Sunday, December 1, 2013

My greatest strength

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  Areas we excel in and areas that need some shoring up.  I, for instance, am good at organizing things but not so good at cleaning.  I am good at planning but not implementing.  I am good at sudoku puzzles but not words with friends.  Mostly I will confess that it is easier to see my weaknesses than my strengths.  Always aware of my failures, never wanting to boast too confidently in my triumphs.

This morning I read this familiar phrase:
"The joy of the Lord is my strength"
Normally I think of this in terms of giving me strength to do something but today it struck me different.  Maybe this one of my strengths; knowing and experiencing joy only found in the Lord.  Maybe this is all of my strengths.

I do have joy in the Lord.  I love my life and delight in it but it isn't perfect and isn't always fun.  The joy I have always lived with is not the result of having a perfect life but the result of the love I have for the Lord. The joy I experience in knowing and following Him.

What makes me a great mother, homemaker, wife, friend, employee, etc?  It is my joy of the Lord!  And if I want to be better?  Focus on strengthening my joy in the Lord!  Often when we feel under attack our joy gets lost.  We turn our attention toward the specific problem and try to gain strength for that one situation rather than retaining strength in our joy in the Lord.  My strength comes from the Lord, comes from delighting in Him, comes when I allow myself to be filled with His joy.  It gives me what I need to face any problems, frustrating situations or simply answer the question, "what's for dinner?" every night.

If ever anyone was filled with the joy of the Lord it was Paul.  In his letter to the Philippians he mentions joy at least 16 times in 4 chapters.  And in Philippians, filled with joy, Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  In this book some call the "epistle of joy" I don't think I am making too big a leap to say that it is the joy Paul has in the Lord that allows him to feel he can do all things.  When your strength is the joy of the lord you really can do anything.

When Paul is saying he can do all things we are talking about a guy in prison, a guy in serious peril in circumstances he would not choose and did not have control over.  Yet he writes things like,
"Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance" 
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"
Life is full of challenges. But they don't have to get me down.  I am filled with the joy of the Lord and "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

Where does your greatest strength come from?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gladness of Heart

"He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart." Ecc 5:20
I don't know if you have noticed but, I have been having a few life challenges lately.  And they have sort of been kicking my butt.  And so I have told you that life is hard because lately my life has been HARD.

I find it is always worst right before it gets better and I am happy to report that I believe I hit my bottom this week.  And having spent hours over the past few weeks crying out to God and praying with friends and seeking wise counsel, I feel like I have sprung back out of the hole I have been in.  Not because anything has changed but because I changed.

I am reading through Ecclesiastes right now.  I know people say it is a depressing book of the bible, and in many ways it is, because you see the hopelessness of life apart from God.  Honestly, without God it is all meaningless, there is no hope, we work, we die, who cares.  But I know how it ends, I know there is a God who gives life meaning and purpose, we work, we die, we leave a legacy, we live in Glory for eternity.

Today I read, "He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart."

Life is still hard, we work, we die, who cares, but...we can either reflect on that fact, the burden of life, the hard, the challenges, or, we can let God occupy us with gladness of heart.  Remembering His Glory, seeing His Blessings, being Thankful for His Provisions.

We tend to not want to brush problems under the rug these days.  Once upon a time that is all we did.  Hide problems and put on a happy face.  Today it seems we have almost gone the opposite, brush the good under the rug because we don't want to deny the problems.  Being true to yourself means you can't say you are doing good when everyone knows your life has challenges.  But if we trust God and let him occupy us with gladness of heart, then challenges and joy can co-exist within us.

It is Thanksgiving week, what a perfect time to come out of my hole.  I have been reading all the thanksgiving posts on facebook.  And my friend Jody has been hosting "30 days of Thanksgiving" and while I have been happy everyone else was thankful this month, I haven't been really feeling it.  Not that I couldn't come up with things to be thankful for but I just didn't care.  However, I have sprung out of my hole just in time to celebrate this great holiday and today I share a few things I am thankful for:

  • Boxes unpacked and feeling settled in my beautiful new home.
  • New friends for Isabelle.
  • The closing of my first sale (in which I wasn't the buyer or seller.
  • The hot tub at our new place.
  • Family that stands by you through it all.
  • Friends who love and pray for you.
  • A husband who will get on a ladder in the cold misty rain to hang a for sale sign for you while you sit in the warm car.
  • The contrast of black on blue walls.
  • Teaching my daughter to sew her first barbie dress.
  • Fabric glue to handle the finishing touches.
  • A flexible schedule to enjoy Thanksgiving break with Izzy.

I pray God occupies your heart with gladness and thankfulness during this Thanksgiving week and throughout the year.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Infertility sucks. God has a plan.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Prov 19:18
I  have been thinking lately about our years of infertility.  A couple we know is struggling to get pregnant.  Whenever I hear of someone I know, or even someone I don't know, going through that same struggle we experienced for so many years my heart breaks.  I remember the pain and sorrow.  The constant monthly grieving.  The confusion and hopelessness.  It was not good.
You put on a brave, happy face and keep going through the day to day of your life because you realize you can't just give up on life and become one with the couch.  But you aren't sure you are living.  You are really just going through the motions.  Because nothing in life makes sense.  And the overwhelming sense of powerlessness you suddenly realize you have over any aspect of your life is more than you can comprehend.

Other people seem to be able to do whatever they want.  They plan their life, they plan when they will have children and it all falls right into line exactly the way they planned.  But you can't get pregnant and that was not in your plan.  And there is no willing it to happen.  There is nothing you can DO.  I mean you can try lots of different things, you can pursue lots of medical options but ultimately there is this realization that life really is not created by man's will but by God's and clearly he is not on your side when it comes to this.  And you can't seem to make Him change his mind.  And you want to hate God for it but really, what does that get you?  You believe, you don't believe, you are mad, you are happy, you still won't get pregnant without Him.

AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  This is a good time for a big tantrum.  It feels good but still changes nothing.

It has been 18 years since we last used birth control and 8-1/2 years since God blessed us with Isabelle and finished our family.  So I have had a little time to gain some perspective on this topic.  And one thing I have seen is that the lessons I learned going through infertility have helped me with other challenges in my life and have helped me to understand other people who are struggling not just with infertility but with any challenge that makes you feel powerless and takes away your dreams.

When people are struggling we tend to feel uncomfortable with them.  We are uncomfortable with other people's grief.  So we try to say things to make them feel better, which so often actually makes them feel worse.  (Helpful hint:  If your friends have been trying to get pregnant for 3 or maybe 6 months, suggesting looser underwear and cold showers might be helpful.  If they have been trying to get pregnant for 2 years and are seeing specialists, it is insulting.)

People grieve.  Jesus wept in front of Lazarus' tomb even though he knew he was going to raise him from the dead.  Life is hard and it is OK to experience the emotions of the moment.  We can still grieve and believe that God will give us a child or whatever other desire of our heart is currently unmet.  It is OK to struggle.

We can trust God.  Recently I was thinking about the idea of having the "mind of Christ".  It is a Christian saying that we throw around but, what does it mean?  It sounds godly so when someone says they are having the mind of Christ on something we just nod our heads because it sounds good and spiritual.  I started thinking about what it means and while I don't know what it means to other people, what it means to me is to have an eternal perspective.  While I can only know what is going to happen at this very moment, Christ is concerned with eternity.  So while he understands that we want a child RIGHT NOW, he also knows what we need for eternity.  The growth and reliance on Him that infertility will bring, the perfect child that he has waiting for us at the perfect moment.  The plan.  Our story which will be like no one else's story.  And again, not just a truth in infertility but for any area of your life where you are struggling to see God's plan.

Today I can see in our family how God's plan was perfect for us.  We got to have Jake alone for several years of his childhood before Isabelle came along.  A blessing for us all.  Then we got to meet and bring Sam and Lauren into our family along with Isabelle.  We have a daughter we adore and her birth parents and sister as a bonus which we are blessed beyond words by.  At no point ever in my life would I have made this plan, could I have seen what a blessing, joyful and loving experience this would be.  And because of the pain we suffered through infertility we have been able to love others who are struggling and process new trials as they have come our way.  Not that we don't still grieve and struggle but we know we will make it through and we know Christ's plan will be infinitely better than ours.

If you are struggling today I don't want you to read this and hear, "stop struggling", "don't worry be happy".  If you are in the midst of struggling go ahead and grieve.  It SUCKS.  Nothing changes that.  But I hope this gives you hope that eventually, in ways you can't see right now, it will get better.  God will redeem this moment and bring you joy and completion beyond what you could dream.  Keep going.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Heb 11:1

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Friend or Two or Three

One of the selling points of our new place was discovering that a friend of Isabelle's from school also lives in this building.  How fun, I thought, for Izzy to have a friend here.  And what a sweet bonus that across the hall from us lives a 6 and 3 year old.  She will never be bored. Plus she won't be the only loud one. And while it is great, somehow I think I got 3 new kids in this move who are just as goofy as the one I already have.  And she is definitely not the only loud one.

And with all of them running between homes my door seems to be always hanging open.

Add dorm living to the college experience we are having.  Elementary school style.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Beauty that Surrounds Me

Today as I am sitting at my dining room table/home desk I looked over to see this out my window

And even though I am still enduring hard days, and I still don't like it, I am trying to continue seeing the beauty that surrounds me more than worry about the problems that God is handling.

And so even though in this month of Thanksgiving I am struggling to feel thankful, today for this moment I am thankful for a new home with a beautiful view.

Today my friend Jody over at Even the Sparrow is sharing this message on her facebook page
And even though I want to resist it I am trying to rest in it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Overflowing Worship

9 years ago John and I decided to join some friends who were starting a new church.  This may sound like a relatively simple thing but we were leaving a baptist mega church we had grown up in and been very involved in to help start an Anglican church.  We knew nothing about Anglicanism, did not like liturgical services and were against infant baptism.  But we loved our friends, loved the Lord and were convinced that this church they were starting was filled with the Holy Spirit.  The goal was to merge the evangelical movement with the historical structure of the Anglican church.  We were enthusiastic but guarded.

10 years later the 10 people we joined have turned into 300 people and we have planted a second which has over 100 people.  10 years ago we were part of a rogue little group of churches around the country that wanted to reclaim the Anglican church in this country as they watched the Episcopal church turn away from its roots and the biblical foundation upon which it was founded.  I spent 6 years on the Vestry of the church as we watched our little group join with other little groups around the country to form the Anglican Church of North America.  The Anglican church is a worldwide mission.  We worship on Sunday mornings with churches around the world, praising God, reading the same scriptures and sharing the same prayers.  Our group desired to be formally associated with that worldwide mission not just casually.

A couple weekends ago another big step was taken as we formed a Midwest diocese.  Our 2 churches in Minnesota along with a handful of churches in Wisconsin and the Chicago area joined together to encourage each other, offer support and work together to further God's kingdom.  The pastor of the church in Wheaton where Jake attended last year, the church that planted our church 9 years ago, and who happens to be the brother of our church's pastor, Stewart Ruch, was elected our new Bishop.  Isabelle and I drove down for the consecration service along with several other people from our church.

Having grown up as a nice conservative, scandinavian Baptist you can come to a few conclusions about me.  I don't raise my hands in praise during worship songs, I don't dance, I don't get wildly excited in front of other people during worship services.  You would think that joining a liturgical service would offer me plenty of comfort.  More conservative people.  Just add a few intentionally placed standing and sitting, group recitations of prayers and the occasional crossing of yourself.  But in general it shouldn't be too different.

Except it is because that is not the kind of church we wanted to help start.  And that is not the kind of church that draws people to it and there is just nothing biblical about keeping it all stuffed inside.  When you are excited about the Lord, excited to worship Him, filled with the joy that comes form knowing Him, you just can't hold it in!  One of the women in our church says we are actually Angli-bapti-costal!

You might think that sitting for 3 hours in a worship service with an 8 year old sounds like a long, slow, painful method of torture.  But when the purpose of the service is to consecrate your new Bishop and when your new Bishop is filled with as much love and joy for the Lord you can't help but be filled with that same joy.  You can't help by be overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord.  And when the Bishop has taken his oath, when your pastor as given a wonderful sermon at his brother's service, when the Arch Bishop has prayed, and when everyone has shared the feast of the Lord in communion, you celebrate.  But not by just standing with your hands at your side and singing.  When you are there in the Lord's presence your worship cannot be contained and it burst forth looking something like this:

If you get this in email you might have to click on the link to watch but it will be worth it.  Unfortunately Isabelle isn't in the video but she was out dancing with the kids and is all ready to teach the kids at our church how it is done during our next celebration service.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Unbroken and Watching

I recently read a book called, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand.  It isn't the type of book I would normally ready but some friends wanted to try a book club format for our social gatherings.  I didn't even try to read the first book but thought I would at least put some effort in for the next time so I had a little clue what they were talking about.

The book is the story of Louis Zamperini who was an olympic runner.  After World War 2 broke out he joined the military and worked as a bombardier.  He ended up enduring a series of things that would have broken an ordinary man.  His plane crashed over the Pacific and only he and 2 others survived, one died while they were stranded at sea.  After over 40 days with few provisions and many challenges, they land on a Japanese occupied Island and are immediately captured.  He spends the next few years in a series of abusive POW camps under inhumane conditions.

I do not like to read these kind of books because I do not like to be traumatized.  I get the gist that there were human atrocities that occurred during WW2.  Evil does exist and we need only review that part of human history, among many other parts, to be reminded of that reality.

What is different about this book from others like it is that somehow woven throughout the story of this mans trials is a thread of hope.

After the war, after being rescued and returning home he suffers from nightmares and dulls his pain and fears with alcohol.  He is out of the POW camp but he is not free. Anger, bitterness, fear and an obsession with revenge rule his life.  However, God had another plan for Louie and at an early Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles he gave his life to the Lord and was truly freed from his prison.  The Lord took his anger and bitterness away.  His obsession with revenge disappeared.  We can't do that on our own, only God can do that.

What you see woven through this book is not a story of suffering but a story of hope.  While his circumstances were unbelievable this is a story of God's presence, protection, provision and pursuit.

We often ask ourselves why God lets us suffer like that.  If God really loved Louie why didn't he rescue him?  Why did God let that happen?  But the truth is there is Evil in the world, there is sin in the world.  God has given us a free will and some exercise that will to impart evil on others.  God may not have removed him from his circumstances but he did rescue him.  Throughout the story you see how experiences Louie had before the war gave him survival skills for the very circumstances he would encounter.  Fending off hungry sharks, knowing how far a bullet is lethal under water, even the thieving skills of his youth prepared him for survival in the camps.  You see kind guards come along at just the right moment, secret communications to keep the mind sharp, just enough food, moments of reprieve and life despite deteriorating health.

I have thought a lot about this book and my own life.  Honestly, I don't know if I would have had the will to keep living for so many years under those conditions.  I don't know that I would have been able to maintain hope.  And I am so thankful that God has not asked me to endure that level of suffering although I know around the world there are people who continue to do so.

But I have endured my own trials and watched those close to me endure their own.  And I see the same hope in those trials as I read in Louie's.  As I look back I can see God's presence woven into my story and in other's stories.  Providing what I need when I need it.

When I started my year naming the word "watch" as my word of the year I had no idea how significant or important that would be.  How much I would need to see Him at work and how encouraging it would be.  I thought I would watch him continue to provide for us to stay in our house.  I thought I would watch him do amazing things with my career.  I thought I was only going to watch him do great things in my life this year.

I didn't imagine I would watch him weave a path through painful experiences.  I didn't imagine I would watch him help me leave a second job, start a new very unstable career, watch him help me out of my house, watch him help friends and family through so many difficult and tragic events.

Yet through it all He was there.  And He did work, I have seen him everywhere.  And while it has been hard and not exactly what I would have written if I was writing my own story, I have never ultimately been disappointed in the stories God has written for me so far and I know this one is going to turn out great too.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The process of Re-invention

My friend Dave has this great facebook page called "Blaze Your Own Path" encouraging people in their entrepreneurial pursuits.  He recently shared something about re-inventing yourself.  It was written by some guy named James Altucher on his facebook page.  The worlds longest facebook status.  Too long for me to quote here but I was totally inspired by it.

John and I are re-inventing ourselves right now.  Who we were in the past and who we will be in the future are completely different people.  But re-invention is hard.  There were a couple things that struck me and I will share one today and one another day.
"Reinvention never stops.  Every day you reinvent yourself.  You are always in motion.  But you decide every day:  forward or backward."
Honestly, right now as we downsize our home and John is in school and I am trying to get a career off the ground, I am not really sure if we are going forward or backward.  But I do know we are not standing still.
"You start from scratch.  Every label you claim you have from before is just vanity.  You were a doctor?  You were Ivy league?  You had millions?  You had a family?  Nobody cares.  You lost everything.  You're a zero.  Don't try to say you're anything else."
OK I realize that sounds sort of harsh but actually in the midst of reinventing it was very helpful.  One of the hardest things about where we are at in our life right now is that exact reality.  We are nothing.  I keep wanting to stand on our past successes but they are irrelevant to where we are right now.  And what I am seeing is that until I am willing to start from scratch and learn all over again I am stuck.

I know you want to remind me how all my past experiences enrich my life and give me wisdom and skills that make me more.  We constantly tell ourselves how much better a PA John will be because of his age and life experience than a fresh out of school 20 something.

But when you are climbing a new mountain you have to start at the bottom with everyone else.  There is no jumping from one peak to the next.  You climb down the one you are on and begin climbing the next one. Or sometimes you fall down the one you are on and since you are down there at the bottom anyway... might as well try a different mountain.   We might have more mountain climbing experience but we still have to start at the bottom.  Until you accept that it is hard to get started and reach the top.

Letting go of who I was and where we were has been, and will continue to be, a challenging process for me. I loved our old life, loved who I was in that life.

The thing is, should that define me?  Am I defined by where I live, what I do, who my friends are, how I look or how much money I have?

As I move into a new career, new location, new life I can't hold up my past life and expect it to open doors to my new life.  Just because I helped John run a business or used to manage a rental property doesn't mean I will automatically have success in commercial real estate going forward.  I start at zero.  Start over re-inventing myself.

But who I am is not just about what I do, where I live, who I married, how my children turn out, how much money I have.  At the core none of those things matter.  As I change and re-invent myself during this season of life there is one thing that will never change:  Who I am in Christ.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Cor 5:16-17

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Living life in between

As Jake was graduating from high school and deciding where to go off to college I could tell he was viewing college as something of an awkward limbo between high school and adulthood.  Sort of a waiting period before he could begin his real life.  I advised him not to think of it that way but to realize this moment right now is real life.  Don't wait for life to begin.  Live now!  I guess he took us serious because he traded the awkward years of college life for the awkward 6 years of army life which may well be followed by more awkward college life.  And in the midst of all that awkward in between he is living life, getting married, experiencing the world.  I might even get that grandchild I am hoping to have before I am 50!  No waiting for life to happen in his life.  He is living!

I am reminding myself of that truth today in my own life.  With John in school, downsizing back into a space only slightly larger than we had when we were first married 23 years ago, both of us returning to low paying jobs in order to keep our heads above water, it definitely feels like we are in the awkward limbo of college life before our real life can begin.  Or in our case before we can return to our real life.

But this IS our real life.  At least for today and probably for the next 5 years.  When you go on a long journey you see a lot of different terrain along the way.  On our life journey we are certainly seeing a lot of new scenery right now.  But those changes are what keep the trip interesting.

Sometimes on road trips John and I purposely take the back roads.  Drive through the farm country.  One time on such a trip we came across a sunflower farm.  Yes, acres and acres of blooming sunflowers. Conceptually I guess they have to exist but I had just never thought about what the farm where those bags of sunflower seeds come from might look like. Incredibly beautiful. That farm wasn't our destination just a happy memory on the journey between point A and point B. If we thought of the drive as a limbo between events and rushed down the interstate instead of viewing it as part of the trip, we would have missed it completely.

As hard as life is right now in this weird transition we are in, I am glad we are in it.  Still excited about where we are going and who we are re-inventing ourselves to be. I could choose to think of the next 5 years as some sort of limbo.  Not acknowledge this downsize as a real part of our life.  But real life happens in between. Isabelle will be finishing middle school in 5 years!  I don't want to miss that.  I will have had more working years on this side of homemaking than I had before children.  I can think of so many things that could happen over the next 5 years while we are in limbo and there are so many other things that will happen that I can't even imagine.

We are driving those back roads on our journey toward PA and watching for that field of sunflowers.

Are you rushing down the interstate or enjoying the journey through life?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The absurdity of Worry

I have decided that the topic of worry needs 2 posts in a row.  Who knows what God will tell me today, maybe there will be 3!

When I was in middle school back in the '80's I had a pair of ballet flat style shoes that were gray, pointy toed and had holes all over them.  They were the height of style at my middle school and I felt like one of the cool kids when I wore them even though I was anything but.

I grew up in Minnesota.  It gets cold in Minnesota in the winter, snow falls, frostbite warnings are given.  The people who set fashion trends do not live in Minnesota.  They don't know what frostbite is.  They decided the cool way to wear these shoes was barefoot.  And since I wanted to be cool, I wore them barefoot.

One day I wore them barefoot to my grandma's house in the middle of winter.  A few days later my mom got a call from grandma who had been up all night with worry over me going barefoot in the winter.

Let's ignore the obvious fact that I have horrible circulation problems in my toes and they regularly go numb in the winter, I am sure as a result of these very shoes. Let's ignore the fact that my grandma was right.

I specifically remember my mom telling me about this and thinking it was ridiculous.  Why should my grandma be up all night worrying about me?  And I was FINE.  It isn't like I tromped around in the snow.  I walked 1/2 block to the bus, got on and walked into a heated building all day and then home to my heated house.  (Until that day the bus got stuck in a snow storm 3 blocks from my house...How do I even still have feet?)

Right or not, what did my grandma's worry accomplish?  Nothing.  It made her life miserable and did not change my circumstances at all.

Now that my mom is a grandma I see her doing the same worrying her mom did.  Seeing little things happening in the grandchildren's lives that are concerning.  Things that could go wrong.  And what can she do but just sit around in her retirement, worry about it and call her daughters to share her worry.

As moms we are in the middle of it.  Back in the '80's I am sure my mom would have loved it if I put on socks but in the grand scheme of parenting that just wasn't a battle worth launching.  Today as a mom I must confess I don't care what my children wear.  Sometimes I will go to battle but most of the time it just isn't worth the effort.  On the bigger things that grandma's worry about like faith and relationships, parents are in the midst of it gently directing their children through and around the challenges.  Grandparents are just sitting on the sidelines watching with no control or sense of what is happening on a day to day basis.  So they worry.

Lately I am feeling a little like a grandparent.  My parents have been in Atlanta for several weeks helping my sister who is going through a difficult divorce.  Then last week my dad ended up in the hospital down there.  I am up here in Minnesota getting the overview but with no control over what is happening, not aware of the day to day directing of events and nothing to do but sit and worry about all of them.  Add to that my son and future daughter in law have decided to get married this Christmas.  While I understand the decision to get married this year it does bring about some challenges going forward in their life and marriage.  And since I am not involved in any of this I have nothing to do but sit back and worry about how they will problem solve each thing.  (My friends have been coaching me that the mother-in-law job is to keep her mouth shut.  How will I survive?!)
"Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" Matt 6:27
The thing is that I have my own problems.  It isn't as if I have nothing else to worry about, but here I am worrying about other people's problems.

Yesterday for some reason I was thinking about all this worrying I was doing and the absurdity of the activity sort of hit me.  What was I accomplishing?  Absolutely nothing.

Maybe that is how the song should go.  "WORRY.  huh, What is it good for?  Absolutely Nothing!"  (instead of WAR?  Are you with me here?)

Last week I was literally having an anxiety attack all day one day.  I felt like all the things I was worried about were pressing down on me, crushing me and I was about to pass out at any moment.  (I am being a little dramatic here but seriously I was having an anxiety attack all day.)

The thing is I don't generally spend a lot of time worrying, I don't engage in a lot of political discussions.  Not because I don't have opinions or concerns but generally I am not interested in raising my blood pressure to discuss things that I have limited power over and that I am trusting God to lead me through.  Same with friends, I love my friends and am always available to listen, encourage and help but generally speaking I leave their problems with them.

But when it comes to family it is hard to stay rational.

Since having my anxiety attack I have realized that I have to separate myself from this worry and feeling of responsibility.  While I love my sister, nieces, parents, son and future daughter in law, I cannot take on their problems.  I can love them, encourage them, give them wise counsel when asked but, I do not need to carry their burdens around with me on a day to day basis.  I am not responsible for them.

And suddenly as I was standing there yesterday the memory of my grandma worrying about me going barefoot in the winter came to me.  And I remembered how absurd her worrying seemed to me and I realized how absurd my worry was.

Now when it comes to the needs of my personal life and the things I can control, those I can worry about. Right????
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matt 6:25-26
I guess not.

It is sort of like God knew we would be tempted to worry about our life and finances and how we would provide for ourselves each day.

Not worrying is not the same as not doing anything.  But I am starting to see that I spend so much time worrying about whether or not we will be able to make it that I don't have as much time as I otherwise would to actually do the work!
"Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" Matt 6:27
This is the question Jesus asks after telling them not to worry.  Sometimes it amazes me how He reads minds and addresses the obvious problems of a topic.  After spending time worrying each day I do need a few extra hours added to my life to still get everything done.  And now here Jesus is telling me I am not adding time to my day or my life by worrying?!

So I guess I should dispense with all the worry about my own needs as well and get on with the business of watching for God and joining him in the work he is doing in my life.
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Matt 6:28-32
I am ready God.  Let's make this happen!  Isabelle needs a new winter jacket and I know you are on the detail.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Watching the Sunrise

"He has made everything beautiful in its time."  Ecc 3:11a

While this has been a bit of a crazy few months living at my parents house I have to confess, they have the most spectacular view out their back windows.  And each morning since I have been here I have been sitting next to the window as the sun came up and the fog rolled across the wetland behind them.  And after nearly 3 months I am here to tell you, it does not get old.  It is no less spectacular today than the first morning.  It is new and fresh and powerful every morning.

I just couldn't capture its true beauty

The last couple mornings it has been a spectacular red sunrise.  Gorgeous.  I am stopped in my tracks by its beauty and must just stand and stare.  Afraid to move, afraid to miss even one second of its glory.

Photo by Chuck Young.  Not my view but he caught the red this morning.
As I am admiring the gorgeous red sunrise I can't help but think of the little ditty:  "Red sun at night, sailors delight.  Red sun in the morning, sailors warning."  And as beautiful as it is I am immediately thinking about the bad weather that is to come.

This morning as I observed the beautiful sunrise while simultaneously wondering what was in store for us weather wise today I thought about my life.

How many times do I look upon the beauty of what God is doing and only worry about what is next?  I get caught up in the "what if" of life. What if I don't ever make money?  What if John fails his classes? What if we fail?  What if something happens to our children? What if something happens to our parents? What if...  I can get so caught up in worrying about what might happen that I miss seeing what is happening.  I miss the beauty surrounding me.  I miss seeing and experiencing God's glory.

That isn't how I want to live.  That isn't how God wants me to live.  I want to revel in the beauty of what God is doing and showing me in my life just as I stood transfixed by the beauty of Saturday's sunrise.

Could this mornings red sunrise mean stormy weather today?  Possibly.  But I will get through.  I will pull out the umbrella, wear an extra layer of clothes, and press forward.  It is MN after all.  If we didn't know how to survive bad weather we would all be in trouble.  Bad weather might require a minor adjustment in our plans but it rarely stops us.

When stormy situations happen in my life God will see me through.  No need to worry.  Then when God places something beautiful before me, like a morning sunrise, I can just enjoy it.

"One thing I ak of the Lord, this is what I seek:  That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." ps 27:4
Kenyan Sunrise

Are you missing the beauty God has put before you because of worry?

Friday, October 4, 2013

enduring during the days life is hard

I love to read blogs, magazine articles and self help books.  I love to hear people's stories, listen to them share what they have learned.  I love articles that give me to do lists, steps for how to improve my life and be a better person.  I get excited and inspired.  Motivated to become a better friend, neighbor, homemaker, person.  I love to grow and learn and become.

Most people share stories of mistakes, tragedies or difficult circumstances that lead them to a new epiphany.  Anything from the drug addict that found the Lord to the slob who learned to clean her house.

I love to say that my blog is just stories of "what not to do".  I like to lead by bad example, "don't do what I did".  I love to share all the mistakes I mae.  Like the other day when I had just finished showing a house and was putting the keys back in the lock box.  The day before I had taken this same buyer to a house where my electronic key did not work and we ended up walking around the house for almost 30 minutes before the selling agent came and let us in.  This day my key worked perfectly, we got in fine and really liked the house, but just as we were about to leave I dropped the keys.  Normally not the end of the world but this house was a bit of a fixer-upper and there was a 3 inch crack between the house and stoop.  Yep, sent the keys right down to the bottom.  It wasn't embarrassing at all to do that in front of the buyer or to have to call the agent and tell him I lost his keys.  When I got home John told me that had happened to him at a job once and he just dropped his magnet down on a string and pulled them right back up.  Can you believe it was the one day I left my magnet and string at home.  What were the odds?

Most of the time when I share about some crazy thing I have done wrong it is because I have learned a lesson, experienced God's grace, or otherwise improved my understanding of the world and I want to share my newfound knowledge.

Lately I haven't had much to say because my life feels a little like this dropped key.  An interesting story but with no real lesson to share.  Today at another house with the same buyer I dropped the key again.  Luckily there was no crack this time, I picked it up and kept going.  The fact is I drop things, I make mistakes and no matter how hard I try I will never be perfect.  I will always drop keys, if we could go back in time and I could do it again, I would probably still drop it.  Not because it was a great learning experience but because I will still be a klutz.

That is how my life is right now.  Just me living life, going through the motions of day to day responsibility and being imperfect.  I am heading toward something but I am not within sight of the finish line.  Just the long road in front of me.

Most inspirational books are written with this format: person going along in life, person has tragic events, person learns from events, grows in their relationship with the Lord and is now writing a book to share said lessons which you can use while you are going through your own tragic or just mildly difficult life events.

Somehow shared as if we could all avoid struggling through tragic events if we would just learn these lessons the writer learned while struggling through her events.

Read my book and the next time something bad happens in your life just remember what I said and don't worry, be happy!

The thing is some days life is hard, sometimes life is hard.  I am in the middle of hard.

I have read the books.  Heck, I have done hard before and written the book in my journals to remind me of the lessons I learned and why I should be able to go through hard without it feeling hard.

The reality is we can't avoid hard.  We can't avoid days where we just sit down and cry.  Not because we have lost all hope or don't know what to do, just because some days are hard.  And even filled with hope that everything will be fine, in that moment, it is just hard.

Jesus got it.  He cried.  He knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead and he still wept.  Because even when you know everything is going to be OK, in that moment, looking at his friend grave, surrounded by people grieving, it was hard.

I have hope, I have belief, I have faith.  But right now life is hard.  There are several things going on in my life right now that I don't feel I can talk about in this public format.  Not all of them are going on in my life directly but I am affected by the struggles of other peoples lives, especially people close to me.  And when those struggles are piled on top of my very transitory and challenging life circumstances, well, it gets heavy, and feels like a burden too great to bear.

Oh, Melanie, you say, "give that burden to the Lord"  He can carry it.  Amen friends I believe it and He does carry it for me.

Then why am telling you about it?  Because while he may be carrying it, I am still living in it.  I don't have to carry the burden of responsibility, I do not fear the path I am on, I am not burdened with solving my own or other peoples problems.  But under all that, I am still walking. The trials don't go away when we give them to the Lord.

Today, this week, this past month, life has been hard, exhausting, emotionally draining.  There has been good with the bad and I think the hardest part of dealing with trials is that sometimes the celebrations get overshadowed.

Still the Lord is present.

This year my word is "watch" and I can see God working every day in big and little ways.  He may not be rescuing me or the people in my life who are struggling but he is clearing the path and leading the way.

This morning I saw God clear a path for me.  This morning as I was feeling burdened by several things in my life God created an impromptu prayer group just for me.  I did not leave the house this morning to see friends and attend a prayer group, I did not even leave the house this morning thinking I needed a lot of prayer but God knew exactly what I needed.  I found myself crying surrounded by godly women I have known for years with nothing to do but sit and pray for me and for my family and our burdens.  When I left my circumstances were exactly the same, the struggles still existed, the road was unchanged.  But for that moment I saw God, he took that moment to remind me of His presence, His Love for me, for my family and for my role in it.

Life is hard.  When we are in the midst of it God does not always take away the hard.  He can if he wants, but in my experience he often doesn't take it away instead he walks through it with you.

Don't try to take the hard from me friends.  It is part of where I am right now, it is part of where God has put me.  Hard is not bad.  And some day I will be on the other side.  One day stability will come, everything will start to make sense and I will become that author who shares the wisdom of how to overcome the trials.  And when I do will you remind me of this moment.  Remind me not to tell anyone they can't live a hard life but to simply remember God is walking with you, carrying you when necessary.  Life is hard but with God you can endure.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fighting Evil

I have been spending the past few months watching my sister suffer at the hands of someone who does not have her best interest in mind.  And I am watching him drag her through the mud with slanderous words, lies and using a lawyer to launch baseless threats.

As Christians, when we are under attack do we fight back or do we stay down and wait for God to rescue us?  Maybe the answer is both.

So I was praying this morning against evil.  I have become over this last year aware of evil and how it surrounds us.  I see it all around me.  Last night I heard of another struggling marriage.  And my heart breaks.  I see evil in my children, I see them struggle between God and Satan.  Finding their way through.  Jake has made his decision but is not immune to temptation.  Isabelle has yet to reach out to God.  She is listening to Him but she is listening to the world as well.

We have a legacy of faith in our family. 3+ generations of men and women serving God.  It is a blessing, surrounded by people you can always trust to encourage and direct you down a godly path.  And my prayer is that my children and the children of all my family and the generations to come will know and serve God as this past 3 generations have.  We aren't perfect but we all serve a perfect God.  And I pray that, try as he might, Satan is not able to get a stronghold in our family or plant any seeds of doubt that may grow up and affect future generations.

As we live a life of faith, as we grow this family of faith, growing from 5, my parents and my siblings, adding 11 children and spouses, Satan will pursue our destruction.  As we face life’s challenges, and they will always be there, I pray for strength and courage to fight knowing our battles belong to the Lord and He will always be the ultimate victor.

Sometimes in our life as we follow the Lord we find ourselves under attack from the Evil that surrounds us.

At the end of Deuteronomy when Moses names Joshua as his successor, as he prepares his people to enter the promised land he says, “be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  In the first chapter of Joshua, as God is preparing the Israelites to enter the promised land and attack the city of Jericho, claiming what God has promised them, he repeats Moses' words 4 times in the first chapter, “be strong and courageous”. So we go to battle against evil.  But not on our own.  We are strong and courageous because we know the Lord is with us, He goes before us.  Actually before Moses says to be strong and courageous he says that God will be crossing the Jordan before them. 

And this reminds me of David’s battle cry against Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty...for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

We do have to fight at times.  Yes, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek but he also acknowledges that he is sending us as sheep among wolves, "therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matt 10:16) This is not an idea that has to be at odds with one another.  We hear more about the idea that Christians must turn the cheek and be innocent as doves but we forget God led his people into battles and Jesus told his disciples to be shrewd as snakes.  We don't want to engage in the Evil behaviors of Satan but neither do we stand back and let him take over without a fight.

The Israelites went to battle and killed the people of Jericho.  David did kill Goliath and cut off his head and the Army of God did then chase and kill the Philistine army he was part of.  God’s people were under attack and had to defend themselves and at times God had them defend themselves by completely eliminating the attackers.

Not all of us can imagine standing in front of Goliath, a big warrior with armor and deadly weapons, with only a sling and a few stones.  But if you are under attack from an enemy and find yourself alone and standing scared you probably get it.  It doesn't look like you are going to be the victor in this battle.   Be like David who knew the outcome before he started.  Who volunteered to fight Goliath not because he thought he was a great warrior but because he knew God was a great warrior, “this battle is the Lord’s”.

Returning the Joshua and Jericho...Before the battle God sent out the army to simple walk around the city.  7 days in a row and then 7 times in one day.  He didn't put the army first, he put the priests first.  Then they gave a battle cry of victory before it had even started. And God dropped the walls.  They didn't keep standing there waiting to see what would happen next, they went in and did the work God had laid before them.

Each battle needs a different strategy but each battle belongs to the Lord and is fought by Him.

Pray circles around your children.  And when the walls fall be prepared to go in and battle for them.  To fight the lies and evil that Satan is trying to plant so they can instead be filled with the Spirit of truth.

Stand like David against the people in your life who feel like Goliath at times, and remember, he only had a sling and a stone but he did attack.  And because he was fighting the Lord’s battle he won.  No fear.

I don't want to become a family of aggressors attacking at every injustice.  The idea of fighting to right every wrong that comes my way, be right and win is just exhausting.  I think there are times when we do turn the other cheek, let evil have its say and then let it pass on by.  But there are times when we must stand up and fight evil, protect our children, and believe in God's power.  When family is under attack we don't stand behind a rock and wonder how we will get out of this, we stand up like David knowing that while it might not seem like we have the right weapons to win the battle, we are confident because the battle belongs to the Lord.

Ps 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

God's Noisy Silence

Lately my quiet times have been a bit blah.  I get up, read, have no thoughts on what I read, nothing new to say to God, the usual, "need money, need a place to live, please help us".  And then I move on because there is just nothing else to do or say.

I remember many years ago being in a bible study. a woman talked about God being silent in her life at times and continuing to be faithful throughout it.  I sort of always thought it was stupid.  God being silent in your life.  If you can't hear God are you really listening?  Every day you sit down with your bible and you don't hear God?  Sorry, that just sounds stupid.  Completely counter intuitive.  If nothing else the bible is God's word, can you hear that?

But I think I sort of know what she was saying.  Lately I haven't had a bunch of God moments.  I don't hear his voice specifically talking to me, I haven't had any deep epiphanies.  I read my bible each morning, contemplate the meaning of that passage, read through the commentaries in my bible, and move on.  Rarely seeing an application to that day or moment in my life.  Unlike past moments in my life when it seemed like God could use a totally random scripture to show himself to me.  (I would insert an example here but all my journals are packed up in a storage container somewhere.)

Yet God's silence is not like the silence of a friend or spouse. God's silence is very noisy.  Because God is everywhere.  I may not have a clear picture of how to overcome my identity problems but I do know who my identity should be in, not me but Him.  I don't need the voice of God to tell me that.

As I look out the window and see beautiful fall flowers and birds and butterflies fluttering about do I need God's voice to tell me he is present?  I know because he tells me he clothed the lilies of the field and feeds the birds.  And he says, "Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"  Even when God is silent, he is loud.  He is present, he has given us his word in the bible and as we read, study and memorize it we aren't just learning words and ideas from some man made book we are filling ourselves with his spirit.

So even when life is dull, nothing is happening, Get up, read the bible, go to work, carpool, make dinner, watch tv, bed, repeat, i t just seems like God is silent in your life, not calling you to anything new, helping you over any hump.  But when you really engage in what you know, open up to what the spirit in your life is showing you, God's presence is overwhelming, his voice so loud.  "I am here!  I am working!  I am caring for you!"

This is where a good blogger would insert several pictures of beautiful scenery.  But considering the inconsistency of my posts lately I think we can all agree I am not a good blogger.  So just open up your last vacation photo album or search nature images on pintrest and imagine all those pictures going along with this post.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Who cares what strangers think?

Hello.  You still there?  Am I still here?

I miss writing yet lately I feel like I am running out of things to say.  Even what I write in my journal is getting a little dull.  When I am bored with my own private thoughts I clearly don't have anything to say here.

Yet, I find that writing, expressing, sometimes helps me get my mind around where I am at in life, I think out loud.  So I thought I would see what would come out if I sat down here.

A few things I have been thinking about lately:

My life really isn't that bad.  I have very little to complain about.  I live in a nice home, have a loving husband, a sweet daughter, a wonderful son and a beautiful future daughter-in-law.  I have extended family and friends who believe in me, support and encourage me.

Yes, I am in transition and I have needs but over all my life is good and the things I have to complain about really are not problems. For instance, my mom keeps her silverware in the wrong drawer.  While confusing every time I try to grab a fork, this is not really a huge problem.  I was thinking last night while this move and job change stage we are in right now is definitely stressful, very stressful, it really isn't the hardest thing we have gone through  in our marriage and likely there will be many future stresses to follow this one.

Which is not to diminish the fact that we are stressed here but to remind myself that we have overcome bigger mountains and can look back on them and see the joy in the journey.  That is one thing I am always trying to figure out.  Believing each day that this is just a moment, part of life and the days we struggle are just days, they don't define us or our lives.  I can experience joy amidst sorrow.  I always want to remember that God took care of me last time and he will take care of me this time.

I don't know how to define what we are going through.  It isn't a thing, it is a process.  I wouldn't say we are in a trial or a storm or anything.  I think part of why it feels so stressful is because it doesn't feel like a storm or a trial that we need to wait out or get through.  It feels more like a slide down a mountain.  At the end we will be on the bottom.  I feel like the struggle is that I am trying to grab hold of something to stop the free fall and I can't reach anything.  So we just keep falling down, down, down.

The truth is that isn't at all what is happening.  Well certainly one could look at it that way.  Failure.  But we have chosen this path.  If you volunteer to fail did you really fail?  If you purposely quit your job and sell your house is that a failure?  If you have a plan that does not involve living with your parents the rest of your life, if you are working each day to build a business, if your husband is going to school toward a goal, your son is becoming independent and your daughter continues to thrive.  Are you failing?

Then I want to carry a sign with me everywhere I go explaining my life to people.  I want everyone to understand my journey and why, although it may look like it, this isn't a failure.  I wouldn't want a stranger to think I don't know what I am doing.  I want to tell people that I used to be a stay at home mom in a nice house in a fancy suburb.  I used to write deep thoughtful blog posts about my faith journey.  My son used to go to an elite Christian college.  My husband used to have a successful remodeling company.  I want to tell everyone how after the economy tanked and business slowed we realized this was not the career we wanted to fight for and we decided to start all over again.

But why?  Why do I need to explain myself to everyone?  I think people who have to explain themselves to everyone are very insecure.  So I guess I am sitting here telling you that I feel very insecure about my current identity.

(I do think I am over the whole Wheaton thing because I no longer try to explain to people that Jake went to Wheaton and then joined the army.  I just talk about the army.  Well most of the time...)

When I came up with this idea, yes it was my idea, and told John, "I will go back to work full time and you will go to school full time and become a PA!"  I knew it would be a challenge but I wonder if I would have put that exclamation point at the end of my sentence if I really knew it would be this hard.  If I knew we would have to sacrifice this much.

Yet here we are.

John and I have at least one, "what are we doing!?" fight per semester and at the end of every one we conclude that this is hard but we are both fully committed to the plan.  So we keep going forward.  John keeps going to classes, doing homework, getting A's and fitting paid work into the cracks of his schedule.  And I keep working toward the goal of fully supporting us in the next couple years while simultaneously maintaining a balance in our family life.  And our family and friends, who may or may not see the plan as fully as we do, continue to stand by us, support us, believe in us and encourage us no matter what we do.

When I write out my ramble I think we can all understand what my problem is.  Identity.  I still want to identify myself as that homemaker with the successful husband who is busy keeping a lovely home and fully engaged in raising healthy, happy, godly children.  I knew what I was doing and people valued my advice and knowledge.  It is so much easier to look back on that time of my life and only see the beautiful parts and forget the challenges that existed there too.  As much as I loved my 3x/week morning working out the truth is I often wondered what I was doing with my life.  I often felt that I was just killing time and should be using my time more productively.  I can assure you I never wonder that these days.  And as lovely as that time of life was, we were always struggling financially.  So nothing has really changed there.

If I meet a stranger and they think, "poor Melanie, has to live with her parents.  Why doesn't she just go get a real job like everyone else?"  Who cares?  Does their opinion have to define me?  Only if I let it.  Only if I tell myself that same story.  Poor me living with my parents.  Why don't I just get a real job like everyone else?  I am never going to make money at real estate.  I should give up before I embarrass myself further.

SO...Pep talk to myself.  I am on a journey, we have a plan, I am going to succeed, it will be OK.  I enjoyed my past life and am now embracing my new life.  This new life includes extra time with my parents, exploring life in a new community, bonding time each day with Isabelle in the car back and forth to school.  I may not be in the expert stage of working but I am in the learning stage.  Asking questions, reading, observing, experimenting and I love it.  I tell John several times a week, "I know I am not making any money but I LOVE what I am doing and I promise it will eventually turn into money."

I used to talk about how God was leading and directing and encouraging me when I would ramble like this.  So let me assure you, each morning that is exactly what he does.  He reminds me that He is still there, we are still on this plan and keeps me going.  It is because of who I am in Christ that I can sit in this life and say, "who cares what other people think of my journey."  Because I know whether I succeed or fail, who I am is not about what I do, where I live, how much money I have.  It is all about knowing Christ.  My life is not about this moment or the next, my life is about preparing for eternity.  And while we may be a tad behind on retirement, sliding down a financial mountain, I continue to climb a mountain of faith with Christ right by my side.  I have no fear of sliding down that hill.  Not because of who I am but because of what he has done.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I am a Future Mother-In-Law

When you are this cute of a couple

Do you have any choice but to get engaged?

My son got engaged last week to his girlfriend of 3+ years.

It wasn't a surprise.  For her, or me or anyone they knew.  Just like John drove out to Virginia, where I was going to school, to give me an engagement ring, Jake flew out to Boston, where Jade is going to school, to give her a ring.  And just like everyone in our lives saw my engagement ring before me, we had all seen Jade's ring before her.

However, unlike John, who during a commercial break turned to me and said, "here, want this?",  Jake managed to plan something a little more romantic.  Could it be because his dad said to him, "For the Love of God, DO NOT say, 'here want this.'"! Apparently it is the sort of thing that is hard to live down.

Jake went with a plan.  A gondola ride in Boston, a message in a bottle slipped into the water for her to find as they are floating along and a ring presented on one knee.  I wasn't there (obviously) but it sounds very sweet.  And she said yes.

So now I am a future mother-in-law.  The journey here has been a bit of a challenge.  I have had my concerns at times with this relationship.  But when Jake left for Boston with a ring in his pocket I was able to tell him with all honesty that I was excited for him.  Excited for them.  Excited to welcome Jade into our family.

So I am a future mother-in-law.  Hmm, well, what is that like?  

Naomi was the mother-in-law of Ruth.  After her husband and son (Ruth's husband) died, she told everyone to call her "bitter" and for Ruth to leave, go save herself.   Not sure this is the mother-in-law model I am looking for. (Although Ruth comes off well if Jade is looking for a daughter-in-law example.) 

Peter's mother-in-law died but then Jesus brought her back to life and she immediately began serving dinner.  That might be a better example but let me be honest...if I have a near death experience, am sick or just have a long day, I am not going to get up a serve anyone.  I am going to ask someone to order a pizza and lay down on the couch.

Who else you got?  

How about my mother-in-law, John's mom?  She is a pretty good example.  I mean sometimes she annoys me, says weird things.  Sometimes I look at John's whole family and wonder what on earth they are thinking.  I mean, that is not the way my family would do it.  But sometimes my own mom annoys me, says weird things and makes me wonder what on earth she could be thinking.  So really, pretty normal.  

I don't think I appreciated my mother-in-law and our great relationship until Jake started talking about getting married.  I never appreciated how hard it is to be a mother-in-law.  Hard to keep your mouth shut (really, really hard for me because I like to share every thought I have.)  Hard to trust someone else to take care of your baby.  Especially at a young age.  John's mom did it with grace.  And whenever she would say or do something that bugged me I would just remind myself that she loved me, is not trying to hurt me and maybe I was over-reacting.  And maybe, just maybe, I said and did a few annoying things in the early years of our relationship and marriage too.  Unlikely but I throw it out there...

So I am a future mother-in-law.  And I am excited.  Now that the detail of the proposal is take care of we are on to more important questions.  Like, what color should my dress be?  What should I serve at the grooms dinner?  And, will I get invited to go dress shopping???? (pleeeeeease).

Congratulations Jake and Jade.  I love you both.  Welcome to the family Jade.

(I've been saving this one since last Christmas. Today seemed like the right day to bring it out.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

The rebel and the good girl

Why does the good girl marry the rebel?

Growing up I was definitely a goody two shoes.  I am a quintessential oldest child.  I followed all the rules and never deviated or questioned the path I was on. I wasn't a rule follower because I thought I had to be or was afraid to disobey or disappoint.  I truly never secretly wanted to rebel.  I really was just a "good" kid.  I am one of those kids that meets Jesus at a young age and never looks back.  Really.  My faith has directed my actions since I was 4 years old.

So obviously being such a good girl I would desire to meet and marry the good boy.  You know the one.  The boy who also makes the right choices, follows the right path, met Jesus at a young age and never felt compelled to rebel.  Starts bible studies at school, leader in the youth group at church, prays with you on a date.  Only one problem, those boys bored me.

Recently I had lunch with a new friend who gave me the words I never had before.  She talked about being the good girl in the dating world.  Like me she was also the first born, rule following, good girl growing up. She even ended up in seminary she was such a good Christian girl.

What she described of her dating experience was exactly what I could have never expressed before about why I chose to date and marry the rebel.  She said when she would date the good boys they always seemed to be playing a part, doing what was expected, what they thought a seminary student would want them to do and be on a date.  It never felt genuine.

Looking back that is exactly what attracted me to John.  He was so real.  He never tried to be something he wasn't.  And that meant I too got to express myself with more freedom than I ever had with anyone else.  While I was the good girl I didn't want the pressure of  keeping up with that title, I wanted to make mistakes, try new things, express doubts without fear of judgement.

Over the years I have come to realize that while I didn't want to rebel in big ways, I don't always like to follow the rules.  John gave me permission to consider the idea that I didn't have to just accept everything but could ask questions and find answers.  I have become a version of myself that I love, a person I never would have had the courage to become without John.  I needed someone willing to push boundaries but who was content to let me stay safely on the "right" side of all the lines.

Be careful if you are a good girl looking for a rebel.  My rebel was really a good guy that thought outside the box.  He was willing to let me ask questions or express doubts but he never led me astray, never led me to make choices outside of God's will, never asked me to question my faith in totality but simply to understand it more.  He knew the Lord and together we have been on a journey of following Christ.

This past weekend we celebrated 23 years of marriage. Even after all these years, when I wonder what it would have been like if I had married the "good" boy, I get bored.  Our life might be a bit untraditional but it has never been dull.  I have loved every minute of it and wouldn't change it for the world.