night after they've gone to sleep, and a thought hits me...

What if they wake up sick? What if they don't wake up at all? What if???

Or when my husband leaves for work in the mornings:

I hope he's okay today. What if he has a wreck? What if he has an accident with one of his tools?

Or when I'm faced with heights:

What if I fall off the cliff? What if the pier beneath me buckles? What if the railing breaks and I fall of the balcony?

Irrational.

And, especially, lately...the fear that probably tops all fears: the fear of lost people seeing me as just another religious, self-righteous, super-spiritual "Christian." I tell you, it's enough to make me shut my mouth.

I see and hear of so many Christians living out the extremes of man-made rules and traditions. I'm not sure they're concerned with what the Bible actually says. I wonder if they even think of how Jesus lived. I'm guessing they do, but maybe they only select the parts that fit their agenda.

They're the people who want us to fear missing a day of Bible study, to fear befriending the lost, to fear missing a church service. They want people to live under the Law, which they disguise as being an obedient Christian.

It seems to me that when these Christians work so hard to separate themselves from the world, they're not even in the world. So then, how do they reach the lost? Because if I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus walked in the world, attended celebrations, visited with the worst of sinners. And man-made rules and traditions angered Him. He came to earth to do the will of His Father alone...not to impress other religious people with His appearance or isolate Himself from the wicked. He didn't live in a cocoon for 33 years.

I think of these things, yet I fear being the one that might cause a non-Christian to say, If she's what a Christian looks like, I don't want to be one.

Where to go from here?

Do not fear.

Don't be afraid of the what-ifs. Don't be afraid to share the redemptive love of Jesus. Don't be afraid to live life. Don't be afraid to love. Don't be afraid of the people who would put you in shackles if they could. Don't be afraid.

100 Joys: 6-9

6 - The last week or so has been jam-packed, getting up early and going to bed late. I took advantage of a couple of spare hours today and cozied up on the couch with my fuzzy blanket and slept. I love naps!

7 - I love everything about summer: hot weather, swimming, flip-flops, tans, watermelon. But at Christmastime, I love cold, gray days. That's exactly what today was in Alabama. It felt like Christmas today {if Christmas weather has a feeling..}.

8 - On Wednesday nights I teach 2nd grade children's choir. They're a large group of sweet, rowdy children. Tonight we rehearsed the two songs they'll be singing at the Candlelight service, then we had a mini-Christmas party complete with lots of sugar and prizes. I love how excited they get over cookies, popcorn, juice and a few treats.

9 - My best friend sent me an email with a link to a website that made me laugh til I nearly...well, I laughed really, really hard...til my stomach hurt. And so did my hubby. And since Wednesday nights seem to be the most stressful night of the week when putting kids to bed, the laughter was much needed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

100 Joys - December 2011

I looked back tonight at the 100 Joys I participated in last December via Sarah Markley. In reading through them I remembered how fun it was to write those joys. And what a great way it was to remember the wonderful details of an otherwise busy and stressful time of year! And since this entire year has been somewhat difficult, I could stand to focus on some joy. So without wasting another day, here's the first of 100 Joys, December 2011.

1 - My man helped me fold about four loads of laundry today. {And since I hate doing laundry, that was a huge joy!}

2 - Spontaneous dinner with a good friend, her mom and kids.

3 - The family attended my 6th grader's Christmas choir concert. They sang Infant Holy and I Saw Three Ships. They did an outstanding job on both songs! In addition, we heard the 7th and 8th grade choirs {also fabulous} and the high school Madrigal singers...wow! I think what amazed me the most was hearing the Gospel shared through Christmas songs in a public school setting. Joy!

4 - I spent an hour talking with my counselor. She always makes a point to incorporate God's grace into our conversations. In learning so much about grace this year, I'm still amazed at how much more there is to learn and experience.

5 - Running barefoot in my pjs in the rain to the bus to give my daughter her water bottle that she dropped. If that doesn't make me {and you} smile, I don't know what will!

I Am...

My counselor asked me today if I was finding myself.

{silence}

Maybe a little.

When I think about who I am, I think about what I do, what I like, how I react in certain situations. And I think about Whose I am. But it's a challenge for me to define who I am.

I have little sense of self because for so long, like a chameleon, I've changed to blend in with my surroundings. I'm finding it difficult to sit amidst a situation and just be...and be okay.

But I'm also finding that I'm stronger than I thought. I'm a survivor. And for today, that's enough.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Celebrating Life

I read an article in a popular devotional magazine several months ago that I think about every so often. The author shared how she was on a plane one day and as the stewardess was going through the instructions, she announced to the passengers that the pilot's girlfriend had just found out she was pregnant with twins. The passengers clapped and shouted their congratulations to the pilot. The author wrote that she clapped, but she also said she couldn't believe she and the others were clapping for the pregnancy of an unwed mother. She said she felt that they were condoning a sin that's become commonplace.

Every time I think about that article, I am unsettled. It didn't settle with me when I first read it, and it still doesn't. I guess it bothers me because that's exactly the attitude I had up until several years ago. Until I was the one needing grace. Since reading that article, this post has been in the recesses of my brain.

I'd like to offer up a different perspective:

I'd like to think the passengers, with the exception of the author, were celebrating new lives. No matter the circumstances surrounding a pregnancy, the truth is that babies are God's creation. He knew before the foundation of the world that those twins would be conceived. He knew the plans He had for those babies. He planned the miracle of their lives. And while the passengers may or may not have considered those thoughts at all, that's the essence of what they were celebrating. New life. New creation. I hope that the author was the only person on that plane who was judging the pilot and his girlfriend behind her plastered smile and clanging cymbals.

So often we Christians miss out on so much of life because we fear we may appear to be condoning sin. We miss so many opportunities to share Jesus because we're too busy condemning someone else's actions. We miss chances to celebrate because we don't want to be caught participating in what is essentially...life. We don't enjoy a wedding reception because we're too busy condemning the alcohol and dancing, yet do we remember Jesus' first miracle? We don't befriend people with a "reputation," yet who were the people Jesus hung out with most? I dare say that Christians often don't represent Jesus as well as we'd like to think we do. It's time for us to really celebrate life!




Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Might Be Common Sense To You

I've been learning something recently. It may be common sense to most of you, but it's been a revelation for me:

It's important to establish boundaries for myself. It's important to maintain those boundaries and not allow other people to trample them out of control, manipulation, or for their own personal gain.

You see, I've always thought I had to bend over backwards for others, often putting myself in situations I didn't want to be in. I've always caved to make others happy, depriving myself of value. I thought it was unChristian to say "no," or to value myself. I thought that doing things to appease others, even though my heart wasn't in it, was the Christian thing to do. Not so.

I've realized that God values me. He values the way He created me to be. He expects me to fulfill the purpose for which He created me, and sometimes that means saying "no" to what seems right to everyone else or to what makes others happy with me.

The hard part of it all is finding the voice to make those boundaries clear to others. I've been so accustomed to muting my own feelings, desires and needs that it's hard to vocalize them now. In fact, what I've spent most of my life vocalizing has been self-degrading. I'm understanding that God values me, and expects me to value who I am in Him. And in understanding that, I have to vocalize it to others so they understand and respect my boundaries.

 I guess a whisper is a good starting place.


For more on this topic I recommend reading Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Back To Writing

Your gifts and abilities are part of God's purpose for your life. Not using them can lead to frustration, disappointment and fatigue.

I can't remember where I read that quote, but it's been hanging on my refrigerator for six or seven years. I've ignored that little handwritten sheet of paper for the past couple of weeks. I didn't want to think about not writing.

A third of the way through Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, I quit posting. I continued writing for a few days, but couldn't bring myself to publish what I'd written. Then I just stopped writing althogether. I won't go into the detailed reasons why, but it was due to my insecurity, not because God led me to. In fact, I knew He'd placed the Thirty Days series in my mind back in October with lots of ideas about what to write. So the last ten days without writing has seemed like an eternity. I can say with certainty that the quote above is true for me.

Even though the posts may be shorter and the days combined, I plan to finish out the Thirty Days series. After that, I have no plans. I'll see where God leads the writing, but I have no doubt that it will continue along the original purpose of this blog: my experiences and how God uses them to teach me. My insecurity will have to take a back seat, or better yet, be kicked to the curb.

I want to start back by sharing with you a gripping video I watched last week that someone recommended to me. It was the reminder I needed of how God loves and sees me, and how I should see myself. It was the kick in the pants I needed to remind me that He has given me the gift of writing, and I am to use it...with security in Him.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: 9


My writing spot

I started blogging a little over a year ago. At the time, I had no idea how many bloggers are out there. I knew a couple of friends who had blogs and enjoyed reading what they had to say. And since I love to write, I thought blogging might be fun. I had no idea how God would use the blogosphere to influence my life.

I started searching for blogs on topics that were relevant to me, and I was surprised to find so many. What was even more surprising was how transparent the bloggers' writings were. I was shocked to see people writing with authenticity. I'd been writing in that style for a while, but hadn't dared share a lot of what I'd written. My thoughts on paper were mine alone. I feared judgment. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that people were actually embracing transparency and authenticity on their blogs. I didn't know anybody in real life that did. So when I started blogging, openly sharing what I'd been too afraid to share before, I started meeting real-life people who'd been in the same boat. What I've found is that many people want to be transparent, but are too fearful. By being vulnerable, I've found friends who also desperately wanted to take off the masks, but were afraid.

Today I'm thankful for my blog as well as others, and the way God has used them to teach me. He's taught me so much through other people's stories, as well as through my own writings.

Here are a few blogs I love to read:

My friend, Jamie...one of the first blogs I ever read
My all-time favorite blogger, who keeps it real every, single time
The first blog that ever shocked me with transparency
A blogger I can identify with almost every time I read
The blog that I share most often
One who makes me think a little deeper with almost every post
A blog that says the things most people are scared to talk about
A local couple whose ministry inspires me
The blogger who makes me cry just about every time

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: 8


Photos below: my views during today's morning run



  

I never liked running. I avoided it in p.e. every chance I could. I hated being sweaty and out of breath. But in 2008, my friend Ashley taught me how to run. She showed me how to start off slowly, running in 30-second spurts, resting in-between, until I built up my endurance. It wasn't long before I was hooked.

Since then, running has become a hobby and a stress reliever. I enjoy the time to think, to listen to music, to see the beauty of creation. Until this past Saturday, the most I'd ever run at one time was a 5k. But I've decided to run the Mercedes half-marathon in February, so I am now training to gain endurance. On Saturday, I ran 4 miles. To other runners, that's a breeze, but for me...it was huge! I set a goal and accomplished it. You see, running is mostly mental, and I am in the process of training my body and my mind. And on mornings like today, when I'm tired and my legs feel like lead, it's my mind that keeps my body going.

I've mentioned often in my posts how much God has changed me in the past year. One thing He's showed me is that finishing well is important. Although I didn't start off well due to choices I made, I want to finish life well. I want to accomplish things I set out to do. I want to train my mind to endure when life is hard. I want to push a little harder when I'm ready to give up. And I want God to get the glory for it all.

So today I'm thankful for running...not just the ability to run, but for what God has taught me through it. While I won't have the best time, and just might come in dead last in the half, I will finish with a smile on my face. Because giving up is not an option.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Days 6 & 7




Home.

It's wherever you are with the people you love.

It's the place where you belong.

It's where laughter and tears collide.

It's snuggling up cozy and hugs and kisses.

It's where frowns turn upside-down because someone else wants the best for you.

It's the one place you always want to go back to.

Yesterday and today I'm thankful for home.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On The Subject of Spanking

Today I am deviating from the Thanksgiving posts, and will pick back up tomorrow.

A few days ago I saw on the news a video clip of a father spanking (more like beating) his teenage daughter. The anchor commented on how disturbing the video was, so I watched it in its entirety on YouTube. Disturbing was one of many adjectives I could use to describe the video. As I watched, my stomach did several flips, my mind screamed, This is wrong!, and my anger at the parents boiled.

Over the past year, as I've learned about grace, God has changed much about my life. As I've begun to understand verses in context, and understand the difference between the Old Covenant and the New, God has brought about changes in the deepest parts of me. I'd already been questioning the practice of spanking when I watched the video a few days ago...questions like: Why do we spank our children, then tell them not to hit others? Why do we spank our children, but adults don't hit each other when we do something wrong? Does spanking really correct behavior, or just make children fear {rather than respect} authority? At that point, I had more questions than ever, the most predominant being: Is the practice of spanking really Biblical?

I began to pray for clarification with the prayer I've often prayed during the past year: God, show me. I need to know what You say about this. I started looking up verses, and looking up original definitions of words in Scripture in Hebrew and Greek. Something wasn't right. I couldn't make spanking reconcile with what I was reading in Scripture. In my Internet search of the original Hebrew definition of rod, I came across a couple of articles which God used to confirm my inability to reconcile spanking with Scripture {specifically grace}. You can read the articles here and here.

My husband and I have been discussing the issue over the last couple of days, and more than likely, we will be abandoning the use of spankings in our home, and begin to practice grace-based parenting...the way in which our Father corrects us when we've done wrong. We hope to correct and guide with discipline. We have a lot to learn!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

Lately our weekends have been busy-busy. But this weekend, Mark and I are without kids and are catching up on some of the movies we've been wanting to see. I'm thankful for weekends that provide rest and relaxation {and a date with my man}.


Friday night date

By the way, if you go see Courageous, don't carry a few tissues...carry a BOX of them!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4



I've always loved music. All kinds. Everything from children's songs to jazz to country to Christian to pop to rock to {sometimes...yes, I admit it} rap. I've always been one to sing along with the radio. But it wasn't until my early twenties that I began to sing in front of people. It was then that I found that people connect with lyrics to songs. And I was {and still am} thankful to be a tool that God often uses to share words that cause people to respond to Him.

Singing is a gift I don't take for granted. There was a time a few years ago when I thought I might never sing again. Not because of any physical problem, but because I thought God no longer wanted me. When He spoke the words to my heart, God often uses broken people to accomplish great things, I knew He was calling me back. You see, He wanted me all along, but I was the one who had walked away in a broken state.

I'm beyond thankful for every opportunity to sing, whether it's alone in my home or in a packed sanctuary...because when it comes down to it, there's really only One audience that matters.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 3

There are some women who have lots of women friends, and every one of them is a best friend. That's not me. I have several good friends and lots of friends I can count on, but there are only three I trust with everything about me.

Meet the three women who I am so thankful God placed in my life:



Natalie and I became fast friends about nine years ago when we were singing in an ensemble together. She was the first female I ever really trusted as an adult. When our ensemble faced a difficult circumstance, I watched her handle it with honor and grace. My family spent many Sunday nights in her home, sharing yummy meals {she's a great cook...one of those people who doesn't have to follow a recipe}. She loved my babies before she ever had babies. And at a time when I turned my back on almost every friend I had, and they, in return, did the same to me, she remained. She offered grace to me when it would've been easier to abandon me. I'm thankful for all the memories we share {like the time she dropped a lizard in my house, sending me to the top of the couch, screaming}, but I'm even more thankful that we're still making memories.



I've written about Ashley before. We've only been friends for a little over four years, but it seems like a lifetime. It really is hard to imagine my life before she was in it. God placed us together at a time when we needed each other. We've often been mistaken for sisters, and once, a nursery worker tried to give me her son! She introduced me to coffee {thanks for the addiction, Ashley!} and to running {which she promptly gave up after I fell in love with it}. She's the friend who puts life into perspective, yet lightens up somber situations with her witty one-liners. She never fails to put a smile on my face and laughter in my heart. I'm thankful that she's the friend I can call day or night for anything.



Last, but certainly not least, is a newer friend. I've known Jennifer from afar for about three years, but only in the last year have we become good friends. Our friendship began and has developed through our search for a deeper understanding of grace. And through those talks, we found that we share the same sense of humor and the same desire for genuine relationships. She's the friend who makes me dig in Scripture for truth. She's the friend who told me there was no right or wrong about homeschool vs. public school {girl, thank you for those words...I'm so glad to have my days back!!}. When it comes to spiritual matters, our minds tend to run along the same wavelength, and we find ourselves in conversations that sound more like they belong in a seminary class. She's the friend my soul loves {even if I am jealous of her extensive collection of fabulous shoes and accessories!}.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2

When I was young I would daydream about my life as an adult. I wanted to live downtown {somewhere} amongst bright lights in a big city. I wanted a career as an attorney. My daydreams rarely included a husband, and certainly didn't involve children.

How differently my life turned out to be! A husband and three kids later, I wouldn't trade a second of my crazy life for those daydreams.

I'm thankful for three little girls who have brought me immeasurable joy and taught me so much about life and love {and patience}.



My oldest daughter, Grace, is analytical, competitive and strong-willed. She loves music of all kinds, and has the gift of singing. She's often quiet and sits back to observe new situations {much like me}. Because she's the oldest, I have learned so much through her about parenting: opening up and facing the hard stuff...stuff I normally keep to myself, but for her sake, have learned to share. She questions everything, and as a parent, I sometimes want to toss out, Because I said so. But because she has a genuine need to know and understand, I've had to learn to take the time for explanations.

My middle child, Emma, is artsy, energetic and tender-hearted. She talks almost non-stop and is only still when she's asleep. She has a natural talent for dancing {I really don't know where those genes came from...her dad I have only left feet and no rhythm}. She's a funny child and loves to be the center of attention. She makes friends easily...I guess because she can't see other children without talking to them. She's taught me how to get out of my comfort zone and connect a little more easily with people I don't know. She's also brought sensitivity to my often-blunt personality.

My youngest, Hannah, is strong-willed and independent. She's quiet and shy around others, but is definitely the loudest child in our house. She knows what she wants {and doesn't}, and is quick to let the rest of us know. She often likes to play alone, stretching her imagination with every new barbie adventure. She's often so reserved that when she blurts out a one-liner, we all double over in laughter just because it's unexpected. She's taught me to pry a little deeper with people because you never know what you might find under the first layer of personality.

Fifteen years ago, I would've never guessed that children could teach me so much and bring me so much joy. But I'm so thankful God has filled my home and heart with three wonderful girls.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1

Whew! I made it! I'm cutting it close, but the day's not quite over. I've been planning to do Thirty Days of Thanksgiving blog posts for the month of November, and I almost missed day 1!!

When I began mulling over the topics I would write about this month, I automatically knew the first thing I wanted to write about. I knew I had to write about a man who, in so many ways, saved my life.




I've written about my husband several times on here, but one moment in our history stands out to me as more important than all the rest. One moment in which my husband only spoke three words, yet spoke volumes to my soul. One moment in which I was amazed at the character of the man I married. One moment that will forever be etched in my mind.

I forgive you.

With those three words, my husband demonstrated God's love to me. With those three words, I understood that God is good, loving, and forgiving. For many, those characteristics of God are a given, but for me, it was brand new, and it took my husband to reveal Him to me.

With those three words, my husband showed me what it means to truly love unconditionally. In a time when he would've been completely justified in walking away, he stayed. Not only did he stay, he loved me {and I'm pretty sure I was...and maybe still am...particularly hard to love}.

I'm so thankful for my husband...for so many reasons...but mostly because God allows Mark to reveal His heart to me.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Welcome Signs and Doormats

In my kitchen is a cute fall Welcome sign. I put it out on the counter every September and leave it there until I put it away as the Christmas decorations descend from the attic. It's orange and green with cream-colored trim. Everything about it screams fall decor. And that one little word, Welcome, makes me feel a little more lively, as I hope it does for anyone who enters my kitchen. I hope it says, You've been invited into my kitchen, and you are welcome here.

At the entrance to my front door is a decorative black mat...no words, just a design. I keep it there for people to wipe the grass, dust or mud off their shoes before entering my home. I often have to pick it up and sweep beneath it because the black rubber pieces that make up the design fall off. It's not in the good shape it was when I bought it, but it still serves its purpose.

Offering grace is like the welcome sign, not like the doormat.

Grace welcomes others in. Grace says I love you, no matter what. Grace wants what's best for others. However, grace does not mean we have to be like the doormat and allow ourselves to be trampled upon. When we allow ourselves to be trampled over, allowing others to rob us of our joy and peace, we may still serve our purpose, but we are no longer in good condition...just like my doormat.

In Matthew 21, when Jesus walked into the temple and saw the evil being done there, He overturned tables and seats. He called out those who robbed His "house." (v. 13) Just because He was {is} grace didn't mean he had to sit down, shut up and avoid a confrontation in order to appease the robbers.

Grace does not mean contradicting our core beliefs and values just to please or appease another. It does not mean keeping the peace at any and all costs. Romans 12:18 says, If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peacably with all. (NRSV) And as much as we may want peace, as I recently read in a book titled Boundaries: We can't bring peace to someone who doesn't accept it!

Sometimes, living in grace means having enough grace on yourself to avoid the freight train that would run right through your front door and trample all over you. Sometimes living in grace means we must sit quietly and allow God to fight for us.

Of one thing I am certain: living in grace and offering grace does not mean we have to be a doormat for someone else's disregard and disdain. But, we must hang our welcome sign so they know they are loved.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Awareness

The awareness of death, especially in tragic situations, is often a reminder to the living. This week has brought that awareness for me.

It's so unnatural for parents to outlive a child, yet today my friends will say a final earthly good-bye to their 19-year-old daughter. And as Mark, the girls and I, along with hundreds of other people, visited the family last night, her Dad said to me, Hold on to them while you can.

He reminded me to hold on to my precious children who I'm so quick to fuss at when they aren't doing things like I want. He reminded me to make memories of the little things, like sticking their heads out the car window and letting the wind whip through their hair. He reminded me to make videos of them singing, dancing, telling jokes...of being their silly, little selves. He reminded me to say I love you every time they walk out the door. He reminded me that no disagreement with them is worth a lifetime of regret. He reminded me that every moment I spend with them is a gift. He reminded me that I'm not promised to have them tomorrow.


Please pray today for the Ward family as they lay to rest their precious Rachel.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Season of Softball and Marriage

My daughter played her last softball game of the fall season on Tuesday night. She's never played fall ball before, but thought playing this year would strengthen her skills before the spring season. Apparently fall ball is much more relaxed than spring ball, and quite a few other girls were playing for the same reason. In addition, there were a few girls who'd never played ball and thought fall ball would be a good way to get their feet wet.

They lost the last game by one point. They made a few errors, but all in all, they played hard and looked good. It was quite a different ballgame than the first game of the season. The first game they played looked almost like a t-ball game. One child made it to first base, but as she attempted to get to second base, was tagged out. I'm pretty sure she thought they were playing dodgeball instead of softball. She didn't understand that she was to run in a straight line to second base, and she curved so far behind the first and second base players that we thought she might run to the outfield. Then there were those who never really knew where to throw the ball once they caught it. It was quite a funny and frustrating scene for us parents to watch since we knew what was supposed to be happening on the field, but could do nothing to help.

After many evening practices and many game losses, they slowly improved. As the games rolled along, the parents would comment how much better they were doing. As I watched them play Tuesday night, I thought, They've come a long way since they first began this season.

When Mark and I married fourteen-and-a-half years ago, we didn't know what we were doing. We thought marriage would be fun and roses {I guess if anybody really knew how hard marriage is, they might not ever get married}. We started out not having a clue about what it takes to make a marriage work. And like the ball team, we've had lots of practice and many errors. And in the stands we've had people cheering us on, but who knew it was up to us to make it work. We've had moments of joy and moments of tears; we still have to practice, and we'll still have losses; but overall, I can say, We've come a long way since we first began.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Miracles and Praise

Buildings collapsed in eastern Turkey during Sunday's 7.2 earthquake. The death toll is over 450 and rising. More than 1,300 were injured.

As I watched a news report describing the quake and the disaster it left behind, one anchor commented that there was "a miracle amidst the rubble." 14-day-old Azra, her mother and grandmother were found alive among the destruction of a collapsed apartment building. The image of a rescue worker holding the baby, walking toward safety is not one I'll soon forget. I wonder if when Azra is older she'll tell everyone she meets how her life was spared, how she was rescued, and how thankful she is for the one who pulled her to safety.

I've seen quite a few miracles amdist the rubble lately. I have friends who are enduring the worst kind of sickness, and friends who've been hit with the unexpected death of a loved one. In my opinion, they have every right to complain, to curl up in a heap and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. Yet, from their lips {and hearts} resounding praise is heard: Praise to God who heals, delivers and rescues. Praise to God who makes all things new. Praise to God for the surety of eternal life and heavenly reunions. Praise to God because their tragedies may bring just one person to Him. Praise to God who shelters them under His wings. Praise to God who makes miracles amidst rubble.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More On Counseling

Since posting last night, I've received several emails and messages from people who are either considering counseling or are currently attending. I wonder how many of you have questions about counseling, but are afraid to ask. If there's one characteristic I try to maintain on my blog, it's that of being real. So I want to share what relieved me most in my counseling session yesterday in hopes that some of you can relate.

I think my greatest fear in seeking counseling was that I was making a bigger deal of my feelings than I should. After all, I've always thought I should be able to handle issues and circumstances, or at the very least, releasing them to God through prayer would be the solution. But after months of both, I still knew I needed help. It's kind of like when we're sick: we can eat chicken noodle soup, drink lots of water, push ourselves to the max, pray for healing...and sometimes, we're still sick and have to go to the doctor to get a shot or prescription meds.

When I unloaded on my counselor, I had a what-have-I-got-to-lose attitude. And I honestly expected her to respond that the issues I'm dealing with are normal...that it's no big deal. Instead, she started putting words to the behavior I described. She validated my feelings, and drew a chart for me to see the behavioral extremes that accompany anxiety. I just sat there, nodding my head in agreement because I finally began to understand that I'm not crazy! {Some of my friends might disagree. :-)} She shared with me how we're going to work step-by-step to get me to a place of middle ground...a place that is healthy, and dare I say...normal.

I share all of this because some of you are probably in the same position as me...knowing you need help, but fearing the worst of counseling. I encourage you to seek a counselor {and if you are a Christian, I encourage you to seek someone who will base their counsel upon God's grace}. More than likely, if you think you need help, you probably do. Walk out of the I-must-be-crazy-for-feeling-this-way trap, and allow someone to guide you to a new place of healthy and normal.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seeking Help

Today I walked through that door. The one I've known for a while I should push open. The one I've been scared to approach. The one I've been through before, but with my husband by my side. Today I opened the door and stepped across the threshold alone. This was something I needed to do by myself. I signed in {quite sure that my nervous stomach and watery eyes would tell on me}, then sat in a chair where I could see the entire waiting room.

Normal. They all looked normal. I wondered if they felt as abnormal as I did.

The door past the waiting room opened.

Rebekah, she said with a smile, come on back. Small talk about my shirt and jacket put me at ease.

Within seconds I was spilling my soul to a woman I'd known less than a minute...because sometimes it takes someone with training to help work through the hard stuff. 

And after one hour I was confident that I'd made the right decision: seeking help through counseling. I'm confident that the end result will be worth the time and energy I'll put into it over the next couple of months.


It's daunting and scary to bare your soul to a stranger {even for those of us who've been through it before}. But I highly recommend and encourage counseling if you have issues or circumstances which cause you daily stress or anxiety.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Parking Ticket And The Fate Of Children

This is a long post in which I am simply working through a long-time question. I don't claim to be a Biblical scholar, and what I've written is simply the understanding to which God has led me at this point. I'd love to read your thoughts on the subject...

Last week Mark and I loaded up the kids and drove to Washington D.C. We had meticulously planned an itinerary for the four days we'd be visiting our nation's capitol. Upon our arrival the first day, we drove around for no less than thirty minutes, looking for a parking spot near the Washington Monument. Finally, we found a spot just across the street from the monument. The sign next to our parking spot read something to the effect of Three-hour parking until 4:00. We assumed that after 4:00, there was no time limit on parking. Since it was about 2:00 when we parked, we weren't concerned about passing the three-hour limit.

We walked block after block until about 6:00, then headed back to our car. As we approached the street where our car was parked, we quickly realized there were no cars parked where we'd left ours. Our always-observant middle child was the first to exclaim, "Our car's not there!" Then, "Hey! There's our car! Why's it on the grass on the wrong side of the street?" Gulp. It only took a second to realize our car had been towed to the opposite side of the street. Obviously, there was NO parking after 4:00 on the other side of the street. When we reached the car, we found a $100 ticket snuggled tightly under the wiper blade.

Mark and I immediately started complaining:

We didn't know.
The sign didn't say No parking after 4:00.

The next day, I was thinking about the ticket and wondering why we were penalized for breaking a law we didn't even realize existed. Of course we're going to write a letter of admission and plead ignorance, but I'm guessing we'll still have to pay the full cost of the ticket. Not fair! Not fair!

{stick with me...I'm about to make a big, leaping transition}

I've often wondered about the fate of a young child who dies. I've always been told that young children go to heaven, but I've also always been told that there's an "age of accountability." So I've often wondered what that age is. Then there are the verses about children:

And (Jesus) said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."  (Matt. 18:3-4, NIV)

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16, NIV)

So...what of the child who's never prayed the sinner's prayer of salvation? {I could go off into an entire new topic here on the "sinner's prayer" which, by the way, is not in the Bible. But I'll stick with the original subject.} What of the child who's never made the conscious decision to believe?

I guess my question has been this: If children are born with a sin nature, and God hates sin, how does one enter heaven without redemption? For instance, my youngest child has yet to pray the sinner's prayer that I've always assumed meant salvation. While I occasionally talk to her about sin, she still doesn't "get it." She talks about going to heaven when she dies. She says she loves God and Jesus. She prays sweet, little prayers. There's still a lack of understanding on her part about confession. She simply believes God loves her, and she loves Him. She hasn't rejected Christ...she just hasn't reached the crossroads of understanding where she must make a conscious decision to reject or accept.

When we parked on the street, we broke the law in ignorance; but once we understood the law, we recognized why we were being penalized. We also understood our need to plead for mercy, and if denied, to pay the cost.

I assume the term age of accountability refers to the time when a child moves from ignorance to understanding. Until children understand there's Law, a penalty, a Savior, and a need for mercy, they simply must be covered by God-grace. My child's simple faith in a God who loves her and a simple faith that God hears her prayers and will answer must be the childlike qualities Jesus was referring to in the above verses.

Simple, trusting {childlike} faith...

What are your thoughts on this topic?




Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Thank You"

If you've ever found yourself in a place you never thought you'd go...

If you've ever known the power of one person's love when everybody else turned their backs...

you should take a couple of minutes to listen to this song:


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Second Time Around

I remember learning to roller skate. My sister held my hands as I skated along the sidewalk. I learned how to move my feet and maintain balance that day. The next time I skated, it was a much easier process, and I didn't need anyone to hold my hands.

Have you ever noticed that once you do something for the first time, it's easier to do the second time?

I was terrified the first time I had a speaking part in a play. My hands and knees were shaking, my mind raced a hundred miles a minute, and my stomach was in knots. But after that first time, each subsequent time became easier. I became a little less nervous, and a little more bold.

I read a passage in Luke a couple of weeks ago, and since then, have been reminded of it several times and have come across it in other places. It's one of those passages that I've read and heard many times, but felt it didn't apply to me. I've never stopped to give it my full attention until a couple of weeks ago. Jesus was speaking:

"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first." (Luke 11:24-26, NIV)

Most of us don't give a second thought to evil spirits, but according to the Bible, they do exist. And as Christians, evil spirits do not dwell within us, but they can {and do} surely persist in attempting to make us miserable. For if Christians are caught up amidst sinful behavior, we are usually not sharing Christ. Think with me in terms of sinful strongholds. Do you have one? What is it?

Say, for instance, you've acted out in sinful behavior. The first time you acted out, it was scary, yet a little exciting. However, you recognized your wrong, and cleaned up your act. You attend church every Sunday, facilitate a Bible study, volunteer at a local shelter, and by all appearances, you are a shining example of a Christian. But if you're not being transformed by the renewing of your mind with His Word, you have a void that is an easy target and a stronghold that you may or may not recognize. You may know your weakness, but assume you can handle temptation. However, you don't imagine that temptation could return with a vengeance much stronger than you. Soon you might find yourself amidst the same sinful behavior as before with its grip on you much tighter than you ever thought. You never realized how easy it would be to give in a second time or how much destruction your actions could cause the second time around.

Doing good and behaving well are great for appearances, but won't satisfy our innermost cravings. Only Christ can satisfy our deepest longings. It is only when we dwell in Him that we are assured a refuge from evil.




Monday, September 26, 2011

OneVerse

I grew up in a home in which there was at least one Bible, if not more, in almost every room. My daddy was a preacher, and he had more than a few translations of the Bible from which he studied in our home. In addition, every member of my family had at least one Bible, if not a few. I took all those Bibles for granted, and assumed that every home was abundantly accessorized with a plethora of Bibles.

When I became an adult and married, I purchased an adult-style Bible for women. When I became a parent, I purchased one for mothers and one for fathers. When my children were little, I purchased children's Bibles and Bible storybooks. As they got a little older, I purchased devotional Bibles for them. I'm not quite sure how many Bibles I'd currently find in my home if I were to start searching for them all, but I'm guessing there'd be at least twenty.

Even though I'd often read the Bible throughout my life, I was confused by it. I often thought it contradicted itself. But a couple of months ago, I begged God to give me a greater understanding of grace. Over a few weeks, the Bible came alive to me in ways I never imagined. And through His Word, God transformed my life and my concept of Him. He sunk the truth of His unending, unchanging, unconditional love into my heart.

I now count it a privilege to own even one Bible. I treasure God's Word in written form. I can't imagine not having a single copy of the Bible in my language in my possession. Yet that's exactly the case for approximately 340 million people around the world. That's a stunning statistic to those of us who for so long have taken our Bibles for granted!

OneVerse, a program of The Seed Company, is working to make the Bible available to people in their language. OneVerse understands the transforming power God's Word can have on a reader's life. You and I have the opportunity to partner with OneVerse by giving a one-time gift of $26 which will ensure the translation of one {life-changing} verse into the language of our choosing. Won't you join me today in spreading the Good News?

To learn more about OneVerse, and to donate, visit: http://www.oneverse.org/about.



This post is my entry into OneVerse's contest for a ticket to the Relevant Conference '11.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Transformation

I used to:

  • be adamantly conservative...now what used to matter to me no longer does

  • be a Republican...now I won't vote based on party

  • believe in the death penalty...now I'm not so sure

  • judge people who don't go to church...now I sometimes wonder why I go

  • think people at church were as sinless as they appeared...now I know better

  • think grace was too easy, too lenient...now I know its transforming power

  • not know a thing about real love...now I'm learning


And that's the short list...

My Blue Journal

I keep a little, blue journal that my husband bought me several years ago. In that journal is a list of names that only God, Mark and I know. The names included are of those who God has brought into my life over the past several years who have experienced situations with which I can relate. Lately the list seems to be growing almost daily.

While it's a privilege to write down a name and begin to pray for these, my heart aches with sadness with every pen stroke because I know the pain that must come before healing. I'm familiar with the uncontrollable tears and the feeling that nothing will ever be the same again. But I also know the power of a great God who heals the deepest hurts.

So today I'm honored to pray for my friends. I encourage you to seek out those who need to hear your story, who need you to love them, and who need you to pray on their behalf. It's a joy to watch God work in the lives of friends.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

POTSC: What We Have In Common With Mel Gibson


There have been more than a few moments in my life that if an audio or video recorder had been taping, I'd be horribly ashamed to watch or listen. It would be even more humiliating for those moments to be publicly released. I've yelled at my kids, I've said awful things to my husband...I've acted out in a way that didn't represent what I truly believe. Those moments often stem from my own needs and hurts, and usually have nothing to do with the targets of my actions.

We all have those moments when we do things that don't represent who we are or what we deep-down believe, and those are the moments we usually regret the most. They're the moments that come back to haunt us in the dead of night.

Why would someone famous be any different? Specifically, why would Mel Gibson be any different?

Unfortunately, Gibson's irrational, drunken, angry moments have been released to the public. And we, the public, seem to base his reputation on those moments. But is a reputation the totality of a person? Not likely. Unfortunately, instead of throwing out the bad, and choosing to focus on the good, we often allow a few ugly moments in time to define a person.

It's as though we don't have enough to deal with in our own lives, so we gossip based on what we think is true about others. Whether it's the neighbor down the street, a co-worker, or a public persona, we talk about others to deflect the attention from our own needs and hurts.

Hurt people sometimes hurt others. Whether it's Gibson's behavior or our gossip, both stem from a place of hurt. We could all benefit from a little more grace and forgiveness from one another. Forgiven people should forgive others.

Who do you know that might benefit from your grace and forgiveness today?

Other POTSC Never Beyond posts:
Casey Anothony
Mike Tyson
KKK

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Auburn vs. Clemson And Recovery

I watch my favorite college football team most Saturdays. I admit that I sometimes fall asleep during the games. (I know, I know...that's close to sinning in the south.) But this past Saturday I managed to stay awake for most of the game. And I saw my team make an error that could've and should've been easily avoided.

Clemson punted the ball to Auburn, and sent the ball sailing down to the end zone. Even I know that a player shouldn't catch the ball in the end zone because if the ball hits the ground, the team will automatically advance to the 20-yard line. But as my husband was yelling, Let it go! Let it go!, I watched a player catch the ball and try to run. Much to our chagrin, he didn't make it very far before the Clemson players had him on the ground. My husband was muttering something about a mental error costing Auburn. It took several plays before Auburn made it to the 20-yard line, where they should've been in the first place.

Sometimes we make errors, and we have to work hard to recover and get to where we should've easily been in the first place. But instead of beating ourselves up over our mistakes, it is important to start recovery...to get to the place where we should've been so we can move forward from there.

Yes, recovery is a hard road. It's a road that's only taken because of mistakes. It's the brave who decide to journey down that humbling road. It requires forgiving ourselves, and sometimes forgiving others, neither of which is easy to do.

And as for those who would come along and knock you down, trying to stall your recovery by making condescending comments or by not believing in you: move right on past them. Keep doing what it takes to make progress.

Mistakes and errors are often costly, and might mean the game is more challenging, but they don't have to mean that the game is over. It's your choice: call it quits, or start recovering with humility what you've lost. Restoration awaits you.

Loosely based on Luke 15:11-32

Friday, September 16, 2011

Loads of Groceries and Seeking Help

No one else was home as I unloaded the groceries, bag by plastic bag. {Sorry, I'm not a re-usable bag kind of girl.} There seemed to be a hundred heavy bags. You know how when you're tired, just a few heavy bags seems like a million? Yeah, I thought I'd never get all those groceries upstairs to the kitchen. About the fifth time of trudging up the steps I thought, If only Mark were home to help me carry these bags, it sure would lighten my load.

Bingo!

When we're tired and weary, and the heavy load seems never-ending, it helps to have someone come alongside and share the load with us. The weight lifts and the burden eases when we allow someone to help us carry our "groceries." And you know those "groceries" have to be dealt with; you can't just leave them in the car to spoil.

You may be facing

job loss
financial devastation
an unwelcome diagnosis
death
marital turmoil
addiction...

You must deal with your circumstances. Ignoring them can lead to bitterness, anger, and depression {just to name a few}. But while you deal with them, allow someone to encourage and comfort you, to help you.

So whether it's a trusted friend or a counselor, make the call! Seek help. Let someone help you carry your load.

Above all, seek the ultimate comforter:

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who gives tender love. All comfort comes from him. He comforts us in all our troubles... (2 Cor. 1: 3-4a, NIV) 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Confidence

She stepped up to the plate, raised the bat over her right shoulder, shimmied her feet steady into the red dirt, and waited for the ball. In that moment I thought, My eleven year old has more confidence in her pinky than I've ever had. When I was her age, I wouldn't go near a ball. I was too scared.

Last Christmas I sat on pins and needles as the pianist began to play the intro for the song in which my daughter sang a solo. Standing on ready in the red shirt I'd bought her, she stepped forward to the microphone, face a little flushed from nerves, and opened her mouth to sing with the voice of an angel. At that moment I thought, She's got more confidence than I had at that age. At ten years old, I wouldn't sing a solo in front of 50 people, much less a packed sanctuary of 1500-plus.

I guess she gets her confidence genes from her dad. He was Mr. Sports growing up, and to this day, is quite confident of his abilities and talents. I admire my daughter, and I often draw strength from my husband. But when it comes to self-confidence, I have little.

It's the reason why:

  • I write raw, honest blog posts and never click Publish
  • My knees quiver when I sing a solo
  • When another adult criticizes my children, I question my parenting skills for days
  • I dig deep for weeks when my beliefs are challenged
  • You'll rarely get an invitation into my cluttered, lived-in house
  • I stand on the scales and shake my head in disgust every morning
  • I let friendships slip away instead of pursuing them

Really, self-confidence is an ugly thing. It's focusing on self...me.

In the moments I turn my eyes on Jesus and place my confidence in Him, my world flips upside down. Suddenly, I'm focused on what He wants to accomplish through me, on what He created me to be and do, on His plans.

Maybe it's not so much a gene-thing. Maybe it's just that my girl understands her purpose for being better than I understand mine. She's aware of the talents and gifts God has given her, and she puts them in action.

Shouldn't we all be so bold?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

POTSC: A White Alabama Girl and The KKK



The Heart of Dixie. Where neighbors lounge in rocking chairs on front porches, sipping sweet iced tea on hot summer evenings, chatting about all the other neighbors and solving the world's problems, one sip at a time.

My home.

Alabama the beautiful...with an ugly past.

Alabama: The 1960's battleground for civil rights. The home of the infamous Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. The state whose capital name is synonymous with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as George Wallace, Jr. A state once divided on the basis of skin color.

A white girl, I was born in the 1970s when the fight for civil rights was still pretty fresh on adults' minds. Alabama was adjusting to a new {and better} normal. Laws had changed, but the undercurrent of racism was still strong. In fact, most of what I knew as a child about Martin Luther King, Jr., was negative {and false}. Nigger was a commonly used word by white people {including me}, and attitudes of white supremacy were not uncommon.

And, sadly, the reputation of the KKK was somewhat that of heroic.

It was not rare to hear jokes about the KKK. Stories of burning crosses and roadside murders were passed down to my generation with little compassion or concern.

Looking back, even the church didn't seem to take a hard stance against the KKK. In fact, the church seemed somewhat netural, even if they weren't condoning. Maybe the blame was to be placed at the feet of ignorance. I certainly didn't have a full understanding at a young age that racism and prejudices were wrong and to be avoided. And even though I didn't participate in KKK activity, my attitude probably wasn't much different from those of KKK members.

It wasn't until I gave birth to my first child that I realized that racism and prejudice lied just beneath my surface. I was quick to give up the use of the n-word. With time I began to see beyond skin color, to understand that we were all created equal and in God's image.

So when I ask you to forgive the KKK and extend grace, I am asking you to include my past prejudices because there's only a fine line separating attitude and action. And whether or not ignorance may have been {and still be} the cause for most people who were involved with the KKK, hate runs deep, and your forgiveness could be their healing balm.

If you can't find it in your heart to forgive the doers of such despicable deeds, remember what Jesus had to say as he hung on the cross: Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34 NASB)

Other POTSC: Never Beyond posts:
Casey Anthony
Mike Tyson

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Will Not Forget

Ten years ago today I awakened with my oldest daughter, then a year-and-a-half old, started her breakfast and strewed a load of laundry to fold across my living room floor. I turned on the tv and switched it to the Today show just in time to see a plane crash into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Within just a few seconds I understood that the land of the free and the home of the brave was under attack by faceless and nameless killers. I grabbed the phone and called my best friend. Turn on the news! Planes have crashed into the World Trade Center buildings! We're under attack! I don't remember much more of the conversation as I'd begun to see people falling from the top floors. Then came the news of the Pentagon crash, followed closely by the tragedy of United Flight 93.

Tears streamed down my face, and I held my daughter tightly. I was no different than anyone else that day as fear gripped our nation. Of course, I lived in small-town Alabama, and the threat of an attack was almost non-existent. But my country, without warning, had been almost paralyzed with fear. There was almost nothing on tv except news coverage for days. Even some of my daughter's favorite tv stations had gone off air. The entire nation was in shock. And we mourned for the lives of fellow citizens we didn't even know.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been watching shows recounting the events of that dreadful day. I've cried as survivors shared their stories. A lump has formed in my throat every time I've remembered people falling and jumping to avoid death by fire. I never get used to watching the collapse of two monstrosities that were never supposed to collapse. Every time I've seen a replay of the towers falling, I've been instantly transported back to the spot where I stood amongst laundry on my living room floor. The feeling of horror is the same every time.

Today, ten years later, the bravery of the 9/11 firefighters and rescue workers amazes me just as much as it did back then. Today the stories of human kindness told of that day still make me proud of my fellow Americans. Today I will remember the courage of ordinary, extraordinary people. Today I will take time to remember what my country endured. Today I will thank God for the bravery of men and women who continue to fight for freedom. Today I will hope for a better future for my children. Today I will love a little more intentionally. Today, and for the remainder of my days, I will not forget.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Storm Damage

Tropical Depression Lee made its way through Alabama on Labor Day. We weren't able to spend the day at the lake as originally planned, and actually, didn't accomplish much of anything that day. We spent the evening lounging on our sofas in our pjs, listening to the howling winds and intermittent downpours of rain. Little Hannah huddled close beside me, fearful that the winds were much like those of a tornado. Truthfully, I was a little scared too because the top of the huge tree in our front yard kept looking as though it might crash right through our palladium window. However, by bedtime the rain had calmed, and the winds had somewhat diminished.

As I ventured out to run errands on Tuesday morning, only gray clouds and a few showers remained. As I drove, I saw the debris Lee left behind as it began to move on to the east. Granted, there was no comparison to the damage left behind from the tornadoes Alabama experienced back in April, but there were some downed trees and fallen limbs. Leaves and small branches were scattered across the streets. And flooding was an issue in many surrounding cities and towns.

By Wednesday morning, a few leaves were still strewn across my yard, and I saw a branch or two on the streets. But mostly, it was a beautiful morning! An unfamiliar crispness in the air and sunny skies made up the weather. And that's when it dawned on me...

Storms enter our lives, usually quickly and unexpectedly, changing our plans:

the death of a loved one
an unexpected diagnosis
the admission of an affair by a spouse
hospitalization of a loved one due to drug use
unexpected termination from your job
financial crisis

With little or no warning, we find ourselves in survival mode. We watch as the storm crashes in on us and hope it doesn't leave damage beyond repair. We're scared, but there's little we can do until the storm settles.

When the initial brunt of the storm is over, we look around to survey the damage. And while the damage may be plenty, we find that we're still standing. We're still surviving. We're still alive! And so it's time to start the process of sifting through the damage and ridding ourselves of the debris:

counseling
rehab
story

Before long we find ourselves amidst a "Wednesday morning"...the day the sun shines, and signs of the storm are minimal. We remember the storm, but the damage and debris are mostly gone. Signs of a new day, a time of rejoicing, are clear. We can finally enjoy a fresh start, and we are a little more aware of how to make it through the next storm.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Gift My Mother Gave Me

My mother gave me the gift of loving music. As far back as I can remember, my mother would sing or hum. I remember having a particularly hard time in school my fourth grade year. One morning as I was getting ready for school, dreading the day ahead, my mother shared a trick with me. She said, Whenever I'm sad, I hum or sing. I remember replying, I can't sing at school. She went on to tell me that I could sing in my head or hum very softly.

That day as my class was standing up against a hallway wall, waiting our turn to enter the cafeteria, dread and anxiety weighed on me. My mother's words echoed in my mind, and I began to sing Jesus Loves Me in my head. Within seconds, the weight lifted. Her trick had worked for me. And so began my need to sing about Jesus. I applied that little trick in many circumstances throughout my elementary and middle school days.

Years later, I spent hours singing in the car, driving the long commute to and from school and work. Late night classes left me weary, but singing made the drive home enjoyable. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I realized what I'd been doing all those years: worshipping and declaring my need for Jesus. And I was hooked. Worship through song was an essential part of my life.

A couple of years ago, I stopped singing. Like my mother, I'd been one to sing around the house, humming a tune while folding laundry, or belting out a song playing on the radio while I cooked supper. But I allowed circumstances to hinder and almost destroy the way I love to worship. Mark would sometimes come home and mention that he missed hearing me sing. I missed it too, but I'd given up.

My heart would ache and every fiber of my being wanted to scream when the church would sing a song I had so often sung as worship. Tears would slide down my face as I wondered if I'd ever dare to sing again.

Little by little, the flame of my passion began to flicker again. I went from standing silently during the music portion of church service to singing just above a whisper. I couldn't bear to sing much more than that.

Then one day while home alone, I gathered every cd of every song I'd ever sung and stood in front of the speakers, and sang for two solid hours. My voice was shot, but my spirit was soaring. Having sung so many songs declaring the name of Jesus couldn't do anything except lift my spirits. There's something about singing His name that humbles the heart and renews the mind.

There have been so many times that singing about Jesus has been my saving grace. These days I don't take for granted the gift my mother shared with me all those years ago. I count it a privilege to sing the name of Jesus and do so not only with my voice but also with my heart.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reacting, Responding, Grace and Wisdom

I've not written much lately. I've been unable...not necessarily because of circumstances and busyness, but because of a little whisper of attack:

Hypocrite.

I've written quite a bit recently about grace. And it seems that after almost every grace post, I'm confronted with a circumstance in which I must offer grace. And like I told someone recently, my first responses to unkindness, cruelty and challenges are almost never good. I tend to react instead of respond. Granted, most of my reactions are held secretly in my mind, or at least go no farther than my husband's ears. But sometimes, words and emotions slip right through my lips or from my fingertips and touch the eyes and ears of another. Those are moments I usually regret.

Grace usually enters the scene when I stop to think how I would want to be treated, or how God has showed me grace. If only that were always my first response.

I digress.

So after recent subtle attacks from other Christians about my newfound freedom in Christ, I found myself reacting. And grace was nowhere to be found. I questioned how I could offer grace to those who would rather see me bound in chains of moralism, subjecting myself to the religious status quo than to encourage me in this new, liberating journey. So the dilemma before me is how to offer grace and live in relationship with these when I refuse to be bound by the shackles they would put on me.

You see, I've struggled over the last several months with distinguishing between law and grace. I've begged God for clarification. And what He has shown me is that there's no middle ground. There's absolutely no mixture of the two. The Old Covenant (law) was put to death (dead as a doornail!) with Jesus' death and resurrection, i.e., the New Covenant, grace, redemption. And I refuse to try to live by the law while under such marvelous grace.

It's been so eye-opening for me that the other night I started reading through Romans, and for the first time ever, I understood what I was reading! I didn't have to take verses out of context; I didn't have to question why I thought it contradicted other parts of the Bible. I finally understood!

I digress again.

So what to do about the dilemma? Well, I thought about Jesus. He didn't terminate His gatherings with the Pharisees. He let them ask their questions, and He let them spout off their laws and traditions. But He answered them, whether with silence or words, He answered them...with grace. Either way, the Pharisees would walk away puzzled, more determined than ever to prove Him wrong.

Maybe it takes a huge dose of grace to maintain relationships with those who are bound to moralism and traditions and who would argue their point at every opportunity. Maybe there's a time to be silent and a time to defend, both being founded in grace. Now I just need the wisdom to know when to apply one or the other.

If you've experienced liberating grace, are you able to respond in grace to those who try to bind you in chains?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another Chance At Life



Mike Tyson. Former heavyweight champion of the world. A legend in his own time. A hero to some, and a monster to many. He's either on one end of the spectrum or the other, but he's not in the center. He's not your normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill, routine kind of guy. His fights in the boxing ring brought him great fame and fortune. His animal-like behavior outside the ring {well, inside too...I mean, there is the ear thing} brought him a ruined reputation and time behind bars. There's a long list of crimes and bad behavior we can attribute to him.

In October of 1998, he revealed a glimpse into his mind: I know I'm going to blow one day. . . . My life is doomed the way it is. I have no future. I feel bad about my outlook, how I feel about people and society, and that I'll never be part of society the way I should. (source: Fox Sports Community)

In that one quote was a cry for grace, love and acceptance. And isn't that the longing of all our hearts? Another chance at life...to make right what's wrong.

Just a few days ago, Mike Tyson's Twitter feed read: People deserve more than 1 chance. Sometimes more than 2. Then, two days later: I love seeing people out there that take care of other people, selfless. They make me want to improve my life more as a family man & father.

What a drastic change from his mindset in 1998! And he's right!

We all want second chances, third chances, never-ending chances to be accepted and loved. To improve our lives. To be the parent, the lover, the child, the friend God created us to be. To know that our screw-ups have not ruined God's purposes for our lives. It seems as though Mike Tyson is taking hold of his second chances and making a go of it.

What do you think of his second chance?

This is part of the People of the Second Chance campaign, Never Beyond, that focuses on forgiveness, grace and second chances. There will be 25 posters representing well known historical, current and fictional characters who are believed to have harmed society.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Writing and Singing

I've been a stay-at-home mom for ten wonderful, painful, tedious, satisfying years. But now all three girls are in school, and my stay-at-home mom gig leaves me feeling less than satisfied during those long eight hours each day. While I'm helping out my husband with our business, answering phones and shuffling paperwork just doesn't fill the need I have to do something productive and satisfying. More and more I keep thinking I might look for work. But not just any work. I want to do something I love.

I love to sing and write. And not just sing and write about any old thing. My passion is singing and writing about how God loves me, how His love changes me, how He is hope. Yet I struggle with my abilities to sing and write. It's a lack of confidence, even though I know He equips the called. This is probably the biggest area where I take my eyes off Him, and focus on so many others who are so much better at singing and writing. And when I do that {which is more frequent than I like to admit}, I think about giving up.

I've said before when God wants me to understand something, He speaks to me over and over about it. I've been sensing this changing season, and this new thing He's doing in my life. He confirmed that to me through two different people using the same verse on the same day: Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19, NASB).

Then, if that wasn't enough, He confirmed to me that this new thing He's doing will be through singing and writing...those two things I love so much, yet scare me too. In addition to the verse, God spoke directly to me through my pastor as he was preaching about grace and work. He talked about how we should use the gifts and talents God has given us to work in jobs that we love. The he said, Don't quit writing and singing.

My head snapped up from my sermon notes. What was that, God? You really had him say that? Of all the job illustrations he could've used, you spoke those words through his mouth to me. I sat stunned, amazed and grateful. And confirmed.

I don't know what God's plan is or where He's going to lead me in these areas. But I recognize that I can't settle for less...for something that won't satisfy. And while I want Him to hurry up and show me, I know that sometimes the beauty is found in the waiting.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

POTSC - Casey Anthony



People of the Second Chance has begun a campaign, Never Beyond, that focuses on forgiveness, grace and second chances. There will be 25 posters representing well known historical, current and fictional characters who are believed to have harmed society. The first poster is of Casey Anthony. Following are my thoughts on Casey Anthony's second chance:


I awaited his response to my confession. I was prepared for the worst. My body was tense, my emotions frayed in expectation of losing everything. Knees to the floor, I awaited my judgment and sentencing.

As much as I had prepared myself, I was completely shocked at what happened next.

I forgive you. It won't be easy, but we'll get through this.

I'd like to say I felt relief, but my first response was to question how. How could he ever forgive me? How could he still love me? How could he not want to make me pay for what I'd done?

It was in those moments of weeping on my bedroom floor that I began to understand the love and forgiveness of a good God demonstrated to me through human flesh that should've acted otherwise.

Five years later, I watched as Casey Anthony awaited the jury's verdict. I felt her tension, the way she braced herself for the worst. I recognized the defeat in her eyes.

Then as the verdict was delivered, I cried with her as she realized her second chance at life. I identfied with the breaking that hope sometimes brings.

Within minutes my Facebook news feed was hot with rage, angry members of society claiming justice had not been served. And all I could think was, I know how she feels.

Guilty or not, I don't know. But as I read the angry comments, I remembered my guilt and my second chance. I remembered grace changing my life. And I hoped that grace would change her life too. And while I read all the raging comments, I wished that I could look Casey Anthony in the eyes and tell her that nothing she ever did or ever could do could make God love her any more or less than He already does.