Thursday, January 30, 2014

Blessings in disappointments

Lately, there have been a lot of blessings God has been throwing around…Giving me the opportunity to walk alongside some neighbors, giving me an opportunity to sing as the worship leader at my current bible study and even the cupcake orders that keep rolling in. I can't say that there has been a day I complained this week about anything really.
Then it hit me when I was smiling in the sun and enjoying the fabulous weather that I HAVE NOT complained!!
It isn't everyday that I complain but I can find things wrong. Like for instance, the other day when I went into a CVS out in Burbank, already frazzled by my teething baby and my over active 5 year old,  I only needed to purchase one bottle of teething tablets. I came to the counter while my 5 year old checked out the candy on a nearby display and my baby, playing with the register's atm machine.
Clearly the woman at the register could see I had my hands full but still decided that it would be more beneficial to have me take my CVS discount card out of my wallet with one had instead of just taking my phone number and punching it in the damn machine. Yep, I said damn.  I mean damn!
I complained to my husband about it.
Then I was trying to load my kids in the car, a woman waited behind my car and could clearly see that it would take me awhile. That didn't stop her from tapping her horn to speed me up.
I complained to my husband about that too.

Complain, complain, complain. All the while, those complaints have become now, like a blessing to me. I have to lean on God to have tolerance and grace for these situations. God wants my heart refined. He doesn't want me wandering around pissed off all the time. He isn't worried about my physical features or my grouchy looking face.  He is more concerned at the character of my heart.
But when things are going well. I don't complain. My husband has better days and is in a better mood.
(Catching on?)
Yes, we as women are HUGE influences on our husbands.  Our husbands want to "fix" something or whatever it is that we are complaining about. My husband can't fix the attitude of the woman at CVS nor the lady honking her horn at me. BUT… I can fix my attitude and be more uplifting and positive about the things I share with him.

So I am gonna quit my griping. Be thankful for my blessings and even more so for my disappointments.

In love.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pants on Fire...

"Liar Liar pants on fire" is one of those old school things I used to say on the playground when I was a kid when I heard something that was said that wasn't true, or so I thought. I remember in elementary school my mother had use of a car but I don't know if she just wanted me to walk home, (to avoid putting my other 3 siblings in the car) or if we were so broke that she didn't have the gas in it.

My mother would ask me to walk home and be sure not to stop at a friend's house. I decided that if I wasn't long, I could go to a friend's house, and just walk fast. The bell rang and as fast as I could, with all the anticipation that I had built up in me, ran to my friend's house, hand in hand with our lunch boxes flailing, backpacks practically knocking us out from the running.

We sat on her front lawn and her mother came out and checked on us, returning with a snack and drink in hand.  I loved being there. I was allowed to drink sweet soda and have a snack that my hippie, earthy mother would never allow in our house. I loved the smells that came out of my friend's house when her mother opened the door. Scents of lemon and house cleaning products and eventually some type of yummy bbq meat. As we laid in the grass, picking through clover trying to find one with 4 leaves, I recognized a woman frantically driving around the corner in a car just like my mother's. My heart raced, anxiety level went from 2-10 and I felt like I was socked in the gut.
I jumped up and starting running home.  I ran like I was being chased by that woman in the car. "Was it my mother?" "Was she calling the police?" "Are there tons of people looking for me?" "What will my Dad say?" "WHAT WILL MY DAD SAY?"

My father is a big man with big hands but never gave us spankings.  He just had a powerful voice and a really good way of forcing out your guilt without saying a word. I didn't want to have to explain my amazing moments to my Dad and then feel bad about them.

I could see my house from a distance. "I am almost there, I am almost there", panting away as I approached the last few houses before mine. As I crossed the street, I saw the driveway. My mother's car was gone. She wasn't home, door locked and I am now sitting on the step, waiting.
My mother pulled in about 30 seconds later. The look on her face was anger and fear as she rolled up the window. As she let my siblings out, she asked me the one question that I didn't want to hear. "Where were you after school?"
My hands clammy and sweat dripping from my mini 5k, I responded. "I was walking home".
My mother, knowing that I was lying said "did you stop anywhere?"
"No".  Then the words entered my head, reminded by the chants of the kids on the playground from the day before when a student said that Mrs. Stalling had her boogers stored in a jar in her desk. "Liar Liar pants on fire!"
My mother went into the house and seemed to be angry for the rest of the day.  I knew she knew I was lying.  She knew that I wasn't coming home. She had other battles to fight, grace to give and I was home safely.

Unfortunately 35 years later, things haven't changed completely.  I do run late when I tell my husband I am on my way home, I stop off sometimes before I head straight home to grab something to drink, a greeting card or just to sit and be alone. Although some of these things seem harmless, I know that they are still lies.  My husband will ask, "what time will you be home?" and I respond "about 9" and he gives me that "look" that means, "yeah right".
That "yeah right" has spoken to me lately.

In the past year or so, I have realized that a person's word is important. If you tell someone that you are going to commit to something or someone, it is important to that person. It doesn't matter how big or small the commitment or promise it is. In Deuteronomy it says: You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth. 

So does this just apply to our vow to God? 

If what we speak before men is before God, then no.  If we are asked a question like what time are you going to be home and we respond "9". Then we should keep our word and be home by "9". Simple?  No. 
We get side tracked, we start chatting it up with a friend we haven't seen, someone has a problem, I personally want a coffee.  The list goes on.  What about my husband that is at home, expecting me to be home? I have let him down if he checks the clock and it is now 10pm and I know if the tables were turned, I would be worried. Now being late is not as serious as committing to someone to serve them or commitment to a bible study or even commitment to my husband. Commitment can be cheapened when we lie. When we say one thing and do another. It causes confusion on who we are and insecurities and trust issues on those we commit to. 

Better time management and being a WOMAN OF HER WORD (or man) is important and is an example of a Christian.  It doesn't allow us to waiver on the belief system that we have.  It doesn't allow us room to be lukewarm or make half broken promises.  It is our integrity that is questioned when someone can say "liar liar pants on fire:. It makes my mom want to drive around the neighborhood wondering if her daughter was picked up by a stranger or her daughter was not obeying the rules.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Whale Watching...

"As for me and my household, we will SERVE the Lord".

On a plaque, pasted on the wall or in a frame in a bathroom, I have seen this scripture quoted from Joshua 24:15 in many homes, including my own.  It seems like pretty easy instructions that God gives us.  As mothers and wives, however, I found how difficult it was to really grasp what "serving" God was and what He intended for me this past year.

Serving, hmm.  I can bake something, baby sit, make a few phone calls, even cut a check to someone in need.  Maybe even push my limits and give a mom a ride to work when I saw her walking in the rain. Easy right?  For some of us, these things are intimidating and for others, easy peasy.
Either way, God asks us to serve others but we are to serve those in our home first.  “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4-6) 

But, what happens when serving your own family and home is more difficult that serving others?  When you are completely fried from the daily life of doing the dishes, cleaning a child's face or taking out the trash? When you feel that serving others would bring more satisfaction? Doesn't it bring more glory to God when we serve others before our family?  Well of course not, right? It sounds preposterous when we say it like that, or does it?

Last year, I gave birth, took care of my home without a husband for 3+ months, then packed a house, moved, unpacked, had another "40 something" birthday, lost money, lost friends, had a family disagreement over Christmas and had a dear young lady that I loved like a daughter, pass. All of this while trying to serve people and feeling guilty if I couldn't sign up for a meal to be delivered or attend the next church event. I't has been a very difficult time to think of serving others let alone serve my family! Trying to balance just the daily struggles at home seemed like I was actually living another whole life and still at the end of the day, I couldn't even get myself into the shower.  And I am still expected to serve my family? Wouldn't they understand if I just didn't today?

Life gets interrupted and we let our families suffer when we serve others before serving them.  God gave me instructions to serve them first…

Jonah was a man that needed a little life "spanking" if you will.  He was told by God to go to Nineveh and didn't listen.  Instead, he decided to listen to himself and his negative attitude about a city that needed God. So he takes a cruise with a couple guys in the opposite direction, thinking that where he is going is much more fun and exciting.  The men on his vacation aren't having a good time. No man bonding here.  They throw him off the boat, no lifesaver, nothing.
I am sure at this point someone yelled "last call" and the entertainment was at a stand still.  Jonah is now in the water, perfectly knowing that he just ruined a perfectly good trip. "If I would have just listened to God, but maybe, I can swim to shore"…
"Uhhh think again Jonah, you are going to get a free ride from God himself".
Can you imagine what Jonah was thinking when he saw a WHALE coming up from the water, mouth open and ready to swallow him?  ( I always wonder what kids think when I tell this story in Sunday school and they take a whale watching trip-lol).

I don't know if Jonah had ever seen a whale but I think that back then they were seen as monsters of the ocean and personally, I probably would have peed my robe (hoping that the whale would be disgusted and take off).  Anyhow, Jonah wasted a lot of time with his own agenda.  He made these decisions on what he thought was best and may be what would give him a little glory in the end.

God gives us instructions to serve our family, first. If we are to obey our loving God (and don't want to end up on the wrong cruise line) we should be listening and obeying His directions.  Listening requires us to pray about our lives in a way that God gets to give the instructions and we follow them.  Serving others is done the correct way when God places you in a situation that He wants to be glorified.  He wants to be thanked for what He has done through you.  It isn't to make you feel good about the food you made or get the pat on the back for spending a bunch of money.  God wants us to bring His name to those who we serve.  Serving others isn't an act of popularity either.  It isn't meant to inspire someone to want to hang out with you more or baby sit your kids the next day.

God wants His name to be thanked by your family too. Sometimes we spend so much time serving those outside our home that we forget that there are little ones (and big ones) standing right in front of us in need of God's Word and the love of Jesus through us.
Our families need dinners on the table made by us.  Our kids need our discipline. Our families need our encouragement. They need a warm hug. They need a place to come home to that doesn't have a note saying "I am serving someone else tonight, figure it out".  When we do this with God's instructions, we enable our children and husband to stand up straight, confident in who loves them and who takes care of them…Jesus.  It is Jesus that resides in our hearts as mothers when we serve our families first and make them a priority.

We deliver delicious dinners to those in need but forget that we haven't made a hot meal for our own family. We give money to the poor but forget that our own kid needed shoes and now we cannot afford them. We stay up all night with a friend in need but go right to sleep when our husband's are "in need" of our time. Some of this, please don't get me wrong, is not wrong, but we serve those more than we serve those right under our noses.  Yes, I believe that we should sacrifice as a FAMILY a TEAM and we should sacrifice things in our lives for others.

As mothers/wives we should first submit to our husbands how we should serve others. Our husband's direction is from the Lord and we as wives should honor that by asking our husbands, first.
(Ephesians 5)

There are plenty of times we can serve those in need when we are just out and about.  Our kids' school by serving a teacher, another mom or even another child.  We can serve our neighbors and our friends.  We can serve at church. We can find ways to serve if we ask to do this in the time that God gives us, allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us and in great timing! Serving with His direction gives those you serve a clear picture of Jesus and you are doing this with a full heart for Him. You are an effective tool in His Kingdom.
So how did this all come about to me last year? One night my 5 yr old asked me to pray with her at bedtime.  She said "God make my belly feel better".  It broke my heart.  Here I was serving someone else all day and I never even knew that she didn't feel good.  I had forgotten about my own child! Not saying that this won't ever happen while serving someone, but I know that serving that person was NOT where God wanted me.  I never prayed about it, I was never given direction and I knew in my heart I should have been at home.

5 months later, God "brought" me home.  He removed me from a 1800 square foot home to a 900 square foot apartment.  He made everything smaller and less cumbersome to clean.  He gave me a place on the 3rd floor that would keep me inside and a little challenging to just come and go.  To serve my family, first.  Not only was this hard for me but I had to find joy in the last 6 months in it.  I had to see that He is working on a place in my heart that I am not used to.  I know how to serve others and it feels easier.  He wants me to be here, serving my family, when in fact, that is hard for me and not as "joyful".

Now, I can say that I find joy in serving my home. I enjoy cooking meals and I even find joy (some, not a ton just yet) in doing laundry and dishes. Even more than the housework, my time with my kids and husband has been more fulfilling than it ever has.  It has it's ups and downs but I haven't laughed with my older kids like I have in a long time.  When I lack in joy, I have found that time to be with God in prayer and in worship. I see a change in the way I serve others too.

In serving my own home first, I have found time for my kids to see Jesus in a different way.  They don't see that my serving is exhausting, resentful, tiresome but they see a mom that has joy in serving the right people at the right time.  They see the boundaries that I have kept so that they have my time as well.  They have a sense of ownership if you will.  They see a mom that cares for their daily lives in the bumps and bruises the sin and the reconciliation that Jesus wants them to see. They get to see why they need Jesus through our imperfect lives, everyday.

They get to hear the prayers of my husband and I to serve in His time.  Listening to God's instructions and not our own.  They get to see why we serve, who we serve and not with any self glorification. All His glory.

Thanks Jonah.  No whales are needed here.

"Serve the Lord with gladness, come before Him with joyful singing". Psalm 100:2