Friday, October 28, 2011

God is in the Conversation

Last night I didn't get to write my blog because the dog came into the house while we were out and "decorated" the dining room table. The dog is still alive, because I am practicing love and forgiveness in all of my relationships, be it with man or beast :)

Even though I didn't post, I did read and had originally planned to condense the two entries together today to keep myself on schedule. But after I let this reading sit for a day, I decided I really wanted to write about it on its own.

The lesson was about prayer, which is by far the biggest conversation we have and (at least I will admit) the one conversation most often avoided or overlooked. And while I found all of the chapter was a good read (relevant and useful) there was one part of the passage that was stuck in my mind all day today.

In one section of the reading, the author instructs us to pray to God with confidence. If we don't think God can help us, why are we bothering to ask Him? Pray knowing that God can change the circumstance or situation.
...Mmm hmm. Got it. Pray with confidence...yada yada yada...

"As you ask, remember that it is not your job to protect God's reputation. Some stop asking because they feel embarrassed for God when the answers don't come at exactly the time or in the manner in which we would like them to come."
...BAM! Whoa. Guilty party here!...

I really do believe in the power of prayer. But I would be lying if I said that I have been given everything I asked for. Some things I have fervently prayed for and the answer was still 'No.' So in light of this, I have tweaked what I consider prayer-worthy material, or I will pray for the big item only once. That way, if it doesn't happen, I can lie to myself that God must have overlooked it in the jumble of my requests or I can make the excuse that I didn't pray hard enough and that's why it didn't happen.

Today, I was talking to my daughter in the car and the truth about "unanswered prayers" suddenly hit me. It is a simple story, and stems from a scenario I am sure is similar to many stories I have discussed on this blog before. Sammi was saying that she was hungry for a snack and I asked her what she would like me to fix her when we got home. The rest of the conversation basically went like this:
Sammi: Can I have some fruit snacks.
Me: No, babe. You already had some today in your lunch box.
Sammi: Can I have some candy?
Me: No, we will get lots of candy this weekend. How about a healthy snack?
Sammi: Cheetos??
Me: No, Sam, Cheetos are a treat. They are not healthy.
Sammi: Wah! Boo hoo hoo!

When I pray, I am a lot like my four-year-old. If the answer isn't 'yes,' then I don't understand it. I am also likely to pout or cry. But what I need to accept, as a grown adult who has (hopefully) matured beyond that of my preschooler, is that when the answer is 'no' it really is in my best interest.

Sammi doesn't get her junk food or treats because I as her mother love her and am trying to direct her to the good that will come from eating a nutritionally balanced meal which helps her grow big and healthy and strong. Sammi only hears 'No.'
Sometimes when I ask God for something, He says no because it is not healthy for me in the big picture. I only hear 'No.' And then... Wah! Boo hoo hoo! What I need to hear is 'I love you. This is not my plan for you. I want to redirect you to the path that will help you grow big and healthy and strong.'

So my new prayer tactic? Pray for everything. Pray multiple times for the things that matter most to me. Praise God when the answer is 'yes'--because He is the giver of all good things. Praise God when the answer is 'no'--because that means there is something better waiting for me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A New Kind of Honesty

This post is going to have to be "the little entry that could" because I have a whole bunch of odds and ends I need to get done before tomorrow morning and not a lot of time to do them in, and I am working really hard on letting my yes's be the blog is taking the backseat tonight. But none-the-less, I read an interesting point and I wanted to make sure that I shared it with you.

When I first read the title, I anticipated that we would be talking about honesty as we've always known it. i.e. Telling the truth is good. Telling a lie is bad. Well, that was still the overarching message, but the author put an interesting spin on what truth is and what lies are. In general, people think about lies as bad, nasty, and mean. Truths are shiny, pure, and right. But the author mentioned that neglecting to tell someone a hard truth and covering it up with a white lie (or completely ignoring/avoiding the situation altogether)is just as harmful.

That means that when someone acts like a grade-A jerk, we should confront them about it in a loving way rather than telling them we are fine and trying to work through it on our own time. I don't do that.
That means when something is weighing on our mind, we need to share it instead of harboring it. I don't do that either.
And that means that if something will be uncomfortable to say and is bound to start an argument, it is better to say it than to lie in order to avoid a confrontation. I certainly don't do that!

And while it's hard to accept, it also makes a lot of sense. The sentence from the reading tonight that struck me was this one: "Whether a little white lie or a blantantly selfish deceit, we cave in to dishonesty because we'd rather not give the conversational time and energy it would take to be honest." Basically, when you tell someone "I'm fine" when you're not, you are really saying "I don't feel like you are worth my time or energy right now." Let that sit with you for a minute...

I truly believe that a big majority of lies that people tell are not told with the intention to hurt anyone else, but with the intention of helping the lie-teller. Whether to promote that person or make them seem more cool or to help them avoid starting a nasty conversation--or a hard one. But no matter the reason for the lie, it is still a lie. Therefore, it is bad, nasty, mean...

Now one bit I disagree with the author on here, I really do think there are exceptions to this rule.
To all the fellas:
If the woman in your life asks you if the outfit she's wearing makes her look fat, the answer is always NO!!!
If your wife burns a supper, you eat it like it is the best thing you've ever tasted, and when she asks you if it tastes alright, you say YES!!!

(I'm sure there might be a few others here, and if you can think of any, be sure to add them for me!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Connection Between the Mouth and Heart

Keeping on the topic of conversation, today the book centered on the verse Matthew 12:34-"Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." This means that what I am feeling will affect what I say, and in turn, what I say will affect how I feel.

Tonight the lesson spoke to me pretty deeply, because I was having a truly rough day in the parenting department. Both of my kids are always full of energy, they are both highly independent, and they are both so stinkin' stubborn. (Thanks a lot, Daddy.) And while I am thrilled with the fact that they are both such capable, driven little people, they are a pain in the backside to discipline.

"Jack don't climb on that. Jack, you need to let Mommy help you buckle. No, Son, you cannot have a "lolli" at 7:30am. Bubba, that is not a ball." (Or maybe you can relate better to some of these.) "Samantha, sweetheart, that outfit doesn't match and your pants are on backwards. Sammi, you need to let Mommy fix your hair. Sambug, please put your brother down. No!No!Sammi! Mommy will take Bubba out of the crib. Child, you need to eat real, fruit snacks are not real food."

None of these were examples of blatantly disobeying the rules, so you can only imagine what that is like...
But in case you are not too good with creative imaginings, let me give you two real examples from today:
1. Tonight Jack decided he wanted to take a bath with his sister, right after I had gotten him dried off and ready for bed...completely clothed in fleece pajamas.
2. Sammi has had a bit of a runny nose lately. Tonight, I guess she couldn't find a Kleenex, so she took the bottom of my shirt and blew her nose right into it. Then later, I found her picking her boogers and wiping them all over the furniture.

Suffice it to say, I am frazzled the majority of my day. And unfortunately, my words usually end up reflecting the way I feel. I think it is not so much the words I say as it is my volume and my tone that are getting the better of me. Right now I am always on high alert and in a constant state of stress--it is just the nature of the circumstance we are in right now. My mind is going a million miles a minute all of the time thinking about what I need to get done in the house, where I need to drive the kids to, who I said we would call for a playdate today, where in the world I could have put that (take your pick of missing object), what in the world the kids are getting into, why Sammi is screaming this time, what Jack must have fallen off of to make him cry like that---I could go on and on and on.
Sometimes, I feel like there is so much on my plate that I could just sit down and cry. Usually, though, I don't do that. I truck on through my day and let all of the franticness settle inside me...until the kids misbehave. Then KABOOM! All of the pent up emotions explode out of me and right onto them.
I don't want to yell at them. It just happens. But have you noticed how once you yell your frazzled feelings actually turn to anger? I promise you, at one point today I yelled at Sammi for pulling flower petals off of the flowers in a vase and scattering them all over the carpet in her room and by the end of it I was shaking so bad I thought I was going to have to drink a glass of wine at 2:30 in the afternoon just to bring my blood pressure back down. (I didn't, but boy did I feel like it!)

So here is my prayer for myself. (And if you are a praying person, I would really appreciate it if you would adopt it as your prayer for me too.) When I am feeling frazzled and my children act out like all children are sure at some point to do, please God, let me step back from the situation--if only for the briefest moment-- to let myself take a few deep breaths. Please let the words that come from my mouth and the tone in which I say them always come from a controlled place. Never let what is intended to be corrective end up becoming destructive. And please help me always remember that I am teaching my children how to be like You through my example, both in the words I say and the way in which I say them. Let them never doubt how much I love them. Amen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Communication: The Foundation is Trust

Tonight the book discussed the important role that trust plays in how we communicate with one another.

Seems like a fair enough assumption. Here's how the trust factor stacks up in my life, anyway:

There are some people in this world that I feel comfortable enough to share anything about myself with, because I trust them. I trust them with my feelings and I trust them with my information.
There are certain people in whom I am laying foundations for such a trust--they are tested with a little information at a time, and the rate at which I share with them matches directly with the level of my trust.
There are some people who have burned me, but I also do not feel like I have lost faith in them completely. However, we communicate about much more trivial things and at a highly guarded level.
Then, there are the people that I avoid talking to altogether. In fact, if I see them, I might turn away and leave the room. (How is that for a loving Christian example!--Hopefully, we will touch on this part later in the week.)

There was so much I could've talked about tonight. But as I let the reading simmer for a little while I decided that I wanted to talk about the one person in this world that I trust more than anyone else: my husband.

(I recently heard that someone had made mention at one point or another that they did not think my husband was all that trustworthy. To them I say, what lie have you told that you are afraid my husband will uncover?) Anyway, moving on...

I don't think there is any other person on earth I admire more or wish I could be more like. True, he is a bit rough around the edges. He may come off as a jerk to some people, and multiple times I have heard people tell me he is a little bit scary. I guess I don't see it. (Maybe love is blind?) Mostly, I feel like people just don't know what to do with a person that is that up-front about who he is.

Here are the characteristics I wish I could steal from him:
-What you see is what you get. He is never "putting on a show" for anyone. When we first started dating, I told him I thought he was a bit of a poser. We laugh about that now. I guess I had just never met someone that honest before. I thought his southern chivalry and "good old boy" demeanor were just an act. They are not--he is like that to everyone, all the time.

-He is not hiding anything about what he thinks. True, he may come across as rash sometimes, and maybe the book will disagree with me here, but I think bluntness is preferable to flattery any day of the week.
I love to tell this story: We had Samantha when we were in college and we were so broke it wasn't funny. To help earn a little extra diaper money, we volunteered to be lab rats for a research team at the university that was investigating communication patterns and relational changes in first-time parents. We were obligated every couple of months for about an hour to go in a room and basically have a counseling session where we answered a bunch of questions about our routine, our relationship, etc. Nathan HATED it.
God bless her little heart, the girl who interviewed us always read from a script and just asked the worst questions. Me being me, I would try to answer the questions as best I could so as not to hurt her feelings or call attention to how dumb they really were. And then it would be Nathan's turn...
I will never forget the question: "Um, how do you plan to establish a consistent routine for the baby?"
I will never forget his answer: "By doing the same thing over and over again."
...Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

-He is not hiding anything about how he feels. I am sure that anyone who has ever talked to Nathan will agree with me when I say, you can pretty much tell how Nathan feels about you just by looking at the expression on his face. When he laughs, his whole face lights up. When he's angry, you really might be able to see steam coming out of his nostrils.
Sometimes, though, even I can misread the face, and I just have to ask. "What are you thinking about?"
"Are you mad at me?"
And here's the funny thing, (and I know Nathan is laughing if he's reading this,) it has taken me about five years of us being together to believe these responses.
You see, as a woman, if I say I am thinking about "nothing" that really means "I have been thinking about a million things in the last thirty minutes and it is your job to act interested enough to pry them all out of me." Similarly, if I give a one-word answer to the 'are you mad at me' question (regardless of whether it's yes or no) it means YES I AM! and as soon as you ask the 'are you sure you're not mad at me' question I will most certainly spend the next several hours telling you why you made me mad.
It is not that way with a guy. I now truly understand, if he says he was thinking about nothing, he really has been sitting there with a blank mind for the past thirty minutes. And if he says 'no' he's not mad, then he really isn't. (Although he is likely to become mad if I ask the 'are you sure you're not mad' question.)

-If he says something, he means it. There is no arguing or debate with this man. He is the living, breathing example I wish I could be when it comes to "letting your 'Yes' be yes and your 'No' be no." And while that can be frustrating for me when I don't get my way, it is also very refreshing to know that if he said it, then that's what's going to happen. And equally refreshing, if he tells me he will do something, he almost always does it right then. Of course, that is not the case with me. I tell my husband I will call to make an appointment for this, that, and the other, and while it all gets done eventually, it usually takes me about 3 weeks to do it...sometimes three months. (I am working on that, Babydoll!)

-If he makes a promise, he keeps it. I love him so much for that. Especially now, I think about me talking to him right before he left, making him promise me to come home safely. And him telling me, "You know I will. I am too stubborn to die."
I know as well as anyone that he really can't promise me anything like that, but knowing that it's him that said it (and because he has a spotless track record with me so far!) I completely trusted him in that moment.
We are one of the lucky ones on this deployment. I have gotten to talk to him almost every day since he's been there. I know that's not the case with everyone else, especially our friends in the engineering company we are so close to. And while it is a blessing to be able to talk to him so frequently, it is my trust in him that he knows what he's doing and that he's well-prepared for his job that keeps me from flipping out when we have no communication for two or three days. I trust him that the information he tells me is the only information I need to hear. And I trust him that he is doing everything in his power to bring himself and all the rest of his buddies home safely.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Communication Isn't Easy

I read this title and laughed out loud to myself. I have a Bachelor's of Arts in Communication--I studied the "art of communication" for four straight years. Want to know why I selected that for my major? Because it was the "easy" one. It was a business degree without having to get into the Mays Business School at Texas A&M.

But college life is far and away from real life, and in real life communication truly isn't that easy.

I am a talker. I talk ALL of the time...I talk too much! It has been a rare occasion when I have ever been the victim of an awkward silence. It has been a regular occurence that I have been the perpetrator of an awkward comment. But there is so much more to communicating than talking. Here is what I've learned about the finer aspects of communicating (I think the majority of these I learned in Aggieland, but at the Chicken and not in the classrooms!)
-Body Language/Demeanor say more than your mouth does.

We learn this from an early age. Take the lyrics of a Disney classic for example:
I'm not asking much, just a token really, a trifle!
What I want from you is - your voice.

But without my voice, how can I-

You'll have your looks, your pretty face.
And don't underestimate the importance of body language, ha!

The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yet on land it's much prefered for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle babble for?
Come on, they're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who's withdrawn
It's she who holds her tongue who get's a man

(Are you singing along yet. I did!!!)

-It takes two to converse. Sometimes you need to shut up and listen.

I didn't realize I had ever talked to Toby Keith before:

"We talk about your work how your boss is a jerk
We talk about your church and your head when it hurts
We talk about the troubles you've been having with your brother
About your daddy and your mother and your crazy ex-lover
We talk about your friends and the places that you've been
We talk about your skin and the dimples on your chin
The polish on your toes and the run in your hose
And God knows we're gonna talk about your clothes
You know talking about you makes me smile
But every once in awhile

I wanna talk about me
Wanna talk about I
Wanna talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
I like talking about you you you you, usually, but occasionally
I wanna talk about meeeeee"
-Sometimes we say words we don't really mean.

(Courtesy of Darius Rucker)

"I left out in a cloud of taillights and dust
Swore I wasn't comin back
Said I'd had eonugh
Saw you in the rear view standin'
Fadin from my life
But I wasn't turnin' round
No not this time

But don't think I don't think about it
Don't think I don't have regrets
Don't think it don't get to me
Between the work and the hurt and the whiskey
Don't think I don't wonder bout
Could've been should've been all worked out

Yeah I know what I felt and I know what I said
But don't think I don't think about it"

-Sometimes we can't find any words at all.

I love me some Reba. I quote her music a lot, actually!:

"Seventeen years old
She was out with her friends
They started drinking at some party
Till she was three sheets to the wind
Her momma always told her she could call no matter what
She was crying on the front steps
When her mom showed up

So what do you say in a moment like this
When you can't find the words to tell it like it is
Just bite your tongue and let your heart lead the way
Let's get out of here
Oh what do you say"
-Sometimes words dig us into a hole.

Miranda Lambert--She's like Alanis Morissette for country music don't you think??

"you better be careful what you say
it never really added up any way
I got friends in this town

Hey white liar
The truth comes out a little at a time
and it spreads just like a fire
slips off of your tongue like turpentine
and I don´t know why
white liar"
-Sometimes words can lift us up.

Lonestar-Oldie but a goodie, and the video is a tear-jerker:

"He called her on the road from a lonely cold hotel room
Just to hear her say, "I love you one" more time
But when he heard the sound
Of the kids laughin' in the background
He had to wipe away a tear from his eye
A little voice came on the phone
Said, "Daddy when you comin' home?"
He said the first thing that came to his mind

I'm already there
Take a look around
I'm the sunshine in your hair
I'm the shadow on the ground
I'm the whisper in the wind
I'm your imaginary friend
And I know, I'm in your prayers
Oh I'm already there"
-Some words bring us salvation.

Romans 10:9:

"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
-There is only one word to live by.

John 1:1:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Choose to Accept; Choose to Sacrifice

Late post tonight. And it might be a short one just because I'm so tired. We shall see where it takes us...

The book says that to love as Jesus loves us we must fellowship, forgive, accept, and sacrifice. Yesterday focused on fellowship and forgiveness. Today was all about acceptance and sacrifice. I think I will write a little tidbit about how I need to refine each quality in my own life...yep, that sounds good. (Did I mention that I'm pretty tired?)

What I have taken from this section of the reading came from this sentence: "When someone's personality causes her to deal with a situation in a different way from how I would handle it, I need to accept her..."
I will be the first to admit (over and over again) that I am not the perfect mom. But as soon as I read this, I immediately thought of all the times I am quick to judge other mothers when I see them dealing with their own children. I know we all do it...
Depending on how we assess the situation as an outsider, we quietly critique the other mom in our minds. They were either too leniant or too harsh. They are too involved or too passive. They are clueless and frazzled. And most importantly, we believe that whatever it is they are doing, they are doing it wrong and we would have done it right.
What I need to work on is understanding that it is not my place to judge them. I do not understand their current situation and I am not living their life, therefore, I could never possibly take into account all of the different elements impacting the decisions they make. As one of my friends likes to say, "You don't know my story!"
But I also need to understand that I do have a place in these situations: love them. Offer advice if it is asked of me. Show support if it seems necessary. Love anyway--even if they do things differently than me. I don't know their story...they could easily be right, and I could be wrong. (Wouldn't be the first time!)


Big sentence that struck a chord with me here is this one: "The greatest sacrifices may not be the the once-in-a-lifetime sacrifices; they may well be the daily sacrifices."

I read another book a while back entitled "Legacy of a Packrat" where the author mentions that the biggest help she's received in her life was from people who likely don't even know they've helped her. That is the story of my life! Sure, there are plenty of people who do big and beautiful things for me, too, but I am especially touched by the small gestures. A phone call or a quick email to check on me. A hug when they can tell I need it. A random invite somewhere when I am feeling lonely. Whoever that nice person is that takes the piles of newspapers from my driveway and disposes of them in the recycle bin. The way my husband used to get my coffee ready to brew every morning...I am a lover of the little things! And it is because the little things stack up.
I need to remember how blessed I am by these little things and make it a point to spread a little love around. Taking five minutes out of my day to shoot a quick email to a friend is a little gesture that could make a big difference. Offering a ride. Giving a compliment. Smiling at a stranger and looking them in the eye and saying 'Hi.' Noticing other people's needs and serving them--whether it be holding open a door or picking up something they have dropped or helping them corral a kid that is trying to escape. (Boy, have I been there!)
Big bonus here: There is no act of kindness so small that it is not noticed by God.

That's it for today...good night all!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Choose to Fellowship, Choose to Forgive

Today's reading teaches that in order to love eachother as Jesus loves us, we need to model Jesus' example in four areas: fellowship, forgiveness, acceptance, and sacrifice. Today we focus on the first two.

At the end of today's chapter we had two questions to consider. I have two answers for those questions :)

1. How can I take my experiences of fellowship a step deeper?
The book describes fellowship as "companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere." The two key words here are 'companionship' and 'congenial.' So in layman's terms: fellowship is spending time with people I like and doing things I enjoy doing with them.
I am a people person. I am also an activity person. I have an activity or two for every day, and usually I try to find a way to invite other people to most of them.
Whether it be an afternoon at the playground, icecream at the PX or an evening in the backyard, I am happier if I have other people around to share the experience with.
What I am noticing, though, is that far too much of what I would consider fellowship is scheduled around my kids' activities so they have opportunities to socialize. I enjoy the playground, icecream, and playing in the backyard because my kids do. However, I can take my experience of fellowship a step deeper by scheduling time together with friends doing grown-up activities too. Once upon a time, I used to like to do things that were not showcased on Nick Jr or Parents Connect. I need to take time to get back to that person, and I need to take some of my lady friends along with me!
Frankly, this might be a challenging time to start doing it, just because my husband is gone and I will need to find alternative care for my kids so I can do these activities. But where there is a will, there is always a way. ;)

2. Who is the person in my life I need to forgive?
ME! I know that sounds strange, so let me explain...
Of course, if you read yesterday's blog, you realize that I am not immune to anger or resentment against other people. I am, however, always quicker to make excuses for other people and to forgive other people of their transgressions than I am to forgive myself of my own. I take the blame and bear my guilt forever.
Call it the curse of being the first-born child. I am an extreme perfectionist, I am my harshest critic, and I am my toughest judge. I am telling the truth when I say that people usually get away with being nasty towards me because I am quick to decide what I must have done to make them act that way. No matter the offense, it is always largely my fault (or so I tell myself.)
Praise God for being so much more forgiving than I am! I need to have faith that when I ask for forgiveness, I am made clean. Then I can learn from my mistakes and move on. I need to quit blaming the mistakes of others on myself. I am not Jesus...I do not have to bear the burden of their sins. But I do need to forgive them as Jesus has forgiven me.

Someone give me an amen :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 12- Act Immediately, Act Radically

Today's lesson was focused around two points, (and I'm paraphrasing here):

1. If there is anything that you need to do to save a relationship, do it now--right now.
2. If there is anything that you are doing to hurt a relationship, stop it now--right now.

Today's reading was a good one, I thought. It spoke to me personally because I have learned the hard way how negative feelings can affect actions in point 1 and point 2.

But today I wanted to tell a story focusing on Point 1.
Point 1- The big lesson here is not to let your hurt feelings fester to the point that it hurts a relationship. I am sure that I am preaching to the choir for every woman reading this---but don't let feelings of mistrust, betrayal, backstabbing, etc. linger and grow inside you without talking to the other person about it first!!! Girls are SO bad about this. The story I am using is about a friend from high school. She was my very best friend. I practically lived at her house. I am pretty sure her mother fed me dinner four out of five school nights for like 2 years straight. One day I felt like there was something bothering my friend. I wanted to confront her about it, but she seemed angry and distant so I decided I would give her a chance to cool down. The next day (after church one Sunday, actually,) her mother came up to us and asked me and a group of girls not to talk to her daughter anymore. My friend was sitting a few pews back from us, crying. To this day I do not know what I did to upset her. My fault, because I never asked her! I was so mad at my could she make speculations about something without talking to me? How could she harbor feelings of anger and not tell me why? How could she send her MOTHER to come tell me we couldn't be friends anymore instead of telling it to my face? How could she possibly have been my best friend and keep me in the dark about everything? These feelings built up so big inside of me that I never even realized I was doing the exact same thing back to her. Of course, our friendship never recovered from it. We were able to be nice to eachother in the hallways at school but I lost my best friend my senior year. That really sucked.
I am still "friends" with this girl on Facebook. I am 100% positive she doesn't read this thing, but I really wish she did so I could tell her how sorry I still am about what happened, how I still stalk her profile sometimes to see what she's up to, and that I still wish her all the best for her future.

And while I'm sure my little story sounded a lot like teenage drama, I know it's not because I see it happening to grown women every day. Let me give you the rundown--- Person A hears from Person B that Person C has been telling Persons D, E, and F all about Person A's life story. (lol Still with me?) Without ever confronting Person C, Person A speculates that Person B's account must, in fact, be true. Person C can't figure out why Person A is no longer talking to them, until Person B informs her, "Person A must think that..." Person C is outraged that Person A would think that about her. Person A hastily states, "Well if that's the way she feels about me, we must have never been friends at all." Eventually, a dear friendship is ruined without anybody bothering to talk to the other person to work it out.
(A side note: I was just using a composite of how I feel this scenario works itself out. I was not thinking of any particular persons when I was writing about each Person. However, if you maybe thought that I was...sounds like a personal problem.)
So why did I feel the need to get on my religious soapbox? It's because I know firsthand that you can get lost in your negative emotions to the point where you can't see that there is any other way to act. But there is! Just act the exact opposite way!
If you feel like being vengeful--don't! Forgive and walk away!
If you feel like lying--tell the truth! The whole truth, and nothing but the truth!
If you feel like gossiping--stop! Quit your flapping and keep your trap shut!
If you feel like shutting someone out--go talk to them! Tell them what you want to say...don't tell some other person. And please, don't tell every other person but that person on Facebook!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Feelings Are Important!

As I read the title of today's lesson, I thought we were going to discuss how we should become more in tune with the feelings of other people. (I thought it made sense, since we are dealing largely with the subject of loving other people.) Turns out, the lesson was about realizing and dealing with our own feelings.

There was a sentence in this lesson that I had to re-read a couple of times, just because I could relate and I felt like it was popping out at me:
"If you don't see the importance of expressing and dealing with your feelings, those feelings can end up controlling your life." (105)

I have a hard habit of trying to hide my true feelings from other people. Look at any of my past entries and you'll find that I do it all the time...

But when I read the aforementioned sentence I was thinking about a specific example:

The first week after Nathan left I felt like I was in a daze. I was trying so hard to be strong for my kids so they wouldn't know there was anything to be sad about, for my friends so they felt like they had someone they could lean on, and for my family so they wouldn't think there was any reason to worry about me. I was trying so hard to appear happy and well-adjusted to everyone else that I was denying to myself what I really felt...sad, lonely, a little scared. I mentioned in a previous blog that the inner-emotions I wouldn't express outwardly were showing up in different ways--reaping havoc on my sleep schedule and causing physical stress on my body that led to severe breakouts, more lack of sleep, and additional medical ailments. I kept thinking to myself, "I just need to cry. If I can just have one good cry, it will get better."
Eventually, I did cry. I was at a MOPS meeting in front of a whole group of ladies I had only met twice before, and I missed my first phone call from Nathan once he had made it to the FOB. I sobbed openly. And while I felt ashamed that I broken down in front of so many people, I was beyond the point of caring what other people thought of me.
About thirty minutes after that I was loading the kids back into the car to go back home and Nathan called us again. I was so excited (because I knew it must be him) that I fat-fingered the 'ignore' button when I was trying to get my phone out of my purse. I cried again--and this time in front of my kids. It was something I was so terrified to do before, but I just couldn't contain my disappointment for having missed him twice! To my surprise, my kids did not break down along with me. Actually, they were very sympathetic toward me. And an added bonus came when we were able to make Mommy's breakdown a teachable moment. My kids now know that sometimes Mommy cries because she misses Daddy and it is okay to miss someone that you love. Then, we were able to talk about Daddy being gone and how we can make ourselves feel better when we miss him.
Nathan was able to call one more time that day...that time we all got to talk to him :)

I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to harboring my emotions. I still miss my husband, but I am dealing with it a little better every day. Unfortunately, repressing my feelings in the beginning had already taken its toll, so I am still working on fixing my sleep patterns and clearing my face. Thankfully my cold (not sure exactly what it was?) and my other medical issue have subsided.
I really do understand now that not dealing with my emotions was not the right answer, and I am ready to get back control of my life---or at least my body!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Power of New

Today's lesson focused on Jesus's new commandment to us: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another." (John 13:34)

It discussed why Jesus decided to make a new commandment. It explained the differences of commandments from the Old Testament and New Testament. It discussed the benefits of living out a new commandment based on love for Jesus rather than on fear of punishment by God. It all made for good reading, but that's not what I want to talk about tonight.

I think I mentioned on Day 1 that at the end of each chapter there is a "Question to Consider." Tonight's was: How can I take a love that's old and allow God to make it new?

I don't know why the first thing that came to my mind after reading this was my relationship with my husband. We are both young, we are young parents, and our marriage is still very much new. (3 years and going strong!) I am still totally in love with my husband in every way. I am giddy when I get to talk to him. He makes me laugh as hard as he always has. He is my favorite person in the whole world to be around. But when I read this question, the first thing I thought about was how my husband and I (before he left, of course,) kept getting into little date night ruts.

It's not that we didn't make time to be alone with each other. We just couldn't think of anything new or interesting to try--- Dinner out. A movie in. TV show and a cold beer. Occasionally a night in the backyard with the firepit. If we were getting really fancy, we had a beer on the bench on our front porch.
Each of those evenings were very much enjoyable. All of those moments together created memories I would never trade.
However, I could tell that we were both getting a little frustrated with the monotony of it all.

Nathan would ask, "So what do you want to do tonight?"
I'd say, "I don't know. What do you feel like doing?"
He'd reply, "Well we could watch a show...We could pick a movie...We could light a fire..."
Then depending on whatever mood I was in that night, we would pick one and I'd make the drinks and he would set up the TV or the fire.

Date nights out on the town were a similar scenario. Our church offers a program called Parent's Night Out where for a nominal fee ($5 total for my 2 kids) we can enjoy an evening together from 6-10pm...can't beat that! We signed up for it almost every month. But I am pretty sure that each time we did the same thing. Went to a different restaurant, maybe, but basically the agenda stayed the same.

And while we definitely always valued and enjoyed our time together, I could tell that we were both ready for a change of pace. We started looking for events going on in the city that would never pan out. Concerts we just couldn't justify spending the money on. We even went as far as to 'google' stay-at-home date night ideas. (In case you are wondering, let me save you the time you would spend on that search. The main thing we kept finding is that you do whatever you would do on a normal date night--naked. Cook naked. Watch a movie naked. Play sharades get the point...and you're welcome.)

I remember feeling so defeated, wondering why in the world it was so difficult to think of something new and interesting to do with my husband. I didn't want our date nights to run dry. I certainly didn't want him to become bored of me. And because I knew that the deployment was right around the corner, I felt a desparate need to make every moment magical.

Now that he's halfway around the world, I could be spending my time coming up with all sorts of crazy and inventive date night schemes for when he gets back home. But here's the funny twist--all I want to do when he gets home is bring him his beverage of choice, snuggle up to him, and lay my head on his chest while we watch TV. I want to put a grown-up movie in the DVD player instead of having to watch Wiggly Wiggly World for the ump-teenth time. I want to have him start a fire with his obnoxious propane torch that I was always worried the neighbors would think was too loud. And I want to go eat in a restaurant that does not have a playland anywhere in it or within walking distance of it.

I now realize that I was taking advantage of the fact that I was able to spend so much quality time alone with my husband. He was always so good to set aside time for just me and him, where we could talk to eachother, laugh with eachother, make plans with eachother...and essentially work on our relationship. I was so worried about making every moment 'magical' that I didn't realize we already were. And because he is not here with me to enjoy these moments on a daily basis anymore, they have somehow found their "newness" again.
I love you, Soldier. I cannot wait until you are home!!!

(All that being said, we could probably still use a few add-ons to our current game plan, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know! lol)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day Nine

The first sentence of today's lesson says it all: "You cannot command an emotion, but you can command an action."

I always thought of love as an emotion. Something you feel for someone else. Something you fall in and out of. Something you can feel very strongly or not at all.

Turns out, love is actually an action. Makes sense. (I'm about to go totally English teacher on you here. You have been fore-warned.) Most people know from grade school that a verb is an action word. To be a complete thought, you need both a noun and and a verb. So when you speak the phrase "I love you" then you are using 'love' as your verb. Therefore, love is an action--not a feeling.

Love certainly spurs on a whole mess of feelings: Depending on who you are loving it can make you feel blissful, comforted, compassionate, giddy, nervous, fearful, or miserable.
But regardless of how it makes us feel, love is something that we are commanded to do. Even if it scares us. Even if we don't feel like it.

After today's reading, I have come to the conclusion that God must give us kids to practice our love skills on, because I know I certainly do not always "feel the love" when I carry out certain tasks for my children--

-My son dirties his diaper first thing in the morning. It is just his way. In the morning when I go to greet him in his room, I am slammed in the face by the most putrid smell known to man. (He takes after his dad that way lol) It is all I can do to walk in there to take him out of the crib. But as I go to lift him up, he throws his little arms around my neck to hug me "good morning" and wraps his little legs around my hip. Though all I want to do is throw him on the changing table and hold my breath while I clean up his bum, I give him a good minute to continue to hug me because it is my job to love him.
-Since I have dove on into the potty-talk, I will talk about potty-training. For anyone who has potty-trained a child, you know how horribly frustrating it is. For those of you who haven't (haha!)...just you wait! You will never understand how much your parents truly loved you until you are mopping pee off of the dining room floor at dinner time, steam-cleaning it out of the couch for the third time in a single day, and stripping poo out of a panties after your child ate something that made her sick. There is just no way ANYONE wants to do that, and yet every parent does...because it is our job to love our children.
-Though I hate Jungle Jaks with a passion, I go with my children on a regular basis because they enjoy it, and because it is my job to love them.
-I am a greedy, greedy eater, but I will share the last bites of my food if they ask me(and usually give it up to them altogether) because they are my children, and it is my job to love them.
-I could easily pass out at the sight of blood, but I will doctor any boo-boo on the spot, because they are my children and it is my job to love them.
-I hate bugs, snakes, and every kind of creepy-crawly thing with a passion, but I will run towards the creature and stomp them out with my bare foot to keep my kid from touching it or putting it in his mouth, because he is my child, and it is my job to love him.

I could go on forever and ever with this, but I will stop here because I think you get the picture...

There are plenty of things that I personally dislike doing, but still do anyway because I am prompted to act out of love for my child. (I could have made a separate list for my husband--man! I am slamming on him tonight! Sorry, honey!) But the truth is, I know he could make a list for me too! Why? Because we as humans are selfish beings with selfish desires. Loving someone means making a sacrifice to please/take care of/provide for another person--in spite of our own selfish tendencies. It means doing something you don't necessarily feel like doing for the benefit of someone else.

I am still learning how to do this for the people that I dearly love. (i.e. my husband and my children.) I am glad I have them to practice on, because I am sure I will need a lot of practice to do something I don't necessarily feel like doing for someone that I don't necessarily like that much! (And I am pretty sure the book will get to that one soon...)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Impossible Challenge

Starting week 2...

Today we are given a new verse to focus on:
"A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34)

Our point to ponder:
"Jesus doesn't want us to try our hardest; He wants us to learn to trust in Him."
The Bible is full of little snippets that sound so nice and wonderful in theory, but are next to impossible in practice. This is one of them.
I am someone who reads statements like this and doesn't take them at face value. (Bad, wrong, silly! It is a commandement! It should be taken literally!)
However, I always think, "God can't be completely serious. I can't do anything 'as He does' because He is God and is perfect. I am a human and the antithesis of perfection."
I can try really hard at it. I can get a lot better at it. I can make great progress toward reaching the goal. But I can never master it. It will never be fully acheived.

Tonight's 'point to ponder' has really given me something to think about :)
God tells me to do things sometimes because He knows I could never do it. He wants me to quit trying to control everything on my own. He wants me to realize I need Him. And He wants me to love Him enough to let go of my pride and tell Him that.

And only when I stop loving myself enough to give up control and love God enough to ask for his help will I be able to love others like I was meant to love them...
hmmmmm...(this is me pondering...)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Love Someone As Your Neighbor

Yesterday's topic was to love everyone as our neighbor, meaning I cannot limit who I am willing to show God's love to.

Today's topic is to love someone as your neighbor, meaning that I cannot practically show God's love to all people, all the time. I can only act out God's love as the opportunity arises.

How fitting that this should be the topic for today!

Last night, I had one of the worst, most horrible nights since my husband left. Without going into too many details, I was trying to show loving support to one of my friends, and instead probably worried her more than I soothed her. Don't know if she reads this...but if you do (and you know who you are) I am still SO sorry about everything.

Again, without going into too many details...don't infer anything from people's Facebook statuses. That is a dangerous, tricky path to take. Trust me on this.

The worst part about it all was realizing that as bad as it was and as bad as I felt, it could have been a much worse situation. I scared the living daylights out of myself thinking about how bad the screw-up could have been, how it would have escalated throughout the unit, and how it would have eventually come back to bite me. (And probably my husband too-in case you didn't know this, a soldier is often held accountable for his wife's actions, both good and bad.)

I ended up confessing my blunder to my husband, and he said the wisest thing to me I have heard in a long time. Included in it was an example of my past and a whole backstory I won't bore you with right now, but it all led up to this message: You cannot be there to help every person. And a person who needs help will not want every person there to help them.

He basically said exactly what the book talked about. We are able to show God's love within the boundaries of an opportunity. It will not be possible for me to help every person who needs it. And most of the time, people in need do not want to be bombarded by helpers--it is a very frustrating, overwhelming situation to have a hundred people trying to help you all at once.

I mentioned in my post yesterday that my neighbors are always willing and ready to help. But they don't come knocking on my door asking "so do you need any help today?" They wait for me to knock on theirs.

Right now, in this deployment, I am sensing that a lot of my friends and fellow Bulldog spouses are feeling helpless, and it is my natural reaction to jump up and volunteer my help. I realized today through my husband's voice of reason and the reinforcement of the book that I cannot jump up before I am called on. I love all of these families dearly, and should the opportunity arise, then I will gladly do what I can to act out that love. But until then, I will wait...

...and while I wait, I will probably avoid responding to other people's Facebook statuses!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Love Everyone As Your Neighbor

Six days down; thirty-four to go.
The first five days focused on loving God. Now we are moving on to loving our "neighbors."

I have only recently begun to understand how wonderful and helpful neighbors can be. Acting "neighborly" was a term that always escaped me, mainly because people just really don't talk to their neighbors that much anymore. We might give a friendly wave as we are backing out the driveway at the same time or maybe a "good morning" tossed around here or there, but I doubt I would be the only one to say I hardly spoke to my neighbors. Then we moved onto post and all of that changed. I now know that neighbors can be awesome! Someone you have never met will welcome you into your home because you've been locked out of your house. You are invited over for playdates, dinners, and parties. I know that all I have to do is knock on someone's door, say "Hi, I'm your neighbor. Can you help me?" and they will. There is a wonderful feeling of togetherness and community on post. We are all part of the same team, we are all going through similar struggles, and it is easy to offer help to each other.

But of course, when God said "love your neighbor as yourself," He wasn't just talking about my physical neighbors--he meant all people. And unfortunately, all people are not as awesome as my neighbors-- or else this commandment would be a piece of cake.

So there you have it. Love everyone. Easy enough, right? Easy to grasp, maybe, but not so easy to do--in fact, pretty impossible. What I realized today is that it is not enough to "get along" with people. God didn't say, "Tolerate your neighbors..." He said to LOVE them.

Hey now, God. I don't know how I feel about that. You see, if You are telling me that I have to love everyone, then I have to love:

-That driver that keeps trying to run me over on the interstate
-That hoity-toity person that keeps cutting in front of me in the line at the grocery store
-The haggler at the yard sale that offends me by offering $10 for something I paid $200 for
-The punk that sold me something for $200 that I only should have paid $10 for
-The chick that is wearing the same outfit better than me
-The other person that got the job I really wanted
-The bold-faced liar
-The thief
-The person that brags about themselves all the time
-The bully on the playground who pushed my precious baby, and the mom that saw him do it and didn't say anything
-The person who unapologetically tramples over everyone and everything to get what they want

It would take A LOT of work, but I could maybe manage that. But surely, God, you don't mean EVERYONE, when you say everyone, because then I would have to love:

-A group of people who protest at funerals of military service members who have fallen in combat, and who make me ashamed that they proclaim to be a "church" (and a Baptist one at that.)
-Child molesters
-Child abductors
-Sexual abusers
-People who celebrate that planes crashed into buildings full of innocent people and are planting explosives and shooting guns at my husband and his buddies.

I don't know about all that, God. My heart is not big enough to love these people.

Here is what the book had to say:
"God's love is an everyone/everywhere/all the time" kind of love; human love is a "some people/some places/some of the time" kind of love. Some of us are better than others at human love, but none of us are able to express God's kind of love in our own power. That's the point. God wants us to depend on Him for the power to love. So He challenges us to love in a way we can only accomplish through daily dependence on His power." (Holladay, 69)

I guess what I came to accept after reading this is that I am not perfect. Yet God continues to love me unconditionally. I know I am not worthy of the kind of love He shows me all the time. But He gives it to me because He is the Father and I am his child. When I accepted Christ into my life, I vowed to strive to be more like Him in every way. Therefore, I should strive to love like He does--To love people in spite of their imperfections and in spite of their transgressions against me.
So yes, I will work to have a more loving heart toward everyone. But I think I will begin with the "everyone's" closer to the top of my list...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 5- Mind and Strength

We are told to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30)

The past two days the book focused on the heart and the soul. Today mind and strength were squished into the same chapter. My guess is because it takes almost all your strength to love the Lord with all your mind.

I know that such is the case for my mind...

I told a friend today that I think my body is physically displaying the inner feelings I won't let myself express. Since Nathan has left, I have hardly been able to sleep, though my body is completely exhausted. The added stress and lack of sleep has caused my face to break out worse than any teenage girl I have ever seen. And I have dealt with another medical issue I do not care to share publicly, though my momma knows what I'm talking about because I must have called her ten times to ask her questions about it...oh, how I love "Dr. Mom!" :)

I can fake strong to anybody. I can be nothing but supportive when I see that someone else is hurting. I can carry on a casual conversation and laugh heartily and give a genuine smile. But don't let that fool you about the worries that are truly on my mind: My husband is gone. I miss him terribly. I wonder why we call it a deployment when we really should just say "gone to war." I wonder if he will come home safely. I wonder if his buddies will come home safely. I wonder what we would do if we lost one of them. I wonder how I will be able to hold down the fort when he is away. I wonder if I will be able to take care of my fellow-spouses when they need my help even if I am knee-deep in my own dilemmas. I wonder if my face is ever going to clear up. I wonder if that is what everyone is looking at when I talk to them. I wonder if Nathan is going to notice it when he gets back and think I am ugly. I wonder if all of my late night snacks are going to make me fat. I wonder about how I can squeeze a jog into my already jam-packed day so I don't get fat. I wonder what I am going to cook for dinner. I wonder if it is okay to have poptarts for dinner, because the kids hardly ever eat what I cook them anyway...

Go away you NEGATIVE, UGLY thoughts!

Today, the book challenged us with this verse:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

So here I go!

Whatever is true: The book says these are things you can depend on in life.--
True, lasting love. I love my husband. My husband loves me. God tells me that "love never fails" (1 Cor 13:8)

Whatever is noble: The books describes this as focusing on the godliness of common things.--
A pleasant conversation. Today I had the opportunity to talk to my daughter about salvation through Christ. We were listening to Carrie Underwood's "Temporary Home" and Sammi asked me why Carrie was sad. I told her she was a little sad because someone was dying, but she was also a little happy because after he died, he was going to be with Jesus. I told her that if we ask Jesus to live in our hearts, we get to be with Him in heaven after we die. Sammi said, "Jesus lives with me in my heart. I took Him with me tonight to eat hot dogs and cake." :)

Whatever is right: The book says if you are acting according to the will of God, you are doing what's right.--
Volunteering. Galatians 6:2 says "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Yesterday I offered to help my new FRG by volunteering to fill one of the many open key caller positions. I know how burdensome an FRG can be at any I am going to help for better or for worse!

Whatever is pure: The book says pureness is on par with holiness.--
Babies. There is nothing more innocent, perfect, or pure than a newborn baby. We are all created in the image of our God, and newborn babies are God's latest and greatest masterpieces. I have been surrounded by so many of them lately, and I love it. (Though my husband probably doesn't because it is giving me the baby fever like crazy!)

Whatever is lovely: The book says to translate lovely as "enjoyable."--
The moon. I have been taking the kids outside to play after supper every night and with winter weather around the corner, we are often greeted by shorter days and the setting sun. Jack's new favorite thing to do is to spot the moon when day turns into night. He calls the moon the "night night" :) Lately, the "night night" has been so bright and round and full. We spend a good half hour swinging in the swings of our backyard playground and marveling at the moon.

Whatever is admirable: The book says this is "something you admire in others that is worthy of talking about."--
Sacrifice. I mentioned this on Facebook yesterday, but I is definitely admirable enough to think about again, in my opinion. My husband and I have been very, very, EXTREMELY fortunate to be able to talk on Skype several days a week. (I do not take for granted for a second how lucky we are to get to do this.) After missing our chat time for the last several days, I was very much looking forward to getting to talk to my husband online...really talk to him...hear his voice...see his face. But when I jumped onto the computer to log on I was greeted by this email: "Well, its going to be one more night without talking on skype. Got one of the young Soldiers from Alpha here. His wife is having their first baby today. She was induced this morning at 0900 El Paso time. They dropped him this morning from one of the small COP's. Right now he's in my room on my computer skyping with his wife in the delivery room. Figured that is definitely a sacrifice I can make . . . one night of not being able to talk to my beautiful family so that he can watch his child be born. I love you babe - tomorrow - I promise. Can't wait to see you, goober and the little man again." I love this man so much more than I could ever say...there is so much to admire about him.

If anything is excellent: The book calls this motivation by God's greatness.--
A Hymn. "The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty. Let all the earth rejoice-All the earth rejoice.
He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide. And trembles at His voice-Trembles at His voice.
How great is our God, sing with me. How great is our God, and all will see. How great, how great is our God!"

If anything is praiseworthy: The book says this is celebrating the goodness of what God is doing.--
Right Now. I am not sure exactly how or when it happened, but by the end of writing this, I am feeling happy and at peace. (I hope you are too!) Hooray for the power of positive thinking!

...I think I shall go to bed now and try to sleep :)

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matt. 11:29-30

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day 4-Love the Lord With All Your Soul

Before I dive too much into today's topic, I wanted to recap on last night. In last night's blog, I ranted about how I didn't want to pray to God out loud because I thought it would make me feel uncomfortable. All the while as I was writing, this tiny voice kept telling me, "You can't say you don't like something you've never tried." (A statement I have spoken to my children at more dinner times than I can count.) So choosing not to become a hypocritical parent, I went ahead and prayed out loud. I believe the first words out of my mouth were, "Dear God, I am so sorry that I am making this so awkward..." I think He forgave me. ;)
I am glad that I tried the exercise, though I am not sold on this form of prayer. However, I think I managed to grasp the bigger lesson in it: praying with your heart is more meaningful than praying with your head.

So moving onward...

Today's lesson focused on loving the Lord with your soul. Yesterday I said that the author translated soul into decisions. Today he expounded a little more on this translation and said that your soul is your "will to decide...the passion with which you are living...your personality." I think I like these descriptions better.

Tonight the part of the topic that struck me most is when Holladay talked about loving God personally. He explains that since God has given us all unique personalities, we will all show our love for God in unique ways.

This especially spoke to me, because I do not always fit in with everyone else at our church's worship service. I love to sing. In fact, it might be one of my top 5 favorite things to do in life. I used to be in the church choir, and for multiple reasons (mainly the birth of my son and the driving distance to church) I have had to step down from it. Though my experience in the choir were almost completely enjoyable, I had a few moments that made me pretty uncomfortable.

To name a few...

-I love to sing words. But I don't always understand the oooohhhh lalalalas whoa whoa's that come along with it. Especially in worship songs. Good for karaoke maybe, but not good to try to have a congregation of people follow along with. Every time we did those, and even now, I am one of the few that doesn't join in.

-I am not a clapper. I am a foot-tapper, head-bobber, and sometimes side-to-side shaker if the music is hitting me right. I cannot do forced clapping to the beat. It doesn't feel authentic to me. I especially don't like when "clapping games" are implemented during worship songs. Some people are really into it, and good for them! But I am always the odd duck standing still when the clapping begins.

-Once, during a Christmas program, the choir sang "Silent Night." Cool. I'm down with that. Then, out of nowhere, the choir director has us sing a verse in Spanish. (Here's where I should probably explain that I am living in El Paso for those who didn't already know that.) Took some German in high school and college. I know absolutely zero Spanish. So here I am, trying to "read" the words on the screen which doesn't help at all if you don't know the phonetics of a language. So with the microphone hanging in front of my face and a crowd full of people staring at me, I continued to sing the song the only way I knew how: auf Englisch. I was pretty mortified in the moment, felt a little guilty after the moment,(would people think I was refusing to sing in Spanish?) and decided after the moment was over that it probably would have been a better idea to not sing at all during that part.

So what am I able to gather from all this after today's lesson: I don't always clap, or sing oooo-nananana, or follow the exact words on the screen, or even pray out loud, but I do love my God. And as long as He knows that, I guess I shouldn't worry if I'm doing what everyone else is suggesting.

Sha-lalala- skibbity bibbity- mmm bop! (Sorry, guess I had a couple more of those in my system!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 3- Love God with All Your Heart

Yesterday I had a revelation about how I am letting my menial tasks hinder opportunities to build the relationships I have with my children. I said that I would work to correct that and I followed through on my words today. It was awesome! Sammi and I had two and a half uninterrupted hours of play time. And as if from God's direct blessing, I was able to complete all of my household chores in only 20 minutes tonight. Woo hoo!
I was riding high; so ready to see what day 3 had in store for me...

...and then I read the chapter.

Today's lesson: Love God with All Your Heart, taken from Mark 12-"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength." Holladay takes the terms "heart," "soul," "mind," and "strength" and translates them as follows:
By taking the abstract terms and translating them, we should be able to gauge how we are relating to God. "Am I telling God how I feel?" "Am I letting God inpact my decisions?" "Is God making an impression on my thought pattern?" "Am I using God's love to interact with the world around me?" All of this I liked.

Then I get to the next part where we are to receive examples to "love God with all our hearts" in a concrete way. Holladays suggestion is that instead of merely saying a silent prayer in our head, we should pray aloud to simulate more of a real conversation.
I am not knocking Holladay for suggesting this. It actually makes a lot of sense. Rather than search for the perfect thing to say logically in my head, I should express my thoughts and feelings aloud to him just as I would to a close girlfriend over a glass of wine. It is a beautiful sentiment...I just don't wanna.

I think the big problem here is that I realized I might feel embarrassed talking to God this way. Could I really be that intimate with God without letting my brain butt in to tell me that I'm acting foolish or talking to myself? I am afraid that talking to Him aloud may take me too far out of my comfort zone...

And I know that I should be super zealous for Christ, but it's something I am still growing into. Let's be honest here. I am writing all of my thoughts on a blog that I am not even sure anyone is reading instead of discussing it in a small group setting as suggested by the pastor. If I can't feel comfortable enough to do that, how can I make myself comfortable with the idea of praying out loud?

Here is the other thing. Say I try it, and it goes well for me. My husband is not here now, but would I be able to continue it once he got back? He is actually a non-believer. I pray in my heart all the time that he would come to know Christ and receive salvation, but would this help win him over at all, or would he look at his wife and wonder if she had gone completely nuts?

Oy-my aching head.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 2- The Attraction of Lesser Things

Okay, so to briefly recap, I have just begun reading a book entitled "The Relationship Principles of Jesus" in conjunction with the new series being taught in my church, "40 Days of Love."
Yesterday's introductory lesson explained how we are to have two main priorities in life: loving God and loving people. Today's lesson talked about how we allow lesser objects (money, tasks, hobbies, career, recreation, etc. etc.) to trump the importance that we place on our relationships.
The author asks a series of questions to help us discover what we truly place our highest values on. Here are the questions along with my answers:

-What's the first thing I think about in the morning? There's Jack on the monitor. Better get him before he wakes up Sammi...oh, too late.
-What does your schedule tell you about your priorities? Mon: Ballet and Tap; Tues: KinderJam; Wed: Ballet and Tap; Thurs: MOPS/playdate; Fri: Mother's Day Out Program; Sat: T-ball; Sun: Sunday School and Family Movie Night
-As you look at your checkbook, what gets paid, no matter what? Everything gets paid. But if it ever became an issue, I would pay less on my student loan before I took my kids out of anything.
-What do you find yourself talking about most? The blog don't lie! Mostly kids, kids, kids.
-What's the last thing you think about when your head hits the pillow at night? God, please protect my husband and his buddies.

I am a stay-at-home mom, so it didn't surprise me at all that (with the exception of one) my answers were all centered around my duties to the kids. They really are my whole world, and I am so happy and so blessed to be able to stay home with them before they start school. However, as involved a mother as I am, I still feel like I am slighting them relationally.
Since I am not working, most of the day-to-day household chores rest on me. (As they should; I am the person here most of the day.) So yes, I am a mother. But I am also a housekeeper. No one would argue against which one of those titles should take higher priority over the other. But I often find myself feeling guilty at some point in the day because I focused more on the housework than on my kids.

I'll try to be a bit more specific here. After we get home from the kids' morning activity each day, I feed the kids lunch and put Jack down for his nap. Even though my son is 18 months old, he still regularly naps between 2 1/2-3 hours each day. (Get jealous!)
Obviously, this is a very productive time for me. I usually try to take the first thirty minutes or so to knock out some pressing chore while Sammi plays a computer game or quietly in her bedroom, and then (ideally) I meet up with Sammi to spend one-on-one time with her until Jack wakes up. More often than not, though, I always find one other thing that I want to get done around the house, and Sammi ends up playing on the computer for an hour...or an hour and a half. Or she gets bored after an hour and plays quietly in her room for an hour before she asks me to come upstairs to play and I am able to knock out one 15 minute game of Princess Yahtzee before the laundry needs to get switched over...and then I am distracted all over again.

And here's the truth--the chores I do in the house during this time are pointless. I have two preschoolers. If I sweep the floors, then someone is sure to leave graham cracker crumbs all over the downstairs the moment I give it to them at snack time. If I do the laundry, then Jack is sure to pee all over the sheets in his crib. If I take out the trash, we will just make more. If I do the dishes, they will shortly reappear in the sink. If I mow the grass, it will continue to grow for me to cut it the next week.
These chores that I find so pressing in the moment are easily done and just as easily undone. They will always be there for me to do--Piling up in the sink, pouring out of the hampers, crumbling and being tracked across the floor. What will not always be there is Jack's lengthy afternoon nap. (It is a blessing, but a fleeting one, I know!) And once Jack's naps are gone, so are my one-on-one opportunities to play with Sammi.
In fact, my time at home with them won't last forever. They will not always be preschoolers who live with me every hour of the day. One day, they will not live with me at all. And I can promise you, even then, the stupid dishes will still be there!

So here is my goal from here on out. Thirty minutes--that's it! Everything else that doesn't get done can just wait until after the kids go to bed.
(Because the Lord knows I need an excuse to keep me off of Facebook!!)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

40 Days...Day 1

Today during church service, the pastor introduced us to a new series- 40 Days of Love. To correspond with the message the church issued out each family a book entitled "The Relationship Principles of Jesus" which has a lesson for us to read throughout the next 40 days and then we are to discuss the teachings with a small group (my church's form of a Bible Study.)
Well, Sunday small group times don't fit in with my kid's nap schedules and it is a lot of driving and gas to try to get there any other day of the hello, small group :)

Today's introductory chapter asked us to focus on the point that relationships are the most important thing in the world. Not stuff. Not status. Our greatest purpose in life is to love God and to love other people. (Mark 12: 29-31)

I have to say honestly here, because I am just starting this devotional and talking to cyber-space, but I did not think that I would be very moved by this series when it was first presented. Why? Because I am already a "Golden Rule Girl." I feel like I am a genuinely nice person--friendly to everyone, even when I don't want to be. And I am highly considerate of other people's feelings, at times feeling overly-empathetic. Almost like if I made myself be any nicer, I would turn into a doormat.

Then I read the first sentence of the introduction to this stinkin' book... "If I asked you what your number 1 goal is in life, what would be your answer?" Our pastor asked us this question this morning too, but I didn't know my answer. Tonight I thought about it a little longer. What I want more than anything else--as trivial as it sounds-- is acceptance. Acceptance from everyone. I want strangers to like me. I want my kids to like me, even in their teenage years (shooting for the moon on that one.) I want my husband to like me, even when I wake up in the morning and my breath smells and I have a dried spit puddle on the sheets. I want my friends to like me so much that I never have to worry about how my social calendar will stack up. I want my Facebook "friends" to like me so much that I never have a single status update go un-commented or un-liked. (lol) I could go on and on here, but you get the jist...
Wanting people to like me so much means that I am doing every nice thing in my power to earn their acceptance. I am friendly, because I want those friendly feelings returned. This might not be all that terrible in and of itself. But it's still not right.
At the end of each chapter there is a "question to consider." Today's is "Have I asked Jesus if I'm doing what's most important?" As soon as I read that, I knew that Jesus would tell me 'no.' Being nice and friendly to people is one thing; loving them is quite another. (I do want to put in a side note here to say that I do deeply and madly love my children and my husband and I am so wonderfully grateful and full of love for my friends.) However, I have come to the revelation today that if I am doing any nice thing for any other reason than doing it out of love, then I am getting it all backward. I must act on love first for the sake of love--then any extra happy inkling I get out of it is a fortunate side effect.

So there's my Day 1. The journey begins. And I am very much hoping I get as much out of it for the next 39 as I did today.