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Christmas is NOT Cancelled, It’s ON!

So, I read this article/blog post about cancelling Christmas.

And then I got sad.  And then I panicked because what if I’m-a-lesser-Christian-because-I-haven’t-cancelled-Christmas-for-my-own-sinful-children.  They take after their mama.  But I’m sure not gonna cancel Christmas for myself.  Nope, I like presents.  I guess I’m entitled.

Now we did try the 3 symbolic gifts last year for gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And it felt very religious of us, but it didn’t feel right, for us.  We’ve certainly debated Santa (and the verdict is…he’s coming!).  In fact he’ll be arriving early.  He’s coming on the 22nd because he knows we have very special family that we like to spend the holidays with.  So he comes special for us so we can have our Christmas at our house and have Christmas with all our family.  He sure does like family.

And I’ve certainly debated how many presents are enough and how many are too many.  Should we do a set number or a set dollar amount?  Should we?  Shouldn’t we?  Should we?

And I think I’ve landed on the other side of the fence.  We’re doing Christmas!  The more the merrier, right?  You see, one of my love languages is gifts.  I love to give ’em and get ’em.  I plan all year for this, literally.  I put money aside out of our budget every month to save for Christmas.  I buy gifts all year long as I think of things and see things that I think the people that I love would love.  I have lists and lists for this.

But back to my children and the child psychologist that I am NOT.  They get two days a year, Christmas and their birthday.  Or, one, if you’re my Hannah.  I really just have a hard time believing that it’s going to completely ruin them and turn them into entitled sinners if they get too many presents for Christmas.  I mean, they’re already entitled little sinners before all this Christmas stuff even came into discussion, right?  So, maybe it’s not so bad for us to give them presents on Christmas (and their birthday and any other day we want).  Maybe it’s okay for them to know that they’re special and that people who love them spent time and money buying/making them presents.  Maybe they’ll be ungrateful.  Maybe they’ll be thankful.  Maybe they’ll cry.  Maybe they’ll laugh.  And maybe, in the end, it’ll all be ok.

And, honestly, I like to buy presents for my kids.  My kids, my entitled, selfish, spoiled, hateful, mean, and sinful children.  Why?  Because I love them no matter what.  Their getting of gifts doesn’t depend on their attitude or behavior.  You see where this is going, right?  I happen to think that I reflect the Father a little when I give good gifts to my children.  He certainly does this for me.  And the reality is that he outgives me every time.  (Matthew 7:11 “ If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”)  Now, I’m no Bible scholar or child psychologist and I’ve not done any studies or surveys, so surely don’t just take my word for it.  But, I think I turned out ok.  And we had a nativity and Santa growing up.  I love Jesus and Santa.  I mean, not in the same way or anything, but still, they both give me good gifts without me asking or deserving it.

P.S. – And please don’t cancel Christmas just because some chick and some dude in blogland did and it got posted on the Today show website.

A Trigger of Hope

Heartbroken tonight over loss.  A very recent loss of a childhood friend.

I am reminded of the loss that many felt on 9/11.  And the loss that many have felt in the years following.  Loss of soldiers, firefighters, police, medical personnel, and many other first responders on that day…and those that have carried on the fight in the years afterward.

This is a day that triggers a lot in our house.  It triggers memories, pain, helplessness, sleeplessness, and things we don’t even understand.  It impacts us still…years later.  It affects us in deep ways.  It has caused us to become numb to the pain that we should feel and to keep our guard up to protect ourselves against further pain.

It is so hard to look in the face of loss and not be affected.  I often feel helpless and hopeless against the evil, pain, sorrow, despair, tragedy, and even the toil of daily life that this world brings.  This world sucks in so many ways.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what this world is and forget who Jesus is and what He did.  It’s easy to desensitize myself against those around me so that if (and when) the time comes that I lose them that it won’t hurt so bad.  A lie at it’s best.

Today, the loss brought a new trigger.  If I don’t allow the Gospel to enter into this place then what good is the Gospel that I say I cling to.  Today, it was the only hope I had.  Hope that things won’t always be this way.  Hope that evil won’t always have free reign.  Hope that I can feel and love those around me without fearing the someday pain of losing them.  Hope that when Jesus said we are new, that we really are new and that we are continually being made new.  Hope that His story is one of redemption, love, grace, truth, and that one day…things.will.NOT.be.this.way.

Hope that He feels our sorrow, our pain, our disappointment, our hurt, our fear, and all that we feel.  Hope that His truth and grace and love can bring peace and comfort and HOPE to this world.  Hope that He is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He will do.  I have hope in Him.

It was a long day filled with tears, desperate prayers, memories, many stairs (9/11 Memorial Climb), anxiety, and yet, HOPE.  It took many moments of refocusing my thoughts and redirecting them back to Jesus and the hope that He offers.  Many times of reminding myself of the Gospel, that this world is full of sin (mine at the top of the list), His plan of redemption, the cross that Jesus endured, and the hope that He offers that this world is not our home.  It takes His truth to combat the lies that I’m so easily tempted to believe.  It takes His love and comfort to combat the fears and pain that I usually allow to reign.

His Gospel is a new trigger of hope.  And today, it’s a hope that He is here even on the painful days.

Born to Quit

Yep, I’m a quitter.  Pretty sure I came out of the womb that way too.  When it comes to fight or flight, I’m flight all the way.  When I was little, my mom, trying to do the right “mom” thing, made me eat peas for dinner.  I tried to tell her that I didn’t like them, but she didn’t believe me.  So you know what I did?  Yep, puked right at the table (or at least that’s how I remember the story).  I was going to quit eating those blasted peas one way or another apparently.  And to her credit, she never made me eat another pea.  I still don’t eat peas.  Parents, let that be a lesson to you.  Sometimes, kids just really don’t like whatever that good-for-you-food is, no matter how healthy or how much you like it.  Well, that was a rabbit trail.

Moving right along.  I’ll pass right out at the doctor, dentist, hospital, or even just talking about medical related things.  The first time that happened was at the dentist when I was in 4th grade and it was a tad bit shocking.  Yep, I want out.

You can ask my little brother what he thinks about me being a quitter.  When we were little he used to refuse to play board games with me.  I would beg and beg and he would tell me no because I always quit.  I would beg and promise not to quit.  He would eventually give in and I would eventually quit.  I don’t know how that happened.

I don’t like tense books, movies, situations, conversations.  I just want out.

I recently realized that this is impacting in ways that I didn’t anticipate.  I often verbally threaten to quit things, from relationships to the current quilt project or food choices or running or keeping my long hair.  I’m an equal opportunity quitter from big things to small things.  Things get hard, tricky, awkward, stupid, etc., and, let’s be honest (I will forever hear that as lesbi-honest, thanks, fat Amy), I’m probably just gonna quit.  What I’ve discovered is that I usually don’t end up actually quitting, I just need to threaten it.

If I step back and look at things, I think it has more to do with needing to be heard or needing someone to acknowledge the struggle.  I am usually looking for affirmation that I’m right (imagine that) or affirmation that the situation or topic or relationship or item is legitimately difficult.

Well, now that I recognize this (thanks to my redemption group style processing), it should help me in conversations and situations, especially with my poor husband who usually gets caught in my verbal fire storm.  If I can go into a conversation or situation knowing that I’m looking for affirmation and not necessarily to quit (or to fight) then I have the potential to change the whole dynamic (internally and externally).  Knowing that I’m looking to be heard and acknowledged is an important distinction.  I mean, I’d really like to have both…being heard and being right, but whatever.

And to my credit, I have had the same car for 8 1/2 years.  I’ve been married for 9 1/2 years.  I’ve had many of the same best friends since college.  I’m still raising my girls, despite wanting to quit many times.  Sleep and peace are awfully enticing, folks.

I don’t always quit.  I am not a quitter.  I am new.  I am being made new.

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What makes you want to quit?

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Forever Really Isn’t That Long

So, prepare yourself.  You’re either going to be jealous or tad bit smug.  Jealous because both my girls are in school or smug because one of them is only in half-day preschool.

At any rate, I ran by myself this morning while the girls were in school with no thought to having to get someone to watch them while I left the house.  And then I came home and cleaned.  Dusted, vacuumed, mopped, tub, toilet, etc.  And you know what…it actually stayed that way for a bit!  And I got to clean with no interruptions.  This is a seriously good thing.  2 hours and 35 minutes every day child free.  Errands by myself are a breeze.  Volunteering.  Meeting with people.  I do what I want, yo.  Although my little Banana might have caught on because she’s started giving me errands to run while they’re at school.  You know, she needs her medicine and the dogs need their food and I should probably do those things while they’re gone to school.  Yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that, 5 1/2 year old.

But you know what I thought at one point this morning?  “Oh, you know, that really wasn’t forever.”  You see, I actually used to think that I would be in “that” season forever.  “That” season where I was constantly doing everything for 2 other humans.  Where I ran on exhaustion more often than not.  Where I didn’t get consistent full nights sleep for like 6 years.  Yes, I said 6 years even though my little Banana isn’t 6 yet because lets be honest you don’t exactly get a full nights sleep when you’re pregnant.  Where I couldn’t do anything without making sure that my children where in someone’s care.  Where I couldn’t eat a hot meal.  You get the drift.

So, weary moms, be encouraged, I have arrived to a season with a break.  It really does exist.  Who knew???  And it won’t take you forever to arrive.  Oh, be sure, it will feel like forever.  It feels like an impossibility.  A dream world.  A mirage.  But it’s not.  And someday you will join me.  And then we will join those with children in full-time school and then in jr high and then driving (which I’m personally looking forward to so that I have my own personal shoppers) and then college.  It may take years to get to the next season, but for most of us, the next season does exist.  In my world, it took 6 years.  And that felt.like.FOREVER.  But now I’m here and it’s kind of nice.

And looking back, I’m glad I did it.  I was stretched and pulled (sometimes quite literally) and tested far more than any other 6 years of my life.  And I think, I think, that I came out more refined and less selfish than when I went into “that” season.  I have to believe that God used all those trials for my good.  I can certainly assure you that I look more like Jesus now than I did 6 years ago.  And for that, I’m grateful.  Although I kinda wish there had been an easier way to get here.

To be sure this season will have its challenges.  My little banana has apparently already cried at school several times because mean little girls told her that her drawing was ugly or they didn’t want her to be best friends with anybody else or they scared her on the playground.  And so it begins.  But, it begins with a mom who’s a little less exhausted, a little less man-handled during the day, a little more rested, a little more margin, and a little more hormonally balanced (thank goodness for my Yasmin).

You know what, it really didn’t take forever.  It really was worth it.  And I’m really glad I’m slowly but surely moving on from it.

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What is the hardest season you’ve been through?

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Bricks Without Dang Straw

Husband and I were talking the other night about how hard this adoption thing is.  So.many.decisions.  We are so limited right now, are we even supposed to do this?  Where from?  What agency?  What program?  Boy or girl?  How to pay for it?  If a boy, then we have to move.  How in the world is that even an option?  So much work.  Ugh.  Ugh.  Ugh

Whine.  Whine.  Whine.  We thought we would just get pregnant and have a baby the old-fashioned way.  (Still super glad I’m not pregnant, but for real, would have made this third child thing pretty easy.)

Whine.  Whine.  Whine.  Why in the world do we feel like we’re supposed to have 3 kids if we didn’t get pregnant?  Why have I always wanted to adopt if it’s going to be IMPOSSIBLE?

Whine.  Whine.  Whine.  I can hardly handle the 2 kids we already have.  Am I crazy for thinking someone will give me another one?

Whine.  Whine.  Whine.  Too much work.  Too hard.  Forget it.  We’re not adopting.  Decision made.

Then I read my stupid (I mean, awesome) YouVersion plan.  Exodus.  Lame.  It’s like being in Redemption Group all over again.

Bricks without straw.  Are you kidding me?  How in the world can we make bricks without straw?  Um, well, we sure didn’t make a baby the easy way, so it looks like we’re gonna go the without straw route.  What the hay (haha pun intended) am I talking about?  Well you see, back in the olden days of Exodus, Israel was stuck in Egypt as slaves.  Pharaoh said they had to make bricks for him.  Then he got mad because Moses and Aaron (well, God really) asked him to let the Israelites go.  So he said, make bricks, same as before, but get your own dang straw.  Oh and hell no you’re not leaving.  (loosely paraphrased by me)  How in the world could they be expected to make the same amount of bricks as when Pharaoh was supplying the straw if they had to get their own straw??  (If you’d like to read the actual version, Exodus 5 is where its found.  And I’d recommend reading it…I may have left some stuff out).  And what did Moses and the Israelites do?  Whine. Whine. Whine.

So, yeah, on the very night that Husband and I are like, no way are we doing this adoption business.  Too much work.  Too much money.  Too much time.  Too much hassle.  No fair.  We want the easy route.  Funny that I think pregnancy would be the “easy” route…seeing as it would have been the most painful thing I would have ever had to do.  Crazy how easy it is to convince ourselves that the other side of the grass is greener.

Well anyways, I read Exodus 5 that night and realized that maybe, just maybe, God is asking us to make bricks without straw.  Seems impossible.  And we’re not real happy about it.

A couple days later I had another grand revelation.  Here it is with the setup first, because that’s how I roll and this is my blog.  We have been looking at our finances.  We’ve been looking at how will we move if God wants us to adopt a little boy.  And looking at the two of those, there is no way in the next like 10 years that we can adopt.  Impossible.  Literally.  The money just isn’t there.  We cannot afford to move, especially since we have a 2nd mortgage to pay off, a different car to buy (3 carseats just won’t fit in a Jetta), a truck we can’t sell, a down payment on a new house to save, and an adoption to pay for.  We’ve been thinking about it anyways hoping we can find the steal of a lifetime and so we went driving around looking at houses and land.  It was a nice drive, except in the back of our minds we are getting more and more depressed because we realize that it just isn’t an option.  There is literally no way we could make it all work.  And then the revelation came.

Only when things seem impossible is there room for God to do really big God-sized things.  If there is any human way to work it, then we get the glory.  When things seem impossible He gets the glory.  This is where faith grows.  Only when the rubber meets the road are we able to see if we really believe what we say we believe.

Bricks without straw.  A third child without a third pregnancy.

No idea how the story ends.  Faith that the story God writes for my life is better than the story I would write for myself (per Steve Mizel, Trailhead Church).

We Fight Hard

Fight Club.  It’s this crazy little thing that we do at Trailhead.  Men do it.  And we wanted in on the action.

I absolutely love my fight club.  I think that fight clubs can seriously help change lives.  Only Jesus changes hearts, lets be clear about that.  It takes a little community, a kick in the pants occasionally, a freaking ton of encouragement, a beer or two, some ice cream and sugar, a lot of life, and a lot of talk to help the heart changed by Jesus make its way to the outside and stick.

It seems like this crazy secret non-equation kind of thing.  A little on the ethereal side.  And in a way it kind of is.  It’s mostly just Jesus changing hearts.  The Holy Spirit counseling us.  And God orchestrating people into a fight club that has the right connection.

I’m gonna let you in on how we roll.  This is how me and my girls work.  This is how we fight.

There are three of us.  (Three is ideal, four could work.)

Our husbands are also in a fight club together.  This works well so that husbands and wives can’t leave things out.  We integrate life and fight club (meals together, events together, and general life together).

Nothing is off limits.  Seriously, nothing.  We can ask any question of each other and discuss any topic.

Sometime we just hang out.  We once took a road trip (and by road trip, I mean 30 minutes) to Victoria’s Secret and bought lingerie.  We take fighting for our marriages very seriously.

We like to meet every other week.  Weekly, every other week, or monthly could work…depending on your group.  Some seasons are easier than others to be consistent, but we do make fight club a priority.  Logistics vary depending on the week.

We serve each other.  Keep each others kids.  Work on each others cars.  Sew for each other.  Etc, etc. etc.

Everybody talks at every meeting.  We dive right in.  Don’t start with the lightweight stuff.  Go straight to your biggest sin or biggest hurt.

No giving advice.  The goal is to ask heart questions that go to the root sin.  Ask questions about God’s character, about what is true, about what God’s word says, about the lies that we’re believing, or any question that Holy Spirit leads you to.

No pushing Scripture.  Yep, you read that right.  The goal is not behavior modification and if you start pushing Scripture as a way to force me to change I’m going to want to throw the Bible at your face.  Please do not use the Word of God as a method for changing my behavior or proving me wrong.

(Getting out box.  Climbing on box.  Soap box declaration, loud and clear:   There is a surefire way to instantly anger me and that is using Bible verses as a means to an end.  A lot of legalistic old school churches use this methodology and I have a serious sore spot for it.  Please for the love of God (literally) DO NOT give me a Bible verse and send me on my way to shame me into “memorizing this verse and change my behavior”.  If I could change my own heart and behavior by memorizing something I WOULD HAVE ALREADY DONE IT, folks!  Only Jesus changes hearts.  ONLY JESUS CHANGES HEARTS!  He can and absolutely will use his Holy word to do it.  But you preaching and forcing memorization and unrelated verses on people will not change hearts.  Possible soap box end.)

Use Scripture.  There is a fine balance in using Scripture that the Holy Spirit leads you to and pushing Bible verses on someone.  (Soap box again: Please remember that just because God uses a certain verse for you in a given situation does NOT mean that he will use the same verse for someone else in an apparent similar situation.)  I do believe that His truth will set us free and if he is leading you to a passage of Scripture for someone then by all means share it and pray that God will open their heart to his true words.  We absolutely point each other to Scripture and to truth.

Once a quarter or every 6 months (if your group is husbands/wives) we meet altogether.  This gives me an opportunity to say, hey guys, is Husband bringing “_________” issue to you?  It’s sort of a check-and-balance among the group.

Jesus changed heart.  That’s what we love.  That’s why we fight.

It’s hard freaking work.  We are broken.  We cry.  A LOT.  Every time in fact.  We are new.  We are being made new.  Fight clubs help us to sort through things in the loving caring supporting trusting fighting truth-giving grace-showing bounds of a tight community.

Seriously, Jesus changes hearts.  Hearts that I wasn’t sure could be changed…like my own heart.  Fight clubs are seriously painful and amazing and healing.  You should get one.

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What 2 people come to your mind?  Are you scared to death to ask them?  Sweating, nervous, cringing?  Probably means you should ask them to fight with you.  (You might want to send this this link so they don’t accidentally take you to a dark basement and punch you in the face though.)

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On the Edge of Crazy

You know I had a counselor once that said a very wise thing.  It’s something that I have gone back to on multiple occasions.  It doesn’t change my circumstances, it doesn’t fix anything, but it does make me feel a little less crazy.  Are you ready for it?

Paraphrased: You guys are in the hardest season on your lives.  You’re parents of young children, at the bottom of your pay scale (hopefully), running your own business, and away from your family.  You are doing more work now than any other season and more work than most people.  (Her words not mine.)

I mean seriously, anybody else get super tired of waking up thinking, well, once I get out of this bed there will be no stopping.  I will literally have something that needs to be done (and then some) every waking moment that I have.  I will never get caught up.  I will go to bed with the same stuff on my list as the night before and then some.

As I type I look at my disaster of a kitchen and 2 loads of laundry on the bed (unfolded of course), the dryer just dinged, and the washing machine is still running.  Does it ever end?  I’m afraid not.  I’m pretty sure it’s the curse of the earth.  Everything fights against us, including those “sweet” little beings that we birth.  It’s a good thing kids are cute.

I’m a task-oriented extroverted person so maybe this is harder for me than it is for some of you.  Maybe this is me being forced to continue learning the never-ending lesson that people and experiences are more important than perfect, clean, and completion.  In fact, maybe I’ll start retraining my mind (insert sarcasm), “Self, look at it this way, with all the added things to do you get to create more check-lists, you get to check more off, there is more opportunity for organization” (end sarcasm).

I know.  I know.  “Treasure these years.”  “They grow up so fast.”  “They’ll be gone before you know it.”  Blah blah blah.  One painstaking day at a time and it sure doesn’t feel fast.  It feels slower than molasses.

Yes yes I know.  This could be the depression or the hormones talking.  Tomorrow I could quite possibly wake up and regret writing this.  But, truth be told, this represents more than just today.  Now, I don’t always feel so miserable or resent it as much.  And mostly I’m happy to be where I am.  I’m not jumping off a cliff or anything (so family, don’t lose any sleep over this).  But I do get tired.  And I’m guessing this is normal??

Another opportunity to preach the gospel to my own heart.  What in the world does that look like?  Heck if I know.  In my head it sounds like these questions.  Am I putting others’ interests before my own?  Is this bricks with no straw (more on that in a later post or read Redemption).  Has God given me the tools that I need?  Am I alone?  Is God’s story for my life better than the story that I would write for my life?  Also, I spend a lot of time praying what I’m actually feeling and thinking instead of pretending to God that I’m enjoying everything that I have to do or pretending that this is easy.

Practically speaking, I really am trying to retrain my mind.  Which usually sounds like this, “Self, are you going to want to do this later?  Um, no, idiot, I’m not.  Well then, do it now and get it over with.  (little kid mimicking voice) You do it now and get it over with.”  Or it sounds like this, “C’mon, just do it.  Just finish folding this basket.  Just finish one more thing.  Just look at this 12 inches.  Now, just look at this 12 inches.”  Or “OTIO.  Only.Touch.It.Once.  C’mon don’t move it, put it away.  OTIO.”  Also you should know that in my head it sounds like Oh-Teeeee-Oh.

End rant.  Sorry everyone.  That’s what today felt like.  Thank goodness my momma is coming in the morning!

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Any other moms of young kids feel crazy like me?

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