Saturday, May 29, 2010

Are you missing the main course?

 Luke 10:38-42 - As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand." The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."

Oh Martha, aren't we all a bit like her?  Or a lot like her for that matter?  It often feels like we are expected to be like her and if we aren't, we are failing at life in some monumental way.
Very rarely do I have the opportunity to sit and read a magazine from cover to cover.  When I actually do find the time, I generally get half way through it and decide that I would rather utilize this rare free time to sleep and then I close the magazine never to open it again.  However, the other night I found myself reading from the beginning to the end of a parenting magazine that I subscribed to while I was pregnant with my twins.
I kept my eyes pried open resisting the urge to sleep as I began to read articles from "How to make your kid a go getter, confident child" to "how not to put too many demands on your kid" to "how to tell if your kid is behind where all the other kids are."  SERIOUSLY?!?!?!  And then between these wonderfully placed stories there are a couple of "how to make yourself look like you have had a full night sleep in the last four years" article where they give you tips on how to make yourself gorgeous in only thirty minutes, which tends to be about 28 minutes more than I typically have.
Talk about pressure!
Along with those articles chalk full of advice, I find myself writing my own articles in my head about what I should be doing, how I should be doing them, when I should be getting them done and with what level of grace they will be accomplished.  From teaching my kids ABC's to explaining to them about the moon and the stars, from introducing them to Jesus to making sure they get enough exercise...I have so much to get done.
I often hear women saying, "I'm too busy, my plate is just too full, I'm so overwhelmed..." and though it may be true, is it necessary - and what and who is it busy and full with?
The other night, something about Martha dawned on me while I was on a date with my husband.  I sat at the table and watched all these other groups of people conversing over their wonderful dinners.  And the favorite topic of conversation?  Themselves.  We all, whether or not we admit it, tend to be our own favorite subject.  And Martha, although she was so busy seemingly tending to Jesus making it be perfect for Him, I think she was thinking about herself and how she would be perceived.  Will Jesus think I'm a good host?  Will He think I'm a good housekeeper?  A fabulous cook?  Will he like my decor?  And then there was Mary.  Not worried about the dust on the book shelf or the appetizer in the oven, she just sat with Jesus hanging on every word He said!  Martha had the best of intentions, but she missed the whole point!  Jesus didn't care about any of that stuff, He wanted Martha to just be so that He could enjoy her company. 
Yet I find myself being Martha so much!  I fall into the thought pattern that my kids have to be smart, and cute and well behaved; my house has to be clean and smell like freshly baked cookies; I need to look like the stepford wife and always have a cheery smile on my face no matter how I feel.  We read magazines that reaffirm to us the importance of being busy and accomplished.  They define what success looks like and how we should measure it within our own family's.  We watch talk shows where they talk about beauty and relational issues like they are three easy steps instead of a lifetime of effort.  We log on to Facebook and post status updates with our most recent successes so all our "friends" can chime in and tell us how indeed successful we really are.  And soon, without realizing it, we start living life like the Sun revolves around our little worlds instead of our little worlds revolving around the Sun.
My twins are turning four on Monday and my baby is going to be one before I know it.  I find myself so busy all the time with stuff - and not really important stuff, just stuff.  I am too busy to just cuddle and read a book unless it is in the schedule and my kids refer me back to it.  Yet all this stuff is not important - I'm missing the main course like Martha.  On Sunday morning, I climbed into bed with Lily and Emma came and nestled in next to me.  Shortly thereafter, Luke came in and made himself a nice little spot and we all read the book, "I Love You As Much."  In that moment, when that small little twin bed was full of laughter and smiles, warmth and love - I knew that I was experiencing the main course.  My kids are smart and they will learn how to read.  My kids are well rounded and if they aren't right where "normal" is or exceeding it every time, is that really going to ruin their lives?  If my house isn't show ready or I'm not 125 pounds - is God going to love me less?  NO!  He wants me.  He wants me to revolve around Him and what He says success is - not what the newest parenting magazine, talk show or even women's bible study says.  I want to have a full plate and be busy, but with things that really are important to God - not just things that make me look important to God.
So, are you a Mary or a Martha?  Are you revolving around the Sun, or have you slipped into living like the Sun revolves around you?  Are you busy with things are truly important to the Lord or just busy with things that make you look important to the Lord?
I encourage you this week to sit in His presence and just be.  I encourage you to pray how you can get your world revolving the right way.  I challenge you to be busy with what matters - so you don't miss the main course!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sick and tired...

So, I've been literally very sick and tired this week.  When I become less sick and not so incredibly tired I will post.
Hope everyone has been having a great week in their jungles!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yes, I'm that girl.

I was that girl. 
You know, the one who always had a boyfriend who was definitely "the one" until they proved, usually within days, that they were definitely NOT "the one."  My poor youth pastor/surrogate dad who had to endure painful call after painful call of me so elated that I had found the one, and then the preceding call of me devastated to find out that, yet again, I was wrong.  As a matter of fact when I had met Dave and was once again in the "he's the one" phase (but that time I really knew, really) I introduced Dave to Mark.  Mark heard his name, yet with all the sarcasm he could muster he said, "Hi Doug."  I quickly corrected him.  Mark continued, "Dave, Doug - is it really going to matter in a week?"  Needless to say I was angry and hurt at his bluntness and it took me quite a few years to admit that his comment was totally warranted.  But regardless, I was her - the girl who had to have a boyfriend, because whether or not I wanted to admit it - I needed a boyfriend to define me.  Despite all my accomplishments in ministry, my boldness, my love for the Lord, I felt as though I was lacking an identity unless I had a guy to define who I was.
Dave and I began dating and we started looking for a church to attend together.  I was so excited to go to church with my boyfriend, like I had arrived or something.  And then it was the meet and greet time, that I so generally despise during a church service.  I stood there while men came and talked to Dave and no women came and talked to me.  I saw quite a few walk by, glance down at my hand and with the absence of a ring they continued walking.  We probably went to five or six churches where the women were just not welcoming to me and definitely were not inviting to me to be a part of their social group.  I figured they should just wear signs on their backs, "MARRIED WOMEN NEED ONLY TO SPEAK TO ME."  And then I realized, that being a girlfriend was not the sign of definition, it was being a wife.  I needed to be a wife - and then I would be a whole person, one with much definition.
So after a couple of years, Dave and I got married.  We were youth/children's pastors at a church.  And the women there were sweet to me and I made great friendships but I then was made aware of another huge deficit that I had in regards to all the other women.  I didn't have children.  The youth kids moms would talk to me like I was still a little girl, the mom's of little kids in our church would talk to me like I had NO clue about their lives since I didn't have children (which I really didn't...but still) and I still felt left out.  And then I realized that I must need kids to define me, to make me a complete person.  So Dave and I started to try - and then we were told we couldn't.  And each Sunday as I would check kids in for Sunday school and the moms would drop off their children so excited to get a break, my heart would break.  The moms would tell me their war stories of what it took them to get to church that morning and how their kids were just driving them nuts.  As my heart was breaking and my stomach twisting because of how badly I desired to be a mom, I would get angry at their ungrateful hearts.  They had no idea what our struggle was - it wasn't their issue, but it did cement the fact in my mind that until I had children I was not a complete woman.
Three years and four children later, I am now a mom.  And all those women that I so desperately wanted to be a part of their groups?  I'm too busy.  And yet I find myself, after all these years and with the addition of all these roles, still finding myself defining who I am in those roles.  If someone was to ask me who I was, I think my honest answer would be, "I'm Melissa - Dave's wife, my kid's mom."  I still, to be honest, find my definition in other people.
Now pause with me a bit.  When Dave and I were going through the phase of finding a church and me feeling left out by all the married women, I told him that I would love to write a book one day for women being so cliquey and contrary to the Gospel because of it.  Yet, in the last few years, God has opened my heart up to His truth a bit more - and the real issue at hand.
I have a friend who I adore.  Her family became like family to Dave and me.  She has twins too (her's are teens) and I just love her.  Her husband Todd loved God and his family.  Dave really admired the man Todd was and wanted to emulate him.  Their names were synonymous with each other, really the sentence didn't feel complete unless you said "Mimi and Todd."  But one night, when we lived in Kalispell, I got a phone call and I was told that Todd had died.  I felt like I had just been punched in the gut.  They must have heard wrong - but it was true.  Todd died unexpectantly, and they were never able to figure out what caused his death.   A few weeks later, we traveled back to Idaho for the memorial service where my friend stood and addressed the group.  This woman, stood there as a beacon of strength - because although she lost part of her heart, she didn't lose who she was.  Now more than ever, she was aware that her identity was found in the one who gives life and takes it away.  Her definition was in God.
There was another couple I knew when I was pregnant with Lily.  The wife was pregnant with her first baby and she was elated.  Her definition was about to happen, she was going to be a mom.  When Dave got sick and our whole world was focusing inward, we started getting phone calls from the husband.  The day after Dave was diagnosed with MS, this couple lost their precious baby boy to SIDS.  As quickly as she got her defining role, it was stripped away.  And with no identity in who she really was apart from being a mother, her whole world crumbled around her.
 I take for granted my roles and sometimes bellyache about them because I'm so tired much of the time.  But I treasure my husband, and my children are such amazing blessings from the Lord.  In paying attention to being a wife and a mom, quite honestly at times I forget to pay much attention to me.  Now before I go on further, this is not going to turn into a post all about taking long baths and scheduling massage days to pamper ourselves.  Although that would be fabulous, and a bit unattainable at the present place in my life, this is not the point.  Sometimes I forget to pay attention to who I am as a child of God.  Because if ever I had to stand where Mimi stood without notice or hold a baby who was no longer living - I must know that it doesn't change who I am to God.
Before I was a mom to my wonderful children, a wife to my amazing husband, an employee to an employer - even before I was a daughter to my mother - I was a child of God. That was my first role and it will be my last role.  It has defined my life, even when I thought there was no definition.  And I can get caught up in my responsibilities and forget my responsibility to myself, to my God.  I need to pay attention, close attention to what God is calling me to do.  I need to know what my Lord is requiring of me - not just in my capacity as wife and mom.  And with as much zeal and excitement as I put into defining myself with becoming a wife and a mother I need to passionately pursue the constant definition that God offers.
So today, think on how you define yourself.  Consider who you have allowed to determine who you are.  Is your role as a child of God on the forefront of the list or is it an obligatory after thought?  Jesus really does love you, He died for you - and in that, lies an eternity of purpose and definition.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Please define yourself

To "define" according to the Webster dictionary is to "determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of."

In ten words or less please define who you are.  It's really easy to leave a comment...I would really appreciate it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Soloists and the sinners....

The two friends stood in the checkout line snickering at the cashier.  They commented on her hair, her makeup, her clothes.  They called her names and ridiculed her.  The cashier, who comes across very "colorful" people all day long didn't pay too much attention until the two women paused from their mocking session just long enough to converse over their nervousness regarding the church solo that one of them would be performing on Sunday.  The cashier looked up and said sheepishly, "So, you are Christians.  That will be nineteen dollars and 48 cents."  The two women were deeply offended at the tone in which the cashier spoke to them and demanded to speak to the manager at once.  The manager, who had seen this whole event take place, cordially greeted the women.  They ranted and raved to the manager all about the hostility they received undeservedly from the cashier.  The manger nicely said, "Thank you ladies.  Before I can proceed with any action regarding my employee I will review the DVR tape."  They looked at him with anger, and a slight bit of confusion.  And then his voice softened into a quiet whisper.  "I was once a pastor, and there are many things I would like to share with you right now regarding what the Bible says about how you spoke to my cashier."  He then stood there staring at them.  Their faces filled with embarrassment and they quickly took their belongings and left the store.
That manager came to his home later that evening embarrassed at how those women behaved.  He came home with a heavy heart because he knew that the event had just further confirmed to those women that Christians were hypocrites and frauds.  He walked in his home defeated because for every step he makes with these people, "Christians" come and knock him back another four.
That manager is my husband.
Dave was so angry that night, like many other Sunday nights after he gets off work.  The Christians, some still with their name tags with their church's logo proudly on it, coming in and treating people with great disrespect and disdain.  But my heart hurts because more importantly than the logo of a church, we are representing something much greater.  We are supposed to be the reflection of Christ to a broken and dying world - yet we mock and sneer, and behave as badly or worse than those who have never even heard the name of Jesus.
Christians are humans, I understand that, but we are supposed to know (personally) the Remedy.  In the Doctrine book that I mentioned a couple posts ago by Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears, they likened us to a broken mirror, reflecting the image of God, that is getting pieced back together instead of the proverbial empty cup that is being filled.  We have that responsibility to show people Christ; what are you doing with that?
I stood in line yesterday at the store buying formula for my baby, desperately trying to fight a migraine that won the battle for the most party of yesterday.  I was grumpy, tired, and feeling all but Christ like.  When it was my turn, the lady gave me a half smile and I may have grunted back (seriously, two migraines in three days with four kids under four is not a recipe for a loving reflection of God!) but I in no way took it as an invitation for a discussion.  I could tell she was having a rough day, but so was I - and so we were both just going to have to deal with it. 
As I took my change and began to walk away, I heard the couple who was in line behind me greet the cashier with, "Have you ever heard that Jesus loves you?  You look like you have had a rough day, and we just wanted to remind you that He loves you."  I watched as the disposition of the cashier melted and a huge burden appeared to have lifted off her back.  I was convicted.
We can go to our Bible studies, and our church meetings.  We can go to our home groups and our prayer events.  We can read the best devotionals and study the Bible with deep fervor.  We can sing great solos and write great blogs - but in the end, what does our reflection look like?
God can use even the most broken of mirrors, as we won't be totally perfect and put together until we are with Him, but can people make Christ out when they look at you or do they cut themselves on the broken shards of glass?  Just remember, they won't know that we are Christians by our lofty knowledge or our wonderful Christianese speak; but in John 13:35 Jesus tells us how they will know: 
"This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."
So as you go about your day, just think on this:  Who are you reflecting today?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Abundant Life

These darn coyotes.
It was on the front page of the paper yesterday - and the brief synopsis you ask?  The city won't do anything, us doing anything would be illegal and so we just need to watch our animals closely.  Here's my brief gripes with that:
1.  I have no animals, I have children.
2.  And quite honestly if a stupid coyote hurts my child, then the city agency that's afraid of PETA is going to have a much bigger and ferocious beast to battle.
I get it - we are encroaching on animal's land as our population gets bigger.  We need to make allowances for them, even if that means they are attacking people's beloved pets and leaving them for dead.  If we have a problem with it, we should just build a bigger fence.  At least that's what I'm hearing from the general public in regards to this story.  But coyotes are predators - they aren't meek, gentle animals.  They are conniving and rabid and they want to eat.
This whole issue with the coyotes has collided with the other issue at the core of my heart right now - and the verse that keeps coming to mind is John 10:10 (NASB)
10"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
 I'm so frustrated right now with our culture.  It seems that everywhere I look excuses are being made for the "thief," and all things related to him.  Our society has even begun to look at these things as acceptable, commonplace, expected instead of seeing them as disgusting, vile, ugly and sinful as they are.  Even Christian's, and the one's who I would say really are Christians not just in title, have a nonchalant attitude regarding these things.
Why?  Don't we understand that the thief doesn't want our lives to be abundant and amazing?  These lies that so many of us are buying into hook, line and sinker are counterfeits of the truly amazing life that has been offered to us.  These things are distractions - nothing but smoke in mirrors so that the "thief" can take our abundant life that we could have and replace it with a life of brokenness, hurt and pain. 
I used to think rules and boundaries were highly overrated and really in the grand scheme of things, just fun killers.  And then something happened.  My youth pastor's son who I love as a little brother was five at the time and he was riding his bike in the driveway.  He had his helmet on because he followed the rules and always wore it.  The sun was setting and right at dusk when the sun shines right in your eyes, a girl turned the corner in her car abiding by the speed limit on the street.  She saw movement so she swerved - except the movement she saw was Cameron and her swerve was into him.  She pinned him with her car and drug him across the street.  Cameron broke his femur bone and wore a full body cast for about two months - but he lived.  Had she not been following the speed limit or had he not been wearing his helmet, both two rules that we can find burdensome and ridiculous, Cameron may not have made it.
In the same way, when I tell my children to not run into the street or stand up in the cart at the grocery store, it's not because I want to ruin their childhood and take every ounce of fun away from them because I delight in them having boring childhoods.  Quite the contrary!  I don't want them to get hit by a car, fall and crack their heads open - end up dead.  I want them to enjoy life - and I would love for them to understand that the rules that Dave and I have in place are so that they can the best life possible.
Are you living an abundant life or have you fallen for the tricks of the "thief?"  Are you staying true to the standard of beauty you have in your spouse, or is the Thief changing your standard of beauty to that younger, less responsible version?  Are you staying pure before marriage or are you falling for the deception that sex before marriage isn't going to hurt?  Are you finding natural highs in things that are positive or are you deciding that what the thief is offering to you is the only way you can find release and escape?
God gave us boundaries and rules so that we could experience freedom and fullness within those things.  Sometimes we fall for the lie that no rules, no boundaries is where the real freedom is.  But I promise you, if you are playing on the line, seeing what will happen if you step your toe on the other side of those God given boundaries, just wanting a little taste - You will fall prey to the thief, whose job is to steal kill and destroy.  There is no freedom in that.
Live life abundantly - without fear, shame or worry.  God had promised us that - and He is faithful to His promises.
As for the coyotes - I've been fielding a lot of really great ideas to eradicate them...:)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Groundhog Day #489 - teaching obedience....again.

Luke pulled his curtains down again causing his brother to wake up.  I have told him a multitude of times that it is not ok to do this - and yet he continues to do it.
Emma argued with me over everything from the color of a crayon to what was for dinner.  That behavior drives me up the wall faster than anything, feeling challenged by my soon to be four year old.
And so, separately I had "chats" with both of them.
Our new saying in our house is, "Obey right away, all the way, with a happy heart."  As I was repeating this to them, exasperated at the "Groundhog Day"-esqueness of it all, I could see their little faces saddened.
And then Luke said to me in tears, "I want to obey.  I just don't know how.  I love you and I want you to love me.  Will you please teach me how to obey?"
Seriously???  My little four year old boy with eyes as big as the sun staring at me with tears rolling down his cheeks broke my heart.  I didn't want to make him sad, but I needed to get my point across - I am the mom and he needs to obey me.
So as I ventured over to Emma's room to talk with her about her situation I was broken and frustrated at the same time.  Am I doing this right?  Am I teaching my kids obedience the right way? And as I began to talk to Emma she looked at me with a genuine look of confusion and said, "But how do I obey?  I need someone to teach me how to obey?  Will you teach me how?"
Totally defeated I finished my conversation with her and walked downstairs.  Am I not teaching them obedience?  I thought I had been teaching them, telling them why, praising them when they do "obey right away, all the way and with a happy heart."  But my two precious children seemed completely perplexed at the whole concept.  Now granted, I know their response was partly due to the fact that they are almost four and that I shouldn't take their conversations with me as indication that I am completely and totally failing at teaching them boundaries and respect for their elders (although, quite honestly, is where I would so easily allow myself to take it if I wasn't careful.)  However my conversations with my twins today reminded me of another parent/child relationship - the one between me and my Heavenly Father.
Based on the frustration I have with my four year olds not "getting it" quick enough, how frustrated must God be with me not "getting it" after my almost 29 years?!  Obedience is hard and even the Apostle Paul struggled with it in Romans 7:14-25 (The Message)
14-16I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.  17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
 21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
 24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
 25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

And if Paul had this struggle, if I have this struggle - then wouldn't it be totally understandable that my preschoolers struggle with this same thing?  God says in John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command."  And so often I feel that when my kids disobey me so blatantly, that I feel it is speaking of their love for me.  But then I think about my love for God.  I love Him with my whole heart and yet I fail to be sinless.
So as I go about my days with my children teaching them obedience and most importantly obedience with a happy heart, I will remind myself of my Heavenly Father's patience for me.  He is SO patient with me, I can be patient with my precious little blessings...even when I feel like it's Groundhog Day #489.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Milquetoast or Mighty????

I was nine and my brother brought home yet another girlfriend to meet my mom.  My brother, Brian, who was 18 at the time was never running low on the girl admirers.  As the two of them sat on the piano bench, my mom tried to engage the girl in conversation.  And without fail, like all the other girls, this teenage girl could not make eye contact or have an intelligent conversation with my mom.  My mom, needless to say, was not impressed.
That is until he brought home Dixie.  Dixie was sick with a cold that day and was wearing her pajamas and animal slippers.  Despite her cold, she shook my mom's hand and was able to hold a conversation - a very pleasant one actually.  Dixie and Brian have been married now 14 years. 
Dixie was sure of herself.  She knew who she was and that was intriguing.
Dave and I have started talking to our kids about smoking since we see people doing it all the time everywhere we go.  We have told them that cigarettes are disgusting but when you try one it's hard to not keep doing it.  The other day we were at my mom's house when my uncle lit a cigarette outside.  Luke marched outside and said, "Smoking will turn your teeth yellow and your insides black."
Luke repeated himself with complete certainty and just stared at my uncle waiting for his response.  There wasn't much arguing he could do with that kind of statement.  Luke knows what he believes and it catches people off guard.
As Christians, do we know what we believe?  Do we know who we are?  Are we confident in our identity that we find in Christ?
Better yet, do you really believe what you say you believe?  I mean, do you believe the Bible in its entirety?  Or just bits and pieces that you feel seem applicable to your current situation?  Unfortunately, I think the majority of people who say they are Christians are of the latter mindset. 
But I challenge you - know what you say you believe.  Christianity, real Christianity, believes the Bible.  Nothing more, nothing less.  We don't have additional books or modern day prophets who add to the Bible.  We believe from Genesis to Revelation.  We take the story of Jonah and the big fish with as much gravity as we take the 10 commandments. 
And with the Bible, the inspired word of God, there comes power and certainty, confidence and strength. 
I have noticed lately, that so many Christians portray themselves as weak, uncertain people who are easily swayed by any burst of wind - milquetoast.  They talk timidly and without any smidgen of confidence.  How, may I ask, is that an inviting message of the faith that will move mountains if we believe?

2 Timothy 1:7 (The Message)
And the special gift of ministry you received when I laid hands on you and prayed—keep that ablaze! God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.

Phillippians 4:13 (The Message)
Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

My faith, my relationship with the Lord is at the epicenter of who I am.  It directs my decisions, my actions and my relationships.  If I take every word of the Bible with as much power and truth as the next - then I must know who I am in Christ...a bold, confident person who the Lord loves.
I am currently reading the book Doctrine by Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears.  It is a great book on the fundamental beliefs of the Christian church.  I read something last night that stuck out to me, "Practically speaking, we were created to live all of life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, by the Word of God, to the glory of God.  We were created to live all of life before the face of God, knowing that nothing in our life is secular or separated from the sight of God because all of life is sacred.  To live otherwise is sacrilege."  He goes on to say, "Rather, God has bestowed upon us the amazing ability and awesome responsibility to be his mirrors on the earth, reflecting his goodness and glory to all for his glory and our joy."
(Doctrine, pg 116,119)
So with that, I urge you to be confident in what you believe.  Take great joy in who you are in Christ.  Be bold in sharing your beliefs with others - in love and with joy.  Don't be timid and weak - for you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Daddy knows best

Emma ran downstairs with a panic in her voice.  I turned to her and with finger up her nose she said, "I have something up my nose." 
My sarcastic inner voice that I have learned to keep quiet on most occasions thought, "Ya you do. It's called your finger."  But with my more motherly voice I instructed her to go tell her daddy about it. 
Emma was worried when she walked up to Dave.  He looked and couldn't see anything, so he had her lay down.  I looked at him with a bit of surprise and asked if there was something actually up her nose.  There indeed was.
I have heard of this happening.  A little boy will stick a pea up his nose or as one of my friend's told me today a Kix and then they have to go to the hospital to have it removed.  But a girl?  A pretty little princess?  I was very confused.  Then my husband who takes great delight in his "snot rocket" abilities that he mastered as a youth pastor, imparted some of his talent to Emma.  She sat there, calmly in her daddy's presence, as she blew it out of her nose.
Low and behold, it was a bead, a purple bead to one of her necklaces that Lily had pulled apart.  How fitting.
Just another day in my life - but as I thought about it today...or at least for the couple hours that it was my facebook status I realized something.  Emma was panicked, but when she was with her daddy, getting direction from him - she was calm.
How often in my world am I in panic mode, hurrying around like a chicken with my head cut off?  How frequent are the times when I work myself up into a tizzy and forget to go ask my Daddy for direction. 
It led me to these verses:

Psalm 18:1-3 (NIV)
1 I love you, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn [a] of my salvation, my stronghold.3 I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.
Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)
6-7Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

And after being reminded, in the weirdest way I know, that I need to return to my Father and let Him guide, protect and love me - my day was pretty fantastic.  And I think Emma learned her lesson, however Luke promptly followed Emma's example and began to shove something up his nose until he chickened out, thankfully.  But really, I'm so much calmer when I realize that God knows everything and is in everything - and He has all the answers to my troubles and concerns. 
So I ask you, today are you worried about something?  Are you panicked, confused, scared?  Go to your Heavenly Father, and He will direct you...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day?

I sat reading my mom friends post all about how wonderful their Mother's Day was going.  "Spoiled," "Perfect," "Best Ever," were only some of the ways that my friends described their day.  How wonderful.
No really, excuse any hint of sarcasm in my voice, that is wonderful.  Delight when others delight...
However, as I sat in front of my computer wanting to cover my ears and sing, "la la la la la" in the loudest voice possible to drown out the screams of all four of my preschoolers, toddler and baby I felt, I don't know, a tinge of envy.  Fine, more like a pool of envy.
My day from the moment it started consisted of whining, crying and fighting.  On the day when by all accounts I'm supposed to be served, I remained the servant.  I fed my children breakfast.  I got them their snacks, their drinks, their toys, their everything.  I cleaned the bathrooms and mopped the floors.  I did the dishes and the laundry.  I disciplined, because there was definitely no lack of need for it today.  And my husband was gone for the majority of the day at work...on his way home as I write to his wife who he knows is not happy (I'm sure he's really excited to come home today!)
During nap after I cried some admittedly selfish tears I decided that I would have the kids take me on a date.  So, they woke up and I packed them up to head to one of the "fancy" restaurants for lunch.  Of course when we got there it was raining cats and dogs and the five of us had to run across the parking lot, drenched by the time we reached the door.  As I sat my kids on the bench in the waiting area, my heart was filled with all emotions that I would rather not feel on Mothers Day, or any day for that matter.  However, during lunch my kids were fantastic which was a nice reprieve from how the morning had gone and how, unknowingly, the rest of the day would go.
Then as the kids' day was winding down I decided to fight the clean up battle and though they lost a 45 gallon container of toys they finally finished cleaning the living room - only to destroy it one last time before they headed to bed...and now I have to clean it up, again.
So, today instead of being able to post how wonderful and perfect and best of all time my mother's day was...I will just say that it was.  It was a day that I am glad it's over and tomorrow will be just like it, I'm sure - but totally different.  Tomorrow I have no expectations for pampering and relaxation.  Tomorrow is just another day in mommyhood...and I think I like those days better.
I have run into a lot of people who are reading the blog and they tell me how I put such a different, positive perspective on things.  Admittedly, there are a lot of times where I have to reach that positive perspective through my really selfish bad attitude...and then I blog.  Today, however, I'm writing pretty transparently.  Tomorrow I am sure I will have some lesson from today, but right now, I'm just grumpy.
As mom's, especially after a few kids, Christmas isn't such a big deal personally any more.  It is about the kids and the magic for them (of course about Jesus too, but you know what I mean.)  My birthday comes and goes without any big horrah, which is fine by me.  Our anniversary is a day in which we may get dinner but at this point with four kids, it isn't horribly romantic.  And Valentines - oh Valentines, it's just not a day I hold tightly to.  But Mother's Day.  That's the one day a year I expect attention and pampering - to hear thank you's and I love you's and be treated like a princess.  And I build up these expectations in my head, unrealistic at best because my oldest aren't even four yet and they don't understand what Mother's day is.  They were even wishing men "Happy Mother's Day" today.
So, maybe tomorrow I will have a great encouraging post - but today I had to use it as a venting post.  To all you mom's who read this, I hope you had a wonderful, perfect, amazing Mother's Day - because you all deserved it!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The best job ever

I am a cook, a maid, an organizer of people's days. I am a teacher, a counselor, a singer, an actor, an artist and a dancer. I am a builder, a visionary, a scientist and a mathematician. Other random jobs that I do on a daily basis include entomology, story telling and song writing. I am an engineer, a nurse and a referee.
I am very busy. I think with all my jobs that I do that I am a great asset to society. I would think with all the different hats that I wear, people would think that I am more than fulfilled. I don't have a degree in any of these areas, but for some reason the Boss feels that I am qualified.
I, often times, am so busy with all my different jobs that I have so humbly been given that I don't have time to take a 30 minute shower or spend an hour getting ready (or even 5 minutes.) I've been told though, that after I have put some more time in on the job, those longer showers will come.
I get to work from home which is nice, that way I don't have to fight traffic. I have a lot of friends who are over achievers like me. We tend to bring our work with us to lunches and parks, but we mutually understand that work is demanding.
I'm HIGHLY paid too - although my checking account probably won't reflect it anytime soon. But I am paid in ways that money would never be able to compare to.
I am a mom. I am a mom from the time I wake up until the time I lay my head on my pillow for the 8th time in a night. I don't have a fancy degree from some prestigious university - but my kids think I'm the smartest person EVER. Designer labels and high heels really aren't in my wardrobe - but jeans that I feel comfortable getting dirty in a sand box are...way better! We don't have the nicest house or the nicest car, we don't eat fancy steaks regularly or drink expensive wine. But our house is filled with love, our house is warm, our cars work, our tummies are full with good food, and milk is good for the bones.
To all those who ask on a regular basis if I can ACTUALLY be fulfilled being a stay at home mom - I am. I am mentally and physically challenged in a way that no "regular" job could ever challenge me.
To all those who ask how I am going to contribute to society - I'm pretty sure that every day when I teach my children responsibility and empathy, respect and love, kindness and independence that I am contributing to society in the greatest way of all.
To all those who ask when I am going to get a "real" job - my job is pretty darn real. Let's trade for a few days and then you can talk to me about "real."
And finally, to all of those who ask if I want a nicer TV or a prettier house or a nicer mini van - NOPE. Stuff doesn't matter in the long run. I have never once heard someone who on their death bed say, "I wish I got that 73" TV." But I have heard of those who on their death bed say, "I wish I told my son/daughter that I loved them more."
I have CHOSEN this as my job - and I hope that all of you who haven't had the privilege of my career path will at some point get to partake.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seriously, coyotes?

I have never seen a coyote before.  In fact, I couldn't really tell you if they were part of the dog family or the cat family - until now.  A few weeks ago, early in the morning before the sun woke up (which is my kid's favorite time of the day to wake up - sigh) we saw a coyote lurking behind our chain link fence separating our back yard from the huge six stories or so man made canyon behind our house.  It bothered me a bit, but not really.  I didn't really know what a coyote was - I thought they were nocturnal animals, and certainly couldn't jump our we went on with our day.
Then a week ago at about three in the afternoon I had pulled my kids inside to give them a little snack when I heard our neighbor in my yard yelling at something.  I ran to my window (being nosy, quite honestly) to see what was going on.  There was our neighbor yelling at a coyote.  The coyote was laying there on top of a mound of dirt when he decided to come down to snip at the neighbor dogs.  All of a sudden, we had a real threat.  Our neighbor informed us that coyotes can be vicious animals that are infamous for carrying rabies.  So now, I have to watch my children in the back yard for predators...the real animal kind.  But one thing that reassures me quite a bit, is that our neighbor is watching too.  If I miss something, Gary is watching because he doesn't want something to hurt my kids.  He's a good neighbor.
Talking about predators, we have the real human kind too living around our home.  When Gary and his family moved in we warned him of one that lives on his daughter's route to school.  Gary found out about another one that lives three blocks or so away from us and he quickly informed us.  I know all about those kind of predators and they scare me more than coyotes...but regardless, I have to watch out for all of them and I know that my neighbor is watching out for them too.
When I was a kid, I don't recall my mom being overly protective.  I could play out in my front yard without her with me.  I could ride my bike.  I could walk to school without her worrying.  But today, with my kids, I feel like I have to be so vigilant in guarding my children.  When the day is done, I know that their protection is ultimately with the Lord but I do believe I must be informed and responsible for the children that He has entrusted me with.
I'm not exactly sure how to ward off coyotes other than calling animal control or using a shot gun.  Maybe there is some food that will make them ill like pigeons and Alka Seltzer...but I will save that research for another day.  But there are ways to safeguard against child predators and inform you of their offenses.  I really believe that we must stay in the know.  Here are a couple of websites that you can just put your address in and it will tell you all of the child offenders in your area:
I know this isn't a wonderful thing to think about, but knowing what is around your home can empower you to protect your home that much more.  

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Separating the men from the boys...

I have two sons. 
Two little, precious boys who will one day grow into men.  Big, tall, strong men.
Dave and I have determined to make it one of our life goals to raise Luke and Will into honorable men who love the Lord.  We want to teach them integrity, strength and leadership (as much as it can be taught).
And to be honest, I haven't looked at this goal with as much fervency as I am finding it deserves.
To be completely transparent, I am writing this with a broken heart.  In the past few months I have seen men who I admired and looked at as great men abandon and walk away from their families and everything they once held dear to their hearts.
At church a couple weeks ago the pastor was talking about how he hadn't watched a TV show in the last ten years where they have portrayed a pastor as a smart and honorable man.  As I began to ponder that statement, I realized that I had not really watched a TV show in the last ten years where they have portrayed a man as a smart and honorable leader - period.  On the contrary, I have seen plenty of men who are spineless whimpy men who are adulterers and are completely lacking an IQ - and very popular shows to boot.
Our culture is emasculating men left and right.  If they are leaders they are portrayed as controlling.  If they correct they are portrayed as being abusive.  If men work and their wives stay home they are even portrayed as domineering.  God made man with innate characteristics that it seems they are being forced to suppress.  As a matter of fact, before I started writing this I googled what makes a man a good man.  The results that I found?  A man who behaves like a woman.
I don't want my sons to be girls.  I want my boys to be manly men who love their wives and daughters as men should.  If I want someone to behave like a woman, I will go hang out with my women friends.
And no, a good man is not discovered by whether or not they hold a door open for you.  That is a representation of a good person!!!    A man is someone who protects me, who walks on the side of the street to guard me from the oncoming cars, a man who stands up for me, who provides for me.  A man is someone who gets a job and puts food on the table and loves and respects his wife.
A man is someone who is loyal and committed.  A man is one who sticks through things even when they get hard, scary, or even God forbid, unenjoyable.
Our culture has made it so easy for men to not be men.  We have taken drive and purpose away from them.  They aren't equals to women.  Women and men are different - sorry women's lib people.  Even at my Christian college my English prof made us read an essay on women's lib.  After we read it we had to write our own essay on whether or not we agreed on it.  I passionately disagreed with it - and my prof passionately disagreed with me and my grade was worse for it.  After our essays were turned in and graded we had to do a class exercise where we stood on a wall and if we agreed with a statement we took a step forward, and if we disagreed we took a step back.  I'm sure her hopeful conclusion is that we would all be standing in the middle of the classroom proud to support men being nothing more than women with pants on.  I however, was one of the very few who had not moved from the wall.  And I was astonished at the number of male classmates who had lost their definition of manhood and were standing right along with the "independent" girls in the middle of the class.
And more astonishingly and more maddening, is the fact that women,
even Christian women are cheering this progression of men losing their manhood.  Don't you want a man who can protect you, who is the strength in the home?  I don't want Dave to look at me scared if there is a noise - I want him to be the one who checks it out.  I don't want Dave to not be able to make a choice.  I want him to be the leader in our home, one that I can fully rely on.  Are we really wanting a world full of men who provide us nothing more than sex and good friendship?
What if we stood up for men being men?  What if we started requiring men to be men?  What if we started calling a spade a spade and not making it so acceptable when men abandon their families or cheat on their faithful wives?   What if we teach our sons to be responsible and loyal, providers and leaders?  Would we be looked at as creating men who will be "chauvinistic pigs" or will we be thanked for raising up men who people look to as great honorable human beings who are making the world a better place?
I am ashamed at these men in my life who have thrown away what it means to be a true man for the easy definition that the world offers.  I am ashamed however, to live in a culture that finds this behavior acceptable. 
So, I ask you - What characteristics are you teaching your sons?  Do you want your sons to be the man that the Bible defines as a good man or the man the culture defines as good?  Because more and more, I think the two are offering two completely different pictures of what a man truly is.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The truth about exaggeration...

According to my recollection, my second grade teacher Ms. White was not ravishingly beautiful - nor incredibly nice for that matter.  Yet for some reason, Ms. White was engaged to the most handsome man ever and he came to our class where all of us students had fallen madly in love with him too.  At a parent night my mom congratulated Ms. White (of course!) and Ms. White stood there utterly confused.  She was not engaged (of course not) and it came to pass that I had in fact formulated this whole story up in my "creative" mind.  My mom informed me that evening that Ms. White now expected my creative writing papers to be absolutely amazing because of my vivid imagination.
Vivid imagination...I suppose that's what we call it when it's little kids who are flat out lying.
However, if I was twenty nine and made up that falsehood I would be made out to be a completely deceptive person.  Some would call me a pathological liar, lying for no good reason.  When does it change from vivid imagination to pathological deceiver?
I've been thinking a lot about truthfulness lately and exaggeration and what exactly do I teach my kids regarding the issue.  It started pecking away at my mind the other day when I put Luke down for the night and he asked for a snack.  I told him no because he had decided earlier to not eat his dinner and that's the way it works in our house.  It was a warm night and his window was wide open.  He began screaming, "I'm so hungry!  You NEVER feed me!"  My anxiety level started to rise as I was reminded how a neighbor had called the police over Lily crying in the middle of the my son was screaming that I neglected him.  In a volume to match his making sure that the whole neighborhood could hear I responded with, "I offered you dinner and you chose not to eat!"  I shut the door and listened to him continue screaming so that everyone from here to New York could hear that I don't feed my son.  Soon his sentence changed...for the worse.  "Please, someone feed me!  I'm soooo hungry!  Please, someone feed me!"  Great, I could just imagine the police pulling up into my driveway.  I walked in his room trying to hide my amused smile and without word shut his window.
I want my kids to be people known for their integrity.  When people think about the Sharon kids I want honesty to be one of the attributes that comes to mind.  Not harshness, but honesty.  And it's up to Dave and me to exemplify honesty to our children.  Shortly before I moved back to Idaho and started my family, I was starting to work with a company who did seminars for parents and siblings of drug addicted teens.  At one seminar there was a lady who after we played a game as a group, lied about her involvement in the outcome.  I sat next to her during the game and she, not knowing I was a guest facilitator, laughed at how troublesome she was being to our "team."  However afterward she said she played right along like the best of teammates.  Earlier that afternoon she was complaining about how her daughter was a pathological liar (which I know people use the term loosely) and she had no idea why.  So as she was lying to the group, I stood up and said, "Maybe, just maybe, the reason your kid is a liar is because you are."  I was nineteen and lacking discretion - but it definitely got my point across!  Our kids are watching us.  We are their first and most influential teachers.
Another way I find myself bending the truth is exaggeration - the kind that I don't normally even catch myself.  Not the exaggeration that says, "It snowed FIFTEEN feet!"  But the kind that says, "You ALWAYS..." or "You NEVER."  Not only is this "exaggeration" a lie most of the time, but it is really damaging to the "you" in the sentence.  Especially when it's our kids.  "You NEVER obey!"  "You ALWAYS are disrespectful!"  "You NEVER do this right!"  That's not only ridiculous but I would venture to say that it is borderline abusive.  Our children listen to our words, they watch our actions - and if you say they never or always do something, you better watch out because they might start believing you and proving you right.
Little white lies or leaving out important details of truth are considered deceitfulness in my home.  I have NO patience for it.  Lying and deception from the smallest to the biggest have taken great men and women and the strongest of families down.  I don't want to be one of those examples.
However, with all that said, how do we teach our children discretion and kindness when telling the truth?  I know that sometimes Aunt Betty's hair cut is awful and she looks very reminiscent of Uncle Jack - but you can't tell her that!  So when she asks, "Do you like my hair?"  What do you say?  Last night at Applebees, Emma saw a server who had quite the hairdo.  And with all certainty in her voice, Emma said (quite loudly), "That girl has freaky hair!"  Dave who was sitting next to her glanced over at me hiding my face behind a napkin and then rebuked Emma for being unkind (although in all fairness, her hair was kind of freaky and she may have actually been going for that!)  Or when yesterday a couple of heart broken ladies came by our house looking for their lost, elderly dog.  With no hesitation Luke says, "Oh, the coyote probably got it."  The ladies looked at Dave in horror and Dave nicely shooed Luke away, smiled and said, "If we see it, we will call you."  Ya, there is a coyote around our neighborhood and yes it has snipped at some of our neighbors' dogs - but they probably didn't need to hear that. 
So, how do you teach your kids about honesty?  What are the lines you draw regarding integrity and "white lies" in your home?  Are you being an example of truthfulness, or are you being more of an example of how to bend the truth?
Now I must go eat because I'm STARVING...ok, actually, I'm just a tad bit hungry.