Thursday, November 24, 2011

Good and Perfect Gifts...

As I take a moment to stop and reflect on this day.....this day of thankfulness.....I begin to wonder what I have been thankful for in years past. It seems that each year brings with it a new set of joys, adventures, and even challenges. This particular season of life has left me more in a place of seeking, asking, questioning rather than thanking. A dear friend called me about a month ago and prefaced the conversation with, "I know this may feel a little uncomfortable, but I was just wondering if you would allow me to come to your home and pray for you tonight." What a sweet, sweet blessing this was to me. As we sat together that night I began talking....as I so easily do....about life, pondering the thought of my own direction. Had I made my own choices in this life, had I gotten myself to the point I am now, or has God really directed each step and intricately chosen each road for me to travel down? As tears fell from my eyes, she looked at me and reminded me of this very simple, yet so easily neglected, truth......EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT COMES FROM THE LORD! So as I think about today, and the many things I can consider blessings in my life, I focus more on that truth...the people, things, and moments that I know without question God had his hand in.

*My husband...for loving me more than I could even imagine, for seeing me in ways I still don't know how to see myself, for teaching me what true grace, faith, and hope look like.

*My boys...for their wonderfully wild personalities, their intoxicating laughs, their loving hearts.

*My mom...for always being my support, my teacher, and my friend. My desire for a little girl stems from the fact that I love her so much that I can't imagine not having "this" with my own daughter someday.

*My family...all of them!!!!

*My friends....oh my friends! I would not be who I am today without them....you know who you are!!!

*My 30th birthday...getting hurt so I could lay in bed all weekend and simply do nothing!!! God knew what I needed more than snowboarding! =)

*Haiti...God teaching me humility, how to love others better, and showing me that He has ALWAYS been there.

*My bible study girls! We've been a strong unit for 6 years now...and I can't imagine walking through this life without them.

*My CG....for the laughs, the tears, the "community," the love that I have for such special friends. Another group now 6 years strong!!!

*My beautiful new home.

*Ragnar....RUNS WITH A VAN....God teaching me so much about my own heart, my own limited strength, and faith.

*Sand angels, dance parties to Carter's Chord, movies under the stars, spontaneous trips to Chattanooga, cardboard box sledding, bread basket, sledding with my boys, The Brow, the boathouse, a river...

GOOD!

PERFECT!

THANKFUL!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Journey of 196 Miles....

....begins with a prayer. Last year my husband took part in a 12 man relay race from Chattanooga to Nashville. He enjoyed it so much that in January of this year he "somehow" compelled me to be a part of this madness. At that time my thought was centered around the fact that I had ten months to train. Over time, the months began slipping by with no progress in sight. Sure, I could fill you with plenty of excuses, but I won't do that (4 months of strep throat, 2 children's tonsillectomies, went to New York, Destin, and Haiti, had three months of severe back problems...to name a few)! Needless to say....I wasn't ready.

Overconfident and Undertrained!

This was the name of a fellow team and I immediately loved it! I should have written it on my shirt as it was probably more fitting for me than it was them. I didn't have a lot going for me in the running department, but what I was completely aware of is that I would not get anything done by my own strength alone. Regardless the excuses I had, the one thing I knew for sure is that God brought me to this moment and so my prayer slowly turned from "please Lord help me get through this" to "please Lord allow my heart and mind to be open to everything you wanted me to get from this experience."

I was definitely the grandma of the team....for sure not in spirit, just in running. But what I loved about our team, is that it didn't matter. We were a "team" in every sense of the word. It didn't matter how we did, just that we did our best. My first leg, the last leg of the girl van before the guys took over, was my favorite by far. They guys had come out to cheer me on. So about every mile of my 4.5 run I was met by either the guys or the girls cheering me on. A friend, James, even ran me in the last few steps to hand off to the guys! My second leg was only 1.6 miles. I was looking forward to this one from the beginning of the race because it was so short. I wasn't prepared for the dark, loneliness, chilling cold, and gradual uphill the entire way. It was however my best time. And then there was leg 3....another 4.5 miles. I can honestly say that I was done. My first leg was fueled by the cheering of my team. The second was driven by sheer determination. The third was where I was reminded of why I was running this race to begin with. So I began to pray....

"Lord God, we've made it through much tougher things this year than a measly little 4.5 miles. I'm here. You brought me here. This is all about you. Anything I have accomplished or will accomplish is by your strength. Let's do this...together!"

I set my music to "my" song, let the words soak in....."You lift me up, when I am weak, your arms wrap around me, your love carries me so I'm letting go...", and started running. I probably looked silly at times running with my eyes closed and arms lifted to the sky....but this run was never about me. This race was never about me. It allowing God to work something good within my own heart and life in this moment! It was about Him reminding me that He is always right there with me and that with Him, I can get through anything!

The third leg of the girls van was spent running in the early morning hours among the cold, darkness, and fog. Although when it was time for me to run....the sun came out, the heat started pushing through (causing me to strip off layers on the side of the road), and I was not only given a burst of energy, but also joy in this journey. I can definitely say without a doubt that the Lord was with me. I finished.....finally.....with a sigh of relief, a huge smile, and.....just for style.....a little bit of dancin'!!!!!!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dancing in the Rain

There is only one word to describe a day like today....monsoon. Fortunately, I had five precious hours to myself. Unfortunately, I had a lot to do with no escape from the rain. Even though I live in the same (small) town of the school I attended, it is a rare opportunity for me to get to revisit those old stomping grounds. My errands led me that direction today, allowing two things to constantly play on my thoughts: college and God.

Oh how I miss college. I miss the friendships, football games, late nights, alone time, freedom, adventures. But most of all....I miss God and the newness of our relationship. I had always grown up believing, but college...that's where He became real to me. I remember the hours I would spend reading my bible; the deep conversations I'd have with friends inviting new perspectives; the days I'd pick up lunch and drive to the duck pond to have "lunch with God." I felt Him. He spoke and I heard. Whether it was a friend's kind word, a note from a roommate, a cross in the sky, a lyric to a song....I saw His message.

Just because God was so prevalent in my life, however, did not mean it was anything close to smooth or perfect. Many of the storms life threw at me then were some of the toughest I have ever faced. It's taken me years, not to understand, but to fully embrace that God allows rain.....monsoons even...to come into our lives. As I was in and out of the rain today, I thought about just that....what it is like being in a storm. It's wet, cold, uncomfortable, irritating, lonely. We seek refuge anywhere we can find it, regardless if it's where we need to be. And our prayers (at least mine) usually take the form of pleading for it to pass by, to get through it. Never have I once prayed for a storm to stay or continue. I hadn't even been challenged to think differently until a few weeks ago. My husband and I were driving home from a friend's pre-release party when a lyric to one of her songs caught me completely off guard:
Oh, but I still don't know how long it'll rain
Till all our fields grow full with ripened faith
Before I go and face my father's graves
Oh I pray, your storms, would stay....
Till it takes what it came for.
(Tanya Godsey)
There are truly no words to captivate what came over me other than feeling as if God was speaking directly to me. It was difficult to fight both tears and chills as I listened to those words over and over again. It wasn't the answer I had hoped for. It wasn't really an answer I had prayed for.....but it was one I needed to hear.

It's been a very tough year for so many reasons. Countless times I have come before the Lord's footstool and simply prayed for understanding, hoping the answer would be presented with a clear reason. For so long God has met that question with silence......I guess he has been busy writing the words on Tanya's heart. Through her melody God wrote this message on mine:
"Laura, I know you don't know how long this time will last, but I do. I'm allowing you to walk through this so that you will grow your faith in me. Please keep trusting and walking with me through this storm and all those to come.....let them do what I sent them to do.....so that I can fulfill my purpose in you. I want to change you, grow you, know you like never before, so that when you reach the end of this life, you will be everything I intended you to be, and you'll be ready to come home to Me."
I guess this realization is just a reminder that "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord [really does] direct his steps." Sometimes the storms come, not to intentionally harm us or bring us pain, but to get our feet moving back in the right direction. We can either lay down and surrender, fight, or learn to dance in it!
I prefer the latter!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Movie Love

Last night I saw a movie where the actress reminded me a lot of myself. She fell hopelessly into her romantic movies, quoted her favorite lines, believed in the existence of love as it was in the movies, even wished her story was like a movie. It made me smile because that, guiltily, is me. I melt at a good movie. I cry my way through a heartfelt book. I quote the sappy lines! I know it's silly, but I've always believed that if someone could write a book or movie with such depth....then somewhere, sometime, somebody had to at one point feel that emotion. Right? Well, honestly...who knows if I'm right.


Pondering later on the movie reminded me of an email that took place a few weeks ago with my husband. As much as I wish I could say he talked to me like this all the time (moment to laugh out loud), there was a specific reason this conversation arose. Nevertheless, it still brought tears to my eyes. Here is a piece of what he wrote to me:
You are a beautiful woman. Your wit and mischievous pranks are endearing. Your fun personality is a breath of fresh air to the dullness of most people. Your caring and compassion for people and things is contagious. The fact that you cry at everything is so sweet. Your interaction with people is amazing to watch. You can connect with people on many different levels…and really quickly. The things you like to do for fun make you more appealing than 99 percent of the girls I have ever come across. While you do have an amazing heart it is just a fraction of what you makes you so great.
What I realized is that I may not have Prince Charming that puts a slipper on my foot and we ride off into the sunset. Or the man who sets up a flashmob in the middle of Grand Central Station to tell the girl he loves her. I have the story that the movies can't capture. My man doesn't steal the show and then the movie ends. He's the one that keeps on fighting, keeps on whooing, keeps on loving......every day.


I have the movie. Maybe in some way we all do! We're just usually too busy watching the "fake" ones to write our own. I'm going to start working on capturing the big scenes in my own more often.....just so I can put all those Hollywood ones to shame. And I may still throw in a flash mob here or there.....just because....


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Remembering Haiti...

I just found this post in my "drafts." I'm not sure why I never posted it after coming home from Haiti. Maybe I wanted to expand on the inner workings of my heart. Either way, here it stayed, tucked away in a folder, maybe for a day such as today. I knew coming back to the real world would be hard. If I'm being honest, being in Haiti was the most free I have felt in a long time. I was free to be that girl I used to know....the Laura who could talk to anyone and spend hours doing so. The girl who was tied to no other responsibilities but loving on other people, laughing, playing games, working hard but finding joy in every part of it. The girl that could be silly, engaging, intentional. That was the Laura that was in Haiti.....and yet coming home, back to reality, to bills, to responsibilities, to being a mom, to tough relationships, to lists of things to do, and back to having as many failures as successes with all those things I just listed.......slowly made God become smaller again. What I've realized is that it is easy to find God when you have a week away from reality to totally and completely be in his presence. The challenge is seeking Him in the every day....not "finding" Him every day, "seeking" Him. I can't tell you how often I've prayed over the past 8 months to see Him, cried out for help, longing for that natural relationship to transpire....without actually putting the work into it. Finding this post today was a sweet and precious reminder.....of everything that I felt while I was in Haiti....of how on fire I was for the Lord....of how I truly felt my heart change just by going there.....before I let the world start weighing it down again.


Haiti......

You know that feeling you get when you just know you are supposed to do something and you can't put your finger on exactly why or how you know, you just do? Well that was what I experienced back in January. I had known for a while that my heart was pulling towards something, and when the opportunity to go to Haiti presented itself, that feeling appeared! If you know me, then you would know I tried to fight that feeling, telling God that it was too big, my kids are too young, I have too much going on in my life right now, I'm not ready. Yet doors continued to open and the way started paving itself!

Maybe it happened with age. Maybe it began when I started working, providing for myself. Maybe it was the day my first child was born and I became the adult. No matter how it happened, God slowly started becoming smaller and smaller in my life. The bigger I became...the more responsibilities I took on....the more control I tried to seize.....was leaving me empty and emptier!!!! And in January...I had hit a wall. I was tired of living in a comfort zone, tired of seeking MY way, tired of getting by on MY hopes, tired of being let down by MY dreams. So I decided to take a leap of faith, stop fighting, and surrender to that voice in my heart. I signed up to go to Haiti!!!!! Yeeeaaaa, right? Well, that's what I thought.

And then I got sick. For 4 months my three year old and I fought strep throat. My immune system was down and I was just plain tired. In the midst of that I broke my tailbone and have continually struggled with back problems. My heart and body just felt weak....too inadequate to go on a trip such as this. Fear began to creep in.....what if I was wrong? What if I only "thought" God was telling me to go? And worse....what if going doesn't change anything?

I went on to Haiti with one prayer on my heart....."Please Lord show up. Please meet me there." I was needing God to be big....bigger than He had ever been before. And, honestly, I was scared that maybe He wouldn't be....maybe He couldn't be. Boy was I wrong!!!! And not just in a small way.......BIG TIME WRONG! God left whatever funk and junk I was bringing in my heart on that plane!!!

It has been extremely difficult to put into words exactly what I experienced on that trip. What I can say is that in the midst of all my struggles, all my doubts, all my fears that God may not be the "enough" I needed....He surpassed them. He didn't just speak to me on this trip....he was present, all around, everywhere I looked, in everything we did. For one week I was able to serve as God's hands and feet to others. And that moment....that small piece of time....was greater than any junk that may have been clouding my view of Him before going. Haiti was a life changing trip, but more than anything....it has changed my heart. I feel like it is "beatin" in ways it never has before.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Case of the TERRIBLE TWO'S

I often wonder if it is just me who can find a lesson in almost everything....or if it is God who is actually trying to teach me a lesson in almost everything. If I were a bettin' (wo)man, I would go would the latter.

You know when you just wake up to one of those days: bad mood, mad at the world, lacking joy??!! Well this is how my two year old woke up the other day.

Fresh out of bed, changing his diaper, he sternly says, "I don't like anything!!!"
"Why," I ask?
"Because.....I don't like anything!!!"

And there you have it.....truth and honesty from the mouth of a two year old. For his sweet, little heart, it was just going to be one of those days. Isn't it a little sad how early in life we develop the "grumps?" I mean, how hard is life at 2?

Nap time rolls around....and that cute, curly headed mess still just wasn't happy.....but oh so sleepy! No matter what I did, he screamed hysterical. He wasn't sick, he wasn't hungry, he wasn't hurt....he was just plain mad! Normally this is where Mommy would be checking her sanity at the door, but instead I just held him in my arms, rocked him, rubbed his hair, and sang to him. Sure, you couldn't have heard me over those high-pitched wails, but all I could do in that moment was love him, let him know I was right there, and that we were going to tackle those "grumps" together.

As I sat their calmly rocking this hysterical child, wondering why I hadn't lost it yet as well, I found myself pondering the thought...."Is this what you do for me, Lord?" When I am having one of "those" days where I am crying, in a terrible mood, mad at everything, maybe even mad at God himself.....does He simply hold me in his arms, rock me, rub my hair, and calm me with His voice....letting me know He loves me, he is right there, and we're going to get through it together?

And.....futhermore.....how often do I miss it because I'm the one doing all the screaming?

Ohhhh.....the lessons. I love the ways God is always giving me, not only insight, but understanding to who He really is and the depth of love He has for me.....even when that wisdom comes packaged in a case of the TERRIBLE TWO'S!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Left My Heart In Haiti

When I say I left my heart in Haiti, I really did. It's funny how one small thing can change your life forever. That was what it was like for me on our last day in Haiti. We were supposed to go to one more orphanage on our way to the airport. Traveling through Port-au-Prince, however, we hit lots of standstill traffic. I can admit that I was tired and my energy level was pretty low. I remember thinking....if we don't have time to go to the last orphanage than that is okay with me.

I sit here now thinking about the wonderful opportunity I would have missed out on simply by being tired. From the moment I stepped off the bus, this little girl grabbed my hand and stood hugging me. I discovered quickly that regardless
the language barrier, you could determine pretty quickly the personality of the children. Most of them were excited, full of energy, funny, TROUBLE =), kind. This little girl had such a sweet heart. She was so loving, calm, and patient when other kids were playing a little more eagerly. I remember finding a rock and trying to play tic tac toe with her on the ground. She told me in Creole that she would be right back. When she came back a skit had begun so she sat down beside me, and again, held my hand. I started trying to draw with the rock again and then she showed me that she had gone to get chalk. I remember thinking how precious she was that she waited so patiently for me to be ready to play (it was not always like this with the other children...lol). I fought back tears the entire time I was with her thinking, "How am I going to leave you here?"

I waited all week wondering if there was one child I would instantly bond to. I never dreamed that on my last day I would make such a connection. Her name is Jodelynn and she is 9 years old. Her clothes were dirty, she is lucky to get two meals a day, and she may not always have a bed to sleep on......but she GLOWED in my eyes! I am so thankful that the Lord allowed me to meet this little girl. She is written on my heart and I continue to think and pray for her every day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mighty to Save

Of all the things I can say about Haiti, nothing comes close to the heart of the children. Their eyes gleamed of INNOCENCE, HOPE, and PURE JOY.
I would say that most of our time was spent with children, whether it was at the work site or the orphanage. The labor work of the trip was spent building a school/church. You can see that right now they are studying each day under a tent....a loud (open classrooms side by side), distracting (from the workers), dirty, hot tent. I think back to my years of teaching and wonder what my professors would say about the ability to retain information in this type of setting. When the children would have a break during school, we would get the opportunity to play with them. I have mentioned that language is, obviously, a barrier, but it is amazing how quickly those walls are taken down in things as simple as a smile, a high five, a fist bump, a hug. They loved our presence among them and pulled us immediately into hand slap games, jump rope, soccer, and more.

I really enjoyed going to the orphanages as well. The main one we went to was only minutes away from our "home." Sister Mona ran it very well. The kids seemed very happy, almost like a family, and while I feel like they loved having us there to play, I never felt like one of them was ready to go home with us! =) I tend to be more naturally drawn to younger children because it is usually anything goes, easy to please. With older children, the language barrier and shyness made it a little bit more of an effort to connect, or so I believed. I quickly realized that this was a "me" problem and that the older ones wanted just as much attention and love as the little children. So this is where I rediscovered my jump roping skilz....which, admittedly, are nothing to write home about! When my "Around the World" skilz failed me in basketball, jump roping was the next best thing....and a good way for me to laugh, smile, and have fun with some of the older girls at the orphanage.
The last orphanage that we went to on our way to the airport really tugged at my heartstrings. The conditions were not the same. The children's clothes were dirty, there were not enough beds for all of them, some don't even have mattresses, they only get two meals a day. Yet, we pull up in our bus and they are singing to us, "Today is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it." HUMBLED. We couldn't get off the bus fast enough to those children. They were grabbing us left and right, hugging us, holding our hands....and it continued that way until the moment we left. Love!

If I have learned anything on this trip it is about love. Love knows NO COLOR. Love knows NO LANGUAGE. Love knows NO LIMITS. For so long I have lived in the bubble of thinking I don't have much to give or ways to help others....when all they really needed....was to be loved. They didn't care what they were wearing, if they had socks, even underwear, or a bed to sleep on. They didn't care that their jump ropes were falling apart, that their basketball goal had no net, or that their checkerboard pieces were bottle caps. The only thing these children wanted was to be "wanted." They are the living, breathing, tangible proof that God really is MIGHTY TO SAVE!!! He is saving....every day in Haiti He is saving....in the INNOCENCE, HOPE, and PURE JOY of the children!!!

Humbled!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Too Close for Comfort

Don't let these smiling, happy faces fool you! While we were both smiling and happy, it was one of relief rather than excitement! We planned for Cholera. We planned for Malaria. We planned for Typhoid. We planned for Hepatitis A and B. We planned for stomach issues, what clothes to pack, making sure we had plenty of germX. But there are just some things you cannot plan for!

It just wouldn't be fitting to talk about Haiti and all the wonderful things we've witnessed without giving a shout out to our near death experience....or maybe I should say "surviving" our near death experience.We traveled by school bus everywhere.
On Sunday, we went up a very muddy, rocky road to get to the church on the mountain. I was actually taking a picture, blurry as it may be, of all of the trash that was just piled and piled over this cliff. I had no idea that within minutes it could have been the site our potential death! Ok, that may be a little exaggerated, but it was too close for comfort! As the bus went around this curve/cliff, it was not able to make it up the hill. We went up and down it a few times, before David yelled for us all to get to the back of the bus to give more traction to the back wheels. It wasn't long after that the bus driver yells for us to get to the left side of the bus. The tires were spinning and sinking in the mud, causing it to push the back end of the bus out towards the cliff. I wish I had taken a better picture later on just to show the straight down drop off. The entire time this was going on I kept thinking..."I'm going to just open the back door and jump off of this thing." So the joke has sort of become that Laura had this escape plan brewing the entire time, but failed to let anyone else in on it!
We did finally make it, thankfully, and had a wonderful church service. When we got to the top, however, and the bus driver himself told us that he had been scared too.....well, that was enough of a reason for me to simply walk back down the mountain! So we did!

Worship: Together Is Better!

Our first full day in Haiti was Sunday. The compound where we were staying was a part of a big church with many members. We were not able to attend the entire church service, as they are usually 2-3 hours long in Haiti, however we did get to experience a small piece of it. I have witnessed poverty before, but never in such extremities. It's everywhere, all encompassing....but in the midst of it is a sense of pride that I have never seen. The Haitians have an appreciation, not only for church, but for coming and worshiping God that is rare.
I watched as hundreds of men, women, and children came to church dressed in their Sunday best. All of the men were in suits, and no matter the heat, they did not remove their coats. The women were all in fancy dresses as well as the children. From the outside looking in, you would not know they were in such meager conditions. What impacted me the most, however, was gazing out of our bedroom window (remember....the open air rooms=) ) and watching the people below walking to church. Just outside we saw all of the men and women paying what little they had to get their shoes shined for church. Some were even carrying their own chairs for the service. The lengths and depths that these people go to for a Sunday service were amazing....HUMBLING. They bring their very best to the Lord each week.

One of my favorite parts of the service was singing the hymns. As the Haitians sang "It Is Well" in Creole, I was able to sing along with them in English. They were so captivating to watch because when they sang, you could literally see their hearts pouring out. They were raising their hands, eyes closed, praising the Lord! PRAISING THE LORD! I looked around at our surroundings, the depth of poverty, and wondered what kind of faith it would take to thank and praise the Lord for circumstances such as theirs. This is the FIRST moment of the trip where I actually "got it." When I looked at them my heart asked "How can you praise the Lord?" When they looked at me their's responded, "How can we not?"
We were taken by bus up a mountain to a smaller church. It was very similar to the larger one. It was a really neat experience because while we were there to see them, learn from them, experience their culture, they treated us like honored guests. You could tell that they seemed very happy to have us and tried really hard to make sure everything went smoothly. Even the children sat through the entire service (2-3 hours) and acted perfectly. We were able to take communion with them, hear their choir perform for the first time, and even got to sing to them. What touched me the most was when we sang "All In All." We sang our song to them in English, and impromptu, they sang it back to us in Creole. It is definitely one thing to "witness" the worship gatherings, but we were able to sit and worship right along side of them. It was a wonderful opportunity I will not forget. As Fellowship always says, "Together is better!"


After church we were greeted by all the children and adults alike. Language is always a barrier, but it was broken quickly by hugs, smiles, and fist bumps!!! Church really made an impression on me and really allowed me to focus back on my own life. How do I prepare for church each week? What do I bring to God's table when I come? But not only that....what do I go home to when it is over? As I sat in the small church on the mountain, I often gazed out the open door and windows to the homes that lined the hillside. I began to wonder what a typical Sunday afternoon was like to these church members. Do they get to nap? Do they have a bed? Where do they hang/keep their nice clothes? How do they get them so clean? (Everywhere you look you saw clothes line drying.) Where do they even buy clothes? (I haven't seen anything that even looks like a store.) It made me think about my lazy Sundays: how I love going to worship, going out to eat, coming home and putting the kids down for a nap (in their own big, separate bedrooms), and crawling in my big, comfortable bed and relaxing. Again.....HUMBLED!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Holy Humidity

Humbled is a word that is going to be making its appearance in EVERY one of my blog posts, but I'm not going to pretend that fell short of appearances! I....yes me....was the one who actually brought a hair dryer on this trip! Well ladies...it was a cruel joke. The humidity was so bad that drying actually made it worse! And makeup, well, other than a little around the eyes, the rest of it just made my face "gleam" with sweat even more! So....natural was my best look down in Haiti. Yes....I can shamefully admit that it took me a day or two to come to terms with this fact.....but again, I was humbled! God didn't stop short of breaking me of all of my dependencies in Haiti....and I couldn't be more thankful for that! Oh...and hats! I was thankful for hats!!!!

Haiti: First Impressions

Wow. As I mentioned this on our Watson Warriors blog, it is almost amusing reading my "pre-trip" posts. I honesty just had no idea. God did provide an opportunity...a huge one.....but I think it changed me more than I ever could have imagined. So much encompassed this trip that it is simply too difficult to summarize all that I experienced in one sitting. So, I will probably be blogging a lot this week trying to share the different aspects of our trip. Stay Tuned!!!

Haiti....First Impressions


I remember the thoughts going through my head when we began flying into Haiti. Even from the plane you could see the poverished state of this country: dirty water flowing into the oceans, small cement huts, tents, trash. It in itself began to stir the emotion of fear before ever getting off the plane.
The airport did not settle that feeling. When we got off the plane we were taken by bus to what can only be described as a warehouse (aka Customs). It was definitely unlike anything I had ever experienced...even when we went to Jamaica it felt more official. Our fearless leader, Chad, trusted a nice man and assertively led the way to our bus. We all got comfortable very quickly (packed in!!!). Chad even gave the man a small fortune for his generosity! =)




No picture can adequately describe the conditions of this country. I "knew" we were going to see some hard things, but was reminded very quickly that no matter how prepared you are....you are never really prepared. The overall dirtiness of the country is definitely what struck me first. Trash.....everywhere. Piles and piles and piles!!! Dusty dirty streets. The smell. Animals (goats, pigs, chickens, dogs) walking around. And even amongst all of these things, they sold their produce on the roads. I can understand why the warnings to "not eat anything that you cannot peel" were very enforced. Water was also commonly on the street. You would see the women selling their produce on the road holding brooms, continually pushing the trash that would wash down with the water away from their area. Upon the drive into Haiti, the tent cities and homes were hard to witness. I stared and stared and still could not grasp how people lived in them. Of course, I felt this way about the actual concrete homes as well. Where did sleep? Where did they put their clothes? Where did they prepare their food? Just the "basics" of food, clothing, and shelter were not basics to these people....but delicacies. I soon learned where they used the restroom.....simply on the ground, or if they were lucky....in what we would call a port-a-potty. One group told us of a home they worked in having this type of toilet, except they kept a plastic bowl in it for their (as we say in our home) poo poos. =) This way they could go throw it out and it wouldn't go down into their septic and make the house stink. Can you even imagine this? Only the really well off had actual working toilets/sewage system. If I'm being fair, even the nicest restrooms we used were some that we would hold our noses and not touch anything. This was a huge reality check. Something I have NEVER thought to be thankful for before.....a toilet! Humbled!!!!

I was surprised that our "home" for the week really wasn't that far outside of the city. I still felt like we were right in the middle of everything I mentioned above. Our compound was very nice. It is a church/school building. We stayed on the third floor with cement floors, open air rooms, one toilet for all the girls, and dripping, cold showers. As the days passed, I could not have been more thankful for our facilities. They really were nice and comfortable.....and it definitely became our safe haven, our home. There was one morning I woke up listening to the rain. As I thought to myself how peaceful it was, I was quickly reminded of all the tent homes I had seen, and how the rain was probably anything but peaceful to them. In that moment I thanked God for the cement floor, cement block walls, and roof over my head, realizing that even at our worst here in Haiti, it was still far better than most. Humbled!!!!
To be honest, my first impressions of Haiti were pretty spot on. It is dirty...filthy in fact. The housing, roads, and places of business are not only inadequate but life-threatening. But that is only a small piece of what the country of Haiti contains. It is an "outside" view. Spending a week amongst it I saw kind spirits, hopeful hearts, unfathomable faith. I saw joy and innocence pouring out of children in even the most desperate circumstances. I saw people who thrive when the world says they shouldn't be. I witnessed generosity and thankfulness in a way I have never given or received. I am so blessed that for one week I got to be on the "inside"....and that I got to take this journey with my amazing new friends in the picture above. Humbled!!!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An Opportunity


Over the past few months, I have prayed many prayers.....for "time" with God, for solitude, for perspective on what really matters in life, for finding who God made me to really be, for daily strength, for help, for ways to reach out to others, for friendships, for my faith to grow. In so many ways I keep turning my eyes to God and waiting for Him to "zap" me with all of these things. Wouldn't it be nice if it was just that simple? But what I am realizing is that God has and is still answering my prayers....by giving me an opportunity. With MUCH hesitation and MUCH resistance, God has provided the fuel, the funds, and the fellowship to take me to Haiti. I leave in a few short days for an adventure I have never dared to take. My heart is as excited as it is nervous.
Excited for the risk.....having to rely on complete faith that everything will go smoothy.
Excited about spending a week totally and completely free of the trivial things of this world.
Excited about getting to just love on other people.
Excited about getting to spend time with God, and getting the opportunity to see the world as He sees it daily.
Excited about growing relationships among friends.
Excited about getting to know the high school girls....to be a listening ear, an encourager, and a friend.
Excited about where God will take me. I am not going on this trip to change the world. I am going on this trip to change mine.
Nervous about flying....I don't like to fly.
Nervous about getting sick.....it tends to always find me.
Nervous about my kids back home....that they are healthy and safe and don't cause themselves any bodily harm while I'm gone.
Nervous about the lack of communication during the week.
The great thing about opportunities is that they are endless. When we pass on one, another will soon follow. But the question is.....what are we missing with every chance untaken? So as I walk blindly into the next week, I go ready and willing to be taught, grown, even changed. I am so thankful for this given "opportunity," but also for having the courage to seize it!



Good Songs....

Two songs that have been stuck in my head......good lines!

"You lift me up when I am weak
Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me.....so I’m letting go.
You lift me up when I can’t see
Your heart is all that I need
Your love carries me....so I’m letting go."

~"Lift Me Up" The Afters

"I am the thorn in your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas' kiss
But You love me anyway
See now I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still call out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life."

~"Love Me Anyway" Sidewalk Prophets

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wounded Soldier

He lays on the ground, paralyzed by pain. He tries to rise, but is instantly grounded. The battle continues around him, yet he hears nothing. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to move. It hurts to feel anything other than the piercing stabs of his wounds.

A few weeks back I was reminded of a saying I once heard: "There are no sidelines on a battlefield." That image has always stuck in my head because I felt is was a perfect depiction of the spiritual war that goes on around us every day. I often forget how very REAL that is. Oh, it's clear what team I'm on. I will sport the Jesus jersey on my side of the field, paint some faces, even make up my own chants, but I would definitely say I've never been an aggressive warrior on that battlefield. In all honesty I'm probably more of the All-Star Cheerleader.....a part of the team, cheering them on, trying to make a sideline while I let to tough ones do the real fighting, only getting in the game when the ball is thrown my direction.

The only problem with that scenario.....you have to get in the battle sometime. It's true. There are NO sidelines. No one sits around in their camping chairs, eating the popcorn, socializing with the friends and family, taking score. Fighting is not optional.

I was talking to my husband about this the other night. I was telling him how I have felt like a wounded soldier on that battlefield for so many months now, letting the battle continue on around me. (And let's face it right....the world/battle does continue on. No one calls a "Game Off" just because you've fallen. That would be nice though, wouldn't it?) Being wounded....is not fun. Whether it is a minor scrape or one so deep you can still feel it long after it has healed, being wounded affects us. For so long I feel like I have focused on only the pain....until I decided to change my perspective. Maybe, just maybe, God let's us stay broken in ways we may not expect....like that of a shattered vessel....so that His light can beam through us.

"In life, falling is expected, but getting up is optional."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Laura Story

The other day I was driving in the car with the kids....excuse being to get lunch, reason being a needed sanity break. Sometimes it takes me getting out of the mess, the closed in walls, the constant destruction the new house takes daily, to catch my breath. So I drove, rolled the windows down, turned the music up, and let my soul breathe. As this particular song (which musically is not quite my taste) came on the radio, I began to reach down and change the station. Something, however, caught my attention.....I did that "thing" I do....and really started listening to the lyrics. That was all it took.

After getting home, eating lunch, and putting my two boys down, I decided to go to the computer to look up the song and really read the lyrics. Before I knew it, I was the only one awake, sitting infront of a computer screen, with tears rolling down my cheeks. Blessings by Laura Story. Laura Story. This song could not have been more "Laura's" story if I had written the words myself. Every line, every word, spoke directly into the place I seem to find myself so often in this season of my life.

Some days I have given all that is in me to give and yet life still demands more. Some days I feel defeated before my feet ever hit the floor. Some days.....I simply wake up and hit the automatic "survival mode" button that I truly believe is programmed into me somewhere.

But "what if?"

"What if?" Those words to me imply a sense of hope. It's not just saying that there will be rain, tears, sleepless nights, trials....it's saying "what if" God is there in the midst of them? "What if" there is a greater reason behind what only we can see?

What if your blessings come through raindrops
What if your healing comes through tears?
And what if a 1000 sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know you're near?
What if my greatest disappointments
or the aching of this life
is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can't satisfy?
And what if the trials of this life
Are your mercies in disguise?

"What if"......the trials of this life really are HIS mercies in disguise?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grumbling

For several months I have been following the blog of a 33 year old mother of three (the third which is now in Heaven) who has been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Her story is unbelievable....truly heartbreaking, yet her faith is amazing....intoxicating. I encourage you to read her story and follow her blog.

Her post today, however, is one that has left me in much reflection.
Sara brings up the subject of grumbling and wonders if God ever gets angry with all of our "grumbling?" She talks about how she grumbles a lot about how terrible she feels after chemo rather than simply being thankful that God has provided medicine to treat the disease. I think we would all agree that a little grumbling there should be considered ok, right? If you keep reading, however, Sara then reveals the true depths of her heart. As she reads about the Israelites hard journey to the promise land, she compares her grumbling to that of the people complaining over only having mana to eat verses meat. Grumbling over chemo verses grumbling for better food???
God was present, was providing for their daily needs, and yet they prayed for more, for better, for different.
Each time I read her blog I am taken back by not only her grasp of our God and all of His uniqueness, but also her complete humility.....that she dares to feel guilty for grumbling over the effects the chemo is having on her body when we (I) so often "grumble" over far more miniscule things.

This past weekend I was able to go to New York City. I walked the streets of Soho, admiring the endless boutiques, feeling a little too inadequate and a little too poor to go into the shops. In less than 3 weeks, I will be going to Haiti, a country where I will be viewed as rich beyond measure, surrounded by people who eat "mana" (so to speak) with every meal, where the word "boutique" has no meaning nor worth. I don't think it is by coincidence that God allowed both of these trips to fall so closely together. I was able to venture to a city that has everything....and soon will be going to a city that has nothing. I pray that as I travel my eyes are opened to the real need in this world, the real hardships that surround the daily lives of others, and to the blessings I so richly and undeservingly have. I pray this so that I can train my heart to one that no longer lives in GRUMBLING.....but in overflowing GRATITUDE.

And I pray for Sara....daily.....for strength, for healing, and for her continued example to others!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Everest

There is a Thanksgiving episode of Friends where Joey convinces Monica to make a turkey even though no one else is eating it that year. Joey swears that if she will cook it, he will eat the whole thing. You see a shot of Joey, looking stuffed, sitting behind a turkey that looks completely eaten...until he turns it around and reveals the other side had not been touched. His famous quote (at least in our household)....."You are my Everest."

While I have been able to jokingly use that line in many different circumstances, it proves itself most true when it comes to running. I am NOT a runner by nature. I can remember walking all of my miles in gym class with the teacher yelling for me to hurry up. I am admittedly not an athlete (I mean, come on, who has time for that? I was too busy being social!). And honestly, I just can't do it! I have never had the lungs, never had the strength, and piled behind all of those excuses, I have never had the desire.

In the past two years I have begun a slow path to running. See, when I run, I get horrible, overwhelming cramps that usually stop me dead in my tracks. I have heard all my life....push through, run through them, hold your arms up, eat more of this, etc, etc. More often than not, none of those things have been successful, and the only thing that helps is to completely stop, let it pass, and try to continue on. I remember the day I was able to run 1/2 a mile without stopping. I swear I think a little party went on in my head! Then I made it to a mile! One mile, something so small and miniscule to someone else was a great victory to me.....one that had never happened in 30 years.

So if I don't really desire to run, I'm not good at it, and let's face it....what's the point....a piece of bling at the end or pat on the back???....then why do I do it? Truthfully, I've run for many reasons: for sanity, needed Laura-time, to push away pain, to find common ground with others, to see people at my finish line. All of those reasons, however, just never seem to be enough. They allow me to get through whatever I'm needing, and then just like those reasons fade, so does that desire for running.

After a long battle with a thrown out back, a broken tailbone, and a 4 month case of strep throat, I am ready to try again with a different attitude. God says, "Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." (Malachi 3:10) Sure, he may be referring to our possessions but I choose to see a deeper meaning behind it. God tells us that whatever we give of ourselves, whatever we bring to the table, whatever blessings we possess.....test him....give it to Him....and see if he doesn't provide it back to you tenfold. Running is not my "test" to God, but rather my obedience to Him. I am trying daily to be obedient in running, patient as I wait to see what all He can do within me, and faithful by believing that He will....not because He has to, but because I have asked Him to. I know that just like life, running on my own will only get me so far....it HAS only gotten me so far. Wherever I go from here is because HE (NOT MYSELF) is allowing me to flourish. "Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Prov. 16: 3, 9)

Running....is MY EVEREST!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Goodbyes

For as long as I can remember, I have never been "good" with goodbyes, and anyone that knows me well can completely agree to that statement. Maybe it is change that I'm really not good at, because after all, a goodbye guarantees change. Maybe it is that my natural tendency is too reflect on the loss rather than gratitude for the time given. But the truth of it is that I just have a very tender heart. I'm probably not the easiest person to get to know, maybe even love (yikes, I'm going to hope that isn't true). While I am very outgoing and can pretty much talk to anyone, it takes a lot for me to open up the door of who I am in complete transparency.......knowing everything about me. And honestly, there are very few people that have come into my life who have reflected that depth of relationship with me. So when they are gone, for whatever reason, my heart grieves probably more than it should. My best friend Jessie moved back to Maryland almost 7 years ago and I still hurt (out of joy and sadness) when I drive by our old stomping grounds. I miss her so much because I know that if she were here, we'd spend every day together....throwing our kids in a van running errands, having a glass of wine at the end of it because we're exhausted, probably even teaching together. She took a piece of my heart, and I still feel that void with her being so far away! That's just ONE of the many examples of a goodbye that still affects me. It's not as much the people that are the loss, but the impact they have on my life. When they are gone, a piece of me goes with them.

I spent a lot of time this weekend reflecting on "goodbye" and trying to find peace, thankfulness, and even grace for the moments that have been difficult. Whether goodbyes come easy to me or not, I know it's all a part of our journey, what makes us us, what shapes our lives. And even though "I KNOW" all that, I still think Jim Halpert says it best.....

"Sometimes.....Goodbyes are a B*T@H!"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Alone Alone"

Being a stay at home mom is so tough in so many ways. More often than not you come out defeated rather than conquering. The walls seem to close in smaller as the hours of the day pass by. It's almost as if someone has thrown your life into this never ending things-to-do list and you just know that taking care of and playing with the kids has to be on there somewhere.....but where? While all those things are what I categorize as "tough," nothing can beat a mom down more than loneliness. And I'm not talking the all I ever do is talk to a two and three year old all day lonely. I'm talking "alone alone!" Where you wonder why nobody else's children act like yours, think no one can possibly understand what your life is like, and, dare I say, feel trapped....and alone. If you are a mom, then I can guarantee you have felt "alone alone." The crazy thing about that sickness is that it attacks everyone differently.

My "alone alone" comes in the form of separation anxiety. Both of my boys have suffered from this since infancy, and both of my boys have it to the upmost extreme. I've heard things like, "They just love their Mommy so much." Or "All kids go through it, it's normal." And while both of these things may be true, I see the looks on the faces of the teachers when I bring in the hysterical child time after time to school, church, the gym, even a friends house if I need a sitter for a short time. It is exhausting....for me, for the teachers, for my kids. I've done everything I know to do: bribed, spanked, rewarded, MADE them go because let's face it, they've got to get over this. Yet, they never do.

"Alone alone."

Do you know what it is like to ALWAYS be the person who has the screaming kids....always? To wonder if something is wrong with them because (and I'm not joking at all) I never see anyone else's kids having a break down EVERY single time? Or worse, to feel like you are doing something wrong as a mother? The most difficult part is that I feel like it is beginning to really wear me down. My temper becomes shorter not only to my children, but also the people who watch my children. Today it happened. Today I snapped. Today I went from the "apologetic" Laura who is sorry that her children act this way to the "Deal with it" Laura.

I had had a bad experience with the YMCA childcare on Tuesday. We switched to the Y....a gym a really do not like near as much as others....for the kids. They are supposed to have great children's care and activities. Tuesday was my first day and it did not go well with my two year old. (Let's just thank the Lord for a moment that I ONLY had my two year old that day.) So I was geared up ready to face today. As soon as I walk in with him they said, "Are you going to try again today?" Which to me came across as, "He's already crying, are you really going to leave him?" I am not tough! I am not stern! I am as far from confrontational as you can get! But something in me (the Stewart in me) came out firing. I simply told the girls that this is just what he does and that I was a member at Gold's before and he did it there too....but that they would hold him and he would be fine. They quickly replied (as they so rudely made sure I knew on Tuesday) that they have a 15 minute policy where if he cries for 15 minutes they will have to come get me. And that's when it came out......

"I know that is your policy but he is smart and will quickly learn that if he cries long enough, Mommy will come get him. And if that is the case every time than I guess I will have to quit the Y because I will obviously not ever get to work out."

You should have seen their eyes.....like who let this crazy person in here? Luckily a sweet girl came over and offered to take him and help settle him down. And me.....well I went to the locker room, found an empty changing room, and cried.

"Alone alone."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oh, Where My Mind Goes

It's funny where your mind can take you when you are half awake/half asleep. Okay, maybe I should say that it is funny where MY mind takes me. This morning in particular makes me realize that I am s...u...c...h a girl, through and through: instinctive, anxious, and a hopeless romantic! (I mean, really, how many guys can feel all three of those things at one time!!!)

Instinctive
I come from a family of worriers. That's actually putting it mildly. One thing I try to "not" worry about is the weather. If you think you are a dramatic person, watch the news channels on a day where bad weather is supposed to strike and you will immediately feel better about yourself. People go nuts about the weather around here, and in more cases than not, nothing ever seems to happen!

(Insert the part where I should have knocked on wood!)

I ended my evening phone call with my mother 1/2 joking 1/2 serious saying, "Call me and wake me up if bad weather is coming my way." I KNEW she would know, and if it wasn't her glued to the tv, it would be my grandmother alerting her, then me. And yes, my grandmother told me she slept with her weather alert radio on last night.

(Insert sweet giggle here!)

The morning pretty much began with the power going out, my three year old hearing thunder and waking up screaming because his nightlight was out, followed by my husband going to get him, followed by me jumping out of bed to get them and running to the bathroom. I can honestly say that I have never heard freight train winds before, but it didn't take long to realize that that noise was NOT normal. So Mommy's instincts kicked in quickly and got us to a safe place! It lasted all of about one minute, and when I looked at my phone, sure enough Mom had called. Although she was calling to tell me that our road was flashing on the TV....wish she had gotten to me about 5 minutes earlier, but I'll blame no power instead of her! =)

Anxious
We all got back in bed, including our three year old. I was so tired yet it was very difficult to fall asleep. My mind was on and it wasn't stopping. Immediately my anxious side went from thinking about what we just experienced, to thinking about what if it had been a lot worse, to thinking about the movie "Where The Heart Is" and the tornado that hit during that movie, to.....and this is where it gets good.....to....

Hopeless Romantic
....love. For a movie that I was never just crazy about, the end sure gets me every time. I'm a line girl! I love a GOOD line regardless of how the movie turns out....you know, the kind of line that makes your heart melt....and you just know....it's real.

(Insert disclaimer: I also find both humor and deep annoyance with the bad lines. You know....the ones that make you cringe because the guy actually thinks they will work.)
"It's too late isn't it."
"Too late. Too late for what?"
"I lied to you when you asked me if I loved you and I said no. I lied, Forney, it wasn't true, I love you. It's just.....I lied because I thought you deserved something better."
"Something better than you? Novalee, there isn't anything better than you."

(Insert kiss!!!)
I mean really.....can you just call me a girl or what? I can go from tornados to love stories in a matter of seconds. It's okay....I'll own it. It just means I'll take care of you, worry about you, and even LOVE you! Could be worse, right?

Oh and....(insert that a tornado did go through our backyard and about 5 of our neighbors yards knocking down trees everywhere. It went in a diagonal path through the houses so we were all very lucky!)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Miracle We "Needed"

A little over two years ago some friends of ours gave birth to a still born little girl, Gracie. We were very saddened to not be able to attend the funeral. A few weeks ago at church, we were able to listen to a message we were not able to hear that day. Gracie's father spoke these words:

We prayed and prayed for a miracle. You prayed and prayed for a miracle. Even though we did not get the miracle we wanted, I still believe we got a miracle.

Maybe the miracle is that Gracie doesn't have to suffer and go through the pain we are going through right now. She went directly to perfection.

Maybe the miracle is that we are able to praise God in the midst of her loss. Maybe the miracle is that we were able to persevere for 4 long months.

Maybe the miracle is that we had 8 precious months with Gracie instead of 2.

Maybe the miracle is instead of pushing each other away, we clung to each other and God to survive.

Maybe the miracle is that instead of acting like everything was okay, we openned ourselves up to you and in return you showed us the compassion of God.

Maybe the miracle is that we were able to enjoy our sweet time with Gracie after her birth instead of being filled with anger and bitterness.

Maybe the miracle is that I am able to stand in front of you today and share her life with you.

Maybe the miracle is that Gracie brought you closer to God, reignited your relationship with him, or maybe for the first time allowed you to encounter the saving works of Jesus our Lord in your life.

I can't say for sure what the miracle is. Maybe it is different for each one of us. But I can say for sure that Gracie is a miracle.

She wasn't the miracle we asked for, but she was the one we needed.

"She wasn't the miracle we asked for, but she was the one we NEEDED." In the face of such heartache, a father stood up and said that it was "needed." For weeks that line has been laid on my heart. For weeks I have been reading these words trying to piece together my thoughts enough to make a post out of them. And for weeks....I have been unsuccessful. So I've come to the conclusion today that maybe there are no more words that need to be said, but rather just to sit in "awe" of it.......in awe of their faith, awe of their testimony, awe of their love, awe of their bond, awe of their choices, awe of their hope. I think their story touches each of us in our own way and I hope in sharing this piece of it, that its messages stays with you, that it challenges you to see life a little differently, that it encourages you to have faith and hope when both of those things seem so out of reach......that it changes you, as it has me!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Love Me for Me


First off, I just love JJ Heller. She definitely has some powerful songs/lyrics. But I love this song. It brings tears to my eyes every time I just sit and really listen to it. "I will love you for you." How often, in the midst of who we are....all our mess, all our junk, all of our just plain ugly, are we loved for the mere, simple fact of just being ourselves? I TRULY can't wrap my head around that. In fact, one day during bible study we were discussing the chapter of our book about God being just plain crazy in love with us. I walked down stairs for a moment to get coffee and sort of prayed out loud to myself with a genuinely confused, humble heart....."Why, Lord? Why do you love me so much? Why do you care so much?" And out of no where I swear that He answered me....

Because I made you!

In that moment my eyes filled with tears because in that moment I finally understood. I love my kids, with all that is in me, I love them. While they CAN do plenty of wrong in my eyes =), no one or nothing could make me love them any less than I do.....I love them for who they are, inside and out, junk and funk, simply because they are mine!

But what I love so much about this song is the bridge:
I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you'll listen, I'll tell you that I...
I will love you for you....
"Now that you'll listen"......never more have those words hit home. How often do I get in my own way? Put my own rationalizations, thoughts, and perspectives into things rather than listening to Him.......listen to Him tell me He loves me for me.....listen to Him tell me that I am enough!
I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh to be the Coffee!!!

Carrots, Eggs & Coffee

A carrot, an egg, and a cup of coffee....You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up, She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen.. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed
ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word...

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners.. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, ' Tell me what you see.'

'Carrots, eggs, and coffee,' she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hardboiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, 'What does it mean, mother?'

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

'Which are you?' she asked her daughter. 'When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Perspective

As each new day brings its own set of joys, trials, wrinkles, and (dare I say) pounds, this new found 30 year old is trying to focus on the parts of her that don't hurt when I reach to high to grab a toy, ache from picking up the kids all day, or grow weary from the daily grind.....the eyes.

Sure, I've always been one through the years to "play up" the eyes with fun makeup, because after all, the eyes can be the most stunning thing on a person. But it has never been the first place I go when seeking wisdom.

It wasn't until I came upon a field near our home, that I began to "see" what value the eyes hold in our lives. As I came to a stop at the stop sign, I just sat in amazement at the very sight of it. Breathtaking rows upon rows of endless purple wildflowers, known to the "trained" eye as weeds. But that is not what I saw. I saw beauty, in something as simple as a "weed."

Perspective......has a pretty huge impact on our lives. It's not what we see but how we see something that defines our character, our attitude, our spirit. I must admit I am not always one to see the beauty in a field of weeds, but this encounter affected me enough to still be lingering on the lesson.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

You Can Have Me

I write about God a lot. Not because I live my life perfectly, not because I fail miserably, but because my heart and my mind are constantly in battle, fighting to find, seek, relate, and discover my purpose in Him. Tears filled my eyes the first time I heard this song, and the more times I hear it, the more I fall in love with the lyrics. Most of the time it is words that move or inspire me, but this song....challenges me.

"When did love become unmoving? When did love become unconsuming?"
When I heard that chorus for the first time, a part of me felt like it was what my heart has been screaming at the Lord for such a long time. Duties, responsibilities, life-lessons, loss of innocence, pain, strength, perseverance.....all things the past years have given to me in my journey into adulthood. All things that left me relying less on faith and more on myself, to accomplish, succeed, and pretty much ..... just get it done. No wonder I am unmoved. No wonder I am unconsumed. No wonder those lyrics spoke right into my deepest longing. When did I not allow God to be enough for me anymore?
"If I saw You on the street
And You said come and follow me
But I had to give up everything
All I once held dear and all of my dreams
Would I love You enough to let go
Or would my love run dry
When You asked for my life."
Ultimate surrender. I think about that often, what it would be like now, to just give it all up to God, to lay my life down and just STOP trying to be in control. I'm not even talking about seeing Jesus on the street and choosing to walk away from everything just to follow him. I just mean in the day to day. What would it be like to STOP talking, STOP planning, STOP worrying, and START listening, START trusting, START living? I used to say ALL THE TIME that "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." And I honestly do believe that. As a matter of fact, I can think of quite a few times where I'm quite certain I've given him one of those great, contagious, pit of your belly laughs (a good Jonte laugh)!!! So why is it so hard?
"If you're all you claim to be, then I'm not losing anything."



Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ahhhh.....Bebo

Bebo Norman takes me back, at least, 12 years. He was one of the very first christian artists that I really enjoyed listening to. I love his unique, mello style. I love that he writes most of his music. I love the message and the authenticity his songs hold.

This song has been on my playlist for the past few months, mostly because it is where I feel like I am right now, but also to remind me that that is OK. The middle is a tough place to be, and I am someone who has always struggled in finding their place "in the middle." I didn't even realize how many different situations I could apply this song to until yesterday. We have been battling a tough season in our home. Since January 1, my 3 year old son and I have had 4, yes 4 cases of strep throat now. My one year old has had it once. Both of my boys have had 3 ear infections each. Both boys have had to have sleep studies and will soon have to have their tonsils and adenoids removed due to sleep apnea. I had an emergency room visit with a possible broken tail bone. We have mounting medical bills at the moment, only to get larger with the surgeries. Having sick children is very tough, and having sick children for almost 2 months straight....is very wearing. So add Mommy being sick during that whole time as well, and you can imagine where I've been.......IN THE MIDDLE! And this is just the "physical" well being of all of us.

"I'm not looking for freedom, maybe just a little meaning.....here in the middle."

I am strong. I am a fighter.....but a real part of me has felt like this world is waging war on me, trying to break my spirit. And tears came to my eyes as I told my husband last night.....that its about to win, I am just about broken. So as I took a bath and let my ipod play the OLD Bebo cd, I let the words of one of my favorite songs really sink in.

No matter where I am, no matter what my dreams are, no matter where my heart may lie at the present moment, no matter what road I am on....God is still in control. I truly believe that somewhere among the confusion, mess, hurt, and trials the "middle" throws at us.....that God uses all of that "junk" to shape, mold, and form us into the person HE created us to be. The minute I stop believing that, is the minute I lose my purpose. So daily.....and it's not easy....but DAILY, I remind myself of that very thought.....and it helps me press onward!

"My dreams are not the issue here, for thee, the hammer holds."