Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We Wish You a Merry ChristMESS...

It's that time of year...

Commercials start rolling, offering sales at the speed of light. Every year the length of Thanksgiving getting shorter by the hour, meanwhile Black Friday has practically turned into the first 36 hour day in history. The ads actually have the courage to say "One for You and One for Me" this year...You know who you are, Target...

Its also the time of year when, as a wife and a mother, a panic attack sets in...to make the cookies or not to make the cookies...

Does that present have a big enough bow? Does that bow have a big enough flourish? and does my Secret Santa at work get the nice paper or the cheap paper?

Do I have all the lists of what everyone wants prepared? Can I decorate my house with a flair that would make Martha Stewart turn as green as the Grinch and then some?

White Elephant...Ugly Sweater...Traditional Caroling...Have I accepted  every invitation possible?

Have I sentenced my husband to the purgatory of untangling and stringing up the lights, setting out the lawn Santa and every other decoration I could find, thereby beating Stan from across the street with a National Lampoon Christmas Vacation style?

Is this really Christmas? And why have we allowed it to become such a...Mess?

You know, the first Christmas was messy too. But there weren't lawn Santas, White Elephants, or Snowmen that talked. There wasnt even a single late night sale...But there was an event that you wouldnt want to miss...

Late one night, a husband travelled with his pregnant wife on a donkey, his heart filled with the stress of being new father...coupled with a terrifying journey across mountains and out of the eyes of bandits. You arrive in a town, crowded to capacity, when your nervous bride, wide-eyed, tells you "it's time".

Did I mention, she was a virgin and this child wasnt even really his? He was told by an angel to accept this woman and so, he did...Now, that's messy.

Even messier still, you hunt for a room for your beloved, and all you can find is a stable...and not like the sweet Nativity you fight your sister over putting up every year. This one had real animals with smells and noises and...stuff... all their own.

In this Mess, the message of Grace was born. In this chaos, the Savior of Love and Peace entered into the world. Through one sweet child, millions of sinful men will be saved.

The message of Christmas is messy enough. So why do we add our own mess to it?

Traditions are beautiful and should be treasured.The giving and receiving of gifts is wonderful. But these things should never take the place of the of celebration the gift that was given to save the world.

What are you celebrating first in your heart this holiday season? Will your family have a Merry CHRISTmas or a ChristMESS?

Start a new tradition this year. Put in a little more Christ and don't worry so much about the Mess.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Power of a Praying Mimi

In our family, faith has been a cornerstone. It wasnt something that we randomly picked up. It was something that was embedded in our lives from the very beginning....and my Mimi, my grandmother, made sure of that.

Throughout my life, Mimi has been an unshakeable spiritual foundation, a go getter, a lover, a fighter, a leader, a true example of a lady and one of the most special people in my life. There's a popular cliche that states "I want to be the kind of woman that when my feet hit the ground in the morning, Satan says, oh crap, she's up"...My Mimi makes Satan drop the f-bomb and go into hiding.

As one of 7 granddaughters, Mimi told us early on that each of us got our own day of the week that she would bathe us in prayer. Mine was Tuesdays, and for some reason, I never forgot it. I always knew that, at any given point on a Tuesday, my grandmother was lifting me up in prayer to the Almighty God. It's a powerful thing.

I can remember on one particular Tuesday, before the job loss and the current crazyness of my life, I was feeling completely burdened. My husband had a job offer he wasn't sure he should take, we had this great house in front of us that I was crazy for, but weren't 100% sure we should move into, my job was completely taxing and draining to my family and spiritual life, and I just remembered, it's my day...so, I called my Mimi. I poured out my whirlwind story to her about where we are in life, what hurts and what I had expressed to the Lord so many times in my own personal prayers...but I needed to call in reinforcements...I needed the prayers of my Mimi.

I can remember her, in her wisdom, saying that she would pray as I asked, but would also ask that God give us clarity as we allowed him to direct our path. She sent me emails with scriptures specifically for those who wait...and now as I look back on that moment, Im floored...

Since that time, I've lost the job that sucked the joy out of life, but I've been offered one that circles exactly my career dream. We didnt get the house I really wanted, but now we have the chance to get a really great one in Nashville, where my new job is. My husband turned down the job offer, even though we didnt know what would happen, and now, my new salary provides him the chance to chase the passions God has placed in his heart. Who knew, when I asked my Mimi to pray alongside me, that the Lord would answer prayers so powerfully...I never could have seen this coming, but Im raising my arms in praise the whole way....

When I grow up, I hope I'm half the woman my Mimi is. I hope someday my children and my grandchildren will come to me and look to me for counsel the way we look to her. Her legacy is cherished now and for many years to come.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

30 Days in the Desert (Or, LIVE! From My Parents' Spare Bedroom!!)

It has been 30 days today...one whole month since I lost my job...and in this time, God has been teaching and trying me more than He has in a long time...

Usually my life moves so fast, I dont have time to stop and reflect on really profound things. Right now, however, I almost feel like God has put my life on a pause, literally while supplying my every need.

Let me go back 30 (give or take a few) days ago...

I was working (read as drowning) in a job that had unrealistic expectations, insane management, disconnected compatibility, and with a manager who seemed to have as many personalities as she had shoes in her office. (If you knew her, you know that's a lot.) I was commuting an hour each way and I was telling myself it was great because I was learning so much and really challenging myself. Apparently God still knows me better than I know myself...

We had just sold our house and were gearing up to move into the home of a friend to rent. This was a dream for us. Perfect home, perfect neighborhood, and thanks to Big Fantastic Job, we could finally do it.  The dream came crashing down when, out of nowhere, I lost my job.

I felt like I couldnt breathe...and then suddenly, I could breathe and take in air and life and experiences that I hadnt been able to for a long time. The elephant that was sitting on my chest had gotten up and ran away and I could see my world with new eyes.

Directly after losing the job, my husband and I had the honor to go to the Catalyst Conference (read as worlds greatest Christian Leadership conference ever), with the same dear friends who we had to inform we couldnt rent their place(...talk about some humbling grace..).

Right away, God taught me several priceless truths...the most important being that I had stopped trusting Him. I got so caught up in surviving through this job that I kept taking the claim for things He was trying to bless me with. My life direction had become MINE, as if God and I were on a motorcycle and I had just strapped Him in the sidecar, still a part of my life, but He was only along for the ride.

I can clearly remember one night at worship when I felt, as I hadnt felt in so long, God getting real with me. I heard His voice in my mind and heart so loudly and so powerfully, I couldnt even speak. I remember this booming feeling in my mind, resounding with the question "WHO AM I?" At first I simply responded. "You're God", as if it were no big deal...but it was.

He asked me again..."WHO AM I?" It was at this point, I felt the tears roll...My Father was chastising his Daughter and I knew it...I responded, hands raised "You ARE GOD"...

And then, in the softest voice I had ever felt, the same tone I use with my own son after He's been disciplined and I want him to know how very much he is still loved, I heard, "If I am GOD, then why are you so scared?"

Soak that in...

I had stopped trusting God and because I could no longer control my own future, I was scared to death...and yet, in that moment, God reminded me of who he was, and that HE was in control.

These past 30 days have been lesson after lesson of His grace and providence in our lives. It hasnt always been easy and it hasnt always been comfortable...in fact, it's been downright humbling (remember that whole living with your parents again part?)...but I believe it's been exactly what my family needs. I have spent more time with my husband and son in the last month than I have in the last several months...and God knew this was what my soul craved. We may not have a spread of plenty in front of us, but we have been blessed to have just enough financially coming in to cover our needs...

God has been showing me over and over lately that He doesnt illuminate our paths so we can see the whole plan...he lights our way, step by step, so we follow Him carefully and prepare ourselves for each step. When we snatch the light from his hand and try to run ahead, we get tangled, snared and stuck on a path we probably would have noticed if we had stayed with our Guide.

I have no idea what the future holds for my family...where we will live or where we will work...but I do know who holds our future...and Im learning to trust Him again...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spider Crabs, Lemon Sharks and Pura Vida

Tonight I took my son to the park...or at least I thought it was the park. The moment we set foot in the play area, I was immediately transported to the eye of my son's imagination. In the snap of a finger, we became pirates, sailing on the high seas, fighting off sharks (who, ironically, liked to eat rocks.)

In the next moment, we were heroes on a submarine, diving through the arctic ocean, saving every kind of marine life from a lemon shark (named Lemmy of course) and a spider crab (which, Im not even sure exists)...and in the end, we raced to a volcano to save the lemon shark and the spider crab in time to get to their birthday party, (the crab's 1003rd birthday I believe?) and celebrate with a cake made of rocks (go figure...) and chocolate sea grasses.

As my sweet, brave boy and I jumped from one adventure to the next, I couldn't help but sit back and smile. Story after story rolled off his tongue like it was nothing, each interwoven with it's own intricate detail, pulled from the tendrils of his imagination. The more I played with him and engaged in his fantasy with him, the better it became. I lost myself in the moment with him and realized I was creating this story with him. (I'll take credit for that rock and chocolate sea grass cake, thanks...You're welcome, Spider Crab.) I was...having fun?

I was surprised to realize that, while I write for a living, I couldn't remember when was the last time I had sat back and let my imagination run free... To have the reckless abandon of a 3 year old's mind was...liberating to say the least. No constraints, no walls, no logic...just pure imagination. Just pure story.

I wonder if, sometimes, God sits with us and interweaves our stories with us...and yet we limit ourselves by the capacity of our own imagination. We are afraid to dream, to soar, to look outside of our little worlds, and yet, our Father, filled with love, wants to drive us to dream further; to reach the life that He has for us outside of what we can see. I wonder if, He smiles when he sees our creativity and yet, His heart breaks when He realizes yet again, we have stopped before making the choice...taking the path that would have taken us to "life to the fullest.

We all have dreams. There are countless nights my husband and I have sat up throwing around ideas. A coffee shop...a restaurant...an arcade and pizzaria...living in South America...living in London...writing books and childrens stories and music...and yet, we allow ourselves to be limited by ourselves. And I realize, Im not living my purest story...my purest life...

A long time ago, on a trip to Costa Rica, I committed myself to living what the Ticos called Pura Vida. Pure life...a life full of experiences, ups and downs, but always to a full extent. Sometimes in my day to day, my outside dreams get blocked by the walls of a cubicle.

Maybe I need to take some notes from the reckless abandon my son has...maybe I need to return to my Pura Vida and reclaim the life God has outstretched for my family...Im not sure what that looks like, but I've got an imagniation and a will wide open to it...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Keeping Marriage Classic

This spring and early summer, the hubs and I have spent a lot of time (and money! ugh...) fixing up our house in the hopes of selling it this summer. (3 bedroom, 1 bath, anyone??) Over the last 5 years of our marriage and especially the last 3 of living in this house (think the movie Money Pit...we've come a long way, baby!) one of the most fun growing and changing things about our relationship has been how we have overcome these hurdles...we have picked out paint together, we have laid flooring together, we have cleaned the paint we picked out off of that flooring (Im a little clumsy when I paint. oops!). We have rearranged, redecorated, and remodeled until my former love of going to IKEA is replaced with my dread of ever seeing the kitchen department again. And yet, as we were working on our dining room, I had an interesting thought...

Lets go back in time about 7 years ago when my husband-then-boyfriend got me his first "big gift", a painting print of a European Cafe. At the time, I loved it. I'll never forget how he dragged himself up in the middle of the night to get it at a black friday sale  (which was an act of love in itself, because this is the hardest guy in the world to get up early), because he wanted me to wake up to it for my birthday.

Now as we were looking to redecorate our home, I was having trouble finding a "perfect" place for it. We tried it on one wall and then another, and another, and another until my husband was almost ready to throw the hammer down (literally). Then, through communication and listening to each others thoughts and ideas, we found a new, perfect place to hang it in our dining room. A place that had always been there, but we had never really looked at it that way. But then again, how could we have missed it? The colors, the feeling, the blending of the wall with the pop of the painting. It was always one of my favorite pieces and it held so much love, I would have hated to just store it away. And now, it's like the room is renewed...refreshed...like we have a brand new wall.

Sometimes I think marriage is like this old painting in a new spot. We love what it stands for, we cherish where it came from, we adore what it means in our lives, but we fail to communicate, to keep dialoguing until we can move the "painting" together from the old stagnant place it was in, gathering dust and not shining to a new place in the home, cleaning it up and making it sparkle in our lives again. A lot of people in my generation think, eh, you just need a new painting. Yeah, you liked the old one, but really, there are "SOOOOO many more pieces of art out there", so many more "new designs" and "fresher ideas", when they fail to realize, if they would just invest more time and love into the "piece of art" they already have, they can make a classic come alive again.

When my husband and I worked together and found the perfect spot for this painting, we smiled at each other and gave a little hug, both of us knowing what significance this piece of art meant to us and the history of our love and our relationship.  Now, 5 years into our marriage, I stop and smile at that painting in it's new spot. And like that painting, I know there will be times when our marriage will feel old and dusty. There may even be times when we feel tempted with new designs...but its our committment to each other, to our love and to what our home...our family was built on that keeps this "work of art" a classic.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Untouchables...

Im about to rock your world...shake your foundations...shock you to the core...I am Not Perfect.

Not a perfect wife...not a perfect mother...not a perfect Christian...

and Im about to tell you why.

If you're a busy wife and mom like me, you know there are the rooms and places in your home that you clean, just in case people stop by...then there are...the Untouchables...the little things in our lives we hope no one ever sees...Sometimes it's the upstairs bedrooms...sometimes its that crockpot you leave soaking in the hopes your husband will take the hint and wash it before you get home...sometimes its the piles of laundry masked behind a door...either way, we all have untouchables. And we seem to not care about them. Until the chance someone could see them...then the frantic dash happens...We rush about to scrub and clean and wipe and fold and put away...we dust off until we can see it again...we hide the clothes so the room looks clean, instead of actually putting them away. We would never want anyone to see them...to know we have Untouchables...

Spiritually, we all suffer from Untouchables. These versions, however, bring much more danger to our souls...its the little secrets you keep, the struggles you face, the things you brush aside and think dont matter, until someone could see them.. What if someone knew YOUR untouchable? And so we rush around, trying to hide them deeper and further in the closets of our souls...hoping beyond hope that our friends and family wont see the corners of them peeking out from the places we push them...they wont notice the smudges of darkness still left on our hearts. We fear the judgement that would come if someone knew about our Untouchable. What would they think of me? Would they still love and respect me? How can I move past it?

These untouchables, like any mess in our lives, seem small at the time, but have the potential to spirtually cause destruction in our lives...and for many an Untouchable, a quick brush into our hiding place doesnt heal the issue that is still there...Its time to take hold of your untouchable. Bring it to light and truly clean it from your life.

Its time to clean out your Spiritual Closet...what Untouchables are you hiding? And when you clean, clean them out for good...and just like many big, messy jobs, you may not be able to do it alone...so dont be afraid to ask for help.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Father Becomes A Son...

This post is another one that has been brewing for several weeks now...Usually when they brew for a while, like a good coffee, the thoughts seem to be richer and fuller...hopefully, it's Starbucks worthy...

Over the holidays, my grandfather, my Papa, passed away. The one call you never really like to get on Christmas Eve is your mom, in tears, because your Dad just lost his own Dad...I think a lot of us made the motions of the holidays this year, with that thought looming over, but there was also joy in knowing Papa was partying with Jesus in Heaven this year...

At the funeral the following week, I tried to detach, to disconnect, because that is my escape clause. That is how I get everyone else through it. They can't lean on me if I am weak and so I turn myself off. Not sure if that's a God-given gift or not, but I can recount several times when my inner strength has gotten my own family through some really dark waters. I am also built with an emotional release valve...when everyone has been taken care of, then I let go...

I did a pretty good job, until a thought jarred my release valve...Sitting there in the rows behind my family I saw the people in my life known as Grandma (Mimi), Dad, Uncles and Aunt transform before my eyes...Suddenly, my grandmother was a wife...a widow who's husband and the love of her life laid in the box before her...I saw my father, the oldest, become a son whose shoulders had spent a lifetime bearing weight they shouldnt always have had to bear alone...I saw my uncles, weird and mistake driven as they had been in their lives become brothers who, along with my dad, forgave a multitude of sins on this day and embrace one another again...I saw my aunt, the baby, transform into a little girl who had lost her daddy, and regardless of the strong husband beside her, a little of her own strength and courage was buried that day.

I saw a family that had learned lessons, fought abundantly and loved passionately. And I was reminded of the layers we all have. People are more than just the layer they let you see. They are so much more than that. Once we take the time to understand them beyond the outer shell, the safe zone, we truly begin to know and love them for who they really are. My love for my family went leagues deeper that day, because I began to see them in their various dimensions...

What would your life be like if you loved everyone you encountered in 3D?

And for my Papa, i hope you are proud of all the dimensions you can now see in me.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Train Tables and Perspective...

Even though my son is 3, I still consider myself a relatively new parent. There's still a lot of "we've never done THIS before!" experiences that my husband and I face on a regular basis. ("No, you cannot ride the kitty..." "The puke is where?!"..."The poop HAS to go in the potty son, you can't hide to poop..." and other great tales of parenting) This Christmas, we enjoyed another "first" together as a couple...the first enormous toy from Santa *read as, his Grandparents* that Hubs and I had to spend an unreal amount of time putting together.
As we looked at the size of the box, the innumerable amount of pieces, tracks, wooden pegs, trains, and felt slightly overwhelmed (and incredibly not thrilled) about the task ahead of us...Already we could tell this was at least a 2 hour project...
But as my husband and I opened the instructions and dug in, side by side, a few things happened. We began to laugh and talk about what Gavin was going to do, or say, when he saw this Monstrosity of Choo-Choo-ness...(yes, thats what we named it!) We began sharing our own favorite Christmas memories with each other, reliving past glories when we realized "Santa" and "Dad" had the same handwriting. We laughed about stories from our parents, like the time when my dad had just finished putting the last little decal on the best "kitchen" playset for his little girls, finally crawled up the stairs at 4 am, only to be jumped on by those same little girls at 5 am, because Santa had been there!!! (Santa needed a LOT of coffee that morning...)

Looking at this experience from the eyes from a parent, I thought back to God. I thought, I wonder what it must have been like for Him, as he prepared His gift for us. How extensive those directions must have been! Every strand of Jesus hair, the warmth in his eyes, the hands that would heal and do miracles. Im sure the process was hard, thinking about the wrapping His gift would have to go through before we could receive it. The cross it would have to endure, before the Gift could be fully ready for us. But God our Father, like any good parent, rolled up His sleeves and got to work on the greatest gift of all. And the smile on His face when He saw the joy His Gift brought to the world, much like the happiness explosion we received from one little boy at the sight of his train table, the best gift he had ever seen!

I thought about how much joy and happiness my husband and I experienced in that one moment, when Gavin realized this gift was HIS! and he got to keep it "foreber"! I wondered if that was the same smile bursting happiness God feels when another one of His children opens His Gift, the one that He so lovingly prepared, no matter how hard it was. And in that moment, is it all "worth it" to Him, seeing the love, peace and joy that his Child will now experience through His Gift.

Im not saying Im looking forward to the many more toys to put together, but feeling the victory in that moment, the smile on my child's face, the warm happiness in his heart, and I would do it all over again.

And our Father, would do it for us too. Again and again until all of his Children have their "Christmas Morning" accepting His precious Gift.