Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Team Spirit

During the last three or four weeks, I have watched more baseball than I have in the last twenty-nine years combined.  I was definitely caught up in watching the boys in blue give it their all in the playoffs  and the World Series.  It stirred something inside me to watch my hometown boys doing so well, especially after so many years of not doing well.  Of course, I would have loved to watch them win Game 7, but it was fun to watch either way.

So how do you choose a team?  I seem to have chosen my favorite teams by location.  I enjoy watching the Kansas City Royals and the Kansas City Chiefs because that's where I grew up.  I also will root for the Missouri Tigers since that is where I went to college.  Of course, I am still loyal to the Lee's Summit High School Tigers too.  (The original Lee's Summit High School, that is.)

My husband is a Green Bay Packers fan.  He chose them because it was different.  They are a good team, and not many people in central Missouri follow them.  He is not a bandwagon kind of guy; he follows his own path.

It was interesting to watch the kids choose their teams during the World Series.  Hannah decided by watching me.  She chose her team as the Royals because she could tell it was important to me.  Love that about her.  Seth chose his team because San Francisco starts with "S," the same letter as his first name.  He has his own way of thinking about things.  Love that about him.

Last week we had a day where we got to wear our "team colors" to school.  I was agonizing over what to wear.  I just wasn't feeling the Chiefs jersey or the Mizzou black-and-gold that day.  I was lamenting that my new Royals shirt hadn't arrived in the mail yet.  Finally, I decided that I would wear a shirt from a teacher skit a couple of years ago.  I know it's cheesy, but that shirt represents my favorite team.  I love the group of teachers I get to work with on a daily basis.  I am happy there.  I am accepted and respected.  They are friends that are there for me. They make me laugh.  They support me.  They encourage me.  It is a great team to be on!

When Hannah saw my shirt, she wanted to know why I was wearing it.  I explained how it was my favorite team.  After I said all that, she just shrugged and said, "I'm on God's team."  Then she walked out of the room.

I'm on God's team.  Four little words, and she nailed this team thing better than I ever could.  God's team.  Makes me wish I had a T-shirt for that one.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

While sitting at a banquet for our church's stewardship campaign, I was overwhelmed.  This is the place where my husband and I got married.  This is the place where we stood up twice in front of the congregation and promised to raise our babies to know God.  This is the place where my husband was baptized and publicly proclaimed that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is the place where I feel loved every time I walk in the door:  from the first time Todd and I ever came more than twelve years ago to today when people are lining up to give me hugs.  (Okay, there was not actually a line, but I still got several awesome hugs tonight from people who are just genuinely glad to see me.)  This is the place where our kids have learned more about God's love than most people I know.

This is the place where I have really learned about God.  Whether it be through Ken's sermon on Sunday mornings or Bible fellowship with any number of quality teachers or other in-depth studies, I love that I am always pointed back to my Bible.  These people explain things to me and help me understand what the Word of God says, but they are quick to have me check it out for myself.  

This is the place where we have developed countless relationships.  People who enjoy hanging out with us. People who love our kids.  People who guide us and teach us with their wisdom.  People who challenge us to grow and become more like Christ.  People who  I know I could count on in the toughest of times.

I am overwhelmed with the blessings we receive from being part of this awesome church.  Even now, I have tears in my eyes as I think about it.

Now, it is our turn.   We have been asked to invest in the kingdom of God here on earth so that He can further expand what He is already doing through our church.  And I have to think, "Why wouldn't we?" When I look at what He has done for our family, I want that for other people in our community as well.  I want people who don't know God, or who don't know Him well, to have that same opportunity that we have had.

Todd and I prayed about this opportunity separately for quite a while before we discussed it together.  When we did talk about it, God had clearly heard our prayers.  We each had a number in mind that was almost identical to the other.  It is not an easy or safe number.  It is one where we are going to have to stretch to make it, but we are convinced that this campaign is that important.  

Right after we made our decision, we found out that Todd's insurance is going up quite a bit.  The same amount as the part of our commitment that was already coming from faith alone.  I know the thought crossed both of our minds that we could cover the insurance by backing off the commitment, but we are not going to do that.  God will provide.

God is working on me even more.  He is challenging me alone to give beyond the number that Todd and I agreed on.  With the way we budget our money, we each get a bit of discretionary money every month.  With that, as well as extra things I do like tutoring or crocheting, God is challenging me to give an additional "unsafe" amount to the campaign above and beyond what Todd and I are giving together.  God will bless the work of my hands.  I know He will.

I hear Him calling, "Trust me, trust me, trust me."  I don't know how it will work, or what it will look like, or what sacrifices we will have to make along the way.  But, then again, if I knew all that, it wouldn't really be trust at all.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Counting My Blessings

"Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your blessings, see what God hath done." 

 Last week I celebrated my birthday.  That is always a great reminder of how blessed I am.  All week long I was reminded that people love me and care about me.

It started with an email a couple days before my birthday.  A friend sent me a message that said she wanted to wish me a happy birthday, even though she couldn't remember the exact date.  All she could remember was "October" so she just went ahead and sent it.  I thought that was a nice gesture.  

I also got a phone call that day from someone who knew what day my birthday is, but she knew she was going to be super busy on my actual day.  She didn't want to miss it so she called early.

As the week progressed,  I got to celebrate at school.  More than one person brought treats to celebrate, and there was a birthday banner hanging on my door.

On the actual day,  I was inundated with texts and Facebook messages.  I appreciate people taking a minute out of their busy lives to a send me a message.  I tried to acknowledge each and everyone with a return message of thanks.  Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming and hard to keep up with.  (If I missed you, please know that I didn't mean to.)

A special friend asked Hannah and me to tea that day.  I so enjoyed that time with her and her daughter.  My daughter insisted that we dress up:  "It's your birthday so you have to look pretty, Mama."   How do you argue with that kind of logic?  It was so much fun to drink tea from real china teacups and eat dainty little sandwiches and other goodies.  When we got there, I felt extra special because the tea room had a sign acknowledging my birthday.  I even had a cookie with my name on it.  It was almost too cute to eat.  (I did say almost; after all, what am I going to do with an uneaten cookie?)   Not only did I get invited to tea, but my friend had gone the extra mile to let them know ahead of time that it was my birthday.  All in all, it was a great experience for me and one that I won't soon forget.

I also got to go out to eat with my family and be appropriately spoiled by them all day long.  My children told me happy birthday every time we were in the same room together!  Although hearing it that many times is not really necessary, it was just a little thing they could do that made me feel special.

The thing about birthdays for me is this:  I feel so blessed and so humbled.  When I look at how many people went out of their way to do something (big or small) to help me feel special, I am overwhelmed. People reach out to me because in some way, some how, I have influenced their lives.  It is always a great reminder to me how are lives are woven together, each one affecting another.  We may not know the impact or influence we have on someone else, but our actions matter.  

God uses my birthday each year to remind me that I am loved-not just by my family, but by people all around me.  I am blessed.  I am humbled at the impact my life has on others.  I am grateful.  I am honored. Thank you.

Surely you have granted him unending blessings
 and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
Psalm 21:6

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Just Me and God

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

After two years of fighting, screaming, sulking, pouting, and manipulation, my first marriage ended.  I had become a just a shell of a person, not much of the real me was left at that point.  Although there certainly were plenty of things I did wrong, I felt like I had done all I could do.  I had told myself over and over as kind of a personal mantra, "I married for better or worse.  This is 'worse'; it has to get better."

I don't think I would have ever left on my own.  I had made a promise, and this is what I had to deal with.  I don't think a person can understand this unless they've been through it, but there were times when I made situations worse-trying to get him to hit me.  If he hit me, that was a very definite line to cross, and  I knew it would be okay to leave.  Emotional abuse is murky and hard to define.  The bruising is just as bad, but nobody can see it.

So anyway, the fighting had gotten really bad by our second anniversary.  On that very day, he told me he wanted a divorce.  That was all I needed.  It was like he gave me permission to leave.  

Now during the next year when we were separated but not yet divorced is when my relationship with God really truly began. I was broken.  I felt like a total failure because I hadn't been able to make it all work.  I was so ashamed and full of guilt.  I often felt like I had nobody to talk to--nobody except God, that was.  This is where He really began to teach me who He is and how He could fulfill the parts in me that I had wanted another person to fill. That poem about "Footprints in the Sand" has always touched me, and I can look at this period of my life and know that He carried me through.  I always think of this period of my life as "Just Me and God."

God used those circumstances where I was broken and felt so alone to mold my heart.  To make it more like His.  It was in that time that I realized how far off track I had gotten.  He showed me how choices that I made over time led me to a place where I never thought I would be--divorced at the age of twenty-three.  He showed me how the very thing I had been seeking all along was Him.  I sought His forgiveness, and  He gave it to me.  

Now I do not know your circumstances.  Maybe you are in a bad place; maybe you are thinking that divorce would be easier at this point than whatever you are dealing with.  I don't know where you are, but I do know my own experiences.  Divorce is not an easy path.  It left me scarred, damaged, broken, and ashamed.   It was a long, difficult road to forgive that person who caused me such pain.  It was even more difficult to forgive myself and to know who I am again.  Every time I think I am completely past it, something comes up where I have to deal with it again.   As recently as yesterday, there was an issue that was directly tied to my first marriage.

Maybe it just seems impossible.  Maybe you have already been through a divorce.  Maybe you are facing something else that is completely unsurmountable from where you stand.  Give it over to God.  The same God who spoke the universe into being, who parted the Red Sea, who rained down manna from Heaven, who brought the walls of Jericho down, who raised His one and only Son from the dead.  This God can handle your pain and heartbreak and deliver you in a way that you could never dream.  "For with God, nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:76)."  He can breathe new life into your marriage where it seems dead.  He can resurrect something out of nothing. Give yourself and your situation over to Him, and let Him do the rest.

There is a song called "Come However You are" by City Harbor.  This song really speaks to me.  It reminds me that there is nothing too big for Him to handle, and that we are never too broken or scarred to be fixed by His healing hands.

"Come however you are
Come with all your heart heartbreaks
Come with all the mistakes you made
Lay them down at the cross
Give them to the God who loves you
Hurt scarred falling apart
Come however you are
Come with your regrets
Come with the things you can't change
Come with all your fear and all your shame with everything
Come with the pieces of your bruised and broken heart
Don't wait"

 Come However You Are-City Harbor

(click the link to listen to the whole song)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Not Raising Robots

My husband and I have two perfect, custom-made perfectly functioning robots.  We have a male model and a female model.  They function according to specification and never veer from the pre-determined programming.  They are polite and well-mannered and respectful.

Our little robots

Except when they are not.  Their favorite pastimes these days seem to be burping and seeing how many times they can use the word "poop" in any given sentence.  

Wait.  What?  Who programmed them to do that?

The other day in church while someone was praying, the male model initiated a wrestling sequence which in turn caused the female model to squeal and protest rather loudly.  As I was shushing them and untangling appendages, it occurred to me that we are not raising robots.  We are raising people.  Little people with big ideas.  Little people with big feelings.  Little people with big opinions.  Oh boy, do we have big opinions.  

Opinions about what they wear, what they eat, what toys they need to take in the van, what toys they need to sleep with, whether it is worthwhile or not to actually brush their teeth....  I could go on, but I think my point is clear.  They have opinions-strong opinions-about EVERYTHING!

It is not that I ever really thought I was raising a robot, but sometimes I think I forget that they are children.  They aren't perfect.  They make mistakes.  They like to burp and say "poop" or "poopy" or "poopity doopity" or "pooperson"  (Believe me, the female model enjoys that every bit as much as the male model!)  They fight, they wrestle, they pester, they backtalk, they throw fits.  They challenge us every step of the way, and they wear us out.

Sometimes I feel like a failure.  I feel like I must be doing it all wrong, or they would not be so challenging.  I often feel like I am too hard on them, like I expect too much.  But there are other days when I feel like they get by with too much, like they walk all over me.  And some days I feel like I am too hard and too soft all at the same time.  (I don't even know how that is possible.)  Am I too much?  Am I too little?  Do I rescue them too much, or do I let them flounder when they really do need help?  

I used to think that good parents had easy children.  (I would like to take this minute to apologize to my former self for that bit of insanity.)

Not only did God make my children, but He made me.  He made me to be their mother and gifted me with all the qualities I need to do that job.

If I were the one to program "robots", I think I would leave out the mechanism that causes burping. Especially at the dinner table.  Or in restaurants.  I might omit the part that initiates the
whiny/arguing/backtalk stage.  But if I left those out, maybe I would miss something big.

Would I have thought to program the male model to come running at me from across the room and do a flying attack leap into my arms?  No, probably not.  And I would have missed out on all those wonderful boy hugs.  That boy can hug like nobody's business, but he does it in his own way and in his own time.  Also, his brain works so much differently than mine--no way could I have thought that up on my own.

Would I have put in the code for the girl that makes her whisper secrets like, "You are my best mama ever."  Nope.  Nor the part where she plays with my hair during Bible time, showering me with her affection.  How about when she spontaneously gives me a shoulder rub?  (Her little hands have magical powers when it comes to massage!)

So the thing is this:  I am not a robot, either.  Sometimes I mess up.  Sometimes I mess up more than others.  The words "losing my cool" have described me far too off recenntly.  I get angry and frustrated.  But I keep trying to get it right.  I know we have terrific kids, but some days it is more difficult to remember that than other days.  I need God's grace.  Every day, every hour, sometimes even more.  His grace is sufficient for me; his power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Sometimes I just need to remember that they might need a little bit of grace too.

Some days I just don't have it in me to correct them one more time, to tell them no and initiate an argument, to stand my ground.  Some days all I have to give is a good example.  Since they are not robots, after all, we have to let them choose.  They choose their behaviors, just like we do.  Sometimes they make choices we are proud of.  Sometimes they make choices that we find aggravating or embarrassing.  As it turns out, they might be in need of a little grace themselves. 

What really matters in the end is that we keep pointing them back to a relationship with Christ.  If they see that in us and want it for themselves, then we have been successful (even if they let out a belch in the middle of communion meditation).

As for me and my house, we will choose the LORD.

Joshua 24:15