Thursday, November 29, 2012

Greater... for my Generation, and the Next

Greater... small word that packs a lot of punch.  It implies something that is better.  I've spent 2012 trying to be better.  In some instances, I have... and in others, I've fallen flat on my face.

Part of my whole becoming better plan involved diving into Bible study.  I do enjoy reading my Bible.  I love learning new things and getting new insights on stories I thought I knew everything about... but had it all wrong.  The Bible is truly the best book that has ever been written... and not just because it is God's inspired Word, though that is reason enough.  It's true.  It's applicable.  And amazingly enough, He always knows just what we need to hear.

Anyway, I digress.  My desire for learning God's Word has led me to several different studies.  For the past year or so, I've followed along on Melissa Taylor's blog.  I've not commented much, but I have gained a lot of great friends on Facebook (Group 10 rocks...).  I've learned a lot, too... about not exploding and not stuffing, about desiring His Word and Him opening up the Word so that we get secret treasures, about not fearing.  And I have changed.  I'm making imperfect progress, getting better... but I'm far from great. 

Just in two days, this new book, Greater, has really got me thinking.  What does it mean to be greater? 
Does it mean that I won't get mad at Caleb over math homework?  Or that I won't get angry at a coworker when something doesn't go my way?  Does it mean I'll be diligent in completing my papers and try extra hard to get them exactly right?  I won't get impatient with students when I am super busy and they just want to talk?  I won't get my feelings hurt when Wallace comes home from practice with the phone stuck to his ear and proceeds to talk about said practice for hours at a time, and as soon as he hangs up heads in to watch game tape?  That I won't be scared when I think about changes coming up?  Does it mean that I'll finally be able to turn down Gigi's cupcakes and lose all of this extra weight?  Please tell me it means that I'll actually enjoy exercising... and be motivated to once more climb on the treadmill?
OR maybe I'll be super spiritual, the kind of friend who always knows just what to say.  Maybe I'll become super Mom and wife and friend and teacher... the picture perfect gal who always has everything in place.  Oh, I could use some greater in my life...

Nope. It' s none of this stuff.  Greater means moving past my desires, my wants, my need to do, into a sense of being.  Being closer to God. Being full of Jesus.  Being willing to be obedient and to step out of my comfort zone.  Being a vessel willing to allow Him to fill me.  Being greater is getting rid of complacency, getting rid of mediocrity, and getting rid of condemnation.  According to Furtick, being greater is, "Beyond what you see in yourself on your best day but exactly what God has seen in you all along."

God has a purpose.  He has a plan, and He has promised that He can and will do exceedingly above anything that we can imagine... we just have to believe.  We have to be willing to let go of our fears and our self-doubt and our pride, and allow Him to move in.  Jesus left this earth after defeating death and promised a Comforter that would see us to the end.  In this, the Holy Spirit, we have power. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead is within us.  Through this Spirit, God wants to use us in extraordinary ways, to complete the purpose He chose for us before the foundation of the world.  Yes, it's scary.  No, I'm not sure what direction it may take.  I just know that my generation is raising the next church, and according to statistics quoted by a pastor I listened to this weekend, it is estimated that only 4% of the next generation will profess to be Christians.  Do we need Greater?  Absolutely... and it's up to me, and you, to allow God to move.  We can be greater... for Him. Through Him.  Because He is enough to make it happen.  He is a Promise Keeper, and He's made a group of history makers.  It starts with us... deciding to allow Him to make us greater. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Not a Math Mama

Math is from the devil. There, I said it. And I mean it. Our minds are programmed to think in words, and I feel pretty good about that. Give me a paper to write any day of the week... but math. Ugh.

Now if you are a math genius, please don't think unkindly about me.  It's just that this Mama and multiplication tables don't mix.  Then again, I didn't get along with the map of the New England Waterways last night, either.  So maybe it isn't actually math, but working on homework with Caleb that is from the devil...

Let me explain.  Caleb doesn't like to sit still.  He doesn't like to write, or read, unless he's in the mood.  I recognize that in life, we have to do things we don't like.  He doesn't. I recognize that multiplication tables are something in life we have to know.  He doesn't.  I'm impatient and a little less than understanding (ok, sometimes I can get downright mean.  As in last night's episode with the map of New England.) He gets frustrated.  I get mad.  I yell.  I stomp.  It's a downhill spiral.

After reading Lysa Terkeurst's book Unglued, I'd love to tell you that homework sessions don't end like that anymore.  But being that I am the poster child for the imperfect mother, they happen more frequently than not.  Especially when we are in a hurry or have somewhere to go or when I have stuff for work.  The good thing, though, is I'm realizing it.  I'm trying to do something about it.

So tonight, when I saw Caleb getting frustrated with a math problem, after sitting there for 30 minutes and having to redo all of the ones he had just completed because he had only half worked them out, I took a deep breath.  I could feel the steam rising up from my gut, but I could also see that frustration on that sweet baby's face.  So I told him to get up and put his Iphone on  the Ihome.  We cranked up some music and danced.  I danced.  He laughed.  Toby Mac saved the day... and we sat down and he finished his math problems. 

And as he was working on them, biting his lip in concentration, Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Do Everything" came on.  "Maybe you're sitting in math class..." and big tears welled up.  It's not math class Caleb is frustrated with, its the fear of unknown, of some stuff we're facing as a family in a couple of months (nothing major, but enough to freak out a 10 year old.  Things could always be worse).  And then "Long Road Home" came on and Caleb wiped his tears and sang along. "I know we're going to make it..." And we got up and danced some more, and I realized again just how much I love this little boy, and his Daddy. 

I'm far from perfect, but today was a good day.  Jesus, keep working.  Your grace is sufficient.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mundane Mondays

Following a 5 day break, you know the Monday is going to be rough.  Especially when you have to get to work early for once and it is cold and nasty looking out.  And when you went to bed in one of those "blah" moods...

Here's to the Mondays where the scantron machine is broken, so we have to grade all of the exams by hand... but at least I have a job.  And a coworker to help me grade them.  And good students who are trying, and wanting to learn, and are caring individuals.

And here's to the Mondays where I don't get a lunch break until 215, only to run to the bookstore to get chips... but at least I have food to eat.  And money to buy it. And a simple caramel Milky Way as desert. 

Here's to the Mondays where the clouds are gray and dismal... but the sunshine was out bright this morning. As I crossed the bridge to enter town, it was so bright I couldn't see. I squinted into its gloriousness, and thought, "If this is that bright, what will the sky look like when Jesus comes back?"  There's hope in that...

Here's to Monday evenings fighting with Caleb... but there's also those moments when he's so sweet.  Like when he turned Mom's kitchen into a restaurant to feed "all those who don't have any food", and made signs offering visits under the mistletoe... let's forget that he doesn't know how to cook.  It's the thoughtfulness that counts.

Mundane Mondays... full of work and care plans and tests and grades to enter, grocery shopping and laundry and ironing.  Picking up what seems like was just put up yesterday, and going around and around this wheel called life.  In the mundane, are our greatest blessings.  Friends and instant chat and IT guys who come to your need in a pinch; warm houses and lit Christmas trees and fluffy coats.  Time with family and warm chili and salty french fries... and the hope found in Jesus.

Hope... even in the mundane.  Especially in the mundane. Hope, because we have the light of the world and access to the Word and the promise of life everlasting. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."- John 1:1-4

As Christmas approaches, I'm concentrating on this... that even in my darkness, even in my ordinary, everyday existence, I can give thanks.  As I round out 2012 counting my 1000 gifts, I'm thinking of the greatest gift, given to us over 2000 years ago... ordained before the world began.  Yes, my Monday may be mundane, but my future is anything but... because His grace is sufficient, and I am overcome with a multitude of blessings.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Psalm 61

There's something about being grateful and having a good week that does something to you.  This weekend has been full of fun and laughter and good times spent with family and friends.  I've read and took long baths and got my Christmas tree up (not without a few words...).  So it's been a successful break.

But tomorrow is Monday and the devil is already hitting hard.  Stuff for work that just won't work the way I want to, and insecurities about who I am have been hitting me all night.  Sometimes I just feel so helpless... and I know that you probably do, too.

It's easy to live a Christian life when you are secluded in the four walls of your house.  When you have to deal with people, well, that complicates things.  And when you are a mess yourself, fighting feelings of self-doubt and jealousy, well, it's doubly so. 

Nights like this, I just want to cry.  And I know it is because it is the end of the semester and the beginning of all of the hustle and bustle that comes from the Christmas season... and I'm overwhelmed.  And that's just how the devil wants it, because if he can take our joy and gratitude and get our mind on what this time of the year has become, instead of how it all started, then he's won. 

I'm fighting it, but tonight I'm losing... however, I know that in the end I have the victory.  I just have to claim it. As I'm sitting here feeling defeated, though, I just don't know how. 

Sometimes, the best answer is one that has been proven before.  The psalmist wrote, "Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy.  I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. "- Psalm 61:1-4.

He hears us.  He knows the depths of our hearts, even when we don't act like He does.  He is our shelter, our rock, our stong tower.  He is here. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Traditions

His entire body is hanging out the window and I know that there is something so very wrong about that.  Does it make me a bad parent that I am laughing so hard tears are streaming down my face as he hollers and snaps pictures?

Our annual trip to see Southern Lights on Thanksgiving night has never been boring, but this...well, this is just.  too.  much. 

I'm big on tradition.  Don't like change. I know that on Thanksgiving day, we'll all be huddled in my Mom's house, piled on the couch and loveseat and in the floor and in chairs pulled around a makeshift kitchen table in the living room.  Football will eventually make it on TV (although yesterday's favorite was the dog show.  And yes, we really watched it. "These people spend so much money on their dogs that they don't have anything left to worry about what they are wearing." Typical Kami reaction.  "Is that a comb in her hair????" Responds Alaxandra).  My plate is full of Aunt Nora's mashed potatoes and Aunt Lisa's homemade bread, banana pudding and the Clemons Clan staple, dirt cake, which can be found at any get together that we have.  Sometime, there will be a discussion about which football team was better, Breathitt's 1995-96 team (Glenn's...even though he didn't actually dress until the next year, his freshman year and my Senior year), or the 2002 (Warren's).  And then, the action will head up to my mother in law's yard, where the dogs will be driven crazy by harrowing passes and dives and rolling around on the cold for the annual Turkey Bowl.  This year, a dwindling number made the game a tad bit less exciting, but Wallace and Landry's trash talk made up for the lack of players ("I'm not trying to sound cocky," Landry said, "But I think our best option is the throw the ball to me, because Wallace just can't catch me."  And all of Wallace's training on the treadmill was for naught, because he was nothing for Landry's speed.  And Landry let him know it.)

And then, for picky eaters like me, heaven in the form of Ruby Tuesday's with the in-laws.  Baby Will made this year extra special.  He is so precious, with big blue eyes and cheeks that I could literally eat up.  A good road trip sitting in the backseat listening to Nana and Wallace.  Time spent with family is the best time,and I'm so blessed that I have not just one awesome family, but two... and that we are all so close. 

And then we made it to the horse park.  Doesn't seem like long ago we were driving through with Mom's van door open so Caleb could gaze in amazement at all of the twinkling lights, trying to identify the characters and figure out what they were all about.  Now, tonight, he is hanging out the window... and he knows what the characters are and we sing The Twelve Days of Christmas and then he starts that hollering, and the cool night air rushes in.  Wallace looks at me and winks and I'm laughing so hard that I lose my breath and Caleb says, "Well, that was fun."

And it was.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2 Corinthians 5:17

I'm sitting on my couch right now enjoying the silence.  Caleb is at Papaw William's, the clothes in the washer are waiting to be put in the dryer, and Wallace is at ball practice.  There is still a lot to be done, but I just finished a book and put my feet up.

I'm really ruminating the scripture I read this morning. 2 Corinthians 5:17, here from The Message: "Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. "

Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start... isn't that wonderful?  As I'm sitting here thinking about new vs. old, I've been reflecting on how this year has gone.  It's been a busy one.  It's been a hard one, full of new challenges and new insights and let's face it... sometimes new is hard. We get used to our comfort zone.  We grow complacent, but being complacent is easy... because you don't have to change.  And change is hard.  Why else doesn't anyone keep all those New Year's Resolutions?

I don't think it is a coincedence that we get New Years after the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  See, that month is so full of hustle and bustle and running and buying and eating and partying and shopping and... just doing... that we need renewal.  The New Year is an opportunity for a clean slate.  It's one of my favorite times, to pull out my journal on January 1 and make my list.  And, no, I'm not perfect, and yes, I've not met many resolutions from last year at all.  Which makes me think that maybe they aren't necessarily resolutions, but just goals that I'm shooting for... but that's a whole other topic for this blog for a later date.

I'm already thinking about next year.  Even though the Bible warns us not to do that, as humans we can't help but be preoccupied with the past, and the future.  So as I'm sitting here, I'm thinking again that next year is going to be better.  I'm going to be a better Mom and wife and teacher and friend and daughter and sister and Christian and students... I'm thinking of how I'll do all those things...

But, the good news is we don't have to wait until next year.  We're told that his mercies are new EVERY morning... whether it is January 1 or March 14 or May 21 or July 4 or November 21.  Every morning, we are given the opportunity to open our eyes, and before we ever get out of bed, say, "Today, I can make it whatever I want to be." 

As I've been concentrating on thankfulness this month, I have found a peace... yes, I'm still argumentative and just this morning Wallace got on my nerves so bad I wanted to scream... but in my thankfulness, I can overlook those small indiscretions.  And this week, participating in the Good Morning Girls Intentional Week of Gratitude, I read that verse from 2 Corinthians, and then thought about being made new.  No, not perfect... but different.  Just how He wants me to be, when I step out of the way.  And me being made new,  yet still a work of progress... this process is where I get to become a better me.  Better in that I am centered on Christ, and He is in me, and His fruit is evident in me.  Being new... because we are settled in Christ.  Settled... Resolved.  Not.  Going.  Anywhere. 

New opportunities every morning... because His grace is sufficient.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My To Do List

It's Thanksgiving break... and I am so very thankful.  I'm just plain tired, and I have an ambitious to do list to get accomplished.  Starting with a mound of laundry that has been piled up for heaven knows how long.  Ending with submission of some Biostats homework and hopefully a rough draft of a leadership philosophy paper...

And in the meantime, finishing Lean, Mean Thirteen and working through week 6 of Esther, downloading a couple of more books to my Kindle and taking these in at my leisure.  Food and family fun on Thursday, complete with an annual trip to Lexington to take in the Christmas lights.  Hopefully catching a movie with Wallace and Purple and Gold night and a basketball scrimmage.  Napping and playing Bejeweled and spending time with my best boy...

Lots of stuff to do.  Now I'm going to head to bed so I can be well rested to tackle that laundry tomorrow.  May my motivation still be with me when I wake up in the morning =)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fall Blessings

The sky is a brilliant blue with just a few clouds interspersing. The sunshine is a golden yellow.  Looking outside the window, I'm sure it is a warm summer day, but the chill of near-winter nips at my cheeks as I walk out of the hospital.  The last day of clinical for the semester... my whites aren't nearly as white as they were at the beginning of the semester, and my students aren't nearly as excited as they were then, either.  Assessments have become old hat and they are ready to learn how to try IVs, ready to do more skills and less questioning of their patients.  Thanksgiving, and then finals loom, and to say we are all a little burned out would be an understatement.

But the air is fresh and I breathe in deep as I unlock my messy car.  Caleb is in a good mood and we study for a Science test, and then I read and work on lecture notes and read some more.  I get a quick chat with Wallace, which is rare during the week.

And I'm reminded, again, that this is the week for Thanksgiving... but how can it just be a week?  The blue sky has turned dark and I'm sure the chill has picked up, but I'm snug in my pajamas with the heater going.  How can I so easily take these things for granted when I know that somewhere, someone does not have these things? 

The words of one of my favorite songs right now echoes in my mind right now. "If I'm so thankful, how do I easily forget... that You died for all of this?"  Yes, sacrifices were made, before I was even in existence, so that I could sit hear on this Monday night and pound out this blog on the keyboard and dread the notification on my phone that my stats homework has been graded.  And as I sink in the bathwater, let me not forget that somewhere, there is someone who doesn't have running water... and dare I think it? Could it be someone even nearby?

We tend to think of others during this Holiday season... but it is often a small, quick glance to quelch the guilt we feel as we run to and fro and buy and buy and buy... and too often we tend to imagine those who are needy as being in a country far, far away, on the other side of the world. And they are... but there are also those needy in our backyards.  Needs aren't always physical, sometimes the pain that is the hardest to bear isn't necessarily a physical pain, but rather one that rips from the inside out, and sometimes the hardest hunger to fill is the hunger of needing to be loved.

If you are loved, you are blessed.  If you know Whose you are, doubly so.  In the Bible, we are told in Ephesians that we were chosen before the foundation of the world.  In Jeremiah, we are told that we are loved with an everlasting love.  And in Psalms, we are given the commandment over and over, "Give thanks to the Lord. For He is good.  His love endures forever."

And that thankfulness... it spreads from the inner part of us to the outer and we live it by loving others.  On this Monday, thankful for Bible study and computers and time with my family. Thankful for days off this week and pajamas and warm bubble baths. Thankful that I am not alone... and that I have love to share.  And the gifts of autumn- a golden sun hitting the few remaining red leaves outside of my college office building, the smell of Pumpkin Spice bubble bath, and the crisp chill in the air reminding me that it won't be fall for too much longer. Thank You, God, for these things...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

That Time of Year

So, it's officially basketball season. Started out with a win in our first scrimmage and I was pretty pleased with how the Coach behaved.  I always find it amusing to sit and listen to the other team's crowd.  Our girls (and most of our parents) have figured out that Wallace is all mouth.  He yells at his girls, he yells at the refs, he just yells... and jumps and stomps and paces the sideline.   I really wouldn't be surprised to see him turnng kartwheels one night, and that's ok.  He acts cocky and whines to the ref, quarrels at the other coaches... but at the end of the game, he loves his girls and he's really not a bad guy.

However, if I had a quarter for everytime I'd heard, "Sit down, coach..." or "Quit yelling" or "Just calm down...", well, I'd have enough money so that Wallace could coach for free and we wouldn't have to worry about booster money.  Last night, as we were playing Belfry (and have  I mentioned how fun it is to beat Belfy, even if it is just a scrimmage?)  I heard a guy above me say, "Well, it's just because it is a small gym." (As to why Wallace's voice carries so loudly).  I turned around and said, "No, not really". 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to what this season holds.  We've got a great bunch of girls and they are really excited, I think.  And so am I.  So let the fun begin! 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday Nights

He's the little boy the  older cousins blame everything on.  The one who loves dump trucks and HeMan, and climbing in the trees, and eventually onto Grandma's roof.  He's the one who led the parade when Butch died and we had the funeral by the river. 

And then there is the boy who pulled the fire alarm, who told Wallace to play "them naked ladies", the one who shocked me as a three year old when he wanted to order "beer... Budweiser" from the concession stand when we went to watch the Rugrats at Thanksgiving.

I'm sitting in the stands, gloves on with hot hands in.  It's not that cold, but then again I'm dressed in three layers, sitting on a blanket, snuggled between my Mom and my Dad.  I'm surrounded by family, because that's how we do things.  This year, and last, we were the TO fan club, cheering that little boy with the mischievous smile who somehow grew up overnight on to victory.  And what a few years it has been.  Getting lost going to Campbellsville, yelling at the refs because of bad calls, cheering on for touchdowns... we've had fun.  And as I'm sitting there, ready to watch them take the field, I look down and see these two embrace.  The older cousin, hugging his younger cousin.  Patting him on the back.  And I get tears in my eyes.

See, I'm one of the older ones, and those younger cousins feel more like my kids.  I can remember the excitement when we found out they were going to be born.  First Nora, then Mom, then Dana, making their announcements, and that's how they were born... Allie, then a couple of hours later, Kami, and then Brayton.  And us older cousins, well, we taught them, and picked on them, and egged them on.  That might explain why each group is a little bit meaner, or sassier, or self-confident, than the last, because they learned...

So here we are, the end of another Senior season.  Each one is different in its own way.  There was Glenn's, as he dressed in 56 and took the field the last time as a Bobcat, only to return a few years later to help coach.  There was Jordan's where  we all pulled out purple and gold from our predominately blue and white closet and stood for Jackson's School song to watch him win a Regional Championship... only to leave broken-hearted when they got oh so close.  Then Gentry's, where this sweet kid who had the most adorable smile left it all on the soccer, basketball, and baseball field.  Last year, Kami, who had cheered her whole life, and Alaxandra, whose skills at softball amaze this old woman.  And now, Brayt...

As I watched him return the kickoff, moving down the field, down by 3 touchdowns, I was misty-eyed again.  And Dana stood up and yelled and Mom rang her cowbell and Kami yelled, "Come on boys!"  Mike Fugate and Wallace were sitting up in the stands complaining, as usual, and Lisa had moved to make room for all of our extended family.  And Brayt plowed down the field again, and Glenn on the sideline cheering him on. 

My family... even if we lost, there is no other place I'd have rather been on a Friday night.  Surrounded by all of these crazy people...

No, not a win.  But I am so proud.  And tomorrow I'll wake up and it will be basketball season, and then in two years it will be Landry.  Time goes on.  We live, and love, and play our last game.  I'll keep cheering regardless, knowing that in the end, it's not about the game.  It's about the people, my family, and the family that those boys form on the field.  Tonight, I'm proud to be a Bobcat... and I'm still cheering TO... cause after all, next week is the Clemons Clan Turkey Bowl =)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

He Loves Us Anyway

Sometimes I am the world's biggest hypocrite. I have been trying so hard to be thankful and to show love and to be a better person, but to be honest, sometimes I just don't care. There you have it. I know intellectually that feeling of apathy is nothing but the ugly head of my flesh coming out, and I struggle internally to put on a smile and to be friendly and caring. Sometimes, though, I wish I could put a big flashing sign on my forehead that says, "Please leave me alone." Or more appropriately, "Caution... This is one crazy lady."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that most of the time these moods come when I'm really tired. Or superstressed. Or maybe a combination of both. It's times like that when I really just need to take off to a deserted island... not so much for myself, but for everyone who I come into contact with. So easily annoyed by large crowds and noise and the people who drive slow in front of me, for questions and small talk and just. being. nice. Although if I feel like this, I'm really not nice at all, right?

Ahhh... but as I writing this rant, one word comes to mind. Grace. Not like amazing grace that saved me, although that part is true, too. But grace... giving grace. To others. Being graceful and patient and forgiving and forbearing. On days like today, when my nerves are grating and I just feel like screaming (even though I have no clue why I feel like this. It's not really been a bad day. I seriously think I need to look into some antidepressants...) it is so hard to practice grace...

But back to the amazing grace that saved me, and continues to cover me. See, God loves me regardless of how crappy my attitude is. That's not saying He likes my bad attitude... but He has this thing called unconditional love. Love is WHO HE IS... So He can't not love. And even on my crazy, antisocial, hypocritical days... He loves me. And in this love, He's changing me. Helping me see that this isn't the right attitude to have. See, before, I'd be pretending everything was ok, and seething on the inside, but not really caring that I was seething. Now, I don't like it when I'm in these moods, and really do worry on how I affect others. Not because I care about what others think of me, because I'm slowly growing out of that, but because I care about other seeing Christ in me. And if I'm full of this negative attitude, they can't see the Son...

Lord, help me get out from this nasty storm cloud. Help me focus on You and Your goodness. I know I don't deserve it... but You love me anyway. Amen and amen.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Musings... Gratitude

Mondays get a bad wrap.  Particularly Mondays that come after a busy weekend of all day class on Saturday, a five hour drive home, church and children's church on Sunday morning, and a pool party for little man's 10th birthday party...

And let's face it, on those kind of Mondays, when you can barely roll out of the bed, it's hard to be thankful. This is why being thankful has so much to do with intentionality.  We have to make a choice to choose gratitude, to look back the craziness of life and focus on the gifts.  Gifts like...

A job that gives me the opportunity to still "nurse", yet teach others.  Students willing to learn.  Nurses willing to teach.  Good friends that I miss at the hospital, and the chance to catch up.  Rainy days that make me sleepy, and the chance to just rest on the couch (with my eyes open) for a few minutes in the evening.  Crazy bread from Little Caesars and a ride home with Caleb with conversation, radio off, just us talking.  His logic and thinking... never fails to amaze me.  The sound of Wallace pounding on the treadmill, lecture notes done on time, and a couple of extra days to work on a paper.  A computer and facebook and twitter and the feel of community even when I am at home in the middle of nowhere. All of these things, which may mean nothing to anyone but me, but to me they are the greatest gifts...

God's Word... 1 Peter 5 and the reminder that humility is key... and is humility not a manifestation of thankfulness?  His love that never fails, and realizing (again) that His mercies are new every morning.  Gifts, if only I hold my hand out and accept them.  Thank You, Lord. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Just a Little Prayer

At the beginning of the year, I had hoped to write once a day.  Life is busy, though, and I've not been able to do that.  One of the reasons behind writing every day is because if it is a habit I'll be more likely to do it, and I think better after writing and getting stuff off of my mind.  Tonight, though, I've got nothing...

It's been five days since I last wrote, and they've been five busy days.  Meeting in Hazard, trip to Bowling Green, class, church with Children's Church, and Caleb's birthday party.  All leading up to what is looking like it will be another jam-packed week, including the kick-off to basketball season.

So tonight, if it's okay with any readers I've got out there, I'd just like to say a little prayer on this white space I'm typing.  Not so that I will look good or so that it'll be read by the masses, keeping in mind that prayer is personal and that God doesn't want us boasting in public...

But might I pray for you, too?  I'm not even sure if anyone will read this, but if you do... you're included...

Lord, I'm so very thankful that You are You and I am not.  I'm thankful that You look over my mess and love me.  I'm thankful that You were willing to die for me and my sins, and that You forgive me even when I can't forgive myself.  I'm thankful for this life that is busy... but please help me not lose focus on You.  It's when I lose that focus and start looking at all that is going on that I get so messed up and needy.  Help me not forget that, Lord. 
So many in our community, in our country, in our families, are hurting. Comfort them, Lord. Wrap Your arms around them and give them strength.   Death and sickness and need... worry and fear and not knowing what to expect.  You know the future, though... and Your ways are so much greater than ours.  You have a purpose and a plan, and we know that all things work together for our good, if we love You.  And I do, Lord... even if I have a messed up way of showing it sometimes.
Be with my family and my friends and my students.  Be with our Bobcats as they travel to Belfry.  I'm praying traveling mercies and that all will be safe.  Be with Caleb and help him have a good week. Be with my ball girls as they kick off this season.
Lord, today, on Veterans Day, I'm thankful for all who have served our country and are serving it right now, and all of their families.  Please keep our boys and girls overseas safe, especially those who I know. 
Thank You, Lord, for a safe place for me to turn to.  You are so good. We don't deserve Your goodness, but great is Your faithfulness.  In Jesus's name, Amen and amen. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

My mind can't hardly comprehend a decade.  Time goes by too quickly, and the days fade into each other.  Ten years is a long time, yet it seems like yesterday...

Ten years ago I was in the hospital, waiting to welcome Caleb Bates into this scary world.  Ten years have seen a lot...

the little boy who loved John Deere.  Loved riding on lawnmowers and anything that had wheels. Could tell you any type of car we passed on the interstate, and frequently got the make and model right.  That little boy whose smile lit up the room.  Obsessed with TG Shuck and WKYT, and Dora the Explorer and Diego.  The kid who loved rubber boots and would wear them with everything. 

A Mama's heart overflows with memories and there are just too many to share, and it hurts to think of that small hand that used to be swallowed up in my own. 

Kids start out so defenseless, and we have to protect them from everything, and then before you know it they grow and grow and can start protecting you.  And to every Mama, their kid is special, and we are all special because we are God's... but aren't some just a little bit more?

I walk through Walmart with him, and he's passing out hugs and smiles and talking to people that I don't know.  He's been like that from a young age.  He is his father's son, and at times that is a good thing.  My eyes got misty last night when I looked over to see him help a teammate get up off the ground.  His heart full of love most of the time... and in his eyes I see a glimpse of the man that he will grow to be. 

Ten years is just long enough for me to realize that I will never have this Mother thing figured out.  I'm so selfish and spiteful and just plain mean at times, and I hope that he doesn't see that always.  I hope he remembers instead the Mama that laughed and tickled and just stared at him in amazement, because he is mine and he is him, completely unique. 

We dream big dreams for our kids, and we close our eyes and take a deep breath and pray that somehow, someway, those dreams will be realized, and that their hearts will be protected from hurt and they will love and thrive and prosper.  And then we realize that sometimes our dreams aren't their dreams, and that's ok, and as we open up the palm that clinches their tiny fingers, open it wide to release them and let them chase after their own dreams, the breath slowly is exhaled as we watch them toddle across the living room floor, only to land with a soft thunk on the carpet.  And ten years later, we watch them take first steps in another direction, and then 20 years later... and so on.  But always, as we watch in wide-eyed wonder as they take those first steps, we realize that we never were in control.  And that's ok, too... because He is. 

To my Caleb, on your 10th birthday... Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something that you want to.  You are so smart, and funny, and loveable.  Don't be too stubborn, though, to admit when you are wrong.  Don't be afraid to try something new, and don't be so hung up on perfection like your Mama.  Love deep.  Smile and laugh and just enjoy being you.  Be the best that you can be, always, and know that even when your best isn't good enough, even when life kicks you down and you feel like you can't get up, there's a great big God waiting to dust you off.  And a Mama that loves you to the moon and back, more than mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Be you, because there is noone better. 

Thanking God for this blessing of motherhood, and that His grace is sufficient for when I don't get it right...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Do Not Fear

The most common command in the Bible? "Do not fear"... or some variation. One source says there is 366 instances that God commands us not to fear... one for every day, even leap year. So how come it's so hard for us not to do?

We fear different things. Sunday, I watched Session 4 of Beth Moore's Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman, and the whole session was on fear. I can't imagine the fear Esther must have felt. Fear because she was alone in the King's palace. Fear because her people had received a death sentence. Fear because she was facing sure death by approaching the King. Fear of rejection. Fear because she was facing sure death if she didn't approach him.

As Beth continued talking about how her fear turned to courage, she talked about worse case scenarios. See, our mind tends to churn and focus on these worst case scenarios, and the "What ifs". Most of these what ifs never come true, yet we dwell on them and paralyze ourselves with fear of what might happen. It's why we don't try new things. It's why we don't hop on the plane or take that ship or try that food or... you fill in the blank. Fear can prevent us from living life in the fullest. Fear is one of the devil's best tactics... because he is a thief, wanting to steal our joy, and the best way to steal joy is to take our minds off of the good and cause us to focus on what scares us.

Beth then went on to talk about perfect love casting out all fear... which is one of my favorite verses. Jesus's love gives us strength... and His love is perfect. She posed this question... If ____________, then _________________. If your worst nightmare happens, then what? If the worst thing you could ever imagine happen, then what?

If that worse case scenario happens, then... God. God is there. God is still good. God is still in control. And somehow, we pick up the pieces and continue on. Even when we don't think we can. Knowing that He is good and He is God and He is in control. His love casts out fear, because if God is for us, who can be against us?

And this made me consider... I've had some rough times lately. Not anything compared to some people, but enough to shake my world up a little and look at my priorities. Was it the worst thing that could have happen? Probably not. Did it take me out of my comfort zone? Absolutely. And guess what? I'm still here, and I'm stronger. I've grown from it. I've learned from it. God is still good and He's still God, and I'm trying to hand it all over to Him.

"I know Who goes before me, I know who stands behind. The God of angel armies, is always by my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine... Whom shall I fear?"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Hurry...

Today I spent  a couple hours in the mall.  I had no urgency, just killing time while Wallace worked.  I strolled from store to store, window shopping and made my way to The Cheesecake Factory.  On the way out the door from the mall to the restaurant, I met a girl who hurriedly scrambled through the door.  She appeared rushed as she barely said thank you to me for holding the door open.

Shortly after, as I stood in line to place my order for a slice of heaven to go, the same girl stood behind me in line.  Money in hand, she seemed exasperated as the lady in front of me took her time looking over all of the different kinds of cheesecake.  (Let's be honest.  If you've never been to the Cheesecake Factory, this isn't just any cheesecake.  There have to be twenty different selections.  And they all look good.  And you can get them in different sizes. This is not a decision to be taken lightly).

Anyway, I gave the lady behind the cash register my order (one piece of Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate cake Cheesecake) and stepped over to get out of the way. I almost ran over the lady who had been impatiently standing behind me, as she told another server behind another cash register her order.  "I'm sorry for talking over your head, " she told me. "I'm just really in a hurry."

Maybe I should have let her go in front of me, but hindsight is 20/20.  This whole ordeal made me think, though.  Is that what I look like all the time, as I rush from here to there in a hurry?  Do I make people think I'm too busy for their needs? I'm afraid that a lot of the time, I do.  You see, the mind is a crazy thing, and it can totally convince us that we have to be in that hurry mode. 

As I've been contemplating gratitude, though, and grace, I realize that as we hurry through life, we miss those small moments of gratitude.  If we are in too big of a hurry, we don't get to appreciate each moment as it stands.  We miss the feel of the sunshine on our face, or the laugh of the small child, or the taste of that cheesecake as it slides off the fork.  Overcome by our need to do more, and be more, and get more, our senses are unable to grasp the goodness, the Godness, around us. 

Lord, help me not to be too hurried to see You in the everyday, in the mundane.

Today, giving thanks for my parents.  Also, for cheesecake and new jackets and heaven in a bookstore, for three hour drives with Wallace playing with my hair and nothing good on the radio... for knowing exactly what he was going to say about the belt on the lady taking our order at Arby's and the sunset in the background as we drove across this great Bluegrass state. For little Will, so small in my arms, and my too-big boy who almost stands as tall as me.  Your blessings are many. Help me not forget...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November Beginnings

There's so much going on in my head right now that I'm not sure where this blog will lead me.  Since part of the purpose of this is to clear out my chaotic mind (God help everyone reading this.. that's a dangerous place, a glimpse into my mind...), I'm just going to let it go. Since what's on my mind could never fit into that tiny box on Facebook.

First off, I can't believe it is already November! Wow!  I'm devoting this month to thankfulness.  I"ve tried really hard all year to have an attitude of gratitude, but I think it is especially important this month.  Not just because of Thanksgiving, although that certainly plays a part of it, but because it is so hectic.  The end of the semester, preparing for exams and wrapping up assignments, and then there is the crazy Christmas shopping... we too quickly lose focus and start looking at all that is pressing in on us rather than just being.  And it's in the just being, the breathing in and out in the everyday mundane, that we are truly thankful... aware of God and His blessings, some so minute and small that we take them for granted.  On Thursday, I was just thankful that I made it to work.  After locking my keys up in the house, and the rain and nastiness, it was a blessing just to sit down at my desk and breathe before tackling my to do list.  And that day there was the most beautiful blue sky... Friday brought thankfulness for God's grace.  I was reading in Unglued about grace... marvelous grace.  The verse Joel 2:13 was in my reading and it really put things into perspective.  Our God is so full of lovingkindness, and endless mercy. He is slow to anger, even when I deserve anger.  He is so good.  Period.  He is.. no way around it. Today, I'm thankful for a full life.  I stay so busy and that in itself is a blessing, because life is never boring.  And in the midst of this busyness, He provides rest... which I am so very thankful for. Today, I've just sat around and read my Bible, cleared out my email (I subscribe to a bunch of daily blogs that I don't read everyday, but I don't delete, either... I save them until I have a day like today when I can go through them.) Speaking of rest...

Thursday as I read Unglued, I was in chapter 11, which talked about a Sabbath rest.  A statement Lysa wrote really stuck out to me. This is a rough paraphrase, but she essentially said that when we come unglued (when we lose control of our reactions), it is because we are starved for God's Word.  There are days when I am starved for God's Word.  Even though I KNOW it is better to start my day off before God, I get lazy and complacent.  I sleep until the alarm goes off, then hit snooze... and hit it again. And again.  Or reset my clock (yes... I know.  Lazy is not a strong enough word).  And so my feet hit the ground running, and I'm always behind, and sometimes I don't crack open my Bible for a couple of days.  It's on those days when I can feel my need, radiating through me.  I'm desperate for His good Word... and just like an anorexic with poor body image, I start to think I'm ok without His Word.  The longer I go, the more desperate I am... and the more unglued I become.  Over stupid stuff.  I start that internal negative self-talk... and it's like an avalanche.

So, again, today has been good.  Bathing in His truth.  Thinking on His good thoughts of me.  Thoughts like I am special, chosen, fearfully and wonderfully made. Loved with an everlasting love.  Perfect in Christ, with everything that I need.  I need to focus on this every day.

Thankful in November?  You bet.  Imperfect progress... with the key word being imperfect... Yes.  And getting better every day.