Monday, October 20, 2008

Words Hurt

So tonight my oldest daughter said something to me that hurt so much I can't even type it. I sent her to bed right away because I didn't even know how else to handle the words she spoke. I don't know how to put this kind of thing behind me. The words hurt enough that I don't think I can "forgive and forget." Ugh. What to do....

For now... I'm going to pray.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Got Hope?

So I was driving along somewhere yesterday. Honestly, I don't remember where, since most of my trips are spent in odd conversation with children. Anyway, I saw a bumper sticker that read "Got Hope?" I thought to myself.... What a cool Christian sticker! Then as I got closer I saw the fine print. (There's always fine print isn't there?) It wasn't a Christian sticker at all. It was a sticker for Barack Obama. And in that moment my heart sank as I realized our county is moving rapidly forward to putting their faith not in the God of the universe, but in a man. This has nothing to do with how I feel about Mr. Obama as a candidate. (Side note- if you're going to talk against the Iraq war you should actually talk to the people who have been there, not listen to a bunch of career politicians whose only care is to get themselves reelected. That's all I'll say about the presedential election.)

As a country we've bought into this idea of hope in a man. It's a false hope. We're placing our hopes in a man to change the country. This is a country that for the past fifty years has completely turned our backs on the true source of hope. Our founding fathers knew that source of hope, but we have turned away, not wanting to offend anyone. Instead, we've made it okay to be anything except a Christian, caucasian working class man who likes women. Gay? It's okay because God made you that way (even though in every other area the same people saying they were created this way are denouncing the Creator Himself). Child Molester? Yep, that's okay too because you must have had a crappy childhood. Been given a bad medical prognosis? It's okay to kill yourself. Unwanted pregnancy? It's okay to kill the baby. Sentenced to death row because you've committed the most heinous of crimes? Nope- not okay to kill you. Been mistreated in a military prison because you were plotting against our country? Nope- that's bad too.

We've become a country full of hypocrites. We've placed our hope in the empty promises of a man. (And yes, I believe both candidates are just trying to say what they have to in order to get themselved in office. I am voting based on past performance and a few key issues important to my faith and my family.)

The only thing that is giving me comfort is the scripture that says God's will WILL be done. The people in office get there because God wants them there to support His will. I'm just thinking Jesus may be coming soon.

(I know this seems a bit extreme, but I'm very angry that a man that claims to be Christian would ask for anyone's hope to be put in anyone except Jesus Christ Himself.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Been working on some things this week. Readjusting my focus. Taking off my "Me" tinted glasses and opting for the God-tinted ones instead.

Why is it that when you start to work on yourself, truly make the effort to become more Christ like, people in your life whine about it? I mean, they're not saying, "You shouldn't try to be more Christ like." But they whine about what that means to them, how my changing effects their lives. Just doesn't seem right. I get enough whining from my children. I don't need to add anyone more whining to my day. Too much to ask?

Working on finding the balance between choosing forgiveness and being walked on or hurt. Even though I've chosen to forgive a certain person, do I still have to be nice? Yes. I have to be nice. I do not have to go out of my way to put myself in a situation where person X will hurt me again though. I just have to be polite. Speak when spoken to. Try desperately not to judge. (I'm speaking of one person and one incident. I know this theory wouldn't work in every situation.) Like someone told me, I don't have to be friends with this person just because they're also a Christian. So, working on politeness and being nonjudgemental towards X.

Been sifting through pictures lately. I am so glad that the hair that was so popular in the late 80's and early 90's is no longer in style. Seriously. What were we thinking? Curious (or just need a really good laugh today)?
This is my Freshman pic. It was 1989. That should help explain the hair. LOL. Yeah. That's me. Circa 1989. Freshman year in high school. Man, I was hot! Um, yeah, not so much.

Been thinking a lot about things past. The pictures, our 10th anniversary, the things God has been bringing out, Halloween coming up... everything is reminding me of things past. There's a song by Chris Rice that says something to the effect of- Why do we look back, is it because we know we survived? I think that covers it completely. I know I survived my father being killed when I was 12. I don't want to have to hurt like that ever again.

It's late and I think I've been rambling. So for tonight, I'm going to close this out.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Forgiveness, Worship

This weekend I went to a retreat for women here on post. It was hosted by the local PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) group. The retreat speaker was Audrey Meisner. She has such an amazing testimony of the love of Christ. I won't go into details because you can read it all on your own at her and her husband's website.

God is so awesome in who and what He uses to get Himself across to us in our lives. I sometimes (okay, usually) feel forgotten and little... insignificant. Every other relationship in my life is based on performance. At least I feel like it is. As a wife there are things that are my part of the relationship, things I have to do. As a mom there are things I have to do for each kid, or I feel like I've failed. As a daughter... as a friend... as a sister... as a volunteer in my church... every aspect of my life there are expectations. And if I'm being completely honest I also have expectations of the people in my life that, when they're missed, frustrate me.

Okay, back to the point. At the retreat, the first night the talk was about forgiveness. At the end we were all bowed in prayer and Audrey asked some questions. Who have you not forgiven? Who do you need to forgive for past sin? Have you forgiven yourself for past sin? Immediately two past sins came to mind. The two default hurts, the big hurts in my life, came to mind. I prayed on those. I made a conscious effort to choose forgiveness. I decided to make the choice to stop letting Satan hold those things over me any longer. They're both really big hurts, but in the interest of keeping relationships I won't go into them here for the world to read. Just know that they were big hurts that have since changed how I live my life on every level.

I thought that would be that. Okay God, I chose to forgive these two people. In the past when I thought about forgiving these things I thought that somehow it would lessen the pain I felt after these hurts. So making a conscious choice to choose forgiveness was a huge step for me. Huge. But then, as I was singing, just after praying that prayer, more hurts came to mind. The things I'd never made the choice to forgive. Things I was still holding on to, but didn't even realize. Some things I hadn't even thought about in years. Other things weren't even meant to directly hurt me. In that moment, as my mind was flooding with the hurts, God spoke to me in my heart and said, "Until you choose to let these things go, Satan can use them as a foothold in your life." And as I heard that I realized just how many footholds were there. I have a spirit of unforgiveness. I thought I was doing well. I thought I was walking along the "narrow path." Instead, I was still looking back. Choosing to remember those hurts when the potential to be hurt was brought back.

I just got the picture of Lot's wife looking back on Sodom and Gamorrah (sp?) because she thought it was better back there. Am I choosing to keep looking back on my own personal Sodom? I don't think I thought it was better "there" but at the same time, I keep looking back there. Almost making those pains my own personal god. No let's be honest, making those hurts my own personal god. Those hurts have become the focus of my life at points. And Satan uses those hurts at his will to remind me of the pain.
*"You can't completely trust that person. Remember s/he hurt you."
*"You know s/he's lying to you."
*"Remember how much it hurt when s/he did X?"

In that moment of flooding thoughts I wanted to walk forward and throw myself on the altar at the front of the church. I wanted to lay sprauled out and let God's forgiveness wash over me. I wanted to let His Perfect Love wash over me and make me white as snow. Instead though, always worrying about who might be watching and judging, I stayed in my pew and laid out in my mind. And now I'm realizing that in that moment I gave Satan another foothold. ("Well God, you might be able to save me, but people might look at me funny and think badly of me if I'm just laid out there at your mercy.")

Fast forward...
Sunday's sermon at church was about Worship. Yep. Less than 48 hours after I ignored the prompting of my spirit to enter into complete worship our sermon was about just that. I've become so worried about what people think about me that I just won't let myself enter fully into His house. In my van, where I somehow feel like no one can see me even though I'm driving right next to people that CAN see me, I am completely open and honest. I'm raw in my worship. I'm loud. I make a joyful noise. In my house, when it's just the twins and I, I crank the music up loud and we just dance for Jesus. We sing. But then... something happens and I let those doubts creep in again. I worry that the people in my life would think I'm insane if they could see how crazy I am for God. I've become so concerned with other people's opinions that I hold myself back from authenticity. I'm scared that people will judge. I'm scared to be hurt again.

Lord, please forgive me for not being transparent in all areas. I want to be open and real. I want to be authentic in my worship in all areas. Lord, please give me judgemental amnesia. Take away the thoughts of other people's judgements. Help me forget the pain. Help me choose to believe you and your promise to never leave me, even when I am judged and hurt by people's opinions. I want to be real. I want to focus on you alone, to live for you. If I can just keep my eyes on you and your love, everything else will fall into place. If I can focus on you, your love will overflow into the people in my life. I can be a good mom, wife, friend, daughter and leader. Give me the strength Lord to choose to keep my eyes on You alone. Amen.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ten Years of Marriage

Celebrating ten years of marriage today. Ten years ago I walked barefoot down the banks of a river to meet up with the man I would marry. I know that we would not have made it to this point without the grace of God and our commitment to the covenant we made with him.

There was a time, probably five or six years ago, that Howard and I were on the verge of divorce. We'd talked about who would get the kids, how things would work, etc. We were both caught up in our own lives and in our sin. We'd given our lives to Christ, but we weren't living our lives for Him. We were still completely focused on ourselves. As a last ditch effort I signed us up for a covenant marriage small group at our local church. This wasn't the church we attended, but instead was the church we were scared of. It was big. It was southern Baptist, and we were living in the buckle of the bible belt. It was scary for two people who grew up in a church labeled as a cult by mainstream Christians (it was a cult but we weren't quite ready to admit that). Anyway, I signed us up for this class. We got there and knew the facilitators. They were the couple that owned the local pharmacy I always went to. Long story short those two studies (both on aspects of the covenant marriage) changed our marriage forever.

We still have a long road. And some days are harder than others. Heck, today I'm trying to figure out how to get our checking account back into the positive before the three other checks out there come thru. Anyway, Howard and I are both committed to each other and to God. That's the difference. Yes, we're still flawed humans who still lose our focus and make it about us. But then we remember that Christ is the center of our marriage.

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving us enough to die for us. Thank you for reminding us that you are the center of our marriage. Thank you for giving us each the strength to fight for ten years. Please continue to give us strength to fight for this marriage everyday. We know that everyday we will be attacked with ideas of easier ways and selfish things. Please keep our minds and our hearts focused on you alone. We love you Lord. Amen.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Overwhelmed Mothers

First off, I don't usually watch Oprah. About six months ago, when I realized just how much she twists the Word of God into her own little package, making it say what she wants and therefore effecting those that watch, I decided I was done with Oprah. The bible says to flee from mockers, so in the only way I knew how I fled. Yesterday though, about half an hour into the show I switched over there while folding clothes. The kids were all outside playing nicely, a rare break in my day. Usually I'd have Little House on the Prairie on while folding clothes, but just wasn't feeling Michael Landon yesterday.

Anyway, yesterday's Oprah was about overwhelmed moms. She had mothers on the show that, in desperation for a break, had made a choice that had somehow cost them greatly. I sat, watching, hearing myself in these mothers and the mothers in the audience sharing their stories. My heart ached, knowing that I can completely understand their stories.

For those that don't know, I have four children. My son (8) has been diagnosed with ADHD and has trouble in social situations. My oldest daughter (7) has had night terrors and sleep walking since she was 18 months old. She has also gone screaming into the preteen years and has recently found an attitude that I can't even begin to understand. And then I've got two and a half year old twin girls. They play off each other and have learned already that when I'm distracted by something one has done the other can do something too. In short, I have four very individual, strong willed children.

Confession time...
*I have a TV in my son's room so that I can send all four kids to his room to watch a movie so that I can take an emotional time out.
*I have fought the twins trying to give up their nap times because that's the only chance I have to be alone during the day.
*I have locked my children in the car (my oldest knowing not to unlock it for anyone) so I could run into the library to pick something up because the idea of unloading, fighting with and then reloading all four children is completely overwhelming.
*I have yelled at my children when they've done something wrong, just to scare them from doing it again. (Made them cry. Did not make them not repeat the behavior.)

Do I "get" the idea of being an overwhelmed mom? You betcha. I've been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and coffee cup. Heck, I'm still there most days.

Now before you sit and start judging let me say that unless you've been there, you can't completely understand how desperate you can become when you're overwhelmed. I joke about how nice it would be to go to the bathroom alone, but inside I would love to be able to sit in the bathroom for 30 minutes waiting for nature to move things along, if you know what I mean. :) I would love to take a shower every morning, but the fact that I have to time it perfectly for when the children are distracted fully by the TV is annoying at best. I've come out of the shower to the twins sitting on the front porch playing. I'd love to sit down, with my bible and my coffee cup and just soak it all in. I'd love to finish a cup of coffee that's still hot actually, instead of reheating the same cup two or three times during the day, knowing it will be cold again before I can finish it.

I've found some tools though that have helped me not get overwhelmed as quickly.

The first one is MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers I attended my first MOPS meeting when I had just my older two kids, drove an hour for that meeting, twice a month. I've since been in a total of three different MOPS groups, each very different, but all sharing one similarity. Moms of little ones that also can't remember the last time they finished a cup of coffee or peed alone.

The second is PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel). This is a bible study group that meets each week. Military folks only. Each week I get there, I drop my children off in childcare and get to go upstairs and meet with other believers. I get fed, physically and spiritually, each week.

The third is an amazing church that loves children and families. I can go each Sunday, serve the Lord and sit through church. I get to worship God and know that my kids are all being taken care of by people that love them. Our church back in Georgia (which had amazing people that I love) stopped children's ministry during the church service. I grew up sitting in church with my family, but having four small children with you in church is overwhelming. It made me more worn out each week. And now that I think about it that was with only two kids.

Fourth, is Women of Faith ( Once a year I get to go away for a weekend and get my spiritual cup refilled in a large group of women who also love the Lord.

There are also other little things-stamping/crafting club once a month... My Space and Facebook (the only area of my life that I don't HAVE to share with the kids if I don't want to)... Starbucks, or any decent coffee place, that have drive-thrus (my kids all know I like caramel lattes)... the backyard is filled with outside toys that the kids can go play on when I need a few minutes to breathe.

As a mom, you have to make the choice to look for ways to get your self back to normal. I'm not the best at it. I've cried myself to sleep at night wondering if I was completely screwing my kids up. Honestly, if I didn't have these things to count on I have no idea how bad things would be. I probably would have been in jail for child abuse a long time ago. We're not taught how to be parents. It's all on the job training.

I still struggle everyday with how much of myself I've lost since becoming a mom. I'm not me, the original me, that I used to be. I want desperately to get that person back because there I was happy with me. I'm not happy with the me I see now. Being a mom has made me desperately aware of my flaws. It's hard. It hurts. Not remembering the last time I did something that was me, the original me. I sometimes don't even remember what that person was like. I remember bits... concerts and music were my life... I'd spend hours in thrift stores looking for something cool and vintage... I'd sit down and draw random pictures or write poetry or prose... I wanted to be a photographer or reporter when I grew up.

Someday, when the kids are grown, I may get that person back. But until then I'll just have to hold on to the remnants. And keep trying to not get overwhelmed each day by the pressure of raising four children into God fearing, Jesus loving, balanced people.

Lord, give me the strength to keep my eyes on you when I'm overwhelmed in my mothering. Help me remember the big picture. Some day the kids will be grown and I can spend all the time I want to discovering, or rediscovering, myself. Until then though, help me do a good job. Help me focus on you alone. Help me remember that if you are my focus everything else will fall into place. I love you Lord. Thank you for loving me, my husband and my children, more than I can even begin to comprehend. You are an awesome God. Amen.