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.  

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!