I had the best time last weekend at the Women of Faith conference in Indy. I went with some ladies from church and we had so much fun. I think it was one of the best conferences I have been to. There were so many great speakers, the music was awesome and I was truly blessed. There are days when I feel like it really sucks to be a woman, especially when I am stressed out, emotionally exhausted, and just plain tired of having to keep up the pace and keep everyone happy. I can't be super woman, and I will not claim to be. This is my disclaimer right here: I am not perfect, I will most definitely screw up more often than I get it right and I refuse to give in to the pressure of keeping up with every other woman around me. I am a bit of a perfectionist, come by that naturally thanks to my Dad, and so the whole struggle to be perfect is a daily thing. I hate to say it but even at 38 years old I still feel the need-although I do not like to admit it-to please others. I don't get as overwhelmed and stressed out by that need as often as I did 20 years ago but it is definitely still there. As I am getting older and see how really stupid people can be, I am learning to let it go and live my life to please one person. God. He has great expectations of me. I don't want to let him down, but I can move forward with confidence in knowing that even if I do screw up--He is there to pick me up and help me find His way again. Did you get that? His way, not my way. How easy is it for us to go, "Okay, God, I know you have my best in mind but what about this? This could be really good for me. Can't you make this one thing happen for me?" We watched a great video skit Sunday at the conclusion of the sermon that went right along with our pastor's message about struggling to be perfect, to please God, and then to let Him have His way with us. It was painful to watch but it was so good. I think it made us all take a hard look at ourselves and how we view God, and how we try to put Him in a nice little package. We can't do that to Him, but instead we have to let Him do His will in us. That means we are going to be chiseled, molded, shaped into what He wants us to be. It is not pleasant, and in fact, it is likely to be a very painful and heart breaking process. I don't want it, but I know I need it. I have to choose daily to turn my thoughts, my actions, my worries and fears over to Him. I have to trust and obey Him with my life completely. How easy is that? It is not. I had my check up on Monday and it was good, except we couldn't hear the baby's heartbeat. My doctor was not worried, and in fact reassured me that everything was fine and we scheduled an ultrasound for tomorrow. Today I have been wandering in and out of concern, but I am not worried. I give God the credit for that. I know He is taking care of us, that He will work it out according to His good and perfect will. I know He has a plan, regardless of how I see it.
I am a ball of emotions today for many reasons. We just started sharing with our family and friends this week that we are expecting another baby. This is something we have talked about for about a year now, well, basically since the miscarriage last year. The reality of this new life is beginning to sink in, and I am overwhelmed with a strange sense of joy and fear all at once. I am finding that this is not as enjoyable nor as easy on my 38 year old body as it was just 5 years ago when I had AJ. I go through waves of feeling like I am going to absolutely lose it, and then I am fine. I wonder how I am going to handle having a baby at 39? I wonder how Ryan is going to handle it too? I wonder how the kids will adjust to having a new sibling? I cannot begin to describe in words how raw emotions are in our home right now. I am thankful that our children are comfortable sharing what they are feeling openly and honestly. I am certain that we will continue to ride this rollercoaster of emotions out as the days ahead pass, and we approach the arrival of this little one. I am not a complainer, and in fact I am one to stand on my soap box and insist on the benefit and powerful influence of positive thinking. Negative thinking and a stinky attitude, holding grudges, walking through life with a plate full of what you think justifies how you speak, act and live is not acceptable and is not a reflection of Christ. I pray each day that God will give me the ability to speak and act in a way that is only reflective of Him. It can be no different in my home with Ryan and the kids. Truth? Yes, I have moments of sheer insanity, anger and frustration can get the best of me and I am not who I know I should be. This is where honesty and integrity come in. If I can't be transparent and admit my faults, ask my own children for forgiveness, then how does that translate in to who I am outside of my home? I cannot live my life differently at church or at work than I do in my own home. I will choose to be the person God has intended for me to be with my family, with my church family, my friends and everyone I come in contact with each day. Emotions are a tricky thing that God gave us to deal with in our humanity. But He has given us a guide, the Holy Spirit and we have the truth of His Word to stand upon, to strengthen our faith. The other side of my ball of emotion today is related to the issue of gay marriage. I have read about what is going on with the state of California, the recent ruling to allow it and the reactions of so many communities in our nation. I have more than one friend in the gay/lesbian community and I love each one of them dearly. I have not at any point felt the need to defend my opinion to any of them, nor do I feel the need to tell them how to live their lives. I choose to love them and support them because that is what God calls me to do. I do not support gay marriage because I believe God clearly spoke from the beginning of Creation and in many of the Scriptures it is stated how He views homosexuality. I will not engage in debate with anyone about this issue because I don't feel it is my place to cast judgement, and I believe it is extremely arrogant for anyone to claim they can "convert" someone from their homosexual lifestyle. I believe the Bible is Truth, that God is God and when we are all standing before Him one day--He will have the final word. We can argue, debate, condemn, spend all kinds of time on this earth trying to convince one another who is right and who is wrong, but God is ultimately the One who knows all and will have all the answers. When we stand before Him, there will be no argument. There will be no questions. We will know. The Bible and the God I know and love cannot and should not be packaged or interpreted to fit our lives. Our lives are to be shaped, molded, carved into a complete reflection of Him. We are walking a very dangerous and shaky path in this world when we decide the Bible and God's view can be interpreted more than one way. There is only one way. Living the Truth and living a life of complete submission to Christ is not easy and will not get any easier as the world keeps spinning out of control. I will stand for Christ, I will love as He loves and I will live as He calls me to live. I am thankful God gave me emotions, and I am thankful he gave me free will. I am thankful for everything I have experienced in my life so far and I know that this rollercoaster ride is far from over. God, give me strength. I know I cannot do it alone.
As I get a little older, I am amazed how much faster time seems to go by. Sunday at church a couple of friends commented on how much my daughter Rylee has grown. It is true, and sometimes I stop and look at her and I am in disbelief. How can she be 13? How can she be going in to 8th grade in a few weeks? I am remembering with a mixture of emotions what I was like at that age. Hormones are raging, intense confrontations over the littlest things occur more often than Ryan and I would care to deal with, and somewhere along the way our little girl is blossoming into a lovely young lady. I keep thinking God has done an amazing work in her life because we can only thank Him for how she is turning out. I know we wouldn't be the parents we are without the example and influence of our parents. Junior High was a difficult time for me, because we moved and I was forced to face some fears--new school, making new friends, finding our place in a new city, new church, new world. Going from southern California to southwest Missouri is in itself a culture shock for sure. God is good, He provided and somehow I lived through those years, made new friends, fell in love with our new church family. I see my daughter making strides as she faces challenges in her life, overcoming fears, standing up for her faith and finding new confidence in herself. I am so proud of how she has found her way, and that our efforts to support her, love her, guide her and dedicate her to our Father God will keep her moving on the right path. I realize already there are times in this life I have to let her go, let her find her way in the world among her peers, teachers, mentors, friends and family. Thank you Lord, for the path so far. I look forward to what lies ahead.

Great Expectation

There are many things I can think of in my life for which I have had great expectation. I remember as a child 2 things I looked forward to with great expectation: Christmas and Summer Vacation. That pretty much held until well into my high school years, possibly college years. As a college student/young single adult, I can remember thinking, "Lord just get me through this so I can graduate and get on with my life!" And of course, "Lord, when are you going to bring a good man in to my life?" and, "Why did he turn out to be such a disappointment/heart breaker/jerk/...___fill in the blank!" Then when it did happen, when I had those moments of sheer joy, of seeing God reveal His plan and His presence in my life, Wow! I can't imagine doing it over any other way! Meeting Ryan, Oh my Gosh! God is so amazing and so good! Our wedding was a dream come true, and diving right into life with every single moment of its ups and downs, who could have planned it the way it came about? Nobody but God. Our children...well, the Lord has His ways of really keeping us guessing. It was so different with each one of them, pregnancy, birth, their lives so far. It is truly a wonder how each one of them has turned out and how uniquely God has made each one of them. As I have gotten a little older, I know more and more that God is not done with me yet and I have so much to learn. It is sad I think, how lazy we become as we get older. We become comfortable with our lives, think somehow it can't get any better or worse, but things seem to be going okay. We lose our sense of great expectation, wonderment, awe, and passion. I can think of moments along the way the past couple years when God has practically whacked me upside my head as if to say, "Wake up! You're gonna miss it!" What happens when we lose the need to sit on the edge of our seat, expecting that God is about to do something so amazing and how can we sit still waiting for it to happen?! I don't want to lose that and I think as we get older we are in danger of that and it is even worse when we start passing it along to our children. There is something to be said about a life lived with Great Expectation. God wants that for us, I want that for me and my family, so what are you waiting for? There's a lot of life to be lived, no matter how old you are and what your life situation is today. Give Him a chance, God will knock your socks off. I guarantee it.

Waiting

Okay, Lord, I know you are tired of hearing this from me but man....I am tired of waiting! I could really use this now, so what is the issue? I'm ready. Go ahead, you can give it to me now.

Anybody else relate to this conversation? I find myself doing it more often than I care to admit and it seems to be getting worse as I get a bit older. My father is a strong, firm and outspoken man but he does not lose his cool very often. He is one of the most patient persons I have ever known. There have been those occasions over the years when he has had his limit and unfortunately, I and a few others have had the rather unpleasant experience of being in the path of his temper. I was on the direct receiving end of it as a college student at one point in my life, and I would rather not re-live that scene again. He was apologetic shortly afterward, chose to be transparent with me and admit his weakness and his temper getting the better of him. It was not pretty, but it was a learning experience for us both. I was able to see my Dad's humanity and we were able to resolve it with love and forgiveness. All too often we can get impatient, angry, temper gets the better of us and before we know it we are on our knees realizing that we have been so selfish, not seeing the bigger picture. What's the bigger picture? It tends to put everything in perspective honestly. How to weigh what you really need, and what you can live without? Do you really need that to happen right now? Are your needs being met? Waht do you have to be thankful for right at this very moment? Are you fully trusting God, fully obedient to Him in that moment of your request to him? That is what it comes down to, isn't it? Are you trusting and obeying him every day of your life? Are you thanking him for His Son Jesus Christ every day of your life? Are you thanking him for what He has already provided, the blessings in your life? Count your blessings, and count yourself blessed to have a God in heaven looking out for your best interests, rather than dwelling on what you don't have. It will put it all in perspective. I guarantee it.

The road

It is a familiar path. It is the path I take daily. The path of life. I know what I have to face, and I tend to wake with a groan, but I manage to put one foot on the floor, and the other soon follows. My motivation to move forward is not from any strength of my own; it is God's. I am certain that without my faith, I would be struggling just to open my eyes to face the morning each day. I know there are people in my own community, people I work with side by side each day who are in this boat. Their only motivation is a paycheck, and what lies beyond the work day. Get me through the next 8 hours, and I can begin to enjoy some part of my day. Get me through the week to Friday, and I'll have the weekend to enjoy. Oh, but then I have to face Monday again. How many of us, even as Christians, get stuck in a little bit of this cycle? I admit, I could easily get stuck in it. Some days I do feel like I am stuck in it, and I would rather crawl under my blanket and huddle in the coziness of the darkness, the quiet, than to make the effort to move forward. I have for years struggled in and out of periods of depression, and I am convinced I have seasonal depression like clockwork right after the holidays. I find myself simply longing for more time to sleep, to stay hidden in the darkness and not have to face the world for several months. I find myself wondering what it must be like for a bear in hibernation. At some point I snap myself out of it, realizing honestly, I would go stir crazy being couped up in a cave for very long. I would miss my family, my sweet church family and the joys that life can bring. Yes, as difficult and long as the days of this life may be, there are moments that can bring pure joy if we make the effort. I have learned as my life has shifted, to go with the flow. It is not easy, change. I don't like it, especially when it starts with a difficult circumstance. If we will open our hearts to it, God will use every circumstance for good. That thinking is what helps me put one foot in front of the other each day. As difficult as it may be to get going, I find the strength in my God, and the hope He gives me that He has something wonderful planned for me today. So, I will face each day with hope, with the desire to be who God wants me to be. Every day I pray Jeremiah 29:11, it is one of my life verses. I cannot move forward without it because it reminds me that God has a purpose and plan for me, and it is to prosper me, not harm me. He has something good for me today. I am thankful for that and I count on that. It is what keeps me going on the road ahead.

A home....

I am astounded how long it has been since my last blog entry. Yikes. The crazy busy side of life has taken me far, far away and it is just sad it has kept me away this long. Blogging is a necessary outlet for me to vent, to unload, to release what is pent up inside me.
First, I am so ready to be done with this house. Don't get me wrong--I am thankful we have a home, a warm bed, food on our table, and the comforts of life. But....I am so ready to find our true home. This has depth in its meaning on so many levels. I am finding as we have journeyed to this point, after Ryan's multiple job losses, losing the house in Tennessee, our marriage being shaken, our faith being tested, our lives being turned upside down as we waited upon God's perfect timing....it was a very unsettling time we went through. There are days I still question how we made it through and what purpose God had for allowing it to happen. That is a rare moment though, because more often I am at peace with it all. Really. I can say now we are stronger, better because of it ALL. Looking back, it has taught us how to trust God completely, and live with joy and thanksgiving no matter what. I am ready for us to find a home that we can truly love, and be thankful for. A home that provides what we need, nothing more. I am amazed everyday how caught up we were in the pressure of having a certain type of house, certain type of lifestyle, blah, blah, blah. Even in the Christian realm, that pressure is there and I am sorry to say we had more people around us telling us to move forward than those who were saying to wait, be patient, take our time. We gave in, we bit off more than we could chew and we learned some very painful, difficult lessons because of it. We have learned how important it is to live with little, and give a whole lot more. I want this to be the biggest impression my children ever have out of life: learn to appreciate what you do have and give back a whole lot more. I always want them to appreciate our toughest, leanest years so that they are that much more thankful as God blesses them abundantly throughout the remainder of their lives. I want to receive His abundant blessings, but I do not expect it. I think our level of comfort and status in life can jade us, desensitize us and make us very arrogant if we allow it. I don't want to be in that position EVER. I hope and pray I will carry a heart full of humble thanksgiving always and that it will make an impression on someone else. I also want a home that God will use to minister to people. I want us to have a place of fellowship, encouragement, and accountability to anyone who crosses our path in life. I think we are already doing that in our current home, but I pray that as we seek our next home.
The other side of this is I hope and pray my home in heaven is a blessed reflection of Christ. I hope what I do and say on this earth will be good and pleasing to God, and that I can hear Him say to me that I've done good, that I have been His faithful servant. I will not be boastful and I will not be confident in the things of this world, but I will boast and have confidence in this: Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life and I know nothing in this life matters if I ever lose sight of that. I hope and pray that my home on earth and the home He has for me in heaven will be similar in that there will be the sweet aroma of His presence, His unmistakable love and mercy. God is really good. I know there is so much I do not yet understand, but I know one day standing before Him I'll not have any worries. I'll look forward to having nothing to do but praise Him without ceasing, being in His presence! Wow, what a day that will be. Until then, I hope others will see that devotion and passion reflected in my life. I want others to see in me that my heart truly is at home in Christ.

Jesus, I am resting.....

How appropriate that this week should be particularly trying for me and Easter is approaching. I was thinking this morning on the way to work about how Christ suffered so much for me. He was both human and holy, but he struggled with the very thing he had to do for me that night in the Garden.
Matthew 26:39(NLT) says, "He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."
He struggled with something, just as you and I struggle. There is a battle raging at all times between our humanity and the holiness we strive toward. Some days I feel like it is a harder fight than others, and I want to cave in, hide, give in to the weakness I feel. But--the Holy Spirit lives in me and He lives in you. Because of my decision to become a Christ follower, I have the choice to live as Christ. I have the power in me to help conquer my weakness and rise above it in Jesus' name. I am amazed, at a loss for words to consider at any given moment what my life would be like and how I would cope with the struggles of this life without God. I do not know how anyone can walk through this life with any form of hope if they do not know God and have a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for the strength, the joy, and the peace that I have because of my faith. My faith is in Christ, and it is not in any one church, denomination, group, individual, none of that. My faith and my foundation are founded upon God alone. I am praying this week that my choice to somehow scramble above my struggles will be an example to someone who is hurting and in need of hope. I don't want my weakness to be someone else's reason to live the same, comfortable, unaltered, unhappy life. I pray God gives me the opportunity daily to be a vessel He can use for the good of someone else. I am resting in you, Lord, and I know You will carry me, You will strengthen me, and I am so thankful that You have saved me.

Not there yet...

Okay I made the huge mistake of stepping on the scales this morning. Yikes! Is that really how much I weigh?! Uggh, this is not getting any easier for me. How is it that it goes in so quickly yet it comes off so slowly? I hate that. The older I get I am finding a lot of things are harder to deal with. I can't seem to get the weight off as easily as I did just a few years ago. I can't seem to get enough moisturizer on my skin, the hair on my head is turing grey, and I have these new wirey, dark hairs appearing randomly around my chin and along my jawline, and I am feeling more lumpy and saggy than I ever have in my life. Time is marching on and my body is showing the wear and tear. So, like most women my age I do all I can to fix it--moisturize, pluck, color my hair and if I am lucky get in my work out several days a week and attempt to stick with a sensible eating plan. All this while taking care of my husband, three children, working full time and contributing to my church family and my community. Somewhere, somehow I find time to relax and play, unwind and enjoy life with my family and friends. I am tired after typing just those couple of sentences. I am proud to say I haven't got it down yet, I haven't done all I need to do and I haven't accomplished nearly as much as I would have like to by this point in my life. For some reason Phillipians 4:13 has kept coming to my mind over the past few weeks. I know I can do it, because Christ gives me the strength I need. But more than that, I know He can do a good work in me and through me--Philippians 1:6. Philippians has a lot to say to me right now and I know God has something to do with that. I find as each day passes and I creep a little closer to 40, I am more thankful for each moment that passes and I don't want to lose sight of the blessings God has provided to me. I see too many women around me running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and I don't want that to be me. I am thankful for the time I have at the end of the day to sit down and help Bailey with his homework, to go to the park and push AJ in the swing, to listen to my daughter pour out her heart about what she is struggling with as a pre-teen. I am thankful for having dinner as a family and sharing our day with each other rather than rushing off to a sports practice or class and barely saying a hand full of meaningful words to one another. I am thankful for a marriage that has withstood the tests of this life so far and how God continues to grow the love Ryan and I have for one another. I hope as I continue to live my life, regardless of what the scales say, I will be a reflection of God's goodness and love for me. I want others to know that and have that too, so I hope they see that in me. God is good, all the time...even when I feel the weight of time bearing down on me. This is a good life, and He is not done with me yet.

Time in between....

I sang this wonderful song in worship today by Francesca Battistelli "The Time In Between" and it was a testimony for me personally. God has been working on me for awhile about some things in my life. Perspective. For several years now I have been getting a whole new perspective on life. Pain, loss, fear, doubt, anger, inadequacy, loneliness, weakness, helplessness...I have bathed in and out of these feelings for some time. At some point over the past year, I have regained my balance, the peace I have needed for so long. It comes as no surprise to me looking back now that the miscarriage has helped me come almost full circle. I say almost because I believe I won't come full circle until I am standing before the Father. I still believe He is working on me, and I have to continue in the circle until He is completely finished with me. There are more bad days than good, but the difference is how I face them. I have found peace and strength in how I begin my day. My first moments are His, and nobody or nothing will have my attention before Him. It has made the difference in each day of my life for over a year now, I have found this consistency to be a comfort in my daily life. Without Him and without taking this time out to focus first on Him I believe I would unravel and spiral downward very quickly. There was a time when I found more comfort in the blessings God provided me rather than the One who blessed me. It is a comfortable place I believe we all can land in very purposefully, because we find a rhythm in life, things are moving along at a normal pace and going well. But the moment something unexpected occurs, we can be thrown off of the comfort zone so easily because we've become so content and independent of what God wants from us. What does God want? I believe He calls each of us to a unique purpose He has defined just for me and just for you. Nobody's path is the same, but we all serve the same God. I want to live each day completely abandoning the things of this life and embracing His passion and purpose wholeheartedly. I don't know why it has taken me this long to get it, but I do. Paul challenges us in Phillipians to press toward the goal, verse 12 "not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phillipians 3:12-14)
I know He has a work to do in me, and that has continued to shape me in my life decisions daily and looking ahead. I am finding a I get older that I have so much to be thankful for and yet I feel like I have not been as thankful as I need to be. God has blessed me with so much, and I have found what He has given me to be even more precious as events have unfolded in our community and in our world. I don't want to just look forward to the plans we have ahead, but also to pause and be thankful for what is happening to me right this moment. This day, this very moment could be my last on this earth so I do not want it to pass without stopping to thank the Father for Who is He and What He has done for me. I want my life to be a reflection of thanksgiving and joy, a testimony at all times of what a good God we serve. Thanks Lord, for every moment because I know that each one has shaped my life into what You intend for it to be.

my Ebenezer...

“…Thus far the Lord has helped us.”-1 Samuel 7:12 There are moments in my life when I look back and can see how God in His perfect yet my...