Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mamaaaaa!

This morning, Little Miss Almost 2 was whining/ crying across the kitchen, "Mamaaaaa!" because her favorite DVD wasn't working properly and who knows what else wasn't going right in her world.  There were tears in her eyes and she just wasn't a happy camper.

I bent down to pick her up and she turned away, crossing her arms,  to look out the window (probably hoping to see her favorite Harley riding neighbor- a post for another day).  She did turn back to me and raised her arms for me to hold her and snuggle in for a moment of comfort.

In that moment, as I kissed her little mulletted  head, I remembered my own desires for comfort and how I seek them and where I find them, or don't.

You see, I expect love and comfort and peace and satisfaction to come from the people in my life, or from within me.  I expect that the Husband or my kids or my friends or a job or vocation or hobby or food will fill the void.  According to the Bible, only God can fill that void.

So the other day, in my frustration, I stood in the shower, crying (because apparently I can only cry in the shower, otherwise I can't cry, I can only stop to explain to concerned onlookers why I am crying which, while it is nice to have 10 year-olds care, it would be nice to be allowed to experience a feeling not have to give a dissertation about it).  In my frustration, my, "I don't know if  everything is really going to be okay." I said, "I don't know how to let You fill, me Lord."  I thought I knew and now, I am not sure how to let God fill that void and live in that place of peace.

It's a little like dancing naked, admitting here, for the world to read, that I am not sure how to let God fill me right now.

I have been hearing the word integrity a lot from my supervisor, about being the person of integrity in the room.  I asked my fb peeps what they thought integrity meant and so I hope I am acting with integrity by saying that I am struggling with this how right now.  I am struggling with how?  and  what if...? and  why not...?  I am surely not the first human and I will surely not be the last.  If it offends you... well, you can pray for me or you can stop reading or shrug, well, whatever. 

As for me... I just have to find a way to walk through this and get to the other side, soothing a mulletted-head little Miss and getting her biggest bro off to college, getting the middles ready for another school year.  I will do my best to be His hands and feet as I am able, being that I am sorely broken, like the rest of the world, I might add.

-Peace, from one vessel to another

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Okay?

http://makeitmad.com/2012/08/01/what-i-learned-about-the-church-while-seeking-god-outside-of-it-part-ii/

I enjoy reading Max Dubinsky.  Something in the post I linked above pricked at my heart and soul and speaks to why I haven't been writing here or doing a lot of things lately.  It's more than this, it's linked to bigger questions too, but when I read in the above linked post about how people had been going to church to,
"...Celebrate the fact that everything was going to be okay...Unfortunately, when we show up today, it’s not always what we find. The guilt I found in all the churches I’ve attended, I believe it creeps its way in to our hearts when the celebration fades out. When we stop believing everything is going to be okay.." Max Dubinksy.."What I Learned About the Church While Seeking God Outside Of It" makeitmad.com.August 1, 2012

I guess maybe for me,  it's the question, "What if...?" linked with the idea that maybe, just maybe, everything is not going to be okay that has thrown me into a proverbial tailspin, and midlife crisis. 

I have questions and doubts and frustrations.  Life has always had ups and downs and "all-arounds", but right now I feel disoriented; I'm underwater and cannot find my way to the surface.  It's....disconcerting, and also maybe a little freeing.  It's frightening and sometimes it makes me angry.

I don't know if I've lost myself or am still finding my true self.  Does this make me sound crazy?  I hope not!  I've spent a lifetime being what other people expected or wanted.  I still do that, but I want to have a little balance and a little more choice in how I respond and fill their needs.  But I wonder, what if the true me isn't "okay"?

I guess I will find out.

-Peace




Friday, June 22, 2012

Roots and Wings and Caps and Gowns.. Oh My

Someone get another box of tissues, because apparently I've sprung a leak.

This is the morning of the oldest boy's, oldest child's, commencement.  In the evening we will be joining hundreds, thousands really, of others in an auditorium  to watch our first born and 494 other graduates receive diplomas signifying academic achievements. My son has much to be proud of. 

I am teary now and I have been teary for days, weeks months...who am I kidding?  I'm one of those crying types. 

So today, I sit and type through big, sobbing tears and I don't understand it.  He's not going anywhere for two months and he's not even going far to college.  It's just that sometimes my heart feels overflowing with the intensity of life.  I tried to explain to the 10 yo because he was trying to understand my sadness...it's not sadness..exactly.  It's more like an intensity of emotion.

I see flashes of the past 17+ years so vividly.  I still remember the Husband's face when I told him there were 2 blue lines.  It may be the only time that man has ever been speechless. I remember the awe at the miracle of his birth.  I think love was really something tangible we could touch and hold in our hands in the predawn hours of that day.  I realize how fleeting those nights he slept no more than 5 minutes at a stretch really were.  They felt like they'd never end.  I remember the way he ran around at my mother's funeral like the perfect comic relief and the way chasing him was the carrot on the string that kept me from curling up in a ball of despair; his smile and laugh were sweet comfort.  When he was 3 and we were new to our church, his Sunday School teacher was convinced we'd never be back...the story of the widow's mite had him in tears.  When he was 6 he announced he was going to build a 1000 story building for all the homeless people.  He went through a phase where he wanted to be a roller coaster designer.  (He is, instead, majoring in civil engineering).  He is my personal tech support, the one who will not let his sister cry and will help his brothers with school work. 

I look at him and am so proud of this young man.  I see shades of the man he is yet to grow into and reflections of the boy he once was. 

We want to give them roots and wings. We want to raise them so they can leave, but no matter how great we can be as parents (and I am far from great), we cannot control everything and everyone, including the children.  I cannot always protect these kids from others or even their own choices.  Having a part of my heart walking around outside my body can feel a little like someone squeezing the air of my lungs.

So today, I will cry a little. (Little is relative.)  I will iron his shirt and smile with pride when he walks down the stairs with his tie knotted "just so".  I will hold this memory in my heart along with all the others I have been blessed with and there will always be room for more memories of him and his brothers and sister as they walk through this crazy, amazing adventure of life.

-Peace and Love (and where is that box of tissues?!)



Sunday, April 29, 2012

Not Job (long O)

I've taken a bit of a writing hiatus.

The reason is simple and complicated all at the same time.  I realized that who I am "here" and what I'm going through "out there" are not in sync.  

When people tell me I seem peaceful or like I have it together I feel... like a big, fat liar.  I also found out that sometimes it even intimidated people...until we had a conversation and they saw me in scary, living technicolor hot mess.  (Then we were cool.)

  Often I write to work through things, which makes it seem all methodical and peaceful and clean..which is what I am doing now except...Life, my friends, is often very messy, especially when lived fully and with risks and mistakes.

When I started this blog I had this "pie in the sky" idea that I would someday get a book contract and maybe even get to speak from a Christian perspective.  The reality is, the real me probably wouldn't fit in so well with what I perceive to be what they are looking for.

I know that if I filled my life with only things deemed pleasing to God, I would be better off and I know in my head that God loves me flaws and poor choices and all.  (That's grace.)  My heart is not on the same "God loves me" page.  Ironic because I spend a lot of time telling other people something that my heart cannot believe for me.  

It really hit home for me last night as I was saying The Lord's Prayer with my kids...and my words felt stuck in my throat and I felt like my stomach was full of rocks...

You see, life has been kind of rough all the way around for years..and sometimes I feel like, "Why even bother?"  We've spent a lot of time and energy trying to follow Gods will and I'm kind of in a "What the hell?"  mood.  Nothing I do seems to make a difference.

I come from a tradition that espouses, "Saved by grace through faith and not by works of the law."  so I do not necessarily believe my actions result in salvation, but sometimes, it would be nice if my actions would result in a little good news in the "here and now" not only in an "end time" which I cannot even begin to imagine.

I understand and believe that faith is reflected in how we handle adversity. I am trying hard to see silver linings, but to be honest...the tarnish is getting to me.

I do not have the patience nor the faith of Job, it would seem.  I feel it's obvious I do not even have the faith of a mustard seed...I have the shaken and  fractured faith of a woman who doesn't ever have to wait long for the other shoe to drop...on her head, as the can of spaghettios falls on her bare foot.

This is me.  It's real.  My kids struggle and sometimes the only help I can offer is hugs and love them with everything I have (and it doesn't ever seem to be enough).  I like to listen to (sing along with and dance to) loud rock music with lyrics I wouldn't want my kids to sing along to (that's what ear buds and car rides by myself are for..so I either sing along at the top of my lungs in the mom van or I'm dancing around the kitchen to music no one else can hear), I enjoy a cocktail, good books (good being relative), walking by the ocean (had to throw that in, hehe) and lots of other things.  I struggle with problems and questions.  My home is in a constant state of clutter. There's never enough time or money or peace.   I am imperfect and rarely truly "at peace".  I am seeking my true self instead of fulfilling the expectations of others and trying not to be selfish and hurt the ones I love in the process.  (Talk about a delicate balance...)

To steal a dear friend's phrase, "I'm seeking the balance between edgy and respectable."  I am certainly not Job (long O).

-Peace (in whatever measure you can find it.)




Monday, April 2, 2012

Roll Better Than a Flat Tire

Frequently I find myself saying, "Life is what happens when we're making other plans."

This morning I planned to go to the park for an early walk, then meet a friend for coffee. It is chilly so I even got proper clothing together.

As I left my driveway I saw an unfamiliar light gleaming on the dashboard but I thought I'd just deal with it later. (You're cringing and shaking your head, aren't you? That's what the Husband is going to do when he reads this.)

"What IS that noise?!" I searched for a place to turn around or over and as I pulled into a parking lot it clicked. Flat tire.

So here I sit, waiting to be rescued. The lug nuts are stuck so roadside assistance just arrived. Yahoo!

This was not part of my plan. The time spent getting the tire fixed or replaced and the money it will cost was not in the plan either. That is life. I can whine about it or roll with it.

---Spare on, Husband takes it to be fixed--

I will confess that "discussing" replacement options (how many tires to replace..because they're all shot?!) meant that the Husband attempted to discuss and I ranted about how it's never just what we bring it in for and yes, I was yelling and no, I may not have said, "Goodbye." when I hung up. (Sometimes my conversation skills are sorely lacking.)

But... You see my 'frayed-by-10:30-am' nerves are part of what happens when life happens and my plans don't. I get a little (or a lot) agitated, especially when it is about money I have not budgeted to spend. It was much easier to roll and not whine when I wasn't hearing, "4 new tires" on the same day I am taking 12 yo for new glasses and there are other expenses looming large on the horizon and...

Oh hello, God! I'm supposed to trust you and to have faith that You will provide... and where does that fit in with the tire scenario? Some will say that we should not expect such things of God and others will tell you that God has a way of providing. (FYI no surprise checks arrived in the mail today lol). I am going to tell you that I know it will work out in the end but right now I'm a little bit in knots trying to figure out how. I think it is safe to say that I trust God with the big salvation stuff but the little, big stuff...I feel like I am constantly panicking over and trying to figure out.

I have learned that NOTHING ever goes as I plan it. And when it does...my plans are not all that splendid. Sooo...I need to learn to roll better than my flat tire. I need to just quote my old supervisor who used to say, "They can't kill you and eat you." (Obviously she was never in a land of cannibals.) I need to see the gifts of warm safe house, food to eat and basic health. I need to trust in God and see that it's better to roll with it than panic and whine or *ahem* yell at the messenger. (Yes, I am ashamed.)

I ask God to forgive me when I do not roll better than a flat tire. I also ask my family and friends to forgive me for that unpleasant trait, among the many others I possess which show my lack of faith, patience and character. Sigh.

I pray that I will learn to roll better. If you have some flat spots, I hope you can smooth them out and roll better, too.

-Peace

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thanks, But...

So yesterday I woke up in the wee small hours of the morning feeling all anxious about things out of my control. (What is not out of my control, other than my responses?) All day, even as I acknowledged that handing it over to God was the thing to do, I worried and wondered and found new things to add to my pile of anxieties.

It was tiring. I think the only time I wasn't worried was when I was doing homework.

At some point it hit me that I am thankful for God's provision, for His hand working in my life and yet...I don't trust Him to follow through. I was still on guard and I was still trying to think through and plan for worst case scenarios. I wonder if next to the phrase, "What are we going to do if fill in the blank happens?" there is a picture of my 'deranged-with-anxiety' face.

I don't trust God? Really? Is that where I'm going?

You see, I offer Him my life, but then I want to be sure to micro manage as much as possible. I feel responsible for anticipating all the worst case scenarios, expecting them even. After all, anticipating them means I will have a plan, right? WRONG! All it means is that I have missed out on the joy of today worrying about possible sorrows of tomorrow, most of which never come to pass.

It also means I do not trust God to take care of me. I say He has my life. I say I am thankful for His provision and then I doubt His goodness. I say He is my portion and then my heart and mind and actions show how little I trust in Him.

I remember exactly where I was when this clicked in my head last night. I was turning the corner to walk up the stairs feeling the weight of so many things on my shoulders when I realized I was saying I trusted God, but never expecting Him to follow through.

That realization took my breath away. Am I all talk, no faith? I didn't think so. I mean I have faith. I believe He is enough and that He will provide. He always does. I just don't always walk the walk.

I worry everything to death. I over-analyze, prepare and plan. I want to do something, to have a hand in things and be in control.

In effect, whenever I recognize and am thankful for God's blessings in my life, it is my habit to say, "Thanks but, fill in the blank with whatever could go wrong."

What I should be doing, what I could be doing, is rejoicing in the blessings, living in the moment and letting God handle things. My worry is not going to change a single thing and will end up sucking up my joy and the joy of those around me.

Last night, I went to bed saying, "Thank You, Lord, for Your provision and blessings. You have provided me with enough and I am going to lean on You and trust in Your word." It is a tough habit to break, to not say, "Thank You, but..." .

Do you have times when you ask God for provision and then can't just be happy when He responds, but instead wait for the other shoe to drop? If you are faced with those worries and fears, check out Matthew 6: 25-31. Jesus says it better than I ever could.

-Peace



Friday, March 30, 2012

Walking in Worship

Worship.  My walk today was filled worship and thanksgiving, praise and gratitude.

The sky was a brilliant blue, the horizon rimmed with wispy clouds. It was brisk, though, and I almost turned around and went back to the momvan but decided to tuck my hands into the sleeves of my fleece  the Husband's fleece jacket and persevere...for at least one lap.

As I got out of my van and tucked my earbuds in, I decided I was in the mood for a little Chris Tomlin, "Our God".  I just love the strings in the intro and it reminds me of some talented musicians I know and that makes me smile.  The song also reminds me of worship at both the MOPS International convention and the Women of Faith event I attended last fall.  (Both are wonderful opportunities for growth and renewal.  If you can go, please do!  I wish I could swing the trip to MOPS convention again this year.)

Into the darkness you shine.  Out of the ashes we rise. There's no one like You.  None like You. ...Our God is healer, awesome in power... 


I've been thinking a lot about how we rise from the ashes. I've also found a lot of comfort in the belief that God is a healer in our hearts and souls and minds.  Healing comes in so many ways.

Laura Story's Blessings shuffled through the mix.  As I started listening I looked to the sky and said, "Thank You!"  I was reminded as I heard the opening notes that I had prayed some passionate prayers last night as I went to sleep and that I had already seen His hand at work in response.  Amen! Thank you, Jesus for your blessings.

So I will confess, I might have been singing along out loud in public.  Whoops.  All the while, you hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things. (Cue teary eyes...and not because the wind was very brisk.)


As I walked, I reflected on how I had experienced the lyrics in vibrant technicolor in the past week.  I thought about how these words could bring comfort to my sweet friend if she was in the "right place" to hear them. How would you find mercies in these trials she is going through?  We can't always see that as possible, can we?  We're looking through our human eyes and not through the lens of God's promises

Other songs shuffled through and after 45 minutes I was headed back to the momvan when this came on: Careless.  I am reckless.  I'm a wrong-way travelling, slowly unraveling shell of a man.  Burnt out.  I'm so numb now that the fire's just an ember way down in the corner of my cold, cold heart.  Lord, this time, I'll make it right, here at the alter I lay my life.  Your kingdom come but my will was done, my heart is broken as I cry.  Like so many times before but my eyes are dry before I leave the floor. Oh Lord, I try but this time, Jesus How can I be sure I will not lose my follow-through between the alter and the door? (Casting Crowns)

That, folks, is the story of the last 6 months or so of my life.  I find myself on fire for His purpose and then... I lose my follow through.   


I arrived back home renewed and restored unlike the last time I walked through that park.  This morning I vowed to follow through and to seek out His will and not my own.  How that will shake out remains to be seen.  I guess I can just try to remain open to His voice.

-Peace

The Voice..A Review

As a member of the Thomas Nelson Blog Bunch (that nifty button to the right --->) I have the privilege of being able to review a copy of The Voice New Testament for freeeeeee! :)  What a gift!

We have many Bibles in our home, between the Husband and I both attending seminary, the kids each having a Bible and the Bibles we all have been gifted.  I do not consider myself an expert or Biblical scholar.  (You should know by now, that I do not like to call myself an expert of anything.)  However, I do know enough about scripture to know when I've got something wonderful in my hands.

I returned home from my funeral journey to a package and inside that package was The Voice.  What a blessing to find a new way of reading God's word after such an emotional and faith-requiring journey!

The scripture that was topmost on my mind was 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, so that is where I turned.  I read those verses from the New American Bible over and over again as I prepared to read them at the Mass and then again afterward as I reminded myself of the hope in the God's word, so I turned to it immediately and loved the way the story was told.  The Voice is intended to invite us to "Step into the story of scripture" and that is just what I did as I read.  The meaning did not change from the other translations on my counter (there are three others there right now).  What changed was the relational aspect of the text, the communication and accessibility.  


The Voice, from what I have read so far, is a wonderful way to experience the New Testament.  And I do mean "experience". It is a gift to have a different and yet true way to read scripture.

From the Preface: Our idea was to set up a collaborative  process whereby scholars and writers could work together to create a translation that was faithful and accurate to the original languages while at the same time beautiful and readable to our English-speaking audience. (p. xiii)

The phrase faithful and accurate to the original languages is key.  I really felt that was a true statement as I sampled various parts of The Voice.  Translating from the original language (in the case of the New Testament, Greek) is not cut and dried as there are contextual particularities as well as variations in meaning depending on that context etc.  (This happens in English too if you think about homonyms such a "bow".)  

The Voice also takes into account that the Bible as we know it is compiled of writings by many different people who were inspired by God.  The Voice retains the unique literary perspective of the human writers.  Most English translations attempt to even out the styles of the different authors in sentence structure and vocabulary.  Instead, The Voice distinguishes the uniqueness of each author. (p. xi)  I feel that this uniqueness speaks to and honors our own experience and personal relationship with God.  By recognizing that we all may not use the same words and express our faith in the same way, we are honoring that we are all uniquely and wonderfully made in His image but not identical.

The Voice is a wonderful addition to devotion time and and opportunity to experience scripture as a story.

-Peace

Thursday, March 29, 2012

We Will Be Caught Up Together

As part of my weekend, I had the privilege to read 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 at my sweet friend's husband's funeral mass.

I can tell you that as I sat in the pew before people arrived, I prayed that God would use me as He saw fit; that everything I said and did was to serve as His hands and feet and not to serve my own needs.  I wanted to forget my own self-consciousness as my heels echoed down the aisle, not worry about getting tongue tied as I said, "Thessalonians", not worry about what anyone thought of my reading...that my only purpose was to speak His words of truth in this reading, to vocalize from the page the hope in these words.

I gave my copy of the bulletin to someone, so I was flying blind as to when I was to speak.  I thought I would look over the shoulder of the people seated in front of me..but they kept their bulletins closed. (Ach!  Do you feel my panic rising?  I just kept telling myself, "It's not about me."  Thankfully, the priest walked us through everything.)

When I turned to see my friend standing at the entrance, holding the hand of her daughter, my heart was in my throat and my chest was aching with contained sobs while the tears flowed down my cheeks. (Waterproof mascara is not tear-proof. Just sayin'.)  As I stood there, I realized that the last time I had been in this church was for a wedding...their wedding.  I took some deep breaths and focused on the priest and on God.  ("Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace."  Oh yes, I did say that prayer to myself over and over and over again.)

When it was my turn to clomp up the aisle (apparently I wear the world's loudest shoes, at least it felt that way)  and stand at the lectern, I smoothed out my page, took a steadying breath and read.  I do not know exactly where in the scripture my voice began to crack, but it did.  I couldn't help it.  As I read, "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds..." I looked up and out at the faces and in my heart I was screaming, "WE WILL BE CAUGHT UP TOGETHER!"  That is our consolation, we will all be together again and no matter how horrible and sad and unfair it all feels, this is not the end of the story.  (Thank YOU, Jesus!)

The priest's homily focused on this hope and I know his words were comforting to all, as I heard the word "hope" spoken a great deal afterward.  When we speak of hope, it is so often for tangible things or things we can clearly envision. ("I hope we win the game."  "I hope the baby sleeps through the night.")   I don't know about you, but for me, the hope that Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians and the hope the priest spoke of, they are difficult to clearly envision.  I have that hope, but the paradise we hear of, especially as we await Easter and the resurrection, is just not a place I can design a glossy-pictured brochure of, know what I mean?  I can describe it, mostly, but it's kind of nebulous like those clouds we will all be caught up in together.  I believe in it and I place my hope in it, but I cannot begin to wrap my mind around the paradise God has prepared for us. I am human enough to admit that my wildest imagination will fall short of God's abilities.

However, as we gathered together, hugging and loving and yes, even laughing, I got a taste of that togetherness.  The gift of sharing in the burdens and hurts as well as the joys of life is part of our beautiful and wonderful humanity.  Perhaps as we are caught up together in this life, we taste the hope of the time when we will all be caught up together in the clouds.  This weekend hope was in the love and care of family and friends joined together to celebrate and grieve a man, to hug a woman and little girl and to stand together as witnesses to a future and love.

It was a glimpse into the truths of the scripture, "We will be caught up together."

-Peace

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dust and Seasons and Sadness...

The weather was GORGEOUS this morning. In fact it still is. I went for my walk/run in the park and the weather could not have been more glorious, the tunes on my ipod were just as spunky as always and yet...with each step the feeling of anxiety and unrest grew.

When I got home and the Husband asked how my walk was, I responded, "Okay, I just feel like something is off." I explained how I had this feeling of foreboding, a feeling that reminded me of the day my mom died, when I knew something was wrong but couldn't place it. The Husband reminded me that I have had that feeling before without it meaning anything other than that I was feeling anxious for no particular reason.

He is right, of course. Just because I get a feeling that something is off or wrong, it doesn't mean that my feelings are justified.

Then this afternoon I learned that the friend I wrote about here and here had lost the battle. Sadness filled me, replacing the angst over unknowns with realities that break my heart.

I know that we all walk on this earth temporarily and leave our marks for an eternity in ways we may never comprehend. We all have a purpose and a place and a season. It is not easy to accept the limits placed upon our existence, but it is part of humanity. Ecclesiastes 3:20 ...All come from dust, and to dust all return. This is not our home. I just wish people didn't have to leave...and those left behind did not have to ache in the loss.

Wishing you peace and love and comfort in your sorrows as well as your joy.

-Peace

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Self-Destruct Buttons

One of the cartoons my boys like to watch has a bumbling scientist who tries to be evil but fails miserably in his schemes.  One of his many downfalls is the self-destruct button he installs on his contraptions.

I look around me (and in the mirror) and I see that humans also have self-destruct buttons.  We say teenagers think they're invincible but I'm not sure it is a trait that is only held by the young.  Once people (myself included) start to feel a little bit of success, we start to expect more success.  How could anything go wrong?  I am a confirmed "cup half empty" woman and even I start to feel invincible.  All that positive thinking sometimes clouds my judgement.  I start to believe it's all about me and my "doing" and I lose sight of all that goes into success. When I do that, it's like I hit a self-destruct button and things begin to go downhill.

Now, you may think that I am about to tell you that all the gifts we have are from God and we have to give Him credit.  I do believe that, but that isn't really my point, even if that is the most important point.

No, instead, I'm going to suggest that too many things need to fall into place to give me (or you or anyone else, for that matter) success.  Our successes (and failures) do not happen in a vacuum and if I am being honest, a lot of other people need to do things in order for my piece of goodness to work out.  This does not mean I am without power or influence or that I cannot control my own destiny.  It just changes the way I view controlling said destiny.  I cannot control everything that happens.  I can, however, control my responses.

Recently, I started thinking about how I  could make something work out.  I figured out all of my possibilities BUT I cannot control any other person's possibilities, behaviors or responses.  Ignoring all of the other unknowns would be a lot like hitting a self-destruct button.  They are called "unknown" for a reason.  If I walk through life thinking because I've got a plan that 1. the plan will come off without a hitch and 2. everyone else is going to behave exactly as I expect....I might as well save myself the trouble and just hit the self-destruct button now because self-destruction is inevitable.

"Gee, thanks for that uplifting thought, Stacey!"  Wait..there is good news here.  First it helps to recognize that we are not the center of the universe (that would be the big glowing orb in the sky we call the sun) and therefore we need to realize that there are lots of things we cannot control or even anticipate.  Second...and this is the really good part, even if it all goes south, (as in we mess up big time and hit that self-destruct button with both hands) God can use it all for good.

He can and He does.

That doesn't mean we should go around self-destructing willy nilly, because "using it for good" is not synonymous with "painless".  We can learn and grow from self-destructing, but it might hurt us and those we love and if we can't predict what would happen when we think we have it all figured out, then we can't expect to predict what will happen when we self-destruct.

No, my point is that when we mess up, which is a when not an if, we can face forward, look toward the future and experience how life will unfold in new and unexpected ways.  With vision and expectation, we can see the gifts that rise out of the ashes of our self-destruction.  Again, what caused those ashes is probably going to hurt, so I'm not advocating running headfirst into those flames screaming like that scene from Braveheart as you press the destruct button...I'm saying we seem to be wired to occasionally self-destruct and we can come out on the other side.  Thank You, Jesus!

-Peace

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On One Condition

Last night I was thinking about unconditional love.

I was driving home feeling incredibly frustrated about a situation in which I think I am doing the right things but still not getting the desired results.  I dreaded walking in the door because I knew in my heart and soul that if I tried to address the issue I would say the wrong things.

I ended up grumbling a "Hello" putting my stuff away and saying, "Goodnight, I'm going to bed."

I am fairly certain I heard my 17 yo say, "Okaaaay." as I walked up the stairs.  (You know what that sounds like with the elongated long a, right?)

My mother handled conflict by just not speaking.  She would get mad at my dad and not speak to him for days (three days sticks in my mind) and if anyone dared appear to align with him, they also got the silent treatment.

Last night was not intended as a silent treatment but as a "mom timeout".  I knew I could not say anything "right".  If I said anything, it would have come out sounding like conditional love.  There are only so many times you can say "I love you but I don't like ___ ."   There are only so many ways to say, "Can't you just (fill in the blank with whatever will make me feel better, more competent or secure)?"

I recognize that I cannot use emotional coercion to get the results I desire.  I realize that loving children is a tiring, difficult and unpredictable job.  I have learned through 17 + years of being a mom to 6 amazing kids that their behavior is not about me, but about what they are experiencing.  I can teach them appropriate societal norms and they follow those, mostly.  I cannot however always get them to be happy or helpful or even as quiet as I would like.  I am not raising puppets.  Raising puppets with perfect obedience would be much less stressful.

In these moments, when I get to fully experience my powerlessness as a parent, I am reminded  that God, our heavenly Father, has to put up with me... Me with the free will He gave me and a penchant for doing what I please and not always what pleases Him. Yet, even when I am not very lovable, God gives me unconditional love and forgiveness and grace.

His only condition is that I believe in Him and that faith was a gift to me.

I do my best to show my kids unconditional love.  I'm not quite as good at it as I could be.  I hope they do know they have the unconditional love of a far superior parent...God.

-Peace

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

God and Monkeys

Today as I sat in MOPS, I thought to myself, "There's my next blog post." The problem with that is...I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. Sigh.

We had a great conversation about faith with the pastor of our church. It was comfortable and pleasant and the time passed far too quickly.

One of the things that is popping to my mind now is our conversation about Godly friends (which was not the "There's my next blog post" thought but hey, you get what pops to mind when I sit down. You get what you pay for... just sayin'. ;) )

One of the great things about our MOPS group is that we do not all belong to the same congregation or denomination. In fact, while MOPS is a Christian organization they are highly cognizant of the reality that we all are in different places on our spiritual journey. We are all, however, on a spiritual journey and we are able to lift each other up, support each other and pray for each other.

This blog is called "1prayingmom" because I am one praying mom. I pray a lot because, to be quite honest, I need to. In the hard times I know I can turn to God (and Godly friends) and that I can walk through impossible things because of that faith. I actually wonder how I would get through any of it without that faith. It would be too easy to throw up my hands in despair and give up or lose myself in the depths of it. (I almost did lose myself to some extent last year, but I found myself again. I call it my midlife crisis.)

So back to Godly friends...I have been blessed with amazing Godly friends, through MOPS but in other places too. When I attended the Women of Faith event in Rochester last November, Dr. Henry Cloud told the story of research done on monkeys and how they weather stress better when they have another monkey with them. He told us to make sure we had our monkeys. Monkeys became one of those things the ladies I attended with referred to often...and a friend of mine whose mom was there texted her and told her to get monkeys. The monkey allusion worked and was meaningful for us.

So a few weeks ago, in the depths of some personal crisis this was gifted to me...
My friend wanted me to know she cared...So I look at this monkey and remember Godly friends who love and care about me and my family. They celebrate with me in the good times and hold me up in the hard times. They made the tough times more bearable, whether it was by babysitting or texting, calling or praying. You see, life really is easier with monkeys.

So I'm a monkey, you're a monkey, please make sure you have your monkeys too. :)

-Peace

Monday, March 5, 2012

Smile (Or at Least Don't Scowl...)

This morning I went grocery shopping.  It was a normal shopping experience.  I have become accustomed to people who look annoyed that there is someone else shopping in the same store and glaring at me because I am walking where they want to be walking.

I try to be considerate of others, not block aisles etc, but since I am shopping too, I am fairly certain I have the right to walk down the aisles and stop to take an item off the shelf.  Today more than once people were scowling at me as though I had no right to be there.  Now you might be wondering if perhaps my unruly children were the cause of the hairy eyeballs...but since I was flying solo... unless I had my dress tucked into my tights (which I did not, it's cold enough here that I would have noticed that breeze) there was really no reason for all the scowling.

I think people just scowl through their daily life.  Really.  I bet they don't even realize they're doing it.  Or do I just bring out the scowl in everyone?  Again, dress isn't tucked into my tights, I bathe daily and even do a light spritz of Coach "Poppy"...so I don't think it's always just my presence causing the scowls...and it really isn't all about me.  I do get that.

So why so glum?  I realize the economy is not so hot.  I know people have problems.  Newsflash! We all have problems. I know people are in pain, physical and emotional.  I'm not saying walk around like grinning idiots.  I'm just humbly suggesting that scowling through your day isn't exactly beneficial to your health or your wrinkles. (Not to mention that it takes more muscles to frown that smile...I read that somewhere.)

I admit I am not always smiley and I am pretty sure I was glaring holes through the woman in front of me in line who was bad mouthing all young people as lazy.  (I wanted to tell her about the teenagers I have known who work hard in school, extracurricular activities, in their churches and even as cashiers in the supermarket where I see them smiling and efficiently working.)

I try to greet life with an open and hopefully pleasant mindset.  I don't know what your struggles are and you don't know mine, but we are all human and we can at least be courteous and moderately pleasant to those we meet.  (Again, not grinning idiots, just ... human, compassionate even.)

What if we followed Carole King's lyrics...
You've got to get up every morning, with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart.  Then people are gonna treat you better.  You're gonna find, yes you will, that you're beautiful, as you feel.


-Peace

Friday, March 2, 2012

Faith

Sometimes I just don't even know what to say or think or feel.

Numb.

Last week I spent a lot of time asking God to give me the words to speak and to know when to speak them and when to be quiet.  That is a delicate and mysterious thing and not always my gift.  But things are improving.  I am able to turn my gaze outward again and am so appreciative of the love and support my friends offered and so freely shared.

This afternoon, I read a message that left me feeling...numb.  It was not something totally unexpected but still I thought, "Well, that just sucks!"  (If the word "sucks" offends you, I apologize.)  I was hoping for a different outcome.  I was praying for a miracle instead of this finite timeline for some dear friends.

As my husband stood across the breakfast bar, I read him the message.  He sighed.  I think he may have said, "That just sucks" but I'm not sure.

I am not a loud fighter (though the Husband may dispute this) but I do hold out hope that the timeline is not as short as the experts say.  Perhaps they will experience that gift of time we so often read about when smiling and healthy looking people say, "The doctors said I had X left and that was 10 years ago."

I do know one thing, I have faith in our medical community.  I believe doctors want to heal their patients and that  they do not give up.

But, you know in whom I have more faith?  Come on, you know what I'm going to say.  I have more faith in God who writes the story of our lives, knows the number of hairs on our heads and the burdens of our heart to know how many days we have left to walk on this earth.  I have faith that healing comes in many forms, in body and heart and soul.  I have faith that whatever time any of us have on this earth can be used for His glory.  God can use anything for good and I grip that with two hands through all the pain and worry of my life.  

I pray that my friends can do that for now and for always.  I pray for them to feel peace and comfort in the days and months ahead, knowing that they are loved and prayed for by so many and that through whatever they may face, God is still walking alongside them.  Does that sound like a trite and hollow promise when one is facing something tragic?  To some it may.  For me...it is what keeps me hanging on and moving forward.  It is where my hope and strength come from...because they sure don't come from me.

Can you join me in prayer for those battling illnesses, for their families and friends, caregivers and medical personnel?  Lord, thank you for your gifts and blessings, for being with us through it all and for holding us up when we feel  alone and numb, scared and confused.  When we doubt, fill us with faith.  When we are angry, fill us with calm.  When we are hopeless...fill us with hope in Your kingdom.  Amen.

-Peace

Thursday, March 1, 2012

1 Down...

The other day, I mentioned that each of the boys picked out fabric so I could make them pajama pants.  This afternoon I finished the first pair.



I used Simplicity 3669.  They are super easy to whip up. *I* loved that flame fabric.  He wants me to make a matching shirt but I think a coordinating t-shirt (not the one he's wearing here!) is the ticket. :)  After all, 3 of his brothers have fabric waiting to be made into pants, I have a skirt I want to make for the girly and at least one more penguin to make.  Plus...I would like to make slipcovers for our love seat.

The Husband pointed out that I was "glowing" as I discussed my current and future sewing plans.  I love doing these projects.  It's so much fun to create useful things.  Is everything perfect?  Far from it.  But I enjoy the process and I think each attempt to create goes more smoothly and looks a little bit better.

I have learned to take my time, press the seams and take a chance.  While I do worry about "wasting money" if I make a mistake and end up with a mess, I guess I would never learn anything if "What if I mess up?" stopped me all of the time.  Instead, I learn and try and sometimes, most of the time, it works out just fine...and when it doesn't...that just means I can try again..or not.  ;)

-Peace

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It Was "Sew" Easy

the other day I was reading this tutorial at mesewcrazy.com and my 7 yo asked me to make him the cooler than cool penguin there.

So the other day I took the five youngest children to Joann Fabrics (which was an adventure, let me tell you) and the 4 younger boys each picked out fabric for me to make them pajama pants and we got some black, white and red fleece to create this cute little guy.  (Red because *E* wanted it to look like a particular type of penguin.)

I printed the pattern and cut everything out the other day, followed the first couple of steps and realized I had no eyes for the poor guy which meant I had to take a break.

Today I went down to the dungeon/ sewing area and spent about an hour putting this baby together.  I didn't do everything exactly like the tutorial.  I left off the embroidery around the belly and I didn't make a hat for him, but isn't that the joy of making things, taking creative license?

I think he likes it. :)

I am so thankful for the creative people who share their nifty projects and ideas.  I am inspired and it encourages me to try all sorts of new things.  If you share your cool ideas, thank you!

-Peace

Friday, February 24, 2012

Who's Your Daddy?

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I've been reflecting on this verse a great deal lately.  Thinking about what I treasure, what I worship and idolize and how it impacts my heart and soul.

It is so easy to get distracted by minutia, build it up, put a fence around it, maybe even put it on an altar and worship it.

I don't want to worship stuff, as nice as some stuff is.  I mean, stuff has a habit of breaking (especially in my house).  Stuff has a habit of becoming outdated.  I find stuff doesn't provide lasting satisfaction, just like that whipped cream filled, chocolate frosted doughnut makes me feel full and happy for a little while then leaves me tired, cranky and craving more.

And worshiping people...people are human and no matter how much they love us, how good their intentions are, how brilliant or creative or generous they are, they just can't be anything more than human.  When I elevate them and put them on an altar and worship them, they feel the pressure.  They also get a little dizzy up on that altar and they tend to falter and not quite measure up to status I've given them in my mind.  Perhaps they never even intended to be the object of my worship in the first place.

This week has been one of growth, painful and scary and real.  It has been an opportunity to remember that God is in control.  It has been an opportunity to remember that no matter what stuff we have, no matter how much I love someone, sometimes that is just not enough.  It is in these times of realization that I humbly remember just exactly Who is my Father.  I remember that He loves each of us more than we can comprehend.

In this week, I have focused more on God's provision than my own ability.  My treasures are not found in things.  I love my family but I cannot love them more that God does.  My treasure is my faith in God, and when my heart is with Him, I can find peace and hope and comfort in the storms.  After all isn't that what Fathers do, give us comfort in the storms?  And He's my Daddy.  (And yours too.)

-Peace

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stretch Marks

My facebook status this morning was:

God doesn't give us anything we can't handle (with his help).  At first I wished He didn't have so much faith in me, then I realized He was teaching me faith in Him.


We always talk about how easy it is to praise God in the good times and how difficult it is to sing praises in the hard times.  I try to remember that in the hard times I seem to learn more and grow more.  I write about it a lot too, I think. ;)

Yesterday I was telling a friend I am just not strong enough for "this".  She said I didn't have to be, that she and others were there to prop me up.  And she reminded me of the words I said to her a little while ago, "You've got this and He's got you."

He's got us all and He's teaching me a lot about myself, about others and about Him.  I didn't think I was strong enough, but I didn't have any choice except to walk this path.  I am not walking gracefully.  I have been known to yell about minor things, power cry in the bathroom and the silver lining..I've lost 7 pounds (I need to lose a few more, but I think I'm already regaining my appetite pfft!).

I am so thankful too, that God doesn't expect me to be graceful in my growing.  He fully expects that His teaching will stretch me and stretching tends to leave marks.  These marks are badges of our courage and strength.  It may not always be pretty in a conventional sense, but they can be a visible reminder of the experience and the lessons from that sort of growth are beautiful.

As I grow in my own life walking paths I don't think I can, I am reminded that God is walking with me.  I am learning again and again that He is always present, He is always there.   He is patiently whispering, "Have faith in Me.  I've got you."  I stretch and grow and learn that it's not that God has faith in my ability but that my faith in Him enables me to do things I never could on my own.

-Peace

Monday, February 20, 2012

Just Babbling

 To say life has been surreal and a little unpleasant the past few days would be an epic understatement.

I don't think I can go into the details here, it's too raw, too unsettled...too everything.

I can tell you, though, that God is Amazing.  There are some amazing people in this world and I am thankful and grateful to have them touching the lives of my family.  They are the hands and feet of God.  And did I mention, our God is an amazing?

So I've been playing this song to remind myself that God is stronger, greater and higher.

-Peace and Love

Monday, February 13, 2012

Be Nice.

I didn't watch the Grammy's last night.  I got teary watching weddings on Walton's mountain.  I'm a geek like that.

A friend of mine posted on crackbook facebook about Taylor Swift and then I youtubed (not even a real verb, according to my grammar check) "Mean" after reading about it in the newspaper.
Aaaw.  I was that little girl with no one to sit with at lunch, the girl who was told to, "Make like a tree and leave" and heard everyone else at the table laugh as I walked away, crushed, humiliated and so alone.  (Do you know that girl's name pops up on facebook under "people I may know" once in a while and I still, to this day, get sick to my stomach?)

Now, I am the mother of 6 who knows that her kids have experienced or will experience the mean things.  I sit on the sidelines hoping I have built them up enough to not internalize the mean words.  I hug them afterward wishing I could wash that pain away.  The Husband and I try to advocate for their safety when the bullies go over the line.  It's just so...mean.

Someday I'll be living in a big old city and all you're ever gonna be is mean.  Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me and all you're ever gonna be is mean.  Why you gotta be so mean?


In college, a friend of mine had a poster with fancy cars parked in front of a mansion.  The caption read, "Living well is the best revenge."

I try not to teach my kids that revenge is a good option.  In fact when my oldest was being bullied in 5th or 6th grade I tried to encourage him to think about what might be going on in his tormentor's life to make him behave as he did.  I'm not sure my boy felt loved or supported with those words.  While I believe in teaching empathy and compassion, I think I neglected to show him strong enough support in that horrid time.  Regrets, I have a few...

So, now I focus on the future with all of my kids.  Life will bring people like this into our lives and we get to choose how to respond.  We can stand up for ourselves without being vengeful.  We can remember that mean words do not have to define us.  We can hopefully internalize that we are loved and cherished and uniquely and wonderfully made by God.

Someday we will have opportunities to choose to be kind. We can choose to be judgmental or accepting.  We can choose to live a life filled with joy or bitterness.  We may taste the bitter but we don't have to make a meal of it.  Most of all...we do not have to be mean.

-peace





Sunday, February 5, 2012

Up Late Reading

Starting when I was in 5th grade, it was not unusual for me to stay up into the wee small hours of the morning reading.

I would get into my book and not be able to put it down.  I would devour books.  The summer after I graduated from college I did the same thing.  One of my dear friends, M, sent me a bunch of mysteries and I bought others in the series.

This habit continued and was enabled by my first post-college job in a bookstore.  (Sadly reading while working was frowned upon, but there was a generous discount.)  I married a bookstore man so after I was out of the business he would feed my habit.  (Hows that for enabling? lol)

To me there is nothing better than becoming engrossed in the story, getting to know the characters, and in a mystery, trying to solve the crime.  I will say, if I do not like the protagonist, I find it difficult to read the book. I get tired of formulaic stories (if in a series the protagonist always ends up getting herself into danger, I get annoyed.  A little common sense goes a long, long way with me.)  and I am not into graphic gore, but if I can relate (or wish to relate) to the characters, I am hooked.

So last night I stayed up too late getting lost in Marybeth Whalen's book, She Makes It Look Easy, and I loved Ariel.  It could be that I identified with her having 3 boys to my 5, it could be that she was a genuinely good person, but whatever the case I liked her.  I enjoyed the plot too, because I can see how this can and does happen every single day.  Most of all, I think Marybeth (is it too familiar to refer to the author that way, Mrs. Whalen sounds so formal?) did a great job of showing authentic life of a Christian wife and mother, not a caricature.  Ariel isn't overly pious but she is faith-filled and I believed in her.  I want to have coffee with her and chat, I want to laugh about smothering burnt toast in peanut butter and the things boys will do in packs.  

As I was laying half asleep on the couch lamenting that my children only wish to sleep late Monday through Friday, I found myself  thinking about the book and wishing, hoping, that she would make this into a series so I could get to know Ariel, her family, her friends and her neighbors better.

While I could have used a few more hours of sleep, this book brought me rest in other ways, much as I did all those years ago reading Nancy Drew as a preteen (because "tween" wasn't coined yet lol) or Diane Mott Davidson (still a favorite) in my early 20s.

Losing myself in a good story is a great way to relax and while I'm reading, if I'm reading the right things, I am able to come away focused, strengthened and renewed. So while I didn't get enough hours of sleep last night, I did get some rest.

I pray that you can find peace and rest in many different ways, in God and His word, in sleep and in other pastimes which can feed your mind and soul.

-Peace

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Am Never Enough

Today I was praying quite emotional prayers, head down to the ground, just crying out to God.  It was a conversation, an impassioned one.

I was crying out in fear.  Fear of my own inadequacy.  "God," I cried, "Please help me.  I am trying to do everything I can but it's never enough." As I sobbed into the carpet, I heard the whisper, "I am enough, you can never be enough, but I am enough."  He is enough.  God is enough.

I am trying to give my fear to God, to see His provision, His strength and His sword-wielding skills as enough.  (Yes, I do love that image, thank you, Lisa Harper.)  But my human self tells me I need to be in control.  The tough part is, that I cannot be in control of this.  I can act, I can make efforts, I can do my best to respond, but control is not totally mine.  I. Do. Not. Like. It.  Not. One. Bit.  It's very scary.

Wednesday night I had a dream that I had huge shards of glass in my neck and chest.  It was symbolic of my pain and as I go through each day since then, I feel those shards still.  It's unnerving. It is not of God to feel this sort of fear.  It is not of God to feel this sort of doubt.  This situation is not of  God but of lies whispered by an evil one who is able to get into the cracks in hearts and minds of people, deceiving and distracting them from the great blessings of God.

I know that things could be so much worse than they are.  I hope and pray it doesn't go down that path.  I am doing my best to prevent it but I know I need to trust in others and in God to fight this battle alongside me.  None of us is alone in this crazy world of whispers of hope and of deceit.

We can choose what we listen to and I am hopeful that the voice of Truth is loud enough to discredit the lies.

-Peace

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I think what you see in the picture, writing on my hand, may (does) qualify as distracted driving.

I was driving, listening to a pastor speaking on the radio (Not something I normally, do.  Usually I like to sing along.) and he was talking about fear.

I am sure I've mentioned more than once that I tend to operate in fear mode a good part of the time.  It is something I'm working on but I have been struggling with it a lot.

So the pastor said he was going to give 5 scripture verses that the listeners could write down and refer back to.  I was at a red light, reached in my purse, found a pen (act of God in itself. LOL), and waited.  The light                           turned green before he was done, so I admit to writing on my hand while driving.  This also accounts for not being able to read all of the writing.

==================================================================
part two...because as I sat down to write about giving my fear to God more fully...
the phone rang and my life turned upside down and turning over fear to God became, "If I do not act, something really awful could happen."  Fear became the driving force in my life.

Is this Satan taking a foothold?  Maybe.  I know there is a battle going on and I feel like a spectator without even the words to speak in prayer.  I am reduced to the short phrase, "Please help!"."Get behind me Satan."

The other day in a devotion written by Lisa Harper (Lisaharper.net, "Marie Mondays") she wrote about remembering that God was the one holding the sword to slay the dragons.  She has the best imagery.  So I am here right now, trying to hang out behind God while he wields the sword and hope He's got it covered.

Right now I am struggling with it so if you have a few spare prayers...I'd appreciate them.

-Peace

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

People Like Me

Today the Husband and I "had words". He said, "It's because of people like you..."

Ouch. That hurt. Mostly because I know he's right.

So being a mature woman, I ranted a bit then I self-righteously gathered up our newspaper recycling and said,"Goodbye." I said I was dropping off the recycling and just going out.

So now I type on my iPod from Panera. (Talk about time consuming on this tiny touchpad. LOL)

The issue? I don't like waves except in the ocean. He proudly tells the story of being at Shea Stadium as a child with his grandfather and his grandfather reprimanding teenagers tossing their litter over the railing. Absolutely right thing to do. Speak up.

Here's the thing, I cringe a little. I mean what if...

So while I care deeply about people and about social injustice and about wrongs done, the truth is I am a mouse about speaking up or out. Whistleblower probably would not be my nickname.

Not exactly a shining example of evangelism or faith. Sigh.

Convicted. Ashamed.

And yet, in my life when I have felt unsupported, forgotten, unprotected and without a voice, how alone and forsaken I have felt. When others reach out, speak out and respond in love and faith, I feel God's love soothing my broken soul.

It is people like me, afraid and silent, who miss the opportunities to be His hands and feet on earth. It is people like me who allow hurt and pain and affliction to go unchecked.

My fear becomes my millstone and it is tied around my neck, preventing me from living fully for Him and His glory.

I guess this post today is something of a confession. I admit my fear and now try to find ways to face and conquer, to change.

Do you ever struggle with speaking up? Do you see it as prudent or problematic? I think there is a balance and one must use wisdom.

There are times when speaking up is appropriate and necessary and required.

Lord, I ask you for the strength and wisdom to do what is right and good, and to never hesitate to do what will glorify You.

-Peace



Monday, January 30, 2012

I Read The Book and I Am Choosing to SEE

Yesterday I started reading Mary Beth Chapman's book, Choosing to SEE.

On FB I posted this: "Amazing, heart-wrenching, humorous, inspiring, transparent, beautiful."  I also mentioned a recommendation to be prepared with tissues and preparing to be changed.

The book is about a journey.  There were parts where I laughed (cackled ?) out loud and also huge portions where I cried real tears, sobbing and wiping my eyes, sniffling.  The death of the Chapman's 5 year-old daughter in a tragic accident is the  center of this book but it is about a story that began before she joined their family and how this little girl's too-short life is still impacting the world today.

This isn't meant to be a review of the book, but I wholeheartedly recommend it.  I was in awe of Mrs. Chapman's candor.  I felt as though she was not jut saying the right words because it is what she should say as a Christian.

It is a realization of how blind I have been.  Not only because I don't want to take for granted these moments in time, but because it is so very easy to lose sight of what is truly important, what is from God and where I am hearing (and internalizing) lies.

In so many books, I hear about this concept of "Choosing to SEE" how God is acting in our lives, in our world.  Anthony DeMello writes of the need to "wake up" in Awareness.  I'm sure there are other examples, other books, others who recognize that we must be open to the miracles, the love, the gifts, the Truth. Being open is a choice.  It is not always as easy as working at it, DeMello warns against that.  No, I think it is about opening one's heart and one's mind to the love surrounding us.

I do not think it will mean that life has less suffering, but if I am aware, if I am walking in faith, believing and following the Truth instead of being deceived by lies, I will see the blessings in the hardships, the gifts in the pain and the provision in the desert.

My passion is reignited.  My soul is refreshed.  I can see more clearly as I let go.

-Peace

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I'm No Expert

What makes someone an expert?

I can honestly tell you that like people are legends in their own minds, there are many who are experts in their own minds as well.

Now, I am not saying that there aren't people with specialized knowledge, exceptional insight or abilities that deserve our respect.  I do believe that there are people who are more skilled, practiced or have more natural abilities.  However, I do not think the word "expert" is one to be tossed around lightly.

For instance, as a mom of 6 beasties, some will jokingly say that I am an expert at the mom thing.  I will quickly correct them.  "Oh, no no no!"  As my friend "K" (also a mom of 6) says, "The more children I have, the more I realize I don't know."  She goes on to say something to the effect of, "When I had one I had all the answers.  When I had two, I was still pretty boldly thinking I had this down.  With each child, I realize there are not perfect answers for every issue with every child and that I don't know anything."

Do experts need to have all the answers?  I think what makes a person most skilled (That almost came out as "most killed" because my "s" key is being difficult) is admitting they don't know all of the answers, or even recognizing that being an expert may not be the goal.

I have a lot of knowledge about many different things.  Some of it I learned in a classroom, much of it through experience and my own inquisitive nature.  I am hesitant, however, to ever suggest I have a definitive answer about most things.  I think most of what I know is subjective, open to interpretation and bias.  There is very little in this world which is so simple.

I know how I see things.  I know what I believe to be true.  I know my experiences.  I know a lot of stuff but just because I've read it in a book or experienced it in my life, it does not mean it will be true for you.  I just see too much gray in this world.

This could prove problematic.  I mean,  I wonder, do I have to be an expert in something in order to be of value as a writer?  I don't know that I will ever feel expert at anything.  I have opinions.  I have knowledge and I guess wisdom, but am I an expert at anything?  I am just a traveler on this road.  I have love and knowledge, experience and viewpoints to share, but an expert? Not. So. Much.

As I was mending my 7 yo's pants today, I thought that I am even the "jack of all trades, master of few" mom and wife. I can do things but I am not an "expert" at anything.  I am okay at the day to day stuff of life, but I don't see myself as excelling or an expert.  (How's that for a glowing endorsement?)

Instead, I'm doing my best to fix the pants and hope they look "decent".

I try new things.  I take risks.  I share what I learn and I try to embrace the journey.  My life is about the journey, the shades of gray, the trial and error, the risk and reward.  I may not see myself as an expert and you don't really need to see me as one either, right? (Right?!)

I mean we all have our gifts and whether we are "experts" or not is immaterial (unless you're operating on my brain, in which case, I'd like you to be a highly experienced expert ;) ).  What matters at the end of the day, I hope ;), is using our gifts fully and sometimes maybe we'll be experts but sometimes maybe we'll just be regular people doing our best to use the gifts we've got in the time we've been given with the people right in front of us, loving them where they're at.

I guess being an expert as a mom or mender of pants or of laundry would be fantastic.  I don't know if it would make me more successful at loving the people in my life.  Being an expert at loving people...I don't know if there is a way to measure it, and I know I'm not an expert at it, but I'd like to be.  Just another way to try to do what Jesus would do.

-Peace

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's Mine All Mine.

You know you want a piece of this. ^  It's mine all mine.  (Although I might be willing to share it. ;) )

There are days (many, recently) when this sight makes me want to run screaming from the house to a nice, safe place where I can drink coffee from a paper cup in relative quiet and umm tidiness.

It's not that I do not love them or appreciate them.  It's just that there are times ( too frequently lately, I confess) when the scene above is Just. Too. Much.  I mean, the Lego blocks, the random papers, the mess and the noise (Oh the noise!)  just wear on me.  And it's an every day occurrence, the picture you see above.

Yesterday though, it didn't bother me.  Not. One. Bit.  I was relaxed and saw the joy and the gift in the chaos.  I wasn't even counting down to bedtime in my head.  (I did that Sunday.)

You can say, "You should be thankful for those children."  You're right, I should be.  And I am, mostly.  You can say, "You decided to have all those kids." You're right, we did.  You can say, "You might be sorry some day that you don't appreciate every moment you have."  You are absolutely correct.

The truth is, I think we cannot fully appreciate all of our blessings in the moment.  I think one of the gifts of hindsight is that we can  see our blessings in new and different ways.  Each night as I go to sleep, I reflect on the ways I could have and should have done things differently.  Each evening I pray for patience, for guidance, for forgiveness and yes, for peace.  I know that I need peace in my heart and mind in order to find peace in my day, especially in the midst of the chaos of daily life with 6 active, emotional offspring.

For whatever reason, I had a peaceful heart in the midst of that chaos last night and I saw my life in a different light.  The scene above didn't make me want to tear out my hair or run from the house in the mom van seeking   overpriced coffee in a paper cup.  Nope.  Last night I was able to go with the flow.

How tonight will go remains to be seen.  I have hope though, hope that even if tonight's chaos makes me want to run (which I cannot do because the Husband has an evening out with the guys planned) there will be more days in the future where I am able to go with the flow...and I will be very happy that this is mine all mine.

-Peace

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cozy and Safe

Aah comfort food.  Yes, friends, this is a bowl of Campbell's vegetable soup, just like my mom used to make, err heat up, for me.

The difference between now and then is that I no longer drown a whole sleeve of defenseless (or indefensible?) saltines in the bowl.

Now, I know that if I made my own vegetable soup it would probably have less sodium and other stuff in it. (I'm not going to say anything negative so the Campbell's people come after me. ;) ) I know that vegetable soup is easy to make.   In fact, I like making soup.  It's just that sometimes a little taste of my childhood is comforting, particularly on a cold and dreary winter day.

I've been joking about my age a lot.  I don't know why it bothers me to be getting older, but it does.  I remember that I wanted to dance with my dad at my wedding to Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide".   I've been afraid of changing because I've built my life around you.  But time makes you bolder, even children get older.  I'm getting older, too.  (Sadly, the band we hired didn't know the song and I had to settle.  I just thought it was perfect.)

I'm getting older too.

I may not have had any gray hairs yet (woohoo!) and I don't have too many wrinkles, but I'm sure they're coming. (If I'm lucky.)  Heck, undergarments that say "Age-defying support" are being marketed to me, that's just disturbing.

Anyway, sometimes I just want (or need) to feel like a little kid (or even 21) again, without the responsibilities that come with being a wife of one and mom to six.  I want to feel protected, not like the impotent protector.  I want to feel like all I need is a bowl of warm soup and some Sesame Street on the tube to have a good afternoon.

I guess part of getting older is learning to see the warmth and comfort in other places.  Like Lisa Harper described at the Women of Faith event in November, resting in God is like relaxing into a pile of warm laundry.  Isn't that a great image?  I just love it and am so thankful I heard her description because every time I pull some clothes from the dryer I am reminded of God's love.

And you know what? As I am growing older, I recognize that my peace and comfort can only come from God.    Childlike faith is all about believing in God and maybe that's one way I can work back toward my youth and relax a little bit because while I am an impotent protector, God is not.  While I am craving warm soup and Muppets, God gives me the Living Word to warm my heart and feed my soul.

It's okay to remember my youth but important to remember that I am who I am because of my journey...and most importantly, I am who I am because He created me. I will be cozy and safe because of Him, and you will be too.

-Peace

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Soundtrack

I write about music a little bit.  I love to listen to the lyrics and sometimes I find bits and pieces that speak to my heart.  I've mentioned that once or twice or... you get the picture.

Last night as I was driving, I thought about a soundtrack for my life.  I didn't come up with a complete soundtrack.  So many songs speak to me in part, but not in whole, and they have different meanings or associations at different times.

For instance,  I don't identify with all of the lyrics from Adele's "Someone Like You" right now because, well, I'm married, not pining after some now married ex-boyfriend.  I do love the song and her voice and one line spoke to me, Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?  There are things in life that are wonderful, beautiful amazing gifts, but they can have some "bittersweet" to them.  I see it right now in my family and it makes me wonder, is the "sweet" worth the "bitter", is the payoff worth the pain?  I just don't know, and the pain as a spectator (cracks in my heart) is pretty unbearable.

This morning I thought of the lyrics from "You Are More"... How did I get here? And I thought about how I got to where I am, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually....How. Did. I. Get. Here?  As in right this minute, how did I get to the place where I am?  A perfect storm of stuff got me to where I am.  Some my choices, some other people's, but lots of stuff transpired to put me exactly where I am.

And then the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice",  It turned my whole world around, and I kinda like it.  Because in that perfect storm of stuff that got me to where I am, I learned about myself and thought about things in new ways.  I guess you could say I'm in a phase of self-discovery and redefining myself based not on what I "think" are other people's expectations of me but discovering what I want and need.  (Is that part of getting *ahem* older, wanting to live my life based on my desires and beliefs rather than how people think I should live?)

Each of those songs could have a place on my soundtrack.  I will find others to add, I'm sure. I'm certain that my soundtrack will be like a greatest hits with multiple volumes, various genres of music and a whole spectrum of emotions and experiences.  I am trying to embrace it.  I don't like music that's all sunshine and roses, it stands to reason my life won't be like that either.

What about you?  What's your soundtrack like?

Enjoy the music.  Sing along.  Dance if you're moved.

-Peace

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Piece of My Heart..


A few days ago, I started planning a weekend getaway Just. For. Me.

I started the planning in a time of calm, not when everything was crazy.  (Usually I talk about "running away" in the midst of chaos and noise.)  No, the Husband suggested a few weeks ago (when I was feeling the strain of the chaos and noise and talking about feeling like I could not "breathe".) that I plan a couple of days away by myself in the next month or two.  (My angst was palpable, apparently, or my ranting was a huge hint. ;) )

So the other day we started talking about places and the 17 yo even suggested places I could go for a couple of days of R & R within driving distance, not too close and not too far.  (He is my human GPS, don't you know?)   The 10 yo wanted to know why he couldn't join me.  (17 yo told him that totally defeated the purpose of mom getting away.) The 7 yo quietly walked to my side with the two pieces of paper in the picture above.

That is a picture of a heart...cut in two.  The look on his face was absolutely heartbreakingly pitiful.  Me going away would break his heart. Aaaw.  I have gone away before.  I went to MOPS convention in August and to a Women of Faith event in November, but for some reason me going away alone for two days to read, knit and lounge around on my own schedule was a very sad prospect for him.

 (This morning I was thinking about that lounging around on my own schedule thing as I heard Miss M crying downstairs with the Husband and knew it was unfair that I was still lying in bed...when I am away I won't feel guilty because, hey, I'm not home to hear it. But I digress... )

I gave the 7 yo a hug and told him I loved him, told the 10 yo again, "No you cannot come with me," and placed the picture on the counter.. where I found it again this morning. And I was reminded, that these children who sometimes make me want to run from the chaos, love me and depend on me and are pretty awesome gifts I have been blessed with.  They stretch me and teach me and I credit them with helping me recognize that life is not about absolutes, perfection or always knowing the answer, but that life is about the journey, the experiences, the shades of gray and learning what to do in the midst of...chaos.  

I think it's safe to say that having children is like having my heart grow immensely and yet always be in pieces. I can't always fix and protect and calm and sooth and run defense for them so my heart is constantly cracking, but through it all, I can love them.

I have not yet picked a date or place for my getaway, but just knowing it's on the horizon helps me breathe a little bit.  I know when I do go the beasties will be in excellent hands. (The Husband is much better in chaos than  I have ever been.) I recognize that just as the boy's heart was in pieces thinking about me going away, my heart is always in pieces and it is going to be in pieces forever, that I cannot fix it all or always protect them, but I can love them.

Hmmm...where have I heard about that sort of love before?

Thank you God, for reminding me of that perfect love you give to me, a love I can never fully replicate but I will sure try to follow Your example.  

-Peace

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Biggest Fan..

Last night, I glanced in the mirror as I was leaving the powder room (Can I tell you that room has the harshest lighting?) and I saw the wrinkles, the lack of youthful, dewy complexion and I sighed.  I looked all of my 41 years.

What's a woman to do?  Post on fb about her plight, of course! Sometimes I look in the mirror and realize I look my age. Need to accept it but I don't have to like it.

Friends posted words of support.  I wasn't fishing for compliments, but it sure was nice.

This morning, the Husband responded like this:  Stacey- A little over 19 years ago a young woman walked out of the backroom of a bookstore- wearing blue walking shorts and cute tights -  I thought I had seen the most beautiful woman in the world- until the next time I saw her and the next time...until I saw her again this morning- now she/you is/are the most beautiful woman in the world. The only age I see when I look at you is the "age of beauty"

Can I hear an "Aaaww."?  What did you learn from that response, other than that I was a preppy dresser in my early 20s?  Did you learn I have an adoring husband?  I thanked him for being my biggest fan.  He totally is.  

A little later I was listening to Dixie Chicks as I got ready to greet the public (I did my hair and put on some makeup to liven up my 41 year-old skin. ;) )  I was singing along to "Wide Open Spaces" and I thought about all the ways the Husband has supported me in the past 19 years, encouraging me to go for dreams even when I doubt my own ability to achieve them. (He had just sat on our bed next to me giving me a pep talk, I wonder if he tires of that?)  

One of the most amazing things he does is give me the space I need to grow. He accepts, affirms even, that I am not going to stay exactly the same as I was when we met.   I wonder if that is the secret to being happily married for almost 19 years?  

That and we can talk about anything.  Anything.  

Sometimes our conversations are unexpected, as a friend might say, they take some left turns, but they are honest and real.  We've gone through some tough stuff, but the toughest times weren't related to money or vocation, they were times when we danced around the issues instead of talking them out.  This is where our mutual love and respect grow and shine.  

So to the Husband, I say thank you for giving me "Wide Open Spaces" to grow through this life, room to make big mistakes, and the support to follow my dreams.  I pray that our kids, all 6 of them, see the love you give to me and use it as a model for their own lives, because it is in the space that we grow and learn and become more fully who we are created to be. 

-Peace

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shower Prayers

This morning I was praying in the shower.  Can I just tell you it's the only room in this house where I'm always alone? As long as the door is closed and locked and oh yes, I do use that lock.

But I digress...

So the weather is, to quote Pooh, blustery.  It is windy and snowing and  the son drove to school.  So I started praying for his safety driving today.  Then I started praying for the safety of my other kids heading off to school on the bus, and then all the kids going to school and all the people driving and it started to snowball (no pun intended) until I was making blanket prayers for the safety of all people, everywhere.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  It's just...that the reality of this world we live in says that someone, somewhere today is probably going to get hurt or sick or worse.  I don't like it, but it's true.  It doesn't mean my prayers weren't heard.

I was reminded in my snowball of praying as I shaved my legs, of two things.

One was a conversation in MOPS last week where a friend shared how sometimes she felt overwhelmed by the list of prayers she was saying, that she felt compelled to pray for so many people and places and needs that it sometimes felt like she would never be able to pray enough.  That is sort of how I felt in my prayers this morning.  I just wanted to cover everyone in prayer, not because my prayers were essential to their safety, but because I needed to share with God that I cared about people even those I do not know. Think of it like the way Abraham begged for the salvation of the righteous of Sodom and Gomorrah, convincing God to spare those who were "righteous".  (Genesis 18:20 + )  While I'm not in the same league as Abraham, I do believe God hears all of our prayers and that He does answer.  It  just might not be the answer I prayed for.

The second thing I thought of was an Anne Murray song from my childhood,"A Little Good News".  Basically it's about the awful news reports and sad stories, "Just once how I'd like to see the headlines say, "Not much to print today, can't find nothing bad to say because, nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town.  Nobody ODd, nobody burned a single building down, nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain.  I sure could use a little good news today...How I want to hear an anchorman talk about a county fair, and how we cleaned up the air, how everybody learned to care..."  

We all pray for these things, the good news.  And the Good News is that God brings us closer to that.  He frees us to work toward those things, both through our prayers and through our realities.  When we see the hurt and pain we have a choice, we can pray and ask for guidance and we can go out and do something to be His hands and feet in this world, to bring good news and the Good News to those we meet. We can impact our world in positive ways, through prayers and actions, through love and compassion, through hard work and yes, even through shower prayers.

Lord, may I remember to pray without ceasing throughout the day, to speak out in compassion and love and to remember that in all things you are present.

-Peace

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do Not...

Have you ever heard those stories of people who would open the Bible and follow whatever the particular verse their finger hit for that given day?  I heard one where someone happened upon "Go out with joy" and decided that meant he should ask a girl he knew named Joy out on a date.  I guess we should be thankful he never hit upon "Pluck out the eye that causes you to sin"....

Now I'm not saying the Bible isn't applicable today.  It is.  In fact, I can open my Bible and find something to speak to me on any given day.  It fits.  But I have never felt compelled to pluck out my eye or wear sack cloth and ashes.  (I did tell the husband after the van's engine went kerflooey (A highly technical term) and the oldest son totaled the car that if the wind storm we were having knocked a tree down on the new-to-us van, I was totally in sack cloth and ashes mode.  I was so there!)

One of my goals for this year is to read the whole Bible.  I have tried many times but I always get stuck and behind and never can catch up.  This year I bought a One Year Bible and it breaks down the readings so that each day I read something from the Old Testament, something from the New Testament, something from Proverbs and something from the Psalms.  So far it has been easy peasy, lemon squeezy to stick with.  But more than that, every single day, I find something that speaks to me on that day.

This morning, I read Matthew 9: 13 b For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.   That one I can handle.  I can totally identify with the sinner thing.  I struggle with it.  I own it and I hate it and yet... I am a sinner and it makes me feel unworthy and I wrote about that feeling of being unworthy and voila, I read this verse and I was reminded that God calls sinners and humble people, not those who believe they are perfect.  In fact in the verse prior Jesus says Healthy people don't need a doctor, sick people do.


Can I hear an, "Amen!"?  How about, "Thank you, Jesus!"?

I mean, seriously, when I am reminded of this I feel...relieved.  I spend so much time feeling the sting of every mistake, every misstep, every sinful thought and deed and the guilt I feel from the sins separates me from God even more than the sins do, because in my shame I turn farther from God, farther from prayer, farther from...who I am called to be.  The sin becomes a reason to stay in the same place instead of moving forward with life and goals and dreams...and calls to use the gifts given by an amazing, grace-giving God.

If you feel that way, like you can't move forward remember God calls the sinners.  Of course, now that we are all up on preventative health care, I recognize that I can prevent some of my sins by making choices that aren't going to get me in a bad place, but when I get there, God doesn't turn his back on me.  Instead, He sees my need for Him and He welcomes me, if I let Him, if I am not so busy beating myself up that I don't see His open arms.

For this I say, "Amen!" and "Thank You, Jesus!"

-Peace

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Soul or Control?

Warning: there may be some words in this video which are not little ear friendly. It's one word but it's a "biggie"

(Did you see the warning above before pressing play?)




..Then one day you awake with a fear you can't shake you're an actor forgetting your lines.
(All italicized words are lyrics from Strata "Stay Young")

Sometimes I feel like that, like I'm playing a role but I'm getting it all wrong. I'm not saying the right things. I'm missing my cues. I'm flailing.

In the times when I'm flailing, I feel that "fight or flight" response kick in and my gut reaction is to fly. I want to escape. That is not always the best choice and certainly not the best example to set, but isn't our goal usually to lessen our discomfort and anxiety?

There are constants like gravity, heartbreak and shame. You can never outrun them they're part of your name, like lessons you learn from a past you can't change.

I love this line. How true is this? Gravity is NOT my friend at age forty-mumble. Heartbreak...I had my share and now apparently I also feel the heartbreak of my offspring in technicolor. (Isn't that special?) Shame...yeah, how many things do I feel shame about? I have a multitude of issues I feel shame about. Some from the past and some recent. They are what they are. I'm not giving you a laundry list here, but God already knows and I'm working on avoiding repeat offenses although I am sorely tempted and frequently blow it.

But it is part of me, a part I cannot change. The Husband reminds me that my unchangeable past makes me who I am today and that who I am today is not so bad. He also accepts the mistakes I make today pretty well. Again, he accepts who I am, even when I totally blow it...again. I learn from the lessons and I am changed and yet...I'm still me. (And can I just tell you he accepts me much better than I accept myself?)


Do you still remember your very first kiss or the future you hoped for when we were still kids?


Yes, yes I do. I remember that kiss. I remember thinking I could plan out my whole life, too. (Including two kids, a boy and a girl...bwahahaha) and I expected I could just have the life I planned out, that it would just fall into place. Not. So. Much.

Don't lose your heart, don't lose your soul, don't give up control.


When things don't work out, when I feel like I'm flailing and would like to run, sometimes I lose heart and I wonder who I am deep down. I wonder if in the mistakes, I've sold my soul and I certainly never want to give up control. I think I have to fix it and I cannot fix it if I let go of the control. Umm yeah. Did you read the post I wrote right before this one? I stink at letting go of anything, well not stuff, I will toss anything. ;) I just feel like I'm supposed to do something. Sometimes the best thing to do is give it over to Him and pray.

I realize that either I give up control or I give up my soul, I can't hold on to both...and trying....just leaves me with a broken heart.

I pray that we can find the balance between control and letting go, that we can stay young in our hearts and minds and souls and have that childlike faith that allows us to fully trust in Him.

-peace