Friday, February 24, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Grit

My friend, Jamie over at Brown Paper And Strings, has been writing and linking to Five Minute Friday with The Gypsy Mama for quite a while. The idea is to write about the given subject for only five minutes without overthinking or editing. {As a former copy editor, this is me internally screaming!!} I've been afraid to try it before considering it usually takes me anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to write one blog post. However, today I decided to participate. The topic: Grit. {And, yes, it took me the entire five minutes to write these few words. I obviously wasted my time on overthinking. Oh well, there's always next Friday!}


that which makes us





Like walking in a pair of shoes with sand between the toes...painful.

We want to remove the cause of what exposes...of what causes us to limp.

The beauty of grit is found in the afterglow it leaves on us.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

5 Ways, 10 Rules, 3 Tips & 8 Steps

Sometimes I wish I were one of those bloggers {or people, in general} who have solutions. You know, those people who always have life answers...

5 Ways To Be A Perfect Parent
10 Rules To Being A Faithful Christian
3 Tips For Keeping the Honeymoon In Your Marriage
8 Simple Steps To Conflict Resolution

The truth is I repeatedly fail at all of the above, and have a hard time giving myself grace.

When I'm digging around in the laundry basket, looking for matching socks for the girls, and the bus is scheduled to arrive in five minutes, I get angry with myself for not being more organized. When my kids fight about who gets the last of the ice cream, I wonder if I'm failing to teach them selflessness. When my husband and I have spent days passing each other in the halls, and our only coversations have been about the kids, I wonder if we're too busy. When someone is angry with me, I develop a guilt complex thinking it's all my fault, even if I'm not at fault.

It's those times that I think if only I had a list of steps to follow, life would run simply and smoothly. But if I'm honest, lists and steps overwhelm me to the point that I shut down.

But there's good news in what I'm learning: it's all about trust. It's about trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide me {assuming I'm tuned in and listening}. Strangely enough, even if I miss several days of Bible reading or study, He still guides me {contrary to what many people teach}. And what's really mindblowing to me is that sometimes He leads me to do the exact opposite of what I think I should be doing. The people-pleasing side of me wants everyone to be happy, but He's teaching me that it's not my job to make everyone happy. I simply have to trust Him, and offer grace to myself and others.

Trust and grace should be easy, right? I guess if they were, there wouldn't be a million different ways to live a better life. I guess because trust and grace are contrary to the flesh, it sometimes seems easier to check off a list. I guess it's why when I start feeling like a failure, I start looking for a set of guidelines to follow to make me feel like I'm doing a better job at living life. The crazy thing is that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is not always in a checklist. His guidance is found when we pray two words: Lead me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Awake And Alive

Have you ever had several nights in a row {maybe even weeks} when you didn't sleep well? You tossed and turned throughout the night, catching a few zzzzzs every so often, but restful sleep eluded you. You awoke in the mornings feeling tired and cranky. Your days were filled with longings for bedtime, only to have your head hit the pillow, followed by another long, restless night. But then, one night, it finally happened: you slept...a really good sleep. You awoke in the morning, and the last thing you remembered was wearily crawling into bed. You didn't wake up at all during the night. You finally felt rested. You finally woke up feeling energized. You finally felt alive!

I tossed and turned through 35 years of my life. I caught a few moments of joy here and there, but mostly, fear held me captive. I longed for something more, hoping the next adventure, purchase or vacation would provide that much-needed contentment, only to be disappointed.

The past year has been much like that good night's sleep, and the past couple of months have been like the following morning. I've awakened to this life God created. I've awakened to unfailing love, joy unspeakable, and contentment in the hard places. I've watched the shackles of fear fall at my feet, and God has led me away from them. I've awakened to passionate life. There's finally life inside this living, breathing body! I'm finally alive!

Are you?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Created To Live

I've had dreams my whole life, but never the courage to act on them. Even the dreams I'm 100 percent sure are God-given remain untouched. Fear has a way of strangling dreams, choking the life out of a being until all that's left is existence.

The first time I saw Facebook friends posting about running a marathon, I thought...

That's amazing! I wish I could do that.

The next year when I saw them posting about the marathon and other running adventures, I thought...

I might try to do that next year.

Then when last year rolled around, and I saw them posting again, I was angry with myself...

I didn't even try! I said I wanted to try, yet I never even gave it a shot.

So last fall, I sent one of my running friends a message, asking if I still had time to train for the half marathon in February. She assured me I had time, and encouraged me.

On Sunday, my niece, Sarah, and I ran {and walked} 13.1 miles, and received the Finisher's medal for the Mercedes Half Marathon. The second I crossed the finish line, I doubled over in tears. Let me take you back:

I've always been afraid to reach for my dreams. Fear of rejection. Fear of criticism. Fear of failure. Fear. When I decided to participate in the half marathon, I knew my success or failure would fall square on my shoulders alone. I'd have no one to blame if I chickened out. I'd have no one to blame if I gave up. So I trained. I ran and ran and ran. My knee would ache, my shin would hurt, my back would give out; but I was determined. I often prayed for strength and endurance. Yet...when Sunday morning rolled around, fear came rushing in like it always has. I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. When Mark asked how I was feeling, I said, I wish I'd never signed up to do this. I cried and prayed the entire drive to the downtown event location.

My heart pounded as we stood among thousands in the start line. Unlike all my other dreams, I'd finally arrived at a place where I was either going to succeed or fail. The first few miles were fairly easy. We'd stop briefly to stretch our legs, and resume running. We passed so many encouragers along the way...people with motivational signs {including my children}, volunteers handing out drinks. But around mile ten, I started getting really tired. My knee was aching, and my body was drained. We'd run. We'd walk. We'd run again. I thought several times about going to sit on the curb to rest. I wanted to quit. Then near mile twelve, a girl held a bright red sign with white letters that read, Total stranger, I am proud of you. As I ran past her, she stuck out her hand to give me a high-five. I teared up as I passed her. She, a total stranger, was encouraging me. She was proud of me {and all the other thousands} for making my dream come true.

I kept the girl with the red sign in mind during the last mile, and kept repeating this verse to myself: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Is. 40:31, KJV) As we crossed the finish line, I cried out to Sarah: We made it! Every fear, every unreached dream, every failure led me to that moment when I doubled over in tears with realization that I'd finally quit existing and started living! It was in that moment that I fully understood that God didn't create us to merely exist and die; he created us to live!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tattoos And The Law

One of my children was recently told by a well-meaning Christian that having a lot of tattoos is not pleasing to God. The person further explained that it was okay if a person had tattoos before becoming a Christian, but to get a tattoo after becoming a Christian is wrong, even if the tattoo were a cross.

When my daughter told me this, I stopped in my tracks and said, Excuse me? Are you serious?

I'm well aware of Leviticus 19:28, but we can't just pick out one law to follow. If that were the case, we'd have to follow them all. And I can assure you that no one is making a fuss over verse 27. And let's be clear: if we're into commandment keeping, we must realize that most of us worship on Sunday, not the Sabbath, which clearly breaks the 4th commandment of the most abused and misused ten.

Friends, Jesus fulfilled the Law. It's not our job to keep the Law. What was once unclean and unholy, God has made clean and holy through Jesus.

God places different convictions on His children. What He may allow for one child, He may not allow for another. Be careful not to place your God-given convictions on someone else for you might become a stumbling block, teaching others that what they do or don't do is more important than living in grace. So while God may convict you about tattoos, it's dangerous to make a blanket statement like the one told to my child.

In Luke 19:40, Jesus said, I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out! Allow me to share an example of how a person can use a tattoo to bring praise and glory to God:

My nephew, a Christian, is a Marine. He courageously defends freedom, and is willing to sacrifice his own life if necessary. He knows what it is to face death. While fighting in war, his mother prayed Psalm 91 for him daily and included that passage in her correspondence with him. His paternal grandfather died last year, and in sorting through his belongings, the family found a photo of my nephew on his nightstand. On the back of that photo his grandfather had written Psalm 91. As you can imagine, my nephew knows what an important role the prayers of Psalm 91 played in his safety. He is well aware of the fact that if not for God's protection, he might not be alive today. He recently had his chest tattooed with a cross and Psalm 91. What a great opportunity he has when others ask him the significance of his tattoo! I don't believe God will be displeased when my nephew recounts his story of God's protection and of answered prayers.

I think the bigger issue would be if my nephew never acknowledged God's presence and protection in those dangerous days. Instead, he has a reminder every time he removes his shirt!

Christians, let's not pick and choose rules by which to live from a long list of laws that are dead. Let's instead live in freedom...standing firm...not subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Warning: Pity Party

My oldest and I were driving home from gymnastics this evening, talking about what a big week we have ahead. She's trying out for cheerleader, and I'm running my first half marathon. We were talking about how far 13.1 miles is, and she asked if I was nervous. I replied with, No, I'm determined. {Truth is...I'm nervous.} She  talked about how she's a little nervous about cheer tryouts, then she switched back to talking about my running. I told her how badly I want the medal I'll receive at the end of the course. Then she said something that totally threw me for a loop:

I hope you make it to the end. I want you to succeed at something. I mean, you succeed at cleaning house, but that's boring.

Talk about knocking the wind out of my sails! And here I thought I was succeeding at being a good mom, a role model for my girls, a pretty consistent blogger...

But apparently, in her opinion, I'm not whatever it takes to be successful. Of course, I've secretly thought this of myself plenty of times; but, I've always extinguished that idea with, I'm a good mom...and I'm doing everything possible to make sure! I'm not a great or popular blogger, but I'm pretty consistent and write what's on my heart. 

Honestly, there are times when I wish more "success" for myself, but I always come back to this: I'm not up for the schmoozing, sweet talking, and networking it seems to take to become a worldly success. And even the grace God has worked into my heart and mind seems to offend my Christian brothers and sisters. Nope, I'm not a success. And I'd pretty much decided to be okay with that. Until tonight.

Now all those doubts about myself and my abilities as a mom {who am I a person} are all stirred up again. Because I want my children to think I'm successful. What mom doesn't? And I'm thinking, What can I do so my girls will see me as successful? Maybe I need to get a job. I need some special skill or talent. And I'm racking my brain to think of something at which I can be which they will think I'm successful.

I don't have answers tonight. I know what I should be thinking: God has given me the opportunity to be a stay-at-home be available 24 hours a day to love and teach my children. But tonight, that just doesn't seem to be enough. Tonight, I want my girls to think of me as successful...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Convicted Murderer {And Grace}

Once again the suburb in which I live has made the news for something other than city-related issues. I recently blogged about the news story of a former teacher being arrested. This time the news is reporting that one of the convicted murderers that Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, pardoned last month has moved to Alabaster. In 1993 David Gatlin shot and killed his estranged wife. And according to news reports, he now lives just a few miles from me.

Yet, I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid that he's going to run out in the streets waving a gun, or walk into the school buildings firing shots, or walk up to a neighbor's house and murder someone, or participate in a drive-by shooting. I'm not worried about any of those things.


Because I know what it is to be given a second chance. I know that we all are capable of anything, even though most of think we'd never commit such a heinous crime. But given the wrong set of circumstances, unless we fully trust and rely on God {and let's face it...most of us give in to our flesh much more often than we like to admit}, we're capable of doing horrific things we never imagined. Yes, even committing murder.

I don't know why Barbour chose to pardon this man, but obviously, it was undeserved. After all, he was serving a life sentence. But what I do know is that undeserved second chances often have a way of humbling us. They make us keenly aware of our guilt, and humbly thankful for the grace bestowed upon us. It's when we take grace for granted, thinking we deserve it, that it becomes commonplace to us. I have no clue what Gatlin thinks about his second chance. I can merely filter his story through the lens of my own, and I imagine him being humbled every time his freedom crosses his mind.

I'd like to believe our community would at least give him a chance before condemning him. I'd like to believe that our community would like to see him succeed. I'd like to believe our community would encourage him to thrive in his newfound freedom.

Unfortunately, I don't believe that will be the case because fear prefers people to live in shackles rather than in freedom and love.

Note: I am in no way belittling the pain of the victim's family, or their desire to see justice in its completion.