Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meddling kids?

"We would have gotten away with it too - if it weren't for those meddling kids..."
We jokingly quote the villains from Scooby-Doo when things don't go our way in the parenting realm...but it is always said with twinkles in our eyes.

Children do meddle with our freedom, our finances, and our sanity at times...but those moments are tiny little dark patches on a huge canvas FULL of color. The shadows are necessary to give the "big picture" of our lives some depth. Because of them, we can better appreciate the brilliant reds, the bright whites, and the vibrant yellows that life also throws our way.

I don't want to be 60-years-old with kids moved out of the house before I step back to appreciate the mural that I've spent my life painting. My goal in parenting is to find the proper point of view TODAY.

Perspective is my favorite word in the English language. I love to find just the right angle from which to observe a situation, to see things from a higher place. I even enjoy throwing on some rose-colored glasses on occasion...I think rose must be the color of God's grace.

Perspective changes everything. 

As parents, we can focus on the sleepless night...or we can fix our eyes on the fevered little face falling back to sleep in our arms.
We can remember the tantrums and sibling fist-fights throughout the day, or we can delight in morning snuggles, "Aha" moments, giggles, and sweet bedtime prayers.

We can complain about finding babysitters to get moments "alone", or we can rejoice in the accessibility of our little munchkins. One day they will want a "say" in their own schedules. Eventually, they will GLADLY provide us "alone time" as they shuttle off to socialize with friends (on the one free night of their weekend)...even when we secretly hoped to have some time as a family.

We can spend today grumbling about the way our children push our buttons (because they are so much like us), or we can let God grind off our own rough edges as we see our weaknesses played out in miniature form.

I'm writing this to read in my not-so-"rosy" moments. I hope it reminds me to step back, tilt my head (and maybe even squint my eyes)...whatever it takes to see the artwork in a less harsh light, to see it softened, and to see it made beautiful once again.
It's all a matter of perspective.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

SOOO Glad I Didn't Marry a Missionary

I always pictured myself marrying a pastor or a missionary.
I had a heart that wanted to share Jesus with others, so I was sure that God would send me a pious Christian leader on the "straight and narrow" path who desired to evangelize the world.

Enter: Clay
Can you read his shirt? Perfect for this post.

He was a risk-taker, a rule-breaker, a challenge-maker...and he made me laugh.
He had no intent of being a pastor or a missionary.
I fell hard and fast.

For years, my Christianity was bogged down by a list of "good intentioned" rules.
If I had married a missionary who was "spiritual" in the way I had been taught spiritual should look, I think I could have coasted along on HIS faith and "black and white" way of  looking at the world for years to come.
But God had others plans for my life (funny how that works).

Clay was a "gray-area" kind of guy.
He challenged my polarized thinking...and was just what I needed to grow in my faith.
Someday soon, I will blog about "how" God put Clay and I together (because it was definitely God who did it), but today I am sharing part of  "why" I think God put us together so many years ago.

In the early years of our marriage, I wrestled with the way Clay approached the world.
I judged the way he approached his relationship with God. I questioned him. I tried to change him.
Then something beautiful happened...and God changed ME.

I quit trying to force Clay to lead me in my faith...
and took responsibility for my own walk with God.
I quit trying to convict Clay to be what I thought he should be,
and started loving him for who he was.
I looked to the Holy Spirit for guidance in my life (and left it to Him to guide Clay's life too)...and my eyes were opened.

I saw how Clay's faith gave him patience when I would urgently rush in (sometimes causing damage). Previously, I had seen this quality as apathy...but God was using it for our good.

I saw how Clay's faith helped him hold his tongue when I would speak with venom.
Previously, I saw this quietness as a subtle attack of his own...but now I could see it as our protection. (I could never have handled harsh words from him.)

I started to intentionally look for ways to respect Clay and learn from him rather than tear him down...
and everything changed.
As I focused on learning more about God in my own life, God began powerfully moving in our marriage. Clay began leading me in the ways that I needed to be led.
I think some of the change in leadership was God blessing my obedience...but some of it was there all along and I had never allowed it to flourish.

Over the years, we have both matured in our faith (independently and together).
We have met in the middle in areas of contention.
We have challenged each other - and agreed to disagree.
And we have loved each other deeply through seeking God's perspective in the conflicts.

I still want to show the world the light of Jesus. Clay still wants to have a lot of fun.
It's powerful (and beautiful) how God has merged those two paths.
Today, we hoot and holler at the silly little things of life while we share the reason for our joy with everyone we meet.
I've learned that leadership doesn't have to meet a certain criteria. And while talking about our love for others and our desire to serve, Clay has been known to give a mischievous grin and say, "Beck, you might just be married to that missionary after all."

It is good to step back and praise God for not always giving us our way.
It's good to acknowledge how unchosen paths often make us better people.
It's helps to remember that even today's frustrations may be used for a bigger purpose than we can imagine.

Thank you Lord that the path has not always been easy.
Thank you that You will always use it for Your glory.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
Isaiah 55:8

Friday, January 27, 2012

Blog, Blog, Bloggedy Blog

If I kept my blogs short and sweet (yah, right), I bet I could blog daily.
(And if they consisted of less words, people might even be willing to read them daily.)
But daily is daunting...because I worry about BORING you.
So, I'm trying to process if your potential boredom REALLY matters to me. :)

I think I could write 7 days a week about the blessings in my life.
Some people might get tired of hearing about them. "Blah, blah, blah, God, God, God."
Others however - others might be energized by them (or inspired to look around in their own lives to find blessings).

If I tried to see the world through 2-year-old-toddler-eyes-full-of-astonishment-and-amazement, I bet I could write every day for the rest of my life on a different topic.
(Do you know there is a.beetle whose butt EXPLODES when it is threatened? There is no way this interesting little guy could have evolved. It would have cooked itself into extinction while waiting for all the protective linings it needs to survive the caustic chemicals. God gave this bug to us so we could see how interesting His mind is...and then smile at his awesomeness.)

         *The Bombardier Beetle - one of my favorite creatures that defy Evolution.*

I love being reminded to STOP and appreciate my surroundings.
If I blog about those halted "moments", maybe instead of getting bored, others might appreciate the reminder as well.

Of course, my surroundings also include strife at times...but if I blog about the lessons God is teaching me through the stress (I have to learn A LOT of lessons), maybe others could be encouraged through their own difficulties...

I'm really processing this whole "blogging thing". Out Loud. ("Waa Waa Waa Waa," says Charlie Brown's Teacher.)
So, I can blog every day. I can repeat myself at times...and I can really bore a few people.
Or I can ignore the potential boredom. I can blog each day...and re-focus my own cluttered mind so that it remembers that God is bigger.
Hmmm, maybe I don't need to worry so much about your boredom after all.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The "What If" Barrel

Today in the car, my boys reached WAY down into the bottom of the "What If?" barrel while discussing the possibility of a basketball going into the lake while playing in the neighbor's driveway.

They decided that a regular shot or pass would NOT result in the ball going in the lake, but "What if...?"
By the time they were done discussing different scenarios, the ball situation involved:
A chainsaw wielding maniac
A Wizard
An Alternative Dimension
And Micah getting impaled by a basketball (but that wouldn't involve the ball going in the lake, so I'm not sure how THAT got included).

The "what if" barrel, in the right hands, can be a powerfully awesome thing.

Clay and I were recently discussing my Grace College long-sleeved t-shirt that has gone missing. I think I left it in a hotel room in Las Vegas. I LOVED that t-shirt...and I miss it.
To make me feel better, Clay began a conversation about its destiny.

What if... a hotel maid picked it up and took it home.

And WHAT IF after wearing such a comfortable, cute shirt, she decides she wants to know where this Grace College can be found. (Maybe she can buy another awesome t-shirt!)

What if...she reads about the college, is impressed by the campus and sends her daughter there to attend school?

WHAT IF...she experiences Christ in new and powerful ways through fellow students, meaningful classes and professors who inspire her?

What if...she dedicates her life to God and her family sees the changes in her attitude, her outlook and her goals in life? WHAT IF this changing power they see in their daughter causes the ENTIRE family to dedicate THEIR lives to following Christ and loving others?

And WHAT IF the changed family impacts the whole community...which changes their city...which changes the entire state of Nevada? (We didn't discuss the repercussions of a "Christianized" Las Vegas on the economy - that wouldn't have been nearly as cheerful.)

You get the picture. We have a lot of fun with the "what if" barrel. It is a healthy tool for our family.

Caution: There is a dark side to the "what if" barrel if you don't have a firm belief that God has a plan for our lives. It can be overwhelming to look in the barrel if you do not have hope and faith in a future where things WILL work out for good.

Now if you do have that kind of faith, the dark-side of the what if barrel can even have it's benefits...
My friend, Kelly, likes to use the pessimistic side of the "what if" barrel in an optimistic way. She plays out the worst case scenario...what does THAT look like? Can we survive it? Can we thrive in it? Can good come out of it?

I like to call this the "SO WHAT if" barrel.
So what, if...you lose your job.
So what, if...your lost jobs causes you to lose your house.
So what if... your husband runs off to live with a rich woman because of your poor situation?

What are YOU called to do? How are YOU called to live? Do you BELIEVE God is bigger?
If the answer is YES, this "so what if" barrel can have a calming effect. Looking at the worst case scenario and letting it go, giving it to God and TRUSTING Him...can provide peace.

The barrel needs to ALWAYS be used in conjunction with a healthy perspective...and when it is, it can be a powerfully BEAUTIFUL (or powerfully humorous) thing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Luxury of Squeeze Jelly

Some of my friends buy convenience items which I think are a waste of money.
I thought about aggressively mocking them (and their individually wrapped, frozen, Uncrustable PB & J sandwiches) on my blog, but decided that was probably not the most productive use of my words.

So instead of dwelling on how crazy my friends can be, I'm giving you all a chance to mock ME. Here is MY list of "totally worth the money" convenience items:

Squeeze Jelly - It flows out of the bottle in a smooth and spreadable condition. I only need one utensil to make a PB&J - and no peanut butter ends up in the jelly jar (or jelly in the peanut bar jar). I've even "heard" of some men spreading peanut butter on one half of a piece of bread, squeezing a strip of jelly on the other side and folding it up. (Not even bothering to spread the jelly at all!)
Maybe if those people who buy the frozen sandwiches saw how easy squeeze jelly makes the process, they could save a little money.

Projection Alarm Clock - It shines (projects) the time on the ceiling. Before you say, "How lazy can a person BE?"...let me tell you. I don't have to raise my head, sit up, or even roll over when I want to see the clock at night. The time is RIGHT THERE LOOKING AT ME IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CEILING. I can see it out of the corner of my eye if I'm laying on my side.
I have had many people stay at our home and get HOOKED after just one night. Yes, this is a LUXURY...but I think you're worth it.

Jane Iredale Magic Mitt - I have sensitive skin and don't like to use a lot of soap on my face. I am also EXTREMELY cranky about washing my face at night (while my sweet husband just climbs in bed). I'm exhausted too. I do not want to wake myself up by splashing water all over my face (and quite often, the counter).
This Magic Mitt really IS magic. With only warm water, it removes all my make-up (including mascara). No splashing required! The special fibers get my face CLEAN without a bunch of soap - so I don't break out, dry out or rash up. All this, without much more effort than brushing my teeth. The perfect solution for a girl who would just go to bed with her make-up on...if it weren't for her sensitive skin.

Non-stick Griddle - 8 grilled cheese sandwiches served up at the same time. Pancakes for a whole crew of sleep-deprived, prepubescent boys on a Saturday morning - without the wait. Everyone eats TOGETHER - while the food's still hot. Enough said.

USB Plug in the car for an MP3 player - If it's an option, it's worth the extra "nickel". Clean music when we want it, audio books on the go, ADVENTURES IN ODYSSEYS for the kid who gets carsick. (Honestly, this was Clay's addition...but I gotta say - I can't disagree. He has a iPhone which makes this feature even MORE spectacular. He can talk on the phone HANDS FREE through the car speakers.)

Dimmer Switches - No, I don't have dimmer switches on all our lights to "set the mood". (We don't need no stinkin' switches for that...we ooze mood.) In my humble opinion, these little gems should come standard in every home (especially those with rooms for CHILDREN).
Up in the middle of the night with a toddler? No need to blind everyone.
Need something in your little one's room? Go get it, without stepping on a Lego - just use the dimmer!
First thing on a winter morning, we adults stumble into the kitchen...not quite awake. The trusty dimmer switch allows us to find our Columbian grind in serene calm. What a  blessing to have a boost of caffeine in our system before we get pelted with the bright light of day.

Bunn Coffee Maker - Speaking of coffee, (like that segue?) our Bunn coffee maker gives us 10 cups of scrumptious coffee in less than 3 minutes. It has a reservoir tank with heated water READY TO GO! No timer needs to be set for us to have coffee available moments after waking up.
Fast is also wonderful when serving a large group of people. Guests never have to wait long periods of time between pots. I can serve up a pot of regular AND a pot of decaf.
I actually think Clay's favorite "perk" from this particular coffee pot is that it irritates our friend, Woody. The pot doesn't make coffee the same way that "most" coffeemakers do. So this adds frustration for Woody on occasion as he battles to make a pot at our house. I think Woody enjoys the laughter that ensues at his expense...otherwise he would quit trying, right?

Now, if the Bunn would just bring the coffee to our room each morning, it would head the list of all the other luxury inventions. In the meantime, I am choosing not to take any of these many blessings for granted.

Yes, we're spoiled...and I'm not complaining.
What are some convenience items in your life that you are glad you don't have to live without?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Compass Should Point North

I love word pictures.
I can run a good analogy right into the ground.
I think about it, analyze it, tell others about it...and never get tired of it.
All of the stories I dwell on will no doubt become part of "Rassi family lore" one day. So, I might as well help out by writing a few of them down.

Here is the one I've been thinking about today:
I'm not an "outdoorsy" kind of gal, but years ago I heard a pastor refer to life as a bit of a hike...and I got sucked in.

If life is a journey through the wilderness, then I often choose to climb up dark, steep, slick-surfaced, mountain cliffs when I could just take the easy route. (You know, the well-lit tunnel straight through the center of the thing.) I also tend to trip over tree roots and tromp through poison ivy when I could effortlessly keep to the smooth, flower-lined path. *harumph*

Yep, that's what I do...but THAT'S not the part of the story that keeps my attention. I don't need another reminder of how I'm not perfect. I don't need to picture myself covered in muck to know I make poor decisions at times. Believe me, I got that part DOWN PAT.

The part of the story that I just can't get out of my head has to do with the object we all carry in our hand. You see, when God made us, He gave us each a compass for the journey. It points to our destination. It naturally points North, toward Christ. If we realize that we were made to go North, the Holy Spirit guides us on the path of truth and righteousness.

Some of us feel that natural desire for direction in our life, but follow money, success, or other selfish ambitions, so our compass unnaturally points South, or East, or West. The paths for those destinations are dark, lonely...and don't end well . Others of us merely put the tool in our pocket and "feel" our way through the jungle. We sniff the air, read the journals of others who have been in similar woods...and do our best to survive (while being clueless as to where we are headed and hoping it ends in a good place).

This analogy can be a challenge for some.
Which way does your compass point? Are you even looking at it? What is the final destination?

I, however, often remember this word picture when I need to cut myself some slack...or encourage someone else on the journey.
Some of us are confident that our compass points North. We LOVE our compass.
We know the destination we are working toward: to know Christ, to love Christ, to be with Him.
Unfortunately, we keep getting scrapes and bruises along the way as we claw our way up steep mountains...and we need reminded that we are still heading in the right direction.
The occasional wounds we inflict on ourselves by taking "the hard way" can teach us about our weaknesses and show us what paths NOT to take in the future. Our scars remind us that our "gut" knows NOTHING compared to the compass we have been given.

I'm glad that we are in this big jungle together.
I am so excited about my destination. I hope my journey inspires others to check out this path "North".
I want to encourage each other in this adventure, even when we fall in the mud.
Press on, my friend.
We can do this.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Random Thoughts

I suggested that a friend blog a list of Random Thoughts.
It got me wondering, "What would MY random thoughts look like in a list?"
That would be a LONG list.
What if I limit it to only 10 random thoughts?
It's a pointless blog, yes...but my curiosity is peaked. So this is my list for 10 p.m. on Sunday night. It would be a completely different list if I wait an hour.

1. I ate WAY too much today. I think I can HEAR the button on my pants groaning. Wait, that might just be me. It's an internal groan proclaiming just how full I am ...and what a fool I was to break the healthy eating plan.

2. I love my husband's hands. He's reading next to me, and keeps putting his left hand on his forehead. Even though his pinkies are completely crooked and he has a weird bump on his thumb, I love those hands. I think it's because they are strong and useful and hardworking and helpful and so much larger than mine...and familiar...they are attached to a phenomenal guy.

3. Clay and I have both been sighing a lot lately for no apparent reason. Earlier, he sighed because he was "thinking hard". I sighed a moment ago while I was typing my opening paragraph. Are we getting old or are we just THAT out of shape that we have to breathe heavily while doing mundane things? *sigh*

4. My oldest son just came out of his room and joined us in the living room after sleeping for only an hour. He thought it was already morning. He was quite confused and a bit disappointed to realize that it is still night. Maybe God woke him up to give us a laugh. If so, it worked.

5. I love my kids. They are two of my very best friends. I hope they know that.

6. Anytime I have to shout a random word or come up with something "spur of the moment"...it normally involves monkeys. MONKEYS! I don't know why. I don't particularly like monkeys. I do like referring to people as "monkeys" though.

7.  Pizza makes me thirsty.

8. Clay makes funny faces when he plays video games...and when he plays musical instruments...and when he - Hey! Clay makes funny faces a LOT. He's funny. I like that.

9. Now that big brother went back to bed, the little one started singing in his sleep. I love that he is SINGING. It says so much about his joyful little spirit. (Clay laughs in HIS sleep...what does that tell you?) Our youngest has sung since he was born. Even before he spoke his first word, he would hum himself to sleep.. Melts a mama's heart to hear that high little voice sing out, especially since most of the time he is singing about Jesus.

10. Even my random thoughts are completely wordy. Maybe next time I should make a random post with a word limit.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In the Still of the Night

3:30 in the morning must be the only time God can get me to be still...and quiet.
Or maybe it's when I can best APPRECIATE the "still and quiet" in the house, because I'm not sure that what I've been doing qualifies for either.
Outwardly, the scene may appear calm, silent...but my brain is buzzing and busy as a beehive.

I've been climbing out of bed at this time for a few nights now. Wide awake. Energized with the pressing feeling that I should be doing SOMETHING.
Is this gift of time meant for talking to God, praying for others, or just meditating and LISTENING?
I'm not sure, so I've been doing a bit of all of three...and I've wrestled with what "listening" REALLY looks like.

I've been told that listening to God requires me to:
Be quiet and still, relax, clear my mind - and be ready to accept whatever God has to offer.
I've prayed that God show me how to have this ability...cuz it is not something I can just "do".

You see, I'm "given to words". *don't even ACT like you're shocked*
My brain DOESN'T STOP...and I process my many thoughts outwardly. (on paper, in talking with others, and sometimes by talking to myself -or to God- out loud.)
It's how God made me. It CAN be beautiful. (I pray that it's beautiful.)
BUT, it can also be a problem...this "blessing of words" can get ugly.

Without God's perspective, my mind is a manic flurry of thoughts that exhaust me and fight to get out.
Without God, I struggle not to interrupt. (For years I swore it was genetic. My family always interacted with constant interjections which were meant to connect and relate. I think I was an adult before I comprehended that my way of communicating could be considered rude.)
I fight to shut up and CONCENTRATE on the words that others share with me instead of jumping ahead to my next thought or intervening with my own story.
I want to love others more than my own words or thoughts.
I want them to experience that love through my actions.
I want to be a good listener...not just a good talker.

A good listener hears all that is being shared and interjects short affirmations (or silent nods) to let the other person know that they are engaged in the conversation. I've gotten much better at doing this for others. As I have matured in my faith, I value others too much to want to walk over them. I value what I have to learn from them.

As I was processing this whole "listening concept" - it HIT me. A listener has to be ENGAGED!
All these years I've assumed I stink at listening to God...because I can't clear my mind and be "still".

But, when I listen to people...I don't just absorb words - I analyze them, I process them, I interact with them...my brain doesn't stop. My mind isn't empty. I'm a major multi-tasker when I'm truly listening, but not in way that takes AWAY from the conversation.
When I am seeing others through God's eyes, my multi-tasking adds TO the conversation.
While I am listening, I am also praying for them, hurting for them, and listening for revelation from God to share if (and how) He wants me to respond.

This 3 a.m. wake-up call has awakened a new mindset.
My interactions with God have FLOWN by each night...in peaceful, yet active, contemplation.
My body has been still. My heart has been open. My mind has been active. I've been meditating on God's word, processing it, analyzing it, praying about it - while still listening for revelation as to how I should respond.
I'm not saying that God can't show me how to still my mind. (He's already showed me how to get rid of the chaos in it...when I remember to.) But I learned tonight, in the quiet stillness, to give myself some grace when my mind doesn't mirror my surroundings.

And then morning came...and the not-so-quiet interactions wandered into the room to join me (with eyes not nearly as lively as the hair sticking straight up on their heads).

Lord, take this day. Help me to listen...to others AND to you. Reveal yourself to me in new ways. Give me understanding. Give order to my words (and my constant stream of thoughts)...so I can give YOU glory. Amen.

"My eyes stay open through the watches o the night, that I may meditate on your promises" Psalm 110:148

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chemistry FAIL...or Maybe Not?

I bought Borax.
It's a mix of Sodium and Boron which can be found in the laundry aisle of most stores.
I knew it was used in some science experiments.
I thought we could use it to make things explode.
I was wrong.
Borax is one of the LEAST flammable materials known to man. Doh!

So,  I asked, "If it won't explode...what WILL it do?"
My boys would not be interested in its cleaning properties, so I searched and discovered that Borax WILL make a very awesome, very gooey, very snot-like slime. *click on highlighted words or links*
(The boys had all kinds of fun "sneezing it" in to their hands.)

Yes, the original Borax purchase was made in the Fall (as can be seen by the MUCH SHORTER haircuts. I miss those haircuts.) The boys had spent the summer blowing things up with firecrackers (and other firework concoctions)...and they were craving more explosions.

Oh well, the slime ended up satisfisfying a different testosterone-filled craving. (All things that are gross.)

Once the holidays were behind us, new year "cleaning out" kicked in for this mama - and I happened across a BIG box of Borax which had barely a tablespoon taken out of it to make slime. (If you need some Borax, don't buy any...we have PLENTY to give away.)
Never wanting to waste anything, I began to wonder...what ELSE can we do with this stuff?
To the Internet I went...and stumbled across a few good ideas.

We still have the Christmas boxes sitting in the basement within easy reach...and it's still winter...so let's make some crystal snowflakes for our tree next year!

Doesn't Evan looked THRILLED?

No project can be completed without a little distraction.
(or in this case,  a little man that Micah made)

Snowflake ornaments are not gross or explosive, but the boys soon realized that crystallization is still pretty stinkin' cool. Pattern and structure out of apparent chaos. (sounds like our homeschool sometimes)
I love how God's mind works. I love studying the way He made things.

The crystals will "whiten up" as they dry.

Can't forget the "Don't eat  yellow snow" jokes.

Well, you may think Borax has played itself out....But WAIT, there's MORE!
(Yes, that was my attempt to sound like a cheesy infomercial.)

We found a "recipe" for Bouncy Polymer Balls. Woo hoo!
It required corn starch (which we used up doing a mythbusters experiment), so I had to make a trip to the store. Evan was so excited about making the balls that he pestered me for two days.

We tried two different ball mixtures found on the internet.
Either our expectations were much too high, or we weren't very good at measuring ingredients; because we did indeed make rubbery balls- but they only kinda, sorta bounced. Welcome to Chemistry boys - the result does not always match the hypothesis.

Can you SEE the disappointment in Micah's face?
The disgust lasted mere moments. Soon, the boys were pitching the balls to each other...in the middle of my living room. The poor snowman on the kitchen bar never saw it coming. One minute he was peering out over the couch, and in the blink of an eye, he got a face-full of casserole dish in the kitchen sink. (That was about the time the game ended.)

Well, I have a feeling there are more concoctions on the horizon. When Micah realized I bought corn starch, his first comment was, "Corn starch is FLAMMABLE, isn't it?"

God protect my boys as they learn about Your world. Amen.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Trip to the Wizard, and I got a HEART

I was raised in a home where alcohol was "from da devil".
Crude language was ANYTHING that might offend ANYONE...ever.
A clean house had "a place for everything and everything in its place."

Life was very black or white - grey wasn't even discussed.
My parents had the BEST of intentions. They did an awesome job.
But the eyes of this little girl saw things very differently than they MEANT her to see them.

I became very good at following the rules (except when I didn't...but I made sure to hide that side of me as much as possible.) I got very good at outwardly jumping through hoops while inwardly hiding my temptations or struggles. I couldn't let anyone think less of me. (OK, I still fight with that kind of thinking sometimes.)

From birth, I loved the idea of God and all the facts I knew about Him.
I also learned to fear Hell... and I KNEW that the way to a peaceful life, true joy, and eternity in Heaven was found through following Christ.
So...I committed my life to Him when I was in elementary school.

Unfortunately, God was still pretty vague to me.
He was a mass of wonderful, happy feelings mixed with judgement. He was sacrificial love mixed with a set of rules to follow. My view was limited, skewed, and immature.

I loved the God that others had told me about. 
The Biblical Jesus was POWERFUL, compelling - I genuinely wanted THAT God in my life, but I had only experienced Him in fleeting moments on my own. 
I depended heavily on the church and my parents to show me how to live out my faith.
The thing is, the church and my parents are very human - and flawed. I still ended up seeing Christianity as a set of expectations to meet and felt a need to "earn" God's love.
I knew I could never be perfect, so I fought against that flawed version of God, because it didn’t seem RIGHT…and in my fight, sometimes I ended up fighting against the TRUE God as well.
In Hebrews 5:11-14, scripture compares spiritual maturity to the growth of a child.  A baby drinks milk and moves on to meat as he grows. New Christians start with the basics of faith and move on to a deeper, more mature faith over time.
Honestly, I was a spiritual milk drinker for 30 years. 
Once in a while I might chew on a piece of meat...but my diet consisted mostly of milk that others gave me.

Without diving into God's word on my own, I became what my old pastor referred to as a tin soldier. I was a soldier for Christ that still felt a bit hollow. A soldier who wanted something REAL – but I wasn’t sure how it was supposed to happen.
I looked like a lot of my fellow church attenders - We knew how to “look good” and how to “fight the battle”, but we weren't filled with the LIFE and POWER found in the heart of God..so the battle was HARD. I was a Christian with an inside that was still needing MORE. I was a tin soldier.

There were weak moments when I was tempted to fill my yearning for more with sin...and I gave in. The conviction of the Holy Spirit rocked my world each time I climbed into the muck...but in I would climb. I told myself I was an ANGEL compared to my peers...I RARELY crossed the "acceptable" line. (Anything to justify my weak moments.)
I loved Jesus, but since my view of love was that of an infant - confused, uneducated, needy - I also acted like a child at times and rebelled. And I didn't rebel by swearing or by gossiping (or any of the more "acceptable" sins). If I was going to feel guilty, I might as well make it count. I would get drunk or fool around with my boyfriend...I even tried smoking pot a few times. *insert shocked faces by many people who know me*

Knowing truth and choosing to act against it…is one of the darkest places a person can be.
In a spiritual battle, choosing the losing side is bound to cause pain.

God was able to use the pain I experienced to help me understand that there really IS supposed to be MORE to faith. I started seeking this "more" through accountability groups, church services, worship music. It helped me feel like I was DOING something. Getting married and becoming a parent also peeled away a few more layers that were keeping me from finding MORE. (It really changes things when you realize you are a child of God and that HE feels toward you the way you feel toward your child...no hoops required).

FINALLY, in my 30s, I led a Bible Study group and was “forced” to read my Bible and journal my prayers daily for over a year. I did it because “I had to be an EXAMPLE to others in the class”.
It was the first time EVER that I actually spent consistent time with God for more than a month or two.
When you spend time with someone, you start getting to know them…and when you spend a LOT of time with someone, you can even take on some of their characteristics - without even trying. (just ask Clay, he’s turned me into him)

I quit just knowing ABOUT God and started realizing how His heart beats.
I studied about Jesus and the example He set for us when He walked this earth. He showed love to sinners. He let them disagree with Him. (They had that choice.) He kept leaders in the church (Pharisees/Sadducees) accountable. He made it clear to them that faith is not about “looks” or laws.
In my time reading and praying, I built a relationship with Jesus - and became a REAL, LIVE soldier with a heart that is at peace (most of the time) and that beats for something bigger than myself. Something bigger than the world. Something bigger than my own marriage or family. (THAT was a hard lesson to learn and a whole other blog.)

I wish it hadn't taken me 30 years.
I wish I would have avoided some of the pain I caused myself in my rebellion, but wishing won't change my past. Instead, I choose to revel in the fact that God can use our pain for HIS GLORY.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
God has work for ALL of us to do.
Yes, we have ALL probably taken a few rabbit trails on the paths He has for us, but all is not lost. We can help others AVOID those same rabbit trails through sharing our experiences and by modeling the life of REAL soldiers - with hearts that beat in rhythm with God's - fighting on the behalf of others, defeating the enemy, and giving our lives for the FREEDOM we can have through a relationship with Christ.

Part of MY work is writing to you…and loving you even if you think I'm ridiculous.
I plan to encourage you on your path EVERY CHANCE I GET.
I will show you love  – even if you still have more hard lessons to learn. 
And I will pray that you can escape further pain, by knowing TRUTH and God’s perspective and plan for your life. (Not the plan the world has for you OR the plan your parents may have had for you OR the plan you've been scheming about while seeking more...but the plan that GOD has for you.)

I shared a bit about my journey in hopes that you also might experience MORE...by making a commitment to Christ, or by seeking spiritual meat on your own rather than being satisfied with mere milk, and by KNOWING God. I'm so thankful He's not just a set of rules.

OK, that’s enough words..for now.
Press on,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I knew I forgot something...

So, I sort of forgot my husband's birthday.
He was out of town, and I knew he wouldn't be around to celebrate - so I put it out of my mind. WAAAAY out of my mind.
I had a big day. Friends came over, the boys started wrestling club.
I had lots to do, lots to remember.

I talked to my dear Clay on the phone. I asked him about his day.
We had quite the chit-chat...and he said NOTHING about his birthday. Not even a hint.

If you know the man I married, you know that his silence was not due to anger, or sadness or feeling neglected. Oh, he KNOWS his birthday is important to me and that it would bother me if I forgot it.
Instead, he thinks it is HILARIOUS if I slip up on something like that. In fact, I  think he WANTED me to make it the entire day without birthday songs or discussions of gifts.
You see, if I forgot, he could pick on me about this FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.

I should confess that I had plenty of opportunity to remember Clay's big day.
The friends that came over at lunchtime were celebrating birthdays and anniversaries of their own! I wished them happy days and was very excited to celebrate with them... but never thought about the actual DATE. (That's a big downfall to being a stay-at-home mom, I'm lucky to know what month we're in.)

My saving grace came in the form of wrestling practice.
It was the first one of the season, so we had to fill out registrations...with the DATE next to our signatures.

It was like I ran into a wall, it hit me so hard. The air went out of me.
OH NO! I completely FORGOT!
I felt HORRIBLE...for about two seconds.
Then my eyes narrowed and I started processing....
I had talked to Clay multiple times while he held his tongue and laughed inwardly...that conniving little stinker.

A smile crept across my face. He didn't make it through the entire day fooling me.
I REMEMBERED on my own.

Yes, it was 6:00 at night before my brain woke up, but it DID wake up!!!!
The boys and I called and sang Happy Birthday to our hero - and he told us how funny I was all day as I forgot about him.

I love that man.
I love that he takes every opportunity to laugh - and remind me that this life is just a moment to enjoy. I love that he knows my heart and gives me such grace.
He has taught me so much in that area. God has used him to teach me how to breathe in this busy world.
What a great gift God gave me when He made Clay - and when He put us together...
And He DID put us together...maybe I'll share that goofy story another day.

Clay is 39 years old now, still going on 14...and I'd have him no other way.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thank God for Fleas!

No, not Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers who I blogged about here.
I've moved on to the little annoying bugs.
Just the thought of them makes me itch.
(I bet some of you just got the desire to scratch your head too...You're welcome.)

While you're digging your nails into your scalp, here is something to think about...
A few years ago, my mom shared with me about a woman named Corrie ten Boom.
Corrie was a prisoner in a Jewish concentration camp who survived to write about her experience.
In one of her books, she shared how her sister (who was in the camp with her) would thank God for EVERYTHING - even the lice and fleas that were biting them and infesting their lives. Her sister had such a pure faith in God that she knew He could use EVERY difficulty for His Glory.

Corrie thought she was crazy. (I COMPLETELY understand that thinking.)

After the war, Corrie found out that the lice and fleas WERE indeed a gift from God.
Because of those lice and fleas, the soldiers stayed away from the women who lived in that part of the compound. The women could worship God each night without being killed or punished. They were able to go about their work without being harassed or raped by the soldiers. The enemy would not come near them - all because of the lice and the fleas. Her sister was RIGHT to thank God for those miserable little bugs.

Mind. Blown.
As I look back at the darkest parts of my life...I can see how I grew through the difficulties.
I can see how they changed me, made me stronger, and pruned away parts of me that were not focused on God. (yes, there is still pruning to be done)
Most of all, I look back and see how God has always been WITH me.

So why, in the middle of the pain, when I feel like I'm drowning, or when I'm covered with lice and fleas...do I often forget that God has a plan for my life? I forget to thank God for the rough moments. I forget to sit on the edge of my seat and wait anxiously for what HE is going to do with those hardships and how HE is going to bring light out of darkness.

No matter what I'm going through today, I want to thank God for the opportunity. If Corrie's sister could be a starving prisoner eaten by bugs and PRAISE God, I'm sure I can live my blessed life and thank God for every breath I take (even if it has a little wheeze in it).

Do me a favor, won't you? Remind me of this if you hear me complaining.
God is in control. He is bigger...ESPECIALLY bigger than tiny ol' lice and fleas.

Monday, January 2, 2012

But His Name is Clay.

Each time I sit down to write about my family, I am faced with the same dilemma.
This is the WORLD WIDE WEB...should I share the names of the people I dearly love with all the crazy people in the universe? (If you are reading this, you probably are a bit crazy regardless, so know that I am talking about the dangerous, homicidal kind of "bad" crazy - not the "good" crazy which describes most of our friends and family members.)

I thought about matching my family up with characters from PEANUTS. I mean, if I'm Charlie Brown's teacher...then one of my son's MUST be Charlie Brown, right? It just didn't work.
I have a Shroeder (piano player) who could even be called Linus (blanket carrier), but no distinct Charlie Brown.(insecure, deep thinking....loser? No thanks.)
They all have Pigpen moments and when the situation calls for comparisons to Lucy or Peppermint Patty, a whole new set of  issues presents itself. My oldest son's personality would coordinate well with Snoopy's at times (WWI flying ace), but being called a dog would rate only slightly higher than being compared to a GIRL.

So now what?
Reality says that the people most often visiting this little spot of the internet universe already know my family by name. AND it's probably weird for them to read about The Principal, Mr. Rassi, My Man, or Hot Hubby when they already know his name is CLAY.

So, I'm quitting the conundrum and using real names whenever I feel like it.
Don't worry, I will educate my boys to run from strangers who approach them...even if the stranger seems to know details about their lives. I'll teach them to yell, "HELP! I'M BEING STALKED BY SOMEONE WHO READS MY MOM'S BLOG!" as they run away much faster than the average adult can run. (well, at least WAY faster than I can run.)

This bold step out of secrecy will aid in my desire to be open. The more people know of our real struggles and our real joys, the more they will see the real work God is doing in our real lives.

Oh, and this does NOT mean I will completely quit referring to Clay as my Handsome Counterpart, Mr. Hot Pants or Trouble (with a capital T). Nicknames are part of the way we communicate in this neck of the woods. They're funny, and descriptive...and funny - so they are staying.

Happy New Year All!
(from Mrs. Cough-ie, Mr. Goatee (just this week I hope), and our two Christmas Break Techno Slugs.)