Thursday, October 28, 2010

Silhouette Man

Today is this man's birthday. I know I am just getting started on my "Disappointment with Life" series, but today I must depart from that subject and announce to one and all that I am most decidedly NOT disappointed with this man.

Happy Birthday, you cute silhouette man! You know who you are.

 Together, we have added
this one,

this one,

and this one to our little circle of strength and love. This alone is enough to bring me to my knees in gratitude to God.

This man knows what is important. He loves the Lord and his family with all his heart. I have seen glimpses of the passion he has for the things of God, and it humbles me. I have watched him spend hours building things with our son, cuddling our daughter and calling her "my princess" and wrestling with our youngest, and I think, "Wow, I got a good one."

This man looks at me and sees me. When I get involved in a project, all personal hygiene flies out the window until I become an almost unrecognizable version of myself, too disgusting to even glance at in the mirror. I shudder. But he looks at me in this condition and still thinks I'm beautiful! And I think, "Wow, I got a crazy one." And then I finally take a shower. Yeah, living with me isn't a cake walk. This guy deserves some kind of prize.

This man loves to encourage and bring out the best in others. He gets joy in seeing other people live up to their full potentials and being a part of that in any way he can. I frequently discover that he has blessed someone with a phone call or a note that I knew nothing about. He is sneaky in a good way!

I don't know if words can properly describe how much "stuff" gets thrown at him each day at work, but this does not make him selfish with his time. He is always ready to help anyone who asks. You need help? Bob's your man. He loves and he cares. He rarely complains or feels sorry for himself. He calmly faces whatever comes his way. And if he is standing in your kitchen for more than five minutes, he will probably start doing your dishes! What a guy!
Good job, Bob! Good job being born and being wonderful you.

(I will tell you I love you later. I don't want to get mushy in front of everybody.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Disappointment With Life, part two: Burned by the Church

Yosemite Church, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, USA. Taken by David Maximillian Waterman on 1998/09/06
This is a touchy subject, my friends. But I want to talk about it, because I know so many of us have felt this way at one time or another. It stinks. As the Church, we are to be the light of the world, displaying the heart of Jesus by our love for one another. But it does not always turn out this way. We do not always love each other as we should, and that is so sad. It makes Jesus sad, I know, the way that we sometimes "do church."

About the same time that I was struggling with my parents' divorce, Bob and I found ourselves hurt and confused by some things that were happening in our church. For several years, we had served in leadership positions in a small, but wonderful church that we loved. But, as is the case for other churches, this one happened to be made up of people. And as we all know, people will fail. And I'm not just talking about other people. I'm talking about me, too. I failed in areas, too. We were struck down, but not destroyed by the things that happened in our church--at least not at first. We rallied, but it wasn't too many more years later, that our church dissolved completely.
 This was a death, and we grieved the loss. We will always love the people who were our church family back in those days. In fact, we still have relationships with many of them. But, it is difficult not to regret the things that happened. 

Today, we are blessed to be part of a healthy church. It isn't perfect--no church is--but we are thankful! The things we learned back in those tough times were valuable lessons that I appreciate. But, there are so many people who have bad experiences at church and walk away, never to return. They are angry, hurt, and bitter over their experiences. Sometimes, I think that we transfer our negative feelings about people in the church onto God. We as Christians don't always represent Him well, but God is always good! People will fail us, but He never will. 

If you have ever been burned by the Church in any way, I feel like the Lord wants me to stand in for the people who hurt you and say, "I'm sorry." You may have never received an apology for the way you were treated or for the way a pastor, teacher, or friend let you down. So, I will say it. I am saying it to you now. 

I'm so sorry. I'm sorry that you felt rejected. I'm sorry for being a hypocrite. I'm sorry for lying to you. I'm sorry for my pride. I'm sorry for making you feel like you weren't good enough. I'm sorry for acts of hatred in the name of the Lord. I'm sorry for falsely accusing you. I'm sorry for talking about you behind your back. I'm sorry for not loving you. 

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away'" Revelation 21:3-4.

Someday, soon, my friend. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Disappointment With Life, part one: Divorce

I'd like to begin a new series today. And now I am laughing, because I am talking like a pastor or a writer, when really, I am just me. Just a girl with a story to tell. It's just a story about God and how He changed me.

He is the healer of so much more than what ails us physically. He can and does heal our minds, our emotions, our relationships, and all else that could be considered sick or broken. He majors in restoration. I surely do love that about Him.

I would love to share with you how He healed me and is healing me in these other ways, non-physical. I know I am only one small person with one little voice, but I would like to do my part to inject hope and encouragement into a world full of hurt and pain. For, you see, what God has done for me, He will do for you. I am not His favorite. He doesn't play that way. Thanks to Jesus, His followers are all on equal footing as joint-heirs with Him. We are all God's beloved children. 

To tell you how He healed me, I must first give you a little background information so you can understand what He healed me of. I'm pretty sure this will take more than one post, so I won't get to the healing part today. Bear with me. I don't want to dwell on the negative things for any purpose other than to give you something to relate to. I know that the things I've been through are common to so many of you reading this.

So, let's get started.
I think anyone who has been living on this earth for any length of time has become acquainted with disappointment. We have dreams. We plan. We have ideas of what life should be like. And then, disaster strikes. Someone breaks a promise. You get hurt or become sick. You lose your job or your house or your spouse or your child or your sanity. You are threatened, bullied, or abused. You don't dream anymore. You just survive. 

For me, life was pretty easy as a child. I was fairly well protected from disappointment. The hardest thing that happened was when I was in high school. My dad needed a kidney transplant, but he got one, so that story had a good ending. Other than that, my biggest challenge was changing into my gym clothes at school without anyone seeing me.

I was unfamiliar with true heart-break until I was 26 years old. I was a married woman, no children yet, but happily making my house and life the way I thought they should be.  
I will never forget that dreadful day I received word that my parents were splitting up. This was such a foreign concept to me, I literally did not know what to do with myself. I somehow found my way to the closet, closed the door, and started screaming.

Growing up, my parents had always promised us kids that they would never get divorced. Their marriage was our stability! I counted on it always being there--the same steady rock of security. My parents' divorce shattered all that was good and familiar to me. I felt I did not know anything anymore. I did not know how to be a daughter to two separate people or how to be a wife that could promise that this wouldn't happen to her own marriage. This ruined everything for our family. Holidays and celebrations could never be the same. And when I started having children, I grieved all over again the loss of two grandparents who would not be together for my kids. 

Divorce is such a common, everyday word. So many people have experienced it. "My parents are divorced." "I'm going through a divorce." "This is my second marriage." We hear these words all the time. It is so common that I believe many forget what a tragedy it really is. If you have ever been through the divorce of your parents or siblings or your own, or are going through it now, please know this: you do not go un-noticed simply because this is an epidemic. God sees you and cares about your pain. I understand now that behind that often used word, "divorce", is a world of hurt and personal struggle. The frequency of its occurrence doesn't make it any less heart-breaking for the people going through it. If this is you, my heart goes out to you now, and I pray the Lord will comfort you. I just wanted you to know that.

Okay, that's as much as I want to tell today. This is all headed somewhere. It just might take awhile.

Love you.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Beautiful Brain

The brain is an amazing organ. I believe it points to an amazing God. Yesterday morning, our science lesson for the day was about the brain. This was quite appropriate, as I was scheduled for an MRI of my brain in the afternoon. Let's see how many times I say the word "brain" in this post. This will be a fun game. It will be a no-brainer. Brain, brain, brain. Say it enough times, and it suddenly becomes a foreign word that you've never heard before. Seriously. Holly and I used to play that game when we were kids. Pick a word. Say it a million times. Freak out because you no longer know what this word is or what it means. Try it, you'll love it! It's a completely brainless, meaningless thing to do!

Okay, where was I? The brain. Right. Even on a first or second grade level, it is obvious that the brain is a complex and wonderful machine.

I mean, come on. It can gather data from a particle of scent floating off of a paper bag, compare it to the files in your memory bank, and cause you to recall a long-forgotten incident in which you were in your grandma's kitchen looking for something to eat but investigation of the cookie jar revealed a very dead mouse. This made you scream your head off which caused your grandma to rush in and ask what in tarnation you were making such a fuss over. This memory makes you miss your grandma and that special way she always said "tarnation", so you go into your kitchen and bake cookies and write "mouse traps" on your shopping list. All this from one little scent particle that went up your nostril into your brain! Now, that's amazing, isn't it? And it makes you wonder what was in the paper bag.

The brain being the vital organ that it is, having something go wrong up there is fear-inducing. I know I've already shared all that part of my story, but I would just like to say, once again, how thankful I am that I've had Jesus walking with me through this whole thing. The message at church on Sunday was about fear, and how it can cause us to sink, like Peter did, when he was walking on the water toward Jesus. When Peter's eyes were on Jesus, he actually walked on top of the water! For real. That is amazing. But as soon as he looked at his surroundings and lost his focus, he began to sink. But Peter didn't drown. No, Jesus was right there, offering His strong and steady hand. 

He's been right next to me, too. Every time I look around me and start to become overcome with fear, Jesus pulls me up before I go completely under. As I drove to the hospital yesterday, contemplating all this, I was reminded of Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." I like the wording of the King James version. It describes the mind as being "stayed on" God. That makes me think of a fixed position. Unmoving. Being of one mind. Focused on Him. And when we do this, He gives us perfect peace.

I looked forward to this day for six months. I was excited to have the medical world confirm what I already knew: that my brain has been beautifully healed by the best doctor in all the land. So, I made it through the MRI by thinking about Jesus, and then I had a really nice visit with Dr. Nice! Dr. Nice makes me smile. He is such a cute, little doctor. I did not expect him to be very expressive or excited about my good report. That is not his style. But that's okay, because I was expressive and excited enough for us both.

I smiled real big at that guy when he came in the room. I just knew it would be good news.
 "Well, I looked at your MRI, and it looks beautiful," he said with some hesitation.
"That's great!" I was beaming.
"There is no trace whatsoever of the lesion that you had...that is pretty is very positive, but I don't want to say you are out of the woods yet. Come back and see me in a year, and then we'll see what happens."
I wanted to laugh. I said, "You know, this is an answer to prayer. God healed me! That is why there is no trace."
Dr. Nice glanced at me quickly from the corner of his eye and went back to his notes. "Well, whatever you're doing...keep it up, 'cause it's working."

Okay, Dr. Nice. I will. I will keep it up. I will keep taking my Scripture medicine. I will keep my mind fixed on the Great Physician. I will keep thanking Him for every wonderful, healthy day He gives me on this earth. I will praise Him forever until I die, and then I will praise Him some more.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Guess What?

There are a few items I would like to go over with you today:

1. I loved every single one of your comments on my last post. Thank you for sharing your dear hearts with me!

2. We have a winner! I used my random number generator thingy, which by the way, is not random to me. Prayer has a way of changing randomness into intentionality. You may laugh about this, but before each giveaway I've done, I've prayed that the Lord would choose the right person to receive the gift I am giving.

I know it doesn't seem like it matters who gets a simple bag I've made, but it does matter to me. I didn't know who she was, but I was praying for her while I made the bag. I prayed that God would bless her life, and He knew who I was praying for, because He knew who would win.

And as it turns out, I do know the winner, and I happen to like her. She is someone I grew up alongside, and am now getting reacquainted with through our life group at church. 

Congratulations, SugarBeanz! You are the winner of the Wild and Crazy Overnight Bag. SugarBeanz is the mom of an adorable little girl and she is soon to deliver her second baby. Maybe if you don't get an overnight in before your due date, you can take the bag to the hospital! 

By the way, I think it's really neat that I made this bag as a tribute to my dad, and SugarBeanz happens to have a pretty wonderful dad herself. I have looked up to him since I was a youth. He is someone who truly loves the Lord, and I don't believe I have ever seen him without a smile on his face. I know that my dad thought so much of him. And it's all the more meaningful to me that he was one of the faithful men I spoke of in this post who laid hands on me and prayed for me when I was sick.

3. Our WholyFit winner has given us her first impression after trying it out. By the way, she is also reviewing the cookies she ate right before the workout. Julie said, 
Ok so review of my initial impression...the caramel apple oatmeal cookie was scrumptious...both of them! For the workout has a lot of good stretches. My body DOES NOT bend like that! With more days of this it might. As far as the spiritual aspect goes, to be honest, first impression was it is kind of cheesy. The video cover says it takes you through Bible memorization, but what that seems to consist of is verses at the bottom of the screen, which you can't really watch while doing the video because it has you looking every other way. The connection to Ephesians 6 seemed like a stretch (no pun intended). The end of the video did have a time of relaxing and clearing the mind and focusing your mind on God. Overall, I think I will like the stretches as soon as my body likes bending that way! :)

4. I've had an unusual amount of cake lately, and there is more cake in my near future. People should be aware of this.

5. I have an MRI of my brain this afternoon, followed by an appointment with Dr. Nice! You may read about Dr. Nice here, if you would like. I will let you know how it goes.

6. I love you.

7. Goodbye.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

An Eternal Thread

Today is my dad's birthday. This time of the year now holds mixed emotions for me. The changing weather brings all the old excitement of fall birthdays and activities, but there is a note of sadness now. A missing and remembering. I sometimes wish I could go back to the way things were. But being here, now, on this particular leg of my journey through life is a good thing, too.

When Dad died, I wallowed for quite awhile. I was truly at a loss for what to do to make it through the pain. I had, in years gone by, lost a dear aunt and two wonderful grandparents, but I was in much deeper water now. I felt I was drowning in grief. I find that as much as I have healed since then, I still have tears streaming down my face now, just recalling it. 

I did not always cry out to God when I was grieving my dad. I was not angry with Him. I have fully analyzed that to be sure. If I had been, we would have worked through it. He is not shocked by our anger, and He still loves us even when we're mad at Him. But I wasn't mad. I was just too tired to ask for help. I didn't feel like it. I just wanted to get away from everybody and go to sleep for a very long time. 

But after about nine months and some counseling, I was ready to do something. I was ready to touch the things that reminded me of him, and try something meaningful. So, as the fall weather settled in, I gathered up Dad's shirts and started cutting. I cut and pieced and cried. Every shirt was a memory--a look, a joke, a day in the life of someone I loved so much.

My dad never got rid of his clothes. When he got new ones, the old would go down in the basement. These would become his "worky hard" shirts, as he used to say to my little brother, Josh. They were his mowing the lawn, washing the car, lifting weights, cleaning his guns, and puttering around shirts. We had seen him wear these same shirts for 20 or 30 years. They were so familiar. They are still. I made three bags  out of them--one for each of us kids. 

Each square is a step back in time. See that brown one? That was a t-shirt he wore so many times, it was tissue paper thin. It had a piece of popcorn stuck to it that I found while cutting. Anyone might have thought I'd found a hundred dollar bill. I was so excited about that piece of popcorn. How old was it? What movie was he watching when it landed there? It made me remember the way he would laugh when he watched W.C. Fields or the Trinity Boys. He would eat popcorn, laugh until he cried, and then inevitably hiccup for awhile after.

 Man, I love that guy.

The inside of each bag is lined with his robe--the old, fuzzy robe he used to wear on Christmas mornings. Every Christmas morning, Dad put on his robe, made a pot of coffee, tuned the radio to Christmas music, and settled into his recliner to watch his family enjoy the Christmas fun. 

Making these bags was emotionally difficult, but it was a kind of therapy. It made me think of things from an eternal perspective, too. I was so struck by the reality that Dad is not wearing these clothes anymore. He has new ones. The Bible tells us that. At that point in my life, I had never used writing as an outlet, but I felt inspired to write something down about my time with Dad's shirts.

An Eternal Thread  

Your clothes...
were more than fabrics
or coverings.

After years of wearing,
they soaked up your personality and character
while you worked and played and loved and laughed.

They became a part of who you are.

The fabric of your life here was
good, strong, honest, faithful, and loving.

These pieces of cloth come together
to remind us,
to comfort,
to reveal something new...

We will always remember you in your Christmas robe,
but imagine you now
in a robe of righteousness
and a garment of salvation.

An eternal thread connects us now. 

Before I move on, I just want to say this:  If you are grieving right now, did you know you are blessed? That doesn't sound right does it? Jesus said it, and so much of what He said seems really backwards. I did not feel blessed when I was grieving. I felt sad. I felt like the pain might rip my heart right open. But since Jesus said it, I feel it is worth examining a bit.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). I look at this verse, and think, "Yeah, well, I still would rather not mourn at all." It is hard. It is work. It drains. But then, how else could we know about His comfort? And that's where the blessing comes in. There is no comfort like the comfort of the Holy Spirit. That is part of His job description, and He is really good at it. The Father's heart is so tender toward us, that when we are hurting, I believe we become extra-special to Him. It is a privileged place to be. The Bible says that the Lord is close to the broken-hearted. Don't you give your own children or other loved ones extra time and attention when they are hurting? How much more He loves us! How much better and greater is His compassion towards us. I know, now, from experience what a blessing His comfort is. Though I would never choose grief willingly, I trust now that He is close to me when it comes again.


After I finished the bags, I looked at my sewing machine and wondered what else it could do. I hadn't sewed since I was a kid in 4-H. I started cranking out stuffed animals for my kids, pillows for my couch, bags and purses for my friends, and clothes for Sara's dolls. I had discovered a fun new hobby. Look at this neat picture my friend Kris painted to hang above my sewing closet:
Sewing makes me feel connected to my dad somehow. And I like to pray for the people I am sewing for while the machine is whirring away.

So, to celebrate my dad's birthday,and because I can't give him a present, I made something to give to one of you! 
This is the Wild and Crazy Overnight Bag,

for any of you colorful gals who like to take an overnight trip every now and then.

So, if you'd like this bag for yourself or to give as a gift, just leave me one comment, and you may win!

You can tell me where you'd like to go overnight with this bag. Or if you are feeling deep and thoughtful, you could tell me what meaningful ways you have discovered to help you through a hurting time. Any old comment will do to get you entered! I hope you win.


Monday, October 4, 2010

On Turning 36

Oh Birthdaydoah
(To be sung reverently to the tune of Shenandoah. If you don't know Shenandoah, please read the words quietly and with emotion.)

Oh 36
Where did you come from?
I'm just a kid.
And you're a grown-up.

Oh 36
I do not know you.
Please go away.
Across the wide Missouri.

You may now laugh your head off.

I am.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Flooded Heart Spills Over

I can't go on like this any longer. I have to talk to you about something. For two months now, I have told you about what God has done for me lately. I have been serious at times, but also corny, sentimental, and perhaps a little stupid. So, basically, I've been myself. Which is precisely why I can't keep going without telling you this thing that the Holy Spirit keeps whispering to my heart.

I am aware that the great majority of you reading this have your very own personal relationship with Jesus. Isn't He good and kind? I love Him so much, and I know you do, too. 

But there is someone out there reading this who isn't sure. You feel like you are on the outside looking in. I don't know who you are, but He does. And He loves you. He put you on my heart. He wants you to be sure of His love for you.

 He has seen everything you have ever done, and still He loves you. You have been disappointed with life. He has been waiting for you to give it to Him. He wants to take what you think is worthless and unusable and show you what His forgiveness and love can do. He can take what you think of as broken and ugly and make it beautiful. Believe it.

Believe Him.

He never lies. He is the Truth.

This is not complicated. It is as simple as taking a gift offered to you, no strings attached. It is free. The gift, of course, is Jesus. We need Him. We cannot face the God of the universe with hope unless we have Jesus. Death and what happens after may seem like just a dream right now, but it is so real. Every person who has ever existed will come face to face with God, and that includes you, dear, sweet person on my heart. 

There is absolutely nothing we can do to make ourselves worthy of God's acceptance or of a home in Heaven. We don't stand a chance with a God who is so completely holy. This is where Jesus, the greatest gift of all time, steps in and takes over where we are so utterly lacking. He became the perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of us all! He paid your debt. He was punished for every wrong thing you ever did and will ever do. He poured out His life because He loves you.

His kindness is astounding.

And so, you are left with this critical decision. Will you take the gift or leave it? Will you step into the circle and become part of His family? "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God..." (John 1:12) All it takes is believing and receiving Him. It really is that simple. And there is nothing better than being one of His children. He is good to His children!

I want to encourage you to start talking to Him. He's listening, and He will speak right back to your heart. Tell Him what's bothering you. He cares so much. Tell Him what you are afraid of. His love has a way of chasing fear away. And if you are ready, tell Him you want to receive His gift. He's been wanting you to have it for a long time.

If you have questions or doubts or you need someone to talk to, please e-mail me! I would love to hear from you. I am praying for you, my friend.


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