Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why Do I Care?


That's me.  The woman you see in the left-hand corner.  She looks very confident and sure of herself.  I mean, just a few years ago she never would have made such a face, much less shared it on social media with her friends and family.

But that's just what she did.

One day, she feels comfortable enough in her own skin to do things like that.  The next day may be completely different; she may even hate herself because she ate one piece of junk food.  She steps on the scale and lets the number determine her outlook on life.  She may start worrying about what so-and-so must have thought about her when she laughed at an awkward moment or said something stupid.  She wonders how she can be so old yet feel so little.

And then, she really starts to feel miserable.

She forgets - too easily - who she is.  Not who she is all on her own, but who she is with the God who took her and made her a new creation in Him.  She forgets what He has done for her, and why these things are so trivial in the end.

Because, it's not who we are today as much as it is who we are tomorrow.  How I 'feel' should never determine how I live my life.  Feelings are never stable.  They don't last forever.  They can easily be swayed.

The Bible says, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." (Psalm 118:8)  It is better to fully trust in the Lord for everything we may need or desire, than to have that trust in man who will sway with the wind.

My heart should be completely engrossed in the living God that I don't care too much about what I am wearing or how I talk, or what I eat and how I eat, or if I offend anybody.  (That is not to say that we shouldn't care at all, as Paul was saying in Romans 14:21.)

But we should be confident enough in the Lord that the worry and the wondering shouldn't consume us.... which is why I sometimes break away from social media altogether, because I don't want to cave to wondering why so-and-so did not 'like' my comment or comment on my post.

But, there is also the flip side.  We are warned not to become over confident, either:

"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12)

In all reality, worrying so much about what others must think of me, is actually very selfish.  I should be caring for others with the energy I have exerted in worry and carefulness.  What about the widows and orphans God tells us to care about?  What about the person next door you have never talked to but see looking lonely?  What about the many who have not heard the Good News of our Lord and Savior?? -What about them?

Finally -

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6)

The most commonly quoted version of the verse above uses the word "anxious" in place of "careful."  But I think the word "careful" is much more meaningful.  All we have to do is merely not care much about anything, but instead pray with thanksgiving - basically, leave it in His lap and forget about it.

So, as I sit here in my yoga pants and oversized t-shirt I'm going to finish reading God's love letter to me, dump my thoughts and cares completely on Him, knowing that my confidence is in Him no matter what I do or what I say, and ask Him to lead me in the way everlasting.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rush, Rush, LIVE



Yesterday afternoon, my sweet guy called me and said he'd be home in 15 minutes.  I was so excited that, for once, he'd be off of work at a decent hour instead of working late like he's used to.

But as soon as we hung up, I looked at the big pile of dishes I hadn't been able to finish and the fact that I had just gotten home only a few minutes ago from running around town in the rain with a 4 year old in tow.  (Did you know that buckling and unbuckling a car seat can add about 10 minutes to your shopping spree?)

Oh no, I thought, he's going to be home and I haven't finished everything yet!

The perfectionist in me reared it's ugly head and told me I should have done this -- I could have done that -- but I didn't.

Now, of course he can help me with housework (and he does!), but I like to do it myself and have it out of the way so that when he is home he can relax and we can enjoy his time off together- which is sort of limited anyway.

I looked down at my lunch - since that was overdue, too - and sighed.  I wanted him to come home, but if these things were undone now then they would be undone tomorrow, and then my perfect schedule would be all out of sync.

I spent the evening with a not-so-perfect attitude and begrudging the fact that our norm was thrown out of whack.  But when our "norm" has been eating supper without Daddy because he has to be out working late, I have pitied myself that we can't be a "normal" family where the Daddy gets home around 5p and we can all eat supper together as a family.

So... what gives?

My caring husband held me in his arms and asked what the matter was.  What was frustrating me?  How could he help?  And I told him that it was just one of those days where there is so much to do, yet so little time to do it.  Then, in an effort to help ease my troubled mind, the hard working, work-exhausted guy put aside everything else and helped me hand wash dishes.

The world would tell me just to put him to work - he can handle it.  Use him as another pair of hands to get the work done.  And besides, I've been busy, too.  Despite popular belief, housewives don't just twiddle their thumbs every day, all day.  It's not like I'm not exhausted either.

But I don't want to put him to work.  I don't want him to have extra 'chores' he has to do before he can actually relax for the evening before he has to get up the next morning and do it all over again.

When he pulls into our driveway in the evenings, I hope a sense of calm comes over him and he thinks of our home as a haven.  A haven from the non-stop busyness of the world.  A haven from the horrible traffic he sits in day in and day out, a haven from the noise, the pollution, the crazy.  Certainly not come home and find a wife who's frazzled just because he happened to get off early today.

Besides, work is work.  Housework never seems to get "done."  Dishes will still need to be washed.  Clothes will still need to be hung up.  Things will still need to be put away.  Sticky floors will still need to be mopped.  But we will grow old.  Our daughter will not be 4 years old forever.  Our family will probably change over time.  And that's both exciting and kind of scary.  Because that just means that our lives will just continue to get crazier, and more hectic, and busier.  But it will also mean that dreams are coming true.  That we will be living a lovely life - one filled with love, peace, joy and fulfillment.  One that we know is blessed of the Lord.

Of course, there is always time for work.  But I don't want it to become something that takes over our lives.  A tidy home is so much more enjoyable, I'll be the first to agree, but it doesn't have to dictate how we live.  I don't want to forget how to be spontaneous.  How to watch the sunset with my two loves while those dirty dishes continue to be dirty.  How to teach my girl to watch the birds build their nests while the table has so much stuff on it.  How to take a day trip to a new place while the laundry can't put itself away.

Because, I want to live life.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

When the Valley is Rough



I know I am fearfully overdue for another blog update... and for that, I am so sorry.  Life has just been crazy, and the crazy never stops.  I'm sure many of you know how that is! ;-)

It's hard to keep looking up sometimes, when everything around you seems to be crumbling.  First my husband had some health scares last Summer, and when we thought all of it was behind us, things still keep happening and he is put on other medications to try and help it.  We have completely changed our lifestyle, our eating habits, and he has dropped nearly 40 pounds in 11 months.  (So glad about that!)  And everything is definitely not behind us, yet.  Symptoms progress, then go away, and still others newly develop.

It's aggravating, to say the least.  And on top of everything, I suddenly realized one day a few weeks ago that maybe all of this was my fault.

You see, about a year ago I got more serious about my health and wanted my husband to join me in my endeavor to better overall health and fitness.  He seemed to be gaining weight more and more, and although he was happy and healthy (on the outside), I knew that it was only a matter of time before he could have a serious health problem.  His eating habits were not the best, he didn't exercise hardly at all, and he would often only get about 4 hours of sleep each night.

It was then that I poured out my heart to the Lord, and asked Him to do something to get my guy's attention.  I honestly didn't know what I was asking.  And when everything hit the fan over the Summer, I still had no idea what I'd done.  It wasn't until just about a month ago that I remembered praying for God to somehow get his health on a better track.

(NOTE:  I do not always pray this way, and I don't advocate praying for something bad to happen to those you love in order for them to 'wake up', but sometimes, God can use the earnest prayers of His beloved children to do His will.)

           
                  Secondly, something that has strongly been on our hearts this past year (or more), is that we have not been able to have more children.  Years ago, when I was young and dreaming of one day becoming a wife and mother, it never crossed my mind that I might not be able to have children later on.  Yes, we have had one, so that means we aren't necessarily suffering with infertility, right?  Wrong.  I have learned that I must never assume that some people just don't want children.  You never know what is going on with them.

I have cried, and I have argued with the Lord.  I have seen many of my friends continue to grow their families, and as I send them my "congratulations" I groan within and ask God why.  Why give me one when I wanted more?  Why allow me to get older and not have other children to care for?

But it is in these moments that the Lord softly reminds me that His ways are higher.  Didn't we give ourselves to the Lord when we got married and said that however many children He wanted us to have, would be fine with us?  What if His will was to give us just one?  What if trusting Him in everything meant trusting Him in fertility as well?  -And trusting Him with whatever He thought we could handle?

Perhaps, if He had given us more children by now, I would have been so engrossed in my family that I would have forgotten He Who lives in my heart.  Perhaps He needed to get my attention, somehow, someway, so that I might lean all the more onto Him - and not on those poor souls around me who might not have the strength or support that I need almost every moment of every day.  Perhaps, He wants me to fall in love more and more with Him, and not put my heart into those things I long for and desire.


But I do believe I am on the road to recovery.  I have been seeing a midwife and we are working through what the problem might be.  Do I believe with all my heart that God will allow us to be parents again?  No, although I sincerely hope so, I know that it could still be His perfect will that we parent only one child.  Or perhaps later adopt, or foster.

And it would be wrong of me to totally forget the child that God has already blessed us with.  She is a beacon of light in this dark world, she is smart, lovely, funny, beautiful and such a ray of sunshine.  (It's amazing to see her grow up so much!)  God wanted Stephen and I to be her parents, and to squander that job - that wonderful responsibility - just to feel sorry for myself and wallow in my own self-pity, would be a sin.  I strive to delight in the child He has blessed me with, when I know there are others who cannot even have one.

No, life is not "fair" and the things my family and I are going through may not amount to much compared to what you may be going through.  But as my favorite quote says, let us not forget to live when our longings have so entangled us.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

When We Don't Deserve the Blessings...


The other day, our dear, sweet 3 year old daughter, who hardly ever puts up a fuss, threw an extraordinary temper tantrum when we told her "no" to her favorite restaurant, McDonald's.

Now, you can imagine that for a little girl who absolutely loves chicken nuggets and a surprise toy, this was like the world ending to her. We gently told her that Mommy and Daddy wanted to eat somewhere else this time, but to no avail. She sobbed relentlessly, and being hungry did not help matters. After some much-needed discipline she quieted down and things were soon back to normal.  We were exhausted from the experience, but knew that this was one experience we would not soon forget (neither would she, I venture to say).

A few days later, I received a special blessing. Not only did it confirm to me (and my sweet husband) that the Lord was still definitely looking out for us, but it also reminded me of my own stubbornness to God Himself.

That blessing was to reunite with two little girls that we had lived next door to over a year ago.  They came from a broken home, reared only by a single mother who didn't seem to be around much.  And when she wasn't, they were either left home alone or under the care of a shady boyfriend.  They would constantly want to stay at our house, just to hang out, or see what they could get into. They were clearly starving for attention and love. They clung to me in an embrace, and loved giggling with Stephen or playing with our daughter. Yes, sometimes, they got on our nerves, but soon - almost suddenly - they were gone. They had moved out of state. We missed them a lot, dreaming of somehow meeting them again one day, but what are the odds of that ever happening?  We felt bad for not sharing the gospel, but now there was no way we could even try to find them.  All we could do was pray for them whenever we thought of them.

Fast forward about 13 months. I was picking up G from Sunday School class. It would be our last at this particular church, before we moved five hours away.  I recognized one of the girls among the children. The same sweet, toothless smile and bouncing hair pretties in her black hair. She remembered me right away, and we hugged.  Throughout the services, she and her sister would see me and cling to me. I was still in such shock! But my heart was overflowing inside. I couldn't wait to tell Stephen.

In my own way, I had thrown a royal fit when I didn't get what I wanted.  I cried and cried when we didn't make the move when initially planned.  I wonder, how many times has God been so exhausted because of me?

Instead of moving at the end of August, we had to delay it (due to replacement issues for my husband's job) to the end of September.  And then, when the time came, we had to delay it yet again to the end of October.

Why God? Why do You want us to be in 'limbo' all the time?? I groaned.  I wanted to get this move over with, so we could get on with our lives.

As I saw the girls' smiling, cheerful faces - the same faces I thought I'd never see again - I cried within.

Then the reality dawned on me.

If we had moved at the original date, I would have missed out on this special meeting.  I would have been happily setting up house in a totally new area, but I would have missed seeing M and N again! Even if it was for a very short time.  And, this just happened to be about 5 days before we left.

God not only admonished me, but He gave me the sweetest blessing I could ever have asked for.  Why is He so good to little ol' me?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Wait



Once again, I am reminded of this poem that I have had tucked away in my brain for the past fifteen years, at least.  There are so many things that the Lord has asked me to wait for... dreams that are sweet and precious to Him.  And yet, deep down, I know from experience that His way is best and His plan is far greater than anything I may imagine by myself.  But my faulty, sinful self just doesn't get it sometimes.  And so, once again, I feel like this poem was written by me.


Wait
by Russell Kelfer

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, "Wait."

“Wait? you say wait?" my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is Your hand shortened? Or have You not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming Your Word.

“My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and You tell me to wait?
I'm needing a 'yes', a go-ahead sign,
Or even a 'no' to which I can resign.

“You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry:
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply."

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, "Wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting - for what?"

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

"I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.
You'd not know the depth of My love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.

"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

"You'd never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

"The glow of My comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

"You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.

"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know Me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Want What I Want, and I Want It Right Now

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 
In all thy ways, acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."

Proverbs 3:5,6
The phrase "trust in the Lord" appears 19 times in the entire Bible.  "Trust in Him" appears 14 times.  The word "trust" itself appears 188 times.  Apparently, God knew we would need the reminder so often.

So many times - and I truly mean "so many" - we have dreams and ideas and wants and desires, but we forget to leave it all in the Lord's hands.  After all, we live and we breathe for His glory, not our own.  He Himself gave us those dreams and desires, so how does He want us to accomplish them?

My husband and I have been married for nearly 4-1/2 years and in that time, it seems we have always been on the run.  As if our lives are not settled.  We had a baby when we were married for just 10 months.  Then my husband got a great job that required him to move around a little bit.  We have lived in about 4 different hotel rooms over the space of six months.  And as if that wasn't crazy enough, our daughter had surgery while we were in transition.  But God was faithful, as He ever is.  We finally settled in Charleston, SC.  And after only a little over a year here, God is opening the doors for us to be moving back to North Carolina. 

I love the adventure that came when I married my Stephen.  I love the spontaneity that our lives afford us.  I really do.  But I am also a "home body."  I like the feeling of being 'settled' (at least a little bit) and setting up and beautifying our own home.  I have dreams of expanding our little family, getting back to my long-lost friend, Writing, having our own garden in the backyard, having a laundry room in our own home (and not at the apartment laundromat), teaching and introducing our girl to the country living we so love, maybe even keeping a few chickens and a goat.  Some days I get so overwhelmed, so selfish, that I just want to scream.

But we all know that is not mature.  That is not wise, or kind.  God has given us this life and we need to use it for His glory.  The Lord reminds me to seek out the good things that we have seen or done, when my life is in limbo.  He softly tells me that His will is better than mine.  And I know for a fact that He is right.  There have been so many areas in my life where I have seen Him work so eloquently.  So incredibly.  And in the end, the situation turns out perfectly.  Why would I want to intrude and mess things up?  I know His way is perfect.

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weaknessMost gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

It is far from easy, but it is magnificent to think that in my weakness, Christ's strength is made perfect.  In my weakness.  Me, who is nothing but a tiny spec in God's vast earth.  How amazing!

As we wait for the next phase of our lives to come to fruition, I am learning to trust fully in Him for everything I may need or want.  And we enjoy this life He has given us now, because if I know myself, I am going to miss it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Once Upon A Time...


My husband and I are celebrating 4 years of marriage.  That's fourteen hundred sixty gloriously trying days that have only made us stronger and more in love with each other.

The man I thought might not exist, the best friend I thought I'd never have, the love I dared hope was maybe remotely possible, but not likely, is more than possible - he is mine, and I am his.  Each and every day exceeds the previous day.  We grow more in love, we learn more about each other, and best of all - we are springing up into the greatest Love ever known to man: God's love.

This life is not a fairy tale, even though it quite often feels like it.  I don't pretend that there are very bitter days.  Long nights when something is said (or not said) or something is done (or not done).  Then someone gets so hurt deep down inside where you can't see.  "Love" doesn't seem to exist during those moments.  Anger and resentment take hold.  What follows is sometimes hours of the "silent treatment" or hurtful words that neither of us meant to say.

The Bible says, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26), so we have always made it a point to never go to bed in such a state.  If that means staying up till the oddest hours of the morning, then so be it. Our relationship is that important to us.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let me share with you how history was made. ;-)


 Let me take you back to the Summer of 2011.  I was beginning to wonder where in the world my husband-to-be was and if he even existed.  It was then that I began to be very lonely.  I was nannying part-time and also participating in my family's band, The Full Quiver, part-time as well.  But I was yearning for something - for a change of some type.  I felt restless.  I began to think about returning to India as a missionary again, and sought out friends of friends who were going back to live.  But, unlike the previous times I'd gone to India, nothing really fell into place.  So I waited.  I kept asking God why I wasn't married yet, or even met anyone who might fill that void in my heart - even the slightest bit.  The two or three guys we knew of in the community did not impress me and apparently, I didn't impress them either...

Through the encouragement of several books, I learned that God wanted me to just get busy and live life for Him.  So I decided to do just that.  I started by seeking out a full-time nanny job.  My ultimate goal was to train for some type of profession, whether it would be used here in the States or across the ocean in India.  So I decided to go with CNA (certified nurse's assistant).

By October, nothing had turned up quite yet.  I was still actively working with the family band, blogging/writing and working part-time.  At a bluegrass festival where we were playing, we met an elderly man who commended us for our music and bought a CD or two.  As we were talking, he asked if I had a boyfriend yet.  "No," I replied.  (These questions were nothing new...)  "That's okay," he answered matter-of-factedly.  "Some guy is going to come along and sweep you off your feet."  I smiled, but inwardly I wanted to scream.  Yeah right, I thought.  I'm almost 25 years old and it hasn't happened yet!

At that moment, God was probably having a good laugh at my expense.   A little over three weeks later (and one week after I had landed a full-time nanny job!), I sat in front of my computer staring in disbelief at an email from a young man wanting to "get to know" me.  (Later, we discovered that at approximately the exact same time I was talking to a pastor friend about being single and waiting on the Lord, Stephen was writing me that message.  Wow.)



This guy wasn't some random dude.  We had met him and his family 2-1/2 years previously at a GospelGrass festival in Calhan, Colorado.  During the four-day event, I took notice that his family was always pitching in to help wherever possible.  They were care-free and fun on stage and off (besides the fact that their music was so awesome!) - something I was learning to be at the time.  I remember him approaching me with one of his sisters to complement me on my singing.  He tells me now that when he first saw me, he remembers thinking that I looked cute and "mysterious."  But that's as far as it went... at least for the next two and a half years.

We emailed one another for about a month before he started calling me to chat once a week.  Our phone conversations (he in North Carolina and I in Texas) got longer and longer each time.  We talked about anything and everything under the sun, and then some.  The hours went by like minutes.  I had to pinch myself several times to make sure this wasn't a dream.  I mean, a guy who was actually pursuing me?  I never thought it'd happen.
 
Then there were the little nuggets of the Lord's sweet whispers.  As if He was saying, "Yes, my daughter, this is the one.  I chose him for you long, long ago."  Things like us texting one another at the *exact* moment in time.  Discovering we were thinking of the *exact* same thing to say at the *exact* same moment.  (And this continues to happen to this day!) 

Two months after he first wrote to me, we were ready to move forward with our friendship and call it what it really was: a courtship, a relationship!  But my thoughtful parents thought it too soon for that, so we waited.  A month.  Yes, we waited just a month (barely) and then my dad gave the okay.  We were "officially," "unofficially" courting. :-D  And we couldn't be more thrilled.


At four months, we said "I love you" for the first time.  At five months, he came to visit me and stay with my family for a week.  It was the first time in over two years we had seen each other in person.  Yet, we felt like we had known each other for ever.  At five and a half months, I went to visit him and his family.  At six months, we sealed the deal with a marriage license, a pastor, a backyard, about 40 wedding guests, and a kiss.


Our courtship wasn't a bed of roses, by any means.  In fact, it felt like just the opposite at times.  There were harsh words, sad misgivings, horrible misunderstandings, and plenty more to deal with.  It was probably one of the hardest things we've ever gone through.  But it made us stronger together.  All that mattered was that God was our King, and He was guiding us a certain way, and we went together.  Nothing else took precedence.        

            I stop to reflect on these last four years.  These "happy golden years," to quote Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I can't imagine living life without my Stephen.  He completes me like no other.  We are closer now than the moment we both said "I do."  We learn something new about each other every day.  We have our quirks.  We have a daughter.  It's crazy amazing.  The adventures never cease.  Life gets crazier and crazier.



We pray that we may glorify Him in all that we do and that He will continually be praised.