Tuesday, March 11

What I Wish Christians Would STOP Saying!

I've seen this title on several blogs lately. It's catchy, and it definitely stirs the curiosity enough to WANT to read. At least that's what it did for me. I stumbled across a couple of these blogs, and I just HAD to read and find out if I was guilty of speaking incorrectly.

I'm thinking of 2 blogs in particular that I read and quickly discovered they were simply bitter spewings aimed at believers who thought and spoke differently about circumstances. I mean... How dare anyone think or speak on their own?!?! The audacity to speak words that I wouldn't speak myself! This was the tone of the blogs that I read. Obviously, I'd like to spew a bit as well.

I'll abstain!

It's HARD!

So, don't be dismayed by the title. I'm only poking fun a little. And, while I AM going to dig into a popular Christian phrase, it's NOT for the purpose of saying, "I'm right," and "You're wrong!" No! I really don't know. I've just heard this phrase all of my life; from adults, from pastors, from peers. You know.... I've probably said it MYSELF a time or two. Here it is...

"God is NOT concerned with whether or not you are happy."

I am very perplexed by this phrase. Believe me, I COMPLETELY understand what is meant by this phrase when spoken by well meaning Christians. That is why I know I've said it before. Recently, though, my thoughts on the matter have changed a bit. And, I honestly feel like we send a mixed message when we speak this phrase to others.

In one breath, we say that living the "God life" is the only way to happiness and joy. Everything else is false happiness, temporary fulfillment.  I'd agree with this argument 100%. When I see or hear of a person who has made a terrible choice in life thinking that it would get him/her to a greater sense of happiness (the I'll be happy when theme), I am so sad for him. He doesn't "get" happiness. No created thing or activity will gain happiness for you, me, or anyone else. This chase isn't after happiness at all, it's chasing after a lie.
  
No. Happiness is found only in walking with the LORD. True happiness has nothing to do with my surroundings, my possessions, or my circumstances. It's a state of mind dictated by my spiritual and emotional health. I believe Paul described it best in Philippians4:12 & 13, 

"I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." 

So, if you're disagreeing with me right now, I'm positive your stand is that these verses describe "joy" not "happiness." How sad that we've determined they are two different things. We've given the word "happy" over to the world! But, I don't believe it belongs to the world. I don't think it describes ANYTHING the world has to offer. 

"How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart." Psalm 119:1-2

This is only one example. But, the word "blessed" in these verses is 'esher', and it's meaning (straight from my concordance) is, "blessed, happy, a masculine noun meaning a person's state of bliss, How happy!" 

So.... It seems that, according to the Psalm 119, "happy" is the result of living blamelessly, walking in the law of the Lord, observing His testimonies, and seeking Him with a whole heart. Therefore, I believe God VERY MUCH cares about my happiness. I believe He cares very much about the happiness of each of His children. 

Now, I'm not a theologian! These are just my thoughts. But, while I'm at it, let me speak just one more. When we carelessly say to someone who's made the choice to live sinfully, "God's not concerned with whether or not you are happy, He wants you to follow Him," we MUST be careful. To me, that sounds very much like I believe there is happiness to be found OUTSIDE of Him. I don't. I believe that a true believer living in sin is NOT happy at all. Looks can be deceiving.

I choose to believe that God IS concerned with my happiness. He was SO concerned with my happiness, He went to the extreme to ensure I COULD be happy... in Him. And, now that we've gotten that definition of happy figured out, GO. 

Live happy! 

This world could use a little more of it.  

Monday, March 10

In Search of the Meaningful

Several weeks ago, I read an article in the Live Happy magazine called, "The Science of Post-Traumatic Growth." We've all heard of PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. But, this article's title caught my eye. And, I was so curious. I had to read the entire article and find its meaning.

There were several things within the article that I agree with COMPLETELY....

"Post traumatic growth is a response to a seismic event that rocks your world to its very core. Your psychological house isn't merely rattled, it's leveled. Your core beliefs are shattered. It's not that trauma itself that leads to growth but the process of rebuilding, of creating new anchors in a life that has become unmoored."

I don't know about you. But, I GET this! I know what it feels like to have your world rocked to its very core.

Leveled!

Shattered!

But, I also agree completely with the thoughts that followed...

"If heart-wrenching loss is part of the human condition so is its flipside: being propelled by the crisis to make positive, meaningful life chanages. People experience growth in five broad areas;"

They have a deeper appreciation of life. Yes!

They experience new possibilities for themselves. Agreed!

Their relationships are closer. Absolutely!

They feel more spiritually satisfied. Very true!

They experience a greater sense of personal strength. How does this happen?

Are you following? I've just described events that cause worlds to be shattered, leveled, traumatized. Yet, the outcome is a greater sense of personal strength. That seems ironic. But, I can speak to its truth.

Today, my life consists of SO MANY things that I would NEVER have attempted prior to the event that shattered my world in 2011. Every single area of my life is an area that I would never have considered without a greater sense of personal strength. I'm beginning to realize that there are numerous things I never attempted, because I was afraid that I might fail. And, more times than not, my activity was dictated by my assumptions of what others would think about me.

I won't pretend to be totally free from those fears and concerns. However, my life's work is a clear indicator that I am moving towards freedom and away from the bondage of fear in many ways. The company that I've chosen to join, Nerium International, is causing me to jump (not step lightly) out of my comfort zone DAILY. I don't want to lose readers who think I'm going to turn my blog into a sales spot. But, I just want to say that I've been given the opportunity to be part of a caring team focused on making people better. Most days, I DO still fear that I will be perceived by others in a negative light. But, mainly, I'm governed by a deep desire to share the love of Christ with as many people as possible. And, if being bold and courageous in a business that I never would have chosen for myself is the vehicle that I have to make my desire a reality, then I will gladly accept.

See, after a traumatic experience, life takes on new meaning, or at least it did for me. There's an immediate awareness of what is important in life and what simply wastes time. This awareness brings with it an intolerance, of sorts, for the time wasters. I believe the danger, at this point, is the real draw to turn away from everything because there's so much in the world that isn't meaningful.

But, so much in this world IS meaningful. And, the true way out of the trauma and into the strength is to realize that YOU possess the ability to bring about MORE of the meaningful. Everything in life becomes a mission.

Dribbling a miniature basketball becomes a strategy to share love with as many children as possible and relationship marketing becomes the tool to invest in lives, build people up, and change the world through investments in others. God doesn't waste anything! Even tragedy can become useful in His beautiful timing. We just have to keep plugging in to LIFE. And, soon, a very special realization is bound to occur....

Even though I can NEVER change what happened to me, my marriage, and my family, I may be able to help others with the lessons I've learned from it.

At that point, life takes on PURPOSE. The tragedy is still a tragedy. But, it's useful. It's been productive. And, in relationships, it can continue to be useful as long as the Lord opens doors for it to be shared... no matter the venue. 

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17

Monday, January 20

I Was Wrong.... And, I'm OK With That!

Yesterday was Sanctity of Life Sunday. I know many churches covered the subject of abortion in small group and corporate settings. At our church, we did. Abortion has been a hot button topic for most of my life. I can remember choosing abortion as the subject of a persuasive essay I had to write in high school. Obviously, I was/am pro LIFE. But, I can remember (even as a high school student) being so very confused by the many others that shared my regard for the life of the unborn babies but had obvious DISregard for the human lives carrying those babies. Back then, it was over the top. You know.... the crazies who carried signs against murder of the unborn while they BLEW UP abortion clinic?

I was very happy, yesterday, to see that our small group material took sanctity of life further than abortion. Over and over, the authors were asking us to ponder how we can value ALL life... young/old, handicapped, neglected, etc. Sometimes, we focus on the unborn, and they are important. But, we damage and disregard other lives in the process. It's confusing, and it sends a terrible message.

I couldn't read the material without remembering Christ's words very early in the New Testament...

You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court. But, I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.  Matthew 5: 21-22

This passage of scripture is on my mind, because it makes it clear that, in His coming, Christ did fulfill the Law. But, He also raised the bar. No longer are we accountable ONLY for the external activity. We are held accountable the inner works of our hearts and minds.

The purpose of this blog post is for me to be able to put in print something that has REALLY been on my heart lately. This is a topic that I've gone over a million different times. Each time, I seem to come away with more questions than answers. So, I'm just going to mull it over publicly! :). That's normal, right?

Another area that God, through His word, set apart as holy is marriage. Over and over, the scriptures give instructions for marriage. It starts in the very beginning. And, God's first instructions for marriage go MUCH deeper than, "Do not divorce." He says,

For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh,...  Genesis 2:24

Let me just go ahead and say it.... Here is my concern, my question, my confusion. Why have we made our argument against divorce alone? Why do overwhelming numbers of husbands and wives stay together but with total disregard to God's initial instruction for marriage.... leave Father and Mother and CLEAVE to spouse... become ONE FLESH?

If I follow Christ's New Testament instructions, He's taken everything to a higher level. Our external activity is important, but God looks at the heart. The inner workings of our marriages, I believe, are important to God. "God hates divorce." But, does that mean He is pleased with couples going through the motions of marriage... staying together for the children.... living like roommates in a house?

After Scotty's betrayal and confession, I can say that I was ANGRY. I know I was devastated in spirit. But, as I've said before, I did not feel despair. I had not lost all hope... not even for a second. God spoke to me, as clearly as possible, and told me that He REALLY could work this out. I felt that our marriage could be even better than before. I relayed all of these thoughts to Scotty in those early moments. I shared my hopes, my affirmations. But, then, I said something to him that I still can't believe I said,

"I know that God can use all of this to make something better than we've ever had. But, I'm not sure you're man enough to do the kind of work that's necessary to get there."

Ahhhh.... the memory of that statement still makes me cringe. I'd NEVER said that kind of thing to Scotty before. NEVER! In our relationship, my role was building up! Sometimes, in order to "build up" and encourage, I had to cover up and make excuses for negative behaviors. Our marriage was full of barriers to living as one flesh... defensiveness, secrecy, lack of appropriate marriage skills, etc. But, I never wanted to "rock the boat", so I'd given up hope for any kind of true intimacy. Without calling it this, I'd settled for a roommate instead of the Biblical definition of a husband. And, what I'm saying is I don't think that pleased God. The mere fact that we'd not divorced STILL didn't mean we were living obedient, Christ following lives. And, our marriage did not speak of our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.

Do you know that one statement made to Scotty woke him up? To this day, I cringe when I remember saying those words. But, he is happy that I said them. I was fearful that he wasn't going to be able to let his guard down, humble himself and cooperate with the Lord in repairing our marriage. I was FINALLY being honest, and Scotty remembers that honesty as being a catalyst to his making the commitment to do whatever it took.

(**Let me also insert that statements like that only have positive outcomes if they are spoken in love with a true desire to see the best in the person to whom they are spoken. Difficult conversations can still speak life. But, that statement could have easily been used to cut!)

In our opening session as the Marriage Institute, our therapist made a statement that let us know he did not have a "stay together and do not divorce no matter what belief." At the end of the week, his recommendation may NOT be to go home and stay together. That was odd! I'd never heard anything like that before. But, today, I realize that he was actually saying that marriage is a BIG DEAL. It's a holy matrimony! We are to take it seriously! He was not going to encourage 2 people to go home and stick it out. He wasn't going to recommend staying together just to avoid a divorce.

Why? Because, that does not demonstrate a commitment to the sanctity of marriage! We've got to start calling our situations what they are. It's hard. Even 2 1/2 years later, I shutter a little at my honest words to Scotty. But, they were important. And, I believe we MUST stop making excuses for not living the instructions God gave for marriage.

Even with the fallout we've experienced, the NATURAL pull is to go through the motions in marriage and family. It seems so much easier to do this on our own, not to find the time to really bear soul with Scotty, to get caught up in a busy schedule. But, the NATURAL pull never leads to the Godly life.

My challenge to anyone who's still reading (you're a trooper) is that we seek God's guidance in REALLY honoring His marriage standards. We are to be partners with our spouse. Our marriages are to be holy, set apart. We should enjoy one another, confide in one another, experience intimacy on every level with one another. And, to settle for anything less is sinful. Hmmm.... Ouch?!?!

Ladies, we have a tendency to cover up, to make excuses, to do whatever is necessary to make less than ideal circumstances seem o.k. That's not always a bad thing. But, if that is THE WAY of our lives, I'm suggesting we start being honest with ourselves and with God. We MUST begin to ask for more and be willing to cooperate to achieve it. Maybe we'll need help. And, there's great help out there.

I don't have all of the answers. But, I know this.... Fourteen years of trying to be the one to build Scotty up, to make light of the difficulties, to pretend that our marriage was wonderful did not achieve what those few seconds of real honesty did for him and for our marriage.

Thankfully, I was wrong. Scotty IS proving to be "man enough" to seek the Lord daily in doing this walk of recovery. Honest confession was our first step. Scotty's confession of his sin was important. But, the very important next step was our JOINT confession of need... together, we had to confess that we need an infusion of the Holy spirit daily to live an intimate, God honoring marriage.

Let's VALUE the sanctity of marriage by not settling for less than its designed purpose!

Monday, January 6

Confessions From THIS Homeschool Mom

I know my last post was about JOY. But, I'm just going to come right out and confess....

I was not ready to start school today,

not ready to look at the blank stares,

not ready... not ready.... not ready!!!

So, look! If I had any pride left, I would not admit this. I know (because I used to be this person) that there are people just waiting for me to throw in the towel, realize that school is a better choice for everyone, and say it's just too hard.

Well, some days, it's really, really hard. And, after 3 weeks off, major house renovations going on for months now, and FREEZING cold temps outside, it was really, really hard to think about homeschooling.

On top of that, I really thought I'd get this wild motivation as this day got closer. I'm not kidding... I thought I'd magically wake up one morning and have this sudden urge to jump out of bed, clean out the school supplies, and write beautiful lesson plans for January. So, when that didn't happen by this past Friday, I started questioning everything. Well, maybe not EVERYTHING. But, I sure started questioning ME.

Yesterday, our pastor began a new sermon series on living a life with no regrets. Thankfully, the Lord & a sweet homeschooling friend/mentor (thank you, Dee Dee) had already begun to pull me out of my funk, because this sermon reminded me of every reason we'd decided to homeschool our children last year. In other words, I was convicted (AGAIN) that this isn't about me. 

In fact, it was during another sermon series at our church that God began to pull at my heartstrings and open my mind to the possibility of making a change. We were doing a series on the family. It was awesome! We studied so many areas of family life. One Sunday, we were in Deuteronomy 6, and I began to realize that God's command to parents that we TEACH our children LOTS of different things is a serious command.... one that I'd not been taking seriously. Along with that truth, I began to recognize that God has great expectations for families. The way we live and operate at home will play a large part in how our children grow up and live and operate in their own homes. The reality set in that OUR family has A LOT to heal from if we are going to set our children on the path towards healthy marriages and families. True healing just couldn't happen in the average one hour a day we had together as a family (that's an honest calculation... I did the math). 

So.... yesterday, Whit asked how we would live differently if we knew we had one month, three months, etc. to live. What would we do? 

I would study the Word (Christ, the Word) like it was my very breath, searching for guidance in living abundantly. I would find ways to leave imprints on the lives entrusted to me so that they'd remember my love for them after I'm gone. And... I would teach my children to do the same. But, I wouldn't teach them with an attitude of "I HAVE to do this!" 

I wouldn't half heartedly plan out lessons to mark objectives off of a list. 

And, I certainly wouldn't wish that I had LESS time with them! 

I'd cherish every moment, and I'd teach them important lessons like their very lives depended on it... because I'd realize that they do! 

Whew! Am I ever thankful for God's timing! I needed these lessons this weekend. I needed to be reminded that my children deserve my best! ALL of the time... not just when I'm "on duty". They are gifts. And, thankfully, God did this work in me prior to this morning. I REALLY was ready for school when I woke up today. I was HAPPY to be a homeschooling mom!

But, just in case I wasn't, God carefully planned for another great reminder. He's so wise! Here is our memory verse for this week in Claire's writing....


This is what we'd do if we knew when life was going to end! We'd do EVERYTHING to the glory of God. So, why wait? 

Saturday, January 4

I've Got a Word....

Once again, I'm out of the loop, uninformed, behind the times.

This week, I noticed on Facebook that resolutions are apparently outdated. In 2014, people are choosing a word for the upcoming year. I think it's interesting. Typically, I come up with a word in December that summarizes the year ending. But, I can get on board with speaking a word over the year to come. I'll consider it a practice in being proactive.

So, here's my word.... JOY! I'm talking about visible joy, HAPPINESS.

I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but there aren't many expressions of true happiness in our world today. In our world, I see a lot more anger, bitterness, UNhappiness, and fear. And, I live in the "Bible belt", so most of the people that I come in contact with are proclaimed believers, Christians. Truly, we DO live in a world where events happen daily that are far less than desirable. However, I continue to be confronted with these words from Jesus; which, I believe, call us to joy in spite of our circumstances.

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.  John 10:10

The definition for abundance in the concordance uses words like; superabundant, superior in quality, excessive, exceeding abundantly above, beyond measure, and superfluous to describe its meaning. So, it seems to me that Christ came so that we can live with joy. But, how do we live abundantly (fully of JOY) in a world that regularly provides less than joyous news? For me, I feel there are a couple of ways.

First, I have to be FULL of the One who gives joy. Now, this seems simple. This fact is what we've been hearing since childhood. But, many times in my life there has been space between my knowledge of this truth and my experiencing this truth. The question is HOW do we fill ourselves with the Giver of joy? And, the answer, I believe, can be found by looking at the lies the thief has tricked us into believing could provide joy. Money, material things, relationships, fitness, etc. have been pursued for the sake of happiness, and all have come up short. But, not before much time and devotion was given to them. All of us have spent countless hours devoted to a job, an exercise program, a person, or the acquisition of some thing and thinking, "I'll be happy when...." None of these are bad things. But, they all fail to provide joy. Christ came to give us joy, abundant life; so, why don't we pursue Him with the fervor we pursue these worldly things. What would be the result if we were as devoted to personal time alone with Jesus as we have been devoted to worldly pursuits? More knowledge of our Savior which would lead to....

Joy!

So, joy is between God and me through Jesus Christ. No matter what's going on, no matter where I am, no matter who I'm with, I can have joy and be happy. That's salvation, and it's meant to be shared. I don't want my joy to end with me. I want others to see it. And, this is where my 2014 "word" will collide with a resolution.

I'm going to focus more on what I am FOR rather than what I am AGAINST so that others can see my joy and where it comes from. Sound easy? It seems it is NOT.

In parenting our children, Scotty and I have noticed how easy it is to be ALL about what they CAN'T do. Some days, I realize that I've said "NO" more times than I could count. At home, this creates an atmosphere of oppression and a real lack of joy for our children. I don't want them to feel this burden, because there are LOTS of things that they CAN do. Why wouldn't I focus on those things?

This isn't a new problem, but I see a lot of this going on in our churches and in the way we've chosen to present Christ to the world. Sadly, Christians are viewed as a bunch of boring, legalistic, unhappy people in constant denial of anything that could create pleasure in life. And, honestly, I think this is a pretty appropriate view. Somehow, we've decided that "good Christians" are in a constant state of self denial... sacrificing all that is fun in an effort to live a holy life. And, then we wonder why non believers won't repent and follow after us! I'm not against holy and righteous living. But, I think true holiness and true righteousness are born out of TRUE joy.

I've read a portion of a sermon preached by C.S. Lewis that states much more clearly what I'm trying to say. He's speaking to the notion many believers had that desiring good and earnestly seeking enjoyment was a BAD thing. He says,

"If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

There's JOY in following hard after the Lord. There's great pleasure in a life devoted to Him. And, when I realize this truth, there's no sacrifice in turning away from the things of this world, because I know that these pleasures are limited. The joy and pleasure offered through salvation are limitless, eternal & abundant.THIS is the picture I want to portray to my family, my community and anyone I'm given the opportunity to meet.

My sophomore year at MC, a fellow classmate was killed in a car accident. It was incredibly tragic. I didn't know him well at all. Everything I knew about him I learned from a distance and from mutual friends of ours. But, from my perspective, he was one of the most joyful people I'd ever encountered. His life exuded joy. At his funeral, I remember praying specifically that God would lead me to the kind of joy that Campbell had. I've never forgotten it. See, he wasn't an uppity believer pointing out all of the ways the world was "making mud pies in a slum". He didn't have to. From the outside looking in, his life looked like a "holiday at the sea." And, I wanted my own.

Joy is contagious, inviting and, I believe, holy! It's found in only one place, one Person. My only resolution for 2014 is to find more of Him in every area of my life, and I believe this mission will result in my "word".

Joy!

Happy 2014! I pray it's your BEST yet!

Friday, December 27

Our Christmas

When I started this blog over 5 years ago (WOW!), my purpose was simply to provide pictures and stories of the kids and our home life for our extended family to enjoy. Typically, I attempted to include some sort of lesson or devotional thought to accompany our photos. But, the MAIN purpose was to share life with family and whoever else was interested.

Clearly, the blog has changed direction. There's less light-hearted humor and MUCH, more real life lesson sharing. But, this post will be a little closer to original posts as I just share our Christmas for family and whoever else is interested. :)

Last weekend we went to Clinton for the first of our Christmas experiences. On Sunday, we visited Pine Lake for church. It's been a while since we've been able to go back. But, EVERY time we are there, we are astounded that God seems to orchestrate THE perfect message for us to hear. The sermon series was called, Miracle. Oh how I would love to retell that whole message, because it was so good. I won't. But, Chip ended this sermon urging people to pray for a miracle... to realize that, just as the Christmas story is full of miracles, God is still in the business of performing miracles. Then, with much sincerity, he closed by saying, "some of you may be standing by your miracle." Well, I certainly was! This Christmas was FULL of reminders that we are a miracle. All five of us were standing in one row, worshiping together. No doubt, Scotty & I could have been divided, each of us sharing Christmas with our children separately. But... God chose to do a miracle. And, that realization made every moment of Christmas very special.

Christmas Eve was full of activity. Scotty painted our bedroom (which was the end of painting for a little while), the kids stayed busy with various activity, and I prepared for cooking and baking. Late afternoon, we began our pajama birthday party for Jesus' birthday. We enjoyed breakfast for dinner, sang "Happy Birthday" with cupcakes, the kids opened their one, small gift of pjs & games, and we ended the night playing those games and watching a movie. It was a simple but sweet Christmas Eve.

It was a great night. 

Our kids have demonstrated so many changes this year. We've enjoyed watching them grow up and develop. Each one has grown physically, and that growth has been obvious and visible. But, they've grown in many other ways as well. Caleb is REALLY growing up! It's very fun to watch but also hard on this Mama. This Christmas, he was a very protective older brother. His heart is so sensitive, and he HATES to see others sad or hurt. The cutest thing to watch from him this year was his seriousness in making sure Collin still believed in Santa. Apparently, one day Collin touched our elf to see if he would move (because Dad moved him) or if he'd stay put, because he was real and had been touched. Caleb pulled Scotty aside during the day to relate the story. So, the next morning, when the elf was still sitting in the same spot, Collin was quite surprised. And, Caleb was quite proud!

I love that Caleb was not  "too old" to decorate a gingerbread house and other Christmas traditions. I know it's not obvious in the bottom picture, but he's opening a Coke machine. He has always had at least one gift on his list that is just a little bit odd. But, he wanted a Coke machine in his room. He plans to charge 75 cents per can and make a little money. :). What an awesome kid (almost teenager)!

Collin is still a character.... in every way! He is experiencing some "growing pains," and we've all had some difficulty adjusting. But, there are still so many things about Collin that fascinate me. He's just Collin.... unique in every way. Fun! This year, Collin decided that he LOVES electronics. For so many years, he just wasn't interested. Well, he's making up for lost time.

 Collin was absolutely precious this December.... Trying so hard to still "believe." He made several comments about Daddy & me being the present buyers. But, then he'd write notes to send to Santa via our elf. And, Christmas Eve, without anyone knowing, he went in and tooks care of Santa's snacks and wrote out the sweetest note. Earlier, he felt the need to make himself look like a Wiseman during the Christmas story. He makes us laugh with very little effort. How blessed we are to have been the ones chosen to raise this child!

Claire is still J! O! Y! She is the happiest little girl. This year, she has provided much needed smiles as the almost teenager and middle child experiencing growing pains have struggled with some irritability. She is a caretaker! She takes care of her boys, her babies, sometimes her parents, and she is very responsible. The boy/girl differences have REALLY started showing up. She and I spend a LOT of time together, and I am beyond grateful that God gave us a girl after our two sweet boys. We DEFINITELY would have been missing out had we not been able to experience both genders. 

 Claire has talked about the Bitty Baby for SO LONG. She walked around holding her all Christmas Day and treated her like a real baby! She was just as excited about the Hershey Kisses in her stocking as she was the baby & stroller. What a precious, sweet girl! She can absolutely melt a heart.

So, our Christmas was pretty special, a miracle! We enjoyed each other tremendously! Scotty and I are
looking forward to an even more wonderful year in 2014. That's the great thing about our miracle! God just keeps giving and giving. So, as long as we are open to His plans, we KNOW that family life will just continue to get better and better.    

Tuesday, December 24

BEHOLD!

It's Christmas Eve.... I'm reading, I'm thinking, I may be a little overwhelmed. And, I'm confused!

It sure has been a week! I know it's been crazy in every home as we prepare for Christmas. Having little ones in the house is exciting, but it really amps up the anxiety and preparations for Christmas morning. Expectation runs high, and there's a lot of pressure for parents wanting to make Christmas special.

That's not really what's on my mind this morning, though. My mind is a confused and jumbled mess as I think back over events that have taken place in our world this week. We've experienced a social media disaster. Now, I'm NOT writing about this disaster today.... don't worry..... I'm just saying it's on my mind, while I read, while I study, and while I prepare for a Christmas Eve.

My reading this morning finished up 1 Samuel. But, after that, I went over to Matthew and Luke to read the Christmas story, and I've been struck by a theme. There are a number of them throughout this story. Any one of them could speak to my heart each day of the year. But, this morning.... I'm contemplating the fact that SO MANY during Jesus' time didn't "get it".

There's Joseph, for starters. Matthew's version records Joseph's distrust for his bride to be. He's clearly an honorable man... committed to doing right. However, he's in the process of backing out of God's plan. Why? Because, he doesn't get it! Humanity clouds his understanding, and he's incapable of seeing the big picture plan UNTIL a messenger of God comes to explain it all. The angel (messenger) unwraps God's plan for Joseph, he "wakes up", and does as the Lord commanded. So, the message brought by God's messenger CHANGED Joseph's mind, his heart, his plans.

Then, there's the inn keeper. Luke's story records, "she wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." The very next verses tell us that, close by, shepherds in the field heard the news of Christ's birth and decided to "go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened." The inn keeper clearly did not understand the magnitude of what was happening right in front of him. But, the lowly shepherds do. Why? Well, it's that messenger thing again. A heavenly host of angels (which means messenger) appeared and told them the news.They were changed. They HAD to go and see.

Today, I can only be overwhelmed by God's plan to send His Son into our world to save us from our sins, ourselves. I'm overwhelmed; because, on a regular basis, we don't "get it." Our humanity clouds our vision, our understanding, and we are incapable of seeing the big picture. Like children, we regularly lose sight of what is important.... "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us! Christmas! And, my ONLY response is to behold HIS glory. Because He came to Earth, and ONLY because He came, we have hope.

Because Christ came, my life was saved for eternity and my heart can be changed in the midst of a difficult moment.

Because Christ came, miracles happen.... marriages are restored, lives are transformed, the impossible is possible. 

 His coming changed everything for everyone, but we won't experience the change unless we BEHOLD the ONE who changed! And, just like Joseph and the shepherds, we have the ability to behold AFTER being presented with the message by the Messenger. Christ's birth at Christmas is the beginning of God's plan for salvation.

Here lies my confusion! I understand that God paid a high price for me to have life. I KNOW that life only works when we live within His commands and His ways. I want to stand up for that Truth and encourage everyone to obey God. But, I live in a world that doesn't "get it." I live in a world that says God's Word is outdated. And, if I apply the message of the Christmas story, God's messenger (Spirit) is the only One that can draw those who are blind to His purposes, to seeing belief in Him. I don't have this power! I don't have the ability to make the blind see. 

So, what do I do? Do I just carry on with my own life, my own agenda, because God will send the Messenger to the lost world when He's ready? I don't think I can do that. I think that would make me apathetic in every way. 

Do I wear signs, shout from megaphones, use the Bible as a weapon on every avenue of social media so that the lost world will know where I stand and never be able to say that they didn't hear "the gospel?" I know I can't do that. I truly fear this creates such callousness of heart among those that are blind to the knowledge of God. It becomes harder and harder for them to experience the love that caused God to send Jesus into the world. It's God's kindness that draws us to repentance. Scary signs, megaphones and weapons don't really depict kindness. 

BEHOLD! This is what I believe we do. We behold the glory of the ONE AND ONLY! In our daily lives, in our relationships, in our problems, in our own sin..... we stand in awe of a FATHER who loved us so much that He sent HIS only son to save us from our sin. And, let me be clear.... ALL sin is looking at God's glorious plan for our lives, shaking our fist and saying, "I can do better." This attitude leads to bitterness, promiscuity, unforgiveness, homosexuality, lying, adultery, unkindness..... and these are all the effects of our distrust. I can't look at any one of these sins as greater than another. Distrust has many faces, but it's the same sin. 

It's Christmas Eve! My mind is jumbled, and I'm a little bit sad that our world is missing Christ this Christmas. I'm not angry at a network or a left winged political group. I'm not shocked at all by their response. I'm a little disappointed in myself and in my family of believers. We are so easily distracted. We so easily lose focus. Beholding Christ changes lives! First, the life of the beholder. Then, when our lives, believers, are completely transformed by Christ, others notice. Calloused hearts begin to soften. And, the Messenger is free to do the job that only HE can do. 

Behold the Savior today! Let your mind and heart REALLY focus on what He did for you. Make it personal, because it is.

"Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2: 10-11

Personal transformation will always spread outward into all relationships. When we are truly changed, others notice.

Merry Christmas! I hope you & your family enjoy beholding our Savior's birth.


Tuesday, December 17

Homeschooling Update, An Elf & A Calm, Christmas Holiday

The Rogers have officially completed one semester of homeschooling. We began our year pretty early... August 4th. I did this, because I had NO idea how long it would take to get through our lessons. I also did not know if TOT would create school distractions and get us off schedule. And, finally, I knew that this week would be crazy. So, I wanted our school to be finished.

Last year, I nearly had a nervous break down (literally!) during this week. I like to do special "happies" for my TOT directors allowing TOT to be part of their schools, so that takes up time. On top of that, each child had Christmas festivities at the school every day, we were preparing Christmas gifts for each of their teachers, I needed to be at the school for several events, and their we multiple parties as the week came to a close. I COULD NOT keep up! I quickly became Scrooge! It was all too, too much!

Seriously, there's so much frustration this time of year over what is a distraction of Christmas. Every year, it seems we (I'm definitely including me here) choose one, specific Christmas "extra" and rebel against it! This year, it's obviously the Elf on the Shelf. I agree that it can get out of hand. As I said on Facebook, we DO have elves. But, we've never put much thought into them. Scotty moves them to a new location each night. A few of our spots are "favorite" for the elves, because they land their repeatedly during the Christmas season. I've been so intrigued, though, as people rebel openly on Facebook and other social media outlets about the unnecessary time waste of the elf, but these people never question the other crazy things we do for our children during Christmas. School events, gifts for teachers, parties, etc. I'd venture to guess monopolize so much more time that moving a crazy elf. But, those things are just accepted as things we HAVE to do.

Well... I just couldn't do it one more year. This particular week last year WIPED ME OUT, and it took EVERY BIT OF CHRISTMAS BREAK to get over it. This year, I can breathe. I spent all day yesterday getting TOT gifts together for the week and ready for teachers while my children enjoyed their first day of Christmas break. And, after I teach my last class of TOT on Thursday, I'll start my break and get ready for another semester. As this one comes to an end, though, I'm thanking God for freedom. That will forever be the word that summarizes my experience this first half of our homeschooling experience. I've been extremely convicted for 5 months now about all of the things that I did for so many years, because "it's just what you do". I've realized that I didn't HAVE to do those things. But, in choosing to, I gave up my freedom to make decisions that are necessary for MY children and MY family.

There have been other lessons to be learned that haven't been as fun to learn. For instance, a messy house exposes every, single one of my flaws. And, when you homeschool children, the house is never completely clean. When I would take the children to school, I could leave it nice & tidy. It would stay that way at least until they got home. Now that they are home, we clean up after breakfast, but everything gets yucky again as we prepare for lunch. Then, we clean up AGAIN! But, once school is done, they begin to play (which is good) and the house is messy again. This may seem small. However, a messy house exposes my flaws. So, this one little area has greatly increased my prayer life as I strive to get a grip so that my children aren't permanently scarred over cups left on a counter top.

Another lesson... a schedule is GOOD; but, sometimes, flexibility is BETTER! Ahhhhh...... The Lord has stretched me here. I love a schedule! I love boundaries, and I just feel much more secure when a good, workable schedule is in place. To some degree, that is a strength of mine. Chaos is NEVER good. A basic schedule with homeschooling is necessary.... The kids have to get up, shower, get completely dressed, eat breakfast, etc. every morning. We start school close to the same time each day. But, beyond that, circumstances arise that can't be planned for, and that's O.K.! God has shown me OVER & OVER that I am consistently trying to move past and miss the lesson of the moment, because I can't adapt the schedule. This one lesson has been the catalyst for God showing me I must LET GO of my agenda. Do I NOT plan? Absolutely not! But, I'm more aware of the blessings all around that I could never plan for. They are gifts (not burdens), and I am learning to expect the unexpected and trust The Lord to guide me through it.

There's not a whole lot of "meat" to this post. However, I promised I'd update on all of homeschooling adventures. And, I haven't done that very well. The semester has brought about some tough moments and tough days. But, overall, it's been way more positive, much easier and more freeing that I could have ever imagined. Again, I say, I don't know what the long term future will hold for us. But, for now, I'm just grateful that The Lord called me to step out and then provided confirmation after confirmation that we'd made the right choice.

I don't know where you are this week and what is going on. If you're in the rat race with more events and more gifts to give and more parties to attend than you know what to do with, I know how you feel. I'll pray that you can breathe..... And, I'm not saying yank your kids out of school and home school :). But, maybe prayerfully consider what doesn't HAVE to be done and what doesn't provide a meaningful Christmas experience. I'm doing the same. I'm asking the Lord to show me what I can cut out of the schedule, so that I can breathe and focus on Him. For me, it was and is much, much more than an elf!

Monday, December 9

An Update from Scotty...

I've spoken openly about my marriage in this blog. I've shared the steps Scotty and I have taken together to rebuild our marriage and heal our family. However, I'm not sure how much of HIS journey I've shared from my blog.

I've been very proud of the way he's handling recovery. More and more, I'm confronted with the truth that MOST people (male & female) prefer to belittle their mistakes. Even when mistakes are HUGE and have WIDE RANGE effects, it seems that most individuals want to throw out a quick apology and move past it as quickly as possible. It's sad, really, because that's not really MOVING past at all.

Anyway, over a year and a half ago, Scotty wrote a letter to the MFT Board. Because his marriage failures originated in ethical failures in his practice, he did not want to move on and pursue counseling as a profession without being COMPLETELY open with this Board about those failures. I know that was hard for him to do. But, from his perspective, he'd been living life in secrecy for a lot of years. He was ready for secrecy and shame to be over. He did NOT want to pursue counseling and spend the rest of his days worrying if THAT would be the day that the Board found out and confronted him. I applaud the personal responsibility that he took in that area. And, what a risk! These men and women could VERY well have said that he could NEVER practice with a license again. Honestly, they would have had every justified reason to make this decision.

They did not! We are so grateful. They've given consequences. These consequences will be a challenge to work through. But, Scotty believe (and I agree) that they will only serve to CONTINUE the healing work God has begun in him. I wanted to post his blog entry from the weekend here, because he gives his own thoughts on this process. On Friday, he made a personal appearance before the Board... it was a big deal both outwardly and inwardly. But, it's done! I thank you for your prayers along our journey. We appreciate you!

Saturday, December 7

Be The Change!

Have you noticed that our society does not advocate personal responsibility? Ugh..... it's SO frustrating. As a whole, we are a people that refuses to accept responsibility, denies fault, and insists that we could do better IF people acted as they were supposed to or IF circumstances were different.

I KNOW you know what I'm talking about. Relationally, more times than not, we "take off" when times get tough. We're sure we are justified in our choice, because our significant other (spouse, friend, child, co worker, etc.) isn't holding up their end of the deal. In business, how easy is it to do LESS than we're asked to do, because no one else is doing their part either. And, politically, as a nation, we have willingly handed over a multitude of our rights by making our personal responsibilities the government's responsibilities. So, even though our government hasn't proven to do many things well, we continue to give it more and more responsibility, because requiring individuals to accept some responsibility is considered negligent, uncaring, and downright mean.

Here's what is on my mind today.... it seems that it has become extremely uncomfortable to look inwardly and see what I should be doing differently and way too comfortable to look outwardly and name what everyone else should be doing differently. I see that this has created a lot of finger pointing and "preaching". That would be fine and good..... even wonderful, IF anyone was in the business of taking personal responsibility or interested in looking inward for changes to be made. We are not! So, all of our attempts to change people (posting rants on Facebook, taking scripture out of context to prove our own point, and giggling behind a jab) have only created more dissension among our community of believers. And, I won't even speak of what it's done between us and the world where we're called to minister.

So, here's what I'm proposing.... let's REclaim personal responsibility. What if, when faced with a situation we wish was somehow different, we determined to BE the change that makes it different?

I know, I know.... it's crazy. It's absurd! It's soooo last century!!! Why in the world would we consider changing ourselves when we can just run away from the situation and be perfectly justified to do so. Or, why make any changes in me when I can get online, find a number of people that believe the way I believe, and use social media to blast whoever believes differently.

BUT.... let's just play with this idea for a moment. I'm so tired of living in a world of UNhappiness and discontentment. Everywhere I look, I'm faced with downcast faces, lack of joy, and weariness with life. Every! Where!! I am confronted with so many people (believers) that are unhappy with their life. It may not be spoken. But, the countenance, the complaints and the disgust are clear indicators. I want to see JOY. I want to see HAPPY. I want to see LIFE. So, what if I become those things? What if I quit being tired and start being the change.... I can BE joy! Then, possibly, my joy will spread in MY house, to MY circle, and then out to their circles.....

There are certain areas of my life that I'd like to see improvement. I think we probably all have those areas... whether it's in relationship, in business, in finances, etc., I'll bet everyone could name one area we'd like to see an improvement. I feel like my religious background has taught me to accept what is, pray, and if God doesn't change it.... just be satisfied. But, what if my dissatisfaction in that area IS the Lord saying, "I've got something better, but you're going to have to get up and cooperate." I'm not saying this is the Gospel. I'm just asking, "what if?" What if I'm using prayer as an excuse to sit still and wait for SOMEONE ELSE to change when the Lord is clearly telling ME to BE THE CHANGE!

Now, believing family, this is heavy on my heart. Our world is in trouble! Our world is missing the TRUTH of the Gospel. Our world is dying without hope of salvation. We desperately need a change! However, I honestly feel that most of our efforts for change are backfiring and causing this dying world to harden their hearts even more to the TRUTH that we know. Every time I turn on the computer, I see an update or a blog or an article posted to scream a point of view. Obviously, I'm not against speaking our minds. Here I am speaking mine. What I'm saying is this.... changes that we want to see made in our world aren't going to be made with a wholesale BLAST of opinionated theology over the internet. They are going to be made in LIFE... living a Holy Spirit directed life individually, then guiding those closest to us to do the same. That will create a ripple effect that spreads. It may not spread as fast as we think it would if I just loaded a quick, one line post against a given lifestyle or activity. But, it's not working! Why not DO the things that work and impact lives in a way that "sticks"? Do we want a change.... Then, let's BE the change!

Here's an example of ONE things that is burdening me right now. It's Christmas! "The most wonderful time of the year." And, it's true, I'm seeing and hearing the Gospel spread well in many cases. But, I'm also seeing that SOMEHOW we've managed to allow ALL SORTS OF THINGS to distract us and the world from what we are celebrating during this season. And, I'll bet that my perspective is different from what you're expecting....

WHY are we arguing over "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays"? Distraction! It's CHRISTMAS. I'm celebrating the incarnation of my SAVIOR.... the fact that God so LOVED the world that He sent Jesus! So, I want the word CHRISTmas to be used A LOT during this time of year. So, I will use it! I will BE the change.

WHY are we in division over Santa or no Santa? Goodness... I know I'm causing such anger among even my sweet, believing friends. I know this is HUGE to so many of you. And, if the Spirit has convicted you in this way, I say follow that lead. But, WHY are we arguing about it? We do Santa at our house. We don't celebrate Santa. We don't worship Santa. And, when my oldest figured out that there was no Santa, there was disappointment. But, not a whole lot changed about how we celebrate this time of year.... the majority of our Christmas discussions aren't much different. We all do things differently. I will not pretend that I know what is 'right'. But, I know this.... we will never figure it out through arguments. We will never see a change in our world towards a Christ focus during December in dissension. So, I'm gently suggesting that if you feel we've lost the right focus during Christmas, BE the change. Focus on the main thing.... Jesus. Celebrate HIM in a big way in all of YOUR festivities. Honor HIS name by making Christ the center of ALL that you do (not JUST in December by the way) and watch how that catches on. We CAN be the change! I WANT to be the change!

I continue to be drawn in to the words of Christ to His disciples. ....

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

I am choosing to believe that, as believers, we have "good" motives behind all that we do. It's SO hard to know what is right and what is wrong when dealing and operating in this world we live in until Christ calls us home. Yes... we need to stand up for our beliefs. But, once we are aware of what God, through His Word and the Spirit, says is a change that needs to be made, I believe our ONLY course of actions is to BE THAT CHANGE! In my own life, I'm much more likely to be persuaded to change something in me when I SEE it working in someone else. So... what would YOU like to see this Christmas?

Peace in our world? BE peace.

Christ, high and lifted up? BE the lifter of His great name.

Joy & Happiness? BE happy NO MATTER the circumstance.

I know it sounds a lot easier than it really is. Personal responsibility is hard. But, at no point in life am I responsible for what someone else says or does. I'm ALWAYS responsible for the way that I respond. I believe we can CHANGE OUR WORLD! But, I don't believe we can do it in one, big swoop, by mass social media. If it's going to happen, I believe it will happen in one relationship at a time, one person at a time... and the first on my list is ME.

BE THE CHANGE!

Here's my disclaimer.... I KNOW that we are also called to confront. It's uncomfortable. But, in our relationships (those we are close to us in life, NOT just a FB friend), my driving force for change in that person has to be LOVE. Jesus knew His time here was short. I'm sure He chose His words for disciples carefully. And, He said our LOVE would be THE thing that showed others we are Christ followers (true disciples). That tells me that when I LACK love in any of my actions, I'm demonstrating that true discipleship is not my focus. It's a fine line. And, that's the reason that I need to be consumed with Christ, ferociously focused on His will for MY life. That takes A LOT of energy and doesn't leave much time for finger pointing outside of my very close circle of relationships.... I'm forced to leave the rest to pastors (those called to point out and shepherd towards the TRUTH) and the Holy Spirit.