Wednesday, July 31

Can It Ever Be TOO LATE?

Last summer, the Bible reading guide I was following took me through Proverbs in a month. I enjoyed it so much (except for 5 through 7 for obvious reasons), and I decided to read a chapter a day for several months. I could do this every day for the rest of my life and still not gain all of the wisdom contained there. It's a great book.

Well, this past month, Scotty has been reading through Proverbs, and I decided to join in. He's reading The Message version, and my translation is NAS. It's been fun to compare specific verses and discuss. By the way, I've heard argument that The Message is a 'watered down' version of the Bible, and Christians should stick to the other versions. I thought this to be a ridiculous argument the first time I saw it. And, after comparing this past month, I'm convinced the argument is absurd. Scotty's Message version packed a punch when placed next to mine. Rather than watering it down, it seemed to amp up the Truth in today's phrases. Man.... some people just look for trouble!

That was extra! I'm getting back to my point.

O.K. PRIDE! It's spoken of and against throughout Proverbs. Over and over, the writer is advising against pride. He's suggesting we take drastic measures to prevent pride in our own lives. On occasion, he even recommends we call out the pride in the lives of others.

I dislike pride! A LOT! I'm angered by it in other people, and I'm disgusted when it pops up within me. But, even I found this verse to be drastic.

"A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy." Proverbs 29:1

That seems a little harsh. Beyond remedy? Really? Then, check THIS out....

For people who hate discipline and only get more stubborn, there’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break, but by then it’ll be too late to help them. (The Message)

These seem like extreme phrases.... 'too late to help', 'they break', 'broken beyond remedy'. I'm an optimist. I don't see things as beyond help. I like to think that it's never too late.

However, I began to think about certain scenarios. 

An employer WILL run out of patience with an employee who refuses to receive correction and discipline. At some point, a mistake will be made, a profit loss will occur, a customer will complain and it will be too late. This employee will be fired. And, what was the cause? Pride!

A business being run corruptly or unprofessionally can survive at times and even thrive. Friends, family, accountants, other professionals can advise a leader to make changes. He may be unwilling, because his ways seem to be working. But, typically, there WILL come a day when poor decisions add up and the business crumbles... beyond remedy. And, what was the cause? Pride!

In families, there is dysfunction. In friendships, there is dysfunction. All relationships contain a certain amount of dysfunction. There's no way around that, because we are sinful people. If we want to hold on to these relationships, we MUST exercise humility rather than pride. When we know that we've hurt someone else, we either choose to admit it as a mistake and attempt to learn better ways to relate OR we choose to "harden our necks" insisting that the OTHER person is wrong or over reacting. In this scenario, there WILL come a day when the relationship is beyond remedy. It may not be over. But, it has tumbled. It has broken! And, it's simply too late. And, why? Pride.

God has blessed me tremendously by creating a spirit of humility in Scotty. Two years ago, he was at a crossroads... continue in pride? or face this with humility? The more I read in Proverbs, the more grateful I become. But, this isn't always our collective choice. We are definitely not beyond "stiffening our necks". 

I want to be constantly looking at my life, my choices, and my relationships. I want to accept correction when someone is trying to help me. I want to make a change before something is broken. Because, there IS a time that will be "too late". There are things/relationships that are "beyond remedy". And, I never, ever want to reach that point. 

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18

 First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. The Message version

Ouch! and Ouch!!

Monday, July 22

Claire... A Dose of Good Medicine!

My "Happy Birthday, Claire" post did not make it on Friday which was actually her birthday. I guess we were busy with a slumber party, preparing for a skating party and just enjoying her excitement.

We certainly had a great weekend celebrating CLAIRE! She's easy to celebrate. The smiles in this picture say it all. The smallest things bring a smile to Claire's face. In the above picture, you can see... She's smiling over 2 Gigi's cupcakes! She's smiling over the Courageous DVD she opened from Scotty & me. She's all smiles putting on her skates and riding her bike with no training wheels. She's just happy! She loves to smile! And, she's brought 6 years worth of JOY to our lives simply being CLAIRE!

Sure! Claire has bad days, whiny days, fussy days. She is normal. But, for the most part, she's very satisfied & content in life. She's grateful for even the small things. And, when I'm feeling rotten and tempted to focus on something negative, I need to take a few lessons from Claire, smile, and look for the things to rejoice in.

And, hey... that's not a bad idea, because she's been DYING to teach me a thing or two for at least 5 of her 6 years! Yes, Claire is our happy, joyful, content, funny and maybe a teeny bit bossy baby girl. We are BEYOND grateful to call her our daughter.

"A joyful heart is good medicine..." Proverbs 17:22

Wednesday, July 17

Simple words...

This morning, I read through a Psalm that I've heard & read many times. Psalm 121 is so uplifting and encouraging, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills; from whence comes my help...."

I know you've heard it before as well. So, I'm not sharing anything NEW this morning, really. But, I tried to slow down as I read and absorb what I was reading. I did not get very far in my reading, because my slowness caused me to get held up in verse 2....

My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

I stalled here in this verse, because I was using the concordance in the back of my Bible. I wanted to turn back and see the Hebrew meaning of any words that were marked. The word, 'made', was marked. And, very simply, it's original word means; to do, to make, to accomplish, to complete.

Ahhhh..... the same God who made, accomplished, and completed heaven & earth can and will help me. That is where my help comes from. That is where your help comes from.

See! I don't have anything HUGE to share today. But, it brought peace to my soul that the same Person, completer of heaven and earth, is the One to whom I am called to look towards for help. HE is THE MAKER, THE ONE WHO ACCOMPLISHES, THE COMPLETER! Why would I need any other help?

So, what's going on with you today? Are there tiny, bothersome issues that aren't necessarily earth shattering in your world but provide just enough distraction to get on your nerves? The LORD who made (accomplished & completed) heaven and earth is your help.

Are you staring at huge issues that are changing or could change the very way that you do life? The LORD who made (accomplished & completed) heaven and earth is your help.

I hope that brings you peace & rest today....

Sunday, July 14

A BIG Reveal...

This won't be a huge surprise to some of you ONLY because you've already heard. But, some of you are going to be shocked....


This is a START to the 'school room'. We've got a little more to do!

One of these days, I'm going to QUIT listing things that I'll never do. Homeschooling my children was definitely on my "never" list. However, due to the fact the God all but said OUT LOUD to me that this was in His plan, we've got to move forward with it. 

I know that everyone who has made the decision to keep children at home rather than send them to school has different reasoning for their choices. We've had different reasons at every stage in the process. Ultimately, the decision was made because we are so weary of the busy, busy schedule! We NEED more family time, AT HOME, without the rush. For the better part of this past year, I felt the only things that I was saying to my children were, "Wake up!", "Hurry up!", and "Go to bed!" That made me very sad.

I mentioned the feelings I was having to Scotty (completely expecting a big, fat, "NO!"), and apparently he'd been considering it too. So, we made the decision that we would do it but didn't really tell ANYONE! We needed to make sure we'd heard correctly.

Since that point, God has made it more than abundantly clear that this is the path for us. We've talked with several friends who also homeschool and gotten as much advice as possible. And, I had the opportunity to go to a Teach Them Diligently conference. Now, our reasons for making this choice go way beyond just wanting more family time. 

By the time we began telling people about our decision, I'd gained enough confidence not to be bothered by any negative comments. Most people have been very encouraging, but there have been some that were quite funny. They were funny to me, because they were all things that I've THOUGHT before but never would have said OUT LOUD to anyone. It doesn't matter, though. In the end, we've experienced the life of disobedience & the life of obedience. We've found that it's best to just obey! 

Here's what's interesting, though. Whether the opinion towards our decision is good or bad, there is a common statement that I hear from EVERYONE.... "I could never do that. I'm just not that __________________." You can fill in that blank with 'disciplined', 'organized', or 'patient'. But, that is THE answer. 

My dad sent me an email this morning that included an insert from one of Jen Hatmaker's blog posts about the end of year scenario at her house. Honestly, as I read her words, I began to find it harder and harder to breathe. Why? Because I know what she is talking about....

We are limping, limping across the finish line, folks. I tapped out somewhere in April and at this point, it is a miracle my kids are still even going to school. I haven’t checked homework folders in three weeks, because, well, I just can’t. Cannot. Can. Not. I can’t look at the homework in the folder. Is there homework in the folder? I don’t even know. Are other moms still looking in the homework folder? I don’t even care.

The emails coming in for All Of The Things – class gift, end of year letters, luncheon signup, party supplies, awards ceremonies, pictures for the slide shows, final projects – are like a tsunami of doom. They are endless. I mean, they will never ever end. There is no end of it. I will never finish and turn it all in and get it to the (correct) Room Mom and get it all emailed and I am pretty sure the final week of school will never be over and this is the end for me.

Oh my goodness... I can't breathe again. It was too much for me. Too many assignments, too many ceremonies, too many luncheons to serve in, too many tests to monitor, too much, too much, too much..... All of these are good things, but all of them together literally sucked the life out of me and my great LOVE for my children and their education.
So, I could say, "I'm not disciplined enough, organized enough, or patient enough to homeschool three children at all different grade levels." I could! It's true! I DO have gifts in all three of these areas. But, really? Who possesses enough to say FOR SURE it's enough for a task as great as homeschooling. Not me! But, the ONE who calls is faithful and HE WILL DO IT! 

And, while I have some doubts that I'll be able to do this homeschool thing well, I am positively certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, 100% sure that I can't do the scenario Jen Hatmaker described 1 more year. There's got to be more to education, family, and enjoying my children for the brief period of time that I have them. With the Lord's guidance, I'm going to find it!

Saturday, July 13

A Year of Goodness

My computer faces a window that peeks out to the beautiful lake behind our house. So, that's where I'm sitting. This awe inspiring view always reminds me of a GREAT God who does GREAT things. His very creation models the great work of our God. But, He's even more personal in that He works just as mightily in the lives of His children. Today, I'm reminded even more of God's great power and greatness. Because, TODAY, marks a year since we loaded our vehicles and left our home of Clinton.

July 13, 2012... We celebrated Claire's 5th birthday at Build A Bear with sweet friends and family. Then, we said our goodbyes and headed for North MS. Honestly, we had NO idea what we'd find here. Scotty and I moved to Clinton in 1993 as college freshmen. As a young married couple, we chose to make Clinton "home". We'd never experienced a move together. And, our children hadn't known another home. So, we SHOULD have been terrified! Right?

Oddly, the five of us were completely at peace and very excited. Looking back, I still find it crazy that very few tears were shed. Our move signified ANSWERS from God. Shortly after Scotty's resignation, our family faced a season of NOT knowing. ANYTHING! We didn't know where Scotty would work, where we'd live, iF we needed to move, etc. We knew (most days) that the Lord would provide answers for us. But, those answers didn't come right away! As a family, we all memorized Proverbs 3:5. We recited it regularly. We talked about it. We prayed it. By, the time God showed us that we were to sell our house and leave Clinton, He'd prepared us for WHATEVER His answer would be. As we pulled out of Clinton, He'd shown us clearly that HE was moving us. And, if HE was moving us, HE had greatness in store for us. We were SURE of THAT!
He's proven faithful! AGAIN!! There is no way that I can even put into words how much goodness He's packed into only a year. I'm not even going to try. You'll have to trust me. His provisions for us have been miraculous, and He's demonstrated that He is involved in EVERY area of life.

Beyond that, we've seen again and again that there are SO MANY things we would have missed out on had we never moved. We were forced to leave what we knew and move into the unknown. Each one of us have been catapulted out of our comfort zones on more than one occasion over the past year. BUT... if we'd not been forced to do so, we would have missed out on many, many, MANY blessings. Great friends, new businesses, a slower pace of life, BEAUTIFUL surroundings, enjoyment of more family time, excellent ball teams and coaches are only a FEW of those blessings. Internally, we've all experienced the goodness of the Lord in ways that would never have happened in our comfortable surroundings.

And, here's the stark reality of our situation. We SHOULD NOT even still be a family. The sin that Scotty allowed to rule his actions for a period of time SHOULD have led to the end of our intact family. God, in His grace & mercy, said, "NO!" He stepped into Scotty's life and TOOK OVER. In and of itself, that action was the beginning of a complete makeover for our family.... emotionally, spiritually, physically, and every other way you can imagine. The intimacy and pure joy that we experience as a family is something I never knew existed. We were missing out. And, God saw fit to use a horrible situation to show us that He had better in mind for our family. We are experiencing His "better" each and every day.

I have this small fear that this post is coming across as "Hey, look at us and see how great our life is." Well, I AM trying to encourage you to look at the goodness we are living in and the happiness that we are enjoying. But, NOT so that you'll think WE are great! Folks, NO one is good enough to do what the LORD has done for us. NO! ONE! His activity has and continues to build my faith.... continues to give me the desire to speak of HIS great name to EVERYONE.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.
Psalm 115:1

So, it's been a year! Some things haven't changed. The Lord is still good. His lovingkindness is on display constantly. And, the truth of who He is still deserves glory. 

A few things HAVE changed.... our location, our priorities, people that we see regularly, our faith/trust in the LORD, our church, our daily dependence on God, and.... my view. :) 
I'm praising Him this morning. He loves us so much that He blesses us even in His discipline. His plans for His children are always to prosper us. I'd like to encourage you to look back over your year or years and find the ways God has brought about goodness in your own life in situations that WERE NOT part of your plan. He's so SMART! And, He knows what's best for us. To HIS name give glory.... He's very worthy!

Saturday, July 6

Love Covers...

There are so many times as a parent that I struggle... I mean REALLY struggle.... knowing the right thing to do. I wonder if I'm alone in this problem. I process & analyze all issues of life obsessively. So, maybe my parenting struggles in this area are due to that terrible habit. Whatever the cause is, these are just a few of my problems....

Our middle child, Collin, tends to be VERY emotional. He tries so hard to please us. He'd love to NEVER mess up. BUT... sometimes he does. As his mother, I must correct him and lead him to better choices. However, most of the time, I end up hurting his feelings and bruising his ego. I spend countless hours thinking and praying over how to best respond to him. It never fails, though, despite my best intentions, I seem to really fail in many of my encounters with him. Parenting struggles... Just. So. Hard!

Our oldest child, Caleb, has a few issues with responsibility. And by a few, I mean... well, nevermind. I won't disrespect him in that way. :). I'm hoping that this is just an age thing with Caleb. He tunes the world out, and he lives in his own little world. Putting shoes where they belong, leaving the X Box like he found it, or putting a dirty towel in the hamper are useless activities apparently. Every single day, I am faced with the dilemma of how to handle his irresponsibility. Should I press in and insist that he take care of the forgotten chore, or should I practice some grace? I try to balance the two, but I fear that many days I fail. Too. Too. Hard!

Claire has recently reached the age where she can be held responsible for her daily actions. And, I try not to compare her with the boys in most areas. She's a girl. And, truly, that just makes things different for her. There are things the boys struggle with that are not an issue for her. But, the boys do some things really well that will never be easy for Claire. They're different! My real struggle with Claire right now is that she could RUN this house if needed. And, although I don't need her to do that just yet, she gives it a good try most days. So, when do I affirm her for her excellent skills of administration and when do I remind her that she's got a good 20 years before her mothering skills will be needed? Do you see?.... Dilemma at every turn.

And, here's the basis for all of the analyzing thoughts. How is what I'm saying & doing TODAY going to affect the lives of my children in the FUTURE? This is a big deal to me. And, I know I can't do every single thing right every minute of the day. But, I want to succeed at the big things. The little struggles of every day seem to bump into my plans and make me wonder (on a regular basis) if THIS ONE mess up is going to be THE thing my children remember about their childhood when they're grown.

I'm just going to admit to you that my anxiety over my children's emotional well being as adults has probably reached a sinful level at times. I understand that God is in complete control, and my worry indicates a level of distrust. Believe me, I have to repent and turn it over to Him regularly.

Scotty and I have been through a LOT of counseling hours. And, those hours of counseling have led to many therapeutic conversations of our own. And, there are some things I've come to realize about my own childhood that help me in my parenting today.

First of all, my parents did make some mistakes. Most of the ones that I remember have to do with the way they related to each other. Those mistakes still impacted me. BUT.... when all is said and done, I grew up KNOWING (without a doubt) two things; BOTH of my parents love me more than anything else in this world, and BOTH of my parents are extremely proud of who I am. And, I've been confident of these two things at EVERY SINGLE stage of my life.

Let me tell you.... That goes a long way! Knowing those two things provides the confidence to do just about anything. I'm so grateful for this love & acceptance! Words can't even describe my gratitude. But, thank you, Mom & Dad, for leading me to Christ, for being my first cheerleaders, and for proving that UNCONDITIONAL love truly covers our mess ups.

So, I still make mistakes daily in parenting. I still wonder if I've handled each difficult situation correctly. I'm still confident that my children will each have a list of Mom's failures to present to their own therapists. BUT... I love them with all of my heart. And, I'm trying each day to TELL them that with my words & my actions. I never want them to doubt that.

I'm extremely proud of the people they are growing up to be. All three of them amaze me with their gifts and abilities. I do not want them to ever have to wonder about that. I never want them to feel that they have to DO something amazing to impress me. I want them to be confident that I'm simply proud of WHO they are. They are incredible little beings!

It's a journey & a process. It's one of the MAJOR areas of life that God keeps me knowing that apart from Him, I can do NOTHING. So, I'll carry on! I'll seek Him in my mothering, because He knows much more than I know about what my children need. And, when I mess up, as I will continue to do, I'll trust that HIS Word is true...

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

Monday, July 1

My Life is NOT Only About Me

I'm ready to wrap up the lessons that I've learned through adultery. This will make lesson #5, but I'm sure you know that these are only the BIG lessons. There are new things I'm learning every day, and I know that we are NOT through learning. But, as I've reflected on the past couple of years, I've found that 5 major lessons stick out and will certainly stay with me for the rest of my life.

Just in case you've missed some, here's the first four lessons....
God's character can be trusted.
Operating with a victim mentality does not demonstrate trust in God's character.
True, abundant life takes work.
No matter the outcome, God is ENOUGH.

And, the fifth lesson that I've learned is that it's NOT about ME.

Here's what I mean. I believe God intended for our lives to matter... to make a difference. I believe we are called to live lives that have ETERNAL value. And, if that's the case, we must take what we've learned about the Lord through own circumstances and pass them on to others. And, we have to be intentional about this.

With this mindset, my life isn't only about ME. Notice that I said not only about me. I'm not saying that I don't matter, that YOU don't matter. Each one of us is very important to God. Psalm 139 is just one Biblical example of how delicately & intricately we were created by a God that loves each of His children very much. But, we weren't intended to live inwardly. We weren't meant to make life solely about ourselves.

If I believed my life were only about me, I don't think I'd EVER be able to survive the betrayal I've experienced. I would never be able to move beyond the fact that I have been hurt, I have been lied to, I have been wronged, I have been taken advantage of... That's a LOT of I's. Focusing only on myself disables my ability to cooperate with God and be who HE wants me to be in each of life's struggles.

Thankfully, my life isn't just about me. God called me unto Himself and saved me from my sin because He loves me AND so that I can carry that gospel to others. As a believer, it is my honor & privilege to guide a fallen believer towards his true identity in Christ. Because life isn't only about me, I can find joy in my hurt, because God allows me to see how my temporary pain could lead to a spiritual change in my own family tree. God gave me a gift in allowing me to participate with Him in the gospel story, so I don't want to waste it by refusing to see beyond ME.

Now, here is why that lesson is important to my situation and all that we have learned. Certainly, I have been hurt. It wouldn't be healthy or beneficial for me to ignore that fact. My healing is a necessary piece of the puzzle, and believe me... Scotty & I are both very dedicated to as much reading, as much therapy, and as much difficult conversation as is necessary to achieve that healing. But, because God has allowed me to see that this isn't only about ME, I get to experience the joy of being THE ONE chosen to walk with Scotty on his journey of healing, restoration, and finding who he is in Christ. The sin of adultery is generational in Scotty's family. I have the opportunity to partner with Scotty in following the Lord's leading for parenting so that we can help our boys stand up under the temptation towards this sin. Restoring our marriage and establishing our family in the fear of the LORD will change our emotional & spiritual family tree. And, I get to be a part of it. What a blessing!

I want to be about HIS work. I don't want to be so caught up in how the actions of others make ME feel. I'd rather not focus on ME, fighting tooth and nail to get what I think I deserve. In a world that is completely caught up in self, I'd much rather set aside MY agenda & cooperate with the Lord in HIS. Abundant life takes work.... And, if I'm going to work hard, I want to work at things that will outlast me. I want to leave a legacy, a foundation, built on Jesus Christ for those that follow after me.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,  their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 1 Corinthians 3: 11-14