Raw

imageThe last year and a half has been rough on me. I haven’t wanted to fully admit it (even to myself) and I especially haven’t felt like discussing it. I don’t want to go into all the particulars that has caused this. Life is life and it isn’t always pleasant. For someone like myself, there is nothing harder than to watch bad things or bad times fall upon people I care about. I’m not saying this to prove I’m a good person, but I’d much rather have bad things happen to myself than to my peeps. That is the good and bad of the gift of mercy. I presume every gift has a weakness and Satan uses that weakness to try to tear us down.

Sometimes it is all the little instances that build rather than just one thing. A cousin commits suicide, an aunt overdoses and dies, an old friend dies, and the other instances I do not wish to share. My cousin left me hurting due to all the pain he endured and felt he couldn’t endure any longer. My aunt, where do I begin? I have fond memories of her wit and creativity. I also have painful memories of watching someone slowly destroy their life over many years. My old friend left me thinking of what more christians can and should do for those who live differently…those who have been dragged down, beaten, and have made poor choices because of this thing called life. Actually, everything from this past year and a half have left me thinking that.

My life has been rather “easy” compared to most. I know that and I am thankful. Maybe it has made it easier to have the faith I have. My struggles are insignificant compared to some and maybe that has made me “weaker”. I know some whom feel I haven’t truly lived. I must disagree. I believe we live through not just our own experiences, but through others as well. Our lives are connected and our lives have the power to alter the lives of others. Our lives are far from being isolated, that is a fact. Yes, I know no one else truly knows what it is like to live in thine own shoes, but that does not mean it doesn’t give insight and life to those around.

My somewhat easy life has left me raw and has left me stumbling. Last night, Matt and I had a conversation that I was yearning for and didn’t even realize I was. He thanked me for all the sacrifices I have made for our family and others. He told me he notices all I do. He said he doesn’t know how I do all I do. It made me weep uncontrollably. I did not know how much I needed to release. Those cleansing tears have left me feeling lighter today. Crazy what a few words from a loving husband can do for a person.

Finding the Joy in Parenting


Choices. As a parent you are always making choices. Sometimes your brain is dizzy with all the things you need to decide. You want what is best for your kids and many times it is hard to measure the results. You make a choice. You hope and pray it was the right one. You wait. You breathe a sigh of relief when you find you did the right thing. You feel ill when you find you did the wrong thing. Sometimes you wait years to see if it was the right choice. Sometimes you will never know.

You have information thrown at you from all directions. It is as though everyone knows how to be the perfect parent. Well, until it is your own child that you are parenting. Because, once you look your child in the eye and feel the overwhelming love, you just know there is too much at stake to even try to pretend you know what to do all the time. Once you see your child struggle or mess up, you know there is no cookie cutter way to parent your imperfect and unique child…

How do you ease your weary mind and embrace the joy of parenting? The answer is a little different for everyone. Again, there is no cookie cutter way.

I feel like I do a decent job (most days) at enjoying this sometimes arduous journey. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way:

  1. If it isn’t broke, simply leave it alone. If something works for you and your family then screw what everyone else thinks.
  2. Do listen to advice, though. Some people know more than you. But don’t forget, it is your choice on what advice you follow.
  3. If you don’t follow someone’s advice, don’t feel guilty. Seriously, don’t. You know your child the best. You also know your own limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  4. Honor your limits. Honor your spouse’s limits. Honor your kids limits. Enough said.
  5. Don’t judge other parents. You are not in their shoes. You do not know their child as they do.
  6. Don’t compare and don’t ever compete. No one enjoys being around those who try to compete or get their kids involved in such nonsense.
  7. Allow your child to be who they are, not who you think they should be. This may be hard, but, your kids know themselves better than you know them. (I have to thank my parents for doing a great job at this one.)
  8. Forget the rules sometimes. Just have fun. Sing loud, dance, and get a little goofy with them.
  9. Love them. Figure out how they feel loved. Give it to them unconditionally.
  10. Let them love you. Accept the way they show love and appreciate it.
  11. Most importantly, trust God and His will for your kids. God’s got this, guys. He really does.

Feel free to share any tips I may have missed.

 

This Thing Called Grace

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I think of the crushing weight that pressed on His beautiful soul. The beauty He held, I can never fully grasp. I try to comprehend. I close my eyes and picture the cross. I picture the events leading up, as well. My mind is too weak. I skim over the hard parts. My body clenches at the very thought of trying to endure even one lashing. The driven nails are pulled out by my selfish need to fend off pain before it ever really begins.

The purpose of His dying was so I could be free from the yoke. Yet, there are times I forfeit the lightness that was so freely given to me. Why do I trample on my clean soul? Why do I worry, I fear, and I forget?  I hold a beautiful opened gift and I sometimes wrap it back up and tuck it away for a rainy day. Maybe not always, maybe not as much as I used to, maybe not as much as others…but enough to feel the chains that bind.

Now here’s the thing that gets me every time. I do not need to shed any blood or endure any of what He did. I do not need to earn His love or His approval. All I need is faith. He sees me as me. Not as the world portrays me to be…not what I portray me to be either. He…loves…me.

Whenever I tuck this thing called grace away he gently helps me unwrap it. He reminds me of my worth. He places His finger under my chin and lifts my head up like no other. It is because of this I am led through the Holy Spirit’s power to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

Never Apart

bible-1031288_1920The Word was once just a book.

It contained truth and knowledge.

It told me how to live and love.

It was something to study and put to practice.

And it was good.

But that all changed.

The words began to stir and come to life.

One by one they sharpened.

One by one they pierced my soul.

No longer did I want to depict the world’s eye view of it.

I saw the significance of the Law.

I saw the significance of the Gospel.

I saw how they can never be torn apart.

Because one without the other is simply not enough.

You can be doing it all right and still be wrong.

It is only with Him, not on our own, that we realize…

The Word shows His love.

It is grace bestowed upon us through His blood.

Without it, there is no salvation.

Without it, there is no freedom.

It is what opens our hearts to the law and changes us from within.

See, the Gospel without the Law is just a pile of words.

You or me without both are just a pile of flesh and bones.

It is the Law together with the Gospel that sets us apart from the world.

It is both.

Soon You’ll be Forty Years Old…

DSC_0157Matthew,

I cannot believe your fortieth birthday is next week.  When I think of when we first met and then think of our life now it amazes me. I think of all the years in between…everything we’ve been through…wow.  We really are doing this. We really are continuously building a life together, for better or worse. I think we have seen both.  It is inevitable there will be good times and bad.  Life. That is life.

I remember our early days of flirting by tossing pumpkin guts (Is that what you call it?) at each other. Who would’ve thought after all these years that we’d be married with two kids? I’ll never forget the summer we spent at the beach.  We pretty much lived moment to moment.  I won’t share all our memories on here, but those are just a couple that I go back to when life gets crazy.

All I know is that there is no one else on earth who knows me and loves me like you do. Anytime you ask me to write a blog or remind me I haven’t in a while, I am reminded how much you care about me. You are a good person, Matt.  Don’t you ever forget that.

Time seems to speed up the older we get, it really does. It will seem as only a few moments have passed before I am thinking, soon I’ll be forty years old. I don’t like to think about myself as being forty, but as long as you are by my side I will be just fine.

Before we know it, our kids will be grown and forty will seem young.  I cannot wait to see you as a grandfather. Heck, maybe we will even have a granddaughter. How weird would that be to have a girl in our life?

Oh my and then before we know it, we will retire. I’m seeing us as snowbirds for sure.  A nice condo on a beach somewhere? We’ll be walking along the beach and I will turn to you and say, “My dear, soon you’ll be seventy years old.  Where did the time go?” You will lean down, kiss my forehead and say, “I don’t know, babe. Did I take me medicine this morning?”

XOXO

Beauty

img_7989Once upon a time, there was a monster named Beauty.  The other monsters in town laughed and made fun of her. Because, truly, who has ever met a monster with such a name?  You see, Beauty’s mom held a secret that most monsters do not know, or even care to know.  I’ll tell you this secret in just a minute.

I am certain by now you are wondering the obvious.  What did Beauty look like?  Was she the fairest of all the monsters?  She certainly was not.  She looked like a monster, of course.  Her ears were made of leaves.  Her teeth were gnarly and yellow.  She belched a lot, was by no means graceful, and she always had dirt under her fingernails.  The only thing pretty about her was a blue and white bow she wore on her head.

One day, on her way home from Gross Skills School, Beauty watched two monsters growling at a little human girl.  Beauty felt something inside of her she could not quite understand.  This something was surely something they never taught her at school. It grew the longer she watched and it grew to the point she could no longer remain crouched behind the stinky garbage can.

She stood up and ran over as quick as she could.  The little human girl was trembling.  The monsters were laughing.  Tears streamed down Beauty’s cheeks.  She didn’t know what made her do this, she didn’t even know what it was called.  Her arms wrapped around the little human girl and she gently squeezed.  She whispered, “It’s okay, don’t pay attention to them. I will protect you.”

The other monsters did not know what to make of any of this. They ran off yelling, “We’re telling Mr. Pimple on you.  You’ll for sure get kicked out of Gross Skills School.”

“Thank you, monster.  I never knew monsters could be so kind.  What is your name?” The little human girl asked.

“My name is Beauty.  What is your name?”

“Beauty is a perfect name for you.  My name is Penelope. Maybe we can play someday.”

“Maybe we can,” Beauty said.

The two hugged again and then parted ways.  Beauty went home feeling happy, but also sad and confused.  She went straight to her room and sat on her bed made of stinky socks. She was afraid she’d be in big trouble when her mom found out what had happened. After a while, her mom came in and sat next to her.

“Beauty, what’s wrong?  You never even ate your snack of sour milk and moldy grapes.”

“Mom, something happened today and I’m just so confused.”

Beauty told her mom everything.  Her mom patted Beauty’s head and said, “Well, my dear, that is why I named you Beauty. I knew from the moment our eyes met that you were no ordinary monster. I saw your beauty, I felt your beauty. It was then I realized beauty is about the love you hold inside your heart for others. It is about embracing that love regardless of what everyone else is doing. Don’t ever let the monsters of this world tell you otherwise.”

The End

(This is dedicated to my beautiful niece who drew this picture and asked me to write a story about a monster.)

My Shield and Thorn

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I love to help people.  It is something deeply rooted, so deeply rooted, I believe it takes up the largest part of my personality. I care for people to the point it hurts.  It’s the thing I cannot change.  It’s the thing I look for in others and cannot understand when they could care less about helping others. How can you not want to help?  

I get frustrated when I see people who refuse to help when it is needed. Those are the times I bite my tongue, those are the times I pray for understanding. Most times, I see the reason why. Sometimes all I see is a hardened (selfish) heart. Then I pray to understand the pain that caused their heart to harden. I pray and even when the understanding doesn’t follow, I tend to let go. It does eat away at me when I cannot see the cause. But, it eats away at me more when I have harsh feelings toward a person.

Does the inability to stay frustrated–the wanting to always see the why behind the negative make me weak?  Maybe it does.  Maybe I am too kind and too sensitive.  I may be one who gets walked over my entire life. The thing is, I accept this “weakness” God has given to me.  I know it is better than holding hate in my heart.  It’s better than always being disappointed in people.

It is a struggle to stand firm in my kindness, knowing it as both a strength and weakness. I will always pray for understanding within myself and within others as well.  I will always hold some doubt and over-think this part of me. Satan will continue to use this against me.  He’s mean like that.

It isn’t always easy and I fail at times to place my trust in God. Despite my stubborn ways, He never fails to bring me back to the truth. My kindness is my shield and my thorn. It is more a beautiful shield, though, in this sometimes ugly world.

What is your shield and thorn?