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Monday, December 31, 2012

No More Perfect Moms

If there is one thing I strive to be in this life, it's *real*. Genuine. Transparent.

That's so much easier said than done.

While I might be open about being a hot mess; wearing my clothes from yesterday as pajamas and then again the next day, having toys and food all over the house, the truth is...I would be embarrassed for anyone to actually see me like that. One time a friend and her husband dropped by for an unexpected visit. I almost died.

I greeted them at the door wearing cropped, stained sweat pants, shin high teal hospital socks (with safety treads on the bottom and all), a dirty sweatshirt, my greasy, unwashed hair thrown up in a bun, no makeup, pasty skin, and a look of horror on my face. That's right--take a moment to let that visual fully take shape. My kids had toys ALL OVER the house. Breakfast dishes were still all over the dining room table and I'm sure someone had poop in their diaper...

I was mortified. And while I know my friend really didn't care, I CARED.

It's one thing for me to joke about it or blog about it...but to have someone actually SEE that I am far from perfect was really disturbing.

Just recently I was chosen to be part of a Launch Team for Jill Savage's book "No More Perfect Moms". I am 2 chapters in and so far I love it. I'm convinced Jill had a secret camera crew inside my house...inside my head! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that she starts off by saying, "Let's just get rid of all the masks we wear as moms." I'm paraphrasing that. :)

I've blogged about it before...feeling inadequate and annoyed by Facebook updates that read like a Martha Stewart ad. Pinterest pins of " a little something" whipped up in a mom's free time that I could never complete even with training or help. Too many times I feel less than because I compare myself to someone else. And I forget that I am comparing myself to the image that others portray of themselves. Not necessarily to who they really are on the inside.

Do you do the same thing? Do you feel like you'll vomit or put your fist through your laptop screen if you see one more post of someone's perfect, homemade Halloween costume, a perfect dinner, a size 4 outfit 2 weeks after delivering a baby? Well don't. It's honestly not worth it.

Instead, remind yourself that we don't always get the "whole" picture...we don't always see that the mom whose picture we are obsessing over or feeling bad about is often only showing us a tiny piece of the puzzle. There is far more to that woman than we see.

I'm excited to finish this book and give you some opportunities to connect with other moms who feel the same way we do. Today is New Year's Eve. I have already committed to a  30 day black out from the Internet, Facebook and Twitter included. I may sneak back on here just to give you more info on this book, but that's it.


If you want to turn a corner and stop feeling like you'll never be able to attain *perfect*--that elusive gold star--sign up here for Jill's "No More Perfect Moms" 31-Day Email Challenge. I'm signed up, ready to start feeding my brain some positive info-- some good stuff rather than all that stuff that tears me down and worries the crap out of me.

If you're excited to check this book out, you can do so...but not until February. In fact, if you wait until February 4-9 to order, you get some added goodies. :) Hearts at Home (a community that I belong to) and Moody Publishers are adding +$100 of bonus resources if you wait to order. It sounds weird to say it, but please WAIT to order until then! :) Click HERE to sign up to receive a reminder to order between Feb 4-9, 2013.

Would you like to take a look at some of the other awesome things going on with Jill and Hearts at Home? Click HERE. It's a great theme...moms don't have to...and shouldn't pretend to...be perfect! We aren't and never will be. But we also aren't ALONE in that. We can encourage and build one another up along this bumpy road of motherhood.

A pdf version of Jill's book "No More Perfect Moms" was provided to me for this Launch. You can follow along with me by coming back here often and following me on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, December 28, 2012

30 Days. Going Dark .

If I believed in "karma" I would say that's exactly what I experienced last night.

I was in a crabby mood and trying, unsuccessfully, to get the kids in bed quickly. I opened a new pack of diapers and carefully stacked them on the shelf. As I turned away to answer yet another question from inquiring little minds, I heard the slap of diapers hitting the floor. Annoyed--or rather even more annoyed--I turned back to see a tidy stack of them now on the floor. I felt my anger rising as I stomped over to pick them up. As I was bending I knew I was about to swear in rage. I tried to talk myself out of it because I'm really trying to clean up my language. 

Instead, I let her rip--and I'm not talking about any old swear word, either. It was the big daddy as I scolded the diapers and told them to "STAY WHERE I PUT YOU!" No sooner had I the big daddy curse word come out of my mouth as I was snatching the offending diapers off the floor than I felt a sliver from our hardwoods stab me under the fingernail of my right index finger. 

I saw stars.

It took me about 5 actual minutes before I had enough guts to look at my finger to assess the damage. Sure enough, that chunk of 70 year old wood was completely under my finger nail. And it was starting to bleed. 

Yes. I deserved that. It was a GREAT reminder (albeit painful) that I need to clean up my foul mouth. 

Ephesians 4:29 says, "Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift." (The Message)

I'm pretty sure Big Daddy Curse Word is not considered a gift. 

So...that little scenario served to underscore what I have been toying with lately...an idea that has taken shape out of current events.

I have been....um, let's just say obsessed...lately with current events and scrutinizing our government and our nation.

It's uh-mazing what you can find on youtube if you look close enough. I have been beside myself with worry about where we are headed as a country, as a world, as a people. It doesn't look anywhere good from my vantage point. 

And I have become fearful. Anxious. And almost frantic at times wondering how I prepare for what may lie ahead. 

I keep falling back on the scriptures that talk about fear:

1 John 4:18 tells me that if I live a fearful life, Love has not yet become fully mature in me. 

Isaiah 35:3-4 tells me not to fear. God is on His way to make things right.

Luke 12:4-5 is especially important to me: "I’m speaking to you as dear friends. Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands."

I'll admit that last one offers only a MEASURE of comfort since I consider it a pretty big deal to be "killed". But I get it. If I believe my life is really somewhere other than this earth--that this world is not my home--and I DO--then there are worse things than my body dying. True I don't delight in the idea of pain, but I do believe it will only be temporary. 

So I have decided to handle this sometimes paralyzing fear that I have been having. 

January is right around the corner. With it comes a new year which signifies a fresh start. I have never been one who is big on making New Year's Resolutions because I always thought it was silly to wait until Jan 1 to try to change myself into a 'perfect person.'

But I have decided that I am going to make January 1 a starting point for me as far as transforming my mind. And my body.

I had a thought a few months ago that I shared with Joe. What if each person really lived as close to how they should as possible? Like......just imagine if I ate right, avoided processed stuff, ate lots of healthy fruits and veggies, exercised, read the Word and really studied it?? I mean, I consider the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. A direct message to ME from the Lord Almighty....so why is it I flip through it on occasion or as I am drifting off to sleep at night or in church? If I truly believe that it is from God's mouth to my ear, why WOULDN'T I be poring over it? Studying it? Living it?

Amazing concept. 

Also, what if I limited 'time sucks' like Facebook, Twitter, Internet creeping? The news? Gossip? Hearsay?

Imagine if I was only filling both my mind and body with good things. Healthy things.

How amazing would I feel? How much closer to God could I get? Would it be easier to hear Him without all the background noise and static that comes from all this other crap that I let take precedence in my life?

What if I didn't watch shows that portrayed God in a negative light or that outright mock Him? Unfortunately, I LOVE me some shows that are definitely NOT on God's "Must Watch" list. 

What if I was very careful what I was putting in my head as far as the songs I listened to? Songs that glorify or talk about things that I definitely don't agree with, and in such a way as to make them seem normal and not so bad? But because they're set to a catchy tune, I sing along and say "I love that song! It's not how I live, so it's not that big of a deal."

I had a good friend point out to me the importance of protecting our minds and the minds of our children. And I was taken back to a verse I had to memorize at camp when I was a teenager: 

Romans 12:2 (The Message)-"So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

So that's just what I'm going to do. I'm going to take my ordinary, everyday life and place it before God as an offering. True, it's kind of like buying a box of chocolates for Bill Gates, but it's ALL I have to give...my life. The mundane things of my everyday. It's all I have to offer so I will. 

I think I fit pretty comfortably into my culture without thinking. That's not something I think I should be proud of. 

So for the entire month of January I plan to:
*Cut out most sweets, sugar, caffeine, and soda. 
*I plan to walk at least 3 days a week.
*Read the Word and actually study it. Not just peruse it randomly.
*Stay away from Facebook and Twitter. Completely.
*No trolling the Internet to feed my fears about the fiscal cliff, the end of the world, conspiracies, etc.
*Actual prayers with a beginning, middle, and end...not just quick phrases thrown out here and there or as long as I can stay awake. 
*Sit-down play time with my kids without an iPhone, iPad, or laptop in the mix.
*Establish a routine of rising early and starting my day refreshed and not rushed and late. 
*Getting  to bed no later than 11 pm each night.
*Focus on the household things that seem to "get away from me" because I'm too "busy" (READ: Facebook creeping).
*Prepare thoughtful and healthy meals for my family. Not just something on the fly that has little to no nutritional value.
*Spend some quality time with my husband that does NOT include sitting at opposite ends of the sectional watching the T.V.
*And most importantly...really, really pray for our country, our administration, our future, and what my part is in all of that. 

I think we're in a scary place as a nation. But I believe it's never too late as long as we are on this green earth to pray for change. As Todd, one of my favorite characters in the Christy Miller Series, once said, "We don't run out of chances. We just run out of time."

While I'm here and there is still some time left on my dance card, I plan to use it a little differently. 

30 days. 

January 1-January 31. 

Mind, body and soul. 

Care to join me? You don't even have to tell me. Or anyone for that matter. 

But I'll be encouraged if any of you do decide to take part. This next verse gets me really excited:

Matthew 18:20 (The Message): 
“Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

Did you see that? "My father in Heaven goes into action."

Isn't that freakin' awesome?! I'm ready to spur Him into action for our nation. 


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The 4 Letter "F" Word......F.E.A.R.

It's the day after Christmas, and I'm feeling the "day after Christmas" letdown.

All the build up. all the preparation, all the shopping....it's all done. Presents are open, candy is eaten, and now we look forward to the first signs of spring.

Tonight I was getting the kids ready for bed. As I was standing in the bathroom with them while they brushed their teeth, I told our oldest that I would like him to swish with some peroxide. His "big kid" teeth are coming in, but they look a little yellow.

I explained to him that his dad and I both swish with peroxide and his younger sister has used it to help with canker sores.

He started to sip it, looking like I asked him to drink cyanide. He took only about a rain drop's worth and refused to take more. I could feel my blood pressure rising and I knew it was a matter of seconds before the steam shot out my ears and my head whistled like a giant tea kettle.

I heard that tiny voice inside begging me to calm down, but I went from 0 to 100 in 3.8 seconds.

I told R to "get out of the room!" and then proceeded to tell him how frustrating it is when he refuses to do what I tell him to do.

"Have I EVER told you to do something that will hurt you?!" I railed, hoping he'd forget about vaccinations.

"WHY can't you just TRUST ME when I tell you to do something?!"

And on and on.

He cried. I yelled.

And then I collected myself enough to go sit down and count to 10.

I finally got it together enough to apologize to him.

I said I was sorry first, and asked him to forgive me for yelling at him. But then, of course, I got in my obligatory parent lecture about WHY he should trust me and how I have his best interest at heart...blah, blah, blah...when I started actually listening to myself. It was very humbling to realize how many times I do the same thing to God.

While God has never asked me to swish with peroxide, He has asked me to do things that were foreign to me and outside of my comfort zone. And it didn't matter that I KNEW He had my best interest at heart. I still allowed my fear to control me. Even the times I gave it a shot, I only did it half-heartedly and trembling with fear.

It really put it into perspective for me seeing R so hesitant to do what I was telling him to, even though he knows he can trust me.

It absolutely infuriated me to have him disobey me like that. And to doubt me.

And I wonder how many times I've disappointed God. Thankfully, He has a much greater ability to control His temper and forgive me. Otherwise, I'm sure He would have smited me long ago.

I thought of the verse in Luke 11 that says: ""If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing--you're at least decent to your own children. And don't you think the Father who conceived you in love will give you the Holy Spirit when you ask?" (V 10-13, The Message).

I'm going to do my best to remember this when God asks me to step out of my comfort zone. If He asks...it's always something good. Either as a blessing, part of my journey, or to refine me. It might not be the most pleasant thing I've ever experienced, but in the end, I know He'd never hurt me

And speaking to my fear of any negative feedback I may receive from more boldly speaking my faith:

"I'm not going to walk around on eggshells worrying about what small-minded people might say; I'm going to stride free and easy, knowing what our large minded Master has already said." (1 Corinthians 10:29, The Message).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why? How?

I, like the rest of the nation, have sat in intermittent anger and sadness since the tragedy in Connecticut.

Whether you have kids or not, what has happened is unimaginable and cuts to the core.

I didn't know any of the people involved, yet I have bawled like I did. I feel like I knew them. The loss of innocence--especially in such a brutal fashion--grieves the heart to an almost unmanageable degree.

I literally sobbed as I listened to the news updates on Friday. As I know many of my friends did.

When the final number of victims was first released I literally cried out to God. I wanted to blame Him. After all, He has the ability to do anything. He tells us to ask for anything and if we ask in Jesus' name, in line with God's will, we will receive it.

How could saving these people NOT have been in line with God's will?

I've read many articles and blog posts since then that I agree with. They say that we have removed God from every area of our lives, so why would we be surprised that these things happen?

I agree. And I nodded my head in agreement and felt angry for those who have given up on or turned their backs on God.

I blamed the nameless faces of individuals who, I feel, have directly contributed to our nation's demise.

It's easy to pick on those individuals and groups who are openly tuning God out. From the billboard in Time's Square posted by the Atheists of America to the various agnostic, atheist, and liberal groups who work to remove any mention of God from our court houses, schools, and public buildings, Christianity has long been under attack.

It feels fiercer at the moment, but it has been happening slowly, gradually over time. So slowly, in fact, that many of us haven't noticed how far this attack has progressed until we stop and take a look back and follow the line of events to current day.

And I prayed that God would speak to the hearts of these groups and individuals, and call them to Himself like He did Saul on the road to Damascus. Saul--one of the most celebrated and successful Christian killers of his day--was transformed in one meeting with Jesus. His entire life changed in an instant and he became one of the most prolific defenders of the Word and Herald of the Faith.

So, I prayed. I prayed for the families who will never make sense of this, for the police and investigators who had to take in and process the scene of such an unconscionable act, and the community who may never feel whole and safe again.

And then I felt God speaking to my heart. When I asked how someone can kill another, let alone beautiful little babies, I realized that when we don't present the sanctity of life to our children, it will be easy to discount its value-at all levels. When we tell one another that there are no moral absolutes, and that we each have the right to determine what's best for us, that's when we open the door for moral and ethical degradation. When we go to church on Sunday and "amen" our preacher but go out into the world smiling and winking at those living in ways that are outside of what God calls us to, we are already beginning our descent.

And I realized, I am just as much a part of where we stand today as a nation as are the liberal groups I mentioned above.

Maybe more responsible, actually.

I was baptized at 13 and have professed to be a Follower of Christ since then. I define myself as "Christian" on my Facebook page. I post various scripture references and Christian music links to my page. I read a Bible app on my phone daily. I pray to God to "use me" almost every night. I teach my children about Jesus and pray that they will come to accept Him in their hearts at an early age. I am active in my church.

But I'm missing the mark.

I am comfortable in my white picket fence. I am content to pray to God to speak to the hearts of the lost and to use me to further His Kingdom...yet do absolutely nothing more.

What if God is trying to answer my prayer...but I'm not stepping out and speaking up?

What if I am an answer to my own prayers? What if my action or inaction plays an eternal role?

I believe God can do anything, like I said above. Whether I heed His calling or not, I believe His Will will be done.

But...what if I could assist His will and not stand in its way? What if I am missing out on the blessings of sharing God's love with someone? What if I could have been a part of preventing the tragedy in Connecticut? In Aurora? In Littleton? Or Oregon? Or Colorado?

What if my pride and vanity has kept me from speaking to someone?

As I pray for God to intervene, I have been looking around at everyone else to get the job done.

Someone else who has a bigger platform. Someone else who is a better writer. Someone else who is more eloquent. Someone else who isn't as fearful of criticism. Someone else who knows the Bible better than I do. Someone else...

So if I want to point fingers at anyone for senseless, horrifying acts like this...I need to point at myself. I didn't pull the trigger, but I am also not doing what I am purposed to do.

We all ask Why?! I know why.

We all ask How will we make this stop?

I know how.

And so do many others.

It's actually a simple solution. But it isn't easy.

For most, it will be the hardest thing to come to terms with and follow through on.

God doesn't just need to be brought back to our schools. God needs to be at home.

God needs to be in each one of us. Actively.

And not just tucked away deeply because religion is a "private" thing. Our personal relationship is just that, personal. Not private. God never said our faith in Him was private. Nor did He say to keep it to ourselves lest we offend someone. In fact, He said the exact opposite.

"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." Mark 16:15

"Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven." Matthew 5:16

How can we expect God to intervene when there are others who don't know Him? "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" Romans 10:14.

So I am challenged and convicted to look at my own house and see how I am listening to God. I feel many of us are called to step up and start actually walking our faith. More than just giving back the excess change the cashier unwittingly gives us, more than shopping for Christmas presents for those who are less fortunate, more than posting a scripture link on Facebook or Twitter, more than attending church regularly and putting a check in the collection plate, more than saying all the right things or offering up "thoughts and prayers" for others.

How am I planning to do this?

Here are a few things I plan to look at closely:

*What kind of messages am I putting into myself with the music I listen to, the movies I watch and the books/magazines I read?
*What kind of messages am I allowing into my children with the TV they watch, the games they play and the books they read?
*What am I putting into my body on a regular basis? Am I really treating it like a Temple of the Holy Spirit?
*How am I using words to build up and edify others? Am I talking about people behind their backs but feeling safe to do so because it's just "venting"?
*What words am I using? Do I curse when it suits me and when it makes what I'm saying funnier.
*Am I honoring my husband's position in our family?
*Am I really using my time wisely? How much Facebook and Tweeting am I doing that could be spent caring for and spending time with my kids, caring for my home, and having time with God?
*Am I really reaching out to others or am I merely holding them at arm's length...letting them get only close enough that I don't feel they will see the real me or worse--that I will see the real them?
*Am I spreading God's love only to those who I think deserve it or am I planting the seeds everywhere He sends me?
*Am I responsive to my husband like I should be or do I only respond when I feel like it?
*Am I literally on my knees praying every day for our country? For our president? For the schools? For our church and leadership?
*Are my prayers more of me asking for things or do I also spend time in praising Him for who He is and all He has already given me?
*Am I seeking out ways to be God's hands and feet or do I only look for the ways that are comfortable for me?
*Am I surrounding myself with the people that will build up my relationship with God or with others who work hard to tear it down?
*Am I making anything else a priority over God? My family? My body? My business? My friends? Money? My home? My ego? My insecurities?
*Am I so wrapped up in my issues and problems and so focused inward that I can't see all that is happening around me?
*Am I speaking the truth in love or am I wielding it as an offensive weapon to make a point?
*Do I really read the Word and meditate on it or am I taking my minister's word for what is in the Bible?
*Am I in tune with the signs of the time?
*Do I really live a life of integrity or are lies sometimes easier or more convenient?
*Am I teaching my children by example or falling back on "do as I say not as I do"?
*Do others see Jesus in me even if they don't realize that's what they are seeing?
*Am I really willing to give it all--even if that means my family, my health, and my belongings--to follow God's will for me?
*Am I willing to listen to that still small voice in my heart when it says to 'Go!'?
*Am I only "liking" posts or images on Facebook that shout "We need God" but then going about my day business as usual?

How am I going to be a part of the change I want to see--that we so desperately need?

I see back and forth, sometimes heated exchanges between different groups.

NRA, Gun supporters, anti-gun people, politicians, celebrities, news personnel, those who call for more access to mental health care, those who want a greater police presence in the schools, those who want our teachers armed, those who want to pull their children out of school, those who insist they are not going to fear....but all of that is secondary. Some things are merely treating the symptoms of what is REALLY the center of the issue.

And I am called to take the first step regardless of what anyone else does. I am called to stand up for, speak, and LIVE the truth, even if I'm standing alone.

Because I know that if I had been the only one on Earth, Christ still would have died for me.

So, this is a charge for all of us who consider ourselves Christians. It's time to put action behind that title.


"But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That's why scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God. But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: 'Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?' The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ's Word is preached, there's nothing to listen to." Romans 10:14-17 The Message.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bless You, Part Deux

So that campaign I embarked on to "bless" others...yeah, a lot easier in theory. And a LOT easier when it's being kind to a gentle old lady or holding a beautiful baby.

The guy who crossed in front of me today (not on a crosswalk) and when MY light was green? Not so easy. I yelled at him through the passenger window that "THIS IS NOT A CROSSWALK! YOU DO NOT HAVE RIGHT-OF-WAY!!"

Just in case he wasn't aware.

When my 3 year old son asked who that guy was, I replied without thinking, "a moron!"

Aarrrrrgh!

So, that attempt went down in flames.

And this is after driving home from an appointment and praying that God would lead me. That He would guide my thoughts and actions to reflect His own. I cried my way through 35 minutes of asking--no, PLEADING-- Him to use me and reveal how He wants to use me...

I prayed for the safety of my children and that they would respond to HIM early in life and before this awful world gets a hold of them.

I am furious and angry and saddened beyond belief at the world we live in now.

Forget the news, I can't even peruse Facebook anymore without seeing an onslaught of negative, demoralizing, enraging news. From seeing friends' comments on different posts to seeing the posts of pages I have liked myself...every day it's a constant barrage of the moral decay we are living in.

I can't figure out if it's really increased or if my access to it has increased, or both.

It sickens me.

I'm torn between feeling emboldened and empowered and convicted to speak up and wanting to bury my head in the sand because that's so much easier.

I also want to adhere to the "turn the other cheek" that I blogged about the other day.

So, when do we do which??

Jesus told His disciples to "stand there and take it" (the Message version of Matthew)

**HOLD THE PHONE**

...as I was looking through Matthew 10 to give you an exact scripture passage for the above reference...I came across THIS:

Matthew 10:26-28, (The Message)

"Don't be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don't hesitate to go public now. Don't be bullied into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life--body and soul-- in His hands."

And there you have it. I just answered my own question.

Actually...God answered my question, as He always does...so precisely and right on time.

I won't be bullied. I won't be silenced by bullies; any who would silence me simply because they don't want to hear what I have to say.

So there I was, crying all the way home, begging God to reveal to me what His will is.

It's always right in front of me. Always in His Word.

If you have not tried this before, try reading the Message version of the Bible. It was painstakingly translated from the original text into a more modern-day translation. I volley back and forth between it and the NIV, and the meaning is so much clearer to me when I read The Message. It's not changed, just clearer.

Last night I was reading yet another deflating post about what our administration is doing on an international level when Joe called me. He could here the tenseness in my voice and I shared with him what I was just reading. He told me to "STOP reading that stuff!" And at first I wanted to agree.

Yes, I need to stop stressing myself out. I read too much of that junk and let it get the best of me. I need to enjoy my life and focus on my family.

And then I stopped short.

Wait a minute...I've been burying my head for 35 years. What has that yielded me? A country where morals and ethics are down the tubes, Truth is what you decide it is, our nation shakes hands with known terrorists, a country that's more divided than I have ever seen, a gut wrenching F.E.A.R. in the pit of my stomach for my kids and our future...yeah, doesn't seem to be working so well for me.

So, I'm not burying my head. Not anymore. I am 'eyes wide open'. I'm praying for the strength to stand up for my faith and for what I believe in, even when that earns me ridicule and angst.

Although it's not my intention to offend, I'm convicted that even if it offends those I care about, I can't back down any more. I have watched people I love take a slow, torturous journey backward and I sat by idly "minding my own business" because, after all, it's THEIR life, and who am I to butt in??

But at the end of the day, I have to decide...will it be worth it to me when I watch those same loved ones suffering in their self-made misery, alone? Will I be justified in being on the outside looking in, never having made even an effort to reach out and be a blessing to them?

And here we are back at being a blessing.

So maybe a "blessing" isn't always "feel good" kind of stuff. Maybe it is always in the best interest of that person, but doesn't always come wrapped in a bow.

More stuff to stew about.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bless You!

A verse I came across in my reading has been bouncing around my brain for the past couple of weeks. True to my form, I can't stop obsessing over analyzing it.

1Peter 3:8-12 (The Message version)

"Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless--that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing.
Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here's what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you're worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what He's asked; But He turns His back on those who do evil things."

The part about "No sharp-tongued sarcasm" stopped be cold. I love sarcasm. I consider it to be one of my most fluent languages. I take a certain degree of pride in that.

My kids have even caught on. Almost 5 year old E said to me the other day, "Mommy, what's being sarcastic?" I explained that it is when you say something you don't mean, on purpose. She thought about this for a minute and then said, "You mean when you told (almost 2 year old) H today that she was 'listening beautifully'?"

Wow. Yep. She had me there. It was a wake up call for me. I didn't realize how much I use sarcasm with my kids. What a mixed message that has to be. They hear me say one thing but know I mean another.

It made me realize how many times I give them a sarcastic smile. One that says "If you do that again I will absolutely explode." So when I smile at them now sometimes, my kids ask, "Is that a mean smile, mommy?"

How sad that they can't even be sure my smile is sincere.

So, coming back to this verse...I started thinking about the part that says my job is to bless.

Other than after a sneeze, how do you 'bless' someone? What does that look like in practical terms?

I took an informal poll on my personal Facebook page. The responses I got seemed to indicate a physical, outward act.

That's easy when it's in relation to someone you love, Or at least like.

But what happens when it's the rude lady in line behind you who's complaining under her breath when your kids are fussy or fighting?

What about the obnoxious guy on the other end of the phone who insists on speaking so condescendingly to you?

What about the adult who reprimands your child before you even have an opportunity to step in?

I'm supposed to bless them?

If by bless you mean give them a thorough tongue lashing or a fist to the throat, I'm in.

Wait...NO sharp-tongued sarcasm? Seriously? 

If sarcasm is out, I'm going to assume so is the fist to the throat.

My only recourse should be to bless them??

So I started trying to visualize what that means. How do I bless someone. Especially someone I hate with a burning passion--even if just in that moment.

I guess for starters it means NOT saying what I want to say. NOT spewing more negativity into the situation. Not telling them what a waste of space I think they are.

I can get quite hateful in certain situations. Whether it's a stranger or someone I love dearly, if you say or do just the right thing, I can go from zero to blind, raging hate in 2.3 seconds.

It's obviously a huge character flaw.

Feeling indignant that an injustice should not be tolerated, I flashed to the part in the Bible that says an "Eye for an eye". I looked it up in my Bible and I came to Matthew 5:38-42 (also the Message version):

"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues you for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously."

Ugh.

That wasn't what I 'remembered' about an Eye for an Eye. Not what I wanted to remember, anyway.

I wanted a verse that said, "When rude lady insults you for no good reason, you may punch her in  the face." Or "Should obnoxious man yell at your children, you have every right to kick him in the groin."

But no. It wasn't there.

In fact, it's the EXACT opposite.

I should just stand there and take it??

For reals?

I have to be honest and tell you that does NOT sit well with me.

So here I am STILL noodling what exactly this means, what this looks like.

In some ways it's exasperating, but in others, it's SURPRISINGLY refreshing and freeing.

I don't HAVE To get mad. I don't HAVE To retaliate. In fact, I shouldn't.

I should only be kind and compassionate.

The guy who cut me off in traffic? He doesn't require a loud blast of my horn or the obligatory dirty look when I pull alongside him at the next traffic light.

The less-than-hospitable McDonald's worker who can't even make contact or mutter 'thank you' when I pay for my order? I don't have to say "THANK YOU!" loudly and dripping with sarcasm so that she gets my point.

That A-Hole at Target who says my son "needs a nap" because he's 3 and throwing a typical 3 year old tantrum? They shouldn't have to endure a witty "Mind your own business and STFU" from me.

As much as it may burn within me to hold my tongue, I now know that, not only is it polite, but it's what Christ tells me to do.

So here goes it. I'm embarking on a campaign to hold my tongue. And to bless. I'm thinking it's the same as "Kill 'em with kindness." Even though the "killing" part is easier in theory.

I'm also open to suggestions for how to bless...


Monday, December 3, 2012

Thinking Things Through

We are counting down the days until we pull the boys out of public school and start homeschooling.

So far we've been met with mostly positive responses.

I kind of wish the principal and teachers at the boys' school would have been jerks, but they've been great. That makes it a little more bittersweet.

I was going through L's school folder last night getting ready for Monday morning when I came across some "compliments" he received Friday. His teacher has the class write on little slips of paper things that they like about the other students. L is an outgoing little guy and he usually has a slew of compliments from his friends.

One of them from yesterday was from his best buddy. It said "L, you are good at baseball".

I smiled as I put it aside.

And then I got really sad.

I started thinking about how close these two are and what it will be like for his friend when he comes back to school after Christmas break and L isn't there anymore.

It broke my heart. For the little boy.

It's not like they'll never see each other again. We live a block away from each other for Pete's sake. Surely we will have more play dates.

But I wondered how it will be for L's class when L isn't there anymore.

I don't have an over important sense of L's presence in his class, but I know change can be hard for kids. 1st grade is tough business without adding in social issues.

L's teacher also has a program that she calls "Marvelous Me". Each student gets a week out of the school year that is dedicated to celebrating them. Last year we put together a collage of pictures of R (when he had this teacher) that showed him from birth to present day. I wrote a story telling all about him and he got to have a special lunch with the teacher and 2 of his friends. It's such a great way to celebrate the kids and make them feel special.

Well, L's was scheduled for March.

So guess what? He won't get to do it.

I was so crestfallen when I realized that.

I will still make a Marvelous Me week for L here at home, but I'm not kidding myself that it will be the same.

Am I cheating them?

These are all the thoughts that derailed me from homeschooling 2 1/2 years ago.

I absolutely believe that we are doing the right thing for our family. I just feel sad for those exciting things they will miss by not having a "class."

Help me out here moms who have homeschooled after your kids were in "regular" school.

How did you transition them?
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