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Saturday, December 29, 2012

King Tut


     I love Ancient Egyptian history, and have always wished to see King Tut. The story of his life unearthed by the discovery of his tomb has fascinated me since girlhood. Though the actual mummy remains in Egypt, a replica was available for viewing, as well as many authentic artifacts from archaeological excavations of Egyptian royal tombs.


        It's amazing to think that it is possible the stone figures before me witnessed Joseph's time of service in the house of Pharaoh and the childhood of Moses, who had been adopted and raised by an Egyptian princess. If not, they still have existed for thousands of years, with keys to the past locked in their stony stares. If only they could talk! (story Genesis 37-50)


      I wonder.....Did Moses gaze upon some of the exhibit objects in his dealings with the Pharaoh? Were they in the palace while Moses pleaded for his people's freedom? As I stood under the remnant of the Colossal Statue of Amenhotep, I pondered the possibility that Moses had seen the same statue fully intact and in its prime. Even if he didn't, standing before the striking stone figures transported me back in time.


     I wondered about God's Hebrew people who had been welcomed into the strange new land of Egypt, and then later enslaved by those in authority. Were they living among these artifacts? Did the Israelites help build any of the tombs that encased these ancient treasures? (Moses in Egypt, Exodus 1-14)


     The hieroglyphs that have been deciphered give some clues to the beliefs and culture of these fascinating people. One pharaoh was monotheistic. What changed his mind about polytheism? I would love to know if it had anything to do with the Exodus of the Hebrews.


     The ancient Egyptians painstakingly preserved their culture in tombs, like well protected time capsules. I wish I could have taken photos for you, but photography was not allowed in the exhibit. You can click this link to see some of the artifacts. http://www.komonews.com/news/local/-I-see-wonderful-things-King-Tut-exhibit-ready-for-public-153209135.html?tab=video&c=y


     Do you like archeology? Does it ever make you wonder about the people who lived in another time?



   

Friday, December 28, 2012

Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out

     As the sun sets on 2012--I have to say....I am not the least bit sorry to see it go. That sentiment seems to be shared by several of my acquaintances, who also have been worn out by this past year.





      If there ever was a year that catered to every emotion life offers, 2012 was it for many. The highest highs to the lowest lows, make one feel as if a roller coaster is whipping them around uncontrolled. We can be grateful that this coaster is not uncontrolled, but must pass before the loving hands of God before its curves and swirls are allowed into our lives.



     Many suffered greatly this year, as I suppose they do every year, just this time the suffering of this world hit closer to home. On a positive note, times that we experience suffering and loss build our  compassion for the world around us, and give us knowledge of the feelings those specific sufferings can create. So look at all the ministering we will be equipped for!



   
     Romans 8:18 (NLT) For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly but because of God who subjected it – in hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. 23Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance.


     As I reflect on 2012, I will focus on the lessons learned during trial, blessings poured from heaven, and the opportunities to experience life to the fullest. Let's wave goodbye to 2012, holding onto the good that was contained within.



     Are you happy to see 2012 go? Why or why not?


 
     

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Secret Santa?

     Nothing too secret about this Santa. We had a great plan, but one thing after another went wrong. We had the wrong key to the house we broke into, and by the time we got in, a handful of minutes were all we had for setting up our surprise.

     We bagged the donated gifts, which to our delight, dwarfed the little Christmas tree. It was fun to set the tree on top of the pile of gifts when it was finished. In our haste, we nearly forgot to grab the trash and leftover decor on our way out.

     The tripod was also left in the house when we fled, and had to be retrieved. Trying to unlock a door in a hurry while doubled over in laughter is harder than it looks.

No time for a photo? Nonsense! There's always time for a photo.
     Just barely out of the house before the home's occupant returned from a Christmas party, we anxiously waited to discover the reaction.

     Meanwhile, there was an inability to find a desperately needed restroom to change out of the costume and preserve our cover. Seriously, who keeps Santa out of a restroom on Christmas? People who like coal.

     (Rather than hinder the plans, our troubles that day kept us laughing hysterically and made the experience that much more memorable)

     A phone call to Mr. Recipient with an offer to stop by with Christmas goodies and hot chocolate got us back into the home. What a thrill and a blessing to be invited to stay and watch as the gifts were opened.

     The perfectly tailored gifts caused Mr. Recipient to suspect the many generous donors who contributed, and before very long, the cover was blown. However, the joy experienced by the donors and recipient tightened a loving bond amongst us all.

   
   

     Do you have a favorite Secret Santa story?
   



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Shadow of Death

 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4

     The reality of death, and what it might be like to die had never hit home for me before. Over the last three weeks, I watched as the shadow of Death--gaunt and ugly--slowly consumed my darling grandma. With sunken eyes and blank stares, He taunted. "There is nothing you can do."

     I'll admit, it frightened me a bit. I was watching the repercussions of evil and the downfall of mankind have their way with someone I loved a lot. All I could do was look to God and some supportive family members for comfort.

      I never had the occasion to keep a bedside vigil with one who had come to life's end. Thankfully I wasn't doing it alone. But I prayed for Grandma, sat with her, kept her company, and tried to ensure her comfort. All the while, attempting to ignore the darkness encompassing her shrinking frame.



     Though she no longer spoke, was too weak to move much, and her eyes rarely opened, she was there, mind in tact. Her beautiful soul remained trapped in a failing body waiting for the angels to take her home.

     Death may be inevitable, and for some, untimely. But I am eternally grateful that it is not the end. Because of the life of Christ, death has been trumped. It may mock us until the grave, but no longer has the power to do so after. What a wonderful gift of hope from God, and one we don't deserve.


     Because of the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, death is nothing more than a shadow that passes over us, no more threatening than the sunset. This Christmas season I will bask in that triumph over the grave as I reflect with awe upon the incredible love and sacrifice God poured into humanity. May we never forget it.

     What are you celebrating this Christmas?


   


   

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gains and Losses

     Is there anyone who makes you crazy? Every time you see them, there's a misunderstanding and hurt feelings? They just don't get you? My poor Grandma must have felt that way about me.

     For sixteen years, I wanted almost nothing to do with her. I was cordial at best, and ignored her at worst. Why? A grudge. One I clutched as though my life depended on it. Perhaps a better way to say it is that my resentments and anger had a death grip on me. I no longer controlled them, but allowed them to run loose and wreak havoc in my relationships.

     I had decided that Grandma didn't love me, and nothing that woman could say or do changed the imaginary idea I had formulated in my own mind. Though she ached for a relationship with me, it only mattered that I thought she didn't.

Grandma Lola


     I see now where my immature thinking was seriously flawed, and I mourn the time I lost with her. Seven years ago, I decided to get to know Grandma, and I have never been sorry. She was a wonderful woman with lots of funny little quirks, like we all have. We went to the movies, out to lunch, hit a thrift store or two. I did some chores for her, and we went through family photo albums together.

     She was a dear woman with a wonderful sense of humor, and she made my life richer. The most important lessons Grandma taught she never spoke. She just lived them out in front of me--Let go. Let go of imaginary ideas and misunderstandings. Forgive, because people are important. Laugh whenever you can. No matter how hard life gets, press on.

     My grandma passed away this week, but what I learned through my experiences with her will stay with me forever as treasures I never let go. Our lives are nothing more than a whisper in the wind when compared with eternity. We have only a little time to impact future generations, and Grandma had a huge impact on me.

     Though Grandma lived 95 years, I knew her for seven. I would love to go back, get over myself sooner, and know her better. I choose instead to be thankful for the time and experiences we did have together. They changed my life.

     When have you been thankful you worked through anger and resentment?



     This is my top blog post for December. If you would like to share yours, you can do so at Blog Schmog by Jessie Gunderson.





 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coping with December Dysfunction

     Is it just coincidence that December and dysfunction begin with the same letter? Oh, probably. But amazingly enough, that is just how it seems to go. Emotions and expectations fly high only to be dashed against the pavement when the kids call to say they aren't going to make it this time, or you can't meet your parents' idea of what Christmas should be.


     Rather than scavenging for ways to avoid this conundrum, why not enlist some of these tips to minimize your discomfort.


  • Pray. It's much easier to handle holiday disappointments if you have bathed every aspect in prayer. Leave it all in God's hands, then watch Him move.


  • If you find yourself alone this Christmas, serve others in the Spirit of Christ. Getting your mind off your own troubles and noticing the needs of others is great therapy.


  • Lower your expectations...a lot. The lower your expectations of other's behavior, the more surprised and happy you will be when they come through with class, and the less disappointed you will be when their behavior is disheartening.

  • Have a plate of appetizers in your hand at all times,  so you will be ready to pop something in at the most uncomfortable moment. This is especially helpful in keeping yourself from saying something you might regret.

Sorry, can't talk.
  • "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." (Romans 12:20) That's right. Give your brother something he really likes and try not to hope he chokes on it. Be sweet and think of those burning coals.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Be ready to jump up and go to the bathroom at a moment's notice. This one has helped me through many years of awkward situations.

  • Plan a time to leave. Have somewhere to be in a reasonable length of time, and let the host know early so there won't be hurt feelings when it's time for you to go.



     "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,"Romans 12:18

     How do you cope with December dysfunction? 

      


   

   

   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Season of Thanks

     So, I am late. I wanted to do a beautiful thanksgiving post with a few of the awesome reasons I have to be thankful. I'm frustrated, because I am late for everything and blowing my New Year's Resolutions sky high. There is always next year to be on time I guess. Is it ever too late to be thankful?

     Our daughter was baptized this year.

   















                                                                                       


                                                                                We spent some time with long lost friends.
   


 

















     We had really great family vacation time.   

 















    My wonderful husband and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary in August.

     I have a hard working guy who loves his family.

     My lovely little sister married.

     Family relationships were patched up.

     My father moved to Washington after 25 years in California.

     My stepdad came home safely from Kuwait.

 

















 
      My brother Joey survived his wreck, and is improving at a miraculous rate. The doc said originally he could expect to be in a wheelchair for three to six months, but no, it's been six WEEKS since he snapped both femurs and cracked three other bones, and he is walking with only a cane!

Photo from krem.com
    
     There is so much more that I am thankful for....the JR High and volunteers at church, my great parents....all of them! The most amazing friends I could ask for. My kids, and the lessons they teach me on a regular basis. I am thankful for a God who cares about what is going on in my life, and who works all things together perfectly for the best of everyone involved.

     I want to live each day with an attitude of awe and thankfulness. God is so good!

     What are you thankful for?

   

   

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crunch Time

     As the sun sets on 2012, I am starting to sweat. It's like the night before a huge test I didn't study for. The adrenaline is high, pulse fast. At stake? New Year's Resolutions.

     Last year, all of them had been fulfilled by now. Is it too late to file an extension?



     I used to think New Year's Resolutions were ridiculous expectations placed on yourself to become something you can't, and then feeling disappointed and guilty when you failed to comply. But I have changed my mind. Keeping them to simple self improvements and within reason, has helped me step toward being a better person.

     This year, I had planned on reading through the Bible. I think I am close to half way, so this one may be redeemable.

     I was going to read every unread book I own before I would allow myself to buy more. I didn't and I bought more books.

     Organizing my home and streamlining my life has also eluded me, though progress has been made, and I continue working at it.

     So, before I change my resolutions to~watch more tv, ground the kids more often, gain 10 pounds~ I think I will take a deep breath, let go of this year's resolutions, and make the same ones next year.

     Forgiving yourself and accepting your short comings is vital to maintaining a hopeful, positive outlook. It gives you the motivation to keep trying.


     Do you make New Year's Resolutions? If so, do you ever have trouble keeping them?





Monday, November 19, 2012

No Shirt Today

     "Mom, you NEVER do the laundry!"

     Really? My goodness, I get sick of hearing that. Of course, I feel like I do nothing but laundry and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Closer to my side, though, I am sure.

     As we tore the house apart in search of a concert shirt required for school today, irritation flooded my entire being until it squirted out my mouth.

     Thankfully, I don't feel like the kids were scarred for life by my bemoaning their slothful ways. I was gentle, so no one even cried.

     How do I dissolve these problems? How do I get the kids to take responsibility for their own missing clothing? Ranging in age from 8-14, they are no longer little and I expect more from them. However, they are not consistently rising to the challenge. So, they will go to school with clothes that closely replicate the ones they should be wearing.

     Maybe that is why we have them for eighteen years, so we can instruct over and over the proper way to live. Perhaps that is one reason why we should read the Bible daily, because that stubborness never goes away. We must allow ourselves to be taught and retaught daily for our entire lives, lest wisdom elude us. When the active pursuit of wisdom is not in us, neither is the great bounty that she so openly offers.

     So,  a lesson for them and a lesson for me. If you don't know where your shirt is, you will have to wear something else. Allowing that consequence, rather than rescuing them, saves my sanity and hopefully helps to mature their thoughts and lead to responsibility. This in turn encourages a sense of accomplishment in them,  and relief in me.

     Do you ever get tired of relentlessly instructing others in responsibility?

   

Friday, November 16, 2012

Do You Smell That?

     I burned the muffins.....again. This time they weren't the least bit salvageable. These blueberry muffins resembled brownies when I was through with them.


     Yesterday was hectic and I was in a hurry. I was fasting so I could take a blood test, it was a half day at school, so I had to clock out in the middle of my shift at work and go pick up my kiddos. I had lots of food to chop and cleaning to do, and I was trying to get off early so I could get my blood drawn and eat. I was starving!

     Everything was going smoothly. I whipped up the muffins and threw them into the oven. They could bake while I was gone, and be done by the time I got back from picking up my kids. I ran out the door, with no opportunity to let my boss know to keep an eye on the muffins. But it didn't matter. Everything would be fine.

     By the time I got back to the kitchen, there was a terrible odor coming from the oven. It was smokey too. Thinking quickly, I cranked the oven knob to off, flung the oven doors and kitchen window open, flipped on the fan, and shut the doors to the kitchen. Dang! I had put the muffins on the wrong rack before I left. They were black. The kitchen cleared fairly quickly, but my idea that I could keep the smoke and stink to myself and away from the rest of the daycare was so wrong.

     I quickly dumped the black muffins in the trash, and mixed up more to redeem myself. Those were in the oven and I was chopping apples when my boss knocked on the kitchen door, peeked in and asked, "Amy, what are you doing? Are you hiding?" She laughed at my sorry attempt to make sure no one would know.

     "I thought I could keep the smell to myself," I replied.

     "Too late. You can't. Everyone knows." And she propped the kitchen door back open.

     I felt ridiculous for trying to keep my smoke and stench to myself, when I knew it would likely slither under the doors of the kitchen and permeate the daycare anyway. There was no holding onto my dignity in this situation, and it would have been more noble of me to just confess and apologize for stinking up the daycare.

     We do that, though, don't we? We think we can hide by shutting the doors to keep our odors to ourselves, and no one will know that anything is wrong. Whether it's something we shouldn't be doing or an unsavory life situation,  attempting to keep it to ourselves is futile. Those who know us well and even some who don't will be able to smell it, even if they can't pinpoint where it's coming from--better to confess and endure the consequences. In my case, harassment.

     "As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor." Ecclesiastes 10:1

     Have you ever tried to pull off a cover up?


photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ups/433742210/">ups2006</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fire!

     Last Monday, as we were getting ready to go to dinner, a fire broke out on the neighbor's deck. I guess because the fire was behind us and I was unsure of the address, the fire trucks came to our house.




     The fire chief ran through our gate on the side of our house and jumped the back fence, to the absolute delight of my children. I had to keep them in the house and out of the way, they were so excited (not because of the deck being on fire. They worried about that, but firefighters came to our house!)


      By then the neighbor had pulled a garden hose around the house and was nearly half way through extinguishing it, and the fire chief called the fire trucks around the block to the house on fire.


     One thing, it was surprising how quickly the fire grew. Within just a couple of minutes an ember from a fire pit caught the deck on fire and flames licked the eaves of the house. 

                                   
     After the fire was extinguished, one of the fire trucks came back by to congratulate the kids for reporting the fire. They told us that even though the fire was small, it spreads quickly. I was so impressed with the firemen for coming back to reinforce the lesson the kids learned that night. I know that it won't be easily forgotten in their minds. 



     I am grateful for those life lessons that just sort of happen, the ones kids learn on a grand scale by experiencing them. I hope that they will always be careful with fire.

 
     When have you been thankful for experiential lessons for your children?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Happy Veteran's Day!


Veteran's Day Party for our service men.....Great fun!
     It's Veteran's Day, and in light of last week's election I have been contemplating the incredible, selfless sacrifice of so many servicemen and women that fought and continue to fight for our freedom and rights.

Allen: USMC

      Because of this, we are able to vote, and to cast our ballots however and for whomever we choose. We enjoy freedom of speech, when much of the world does not. We have the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and The Bill of Rights ensuring our freedoms will not easily be lost.




     These men and women leave their families so that we can stay with ours, responding to the call of duty with determination and purpose. Whether on peacekeeping missions or at war, our armed services have the best interests of the US and her allies at heart. 



     They go to make the world a better place for their children and for ours, chasing the ever elusive dream of peace on earth. No matter how difficult the challenge, they haven't thrown in the towel. They continue to fight.....for us, for their families, for our nation, and against the ever increasing threats to peace.

John: US Army


     Take a moment today to thank a veteran. Think about how much you value your rights, and what those rights cost. They deserve our gratitude and respect. 
     
      
Steve: US Army Reserve, Skip: US Air Force, Scott: USMC, US Army Reserve
     



   

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Celebrate Life

    Since my birthday was earlier this week, I have been thinking. Birthdays are a perfect reminder to celebrate life. With all of its topsy turvey mix of joys and sorrows, life is worth celebrating.


      Rejoicing over others for their birthdays reminds me of the way God rejoices over us, honoring the person that they are and taking the time to show them what they mean to us. It is impossible to determine how long God has placed them in our lives, and taking every opportunity to demonstrate love and appreciation is important.

      Renewing often the assurance of a person's importance and value helps alleviate some of the feeling of neglect those who are lonely can experience.


    My own birthday is an annual reminder to be thankful to God and to my parents for the life they gave me, the second greatest gift I have ever received. Despite challenging circumstances, my teenage parents chose life for me. Though it wasn't easy, we all made it through. The lessons we learned from each other along the way--priceless.

     I am so thankful for the experience of running through cool grass in my bare feet, playing in the waves of the ocean, watching the full moon rise. Wind in my hair. Water skiing. Driving. Hanging by a rope (some people call it climbing). Knowing God. Laughing. Sunsets. Riding a horse. Friends. Getting married. Having kids.  Life is amazing!

     So, yes, I love birthdays. Not because of the gifts I may receive, but because of the gifts I have already been given.


   So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all. ~Ecclesiastes 11:8


  Do you enjoy birthdays?

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm Speechless.....

     Literally. My voice just up and left. Sure, I knew for a day or two that something wasn't quite right, but mostly I was blindsided. Halloween night, I really noticed the strain. I called after the kids to slow down and my voice would crack, refusing to finish the words I'd intended.

     All the arguing and pleading in the world would not make my voice react in appropriate fashion. It's like suddenly there was nothing left she wanted to say.

     I don't even remember the last time I lost my voice, but it's been quite a while. Squeaking out a few painful words today is all I can muster. It is time to just be quiet, and enjoy the peace of these couple of days before life returns to normal.

"He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul....."Psalm 23:2-3

      Because I am thankful for my illness, here is a list of the blessings that came with losing my voice:
  •  The kids and I have been whispering to one another, requiring us to actually walk up and speak softly to whomever we wish to communicate
  •  Two days off work, with nothing to do but sleep and rest
  •  My awesome husband is picking up my slack with the kids and the housework
  •  This time of quiet has greatly decreased my anxiety
  •  I have had plenty of time to read
     When have you been thankful for an illness?




 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I've Got The Whole World In My Hands......

     Doesn't quite sound right, does it? It certainly doesn't feel right--to have the whole world in my hands, I mean.

     God doesn't give us more than we can handle, but it is possible for us to take on more than we can handle.

     Somehow, I nosedived from trusting God and resting securely in His promises, to a bundle of frayed nerves. Though never managed perfectly, and sometimes not even well, stress has not wrestled me to the ground.

     Until last week....when I actually thought I would have a stress induced implosion. My muscles were tighter than Aunt Bee's pantyhose, my breathing shallow and labored. I woke up having a panic attack, and could not reclaim my calm. Embarrassed, I tried everything in my power to relax. For days I prayed, read verses and books, took hot baths......all in vain. Coffee was out as I tossed things from my diet that could rev up the anxiety already engulfing my being.

     The stress became impossible to hide, as people one by one asked if I was okay. I would reply, "I think so," but as the days passed, it was evident that I was not okay. My husband and others around me saw it coming. They saw the tension in my demeanor, and urged me to take some time to rest. Pressing on about my business as though everything was fine was one of my biggest mistakes.

     Life keeps coming. It never slows down to let you catch up. The days don't stand still to allow time to grieve loss or heal from trauma. Sometimes it seems like a wave of trial washes over you and you don't have time to stand up again before the next wave hits. During these times of intense stress, it is vital to take the time to grieve and heal. Daily tasks will wait.

    Rest, before the stresses of life do you in. You are no good to anybody if you aren't healthy yourself. I learned that the hard way.





     "Superficial problems call for superficial solutions. But real life isn't like that; its headaches and stresses go deeper, right down to the bone. They touch the nerve areas of our security. But God says He is a present help in trouble. Go ahead, read Psalm 46. See God's strength through times of stress."
Stuart Briscoe, What Works When Life Doesn't

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Who Writes This Stuff?

      Life's been crazy lately. Not your typical busy schedule crazy,  but off the wall crazy. No matter how many times I pinch myself  and cry uncle, this low budget horror flick drags on. There is no pausing it, no recasting, and Lord knows, there are no retakes.

     For whatever reason, I have assumed the role of director. Odd, since I have no experience in this arena. I march over to the writers and throw the script in the air. "What kind of trash is this!?!" I demand. "I never approved this!"


     But there is no answer. My tantrum produces nothing. Paper lies scattered all over the floor, but no one cowers before me, sorry for writing such junk. No apologies, no promise to write something better; silence is the only reply.

     I try firing cast members and holding new auditions, but the current actors don't budge. No one shows up to the auditions, and so I am stuck with all of the same people in my life.

     The same script, actors, and plot......stuck. What to do? I think I will hit my knees, and pray with all of my might. This mess is far bigger than anything I can handle on my own.

     As I contemplate the thickening plot of life, wondering how events unfold the way they do, I remember how much God has already brought me through.

     My husband interrupts my daydreaming with, "Are you okay?"

     "I am just stressed," I reply. "There's just a lot going on right now."

     "Isn't God still in control?" He asks me. "He took care of Joey and Tim in the wreck, and He is taking care of this other stuff too."

     God is in control, and I know it. When life feels haywire, I struggle to take charge of the situation. Helplessness is not a pleasant feeling. Not knowing what lies around the next corner frightens me a bit.

     It's easier if we can plan ahead, or at least see what's coming. So, while life seems to unravel around me, I will remember that God knows what He's doing even when I can't make sense of it. Reminding myself of that often in the upcoming days and weeks will be absolutely necessary to maintain some level of functioning and sanity.

     "We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful." ~James 5:11

     What do you do when life is overwhelming?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

     Today I am angry. At what, I'm not sure. Is that even okay? My little brother, Joe, is alive and doing alright, his buddy Tim went home from the hospital yesterday. Still thankful to God for His hand in the accident, our families look ahead at what needs arranging at home to aid their recoveries.

     Painful, but exciting physical therapy sessions are happening twice a day. Joe is pushing himself already to excel. His attitude remains thankful and optimistic, with occasional twinges of irritability. Understandable.

     Watching him and applauding as he goes through these first days after the accident, the realization of how far he has to go before he is wholly himself again is setting in. His pain is excruciating and heartbreaking to watch. I feel like crying when he has to ask someone to scratch his foot, because he can't.


     I want Joe to get up and go to school tomorrow, and then go on to work. I want him to hang out with his buddies at the high school football games, and continue bulking up for his entry into the Air Force. I want him to have a wonderful senior year of high school, full of great memories. I want to return to six days ago, the day before the car accident, and tell him to take a different route after school.

     In this situation, we don't get what we want. There is no undoing that which has already been done, and God has allowed this into their lives and ours for reasons we don't yet know. As I grapple with the anger that caught me off guard-- anger at the accident, nightmares, the broken legs, the wheelchair, and the physical therapy--I just have to give it to God, because I don't know what to do with it.

     How is it even possible to feel thankful, angry, and sad all at the same time? No wonder I feel so crazy. I know God understands our anger, He knows we can't see the final outcome of what is going on right now. He will comfort all of us in our anguish, if we can turn toward Him in it.

     "I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction
 and knew the anguish of my soul." Psalm 31:7

   

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sense In The Senseless

     We try to do that, don't we? Make sense out of things. It's easier to wrap our minds around a situation if we can come to some kind of logical explanation. Sometimes, though, you just can't.

     Why? is an irresistible question.....the first one most of us ask when looking at something that makes absolutely no sense.



       Like.....Why did my little brother and his best friend, in the second month of their senior year of high school, get into a  terrible wreck?


     Why did they not only live, but astound the state patrol, EMTs, doctors, and the tow truck company by escaping the crash with minimal injury?


     How did the passenger take the impact of a head on collision, then get crunched from the side of a metal post they landed against, and not break a single bone?

Photos from krem.com

     Why will my brother be in a wheelchair, and endure extensive and difficult therapy?

     Infinite questions could be asked, but they would hang in the air unanswered. It is not for us to know the answers right now, and they may or may not be revealed in this lifetime. All we can do is drop to our knees and thank God for having mercy on all of us by letting us keep our boys.

     "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh: I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be declared in all the earth." Romans 9:15-17

      Rather than focus on the long and painful recovery, we must keep our minds on the blessing that they will heal.

     We will applaud them and cheer them on, no matter how tempted to over help, so that they will regain the strength to be independent. The pain will be difficult to watch, but we know that through pain comes strength and endurance.

    Just as God had His hand on them during the crash, He will be there as they recover and beyond.

     "For I know the plans I have for you,"declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Anyone Have A Field For Sale?

     I am constantly on the lookout for a great deal on greener grass in which to bloom. Sure, they say to bloom where you're planted, but have you seen the possibilities? What about blooming on the other side of the fence? I spot a nice place just around the bend, and there's another across town. Have you seen the blooms on those flowers? I want to bloom like that. Sometimes, all I can think about is trying to get where I think I'm headed.


     Planning and praying, I plot the coordinates--my coordinates--that will lead me where I want to go, where I think God wants me. The grass over there turns a deeper shade of green each time I peer at it, and it makes me crazy. Waiting is so difficult.

     It's interesting, though, as I pray about how and when I should get over to this other field, all this other stuff gets in the way. For instance, I write sometimes for the JR High at church and communicate the Bible to teens. While I actually love this and appreciate its importance, it doesn't allow for much time to develop my writing. So much research to do, classes to take, topics begging to be explored.

     Rather than consider the spiritual development and experience happening right now, I have been trying to hold off, looking for avenues to grow my writing skills and communication experience. So, with all of my might, I hold my petals tight to keep them from blooming until I reach my destination. Only then will I let down my blooms.


     If all of my efforts flow into the future, what will I miss in the mean time? The opportunity to bloom right here, right now, where God has me in this very moment. I've decided to live purposefully in the present, giving my best to what's going on around me each day, one day at a time. All the steps taken  are more effective if I am fully engaged and wholeheartedly living now.

     It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.~Proverbs 19:2

     Where and when will you bloom? In the here and now, or on the other side of the fence down the road?








Saturday, September 29, 2012

Walks of Blessings

   "Really? You are walking all that way by yourself?" I asked my daughter's little friend.

    "Yep. I do every day. I'm used to it." She replied with a proud smile.

     How had I missed this? How did I not notice that this tiny little first grader was walking alone?

     For one thing, I am a little slow: I don't pick up on hints right away or make keen observations. God often has to set something right in front of my face multiple times before I understand the task he is asking me to do. It's like he was saying to me, "Amy, this little girl needs to be walked home."

 
     "Okay, I will walk her home.....today," my thoughts replied. I really didn't think I could make the time (20 minutes a day) to take on the responsibility. The next day, I asked her, "Are you walking home alone?"

     "Yep, but it's okay," she said. I knew what I should do, and I mustered up a good attitude as I walked her home again and again, questions now floating through my mind. What is going on here? Something seemed amiss. Something wasn't right. What was it?

     Within weeks, I knew that her mom had cancer, and was desperately sick from treatment. Her older siblings were taking care of the preschoolers at home. Dad was working two full time jobs. Suddenly ashamed of myself for not simply obeying, I THANKED God for the opportunity to help this family by walking their little girl home.

     When I met her older sister, I sensed the stress that encompassed the family. They were all so appreciative. That was a year ago, and now we walk with her and her younger sister. We love them and they love us. We make up games and play them on the way home, and they make me laugh every day. Yesterday, these two girls invited some kids on the sidewalk to my house for a girl party. Our family has been infinitely blessed by getting to know these girls.....in twenty minutes a day.

     I have passed up and missed many opportunities to reach out to people in the love of Jesus, but the next time God puts a job in front of me, I think I will more quickly obey without questioning.

     "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:10

     Have you ever begrudgingly started a task, only to realize later what a blessing it was?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Free Self Defense Class

     Am I qualified to offer these? Definitely. I have a black belt in self defense. I defend myself against all kinds of pain and sorrow on a daily basis. It's taken me an entire lifetime to hone these skills, and though the process is not impenetrable, you too can shield your heart from the hurts of this earth. However, if you are looking for Martial Arts classes, this is the wrong web address.

Martial Arts over water~safer than attempting on land
     The heart and the brain work together during tragedy to shield us from damage and prevent further traumas from harming us. This begins in childhood and continues into our adult lives. It is one of the miraculous ways that our Maker designed us to self protect. We can even forget our traumas (repressed memories) and remember them later in life when our adult selves are better able to maturely process our pain.

     Thing is.....I like it. I like that I can escape not only some of my own pain, but also the pain of others. Here are some ways we might help along the guarding of our hearts:

  1.  When confronted with the pain of others, try to love them through it without becoming emotionally involved. Though they may feel the shallowness and lack of heart, you will be safe from experiencing their pain.
  2.  Avoid situations in which you may be sucked into experiencing their pain by getting too close relationally. 
  3.  Occupy yourself with every distraction possible, so that you don't have much time to put yourself in the shoes of the hurting.
     While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, these are some of the things I have done to shield myself from the suffering of others. I struggle with the desire to block pain from getting in, while holding my hand out in the love of Christ. It does not work the way God intended. Unless we are willing to take off the body armor and feel the hurts of others, there is no true communication of the gospel we claim to follow.

     I have been working on this. I know that God has put me in situations he knows I relate to and can be helpful with. I dislike the reminders of my own hurts from long ago, though the pain lessens each time I experience it. I feel like my body armor is loosening, and I have a white knuckled hold on it. Now if God will just help me to put it down, so that my effectiveness in ministry improves.

 
  Matthew 26:35-36,40 "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.....I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."



    Do you ever try to avoid some situations because of the pain involved? Is the empathy you feel for the hurting ever overwhelming?


   

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dirty Little Secrets

     We all have them.....you know, those pesky things we stuff down deep into our toes and pile stuff on top of to keep them from ever surfacing. Maybe they are things I wish weren't there, stuff I'd rather didn't happen, regrets I wish with all of my being that I could go back and repair.

     How do we learn to keep secrets, especially damaging ones? Is it the shame associated with disclosure? Trying to make the pain go away by acting like it isn't there? 

     I had a recurring dream when I was a kid. I was on a walk with my mom and my uncle, which we did frequently. I was straggling behind, when a Volkswagen pulled up and a man pulled me inside. Try as I may, my voice wouldn't make a peep. I opened my mouth as widely as it would go, screaming, but still ....no sound. My mom and my uncle walked on, oblivious to the kidnapping happening behind them.

     That is the kind of effect secrets can have. They make you feel alone and stifled, keeping you at arms' length from those you love. When the secret is sin, it serves as a barrier between you and God.

    In life, there are no do-overs. We live with the consequences of our own actions and the consequences imposed upon us by others' decisions. We then become responsible for how we respond. And then life goes on. And on.


     There in the shadows.....can you see them? Those are mine. Sure, they've sort of piled up, but I will get to them. They will be brought into the light as soon as I can figure out how to word them in such a way that will be honoring to God.

     Secrets can become so overwhelming that they start defining who we are. It doesn't take much to feel like you are actually just a walking, talking secret. I have allowed secrets to control me at different times in my life. They have accused, insulted, and depressed me. I tried praying away secrets to avoid having to deal with them, but ultimately if healing is to take place, they must be dealt with.

     Freedom comes when a secret is properly shared. Preferably with God, then a very trustworthy confidante. Even if it has been tucked away for years, just the release that comes with acknowledging to someone else what you have hidden (or tried to hide) is a huge relief. The power of a secret is quickly removed when it is revealed.


      "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him." Dan. 2:20-22 (NIV)
     

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Somebody's Watching You

     Our society in recent years has been inundated with cameras....on stoplights, at ATM machines, in banks, and virtually every store. One false move, and it's recorded. If officials wanted to, they could complete a study of your schedule, habits, and mannerisms just by putting together and studying the camera footage.

       
     That's not my focus, however. It's hard to get around without realizing the extent that we are being watched. But perhaps a positive side effect is the constant reminder that others are seeing and making judgments to see if we are who we say we are, if we live the way we claim to believe.

     Yesterday, while walking the kids home from school, a little girl turned around and blurted, "So I heard you are Christians."

     One of my daughters replied, "Yep. We are," and that was the end of the conversation.

     I don't know for sure how this neighborhood girl happened to hear that our family is Christian, or from whom, but one thing is certain. People are paying attention, watching what we say and do. It's come up in conversation amongst our neighbors, and regardless of what they think of our lifestyle, we are responsible to God for what we portray.

     That responsibility makes me somewhat nervous. We definitely don't live perfectly, but hopefully perfection is not what people are looking for.

     "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Hebrews 4:13

     When have you noticed that people are watching?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hi. Want To Be Friends?

     "Hi. Want to be friends?" she asked sweetly. In line behind me at the drinking fountain, a beautiful blonde fourth grader awaited my reply. The school year was rapidly drawing to a close, and the next fall we would be in the same class.

     I asked her name and said we could be friends. Julie was sweet and fun, and I looked forward to knowing her better. I had no idea at that moment what I was agreeing to. We were 10, but the shared experiences of the next few years would bond us together for life.

Julie, Angela, Grace, and I at JR High camp on Mt Palomar,CA


    We camped and field tripped together, played games for hours on end, building a repertoire of fun times upon which to draw for entertainment. Our bond tight, and our friendship blossoming, we grew up.

    Julie, Angela, Anna, and I. Grace joined us her seventh grade year, and was a perfect fit. Each of us offered a special strength that ministered to any one of us in difficulty. Through divorces, moves, and other traumatic events, we were there for each other.

     As life sped on and one by one we moved away, a few of us managed to maintain contact. We pray for each other, and our bond has only strengthened over time. It is amazing to me that God brings people into contact with one another to be a lifelong blessing. No matter how much time passes between meetings, they can pick right up where they left off.

     Tomorrow, thanks to my amazingly generous husband, I will be reunited with them in San Diego. The memories that lie ahead for us to make are one more chapter in this great friendship.

     There are few things in this life worth as much as a good friendship. What are your experiences with faraway friends?

    

     

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Forgive Him? Really.....Again?

 

     For years I wrestled and rewrestled skeletons from the past. Journals full of sludge, many sleepless, prayer-filled nights, and buckets of tears, but finally the healing was coming. God lovingly released me from the shadows of shame that plagued me throughout life. He brought victory in the assurance that He has never, and will never take His compassionate hand out of my circumstances.

     Forgiveness can be difficult and complex. Just when you think you have done all of your forgiving, those painful cobwebby areas in the corners of your heart expand, revealing still more work that needs to be done.   

     God slowly and gently revealed some intense anger that I overlooked. Don't you hate it when that happens? Sometimes, you just want it to be over with, you know?

     Through a series of dreams I had recently, I was shocked at the animosity stirred deep within me toward someone from my past. There is no way I will see this man again, so what does it matter if I harbor resentments toward him forever? But it does matter....it matters to God, who wants me to be a whole, healthy person. Unforgiveness also negatively affects the heart and mind, and causes anxiety.

     God is gracious and patient, for that I am thankful. He allows time for healing, giving breaks from the relentless pressures and trials of life. But now to roll up my sleeves and get back to work. I must find a way to release this man from my debt. Even though I don't feel terribly scarred by his actions, the  fresh anger I feel is a red flag reminding me that there are things that still need let go of and the work of forgiving is not finished.


     
     I am so thankful that I don't have to figure this stuff all out on my own. God will hold my hand and guide me through it, just like He always has.
   
     "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

     Have you ever been reminded of a former offense against you and had the pain come rushing back over you like it happened yesterday? Do you ever wake up wanting to punch the person who caused it?

   

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ending A Double Life

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3

     I live several neatly (and sometimes not so neatly) separated lives. Sure, some of them overlap and coexist nicely, but largely I maintain a sectioned plate of family members, friends, church, etc.

     I will give you an example. I am an only child to my biological father, the eldest of three to my adoptive father, the eldest of six to my mother and stepdad. Most of my grandparents are divorced and remarried, causing me to have eleven living grandparents.

     From the time I was a little girl, I learned not to say certain names around certain individuals, because they couldn't bear to even hear the name spoken. Multi family events are taboo, forcing uncomfortable situations that some refuse to subject themselves to. And so I have lived several different lives with several different families and kept many things to myself to avoid "cross contamination".

     Now in my thirties, this way of living is slowly breaking down, causing anxiety and panic deep within me. You can get used to anything, and the rut it will become makes it uncomfortable to attempt a change. I want to know and love everyone in my life, and it has become exhausting and emotionally draining to try keeping it sectioned. 

     Though I am the same person in each life I live, I no longer want my heart to feel torn in multiple pieces. I can do without the guilt of mentioning the wrong person's name to someone who doesn't want to hear it. I want to freely love all without the fear of being abandoned by one I offend.

     I want to be Amy. One person, living one life, loving one gigantic family. 

     "Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood." IS 54:4

     Sorry for so much drama, like I just grabbed all my dirty laundry and dumped it on you. 

     Does anyone else struggle with being who they want to be and others' reactions to their choices?

     Do you find it hard to break old relational patterns in order to make new ones?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tassles of Inspiration

     They came from every walk of life, each with their own reason for the pursuit. With incredible determination they cleared the hurdles that lie before them -- language barriers, age, environmental factors, drug abuse, illness, and child rearing--all things that led to dropping out of high school.

   

     Perhaps the most damaging hurdle to overcome was their own self doubt. They labeled themselves. Society labeled them. But tonight, they conquered. Each of them had returned to school to earn a GED, most with plans to continue with a college education, all with a resolve to better themselves. They were here to prove something.

     Rewarded with a strong sense of accomplishment, confidence, and self-worth, this unlikely mix of graduates is ready to tackle their future. New opportunities spread before them like a red carpet ready to welcome movie stars. Already it has been easier for them to find employment and apply for higher education.

     Cheering them on from the sidelines, their families burst with pride. Tears flowed and cheers whooped. You knew that those loved ones walked that tough road with their graduate, and now enjoyed the celebration of completion and redemption. 

     Sometimes all people need is a shot of hope and someone who will walk with them toward their dream.

Friday, June 8, 2012

What's Your Perspective?

   

      I can have a pretty shallow understanding of the world around me. I don't get why certain people behave in ways that cause grief and tension for those around them.


     I question (in my mind) why? Why aren't they.....? What are they.....? Don't they know......? I can't believe she...... The problem is that I don't always leave room in my own heart and mind for others to fall short of my own expectations. It's hard to slow down long enough to recognize the deeper need begging to be filled, and placed right in front of my face by a God wanting me to express His love to a hurting soul. No one wants to be in a desperate state of need. Most are just trying to get through their inner turmoil, leading them to perform at a lower standard than they normally would.


     It seems that anytime I fall into the judgment trap, I get knocked upside the head with the answers to my questions or I find myself in a similar predicament as the one I'm critical of. Then I feel sheepish and ashamed of my critical thoughts and lack of compassion. You would think it would eventually sink in, but no, it keeps happening. Apparently I am a slow learner.


     All around us are burned out, dried up, withered souls fighting to survive circumstances beyond their control. When I open my eyes and heart just a little bit, I see the bigger picture of suffering. The inner critic gives way to compassion. What I have been considering lately is this: "Who else but us? Who will be there to catch them when they fall? Who can they count on when they are hurting? Who will Love them? Who can they go to? Will it be us? Or will we stand there wondering why they can't get it together?


     The pace of life often doesn't allow for inconvenient interruptions, or for people to (gasp!) need me for any length of time. But when I stop and look around at what I CAN do, it is a huge blessing for me to carry it out.

Galations 6:2 "Carry each other's burdens,and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Stand Out in a Crowd


     I have a very small comfort zone. It usually consists of some earth tone clothing paired with very normal denim. Though I am getting better about stepping out into bold color, it is something unfamiliar and thus not my favorite thing to do. Blending in is more my forte.

When everyone is doing something, I have no trouble participating. Like when we all got dressed up in poodle skirts and pony tails for a 50s party in my mom's honor. My grandmother made all of the costumes with my mom's help, and the party was a blast, complete with 50s party music and glass soda bottles. My husband and I were the carhops serving food and drinks out of the "diner".

Last weekend for "Turn Back the Clock Night", the Seattle Mariners held a costume contest for best 50s attire. I figured it was more than a coincidence that we had tickets for that exact night and I just happened to have a carhop costume. I imagined we might forget the year, with all the fans dressed in fifties fashion.

We walked to the game from our hotel, so I toted my costume in a bag. Arriving at the gates to the stadium, my nerves rattled as I looked around at the fans dressed in Jerseys, Jeans, and baseball caps. No one was dressed up and I was fitting right in. Should I change my mind? My grandmother was so excited....of course she was sure I would do well in the contest, but I didn't even know what the prizes were.

We found our seats, and I made the decision to run change and be back in my seat before too many arrived at the stadium. Perfect! No one would see me. But then there's drinks to buy and bathroom breaks to take. People saw me. To deal with that, I mostly avoided eye contact, but some really sweet people stopped me to say they enjoyed my costume.

Though I didn't place in the contest, putting myself out there as the only car hop in the ballpark was an amazing experience. I learned, at least temporarily, to suppress my fear of people's thoughts and opinions. Maybe they thought I was crazy, but so what? A couple wearing a poodle skirt and a letter sweater won two round trip airline tickets. They looked great! Uncomfortable and hot, I ran and changed after making it all the way to the eighth inning.

Do you ever worry about what people think and shrink from putting your true self on display? The willingness and strength to stand alone is one ability that should be practiced and mastered. Is it okay to practice it by being silly? I think so. I am convinced that those who master the skill of being themselves without running over others become truly comfortable with who they are.