Sunday, February 28, 2010

Buckling Up & Hanging on Tight!

For quite some time, God has really been tossing me & turning me in every direction. I've mentioned before that I feel like an almost empty tube of toothpaste. You know how you can almost always contort that tube into some odd shape and get out just enough for one more use? That's been me for a good while. I feel like God is pushing, twisting, squeezing, and smoothing me trying to "get out" just a little more.

I don't know where God is taking me and what is in His future for me/my husband/my family. I do know that He HAS to have something in mind. Otherwise, He would just leave me alone. I'll be honest and admit, I've asked, begged, and pleaded for Him to just leave me alone for a little while. Doesn't He get that I'm tired, physically & emotionally? Doesn't He get that my brain is on overload & that I don't do well with ANYTHING when I'm overwhelmed? Fortunately, He didn't give up when my flesh was crying for mercy, because HE can see the big picture that I can't.

After conceding to the fact that He isn't leaving me alone, I changed my attitude to "OK God, I'm listening...... but how about just give me one task at a time and let me work on that?" You know, that's all I really wanted in the first place. I wasn't being stubborn & resistant to bending for Him, it was just too much at once. So far that isn't working either. I feel like about the time I really HEAR Him speaking to me about something, before I'm able to put it into action or fully get "deep" into that task.....He's already throwing something else at me.

I tell Kevin I'm on overload all the time. Granted, just being in "this role" and "this season" of life and responsibilities IS overwhelming. Add to the daily outward chaos of raising 3 children the inward, emotional & spiritual areas that God is working on is HARD. It's hard because change is not easy, especially when it's things on the inside He is trying to change. It's also EXTREMELY hard when you tend to WAY over think things AND you are a "fixer" by nature. Add to that being EXTREMELY tender hearted and some days you can have a recipe for disaster! But that's OK.......I'm finally finding that it's OK to be right here in this chaos. It's OK to be on unsteady ground when you know that God is ultimately in control......the hard part is fully surrendering to that control! Maybe he needs me in this chaos so I will fix my eyes on Him and only Him.

I don't know where "we" are going together, but I'm trusting that it will be worth EVERY last squeeze, twist, bending on my "tube" that He asks me to do. Maybe I'll get there with Him even faster if I stop holding on so tightly to the "old" me and grasp Him even tighter. Maybe I should follow the suggestion of that bumper sticker I occasionally see...."If God is your co-pilot, maybe you should switch seats!" Maybe it's time to stop co-piloting and let God have full access to ALL of the controls! Buckle up & hang on tight! Just don't be surprised if you see me with TWO seat belts on......sometimes that may be what it takes!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just a memory....

Just had one of those sweet moments that I wanted to be sure and have written down....

Bradlee had a rough day at "preschool"-what he calls Parent's Morning Out-and we were discussing the day. He was telling me about his bad day while I was snuggling him before bed. He still had damp hair and smelled YUMMY. He is the ULTIMATE snuggle bunny and has to be FULLY molded into me. I gave him a big squeeze and said "Oh, Bradlee. What is Mommy going to do when you are all grown up and too big to snuggle like this?" He simply said, without any hesitation, "Cry!". Yes, he is SO right about that! I pretended to sob and carry on and he pulled my face back down to his and said "Mommy you don't have to cry right now because I'm not doing it yet!" Yes, those are the moments that make it ALL worth it. It doesn't matter how many times he makes me want to run away screaming or lock myself in the bathroom......he's just so lovable. I suddenly forgot about all the times today that I wished for just 2 seconds of peace. So, Mr. Bradlee Mason, I'm holding you to that. You best not grow up a moment too soon!

A Prayer for Overcoming Fear

I have this problem. I have a love/hate relationship with organization. I LOVE to be organized, but I HATE the effort it requires or I'm unable to balance it all. I usually start off REALLY great with GREAT intentions, but I think you know what they say about roads, pavement, & great intentions!

One of the problems of being organizationally challenged is those stacks of notebooks, note cards, and slips of paper that I have EVERYWHERE. I LOVE to write down things that I know will inspire me or someone else at a later time. I read CONSTANTLY! The problem is that I have a a tendency to start several non-fiction books at once. Fiction is totally not a problem---my husband and kids will attest to the fact that if they see me head upstairs to the bathtub with a book, they can be assured that once I come back down that novel will be finished since I read at a VERY rapid pace. Non-Fiction is another story. I like to really let things soak in and take notes. With the pace of my life these last few years, I just don't seem to really finish one before another has sparked my interest. It isn't that I have lost interest in the first's just that constant need of mine to be seeking out MORE & MORE information/inspiration/etc...

The REAL problem comes in with the fact that I don't take the time to "label" my notes. Months (or longer) go by and I rediscover something that "speaks" to me and I don't have the FAINTEST idea where it came from. It's something I'm in the process of working on......maybe I'll succeed this time.

Today I found something that really encouraged me in a situation. I don't have a clue which book the notes came from, but BOY oh BOY do I wish I did! I know it's a book that I would LOVE to be reading back through! Finding it was perfect timing. Luck? God at work? Anyone that knows me, knows the answer I give to that! Perhaps God also wanted me to find it and share it knowing that someone else might be struggling with some of the same issues I'm facing.

It's simply a prayer. However, if you let the authors words REALLY soak in----I hope you will see just how powerful it is. It's about fear. We ALL have it. I don't think it's about the typical phobias that people have---though I'm SURE it would apply. For me, it's more about the fear of "being"-----being ALL those things God KNOWS I can be. Fear of not succeeding. Fear of not living up to HIS expectations. Fear of giving up on something that I KNOW he is going to provide. Fear of just "losing touch" with the ME he is calling ME to be. Fear of messing up---yet again!

"Lord, it seems so much easier to be afraid than courageous, and yet, you KNOW my spirit longs for the courage that ONLY you supply. Show me the POWER that you have designed to fight the fear. Show me the LOVE that is STRONGER than the PAST. Show me the self-discipline that helps me stay the course. Show me the COURAGE you've ALREADY given me for this wait. Show me my fear---the WEAK and GROUNDLESS fear that vanishes with YOUR TOUCH. Show me the wonders that appear in it's wake!"

I do believe this is a prayer I'm going to be praying over and over! Also on the bottom of that same page, I wrote a quote...

"Courage is the path on which your work travels. Fear is just a pothole you fill with your faith!"

Today may we all find the courage to fill our potholes of fear with faith----and lots of it! :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"I can not tell you how appreciative I am, and humbled that God allows me to be part of his plan. It's like being on the Olympic team, winning, and not having any talent. Isn't God good-He always does more than we expect and gives us more than we deserve."

I read this statement on a blog this morning. Pam, a morning show host of our amazing Christian radio station, was talking about her experiences of currently being in Haiti. It really grabbed my attention the first time I read it and I found myself being drawn back to it over and over. Even though she was talking about something MUCH greater than my day to day life, I was able to immediately identify with her....just in a much smaller capacity.

I don't have a global ministry or one that reaches thousands of listeners on a daily basis, but I still have a mission field. It's my own home. It's the 20+ 2nd graders that Kevin & I spend our Wednesday nights with. It's the babies that I get to rock & feed on Thursday mornings at Parent's Morning Out. It's the moms & dads I sit hours with watching our daughters practice and compete gymnastics. It's that same lady that calls me "hun" as she hands me my diet coke the hundreds of times I pass her way in a month (slight exaggeration....maybe not!) It's the moms at story time and on the playground. It's the moms I share time with on home school field trips. It's the "friends" on facebook. Those places ARE a mission field. Any place, any chance that I have to show love in action becomes the place that GOD wants me to be in. Though I did dream of working in an orphanage in Honduras in my late teen, early adult years---God put me in a different mission field. It isn't glamorous or news-worthy. It doesn't reach hundreds at a time. I'm not standing on a stage teaching to thousands. However, I am reaching one little individual at a time and that one little person has the potential of being that NEXT missionary, teacher or leader. WE have NO idea what God has in the future of those around us. I have no idea what is in store for my own children... but God does. "Little is much when God's in it!"

Like Pam said, I am humbled by the fact that God allows me to be part of His plan. I can't see the whole picture, but HE can and to know that He wants me as part of it is humbling & empowering. When I get stuck in the day to day doldrums that sometime come (and can come often), I can find comfort in knowing that I'm where God wants me. Being part of God's plan DOES feel like winning an Olympic medal on a winning team. I may be the "bench warmer" not getting the chance to shine or I may not ever get the chance to be the first "string" or MVP, but I'm on the team! I may not have the talent of the team captain, but God sees me as being perfect enough in His eyes to be a part of the team. May I ALWAYS remember that and let it soak in! Thanks to Pam for reminding me what a joy and privilege it is!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Everything I need to know, I learned.....from my children!

Last night was a HUGE night in the life of my daughter. Perhaps, even bigger was the impact she had on me.

Adriana had an amazing first season of competitive gymnastics last year. She came out of the gate full speed ahead and didn't slow down. She worked hard and it showed. In every meet, except one, she medaled or placed. Her room is covered in gorgeous medals and ribbons. She carried the title of All-Around Champion in one meet and was ranked 4th in the state on beam and 10th overall. Her passion for gymnastics was EVIDENT!

Fast forward to this year. Her room contains ZERO medals. She holds NO titles. However, her attitude today is NO different than last year. She is still the same team leader, offering smiles and congratulations to her teammates on their successes and pats on the back when things haven't gone their way. I think her smile and enthusiasm is EVEN bigger this year. The pre-season started with a significant injury that made Kevin and I as her parents take a step back and reevaluate whether this was the right thing for our child. We gave her the full option of walking away. She made it VERY clear that injury or not, she wasn't giving up. She told us she would come back and be ready to go. I knew better than to doubt her!

Every meet she has improved her scores and has slowly been reaching her goals. She has wanted to just finish this season as strong as possible, but is focusing on getting ready to hit training hard over the summer and try again next year. However, there has been one area that has been the thorn in her side. Bars has NOT been her friend, but she NEVER gave up. It didn't matter that she knew she would have very low scores in competition; she was willing to take whatever that was even though she had to leave out major elements. No one can count how many attempts she has made at "getting it", the extra conditioning, the "blood, sweat, and tears" involved. It didn't matter to her that we are about to wrap up regular season. Defeat is not an option!

Last night I had already crawled in bed and was working on the computer, knowing that Kevin was going to pick her up. Two minutes before he was ready to walk out the door, I got the sweetest little phone call. First of all, a mom NEVER wants a call from their child during practice time. Normally it means injury and your heart stops. I couldn't tell at first if she was upset or happy, whether she was out of breathe or crying....but then I heard the words, "Mom, I got it! Can you come watch! I got to ring the bell!" Ringing the bell is what happens when a gymnast has achieved a skill to the coaches satisfaction. They ring a cow bell hanging from the ceiling and all activity in the gym stops so that ALL eyes can watch. It's a PROUD moment. She FINALLY had her moment!

Of course, we had to celebrate with Sundaes at Tastee Freez on the way home. Her fingers were flying all the way home as she was texting all of her gym buddies that had already left. It was nice to see that EXTRA sparkle in her eyes. I really didn't know that it was possible!

I found myself unable to sleep last night thinking about it all. Granted, it was JUST A SKILL in gymnastics....not a HUGE, life changing event. BUT she taught me something. Here I am the teacher, but yet I learned from my student. I learned that failure isn't an option if you don't let it be. I learned that it doesn't matter WHO gives up on you, if you don't give up on yourself. It doesn't matter if your timeline has past, you still don't have to give up.

I also have been thinking about it in a spiritual realm. What was God trying to teach me through my child? He uses any and every available venue to "reach" us, if our eyes are open enough to see it. I think he wanted me to see that HE also doesn't give up on me. Just like I never gave up on Adriana, he doesn't just wash his hands of me and walk away when I don't get it right the first time or after countless tries. He doesn't look at me and say, "you've messed up too many times" or "you just never learn or can't get it right". So, I think through my 12 year old daughter, HE let me see that as long as I keep trying, keep practicing, keep putting in the effort.....He is going to be right there with me. Some day, I will have my "ringing the bell" moment......but imagine how it will feel to be in the presence of God and having him say "This is my child of whom I am well pleased!"

Monday, February 22, 2010

Part 2: Why the title, "Just" a Mom---Refined by GRACE?

Well, to answer that question is much more difficult to explain. It means SO much to me, but others may not get the depth of it's meaning.

I think the "just" a mom part is easy to explain. It means that I recognize that I am more than "just" a mom. I GET that! However, I AM just a mom! I fully feel that when we seek God, He will call us to a profession, a ministry, and will direct our paths. That path is different for every person. I absolutely have dreams and things I want to pursue outside the home, but for now those plans are on hold as I fully focus my time and attention on the things that matter the absolute most to me: my husband and my three amazing children. This is the calling God placed on MY life. He further placed in me the desire to home educate my children. THIS is my profession, my calling and my ministry. There will come a time that He provides me the way to fulfill my other dreams and desires.

The "refined by GRACE" is the hard part to explain. When I think of the word refined, two definitions come immediately to mind: one that describes the "outside" and one that describes the "inside". The outward description of elegant, "Miss Manners", polite, genteel, not vulgar, and modest: those are the words that I want to describe me. Granted, I do miss that mark WAY more than I want to admit.

The inward description is one of "freed from impurities; purified". This is my desire. I want to be FREED from impurities. I will NEVER attain that goal, but God provides the way to help me move forward. His death on the cross, and my acceptance of Him as my savior, provides the path for that to happen. He gives me a FRESH start every time I ask and loves me unconditionally and fully accepts me as I am. He is the REAL meaning of LOVE and forgiveness.

However, to be "refined" there has to be a process of refining, of removing those impurities (the sin, the darkness, the inappropriate thoughts, etc...) 1 Peter 1:7 describes part of that process.

"These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trails, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."

I'm sure many others are finding themselves in the same position I of feeling like God must REALLY be refining me because I'm being hit from EVERY direction. Instead of letting that give me a defeated attitude, I'm letting it sink in that it's because HE believes in me and HE wants me to be MORE like him. I don't know about you, but to me that feels amazing.

Beth Moore (I LOVE HER WRITING!), points out three scenarios when facing the "fire" of trails.

  1. We can be delivered FROM the fire...and our faith is built.
  2. We can be delivered THROUGH the fire...and our faith is refined.
  3. We can be delivered BY the fire INTO his arms...and our faith is perfected.

So, I'm seeking to be a refined by HIM and by his GRACE. Grace of God is unmerited, undeserved favour. He owes me nothing and I deserve nothing in and of itself. However, he deems ALL of us worthy and stretches His grace to cover us. He covers me when I fail. He covers me with grace to fill in the gaps when I don't have the answers or when I can't do something in my own power. His grace is what makes each and every day worth getting up and fighting for.....for without it, I am nothing.

Therefore, I am "just a mom", seeking to always be refined by His grace! I may miss the mark, more than I hit the target, but God knows that I am trying with all that I have in me! He will never ask anymore than the best I can give Him.

Part 1: Why blog?

Why in the world would I want to start a blog? Do I not already have my hands full and struggle to balance everything "on my plate"? Am I not already addicted to Facebook?

The answers are fairly simple. I love to journal and I love to have records of the day to day life of my children. Scrapbooking is a HUGE passion of mine, but lets face it....I find it difficult to spend much time doing it. I'm currently over 8,000 pictures behind. I don't want to let normal life pass me by without recording it for my children.

However, the biggest reason is because I want a "place" to share my thoughts and be able to unashamedly share my faith. I love the connections that I have made on Facebook and the renewed friendships are PRICELESS. Unfortunately, I continue to come under fire for allowing my faith to be the FOREFRONT of my posts and status updates. I am finding that I am holding back more and more out of the desire to not "run off" my non-Christian or "on the fence" friends. The more I have done that lately, the more I have felt convicted of feeling like I'm ashamed of being a Christian or ashamed of who I am. I am incredibly thankful for the support I have found in cyber-world and the connection I have found with other Christian women, especially those that really "GET" the path I have chosen to take. I have begun to lose that much needed support system.

I guess you can say I'm reclaiming the fact that I am NOT ashamed to BOLDLY live a Christian life. I'm not ashamed to be on this path of raising my children & serving my family. Instead, I'm ready to live "out loud" and proudly proclaim that I'm thankful for the blessing of this life! Hard---oh yes! Worth it---undeniably!