Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bring the Rain

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." --James 1:2

I don't know about you, but when I have problems, the first thing I want to do is cry...or eat...or throw a pity party where everyone's invited! This past week and weekend was filled with troubles, some small and some big. One problem that occurred was that my cell phone had to be euthanized. The "e" and the "2" key quit working out of nowhere. This made for some interesting text messages. I apologize to the few who were the recipients of said messages. I loathe spelling and grammatical errors, so it was hard for me to function like this. This probably comes from being raised by an English teacher. My password for my voicemail has a "2" in it, so I couldn't check my voice messages either. I have had my share of troubles with cell phones, some of them my fault. I have dropped one in a toilet, a fountain in Vegas, a glass of water, and down into a storm drain in Tallahassee. I was able to revive ALL of the above phones and carry on, but my purple blackberry could not be fixed! You don't think that this problem is that bad? Keep reading.
Saturday comes, and I am at work towards the end of my 12 hour shift when I get a call from my husband. His first statement is, "We don't have any water." Okay...what happened? Apparently my darling son and one of his friends were playing with the water faucet outside and somehow managed to break a pipe under the house which resulted in gushing water for about 2 hours until they decided to confess. Now, I wasn't home at this point, but I feel certain that my husband was totally robbed of his happiness in this moment. I finished my shift, came home, and my husband and father in law were working to fix the problem. About an hour later, they were done. Problem fixed. Water was turned back on. Relief. The kids were all in bed and that's where I went as well. My husband was up for a while longer on the computer and checked on the kids before he came to bed. That is when he discovered that "someone" had turned on a bathroom faucet when the water was turned off, left it on at full blast and closed the drain. Three hours after the water was turned back on, it had become a flood all over the bathroom and into both of the girl's bedrooms. Fabulous. Where is Noah with his ark when you need him? This is the point that I lost MY happiness. But what could we do? We threw down some towels and went to bed. Now it is Tuesday and the carpet has been partially ripped out of both bedrooms, furniture moved, baseboards off, and huge fans and dehumidifiers everywhere. If you like white noise, my house is the place to be.

So, the question becomes, what is the difference between joy and happiness? Happiness is based on our circumstances, on what happens in everyday life. I'm happy when my children behave, when I get a compliment, when my house is clean, when I watch American Idol...etc. On the flip side, I am NOT happy when the opposite occurs. Think about it this way...being happy or sad depends on what happens to us. On the other hand, true Christian joy is something that stays with you all of the time. It is the feeling that all is well despite your circumstances. Rejoicing in the fact that we are saved, that Christ died for US is a feeling that doesn't change when bad things happen. This doesn't mean that true Christians are always smiling and never sad. We are all human and made of flesh. Having the emotion of sadness doesn't overrule the true joy that is in my heart. I didn't come to this realization overnight. I spent many years basing my joy and my happiness on the circumstances and the people surrounding me. The "old me" went from happy to sad probably 20 times a day. I wasn't holding on to my true joy. I'm not saying it isn't hard when you feel like life is beating you down. That's why we have the Bible, where we can read God's truths and not listen to Satan's lies about ourselves. I read somewhere that the closer you get to God and the more you desire to do His will, the higher up you go on the devil's attack list.

James doesn't stop there, though. In verses 3-4 he says "For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." Now, I wouldn't say this past week tested my faith, but it definitely tested my patience! James is making an important point here. Another word for endurance is perseverence. When we learn to persevere, we can accomplish great things. Going through hard times and coming out joyful on the other side by relying on God causes us to grow in Him. When our endurance is fully developed, we will be perfect and complete! So trust in Him and let it grow...

And I know there'll be days, when this life brings me pain. But if that's what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain...
--Mercy Me

Sunday, May 8, 2011

You Gotta Have Faith

It's Mother's Day! The one day a year we can relax, kick back and enjoy ourselves...right? For the most part, that was true for me. I got to go to church, go see my mom in Ocilla and eat lunch there, take a nap and then come back to reality and get everything ready for Monday. I definitely consider myself to be highly blessed. In church this morning, my very intelligent and good-looking pastor asked two important questions. (Disclaimer: said pastor asked for favorable adjectives the next time I mentioned him.) The first one was "What part did your mom play in your salvation?" I grew up in a Christian home with parents that are still married today. My mom plays the piano in the church and my dad leads the singing and serves as a deacon. I also had my aunts, my mom's sisters, who lived a block up the road and were very active church-goers as well. These people were in the church LITERALLY every time the door was opened. I mean, we actually had a key to the church! My sisters and I used to devise ways to get out of going to church on Sunday nights. The plan usually involved one of us faking being sick and the others staying home along with the afflicted one. When all else failed, we would just beg and plead. These ploys usually did not work. I can remember sitting with my Aunt Jerrie because she would give us Aspergum to chew (oh the horror!) or Vitamin C tablets that tasted like orange candy....hmm, maybe that's why the 3 of us never did get "really" sick. My Aunt Ment would rub or scratch our backs for us during church. Now, if we sat with our parents, our mom's favorite thing to do to get us to stop whispering during the sermon was to pinch us REALLY hard on the thigh. Now, in my day, if this happened, you had to sit there and endure the pain. Plus, it showed her that it really didn't hurt (right). I tried this technique once during a church service on my then 5 year old son. He whispered, I pinched, and...he literally yelled, "Why did you just pinch me, mama? That really hurt!" I. Was. Mortified. Needless to say, I no longer use that technique on my own children.
The fact that my mom and aunts went to church was a good thing, but more importantly, these women walked out their faith and love for Jesus and His teachings in their everyday lives. They were kind to everyone, always willing to help people who needed it, gave to the church first and they prayed about everything. They were some Titus 2 women. Don't get me wrong, they weren't perfect and didn't claim to be. They loved Jesus and everyone around them knew it.
My mom's mother, who I called Mimi, was 70 years old when I was born. She "kept" us when my mom went back to work and I loved her dearly. She was what I like to call a "fruit-bearer". She radiated love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. She had a quiet strength and people were drawn to her because of this. She passed away when I was 21. I sure wish my children could have known her.
The second question my pastor asked was "What are you doing to spread her faith in the world?" Gulp. Breathe in, breathe out. This is a BIG responsibility. I couldn't even master the "pinch on the thigh move"!! However, I know that I am a daughter of the most high God, and I am raising my children to know that God loves them no matter what. Once you are His child, there is nothing you can do to make Him love you any more or any less. They know that I am not perfect, just like they are not perfect. I try to teach them to love God with their hearts, minds and souls, to be "fruit-bearers" and to love their neighbors as they love themselves. I don't just talk about it, though. I try to walk it out in front of them. They sometimes see me stumble or fall down, but they don't ever see me stay there. They might see me confessing my sins or asking for forgiveness, but they won't see me giving up. I am forever telling them that the only reason you "can't" achieve a goal is because you quit trying.
By walking out my faith, love and other fruits of the Spirit, I don't just want to show His life-changing love to my children, but to the whole world! I pray each morning that God will show me who HE wants me to love that day. Sometimes it isn't who I thought it was going to be or who I wanted it to be, but I am learning to submit to His plans for me and not my plans for me. I try to spread a little bit of my mama's faith every day. I hope that my children will do the same.

Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

That's What Friends Are For!

Tonight I have friends on my mind. I can honestly say I feel like I have some of the best friends around. I know without a shadow of a doubt, that anytime I need anything, I can call on them and they will be there. Each friend brings something different to the table. Depending on my current mood and situation, I know just who to call to get what I need. As I continue on my journey to lead a disciplined life, I have several accountability partners that I rely on to keep me focused and help me through the darker and more trying times. One of them, we will call her Atilla, sends me texts to remind me to exercise or to tell me not to forget to exercise...ouch! I text her back with reports and also with a weekly weight loss report. For 5 weeks, I steadily lost weight and proudly reported my stats to her and received my praise in return. Then week 6 hit and I stepped on the scale...I had lost a whopping 0.5 lbs. Hmm....what in the world?? Week 7 arrived and guess what?? I lost a mind blowing 0.2 lbs!! It was like the express train to fitness, wellness and discipline jumped the rails and fell on its side. Atilla never asks me for the weight report, I voluntarily give it to her. So, I picked myself up and sent out the text. Guess what? I did not get any babying from Atilla! She asked if I was exercising to my fullest potential and if I was staying on my eating plan! Confession time. Gulp. Deep breath. I had been skipping exercise more and more AND had been thinking it was ok for me to eat more. Slipping back into my "old" way of thinking. But Atilla stopped me....she was JUST what I needed at that very moment! I couldn't justify what had happened because she held me accountable and didn't say it was ok. Thank you, Atilla. I love you!
Now, fast forward three days later. My mind is back on track and I feel strong again. I am talking to my friend we will call Mama T, who is also on a plan to be healthier. We are talking about how things are going and she asks me how much weight I have lost. I tell her the total and then say, "But I only lost half a pound last week". Now, I already know what she is going to say to me. However, I am now ready and prepared to hear it. "Kelly, that's still good! You still lost weight!" That's right. I did lose weight....even if it was just a tad. I don't have to beat myself up about it. I am ok. This is a lifetime journey, not a quick fix or a goal to lose weight for an event. I'm eating better, moving more, and feeling stronger physically and more importantly mentally and spiritually. Thank you, Mama T. I love you too!
On Easter, my pastor preached a sermon titled "A Familiar Voice". He made a point that when we are lost or in the dark and scared or alone, it is very comforting to hear a voice of someone that we know and love. Jesus puts people in our lives that we need to hear and he puts them just at the right time. But what about listening to His voice? Does He speak to you? In my relationship with God, I probably did 99% of the talking for the first 34 years. Wow. He must have been wondering when exactly was I going to shut up and listen?!? He was a faithful listener and He answered many of my prayers. When I finally did start to "be still and know that He is God", He showed up in my life like never before. He will be faithful to speak into your life just like He is faithful to listen. Now my quiet time with Him is one of my favorite parts of my day. It's my prayer that all of my friends and family will have the opportunity to listen to His direction as well. It's life changing. I know. Listen to John 10:27-28 "My sheep listen to my voice: I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand."

It is no secret that I love the Christian group Third Day. They have a song out now called "The Sound of Your Voice". Here are the lyrics...
I ran away from your love, but you waited for me, yes, you waited for me. And then I heard your song, singing over me, singing over me. Now that I hear you, Lord I want to know you more, I want to know you more. Sing your song to me, oh, there’s no greater thing, than to listen to the sound of your voice. When I hear your song, I want to sing along, and listen to the sound of your voice, the sound of your voice. Lord, I am calling your name, and I’m waiting for you, yes, I’m waiting for you. So won’t you show me your way, and I will follow you, yes, I will follow you. Singing over me, bringing peace and mercy, with a song that never ends. Singing over me, marvelous and holy Lord, I want to hear your song again.

I am so very thankful that He waited for me.