July 15, 2015

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

I was having the perfect day.  I'm talking flip flops, windows down, music up, not a care in the world.  I couldn't have found anything wrong with life if I tried.  Then, with the ting of an incoming text message, that all changed. 

Within seconds of reading the message, I felt icky...shaky really.  If it had been the movies, I'd have cued the rain and Hallmark Channel music to match my mood. 

What could the text have said to change my day so quickly?  Was someone I love hurt?  Did I receive a lifetime ban from Krispy Kreme?  No, a friend said something that hurt my feelings.  Yep, sounds very elementary school when I see it in writing but there you go. 

See, I am a people person.  Even if you are not so loveable, I will still love you because I just know I will be the one to change you from an Eeyore into a Pooh Bear!  But I especially love MY people, the friends I share life with, and if anything is wrong with them my whole world feels off balance.

This time (finally), I really and truly gave the situation to God.  He helped with the ickiness, gave me grace goggles to see their perspective and by the next day, my world was in balance again. 

But as I explained what happened to my ever-patient husband, my own words convicted me (don't you love when that happens!).  I told him that friendships mean so much to me that if something is wrong with one of them I feel unsettled and unsure all around.  Immediately, Matthew 7:26 came to mind: "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Uh oh!  Without meaning to, I had been building my life on a foundation based on my relationships with others instead of on my relationship with God.  No wonder things could feel shaky from just one little text.  The slightest wind and rain of life had sent my house crashing down.  God wants us to have friendships but when so much of our joy hinges on anything other than Him, it's a signal that something is out of balance.    

Many of us are standing on foundations that were never intended to steady us; our marriages, motherhood, financial security...not bad things, just not God.  Thankfully, the answer is found in Matthew 7:24-25: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."

We are only as strong as our foundation and I'm determined to build my house upon THE ROCK!

July 8, 2015

Keeping God At Arm's Length

(first posted August 18, 2013)

Our old tabby cat is one of those special pets that show up out of nowhere and claim you.  Personally, I think those tend to be the best pets of all.  It was a rainy day about seven years ago when she wandered onto our porch hungry, pregnant and with a snaggletooth that makes her drool from one side of her mouth.  How could you not love her???  Cracker, as she was so lovingly named by our then 4 year old son who has a knack for naming pets, has been a fixture in our home ever since. 

"Fixture" is the perfect word to describe her because unlike our other cat, Cheerio (told you he had a knack for naming), Cracker has simply been a part of our house and nothing more.  She's shown zero interest in having a real relationship with us.  Yes, she relies on us for basics like food and shelter but anything deeper is outside her comfort zone.  In fact, it would be easy to get frustrated with her lack of interest in us after all we have done for her, but every time I look into that snaggletoothed face, I see a cat who has probably been hurt, rejected and abandoned along the way.  So, I just keep loving her in whatever small doses she will allow in hopes she will one day come around.

Well just this morning, I was sitting on the front porch enjoying a cup of coffee when along came Big Mama Crackalacka  (we like nicknames in this family).  Anyway, I knew not to make any sudden movements so I continued about my business while occasionally watching her from corner of my eye.  Before long, she was weaving in and out of my legs and swishing me with her tail.  I slowly reached down and even though she jumped a little, she let me pet her.  Victory!

Soon, she was soaking up the love and purring...actually purring people!!!  As I watched her finally let down her guard I was a little sad thinking of all the years this dear thing had gone without the love and affection that was there for her all along.  Then it hit me, or actually a "still, small voice" whispered to me that I had been Cracker.  I have been a Christian most of my life but for the majority of it, I had kept God at arm's length.  Like Cracker, I had been hurt, rejected and disappointed by others.  I let the fear of being let down again keep me from the very One who would never let me down.  What a shame to have missed out on true intimacy with God, true peace, joy and contentment when it was there for me all along. 

God gave me a place in His kingdom just as we gave Cracker a place in our home but He has so much more to offer.  He knows our fears and is patiently waiting on the day we finally let down our guard and begin a true relationship with Him.  Please let go.  Please trust God for more than your salvation.  I know it sounds scary but it's the least risky thing you could ever do and oh so worth it.  Don't rob yourself of Him any longer!  He's waiting.   

Update:  Although it breaks our hearts to have lost our Big Mama Crackalacka earlier this week, I'm happy to share with you that she really did learn to trust and let us love her.  She went from just being a "fixture" to part of the "mixture" that makes our house a home.  And just like Cracker, I think I've learned to trust God a little more too.  

P.S. - Cracker passed away peacefully in her favorite sunning spot!

March 10, 2015

20 Reasons I'm Even More AWESOME In My 30s Than I Was In My 20s!

So, here I am at 38 and I have absolutely no idea how I got here.  It's like how everyone hates going to Wal-Mart but at some point, you end up there anyway.  In my twenties, I thought getting older was to be dreaded, but actually, I think your thirties is when you really start to get the hang of things.  In fact, here's 20 reasons I am even more awesome now than ever before:

1.      I know who my friends are.  I also know who my acquaintances are and am finally wise enough to know the difference.  For more on how to develop the wright friendships, check out my post, The Beggar's Cup

2.      I have learned to laugh at myself.  Who cares if I snort when something funny catches me off guard or I make up words thinking they are legit...they should be!

3.      I'm over it!  Troy ditching me in 5th grade for my frienemy was his loss.  Seriously though, once I truly gave God all the hurts I'd accumulated along the way, He healed them and scars don't seem as bad as wounds.  Where once there was shame, mistrust and fear, there is now forgiveness, understanding and peace.  Remembering events from my past isn't painful anymore, they are simply the bricks that made me who I am today.  

4.      I have kids to help with the housework.  I hate to dust and at 38, I don't have to!

5.      I take the time to consider criticism from friends and am slowly learning to ignore it from everyone else.

6.      I don't have to be tan all the time.  Who needs that pressure?

7.      I'm more confident than ever before.  Not the kind of confident that comes because my hair has it going on or I'm struttin' a new outfit.  The genuine, stick-around kind that can't be shaken by the enormous zit that's made it's debut on my chin (yeah, still getting those at 38.  Like Tina Fey, I have the chin of a teenager!).  I still  have my moments of course, but the more time I spend with the Lord, the more beautiful I feel and the more confidence I display.  It's the reason I can say...

8.      I finally love my body.  It's healthy.  It's happy.  It's adored by my husband.

9.      I can tell people "no."  Would you like for me to elaborate?  No, I won't.

10.  I worry less.  I wouldn't say I don't worry at all, but definitely much less.  Turns out, the more time I spend with God, the more I trust Him.  Spending time with God seems to conquer a lot of my problems; wish I'd have realized that in my 20s!

11.  I've learned it's okay to not know what you want to be when you grow up.  I still don't know.  Is it too late to be a fighter pilot?

12.  I can run errands without any make-up on.  That's something I would have never done in my twenties.  Has my face gotten better?  Nope.  I just figure that if you know me, then you know what I look like when I'm fixed up and if you don't know me then why should I care what you think? 

13.  I care less what others think.

14.  I don't have to eat like a lady all the time.  In my twenties, I ate cute little salads s-l-o-w-l-y so I wouldn't finish eating before any guys at the table.  Now, I'm trying to beat my husband to the last hot wing! You do not want to get between me and hot wings!

15.  I talk to myself and no one cares because that's what old people do.  I'm really good company, by the way!

16.  I'm no longer waiting on...the perfect guy, job, house, kids, etc.  I'm simply enjoying right now.

17.  I accept help from others.  Gone is the girl who didn't need a man and could do everything on her own.  I know my strengths and weaknesses.  I've realized that where I struggle, my husband and friends excel and by accepting their help, I'm getting even more awesome every day.

18.  No one expects me to be cool, so if I am, great and if not, I get a pass.  I love cardigans.  I say "awesome," like it's still the 90s.  Want to see my playlist?  I'm not ashamed that I rock out to *NSync and George Michael.  I watch the History channel on purpose and am in bed by 9:30.  That's how I roll.

19.  I know who I am.  I'm a people-loving, rule-following girl (guess I'll always consider myself a girl) who loves Jesus.  I think too much but laugh a lot too.  I'm dorky, honest, loyal, and a good friend who loves to talk and adores run-on sentences. 

20.  I like who I am.  It took 38 years to be able to say that but I finally can and that's worth every line and grey hair.

Job 12:12 says, "Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?"  So, if we are this awesome in our 30s, just imagine how incredible we will be in our 60s!

February 5, 2015

The one thing I neglected to do as a mom

"Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Genesis 22:12 

Being a mom is by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do.  And being a "good" mom?  Well, that's as illusive as chasing the end of a rainbow.  It's the only job where the skill requirements change from moment to moment so you can never master them.  So, what do I do?  What any Type A mom would do...I consult my good mom checklist:

ü      provide home-cooked meals (I even wear an apron which I think deserves bonus points)
ü      help with homework and volunteer at school
ü      pray with the kids and teach them about Jesus
ü      instill good manners (work in progress)
ü      teach them to be a good friend and stand up for others
ü      cart them around in the Mom Mobile to baseball, soccer and tumbling
ü      always have cookies in the cookie jar
ü      pray for them

My goal is to be June Cleaver but cooler.  You know, I'm an expert stain remover but I can also do the Nae Nae.  I thought my list covered all the biggies but this morning I realized it was missing the most important thing of all!

Give my kids to God!

This realization stung a little.  It's a lesson I should have learned the last time God showed it to me, but I can be a tad bit stubborn (hmmm, wonder if that's where my kids get it from?  Nah, must be the hubby's fault).  We adopted our youngest through the foster care system.  It's a process that often requires long waits of not knowing if you will have the child for another week, month or forever.  During this time with our daughter, God showed me that our oldest was no more "ours" simply because he was born to us than the child we longed to adopt.  Both of their futures were in God's hands, not ours.  Our children belong to the Lord.  Yes, He's entrusted us to help raise them with Him, but they are His!

If they belong to Him already, how can we "give them back" to Him?  I think it's a matter of simply acknowledging before the Lord that they belong to Him.  We see this in Genesis 22:1-12 where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.  It's a beautiful foretelling of how God would one day sacrifice His only son to save us but also an example of entrusting everything we have to the Lord's will, especially our children. By placing the child he'd waited 25 years to hold on the altar, Abraham is giving him back to God. 

What happens when you give them back to God?  Honestly, at first it was a little scary.  I like having control and this was completely relinquishing it.  Of course, I never really had control to begin with, but I had fooled myself into the comfort of thinking I did.  After that brief moment of fear came peace!  After all, who's a better person to care for my kids than the One who made them?  As hard as it is to imagine, God loves them even more than I do.  He wants what's best for them and can provide it.  I think the One who controls the seas can control my kids' futures just fine.  With that peace, also came relief.  Now I know it's not all on my husband and I to parent, we are partnered with the best Daddy that's ever been!

Let's pray together ~

Lord, letting go of my children is scary.  Somehow, all the worry and effort makes me feel like I have control.  Like if I do everything just right, no harm will come to them and they'll always choose to make right decisions.  I realize that worrying won't accomplish anything but trusting you will.  I know my children don't belong to me; they are yours, Father.  Thank you for trusting me to raise them with you.  Though they have always been and always will be yours, I give them back to you just as Abraham did with Isaac.  I trust you with their hearts, their futures and with their very lives.  Thank you for loving them even more than I do.  I know they are in good hands!

ü      Give my kids to God

For more information on how I handled the adoption process, check out my post http://inthewrightdirection.blogspot.com/2013/10/when-your-daily-bread-isnt-bread.html

January 22, 2015

"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14

Let's be bold enough to be who God created us to be. There's only one of you and one of a kinds are much more valuable!  

January 13, 2015

The UGLY truth behind why I didn't WANT to forgive them

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."  Colossians 3:13

Yep, you read the title correctly... I didn't want to forgive the person who hurt me.  I thought I did.  In fact, I begged God to help me forgive them and let it go.  I didn't like the way the bitterness of unforgiveness tasted in my life and I didn't like the distance that it caused between God and I.  I asked God,

"Why am I having such a hard time healing from this?"

After all, if you read my last post, "Forgiveness isn't always a one time decision," you know I thought it should be a piece of cake.  Well let me warn you right now, don't ever ask God for an answer if you don't want to hear what He has to say because He will answer you.  My answer came while I was reading my Bible (amazing what you learn when you actually make time for God, huh?).   I thought I was safe because I wasn't even reading about forgiveness.  I was reading in John chapter 5 about the paralytic by the healing waters of Bethesda.  When Jesus asked the man "do you want to be made well," it was if He was speaking directly to me.  I thought, "Of course I do, that's what I've been praying for."

But when I sat still and listened to what God was telling me, I realized I really didn't want to be healed.  I was like the proverbial monkey that sticks his hand in a small hole to retrieve a piece of fruit and remains trapped because he's unwilling to release his grip.  I wanted the benefits that come with forgiving someone; a restored relationship with Christ and to be free of that icky feeling that hangs around, but I didn't want to let go so I remained stuck.  So, then came my next question,

Why won't I let it go and forgive?

Guess what?  That answer came while I was reading my Bible again a few days later.  This time it was Luke 17:3-5, "If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.   Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.  The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!'  I have never noticed the connection between these two verses but God made sure I did that day.  When told they should forgive someone over and over, the apostles said, "Lord, increase our faith."  We need faith to forgive!
Why wasn't I trusting God with this situation?

The answer was an ugly one.  I was afraid God would let them get away with how they'd treated me.  They had hurt me and I wanted justice.  I'm not sure what I expect God to do...turn them into a pillar of salt? Smote them?  Cause them to stump their toe in the middle of the night and tell them, "booyah, that was for Kathy?"  I don't even know what it means to be smoted but it doesn't sound good at all!  I sure don't want to be smoted when I mess up but I was perfectly fine with it happening to them.  Told you the truth was ugly.

That ugly truth made me ugly on the inside for a while.  Like I said in my last post, healing took time.  It took allowing God to change me.  I had to focus on the log in my own eye rather than glaring at the other person.  I don't care much about seeking justice any more.  I've realized I'm not a very good judge and I've got too much of my own stuff to work on to worry about what God is doing with someone else.  Plus, I finally realized it's none of my business.  God is good to me.  I've been forgiven far more than I could ever deserve. I need every ounce of grace God freely extends my way and so do they. 

P.S. - I looked up the word "smote," and it means to strike or hit hard with the hand, a stick, or other weapon."  And the past tense is "smit," but I don't like that as much and since it's my blog, I'm leaving it as "smoted."

January 7, 2015

Forgiveness isn't always a one time decision...it's often a process

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:31-32 

I've never thought of myself as being an unforgiving person.  In fact, I've forgiven something so horrible I thought any future wrongs would be a piece of cake to forgive.  You know, like once you've climbed Everest, walking up the hill at the entrance to your neighborhood shouldn't be a big deal.

So, why was this particular hill such a big deal?

  1. I was still on the hill.  I've learned it's one thing to forgive a past hurt and a whole other story to forgive in the middle of the hurt.

  1. They weren't sorry.  Not one little bit.  But that's fine, we forgive because that's what our Daddy tells us to do.   And our Daddy tells us to forgive because that's what's best for us.  You've heard it, you know it...unforgiveness eats you up but does nothing to the other person. 

  1. I may have taken a few (dozen) pity-party stops along the way which made the journey take longer than necessary.  I'm learning this is a complete waste of time and the sooner I can put on my big girl undies and take God by the hand, the sooner we can get to the good stuff.

  1. I needed time...and that's okay!  Time truly does heal and with that healing comes perspective.  
Growing up, I both loathed and loved my summer camp's annual climb to the top of a nearby mountain.  The climb was difficult at times and made up of unsure steps and usually a fall or two.  Probably the worst part was not being able to see an end in sight until you emerged at the top of the tree line.  But when you finally made it to the top, you could look back, see how far you'd come and know it was worth it!

Thankfully, this situation ended much the same way.  I was able to forgive and more than that, I grew in the process.  I know it's hard to believe, but I actually had things I needed to work on and this helped me see that.  Forgiveness isn't always a one time decision, especially in an ongoing situation.  Sometimes, it's a process you simply have to take step by step with God until you can look back and know it was worth it.  I would never have chosen to be hurt and never have willingly put myself in an uncomfortable situation but when I look back on how much I've grown, I'm almost thankful the person hurt me.  Seriously! 

Unfortunately, we are all going to have hills we have to climb, all have hurts to forgive.   But when we do it with God, it's doable.  It's true..."God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28