Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Candid Shots...Capturing the "Real" You

Photos.  My favorite pictures are candid shots, taken when someone least expects it.  They are laughing their real laugh, not the phony-posed glamour smile.  A moment caught...without thought given to setting or angle.  A genuine, unadulterated snapshot that seizes a genuine moment, capturing the personality and glimmer in someone's smile.  

Reflectively, I look through pictures every so often. Daryl and I both have said goodbye to our dads for now, so pictures of them especially make me smile.  My favorite picture of my dad is not the professional picture he had taken for the church directory.  No, it's the picture at a wedding where he is holding three glasses, all inexplainably half-full, and his camera is hanging around his neck like usual.  Someone snapped off a quick picture of him, carefree and natural.  It's priceless.  It captured his essence.  I love it!
Laughing 'til they cry!

It's in these unpolished photos which reveal the personalities of the ones I love.  When I see a mouth wide open and head tilted back in deep laughter, I can almost hear them in my mind.  It beautifully portrays them...the real them.  I don't notice their moles, double chins, disheveled hair or crooked teeth.  I just love the picture since it embodies them as                                                              I know and enjoy them.   

Fun times w/Scott n Kim
Admittedly, a professionally taken picture, especially of a family, is lovely in its own rite.  It deserves a place on the living room wall. But I assure you, my children NEVER smile quite this way except for the staged family pic.  I'm glad.  I'd rather them smile with that gleam in their eye, mouth open and a bit of mischief showing through their brows. 

The Christmas pic that didn't
make the cut!
  I think that candid pictures are a bit like grace.  When there is love present between people, we see the essence of who they are and love them.  We don't see the wrinkles or moles.  We see them!  As we look at their face captured in a picture, there's kind of a silent sigh of satisfaction that says, "I sure love this person.  I'm so thankful for them."   

Next time someone quick snaps a shot off of you, don't worry about how your hair looked or whether they caught you laughing with your mouth wide open.  It'll be this picture that they look at with the greatest fondness since this is the essence of who you are.  Be gracious to yourself, too.  You're adorable, lovable and captivating-just as you are!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Day I Met Grace

I met Grace in an unexpected place - in the pages of a parenting book.

Monkey see... monkey do.  I was caught in the cycle of parenting without much grace.  It's what I knew... it's what I'd seen.  Our four kids were ages 5, 7, 9 and 11 at the time and I had bought a book hoping to find some parenting helps. I would often use guilt to motivate my kids to behave...I was parenting the way I had grown up, but inside, I knew there had to be another way.  I didn't know what was missing, but I knew I longed to change. I didn't know how to be gracious with my children.  It was the area I struggled the MOST!

I expected perfection.  I didn't realize it at the time, but that's what it was.  I was full of fear.  Fear of failing as a parent. If my kids weren't "performing well", I believed it was a reflection of me rather than my kids being normal kids who were human and going make mistakes.  Something I want to blow the cover off of is this:
        Legalism is very deadly to those closest to the us.  It sucks the life out of children and no one knows because it just looks like "good behavior".  

I believe this is why Pastor's Kids have such a high rate of rebellion.  Everyone thinks things are just peachy for the Pastor's family, when in all actuality there is a lot of pressure put on this kids to conform and act like they're perfect and when they are not, they need to "fake it".  After a while, it grows daunting for the kids.  They throw in the towel saying, "I can't live up to perfection so what's the point!"  This is why PK's either rebel or become over achievers.  They live with less grace than the average kid.  Not only can they have parents who fear being seen as failures if their children are not the best kids around to give as an example to the world, but they can have a whole church family that has an opinion about their behavior...or lack there of.  

People pleasing parents.  Legalistic legacy.  The push to perform perfectly.  Add in Full-time ministry.  This can be a lethal combination for a child.  This was our household at times.  This was what I knew.  This was how I had been parenting.  But PRAISE GOD FOR HIS GRACE!!!

As I began to read the page of this book, I saw a whole new way to look at parenting -- AND IT INVOLVED A WHOLE NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT MY GOD!  Heavenly Father.  As I began to see how God "parents" his children according to His Word, I saw a very different picture.  It involved lavish amounts of grace.  He was to be my example in the way to parent.  He was full of mercy and grace!  I had not been.  I understood for the very first time...
        I could not give away what I didn't have.  If I didn't know GRACE, I couldn't show it to my children.  I had found what I was longing for!  
Many of us have things that we want to model after our parents.  But sometimes we also say, "I'll never do that when I'm a parent."  Sometimes it's a good thing.  There were lots of things my parents did well, but one thing I didn't want to carry to then next generation was the legalism we'd lived in.  The day I began to understand Grace was the day these chains loosened.  I would even pray, "God, help me not be my dad."  God answered one day.  He said, "Quit looking at your dad and trying NOT to be him.  Look at me and be like Me!"  This was the beginning.  The Lord was so good to show me this while my kids were young, so that grace could be a part of our lives.  I am not a perfect parent.  Far, far from it!  Just ask my kids :)  But understanding God's Grace has also given me the room to not have to "fake" that I'm something I am not...perfect! 

(And I must add one thing.  This grace became a beautiful point of healing between my dad and I as well!  Those of you who knew my dad know he was a wonderful guy!  I love him and miss him so much.  Words can not express how grateful I am that Dad and I had the opportunity to share some stories together about how we both were learning about Grace.  He had been trying to break free from legalism, too!  This grace became especially evident in his life the couple years before he died.  It's part of why I can share this freely here...I know it's what he would share.  Because of God's Grace, he didn't have to "fake" that he was the perfect parent anymore either.   I can't wait to see him in heaven so we can pick up the conversation where we left off!  I want to hear the rest of his story and share stories of my journey, too.  Grace is a beautiful thing.  It brings healing.  It brings LIFE!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Know This Voice

While listening to the radio a few years back, a man's voice came over the airwaves that sounded familiar but I just couldn't place it.  As he continued to speak, it began to drive me crazy that I couldn't place his voice.  I knew I should know who this was!  I stopped what I was doing, closed my eyes and tried to picture whose face went with this familiar sounding voice.  Then, it hit me...  Tom Hanks!  I'd seen enough Tom Hanks movies over the years to recognize his distinguishable tone.

But then I heard another voice.  Not on the radio - but in my heart.  It asked, "Do you know my voice?  Is it familiar to you?"  The bible says that the sheep know their shepherd's voice.  When God speaks to me, do I stop dead in my tracks and say, "I know this voice!"  Do I recognize Jesus when He whispers in my ear?

Later that summer, I read the story of Elijah.  In the story, he had just seen God do miraculous things, but grew discouraged and said to God, "I have had enough, LORD...Take my life."  God sent an angel to minister to him, feed him, and let him rest.  Then God "showed up".  A great a powerful wind tore mountains apart, shattering rocks, but the LORD was not in the wind.  Then an earthquake, but the LORD wasn't in the earthquake.  Then came a fire, but the LORD wasn't in the fire either.  "And after the fire came a gentle whisper..."  God spoke.  Elijah listened.  It's a beautiful story.

In our society, it's tough to go anywhere quiet.  The car radio is on.  Televisions clamor up the living rooms.  Cars zoom past sidewalks.  Shopping centers are filled with noise.  Even my backyard if often noisy with the sounds of lawn mowers and leaf blowers.  But quiet is so important.  I can easily miss God's gentle voice when there is so much ruckus around.  I want to answer, like Samuel, "Here I am," when he speaks.  But first...I have to hear Him first.

Be still.
Know His voice.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Disease to Please

Seems that we are always looking for the cure for diseases.  Cancer.  AIDS.  MS.  It's wonderful when we can learn ways to inoculate ourselves and thwart the diseases from attacking.  Look at what has happened to Polio, Small Pox, and Measles thanks to these practices.  I wonder if anyone is doing any research on the the Disease to Please.  I would like to start a Relay-for-Life-type event to raise funds for this disease.  Maybe we could open a lab to do intense studies and ask for human test subjects who are desperate to find the cure.  I think many of us suffer from this disease - some do not even realize it.

Signs you may suffer from the Disease to Please:
1.  The word "No" is not in your vocabulary
2.  You often think to yourself, "What will people think..."
3.  You have all the "they say" phrases memorized
4.  Heart practically beats out of your chest if you think someone is mad at you
5.  You replay conversations over and over in your head, hoping you said the
      right thing
6.  Will break your back to go overboard to please everyone
7.  You're addicted to getting the approval of others - it's your temporary
      pain killer which lasts 4 to 6 hours before needing to take the next dose
8.  You privately complain about feeling like a doormat
9.  You've been accused of being a "people pleaser" by those around you
10. You just never feel like you are good enough to measure up

If you find that you have three or more of these symptoms, see your Savior.  He is the cure for this disease.  Visiting him daily, listening to his affectionate words, will ease the disease from flaring up.  Sometimes symptoms will still temporarily persist when someone criticizes something about you, but see Jesus as needed and he will remind you of your new life, your disease-free life, and the Balm of His Love will help symptoms to subside once again.  Use this method until your death, since the disease is not completely eradicated until seeing the Great Physician, face to face.

Upon receiving Jesus' immunization for "people pleasing" you may experience some side effects.  Side effects may include:
1.  Hearing the words "I need to think about that before saying 'yes'" come
     from your lips
2.  You will wonder less about what people think
3.  "They sayers" will be virtually unheard any longer
4.  Your heart will be more at peace and blood pressure will drop
5.  Sleep will not evade you since you no longer play conversations over in
     your head at bedtime.  Peace will be one of your strongest side-effects.
6.  Pain from breaking your back will subside significantly
7.  Your addiction to people pleasing will be replaced with a strong, healthy
      desire to please your Heavenly Father
8.  The word DOORMAT will not be associated with you, but instead, will refer
      to the scratchy WELCOME rug outside your front door
9.  You will be accused of being a "peaceful person"
10. No need to try to measure up since you know you are already adopted
      by God and He loves you very much - no striving necessary!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Disclaimers: Strange and Unnecessary

Disclaimers.  There are some very strange ones out there. 

There's the deodorant that says: For external use only.  Written on the box an iron comes in: Do not iron while wearing clothes. Warning on sleeping pills: May cause drowsiness.

Sometimes I wish my dvd player included a "cuss-counter" the way a car has an odometer.  This way I could be accurate in my disclaimer clauses.  You've heard this kind of disclaimer clause before:
"The movie was really good -  oh, but you should know there about a dozen cuss words and one bad scene in it."

Or there are the disclaimer clauses that's serve as a preemptive strike against possible judgment:  
"I don't usually watch this show, but last night 30 Rock was on and..."
"For our date night we went to Mission Impossible 4, not that we support Tom Cruise but..."
"When I was waiting at the dentist the other day, I happened to read an article in People magazine..."

There are probably only two reasons we use disclaimer clauses.  One, to warn.  And two, to ward off any "judgments" against us.  I think by stating disclaimers, it's a bit like stating the obvious, kind of like Caution: Coffee May Be HOT!  I think we usually spout disclaimers because we fear the judgement of those who are listening.  What would it look like if we worried less about everyone else and just lived in light of God's leading in our lives as individuals?  What if people knew they'd receive grace from us no matter how many episodes of The Bachelorette they watched that month?  And what would happen if we decided to be honest in our personal convictions and turn off garbage if we truly feel that bad about watching it?  

Disclaimers are not necessary if we are being genuine.  Let's be the real deal so we don't have to include a label of unnecessary explanation when we chat.  Just as important, let's also be gracious so that we don't have to try to ward off each other's judgment. Besides, disclaimers just make us all sound as ridiculous as the Planters Peanuts jar that reads: Caution: May Contain Peanuts  Haha!  We'd hope so!

Disclaimer:  This blog is generally written late at night with some tongue in cheek and should be read as such.  May cause some to fall asleep, others to laugh and others to roll eyes.  Please do not contact author if words do not inspire and humor you.  Instead, return to your previous screen and pretend you never saw this page.   

Staring at Lines...Worrying Life Away

Driving down the interstate next time, look at that solid white line along the side of the road.  How many feet do you think there are between that line and the guardrail? It doesn't seem like that much room to me.  Then there are those "rumble strips" that caution us to stay away from the edge so we don't cross over the embankment and plummet to the bottom of the hill!

Perception.  It's a strange thing.  Through attitudes, views and understanding, our perception can change.  Sometimes our perception is even manipulated or skewed - kind of like those optical illusions or eye tricks. Everyone has a perception.

Reality.  Not an obscure thing like perception, but defined as "the quality or state of being actual or true."  This is the way things really are, not the way we interpret or perceive them to be.

Back to the interstate and the white line.  Daryl and I were headed to Bozeman one weekend when it started snowing.  In Montana, we have excellent winter maintenance crews that drive mammoth snowplows across miles of interstate to keep our roads cleared for safe driving.  So, here we were, driving down the interstate when we came upon a couple snowplow drivers, diligently doing their job.  Much to my surprise, one of them was driving on the right side of the WHITE LINE!  Evidently, he was pushing the small ridge of snow completely off the interstate.  But, that is not what caught my attention.  How in the world was this gigantic piece of equipment fitting inside that line without running off the road?!?  My perception had always been that the area of space between the white line and the edge was quite narrow.  This totally blew my perception of this out of the water!  That space had to be huge - even though it appeared narrow to me.  My perception was NOT based on reality.

"Perception is Reality"

I read these words in the title of a magazine article years ago and clipped them out because they caused me to think twice.  We know what perception is.  But do we really know what reality is or do we perceive things and assume that is reality?  Now, I don't mean this in a philosophical way.  I'm not trying to answer some vague, yet deep-sounding question.  On this day, the day of the "snowplow surprise" I had an epiphany: I may be perceiving things wrong and worrying about nothing!  I began to wonder how many times I'd worried over...nothing. Reality is generally much less stressful.  Worrying always exaggerates.  Because I've always been a "draw inside the lines" kind of girl, my "drive inside the lines" was a much stronger urge since I saw that the stakes were much higher.  Poor Daryl.  All those years I thought we were going to cascade down to our deaths as soon as I heard the rumble strips hum, when in reality, it's just another unofficial lane of the highway!  I would jump awake in the vehicle due to the rumbling under the tire, he'd just tell me, "I'm just putting ALL my tax dollars to use."

Perception is Reality?  No. It's not. Yet, if we believe that it is, then what's the difference? So,  it is truly important to learn what is true (reality) in everything because we are going to live and think, react and feel, according to what we perceive is real.  Better that we base our perceptions on the truth!  How many times in my life have I worried about the "narrow edge" of something, imagining I could plunge into a heaping crash, when in reality, I had room to move.  Room as huge as a snowplow!

 You can worry yourself to death, but you can't worry yourself to life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Still Thankful to be Free

This is an excerpt from my journal - January 10th, 2010

My cup is totally running over tonight!!! We had 22 people in our house today and we watched football, ate food, laughed, told stories, and had some good ol' fashion fellowship. The highlight, though, was a conversation three of us gals had in my kitchen. What is legalism? Where does it come fromWhy do people stay in it? Two of us had experienced legalism and lived in it for a while. Tonya hadn't. Let's just say, Tonya has a joy and freedom that is contagious! It's one of the things we love about her. But she is very confused by those of us that have lived in legalism. As she flipped her hair back and wrinkled her nose she said, "What's up with that?" How awesome would it be to wonder how legalism feels? As we tried to explain to her what it is, the words we that came up were "spiritual straight-jacket" and "shackles". We had a hard time explaining it but we were VERY familiar with how it felt. All I know is, I have had a taste of freedom and NEVER want to go back to the slavery of legalism again. I love being in love with my Savior! And I definitely don't miss worrying about whether or not I'm measuring up to the church's extra rules and demands of spiritual purity. So, on behalf of all the people that love livin' for Jesus, and for all those peeps still stuck in the muck of "the law", we decided we want to host a Freedom Rally! I'm humbled to be a servant of God, but I want to boldly proclaim it from the mountain tops that "I love Him!" I wish somehow I could tell my friends still "shackled up" that they don't have to live under that burden anymore! And those of us that know what freedom in Jesus feels like want to dance the night away! So...Let's have a rally! What do you want to share at our rally? Are you a former Pharisee, too? Are you ready to throw off your chains? I AM FREE AT LAST!

What a joy to see those last words written in bold letters... I AM FREE AT LAST!  I'd forgotten that I wrote them, and here I am, two years later with a blog named the same thing, still thankful for for my freedom!

My mom is here visiting and last night we talked about some of these very things.  As we looked back, one of the things we acknowledged was that you don't know you are even in legalism until you get out of it!  If someone would have walked up to me and tried to explain that I was a legalistic person, I wouldn't have believed them.  Wait a minute, someone did try to tell me that.  It was a high school boyfriend and I thought he was crazy and it made me mad!  By rationalizing his comments away, I overlooked the heart of what he had been trying to get at.  So, if you are like I was, it may be hard to see legalism in your life if you are still in the middle of it.  A litmus test I suggest you take to see if you, too, are living in legalism is this:  You may be a legalistic person if.... you live in constant guilt and feel that you never measure up.  You may be a legalistic person if... you live in constant condemnation of those around you.  I realize these questions are not near as fun to ask as "You might be a redneck if..." but they may be worth asking if it could be the beginning to freedom.  Live free!  One of these days, there is going to be a Freedom Celebration, a heavenly one, and how precious it will be to shout and sing together of the great love and joy we have in Christ.  If that kind of freedom and rejoicing is legal in heaven...I'm sure it's legal on this side of heaven as well.  Shout it out friend, "He loves me and set me free!"  

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."       Galatians 5:1

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Do Not Feed the Ducks!

   "Do not feed the ducks"  What?!?  I hate it when you are having a wonderful time with your kids, feeding the ducks little bread crumbs next to a beautiful lake when one of the kids spots the sign, "Do not feed the ducks."  Oh, come on!!!  I was happily tearing pieces of bread, laughing with the kids, making memories, not even thinking we may be "breaking the rules" when our ignorant bliss was interrupted by a child who put their reading skills to work.  Nuts!  This was a dilemma for a recovering-Pharisee who doesn't think it is good to break rules.  (I still twitch if we ENTER through the EXIT door at Walmart, but it's only a twitch instead of a full convulsion.  That's progress!)

This may be a simplistic example of the law and its power, but until the "law" is stated in black and white, how else do we know what rules we are breaking?  In Romans it says, "For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.'"  I'm going to agree with this statement, even when it comes to feeding the ducks.  Until we saw the sign, we had no idea we had done anything "wrong".  This story brings me to a fork in the road.

One path in the road would take us deeper into the story where I'd tell you how the story ended - how we responded to the sign and what lesson my kids and I talked about later than day.  It would expose whether we got "caught" ignoring the sign's warning.  Or maybe it would tell a simple, uneventful law abiding citizen's tale of heading home with half a bag of bread.  

But I want to take you down the other fork because it takes my thought the direction I want it to go. (I'll tell you what we chose to do at the end.)  I used to think being a law-abiding citizen was one of the most important things in life!  It was an obsession, especially in regards to my driving. Truly, I could not set my speedometer one iota above the limit without feeling guilty, so I would never do it.  But the toughest place to deal with Laws and Rules was with the spiritual rules that I thought were God's rules.  Some of you may have read my earlier blog Thou Shalt Not Chew Gum in Church.  Well, those were some of the rules I honestly thought were "laws".  And on top of all of that, I believed passionately that I needed to be perfect in them - not going beyond them one iota.  Like the verse says in Romans, the law (God's real law) was given so I would know I was a law breaker and see that I wasn't like Him -- perfect.  Oh, let me tell you, if anyone tried to be perfect, it was me!  And I totally couldn't do it.  As a little girl, I even remember sitting on my bed concentrating and determining to make NO mistakes that day.  Of course, I was bummed at the end of those days.  I couldn't even go one whole day without blowing it.

You see, I have started to learn that I can't begin to measure up and come out perfect when put next to the law.  But that's alright.  At least, it is since Jesus.  There is no way I could ever "measure up" to absolute perfection (aka holiness.)  So, he took my place since I couldn't do it on my own, paid all the "Fines" or "Judgments" the law had against me, and gave me His perfection.  He paid-in-full with His own blood - priceless!  This is what grace is!!!  Funny how it's still habit to want to stand next to the Righteousness Ruler and measure, somedays.  When I forget about his GRACE, this is when the guilt comes flooding in, because I go back to trying to "be perfect" on my own, and fail miserably. But just like the day I realized the perfectly folded laundry wasn't an evaluation of anything important, I have learned that God isn't measuring me at all that way anymore!  He isn't worried so much about whether I'm a law-abiding citizen as much as he wants me to be a Christ-abiding one.  GRACE...His grace, the saving grace I love!

And the ducks...they did get fed - well!  I'm sure those duck signs aren't "law", but more along the idea of what Captain Barbossa says in Pirates of the Caribbean, "...they're more like 'guidelines'". 

Guilt and Mismatched Socks

The number one emotion that dominated me while I still lived in the bondage of legalism was GUILT.  I felt guilty all the time!  Guilty for not being a better wife.  Guilty that I wasn't a perfect mom.  Guilt because I couldn't give more time and commitment to people and church stuff.  Guilt, that I wasn't more disciplined in everything from my health, reading, art, studying, cooking, yard work, flossing, name it, I was wallowing in guilt because I wasn't reaching perfection in any of these areas.

I didn't understand how much I'd let perfection rule me.  Even when I'd read a verse like, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," I'd hear that through the filter of guilt.  I'd hear these words rattle around in my head, "You can do this, you can do this, you can do this..."  and I totally left off the part the second half, "...through Christ!"  I expected to be able to do it all, to perfection.

The maxim "Nothing but Perfection" may be                                                         spelled P A R A L Y S I S.                     -Winston Churchill

I believe part of the reason I had a hard time keeping my home neat and tidy was tied to this perfection. If I couldn't get it done to perfection, I'd just let it set because to leave it half way done was worse to me than just not starting it.  Paralysis.  My laundry would pile up because I assumed I needed to be able to wash and dry every load, fold them all-to perfection!-socks, underwear, shirts, all folded exactly the same size with no wrinkles, and tuck them away into perfectly organized drawer.  It was daunting.  Actually, it was paralyzing.

Daryl likes to keep "special things" in his top drawer and eventually, this became an issue, since his perfectly folded socks and underclothes didn't fit the way they were suppose to.  I told him that I wanted him to appreciate the nice job I did on his laundry.  He went on to say, very kindly (because that's just the way he is) that I don't fold socks and organize his drawer perfectly because it matters to him.  He said, "You do it because you like it that way.  You could just dump clean clothes into my drawers unfolded and it wouldn't bother me one bit."  I sat there with my mouth gaping, I'm sure, and my head spinning.  REALLY?

For the next week, I poured his unmatched socks and unfolded clothes directly into his drawers to prove to him that it was going to matter as soon as I wasn't  doing it nicely.  He never said anything!  He was right!  It didn't matter to him.  It was for me that I was doing all that!  Who knew that matching or unmatching socks could begin to show me that I had a problem with perfection.

I lived under constant condemnation from myself.  I wasn't measuring up.  But my laundry, yes my laundry, was the beginning to realize that I was measuring with a very obscure and improper tool.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..."  Rom. 8:1a

Saturday, March 3, 2012

No Wound is Beyond Healing...When God is the Physician

Paper cuts are nasty little buggers!  They sure put off an annoying sting for such a tiny wound.  I've never had a severe wound that needed stitching-up or a broken bone requiring a cast. Our physical bodies are made to heal. A small wound equals quick healing time.  Deep wound - longer recovery.  Even though deeper wounds take longer to heal, the body kicks in right away to repair the damage.  Truly amazing!

Relational and emotional wounds are different.  No platelets aggregate to the "injured" area and begin clotting the invisible wound to restore the person.  Actually, I think a person could "bleed out" from these types of wounds if not tended to.  Daryl and I ended up with such a wound in our relationship the 9th year of marriage.  A midst many factors, our time in Eastern Montana needed to come to an end and we needed to start healing our relationship and make a fresh start.  We were "bleeding out" and understood that something had to change.  

"Where does dad live?" Trey, then four, asked me one night.  
"He lives here, Honey," I answered, a bit surprised by the question.
"No he doesn't.  I don't see him sleep here.  Where does he sleep?"
"He sleeps here.  You just don't see him because he leaves early in the morning before you are up and he comes home after you are in bed."  I went into my room and cried my eyes out.

Daryl had grown busy in work and commitments and I had grown weary as a young mom of four small kids.  We argued more all the time - usually about lack of time together.  Nearly four years earlier, we had moved to Fallon so Daryl could start his own window business.  It went well for the first year, but soon tapered off.  We ended up farming.  Ironically, when we had been dating, I told Daryl  "if he planned on being a farmer or a pastor, I was not the girl for him."  At that time, he didn't think he planned on going home to farm.  Who would have known we'd end up there anyway?  We both emerged broken by the end of those years.  Some wounds came just from working so hard with little reprieve.  Some, from personal immaturity.  Some from words that we said.  But overall, it was just a tough situation.  I thought if we could change those circumstances that surrounded us, it could get better.  I will never forget what Daryl said though.  He said, "If we move, we take us along.  What if we find out it's just us?"  

A few months later, we went to a marriage retreat and one of the exercises was to draw a picture of your marriage as if it were a house.  Amazingly, Daryl and I had both drawn virtually the same thing.  A home with paint peeling, a shabby roof, shutters hanging, broken windows but... a strong foundation.  We knew we still really liked each other and we had a healthy, loving foundation the first years.  Over time, we'd just left our marriage unattended for too long and the wear and tear couldn't help but show.  

As tough as things had been, we assumed it would take years to mend the brokenness between us.  But it is startling how quickly a marriage can heal when two people ask the Lord to be in charge of the mending.  "God is in the business of redeeming," we'd often say in the years to follow.  What had been so broken  (and even shattered in some spots), was made new, and even better.  Looking back now, it doesn't even seem like the same "us" that we see now.  We will be married 20 years this August!  Moving did help us to have a fresh beginning with less external stress.  Even the simple act of eating dinner together did wonders!  The greatest transformation started as God softened our hearts toward each other and we got back to that initial unselfish love we had built as our foundation.

It still feels humbling to think back to those years and I have mixed feelings about putting them into black and white, BUT just in case someone is in a marriage where they think their wounded relationship is beyond repair, I want to say, "God is in the business of redeeming.  Please ask Him.  Whether you have a paper cut wound or a severe gouge, He miraculously heals us.  He knows what it's like to have wounds and scars.  By those stripes, we are healed."  No one has been pierced too deep to be healed.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."  Psalm 147:3

Friday, March 2, 2012

"They"... Who ARE They?

"They shouldn't go swimming right after you eat."
"They say...we shouldn't have too much white flour."
"They say...humans only use 10% of their brains."
"They say...people tend to marry someone with an opposite                                        personality."
"They say...a baby should not have a pacifier." 

Who are these people?  Who is this collective "they" we hear about all the time? I don't know who they are, but I'd sure like to meet them.  For an invisible group of know-it-alls that no one has ever seen, they sure have a loud voice and large following in our modern society.  Evidently, I am not the only one wondering about them. Someone wrote a book called Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say. And in the movie, Elizabethtown, two characters have a conversation that lasts all night and one of the subjects they discuss is what "they say", while questioning who "they" are.  Well?  Who are they?  If we buy into what "they say"  without questioning them, that's allowing "them" to make up our minds for us.  If "they" stay anonymous, how am I to check their sources and verify their evidence?

I'm going to do something in this blog that I think "they would say" is not politically correct.  I'm going to quote Hitler. (*loud gasp from all of "them"*)  One day while going through a gift shop I saw a little sign.  It read:
                        "What luck for rulers that men do not think."
                                                                                                         -Adolf Hitler                             
It's a sobering thought that even Hitler understood the weak person was the one who didn't think for themselves, who automatically, mindlessly followed what they were told.  God gave us minds, to reason, to think and discern.  I don't want to be a mindless robot who can't think for herself, who goes around quoting what "they say" about everything - from what to eat to how I should raise my children. The important things in life God wants us to know, HE says in the Bible.

In my opinion, one of the main things affecting our country is that we've become people with no common sense. (Therefore, people need a Dr. Phil to tell them everyday common sense)  We've lost the art of thinking our own original thoughts.  If we hear something enough times, we think it must be true.  Why else would companies bombarded us with commercials on television and  line our highways with their billboards?  "They" think we'll just listen and believe what's said.  I get a little testy about this subject especially when it comes to my children!  I don't want any "invisible theys" telling them what clothes are acceptable, what deodorant is sexy, or what gum is awesome.  I pray my kids grow up to think for themselves!  My hope is that the children of this generation will take back their minds and be confident in their God-given thinking skills and learn some common sense. These are the kind of wise men  that founded our country - Deeply convicted, independent thinking, strong men who reasoned with good sense and followed God.  May we learn from their example, and think!  Think wisely!
"Get wisdom, get understanding; 
   do not forget my words or turn away from them. 
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; 

   love her, and she will watch over you. 

  The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. 
   Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 
  Cherish her, and she will exalt you; 
   embrace her, and she will honor you. 
  She will give you a garland to grace your head 
   and present you with a glorious crown.”
Proverbs 4:5-9