Tuesday, March 17

Gifts! All Gifts!!

I am SO, EXTREMELY grateful for this weather. The beautiful sunshine came in on Sunday, and it was AMAZING! Spring is such a great reminder of the gift of NEW.... And, to the Christian, the picture of newness of life is evident all around.

Therefore if any man is IN CHRIST he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. II Corinthians 5:17

Friday afternoon, we got news that Caleb's first baseball tournament for the Spring season was cancelled because of RAIN! We were SO, VERY SICK of the rain. So, this cancellation only fueled the fire.

At the last minute, we decided to just GET AWAY! Our Spring Break is this week. So, rather than sit in the house all weekend and sulk, we took off to Memphis. We aren't very familiar with Memphis activity, but we decided to give it a try.

The funny thing is that we were under the EXACT SAME weather in Memphis! We walked around Beale Street dodging rain. We visited the zoo IN scattered sprinkling. The kids swam.... INDOOR. The drab, yucky, dark, rainy weather was ALL around us. BUT, we weren't focused on THAT.



We were focused on each other and our OWN change of scenery. Then, God gave us a beautiful, SUNNY view for our journey home.

In other words, every day is a CHOICE. Every attitude is a CHOICE! And, rich or poor, rain or shine, New Albany or Memphis, I have a CHOICE! These are my BLESSINGS, and I WILL CHOOSE gratitude and joy.

"Praise HIM for the unexpected and the unlikely, for the daily and the difficult. The more you count, the more gifts you will see." 
Ann Voskamp

Wednesday, March 11

Bring on FORTY!

Man, have I had the "blahs"!

I haven't wanted to do much of anything. I've been cutting back, making space, prioritizing, etc. But, most of all, with everything I have, I've tried to pinpoint where this is all coming from!

I have a couple of ideas. But, I honestly believe the majority of it comes from one thing....

I NEED THE SUN! Why does winter last so much longer and look so much darker here in North MS? When my body does without the elements the sun provides, I begin to settle into irritation over less than meaningful issues. For instance, WHY is there not a TARGET within 20 miles to at least give me THAT as a little bright spot in a couple of my DARK days? It's been long enough, right? Target stores have been around a WHILE.... Even long enough to make it to Mayberry? And, yet there truly isn't a sign with giant red letters anywhere around me.

So, yeah... I have been in a rut. Maybe this rut isn't any bigger than past ruts. It's just that I feel as if I've come alive over the past few years in so many areas. Attacking life and it's challenges is so much more appealing than going through the motions to me now. This makes me much more aware of the rut. Even just the winter 'blahs' aren't acceptable. I need answers. And, I need to move on! In other words, I'm experiencing BURNOUT, and I need a BREAKTHROUGH!

At some point last week, I thought about this blog (literally for the FIRST time in forever), and I knew I'd feel better if I could just write out some thoughts. But here's the thing... No organized thought comes to me in a funk. It's all RANDOM! If you're up for completely random thoughts, carry on. If not, you may need to close your computer and find something else to do. Maybe, you could go and visit your local Target store in my honor. :)

In LESS THAN A MONTH, I will be 40 years old! What?!?!? How can this be? I'm not depressed about it. I've never been one to be bothered by my birthday. I LOVE to celebrate them! FORTY isn't depressing or scary, but it is WEIRD! It just doesn't see possible. And, this strange feeling has led me to evaluate life.... my life and how I've changed. Yeah, yeah.... I'm older, I'm slower, and all the other natural things. But, the majority of changes I notice are less likely to be noticed by anyone on the outside.

Let's start with the fact that, in my older age, I have WAY MORE questions than answers to just about everything. And, most of my questions have to do with things for which I ONCE thought I had PERFECT answers. Strangely, many of my questions have to do with spiritual things. For instance, knowing that the Gospel of Christ is HUGE and covers all people, all sin.... is full of mercy and grace, WHY are Christians much more comfortable splashing social media with EVERYTHING we are AGAINST when the PERSON we know says, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me?" And, if I believe the Holy Spirit is the only One that can change a heart, wouldn't I be much more likely to share Christ while cultivating a soft heart in RELATIONSHIP rather than SCREAMING my beliefs through a giant megaphone on the other side of a computer screen? Maybe I'm missing the point somewhere. Remember, I AM experiencing the 'blahs', but it just seems there's a better way. When I begin having these kinds of questions, I typically head to the Gospels and read about Christ's walk here on Earth. Strangely, I see such different responses. Oh... He held people to a HIGH standard, He boldly spoke AGAINST sin and FOR repentance. It's just that He was speaking to the RELIGIOUS and not the LOST. To those caught in the snare of sin and the world, He spoke kindness and love, He visited, He went out of His way to DEMONSTRATE the love of His father. I want to know how to do this and do it WELL. How? Questions.... Only questions.

Since I began with the spiritual, I'll stay there. My feelings on CHURCH are much different than they used to be. Stick with me here. I still LOVE the Church. LOVE! THE! CHURCH!!! I owe many churches and pastors a great deal of gratitude. I'm not about to LEAVE a local church or decide my family is better off doing this Christian walk alone. I just want so much more from the Church. I want REAL! I want DEPTH! I want to lock arms with a group of people who understand we have an ENEMY. Scripture says "our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion LOOKING for someone to devour." We've been given all of the tools to fight him! In the end, we win the war. But, he's winning daily battles in the lives of believers, and we don't talk about them in our churches, because they aren't pretty! We dress up, go to church, sit and stand when we're supposed to and go right back home to the MESS! I'm OVER pretty.... I want BEAUTIFUL. We may just have to trudge through a lot of UGLY (with others) to get to BEAUTIFUL! But, wouldn't it be worth it?!?!?

Then, there's marriage and romance.... Yeah! This one's pretty HUGE. Once upon a time, I  thought romance in marriage was all date nights and flowers, anniversary trips and sweet gifts. Those are alright. But, at almost 40, I am much more moved by the reality that I'm married to someone who desires DOING the hard work to leave behind a legacy of marriage God's way. Believe me, there's a number of things that could have been swept under the rug. We could grin and bear it and move on. However, that wouldn't get us anywhere. Some days, there are TOUGH talks. And, we are navigating our own way, because intimacy in marriage is not something we've been taught. But, we share a common goals for this life we're living together. At the top of that list is EXPECTING GREATNESS in our marriage and REFUSING to settle for less. There's just no easy way to do it. So, romance now includes difficulty. Hmmm.... I didn't see THAT coming almost 20 years ago.

Parenting our children has shifted TREMENDOUSLY.  I care a LOT less about Caleb, Collin, and Claire LOOKING like a million bucks everywhere we go. I'm even getting over the desire for them to be the "good kids" in every situation. Now, don't get me wrong! I'm not wishing for my children to be problematic, constantly in trouble, or outright REBELS. However, my BIG dream for them is that they each have hearts CAPTURED by God. And, I've come to realize that kind of devotion doesn't come naturally. We have to be DRIVEN to it. Our mistakes are excellent drivers, because they demonstrate our great need for a loving Savior. There have been a couple of instances just this week where one of our children has made some TERRIBLE choices. It breaks my heart. But, I'm not at all concerned with the external, what this LOOKS like. All of our discussions with him have been related to his HEART and relationship. I could (and we did) enforce some consequences and stricter rules. Hopefully, those will serve to drive him to the end of Himself. But, ultimately, only God can change his heart. Only God can show him that HIS BEST is the goal. Otherwise, this Christian life will ALWAYS feel like RULES and MISSING OUT! I want our children to trust that God's heart is FOR their happiness (YES! I said "happy")! His way is the BEST way and the ONLY true road to happiness, freedom, and joy. Humanity typically learns this lesson the hard way. So, I'm less likely, at 40, to shield my kids from all of their mistakes and failures. They just might come face to face with their Savior there.

I could go on and on.... I really could! Life is interesting! Honestly, these are only a FEW of the things that have changed for me over the years. Internally, I'd say I'm a COMPLETELY different person. Forty years from now, I'll have changed EVEN MORE. I hope so, at least! Life would have been so boring if things had panned out just exactly like I'd thought they would when my adult life began.

So, bring on 40! I'm ready! I've never really been able to back down from a challenge. As great as the past few decades have been, I'm planning for the next one to be the best yet. The internal/external shift in God's design is interesting. As a younger woman, I was physically stronger than I was mentally and emotionally. Here, I find myself SO MUCH STRONGER internally, and physically (big sigh), I'm getting weaker. YUCK! "Best yet" may be a HIGH goal, but I'm not giving in yet....

Ear buds in, praise music on, and maybe I'll run some stairs. However much life I have left here, I WILL make the most it. This means, I'll continue learning, changing, FIGHTING, loving, teaching, serving, PRAISING, and anything else the LORD calls me to. Because.... There's a LOT of LIVING left to do!

Praise God! And, although I don't know what kind of living will come, I'm comforted by Joshua's leading of the Israelites into Canaan. He says, "Do not come near it (ark), that you may know the way by which you should go, FOR YOU HAVE NOT PASSED THIS WAY BEFORE."

Then Joshua said to the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.' Joshua 2:5

Tomorrow..... I'm ready! Do it, Lord!  :)

Monday, November 10

It's a NEW Day....

After my last post (a LONG time ago), I received a message from a long time friend through Facebook. Essentially, this friend said, "I always wondered WHY you continued to talk about this publicly." These words made me laugh, because I'VE often wondered the same thing! Thankfully, the latter part of my friend's message explained that my post Storms, gave understanding for WHY I was "still talking" about adultery recovery after over 2 years of recovery.

I'm not sure I've ever really made sense of the why.... All I've known for the past couple of years is that God was doing an amazing work in my heart, in our marriage, and in our family. For me, it seemed that it would be selfish and sinful to keep that to myself. I NEEDED to brag on my God. The circumstances haven't been pretty, but His activity has been a beautiful sight to behold.

A few weeks ago, I was in an arena full of people, and a powerful speaker was sharing his thoughts on having vision for your life. I wish I could briefly share what I heard. There's no way! He shared stories from his life and from others. He was explaining the importance of knowing what you want, what you're aiming for, so well that you can SEE it. The point of his 1.5 hour session was this.... When you know what your ultimate chief aim is, nothing will stop you from striving for it.

In many areas of my life, I don't know my ultimate, chief aim. There are some areas of life that Scotty and I are working on. We are setting goals and striving for experiences we've never known. So, how do you picture this? How do you have vision when you can't really SEE what you want?

In the middle of my dilemma, I began to make some connections. As Mark Smith was speaking, I began to realize what the past couple of years have done for me. On August 26th, 2011, I received news that SHOULD HAVE wiped me out. Our family was devastated as I found out that the innocence of my marriage was gone. FOREVER! And, I hope previous posts allow you to know that I was devastated, because I was. However, my vision for the future of our family wasn't shaken. I had a repentant husband. We had supportive friends and family, and we were both committed to doing whatever we needed to do to restore.

I wish I could say that complete healing and restoration came from making that simple decision. It did not! The immediate days that followed were extremely hard. What was even harder, though, was realizing in the years that followed that there would be difficult days forever. For a time, it felt like we would take a step forward and then fifty steps backwards. That roller coaster takes a toll on a life. But, I never shifted in my resolve. No matter how hard the day, there was never a time that I thought, "Oh no! We aren't going to make it."

Never!

Not one day!

And, in the middle of an arena in Long Beach, CA, I put the pieces together. The reason my resolve couldn't be shifted is because I have VISION for our family. I can SEE graduations, weddings, grandchildren being born, and everything that goes with those events being enjoyed by us as a connected family. I know what the alternative is, and I want something different. I can SEE IT!

When I didn't want to sit in a room and share my feelings with a counselor, I did it anyway, because it was part of the process TOWARDS what I wanted in the end.

On days I woke up and didn't want to exert the energy needed to even get out of bed, I'd give myself a tiny bit of time in that funk. Then, I'd get up and push through the motions to think myself  into a new feeling.

Remember that I'm bragging on my God and not on me! The reason I was able to cooperate with Him is because I consider my vision of the way this all ends BIGGER than the obstacles along the way. And, there it is.... my ultimate, chief aim. Without knowing it, I was applying this motivational speech to my life in the area of marriage, family, and adultery recovery. Because of that, we are experiencing victory!

But, there are other areas of life that I DON'T have vision. Therefore, when the hard times come, when challenges arise, I'm ready to quit. I get overwhelmed! I have trouble following through with the process. I've been doing A LOT of study and personal development in these areas, because I trust Jesus when He said, "I have come that you may have life and have it ABUNDANTLY."
     
I believe that is TRUTH for every area of my life. I don't believe that life is compartmentalized. I DO believe that I either acknowledge Christ's centrality in ALL OF LIFE, or I make him a little god that I pull out only for areas that I consider are spiritual.

So, I'm in the process of applying the VISION God gave me for our family to every area of my life.... relationships, business, education, health, and anything else that comes up. If Christ came for me to experience LIFE, FULL LIFE, I'm striving for that. I'm going for it! Why be satisfied with mediocre, just surviving, when HE HAS OVERCOME?!?! In Him, I can overcome too.

Therefore, I've determined that this blog is going to shift. My friend will be happy to know that all deep conversation about the moral failure that took over our family will not take up space here again. Instead, I'm going to share my journey towards fullness of life. But, just know that all I've learned in the process of marriage healing has provided the courage and faith to pursue the same VICTORY in other areas too.

Thank you for allowing me to share what most consider taboo. Thank you for even encouraging me in it. I've gotten some of the kindest messages over the years. I appreciate them all. If I'd hidden what the Lord was doing, I'm afraid "the rocks would have cried out." But, now God is doing a new thing. He's leading me to share that OVERCOMING is a mindset, and it's a mindset for EVERY area of life.


Here's what I know.... FEAR & FAITH can't coexist. So, I'm choosing FAITH! Not once! I'm not going to be selective about what I can and can't overcome. In all things, I'm choosing faith, because my days are numbered. I want EVERY, SINGLE one to count.

Sunday, August 3

Storms....

This weekend, I drove to Baton Rouge. I left from Tupelo instead of from home, so I spent some time on the Trace. There's a piece of the Trace outside of Tupelo that was seriously damaged by the tornado of 2011. It's so obvious that there's even a sign posted just before it begins....

Tornado Damage
April, 2011

I remember driving this part of the Natchez Trace after that tornado, and the damage was massive. If you've ever been down this road, you know that greenery COVERS the entire drive. In fact, I've never liked driving down the Trace, because the view is exactly the same for the whole drive. Beautiful, towering trees line the road from start to finish. The fullness of the forest is pretty, but there were never any markers from Jackson to Tupelo.... until April, 2011.

When the tornado came through, it WIPED OUT an entire section of trees. It CLEARED the land. It didn't happen in one little patch. A whole section of land was desolate. The fullness was gone, and wide open land, empty land, was left. 

This past Spring, Tupelo experienced a tornado, and the scenery there is marked by the storm that passed through. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes all leave a mark. They leave evidence of the damage caused. That's why Scotty and I have always labeled his confession and all that followed our "earthquake", and it also occurred in 2011. 

When I think about the picture of that desolate piece of the Trace, I know it's a great picture of the emotional devastation we felt in August of 2011. The storm ripped through our lives, and it WIPED me out! My life was clearly marked by the storm. It made my view entirely different. Internally, I felt the fullness of life (the life I knew) was gone, empty.... The "storm" ripped through and left it's mark. Looking back, I can place a sign on the time line of my life....

Earthquake Damage
August, 2011

On Friday, though, I saw a different view. I haven't driven the Trace in a while (remember it's not my favorite). So, as I moved into the damaged area, the view looked completely different. It wasn't clear anymore. It wasn't wide open and empty. There was growth! There was GREEN! There was life! 


Amazing! It's taken some time, but new life is apparent. And, I couldn't help but compare the beauty of the greenery in a damaged patch of the Trace to my own life. This piece of land is still marked. Anyone can see that it's been hit by a tough storm. But, it doesn't look defeated anymore. The new growth of green is a picture of healing and recovery of strength.

Just like this patch of land, I'll forever be marked by the storm. But, almost three years later, I'm marked by newness of LIFE. Our family is marked by GROWTH. And, there's GREENERY to be seen again. As I drove through, I realized that I wasn't focused on the devastation anymore. Instead, I was marveling at the fact that God heals all hurt. And, in HIM, no devastation can last forever. 

I had a time of Thanksgiving right there.... Aren't you glad we can praise and worship our Creator whenever and wherever? I did! I began to think about all of the FRUIT that has come from our storm. And, I realized that Crowder's song, I am, was playing from my iPod. I am holding on to you, I am holding on to you, in the middle of the storm, I am holding on, I AM.

Yes. He was. He was holding on right in the eye of the storm when I didn't have the strength. It's taken some time; but, today, I look up and there's growth, there's strength, there's greenery. The storm may have ripped through. The landscape may always be marked. But, beauty and life are apparent. 

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Tuesday, July 22

What Would You Do If You Weren't AFRAID?

Several years ago, I was sitting in a Bible study. We'd been walking through Galatians. Each week, we'd look at a few verses and then participate in discussion. The theme of Galatians is FREEDOM. This particular night, we were discussing how often FEAR hinders our FREEDOM.

So, my friend and our leader asked this question, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

What a question! As adults, we don't usually think about fear like this. Fear is something children deal with a bedtime, or maybe with a bully at school.... But, we grow out of fear KEEPING us from DOING! Right?

That particular night, I thought only for a minute. Then, I answered that question for me.... "I would get certified to teach aerobics."

I know you're laughing! I know that's crazy. Of all the important things going on in the world, I was pondering my desire to teach aerobics. Even crazier, I was afraid to do it. It was an eye opening experience. Clearly, fear played a big part in my living. If fear was keeping me from doing something as simple as becoming certified to teach at a gym, surely fear was keeping me from bigger things as well.

Last week, I felt led to share that story with my Bible study group. It was relevant to our lesson, so I asked them the same question. I pray that it opened their hearts and minds to look for the evidence of fear in their lives. My own heart and mind have been opened to revisit this question and my answer. I answered that question 7 years ago. A little over 6 years ago I DID get certified to teach aerobics. So, this week, I've been able to look back at what God's done through this ONE area in my life.

Because of my certification, I was given the opportunity to work for Mississippi College. I taught 3 fitness classes to their students. These classes were just like my normal, gym class. But, my students were college students, and they were receiving college credit for attending. I LOVED that job. I LOVED being able to invest in the lives of college students at MC. Through teaching aerobics, I was given the opportunity to invest in lives at a key time in their lives. Fighting fear and becoming certified opened a door to ministry! 

You know my story, and I've mentioned the date August 26th a lot. But, that's the start of a weekend that completely changed my life. Our news hit on a Friday morning. Scotty resigned from ministry that Sunday morning. Needless to say, I was pretty lifeless by the end of that weekend. However, MC began their first full week of classes that very next day, and I taught on Mondays. So, I woke up that morning, put on my gym clothes, and went to work. I hadn't eaten and hadn't really slept. But, I was going to teach 3 straight hours of classes... spinning, pilates, and a cardio class. You sort of NEED fuel and sleep to teach that many classes. For an entire semester, I would go to the gym on Monday and Wednesday and have NO idea how I could make it through those classes. But, every Monday and Wednesday, I experienced peace and calm during those hours. I felt energized and ready to attack each new class. Most days, I'd walk out of my last class either crying or wiped out. It was extremely clear to me that God literally held me up, gave me energy, provided JUST the amount of grace needed to do my job well.... with JOY! Fighting fear and becoming certified gave the Lord the opportunity to demonstrate HIS strength and power IN and THROUGH me. 

Today, I'm getting ready to head to the gym and lead spinning. Teaching classes at the gym is a HUGE part of my life now. When we moved to New Albany, I'd decided that I was done with this kind of teaching. I felt like it was a season, and that season was over. God's plans were different than my plans. A position opened soon after I arrived, and I teach most mornings at 8:00. I can't even describe how much of a blessing these classes are to me. I've met people through these classes that have encouraged me, they've introduced me to people and helped me get TOT going, and they've simply encouraged my soul on a daily basis. Still, almost three years after our crisis, I still wake up some mornings and feel like there's NO way I can go and do an hour of HIGH energy activity. Yet, God strengthens and sustains! And, I always walk out of class with a better sense of God's presence in and through my life. I NEVER thought I'd ever teach at a gym in New Albany, MS. But, God did. Fighting fear and becoming certified prepared me for a life I didn't even know was coming.

So, what would YOU do if you weren't afraid? That's a great question. If I hadn't been asked, and I hadn't decided I was more afraid of missing out on God's leading than my own fear of failure, a huge part of my life now would be different. Reflecting on this question for our class this week has led me to believe that I need to ask myself THIS particular question on a daily basis. Fear hinders Freedom ALWAYS! And, I want to be free! 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. So, choosing to let fear dictate what I choose to do and not do is making the choice to lived OUTSIDE of the knowledge of all that Christ has done for me. Remember, living in freedom won't necessarily be easy (attacking our fears never is), but I can promise it will be worth it!


Friday, July 18

Freedom is NEVER Free & Redemption is NEVER Easy

This summer is flying by! I know it always does. But, every year, it seems to move a little faster. Am I ready to hit the books again, get back into a full routine, and force myself back into making a plan for all of the chaos? Not! At! All! But, that's for another day and another post.

Today, I have something else on my brain, and it's this.... Life is just hard!

Can I get an "AMEN"?

Most days, I'm ok with that fact. I understand it. I can take it. And, I know that it's these very difficulties that are keeping me focused on The Lord and on the eternal life I won't get to fully experience until Heaven. But, some days (today is one of those days), I take offense to the fact the life is just hard. I take offense to the fact that it must continue to be hard. And, I REALLY take offense to the fact that sometimes difficult circumstances seemingly get resolved ONLY to pop up again days, weeks, months, and years later. Can't we sometimes just fix it and forget it?

So many wonderful things have happened for us this summer. We've had some really great experiences. And, there is so much about our life at home that has become comfortable and easy again. I'm grateful for that. However, there hasn't been much time to enjoy that comfort, because God's decided it's time to work on other areas with me.

I'm leading Bible study again. We are studying The Patriarchs by Beth Moore. As we've moved through Genesis and studied the dysfunction of this first family, all sorts of YUCK has come up from my childhood/teenage years. I guess these would be things I've never dealt with. And, here's the thing.... I've discovered that IF I'd dealt with them as they were happening, it really would have been easier. At almost 40, it's not fun AT ALL. After all we've been through, though, I KNOW dealing with the pain and ugly is worth it! I believe there's FREEDOM on the other side, but I must go to war to reach it. See.... Freedom is never actually free! Someone always pays for it.

Secondly, God has decided that it's time for me to deal with this whole friend thing. If you know me at all, you know that I've had friends, cherished friends, and needed friends all of my adult life. I just enjoy sharing life through friendships. I won't say that I haven't had friends over the past 2 years. Truly, I have some friends that had been "on the fringe" for years that stepped in when I needed them and became ROCKS to me. These are friendships that I still treasure today and am so grateful for them.

But, God and I decided that it is time for me to start seeking new friendships HERE in my new home. I was very excited about this journey! Very! And, then, we began, and I realized that ALL SORTS OF EMOTION was going to come from this venture. You see, (and I'll be vague on purpose) two and a half years ago, God took me from hurt to forgiveness quickly! I skipped ANGER! That was a good thing THEN, because I didn't need to focus on anyone other than my husband and my children at that time. And, anger keeps you focused on the person you're angry with. But, I've found out that you CAN skip anger, BUT only for a time. It will still arrive, and arrive it did!!!! It was short, granted, but hurt and confusion still came after. Again! Even though we'd already done that step. However, I KNOW that dealing with the PAIN and dealing with the UGLY is worth it! Always!! So, God and I went to work AGAIN! Fighting for FREEDOM.

Why can't any of it be easy? Why? I know the answer. But, I still want to ask "why" just one more time. Why?

Right now, for me, everything is hard emotionally. If you'd like, you can pray for that. On any given day, I'm just right on the brink of tears. I'm not talking eyes watering, maybe even dripping a little... I'm talking on the verge of buckets of tears to the point that all witnesses will wish they'd never even begun a conversation with me.

But, even in the difficulty, here's my encouragement.... It's all worth it! I COULD brush it all under the rug again. We could put on a happy face and move along. But, then.... there's no FREEDOM. It will show up again. Whatever "it" is, it doesn't just go away. Like a 2 liter, carbonated drink, it's emptied only 2 ways. It can be shaken and shaken and shaken until it explodes all over the kitchen. Or, it can be poured and swallowed a little at a time over a period of time. That's us! Our "junk" needs to come out. It's healthy. And, a little at a time is so much better than an explosion. I know! Then, when we've done the HARD WORK, we experience the fruit of that labor..... JOY & FREEDOM.

REDEMPTION!

This morning, in week 7 of my Genesis study, Beth Moore spoke to this very thing much more beautifully than I can (imagine that)..... :)

"Redemption is when the pain is treated and turned around so thoroughly that it not only loses its power to do you harm but also gains the power to do some good..... I have known suffering, and it gives me a depth of compassion and understanding that I would never have otherwise possessed. When all was said and done, Satan got caught in the very snare he set for me. Don't stop working with God until Satan's evil plan for your life or your family backfires in his ugly face."

God redeems, but we have to cooperate. Our call is to work WITH Him, and it's rarely easy. But, it's ALWAYS worth it. Hang in there and see it ALL the way through. And, pray that I will too.

Thursday, June 5

Mercy Triumphs PERIOD!

So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.  James 2: 12-13

I've noticed an apparent trend among believers that is disturbing to me. Maybe I'm overly sensitive. That's a definite possibility. But, maybe it's a real flaw that needs to be addressed. All I know is that I'm disturbed.... seriously disturbed. And, after months of reflecting, praying, begging for wisdom & patience & anything else I may be lacking, I've got to "put it out there."

It seems that believers are seeking to do a better job in offering grace and mercy to the world. Please notice that I said better! I'm not sure we're offering best, and I'm not sure we will EVER fully know what IS the best way to offer grace and mercy to a sinful world. Jesus was here! He did it perfectly. We will never quite get it. We are facing some pretty HUGE issues in our world. I won't even name them, because any one that comes to your mind would work. Right is right and sin is sin. But, I struggle daily with the way I am to respond to this in my world. When I see Jesus in the Gospels, He responds to sin in a much different way than I see on a daily basis and very differently than I am prone to respond. But, that's a different subject.

My disturbance over the past couple of months concerns the way WE (believers) offer mercy to other believers. I'm afraid it's ANYTHING but MERCIFUL. I see it over and over, and it breaks my heart! 

How often, in a church family, will someone get annoyed that their pastor or lay leader doesn't react to his/her family crisis correctly? If you've been part of a church family long enough, you've seen this MULTIPLE times. Where is the mercy here? Mercy might question WHY. But, mercy would understand that, in a church of many members, leaders have huge agendas. Mercy wouldn't assume the worst like, "my pastor doesn't care." There are a million reasons why we don't get responses we think we deserve. But, I believe mercy recognizes that it's not always about ME. 

What about in our own families? We might be very likely to offer mercy to a stranger on the street in the name of Jesus, but just let my spouse forget to put his dishes in the dishwasher, and it's game over! He's getting the cold shoulder for at least a day. When mercy triumphs over judgment, it should start at home, right? That was a trivial example. But, replace neglecting dirty dishes with a much more serious sin, and mercy should still triumph. For some reason, it appears to me that Christians expect to be merciful towards the sins of those out there.... in the world. We expect our believing family, though, to live perfectly. Otherwise, I have the right to respond with the cold shoulder, spewing disappointment, or flight. If "mercy triumphs over judgment," our family gets the benefit of the doubt every once in a while. And, practicing mercy in the midst of sin should BEGIN at home! 

And, then there's social media.... where all grace, mercy, and KINDNESS is obsolete. I read some GREAT articles on Facebook every day. I follow some wonderful blogs written by people.... just living life, trying to do the best they can do, and confessing the need for help and support. But, to my dismay, I read articles and blog posts daily that do not have an OUNCE of mercy within them. These blogs are written by believers and cover a variety of different topics. But, the goal seems to be to tear down one person, one view, one "group" while elevating the author's perspective all in the name of "protecting Truth." 

Combing the internet to find a single statement by an author or speaker that I disagree with and then tearing that author apart in a blog post for the world doesn't appear to me to be "mercy triumphing over judgment."

Does "mercy triumph over judgment" when we take subjects like discipline, modesty, parenting, etc. and point out all of the ways those around us don't measure up to our standards? Is it merciful to decide that our own preferences are THE standard by which all else is to be measured? Or, is that judgment?

I am NOT saying that we don't make decisions each and every day about how we will live out God's Word and what the Christian life in our homes will look like. We CAN and SHOULD decide those things for ourselves and our families. We can defend those decisions with our words to our children and other family members. When we hear teaching that appears false, it is NECESSARY to speak with our children and others in our realm of teaching about how and why we believe the Bible speaks against that particular teaching. Those we are IN relationship with are the ones we teach and disciple! Yes, speak TRUTH. Yes, speak out against what YOU believe to be inconsistent teaching. But, speak to people you KNOW about what you KNOW. Disciple "as you go" in the lives with whom you are on the go. 

Relationally!

NOT via public service announcements!

Like I said, I've been very troubled about this for a while now. Facebook has turned into a battleground, and people from MY FAMILY (believers) are the ones I read 'stirring the pot,' speaking slander, and elevating fear. So, I began to comb the New Testament searching for Jesus among the people. I've been desperate to see how He dealt with others. Particularly in Matthew, Jesus speaks against WRONGS publicly. But, almost every time, He's speaking against Pharisees. If there was a way to make Christ's job on Earth more difficult, these "church people" were sure trying. Sad! Jesus came as "the way, the truth, and the life," and the Pharisees seemed to be livid that He was making it "too easy" for the wayward to get to Him... Mercy triumphing over judgment won't always be the popular way.
 
I don't know what the answer is. What I DO know is that the UNbelieving world around us must often look in and think, "Why would I want to join THEM? THEY are ALWAYS fighting about something!" If we, as believers, could fight FOR the things we KNOW TO BE TRUE and stop fighting AGAINST each other in trivial, maybe preferential, matters, I believe mercy WOULD triumph and LIGHT would dispel some darkness. Wouldn't THAT be awesome!

Thursday, May 29

I Need Tech Support

Technology..... It was supposed to enhance life, make life easier, etc. Right? Surely, that was the plan. However, in our home and with our kids, technology has made life incredibly HARD!

At least 3 times a day, I have the feeling that I'd like to gather all electronics in a sack and take that sack to the curb to be hauled of with the garbage. It makes me crazy!

The start of this summer hasn't been too bad, because we have a little bit of school work left to do. We've been doing a little bit here and there. The kids know not to pressure me about doing/not doing something, because I'll just pull out the school books, and we'll get to work.

But, the recurring problem that makes me want to SCREAM is the lack of creativity that technology encourages in MY kids (maybe not yours). The fact that my children will walk around this house like lost puppies when electronics are put away, makes me feel like a complete failure as a mom. When I hear, "I don't have anything to do," simply because electronics are off limits, I want to bury all of these tiny machines deep underground.... never to be seen again.

That's how I FEEL. But, what I KNOW is that, along the way, we've had terrible boundaries when it comes to these electronics. At some point in time, our children were allowed too much time with these little beasts; and, now, they rely on them heavily for entertainment. The iPod, the Ipad, the X Box, and the TV are inanimate objects. They should not have any power over my emotions, and they don't. They DO expose the fact that I've messed up with regards to electronic usage... aka, "screen time." But, I'm not willing to leave it at that. I think I can remedy the problem with a little bit of detox and a lot more guiding.

So, today, I have a question.... How do YOU monitor "screen time" at your house??? Please, please respond. I know there's an answer out there that will work for us. But, you've got to share it. And, keep in mind, I want an answer that solves the issue from the start. I want expectations to be known, so that even questioning me about usage during a time when there is to be no usage results in a consequence of some sort.

Ready? Set! Go..... Help a mother out, please! My sanity is dependent upon it. :)

Wednesday, May 28

Let's Get Real!

It's been a long time! I've had a lot to say. But, I haven't taken the time to say it. I just can't seem to get into the habit of regularly blogging. I'd LOVE to. I DO enjoy it. It just takes a while, and I haven't taken the time to do it.

Oh well.... the world has gone on JUST FINE without be writing my little blog. But, I'm breaking the silence today with this question,

"Why can't we be REAL?"

I get it! I really do. I've lived it! I really have. We have this persona that we want the world to see. And, we'll fight tooth and nail to make sure no one sees anything other than THAT person. Nothing else! Ever!!!

Honestly, that has been the BIGGEST blessing of our journey. We did not have the option to suffer in silence! Our news hit the circuit immediately. And, EVERYONE around us knew what we were dealing with. To try and act like we had it all together, were doing GREAT.... the all American family.... would have been NUTS to anyone looking in. There was/is nowhere to hide!

However, the truth is, there were issues before. In comparison, they weren't big issues. But, we definitely had our problems. I don't think I ever tried to pretend we were perfect. But, would I have shared the darkness of each of our issues? Ummmmm NO!

That's why I'm saying I understand the need to stuff the problems, hide the dysfunction, dress up and carry on. But, I feel compelled to say emphatically, THERE'S A BETTER WAY!

There's so much freedom in being 'outed'. Truly! We are 2 1/2 years out of Scotty's adultery confession. Because we've chosen to share that fact publicly, the world knows (or at least should know) that we face problems daily that need real help. No matter how put together we look, no matter how adorable our children are dressed, no matter how wonderfully we perform in any of our ventures, the truth is still there and our secret is out..... We are one very messed up family!

But, here's the thing..... So are you! So is your friend, your pastor, your grandparent, your teachers, your....

I'm not saying that with childlike finger pointed, "I know you are, but what am I?" mentality. That really ISN'T my goal.

So, what is my goal..... social media has allowed us to create the family/person we want to be. Once we've decided WHO we want to be, we get to stage our ideal just so and flood the internet with those pictures. I'm not against social media. I LOVE using it, and I LOVE seeing the pictures (although I'd be alright if we saved the sermons for a more personal setting). :)

But, if ALL of our energy is going into creating the perfect image of our life, do we have any energy left to ACTUALLY LIVE the life we've been given WELL? I'm afraid the answer has to be NO.

Y'all we live in a seriously troubled world. None of us will get through unscathed. We will need help to navigate the mess. Satan is doing a great job of fooling us into believing that if "they" knew "this" about me, I'd DIE of embarrassment! The reality is, "they" would be relieved, and YOU would be FREE!

For years, I felt Scotty and I needed to be in counseling. We didn't communicate well and having kids exposed a lot of our issues, individual issues and couple issues. We never even looked for a therapist! And, our unstated reason was PRIDE. I'm not saying our story would have turned out differently had we found help earlier. But, knowing what I know now, I am SURE our marriage would have benefited. We just needed to admit to SOMEONE that we were struggling!

Why can't we do that?!?!?! Why is it still such a struggle?

If you are wearing a mask for the world so they see the person you want them to see, there is a trade off. And, IT'S NOT WORTH IT. You MAY be looked at with awe, but you've missed out on the joy of fellowship... of knowing others and BEING known.

I hesitate to say this, because I'm married to a counselor. It MAY sound like I'm advertising for work. But, I'm going to say it anyway. PEOPLE.... GO! GET! HELP!!

More than ever before, we live in times when this life is hard to navigate! We need help. There are people trained to WALK YOU THROUGH the difficulties you are dealing with. There's no shame in that! It is wise to admit we need help and then to go and find it. PLEASE, do NOT be one of those that say, "I can't afford counseling." I say this with COMPLETE CONFIDENCE speaking from experience, if you feel you would benefit from counseling, you can't afford NOT to get it. It's that simple for me now. It's black and white... there's no in between.

You can embrace your brokenness, because you live in a broken world. None of us will make it out without hurts and pains. But, if we will walk through those hurts with the Lord, we will find the fullness of joy! It's there. But, REAL joy requires REAL life!

What do you want more.... a spotless image or a life that bears the image of the ONE TRUE God? It's through our pain that He reveals His power over EVERY limitation, EVERY failure, and EVERY mess.

Don't you think this world would benefit greatly from seeing HIS power and YOUR weaknesses. I know I would!!!



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.