Sunday, November 3, 2013

Do all things without grumbling...

I don't really consider myself to be a complainer. I have my moments, but I like to think that I have a pretty cheerful disposition the majority of the time. 

This weekend I worked open to close. It was the first weekend I had worked both full shifts since before football season started. I enjoyed my time off during football season. So I grumbled.

This morning I woke up with a headache, and we had no advil. I grumbled.

Today was especially busy at work, which is unusual for a Sunday. I was hoping for an easy day at work, you know, with a headache and all. I grumbled.

I got to church this evening and had a small load of work to accomplish there before service started. It wasn't like I didn't know that going there. I'd even made mention of it to my husband earlier in the day. But still, for some reason, I grumbled.

We gathered for prayer before service began, just as we do every week, and in our prayer circle I made mention of my grumblings of the weekend. In a grumbling way.

Where exactly is that cheerful disposition?!

So, October was pastor appreciation month. Last week our church family blessed my husband. They gifted him a very beautiful and encouraging picture, signed by each of them. They baked and baked and baked and we had an enormous dessert buffet. It was really awesome and I know that he felt loved and encouraged by their kindness. Tonight that same tone of appreciation spilled into our service as our church family surprised me, thanking me for what I do there. They gave me a beautiful card and a groupon for a foot massage. Talk about a blessing!

Later in the service as my husband was preaching through 1 Corinthians chapter 9, he posed the question "How far are you willing to go for the gospel?" And it was with that question that it happened. Conviction.
The kind of conviction that hits you with groanings in your spirit.
The kind of conviction that instantly brings tears that sting the eyes, coming up from the soul.

It wasn't so much the question posed, but more the words that went along with it and where they led my thoughts. If everything in this life is about Jesus, where is my grumbling coming from? Aren't I serving Him when I'm serving my family by working all week and then through a long weekend? Aren't I obeying Him in following my husband in this full life of ministry? If it truly is all about Jesus, will I be willing to go even farther than this season of exhaustion, for Him, for the gospel? 

(Not to mention these lovely people had blessed me, despite my grumbling over some of the very things they thanked me for doing.)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
Philippians 2:14-15

I was guilty of grumbling. I enjoy my jobs. Yes, they make for a very long week. Yes, they take up much of my energy and time. But I'm helping provide for my family. I'm serving those I love. And I'm given the chance to love others, to nurture young children, to serve families - to shine as a light in the world.
I was guilty of grumbling over my pain and busyness. It was a headache. A headache that went away as I abandoned myself to repentance and worship. Repentance and worship that left me refreshed and cleansed... blameless and innocent.

Do all things without grumbling... may I carry this conviction with me throughout this week, this season, this life. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

So, it's been awhile...

If anyone happens upon this post it will be nothing short of impressive. It's been awhile since I last shared here. Things have been good. Busy. Blessed.

So, we moved. We found a lovely home just a few blocks away from where our church plant meets. We prayed very specifically and God answered. I did fail to ask He provide us a home with more than one bathroom, so if there's any complaint I have now that we're here and settled, it would be the one bathroom! He did come through though - lots of space, a big backyard, four bedrooms. It's cozy and we do like it a lot. I hope this is our home here in this town for as long as God has us serving here.
home sweet home <3

I got a new tattoo. Micah 6:8 (paraphrased). The verse has been a favorite of mine for years. There's something about having it as a constant reminder on your body though... it's convicting, and powerful, and I don't regret the decision to have it permanently placed on my body in the least. I already had it bound on my heart.
act justly ~ love mercy ~ walk humbly
We ended and began school years. We wrapped up the school year well. All four kids excelled. Our oldest was accepted into The National Honor Society at the end of last school year - we're very proud of her!
National Honor Society!
This school year we have a graduating junior, a freshman, a sixth grader, and a third grader. They're all doing fairly well so far, but the pressure of graduating early seems to be a bit much at times for the oldest. We keep telling her it's more than fine to choose to finish next year, but she's determined and I admire that in her. The husband is also in school again, finishing up his very last semester before his degree will (FINALLY) be completed.

We had a busy summer! We spent what little free time we had at Kings Island, which is always fun. We swam some. We did some other fun things here and there - youth group activities, an anniversary trip for me and my Bradley, visits from friends and family. But mostly we worked. The husband worked his jobs, and I actually began a new job at our local YMCA (part-time, out of necessity. My heart is at home with the kids.) And we worked hard with the church plant. We held several preview services and held an official launch. I call it a soft-launch, myself, since we're still not in our own space and still only meeting on Sunday evenings for worship. But the husband insists we've been launched softly for sometime now. God is adding to our numbers, and though in our human impatience we may sometimes view the work as slow building, I know His timing has been perfect every single step of the way.
Celebrating 17 years of marriage - sans kids!
The little kids began a new football season. That ends (thankfully?) in the next week or two, depending on how their teams do in the play-offs. I love watching them play, but as the days turn colder, I can't help but be thankful that we're nearly done.

My sister had a baby! I FINALLY got to experience the birth of one of my nephews/nieces! I was by her side through much of her labor and as she gave birth to him. It was simply miraculous and we are so in love with the newest addition to our family.
Welcome to the world little man!

We had a pretty scary moment! If you know me outside of this blog, you know that I have a pretty open mind when it comes to some things. Hair color, tattoos, piercings, some political opinions... I tend to not fit the "average mold" for what many would consider a "conservative Christian" - and I'm ok with that. So, our second born seems to be following in my foot steps. She's been coloring her hair since she was 10 (it was fuscia the first time.) It's been purple, blue, green, pink, blonde. She's a colorful girl and we embrace that in her. It's definitely a trait that God can and does use to draw people unto Him through her. A few times in the past she's had some nausea while coloring her hair, we never really thought much of it. We noticed it more when she'd use purple and so we decided purple was probably not a good idea in the future. She was REALLY wanting to color it a vivid blue, but she had to even out the color first, so I was going to color her "roots" blonde so that we could begin the blue. While I was coloring her hair blonde, she kind of blacked out. It was the oddest thing. But she came right back to almost instantly. Then it happened again. I called Brad in to the bathroom to observe her. She had just stood up and turned around to face me and she passed out a third time. She wasn't breathing and had collapsed in my arms with her eyes wide open. I was repeatedly saying her name and trying to get her to respond, but nothing. Brad sent me to call 911 and he took over from there. He had just re-certified in CPR (timing!) but the most amazing thing in this whole process was the clarity and power in which the Holy Spirit spoke to him, telling him what he needed to do to help our daughter. He said his brain was screaming do CPR - but the Spirit commanded to wash her hair. As soon as he started washing her hair she started breathing and became conscious again. He has no clue how he held her, grabbed the shower head, turned on water and grabbed the shampoo from the other end of the tub and started washing her hair all before I even got through on 911. God's power is amazing! We spent several hours in the ER that night, lots of tests were ran, and all we know at this point is that she has an allergy. We need to have that evaluated further. I honestly though... she was lifeless in my arms that night. It was one of the single most terrifying things I've ever experienced. She's fine now, and we're exploring alternative solutions to hair coloring "needs" - like kool-aid. Here she is in a kool-aid shade of green. It was supposed to be blue, so we'll try that again.
Sea foam green to match the bathroom theme!

We had some family photos done... Both serious and not so serious. Both wonderful memories of this part of our lives.


That about sums it up! I'm sure there are more things that happened, maybe even interesting things, since I last shared here. I've had plenty of moments where I thought to myself "that would make a good post on that blog I never post on"... but, you know. The rare moment I have to sit here is few and far between. Right now I'm simply trying to carve out enough time to rest in all the busyness. It just so happens that tonight, typing this to share, felt like rest.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Raised Better

This is a long one. You've been warned.

The husband and I have lived in a variety of places over these nearly 17 years of marriage. I remember our first apartment clearly. It fit perfectly within our budget - a roomy 2 bedroom "garden" apartment. But it had bugs (until our persistence paid off and management sprayed to kill and prevent those uninvited and unwelcomed roommates), but it was ours and it was home. Being just "babies" ourselves, we did our best to make it what we could and I remember it fondly - bugs and all. Our second home was in inner-city Cincinnati while Brad was a full-time Bible college student. It had some really awesome "cool" potential. It was the two top floors of an old building. Tall ceilings, tall windows, tall doors. It had seen better days, but we had so much room that we didn't mind the minor repairs it needed. We had three bedrooms upstairs, huge living spaces downstairs, it was really awesome... despite the prostitutes that worked the corner across the street. Home number three was better, but still in a semi "shady" neighborhood. Our cars and garage were broken into several times there.

Now, home number four was in middle Tennessee, during our "exodus" experience of life. It was fantastic actually. Another apartment, but in great shape, great neighborhood, great layout, lots of room, great friends. Then we moved to Pennsylvania, and the first 15 months we were there we lived in a duplex, which was the top two floors of big, old house. Home number five. We had a lot of room in that place. The neighborhood wasn't bad, we had no complaints.

Then we moved into the rental home owned by the man who originally started the church we were serving at. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Seriously, I just can't even tell you how much I adored this house. The neighborhood was excellent. It was such a well maintained home. We made the house our own. I thought we would buy it. I thought we would be there, in that house, to raise our kids. I thought we would be there, in that church, for many, many years to come.

And then God called us back to Ohio.
And then we moved into this apartment - home number 7.

I thought we would be here very short term. That we would buy a house about a year later. But that year came and went. We house hunted like mad. We did our pre-approval for a home loan. And then we found out that, even though we were in great shape credit wise, we couldn't get a home loan on our income alone because they couldn't count Brad's employment with the county. It's part-time, and part-time work can only be counted for a home mortgage if you've held the job two years or longer. So we sought a co-signer, and continued to look, but in the end we decided to just wait until year two rolls around with the county so that we can buy.

Our lease here in this apartment is up in about 5 weeks.
But Brad doesn't hit two years with the county for about another 10 weeks.
Dilemma? Yes.

We've been searching for a home for many weeks now. We're actually free to leave our lease after an incident that occurred late in January (we are the neighboring family mentioned in the video. No lie - that was one of the most terrifying moments in my life. All of the "what if's?" that flooded my mind following the incident... the protection God provided for our family is something I can not praise Him or thank Him enough for.)

We pay a good chunk of cash each month for this apartment. We're squished into it like cozy sardines. Many of our neighbors are on section 8, and so they get to live here at a much cheaper cost than our family does. Understand - its not that I have any problems with families getting the help they need. That said, there is a community that tends follows section 8 - perhaps more often than not? In the last year or so, this neighborhood has become progressively worse. I've witnessed drug deals here (those tenants were evicted shortly after they arrived, thanks be to God!) Some of the kids here are just, well, they're obnoxious. Honestly. They curse more than any trucker I've ever met, they love to pick fights and destroy the neighborhood. And, you know, when you add a bullet coming through your wall on top of all of that, it makes you want to move. It just does.

My sisters and I have had our fair share of struggles and circumstances, and along the way our parents have said of us,  "She was raised better than that..." It wasn't with scorn that they said that phrase. Just matter of factly. We were raised better than that. We were. And I've thought the same of myself over the years.

When Brad and I got pregnant with our first child, before we were married, when I was only 17.
"I was raised better than that..."
When I dropped out of college.
"I was raised better than that..."
When we've faced periods of self-inflicted financial struggle.
"I was raised better than that..."
When I've fallen short as a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend.
"I was raised better than that..."

I've been very selective in searching for a new home. Particular neighborhoods are virtually out of the question. Home style and location, design and amenities, those are high on my list of wants. I'm still trying to keep it reasonably within our budget, but all the while remembering that I am "better" than the living situation that I'm in now.

Or am I?

And it leads me to think about this phrase of being "raised better".

I don't share this phrase to knock how my parents parented us. The thing is, I was raised better than what many of my youthful behaviors reflected. But if anything, all that's shown me is that no matter how hard parents try, no matter how much they invest in raising "better" kids, those kids will make their own choices. My parents did a great job with me and my sisters. They love us unconditionally. They support us, the best that they can, in every situation - even when those situations are far from where they would choose for us to be.

I am seeing that my idea of being "raised better" is more superficial than it should be.
And that is NOT how I was raised.
I am seeing that being "raised better" is meant to be more about heart and intent.

When I've looked at my neighbors with judgmental eyes.
"I was raised better than that..."
When I've dismissed a possible home because it isn't in a more desirable location, or because of the type of structure that it is.
"I was raised better than that..."
When my first thoughts of the incident that killed a man next door to us, of the incident that endangered the lives of my children, were not rational.
"I was raised better than that..."
When I feel like I'm too good for this place or that place.
"I was raised better than that..."

My husband, our family, we have been called to not just start a new church in this area. We've been called to live alongside of ALL of the people in this area. To serve them. To show them who Jesus is, and how much He loves them, and how much hope there is for them in knowing Him. How dare I be so choosy? How dare I refuse a possible home because it isn't in a neighborhood that is "good enough" for me? How dare I not see the needs of those hurting in this very neighborhood? How dare I be so self-consumed that I see just the outward, just the superficial, and not the hearts of those surrounding me - those He created in His very own image!

I was raised better than that.
God is continuing to raise me to be better than that.

Forgive me for once again seeing through such scaled eyes, Lord. May we always only be where You want us. You are raising me for better... mold me, form me, shape me into the woman You desire for me to be. I give all myself to You. If we need to stay just exactly where we are to be in Your will, let it be.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fresh Mercies, New Mornings

We don't have it all together in this house. Not that anyone really does. Some days I feel like we do though - or at least like we mostly have it together. But sometimes...

Sometimes I raise my voice.

Sometimes I'm easily agitated by seemingly simple tasks that may be a little harder for others to grasp - or appreciate - or just do.

Sometimes these little angels push my buttons. (And dare I say, they may even do so on purpose?)

Sometimes its harder to like them... did I just say that? Love them, well I always choose to love them. But sometimes it can just be hard to like them.

Of course, I know I can be pretty unlikeable sometimes myself. Especially if I'm in a mood where I'm agitated... raising my voice... and not seeing the face of God in the ones I love most. Yeah, that makes me unlikeable. But I guess that's where grace and mercy collide with the frailty of the flesh.

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. - Ephesians 4:32

If I'm truly honest with myself, I'm a hot mess more often than I care to admit! Praise be to God that even in my hottest and messiest of hot messes there is forgiveness. There is redemption. There is renewal.
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. - Lamentations 3:22-23

Sometimes we need a fresh morning full of new mercies.

Thank You, Jesus, for knowing that we won't have it all together. Thank You for the promises of new beginnings. 

(Just a side note, for the ones who may gasp at my honesty --- I'm amazed by my kids. I think they're all pretty awesome in their own ways. I'll be the first brag over academic accomplishments, physical abilities, and their witty charm. I'm proud to be their mom. I adore my husband. He's my best friend. When he's away, I long for him. I love them all. I thank God for each member of this precious family.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More Than Mundane

6:50 a.m. - Ignore the alarm... just a few more minutes of sleep and I'll be good.

7:05 a.m. - Somehow I realize in my foggy sleep state that I've not hit snooze. I've turned off the alarm, which is motivation enough to move me out of bed.

7:10 a.m. - Coffee is pouring into my cup (praise the Lord for the makers of Keurig) and the furnace has kicked on and is kicking the cold chill of night out of the air. With my cup in hand, I settle down to write and read and pray... sleepily I pen out the words "Fill me completely. If I must be emptied to allow more room for You and less room for me, than empty me. I don't want to be irritable, critical, unhappy" yesterday. " - help me to be good, like You."

He knows what I need to pray before the day even gets started.

Of course, yesterday was no picnic. It wasn't awful. Just busy. Too busy. Too little sleep. Both of those tend to lead to a very cranky me. I don't want to be irritable, critical, or unhappy.

I want to be good. Help me to be good, like You.

Some days are just hard. Some days I'm a little more... emotional, we'll say, than other days. Chalk it up to being a woman if you'd like.

Sometimes I wonder if it's just easier to let it all out in those times.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm a little less honest with myself the other weeks of the month.

Sometimes I feel like I make things more complicated than necessary. If I could have held that one word back on my tongue, would the rest of the day played out differently? Or if I would have rolled out of bed at 6:50, instead of 7:05?

Sometimes it seems like the kids are growing way too fast. Have I done well by them? Have I spent enough time with them? Have I done my best to show them the truth of God's goodness and His glory and His truth?

Sometimes I look at the man I married and I remember when I was just a girl, saying I do, and he was nearly 20. Different hopes, different dreams. And then, GOD. If He hadn't gotten our attention... if we hadn't clung to His heart... would we have made it this far? Sometimes we seem like two ships just passing in the night... are we lovers or are we simply partners on these busy days? Raising children, running a household, going through the daily motions... the mundane.

Sometimes I know there is more to life than this. There is more than the mundane.

And so today I'm running on less sleep than yesterday (yikes!) But today I have a little more armor on than I had the day before. Remembering the day before, before my mind was even fully awake, my heart called out to Him knowing I would need more to make it through.

Because some days are just hard.

God, let this armor be strong - strong enough to struggle against this dark world. May You be the firm ground on which I stand, and may I stand honestly, righteously. Armed with faith and salvation and Your Word.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things...

... drifting off to sleep while praising His name, and awaking in the morning praising Him again.

... holding a hot cup of chai in one hand while sleepily fumbling through my journal, seeking a fresh page to write out my prayers and notes of scripture study. The quiet hum of the house is the only background noise of the early morning.

... wrapping myself up in the same oversized flannel my husband was wearing the night before. Taking in the smell of his aftershave still lingering in it's fabric.

... cuddling on the couch with my sweet seven year old, enjoying her giggles as she enjoys a silly show. No cartoon could ever bore me, not with her infectious laughter by my side.

... laughing with my teenaged daughters (they're crazy, and so fun!)

... watching my son play. His imagination is incredible.

... going through the school day and watching them learn. Working closely with my younger two, and marveling over the independence of the older two. (And lets face it, I can merely attempt to understand the algebra the oldest is doing!)

... the moment he walks back through the door at the end of the day. Even on the busiest evening, even if all we have a moment for is to exchange a glance and a smile.

... reading each evening with my children. Seeing them crave to know more about the devotional passage we read. They get it - sometimes I don't, but they always seem grasp what He's saying to their hearts so easily.

... resting each evening with my husband. Holding his hand. Talking with each other, talking with God, laughing over things of the day - giving me such a sense of security and peace, no matter the season of life.