Seated at the Table

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My story is about a little girl. This little girl stood with all the grown-ups in church each Sunday, singing the normal, everyday hymns. It was expected, accepted, and routine; in one ear and out of the other.  But one Sunday, the preacher said something that actually piqued her interest.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 KJV)

It grabbed her. “You mean I can have supper with Jesus?” she thought. There was no way she could understand what was happening to her in that moment. Was it the supper she wanted? No. It was relationship. Intimacy. The kind of closeness that weaves itself into shared meal. She didn’t…she couldn’t fully understand it.

This little girl grew in an adult. She dutifully followed the rules (for the most part). Everyone knew her as the good Christian girl. Until something occurred that threw everything into a tailspin. It caused her to question everything she had ever been taught. Some members of her church family lost their way for a time and hurt her family badly. The group of Christian girls she ran with seemed to turn on her. Was this Christian life? This was not what she signed up for.

All the good works these people put forth were suddenly hollow and meaningless. Church was hollow and meaningless. She wanted substance, so she left in search of more, swearing she’d never darken the door of a church like that again. She continued to read her Bible as hard as she could, but it, too, was empty, and eventually fell by the wayside. Like a frog in a slow warming pot, she gradually became more and more isolated and distracted by career aspirations and other pursuits.

Then came the birth of her son. Torn by the way this little guy captured her heart, she decided to leave her career and stay home, and that’s when the isolation and loneliness set in heavily. Not even completely aware of the depression that threatened at every angle, she finally prayed for community. It was a scary prayer, and it definitely didn’t include church, however two weeks later she received a call from a little-known acquaintance, inviting her to a MOPS meeting.

This is Amanda who called me an invited me to MOPS.
This is Amanda who called me an invited me to MOPS.

Excited about the prospect of answered prayer, she quickly looked up the website and her spirits immediately dropped when she saw it was associated with ONE OF THOSE churches. “Oh, No. What do I do?” she said. “Well, I’ll go the mom’s meetings. They can’t make me go to their church.”

And the meetings were a welcome relief to the loneliness. By the time the year ended, they wrapped it with a day of testimony. Her cynical side, still very much in play, thought, “Great. This is where I get to listen to all the stories of how, ‘MOPS changed my life.’” She almost didn’t attend.

Sure enough, Laura got up to speak. She shared a compelling story of an environment filled with drugs and alcohol, a baby born into the mix, and how these women introduced her to Christ. Well, she was prepared for a story like that. What she wasn’t prepared for was the side story Laura absent-mindedly shared because she was nervous.

Laura (left) and her sister had a huge impact on me.
Laura (left) and her sister had a huge impact on me.

Laura traveled to Phoenix the week before with all four of her children. Her three-year-old insisted they get on the phone and call Beth as soon as they landed. Not the best time to call when you’re juggling four kids, overhead baggage, and 300 people disembarking a plane.

“But moooooom. I haaaaave to call Beth. She said she wanted to hear about my trip and I have to call her riiiiiight now!”

Why was this insignificant side note so compelling? Because I saw a strong relationship between Laura’s daughter and another mom. Beth would always be there for her. My son was not going to have that kind of relationship with Beth, because I was keeping everyone at arm’s length. I was the little girl who wanted supper with Jesus, and I evolved into a woman who walked away from the table because I was afraid of getting hurt.

I went home rattled and confused. “Lord, what do you want to me do with this?” Even though I hadn’t been reading my Bible very much, I turned it open and read the first verse I saw.

“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.” Romans 14:1

Accept. Stop arguing. Stop being stubborn. That’s the moment my faith became MY faith and no longer my parents’ faith, that I had been working so hard for years to maintain, and failing. I cried that afternoon for three hours confessing and repenting my pride. I prayed, asking God what he wanted me to do.

I decided to risk the pain and dive into relationship with these women. God also asked me to start going to ONE OF THOSE churches, so I did. I volunteered to serve as soon as the first service was over.

I learned much of God's love through these women.
I learned much of God’s love through these women.

My journey with the Lord ever since has been intense and fruitful and worth every ounce of discipline. Today, his call on my life is to write, teach, and speak. He’s called me specifically to serve and invest and love on the women who are searching for God’s will. I plan to invest in a generation of women who cannot put out the fire God has placed within them. I plan to invest in a generation of women who want to ignite that fire.

My enthusiasm and desire has not ebbed a moment since that day; in fact it’s grown. My faith before was real and saving, I have no doubt, but it lacked any sign of life. My efforts now are springing forth out of love that God is liberally pouring out on me. Love, that for years I so desperately longed, but stubbornly feared. I have finally taken a seat at the table to sup with my Savior.

 

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Resolve or Not to Resolve, That is the Question!

 

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It’s that time of year again!  The annual brawl with my New Year’s resolutions. I make them with a measure of love and good intentions, and like a bad boyfriend, drop them at just a hint of my next desire. Why is that? And like many of you, I have spent the last several years resolving to not resolve. I mean really, what’s the point if my white-knuckling approach is not going to result in sustainable change? But then I toss and turn and bristle at the thought of abandoning resolve altogether. Isn’t resolve one of our core values as a country? Isn’t bettering ourselves woven into the very fabric of our culture? Of course it is, so how am I going to approach 2015?

I took a look back on my 2014. For the first time in my life I started taking bold, daring steps into an unknown direction. One step at a time with the intention of discovering the purpose for my life that God was revealing. I truly believe that we are all created for a higher purpose. I believe that our lives are not without meaning and impact. My grandfather died three years ago, and I was amazed to see the hundreds of people who poured out gratitude for the contribution he made into their lives. He didn’t tour the country speaking to millions, he didn’t write a book that would reach the world, he didn’t march on Capitol Hill to be heard by the nation.  He invested all of his love into his little community.  He was placed at a small church in a little farming community in Oklahoma and gave it everything he had.  He made a difference.  We are ALL positioned uniquely in our communities to make a difference.

For me 2014 was a year of obedience to God’s calling, and as I began to experience spiritual growth and the presence of God through obedience, it became a mantra of mine, and a primary focus. Good thing, right?  Not when I allow my obedience to become an obsessive obligation filled with pressure and stress. I tend to be obsessive with virtually anything to which I commit, so I knew I needed to approach 2015 differently, especially when other areas of my life and health were ailing. You see, I decided that I would stop exercising for the next year so that I could focus on my purpose. No joke, friends.  I need help. And like all good girls, I found my help in the span of about 15 minutes panning Facebook this morning. I saw three posts that spoke directly to my dilemma.  My good friend Paul Gotthardt taught me, when you see repeated patterns in your life, start listening because it could be God trying to get your attention.

Here’s what I found this morning:

 

IMG_65777060872939_resized1) This little dandy of a meme.  It struck me that my attitude toward God’s purpose in my life needed to be repositioned in my mind without lessening its importance. (To find more memes like these, click here)

God’s purpose should never take the place of His presence.

2) An interview with Jennie Allen, posted in July, that somehow showed up on my newsfeed in December. Jennie has been walking a path not only of higher purpose for her life, but one in which she is encouraging women all over the world to step up and live their purpose. Jennie said, “It’s a gift that we get to serve God and obey Him and love Him with these days that we have here. I think I’ve turned that into pressure at certain points. I told myself that I needed to do something big or great, but I’m learning that this isn’t about doing something for God. It’s about doing something with God.” (For the full article, click here)

God’s purpose should never take the place of His presence.

3) An article by Michael Hyatt entitled, “What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do.” In brief he gave three points of advice: 1. Forget about the ultimate outcome, 2. Instead, focus on the next right action, 3. And do something now.  (For the full article, click here) I know that the power I wield, enabling my resolve to create anything sustainable, comes from my God and his spirit within me when I am in his presence. Even if I can accomplish a multitude of things in my own strength, it won’t last long, and I won’t really be satisfied. I resolve to be with Him in 2015 and I’ll do it now.

God’s purpose should never take the place of His presence.

Aaaaaand I’m going to start exercising again!

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I Put Santa On The Naughty List

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Dear Santa,

I’ve been thinking about the naughty list and I’ve decided to put you on it this year.  It all started last weekend when I took the kids to the toy section of Target.  They’d been faithfully earning spending money for the last four months and a chance to do a little Christmas shopping.  My daughter picked out a seemingly innocent Doc McStuffins toy and gleefully brought it home.  Of course, I’ve opened enough toys over the years to anticipate the fight that would be upon me from the packaging.  But I had no idea.  You think the Elf on the Shelf is up to shenanigans; the little elves who packed this toy were all full of naughty!  For those who are well-versed in toy packaging, they wouldn’t be surprised if I told you this toy was secured by a myriad of strings, twisty ties, plastic hooks, and tons of tape.  But would you believe me when I told you this was literally screwed to the package?  And not with ordinary screws.  Little, tiny, miniature screws that require a specialty screwdriver.  It took me more than thirty minutes to get at least two screws loosened without stripping them.  A few of those minutes were spent contemplating whether my children could play with the toy while continuing to be affixed to the cardboard package.

I stewed about that for a few days and eventually moved on…until I got a phone call yesterday that you wanted to deliver a package for my husband a little early.  My husband had been talking about wanting a commercial-grade, Cajun deep-fryer.  I am not philosophically opposed to enjoying deep-fried delights every now and then, but I just couldn’t see the financial return for such a spend.  It would mean we would have to deep-fry our meals every night for years to make it financially reasonable, and trust me, my derrière can’t handle that.  Plus, I didn’t like the idea of our back yard looking and smelling like McDonald’s.  So I’ve been pushing back and crushing these dreams for months now.  Until yesterday…You undermined me and went behind my back.  Now we have a huge deep fryer awaiting grease and Twinkies.

But don’t worry Santa, I’m not really all that mad.   I still love Christmas and it seems that dreams do come true during this season of magic.  I’ve even realized by these complaints alone, I have yet again made this season about me.  And it’s not.  And I’m the naughty one.  My family is thrilled with their toys and it fills me with joy to see them smile.  Santa, isn’t it funny that we all manage to be naughty?  We just can’t help it.  It occurs to me that this list has truly disappeared.  So no need to worry, Jesus died for every name on that list.  Now that’s the real magic of the season!

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As Brittany Maynard’s Date of Departure Approaches

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photo credit: Brittany Maynard / CNN

“It is nothing to die; it is horrible not to live.”   Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

If I had just seen the stage and film production of Les Miserables without having read the book, I would not have been as immersed in the awful, tragic circumstances that seemed to mount with each turn of the page.  It couldn’t get any worse, and then it would.  And despite the fact the story actually ended with a sense of redemption, I still felt utterly stricken by the losses.  I felt the same when I first heard Brittany Maynard’s story two weeks ago.

Like Fantine in Hugo’s tale, they are both beautiful and young with a vibrant future cut short by desperate circumstances.  It just isn’t fair, is it?  Brittany Maynard was 29 years old when she received the news of her brain tumor.  It was aggressive and after careful deliberation she and her family relocated to Oregon where they have the Death with Dignity law.  They decided that she would end her life on Nov 1, 2014.  Even writing this makes my heart ache.  To see her full story click here. 

What makes her story so poignant is the fact that she is so young, and her beautiful wedding images immediately place pictures in your mind of their future family, future vacations, future sleepless nights with spit-up and night feedings that will likely never come to pass.  I say likely, because there’s always the chance of a miraculous healing.  It’s happened before.  But let’s face it; we’ve seen cancer.  We’ve all been touched by it in some form or fashion and to quote Jen Hatmaker last week, “Cancer is an a**hole.”   I used to manage Radiation Oncology departments, and I’ve seen life expectancy ranges that were completely blown out of the water.  Patients that have lived years longer than anyone expected.  I’ve also seen the ranges turn out to be spot on.  Her prognosis is probably not far from accurate.  Although my mind wants to focus on this healing possibility, I don’t think this is the issue at heart.

I’m thankful Brittany’s had the opportunity to make this a national discussion.  With her platform and agenda to support Death with Dignity legislation across the country, we all need to wrestle with this because there are implications. My purpose here is not to make a case for any position.  I certainly have leanings, but until I’m in Brittany’s shoes, it’s hard for me to say.  I want to contribute to the discussion and continue wrestling toward some kind of answer.  There may not be a good one.  Two articles were written a couple of weeks ago when the story first broke.  The first was written by Kara Tippets as a host blog on Ann Voskamp’s site aholyexperience.com.  “Dear Brittany, Why We Don’t Have To Be So Afraid Of Dying That We Choose Suicide.” The second was written by Jessica Kelley on her blog, Jess in Process, in response. “Can Christians Support Brittany Maynard’s Decision?”  A couple things they said stirred me.

Is there beauty in death?

Kara Tippets says, “yes” and Jessica Kelley says, “no.”  Kara is currently dying from breast cancer and Jessica watched her young son die from a malignant brain tumor, so they both have first hand experience with a painful death process.  Their conclusions about beauty in death are not flippant, and they both have looked to God’s Word.   So I too went to scripture to see how I might navigate these murky waters.  And I think scripture supports them both, but they must be placed in light of one another.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the curse of death was immediately placed upon them.  And it was indeed NOT beautiful.  Satan’s goal from the beginning has been to kill.  When Jesus died an undeserved death, it was about as gruesome and painful as it could be.  While praying before he was arrested, Jesus asked if this “cup” of suffering could be passed from him, and then he submitted to it despite his foreknowledge.  He did not enter his death with curiosity.  He knew exactly how it would go down.   Much like Brittany has researched everything about her disease. His death was for the purpose of carrying the burden of the world’s sin.  And here’s where it goes from terrible to beautiful.  His resurrection conquered death once and for all.

Romans 6:9 “We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again.  Death no longer has any power over him.”

So the beauty is in God’s greater purpose not in the death process itself.  And folks, as much as we would like to understand God’s purpose for our life, we may not.  It may unfold after our death.  Stephen was stoned by the Jews for his faith in Christ.  It was in no way pleasant.  Yet there was a greater purpose, for we know the Apostle Paul (A.K.A. Saul) was holding the coats of the stoners, condoning their actions.  I don’t believe for a second that event wasn’t significant for him and didn’t factor into his conversion and eventual testimony.  I sometimes wonder if the Apostle Paul had any idea his life and death would have the effect it did.   As Christians, we should want to see God’s purpose lived out in our life and our death.  That requires the Holy Spirit living through us, prompting and supporting our obedience.  If you want to dig into that more, I write a weekly bible study that is currently focused on how to live an empowered life.   Click here.

So Is it Wrong to Avoid the Suffering in Death?

Years ago, my grandfather was confirmed to have Congestive Heart Failure.  He was otherwise healthy and lived many years with it.  As it worsened, it pained me to see him continually hospitalized, watching his quality of life deteriorating right before my eyes.  It’s a disease where you basically suffocate very, very slowly.  He loved the Lord and dedicated himself with every fiber in his body.  I fervently prayed and asked God to spare him the suffering.  As it would happen, when he entered the hospital for a second open-heart surgery to improve his quality of life, he developed an infection and never made it to surgery.  He died within two days.  I felt like God was answering those prayers.  No sane person wants to endure suffering and watch that of a loved one.  I honestly think we would be lying if we said it didn’t or wouldn’t ever cross our minds to wish for life to end early and avoid the suffering.   Because we might wish it, doesn’t mean we will take action, but it should mean that we can identify in a meaningful way.

Let’s flip the argument and consider life extension.  Jessica Kelley argues that “we certainly don’t live without assistance…must we die without assistance?”  Consider the cases where patients are only alive with artificial support.   All clinical authorities have determined that nothing can be done to save the infirmed person, and that a decision must be made on whether or not to remove life support.  I would venture to say it’s mostly the same set of people who disagree with Brittany’s decision who would also argue in favor of pulling life support and allowing the patient to die with dignity.  I tend to lean in this direction myself if for no other reason than consistency.  In both cases there is no assistance, and while there is a distinction between the two examples, it is slim. I recognize it’s a slippery slope, because where do you draw the line on life or death without assistance?  It could mean that I won’t use any assistance to extend my life.  Should I not pursue cancer treatment at all and allow nature to take its course?  Some people do make that choice, but it’s not for everyone.  I think we would all agree it’s an intensely personal decision.  Both sides of the argument boil down to weighing the quality of life now and what you expect in the future.   Murky, murky waters because we just don’t know what the future holds in full.

Can I Trust God to Lead Me in Every Way?

While we are not all suffering from terminal cancer, we all have circumstances in life that are painful.  I raised this issue on my Facebook page to generate some discussion and the comments were very insightful.  One in particular stood out.

“I read the initial interview with the young lady who will be ending her life on November 1. One of the most interesting takeaways for me was that she said she was not committing suicide – that she wanted to live, but she didn’t want to suffer and that her case was terminal, and she was going to die anyway. I’m not going to argue her decision. I will say that’s pretty much what I’ve heard from numerous people with mental health disorders – most suicidal people don’t want to die. They just don’t want to suffer. And they see no value in prolonging their suffering.

“For people suffering from bipolar, for example, who have been through multiple treatment protocols that just make them feel sick and ineffective and not themselves – they see no hope of a “normal” life ever. How is their choice to end their suffering different from someone ending their life because of a cancer diagnosis?

“To use the most well known recent example of Robin Williams, so many people talked about what a horrible tragedy it was that he ended his life. I agree. But it’s likely his reasoning was not all that different from Brittany’s. So, how do we reconcile wanting mentally ill people to live with their suffering with wanting to have “compassion” on those with other terminal illnesses. Ultimately, we’re all terminal.” Jill Manty

Some of our finest moments, our greatest testimonies, and our significant impact on others come through the suffering.  That’s why Paul says in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.  I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”  It may be difficult, even terrible, yet it is not relieved of meaning.   Can I trust Christ in everything…even death?

I aim to keep the discussion going so as to learn from all who have thoughtfully considered it.  As in everything, even the complicated things, the depths of God’s grace are unfathomable and He will meet us where we are.   Do you want to put in your two cents worth?

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No Wedding Regrets! Readers Respond.

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I really wanted to follow my last blog,  5 Things I Regret About My Wedding, with a reprisal that includes a few of the many responses I received.  There were two common themes among the comments that rose to the top:  1) Please don’t wait a year to eat your wedding cake – bleh!, and 2) even though things didn’t go the way they had planned, they loved every minute of it!  These comments moved me, so I had to share.

 

From Norma: “Oh, Jen , my love, don’t waste time looking back.  There are no mistakes, we just learn how not to do things.  Just think, when your girls get married what you can do for them.  And guess what?  They will have some regrets, also. :)”  Thank you, Norma.  How true!  Our mistakes in life CANNOT weigh us down.   They are part of our story; a story given to us for a purpose.  These experiences can actually empower us to be a force for change and a strong support for our communities that surround us.  We all have a corner in the world wherein we are placed by no mistake.  I believe that.  By the way, be encouraged because this is also true for pain and suffering that we’ve endured not by our own fault.

 

From Summer: “I regret not getting pictures with some of the special people that were there. Everything else was perfect! It all did not go as planned, but it was perfect:)”  So bold to use the word “perfect” when things did not go as planned.  There it is folks.  Our plans are not always the way it should be.  Our plans can be flawed, so why would we ever clutch them so tight?  I’ve had to learn this the hard way as many of my plans in life dissolved like sand filtering through my fingers.   Only to find that the real plan for my life was a whole lot better.  Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  His plans are always the best!

 

From Laarni:  “Here’s my problem.  I have difficulty with the word “regret” or as I see it, feeling disappointment or a sense of failure.  I tried to dig deep and have to report that I have zero regrets about my wedding day.  However, I asked myself what could have been improved?  Well, that’s easier to answer for me.  Here is a list of wishes:

•  I wish I had unlimited funds to pay for all the travel/lodging for every person that attended our wedding in Maui

•  I wish my best friend didn’t just have a baby so she could be there with me

•  I wish we stayed longer than 10 days

•  I wish I could eat Four Season’s homemade ice cream and lobster sandwiches 24/7

I did not feel disappointed when the wedding planner changed the venue the day of the wedding because of inclement weather.  The hotel open courtyard was actually better than being out in the elements.  I did not feel a sense of failure when Scott’s wedding ring did not arrive as planned and we had to find a cheap substitute, which I still have and cherish.  I truly believe that things happen for a reason and our hurdles were merely there to test us and see how we respond.  I loved our rehearsal dinner, wedding, and honeymoon and wouldn’t have changed anything about it.”    To cherish the things that go awry and see the beauty in what they can become.  This is the beautiful work that God can do in our lives.  In John 9:1-12 Jesus takes mud to heal a man from blindness.  If he can bring beauty out of mud, he can bring beauty from all of our regrets, failures, and pain.

Are you saddled with regret?  In the famous words of Queen Elsa, Let It Go!  What are your thoughts?  I want to hear them!

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5 Things I Regret About My Wedding

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The wedding.  Eagerly anticipated, sacred, and significant.  It holds the potential to change the trajectory of your life.  It is loaded with emotions, hopes, dreams, and expectations… and for some, cynicism.  I just spent a weekend reliving my wedding through memories and reflecting on my 12 years since.  My husband and I attended an amazing wedding in the ever-gorgeous Naples, Florida.  Right before the ceremony began, the gentlemen next to me leaned over and said, “This is much fancier than mine was.”  To which I replied, “Mine was very lovely, but definitely not this fancy.”  I loved my wedding and I love my memories from it.  It got me to thinking whether I would change anything had I the opportunity to do it again.  And I realized I do have some regrets.

 

1)   I regret not investigating some of my song choices a bit more thoroughly.  I requested a song that had four verses that I had never heard before.  My miss resulted in an additional eight awkward minutes where Jason and I weirdly gazed into each other’s eyes whispering, “When is this song going to end?”  It was torturous for me (and I’m sure everyone else) who just wanted to get on with it!

2)   I regret spending most of my time at the reception on the dance floor.  For some reason I felt like I was completely responsible for the party momentum and that meant dancing.  Talk about awkward.  Dancing and Jennifer do not go together.  I should have spent more quality time visiting with my friends and family.

3)   I regret saving my cake to eat at my one-year anniversary.  A tradition that needs to go away!  I only had one bite on my wedding day.  You know, that one where the bride and groom feed each other a piece?  It was so tasty and I really would have eaten more, but never got to.  Trust me…year-old, frozen cake tastes exactly like what you would expect.

4)   I regret staying so late after the reception and attending the after party.  We were whisked away to the quaint Henderson Village in Georgia in the wee hours of the night, and we got there so late that no one was awake to receive us.  We couldn’t find the key at 3:00 am and I was beside myself I was so tired.  Our room was absolutely lovely and with our honeymoon flight so early the next morning, we could have easily stayed at a Holiday Inn and never noticed the difference.  I regret not being able to enjoy the beauty and charm of that place.

5)   I regret not transporting our wedding gifts back home in a better way.  Mind you, I’m really not sure how we would have done it differently considering we married over 800 miles from where we lived.  There were six total gifts that did not have associated cards, and therefore six people did not get their customary thank you.  That bothered me for years, and apparently still does since it made the list.

 

And as hard as I try, I cannot think of any more regrets.  I don’t regret my choice of mate (although there may have been a time where we might have said something to that effect in elevated voices, ahem).  And I definitely don’t regret choosing Americus, Georgia to get married.  I had a beautiful, southern-style wedding, hosted by such hospitable people.  I still love those people even though I haven’t been back in ages.  The journey since my wedding hasn’t been easy, but I am fortunate that our ceremony eventually solidified into a marriage.  We have grown together, served each other (I still have to remind myself to do this one), and deepened our love for one another.  All in all, I would do it all over again.

 

If you had to do it all over, what would you do differently?  Do you have any regrets?  What would you keep the same?

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Why Am I Crying?

1st day of schoolThe school year has begun and we’re back into routine.  Our newsfeeds were inundated with First Day pictures of neatly dressed children, immaculately combed hair, and beautifully artistic chalkboards announcing the new grade.  Our family’s very first “First Day of School” occurred last year.  I’d been monitoring the newsfeeds for years and had heard all my friends’ stories and read the blogs about this famed day.  I had tissue stuffed in my back pocket just in case, because I was told I’d need it.  I wasn’t so sure.

Allow me to explain.  I love being a mom.   It’s exactly what I had hoped for and dreamed of since I was a little girl, almost from the beginning.  I’m the kind of mom that enjoys reading stories to my kids (for a defined period). I enjoy going on hikes with them (when they’re not complaining about it the whole time).  And I enjoy watching movies with them because I love movies.

However, I really enjoy how my house feels when it is clean and everything is in its place.  A cluttered house in mayhem leaves me paralyzed.  So huge craft projects and the like?   Let’s just face it – 9 times out of 10, it isn’t happening in my house.  When I do cave and get out all the watercolors, I usually just leave the room so I don’t have to watch the destruction unfold in front of me.  I’m not spending hours in the kitchen developing a ton of nutritious, creative snacks.  I don’t enjoy it and they won’t eat it anyway.  And I’ve been counting the hours for six years until I could experience free time on a regular basis, in a quiet, clean house.

So these stories of tears and struggles watching their kids go off to Kindergarten didn’t seem to apply to me.  I assumed these mom friends were wired differently than I and have the patience of Job, tirelessly crafting with their kids.  Well, the truth is…I did cry watching my tiny, “big” boy trot off with his teacher.  And what surprised me is almost every day thereafter (when I wasn’t screeching in to the school drive to avoid tardiness), I would watch him trot off into that building and each time a part of me would die inside.  The tears were always waiting to spill, just inside my lids.  Another year has rolled around and I have all three of my kids in some sort of school.  I couldn’t sleep the night before my oldest daughter started Pre-K.  I’ve been through this before.  I should be a pro.  I’ve been craving this quiet, clean house all summer.  And still a part of me died when I left her in that room.

I now realize it’s the part of me that is supposed to die.  The part of me that wants to control everything around them to keep them safe.  The part of me that wants to make sure nothing ever hurts them.  The part of me that desires a place of prominence in their lives.  And that part of me needs to die, because it’s not my job to manage everything around them.  And while I play an extremely important role, I shouldn’t be the most important thing in their lives.  They belong to God and they have from the very beginning.  I’m simply a fiduciary, charged with loving them and guiding them to our true Father.   I must die to myself and allow my God to guard them, protect them, and show them who he is as THEIR God.  He is the most important thing in their lives.  With every milestone, I’ll continue to die with each step until I drop them off at college and see them get married and start their own families (for the record, I am NOT ready for that yet…baby steps).  My God is faithful and I can die to myself and trust Him.

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I Turned 40. Am I Over the Hill?

40th birthday cake“How does it feel?  Do you feel old or young?” , or my favorite, “Just be thankful you’re granted another day on this earth.”  These were the things that rattled in my head on my major milestone birthday.  I turned 40 this year.  I anxiously watched my high school classmates (one of the great things about Facebook) mount that hill that we are all destined to move over as long as we’re breathing.  Part of me snickered as I enjoyed my 30’s a tad bit longer since I am one of the younger ones from the class of 1992.  Funny, when I was waiting for my driver’s license it was definitely not cool to be among the youngest in my class.  But honestly when being among the youngest should have paid off in this moment, I didn’t fully enjoy it.  It just made the dread of reaching 40 more pronounced in my mind.

See, when my mom turned 40 she underwent a hysterectomy and that just seemed like an extremely old lady sort of thing to happen, which is exactly how a 16 year-old thinks (I’m looking forward to those days with my kids—I’ll receive paybacks in spades I’m sure).  Naturally 40 held strongly defined feelings of oldness for me.  I’m a take-charge kind of person, so I needed to manage this.

I was actually pretty impressed with how my classmates really owned this age and claimed it with pride.  I decided I would own it too.  When I was much younger, it was sort of a tradition to go ahead and take on my next age as soon as school let out for summer since my birthday was in August.  My family would roll their eyes, but I justified it because I really wasn’t my current age if you hold to the 0.5 rounding up rule.  I reinstated that tradition this summer and assigned myself the age of 40 three months early, only it didn’t really help.  I told people I was embracing it, but deep inside, I couldn’t erase the feeling that my life was halfway over (if I’m lucky).

Then finally it came.  I rose quietly on the early morning of August 5th.  I put on my running shoes and took to mountain trail by my house, thinking all my thoughts.

When was the last time I just couldn’t wait for my next birthday?  Probably 21.  I’m not much of a drinker, so it wasn’t for that reason but more because I could if I wanted to.  No one could tell me no.  Freedom.  Authority.   Finally.

How was turning 21 different than turning 40?  Who was I then and how am I different now?  Well, at 21 I had my whole life in front of me.  Nothing but dreams and hopes and aspirations.  I could do anything if I really wanted.  I was hopelessly insecure, trying to figure out who I was.  I was desperate to try to prove to myself and to the world around me that I really was something.  I was smart and capable, and so deeply unsure of myself.  My 20’s had to be some of the most awkward years of my life, and that’s saying something after my very nerdy junior high and high school days.  I had no idea who I was.

Today, I’m 40.  I have my whole life in front of me.  Nothing but dreams and hopes and aspirations.  I can do anything if I really want.  I am secure because I have a God who loves me and has proved himself to me.  I am nothing without Christ and I am completely secure in Christ.  I know who I am because He has defined me.  I have dreams because He has given me a purpose and a vision.   I can do anything because he has empowered me to do His will.  And this is truth no matter your age.

40 will be different than 21.  Oh yes, my 40’s will be the best yet.

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