Check Engine….SOON!

Tonight I come to you at the end of an exhausting day.  I can promise that once I am finished with my blog, sleep will come to me with no problem tonight.  I spent the day with my Grandma, Mom and Aunt at St. Mary’s Hospital.  As it always tends to be the case, we were not gathered together for a joyous occasion.  My Grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer last week.  She was recommended for a mastechtomy as well as removal of any and all lymph nodes that are contributing to this terrible disease.  Unfortunately, the surgery brought the family more questions that answers.  The doctor could visibly see the lymph nodes he was removing, which means it is very likely the cancer has spread all over her body.  Do what extent?  That remains to be seen.  More tests will be needed before the treatment options can be explored.  In addition to worry and concern about my Grandmother’s fight with cancer, my mom and my aunt are searching for options for her after care from this surgery.  You see, the last five years have thrown some pretty serious curve balls at my Grandma.  She has been living in a state of denial for the last few years.  So much so, she has stopped taking care of herself, her home- the very basic necessity’s of life.  To be quite honest about the situation, she has known about the lump in her breast for a year, but didn’t feel it was necessary to mention it until it became too painful for her to go through normal everyday life with it.  To be frank, she ignored her check engine light. 

As Nichole Johnson put it, we all have check engine lights in our lives.  And, just like our cars, when we ignore the warning signs in our lives, we too will eventually break down.  I don’t come as my grandmother’s judge and jury tonight, I come to you as a woman who, too often, ignores her own check engine light.  My symptoms often include exhaustion, anger, anxiety, fear and unfortunately the muffin top that does not allow my jeans to fasten correctly.  If I let it go too long, my system over loads and I fall into some pretty basic symptoms of clinical depression.  I lose my hope.  I cease from being a proactive, key player in my life and morph into someone who just lets life happen to her.   As I have cycled through this stage a couple of times, I have come to realize that I can only be as effective for God as my body will allow me to be.  What kind of witness for Christ can I be when I am lounging in the bottom of the pit along with my pity party partners?

Here is my point.  God created us to have life and life abundantly.  If you are feeling ANYTHING but peace, you have a check engine light that is on.  You have an issue in your life that needs to be addressed.  Maybe you simply need a day away.  Maybe you need to visit with your doctor for a physical.  Maybe you need to sit at the foot of the cross and allow the glory of God to cover you with his precious love.  We are too precious to run on fumes.  We can only be as effective for God as our bodies allow us to be.  Lets treat them as the Lord’s temple:

“For the Lord did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and a sound mind.”
                                                                                                                                  2 Timothy 1:7

Gut Check!

Last Sunday, my dad and stepmom came down to have lunch with us as they do every now and again.  If I am to be completely honest with you, I treasure this time that I get to spend with him.  As I was growing up, I saw my Dad twice a year.  At Christmas, and on my birthday.  As he has retired from the military and moved back to Illinois, I see him much more frequently and it is a blessing I am thankful for each and every time we get to meet.  See, when you grow up missing the presence of one parent, you miss very important hints into your character and your genetic make up.  I remember many times where I look at my mom and think, “in some ways, I am just like you.  In other ways, I swear I was adopted.  Where in the heck did this character trait come from?”  But as I grow closer to my dad, I find that God has made a beautiful mixed up blend of both.  I find that as an adult, I am thankful to find those mysterious character traits were not implanted by aliens, but instead from my Dad.  I have his penchant for sarcasm, his body build and his analytic temperment.  But one area where we agree to disagree is our belief in God.  I believe.  He does not.  I don’t know why, or what his experience has been, but it does not prevent me from praying to God to break through to him on an intimate level. 

So last week, we are sitting at my kitchen table and he picks up my bible and starts thumbing through the pages.  He says, “I saw in the history channel that there are prophecies in the bible that were not in the original text.  They were not placed there until AFTER the actual event happened.” I said, “Wow, thats interesting.  Let me show you where some of those places are.”  I flipped to a section in John that is spelled out in italics.  Prior to the section, it tells you that this story was not in original text.  To that he said, “Huh, well thats good, it should.”   I agree.  I proceeded to tell him about the Beth Moore conference I went to in which she spoke about John the Baptist.  About the group of people that bible scholars believe he lived with after the deaths of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  You see, this particular group of people poured over the book of Isaiah.  For hundreds of years, this culture had not heard from God.  He was silent.  There were no prophets.  Just the promises of the old testament.  So these cave dwellers studied the scrolls of Isaiah over and over looking for this fore runner for Christ.  It is believed that he landed right on their door step.  Those original scrolls of Isaiah were found in our present times.  Scrolls of the complete books.  How amazing!  We went on to discuss it a little more and moved on to the next subject, but as always, I found myself questioning, “God, did I say the right thing? “

I have taken the pressure off of myself to convert my Dad.  I did that a long time ago.  I don’t have that kind of power.  My Dad is a facts and details man.  Quite frankly, I could care less about the facts, simply because God speaks most powerfully to me when the facts dont always make sense.   I guess you could say I have the faith of a child.  But that’s when it hit me.  I was straightening my hair when I thought, “Its on purpose!”  You see, God says that just by looking all around us, we have the all evidence we need to believe in Him.  But more important than that.  He has given us the power of choice.  I can choose to believe the wise people of the world.  The people who say the bible is foolish, it has too many discrepencies, it cant be the truth.  Or, I can choose to believe God.  The one who says that he will reveal his secrets to his children. I believe that it’s on purpose that we have to choose.  I believe its on purpose that he has left a little room for doubt.  You see, it takes faith to fill up the gray area.

I emailed my Dad and told him I had done some thinking about the prophesies.  And I told him that I had been chewing on our conversation.  There may have been some changes to biblical prophesies and, if you choose to believe, inaccuracies in the text, but the fact that remains is this.  Man was created with a sinful nature.  That sinful nature seperates us from God.  Every single one of us, no exceptions.  He sent his son to die on the cross.  The choice is this- Do you believe it?  Really believe it?  The unchanging message of the bible is that we have a choice to believe or not to believe.  Because if you don’t REALLY believe it, you will still remain seperated from the one who promises life.   I know what I have chosen.  How about you?

I will continue to pray for God to reveal himself to my Dad, but I will not carry the weight of his salvation on my shoulders.  That’s his choice.  In the meantime, I will continue to plant and water seeds whenever he will let me.  And he is starting to let me.   I will trust God to do an amazing work in his life when the time is perfect. 

Dating Clark Kent….

When I was getting ready this morning, the Phineas and Ferb superhero episode was playing the the background.  My beloved Isabella was getting upset with Phineas because he kept taking off on her right at the times she needed him.  A spin off of Superman if you will.  So what was the difference between Isabella and Lois Lane?  Isabella had not yet been swept off her feet by “The Beak”.  She desired nothing more than to spend her day with the ordinary Phineas having “the best day ever” with her secret crush.  On the other hand, Lois Lane had the hunky Superman saving her day on a regular basis.  She was so caught up in the adventure, that she missed seeing Clark Kent for who he really is.

I find myself coming to you with Lois Lane syndrome.  I am a self admitted adreniline junky.  I love a good challenge.  Find me a mountain to climb and I will meet you there with the supplies.  My problem today is simply this.  God hasn’t put any good mountains in front of me to climb as of late.  And I am a little bored in my day to day life.  See, I have this little voice inside of me that says I am above living the “Ordinary life”.  I wake up every morning with the belief that God put me here for an extraordinary purpose.   Yet everyday, I simply go through the motions of getting up, getting the kids out the door, going to work, coming home, etc, etc, etc. If I had to name this season of my life, I would call it Clark Kent.  Normal, ordinary and boring. 

God has been faithful to meet me everyday in this challenge.  He is convicting me to be extraordinary, even in the ordinary times.  Times when the water is calm and the horizon is clear.  To lean on the strength of His Spirit, even when I don’t feel like I need it.  The truth of the matter is this.  When there is no present struggle in my life, I quit trying.  I just fall into the motions, go with the flow. I question what my purpose truly is for being here. Life has to be more than this. And then he is faithful to show me the blessing in the little things.  Holding hands with my hubby.  Belly laughing over nothing with my kids.  Spending some much needed time with good friends. 

Today, I am going to take a lesson from my friend Isabella.  I am going to look at my ordinary and plan to have “the best day ever”.   Life never goes without its challenges for very long.  And sometimes, saving the world isn’t all its cracked up to be. 

“It is wise to stop wishing for things long enough to enjoy the fragrance of those flowering now!”
                                                                                    Patricia Gifford

Don’t worry God, I got it….

Okay, so having a three year old AND a middle schooler and home, it should be no mystery that I am struggling with the concepts of independence.  On one side, I have a pint sized preschooler, usually operating in turbo boost, to  get away with as much as she possibly can before getting caught.  On the other side, Chloe, my oldest.  The child of my heart.  The child I have not seen since dropping her off at her Grandma’s house on Friday morning.  Why?  Because she clearly adopted a social life when I was not looking.  In addition, David and I are still living with the day to day struggle of trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up and how to get there. What can I say, these are the hazards of getting married young.

Independance.  The very thing I have strived my whole life trying to achieve.  The thing I see my kids striving to achieve in some way each and every day.  What is it about independance that makes us act so crazy sometimes?  

As I was convincing myself to get out of bed this morning, I was contemplating all that I did not do yesterday.  I was thinking about skipping church, getting those things done and setting myself up for a nice, lazy afternoon.  (Dont Judge me, you were thinkin it too!).  As I rolled over to doze back off, the thought hit me. “I have to go to church.  If I don’t, Chloe might go missing in action again!  I have to go to church to pick her up!”  As I made my way to the coffee pot, I looked out the back window.  And there she was.  My beloved mama bird.  Every morning, she is outside toiling away while I do my bible study.  She is generally gathering branches and twigs for her nest.  Sometimes, she is rooting worms from the ground for breakfast.  But like clockwork, she is there.  In addition, there were two smallish bunnies race tracking around Madi’s slide.  Isn’t it funny how God has a tendency to bless us through nature? 

This morning, as she does every morning, the mama bird reminded me about the verse in the bible that says we should not worry about what we should eat, drink or wear.  God provides flowers their clothes and birds with their food.  How much more important are we than the flowers and the birds?   Mama bird doesn’t know it’s Sunday morning.  She just knows it is another day to toil and provide for her nest of beautiful babies (conveniently located behind my porch light).  Why can’t I depend on God in the same way?

As I struggle with the need for independance in my life; not only my desire, but my children’s as well, I am reminded that we were not created for independance, but Dependance.  Dependance upon God and each other.  To be strong where I am strong and to allow others to be strong where I am weak. To live in interdependance with the amazing people God has placed in my life.  As I begin a new week, I am going to try to take some of the world’s weight off of my shoulders.  Life is not dependant upon me and my ability to be all things to all people.   Life is dependant upon God and his ability to work through us as his chosen people.

Now I have to go.  Madi just dumped the entire box of cereal on the floor because she, ” wanted to do it by her own self.”

Who are you representin’ ?

Last summer, the kids and I were having lunch with my Dad at the Olive Garden.  Of course, we were in Champaign.  Otherwise translated, Illini Country.  There were a group of college guys sitting at a table across from us and one of them had on the age old “Muck Fichigan, Ann Arbor is a whore shirt.”  Now, I happen to like Ann Arbor- a lot!  As we were leaving, I walked over to the table and said, “Hey, Go Blue!”  The guys immediately doubled over, groaning in misery as another guy at the table said, “Uh Uh- Go Buckeye’s.”  Now it was my turn to groan- I mean, being an Ohio Buckeye Fan is an incurable disease.  Now, if your not a College Sports fan, then this story probably means nothing to you.  I happen to love the comradery of sports fans.   You might get excited about the Team Edward vs. Team Jacob Debate.  Or who needs to be heading home next on Idol.  The point is, we love to represent, especially against the opposing team. 

This week, there has been a lot of representing going on in the Christian community.  An 89 year old pastor, Harold Camping, from California is telling us the the rapture is going to occur- tomorrow!  And that the official end of the world is coming on October 21st.  He has found evidences in old and new testament that leads to this conclusion, but what I can’t seem to figure out is- what bible is he reading? 

While I could get super wound up about this subject, there is really no indication in the bible, what so ever, to indicate that this really going to happen tomorrow.  If anything, the bible promises that it will occur in God’s Kingdom calendar when everyone is given the opportunity to know and choose His saving grace.  Is it on May 21st, 2011?  Only God knows that.  What amuses me is how wound up the Christian community gets.  Right now, there are believers that are standing in the street, selling their possessions, quitting their jobs, over a man that could very well be misrepresenting the truth.  My question is Why.  What is our obsession with the end of times?

It is time for bible believing Christians to revive.  To stand up and represent.  Is Christ coming back?  Yes.  When? We don’t know, but the bible says He will come like a thief in the night.  Instead of creating mass chaos, it is time to take personal inventory of our lives.  Am I grounded in God’s word?  Do I check the message of the teachers and preachers in my life to be sure what they are saying is accurate and biblically based?  Am I serving where God is calling me, or am I ignoring the prompting He has placed upon my heart?  Am I representing God in an authentic manner with my life, or am I simply warming the pews on Sunday morning?  Am I trying to affect change where God has placed me, or am I keeping my mouth shut because I don’t want people to thing i’m wierd?   I have heard the Christian church best described as a football game.  There are twenty-two exhausted players on the field trying to win the game and thousands of coaches sitting on the sidelines in desperate need of exercise.  It is time for the church to get passionate about their God.  It’s time to represent.

Are you on field?  

Mr. Rainey, I think you missed the point….

I was driving to Bloomington last week for a business plan workshop when Dennis Rainey came on the radio with his Focus on the Family minute.  He was talking about his daughter saying that she wanted to be a gymnastics coach when she grows up.  He told her that was great, but if she was called by God to be a mother, he would be just as proud.  He went on to say the break down of the home in America is coming from Mom’s pursuing careers and working outside the home.  Needless to say, as I was driving to Bloomington to pursue my own business venture, the showers of guilt washed over me like a good Illinois rain shower.    Am I a bad mom for pursuing my own career?  Should I let this dream take a back seat until my kids are older?   Most importantly, why would God lead me to this if this is wrong for my family?  Quite Honestly, I think Mr. Rainey missed the point on this one….

I point to Kendra, a fellow mom who stays at home.  But really, Kendra is more than a stay at home mom.  She is the prayer leader for moms in touch.  Twice monthly, she and a team of prayer warriors get together to pray for our schools, their teachers, students and administration.   She serves as a School Board member in our community, an advocate for the learning environment of our kids.  She works actively in our schools PTO as well as her church.  Kendra is a breath of fresh air.  Just being in her presence, I know she cares.  She is a genuine, affectionate, loving and serving right where God created her to be.  The world would call her a stay at home mom.  She sure sounds like a working mom to me.  A mom who not only works in her home, but also out in her community to make a difference.   Kendra is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of working women who stay at home.

On the flip side, I point to Michelle.  Michelle has been working, for as long as I have know her, to get (and advance) her degree in nursing.  In the past year (or so), she completed her nurse practioners license and is now working in the Express ER at Sarah Bush.   I am not as familiar with Michelle’s work as I am her love for people.  She was the Sunday School teacher for Lucas and Chloe in their Preschool class.  She has a kind smile, a loving voice, and a gentle spirit.  Her love for God is as genuine as her love for people.  She has worked hard to pursue her education and she hopes that if she accomplishes anything, it is that her son see’s how hard she has had to work.  She hopes he will make his education a priority so that he too will achieve his dreams.  But, this past Thursday, I saw Michelle at work.  I took Lucas in to the ER from his unfortunate encounter with the cereal bowls.  By the time they were able to see us, I felt silly for even taking him.  His head had stopped bleeding and overall, he was doing fine.  She instantly soothed my concern and said that if it were her, she would have done the exact same thing.  She checked Lucas out, confirmed he was OK and said a prayer with us Praising God for his protection and love over us- right in the treatment room.  The world would label her a working mom.  They would be right.  But again, she is a woman of God who affects change not only in her community & church, but also in her home AND work.  As a woman of God, she left a lasting impression on me that I will not soon forget.  She helped me to remember, in that moment, that no prayer or praise is too small for God’s ears to hear. 
 
I guess my point is this.  It’s time to lay down the stones.  As women, we were created for work.  Only our creator knows exactly the work we were created for. Inside the home, or out,  let’s raise up and support each other in the work that God has called us to do.  As women, we may be provide the spiritual temperature & management of our homes, but God provides the adhesive to keep the family bonded together.  As He knit us together in our mothers womb, he also wrote the publication for our lives.  This includes our hopes and dreams.   Lets stop selling ourselves short for the decisions that we have made for our lives.  God’s creation of our lives are too complex to stick in a box with a label.  In closing, I leave you with a verse from Galatians 6:1, 4-5 (msg): 

“Live Creatively, friends…Make careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t COMPARE yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your OWN life!”

Now ladies, lets get to work!

Insomnia Blogs: Security Blankets

Chloe and I attended the “Sleeping Beauty” Ballet at the Virginia Theater this past weekend in Champaign.  I have to say that this was my first ballet and even though I am familiar with the plot, I was thankful for the narrator they had on behalf of the kids.  In the classic fairy tale, Carabose’s invitation to the princesses dedication is over looked and Carabose shows up uninvited and super angry.   He places a spell on the baby saying she will prick her finger and die.  Luckily, the Lilac Fairy was in attendance at this amazing event and said, “No, she will prick her finger and fall asleep.”  Needless to say, the King was not taking any chances with the life of his daughter.  He immediately ordered all sharp objects to be removed from the kingdom so there would be no chance of his daughter getting pricked.  He took security in his decision and went on about his day.  Of course, we all know the rest of the story.  Carabose sweeps in to make sure the Princess pricks her finger and she sleeps for 100 years to be awakened by a handsome prince at least 85 years her junior, but who’s counting?

I found myself relating to the King in the story.  I find myself putting security in false places, only to be let down time and time again.  For example, my kids and their activities.  Of course I want them to be the best and most successful at everything they do, but the bottom line- that’s not realistic.  When they fail, it is not a direct reflection of my ability to be a Mom.  It is simply a character lesson they need to learn.   When my jeans don’t fit quite right and I find cellulite in new found territory, it does not matter.  It makes me no less beautiful to those who truly love me.   This past Mother’s Day weekend, my eyes were opened to the fact that sometimes, as a woman, a wife, a mom- I am just trying too hard to be perfect.  I need to let go and let God take the reigns.  I need to spend a little less time actively trying to appear that I have it all together and spend a little more time seeking guidance from my Beloved Creator. 

So this week, as I go about the busyness of our life, I need to ask myself, “What am I putting my security in?”   For where my treasure is, my heart will be also.  

Risk: It’s a four letter word!

Risk.  It’s a small four letter word that has been in the center of my mind for the last week or so.  In my childhood, we lived a very conservative, blue collar lifestyle.  Maybe not a risk-adverse environment, but one where Mr. Opportunity didn’t come to knock very often.  When he did, we weren’t quite sure what to do with him.  We were taught contentment and never once did without the necessities.  We had food for every meal, clothes on our back, and a Mom who worked herself to the bone to be sure it stayed that way.  It was a lifestyle that I didn’t do much to change as I became an adult.  I began working a full time job my senior year of high school, married the man of my dreams right after I graduated (high school) and had my first child, barely a year later.  We also work hard to be sure our kids have the necessities and that they don’t go without.  We have grown through living paycheck to paycheck and have learned the value of having a funded savings account.  But every year, as I near my birthday, I get into a funk!  Is this really it?  Is this really the best God has for me?    I am grateful for Everything in my life, but really, is this it?

A few of you know that I just recently took AND PASSED the test and background check to get into the State Farm Agency Development program!  A very exciting time indeed, but as I sit here , I sit somewhere between fantasy and reality.  It’s like I am on the outside looking in.  Is this really my opportunity? Does God really have this FOR ME?   You see, this is a huge risk!  It means the possiblity of leaving a community I am content to live in, a Ministry that I love to lead, friends, family and church family.  Not to mention the financial implications and the fact that the success or failure of a small business lays entirely on my shoulders.  Yet strangely, I am at peace about it.   There are many things left to consider, interviews to pass, business plans to build and training to complete, but I am completely and totally at ease.  I feel as if I am right where I need to be.  I know that God will work out every single detail in HIS perfect time.

In Matthew 12 it says: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will wear or eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than  clothes. “

I think the bottom line is that as people, we were not created to merely exist, but to LIVE.  Living involves “risk”.  Victory lies in believing.  I think that sometimes, God wants us to take a risk.  To step out of the boat and enjoy the feel of water on our toes.  Just a note of warning for those who do decide to get out of the boat- Keep your eyes on Him!  He will not let you sink.