Thursday, September 1, 2011

Let There Be Light

So, Here We are... Again.

My kids have already finished their math and science for the day, they are working on geography and the SAT "spelling words" we are working on for the week. I'm allowing myself a few minutes in front of the computer on this hot September day, to think on what we will do next while on this adventure. Shall we take a field trip tomorrow? Maybe spend the day laying in the sun at the state park NEAR where we live. :-) We could just be completely lazy tomorrow afternoon and devote the hotter part of the day to the silly movies we still love to watch over and over again. These are the choices I love being forced to make. As we started several weeks earlier than public school, our system of work doesn't involve all the classroom hours devoted to working with students that need extra attention or time spent on "busy work" to fill the time frame, we can be flexible with our time. If they catch on to their math work and fly through the problems assigned with ease, we can move on to another lesson or we can take the rest of the day to just ejnoy this wonderful world God has given us. 

Not all days are this easy. There are days where they are both struggeling to grasp a concept, and I am struggeling to teach it. Maybe we all got up on the wrong side of the bed, or maybe there are other issues that I am personally dealing with. We still have flexibility, but things then begin to get complicated. 

Things are often complicated in one's life. Some seem to have more of it than others, for a number of different reasons. Having an issue of health, like Fibromyalgia can add to your complications. It can add to the stresses that a normal life already has attached to it. What if a family member is dealing with an addiction? What if there are financial issues that just never seem to go away? What if you, while dealing with your illness, are dealing with or taking care of someone else with an illness? The what if's can add up and become overwhelming if you let them. I know that I've been overwhelmed by those "what if's" many times.

There are times when I try to offer the ones that read my incessant ramblings a few things I've learned about this disease/syndrome most of us share, there are other posts where I might share about homeschooling, but today I just want to give you a piece of hope.

There is hope in this dark world. I believe that because I've experienced it so many times. I'm not saying you won't struggle, or have to deal with sorrows, but in the midst of all that there is a glimmer of light that you have to grab hold of and wallow in from time to time. It's the only way to live a life with any joy. You have to revel in the moments when that light makes itself more apparent, or you choose to notice, and remind yourself to look for it always, but especially when the darkness starts to surround you. I truly believe that God is there with me in every aspect of my life. He's there when I am hurting, crying, in pain, suffering, bewildered, overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, confused, healing, smiling, laughing, joyful, loving, and exhuberant! He's there, well... becasue He says he is. His love letters to us tell us that he never leaves nor forsakes us. Those letters don't say that He will or can fix every problem in our life, but they do tell us how to find joy in the midst of persecution, pain and suffering as well as happy and wonderful times.

We live in a broken world. A world that is overwhelmed with a dark and opressing list of maladies. If you escape this world without scars, cuts and bruises on your very soul and heart... then I am simply amazed. God wanted to give us paradise, but we screwed that up, so here we are... but He chooses to be right beside us. Beside us even when we don't deserve it or ask for it. Why? Because He said He would be.

Psalm 56:8 You've kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.

One version says He saves each tear you shed in a bottle. Wow. I only keep things that are worth something or that mean a great deal to me.  Why does He keep track of these things that no one else might give a flying flip about? Because they matter to Him. They ARE worth something to Him. YOU are worth everything to Him. I don't know what you are dealing with today as you read this, but please know how special you are. How important you are. You may feel alone or overwhelmed. I've been there, and I can tell you from personal experience that in those times, He's hugging me all the tighter. He wants you to notice that today. Sometimes He offers a glimmer of light to get you through and sometimes it's a full on spotlight. I don't pretend to undertand the reasons or the why's. This thing is a lot bigger than me, and I don't pretend to be the center of any universe. I know He's there, and if that is all I am ever capable of understanding fully... Then that will have to be enough to get me through.

Let Him show you some little sparkle of His light today.

Psalm 16:11 Now you've got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I'm on the right way.

Friday, August 12, 2011

This Week In The Life Of A Homeschooler: My New Adventure

My New Adventure Begins

The State Park where I live

I love adventure. Unfortunately, I'm a little slower than I used to be thanks to the Fibro. I remember planning trips I never got to take, things I thought I would do, and who I would encounter on the trail I was going to blaze down. Things don't often happen like we plan them, and that's okay. I really wouldn't have it any other way. I know I made a lot of mistakes in my life and irresponsible choices. I hear people say things like, " If I knew then what I know now, I would never have done __________." I honestly cannot say that. I know that I probably should have done things differently, and in fact, I vividly remember thinking that thought while doing them. I really should be making better choices, I really shouldn't be doing this, I think this is a mistake, and a variety of other phrases ran through my mind on a regular basis. However, If I hadn't made those mistakes, I wouldn't be who I am. I think I'm pretty content in this skin. I refuse to look back on things I can't change and pine away for something that will never be. I don't think that's what God wants either.

Many of you who have read this before, know that I have chosen to step away from a number of things and venture into the world of "full time mom, homeschooler, and housewife". I'm sure there have been people who thought I was making a mistake, and I'm truly sorry if they feel like I have let them down in some way, but I can say that for the first time in my life, I'm content. I'm scared to death, but content. I think that's okay as well. People get ideas about what "your calling" is. They see an anointing that may or may not really be there, and when you stop, they logically question your motives. I have no problem with that, because there have been plenty of times when I've tried to run away from what I WAS supposed to be doing, only to have someone say, "Hey! Where do you think you are going?"

This is what we now consider "clouding over". :-)

I said I was scared, so I will let you in on my list of fears. First, I still daily battle Fibromyalgia, and not knowing what tomorrow will bring is a little scary. A "thorn" I don't think will be leaving my flesh any time soon. It's not that I think I deserve it, or that I'm not serious enough about God to demand it leave my person... It's just that I have realized that His grace is sufficient, and that's all I need. I continue to try things, exercise, pray for healing, and read the latest findings on the topic, but freedom from it no longer consumes my heart's desire.

Second, I'm fearful I will forget to teach them something truly necessary, and their lives will be ruined because of it. I know, that's a bit dramatic... I'm really not that anxiety riddled. I do want to give them the best education I possibly can, and in spite of my underwhelming fear, I believe that we can realistically give them that. I know I don't have to rely solely on my knowledge, and that's a great comfort. There are things called books, the Internet, friends educated in subjects I am not, a plethora of curriculum, and the list goes on. While public school children all have to fall in line under the same teaching methods, keep up at the same pace or be left behind, and often struggle with boredom or lack of interest, I can twist and tweak my schedule and teaching methods to suit their individual needs. I think that is pretty awesome, and can't see how that could be detrimental to their education.

Third, and last, and worst, I hate being judged. I've gone through a tremendous amount of this in the last couple of years. More thanI believe I've even dealt with in my entire life. Maybe it was the harshness with which it was dealt, or the ability of the people delivering the lies to speak louder than the people who told the truth that makes is seem so terrible. Most of it had no basis in truth at all, and that's what hurt me most. Lies, rumors and gossip held more weight than actual fact, and that seems to be what many people use to judge homeschooling as a general group.

Some of the best and the worst kids I've ever met were "homeschooled" and I do use that term very loosely. The few bad cases seem to overwhelm all the good ones, which go mostly unnoticed. Texas is a great state to homeschool, and a terrible state to homeschool. Anyone can pull their kids out of school under the guise of homeschooling, and then never teach them anything, but it also protects homeschoolers in that it allows them to teach faith based curriculum and tweak a students education based on their articles of faith. There are many states that dictate every aspect of your students education, or don't allow you to homeschool at all.

Did you know that there was a study conducted that found that homeschooled children do remarkably better on ACT's than public school kids? Did you know that there were several studies that concluded that the social abilities of homeschooled children were far better developed than public school students? Did you know that some very successful and famous (not infamous) people have been homeschooled, such as, Venus and Serena Williams, Albert Einstein, and Pearl S. Buck? The list does go on. I just say these things to show you that this is a viable choice. Yes, I guess I am trying to argue it's worth just a little. I am a natural debater in case you weren't aware.

I'm not saying that homeschooling is better choice for everyone over public school, or that everyone should homeschool, or that my kids are better than your kids. My kids are pretty fantastic, by the way... I'm not saying that I'm smart enough to teach my kids everything they need to know on my own. I'm not saying that I won't make mistakes. I am saying that I love my children enough to go to great lengths to make sure they receive the best of everything, and if you still feel like you have an opinion that is better than mine, you need to develop said opinion after researching, reading, praying, and actually getting to know my children before you make an assumption or lump us into a category where we do not belong.

Wow, I didn't mean to get on a soap box. Forgive me. I know it scares people when they see others making a choice that isn't mainstream. I completely understand that, but it scares me when I see someone who is all too eager to put their children in the hands of people they don't know, and never question what or how their child is being taught. Someone who is just ready to send them to school to be "relieved" from them, or who expects every child to just function and learn in the same way as every other student. BUT I know that's not all parents who send their children to public school. I know that many parents who choose public school believe in and get to know the teachers, get involved, and truly care about what is going on in their children's lives. They help their children when they are not getting what they need in the classroom, and supplement their education in whatever way is necessary to see them succeed. I also have many friends that are educators, and they love their students and want to see them grow and learn.

So, shouldn't all truly loving and caring parents who want to see their children succeed, consider themselves at least "part-time" homeschoolers? Just a thought.

So, my first week has been successful. I enjoy my kids, and cannot wait to see what we each learn from this whole experience. It will truly be my greatest adventure to date, and I intend to take advantage of every single moment of it. I guess, for those of you who are fighting Fibro and were hoping to read an uplifting and helpful blog from me today, I want you to think on this... Don't let Fibromyalgia stop you from jumping head first into your new adventure. I'm taking it one day at a time, and letting God lead this dance. I hope that you will be right behind me, and all the way realizing that your adventure is just as important, just as exciting, and just as meaningful. Whether it be something you consider big or something you consider small, it's all worth the fight. I'm praying for your adventure today.

I've always enjoyed the way the light dances it's way through the leaves.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So, what do you do when you can't do anything?

What do you do when you can't do anything?

So, I found myself crying a few days ago. It seems silly now, to cry about something you can't do anything about. There are days when it's overwhelming, and there are days when it's not. I guess I haven't had an overwhelming day in awhile. Some would say (those pessimistic ones), I was due for one. I know that most of you have found yourself in a situation like that. Even if you don't battle with Fibromyalgia, you battle with something. Whether it be a bad marriage, a financial struggle, some family issue, health problems, troubles with friends, etc, I would guess every one of you have a battle you are struggling with. Sometimes it feels like you do feel like you are all alone, and maybe you have every reason to feel that way. Maybe, you literally have no one to talk to about your situation. Maybe that is the biggest part of the problem, the not having someone you can depend on. I know how that feels. I've recently found myself in a group of situations where I felt very alone. Like I didn't have anyone I could turn to for help because I couldn't trust anyone involved. The people on the outside were innocent, and every time I pulled one of them into this crazy situation, I felt like I was causing them distress, so I was reluctant to pull them into the drama. I even went so far as to delete my Facebook account for a time. I had to separate myself from things and take a good look at the situation. Things get overwhelming. People become too much to deal with. We get so confused and our minds so full of nonsense that we cannot seem to take a good step back and see what things are really all about. Here is what I've found...

Psalm 73

An Asaph Psalm
 1-5 No doubt about it! God is good— good to good people, good to the good-hearted.
   But I nearly missed it,
      missed seeing his goodness.
   I was looking the other way,
      looking up to the people
   At the top,
      envying the wicked who have it made,
   Who have nothing to worry about,
      not a care in the whole wide world.

 6-10 Pretentious with arrogance,
      they wear the latest fashions in violence,
   Pampered and overfed,
      decked out in silk bows of silliness.
   They jeer, using words to kill;
      they bully their way with words.
   They're full of hot air,
      loudmouths disturbing the peace.
   People actually listen to them—can you believe it?
      Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words.

 11-14 What's going on here? Is God out to lunch?
      Nobody's tending the store.
   The wicked get by with everything;
      they have it made, piling up riches.
   I've been stupid to play by the rules;
      what has it gotten me?
   A long run of bad luck, that's what—
      a slap in the face every time I walk out the door.

 15-20 If I'd have given in and talked like this,
      I would have betrayed your dear children.
   Still, when I tried to figure it out,
      all I got was a splitting headache . . .
   Until I entered the sanctuary of God.
      Then I saw the whole picture:
   The slippery road you've put them on,
      with a final crash in a ditch of delusions.
   In the blink of an eye, disaster!
      A blind curve in the dark, and—nightmare!
   We wake up and rub our eyes....Nothing.
      There's nothing to them. And there never was.

 21-24 When I was beleaguered and bitter,
      totally consumed by envy,
   I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox
      in your very presence.
   I'm still in your presence,
      but you've taken my hand.
   You wisely and tenderly lead me,
      and then you bless me.

 25-28 You're all I want in heaven!
      You're all I want on earth!
   When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
      God is rock-firm and faithful.
   Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
      Deserters, they'll never be heard from again.
   But I'm in the very presence of God
      oh, how refreshing it is!
   I've made Lord God my home.
      God, I'm telling the world what you do!

It makes me feel better to read these words. I hope it makes you feel better too. It's easy to become overwhelmed with the situation around you, to start to wonder if God is really there and ready to help, to get caught-up in the situation, to hurt, to get angry and sometimes act like a fool. Sometimes the whole world seems to be full of chaos and nonsense. Maybe the reasons you can't do what you want or feel like you need to do are physical, maybe they are financial, emotional, relationship related, or something else, but you most likely do have good reason. I try to find a biblical foundation to stand on, especially when I am feeling down or overwhelmed by my situation. It's hard, but I encourage you to take a step back or an even bigger step outside of the situation. Take a good, long look at what is going on and let God tell you what to do. He will. Sometimes it's hard to go through with. Sometimes it hurts like all hades to pull the proverbial band-aid off.

I want to encourage you today, by saying that you are not alone. There is not a single situation in your life that someone else hasn't gone through and prevailed. You may feel like there is no way out, but God always give you an outlet to escape or He will be the strength you need to get through. Just remember that He doesn't always GIVE you the strength. Sometimes (most of the time), He just stands next to you, holds your hand, carries your, dances with you, or holds the umbrella over your head while you go through the storm. He is your strength just like you say a friend or a spouse is your strength when they stand by you through thick and thin. They don't magically hand over their will power or physical attributes, but we gain courage and will power just knowing that they are there. God wants you to trust Him like that. God wants you to depend on Him like we depend on others.

You are my strength when I am weak.
You are the fortress that I seek.
You are my all in all.
When I fall down, You pick me up.
When I am dry, You fill my cup.
You are my all in all.

That song has been stuck in my head for weeks. I decided to write it down while I was at camp, and I read it every time I laid down in my bunk. It was a hard week, but I continually reminded myself that His grace is sufficient. I hope you will let Him be what He need to be to you today. Just remember that He is always there with you. Even when you feel all alone and overwhelmed, He's there. So, if you are feeling like you can't do anything today, for whatever reason, remember that sometimes all God is asking you to do is lean on Him. Let Him be your everything today. You don't have to do it all at once. I know it's hard! And don't give up just because you don't think you did it right the first time. He didn't create you to be perfect, and He will gladly give you more opportunities to succeed at this task.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When it feels like your soul is hurting

Before I begin, I want to tell you that nothing (medically, herbal, etc) has worked for me up to this point, and I have tried many things. Every type of herb, hormone, etc. has been in vain, but I do not want you to give up. These things may have helped in ways I didn't see, and there are plenty of people who benefit from something that someone else doesn't.  Perhaps one of these things have kept it from progressing further than it has. I must look for positive bits of light. Try them, experiment with different mixtures or brands. I refuse to stop trying. Until they find a cure, I will fight. Even thought people cannot see or feel what I am going through, I will fight. I will look over those that don't understand, or cannot even begin to empathise with me. I will forgive those people who have shifted themselves out of my life because they got offended at my lack of being who they thought I should be. I encourage you today to take it all one step at a time, and do not get discouraged when something doesn't work or isn't your miracle cure. Keep asking God for wisdom and guidance, and allow this "thorn in your flesh" to be a spur to growth and learning. It may take a lot longer than you like, and you may not feel like you've learned a darn thing, but I assure you that you have. Do not be discouraged today.  You are not alone.

A Deep Aching
What do you do when you feel like your soul is aching, like something unearthly, and deep inside you is almost to the point of death? Not like I'm dying, but like something that is deeply attached to me is. Sounds a little dramatic, I know. That's how I feel today, and words cannot really express what it feels like, so that's as close as I can get... Sorry.  I haven't written in two months, mostly because my family and I have been going through some changes, and I didn't know what to write about. I finished out my time at the Christian school, and then I resigned from my post as youth leader. There were many reasons why, and I'm not going to go into them, but I will say that I feel it was a God push. So, all in all, it was a positive thing. I feel relieved. As if I've been pushing hard against a stone wall that was not going to move and it was never in God's plan to move it. There is a story, a parable of some kind maybe, where that happened. The man was so frustrated because God didn't help him move the rock. All the time he spent pushing and pushing to move that rock, and all the while he expected God to move it as he pushed, but it never budged. He got angry with God and asked, "Why?" to which God replied, "I never asked you to move it. I only asked you to push. Now look at the muscles you have, and how strong you've grown."  We only think we know what God's plan is. He says do something and in our obedience we try to do... what we think He wanted us to do. Usually, the outcome is never what we thought it would or should be. If we aren't careful, we will begin to feel as though we've let God down, or haven't succeeded.

I've been hurting more and more, and I know that some of you have dealt with this happening in you. Some days it's bearable, and other days it feels like the very air you breathe hurts, the clothes you put on feel unbearable, the skin that God wrapped you in is rebelling against you... I don't mean to sound dramatic, but that's the only way I can describe it. This progression has made me feel like a failure, and I know that's not true. Even thought I KNOW it's a lie, it's still hard for me to combat.

Mortal Combat
It's hard for me to share what my body is doing because I have been given "advice" by so many well meaning people, and some of it is a little hard to swallow when I am "hurting". Bleh, the word "hurting" even irritates me when I say it or hear it. I hate to say it, "I'm hurting today." It just sounds pathetic and weak. Like a little kid trying to get out of doing a chore because they just don't want to do it, so they make up an excuse that seems reasonable in their head, but when it comes out, it just sounds whiny and pitiful. The word, hurting, doesn't begin to describe the way I feel, and I'm sure the way some of you feel when it hits you so hard. There is something emotional that begins to happen inside, like a knob that is slowly being turned to 11... It's only supposed to go to 10, by the way. (Did you get that This is Spinal Tap reference? Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

It's hard to tell someone, "You just have to fight!" when you really don't know what they are fighting against. It's hard to accept those words too, when you don't think the deliverer is knowledgeable enough to make either the assumption that you haven't been fighting, or that you are capable of fighting at all. I've never been a big fan of cheerleaders. I guess my idea of them has been tainted by the young girls who shake pom-poms on the sidelines (occasionally), and who rattle off a memorized chant in the attempt to rally the troops to win. It seems like people turn into those cheerleaders. They recite scripture at you and hope that will turn on the fight in you. Imagine if it were that easy. Its too easy for me to imagine a little girl who is being abused at home and someone telling her that she just has to fight, or that she will get through this with God's strength. She can't combat that. She can't fight. She needs to be rescued from that situation! God needs to intervene and save her. BUT, I'm not a little girl in need of rescue. It doesn't matter what I feel like, I have to focus on the truth that's before me. I have to remind myself on a consistent basis of the truth and that it is really for ME. It's not just some text that has no bearing on my life. God inspired the words for me as much as He did for you.

It is combat, and no kid with pom-poms is going to be an effective cheerleader for team "me". No disrespect to the cheerleaders out there. I'm sure most of you are very effective at rallying the players, and encouraging everyone around you to hope for the best. However, I know that I need a spiritual set of pom-poms on my side. Sometimes it comes in the form of verses, sometimes in the form of a gentle hug. Just to know that I have a friend that understands there are times when I cannot muster up the strength to smile, much less be some image of me that they have worked up in their head. I need people that will ask me if I'm mad at them or if I'm I just having a hard day in a soft quiet voice instead of assuming that I am mad because I didn't speak. Maybe I spoke, but I didn't use the right tone. Maybe I looked the wrong way, acted distracted, didn't seem focused, couldn't form a decent sentence so I didn't speak... whatever. I'm not justifying being rude. That's never my intent. If you are my friend, in the true sense of the word, you will care enough about the relationship to simply ask me what's wrong or know what's wrong instead of coming to a conclusion that is completely the devil's plan. Before you know it, you are angry, so you talk about it to others. When you do that it grows, your anger is doubled... tripled... over a look, a lack of the correct response, something you feel. I'm guilty of it too, but having been in this place for so long I can see how completely silly it is. I refuse to play that game any longer. I will be the bigger person and not assume things of others, or at least I will try.

This is war. The most evil thing about this is that every person you know will have to decide what they think, what they know, and what they feel, and some of them will leave you. The ones that matter most will stay. The ones you know you can count on will be there when you need them, but if they can't be... you will understand and not take it personally.

The only think I can find to battle with today is to know in my knower that Jesus knows how we all feel. He feels the pain, both emotional and physical.
In John chapter 11:35 it says, "Jesus wept." He saw the pain that they were going through, and even though He knew that it was about to be over, he was still overwhelmed with compassion at their emotional distress. He could have dealt with this situation any number of ways, but He saw the bigger picture and did what was best. He could have come earlier, and death didn't have to happen, but He knew that this process they were about to go through was essential to the big picture. I think He also knew that he was bringing his friend back into a hurting and pain filled world. He could leave him in his "sleep" or Jesus could bring Him back to this world of pain and struggle. I take comfort that God is in control. That He, the creator of everything that is and was and will be, still is concerned enough and filled with enough love for me that He will weep at the sign of our pain. This is how I find strength to continue to battle, because I know that I am not alone. My King and Saviour is standing beside me and will continue to stand there. I am not alone. No matter how much I hurt, or how bad I feel, He will be there.

That is the cheer leading that I need to hear. You are not alone. You are cared about and loved so much. No matter how overwhelmed or lonely you feel, and no matter how much the world tap dances on your heart, He stands firm beside you and will even catch you, carry you, dance with you, and let you sit in His lap and cry with your head against His chest. You don't have to be strong, because He is. You don't have to be perfect, because He is. You don't have to be something your are not, and when people call you names or say ugly things about you, just know that He hears it and will be what you need Him to be when you need Him to be it.

Be encouraged today. Your God is in control even when you feel like the world is spiraling out of control around you. He walked on the rough waters like they were a smooth floor, so he can certainly stand in your storm. This is what I tell myself when my soul feels like it's hurting. These are the things I remind myself of when I am in too much pain to think clearly. Sometimes I don't believe them, even though I know they are true. I have them tattood on my heart in an ink that won't fade. That way, these memorized truths will continually stare me in the face until I listen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What if you weren't?

So, there was this book.

So, I'm a sap.  Some one looked at me rather funny the other day when I called myself that title. A "sap", I said to them, is a person who is to capable of feeling sappy, overwhelmed by emotion by sad or happy things. Books, movies, greeting card, and Dairy Queen commercials were on the top of my list at one time of another. They make me teary, even in a happy way, and I bubble over with overwhelming emotion when I am drawn into a character completely.

As it were, I have been reading a book. I didn't know I had time to do that anymore. Other than Fibro help books, blogs about home remedies and simplifying one's life, and informational Christian books, I thought the time for me to sit and revel in a novel had gone away. It was nice to read a book, a real book with a plot and a cast of characters I could become involved with. Why I began reading, Jane Eyre, of all books, I cannot tell you for sure, but I believe it is something God led me to. I've never seen the movie, so if you are comparing the movie to the real book, I cannot testify to what the movie holds. If you've never read this book, it is about a little girl whose parents die before she even knows them, is given to and aunt and uncle, the uncle (who loves her) dies, and we find Jane being treated rather poorly by her inherited family. She is accused of things, detested, abused, neglected, and unloved. She finally, is sent to a boarding school, where, even though she is not given proper food or clothing, she manages to come out of with a sense of hope, Christian morals, and determination to do what God has called her to do. I'm not going to tell you the whole story, and I won't ruin this classic novel's ending for those who wish to venture into it's pages, but I will tell you the main point that has stuck out in my mind. What if your weren't supposed to do what everyone else thought you were supposed to do?

I've been struggling for some time. Trying to figure out what and where the "balance" is. The bible says not to become weary of well doing, and although I don't feel like I've done much of that "well doing", I am weary. See, Jane, becomes attached to someone, falls in love, and then finds herself unable to complete that mission because of the situation. She sticks to her guns! She doesn't go where her heart wants to, what others try to guilt her into doing, or what would be easy. She instead, runs, almost dies, and is saved. She eventually finds the place God has made for her, and is complete. However, it's not before she struggles with doing the bidding of others she admires. They think she should do this... but that little voice inside her tells her otherwise. I'll say the book was predictable, but most stories are. It did surprise me a few times, and I did get a little upset when the plot didn't move the way I thought it should, fast enough. You know what I mean... Jane is one of the strongest characters I have ever read. Scarlet O'Hara has nothing on Jane Eyre, and although I know many authors have copied her character to their novel's heroine... She holds my heart something extreme.

What if...
I, while reading this book, found a strange courage well up inside of me. I want you to grasp hold of this while I have you here. Think on this, and as you ask yourself this question, I want you to sincerely question the motives of everything you are doing or are thinking about doing.

I don't know the plan God has for me, but I know that the road is not going to be full of easy choices. Some may be the easiest choice ever, and others may tear my heart out and stomp on it. I don't believe that God delights in torturing us with hard decisions, but I do believe he puts hard choices in our lives that we have to make, and He relishes it when we choose the road less traveled. There were choices that Jane could have made that would have been okay. I don't believe that she would have been cast out of God's grace for choosing them. Sometimes, I know that God puts things in front of us that would be okay, but who wants to settle for okay? I don't! I want the thing that He knows will be awesome, and maybe the choices are hard to make, but the end result is so sweet and perfect that you can't help but be full of complete joy. I believe that God wants us to be content, not searching for what's next, but content to do what He has put you in at the moment and awaiting the next step. Yes, even when it hurts. Quiet in your reserve, even when it breaks your heart to step away from something you feel such a connection, but ready to do it because you know it's right.

Questions, questions, questions
I question myself all the time. Did I make the right choice? Did I make a mistake? Should I have done this or that? Will people suffer because of my choice? Will God be displeased? Even when I am settled in my choice, and have spent time in deep prayer to hear God's direction, I still question if I heard it exactly right. People are no help! They want to pull you into their will, or what they believe God is calling you to do. Why is it that people cannot stand to let you make your own path with God? I know we are weak, weary, and often times stupid. I have been there, done that, and will probably repeat that scenario. I have seen people step away from something that they KNEW God didn't want them doing, only to be pulled back several times. They have heard God, and they know what it is that He wants them to do, and some well meaning person chastises them and scolds them on behalf of "god". I do know they mean well, but just because the words sound godly, and the wisdom sounds true, it doesn't mean that is what God wants for you.

Delusions of grandeur
I think sometimes we feel so guilty because we are not out there putting shoes on the feet of the shoeless, feeding the hungry, or saving every child that is hurting. Believe me, my heart wants to save the world, but I have grasped the complete and knowing fact that, "I cannot do everything!". If I try, I will fail, and I will be in despair. I have a huge amount of empathy. I read somewhere that people with Fibromyalgia must be able to feel everyone else's pain so well, and with such compassion that it never leaves them. I don't know if everyone with fibro is so compassionate, but I know I have wept for people that I will never meet because I know they are hurting, and they may not get the help they need. I see children suffering, and my insides churn. I see tears and I cry too, because I feel some part of their pain. Someone is not doing what God has planned for them, and therefore, there will not be a miracle for some because of their denial or apathy. If only we would all step up to the task God has for us individually. What a world this would be! That breaks my heart, and also makes me wonder what I've missed out on doing. What blessing have I kept someone from receiving?

Still, people have these delusions that they are supposed to do everything. I would be inclined to believe that everything is better than nothing... But I'm not convinced of that notion. Most of us cannot sit still long enough to hear God calling us to a specific task because we hear every task as a call from God. We waste so much time fixing at things that we have not been given authority to fix. Why? Because we are deluded enough to believe that we hear God without "hearing" him. We are so busy, full of ideas, inspiration, empathy (I hope), and pressed upon (by our own ideas and everyone else's ideas), that we cannot possibly hear God through all the other noise! Forgive me for ranting. I am just so tired of being tired in a bad way. Tired because I'm mentally drained and feeling as though I'm running in circles. It's my own fault. I've blamed it on everything and everyone from Fibromyalgia to my husband. It's all my own. I have to own this, because I'm the only one responsible for taking on this work. I'm the only one that can hear what God is saying to me.

Do you do it because it is God's call? Do you do it because you think it needs to be done, and no one else was doing it? Do you do it because someone else told you it was God's call? Do you feel guilty because no one else is doing it, and it breaks your heart that it's being overlooked? Stick to your convictions! Listen for God's voice, and if it doesn't match what someone else is saying, or what your heart thinks it wants... be confident enough to believe the voice inside your own person, and stand firm! Our hearts lie, our friends are often wrong, and the only truth we can hold onto... believe completely in... stand tall on... move forth in... is God's truth and His voice that we have to practice hearing on a continual basis.

Let's get real, and start familiarizing yourself with that whisper that sometimes grows into a mighty roar! God has a plan for each of us, and I believe that if we really operate in His will, it will not be something that tortures us, but we will find peace and hope even in the hard times. There will be a sense of something that I cannot even explain, of being in God's will. I'm not saying it will be easy. Nothing worth doing is every easy.

Correct me if I'm wrong. :-) I like to debate. I love you all and hope that you are all blessed beyond measure, and your own comprehension.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What defines you?

What Defines You?

What defines me?

I feel as if I have allowed what I do in this world to define who I am. To be very honest, it made me feel good when I was defined by something good. A youth minister... A good mother... A good wife... A praise and worship singer... An artist... A leader in general... Yes, being defined by those categories always makes me smile, but it's not really who I am.

There are negative things about me that I don't like being defined by. I am a woman with Fibromyalgia... I am a woman with a fiery temper (this can be good or bad)... I am a human being with issues (aren't we all?) I am a woman who battles depression and has battled many other "generational curses".  There will always be rumors about me that are not true, or that are blown completely out of proportion. People will allow their view of me to be skewed by these lies, and these rumors will define me in their minds. Not one of these negative things define who I really am either.

This is a hard concept for most of us to grab hold of. Too often, we want to be defined by our titles because it's easier to do that than to really investigate who we really are. Unfortunately, there are many of us who allow ourselves to be defined by the negative aspects, negative rumors, and poor choices in our lives. Whether the definition of us is negative, positive or somewhere in between, it doesn't define who we truly are.

What if you were all alone?Who would you be on a deserted island? Would your titles matter? What if there was no one else around for hundreds of miles? Just you and God... Oh, yes, very scary to think about. Who are we really when we are all alone with God?

When we start to dissect this concept, it's hard to think of things to say. At least is was for me. A long silent pause in my mind and heart followed that question when I asked myself, "Who am I when there is nothing around me to hide behind?". That's what I'm doing, hiding. That was very hard for me to accept.

What happens when we hide?

When we hide behind our titles, strengths, weaknesses, and sometimes even the lies, we refuse to allow who we really are to shine through. I'm not saying that you can't have a title or allow yourself to be known as your title. I'm not saying that you shouldn't admit that you have issues, or that you should ignore them. I am saying that you must put those aside, and really look at yourself. You are not what the world defines you as. If more of us would separate away from these definitions and allow God to show us who we are in Him, imagine what we could do in this world God has given us! When we hide, we don't allow God to use us to our full potential. We forget that, even thought we are suffering through an illness or issue, we are not that illness or issue, WE ARE a child of God. That we don't have to rely on our own strength, we only have to rely on His power moving and working through us.

Who are we, really?

We are children of God. He loves us so much, and He wants us to constantly be aware of that love He cares for us in ways we cannot even grasp. It doesn't matter if we are sick, depressed, a new mom, a bad mom, homely, a missionary, beautiful, a clown, a professional basketball player, a pastor, a teacher, a crook, a pervert, ninety-seven years old, or the president. He loves all of us, and He has a plan for each of our lives. We need to get out of our own way, and let God work.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:9-11

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:12-13

Allow yourself to grow.

We must take the opportunities God gives us to grow. I believe this is an opportunity for you to be stretched. Did you know that when you stretch a rubber band, it never goes back to it's original size? That's what happens when you allow God to stretch you. You never go back to who you once were.

If everything we have ever used to defined ourselves is taken away, then who are we? Let me ask again, if you were alone on a deserted island, who would you be? How would you define yourself then? I'd like to think I would say that I am God's daughter, I am loved by God, and he could not love me any more. What I do or did doesn't define me, nor does it cause God's love to grow or falter. That how the world views me doesn't define who I am any more than what color my eyes are dictates whether or not I can cook. I know that's a silly notion, but it makes about as much sense as allowing what we have done in our past to dictate how much God should love us. None of these things affects God's perspective of me, so why should I allow it to affect my perspective of me? None of these things limits God's plan for my life, so why should I allow them to limit me?

When I was a new mother, I was so worried about the opinions of my in-laws, family, friends, and even outsiders. My husband and I had not made the best decisions. We were both young, stupid and the combination would have been deadly if it weren't for God's grace. I really wanted his family to love me, and I wanted to be perceived as a "super mom". Something, I thought, would be of value to his family. I wanted them to be impressed with my ability. I wanted to be known as a something special to people based on what I could do physically and emotionally. Well, I was a typical, new mother who was dealing with hurts and things that happened in my past, I didn't know how to handle everything, and I just didn't know which end was up. I didn't realize how far God wanted to take me, and I didn't know how to let Him take me there.

I made mistakes (like everyone does). I fell short of the definition I had set in place (like most of us do). I struggled with my mistakes, and shortcomings. I really desired to please others and forgot what was the most important thing. The thing which trumped all other things, to do what my kids needed, and to give myself to them and to God. I did a pretty good job with my kids, I believe. They are really good kids, and I'm not the only one who thinks so, so it must be true! Honestly, that was a complete God thing. My husband and I were just talking about how we certainly do not deserve the kids God has given us. But instead of enjoying all the moments I had with them, and reveling in the things God wanted to show me while I nurtured them, I was stressed and worried that I was going to mess it all up. When I was too tired to play, I felt guilty. When I hurt to much to do the things they wanted or needed, I felt guilty. I felt like I was not a good mom because I didn't measure up to the description I had put in place for that role. I honestly felt like God would be disappointed in me if I didn't live up to my expectations, not to mention everyone else.  I don't think I'm the only mom who has felt that way. We've got to stop confusing the world's opinion (even our own opinion) with God's opinion! Really, when you are standing before God, who's opinion is really going to matter?

My list.

I've made this list to remind myself of how different my perspective is from God's, and how my viewpoints have changed as I have allowed God to change me. I hope you will take the time to do the same. When you write a negative comment be sure to counter act it by writing the truth. God's truths  are always so much more powerful than the "Negative Nancy" comments we come up with. I'm trying to be real here with these comments. I am not writing them to offend anyone, nor do I expect anyone to think better or less of me. I just wanted to give real examples of what I know we all do to ourselves. We allow lies and negative thoughts to dictate who we are instead of allowing God's truth to shine through us. Stop feeling guilty and grab hold of the truth!

 The lies and negative comments are blue, and the truth is in black.
  • I have Fibromyalgia. I'm erratic, moody, and I don't function like I should. I will never be okay again. I will never be able to fulfil the plans God has for my life. People don't understand, so they misinterpret my actions, and that will always be a battle I face. I may have Fibromyalgia, but I'm trying my best to overcome, and rely on God ever day. Even if I don't "get well" in this life time, it's not going to make God love me less or make me love God less. In fact, I believe that God can and will use this for good, and He will be glorified through this time in my life. I also believe that the people who truly matter in my life will try to understand. I will try to be patient with them as they walk with me through this journey. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We can all grow.

  • I can never be as good as other mothers who went about things the "right way". Being pregnant before I was married and already having one child was a mistake I will carry forever. I should try harder to do and be better. That is the only way I can atone for my mistakes. The appearance of my life always matters, as does my house, my person, and so many other things people look at. I will never live up to the expectations of others. I am a mother, and I do the best I can. When I make a mistake or cannot do what I think is necessary, that's okay. My list of shortcomings will not make God love me less. My prayers will constantly cover my children, and their lives will not be tainted by my mistakes. Generational curses will end NOW. My past sins will not be a burden on their lives and they do not have to live under the issues, hurt and brokenness that I did. The people who really matter in my life don't judge me based on my housewife's skills. They come to see me and my family, not how clean my house is. I don't have to atone for any of my sins. God forgave me of them the moment I asked, and no one else should hold me accountable for them.

  • I am a youth leader. I don't deserve the term "minister". My group is small because I don't know what I'm doing, and I should be able to figure out how to draw the young people in. It's just a matter of time before everyone sees through my shortcomings, and I will be replaced. In fact, they are probably already on the hunt for the person who is supposed to be in my position. Me being placed there had to be a mistake. I am a youth minister... Because I minister to young people. A title doesn't really matter, and as long as I operate in what God tells me to do from day to day, I am doing okay! My group is small, but that's okay too. Having a big group will not make God love me more, nor does it mean that I am doing anything wrong. God doesn't measure success the same way we do, and when it's time for me to move to another ministry... He's gonna let me know. This is where He has placed me, so I will work for Him as long as He lets me stay in this position.

  • I sing on the worship team, but when they find someone better, I will be pushed aside. It's only a matter of time before I do something that makes them see I don't deserve, and am not good enough to be doing this. I sing on the praise and worship team because God told me to. When and if He's ready for me to step down, He will let me know. If I hit a wrong note, God will not be upset with me. If I sing perfectly, God will not love me more. As long as I realize that it's His power I operate in, and I must give this gift to Him continually... I think I'll be OK. I just want to bless others, it's not about me, and I don't need to worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of it's self.

  • I am a wife, and no matter how hard I try, I will never be what my husband needs me to be. I am a godly wife, and I try to be a positive force in my husband's life. Even when I have a bad day, unintentionally pick a fight, or cannot be the "Leave it to Beaver" wife, God still loves me with the same level of love that He does every other day. I truly believe my husband loves me too. He is a good man, and he understands when I've had a bad day.

  • I look okay. Some days are better than others. I need to try harder to be what I think is attractive or beautiful. I need to lose weight. I must believe I am beautiful, because God doesn't create anything less than beautiful. Even without make-up, or with an extra twenty pounds, I'm beautiful because I am God's creation.

  • When someone says I should do something, I should probably do it. Especially if they think they are speaking for God. What do I know? They are probably right. I am not close enough to God to know better, obviously. If I can't live up to what the people in my life think I should be able to do, that's okay. God will give me the strength to do what He wants me to do, and all those disappointed people will be okay. :-) God will let me know when He wants me to step up our step out.  I accept that I, unfortunately, like pleasing people, but understand that pleasing God is so much more important. I will try very hard not to get the two confused.

  • I am not an artist. That terms is reserved for people with far more talent than I have. I should not use this as a gift because it is less than good and people will think that I think too highly of my talent.  I should listen to the song, "You're so Vain" more often. If people have that much time on their hands that they are worried about me, then they can get a grip... However, I really don't think they do, and I know that God planted a creativity in me that He wishes to use. I may not be Monet, Picasso, or any other famous Artist, but I have a desire to be creative that is stronger than almost any other desire in my heart. That has to be God, and He will use that desire in whatever way He sees fit. I'm gonna just go with the flow!

  • I am names I cannot even type on this blog. The things I've done are foul, stupid, and not worthy of forgiveness. I will never be able to forgive myself. I will continue to grasp the concept that what I do or have done in my past, doesn't define me.  I am defined by God and how He loves me. I am a forgiven, washed clean, virtuous woman of God. He loves me, and has chosen to forget all of my sins. That should make me want to sing at the top of my lungs!

  • If I don't project the idea of worship that everyone is expecting, then I have failed to lead others in worship. If I don't sing well, on key, or in the right fashion, then I cannot lead others in worship. My worship cannot differ from the types that came before me.  I was created to worship God. Even that doesn't have to look like the world's interpretation of "worship". I must continually ask God what it should look like, and how He wants me to do demonstrate my worship to Him. He will use all of my gifts to worship Him. That's awesome!
I hope that you will begin to grab hold of these truths with me, and let go of the lies that hang on so many of us. I wanted to be real with you, and I hope that you don't think these things in blue have a hold on me. Yes, there are times when I still battle with some of these thoughts. Mostly, these are things that are in my past... My old way of thinking.

I'm sure you have something to add to your list, and not all of my issues are your issues. I know that it's so hard to step away from this idea we have about who we are, but I know you can do it. Even people who say the right things, and know that they shouldn't be defined by these titles, etc., still struggle with this. It's just so easy to get caught up in the tornado of what people see in you, combined with what they think you should do for God, combined with what we think of ourselves. It's easy to get swept away and possibly never see your giftings used the way He wanted them used.

If we are going to love others, we have to love ourselves first. We have to realize that we are worth loving. God realizes that! Don't let people, the world, or our insecurities tell you differently! For my friends who are struggling with some kind of illness or issue, I know how hard it is to grasp this truth. We can get through this. We can be who God has called us to be! And most importantly, we can grow in confidence even when it doesn't match the world's idea of who you should be, or what you should do!

I love you! Be blessed and live in the truths that God has placed in your lives. You are the person God has called you to be. Not me, not her, not him... YOU. So, you be you, and be happy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

There is no excuse... or is there?

Forgive me:

I guess I should tell you not to expect, or get upset with me for not being a regular blogger. Forgive me for not making this a priority, if that bothers you, and if it doesn't bother you, then... Thanks. There have been so many instances in the past weeks when I was busy, overwhelmed, upset, or otherwise insane, and was thinking, "Oh, how I would love to be typing about this insanity!" How therapeutic it is to vent. I've been blessed to have a powerful woman in my life that reads and listens to my venting rants on a regular basis. I also have a great friend who is much stronger than even she realizes, and a great balancing force in my life. She remains my friend even when I am not a very stable person, and I appreciate her more than she will ever know. They have been invaluable to me, and I hope that you have someone in your life that takes that type of behavior from you without thinking you are completely mad, listens and tells you the truth when you don't want to hear it, and prays for you.

I've been working through a lot of things. Hurting a lot. Weighing the importance of many things. Analyzing my life and what God wants me to do. It makes me so mad when I can't do what I want to do. Whether it's this fibro thing that's keeping me from it, or someone else and their version of the end result that's keeping me from what I think is supposed to happen... I get mad. You may feel this way even if you don't have an illness that puts a halt on what you think you are capable of. There are so many things, people, and issues that put the brakes on "our plans".

I want to encourage you today! Well, I hope it's encouraging. It is to me, when I stop myself, take a breath, and really take a look at what is happening in my life. We get so busy. Busy doing things that may or may not need to be done, but the busyness needs to stop sometimes and we need to take a look at the "big picture". I am trying my best to do that, and I encourage you to do the same. Stop, take a breath, and look at what is going on! If you can't stand to take a breath because you feel so overwhelmed, then it's very apparent to me that you need it really bad!

God, is a god of peace. There will be, of course, times that don't feel very peaceful. Even in those times, I assure you, you should feel God working at some level. That should give you peace. If you feel like you are spinning, like you can't breathe, as if you are grasping at your last hope, or like you are falling quickly to the bottom of a very deep lake... Know I am praying for you right now. It doesn't have to be that way. I hope that you have someone in your life that is willing to tell you that you need a time-out! If you don't, and you feel like I just described, consider this your wake-up call!

All of us need a good wake-up call now and then. Especially if you are a personality type like mine. I am a strong woman, and often times I get into the groove of thinking that I know what I'm doing, so you need to leave me alone. It aggravates me when others do this same thing, so I know that I probably aggravate others around me too. I want to be a wise woman. I want to be thoughtful and considerate. I want to be a God chaser. I want to be free of this illness. I want to be a great mom and wife. I want to be the woman God has called me to be. BUT, that doesn't mean that I have to do it all, that my ideas/plans are the end all be all, or that I should always get my way. There will be times, I understand, that will upset me because I see something bad about to happen, and people will not listen. There will be times, I understand, where I will be upset because I see something bad about to happen, but I'm wrong. Both of these scenarios are going to happen becasue I am human and everyone around me is human as well. These are things I cannot change, but I do have to accept. I pray that you find the groove God has carved out for you and that you are able to stay in it without having a meltdown. Pray that for me too, please!

This thing that has attached itself to me called Fibromyalgia, is maddening. I want it gone, but it refuses to leave. I have resigned myself to this understanding: God will get rid of it when and if He sees fit. I cannot possibly see the big picture, and in that big picture, He may be more glorified by Fibro hanging on me, than by me being relieved from it. You may not feel that way if you have this, but I hope you understand that this is how I have accepted this for this time in my life. God is my strength. If I really believe that, then I don't need to be strong. I will use His strength and all will be OK. That also means that I cannot expect to do it all. I cannot expect to be able to keep up with someone else who is not being burdened by this. I know that I have good days and bad days. There will be many who do not understand that, or who take my feeling poorly as a personal thing against them. The people who truly love you will begin to understand that some days you will be "on" and some days you will be "off". There are days that I am quiet, and a bit withdrawn. Real friends will usually understand. There are days that I have to constantly remind myself that "God is my strength... I don't have to be strong... He is strong for me, and I need to lean on Him." There are days that it hurts to be touched, even hugged, but I try to smile even though I want to cry. There are days that I feel like I have the flu and I don't want to get out of bed. There are days that I can't think straight, and I am aggravated because I cannot think about something like I normally do. There are good days too. I hold on to the hope that there will be more good days in my future. I hold on to the hope that the people I care about will understand and love me through the good and bad days.

So, maybe there is an excuse for me to be crazy from time to time. There are days that I get out of line, and there are days when I am in the groove. Ultimately, I just want to glorify God. I don't want to let others drag my spirit down, and I don't want to drag the spirit of others down either. That is REALLY what I want. I feel a major change is on the horizon and I pray that I can accept whatever God wants out of me. This is my prayer for me, you, and anyone else you know who is struggling for any reason (that's all of us from one time or another): God, help me to be the person you have called me to be. Help me to hear your voice, even when I am so caught up in the moment that I can barley breathe. Help me to heal, and if that isn't exactly what I have envisioned... help me to accept your version. I know you know best, because you see the whole picture. I'm such a small part of that picture, and I need your help to understand that it's not all about me and what I think or want.

I will take a breath today. I will smile in spite of the pain that I feel. I will not feel guilty when, "I just cannot do it." (And it doesn't matter how important "it" may seem) I will weigh the issues and give God a chance to change my mind. I will not be too proud to admit that I didn't listen or that I made a bad call. I will open my heart to God's plan that may include change or situations that I don't understand. I will remember that God is my strength. I will allow Him to hold me up when I don't feel like standing. I will try to be myself even when I don't feel like it, and when people still take that change in my person, as a personal attack... I will forgive them.

I could go on and on...