Thursday, December 31, 2009


Well, it's the last day of 2009. It actually kind of snuck up on me (sneaked? snuck?). My inlaws volunteered to watch the kiddos tonight so I can join the hubbs at his second home--I mean, at work--to ring in the new year. I know, I know, my inlaws are awesome. And they are all mine. =)

So, since I will be venturing out in public with all of the downtown Pittsburghers tonight, I guess that means that I will have to wear something other than my fave sweats, right? I don't know. Maybe I could dress them up a little. I have some sweet black leather boots...I'm sure they would look great with the baby blue velour yoga pants and ripped sweatshirt I'm currently wearing, right?. You think? Nah. You're probably right.

I will actually break out the curling iron and makeup, brush off the dust. Maybe splash on a little perfume. Joe may not recognize me without spit up on my shoulder and my hair hastily thrown up in a pile on my head. Such is the uniform of a SAHM with 4 little ones 4 years old and under...

I'm excited to usher in this new year. It's always so full of promise. It's so cool being right at the precipice of the unknown-a fresh start, a chance to start clean.

There are plenty of things I gladly say goodbye to and many more that I sadly let go...There was some loss and some gains in 2009. For starters, our little Robert Maxim was born in 2009, and I can't imagine life without him (or any of our little ones, for that matter.) Finances were a mess pretty much across the board for everyone. That is something I won't regret leaving behind.

But, one thing that always kind of haunts me is the time lost. I will never get back even a second of the previous year. That means that all those things I wanted to do, should have done, could have done, but didn't or did and shouldn't have...I will never be able to go back and change. Geez. I'm starting to depress myself.

On a happier note-it's not too late to do them yet. As long as I am drawing breath, I still have the opportunity to do or say the things I want to and should.

Here is my homegrown list of resolutions for 2010. I don't really subscribe to that kind of pressure (a list of things that I want to do within a year) but here it is for a blueprint of where I would like my life to head (in no particular order)...

10) Read the Bible daily
I've gotten better, but still not there.

9) Reach out to others.
There are so many who need and I have been blessed. I really want to pay it forward.

8) Be more patient with my kids
I realize by asking for patience it's a double-edged sword because the Lord provides you with opportunities to hone the skill of patience, but if it means I don't explode on my kids, then it's worth it.

7) Be a truer friend
There are many of you (and you know who you are) who I am not very good with returning calls or emails or texts. That sucks. I don't like it when it happens to me and I will do my very best not to be that friend. I make no promises, but I will make an effort...

6) Be a better wife
Joe could easily earn the medal of sainthood because of all the craziness he puts up with from me. I am not always--okay usually--that supportive of the things that bring me stress, like the demands of his job, and I really want to provide a safe haven in our home where he can take shelter from the cruel world that he faces every day.

5) Be on time
Anyone who knows me knows that I am typically late for things. It doesn't matter if I leave 30 minutes earlier, somehow I always end up being late. I'm not sure how to fix this one, but I will give it the old college try.

4) Shower every day.

Wow. How embarrassing I actually admitted that. But, in my defense, sometimes I shower the night before and then the next day is so full of cleaning, that I feel like, 'what's the point?' Maybe that was TMI. Might regret putting that one later...

 Okay...moving on...

3) Stay un-pregnant long enough to get my girlish figure back.
Again, I make no promises on this, but I am making a concerted effort to trim my diet and my waist. Four kids in 4 1/2 years is tough on the bod. Weight Watchers and I are going to take control this year!

2) Maintain this blog
I enjoy it and it helps me sort things out. I enjoy others reading it and it forces me to remain real.

1) Represent Christ in all I say and do.
I do not want to be one of those people who confuse others because what I claim to be and the way I act contradict each other. I know I have failed miserably in the past and probably will again, but my heart is true and the desire is there. My goal is to be real and transparent.

And that scares the crap out of me. But I know it's worth it.

Make your own list. Share them with me...come on, I feel like I am talking to myself
on here!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goodbye 2009

When I was a teenager, I used to keep a diary. Every New Year's I would write "Goodbye, 19XX, hello 19XX..." I don't know why that has stayed with me or seems somehow significant right now.

For some reason I am waxing nostalgia today. Maybe since I took the decorations down from Christmas. I started a few days ago and have been taking them down slowly but surely ever since. Today it was time for the tree. I wrestled that @#$%* into its box, arms and legs akimbo, and fought the bulging, disintegrating sides of the box closed with ropes. It was a close fight, but I won. I have the war wounds to prove it; a gash and some scratches on my arm. It would probably have been a little easier if my boys weren't driving their remote control Spiderman motorcycles into my feet the whole time, but not nearly as interesting (for them.)

One funny thing about Christmas that my sister wants me to share is the story about Santa and my middle son, Liam. This year was exciting because Rocco (4 yrs) and Liam (3 yrs) are old enough to ask for things and then anticipate them from Santa. We made letters, phone calls to the North Pole, the whole nine. Well, I had never thought about the idea of Santa coming into the house while they are sleeping being a scary one to a little boy. I don't know why the thought never crossed my mind. Christmas Eve, I-- I mean, Santa-- had the great idea to put the boys 2 1/2 feet tall stuffed Spiderman dolls in bed with them so that they would wake up with them Christmas morning.

Christmas morning at about 6 am, I heard Liam stumble out into the hallway -where there is some light. I knew he was probably examining this surprise to see what it was. I waited with a little knowing smile and tapped Joe to let him know Liam was in the hallway. He finally came into our room and our conversation went like this:

Liam: "Mom, Dad, look!"
Me, playing dumb: "What?"
Liam: "Look!"
Me: "What do you have?"
And he just kept saying "this!"

Me: "Oh, Santa must have been here and put that in your bed. I bet there's more presents downstairs! Let's go see. Do you have to pee first?"

Liam: "Yes, but I'm afraid to go. I'm afraid Santa is still here."

It was then that I realized he was afraid. And why wouldn't he be? A big man--whom he doesn't know-- in a red costume being in his bedroom while he slept??? What was I thinking? I know my kids--they are afraid of every mascot they've ever met: The Wild Thing, The Parrot at the Pirates games, and don't even get me started on Steeley McBeam... So, I quickly amended my story to tell him that Santa sprinkled magic dust and the Spiderman appeared in his bed. I really drove it home that Santa in no way, shape, or form came into his bedroom. I hate lying to them-even about these kinds of things, so I'm not sure if he bought it since I'm not a very good liar. I'll remember for next year that all gifts go under the tree. Maybe I'll even tell him Santa FedExed all his gifts just to be safe.

I'm excited for the new year, but sad too. For starters, Rocco starts kindergarten next fall and that is just not sitting well with me. He asks me to tell him about what his first day of school will be like, so I go into great detail to talk about getting new school clothes and shoes, a new backpack and pencil box, packing a lunch filled with all his favorites, recess, how we'll all walk him down the road to the school building and help him hang up his backpack, meet his teacher and then find his seat...all the things I loved about my first day of school. By the end of this happy story, I am a mess. My boys say, "When school starts, are you gonna cry?" Yep. They know me too well. I always say," yes, I am going to cry." And Liam always tells me he will hug me and kiss me and make me feel better. Sweet little guy. =) Unfortunately, that just makes me cry more. we go into 2010. I have high hopes, though. Mostly that I will keep it together--this crazy thing we call our life. I hope to take better care of my family, my friends, and myself. I hope to be so much better about reading the Bible, and in being real. I need to count my blessings more often than I count my problems. It would be nice just once to be kept awake at night by thinking about all of my blessings instead of those monkeys on my back.

To all my friends and family, I say thank you for letting us share in your lives this past year and I hope we can continue to into the new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One of those days...

Do you ever have one of those days where everyone you come in contact with is in a crappy mood? I had one today. I knew I didn't want to go to Target, but we needed some things, so I schlepped out with all four kids.

I had a return to make first. I couldn't for the life of me find my receipt, which is especially frustrating since I save EVERY SINGLE RECEIPT I have ever gotten until the next year. Luckily, I bought it with a gift card (thank you, Lindsey!) and the gift card says right on the back "Use for receipt lookup and reloads." I thought, "Sweet! Problem solved."

I should have known things were not going to be smooth when I watched the woman in front of me get yelled down during a price dispute by "Britteny" the young lady behind the service desk who has obviously chosen the wrong industry. At the time, I actually found myself siding with Britteny, because after so many years in retail and working the return counter after Christmas, I feel a kinship with those in the frontlines. It's a sisterhood of sorts.

I had to wait about another 2 minutes while two employees dickered back and forth about needing to put change in the drawer, "did it need to be done NOW?" and "Where is Bob, is he on break?" yada ,yada, yada. By this time, the line had grown and people were hanging out of the return area into the vestibule of the store. I am trying to keep my cool while balancing my return precariously on the handle of the cart and partially on E's head and carrying on a mantra somewhat like this: "E, please hold this," "R get off of the cart, you'll tip it," "L, stay here and please stop yelling the alphabet song," all while rocking the cart back and forth to keep M from fussing. You get the idea.

My patience was wearing thin. Finally, Britteny barks that she can help the next person in line. That's me. I had to maneuver my cart full of children, coats and diaper bag around the rope to the service desk. I approached the desk and Britteny with a smile-remember the sisterhood? I plop my plastic four-drawer storage on the counter and tell Britteny it's a return (isn't that like saying you want your food 'to go' at the drive thru?) Britteny asks if I have my receipt to which I reply, "No, but I paid with this gift card." I beam my pearly whites at her again as I hand her the gift card. She looks at it. Then she looks at me and says, "I need the receipt to do the return." I say, still smiling, "Oh, really? It says right on the back to keep it for "receipt lookups and reloads." She huffs and says, "I've never used a gift card to look up a receipt before." Which, to my ears translates as, "You're an idiot and I can't believe you are wasting my time."

I stop smiling. Didn't she get the memo about the sisterhood?

Here is where I have to make a decision. Do I react the way I want to and tell her that unless Target is going to reprint every single gift card, she IS going to issue my return or do I continue being polite and see what help Britteny may be willing to offer? Hmmm...

Before I could even think it through, she scans the gift card, punches some buttons and then hands me back my card along with a receipt without so much as even looking at me. I looked at the receipt to find that she had issued my refund. SO. THERE. I was right. And she was wrong. Before I could even gather my wallet, diaper bag and children she barked out that she could help the next person in line. I guess she was done with me.

I was so offended that I was speechless. I think that is pretty amazing in itself.

Unfortunately for Joe, he called me right as I was finishing. I took all the irritation I had for Britteny and let it out on Joe. Poor guy. I had to call back and apologize.

All throughout the store, I am met with one frosty glare after another. All these people who were whistling, smiling and winking at my "adorable" children last week are now salty, irritated individuals scowling at my son because he isn't watching where he's going. He's 3!!!!!!! I swear, litearlly only 1 person smiled at me the entire time we shopped.

I finally got to say my piece to one of the managers before I left. She nodded her understanding and I had a feeling she had heard similar complaints all day. Okay, so I feel better at least being heard. I try not to think that she and Britteny probably had a good laugh later about the "Duggar" lady who was trying to make a return without a receipt. (Sorry if you don't get the Duggar reference-google it)

Fast forward to when I get home. I get all of the kids out of the car and in the house (a feat unto itself) and start taking all the winter ragalia off. Hats, shoes, coats, etc. I reach into my vest pocket to get my keys out and what do I find?

My receipt.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Road Rage

Wow. Two posts in one day after such a dry spell...

Anyway, I had something happen the other day and I wanted to get others' thoughts on it...

Here's the scene: I am driving in my sweet periwinkle minivan with one other car in front of me, when the driver up ahead decided to crown themselves "Roadway Benevolence Society" and stopped to let oncoming cars turn left in front of him. Obviously, I had to stop as well, and I was a little irritated since it's slippery and I was in a hurry to get somewhere...

That in itself was not a huge deal, but while the oncoming cars were turning left, there was another person waiting to turn in the same direction as me from a side street. This person (let's call them "Car X") was to my right. now that Mr. Roadway Benevolence has finished letting every car from here to Washington , PA turn, he has decided to go on ahead. He creeps forward just enough for Car X to turn IN FRONT OF ME and now Car X is straddling two lanes; the left turn and straight lane.

In the mean time, more oncoming traffic has built up and I am not as generous on a day like that day when I am late, so I proceed (as Car X is pulling out in front of me.) Now I am in a pickle. Car X is blocking the lane she wants to be in (yes, that's was a woman, but no "woman driver" comments are necessary, thank you very much) as well as the lane I want to be in. There is oncoming traffic to my left trying to make a turn at the intersection, but I am now in their way since I wasn't anticipating Car X turning in front of me and blocking the intersection...What to do???

Well, here's what I did...I pulled up very close to Car X's driver side door to make room for the oncoming cars trying to turn, and-if I must be totally honest-to give a subtle "you are in my way, you moron" message.

I watched the driver of Car X as she looked out her window (McDonalds burger and fries in hand) to look down her nose at the scant few inches between her car and mine. She finally glanced up at me and gave me a look. That's right, she gave me a very dirty look. I was floored. Was she really giving me a dirty look? When she was clearly in the wrong? What happened next I am not very proud of. I lipped to her that she was "wrong" for the stunt she pulled. I let her know this complete with a hand gesture re-enacting how she had pulled out in front of me. It was a swooping motion. She proceeded to run her mouth at such a speed that I am not even sure she was speaking English. If I could read lips I'm sure my eyes would have burned out of their sockets, but as it was she just looked really stupid yapping silently at me while holding onto her burger and fries in one hand. I think my hair actually blew a little at the rapid speed of her mouth. I can't be sure, but I am almost positive that some colorful language came into play-on her end not mine. She actually gestured to me to "go around her." I'm not sure how she thought that was possible since she was taking up both lanes, but whatever...

At this point, I decided to try out something that I have long told myself I would try in such a situation (not that I often find myself in this type of situation...); I laughed and pointed at her. I thought for sure this would disarm her enough that she would feel properly shamed for her ridiculous actions. Um, no. It only served to infuriate her more. The speed of her lips increased (if that is even possible). The words I couldn't hear looked like a rainbow flowing from her mouth, her language was so colorful. Finally, I'd had enough and I gave her the "talk to the hand" gesture. You know the one...hand outstretched, palm side facing out almost like you're saying "Stop." I stopped looking at her.

Finally, the light changed and she pulled completely into her lane while I sped-- I mean-- drove very carefully into mine and passed her. All of this is so upsurd. I should have just forgotten it the second I drove away, but it stayed with me for...well, for over a week now. Does anyone else have that problem? Do you repeat the incident in your head and replay it with all the things you should have done or said? I hate that I let it get to me. I hate that I even engaged with her in the first place because I bet we both looked equally stupid to onlookers.

I hope this type of thing doesn't happen again in the future, but I know myself, and I can't promise that it won't. I should just be thankful that the only weapon she was weilding was that burger and fries.

For those who need visual reference, I have included a photo of a reenactment of the lane situation. Unfortunately, my kids don't have a periwinkle minivan matchbox car, so just use your imagination. Mine is the white van in this case...

Surely this would hold up in a court of law and prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was clearly in the right. =) Right?

Coffee Please!

Of our four kids, three of them are snotty, hacking, coughing messes right now. This is especially fun at night when their walrus-like coughing echoes through the house. Our poor 6 month old (M)coughs until he gags, but I actually think he kind of likes it(?!)

R, our oldest, is starting to feel left out as the only one who isn't "sick," so last night, for a full hour, he made himself cough so that I would hear him over the baby monitor. He kept calling me upstairs to tell me he was coughing. It might have been kind of funny-his ploy for attention- if it hadn't kept waking up E (the 2 year-old) who really is sick...

M actually slept in his own bed last night for the first time in months. He pefers to sleep with us or with one of us holding him, but enough is enough. Our king size bed suddenly feels like a twin. Who knew a 20 lb, 24 inch long little guy could take up so much room!

I don't think I've had a decent night's sleep in about 5 years. I bet I would look a whole lot different if I was rested. I know I would act a whole lot nicer. The middle of the night is not me at my best. Joe and I get into our worst arguments in the middle of the night. It's a combination of lack of sleep, disorientation, and frustration that creates these horrible arguments where violence could possibly erupt at any second. These fights only last about 2 minutes, but they are ugly enough that we have to apologize to each other the next morning. Looking back, we can laugh about them, but not so much in the moment.

I know this will all be a distant memory too soon. I should stop complaining because I will miss this someday (or so they tell me...) I will just try to catch a few winks here and there while the kids are napping. I keep thinking about the verse where Jesus says, "I will give you rest..." LOVE that verse!

I love to hear aother moms who are going through the same things. My friend Theresa is my lifeline right now. We text about 100 times a day just commiserating about the daily stuff that piles up. Any advice, stories or encouragement is welcome!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It's Jesus' birthday! Too bad it gets all wrapped up and confused with Santa Claus and presents. I get trapped in the very crowded aisle at Target with my kids yelling, "CAN WE GET THIS FOR CHRISTMAS??!" When I ask them if they know what Christmas really is, they always say, "It's when we get presents." That makes me sad. They think it's all about getting things. They don't "get" that it's really about the greatest gift of all.

But...I allow myself to get caught up in all the craziness of it too. Wrapping until the wee hours of the morning, buying "just one more thing," planning what food to take where, etc. It's nice to be with the family and celebrate. I just wish the real reason for celebrating didn't get lost in all the hype sometimes. Santa is a great concept, but not the real reason for the holiday. Oh well...don't want to sound like Scrooge.

I hope everyone has a great Christmas and a safe, Happy new Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rules for the sake of rules

Reading the first part of Matthew chapter 12 is like reading my own frustrations about bureaucracy. I swear I spend more of my (limited) time following-up with people and hounding them to do their jobs than I do anything else. Is it that times have changed and people are much lazier, yet more demanding than they used to be or is it a symptom of the times? I used to think it was the declining ethics and integrity in this generation, but after reading through Matthew and reading about the pharisees, I think it has always been around and will continue to be.

Chapter 12 tells about Jesus' disciples eating some grain because they were hungry. That in itself was not a problem. The controversy arose because they had to pick it off themselves. Back in that day, the Sabbath was sacred and no work was to be done on that day. It was strictly a day of rest. So, picking grain was technically "working." (Totally splitting hairs!) Of course, the pharisees approached Jesus, trying to trip Him up. I picture them just waiting, watching, rubbing their hands together when they saw that His disciples were "breaking the Sabbath." Of course, Jesus put them in their places.

The next part is what really gets me going. A man comes to Jesus with a "shriveled" hand (verse 10). The pharisees jumped right in at another opportunity to pin Jesus down on something. They asked Him if it was "lawful" to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out that if one of them lost a sheep, and found the sheep in a ditch, they certainly would pull it out when they found it...Sabbath or not... It was from that point that the pharisees started plotting how to kill Jesus. They could not see that they had taken something God had given (a day to rest) and turned it into hard and fast rules that could not be broken. Jesus was trying to point out to them how they had completely misconstrued the purpose of the Sabbath.

Talk about control freaks. They were so irritated that Jesus didn't follow their rules that they wanted to kill Him! Actually, not only did they want to kill Him, they started to actually plan on how to kill Him.

Verse 15 says that Jesus was aware of their plotting and withdrew from the place. He healed many more sick but told them (yet again) not to tell who He was.

This next part is chalk full of good stuff...Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute (I wonder if he was like Helen Keller.) Jesus healed him so he could talk and see. The pharisees of course had to deflect what Jesus did so they told everyone that Jesus drove out the demons by working with Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Jesus pointed out (yet again) how flawed their logic was by saying that if He is the Son of God (which He said He was) then how could He be working with Satan? He also asked hwo the pharisees drove out demons.

One of my all time favorite lines of Jesus' is when He says what He said in verse 34, "You brood of vipers." I think He was calling them snakes. Devious, selfish, coniving men. They took every opportunity to distort the truth and try to make Jesus look bad.

The very crux of the argument that people like to give; "If I'm a good person I will go to Heaven" is blown to pieces in verse 30: "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters." If we are not for Jesus, or professing He is the Son of God, we are automatically saying that we don't think He's the Son of God...or (maybe worse) we don't care that He is the Son of God. Here's a scary verse for me...."But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word, 'For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned'" (verses 36-37).

I always wonder about the people who say that God is an arrogant God because Her claims He is the only God and the only way to Heaven is through Jesus. But why does that bother them? Either they don't believe He is who He says He is or they DO believe but they don't care to follow Him. Either way, they choose whether or not to acknowledge His position. God is very clear that if you don't acknowledge His position, then you aren't going to be in Heaven with Him. These same people get all bent out of shape about that. Why? I don't get it? Either you don't want to be with Him or you don't believe there is such a Heaven, so why get all upset? I think it's because somewhere in their hardened hearts, they know the truth. I think the Holy Spirit is whispering to them and they are trying to shut it out.

Ill finish up chapter 12 tomorrow. For now, the hubbs just came home early and surprised us all! =)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back on Track

Took a little mental vacation for a few days. Not happy about that since I feel it in many areas of my life when I do that; I am MUCH crabbier with Joe and the kids, I feel like I am coming down with something, and I don't stick to my goals like doing this study every day or not reading or listening to a bunch of crap.

I'm starting a new diet which only adds to my foul mood. I didn't realize how much my emotions are tied to food until I have to discipline myself away from the junk. I think it might be how people with nicotine addictions feel when they try to cut down. It gives me a new respect for those people. Instead of turning up my nose at them when I see them with a cigarette hanging out of their mouths, I will just sympathize with them now. It sucks.

Anyway...I went shopping at Wal Mart last night to get some yummy new Weight Watchers food (can't believe how much W W food there IS!) and I found myself at first reading a gossip mag at the checkout and then...buying...not ONE, but TWO of them! I am so disappointed in myself. I keep telling myself that I don't need or want to read about Lindsay Lohan's 90th trip to rehab or Tiger Woods' supposed affairs. It's none of my business and it does nothing to help me and my family. So whay did I do it? Maybe for the same reasons Paul said, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do I do" (Romans 7:15). It's a puzzle. It's frustrating!

Then, on my way home, I listened to my fave band. There's a song called Somewhere in the Middle. Here are the lyrics:

Somewhere In The Middle"

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You're making me
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves

Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You're by my side
Loving me even on these nights when I'm caught in the middle

So...that's me...wading in the shallow end. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. After all, even one of the (arguably) most powerful evengelists of all time struggled with this (Paul).

I just stared out the window at Joe leaving for work. The snow is spitting here. It's big, fat, while flakes and so pretty. I feel good today and I wish I could just click 'pause' on this feeling. I know that it will wax and wane throughout the day, but right now it's good. Sorry for waxing poetic.Just how I feel.

Back to the study in Matthew tomorrow. Just wanted to put this in writing before it changes or I forget.

A Little Confusing

The steam pouring from my ears over the past few days seems to be dissipating a little. It's amazing what a block can be thrown up when stress surrounds you. It's hard for me to pray or read and get any kind of meaning when I let stress get ahold of me.

Anyway...God is merciful in that Jesus intercedes for us on our behalf when we can't or don't know how to say the right things to get us through whatever it is we are going through (Romans 8:34).

Chapter 10 was a little hard to get for me. It's packed full of Jesus' directives to the disciples as they set out on their own for the first time. Here are some of the verses that really struck me:

v5&6: ..."'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel'" I thinks it's interesting that they were supposed to stay only with the Jews.

They were told to take nothing. Not an extra tunic, not an extra pair of sandals, no money or food...nothing. I can't even make it out the door without a full diaper bag with a changes of clothes for the two little ones, bottles for Max, diapers out the wazoo, etc, etc...

Verse 17 is startling: "Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synogogues." Say what? Um...I would probably be peeing my pants right about then...

v 21-22: "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." Not the pep talk one would expect...

v23: "I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." I read some commentary online about what this verse means. It seems that there are many views, but the one that seems to hold the most weight is when the Roman army invaded Jerusalem. I have heard about parallel meanings though where something foretold in the Bible not only had immediate meaning (for the people in Jesus' time) but also future foreshadowing. I wonder if this is a case of that. The future foreshadowing could be that Jesus will return before the gospel is spread all throughout the Jews. There are many Jews who are turning to Christ even in 2009. They are called Messianic Jews. It makes me think that not all of God's chosen people (the Jews) will repent before Christ returns.

v 32-33 hit home: "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge him before my Father in Heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Fahther in Heaven."

v 34-36 has taken on a whole new meaning for me over the past few days: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'" This one has me does this reconcile with 'Honor your father and mother'???

v37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" This one is hard to swallow because I wonder if my fear for my kids translates to loving them more than God since I am, in a way, doubting His ability or promise to take care of us? Something to chew on....

Finishing Up 9

My head aches today.

I'm not quite sure what the correlation is with verses 14-17. John the Baptist's followers came to Jesus and asked Him why they have to fast but Jesus' disciples didn't have to. Interesting. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus and preached that He was the anointed One, the Son of God, but it doesn't appear that his followers then started following Jesus? It almost seems to me like they were either irritated or trying to trap Him with their question.

Verse 18 says that "A Ruler" came to Jesus because his daughter had just died and he knew that Jesus could bring her back to life. Wonder what this guy ruled. He had pretty amazing faith to know that Jesus could bring his daughter back from the dead. Wonder if he believed Jesus was the Son of God or if he thought He was just a prophet. I also wonder how old his daughter was...just random thoughts.

Then comes along the woman who touched Jesus' hem so she could be healed of her bleeding. She knew that she only had to touch his clothing to get healing. THAT is pretty big faith. I like that Jesus said, "Take heart, daughter. Your faith has healed you" (verse 22)

When Jesus gets to the ruler's house he tells everyone to leave because "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep" (verse 24). They laughed at Him. I wonder if Jesus was like, "Laugh all you want, fools. Wait'll you see THIS..." The He took her by the and and she got up out of bed. As usual...everyone was astonished and news spread throughout the area.

Verses 27-30 show again that because someone had faith to be healed, they were healed. I like verses 30&31, "Jesus warned them sternly, 'See that no one knows about this.' But they went out and spread the news about Him all over that region." Why?? Again, why did Jesus want them not to tell anyone? Did He really mean it or was it reverse psychology?

Next, Jesus heals a man who is "demon possessed." I wonder if that was a demon in the respect of an angel of Satan (a la Linda Blair) or if it was a psychological disease or disorder. I know that back in the day, people wo suffered from different psychological disorders were labeled as "demon possessed." Either way, it's miraculous, but I just wonder... (I do believe that there were Linda Blair cases, but maybe not all of the "demon possessed" stories in the Bible were actually demons?

The pharisees thought that Jesus was driving out demons by using Satan.

Jesus had mercy on the people who came to see Him and be healed. The Bible says they "were like sheep without a shepherd" (verse 36). I like that my Bible translation actually uses the word "harassed." That sits so well with me. That's the way I felt yesterday. Just harassed. By the world. Jesus said, when He saw this, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field" (verse 37) In my paraphrase, He was saying. "These people are ripe for the pickin'! But there isn't anyone teaching them or sharing the gosepl with them..." I think it's so much the same today. There are so many seeking, but not enough teaching and reaching out.

...And that brings us to the end of chapter 9. I wasn't sure it would happen, but here it is...

More Controversy & Bad Attitudes

Unfortunately, the "shine" is starting to wear off this new study for me. I was gangbusters when I first started doing it. I could tell an immediate difference in how I felt and in how I reacted to my kids and my husband, but now that it's been over a week, the stresses of everyday are taking their toll. My goal to be more supportive of Joe's ridiculous schedule is waning since he had to leave this morning at 8AM and has no clue when he'll be back tonight. I know it'll be a good 12 hours that I will be solely responsible for these kids and meeting their every need. It's exhausting.

But, this is when I will really grow-when I'm pushed outside my comfort zone and have to make it past where I usually stop. we go on to Matthew 9. I'm ready for some truths that will speak to my weary heart today.

In chapter 9, Jesus is met by some men who bring a friend of theirs to see Him. Their friend is a paralytic and they can't get him to Jesus by the regular route because the crowd is too big. So, what do they do? They climb up on the roof, carrying their friend (I think he was probably terrified) and dig a hole in the roof to lower their friend down to Jesus. Jesus saw how badly they were trying to reach Him and He was moved.

**I hope I have friends who would lower me down to Jesus to be healed. They went to a lot of trouble to make sure he got healed. They must have reallly cared about him. I wonder if he went willingly, excited at the idea of being healed or if he was dragged against his will?**

So, Jesus heals him. He tells him that his sins are forgiven and he can pick up his mat and go home. There are teachers of the law in the crowd and they think Jesus is blasphemeing. Jesus asks them which is easier, to say that the man's sins are forgiven or that he is healed? He says that He said "your sins are forgiven" because He wanted to make it clear that the Son of Man had authority to heal on earth. The people in the crowd were amazed, of course. I imagine the teachers of the law were pretty ticked. Not only did Jesus call them out for upholding a law they felt was valid, but He did it in front of all the people they were supposed to have authority over. It was probably embarrassing and only fueled their resentment of Jesus.

I think it was probably so hard for them to believe that Jesus was who He said He was. They watched Him grow up from a little boy to a man. They knew He was Joseph and Mary's son, a carpenter, etc. The Bible says that Jesus was an average man-nothing outwardly special about Him, so imagine that after 30+ years, NOW they are being shown up by Him in their "territory." I don't know why-but I can see a little scene where all the teachers of the law meet together before going to see Jesus teach. Maybe they stand in a circle with their hands in the center; cheering one another on saying, "This is OUR House!" Kind of like how athletes do before a big game at home...only to have their hides handed to them time after time and their own laws and words used against them. Bet that tasted bad in their mouths...

After Jesus heals the paralytic, He travels off to find Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector. People hated tax collectors because they worked for the hated Roman government. Tax collectors were also allowed to set their own rates, which means they usually ended up robbing the people blind. To put it simply, they were usually dishonest and unethical. Jesus walked up to Matthew and said, "Follow Me." And Matthew
did! That means, Matthew chose to follow a nomad with no possessions or home and leave his job where he most likely made a really nice living. Even though there was nothing 'special' about Jesus' looks, there MUST have been something special about his personality...

Jesus went to Matthew's house to have dinner. The Bible says, "...many tax collectors and 'sinners' came and ate with Him and His disciples."(verse 10) Love it! Even Matthew used 'quotations" to make a point here. Aren't we all sinners? The term used for thses people most likely came from those on the outside looking down their noses at Jesus for eating with that motley crew. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples (why not just ask Jesus, Himself?) "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" I love that Jesus answers them directly by saying, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means:'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (verses 12-13).

I think we do this a lot as a church. The whole "preaching to the choir" thing. We take to heart the verse that says "bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthinans 15:33), which we should, but we take it out of context and stay only with "our kind" so that we will not be sullied. I think there's a difference between hanging out for the purpose of having a good time and allowing others' warped views to take over God's in our lives and sharing the gospel with those who need to hear it. What good does it do to share the gospel only with those who have already accepted it? The church would never grow. Eventually, we would become extinct. Eventually, Christianity would stop being...maybe that's what is happening to us as a nation right now. Diversity is so embraced now in the mainstream, and Christians are looked at as biggoted and small-minded that most are afraid to share their faith for fear of being labeled. Gosh, see the previous posts I made. Looks like I am pointing in a mirror with that last comment. Seems kind of like a vicious circle...Christianity is looked down upon and those who profess the faith are becoming quieter and quiter that pretty soon, no one will be sharing the gospel, so, consequently, there are less Christians to share the faith, and with less Christains to share the faith, the mainstream thinking will take precedent. And there we are back at Christianity being looked down upon...See the problem?

It's going to take some pretty bold people to stand up and profess the faith. If we "all" say we want prayer back in schools and "In God We Trust" on our money and the 10 commandments outside the Supreme Court, why???? Most of America doesn't even hold to the Bible anymore. We are so afraid of offending someone else that we don't even think about how we are offending God. We barely give a second thought to how we are offending the man who actually gave His life for us.

Forgive me if I am spewing venom today...It's a frustrating morning...just all caught up in how hypocritical we are as a nation and as followers. That includes myself. I'm doing this study to honor God and learn about Him so I can become a better Christian, a better wife, a better mom and a better human being, but all the while, I am yelling at my kids, getting frustrated and feeling so irritable. Probably not the heart of thanksgiving I should have when I come before God.

This chapter has taken a lot of time. I think I'll break it up into two days. I don't want War & Peace on here...Tomorrow I will pick up with verse 14 and finish out chapter 9. Hopefully I will be in my right mind by then, but no promises...

Fakes Need Not Apply

Matthew Chapter 8 opens with a guy with leperosy asking Jesus to heal him. He shows his faith by telling Jesus that he knows Jesus can heal him if he chooses. Jesus does just by touching him. Just like I mentioned yesterday, Jesus tells the man not to tell anyone but to go and show the priest and make his offering. I wonder why Jesus said not to tell anyone? I've heard some commentary about it, but nothing solid I can recall right now.

Another guy I mentioned the other day is the soldier who came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant. What really strikes me is that Jesus says, "I will go and heal him." But the soldier stops Jesus by saying that he too is a man under authority, so he knows that whatever Jesus says will be done. He is saying that it's not necessary for Jesus to go, but that all He has to do is say a word and his servant will be healed. Then, verse 10 says ,"When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following Him, 'I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." I think it's cool that Jesus was "astonished." Can't He read minds and thoughts, intentions and motives? Yet He was astonished. He was surprised. Was thet the 'man' part of Him that was caught off guard? Makes me wonder...

Verses 18-22 may seem odd at first, but with some help from some commentary and looking closer at the context, it makes sense. First, a "teacher of the law" came to Him and said that he would follow Jesus wherever He went. Jesus told the man that Jesus was a nomad...He had no roots as far as a home. He traveled and slept wherever He landed each night. The next man-a disciple, it says- asked to bury his father first and then he would travel with Jesus. At first blush it may seem harsh what Jesus says, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." Wow. It seems so cold, but with commentaries I've read, Jesus was being given excuses by people who said, "I would follow you, but..."So Jesus was letting them know that thier excuses were not valid. He was pointing out that they were just that...excuses.

The next section "Jesus calms the storm" brings me to a song by...none other than Casting Crowns! This song is probably one of the most profound songs I have ever heard. It's called "Praise You In This Storm" and I love it!

Jesus and His disciples get on a boat and while Jesus is sleeping, a huge storm comes up and starts violently rocking the boat. If you have ever seen 'The Perfect Storm" I imagine it was something like that, but probably not quite that dramatic. I can totally understand why they were most likely scared half to death.

But Jesus says, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" I hear it something like this: "Okay, Nancy. Go put on your skirt and steer the boat." At first, I kind of want to laugh at the disciples because they were so afraid even though Jesus was right there with them. Didn't they get it? But then I have to swallow a whole lot of crow and realize that I do that every second of my life! I fear when He tells me He is there. Maybe it's a tad different because I can't physically see Him, but I know He's there and has the whole world in His why do I worry?? The same reason the disciples did...because we are human.

Jesus got up (and if He was anything like I am when I get woke up for something ridiculous, He was probably in a foul mood! I mean, the poor Guy was traveling nonstop and exhausted) and He rebuked the wind and the waves. I imagine the wind and the waves were like, "Oops. Sorry Lord! Didn't see You there..." as they tip-toed backward away from the boat. The disciples were amazed. They said, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him?" Again...didn't they get it??? Guess not...

The last section of Matthew chapter 8 is about when Jesus heals a demon-possessed man. There is a cross-reference to Mark 5:1-18 for this story. A demon-possessed man comes to Jesus. This guy has been out of his mind. He's got super-human strength and no one can subdue him. They try chaining him abut he keeps breaking out. When Jesus tells the evil spirit to come out of the man, the demon speaks and tells Jesus their name is "Legion' which means "many." They beg Jesus not to torture them before the "appointed time" but to instead send them into a herd of pigs. So, Jesus does as they asked and the pigs run off a cliff and kill themselves. The book of Mark says that there were about 2000 pigs. Imagine THAT was quite a sight!

think it's unusual that Jesus did as they asked. He could have banished them in another dimension or just completely obliterated them, but he didn't...He sent them where they asked to go. I think He does that with all of us. Even though they knew who Jesus is-the Son of the Most High (which is what they called Him when He approached them)-they still chose to be apart from Him. They knew there is an "appointed time" when Jesus will be allowed to "torture" them and they STILL chose to be apart from Him. I've heard it said before that God is a gentleman and will not force Himself on anyone. He waits for an invitation. If He is not wanted, He will not hang around. It's our choice if we are separated from Him for forever. It's our choice if we are not in Heaven with Him. I have heard so many use the argument that surely God is not he God of love Christians claim He is because how could a God of love send people to hell to be tortured for all eternity? Simple. He doesn't. People choose to be apart from Him. There is only one other option if we don't choose Heaven. That's one meaning I get from when Christ said "If you are not with Me, you are against Me" (Matthew 12:30).

Something kind of odd about this whole scene is when the town people come to see the once demon-possessed man. They see that he is normal again and they get scared. They beg Jesus to leave their region. Hello??? What is there to be scared of? I don't get it? The man that everyone couldn't stand-they feared (the demon-possessed man who was super strong and couldn't be subdued), the man who used to spend his hours cutting himself, was not healed! ...And they were scared of...Jesus? Doesn't make sense to me, but maybe I am missing something...

Naturally, I have to close with a song by my fave band. I won't even insult you by putting their name. You know who they are! It's called "Set Me Free" and was written about this demon-possessed man. I didn't know that when I first heard it. I actually related it to how I feel a lot when the burden of the world gets me down. When my responsibilities are smothering me and when I just want to feel free. Love it! Play it loud if you can!!

Some "Light" Reading

Okay, so the subject was sarcastic. Chapter 7 is definitely not light reading. Jesus never said anything lightly...

This next part is a struggle for me (maybe you've noticed I say that about almost all of it!) because it talks about judging others. Who am I that I think, even for a second, that I can have a judgemental thought about someone else??? I am just as flawed as anyone-maybe "more" than some...and yet I still have negative thoughts about people. Even people I don't even know! Who do I think I am that I can look at someone for a second and make a determination about who they are, what they believe, and what kind of person they are just by looking at or listening to them???

Matthew 7:3-5: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother,'let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Wow. I am so guilty of that. It's easy to justify when we watch a show like Springer and see the absolute end of the spectrum for bad choices and questionable ethics, but I do it even with people I know. People I love. Isn't that nuts? What makes me think I am so much better or better suited to make judgement calls about someone else's life or choices? Hmmm...

I think it's important to say here that I don't believe that judging someone is the same as correcting or rebuking in love. I don't think that being nonjudgmental means that we smile politely and sit on our hands when we see poeple breaking God's law-especially those who do it and thumb their noses at God while doing it. I don't hold to a belief that "tolerance" means that you live your life and I'll live mine and never shall we speak an ill word about each other's choices, thank you very much. I feel like that word has gotten so overused and misused to mean that everyone should be able to do whatever they want and no one is allowed to hold an opinion against it. Um..I think that's called anarchy. By correcting or rebuking in love, it's not saying, "you are a bad person and you're going straight to hell!" it's saying, "you've veered off course and this is why I say that" and have scripture to back up what you are saying-and most importantly-saying it because you love them and care about them. It's like being a teacher. A teacher has to correct students' work and tell them when they've done something wrong. Jusging would be if the teacher said, "you're a horrible student and you'll never amount to anything because you're so stupid!" I hope the difference between the two is obvious.

And...moving on...verse 6 is interesting because I don't see the tie-in to the previous chapters, but maybe someone else can help me with that... "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do , they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you in to pieces." I have heard before that this may mean sharing the gospel with others who are argumentative, inflammatory and have absolutely no interest in hearing it. While it's important to share the Word with everyone, sometimes it is like banging your head against the wall...they simply are not open to hearing it. Any thoughts on this?

Chapters 7 & 8 always make me think of a song we used to sing at church whenI was a teen. Ask, seek, knock. Jesus said that for all who ask, it will be given to them. For all who seek, they will find, and to all those who knock, the door will be opened. Maybe the arrangement of the words means something...Ask (most start by asking questions about God) and that naturally leads to seeking answers. Then, they knock on the door to come into the family of believers. That section closes by saying that if we know how to give the right or good things to others or our children, how much better does God give to us? Then...The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. My Bible has a neat note about the Golden Rule, "Other religions (Judism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism) had some form of this saying, but most were stated negatively: "Don't do to others what you wouldn't want then to do to you." Jesus' version is far more open-ended and challenging."

The Narrow and Wide Gates: This is a tough pill to swallow. It addresses the notion that so many think if they are 'good people' and live 'good lives' or go to church every Sunday or even sing in the choir and offer tithes that they are safe and will be welcomed into Heaven with open arms. Not so much, Jesus says. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

heard a statistic that 85% of Americans say they are Christian. Really? That doesn't compute when there is so much going on in our country that is NOT Christian. I could list so many things that are being legislated right now that are clearly not of God. It's frustrating to hear someone say they are Christian, but they rarely (if ever) crack open a Bible to see what God actually says about the beliefs they hold and the stances they take. I could easily take off an a tirade here, so I will move on...

This next part goes into further detail about those who think they will get into Heaven by saying they are Christians, but their hearts don't reflect that. It's sad.

verse 21 says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"

I never knew you..." Those would probably be the worst words to hear in my life. I think of an analogy using the president, although I am not his biggest fan...but he's someone with a lot of authority and everyone knows who he is. Just because someone wore campaign buttons and rallied for him...even if they stood in the rain and snow with "Obama 4 Pres" signs and told everyone they know to vote for him, if they were to show up at the innaugural ball, Obama is going to say, "Who are you?" I'm sure they won't be ushered in on the red carpet. Even if they say, "But, President Obama, we campaigned for you, picketed for you. We facebooked to all of our thousands of friends that you should be president and converted McCain supporters to be your supporters...surely we can come in and celebrate with you since you won the election!" What do you think will happen? I bet you instead of a ball with filet and champagne, they will be eating burgers at McDonalds that night. Doing things for someone and saying you support them, even publicly, is not the same as having a relationship with them.

This chapter closes by talking about the wise and foolish builder. In paraphrase, who ever hears God's word and chooses to ignore it and goes about their business living a life according to what they think is right is like the guy who builds his house on the sand. It make be okay for a time, but as soon as the tide comes in and the waves kick up, the house will fall. It's just like that for believers. If we hear the Word and still choose to have beliefs and make choices that don't align with that...our lives don't have foundation. We will crumble as soon as the first wave starts building.

My dream is that my whole family and friend circle would come to know Jesus like a friend. Not just read the Bible and go to church-really know Him. I'm so sad to know that so many people I know and love don't even know what's in the Bible let alone live it or share it with someone else. Some think that their actions will get thm into Heaven. There's actually only one "action" that will get you an invitation to the ball...the action of accepting that Jesus died for us because we can't do it ourselves. We will never be good enough to get there on our own.

Wow. That sounded like such a downer way to end this. But it isn't!! The good news is that we don't have to do a darn thing! Just accept it and say thank you!! That's actually really good news. There's a great song guessed it!...Casting Crowns called In Me. It talks about doing what God asks and knowing that He doesn't need us to do it, but He wasnts us to. He's chosen us. Love this line;

How refreshing to know You don't need me,
How amazing to know that You want me.

Heavy Stuff

Matthew chapter 6 starts off with a bang: Giving to the needy. This is something that is close to my heart. I am such a soft touch for giving all I can to those who need it. I have been there too many times-the one in need and been blessed by others. (Joe has to reel me in sometimes.) It's such a great feeling to give when you are able, but if we aren't carfeul, we may start giving only to get that feeling.

If we are giving only because we want to hold something over someone else's head or because we want to look good in front of others, we've missed the point. So much of the giving Jesus did He did in private. He told the people he healed not to tell anyone, but they usually ran off and yelled about it anyway. I probably would have too. Well....after I wrote that last line I had to stop and think for a minute. Would I? Do I? I guess I don't really that often. He has done so much for my family and for me personally, but I don't give Hm the glory very often-not publicly. Usually I'll offer up some cliche "we are blessed" or something like that. But if I really look at all the things God has done for me and the many, many times He has saved me from myself, I would probably fall over. I probably wouldn't be able to stop crying. If someone carried me out of a burning building and placed me out of harm's way, I would probably feel forever indebted to that person and do my very best to stay in touch and sing their praises. But I don't do that enough with God--the God who has carried me out of the worst imaginable burning building...

A key to this chapter seems to be, again, about motivation and genuineness (is that even a word?) Why do we do what we do? Is it so that others will think we are pretty great or because we truly want to please God? I really don't want to be fake...said that before...and this is an area where it's so easy to be fake.

Uh oh...lengthy aside about to take place...

About being fake... Christians are bombarded with stereotypes and expectations. The world holds a certain view of who Christians are and how they act. That's unfortunate but what's worse is that Christians sometimes adopt these same expectations of themselves and each other. Casting Crowns sings a song about this very thing..I know, a complete surprise that I would refer to them...It's called Stained Glass Masquerade. It's not exactly in topic for today, but important.

Prayer is also another area where Jesus says to be private. That doesn't mean we can't pray publicly, but our heart should be in the right place. Our goal when praying in public shouldn't be to impress others with how eloquently or beautifully we pray.

I kind of struggle with some thoughts on prayer. First of all, Matthew 6:7 says not to babble when we pray, but to get to the point (my paraphrase!) Maybe a rule of thumb could be: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sinner.) Now here's my struggle...I have also heard that God wants a relationship with us, that He wants us to have constant conversation with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:17; pray without ceasing or pray continually, depending on your version.) Soooooo how do I do both? I guess maybe the meaning here is to get to the heart of the matter. Be real with your prayers instead of yammering on with flowery words that don't get to the heart of it. God knows what we need anyway. The purpose of prayer isn't to fill Him in but for us to keep communicating with Him. I think about my kids...I know they get hungry and that they love me, but it's so nice to hear them say, "Can I please have some [insert food here]?" or "I love you mommy!" Even though I already anticipate these things or "know" them, it sure is nice to hear.

Part of our prayer is supposed to be asking forgiveness for our sins and asking for help in forgiving others. (Matthew 6:12). Then, verses 14 & 15 talk about us needing to forgive others if we want to be forgiven by God. I think that could be confusing if someone misunderstands that to mean that if we don't forgive others we aren't going to Heaven. I am by no means a Bible scholar, but I think it means that if we do not forgive in our hearts-if we continue to hold grudges and be judgemental of others-then there's a chance that we don't have a real relationship with God. After realizing all He has done for us (dying a painful death) and how we didn't deserve it to begin with (Romans 5:8) and we still hold to condemning someone else...something didn't "take" when we became a believer. Just my thoughts...I could be completely wrong...I think this is different from wanting to forgive someone but struggling with actually doing it.

The next part (Matthew 6:19-24) kind of confuses me a little because it seems to veer off topic right in the middle of the paragraph (kind of like my writing ). This section is about Treasures in Heaven. A "Mandy Paraphrase" is that we shouldn't put our heart into our possessions here on this earth because they are fleeting. Moths eat and destroy and thieves steal. We should put our treasures where they belong-where they cannot be destroyed-in Heaven. Matthew 6:21: "Where your treasure is there your heart will be also." I don't think it's "wrong" to have possessions, but if they become our focus over God, then something's wrong. The second part of verse 24 says, "You cannot serve both God and Money." Interesting that the word 'money" is capitalized in that verse-showing that it is a proper noun. Its importance increases in that verse., even then...2000 + years ago... people struggled with keeping up with the Jonses.'

The last section...and I am tired by now! about worrying. This is a subject I am intimately familiar with, unfortunately. I think I was ingrained with worrying since I was little. My mom is a worrier and she (unintentionally) passed that on to me. Now my kids get to experience my overly cautious, somewhat smothering idiosyncrasies.

I think the entire paragraph can be summed up by the thought that we ned to seek God first and everything else will fall into place. It won't always be dew drops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but it will happen. It usually happens in a way we least expect (since that's how God seems to like to work) and better than we could have ever planned or hoped. I love irony. He can even take what we have so miserably screwed up and make it work out. I am a prime example of that. I have run ahead, misjudged or flat out ignored God and did what I wanted too many times. Even still, I have been blessed in ridiculous amounts. I have learned some really hard lessons and still carry the scars of some of them, but they made me who I am.

The Heart

Matthew 5 is so full that it's taking me three days to read even the first few chapters. It's so easy to just rip through it and say, "done!" but then I would miss waaaay too much of it.

Matthew 5:25-26 is interesting. It says, "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

It got me to thinking about debt settlement. I see a dozen or so commercials a day talking about settling your debt for fractions of the original balance. I wondered if this was scriptural since it's not paying off the whole thing, but these two verses make me see it differently now. Debt is such an ugly word and no one wants to talk about it even though most have it to some degree. I think most people are feeling at least a little pinch in this crappy economy. Murphy's law always sets in when things are tight, too. Anyway...

love that Matthew chapter 5 talks about getting to the heart of things. So many people think that if they are "good people" and live a life being kind to others and not breaking any "serious" laws that they are okay. This chapter blows that theory right out of the water. Verses 27-48 not only address some of the big issues, which involve actions, but also the motivation behind them. Verse 27 starts off with adultery. Jesus said that everyone knows committing adultery is wrong, but He says that even thinking about someone else in a lustful way is committing adultery in your heart. It's not so much what our bodies do, the flesh, but what our minds are doing before or leading up to or during the physical act. If we didn't allow ourselves to linger on thoughts about things that are not right, our bodies wouldn't just automatically do those things. Not once have I ever had to stop my body from doing something unless my mind initiated the action. In psychology (which I will have my BS in in a few months) we learned about synapses and chemical processes and all the things that happen in the brain that lead to "thought" and then to physical movement. Whether its conscious and we realize we are thinking it or unconscious and we don't realize right off that we are---we are creating the thoughts that lead to the action.

Whether it's eating (which is a tough one for me right now--I LOVE all things not good for me!) or swearing or lying or thinking about someone in a way we shouldn' all starts in the mind. We call that the "heart" sometimes. How do those things get in there? Well, I am really becoming more convicted about what I am putting in my mind that help create those thoughts. The music I listen to, the movies I watch, the television shows I watch, the conversations I listen to, the stories I read...Why do I want my entertainment to be a bunch of junk that will only lead to me having thoughts I shouldn't or thoughts that give me those horrible stories all over the news about unspeakable things happening to kids...I am also becoming more aware of not just cutting things out but of adding things in-things that will put the right thoughts in my head. Things like this daily Bible reading. Things like music that has a good mesage.

My thinking about cutting some things out of my life that aren't beneficial goes along with verses 29-30. It's a little dramatic, but I get the gist: "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for the whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go in to hell." Right now I am gouging out music and movies and other things that contribute to the thoughts I have. I've tried it before and it didn't stick, but here I go again...

Verses 43-48 are a little tough to swallow. Loving my enemies is not exactly easy. Not only do I not want to talk to them but I definitely don't want to pray for them (unless it's to change them ) and I certainly don't want to give things to them or help them. But...Jesus was a renegade! He was a nonconformist when it came to the way society handled things in that day. He was progressive...I know that doesn't really fit in with the image most people have of Him. He's painted as a frail blonde man with piercing blue eyes and somewhat weak looking limbs. He was Jewish-He was most likely dark-and He was a carpenter. Chances are He was a strong guy. Not feeble or frail.

I like facebook because it's bridged the gap for me a little where "clique-iness" comes in. I am "friends" with some poeple that I may not have been in the same circles with in school, but we have all grown up and moved past that mentality, so it's nice to be able to relate to each other in a different way now. Chances are, if I really got to know my enemies...I would see that we really aren't that different.

So Cool

It happened again. That thing about coincidence I mentioned happened again today in church! SO cool. I've been reading the book Lifestories by Mark Hall (Casting Crown's lead singer) and listening to 2 of their CD's; Lifesong and The Altar and the Door. There is a song on The Altar and the Door called East to West. There is a line that goes: "Can you show me how far the East is from the West?; From one scarred hand to another."

Paslm 103:12 says: As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." That song is talking about this verse and I love the image of Christ saying, "This far" and stretching out his arms at his sides; from east to west or from one scarred hand to the other.

So, our worship leader (Kirk) started to lead a song and said that the previous week all of the slips of paper people had written on (things that they believed were holding them back from a true relationship with God) had been collected and burned. He called those slips of paper "lifestories." So cool. I had never heard that term before reading this book and now, a mere few days after I start reading it, that term is used again at church. Then...he also mentioned the east from the west verse and that song has been rattling around in my head for days. Love when stuff like that happens.

My chapter for yesterday was Matthew 5. That was also a key verse in today's sermon; Matthew 5:14-16 "You are light of the world. A city on a hill can't be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives its light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven."

So many themes are repeating themselves for me. It's affirmation.


Do you ever have those times when you're thinking about something or a song keeps going through your head and then someone else mentions it or you read about it somewhere? It's like when you get a new car-one you hardly ever see another of on the road-and then all the sudden you see it everywhere? I have that a lot. Some would say that's coincidence. Serendipitous. I don't think that's the case, though.

Right now, it's Casting Crowns and Mark Hall (the lead singer.) I keep mentioning them, but I can't help it. Their songs and his books Lifestories and Your Own Jesus just really get to me. Every morning so far, since I started writing here, I wake up with a little bit of panic. Panic that someone-anyone-is going to see right inside my head and heart by what I write. Panic that I will be labeled. Panic that the opinions others have held of me will change and not for the "better." But then I tell myself that the voice I am hearing is fear and I know who tries to drive us by fear. God is not a God of fear, so it can't be anything good when I hear it whispering to me. You know that feeling you get when you are driving a little too fast and you pass a cop car? That rush of heat and the instinctual lunge for the brake? Well...that's what I feel almost every morning or everytime I think about someone reading this. Oh well...maybe I'm thinking about it too much. Just do it and don't think about anyone else reading it. Hmmm...

2 Chronicles 7:14. If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.

Maybe it starts with one person. Me? Maybe if I humble myself enough to put these thoughts out there, someone else won't be as afraid to do the same. Who the heck am I trying to impress anyway? If I truly believe that God made me and He is calling me to act and speak and live in certain ways (and I do), why would I fight that? Pride. I want to be liked. I don't think most people wake up in the morning and say, " Let's see how many people I can get to dislike me today."

So...if anyone is reading this...bear with me. I'm kind of fighting with myself right now. I hope I win.

And now I smile because I just read the next chapter in Matthew. Ahhhhhh how cool that the very thing I opened with today about "coincidence" just happened in this very second.

Here's what my reading for today says:
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12, NIV).

I am not jumping up and down and saying, "Please, be mean to me" but I know that it's to be expected and I will reap the benefits of it someday.

Matthew chapter 5 is a lot. It may take me a few days to get through all of it without just skimming it. One thing cool about the Bible, I can read the same chapters and verses a hundred times, but each time I can get a new meaning or it can pertain to my life with whatever I am going through right now. God bless Joe for being so amazing. I just called him at work to share all these random thoughts going through my head and he supports me. He may not completeky understand (it's like trying to share your favorite movie scene with someone who hasn't seen the movie-it's not as impactful as it was for you when you had full sound and vision of the scene) but he is so amazing in that he loves me for who I am; warts and all. (I'm very dispapointed that the emoticons appear not to be working today or else I would have put a big, fat smiley face right after that statement about Joe.)

So, anyway, it has taken me about two hours to put this together in between changing diapers, reading to Emmy, refereeing a few fights, and making lunch. I hope that somehow what I was really trying to say gets through...


If you haven't had a chance, you should listen to this song by Steven Curtis Chapman. Man, have a kleenex ready though! Go here for the song:

Even though it's about a little girl, it's still appropriate for little boys. My thoughts today are a little convoluted, so bear with me...

I said before that sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy when I think about protecting my kids and wanting to shield them from any hurts. Well, if you don't know, Steven Curtis Chapman had a little girl named Maria who was accidentally hit by a car and died. She was only 5. It's heartbreaking. He wrote the song "Cinderella" about his daughters growing up and how quickly that time flies by. He wrote it before Maria died, but it's taken on new meaning for him now.

My oldest is going to register for kindergarten in about 5 months and I am really having a tough time with that. I don't want to be that mom who can't let go, but this is my firstborn! This little guy, who is so innocent of how cruel this world can be, depends on ME to protect him. If I take him to this strange building full of strange people and leave him there-for 7 hours, I might add-he is going to assume that it's safe. It was always just a given that when I had kids, the first day of school would be so backpacks and lunch boxes, new shoes and pencil boxes, but now...I'm thinking about random things like--what if he has to go potty? Is there a restroom in his classroom? If not, and he has to go before "restroom break" (do they even do that anymore, anyway?) will he just be allowed to wander through that big building all by himself to go? I know there are locks on the doors and cameras, etc, etc...but I still worry.

I know I probably sound ridiculous to most. I can't help it. It only takes a second for something to happen and I would never forgive myself. I had my share of horrible experiences at school (who didn't, right?) But my middle school years were pure torture. I was picked on for things (everything?) that were totally out of my control. We all know how cruel kids can be. Sure, I got over it and managed to pick up the pieces, but it really did make for a crummy stretch of time in my life.

Anyway...I was thinking the other day that we are all God's children and He loves us far more than we love our kids. What I feel for my kids is only a fraction of what He feels for us. The thought of my boys reaching that age where they are embarrassed to kiss me goodbye or say they love me just rips my heart out. So, imagine that for God when His children don't even acknowledge Him. They say He's not real, He's an arrogant God. They swear using His name....then I started thinking how sad I would be if my kids go off the deep end and start doing things that are dangerous and not in their best interests. I would hope that if they are not responding to me that someone would care enough to try to talk to them about it. I have tried to put some people in each of their lives for that reason. I know there will come a day (although I meet it kicking and screaming) when they don't automatically trust everything Joe and I say. It's then that I hope these people will have enough distance from the situation that their words will be credible.

Sooooo...all that to come to my main point. I am hesitant to put all these things out there for anyone to read because I know that people might make fun of that, think I'm weird, or whatever...but there's something comfortable (only a little) in being transparent. I don't want to be fake. It's what I'm feeling, so I just want to put it out there. I can't imagine I'm alone in this...maybe a little more neurotic than most, but I can accept that.

Just like I would hope and pray that someone could reach one of my kids if they start doing things they shouldn't, I think that might be how God feels about His children that are doing things they shouldn't be. He would want someone (me??) to try to reach them when they won't listen to Him. Scary? yeah. Daunting? Definitely. Do I want to be looked at like a "Bible thumper"? No. Do I want people to roll their eyes and say, "oh, she's one of those"? Of course not. But I would definitely want someone to risk looking like an idiot or a fanatic or whatever...if it meant trying to save my kids.

How the heck does that tie in with my study in Matthew? Well...chapter 4 talks about Jesus' temptation in the desert and then calling Simon and Peter to follow Him (Matt 4:18-20). He was choosing who would spread the gospel to the world. Even though it's 2009, we are stilled called to spread the gospel (which means "good news"). I am shy to do it, but I need to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. I guess this is my way of working up the courage-it's easier than face-to-face.

Anyway...if you haven't already, please watch this video. It's so pretty. Maybe throw up a prayer for Steven Curtis Chapman and his family. I imagine that would just be devestating. If you think of it...could you say a prayer for me too? I can use all I can get. If you need prayers, please let me know.

Happy Thanksgiving

So I am sitting here, steam pouring out of my ears, and I'm struggling with wanting to be thankful that my husband even has a job, when so many don't, and wanting to scream because he has to work today.

I hate that he left with the last thing I said to him being in a short, clipped voice. Not a great way to start his day-one that he is no more excited about having to work than I am for him to work. Sooooo, I popped in some Casting Crowns and going to do my reading now in hopes that my crappy attitude will change.

Speaking of Casting Crowns...I am reading a book by the lead singer (Mark Hall) called "Lifesongs" It's awesome! In it he talks about how easy it is for him to get caught up in the 'tour' and getting from backstage to the stage to the bus as quickly as possible without really taking the time to get to know the staff and the fans. He says that so often artists mistake the concert as THE ministry and miss all the ministry opportunities in between. He said Jesus was so often giving His time while on the way to his destination...just to minister. And so often that was His ministry...His purpose. Not so much the 5000 waiting for Him at the end of His long journey, but the one woman who was bleeding and struggled to touch the hem of his clothing or the soldier whose son was sick at home and asked for his healing.

I wonder how many opportunities I miss because I am so busy just getting through the day (or "surviving it" as I sometimes like to say.)

One thing Mark Hall said really got me: No matter what has happened in our lives, everything has been filtered through God's hands. Whether He caused it or allowed it to happen, He is in control.

That means He knows and is allowing (at least for now) this crappy work schedule in our lives. Yeah, it really stinks that my husband is gone 5 days a week from 9AM until 8PM or later. It stinks that I feel like a single parent 5-6 days a week. It stinks that the kids ask if Daddy will be home before they go to bed every night. It stinks that we can't decorate our tree when we planned because the owner's wife decided that night is the only night they can decorate the restaurant. It stinks that his days off are usually the days that are scheduled last-minute for meetings and he has to go in to work anyway...I could go on and on, but what's the point? God is allowing it. Who knows why? Maybe there is someone in that restaurant today who needs to see God's love. Maybe it will be Joe who is the only "Bible" he or she sees. Maybe the staff will look to Joe and see how he is handling it differently and they will want to know what makes him different...and maybe they will want that too.

It's not all tied up in a pretty bow like it looks when I re-read what I've written. I still sulk and pout and make him feel bad when these things happen, but I hope I am getting a little bit better about quickly apologizing to him and trying to make it right. Maybe it will get better and I will be able to hold my tongue before I say something mean.

Matthew Chapter 3 tells about John the Baptist. You want to talk about a crappy life...this was it! He lived in the desert eating locusts and wild honey. Did he choose that diet or was there a "reason" for it?

He had to "prepare the way" for Jesus. Jesus came to him and asked John to baptize him. John didn't want to because he said that Jesus should be baptizing him (Matt 3:14). I was just thinking that I would be all thumbs if Jesus came to me and asked me to do anything for Him. But as I sat here and chewed on that...I realized that I haven't been all thumbs, I've been a brat. I complain and pout and complain some more. What He's asking me to do right now is support my husband in his job and (try to) be patient for when/if our circumstances change. That's no easy task, but if it's all He is asking...I should give it my best shot. It could be so much worse. Our kids are healthy and happy. We have a job. We can pay our bills. I can write this without worrying that soliders are going to break down my door and drag me away...God is good.

Starting in Matthew

So, I find it ironic that I chose to start in Matthew considering the first and second chapters talk about Christ's birth. Christmas is only a month away, so it's so fitting to start here...

The second chapter talks about Herod sending his soldiers into Bethlehem and vicinity to kill all the little boys 2 years old and younger, it breaks my heart. What a cold-blooded killer. I think it speaks to Jesus' divinity in that a king was so afraid of a little baby that he had all little boys killed to make sure he got the "right" one. Thankfully he didn't succeed, but how my heart bleeds for those mothers whose babies were killed right in front of them. My youngest little guy is 5 months old. He would have fallen into the category of those targeted. I can't even really think about it too much because it terrifies me.

I think every mom and dad fear that...something happening to their child. I have been stressing lately about that very thing-hurts or pains or diseases that could happen to my kids and I lay awake at night sometimes. I am kept awake with thoughts like, "if there is a fire, how would I get everyone out?" or "If someone breaks in, how would I protect us?" This kind of thinking can drive you mad-and very nearly has driven me mad many times. I try to remind myself that God is NOT a God of fear, so those horrible feelings are not from God, but Satan. Satan would like nothing more than to make me worry when God tells me that worrying about tomorrow is useless. He has our lives in His hands, so worrying changes nothing and shows my weak faith in God's promise to take care of me and my family--No matter WHAT happens.
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