Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That hurt my feelings!

Eli didn't want to go to church on Sunday. He had slept in and I figured he was just Christmas jet-lagged. He started crying and not wanting to get to dressed. I kind of knew how he felt, I was feeling a little jet-lagged myself. That was very unusual for him though because he usually loves to go to church. He didn't have a fever or any other signs of illness. I asked him "What hurts?" You'll never guess his answer. He answered in his tearful, pouty lip way, "My feelings!"

Ha! I had to laugh. I also had to admire his honesty. Let's face it, how many times do we want to avoid life because our feelings hurt? I'm still not sure exactly what hurt Eli's feelings except that I told him to get dressed and he was not in the mood. I'm afraid Eli has inherited part of my personality. You see when I was little I was what they called a "sensitive" child. It didn't take much to hurt my feelings or make me cry. I'm afraid I was also a "sensitive" teenager and a "sensitive" young adult. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that is totally a bad thing. I like to think that some of that sensitivity lends itself to compassion for others. As much as I hated to have my feelings hurt, I've always hated to hurt other people too. I see that in Eli. He is very caring and aware of other people's feelings. But that same sensitivity can lead to a lot of uneccessary pain and disappointment. Let me share what I've learned...

A few years back when I was going through my depression God began to show me how much I was in bondage to what other people thought of me. I felt like what other people said about me was always the truth and that I was whatever other people thought I was. It really never occurred to me that someone might say something to me when they were having a bad day that they didn't mean. I would automatically take it as the truth and let if affect me. On the flip side if someone complimented me that would feed my ego and give me a high. My emotions became like a seesaw that other people were controlling.

I came across a verse that spoke freedom to me. 1 John 3:20 says "For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." Let me tell you what this means to me. Feelings are a great thing. I'm a feelings junkie! I love the feeling of being in love, the feeling of loving my little ones, the feeling of being refreshed after a great talk with friends, the feeling of anticipation waiting for Christmas Day! After so many years of depression that left me totally numb, I'm even thankful for the feelings that aren't so pleasant but are necessary. Grieving, disappointment, and anger. God uses them all. But, I've had to learn that sometimes, my feelings betray me. Sometimes I'm sad when I have no reason to be sad. Sometimes I have happiness that isn't real because it is temporary and based on something that isn't real. And sometimes I still let guilt rule my life even though I know that God's Word tells me, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1.

Feelings may lie to us sometimes, but the awesome truth is that God is greater than our hearts. God is not only bigger than our hearts, but He knows EVERYTHING. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But He doesn't tell! He doesn't air our dirty laundry for others to gossip about or judge and on the other side He doesn't broadcast our good works for us to be praised and worshipped. That's between us and Him. It has brought such freedom to me to know that I can serve God without an audience. People can say and think whatever they want to about me, but God always knows the truth. I don't have to bend over backwards to impress other people because at the end of the day God is the only one who matters. I don't think this gives us a free ride to ignore people or their thoughts and opinions. It just helped me to realize that I'm not a slave to my feelings or how other people affect them. I'm a child of a King and living for Him is what is important.

I know that Eli is not the only one who struggles with his feelings being hurt. Let's admit it, the older we get the more our feelings get hurt sometimes because we don't let things go the way 3 years old do. I've seen my kids fighting and ready to strangle each other shouting the most treacherous of phrases "Well, I'm not going to play with you ever again!!" only to turn right around and be playing together 10 minutes later. They're very forgiving. Sadly, adults do not forgive and forget so easily. We like to hang onto our hurt feelings and bring them up every chance we get, dont' we? Well, as easily as my feelings have been hurt in the past I've had to learn that I've hurt just as many people in return. That's part of being human. We do that. We are all disappointed when we put our trust in other people instead of God. Every human being is capable of hurting at some point. Only Jesus was perfect and only God "knows all things". Trust Him with your heart.

Friday, December 26, 2008

That wasn't supposed to happen!

You may say I'm a dreamer...and you would be totally right. Despite more days, events, holidays, and get togethers that have gone disasterfully wrong, I still cling to hopes of warm, fuzzy holidays. Christmas Eve this year was no exception.

I had worked extra hard to get all of the shopping, wrapping, visiting, baking, and partying done this year so that we could have Christmas Eve to do NOTHING! I really wanted a quiet day of movie watching and quiet reflection. Ha! Do you remember that I have 3 kids? Apparently I had forgotten.

We went to Movie Gallery the night before and stocked up on movies and I was really excited about a National Geographic movie I got about Polar Bears for the kids. I thought it would be fun to watch and educational. Sarah set up a blanket on the floor for a picnic and I set to making some grilled cheese sandwiches. All was well until Kate grabbed Sarah's tea and Sarah grabbed it back out of Kate's mouth causing her to bite her tongue and bleed everywhere! I got that taken care of and was getting the sandwiches out of the sandwich maker when Sarah said, "Okay, I made room for you. Me and Eli have little spots, but we made a big spot for you since you have a big bottom." Thanks so much Sarah! After several attempts to sit down that included a few trips back to the kitchen for tea and paper towels, we finally started the movie.

Wow, I didn't realize exactly how that movie experience would go. Let me share what I remember; "Mommy, do whales bite?" "Do walruses bite?" "What do whales eat?" "What do fish eat?" "How many whales are in the ocean?" "Do foxes bite?" "Why are they fighting?" All I can say is thank the Lord for Google. Did you know there is a whale called the unicorn of the sea that has a big tusk that grows out of it's head? I do now! :)

About halfway through the movie Kate got choked on her sandwich and threw up on me. Yay. One movie, 900 questions, bleeding and puking. As Eli is famous for saying, "That wasn't supposed to happen!"

Christmas Eve night we had a come and go service at the church for families to come and take the Lord's Supper. I have to be honest, I was a little bit hesitant about this. Since Josh would be performing the Lord's Supper when I took it I was not sure who would be wrangling our children in a sanctuary full of lit candles. This was weighing on me when we began to get ready. I also realized that even though I had carefully planned and shopped for Christmas Day, we had nothing in our house to eat for supper that night. So, I called Pizza Hut. They were closing at 7:00 that night and it was 5:45 when I called. The service started at 6:30. We live 30 minutes from the Pizza Hut and no, they do not deliver to the metropolis of Montrose.

This was starting to feel like one of those math problems on the ACT. If you have 3 kids to dress for a church service and it takes 15 minutes to catch the 1 year old, 45 minutes to find a pair of shoes that match, and you have to make an hour trip to get pizza, what time will you get to the Christmas Eve service? a) 15 minutes after it starts, b) it ain't happening, give it up or c) how much time is alloted for the trip to the institution?

Well, since it was come and go I decided we would get ready, go get the pizza, get back toward the end of the service and that way maybe most people would have already been and my kids could wander without disturbing people.

Sarah got herself dressed and I was very thankful for that. But, once she was dressed she looked at me as serious as a heart attack and asked "Should I wear my Hannah Montana wig?" Now that had me rolling. But it got even better a few minutes later when kicking dress up clothes out of the way on the floor. My mom had given my kids a bag of my old dance costumes and I happened to notice that my pep rally skirt from high school was in there. I picked it up and Sarah asked, again as serious as a heart attack "Are you going to wear that?" First of all, that skirt wouldn't fit around my neck now, much less my "big bottom". Secondly, couldn't you just see us busting up in the church in a Hannah Montana wig and a pep rally skirt!!!! That was a visual that caused me to laugh hysterically everytime I thought of it.

Well, we were finally all dressed (sans wig and sans pep rally skirt) and headed out the door when I heard it. The bottom fell out. It was pouring!! We made our way to Pizza Hut anyway and I was so thankful for a drive through window I could've hugged somebody!

When we did get back to the church no one was there. In spite of the chaos of the day (or the normalcy, depending on if you compare it to my everyday life or someone else who really is normal), the time at church turned into quite a blessing. The sanctuary was completely dark except for the candlelight and that was the first time that I've ever taken the Lord's Supper alone. It was a very special moment especially since it was my husband performing it. Then, to make it even more special Sarah took her first Lord's Supper. It was really awesome being there just as a family and being able to explain everything to Sarah. This Christmas had extra meaning for me to think that God sent His baby to earth so that my baby could accept Him into her heart!

Things didn't go exactly as I had planned that day. Of course, that is how the Isrealites felt wasn't it? Jesus was supposed to be a mighty king and ruler, not a little baby. Things don't always go according to our plan, but we can rest assured that God is always in control and His plan is always best!!!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Overflow

I sat down to eat one night and had to kick a ball out from under my feet and move a Barbie doll to put my plate down. Our dining room floor was covered in blocks, fast food toys and books. I sighed. We had an overflow. You see, we have been very blessed with a good size pastorium that the church has allowed us to live in. We have a den, a good size dining room, and a large room that I had great plans of turning into my formal living room. I had visions of beautiful furniture, drapes, a nice rug and a matching set of end tables, maybe even a coffee table. However, since we did not have those things to furnish another room and since my dreams were always crashed with the reality of brand new furniture stained with juice, trips to the ER due to coffee table concussions and rugs covered in toys, I surrendered and turned it into a playroom. Despite the fact that we have this huge room for nothing but toys, books, and other kid stuff, it still seems to always find it's way into other rooms in the house.

While I sat there eating trying to figure out yet another organizational system for the playroom I realized how much of my life is consumed with stuff. Especially right here at Christmas. We're either trying to figure out what stuff we need, what stuff we can and cannot pay for, what stuff we want, what stuff other people need or want. Then we spend the rest of our time stressing out about what to do with our stuff. I have probably spent an equal amount of money on containers and storage units as I have on the stuff we're putting in them! I realized at that moment 1. I am truly blessed to have so many people who have loved me and my family to give us so much stuff and 2. If God has blessed me so much I am pretty sure that it is so I can bless others as well.

So Josh and I started talking and really started discussing how God has blessed our church financially. We do not have a large congregation compared to many of the mega churches. We run between 60 and 80 most Sundays. But, God has allowed our budget to continue to grow in the last year. Now, I will be the first to admit that you do not want my advice on financial matters. If you give me a dollar I will find a way to spend that dollar. I do understand the importance of saving (believe me we have learned about those "little emergencies" that pop up!). But, I just feel that it is wrong for churches to have huge bank accounts collecting interest when there are so many people in need. I will probably get myself in trouble, but I will also say I think that it is wrong for churches to spend thousands and in some cases millions of dollars on church buildings and STUFF. The same day Josh and I were talking about this we had gotten a catalog with church billboard signs that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Are you kidding me? Why don't we just write on there, "Hey, we don't really care what you're going through, but come check out our pretty new stuff!" Sorry, that's just what I think.

I'll move on. Anyway, Josh talked with our church and they agreed to the Overflow where we would buy groceries to make 150 bags and we would have everyone bring in clothes, toys, shoes, and other things that were overflowing in their houses. I'm not talking about shoes with holes or t-shirts with stains. We had some very nice things brought in. I was praying specifically for a little girl who wears a size 6 because we had some really cute dresses brought in! We also had some people bring in new toys which was very exciting. I was thrilled when Josh called me on the Thursday before the Overflow and told me that we had come in $350 under budget on the groceries and I got to go shopping for toys!!!!! You should've seen some of the looks I got at Wal-Mart! Somebody asked me if I had twins! They probably thought I had a few set of twins with the full buggy that I had. :)

I really do not share this to brag on our church. Believe me, this wasn't done to get any applause or awards. I have just been so excited about every aspect of it and wanted to share what God allowed us to do. I feel very strongly that the church as a whole has really lost focus of what our original purpose was. We have forgotten about loving people, even people who are not socially important or financially profitable for the church. We have become self-obsessed with our "stuff" and spend all of our time trying to figure out what is going with us and how exactly we can get God to bless what we are doing. We forget to be thankful for the things we have been given and we don't have good things to overflow to other people because we are running so low on them ourselves.

I preach to myself when I write this. In the last couple of months I have been so upset with myself and the bad attitude I've had, some of the anger and meaness that has overflowed from me. I know that those things don't come from nowhere, that they are the things I've chosen to let build up and overflow in my life. So, as I approach a new year I am so thankful to serve a loving God who gives second chances, not just every new year, but every second when we confess and repent. It is my goal to pursue Ephesians 4:23-24 to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." I will meditate on these things, "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is anything is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." And, I want to practice what I've been taught. "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins'. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1Peter 4:7-9

You see, I am fully convinced that when we get this right, when we've been renewed by God, we meditate on the things He's told us to mediate on, and when we do the things He has asked us to do, we won't need million dollar signs. We are the signs. What overflows from God's people can either drown non-believers with insincerity and bitterness or we have the power to offer life, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." John 7:38.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's the thought that counts?

I know that I've been talking about Sarah a lot, but she continues to provide stories for me on a daily basis.

Yesterday was her Christmas party with her dance class and her teacher was so sweet. She gave all of the girls a present. They practiced for their upcoming Christmas recital and then pigged out and opened their presents. I went over to take Sarah her plate and reminded her to thank her teacher for her gift. Ms.Dana had given all the girls a Hannah Montana diary. Sarah smiled and nodded and said excitedly, "I got a diarrhea!"

Oh dear. I guess it's the thought that counts? :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This is why I should never leave the house......

Can I just start this by saying, I'm exhausted!!! I pretty much stay that way, but I'm a little more so because I am in recovery mode after two back to back trips out of town. We went to Panama City for Thanksgiving, stayed 5 days, came home, then I packed up with my 3 kids by myself and headed back just 5 days later. We stayed 7 days and drove home in the storm of the century. Okay, that's a little bit exaggerated, but I only got 45 minutes of sleep the night before I drove home so it all seemed a little crazier. Somehow, despite the fact that it was mostly 70 degrees while we were in P.C. I drove home to a winter wonderland. We got 4 inches of snow!!

After a great visit with my family we got back in time for the Bay Springs Christmas parade. Sarah was in it with her dance class so we had to go. Do you sense my excitement? We actually ended up having a good time and it only lasted about 15 minutes. :) I kept going on and on about it being Kate's first Christmas parade and then I realized that it was all of my kids first Christmas parade!! Can you believe that? I've never taken my kids to a Christmas parade. I honestly don't know if I had been to one since me and Josh got married!

On Saturday we headed to Meridian to price some groceries for an event we're having at church. When we got there I realized that I had left my wallet in my purse which I didn't bring b/c I had the diaper bag. Then Josh couldn't find his when we were unloading the kids. I happened to look back in the front seat and saw it lying on the console. It was a good thing I looked because the keys were still in the ignition too!! While Josh was talking to the manager I pushed the kids in an old buggy that didn't roll properly and we got some apple juice, diet cokes, and cream filled cookies. (You know, the staples. ). Sarah also picked up some Pringles. We got ready to check out and Josh had to head back to the jeep to get some paper to write our order on. He handed me his wallet and we got in line. Before I realized it Sarah already had her Pringles rung up and she was getting a dollar out of her wallet. (It was a gift from Aunt Jenny and the best gift ever, she loves paying for her own stuff now!) She seems to be the only one who can keep up with a wallet! Anyway, while she was attempting to pay Eli was trying to put the other things on the belt and Kate was proceeding to pull 85 bags of candy off a display at the checkout. By the time I picked all of the candy up (3 times) the cashier had everything rung up. I opened Josh's wallet and there wasn't enough cash!! I had just assumed he had some in there. (We all know what happens when we assume, right?) I couldn't find our debit card and I kept looking for him to come back inside. But he didn't! Finally, I did find the debit card, thankfully and we got out of the store as fast as the messed up buggy that wouldn't roll would go.

We then went to Lifeway where we spent most of the time in the bathroom. I'm just curious, do most people have to go to the bathroom twice in a 20 minute shopping outing? My people do. That night we were home for about an hour then headed down to the city hall for the city Christmas party. We always get to go eat steaks becasue they ask Josh to come and pray. Then me and Cortnee tried to stay awake while Matt and Josh played football on the playstation until 11:30. Of course, it didn't matter what time we went to sleep because it wasn't long before Sarah and Eli were in our bed and I was posed in my totally uncomfortable, trying to not smother my children sleeping pose.

This morning was exciting as Sarah went forward to let the church know that she asked Jesus into her heart! It was great too because one of our church members kept Kate and Eli in the nursery so I actually got to know what was going on in church. I was not so lucky tonight. I was teaching the ladies discipleship training class tonight and had no one to watch my kids. I got to retrieve Kate from the piano several times as she attempted choir practice during my lesson. At one point while I was teaching she just took off out of the room I'm sure everyone learned so much as I stopped every 3 seconds to chase her! Then it was time for big church. Me and the 3 of them sat in the back pew. You know those toys where you hit a monkey or something and another one pops up? That is totally what church with my kids is like. I get one of them content and another one acts up. Tonight I was holding Kate while she flipped through the hymnal, Sarah was laid on me wanting her back scratched and Eli was in Kate's face kissing on her and saying "Hey babygirl! Hey babygirl!" I always feel bad because I feel like I'm supposed to be there to support Josh and pray for him, but most of the time I'm just praying that it will be over soon. A while back we were doing a study on Revelation and I told Josh that there was nobody in there praying for Jesus to come back sooner than me!!

Well, Jesus hasn't come back yet so I guess we'll keep pressing on. Just in case any of you have visions of glamourous preacher's wives who are dressed in beautiful skirt suits smiling and saying "Praise the Lord" I'm sorry to burst your bubble. I'm in the back wearing pants (because with my kids dresses have a way of getting pulled up to places preacher's wives dresses should not be) covered in apple juice, snot, and soggy goldfish crumbs, giving Josh the LOOK that says, "They're yours when we get home!!", and praying that we will make it through without any destruction of property. Oh well, this is why I should never leave the house!!!!!!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

How do you know?

A little known fact about myself is that I went to college on a forensics scholarship. No, it so didn't pay for all of the private school tuition, and no forensics is not CSI. It is speech and debate. Don't ask me how after 16 years of dance training I did not make the Dixie Darlings, my original plan, but instead ended up with a scholarship in speech and debate, something I had little to no experience in. It's like all of my life, a loooong story. Anyway, I've recently been reminded of those days after coming across a group of the people I debated with on Facebook.

Again, I have no idea how I ended up doing debate. I am the most non-debating person you will ever meet. I hate conflict and avoid arguments like the plague. I could give a mean informative speech and my college roomate/best friend Karen can still quote the introduction to my speech on the hydrogen car (I was so ahead of my time!) from 9 years ago. Somehow quiet, daydreaming, balleting Emily fell into a world of 24 news watching, news article downloading, and hanging out with boys (and a few girls) who spent hours arguing (and that inlcuded arguing about the directions on how to get to tournaments) and discussing foreign policy and utilitarianism. If I don't have anything else to show for my college degree, I can tell you about utilitarianism!! By the way, as an 18 year old freshman can I just tell you that my knowledge on foreign policy probably made Paris Hilton seem educated!

I was only at William Carey for a year and one trimester. I decided to change my major and they didn't offer it. I often think back on that time and wonder exactly what God had me there for. I got my best friend out of the deal, and that totally makes my million dollars of student loan debt and the tortuous weekends when EVERYBODY on campus got to home except for me and handful of other kids worth it. But recently I have decided that there was another purpose not only in me being at William Carey, but also for putting me on the debate team. Her name is Sarah.

I've talked about Sarah before and her strong will. Did I also mention she likes to debate? I've decided recently that saying she likes to debate sounds better than arguing or talking back. I am fully convinced that one day Sarah will be a national champion debater. And...if it pays for her college education I will feel that it is my reward for our daily "debates". Bless her heart, Sarah is one of those people who could argue with a wall. She's so much smarter and more curious than I ever was. When I was little and asked why the sky was blue, my mom could say "God made it that way" and I would say, "Oh, okay, that's cool". When Sarah asks that question I need to be prepared with a flow chart and multiple sources to explain precipitation.

While there are times when I just want to scream "Can't we all just get along?", I am also challenged and excited by Sarah's debating abilities. While my feeble little mind is so easily swayed by whatever people may tell me, Sarah never takes anything at face value. Today on the way home from school we were talking to her friend Brittany about how Josh's uncle was going to bring his plane to take us flying, but the weather was too bad. Brittany said that airplanes scared her and I got scared that Sarah would decide she was scared too. I shared that I have never been flying and Brittany said that she hasn't either, but it just scares her. Without skipping a beat Sarah asked, "How do you know? How do you know it's scary?"

You see, that's my Sarah. She's not going to let someone decide how she should feel about something. She has to experience it. How many times have I been too scared to try something new because someone else told me it was scary? How many times have I taken someone else's word about a person without taking the time to get to know them myself? How many times have I accepted the boring, short response instead of delving into the detailed, complex, but so much more interesting answer?

I feel challenged. When I am tempted to shy away from a new experience I hope I'll be brave enough to ask myself "how do you know". I might find something I really like!!