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Monday, November 28, 2011

Serving God, not man. (Even your husband!) ;)

So, this will be one of the times I'm sure my husband is super pumped that I like to blog about the personal details of our lives.  But, anyway, here goes...
My hubby is a little particular about the house and things being neat and orderly.  He doesn't gripe or complain (especially given his wife's very right brained tendencies toward the creative instead of organization!) but I can tell it makes him uncomfortable for the house to be in disarray and I TRY really hard to stay on top of my cluttery, procrastinatory nature.  (I made two words up in that last sentence.  It's okay.  I can do that.  It is called creative license!)
The other day I only had a couple of daycare kids and I knew we would be gone all of Thanksgiving break camping so I decided to really surprise the hubs.  The kids and I cleaned the house.  I rearranged the furniture in the kitchen and the living room.  Our love seat was in front of the wood stove, so that had to be done anyway in order to use our stove and make room for the Christmas tree.  I had the kids haul the Christmas tree and decoration boxes in from storage and we got everything put up and the boxes put back away so that he wouldn't have to do that when he got home.  I was actually pretty proud of our efforts!  The house looked great and we made sure Dad wouldn't have to lift a finger to help with the decorating!
I talked to him on the phone that afternoon and told him I wanted to decorate the tree that night.  (I even had all the ornaments out, made sure they all had hooks, and placed them neatly in a basket so we could just hang them as soon as we were ready!)  He immediately started going through the list of all the things we would need to do, like move furniture and vacuum under it, etc, etc.  I just played along, absolutely giddy at the thought of him coming home and seeing we had already taken care of everything!  I could not wait to see his face when he got home and saw we had taken care of everything, including putting up the tree and me shoving furniture all over the living room with my hip!  
So, anxiously, I awaited his arrival home, counting down the minutes, and.... enter "Scrooge."  It had started raining and he'd been unloading cattle feed in the rain and had apparently had a bad day at work.  So, A.  He didn't even notice anything at first, except the fact that our son's shoes weren't where they were supposed to be.  B. When our daughter said, "Look, Daddy! We got the tree up!"  He walked in the living room and said, "Oh, yea?  Thought I was supposed to help with that."  
Yep.  That's all the reaction I got.  Talk about deflated!!  (Don't worry, he apologized profusely later!)  Luckily I had to go to the grocery store, so it gave me an excuse to lick my wounds alone instead of sulking and making random sarcastic comments, which is the general unhealthy way I initially react to having my feelings hurt.  
I was in the car, driving to the store to get apple cider for our cozy little family tree decorating that I didn't even want to have anymore when God gave me a little nugget of wisdom and love.  I was feeling so sorry for myself because my husband wasn't pleased with all my efforts towards him and God told me that HE was pleased with my efforts.  He let me know that even though my husband (who is only human, even though he is absolutely TOP OF THE LINE human.) didn't appreciate what I'd done immediately, that God had had watched every move I made. He'd actually seen the painstaking lengths I'd gone to in order to honor my husband and do something I thought would mean a lot to him.  He let me know no matter what accolades I got from the people in my life, that my main goal should be serving HIM and that anytime I was serving his people, I was serving Him and it made Him proud.  
Sometimes I do get to feeling sorry for myself.  Sometimes I feel like a short order cook, a personal shopper and life planner for everyone around me with very little thanks. I do a LOT of serving in my job.  And, trust me, 1 year olds never say thanks for changing their diapers and I have 3-4 preschoolers who ask me for their drink EVERY day before I can get it set down on the table.  But, all it takes is to put God at the top of it all to get a little perspective.  Taking care of my family and taking care of my daycare kiddos is something God values very much and if I just make sure that my motivation is HIM and not this world, it makes everything I do of so much more value.  The world sees me in my sweats, with spit up on my shirt and labels me as babysitter.  God sees me and he labels me as His princess who is carrying out some of His most precious and valued work.  
So, after a little time to cool off and a little time alone with God, I was able to come back home with a renewed spirit and a different attitude.  As I said, my husband was very apologetic and appreciative after he got in out of the rain and settled down some.  We decorated our tree, read a Christmas story, and watched a movie.  I could have ruined the whole night with my attitude and been mad and started a fight and lost sight of the whole point of what I set out to do in the beginning.  Because I lost sight of my motivation.  Although I adore my husband and children, they can't come before God.  As long as he is first, the rest falls in to place.  As long as HIS approval is what I'm seeking, no one else can really let me down. 

An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life. -Proverbs 31:10-12

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Temptation comes in disguise!

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:    “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
   and they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ - Matthew 14:5-6

Even Jesus was tempted by Satan.  And as you read this verse, you see that Jesus wasn't being tempted to do something obvious like kill someone or steal something or use the Lord's name in vain.  In fact, I think a lesser someone might have listened to the devil's words and thought, "Hmmm.  If I did that and the angels caught me, man, that would really be a testimony to God's power, huh?"  (Because this lesser person just found herself in a similar situation!)
Early in our walk with Jesus, I think we tend to put a lot of focus on making sure we are doing all the obvious things right.  We have those ten commandments as a check list and it's like: "Okay.  Didn't kill anyone today.  Check.  Loved my neighbor.  Check.  Didn't commit adultery.  Check, check."  And, we think we are good to go.  However, as we walk deeper in to our faith, we should start to be able to discern when we are being under attack.  Satan's no dummy.  I've never once in my life wanted to personally kill someone, so when I'm being attacked, it probably won't be in that area of my faith.  It will come at a very vulnerable point in my life.  Somewhere I am weak.  Somewhere that could hurt me deeply or somewhere that might confuse me or make me doubt.  Things like pride and lust and condemnation sneak up on us slowly until they have taken up residence in our lives and we don't even see it happening!  Think about what attacks might hit you the hardest.  Think of the things in your life that you are most emotionally tied to.  When something starts going on there, you start acting out of emotion instead of intellect.  Sometimes it is like getting punched in the gut and then trying to breathe.  Or like drowning and trying to swim up for air and fight the waves.  You go in to automatic pilot and you react with the first impulse that comes to you - which is usually a very human impulse.  And, we all know that our human sides aren't our best sides.
Recently I found myself in a situation where I literally did not know what to do.  I didn't know what the RIGHT thing was to do.  I had two voices in my head and neither one sounded bad or evil.  Neither voice told me to kill anyone or to quit loving people.  In fact, it was the opposite.  And, I was anxious and confused.  So, what do you do in that situation?  Here's what I did:  I prayed.  I read the word.  And, when that still didn't do it, I sought Godly counsel on the situation.  And, that was like lifting a veil that had been over my eyes!
On a Wednesday night I was feeling led to share my issue with my bible study class and I was fighting it.  Because, believe it or not, I don't like to talk about emotional stuff to people.  I know I can sit here, writing, and spill my guts to a very public audience, but get me face to face and I'm going to clam up.  Anyway, I decided to share and it was just amazing how the people in the room had exactly the words I needed and exactly the life experiences to pull from in order to illustrate what the RIGHT and GODLY thing was to do in the situation.  I was floored!  And, suddenly some thing became very evident to me.  I am under attack.  Under attack at the very most vulnerable point I have.  My kids.  And, the voice in my head that was telling me what a great Christian I would be if I reacted a certain way was also tugging at my pride.  (A little pet sin of mine.)  I was buying in to how great I would be if I did things a certain way, not how much God would be glorified.  And, that should have been my first clue, but I just couldn't see it!  I was too emotionally charged to look too far past myself.
I think one of the biggest temptations Christians face is how we react in situations.  Because, friends, situations are just part of life in this world.  As long as we follow Christ, we'll have things thrown at us.  Even our Christ himself endured that.  Our true test is our reaction to those things and the way we treat people.  Goodness, I have failed in that SO many times.  But, I am becoming more aware.  And, I know that I have to stop and take a breath before I react.  It's hard when you are blindsided to pause and decide what the right reaction is.  But, I think the more time we spend in God's presence, the more time we spend in His word, and the more time we spend with other people who are facing the same trials and can support us, the easier it will be to react as Jesus did: 
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ -Matthew 14:7
In each instance, Jesus responded to the devil with the word of God.  If we do our best to stay completely filled with the spirit and if we decrease our humanity enough that God has room to take over our lives, then our responses and our discernment will be His, not our own.  It's what we should all be striving for.  

"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." -John 14:26

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Life is NOT always "All or nothing."

I'm discovering the "all or nothing" mindset is one of my big problems in many areas of my life.  I'm probably the worst "starter/stopper" there is.  I start things with a bang and then quickly fizzle out.  It is definitely not for lack of motivation or drive, but I think more from having unrealistic expectations of myself.
Example:  I decide to eat right and exercise.  I do great for a day or two... sometimes even three.  Then, I have a McDouble and a Dr. Pepper or I don't fit in a workout one day, and this voice in my head tells me I've failed and there is just no point in going on.  Start over again next week.  It's like a reset button in my mind.  Instead of viewing it as a little hiccup, I let those little things completely knock me down and then I sit there for a little while and just get further behind before I decide to stand back up and start again.
For some reason there's always been something in my head that required a start, middle and finish to everything.  Lifestyle changes have to start on Monday and your progress is tracked throughout the week.  But, who says?  Who says I can't make that decision on a Wednesday??  I mean, Mondays are probably the hardest time to stick with anything.  Mondays suck!
And, it is not just dieting.  It is house cleaning.  I look at the kitchen and instead of just using the few minutes I have here or there to do a few things, I look at it like it is a whole project that has to be tackled at once... or not at all.  I don't even consider that I can just clean out the microwave real quick, because that task is included in "deep kitchen cleaning" and I think I will tackle that very large project when I have time.  And, I never, ever have 2 hours to just deep clean my kitchen.  I have trouble focusing on the little things and taking pride in marking them off in my mind as small victories.  It's almost like cleaning out the microwave stresses me out more than it makes me feel accomplished because it feels like I've started something and not finished it.  I started deep cleaning the kitchen and then there's this imaginary checklist in my head where that task is still blinking (I don't know why it blinks, but it does.  I'm very visual!) all day long and I know I need to "finish" it.  Instead of just feeling like I finished cleaning the microwave. 
Yesterday was Wednesday.  I decided I am over myself and my bad habits and my weight, etc.  But, my husband brought McDoubles home for lunch and when I got off work, I knew I only had 45 minutes or so before I needed to leave for church.  So, even though I'd eaten healthy all day except the McDoubles.  (Yes.  I meant for that to be plural. :-/)  And, even though I've successfully gone without pop for the whole week, I felt like the day was a loss and since I didn't have 30 minutes to devote to a work out, that I should just give up.  Start again another day.  But!  I talked myself out of it!!  I told myself that 10 minutes of movement was better than no minutes.  And, I told myself that any excercise would help work off the stupid McDoubles!!  And, I set dinner down on the table for my kids, put on a sweatshirt and went for a 12 minute run/walk and didn't give up on myself. 
It will probably be years before I have hours and hours to devote to deep cleaning one room in my house at all once.  But, I am determined to reprogram my brain!  I can always find 15 minutes here and there to do thigs like polish cabinets and scrub baseboards.  I can fit 15 minutes here and there to work out, when I can't fit in an entire workout.  I can learn to believe that one food foul up doesn't totally eradicate all the good choices I've made.  (Because, believe me, I'm ALWAYS going to make some bad choices with food. I'm a southern girl.  We like our food!)  Over time, if I'll just give myself time, those 15 minutes are going to add up, and eventually I'm going to see a difference!!
I think sometimes instead of trying to have MORE determination and MORE motivation, we actually need to give ourselves a break in order to feel successful.  Celebrate the little victories in life!

15 minutes a day spent working on something, multiplied by 30 days = 7.5 hours.  Just think what my kitchen would look like if I deep cleaned it for 7.5 hours!!  ;)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I used to be skinny, too!!

I think being overweight would be easier for me if I hadn't, at one point in my life, had a 24 inch waist and been made fun of for being too skinny.  Hearing a relative say to you:  "You were so tiny when you were young!  I just never figured you'd end up being a big person."  Living in the hometown and not having your childhood friends' parents recognize you.  It's humiliating!!
I remember being young and thinking, "I will NEVER let myself get fat!"  I totally looked down my nose at overweight people because I thought it was ridiculous.  Gaining weight was something that people could control, so why on earth would they let themselves get heavy?  Ahem.  Now I've been put in my place.
I still hear things along the lines of my old judgments.  "It's easy.  Just make good choices."  "Don't live to eat.  Eat to live."  Bla, bla, bla.  Here's the deal.  I got settled in to BAD habits.  Some of the skinny people look at me and just see "lazy" or think that I start the day with 3 chocolate donuts and a big glass of whole milk every day.  Here's the truth of the matter.  I became a mom at 20 years old and held down a full time job.  I became a single mom of 2 kids at age 23.  Now.  As a single working mother of two children, I was exhausted ALL the time.  With only my income, I couldn't really afford a gym membership, so working out had to be a video.  I couldn't really figure out a way to walk or jog with 2 small children in tow.  (Obviously I couldn't afford a fancy two kid stroller!)  My tiny apartment barely had room to move in the living room, but I'll be honest, the only time I could really work out would have been at about 6:00 am, and I just couldn't muster up the energy to drag myself out of bed any earlier than I had to already to get two kids up and around and ready to be out the door in time to get to daycare and work.  In all actuality, I spent my entire youth up until I had kids very active!  I always played sports and I ran because I loved it!  But, once I became a mom, I just totally lost sight of MYSELF.  It was all about my kids.  And, I now know that isn't healthy, because I need to take care of myself in order to be the best parent to my kids, but back then I just didn't see it.  
Also, I did develop a bit of an eating disorder.  I had a lot going on, emotionally, and I started using food to comfort myself.  I started working at a child development center where we were required to sit down, family style, at the table with the kids with a plate in front of us.  So.... I ate.  When I rushed out of the house to get to work, having only had coffee, then sat down at a table with a plate of food in front of me, well, it was hard to not eat.
Eating healthy and working out takes time and preparation and planning in today's world.  Time was something that was a precious commodity in my early twenties!!  Then, I got married at 27 and having another person to help parent my kids with me made me see just how spread thin I had really been as a single parent! But soon after, I started back to school full time.  So, I was working full time, had 2 kids, and was going to school full time.  
Right now, at 31, I can look back over the past 11 years and see all the ways I should have incorporated a healthier lifestyle in to my world.  I can see how it is every bit as important to my family's quality of life as college degrees and quality time and clean laundry and dishes.  But, hind sight is 20/20, right?  Now, I am faced with eradicating 11 years worth of bad habits and trying to undo about 50+ pounds of damage I've done to my body and my health.  I've started this process of change so many times, it hurts to think about it.  
It doesn't seem fair sometimes that other people have higher metabolisms.  I do not sit around and eat donuts all morning.  I rarely even keep sweets or pop at the house at all. I usually don't eat a whole lot at all during the day (which I know is not healthy, either!).  I nibble here and there on whatever I've fixed for the kids, then I'm usually starving by dinner time!  There are other people who could eat the same things I do all day and not gain a pound.  I even look at empty calories and my blood sugar bottoms out and I gain 2 pounds.
I know that I am the only one who can make a change.  I know that in order to exercise, I am going to have to leave the laundry alone and go to bed at a decent time so I can wake up at 6:00 am to work out, in order to be ready for work by 7:00. I know I am going to have to make the time to prepare meals and plan my food ahead of time so that I am making healthy choices.  I know my metabolism will only go downhill from here.  I know I HAVE to do this for my health and my self esteem.  And, I know it won't be easy.
But, I want so badly to not have to say, "I USED to be skinny." I can do it!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Power of Prayer

This isn't really "my" story to tell, so I won't go in to major details.  But, it has been on my heart and you know how I am about that... ;)  Gotta' write it down.
When I was 19 a "near-tragic" event took place in my home town.  I say "near," because no lives were lost.  But, it was a life altering event for my family and I.  On Dec. 6, 1999, a young boy opened fire on the middle school in our sleepy little town.  Several children were hurt, but none of them fatally.  Although, my little sister came close.  She was shot in the cheek and had to be life flighted from the school to a hospital that could handle the injury. An event where you lose or almost lose a person who means that much to you will forever change the way you look at life.  The way you look at "tomorrow."  It stole a piece of the whole town's security and peace that day.  It most definitely took something from our family, but God in all his infinite glory, gave us back ten-fold.  He gave us the gift of NOT taking tomorrow for granted.  He gave us the gift of renewed faith in Him.  He gave us the gift of knowing how extremely precious each moment is with the ones we love.  And, he gave each person in our family a similar, yet unique testimony of faith and answered prayers.
I was 19 at the time and had no idea that I was also about to become a mother.  That at the very moment my sister's life was ALMOST taken, I was in the process of creating a new one in my womb.  And, until I had my own children and experienced the crazy amount of love I had for them, I didn't even realize what it was like for both of my parents to experience the brief time they did where they thought they lost my sister.  I can't even stomach it.  No one should have to endure losing a child.  Although I know people do everyday and I know God can repair any wound, I grieve for those people so strongly.
Which brings me to fear.  THAT is my biggest fear.  And, it is very real to me.  It is very real that I have to drop my oldest off at middle school next year.  That she will be exactly the same age as my little sister, she will stand in the same spot.  I'll leave her there without me and know that although it is unlikely, it happened once before in the most unlikely of places.  I had that part of me stolen where you believe that school is a safe place where bad things don't happen and yet I have to take my kids there anyway and trust that they will be okay.
That's hard, isn't it?  It's my biggest downfall as a follower of Christ.  I worry.  I'm anxious and have been known to make myself physically ill worrying over things.  Having children brought that to a whole new level for me.  But, I have to look at the example of my mother.  My mom works in a town about 20 minutes East of where we grew up (and where we still live).  Every morning on the way to work she prayed for us kids.  In the exact moments that my sister was about to face one of the scariest things in her life.  In the moments when she was struck with a bullet, and lay by herself in a pool of her own blood, my mother was praying.  She was praying specifically that God would send his angels to wrap their wings around all her children.  Thank God for her.  My sister wasn't alone.  God protected her and all the kids at that school that day.  There was a thick fog over our town - just our little town that day.  It lifted as soon as you drove out of town in either direction.  I've heard people tell of the fog seeming to have a bit of sparkle in it.  There were teachers at that school, who, without a second thought about their own safety, ran out and put themselves between danger and the kids.  (Angels on Earth)
Tragedies happen all the time.  And, none of us knows the intent of our God.  But, I believe without a doubt that the "near" part of the tragedy I'm talking about is because that little school in that sleepy little town was COVERED in prayer.  Not long before this happened, a group of people from the town had come and walked around the campus, praying for the kids there. And, my mom was praying that morning, among many other parents, I'm sure.  
Sometimes I begrudge the fact that my job doesn't allow me to be one of those parents who is actively at the school, helping in the classroom, attending the parties, etc.  But, it dawned on me today that what better could I do than to commit to pray for my kids and their teachers and the school staff EVERY SINGLE day at the start of the school day?  Prayer is powerful.  Prayer works.  Who's with me??

"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you
in all your ways"
Psalm 91:11

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. -Phillipians 4:6