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.)